Would OITNB Be the Same Without the Language?

Orange is the New Black is one of my absolute favorite TV shows.  At first, I liked it because it was entertaining, and I’d never seen anything like it.  I continue to love it because the characters are incredible.  Every one of them has good and bad traits — I love them sometimes and they annoy me at others, just like they would in real life.  It portrays real people making realistic decisions, and that’s my favorite thing about the show.

My parents, on the other hand, are not fans (understatement).  They don’t like the lesbian themes (although there aren’t nearly as many sex scenes in the later seasons are there were in the first few), and they really don’t like the language.  I don’t watch the show when I’m at my parents’ house anymore, even in my own room late at night, because someone might wander around and hear it.

The language can be excessive.  It doesn’t bother me anymore, partly because I’ve heard it all before. I don’t swear much myself, but many of my friends in college did, and it became a normal thing to hear. Unless it’s specifically directed at someone, I hear it more as a speaking style than something offensive. But I definitely understand that it’s not something everyone wants to hear when they’re trying to watch TV and relax.

So it begins the question: would Orange be the same show without the swearing?

The issue here is realism vs. portrayal. TV shows are art in that they are stylized portrayals of real or imagined life. Some shows, like Game of Thrones, we understand to be complete fiction. Others, like Orange, attempt to portray things that might actually happen in real life. They attempt to show plausibility rather than fantasy. And part of that plausibility is making characters as realistic as possible. Since real people swear a lot, it follows that some of the characters should also swear. It shows personality.

And there is a lot of nuance in the personalities of the characters on the show. Some characters don’t swear at all unless they are extremely enraged or provoked. Others use swear words as fillers and commas. The use of language is one way the writers show different characters’ backgrounds and values. The women from better socioeconomic backgrounds tend to swear less than those who come from poorer or more broken households. Or they just care less what others think of them.  Regardless of the meaning, swearing is a signifier.

It’s true that the writers could have shown that in ways other than swearing. But would it have been as realistic then? Would the characters feel as credible if none of them ever uttered so much as a “dammit”? Would it be the same if the swearing was simply toned down, but not erased from the script completely?

I want to say no. Swearing is a part of life, so why should it be erased from a show trying to portray that?  Plus, the women are in prison, and if that situation doesn’t call for the occasional swear word, I don’t know what does.

But as I mentioned above, I do understand the desire to watch TV without being inundated with bad language.  And while the show is already extremely popular, lessening the swearing might be a way to draw in even more viewers, and thus get more people hearing the stories the writers want to tell.  For example, if more people watched the show, maybe more people would realize how women prisoners are often treated and try to bring about change.  But on the flip side (again), real life people swear.  So would eliminating that and drawing in that kind of audience really help?  Would it really benefit the show’s message to erase the swearing, when it’s not a completely true portrayal of real life?

I don’t have a definite answer to this dilemma.  I enjoy the show as it is, and tend to believe that swearing, while offensive to some, is not one of the more important social issues.  And I know in my parents’ case, it would probably take more than eliminating the swearing to get them to watch the show, anyway.

What do you think?  Would reducing the swearing on Orange or other shows reduce the believability too much?

Three Cities; Three Local Coffee Shops to Check Out

I’ve been reluctant to publish on this blog exactly where I live, but it’s getting to the point where I’m really owning the cities I’ve lived in. I’m old enough now to not feel stuck in one place (thank goodness for my ugly old Honda), and so I can appreciate a city’s culture much more than I did when in high school. And when I go exploring, and discover great places, I want to share them! Place is such an important part of life (also of the marketing mix, in case you were curious), and I’m ready to begin sharing some of my places with you.

So where am I from? Tennessee, y’all. It’s one of the most beautiful, vibrant places in this entire country. We have the Smoky Mountains to the east, the rolling farmland of middle TN, and the beginning of plains country right before you hit Arkansas.

I’ve lived in 3 cities in TN; two east and one middle. And I’ve found a good local coffee shop in each of them, one that I’ve claimed (or plan to claim) as my own. So if you ever visit any of these 3 cities, here are the coffee shops you need to check out.

