Movies of 2013

 Here's our list of movies! If you haven't had the chance to look at our Best Albums 2013, you really should. 

The Bling Ring: This happens to be the only movie the three of us have seen and all liked. This does not mean it’s the best film of the year, but it’s definitely got some bite. Sofia Coppola brilliantly captures the goals and desires of teenage youngsters these days. Trust me, I spend all of my time with the lil monsters. If you’re looking for a good workout mix or party mix, the soundtrack features Sleigh bells, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Phoenix, Frank Ocean, and many more.  -Annie

Gravity: This movie... It was actually filmed in a zero gravity environment and you can tell. Apart from being f---ing gorgeous with views of space and earth, it's so smart. There are only two characters/ one character for most of the film... this makes my writer brain hurt thinking about how to craft that, without boring your audience. -Rachel

Inside Llewyn Davis: The only thing you may know about this movie is that there is a man with a cat. That’s okay, because that’s partially true. The movie tells a sorrowful yet beautiful tale of what it means to exist in the world. (That may seem vague and fluffy, but if you see it you’ll know what I mean.) Also, the soundtrack is bomb. -Annie

Behind the Candelabra: This came out straight to HBO, starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, about the life and love of Liberace. He (Douglas) uses his wealth, fame, and talent to court young Scott Thorson (Damon). Liberace claims Thorson as both son and lover at which point things get weird. It ends, though, in one of the sweetest scenes ever. - Amy
The Heat: Also a Sandra Bullock film, with her real life friend Melissa McCarthy. You can tell they're actually friends because the chemistry is spot on. It's smart, funny, and unexpected. Plus let's face it: a buddy cop film starring two chicks is pretty bad ass. -Rachel

Blackfish: whatever you’ve heard about the documentary (good or bad) it’s worth watching. If a movie about whales and Sea World seems boring, it’s not. It kept a group of high school seniors quite and attentive the day before winter break, if that tells you anything. -Annie

Much Ado About Nothing: A modernization from the Shakespeare by Joss Whedon (our favorite). It’s black and white, with the original language, and was filmed entirely at Whedon’s house during the time he was working on Avengers. I have some trouble with the story itself – a father wishing his daughter’s death because she’s been accused of being unfaithful – but the cast is amazing and the film as a whole is completely charming. - Amy

Frances Ha: The dialogue in this movie feels so real it’s almost creepy watching it. I felt as if I was intruding on their lives. (What a funny and awesome place to be as a spectator!) The whole story is truly lovely. Essentially, if you like the show Girls, you should watch this. -Annie

Other notable mentions:

American Hustle: Whether or not you find the story compelling, the acting is impressive. All of the main characters gave beautiful performances (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, J-Law, Bradley Cooper). It’s definitely worth seeing, but I’d wait until it comes out on DVD. -Annie

The Way Way Back: Watching Sam Rockwell act is always a pleasure. -Annie

Coffee Town: Who knew Josh Groban could act? It’s funny and somewhat ridiculous. Watch it. 

Rachel’s additional list!
So... I go to NYU and I am exposed to a lot of films I wouldn't otherwise see. This is my weird/ unreleased film list of things Amy and Annie had yet to see... because they are grownups with jobs and husbands, whereas I am ridiculous.
1. Don Jon- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6615kYTpOSU Joesph Gordon Levitt's debut directing
2. 12 Years a Slave- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUQNjfhlREk Gah. Emotions.
3. Dallas Buyers Club- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvMPU0WaPcc The kind of movie actors dream about being in.
4. Short Term 12- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8QxAYxNRgs Based on a short film. Great. Touching.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iszwuX1AK6A
Leo, doing A Catch Me If You Can-esque part. Let's keep not giving him Oscars because he will keep making GREAT films anyhow.
6. The Butler- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUA7rr0bOcc
Written by Danny Strong (from Buffy) He's writing both Mockingjay films.
7. The Book Thief- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92EBSmxinus Great book. Love Geoffrey Rush.
8. Saving Mr. Banks- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5kYmrjongg Emma Thompson steals the show.
9. Captain Phillips- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3ASoBrFGlc Tom Hanks at his best.
10. Frozen- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk
Not a trailer, but one of the best parts. This is classic Disney, with a new self awareness.


Albums of 2013

Here’s our list for favorite/recommended albums of the year! We for sure haven’t listened to everything, so if we missed some good ones, you should let us know.

