The Tattoo Is Only The Beginning

I was travelling this weekend so I got a lot of reading in. (Finished my Harry Potter reread! I’ll have something to say about that soon, but I discover new things about those books every time I touch them, and I need to sort it out.) And there was just no way that I was getting on a plane without Amy Schumer’s book, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo queued up in my Kindle. (Walking past it in the airports would have simply made me mad if I hadn’t done it.)

I’m glad I did, as Amy’s kind of meant a lot to me symbolically over the past few years and also because like her movie, her stand up and certain of her sketches, made me laugh and think and wonder at this tremendous woman and her talent.

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo is often raw, particularly when Amy (yes, I will talk about her like she’s a friend of mine, I feel very connected to this woman.) discusses her family and relationships. While often hilarious, her reality involving her father’s MS, her mother’s emotional abuse and her sexual assault as a teenager are all heartbreaking. But nothing compares to her story about her abusive relationship, which is presented in such a matter of fact manner that you just want to give her a million hugs afterwards.

My favorite element of the book however, was the way Amy printed and commented on her old journal entries. Journaling, by it’s nature, is a narcissistic practice and Amy manages to make an excruciating exercise relatable and fun.

Overall I enjoyed the book, and I know because of…stuff, Schumer is not the most popular person on the internet anymore…but I’ll just always appreciate her honesty, and the way she makes me laugh and reminds me of my friends.

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Non, Je n’regrette rein

I haven’t finished Jen Lancaster’s newest memoir,  I Regret Nothing, because as hard as I tried I no longer have the ability to stay up until 4 in the morning and read a book the day it came out and still function in society the next day.

I would be sad about the loss of this superpower, but I’m figuring that listening to my body when it says, “turn the light off and close my eyes you asshole,” is probably better for me, because books don’t magically disappear off my Kindle the next morning.

But I’ve put a bunch of stuff on the backburner for this book, because there are books and writers that I like and then there’s Jen.

When I was in college, I was introduced to Jen in the weirdest way possible. Both Katie and Katherine sent me links to her work and asked, “OK, have you been writing under a pseudonym, this sounds just like you!”

The piece in question was about why being Team Jacob is the only acceptable reaction Twilight. This was even before Taylor was cast.

Never Forget.

Never Forget.

As I read her blog, “Jennsylvania” I was thrilled. I’d been taking a “non-fiction writing” class, and as much as I liked the various essayists we were reading and basing our work on in that class, none of them spoke to me the way Jen did. I read all of her books that were out at that time. (Bitter is The New Black, Bright Lights, Big Ass, and Such a Pretty Fat.) And waited in anticipation for the next ones. When depression kicked my ass so hard I had to leave school, move home and get a job, Jen was there for me. (Through her books, not literally.)

And then I started blogging. So much of my voice is my own, but a lot of it is influenced by Jen and her style. She would be appalled my many of the things I do. (She has expressed her distaste for adults who wear costumes more than once, and I obviously disagree on that score.) But my decision to go to Vegas this winter had a lot to do with her. (Jen is obsessed with Vegas, she was married there, and in Pretty in Plaid details her first solo trip, which I remembered when I was picking a vacation destination.) Anyone who’s been around for a while knows I used to treat the whole thing like kind of, well, nothing. My update schedule was, “Once a week, maybe, if I feel like it.”

Obviously that’s changed, and I’m glad it has, I really am. But the change came because of Jen Lancaster.

I went to a reading and signing of The Tao Of Martha at my local book store. I was so excited and was clutching my copy of Pretty In Plaid to have her sign. (Which in particular helped me feel better about my protracted academic career and 3 year search for something that felt even VAGUELY good after college) This was pre my convention days of running into my idols on a show floor and having to be cool and not super weird, and back in the shouting that “I’ve seen Camp 17 times” at Robin Dejesus after a performance of In The Heights days, so I was a little freaked that I’d word vomit all over my hero.