Knoxville: K Brew

K Brew
Source: K Brew’s Site

Knoxville is where I grew up, and thanks to my mom’s outgoing nature, I know or know of a ton of people there. One of the founders of K Brew happens to be the son of my high school band director.

That connection was what made me come in initially, but I stayed for the coffee. K Brew can be a tad pretentious about their coffee, but they have every right to be. They do not skimp on quality. They also have a really cool culture — in addition to two very nice locations, including one downtown, the baristas are encouraged to create new drinks. Some of the drinks are then sold seasonally, with a portion of the proceeds from that drink going to the creator of it. One drink that came from that tradition is their Honey Lavender Latte — a definite splurge at $6, but one that is well worth it. And, if the coffee culture at K Brew really intrigues you, they hold free cuppings every Sunday night so you can learn exactly what it is that makes their coffee so good.

Cookeville: Poet’s Coffee

Poet's Coffee
Source: Poet’s Site

Poet’s is the Cookeville hangout. On any given day, it’s full of college students, young moms, and business professionals all enjoying quaint downtown Cookeville — and of course, good coffee. I spent my fair share of time there in college, doing some studying, but mostly catching up with friends. My favorite drink there is the Iced Vietnamese, a luscious blend of coffee and condensed milk.

They also have seasonal drinks as well as a basic menu, and they serve delicious — and affordable — breakfast and lunch food. I’ve found that while most coffee shops offer some type of snack, Poet’s leads in offering filling, protein packed food as opposed to sugary pastries. Although they have those, too — the house made chocolate chip espresso muffin is to die for. And, if all that’s not enough to make you want to stop by, they also sell handmade, local jewelry, and they have live music every Friday night. What’s not to love?

Chattanooga (Hixson): Sour Dough Cuppa Joe

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Source: Sour Dough’s FB Page

Funnily enough, the owners of this shop are a couple that my parents knew when they were dating. The shop itself is fairly new, however — it’s only been around a couple years or so. So far, I’ve only been a few times, but I can already tell it’s a good one. The Irish Cream Latte I got the other day was a treat.

But what Sour Dough is really known for is their baked goods. They offer scones, cinnamon buns, quiche, and other stuff that you can make at home, but it just won’t be as good. And the owners and employees are just as personable as they can be. Plus, the shop is inside an old drive in restaurant building — it’s very different, and very cute. My other favorite thing about this shop so far is that it’s not in downtown Chatt. The fiance and I both enjoy downtown, and it’s true that there are tons of local coffee shops there. But downtown is not super close to where we ended up living. Hixson is a smaller, more inexpensive, less crowded community, and it still has good coffee. Win!

This post is not sponsored by any of these coffee shops; all opinions are completely my own. I just really like coffee shops! (Also, what it it with coffee shops and round logos?? Is it that it evokes the idea of a coffee cup? I must know!)

Just Admit You Love Your Wife

The other day, I took my car in for an oil change.  It was a bit overdue, and I had a coupon, so I ended up at the local Midas with my fiance.  While we waited for the mechanics to get done with my car, we chatted some with the manager.  He saw that we were a young couple, so he ended up telling us the story of how he met his wife.  It went something like this.

“I’m not from here originally; I’m from up north.  I came down here 30 years ago for a two week bike trip.  But close to the end of the trip I got into a wreck; some woman hit me as I was driving down a mountain.  I ended up in the hospital for awhile.  Right before I was supposed to be released the nurse came to do one last check and I told her, ‘I’m only here for a day or two more.  Wanna go on a date?’ I didn’t think she’d say yes, but she did.  I got back up north, and after a couple weeks I called her and said, ‘I’m thinking of moving down south.’  And she said, ‘Okay.  You can move in with me.’  So I moved in with her and her roommate, and six months later we were married.  We’ve been together 30 years now.  That’s a lot longer than most guys my age.”

At that point my thought was, How cute!

Then he added, “Thirty years…it’s about time for me to get a new one, don’t you think?  Ha ha ha.”

The cuteness vanished.  Instead of thinking how sweet his story was, I felt sorry for his wife.  I don’t know his life, or his relationship, or his wife.  But I would bet that he doesn’t say stuff like that to her.  To me, it sounded like he still loves her.  I mean, he told us their story in detail, and seemed proud that his marriage had lasted longer than many of his friends’, even if it was because it began earlier.

