Life Out Here

pop culture post mfa applications

Last night I pushed “submit” on my final graduate school application, and then I slept through the night for the first time in months!

I have emerged from the application cave, and I would say I’m blinking from the bright light but really I’m coughing because of the terrible inversion here in Salt Lake City. C’est la vie.

But, I must say, life outside of the application cave—life out here— is very strange.

I mean, first of all, there’s a BABY YODA?!?!

It’s so freaking adorable it makes me angry! Though I still don’t understand why there is a Baby Yoda in the first place… something about Werner Herzog? Like, THIS Werner Herzog?!?! And also Threepio is going to die? WTF? Obviously, I’m horribly behind on Star Wars— please tell me someone told JJ Abrams about tripods, I totally meant to, but I was so busy!

And then like 12 new streaming services launched and I have no idea where to begin with any of them so instead I just play this game where I turn on the TV and desperately try to avoid seeing D*n*ld Tr*mp in Home Alone 2 while channel surfing. Let me tell you, there have been some close calls.

And what’s this about John Mulaney doing a children’s musical special?!? I say, good sir, leave some greatness for the rest of us.

Also, are people really still having the whole theatre vs. Netflix, watching things in chunks vs. sitting through it, binging TV vs. long movie debate again over The Irishman?! WHY?! Hasn’t everyone said their piece already in the, you know, YEARS since this debate started? Psh, maybe it was nice in my cave.

Oh, but there ARE some things I want to talk about! Did anyone see The Lighthouse?!?! How about Parasite?!?! Knives Out?!?! Oh, you all have? And the discourse has already passed? Oh. Ok. That’s fine. I guess that’s how it is out here.


I’ve got some fun projects that I’m working on, so keep an eye on this space. I’m thinking I’ll do a serialized release of some of my screenwriting projects. :D

Happy holidays!

It's Lonely Out Here

So You Better Learn How To Talk

I’m having a lovely day! Two of my pieces have gone up and I would love if you would read and share them.

FIRST, and I am so very excited about this, my essay “It’s Lonely Out Here, So You Better Learn How To Talk” is up on BW/DR!

Second, a little piece on Toy Story 4 for The Reel Women!

That’s it for now, but I have some exciting stuff coming to this newsletter very soon, so stay tuned!

Peaks 6/24

Utah Arts Festival and Shrimp

The big event of my weekend was attending the Utah Arts Festival, which was a delight! I knew the event was a big deal but this was my first time going. I didn’t end up participating in everything, but there was plenty to love, including readings, music, puppetry, and the Artists Marketplace.

I love looking at art on a more local level. The tie between crafts and art at is very strong, and often these artists get to have a more specialized or local slant than you would get to see in a museum. Here are some of my favorites from UAF:

Prince Duncan-Williams’ work was absolutely fascinating. There’s the cubist influences, obviously, but what I specifically loved is that these pieces are embroidered!! With threads! Look closely and you can see. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. This “silk mosaic” art is inspired by art in Duncan-Williams’ native Ghana.

Artist Darrell Driver called his work “Cerebral thoughts captured in Oil Painting.” Needless to say, I am 100% here for pop-art influenced surrealism!!!

Julie Roth’s art is eye catching, partly because of the scale. It’s super dynamic, and after reading that she does a lot of public art and murals in Wisconsin, her home, I feel like I have a reason to visit Wisconsin. Is it weird to say that I love lines? Because I really do love lines.

Shawn Harris’s photography/digital art hybrids look like a cross between a photo in an old “I Spy” book and a b-movie sci-fi which is to say I LOVE IT. Harris says that most of the figures in his pieces are himself, dressed up in masks, in front of a green screen which he then manipulates digitally. Every piece of his I saw was delightfully weird.

Last but not least is Stephanie Swift, who I’ve been a fan of for a few years— I even have some of her prints in my apartment! Swift started creating her art when the vintage signs and old buildings she loved were getting torn down, and she wanted to remember them. At her booths I often have great conversations about my favorite SLC places in all their (often kitschy) glory. Her art is nostalgic and vital. At the festival I was particularly pleased to see a huge print of the Salt Lake Costume Co. sign, which got torn down this year for new development.

That’s it for the Arts Festival! I will definitely be attending again next year.

On the movies front, I did see Toy Story 4 which was a blast. I am hopefully going to have a review up on Reel Women later this week, so I’ll link to that once it’s live. Also, as a reminder, all of the Toy Story films are freaking brilliant and gut-hurtingly hilarious.

Three little things that brought me joy this week:

  1. Scientists got real excited about finding this boi:

  1. THIS! SONG!

3. A “Choose Your Own Adventure” twitter thread to see how long you would survive as Beyonce’s assistant (hint: unless you are much better than me, not long).

I hate heat and being hot and sweating, so summer is typically not a happy time for me. But this summer I am determined to enjoy myself! I have been using the Pool Party episode of Shrill as my North Star, and have been wearing shorts and going to the pool as much as possible and overall just living my best life. And it has been fun! I highly recommend it! Every body is a swimsuit body, and when it’s hot out bodies feel a lot better in a cool pool. Also I died my hair rose gold, which is definitely giving me energy.

