Year of Quality

Last week I posted a Twitter thread about my theme for 2019, inspired by Cortex and their frequent discussion of setting themes rather than resolutions at the beginning of the year. I’m on the record of being very pro-resolutions and yearly resets, in part because my birthday as at the end of the year. It’s a new year in the Gregorian calendar and in my life! My preferred strategy is to decide on a one-word theme and a set of ten goals that relate back to that theme.

In 2017, my focus was on traveling, and I went to eight new countries. In 2018, I wanted to focus on creating new projects, but it instead ended up being a transition year for me. I graduated, moved back home for the summer, and then moved to Chicago. Between school, work, life changes, and unexpected setbacks, there was a lot less creating than I would have preferred.

But as I turn to 2019, I’m setting myself up a lot better for a year of tighter focus and specific projects. I decided the best representation of my goals this year is “Year of Quality.” The quantity of things in my life is going down, but the quality of what remains is (hopefully) going up. The primary example of what I’m leaving behind is my YouTube channel: I will not be making videos in 2019. I made more YouTube videos than ever before in 2018, but ultimately the channel is just a hobby. It doesn’t make any money and it barely reaches an audience, and ultimately is not financially or creatively fulfilling in my life the way that podcasting is. Considering how much time video editing takes in relation to podcast editing, it’s time for me to let the channel go—or at least take a substantial break.

(Small note: I am still working on editing a short film that I filmed earlier in 2018.)

But YouTube is not the only thing I’m leaving behind! I also left my part-time job at a theater. I’ve luckily gotten to the point where I have enough freelance clients that I do not have to keep this position anymore. Working at the theater was actually pretty fun, but the schedule was starting to restrict my ability to take on more clients and schedule meetings for my other job, which is for a remote company.

Finally, I plan on not dating in 2019. I tend not to talk about my relationships online too much (except when I think it’s funny), but suffice it to say I’m what’s commonly known as a “serial monogamist.” I’m unclear on how that’s happened because I love being alone and am not particularly social, but here we are. I’ve spent much of the last seven years in one relationship or another and I’m ready to take a break.

Those are the reductions, so what’s left? Here are my top ten goals for this year, in very rough order of priority:

  1. Complete production on [redacted], a limited run podcast arriving very soon.

  2. Produce [redacted], an open run podcast arriving… at some point. Feel free to periodically yell at me until this is announced because boy have I had this idea for a long time.

  3. Complete season 3 of Corner of the Sky.

  4. Get 50 rejections: this is a more unusual choice, but something that I’ve seen around Twitter. By setting the goal in terms of rejections, not applications, I feel like I’m both putting myself out there for more opportunities and embracing the inevitable amount of failure that follows.

  5. Widen my personal and professional audio circles: this is vaguer than I prefer goals to be, but it’s something important to me and not easily quantifiable. It could easily be paired with my “50 rejections” goal, but ultimately I just want to be meeting more people in person and online in my field.

  6. Finance like an adult: by the end of this year I want to have a firm emergency fund, start investing, have organized my business and personal expenses, and upgraded my credit cards.

  7. Hold a consistent work schedule: I have been completely useless at this for my entire life, but now that I have almost total control over my schedule I’m working on confining work hours to certain times of the day (what a concept!) as well as incorporating exercise and other habits into a regular schedule.

  8. Write something every week: Ultimately I hope to publish more consistently on this blog and elsewhere, but I’m setting it as a general “write something” rather than “publish something” goal so that it doesn’t take too much away from my podcasting focus. I also will count journaling as fulfilling this goal.

  9. Travel somewhere every month: I’m trying to take advantage of aforementioned control over my time and cheap Midwestern Megabus tickets. I’ve already got a few big trips planned (PodCon this month, Memphis in February) and intend to take a lot of day trips to nearby cities this year.

  10. Read 25 books: In 2018 I set the goal to read 12 books and I read 22, half of which after I moved in September. I hope to carry this momentum and my Chicago Public Library card into 2019.

Those are all my 2019 goals! Of course there’s always more that I want to get done, but I put a lot of thought into what I believe will be the most fulfilling to pursue this year. What are your goals?

Whoa-oh, We're Halfway There

Because I love to increase the cloud of vague anxiety that follows me everywhere, I started following @YearProgress on Twitter. It simply tweets out what percentage of the year has gone by, with a handy illustrative progress bar to hammer the point home. Yesterday, July 2, was officially halfway through 2018. Am I panicking? No! Should I be panicking? Maybe!

