What Kind of Day Has it Been?

Today is the end of my time here at Gotham. This past week has involved a lot of endings for me- end of classes, end of college, end of Gotham. Soon it will be the end of 2014, which to be honest I am pretty pleased about- this year was garbage. I feel sad that things will be different for me going forward, because I don’t like change, but I am also excited about the future. My life is full of possibilities, for the first time in a long time, and it is a pretty nice feeling.

I will miss coming into Gotham a lot. It is surprisingly hard to express. I will miss the people, all of whom I have grown to love very much, and I will miss just the regularity of having someplace to go and having a job to do. It was a lovely place to intern, and by far the most pleasant work experience I have had so far. It will also be harder for me to keep writing without the structure of the class, but I am optimistic that I will continue to stick with it. All in all this has been a fantastic experience for me, and I am feel very lucky that I got to be here at Gotham, doing cool things and meeting lovely people.

There are a lot of changes happening in my life right now, but weirdly I am not that emotional. I have noticed this happens a lot in life.The big moments are never what you expect them to be. Its not as if you wake up one day, graduate college, and become a completely different person. It is something that happens gradually, over time, and you only notice it in retrospect. I often think something is a major turning point, only to then realize that I was wrong. Real changes only happen when you are not paying attention. In real life there are no series finales- the show never really ends.

I think the key to a happy life is not so much about what you’re doing. Its more about the fact that you are doing something at all. Productivity is key. If you are busy, and feel like you are accomplishing something with your day, I think you are generally happier. I do not know how true this is for everyone, but it is definitely true for me. So that, I guess, is my goal going into a year where nothing is certain: stay busy.

Anyways, I am sorry for waxing philosophical and making metaphors and all that jazz. Thank you very much for reading, whoever you are. I had a lot of fun writing this all semester, even if it was a dialogue with no one. I hope 2015 brings only good things for all of you. I hope everyone goes outside and eats sweets and meets awesome people who make life seem worth it. And I hope everyone keeps writing, or at the very least keeps creating cool things. If you are reading this and I know you in real life, I hope we keep in touch, cause chances are good that I think you are really dope and like you a lot (unless you are Kyle, then I think you’re lame.(JK Kyle, you’re alright))

Anyways, Happy Christmas/Chanukah/non-denominational winter holiday!

Love,
Allyson

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Best of 2014!

Basically my favorite thing about December (besides Christmas, the end of school, snow, Christmas cookies, and like… a bunch of other things) is end of year lists. What fun! What is better than arbitrary, highly subjective rating things you like? Nothing I can think of!

The only problem with end of year lists for me is that I am very often behind on popular culture things. Something may be new to me, but everyone else in the known pop culture universe has already read/seen/heard it. I am often very behind on the times. So, in that sense, my definition of things that happened in 2014 will be very loose. It is also hard to compile a list for this particular year, because it was filled with such ABSOLUTE GARBAGE. The news cycle this year was horrifying, a bunch of people died, ebola continued to happen, Ariana Grande’s second album came out- things were pretty grim. But now is not the time to focus on all that negativity. Now is the time to focus on the things I liked best (which seemed to involve mostly women this year. Way to go women!), so, HERE WE GO. My best of film/books/music/TV/movies for 2014.

(Note: This is list is incredibly biased. It is my list deal with it.)

Albums

1. Bury Me At Make-out Creek, Mitski

This album is SO DOPE you guys. Mitski is so dope. She is this cool Japanese girl who plays bass and has an amazingly beautiful singing voice, and this album is my everything. Voice=awesome. Lyrics=awesome. Instrumentation=awesome. This album combines my love of female singer/songwriters with my love of guitar distortion, and it is my everything.

2. Acid Rap, Chance The Rapper

Technically this a mixtape, and it technically came out in 2013 (on my birthday!) but I didn’t listen to it until this year so whatever its going on this list. “Cocoa Butter Kisses” is a great song. Chance the Rapper is also dope, his cover of the Arthur theme song came out in 2014 and it was super awesome. Listen to it and remember that time is a flat circle and so technically I’m not wrong. I can put an internet released single out as a best album of 2014 because this is America.

3. Are We There, Sharon Von Etten

She is beautiful and her voice is beautiful, and this album makes me cry. It is also super badass. Also fun fact: Sharn Von Etten is from NJ, and is related to my friend James, who is also very gifted musically. Crazy.

