Carrie Fisher: More Than A Princess

carriefisher

I almost wrote this a few days ago, but decided to hold out hope. Carrie Fisher always inspired that in me.

There will be thousands of tributes from all over the world, but the following will be what I saw her as.

To me, first and foremost, Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia. Is Princess Leia. Leia was the first strong female character I ever saw and she set an extraordinary precedent. She could fend for herself, was incredibly resolute in the face of catastrophe, and was a capable leader. These qualities could also be found in Carrie Fisher.

Carrie Fisher struggled with addiction, something I have no experience with, but she also struggled with mental illness, something I’ve spent the last few years dealing with. She fought against stereotypes. Her beliefs and actions were a testament to her unwavering character.

Beyond the crush I developed by watching Princess Leia on Yavin, Hoth, Tatooine, and Endor, I developed something else that I had only reserved for my mother and grandmother at the time. I respected Leia. She was the cornerstone that I built my respect towards the opposite sex on and continues to be that.

Her legacy will continue with us. I was going to see Rogue One with my family. I got the news right before the showing. Spoilers: The movie ends with Princess Leia saying the word ‘hope’.

2016 has taken many idols and heroes. There are precious few hours left for us to do something worthwhile this year. The close it with love. To close the year with hope.

We have to fight for it. We have to fight against the standard the year has tried to set.

We have to rebel. In honor of the Princess who was truly a Queen.

Rest in Peace and May the Force be with You

 

Do I Believe in Santa Claus?

Yes.

I grew up watching hundreds of Christmas movies, listened to hundreds of Christmas carols, read loads of Christmas books, and heard more Christmas stories. I have always celebrated Christmas. I was always told by my parents that Santa brought the unwrapped gifts for Christmas, but I did start to grow up. I saw receipts, noticed that Santa used the same wrapping paper as my parents, never heard sleigh bells or reindeer hooves.

So, there wasn’t a single way that a jolly old elf could deliver gifts to children all over the world. Why, in the name of all things festive, would I stick by an ideal that is, by all accounts, intangible? How could I believe that a fairy tale is real?

“Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind… and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here, maybe I can do something about it.” – Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street 

This time of the year is filled with tradition and goodwill. Although the stress and heartache of December gets the best of plenty of people, we still find just a little scraping of love for others. An entire year, either filled with bounty or loss, leads up to small moments of charity. A smile, a hug, a thank you, a wave, or anything that signifies an ideal of “Hey, I want you to be happy,” makes all the difference in the world.

Even after the worst that 2016 has to offer, I can still reach into myself and find that I still love the life I have and the world I live in. I can look past all of the awful filth and horror of this world and appreciate a quiet wind or a pretty smile. The mere concept that an entire year of awful events can be ignored for just a few days so we can be nice to one another staggers me.

There isn’t a word for cumulative goodwill and happiness. There isn’t one thing we can call this feeling.

Just kidding, there’s always been a phrase for it. It has been looking us in the eye from day one. What combination of words could possibly evoke the entirety of the holiday season? Santa Claus. Santa Claus is that magic little something that makes everything seem just a little better.

I believe in Santa Claus. I always have believed in Santa Claus. I always will believe in Santa Claus.

Valley Forge (Demo) – How I Feel

First things first, listen to Valley Forge (Demo) from the Hamilton Mixtape and then finish reading. You might need the context.

It would be remiss of me to share any sort of falsehood on this blog. I believe that the posts made on this website should be completely clear intentionally. Although I have made several posts in a fervor of emotion, I have kept each and every one of my entries with their original intent and integrity.

I am proud to say that, even though I do not believe it is the case sometimes, this is a direct mirror of my life. I am clear emotionally with other people, as I can be, and this presents a genuine idea of who I am as a person. When I am in good spirits, which is, luckily, often, I am jovial and generally warm. When a mood, or cloudburst as I like to say, of depression hits me, I try to signal that to those around me in a way of melancholy acceptance. Aside from the oft jolly persona I give off, the most indicative showing of emotion I give off is when I am upset. I am distant and cold when this happens and it is very clear that I am choosing this type of reaction.

I do not live a life of ice. I prefer to keep my relationships and ideas kindled so they never burn out. Unfortunately, I have encased myself in a shell of frigid layers. The entire year has been travesty upon horror with the occasional pocket of good fortune given to a select group by divine providence. My oratory skills have been my only defense against a year of instability and pain. In the closing days of 2016, I seem to be nearly tapped out of speaking through difficulty.

