Letting Go

I have mentioned it before, but I was a pretty big “weeb” back in the day. And honestly, I still am – but it was a much greater obsession in my teens. I collected manga for a long time, and managed to complete many series, mostly of the shoujo genre – which are manga aimed more toward girls. Fruits Basket is probably the most notable – and my favorite manga series to this day – but I also collected some lesser known series, or shorter ones. It was partially out of love for the books but I also was a bit of a completionist.

However, in a decluttering effort, I have been trying to sell some things and earn some extra cash. Quarantine has been rough, y’all – plus I used to watch a lot of Hoarders and don’t want to end up with a house full of junk because I do have obsessive tendencies and am a bit neurotic. And though that chapter of my life is mostly over – I still like manga, though I don’t really collect it any more – it was unexpectedly difficult to let go of things I once loved so much.

For reference, I had about 300+ volumes of various series. I am now down to under 50, and have a couple of series left to sell.

I am actually still trying to sell Happy Cafe, which is OOP, if anyone is interested.

The upside to all of this is that I did not know, as an awkward manga-loving teen, that my completionist ways would lead to me owning many series that have since got out of print or become quite rare, and are thus being sought by collectors. I haven’t been raking in the cash, per se, but I definitely made more than I spent! And I’m glad I could make some current collectors happy.

Some of those books have inspired me in ways that linger to this day, and though I no longer own them, I will remember the lessons they taught. Lovely Complex taught me that insecurities and differences can bring people together as much as it breaks them apart. Tokyo Mew Mew introduced me to the “magical girl” genre. Fruits Basket taught me that love is beautiful, and ugly, and kindness can always prevail over hatred. Beauty Pop taught me to follow my dreams and nurture my talents. Absolute Boyfriend taught me about the joys, and pitfalls, of first love, and the pain of loss.

Boxing them up and shipping them off was hard, and I almost backed out of a few transactions. But at the same time, it has been freeing to let go – to make it so someone else can find joy in the books I adored as a teen trying to make my way in the world. Although, between you and me… I am replacing my old Tokyopop Fruits Basket volumes with the more recent collector’s editions. Because they are beautiful, and I really do love the series.

Perhaps I’ll go through my Funko pops next…

Impractical

I know my last post was a bit of a downer. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to post about something a bit happier to follow-up.

While I’ve been wallowing in the doldrums of 2020, there have been a few glimmers of light peeking through the black clouds. And four of those glimmers are named Sal, Murr, Q, and Joe.

That’s right. Thanks to quarantine, I have developed an obsession with the TruTV show Impractical Jokers.

I actually have my sister to thank for this. She is part of my very limited social bubble, so, after she gave birth in September, I would go to her house on my days off or after work in the evenings to keep her company, and she had recently begun watching the show. Since it frequently graced the television screen at her house, we developed a mutual obsession for it. Though it’s been on the air for years, I’d never watched a moment of it until quarantine hit. I’ve been binge-watching the whole series on HBO Max at home since I don’t have cable, and I’ll even watch episodes over again because they retain the hilarity factor super well.

And y’all… it is damn funny. The hijinks they get into are equally cringe-worthy and laughter-inducing. Admittedly, it’s not a brand of humor I typically ascribe to (I’m a dark humor, sarcasm, parody/satire type of person) so I never bothered to watch before, but I have been effectively hooked by the antics of four life-long friends who compete to embarrass each other. It definitely helps that their real friendship lends to their incredible on-screen chemistry, but also makes the humor flow with ease instead of feeling forced. The guys genuinely make each other laugh, not just the audience – and that’s a big factor of their success.

Of course, there are times (particularly in earlier seasons) where the humor might be toeing the line a bit – there are some jokes that have made me go “Oh, nooooo…” out loud – but in general, it’s all in good fun. Very rarely does a show make me laugh out loud, and this one does it at least once per episode.

Though each Joker has their own appeal and their own distinct approach to pranks and tasks, Joe is definitely my favorite. “Scoopski potatoes” will never not make me laugh. But Sal’s “Kranjis McBasketball” is a close second.

