(This newsletter contains spoilers for M. Night Shyamalan's Old, as it is set after the events of the film. I do not know how you can possibly spoil the experience of Old, but I thought I would mention it anyway.)
"Hi, hello, yes! Welcome to our resort! Here, have a cocktail. Your rooms are ready. You should feel free to take the bathrobes and slippers. They're complementary and will serve as a wonderful reminder of your time here!
"We have many activities planned over the next several days. There's a sightseeing tour of the nearby jungle that leaves every three hours, and Sandra leads group meditation every morning and every evening. And, of course, we lead daily excursions to Old Beach. You can check the board for more activities.
"If you need to use the wifi, the network name is BigPharma5G, and a unique password can be generated for—"
"Yes, Old Beach is the beach that makes you old. A charter signed by several world governments requires us to reveal that the beach makes you old. Hence the name. Good catch.
"We also allow upgraded wifi, perfect for streaming your favorite shows and movies, for a small fee of—"
"Believe me, no one is required to go to Old Beach! If you don't want to age at the rate of roughly one year per half-hour and get involved in several conflicts fraught with ethical and metaphorical implications that you can hardly even begin to comprehend, we have a perfectly serviceable normal beach, at which you will age at the rate of roughly one year per year. It is crowded, though. You can see it through these windows. Look how many people are on it!
"Oh, yes, you in the red dress with the hand raised. You have a question?"
"No, there isn't a Young Beach. How would that even work? But if you find one, let me know, ha ha!
"Now, the gym is through there. If you need to get a little work done, there's a business center. We have tennis courts as well, and a swimming pool. Yes? Another question?"
"Well, I don't know why someone would visit Old Beach! Sometimes people just want to get old for some reason! Perhaps they have a pre-existing condition that would be cured by getting old. Why just last week, little Tommy Staples wanted to get old because he was 3 and he had the pre-existing condition of wanting to drive a car really fast. Regrettably, our extraction team was affected by an unexpected hurricane, and we were unable to get to him in time. He died on Old Beach. He enjoyed life, even though he never got to drive a car really fast."
"How old was he when he died on Old Beach? He was approximately 25. He didn't die of old age, for god's sake. Use your head. He died in the hurricane. A hurricane is not a great time to be on an unsheltered beach! Still. A tragedy. As Alanis Morissette sang, 'Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?'
"Look, at this point, it's clear all you care about is Old Beach, and I get it. It's not every day you find a beach that will make you old. The first question people have — after 'The beach makes you old??' of course — is 'Why does the beach make you old?' and the answer is that the rocks on the beach do it. And before you ask: No, we have not tested the metallurgical properties of the rocks. Then we'd have to go to Old Beach and get old. Nobody wants to do that.
"The other thing you should know is that while you may want to kill one of your fellow beachgoers, it is very difficult to murder someone on Old Beach. Literally everyone who visits Old Beach tries to murder someone at one time or another, but Old Beach knits all wounds together and makes all things new! You cannot kill someone on Old Beach, unless you're very committed. And at that point, why not just wait for them to die of natural causes? (The natural causes are Old Beach.)
"Finally, it's important to note that any medical conditions you may have will be exacerbated considerably, simply by being on Old Beach. I don't think you'd want to see what your gout and sciatica would look like after a couple of hours there, Donald!
"And I've noted here, Sandra, that you are a trans woman who takes hormone replacement therapy. Have you had bottom surgery? No? Then Old Beach is going to force you to age into the gender you were assigned at birth, unless you continue pumping a constant course of anti-androgens and feminizing hormones into your bloodstream while you are there. That seems unlikely, huh? Yeah! Haha, it does! But don't worry! Your slow, traumatizing re-descent into dysphoria will teach the pharmaceutical industry many amazing things!
"And as you can see, I know a lot about Old Beach, and that's because in addition to being your hostess this week, I'm also a Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist. Everybody who works at the resort pulls double duty, and though some of us had our doubts, we've all learned to love the hospitality industry! Why, Nate over there who drove the shuttle in? He used to be President Obama's science advisor! You're in very good hands.
"Now, you've had so many questions, which indicates a keen interest! So who wants to go to Old Beach?!
"Great! I'll have Nate pull the van around. Oh, wait, one last thing: Please try not to get pregnant at Old Beach. We know it'll be tricky, but we hope you'll be too busy getting old to get frisky! Enjoy the next 24 to 36 hours! Oh, and before you leave, we'd love it if you'd give us a good review on Yelp."
