2016 Reading List #23: Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I feel slightly ashamed that it’s the first of May and I’ve only completed 23 books this year. I guess I should preface that by saying I’m a fairly accomplished reader, but the need to teach freshman English and finish my MA thesis and take an oral exam kind of got in the way of my normal reading time. My lack of literature classes is also a player in this–no required reading means fewer books read, but freer time to spend.

Since finishing my thesis defense about 5 weeks ago, I’ve been working my way though Voyager, the third book in the Outlander series. I’ve hit the 500 page mark, but since the book caps out at 870, I’ve still got plenty to read. And since this is such a long book, I think it fair to supplement my reading with other things, which is why this post is even happening.

Since I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack repeatedly for months now, I figured preordering Hamilton: The Revolution was a smart idea. The book contains the show’s libretto accompanied by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s annotations and supplementary interviews and text detailing the preproduction process and insight into the show and the people who’ve made it happen.

I made an odd decision (not sure if I’d call it a mistake, but I was annoyed with myself) to send the book to my home address, where I wouldn’t be going for nearly 2 weeks, so the poor book lay untouched. Once I got home to it, though, we instantly bonded, and I set aside all other reading projects in favor of this one.

The book delivers everything you could ask for in terms of the behind-the-scenes knowledge of the show (it could only be more perfect if it was accompanied by a DVD of the full Broadway production). For whatever reason, I cried like every five minutes of reading. There are certain times when such a reaction is expected (like from the middle of Act Two to the curtain call), but I was oddly emotional for the whole experience.

And experience really is the right word for what this book offers. We don’t all have the luck (or money) to attend the hottest-ticketed show on Broadway, but offers like this one give a glimpse into the world of Hamilton. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’ll resume my enjoyment of the soundtrack, and continue to hope I’ll win the lottery and afford great seats to this show.


My life lately

It feels like years since I’ve updated, but part of that comes from the timing of the semester. Three weeks ago today, I defended my master’s thesis project (and passed!), though it somehow feels like that was really decades ago. Apart from some final copy editing, my thesis is DONE! I’m both thrilled and a little sad to say goodbye to this project. I have a strong sense I’ll return to it in the future (dare I say dissertation?), but I’m quite content to both physically and metaphorically put it on the shelf for now.

Since preparing for my defense and rigorously studying for my oral exam are no longer activities that occupy my days and nights, my time has felt suspiciously free. As a present to myself for my defense, I ordered Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, which was really the perfect treat to come home to. Reading for fun without feeling any guilt is one of the most wonderful feelings.

I’m also entering the final weeks of my first semester of teaching, though that seems ridiculous. Somehow I feel like the semester has just started, when in fact we’re three weeks from its conclusion. I will certainly be sad to see my first crop of students go (though I can’t say every moment of teaching and prepping are all that joyous).

So, to atone for being M.I.A. for a month, here’s my update of the pop culture I’m consuming these days. No one ever said being a teacher meant you couldn’t still enjoy copious amounts of television (and I think I’ve proven that).

Books — As mentioned above, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Voyager–though, at 870 pages, it isn’t what you’d call a quick read. I’m only now closing in on the halfway point in the book, but knowing that there are still several other books in the series to dive into means I’m hungry to keep going.

Before starting Voyager, I’d been reading John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, though starting a new book meant I sort of abandoned this one until finishing it last weekend. This was the third Steinbeck I’ve read (after Of Mice and Men in 2014 and The Grapes of Wrath in 2015) and very tonally different from the others–Cannery Row is a very place-oriented, descriptive novel, not a plotty one. It wasn’t my favorite, but it’s a book I see myself returning to later in life.

I’ve generally felt like I’ve been slacking on my 2016 reading list, though I’ve still read 22 books thus far this year. Depending on my pace with Voyager, I may work through another Arthur Miller play or something of that sort to speed up a bit and feel like I’m making better progress. I’ve also got Hamilton: The Revolution (also known as the Hamiltome) waiting on me at home. Though I’m regretting the decision to have it shipped there since I won’t see it until next weekend, the distance means I’m not diving straight into another book, so that’s probably a good thing.

