2016 Blog Development

We’re almost three (!!!) months into 2016 already, so naturally I’ve been thinking about this blog. I should be thinking about the art history midterm I have tomorrow, but well–

I had a resume review, which feels a bit silly because I’m just a freshman and don’t have a portfolio or anything, but the advice I was given was to make one. Luckily I have something like 60 posts or something of content to work with! But basically, I need to take what I’ve got (this blog, basically) and work with it. For me, that means being a degree more serious.

Not that there’s going to be a drastic overhaul of content. There probably won’t be any change, actually.

I’ve made a bit more of an effort to buy books published in 2016 (and by that I mean one, so far)– it’s more relevant from a reviewer standpoint. I am thinking about adjusting my posting schedule so I can increase post quality, and also based on my analytics. Not my analytics, exactly, but the one WordPress provides for me. Even then, that’s just a maybe.

I started this blog because I wanted to write more and get better and get feedback. I’m really proud, actually, because I am the worst and consistency. I never start a hobby and keep going at it. Never. Truth be told, I don’t really care if anyone reads this, but I do want people to. So that means going back to social media (ugh) and doing my marketing due-diligence.

Speaking of, personal branding is hard.

Writing a blog is something that used to embarrass me, because in this day and age who doesn’t have a blog? It’s a very millennial thing, isn’t it? But I really take pride in it now. So I should invest more time and effort into it.

I’m going to school to be a writer– kind of. I’m going to school for Advertising, with the ultimate goal of this to become a copywriter for some agency. But I’m not obsessed with ads like some people I know. I like to tell stories and am a gifted technical writer– a skill I consider pretty applicable to copywriting. But is that really what I want? Advertising is an opportunity for me to write professionally and also eat. I’m definitely not going to commit to ideas like “I want this blog to become my job” but if it led to a book or essay collection deal? I wouldn’t fight it. After all, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

Actually, I’ll tell you my blog pipe dream. There’s a writing fellowship in Antarctica that I desperately want. The place I want to go the most on planet Earth is Antarctica, but it is hella expensive to go there without some sort of connection. Is a blog enough to get me there? Probably not, but also, maybe.

It’s Not Too Late to Apologize/You Don’t Need to Apologize

This is a tiny essay about apologizing and duality. It comes, appropriately, in two parts.

PART 1

Today, I want you to apologize to someone you treated like shit, or did wrong from your past and didn’t deserve it. No matter how long ago it was, it’s not too late to say you’re sorry. It’s not too late to apologize. Maybe that person, whoever they are, won’t accept your apology. Maybe you really hurt them, cut really deep, and changed them in an irrevocable way they cannot forgive. Accept that. That’s ok, too. An apology is ultimately a tool a person can use to repair themselves with.

PART 2

Never apologize for something that wasn’t your fault. Even if someone you care about blames you or is making themselves the victim falsely, don’t apologize. Own up to the things you fucked up, but never shoulder the blame for something you did not do. It is abusive behavior for someone to blame you for the things that you are feeling. It’s got a term and everything– gaslighting.

The Art Assignment // Independent Assignment

I have midterms next week (cue hysteria), which means studying and papers galore. I basically have no time to write, so today’s post is an independent assignment.

Head on over to the Youtube channel the Art Assignment (by Sarah Green, yes, wife of John Green). It’s an amazing resource for creative people interested in art, especially contemporary art. I’m in the process on writing an essay based off the one below in particular. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Mr. Splitfoot // Review

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt. Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 336 pages.

“Every story is a ghost story.”

Mr. Splitfoot is a haunting American Gothic, a novel that is piled with layers and mystery. It’s a hard thing to categorize– it mixes a dual narrative of alternating POV chapters with elements of magical realism, ghost stories, and religion. Not to mention the classic American vibe; the story takes place in the blue collar wilderness of New York state. A reader may find it difficult to know what’s real and what is not. In fact, the characters themselves struggle with this.

517uly48sql-_sy344_bo1204203200_This novel floats. It’s almost as if it were a dream. It touched me at unexpected times in unexpected ways. Samantha Hunt as an author caught me by surprise– this is the first piece of writing by her I’ve ever read, and she has perfected the art of just enough. She gives and takes from the reader in such a way that you will be driven through this book. The classic gothic elements are all there, but Hunt twists them in interesting and new ways. If you’re looking for something totally unique, look no further.

The core of the novel is built around the themes of belief– false and true– and motherhood. Womanhood, even. Some of the periphery characters are a bit shallow, but the two main ones, Cora and Ruth, are perfectly nuanced. Cora’ narrative takes places present day and is about life– she’s pregnant– and Ruth’s takes place in the unsure past and is about death. They mirror each other perfectly.