I could be wrong, of course.  It could’ve been that they married when they were very young, and realized they weren’t right for each other, but stayed together anyway.  They could be having issues.  I don’t know.  But that comment really rubbed me the wrong way.

Making that thoughtless comment, in my opinion, devalues the person you’ve committed your life to, for better or worse.  Most marriages, at least in the beginning, are entered into because two people love each other and plan on doing so by combining their lives for, hopefully, the rest of them.  Thirty years ago, the man that did my oil change loved and valued his wife enough to envision a life with her, and to commit to her.  But now he feels okay joking that it’s been 30 years, and for whatever reason — they don’t love each other anymore? he’s restless? she’s too old? — he should “get a new one.”

It’s been said, but I’ll say again — women aren’t like cars that you can just replace when you get tired of them, or when they quit running as well as they used to, or when you decide you like the newer model better.  Marriage is a serious commitment, and whatever your situation is, you’re not going to make it any better by joking about replacing your wife like you would a vehicle.

As I said above, I bet the man doesn’t say stuff like that to his wife, even jokingly.  And I do understand that the comment was meant as a joke.  But why is staying married to your wife for 30 years, which to me is an incredible accomplishment, something he felt like he needed to make an excuse for?  Does staying married to one person, admitting you love her to strangers, make you feel so uncomfortably vulnerable that you have to joke that oh, I don’t love her that much?

know he didn’t mean any of this.  Even my fiance, when I mentioned it later, didn’t think anything of it.  It’s seen as normal, because tons of guys make this joke.  Everyone gets that it’s a joke, so it’s okay.  Right?

I don’t think so.  To me, a woman who will be a wife very soon, it sounded harsh and stinging.  I wouldn’t have wanted to have been his wife, even though she wasn’t around to hear the comment.  I’m tired of jokes like this, about wives being the “ball and chain” and about how 30 years is too long to have one wife, especially given the fact that marriage is more beneficial for men than women.  See this quote from the link:

“Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among woman than men,” said Dr George Ploubidis, a population health scientist at the UCL Institute of Education.

“Being married appears to be more beneficial for men.”

I’m ready for us as a society to quit devaluing women as wives.  Not spouting off comments like the one he made would be a great place to start.

Getting Stretchier

Back in April, I discovered a new yoga app. It was a side effect of getting a new phone — I had to re-download all my apps. On my old phone, I had been using Sworkit, an aerobic/stretching/yoga app, but found it repetitive and unchallenging. I decided to replace it with a dedicated yoga app, and I found DownDog. 

As a mini-review, I absolutely love this app. I haven’t ever splurged on in-app purchases for any app, but I’m considering it for this one. I’ve been using it consistently since April, and I don’t see myself stopping. Its fun, it’s challenging, and I’m seeing benefits from using it — why would I not support that?

The app has 5 difficulty levels: Beginner I, Beginner II, Intermediate I, Intermediate II, and Advanced. (I’ve made it to Intermediate I.) While each level gets more advanced, every level offers a great workout. And each routine is different, so you’re not doing the same routine over and over again. An actual yoga instructor narrates the whole session, so you know where to focus your energy and how to position yourself so you pose properly. And if you want to pay the upgrade fee, you can customize your background music and which muscle groups your sessions focus on. It’s an incredibly well-made app, and I definitely recommend it. 

I struggle, though, because my legs and hips are very inflexible. I’ve been trying to focus on lengthening my hamstrings and my inner thighs, and I have seen progress. When I fold forward, I can now almost place my palms flat on the ground without bending my knees — almost. I’m getting there. 

But even know though I am seeing progress, I wish it was going faster. Not being that flexible is limiting me a bit. There are a lot of poses I can’t do, or can’t do as well as I’d like, because my legs just will not bend far enough. My strength and balance are improving, and I’m trying to get to where I could do a yoga sequence on my own, without the app. But I’m just not physically able to do as much as I’d like yet. 