Movies — My movie-watching pace has also slowed considerably (though I’ve currently seen 41 new-to-me movies this year, so I really shouldn’t be complaining). I’ve not seen anything very noteworthy either, though I did watch The Danish Girl last weekend. I liked it, but it makes sense to me that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. I’ll likely be spending a quiet weekend in, so this might be a good time to knock a few things off my Netflix and Amazon viewing lists.

Television — It would be fair to say that my movie-watching has been hindered by my TV-watching, because I’ve been doing more than my fair share. As far as current programming goes, I’ve been keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, The Last Man on Earth, Call the Midwife, Girls, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bates Motel, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Broad City, and Outlander (and, because I’m kind of an old woman, even Dancing with the Stars and Survivor). Since Girls, Broad City, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend all come to an end this week, my schedule will be a bit freer (though they’ll be replaced next week by Game of Thrones and Veep, so I guess things aren’t changing that much).

As for all these shows… I think The People vs. O.J. Simpson was a really terrific season of TV all around. I smell a well-deserved Emmy in Sarah Paulson’s future (though my ideal situation would feature a tie between Paulson and Kirsten Dunst) and hopefully the same treatment for the stellar Sterling K. Brown. I think Bates Motel is the best it’s been since season 1, and I kind of love the romance between Norma and Alex. I don’t think this is Broad City‘s best season, but there have been a couple standout episodes, including last week’s wonderful Mrs. Doubtfire homage. And OUTLANDER! There’s only been one episode so far in season 2, but I’m enthralled. I’ve rewatched bits of season 1 and can’t seem to get enough of this show lately, so I’m quite happy for its return.

Apart from what’s currently airing, I’ve also done a significant amount of side watching, including lots of Game of Thrones prep. This week I watched the Starz ballet miniseries Flesh and Bone, which was only okay. Lots of pretty dancing, melodramatic storylines, and mediocre acting. And just today (because I’m kind of terrible) I watched all of season 2 of Amazon’s Catastrophe, which I find very charming. Having met these characters last summer in a quick-moving first season, I was glad to see that season 2 developed them further into funny and likeable people (not to say they weren’t that way already). I’ve also watched the pilot episode of the new Starz series The Girlfriend Experience, which I think I’ll stick to since it’s getting good reviews. I didn’t have any particularly strong reactions to the pilot, but I’ll stick it out. And tomorrow’s release of season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix means my weekend will be just a little brighter (in a fairly literal way, considering Kimmy’s costuming).


In summary, I’ve been watching a lot of TV–though I swear I do other things too. What things are you reading and watching? I’m always up for additions to my ever-growing lists! 🙂


When the only things in life that matter are Hamilton and Manic Pixie Dream Girls

Hello, world.

It’s March. What? I haven’t written anything very substantial here since my Sundance reflection, but I can’t believe more than a month has gone by since then. Apparently teaching and writing a thesis require more of my attention than blogging.

Speaking of those things… yes, my life these days is about scrambling through the last bits of writing on my thesis (defense is March 24 and I’m currently sitting on 101 pages, no biggie) and teaching English to two classes of college freshmen. Both are at times infuriating and exhilarating. I’m incredibly thankful for a semester that allows me two things to focus on that inspire me, but boy, do I yearn for a day to just watch TV without feeling guilty.

Thankfully, I’m enjoying a bit more free time this week with spring break. Since I pride myself on my reading and watching skills, here’s a quick update on the things I’ve been enjoying lately.

Books–Because I’ve been preparing for my oral exam that comes with defending my thesis, lots of my reading this year has just been rereading. I’ve also done a pretty significant number of plays lately. I love reading plays anyway, but I think this choice is more representative of my short attention span as I start to worry about the other things I should be doing rather than recreational reading.

As for things I’ve really liked, I completely loved reading the Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay for my oral exam. I’ve never been a poetry reader, so the fact that I enjoyed this so much feels like real character development. I also really loved reading Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play ‘Night, Mother and definitely bawled my way through the final 10 pages when I finished it yesterday morning. I have plans to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go now, which I’ve already started, but I’m having a hard time concentrating with the other things floating in my head. Hopefully I’ll make more progress soon. As of today, I’m 20 books into 2016, so I think I’m doing okay regardless.

TV–Since finishing Pushing Daisies and season two of Transparent in February, I haven’t started a new streaming show (again, too many other things to be concerned with). I’m also in a happy place with the TV that’s currently airing–I’m keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, Girls, Last Man on Earth, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Broad City, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. The upcoming returns of Outlander, Veep, and Game of Thrones also have me ridiculously excited, so I’m hoping time moves a little quicker in April.

