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Tagline: I watched most of these shows because Maddy told me to. Who is Maddy you ask? One of the best humans. Check out her youtube channel here.

Summer is time when teachers like me catch up on curriculum for the next school year, relax, read, and also binge-watch the things we didn’t have time for when we got up at 5:30 and passed out by 9:30 for nine months.

  1. Wynonna Earp

This is the show for you if you like the following things: bad-ass ladies, sometimes cheesy effects, clever dialogue, strong black men, old-school cowboys with moustaches, curses, red-head lady cops, LGBT representation, and no killing off of minorities for the sake of it. Basically, if you enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will like this show. Fun fact: it is loosely based on a comic book of the same name. It aired on SYFY but I just want you to somehow find a way to watch it so it gets renewed for a second season.

Eugh. That comic is well, something. She’s much more realistic and #relatable on the show.

 

2. Couple-ish

Canada is our lovely and kind neighbor to the north and has always produced quality programming in my opinion. (I grew up watching TVO kids, Pingu, Fred Penner, and the Red Green Show). I’m also 1/4 Canadian so I guess that’s what we would call biased. But that quality programming has continued today on the internet. This show was written and created by Kaitlyn Alexander, a non-binary youtuber also known for acting in the web-series Carmilla. With compelling characters and dynamic acting, this show is a must.

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Not even from this show, but these two are #FriendshipGoals 

3. Carmilla

I technically started watching this at the end of the school year. Sometimes you need a treat after getting all your school-related work done.

Based on a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, this is a Canadian Web-series featuring the plucky nerd protagonist Laura and her ensemble cast of characters. It involves chases, escapes, vampires, magic, true love, miracles. All the good stuff.

 

4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

My brother Cullen is also responsible for getting me to watch this and making it my new 10/10 would recommend. (Ps. he also has a youtube channel). This show has everything: a catchy theme song, a female protagonist, musical numbers out of nowhere, that guy who plays Hans from Frozen being snarky. (Santino Fontana is a national treasure and we should all cherish him).

The premise of this show is that Rebecca Bunch moves from New York to West Covina California to be near her ex-boyfriend from summer camp in high school. Hilarity ensues. For real though this is a fun show that doesn’t hate its characters. It handles everyone’s emotions and desires in a very valid and real way. Also it doesn’t shy away from letting its good characters make bad choices and suffer the consequences and letting its “bad” characters be shown to be humans too. It also just has really killer songs, like “Settle for Me.”

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“For slavery fled, oh glorious dead, when you fell in the Foggy Dew.”

Being of Irish heritage is a lot like Irish music; it makes you feel simultaneously triumphantly happy and devastatingly sad at the same time. It’s the feeling you have when you are flying through the air during that split second of the Slip Jig where you hold yourself in the air for but a moment and your heart has never felt more free.

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The feeling you have when you listen to “Into the Mystic,” by Van Morrison in particular The Swell Season’s live cover version.

It’s because you have to carry lotion with you everywhere year round because your skin was meant to be somewhere it rains all the time, not in the dry midwestern climate. It’s also how you carry sunscreen everywhere in the summertime and try to explain how you got “slightly tan” but all your friends see are more freckles on a pale backdrop. And how you look so pale and ghostlike in the winter that you can see your veins and you startle your cousin when you accidentally end up in the background of her snapchat photo. It’s how the only thing marking you as a person and not a ghost is your dark curly hair.

It’s the smile of your soul when you hear a bit of witty humor or wordplay or a beautifully worded phrase whether spoken or written because at heart all Irish are poets.

It’s in the lovely genes you inherited that make you glad you look so young yet irked when you get carded every time you buy whiskey.

It’s the pang in your heart when you visited Kilmainham Gaol and heard Sinead O’Connor’s version of “The Foggy Dew” over and over in your head and shed a tear for those jailed or killed during the Easter Rising. It’s that same pang which rises and boils up to a fiery rage and you hear “Zombie” by the Cranberries in your head when you see a t-shirt that reads “Ireland 1916.” Or someone casually mentions Orange vs. Green or that Oliver Cromwell was an interesting man and all you see before your eyes are mists of blood and genocide and starving children and your forebears suffering. When you see how much they sacrificed to get here and so you could have the privileges you have.

