"I found myself with 15 years of Western painting and art history studies under my belt, but suddenly realized that my own autobiography was more important to me than the 400 years of Western painting history that I had learned. I urgently wanted to figure out a way to abandon that conceptual sphere and to find something concrete that mattered to me."Jacolby Satterwhite (via blackcontemporaryart)
Age 19 Matt Mullengweg co-founded WordPress
Age 20 John Collison co-founded Stripe
Age 21 Sophia Amoruso co-founded Nasty Gal
Age 22 Joe Lonsdale co-founded Palantir
Age 23 Alexis Ohanian co-founded Reddit
Age 24 Michelle Zatlyn co-founded Cloudflare
Age 25 Daniel Ek co-founded Spotify
46/365 - Dlila (She who weakened or uprooted)
So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me, dear, the secret of your great strength, and how you can be tied up and humbled.” (Judges 16:6 MSG)
NDO - Stalley #ohio
"The night sky is not lit up by one star, but by the billions of stars. Shine bright Black girls….Be bold. Be bright. Be blessed."
Just a few black girls/women who blew me away in 2013. I can’t wait to see what 2014 holds for them, for us, and for all Women of Color.
House of Cards Season Two Review
ONCE AGAIN, MAD SPOILERS AHEAD, DON’T EVEN TEMPT YOURSELF IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED SEASON TWO YET
Do you know what bothers me about the TV Show Scandal? That’s actually not rhetorical, I’m not exactly sure what once bothered me conceptually about the show is still applicable now, three seasons in. Make no mistake, I don’t watch Scandal; however, my initial refute of the ridiculously popular ABC show was rooted in my very brief viewing of it. While I was happy about the prospect of Kerry Washington headlining a big name show, I wasn’t particularly enamored with the most seemingly powerful black woman in politics being the jump off for the white president. Interracial love stories are not diminishing in anyway shape or form, but reducing the most powerful black woman to the other woman status in a Thomas Jefferson-esque understanding was a little danger close for me. In fairness, the understanding of relationships are in their evolution over time and I never stuck around to see how it manifested itself, so I can’t really judge the show on that trope or its quality any longer. What I do know about Scandal is what it is at its most basic level, a Primetime Soap Opera whose vehicle is political theater. Having established that, it comes with great personal disdain that I should probably stop making fun of Scandal and Scandalites alike since I do thoroughly enjoy House of Cards. Yes, House of Cards is a soap opera too.
There are the differences of course that I could conveniently fall back to justify why House of Cards is more worthy of my time, such as Scandal airing on network television, the nesting ground for TV viewers of the lowest common denominator (Hey, don’t shoot the messenger), where House of Cards is an uncensored circus of four letter words and the occasional ass shots on a “higher platform.” But is it really? Netflix (with HOC specifically) is brilliant in giving us what feels like a CBS TV show except people are allowed to end confrontations with “go fuck yourself” instead of “go to hell.” And that in itself is not worthless. Take Julia Louis-Dreyfus who had what feels like 27 different attempts at having a breakout show on network TV after Seinfeld, but is arguably headlining the best comedy on a TV show where she is allowed to call people “fucktards.” HOC asks you to suspend disbelief with its melodrama the way a network show does, skipping steps in the logic build a bear process, because its audience doesn’t care how the head got attached to the body, as long as the end result is that the thing can walk upright by episode 13. So, it really is a matter of preference that I can only say that House of Cards is what eats up my Scandal-able Time; you can have your Olivia Pope pouty face that is used for 14 different emotions, I’ll take Frank Underwood hamming it up to the fourth wall with southern idioms that might have been found amongst General Lee private journals.
Season Two of HOC starts pretty fast, about 9 feet per second/per second. Which is the rate of an object falling. In front of a subway train.
I, like many others, we’re left with a mouth agape when the soon to be Sue Storm learned how fly for about a second in a half before public transit clipped her wings, so much so, I had to flee to twitter to state my shock with the most ambiguous way possible to avoid spoiling it for anyone else. It was bold, unexpected (kudos to Netflix for keeping that nugget under wraps so well) and interesting as it gave the season something to galvanize some of the smaller characters to have a reason to lock horns with Frank. That, ultimately failed because 1) the ex sleeping partner guy worker guy (we can’t call him Zoe’s ex lover or boyfriend since we aren’t sure she even liked the dude) was dreadfully uninteresting in Kate Mara’s absence and 2) because everybody forgot about Zoe catching the 6 Train by episode 5. It seemed like something that could have hung over the entire season, chipping away at Frank bit by bit, but admittedly, his feud with Raymond Tusk, (the most interesting man in the world who happens to kill birds with his bare hands when they are too noisy) was definitely a more interesting way to go.
What HOC does right, it nails with brutal efficiency. It doesn’t try to dress up characters as something they aren’t. It doesn’t spend (too much) time on trying to humanize its characters. It would rather show you how ugly humans can be. It knows its audience cares less about diagnosing humanity and more about just how deep the next backstabbing will be without apologizing even a little for it. The production value is off the charts and it renders Washington in dizzying gloss as a perfect contradiction to just how ugly its sewers can get it. The acting is top heavy, as those that carried the water last season (Spacey, Wright-Penn, but minus Mara and Stoll) are tasked with dragging everyone else with them. They get a little help from Molly Parker this season (who will always be the Widow Garret of Deadwood fame in my heart) and Ali, who plays Remy, is asked to add some nuance for this season. The rest is often a mixed bag where actors aren’t asked to do too much, as their monologue will assuredly be interrupted by one of the major players at some point anyway. Dialogue is crisp and always at least interesting if not always a home run. From a cleverness standpoint, I put it somewhere above a typical cable show, but a notch or two below something like Justified or Sherlock. And really, what we’re talking about here are the Frank Underwood talking directly into your soul moments. Frank drops gems at about a 75% success rate, which still leaves room for the less inspiring moments. But let’s be clear about something: we can talk about the accent fluctuation or the sometimes groan worthy moments where Frank swings for the fences on a monologue and instead hits a dribbler down the third base line, but this role fits Kevin Spacey like a tailored Armani suit. He’s perfect for it. It’s not a Cranston as Walter White performance, it’s a Bruce Willis as John McClain in a Brooks Brothers suit performance. If ever the term “vehicle” applied to how an actor moves through a role then Spacey might not have the finest faster car on the road, but he can definitely take the corners better than almost anyone in it. Wright is his equal this season, not only in chewing the scenery, but in the belief that her character would completely devour a newborn and harness its power.
