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How Natasha Vargas-Cooper Does Money

You're totally freelance now, is that right? I've never been offered or gone out for a staff job. There’s a lot of outdated dues paying I won’t abide by. I also don’t dig on having to deal with other personalities in an office setting or as a day to day thing. It wears me down and out. I worked as a union organizing and policy analyst for six years, and there was a lot of focus on having harmonious relationships with co-workers and members to make the organization function better. A lot of personality tweaking and processing that felt worth it for the sake of a much greater and loftier [...]


The End of the 00s: How To Lose Your Idealism In Under Ten Years, by Natasha Vargas-Cooper

Blanca, a 50-something nursing assistant, was sitting across from me at the nurses' station at the Intensive Care Unit inside of a Tenet Healthcare Corporation-owned hospital in downtown Los Angeles. It was midnight, and this was 2004. Blanca's patients were gurgling, asleep or comatose. I was there talking to Blanca on behalf of workers at Kaiser, who were bargaining away benefits because Tenet, the for-profit, non-union hospital chain was driving down wages in the county. The argument was that every one would be better off, Blanca and Kaiser workers, if they were all in one union.

During advanced pneumonia the lungs fill with fluid so there's a wet gurgling [...]


Flicked Off, with Kia Matthews and Natasha Vargas-Cooper: 'Precious,' or, Can a Movie be a Social Act?

'Precious' has been in theaters for a week now, but since it's Mo'Nique's birthday today, we feel it is now time to finally get to it!

Natasha: Girl, how did you feel about going into this movie?

Kia: Well. I didn't even want to see it. The trailer made me cry, so, I wasn't really looking forward to a full length version of that. It looked like that emotional porn? You know, downtrodden person going through trails, tribulations, strife, set to uplifting music and/or a gospel song, etc.

Natasha: I wanted to see it for two reasons 1. Oscars, natch. 2. I wanted to dislike it. BUT GURL I [...]


Flicked Off: Alex Pareene and Natasha Vargas-Cooper on 'The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans'

Natasha: Pareene!

Alex: Natasha!

Natasha: Can we talk about the motherf'ing Bad Lieutenant??

Alex: Yes. Yes we can.

Natasha: Pareene, tell me why this is a great movie.

Alex: Well. I think, first of all, that it is indeed about a Bad Lieutenant. I think that while Abel Ferrara's original movie was about a bad person who happens to be a Lieutenant, Nic Cage, in this film, was just not ever very good at being a Lieutenant. And I admired that, making a police procedural where none of the policing is ever very competent.


Mary HK Choi and Natasha Vargas-Cooper on 'New Moon': 'Teenage Female Desire Manifest'

Mary: Yo. Did you see that mess last night? Natasha: OMG I saw the shit out of it! Mary: AND… Mary: Break it down. Natasha: Ok, first reaction: Natasha: SWOOOOOON Mary: Oh, seriously. Like, we MISSED him. Natasha: And here's what I figured out. That shit is ABOUT RACE! Earthy hill people with their bare feet versus pale Europeans in robes. IT'S A CULTURE CLASH. Mary: Dude, velvet robes that OPEN. It's an age-old culture clash. BUT the "cold ones" do have that one dude with dreads. Natasha: Blacula!


Natasha Vargas-Cooper Sells 'Mad Men' Book

The Awl's Chief Los Angeles Correspondent Natasha Vargas-Cooper has sold The Mad Men Files to Julia Cheiffetz at Harper Studio, the world's best imprint. (We're very biased!) The book is based on her long-running blog, The Footnotes of Mad Men, which delves into the real-world cultural and historical data at the edges of the TV show; her writing on 'Mad Men' began recently cropping up here as well. We asked Natasha via IM: why a book, lady? "Oh, well, because what makes the show so appealing to me is how admirably it tries to captures the zeitgeist of the mid-century without mythologizing it. Also, I like [...]