  1. Volcano Choir, Repave – This album had me at the first song. Jon played it for the first time when we were cleaning our tiny apartment. It was the most fun cleaning I’ve ever had. It’s calm and relaxing but definitely has a nice kick (meaning fun melodies and beats) to it. Listen to this on a rainy day with a cup of tea and a good book. -  Annie
  2. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – One of the reasons I love this album is because it’s tasteful and accessible. This is a perfect album for long car rides, grading papers, running, (I like listening to Worship You for running), drinking whiskey, and solo-dance parties. - Annie
  3. Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park – country, poignant, specific. Musgraves is one of those song writers who can speak to wider human experience without being generic. She’s in turn funny, cynical, and generous. Even if country music isn’t your thing, I recommend giving this album a shot. - Amy
  4. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – soulful and dark. One of the most memorable songs on this album, for me, is “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu”. It’s about a kid she saw at the airport who was getting savagely yelled at by his mother. She says, “They won’t believe you/ When you say, “My mother, she did not love me.” She talks about how it happens everyday. You’re not often going to get that kind of candor in music. - Amy
  5. Atoms For Peace, AMOK – I was always going to love this album. A Thom Yorke side project, it’s fragmented and dance-y in a way that’s good for people who want to keep to themselves. Interesting and engaging, if a little bit cold. It’s good for Saturday mornings on the “L”. - Amy
  6. Inside Llewyn Davis, Soundtrack – The album has a great mix of 1970s pop songs (Please Mr. Kennedy) and tragic folk songs (Fare Thee Well). Favorite song from this album is Oscar Isaac singing Hang Me, Oh Hang Me... but that might be because of the movie. -Rachel
  7. James Blake, Overgrown – R&B, singer/songwriter, shoe-gazey, electronica – so many types of music seem to be incorporated into this album. It’s been two years since his first album, when people were saying he was changing music, and he’s just getting better. - Amy
  8. Great Gatsby, Soundtrack - I get most of my music for movies and I have to say this is my favorite album of the year. The movie was a letdown for me, but I love EVERY single song on this album. No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z is my personal favorite. -Rachel
  9. BeyoncéBeyoncé – You can always count on this diva to deliver. The self-titled album is a visual one, every song with a music video. As you could probably imagine, each track is different from the next. I know that bugs some people; there isn’t a cohesive feel to the album. Every track is its own entity. (Or as Miley puts it, each song is a banger.)  She’s got her usual crazy high-low range songs (Pretty Hurts), her kick ass/don’t mess-attitude (Yoncé, Flawless), and some retro, sexy tunes (Blow and Rocket).  Be prepared to hear some Frank Ocean, Drake, Jay-Z (duh), and her very own kin- Blue Ivy! -  Annie
  10. Miley Cyrus, Bangerz – For how painful her music video is, Wrecking Ball is a great pop tune. Unlike a lot of music made for her demographic, Bangerz is about doing things your own way, about not caring about what other people say. (“It’s our party. We can do what we want.”) There’s also some good jamming out in your apartment to be had. - Amy

The following albums are one that I particularly liked but got less love from Annie and Rachel. (The fools! JK)
  • Arcade Fire, Reflektor – There aren’t as many stand-out songs, on this album, as on The Suburbs, but it’s still a really solid record. I like cruising to the first song on the tread mill, and I’m looking forward to getting better acquainted with the rest. - Amy
  • Typhoon, White Lighter – There are, like, twenty Portlandesque members to this band. They have the right amount of sincerity for me. The right amount of swelling and Indie-band singing. Stomp your feet to this one, feel something. - Amy
  • Laura Marling, Once I was an Eagle - The songs in this album weave together in interesting ways. Her voice captured me immediately. If you listen to the first three songs and aren’t hooked, I don’t know who you are. - Amy
  • Dessa, Parts of Speech – This is a hip hop album that’s alternatingly catchy and edgy. Plus it has a Bruce Springsteen cover that I listened to one million times. - Amy
  • Moonface, Julia with Blue Jeans On – Spencer Krug’s crooning voice over mostly melancholy piano-driven melodies is a hard thing to resist.  This Jagjaguwar release can stand in the same room as For Emma, Forever Ago, and even holds together more lyrically than Justin Vernon’s masterpiece. - Mitch


Christmas Angel

I’m on an airplane, flying back home to Seattle for Christmas – to the land of families, mid-sized sedans, and wooden nativity sets. I get a bit more sentimental on airplanes than I do on the ground. I think it’s the wonder of being in a metal capsule thousands of feet up in the air. There’s also the possibility of a clear- and pending-death thing. It gets me in the mood for a little reflection. Also, I can’t watch TV up here, so I might as well write about it.