Being halfway through the year means I should, in theory, be halfway done my goals for 2018. In (rough) order of priority:

  1. Find a Job


  2. Save enough money to move

    • Also working on it, but unlike the opaque and confusing job search process, I confident that I’m on track to earn the amount of money I want to earn by the end of the summer.

  3. Get all A’s

    • I ended up with an A and two A-’s for my last semester of college, and considering what I dealt with during the semester, I’m pretty proud of this.

  4. Launch 2 new podcasts

    • Both are in the works—with one I’m making large strides, with the other I’m making a low simmer.

  5. Make 50 videos

    • After VEDJ, where I made 25 videos in one month, I’m actually AHEAD on this goal. I’m shocked at myeslf.

  6. Make a short film

    • The movie has been written and filmed! All that’s left to do is edit it, which is one of my big goals for July.

  7. Complete “2018” playlist

    • Oh… I haven’t even started this.

  8. Read 12 books

    • I’m right on track for this, and even amped up my reading goal to an ambitious 20 books over the summer. I might not/probably won’t reach the 20, but am completely confident I’ll hit 12.

  9. Practice Duolingo every day

    • I go in fits and starts with this, but it hasn’t clicked as a proper habit yet.

  10. Learn 2 new go-to meals

    • I’ve got two already: enchiladas and veggie stir fry. Considering I haven’t even moved out yet, this feels spectacular.

My goals are going reasonably well, but putting them aside, the first half of 2018 was… not great. A few difficult personal things happened in the first few months of the year that significantly brought me down, so between those and the whirlwind of senior spring I let go of pretty much all of my work after Mixed Feelings was over. Instead I focused on spending a lot of time with friends in my final weeks in school, which was the healing I needed and led to more amazing memories than I can recount here. It was time I truly needed to take, especially leading up to this summer, which is particularly work-focused and largely non-social. I don’t mind this very much, as I am generally a work-focused and non-social person.

Massive things happened in my life, and massive things are to come in the next half. Here’s to (what’s left of) 2018.

2018 Theater

The first week of the new year is full of goals, hopes, and eating leftover holiday sweets. Luckily, we have plenty of reading material to accompany those cookies because everyone is busy laying out their plans and schedules for 2018. I’ve been reading through upcoming shows coming to Broadway and beyond this year, and want to share some of the ones I’m most excited about.

I’m starting with the Great White Way, of course, and there are few shows this year that have generated as much buzz as the Frozen musical. This isn’t the first Disney animated feature to be turned into a Broadway musical—Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast spring to mind as immediate (and successful!) examples. Like those productions, the adaptation uses the movie’s soundtrack as a starting point for a full musical, expanding both the music and the plot to fit a longer show. Previews begin on February 22 and Frozen will open in March. Read more here.

When I said no show has as much buzz as Frozen, perhaps I meant besides Mean Girls, the inevitable musical adaptation of the wildly popular 2004 movie of the same name. (Think about Legally Blonde and Bring It On and try to tell me a Mean Girls musical wasn’t inevitable.) Tina Fey, who wrote the original movie (which includes several of the most widely quoted lines of all time), wrote the book; her husband Jeff Richmond composed the score. Lyricist Nell Benjamin, who also worked on Legally Blonde: The Musical (see??), rounds out the writing team. Previews begin on March 12 and opening night is April 8. Read more here.

While I’m primarily a musicals fan, I’ve been more and more interested in straight plays since I started directing. Even if I wasn’t, it would be a crime to leave Angels in America off of this list. This masterpiece first premiered 25 years ago, and now a much-lauded revival is being brought from London to Broadway this spring. The production is led by Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield and directed by Marianne Elliott, the Tony award winning director of War Horse and The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time. Previews begin on February 23 and the limited-run show will play through on June 30. Read more here.

Speaking of groundbreaking gay plays, The Boys in the Band is heading to Broadway (forty years after its unexpected smash Off-Broadway success) for a limited engagement. The all-star cast is composed of Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, and Matt Bomer, all of whom have achieved success on movies or television in addition to their theater performances (with the exception of Bomer, who will be making his Broadway debut). All four have also previously worked with one of the show’s producers, Ryan Murphy, on his TV series. Previews begin on April 30 and the limited-run show will play through August 12. Read more here.

