Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What the fandom wants, the fandom doesn't always get


Nine years is a long time to pine for something. And once you're given the thing you've been pining for, it's impossible to not be disappointed in some way.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a case of fans getting what they asked for, if not what they wanted. At least not everything they wanted.

Obligatory spoiler warning.

I was one of those fans who went into Thanksgiving thinking, "I get to watch new Gilmore Girls episodes tonight!" Even my family was on board, happily willing to replace our traditional Thanksgiving weekend Lord of the Rings marathon with Gilmore Girls (the revival graciously gave us two—that I remember—LOTR references as consolation). Watching "Winter" for the first time was, to steal a word from Kevin Porter of the Gilmore Guys, transcendent. The first 15 minutes or so felt forced, but once I got over the jarring sense of being back in uncharted Gilmore territory, that feeling I had yearned for for so long settled in: I was back in Stars Hollow. Whatever discontent was in store, that hour of warm fuzzies would make it all worth it.

I was familiar enough with Amy Sherman-Palladino's writing style to expect some frustration to go along with the delight. ASP isn't one to give us cake without serving it with a side of prunes.

The revival has its beautiful moments, some of the best of the entire series. Everything involving Emily is flawless (and Lorelai, too, for the most part). Richard's death was handled beautifully. Some of my favorite Kirk moments ever happened in these new episodes, and my stance on Jess went from Team Still Harboring Resentment Toward Season 2/3 Jess but He's Probably Still Better than Logan to Team Jess Is Too Good for Rory—Stay Far Away and Marry Someone Decent Like Mandy Moore.

The revival also has its problems, the most unforgivable being time. The whole point of the revival is to finally see the ending ASP had envisioned, but with nine years between the season 7 finale and "Winter," the story ASP has been harboring all these years doesn't quite work. Everyone is in the exact place we left them in, which is irritating. The actors all look exactly the same and it would have worked fine to only jump forward a few years, but instead we're supposed to believe that Luke and Lorelai waited nine years to have the "fresh kid" conversation and to get married just so we could see it, that Rory would still be trying to figure out how to adult even though she's in her freakin' 30s. (Netflix's lack of episode length restrictions also stuck us with time-wasters like the Stars Hollow Musical and another dumb Life and Death Brigade escapade.)

But what I think fans wanted more than anything was this: closure. Thanks to Rory being the Absolute Worst and those infamous final four words (which were, to Alexi Bledel's credit, delivered perfectly), that is exactly what we didn't get.

From a writing standpoint, I love it. The best writing always has divisive characters, and Rory's journey works thematically. But as a fan, I just wanted things wrapped up in a semi-neat bow. In this post-GG revival world, I feel like I'm right back where I started.

Which was probably ASP's evil plan all along.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

All about Newt

The main reason I started this blog was so I'd have a medium to dump and organize my thoughts when my journal just wasn't cutting it. But sometimes I get lazy and expect those thoughts to go away of their own accord, which rarely works, and often means they start invading my dreams. For example, the last couple of days I've dreamed about Fantastic Beasts and OMG NEWT SCAMANDER IS ADORABLE AND EDDIE REDMAYNE IS BRILLIANT. I kid you not, these dreams are shouty all-caps dreams. On repeat.

I get it, brain; you loved Fantastic Beasts, and you won't be silenced until I talk about why.

My excitement for the new Gilmore Girls episodes has overshadowed everything else in my life lately, so I went to the movie on opening weekend more out of Harry Potter loyalty than actual excitement. These days the Harry Potter franchise just lets me down, so my expectations weren't high.

I should go into every movie like this; it's almost a guarantee that I'll be pleasantly surprised. The pleasant surprise was delightful, and brought back a little bit of that feeling I wish I could bottle up of reading a Harry Potter book for the first time. I loved not knowing what was going to happen, and I loved not having a book to compare it to. The only "that's not how I imagined it" moment was with the niffler—I imagined them to be fluffier and less possum-like. It was freeing and wonderful experiencing a J.K. Rowling creation onscreen first. I was able to enjoy this film in ways I just wasn't able to experience the eight Harry Potter movies, no matter how excited I was for them.