I spent hours on Sunday watching the first season of Angel on Netflix. (A pop-up stopped me, multiple times, to ask whether I was still watching. I could’ve died in the meantime, it figured.) In this one scene, Angel cooks eggs for his employees/friends. This is how it goes: they fight evil all night, and in the morning, sometimes, Angel makes them eggs. He’s a surprisingly good cook for a vampire, since vamps are not really into eating solids.

I was touched and a bit jealous. It struck me how easy it is, on TV or in other media, to get me to root for a group of people. All Angel has to do is show me three people sit down to eggs, and I immediately watch 17 more episodes.  Just get people together, in close relationships, and have them occasionally be nice to each other. That’s all it takes.

There’s been a lot of hand wringing over the effects of technology and media in our lives. Do we watch too much TV, so much so that we never go out and meet one another? Do we miss out on each other because we’re too attached to our phones? We’re always connected via social media, but are we really connecting? Are we doing it ALL WRONG?

I’m kind of over it, the worrying. Yep, we do seem a bit messed up with our phones and earbuds and loneliness. Not too many people I know seem genuinely well-adjusted to the 21st century. And sure, it’s probably better to be with friends than to watch Friends. But it’s not like the struggle to connect is new. We’ve always been connected but improperly connecting. It’s a human thing: to be interdependent on each other and yet ignorant of what it’s like to be literally anyone else.

Maybe you could use a rest from analyzing your life, right now. Life’s hard enough without the accompanying guilt of not “getting out there” enough. Of not having all the boxes checked. Of having killed all those people before gypsies cursed you and restored your soul.

So whether your Christmas Angel is a nativity one, carved out of wood, or a fictional brooding vampire, it’s okay! By the power invested in me by the fact that I write on this unsolicited, unpaid blog sometimes, I grant you immunity from holiday scrutiny.

Merry Christmas, everybody, and Happy Holidays.


Christmas Pussy/Turkey

I was on the train the other day. It was relatively empty, and I overheard some of a conversation that two gentlemen were having. They were exclaiming about a particular instance when a turkey was being traded for some pussy. They went on to expound on the benefits of such a scenario. ("Trade some turkey for some pussy - haHA!") I had my headphones in so I didn't hear the whole conversation. But I did hear them mention Rudolph, the name, I gathered, of a prostitute.

It was a seamy, sexist conversation, and I wasn't happy to be within earshot. Especially as they'd often stop what they were saying, look at me to see if I heard, and then burst into laughter. But, at the same time, it had a charming amount of Christmas spirit, some of the makings of a story, a story like...


The brothel madame, HILDA, sits at her writing desk looking harried over brothel finances.  RUDOLPH, one of the prostitutes, an old hand, tidies up the clearly destitute whorehouse. 

She hangs garments over the windows as makeshift curtains. She pulls curtains down from the windows to make garments. Even the TASSELED PILLOWS look sad.
Rudolph, honey, I don't know if we're going to survive this Christmas season. 
That's ridiculous. You've kept our doors open during hard times before. Like your "Hard Times for Hard Times" campaign. That was genius.  

 This time's different. The men, with all these dustbowls, they have no money. I'm closin' us down.  

No! That can't be right. 
She rushes over to her madame and holds her hand. 
Hilda, I will think of something. Give me a week.

Rudolph, you're my best whore. So, I'll give you a week. But that's it!
I won't disappoint you, ma'm. Oh! I better make lunch. The girls will be getting hungry. 
She starts to leave for the kitchen. 
What's on the menu, today?

Too bad we don't have more of that. We could pay bills with your turkey sandwiches. Delicious.
Rudolph stops in her tracks. Lightbulb! She has an idea.


Rudolph's out on her beat, showing off the wears. A haggard FARMER approaches her. 
How much?

Three dollars. 

Ah, ain't nobody got that much!

Well, how much do you have, honey?

I ain't got nothin'. 

You sure about that? Why you approachin' prostitutes in such case? 

I thought you could give me one on charity. It bein' the Christmas season an' all. 
A cop drives by in a wagon. Rudolph and the farmer make out in order to avoid suspicion. 
That's a start!

I don't do charity, honey. 

Then I best be back to me 'ol broad.

Wait, you got a missus? 


She wouldn't be makin' a nice turkey dinner for your family on Christmas Day, would she? 

Well, yeah. Killed the big tom, just the other day. 

I'll tell you what, you bring that big tom turkey in to the brothel, and I'll give you some pussy for it. 

You would? Ah, that's mighty temptin' ma'm. But what about my kids? I can't take away from them their big, Christmas turkey. 

