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.

‘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 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.”