Movies–Starting the year at Sundance certainly helped my film-watching this year; I’ve already seen 36 new (to me) films so far. Nothing recently has been too exceptional except for The Witch, which is just so fun and weird you can’t help but enjoy it. I also rewatched Room last week after first seeing it in January and enjoyed it even more the second time. I’ve been thinking about it often since, and I think that says a lot about its quality.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m realizing that life has been pretty quiet for me lately–except when I’m blaring the Hamilton soundtrack in my car, which is often. If all goes well, I’ll be writing again in a few weeks, having finished my thesis (!!!) and enjoying the downward slope toward graduation.

See you soon!

Thoughts and Things

It’s officially that time of the semester when things get crazy. That reality might be especially true for grad students: in the coming weeks, I’ve got 5 books to read, 3 major papers to write, and final exams to take. Somehow, though, I’m feeling pretty good about it all (believe it or not, writing this post isn’t just a way to postpone my homework).

In fact, things have been exceptionally good lately. Sure, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to go to work or school, but I’m feeling fulfilled and challenged in all kinds of wonderful ways.

Here are some things that are bringing me joy these days. No surprise, but many of these things are pop culture-related.

  • Watching “Empire” has been a joy. My roommate and I still have 4 episodes left, but we’re obsessed. Who wouldn’t love Cookie Lyon?
  • As of Saturday, “Outlander” is back in my life and I am so very happy about it. It’s safe to say that the books will find their way onto my summer reading list.
  • I’ve got a great thesis advisor and a project I’m really excited and passionate about. I’ve barely started the work, but I’m feeling ready and motivated toward progress.
  • I got to watch Dreamgirls today and it was pretty invigorating.
  • My assigned school reading has provided me with a wonderfully diverse group of books I may have never approached on my own. I sped my way through Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart for the second time over the weekend, and I’m now close to completing Maxine Hong Kingston’s harrowing The Woman Warrior. Up next: John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. 
  • I get to write research papers on topics I care about and feel confident I can talk about for 20 pages. This is kind of lame, but it’s a relief.
  • Rewatching “Lost” has been a little treasure in my life. Why is this show so much smarter than me?
  • I’m joining my dad and stepmom in New York next month! Hopefully I’ll also get a chance to visit a few friends during my visit.
  • I’m in a writing workshop course that’s challenged me to write personal pieces, something I haven’t really done since high school (apart from keeping this blog, of course). It’s been a bit scary, but I think I might actually make a habit of it.
  • In June, my mom and I will be traveling to Austin, TX to attend the ATX TV Festival! I bought our tickets when the “Gilmore Girls” reunion panel was announced last fall, but as they continue to make announcements of the programming, I get more and more excited for the adventure.
  • I’m almost halfway done with grad school! What is happening?!
  • I spent a lovely, relaxing, spiritually-fulfilling Easter weekend at home with family and friends. I’m so thankful for my fourth anniversary as a Catholic, and attending Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday was the perfect source of inspiration for the coming weeks.

And now, for my biggest news. Last year about this time, I was finishing my undergraduate days and preparing to start grad school, hoping for an assistantship with the English program in which I am enrolled.Things didn’t work out as planned, but I ended up with another assistantship that’s been a gratifying experience.

Things are still improving. I’ve been offered an assistantship in the English department, which will not only provide better funding toward my education, but also give me the chance to teach two introductory English courses next spring! Getting to start my dream job a little early is both exciting and terrifying.

And now for the icing on the cake. As you probably know, I attended the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, an experience that has absolutely affected my life (in the most positive way). I’ve planned on returning to Sundance in 2016, particularly because it directly relates to my master’s thesis topic, and after I didn’t receive a fellowship that would provide partial funding for the excursion, I’ve been thinking about how I’ll budget to pay for the trip.

Now comes the good news: to make a long story short, I’ve been asked to serve as a teaching assistant for the 2016 Sundance course, so I’ll serve in a somewhat advisory capacity for the students attending. In exchange, all my expenses will be covered. I repeat: I am going to Sundance FOR FREE. I expect this is an opportunity that will never arise again, but it’s one that’s made me wake up with a smile on my face every day.

