Hell or High Water, Trigger Warnings, and #sane-splaining


Before I properly grade Hell or High Water I want to address its inflammatory use of language. The movie attempts to grapple with issues of institutional racism and socioeconomic disparity, but in doing so director David Mackenzie has his actors use hurtful language like “half-breed” at the expense of people of color. I asked the theater for my money back.

After the movie, I went up to the theater owner and suggested he provide trigger warnings for his customers. He just told me I was disturbing the other patrons.

People who say the push for trigger warnings is a bad outcropping of political correctness are more often than not what I like to call sane-splaining. These are people who don’t understand what it’s like to live with afflictions of anxiety, paranoia, PTSD, etc. They are privileged with a sanity that many others are not. People like Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt—trauma-less members of the smug intellectual elite—are attempting to hijack dialogue around sensitive issues of trauma triggering that they themselves have no first hand experience with. Those of us who are suffering from unforeseen triggers should speak their minds about the issue and take back control of public dialogue surrounding it. I have begun to use #sane-splaining to earmark these discussions in social media and you should, too.

To give quick testament to my own struggle with triggers: I almost had to read Mrs. Dalloway in my English 101 class at Santa Barbara City College this past summer. Luckily my professor graciously provided several trigger warnings concerning suicide in the book, and I was offered the opportunity to read The Great Gatsby instead. Lucky for me I read the Wikipedia article on Gastby; I otherwise would have blindly run into scenes describing excessive social drinking in the book, another trigger of mine. The professor in the end let me do a report on Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile, which I argued in said report had similar metaphoric perspectives on inter-war social structures.

But I digress. I only went to see Hell or High Water for Jeff Bridges, who seriously lost his Lebowski-era charm. He mumbled his way through the whole movie like a greying Courtney Love. I can’t tell how much of my anxiety during the movie was due to that or the edible I ate. The anxiety got so bad I had to leave the movie for a bathroom toke. That made me miss the scene in which the older brother dies. Oh, SPOILER ALERT. The younger brother gets away, though, which seemed to reinforce ideas of wealth redistribution. As a Bernie supporter, that made me happy.

On the flip side, Westerns come from a legacy of white conservatism.


My Baby’s First Words


Every mother says their child is special, but from the very beginning I knew there was a little something extra in my beautiful 11 month old daughter, Abbie. Her eyes glowed with curiosity, always recognizing us when we walked into the room, following our every action with careful inquisitiveness – I could see her taking it all in. Sam and I just couldn’t wait to see what exciting developments were in store, and as every new mother knows, first words carry a lot of symbolic importance.

I can’t count the number of times we would hear her starting to pick up the building blocks of language, the”ooos” and “ahhs.” We would hang over her crib making encouraging suggestions (Sam, of course always with the “da da’s”), but she would always giggle and turn away or put her hand in her mouth. Then, yesterday, the most incredible thing happened.

I was bouncing Abbie on my knee, we were both laughing and laughing, when all of a sudden her face changed and became very grave, as if recalling President Obama’s non-citizenship. We locked eyes and in perfect urgent English she said “Get off at the Pico Street station, head Northwest on Pico towards Flower street, blend into the crowd.” I couldn’t believe my ears! “Turn right on Figueroa street,” she went on, “enter through the main entrance and past security. Do not bring any weapons. All will be provided for. Join with the energy of the crowd, wear appropriate dress to blend in but not so much that you stick out. A ‘Make America Great Again’ hat should do the trick.”

I yelled “Sam! You gotta hear this! Abbie is talking!” She didn’t pause.

“Make your way to the third level on the south side, seat section 316. There will be a door labeled ‘Maintenance Access’ next to the lemonade stand. Make sure you are not being followed. The door will be unlocked. After several flights of stairs you will find yourself on a catwalk. A third of the way across there will be a suitcase. You will be at an approximate 45 degree angle to the stage. Inside the suitcase will be a .308 Remington Defender Concealable Bolt Action Sniper Rifle. Assemble the gun and attach the suppressor. Be sure to wear the provided gloves.”

Sam came running from the yard “What’d she…?”

“Shhh!!!” I said. Abbie hadn’t once broken my gaze.

