Another Unprofessional Movie Review

I AM GOING TO TRY REALLY HARD NOT TO SPOIL INFINITY WAR BECAUSE I AM A DECENT HUMAN BEING, BUT HUMANS ARE FLAWED CREATURES SO FAIR WARNING.

Before I go into my thoughts about Infinity War, let me go back a couple of years.

It’s June of 2012. It’s the tail-end my freshman year of high school and I’m wandering around the halls, looking for something to do now that finals are over, but the school year hasn’t technically ended yet. On the second floor, I see my group of friends in the health classroom, so I walk in and one of the gym teachers is showing a movie. I stick around. The movie is blurry because it is a recording of a movie screen (in China, based on the subtitles), but the sound quality is good and you can more or less make out what’s going on at any given time, so as far as bootlegs go, it’s pretty high quality.

And that was the first time I watched The Avengers.

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I wouldn’t say it was a life-changing experience. I liked the movie enough to go back and rewatch all the ones I missed and I liked those movies enough to watch most of the new ones as they came out. After all, you can always trust Marvel to put out a good product. However, somewhere along the way, I got attached.

Fast-forward to 2018 and I’ve just watched Avengers: Infinity War with my group of friends at the Rutgers Cinema and already it’s a vastly improved first-viewing experience than the one I had almost six years ago.

(I’m not sponsored by Rutgers Cinema, but I should be. Call me and we’ll work something out! I’ll tell people that you’re movie theater is actually pretty good all day, every day.)   

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A lot has changed in the franchise since 2012, but at the same time, not much has changed either.

So, let’s this get out of the way:  

The visuals were awesome. The acting was great. It was two hours and forty minutes of the best six dollars I’d ever spent.

I’m most impressed with how the movie wasn’t a complete and utter trainwreck. It definitely had the potential to be one. The people making this film had the (un)enviable job of:

  • Juggling the 60+ Marvel characters that show up in this movie
  • Maintaining their characterization that was developed over multiple movies
  • Managing multiple, separate storylines that converge into one whole coherent plot that also fits within the overarching plot of the 18 other movies Marvel Studios has produced
  • Living up to the expectations of fans everywhere and they hype built up over the course of those aforementioned 18 movies
  • Making a lot of money. Like a stupid amount of money.
  • And just making a good movie

In my humble opinion, they succeeded.

My one complaint (which isn’t really a complaint at all, but I’ll get into all of that later) is that the movie never allows you to focus on a single character for too long. You’re never really just allowed to hold onto a single moment and process it. Something insane happened and then they cut to another completely insane thing. It’s miraculous that I was able to keep up with what was going on.

Maybe I’ve just gotten too used to the solo movies, where there’s one main character that we really got to focus on and know. In those movies, you really got a sense of who these characters are and what they were going through. I’m the kind of nerd that likes to see movies focus on the internal conflict as well as the external one and while there were definitely emotional moments, we weren’t really allowed to linger on them before something else demanded our attention. But maybe that’s the point of a cinematic universe.

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If you walked into Infinity War blind –  you’ve never watched a Marvel movie before, you don’t know who these characters are, you don’t know what they’ve been through, then what you got was a really entertaining movie. Maybe you were a little confused about who all of these people were and what their deal is, but after an hour in, you’ve more or less figured out enough to understand what was going on.

But the thing is, you’ve watched Marvel movies before (I’ve seen all of them except for Ant-Man and the second Thor movie), you know who these characters are and what they’ve been through. You know who they are, how they got here, how they’ve changed and grown. You know enough that you don’t just understand what’s going on in the movie, it means something to you. This movie is the pay off for the world that we’ve invested ourselves in for so many years. That’s why it can break our hearts. It took the shortcut that it created.

Also, the action was pretty cool and the Chrises, as usual, were very handsome.  Sebastian Stan was also very handsome.

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(My heart hurts. But it’s okay I’m fine. I’m fine.)

I didn’t really think about this until I sat down to write this post and I don’t mean to get my personal life all over this unprofessional movie review, but it says unprofessional in the title so you’re going to have to deal with it. I can’t help but think how much has changed since I first saw The Avengers.

