Education & Action

I'm a firm believer in the power and necessity of education. When I look around the country right now, I see how much I do not know and do not fully understand. With that in mind, I've compiled a reading list of books to help me better understand race and racism in the United States. They aren't in any particular order or grouping: it's merely a list of books that were recommended by various articles as to what I should read to educate myself. I'm publishing this list to encourage others to educate themselves as well, whether that's through your own list of books or whatever medium you choose.

However, education at this time is nothing without action. After my reading list is a list of actions to take, as a white person, to combat racism and white supremacy in the United States. Both of these lists will probably be updated and altered.

Books

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Why Can’t We Wait? by Martin Luther King Jr.

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement by Kimberle Crenshaw

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue

Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism, and History by Vron Ware

The Impossible Will Take a Little While by Paul Rogat Loeb

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela David

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt by Sarah Jaffe

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcom X

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi

Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank Wu

Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire by Deepa Kumar

No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border by Justin Akers Chacon and Mike Davis

When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World by Greg Jobin-Leeds

The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundani

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev

Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg

Action

Don't stand for racism, however "small" or "casual." If it is safe for you to speak up, do so.

If you have children, talk to them about what's happening. The age of "colorblindness" is over (not that is ever truly existed). We need to raise our children not only to accept everyone, but to embrace and cherish differences.

Don't just listen to white people. This is surprisingly easy to do, depending on where you live and what your social media bubble is. Make an effort to seek out voices that are different than yours (this is good for widening your mind, but it also makes your life more interesting).

Believe people when they share their experiences with you, even if those stories are outside your life experience.

Do not require POC to educate you. The people on Twitter you would want to ask questions often have already written and spoken about these issues. Do your own research, the answers will usually already be out there.

Work to elevate the voices of POC and never try to speak over them.

Think about the ways that you benefit from white supremacy. You do. No one's asking to be guilty for being white, but you do have a responsibility to use the power you have. Other people are using that power to terrorize and kill people. The time for neutrality is over.

Consider your own language and actions. Are you unintentionally reinforcing white supremacy to others or within yourself?

Don't get mad when people complain about "white people." There are so many other things to deal with right now, and they are a lot more important. If what they're saying resonates with you, consider to yourself why that is, and think about what you change within yourself to make their concern not apply to you.

If you make a mistake: apologize, seek to correct it if possible, make sure you understand what you did wrong, and make sure you will do better next time.

Think about what's going locally and what you can do and say in your community.

Contact your representatives, from local to national, to encourage good behavior and to condemn their failures. Be loud about this, to them and to others.

Go to protests. Tragically, there is no guarantee of safety for anyone at protests, but it's important that those who are less at risk (white people, able-bodied people, etc.) make the effort to be there, not only to support the cause but to help protect people who are more at risk.

Take care of yourself. Take breaks from the news/twitter/activism when you need to or you'll burn out.

Donate to causes you believe in and that are doing effective work.

Support good journalism on a local and national level.

Speak out against false equivalence and poor reporting.

Help people register to vote and get to the polls.

Vote.

The Politics of Tech T-Shirts

I was in San Jose during WWDC, and it was pretty much me and 10,000 white men.

Alright, that’s an unfair characterization. Not because there weren’t an overwhelming number of white men there, because there definitely were, but because there were also many spectacular women and people of color doing amazing work. I don’t want to diminish the presence and accomplishments of those developers and designers, some of whom I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with. Still, purely because of numbers, it felt very weird to be a young woman here.

My experience here is vastly different from a lot of other non-white-straight-men around WWDC, as I am not a developer (or even work in tech at all, really), and was not attending the actual conference. The experiences of people who are different than me, in those two ways but also in terms of race, gender identity, disability, and other variations influence the way they perceive and are perceived in a space that is dominated by one particular kind of person.

With that important clarification out of the way, I want to talk about my personal experiences here, especially as someone adjacent to a lot of people who are both part of that dominant demographic and command an amount of power in this space.

More specifically, I want to talk about tech t-shirts.

There’s a way to look like you belong a tech conference. Step one: be white. (That one I’ve got.) Step two: be male. (Not so much.)

If you’ve got steps one and two down, congratulations! If you’re also able-bodied, you will fit in 99% of the time at tech conferences without any additional effort.

I can’t speak on behalf of people of color and people with disabilities, but I do have a lot of thoughts about what makes a woman look like they “belong” at WWDC. Bold makeup is definitely a risk--winged eyeliner or bright lipstick would stick out like a well-decorated thumb. As far as shirts go, you can’t go wrong with a clearly branded t-shirt from a tech company or podcast. If you don’t have a tech t-shirt, best to stick to muted colors and basic t-shirt or collared styles--tank tops, dresses, and off-the-shoulder shirts aren’t going to fit in.

It isn’t hard to see the pattern here--femininity is out. Femininity isn’t banned, but it is “other.”

While I was at the conference, I started wearing more feminine outfits, and gradually transitioned to shirts that fit in better with the WWDC crowd. It wasn’t necessarily a choice to blend in--the implicit style rules honestly made me want to wear tech shirts less, but overall I was conscientious about not letting them influence my clothes choices one way or another.

Wearing a red plaid dress at WWDC made me feel like I was undercover. No one would guess I was there for the tech conference by looking at me, and as I walked by scores of people in WWDC jackets, I knew they had no idea I knew exactly who they were.

When I was spending time with other WWDC attendees, I got far fewer sideways looks from strangers when I was in a t-shirt than when I was in a dress. I even got some smiles from other women in tech clothes, like we were in a secret club together. On the other hand, when I was in feminine clothes, I felt more like I didn’t belong there. I had to remind myself that my clothing didn’t mean anything besides the fact that it was hot and I was more comfortable in a dress.

When I spoke to other women at the conference about this feeling, they emphatically agreed with me. They also felt the implicit dress code, and the give-and-take between feeling comfortable in one’s clothes and feeling comfortable in the group.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing tech t-shirts. I don’t think there was anyone there who felt forced to wear them to fit in, I think it was a gathering of thousands of nerds who were happy and excited to show off their coding jokes and technology companies. But why do women have to feel pressure to express themselves through their clothes, whether by conforming or rebelling against the dress standards? Why can’t femininity belong in this space just as much as a unisex t-shirt? Who decides who gets to look like they belong?

I do think this balance is shifting, and I’m glad. My hope is not that people will stop wearing tech t-shirts, but that they can also wear dresses without feeling like they don’t belong.

Quinn Rose, Writer

I changed my Twitter bio. The first word is now “writer.”

Cut to my poor, neglected blog, and then zoom in on my imposter syndrome.

I write things, dammit. I’ve been writing my entire life, and am not completely hopeless at it. It’ll take me a long time before I’m as good as I want to be, but that’s true for everything I do, so we’ll leave that point aside for now. The real question is, why did I edit and upload a seven minute video in the time between starting this blog post and actually settling in to finish it?

For me, writing is the most vulnerable thing I produce, for two reasons. While I often don’t say things as concisely or poignantly as I wish while podcasting, I also don’t feel too much pressure to make my off-the-cuff words perfect. When I write, it’s only me and my words. I’m not protected by a co-host, background music, or a laugh. It’s hard for me not to feel like everything I publish needs to meet some arbitrary measure of quality, or it’s not worth putting out there in the world. As we all know, pretending that something needs to be perfect in order to be complete is a surefire strategy for Never Finishing Anything.

