Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tragicomic: The "Fun" Way to Talk About Mental Disorders

And so we meet again, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. In the last two years, I have read this comic about family disfunction three times due to one teacher assigning it ever semester I have had her. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the book... well the first and third time at least. It is a hilariously morbid autobiography of Bechdel and her rocky relationship with her father.  

What interested me the third time around, however, had little to do with her father. What caught my eye was a section where Bechdel explained her childhood battle with OCD. It brought to light a serious condition that I had little exposure to in a funny but strangely serious way. 

Bechdel uses the term "tragicomic" in the title of her book to show her paradoxical method of explaining things that would be too uncomfortable to spell out in a more serious term. It actually reminded me of another Allie who used her comic in a similar way to reveal to her audience the complicated experience of depression.

Allie Brosh's half comic/half blog Hyperbole and A Half has been a large influence on the internet, even inspiring the "DO ALL THE THINGS" meme. As she was working on a book, she fell into a deep depression that halted the process. To explain the delay to her fans, she posted Adventures into Depression. A year and a half later, she felt the need to write a second post, Depression: Part Two to better clarify her condition, something she felt people had too little awareness.

Both pieces have the same feel of Bechdel's work, being so tragic it somehow becomes weirdly funny. This use of humor allows the reader to be masked from the uncomfortableness of the subject matter, which allows Brosh to demystify depression in a way that actually gets through to people. 

Mental disorders are complicated subject matter that involve many misunderstandings and lack of awareness. It is a human tendency to shy away from pain and hurt, making it hard for people who do suffer from these conditions to explain themselves to other people. Both Alison Bechdel and Allie Brosh have figured out a formula for making these painful subjects easier to swallow. Make them laugh, then make them think.

I'm curious, has anyone else found another book that helped them understand something that is usually too uncomfortable to talk about plainly? Let me know in comments below.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Interview the Musical: Tips For Dancing Through the Interview Process

When I heard the word "Mock Interview" in my Literary Citizenship class, I wished I had a turtle shell to retreat to. It seemed to real world related, so naturally I looked towards musicals to make something serious seem less daunting.

Musicals have always had a powerful affect on me by presenting the hard facts of life through singing and dancing. So, after all was said and done, I decided to turn my experience and tips into a musical to make the whole process seem more manageable. 

1. Act I: Part of Your World (Research)

"What would I give if I could live out of these waters"

Do your research people. If you want to be part of their company, you need to know everything about that "world" you are asking to join. If you don't know "what's a fire" or "why it, what's the word, burns" you best look that up before you walk into the room. 

2. Act II: "I Feel Pretty" (Suiting Up)

"I feel charming, oh so charming. It's alarming how charming I feel!"

This is probably the most important part of your pre-interview process. When you go, you need to "feel pretty." Dress to the nines, people, and be your fabulous selves. Look sleek, sophisticated, put together, but allow for a pop of your personality. Just a few practical tips:

Fake it till you make it, right?
1. Wear your outfit before your interview to make sure you work the kinks of how it sits on you and how you feel in it.
2. Shoes can really make or break your strut, so be extra careful with your selection.
3. An interview is not a time to "debut" anything new. This goes especially for haircuts or fashion choices you are trying out. You need to be comfortable to be confident. So be bold, but only in a ways that you've rocked before.

P.S. Appearance is only a quarter of the battle. Knowing your worth and talents is crucial to being able to talk about yourself. So know how you are "pretty" and own it.

Act III: "Let it Go" (Calming Your Tapping Feet)

"It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through."

Is it possible that you could have done more to prepare? More than likely. Dwelling on that in the lobby as your waiting for your name to be called is not the time to be thinking that. When you are going to your interview or waiting for it to begin, accept what you have done. Stop quizzing yourself and regretting what you didn't do. Either you are prepared or you're not, so don't trip yourself up on the things you do know. 

Act IV: "Human" (The Performance)

"Sometimes I get nervous, when I see an open door."

The question of this number, "Are we Human or are we Dancer?", is an important one when you are in the interview. In other words, are you a person or a performer. Yes you are selling yourself in this process, but that merely means showing off your good quality. It does not mean promising features that are not there. 

One of the comments I received when I did my mock interview is that employers love when their candidates are self-aware. Be honest with these people and don't be afraid to be human around them. You can even admit mistakes as long as you show how they have formed you. This will make the conversation seem natural and will even put you at ease.  