(As an aside, I love the way this novel treats modernity. Cora gets a “euphorical rush” from buying expensive shoes on the internet, but for the most part technology is tossed aside. I feel like you never get that is contemporary literary fiction.)

“We will change them into cedars. We know that this is impossible.”

It is a novel that is otherworldly. Complicated, impossible to truly explain. Magical. It’s a very American thing, if that makes any sense. I really, really loved it, but I could be biased because it resembles one of my favorite novels in the best of ways (if you loved Neil Gaiman’s American Gods you will certainly love this too).

You Can’t Have it Both Ways

The way I see it, free speech is a lot like the Electoral College. It’s a big, fundamental part of our country that smart people like the Founders figured we were better off having. But also sometimes it gets in the way of thing we want. Some people say nasty things. Donald Trump says terrible things, Milo Yiannopoulos says some terrible things, the Westboro Baptist Church says some terrible things. No one feels bad, really, about telling them to shut up. But here’s the catch– we have to let them say whatever they want. If we don’t, it undermines one of the most important institutions in the world.

You can’t have it both ways.

If you support Bernie Sanders in the presidential election (good chance, if you spend a lot of time on the internet), you probably have gotten upset over the delegation news from New Hampshire. Sanders and Clinton will likely tie, because most of the superdelegates are supporting Clinton. However, this isn’t totally set in stone, because superdelegates (which are complicated and I would not do a good job of explaining them) can do pretty much whatever they want in the end.

People got toasty over this.

Even though the Republican party has less superdelegates than the Democrats, they still have them. And this is the system that makes it pretty impossible for Donald Trump or maybe even Ted Cruz to come President. Also, it’s totally false to say the political system is corrupt because of this (it’s corrupt in other places though; if you’re going to criticize, do it right). Politics in America have literally always worked this way, since the very beginning, and actually used to be much worse in terms of party control. As they should? But the nuances of a two party system are exhausting and don’t make sense anyways.

What I mean here– is that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t support a system one minute then turn around and hate it because it suddenly interferes with your personal wants and wishes.

Satire

Sat-ire (noun): the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.

I think the “political correctness” movement is all good and swell, but if there’s one thing I think it’s taken away from us is the ability to understand satire. Specifically written satire. After all, it is the internet, where people can say whatever they want, with only the fear of retribution coming from an internet mob (but I personally find those pretty scary– giving away personal information of your enemies? Really?).

Young people especially understand shows like the Colbert Report– where Stephen Colbert takes the form of an exaggerated conservative persona to poke fun at Republicans. Those images were constant for me growing up.

However, more recently I’ve noticed the worrying trend of one of two things: people not understanding jokes (or satire), or people using comedy as a poor excuse to be insulting. I do think mainstream comedians get a little too much flack from college students, but on the other hand, sometimes comedians do take things too far. It’s not a crime to be angry and to expect decent standards of humanity. However, I am definitely in the camp of “comedy can help us get over tragedy.” So there’s the obvious comedic efforts, but what about when people are serious but say they’re joking when there’s an uproar?

Remember that “Dear Fat People” video? From that Youtube comedian whose name I can’t remember and don’t care to look up? That video was just plain insulting, and it’s an insult to real comedians to try to pass that piece of trash off as jokes. Hiding behind a retroactive statement like “it was satire” illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the, you know, genuine literary form.

Take that stupid article “50 Ways to be the Perfect College Girlfriend.” It made the rounds of my Facebook friends a few days ago, and made some people really toasty. I’m almost positive it wasn’t intended as satire (intention matters here) and it was published on a frat website. But somewhere in the comments (don’t ask why I was reading internet comments) some poor soul said it was “clearly” satire.

And that—

That makes me so mad. No, it’s not, because by nature, satire is obvious. Voltaire’s Candide is satire, Jonathan Swift’s essay on eating poor people is satire. Fifty disgusting expectations for women is not satire (except for the one that tells women to “have an attraction mother” because??? sure, ok). Satire is supposed to be an exaggeration. If people don’t know it’s satire, then it’s either bad or just insulting, which is kind of the same thing.

Sorry, New Hampshire is NOT the Alabama of the North

portsmouth-harbor-view

(Obligatory disclaimer: I have never been to Alabama. Maybe it’s nice there, I don’t really know. But it makes a good stereotype.)


