Category Archives: Lessons

Mile 662: 1,114 Miles to Wilmington

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“I don’t want to live a lie that I believe.”
–30 Seconds to Mars, “Do or Die”

Miles Since Last Time: 78.75
Total Miles: 662

In spring 2012, I wrote a paper called “Pied Piper vs. Faun: Storybooks and Female Empowerment in The Sweet Hereafter and Pan’s Labyrinth” for my senior film seminar. One of my professors encouraged us to submit our papers for publication in journals. I shrugged, asked “Why not?” and was directed toward Film Matters, an undergraduate film journal published by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. About a year later, my paper was officially accepted. Yay!

PPvsF

This past January, I received an email inviting me to submit the paper to Visions4, a film festival and conference also hosted by UNCW. It’s completely organized by undergrads, for undergrads (or the recently graduated, in some cases), and featuring a day full of undergraduate work.

They were accepting films (which I didn’t have) and papers (which I did have). Again I asked, “Why not?” and submitted. In February, I found out that it had been accepted, and Friday, April 4, I did a fifteen-minute presentation over “Pied Piper vs. Faun.”

It was terrifying/exciting/scary/amazing.

Sure, I may have had a minor freak out in the days leading up to the event and whisper-yelled “This is impossible!” at my computer screen while I tried to make cuts to my presentation. I definitely finalized it about five hours before I was on a plane to North Carolina. Yes, I was somewhat intimidated by the other seven scholars who were presenting papers and the filmmakers who had made such lovely films. (I mean, they were using a lot of three- and four-syllable words, and I said the name of my paper incorrectly when I introduced myself.) Plus, my mouth was so dry during my fifteen minutes that my lips were sticking to my teeth.

presentation

I cracked a few jokes, though, and people laughed at the appropriate times. Success! (Even though it wasn’t really enough to return the saliva to my mouth.)

The feedback was positive, and I got to watch a lot of good short films and hear smart people talk about all kinds of movies. I toured Screen Gems Studios and saw the Sleepy Hollow set. (Seriously, I was IN the library, but I couldn’t take pictures or touch anything, which is probably for the best.) I walked on the beach, had coffee in Atlanta, and fell asleep on not one, but FOUR planes. And last but not least, my team won the one-hour, one-take video race. Success again!

Of course, I had to miss a few days at the gym–but if you’re going to skip some workouts, I definitely recommend spending that time in North Carolina.

One of the things that surprised me most about my trip was how it reminded me of what I really miss about college. In the last year and a half, I’ve partly forgotten what it’s like to be constantly around creative people who are passionate about their art and making stuff. The whole experience was really quite invigorating. It’s made me think a lot more about how I spend my time and how I should be spending my time.

Basically, I need to make more stuff.

I suppose my little trip to Visions4 helped me adjust my vision, eh? See what I did there?

Sorry, guys. That’s the risk of hanging out with a self-recognized dork.

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Mile Zero: Resetting and Priorities

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“I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air,
So there.”
–Lorde, “Team”

Total Miles in 2013: 1731.5
Total Pounds Lost in 2013: 36

So, that’s the summation of the great 1,500 Mile Project of 2013–two numbers. I mean, as far as numbers go, they seem all right. Pretty good, perhaps. I feel generally positive and warm and fuzzy about them.

As I promised myself, I’m resetting my personal odometer (if the little notebook where I keep track of mileage can be considered an odometer) to zero and starting over. And since it’s New Year’s, why not add a couple of things to the list? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do January 1?

Here’s the thing. I’m absolutely terrible at keeping resolutions–you won’t find any of those self-unfulfilling prophecies here. Instead, I’m resetting my priorities, along with the mile count. Sure, it’s probably just semantics, but it sounds more permanent, right? Most resolutions get broken before we even make them, but adjusting your priorities–now that’s a life-changer.

Oh, Won-Won. Source

Oh, Won-Won.
Source

Starting now, my priorities, in order of personal importance, are:

Write, write, write-y, write, write.
The past year has been pretty much a dud on that front. No novel, barely a blog, and a failed anthology with two of my writer friends. This coming year will be the first year (of many, I hope) that I write something every day. It’s going to happen. The novel will get finished, and–STOP ROLLING YOUR EYES YOU GUYS I REALLY REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME. Didn’t you notice how it’s listed first?