Murder In Los Angeles

I have one spiritual ritual in my life: every morning I check the Los Angeles Times' Homicide Report blog to learn who was killed in Los Angeles County while I slept.1

The Homicide Report addresses two questions every newspaper covering a major metropolis should answer: who was killed last night, and why? But most newspapers don’t do this because the logic of most newsrooms is that not all murders are sexy, grisly, or surprising enough to be written about. The Homicide Report operates on the inverse principal: Every murder gets a story because murder is inherently worthy of our attention.2

The Homicide report is anchored by a [...]


'Crash' Is Still The Most Loathsome Best Picture Ever

This article originally appeared on February 22, 2013.

Mallory: Has Crash suffered enough? Sure, it won homecoming queen at the Oscars, but then no one would let Crash sit with them at lunch for the next eight years. Ta-Nehisi Coates named it the worst movie of the decade; Natasha Vargas-Cooper referred to it as a "white guilt manipulation-a-thon." Even Slate wouldn't throw it a contrarian bone. It's The Most Popular Girl That Nobody Liked.

Anne Helen: No, it has not. This movie needs to keep suffering, because it will not stop hurting us. When it came up on Twitter the other night, someone suggested it's a [...]


Jacob And His Mother Are Wanted In Court

Pam has come to dependency court on behalf of Jacob, who is four years old. Pam wants the judge to arrest Jacob’s mother.

Pam is a volunteer in the Court Appointed Special Advocate program in juvenile dependency court in California. These CASA volunteers are independent advocates for the child during any court procedure.

“Children’s lives are ripped apart here,” Pam told me, just before the day’s session.

Jacob’s mother, let's call her Tina, is 28.1 She has a decade-long crystal meth addiction. It's kept her bouncing in and out of court-mandated rehab beds and jail cells.

When Jacob was two, Tina’s probation drug test came up [...]


Meet Some Of The Children Who Died In Los Angeles Because The City's Child Protection System Is Broken

Between 2008 and 2011, more than seventy children who passed through the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services have died due to child abuse or neglect. Many of the lives and deaths of these children have been rigorously documented by Los Angeles Times reporter Garrett Therolf and by the paper's invaluable Homicide Report blog.

Spurred at last into action by the death in 2013 of a third-grade boy, Gabriel Fernandez, who was tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend in Palmdale despite at least six child abuse claims logged against the boy’s mother with DCFS, the Los Angeles County Board [...]


Bodies Given To Science

Sometimes when we walk through the mall, my boyfriend Scott will whisper: “How many people here do you think have held a human heart?” Or: “Do you think that guy ever removed a brain?” Scott has held a human heart and he says it's heavier and whiter than you would think. He will remove a brain from a female cadaver in March.

Scott is in his second year of pre-med. He, along with two other students, based on their high grades in anatomy class, are the body preppers for this semester’s anatomy lectures. The dissections are supervised by two part-time anatomy professors. One practices as a physician’s assistant, [...]


The Demon-Haunted House Of Thuy Le

The woman who stabbed her two young daughters called 9-1-1 at six a.m. to tell the dispatcher what she had done. The woman, Thuy Le, who was 38 at the time, had also stabbed herself twelve times and slashed her wrists. Le told the emergency operator that she was at her cousin’s house and everybody was alive but that they needed help. When the police arrived at the a boxy gray and white home in Westminster, in Orange County, they found Le’s five-year-old daughter Rhiana unconscious, without any color in her face and Jobeth, 3, lying awake on a blood-soaked mattress. Three household kitchen knives and a pair of [...]


Courtney Love At The Courthouse

In just three hours this afternoon, the jury returned a verdict—finding that Love was not guilty of defamation.

Rhonda J. Holmes, a San Diego-based lawyer, is suing Courtney Love for a libelous tweet and quotes she gave to two different reporters. A jury in downtown Los Angeles will begin deliberating on the case this afternoon. Holmes’ lawyers are asking for $8 million in damages.

Love hired Holmes in 2008 to assist in fraud litigation over missing funds in Kurt Cobain’s estate. The two formed a quick and intense bond. After a few months of digging around, Holmes confirmed one of Love’s long-held fears: Kurt Cobain’s estate has been systematically [...]