Videos are similar in that regard, and I also focus on much less personal topics on my YouTube channel than in my writing. I didn’t even fully realize this until I recorded my one year anniversary video, in which I did speak a little bit about personal difficulties, and it was so difficult to talk about on camera that I recorded for over 40 minutes to make a 12 minute video. Writing, on the other hand, is how I express everything that is most difficult for me to talk about. I have a journal set aside for the singular purpose of getting my thoughts out when I feel like my head is going to burst from whatever is ricocheting around it, whether that be pain, joy, or something I can’t figure out until I spill it onto the page.

While it’s easier to mask the intense vulnerability of writing when I’m working on fiction, the pressure for it to be great feels impossible. When I’m writing personal essays, the writing can be bad (and I’m sure it often is), but there are fewer balls in the air. In my fiction so many things can go wrong--are my characters one-dimensional? Does my plot make sense? Are my themes too obvious? Is my setting boring? Will they see the ending coming?

It is actually stressing me to write all those questions down.

In conclusion, I’m insecure about writing, and that insecurity makes me lazy about it.

I don’t believe that you have to publish anything in order identify as a writer. If you write, you are a writer, that’s simply the definition. However, the reasons I haven’t been publishing much are completely unsatisfactory to me. In my case, I know writing and publishing more frequently will improve my work and my own sense of myself.

So, I changed my Twitter bio. I’m back in front of my keyboard, determined to put things on the internet, even before I’m sure they’re any good. To be fair, that strategy has been working pretty well for me so far. I hope that soon, you’ll see my byline on other places on the web. For now, you can find me here.

International Women's Day 2017

Happy International Women's Day, everyone!

To celebrate, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite lady YouTubers and podcasts. I really encourage you to check them all out because they are all incredible.

YouTube:

Dodie Clark. Beautiful music, incredible videos ranging from the silly to the heartbreakingly vulnerable, and my total queer crush.

Just Between Us. Speaking of queer crushes, Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin's comedy sketch channel is one of my watch-every-single-one channels.

Tessa Violet. Another musician (I highly recommend her video for Not Over You, it makes me so happy) and delightful vlogger.

Rosianna Halse Rojas: One of the backbones of the YouTube community, and a quietly brilliant vlogger.

Sabrina Cruz. Absolutely hilarious. I'm amazed at how consistently she makes quality entertaining and educational videos.

Anna Akana. Speaking of consistent quality, no one inspires me to make better videos like Anna does. Unbelievably creative and hard-working.

Hannah Witton. Sex education, advice (some to follow, some to definitely not), and an unbelievably charming video maker.

Taylor Behnke. I'm inspired by her every word. One of the strongest people out there.

Akilah Hughes. Brilliant social commentary and hilarious sketch comedy.

Alison. I just think she's so funny. I want to hang out with her.

Kat Blaque. Absolutely fearless with fantastic educational social justice videos.

Kelly Kitagawa. Again, please hang out with me. I feel like she's going to be huge someday.

Podcasts!

Call Your Girlfriend. My forever fave, the original inspiration for Mixed Feelings, and just fantastic conversations about news and pop culture.

Another Round. Who doesn't love Another Round? Another brilliant show that tackles contemporary issues.

Buffering the Vampire Slayer. I love Buffy so much, and I love this rewatch show that features an adorable couple and an original song every episode.

Friendshipping. This show is so helpful and so cheerful! Ultimate pick-me-up with genuine advice.

The Ladycast. Alex Laughlin (an inspiration herself) interviewing different cool women every episode and encouraging you to #dothething

Bad With Money. Gaby Dunn hosts a brilliant show all about money, featuring interesting guests on every episode.

Roboism. Robots and feminism! This is my brand!

Rocket. Smart, enthusiastic tech show that's not afraid to tackle tough topics.

Bonus! Writers:

Roxane Gay. My favorite writer, just read her books, please read them.

Felicia Day. Huge role model in my life and her memoir is precious to me.

Maureen Johnson: Insanely talented, bizarre, creative, and dedicated YA author/twitter personality.

2016 Life Lessons

20 Things I Learned in 2016, in Honor of the Year I Turned 20

  1. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out exactly what makes you happy, especially when you’ve hit a bit of “blah” spot. When you are sure what makes you happy and fulfilled, do it as much you can for as long as it continues to enrich your life. That feeling is unbelievably valuable.

  2. You always have to do the work. Success is often a consequence of luck and coincidence, but that luck won’t ever come if you haven’t done the work first.

  3. It’s okay to not be okay with yourself. The self-love movement is powerful and important, but it can have the unintended effect of making people feel bad about themselves… because they feel bad about themselves. I promise you that if you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, you’re not the only one. There’s nothing wrong with you. Everyone learns to love themselves at their own pace, and your journey is valid even if it takes longer than the person next to you.

  4. Being queer is really fun. I haven’t been quite able to find the words to describe this feeling yet, but the combination of discovering and/or accepting a part of yourself and joining a community at the same time brings a new kind of joy and love. Plus, there is an incredible amount of hilarious queer humor out there.

  5. Don’t keep people in your life who can’t keep up with you. At this point I am mostly uninterested in having people tell me that they can’t believe how much work I do, or how passionate I am about what I’m doing. I want to know what you’re working on and see how excited you are about it too.

  6. I’d learned to accept my body before, but now I am reaching to truly understand that it doesn’t need to be any slimmer, fitter, or smaller than it already is. My body is beautiful and deserves to be decorated and adored no matter what it looks like.

  7. When people are scared of failing, you can tell them “you won’t fail” but you should consider saying “it’s okay if you fail” instead. Most of the time, that’s what I’d prefer to hear--I don’t know if I’m going to fail or not, but I want assurance that the world will go on even if (or inevitably, when) I fail.

  8. Alcohol is tricky. It can genuinely be really fun and enhance your party experience, but it can’t be used as a crutch--it’ll amplify whatever you’re feeling, so if you’re sad you’ll just be really sad. Figure out how to balance it, and you’ll be golden. Also, enjoy it while you’re in college and you don’t have to pay for it.

  9. The best nights can be the ones that you spend with new friends who you’re suddenly spending a lot of time with, When you play “Never Have I Ever” with these people, everyone gets very personal very quickly. It’s the best way to get to know someone in a particular kind of way.

  10. When you’re recording podcasts long distance, your microphone will pick up sound from the headphones and it’s really annoying. No one told me this. You need to use more sound-secure headphones.

  11. People who get mad at you for getting mad at them when they screw up are not good people. You’re allowed to be upset when someone wrongs you.

  12. Quit things more often. You’re not proving anything by sticking out something that’s not worth the time and pain you’re pouring into it.

  13. Instead, double down on what you are truly committed to. Focus and devote yourself entirely to whatever you find.

  14. Sometimes it takes you almost 20 years to put together that IHOP stands for International House of Pancakes, because there weren’t any near you growing up, and your brain just don’t question things like restaurant names, and then you wonder how that happened and feel dumb about it for awhile. Remember that next time someone around you says something really silly.

  15. Maintaining good health is hard, even for someone who is extremely lucky and healthy in most ways. You can’t ever know someone else’s health or grasp how difficult it for someone living with illness or chronic pain, so don’t make assumptions about them.

  16. You’re a crier. You cry kind of all the time. It’s just your physiological response to strong emotions, it doesn’t mean you can’t be smart and capable and reasonable, and it’s certainly not a bad thing. Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like it is.

  17. Representation and role models are more important than you ever realized before you started getting them in places you didn’t anticipate. Seek them out and be one for others.

  18. A lot of the time when someone criticizes you, if you respond with kindness and openness, they’re nice about it and you learn something.

