Tuesday, August 26, 2014

If I could be a wealthy retiree, dining on the finest Euro foods, I would be so happy

Quiet wake up, late shower.
Emailing is an exacting mistress, as is pulling together the random threads of correspondence.  It's worked out.  I'm responsible.
Rush to Harvard for impromptu breakfast with Taylor and dear Biderman.  Dark chocolate, hot.  Croissant for dipping.  Jam for tang.  Decadence never tasted so good, and I already yearn for more.  Return visit soon.
Diet Coke, errands, shipping off a birthday package.
Third one in a week.  I love the sand.  I love the taste of salt, the wind, the basking in blue.
Sandcastles from dirt that's a geological wonder, large grains with crushed white and purple shards, shells pulverized by time and seamlessly integrated.  It's the landscape.  It's nature.  It's beautiful.
White sand next to stenchy river.
Fighting waves with wild abandon, challenging them, screaming as salt streams overhead.
Running, resting, leaving late.
All-carb dinner.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Take Note

Being the nostalgia slave that I amand trust me, with my pack rat ways and my love of anything tinged with melancholic atmosphere, I am a slave to the nostalgiaI sometimes enjoy going back through past notebooks.  During college, I would use the back pages of my notebooks to scribble less-than-stellar poetry/lyrics, angsty paragraphs about the state of my relationships at the time, and quick rants about my classes.  Today, in lieu of a freshly-written post, I present a sampling of notebook scribbles.  These date between January and April 2011.  This was a tumultuous time.  It was my last on-campus semester of college, an experience I was ready to leave behind.  I officially broke up with the boy my world revolved around.  I started dating the man I would marry.  

There was a lot going on.

Some of these quick writings are strangely prescient now.  It's also odd to look back and see that even though I have completely changed, at the core my self, my views, and my experience remains the same.  

I was so organized back in the day.
Now I use smaller, soft-backed books.
When I take notes at all.  Heh.


I am in a dark hole with dirt walls.  There is a hint of sunshine above, but I can't be sure.  All I know is that I want to get out of the hole.  I start climbing the walls, grabbing fistfuls of earth and digging platforms, but instead of elevating me further it's burying me.  My throat is closing, filling up with mud and gravel, and yet I'm still scrabbling away at the walls, desperate for some breath of air.


He loves to play the martyr,
He loves to play the fool,
He loves to play the one that was abandoned, it's his rule.
He loves to play the slighted, 
The one destined to lose,
The one....


In one of my education classes this morning, we had a topical writing essay.  The front of the class is littered with a heady array of composition booksgray, red, blue, marbled coverseach with a topic printed in Sharpie on the corner.  I grabbed "TV" and scribbled away, waxing poetic about Bryan Fuller, Aaron Sorkin, and J.J. Abrams.

The trouble came when we exchanged books and responded to others.  I was cornered by the girl I secretly refer to as "my nemesis."  That girl who has to raise her hand and comment on everything, whether she is qualified to voice an opinion or not.  The girl who spent the first five minutes of class quoting racist anti-Obama bumper stickers and dismissing the State of the Union as drivel.  The girl who, after we responded to each other's writing, turned to me and smugly commented on how interesting it was that she chose reading and I chose TV, clearly implying that her choice made her intellectually superior.  The girl who, after reading my ode to worthwhile TV, dismissed my arguments and points for quality TV shows and stated that she didn't like TV, that it "rots your brain," and as such should be condemned.

I just love people who live in a box and refuse to learn from others, don't you?

See, it just frustrated me that she so carelessly tossed aside television, because I think that certain shows can be incredibly stimulating, that some can raise intellectual debate and foster learning.  And I don't like that some snot-faced brown-noser can waltz in and claim that her voracious reading of Jane Austen and fantasy makes her more intelligent than my watching "Dead Like Me" and "The West Wing."  Because that is wrong.  It's false.


Here's why I never would have made a good journalistI want people to like me.  That's what attracted me to the field.  Meeting interesting people, talking, it all sounds great.  Except for the part about asking questions.  I'm too cautious to be curious.  Shame, really.

AlsoI suspect I am like Chuck Klosterman.  My fiction is meticulous, labored, and overly self-conscious.  Observation is my medium, and I should embrace it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Welcome to scenic Cape Cod!

The perfect location for a relaxing day on the beach, or a relaxing day in a beach house, this place has everything!




*WATER! But don't actually go into the water or you might freeze to death, an event we hold absolutely no liability for!

*SWAMPLAND!  These marshy reed lands cover holes you'll never see coming, adding a fun element of surprise that can kickstart your water play!


*SUNBURNS! With the first installment of Catching Fire looming right over the horizon, get a jump on your midnight showing costume by naturally dying your skin a bright vermilion.  You'll look just like a resident of the Capitol!

*WILDLIFE!  Yes that's right boys and girls, among the creatures you can experience up-close-and-personally are: seals, crabs, seagulls, seagulls dropping crabs on your head, sweet bros fully equipped with their seasonal plumage of Jeeps (find sweet bro residences on every fifty feet of beach space!), whatever beast your infected arm turns into after experiencing a seal bite, and right now for a limited time only, Great White Sharks!

So pack your bags and head to the enchanted dreamscape that is Cape Cod, TODAY!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Laying Down Track

A few days ago I finished This Is A Call, the unauthorized biography of Dave Grohl, written by Paul Brannigan.

It didn't offer much by way of new or enlightening information about Sir Davy Groltonmost of the best bits came from previous interviews and the documentary Back and Forth, filmed during the recording of 2011's Wasting Lightbut it did offer a clear musical road map.  It's obvious that Brannigan is a music critic.  One who loves and admires Grohl, but who views Grohl's life through the increasingly analytical lens of the soundtrack.  Childhood is told by dissecting the set lists of Bad Brains and Teen Idle concerts.  Rise to stardom is told in the recording studio.  Emotions are interpreted through chord progressions.

This hyper-observation of Grohl's musical landscape extends to discussion of Foo Fighters albums.  Each album is treated to pages-long reviews of the track list, the critical reception, and most interestingly, the recording process.*  Lined up one right up against the other, it's clear to see the evolution of all Foo Fighters albums, the way that the band, and Grohl, forces change and growth.  Grohl himself stated in an interview with Brannigan, "It seems like every album we've made is a result of the one that came before it, or in response to it."  There's no complacency.

I couldn't help but think about that as I watched the trailer for the new HBO mini-series following the Foos, Sonic Highways.

In This Is A Call, Brannigan intensely spotlights each Foo Fighters album.  One was completely recorded by Grohl himself.  Another was in a major studio, while the next was in Grohl's basement.  This one was acoustic.  That one was laid down on tape.  For the new record, the Foo Fighters visited eight cities and eight studios, recording songs with guest artists to try to capture the beating musical heart of America, filtered through the amplification of a unique Foo Fighters sound.  Which is a beautiful idea, and a beautiful method for a band continuing to push against boundaries.

I find that remarkably admirable.  It's easy to excuse laziness, especially after experiencing success.  With his fame and wealth, it would be simple for Grohl to merely churn out some the same grunge-inspired rock album, mix it by the best producer the studio can buy, and call it good.  But Grohl pushes for more.  He isn't resting on creative laurels, he's using his good fortune to continue to challenge himself.  I don't know if I would do the same in that position.

