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.