Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Ridiculous Rant on Dear Evan Hansen

Note: So... this kind of got away from me as I wrote it. It was intended to be much shorter. But here you go!

Pasek and Paul are musical theatre's favorite people right now after Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I just don't get it. People gush over everything they've done, while I kept listening to individual songs and thinking, "That was... a really boring pop song." They did three songs for the TV show Smash, the songs for La La Land, and the musicals A Christmas Story, Dogfight, and Edges, all of which I have attempted to listen to and then got bored.

Then Dear Evan Hansen came along, and people lost their minds. It was nominated for nine Tonys and won six (including Best Score). Knowing what I did of their work and what the other shows nominated for Best Score were, I was livid about them winning. Then I decided, ya know what, I should try this with an open mind. I should listen to the cast album a couple of times. After all, it's a show about depression and social anxiety. That's an important and personal topic. Surely that's going to connect with me, right?

Listening to the cast album has convinced me of two things:

1. Ben Platt is a national treasure.

2. Nope, these guys still can't write songs with any kind of emotional weight.

This musical and its content were almost guaranteed to make me love it, just for the sole fact that I connect so much to these stories, but the cast album is... a mess. What little works, works because Ben Platt is amazing enough that he can bring depth and characterization to these pretentious, awkward, stilted lyrics.

Their primarily problem is that I constantly feel they are trying really, really, really hard to be deep and provocative in their lyrics. Their use of metaphors is the worst. They repetitively smash them into the audience's head ("Anybody Have a Map?", "Disappear") or they hop around from one clumsy metaphor to the next without thinking about how they connect or what they're actually saying ("Waving Through a Window," "You Will Be Found"). At best, they simply have a character explain plot points that are apparently supposed to make us feel things ("So Big, So Small," "For Forever") but explaining their feelings about them in such cliched language that nothing about it sinks in.

A quick comparison here. Let's look at "Waving Through a Window" and compare it to my favorite song about social anxiety in high school, Joe Iconis' "Michael in the Bathroom."

Notice how few simple personal statements are in "Waving Through a Window." The first verse is probably the most coherent in what it's saying: "I'm afraid to speak because I might screw up so I don't and I run away." It's a little cheesy and heavy-handed but it's OK on its own. The metaphor about sunburn in the bridge is important because it's later repeated in an awkward way.

Then comes the chorus. I. Hate. This. Chorus. Like, I can't follow the character's thought pattern. The first verse makes it clear that he chooses to isolate himself deliberately, while the chorus makes it clear that he feels others isolate him, like he's putting himself out there ("I'm waving," "I'm tap, tap, tapping on the glass," "I try to speak") and they're just ignoring him. I also don't understand even a little bit what "Will I ever be more than I've always been?" is doing in the middle of this line, much less why it's followed by a "'cause" before it goes into "I'm taptaptapping." Is him tapping on the glass what he's always been, or his attempt to be more? THIS SENTENCE DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. And the whole chorus is muddy on whether he's inside or outside, because while he says he's outside, "watching people pass" definitely sounds like he's inside looking out, because who would peek in somebody's window and say "Oh, look at all the people passing?" No. That's something you say about people OUTSIDE.

The second verse is a blissfully clear message as well: "I used to feel normal, but something changed and I don't know where or how." HOWEVER. He ends the verse with "But every sun doesn't rise, and no one tells you where you went wrong." The phrase "every sun doesn't rise" is I think technically correct but it's really awkward phrasing when, of course, some suns do rise and he probably means "not every sun rises"... but the part that really bugs me is that we go right from there into the repeated metaphor about the sun being bad: "Step out, step out of the sun if you keep getting burned." YOU CAN'T HAVE BACK-TO-BACK SUN METAPHORS WHERE IT'S BAD IN ONE AND GOOD IN THE OTHER. They inevitably invite comparison and now I'm not even listening to the second chorus (which is still bad) because I'm just stuck figuring out if the sun that's burning him is from one of the other suns that did rise or what.

The bridge is just an endlessly repeated, ever so slightly varied use of the "a tree falls in a forest and there's no one around, does it make noise" phrase as a metaphor. Because we didn't have enough disconnected metaphors in this song yet. This part is boring but at least the music builds and Ben Platt sings it like it means something.

Then we finish with our awful chorus again.

Aside from the second half of the first verse, everything in this song is either an awkward metaphor or a generic "This is what happens to people" statement. So little of it feels real or true. It certainly doesn't feel like something anybody would ever say, it feels like Pasek and Paul made a list of metaphors and cliches that had to do with feeling isolated and said, "Sure, yeah, let's just make it rhyme and sing that." It tells us so little about the character.

Compare this to "Michael in the Bathroom," one of my all-time favorite songs. Immediately, from line one, we are in the character's mind and viewpoint. No metaphors to climb over, no generalizations to weed through. We learn in two lines what it takes Pasek and Paul four minutes to kinda sorta get around to.

These lyrics are so simple but so honest. Incidentally, this chorus would be a much better place to insert PasekPaul's awkward "Will I ever be more than I've always been?" line -- like look at how much better it fits with the ending of chorus one: "I'm just Michael who you don't know / Michael flying solo / Michael in the bathroom by himself." We get an actual sense of how Michael's (deliberate self-) isolation feeds into the grander view of himself as a person capable of doing and being things. He's just "Michael who you don't know." Will he ever be more than that? That thought works there.

The second verse, just like in "Waving Through a Window," is about how things used to be okay and now things aren't. But compare them! One is vague and generic and applied to the whole human race ("We start with stars in our eyes, we start believing that we belong") while the other is clearly about this one individual person while still inviting us into the feeling ("Memories get erased and I'll get replaced with a newer, cooler version of me").

The penultimate line is, "All you know about me is my name." That's true about Evan Hansen. But I'm pretty sure Michael and I are best friends now.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Moussolou" by Oumou Sangaré (150 Albums by Women #145)

NPR compiled a list of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #145 was "Moussolou" by Oumou Sangaré. I had never heard of her before, so in case you hadn't either, she's a hugely important figure in the West African music genre Wassoulou. To quote Wikipedia on this, "Wassoulou music is performed mostly by women. Some recurring themes in the lyrics are childbearing, fertility, and polygamy. Instrumentation includes soku (a traditional fiddle sometimes replaced with modern imported instruments), djembe drum, kamalen n'goni (a six-stringed harp), karinyan (metal tube percussion) and bolon (a four-stringed harp). The vocals are often passionate and emphatic, and delivered in a call-and-response pattern."

The album only had six songs, so I knew right away I wasn't going to have a top five, most likely a top three. And then I ran into difficulty.

You remember when I kicked out all those instrumental pieces in the Terri Lyne Carrington album right away? Well, I've always known I have real trouble connecting to a song without lyrics, and it turns out that's true as well for lyrics that are in a language I don't speak. With fairly similar instrumentation and vocal sounds on all six tracks, I found myself unable to differentiate between them without lyrical content helping me out. I liked listening to all six -- especially as a huge change from the previous album -- but none of them particularly rose to the top and I ended up eliminating them almost randomly as I listened.

