Lifetime

Life post-Master’s degree

I graduated with my Master’s two-and-a-half weeks ago, but saying I have a Master’s degree sounds fake. I imagine it will for a while, especially since my future career prospects are still a giant question mark.

Since graduation, I’ve done a lot of applying for jobs, but I’m also basking in the very strange freedom of no impending responsibilities apart from maintaining my own existence. To celebrate graduation, my mom took us to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was both rewarding and exhausting. We’re happy to have had the experience and to hopefully never need to do it again.

Luckily, this freedom means I have lots of time for my Very Favorite Activities: reading all the books and watching all the TV/movies I can think about. So, to celebrate my first time away from school in 19 years, a mostly successful and rewarding first semester of teaching, and writing a 114-page thesis, here’s how I’ve been spending my hours of entertainment.

Books—I feel like my reading progress should be more substantial since finishing school, but I did finish Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, an 870-page tome that I expect will be my longest read of 2016, so that makes up for the short reading list. I’ve also knocked out Ta-Nehisi Coates’s though-provoking and beautifully written Between the World and Me, which is essentially 150 pages of reminding white people to check their privilege. We all need more of that in our lives.

As a fairly transitional reading project, I also powered through K.C. Dyer’s Finding Fraser, a light read for fans of the Outlander series. It wasn’t anything terribly enlightening or profound, but it kept me feeling occupied and pleasant for a day or two. I’m also feeling mentally cleansed to delve back into heavier hitting literature, so I’m working through two projects right now: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. It’s my first time with both of these authors, and I think my first attempt at anything Russian, so I’m hoping for rewarding experiences. Once these are done, I plan to resume my work through Arthur Miller’s collected works since I haven’t revisited those since January and Ernest Hemingway’s collected short stories. It’s such a pleasure to know I will never have a shortage of great things to read.

Movies—My movie-watching habits have been surprisingly lame these days, partially because the movies I have watched have been rewatches rather than anything new. I do intend to see Me Before You when it’s released this week, but there hasn’t been much in theaters to draw my attention—partially because the things I am interested in are only available in limited release. I recently built up my Amazon watchlist, so I’ll hopefully start making a dent in some of those films soon.

TV—It’s probably fair to say that I haven’t watched many movies lately because I’ve been busy with TV. Though most shows I watch have stopped airing for the summer, Game of Thrones, Veep, Outlander, and Inside Amy Schumer all keep me busy enough, but I’m also doing plenty of other TV viewing. I finally got to the War & Peace miniseries adaptation that aired in January and February, and I really loved it (this is a big reason why I decided to tackle Chekov). The more I see of Lily James, the more convinced I become that she’s actually made of sunshine.

I also finished the two seasons of Starz’s cult hit Party Down yesterday, though my journey through the show has been a bit strange. I watched the first 3 episodes on my Bluray player, and when I picked up on my iPad, unknowingly began with episode 4 of season 2. I got all the way through the end of season two and backtracked to the 3 episodes of season 2 I hadn’t seen before I realized the problem. I’d been wondering if I’d been paying bad attention (Where did Jane Lynch go? When did Megan Mullally get here? When did Adam Scott start dating Kristen Bell?) or if they just didn’t explain everything very overtly, so I was glad to realize it was my organizational mistake that created the confusion rather than bad viewing habits. I may have to watch it again from start to finish sometime to make up for my stupidity.

I’ve also watched half of Amazon’s Doctor Thorne, which is charming and lovely. I expect to finish it today. And I’ve started season two of Netflix’s Bloodline, but that’s a show that’s too depressing to really binge, so I expect we’ll take some time with it. I’m also expecting that Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Grantchester will be the next two projects on my list. Nothing like a period piece to momentarily take you out of a humid Kentucky summer.

What are you reading and watching these days? I’m always looking for suggestions!

Fargo

Favorite TV Shows of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect back on another great year of entertainment, a process I find especially fun and rewarding. As you’re probably aware if you know me via blog or real life, I’m a serious TV-watcher. Like, embarrassingly so. So, in this time of reflection, here are my favorite shows of 2015. My selections include both past and current shows, as well as programs I watched for the first time and those I went back to revisit.

Read on for some recommended viewing for the holiday season!

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW, currently in season 1)

Crazy Ex-GirlfriendI have to say, I was skeptical of this show–I found the title to be a bit of a sexist cliche and the promos made me feel like it was some weird peppy version of Girls, but I’m happy to admit I was totally wrong. First, the show’s title is intentionally sexist (and the theme song makes fun of it). Rachel Bloom is totally deserving of her recent Golden Globe nomination for this smart, sweet, funny show. The fact that it’s also a pseudo-musical also doesn’t hurt. Go watch it!