But that's all secondary to Newt Scamander himself. I had heard beforehand from a few different sources that Eddie Redmayne "underacted" and was too dull to do a JKR hero justice.

I COULD NOT DISAGREE MORE. (Yes, those all-caps were necessary.)


Because I know this guy. He avoids eye contact, like my brother does. He seems to hide behind the hair that falls over one side of his face, kind of like my sister does with her jackets. He is most at ease when he's doing what he's good at but clearly isn't in his element when he's around people (again, like my brother). He develops close bonds with a select number of people and doesn't really need anybody else, like me.

He doesn't just feel familiar; I understood him right away, though it took me a while to put my finger on why. This is a guy cut from the same cloth as my people—shy, introverted, perhaps with some Asperger's tendencies—but portrayed in a real, natural way rather than as an obvious caricature anyone can pick up on immediately. Newt is just Newt, and every acting choice Eddie Redmayne makes feeds into that. (He's a genius, I tell you. Give him a raise.) Behind his uncharismatic outside demeanor is a lovable, endlessly interesting soul that is so much more than his social awkwardness and unique talents. I cannot stress enough how great it is to root for a hero who, without his case of magical creatures, would be living silently and invisibly among us.

I may not make it until the DVD comes out to watch this movie again. And I can assure you I'll be properly excited for the next movie.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

To the people upstairs

Are we allowed to talk about anything besides the election yet?

Good, because there's another issue I'd like to discuss. It involves a class of people that are almost universally despised: upstairs neighbors.

Apartment dwelling is a trial for everyone involved. Together we deal with ridiculous fees, other people's pets, and miscreants who are constantly parking in our reserved parking spots. Any of these can cause murderous rage on the best of days, but for the most part, we can all agree that these things are horrible and then move on with our lives.

Not so with upstairs neighbors. They are far worse than the monthly reminder that apartment owners are money grubbers and the existence of residents who insist on having pets but who refuse to clean up after them.

If you're lucky enough to share a ceiling with someone who is capable of walking without throwing their weight around like an 800-pound gorilla, count yourself lucky. You're even more fortunate if your blessed neighbors are never home.

But at some point, we all have to deal with the worst kind of apartment dweller: the kind who has 12 children hyped up on sugar. The kind who has a dog that is trained to bark every 37 seconds when you're trying to fall asleep. The kind who practices bowling during all hours of the day.

You'd think these people would be more understanding of the noise coming from your apartment, seeing as how they're the ones trying to hide a herd of elephants under their bed. I mean, it wouldn't bode well for them if I reported that to management.

But it turns out I'm extremely mistaken. I, of course, am the worse offender when I have the TV on at a volume I can comfortably hear it. My fire alarm goes off whenever I open the oven, so, naturally, I deserve to go to jail. And soothing exercises like playing the piano? Well I can just forget about that—that's grounds for execution.

But never fear; they can't break me. The Christmas music you heard me playing at 9:45 p.m.? That's only the beginning of my revenge, friends. You just keep moving furniture around at 2:00 in the morning. Two people can play this game.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Roommates

Standing on Middle-Aged Adult's doorstep has me in a reflective mood these days. My trial run at adulthood is about to expire, and it's forced me to evaluate my progress. Have I met expectations? Will the Powers that Be recommend me for a promotion to "real" adulthood, scratching off the word "young" before my title? 

Perhaps the most important question of all: did I make the most of the last of my youth?

No doubt these questions are inspired in part by the end-of-year evaluations that are coming up at work, but it's also the first time I've entered another decade while being in a position to do a useful reflection on it. When I turned 10, I had fun telling people I was a decade old for a few weeks, but that wore off quickly and I moved on with my life. At age 20 I was still clinging to my teenage years—the years when I knew everything—and was too flustered to look too far forward or backward. 