In short, Impractical Jokers is “impractical” for me. I’m a fantasy, sci-fi, anime lover – my current watch list is The Mandalorian, His Dark Materials and Yashahime, among a couple of others – but sometimes, after a long and grueling day of work dealing with the Christmas-shopping horde, it is exactly what I need to make the stress melt away. Neither my sister nor I ever expected to become obsessed with it, but it really has brought joy to our lives during a difficult time.

If you’re feeling the stress of this holiday season, or feel buried in the depression of quarantine, maybe give something a little more “impractical” a go.

Worst

2020 has been the worst year of my life.

28 years in, and 2020 broke me. It broke me down, chewed me up, spit me out, then stomped all over me. Maybe it’s a quarter life crisis. Maybe the whole quarantine lifestyle got to me. Maybe the state of the world wore me out. Maybe the election (despite the favorable results) took a toll. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m deeply unhappy with where I am in my life. Maybe it’s the ever increasing persistence of my dysthymia. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

Kidding, it’s definitely not Maybelline. It is, however, likely a combination of all those other things. A big ol’ toxic cocktail. It’s very fortunate that I don’t really drink, because that would probably just make it all worse.

I mean, I totally get that I’m privileged. I have a job that was not majorly affected by the pandemic. I have a wonderful family, and my sister recently gave birth to my baby nephew, who is adorable. I have a nice place to live that is near my sister, and close enough to my parents. I don’t face persecution for the color of my skin or my sexual preference because I’m a straight, basic white girl. The Mandalorian is back. Starbucks holiday drinks are out.

But I find things difficult these days. More difficult than ever. My job is stressing me out and I can’t focus on anything for more than five seconds. I can’t even muster up the energy, when I am home, to do adequate chores or the typical life things I am supposed to do. Some days, when I’m not at work, I don’t even get out of bed for more than five minutes at a time. My health isn’t super great and I’ve gained 15 pounds. I had to make a heartbreaking personal decision. And, as the cherry on top of the terrible sundae, I have not written anything in months. MONTHS. Writing, and creating, is my passion, and I have done none of it for almost the entirety of 2020 because my mental state is so poor and I keep beating myself up about it.

So, yeah. 2020 fucking sucked. Did good things happen? Sure. Like I said, I have a brand spankin’ new nephew. Tr*mp will be out of office in January. I spoke to a book club about my book for the first time since it was published. But, in spite of these glimmers of positivity, that dark cloud is brewing over my head, and the storm has continuously blocked out the sun.

So, I don’t want to dwell on it. I’m not really a ‘woe is me’ person because I am fully aware that many, many other people have it much worse than I do. I know 2020 still has a little over a month to go, but I am, as cliché as it is, gearing up for 2021, because I don’t see much of a chance of it turning around in that time. And I know I’m not the only one.

I want to drag myself out of this hole I’ve fallen into. It won’t be easy, and I’ve spent a lot of time wallowing, and I am seeking help. But I’ll make 2021 the year of the climb, and I know I must take steps to make it so. So, for my fellow folks who have been broken by this past year, let’s get ready to put 2020 behind us, and let the sun in.

Aunt Allie

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this on my blog yet (I am a little behind) but I’m going to be an aunt! I technically already am – my sister has a stepson – but she is now pregnant with a little boy and is due in October.

It is also well-known in my circle that I do not like children.

This is a blanket statement, of course, and requires clarification. I am child-free, but I love the kids in my family, blood related and otherwise. I just do not relate easily to children and lack maternal instincts. Like… if a kid falls down at my job because they’re running around or doing something they’re not supposed to, I ain’t stopping to help them up. Kids are known to freeze in their tracks when I send “the glare” their way, and I had a reputation of being scary to children in my old neighborhood in MA, because no one would ring my doorbell during trick or treat for two years running. Those kids also shouldn’t have been playing in my yard, thus prompting me to yell at them a few times, but I digress…

Not liking children does not mean I am not stoked for my sister to have a baby, because I am! I love my step-nephew (or stephew, if you will) already – he is a polite and genuinely fun kid to be around, but having a baby around will be new territory.

We held her baby shower this past weekend, and it was awesome to see friends and family coming together to celebrate with masks and hand sanitizer on hand and as much social distancing as possible. I have felt bad for her because, with the state of the world right now, she hasn’t had what can be called a “normal” pregnancy, but I’m super glad she and the baby are both healthy, which is the most important thing.

