Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hang out by the bar, burn the pages of unwritten memoirs

It's November! Which means it's almost December, which means it almost isn't 2017 anymore. Which is crazy, but also GOOD RIDDANCE.

Anyway, lately:

  • I've been reading...more books than usual! I'm one of those people that always says they want to read more, but doesn't usually actually do it and instead just buys more books to add to their already full bookshelf. But, this month I actually followed through!
    • I finished Your Favorite Band is Killing Me, which was very good, if you're into over-analyzing pop culture, which I AM. My fave chapters were the ones on Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam, the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones and Biggie vs. Tupac.  
    • I read all of Turtles All the Way Down, which now holds the title of My Second-favorite John Green Book. 
    • I started We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby, which I'm not very far into, but am enjoying.
  • I've been watching...waaaay too much TV, including but not limited to the entire first season of Mindhunter (very good, very much for fans of Zodiac) and Stranger Things 2 (which I finished in one sitting and need more of immediately). I've also seen a lot of good movies in the past few months. A short list:
    • If you're looking for something gritty and visceral that will make you feel uncomfortable, Green Room is that kind of film. 
    • If you like psychological thrillers and/or courtroom dramas, watch Fracture! It stars Ryan Gosling and Sir Anthony Hopkins and it is fantastic. Somehow, it came out in 2007 and I had never heard of it until I watched it a few weeks ago.
    • You've heard this already, but The Big Sick is delightful.
    • Happy Death Day probably isn't what you expect, but if you think you might like it, you will. Something else that will catch you off guard? Colossal. It's bananas and I've thought about it every day since I've watched it. So good -- but maybe skip the trailer? It's best to go in as uninformed as possible.
    • For some nonfiction balance, Demi Lovato's new documentary, Simply Complicated, is a wild ride. I went into it as a casual fan, but now I have a whole new respect for her. Bonus: it's free to watch on YouTube!
  • I've been listening to...the usual girl pop, some seasonally appropriate spooky jams and a sprinkling of new-but-old-sounding country. Check it all out in October's Spotify playlist!
Here's to cooler temperatures, but hopefully no colds! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

There's something strange in your neighborhood

A lot of things are going on right now. The country is once again embroiled in an argument about gun control. The music world just lost another legend (RIP, Mr. Petty). I am in a constant state of panic over whether or not I will ever do anything of worth ever again.

Altogether, it is not a very chill time.

But, as always when lots of bad things are happening, lots of good things are happening too. If you're looking for a distraction from the chaos, here's a rundown of good things I've been watching/reading/listening to, plus some stuff to look forward to:

  • It's officially my favorite time of year: Halloween season! I love Halloween more than most things and definitely decorated my house as soon as it was socially acceptable (the first day of fall). For me, one of the best parts of October is marathoning all the best ~spooky~ movies. Aside from the classics -- Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, The Addams Family, etc -- I suggest branching out and watching some you haven't seen! Here are some of my favorites that are often overlooked: The 'Burbs, Clue, Fright Night (1985), The Others, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

  • There's a lot of great stuff being written right now about Tom Petty and his impact, but this is my favorite thing I've read so far -- Stevie Nicks, talking about their friendship:
  •  ...And both of HAIM's newest videos, "Want You Back" and "Little of Your Love." I'm a sucker for synchronized dancing.

  • Last list, I said you should be watching You're The Worst. Another great FX/FXX offering? Better Things. It takes a blunt look at womanhood -- at all stages -- for what it actually is and manages to be incredibly funny along the way. Also OMG, please start watching The Good Place if you haven't already! It's one of the most original shows I've seen in a long time.
  • Speaking of TV, this is going to be a great month for it! I don't know when I became someone who watches multiple CW shows, but I do know I'm stoked for the new seasons of Riverdale and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! (Plus, let's be real: I'm totally going to watch the Dynasty reboot.) And of course, this month is finally, finally, FINALLY the return of Stranger Things! I've missed my kids, y'all.
  • To wrap up, here's September's Spotify playlist. Like my music taste in general, it is a hot mess.
Happy Hallowmonth, boos! Make the most of it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

What happens when you stare at your bookshelf too long?

When you don’t go into an office every day, you really start to take notice of all of the stuff in your house. 

This includes your book collection. 

Not including two books a friend leant to me three months ago, there are currently 175 books on my bookshelf. Definitely not every book I’ve ever owned, but still a sizable amount. 

