Thank you, Jon Stewart

So handsome! So jewish!

So handsome! So jewish!

So this blog post is a little later today then it normally is. I have plenty of ready made excuses for this, from job applications to shift work to wine drinking. But honestly I’ve just been binge watching old episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

As I am sure most of you all are aware, next week is Jon’s last week at The Daily Show (from this point on The Daily Show will be referred to as TDS because I am lazy). This is pretty monumental for a lot of people. Many have watched TDS for much longer than I have, and I’m pretty emotional about him leaving. I first started watching Stewart when I was in high school and no longer needed my parents to sit around to make sure I did my homework. To me and to many he was an honest, refreshing, hilarious reaction to the shit storm that was the conservative and sometimes liberal media. As the years have gone on he’s become even more biting and if you haven’t been watching his last episodes I encourage you to do so. A Stewart who doesn’t give a shit is a sight to see.

You many be curious as to how I am watching all these old episodes or you may have heard a rumor that Comedy Central is streaming every single Jon Stewart TDS episode on their website. That rumor is true!!! And it’s amazing!! Perhaps it’s the history nerd in me, but I find it absolutely fascinating to relive the past decade or so in these short twenty minute satirical performances. Of course it’s not wholly inclusive, but my desire to watch these episodes was because I weirdly wanted to relive historical events that I remembered vividly. I also wanted to watch Jon work in the best way that he worked. If anyone remembers I wrote a blog post about going to a taping of TDS. READ IT HERE!!!

I mean if I’m being really honestly with you reader I’ve paused writing this very important blog post several times to watch Jon Stewart and the rest of the world being ridiculous. Right now he’s calling out the media for concentrating on everything about Paul Ryan except for his political career when he was announced as Mitt Romney’s VP pick in the 2012 election. But then he himself gets lost in Ryan’s stealy blue eyes and is lost in a fever dream where Blue from Blue’s Clues eats him. Trust me, it’s hilarious.

But I think what I really love about Jon Stewart and what I am really going to miss is how he treated his guests, the questions he asked, and the way he conducted himself on screen. He’s told us so many times that he doesn’t prepare for these interviews but you know he does. He reads the books and sees the movies of the authors and actors he interviews, he knows the history of the congress men and women he brings forth. But his preparedness doesn’t result in talking points or a script of questions. He just tries to engage with whoever is across from him. You can tell he’s genuine, that he likes what he’s doing and he wants to educate and inform. While at the same time telling dick jokes. I am very willing to give Trevor Noah a chance but TDS is not like any other late-night shows. The previous anchor of TDS before Stewart was only on board for a couple of years before Stewart took the helm. We let Jon into our house in a very different way than we let any other host. He influenced all of us and the way that we think about issues.

Jon Stewart is not a perfect guy, he’s not a savior. He’s a smart, objective comedian…with a penchant for dick jokes. And I feel like we’re missing those more and more in the media. Everything is so sensationalized to the point where I think we’re numb. But I digress. I have loved every minute of the time I watched TDS and I have loved every minute of this binge watch. I can only hope that he decides to stay involved in comedy and politics in some form so that I might be hired by him someday. But for now, I’ll just say thanks.

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The West Wing and a (Crisis) of Decisions

tumblr_nq16tga3lh1u1hog5o1_540Over the past few months I’ve been doing a rewatch of my all time favorite show IN THE WORLD. The West Wing (about the personal and political lives of a group of White House elite) first aired in 1999, and a few years later I began watching it on Wednesday nights with my dad. Bravo also used to play reruns of it for about 75% of the week, including late at night when I was supposed to be asleep. Even after I stopped sneaking out of bed to watch it, I would still hear Kelly leaving her room about half an hour after we were supposedly asleep, checking to make sure I hadn’t gotten up without her.

(Sorry, Kelly!)

Suffice to say, The West Wing was pretty formative for me. It’s how I passed the AP Government exam. I drop West Wing quotes the way Kelly drops song lyrics – casually and abundantly. And for a long time, it was where I found my career goals. This was not uncommon in my age group. Vanity Fair did a whole story on it.