And you feel for your people every time someone uses a stereotype or you see a leprechaun because they aren’t even that important in Irish mythology. Why don’t more people know about CuChulain and why don’t we read The Tain instead of Beowulf, I love Beowulf but The Tain is still better and it explains my soft spot for cows. And what’s up with all these four leaf clovers masquerading as shamrocks which actually have only three leaves because how else would St. Patrick use one to illustrate the trinity? It’s how your Irish literature professor told you you are not allowed to answer anymore questions because you know too much about the Vikings.

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CuChulain

It’s the empathy you feel for the other cultures that come to America and get stereotyped or slandered or encouraged to forget their culture and melt into the melting pot.

It’s that feeling of warmth and comfort you feel the first time you learn to make soda bread with your mother. It’s the smell of the rick dark coffee when you finally get to participate in after dinner coffee and conversation with the adults at family gatherings. It’s the coziness of your Aran knit sweater on a cold night. And it’s when the last words your Grandmother speaks to you are praising what a great cook you have become.

It’s when you are crying while listening to “The Long Journey Home” on the plane home from Ireland partly because you have a sinus infection, but mostly because your heart belongs there and you don’t think you will ever experience anything as painfully beautiful and home-feeling as that country again.

Well, at least that’s what being Irish means to me.

Hold on to your culture. Do not let anyone take it from you, because if you lose it, what do you have left?

Today I bring to you, 11 fun facts of my week. Some of them might not be fun but they are all facts.

  1. Everyone should listen to Hamilton. Just do it. You’ll thank me later.

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2. It’s practically March so that means it’s time for what my dad refers to as Irish Ramadan. (Cultural appropriation can work sometimes). That’s the best way to describe the celebratory time leading up to St. Patrick’s day on the 17th. Growing up of Irish-American heritage this was like a second holiday season where I was often dancing at various events and parties. Albeit, it’s also during Lent, so it’s not like there was a ton of candy or anything. Just family, friends and fun times. Thus, I find myself taking a break from listening to Hamilton non-stop to listen to The Chieftains, Van Morrison, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Glen Hansard, The Dropkick Murphys, and many others. (We Irish are a prolific and musical folk). I’m particularly into this collab with the Chieftains and Ziggy Marley “Redemption Song.” 

The Corr’s version of Buachaill on Eirne is always a favorite as well. This video I linked translates the Gaelic into English and Spanish. It’s basically about this guy bragging about how awesome it is, yet in Irish it sounds so beautiful. Even the English translation of the last line is very poetic.

And your kiss is no more to me now than a shoe worn for a year

Burn.

3. Along with this time of year, Wack-Arnold’s (McDonald’s for the uninitiated), trots out their Shamrock shakes. Being lactose-intolerant, (which is odd for an Irish person), I cannot partake in the joy of a shake I once thought was made from actual Shamrocks. But Pinterest to the rescue! I found some really great dairy free and vegan Shamrock shake recipes I am definitely going to be trying out this month. Linkity link.

4. In the realm of more recommendations from me, the Liz Lemon-esque unrepentant fangirl, everyone should watch Agent Carter on ABC. The second season just ended and there are rumblings that it won’t get renewed which is awful. (Pro-tip, read this next part in Stefon from SNL’s voice). It has everything: late 1940’s fashion, Marvel, feminism, 2 British people, Chad Michael Murray, and a Joss Whedon-esque musical number.

HAYLEY ATWELL, ENVER GJOKAJ

I am not joking. Look how much fun they are having.

5. Tomorrow is Leap Day. Can we remember that the last Leap Day, four years ago 30 Rock was still on the TV and they aired their Leap Day Williams episode, which was weird, wonderful and I loved it. 30 Rock you are missed but never forgotten.

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Happy Leap Day!

6. This week while eating Mild curry thai food I proclaimed that I had the highest spice tolerance in my family. Coming from an Irish family, this is not saying much and is not really a boast.

7. Lentil loaf is good I learned. Delicious even. Perfect for having gone vegetarian for Lent and being on a Student teacher’s budget.

8. Today my brother was trying to think of what Secret Santa is called. Instead he said “Blind Santa Claus.” I honestly think Blind Santa Claus is what I am going to call it from now on.

9. I have been so overstressed with work that I definitely needed the two snow days we had this week. When you get overstressed, you say weird things to the kids like: “Holden Caulfield is not really a woke bae,” “We all need to focus, like a Ford Focus,” and “Today I dressed like an Urban Outfitters ad.”

