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Spooky Scary links for Halloween

Hi! I’m not dead. I’ve just spent the last month and a half starting a new job, moving to a new city and finding ways to make my new apartment livable. Sorry for being MIA, and I promise I’ll start posting more regularly again soon.

But today I wanted to do a short post in honor of my second favorite holiday. From going up to Madison, Wisconsin, for Halloween weekend to my office’s own party today, I’ve been in the spoopy spirit.

It's Friday the 13th. So Jake and I made a cake. #SpookyScary #WerewolfBarMitzvah

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Let’s get spooky:

Spotify is matching users to a Stranger Things character based on music history, and giving you a playlist based on said character

I’m only halfway through Stranger Things season two (it’s just my luck that it would come out the weekend I spend 16 hours driving), but of course I’m Jonathan. Honestly, is anyone surprised? But my work day was made much more fun with The White Stripes’ “Fell In Love With A Girl” and Father John Misty’s “Nancy From Now On.”

My Favorite Murder

I’ve been interested in all things murder and true crime since I was a kid, morbidly enough. And when I stumbled across this podcast, it was like a perfectly packaged gift specifically for me. I discovered this podcast around the time I started working at my current job, and binge at least two-three episodes a day in my office. If you love true crime and dark humor, this is the podcast for you. If you want a specific episode that will get you hooked, try episode 10.

Vox‘s “5 Techniques Filmmakers Use To Scare You”

I’m a huge scary movie fan. And a huge movie fan in general (I didn’t get that minor in film studies for nothing). And of all the movies I sat through at dreadfully uncomfortable desks in the basement of Strickland hall, my favorite ones to learn about were the horror flicks – The Shining, The Birds, Metropolis, etc.

On a related note – be sure to watch something scary tonight. My recommendations are: Rosemary’s Baby (my very favorite), The Witch, Alien, It (2017), Get Out, The Blair Witch Project and Silence of the Lambs. 

Jezebel‘s reader-submitted scary story, “Look At Me”

Not proud to admit that this thoroughly terrified me. And I don’t scare easily. (It honestly reminds me of the very first threatening chain email I got when I was in fifth grade, and sometimes I still wonder if I’ll be murdered because I didn’t forward it to 10 people).

Okay well on a less morbid note, here is a picture of me and my boyfriend dressed as Gene and Louise from Bob’s Burgers:

Do you think he would take a Reverse Norwegian Stink Hold for me? #BobsBurgers

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Enjoy the holiday, and stay spooky.

Summer reading standards: reflections

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The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

Cormoran Strike is a struggling private detective who is hired to solve the death of supermodel Lula Landry – a death that has officially been ruled a suicide, but her grieving brother is convinced she was murdered. It was a bit slow to get into, but once Strike realizes that Landry may have not committed suicide after all, you can’t put it down.

Rating: 4 stars

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The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

In February 2014, I saw The Vagina Monologues performed for the first time at my school. As I was reading these hilarious, empowering, devastating monologues three years later, I was transported back to sitting next to my then-roommate in a packed Jesse Hall watching women dressed in red moan in pseudo-arousal a la When Harry Met Sally and scream about their pissed-off vaginas. The standout line: “I want to taste the fish. That’s why I ordered it.”

Rating: 4 stars

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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Published just two months before her untimely death, Carrie Fisher recounts her experiences making the first Star Wars film and entering the realm of fame, but what dominates the book is her affair with co-star Harrison Ford. This was the first book I’ve read by Fisher, who writes with whip-smart wit that often had me scoffing and laughing out loud.

Rating: 3 stars

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Room by Emma Donoghue

I saw the movie at a little indie theater in CoMo last January and cried snot the entire time. Now I finally read the book and cried just as much (if not more). I devoured Room in less than three days, something I haven’t done to a book in years, and I believe everyone should give this a read at least once.

Rating: 5 stars

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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

I had more than a few nightmares reading this (including one particularly strange dream that my boyfriend invited his “good friend Charlie” over to dinner) but it was one of the most riveting books I’ve read in a long, long time. I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t believe it was nonfiction. The story of how Charles Manson built his “Family” and maintained such a strong, Christ-like influence over each of its members is astonishing, bizarre and terrifying.

Rating: 5 stars

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Strangeland by Tracey Emin

Emin is one of the most well-known artists from the Young British Artists of the ’90s, and my personal favorite ever since I learned about her and saw her piece “My Bed” last summer. Like much of her workStrangeland offered brief glimpses into moments of her life. It was written simply and sparsely, no-nonsense and never deviated with unnecessary details of each scene. It offered an interesting look into her life and psyche, but did lag as much as it engrossed.