I was a high school freshman in 2012, looking ahead to my future as if it was some sort of abstract concept. I was still in that happily ignorant bubble of “Well, I don’t have to decide anything now.” Now I’m a junior about to become a senior and (if you’ve talked to me at any point in the past two weeks, you’ve heard me say this, but for those of you who haven’t…) the future feels close now. It’s real now, I can see it, and if they’ve come up with a word that means “terrified and exhilarated and relieved and petrified at the same time”, I’m feeling just that.     

TLDR; I really enjoyed the movie, I was stressed out during the entirety of it, but I enjoyed it immensely and I literally can’t wait for the next Avengers movie to come out next year. Also, some stuff about me freaking out about the future. You know, the usual.

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The Importance of Self-Care

Occasionally, because I’m weird like that, I like to look up news about millennials because I’m curious about what industries we’re destroying today. So far it seems we’re destroying chain restaurants, diamonds, homeownership (though I would argue that’s not our fault), movie theaters and cable, and cereal. Keep up the good work guys, our plans to bring about the fall of society and the end of all things is right on schedule. I say we go after the lampshade industry next. They’ve had it too good for too long.

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Fairly Odd Parents is under-utilized in the current meme market.

(In case you’re not entirely sure what a millennial is: do not worry, you’re not the only one. The dictionary says that a millennial is someone who is reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century, which is incredibly vague.  Some people say millennials were born between 1970 to the 2000s, which would make me a millennial. Others make the cutoff 1996, which would not make me a millennial. It’s very confusing. My philosophy is that you know a millennial when you see one and you know a gen-z kid when you see one and anyone born between 1997-2000 is in some sort of uncomfortable middle, which accurately describes my current state in life so I’m cool with that definition.)

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However, one industry millennials don’t seem to be killing is the self-care industry, which doesn’t sound like a real industry, to be totally honest. It just kind of sounds like Lush, chocolate companies, ice cream companies, and candle companies just got together one day and said, “We’re an industry now, I guess.”

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Also apparently self-care is a generational thing and, along with avocado toast, is just another sign that millennials are just a bunch of raging, entitled narcissists, as if previous generations never just took a day to relax in their entire lives.

In my mind, that’s what self-care is. Just taking a day, or even just doing little things, to make our lives a little less stressful before we all lose our minds. You could make a day of it, just sit in your pajamas and eat ice and watch a movie, but the idea of doing nothing for a whole day when there are things I need to be doing gives my anxieties anxiety, so usually I stick to the little things. Things like getting something from the vending machine or getting a coffee/tea and thinking, “You know my day’s been kind of sucky. I deserve this.” Self-care is not ignoring all of my responsibilities because working hard doesn’t get me a participation trophy or whatever it is baby boomers think millennials do in between destroying capitalism and life as we know it.

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Life can get stressful sometimes. For a college student, sometimes life is stress. It’s unfortunate, but unavoidable. It means you care about what you’re doing. We’re all working to create the future we want to live and if that means taking a horrible class with a horrible professor, that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make. But just because you’re trying to create a better tomorrow, doesn’t mean you can’t take care of yourself today.

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So in honor of the one industry millennials were actually able to create, do something nice for yourself today. Buy a cookie! Light a candle! Watch just one more episode of that TV show! Go get that avocado toast! It’s not like we were ever going to be able to buy a house anyway!

Black Panther is a Good Movie

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR BLACK PANTHER.

I feel like the title doesn’t really convey what it really means when I say that it’s a Good Movie. It requires Capital Letters and italics and bold, maybe even underlining, which really can’t be shown in the title for this post so I’m going to do it here: Black Panther is a Good Movie.  

A friend and I went to see it last Friday at the Rutgers Cinema, which is a really good movie theater, actually.  It’s not huge and it doesn’t show all of the movies that are currently out, but it always has the movies I want to see. It also doesn’t hurt that the matinees cost $5.00 instead of the $13.29 that my local movie theater charges. As I’m a broke college student, things being cheap is really the only thing I need to make me happy.

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As a disclaimer, I’m not what some people would call a “movie buff”. First of all, I have no muscles so the word “buff” should never be applied to me in any way, shape, or form. Second, I’ve never taken a film class, I’m not a professional reviewer of anything (not that I wouldn’t mind having that job), and I haven’t even watched all of the Marvel movies. But you don’t need to be a professional food critic to know if something tastes like garbage or tastes amazing, so without further ado let’s get on with my completely unqualified movie “review.”

