Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thanks, Bro: Thoughts on Being a Nerd in the Here and Now

I just read a really great interview with Brian Michael Bendis from Vulture.com.

"I think that a huge problem is people who read comics and don't understand the point of superheroes, which is to be the best version of yourself. You love Captain America? Well, you know what Captain America would never do? Go online anonymously and shit on a girl for having an opinion.

I would like there to be more of a connection between why people read these stories, and how they act. You should see Peter Parker and then want to act like Peter Parker. You shouldn't want to be Peter Parker because you want to sling webs and punch people. It should be because you want to be someone who lives with the idea of "with great power comes great responsibility." And that means that the power of the internet and the power of your ability to interact with people, should be treated like a power. You should treat it like a responsibility."

 I've noticed a recent trend in nerd culture. For every comic book nerd eagerly awaiting the next movie adaptation of his favorite character, there's one griping about comic book universes getting appropriated by pop/mainstream culture.

I don't necessarily agree with this feeling, but I understand it. And I'd be lying if I said I never cringed when I saw some bro who has clearly never read a Thor comic in his life talking about how totally HOT Jamie Alexander was as that armor lady (sorry Sif, so sorry) and how he can't wait for the next movie.

I think we all get those cringe moments. You know why? Because nerd culture has primarily been a stigma. As a kid, I got made fun of for carting my gameboy around wherever I went. In middle school, I was discouraged from reading comics because they weren't "Real Books" (that I also read "real books" apparently didn't matter). In high school, reading for fun meant I was weird (okay fine, reading textbooks for fun probably was a legit indicator of weirdness). In college, going off on tangents about why it's important to include the "-" in Spider-man's name (it's his web, damnit) made even fellow nerds take a step back. My first editorial job after college involved some heated discussions about the differences between "Which" and "That," and let me tell you: most people just don't care.

So, if all of these things caused us nerds to become so ostracized, then why do we cling to them? As Bendis succinctly summizes: Superheroes let us envision the best versions of ourselves - and others. And of course superheroes are the gateway drug to everything else the world of comics has to offer. I read Archie like everyone else. But my first real foray into comics? X-Men. I wanted to be just like Rogue. I identified with her because I also struggled to relate to people, but here she was having adventures, kicking ass, and making friends. And she was just. so. cool. I thought - if Rogue has this great, but terribly debilitating power, and even she can still connect with people - I can too.

Comics and nerd-dom were the backbone of who were were and who we are. We saw the strength and wonder in them. They are how we learned to relate to the world. We suffered the stigma of being a nerd because in these comic book universes we found role models, friends, and adventures.

And now the cool kids have become adults. The worry of being labeled a nerd is no longer an overwhelming problem. So they are free to drop by the movie theater and watch The Avengers, even though they've never picked up a comic book or heard of Joss Whedon (or suffered the cancelation of Firefly). They don't have to worry about name calling, sitting alone at lunch, or getting thrown in a trash can. That's really what the anger comes down to - they get all the fun without all the suffering. And it's just not fair.

However, "It's not fair" is a phrase we're supposed to have left behind in childhood. As adults we know that life simply isn't fair. But the anger is still there. So we make excuses - we impose our own assumptions on people. That bro at the theater talking about the hotness of Lady Sif? I have no proof he's never read a comic. I decided that in my head because, in his "YOLO" wife beater and Pacsun board shorts, he doesn't strike me as what a nerd should be. Maybe he really hasn't, but his enjoyment of the MCU movies might mean he will in the future. At the very least, his support of movies based on comic books means we're going to continue to get movies based on comics.

And that's a good thing.

Honestly? It's a great time to be a nerd. Each year, for the past several years, the highest grossing movies have been based on comics. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are household names. TV shows and mini-series based on comics (and other nerd fandoms - I'd be remiss if Game of Thrones didn't get a nod here) are booming. How great is it that we live in an age where we have the technology to create totally badass, not at all hokey, TV versions of Daenery's dragons? And that the show is successful enough to warrant it?

How great is it that The Walking Dead and Arrow exist? That a movie with a talking raccoon has a huge budget and cult following despite NOT EVEN HAVING PREMIERED YET (looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy). How great is it, that 17 years after the first Harry Potter story was published (and 3 years after the last movie premiered) the Harry Potter fandom continues to enjoy enormously huge staying power. Using the ComiXology app on my phone, I can gift the next Kid Beowulf comic to my 5 year old niece, who will receive it that day - even though she lives across the country.

Our stories are just going to get better and better from here on out. Our universes are going to grow. The technology at our disposal for sharing the characters and stories we love is just going to continue to improve. And if some bros spend some money to see the things we love without suffering what we suffered, at the end of the day we still win.