I walked up handed her the book, she said, “nice pants!” (I was wearing a pair of Lilly Pulitzer capris, on purpose, because I am a huge dork.) And I smiled and took a deep breath and said.

“I just want to say that your books have meant so much to me, and I’m a blogger and before you I just thought that blogging was bullshit, and then I saw that it wasn’t and it’s been great, and I just wanted to thank you.”

“Blogging is bullshit,” she grinned, “until it gets you somewhere. What’s your site?” I gave her the link and she asked what I write about. I explained it the way I always do and she laughed.

“So which Avenger would you make out with?” She asked. I laughed.

“It depends on the day,” I sighed, “but either Thor or Captain America.”

“I’d pick Captain America,” she said, “I mean, I like Thor, but I think that’s just the hair.”

We parted ways.

But this happened!

But this happened!

The new book is about creating and checking off items on a bucket list. I don’t think I’m ready to follow that model, but I’m really enjoying reading the book and seeing her journey this past year. I still read her blog posts, mostly on facebook.

But that’s why I’ve been sort of disengaged (at least for me) the past few days. I’ve been reading this book, and I’m thrilled.

Caged Birds and Inspiration: RIP Maya Angelou

There are certain touchstones for, well everyone, and I feel like Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is one of those. If you ask people about poetry, this, or Robert Frost will probably be the first thing that they quote back to you. It’s one of those transcendent pieces of art that has taken on a life of it’s own.

I’m a really big fan of Dr. Angelou’s, like most incredible poets she was able to speak to humanity in so few and undeniably beautiful words. Her words inspired hope, stirred anger, and gave breath and life to so many ideas for so many people.

That might be why when I heard about her death yesterday I spent the rest of the day in a sort of weird, contemplative, melancholy haze.

Her autobiography, I Know why The Caged Bird Sings, was one of the first pieces of literature that I remember reading and fully understanding how something could speak to you and still be so far outside of your own experience. I didn’t have anything in common with Maya Angelou’s life, but I felt like I could see into her heart, and it was a beautiful thing.

I went to an all girl’s high school, and there wasn’t a day that I walked down the halls that Dr. Angelou’s words weren’t on some bulletin board. When I began my women’s studies curriculum in earnest at 20, I was able to understand a great deal of my reading because of my early exposure to her work, her ideals and her unique ability to make the complicated and personal seem simple and universal.

Universal.

I’m glad that I’ve landed on that word, because I think it’s the right one to describe Dr. Angelou’s work. She was an exceptional woman, an incredible writer, and an inspiration to everyone who encountered her work, whether they studied it or simply let it touch their hearts.

Thank you, for everything, Dr. Angelou.

 The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

A Serious Earth

Last week, I read Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, And A Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, by Grant Morrison.

It was definitely an interesting read. I struggled through the last third though. The thing is, the book is meant to be half history, half memoir, the kind of thing I normally adore. But while Morrison does an amazing job of putting a razor sharp historical perspective to the origins of the superheroes, but when it comes to the eras (multiple, he kicks that much ass) that he was an active part of, he resorts to navel gazing. It isn’t that I’m not interested in his strange Eat, Pray, Love style personal experiences with drugs and religion and writing Justice League of America, I mean, it’s fascinating, but it’s not the book I got invested in from the beginning, you know?

Anyway, that’s not what I’m going to write about right now.

It’s about the formation of the Marvel Universe and the DC Multiverse and how the formation of their respective movie universes are developing differently from each other, but kind of the same as their comic book counterparts.

Steve VS Bruce...The winner? Fangirls.

Steve VS Bruce…The winner? Fangirls.

The Marvel Comic Universe happened on purpose. It was the deliberate brainchild of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. They planned it. Those characters were made to interact with one another. Except perhaps for Captain America, they were all created and put together at the same time. Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which started with Iron Man, there was always a plan.