For the most part, the books aren’t surprising or particularly unusual. There’s a lot of YA, several rockstar biographies, the occasional creepy teen girl mystery. But when I really got to looking at them, I noticed there were a handful of books that were not like the others — either because they didn’t seem like books I would own or because they seemed like books that only I would own. And when I thought about each of them more deeply, I realized each said something about me as a person.

So, for funzies, here's a rundown of some of the "black sheep" books on my shelf! 

1. Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock

A faith-based murder mystery, Cape Refuge is already weird on principle. It’s presence on my bookshelf is even weirder.

Fun fact: My grandfather made that little cross!

I have always had a very complicated relationship with religion. Half of my family is very religious, the other half is not. Neither of my parents are particularly religious and so my sister and I were not raised going to church, except for on Christmas and Easter. It was never an issue when I was a kid. However, when we moved to Albany when I was 12, I was forced to confront how I personally related to religion. 

Albany has a little over 2,000 people and more than 10 churches. Going to church is just something you do, without question. Religion is part of everything that happens there and that’s just the way it is. Having not been raised religious, moving somewhere with that culture wasn't always easy, but I made it work. 

Larissa, my best friend when I was a teen, is a devoutly religious person, kind-hearted and wonderful. A lot of things she likes and believes, I don’t agree with it. A lot of things I like and believe, she doesn't agree with. We found one of our first real compromises with the Cape Refuge series. 

Cape Refuge — and its sequels, Southern Storm (which I also own), Rivers Edge and Breakers Reef — are unabashedly faith-based books. They are also unabashedly murder mysteries. The murders are still some of the most creative ones I’ve ever read or seen, but the first people murdered also run a beachfront ministry. It’s half-Larissa, half-Britny. It stands as a weird symbol of our unlikely and endearing friendship and for that reason, it will never leave my shelf.

2. Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America by Joshua Gamson

Claims to Fame is one of the few actual books I had to buy for a college class. My Journalism classes didn’t require much reading and my Radio-Television-Film (RTF) classes favored course packets full of articles over textbooks.

Like the other three books on my shelf left over from my time at UT (pictured below), I didn’t actually read Claims to Fame. For someone who finished every book assigned to her for 12 years (except one: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair), I read a remarkably small amount of what was assigned to me in college. Even more remarkable considering how much I talked in class!

That’s what Claims to Fame’s presence on my shelf represents about me: my college experience.  It is a book that sounds at once excessively boring and extremely interesting and I took it for a class that sounds made up, “Critical Studies in Film & TV Stardom.” It was literally a class about what “celebrity” means and has meant throughout the history of Hollywood. It was a quintessential, “This is really what college is” class — and like with all of my RTF classes, I spent it practicing the real college experience: forming opinions on the spot and making other people listen to them.

I usually joke that my RTF degree is my “degree in watching things” and if you listen to me talk about stuff that I like, I know I give off an annoying "film school” vibe. A book about celebrity being on my bookshelf, even if I haven't read it, really only makes sense.

3. Positively Pooh: Timeless Wisdom from Pooh by A.A. Milne

I received Positively Pooh as a high school graduation gift. It is a compilation of inspirational quotes pulled from A.A. Milne’s classic tales of that willy, nilly, silly old bear, Winnie the Pooh. 

With chapter titles like “For your inner bear” and “For those bothersome days,” it is excessively cute and also 100% something that looks like it belongs on the shelf of a five-year-old…or their mother. Instead, it’s on mine.

But it’s also very me that it’s there. Aside from the actual Bible, this is the only remotely philosophical book on my shelf. As a lifelong Winnie the Pooh fan, it made total sense for someone to give this to me when I was setting off into adulthood (a.k.a. college, which we all know is not really adulthood). Somehow, despite its stark contrast as something light and fluffy, it works well on a shelf alongside books with names like Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead and Brat Pack America.

Bonus: Some of the reasons I’ve always loved Winnie the Pooh are its frequent use of bumblebees and that I’ve always felt spiritually connected to Eeyore. Throughout my life, I’ve cultivated collections of both Eeyore memorabilia and stuff featuring bees. Anything Winnie the Pooh-related bridges the two! 

4. The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rockstar by Nikki Sixx

My having a book written by Nikki Sixx is not at all surprising. I own over 20 books about music, written either by musicians themselves or music writers.

But this one is different. Rather than a typical memoir or biography, The Heroin Diaries is compiled from the notebooks Nikki kept for a year during the height of his addiction to heroin and other drugs. Coupled with the terrifying, heartbreaking entries are brutally honest present-day (now 10 years ago) accounts from those who knew Nikki at the time. Unlike typical rockstar books — which recount addiction and decadence in a hazy, “This was bad, but that’s how it is” kind-of way — this book focuses on the real horrors and darkness of feeling like you have to have something that is slowly killing you.