“Take your time,” she said, “let him get through the usual pageantry, make sure the buffoon is good and heated up, but do not linger. Center the sights on his chest – aim for the American flag lapel. I’d tell you to shoot through his disgusting toupé or blast him right in his orange jowls, but it is critical that you do not fail. Breathe deep and pull the trigger. The gun will do the rest. When you have taken the shot, wipe the rifle down and leave it. Make haste, but in all likelihood you will not escape. If you are caught before the crowd is able to beat you to death, take the cyanide pill we have implanted in your left back molar. They must never know who sent you. History may forget your name, or paint you as a cowardly assassin, but even if they don’t know the measure of your sacrifice, your children, and your children’s children, and their children’s children, will forever be in your debt. You must destroy Trump.”

We were dumbstruck. “But Abbie,” I said, “don’t you want to get rid of all those pesky Mexican rapists?”

All she did was laugh and laugh.

Maybe I don’t think my daughter’s politics have matured yet, but she sure is a special little girl.


Das Kapital

TITLE: Das Kapital
AUTHOR: Karl Marx

No pictures.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch


Crunch: 9.2

Flavor: 9.0

Appearance: 8.8

Best eaten with: Whole milk


Cinnamon Toast Crunch dazzles all senses with deliberateness, floridity, and specificity. For starters, its crunch profile, so help me, is the most veritably well-rounded I’ve ever experienced: from its parietal first crunch, expertly fine-tuned with a sensibility toward airiness, to its latent malty mouth feel, which sits a bit more heavily on the tongue, its bowl-life is considerable, giving its eater the time to fully relish his bowl. The generous cinnamon coating is never overwhelming and when eaten with whole milk provides a soupy, Horchata-like placenta (see “placenta” in our “Quick-Crunch” Guide) that absolutely titillates. The imperfection of the squares, although a detraction for some cereal critics, provides a home-baked aesthetic that hints at a dedication to flavor over frippery.

CTC is one of those rare cereals that demands all else stops in the wake of its crunch. It demands full attention. Its complexity in crunch profile is varied and playful. A solid showing of appearance and flavor fill out its curriculum vitae. Its placement at the top rung of not only General Mills cereals, but all cereals, is rightfully earned and will undoubtedly last.

San Andreas – Best PSA of 2015


San Andreas takes best PSA of 2015, hands-down. Director Brad Peyton’s efforts are potent and his direction of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson certainly propels the A-list actor to the top of the nation’s list of public service announcement actors. Even the nation’s most beloved PSA legends, like Charlie Sheen and Michelle Obama, have been usurped.

Before San Andreas, Dwayne single-handedly, and seemingly without a huff, championed the efforts of grassroots movements to promote the providences of ingesting synthetic growth hormones. He also played a major role in Furious Seven, which, as we know, is the last in a classic multi-series PSA reminding us to buckle our seatbelts. RIP Paul.

In the scenes without Dwayne, San Andreas is powerful enough. From the get-go, it rings with educational clarity. Take when Paul Giamatti so boldly shouts to Lab Assistant #1, who runs to take cover under a door frame, to “get under the desk” as the first quake hits southern California. I hadn’t heard those words spoken so clearly since adolescence, when I told my Biology teacher at my Protestant middle school that AIDS in fact was not Gay Satan waging war on good Christian men.

When Dwayne takes the stage, all else wilts and becomes forgotten. Consider the movie’s central safety tip, this one authoritatively delivered by The Rock himself after herding a dozen strangers to AT&T Stadium in San Francisco. During the aftermath one of the women asks, “How did you know to send us here?” Rock stares with an indomitable intensity: “Always find a big hard surface to push up against.” I’ll remember that one. I’d probably remember anything coming from the mouth of a talking trapezius.

Let me be clear about how much of the PSA’s success rides on Dwayne. Imagine if someone else was cast in Dwayne’s role, someone of color but less in vogue, like Chris Tucker. Sure, both have impeccable comedy careers: one became popular after taking inordinate amounts of steroids and wearing skimpy costumes; the other cashed out on the surprisingly large demographic of Americans who will find anything spoken with the voice of an angry castrato boy funny. If Chris Tucker played the role we would all find ourselves, when the Big One finally hits, wondering if what he said about pressing our bodies up against something large and hard was actual advice or a bad sex joke that implicated… Wait, is The Rock’s public safety advice actual advice or the final pleadings of a dying sex icon?

At some point director Brad Peyton must have realized that they had too much money and not enough ways to share earthquake safety tips, so he penciled in another great lesson to fill the film’s thematic palette out, and it’s my personal favorite: sign your divorce papers as soon as you can because an earthquake might hit and force you to accidentally save your failing marriage. That one really sank in for me. Thanks to San Andreas, I may one day find myself saving not only my life, but my divorce, too!

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