I realized this is kind of a metaphor for my life right now. I got a job working as a bank teller, which I am actually really enjoying. I love the people, and the work is a good balance of challenging and simple. But the fact remains — I was doing this exact same job in a different city during college. It may have the chance for promotion, but it may not, and while I am grateful to have a job I don’t hate, a part of me would rather be doing something else, something that pays a little more, something that made use of my two degrees. I had hoped to be a little higher up in the job ladder at this point — I wasn’t expecting anything glamorous, but I did hope for a little something more. 

My whole life right now is one huge lesson in patience and living in the moment. Sometimes I have to remind myself to enjoy what I have right now instead of always wishing for something better. And I’m having to reevaluate my values a bit. I have always dreamed of some sort of a career, but there’s also a lot to be said for having small hobbies that satisfy me and only me. 

Blogging is one of those things. You may not have noticed, but I’ve been in a bit of a blogging rut for awhile. I’ve missed a few weeks, and several recent Thursdays. Part of this is because I’m struggling to find interesting things in my life to write about. Who wants to hear my rants about bank customers, or my complaints about meal planning, or my lengthening list of home improvement projects I now want to do? I think. In college, there was plenty of fodder for interesting discussions and opinion pieces. Now, it’s harder to find something interesting enough to write about. When I sit down to write about my life, though I enjoy it, it bores me. 

I guess it’s an opportunity to stretch my creativity. I want to continue blogging, because I love it, so I’ll just have to look harder for quality content. I need to get stretchier in all areas of my life — a cheesy metaphor, but an apt one. My hobbies and interests and goals need to stretch around my new life situation if they are to continue to grow and develop. And like with yoga, I’m getting there. Slowly, but I am. 

All opinions expressed about the app are my own, and I was not compensated for the mini-review. 

Evolution of Envy

Everyone gets envious.  It’s not a good feeling to have, but it happens.  I’ve definitely had my fair share of envious feelings.  But I haven’t always been envious of the same things.

I don’t really remember feeling truly envious of anyone until middle school, when all of my friends suddenly looked like women and I didn’t.  I’ve mentioned here before, I believe, about how ugly I felt a lot of the time.  To me, it seemed that everyone else was becoming effortlessly beautiful, while I was stuck with frizzy hair and acne.  It was hard to feel not-pretty.  I felt undesirable, and that was something I really wanted.

Growing up helped, of course.  I wasn’t an awkward teenager forever.  I learned how to at least control my hair, and I learned how to wear a little makeup, which really helped my self-esteem.  And it didn’t hurt that I did well in school and other activities.  And then, once I graduated high school and started college, freshman year did absolute wonders for my confidence and self-esteem.  I met friends who liked me and continued to like me even when we had disagreements, and I met the man who is now my fiance.  Freshman year was a dream come true for high school me, and I was really lucky to have that.

But that didn’t mean envy went away completely.  Instead, the things I was envious for changed.  At first, I was envious of those who could speak Spanish better than I could.  I had had Spanish classes before college, but I felt a little behind during those first couple years.  There was always something I missed in class because I couldn’t understand, or someone who could figure out how to say what I wanted to say faster.  That, though, I overcame as I learned more.  I still wish I spoke and understood Spanish better than I do, but I have achieved my goal of being able to communicate in another language, so that envy has largely been alleviated too.

After that, I became envious of students who knew exactly what they wanted to do.  I was surrounded by a lot of highly driven people, who were good at what they did, who were involved and held high positions in campus organizations, who got great internships, and who had job offers before they even graduated.  I didn’t want to do all the things they did, but I wanted that drive, that passion, that talent.  I got a little lost senior year, trying to find a job, and realizing how little experience and knowledge I had.  I had a plan, but not a very concrete one, and the people I saw did have that.

Now, I’ve been graduated for a month, have just started a new job, and am still fighting envy.  Social media is a cruel invention, because I see people I haven’t seen since high school also graduating, getting their dream jobs, and basically just being beautiful people in a beautiful world.

I’m not trying to sound ungrateful, because most of the time, I really am.  I just graduated with no debt, am living with my best friend in a house that we can afford to rent because we both have fairly well-paying jobs, and I’m getting married in four months.  I am happy with my life, and I’m excited for the future.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have those moments of oh, why can’t my life be like that?  (Even while I know social media doesn’t paint a full picture.)