When I was little, I went through all the regular aspirations kids go through – teacher, marine biologist, astronaut. But from about seventh grade on, I wanted my life to look like The West Wing. I studied international relations. I wanted to advise the president. I wanted 18-hour days, and heavy conversations. I wanted to fight the good fight.

tumblr_nrz1101FbV1qc6ukro6_500This doesn’t exactly explain how I ended up with a Masters degree in English Lit, living in Boston and working in a children’s book/toy store, but fourth year of college, I loaded a bunch of lit classes into my schedule. After I graduated, I started temping and ended up with an office job. Bored and infinitely restless, I applied to PhD programs and instead ended up in a partially funded Masters program at Boston College.

I had a lot of reasons for changing direction. Some were good, some were really stupid, some of them even still stand. Much of it was fear. But I don’t necessarily regret it. I’ve met some phenomenal people in Boston, read some incredible books. Become a much better writer.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this shift as the right choice, but really, it wasn’t good or bad, right or wrong. It was a choice I made, and through it I lost some things and gained some others. I like what I’ve gained, and I miss what I lost.

The West Wing keeps me up for all the usual reasons. Right now it’s keeping me up because I haven’t actually watched season 5 since it aired. But The West Wing also reminds me how powerful stories are. It’s a vicious contradiction, because all at once it validates and makes me question my life choices. And now, as I once again float around in the post-graduation haze of no fucking clue what I want out of my life, may not be the best time to do a rewatch. But maybe it is. Maybe it reminds me that there is more than one way to get what you want out of your life. Or that its possible to make changes in the world from wherever you stand. Or that you have to keep going, even when the show gets bad – uhhh, I mean when the going gets tough.

Or maybe it’ll just remind me to read the newspaper. I’ll let you know tonight, when I’m still thinking about it at three in the morning.

(Choosing the image from this post, source here and here, I just liked everything in the west wing tag on tumblr. This is my life)

AUSTRALIA and TRADITION…tradition…

So as our mother mentioned on FaceBook a few days ago, our parents, the people who raised us, are moving halfway around the world to Australia. This is something both Sara and I support (if anyone gets to visit them, it’s their children) but it has been stressful. And that stress is mainly because we have an entire house that now needs to be emptied of everything but essentials.

Because of this, I recently had to take apart my childhood bedroom. Luckily I had done a major clean about two years prior, so it wasn’t quite the overwhelming shit-storm it could have been. Instead it was a relatively quiet few days where I striped my walls of posters and newspaper clippings and scrubbed off all the old paint. It was cathartic, it was slightly embarrassing, and it was also pretty fun. I like starting over and taking a part my room felt like starting over.

Everything in it's rightful place!

Everything in it’s rightful place!

But it made me think a lot about tradition and what I find important in my life. When I was growing up my parents didn’t stake a lot in tradition. We had routines sure, but beyond hosting Christmas and going to the same summer camp every year, there weren’t any activities or family heirlooms that spoke of “THE GREAT DANVER FAMILY HISTORY” (even typing that felt pretentious).

It's like 2002 threw up in here and then everything just festered and grew....

It’s like 2002 threw up in here and then everything just festered and grew….

The only reason why this is important enough to think about is that we are now losing a lot of our stuff, a lot of our “traditions” and “heirlooms,” because of this move. I suddenly had to think about what art and books and furniture I would want to have in the future, if I wanted any of my parents stuff. And if I didn’t want any of it, it would be donated or simply thrown away.

It's naked don't look!

It’s naked don’t look!

This is a very weird thing! I’m having a hard time envisioning my future right now for a number of different reasons, but on top of this, I had to decide if there was something I might want for a house of my own someday. Sure we aren’t a very tradition-oriented family, but my parents instilled in me a fondness and a sense of history for many of our possessions. These were things I saw everyday I grew up. They’re very important to me because of the memories they carry.

13 year old me did not anticipate this amount of cleaning...

13 year old me did not anticipate this amount of cleaning…

I guess the reason I am having trouble with this move is because, I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting this. Yes I knew I would have to take apart my room at some point and that inevitably my parents would downsize to a smaller place. I didn’t really think I would have my house in its current state forever. But I think there’s a difference between downsizing and a complete shedding of your previous life. My home base is no longer my home base. And another family will be walking through those halls.

So what makes a home base? Is it your family? Is it the routine you establish there? Is it a combination of all your most prized possessions and people? I honestly don’t really know. A year into living on my own, I’ve had this idea in the back of my head that if I failed or if something didn’t work out I could just go home to Alexandria and start a new life. But this isn’t really an option for me anymore. Hoboken has, essentially, become my home base now.