For what HOC excels at, I can’t really label it a great season of TV as there are too many contaminants in the sauce for me this go round. The popular term (ironically for politics especially) is that you don’t want to know how the sausage is made, you just want the patties. Well, good TV shows you how the sausage is made, all its ugliness, and then finds your appetite is even wetter because of it. HOC yada yada-ed a good many plot points, at least too much to completely suspend disbelief for me. Season two takes place over roughly a year’s time, bookended by Meechum’s birthday gift of F.U. cufflinks in episode 1, then Claire’s class ring present in episode 12 (by the way, poor Meechum right? I mean, maybe there’s a world where saying you had a threesome with the eventual President of the Free World and the First Lady is an awesome endeavor, but if President Williams was brought down by marriage counseling and legally prescribed drugs, then I got to think that shoving your tongue down the now President Underwood’s throat kind of spells out the meaning of being a liability).
In a year’s time, Frank was able to manipulate the race for his vacant Majority Whip spot away from the top two contenders, expose a shady business deal between Tusk and the Chinese, deal with his wife’s exposed infidelity, uncover illegal campaign finance and oh yeah, get the President of the United States to resign before being impeached while he himself ascends to the presidency. Joe Biden has probably been in politics for like 30 years (successfully mind you) and he’s best known for schmoozing with other men’s wives or mothers during photo ops. That’s not really the problem as things always happen quickly on TV, but the fact that he needed so much help to make it happen. Nobody says no to Frank Underwood. Wanna have a beer? Build a bridge in China with corrupt business man wanted for treason? Keep a woman prisoner in upstate New York? Ignore the presidents orders, or better yet, impeach the president who happens to be the leader of our party? I’m sure that if Frank really wanted, he could’ve talked to an electrical box at Camden Yards to let the lights come on just long enough for him to throw out that pitch. None of this is as egregious as the Claire / First Lady dynamic which really reminded me of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion than say, the West Wing. Somewhat like the show Veep, the success of Frank (in this capacity), lies in the existence of a weak president. And President Walker was a very weak president. But the biggest issue is First Lady Tricia Walker who was a more willing puppet for Claire more than Frank ever pulled the strings on a junior congressman. Maybe I (and all of us fine citizens) have been spoiled by “you better go somewhere with that bullshit” vibe that our current FLOTUS projects, but I just can’t see a woman who has gone through the fires of being married to a politician at the highest levels all the way up to the White House being completely idiotic and naive to the most obvious landmines placed in her path.
If we credit Frank for shaping government to his liking, then Claire is really the one who brought down the presidency, even if it was way too easy for her to do it.
As far as the ending to season two, I’m still not all that impressed with how it ended. We’re told early enough that Frank wants to be president, so we are supposed to see that as his crowning achievement, but does it really make all that much sense? Maybe its pragmatic for pragmatism’s sake, but everything we’ve been told about Frank makes me believe that he would rather be the puppet master and power behind the throne as opposed to sitting in it himself. I suppose, him becoming president is the crowd pleasing move and maybe the point is to make the fall even steeper, the ensuing tragedy even more in plain sight, as it will be harder for Frank to do his deacon handshakes standing in the oval office. But there has to be a fall, right? As much celebration took place to end the season for Frank’s Grand Theft Auto Five style take of the White House, this has to be flimsiest foundation of a presidency ever. If Raymond Tusk is out there perjuring himself on a person that was his friend for decades, are we to believe the he won’t tell the truth about Frank, especially since Frank had bested him? Doug got his head caved in the same woods that Silvio sent Adriana to big hair heaven in (also, for those of you that were dying for a good Rachel on the run story, um, you’re welcome). And let’s not forget that everyone in Washington hates Frank’s guts. They know how underhanded he is, how many people he’s backstabbed (not counting the two he’s killed with his bare hands). If President Walker couldn’t keep his office as a squeaky clean, law abiding commander with no big enemies before Frank, then how long is the President Underwood term supposed to last? Midterms? Netflix already confirmed season 3 before the first episodes of season two were made available and if I was a betting man, I’d guess that we get at least four seasons when it’s all said and done. I would prefer three seasons. While, HOC is by no means, Breaking Bad, the final genius of that show was that it basically worked on a closed loop. It knew where it was going and how to get there in the most efficient way possible. We’re not going to get that kind of lean cut from HOC, but it would be nice for this to be a focused and direct story that documented the rise and fall of the Underwoods without some superfluous fluff in between. But even if it does get drawn out Sons of Anarchy style, I won’t complain too much. It’s too hard taking your eyes off the shiny things and there are shiny things a plenty on HOC. If we are in for the long haul with this show, take some of Frank’s sage wisdom from the very first episode: “You know how you devour a whale? One bite at a time.”
House of Cards Season 2: 3 1/2 Knives between the shoulder blades out of 5.