So let's stop nitpicking about whether fans are "real fans" or not. Let's acknowledge that, nerd or not, every person who bought a ticket to Winter Soldier was giving studio execs further incentive to continue creating the movies and shows in the universes we love. And if they are buying tickets, they are identifying with or enjoying these movies on at least some level. Are they upset that the new Flash TV series is going to feature Barry Allen instead of Wally West? Probably not. In the grand scheme of things, is that going to ruin anything for you? Probably not.

Don't get mad. Don't try to tell people they aren't real fans because they haven't read the comics. To quote Wil Wheaton, don't be a dick. Be the best version of yourself; just say "Thanks, bro."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Strong, Ugly Women in Literature

Buzzfeed recently posted this article by  Erika Johansen about the lack of unattractive and unattached women in literature. While I agree with her that the norm is to write about pretty girls and their love interests, I disagree about the complete absence of them in literature. Especially in the realm of Sci-Fi and Fantasy which I find to be more progressive than other fiction. Most of the major players out over the last few years have starred conventionally unattractive heroines. That these heroines have been morphed into beautiful women for their Hollywood movie adaptations is not a fault of the books.

For anyone looking for more identifiable characters in their reading list, I decided to copy my comment from the article in whole, as I listed a number of recommendations. Any book listed as an honorable mention at the bottom didn't make the main list either because the prose was not as good as other stories, or the heroine(s) did not meet all criteria (female is either not main character, not ugly, or has significant love interest)

My comments and recommendations:

Hermione Granger is described in the Harry Potter books as not attractive. She is a mousy looking, bushy haired, big toothed, loud-mouthed, know-it-all, etc. Love storylines do involve her later in the series, but they are minor and not one of the main themes of the books by far (and other characters insinuate she must have used love potions to snare her love interest because how could someone so ugly ever be loved?).

Tris Prior from the Divergent books admittedly is more involved in her love storyline, but it is still the secondary plot. She is repeatedly described, even by her love interest, as not physically attractive. Admittedly, I don't think these are the best books ever (first book is readable, but not very strong. Story hits its stride in the second book, but the third book wavers a little again) but they are worth a read and they have the kind of protagonist you're looking for.

Katniss Everdeen may not be outright ugly, but she is also not conventionally attractive. The nature of the Capitol demands she be groomed, cleaned, and upgraded for its citizens - they cover her scars, shave her, design her nails, change her eyebrows, beautify her hair, change her clothes - at points they talk about wanting to surgically modify her body to make it more conventional and womanly. The author here is making a point exactly in line with your article - the society's beauty standards are ridiculous. So, not quite sure how you managed to use that as an example trying to support your argument - unless you haven't actually read the books?

These are three hugely popular book series - maybe you were making comments based on the movies? In which case, Hollywood - not the authors - is to blame. Which shouldn't surprise anyone.

Other noteable ugly/not conventionally attractive/badass women in great novels (sci-fi/fantasy and otherwise):

Brienne of Tarth, from George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books - She is one in a number of strong, badass women in the cast of characters. Admittedly she is one of the few ugly ones, but for strong, independent, and diverse women - this is actually a great series. Arya is also not conventionally attractive, but smart and totally awesome. Sansa is conventionally pretty, but has to deal with some inner ugliness before becoming one of the most complex characters on the show - while also being allowed to keep her femininity. The latter is the main reaosn I mention Sansa. A lot of stories think you need to sacrifice being feminine to have a "strong, female" character. You don't.  Better yet: Brienne and Arya are mostly allowed to keep their book descriptions in the TV show and haven't been totally Hollywooded.

Taylor Greer from Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees - described as slim, but not pretty. Her story is independent of any love interest. She's strong, independent, and getting the hell out of dodge. One of my favorite books for 10+ years - highly recommend.

Renee from Muriel Barbary's Elegance of the Hedgehog - Exceedingly "ugly", smart as a whip, and one of the most intricate characters I've read in a long time. Another long time favorite. Both main characters are female (Renee is an adult concierge, Paloma is a young girl, daughter of one of the families in Renee's building), smart, and very different from most female protagonists. Male characters have very little to do with this book. There is one small undercurrent of a love story line here, but it is extremely secondary.

Briar Wilkes from Cherie Priest's Boneshaker - Not conventionally attractive. Hard woman. Totally badass. Story follows her and her son during what is basically a localized zombie apocalypse. There are discussions about her ex-husband, but no love storyline (admittedly I haven't yet read other books in the series so can't guarantee that doesn't happen later).

Lamia Brawne from Dan Simmons' Hyperion - Admittedly the only female of several main protagonists, and her storyline does involve a love interest. Still, she's not conventionally beautiful, and her love interest does not dictate her character (though it does dictate some of her actions - but that's also situational. Hard to explain without giving away plot). She's an extremely capable woman, and there are a handful of other great women in this book (and series) even though they are not main players.