So if you’ve read this or if you’ve been in my life recently, I just want to say thanks. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for this life. If you’re feeling sad or stressed or bummed out, please let me know what I can do to return the favor. I’m in an especially “spread the love” kind of mood and the moment, and I want everyone in my life to feel as content as I do at this moment.


Gossip Girl

New York in December: The Magic Continues

One week ago, I returned from my most recent journey to New York. If you’re a Facebook friend or Instagram follower, you’ve probably already seen that I (once again) had an immensely successful adventure. It’s been a very long time since I’ve visited the city in winter, and it was my first time there with my friend and roommate, Ryan, so there was IMG_0770plenty of newness and excitement to enjoy. Here’s a quick(ish) rundown of all our shenanigans.

Monday, 12/15 — We arrived in Times Square Monday afternoon to leave our luggage with our friend Kaitlynn who was kind enough to let us stay with her during our trip. Monday was mostly spent wandering the area a bit, and we happened to walk past Rumer Willis on the street (not that that’s very exciting, but it happened). We had some unfortunate timing outside “The Late Show with David Letterman” and missed Emma Stone going in and leaving later, so that was a bit of a bummer. That night, we went back to Kaitlynn’s apartment in Queens and had some very enjoyable pizza.

Tuesday, 12/16 — Ryan and I left Kaitlynn’s and headed into Central Park for a while to enjoy the scenery. Since we knew Anna Kendrick was the guest on “The Late Show” Tuesday night and we’d seen how the stage door worked there the day before, we decided to make another attempt at it. On our walk, we bypassed Sting, who was carrying a guitar and looking very Sting-esque.

Our second day at “The Late Show” was much more successful, I’m happy to say. There was a small crowd gathered in the designated area across the street from the stage door, and we ended up standing with a a group of people calling themselves “graphers” who basically stalk celebrities to get signatures they can sell online. I’ve dealt with these people before (especially at Sundance), but I IMG_0815became weirdly interested in listening to them all talk. I smell a pop culture research paper! (Just kidding. I think.)

Anyway, we were also joined by an old woman with an insane voice who Ryan got stuck talking to. When Anna Kendrick’s car pulled up, she got out and posed for the paparazzi at the stage door for a while, during which time the woman next to Ryan screamed bloody murder. Ryan said she sounded like Anna was her long lost daughter. You’d have thought so. She did a lot of “ANNA! CROSS THE STREET!” and then screamed some profanities because a car momentarily blocked her view. Good news: Anna did cross the street and quickly signed a few things and came up to me. I asked if we could get a picture of the three of us, she grabbed my phone, and said, “oh, the three of us?!” and quickly snapped four photos on my phone before running back across the street. As you can tell from our photo, we’re basically a trio of friendship. The crazy woman came over to us after and when she learned that we’d gotten pictures, yelled some more profanities and walked away (#welcometonewyork).

After that thrilling moment, we decided to stalk outside the It’s Only a Play stage door since the show has a wonderful cast. We made a few nice friends there, and luckily saw every member of the cast enter, apart from Megan Mullally. Matthew Broderick came first and appeared generally wary of us all, like we might attack at any moment. Nathan Lane was next, and was rather scary and mean and I kind of tried to sink into the wall when he walked up. F. Murray Abraham dropped out of the sky, apparently, but was very nice to take a photo with someone and smiled in a way that was surprising to me. Stockard Channing drove up in a fancy car and has a fancy lady who escorts her fancy dog through the stage door. Rupert Grint also appeared out of nowhere and snuck in quickly, though I’m happy to have stood so close to him, if only for a moment. Here are some photos of the whole experience.

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To kill time, we went to Rockefeller Center where we could eat and sit down for a while, and apparently had really great timing because we walked through 30 Rock behind Brian Williams after finishing the news, so that was fun. We also made an effort at the  Cabaret stage door, but the show ended earlier than we’d thought and it was rainy, IMG_0933so things didn’t work out so well. Oddly enough, we also walked past Sting again, in basically the exact same place as we’d seen him earlier that day, so that was weird. Then we got to spend a bit of time with some of our other cool friends who are fancy and live in New York, so it was a happy night, despite the rain and somewhat failed attempt at Cabaret. 