Fortunately, the endless well of words that I own will never run dry. I can distract any problem with spectacle then slay it with logic. I can rapture my enemies with dazzling displays of multisyballic mania and chain them to my sentences with simile and metaphor. I can create waves of melancholia. I can summon pillars of delight. I can do anything I want to and the literate will bear witness.

Why do I bother warming my ink and paper with literary pyrotechnics if I can’t keep my physical life hot enough to melt the icy barriers I’ve set up?

I direct you to remember the song. Three men have lines in the song. Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. I recently read a biography on Washington (read about it here) and before that I finished the popular Hamilton biography (both by Ron Chernow) and long before that I was reading Thomas Paine’s work to help form my feelings of what I thought my country’s essence was.

The song and The American Crisis  both start with the following:

 THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

In no way am I comparing the struggle and heartache that I have experienced this year to the trials that the colonists fought through during the Revolutionary War, but I am likening my resolve to theirs. The pain that has changed me unalterably this year is only temporary. The cold covering I have encased myself in will, as time passes, melt into warmth and happiness. The pain and terror that I have felt will crumble into dust and be blown away by the welcome winds of change.

I have this resolve in the middle of a harsh winter of my life.

Modesty does me no favors. I have strength in my words and that will unquestionably survive this sheer cold. I will write my way out.

Washington: A Life

Recently, I finished my second consecutive Ron Chernow biography. Washington: A Life , surprisingly, about the life of George Washington. Now, let’s say you don’t know who George Washington is. Aside from being the face on the one dollar bill, he is the Father of the United States of America. The novel delves into how the man became a legend.

See, George Washington wasn’t birthed into the six foot, powdered hair, military leading, President of the United States. He had an arduous journey from a very young age to his final breath. The novel is a one volume biography that examines George Washington’s life in its entire cradle-to-the-grave scope.

Chernow does something that so many historians have failed to do. He humanizes out first Commander-in-Chief. He presents Washington truly. Beyond the mountains and monuments, Washington was a fallible man. He made grievous errors, had a strained relationship with his mother, had a penchant for the ladies, and had an alarmingly furious temper. The amazing, and I use that word in its truest sense, thing is that, despite every mistake, George Washington was still just as strong and admirable a person as anyone could imagine.

The novel shows Washington throughout his long life and marks every tragedy that met him. His difficulties as a surveyor, farmer, soldier and politician never went away. He had to balance infighting and quell rebellion (several times). George Washington lived alongside Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Paine, Franklin, Madison, and countless other bright and unparalleled minds (each in their own right) and still, to this very day even, managed to become the most famous and admired American.

Although a single volume biography spanning all 67 years of George Washington’s life is comparatively light reading considering the scope and detail that has been put into examining him since the day he died, the novel is just a shaving over 800 pages long and, due to Chernow’s writing style, is a very high level of reading. The issue one has when reading biographies of historical figures is that each sentence is either a new fact or an analysis.  With several week-long breaks, the book took me about two and a half months to read. I was already used to chewing through this writing style because I spent the previous four to five months (with breaks, I am not totally modest when it comes to my pace of reading) reading Alexander Hamilton by Chernow. It is not light reading.

I finished this book at 2 am (after spending the entire day destroying the remaining 250 pages of the book I had. What can I say? He’s an interesting dude) on December 13th, 2016. The date this blog post is being published is December 14th, 2016, exactly 217 years after George Washington passed away.

This review isn’t meant to memorialize Washington or praise Chernow. These paragraphs are simply meant to give a brief glimpse into my experience reading this book. It is a long book, but worth the insight and humanization it gives George Washington.

You can purchase it used (like I did) from Amazon.

PS: The previous owner of the book wrote several very accusatory and unwarranted criticisms of Thomas Jefferson in the book. It was rather humorous reading these statements presented as facts being discounted immediately by reading Chernow’s analysis of whatever subject was pertinent.

Books I’ve Been Reading

I totally stole this idea from, like, 1500 other people.

This is a continually updated list of books I’ve read starting with the last one I completed before blogging regularly and going up until whatever I’m reading currently.

 

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow: This one took me a good while to get through due to its density, but it was 100% worth it. It has become one of my favorite books.

Washington-A Life by Ron Chernow: I was advised by several friends not to dig deeper into the history hole, but one comment of affirmation spiraled me into the past of George Washington. Here’s my blog post about it.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler: This book made me feel things I never thought I could feel. In totally opposite ends of the spectrum too. Unbridled anger, heart-wrenching sorrows, and copious joys. Here’s my scatterbrained afterthoughts.