Susan from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books - She's Death's granddaughter. Fearsome in her own right, frizzy haired, stern, and she won't take shit from anybody. She is the main player ina number of these books.
Any of the Witches from Discworld - All badass, old, gnarled women. Totally badass. They are also main players in a number of these books.

Violet from Lev AC Rosen's All Men of Genius - despite the title, this lady is the main protagonist. She's not described as ugly, but she passes as a man for most of the book. Her physical appearance is just not really described. Again, there is a love interest sort of, but it's secondary to HOW BADASS SHE IS.

Iris from Gergory Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. The story is a retelling of the Cinderella storyline, but following the "Evil" (maybe not so much) step sisters. The whole story focuses on family hardships, and Iris' life as the not conventionally attractive one. Not nearly as kitsch as it sounds - story is really beautiful. By the same author who wrote the more popular Wicked, but I actually think Stepsister is his best novel.

Honorable mentions:

Hazel Grace from John Green's The Fault in Our Stars - short hair, chubby, sickly face. Body all out of sorts from chemo and cancer treatments. Dealing with illness and love story are both major plotlines. Self-described as not pretty, ill, etc. Love interest thinks she's pretty. Movie version Hazel is also basically pretty - Hollywood. Still, for a love story - very non-conventional. Deals with real issues, no sugar coating. I guess you have to make your own choice about her physical appearance.

Audrey Mapes from Darrin Doyle's The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo - I honestly don't remember her physical description. She is the main protagonist, though I'm not sure if she can be described as a heroine. No love interest. Follows some family drama. Quirky, dark, and fun read.

Earnest Cline's Ready Player One - No real conventionally attractive female players. Honorable mentions because main protagonist is male and is largely unaware of the physical appearance of his female friend(s?). Nature of the story is we don't actually know what most of the players really look like for most of the story. Still, maybe that's not a bad thing. However, at least a few of the characters are described as fat or chubby, have serious blemishes, etc. And though male, the main protagonist is decidedly not conventionally attractive - though he is an overly stereotyped nerd.

Lola from Kit Whitfield's Benighted - somewhat conventionally attractive, but covered in scars and not the prettiest personality at times. Also, really interesting story that raises a lot of heavy moral questions. But the execution isn't perfect. Good read though for fans of the werewolf genre looking for something different. (Werewolves are the majority here - non lycanthropes are a minority, often forced into undesired jobs, at high risk for getting disfigured on full moons, follows a non-lyco who works for the government - kind of a pseudo werewolf detective story exploring the treatement of non-lycos and lycos)

Morgaine from Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon - she's attractive or ugly depending on how she feels, which character you ask, or what's going on in the story at any given moment. I don't know. I loved this book most of the way through, but for me it tanked at the end. Worth reading if you're a fan of Arthurian legends and mythology. All the main players are women (Gwen is of course lovely lovely lovely, as is Igraine. Morgaine goes both ways? Some women are ugly. Who knows).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Let's talk about mental health.

One of the scariest comments I've read about the UCSB shootings. "Had Rodger been more closely monitored, institutionalized, and forced to take his medication by law, we would not be talking about this tragedy. "

Let's take a minute to talk about mental health.

The majority of people with mental health issues do not think they are entitled to women. They do not shoot up schools, or malls, or military bases.

Suggesting people with mental health issues be forced to take medication or get institutionalized scares the crap out of me.

As important as it is to not marginalize women, it is also important to not marginalize mental health issues. There ARE news sites pinning the shootings on mental health issues and I think that's a bad move. Was Rodgers' mental health involved in the shootings? Probably, yes. For sure. But the few sites who are covering it from that angle (as opposed to the misogony problems) are doing it WRONG.
By focusing on the mental health issue and claiming those problems are why someone decided to shoot up a bunch of women, you are making it harder, not easier, for anyone with mental health problems to step forward and seek health. If terrorists, bombers, and mass shooters are what we associate with mental health, of course no one is going to be able to openly and comfortably talk about dealing with those issues.

Could some of his problems with mental illness have led to the kind of violence tendencies that would lead to rationalizing a mass shooting? Maybe. Could a culture of misogyny and rape lead to him rationalizing a mass shooting against women who refused to give their bodies to him? Yeah.
So if anything, a combination of the two may be to blame.

But suggesting people with mental health issues be forced to take medication or get institutionalized scares the crap out of me. People with mental health issues still have rights. Are you familiar with any of the most popular drugs for bipolar, depression, or anxiety/obsessive compulsive disorders?
I'm not saying I have a viable solution. But I think it's worth noting that dealing with mental illness is a VERY slippery slope. Saying anyone should be legally mandated to be institutionalized or legally mandated to take medications is horrifying to me.

