November 20, 2018

Dispatches from the Third Trimester

“In the second season of Stranger Things a tentacled smoke monster forces its way into poor Will Byers’ mouth, taking up residence inside his body. When his mother draws him a warm bath, he refuses. “He likes it cold,” Will intones creepily. The demon inside is invisible to others but exerts its will on Will, who is himself but also something else. As I watch the story unfold, the human being growing inside my body moves frenetically, as if it is popping and locking to a beat I cannot hear. This flurry of activity makes my stomach look like a potato sack with several distressed squirrels stuck inside; this is likely due to the cookie-dough ice cream I have recently eaten. I, too, have something inside of me; it also likes it cold.

“Pregnancy has every element of an alien invasion,” I read on the NPR website. “The human placenta is one of the most invasive placentas.”

We often turn to the extraterrestrial when we describe the phenomenon of growing a new person inside of an existing one. Early ultrasound images recall the classic imagining of alien form: a giant head attached to a smaller, translucent body set against a black abyss. It’s not just the optics. As pop icon and formerly-pregnant person JLo once remarked, “Pregnancy and giving birth are weird, strange. The growing life inside you — it’s like an invasion of the body snatchers.” I assume this creepy description reflects the way in which the growing fetus influences, commandeers even, so many of the bodily processes of its host. Google “alien” and “pregnancy,” and the least-frightening video that comes up will confirm: “Clearly, the fetus has no qualms about doing whatever it needs to do to get things for itself.”

The monster that invades Will’s body is from the Upside Down, a dark, bizarro version of the human world. The first season saw Will kidnapped to that parallel dimension; this time, the Upside Down comes to him. The infiltrator arrives not from beyond the stars but from beneath the soil. It makes its host do things he would never dream of doing of his own volition. Will’s body hasn’t been snatched by an alien, it’s been possessed by a demon. This is an important distinction: the Duffer Brothers have gifted us one of the few portrayals of male possession in film, television, or literature.”

Read more

JJ Best Of The Web

"...after five months of canceled meetings and muted statements of dissatisfaction by both countries, experts say there is no sign of progress toward the Singapore goal of so-called "denuclearization" of the North."

"The presidential news conferences have become frustrating to watch and, doubtless, are frustrating for President Trump to engage in. While we have freedom of the press in our country, we should not tolerate unprofessionalism."

"It's highly unlikely that Israel's center-left parties will form a coalition to run together in the 2019 election, but they should not abandon efforts to find common ground to fight for."

"Cam has the brilliant audacity to argue that the internet isn’t about connecting people. Netflix’s slick, saucy new horror noir understands the existential terror of losing your carefully curated fictional internet persona."

"Wealthy nations have strong currencies. A strong dollar allows Americans to buy goods, services and resources from other countries at low prices."

"China’s leaders like the internet they have created. And now, they want to direct the nation’s talent and tech acumen toward an even loftier end: building an innovation-driven economy, one that produces world-leading companies."

"At an inaugural desert festival of yogis and spirit guides like Russell Brand, an exclusive industry grapples with consumerism, addiction, and the actual meaning of wellness."

"The confusing thing about Franzen is that even people who hate him admit that he is a great novelist, and even people who love him admit that his essays are often a little on the insufferable..."

"“And just like that” or “in the blink of an eye” are familiar captions on parenting milestone photos. But for me, while the days were long, not even one year flew by."

"How the Silicon Valley set fell in love with sourdough and decided to disrupt the 6,000-year-old craft of making bread, one crumbshot at a time."

"...everyone can — and should — learn quantum mechanics. It’s not rocket science — it’s a fundamental part of how our world works, and not as complex as you might fear."

"New Hebrew University initiative brings international students to Yoga studio run by Breslov Hasidim for course on 'Judaism and the Body.'"