It reminds me of a favorite quote from writer John McPhee: "Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you."

On the one hand, that can be an exhausting viewpoint.  It could be interpreted that nothing is ever going to be good enough, so why try, life is pain and struggle.

But on the other hand, how inspiring!  That even those at the top of their field are constantly striving to improve.  It means that there's some recourse for the rest of us.  No one is ever perfect, so KEEP TRYING.  Keep working, keep pushing, and keep improving.  There is no capstone.  There is no limit.  And there is nothing to hold you back.

*It's actually pretty telling that discussion of the 2002 album One by One covers over twenty pages, while Grohl's divorce from Jennifer Youngblood is introduced and concluded in one sentence.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spiritus Animalia

"What's your spirit animal?"  This has become the latest iteration of a bonding question, something asked at parties or on OKCupid profiles.  It's the new "Hey baby, what's your sign?"  And strangely enough, the aesthetic of these question-askers has remained the same.  The same waifish physiques, mustaches, neckbeards, yellow-orange plaid shirts and medallions of the seventies.  I blame the hep hipsters desperate to be original and yet homage their super underground interests.  This is why we can't have nice things.

This question has popped up at more get-togethers (and even concerts) than I care to number (methodically, and requiring both hands and feet).  Inevitably someone brings up wolves.  Because naturally, they share a pack-like mentality and appetite for raw meat with these kindred spirits.  Otters are also really big right now.  I want to say something snarky about that, but serious talk.  Otters are just too cute.  I can't.  Here's the closest I can get: Um, yeah, you totally eat food off your stomach, don't you?*  Just like those otters, huh?

I'm usually hard-pressed for an answer when the spirit animal question comes up.  Quite frankly, I don't share commonalities with any animal.  Is there an animal that likes to burrow deep into a cocoon of warmth and watch others industriously working, while it eats bread and cheese and watches the latest season of Mad Men?  No?  I mean, a queen bee doesn't quite fit that bill (no Mad Men, plus royal jelly is no bread and cheese).  But thankfully, I've found some answers to throw out when asked this inane question.  They might not fit into the spirit of the thing, but I can think of no better examples of kinship than these, my top three Spirit Animals.

And we share an affinity for skulls!
3. Daria Morgendorffer

A quintessential product of the nineties, Daria's flat affect and killer apathy are everything I want to be in this world.  My theory about the nineties, and why I pine after them, are that everyone cared so much.  Feelings and angst were worn on tattered flannel sleeves, so when someone disconnected with the world it meant something.  It wasn't the childish irony of today, when everything is oh-so-amusing because nothing matters.  It was an actual stand against capitalism, or declining standards, or the machine.  If Daria existed in today's television landscape, she'd probably be Zooey Deschanel, the odd girl out thanks to floral prints, ukeleles, and quirky cartoon animal pictures.**  Airiness would be the unique factor.  But thankfully it is not a product of today, and Daria remains aloof through slightly twisted channels, through padded walls and Sick, Sad World.
This is a mere artistic representation.
Seemed less creepy than a glamour shot.

2. Glen Weldon

I'm slightly cheating with this one.  See, Glen Weldonone of the hosts of Pop Culture Happy Hour, my favorite podcastis not quite my spirit animal.  He's more the yin to my yang.  He represents the perfect complement to my own disposition, the ideal inversion of my own tastes and predilections.  But it's in such a perfect way that I have to pay him due.  Glen Weldon writes about books and comic books for the NPR website, and is the surly, distinctly unfeeling member of the PCHH crew.  We both like comics.  We both have a distaste for schmaltz.  But it translates in slightly different ways.

1. Glen is more likely, in his personal opinions, to have a pessimistic outlook on situations.  Definitely that glass half empty type.  I, on the other hand, harbor deep disdain for everyone and everything, but in my own secret soul I'm optimistic.  A little gentler.  Life is a terrible thing, but I think it's that way because we're capable of more.

2.  When it comes to comic fandom, Glen thrives on FUN.  Give him madcappery, wildness, abandon that can only come through the wacky world of  comics.  My comic leanings go towards grit. Somber.  Dark.  Those suck me in.

These are just a few examples of the yin-yang effect, but essentially when it comes to being the group member to embrace blanket hatred, sir Weldon and I could not be more similar.  Hate on, dude.

You can practically hear the evil laughter.
1. Louise Belcher

Yes, Tina Belcher is the popular break-out star of Fox's animated Bob's Burgers.  Which I cannot understand, because there's this character called Louise, and she's perfect. She's my everything.  I think that words might fail me at this moment, since I love her too much to adequately express it.  I am not exaggerating when I say she is the ultimate.  I don't even have to specify the ultimate what, because she's that good.  Louise knows who she is, she knows what she wants, and she demands control with immediate and exacting vengeance.  Yes, vengeance.  Making the best use of Kristen Schaal since ever, including her role as Flight of the Conchords fan Mel (the less said about her 30 Rock stint the better), Louise blends bravado and sheer capacity for terror in a cocktail of complete assurance.  Everyone knows that she's the real one in charge of the Belcher family.  She's sarcastic, she's savvy (no one can manipulate folks out of their money during an art crawl like Louise), and she doesn't buy into the idea that just because she is a little girl, she has to be one.  A sharp-as-nails child with the soul of a miserly old man, Louise rocks.  She's maniacal.  She's commanding.  She's my spirit animal.

*I do, though.  I really, really do.  There just comes an optimal slouch when watching TV, and the stomach becomes the ideal platform for that dish of nachos.

**Is it obvious I quit watching the New Girl after one season?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Tale of Bags and Artistic Ownership

This is my bag.
The ratty glory!

I've had this purse since I turned sixteen.  It's been festooned with buttons for the past, oh, six years or so.*  The buttons have changed due to lost members of the fleet--a Watchman smiley face, several Andrew Bird pins, and most recently a gorgeously minimal B.P.R.D. button have been among the casualties.

One addition was from a month ago.  My dearest Mary had gone to see Yale Stewart, the creator of webcomic JL8, at a Brooklyn bookstore.  She picked up a couple button packs, and generously gave me a Batman one.  After all, it only makes sense.  I am the Batman girl.  I was delighted, and it immediately joined the clattering crew on my bag.  A couple weeks later, I ran into Yale at Boston Comic-Con and had a brief, awkward exchange about Superman. Life went on.

This morning, I read about Yale Stewart sending unsolicited "explicit photos" to female fans and women in the comics industry.**  It was disheartening, particularly hearing yet another story where comic fandom (that vast, faceless mass of apparently rampant testosterone) turned on the victims, doubting the already wounded.

Doubly so because of how much I enjoy JL8.  As much as I love Batman, I can't come out as a total DC fangirl.  For the most part I find the rest of the Justice League so painfully boring.  Ah, The Flash!  You run so fast!  How exciting!  Ah yes, Superman!  Such blue, so boy scout!  Ah, Wonder Woman!  The token chick!  Way to have those legs!  What wasted potential!

Image from here.

