Invisible Women

Most of recorded human history is one big data gap.

Good gravy, just when you thought you already knew, things turn out to be so much worse. Next to a sexist gap in pay, safety and health there is a huge one in the thing that drives pretty  much all of society: data.

Why is the default ‘he’? Why is there still a riddle about a doctor whose husband died, and why do too many people involved with design viewing women as ‘men with boobs’? Well, because societies worldwide have made it so, and not enough people in powerful positions protest it. And it turns out to be lethal for women.

Invisible Women isn’t particularly uplifting material: there’s just so many numbers and anecdotes on things that went wrong and are going wrong and men not giving a damn about it. How do we rally for change when the entire history of humanity is against us?

Because in some cases and in some countries things have changed and are changing. And you can never change something you don’t know anything about. And because it might save your life to know.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez, Abrams Press 2019

Psycho

109 min.

Ik moet toegeven dat ik onder de indruk ben van het feit dat ik nog verrast kon worden door een film van zestig jaar oud. Natuurlijk wist ik van de douche af, maar er is dus méér.

psycho film posterEn ja, deze film is in zwart/wit, mocht je daardoor nog verrast zijn.

Het lijkt eerst een film te zijn over een romantische relatie die niet helemaal goedgekeurd wordt en daarom zich in het geheim afspeelt. Is één van deze twee mensen de psycho? Nope.

Marion steelt van haar baas om haar geliefde te helpen (waarschijnlijk) en gaat er vandoor. Dan wordt het een detective want dat geld moet natuurlijk terug, maar Marion zou ook nooit zoiets doen en waarheen is ze verdwenen want haar geliefde weet ook nergens vanaf.

En dan komt Bates Motel in beeld.

De laatste plus minus twintig minuten van de film zijn bijna een koude douche na al de sfeervolle beelden van de minuten er voor, maar misschien vond Hitchcock dat er toch nog iets uitgelegd moest worden. Nog wat geleerd: de film is gebaseerd op een boek. Wie weet hoe ik dáár nog door verrast kan worden.

Psycho, Paramount Pictures 1960

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Let me begin again.

Golly gosh, how to explain this? It’s a memoir, it’s a fever dream, it’s an obituary – maybe? And did I like all of it, any of it, only the parts that I read at night? It was, in a way, beautiful, though. A kind of experience hard to put into words.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one of those titles that seem to be singing around in ‘Serious Reader’ circles for a while. It’s not loud enough to feel like it’s been hyped, nor is a celebrity book club attached, but there is the vibe of “Haven’t you read it yet?” around it. To me, anyway.

Ocean Vuong wrote poetry before, and it shows in his descriptions, his look on life, how it feels like he weighed every word before putting it down. It’s in juxtaposition with the subjects he writes down: the suffering of his grandmother and mother, the lack of family, being an immigrant child, being the only different one while growing up. All of it feels absolutely anchor-less.

Can you have an opinion about something that runs through your mind like sand through your hands? I’m sure you can, but I’m just going to stick with ‘an experience’ and a weird feeling of honour that Vuong allowed you in.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong, Penguin Random House 2019

Year of Yes

When it was first suggested to me that I write about this year, my first instinct was to say no.

Hmmmm…

I kind of feel like I have to approve of this book solely because of the achievements of the person that wrote it. And Shonda Rhimes achieved a lot, and well done to her and I hope she keeps on carrying on.

And maybe I should have been less surprised about the tone of the story with such a title. I mean, this is the second time this year I’ve been cuckolded by a book title. This isn’t completely a memoir, but it comes close it. Combine that with the subject (saying yes to more things, daring to live (a little)), and honestly – I could have seen this coming.

Of course, it’s interesting to learn about how much work Rhimes puts into everything, how determined she is and how she recognises what has to be done to get where she wants to go.

It’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg thing: is she ‘American Dream rah-rah’ because of what she accomplished or did she accomplish what she did because she’s ‘American Dream rah-rah’?

In the end, have I decided to be infected by her yes-saying? Maybe. Temporarily. Mostly I’m still stuck on all the ways in which she describes herself, her thoughts and her actions.

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes, Simon & Schuster 2015

Shéhérazade

111 min.

Straks word ik nog een Fransefilmkijker. Of het nu comedy, drama of actie is, ik weet ze wel te waarderen. Deze valt in de tweede categorie, maar weer wel op zo’n manier dat het niet drámá is. Niks tranentrekkerigs met wollige soundtracks, maar het drama van een grote hoeveelheid slechte omstandigheden en beslissingen.

film poster sheherazadeWant nee, de pooier van je vriendin worden is geen goed idee, ook al is ze prostitueren al gewend. En met een pistool zwaaien is nooit een goed idee, net zoals weglopen bij een opvanghuis. Zach krijgt het desalniettemin allemaal voor elkaar.

Zach zit dan ook tussen het wal en het schip. Vader afwezig, moeder boeit het allemaal niet, stoere vrienden die het allemaal niet zo legaal doen en natuurlijk die eeuwige drang om maar de grootste, beste, gevaarlijkste te zijn. En dat kan best redelijk door middel van pooier zijn, geld rondstrooien en een grote bek hebben op de verkeerde momenten.

Tussendoor is zijn vriendinnetje Shéhérazade ook veel verder van huis dan gewenst. Deze twee klauwen wel aan elkaar vast, maar wat heb je daaraan als beiden aan het verdrinken zijn? Hierdoor is het verleidelijk om ze toe te roepen los te laten en het heel ergens anders opnieuw te proberen maar ja – het is maar een film.

Dus is dit een film met bitterzoete randjes en frustraties, in een licht en vorm waardoor al dat lelijks bijna mooi is.

Shéhérazade, Netflix 2018

How to Hack a Heartbreak

Never trust anything you read on the internet.

First romantic comedy of the year! Although both genres are just slightly represented; How to Hack a Heartbreak is mostly about being a woman in the tech world, and about dating online. The comedy is a tad sharper than you might expect, but both these subjects deserve some attention that isn’t just tongue-in-cheek.

That doesn’t mean that How to is a severe novel about the endless sexism both these worlds entail and a detailed deconstruction of it – it’s still a romantic novel after all. Still, the more realistic angle on the subject and of the protagonist’s thinking is pretty refreshing.

It makes the story of Melanie learning something about herself, her abilities and her (lack of) self-confidence easier to swallow. There might have been just one or two situations through which I rolled my eyes, and I’m pretty sure that was an expected reaction. All this, and a well-balanced happy ending, makes this a romance for the ’20s.

How to Hack a Heartbreak, Kirstin Rockaway, Harlequin 2019

Colossal

110 min.

The feeling when a film is part of several genres and therefore part of none at all, or maybe something new. Colossal largely went under (my) radar, except for maybe a wayward comparison to Pacific Rim: both have huge monsters in Asian surroundings. Colossal is no Pacific Rim.

film poster ColossalThis huge monster is connected to Gloria and starts showing up when she returns to the place she grew up in. Life isn’t great, the place she grew up in isn’t great, and the few people surrounding her aren’t either. Or are they? And how is the monster created, and how is it connected to her? Is it even part of this reality?

This summary might make it sound weirder than it seems, but what makes all this eerie is that it isn’t weird. Or well — it is, of course, but nothing in the cinematography or dialogue shows you that the film and the characters are in on the joke. This is a story about a barely functioning woman, and Anne Hathaway does it well without barely ever going overboard.

You can find Colossal on Netflix.

Colossal, Neon 2017