After Iron Man, came Hulk, and Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, all ending in the ultimate culmination of what this all could be, The Avengers. As much as I love Batman, and The X-Men, The Avengers remains the pinnacle of the new era of superheroes, that Morrison touches on but doesn’t really talk about, the cinematic era. The Dark Knight, X2: X-Men United and X-Men: First Class are great films. They tell impactful and wonderful stories. But The Avengers meant something different than they did. (To read more on what I have to say on the subject check out my large scale musical theater comparisonThe Avengers is Evita, where as The Dark Knight is Company, they are both going to leave serious marks on the genre, but one to people who really care about the art, and the other on the general public.)

The DC Multiverse was different. Over time, one company acquired several independent characters and imprints and realized that weaving them together would be profitable. Already, when it comes to DC adaptations we have the DCAU, The Burtonverse (which includes Tim Burton and Joel Schumaker’s films), Earth-16 (YOUNG JUSTICE!), the Smallville universe, the Arrow universe, whatever the hell they decide to do with Green Lantern, (Despite the movie’s horribleness, I would not be opposed to Ryan Reynolds coming back as Hal Jordan with Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in a Justice League movie. He was a good casting choice who got screwed by a bad movie, much like George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell before him.), and the new official DCFU that kicked off with Man of Steel and will continue with Man of Steel 2: Batfleck. 

AQUAMAN!

AQUAMAN! I’m going to beat this horse until it’s dead, folks and then keep on beating it!

Basically, DC is trying to patch it together, like they did before. The thing is, they did a pretty good job before, putting it together (Haha! More Sondheim references! I will make ALL THE SONDHEIM REFERENCES!)

Hello, his name is Mandy Patinkin, you don't recognize his genius, prepare to die!

Hello, his name is Mandy Patinkin, you don’t recognize his genius, prepare to die! (Also Bernadette Peters)

So it’ll probably be pretty good.

“Why Should We Read at All?”

Yesterday, I sat on a beach with my mother, sister and grandfather. I was wearing a modest (but still cute) navy blue bikini, a pair of aviator sunglasses, was drinking a bottle of water and I had a book in my hand.

The book was Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I was transfixed by Nafisi’s story. I’d been feeling pretty sorry for myself the past few days for several reasons (none of them particularly important) and I picked up the book because reading a Kindle at the beach can be difficult and it was one that has been sitting on my mother’s shelf for a while (I think she read it a year ago). Needless to say, I have stopped feeling sorry for myself.

This morning, I woke up around 8 AM, but I didn’t have to be to be at work until the mid afternoon so I decided to stay in bed, surf the web and watch a Netflixed DVD of Batman: The Animated Series (Volume 3, Disc 1, includes both the “Shadow of The Bat” & “The Demon’s Quest” story arcs, so you know…awesome). Then around 10, I got out of bed, headed downstairs, drank a protein shake, watched Olympic Volleyball with my mom for a while and then ate a grilled cheese sandwich.

Then I picked up the book again, for about an hour, before heading off to my cushy job to sell dresses to rich girls in a mall in suburban New Jersey.

What I’m saying is that my life is amazing. I was able to sit on a beach in the sun, with three people I love, dressed how I like without fear of being arrested and then beaten or stoned to death. I was able to spend a whole morning basking in a ridiculous fantasy world that I love, and then eat what I liked while enjoying time with my mother, without even thinking about it.

I graduated from a liberal arts college with a degree in English Literature. It’s something that I’m immensely proud of. I love books, and stories and authors. But here’s the thing, that love has never cost me anything beyond my parent’s money and some ridicule from people who consider my academic discipline “soft” and “useless.” These were actual words used by roommates, friends, and once a guy who was interviewing me for a job. Actually he said, “What was your plan with the English Major, since you don’t want to teach? I mean beyond that there’s not much use is there?” What’s even more sad is that I took that job…I also quit it within 2 months.