Talk back to me: Despite finding that Old hit the extremely tricky Venn diagram intersection of "incredibly trashy" and "viscerally unpleasant," leading me to more or less dislike it, I kinda can't stop thinking about it, hence the above. Did you see it? What did you think? How about all those pans across the beach to reveal more visual information? And do you want to join me on an excursion to Old Beach?
What I've been up to: It's a week of fun-time reported pieces at Vox Dot Com! First of all, I dug into the very weird history and incredibly fascinating present of Christmas in July. And then I got deep in the weeds on one of my favorite topics: how a sport becomes an Olympic sport!
An amazing six new sports will be contested at the Tokyo Olympics. That’s the most new additions to an Olympics since 1920, when 11 sports entered the mix. The “new” label Is a bit elastic. Two of the sports added to the Tokyo Games — the closely related baseball and softball — were featured at the Olympics as recently as 2008, before being dropped in 2012 and 2016. But the other four are complete newcomers: karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing. All six will join Olympic favorites like track and field, swimming, and gymnastics.
What you missed if you're not a paid subscriber to Episodes: I went long on Prince Zuko, my absolute boy, in the latest Avatar recap. But even if you're not a paid subscriber, you can check out Episodes' first profile, as Gabriel Leão profiles Alexandre Rodrigues, whose star turn in the seminal Brazilian film City of God was followed up by years of disappointment. And yet he's still out there, making things happen! Rodrigues is a fascinating guy, and Leão's profile captures his blend of hard-knock life and essential optimism. I made the profile available to all!
“I’m not saying that my life started after the movie, but it changed completely,” Rodrigues says. “In those days I didn’t realize that I would miss what was going on in my life. Every second was so intense and like many teenagers I didn’t know what the future had for me. Still every time I see a photo or even the movie itself, I feel an intense nostalgia. I miss the times of being a kid who didn’t know what life was.”
Read me: I don't know who out there was, like, "I want to read something really thoughtful about the 2014 film American Sniper in this, the year of our lord 2021," but Tom Breihan's always excellent The Popcorn Champs feature at The A.V. Club more than delivers. Breihan captures the movie's uneasy entry into the culture wars, as well as the ways director Clint Eastwood both dissects the bravado of his protagonist and shies away from depicting the things about him that were tremendously awful.
With American Sniper, Eastwood and relatively inexperienced screenwriter Jason Hall adapted a memoir from Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL reputed to be the deadliest sniper in the history of the American military. The film was already in development when Kyle was killed—murdered by another Iraq War veteran with PTSD at a shooting range—in 2013. Chris Kyle was not a terribly complicated figure. In his book, he wrote with pride about all his killings, describing Iraqis as “savages” and never showing anything like remorse. Kyle also wrote that he shot dozens of looters from the roof of the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina, which is one of many straight-up lies in the book. (Jesse Ventura also successfully sued Kyle’s estate over a false claim that Kyle had punched out Ventura in a bar once.) Chris Kyle was, by all accounts, extremely good at his job, and he also seems like a puffed-up fabricator who couldn’t wait to make up stories about his own heroic deeds. Simply making a movie with Kyle as its hero was a political act, whether or not it was intended as one.
Watch me: I am not a regular Tiny Desk Concert viewer, but this Dua Lipa installment from December is just so aesthetically pleasing, with that warm orange behind the musicians. And the stripped down versions of Lipa's songs are pretty nifty too.
And another thing... I was driving home through the streets of Los Angeles this evening, and while I waited at a red light, a woman crossed in front of me, precariously balancing a glass bottle full of water on the palm of her hand, trying to hold it as still as possible. As she passed, I realized a goldfish was swimming around in the bottle. I am giving this to you as a story prompt, because I was charmed and don't know what to do with it.
Opening credits sequence of the week: The move toward brief title cards in the 2000s and 2010s deprived us of so many great credits sequences, but many of us TV critics will always fondly remember the handful of shows that did something interesting with the limitations of the format. Shows like the Matthew Perry and Allison Janney vehicle Mr. Sunshine, which ran for 13 episodes in 2011.
A thing I had to look up: How to spell sciatica. Honestly, every time! (I also looked up whether gout and sciatica would actually be worsened by Old Beach, decided they might be, then decided I didn't care enough to do further research on a joke pitch. How the sausage gets made!)
This week's reading music: "Big Wheel" by Samia
Episodes is published three times per week. Mondays feature my thoughts on assorted topics. Wednesdays offer pop culture thoughts from freelance writers. Fridays are TV recaps written by myself. The Wednesday and Friday editions are only available to subscribers. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox.
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