Comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon grapple with love, family expectations and other afflictions in ‘The Big Sick’

August 18, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 18, 2017

Director Michael Showalter’s new dramatic comedy, The Big Sick, is the appealing real-life meet-cute story of Uber driver–cum–comedian/actor Kumail Nanjiani and graduate student–cum–comedy writer/producer Emily V. Gordon.

The story, co-written by Nanjiani and Gordon themselves, begins at a comedy show in Chicago, where Kumail (playing himself) mock-seriously lectures psychology graduate student Emily (Zoe Kazan) for heckling him during his set. The two say they’re not looking for anything serious, but their physical attraction is supplemented by a personal affection that develops between the pair, and soon they’re seeing each other multiple times a week.

Unfortunately, Kumail isn’t ready for commitment, partly because he’s focused on winning a slot at a comedy festival in Montreal, but also because his very traditional Pakistani parents and brother expect him to have an arranged marriage, just like they did. While the family is openly skeptical of Kumail’s comedic dabbling — they’d prefer that he apply to law school — they flat-out declare that they’ll disown him if he doesn’t marry a Muslim woman.

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Crime and misdemeanors: A crowd tears down a Confederate monument in my home town

August 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 15, 2017

It’s not every day that Durham, N.C., gets national attention — and it’s even rarer when the City of Medicine generates widespread news coverage for something other than college basketball. Unfortunately, despite being in town yesterday, I was completely unaware of what might be a seminal moment in an important national news story until a few hours after the event had taken place.

On Monday evening, protesters pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers that stood in front of the Durham County Administration Building, which served as the county courthouse from 1916 through 1978. The statue in question was erected in 1924; the front of its pedestal reads, “In memory of ‘The Boys who Wore the Gray.’”

I won’t miss the statue; it venerated soldiers who, while they may have fought bravely, did so in service to a disloyal would-be nation that was dedicated to keeping black men, women and children in bondage.

Durham, like many American cities, is full of symbols of disdain for African-Americans, some more explicit than others. One example — subtler than the statue of the rebel soldier, but more prominent in a way — is the Durham Freeway, a.k.a. N.C. 147, an expressway built in the late 1960s that devastated a once-thriving black community named Hayti. These badges of dishonor can never be wholly erased; nor should they, for to plaster over past injustices is to invite their repetition. But neither should such affronts be afforded undeserved esteem.

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Diana of the Amazons gets the royal treatment in Patty Jenkins’s spectacular ‘Wonder Woman’

August 12, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 12, 2017

Previously, I wrote about the movie rivalry between DC and Marvel Comics. Left unmentioned in my screed was the iconic comic-book character of Wonder Woman, who — at least for my generation — is probably the foremost female superhero.

There was a very good reason for that omission; actually, there were two of them. One was that I’d planned to compose this review. (Well, to be honest, I’d intended for my DC-Marvel movie rivalry recap to be an introduction to this review, but it took on a life of its own in the writing.) The other was that Wonder Woman hadn’t had a proper live-action movie until this June, although her appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was hailed as perhaps that 2016 film’s only bright spot.

Previously, the character’s main live-action incarnation had been in the television series Wonder Woman, which spanned three seasons from 1975 through 1979. I have very vague memories of the program; they mainly center around Wonder Woman fighting Russians and my having a huge crush on the show’s star, Lynda Carter. The current obscurity of the series speaks to what I presume was its dearth of progressive gender politics, convincing special effects and overall quality. The same could probably be said of 1974 and 2011 TV movies respectively starring Cathy Lee Crosby and Adrianne Palicki and of the (rogue?) 2014 micro-budgeted movie fronted by Veronica Pierce.

Thankfully, the spectacular cinematic staging of the warrior Diana’s origin story in the new Wonder Woman is everything that the previous versions evidently were not. Moreover, this thoroughly impressive production could mark a turning of the tide in DC and Marvel’s movie feud.

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DC vs. Marvel at the movies

August 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 5, 2017

Author’s note: A few hours after I published this post, I added a note to my ersatz table indicating that two of the listings included ticket sales from the same Marvel movie. MEM

East Coast vs. West Coast, New York vs. Boston, Apple vs. Microsoft, DC vs. Marvel: Each one of these rivalries is famous and hard-fought. But over the past decade or so, perhaps none of these have been so one-sided as that between the two titans of comic books.

Although DC’s Superman and Batman are inarguably the best-known superheroes of all time, Marvel’s superhero teams — the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and, in recent years, the Guardians of the Galaxy — are by far more popular. Moreover, Marvel comics are generally thought to have more artistic merit and to be more socially relevant than DC products.

To add insult to injury, Marvel has been kicking DC’s heinie on the film front for a decade or more. This is despite the fact that DC’s flagship characters were phenomenally successful at the box office and helped establish the comic-book movie as a genre on the strength of productions such as Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and its 2008 and 2012 sequels.

