This week's five obsessions

This week's five obsessions

Gather 'round, children, as I give you a glimpse into five of the things that have been on my mind, in front of my eyeballs, and in my earholes this week! Neat.

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945, dir. John M. Stahl)

Wowzee wow! Saw this one for the first time last month and I was so blown away by it that I had to re-indulge this week. It's noir, I suppose, but it hews closer to the "women's picture" end of things than it does the "detective story" end. Think Mildred Pierce over The Maltese Falcon, you know? But man, it's so fascinating to watch the ways it adheres to and blows up noir tropes, not the least of which is the cinematography, including the use of Technicolor and expansive shots in natural outdoor environments.

Gene Tierney is just beyond as the bone-chillingly wicked Ellen Berent who becomes quickly obsessed with the writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) on a train. We know from the jump something's up with Ellen, whose lingering stare is of course bewitching (it's Gene Tierney, for crying out loud) but also not quite right. Leave Her to Heaven goes to some very dark, shocking places--places dark and shocking for now, never mind for 1945--and if it's not exactly horror-adjacent it's a thriller that predicts the wave of scary lady thrillers of the 80s and 90s. In the end, you come away knowing that Ellen is indeed monstrous, but also you find yourself thinking that you know what, she makes some great points. And as a big bonus it features Vincent Price long before he became horror's "Vincent Price," I can't recommend this movie enough!


Listen, I am a coffee lover but I am not a coffee snob! It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy to suit me. I'll buy whatever's on sale and make it in a regular coffee pot, no steampunk contraptions or mad scientist beaker lab setups required. If that's your setup, more power to ya, I would be glad to have some of whatever you offer, and I am not here to disparage the skills of baristas and brewers and roasters. All I'm saying is that when it comes to coffee I will drink anything because I am easy. However, anyone who knows anything knows that when it comes to coffee, the Vietnamese truly know what's up! So I snatched this instant shit when I saw it and it is delicious and a treat and a half, no regrets.


This game has been around for a couple of years but I only gave it a go this week. Yes, if there are times I am sure to be behind them. But! BOOM, instant obsession with Vampire Survivors. It is the simplest game I have ever played--you literally just move around, trying to level up as much as possible and survive as long as you can. Your weapons fire automatically, you don't have to aim. The pixel graphics are simple as well. Yet somehow it's also a deep game, as you slowly figure out which items and weapons you pick up work best together and with your character. There are a zillion things to unlock and level up. It's highly addicting, perhaps the epitome of a "just one more run...okay, just one more more try...okay last try for real...OH SHIT it's 2:30am" video game. It's chaotic and yet not at all chaotic once you get into the groove of things. I'm kind of waiting for it to induce a seizure, though, with how many flashing blinking swirling things it regularly pukes up on the screen. But hey, if The Conjuring had a shitton of Bibles floating around the Warrens while they chucked crosses at monsters like Vampire Survivors does, I might enjoy those movies more.

I can play as a witch who flies around on a broom, whose "weapons" are a pair of cats who show up from occasionally to scratch at enemies, scratch at each other, scratch at me, and spray a li'l urine. It's like getting to play my life's dream in a video game!

It's also a...lesson? reminder? example? of the fact that a $5 game with rudimentary graphics but compelling gameplay and a sense of actual fun can be more enjoyable than the most bloated, realistic effort that cost tens (if not hundreds) of millions in development costs. But speaking of big games with expensive budgets, that brings me to...

"DELICATE WEAPON" by Grimes as Lizzy Wizzy

I'm so embarrassed that I even had to type all of that out.

I avoided the game Cyberpunk 2077 when it launched a few years back because by all accounts it was a hot, buggy mess that wouldn't even run on the systems I owned despite being available for them. It was actually pulled from the Playstation Store because it was simply broken. But after years of fixes and me catching up to the current gen of consoles, I thought hey, why not. And hey, it's pretty great! Yeah, it's a bit edgelord for me at times (it's a cyberpunk game, though, so what does one expect?), but it's also well-written and a good time to play.

But I drew a line in the sand between my ears when, during one segment in a fancy casino, a character named (sigh) Lizzy Wizzy, as voiced by (sigh) Grimes came out on stage and did a whole-ass live performance. It's a whole-ass live performance that you can actually stop and watch, or walk around and watch. It "serves no purpose" in the game beyond being an experience, which is actually...super cool. That the developers took the time to conceptualize and animate this whole thing, putting so much work into something that's really just window dressing is admirable, and...I just love video games.

As I said, though, whilst playing I drew that line in the sand between my ears, and I did not watch the performance. The very idea of watching Grimes as Lizzy Wizzy completely exhausted me, so I tuned out the song, went and talked to the person I was supposed to talk to for the quest, and I left. Later, however, another character gives you a recording of the performance, so I wrote FINE in the sand between my ears and watched it. And godDAMMIT the song immediately grabbed me. Immediately! Grabbed! Me! "Oh no," I thought, "I love a Grimes song." That said, the very idea of seeking out any more Grimes music completely exhausts me, so I will be sticking with just this song, thank you. And stuck I have: it's been in pretty regular rotation since my time with Cyberpunk 2077, and it's flared up this week, so there you go.