As I was saying, more writing will be happening. The novel. More blogs. More reading. More productivity. More commitment to figuring out how to be a better writer. Fewer distractions. *cough* Like trying to write while the TV is on *cough*

Find a happy place.
Do you ever feel like you’re slowly going crazy, like maybe you’ve been going crazy for a while but have been too sidetracked to notice, and then somebody shoves you over a mental cliff? No? Oh, uh, yeah, so…

The formula sounds deceptively simple: cut out the bad, do what makes you happy. I have found that the process is never quite that easy, though. It’s definitely the type of quest that requires more energy than I’ve devoted as of late. Does anybody have a map of generally joyous regions that I could borrow?

The 2014 Mile Project.
I’ve done a lot–well, a few minutes worth of–thinking about what the mile goal should be for the next 365 days. Then it hit me: 2,014, which translates to about forty miles a week. I had originally been thinking about 2,500 total (about fifty a week), but I’m hoping that a slightly smaller number will mean more daily writing time (remember how that was first on the list?) and more time to explore alternative, less distance-related workouts.

Of course, I’m certainly not opposed to doing more miles. Two thousand and fourteen is really just a bare minimum.

So, that’s where I am today. Back at mile zero, at least two thousand and fourteen more to go, and a lot of writing to do in a happy location yet to be discovered.

I SHALL CONQUER YOU, 2014 (and beyond).

How Smash Helped Me Pinpoint My Real Problem With Love Triangles

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“The drama, the laughter,
The tears just like pearls.
Well, they’re all in this girl’s repertoire.”
–“Let Me Be Your Star,”
Smash

Source: Zap2It

Source: Zap2It

Now in its second season, NBC’s musical drama Smash can be a bit of a rollercoaster of quality, but I freely and openly admit that I love it.  Set against the flashy backdrop of Broadway, the show explores the creation of (hopefully) hit stage shows both on and off Broadway as the characters get into a number of relationship entanglements along the way.

Perhaps my great affection for musicals has helped me to forgive Smash’s faults:  the sometimes cartoonish, one-dimensional characters, the unnecessary covers of popular songs to attract the Glee crowd (the original music is far superior), and the Marilyn Monroe idolatry.  (I mean, I like her as much as the next person, but during much of the first season I kept thinking, Really?  She wasn’t a saint.)  The musical numbers are catchy, the fake musicals should be real, the complicated process of making a stage show is interesting, and several of the relationships and characters are actually very compelling.  Most of all, at its core, Smash is about trying to make good art that people will enjoy.  How could I not appreciate that?  However, even with my great affection for the genre, I am loath to overlook Smash’s use of the love triangle.

You should probably know that I generally hate love triangles.  At their best, I suppose that they can be a tense and heart-wrenching plot element in which a character must decide what version of him/herself that he/she wants to be (offhand, The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare springs to mind).  Too often, though, romantic polygons are used as cheap gimmicks to generate “Team So and So” t-shirts.  I tend to see them as crutches.

Karen and Derek Source: Zap2It

Karen and Derek
Source: Zap2It

Anyway, back to Smash.  This season, Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee), Perfect Queen of the Ingénues, has found herself caught between Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan), the slightly drug-addicted bad boy co-star/co-writer of Hit List (which she also stars in), and Derek (Jack Davenport), Hit List’s older, snarky British director, whose tone always implies an eye roll.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  I love Derek.

To simplify many episodes of build-up:  Derek is in love with Karen and sees her as his muse.  Jimmy has feelings for her, too.  Karen likes Jimmy, and turns Derek down after he confesses his feelings.  Jimmy’s complicated past gets in the way and Karen dumps him.  Then, she asks Derek to walk her home, where we can only guess what happened because that’s where their part of last episode ended.

And this is the basic problem with all love triangles–there will always be a first choice and a backup.  When the first choice inevitably falls apart (because happy couples are boring for stories), the backup steps in until whatever was wrong with the first choice works out.  As I watched Derek place his hand on the small of Karen’s back to guide her down the sidewalk, I realized how badly this model reflects on the Karen Cartwrights of the world.  First, it discredits her relationship with First Choice Jimmy because she seems to move on so quickly.  Second, she will inevitably hurt Backup Derek because we already know that she doesn’t quite feel the same about him.  Her possible relationship with Derek has more of an air of doomed convenience rather than real attraction.

Karen and Jimmy

Karen and Jimmy
Source: TVLine

So, what are we supposed to feel about the Karen Cartwrights of the world?

