Things I Read That I Love #336: The Brat Pack, Buying Sperm, Conversational AI and Streaming Wars

HELLO and welcome to the 336th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can know more about buying sperm! This “column” is less queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.

The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.


First, the Brat Pack.

As a passionate fan of the entire 80s teen movie enterprise, I both read Andrew McCarthy’s mid book, Brat, and tuned in for the Brat Pack documentary now aIring on Hulu, Brats, which was somehow less good than the book but also fine. Anyhow, so then I had to OF COURSE revisit the original piece, Hollywood’s Brat Pack (David Blum for New York Magazine, June 1985) and the new follow-up piece, I Called Them Brats and I Stand By It (David Blum for New York Magazine, June 2024). What’s extraordinary about the original piece is how much Blum rests his story on statements from basically anonymous “Brats,” and also how little Andrew McCarthy specifically is mentioned (he’s name-checked once, in the mouth of an anonymous Brat who claims he’s not a good actor). So many people who’ve always been considered part of the Brat Pack don’t get a mention (e.g, all the associated female actors), and many actors who are never considered Brat Park members these days (Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage, Sean Penn, Timothy Hutton) show up as amongst them. It seems like more or less, you were part of the Brat Pack in the cultural imagination if you were in St. Elmo’s Fire (Molly Ringwald being the only oft-cited Brat Packer not in the film). It’s true the kids seem like assholes in the piece, but I don’t think anyone in their early twenties who’d suddenly become very famous and attractive would come out looking much better than these guys did — but Emilio Estevez trying to get into a $6 movie for free? YIKES!

Second, the streaming industry / the end of the world of television and film as we know it.

In The Life and Death of Hollywood (Harper’s, May 2024), Daniel Bessner gets into the full history of how and how much TV writers got paid, how Wall Street gambled on prestige TV but now we’re at the end of the “streaming gold rush” and these days writers are expected to take on massive amounts of risk to push their projects forward. (Good Dickinson details in this piece!) A few big names like Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes get massive stacks of cash while median TV writers are making 23 percent less a week than their peers a decade before. In The Future of Streaming (According to the Moguls Figuring It Out) (New York Times, June 2024), James B Stewart and Benjamin Mullin talked to everybody in charge at the streamers and make some predictions and assessments for us all. (Did you know Netflix spent $20 million an episode on Three Body Problem?!)

Third, Annie Hamilton?

In I Finally Befriended My Idol Tavi Gevinson. Would It Fall Apart Over Taylor Swift? (GQ, June 2024), Annie Hamilton wrote about her overwhelming desire to be best friends with Tavi Gevinson and also about Tavi’s fanzine Taylor. I didn’t know who Annie Hamilton was or what her deal was (why she was sort of emanating an unhinged nonchalance about her personal saga reminiscent of late-00s internet), so then I read Cinderella by Way of Cassavetes (New York Times, January 2022) which claimed Hamilton was the “most well-known unknown actor in New York,” and so I understand things a little bit more now, but not that much more.

Fourth, Everything Else.

Colleen Hoover Is a Wildly Successful Author. Why Did She Stop Writing? by Lauren Larson for Texas Monthly, June 2024

One of the era’s most successful novelists has writer’s block, and is struggling to cope with all the backlash.

An Age of Hyperabundance, by Laura Preston for N+1, Spring 2024

Preston attends the Conversational AI conference as the “honorary contrarian speaker,” attending a series of talks and panels that send her even further “down a frantic spiral of inquiry.” This is a story where at first I wasn’t so sure I was into it but by the end I wanted to read everything Laura Preston has ever written!

I was an extraterrestrial taking notes on the problems of Earth. Finding pizza in your area was a problem. People being mean to you because you were wearing your AirPods at dinner was a problem. Going on vacation was a problem because the hotels would force you to find the light switches. Elders were a problem. (They never took their medicine.) Loneliness was a problem, but loneliness had a solution, and the solution was conversation. But don’t talk with your elders, and not with the front desk, and certainly not with the man on the corner, though he might know where the pizza is.

