Do you really want a failed biology student for your doctor who’s only in it for the money?

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Class of 2022 make up “the most in-demand college graduates to enter the job market in years.” Will I be one of the lucky ones?

I pulled out my phone this morning to check the time when I saw the notification from LinkedIn. As recently as yesterday, a recruiter had messaged me with a job opportunity, only to reject me minutes after I submitted the application. Hoping for a different outcome, I opened the app and found a headline from LinkedIn News there to greet me, announcing that “new grads” are “in-demand.”

It was a “different outcome” – just not as positive as I would have hoped.

The LinkedIn News piece is excerpted from The Wall Street Journal, which reports that “sixteen percent of employers surveyed in March and April said they’d double up on new graduate hires this year compared to 2021.” What’s more, “fifty-three percent of new grads with job offers said starting salaries surpassed their expectations, reaching six figures in some industries.”

Part of me, of course, embraced this story as welcome news for the Biden Administration, still repeatedly criticized for their handling of the economy even though their progressive policies are demonstrably leading the United States away from a post-Trump COVID recession.

However, I earned my bachelor’s degree in 2015, when Joe Biden was Vice President, and I expect to earn my master’s this December. Unless I find a day job in my field by the end of the year, 2023 will mark an eight-year resume gap for this writer.

It’s not from a lack of trying. As an undergraduate student at Colorado State University Fort Collins, I worked as many as four jobs at a time to build up my portfolio. One of these positions was an editor’s role I filled in less than a year. During the three years of my Bachelor of Arts candidacy, I earned two merit-based scholarships for my journalism, and placed in a national competition as many times.

Employers took note. My clips snagged me as many interviews in 2015 as my online profiles snagged dates, but I must make a poor first impression, because it wasn’t until months after graduation that I found a job and a boyfriend, neither of which were my “type.”

Yes, I shake hands with a limp wrist, but only because I’m gay and gender-queer. No, I don’t make consistent eye contact, but only because I have five diagnosed mental illnesses, four of which are protected classes of neurodivergent disabilities. But shouldn’t a hiring manager recommend you based on your qualifications, not whether they like the cut of your jib?

Even though he’s no Bernie Sanders, I charge every writer in this community to advocate for fewer discriminatory staffing practices under Biden. Climb up on your platform like it’s a soapbox and amplify your voice like it’s a megaphone.

For as long as interviewers shuffle certain CVs to the top of the pile because their fraternity brothers and sorority sisters memorize the right secret handshakes, then “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” are just so many more buzzwords.

How to write about gentrification in a setting

Jendella Benson’s debut novel, “Hope and Glory,” takes place in the London neighborhood of Peckham, (in)famous for its gentrification. As she approaches this setting with the same eye for world-building as writers of fantasy of science fiction, Benson learns something new about her own community.

In her contribution to Literary Hub, Jendella Benson dismisses the word “gentrification” as “cliché.” She writes, “It is a flat term that speaks of boxy rooms in new build apartments and nameless hipsters and craft beer.” Instead, her debut novel, Hope and Glory, seeks to characterize the gentrified (Benson herself can’t afford to live in the setting for her own book anymore), whilst acknowledging the systemic and institutional phenomenon of “gentrification” at the same time.

Although I haven’t experienced gentrification as a white American who grew up in the Middle Class neighborhoods of South Metro Denver, I’ve witnessed it firsthand. People can’t afford to live in their own communities, turned out onto the streets after one delinquent rent payment too many, where drugs are their only solace and crime is their only access to our society’s capitalistic resources for survival. I may not be the right one who can speak to it, but I call upon all the Jendella Bensons of the world to do it for themselves.

A writer of climate fantasy faces the future more fearlessly in her fiction

Rebecca Scherm began writing “A House Between Earth and the Moon” while pregnant in 2014 to ease her anxieties about the world her first child would inherit. Much like childbirth, the process was painful, but miraculous.

For many expecting mothers, the world today can strike the fear of God into the heart; for writers like Rebecca Scherm, that dread is an opportunity “not to calm myself, exactly, but to run my imagination all the way out, until it exhausts itself.” Contributing to Literary Hub, Scherm describes the creative process behind her science fiction novel, A House Between Earth and the Moon, which follows a family as they flee the dying planet for a space station in 2033. In forcing herself to research the realities of climate change she’d once upon a time avoided, Scherm writes, “This novel changed me from someone who writes about a need for change into someone desperate to bring those changes to life.”