I have to remind myself often that everyone is different, and just because someone looks like they are doing better than me doesn’t mean that my life sucks.  I’m working on striving for bigger and better things while at the same time being grateful for and happy in the life I have now.

The things we are envious of change as we get older, but it never goes away.  Do you get envious of people’s jobs or homes or lives?  What do you do to alleviate envy??

What I’m Reading: June 2016

One thing I hoped for after graduation has come true: I have a lot more time to read.  I finally have a full-time job, so my days are spoken for, but I no longer have to make room in my evenings for homework.  So books have made it back into my life on the regular, thank goodness!

Resultado de imagen para my not so perfect life coverIt’s not summer for me without a Sophie Kinsella book, and this is the newest one, published in February of this year.  It follows the classic Kinsella style of zany characters and hilariously ridiculous situations, but it felt a bit more serious than her earlier books, especially the Shopaholic series.  In this, Katie Brenner is a recent college grad (like myself) who is trying to break into the world of branding.  She lands a job at a prestigious firm, but is a bit intimidated by her boss, whose social media accounts make it look like her life could not be more perfect.  Katie is simultaneously in awe and repulsed, but when she gets fired she has a whole host of new problems to deal with.

I enjoyed this because it’s the first Kinsella protagonist I’ve read who was just starting out in life.  I identified with Katie, and I admit felt a bit jealous that she is working in her field so soon after graduation.  But Katie is definitely not perfect either, and that made her so easy to root for.  I saw myself and my friends in her, and I wanted her to succeed.  She learns a lot of hard, adult-y lessons throughout the book, but it still has the nice, satisfying ending that is characteristic to Kinsella books.

Resultado de imagen para universal harvester coverUniversal Harvester is one I wish I could have read in school, or even in a book club, because it begs to be re-read and pondered and analyzed.  Set in the late 90s, it follows Jeremy, who works at a video rental store.  Jeremy, who has lived alone with his father since his mother died in a car accident, is settled into his routine, and likes it that way.  But he can’t help but be curious when several tapes get returned with extra scenes edited in, scenes that seem to have been shot not far from his house.

When I started this, it felt like a creepy thriller.  The mystery surrounding the tapes seemed dark.  Once I realized that — spoiler alert — the narrator is not the author, but another, unknown character, it got even creepier.  But as I got even farther into the book, the creepiness melted away, and it just felt horribly sad.

I know I’m being vague about this book, but it’s the kind that demands to be read to be understood.  You can go read the description on Amazon or Goodreads if you want more info.  What I will say is that Darnielle’s writing style is incredible.  Reading a novel with an unreliable narrator is one of my favorite things in the world, and he executed that perfectly.  This is going to be one I beg other people to read so we can talk about it.

Resultado de imagen para yo julia alvarez coverYo! is by the same author who wrote How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, which I loved.  This I have not loved nearly as much.  But part of it is because at first I didn’t realized that this book continues the story Yolanda, one of the Garcia girls, throughout her lifetime.  It’s an eventful one, too — she angers her entire family by writing about them, gets kicked out of college, and marries — three times.  If I had realized that this Yo was the same as the Garcia Girls Yo at first, maybe I would’ve liked it better.

But another reason I haven’t loved this is because I am reading it in Spanish.  While I have no trouble reading and comprehending words, comprehending voice is a different story.  In this book, each chapter has a different narrator.  Sometimes they are named, and sometimes they aren’t.  I also didn’t realize that at first, because it does take a little more effort for me to understand Spanish novels.  I found that it helps immensely if I read out loud, but I can’t read the entire thing aloud to myself.  I did finish the book, but I think I would have enjoyed it much more in English.

That said, it’s still an incredible work.  (Also, some of my issues may stem from the translation, since it was written in English originally.)  But even with my somewhat foggy understanding of the book, Alvarez’s unique writing style comes through.  Her characterization and place settings are both beautiful in their own way, and the fact that she wrote every single chapter in a different voice speaks to her talent.  Even though I haven’t enjoyed this nearly as much as How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, I’d still recommend it, and I may end up reading it again in English in the future.