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Dining on the fly: A terminal experience

August 1, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 1, 2017

I arrived at RDU in plenty of time to make my flight on July 19. According to my parking ticket, I got to the long-term lot two hours and one minute before my plane’s scheduled departure. Despite this, and despite the fact that my flight was delayed, I wound up having to run to catch my plane.

Originally, I was prepared to wait at the gate until it was time to board. However, our departure was pushed back by about half an hour, until 8:44 p.m., and my stomach began demanding to be fed. The gate agent made an announcement that made it seem as if we might not leave until 9 p.m. or possibly later.

That meant that we probably wouldn’t land until 10:30. I wanted to meet my car service as soon as possible, and that trip would take another 45 minutes at least. Also, my flight wouldn’t offer any meal service. While I wasn’t exactly facing the prospect of starvation, it seemed important that I eat something.

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A short monograph on Triangle traffic; or, my Wednesday-afternoon trip to the airport

July 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 31, 2017

I’d planned on taking a trip the week that ended on Saturday, July 22. But I hadn’t planned on leaving on Wednesday the 19th, and I hadn’t planned on flying. However, an urgent situation arose, and it seemed best that I book an evening flight.

That afternoon, I went to a barcade in downtown Raleigh. I did this partly to help myself unwind for a bit before my flight, but I also did this because evening rush-hour in the Research Triangle tends to be heaviest going east from Durham to Raleigh, and Raleigh-Durham International Airport is located about halfway between the two cities.

(Sidebar: A significant disparity between housing and jobs helps fuel traffic holdups in the region, as does a lack of rail-based mass transit. The city of Raleigh, which forms the Triangle’s eastern vertex, is the most populous in the region. But a significant proportion of Raleigh residents work either in Chapel Hill, the site of the University of North Carolina and its major teaching hospital facility, or in Durham, which is home to Duke University, to Duke’s major teaching hospital facility and to North Carolina Central University, a large historically black state university.

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Weekend (?) anecdotes: A deer sighting and my seat-swap roller-coaster ride

July 30, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 30, 2017

My days have been a bit of a blur lately, so I’m only 99 percent sure that the following anecdote took place on Saturday, July 29.

I was walking a certain family dog around my Parental Unit’s neighborhood. We were heading toward a T-intersection of residential streets when I noticed that Lucky and I had company.

As per usual, the dog and I were walking on the street by the curb on the right side. (When there isn’t a sidewalk available, I typically walk along the right side of the road, as would be standard for a motorist or bicyclist.) But either a noise or something I saw out of the corner of my eye made me look to the left. Much to my amazement, I saw that a doe was walking parallel to us through the front yards of the houses on the opposite side of the street.

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My addiction to digital candy demolition

July 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 29, 2017

I haven’t updated the blog in more than a week, for which I apologize. I had to do some traveling, which I’d expected, but I wound up doing so for a purpose that I hadn’t anticipated when a family member suddenly developed a serious situation.

When I stay with this relative, I do something that I never do anywhere else: I play Candy Crush Saga, the free mobile game that makes an estimated $1.5 million a day.

I’m proud to say that I’ve never paid a single dime to play this match-three puzzle game (as Think Gaming describes it). Nor have I polluted anyone’s Facebook timeline by asking for help unlocking a level or whatever it is people do (used to do?) on the social network. Instead, I advance through the game the old-fashioned way: With lots of trial and error, lots of waiting and some dumb strokes of luck.

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Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 7

July 18, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 18, 2017

I’ve already told the story of how, during the week or so I spent dog-sitting for friends in Northern Virginia, I went to play pinball on Tuesday night and headed back to the house earlier than expected because I was disappointed by the games on offer.

What I haven’t yet explained is why I didn’t go to (as I call it) Massive Marvin’s on Monday evening, when I’d originally intended to visit. There were two reasons: A self-induced fiasco of an early-afternoon walk and a mild panic following an early-evening outing.

The dog and I headed out at 10 minutes to 1 p.m. The day before, workers had cleared away a bunch of vegetation on the property where I’d encountered the possible poison ivy vine on Saturday, so I wasn’t concerned about exacerbating my rash. Nor was I worried about losing something vital — at least, not at first…

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My public comment in support of preserving America’s national monuments

July 12, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 12, 2017

On Monday, I happened across this essay by Brent Rose about more than two dozen national monuments that could lose their protected status. This spring, after President Donald Trump ordered Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, to conduct a review process that may lead to the revocation of some of their status as national monuments, Rose resolved to travel to the 22 monuments located in the continental United States.

I was so moved by Rose’s essay that I decided to leave a public comment on the process at regulations.gov. (The period for commenting closed at midnight on Monday.)

The following text is a slightly edited version of the comment that I made:

~~~

I’m writing to urge Secretary Zinke to uphold designations of National Monuments and Marine National Monuments unless there is overwhelming evidence that such designations were improperly made and/or that such designations directly harm the public interest.

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