Rating: 3 stars

‘BoJack Horseman’ interweaves past with present for poignant season four

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It’s been a year since BoJack left his Hollywoo life behind and, subsequently, left us to wonder how the show would follow the genius of season three, which pushed our favorite antihero to a new devastating brink with his costar’s overdose. But season four does the seemingly impossible – by intertwining the past with present, BoJack Horseman produces its most searing season to date.

When we last saw BoJack, he was fleeing Hollywoo in search of…something. Happiness. Acceptance. The ability to feel good about himself, perhaps. His search leads him to The Old Sugarman Place, which belonged to his grandfather and where he and his mother both spent their childhood summers. He fixes up the rundown house as flashbacks of a particularly life-changing summer during his mother’s childhood play, often interweaved with the present day as ghostly images. This is the first demonstration of this season’s peculiar relationship with time – the season covers the longest time span of any other, leaving each character drastically changed by its end.

BoJack meets Hollyhock, a teenage girl who pulls him back to reality and out of his self-deprecating cycle of needing help, looking for help and rejecting help. He’s still haunted by his part in Sarah Lynn’s death and the harm he caused Penny and Charlotte, but Hollyhock gives him a reason to be responsible, to be present, to simply be. It’s not the first time BoJack has shown promise, but it is the most hopeful I’ve been that he will, somehow, eventually, one day get better.

And since BoJack Horseman isn’t just about the titular horse, each member of the gang goes through their own hardships. Season four picks up in the midst of Mr. Peanutbutter’s campaign for governor, which puts a strain on his marriage to a less-than-thrilled Diane. Todd is coming to terms with his sexual identity and meets with other asexuals. Princess Carolyn is still trying to have it all – career, relationship, family. BoJack’s mother Beatrice, a scathing secondary character despised by fans since season one, is the most present (er, physically, at least) she has ever been, much to his chagrin.

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It is Beatrice, of all people, who is the most devastating character of the new season. Through the show’s manipulation of time, we learn how she became so coldhearted and cruel toward BoJack. Episode 11, “Time’s Arrow,” is dedicated solely to Beatrice as we jump between scenes of her childhood, adolescence and marriage to BoJack’s father Butterscotch and is one of the most poignant episodes of the series – I’d equate it to season one’s “Downer Ending.”

But in true BoJack fashion, there is still the “loosely related wacky misadventures.” In episode seven, “The Underground”, the main characters (plus Jessica Biel) become trapped underground for days after a fracking accident and must build a new society in order to govern and survive their underground world. It’s reminiscent of season three’s “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” (a personal favorite of mine) and season two’s “Chickens.” Todd is still finding new ventures to pursue, this time in a terrifying dentist/clown mash-up business that goes terribly awry.

In season four, BoJack Horseman challenged itself. Its ambition and gusto have solidified it as one of the best seasons of 2017 TV and leaves us all waiting impatiently for season five – when this damn horse cartoon will make us cry yet again.

Links to read instead of watching football

Because Mizzou is playing and I’m a bad alumna.

NPR’s “A Shot And A Book: How To Read In Bars”: A charming read about a man who reads to write about what he read in the hopes others may also read what he read, and why bars are the best location for said reading. Follow that?

Vox’s “The essential Stephen King: a crash course in the best from America’s horror master”: From the same author of the essay I’ve discussed earlier, this reads like a Stephen King syllabus. King has been widely covered lately, with It currently in its opening weekend and several adaptations in the works, and I’m all about it.

NYT’s “Harvey and Irma, Married 75 years, Marvel at the Storms Bearing Their Names”: How the Times managed to make hurricanes Harvey and Irma heartwarming I will never know. Also, this article answered a longtime question of mine – how the heck are hurricanes named, anyway?

Indiewire’s “Stephen King’s It: 6 Most Important Differences Between the Film and Stephen King’s Book: It is my favorite Stephen King book. So, naturally, I saw the movie opening night. While there were a few places where the movie was a bit clunky, overall I thought it was a success. It was so much fun, even though I will 100 percent rant to you about how Henry Bowers should not have died.

Indiewire’s “The 50 Best 2010’s Movie Posters (So Far)”: I will order all of these for my walls.