And yet, how can you want anything else in the light of recent tragedies?

And yet, consider how many people would be adversely affected by such mandates. Consider how many people will have their rights revoked by such mandates.

There is a lot we don't understand about mental illness and mental health. There are rampant misdiagnoses, and bad prescriptions.

Do you know that most bi-polar and anti-depressive treatments actually increase the behavior they are supposed to treat?

God knows we need better treatment programs and more supervision. And there are certainly some people who function better under medication. But I think more and more evidence is showing that a majority of people don't. Or, at the very best there are a number of people who are merely "stabilized" by medication (which is nice talk for "Feeling nothing at all." Something I wouldn't wish upon anyone.)

We need to talk about mental health. It needs to be something our society is okay with. But the stigma? The stigma needs to go away. In order to really address these issues and their relation in some in stances to mental health, we need to not blame mental health. And we very much need to not insinuate that anyone with mental health issues needs to be locked up and or forcibly medicated.
How do you decide at which degree of mental health someone needs to be medicated or institutionalized? How to you create standards for different degrees of mental illness? Some are obvious, some are subtle, and many are anywhere inbetween on any given day

What about all of the high functioning people with mental illness? What about the people who are NOT high function, have the same problems as Rodger and have never tried to shoot up a sorority full of women?

What is so wrong about discussing misogyny in this context, and acknowledging that maybe someone without similar mental health issues might have realized that rationalizing shooting a group of women was not okay, but also acknowledging that someone who didn't grow up being taught that women are men's property might have opted to obsessively collect pokemon cards instead of dead women who wouldn't sleep with them.

We need to be able to talk about mental health. And it needs to be in an open environment where people aren't ashamed to talk about their experiences or afraid that someone will lock them up or medicate them because of mental illness.

And the UCSB shootings are a hard subject to talk about, because two hot issues are intertwined into them. And maybe in this case it was a combination of things. But we need to set a positive precedent for discussing these issues going forward. And blaming all men is not the answer. And blaming mental illness is also not the answer.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing Out of Sequence - Yay or Nay?

I've always been a stickler for writing the story as it's told. I need to know how the characters get where they're going as much as the readers too. I know where the story is going, but sometimes there are moments that build, or change things, and that makes me weary of "Writing ahead."

And yet - lately I find myself breaking from that pattern. Sure, if I've got nothing in particular in mind, I'll sit down, scroll to the end of my Google Doc and run with where I last left off. But sometimes a moment comes to me so vivid and I'm learning to have no qualms with breaking from the current moment and jumping ahead.

I'm finding that these scenes still help me understand where a character is going, and very often help me set goals to get her there.

What are your thoughts on writing ahead? Do you do it? Does it work for you, or no? Why or why not?

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - What's Making a Difference this Year?

This was going to be a short - mid-length post about the changes in my approach to NaNoWriMo over the past few years, and the differences that are making me feel confident about my run this year. But I think I just might be too damn excited to keep it short, and I'm just not feeling apologetic enough to say sorry for that. And, let's face it - if you're here, you're here to read, right?

I have something to admit.

I have tried to write the same novel for almost every NaNoWriMo.

All common sense says I should drop this novel. Clearly something isn't working - I can't get the content out, I get frustrated, I give up. I restart the novel every NaNoWriMo. Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Well, call me crazy, because I'm giving this novel one more try. Here's why:

I have learned how to write. Let me clarify - I have always been a writer, but a writer who struggles to churn out content. I could never sit down on a schedule and just write. Neil Gaiman is a huge proponent of saying (I'm paraphrasing here) you can't just write when the inspiration strikes - you need to be able to sit down and write if you have a deadline, you need to be able to sit down and write when you need to meet your wordcount. You can't rely on inspiration as a guide for when to write or not. In the past I have been very guilty of doing the opposite of that.

I have always cared too much about what I've been writing, and that has made writing much harder for me. I have given up when the words didn't come out just right, or if I wasn't "in the right mindset to write." So what's changed?

Goal setting and accountability: I never had trouble getting assignments in on time in college. Having a deadline wasn't a challenge for me, it was a goal. I struggle with setting goals for myself, however, since there's no one but myself to hold me accountable. Post-college, writing became more of a struggle. I had no external factors demanding I turn something in on time. I tried joining writing groups where we were all responsible for sharing word count goals on a regular basis. My friends, (sorry guys, I love you) crapped out just as much as I did, however, and the whole system became less than effective. "Ah, well, if he's short, then I can be short as well..."

But I realized that wasn't the problem. I needed to learn to be accountable to myself. If I set a goal, I need to reach it - for personal satisfaction. My goals can not depend on outside sources, though they may be influenced on them. This was a huge kick in the butt that I needed to realize.

