Saturday, January 31, 2015

2014: On the Page

To be totally frank,* I'm surprised I read as many books as I did, and particularly that I beat my score from last year.  Many of these are comics and young adult books, and I have absolutely zero remorse about that.  Contrary to what Ruth Graham believes, I think that there can be beauty in unexpected places.  YA lit focuses on periods of stretching, the hard transitions.  Even adults transition at pointswhen I'm between jobs, or trying to adjust to life in school, or out of school, these stories can comfort me.  Me, an adult.  Imagine that!  As for comic books, well that's an art form, the marriage of story and image, and is often a better method for telling a narrative than word alone.  This year I read Fun Home and Marbles, both graphic novels, both dealing with quote/unquote serious issues, and both benefit from using art to express certain plot points.  Both of those are lovely books, by the way, which I recommend.

This is all to say that I am over any kind of book-shaming.  I will read books about a teen's summer and the love triangle developed therein.  I will read about superheroes.  I will read classics.  I will read.

As for what I read in 2014, here are some highlights.

Total Books Read: 63. Up five from last year.

Classic Book that rocked my world: The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.  I had never read this before, and after reading The Blind Assassin and thinking 'meh' I wasn't prepared to love an Atwood.  But this blew me away.  The Handmaid's Tale isn't just one of those books that's well-written, it's one of those books that's important.  I think it's often criticized for being anti-Christian, which I don't buy.  Like any dystopian novel, it cautions against a society where those in power take freedoms away from the masses. In this case, those in power use a perverted form of Christianity to strip people, particularly women, of their rights.  It's a gorgeously-written warning, a story about how easily cultural norms can build into something dangerous.

Book that disappointed me: A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan.  I hadn't liked any of Egan's previous workhadn't even gotten through an entire bookbut this one was so highly recommended I thought it would be different.  Well, it was different, because I actually finished.  And I did like certain aspects of the musical thread throughout periods of time, and I thought the future section was well-described, but overall it was a huge thud.  I don't like the way Egan writes characters.  I hate almost everyone in her books, and not in a fun way.  In a 'why am I reading this?' way.

Book that stayed with me a surprisingly long time: The Circle, by Dave Eggers.  I'm not typically a fan of Eggers, someone who seems the ultimate hip author, but this book had a weird staying power. Maybe it's because I am not-so-secretly terrified of technology,** so it got to me.  It follows a woman who could be named Annie Millenial, she's so typical ambitious tech-obsessed twenty-something, as she gets a job working for the Circle (a thinly disguised Google/Amazon amalgamation).  It shows how easily freedom is given up for the next cool thing, how subtly companies could use that power for evil.  It wasn't the Greatest American Novel, but boy did it resonate with me.

Series I bid a fond farewell: The Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin van Draanen.  I read the first book in the series, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, when I was in elementary school.  Eighteen books and all these long years later, van Draanan brought the era of Sammy to an end.  Sammy is a great protagonistsmart, sassy, and super courageous.  She's a hero, but I suppose jr. high had to end at some point.  New goal in life: get box set.

Author Obsession: E. Lockhart.  I had read a couple of her books before, and seriously enjoyed The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, but this was the year I became a completist and avid cheerleader.  Lockhart is the single best writer of girls I've ever seen.  She allows her heroines to be smart and strong, but that's not their entire personality.  They're boy crazy.  They make poor decisions.  They're foolish, and moody.  They're mean to their peers, who are often mean back, and usually without any real purpose but with long-lasting effects.  It's an honest account of being a teenager, hormones and intelligence all jumbled together.  I think every teenage girl should read Lockhart, just so they know they're normal.  It's also a good how-to for handling those situations with grace.  Eventually.

*well, actually I'm Cat. HAHAHA!
**the robot rebellion is going to happen one of these days, I have no doubt.

  • A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
  • This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Saga vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  • Anne's House of Dreams by L.M.Montgomery
  • Anne of Ingleside by L.M.Montgomery
  • Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • East of West vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • Saga vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • Zero vol. 1: An Emergency TP by Ales Kot, P. Walsh Michael, Tradd Moore
  • Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
  • Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
  • A Plague Year by Edward Bloor
  • Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
  • Scorpion Shards by Neal Shusterman
  • The Boyfriend List by E. Lockart
  • The Boy Book by E. Lockart
  • American Vampire vol. 6 by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
  • Thief of Soulsby Neal Shusterman
  • Chew vol. 6: Space Cakes by John Layman and Rob Guillory 
  • The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart
  • Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart
  • This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly 
  • Compound by S. A. Bodeen
  • One Day by David Nicholls
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
  • Runaway by Wendelin van Draanen
  • The List by Siobhan Vivian
  • Sammy Keyes and the Showdown in Sin City by Wendelin van Draanen
  • Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise by Wendelin van Draanen
  • Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • This is a Call by Paul Brannigan
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • Batman: Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
  • Batman: the Heart of Hush by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? bu Philip K. Dick
  • Sex Criminals vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Marbles by Ellen Forney
  • The X-Files Season 10: vol. 1 by Joe Harris, Chris Carter and Michael Walsh
  • Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye by Wendelin van Draanen
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans
  • Dear Leader by Jang Jin-sung
  • Black Science vol. 1 by Matteo Scalera and Dean White
  • A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  • Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
  • Batman Zero Year: Secret City by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014: On the Screen