This isn’t something I am SUPER EXCITED about nor is it filling me with dread. Honestly, it’s just another part of growing up. As an individual, my home can be wherever I want it to be. I’m excited about the possibility of creating new homes with parts of my old ones. I’m excited to get back to the essentials of my life, to know exactly what I need and what I don’t. And I’m excited to change. I think I used to be scared of change a lot more than I am now. And though I might not have traditions or heirlooms that speak of generations upon generations of greatness, I’ve got the greatest collection of people I know doing amazing things with their lives; things they are willing to share with me. And that’s worth more than most things…probably anything.

Fanfiction and Parentheticals

tumblr_inline_nm5ntwrzaG1rdu1n8_540Fanfiction is weird. I assume that for those of you who have heard of fanfiction 90% of you already agree with that. It’s stuff written about your favorite characters, in your favorite world…but not by your favorite author/showrunner/screenwriter. It’s people who spend way too much time on the internet, who care way too much about television shows, who talk about Harry Potter more than they talk about real life.

It, unfortunately, gave us 50 Shades of Gray.

(Important Side Note: There are much, much better sexually explicit fanfics out there that should have been turned into novels. Better BDSM ones in fact. That’s what you should all be pissed about.)

Fanfic quite literally keeps me up at night. In that I am often reading it when I should be sleeping. In college one of my best friends coined the term “fanfic hangover” to describe how awful and tired  you feel in the morning when you read fanfic way later into the night than you should have.

(Don’t worry, we got real hangovers too, though I’m not sure that should be as comforting to you as it is right now)

So in much the same way a good book or a good TV show can keep you up because you can’t quite make yourself stop, so too can a good fanfic. I have read some really phenomenal ones in my time, stories that give you new ways to think about characters and plots, stories that explore sublimated themes, stories that are more gripping or more thoughtful or more entertaining than the original content. And some of these stories can ruin the actual show/book/movie for you. (Read: Merlin, Teen Wolf) You have to ask yourself if you’d have noticed your favorite TV show getting so bad if you hadn’t had so many good stories in the universe to compare them to. Kelly would say you’d definitely notice. She noticed Merlin getting bad way before I did and she doesn’t read fanfic at all.

The thing about fanfic, though, is that its more than just people like me who can’t let go of stories, who want to play in fictional worlds long after the original content ends. Fan communities take mainstream stories and turn them into a place to represent themselves, to turn the mainstream inside out and represent so many oppressed and erased voices. Fanfic is where I first learned about gender-neutral pronouns, where I read my first story told by a trans* character. Fanfic and fan communities are where I learned about gender bending, asexuality, demisexuality.

Of course, fanfic has its own issues. It has all kinds of weird sexual politics, occasionally totally misunderstanding consent or fetishizing types of sexuality or relationships. It also often misunderstands and underrepresents race. It is certainly not perfect and it can’t be relied on to address all political concerns. But it does something vital that we don’t see in the mainstream.

I’m a cisgendered, heterosexual white woman. It’s not hard for me to find representations of myself in the world. Even so, fanfiction is where I’ve found the most powerful reflections of myself, of what I want out of life. Sometimes it keeps me up because of the story or the characters or the plot. But sometimes it keeps me up at night because it settles something inside for a little while. Like any story, the language and the honesty resonate with something I want and can’t name. And it does it by exploring a story that I love. It’s like emotional resonance calculus. It takes something already important to me and uses it to make just a little more sense out of the world.

Now, imagine what its like for people who don’t see themselves reflected in mainstream media. Fanfic isn’t for everyone. But for me, its one of the coolest places on the internet. For me, it shows just how much stories are capable of doing.

(Its also what I’m doing on my phone 90% of the time)

(If you want to read fanfic I’ve written you can check me out here or here)

(If you want to read where I’ve written a fanfic primer, head here)

image source

The Glory of Miss Fisher

Nothing keeps me awake more than television shows. And this one in particular has got me up all night.

