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About Us: Josie Kafka

Here's the next installment in our silly "meet the writers" series.

What area of the world do you live in, and what do you do? (Because we all know you don't make any money doing this.)

I live in LA. I’m a mercenary: I’ll do anything that requires a smallish bit of intelligence, as long as it pays. Sound awful, I know, but it’s an improvement over the times when I would do anything for money, no matter how dumb.

What show or shows are you covering on the site?

I review Chuck, Fringe, and The Vampire Diaries. Until last week, I also reviewed FlashForward. I just started on The Vampire Diaries, so new reviews will go up over the summer as the episodes become available. I also love to review pilots: it’s like sleeping with someone on the first date. Someone you never plan to see again.

Oh, dear... now I’m reading into the subtext of this question: Will I ever finish reviewing The Dark Tower? Yes, I really want to. Book reviews take me a lot longer than TV reviews, though, so I’ll ask the Stephen King fans out there to bear with me a while longer. (Hey, it took King himself over 20 years to finish the series. I can do better than that.)

Fill in the blanks: "If ______ weren't already doing a great job, I would review _____."

Even though I love Lost and Supernatural, I don’t want to review them: reading Billie’s reviews are part of the viewing experience for me, and I would hate to lose that. I don’t watch Jess’s shows or Paul’s shows because I don’t have cable—although I plan to get it once Game of Thrones starts airing next year (!!!). Serena’s Glee reviews are awesome, but I don’t know enough about musical theatre to review Glee myself. And Dimitri could review soap and still make me laugh.

What's your favorite television show of all time? (Okay, top five will do if you can't narrow it down to one.) What was the first show you fell in love with? What show would you consider to be your guilty pleasure?

Buffy changed my life. I had quit watching TV when I was 17, and enjoyed 7 blissful years of reading high-quality literature and being all smart and stuff. Then I found myself living in a town I didn’t much enjoy, friendless, helpless, hopeless—and dead broke, but with just enough income to afford a Netflix subscription. I queued up the first disc of Buffy as something of a joke, and realized that TV wasn’t what I had always thought: actually, it could be just as good as a novel—with pretty people, to boot. [Bonus points to the first reader to figure out which movie I just stole a quote from.]

A few years ago, I would have said Buffy was my favorite. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to connect more with Angel (living in LA probably helps), although I haven’t re-watched it for a couple of years. I’m incredibly impressed by Supernatural, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it again: will it stand up to a second viewing? I certainly hope so. I love Lost, but I love it for the complexity of its philosophical ideas and the way it plays with narrative. I’m less enamored of its characterization, which is what I love most about Buffy, Angel, and Supernatural, and what keeps me engrossed in those shows even after I know how they end (that last bit doesn’t apply to SPN, obviously).

Does The Vampire Diaries not count as a guilty pleasure, now that I’ve started reviewing it? Okay, then: Gossip Girl. That’s right—Gossip Girl. It’s not as good as The O.C., though. (I have no shame.)

Who's your favorite male television character? Same question for female. Favorite television theme song?

Spike and Wesley (the dark version) from Buffy/Angel; Dean Winchester from Supernatural; Sayid and Sawyer from Lost; Logan from Veronica Mars. Is there a trend here?

Willow and Joyce from Buffy; Fred and Lilah from Angel; Juliet from Lost; Veronica Mars; Zoe from Firefly.

TV theme song: I’m not sure this counts, but the 15 seconds of noise that assaults our ears at the beginning of each episode of The Shield just might be it.

What character do you identify with the most, and why?

Wesley in all of his incarnations. Well, I aspire to be as cool as he is in “Reign of Fire.” But we all need to have dreams, don’t we?

Is it weird to identify across gender? I’d love to hear from other female viewers: do you feel like female characters are well-developed enough to relate to?

We love movies, too. What are your top five movies?

The Usual Suspects, The Departed, The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, The Long Goodbye. But the first three are head and shoulders above the rest, in my book.

We love books, too. Who are your favorite authors? What are you reading right now?

Stephen King, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Charles Dickens. I admire Michael Chabon’s attempts to bring plot back to high-brow literature, and I think he’s making great, albeit slow, progress with that goal. I don’t have much tolerance for books without stories anymore.

