Pop culture of my life

My favorite childhood book – Probably either the Baby-Sitters Club books or the Mary-Kate and Ashley series where they were detectives.

The first album I bought with my own money – I bought two at the same time: Shania Twain’s Come On Over or Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere. Nine-year-old MC’s interests were teasingly diverse.

The song that always makes me cry – Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” Yes, it’s because of that one scene in Love Actually, and yes, I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

The book I’ve read over and over again – I’ve read Harry Potter, on average, at least once a year since I was like ten, adding the new books into the rotation as they came out. You do the math.

The last TV series I binged – The Netflix reboot of Queer Eye. I want all five of them to adopt me and be my collective dads.

My literary crush – No disrespect to Robert Schwartzman’s portrayal in the movie, but I’m gonna go with the book version of Michael Moscovitz from Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series.

dirty-dancing-coverx-largeThe song that always makes me feel better – I know it’s cliche, but “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” from Dirty Dancing always gets me. And the theme song from The Office.

A classic you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read – Little Women. I know I need to, but I just never seem to get around to it!

A book you consider grossly overrated – Catcher in the Rye. Barf.

The last album I listened to – Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell

The last book that made me laugh out loud, and the last one that made me cry – The last book that made me laugh was probably I Remember Nothing, one of Nora Ephron’s memoirs, and I’m not usually a book-crier, but Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life destroyed me.

The book I’d use to squash a bug with – Actually, in college one time I had a very angry wasp in my room so I grabbed my eight-pound, 600-page copy of Harry Potter: From Page to Screen and crushed the bastard. So I guess that’s my answer.

My favorite on-screen kiss – It’s technically not a kiss, but Darcy’s first proposal to Lizzy in the Keira Knightley adaptation of Pride and Prejudice absolutely slays me — they stand in the pouring rain, three inches apart, and just stare at each other’s mouths while they fight, which is somehow worse than if they had actually kissed. Honorable mention is Jim and Pam’s kiss in “Casino Night.” Every time I watch, it’s like I’m watching it for the first time.

The fictional place I dream of moving to – Stars Hollow. I’m not stupid.

61WgdaIT8CLThe most breathtaking piece of art to see in person – In the Heights, for sure. Hamilton was a beautiful, jaw-dropping experience, but Heights has my heart. Tied for a very close second is One Direction’s Take Me Home tour and the replica of Hogwarts at the Warner Brothers studio tour in London.

The fictional group of friends I always felt like I belong with – The girls from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (if you’re wondering, I’m a Tibby with a healthy side dose of Lena).

The fictional character(s) I’d want by my side during the apocalypse – Tie between the Scooby gang from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (since, y’know, they’ve seen their fair share of apocalypses) OR Eleven and Hopper from Stranger Things, mostly because I want to be friends with Eleven and Hopper.

Three people I’d invite to my dream dinner party – Julie Andrews, Jane Austen, and John Hughes. Easy peasy.

 

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yay! reading!

I read 143 books in 2017.

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I read some books that I loved (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, to name a few). I read some books that I didn’t love so much (I’ll leave those alone, because talking about things you don’t like is boring). I read some books that had been on my list for years (I lugged Les Miserables around in my purse for two weeks, but I finished it, dammit!). But of those 143 books, 124 of them were written by white people.

So this year, I’m making a conscious effort to expand my reading repertoire. I’m committing to reading books written by people OTHER THAN straight, white dudes. For a lot of reasons.

I think it’s easy for people, particularly white people, to feel like striving for diversity is little more than “pandering,” or “unfair” or “reverse racism.” (Here’s where you imagine me using sarcastic air quotes and aggressively rolling my eyes, because that’s just crap.) Equality is not a zero-sum game. Elevating one voice doesn’t diminish another. At least, not in civilized conversation. It just adds different perspectives to the mix. I always tell my kids that my favorite thing about literature is how all thirty of them could read the same book, and there could be thirty different, equally valid reactions to it. Good stories elicit good conversation, and good conversation always involves different points of view. (Exhibit A: when I called my brother (with whom I frequently get into heated movie-related debates) to discuss the most recent Star Wars film, we realized after a few minutes we agreed on almost everything, and he finally said, “Well, I thought this conversation was gonna be a lot more exciting than it was.” It was still a good chat, but not as much fun as our regular verbal sparring matches. My family’s weird like that.)