Less than sympathetic.

When a character gets practically everything or is fought over, it’s hard to root for her.  The center of a love triangle like this becomes more of a prize or a commodity rather than a real, breathing character.  As I’ve said in the past, I just can’t empathize with anyone who counts “there are too many people in love with me” among their problems.

This is why I hate love triangles.  This system of first choice/backup nearly always seems false to me and usually ends with my dislike of Karen Cartwright, or whoever is in the center.

I guess I’ll have to wait until this week’s episode of Smash (8/7c on your local NBC channel) to see what direction this storyline takes for however long the show has left.  In my slightly biased opinion, Smash has gotten better over the last few episodes–even Rachel Shukert of The Vulture has said as much.  Unfortunately, despite this upswing, I’m about ninety percent sure that Smash might get canceled.  The ratings are so bad that OWN is beating it.  Yikes.  If/When it gets that happens, you will surely find me belting “Let Me Be Your Star” as I send text messages filled with sobbing emojis to my sister (the only person I know who actually watches Smash).

At least I’ll have learned something from it.

2013

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“And now it’s time to build
From the bottom of the pit right to the top.
Don’t hold back.”
–Imagine Dragons, “It’s Time”

Am I too late for the Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions post?  Eh, I don’t care.  As far as I’m concerned, January should be treated as a grace period as you ease into the calendar change.  You don’t have to hold yourself to any resolutions until you consistently get the year right when writing down the date.  So, technically, I still have a few days left to figure out what direction 2013 (Yes!  I got it right this time!) is going to take.

My graduation cap.  Class of (the fall of) 2012!

My graduation cap, which I decorated myself. Class of (the fall of) 2012!

Last year was pretty big, possibly the biggest if for no other reason than that I finally graduated from college a little over a month ago.  To make a long story short: I graduated from high school in 2003, went to college for three years, left, worked in the “real world” for almost five years, and went back in the spring of 2011 to finish.  I like to think that I made up for my “hiatus” by earning two Bachelor’s degrees.  Not that I’m bragging or anything.

The entire time I was out of school, all I could think about was going back and finishing.  It was all I wanted.  Now I have done it.  Now what?

Now, I set a few goals for what I’ll call my Follow-Up Year:

1.)  Write every day.  (You know, from now on.  We’re not counting the last twenty-five days.)
I’ve failed pretty miserably at this so far, but because I’ve written it on my blog, it’s basically pretty much legally binding.  No one wants to fail at something they’ve declared on the Internet.  I’m going to hold myself to writing something, anything–be it a blog post, an opinion article, a review, or a few pages of my novel or a short story–every day for the foreseeable future.  This will likely mean that you’ll be hearing more from me here, which is kind of good if reading this isn’t making you want to volunteer for a lobotomy.

2.)  Finish my novel.
I’ve done fifty thousand words of a first draft, and I want to finish, edit, and publish it on Amazon before my birthday on May 14.  That gives me a little less than four months.  Doable.  Intimidating, but doable–especially if I stick with #1.

3.)  Be more adventurous.
And by adventurous, I don’t mean stupid.  That’s a little vague, I know, but I have some ideas–and one big whopper of a plan–of how to possibly accomplish this.  I’m still researching, though.  Like I said, I’m not trying to be stupid, reckless, or otherwise senseless.  Just adventurous, as vague as that may be.

4.)  Get up when my alarm goes off.
I’ve been trying to conquer this demon for longer than I would like to admit.  Pressing the snooze button for an hour every day isn’t doing anyone any favors.

As big and important as 2012 was, I can’t help but think that 2013 will be bigger.  (Maybe I should add “use my thesaurus more” to my list of resolutions…)  At the very least, it is a turning point—a nasty, scary, exciting one that could lead anywhere.

Let’s get this ball rolling.

BFBs Deserve More Than SOGs

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“You’re much too pretty, you don’t need your mind.
Just bat them eyelids, get your heart’s desires.”
–Seether, “Fallen”

Last week, I outlined how to make a beautiful fictional boy (the BFB) fall in love with you, but it has been brought to my attention that I made a rather glaring omission. I pointed out ways to attract the BFB, but failed to say anything about the girl who actually ends up with him–the Silly “Ordinary” Girl, or the SOG.