Fargo (FX)

FargoWithout a doubt, season 2 of Fargo, which wrapped up this past Monday, was one of the best seasons of TV I’ve seen in a long time. The show’s first season which aired in the spring of 2014 was also stellar, but it’s crazy how incredibly perfect season 2 was. With a phenomenal ensemble cast of unexpected actors, Fargo told an interwoven story of some seedy Midwesterners in the late 1970s. Fargo proves it is possible for a show to be both hilarious and tensely dramatic, oftentimes simultaneously (see episode 8, “Loplop,” for several examples of this). I can’t say enough about the show and how sad I am to see it go. Is it possible for season 3 to reach this calibre? After this amazing season, I’d trust Fargo‘s creative team with the unimagineable.

Frasier (11 seasons streaming on Netflix)

FrasierFrasier is undoubtedly my most significant TV accomplishment of 2015; in fact, I watched all 264 episodes in just over 3 months this summer (a fact I choose to be proud of, so deal with it). I grew up with the show and have seen many of the reruns on Lifetime, but the experience of watching it all from start to finish was perfect. It’s hilarious and brilliant. A serious commitment, but absolutely worth the effort.

Game of Thrones (5 seasons streaming on HBOGO and HBONOW)

Game of ThronesIt’s nice to know there are shows you can always count on, like Game of Thrones, to maintain a high standard for TV. Season 5 was no different–fans of the show have come to expect exciting action sequences, thoughtful character development, and surprising twists along the way (as well as an exorbitant amount of nudity and gore, but I digress). Now that the show has officially surpassed the book series in production, I’m quite anxious to see where things go (especially where Jon Snow is concerned).

Jessica Jones (season 1 streaming on Netflix)

After falling in love with Krysten Ritter in 2013 when I watched Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, I felt it was only fair to give this a go, especially after Jessica JJessica Jonesones was receiving stellar reviews. The show is perfect for people who aren’t totally into superhero stuff–it’s much more a drama than a hero/action show, so the appeal works for a wider audience. David Tennant is a delectably despicable villain as Kilgrave, and, at 13 episodes, Jessica Jones is the perfectly bingeable show for a long weekend at home.

Lost (6 seasons streaming on Netflix)

LostLost carried me though my spring 2015 semester of school, and I really loved every moment of it. I hadn’t revisited the show since the original airing ended in 2010, so it was quite a treat to return. If it wasn’t for Lost, I’m not sure we’d be living in this so-called “golden age of television.” And to top it all off, I wrote one of my final graduate school papers on the show, so it turns out TV-watching can be meaningful after all. You can also read more about my favorite Lost episodes here.

My So-Called Life (full series available on DVD)

My So-Called LifeI first watched My So-Called Life when it was still on Netflix in 2012 and loved it, but haven’t had the chance to revisit it since. After receiving the complete series (which is just a single 19-episode season) for my birthday last month, my roommate and I quickly made our way through what is a truly delightful show (though finishing the show during finals week maybe wasn’t our smartest decision). Claire Danes is perfect as always as is the rest of the show’s ensemble. I was so happy to see that I loved the series just as much a second time around, and, now that I’m home for winter break, my mom and I have already begun our own viewing of the series. My So-Called Life is the perfect answer to a cold, cozy day spent indoors.

Outlander (season 1 available on DVD)

I fell in love with Outlander first through the TV Outlanderseries when it premiered in 2014 and have now read the first two books in the series to combat this loneliness of the show’s hiatus. My roommate and I also made our way through season 1 of the show earlier this fall, an experience that only made me long for season 2. Thankfully, the premiere is drawing ever closer, but for now, I’ll have to satisfy myself with rewatching.

Rectify (Seasons 1 and 2 streaming on Netflix)

RectifyI started Rectify on a bit of a whim late this summer because I’d heard good things about it in the past. I went into the viewing experience a bit ignorant about the story, but was quite pleased with this dark, poignant, and thoughtful show. (Side note: the show has had 3 seasons, so if you’re looking to watch it, consider finding season 3 elsewhere).

UnREAL (season 1 available On Demand)

UnREALOne lazy day this summer, I secluded myself in our basement to watch six episodes of Lifetime’s UnREAL, a show that’s fun and exciting and perfect for mindless viewing. The show follows the production side of a faux Bachelor-style reality dating show and has just as much entertaining drama as you would hope. Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer shine in the lead roles, and despite the show’s campy nature, it’s messages about gender are actually quite interesting and progressive. Here’s hoping season 2 is just as fun as season 1 was.