  19. Grab opportunities with everything you have--you never know when you’ll get one again.

  20. The good guys don’t always win. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be one anyway.

Furious

I wrote this piece a few days when my rage was in full force. I’m not a naturally aggressive person and it’s hard for me to hold on to this kind of anger for long, so I’ve returned to feeling tired and sad. Regardless, I still want to publish it, because it’s important for me to remember what this anger feels like. I should be angry. I should fight.


A few days ago, I wrote a blog post named “Exhausted.” I wrote about how tired I felt witnessing the sexism in this country and feeling it weigh down on me, especially during this election cycle.

I wrote that blog expecting that Hillary Clinton would be elected president.

I have cried so many times this week. I’ve cried because over two hundred years after its founding, the United States still does not have a Madam President. I’ve cried because now my little sister is going to reach adulthood with the highest glass ceiling still in place. I’ve cried because I was so passionate about Hillary and I am devastated that she will not be my president.

But that’s only the surface level. Truly, I’ve cried because I am heartbroken and I am terrified. What will happen to health care? What will happen to reproductive rights? What will happen to marriage equality? What will happen to my Muslim friends, my black friends, my hispanic friends? What will happen to the planet as climate change rages on? What will happen to my queer friends who were struggling to express themselves and have now been shot in the foot by a country they thought was starting to accept them? What will happen to my friends when they are sexually assaulted in a country where rape culture extends to the highest office? What will happen to groups who are already struggling so much: transgender people, undocumented immigrants, those with severe mental health problems?

I’ve never really understood the five stages of grief thing. The classic five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. On election night, I experienced… something like that.

Stage 1: Denial. I felt this for a few hours… or maybe a few years? I assured myself that the early results were just an abnormality. Hillary would win. It would swing back around any second. Any second…

Stage 2: Anger. I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch someone. I wanted to run for a hundred miles, until my body crumbled underneath me and had finally released all the rage I felt.

Stage 3: Bargaining. I didn’t bargain. Who am I, the godless heathen that I am, going to bargain with? Instead, this stage was swallowing my anger to remember the people in my life who needed me. I have friends across the country who were hurting just as badly as I was. Am.

Stage 4: Depression. I wanted my parents. I wanted someone to hug me and tell me it would be okay. But by now, everyone had gone to sleep and I was alone. I watched The West Wing until 5 am, weeping for a nation that didn’t exist.

Stage 5: Acceptance.

No.

No, I do not accept.

I accept that this is reality, as much as it still feels like a nightmare. I accept that I am in a positive of privilege and therefore need to accept responsibility for working towards a better world. I accept that the world is not a kind place and that nothing will ever come easy.

I do not accept racism. I do not accept sexism. I do not accept xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, any goddamn “phobia” that’s just hatred of human beings.

At the end of my last blog, I promised to get angry. Well, I’m here, and I’m furious. If you come for my reproductive rights, I will fight. If you come for my right to marry whoever I love and not be discriminated against for it, I will fight. If you come for the rights of any of my loved ones, of any marginalized person, of anyone who does fit into a white, male, straight world, I will fight.

If you try to grab my pussy, I’ll think about my sister when I punch you in the face. It’s too late for me to build a better world for her, but I will fight like hell to make it better for our daughters.

I invite you to join me, especially if you are white and/or a man and have the ability to fight for others. And, I’ll be honest: I know what my analytics are. I know that you’re probably a white man. There’s a lot to be done in this country, and I believe in you and your ability to be part of progress.

Get involved in your community. Be aware of midterm elections and the issues on every ballot you can vote on. Write to your representatives at every level and make your voice heard. Donate to organizations that will need it in the next four years (I suggested ACLU or Planned Parenthood, to begin with). Volunteer for worthy causes. Campaign for politicians you believe in. Support, both privately and publicly, friends and strangers who are suffering. Do not, under any circumstances, allow hatred to happen in front of you without fighting against it.

The work starts now.

Quinn RoseComment
Exhausted

    I am exhausted.

    Not physically, although I often am so tired I fall asleep when my eyes slide closed for too long, weary of consuming more data in a day than I have any right to impose on them.

    I am exhausted in a much deeper sense, facing a tiredness that has crept into my bones and follows me like a shadow. It’s a weight that’s been building in me for years, like stones plunged into my stomach and tearing me up from the inside out.

    I don’t know when the first stone dropped. It may have been the first time I walked down the street and a stranger yelled something about my body. It may have been when I realized my partner had decided his wants were more important than mine. It may have been when my parents bought me pepper spray to keep me safe, even though my brother never needed any.

    There were messages over and over again, from the movies I watched to the people I loved, showing me that the world was not built for me. I never know if today someone will decide that public space is theirs, not mine, and that they deserve to harass me on the street. I never know if today they’ll decide I deserve to be hurt for not smiling for them.

    Then came the stones from the internet. The internet is the largest public space humanity can conceive, and it is still not built for me. I saw a seventeen-year-old girl get harassed, threatened, and told to kill herself for weeks because she expressed an opinion and a grown man decided she needed to be hurt for that. Every single woman on the internet I know is prepared to be attacked. We know that any day could be the day someone decides that we should be hacked and our personal information should be made available for billions of people. We know that any day could be the day someone decides to abuse us, threaten us, stalk us, and there’s nothing we can do except be ready and try to protect ourselves. It’s not a question of “if” for me. It’s a question of “when.” The weight pushes down on me until I feel like my head is just above water.

    And then we reached this year and I am drowning.

    I suppose I thought that misogyny was, if not on its way out, at least going out of style. I cannot put into words how exhausting it has been to watch this country fail me and the women I love over and over again. This election taught me that you can be one of the most experienced, intelligent, powerful women in the world and you will still be reduced to your voice, your laugh, the way you smile or don’t. You can be an articulate expert in a field and be pitted against a man with no comprehension of what he’s talking about. You can offer substantive reform ideas on virtually every issue facing this country and people will scream that you are a bitch who deserves to die.

    But we knew that was coming, didn’t we? We knew that Hillary Clinton would face a disgusting amount of sexism while running for president. What we didn’t know was who would be standing at the other podium, and that is who makes me feel like I’m drowning.

    It’s not just the man himself, although the knowledge that he is so close to being elected the leader of my country makes me physically ill. I don’t say that for dramatic effect. My stomach actually aches when I consider the possibility that he may have any power over my future. He would ban my best friend from this country. His vice-president would put me and my friends into conversion therapy. He would block full healthcare for millions of women. “The personal is political” has been a feminist mantra for decades, but I never knew the political would be this personal.

    It does not shock me that he exists and is so deluded that he believes he should be president. What did surprise me was that almost half the country agrees. Millions of people don’t think that sexual assault precludes someone from being the leader of the free world. I need to say that again. Millions of people don’t think that bragging about committing sexual assault disqualifies someone from the presidency. I can’t think about this without shaking. Millions of people don’t think that his blatant and rampant racism disqualifies him. Millions of people don’t think that he should be required to treat anyone with respect, not veterans, not differently abled people, not families of fallen soldiers, not anyone nonwhite, and certainly not any woman.

    Millions of people have told me that I don’t deserve to be treated like a human being. That my body is subject to anyone who lays claim to it, as long as they’re famous. How do I deal with that? I really don’t know.

    I love being a woman. In some ways I’m a little obsessed with it; I am constantly aware of my own womanhood and how other women exist in my life. Yesterday I mentioned that “all women are in my sisterhood” and was told I really should tell them about that, so: hey, if you identify as a woman, you’re in my sisterhood and I love you. There is an undeniable strength and pride I draw from the incredible accomplishments of women all around me and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

    And yet, I am exhausted. I am exhausted by sexual harassment, sexual assault, discrimination, the gender pay gap, the second shift, the glass ceiling, cat-calling, the devaluing of women’s voices, the demands that women take up less space, “get in the kitchen” jokes, legislation of women’s bodies, of seeing breasts used to advertise cars and beer and hamburgers but not allowed to be used to feed children in public, of scripts for how we should dress and look and think and speak and live.