I put “Ordinary” in quotes because, well, she never turns out to be quite as regular as she originally thought. She discovers that she is a fairy, the doppelganger, a vampire-mind-shield, descendant from a long line of dark witches, or the like. She learns that she is absolutely not ordinary and soon becomes the key to saving the world from certain disaster–all at the tender age of seventeen.

My previous neglect of the SOG is probably due to the fact that I typically don’t like her. Sure, there are exceptions to my aversion, but I rarely see what the big deal is about these “heroines.” Often, they just get on my nerves for one reason or another. The SOG starts ordinary so that we can relate to her, but her problems dissolve into messy tangles of love that frequently don’t seem realistic to most of us. She is usually a bit self-pitying, non-blonde, and either too self-aware or not aware enough. Living in a constant state of sexual tension, she nearly always makes stupid decisions which one or more BFB must rectify.

I feel that I should point out that my dislike for the SOG is not about jealousy. I enjoy a good love story as much as anyone, but there are some traits I’d rather not see perpetuated in books, movies, and television.

1.) Pheromones that may well cause the apocalypse.
Any character who counts “there are too many people in love with me” as one of her problems gets absolutely no sympathy from me. She can’t decide which BFB she loves the most? She’s worried that being with her first-choice-BFB will hurt the feelings of her second- or third-choice-BFB? The villain’s fascination with her is making her confused? Gosh, that must be really terrible for the SOG. Meanwhile, her suitors’ attempts to protect the SOG are resulting in large-scale destruction. Also, she gets a little too accustomed to having these boys who insist on being in love with her do whatever she asks.

2.) Complete, un-adorable cluelessness.
Not only does she attract the greater male population, but the SOG doesn’t seem to realize it until, for example, her best friend (a guy who also happens to be in love with her) storms off after witnessing her immediate and intense connection to a handsome stranger. She attributes her friend’s exit to missing his curfew and proceeds to follow the handsome stranger as he vanquishes the monsters of the night. Again, that must be really terrible.

3.) Self-deprecating in a way boys find charming, but that is actually nauseating.
In addition to being clueless about others’ amorous intentions, she’s so overly humble/insecure that she doesn’t believe BFBs could love her. She convinces herself that all of them, in fact, hate her. She sees any burning looks as poisonous, not passionate. When she brushes one of the BFBs’ arms, she thinks he tenses because he can’t stand to touch someone as low as her. Then, upon his formal declaration of love, she is truly shocked that he loves her, and he’s confused at her shock. So much miscommunication is exhausting.

4.) Innocent, but a little bit of a lustful slut.
The SOG lacks romantic experience, but when a BFB gets his hands on her–watch out. Suddenly, his touch leaves a trail of fire across her skin, the look in his eye sucks the air from her lungs, his hair turns to silk in her fingers, and the two dissolve into passionate making out (and are interrupted before it turns too Harlequin-ish). Of course, the SOG often finds herself in these precarious situations with more than one BFB at different times. I can’t imagine that writers do this to continue the whole “insecure girls will be with anyone who says he loves them” sort of thing, but I still find it a little weird.

5.) The stench of burning martyr (also known as “The Bella Syndrome” or “The Elena Gilbert Complex”).
This is possibly the most frustrating trait of all. Because of some hidden magical trait that she didn’t know about until she fell in love, the SOG becomes instrumental in stopping an evil maniac from taking over the world. Somehow, in her mind, this means that she needs to die in order to protect the people she loves. She welcomes this fate and practically seeks it out. She is eager to prove her love by dying, and the BFB must save her from herself as well as the villain. Does true love really always need to involve mortal sacrifice? I surely hope not.

Ladies–I beg of you–please don’t become this girl. Pining for fictional boys is one thing, but becoming an oblivious siren with a penchant for suicide is quite another. That’s not the way to fall in love, so just cut it out.

How to Make a Beautiful (Fictional) Boy Fall in Love With You

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“Now that you know I’m trapped, sense of elation,
You’d never dream of breaking this fixation.”
–Muse, “Time Is Running Out”

From True Blood to Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters, the growing trend in fantasy fiction seems to be the Beautiful Fictional Boy–or, as I call him, the BFB.

Misunderstood, wry, sarcastic, strong, a bit self-destructive, and very nice to look at, the BFB is becoming a new type of popular hero.  He usually has some sort of supernatural component and a dark past or secret he either doesn’t talk about or doesn’t know the truth of.  His eyes are particularly expressive, and his beauty is often described as “heartbreaking” by a great many authors.  He pushes people away, but that just makes you love him more.  You know you love him when you’re mad at him but still get lost in the angles of his face and his stormy eyes send a spear through your heart.