It's old news by now that I love my stories, aka Real Housewives. And the saga of Vicki and Brooks on Orange County is also old news– but I did not watch it as it unfolded in real-time because until recently I was not much of an Orange County enjoyer. I am now, however, and watching the saga play out is some of the most compelling shit I've seen on Housewives. Like, remember Serial? The show that invented both podcasts and true crime? Well they should have covered this, even though (spoiler) there is no murder, it would have made Serial even more popular, I swear! Here's the extremely truncated version of this multi-year, multi-season EPIC TALE:

In season 6, insurance maven / pioneering Real Housewife legend Vicki Gunvalson, who is in the midst of lengthy divorce, introduces her new boyfriend Brooks, who lives in Mississippi. Almost immediately, Vicki's castmates and family are varying degrees of wary. Something's not right about this guy, and while no one can pinpoint anything concrete, it's like there's the scent of con in the air. Who is this dude, where did he come from, what's his agenda? He says all the "right things" but in a way--a manipulative way--that will make you, the viewer, go on high alert. For example, when Vicki talks about missing her dead father, Brooks says that surely her father sent Brooks to her to fill that hole in her life.

He has vague "businesses" back in Mississippi, which is always a clue that, as Phaedra Parks, formerly of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, would say, "somethin' in the buttermilk ain't clean." Vicki's friends and adult daughter Briana try to warn her that things are off, but Vicki, who does not want to be alone lest her (gulp) "love tank" run empty, continues to see Brooks. Arguments are had, and Brooks increasingly tries to isolate Vicki from her friends, creating a classic "you and me against the world, baby" red flag-riddled love story.

Briana in particular wants nothing to do with this man, as she is convinced that he's a creep who's after her mother's money. You, the viewer, may agree with this as you see Brooks ask leading questions about Vicki's finances.

This is still ongoing during season 8, although Vicki generally begins to keep her on-and-off "Brooks life" separate from all the rest of it because everyone gives her shit about dating him. At the reunion, Briana reveals that part of the reason she hates him so much is that whilst talking on the phone to Briana's husband, Brooks suggested that he "beat her" as a way to keep her in line. In season 9 we find out that Brooks has also made "jokes" about beating up Vicki as a form of discipline. Vicki insists there is no abuse, and she has forgiven these transgressions of his because doesn't everyone make mistakes? This all culminates at the season 9 reunion, where Vicki stands firmly by her man, widening the rift between her and her bestie Tamra, who, like Briana, clocked Brooks on day one...and we get this positively iconique exchange between Tamra and Vicki that is one of the hall of fame moments in Real Housewives history:

It's fascinating! (A particular shout-out to Lizzie's "Wait...what the fuck did you say?" head tilt at the very end!) Watching some Dirty John-type shit play out as red flag after red flag goes up the pole and unfurls and a woman stands by her man red flag is quite something. But wait, there's more!

Season 10 begins and Brooks now lives with Vicki and is, in her (infuriating) words, "the man of the house." Part of the reason they've made this leap in their relationship is because Brooks has "stage 3 cancer," a claim to which Briana, a registered nurse, responds "he's faking it."

And he is! This is pop culture history, but I'm in the midst of watching season 10 for the first time and my lawd, what a time for me to be alive. I'd wager it's perhaps best watched knowing that he's faking it. To this day, he maintains that he did actually have cancer, but he faked appointments and medical documents because he wanted to keep his real cancer private, which makes total sense you guys!!! Real Housewives is just the best.

Finally Vicki and Brooks broke up for good after season 10, and there were lawsuits and all the such you might expect, and Vicki ultimately lost almost half a million dollars during the relationship. Brooks has maintained that Vicki was not involved in any kind of "cancer scam," and again, it's fascinating to watch the show--because that's the real question, right? Did she know?

Did she at least have suspicions? Did she willfully ignore the signs, shoo away her friends and her daughter when they pointed at yet another 100 red flags? When I die and all the secrets and mysteries of the universe are revealed to me (I assume that's what happens when you die?) this will be one of, if not THE first answer I seek out.

Other answers I seek will pertain to whatever happened at Dyatlov Pass, whether or not Lizzie Borden did it, the accuracy of my gaydar, etc etc.

So anyway, that's the stuff taking up a lot of real estate in my brain this week. Feel free to drop me a line (stacieponder @ if you want to share any of your own! Excluding any naked stuff! One of these days I'll figure out how to enable comments on here to make for easier sharing, maybe. Who knows. Just another mystery to be revealed upon death I guess!