Think about it...

You drive a hard bargain. 

Gotta save the brothel. 

So, of course, she does save the brothel, boys and girls, by clearing the whole town of their Christmas turkeys by trading the turkeys for sex. She settled it with all the people to whom the brothel owed money to pay the debts in turkey sandwiches.  But before she started carving up the turkeys of Lincoln, Nebraska, one of the whores accidentally struck oil in their backyard. The brothel's money troubles were over. Rudolph took a band of the brothel's best looking girls, and they rang round to all the houses from whom they'd traded turkeys. They presented the poor families with their Christmas turkeys, while wearing the guises of sexy santa ladies. Everyone rejoiced. (Except for the families, who were unhappy about the prostitutes, sexy santa outfits, notwithstanding.)

And that's how Rudolph saved both the brothel and Christmas. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what those two guys on the train were saying. 


Still to Come

Greetings Dear Readers.

I realize I joined this blog, introduced myself and vanished. Well, Grad School has been kicking me in the face repeatedly, until this very moment and I haven't had time to write for funzies. Or see people. Or shower. Grad School is fun.

But now I only have one more One Hour TV show to edit and turn in by Monday! That's a cake walk... actually it's not, but it does give me a day or two to take a breath.

So in celebration of completing a terrible amount of work, I did not go to a bar and rage like a cool kid. I laid in bed a marathoned Doctor Who. That's right. I know how to party.

As I lay there, watching Doctor Who, I remembered all the things I love this nerd show. And I thought about how, at one point in my life, I hadn't seen this show. I didn't know piece of me was missing.

I go to a Film and TV centric program. (duh) You can't turn around without running into someone who's fiercely passionate about something you've never heard of. There's Joe: guy who knows ALL old Hollywood films. There's Nick: guy who knows ALL Jack Nicholson films. There's Kim: girl who knows ALL I Love Lucy TV shows.

I guess I'm girl who knows ALL nerd things, even though I don't actually know them all. I was talking to Joe and he's never seen Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Doctor Who...

I went into shock. How could he... what?! Things which have touched my heart and he'd never seen. After recovering from shock I realized I was hugely jealous of him. I love rewatching Doctor Who on my days off, but I'll never have it for the first time again.

River even has a quote in the Library where she says "It's not over for you. You've got all of it to come. You and me. Time and Space." When I quoted this to Joe, he didn't understand the amazing power of this moment because he hasn't seen it. But one day he will.

I don't know if this post has a point, expect to say- Wow. The universe is full of such amazing things, things you haven't seen or tried or met. Things that, one day, you won't be able to imagine your life without.


Doctor Who Thanksgiving

Mitch and I are having a joint Doctor Who and Thanksgiving party tomorrow because of the 50th anniversary episode and Thanksgiving. I wanted a hands-on activity for our socially awkward guests (like myself, when I am a guest). So I made some custom coloring pages. Please, feel free to print them and partake from afar! If you do, I would love to see the final product or "the pretties" as my mom used to call it. Show us your pretties! 



Everyone Else in the Room Can See It

I have a problem with a mini trope in songwriting and a recent Dove commercial. It's when the song's about a girl who doesn't know she's beautiful. It has never crossed her mind that she is good looking. It's up to the singer to tell her that she is gorgeous.

The first example I have is a country song by Sammy Kershaw. (Who? I have no idea, but this song has stuck with me since 1995.) Here it is on YouTube:

The first issue I have is that the possibility that this woman has no idea - it has never crossed her mind - that she's beautiful is ridiculous. People, especially women, get feedback on their appearances all the time. So unless Lady Don'tKnow was raised in a vacuum (culturally, I mean. A physical vacuum would be fatal.), she's been told that she's beautiful. And if she's very beautiful, she's being told in numerous ways, subtle and not subtle, in every interaction she has. Girlfriend knows this stuff.

Except, in the song, girlfriend doesn't know this stuff even though people do tell her. Sammy tells her time and time again. Why doesn't she know, in that case? He explains, "She's not that kind." Not what kind? Not the kind who receives input from her surroundings and accurately interprets it? Does she have a condition? It's not attractive when I imagine her failing to respond to someone saying, "That is not food!" while she gnaws on fingernail clippers and small pieces of wood.

Another example is One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful". I've included a clip, not of that, but of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra's version, "One Direction meets Giuseppe Verdi", because I love orchestral covers of pop songs.