Let’s get this out of the way: the movie is gorgeous, the cast is amazing, the music is incredible. It’s action-packed and funny and heart-wrenching, and it’s incredibly poignant and resonant with the current political atmosphere.

(There has been a lot of talk lately about people like celebrities, athletes and people in the entertainment industry in general should stay out of politics. They should leave that talk to the politicians and experts. But, the thing is, a world in which only politicians and “experts” have the ability to talk about politics is not the kind of world I want to live in.)

If you somehow haven’t heard, Black Panther takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe following King T’Challa, who had recently ascended to the throne of the fictional African country of Wakanda after the death of his father, King T’Chaka, during the events Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa, the titular Black Panther, has returned to Wakanda and finds himself embroiled in a conflict that could be described as one between tradition and innovation. The entire movie, in fact, could be thought of as a conflict between tradition and innovation, as said by the film’s director, Ryan Coogler.

And again, I’m not an expert, but it is pretty cool to see a movie with a primarily Black cast that doesn’t involve slavery, the Civil Rights era, or gang violence. In my opinion, not that movies about those things are bad movies, but it can often be stereotyped to be the only settings where pre-dominantly Black actors are cast for.

That is not to say that the movie doesn’t touch upon these ideas. The film constantly mentions that Wakanda is a country that was never colonized and it never experienced the slave trade. It’s a thriving technological utopia on a continent the some people still think is populated by zebras and people living in huts. The movie even plays with that idea by using the image of hut-dwelling zebra (or rhino, in this case) herders to hide their true nature from the outside world.

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That’s another thing about Black Panther that was really interesting. Wakanda is an incredibly isolationist country. Much of the tradition vs. innovation conflict is driven by the Wakandans’ intense desire to preserve their way of life and their fear of being exploited by foreign powers. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, then you haven’t been paying attention to the news nor have you opened a history book in your entire life.

Wakanda may not have been touched by the slave trade, but they saw it happen and they saw its effects on African people. You can see why they’re not too eager to mix with the rest of the world. However, Wakanda is a powerful nation with advanced technology that people can only dream of at this point. Nothing short of an alien invasion could destroy Wakanda and its way of life. As seen in the movie, it’s a country that’s strong enough to welcome the outside world and maintain its traditions and way of life.

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It’s passivity and isolation is another driving force in the movie’s conflict and its fear of outsiders can be seen as a reflection of U.S. politics and the ongoing debate on foreign aid and immigration. Ultimately, this movie is about compassion for other people and leaves you with this final message: If you have the power to help people, you should.

(If you want the movie’s actual final message, not including the final after-credits scene, it’s this: “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.”)

My One (1) New Year’s Resolution

Maybe it’s because I can never stick to them, but I really only made one (1) New Year’s Resolution this year in the hopes that I could just focus all of my energy into following through. About a month into the year, I’m probably managing it about 30% of the time, but, you know, I’m a work in progress.

Now, before I tell you what my one (1) resolution actually is, I just want to say that I don’t want to come across like one of those cheesy motivational posters that have a picture of a landscape with some cheesy slogan underneath it that just seems empty of everything it’s trying to say. I also don’t want to come across as some sort of sad, Eeyore of a person (No offense to Eeyore. I love Eeyore.)

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One of the good ones

It’s just…unless you’ve been living underneath a rock for the past few years, you know the world has more or less plunged into total chaos – politically, economically, culturally, socially, a dozen other “ly”s that I’m not at all qualified to talk about. It’s exhausting. It’s terrifying. It’s also kind of surreal and baffling.

And maybe we’re feeling the brunt of this uncertainty because we’re in the most uncertain times of our lives. I live in a constant state of not knowing what I’m doing with my life and uncertain of the future in general. Throw in the vague possibility of a nuclear war and you’ve got yourself a recipe for existential terror.  

2016, I think, was the year when everyone realized that the world was falling apart and therefore started to make memes about dying. They were funny, not really all that serious, but they tapped into this weird impulse in people that I can’t really describe, but I’m going to go ahead and try. I guess it was a sort of gallows humor, making light of a seemingly hopeless situation, trying to find laughter in events that really weren’t that funny at all.

There’s nothing wrong with that. As far as coping mechanisms go, laughter is the best medicine for a reason. But, I don’t know, eventually even joking about the terrible things happening got exhausting. (I, personally, turned to wholesome memes for comfort.)