 

Hello, My Name Is

I have one of the most common names there is — Sarah.  Everyone knows a Sarah or five.  It’s one of the female names that are timeless, like Elizabeth or Anna.  Names go in and out of style, but there are always those few that hover near the top of the list no matter what.  Of course that goes for boy names, as well — how many Johns, Christophers, or Michaels do you know?

I was named after my grandmother, and despite having one of the most common names of all time, it’s never bothered me.  I like the name Sarah.  And while I’ve had close friends named Sarah, distinguishing us hasn’t really been too much of a problem.  One of us will go by our last name, or we’ll add an adjective to our names — I’m the short Sarah.  It’s annoying occasionally, but it’s more often funny.

But while having a common name doesn’t bother me as a Sarah, it bothers me as a learner of other people’s names.  My fiance and I just moved to a new city, and at his job, he works closely with a group of four other men.  One of them has the same name as his brother, and since I’ve never met the coworker, I always end up thinking my fiance is talking about his brother.  But he usually is not.  It’s confusing.  And I can’t tell you how many Samanthas, Rachels, and Emilys I know.  Having to add descriptors to a few like-named people is fine.  But having to do it for everyone gets exhausting.

When I was in middle school, I wrote a lot of stories for fun.  At that time, it was popular for parents to name their kids something normal, but spell it really weirdly.  I liked that trend, so I ended up with a bunch of characters named Emaleigh, Haeli, or Lorynn.  (I also only did it for girls.)  Looking back, I seriously cringe at that.  Thank goodness that stage happened before the appropriate kid-bearing age.

But while I scoff at that attempt at uniqueness, the idea of having more unique names appeals to me now.  Why do we use the same names over and over, when there are literally millions of words we could be using instead?  Does the world really need another Sarah?  Wouldn’t that hypothetical person be the same with the name Juniper or Desdemona?

Names do have an effect on us, of course.  I’ve read before that children named Joseph Allen III, for example, think better of themselves than children named Joseph Allen Jr.  (One gives a sense of a whole identity while the other makes one feel like a mere shadow or copy of their parent.)  Names that are traditionally non-white get turned down more for job interviews.  And people with names like Storm or Ocean might be less likely to be taken seriously (even though people don’t usually name themselves, so it’s not their fault…but I’m getting off topic).  Naming a child is an important task, and one that should not be taken lightly.  Parents know this, and know that there are many factors to take into consideration, so more common names are often the safest options for multiple reasons.

But you don’t have to sound like a hippie to pick a more unique name.  There are plenty of “normal” names below the #100 mark on popularity lists that work just as well as the more popular ones.  Parents could decide on a meaning first, and then search for names based on that.  They can search cross-culturally and cross-religiously.  I’ve even seen ancient place names listed as possibilities on baby name sites, and not all of them were that weird.

There’s an infinite world of possible names out there.  Giving people more unique names will definitely make them more memorable, and it may even make the world a better place — if a kid has an uncommon name, who’s to say it won’t give them uncommon confidence?

Realistically speaking, I know it won’t happen that way.  Humans are creatures of habit, and that won’t change.  I also don’t really want kids of my own, so unless I change my mind, I can’t even do anything to make my dream world of unique names a reality.  Until then, you can call me Arazou Kaegan — it means wishful thinker.

Goals Summer 2017

I’m in the midst of two huge life changes.  I just graduated, and I’m still job hunting.  I thought I would be able to hold out for a permanent, full-time position, but I’m getting to the point where I just need an income, so those plans have changed some.  I’m also in the beginning stages of planning a wedding.  My life is weird right now.  I’m back and forth between the place I now share with my fiance and my childhood home, and it feels a little like I’m just drifting along.  A job would ground me some, but obviously I’m not there yet.

As far as goals go, my floaty situation makes it a little more complicated than normal.  Typically, I like to make concrete goals based on what I’m doing.  But right now, I’m not doing anything concrete.  So my goals for this season, from now until my wedding at the end of September, have had to be more introspective.  It’s only been a month since I’ve graduated, but it has been very frustrating not having an income or a set plan of my own.  I tend toward pessimism anyway, but this situation has definitely made that worse, and that’s not good for me or anyone around me.  So these goals are my attempt to change that.