Am I doing this because I think it will revolutionize the publishing industry, or that I will single-handedly shed light on more diverse voices? Of course not. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this because I think that I, like a lot of other people, am exposed to a predominantly white, male perspective, and I want to change that. I want to be challenged and educated by people who have had different experiences than me. Another thing I frequently tell my kids is that great byproduct of reading widely is a deeper sense of empathy for the journeys upon which our fellow Earthlings are embarking, and if there’s anything the world needs more of right now, it’s empathy.

So here we go. Let me know if you have any suggestions, because I’m always looking to add to my list!

to my kiddos, part deux: 12 more things I wish I knew in high school

Last year, I wrote a post in which I outlined a bunch of things that I wanted my kids to know/wished I’d known in high school. With another year under my belt, I thought of a few more things that I want to share with them/me.

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  1. Watch Friday Night Lights. You’ll be a better person for it.
  2. Learn to eat healthy now. This is the highest your metabolism will EVER be, and if you can get into some sort of healthy eating habits now, it’ll save you a lot of grief in the future. I’m speaking from firsthand experience.
  3. At some point over the next four years, learn how to write a good cover letter when applying for a job. It’s a super-easy way to set yourself apart from the hordes of other people whose resumes look just like yours.
  4. Listen more than you talk.
  5. I once read a Pinterest quote that said “Do it with passion or not at all.” Like so many things on Pinterest, it seems appealing, but it’s bullshit. I have to do plenty of things I’m not passionate about. It’s called being a responsible person. So I would amend it to say “Do it with passion when you can, and do your best either way.”
  6. You are a very, very small part of a very, very big world, and many people have it way worse than you. Remember that when your parents won’t let you go to the Shawn Mendes concert (is Shawn Mendes still cool? I can’t keep up anymore).
  7. That being said, treat yourself with respect. A lot of people will look down on you (or overlook you completely) because of your age, and that’s not cool. Take care of yourself.
  8. Talk to your teachers. They’re not all scary mountain trolls (well, maybe one or two of them), and they’ll remember you staying after class for two minutes to talk to them, even if it was a simple “How was your weekend?”
  9. Do the reading. Always do the reading. Even if you hate it, do the reading. In fact, I would love it if you hated the reading. It’s much more impressive when a student says, “This book/poem/passage sucked and here’s why” than when they just stare at me like a recently concussed football player.
  10. Practice. Use scratch paper. Make outlines. Write rough drafts. Show your work. The first time you do ANYTHING, it’s probably going to suck. But you’ll get there eventually.
  11. Learn how to be bored. Alternatively, bring a book with you everywhere.
  12. There will be days when it seems like the future is rushing in to meet you like a tidal wave, but that’s an illusion. At the end of The Outsiders, Johnny tells our friend Ponyboy (who, like you, is 14 and is Going Through Some Shit), “You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want.” I know I quoted that last time but I’m saying it again because it’s that important. Life somehow manages to be both short AND long, so take your time.

things that I want for Teacher Appreciation Week

rehost201691332bf1e80-6dee-4eb5-9490-7e7c346dcdd6Alright, y’all. Teacher Appreciation Week is HERE, which means that I’ll be a) treating myself like I’m Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford on the best day of the year, and b) I’ll be receiving a handful of Starbucks gift cards and usually a random plant or some cookies or something. Not that I’m not grateful — I never say no to cookies — but it came up at lunch one day last week, and we started brainstorming things that we would REALLY love to get. Here’s my list:

  1. Getting to wear pajamas to work all week – If my kids are allowed to come to school wearing elastic-waist flannel pants and a blanket, then so should I, dammit!
  2. Thirty minutes of quiet time in every class, devoted either to napping or reading – I’m not picky. I just need some silence every once in a while.
  3. Someone to make my lunch every day next week – This is my most hated chore in the whole world, y’all. I don’t mind making my lunch on the weekends/during the summer, when I can do it at my leisure, but having to do it at 6:30 in the morning is disgusto barfo.
  4. Alternatively, a catered lunch every day next week – My kids can win XBOXes and TVs and Busch Gardens passes for scoring well on their SOLs, so all I’m saying is that maybe some of that money could be diverted to getting the Boka truck or the Gelati Celesti truck to come on down to good ol’ TMS.
  5. Staff movie day in the library, while admin watches our classes – Movie choices include: Ferris Bueller’s Day OffDie Hard, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or a select few episodes of The Office.IMG_1064
  6. An adults-only moonbounce stationed outside the school – For some much-needed stress relief
  7. Student vs. faculty dodgeball game – See above.
  8. A handwritten thank-you note – In all seriousness, this is my FAVORITE gift to get. No gift cards, no food. Just a short and sweet thank you.
  9. Getting to bring my dog to school – How do you say no to that face?

places i need/want to go

  1. The library – I’m in a reading rut and nothing has been super-appealing lately. I was there less than a week ago and I’m already over everything I checked out.
  2. CapitolMac – My nine-year-old (!) computer finally went into the light, and I, like the dummy I am, haven’t backed up in probably years. It’s so old that the Genius Bar guy practically laughed me out of the store, so I’m hoping CapitolMac can save the day. Really, the only thing I really care about saving is my music collection, but like 90% of my tunes is stuff I’ve downloaded illegally, so. Karma.
  3. The gym – I played in the student-teacher basketball game today and got my ass handed to me. I have zero cardiovascular endurance.
  4. Starbucks, or similar – I’ve been writing a LOT lately (yay!), but, like my aforementioned reading rut, I’m in a bit of a dry spell (boo!). I’m hoping a good writing sesh in a busy-but-not-too-loud coffeeshop will cure that.
  5.  London – In the words of Bill Nighy’s character in Love Actually whose name is escaping me, “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes.” Spring break is nigh, y’all.  Seven days and a flight across the Atlantic are all that stand between me and the Harry Potter Museum.
  6. Universal Studios – It’s just a constant state of being at this point.

January favorites

 

  1. JMU winning the national championship!!!!!!!! – My Dukes came through in the clutch and blew Youngstown State out of the water for their first FCS Championship since 2004. Beautiful.c1b_thlweaatp-n-1
  2. Harry Potter World (again) – Yep. For the second time in five months, Adam and I made the trek down to Orlando to spend three glorious days at Universal Studios.
  3. Snow! – I love snow anyway, but this particular snow was great because a) it was the first time we got to take our doggie out in it, and b) school was closed for three days and then promptly left for Orlando right afterward, so I got a whole week off of work!
  4. Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – In all honesty, my husband and my coworkers are probably sick to death of hearing me talk about these two books, but I just can’t help myself. They’re that good. Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven with a little bit of The Outsiders. I’m a sucker for any story  that has a) is a rag-tag groups of misfits, b) really good suspense, and c) well-written bait-and-switch stories, and this duology delivered that beautifully.
  5. Aaron Tveit concert – I’ve posted about my boo Aaron before, and last week I finally had the opportunity to see him live when he came through D.C. He sang mostly Broadway stuff (a lot of which I hadn’t heard), but he also did a lovely medley/sing-along from Les Miserables, and a  Disney medley (which included a healthy dose of Beauty and the Beast music) which made me go all twirly and fluttery.

hurt, confused, a little dirty: an open letter to Amy Sherman-Palladino

Dear Amy,

Look. We’ve known each other a long time. Twelve years. That’s longer than I’ve known my husband, most of my best friends, or what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would like d4840c7a-f88b-445f-95cc-42a1b05f0b0eto think we can be honest with each other. So here we go.