Last year was the first time I kept track of my media consumption, writing down all the movies I watched and books I read.  I lumped those statistics in with my end of year post, which I think made it far too long and intimidating.  This year, I'm separating them into individual sections.  Give that media a chance to breathe!  So first up, my year with the silver screen.

Total Movies Watched: 133. Up 23 from last year.

Movies so utterly "me" that it's crazy to think this was my first time watching them: The Addams Family.  The Addams Family Values.  Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.

Movies I reviewed: Boyhood. Good People. One Chance.* John Wick. Nightcrawler. Awake: the Story of Yogananda.

Movies about people I worked for: Frost/Nixon

Movies that made me cry: Atonement. Celeste + Jesse Forever.  Saving Mr. Banks.** Before Midnight. Boyhood. Raging Bull. Begin Again.

Movies that made me angry/physically uncomfortable: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Movies that were just sort of a disappointment: Lucy. American Hustle. The Spectacular Now. Sound City. Dear White People.

Movies that lived up to their stellar reputation: The Talented Mr. Ripley. Taxi Driver. Rocky. Stand By Me. Blade Runner: The Final Cut. Patton.

Movies I LOVED: Mud. John Wick.

Music Movies: Good Ol' Freda. Pearl Jam Twenty. 20 Feet From Stardom. The Sapphires. Back and Forth. The Punk Singer. One Chance. Begin Again. Get On Up. Sound City.

Clint Eastwood Movies: Joe Kidd. The Outlaw Josey Wales.

*Unpublished, but still reviewed.
**Yeah?  So?  I'm not made of stone, people.

  • In Bruges
  • The Addams Family
  • Frozen 
  • Say Anything
  • Spaceballs 
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Joe Kidd
  • American Hustle 
  • Good Ol' Freda 
  • Eyes on the Prize 
  • The People vs. George Lucas 
  • Pearl Jam Twenty 
  • Romeo+Juliet
  • The Croods 
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley 
  • X-men: First Class
  • Casino Royale
  • Skyfall 
  • Atonement 
  • Mean Girls 
  • Clueless 
  • Penelope 
  • Muppets Most Wanted 
  • Thelma and Louise
  • Braveheart 
  • 20 Feet From Stardom 
  • Airplane!
  • Prince of Egypt
  • John Mulaney: New in Town
  • Taxi Driver (x2)
  • Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • Easy A
  • Killing us Softly 4
  • Mud
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • Rocky
  • The Invisible War
  • Gladiator 
  • Macbeth (the BBC version with James McAvoy)
  • Seven Psychopaths 
  • Celeste + Jesse Forever 
  • Godzilla (2014)
  • X-men: Days of Future Past 
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness 
  • Cinema Paradiso 
  • The Sapphires 
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel 
  • Veronica Mars 
  • Saved
  • Top Secret! 
  • Back and Forth 
  • The Fault in Our Stars 
  • Dredd 
  • Dogtown and Z Boys 
  • Chef
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
  • Cry-Baby
  • World War Z 
  • The Great Muppet Caper 
  • The Punk Singer
  • Edge of Tomorrow 
  • X-men: First Class 
  • The Spectacular Now 
  • The Secret of Kells 
  • RiffTrax Sharknado 
  • Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing 
  • Reality Bites
  • Begin Again 
  • Moonstruck 
  • Pineapple Express 
  • Stand By Me
  • Lucy 
  • Before Midnight 
  • Magic in the Moonlight 
  • I Know That Voice
  • Boyhood (x2)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 
  • Mousehunt 
  • Fever Pitch
  • The Lego Movie 
  • Frost/Nixon 
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales
  • Bring it On
  • The Trip to Italy 
  • Muppet Treasure Island 
  • The Godfather 
  • Ghost in the Shell 
  • Blade Runner: Final Cut 
  • The Trip 
  • RiffTrax Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 
  • The Godfather: Part II
  • The Wolverine
  • Wild
  • Good People 
  • Raging Bull
  • Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
  • Apocalypse Now
  • The Judge
  • Amelie
  • Matilda
  • John Wick
  • The Untouchables 
  • Dear White People 
  • One Chance
  • Patton
  • Nightcrawler 
  • The Big Shave
  • Goodfellas 
  • Get On Up
  • The Frighteners 
  • Birdman 
  • Sound City
  • Carlito's Way
  • The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug
  • Interstellar 
  • Awake: The Story of Yogananda 
  • The Addams Family Values
  • Grosse Pointe Blank
  • Jackie Brown
  • The Ghost and the Darkness
  • The Legend of Drunken Master 
  • The Departed
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula 
  • A Knight's Tale 
  • Sleepless in Seattle 
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles 
  • Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey 
  • Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 
  • The Saint 
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings 
  • Lords of Dogtown 
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2014: A Terrible Year! Thanks for being a part of it!

