Orange is the New Black: Random Thoughts







Spoilers. You’ve been warned.

So I watched the series I kept hearing about: Orange is the New Black. Now that I’ve finished all available episodes I find myself thinking about the show. A lot. Random thoughts follow.

Am I a prude? Maybe I’m a prude. I found myself blushing a couple of times while watching by myself. I almost turned off the first episode because I felt so uncomfortable with them leaving nothing to the imagination. But I found the story so compelling I kept watching. Maybe I’m a prude.

Finally, a show filled with women who look like the women I see in real life. All ages, races, shapes, haircuts. Annndddd…it’s set in a prison.

But really, in what other context in our society do women of all ages, races and shapes interact quite so much? Could we try to replicate this in real life? Outside of prison?

The show certainly passes the Bechdel test with extra credit. And it’s set in a prison. The flashbacks to the lives of the women, pre-incarceration, are compelling to me. I love how they are painted as neither complete saints nor complete sinners, but complex human beings with a mix of choices and luck.

Speaking of which, when the young guard says to Piper that she could be one of them if things had happened differently, is she just being empathetic and trying not to judge? Or does she have a past? Hmmm.

Interesting how the show sets it up to make it seem that Piper is the most well-read, book-smart inmate. Then over time, you come to see Taystee really is. She’s come to be my favorite character, not least for the scene in which she refuses to let the short woman check out “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” from the prison library because she’s afraid it will be used as a step-stool. I love how Taystee hands her a copy of “Ulysses” instead, along with a literary critique.

Class issues. I’m going to talk about Taystee again. Who else’s heart broke when Taystee got out and then had no place to live? I think this show does a lot to show your economic class can have a big impact on your likelihood of ending up in prison, largely because there are no good choices available to be made. And because money buys legal representation.

Who wins the award for prisoner with the guiltiest conscience? I think it’s the yoga lady.

What does the warden look like? Will we ever see him?

Mr. Healy is the worst. The. Worst. THE WORST. I chuckled over the scene where he had Red interpreting for him and his Russian bride. But he’s still THE WORST. Earlier I thought it was Pornstache, but it’s Healy.

Funny how I’ve gotten this far into writing down my thoughts without mentioning the Alex/Piper relationship. I guess I don’t find it as interesting as some of the other things going on in the show. But you can really see how they both used the each other.

From now on, whenever I mention anyone I know on my blog, or anything from my personal life on my blog, I’m going to worry that I’m channeling Larry, Piper’s fiance. Her imprisonment sure has jump-started his career, hasn’t it?

Laverne Cox! How wonderful to have a trans actor play a trans character. I adore how accepting the nun is of her life and how they strike up a kind of friendship.

Crazy Eyes – What a great scene when her parents come to visit and you find out they’re white. My heart actually hurt a little when she asked Piper why people call her Crazy Eyes.

For all that she’s lethally dangerous, Pennsatucky deserves treatment for her mental illness. What if she’d received real mental health services? I mean, seeing her back story, she should definitely be kept out of society. But her delusions have only been encouraged. Wouldn’t everyone, including her, be safer if she got true help?

Is Piper losing her mind? Was the voice she heard in solitary real? Did she actually see that chicken? How badly did she hurt Pennsatucky in the final fight scene? My favorite line of hers in the series is when she tells her mom that the reason she’s in prison is because she’s no different than anyone else in there.

Finally, near the end, they had some new women in wearing their newbie jumpsuits. Was one of them a girl who had been in for the scared straight program? Or did I imagine it?

I Make Sun Tea Now

Sun tea is cool.

I’ve known people who came close to a complete Time Lordish, immediate regeneration, and done it successfully. Tossing away an old consumer-driven, high-spending life for one of home-spun simplicity. Deciding on a complete change of career and two years later, there they are. But, unlike the Doctor*, I’m not someone who can pull off an entire life and body makeover in one go and have it stick. I need to take my changes at a slower pace in order for them to have any staying power. I suspect I’m not alone.