What a disappointment. I tried to talk myself out of feeling like this (several times, in fact), because I waited 3,482 days for this reboot, and I didn’t want it to be in vain. But here I am. The story felt drawn out in some places, and rushed in others; this was due, I think, mostly to large chunks of time being taken up by insignificant subplots. Some of the jokes were a little too “wink wink nudge nudge” to the audience, and there were a LOT of Parenthood cameos (you might as well have looked straight into the camera and said “LOOK AT ALL OF LAUREN’S COSTARS WE WORKED IN!”).

I was disheartened to see the overall lack of a substantial plot. You had nine years to kick around new ideas and the best you could do was Luke and Lorelai lying to each other and Rory struggling to hold down a job? Ames (may I call you Ames?), these are stories that could just as easily have been told nine years ago. I wanted something new and fresh. How have our girls grown in the near-decade since we last saw them? The only thing driving new stories in this reboot seemed to be Richard’s death. Emily’s story was by far the most compelling, but we saw relatively little of it in the middle episodes. Why?

To be fair, I liked parts of it. There were many good moments. But the stuff that I didn’t like, I hated to the point that it outweighed any warm, fuzzy feelings I had about the good stuff. Here’s a breakdown:

The good: 
Richard – Honestly, I wasn’t ever worried about this. You’ve always written the dramatic
moments exceptionally well, and it was always obvious how much you respected and loved both Richard and Ed. It was touching without ever being schmaltzy, and funny at just the right moments. Like I said, there were moments where we relied on this plot a little too
heavily to advance the overall story, but out of respect for Ed, I’ll overlook that.
the Emily/Lorelai dynamic – Again, not a big concern for me going in. The relationship between these two has been a strength of the show since its inception. From the fight in the kitchen to the phone call from the mountain, it was pitch perfect.
the secret bar – the most Stars Hollow thing I’d ever heard, and I loved it. Good on ya.
Jess – My guy!!!! Even though he only showed up for a grand total of ten minutes, he was great. He saved Rory (for at least the second time) by getting her out of her rut and giving her the book idea, which was, of course, perfect (because he knows her better than anyone). He’s also gone to counseling and/or the gym because he seems much less angry/much more jacked. I’m just sad that he’s hung up on a ding-dong like Rory (more on that later).
Luke’s speech – I love ranting Luke. I love ranting Luke ranting about how right he and Lorelai are for each other. “There is no one who will be more here for you than me.” WE KNOW, LUCAS.
• Sookie – While I’m sad we didn’t get more of her, I’m grateful we got her at all. We missed you, Sook.
Rory writing in Richard’s study – Look. I was already heated when Logan offered to put Rory up in his family’s house to write (WE GET IT. YOU HAVE MONEY.), so I was cheering when she turned him down because a) she! doesn’t! need! him! and b) what a perfect place for her to write the story of her family. I lost it when she opened the door and we had that split-second view of Richard sitting at his desk, and then again when she sits down at said desk, only to look up and see the portrait of herself hanging off to the side. Well done.