That is it that is the end of my best albums of 2014 (only 2 of which were actually albums released in 2014) honestly I didn’t listen to that much new music in 2014, and apparently the only things I liked were by female vocalists (which is actually unusual for me.) I ended this list here because if I kept going I would have had to include Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey and 1989 by Taylor Swift which I really wasn’t comfortable doing.

Books

1The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell

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I love David Mitchell, so this is probably biased, but I thought The Bone Clocks was excellent. I liked the interconnected stories, as I always do, because sometimes sticking with one character’s POV the whole time can get dull. I think Mitchell is a nuanced and talented writer, and I thought will Holly he created a great protagonist. I also like how Mitchell brings back characters from his other books as supporting players- it is a nice treat for the reader to see familiar faces thrown in- it feels like a reward for paying attention.

2. Yes, Please Amy Poehler

HELL yes (please)

HELL yes (please)

As I have previously mentioned, I really really liked this book. Since I already wrote a whole post about it, rehashing why I think this book is awesome is probably unnecessary. I know celebrity memoirs are considered low-rent by most of the literary public, but try it! Its a fun, insightful, and interesting read.

3. Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay

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As someone who is constantly struggling with what it means to be a “feminist” I really liked this book, and based on its popularity, it seems like a lot of other people do as well. All Gay’s essays were well written, insightful, and took a hard look at race, gender, sexuality and other difficult topics. In the world of political correctness and internet backlash in which we currently live, I appreciated Gay’s candor and honesty, and her ideas on what it means to be a “bad feminist” will continue to resonate with me.

TV Shows

 This is kind of a weird category, cause, I generally have a hard time separating season/series. Still, I think all three of these shows had particularly strong years, as well as being some of my favorite shows in general. I also want to note it took a lot of self restraint to not include Top Chef, which I love even though it is mostly garbage.

1. Mad Men

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Mad Men is always forever number one on my TV show list, because it is amazing and perfect. Even if you disregard my bias though, I still think this (half) season qualifies as a year’s best. Following what was perhaps my least favorite season of the show, I thought both the plot lines and the acting this season was amazing. Things got increasingly desperate for Don and co. but Weiner handled their slow downfall with nuance, and it made for engaging, depressing, beautiful television. The fact that this is the last (half) season makes me want to weep, and I know I am doomed to be disappointed by the ending, but nonetheless, I can’t wait for Mad Men to start up again this winter.

2. New Girl

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Watching New Girl and Mindy Project together every Tuesday night has become something a tradition for me and my roommates, as is endlessly binge-watching it on Netflix. The show is joyful and hilarious, and it is my personal opinion that Lamone Morris is a national treasure. This is one of the most consistently funny shows on television, at least in my opinion, and this year it has been killin’ it.

3. Parks and Recreation

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Oh, Parks. This show is heartfelt and beautiful and hilarious and the best. It continues to be the best. The way NBC is handling the airing of the final season is making me very sad, as does the thought of my life without new episodes of Parks and Rec in it, but I am trying to soldier on. I will miss all our friends.

Movies

Yeah I barely watched any movies this year, so this is hardly an objective category. I really want to see Top Five, Birdman and Obvious Child, but I haven’t so those don’t count. Regardless…

1. BOYHOOD

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This movie was amazing, and beautiful, and made me nostalgic for things I didn’t even realize I missed. I am generally against romanticizing childhood- it seems cheap- but I thought this movie was a gorgeous story of growing up, and should be considered a best-of even without considering the incredible way in which it was made. Also, the soundtrack is really really great. I would have put in the “best albums” category except that would be very cheap- soundtracks aren’t albums.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

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I am a huge Wes Anderson fan, and a person who considers The Royal Tenenbaums to be on their top 5 movies of all time list. So the fact that I liked this movie is not exactly a surprise, even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Moonrise Kingdom. Still, I think Grand Budapest was the rare Anderson film that manages to be aesthetically beautiful, emotionally powerful, and very funny. It is definitely one of my favorite films of the year, and probably my third favorite Anderson film of all time.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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This is kind of a weird choice, mostly because if I was going to pick a superhero movie, the obvious choice is Guardians of the Galaxy starring my true love Chris Pratt. But I am going with X-Men, because it was a movie that was very poignant, considering the subject matter, and that made me nostalgic for the X-Men movies of my youth. I was obsessed with X-Men and X2 when they came out, loved them, but have just been disappointed by most of them since them (I consider X-Men: Last Stand to be a personal crime against me, committed by Brett Ratner.) Days of Futures Past was a return to form, however, and I thought the integration of the two casts was really well done. Plus, James McAvoy is an amazing actor, so much so that he can make a film about mutants very emotional for me. Not sure why I am justifying this so hard, but do to lack of better choices, X-Men is my 3rd favorite.