The Makings of a Literary It Girl, by Sophia June for Nylon Magazine, February 2024

Book launches, book parties, book marketing, is all changing, getting cooler and more dynamic and allegedly less intimidating but also tbh a lot of it seems even more intimidating: “There are no rules, no one knows anything, so it’s important to get creative, try new things, and not take yourself too seriously.”

How The Real World Created Modern Reality TV, by Emily Nussbaum for The New Yorker, June 2024

Honestly really nice of the world to write this article for me! I probably could read about The Real World‘s early seasons forever. (I really ate up those Paramount+ reunions that aired last year, or the year before, whenever that was.)

Cupcakes and Crotch Kicks: On Alex Belth’s “What Makes Sammy Jr. Run?”, by Tom Zoellner for The Los Angeles Book Review, June 2024

What will become of the celebrity profile, an art form cultivated under societal conditions that no longer exist? Zoellner wonders if “we may soon view the 20th-century celebrity profile as a faded artistic medium, like big band music or custom silverware.”

You Wouldn’t Believe How Difficult It Is To Buy Sperm, by Danielle Elliot for The Guardian, May 2024

This was SO VALIDATING because Kindbody is taking over the fertility clinic industry and it’s too bad because as good as many of their doctors are, the company itself blows, their operations are disorganized and careless and maddening!!!! Thank you Danielle for speaking up!!! (I mean it)

The White-Power Fantasy of Reacher, by Angelica Jade Bastien for Vulture, May 2024

“In this way, Reacher is the most insidious example of television that fronts as wallpaper TV but is fueled by and fully displays toxic beliefs about power and America.”

The Best Chappell Roan Shows Are In The Midwest and the South, by Kayla Kumari for Autostraddle, June 2024

Chappell Roan is playing venues other big queer artists skip, connecting with fans in magical, glorious ways. She was scheduled to play Kentuckiana Pride and as her star rose, the festival was forced to put a cap on ticket sales for the first time in its history, and the original headliner, Icona Pop, dropped out the night before, thus elevating Chappell to headlining status. This moment in queer pop music history is documented by Kayla with so much heart and precision, interviewing fans from all over the region. The photos, everything. It’s perfect.

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3227 articles for us.

13 Comments

        • I’ve left this comment before, but I can’t recommend enough The Sperm Bank of California. They are a small bank located in Berkeley, founded by and for lesbians in the 80’s. Everything about it felt super supportive and easy. I conceived via IUI in 2018 and 2021, so maybe before things got weird with demand? I’d also recommend checking with your insurance before working with a private company. Much of our care was covered and I had way fewer appointments/intervention than described in the article. It really sounds like that company is making money on tests that can be important and useful for some but unnecessary for others. Like maybe those tests just slow you down? Best of luck for anyone on this journey. It feels so hard at the time, and then you’ll have kids and new things will feel hard (and beautiful!)

  1. I read the sperm article first and it was fascinating to compare to how the process goes in Australia where sperm donation must be altruistic (donors can’t get paid) and donors have to be identifiable, either at birth or when the child turns 18 (depending on the state) and there are country wide and state specific family limits (ie a donor contribute to 7 families in the country, but only 3 in your state – I don’t know the specific numbers).

    In most states, each clinic has its own pool of donors, so wait times vary. The first clinic I went to (in 2018, so things would be quite different now), the wait list to access sperm was about 6 months and then you could choose from about 4 donors (no pictures, no essays, no voice memos). The clinic I ended up using, the wait list to access sperm is about 8 months to a year, but is managed according to need, so if you’re older you are higher up, you’re also prioritised if you’re doing IVF as opposed to IUI.

    I skipped the waitlist by ordering from a US sperm bank that my clinic had a partnership with, but still, I first went to see the doctor in January 2017, and had my first IUI in November 2018. This shit takes ages!

    Luckily in Australia, some fertility stuff is covered by public health, and increasingly so. In most cases if you do two rounds of IUI, you get about 50% back on IVF, though if you have greater medical ‘need’, you can skip the IUI, and in some states there are low cost clinics or fully bulk billed clinics (freeeee), but most don’t cater to single mums or queers.

    Anyway, sorry for the essay.

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