The Cut’s “Raise Your Hand If You’re Scared of Taylor Swift”: I’m very vocal about my distaste for T Swizzle. Her playing the victim, her “squad”, her using feminism only when it is convenient for her, her “Famous” fiasco against Kim and Kanye … the list goes on. This article made me laugh with maniacal glee.

Links to heal your heart

It’s been a hard week after the events in Charlottesville, and I’ve been having a really hard time processing. And while I definitely believe it’s vital to pay attention and stay aware of what is happening surrounding the white supremacist movement and the removal of Confederate statues, I’ve been letting it consume me to the point that my mental health has been suffering.

If your heart is hurting as much as mine, here are some things I’ve been turning to recently that have made me feel a little better:

  • Watch Zootopia. It’s a big, beautiful metaphor that addresses the harmfulness of racism, and is painfully relevant to today. But it’s so clever and will restore the sliver of hope you still have in humanity.
  • Vanity Fair filmed a celeb interview parody video with Jennifer Lawrence and it’s incredible.
  • The New York Times built an interactive matrix where you can plot each Game of Thrones character’s goodness and beauty. I spent an ungodly amount of time filling it out.
  • Entertainment Weekly‘s “The United States of Movies” combines two of my favorite things – maps and movies – and also reminds me of a man I met in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, who immediately brought up Gone Girl when I told him I’m from Missouri.
  • My boyfriend says I can’t listen to Lorde’s new album Melodrama anymore because it makes me sad, but I can’t resist watching her music video for “Perfect Places” again and again.
  • Speaking of new music, Kesha’s new comeback album is her best yet – especially “Bastards” and “Learn to Let Go.” Blast it on your drive.
  • Liz Climo. I know I’ve posted about her cartoons before, but they can’t not make your heart smile.
  • Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today column at Vice. Hey fellow sad people, you aren’t alone!
  • The “Great American Eclipse” is this Monday and Columbia is in the line of totality. I was already super excited, but now I’m practically bursting because Bonnie Tyler is going to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” during it.

How Stephen King taught me to write

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No writer has influenced me more than Stephen King. In seventh grade I read my first King novel, Pet Sematary, and chased it with Salem’s LotThe ShiningCarrie and Christine. King was my segue from children’s and young adult fiction into adult fiction and, more than even the J School, King taught me how to write.

Vox recently published a story on Stephen King’s extensive cultural influence – after all, without him we wouldn’t fear Pennywise the Dancing Clown living in our sewers or ironically name our shih tzus Cujo. Much of this article discusses King’s writing style – namely, his exceptional ability to make the reader empathize with characters.

As the article’s author Aja Romano writes, “every characterization, even a minor one, is rich with detail; even if you just met a new character, you can bet that by the time he or she meets a grisly ending a few pages later, you’ll have a deep understanding of who that character is.” King is a master of writing in rich detail, building worlds and understanding people – key elements I work to emulate in my own writing, both in fiction and in journalism.

I’m a features writer and have always tended to steer clear of hard news. I became a writer because I want to meet people and learn about them. My favorite stories to work on are ones where I’ve attempted to capture a person’s essence to make the reader understand them as I have come to.

Take, for example, a story I did in October 2015 about Mark Chambers, a Rocky Horror Picture Show super fan and emcee. I conducted multiple interviews and spent a lot of time texting, calling and just hanging out with Mark as he worked on his show. I had to understand the love this man had for this movie and make sure readers understood him as well.

With each story I work on, I try to exercise my ability to build scenes and create characters. It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to write a long form feature such as the one on Mark, but even with shorter articles I take every opportunity I can to make it more rich with detail, such as in a Q&A with a baker in Columbia, Missouri, and a Missouri music icon. My focus on detail comes from King, much to the chagrin of my former journalism professors who would cringe when I couldn’t name one long form journalist I admired, but raved about the horror author.

Though King is my favorite author and I’ve read many of his novels, I have barely put a dent in his expansive list of works. I’m ashamed to say some of his most famous stories, such as The Stand and Misery, are still resting, unread, on my bookshelf. But here are some characters who have stuck with me because of the great care King put into them.

The Losers’ Club in It

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It, my favorite King novel, lacks a central character in exchange for a core cast of six – The Losers. It begins with extensive delves into each character’s life as adults before returning to their childhoods, and jumps back and forth in time throughout the 1,100+ pages. As you see them in childhood and adulthood, cross-cut together, you develop a deep understanding of who they are and what motivates them, making It’s threat all the more terrifying.