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It died down a little in 2017, but 2017 is also the year we began to truly feel the effects of everything that had happened in 2016 so 2017, I feel, was a year of all of us trying to reorient ourselves to our reality that no one particularly liked, trying to figure out where we stand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the internet, maybe a little bit too much, but the internet has bestowed upon us the ability to consume every bit of terrible news that happens. It got to the point where I wasn’t even really surprised anymore – horrified, yes, but not surprised – and it formed the expectations that bad things were going to happen.

I’ll get to my one (1) resolution soon, but first, a brief anecdote:

I took a class about postmodern literature last semester because I’m an English major and that’s just the kind of thing we do. One of postmodernism’s things is deconstruction, taking things apart and breaking them down and seeing what makes them tick. Towards the end of that class, I asked myself, “So if nothing is definite and everything is subjective, what do we do now?” It’s not like we can change the fact that everything is a construction. And then I thought my own question, “Well, there’s really only one thing we can do.”

My one (1) resolution is to keep going on and think positively while doing it. I’m trying to go into 2018 an optimist and like I said, I’m probably managing it about 30% of the time, but it’s a start. The world is terrifying and confusing and I am terrified and confused, but nothing about that is going to change if I just go through life thinking everything is going to end badly.  

Maybe you’re already an optimist and I’m just saying things that are obvious to you and I sound like a robot who’s learning what love is for the first time.

But if you’re anything like me, who tries not to hope too hard so she won’t be disappointed, maybe a little positivity will make a big difference.

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So if you’re going through life asking yourself:

“What do we do now?”

Keep your head high and believe that good things will happen if you try to make them happen.

(I almost made my one (1) 2018 resolution “Get my life together”, but I’m trying to be optimistic, not unrealistic).

Stop and Think Before Eating that Turkey

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving – I love the food, I love spending time with my family, I love the sentiment behind it, and I really, really love the break from school –  but I think it’s also important to recognize and acknowledge its history while we’re celebrating it. It’s especially important when you consider recent events: the Keystone Pipeline – which, if you recall, was heavily protested by Native Americans – leaked over 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota a few days ago.

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We learn in elementary school that we celebrate Thanksgiving to honor the first harvest of the Pilgrims after Native Americans had helped them learn how to farm and survive on the land after arriving what eventually would become the United States of America.
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We draw hand turkeys, make little paper dolls of pilgrims and Native Americans, and watch Pocahontas, learning  how the pilgrims and Native Americans hated each other, but came together after clearing up some misunderstandings and they all live happily ever after.

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As we get older, we learn that really wasn’t the case. I mean, there was a feast celebrating the harvest around Thanksgiving time that was celebrated by about 50 Europeans and 90 Native Americans. That’s true. The “happily ever after”? Not so much. In reality, Pocahontas was was about 9 or 10 when John Smith came to America. When she was 15 or 16, she was kidnapped by the English, forced to marry John Rolfe, then died when she was 20.

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They changed her name to Rebecca, too

People don’t like to talk about this, but that’s why it needs to be said: this country’s history is not without the suffering of Native peoples and, as a nation, we still have progress to make in alleviating the long-term effects of that suffering. 

There’s the Keystone Pipeline, first of all, which was protested for, as we know now, 100% valid environmental concerns and the potential destruction of sacred Native American lands and burial sites. Native American reservations, which were lands that the US government allowed the Native tribes to live on (despite the fact that they were here first), have low standards of living and the people who live there suffer from high rates of poverty, substandard housing, lack of utilities like electricity and running water, and sub-par health services.

Then there are things like this:

This was from a textbook assigned to Canadian third graders. Recently. Thankfully, backlash on social media caused the textbooks to be recalled, but, frankly, it is 2017. This shouldn’t have happened in the first place. We shouldn’t have schools telling our children that the Native peoples “agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.”

And there are the little things, like the name of that Washington football team or the fact that people still dress up as “Indians” on Halloween, like their culture is a costume, like they’re not real. It’s the fact that they’re treated like second-class citizens despite the fact that they were here first.

I’m not saying people should stop celebrating Thanksgiving – that’s not what I’m trying to communicate here. In my opinion, I feel that people have certain ideas about the history of Thanksgiving and the colonies that need to be corrected. Eat the turkey and the gravy and the mashed potatoes (I know I will, and to excess), give thanks to everything you’re thankful for, and spend time with your family watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. However,  also be mindful of history. It’s as important as your present.