The thrust to this song is "You don't know that you're beautiful, and that's what makes you beautiful." Ignoring, for a second, that the subject of this song might have cognitive issues, this song taps into something else I have a problem with. It's the idea that "vanity" in a woman is ugly or wrong. Like I said, people experience lots and lots of feedback based on their appearance. Furthermore, appearance for women is touted, from an early age, to be most powerful factor in determining her success and happiness. In spite of this, it is considered wrong or silly for a woman to be concerned with how she looks. It's an expectation that slices twice. Also, it's stupid.

This recent Dove commercial continues the theme of the beauty unknown. They have women come in and describe themselves to a forensic artist. He draws them based on their descriptions. Then other people describe them and he draws those pictures too. The drawings are, predictably, somewhat different.

The biggest issue I have with all three of these, with this trope in general, is that it wants women to trade the trustworthiness and accuracy of their minds for the possibility that they might be more beautiful, and it calls it inspirational.

It's awesome when I find out I'm wrong about something because reality is better than I thought. As humans, we will always be wrong about stuff. We have biases, histories, insecurites, and various other "ees". Uncertainty is the price of being sentient. But I think it's a problem when women, who suffer from stereotypes like being unreliable, untrustworthy, and silly, are told, again, that they don't know what they're talking about. And worse (!), that their ignorance is a good thing.

Why can't we have a song that goes, "Reasonably accurate self-knowledge: that's what makes you beautiful"?

The message I would like to send and have sent to women is trust yourself a little bit more. You think you're a bit ugly? You very well might be. You might not be turning lots of heads or be headed to the cover of ladies magazines. (This is my first reaction to that possibility: "NOOOOOOOOOO!") But at least your assessment tools aren't broken.

It means that your interpretation of things that are happening in your life has weight and meaning, that there is coherence to how you see things. If you feel like something's wrong, bring it up. Talk about it. Run. Whatever. Your impressions are connected to real life. If you really like something that other people don't or don't think is cool, stand behind your thing because there's something in it that connects with you. And that's real.


Letter from Home

My dad found this and sent it to me, the other day. It's a letter my brother, Nate, had sent me back when we were kids and I had left for summer camp. I have Nate's permission to post it, don't worry.

*Littles is our dog. 

** So cute. 


Pictures of Carrots

I grew these in my garden.


Women Empowerment in Narrative

I think people mistake women empowerment in narrative with having a ripped, badass stonecold female character.

These female characters are endowed with stereotypical alpha-male traits. The problem with the persistence of this representation of women empowerment is that it implies that for a woman to be empowered she must be, essentially, a man.

It's an erroneous interpretation of what it means to be powerful. From a writer's perspective, it would be ridiculous to say that writing strong characters meant making characters physically strong.

Women empowerment in narrative happens when female characters make choices, when they drive the narrative, and/or when we see through their point of view.

What it means to write a character-driven story is to put your protagonist in situations where she needs to make choices. In this way, an empowering female character might be one who is weak physically or emotionally. The important thing is that she has agency as the audience watches her make her way through various conflicts. An instance where this suddenly fails is in the climactic scene of Disney's The Little Mermaid. The protagonist in The Little Mermaid is, predictably, the little mermaid, Ariel. Through most of the movie, she's making choices. But, in the third act, the climax of the movie, Ariel becomes Ursula's prisoner and is not able to make any choices. King Triton chooses to take Ariel's place. Prince Eric drives a bowsprit into Ursula's heart. All the while, Ariel just watches on. It's weird and poor story telling for an otherwise good movie.

This is a good depiction of how Triton is forced to make a decision while Ariel watches on helplessly. 
A second part of women empowerment in narrative is to have a female character driving the story. This is accomplished through her making choices, like explained earlier. But while side characters can also be allowed to make choices, the character driving the story is the central protagonist. It's her story.

A third way female characters are empowered in narrative is when they have a voice and perspective, when the audience is seeing their world through their point of view. (Again, the Little Mermaid fails this a bit in that for a while, Ariel literally can't speak.)

There is a discrepancy between how frequently consumers of media see things through male and female perspectives. Girls are coached from a young age to see things through a male gaze. They are to evaluate themselves as a man might evaluate them. They are encouraged to appear pretty rather than to see keenly, to be in front of the camera rather than behind it. Because of this practice in "seeing as men see", I think the prospect of getting into the head of a male protagonist feels more natural to men and women. It propagates the idea that men are the norm and women are slightly off-center. Practice seeing a fictional world through a female character's point of view, I think, can help offset this attitude. 

The movie Gravity employs this literally, as the audience is put inside Ryan Stone's (Sandra Bullock's character's) helmet. We see things first-person-shooter style from her perspective. 