10. I am in love with this Ham4Ham video featuring all the Kings George from Hamilton lip-synching to the Schuyler Sisters song. Ham4Ham is when people wait to win tickets for the show in a lottery and sometimes the actors come out and do a little performance for them. You may recognize Andrew Rannels who is Elijah from Girls, and Jonathan Groff who plays Christoff in Frozen.

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11. This video of Nanci Griffith singing the Irish tune, “Red is the Rose,” with the Chieftains is gold. The “Thank you Chieftains” at the end has become a catch phrase among my siblings and I. Not sure why, just one of those weird phrases you pick up like “the scare-floor will be painted.”

I need lots of crazy challenges in my life so I have signed up for a third reading contest for 2015. This one is called the TBR Pile Challenge. Or the To-Be-Read Pile Challenge. TBH I have a lot of TBR in my life. Being a nerd, an English teacher, and someone who genuinely likes a lot of genres, I have a lot I want to read. And I am determined to read it all this year.

Yes. I can do it. Here is my massive TBR list in no particular order:

1. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

2, Ulysses, by James Joyce

3. Finish the rest of the Hunger Games. (I’m late to the party with this one, I know).

4. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie

5. IQ84 by Haruki Murakami

6. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami

7. The Illuminaires, by Eleanor Catton

8. The Lowland, by  Jhumpa Lahiri

9. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

10. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

11. Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

12. The Sorrows of Young Werther

13. Detroit City is the Place to Be, by Mark Binelli

14. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

15. Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer

16. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

17. Brideshead Revisted, by Evelyn Waugh

19. Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell (and also finish the Wordy Shipmates).

20. The History of White People, Nell Irvin Painter

21. Where’d You Go Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

22. Paper Towns, by John Green

23. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

24. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

25. Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut

26. Look at the Birdie, by Kurt Vonnegut

27. White Noise, by Don DeLillo

28. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

29. On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

29. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

31. The Glimpse of the Moon, by Edith Wharton

32. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

33. Night, by Elie Wiesel

34. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (I started reading this back in college, not sure what distracted me. Probably writing my thesis).

35. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

36. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

37. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

38. Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray

39. Shirley Jackson Anthology

40. The Portable Dorothy Parker

41. The SIlmarillion, by JRR Tolkien. (Attempting yet again).

42. Candide, by Voltaire

43. Across the River and into the Trees, by Ernest Hemingway

44. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, by Ernest Hemingway

45. To Have and Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway

46. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

47. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

48. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

49. Atonement, by Ian McEwan

50. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

51. That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis (the one book I omitted from my thesis because I ran out of time to read it).

52. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (I have no idea how I haven’t read this one. Don’t ask).

53. Olive. (A Scottish version of Jane Eyre my professor gave me before graduation. It’s been 4 years. I should read it).

54. All the Virginia Woolf books I haven’t read

55. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

56. The Satanic Verse, by Salman Rushdie

57. The Ground Beneath Her Feet, by Salman Rushdie (another failed collegiate attempt)

58. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

There you have it. Happy reading in 2015!

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I’ve experienced a lot of beautiful things in my life. And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what beauty means to me, really and truthfully, not just as a concept.

Maybe it’s because I’m standing on the brink of a summer teaching job where I’ll be showing children the joy of books or it’s just because several beautiful artistic experiences have occurred in my life.

First, I finished reading Anna Karenina a few weeks ago, which took me pretty much the whole school year to read because it’s mad long and I did put it down and pick up other things in-between. I’m human, I can’t devote all my time and attention to one book at a time. Sometimes you need a Salinger fix while you’re trying to get through the agriculture section of a Tolstoy novel. Anyway there was a lot of beauty in that novel and it really has changed my life and made me look at everything differently.

tumblr_mksv3xbl591qlz4imo1_500Then I went out of town for work and while I was there I read “The Fault in Our Stars” because I figured after reading an 800+ page novel it was time for some Teen Lit. Boy, this was more than just teen lit. I’ve read other teen lit and sorry Hunger Games and Twilight, you just don’t cut it. This was actual literature. John Green is handling a lot of complex ideas and stuff that is pretty darn serious but he doesn’t think teens won’t be able to handle it. He throws it right out there with honesty, warmth, humor and a lot of literary references too. I love that about this book. And him, I’ve been a longtime fan of vlogbrothers and nerd fighters.