 

So I Lost My Phone…

I’ve got four exams next week so let’s make this quick.

I’ve always meant to talk about this whole incident, I just never got around to it for whatever reason. Maybe I was just blocking it out of my memory.

Looking backing on this, I’m the biggest idiot to ever live on the face of this earth, but never mind that! On to reliving horrible, stressful memories!

I had just come back from dinner with my roommates and I was looking for my phone. I couldn’t find it, but I wasn’t too worried because I’d misplace it all the time. It was in a white  case, I had a white bedspread, and my eyes are awful even when I’m wearing my glasses (I should probably get that checked out) so at this point not knowing where my phone is was part of the normal routine.

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I asked my roommate to call my phone and I didn’t hear anything, which made me incredibly Uneasy. Then roommate says that instead of ringing, she went straight to voicemail, which made me quite Nervous, because I knew my phone wasn’t dead so it had to be off.

So I ran back to the dining hall and asked very calmly and collectedly to be let back in so I can see if I left my phone at the table and therefore be set free from this swirling vortex of fear, anxiety, and self-hatred. I didn’t just lose my phone. I had lost my debit card and my Rutgers ID and my state ID and whatever tenuous control I had over my life.

I spent the next four days obsessively checking Find My iPhone just in case the heinous thief who had stolen my phone and turned it off suddenly became wildly incompetent at stealing phones. No such luck.

Let me just say that this story has a happy ending. My phone, debit card, Rutgers ID, and state ID turned up eventually.

But for the phone days I was phone-less, life was very difficult in ways I didn’t expect.

The lack of contact with my friends was strange. My friends and family were kind enough to switch all conversations to Facebook now that texting wasn’t an option (My dad just emailed me, but he did that anyway so there wasn’t much adjustment there), but I could only interact with them while I had access to a computer, which wasn’t always. So that was a bit odd.

without-my-cell-phone-i-wont-be-able-toYou also never realize how much you appreciate being able know anything at any time. How did people in the olden times do it? We have the power to find out breaking news in a country thousands of miles and also how tall Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is whenever we want. Appreciate that, kids. You’ll never know when that power will go away.

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I never knew when the buses were coming. I never knew what time it was. What if one of my professors suddenly sends out an email canceling class while I was on my way to that class? That never happens, but what if? Not having my phone felt oddly isolating. It was like I was cut off from the rest of the world and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.  

Anyway, on Monday I got an email saying that my lost property had been found and I could pick it up from Public Safety Building. Thank the Lord! I almost left in the middle of class to go get it, but there were only twenty people there so I figured it would be kind of obvious if I left.

So as soon as I could, I go to Public Safety Building and wait a good half-hour for the guy who returns lost items (AKA The Most Wonderful Man In The World) to get back from his lunch break and then my phone was returned to me, my debit card and IDs perfectly intact.

“So where was it?” I asked, turning over my phone in my hands to make sure that it was real. I could hear choirs singing in my head.

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“Oh, on the bus,” said The Greatest Man Who Has Ever Lived Or Will Live.  “Have a good one!”

“Thank you, kind sir! I shall name my firstborn after you!”

(I didn’t say that. That’d be weird.)

I was a little confused about how my phone ended up on a bus because I am 100% sure I left it at the dining hall. I’m pretty sure someone took it, but did they have a change of heart? Did they look at my ID picture and think, “No, the world has done enough to this unfortunate soul”? Was my phone just really easy to lose? I may never know.

It was definitely an interesting experience living without my phone for a few days. Would I repeat it? No. (Have I? Yes, against my will.) And I’m sure one could say all sorts of insightful things about technology’s effects on society and how people experience the world. How connected everything is these days, friends and strangers and information.

But like I said, I have four exam next week, so I guess you guys can think about it. Maybe leave your phone and go on a walk and you’ll see what I mean. But make sure you know where you leave your phone and not leave it up to the will of the universe whether or not you get it back.