Just about a year ago I was sitting in my parents basement, scrolling through Netflix after dinner when I came across a TV show titled Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. “Oh hey!” I said, “That’s that silly show they put on PBS after Doc Martin. Huh!” and then immediately continued scrolling along. But like most evening scrolling on Netflix, I couldn’t for the life of me decide on something to view (a problem many of us have run into – the product of too many options) so I thought “what the hell” and decided to watch the pilot episode of Miss Fisher’s. One year and 34 episodes later, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Meet Phryne Fisher (pronounced FRY-knee FISH-er) a modern lady detective in 1920s Melbourne, Australia. She carries a gold handgun, sleeps with whatever man she wants, and beats the living crap out of any man or women that threatens her or her team. Basically she’s the love child of Sherlock Holmes and Wonder Women. And she’s amazing. The show is actually based off a series of books written by Kerry Greenwood, but the show is decidedly different. Greenwood blessed all the changes that were made and the most important points remain the same.

Look at this gorgeous creature who can definitely kill you.

Look at this gorgeous creature who can definitely kill you.

Sounds pretty great right? But I’m guessing you want to know the plot. Just about a decade after World War I, Phryne moves home to Melbourne to look into the disappearance of her younger sister Jane, who was presumably kidnapped when they were younger. Along the way she uses her general brilliance to worm her way into murder and police investigations with the City South Police department, headed by the absolutely fedorable Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. At first Phryne and Jack butt heads, clamoring for territorial rights, but eventually realize they are the yin to each other’s yang (and maybe even fall in love but SPOILERS).

Frankly being this attractive is just RUDE.

Frankly being this attractive is just RUDE.

Along with these two fantastic leads are Dorothy Williams who is Miss Fisher’s companion/right hand woman. This extraordinary lady goes from being a timid Catholic who’s afraid of answering the telephone to a badass b-i-t-c-h who’s not afraid to stand up to the man she loves about her right to a job she wants. The man she loves happens to be the darling Constable Hugh Collins, who is coincidently Jack’s right hand man, and though he’s sometimes a little slow when it comes to the modern woman, he has a heart of gold. Together the four of them solve murders amid the glamour of the roaring 20s.

Look at all of them together I'm dyingggg

Look at all of them together I’m dyingggg

Hopefully I’ve already sold you on this fabulous show but in case I haven’t let’s talk about feminism. Though this show is set in the early 20th century, when there were still archaic ideas about femininity, sexuality, and race, this show presents some of the most forward thinking ideas about women than any other show I’ve seen. Granted they have a great platform; on the precipice of the first women’s lib movement, it’s a fantastic jumping off point for discussions about the roles of women in marriage and the workforce. Hell, they even regularly showcase gay and lesbian characters, one of which is Dr. Mac, Phryne’s childhood friend who occasionally helps them solve the whodunits.

But more than that, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries shows the audience just how capable women are. Phryne is never physically saved by Jack or any other man for that matter. Any time she’s in danger she gets herself out through her own wits and strength, a surprisingly rare quality in a TV show these days. She is also unabashedly her feminine self in what is seen more as a “man’s job.” Allowing Miss Fisher to remain a woman on her terms while dominating a man’s field is a hard concept for Hollywood these days, let alone in the 1920s. And while this might not be “historically accurate,” does that really matter? We’re watching it now, during a time when feminism, especially in the media, is being discussed more than ever.

Sure sometimes the premise is a little ridiculous or the plot is a little too straightforward, but I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching a TV show more. Seeing these characters develop and interact with each other is, quite simply, a great time. So what exactly are you waiting for? Hopefully not a telegram cause I have no idea how to send those.

Series one and two of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries can be viewed on Netflix. Series three should be premiering on PBS this fall.

An Ode to Things That No Longer Keep Me Awake

2014-12-21 12.07.55You don’t.

You did for a while. For far too long, you were the phone call I waited for, the joke I almost told, the gift I bought but never gave, the pair of eyes I looked for at the beginning and the end of the day. You taught me how to give the silent treatment, to stop listening, to drunk text. You taught me about the joy in recklessness.

You taught me about about the fear in recklessness too.

You opened me up, messed around, hid some things from me, brought others out to play. And then you closed me back up.

You were the villain in all my stories.

But now you don’t. Now I find you boring, and me boring too when I find myself thinking of you. For a while I was so glad to have a story that I didn’t care that it was a bad one, that it lacked character development, a hero, a denouement. I didn’t care that it was far too long, that it needed a red pen like a fish needs water. I never realized that, had I been this story’s reader instead of its writer, I would never have made it to the end.

I thought any story was better than no story at all. I was wrong.