But JL8 handled that differently.  By showing these characters as children, all that purity and optimism made sense.  It resonated.  Superman became an admirable bastion of goodness, standing up for the bullied and protecting all classmates out of a sense of altruism, not obligation born of superior race.  Wonder Woman wasn't an empty figure head.  She became a feisty girl who could hold her own against her peers, and who knew it.  Suddenly, Diana became the girl every mother should want their daughter to be, imbued with confidence and assurance.  It was incredible what a slight change in setting and time did. The Justice League became an inspirational gang.

And then came this morning's news.  After reading several articles on the topic, including two apologies from Yale's own tumblr, I'm still not sure what to think.  Ii's a bit strange that this comes out right after artist Ulises Farinas issued some severe criticism about Yale's charity work.  But on the other hand, this behavior is reportedly common knowledge to those on the inside.  I'll leave it to the wiser, more connected people to comment on it.  For right now, I have to say that the dual apologies on his tumblr and the donation to RAINN, are about the best response you could hope for.  I mean, it would be better to not send the pictures in the first place, but at least the apology wasn't making him the wronged party.  It's the appropriate method of fessing up to wrongdoing and laying low.  Definitely the classiest way of dealing with a misdemeanor.

But I do condemn his actions, whether they are a misunderstandings like he claims, or if these behaviors are more widespread than the two women he acknowledges.  ~BARELY COHERENT RANT AHEAD~ OK, I understand that sexting or nude pics or whatever happens.  It's one of those things where I'm against it morally****, but not everyone abides by my own moral code, and I respect that.  There are those who feel powerful with exhibiting nudity, and who feel comfortable enough and have such ownership of their body that it isn't a big deal, and I respect the hell out of that.  But sending a picture in a sexting situation involves at least two people, and let's face it, the possible audience can be larger.  In my mind, it's something you have to be totally agreed upon.  There needs to be a level of trust between the two people, and I think that level is more difficult, nigh impossible, to reach in the courting stages of a relationship.  I think if there's any, and I mean any doubt as to how it will be received the photo shouldn't be sent.  Full stop.  No misunderstanding necessary.  ~RANT OVER~

While I was reading up on this scandal, I would periodically turn to Taylor and update him on the situation.  After reading through the apologies and sitting with it, Taylor had an interesting reaction.  He told me he felt a little guilty.  He felt guilty for hearing those apologies, and yet still strongly believing that this dude was a scumbag.  Taylor's read a bit of JL8.  He didn't love it like I did.  But he was so offended by the allegations that he immediately assumed that Yale was in the wrong.  Which shook Taylor up, because he felt like it was too quick for him to be so condemning of the harassment, and yet he was wholeheartedly anti-Yale.

To be honest, I was proud of Taylor.  My husband is the best feminist.  Thanks be for a career that forces acknowledgement and concern for the victims!  Taylor rocks.

My gut reaction was more muddled.  This might be shallow (my gut is telling me that it is, but my gut also wants cake, so whatever), but my first response was: "Can I still wear this guy's button on my bag?  How can I basically advertise the work of someone who doesn't respect women?"

Earlier this week, I was discussing Kanye with my pal Ricky.  To quote white girls everywhere, I truly cannot with Kanye.  Ricky thinks the man is a genius.  He's totally wrong, but that's not the point right now.  In defending Yeezy, he said "I don't expect my pop figures to be likable. I just want the art I love."

It was an interesting idea.  I often struggle with untangling the persona of the artist with the art produced.  Kanye's terrible image leaves me with too much distaste to ever objectively judge his music.  Same with a whole slew of musicians.  Taylor Swift, Bono.  My personal dislike keeps me from enjoying their output.

But on the other hand, I know that I would loathe Ernest Hemingway if I ever met him, and yet I find his novels and short stories among the more beautiful writings on this earth.  Most authors of weight require a severe disconnect between personal life and creative works.  If personal life required my approval, I could hardly read anything, and what a sad existence that would be.

But this isn't a dead author.  It's a man who is still present and active in the comics community.*****  And the role of women is already so tenuous and fraught in that world, that it's harder to permit any slight.

Which is all to say, tonight I'm left with a button and with a quandary.

*As a teenager, I was very ... clean cut is the word for it, I suppose.  I didn't put posters on the wall because I was nervous that they wouldn't look orderly enough, or that attempts at manufactured chaos would be a few inches away from true visual appeal.  I didn't color on my binders, and while I loved other people doodling on my arm, I wouldn't do it myself.  I had a difficult time ruining pristine things, and little confidence in my own artistic eye, so I refrained from any typical method of teenage expression.  This also reflected in my wardrobe, which until my senior year of high school comprised solely of flared jeans, pastel button-up shirts (to conceal the fat), and brown leather shoes.  And I wonder why I was an unhappy teen.

**Yes, this story is a couple days old, but I'm behind, OK?  You don't want to know how many old tabs are open on my computer and phone.  I mean, I heard something about a Batman vs. Superman movie?***  What up with that? 

***Note: joke.  Of course I know about and am already majorly conflicted, pitting my love of Batman against my hatred of Zack Snyder.  Who will triumph?

****The whole chaste, not-outside-of-marriage thing.  Within a marriage, I say knock yourself out!  But still not my bag.

*****Announced hiatus of JL8 aside.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One Year

Yesterday marked a year since I pointed my beat-up red Dodge Stratus eastward and left Seattle for Boston.

The last time I saw the
Space Needle
Taylor and I shipped out on a Monday morning.  It was overcast, and a haze accompanied us as we drove down Aurora, passing by the Space Needle, the Market, and my terrible nemesis of a Ferris Wheel before getting on the 90.  We wound through rain and mountains.  After a couple of hours, green gave way to desert and sunshine.  It was supposed to be an omen.  It was supposed to signal a similar turning point in my life, a symbolic gesture of leaving behind the cobwebs and clouds of our prior life and bursting into the bright hope of an adult future.  Real life, as it were.

Little did we know that those were the good times.  The salad days.

Boston might have seemed a warmer climate from afar, but up close it's soul felt chilled to the bone.

And yet, after a year of pain and misery, it has thawed.

Yesterday the sun shone.  It glinted off trees, leaves shimmering gold and green, sparkling in the light.  I walked down roads I knew.  Haunted areas that felt, if not like home, at least familiar.  I had my bearings.  I had my place.

My current path
Today that comfort was compounded by a beach trip, something that is interpreted quite differently on the East Coast.  This beach was no Seattle shore, made of small rocks and mud.  Instead, I welcomed warm white sand and blue waters.  Salt-smelling grass and rocky monoliths perfect for scrambling over. It was beautiful.  I talked with people.  I interacted with the world, this once-cold Boston world, and felt at peace.

When the time comes I will not be sad to leave this place.  But now, I can say I will miss it. At least I've got that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Desperate Times

My last semester of grad school starts two weeks from today.

Image by Jillian Fleck, found here
This is terrifying.

I had a month-long break between my last two semesters, a blissful December-January hybrid where it was too cold to live, so I coped by roadtripping to DC, where the temperature was slightly less punishing.  The time in Boston during the break was spent wrapped in a several-blanket burrito, watching movies and trying to move as little as possible, curled on the couch while cold air seeped through the might-as-well-not-exist-for-all-the-good-they-do-protecting-against-the-elements windows.  

One thing notably missing from that list of activities?  Writing.