Ok so after that I took my cousin to see Vampire Weekend. Words. Cannot. Express. Alright so I’ve loved VW since they came out when I was in college. Each album was better than the last and I really feel they have ‘grown up’ so to speak with me. The first couple albums were pretty collegey but their most recent one grapples with death, life, and what life means and faith and relationships and so many things. I mean you could listen to the music and just thing musically wow this is really good and beautiful and fun but when you really listen to the lyrics you can see they are doing great stuff here. And that goes for all their albums but especially this one. You can really tell they are smart guys, especially Ezra Koenig, their frontman. (He has an English degree, so I’m super biased. Which means he uses words like ‘perforative’ and ‘bildungsroman’ correctly and unironically in spoken sentences. Not to mention he’s just a really beautiful person). Modern Vampires of the City, their latest, is my favorite album of all time. No doubt about it. But anyway their live performance was amazing and beautiful and just such a good show. Great guys, great band, put on a great show, go figure.

There is just something really poignant about seeing a band live, it changes your experience with how you listen to their music at home. It’s kind of like when you travel you always come back a different person than when you left. And that’s another kind of beauty too, no?

So silly but I had to share because Ezra is awesome.

So silly but I had to share because Ezra is awesome.

 

Edit: ok so after I published this I found an awesome video of Vampire Weekend covering the Honeycombs “Have I the Right.”

Ok so any of you who know me in real life, are aware that I am a huge Wes Anderson fan. Ridiculously huge. I’m the go-to person in my friend group for all things Wes Anderson. I even own this book:

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Something about Anderson’s films encompasses everything I love and seek in a good movie. His films are clever, beautifully stunning in their design and costuming, artistic, comical, humorous, and thought-provoking. His characters are all so colorful and unique and memorable. I hope one day to write characters as well as he does. Part of the character’s iconicity also comes from the actors who portray them, though, which is another thing that make Anderson films great. My other favorite thing about his films are the soundtracks. So unique and so very perfect. He really knows how to choose the right song for the right moment, which creates great cinema.

Today I am ranking his films according to which ones are my favorites, greatest to least. Although let’s be honest, they all are basically my favorite so this list was a challenge to make.

1) The Royal Tenenbaums. This is Anderson at his finest. Seriously nothing can top this film. Everything about it is great from the storyline heavily influenced by J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey to the narration by Alec Baldwin. Perhaps I also love this movie because it is about a family and I always seem to watch it with family around the holidays. The Nico-heavy soundtrack is also lovely. (Annnd shout out to Luke Wilson in this film. I mean he’s basically Salinger’s Seymour Glass. Or is he more Zooey? Either way yes. [Buzzfeed has a nice breakdown of the Glass sibs here]).

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2) The Grand Budapest Hotel. I cannot believe how phenomenal this latest film is. I finally saw it a couple weekends back and I was so delighted. Can Ralph Fiennes get an Oscar for this? Or at least be in more Wes Anderson movies. I also think that Ed Norton should now be in all Anderson films, along with Bill Murray and the others. I don’t want to spoil too much about this one since it’s new, but GO SEE IT. (Also Jason Schwartzman appreciation club. Even though he really is the worst concierge ever).

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Look at all these glorious mustaches.

3. Rushmore. Speaking of Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, here they are at their Wessy Andersonianist. Again heavily influenced by Salinger, this time by The Catcher in the Rye, this film is stunning. Great characters and you feel for all of them even when they are being jerks. Max Fischer is a brilliant character. “I Saved Latin.” The t-shirt I want. I also think this might be my favorite of all Wes Anderson’s soundtracks.  Lots of Kinks, Who, Stones, Cat Stevens, Unit 2 Plus 4, and the lovely Faces song which closes out the film. (I even have one of the Mark Mothersbaugh composed songs as my alarm tone in the mornings). I think one of the best sequences features “Making Time,” by Creation to showcase all of Max’s extracurriculars.

4. Moonrise Kingdom. I love this film so much! I mean I did dress up as Suzy Bishop for halloween even last year. Wes Anderson really seems to understand childhood. Especially that awkward window between childhood and adolescence the main characters Sam and Suzy are in, in this film. The sense of wonderment and precocious maturity are really perfectly portrayed here. Also I love the 1960s and the costuming is to die for like any Wes Anderson film. The adult characters in this film are also really great, and troubling at the same time. They have no idea how their lives are holding together anymore than the kids do. Soundtrack love for this movie too, French influence and children’s’ orchestra heck yeah.

Adorableness.