 

It’s that time of the year again

If you are the type of person who likes to go through the posts of individual bloggers and search from recurring themes in their lives, then you might have noticed that I have a Thing about growing older and also the subjective nature of time. Therefore, it must be no surprise to you that I am once again writing a blog post about growing older and the subjective nature of time.
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It’s probably the beginning of the year getting to me. I’m a junior, you know, which means all sorts of things such as the beginning of the end of “I’m an adult but I’m not a real adult” portion of my life. Which is terrifying to think about, let alone experience.

I know that one day I’m going to have the benefit of hindsight and I’ll be able to see that I was freaking out over nothing. Everything turned out fine and my best years were ahead of me.

But this isn’t hindsight yet. This is just plain old sight and I don’t like what I’m seeing. At least I can be comforted by the fact that I’m not the only one going through this at the moment. Every time I try bring this up to my friends they tell me to shut up. Instead of hurting my poor, delicate feelings, this comforts me. It’s one thing to freak out about the future, it’s a whole other thing to freak out about the future alone.

Besides the beginning of the year, I have another thing to blame for this acute sense of impending doom. I was cleaning my room the other day because the mess had finally become unbearable and I couldn’t walk through my room without stepping on something that may have been important once before it had met the bottom of my foot. While I was finding yet another missing sock, I had spotted my high school yearbook underneath a layer of dust.

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First of all, I didn’t realize that high school was so long ago it had time to accumulate dust. I also didn’t realize that three years is long enough to forget half of the people in your graduating class existed.

I remember,though,  very clearly the teacher who had run the yearbook going on this whole spiel about how important the yearbook was and I sort of half-listened while she was doing it, but I guess enough time has passed for me to get what she was trying to say. It was kind of like holding a little bit of my history in my hands and I hadn’t realized enough time had passed for it to become history.

High school didn’t feel all that long ago, but it was. Neither did my first year of college, but enough time has passed for me to change and stay the same. How is it that the first two weeks of school can feel like they lasted three years, but three years can feel like they happened two seconds ago?

I don’t know.  

But it doesn’t matter how time feels, because time will pass whether you feel like it should or not.

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this was my actual yearbook quote in case you were wondering how far back this whole time Thing goes

And now I walk forward into the great unknown (this feels like I’m referencing something, but if I am, I have no idea what it is) and I know I spent the majority of this post sounding terrified, and I am, but I’m also kind of excited. I wonder how that can be too.

 

You’ll Have to Pry My Harry Potter Obsession out of My Cold, Dead Hands

Today I want to talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart:

Harry Potter.

I had first read the Harry Potter series when I was around nine or ten years old, definitely before Deathly Hallows was published in 2010 because I have distinct memories of my mother pre-ordering the book for me and then waiting impatiently for it to arrive. I had seen the movies before then, of course, because it was almost impossible not to (though I do know of certain exceptions) but it wasn’t until I read the books that I became, and I’ll admit this, obsessed.

I’m not ashamed to admit this, though I probably should be. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry Potter (I frequently wonder what I could be and all the things I would be able to do if 30% of my  brain wasn’t devoted to ‘useless Harry Potter trivia’).  In the weeks leading up to the premiere of the sixth movie, Half-Blood Prince, I’d read the entire series non-stop. A week long cycle of  “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much” to “All was well.” I must have read each book ten times that week, but I was twelve so I didn’t really have anything better to do.

I’ve seen the movies more times than I can count and every time I watch them I feel like it’s the first time. My friends and I won a Harry Potter trivia contest after three tie-breakers. I got a Pottermore account as soon as I could and was Sorted (and yes, I used a capital letter for that) into Ravenclaw, just as I knew I would even though I’m terrible at solving riddles.

“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure!”

But it was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one who was obsessed. I wasn’t even the most obsessed. Fans have gone on to make three entire musicals, a puppet show, a convention, fan art, fan fiction, cosplay, and countless other things that I probably don’t know about, which is a level of devotion and commitment that kind of scares me, to be honest. 

I loved Harry Potter when I was growing up and if you look at it from a certain perspective I’m still growing up, so I love Harry Potter with all my heart even now, when I haven’t had the time to read the Harry Potter books in an endless loop since I was about fifteen. The books were my childhood.  They were an entire generation’s childhood. We grew up with them and it seemed the books grew up right along with us as we grew up with Harry.  The later books in the series hit on some pretty dark themes, now that I look back on them now that I’m older. They touch on things like death, fascism, racism, war, sacrifice packaged up nearly in a story about wizards and magic. It strikes me now just how young everyone was. Lily and James Potter were only 21 when they died. Harry was 17 when he finally defeated Voldemort for good. I’m three years older than him and I can barely manage feed myself let alone save the world. When you’re nine or ten, 17 and 21 seem ancient, but not really.