When I returned to school after a month-long hiatus, muscles that could churn out interviews and articles in one day had atrophied.  The thought of pitching story ideas made me freeze.  During the night, I would fitfully toss and stare at the ceiling, mentally listing all my assignments and all the reasons I was completely incapable of doing them.  Eventually the typing fingers stretched out a little, but it was still a tumultuous adjustment from my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first semester, where I was so eager to write and read and think and do something that wasn't teaching.

At the start of this summer break, I had grand plans for all the writing I would do, the projects that would be completed and the headway that would be made with my writerly aspirations.  And where did this lead to, at this moment, two weeks before I head back into the abyss?

Yep.  I've written nothing.  

Just look at that selection!
In my defense, Amazon Prime has both Orphan Black and a new partnership with HBO, so prestige TV is at my fingertips.

I need to shock my system into writing again.  So I'm making this blog my two week boot camp.  Every day. Some writing. Maybe I'll dig through all those drafts that never got published.  Maybe I'll finally reveal the anxiously-awaited list of my spirit animals (spoiler--most if not all are cartoons of humans). Maybe it will get all surreal with stream of consciousness up in here.  And hopefully in two weeks I'll remember how this stuff gets done.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The D Word

No, not that D word.

Or that one either.  Geez.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that in my last post, I never used the "depression" word.  I alluded to feeling depressed, but in all my bluster and openness I shied away from actually labeling myself as a person who suffers from depression.

Isn't that sort of silly?

 photo say-what_zps0cfcc174.gif

The strangest thing is that I didn't avoid it out of any fear of stigma.  I'm not ashamed to have depression.  It gets a little more complicated than that.

Part the First:

I don't have the right to say I have depression.  Or at least that's what my brain keeps telling me.

In my life I've been privileged to have a lot of friends that are, to put it simply, better than me.  They are smarter, prettier, more talented.  It's as if I subconsciously decided to only befriend people that inspire me, maybe out of some hope that their wondrous abilities would rub off.  Among the raw geniuses I get to call friends are some of the best artists, musicians, writers and philosophers a person could find.  They are individuals who are constantly driven by their work.  While I have many interests and some skills, I don't have the near-compulsive productivity of these people.

But often, talent comes hand in hand with depression and anxiety.  And these people, many of whom have been my boon companions over the years, have struggled with these issues.  I've had a ringside seat to the ravages of these disorders, as I've witnessed people stronger than myself live with depression that has been longer and fiercer than my own paltry experiences.  When faced against those comparisons, it feels wrong to say I have depression.  It almost seems cheap.

It feels like I haven't earned the right to say I'm depressed.

Which is a load of malarkey.  Depression isn't a merit badge.  There's no quota.  It's not like you put in so many hours of lying on the couch feeling like human garbage before you can say you have depression.  It's a condition, with certain markers, not some test of endurance.

Would you like to buy some cookies?  They're baked with the proper level of tears, I swear!

This traces back to a bigger problem in society, this inability to give proper credence to our emotions.  Perhaps it's just my personal baggage, but at least to me there was always this sense of denying my emotions.  I had to be positive.  Or even if I was sad, there was someone who had it worse, so might as well just abandon that sadness and carry on.  Because clearly that's pretty easy and should totally happen.

Except it's not.  And the best way to sort through emotions is to identify them, and to not give them some dark, Voldemort-esque power by refusing to acknowledge their existence.  Emotional honesty is the only way to completely move forward, and sometimes saying you have depression is a part of that process.

But in this case, I'm going to continue to not use the term depression.  Mostly because...

Part the Second:

I don't think its accurate to say I have depression.

I know.  Psych!
Sorry, I don't have any pineapple for you.

In our sessions, my therapistactually my psychiatrist, but I'm going to say therapist because that's the service I'm getting and because the medication side of things makes me nervous in this specific casewell, he doesn't use the term depression.  He calls my situation "tension," brought on by my over-extension of work/school projects and the ridiculous expectations I place on myself.  And when I think of the headaches, gut aches, and heartaches I've experienced these past few months, tension fits the bill.  It's a good descriptor for me right now.

Which isn't to say all that rambling about depression was a misdirect.  Everything I said I believe in wholeheartedly.  I want to stop giving into the negative connotations, or the comparisons, that keep me from being honest.  Depression has no statue of limitations, or whatever the opposite of that term is.   It doesn't have to age into a fine wine of pain.  It starts somewhere, and whether it's lasted three months or three decades it's alright to use the proper name.  Depression.  It's here.  It's an actual thing.  So just say it.

And as for everyone else?  Well, you know what they can do.

 photo dealwithit_zps0fae461b.gif

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bird Watching


My name's Cat, and I've been pretty depressed lately.

I know.  SHOCKER!  It's not like it's been pretty easy to decipher that fact if you've been following my blog, or are friends with me on Facebook, or if you're one of those near-mythical "real life friends" (seriously, do such things exist anymore, or are they just relegated to icons between ads on Facebook?) (I kid, I kid, you know I love you, people I have actually interacted with in the physical world).

But I've been alluding to it as if it's over, or close to over.  You know, I'm "coming out of a funk."  Or, "the last few months have been hard, but it's getting better," or even the more cynical but no less silver lining-ed "it's tough now, but I still have so much good in my life."

Well, I lied.

I'm not coming out of it.  It's not getting better.  And yeah, there's good in my life, but that just makes this pervasive darkness even more oppressive.  Of course there's good in my life, so where do I get off feeling so crummy?  Seriously.  What an ungrateful little turd I am.  Man, I suck.

My life, as depicted by http://thankyoucorndog.tumblr.com/.

This comic describes my feelings.  When I talk to people about my sorrow, it turns into a laundry list of why I shouldn't be so sad.

"But Cat, you're so smart!"

"But Cat, look at all you're doing!  You're owning grad school!"

"But Cat, look at the opportunities you're getting!"

"But Cat, you have a loving husband and a really good life!"

"But Cat, there are so many people that love you!"

"But Cat, you are really so blessed!  Look at all you have!"

But, dear friends and family. But, while that is all true and well and good, but.  But that doesn't automatically make me happier.

If anything, it makes me worse.

Because those reminders and encouragements only add to the mental tally, and yes it is a constant tally, of things I'm doing wrong.  It becomes another failure.  That Cat, having all these lovely things and yet somehow, selfishly, brokenly, remaining depressed.

I'm trying to pull myself out of this mire.  I'm chasing that freaking bluebird of happiness with a titanium butterfly net, tricked out with rocket launchers and an army of drones in the handle.  And there are times when that lovely little creature will circle around my head, nearly landing on my shoulder but not quite there yet.  It's there on a sunny afternoon when I sit by the Charles and feel my skin tingle under the sun.  It's there when I dance to The Ballad of Mr. Steak with wild abandon during a Kishi Bashi concert, arms flailing underneath colored lights and layered sounds.  It's there while watching Veronica Mars and having good conversation with fine folk that give me hope in humanity and my place therein.

But for each time the bluebird almost lands, there are tenfold moments where it flies into a thorny hedge and refuses to budge.  These are the times where I stare into the void of a growing inbox of requests and freeze.  When my hands linger over a chapter to be edited, or a writer to be researched, or a TV show that I've watched and taken notes on and elucidated my thoughts in outline format, or even just the thought of moving that dang ol' dishrag off the counter and hanging it on the rack, and yet the next step halts.  

