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October 31, 2014 - Image 6

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6A - Friday, October 31, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

6A - Friday, October 31, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Witty ,factual'Pill'

Jonathan Eig tracks
women's rights
history in new book
DailyArts Writer
As college students in the
modern era, it's hard to imag-
ine life without oral contra-
ceptives. It's easy to take for
granted the teeny-tiny pill that
nearly 40 percent of female col-
lege students use, according to
the American College Health
Association - a staggering
amount considering the pill
wasn't even developed until the
"The Birth of the Pill" chron-
icles the multi-decade effort
to find a sufficient and effec-
tive course of action for an
issue that has existed since the
beginning of time: unwanted
pregnancy. Ripe with the con-
troversies regarding women's
liberation and sexual freedom,
author Jonathan Eig paints a
fascinating look at the science,
drama and controversy behind
one of the most revolutionary
medical advancements of the
20th century.
"The Birth of the Pill" fol-
lows the crusade of four unlike-
ly heroes with, on the surface,
no striking similarities besides
their shared desire to cre-
ate a pill that would provide a
solution to rising rates of pov-
erty and an answer to the ris-
ing feminist movement of the
Gregory Pincus, an untam-
able, wild-haired scientist who
was removed from Harvard's
faculty for conducting unap-
proved in-vitro fertilization
experiments, is the central
brainpower of the movement,
with an unwarranted confi-
dence willing to stop at noth-
ing once there was a goal in
mind. Pincus begins research
after being approached by the
aging yet fiery feminist leg-
end Margaret Sanger, with
hopes of creating a contracep-
tive women can take without
their partners knowing or hav-
ing control over. Pincus dives

head first into the project
spends nearly a decade anc
incredible amount of mo
even by today's standards.
funds were donated prim:
by socialite Katharine Mc(
mick, whose younger y
were plagued by a marr
to an unpredictable sch
phrenic, whose death allo
McCormick to accumulat
vast family fortune to sp
where she deemed worthy:
beginnings of Pincus' vent
the Enovid project. The fot
player in this tale is the c
ismatic Catholic doctor f
Boston, John Rock, who w
tles with his strong faith
experiences as an OBGYN w
he becomes involved with
research. His love of scien
progress prevails, and Roc
used as the face of the resea
using his faith to educate o
Catholics on benefits of con
ception rather than the reas
they've been condemned.
Eig really does start from
beginning of the quest for b
control, and highlights thed
gers associated with unplan
and unwanted pregnancy.
stresses the problems of
historical restriction of b
control with anecdotes to
from documents of the earl
mid 1900s documents: moti
bleeding to death after botc
abortions, starvation of o
children to feed
the new baby a
family couldn't
afford to have,
painful death
during child-
birth after one
too many babies.
These stories
aren't told to
disturb the audi-
ence, they're
told to give life
- and a human
rights perspec-
tive - to early
1900s feminist
movements and
to educate pro-
life anti-contra-
ceptionists of
why birth con-
trol has had a
positive impact The book:

and on so many. Women were told
d an (and in many parts of the world,
ney, are still told) their health and
The well-being were less important
arily than the constant influx of new
Cor- children, and it was time to
ears make a change.
iage For a novel combining both
izo- history and science, "The Birth
wed of the Pill" had ample potential
e a to be more dry than exhilarat-
end ing. However, Eig's publishing
the history, primarily as a former
ure, Wall Street Journal reporter
urth and as the author of three other
har- historical non-fictions, has
rom proven beneficial in his abil-
res- ity to tell a story based in hard
and facts and give it personality.
'hen Eig has breathed new life into
the the four central protagonists
tific of "The Birth of the Pill," who
k is passed years ago. The narra-
rch, tive has humor, suspense and
ther heart to draw in and educate
tra- the 21st century reader, and all
sons these components together cre-
ate a beautiful narrative about
the women's rights and feminism.
irth The book strikes the question
dan- of whether or not women's
ned rights have changed since the
He creation of birth control. While
the we've advanced technology
irth and medicine for the benefit of
ken women, Eig's story reminds us
y to of the need to appreciate and
hers carry forth the fiery passion
hed women like Margaret Sanger
ider had for the cause.
How Four Crusaders
Reinvented Sex
a Rcvohuion
chronicles the history of oral contraceptives.


The most generic 'House of Cords' picture ever takes.
The merits ofV'
opening sequences

Daily Arts Writer
Last week at around 9:59
p.m., I was frantically scroll-
ing through the TV listings try-
ing to remember what channel
Showtime was on, because the
last time I watched TV on an
actual TV was like, a month
ago. Besides making me feel
hopelessly incompetent (I
decidedly do not live up to my
millennial reputation), live TV
always makes me consider the
title sequence (the same cannot
be said for those awful Subway
Halloween costume commer-
cials). In this case, I stumbled
onto Showtime (340?) just in
time to catch "The Affair" 's
pretty, if not cliche, montage of
enigmatic aquatic shots set to
Fiona Apple's "Container."
As streaming continues to
take over a larger share of view-
ing habits, the title sequence
seems a relic of the old days
when TV was an event you
showed up for instead of expect-
ing it show up to you. Indeed, it
is an artistic conceit to think us