I often wonder how Harry Potter grew to be so popular, the science of it, I guess. What exactly was it that caused Harry Potter to hit that thing in our brains that launched it into the cultural juggernaut that it is today (and will continue to be, she thinks hopefully). 

Was it the writing? The part of me that finds hyper-analyzing every little aspect of my life incredibly fun wants to say yes. That the setting, the plot, the style, the tone, the dozens of literary terms that I could shove in this sentence but I won’t because sometimes I forget what the all mean were all so brilliant and well-crafted that they impelled Harry Potter to fame. And  get me wrong, those things are definitely a part of it, but I’m not so besotted to say that the Harry Potter books are the best books ever written. Of all time. It’s a children’s book about wizards and not all well written books achieve this level of…I don’t even know what to call it. Impact? Adoration? Who knows. 

Maybe it was a matter of right place, right time? It hit just at the right time for an entire generation to get hooked.

Maybe the magical world Rowling created hit just the right spot between fantasy and reality. “Harry Potter goes to school just like me but he learns magic. He gets to take classes on charms and how to turn goblets into ravens. They learn about spells and hexes and there are flying cars and talking spiders and dragons! Dragons! That’s so cool! I wish that was me!” I still wish that was me, to be honest.

Still waiting for mine

Maybe it was a combination of both. Maybe it was a lot of other things. Maybe it was magic. Who knows?

But Harry Potter is not without its flaws. It’s been criticized for its LGBT and minority representation. Confirming that Dumbledore is gay in an interview is not the same as confirming it in the books. Rowling’s depiction of Native American culture in Pottermore was tone-deaf.   

But nothing’s perfect and nothing has to be perfect (as long as, of course, you don’t try to pretend that it’s perfect in the first place. It’s important to be critical of the things you love.) 

I love the Harry Potter books and will continue to do so for the rest of my life (probably). So I’ll read the supplemental material on Pottermore, I’ll read the play, I’ll watch the Fantastic Beasts movies, I’ll go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter someday, and do or buy whatever other thing corporate executives come up with to suck money from poor, innocent millennials who love Harry Potter.

Just take my money

I know it may seem weird to still be so obsessed, but isn’t it nice when a lot of people love something this much?

 

Thoughts from 39,000 Feet Up

I write these words while I fly from New Jersey to California –  passing over Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, the whole middle of America that I sometimes forget exists – as I realize that I am on a time machine.

do wee oooooh

Well, I’m on a plane, but your mind goes to a special place when you’ve been sitting in between a baby that alternates between being heart-meltingly adorable and the worst thing on planet earth at random intervals, and your mother, who seems to need to use the bathroom every half an hour, for the past who-knows-how-many hours. When you’re in that special place, an airplane and a time machine are the same thing.

I say this because the plane had taken off from Newark International Airport at 11:00 AM and will arrive in LAX at 1:00 AM after spending five hours and nineteen minutes in the air. If this sounds like the set-up to a weird riddle, let me tell you that the answer right now is time zones. There are two hours between 11:00 AM and 1:00 AM  and there are five hours between 11:00 AM and 1:00 AM and both of these things are somehow true at the same time. I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost three hours that I know I had somewhere. Where did they go?

(Okay I know where they went. I watched like five hours of Chopped in two hours while pretending the complementary trail mix was the wagyu beef in the mystery basket. Also, funnily enough one of the contestants on one of the episodes was from Jersey City, went to Rutgers, and made a fat sandwich for the appetizer. I was morally obliged to support her no matter what. The episode was the Midnight Snack Attack episode, if anyone’s curious).

Chef John is Me and I am Chef John

I think I have this obsession with time. Actually, that isn’t an “I think” statement. I know I have this weird obsession with time and if you know me in real life, you know I like to say that time is fake and maybe that’s true. Maybe time is a social construct, a system designed to measure the space between one moment and the next, and the only thing that is real are those moments themselves, but it feels real. And if it feels real then can it be fake?