But at 10.75 months away from 30, I have some thoughts. So for the next several months, I'm going to document some of the pearls of wisdom I've picked up during my 20s. It's been a formative decade, with unique experiences I think are worth getting down on paper in a way they haven't been recorded yet. (You know, because I'm not doing enough to document my life. And because people just can't get enough of millennials pontificating on their barely lived lives.)

I figured I'd start with a pretty universally 20s experience: roommates.

Let me just get this out of the way right now—most of my roommates were good ones. (Trust me—if you're reading this, you were not one of the bad roommates.) 

Most photoshoots end in pyramid attempts.

Counting both sisters who lived with me away from our parents' house, I've lived with 12 different girls. Those girls came to Utah from seven different states, bringing their own traditions, expectations, and emotional baggage. We were all LDS, which gave us a huge commonality to start from, but blending that many personalities—often with no prior roommate experience to make it easier—was always a challenge.

Amber (the person taking the picture) made us these aprons for Christmas, and we loved them so much we wore them to ward prayer. Yay for roommate bonding! On a completely unrelated note, I miss those pants I'm wearing. They were so comfortable.

Of course, I didn't understand the importance of most of these roommate-melding tips until after I learned the hard way, but I picked up some invaluable roommate rules to live by as the years went by (many of which, I confess, I learned by breaking):
  1. Establish right away how you're going to handle chores, from who buys the milk to when the dishes will get done. Most roommate disputes will be eliminated if you follow this simple guideline.
  2. Respect each others' boundaries. Especially in college, you're probably living in a space that is nowhere near big enough to handle you, your dreams, and several other people, and the only way to survive is to respect each others' space. If someone doesn't want you to eat their brownies, don't eat their brownies. If someone has to go to bed early because they're one of the poor unfortunate souls with a 4:00 a.m. toilet-cleaning job, keep it down after 10:00 p.m. If you have a boyfriend, remember that he still isn't your roommate and shouldn't always get couch and TV priority over those actually paying the rent.
  3. Do fun things with each other, but don't forget to establish relationships with people outside your home, too.
I didn't have that many friends in high school, so some of my college roommate experiences were a shy girl's dream come true: staying up late talking about boys, always having someone to sit by at church, having adventurous people in your life who force you to try new things. At times I put way too much pressure on myself to be as comfortable around my roommates as I was around my sisters, and I never truly nailed that skill, but I learned enough to start knocking down those huge social barriers I had been hiding behind for most of my life.

Jumping pictures are a great way to loosen up.

It was also hard. Living in close quarters with the combined pressure of school, work, and a host of new adult responsibilities is hard on anybody, but doing this without having the solitude I needed was the hardest thing for me. It's the reason I had an emotional breakdown every semester—I could pretty much count on it happening either the first week of school or about three-quarters of the way through the semester. My car became a sacred space during that time; it allowed me to escape to Elk Ridge whenever I needed to and provided privacy when I couldn't get it anywhere else.

I was (am) a complete nerd who genuinely enjoys doing homework and takes "candid" pictures of myself when I'm having a good hair day.

I voluntarily put an end to the roommate phase of my life several years ago, but there are things I wish I had done differently. I wish I had gone to more football games. Gotten into college basketball when I was still a fellow student of Jimmer's. Spent less time hiding in my room. Tried harder at dating while I still had spies to help me and a humongous selection of dateable guys to choose from. Worked harder to repair awkward and contentious (not to mention stupid) situations. That I had spent less time looking forward to the day I would be roommate-free and more time appreciating how special the roommate experience is.

Some experiences are best shared with other starving college students. Such as gathering up your spare change and taking a quick walk in the snow so you can bask in the joy of 7-11 hot chocolate and Dunford donuts.

If I'm being entirely honest, the roommate saga of my life is pretty evenly split between the good and the bad. But the good memories mean so much more to me; I don't think about the hard times much anymore. It's become almost a mystical part of my past, a place where it was normal for people to knock on our door at 11:50 p.m., where Hamburger Helper was a feast for kings, when hang-outs seamlessly turned into dance parties, when grocery shopping and attending a singles ward was an adventure. 

