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Year 6, Week 13 (April 10-16)


I was hoping the bad news would pass us over this week, but no dice–in fact, the news this week is uncommonly bad even by our modern standards. On the plus side, however, ice cream is still kosher l’pesach.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a voter roll!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:

This was a relatively quiet week on the Election Rejection front, though we did see a few odds and ends.  Here’s what I have for you:


It was a quiet week on the Biden Rebuilding front as well, though we did see a few things move forward.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:


The Good:


So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve learning about the cat gap as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more ice cream because I already ate last week’s!

Year 6, Week 12 (April 3-9)


I thought we were going to get a bit of a respite after last week, but the sweet summer me of yesterweek was sadly mistaken. The NNR recommends medicinal comfort foods for a second week, and would like to remind you that ice cream is kosher l’pesach.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a text!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:

This was a week of testimony on the Election Rejection front, with several people sharing things that are maybe against their interests.  Here’s what I have for you:


It was a quieter week on the Biden Rebuilding front, but the few stories we have are pretty exciting.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:


The Good:


So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this cat dino cosplay as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more ice cream because I already ate last week’s!

Year 6, Week 11 (March 27–April 2)


There’s a surprising surplus of domestic news this week, between executive actions and Congressional progress, but the biggest story is the news out of Ukraine. I’ll do my best to do it justice below, but please be aware that the stories out of Bucha and accompanying photographs are nauseating–I need to give this particular roundup a content warning for literal war crimes.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a union!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:

It’s a quieter week on the Election Rejection front, with only a few odds and ends–though they are indeed pretty odd.  Here’s what I have for you:


As I mentioned above, there’s a lot to report on the Biden Rebuilding front, and I’m honestly pretty excited about most of it.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:

  • State of the COVID-19. The biggest COVID developments of the week got picked up in last Tuesday’s NNR, but BA.2 did indeed become the dominant strain in the U.S. over the past week. There were also a few stories about ongoing efforts to study long COVID, which hopefully will result in a more robust understanding at some point. There will also likely be more developments when the package in Congress passes, which hopefully will happen soon.

The Good:


So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve the two doggo genders as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more ice cream because we’ll probably need it!

Year 6, Week 10 (March 20-26)


Yesterday, we had a lot of stories that felt like they were still developing, and I opted to postpone the NNR by one day. Given just how many stories indeed had critical updates over the last 24 hours, I feel very pleased with my news instincts. Newstincts? News stinks. Ah well, the portmanteau is a work in progress.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a cowboy!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:


Boy howdy was last week the calm before a storm on the Election Rejection front.  I’ll talk about Ginni Thomas separately, but there’s still a lot–here’s what I have for you:


This week, the big news on the Biden Rebuilding front was Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing in the Senate, which was a painful spectacle by the end.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:


The Good:

  • Recent State Resilience (Kind Of). Though state legislation regarding trans people remains generally horrorshow, two states (Indiana and Utah) had the interesting distinction this week of vetoing bills that would limit trans women’s participation in sports. I say ‘interesting’ here because both vetoing governors were Republicans. It’s my hope that this reflects a slowing of that particular GOP movement, though of course we’ll have to see what happens.

So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this ska cover of A Thousand Miles as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more hours in the day!

Year 6, Week 9 (March 13-19)


This week, something in my laptop gave up the ghost and fried itself–my personal theory is that it saw this week’s COVID news and took matters into its own gears. I have promised to provide better working conditions if it accepts repairs; we’ll see if the motherboard finds that persuasive. In the meantime, the NNR continues on a loaner desktop! Please pardon any hiccups while we all adjust.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not an RNC!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:


This was a remarkably calm week on the Election Rejection front, likely because there are so many other places for right-wing wingnuts to put their attention right now.  That said, we did get a few bits and bobs–here’s what I have for you:


For yet another week, the big news on the Biden Rebuilding front is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:


The Good:


So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this goat trying a banana as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me a functional motherboard!

Year 6, Week 8 (March 6-12)


This week seemed to get rougher and rougher as it went, and it also dragged like a butt-scooting dog. Then we got to the weekend, which wrapped with a little light temporal larceny. So, you know, it has Been A Week. (Our house is coping through copious application of hamantaschen, and we’re willing to share if you are.)

