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Over/Underrated 2015 – Honorable Mentions

22 Apr

This is it, folks! I’ve finally made it to the top of my Everest and am posting my last over/underrated entry for the year 2015. It only took me three months longer than it should have, so thanks to those of you who have loyally kept up with my sporadic thoughts on the best/worst that 2015 pop culture had to offer.

Like I mentioned at the start of this series, 2015 was a good year. For that reason, I leave you with a few On Pointe honorable mentions. 2015 wouldn’t have been such a banner year without them.

On Pointe

Jon Snow

WARNING: This entry contains major spoilers about season five of Game of Thrones.

It wouldn’t seem right to discuss all that was right (and yet so wrong!) in 2015 pop culture without talking about the “death” of Jon Snow on the HBO series Game of Thrones. I say “death” and not death because I’m still in denial about it.

What’s most surprising about Snow’s death is that viewers (like me) were still surprised. Considering the source material, George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, was published all the way back in 2011, it’s shocking that flashing neon spoilers weren’t all over the internet in the days leading up to his murder on the show. Similar to the way they guarded the Red Wedding back in 2013 (see our entry on that here), it’s clear that fans of the GoT books are not about ruining the television experience.

Even if there hadn’t been spoilers only a novel away, you’d still think I’d have seen it coming, considering GoT had already killed off such notable characters as Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon. Still, somehow in my mind, Snow was the one character that somehow would survive all the violence and be standing even after Winter had come and gone. Apparently, like him, I knew nothing.

Whether or not Snow’s character is actually dead dead remains to be seen. No amount of money I’ve set aside for therapy would be enough if he actually is. After all, the night is dark and full of terrors, and I’m not ready to face it without him.

Jon Snow

Better Call Saul

There was never a doubt in my mind that Better Call Saul was going to be amazing. How could it not be? After all, Breaking Bad was deemed Absolute Best Drama by my fair Bestie only a couple years ago. A spinoff show helmed by the same geniuses (Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould), and centered on one of the most beloved characters seemed almost too good to be true. Well it’s not too good, and it’s true.

The first season* of BCS brought us an intimate glimpse into Saul Goodman’s past, showing us the conflicted double life of Jimmy McGill (Saul’s birth name). McGill is striving to be a straight-laced lawyer, but unable to turn off his love of the con game. Bob Odenkirk is perfection as Jimmy McGill, bringing a much appreciated sense of humor and flair to the Breaking Bad universe. The show has not become as dark as Breaking Bad, yet, but the presence of the Mexican cartel (Tuco!) and everyone’s favorite gun-for-hire, Mike Ehrmantraut, are indicators that McGill is just one wrong client away from more than he can bargain for.

For viewers, the anticipation of waiting for McGill to truly embrace his Slippin’ Jimmy side and become the Saul we all know and love is almost a more delicious burn than watching Walter White become the one who knocks. There are some (*cough* my husband *cough*) who might argue that knowing the end result makes the journey there less intriguing. I couldn’t disagree more. Seeing where McGill begins makes him a more sympathetic character, and makes his ultimate undoing in Breaking Bad even more heartbreaking.

All plot aside, BCS would still be what the critics mean when they talk about good television. Once again the team of Gilligan and Gould have shown us that the magic is in the details, and that no single frame of a show should be without purpose. If that’s not reason enough to give BCS a try, then I don’t know what is.    

*This post was supposed to have been written way back in January, so for the purposes of this blog entry I am choosing to pretend that I haven’t already watched season two of BCS. After all, I need to save something for my 2016 lists.

BCS

Mad Men Finale

WARNING: This entry contains spoilers about the final episode of Mad Men.

Don Draper’s personal journey on Mad Men was a long one, and he played about every role you can think of along the way. War deserter to advertising genius. Philandering husband to doting father. Cutthroat partner to encouraging mentor. Confident jackass to lost and confused drunk. Still, in all seven seasons of Mad Men, I can honestly say I never expected to see Don Draper: Hippie.

The final season of Mad Men found many of the characters, not just Don, floundering to find self realization. Could Joan really be content working under men who saw her as nothing more than a pair of walking boobs? Could Peggy have both her career and love? Could Pete find a way to redeem himself in the eyes of his wife and daughter? Could the seemingly never satisfied Betty find a way to leave this earth content with the life she’s lived?

The answers to all of these questions arrived in the show’s series finale. Sure, to some extent the finale felt a little too neat, making sure that all the loose ends were tied up nice and tidy with a pretty bow on top. But despite those ends being tied up, they weren’t always what the fans necessarily wanted (Betty’s illness and Pete’s family reunion, to name a few).