Most of my roommate experiences ended in marriage. Also, this picture is proof that I could never be an actor/model; if someone tells me to look at these people I barely know (minus the woman in white) and giggle, the best I can manage is a "This is the stupidest thing ever" face. Which masks the "I want to kill you for making me do this" face.

I look back on those years fondly, so much so that sometimes I almost wish I could live in that world again, where roommates are your family and everything is fresh and new.

All was right in the world on this day.

But, I'm pretty happy where I'm at.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gilmore Girls: Prediction time

Whoever is running the marketing campaign for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life should get a giant raise. They could have announced the new episodes via an article on KSL and shoe-horned them into a one-week timeframe on Netflix with horrible streaming, and I would have gone out of my way to watch the girls in action again. I didn't need anything beyond the official "It's happening!" announcement to get me watching.

Netflix knew they were catering to a rabid fanbase, but they didn't settle for the typical, run-of-the-mill marketing (though there was still plenty of that). They hired Kirk to summarize each season in a series of two-minute videos. They launched a Stars Hollow website (run by Tayler Doose, paid for in part by an ad placed by Kirk, of course.) They turned 200 cafes in the US and Canada into Luke's Diner for a day.

I wasn't too far from one of the locations and happily would have stood in that two-hour line for something handed to me by a grumpy employee clad in flannel and backward baseball cap if I didn't like my job. So I had to settle for taking a quick selfie, not even managing to capture the authentic Luke's Diner sign. My selfie skills leave much to be desired. But, look—clouds!

All this before they released the trailer.



Let's just say, I've never been so excited for Black Friday.

Tragically, that's still a month away. I'm afraid I'll have to bore you with some fangirling as I finish out the last bit of this nine-year wait.

Prediction time!

  • Let's get this one out of the way—Rory will pick Jess. (I'm still undecided which boy team I'm on, but I always got the impression that Amy Sherman-Palladino meant Rory and Jess to end up together.)
  • And this one—Luke and Lorelai will get married. (This is the only thing that will devastate me if it doesn't pan out.)
  • Sookie will be on some sort of cooking show that forces her to take time away from the inn.
  • Dean will be happily married to someone nice, Jess will be doing something unconventional—dropping in to see Luke occasionally—and Logan will still be a rich, charming jerk.
  • Emily will have a meltdown that will be both devastating and comedic.
  • Something bad will happen on June 3.
  • Kirk will open a cat store and call it Kirk's. Or decide to become a maid (that could explain the Friday Night Dinner appearance).
  • Lane's dad will continue to be a mystery. And one of Lane's kids will follow in his grandma's footsteps and be a Seventh-day Adventist. The other will rebel and become a Mormon. (Why not?)
  • The Gilmore Guys will get more than just a cameo, preferably a quick scene where they're confusedly discussing someone's fashion choices as the girls walk by. 
  • Paris will run for Senate. Or be Hillary Clinton's right-hand woman.
  • One of the crazy town functions will include a pig auction. Kirk's idea.
  • The last four words will be . . . something no one's guessed yet.

I need to think about something else now. Like how I'm going to find the time to listen to all of seasons 5–7 of the Gilmore Guys podcast in the next 31 days. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Car #3

I've never cared about cars much, aside from the essential function they serve of getting you places.

That is, I don't care about other people's cars; I've always been rather attached to mine.

I bought my first one at age 16, right after my sophomore year of high school ended. It was my favorite color and had a sun roof. It was the car that necessitated my learning how to drive a stick shift. It was also insane. After four years of dealing with its quirks and trying to explain its weird problems to people, I threw the white flag and decided to get rid of it.

This was a 1997 Volkswagon Golf. I can just see my future kids/grandkids exclaiming in awe, "Your first car wasn't even made in this century?"

So I moved on. Car #2 was also a manual, the unique shade of blue that changes colors depending on the lighting, still had a tape player, and wasn't nearly as unique as Car #1. I missed having a car with a personality at first, but I soon came to appreciate it for its reliability. Aside from a few expensive repairs during times in my life when I had no money to spare, it was a wonderfully boring car. I planned on driving that thing as long as it would let me.