While these Broadway performances captured my attention in part for their well-known subject material and famous cast members, the shows coming up Off-Broadway are interesting for all the ways they color outside the lines. Relevance, a play about feminism, generations, and communication in the world of social media, tells the story of the viral clash between a veteran feminist and an emerging writer and cultural critic. It feels fresh and incredibly, well, relevant—fiery divisions in the feminist movement and the gasoline of social media is a show we’ve seen played out before. Relevance will be Off-Broadway from February 1 to March 11. Read more here.

Meanwhile, in the category of “shows that will definitely make me cry,” Miss You Like Hell is coming to the Public Theater. Written by the Pulitzer Prize winning Quiara Alegría Hudes (beloved to me for writing the book for In The Heights) and singer/songwriter Erin McKeown, the show is the story of a 16-year-old undocumented immigrant and her estranged mother. They come back into each other’s lives and start a road trip that explores the lines between states, countries, and people. Miss You Like Hell will be Off-Broadway from March 20 to May 6. Read more here.

To round out this excellent roster is Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus. This one-woman play is based on Ensler’s memoir about suffering from a life-threatening illness while working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ensler is best known for her monumental hit The Vagina Monologues; In the Body of the World is just the latest installment in her career focusing on women and bodies. Previews begin on January 6 and the show opens on February 6. Read more here.

This is far from Diane Paulus’s only show this season, however; the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater is staying busy. Jagged Little Pill, an original musical directed by Paulus and based on Alanis Morissette’s iconic album, is premiering at the ART in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The show is running from May 5 to June 30. Read more here.

There are countless other theater events going on in New York and Boston and London and Smalltown, Indiana, and so it’s also best to keep updated on the local theater scene, wherever that is for you. It’s also exciting to remember that theater is becoming more accessible every year, from movie musical adaptations like the live action Aladdin or the upcoming roster of live televised musicals. Now will they just show us the recording of Hamilton they made? Please?

I Wanna Get Better

Someone told me recently that I should appreciate my past selves. But I’m different from those people because I’m better than them—I have to be, to keep pushing through this world and surviving challenges that would have destroyed me before. I appreciate what my past selves went through, but they’re also the only people in existence I know I’m better than.

As I move into 2018, I’m thinking about how to be the best version of myself. I’ve got a plan, I’ve got hopes, and I’ve got this playlist. Happy New Year. 


October is one of my favorite months. Between some of the best weather of the year, warm fall drinks, and the incredible joy I take from every aspect of Halloween, it’s a cozy and wonderful time. So far in October I’ve visited a lot of family, but the rest of the month is devoted to… well, to a lot of work, of course.

My “blog every day in September” project was relatively successful, based on the goals I had for the month. I published a post, on average, about every other day in September. While this is far from “every day,” I knew from the beginning that was an unlikely goal. I was challenging myself with that extreme number after hardly writing at all for most of 2017 in order to kick myself into gear, and I’m happy with what I managed to produce. I also wrote about a lot more topics than I would usually cover, from discussions of art I had consumed, to commentary on news events, to musings about popular sayings. I’ll continue to write about these kinds of topics here on a roughly weekly basis (for now).

The September writing push also led to some more opportunities for me. Going forward I’m going to be a copywriter for the Internet Creators Guild—if you get their newsletter, you’ll soon be receiving my work in your inbox.

In October, I’m focusing more on video production. In the next week I’ll be publishing the first full video of my study abroad series, as well as the premiere of my revamped “In Defense of Disney” series. Both are more heavily scripted and edited than a lot of my previous videos, so I’m working hard to make sure they’re the quality I want them to be.

This month I’m also determined to caption all of my YouTube videos. It’s frankly inexcusable that they’ve gone un-captioned for so long, and this month I’m holding myself accountable for it.

Other stuff going on October (besides SPOOKY TIME) includes: preparing for a (modified) NaNoWriMo, research for a new podcast (oooh), preparing for the new season of Corner of the Sky, and hopefully making progress on the big question of What The Heck To Do After Graduation. Ah, knowledge of what one is doing and/or where one is living after May, that’s what dreams are made of.

Small Minds

As the late, great Eleanor Roosevelt said, “great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” Okay, she might have not said that. But someone said it, and it’s become a frequently quoted phrase for those looking for inspiration or decorative wall hangings. Ever since I heard this quote as a child, I’ve had it stuck in my head and tried to follow along with its message: talk about the higher things in life, not just what’s happening, and definitely not about idle gossip.

I’ve recently had an epiphany: this quote is crap.