What made the finale truly classic was the result of Don’s quest for self-actualization. Up until the final seconds of the finale, I was starting to doubt that we’d see that same kind of closure for our antihero as we’d been seeing for the rest of the characters. What on earth could his retreat to California have at all to do with the rest of the series? What did it all mean?! But, all it took was a Mona Lisa smile to appear on Don’s face and the singing of Coca-Cola’s most famous advertisement for me to get it. And just like that, the ending of Mad Men made its way into series finale history.  

MM

Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Ten

21 Apr

On Pointe

Gilmore Girls Revival

As a television fan, there’s nothing worse than when a show you love gets canceled too soon. Best case scenario and you’re provided with a quickly put together happy ending à la Studio 60 or Pushing Daisies. Worst case scenario and you’re simply left hanging, never to have an even hurried resolution (FlashForward, anyone?).

The ending of Gilmore Girls in 2007 was somewhere in between. When its original network, the WB, was merged with UPN to form the CW, creator/producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino could not come to a contract agreement with the network. Consequently, the last season of GG was executed under new showrunner David S. Rosenthal. Rosenthal did his best, but it just wasn’t the same, and the last season of GG left many fans frustrated and disappointed.

Talk of a GG movie had been floating around for years, but with varying levels of commitment and probability from its cast members. Then, in October of 2015, TVLine broke the news that a GG limited-series revival had been picked up by Netflix, and would be headed once again by Sherman-Palladino.  

Copper Boom!

Since the original announcement, exciting news and photos have been breaking almost daily, leaving fans more merry than if they’d had a whole bowl of Founders’ Day Punch. Nearly every cast member from the original series have been confirmed to appear in the revival, promising healthy doses of Stars Hollow locals (Sookie! Kirk!) and beloved “outsiders” (Paris! Doyle!) alike. If that weren’t exciting enough, the revival also hints at answers for burning questions about both Lorelai and Rory’s love lives, and promises that fans will finally hear the top secret four words that Sherman-Palladino said she intended to end the series with.

The anticipation of the revival is clouded only by the overwhelming absence of Edward Hermann (Richard Gilmore), who passed away in December of 2014. That and the fact that they couldn’t just write April Nardini off to boarding skill. Still, it’s the type of closure that fans of canceled shows can usually only dream about. Now if only it would get here sooner.

Gilmore

Off the Mark

“Honey I’m Good”

This particular Off the Mark entry was supposed to have been about Heroes Reborn. The fact that I gave up watching it after three episodes, and thus haven’t much to say about it, should speak volumes as to why it originally made this list. In lieu of writing about Heroes, I’ll instead rage write about the earworm of 2015, “Honey I’m Good” by Andy Grammer. (For the record, I do know that this song was originally released in November of 2014, but it didn’t take over the airwaves of U.S. radio until 2015.)

To clarify, “Honey I’m Good” has made the Off the Mark list not because it’s a “bad” song. Admittedly, it’s melody is beyond catchy, and it’s a song you can’t help but sing along to. It’s not the beat or the actual music that’s the issue. My problems with “Honey I’m Good” are strictly lyrical.

At first listen, one might be tempted to find this song to be sweet. It’s a man singing about his faithfulness to his significant other. What’s not romantic about that? When you listen to the rest of the lyrics, the answer is plenty.

Yes, the song is about a man’s desire to “remain true” to his girlfriend. But, in the same breath, he also says that if he’d give up his loyalties in a heartbeat if he had one more drink. While I understand the truth that people often make stupid decisions (like cheating) when they’re intoxicated, a truly committed adult man is not going to let one more drink lead him astray.

Furthermore, the man in question can’t stop talking about the, er, features of the temptress in the bar. Is waxing poetic about another girl’s legs and ass romantic? I think not.

And am I the only one out there wondering why the girl who’s got all of his love is sitting at home by herself while he’s out partying at the bar?

Honestly, if I were the man’s girlfriend, I’d be the one bidding him adieu. Let him take his wandering eyes and his sold-for-alcohol faithfulness and hit the road.

Again, I’ll admit that the song is quite a jam, but the lyrics should be insulting to anyone who’s ever truly been in love. If this is some sort of new-age take on monogamy, I’ll have to pass. [Honey] I’m good with the old fashioned way.

A Day in the Life of a Pseudo-Writer

7 Oct

I wake up. I’m immediately greeted with the thought that I want to be a writer when I grow up. I remind myself that I am a writer. I am also a grown up. Sort of. I recite the mantra, “I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.”

I go to work. I teach. I read my students’ writing. I am envious of the fact that they are actually writing. I am envious of the fact that they have a teacher telling them to write, giving them the gift of time to write. I wish I had my own such task master.

I am inspired by their words, by their experiences, by their stories. I want to write them, for them. The ideas rattle around in my mind, distracting. The ideas turn into words which turn into sentences which turn into paragraphs which turn into pages in my mind.