My sister has been one of my few companions during this pandemic, and, if I ever don’t feel well, I make sure not to go around her. We’ve been going for walks and getting “starbies,” our standard white girl indulgences.

With my typical dislike of children, I never thought I’d be excited to be an aunt. But I really am – I’ve already got stuff for the baby’s third birthday, and when I go to the store, I usually pick up my stephew some Pokemon cards. Maybe it’s growth – part of getting older. I actually stop and look around the childrens/baby department at stores now instead of hustling by to avoid being around stranger’s spawn.

Now, does that mean I am warming to the idea of having my own children? Well…

ABSOLUTELY NOT. But Aunt Allie is ready to be the best aunt ever.

Try

I think it’s a safe bet to say that most folks have heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

I must admit, I am someone who has been known to try and then give up at the first whiff of an undesirable outcome. Contributing factors often include fear of failure, lack of confidence, severe anxiety, and, perhaps most common, a toxic combination of all three. Kind of a “why bother trying if you’ll probably fail,” type of mentality. And that mindset has plagued many facets of my life. My writing, my personal life, my career. Etc.

Well, obviously, “you can’t win them all,” is also a true statement, but that does not mean that one should not try. And I have decided to keep trying. Obstacles may be many, and they may be dire, and they may make me want to back down – but I’ll try. And I certainly won’t back down without even giving a solid attempt, as I’ve been known to do.

In an effort to take a small step in this direction, I have bought myself a bonsai tree growing kit.

This may seem bizarre, but I have long considered myself a failure at keeping plants alive…because I killed one once. So, I figured it was time to try again. I spotted a bonsai tree grow kit on a clearance shelf at Marshalls and thought it was perfect.

It will be a long journey – bonsai trees are not swift growers – but I am hopeful. Even if the seeds fail to sprout, it will be worth the effort, and I can always try again. And considering the first plant I killed was a succulent, I also decided to buy a new succulent, and make the effort to care for it properly so it can flourish.

This may be the first step… but I’m using it to move forward, and not backward. And maybe tomorrow I’ll take another step forward, too.

Holy

I may catch flak for this… but spelling is important. I’m all for abbreviations, I LOVE emojis, and I’m not opposed to “text speak,” but proper spelling is another matter.

When I was in junior high, ripped jeans were a fad. But they were also against dress code. Anyone who dared defy the constrictions of said dress code were forced by the educational overlords to put duct tape over any and all holes or tears in their jeans/pants. It was quite a big deal for a while and many protests were raised by incensed students – because “fashion,” or whatever – to no avail. I wore a lot of sweatpants at that age, so I don’t remember being too bothered.

But further issues arose when administration started posting signs in the halls decrying said jeans. Except the signs didn’t say “holey” jeans. They said “holy” jeans.

Holy.

I repeat: HOLY.

As in… like… religious holy. So, they banned holy jeans. Which are jeans that are blessed by a priest, I guess? Perhaps sprinkled with holy water? Needless to say, the student body had a field day with that unfortunate incident, and the faculty went through a lot of duct tape to fix that mistake.

So yeah, much like grammar… spelling matters, folks.

 

2020 Oscar Snubs

I didn’t have time to write out my Best Picture Countdown this year (just know that my top 3 were Little Women, JoJo Rabbit, and Parasite, not necessarily in that order, and The Irishman is last) so here’s my list of Oscar Snubs instead.

The Peanut Butter Falcon / Shia LeBeouf
It’s almost heartbreaking that this movie didn’t receive any buzz at all during the awards season. A film about a young man with Down syndrome’s quest to become a wrestler and the conflicted fisherman who reluctantly helps him, it preaches a familiar lesson about following your dreams and learning to forgive in a fresh, and utterly poignant way. LeBeouf’s performance was award worthy, and to see him excluded is a shame.

The Lighthouse / Willem Dafoe / Robert Pattinson
So, The Lighthouse is f*cking weird. I know that. But, as artsy fartsy as it is, it deserved more than a lone cinematography nod, although it’s my favorite to win. This is the type of film the Academy should be slavering over. Dafoe is unrecognizable in it and R-Pattz delivers another solid performance. Should have at least gotten a nod for both of them. But yeah, the movie’s f*cking weird.