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Email: dailydisplay@gmail.com

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Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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millenials are actually listen-
ing to Regina Spektor's "You've
Got Time" 13 times in two days
while we binge watch "Orange
is the New Black." Listen, Spe-
ktor, we've got time, but not for
title sequences.
The same goes for Angelo
Badalementi's ethereal score
in "Twin Peaks," the kind of
song that makes time unfold
under the tranquil gaze of the
namesake town - until that is,
Cooper wakes up from a dream
and maybe knows who mur-
dered Laura, and suddenly we
don't have the patience to linger
in Twin Peaks' many bucolic
For what is lost in stream-
ing, live viewing restores to
title sequence, at least if you
are a better planner than I
am and get there in time. The
title sequence has a long cin-
ematic history, first becom-
ing popular in the late '50s by
graphic designers Saul Bass and
Maurice Binder - Bass's title
sequence for "North by North-
west" is often cited as the ear-
liest example, with its striking
use of kinetic typography (mov-
ingtext) and geometric rhythm.
And Binder of course loaded the
iconic gun barrel sequence that
triggers all James Bond films
with "Dr. No" in 1962 (though
his laudable skill for including a
harem's worth of naked lady sil-
houettes without ever tipping
the movies out of PG territory
should not be discounted).
Cinema has continued its
rich relationship with the title
sequence since then, but only in
the turn of the millennium, i.e.
the dawn of Cable Glory, have
TV title sequences inherited
the across-the-board sophis-
tication of their big screen
counterparts. In 1999, a young
network decided they needed
a title sequence to wield some
cinematic heft for their second
original show, "The Sopranos."
Unlike the precursors of the
'90s, which usually recycled
greatest hits type clips and set
them to a big, recognizable song
(think "Friends" and "Will &
Grace"), "The Sopranos" used
original footage and was free
of anachronistic gimmicks like
freeze frames or color manipu-
It was deceptively simple,
just Tony Soprano driving to
his New Jersey home from New
York while Alabama 3's "Woke
Up This Morning" played. But
there is much beneath the sur-
face: first it literally drives
home the notion that New
Jersey is Tony's turf, not the
concrete sprawl of the show's
predecessors it pays homage to
(just look at "The Godfather"-
esque logo). The camera also
slices Tony into piece-y close-
ups - showing his arm, then
his chin and eyes, etc., which as
the show developed, became a
metaphor for the fragmentation
of Tony's identity.
"The Sopranos" 's title
sequence remained unchanged
through its six season run, only
removing a shot of the twin
towers after 9/11 (which accord-
ing to David Chase, was only to
preserve narrative cohesion).
Other shows, though, rely on a

seasonal tinkering with open-
ing sequence. Take, for exam-
ple, "The Wire," which varies
its clips depending on which
thematic bones it's going to
pick that season. Clips related
to prostitution, the education
system, police force, drug trade
and other various institutions
are tossed in its deck of cards
and shuffled around.
A more modern example
of this is "American Hor-
ror Story," whose creepy title
sequences have become one of
the show's crown jewels. Like
"The Wire" 's "Way Down in
the Hole," "AHS" keeps its own
jolting score season to season
(though for "Freak Show," it
got some carnival tweaking)
but creates a different hodge-
podge of the bizarre and the
surreal that even Luis Buiuel
and Salvador Dali could envy.
At least for viewing experience, '*
"The Wire" and "AHS" types of
sequences build on engagement
- they're an adjoining puzzle
handed to the obsessive fandom
for dissection and scrutiny.
Of course, now, I need to
return to "The Sopranos" 's
sequence (and its ilk), which
serves a distinctly different
purpose. These sequences are
visual epigrams, standalone
notes that suggest theme rather
than narrative. I think of "Six
Feet Under" here, whose som-
ber, sepia-hued shots of death
play against a springy score.
The montage splices together
sacred and profane - a ritualis-
tic shot of pair of hands washing
themselves against a stark black
background fades into a toe-tag
on a corpse under a morgue's
harsh fluorescent light. The
show itself is packed with the
same kind of simultaneous mys-
tification and demystification
of death, with a handful of black
comedy for good measure.
For original streaming, the
consensus choice seems to
be a subpar version of afore-
mentioned epigraphic title
sequence, perhaps because
they understand even the most
sophisticated opening loses its
gloss four back-to-back epi-
sodes in (though the exact num-
ber is highly debated). Indeed,
the title sequence tune out is an
inevitable symptom for every
binge watcher.
Look at "House of Cards,"
for example, whose dull open-
ing montage of Washington
montages belies the show's
addictive mix of smart political
intrigue and sexual politics - or
perhaps Amazon's "Transpar-
ent"'s whose twinkling credits
grow cloying by round two. The
exception to this is Netflix's
under-watched "Lilyhammer"
where spritely bag-piped theme
song and interesting cinema-
tography are a breath of crisp
(Norwegian) air.
Regardless, writing this arti-
cle constitutes the most atten-
tion I've ever spent on this as a
form. While now increasingly
relegated to fast-forward terri-
tory, consider the title sequence
- the best television reveals a
clockwork meticulousness that
orders and drives it, and evalu-
ation of such extends to its oft-
overlooked opening.


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