Dolores Claiborne

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Stephen King is the reason I will be thinking of nothing but Kathy Bates and husbands pushed down wells during the Aug. 21 eclipse. Dolores Claiborne is interesting to me because the novel is told entirely through Dolores’ confession to the police about her involvement in a murder. On the surface, Dolores and Vera Donovan, an old woman Dolores is employed by, are cold, hard and in some cases cruel. But King masterfully peels back the layers of their complicated relationship through the conflict between Dolores and her abusive husband Joe. He writes Dolores in such a powerful way as she reclaims power and ends her years of living under domestic abuse, though through her own act of violence. King, to me, is Shakespearean in his understanding of women.

Big Jim in Under the Dome

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It might be strange to say that Big Jim is one of my favorite King villains. After all, he is just a used car salesman and King has written vampires, killer clowns and whatever the hell the Langoliers are. But Jim being human is what makes him so terrifying as he rises to power when Chester’s Mill is cut off from the outside world by an unseen force. One line that still sticks with me, four years after reading the novel, is from Big Jim himself: “Murder is like potato chips; you can’t stop with just one.”

Hi, hey there, hello, I worked 30 hours this week

I love to work. I love being productive. Being out of school for nearly two months with no job related to my degree is killing me, but I am forever thankful of my job in retail that keeps me busy (bet nobody has ever said that before, huh?).

Even so, 30 hours a week standing, lifting furniture and dealing with more-than-a-little-cranky customers takes its toll. Mostly in the form of necessary beer consumption, sore legs and taking three and a half hour naps between shifts. And when you throw in a freelance project I’ve been working on, this week has been exhausting.

Self-care is something I tend to neglect, especially in the face of a busy schedule. But after this week, I have found it necessary. Here are some easy ways I kept myself sane the last few days, sans-fancy candle-lit bath:

Yoga: Back in the day (aka junior year) I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. for sunrise yoga at the Mizzou Rec twice a week. Now that I’ve graduated and, sadly, can no longer enjoy the Rec’s classes, my mat has stayed rolled up in a box of clothes. Until yesterday, that is, when I finally practiced solo (with help from Youtube).

Going out for food: Getting brunch/lunch/dinner with someone is one of my favorite things to do. Maybe it’s because I’m just too lazy to cook, but hey, it always makes me feel better.

READ: Find a hammock, couch, coffee shop or just get in bed and spend hours with a book. Though I can’t exactly say my current read is particularly calming (Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry), it’s definitely a much-needed escape from my reality.

See a movie: Baby Driver is so much fun. Holy cow.

‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ and hello to what I’ve been waiting for my entire life

One of my earliest memories is from when I was two or three years old, sitting in front of my TV watching The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh surrounded by my kittens appropriately named Pooh Bear and Tigger. I have an E. H. Shepard illustration of Pooh tattooed on my right shoulder. Last week, I made my boyfriend watch Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin with me. I cried when I met Pooh at Disneyland. As I type this, I am sitting on my Winnie the Pooh pillow pet. You get the picture. I’m a Pooh person.

So you can imagine my excitement now that the first trailer for Goodbye Christopher Robin was finally released today (and my agony of knowing I won’t be able to see this film for four more months).

I am fully ready to see this movie every week it is in theaters and sob. My friends jokingly say that my catchphrase of sorts is *gentle gasps about Winnie the Pooh*, and today it’s *heaving sobs about Winnie the Pooh*. To quote the bear himself: “Today, I should say, is a good day for being Pooh [or, in this case, a Pooh fan].”

Though the books and Disney cartoons were made with children as the target audience, I have always advocated that the stories of Pooh and his pals can’t be fully appreciated and understood until you’ve grown up. The stories teach empathy, kindness, embracing your individuality, self-confidence and the importance of forming lasting friendships. As we grow older and leave parts of childhood behind us, we should never forget Pooh.

And now, after movies and TV shows and picture book adaptations of A. A. Milne’s novels, there is finally a Pooh story coming that’s made for adults.

Starring my love Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie and Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag glory, Goodbye Christopher Robin is looking to follow in the footsteps of Finding Neverland and be a strong Oscar contender.

(Now the question is: do you think Disney’s upcoming live-action Winnie the Pooh will be any good? I’m concerned).

Summer reading standards

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Like most kids, I always looked forward to summer – going to the pool, sleeping in late and, above all, being able to read without the hindrance of homework.