Hardcore Self-Help: F**K Anxiety by Robert Duff, PHD: My brother got me this book for my birthday. It is a very quick read, but it gives insanely simple tips for handling anxiety ridden situations that don’t take much effort and don’t make you feel like a sanctimonious prick.

The Whoniverse: The Untold History of Space and Time by George Mann & Justin Richards: This is a chronological history book regarding the history of the Doctor Who universe. The style of the two authors can clash, as it caters to some emotional aspects of the show instead of the historical significance of the episodes. I read this 300 page sucker in one sitting however. Definitely worth the money for a Whovian. Also, the book is accompanied by beautiful illustrations.

America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert: This book was different from the others on the list. It was an entertaining look at the flaws in our country and how re-un-flawed they are not going to become again. Written in character, this has definitely piqued my interest in what else the man Stephen Colbert or the character Stephen Colbert has published.

The Story of the Beauty and the Beast by Madame de Villenveuve: The earliest version of the classic tale in its entirety. There are definitely some issues with it. The main one being that the story ends and the remaining forty percent of the book is exposition about the past and the wedding and it is really very dreadful. The core of the story is still rather impressively written.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: I decided to reread this out of impulse and I have found an altogether renewed appreciation for the novel. The story of a regular guy getting wrapped up in an affair that is altogether familiar and unbelievable compels one to live their life. No, it compels you to live your life better.

Proof: A Play by David Auburn: This very short, two act play is a look at numbers and mental illness. I read this in under an hour, but felt well acquainted with the characters by the end of it. This book not only how the loved ones of the mentally ill can have a hard time understanding or supporting the sick, but how things only make sense inside a diseased head.

Weather in the Courtroom: Memoirs from a Career in Forensic Meteorology by William H. Haggard: I picked up this book because it was the newest one at the James E. Walker Library. I have grown up in a household that is well-grounded in the study of weather and the use of forensics. Reading a book that combines both was a no-brainer. It can get a little heavy on the jargon, but the book does not skimp on definitions or explanations for the uninitiated.

Doctor Who: Whographica: An Infographic Guide to Space and Time by Simon Guerrier, Steve O’Brien and Ben Morris: A coworker lent this book to me and I devoured it in an hour and a half. It uses statistics pulled from every episode of Doctor Who from 1963 to 2015 and puts them into easy to digest (for the most part, some are very information heavy) charts and graphs to compare and contrast decades of episodes. Definitely a good coffee table book.

Death: The High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman: This looks to be my first graphic novel in a long time. It is a short read, it took me under and hour, but I like it. Not only does it give a nice look at the DC Comics personification of Death, but it subtly gives a look at some of the things we take for granted in life as well. This was recommended by Danny Avidan of the Game Grumps.

Raised in Captivity by Nicky Silver: This play was given to me to read by a close friend of mine who is directing it in a few months. It presents realism through absurdity and takes the fragile nature of things like religion, sex, sanity, and death and throws them into a washing machine and sets them on fire. The characters go through their own frank and partial journeys and it is a wonderful little play. Definitely Rated R though.

A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madelelaine Olneck, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previto, and Scott Zigler: Literally what the title says. Under 100 pages of clear and simple techniques and guidances to improve the actor. Not preachy and not terribly dense. I definitely see myself referring back to this book in the future. It helps make things clear.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur: A great book of poetry that discusses love and loss in only so many words. Some of these poems have circulated around Twitter for quite some time. They are accompanied occasionally by drawings and every page has a harsh truth on it.

 

 

Anonymity and Anger

This is yet another post written out of anger. Hell, even the bold text that is explaining the situation is being written with angry hands. I digress, I have left the original text intact because altering it would change my feelings at the time. I can always write another post about the same topic, but I refuse to pretend I didn’t feel this way about it at one point. 

The subtweet is the defining backhand of my generation. A snide comment made in front of somebody without calling them out by name. Being able to maintain a discreet connection and an indiscreet comment is nearly impossible. Just like any sort of derogatory (or supportive) remarks before the advent of Twitter, the mystery of who the source of anger (or happiness) is not a challenging one.

I say this because, without presenting yourself as an anonymous voice, connections are constantly made between what we say and what we are talking about. Certain words and phrases elicit different reactions from people and one could craft sentences using these to demean and detract someone without ever having mentioned their name. In a perfect world, the audience of the voice wouldn’t question the source of the anger and respect their privacy. We live in an imperfect world.