  1. Be more selfless — nothing I do in my life affects me and only me.  This is kind of a broad goal, which is not how you’re supposed to make goals, but this is something I need to work on.  One specific thing I need to do is plan my wedding for my fiance.  I get hung up on the fact that we’re having a traditional wedding at a moment in our lives when we ourselves can’t afford it, which really bothers me.  Sometimes it bothers me so much I feel like scrapping everything and going to the courthouse.  But both our parents have told me multiple times that they want to give us a beautiful wedding.  Weddings are family affairs, and I also know that my fiance wants a traditional wedding.  So when I get overwhelmed and exasperated, I have to remember that I’m not doing anything for just me.
  2. Communication Goals:
    1. Talk to myself!  This sounds crazy, but this is actually a proven method of motivation and emotion management.  Speaking to yourself out loud offers the most benefits, but even talking to yourself in your head can have a good effect.  I usually feel too silly to talk to myself out loud, but sometimes, when I notice how negatively I’m thinking, I try to turn that around and tell myself the good side of what’s happening, or why what I’m thinking is wrong.  And it does help.  (Try it before you call me crazy.)
    2. Make it a point to speak to people I don’t see on a regular basis.  I’m bad about not texting or calling people when I haven’t seen them in awhile.  I haven’t had to deal with this, really, because I’ve never spent more than a few months away from my close friends.  But now we’ve all graduated, and we’re all over the place.  I need to initiate contact once or twice a month at least if I want to keep up the friendship.  And I’m much better about keeping up with my parents, but I need to make it more of a point to say hello to my siblings once in awhile, too.
    3. Always, always tell my fiance if something is bothering me.  Sometimes I find myself repressing emotions, and it just makes me bitter and angrier at things that go wrong.  He has never once failed me or ignored my perspective when I’ve told him something that had been bothering me, and I need to remember that and give him the chance to help.  And on the flip side of this, I need to make sure I’m not ignoring his needs, either.
  3. Be assertive.  During the past couple months, I’ve made decisions that I thought through carefully.  But then I would find out that one or more people didn’t like that decision, or didn’t think it was best for me, and I would end up changing my mind or waffling back and forth.  It caused a lot of stress, and I’m tired of that.  In decisions that I make from now on, I will of course consult the people that decision may directly involve, and will think through all my options.  But once the decision is made, I’m not changing because of differences in opinion.  Even though not having a job makes me feel like a child, I’m not.  I’m an adult, and adults make decisions that others don’t like.

I’m giving myself a little wiggle room to change/modify/add to these goals as the weeks go by.  But I think these are good starting points.

Introducing NerdyWordyBirdy

No, not me.  You already know me.  And since you already know me, you probably already know that in trying to keep up my Spanish skills, I decided it would be a good idea to start a blog in Spanish.  So I did.

Si habla español y quiere leer mi blog nuevo, haz clic aquí.

This blog was started solely to practice my Spanish.  I could have just created a folder on my Google Drive, but I like blogs too much, and posting my work where anyone can (hypothetically) read it makes me more careful about grammar and good content, and gives me more accountability and incentive.

As of now, the plan is to post once a week on Mondays.  I may end up using essay prompts, or even write short fictional pieces.  I’m typically not a fan of fiction blogs, but I’ve been having writer’s block of late, and the point of the new blog is to practice, not to write the most profound posts ever.  (Although if I stumble upon a really good idea, you won’t find me complaining.)

So, if you speak Spanish, feel free to take a look.  If not, or if this doesn’t interest you in the slightest, please ignore my shameless self-promotion.

Discussion: Political Statements in Jane the Virgin

I posted awhile ago about all the reasons the TV show Jane the Virgin is one of my favorites.  As season 3 comes to a close, every one of those reasons still holds.  Jane the Virgin is definitely in my top five favorite TV shows ever (up there with Parks and Rec and Breaking Bad, in case you’re wondering).

Jane the Virgin is also one of the most politically active fictional TV shows I’ve seen.  Other shows may use politics as a small plot point here and there, but Jane the Virgin sets itself in modern day, where the characters can react to politics and other current events as they happen.  It makes the show even more relevant than it already is, and may serve to get viewers more interested in current events and activism.  And it makes so much sense that the show is like this, because Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane, is very politically and socially active.  She advocates for many minority groups on social media, and has an Instagram feature called #MovementMondays where she highlights minority actors and activists to get her followers learning and excited about change.