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And, just for fun, here are a few honorable mentions that I’ve also enjoyed this year:

  • The Last Man on Earth (FOX, streaming on Hulu)
  • Veep (HBO, streaming on HBOGO and HBONOW)
  • Jane the Virgin (The CW, season 1 streaming on Netflix)
  • Broadchurch (2 seasons streaming on Netflix)
  • Empire (FOX, streaming on Hulu)
  • The O.C. (complete series streaming for free on the CW Seed)
  • Bob’s Burgers (seasons 1-4 streaming on Netflix)
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Summer Ends, Real Life Begins

Oh, world, how is it possible that my summer is already over? Wasn’t it just May?

Okay, I’m whining, but the prospect of returning to school this Monday, even though I’m pretty well prepared, just isn’t my idea of fun at the moment.

I’ve definitely reached the point in my summer when I need school to start back because I’m feeling especially lazy lately. Who says it’s wrong to watch an entire season of a TV show in a day? Sometimes that’s exactly the kind of day I need to rejuvenate, but I should probably get some real work done before I deserve a day of laziness.

In my final weeks before real life resumes, I haven’t totally wasted my time. In fact, only a few hours ago I returned home from a quick road trip up to Chautauqua, NY with my mom to visit my roommate, Ryan, during the final days of his internship at the Chautauqua Institution. Our visit to Ryan wasn’t entirely selfless, though; since Ryan has interned for the Chatauquan Daily, he was able to score us free passes to a sold out event at the Institution. That event just so happened to be An Evening with Carol Burnett, a woman who doesn’t need much introduction. My mom has loved Carol Burnett for most of her life, so the opportunity to see her on stage was one we couldn’t miss. We attended a Q&A featuring classic clips from “The Carol Burnett Show,” and Mom was even lucky enough to get to ask a question (Q: If you were making your show today, who would you want to work with? A: Steve Martin, Kristen Chenoweth, and George Clooney for obvious reasons).

We had a whirlwind of a trip, particularly because we woke up this morning at 5:00 AM to get an extra early start to our drive home, but the satisfaction of seeing a TV legend was totally worth it. Here are a few photos from our time.

A lovely sunset on Chautauqua Lake

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Enjoying our tour of the grounds on a chilly evening

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A failed attempt at finding an appropriately lit setting for a portrait

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The incomparable Carol Burnett taking her bows  


Now, onto the sad news: like I said, this summer is breathing its last, so my time will be far less available for my own entertainment. Sigh. In my attempts to soak in as much as possible before reality sets in, I’ve done my fair share of reading and watching lately. Here’s an update on all things pop culture in my life.

Books — I’ve been a bit slower than usual with my reading projects of late, but the fact that I only have 5 more books to read before reaching my goal of 50 books in 2015 seems like something to be happy about. I just wrote my reflection on reading Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicidesand prior to that I worked quickly through Tim O’Brien’s war novel The Things They Carried I’m still working my way through Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the Outlander series. I still have a bit over 300 pages left, but in a book of 947 pages, that seems pretty doable. I’m looking forward to dedicating my free reading time to finishing this one before moving onto something else (if there’s any time for personal reading this semester).

Movies — I don’t have anything terribly interesting to report in my movie-watching life, though I’ve been doing plenty of it. I’m just 5 movies short of my goal to watch 100 new (to me) movies in 2015, so it won’t take me any time to finish that list. I’m still lacking in one area, though; I hope to watch 8 movies I’ve never seen from the AFI Top 100 list, but I’ve only done 3 so far this year. I plan on dedicating some of my next movies to hitting that goal.

The one movie I do have something to say about is the German indie Wetlands. Wetlands screened when I went to the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, but I didn’t watch it until Wednesday. A good friend of mine saw the film while we were at Sundance, and she recommended it, but told me some of it could be embarrassing to watch with other people. I wholeheartedly agree, but I really enjoyed the film. Essentially, Wetlands tells the story of a neurotic teenager exploring her sexuality and body in disturbing, hilarious, and rather repulsive ways. This is not the kind of movie you watch with family, but I still totally recommend it (to the strong-stomached, anyway). I also thought Carla Juri was superb in the film’s starring role. If you’re will to spend a sometimes uncomfortable hour watching a funny/sweet/sad film with subtitles, Wetlands is for you.

TV — If I’m good at anything, it’s watching TV. Though I’m still keeping up with a handful of TV shows this summer, I’m anxiously awaiting the return of real TV in a few weeks (I really need more “Empire” in my life). My favorite show of the summer was Lifetime’s UnREAL,” which sadly ended a few weeks ago. If you’re looking for some high drama binge-worthy TV, devote yourself to a day of “UnREAL.” You won’t be disappointed. I’m still keeping up with MTV’s “Teen Wolf” and “Scream: The TV Series” as well as NBC’s “Hannibal” and “Hollywood Game Night.” I’m wishing I was more interested in these final episodes of “Hannibal,” but mostly I’m just hoping for a satisfying conclusion at this point.