First of all, “great minds discuss ideas” is a terrible message. Yes, conversations about ideas are exciting, important, and usually consist of a lot of depth. However, you can’t always be talking about philosophical questions or the next world-changing startup—not only is that unsustainable, you will be completely insufferable. And then “average minds discuss events”—what makes an event less worthy of conversation than an idea? They're what's actually happening in the world. Thinking of someone who discusses ideas but not events calls to mind the “intellectual” who is really into 18th-century German philosophy but turns up their nose at current news.

Finally, “small minds discuss people.” This is the one that really gets me, because the clear implication is that gossip and celebrity news is a lower form of conversation. And, well, maybe it is. Talking about people who you’ll never meet, or the personal business of people around you, isn’t going to change the world. However, it’s in our base instincts to be interested in what other people are doing and to enjoy discussing celebrities—otherwise how could it be such a huge industry? Celebrity conversations obviously can and do go too far, but shaming someone because they like People Magazine seems like a bigger waste of energy than reading People Magazine and letting other people enjoy things. “Discussing people” doesn’t have to be a world-changing endeavor. It’s just fun, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

Let's Talk

It’s not just on Twitter, it’s for Twitter,” sounds a little bit too much like “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom” for me to take it entirely seriously, but it’s not a bad summary of the idea behind Buzzfeed’s new morning show, AM to DM. It’s streaming live on Twitter every weekday morning at 10am, and strives to be a new kind of morning show: one for the internet.

And yet, as Slate pointed out, most morning shows and late night talk shows are already effectively made for the internet. AM to DM doesn’t have anything particularly groundbreaking in format yet. Two hosts have on guests and discuss current events, a tried-and-true formula. They have segments in which they read “Fire Tweets” and decide on a “ManCrushMonday” (#coolmom), but these bits not yet engaging enough to stand out, nor do they distinguish themselves from from late-night talk shows that do segments in the same vein.

AM to DM does have a significant advantage in courting a young audience, however, in their choice of medium. In an age when many people are cutting their cable subscriptions, or opting never to get one in the first place, online sites become a much easier way to tune into news and entertainment. There’s no friction to watching AM to DM, as long as you have a Twitter account—and as that’s their target audience anyway, this strategy bodes well for potential viewership.

While there are initial flaws and possibilities, it’s too early to see if AM to DM can grow into a unique morning show. It’s also not the only entry into the field of new media talk shows. Director and producer Kelly Kitagawa is leading a new show called Think About It, a “late night styled think piece show for millennials.” The production team is all college-aged women, most of whom are women of color. The teaser was released on Sunday, but the team is currently raising money to produce a full 9-episode series. Similar to AM to DM, the focus of the show is on presenting a different perspective than is usually seen in mainstream media.

There’s definitely a stronger sense of scrappiness with Think About It than AM to DM: it’s produced by independent college students rather than a multimedia company, it’s lower to the ground in terms of audience engagement (especially with funding needs), and it’s focused on exploring specific questions relevant to young people instead of a general look at the news. However, it won’t start streaming until November, so it’s too early to judge what the final product will look like.

Like I’ve written about before, I have a particular love for projects made by and for young people. It’ll be interesting to see the way the talk show and news landscape will be changed by an influx in younger creators, especially since these shows have had a recent surge in popularity and relevance. Right now, it’s unclear if it’ll make much of a difference at all, but I doubt it: new voices have the power to make chance, and they always use it.

Document Me

As I’ve written about before, I saw the new musical “Burn All Night” recently. In one of the songs, the ensemble sings explicitly about documentation and how they require it in order to be immortal. That sort of desperate, extreme statement fits in well with the pulse of the show and the general fervent nature of today’s youth, but they didn’t stop there. The more bold claim was that they needed to be documented in order to exist.

At first glance, that seems like a complete exaggeration. I would never suggest that I needed documentation in order to understand my own existence. However, recent experiences have made me realize that maybe they’re right, after all.

I take a picture of my friends and they post it, but my face doesn’t appear and suddenly the question is: was I really there? My friend gets removed from the list of an extracurricular and doesn’t get notified about something, and it makes her wonder: am I still really in this group? For a long time, my podcast didn’t appear on the Wikipedia page for Relay FM, and in a strange way it made me feel like I wasn’t a real part of the network. I would notice that and have to go back to the Relay FM website to assure myself that I hadn’t conjured the whole thing up.

Why does it matter if an external force validates what we already know? I think that maybe, there’s a part of us that never believes we’re good enough for what we’re doing: our friends are cooler than us, our work is better than us, we don’t deserve the honors that we’ve achieved. It’s the same kind of imposter syndrome that makes every criticism of our work so painful—not that this person in particular doesn’t like us, but that they’ve “seen the truth” about how terrible we are.