One example of current politics done well in Jane the Virgin is the status of Jane’s grandmother, Alba.  Alba is a Venezuelan immigrant, and when the show begins, she is completely undocumented.  For this reason, she is deathly afraid of police and other authority figures, and wants to apply for her green card but is afraid her lengthy illegal status will get her deported if she applies.  Jane and her mother help Alba overcome her fears and apply for her green card, and she later ends up marching in a protest to advocate for herself and for her boyfriend, who is undocumented when they meet.  It’s a very real situation for many here in the US, and Alba becomes a stronger character because she overcame her fear.

But there are other political statements that feel like they’ve been forced into the plot.  For example, Jane begins dating Fabian, one of her father’s coworkers, and feels she is ready for casual sex.  So she goes for it, showing up at his apartment dressed to impress, but Fabian ends up talking to her for two hours about books.  She’s frustrated, obviously.  But at the beginning of the scene where Jane tries to bring up her intentions, Fabian first asks a question about one of the books, to which Jane replies with a statement about free speech for everyone.  Then they launch into the sex conversation.

To me, that interaction felt forced.  It didn’t flow like a real conversation might have.  We didn’t see any of the previous book conversation, and after that one statement was made, there was no follow-up.  It wasn’t part of the plot, or part of any character’s development.  It was social commentary with no basis in the story, stuck into a conversation seemingly at the last minute.

Another thing that bothers me is the use of Jane’s child, Mateo.  At this point in the show, Mateo is about 4 years old.  Like any 4-year-old, he notices things about the world and wonders about them.  But I don’t know if the statements he makes are ones that a 4-year-old would think to ask.  He asks about abstract and complex concepts often.  Of course, young children are often much wiser than we give them credit for, and can surprise us with incredibly deep questions.  But the way they ask them is different than the way an adult or an older child would ask them, and I think Mateo’s writers may need to further study the way 4-year-olds process information.  Also, the fact that Mateo is even used at all to further the show’s political agenda (because it’s clear there is one) is a tad cringe-y to me.  Kids themselves do ask intelligent, political questions, but Mateo is used more as a mouthpiece for the writers than his own character, and that’s not the high quality storytelling that Jane the Virgin has shown previously.

Another show that makes political statements often is the comedy Last Man Standing.  Its views are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from those on Jane the Virgin, but the statements are usually more tastefully made because the characters’ political leanings are often a crucial part of the plot.  The father character on the show, Mike, holds opposite political views from his oldest daughter and some of his friends, and these differences are sometimes the basis of entire episodes.  As a sitcom, political differences make good fodder for jokes intertwined with the characters’ (and presumably the writers’) deeper values.

Last Man Standing, which aired on ABC, was discontinued on May 10, 2017 after 6 seasons.  Six seasons is a pretty good run for any show, but some are saying that ABC stopped it because the show is staunchly conservative.  I hope that’s not the case, for two reasons.  One is because TV shows should be protected under freedom of speech and expression, and removing a show because it differs in values is a little sketchy.  The other reason is because having different perspectives represented in TV is important.  People use TV for a ton of different reasons, but arguably the biggest is to relax.  Most people have come home from work or school and vegged out in front of the TV for a few hours, because it gives us a break from our own reality.  It gives us a reason to laugh or cry, and it gives us something to enjoy even when we’re so exhausted we can barely move.  Different perspectives need to represented on TV because everyone watches, and we all like to see ourselves.

Since we’re all watching TV anyway, adding some political and social commentary in there can be beneficial.  When it’s done artfully, it gets people thinking, and then maybe acting.  When it feels forced or not genuine, it alienates people from the perspective it’s trying to portray.  That’s why the best way to insert commentary is to do it subtly, make it an important plot point so that it doesn’t feel forced, and don’t overwhelm the show with it.  Regardless of my complaints, I feel that Jane the Virgin, overall, does an excellent job balancing social and political responsibility with superb storytelling.  I just hope the writers don’t go overboard.