I would spend the days of summer vacation sitting inside and devouring book after book. My mother would sometimes ground me from reading and urge me to “get off that couch and go play outside; you need the exercise and fresh air.” In the summer between third and fourth grade, I read 13,053 pages and placed first in my elementary school’s summer reading challenge.

As I’ve grown older and schoolwork has become more and more demanding during the year, my time spent reading for pleasure has dwindled to a sad trickle. But I’m working to, hopefully, change that this summer.

Granted, since I just graduated from college not even a month ago, I have time to catch up on my always-growing bookshelf for the foreseeable future (especially since I’m unemployed. Please, somebody, hire me). But to get back into the swing of things, I’m pushing myself to read as many books as I can before August. The list to conquer (so far):

  • The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
  • The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
  • Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

The good of 2016

2016 was a rollercoaster of emotions. It was a year of overwhelming negativity for the world, but I managed to find solace in a few different outlets and support systems. For every moment I spent loathing school, there was someone to bitch about it with me. For every celebrity death, there was Disneyland. For every night spent feeling alone and worthless, there was a boy willing to make me a milkshake and watch The Bachelor with me. For every lost friendship, there were new relationships being formed over pizza, wine and Shrek.

It’s easy to remember the bad. The creeps in bars and the election and the social injustices and the not-so-good grades. But honestly, no matter how many bad things dominated 2016’s headlines, it was one of the greatest years of my personal life. Here are some of the memories that stand out, the material objects that kept me sane, and the people who held me upright.

Europe

The three months I spent abroad were the best months of my life. I had never been out of the country before, and flying an ocean away from all of my friends and family to live in London for a summer was terrifying. But I fell in love with England and Ireland and Scotland and France, and I now spend way too many nights looking through my hundreds of travel pictures, wine glass in hand, crying hysterically.

My London family

Europe wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing without these five girls I met and befriended. Together we explored the city’s streets and ventured out to Oxford, Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Barcelona, Dublin, and the Scottish Highlands. It took traveling six timezones away to make friends for life who were around me all along. Here’s to the Southbank Squad.

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So Sad Today and other memoirs 

This year I began devouring memoirs and personal essays. My favorite book released this year was Melissa Broder‘s So Sad Todaywhich I now refer to as “the Sad Person Bible.” It’s unflinching and ballsy and makes me want to follow Broder’s example of not shying away from anything while writing. Along with So Sad Today, I also enjoyed Amy Schumer’s The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo, Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Womanand Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. All of these women inspired me greatly this year.

The YBAs

While in London, I took a class on British culture and learned about everything from the role the English class system plays in society to the mods and rockers of the 1960s. But my favorite thing we learned about was the Young British Artists movement of the ’90s. With the exception of Damien Hirst (I’m sorry I know he’s a big deal but I just can’t get on board), I was fascinated with their shock tactics and how they reinvigorated art for the 21st century. In particular, I loved the work of Tracey Emin. I bought her book of personal essays at the Tate Modern and it’s currently resting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to open. My favorite piece of hers that I was fortunate enough to see in person this summer (and literally cry over) is “My bed“, an installation of her personal bed where she spent days in a depressive state. I thought it was so powerful of her to take her mental illness, which has to be one of the most difficult aspects of her life, and display it to the public.

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Lady Gaga’s Joanne

Lady Gaga has been a huge role model of mine since middle school. Her latest album Joanne just reinforced my love and admiration. It’s so different from anything else she’s done and highlights just how much she has grown since her meat dress days. The songs have such range and her vocals are stellar. Also, every time I hear “Million Reasons” I weep uncontrollably. Whenever I was frustrated with the world (basically every day post-election), this album was a hug around my heart.

Disneyland Paris

After waiting my whole life, I finally went to a Disney park for the first time. I waited 45 minutes to meet Winnie the Pooh and I cried.

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Girls

Girls. Girls Girls Girls Girls Girls – I know I’m super late since season 6 is about to come out and I’m just now starting the series (though, I have watched four season within the last week), but I can’t stop bingeing. It’s been the biggest inspiration I’ve had to write since reading So Sad Today in Heathrow airport. The more the School of Journalism sucks the life out of me, the more I just want to work in a coffee shop/bookstore and write essays and novels.

My best friend

This year I found my best friend, who treats me with so much love, compassion and respect. He keeps me together when I’m feeling low, and half of the adventures I had this year wouldn’t have been possible without him. Here’s to many more.

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