What also helped: Being a technical writer (I write and edit content for a web media firm that handles several large travel and tourism sites) helped me remove emotional investment from the equation. I've always considered myself a creative writer, but discovering a competence and enjoyment for technical writing as well has also allowed me to learn a wealth of new things by approaching writing from a different perspective.

When you care too much about what you're writing, it becomes harder to write. Don't get me wrong, you need to care. You need to be invested for your story to have meaning. But while you're writing, you can't get stuck on the details, and the fixing, and the "that just doesn't sound right." Get the words. Fix them, nurture them, make them better when you edit.

And then I changed the process: In past years, I approached +NaNoWriMo! with gusto. I had my story perfectly in my head. I knew these characters. But my outline was thin, at best, and if I was not diligent about writing and making word count in the days prior, setting new writing habits in November was impossible.

This year I re-evaluated every step of my process:
  • For work, I was churning out an average of at least 5,000 words a day. On top of that I tried to write at least a little bit at home every day, whether it was a journal entry, short prose, or poetry.
  • I spent all of October "Pre-Gaming." I outlined, I wrote character bios, I collected all the old outlines and short scene descriptions I had ever written about this particular story. I compiled them, reworked what I thought should stay, and trashed what didn't.
  • I upgraded my writing system. To be honest - I prefer to write by hand. That's just unrealistic for NaNoWriMo though, and for longer pieces makes a lot of things harder and less organized. Plus, I have really terrible hand writing. In the past I've tried special writing programs that lock out distractions - these were great in many ways (Social Media is a hugeeee distraction for me - whoops), but it also made things harder. I use a desktop at home, and so if I was writing while out I was constantly emailing myself files. sometimes forgetting to send them, or not sending the most recently updated. This year I decided to try Google Docs. I have the same collection of documents available wherever I go with internet access. This means I can work on my novel on my break at work, or at the Starbucks on the way home, or at my desktop without worrying about transferring or sharing files. I was unsure about this, as I don't really like doing a ton of writing on my laptop, but -
  • Getting out of the apartment to write has helped a great deal too. There are lots of temptations at home: adorable cats, snacks, TV, and just - the mentality of plopping down to unwind with Facebook, or Twitter.

Another key difference for me: Music. I've always preferred to write in silence, or with soft classical music on. When writing at the office however, I have adopted wearing headphones to block out distractions, give me an energy boost, and just get me motivated. It has helped a ton - why has nobody made me do this before?!

Here are some of my favorite songs to write to (at this particular moment):

Sea Wolf - Middle Distance Runner
Passenger - Caravan
Whitely - More than Life
Jukebox the Ghost - The Spiritual
The Mountain Goats - Love Love Love
Radical Face - Welcome Home

What about you? Have any favorite "music to write to," or any other tips/tricks of the trade?

I know we're only four days deep into the NaNo, but so far I'm just ahead of word count, and confident about carrying on. Here's to continued progress!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Back in the Blog/NaNoWriMo 2013

This has been a long time coming; it's time to get back into the blogosphere.

Admittedly with poor timing - NaNoWriMo approaches more and more quickly, and it's not like I need one more thing to schedule time for. So I can't promise that these beginning blogs will be overly long or engaging, but I'm hoping to keep regular updates going on the NaNo process and progress, and I hope anyone else working on NaNoWriMo 2013 will add some insight to their work as well.

That said, feel free to find and +friend my NaNoWriMo profile!

My (working) elevator pitch: John Green meets Kick-Ass with an accidental vigilante superhero who fights crime and performs good deeds in a Gorilla Suit.

What are you writing about this year? Have you NaNoWriMo'd before? Successfully? Either way, what's your approach this year?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"30 Day Challenge," but not.

Except sort of. I feel the need to write something down but the creative juices aren't quite where I want them at the moment, so I'm dragging in some outside help. Don't worry, I'm not going to drag you through 30 days of internet sludge. I'm going to get it over with in one go and drag you through one long entry of sludge. Except I'm going to try and make it...not too sludgey. Here we go:

30 Day Personal Challenge

1: Name two of the most significant people in your life and explain why.
I guess my dad, and Carole.
"Dad" seems like an obvious easy go to answer; he's a parent, duh. But we've kind of always had a complicated relationship, and I spent a lot of my life trying to be just like him and a lot of my life trying to be exactly not like him. I've loved him more than anyone else, and I've hated him even more than that. His remarriage was really hard  for me to deal with, and I still don't think he went about things well but I learned a lot as I was healing from that and one of the thing I learned was that I still kind of need him around.

Carole was my coach in college. She helped me push myself without ever being harsh or cruel, and put up with me for hours of talking outside of team time. She had solid advice for every situation, and has consistently been a positive role model whom I can admire.