Like many others, I’m making an effort at healthier, more sustainable living, but I’m pacing myself. I’ve seen enough folks go for total immersion and burn out quickly. Because it seems overwhelming, impossible even, if you have to change everything at once. So I take the “Bird by Bird” approach. For the past several years, I’ve been trying to change one thing at a time until it becomes habit. Then I move on to the next change. Some steps are big, some are tiny. But they’re taking me in the direction I want to go.

I started by being more mindful of recycling. Since we have curbside recycling where I live, this wasn’t so difficult. It was more a matter of remembering than anything. Don’t forget to flatten the cereal box and put it in the cardboard, rather than the trash. Once the neural pathways for proper sorting were established in my brain, it was on to saving bread bags for re-use.

Eight years ago, my husband and I bought a house with a large yard. For the first time in my life, I became interested in gardening and landscaping. We started growing a little of our own food. By “we”, I mean my husband does the lion’s share of tilling and planting, while I harvest and do the occasional weeding. Then I started researching native plants for other areas of the yard. I’ve put in low-maintenance, not-so-much-water-needing stuff in a couple of areas now. I have  coneflowers on one hillside and some weigela in another spot. I plan to keep adding with one plant or one small area each year. If I thought I had to do the whole yard at once, I’d never get started.

After this, we started composting.

Last year, I finally put an insulated jacket on our water heater. One more step.

We aren’t in the financial bracket to be able to replace all appliances at once, but when necessity dictates it – something breaks down beyond repair – we’ve committed to buying the most energy-efficient we can. One more step.

A couple of years ago, my husband put up clotheslines in the back yard, at my request, and it didn’t take me too long to get in the habit of using them.

I drink gallons of iced tea every summer. Every year, I think I should get a buy a jar to use for sun brewing. This year, I decided to make sun tea my next good habit. I realized I already had an old glass canister with the rotten seal would be perfect for sun tea, as it was no longer good for storing sugar. The price can’t be beat. I buy tea bags by the 100. One big pitcher of tea, made with free solar power, costs in the neighborhood of 15 cents.

Not sure what my next ecothriftyhealthy self-improvement step will be. I’ll decide that once I realize sun tea is a habit and no longer a novelty.


*If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google “Doctor Who.”

Oh why not? Everyone else is talking about it.

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Iran, Twitter.  Oh, uh, hi – trying to get hits on my blog. Or would anyone like to take a break from all of those topics and read about my hard drive catastrophe? It’s compelling, but maybe only to me.

Oh, okay, I’ll spare everyone the self-indulgent hard-drive whine. For now. Meanwhile I’ll self-indulgently get on the Celebrity Death Train with everybody else.

Sometimes I wonder why so many people feel compelled to talk about celebrity deaths, even those who hate themselves for doing it. Witness the friend who immediately sent out emails to a chunk of her address book to say she couldn’t understand why her cousin always had to call her immediately to share the news of tragedies, “such as the deaths today of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.” (Have you heard?)

This particular email moved me beyond the why into the how. I find it interesting observing how we note the passing of celebrities. My teenage daughter told me about Michael Jackson. She got the news in a text from a friend. Having never sent a text message in my life, relying instead on the old-fashioned internet, I’d be lagging minutes behind on my newsfeeds if not for having a teen in the house.

My 11-year-old knew of Michael Jackson through the Weird Al connection. He only started watching MJ videos on YouTube after having seen the Weird Al parodies first. “They’re even funnier once you’ve seen the originals,” he observes.

My brother wins the prize for succinctness: “Bad week to be a celebrity.”

My friends and I stoit around among a handful of variations on the celebrity death discussion. 1.How much the Thriller video rocked our worlds when we were young, and how our kids missed out on the Jackson we knew before creepdom took hold. 2. How Michael Jackson stole the spotlight from Farrah Fawcett, who had put the fire in a generation of girls to achieve fabulous hair and kick butt. 3. The fact that we know for sure now not depend on Ed McMahon to fund a very early retirement. 4. How we should really be talking about serious issues such as the election in Iran and how journalism is forever changed. 5. Which seems to lead back to how each of us got the news about the recent celebrity deaths.