Back to the ripped badass female character, they can also be empowering. Characters like Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica) and Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are kickass and physically strong while also making choices and driving (at least some) story line. (While the ones pictured up top, not so much.) 


Am I Pretty or Ugly?

Jane Garvey (my favorite) presented a piece on Women's Hour, today, about the trend of girls posting videos on YouTube asking, "Am I pretty or ugly?" You can listen here (7 min).

She interviewed artist/performer Louise Orwin who has recently done her own version of these videos, while playing different characters, as a kind of experiment. They were downcast at the idea of young girls asking the internet whether they're pretty or not.

I'm writing this post to say that I disagree with Jane's sad head-shaking, and I never disagree with her, hardly.

I watched some of the videos for myself. Lots of the girls are wearing heavy make-up, and on some you can tell they're making the videos late at night on their family's desktop. The worst ones are where you can overhear family members talking. They're in the same room with the girl and just letting her ask high-charge questions to the internet! Come on people.

While I wouldn't recommend watching these videos - it feels pretty creepy - I don't fault people for making them. They're being sensible.

Here's how I break down the Ugly/Pretty YouTube trend:

1. Attractiveness is a social currency.

For girls it is the social currency. Every little girl, by the time she gets to high school, knows that inner beauty is the Weimar Mark to outer beauty's dollar.

2. Social currency is important.

Because it gets you laid. (Plus other things - like people just generally being kinder to you and all those studies about attractive people making more money and living longer and being uniformed of the gross hardship that is suffering of any kind! But mostly it gets you laid.)

3. Attractiveness isn't objective. But it is, kind of.

Those "she don't know she's beautiful" songs absolutely lie. If a woman is getting a top 40 song written about her, bitch* knows she's beautiful. No question.

Otherwise, there's a lot of grey area - 50 shades of it - wah wah. A lot of average-y looking girls who are wondering if they're going to be allowed to participate in any grand adventures, if they're going to be anybody's princess, if crowds of people will love or remember them. It's important in mapping out expectations for her life, for a girl to know whether or not she's pretty.

It's like all these girls are given so many drachmas of beauty and shoved into a strange country. These YouTube videos are just queries to find out what the exchange rate is.

*Am I allowed to say "bitch" on here? Do I believe in that? Oh well, if I wake up in the night feeling remorseful about it (happens), I can alter it.

I remember thinking in college that if I just knew exactly where I was in the spectrum of pretty, then I could budget for the social-currency equivalent of some Pringles.

Economic metaphors aside, so much of life is an assessment of risk. Should I talk to that guy? Should I crack a joke? If I get up in front of these people, will they be mean to me? Having an objective-ish idea of her attractiveness is an important element when a girl evaluates risk. So why the shock and dismay when she consults the internet about it?

It's like Old Gregg says, "Make an assessment."


Confidentiality Spice

This is a quick post about my insecurities. I may need at least two other people in my presence to justify my right choices in life activities. Mitch is a good start, but he's legally bound to me, at this point, which, I'm afraid, might make him nil. Nilify him.

he ho he ho (breathe, it's going to be okay)

I have been watching through season one of Community. (I break down the plot lines of each of them because I want to be a TV writer, which makes my watching lots of TV by myself okay! AHAHAH...) And in episode 8 Act 2, Jeff moves into Abed's dorm room.

(Complete sidebar/ tangent: once Jon Fox and some other members of our friend group saw Danny Pudi at Andy's, one of our go-to bars when we lived in Spokane after college. I didn't see him, which was dissappointing, but this serves to prove that at one point I had a sitcom-worthy living situation.)

Abed watches cartoons and eats cereal and is happy and content.

TV is great, these days, but I have trouble watching the best shows without worrying - Ah... am I being adequately social? Are the unpopular police going to come and take me away?

It's not actually quite that bad, but I do envy Abed's (and other people like him) ability to sit down and whole-heartedly enjoy a thing without worrying about whether or not they're doing it wrong. "It" meaning life, and I don't like to talk about it. Which is clearly a lie.


I had a bad reaction to autumnal decorations, yesterday.

There was a slow onset. Mitch and I were at some friends' apartment, and it was clean and cozy. Some festive leaves and a birdhouse awaited us at the threshold. And this should register somewhere from neutral to nice in my brain, but instead I had an irrational reaction to it. WE'RE DOING THIS NOW? I thought angrily.

This couple, they have framed photographs of vegetables in their kitchen. Glossy ones, cut out of magazines, and put behind glass. You can't tell me that someone has a sentimental attachment to plums, that the memory of sweet potatoes helps get them through their day. No. This is all-out, 100% decoration. They have a "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry" plaque hung unironically. And the worst part about all of it? IT'S FUCKING NICE!