2: What is your stance on religion? Would you affiliate yourself with any?
I tend to dislike and shy away from most organized religions. I was raised in a Jewish household though, and I am interested in the history and the culture (and the food, of course the food,) I just don't get a lot of the...Well, religious aspects of it. I have a lot of problems with the bible + testaments, even when taken for meaningful, not literal, translation. Also the people and hierarchies of power within organized religions just scream wrongness to me. Which is not to say that every large religion doesn't mean well. In fact, I think a lot of religious people who are followers of popular sects mean damn well.
But I also think that there needs to be more room within faith for questioning faith. For asserting that some religious values may be good, and others not so much.
I don't believe in God. For a lot of reasons. A simple answer would be that I'm just not convinced. A less simple answer would be that I just think there are too many contradictions in every theory I've heard of God and at the end of the day I'll carry my own burden and my own praise. I'm okay with that.

At the same time I don't deny the existence of God. Who am I in the grand scheme of things to make that claim? And I think that even without a religious lifestyle I'm still spiritual and faithful enough in my own way, and interested enough in doing good and right, that if a God does exist...He'll shake my hand when I'm dead and tell me I did alright anyway. I'm not too concerned.

3: What band / musician is most important to you?  Explain why.
 I've never really been struck by a musical artist and thought THIS, this is my life, and this is meaning, and this is all things me. I don't have that one musician that strikes all the chords within me, or that I count as most important.

There are several that I like a lot, from my newly found and recently beloved The Weepies, to the golden adorable Laura Marling, to the revered Paul Simon. That's not even counting the Broadway artists that I love, and I would be shamed if I didn't throw out the names of Jason Robert Brown, Norbert Leo Butz, and Anthony Rapp.

For the sake of making a point I'll take a name from each and run with it for now. So Jason Robert Brown and Paul Simon both make music that I enjoy (immensely) and also I just find them pretty inspiring.

JRB writes for musicals. He's created wonderful stories that I love, from The Last 5 Years, to Parade and 13 and Songs for a New World. Each of those bearing its own captivating soundtrack. But on top of that, he's also got his own album (and hopefully another out this coming summer)...And his lyrics are very real. Very heartfelt. Without ever being too much or too little. He's quirky and funny, he's serious and mesmerizing. He's heartbreaking. He's eloquent and succinct. He's frequently all of those at once. Which is more than admirable.

Paul Simon's Graceland is at least one of my favorite albums, if not my actual top favorite. He created it after a trip to Africa and the influence of the music and culture and feeling is so there, while still retaining his own distinct Paul Simonness, and again...he's just mastered the art of lyric writing. His words are so strong, and the music is so good and so unique and still so simultaneously familiar and comforting.

4: If you could chose a time period to be born at , which one would it be and why?
That's kind of a hard question haha. I love the 80s, they were so silly. I love that upbeat music, the corny cartoons...and I was born at the tail-end of the 80s so I have just the smallest legitimate claim to being an 80s kid, but really I grew up in the 90s. I'm a 90s kid, and I love the 90s too. Again, the music, and the campy movies. I'm not sure I'd trade that era. Especially since now in the 2000s we've got so much going on with human rights and technology and advances in health and again with the music, and so much information is always available. It's really such an opportunity that I'm not sure my generation appreciates.

Which isn't to say that I don't occasionally dream of a quite life on a self sufficient farm where no one's ever heard of the internet. Because as much as the internet is a wealth of...well, stuff. It's also a giant machine for stealing my time.

5: At what age were you the happiest?
Now. But if you had asked me that last year I would have said "now" then too, and I think that's pretty good. I've had my share of bad times, but I'm a pretty optimistic person and I think that really makes the difference. For a really long time I've just always been a happy person. I think I'll be the happiest I've been in another year too.

6: Name five things from your wishlist.
A free trip to Grad school, yyayyyy!
Also, all the seasons of ever Star Trek series (except maybe Enterprise. It's not really Trek. But if it were free, I'd take it. You know.)
A lot of books.
Some free time.

I know, I want the impossible stuff. It's fine, we'll get there yet.

7: Do you read? If so, what are your three favorite books and why?
I read frequently, passionately, insatiably. 
My top favorite is Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I have a mad love for Howard Roark. My first time through it I almost gave up so many times, and then the end was so captivating. I reread it immediately, I loved it all the way through.  It was a bit before I read it again, and at that point in my life I was going through a lot and Roark's integrity and passion were everything I needed.

After that I have a lot of books I've loved, but nothing that hits home so much. The Bean Trees by Barbara  Kingsolver was a favorite of mine for a long time too. It's just about being yourself and following whatever path you find that seems like a good idea at the time. It's about growing from your roots without being restrained by them, but without denying them. It's a lot about people.

What else? Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. That man is a genius. His books are so fun, and also so funny. And the characters are so strange, and so unlikely in this world but they are so exactly real at the same time. Discworld is a must read for anyone.