Giving this kind of review of this album is kind of awkward because I feel like I should have been able to pick out a favorite or two. Part of me wishes I'd done more research -- found lyrics for these songs, found some translations, and learned what they were saying. Maybe then I'd have connected to them more on an individual level. As it is, we'll just call it a six-way tie and move on to the next album, though I would like to revisit this one some day.

The albums I've listened to thus far in this project, in order:
1. The Roches - The Roches
2. Patty Griffin - Flaming Red
3. Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor
4. Oumou Sangaré - Moussolou
5. Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project

Next up on the NPR list is #144, "Last Splash" by The Breeders.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Most Useless Part of My NaNo

NaNoWriMo is over, and I made it! I actually stayed more on top of it than I usually do, mostly thanks to the word crawls on the NaNo forums and the amazing Fighters' Block website which I cannot recommend enough. But I wanted to share the absolute most ridiculous part of my NaNo with you.

So I had just begun a 600-word sprint and was about 100 words into it when Jacob announced dinner was ready. I didn't want to pause my sprint but I didn't want to keep him waiting. Or the food. I was hungry. What followed was me trying to finish up the remaining 500 words as quickly as possible. Here you go. Enjoy.


They waited... and waited... and waited. Parkson kept anxiously climbing out of his hiding spot to peek into the enormous cave, until finally Junia said, "Would you PLEASE stop doing that? That's obviously going to attract the attention of Jacques and Marli if they're anywhere near the mouth of the cave. We just got rescued, I'm not about to be kidnapped again just because you could not be patient enough."

"Sorry," Parkson said, climbing back down into a crevice next to Junia. "I'm just anxious."

"I am anxious as well," Junia said irritably, "but I am not behaving like an idiot because of it. You could learn something from me and my immense soldier calm."

My husband just told me food is ready so I'm going to race to get to the end of this word sprint by writing some nonsense. Parkson decided to think of colors. Colors were nice to think of and they were a good thing to list. And they would be a good way to pass the time until Lucas came back with Jacques and Marli and Parkson's mother Elizabeth and any of the other things they hoped he returned with.

So, colors. What were some good colors? Blue was a good color, like the sky and the ocean and some people's eyes. Sometimes tears were drawn blue but they didn't have to be, they were just water. Water in general seemed to be blue but not always.

Green was a color. Bright green was the color of some creepy bugs and Parkson didn't like those, but dark green was the color of some trees and some people's eyes and also sludge. Parkson didn't know where sludge came from, but it occasionally sat outside his work place and he tried to cover it up with a cloak so nobody would walk by and think, "Oh, I don't want to buy vegetables from the sludge man!" Vegetables were green, too, all sorts of wonderful vegetables -- but not tomatoes, of course -- vegetables like broccoli and kale and spinach and brussel sprouts and asparagus and cucumber and zucchini and pickles. The broccoli was named Steven, or at least it would have been if they had actual names and not just names like "broccoli." Parkson liked dreaming about naming his vegetables. It made it so much sadder, though, when they would ultimately be eaten. Instead of eating a delicious salad of lettuce and cucumbers and spinach, they'd be eating a bowl full of Steves and Michaels and Marissas and Louises and Luises and Larissas and Lourisesasas even though that wasn't a name that anybody had ever made up.

Other colors? Red. Red was a color. Red was the color of tomatoes, which was of course his favorite vegetable. But it was also the color of things like blood, which were less pleasant. Of course, on the plus side, if he bled all over the tomatoes, nobody would ever know because it would blend in and it would be great. He didn't plan to bleed all over the tomatoes, but you never could tell what would happen on the street. A crow could bite his fingers off and then all the blow in his fingers would go flying out and get all over the tomatoes, and you couldn't exactly give the tomatoes back so he'd still have to try to sell them.

Ok, on to other colors. Brown. Brown was the color of the dirt. Darker brown was mud, lighter brown was... sand? He didn't know. He pooped brown sometimes. And tree bark was brown, and some people had brown eyes. Lots of people had lots of different color eyes. He had never thought about this before, and he was surprised by how interesting it was. It at least kept him busy, letting these bizarre thoughts fly before he could be reunited with his mother again.

Monday, October 30, 2017

"Flaming Red" by Patty Griffin (150 Albums by Women #146)

NPR compiled a list of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #147 is unavailable on Spotify, so I'm going to have to come back to that one, but album #146 is Patty Griffin's "Flaming Red," noted on the NPR piece for being a departure from Griffin's usually folk stylings into something much more rock. This one took a little bit for me to get into -- Griffin's lyrics have a tendency to be so vague and metaphorical I find them nearly meaningless -- but by the top five I was pretty solidly enjoying the songs that were left, so I have plenty of positive things to say about them.

5. Wiggley Fingers. The one in my top five that rocks the hardest, for sure, and that's why it stuck around as long as it did. This one is *great* to rock out to in the car, and Griffin's voice sounds amazing here in the final minute or so of the song. Lyrically it wasn't as impactful as my top four, but it sounds fantastic.

4. Change. Just like my #5, we've got some great vocals from Griffin here, particularly in verse two where a lot of them approach almost a wail. I love the lyrics of the first verse, but the rest of them aren't quite as visceral for me, so it's going to bow out at #4.

3. Big Daddy. Someone else should listen to this song and tell me whether it's about drug addiction or child molestation, because I can't decide (or if I'm totally reading it wrong and it's an innocuous, actually happy song). I find it hauntingly sad though, particularly the several refrains of "Throw the little fish back."

2. Tony - It's hard to say why exactly this one climbed to the top. I just liked it. I liked the story, I liked the sound, I liked Patty's voice in it. That's all.

1. Mary - I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it and it never stopped being my favorite track on the album. Whether it's meant to be literally about the mother of Jesus or whether it's being expanded to mothers everywhere or something totally different, I find it hauntingly beautiful, particularly that lyric, "While angels sing his praises in a blaze of glory / Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place."

The albums I've listened to thus far in this project, in order:
1. The Roches - The Roches
2. Patty Griffin - Flaming Red
3. Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor
4. Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project

Next up is album #145, "Moussolou" by Oumou Sangare. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

"The Mosaic Project" by Terri Lyne Carrington (150 Albums by Women #148)

NPR compiled a list of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #148 is Terri Lyne Carrington's "The Mosaic Project." Carrington is a jazz drummer, and this album is definitely a jazz album. Some of the songs have vocals, some don't, some are originals, some are covers. This one took me awhile to get into the swing of (which is why I'm posting this blog so late). However, from this point on I'm only going to write short pieces about the top five songs on each album. Otherwise on albums (such as this) that were a tough sell for me, I'd spent most of the time griping about it instead of praising what I do like. So here were my top five from this album.

5. Transformation. This is the first song on the album, and for awhile I thought it might be my favorite of the whole thing. It ultimately became less interesting the more I heard it, but I still think it has an interesting sound and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

4. I Got Lost in His Arms. I was delighted to hear this Irving Berlin tune covered on the album. It's a smooth, interesting cover that I prefer to any of the cast album versions I've heard.