And then one beautiful morning in September, this happened:

So long, 2003 Hyundai Elantra. No humans were harmed in the totaling of this vehicle (aside from some wicked whiplash the next day and a small burn on my thumb from when my airbag went off).

Totaling your car sucks, but once I got over the shock of it I started to realize it might be a good thing. It needed new tires and I was about ready to replace it anyway—plus, I didn't expect to get much out of it because despite its reliability, it was worthless by car standards.

Still, I felt guilty leaving it at the junkyard after I had scoured the car for my belongings, leaving it there all smashed up and filthy. It deserved a better end, perhaps at a comfy retirement home for cars.

But as soon as I found out how much State Farm would give me for my totaled car, I didn't waste any time buying Car #3. Only this time it was an entirely new experience, because I'm no longer a teenager or a starving student in college—I didn't have to settle for the cheapest car in the lot. I could splurge on cool features, and finally get a car with a built-in iPod USB port so I would never have to do without my favorite invention again.

A mere hours later, I drove away from the dealership in my brand-spanking new car with 41 miles on it, testing out the Bluetooth car function on my mom.

Introducing my 2017 Hyundai Elantra. I've always wanted a red car, despite its unfortunate connection to a certain rival school.

It was then that I finally understood why we have this commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." I've never had a reason to be proud of the cars I drove aside from the pride of ownership, but I'm dang proud of this one. It's shiny and red, no one has ever driven it before, and it has bells and whistles. It's unexpectedly stressful driving it because I've never driven something so perfect before. I think I'll actually be relieved when it gets its first scratch—no more pressure to keep the car perfect.

In addition to bringing about the need to repent of idol worshipping, this car also made me feel a bit like an old codger. I always feel a little guilty letting my obsolete things go, so I cling to them long past the point of sense. Which has only made upgrading to a car that is 14 years newer than the previous one that much more jarring.

For one, it's an automatic, because manuals are apparently pretty much extinct now (I'm still a little bummed about that). I'd been driving my mom's car for about a week so I already had some time to reacquaint myself with the modern world, but it takes time to override 12+ years of muscle memory. I still have the occasional moment of panic when I'm in a hurry and try to turn the car off without putting it in park or try to push in the clutch only to find air, but I'm confident that those instincts will soon be killed off by convenience. It's also strange to have voice commands, a camera that shows what's behind you when you're backing up (I still don't trust it), and a remote lock and unlock function. You know, the kind of stuff people in movies use (and everyone who's bought a car in the last five years). It's weird being on their level now.

But the great thing (at least to me) about buying a new car is that you get to enjoy having the new and hip features for a while, but technology will soon outpace you and you'll once again be the one with the charming, outdated thing. By the time I'm done with this car, I'll probably be the only one still driving on the ground—because everyone else will have flying cars, of course. (Or at the very least, self-driving cars.)

Until then, I'll be over here, trying not to break the second commandment.

Monday, October 3, 2016

9 thoughts a stick-shift driver has while driving an automatic

Before getting into the car: This is going to be so easy. Anyone who can reach the pedals can drive an automatic.

Starting the car: Shoving your left foot into the ground won't help the car start.

Turning the car off: Repeat to yourself before turning the car off: "Put the car in park first. Put the car in park first. Put the car in park first."

Driving at a consistent speed: How do I control my speed in this thing? [Uses cruise control whenever possible, including in-town driving.]

Turning: Why can't I find the shifter?!? [Attempts to grab the air.]

Slowing down: What, the only way to slow down is to hit the brakes? How boring.

In a traffic jam: Moving your foot from the gas pedal to the brake over and over again is about as annoying as shifting over and over again.

Stopped on a hill: I'm going to take my foot off the brake and just sit here. Because I can.

Stopped at a traffic light/stop sign: Repeat while the light is red: "Lifting your foot off the brake pedal even just a little will cause the car to move forward."