Sigh…

As I watch these shows and read these books, I’ve started to notice certain rules and procedures to how you win over these types of boys.

1.)  There can be multiple BFBs.  Recognize and attract them all.
Much like Newton’s third law of motion, most characters have their equal and opposite–or foils.  Basically, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character in order to highlight some particular trait.  Especially recognizable by their differing physical characteristics, foils exist everywhere and not just BFB-land.  For example, we have Bill/Eric/Alcide, Stefan/Damon, Holmes/Watson, House/Wilson, Jim/Dwight, Eragon/Murtagh, Harry/Draco, Will Herondale/Jem Carstairs, Edward/Jacob (yeah, I went there), etc., etc.  If you’re a classicist, you’ve also got Hamlet/Laertes.  (I think I just made my high school English teacher very happy.  That one’s for you, Mrs. Duprez!)

Essentially, there are two types of BFB.  The nice/sophisticated BFB and the rough/volatile BFB, and then come their miscellaneous variations.  Your job as the future object of their affections is to send out your pheromones to each and every one of them, but favor the most emotionally damaged of them all.  Love triangles, quadrangles, hexagons–all relationship polygons–are vital for your fictional romance.

2.)  The more incendiary your wit, the better.
Verbal repartee is a must.  A BFB likes a girl who can put him in his place with words.  Match sarcasm with sarcasm.  He’s used to (and has grown bored with) people fawning over him, so you need to get under his skin by not letting him have free reign over verbal communication.

3.)  Know stuff.
Whether they admit it openly or not, BFBs can be a little bit nerdy, but in a super-hot way.  They appreciate music, literature, poetry, cinema, and the like.  You should be able to identify his references and make some of your own.  Quotes are ideal.

4.)  Catch him looking at you, and let him catch you looking at him.  Make sure others see you surreptitiously ogling each other, then look away quickly.
Sidelong glances are the best way to alert each other to feelings of interest.  In fact, try to react anytime the BFB enters a room.  Suck in a breath.  Tense.  Drop whatever you are holding.  Just act like a twitching fool whenever you are in close proximity to him.

5.)  Be a damsel in distress, but be a feminist about it–a femsel, as it were.
This is quite possibly the most important rule.  Because the BFB is sort of a variation on the hero, he obviously needs something to save.  You.  Villains must come from all directions to lure you into their nefarious plans–plans that you are also the key to thwarting.  However, you are still a strong, capable girl.  Forcefully let your BFB know that you don’t appreciate being the helpless female, take an active role in said thwarting-of-the-villain so that he respects your bravery, but still let him save you.  The best way to do so is to accidentally send the plan awry and get into mortal danger so that your BFB can come to the rescue.

Those are the rules as I see them.  Now, feel free to pine uncontrollably for the boy that will never exist and to compare all of your future relationships to the romantic entanglement that can never be.  The BFB may not be a real person, but you can always see him on your favorite television show, in your favorite movie, on the pages of your favorite book, or in that super-fan tattoo on your thigh or shoulder blade.

Tire-d

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“Rolling in on a burning tire,
You’re gonna set my house on fire
Just to show me you were there.”
–The Dead Weather, “Rolling in on a Burning Tire”

I think my tires are jealous of me.

Well, more specifically, my car’s tires are jealous of the permanent spare tire I keep attached to my waist.

You see, my waist-tire never deflates.  My car tires see this as disrupting the natural order, so they go around exclaiming the horror of the abomination while secretly wishing that they, too, had the power of everlasting inflation.

However, they would never admit this desire out loud (for a number of reasons), so they act out.

They spring a leak. They invite holes and tears. They explode on the highway halfway through my journey home or to the tire store.  They throw temper tantrums and make me fill them up every single day.  They inconvenience my life at the most inopportune moments.

Why do my tires do this?  Because they can.  They conspire to take every possible chance to remind me that “true” tires are filled with fleeting air.  They assert their power and superiority by ruining my day and my bank account.

Oy, the ego.

I don’t need my tires to teach me lessons.  I would be much happier if they would avoid driving over deserted nails and chunks of glass.

If they weren’t inanimate objects, I would totally tell them that.

Now, please enjoy my “Adventures in Tire-d-ness” slide show–inspired by Thursday’s true events.

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