3. Echo. This song drew me in lyrically more than it did musically. Every time it came on I'd find myself paying closer attention to the lyrics because they were saying interesting things. It's one of the few songs on the album that attempts to say something larger about society, and while those songs don't always work and sometimes sound preachy, I got into this one.

2. Sisters on the Rise (A Transformation). The album closes on an unexpectedly hip-hop note, sampling the album opener and interspersing it with rapped verses and chorus. After thirteen songs of straight jazz, this was always a refreshing bit of variety.

1. Crayola. This song was dangerously close to being cut early on, but the more I listened to it, the more it fascinated me. There are some versions to be found online without vocals, but I absolutely prefer this one, as the vocals are my favorite part. They are playful and unique and varied, and I'm very glad I didn't cut it when I did, as it's turned out to be my favorite.

The albums I've listened to thus far in this project, in order:
1. The Roches - The Roches
2. Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor
3. Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project

Next up was supposed to be #147, "Dolmen Music" by Meredith Monk, but this is not easily available on Spotify, so I'm moving past it and will circle back around to any albums I didn't get to later. In the meantime, on to #146, "Flaming Red" by Patty Griffin.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Songs in A Minor" by Alicia Keys (150 Albums by Women #149)

A few weeks ago, a friend shared a list NPR compiled of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #149 is Alicia Keys' debut album, "Songs in A Minor," recorded and released when Keys was very young. She started work on it at age 17, though she was 20 when it was officially released. I already knew three of these songs very well: Fallin', A Woman's Worth, and How Come You Don't Call Me, so I removed those from the rotation to focus on ones I don't know. I've put them back into the final list in their correct ranking. In order from least favorite to favorite, these are the "Songs in A Minor."

16. Piano & I - This went immediately because it's not really a song, it's a spoken-word intro.

15. Goodbye - The songs at the bottom of the list are almost all for the same reason: they just bore me. There are several slow, languid, energy-less songs on this album that blend together in my mind. This was the one that stuck with me the least.

14. Butterflyz - I'd heard this one before but didn't register it very much. I still don't. It's not very interesting.

13. Caged Bird - While I like the lyrics a little bit more than the ones that fell below this, it's still not appealing to me musically. I like the idea of tapping into a more melancholy feel for these lyrics, but this music isn't melancholy so much as plodding.

12. Rock wit U - Despite having heard this song five times by the time I removed it from my playlist, I still couldn't remember how it went. Time for it to go.

11. The Life - Most of the ones after this at least have a thing or two I like about them. Most of them are upbeat. This is the lowest-ranked upbeat one, and it just didn't do much for me.

10. Why Do I Feel So Sad - I love the chorus for this song, but Alicia's voice sounds especially weak throughout, and it grates on me a bit. The chorus saved it for awhile, but eventually this one had to go.

9. Jane Doe - Kind of a catchy song, and it's fun to sing along with, but it doesn't really stand out.

8. Mr. Man - There's a weird sort of wispy sound to this whole song, and it's interesting and different in comparison to the rest of the album. Definitely it kept me listening for awhile. It's out now because the lyrics are strange and do nothing for me.

7. Troubles - I kind of sort of knew this song before I started listening to this album, but I didn't like it then and I liked it more now. There's a cool dark sound to it, and singing solemnly about "letting your troubles go" is much more interesting than trying to force a positive sound into that.

6. A Woman's Worth - My least favorite of the ones I already knew, but it's still pretty decent. They definitely chose some of the stronger tunes on the album to be the singles. It's slinky and bold and interesting.

5. Never Felt This Way - This is the saddest, loneliest love song ever.

4. Lovin' U - Almost all of my favorite songs on this album had a more old school R&B sound. This one I enjoyed a lot every time I heard it, but I kept forgetting it existed, otherwise it probably would have landed higher on the list.

3. How Come You Don't Call Me - The second of three songs I already knew. I like that, unlike many of the slower songs on this album, this one's got a bit of swing to it.

2. Girlfriend - More typical modern R&B than most of the songs at the top of the list. I think I'm most intrigued by the range Keys shows in the chorus vocally. It all sounds so natural until I try to sing along and I realize she's doing much more than I can. It's sneakily impressive.

1. Fallin' - The first one I ever heard from this album, and by far my favorite still. It's the only one of these that I really love, and it showcases Keys' moody music, melancholy lyrics, and retro sound at their best.

Next up: #148, "The Mosaic Project" by Terri Lyne Carrington.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"The Roches" by The Roches (150 Albums By Women #150)

A few weeks ago, a friend shared a list NPR compiled of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

I began with #150, "The Roches" by The Roches. I only knew one song by this band: "Come Softly to Me," which was one of my father's favorites and was featured in the film Crossing Delancey (one of my mom's favorites). It's a lot smoother-sounding than most of this album, which is more folksy and casual and sometimes awkward-sounding. But overall, I liked this album a lot. Here are the songs I listened to, ranked in order of when I kicked them off my playlist.

10. Damned Old Dog - The only one I actively disliked. It's kind of interesting lyrically, but some of those harmonies are really unpleasant to listen to.

9. Runs in the Family - You know it's a decent album when the ones I kick off just because they're boring are the second-worst.

8. Pretty and High - I never quite got into the feel of this song, but it has some striking moments

7. Quitting Time - This is a pretty little song, but the lyrics didn't interest me as much as the sound, so it fell a little lower on the list.

6. The Married Men - Here's where the decisions got difficult. I ended up being stuck between this song and my #5 for awhile and tossing it over to a music group I'm in on Facebook to be my deciding factor. This one lost. It's fun, though.

5. Mr. Sellack - One of the most interesting little songs I've heard about unemployment.

4. The Troubles - I initially thought this was going to be in my top three, but an unexpected late favorite pushed it out. I really like the bit at the end where they sing a little round of the most important word in each verse.

3. Hammond Song - This song just sounds *gorgeous*. Lyrically it doesn't grip me as much, and it's a little bit longer than I'd like, but the beautiful harmonies and instrumentation boosted it way up to #3.

2. We - Right from the beginning of this album, I knew I was going to have fun with it. It starts off with this cheerful meta-song introducing the sisters, explaining their back story, and sighing a bit about how they always get asked the same questions in interviews. It's delightful.

1. The Train - On my first listen through, I'd never have expected this to be my favorite, but the more I heard it, the more I kept connecting with it thematically. I don't take the train to work, but I definitely know the drudgery of a long commute and the desire to do something, anything, to break it up. I kept being struck by the line, "I am trying not to have a bad day," in the first verse. The thought process in this song is so familiar to me that I deeply related to it even with completely different circumstances.

Next album: #149, Alicia Keys' "Songs in A Minor."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Top 10 Songs From Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season 2)

Back in February I wrote a blog post about my top 10 songs from the first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Originally I was going to combine both seasons into one blog post, but I hadn't listened to season two enough for it to really wow me yet, so I decided to hold off on that one until I got a few more plays in. Well, it totally worked, because the 10 songs I have here are now some of my all-time favorites now that I've really gotten to know them. A few wouldn't even have been in my top half of songs from the show two months ago. So let's dive right in, shall we?