    Today, I voted for the first time, and I voted for the first female president of the United States. But even if all my dreams for today come true and we elect our first Madam President, the past eighteen months have shown us that there is still so much work to be done. Those millions of people are not going to wake up tomorrow and start studying feminist theory. They’re going to keep screaming that Hillary is a bitch for as long as she is in the public eye.

    Well you know what? She is a bitch. So am I. Bitches get stuff done. You can either fall in line or you can fall behind, but I’m tired of being tired. I’m getting angry instead.

Mixed Feelings

    I really love having punny podcast titles. It allows people, including me, to make so many jokes. Every time I’m not doing well at something: “so would you say you’re... Solidly Mediocre?” When I’m conflicted about something: “so you have... Mixed Feelings?

    Yes that’s right, I’ve started a new podcast called Mixed Feelings. It’s a weekly discussion with one of my best friends, Gillian Parker, about news, politics, and pop culture. Why is it called Mixed Feelings, you ask?

    Jimmy Fallon.

    That’s not even a joke-- in the first demo episode we sent to Myke Hurley, Gillian repeatedly said that she had “mixed feelings” about Jimmy Fallon, and he thought that would make a good title.

    SO GOOD. Because we do have mixed feelings on a lot of things. The world is annoyingly complicated, after all. Plus, Gillian and I have different political leanings, so the title works in multiple ways!

    Coincidentally, I’m also having mixed feelings right about now.

    As I’m writing this, the show launched an hour ago, and I’ve spent most of that time on Twitter reading people’s reactions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive which is absolutely lovely. The Relay FM hosts have been extremely supportive and kind. All of this makes me very happy.

    So why is my stomach tied into painful knots?

    First of all, Myke and Stephen asked Gillian and I to spend a minute introducing ourselves properly at the beginning of this episode. We 100% did not do that, so now I’m annoyed with myself for forgetting.

    The show has some political commentary (okay, the commentary is mostly “Trump is awful,” which not a contentious statement for most people, but it is for some). What if people hate us? What if I say something terrible and screw everything up?

    A lot of the people responding now haven’t listened to the whole episode yet. What if they’re just hopeful and being nice but they actually don’t like it once they listen?

    The thing about this show is it will definitely receive negative feedback. There will be people who don’t like it. Some of them will tell us about how they don’t like it. And, well, I don’t deal with criticism very well. I mean, I accept criticism and will do everything to correct the problem, it just makes me feel terrible about myself. I *know* that is a personal flaw and I am doing what I can to make that better, it’s just difficult to not take things personally. I’ve gotten better at shaking that feeling off and focusing on the work at hand, but there’s always that moment of “I have failed everything and everyone.”

    Dueling with this, of course, is that fact that my passion lies in podcasting, writing, and making videos. This is not a field that a person can enter without being able to handle feedback well. It’s actually funny to me because I think if someone just tweeted at me “you’re terrible and I hate you” I could shrug it off quite easily--whatever dude, thanks for taking the time out of your day to tell me that-- but if someone said “I have this specific problem with your podcast and I think you messed up here” I would be devastated. And I know it’s going to happen, I know! It may make me anxious but the only way to alleviate that is to go through it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to just roll with all criticism without hesitation, but I’m trying to get there.

    Regardless, you should listen to Mixed Feelings! Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe you won’t. Let me know, will you?

November Goals

I avoided talking about my goals last month, because I failed all of my September goals, so instead I just decided to carry them over to October. I also made this tweet:

 

    So I guess I was successful?

    My actual goals for September/October:

    Keeping up with classes: I was doing okay at this until this week… That’s what happens after I go out twice for Halloweekend. Back to the grind this week!

    Finish I Am Malala: I am so, so close to finishing this. It’s basically done.

    Finish 1 creative writing piece: Yes, I have finished a first draft on one creative piece, plus I wrote two articles for an on-campus magazine this month.

    Exercise 4 times a week: I think I’m averaging more 3 times a week, but still, not too bad.

    Practice Chinese every day: hit or miss, but getting on average 4 times a week, I think. Always room for improvement.

    Continue making content/make more videos in October: I’m keeping up with my schedule for Solidly Mediocre, every other Wednesday, so that’s great. I put out two videos in September, which is okay but not fantastic. I made 3 videos in October, which is a little better. I wrote two blog posts in September and one in October, which I think is the bare minimum to continue saying I have a blog.

    But also, did you see this?! I have a new show coming!

    My roommate Gillian and I are launching a new show for Relay FM called “Mixed Feelings,” which launched episode 0 on the Members’ Only Feed last week. The first real episode is out very, very soon, which is so exciting and so stressful. I have been waiting MONTHS to announce this. Literally months. I almost exploded. But now it’s (almost) out!

    (The show is about news, politics, and pop culture, so good thing we started it immediately before election day.)

    Honestly though I’m so ready for a post-election life, and then there will be other news we can talk about and it’ll be fantastic.

    And that brings me to November Goals:

    I’m keeping the goals of exercise and practicing Chinese goals the same, just trying to work a little bit on both of them as much as I can.

    Last week I was shamed for not having read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so the people who shamed me are lending me the book and I’m reading that this month.

    Modified NaNoWriMo: NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is a challenge where people try to write a 50,000 page manuscript in the month of November. I definitely can’t commit to writing an entire new manuscript this month-- the last novel I wrote took me four years-- but I DO want to write more, so my tentative goal is to write 50,000 words. Just that, write 50,000 words. I’m counting blog posts, short stories, essays for school, video scripts, anything I write. I think in an average month the maximum I would write is about 10,000 words, so 50,000 is definitely a big step up.

    Finally, I’m going to caption my videos! I’ve wanted to caption them for months and have been working on this recently. My goal is by the end of November have them all captioned, and then have the captions ready for each video as I post them.

    It’s hard to set goals during school because there is always so much going on that it’s hard to slow down and work on anything besides the daily grind of assignments, but making these videos and making an effort to think about what else I want to be working towards is really helpful for me. I hope that this month I can keep up my goals, especially while trying to do NaNoWriMo and not fail out of school. We’ll see.

Quinn Rosegoals, metaComment
Young

I’ve had several friends tell me that they don’t want people to know how old they are. Well, more accurately, they don’t want people to know how young they are.

It’s not that I can fault their logic-- sometimes, it can be difficult to be taken seriously as a young adult. We’re “millennials,” after all, and not even the kind with steady jobs yet. Am I even a millennial? I think I might be too young for that. I have another year or two before my generation becomes the one everyone likes to yell at.

However, I don’t see my age as a barrier to overcome. I may have fewer experiences than older people, but I have different experiences, and difference is valuable. For example, I literally do not remember a time when the internet was not easily accessible at home and at school. I got a Facebook when I was 12 years old (I wanted to get a Facebook desperately. Oh, how times have changed). I’m still young enough that signing up for for a form of social media is not a sign of the end of that medium (says the person who mostly just uses Twitter and Instagram. You whippersnapper, you).

You can make jokes about young people being addicted to their phones-- which people do, all the freaking time-- but we’re the ones who know these interfaces intuitively and can predict the success of technology with great success. If we don’t like it, it’s not going to work.