Its Officially the Holidays!!

Hello and welcome to December! I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving was adequate. I am not too much of a Thanksgiving fan (I am not that into the food and dark orange is not a good color scheme for me) but regardless I had a fun weekend. It was full of highs and lows.

Highs: Seeing my cousins, high school friends, spending quality time with my parents/sister. Lows: Having a flat tire and being too exhausted/full to function properly for most of the weekend. All and all I would say it was a draw.

But enough about Thanksgiving! That’s old news now. The turkeys are gone, and Black Friday has ended, meaning that the holiday season is now officially upon us. It is a time of laughter and joy and presents, but also of stress and long simmering resentments. What a time to be alive!

Chrismukkah is my preferred winter holiday

Chrismukkah is my preferred winter holiday

It is only the first day, so the true month of holiday excitement has not yet begun, but still, things are beginning! Multiple best-of-2014 lists are being created (Slate has one about books, as does Amazon.) Advent calenders are ready to be eaten. Its generally an exciting time, even if this few weeks mark the time of the year when I am at peak panic levels, trying to finish off all of the work I have neglected to do all semester. This year it is worse than ever, with the added bonus that this is my last semester, making motivating myself harder than ever. The important thing to focus on however is CHRISTMAS THINGS.

So with that, I will leave you my favorite Christmas song, to get everyone excited (or depressed, it is not the most cheerful of songs.) Happy December!

In other news, its 70º in November

I am very tired today, falling asleep on the train a record FOUR times this morning, so I really don’t have it in me to write a full blog post today- especially because I’m fairly certain the only people who read these are my dad, and I only know that because he always sends me concerned, “you-doing-ok-buddy?” emails after he reads them. (Thanks Dad!)

Anyways, today is very warm, and I have a cold, which is deeply unfortunate. It is also humid, and I hate humidity. Pressure systems that cause humidity are my least favorite kind of weather systems, in case anyone was curious.

Today is not a day to dwell on the negative though (global warming, people dying of ebola, all the work due before Christmas, the inevitability of me dying alone and unemployed in an alleyway being eaten by stray cats, etc.) Instead we will focus on positive things:

1. I did not watch the American Music Awards on TV last night, a decision that I feel will only improve my life going forward.

2. Thanksgiving is coming up, everyone’s favorite holiday. The perfect combination of food, family, and willfully forgetting our countries part in the genocide of millions of people over hundreds of years.

3. Pie! So many different kinds of pie are gonna be around this week- pumpkin, apple, pecan, and, if you are like me and have an Aunt from Texas, Chess pie! Woohoo pie!

4. It will probably be at least another 2 decades before global warming completely destroys the planet, and we are left in a situation my friend Jordana refers to as “real life Hunger Games”. That means there is plenty of time for to improve my wildlife survival skills before imminent doom.

5. Me being sick means I will probably be less hungry on Thanksgiving, and therefore will eat less, and be less likely to get diabetes.

 

On the Road Again

Whether it be seeing America or seeing the world, books about wanderers are awesome. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • On The Road– because, duh
  • Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman- Not really a novel, but this story of Chuck’s travels across America as he ruminates on ex girlfriends and dead rockstars is probably one of my all time favorite books. My friend Dan borrowed it about a year ago and never gave it back, and I’m still upset.
  • Between The Bridge and The River by Craig Ferguson-  Once again, this book is not quite a road trip story, but the fact that it does feature a true cross country adventure as well as multiple characters escaping to far off journeys makes it qualify, at least in my mind. Plus this book is really awesome.
  • Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston- This story is of a life time wanderer, and how her travels affect her personal life, and help her deal with a tragic pass. To be honest, I’m not as crazy about this book as about some of the others on this list, but it is still an interesting and well written take on “seeing America”
  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño- The characters in Bolaño’s best known work are all romantic, bohemian poets and revolutionaries, who spend their lives wandering around South American and Europe and creating art. This book is also one of my favorites, and I intentionally expanded the scope of this list beyond simply America simply so I could include it. In the past I have heard people compare Bolaño to others, calling him “the Chilean Keruoac” or something similar. I disagree with this assessment- I think Bolaño was a much better writer and a more interesting person. Remember: Everything that begins as a comedy ends as a tragedy
  • Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck- This road tripe novel follows Steinbeck, at the end of his life, traveling cross country with his dog Charley. Normally road trip books have more youthful protagonists and a more optimistic outlook, but this book- about an aging man watching as the America he once knew fades away- is more bittersweet.
  • Death Comes For The Archbishop by Willa Cather- This is another choice that does not quite fit, but in my mind at least, this beautiful, quiet novel about European Catholic priests making their home in the American south-west is all about the journey. At its core, the book is a meditation on faith, and the unity of human existence. Its about how even in foreignvcultures, like minded people can create a home.