Wild Rose / Jessie Buckley / “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)”
Buckely’s performance in this film – about a young woman who battles her checkered past in order to chase her dreams of country singer stardom, even if it means neglecting her two children – is electrifying, and the film itself is incredible. If nothing else, the song “Glasgow (No Place Like Home,” should have gotten some Oscar buzz. If this film flew past your attention in 2019, I highly suggest you check it out!

Hustlers / Jennifer Lopez
This movie was fantastic, and J-Lo’s performance as Ramona should have gotten a nod.

Ad Astra
Though I do believe Brad Pitt got his nomination for the more deserving performance in OUaTiH, Ad Astra was visually captivating and has a narrative that actually achieves, in a  significantly more succinct manner, what Interstellar tried to do in 2014. Would have liked to see at least a visual effects or cinematography nod.

The Mustang / Matthias Shoenaerts 
A definite dark horse (ha) and underdog in the race, especially since it came out so early in the year, it seems this film – about a convict and the horse he trains as part of a prison rehabilitation program – has flown completely under the radar, which is a massive shame. Shoenaerts’ performance is brilliant, carried by simmering emotion and silent intensity, and it pains me to see that he and the film are not being mentioned in the award buzz at all.

Midsommar / Pawel Pogorzelski
Cinematography. Cinematography. Cinematography. This movie wouldn’t be as terrifying as it is without the combo of Ari Aster’s direction and Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography.

Rocketman / Taron Edgerton / Dexter Fletcher
Not only was Edgerton snubbed for a Best Actor nod – which, although I don’t think he would have won, I do think he should have at least been nominated – Rocketman only received a nomination for Best Original Song. I may be in the minority, but I actually think Fletcher did a fantastic job directing this one and would have liked to see a nom for him also.

Booksmart
This movie is phenomenal, and to see it ignored is A CRIME. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a unique coming-of-age tale about two girls who fear they’ve missed out on typical “teenage” experiences, and seek one last wild night on the eve of their high school graduation. It’s equal parts hilarious and poignant, and I think it definitely deserved a Best Picture nod.

Adam Sandler
Sandler’s performance in Uncut Gems is, quite possibly, a career best, and he didn’t get a nod.

Greta Gerwig
I don’t think I need to explain myself for this one.

Christian Bale
I am, admittedly, a Christian Bale fangirl, but I do think his performance as Ken Miles in Ford V Ferrari deserved a nomination.

One Shot: Fantasia (1940)

Perhaps one of the most revered – and, simultaneously, the most forgotten – Disney titles of all time is the 1940 symphonic masterpiece, Fantasia. Featuring some of the most gorgeous, frightening, and imaginative animated sequences ever to come from the studio, and heavily influenced by some of the most incredible classical music pieces of all time, Fantasia is a unique film whose imagery lingers in the mind long after watching it. I often watched this film as a kid, and I still remember the vivid scenes of centaurs, hippos dancing with alligators, leaves spiraling through the air, and the bone-chilling terror of the Night on Bald Mountain segment, with the mountain-dwelling demon Chernabog and a horde of spectral ghosts and ghouls wreaking havoc on a small town.

But the most iconic segment of the film is probably The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Disney’s main mouse, Mickey – and it features the definitive image of the film as a whole.

1

In the sequence, apprentice Mickey dons the hat of his master, Yen Sid, and begins to cast magic that he is not quite prepared to handle… and, as magic tends to, matters swiftly go awry. There’s brooms and flooding involved. Even if you’ve never seen the full film, you are probably familiar with this image and know a bit of the story behind it.

This image is what Fantasia means. It’s magic, wonder – and a lesson to be learned. By putting that hat on, Mickey discovers how it feels to create, to be masterful, to have power beyond trudging up stairs carrying water pails. But he neglects the fact that he is not ready to wield that power, and faces the consequences of those actions as he loses control. Just by looking at this image, a viewer can see what Mickey is doing – and knows that an ominous undercurrent weaves beneath the magical glow of that starry cap. He is not big enough to sit in his master’s chair, his robe is too large for his tiny body, and darkness creeps all around him as he does something forbidden… and yet, there remains the shining allure of that magical hat, which he can’t keep his eyes off of. The viewer knows, after seeing this single shot, that they are about to witness a story to remember, and that Disney magic is about to be born, even if our favorite mouse must suffer a bit in order to learn what it means to wrestle with power you aren’t ready for.