It's times like today, where I lie on the couch watching Party of Five* and eating Cheetos Puffs.  The cheese-spun cylinders make me feel marginally better, right before making me feel exponentially and inevitably worse.  You know how it is.  Curse you, sweet sweet snacks!

Today is extreme.  Usually it's just this heart-squeezing, gut-tearing feeling of misery and loneliness and failure that never really goes away.  

I keep telling myself that fessing up to it is better than gulping it down and pretending it's not there.  You know, saying outright that yep, I'm basically a champ at the whole self-loathing thing.  I recognize this and want to change, and like any good addict admitting I have a problem is the first step to recovery.

And blast it all, I'm trying to recover.  I'm doing the exercises, eating the healthy foods**, seeing the therapist, making the happy lists.  Pushing myself to get out and socialize.  Forcing myself out of the solitary comfort zone my jerkbrain prescribes.  Doing all the maddening suggestions that well-meaning people give me when they try to help.  I mean, I still find myself crumpling on the ground almost every day, but I'm giving it the college try!  Happy face!  Attempts!

I'm still chasing the bird, but I'm running through quicksand, and for all the leverage I get I still am sliding down, sucked into the depths.

So what, right?  What now?  Why write this?  Why talk about this?

Because somehow, it's making me feel better.  Writing is a great way to figure things out.  It's why English teachers assign essays.  Well that, and the feeling of enjoyment we get from hearing the groans.  Sweet music to the ears! 

"The shortest distance between a human being and the truth is a story."  Anthony de Mello.

Right now, my story is sadness.  And anxiety.  And defeat.  And by writing about it, I hope to see the truth in this experience.  I want to be able to figure out what this means, to see patterns in my malaise.  If all goes well, these words will form a ladder to tug me out of the sand.  They will shape into wings where I can catch that damn bluebird in his own turf.

*What a truly terrible TV show, by the by.  Full House on steroids and with an over-inflated sense of importance.  And yet, there's something about Matthew Fox's hair on this show.  I can't look away.  I want to, believe me I want to, but every time I try stupid Jack is there with his stupid 90's mane waving in the non-existent breeze and whispering Caaaat.....loooook at meeee.....Caaaaat....

**Most of the time, all Cheetos cheats aside.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Fickle Edge of Female Friendships

MacKenzie grabbed my arm and dragged me to her parent’s bathroom, where she began vigorously digging through her mother’s makeup bag. I was seven, a worldly few months older than Kenzie’s six-year-old self. We were having a carefully-arranged playdate, a regular occurrence set up by loving mothers. Kenzie’s younger neighbor was there. I immediately took her as a friend, full of the blind assumption of childhood.

Kenzie held up a tube of lipstick in victory. Solemnly, she turned to us and laid down the new law. We had to wear the lipstick. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in the club.

This was my nightmare.

I had already banned my mother from using any beauty products on me—no hairsprays, nothing. They felt gross, with their slimy stickiness and nasty smells. And yet here was a friend, telling me I couldn’t be included unless I played by her rules. I took the lipstick and tried, inexpertly smearing bright red across my top lip. I hated it. It wasn’t me. It felt wrong. I wiped it off on her mother’s towel, leaving a bright gash across the cottony surface. Kenzie and the neighborhood girl skipped away. Their fluorescent mouths widened with laughter. I walked home. The walk was long and uphill, as these things are.


It was my first experience with female exclusion, and definitely not my last. Soon the world of female friendships revealed itself as a treacherous battlefield, a shifting sea of changing alliances and unspoken rules I was always breaking.

But who to blame? Myself—which I did often? The other girls—which I also did, with bitterness and hatred? Or is there something else, something more nefarious and far-reaching?

I propose that conditioning is to blame. Girls are bombarded from birth with messages about not only our body, but how we are supposed to act. Cartoons transmit messages of women as ditzy blonds and comic-relief characters, the commercial breaks saturate us with images of popularity in the form of material possessions over personality, and even childhood movies depict untouchable princesses that only exist within the sphere of romantic relationships. Is it any wonder girls don’t know how to navigate friendships? All their cultural ingestion, from programming to advertising campaigns, is poisoning the waters of female camaraderie.

This is what Jean Kilbourne, creator of the lecture series “Killing us Softly,” calls a “‘toxic cultural environment’—an environment that surrounds us with unhealthy images and sacrifices our health and our sense of well-being for the sake of profit.” In her presentation, she presents images of the female in advertising, noting that the form promotes unrealistic standards of beauty. When those bodes are all a young girl sees in advertising, she can interpret them as the correct appearance, and the correctly subservient and objectified behavior. Kilbourne continues to describe this method of advertising, saying that “women learn from a very early age that we must spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and above all money striving to achieve this look, and feeling ashamed and guilty when we fail. And failure is inevitable because the ideal is based on absolute flawlessness.”

So we have this precedence and predilection for self-dissatisfaction. The shame and guilt Kilbourne discusses is a key proponent of the problem. We are taught to immediately shift blame to ourselves. Things are never the fault of the ad creators, or of the bullies who demand more from our appearance. Their criticisms are completely internalized, consumed and morphed into a mantra of “never good enough,” dragging women further down towards despair and depression. Even the greatest accomplishments are brushed aside because every aspect in life is not radiant perfection.

With the individual demanding such an unattainable reality for themselves, the natural progression is to take that need for perfection and scrutinize it outwards. In that sense, other women become a means of comparison, rather than a potential source of friendship and support. Possible friends are held to the same unflinching standard we hold ourselves to. They must also be beautiful, talented, and poised. But here comes the double edged sword—they are not allowed to be more so than we are. Their achievements prompt reflection about our own flaws and weaknesses, contributing to the cycle of self-hatred.

This results in a nasty competition with other women. Girls are trained to see what should be friends as enemies, constantly measuring themselves against this girl’s perfect nose, or that girl’s flat abs, or the fact that Suzie got first place in the Spelling Bee.

The media has accepted this phenomenon as fact. The cattiness of women is so universal that advertising makes it a basis for campaigns. The hamburger joint Wendy’s introduced their new salads by having two women fight over one, with one stealing the salad because its high quality suited her better than her co-worker. The latest ad campaign for Cascade dishwasher detergent is completely built around the idea that women resort to passive aggressive digs at each other, even within friendships. It features two women standing at a dishwasher. One loads, and the other says (with an overly practiced false grin), “Marjorie, I can’t stand you! You’re too perfect. Even the inside of your dishwasher sparkles.” This dissolves into petty sniping that requires a Kitchen Counselor to step in and fix their “dirty fighting” with the cleansing power of Cascade.

In-fighting and comparisons happen so early that as girls mature, their ability to form social relationships with other women through adulthood is stunted. There is now a pervasive mistrust of others. It’s immediately assumed that women judge each other from first encounter. Forming friendships becomes too much of a risk to personal health and safety.

One method many women form to cope with this is through quickly and brutally rejecting other women. This serves as protection from vulnerability. It can also be used in adolescence to impress another group of girls, as it shows an exertion of power and confidence that may or may not exist.  Psychological scientist Joyce F. Benenson calls this “preemptive social exclusion.” In her study “Mean Girls and Queen Bees,” Benenson says that “preemptive social exclusion appears to be a valuable strategy for women because it allows them to protect their relationships by keeping an outsider at bay.” In such a way, women protect their social standing with pre-existing friends, they protect their romantic relationships from potential threats, and they keep themselves at the top of a precarious tower of worth, a tower built on comparison to others rather than self-satisfaction.