Much like with other books on my shelves, this one has also served as an unlikely source of inspiration. At different times in my life, knowing that Nikki struggled with these things behind the scenes of some of Mötley Crüe’s biggest moments — and more importantly, that he came out on the other side of it (though not without dying…twice) — has been a form of encouragement for me to keep going that I can’t even really explain.

Bonus facts: “Life is Beautiful,” from The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, was the first song I ever had on my MySpace profile. I also wrote about Nikki as an inspiration for my college essay to help me get into UT’s College of Communications.

5. Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion by Jennifer Saginor

Being an outspoken feminist, Playground — a sordid tale of what it’s like to grow up when your dad is essentially the Playboy Mansion’s personal drug dealer — sticks out like a sore thumb on my bookshelf.

But here’s the thing: I’ve always had a preoccupation with media that, on the surface, seems aggressively antifeminist, but underneath could be seen as the opposite. Sleazy rock music? Incredibly sexist — and yet “groupie” is a complicated term, often used by the women themselves as something empowering. (Not to mention basically no rockstar in history would have lived longer than a week without the help of women.) Horror movies? They slash women with reckless abandon — and yet, the Final Girl is almost always who takes down the Big Bad. Playboy is another double-edged sword. Is it purely misogynistic and hurtful to women because it capitalizes on objectification? Or is it empowering because it gives women opportunities to own their sexuality? Is it a beacon of the power of free speech or a shining example of the patriarchy at work? You can judge for yourself — and I’ll continue struggling with how I feel about it.

Playground messes around with that balance and it made a huge impact on me as a teen. It was a peek into a glamorous and disgusting world I’d always wanted to know more about. It was the first time I read about complicated sexism issues from the point-of-view of a woman. It was the first book I read where the “protagonist” was not heterosexual. It was the first and only book I ever special ordered to my local bookstore (RIP Hastings) because I wanted to get my hands on it that badly.

It’s been many years since I read Playground and I’m sure to do so now, with my harder opinions on women’s rights, would be a much different experience. But that’s also why it’s one of the books I like to keep around. Sometimes the things you read when you were younger not only impact you then, but forever because they serve as a reminder that you may not be that person anymore.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Make a move and make it now

I will be 25 in three days and I have no idea what to do with that information.

I’m in the weirdest place in my adult life so far and it all feels very messy and also vaguely anticipatory. It’s...a lot. So, as usual, I’ve been distracting myself from impending panic about not having done much with stuff other people have made!

A rundown of recent loves:
  • I finished American Gods, which ended up having a killer plot twist I didn’t see coming. Now I’m reading Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman. I’ve long had a thing~ for books that tap into the darkness swirling around inside teenage girls — be they entitled rich girls (The Cliche, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars series), dark-minded cheerleaders (Megan Abbott’s Dare Me) or gaslighted cult members (Emma Cline's The Girls).  Teen girls are powerful — and as a lifelong lover of good villains, I like when they’re a little wicked too. So far, Girls on Fire is delivering. 
    • Need a laugh? Watch/rewatch Drunk History's "A Sound in Space" with Jenny Slate:
    • Speaking of laughs, if you can catch it somewhere, I highly recommend checking out CNN’s docuseries, The History of Comedy. It’s long, but wildly educational. You’ll cry from laughing more than once and the powerful sixth episode, "Spark of Madness," will also make you cry real tears if you love Robin Williams as much as I do.
    • Since I finished that series, I’ve been watching a lot of stand-up specials. Most recent winner: Marc Maron’s Too Real. If you liked Maron’s character on GLOW (side bar: please watch GLOW), you’ll love it and if you didn’t, you’ll probably still laugh the whole way through. His impression of Mick Jagger is perfect enough to make a grown man cry.
    • Are you watching You’re the Worst? You should really be watching You’re the Worst. Season four premieres tonight!  
    • On a heavier note, I’ve really been struggling lately with figuring out what exactly I want to do with myself. Inspiration is pretty thin on the ground, but I have recently seen two (very different) things that really struck me. The first was wiissa's Midnight Ramblers, a mockumentary about the groupies that shaped ‘70s rock. It’s basically a 15-minute Almost Famous, but about the Band-Aids, so obviously I’m totally in love:

    • The second was President Bartlett’s "American Heroes" speech from The West Wing episode "20 Hours in America, Part II." This speech probably would have hit me hard on any day since November 8...but right now, as my fellow Texans struggle in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and many others await the assured devastation of Hurricane Irma, it really resonates:

    That episode originally aired in September of 2002. Fifteen years later, the message is strong as ever: This is a time for American heroes.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    Crazy little thing called love

    The job hunt is officially underway. It's mildly terrifying and, to be honest, a bit disheartening -- but I've applied to three jobs so far, so fingers crossed!