Obviously, this list is far from complete- there are hundreds of great travel stories out there, most of which I probably haven’t read. Regardless, next time you are looking to get away for a while, I would recommend trying one of the above.

We got the Beats

For one of my classes this semester (Buddhism and the 20th Century Novel) I had to read Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. Previously, I had been very neutral towards beat authors. I’d read On The Road of course, and at some point in high school had read The Naked Lunch for reasons I do not recall, but I had never really gotten into the Beat literary scene the way a lot of other people I knew had. I had liked Kerouac well enough at the time, but there was other stuff to read, and to do. Plus I was at an age where a lot of the more philosophical ideas went over my head, as did the whole “Americana spirit” of Kerouac’s book.

Now, as an older person closer to the age of Kerouac, Ginsberg and the other authors when they wrote the books, I find I’m a lot more tolerant of their ramblings than I had been previously. There is something beautiful about the spirit and the fervor with which they consumed life. Of course there are aspects to many of the books that I hate- the sexism, the substance abuse, the collective inability to hold a steady job- but there is still a sort of innocence to the Beat writing that I can’t help but be seduced by.

Everyone, I think, at some point in their lives, has the urge to go drive off some day, and look for America. Reading Howl, On The Road, and other books like it pull on that urge, enticing the reader with their stories of rucksacks and Chevys and Benzedrine fueled parties. The Beats are far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean their writing aren’t thrilling, at least on a subconscious level.

My plan is to continue in this direction for at least a few months, and get a better taste of what the Beats have to offer, from a literary standpoint. So far on my list are the following books:

  • Big Sur– Another Kerouac, but I’ve heard good things about this novel, which is a little older than On the Road  and Dharma Bums. I wanted to check out some more Keroauc, and this seems like a good place to start.
  • Howl– I loved Howl  in high school, but I haven’t read it in years, and have honestly completely forgotten most of it at this point. Rereading Ginsberg’s most famous poetic work is next then.
  • Off The Road- This memoir of sorts was written by Carolyn Cassady, the former wife of Kerouac character Neal Cassady (aka Dean Moriarity, aka Cody Pomeroy.) I started this book over the weekend, and so far it has been a very tragic, albeit interesting read. Cassady’s story is that of the pregnant, abandoned wife who stays home while her husband’s off adventuring. Reading her story really highlights exactly how sexist society was at the time, even in the more liberal, hippie circles. Be warned: Anyone who idolizes Kerouac, Cassady, and others as “great men” may be in for a rude awakening after reading this account of how they treated the various women in their lives. The saddest part of the whole thing? To this day, after all Kerouac and Cassady did to her, Carolyn still loves them both.

Analyzing the New Taylor Swift Video

It is not exactly controversial to say that a lot of the time, the images of women put forth by pop culture are not always accurate, or necessarily representative of how actual females actually live. There are a whole host of problems with female representation ( or lack there of) which I will not get into here because a) it will be boring and preachy and b) you can find them literally everywhere else on the internet. All I will say about the subject is that, while there are countless female pop culture figures who I love and adore, there are many, many more who cause me endless disappointment. It is not so much that I am disappointed in them as people. They are adults and can do whatever the hell they want; they owe me nothing, and should be allowed to live their lives regardless of how I or any other stranger feels about them.  It is more just that I am disappointed sometimes by the lack of options girls or teens who are consuming pop culture have. Often I feel like the female representation I see, particularly in pop music, presents only one, very specification type of femininity, and it frustrates me.

Everything about this person, for example, frustrates me.

Everything about this person, for example, frustrates me.