With such a wealth of pre-conditioning teaching women to mistrust other women and to base self-worth on material goods and outward appearance, moving beyond that to make genuine friendships can be a daunting task. In a 2011 article for Examiner.com, author Micah Tutay encourages personal responsibility as the perfect weapon to strike against insidious messages in advertising. She states, “even if we don't believe we can have an impact in changing society as a whole, we can be sure that we do have the ability to change how much we let it influence our relationships, our sexuality, our spending habits, and so on. It is up to each of us to take back our dignity and self respect."

Taking back that dignity is difficult. It requires a conscious over-riding of basic instincts that have built up over time, layer over protective layer hardening into a tense shell of deflection and wariness. But how sweet are the rewards! Fighting against the system will send a message to the agencies responsible for the conditioning ads. It will show that women can demand respect, and will not accept their down-sizing of the strength of female relationships. But more importantly, it can create a thriving community where the first instinct is love, not evaluation.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quarter of a Century Man*

I am, I am.

This is me, being 25.

At 25, I woke up early.  At 6:30 AM, when I was technically still 24, with only a few precious minutes before entering the 25th anniversary of my time here on earth.  Sun squirmed its way between a gap in the window and the Batman blanket I've been using as a heavy duty curtain, touching my face with the illusion of a warm day.  For a moment I was still, nestled in bed and squinting at a mix of sky and branches and houses.

At 25, I decided to treat myself to a bagel for breakfast.  Apparently, food is just as important to me as when I was 24, or 16, or 5.  Indeed, the desire and appreciation for food runs much of my daily life.  At 25, there is rarely a moment when I don't have a niggling yen for one (or both) of two things: guacamole, with the rich avocado punctuated with sharp garlic and juicy ripe tomatoes; or the Lucknow Special from Pronti Bistro.  Chunks of lamb with mushroom and feta, slathered in tamarind and mint yogurt sauce, gently couched in warm flatbread.  It's the type of meal that makes the entire world OK, opening windows of peace and harmony and happiness (only to prompt feelings of crushing loss when it is eaten and gone).

At 25, I carefully selected the first song of my new year.  I was torn between old favorites, songs that dominated this past year, or something peppy and delightful.  I ended up with "The Wind" by Cat Stevens.  A perfect choice.

At 25, I'm coming out of a season of penetrating sadness.  But the weather is slowly warming, and is nursing my heart along with it.  One thing people don't tell you when you finally chase your dreams is that the chasing action does not instantaneously eradicate all the fears and insecurities that kept you from the dream in the first place.  Oh, it can assuage them for a bit.  For a time, your confidence will be boosted by the pure adrenaline rush of finally doing it.  And then the novelty wears off and you are left with a dream that has become mundane reality, but with an added pressure layer of hopes and expectations crusting the top of it.  And wrestling with a dream made actual can leave you staring at the void, feet dangling off the edge of the cliff as you grasp for a trail.  For somewhere safe and sure to place your footfalls.  And sometimes, you'll have to off-road it for a while, forging your own path until a trail is made.  And it's difficult.  But somehow it can be done.  Or so I repeat to myself in the malaise-worthy mornings and headache-inducing nights.

At 25, I'm hopeful.  Hopeful that the best is still ahead.  That there's a bright, comfortable future in front of me, full of books and armchairs and sunlight.  The meals will be catered and the television will always be set to the best channels (what CBS? No such thing).  There will be rooms and people and a home full of light.  There will be deeply satisfying work, and even more deeply satisfying love.  This is the richness I see for myself, and as for 25?  It's just the beginning.

*That phrase always makes me think of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  Specifically, the scene before this song.  I tried to find the actual point where Mr. Twimble discusses his 25-year status in the company, but alas it is not to be.  Yes, we have a grand overarching technological network that spies on us and has billions of cat videos, but it can't be bothered to include a thirty second clip of a Pulitzer prize-winning production.  This is the world we live in.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Choice

You know, I think that apathy was the only thing that kept me sane.  Through high school.  Through college.  And now the apathy is replaced with actual hard work, and sanity?  Not so much.

So what would you rather have?

Achievement, or happiness?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Out of the Mouth of Swanson

Ron Swanson.  The ultimate wise man.

Right now, I'm doing a piss-poor job of living by this advice.  I've upped this ante by 100 percent, splitting my time and concentration between four things (well, technically seven if you count each individual class).

I might have made some errors in judgment this semester.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Conceived by Mommybloggers

This is a quick check-in, to make sure that this still works.  And also because I'm having thoughts, and it's either a really long Facebook statues (UGH) or a blog, and this setting works much better.

I have a ton of big projects and articles coming up and, as I always do in times of stress, I've been procrastinating by obsessively reading blogs that I would normally never read.  Like, Stay At Home Mommy blogs.  Blogs of women who have nothing in common with me, and whose opinions and views I do not always agree with.  I mean, I cherish motherhood.  The thought of having a child of my own is slowly becoming a reality to me, and it's a notion that does not fill my soul with dread.  In fact, it's generally a quite nice notion, as babies have suddenly started looking soft and squishy and good-smelling.  (Sidenote- IknowIknow, that's not all the time, but don't burst my bubble now!  I worked so hard for that illusion).

But.  Back to the point.

Which is--I have an awfully good life.  I'm living the relatively low-stakes life of a student.  I'm doing that and making (a very, very little) money, working at jobs that I love and which are opening all kinds of avenues for me.  Seriously.  Check out the people I'm working for and things I'm working on.  And on top of all that, I get to write non-stop, I get to interview people on things I'm passionate about, I get to manipulate words and come to comfortable terms with my writing voice, and I get to come home to a small suburban apartment and a husband who's kicking trash and taking names as a family therapist.  That in itself is pretty dang cool.

So even though my heart still yearns for West Coast life, I've managed to find some good people, and more importantly, some good food. I consider myself awfully lucky that I get to stretch my writing muscles, and that I have this blessedly uninterrupted time to develop my talents and make them work for me.  I've only been here for roughly six months, and my Seattle self is already a distant memory.  Let's not even discuss my Provo self ( who? what? selfish/insecure/lazy-much?).  I'm proud of the person this place has made me.  I'm proud of the family Taylor and I have created.   I'm proud of my university, and how ridiculously supportive and wonderful it is. And I'm proud that I can say that we did it, that we are here and living in the city of our dreams.

This is all to say--I'm doing just fine.  I realized my good fortune.  And sometimes, that's a needed realization.

Now back to writing.  I have two articles due in the next sixteen hours.  It's all just part of the adventure.

Right.  Write.  I'm on it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

That Avi's Full of Crap, Man

Redwall.  Mossflower.  Martin the Warrior.  Stuart Little.  The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Poppy.  Ragweed.

If these titles are familiar, congratulations!  You were a childhood nerd and a softie.  We also would have been the best of friends, as these books filled my prepubescent days.