(Note, first of all, that this is chock full of season two spoilers, and, secondly, that two of these songs have curse words in the title. One is uncensored. One is censored in the official song name but it's obvious what it is.)

10. Friendtopia

Not only is this a fun song to listen to, but I like the unexpected path it takes. It's a Spice Girls-style song about friendship, but then there's this weird second half of it which is that it's about using female friendship to literally take over the world. So we get this weirdly dark song that's half about being besties and half about world domination, and I love that bizarre combination. (One of the YouTube comments on the video is, "What a... weirdly specific concept for a satire song.") I think it's probably all summed up in what I'd choose for the best line:

"We're gonna braid each other's hair, then cut each other's braids, connect the braids to build a rope to hang all of Congress."

9. Let's Have Intercourse

This song would've been higher up a few months ago, and even though it's slid down a bit I still really enjoy it. The context is a very cold, unpleasant, arrogant character who has, much to his dismay, suddenly become interested in Rebecca and decides they should sleep together so he can get her out of his system and move on. So he sings this song. The music is romantic and sensual, while the words are anything but, as he clearly sees this as sort of an embarrassing chore. But the music is so pretty! I'm such a sucker for songs where the music and lyrics are an amusing mismatch, and this totally hits that. (One of the YouTube comments points out this is an Ed Sheeran style parody, which may very well be right. I don't listen to enough Ed Sheeran to know for sure.)

Best line: "Let's get this over with so I can focus on other tasks."

8. What a Rush to Be a Bride

Some songs have an extra bit of humor that come out of being just... really, really unexpected. This is one of those. Rebecca's in the midst of planning her wedding and gushing with her best friend Paula over all the little pretty details, and then, abruptly... there's a screaming heavy metal song. It was completely unlike anything the show had done up until this point, it was completely unlike the tone of the episode up until that moment, and it was brilliant. It started and Jacob and I pretty much just both stared at it laughing because we couldn't believe that was the direction they'd go. I'm not into screaming metal much, so it's here almost solely on the strength of that first appearance, but I love that they did this.

Best line: "EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! If you rearrange the letters it spells 'veil.'"

7. So Maternal

Let me say right now that I don't have kids, never plan to have kids, and react strongly to those who think I will never know what true love is until I have kids... but I am in total sympathy with my mom friends who get all kinds of outside advice from people who don't know what they're talking about, and this song is a prime example of that. Rebecca offers to babysit Paula's elementary school child for a weekend and, in a burst of confidence, this song happens, contrasted with amazing clips of her cheerfully and obliviously failing at childcare. (The weekend ends with Rebecca taking the child to a nightclub and losing him there, so... yeah, she comes down to earth on this eventually.)

Best line: "You know, I think I just instinctively 'get' how to be a mom, and that sets me apart from other 'mothers.'"

6. We'll Never Have Problems Again

This, right here, encompasses a lot of Rebecca's problems. She is just stuck on the idea that a relationship is going to fix everything that's wrong with her, and while most of the people around her realize that, nope, that's not true, she just ignores them and sings a cheery disco song. This song is insanely catchy and the first one on the list where it was really difficult to choose a single favorite line because so many of them are great. It's such a cleverly written song of naivete, and I love it.

Best line: "Do you remember back when we had problems? Oh, man, that was annoying."

5. (Tell Me I'm Okay) Patrick

The YouTube comments are on point with these songs as I read through them. One user says, "How can something be so completely over the top and also so incredibly true to life? I guess that's what makes it so funny.  The tears are in the margins." Oh my gosh, so true. In this song, Rebecca has struck up a casual acquaintanceship with package delivery man Patrick, who has brought wedding item after wedding item to Rebecca's door and listened as she vented about the stress of wedding planning. Here she falls apart, begging someone she doesn't know for validation that she's not as completely broken as she feels like it is. The song is funny (Seth Green plays Patrick with a stoic calm that really sells it) but on that final, "Am I okay?" you really see the desperation in Rebecca's eyes, that she feels like she is losing her mind and can't quite find her way back. I relate. Hard.

Best line: "I think I'm fine, Patrick, but I'm only like ... 43% sure."

4. Rebecca's Reprise


OK, so this one is high on my list for contextual reasons. By itself, it doesn't mean much to anyone. But let me try to explain why this hits so hard. It's a reprise medley of four previously sung songs, sung here by Rebecca on the morning of her wedding (which we know, know, know cannot possibly end well). The first two songs were originally incredibly dark moments in her life, moments when she saw herself at her worst. The third is a song not even sung by her originally, it was sung by another character about his love for his daughter, but here she co-opts it because for the first time she feels like maybe her parents will love her because she will finally be a successful married woman. And then she ends with one of the songs from earlier in the list: "I'll never have problems again." It hurts seeing how she is so hopeful that she will climb out of her self-loathing and her deep-seated issues through this relationship, and when it all falls apart at the end (as we know deep down it must because neither she nor Josh are ready for this), a second listen to this song is even more heartbreaking. One of the most beautifully tragic moments in the whole show.

3. It Was a S*** Show

I MISS YOU, SANTINO FONTANA! My favorite character is gone from the show, but of course his last couple songs are in my top 10. This one is his official goodbye song to Rebecca, acknowledging that they were really, really bad together, that they would always bring out the worst in each other. And he pulls zero punches, as you can see just from the title of the song. He nearly gives in at the end, since they really do love each other, but that's not enough when they both have serious issues to work through and can't do that together. It hits that funny-but-sad note that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is great at, and it's a fitting goodbye to Greg.

Best line: "And when you say that I should stay that's exactly when I should split."

2. We Tapped That Ass

This song quickly became one of my guilty pleasure favorites. In this song, the "memory spirits" of Rebecca's past lovers are haunting her house and reminding her (with dozens of classless euphemisms) of all the sex they had. Every place in her home is haunted. The song is crude, but it's crude purposefully -- it matches the unhappiness with herself she feels for having lost not one, but two guys she thought she had a future with, and demonstrates how everything is now just a gross reminder of how willingly she gave herself to them when they then left her. The cheerfulness of the two men singing is what sells it, though it's important to note that thy are both much kinder to her than this in real life -- this is, after all, Rebecca's mind painting them as gleefully comparing sexual experiences. The glibness of the song is a hint at how Rebecca sees her past mistakes, rather than a genuine endorsement of sex as a series of conquests. And it's also super catchy and fun.

1. The Math of Love Triangles

I knew back when I started compiling this list that this would have to be at the top of it. Since I first saw it, it's been one of my favorites, a brilliant send-up of Marilyn Monroe (especially in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and the general trope of dumb women being sexy. Here, Rebecca's dream sequence features a group of men earnestly trying to teach her about triangles, but as she responds with baby talk and misunderstanding of what they're saying, they get increasingly frustrated. This was another one where it was really difficult to choose a favorite line, as there were so many... but in the end, I think I have to go with this amazing exchange:

"Is this a triangle?"
"No, that's a shoe."
"Is this a triangle?"
"No, that's you."
"So I'm a triangle?"
"What? No."
"1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 3, go!"