My TV-streaming life still consists of powering through “Frasier,” of which I’m proud to say I’ve watched 206 episodes so far. I had no expectation I’d get this far before starting back to school, but I definitely expect to finish the series sometime in September. Though I’ll feel accomplished in finishing such a big series, I’ll certainly be sad to say goodbye to such a thoroughly entertaining show.

While I’ve spent most of the summer watching only “Frasier,” I added a second streaming project on a whim last week, and so far I’m pleased with my decision. On Tuesday I started season 1 of the Sundance Channel’s Rectifyvia Netflix and I’m really liking it so far. The show is dark (it tells the story of a man who’s just been released from prison after 19 years on death row and his extended family) but it’s got a good balance of drama and humor to keep it from seeming to heavy. I’ve heard and read good things about the show in the past, so I’m glad I’ve started. There are only 16 episodes of the show on Netflix since its third season just finished airing, so I expect to finish watching it all pretty quickly.


All right world, now is the moment of truth. I have to face the reality that soon my time won’t always be my own, which sadly means I won’t have so many chances to fill my life with good books and movies. What are you watching and reading in these last weeks of summer? If nothing else, I hope your lives keep you entertained.

Reading and Watching: My Summer Activities

It’s been about a month since my last all inclusive post about what pop culture I’m enjoying these days, so let me grace you with an abbreviated version of my current interests.

Movies — Mom and I are still going strong with our VHS viewing schedule this summer (though we haven’t watched anything in a few days, but I’m assuming we’ll start back tonight). We’ve covered more than half of the movies on the shelf, so I’m feeling good about our progress. In theaters, we’ve only seen four movies this summer: Spy, Inside Out, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Trainwreck. They’ve all been worthwhile experiences, though, so I can hardly ask for anything more.

Books — A few days ago I finished reading The Grapes of Wrath, which was my biggest reading goal of the summer, so that felt like quite an accomplishment. After finishing that, I did a quick reread of John Green’s Paper Towns since the movie is coming out this week (you can read my comments on the book here). Now that the beginning of my semester is looming closer, I’ve started some of my school reading with Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth, which I’m really enjoying so far. It’s satisfying to head back into academic territory without it feeling like a burden. Though I haven’t picked it up in more than a week, I’ve read just under half of the second book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber. I made myself leave it alone until I finished The Grapes of Wrath because I’d been spending too much time on it, and since then I’ve been concentrated on other things, and keep forgetting to go back (I realize this is a silly problem to complain about). The fact that it’s there for me to read is making me happy enough at this point, so I’ll eventually reward myself for completing my school reading by heading back to something I chose for my own reading pleasure.

TV — As per usual, this is the area where I’m really succeeding these days. Summer TV can be a big bore, but I’ve got several things on my plate this year that are keeping me happy. I’m keeping up with Teen Wolf and True Detective, both of which are shows I’d watched previous to this summer. Here’s hoping True Detective ends on a strong note. I felt like it was totally overhyped the first time around, so I’m glad the rest of the world is starting to see that in season two. I’m also still watching Hannibal, which has had a fairly lame season in my opinion, but the last episode and the preview for the final three are giving me hope it’ll end strong. Side note: I cannot STAND the recasting of Mason Verger for this season (so last week’s episode was pretty satisfying for me). In my mind, he was some weird version of Jim Carrey’s The Grinch, so good riddance.

As for new summer shows, I’m totally obsessed with Lifetime’s UnREAL after I marathoned the first six episodes last Monday. It’s just the right amount of funny, campy, silly and crazy, and the performances by Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer are wonderful. Plus it stars a member of the Harry Potter cast, so I have to love it. I’m also really enjoying MTV’s Scream, another crazy campy show that’s thoroughly entertaining. My roommate and I watched all four of the Scream movies fairly recently, and the show has enough of over-the-top quality that makes the movies so fun that it’s totally worth watching. And the pop culture references are top notch, so good job, people.

Finally, I’m still making good progress with streaming Frasier, undoubtedly my biggest undertaking of 2015. With long shows like this, I often watch something else to break it up a bit, but I haven’t started anything else yet, so we’ll see what happens there. I started season one on June 3, and as of today, I’m on episode 17 of season 5, so I think that’s pretty good progress. I wasn’t sure I’d finish the whole show before the end of 2015, but that prospect is looking brighter now.