 

The New Hampshire primary was yesterday. Leading up to the event, there were a lot of articles on the state from various content sites. They talked about the “spirit” of the state or whatever, and reporters from a few of my favorite sources took pictures of small New Hampshire towns. Places way up there where around five people live year-round (not an exaggeration, places like this really exist, especially in Maine).

I was kind of taken aback by these articles. Most of them painted New Hampshire as some sort of “Alabama of the North.” The last refuge of Conservatism in the Northeast (but upstate New York certainly fits the label better). The Alabama of the North comment came from one of my professors last semester, who lived in Worcester for a few years, as if he knows. But I grew up less than 2,000 feet from New Hampshire. I know what it’s about.

New Hampshire is a conservative state… kind of. It’s New England conservatism. It leans more Libertarian than anything, a group of people who would rather be left alone than scream about anything. There are more Bible-pushing, anti-abortion maniacs within spitting distance anywhere in the South than in the whole state. Like just about every other place in New England, the majority of the population lives in the lower third of the state (for New Hampshire, this is Manchester and below), and that group is mostly liberal.

I will say that New Hampshire is the place where you can do anything. Fireworks? Yep. Adults still don’t need to wear a seatbelt, though there’s a handsfree law. Live free or die.

Up North things do get pretty scarce. In some places there is really shocking poverty. My dad spent high school in a town just North of Concord (the state capitol, which is not very north at all, but there’s not too many people in the White Mountains), Boscawen, where most of his graduating class didn’t go to college. Most of the kids didn’t graduate at all. Most of the state is either a state park or rural, blue collar towns, where all the conservatism comes from. But still, there’s just not enough people to outweigh the liberal south.

It gets compared to Vermont a lot, New Hampshire’s hippie little sister (which used to be the most conservative state in the country, until Evangelists took over the party). I personally don’t like Vermont– they don’t have Market Basket there, which I just don’t trust. Both states have a lot of old white people who just want to sit around the campfire and sign songs (my mother, New Hampshire native and member of the most liberal family on Earth).

What I’m trying to say here is that conservative is not the word I would use for New Hampshire. Case and point, all though Donald Trump may have won the primary, John Kasich came in second, beating Ted Cruz by 4 points. CNN ran an article this morning with the title “Who Is John Kasich?” I knew who he was, because my conservative friends on Facebook have been on about this guy for months. New Hampshire is a state about conservative reason. Republicans from New England don’t behave like the Ted Cruz’s of the world. Susan Collins (R), senior Senator from Maine would never (our junior Senator is another old white guy, Angus King (I). I love them both).

I’ve been trying to get people to think differently about Maine and New Hampshire for months now. Content sites, don’t ruin it for me now.

Judging Books by Their Covers

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There’s that terrible, stupid saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” All right, I know it’s a stupid metaphor about not judging people by their appearance and all that good stuff. But here’s the thing: it’s bad. It’s dumb. It doesn’t make any goddamn sense.

Book covers are a function of marketing. The literal purpose of them is to be attractive and be judged. They’re designed with a specific target audience and strategy in mind.

Some book covers are mysteries to me. Like fantasy titles. Do tacky photoshopped images of women against a dark and “magical” background really sell books? The Harper Collins black Lord of the Rings Covers, with the original Tolkien designs, however… (also, for some reason I was completely convinced this set was published by Anchor, who always do a good job. I guess I’m wrong about that though). I personally own all three of those. Question: why no matching Hobbit cover? Back to my point, there are a lot of different printings of Lord of the Rings, so cover design really matters to sell copies. The black ones are the prettiest– it’s why I have them.

10996342I own a few books that are just really lovely to look at. The Art of Fielding has a pretty spine, although it’s a bit cracked, and looks very nice on my bookshelf. Especially because all my books are organized by color. Yeah, I know. And the whole reason I own We, the Drowned, 7988467one of my favorite books ever, is because it caught my attention in the bookstore. I saw it and knew it was something I needed to have.

My personal favorite kind of covers are minimal design and illustrative. I’ve been waiting to buy a new Harry Potter box set until they come out with covers I really like.

Anyone have a favorite cover?

The Simple Beauty of Maine // Independent Assignment

Today’s post is another independent assignment, featuring my favorite place on Earth, Maine.

This video was taken and edited by Johnny Beavers, who as far as I can tell is a film maker who makes pretty videos, mostly with drones. And this video is very, very pretty. The footage is from Midcoast Maine, in the regions of Boothbay and Bristol. If you’ve ever been to Acadia National Park, it’s around there.

Nothing more to say. Here is a nice, relaxing video for everyone’s Monday.