Fantasia is a film with animated sequences that evoke feeling without any words – aided only by the sumptuous, classical soundtrack – and this single image is the impetus of a magical journey about to begin. For all the films that have been locked away in the vault, this one shall remain timeless, and should never be forgotten.

I’ve Got Plans

Hours at my job vary depending on a multitude of circumstances. Some days I can (allegedly) trek home after 9 hours, which is the standard length of a shift for a salaried executive at my workplace. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve worked a 9 hour shift since I started, and the other day I pulled a 6AM to 9:30PM, then Sheetz forgot to put tater tots in my made-to-order burrito I bought on my way home, which really capped off a wonderful day, but I digress…

Last Friday, I went to work at 6AM and aimed to leave by 5:30 at the latest because I had plans. I’d mentioned it in passing to my coworker, who also had plans, so we both vowed to leave “on time.” The day wore on, hitting the same type of beats they always do, maybe a couple of snags, until the sun went down and reinforcements arrived, allowing us to wrap up and prepare to head off into a nice weekend off.

As we were preparing to leave, my coworker asked me, “So, what movie are you going to see?”

I was about to answer, but paused. When I’d mentioned having plans, it had been only a brief thought – I’d not divulged any details. So I furrowed my brow and asked, “How did you know I was going to see a movie?”

She laughed, and said something to the effect of, “Well, no offense, but what else would you be doing?”

I took no offense at all – because she was 100% right, and I was meeting my parents for an opening-night screening of 1917. My actions may be predictable, but it’s a comfortable sort of predictability, one that I can happily accept as a part of my identity. Movie-going, and film-watching, is my thing. In my circle, it’s what I have come to be known for, and I like that. When I say, “I’ve got plans,” those who know me can say with about 90% certainty (sometimes I just go to dinner) what exactly that means.

Outside Looking In

I feel like every generation has some “fandoms” that, although they can transcend time and appeal to various age groups, are seen almost as a “staple.” But, of course, it’s impossible to involve yourself in all of them. So here are the ones I missed out on, as a millenial growing up in the nineties/2000’s!

1.) The Legend of Zelda
I have, in my twenty seven years on this planet, never played a Zelda game. I was a Sony girl, so I had Playstations growing up – the only Nintendo consoles I owned were the hand-held ones, and I only played them for Pokemon and the occasional KH game or FF remaster. So as far as the fandom goes, I only have basic knowledge, which is one of my greatest shames as a gamer. I do know that the hero is Link, though. I am similarly a novice at most Mario games, but I am a beast at Mario Kart.

2.) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
I read about 10 million books in my youth and somehow missed out on this book series. It is the kind of series that is 100% up my alley, so I’m not sure how it flew below my radar. I have since made it a goal to read all of them, because I don’t want to watch the show without having read the books.

3.) Anything on the Disney Channel
Honestly, I didn’t know that Disney Channel was even a thing during my childhood. I was more into Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, and only discovered Disney Channel when I stumbled upon a That’s So Raven rerun on TV one day while scrolling through the channels. So, I didn’t know that there were show versions of my favorite Disney movies, like Hercules and Aladdin. I was too busy scaring the pants off of myself watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? By the time I discovered it, I was basically too old to be watching…. though I snuck in a couple of episodes of Suite Life from time to time.

4.) Naruto (and other popular anime)
I was a pretty big weeaboo back in the day, but never got into such titles as Naruto, Death Note, Bleach, or One Piece, just to name a few. This is not to say that I didn’t like these shows – I just didn’t really watch them. I did watch a bit of Naruto and Bleach, and I enjoyed what I saw, but I tend to drop off from titles when they are super long and I’m not completely enthralled by them. This was the era when folks were wearing Naruto headbands to school, so being an anime fan who didn’t watch Naruto was a bit of a stigma. The exception is Death Note, which I did watch in its entirety but I did not quite get the hype as much as some of my friends did. The perfect anime length for me is 26-52 episodes, or 13 episodes, depending on the series. Anything longer tends to be too much for me, though I was hugely into Inuyasha and Sailor Moon.