Having said that: Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories—if you haven’t read them yet, stop reading this blog and run to the bookstore. They’ll wake up something inside you that you didn’t know was sleeping. I’m not a fan of The Namesake, though.

Vladimir Nabokov. Milan Kundera. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Walter Scott. Umberto Eco’s early stuff. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The poetry of Wallace Stevens, in slow luxurious bites. Fernando Pessoa, in tiny sips. I could write this list for hours.

Right now, I’m reading L.A. Noir by John Buntin, about Mickey Cohen and William H. Parker in LA's dark days; Dennis Lehane’s Any Given Day; Steve Johnson’s The Ghost Map, about a cholera epidemic in London that led to the development of modern epidemiology; Neil Harris’s Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum; and Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe. I’ve been reading that last one for over a year; I’m still on the first chapter. I read non-fiction much more slowly than fiction, because non-fiction is rarely nail-biting.

I’ve read some great kid’s lit recently: Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, and Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. The Incarceron sequel comes out in the US in December; the next Collins, in August. I hope to review both series when they’re complete, because I think all you genre fans will like them, too.

When did you realize you were a hopeless geek?

Nothing hopeless about it.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

A sea turtle.

What's your sign?

Stop. Or maybe, Yield. Depends on my mood.

What's in your iPod/MP3 player?

I don’t have one. But Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds are currently keeping me company while driving.

What's your least favorite chore around the house?

Putting the clean clothes away. I usually just have piles: pile o’ clean clothes, pile o’ dirty clothes. Sometimes there’s an ambiguous pile, as well. I just hide the piles in my closet when I have company. Please don't tell my mother.

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Coffee. That’s also my favorite flavor of vegetable, meat, and friend.

Cats or dogs? Elvis or the Beatles? Sam or Dean?

Cats. Beatles. Dean.

Next week: Jess Lynde!


  1. Thank you, Josie! You're very witty -- schmart and funny perfectly complement each other, and sure make a great gateway drug to the darker sides as well...

    Speaking of which: living in LA as you do and having come there from without (same question to Billie, but Josie's in the hotspotlight at the mo): which story or show best captures the FEEL of the cityplace to you? (Given that ok, there are a million stories in that frequently-naked jungle...)

    Does Angel resonate best with your experience? Veronica Mars or Buffy (despite their slightly-outside setting)? Books like Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays if I remember correctly, or movies like Steve Martin's LA Story (though I dunno, maybe The Jerk as well)?

    And second: so when you switched on the tv again for the Buffyverse, did that tv time come out of your overall reading budget? Or did you add incremental focus on other media at the cost of, uhhm, I dunno work shopping driving relationships sleep? I think we as a folk tend to take it from places we shouldna, similarly to when gas prices rose and people compensated by cutting back on groceries or doctor visits. Does the same thing happen with these alternate worlds? Or where do you (all of you, dere) FIND THE TIME TO DO ALL THIS WATCHING AND REVIEWING AND STUFF??? Because I am impressed and awed and grateful and also wondering if you-all aren't just a nefarious computer program created by The Three Nerds to test us somehow...

    Despite (and because of) that, thank you for doing so!!

  2. Green Hornet, you're awesome.

    I think Angel is the perfect show about Los Angeles. I wasn't living here when Angel started airing, but after I moved here, the Los Angeles stuff made me laugh out loud. Plus (and this is really weird) I live in the same general neighborhood as the Wolfram & Hart building. It's on the Sony lot, which used to be MGM. I kept passing the building and thinking, geez, that looks familiar, and suddenly, it hit me. That made me laugh for a week, every time I thought of it.

  3. I'm enjoying reading everyone else's responses to this! It is very interesting to see how similarly we've answered some questions. (And how differently on others.)

    Josie, I don't think it is weird for you to identify cross gender. I agree completely that most female characters aren't developed that well, not in sci fi anyway. Possibly because there are more male writers than female. Perhaps in other genres there is a wellspring of well-developed ladies.