These novels also share a darker, more nefarious purpose.  They all take disgusting rodents and elevate them to hero status.  The mice protagonists lure unsuspecting children into rooting for them, tricking generations into believing that mice are just misunderstood.  All a mouse needs is some pluck and understanding, and then they can achieve anything.  Besides, how adorable are those velvety ears and pert little noses, right?

Wrong.  This vile propaganda is spewing lies about the adorability of pests.

Because mice?  Aren't cute.  Aren't intelligent.  And aren't worthy of any adoration.  They are DISGUSTING.

A couple of days before I left town for winter break, I was innocently sitting on the couch when something flashed in my peripheral vision.  An ominous brown streak.  I looked down just in time to see the tip of a tail zoom underneath the couch.  After a small shriek and the slightest of Tom Cruise-esque couch jumping, I calmed down enough to acknowledge the truth.  I had mice.  Checking the kitchen only confirmed my worst fears, as small, brown ovals peppered the floors and utensil drawers like confetti left over from some Hantavirus-themed party.

The kitchen was thoroughly cleaned and the mousy invader was cornered and caught.  I promptly named him Humphrey, because some sensitivity from a childhood full of anthropomorphizing mice remained.  He was humanely disposed of, the problem was solved, and I headed off for a D.C. Christmas with nary a care.  Cut to a week and a half later, when I returned home to pure carnage.

Poop.  Poop everywhere.

Counters were sprinkled, forks and knives were garnished, and the cabinet floorboards were carpeted with lamentable leavings.  There was no safe place.  It was utter violation, with danger and disease around every corner.  My own home was no longer secure, and unfortunately the childhood heroes were to blame.  Unwelcome masses had taken over.  It was time to take a leaf out of Mr. Alice Cooper's playbook.

The gloves were off (well, technically they came on, as I disinfected that kitchen to near toxic levels).  My rose-colored, animal-loving glasses were lifted.  The nine-year-old in me would have loved to set up boundaries, some type of compact ensuring that as long as the mice stuck to their corner, they were free to cohabitate.  But mice are idiots.  They are too stupid to control their bowels, which means they are completely incapable of signing the legal documents I drew up.  Warfare was the only answer.  Empathy was dead.  Drastic measures were taken.  The threat was eliminated, and life has returned to normal here on the homefront.

But consider this a PSA.  Mice.  Despite the lies of youth, they are not innocent.  They are not cuddly.  And when they come, they're coming for you.  Make sure you get them first.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Return and Report

Part the First: Reflection

Well, 2013 has been a crap-bucket of a year.

Or so I thought when I initially sat down to write this, my yearly recap.*

Then I realized how much the extreme, soul-crushing suckitude of the past four months has colored my views.  Just because the latter third of the year drained me of all optimism and hope doesn't mean that good ol' 2013 has been a total wash.  In fact, it was a magical year in many ways.

Because this
In 2012, I fell in love with Seattle.  In 2013, Seattle became my homea sad fact I didn't fully understand until I left it behind for the rocky coldness of the East Coast.  Somewhere along the road, despite the gray skies and the truly horrific traffic, Seattle snuck into my heart and settled down.  It packed up Thai food, Alki beach, the lighthouse at Discovery Park, the house in Queen Anne, the apartment by Silver Platters, the car full of educators starting and stopping down the 90 blasting music along the way.  It smuggled in memories of barbecues on the patio, where my fingers picked charred lamb off the cutting board, where I drank ginger beer and feasted on the best damn guacamole I've ever had.  Thoughts of Menchie's runs and reading on sunny days by Green Lake.  The sunsetssweet mercy, the sunsets!viewed from rocky beaches or Pike Place or the top of Cougar Mountain as I finished work and headed out to carpool.

Gorgeous view above the clouds

One of the best parts of having a place you love is sharing it with others, and Taylor and I got to share Seattle with many people this year (Paige, Ryan, James, Jihad, Sarah, Leo, my parents, Lauren).  We had the tour down patdinner at Orrapin on Queen Anne or Bengal Tiger down the street from our apartment.  Desserts from Menchie's, Trophy Cupcakes, Top Pot, or one of the many, many incredible bakeries.  One day had to be spent at Pike Place, going to Golden Age Collectables and wandering through secondhand bookstores.  Stopping for soda at the Pear Delicatessen.  If the lines weren't too long, maybe grabbing some Piroshky Piroshky pastries,  Beecher's mac 'n cheese, or the meatball sub at the Pasta Bar (a personal favorite).  Sometimes I would take people to wander around Capitol Hill, stepping into Eliott Bay Book Company or any of the shops on Broadway.  Often, I'd talk someone into visiting my happy place at the EMP and then checking out Seattle Center.  At some point, Taylor would take visitors on a driving loop on Queen Anne, where we'd point out sites from Seattle history and our own personal backstories.

Basically, the first two-thirds of this year were spent soaking up Seattle.  Taylor worked hard to finish school, graduating with his Masters.  I worked hard to save up money for the move to Boston, and despite some bratty kids I mostly enjoyed teaching history and journalism and mythology, going on some great field trips (NCI!) and interacting with six-year-olds for the first time at summer camp.

The North Cascades

That was before we packed up everything and headed out to Boston.  The road trip back was amazing.  In Montana I finally learned the truth of the phrase "purple mountain majesty."  I felt a sacred peace in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I drove through the Badlands in a lightening storm and was completely alive.  Taylor and I braved the staid cornfields of Iowa to visit Scholte, and in Chicago we met with rain and blues and Gary and Giordano's.  We cozied up in an Eerie bed and breakfast, feeling nervous about the move for the first time and trying desperately to lose ourselves in the beauty of a small town.

And then came Boston.  And grad school.  While we've enjoyed exploring this city, exploring revolutionary history and cemeteries packed with my literary heroes, and while I have loved going to classes and constantly writing and the people I've met through articles and stories, I can't quite talk about Boston without bitterness in my voice.  Because I miss the happiness I left behind.

But that's OK.  Because now, on to 2014.  The year of endurance.

This is the year I put my head down and work.  Where I take Boston and feast on all it offers me.  And then next year, once I have sucked out all the education and experiences possible, I can leave this withered husk behind me and move on to real life.

*Previous recaps: 2012, 2011, 2010

Part the Second: Reporting

Last year, I set a few goals.  Here's how they went.

1. Get published.

Well, not so much.  Not officially.  BUT!  This year I started the television review site Lightbox Heroes with dear friends Mary and Rosemary.  It has been the single most beneficial thing I could have done for my writing, and it is several steps closer to what I want to be doing.  I feel pretty good about this one.

2. Get into grad school.

Done.  Masters of Journalism at Boston University, scheduled to be finished January 2015.

3. Stop eating food in the faculty room.

Ha. That's cute.

4. Keep track of the media I consumed.  Consume more media.

Done and done, and reported below.  While I don't know for certain that I consumed more media than last year, it certainly felt like I did.  And I was much more conscious of actively working to watch more movies and read more books.

One huge milestone I overcame was being comfortable with mass media consumption.  For many people, these types of activities are methods for release or ways to laze about, and so I would always be self-conscious about how frequently I would partake in these activities.  But considering that this is what I want to dowrite about pop culturethis is precisely what I should be doing with my time.  So this year was a time for throwing off the shackles of what other people thought and growing my portfolio of expertise.  Making up for lost time, if you will.