Apparently I get philosophical when I’m on an airplane, or maybe this is the result of running on four hours of sleep for the past couple of days, but if I can’t think weird thoughts while sitting a metal tube hurling through the sky at who-know-how-many miles per hour, where and when can I? I’m living in a missing hour in the middle of nowhere in particular. The world is a strange place.

I don’t know why, but this felt appropriate

Right now it’s 12:05 PM but it is also 1:05 PM, just like it’s also 11:05 AM and 10:05 AM based on where the sun is in the sky? Is that what time is? A measure of the way the sun hits the Earth at any given moment? I wonder.

The Process ™ (patent pending)

Sometimes Writer’s Block (and yes, those words do deserve Capital Letters) happens and sometimes Writer’s Block happens while you’re trying to write a blog post. In case I’m not being totally clear, sometimes that person who is suffering from Writer’s Block while trying to write a blog post is me. So I thought I would take this time to discuss my writing process in a most likely futile attempt to become inspired to write something less meta. If you are reading this with your eyes, I have failed. So without further ado, here is what I lovingly and hatefully refer to as The Process (note: This Process is applicable to both academic papers, blog posts, and anything in between):  

Step 1: Brainstorm an Idea

Sometimes you have ideas and sometimes you write them on a Post-it note at 4 AM after shaking yourself out of the dream that had given you this glorious idea. In a tired haze of regret over having gone to sleep at 3 AM and with enough frantic energy to get you out of bed, you search for a Post-it note in the post-apocalyptic wasteland you dare to call a “desk” and you jot down whatever brilliant idea the dream goblins had given you. And sometimes you wake up at 10 AM and read that Post-it note and that Post-it note says sometimes along of the lines of “EGGS AREN’T REAL” or “TIME IS FAKE!!!!!” or “If he could’ve he would’ve but he didn’t so he can’t,” the last of which actually being a succinct analysis of Satan’s rationale against the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God in Book 6 of Paradise Lost so sometimes things work out in the end.

Step 2: Do Literally Anything But the Thing You are Supposed to Be Doing

There is this thing that I do that I like to call Productive Procrastination (another thing I like to do, apparently, is to arbitrarily capitalize Certain words When i want to assign Them Significance). Productive Procrastination is defined as “the act of doing literally anything but the thing you are supposed to be doing.” I got an entire semester’s worth of homework done while I was trying to avoid writing an 8-page paper. Some examples of Productive Procrastination include:

  • Cleaning your room
  • Doing your dishes
  • Taking out the trash
  • Taking a shower
  • Redecorating
  • Deep cleaning your entire house
  • Doing this week’s psych homework
  • Doing next week’s psych homework
  • Doing the entire semester’s psych homework
  • Making a Spotify playlist with the music that you will write this epic A+++++ paper to
  • Repainting your mother’s bathroom
  • Taking a nap

And so it goes.

Step 3: Stare at Your Empty Document for Five Ten Fifteen Twenty Minutes

Feel the deadline come closer and closer until your anxiety compels you to write something, anything, before it’s too late.

Perfect.

Step 4: Write. Just write. Just get it over with. You know you’re going to write another draft anyway.

Step 5: Think “Hey, this actually isn’t so bad! Why did I wait so long to start this? Why did I go all the way back home to repaint the bathroom???”

Step 6: Realize that it is just as bad as you think. Oh god, why is this happening to me? Dear God, why?

somewhere along the way, this became a Buzzfeed article

Step 7: Scream.

you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain

Step 8: Finish your draft!

It’s terrible. It’s a garbage paper and you are a garbage person. This paper is a sin against both Nature and the English Language, but it exists and, frankly, that’s all it needs to do.

Your thoughts just need to exist somewhere on paper. They could be good thoughts or bad thoughts or right thoughts or wrong thoughts, but you can’t really tell what kind of thoughts they are until you see them.

Step 9: Write It Again

And then when you see them, you can decide what to do from there. No piece of writing exists perfectly the first time. Or the second. Maybe the third. Maybe.

What I’m trying to say is that if you’ve got a paper to write or a blog post or a story or something, honestly the hardest part is just starting.

So just write and write and write and write and somewhere along the way, you’re going to find something you like buried in the mess of your ideas.

So, yeah, anyway this is how I write papers. It’s a miracle I can get anything done. If anything I hope that this shows you that there’s actually no wrong way to write a paper as long as you actually write the paper.