Honorable Mentions: You're My Best Friend (And I Know I'm Not Yours), Thought Bubbles, Santa Ana Winds, Ping Pong Girl, Greg's Drinking Song, You Go First

Other friends watching the show... What's your favorite performance of season two? 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Top 5, Bottom 5: John Goodman

Let's do an easy blog! Easy blogs are the best! I just recently watched my 20th John Goodman movie (and I've , which means it's time to do a Top 5, Bottom 5 list for this actor. I'm sure I've seen a lot more movie where he's in it but just not mentioned in the top five actors, which is all Flickchart counts. Let's find out my favorite and least favorite movies of his.

Top 5:
1. Monsters, Inc. (2001, #8). My favorite Pixar movie, though it's been quite a few years since I rewatched it. I love the imaginative concept, I love the characters, and I love the narrative. The first Pixar film to make me cry, though not the one that made me cry the hardest.
2. The Emperor's New Groove (2000, #58). Interesting that my top two Goodman films are both voiceover roles for him. I'm delighted this movie has developed such a cult following, because it's a bright spot in the middle of the awful Disney decade from 1995-2005. Pixar aside, there was just nothing good out there... and then there was this, which is ridiculous and goofy and totally works.
3. Punchline (1988, #346). I'll be honest, I don't even remember Goodman being in Punchline, because all I remember are Tom Hanks and Sally Field, both of whom are phenomenal in their respective roles. This was a Movie Challenge 2014 assignment, and it ended up being a wonderful little gem.
4. Flight (2012, #420). This could have been horrifically cheesy if not for great acting on Denzel's part, and he completely sold me on this movie. I do remember Goodman in it and I remember him being good, but he's definitely not the star of this film.
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, #436). Oh man, now this is a starring role for John Goodman. It's a terrific movie, both as a thematic sequel to the original and as a standalone thriller, and Goodman is so, so good in it. I can't give many more details without getting spoilery, so I'll just say... go see it.

Bottom 5:
5. Raising Arizona (1987, #1487 out of 2607). Probably the only controversial choice on this list. I just can't get into this. I never like the Coen movies I'm supposed to like.
4. The Monuments Men (2014, #1882). I was so ready to love this despite the critics, but turns out it's just boring and not artistically inspiring at all.
3. Always (1989, #2097). Aside from some great flight scenes, this movie is pretty much wholly ridiculous and inept. A rare but definite miss from Spielberg.
2. Frosty Returns (1992, #2563). And even as my top two were voiceovers from Goodman, my bottom two are as well. Here he plays Frosty in a creepy, joyless sequel to the original Rankin Bass special. Ugh.
1. The Emperor's New Groove 2: Kronk's New Groove (2005, #2564). Ugh. The first was so good and the sequel so awful.

Top 5 Unseen:
1. Revenge of the Nerds (1984, #1661 on the global charts)
2. Sea of Love (1989, #2341)
3. Fallen (1998, #2608)
4. The Big Easy (1986, #2644)
5. Arachnophobia (1990, #2836)

What are your favorite John Goodman roles? Which of those unseens should I tackle first? I've only even heard of two of them.

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 Resolutions: April Check-In

I do not want to do this post. This year, I really haven't wanted to do any of these posts. Over the past eight months or so, depression and anxiety has really been pushing me down and kicking me over and over again, and every time I looked at what I wanted to do, what I planned to do and never got to, I feel like a failure. And this was a rough month.

So this is what's going to happen. I'm going to (very quickly) add up the points for how I did on my goals this month. I won't be explaining which ones I got points for and which I didn't. I'll just have my points number as a benchmark. And then I'm setting eight incredibly easy goals for the rest of April. Super duper easy, I should be able to accomplish them no problem. Because I think I need to be able to look back at this in May and count at least one full win. I need that little boost to remind me I'm capable of, ya know, doing things, so that when depressionbrain is taunting me I can be like, "NOPE! REMEMBER THAT ONE TIME IN MAY I ACCOMPLISHED MY GOALS EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE SMALL? HA!!!!"

For last month's goals, I get a 14 out of 80, down from 28.5 from February to March. I told you this was a rough month. But it means going up is easy.

So here are my easy peasy goals to accomplish in the final two weeks of April:
- No more fast food. Like until the end of the month. I'm being stupid with my spending and my eating and I can't afford to do either. It's actually a little bit tougher because making food stresses me out, so I'm making it count for both my diet and my finance goal. 20 points if I make it.
- Work out once. Just once. I've been not doing it at all, once would be a step up.
- Spend time with God twice. Just twice. Again, twice is a step up from not at all. And if I end up doing more, awesome.
- Get laundry quarters. Am I going to do a crap load of laundry like I always want to? Probably not. But can I be prepared for it? I sure can.
- Have at least one online meetup with faraway friends and/or family. I tentatively have three scheduled right now, so I should be able to make at least one of them happen, yes?
- See a movie in theaters next week. Can't say "every week" because that always fails, but, yup, I can see a movie next week.
- Write my May check-in blog on time (which means ready to post on Monday the 1st). Even if I fail everything else, I can get at least 10 points on this one with a little "Hey, I somehow failed!" post which means I'm almost where I was this month anyway.

Looking back at this post, I sound defeatist and discouraged. I'm sorry. I kind of am this month. But this is me trying not to be. And maybe it will be the burst of confidence I need to feel like I can do something positive for myself even when my brain is doing its best to get me to just give up and eat ice cream and cry all day. So if you don't mind, send me prayers or love or good vibes or whatever you can spare. Thanks, friends.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Top 5, Bottom 5: 1985

Here, let's have a quick, simple blog post to talk about my favorite and least-favorite movies of 1985 according to my Flickchart. I've only seen 23, so there are a lot more I've yet to get to, but here are the standouts so far. All rankings are out of 2588 movies.

Top 5:
1. The Purple Rose of Cairo (#10). My second-favorite Woody Allen movie is this charming story of a woman whose favorite movie character steps off the screen to spend some time with her. It takes an unexpected turn at the end that I used to like, but I have since fully embraced it.
2. Back to the Future (#20). Two 1985 movies in my top 20? Wow. This is a classic favorite for a reason. It's such a creative, smart, funny script, and all the actors do an amazing job bringing it to life.
3. Ladyhawke (#69). Granted this is a nostalgic pick for me, but I have always liked tragic love stories, and this has such a great one at the heart of it.
4. The Breakfast Club (#134). I need to rewatch this one, but I remember being really impressed with how the script brought these characters to life. This kind of one-room drama has often been attempted but this is one of the few true successes.
5. Better Off Dead (#285). A delightful surprise when I first watched it. It's a morbidly quirky rom com starring John Cusack as an emotional teenager, and it's fantastic.