8: If you could live anywhere, where would you live and why?
California. Though I've always wanted to spend some time in Boston, I'm not sure why haha. I've grown up in New York, and I love it and identify with it so much but I'm just also very done with the hurrying that's so inbred in New Yorkers, and I'm done with the cold and the winter and the ice and...yeah.

Give me an ocean, give me a culture, give me a big city. Southern California sounds good to me.

9: How old do you think you act? Explain.
Some days I act 5, some days I act 50. Provided they're not harmful or otherwise bad I think it's frequently best to follow your impulses, even if that means acting like a dumb goofy kid. It's good for the soul. You need to be who you are and do what you want sometimes.

But it's also important to recognize your limits, and take care of your responsibilities and as much as I'm silly and strange and goofy I think I recognize that need more than most people my age and so I frequently find myself feeling much older than I am.

10: If you could only live off of one food and one beverage for the rest of your days, what would they be?
I love food, this is a rough choice. I guess chicken and water. Chicken is versatile and water goes with everything. There you go.

11: What is your favorite quote? How does it relate to your life?
I have a few. Because I already spoke about The Fountainhead let's go with

"He walked to a window and stood looking up at the sky. His head thrown back, he felt the pull of his throat muscles and he wondered whether the peculiar solemnity of looking at the sky comes, not from what one contemplates, but from that uplift of one's head."

It's about the fact that sometimes our mood or perspective is really just about our viewpoint. Mentally, but physically too. Really. if you always look down, of course things seem much more miserable. Spend a half hour staring at the sky as you walk and things suddenly seem much more mystical and wonderful.  Even in the rain.

Outlook is so important.

12: What item of clothing do you wear the most?
 This one pair of jeans is really comfortable. I don't really have any favorite item of clothing I guess. I had a pair of red boots I loved for a long time, but it's been awhile since I ran them into the ground.

13: What can you not live without?
Chace. My horse.

14: Name things that you do every day.
Go to the barn and take care of my horse, and read. 

15: Who is someone you admire. Why?
Two people. Carole Gerrity, and Stephanie Gollobin. Both people that I know personally. Carole is the coach of the riding team at my school. She's so strong and independent and knowledgeable. She's very open minded and happy with herself and her life and she's very religious which is decidedly different than myself, but she's also very grounded and she has as much faith in herself and in those around her as she has in God which I think is really important. She's so dedicated to her work in education and English, but also to horses and a lot of that is exactly how I want to be do. Also, she kicked cancer's ass.

Steph is a friend that I've only gotten close with recently, but in many ways it seems like it's been much longer. We have a lot in common in terms of interests and goals. But she's older and has accomplished more and I think has more of a motivational drive than I do in some ways. Right out of college she moved to Germany and taught English there for 3 years before she moved back. She's done so much impressive work with horses, and has a very unique understanding with them. I really respect the drive she has to go and chase what she wants. When she decides she wants to do something she does it. When she's not sure what she wants she evaluates her choices and options and sets goals for herself. I think that's really admirable and I wish I was able to set better goals for myself. But she's also very human, and very in touch with herself and the people around her. Since we've grown close she's never once seemed out of reach or robotic in anyway. She's funny and sweet and I think one of the best people I know.

16: If the world were to end tomorrow, what would you do with your remaining time on earth?
Spend it with my horse, and with my good friends, and I'd eat a damn good meal.

17: What do you want to be when you get older? Why did you choose it?
I want to write. But I also want to draw and paint, and I want to work with horses, and sometimes (usually when I'm in the shower) and I imagine that someday I'll take vocal lessons and actually train my voice and do something with that too. I have a lot of interests and it's really hard for me to eliminate anything and say "I'll do this one."

But really I think I'll end up doing something literary. I've always wanted to write (and subsequently publish) a book. And I think there are a lot of options in the world of literature. I could write a childrens book and illustrate it too. I could teach. The idea of teaching at a college level really appeals to me, and I want to stay in school and get an MFA and hopefully a PHD (I'm pretentious) and I love to read as much as I love to write, probably even more. And I could do all that and still come home to a backyard barn with some horses.

18: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be? What would you say to them or ask them?
That's another hard one. I have no celebrities that I really worship, and there are few historical figures that mystify me that I'd want to meet. I mean, there are a lot of people in both categories that would be really cool to meet, but not any particular one I'm yearning for. I guess either Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman would be cool to meet. I really love both of their collective works of literature (including and especially their compilation Good Omens) and they both seem very down to earth and clever.

19: What is your favorite film? Why is it so important to you?
 There are many answers to this and I"m not sure really which one's right. I've always loved the Matrix and Monty Python's the Holy Grail. The Matrix sets up the viewer for a lot of questions, and also the special effects were just amazing for the time. I still find them amazing. The Holy Grail in its own subtle ways also asks a lot of questions. They're both really philosophical in their own ways. But Holy Grail is also so clever and funny and it doesn't have Keanu Reeves.