The thing about complaining about pop culture though, particularly in terms of pop music, is that its boring and its mostly useless. At the end of the day, people are going to like what they like, and things that frustrate me will become popular, and that is the way that life is.  Audiences are allowed to consume what they enjoy, and that does not make them bad people or wrong or tasteless or anything like that. I respect the rights of the American population to enjoy what they enjoy, even if I do not. Because of this disparity, and my own mixed feelings about it, I frequently just ignore all the parts of popular culture that I do not like. I don’t hate them, I just pretend they don’t exist for the most part. But with the premiere of Taylor Swift’s new video for “Blank Space”, I can ignore it no longer. For better or for worse, I have watched this video 8 times in the past 2 days. Although my feelings toward T.Swift have previously been negative to completely indifferent, here she has created something that I can no longer ignore. Here she has created something that I can only love.

The Video

Some Reactions

– “I dunno. It’s very meme-able I guess? I feel confused by it, but I don’t hate it.”– my friend Jordana, who has perfect taste in everything

– “I did not like it. She looks like an old lady.”- Nusrat, being succinct

-“I watched it before. It was weird and I didn’t really like it. I can’t tell if she actually thinks she’s a bad ass now“- my roommate Steve, who was trying to watch New Girl

“lol its ok. I really like the clothes she wears and the guy is attractive too.”– my roommate Meghan, who was confused as to why I was asking her about a Taylor Swift video

-“I have not watched it.“- Becca, who hasn’t watched it

The Analysis 

As you can see from above, reviews are mixed. Some people found it weird, or too try hard. People who had previously liked Taylor Swift were turned off by it. People who were previously annoyed with Taylor Swift remained so. For me, however, this video completely changed my feelings. Before I had disliked Taylor Swift, while now I think, although she is still probably annoying, she might just be a hilarious secret genius. Because for me, this video is hilarious and pointed and has beautiful set direction. I LOVE it when women make fun of the “crazy female” stereotype. Better yet, I love it when they just own that stereotype. Guys love calling girls crazy. It is like their third favorite thing to call them, after slut and babe. So for me at least, having a major female pop star (especially one who’s persona I mostly abhor) embrace this label so openly, make fun of it even is awesome. Its made even more awesome by the fact that Swift does it on her own terms. She is still dressed like a weird mid-century princess, keeping to her normal, twee, Kennedy-esque aesthetic. She is not nearly naked or acting sultry for any part of the video. If anything, she seems to be doing the opposite. From the dramatic evening gowns and the red lipstick, to her lying on the floor with mascara streaming down her face, it seems clear that the video is appealing not to guys. It may even be actively repulsing them (I am not a straight man, so I cannot answer this question with any degree of certainty. This is just a suspicion I have.) The point, I suppose, is that at the end of the video, when Swift smiles sweetly at her new male suitor, I inwardly could not suppress a smile. Because it seemed like a direct response to all the criticism and teasing Swift had undergone throughout the years about her boyfriends, her telling everyone watching to go f*** themselves, and it was a message that I, for one, appreciated. Swift is not exactly “fixing” the problem of how females in pop music are presented or received, but she does seem to be presenting a tongue in cheek, satirical response to a stereotype I hate, and I like her more for it. Does that make me a fan of hers? Only time will tell.

Some Lingering Questions

Here are a few things to think about while you re-watch the video 3-4 times, as I’m sure everyone will:

1. Whose house is this? Why is she here on her own?

2. Is her boyfriend just using her for her money? Her house does seem very large, and there are lots of cars.

3. Why is there so much wildlife in this video? Is it all supposed to be symbolic of something? Innocence, perhaps, or incoming doom.  The deer in the house, and the image of her standing on top of a horse seem particularly troubling. But then again I am allergic to horses and afraid of nature, so that just might be me.

4. Have you ever painted an oil painting of your boyfriend/girlfriend? Is this something that you could see yourself doing in the future?

5. What is going on with the whole apple thing, at the bridge of the song? Is it biblical- the whole Adam and Eve, “forbidden fruit” thing? Or is it more of a snow white, poison apple reference? Or does she just like apples? Finally, when the male suitor bites into it, are we supposed to assume she poisons him?

6. I really like the part when they are fighting, and mouthing the words to the song. This is more of a comment than a question.

7. At the end she seems to be bashing in the expensive car with golf clubs- whose? Does Taylor golf? Do you think she is better or worse at it than President Obama?

I have more, but I will stop here for the sake of time. I hope everyone has a very TaySwif day. Don’t murder anyone.