I saved the best for last!!! I went to Taqueria 27, a local SLC restaurant with a few different locations, and very much enjoyed it. They may not be super authentic tacos but they’re delicious, hipster-y tacos. However, the best thing I at there by far was the “Grilled Shrimp Tostada Bites,” described on the website as “8 thick cut corn chips topped with fresh guacamole, cilantro pesto marinated grilled shrimp and balsamic-agave syrup.” I’m telling you, I could eat these every day into eternity. Easily my favorite SLC eat since the Dim Sum noodles at the Downtown Farmer’s Market and the Albacore Garlic sushi roll at Fat Fish. Next time you’re in SLC, try it!

That’s it for now! Have a good Monday.

Peaks

a new Monday feature

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would like to be doing with this newsletter. Mostly, it’s been a place for me to put the things I feel like writing but don’t have a platform for, and I’ve been enjoying that, so there will certainly be more little essays in the future. I’m also toying with the idea of doing some serialized fiction, but that will take more time to form.

In the meantime, I do want expand on something I’ve sort of already been doing: consistent feature where I share media that I have found interesting/funny/beautiful/well-crafted. Basically, the good stuff! At risk of sounding a bit special, finding joy in things is such a novelty to me. A while ago I was telling my therapist that I was having a hard time telling if my depression was improving on a new medication. She asked me to simply tell her some of the things that I thought during the day, and I told her that I kept thinking about how beautiful the mountains are, and that every time I saw them I felt happy, she said “that doesn’t sound like a depressed person to me.” It was a landmark moment in my little life, and now each time I look at the gorgeous mountain peaks in Salt Lake City, I feel a surge of joy. So, on Mondays I will be giving you the Peaks— the art/music/film/culture/food that has made me happy recently. The first installment is below!


I would be lying if I told you that anything has made me as happy recently as this clip of Keanu Reeves sharing how much he loves movies:

My lil bro pointed out that Keanu ends this with a “prophet growl”— a little joke for my LDS friends there.

Speaking of my lil bro, he has been living in the living room of my apartment the past month, as he is working a summer job here in SLC and hasn’t been able to secure housing. This has been a blast, because not only does he take out the garbage and make Indian food from scratch, but he also is a fun human! He has sprouted new life into the little keyboard in our place (he’s a musician), so I often come in to hear him trying to replicate this:

It’s not a bad thing to hear.

Lil bro also had me play Inside and FOLKS. I am obviously a couple years late to this but I was FLOORED. This game was immediately engrossing, and so, so beautiful. The animations and sound design are stunning, and the physics and weight your character feels incredibly realistic. The mechanics of the game are also super simple. It’s a lateral movement puzzle game, and non-gamers (such as myself) could easily play it. The puzzles are intuitive even when they’re difficult, and consequently amazingly satisfying.

I hesitate to say anything about the story, because the journey and discovery is the whole point, but it’s a dystopian horror. It is also not for the faint of heart for as beautiful as it is, it gets disturbing. But man… this is sort of the vague, surreal, experimental, atmospheric sci-fi I dream of writing.

Moving on!

I saw Rocketman the weekend it came out, and while my initial response to the movie was more of a “that was fun,” I keep thinking about it! I think I underestimated how fun it was! While the story itself may have been a touch cliche, there’s simply something to be said for great music and inventive visuals— as well as real sincerity. Also, Taron Egerton’s performance is nothing to sneeze at. Anyway, I will be seeing it again. In the meantime, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a great little bit on the movie. (I appreciate how MZS can thoughtfully approach the most pop of pop culture— his review of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is a classic)

In other movie news, Late Night was a delight in many ways, but mostly EMMA THOMPSON! The inimitable Hunter Harris of Vulture explains.

Another thing that has made me happy this week is all of my friends who are writing and creating beautiful things!!! My screenwriting group was a blast this week, and I’ve also had the chance to read some of my friends’ work and do some collaboration and it’s just lovely. I can’t share my friends’ writing here, but what I can share is some gorgeous art done by none other than my lil sis! Here is concept art she did for a video game pitch:

Yes, that second pic is a reference to The Third Man, I AM SO PROUD.

Last but not least, AURORA released a new album! A Different Kind of Human (Step II) is great, and, I think, better than Step 1 in the series. Here she returns to more of the atmospheric soundscapes, darker sounds, and folk/world music influences. I’m especially loving “Hunger”:

That’s it for today! I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts about any of the above, or would just like to share your own happy things, so reply to this email or comment via the website. Have a lovely week!

—MM

happy movies!

a quick follow up

Expanding on that last newsletter, here is a list of movies that make me HAPPY, whether or not they are critically worthy:

  • Austenland

  • Knight and Day

  • the Star Wars Prequels

  • Down With Love

  • anything Muppets

  • Peter Pan (the 2003 live-action version)

  • The Philadelphia Story

  • any Mission: Impossible film, but especially Fallout and Rogue Nation

  • TOY! STORY!

  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

  • Jurassic Park

  • Anna and the Apocalypse

  • Over the Garden Wall

  • Young Frankenstein

  • Private Eyes

  • Sing Street

  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople

  • The Horatio Hornblower BBC miniseries

  • The Conjuring

  • bad shark movies with friends!

  • any John Mulaney standup

And please let me know what your favorite happy movies are!! I could always use more in my arsenal.

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