As loath as I am to regurgitate pull quote after pull quote (especially in a blog post this brief), Scherm is the best writer I’d never heard of before today, and she deserves the same recognition as all the other women authors dominating the post-J.K. Rowling marketplace; Gillian Flynn springs most readily to mind as a worthy contemporary. Anyway, Scherm speaks for herself with more of a voice than anyone else could hope to capture, such as with the course-correction in lifestyle she outlines here: “I started down a path of climate activism through native plant gardening—for biodiversity, for carbon capture, for reacquainting people with the more-than-human world around them—and this path has felt like a kind of salvation.” Sometimes, meaningful action is as deceptively simple as the hope native plant gardening brings to a new mother, and Scherm has her own imaginative literature to thank for that “salvation.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning Anthony Doerr on his planning process

Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the modern classic “All the Light We Cannot See,” discusses with Julianne Gee of the Boise State University “Arbiter” how drawing engages him to write with greater complexity. Doerr briefly worked with their creative writing department.

After the publication of his latest book, Cloud Cuckoo Land, in September, Anthony Doerr sat down for an interview with The Arbiter in Idaho. Doerr is quoted as saying, “Growing up, you always think good novelists live in Brazil and Buenos Aires or Paris or they’re dead. Every day you have to give yourself permission and say, ‘You know, even though I live right here in Boise, it’s okay to try to make something that people might read in Brazil or in Paris.'”

We study Doerr extensively in the Master of Arts program for professional creative writing at the University of Denver; he is, without hyperbole, one of the most gifted authors working today, and you could do far worse than learn from his comedic timing in his sentences, or the grander storytelling structures he erects out of this acumen for the micro level. Like all masters of the written word, he knows how to make it appear as though he comes by this skillset naturally, but, during the prewriting phase for Cloud Cuckoo Land, he reveals he scaffolded the outline with a diagram. As for what inspired him to write with such wealth and depth, Doerr attributes it to his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease – “I just thought I’m going to try the most complicated thing I can try right now, while I still can,” he says.

The rhizome concept is represented as a tangled web of roots in this sketch.
This drawing of a “rhizome,” or underground root system, mirrors the intricacy of Anthony Doerr’s own “map” for “Cloud Cuckoo Land.” (Image Courtesy: The Arbiter).

Hulu review: FX and Audience Network’s “Damages” (2007-2012)

Let’s face it: the Golden Age of Television is a sausage fest. The antihero dances perilously close to making folk heroes out of the violent white male. Female sociopathy is largely uncharted territory.

Consider Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) the exception to the rule.

If you don’t know what to watch next, FX and Audience Network’s Damages (2007-2012) is available to stream on Hulu. The legal thriller won two Primetime Emmy Awards during its run for Close’s portrayal of Patty.

It has also been nominated twice for Outstanding Drama Series.

Fresh out of law school, Ellen Parsons (Outstanding Supporting Actress nominee Rose Byrne) is offered a job at Hewes & Associates, a competitive (but infamous) litigation firm.

Her boss, Patty, is something of a legal vigilante, taking the law into her own hands if it means cutting down to size men who abuse their power.

Each season focuses on a different lawsuit from both sides of the case, with nonlinear framing devices generating binge-worthy suspense through central mysteries.

The relationship between Patty and Ellen mirrors that of Jesse Pinkman and Walter White, or Christopher Moltisanti and Tony Soprano, or Don Draper and Peggy Olson.

The mentor is toxic and abusive, while the protégé is the moral foil, coloring the conflicts between them in shades of morally gray.

But the mother-daughter dynamic between Patty and Ellen is distinctly feminine across a writerly landscape where women written by men all too often sound like they’re written by men – Patty may be a study in antisocial personality disorder, but she is still a survivor of misogynistic oppression, just like Ellen.

Patty also echoes Walt, Tony, and Don as the boss from Hell. To become the self-made success story of the American Dream they all are, each one of these characters, in his or her own respective ways, was forced to become something inhuman.

Indeed, those in power around them are no less self-serving, manipulative, and corrupt, and Patty does what she must to survive.

Which brings us to our next comparison: Patty and Daenerys Targaryen. Like Daenerys, Patty faces off against antagonists even more unlikable than herself, and so we empathize with her by comparison.