Bottom 5:
5. Silverado (#2080). This one, to be fair, probably isn't nearly deserving of its spot here. I mostly remember thinking it was just okay, not bad.
4. After Hour (#1882). This Martin Scorsese comedy is so over-the-top that it doesn't sit right with me at all and ends up reminding me of Lynchian horror more than anything else.
3. The Goonies (#1818). From my experience, it seems like most people who watch this as an adult are as unimpressed with it as I am. The tone of it is super weird to me, and I don't like any of the characters.
2. Legend (#1639). Tim Curry aside, this weird little movie is pretty forgettable. I had to think for a minute to remember which one it even was.
1. The Man With One Red Shoe (#1515). Like Legend, this movie just isn't terribly memorable. I think Tom Hanks was okay in it.

Top 5 I Haven't Seen:
1. Come and See (globally #337)
2. Re-Animator (#502)
3. Pale Ride (#792)
4. Day of the Dead (#803)
5. Witness (#848)

What's your favorite movie of 1985? And which of my unseen ones should I watch first?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 Resolutions: March Check-In

I do not have high hopes for this one. February was a rough month, and I guess we're about to see just how rough.

My diet goal for February was to eat only one fast food meal a week. Yeah, I suuuuuuuuucked at that. I spent way too much money on food that's not good for me because it was easier. But I did okay like... the first week, so let's go with 2/10. So I'm trying this one again. I want to restrict myself to one fast food meal a week. Let's make this happen.

February's exercise goal was to go to the gym after work on Thursdays and Fridays. HA. 0/10. Not even once. On the plus side, I did a LOT of Pokemon walks now that the app's got new Pokemon, so I'm going to try to capitalize on that this month. Let's go with take a Pokemon walk every day it's not raining. Long, short, doesn't matter, the goal is just to make me move.

February's God goal was to keep my nightstand clear so I could stash Bible stuff on it and then spend time with God. Well, I did the hard part of clearing it off in the first place, digging out Bible stuff, and cleaning it back off at least twice, so I'm going to give myself a 5/10 for that. Now to make the second half happen. My goal this month is twofold: clear the nightstand every night (so nothing piles up and gives me an excuse) and then back to the good ol' spend time with God. I'll make each half of this worth 5 points, so we'll see where I end up next month.

February's financial goal was to caption a little bit every day I'm home before 4. I did all right on this, particularly at the beginning of the month. Toward the end it got wonky because Rev didn't have as much work as they have lately, so I kept getting out of the captioning rhythm, but I'm still pretty happy. Let's go with 7/10. This month's finance goal is to take care of the thing that's been hanging over my head for about a month now, and that's to get taxes filed. We're doing it ourselves online this year, and while it's not difficult with the program we use, it is time-consuming and I need to just sit down and get it done so we're not scrambling like we were last year to finish in time.

February's tidiness goal was to do two loads of laundry every week. Nope. Nope, not anywhere near. Not even on my week-long break where I vowed to myself I was going to catch up on all the laundry. I did a load one week and then Jacob did two loads one week, so Jacob gets a 2.5 for my goal and I get a 1. I'm going to keep plugging away at laundry, but I'd also like to assign myself a one-time-only task because maybe I'll get that accomplished even if I can't do a repeated one. So I'd like to clean up the bathroom. In our low-space bedroom area it's somehow ended up as the dumping ground for dirty laundry and stuff I never unpacked from Christmas, and that's ridiculous. I want to put away Christmas stuff, put laundry where it belongs and do a good sweep of the whole area since there's been stuff sitting on that floor for two months now.

February's relationship goal was to do some board gaming two weekends. We did this once, so 5/10. And, actually, I'd like to go for this again. Let's do some board gaming two weekends this month. And I'd like at least one of those to be with our local board game buddies which we have a terrible time scheduling meetups with lately.

February's art input goal was to watch all the romance movies in my movie suggestion challenge. This was a lofty goal, but I probably could have accomplished it if I wasn't also scrambling to catch up on Oscar nominees. Whoops. I made it through about a third of the ones I needed to, so let's give me a 4/10, rounding up because at least the reason I didn't make it was because I was watching other movies, not just goofing around online. Seeing a bunch of movies this past month felt great, and I'd like to keep that going, so let's try to see two movies in theaters every week. Let's use my MoviePass!

February's art output goal was to write one other blog post this month. GUYS I TOTALLY DID THAT. 10/10. OK, I have a very specific one for March. I contribute blurbs about movies to the Flickchart blog's monthly "Top 10 of [some past year ending in 7]." Last week was 1967. I'm always scrambling to get these pulled together at the last minute. What I want to do now is look ahead to the months coming up and get my movie blurbs for the year written ahead of time. That would be a solid chunk of output from me, and it would save me a lot of scattered work in the future.

In January, I scored 28.5/80 (35%). This month I got 34 out of 80, or 42%. That's still not, ya know, a passing grade, but at least I'm approaching the halfway mark, and that feels good. Here's to March!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Top 10 Songs From Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season 1)

So for those who haven't been paying attention, my latest TV obsession is the musical show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which stars Rachel Bloom as a woman unsuccessfully looking everywhere for happiness. I love the show for many reasons. I love the way it deals with the main character's mental health problems, I love how flawed the characters are, I love that it has so many strong and unique female characters, and, of course, I love the music. The show typically has about two original songs a week, in a variety of musical styles, and they're almost all fantastic.

Here are the 10 songs I love the very most from the first season, with the season two favorites coming soon. I initially had them all in one mega list of favorites, but I found it was almost exclusively season one. Season two songs aren't bad, but I just finished the season and haven't had as much time to fall in love with their songs. So they'll get their own section later.

(Note that my #1 choice has a curse word in the title that I have not censored in this post.)

10. Cold Showers

One of the things I love most about this show is its foray into parodies of not just big general song styles, but very specific showtunes. In season one, we get amazing revamps of "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy, "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables, and, here at #10, the show's answer to "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man. Central character Rebecca Bunch is a real estate lawyer trying to convince an entire apartment complex that they should hire her to sue the landlord over their lack of hot water, and, in the vein of Harold Hill, has to make some pretty huge leaps of logic to get them down the road she wants them to.

Best line: "And they think to themselves, 'That shower felt great. Maybe I'll try cocaine!'"

9. I'm So Good at Yoga

This was the song that convinced me I should keep watching the show, back in episode two. In this song, Rebecca goes to a yoga class taught by her crush's gorgeous girlfriend Valencia, and she imagines a Bollywood dance sequence in which Valencia taunts her with everything she's ever been insecure about in herself. It's such a great portrayal of the way a very insecure person sees the world and those around them. Warning, though, this song is insanely catchy, so if you watch this, you'll probably be singing it forever.

Best line: "I'm not afraid of clowns and trains."

8. Feeling Kinda Naughty

And this song, also from the second episode, convinced me I needed to watch the show forever for all time, primarily because it took me so much by surprise. It starts out looking like it's going for a cutesy sexy love song vibe and then takes an abrupt dark turn exploring how we can become utterly fascinated by (and perhaps obsessed with) the people who we most want to be.

Best line: "I want to lock you in a basement, but in that basement you would also be my personal trainer."