Pumpkin-smelling candles! Little paper pennants in gold and eggplant!

I asked Mitch in the car ride home, what he thought of the fall decour, and he said, "It made me feel really comfortable." "WHY DON'T YOU MARRY THEM THEN?" I replied. Fine times.

The thing about it is that I'm not like that, and I'm okay with myself. I grew up in a house that had the nice decorations. People have actually hired my mom to decorate their houses. So my parents' house does pretty good in the decorative festivities. I picked up a lot of things from my mom, but the interior decorating wasn't one of them. My mom rides her bike across states, builds art installations, and helps old and hurt people learn how to walk again. I'll take some of that, please.

It's odd, though, how I feel like we all need to be doing the same thing, that the way other people live their lives has a bearing on mine. Human empathy, probably. But it's too bad that I can't just leave the nice people's gourds alone.

I figure it's a good time for this.


Church of Gravity

Mitch and I just saw the movie Gravity in 3D. It opens with a gorgeous shot of Earth from orbit. No people or ships are in frame for a minute or so.

It's hard to describe how gorgeous this depiction of Earth is. High definintion. 3D. Big Screen. Instead of just oceans, clouds, and the glow of the atmosphere, we see land masses, deserts, and major rivers. Then the, like, little shuttle shows up and the rest of the movie gets on with itself.

What I think would be really cool is if there was an extension of that opening sequence available for people whenever. If they played, in theatres, a long sequence of a view from space with the Earth slowly turning. You could walk in whenever, into the dark. Put on your 3D glasses and sit in the quiet. It would be like church, the beauty and magnitude of the planet that offers perspective.

Sometimes I think about Earth, how unusual it is that we live on a place that sustains life. The distance between us and anything remotely like us is astronomical (hah). I just feel like I should be happy since it's so unlikely for me to be alive and breathing oxygen and drinking water.

Even that doesn't always do the trick. If I could see the Earth on big screen once in a while, it would be therapeutic.


New Writer-- Rachel

Hello internet, NSA, and readers of blogs.

My name is Rachel Ewing and I have been blessed with an invitation to share my thoughts on this very blog. I am a long time reader of the Westovar(ian) and have found much joy from it.

Some things about me, the new writer:
1.) I should have been born British.
2.) Leonard Oakland changed my life. He was the first person to be like "Ah. You don't give a f*ck about grammar or punctuation, but you are a writer."
3.) I don't give a f*ck about grammar or punctuation.
4.) I believe that it is just as stupid to refuse to do something because it’s a fad as it is to do something because it is a fad. Popular opinion shouldn’t play such a large role in our decision making process.
5.) If I get a beverage with a label, I always peel the label off of it before I can drink more then a sip. If I get an unlabeled beverage, I do not trust it. 
6.) I have broken a rib and did not know about it until after it healed.
7.) I pretend to be a penguin every time I'm in the shower.
8.) My favorite word is trachea.
9.) I'm a Second Year Dramatic Writing Grad Student at NYU Tisch with a focus on Television.
10.) I like to order red wine in public places in the hopes of one day throwing it on someone.

So. Yes. Look forward to my writings, dear reader. They will probably center on TV shows, nerd fodder, rants, wines, and why America should never have separated from England.

As you were. 


How to Have a Life Story

Stories are important to me. I think God created us all, in the first place, and gave us the ability to screw up because he is interested in story.

And yet real life, looked at from any degree of emotional distance, seems to make no story at all. (See here) It seems to be one thing leading to another without any real shape or intention. How disappointing.

I think people lie to themselves about it. That's why romantic engagement photos exist - this isn't a just a marriage, it's a love story. It is grand and inevitable - and why folks insist "everything happens for a reason."

A string of events is not a story, even if they are your events. That's not to say that real-life stories don't exist. I'm just saying that just because Stories = Important and One's Life = Important does not mean that One's Life = Grand Story. A life story, an actual narrative, is not something we're guaranteed. In fact, it's probably rare. It's probably why we as humans write fiction in the first place. (Hooray, fiction!)

I think, though, that there are some things that one can do to increase the odds of having a real-life story.

The first building block of story structure is to have a character with a want. The more a character is committed to this want, the more he drives a story. Stories need conflict, and regular people avoid conflict. But if you have a character who is committed to satisfying his want, he won't avoid conflict. Character + Want + Conflict = Story, or at least something well on its way.