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a Senate bill!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:


Things are a bit calmer again on the Election Rejection front, but that makes them no less strange.  Here’s what I have for you:


As I mentioned above, the big news on the Biden Rebuilding front is invasion of Ukraine for another week.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:


The Good:


So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you nonetheless deserve this brief fine cinema as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me back my 2AM!

Year 6, Week 7 (February 27–March 5)


The news really feels like a jumble of odds and ends this week, and we haven’t had a miscellany week like this in a little while. That said, it’s better than the abject misery of the past few weeks, so I guess we’ll take it.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a court filing!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:

This was a big week for Election Rejection, because the House Panel took some really significant steps.  Here’s what I have for you:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:


The Good:


So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, So that’s what I have for this week, because sometimes the news comes in small packages. For making it through, you nonetheless deserve this sleepy Shiba Inu as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me better sinuses!

Year 6, Week 6 (February 20-26)


The news is, quite understandably, very focused on the situation in Ukraine for another cycle, and that’s some grade-A nightmare fuel right there. Sadly, drinking the nightmare fuel is still important for many reasons, even though it’s awful.  I’m going to do my best to help break it down, and if all else fails, remember that small sips help.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a panel!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:

There was a whole flood of Election Rejection stories this week, and we saw some related bits and bobs that might as well go in this section as well.  Here’s what I have for you:

  • Insurrection Updates. After the invasion of Ukraine last week, Trump was in the limelight an awful lot–emphasis on “awful.”  First he went on the radio to call Putin a “genius” who was “pretty savvy,” though his spokesperson’s feed opted not to include those quotes for some mysterious reason.  While I generally try to ignore the inane grindings of the orange noise machine, these soundbites proved the building blocks for his campaigning for 2024 at CPAC on Saturday night, and I think we have to take that seriously.  The signals about 2024 feel particularly noteworthy when stories are also hitting about the new Manhattan DA abandoning the Trump indictment groundwork laid by his successor.  There were some positive scraps of news this week too, though; apparently Ivanka Trump is in talks with the House January 6 panel, and so is Rudy Giuliani.

As I mentioned above, the big news on the Biden Rebuilding front is aggression with Russia.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:


The Bad:


The Good:

  • Biden’s SCOTUS Pick. Biden announced his selection for Supreme Court nomination this week, which turned out to be current appellate judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. This would be at least moderately exciting no matter what was going on, because it means he fulfilled one of his campaign promises, but Judge Jackson is an incredibly solid pick for many reasons. First of all, she was approved by the sitting Senate within the past year for her current seat on the D.C. Circuit, which creates less political cover for GOP obstruction in general. Second, her actual credentials are impeccable: She’s been a sitting judge for nearly a decade; she clerked for Justice Breyer at the beginning of her career; and she was an editor on the law review at Harvard Law School during her educational years. But I am particularly excited about Judge Jackson as a nomination because she also served as a public defender for two years, and if appointed she would be the first SCOTUS judge with public defense experience in modern history.

So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve these booped danger kittens as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more hours in the day!

Year 6, Week 5 (February 13-19)


For most of the week, the news felt like it was holding its breath, which is never a comfortable feeling.  Then this evening, one of the things we were waiting for happened when Putin invaded Ukraine via Donetsk and Luhansk.  I can’t really say it’s better to have the shoe drop, but I’ll definitely keep everybody updated from here.

Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a text message!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers.  Onward to the news!   


Cleanup in Aisle 45:

There was a whole flood of Election Rejection stories this week, and we saw some related bits and bobs that might as well go in this section as well.  Here’s what I have for you:


As I mentioned above, the big news on the Biden Rebuilding front is aggression with Russia.  Here’s what has happened:


Your New Normal:

  • The Great Avocado Embargo. It feels kind of fitting that I honestly don’t have any normal news for you this week, but I do have one throwback to the Weird section. After a U.S. inspector who oversees the import of Mexican avocados received a death threat, we canceled avocado imports last Saturday, and the ban lasted for the whole week. But avocados are back on by the time I’m typing this, because the ban was lifted on Friday. So uh, welcome back to your new normal I guess?

The Bad:


The Good:


So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve stories about Hank the Tank as well as a more consistently improved government.  I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments.  Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more hours in the day!

Unpacking Mirabel’s “Perfect Constellation”: Jungian Family Archetypes in Encanto

Photo courtesy of Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Encanto is a very well-made movie that, in my humble opinion, does a number of things exceptionally well.  One topic that I learned about as a clinician, and that I think the film really shines in exploring, is the Jungian theory of archetypes of trauma. A few people have asked me to unpack that, and it’s an interesting topic to write about, so here we are! (I should probably warn at the onset that this will involve many spoilers.)