I know what I look for in a story now. I like the slow burn ones, I like to feel the pressure in my left hand along the line of my thumb, the lurch of in my heart instead of my stomach. I prefer the spot behind my ear to the one on my waist. I need better character development. The protagonist needs to be her own person, she can’t seek definition from you anymore.

Instead, she’s going to find it in traveling, in finishing a novel, in cooking delicious things for and with her friends. She’s going to find it in good wine and good whiskey. She’s going to find it mason jars and moleskins and ballpoint pens. She’s going to find it in waiting. She might try to find it in online dating. But more than likely, she’ll probably just keep the coffee shop dream alive. She’s going to find it in good stories. Because she knows how much damage bad stories can do.

You used to keep me up at night, while I was trying to write you better, write you different, write you there. You kept me awake while I tried to make you a character instead of a delusion, when the whole time I should have remembered that you’re a person, and not a very good one. You kept me awake at night while I tried to put back all the things inside me you made a mess of.

But not anymore. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, I think I’m finally clean.

Kelly And Maslow

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I moved to Hoboken without a “real job.” This means that my income was based on minimum wage and that I was living mostly on savings. My initial goal was to get a job as soon as possible, but I also didn’t want to be stuck in a career or job that didn’t suit me since that’s why I left the district in the first place.

Since I had some room to be picky, I didn’t feel compelled to accept a job I really didn’t like, but to get some practice in and to widen my search net I signed up with a temp agency right when I moved. This means that I’ve been on a lot of job interviews. During the fall I went to about 20 interviews in two and a half months. And now that my publishing internships have finished and the industry is in a hiring flurry, I’ve gone on even more, sometimes as many as five in a week. Ask me if I got any of those jobs and I’ll give you a really bitter and sarcastic answer.

These interviews I went to were all entry level positions, mostly administrative, and the companies ranged from law firms, to hedge funds, to placing agencies. And what this inevitably means is that I got asked the same questions about my experience and my goals over and over. And out of every question asked, the one that I cannot stand the most is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The reason this question makes me want to scream is because I really honestly have no idea where I want to be in five years. And I guess I could talk about how I can’t even plan for next week, let alone a year or five years from now so why should it matter. But I don’t think that’s true. I know how I want my life to look like…or at least I know how I want to feel about it.

I’ve tried to figure out why I haven’t really thought about planning for my future. Is it because I don’t have the means to visualize a future at all? Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, developed this theory about the hierarchy of human needs – basically if humans cannot satisfy their lower needs like health, safety, and food, then they cannot reach self-actualization. So maybe I can’t visualize a future because I cannot satisfy my more basic needs like financial security.

Not as good as the food pyramid...but we'll make due.

Not as good as the food pyramid…but we’ll make due.

Do I agree with this theory? Yes and no. Like most other psychological theories it applies until it doesn’t. But it does make me think about why I haven’t been able to see past getting a job to a career or a life that’s greater or more personal. I feel as though I missed this past year because my focus has been solely on finding a way to support myself – by myself – so that I may find what else motivates me to become a “self-actualized” human.

When I hear the term “career” or “job” nothing very specific comes to mind. I just think about how I desire a job or a career that’s fulfilling, that I believe helps make the world a better place in some way and that my contribution means something. But ultimately I think that my job is a means to very different end.

What I’ve come to realize is that all of my goals have been more life-oriented. Such as, I want to live in as many cities as I can or at least out on the west coast someday. I want to live abroad again. I want to meet many interesting people and maintain the friends that I love. I want to write a book and a movie and I want to see them get made (arguably that’s kind of a career goal but since that’s all less likely to happen and it’s not really an industry per se I am putting it into the life category).

I think this why I am drawn to careers where I can be independent, where I can set my own hours, where I can essentially be my own boss, because I am afraid if I get stuck somewhere in a career or a job then I might not be able to accomplish any of those life goals, which are so much more important to me than any sort of career aspect of my life. But I also know that the majority of my time will be spent at my job and I want to love it and to believe in it and to find satisfaction in it.

Right now I don’t know what that satisfaction looks like. It’s not really something I can put into words. I think I have found a good industry; there is nothing I would rather promote, sell, or associate myself with more than books. But my desires, my needs, and the actions that drive me forward are deeper and more abstract than anything a 9 to 5 job could provide.

So I continue the search, both on job boards and within myself. If I am being honest, college freshman Kelly would never have thought she would be where she is today. But I think she’d be pretty impressed with what I have accomplished so far.