The work day ends. I pick up one child, then go home and wait for the second. Snacks. Toys. Books. Homework. Dinner. Laundry. Baths. Dishes. More Books. Bedtime Rituals.

Silence.

I grade papers. Enter grades. Answer emails.

All the while the pages float, idle, waiting, impatient.

I sit on the couch. I think about how I should exercise. I eat candy instead. I think about how I want to be writing. I watch TV instead.

I crawl to bed. I pick up my phone to set my alarm and take a moment to check what’s happening on Twitter. I see my friends and my idols, all creative geniuses, all writing. Poems, blogs, books. Productive. Working. Writers.

The pages in my mind give up fighting and settle into the folds of my memory. Maybe tomorrow, I think. Maybe then. Maybe then I will be a writer who actually writes.

Indian Summer

28 Sep

I can feel the tension in the air. The seasons are dancing again. It’s a seductive tango, each fighting so hard to be that neither actually is. The temperature tells me it’s summer, but the heat lacks in intensity. The wind tells me it’s fall, but the air has not yet found its crispness.

My heart yearns for the change. I never feel so alive as I do in the fall. Something about that chill in the air… It’s a challenge to my soul, and one that I rise to. Still, I am comfortable in the in between. I am strong and I am patient. I can bide my time, because the inevitable is coming.

This year, like all years, will end the same. The dance will change; the time for romantic entanglements over. Foot flicks and passionate embraces be damned. This is a pasodoble. The bull will be fought and the fight will be won.

But for now, I wait, and just enjoy the dance.

A Bit of Poetry

4 Nov

Let me preface this post by saying I am no poet. My efforts are small and pale in comparison to that of, say, Ali (@alwayscoffee). But, every now and again it’s fun to try my hand at it. These little ramblings are the product of some poetry exercises I did with my writing club at school. The inspiration for some of them actually came from the paint names on various paint chips. Maybe you can tell. Maybe you can’t. At any rate, I happened upon them when cleaning out a file the other day and figured it didn’t hurt to share.

Untitled
I speak the language of riddles,
Hidden by silence,
Disguised as echoes,
Halfway between tomorrow and yesterday,
Lost for years among the shadows.

Not So Happily Ever After
She descends from her ivory tower,
Her bed of roses no longer a comfort.
“Lantana,” they whisper,
Velvet slipper disguising,
Ruby red lips smiling,
Bunchberry wine,
Poison, then gone.

Moon Shadow
The moon shadow chases, follows,
Like the song echo through a blue memory;
Still is the winter lake under this navy sky.
A blue spell it casts;
The cool dusk has turned,
From twilight’s melody to hazy dawn,
The Regatta Bay sings back,
And the moon shadow is no more.

 

 

Lessons from My Son

30 Jul

One of the things we worked on as part of my writing institute was the concept of digital literacy, and using technology as a tool to enhance writing within our classrooms. All of us were given the opportunity to create a digital story on the topic of our choosing. I decided to make my digital story into a “gift” of sorts to my son, who has without a doubt changed my life permanently for the better. It was only my second time using iMovie, so it’s far from perfect, but I’m pretty proud of it all the same.

Smell of a Generation

10 Jul

As part of my writing institute I have been doing (obviously) a lot of writing. Rather than hiding it in my writing journal like I normally would, I thought I’d try to get better about sharing a piece or two with the world on occasion, so here goes. 

While I’ve spent a not insignificant amount of time trying to block out the majority of my middle school experience, the smell of Cucumber Melon transports me back to those hallways and my sixth grade memories, whether I like it or not. 

My middle school years took place at the height of the Bath and Body Works craze. Country Apple seemed to be their most popular scent, but not at Magnolia Middle School*. We were the class of Cucumber Melon. 

It wafted down the halls, floating behind us, a body spray shadow every bit as connected with our identities as our fingerprints. It was ours in the hallways. It was ours in the cafeteria, ours in the bathrooms, ours in the library. But it was ours, most, in the locker rooms. Hundreds of bodies, hiding behind towels, insecure in all but our Cucumber Melon shampoo, conditioner, lotion and mist. 

The smell of Cucumber Melon defined our three years at Magnolia. It defined us, our generation and what we held dear. 

Given how desperately I, for awhile, wanted to forget that I ever attended Magnolia, no one was more surprised than myself when I accepted teaching in the one place I swore I’d never return to. 

The name of the school is different now, as are the faces, but the hallways remain the same. Students are instructed not to wear perfumes or scented lotions due to allergies, but every now and then I get a whiff of the unmistakable scent of preteen girlish angst. This smell is no longer synonymous with Cucumber Melon. It’s a scent new to me, but unmistakably Theirs. Whenever I happen to smell these potent rebels in the hall, I smile, and hope that they find as much cumfort, repreive and sense of self in the scent of their generation as I did in mine. 

*Name of middle school changed for privacy.