While I can make arguments that my age gives me a unique perspective, and that perspective is valuable, I actually don’t have to argue at all. The most important thing is this: my age does not devalue my work. My age does not devalue my work. Am I more likely to be worse at things because I’m inexperienced? Yes. Does that take away from when I make good things? No. If you can’t judge my work based on its quality and not the fact that I’m still a teenager, then I’m not the one with the problem here.

I might have this attitude because I’ve always worked with people older than me. I’m young for my grade in school and often befriended people in years above me, so I consistently had a friend group a year or two older than me (which is a big difference when you’re ten). In high school, I started competing in a club that was primarily populated by seniors when I was a sophomore. I’ve worked closely as the only teenager/student on groups of adults for years.

I also have always been salty about people looking down on me for my age. I have a distinct memory of watching a movie when I was twelve years old, and one of the characters said “how should I know? I’m twelve!” I was indignant. How could this movie insinuate that a twelve-year-old be so immature and ignorant?

For the record, here is a picture of me at twelve. So mature.

I’ve never had someone flat out tell me I couldn’t do something because I was too young, but I’ve had innumerable instances of people criticizing my youth in all sorts of uncreative ways. I say like too much, I upspeak, I don’t know any better, I spend too much time on my phone, I’ll understand when I’m older.

I am nineteen years old. If you devalue my work because of my age, it’s your problem, not mine. I’m just going to prove you wrong.

Favorite Podcasts

I’m going to be honest, this blog post is being written because my sociology professor asked me if I had a list of my favorite podcasts somewhere and I realized I did not. (Hi, Matt!)

I’m currently subscribed to 31 podcasts, although two are election-based and will be over with the November election. I have narrowed it down to 10 favorites, divided up by category. (Yes, that’s a third of the shows I listen to. I just can’t narrow it down any more, okay?)

 

Two Dudes Talking

“Hello Internet” with CGP Grey and Brady Haran

The show that originally got me into podcasts, a semi-regular extensive conversation about YouTube, flags, plane crashes, robots, Star Wars, and anything else they feel like talking about.

“Cortex” with Myke Hurley and CGP Grey

Kind of like Hello Internet, except we’ve replaced the Australian with a Londoner and have a slightly more focused set of topics. Grey and Myke talk about how they get work done as independent content creators.

“Analog(ue)” with Casey Liss and Myke Hurley

Myke and Casey talk about their lives.

 

Advice and Information

“Bad With Money” with Gaby Dunn

This is a pretty new show and it’s fantastic. Gaby Dunn, who I was already familiar with from her work on YouTube, deals with her own money issues and interviews people about their money issues. Roxane Gay was on an episode, so it automatically gets five stars from me (but also, it’s great).

“Dear Hank and John” with Hank and John Green

Hey, I also know these people from YouTube! Hank and John Green are delightful people and they host a comedy podcast about death. This show is hilarious and sometimes actually has good advice, too.

 

News and Pop Culture

“Call Your Girlfriend” with Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow

Every other week Ann and Amina talk about current events, on the off weeks one does an interview with a really awesome lady (and occasional man).

“The Incomparable” with Jason Snell

Jason Snell hosts a rotating cast of nerds who dissect a different piece of media each week.

“Rocket” with Brianna Wu, Simone de Rochefort, and Christina Warren

Insightful and amusing conversations about news and tech.

 

Other

“Top Four” with Tiff and Marco Arment

Marco and Tiff rank their top four things in different categories (or at least, sometimes it’s their top four. Often it’s not, because *someone* is terrible at making a 1-4 list).

“Welcome to Night Vale” with Cecil Baldwin

I have no explanation for Welcome to Night Vale, it’s beautiful, brilliant, weird, and occasionally terrifying.

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XOXO

One week ago, I left for my first, and possibly last, XOXO festival. If you’re not familiar with XOXO, you can read about it here, but I think it’s hard to really understand what it’s all about without attending. It’s defined on the website as an “experimental festival,” which I suppose is true. Every year, XOXO founders Andy Baio and Andy McMillan (who will be referred to as “the Andys” from here on in) make changes to the structure and content of the festival based on the previous year. I don’t know of any other conference that includes free drinks (including creative non-alcoholic cocktails, thank you so much, sincerely, an underage college student), dedicates larges amounts of time and space to socializing with other attendees, and curates an incredible lineup of not just speakers but games (both of the video and tabletop variety), films, and live shows.

The main focus on this blog post is going to be the talks and social experience of XOXO, but I need to take a moment for the food, because oh my god. I’m used to going to conventions where no matter how great the programming is, the food is terrible and overpriced. XOXO had a rotating lineup of specially curated food trucks that all served delicious, interesting, and reasonably priced food. Although it was all phenomenal, I have to give a special shout-out to Perierra Creparie from which I had three crepes in three days, and to Pip’s Doughnuts that were so delicious I am dreaming about them still.

Anyway! The conference started in the most XOXO way possible, which was a friend from Twitter picking me up from the airport and driving me to Revolution Hall. Shout out to Kathy Campbell for saving me the cost of a taxi and also not axe-murdering me and/or stealing all of my possessions.

From that moment until the very end, XOXO was spectacular. The talks were honestly more than I ever imagined. Listening to genuine, heartfelt talks until 5:00pm left me feeling emotionally drained at the end of each day in a way I hadn’t expected. I could write pages upon pages about each talk, but I wanted to focus on the main theme I noticed running through most of them: valuing yourself.

Several talks this year focused explicitly on making money as an independent creator. Gaby Dunn spoke about reading contracts and getting good deals as an artist, without giving away your work or ideas. David Rees broke down all the money he’s made in the past fifteen years and where it all came from. Lucy Bellwood, in one of my favorite talks of the weekend, confessed that amid all her fantastic creative success, her biggest achievement of the year was getting off food stamps.

Even more than the dollar amounts, however, these talks were about valuing yourself as a person and as a creator. What does it mean to be successful as an artist? Does it mean supporting yourself entirely from independent work? Does it mean getting rich off of your art? Does it mean being a “starving artist” and never “selling out?”

No speaker offered clear answers or solutions. Instead, they left me with the sense that it was okay to not know. It's okay to struggle or to make money, it's okay to accept money for art that you make, it's okay to need help. Independence is lonely. We can all help each other.

While the talks alone were excellent, what really made XOXO stand out above and beyond were the social components. The Andys maintain a Slack channel year-round with all past and present XOXO attendees who wish to take part. What this channel meant was that before I even arrived in Portland, there were people I wanted to connect with and meetups I wanted to attend. Over the course of XOXO, I met so many interesting people who, somehow, were all incredibly kind.

I also got to chance to properly talk to a lot of people whose work I followed for a long time. For example, take Myke Hurley. Over the course of XOXO, Myke went from someone I knew on Twitter whose work I admired to the person who I KNEW was the goddamn werewolf but noooo they chose to kill me instead so we all lost instead come ON

Ahem. Anyway.

How can I sum up what XOXO was? It was about independent creators. It was about financial, emotional, and mental insecurity. It was community and connections. It was recognizing how much our fears are alike. It was missing the entire film and animation lineup because I was too busy laughing my ass off, playing card games with new friends. It was feeling so emotional after the talks that I took a mile walk with a friend and only stopped when we found an amazing hill to roll down. It was being inspired and encouraged not in the typical “just follow your dreams!” way, but in the “I’m just a person. You’re just a person. We can do this and do it together” way.

XOXO isn't coming back next year. It might not come back at all. I know that whatever the Andys do in their lives, it'll be unique and wonderful, but I also can't help but to wish that XOXO will return someday.

Even if it never does, I’ll never forget the fundamental lesson of XOXO, the one that the Andys left us with on Sunday: we are not alone.