    Since my last post, I returned to Austin for the most Austin reason ever: to see my friend's band play. It was a super fun, quick trip and I was glad to see my pals and get to indulge in some of my favorite things -- like Pinthouse Pizza and BookPeople.

    Also, Maggie took this picture outside the Boys Club show and it's one of my favorite pictures of me ever taken. It perfectly sums up how I feel when in Austin.

    This past weekend, I was able to make a trip to DFW to see my wonderful cousin Shelbie get married! Me and my sister and Shelbie and her sister have always been a unit in our family because everyone is either older or younger than we are by 5+ years. So, it was awesome to be able to attend her special day. Shelbie looked stunning and she and Mitchell (who I graduated high school with #SmallTownVibes) are the absolute cutest. The whole wedding was so full of love and happiness, I left feeling a little bit better about the world in general.

    Meanwhile, lately:

    • I've been reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It's complex, but the concept is fascinating and I'm really enjoying it. So far, my favorite bit has been Wednesday's musings about roadside attractions being places of power in America. 
    • I've been binge-watching The West Wing and Bob's Burgers. I'm also pretty into Freeform's new show, The Bold Type. It's a little cheesy at times (Miranda Priestly is a much more believable fashion mag editor than Jacqueline Carlyle), but overall, it's super enjoyable. Fresh, fun and feminist -- what more do you need? 
    • If you haven't watched Hasan Minaj: Homecoming King on Netflix, I highly recommend it! If you're like me, you'll find yourself laughing out loud and tearing up in equal measure. I also recommend seeing Baby Driver while it's still in theaters. The sound editing alone makes it a must-watch.
    • Finally, it's late, but here's June's Spotify playlist! It's a lot of tracks from Melodrama (Lorde really came through) and some throwback Cassie Steele. So far in July, I've pretty much had Selena Gomez's "Bad Liar" and Kesha's new songs, "Praying'" and "Woman," on repeat. Anyone else so proud of her they could cry?
    Stay cool, y'all! Figuratively and literally.

    Monday, June 26, 2017

    “Three little stars on the corners of pages and the bases of hearts”

    It has always been very difficult for me to put into words how much I love Harry Potter.

    In 2001, when I was in third grade, a movie about a boy wizard was about to come out and my friend Megan and a bunch of other kids were really excited for it. They had been reading the books and were part of the big whispers surrounding my life — about some story from across the pond that was changing the world.

    I thought there was no way these books were good as everyone said they were. As snarky a child as I am an adult, I was sure I was right about this and everyone else — in the world — was wrong. Then I found out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was worth a whopping 13 Accelerated Reader points and I decided I’d give it a shot anyway. I was nine.

    The rest, as they say, was history.

    It is in no way an exaggeration to say that I am the person I am because of Harry Potter.

    It was the first book series I ever read every book of. Hermione Granger was the first character I saw myself in. The first line of Goblet of Fire was the first quote I memorized on purpose. Some of the first things I ever wrote in my life, before I even decided to be a writer, were pieces of Harry Potter fanfiction.

    My first midnight book release was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It resulted in a caricature that’s on the wall at my mom’s house, of 11-year-old Gryffindor me, transfiguring a dog into a bowl. Silly, really — today I am a Slytherin whose favorite lesson would be Charms.

    The first midnight movie showing I attended was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. It was a high school graduation present from my best friend’s older sister and I cried almost the whole way through it. I was 18.

    Three years later, when I was still 20, I got three little stars tattooed forever on the inside of my right ankle.

    Last summer, I attended the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, dressed as a female Sirius Black, and I cried while we counted down to midnight.

    I’m 24 and when I re-read Harry Potter, I feel every age I’ve been before now because Harry Potter has been the most important thing to me for almost my entire life.

    Everything I believe in and fight for can, in some way, be tied back to this series. My fierce attitudes about feminism and bigotry and how important it is to care about things and fight for things and never let the bad guy win all stem from Harry Potter.

    When J.K. Rowling wrote a book about a boy wizard 20 years ago, she didn’t know the impact it would have on the entire world. There was no way she could guess the impact it would have on me.

    I am who I am because of Harry Potter. I can’t imagine being anyone else.

    NOTE: The title of this blog is taken from this poem, which you should read.