At approximately 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2014, I came down with a head cold.

The next week various shades of radioactive yellow oozed from my face.  I like to think it was the last remaining toxins of 2014 eliminating themselves from my body, shedding the curse of that godforsaken year in an incredibly visceral sense.

Oh 2014, Auld Lang Syne and good riddance.
New Year's Eve 2014 was clear and bright.  Taylor and I drove around the capitol building in Salt Lake City, taking in the passage of time with the high point and spectacular views.  I might have been foggy thanks to the new head cold, but it was nice to welcome a new year from a high point, looking out over possibilities.

New Year's Eve 2013 was spent in a basement in DC.  It was a fun time, but I started 2014 from a dark hole in the ground and I don't think I ever left.

2014 is the year that broke me into pieces.  The difficulties started in fall of 2013, when I moved to Boston and started grad school and everything in life was thrown into question.  What was I doing?  Why was I here?  What am I doing to my family?  Those worries eventually abated, replaced with a comfort in my surroundings and a sense of purpose in my studies. But they still gave way to a deep, dark depression.

I wrote about my sadness before, but it lasted so much longer.  It marked the year with a pall, a listlessness and sorrow I could not shake.  This year, my depression caused me to:

  • Wake up every morning dreading the day.  This was partially because I was an idiot at one point and had three jobs along with full-time school schedule.  Constant heart palpitations at the thought of my "to do" list, I swear.
  • Meddle with my hair, just so I could control something in my life.  This year, I went from long red hair, to short red hair, to short blue-green hair (that promptly faded to gray), back to red, culminating in an undercut mohawkshaved sides and back, long on top.  Reverse mullet, if you will.  
  • Come home from days of doing the bare minimum for survival and sit on the couch, staring straight ahead.  I couldn't even watch TV or movies.  The thought of any action made me want to cry.  Speaking of which...
  • Sit by the T station and cry.  I so wish this was a one time thing, but no.  This happened multiple times.  Sometimes it was because I was coming back from a defeating day of school/work.  Sometimes it was because I felt lost and lonely.  Sometimes it was because I was on my way to interact with others socially, something I knew I needed but which terrified me.  Definite moments of huge anxiety and self-loathing there.  And sometimes it was just because it was cold.  Sweet mercy, it got so cold in Boston.
  • Curl up in my closet and cry.  Because it was a dark, cramped space.  Just like my psyche.  Just like my soul.
  • Dramatically take long walks outside, crying.  Sometimes I'd get too overwhelmed while walking, and I'd sit on the nearest curb and sob.  Those poor, rich suburbanites in my neighborhood, forced to endure the sight of a 25-year-old urchin weeping outside their houses.  I'm sure I totally ruined the view.
  • There was a lot of crying, OK? 

Despite the oppressive cloud that marked my 2014, this year was full of beauty.  There was good adventure, good food, and good company.  My goal in moving to Boston, in participating in this crazy grad program, was to suck the marrow out of life.  To completely drain everything I could from school and East Coast living.  I think I succeeded in that goal, because in 2014, I:

  • Traveled.  January I drove home from D.C., stopping to visit Baltimore (Poe's grave!) and Philadelphia (Independence Hall!).  In March I spent a blissful week in D.C. with my favoritest Ashley.  Taylor and I celebrated our second anniversary with lobster rolls in Portland, ME.  We went to the Hill Cumorah pageant in upstate New York, an event I fell asleep ten minutes into, and woke up right as people were taking their bows.* My brother got married in October, so I was able to return to the Utah mountains for a bit.  I watched two friends get married in New Jersey.  I witnessed the opulence of titans in Newport, Rhode Island. I spent a ton of time in New York City: a May getaway with the Cowan women, a July move-in with newly-minted East Coaster Mary, BFFF weekend in October, Thanksgiving and assorted visits with the NYC McCarreys. I went from hating New York City to appreciating it, and I actually will miss being so close.  The street art, the constant clash of culture, those tasty Prosperity Dumplings.  I couldn't live there, but I'm back to loving a visit now and then. And there was that whole cross country drive back to Seattle, where I hit Virgina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, etc., etc.
The cutting table at Coolidge.
  • Got to hang out in the projection booth at Coolidge Corner Theatre, and even climbed on the outside of the building to reach the upper booth.  This was all done for a piece on film projection versus digital.  It was the first story I actually enjoyed working on, and inspiration from that experience fueled me through another nine months of school.
  • Won my Oscars pool, beating Taylor by one category.
  • Spent a party sitting on a piano bench with Amy O'Leary, plucking out Beatles tunes and singing to those basic chords.
  • Ate falafel.  And cannoli.  And bagels.  And a cronut.  And ramen.  And nachos.  And far too much McDonalds (their baby cheeseburger are delicious, and everyone knows that nothing beats a McFlurry).  And tacos in a vampire dungeon that offered pop rock cotton candy with the check.
  • Made challah.
  • Communed with my spirit sister, Isabella Stewart Gardner, at her wonderful museum.  
  • Said goodbye to my first car, and to my treasured Seve vs. Evan sticker on it's back window.
  • Watched fireworks over the Charles River and listened to Keith Lockhart conduct the Boston Pops. Subsequently got caught in a wall of water while masses fled from the rainstorm that directly followed the firework display.
  • Hiked the "mountains" in New Hampshire.  I mean, they were cute and all, but mountains?  Kind of a stretch.
  • Taught journalism to a bunch of high schoolers, and remembered how much I enjoy teaching.  Even when the kids are little turds, as they always are.  This also helped me find an ideal schedule of morning teaching, afternoon writing/adventure.  
  • Kayaked down the Charles River.
  • Went to two killer concerts. Kishi Bashi, who put on a high energy show full of dancing and awesomeness.  And Queens of the Stone Age, where I was about ten feet away from Josh Homme and I died and fainted and head-banged to my little heart's content.
  • Wrote film reviews for the Daily Free Press.  This was the best job I've ever had, and the only one that never bored me.
  • Spent a week as a beach bum.  I didn't really understand the appeal of New England until I sat in the softest sand near warm blue water.
Wingaersheek Beach
  • Had some lovely visitors (Lauren! Leo! Shannon and Lori!) and spent time with lovely locals.  The friend scene in Boston was a slow boil.  My first few months were lonely.  By the end I had a whole slew of people that I cherish, and who I severely miss.  You can say a lot of things about Boston, but you can't say that there's a dearth of interesting people.  Those I were lucky enough to associate with differed in age, vocation, interests, but they were all absolutely scintillating.  I was constantly learning new things, and I'm grateful for the tribe I found.

2014 was a year of growth.  And with all growing pains, it stretched me in uncomfortable ways, ways that made me weep at the sudden spurts of advancement forced on me.  I was dragged into a sense of self, and came out the other side sadder, wiser, and a whole lot more sure of myself.  This is the year I decided I don't care what other people think.  It's the year I learned what I want.  It's the year I pushed myself to my limits, striving for the best writing and work I could offer.

I hope that 2015 is the year of settling.  

Settling has such negative connotation.  You settled for a significant other that didn't challenge you.  You settle for the job that sounds easier.  To be settled is to be set in ways, to be boring.  To be settled is to lose momentum and sink into the earth.

But for this moment in life, nothing sounds more appealing than being settled.  Taylor and I just moved to Seattle, a place and community that's comfortable and familiar and full of potential longevity.  I want to find a job that lasts more than a year, where I can join a united force working towards a greater goal.  I want unpack my books and scatter them around an apartment, somewhere they can nestle into, where dust has time to gather on their spines.  I want furniture that sits long enough to leave divots in the carpet.  I want to befriend others without a ticking clock on our association.  I want to plant my feet into the ground and sprout roots, to start building something that can last.

I want to wriggle around in 2015, to become entrenched in the life of Cat McCarrey.  I'm OK with settling in for a while.  It's time for me to breath.  To stand straighter.  To see what life looks like beyond the grad school blinders, and what those new skills will create.

* I highly recommend that viewing experienceit's really the only way to see something as cringeworthy as the Hill Cumorah pageant.