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Friday, Jun 1, 2012
The film doesn’t pretend to resolve the tensions between parents and children, Islam and a transgender experience. It does present them in images that are as compelling as they are revealing.

“You look like a celebrity,” murmurs Ulfah, looking over Tiara’s new photos. “Good Tiar,” she goes on, as he watches her and cools himself with a red paper fan, “You’ve really become a woman.” In the next moment of Tales of the Waria, Ulfah speaks directly to the camera, the same red fan now fluttering at the edge of her frame. “When I see Tiara’s photos, I feel sad,” she says, “But what can I do? That’s my son.” Premiering on PBS’ Global Voices on 3 June, Kathy Huang’s documentary presents a series of similarly complicated relationships, between couples as well as parents and children. At least one complication has to do with the fact that they live in Makassar, Indonesia, the country that’s home to the world’s largest Muslim population. “Before Islam came here to South Sulawesi, there were men who dressed like women,” explains Tiara. “They were trusted to take care of the king.” Today, such men—known as waria—live in between. “Most warias don’t want a sex change operation because of the teachings of Islam,” Tiara goes on, applying makeup in hopes of changing the look of her “chubby cheeks.” She doesn’t want surgery, she says, “But I do want my face to be more beautiful.”


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Friday, Mar 23, 2012
With the premiere date for the fifth season of Mad Men rapidly approaching (25 March), it's fun to ponder what will happen...

By the fifth season of a series, no matter the pedigree of the showrunner or writing staff, a certain level of predictability sets in. Whether the series follows the careful formula of most procedurals (like CSI or virtually everything else on CBS), or the predictable unpredictability of more ambitious series (like The Walking Dead or Boardwalk Empire), we can begin to get a sense of where the writers will take us and how the actors will interpret their characters.


With the premiere date for the fifth season of Mad Men rapidly approaching, I want to put some of these predictions out there for your perusal. Some are locks, some are larks. Here goes:


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Thursday, Mar 22, 2012
Lots of people watch Mad Men, but lots and lots more don't.

Okay, so you watch Mad Men. I watch Mad Men. Everyone (cool) I know watches Mad Men. People are posting about it on your Facebook page or planning themed parties that you maybe think are lame (or maybe you’re really excited about). You can’t open a magazine or walk past a Banana Republic without being bombarded by Mad Men-chic. The incredibly attractive cast has and will continue to promote the show in all the usual venues (Jay, Dave, SNL), while magazines like this one will devote a lot of attention to it.


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Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012
I am as excited as a person could possibly be for the beginning of the fifth season of Mad Men, but I worry that the season won’t be as good as we want it to be.

Many amazing TV series have come and gone over the past 20 years (I realize television has been around much longer, but let’s start the clock for this post around 1990). One rule, though, that I cannot find a single exception for, is this: no series has had its best season after Season 4.


In fact, for most series, quality depreciates considerably in Season 5, with seasons 2-4 marking the high-water mark. Among the best examples of this trend: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (4), The Sopranos (2 or 3), The Wire (4!), The X-Files (2-4), Lost (…terrified of Lost fans), Dexter (2 or 4), Grey’s Anatomy (2?), and The West Wing (1-2).


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Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012
Yesterday I took a look back at Season Four of Mad Men, and today I want to consider the data we currently have for what to expect in Season Five.

The notoriously tight-lipped Matt Weiner has been giving many interviews, as have members of the cast, but everyone continues to play things close to the vest. In some relatively serious web-digging, I managed to find precious little concrete information about what to expect in Mad Men: Season 5, airing Sunday, 25 March.


In the process, I became fascinated at the hilarious ways in which Weiner-and-co. manage to converse about the new season without actually saying anything. From the eight or so short videos posted on AMCTV.com, the main thing I learned was about the various new menu items offered at Pizza Hut, whose ads (bizarrely, right?) ran before the video clips (also, gross!).


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