But unlike Daenerys, Patty is an ethically written female antihero, in that she is never presented as a “fallen woman” too emotionally unstable to do the right thing with her own power, but, rather, she beats the men around her at their own game.

Even though Patty holds her own with the boys (unlike Daenerys), Damages would be one of the classics had been canceled after its third season.

The transition from the thirteen-episode seasons on FX to the ten-episode seasons on DirecTV marks a change in pace and tone like something out of a different (and lesser) show.

Even the greatest series are in the business of making money, and that means staying on the air until they are no longer profitable, no matter how slow and painful a death that may be.

But for the first three-fifths of its run, Damages is one of the all-time best, which is more than can be said for almost every other series out there. Like Close herself, it is not talked about enough. And its parallels to real-world cases makes it that much more watchable.

Netflix review: Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” (2002)

“Seven days…”

If you don’t know what to watch next, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002) is available to stream on Netflix. The supernatural horror film stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, as well as Brian Cox.

Ehren Kruger’s screenplay is a remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998), which is an adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Koji Suzuki.

Set in Seattle, teenaged Katie Embry (Amber Tamblyn) dies seven days after watching a cursed videotape, and her friend, Becca Kotler (Rachael Bella) is institutionalized upon witnessing it. Katie’s aunt, Rachel Keller (Watts), an investigative journalist, looks into the death.

Once Rachel watches the tape, she receives a phone call telling her she’ll die in seven days.

The Ring popularized the American remake of the Asian horror flick, and for good reason. Eastern storytelling differs from Western storytelling enough to put off even the most literate fans of Hollywood horror.

With this zeitgeist commodifying the crosstalk between the United States and the Asian market in the 2000s, it has ushered in the “Asian New Wave” of the 2010s, culminating in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019) becoming the first non-English language film to win Best Picture.

Such is the power of The Ring. Like Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) before it, it is as mystifying as it is horrifying. Its cast of characters is written and performed as paranormal sleuths trying to outwit the evil force, not just warm bodies waiting to get killed.

That is what makes us care when the horrors befall them. As with James Wan, the horror maestro of our time whose jump scares are actually scary, every frightening image in the cursed videotape is meaningful.

They are not grotesque for the sake of itself – they three-dimensionalize the vengeful spirit until we are as afraid for her as we are afraid of her.

The resolution, however, is ambiguous to the point of being barely intelligible. While it works better than a storybook “happy ending” would have, it still leaves too many loose ends for comfort.

Even when opening up to the possibility of a franchise, though, a good ending will answer more questions than it asks, or, at least, it’ll raise questions we can answer for ourselves.

Like Katie, dare yourself to watch The Ring, and like Samara, it’ll crawl out of the screen at you.

“The Guardian” runs a retrospective for Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” (1963)

Pamela Hutchinson, writing for The Guardian, reviewed Federico Fellini’s (1963) after seeing it for the first time. According to Hutchinson, Fellini’s surrealist comedy-drama about a creatively blocked filmmaker named Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is inspired by the director’s own… well… lack of inspiration and it is “an easy film to admire from the off… fluid and dreamlike.” However, Hutchinson takes issue with the film’s representation of Guido’s mistress, wife, and star, “mostly buxom and/or bothersome,” who appear in one of his fantasies as a harem of women who bathe him like an infant until he attacks them with a whip.

Amazon Prime review: Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite” (2018)

One of the greatest films of its year features this scene.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite (2018) is available on Amazon Prime. The period black comedy was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Olivia Colman won for Best Actress.

Set in 1704 England, Anne, Queen of Great Britain (Colman), is an invalid and incompetent monarch. Her “favourite,” Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Best Supporting Actress nominee Rachel Weisz) – yes, that Churchill – is the de facto ruler of the empire.

But when Sarah’s younger, impoverished cousin, Abigail Hill (Best Supporting Actress nominee Emma Stone), shows up looking for a job, a bitter rivalry ensues between these two ambitious women for the queen’s “favour.”

Lanthimos is the leading absurdist of his craft, and The Favourite is his most commercial effort without losing any of his voice, which is how it was showered with such attention from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Compared to his The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), this satire, though just as alienating to audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, is still more laugh-out-loud anachronistic than it is chuckle-to-yourself uncomfortable.