I think maybe, we should hold on to what we know a little bit harder, and stop letting other people’s photos and opinions have so much weight.

Bi Visibility Week

Happy Bi Visibility Week! Every year in September, bisexual activists speak about the importance of bisexual representation. It's a popular time for bisexual people to come out, or just to remind their audiences and people in their lives that they are bisexual, even if they don't talk about it a lot. To celebrate this year, I made an episode of Solidly Mediocre all about bisexuality. You can listen here.

Okay, it was actually a total coincidence. Rachel and I meant to record this podcast ages ago, actually recorded it nearly three weeks ago, and it simply came up in the schedule this week. Still, it fits well and I'm pleased it worked out like this.

I have a history with coincidental visibility during this week. Last year, I came out to my parents (and subsequently decided I was "out" to all friends and the general public) during Bi Visibility Week. The very first thing I said about being bisexual publicly was a tweet during Bi Visibility Day (September 23rd). I made it casual, because I didn't want to "come out" on the internet, but that was my official first mention.

Almost exactly a year later, I came out to my grandmother. She was completely unsurprised and unperturbed, and just generally lovely (as she is about all things). I am blessed to have supportive family and friends, to be safe in my visibility.

If you're not sharing a part of yourself for any reason: I see you, and I accept you. If you just don't know yet and are trying to figure it out: I see you, and I accept you. Don't feel any pressure to "decide" or be seen before you're ready. We'll be here for you when you are.

Copyright Weaponization

The internet is still trying to figure out its relationship with copyright. On one hand, copyright protects people’s hard work. It prevents others from selling work as their own, consequently encouraging people to produce art because they know they will be able to protect it. On the other hand, stealing is absolutely rampant. “Meme accounts” pick up viral content of the day and repost it without attribution, sometimes even placing their own watermarks on it as if they originally created it. There’s a non-insignificant number of YouTube channels devoted to “reacting” to popular videos, which is often little more than making a few remarks while playing the entire video.

On the other other hand (I have three hands), there is nothing the internet does better than a good remix. Content is continuously repackaged and repurposed to entertain, amuse, and educate. Sometimes it’s an actual musical remix, sometimes it’s a visual essay featuring clips of a movie, sometimes it’s a clip or screencap used in a humorous way. Some of this clearly falls into the realm “fair use,” which roughly means that it is transformative and its consumption does not replace the consumption of the original content. There are more specific rules about monetization (generally a no-go) and details, but that’s the general overview.

There are some genres, however, that don’t qualify as “fair use” but are still usually allowed by the copyright holder. One example of this is a “Let’s Play” video, which features a YouTube personality playing a game, reacting to it, and talking about their experience throughout. By all legal standards, it’s definitely copyright infringement: it’s often just blatant footage of the game with minimum commentary or additional value. However, there is very rarely any harm to letting YouTubers upload Let’s Play videos—if it’s a popular channel, it often boosts sales of the game and essentially serves as free advertising.

That is, until the channel becomes something you don’t want to associate with. Campo Santo, the creators of the critically acclaimed game Firewatch, filed a DMCA takedown of PewDiePie’s Firewatch video after he used a racial slur in a livestream. The video was swiftly removed, which made sense: Campo Santo has the legal right to take down any Firewatch Let’s Play videos at any time.

In another case, the creator of the meme Pepe the Frog has starting sending takedown notices to alt-right blogs. Pepe, once an innocuous comic character, transformed into a meme last year. However, the original neutral meme was claimed as an alt-right symbol and used to promote the Trump 2016 campaign by many of his supporters. The creator of Pepe, Matt Furie, already took down an Islamophobic book that featured Pepe and donated the settlement to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Now he is widening his reach, insisting that his character should not be used for hateful ideology.

Both of these cases are interesting because they demonstrate a conflict in the online world. These creators have the legal right to take down infringement on their work, and feel the moral drive to target a particular usage of it. However, what does it mean for the future of copyright when ideology is used to dictate legal actions? If people want to take down one usage, should they have to address all infringement on their work? It’s not that I don't understand their reasoning, but what happens if (when) a conservative artist doesn’t like the way a liberal artist has repurposed their work and chooses to target them? We could be looking at a new era in copyright on the internet: weaponization. The lines are blurry, but we may see them come into focus soon.