 

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Last week while substitute teaching, I watched Finding Nemo in German  (Findet Nemo!). Boy, it had been an awfully long time since I had seen that movie. I had forgotten a lot of it and how it’s basically The Odyssey for kids. With Fish! In Australia! Yay! But really, it got me thinking of Pixar films as a whole and how I would rate them, especially now since there are a lot of them and more coming soon. The Good Dinosaur comes out next year, followed by Finding Dory, and the promise of a sequel to The Incredibles (yay!) and another Cars sequel (nay).

So without further ado here is my list.

1. Wall-E. I love the hell out of this little robot guy. While this film is very different from the usual Pixar fare, it is in my opinion the most artistic, the most risk-taking, and the most beautiful and heart-felt of all of them. Only Pixar could make us care about a love story between two robots. I also like the post-apocalyptic nature of the story. It’s kind of a futuristic re-imagining of the Noah story, Eve is the white dove who brings back the olive-branch. Humanity re-populates the earth, etc. It’s just such a beautiful film.

2. The Toy Story films, collectively. These three films are Pixar’s masterpiece. This is the heart of Pixar, the first Toy Story is the one that started it all and I have such fond memories of it growing up. The trilogy grew with that first audience and even kids who weren’t alive to see this first one in theaters still enjoy it. The heart of Pixar is friendship and family and the bonds we form with others. Toy Story taught us to value that.

3. The Incredibles. One of the funnest, most hilarious Pixar films of all. I also wanted to be Elasta-girl when I first saw this movie when it came out. Really she is the ideal strong fantastic female role model. She does it all! And has fabulous hair while she does it. (Forget about Merida, but more on that later).

4. Monsters Inc. Everyone loves this movie. Mike and Sully have probably the best Pixar bromance since Buzz and Woody. This movie is the most quoted by my sibs and I. Seriously it scares me how much I have memorized of this film. This one ranks high because of the nostalgia vote.

5. Ratatouille. This film ranks in the weird/artsy era of Pixar. It has a unique charm and is so darn French. I just love it. The concept is super weird but yet it follows its own bizarre logic so well it becomes endearing.

6. Up. Don’t squawk that I ranked this so low. Yes it is a charming story and beautifully animated. But at the same time I think it was over-hyped as super artsy quasi-hipster fare. It still ranks above and beyond most animated schlock that gets made these days, but it just doesn’t live up to the hype for me. And way too many hipstery photo-shoots are all over Pinterest because of it.

7. Finding Nemo. I’ve posted before my satirical thoughts about this movie. And I do still think it’s scary and super emotional. But it is also a great story and a well done sort of re-imagining of Homer’s Odyssey but more child friendly and with fish. Not to mention it is beautifully animated like all good Pixar films.

8. A Bug’s Life. Pixar’s sophomore effort has always been underrated in my opinion. While it’s not as grand as many of it’s other films it still holds up in my opinion. It’s very cute, has memorable characters and hilarious dialogue.

9. Brave. This was a film I was supposed to love more than I did. First female protagonist? From a Celtic country? Accurately represents what life with curly hair is like? All things I should love except only the latter is something she succeeded in doing for me. Merida was supposed to be so, so cool. But this film fell flat of it’s potential. I really think it was because the story was re-written after half the animation was done. it could have been such a great fantasy-epic. I would like to have known what this film was before the re-write. That said, the mother-daughter relationship here was very real and heart-warming. Otherwise this movie was basically Brother Bear meets How to Train Your Dragon.

10. Cars. This was cute. The soundtrack wasn’t too bad. It was just cute the first time and maybe it’s just because I enjoy Owen Wilson. The most annoying thing about this movie was Mater. And the fact that it became such a huge marketing ploy for the company it just was so over-commercialized in a confusing way. Much like NASCAR racing.

11. Monsters University. Again, cute. But not amazing in any sense or really living up to the spirit of the original. Some funny inside jokey references to the first film. But really nothing groundbreaking like previous films.

12. Cars 2. The worst piece of dreck to be animated and possible the worst animated film of all time besides late era Don Bluth and most of the other schleck that gets green-lighted these days. (I’m looking at you The Nut Job and Shrek 15: It’s only a matter of time). Let’s take the most annoying thing from the first movie, Mater, and make a film centered around him. Bad form Pixar. Bad form. I thought better of you. This was actually the first Pixar film that made me question their integrity and creative genius. They stooped so low to cash-in on merchandising. My dreams were shattered. But the future looks bright. (Looking forward to you, The Good Dinosaur).