Empathy

    I’m an empathetic person.

    I’m not trying to claim this as a virtuous trait and compliment myself. I’m saying that I act unconsciously as a kind of mirror, or sponge, for the feelings of people around me. It verges on ridiculously easy to cheer me up simply by directing cheerfulness towards me. By the same token, I am near useless at cheering other people up without concerted effort, as I pick up their melancholy as if it were my own.

    Somehow, I soak up more than just emotion. Sometimes I feel like I am made entirely out of other people’s thoughts and opinions, pasted together into a semi-functional human whose most prominent views are whichever ones I was exposed to most recently. I listen to impassioned speeches and are driven to their causes. I watch beautiful videos and mimic their production styles. I read excellent prose and my thoughts transform into others’ voices, pushing me to write as viscerally as others, even though I feel like a fool for trying.

    This may also be the reason I have so much trouble reading accounts of tragedy in the world. On one hand, people can shut down their empathy. We can read news headlines with blank faces, shake our head at the world, and move on. But when I stop for a moment to think about the people that were harmed, whether it was a terrorist attack or natural disaster or murder or rape or any other atrocity humans routinely commit on other humans, I can’t help but remember their humanity. I think about how I am a mess of emotions and contradictions and memories and I’m so full of dreams and goals and plans I’m fit to burst. I know that I’m not any more alive or important than any other human, which means that everyone else is full of life and love and I can’t stand knowing what crimes have been committed to their bodies, their hopes, their lives. I try not to think about that when I read the news, because I just don’t want to accept pain that is not necessary for me to bear.

    But is this pain necessary? Do we have to feel for other people in order for the world to get better?

Honestly, I think that we do. We have to recognize the essential humanity of other people. There are so many problems in this world that are caused by not thinking about and treating other people as complete human beings.

    This leads me to more questions, personal questions about my own life. Making things makes me happy. In my life the only things that consistently fill me with genuine fulfillment and happiness are creating nice things and spending time with people I love. However, I don’t know if I could live with myself if I didn’t spend a large part of my life helping others. There is so much in this world that needs help, how can I not? How can I not choose a career that allows me to devote as much time as possible to bettering the world?

    I don’t know. Maybe none of us know. Can we figure it out together?

Low-Information Diet

I was inspired to write this blog post by a video from Derek of Veritasium, which you can watch here. In it he talks about constantly consuming news on his phone, and discusses several different ideas like the distraction economy and a low-information diet.

I have a similar problem to Derek: if I spend too much time in a day looking at social media and articles online, I feel weighed down. It’s very similar to how I feel if I eat too much greasy food or go too long without exercising. I feel bad in a visceral way, and the only way to heal it is to get my head out of that digital space-- to work on a project, read a book, or even go for a walk outside.

I do think that being informed is important, and with the 2016 election quickly approaching I think it’s more important than ever. However, there’s a difference between staying informed on important issues and world events and over-saturating yourself with information. For me, the main problem is social media. I am constantly checking different social media apps on my phone. Right now my primary problem is Twitter, because it’s the most interesting and updates the fastest. I use social media and YouTube both as a procrastination tool (when I should be doing something productive) and a distraction tool (when I’m waiting for something).

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of reflexively checking twitter every time I have a spare 30 seconds. I’m tired of being plugged into everything that’s going on in the world. I’m tired of this election (isn’t everyone…?). And so I’m going to follow Derek’s lead and go on a low-information diet… sort of.

I’m not going to cut everything out. Because, to be quite honest, I don’t want to. But I am going to cut back, by recognizing that my time and attention is valuable-- it’s the most valuable thing I have to give. I shouldn’t be giving it to Facebook and Tumblr and random YouTube videos. I should be giving it to the projects I’m working on and the books I want to read.

From now on instead of checking in small bites throughout the day, I will only check social media, videos, and news in three chunks: in the morning, after work/class for the day, and before I go to bed. That may sound like a lot but it’s actually a big cut-down for me… When I’m bored or waiting for something, I will either just let my mind wander, like Derek advised, or practice Chinese on the app I literally have on my phone and is fun but I never do it because I’m always checking Twitter instead.

I like to make things. That’s pretty much my whole deal here. I want to create content that is worthy of other people’s time and attention. To help me do that, I’m going to focus on the content that I decide is worthy of my own.

Flying

Like The Hobbit shouldn’t have, this blog post comes to you in three parts.

First of all, I am going to XOXO this year! From everything I’ve heard, XOXO is a spectacular conference and festival for creators-- artists, coders, podcasters, everyone. There’s a lottery for tickets and I thought I didn’t get one, but it turns out I got in in the second round. It was actually a huge surprise because I thought I had lost my chance, but happened to look at the XOXO twitter, where there was a link to check your ticket status. I clicked on it and to my IMMENSE shock there was an order form waiting for me. I checked three different ways to make sure it wasn’t a fluke! Adding to my incredible luck, between my summer program and my scholarships, I am going to get about $500 back from tuition this semester-- just enough to buy an XOXO pass.

I do, however, still have to pay out of pocket for hotel, food, and flights, and that brings us to part two-- flying.

I love flying. Some people are scared of flights and I totally understand that, but something about the sensation of being in the air makes me smile. I get the window seat whenever possible so I can look out the window the entire takeoff and landing, especially at night. I stare at the lights of the city getting smaller and smaller until we break through the clouds. This time at least one of my flights will be a red-eye, and I’m incredibly pleased that I’ll be able to see Portland from above at night.

And that’s part three: Portland, Oregon. I’m an east coast kid and have never been farther west than Kansas. Portland is, allegedly, the hipster capital of the world. I’m excited to be there for XOXO and to hopefully explore Portland a little bit. I’d love to make it a larger trip and go down to San Francisco, but unfortunately, I’m probably already going to miss a day of class by going to XOXO-- straight there and back for me!

While these are technically three different topics, it’s really all about flying. Traveling to the other side of the country, attending a conference I’ve never been to before, and taking my longest solo flight are ways to figuratively and literally fly: while sacrifices of time and money must be made to go on this adventure, I can’t think of anything more worth it.

I Cry A Lot

Actual reasons that I have cried:

  • I was told I couldn’t eat peanut butter
  • I wanted to see fireworks
  • I listened to Les Miserables
  • I told someone about something sweet I read about (this actually happens all the time, I don’t feel emotional at all reading it and then I describe it to someone else and bam!)
  • I listened to Hamilton
  • I realized someone had spilled some of the soil from my aloe plant
  • I felt sad for no discernible reason
  • I felt angry for no discernible reason
  • I saw a cute commercial
  • I listened to Rent
  • I thought about Rent
  • I thought about Jonathan Larson

Those times were just mostly when I was tired, stressed, and crying for silly reasons, but I also cry a lot from legitimately upsetting emotions-- just at a lot more frequent rate than the average person. Crying is my body’s natural response to whenever I have a lot of virtually any emotion, whether that be sadness, anger, frustration, or fear. And oh boy am I emotional. When I’m tired the smallest little thing will set me off, and even when I’m fully rested it’s not that difficult to really get to me. As soon as I’m affected by anything, the pressure wells up behind my eyes and they start to water.

I've gotten pretty good at holding them back, but if whatever’s upsetting me continues, it’s no use-- those tears are going to leak out of my face no matter what I do. I would guess that I cry (defined as at least one tear leaking out) on average once a week, more if I’m very busy and stressed.