The bad and/or boring: 
Stars Hollow: The Musical – We get it. You saw Hamilton. I love Sutton Foster as much as the next theater fan, but that was ten minutes that could’ve been much better spent elsewhere in this story. I get having the musical as a plot device for Lorelai’s epiphany at the end of the episode, but damn. In the words of my friend and Gilmore Girls Yelling Partner™, Molly, “YA AIN’T SLICK, AMY.”
Rachael Ray – The girl talks with her hands too much. It was annoying.
Luke and Lorelai lying to each other – They’ve been together for nine years, and they’re lying to each other about tiny baby stuff like this? Either a) lay the groundwork for this earlier on so it doesn’t seem so out of the blue, or b) give me the happy, couple-y Luke/Lorelai to balance out this unstable, should-have-been-past-this-nine-years-ago Luke/Lorelai.
Logan – Why so much Logan? Why, Amy? Why? He served no larger purpose, other than, I’m assuming, to bankroll Rory’s near-constant cross-Atlantic flights. What kind of dumbo proposes to a girl, gets shot down, and then a decade later, is engaged to a French heiress, but still sleeping with the ex-girlfriend on the side? It just made me hate Logan AND Rory more.
the Life and Death Brigade – I adored Finn and Colin in the original run (though that might’ve just been because of Finn’s accent), but that whole Baz Luhrmann, Across the Universe, took-too-much-Nyquil-and-fell-into-a-steampunk-fever-dream BULLSHIT was over the top (especially for a group in their mid-30s), and, again, a waste of my time.
the wedding – This is painful for me to say, because part of me LOVED it. A lot. But after seeing the blowouts that this town throws, I wanted to see them show out for their (and our) favorite couple. Because they’ve been waiting for this as long as we have, and they deserve it, dammit. Also, just for the record, Emily and Jess not being there? Emily not walking Lorelai down the aisle? Luke and Lorelai not getting married under the chuppah? Unforgivable (and so easily fixed!).

The ugly:
• Rory’s characterization in its entirety – Amy. Ames. Amothy. What in the ever-loving f*ck happened? Who was this girl on my television screen? I didn’t recognize her. Or at least, I didn’t recognize this version of her. Rory Gilmore, who slept with a married man once before and saw the direct effect it had on him AND his family AND herself, who broke up with Logan Huntzberger because he CHEATED ON HER, and then broke up with him AGAIN rather than get married to him, who graduated from Yale journalism school with a job in the Obama press corp, who, yes, made some questionable decisions but still managed to maintain some sort of moral compass….. is now a lying, cheating, homewrecking, jobless, Wookie-humping, moral compass-lacking DING-DONG who “forgets” to break up with Pete/Paul/Pat/Piss-Poor Plot Device for almost a year? Make all the cute Kerouac and “thirty-something gang” jokes you want, but this isn’t the Rory we knew and (mostly) loved from the original run. I don’t know this girl.
• the last four words – I hate to do this, but this felt like the series finale sucker-punch of How I Met Your Mother, condensed into about fifteen seconds. I get that this was where you wanted to go from the beginning, but guess what, Ames? Life isn’t perfect. We had a nine-year hiatus that no one saw coming, and things change. You’ve gotta adjust. I could understand 22-year-old Rory, fresh out of college, busy figuring out her life, and surprise! Life throws her a curveball in the form of an unplanned pregnancy and she deals with it like her mom did. But now? As a 32-year-old vagabond with her belongings scattered across two continents? It’s not nearly as charming; it’s just sad. Where’s this kid gonna live? How will Rory support him/her? PLUS, Lorelai and Rory are VERY different. I get wanting to bring it full circle, but when Lorelai got pregnant at 16, she sucked it up, left her life of privilege, and got a crappy job. She did what she had to do, even though it wasn’t comfortable or easy. But Rory “I’m gonna drop out of Yale because of one bad performance review” Gilmore? I’m not so sure. She can’t do it by herself. She’s not independent in the way Lorelai is. The only way it would work is if she can find a partner who brings out her inner decisiveness and resilience (see also: mid-season three (when she’s with Jess), and mid-season 6 (after Jess reads her the riot act about dropping out)). She made it pretty clear in her converseation with Christopher that she was thinking about raising this kid alone, but some major life changes are gonna need to happen before that becomes a viable option for our girl Rory.

So, Amy, there are my thoughts. I still care about you very much, and hopefully we can work through this tough time in our relationship, because we really did have something special for awhile. Call me if you ever want to hear my ideas for a reboot reboot. I’ve got lots of ’em.

 

Love,
MC