For my inaugural Friday Five, I’m stepping into a time machine to look back at some previous eras.  Join me, won’t you?

I first heard about Halt and Catch Fire from Molly Lambert and Emily Yoshida’s sadly defunct podcast Girls in Hoodies.  Their praise for the series — which follows the misadventures of three tech innovators in the Silicon Prairie of the mid-1980s — piqued my interest, and when I got an Amazon card for my birthday I sprung for the DVD box set.  After binge-watching the first season, I started buying the episodes from iTunes once season 2 started.  What’s gotten me to fall in love with this series?  The milieu, which is so familiar (speaking as someone who’s the same age as Gordon and Donna’s daughters) and yet so foreign; the engaging characters, played by brilliant actors; the subtlety and the suspense it courts; the working relationship between punk coding prodigy Cameron and working-mom Donna, and the music.  As someone with mental conditions, I’m really impressed with how the writing team has handled Cameron’s anxiety, and I also love how the show has depicted the parallels between the punk scene and the nascent internet/gaming subculture.  And the cliffhanger ending for this week’s episode…oh em gee.  Sadly, AMC is taking a wait-and-see approach to a Season 3.  If you’re looking for a series to take the place of Mad Men on your Sunday nights, give this one a shot.

Staying in the southwest (I think) but moving the time machine forward to 1989, We Can Never Go Home is a comics miniseries about two teenage misfits with superpowers.  The hyper-realistic depiction of the protagonists’ hometown and school grounds the story and makes the violence they experience all the more shocking.  I first heard about this through this post on Instagram, and anything with an explicit nod to Hüsker Dü is A-OK with me.  Matthew Rosenberg and his creative team have done a great job of engaging the audience and making the main characters’ struggles palpable and painful.  The last page of Issue 3 left a lump in my throat.  This will apparently be a limited run, so get in while it’s still going.

Let’s go west with the You Must Remember This podcast, which is taking a long, hard look at Charles Manson’s Hollywood this season.  Due to the brutal nature of Manson’s crimes, whether I’ll last through the season is anyone’s guess, but the episode dealing with Manson’s connection to Dennis Wilson was fascinating and deeply sad.  I have a great fondness for Dennis Wilson’s solo albums (Pacific Ocean Blue sounds like a mashup of peak Nilsson and early Springsteen), and getting some backup on the creation of those records makes them all the more poignant.  Karina Longworth always has something worthwhile to say, and her love of film is steeped in a great intellectual curiosity and an irreverent attitude that might make you reconsider things you took for granted.

Staying in Southern California but going back a bit, this skirt caught my eye on the Junebugs and Georgia Peaches blog, and I have to say…I’m in love.  I’m hoping I get a job soon so I can get one in time for fall.  I love the ric-rac detail, and the print makes me smile.  (I’m with you, Amelia: the cactus riding the pinata FTW.)

Finally, moving a little forward to the Kennedy era…I try to keep political matters off my blog, but for the past year I’ve been working a position funded by AmeriCorps.  Holding down this job has given me the opportunity to hone my skills and learn more about the field I want to pursue (social media and marketing for nonprofit arts and education organizations), and has allowed me to engage in activism and learn more about people and communities with whom I haven’t worked.  I’m very proud of my work here, and as I wind down my service year I am dismayed to learn that Congress is voting to cut funding to AmeriCorps.  If you care about service and the ability to make a living while helping underserved communities, reach out to your Congress-critter about why AmeriCorps matters.


WEEKEND DETRITUS: Made in LA/Hecho en Los Angeles

When people think about sweatshops, they frequently regard them as a thing of the past, or believe that they only exist overseas.  Less than a decade ago, however, employees worked for long hours in “sweatshop-like conditions” and were paid well below minimum wage.  Several dozen women were locked into cramped rooms and only allowed a half-hour break for shifts lasting twelve hours or more, and some of them had to take work home with them and work late into the night after that.  Made in LA/Hecho en Los Angeles looks back at how a group of workers organized and protested against one of the giants of fast fashion — and won.

The film unfolds over a three-year period, opening in mid-2001.  We meet several Central and South American refugees who work together.  Some of them have families, others left their children in their home country, and still others are childfree; many of the subjects are undocumented.  They take work in the Los Angeles garment district at the suggestion of others in their community, or because they’re paid under the table and don’t need immigration documents.  The filmmakers allow us to hear from the women about how their employers have exploited them, instead of passing judgment right out of the gate.  Their dissatisfaction leads them to the Garment Workers Center in LA, with whose help they file a lawsuit against Forever 21 and protest the company’s ill treatment of their employees.  When their lawsuit gets dismissed, the women petition Congress and picket stores in other parts of the country.

Director Almudena Carraceno shoots like a proverbial fly on the wall.  Her long takes of arguments at meetings illustrate that organizing labor can be frustrating for everyone involved.  When the women speak before a class at UCLA after their case is dismissed, we also see the toll this work has taken.  Carraceno’s efforts to show the women’s lives in a well-rounded way came up against PBS’s time constraints — one of the protagonists’ efforts at bringing her sons to American from El Salvador, for example, felt abbreviated.

The film concludes on an ambivalent note.  Forever 21 agrees to the Garment Worker’s Center’s conditions, but the subcontractor closes its doors, leaving many of the women unemployed.  With many fast fashion companies moving their work overseas, employment opportunities for these women grow a little scarcer.  One woman, Maura Colorado, enrolls in English classes and begins working towards getting documented.  Lupe Hernandez, through whom we experience the film, takes a position at the Garment Workers’ Center.  The film doesn’t provide us with easy answers, even as it shows how the women have grown from this experience.

While Made in LA isn’t a stylish or entertaining documentary, it is important viewing for anyone who cares about immigration and labor in the US.  The film’s accessible approach to a huge issue make it as user-friendly as it is vital.

New-to-me links:

I don’t write about politics here, because this is primarily a craft blog.  However, reading about the disappearance of 43 teaching students in Mexico has been painful and scary.  My thoughts are with the missing students, their colleagues, and their families.

Mashable takes a look back at women’s workwear in the 20th century.

My MetaFilter pal Joseph Conrad is Fully Awesome posted a link to an article about The Rise of Men’s British-Made Shoes a while back, and I keep meaning to post it here.

Speaking of MeFi, here’s a great article about the importance of ’70s fashion.  The ensuing discussion inspired me to check out Cheap Chic from the library.

One of my favorite podcasts, Girls in Hoodies, ended a few days ago.  While my Friday morning commute will never be the same, I’m excited for what Emily Yoshida has going on next…and I’m hoping that Molly Lambert will come back to podcasting soon.