But it balances these more ridiculous themes against such subtextual social commentary as the desperation of the lower class to climb out of their plight as well as the blind eye the upper class turns to that plight so they can race ducks and lobsters instead.

And the auteur directs out of his three leading ladies equally tragicomic tours de force, but none more so than Colman. She caricaturizes Queen Anne hysterically, but also sensitively.

It would not come as a surprise to this critic if the performer studied up on borderline personality disorder in preparation for this role.

In addition, Robbie Ryan’s cinematography aestheticizes the film with its signature photography. The wide-angle lenses are like watching the subjects through a fishbowl.

Not only is it visually unique, but it is also artistically eloquent; time may distance us from this cast of characters, but we can still see their conflicts reflected back at us as if they are our own, even as history warps it.

While The Favourite does not presume to be historically accurate, its source material is still a character assassination. It is loosely based upon Sarah Churchill’s memoir, which is (understandably) biased against Queen Anne.

All parties involved are long dead, but still, is it ethical to knowingly and purposefully misrepresent historical figures?

Or maybe The Favourite is meant to be read as a parody of this hyperbolically bitter artifact of poison-pen revenge – either way, it is a treat for those who acquire the taste for it.

A piano crashing to the ground 120 years ago this month inspires a Laurel and Hardy movie

James Parrott’s The Music Box (1932), a half-hour Laurel and Hardy short, premiered April 16, 1932, according to The Post-Standard. In the slapstick duo’s masterpiece, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel play a couple of bumbling furniture movers who deliver a player-piano to a wealthy man’s house (Professor Theodore von Schwartzenhoffen, M.D., A.D., D.D.S., F.L.D., F-F-F-and-F (Billy Gilbert)). The film earned Stan and Ollie their first Academy Award, and it debuted almost thirty-two years to the day when a pair of Syracuse deliverymen brought down a chimney with the weight of their pulleys while delivering a piano on April 22, 1900.

Netflix review: David Fincher’s “Panic Room” (2002)

David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014) is one of the masterpieces of its decade. But it was nominated for only one Academy Award, which it didn’t even win. It attests to its auteur’s Hitchcockian themes on the human condition as well as his Kubrickian manifestation of them.

With his Panic Room (2002), he tightens this style into a single setting with a two-hour runtime, and the final product is an artisanal entertainment.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Panic Room is available to stream on Netflix. The thriller stars Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam. Scriptwriter David Koepp also coproduced.

Recently divorced Meg Altman (Foster) and her eleven-year-old diabetic daughter, Sarah (Stewart), move into a four-story Upper West Side New York City brownstone.

The house’s previous owner, a reclusive millionaire, had a “panic room” built in to hide from home invaders, complete with concrete, steel, surveillance cameras, a PA system, and a separate phone line.

The night the Altmans move in, Junior (Leto), the millionaire’s grandson, along with Burnham (Whitaker), an employee for the house’s security company, and Raoul (Yoakam), a hired gun, break in to steal three million dollars of bearer bonds locked in a floor safe under the panic room.

The claustrophobic mise-en-scene is redolent of the obvious influences, most notably Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), Dial M for Murder (1954), and Rear Window (1954).

If good artists borrow and great artists steal, then a filmmaker could do much worse for a source of inspiration than the greatest director ever.

But it’s so much more than the generic tropes alone that makes Fincher a top contender for the Hitchcock of our time – it’s the ways in which he suspends our everyday mundanity as we recognize it outside of the film with as much tension as he does the mirrors of it inside the film.

And, for many Americans the year after the September 11 attacks, suspicion and surveillance became their reality. At times, Fincher rearranges the board so that Meg and Sarah are the predators in this cat-and-mouse game.

Do the ends truly justify the means, as the United States government claimed when they abducted and tortured Arabs and Muslims throughout human rights “black sites” across the globe, or are the ends only there to satiate the sadistic survival instinct within us all?

However, with two white women in trouble occupying the titular panic room, is this really a narrative we needed during the War on Terror?

Fincher would go on to subvert this template expertly in Gone Girl, but here, he promotes the ideology that justifies authoritarian breaches of privacy to begin with. Additionally, violence against women is too frequently used to sensationalize and titillate in conspiracy thrillers.

All in all, Panic Room is Fincher before his masterwork, which is powerful cinema nonetheless. It is a paranoid, high-concept thrill ride. Its ensemble also elevates the pulp fiction.