So maybe want something in life. One working definition of coolness is to be totally free of wants. No Wants = No Vulnerability. To be cool is to have no skin in the game. I was under the impression for a long time that people would like me if I was cool.

But the thing is that people will watch a character who wants something. People will relate to that character. They'll follow him.

And besides, having a want or a goal might provide you with a narrative arc. Give you that talky voice making sense of things. I think it's worth a try.


Harmontown was Good This Week


That there above this is the link to the episode I'm talking about. It's kind of a draining listen because in their discussion about morality they end up talking about pedophiles a lot. The existence of pedophiles is emotionally draining.

But! There's good stuff in it. Like Dan saying that we, in modern society, don't have adequate outlets for our rage. I was listening while answering monotonous email after frustratingly monotonous email thinking, "I DON'T HAVE SUFFICIENT OUTLETS FOR MY RAGE."

It also gets into the crossover between morality and society to the point where it's argued that morality = society. When run into one another, one person says, "Good morning." And it's safe for the other person to say "Good morning" back. With any deviation from this response, or addition to it, we run the risk of the other person going, "You freak! You monster!" The problem, though, with strictly adhering to the standard response is that it allows for no individuality. We can't express who we are without individuality. And when we can't communicate who we are, individually, to people, we can't connect with them.

And therefore we're up late writing blog posts. Us, generally.

I'll be shopping around for rage outlets.


Mitch's Origin Story

There once was a mean little boy named Mitch. His body was full of bad little particles. He would dunk over all of the kids in his class, and he would laugh in their small ugly faces.

One day, he dunked over Radiation Boy, and Radiation Boy cried and cried because he had been owned at basketball. He cried alpha particles, beta particles (electrons), and gamma rays. Much radiation came spilling out of his body and into the body of Mitch.

These radioactive particles fixed on to all the bad little particles that were floating around inside of the young boy, Mitch. They made the bad particles so heavy that they sank down from his head, through his neck, past his torso and groin, down through his legs, and into his feet. They went through his ankles, past his heels, along his metatarsals, through his phalanges, until, finally, they all collected in his toenails. There was no more badness in the rest of his body.

That's how Mitch came to be a great guy with awful toenails.


Other Ways of Doing Things

I gave this lecture to Mitch in the kitchen. In person, you can see me do this little shuffle, walking-around thing that you can't via blog post. Stay with me, though. I'll try to make up for it.

I've been watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! It's a webseries. The first episode is the YouTube video above. It's an adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The main character, Lizzie Bennet (Elizabeth Bennet in the original), is a modern-day 20-something in grad school who is keeping a video blog.

It's pretty fantastic story-telling. I cried during many of the 70s episodes. (There are 100 total in the main storyline.) But aside from that, three of its aspects were relevant in my kitchen-lecture to Mitch. 1) it's in a new medium (webseries). 2) It's a fictional work copying a non-fictional format (vlogging). 3) Other people weren't making stuff like this before.

I elaborate:

1) The setup is cheap: people who make vlogs - video diaries of their lives - don't have a lot of money to work with since they are one person casually posting for the internet. Since this is the form the series is fictionalizing, it means that they get away with having a stationary camera, few characters, and obvious exposition.

2) Its premise is close to a non-fiction reality. Unlike TV shows or other webseries, it's not trying to make its audience feels as if they are in the room with Lizzie Bennet. They're just asking you to pretend she's a real person talking to you, the internet. It's much closer to reality - less of a stretch - making what happens in it feel more real, more intimate. At times in the story, I felt like I was intruding, like "shouldn't these people turn off the camera and talk about this in private?"

3) These days it doesn't take a huge budget or any sort of permission to make something TV-like. It's an exciting reality, but it takes more than just the possibility to make it happen - it takes an idea.

(Lecture Time!)

I feel like, in life, people are looking for other people to tell them what to do. It's not our fault, really, that it happens this way. We're started off going to school, one level leading to the next. Structure. Structure. Structure. And then there are cultural/social life benchmarks we find out about: driving, dating, marriage, children, home ownership, retirement. We all shuffle through life in a line, following the person in front of us.

The crazy thing, though, is that there are a bizillion possibilities in life. But in practice, we only have as many options as we realize we have. (idea = an option realized) That's why I'm so impressed with the creators of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. They veered out of the shuffle line. They saw an alternative means of creating something and took it. Because they did, I also realize that it can be a way of doing things, an option in life.

Art makes the world bigger, folks. It gives us some more options.

(For more, here's a link to a Nerdist Writers Panel interview with the LBD creators. Good stuff.)