What Are Jungian Archetypes of Trauma?

Carl Jung, nineteenth century psychology guy

Carl Jung, deceased white dude, had this theory of psychology that people express archetypes throughout their lives from the collective unconscious. His successor, fellow white dude Donald Kalsched, further developed that to talk about archetypes of children who survive trauma.  (Some clinicians also call this “roles of family dysfunction,” which is a related family systems theory, but I don’t think that’s very person-centered or trauma-informed, so I’m not going to use that framework in this piece.) 

The basic idea of their combined work is that people in families respond to trauma–in the Madrigals’ case, intergenerational trauma experienced directly by Alma and passed down through the family–by embodying specific predictable roles that serve to help the family function.  But these roles are hard on the members, and often aren’t adaptive in the greater world, because they are ultimately common trauma responses. In Encanto, we see all these roles, and classic family systems theory, pop up from the very first song–“The Family Madrigal” is basically a tour of both the family members and their role adaptations within a system that is, contrary to Mirabel’s description, not quite “a perfect constellation.”  Almost all of them get further exploration throughout the movie, and most of them get their own character song, and it’s all incredibly well-developed.


The Scapegoat

Black sheep photo courtesy of Jesus Solana from Madrid, Spain via Wikimedia Commons

The first role is introduced to us when Mirabel names her Tío Bruno, and gets back an immediate “We don’t talk about Bruno!” from various people, marking him as the family scapegoat.  (He’s the only member of the older generation with a clear childhood trauma role, incidentally, which is its own interesting choice.)  The Scapegoat, sometimes also called The Black Sheep or The Problem Child, inherits the blame for larger problems, often by naming those problems created by trauma and acknowledging truths that the family does not want to acknowledge. Others generally understand them to be “acting out” or embarrassing the family. Soothsaying is a perfect ‘gift’ to depict this. 

Bruno’s role in the family gets fleshed out even more in “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which heaps more and more family malediction on poor Bruno’s shoulders just based on his habit of speaking simple truths about things he sees.  It’s clear by halfway through the song, long before we ever meet him, that Bruno’s family sees him through a very negative lens that probably isn’t accurate.

Mira picks up a significant amount of this mantle too throughout the film, but from that very first moment we see that she’s stepping into Bruno’s footsteps more and more to do so–the movie depicts this quite literally, when she visits his room.  (Side note, the character’s nickname is one of this movie’s many clever bits of wordplay, as it emphasizes that Mira is stepping into the scapegoat role temporarily because she sees things–Mira, in Spanish, means ‘look’. Mirabel sees things the rest of the family doesn’t, much like Bruno before her did.)


The Caregiver

When Mirabel introduces her sisters, “the beauty and the brawn [who] do no wrong,” we jump to the next fully-developed archetypes in the movie, and they’re both beautifully handled.  At first, all we know about Luisa is that she’s Mirabel’s older sister and “super strong,” which is punctuated with visuals of Luisa lifting an entire bridge, reorienting it, and placing it back down.  But her role is hinted even in that scene, when Abuela calls out, “Let’s get ready!” and Luisa immediately calls back, “Coming, Abuela!”  By the time we get to Luisa’s solo song, “Surface Pressure,” it’s very obvious: Luisa is the family caretaker.

The Caretaker, also sometimes called the Rescuer, is a role positively regarded by the rest of the family, because they are the ones who step in and make things work when trauma impacts the family.  They’re constantly doing tasks for the rest of the family, taking care of the younger kids, and generally holding things together.  This is extremely hard on them, especially if the family member in a caregiving role is young or is trying to hold together a truly untenable situation.  Luisa’s observations in “Surface Pressure” land extremely well, because the entire song is a highly accurate and poignant depiction of the caregiver role.  (I don’t mind admitting that I visibly winced when I heard her sing, “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service” and “give it to your sister, your sister’s stronger.”) Luisa’s ‘gift,’ which she notes encompasses both super strength and super toughness, is a very spot-on depiction as well. And importantly, Luisa shows that she is struggling in this role, even though she’s not treated as a ‘problem’ in the same way Bruno is.