But I also like Lucky Number Sleven a lot. It's brilliant. And the Birdage is hilarious.

Of more recent movies I loved The King's Speech. I love action movies with explosions and fast paced plot, and I love comedies that have me rolling in the theater aisle. But the King's Speech proved that you don't necessarily need those things to have a damn good movie. It had several of it's own hilarious moments (SHIT BUGGER AND...tits,) but also the writing was brilliant and it kept it's pace through that and through the inter-character tension and it was just wonderful.

Also, Star Trek The Voyage Home because Leonard Nimoy swims with humpback whales.

20: Would you consider yourself an optimist or a realist? Why?
Both. I'm forever and optimist, but I think I'm also very grounded. Maybe too much sometimes. But I don't think I'm more one than the other, though maybe more one at any given time than the other. I think having a balance of both is important, and I don't think you need to forsake one to be the other.

21: Do you want children? Why or why not?
No, and this is a long answer. For unselfish reasons, I can say that there have been histories of mental illnesses in my family, and I have no desire to pass anything like that on. Also, I did say I want to be a writer. That kind of lifestyle is not necessarily conducive to making money off the bat and it's not ideal for raising kids. But it's really mostly selfish reasons. I want to do what I want. I want to spend my money on what I want. I want to travel. I want to work with and have horses.

I have recently been forced to admit that I probably do generally like kids despite having always claimed the opposite, but I really have no desire to have one of my own.
22: What subject did / do you exceed in / at school?
In highschool I really did well in everything. My favorites were Art and History and English and Science. I was actually really close to being a History Major in college. It's weird to think that seeing how much the English Department has been a part of my college experience.  But I even did pretty well in Math too (I actually liked math a lot too until I had a horrible teach and she just ruined it haha.)

I've still done really well in all of my classes in college, but it's harder to say since my subjects of study have been less diverse. I think I'd be worse at science now, having not kept up with it. Same with History. But I'd like to take some history classes before I graduate, American history and World history. I was looking for this semester but there were no classes that fit my schedule.

23: Are you a fan of art? If so, who is your favorite artist? What artistic movement do you prefer?
I'm a fan of art, but admittedly more of the act of doing art than of following art history or movements. I like a lot of things from a lot of different periods and genres and styles, but I don't really have a singular favorite of style or artists. I also like looking at a lot of art on the internet of people I've never heard of. I see a lot of things I love. But art is about enjoyment for me, not study.

24: How attractive do you consider yourself?
More attractive some days than other days. Don't we all have days like that? Some days I wake up and everything's great and I'm the most attractive girl on earth. Some days things suck and I don't even want to show myself in public I'm so hideous. But I really and happy with myself either way, I think I'm lucky that I don't have any self image issues but part of having that viewpoint is that I also see most other people as being attractive in their own way so I don't usually compare myself as being more or less good looking than someone else. I don't think that way. I see people and I think they're beautiful, and maybe that person more so than that person, but the other person is still good too and I don't wonder whether or not I'm better or worse than them. People are more attractive to me when I know that their personalities are also beautiful.

25: Would you rather date someone plain with an amazing personality or someone beautiful with a plain personality?
If you couldn't deduce it from the last sentence of my previous answer, I'll always take personality first.Good looks never hurt but they shouldn't be the priority.

26: Choose two: mentally stable, intelligent, attractive. Explain why you chose those two.
 Ideally I think most people would say mentally stable and intelligent. But I'm not sure I'm all that mentally stable so I'll say intelligent and attractive. Those traits in another person will keep them on my level ahahaha.

27: Which do you prefer: films or television? Why?
 I like both. Unfortunately I don't see as much of either as I'd like. I think films are easier because when you have the time you go and then you're done. TV you have to keep up with and I'm really bad at that, but there are a lot of shows I like a lot. There are just also a lot that I wish I had time to watch. I'll never have enough time for that.

28: If you could choose to live forever, would you? Why or why not?
It's tempting. I think I would still just never have enough time though haha. I'd enjoy it for a long time, but I'd probably eventually get bored. Probably. I'd miss people though. How could you ever get close to someone knowing they just won't keep up with you?

29: Do you wish for anything at 11:11? If so, what do you wish for? Has anything ever come true?
I'm bad at those wish things though. I never know what to wish for. I'm pretty content. I saw a shooting star once and I thought 'that's awesome I have to make a wish' but I didn't know what to wish for. I made a wish for a friend.

30: What do you imagine your life like at age fifty?
Wow. Uhm. More grey hair. More or less free time. I'm not sure. I'll let myself know when I get there.