I have strong feelings about crying (surprise, surprise). I always hated it growing up. I seriously ugly cry, it makes me all red and snotty and worn out. But mostly, I hated it because of other people’s reactions. I did not, repeat, hard stop, did not want attention for crying. Crying as much as I did meant you were a serious drama queen who was just being over-sensitive. Yes, I was being over-sensitive, but believe me, I don’t want to be any more than you want me to be.
People get weird when you cry. Mostly, they feel like they have to do something. Crying is an international sign for “I need help,” so people always feel like they need to comfort you and make you stop crying.

It took me a long time to realize this, but most of the time when I cry, I don’t want people to make me stop-- I want them to leave me alone so I can get through it. Sometimes it’s nothing and I just need a minute to pull myself together. Sometimes I am genuinely upset and need a little while to get over it. But, to my surprise, I realized that I don’t actually dislike crying. When I’m really upset, I would much rather curl up in bed for twenty minutes and cry it out, and then read a book or watch tv until I cheer up. It’s the fact that everyone think I’m in a crisis and need help all the time that bothers me so much. I’m a capable, intelligent, independent person-- the fact that water leaks out of my face at an above-average rate does not change that. If I need help, I promise I’ll ask for it-- until then, I’ll watch some Buffy the Vampire Slayer until I remember I don’t need to be crying in the first place

Politics
Can we get back to politics?

Can we get back to politics?

        I would not consider myself a “politics person.” For most of my life, my political knowledge was basically limited to the name of the president and whatever I picked up when my dad listened to talk radio. It seems that everyone considers politics a dirty field, full of corrupt power-hungry people who only want money.

    And yet, now I find myself suddenly quite interested in politics. Well, maybe not politics so much… But that other part of a government career-- you know, the governing? That’s where it gets interesting.

    Part of it is this election: this is the first election I can vote in, and therefore the first election I’ve really paid attention to, but holy god are they always like this? It seems like this is way too crazy to have been happening once every four years for over two hundred years. On one side we have the first female presidential candidate of a major party in the history of the United States, and on the other side we have an television star/billionaire whose campaign and hateful speech preys on the fears of 21st century America. Both of them are so hated by the other side it’s alarming.

    Part of it is the legislation being passed and being contested by the Supreme Court. Gay marriage was legalized across the country. President Obama’s immigration reform was just stalled in the Supreme Court. Lawmakers are frightfully behind the new world of technology, the current system failing to address the privacy and security issues created by the incredible globalization of the Internet.

    Part of it is the government shutdown a few years ago. Seriously, what was that about? Can we stop something that ridiculous from happening again? I live nearby a wildlife reserve where there are a few looking platforms by the side of the road, so people can park and look through binoculars at the land. During the shutdown, they placed barriers in front of it so you couldn’t drive up. I tried to visit certain government websites for my government homework and I was not allowed to access them. Seriously?

    Part of it is the gun control debate that is happening right now. I can’t stop checking twitter, news sites, periscope, searching for the latest updates of the sit-in in the House. My feelings about the sit-in are mostly positive. Was it a publicity stunt? Yes. Was it “just a publicity stunt?” No. It was frustration that bubbled into a public demonstration in response the years of gun violence that went without action in Congress. It was taking a stand and saying “inaction is not an option. Not voting is not an option. Leaving this behind is not an option.” I believe that is was at least partially a “publicity stunt,” but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The Democrats in the House achieved tremendous attention and support from the American public, which as the representatives of the American public, is a great thing to have.

    The bill in question that they were supporting is not one that I personally support: the terrorist watch list is too large and nebulous to be used as a metric for buying guns. Many people are on that list for reasons like being somehow tenuously connected with a potentially dangerous person. I personally support the bill that Senator Collins is proposing, which would restrict gun sales for those on the no-fly list, a much smaller list that requires a real reason to be on. However, I do support universal background checks for ALL gun sales, and funding for a study on the health effects of guns, two other measures that the Democrats are attempting to garner favor for. Furthermore, at this point frustration has reached a point that we have to do something. Denying gun sales to those on the terrorist watch list and universal background checks are overwhelmingly favored by citizens across party lines. Why is the Republican leadership so adamantly opposed to these bills?

    This was an almost entirely unprecedented event in the House. Although sit-ins have been staged before, one of this level of disruption and attention is unheard of. The Republican leadership dismissed it as “immature” and “disruptive.” Supporters, including the hundreds of people who gathered inside and outside of the House, cheered them on “true democracy” and “taking a stand.” Although the legislation itself may not pass, the Republicans unquestionably lost the public opinion on this: it’s hard to defend being against a sit-in led by an actual Civil Rights activist trying to get a vote about denying guns to potential terrorists. The rhetoric is just not on your side with that one. When you add that Paul Ryan turned the cameras off-- which was unquestionably stupid, as it propelled a huge number of people to online streams-- and that the way Republicans attempted to ignore the sit-in came off as callous and disrespectful to the victims of gun violence, they didn’t stand a chance.

    See, I was only going to go through a few reasons why I’ve gotten interested in politics, and then I spent three paragraphs on the gun control debate. It’s just INTERESTING. I used my lunch break today to watch the senate livestream as they voted on whether or not to table Senator Collins’ bill. It was way, way more into it than I was expecting to be, and extremely excited that it didn’t get tabled (by only a very small margin…).

    Part of it is the EU Referendum vote, aka Brexit. Which I’m currently watching live and is NERVE-WRACKING.

 

    All in all, to be entirely honest, most of this is almost certainly watching every episode of the West Wing in the past three months.

 

Josh Lyman owns my heart

Josh Lyman owns my heart

 

Musical Movie Adaptations

Adapting stage musicals for the big screen evokes a similar reaction to me as book adaptations: you know, “the book is better.”

Movie musicals are different and more subtle than the differences between books and their film adaptations, however. Generally speaking, when a book is adapted for the screen, it is (sometimes significantly) cut down and decisions are made about how to visually portray characters and sets. I think book-to-movie adaptations often seem inferior because reading book is entirely too different from watching a movie. Different people experience books differently, but for me, I get certain feelings from different characters. I don’t visualize what they look like, but I can feel how they look and sound. If an actor doesn’t match that feeling-- and they rarely do-- it’s jarring. This is escapable if they movie is done very well, staying true to the books while making the necessary changes to translate to a visual medium (for example, I think Hunger Games is a great movie series). It also works if the movie series is so prolific that the actors feel like the characters with time, even if they originally didn’t (hello, Harry Potter). Finally, and most simply, it works if I haven’t read the book.

Musicals, however, are already a visual medium, and they’re designed for different actors to take the same role as time goes on. It seems like they would be easy to adapt for the big screen, but it seems like they often have huge problems. Musicals are visual, yes, but they’re also designed to be performed on a set in front of an audience. If the actors need to be in a car, they can sit in a fake car and pretend to drive, and no one cares or questions it. One set can represent several different locations as actors move around the stage, and that’s fine too. Some shows, like Pippin, are entirely dependent on the live stage setting. A movie adaptation has to take the story of the musical and make all of the sets and locations look real. I find that even when movies manage to capture a musical’s spirit and translate the difficulty of the stage onto the screen, it is impossible to capture the joy of live theater. Even watched a professional recording of a musical can’t compare: there’s something lovely and magical about live theater that can’t be reproduced in a movie.

So, these are our problems with musical movies. How do different musicals deal with these problems? I’ve seen quite a few stage musicals, and even more movie musicals. Here are some of my thoughts on a few of the shows that I’ve seen both the stage and movie versions. (Minor spoiler warnings for all three!)