Act V: "Make My Dreams Come True" (Thank You's and Victory)

"What I want you've got, and it might be hard to handle"

Hopefully you can prance out of that interview like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer. Afterwards, however, whether it's a victory dance or a face plant, you need to send a thank you note/email to the person who interviewed you. 

But as Mark O' Toole says in his article "Congratulations Graduate! 11 Reasons Why I Will Never Hire You",  use this note to your advantage. Show them how much this experience has affected your desire for the job and reaffirm why you are the best. Let it leave a lasting impression and end your interview process on a good note!

These are the major tips I got from my interview experience and the playlist of how I hope future (real) interviews will go.

I'm curious, do any other musical numbers come to mind when you guys think of your past interviewing experiences? Let me know in comments what I should add to the playlist.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

7 Reasons to Drink Tea

It baffles me that Americans are so slow on the tea loving thing that seems to be going on with the rest of the world. Perhaps we're still feeling the after affects of the Boston Tea party, but come on guys, it is second most consumed drink after water. In the world. We can let bygones be bygones.

Surprisingly though, I do believe our love for the leafy liquid is growing, for which I am grateful. Over half of Americans drink tea and though 85% of that tea is ice, I'll take progress where I can get it.

Part of the fun of tea is less the drink and more the classy cups and accessories the drink requires. So if I cannot convince you with these fancy knick knacks, I do not know what will.

1.   Look at him. How can you say no?

2. What if we made you laugh with a pun?

3. What about two of them? Is that any punnier?

4. What if you didn't have to worry about it over seeping?

5. Or if this guy seeps it for you?

6. We'll even throw in a cookie.

7. Okay, now that I have successfully  made my case, you can have tea all day, everyday!

This is not even half the fancy that I could have shown you. There are tea cups, tea kettles, and tea diffusers ranging from punny (we tea lover love our puns) to pieces of art. Tea is a culture as well as a drink, that brings classy people together to simply be classy. 

For more tea fun, check out my pin board full of tea advice and more tea paraphernalia.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

From Book Lover to Book Utilitarian: The Shameful Descent

Only as an English major is reading 120 pages of a book a "relief" from your workload, what with twenty paged finals. This semester, however, even that isn't much of a vacation when five of your classes assign the same amount of reading. (Disclosure: I love my major and do not believe my teachers are asking too terribly much of me... at least, not individually).

I began to wonder just how many books I have read this semester already and decided to pull together all the required reading I had in my room and make a nice little stack. The picture below does not even include books borrowed from the library and works found online, but in total I have read twenty-one complete works, as well as snippets and chapters from other books and articles. In two months. 

Some of the books I've read so far this year
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, now that I've done the math, I'm a little proud of being able to pull such a feat. That does not include the three or four books I've read for the fun of it either. Human beings are capable of absorbing and storing a truly impressive amount of information, a fact of which I believe we should be awed. 

But before I could pat myself on the back I realized that my attempts are, in reality, very humble. Before the Internet age people would spend hours of reading and would devour libraries of books. Even today we have people such as Louise Brown (pictured below) reading massive amounts of text.

My newest hero ( full story at this Link)

This super reader reads 12 books a week (leaving my"impressive" reading load in the dust in just two weeks). She is currently in her nineties and has burrowed over 25,ooo books from her library. That is super human. And this is just in a 60 year period! That is only 2/3 of her life people! She's been reading since she was five, so Lord knows how many books she's actually read in her life. This woman is dedication incarnate. 

The most mind boggling part of this story is that she is doing this for no other reason than she likes to read. I mean, my 21 books boost my GPA and get my a bachelors degree. And to be honest, I've only enjoyed a small fraction of those books (Jane Austen taking up the majority of that minority). Given the choice, I probably would have put them down if I didn't have a quiz or awkward silence in class discussion to spurs me forward. 

The question becomes what separates the book utilitarians from the book lovers? Many intellectuals read, but not for the exercise in of itself. It is the difference between a person running to stay in shape and running to feel the breeze in their face. One is happiest when it's over, the other happiest while it occurs.  

College and schooling can turn former book lovers to the other camp if they are not careful. We skim because it's three in the morning and the coffee is gone. We skip reading if we know that the professor will accept our BS. Think about it though. We are getting credit to do something that we would do anyways. Why aren't we more excited? I've realized that I don't want to use books anymore and I don't want to make them work for me. I want to enjoy it once more and maybe enjoy my major a little more in the process.