5. Write reviews for every book I read.

Another negative.  But I recorded all the books I read, and I am working on slowly making up for lost time.  Writing for Lightbox Heroes showed me how easy it can be to write reviews, I just have to do them immediately and not let them pile up.  So with that in mind, I should be much more reliable this year.

Now without further ado, the media stats. 


-Jurassic Park                                                          -Justice League: Doom
-Spiderman                                                              -The Untouchables
-Django Unchained                                                  -The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
-Inglourious Basterds                                                -Escape From Alcatraz
-Two Mules for Sister Sara                                       -Pale Rider
-National Geographic Explorer: 25 Years                    -The Fountain
-Good Will Hunting                                                   -Naked Gun 2 1/2 
-Objectified                                                              -T2
-Serenity                                                                  -Safety Not Guaranteed
-Raising Arizona                                                       -Last of the Mohicans
-The Departed                                                          -The Godfather 2
-Side by Side                                                            -Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker
-Capote                                                                    -Into the Wild
-Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037          -Zero Dark Thirty
-Reality Bites                                                            -Once
-NFFTY Opening Night                                            -Slacker
-Legends of the Fall                                                  -V for Vendetta
-Ironman 3                                                               -The Great Gatsby
-Watchmen                                                               -Bachelorette
-Willow                                                                    -Reservoir Dogs
-Akira                                                                      -Psycho
-The Town                                                                -Snatch
-Mystery Men                                                           -The Iceman Tapes
-Clerks                                                                     -Training Day
-Ronin                                                                       -Ninja Scroll
-Pitch Perfect                                                            -13 Assassins
-James and the Giant Peach                                       -Let it Be
-The Bling Ring                                                         -Chinatown
-Paranorman                                                             -Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
-Chasing Amy                                                           -Oldboy
-Pacific Rim                                                              -Butter
-Goldfinger                                                                -Johnny Carson: King of Late Night
-The Way Way Back                                                 -Cloud Atlas
-The Breakfast Club                                                   -Shaolin Soccer
-Rifftrax: Titanic                                                         -Wristcutters
-Hang 'Em High                                                          -SLC Punk
-Paranoid: Black Sabbath                                            -Rifftrax: Starship Troopers
-The World's End                                                       -The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
-Hero                                                                         -The Elephant Man
-Dr. Strangelove                                                         -East of Eden
-Who Framed Roger Rabbit                                         -The Other F Word
-Before Sunrise                                                           -Before Sunset
-In a World                                                                 -Tombstone
-My Kid Could Paint That                                           -Escape From Tomorrow
-Hocus Pocus                                                             -Boondock Saints
-Dances With Wolves                                                 -Muscle Shoals
-Shattered Glass                                                         -Baraka
-Hitchcock                                                                 -Se7en
-Inside Llewyn Davis                                                  -Absence of Malice
-No Country for Old Men                                           -Night of the Living Dead
-Rifftrax: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians               -Star Trek: First Contact
-The Master                                                              -Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox
-A Brady Bunch Movie                                              -White House Down
-The Patriot                                                               -Fargo
-Brave                                                                       -Brick

TOTAL: 110

Favorite Discoveries: The Fountain. The Departed. Snatch. Paranorman. The World's End. The Elephant Man. Dr. Strangelove.

Most Uncomfortable Movies: Oldboy. The Master. Bachelorette. Escape from Tomorrow.

Movies That Made Me Angry: Watchmen. Pacific Rim.

Movies Whose Popularity Flummoxed Me: Ronin. The Boondock Saints.

Movies That Were An Unexpected Delight: 13 Assassins. White House Down. Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox.

Clint Eastwood Movies: Escape From Alcatraz. Pale Rider. Two Mules for Sister Sara. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Hang 'Em High.


-Moon Over Manifest                                               -Y the Last Man: Girl on Girl
-Y the Last Man: Paper Dolls                                    -Y the Last Man: Kimono Dragons
-Y the Last Man: Motherland                                    -Y the Last Man: Whys and Wherefores
-Perks of Being a Wallflower                                     -That Summer
-Confessions of a Serial Kisser                                   -The Running Diaries
-Sammy Keyes and the Dead Giveaway                     -Chew: Flambe
-Astonishing X-men: Dangerous                                 -Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale
-I,Q: Independence Hall                                            -One Crazy Summer
-Watchmen                                                               -Anna Karenina
-The Road                                                                -A Gathering of Days
-The Paris Wife                                                        -A Girl of the Limberlost
-Think Tank, Vol. 1                                                  -Good Omens
-Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore                         -Habibi
-Me, the Missing, and the Dead                                 -Court of Owls
-East of Eden                                                            -1602
-Cloud Atlas                                                             -Island in the Sea of Time
-Covering America                                                    -American Vampire, Vol. 5
-Gods Like Us                                                          -Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
-Attachments                                                            -Eleanor and Park
-Black Hole                                                              -Wanted
-Relish                                                                      -Court of Owls (2nd time)
-The Game of Thrones                                              -The Black Mirror
-A Clash of Kings                                                      -Ex Machina: the First Hundred Days
-Ex Machina: Tag                                                      -Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction
-Ex Machina: March to War                                       -Ex Machina: Smoke Smoke
-Ex Machina: Power Down                                        -All-Star Superman
-Joker: Death in the Family                                        -A Storm of Swords
-Hawkeye 1                                                               -Fangirl
-Such a Pretty Fat                                                      -The Elements of Journalism


New Favorite Books: Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Anna Karenina.  East of Eden.

What I'd Recommend: The Paris Wife.  Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  Attachments.  Good Omens.  The Y the Last Man series.  Relish.

Favorite Discovery: Rainbow Rowell, the author of Attachments, Eleanor and Park, and Fangirl.

Biggest Surprise: How addicting the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) books are.


Completed series watched in entirety: 

-Bunheads                                                                 -Firefly
-Stephen Fry in America                                             -Terriers
-Breaking Bad                                                            -30 Rock
-Welcome to the Family**

Ongoing series watched faithfully:
-Mad Men                                                                  -Parks and Recreation
-Community                                                              -Nashville
-Sleepy Hollow**                                                        -Brooklyn Nine-Nine**
-The Crazy Ones**                                                     -Dracula**
-The Goldbergs**                                                       -The Millers**
-Reign**                                                                     -Arrested Development

Series with a significant portion of episodes watched:
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer                                           -Friday Night Lights
-Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23                                       -The Carrie Diaries
-The IT Crowd                                                           -It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
-Futurama                                                                   -Saturday Night Live
-The Walking Dead                                                     -Felicity
-How I Met Your Mother                                            -Robot Chicken
-Full Metal Alchemist                                                   -Greg the Bunny
-The Following                                                            -Batman Beyond
-Fringe                                                                        -The Vicar of Dibley
-Gossip Girl                                                                -The Michael J. Fox Show
-Game of Thrones                                                       -Avatar: the Last Airbender

Series with one or two episodes watched:
-Ben and Kate                                                             -Hannibal
-Workaholics                                                               -MythQuest
-The Black Donnelly's                                                  -Orange is the New Black
-Freaks and Geeks                                                       -Boy Meets World
-The Simpsons

**signifies a show watched for Lightbox Heroes