Rock of Ages: Ohhh boy. I saw a touring production of Rock of Ages a few months before I watched the movie. I am VERY glad I saw the stage version first, because the movie was awful. Don’t get me wrong, the stage version wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of modern theater either, but it was a ton of fun and a thoroughly enjoyable show. However, none of the fun carried over into the movie. They kept the main plotline surrounding the central couple (for the most part… they even made some frankly unnecessary changes to that), but removed a lot of the rest of the show. Unfortunately, this was a show that wasn’t easy to make into a movie. A lot of the best laughs would have been impossible to pull off on screen. At one point the club owners walk onstage and start talking about how they’ve cleaned out the building. One then turns to a wall of the set, which is still covered in pictures, and says “...Except for all that shit over there.” He then turns to the band, which have been in the back wall of the set for the entire show, in apparent amazement. “And you guys! Have you been here the whole time?!” On stage, it was hilarious. In the movie, it was nonexistent, because how could they have pulled that off? The best character in the entire show, a flamboyant German man named Hans, didn’t appear in the movie. Goodbye, half of the fun. Also, to be clear: it wasn’t just a bad adaptation, it was also a terrible movie in general. Stage: B/Movie: F

 

Chicago: I saw the movie version of Chicago first, which may have helped my perception how good it was compared to the Broadway production. However, I thought that both the stage and movie versions were very good, and that the movie managed to preserve an impressive amount of the appeal of stage musicals. In the show, the full band is right in the middle of the stage, and the characters interact with them. Music and theatricality is a huge part of the show’s plot, so the presence of the band and the casual fourth-wall breaking fits seamlessly into the show. The movie handled this in what I thought was a surprisingly effective tactic: they had all the musical numbers be hallucinations/fantasies of the performance-obsessed main character. They get to keep the glamour of stage sets, the appeal of fourth-wall breaking, and made it plausible by keeping it all inside a woman’s mind. It was a little strange at first, but the performances were excellent and the movie sucked you in quickly. Stage: A-/Movie: B+

 

Les Miserables: Les Mis is a classic musical for a reason. It’s an epic story, entirely sung through, historically featuring some of the most powerful singers on Broadway. Try to listen to “On My Own” and not weep. You can’t. (I once had the joy of watching two of my theater-nerd friends simultaneously sing “On My Own” in two different languages: one in English, one in France. Another friend indicated which one should sing by placing his hand on their head, switching between the two at random enough intervals for it to be both beautiful and hilarious.)

The first version of Les Mis I saw was the televised 25th anniversary. It wasn’t really staged, it was just sung through by the actors. Still, it was an incredible show. Soon after, I watched a touring production live and loved it.

In my opinion, the movie version was… alright. Some of the cast members were perfect in their roles (Aaron Tveit and Samantha Bark, obviously. On a related note, I would like to marry both of them). Others… I love Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Amanda Seyfried in other movies. I just don’t think they worked in these roles, considering what I’ve come to expect from Les Mis performers. (Don’t even get me started on Russell Crowe. Whoever cast Russell Crowe can fight me.)

The movie itself is pretty good, it’s just not the kind of musical that works well on a movie screen. The director was trying way too hard to be “big musical epic” in a way that didn’t translate to a screen. Also, watching completely sung-through movies is a little disconcerting. Stage: A/Movie: B

Am I too harsh on theater adaptations? Perhaps. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them, especially for shows that I really enjoy. In The Heights and Wicked, the first two shows I ever saw on Broadway (I saw them both in the same day #bestmomever) and two of my all-time favorites, are both in the early stages of movie adaptations and I am SO excited. I’ve seen the movie version of Rent approximately seven thousand and twelve times. Live theater will always be my favorite form of entertainment, but movie musicals can be pretty incredible too.

 

Thoughts on Vlogs

I filmed my first vlog last week. It was… Well, you can see how it was.

As you can definitely tell, I’m not very comfortable on camera. I think it ended up being unintentionally harsh to professional vloggers… I promise I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with them. I just felt so awkward that I was wondering what makes a person enjoy being on camera. I had filmed a “first vlog” in my dorm room several weeks ago, but it turned out terrible because I was uncomfortable and kept my voice so low the camera didn’t pick it up very well (I was worried about people in the hall hearing me). At least this time, I actually got a video out!

Beyond my general awkwardness, here are my thoughts on my first vlog.

1. What’s up with audio recording? I originally captured external audio on my Yeti microphone, which I use to record podcasts. However, when I put my audio and visual files together, the sound was completely off the picture by the end. I genuinely do not understand this. How could they be recording them differently?! Unfortunately, I will just have to figure that out later. To spare myself the headache this time, I just used the audio from my iPhone.

2. The lighting turned out surprisingly well, especially considering that I was using an iPhone. I sat directly in front of my windows and the natural light looked fantastic on my phone.

3. I didn’t want to use my room as a background because I just don’t think it looks very good on camera. Instead, I taped a sheet to my ceiling fan to make a background in front of my windows. I’m not kidding…

In a few weeks, I move into my summer housing, and I’m determined to unpack and decorate with appropriate video backgrounds in mind.

4. I’m looking forward to recording more videos. This is a weird medium, and having my face out there is weird on a level I don’t even understand yet, but it’s one more way to put content out in the world. I’m the happiest when I’m creating more than consuming. I don’t know if making videos will ever go anywhere, but I’m excited to go through this journey for as long as it lasts.

 

Love What You Love

Question: Is this entire blog going to be a series of posts about how much I love nerdy people?

Answer: Yep!

I already wrote a blog post called “Weird People are My Favorite.” Because, you know, they’re the best. But today I want to talk about a specific aspect of nerdiness.

I love it when people love something so much that when you ask them about it, their faces light up instantly. When they hear or see something related to their esoteric geekery and they’re so excited they can’t contain themselves and must go speak to whoever brought it up. There’s a John Green quote about this: “nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff.” Here’s the thing: everyone’s a nerd about something. Even if that thing isn’t something you would think as stereotypically nerdy, everyone has something that they love more than the average person and feel passionate about it. One of my best friends is an unaggressively non-geeky person (in regards to gaming, comics, sci-if, etc.) but she’s obsessed with Taylor Swift and Grey’s Anatomy. I would absolutely call her a Taylor Swift geek because she texts me every single time Taylor Swift does anything that makes news (which is about every other day).

However, in my personal interpretation of this John Green quote, he’s talking about “nerds like us.” Nerds who not only love something, but are unafraid to act like huge dorks about it. I once had a friend who was not only nerdy, he was extremely passionate about what he loved, and would speak effusively about it to me. But when he was in public, or on social media, he felt the need to be “cool.” He had to act chill, unfazed, apathetic to other people, so they wouldn’t “judge” him or whatever he was worried about. When I thought about it, it honestly made me concerned. Why does he feel the need to stifle his authentic self for other people?

Although maybe I should spend less time feeling bad for an old friend and more time looking at how I act. Am I perfectly authentic all the time, regardless of circumstance?

*laughter in distance*

Certainly not. I’m awkward, I’m quiet, I try to blend in a crowd. I’m introverted and not naturally outgoing. I do, however, sing showtunes in CVS and dance down the street and rant enthusiastically about everything and fangirl over the people I love because being a fan is FUN. Loving stuff is FUN.

The way that I find to unlock my fangirl-ness is my friends. I like making friends with very outgoing and enthusiastic people. I joined a show choir that only performs musical theater, for goodness sakes. If there is a nerdier thing to do I have yet to discover it.

This is my one big piece of advice: love what you love. Shout about what you love. Sing what you love, learn what you love, create what you love. If you have trouble feeling comfortable with that, find people who love the same things you do, and talk to them about it. Find people who make you braver about sharing the most enthusiastic parts of you. I promise you, there’s nothing more beautiful than someone being excited about their passions.