So out of curiosity, can anyone top my 21 books? Let me know in the comments if you can figure out the math.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fandoms and Literature

If I had to guess my spirit animal, I would have to say it is a bookworm, tunneling through literature as if my life (as well as my major and GPA) depended on it. I never choose the bookworm life, it just crawled into my heart and decided to make a home. And I know I am not the only one infected. Many "suffer", with symptom ranging from lack of sleep to abrupt squealing when passing a bookstore. He's a needy little bugger, but we love him all the same. 

I imagine he looks a little like this little guy here:
(check out the artist at bookworm)

Before the internet, bookworms burrowed underground, with hardly an interaction with others of our kind. Sure, we all hoped that the subject might be brought up in conversation so that we can finally find somebody to freak out about the cliff hanger ending of "so and so" book and how author "what's his face" was really dragging their feet about coming out with the sequel, but it was a much rarer occurrence than any of us would have liked.

And then... the sweet glory of the Internet come into our lives, drenching the soil we thrived in and calling us to the surface. Yes, there were fan clubs for books before, but nothing like this. Nothing like the endless scrolls on Tumblr or the pages of fanart on Deviant Art. No volumes of fan fiction that the Library of Alexandria would be hard pressed to find room for. No wiki pages to find out what your favorite character's shoe size is. We have united and, despite our tendency towards an introverted nature, have talked and worked together towards a common good. 

Source: http://www.fandomthemovie.com/

Our collective passion has brought reading to the forefront of the public's mind, making disciples of all nations as if it were the next major religion. This is especially true when it comes to cinema. While Hollywood has always loved to make book adaptations, never at such a rate as they are now. They know its big money if they do it correctly (though also a potential mob if they mess it up, but what's business without a little risk?) People do not see reading so much as countercultural anymore because if you don't know Harry Potter, you are basically baffled by half of the memes on the Internet. 

The bookworms enthusiasm is contagious, and boy do we like to share. This sharing and general excitement for books is not only fun for the readers, but also the writers. Sure, authors used to get letters in the mail about their work, but to see their audience hang on their every tweet is, creepy at times, but almost always flattering. But more than just a boost to their ego, they get to see how their work sits and expands in the minds of their readers. They see their universe expanded to nooks and crannies they never imagined.       

Case and Point ^
(Check it out if you haven't at www.pottermore.com ) 

The power of the fandom is redefining books as we know it. While a story used to be set in print, just to be absorbed and placed back on a shelf, they now continue and grow as if half of the pages had been left blank just for the occasion. It's a fun time to be a reader and an experimental (and admittedly scary) time to be a writer, but possibly a golden age to be literate. 

So I'm curious to know, what book fandoms do you belong to? What is the craziest thing you've ever done/created in the name of that fandom?

For more on Fandoms, check out these links. 

To study up on the lingo, consider this dictionary:


To read more about fandoms, check out this book:
Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World

To join or explore book fandoms visit this website:


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Entering the Game

Twitter confounds me, Instagram is as uncharted as Mars, and, in general, I converse with my computer much the same way your grandmother might with hers. (It is a rather unagreeable machine that refuses to bend to my will.) The only difference between your grandmother and me is the fact that I don't have the generation gap to excuse my ignorance. 

I've brushed off learning these sorts of things in the name of humility. "I will only give into the temptations of vanity if I allow myself to be allured by the neon lights of social media," said I for most of my two decades of life. Well, that might still happen, but only if I let it. I could become just another duck faced self-promoter or I could learn to use the media for some semblance of good. As Mr. Rodger once said in a interview with CNN, "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen." Instead of being afraid of the ugliness these forms of media lend themselves to, perhaps I should attempt, like Mr. Rodger, to join the already positive forces that have come out of the new technology. Whether I'll be successful or not is up in the air, but I can sure try my darn-diddly hardest. 

The problem comes from the fact that, because I resisted for so long, I am hopelessly lost as to how to play the game called "The Internet." For this reason, I am currently taking a class about Literary Citizenship, which will hopefully teach me how to use social media in a way that builds up people in literary communities for mutual benefits. Perhaps we can rediscover the good old days when the internet was a platform of sharing, only this time instead of data, it can be ideas, emotions, and lives. I'm excited to see what this class can teach me and curious to see where that knowledge can take me.