The bitterness between the “@ me next time, bitch” crowd is, as it always has been, extreme. Even small comments made about trivial things get met with volatile reactions. If it is not from the offender knowing that the remark was made about him, it is the discovery by an unrelated party fueling the fire that creates a maelstrom of hurt and conflict.

This presents an issue, particularly for a blogger who uses this as an outlet for their emotions, and it is not one with a simple answer. How am I able to write about injustices done to me and keep the innocent and guilty parties nameless when my viewing audience is, currently at least, primarily made up of friends? I have the right to free speech, but so do the offenders. I would be opening up a forum for debate in a plce that I want to be a safe space for others to see my thoughts. The issues of abandonment, betrayal, and failure run deep into me and I can only write about them sparingly.

The world is becoming much less private. I see this, generally, as a good thing. Humans depend on each other. We are all connected, but with every decision comes a consequence. The ones that have wronged me will not be crucified by my pen and ink here. I cannot, however, defend anyone, but myself, from being attacked by another voice.

The lesson isn’t to be restrained with what you write, but to choose how important the people you write about will be to you.

Finals Week at MTSU

This week at my college, Middle Tennessee State University, everyone is going through the personal anguish and self-torment that is Finals Week. The stress is so common and dangerous that the school provides different services to help encourage students. One group hands out plastic bags filled with tea bags, tealight candles, bubble wrap, and Hershey’s Kisses as a relaxation method. The school brings in a therapy dog, named Canyon, and he stays in the James E Waker Library lobby. The school (should I be saying university?) evens sends out the occasional encouraging email.

Why does everyone stress to the point of sickness though?

It is an unfortunate byproduct of how the rigid system of semesteral  education is not challenged by professors. Instead of the grading being a consistent pattern, instructors choose to make the final exam an unreoverable part of the class’ total grade. This isn’t totally the fault of the professors. The university (Yeah, that does sound better) pushes to have certain criteria for every class and some instrusctors don’t want to push back. I’ve had several courses that go against the norm. My Astronomy class did not have a cumulative final exam, but one that covered the untested material in the class. That exam was also worth the same amount of points as the others.

I am fortunate that my major and minor at MTSU are primarily entertainment centric. Sure, there are very testable materials (laws, studies, patterns, techniques, etc), but the main goal is for content creation. This means that the final exam is centered around a project that must be presented instead of the standard sit-down exam. Personally, I prefer public speaking and creative processes instead of multiple choice or written exams (I’ve never had trouble with written exams, but I am not a good test taker).

The same issue remains for these courses. In fact, it can cause even more stress. Some students are completely frozen with fear at the idea of creating a project that is original, presenting it in a clear and concise way, and showing in a limited period of time that they have collected sufficient cumulative knowledge to advance to a course at a higher level.

This creates a paradoxical relationship between the student and the learning. The course being taken should not only inform the student of new information, but cement that information to a point of confidence. Many students feel, at least at some point, that they have a firm grasp on the taught materials. When the final exam comes, the unbridled fear of failing overwhelms the students to a point of panic. This test-trigggered frenzy practically makes the student question everything they’ve been taught and worry that they will fail the class.

That is the stress for one class. The average MTSU student, every semester, takes five.

That is, on average, five final exams. Five separate episodes of stress that can make any student inoperable. The inabality to function on a basic level without a breakdown will impair the students test-taking and presentation ability. There’s no question about it. I’ve seen it happen to my friends. I’ve seen it happen to people I don’t spend any time caring about. It has happened to me.

Should these reasons create a drive on the universtiy’s part to change the system? From the inside, such a change would be an overhaul of the education system that may cause traditional students and professors to consider making another school their choice. That could potentially cost the school enough money to raise tuition. A raise in tuition could turn away even more students. The university may not see this as any sort of viable option.

From the outside, as a student, I would love for my school to create some sort of alternative option to final exams. This could put additional stress on professors though. The professors and instructors are the cogs in the machine that no one accounts for. The students expect the professors to give each one of them a certain level of attention (not entirely unreasonable, but everyone has their limits. Especially when instructors teach multiple courses at different levels) and have all assignments graded promptly. The university can change policy or require instructors to make a change to a curriculum that throws a wrench into everything.

The most versatile instructors, the ones that gain the favor of the university and the students, or the most successful ones. They allow students to alter their assignments to allow an easier environment for students to learn in. They ease the univeristy requirements in at a non-disruptive pace. They have clear office hours and can be easily reached by anyone even tangentially related to them professionally. These reasons create the sort of instructor that helps fight the dreaed of finals week. Our instructors are our last line of defense against the anxiety that invades every student at MTSU.

It is a thankless job, but where would we be without them?