7. I'm a Good Person

In the style of an 80s pop ballad, Rebecca sings a self-congratulatory anthem about what a good person she is. If there's one song that sums up what gets Rebecca in the most trouble on the show, it's this one. She's so desperate to convince others that she is a good person that she doesn't want to waste her time doing, ya know, actually good things that won't get her as much attention. Since she can't actually prove through her selfish actions that she is a good person, the next best thing she can do is sing loudly about it (and threaten bar patrons with a knife until they agree).

Best line: "My nickname is Mother Theresa Luther King."

6. What'll It Be?

The musical numbers in this show are impressive in that even when they're doing comedic style parodies, they keep the emotional thread running throughout. This number amps up the melancholy in "Piano Man" to become a song about someone completely stuck in his depressing job as a bartender in the town he grew up in. The initial song's tone of fond nostalgia turns into defeated melancholy, because Greg knows he's never going to get to leave.

Best line: "Thanks for this town, three short hours from the beach, where all of your dreams can stay just out of reach."

5. Heavy Boobs

I keep finding myself starting my blurbs with the sentence "Once of the things I love about this show is" but there really are so many different things I love about how they do their musical numbers. In this case, it's that it takes something that is a familiar experience to a lot of women and then tackles it from their point of view. This is a song about women's bodies by and for women, taking something that is so often completely sexualized and reinterpreting it as just a fact of someone's life, and it becomes so, so relatable... and all of you out there who identify with this song may also have difficulty watching the music video because it looks like it would have been really painful to film.

Best line: "Here is a list of all of the objects that I can hold under my boobs."

4. Face Your Fears

Paula hasn't been represented much in this list so far, which is a shame, because she's got some good songs. This is by far my favorite of hers, though, and it was the first time on the show she really got to shine. It's an inspirational song about, well, facing your fears, but it escalates quickly and becomes maybe a less helpful anthem than it should have been. It still sounds inspirational though!

Best line: Not a line, but the chorus of children with scissors is amazing.

3. A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes

I was a boy band fan as a teen . . . OK, I'll be honest. I'm still a boy band fan now. And I think this song absolutely nails the "sensitive boy can heal damaged girl" theme of so many songs in the genre. It's just turned up to 11. Again, though, besides the comedy, I find this sort of a moving song. Rebecca really does depend on Josh, in a sad way, to restore her. Of course, he can't ever do that, but this is what love songs and romance movies have promised her. The moment where she reunites with her younger self at this imaginary Josh Boy Band concert is both sweet and sad, that she thinks she's found the thing that will take away her childhood pain.

Best line: "We'll get you through those developmental stages that you've been stuck in for ages."

2. I Could If I Wanted To

Now that I've finished season two, I seriously miss Greg being on the show. He was one of my favorite characters. This particular song is an I-don't-care 90s grunge song about how, well, he could get A's and make money and have people he cared about if he wanted to, but he doesn't care. (But he could. But he doesn't.) As always, the style of the parody is spot-on, and Santino Fontana's sarcastic and cynical delivery is hilarious.

Best line: "Like it's sooooo important to know how to throw a ball."

1. You Stupid Bitch

OK, that may seem like a strange choice for a song that was my favorite from an entire season of songs I adored. But stay with me for a second here. This song made me cry the first time I heard it. And not my-eyes-are-a-little-misty crying, like full on tears-streaming-down-my-face-I'm-trying-hard-to-breathe-and-not-sob crying. This song catches Rebecca during one of her rare moments of self-awareness, when she realized that she's hurt the people around her and crushed her own chance of happiness, that her misery comes largely from her own mistakes. And I cried because I recognized my own inner monologue in this song. I recognized the furious, hateful way I talk to myself when I've spoken carelessly and hurt someone or made a poor decision. So I sat there as Rebecca hated herself and I cried a little for her and a little for me, and then I took a deep breath and, even though I knew Rebecca would likely stay caught in this cycle for awhile of stupid mistake --> self-loathing --> stupid mistake --> self-loathing (which, uh, yeah, she does), I could start figuring out how to get out of that.


Honorable Mentions: California Christmastime, After Everything I've Done for You (That You Didn't Ask For), I Have Friends, Flooded With Justice

This show is great. It constantly surprises me and moves me and makes me care about people who seem to be stuck as the worst versions of themselves and makes me cry and makes me laugh and makes me want to watch more musicals.

Anyone else watching this? What are your favorite songs from season one?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017 Resolutions: February Check-In

This month felt...more productive than I thought it would but I still have a ways to go. We'll see how I actually measure up when I look back over my goals.

January's health (diet) goal was to not drink any soda. This started out good and then went downhill, but I continued to at least be aware of how much soda I was drinking. Let's give it a 4/10. New goal for February is a finance goal as well as a diet one. I need to cut way down on my fast food. I want specifically to restrict myself to one fast food meal a week. I've been eating too many burgers and fries, and I need to get out of that habit.

January's exercise goal was to reach my pedometer app step goal at least once every week. I did run into some arthritis related problems this month, so I'm cutting myself some slack there, but out of 4 possible "hit your goal" days, I only reached one. So let's go with a 2.5/10. My February goal is going to sound like a silly one, but it will help me. My goal is twofold. First of all, I need to keep workout gear in the car. Second, I want to try to go to the gym after work on Thursdays and Fridays. I still have a gym membership and I want to use it. I'm hoping to start this week, and I'll give myself all 10 points if I go at least ONE other day besides Thurs/Fri.

January's God goal was to spend time with God. Yeah, I sucked at that. 0/10. I'm going to make, again, what seems like a tangential goal but what will be helpful. So I'm going to try to keep my nightstand clear. I have a tendency to just pile stuff on it, and then it's a pain to get to my Bible and prayer journal. If I keep it clear for only Bible stuff, I'll be more apt to actually use that Bible stuff even if that isn't my stated goal this month.

January's financial goal was to do more captioning work on a regular basis. I definitely made some headway, and I think I'd give myself 6/10. For February, I'd like to keep that up but focus on where I lost it, so my goal is to caption a little bit EVERY day that I'm home before 4. Even on days when Jacob's off work, I need to still get something done. And it can be a short file as long as I get working on something.

January's tidiness goal was to do two loads of laundry every week. I did NOT do that this week. I did one load every other week, so that's like...a 2/10 or so. This is really one of the ongoing cleaning battles I fight, so I'm going to try it again. I thought about lowering it to one a week but, really, doing two isn't much more work than doing one, and eight loads in February would be so much more awesome than four.

January's relationship goal was to message at least 5 friends I haven't talked to in awhile. I know I did a few of these, though I'm not sure if I hit 5. I'll give myself an 8/10 for now. My new one is to do some board gaming two out of my three remaining weekends, whether with Jacob or with our local board game buddies or both.

January's art input goal was to see one movie a week in theaters. I half did that! I saw one every other week, so that's an obvious 5/10. This month, I want to see all the romance movies in my movie suggestion challenge. I like watching romance-specific movies in February, and knocking these 13 movies off the list would be fantastic.