The Hero

Superhero image courtesy of Rosefranklin007, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Mirabel’s introduction to her other older sister, Isabela, lays down the latter’s role very clearly from the very first moment: “Graceful, perfect in every way/Grows a flower, the crowd goes wild/She’s the perfect golden child.” Isabela does everything right; the family and her entire town love her; Mirabel even calls her the Golden Child, which is another name for the family hero.

People who embody the Hero archetype generally do everything exactly how they believe they are supposed to; they maintain the illusion that nothing is wrong even if, in fact, everything is.  While this can seem like a positive thing on the surface–there’s nothing wrong with excelling in one’s goals–they can also be prone to perfectionism and rigidity, and feel enormous pressure to never make mistakes. Isabela admits a lot of the traditional stresses of this archetype as she learns more adaptive methods in “What Else Can I Do,” noting that she is suppressing a lot in order to appease her family and she doesn’t know how to do things without being perfectionistic about it.  Much like Luisa, she isn’t happy or adapted, despite the family favor she enjoys, and cracks can be seen through Mirabel’s tension with Isabela. It’s also not a coincidence that they reconcile because Isabela learns to embrace parts of herself that are outside of familial expectation. Isabela’s ‘gift,’ the ability to grow plants at will, is an excellent manifestation of this role, because it inherently touches on themes of suppression and outward perfection.


The Jester

Jester image courtesy of E. E. Piphanies, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The remaining Jungian archetypes don’t get as much air time, but they’re definitely still present, and they first pop up as Mirabel starts her “grandkids roundup.” As Mirabel hops down the family tree and gets to Camilo, she says very little about him, just that he “shapeshifts.” The visual cue, however, is unmistakable; he’s entertaining a baby by shapeshifting several faces in rapid succession, and he’s definitely the family jester

The Jester, also called The Mascot or The Clown, is a family member who responds to trauma by trying to break tension and soothe others through humor, jokes, or entertainment.  They’re often a younger family member, so it makes sense to put Camilo in this role–canonically, he’s only slightly older than Mirabel.  We see Camilo serve this role several times throughout the movie, entertaining townspeople and family members through mimicry and dramatics. Shapeshifting is a good ‘gift’ to symbolize this role, which focuses heavily on entertainment; I also thought it was a nice touch to give this role to Camilo because his mother, who struggles with controlling her emotions, would respond well to attempts to lighten her mood. 

I have a soft spot for this archetype, so I’m a bit disappointed that Camilo doesn’t get his own song or exploration, but it’s nonetheless pretty present in the background throughout the film.


The Lost Child

Mirabel’s introduction to Antonio is that “he gets his gift today“–in other words, much like Mirabel herself, Antonio doesn’t yet know his gift.  This seems like an intentional representation of the family lost child, which is reinforced repeatedly even after the turning point of getting his ‘gift,’ the ability to speak to animals.

The Lost Child, also sometimes called the Aimless Wanderer, is a family member who responds to all of the tensions by turning inward. They keep to the background and withdraw from other family members, and can be very shy in front of other people. Antonio shows this when he tries to hide in the nursery, not wanting to go out and face all of the people.  (Contrast this with, say, Camilo, who was probably muppeting for the crowd as soon as they began to gather.) He shows it again when he says he needs Mirabel to ascend the stairs with him during his gifting ceremony, too shy and afraid to go up alone. Even his ‘gift,’ which gives him the ability to speak with animals, is about turning his attention in a direction that none of his family members can follow; to him, a conversation is happening when he talks with a toucan or a lemur, but to other family members and the audience, only part of the conversation can be heard.  It’s a neat way to depict a rich inner life.


But What About Mirabel?

Much like Mirabel doesn’t have a ‘gift,’ she doesn’t have a clear familial role.  She’s shown trying so hard to fit in with the family, too actively engaged to be a Lost Child but not quite succeeding enough to be a Caregiver or a Hero like her sisters.  She adopts the mantle of a Scapegoat archetype when she starts following in Bruno’s footsteps, but she’s ultimately more successful at forcing the family to confront their collective trauma than Bruno had been.  I think this is probably intentional, and intending to show that in order to move past maladaptive practices developed due to trauma, the family needs to confront these practices as well as the trauma itself.  Thus, Mirabel is depicted trying to help first Antonio, then Luisa, then Bruno, then Isabela, before the household crumbles apart. This culminates in her ultimately trying to help Alma, who experienced multiple horrific and traumatic events directly, and rebuilding the entire household with new foundations.  After they rebuild, the roles are less rigid, there’s more communication, and everyone seems to be faring better as a result.