Professor Nafisi’s students risked everything to study Western Literature. If their secret class had been discovered, if any one had known what they were doing, they would have been fined at the very least, most likely imprisoned and possibly killed. They read off of dark and barely legible Xerox copies when they couldn’t find the actual books. They lied to their families, and did anything they could.

And as much as I love literature, I don’t know if I could do that. I was barely able to stand up even to a middle manager at corporation I cared little about when he challenged me. I’m pretty sure when he openly mocked my choice of major I smiled, laughed along and said something along the lines of, “I was eighteen, I didn’t have much of a plan, to be honest! By the time I was twenty I was taking business courses but it was too late to change majors, you know?”

I couldn’t even stand up to this one pathetic man…I have no doubt that I would absolutely cave in the face of a tyrannical religious regime that took away this thing that I love so deeply.

Political Fangirling

I try not to spend too much time dealing with politics. I don’t really know enough about current issues to weigh in a lot of the time. But I am fascinated by the American political process and I love this country. But for the most part what I know about politics comes from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Aaron Sorkin (11 days until The Newsroom!) 

I do make certain exceptions, and one of them, is Miss Meghan McCain. She is as Katie calls it, “One of my weirder girl crushes.” (Girl Crush: a non sexual crush on a female celebrity who you think you should be best friends with) But in reality it’s not that weird.

I’m a *stage whisper* republican. I whisper it because it’s kind of a dirty word around a lot of people I know. I’m a theatre geek, with a women’s studies degree, who lives in one of the most liberal metropolitan areas in the country, in a staunchly blue state, with deep emotional ties to the gay community.

Yeah, not exactly screaming elephant with those characteristics. But that’s one of the reasons that I love Meghan. I started reading her blog The McCain Blogette while she was following her father’s presidential campaign in 2008. I’ve been a John McCain fan since I was twelve. You know those social studies projects where you have to do profiles on all of the candidates? Even at twelve, doing one of those profiles, everything about him made sense to me. His war record, the way he stuck to his guns, his big whacky cool family. (I didn’t know who Meghan was specifically, but I remember thinking that Cindy was pretty and I thought it was awesome that they adopted a baby girl.)

It didn’t hurt things that I grew up in a true red republican household. My parents despised Bill Clinton, not because he is sleaze bag number 1, although he is, but because he advocated a liberal tax policy and enacted don’t ask don’t tell (which is one of the greatest attacks on personal freedom in the history of this country!).

Anyway, back to Meghan, after reading her blog for a while and then following her twitter, I found myself stunned. After the 2008 election I was horribly disillusioned with the GOP and the republican party. I had watched a man I’d admired for most of my life run a campaign that I could barely get behind. I watched a woman who terrified me rise to super stardom saying things that I patently disagreed with. That being said, I voted for them anyway, because President Obama’s fiscal policy really scared me (still does). But even among my young republican friends, I was feeling like the moderate voice was being shut out.

Then came Meghan McCain. She was sassy and funny, and spoke her mind and had so many of the same opinions that I did, that I started spouting off about her to everyone. I read her book Dirty, Sexy Politics about six times. And when she announced what her new book was going to be, a roadtrip memoir written with Michael Ian Black about trying to find common ground given their different political opinions and backgrounds (to be fair everyone has a different political background than Meghan McCain.) I thought it sounded like the greatest thing ever.

America You Sexy Bitch, isn’t the greatest book ever. I’ve even read better road memoirs. But I was so giddy over the past twenty four hours, reading fun, cool moderate political commentary and conversation (Black is a moderate democrat and one of my favorite comedians of all time). I was grateful for every page, every awkward exchange and every minute.

People can fangirl over a lot of things. To me Meghan McCain’s sheer enthusiasm about politics in general and conservative politics in particular qualifies as fangirling. And my girl crush on her definitely qualifies. And the way I squee-ed over the book being delivered to my kindle yesterday morning, well, that speaks for itself.