January's art output goal was to post my best-of-the-year blog lists. Well, uh, I wrote half of one, so that's like... 1/10. Not so great. I'm going to loosen things up a bit and say I want to write one other blog post this month. Let me get that done.

All right. So for January, I scored 28.5 out of 80, or roughly 35%. So that's not great. But my goal is to do better this upcoming month, and I'm starting right now by cleaning off my nightstand. FEBRUARY GOALS, HERE WE COME!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Board Game 10x5 Challenge

In the board game community, there's a common yearly challenge called the "10x10." The idea is to choose 10 games that you think you don't play enough and commit to playing them each 10 times throughout the year. Well, we have plenty of games on our shelves that don't get enough love, but I don't know that I can commit to playing them 10 times. That's almost once a month, and I really enjoy variety. But 5 times? Yeah, that sounds more reasonable. So yesterday morning Jacob and I chose 10 games we don't play enough and we're going to attempt to play each of them five times throughout the year. That means we'll be playing, on average, one of these games every week. Here's what we've chosen.

1. Star Wars: Rebellion. This was Jacob's immediate first pick, which is fair. He got it for his birthday last summer and we've only played it twice since then. It's a serious time commitment, but I always mean to play it with him because I know how much he enjoys it. Maybe this will get me to play it more often.

2. Arkham Horror. It's a little ridiculous how long we've owned this without playing it even once. This is another big commitment one, but given how much I loved Eldritch Horror when we played it last year, I feel like I'll enjoy this as well. We just need to put the work into getting it up and running.

3. Zombie Fluxx. After two heavy hitters, I figured we should add something a little lighter, so we opted for this, our favorite of the Fluxxes, but we might fudge and allow any of the Fluxxes to fill the play slots here.

4. Pandemic. This was one of the first games we ever got, and we used to play it fairly frequently. Then we accidentally left it in Indiana when we moved and only got it back last spring, at which point we put it on our shelf and never touched it. Let's fix that this year.

5. Hanabi. This was a birthday gift for me last year, and we've definitely meant to play it, but somehow never got around to it. It's another light one that should be fairly easy to toss into the mix.

6. Castle of Mad King Ludwig. When searching for a game to play Sunday night, Jacob exclaimed, "I forgot we had Castles!" That keeps happening. Let's remember we have it and we like it!

7. Elysium. We bought this last fall and it always comes up as an option when we're trying to figure out what we want, but it somehow never makes the final cut. Hopefully this will inspire us to actually choose it a few times!

8. Legendary Encounters: Alien. We just got the expansion for this game, so I'm excited to try it out at least five times!

9. Colt Express. We played this at our local board game cafe so many times but never finished putting the train together to play it at home. We can fix that!

10. Sentinels of the Multiverse. A blind buy based on a friend's recommendation, and it just looks exhausting to learn. But I'm determined to learn it and (hopefully) enjoy it -- either way, I'll play it at least five times.

We'll see how the year goes, but hopefully we'll make it to all five plays on at least a few of these.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year's Resolutions 2017

For anyone who followed my new year's resolution attempts last year, I was not good about taking care of myself. To the point where I just gave up on blogging entirely because I didn't want to admit how much I'd been failing. This year, one of my biggest goals is to do better. So my goals for the year are going to be, on the whole, very small and fall into mostly self-care categories (or categories where self-improvement would result in a genuinely happier me) because I got so, so bad at that. So here are the categories I'm thinking of focusing on over the next 12 months, with the hopes of building some positive habits in 2017. I'll state the overall purpose of the category along with my planned goals for January.


2 goals a month, typically one to do with diet and one to do with exercise. One of them can be swapped out for a specific medical need goal if necessary, such as something to do with RA or depression.

This month, my diet goal is to not drink any soda, starting now. I drank wayyyyyyyyyy too much soda over my break, and I need to cut back on that, and the best way to do that is by cutting it out entirely. I did this a while back and it was good for me, and I'd like to do it again to reset myself a bit. It's starting now because I already had a Dr. Pepper yesterday.

For exercise, I'd like to reach my pedometer app step goal at least once every week. That may not seem like very much, but it's a lot for me and means I'll actually have to get out and move around when I've gotten very used to being sedentary. I'm not very far from my step goal on most teaching days, so all I really need to do is walk to like the grocery store and back and I'd be set. It's not difficult, I just need to make it happen.


1 goal a month, almost certainly "spend quiet time with God" or the occasional "attend a church meeting because I feel very isolated from other Christians here in the Bay."

This month... Well, I need to do both, I think, but let's go for spend time with God this time around. It's something I can start now and not wait for Sunday.


Not a category I included last year, but it's something I want to put into place. This could include a lot of things -- restructuring the way I pay bills, foregoing unnecessary spending, upping freelance work, making sure I get gas at the cheap gas station instead of waiting until the last minute and then having to pay an extra $5-10 a month, that kind of thing.

For January, I want to do more captioning work on a regular basis, especially as my work schedule gets busier. I want to establish a pattern that lets me accomplish at least some work almost every day, so that I'm never left with a paycheck of zero for the week.


Anyone who's lived with me knows that I have more than a few slob tendencies. I want to get better about organizing my life, whether it's reordering how I sort things at work, catching up on laundry, cleaning out the fridge/cabinet more often, or reorganizing a messy part of our room.

This month, I want to do two loads of laundry every week. That's enough to clean the week's worn laundry and then make a dent in our horrifically huge laundry pile. As I do that, I'm also going to set aside anything I don't wear anymore and can give/throw away. But that's a side project. Mostly I just want that laundry pile to shrink, even if it is Puppy's favorite place to nap.


As an introvert, relationshipping takes a little extra work. My relationship goals may involve reconnecting with far-away friends, making it a priority to socialize with people I know in the area, or set aside time to spend in quality time with Jacob.

This month, I want to message at least 5 friends I haven't talked to in awhile. I was able to reconnect, even if briefly, with a few long-ago friends over the holidays, and it was amazing and I should do it more often.


This one also has two goals -- input and output. My input goals could be silly goals about watching certain movies, attending plays, reading classic books. My output goals involve what I'm creating: making headway in a novel or play I'm writing, blogging more, or compiling teaching stories that could be used creatively someday.

My input goal this month is to see at least one movie a week in theaters. Let's keep using this MoviePass! I'm feeling confident about that, although we'll see how it actually pans out. My output goal this month is to post my best-of-the-year blog lists. I don't have a lot since I didn't really consume a lot this year, but my goal is to get some of those up and published.

So this is my year of self-care, in terms of health, spirituality, finances, tidiness, relationships, and art. That's six categories with eight total monthly goals. That's more individual goals than last year, but I'm hoping I can consistently keep these goals achievable. I'm also setting notes in Google Calendar to remind myself to do them. I'm hopeful that I'll have a better report on this in February than I did for almost anything I tried to do last year... but if not, my backup goal for February is don't just give up and think you can't fix anything, admit you goofed up and try again next month.

So. What are your goals for the year? What new things are you trying to do in your life? It doesn't have to be a new year's thing, either -- what projects are you working toward?