    GreenHornet, I can't answer for L.A., but I'm originally from the Baltimore region and worked downtown for several years. 'The Wire' and 'Homicide' did a fantastic job of capturing the look and feel of Baltimore (largely because they were filmed in that city). They really tap into the "essence" of the city, warts and all. Whenever I watch those shows, I get a bit nostalgic for home.

  4. Funny interview. I love that you have seen The Shield. It is one of my favorite tv shows that I feel didn't get the attention it deserved.

  5. Hi Green Hornet,

    Definitely LA Story. Joan Didion...sort of. But life doesn't have to be that depressing. Before I moved here I had read a lot of Jonathan Kellerman and Michael Connelly, and they definitely influenced the way that I see the city. I still get a thrill out of it when I recognize places my favorite detectives go.

    And Angel, absolutely. Even though The Shield was set in LA, it always reminded me more of New Orleans: a lot of the drama of The Shield depends on the idea that Farmington, the imaginary district that stands in for Compton and East LA simultaneously, is a closed-off area, like a manor house in an Agatha Christie novel. LA is bigger than that.

    Once I started reviewing TV shows I, luckily, developed an ability to bend the space-time continuum. I'm writing this comment from the year 3064. In Belize.

    [Billie, I think Green Hornet is onto our secret nefarious plan!]

  6. [It was inevitable that someone would figure it out, I suppose.]

  7. Josie you are not alone in watching Gossip Girl and also not alone in feeling The OC was better. I actually started watching it just to hear Kristen Bell narrate again. If VM was still on...

  8. Hi again!

    Thank you Billie: I beam and blush, and could lead a sleigh some foggy Xmas Eve! But yeah, that is so cool and weird and cool that you live near the ur-WR&H building, and kinda sorta thought it was familiar (or Familiar?) Your story teases the edge of my consciousness, similar to recent ponderings about the blending of fictions we love alongside our daily realities. Though not in any psycho or stalker kinda way (he hurridly added!). It would be cool to have real and imagined worlds collide a little more I think, and sometimes unexpectedly too. Fer instance, imagine moving with similarly-inspired friends into Angel's hotel, making it look reminiscent both within and without, a kind of artist's colony or the like for appreciative addicts! Ok, that didn't come out right, and I definitely don't mean living every waking moment as BrownCoats or the Rebel Alliance (Not That There's Anything Wrong With That) -- just adding to Life's admixture, and layering the complexity. Anyway, merely a thought... though I do think living near WR&H is a fine --albeit dangerous-- start!

    Jess, I hear you about Baltimore -- and funny, though I've never been, I feel I know it, due to Homicide. Isn't that fun how caring and honest reflection contained in some story settings can itself become creation, or maybe feedback that amplifies? San Francisco is always going to be, first and foremost for me, The Maltese Falcon.

    Josie! Hi there! Yes, LA Story is such a loving and OPEN-EYED tribute. I've only been to LA a few times but had a friend who lived there, so I got lots of exposure and stories. It really IS a complex city, isn't it -- though often portrayed as a bunch of loosely confederated sub-cities with at its heart no There, there. (Like a vampire with no soul?? When in reality it is a vampire WITH a soul! Ta-daaa!) I think Angel captures a lot of the city complexities -- ominous and open and dangerous and exciting, sad and bad and good and funny and tragic -- full of potential and history and always reinventing itself.

    Short story (too late). Driving back south after one fine summer's morning of rock climbing in Topanga Canyon, my friend and I had a pickup truck pull alongside us on the freeway, with two young good ole boys in the cab, in cowboy hats etc laughing, smoking, and just generally having a great time. As they pulled a little ahead, we could see that in the back of the truck were many hay bales. One of which was merrily on fire. Probably from a flicked cigarette ember? Anyway, we pulled forward, and waved and tried to call their attention to the imminent emergency behind them, but they didn't get our intent or gestures, remained blissfully unaware, and waved back at us in the most hearty and friendly manner imaginable. And then they tore off ahead at about 90 mph, flaming and weaving through the lanes with a wild, kinda beautiful abandon.. ...Boy oh boy, is that not also LA!

    But I've said too much. So I'll now leave you Stonecutters to your secrets for world domination and Steve Guttenberg movies... :-)


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