Wednesday, 12/17 — It’s safe to say that Wednesday was most exciting because it was finally the day when we had some real plans for our lives. Since we had tickets to Cabaret that night, we decided to make the most of our stage door experience at the matinees in the afternoon. We walked past Cabaret first, but were told that Emma Stone and Alan Cumming had already gone in, so we went back to It’s Only a Play in the hopes that we could be more successful. Though we didn’t get any pictures, we did see Stockard Channing and Rupert Grint go in again, and I felt special because no one really seemed to realize who Rupert was (he was very incognito and covered his hair). There’s no proof, unfortunately, but I’d like to think we had a moment.

Then we were able to meet another of our friends for lunch, which was both a good way to catch up and a good way to pass our time since we didn’t really have plans for the day. By the time we were finished, we went back to the stage door at The Elephant Man, which I desperately want to see, but it couldn’t happen. Time was back on our side, though; we got there just as the stage door barricades were being set up in Schubert Alley and immediately staked our claim on a spot. After a short wait, Bradley Cooper camIMG_0888e out to sign autographs and take pictures. He had a very long battle with the zipper of his jacket that was rather entertaining to witness, and when he got to the people next to us, he had to ask a bodyguard for a new Sharpie and I laughed and looked into my eyes and smirked (I assume this counts as a proposal; wedding invitations to follow soon). WE HAD A MOMENT. When I asked for a picture of the three of us, he took my phone and took one photo, which didn’t exactly turn out so well, but hey, life happens. I’m actually pretty proud of our lame picture, and since it has Bradley Cooper in it, it’s still pretty important to my life.

That evening, we met up with Kaitlynn for a bit before going in to Cabaret. Unfortunately, Ryan and I weren’t able to sit together during the show, but we also got our tickets for $25 each, so it’s worth it. After having recently watched the movie (and not loving it), I was hoping to take more from the show, which I absolutely did. The stage production is both funnier and more tragic, ironically enough. Alan Cumming is fantastic, and I was so happy that Emma Stone was wonderful as well. It was well worth our money and time.

After the show, Ryan and I had a game plan made for our final attempt at the stage door. We got there as quickly as possible, and thankfully got a good spot without much fuss. Some of the supporting cast members came out and sIMG_0909igned, and in our wait for the stars, we watched Christie Brinkley and her daughter, Alexa Joel, talk with the guy at the stage door about going backstage. In case you’re wondering, Christie Brinkley is every bit as beautiful as you’d imagine, and based on her behavior, super nice as well.

Not long after, Emma Stone finally came out. Her body guards said she had somewhere to go so she wouldn’t be taking pictures with fans, but she signed for everyone. When she got to us, I congratulated her on her Golden Globe and SAG nominations and said that we loved Birdman, before I remembered to add that we also really loved Cabaret. She seemed genuinely thankful and gracious, and was very quiet and sweet as she made her way down the line.

Alan Cumming was equally kind and quiet (and very Scottish). I told him this was an IMG_0845iconic performance (to which he responded, “oh, bless you”), and he laughed and thanked Ryan when he said how much we love Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. We got to meet a few more of the supporting actors in the play before heading back to Kaitlynn’s apartment feeling quite successful.

Thursday, 12/18 — Thursday was our last day in New York, and I’m always kind of bad at knowing how to spend my final hours in the city. I knew I wanted to visit Taylor Swift’s apartment in Tribeca (because I’m a creepy stalker lady), so we made our way in that direction in search of a tall blonde with a cat and hopefully some good pizza for lunch. We weren’t entirely successful, but I did take a picture on steps outside Taylor’s apartment in true stalker fashion before we wandered around a bit. To combat the cold and our hunger, we settled on a quiet Italian restaurant for our last meal. Here are a few other pictures of our Tribeca adventure.

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We also visited a cute little bookshop before heading back to Times Square to say goodbye (and thank you!) to Kaitlynn. We must have timed things just right, because on our ride back, we ended up on the subway with Jane Krakowski, which was an exciting surprise. She caught Ryan and I looking at her and gave us a kind smile. After saying our goodbyes, we got back to Kaitlynn’s just in time to meet the car that took us to the airport. Overall, it was another wonderful few days spent in New York. Thanks to Ryan, Kaitlynn, Jana, Trip, Drew, and all our new celebrity friends for the perfect time!