Linking up with Leigh Kramer for her monthly What I’m Into series. Please disregard the fact that we’re already half a week into February.
Thanks to my January birthday, I don’t get the post-holiday doldrums as quickly as it seems others do. I actually like January. It’s a Fresh New Start™ for everybody. The days grow longer. You get to chuckle imagining a million old people (you) tearing up a billion checks (one, for rent) because they (you) dated them (it) 2013 instead of 2014. What’s not to love?
This month I attended my first Story Sessions virtual retreat. The focus was on discipline and ritual, and I’ll write more about my thoughts on that soon. Whenever people degrade the “fakeness” of life online, I just want them to sit in on the Story Sessions community, because real life can and does happen meaningfully through digital mediums, and this group of women continues to prove that to me.
After Christmas break and my car’s radiator leak, which gummed up my schedule for a week, I finally got back to volunteering with SMART, a children’s literacy program, which I am going to plug now, and shamelessly. If you live in Oregon and have a spare hour or two each week and can read, SMART wants you! It’s stupidly simple: You read with an elementary-aged kid once or twice a week. That’s it. You get to share your love of reading with adorable children who say funny things, and research shows it improves their academics. Look for a school near you! We want you! It’ll change your life! *waves pompoms, gives thumbs up, offers snakeoil*
Looking For Alaska, John Green — Having read (and of course loved) The Fault in Our Stars first, the comparisons are inevitable: These characters are well-developed but not so unendingly loveable as Augustus and Hazel Grace; probably because, overall, I’d say Alaska is plot-driven where Fault is character-driven. Having read a couple of Green’s earlier, lighter works in high school, I expected Alaska to be more like them and less like Fault — as in, I didn’t expect this to be a book about death (frankly, more about death than said cancer love story). It’s a good unexpected, though; there’s more philosophizing here than in Fault. Didn’t love the fizzle-out ending, but what right do I have to complain? Maybe when I can tell stories even half as well as Green.
“Affairs With Writing” by Abby Norman at Story Sessions — If you are a writer, read this. “It is like I am having a clandestine love affair with writing. We make out in dark corners and empty rooms.”
“What Are You Supposed to Tell Your Sons About the Black Woman Chair?” by Grace Biskie — An offensive image, an important response. “It sends a message you know loud and clear: by the time these boys are 14 & 18 they will know -maybe even believe- black women are worth less than white women.
Sherlock and Downton — So far mostly meh, with the glaringly wonderful exception of drunk John and Sherlock. Golden comedy there, folks. Meanwhile, in fancy olden times, nothing has actually happened at the Granthams’ manor. I am mostly still annoyed that they killed off Sybil then tried to replace her with this blonde cousin whose name isn’t worth remembering despite her great hair.
Saving Mr. Banks — Considering my love for Mary Poppins and Emma Thompson, this movie would have to be throwing-popcorn-at-the-screen-while-booing-loudly, 2%-rating-on-Rotten-Tomato bad for me to dislike it. Luckily, it’s pretty good. Somewhat over-polished, yes, but still sweet. My personality can have too much Travers and too little Disney, so, you know, this inspired me to be nice and stop judging people and all that good stuff.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries — My vlog knowledge is pretty ho-hum. I enjoy several, such as Daily Grace, Rhett & Link and the Green brothers, on occasion but am not a, er, YouTube potato. UNTIL NOW. Thanks to Hannah, I am binging through this modernized, vlogized retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It’s not a precise translation — Lizzie is a little more quirky Lemon than traditional Bennet, and some of the moral dilemmas (particularly Georgina’s past with Whickham) struggle to find resonant 21st century equivalents — but it sure is fun (and occasionally awkward). This Lydia might be my favorite Lydia ever; she’s a more charismatic & confident Shoshanna, with some surprisingly poignant moments. And the best part of all? The literal update of Kitty Bennet. (This seems like a good time to mention my abiding love for the modernized Mormon version, which is a must-see for Jane Austen fans and the recently broken-hearted alike.)
Girls — Speaking of Shosh (what the hades is happening with her?), I saw the first two episodes on YouTube — and now get to wait to see the rest for a year when this season is on Netflix. No, HBO, teasing us with these episodes did not magically make us all rich enough for your channel. Good try, though.
“The Danger of a Single Story” — Let’s be real, my favorite part of Netflix is the TED Talks (which are obviously and luckily available elsewhere, too, because free education for all), and this one by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has firmly established itself as my favorite. It is impossible to overstate the power of only hearing one story about a group of people. Unlearning the single stories I’ve heard over and over again has probably changed my views more than anything. And Chimamanda is really entertaining, to boot.