The Dying Man On The Windshield

Marco Salgado was plunking traffic cones down around a hit-and-run crime scene in November of 2012 when he noticed a shoe sitting by its lonesome on the crabgrass lawn of a nearby apartment complex. Salgado, a city worker for Torrance's traffic department, asked an officer who owned the shoe. The shoe, the officer responded, belonged to a man who was found at a gas station two miles away, naked from the waist down and impaled on the windshield of a Mitsubishi. Salgado thought he recognized the shoe, chunky and strapped with fat laces, and asked if the officer knew the victim’s name. The officer did know the victim’s name, because [...]


This Restraining Order Expires On Tuesday

The first time "Misty" broke into the backyard to pound and scream at the bedroom window, the police handcuffed her and said—her face pressed to the hood of the idling black and white—that she was not to return. I figured we would never see her again after that early morning in 2012. But the next night, around 1 a.m., I was in bed with my new boyfriend, "Scott," and we heard the bedroom door slowly crack open. Scott jumped up. "No! You can’t be here!" he shouted, all high-pitched.

At the end of this calendar year, our second restraining order against Misty expires. The Misty saga (this is the truncated [...]


"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire": Your Eyes Are More Hungry Than Your Games

Once again, Mary HK Choi and Natasha Vargas-Cooper discuss the successes and shortcomings of the current popular cinema: now it's this weekend's box office burner The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Mary HK Choi: OK, did you watch the last movie ever again after the theater? I did not. Not even on the plane or VOD.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper: NOPE.

MHKC: RIIIIGHT? No desire, right? Like, zip?

NVC: Zero! And I know why: 1) Zero camp 2) Too much bad teenage acting 3) No hot teen sex scenes. Once you've seen Spring Breakers the world is DIFFERENT. IT IS DIFFERENT NOW.

MHKC: [...]


Nine Things To Read: This Week In History


Monsters A Guide to the Spooky Scary Secret Monsters of Every State | October 31st, 2012 Hurricane Sandy Brooklyn Smug Reaches New Hideous Heights | October 31st, 2012 Listicle Without Commentary The United States, In Order Of Their Contribution To American Music [...]


Death To Zombies

Our paranormal epics, action flicks, and monster movies are stuffed with metaphor. The billion-dollar success of Christopher Nolan’s bleak Dark Knight alerted studio executives back in 2008: metaphorical thinking was in. Summer blockbusters could grapple with bigger themes and darker allegories without turning off their sebum-soaked ticketholders. This gimmick has seeped across all the blockbuster industries: graphic novels, television, young adult books. You’re surely familiar with the biggies by now: The mutant struggle for assimilation is about gay civil rights. Vampires represent our anxiety about dying alone or, worse, never dying alone. Zombies, their uprising, and our anticipated armed struggle against the undead horde is metaphor for plague—specifically, AIDS.

Zombie [...]


'Crash': The Most Loathsome Best Picture Of Them All

Mallory: Has Crash suffered enough? Sure, it won homecoming queen at the Oscars, but then no one would let Crash sit with them at lunch for the next eight years. Ta-Nehisi Coates named it the worst movie of the decade; Natasha Vargas-Cooper referred to it as a "white guilt manipulation-a-thon." Even Slate wouldn't throw it a contrarian bone. It's The Most Popular Girl That Nobody Liked.

Anne Helen: No, it has not. This movie needs to keep suffering, because it will not stop hurting us. When it came up on Twitter the other night, someone suggested it's a PowerPoint presentation posturing as insight—and that feels true. [...]


'Breaking Dawn – Part 2': A Trampera Has Ended

After a long captivity, Mary HK Choi was liberated from the Rihanna plane, and now she and Natasha Vargas-Cooper are here to render verdict on the final installment of the Twilight series. Read the previous chat for Breaking Dawn here.

Natasha: I feel like this movie was essentially about outerwear?

Mary: I have so many opinions about the clothes.

Natasha: It was like a Nordstrom winter sale. NOT NEIMAN MARCUS.

Mary: Agreed. It was Burlington Coat Factory. BCF Holiday Sale for frenz and famz.

Natasha: This was definitely more of a coda to the series than an actual ending.

Mary: True, though I would approve of [...]