Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Confession

I watch The Bachelor (& The Bachelorette & yep, even--especially?--Bachelor in Paradise). And I have a few thoughts.

  1. I enjoy these shows because I love characters and storytelling. It's like watching a soap opera, but with real world implications (even if the world of the show is anything but real).
  2. After tonight's announcement of our newest Bachelor, Nick Viall, it's so easy to see how integral storytelling and editing are to this show. This appeals to the writer in me. Let me explain using Nick as my example:
In 2014, Nick was on The Bachelorette. He dated a woman named Andi. He dated her so hard, in fact, that he was ready to propose at the end of it all. Instead, Andi dumped him for Josh, a man Nick had been competing with the entire season. Nick later revealed certain things on live television that didn't help his image and he became Public Enemy #1 of Bachelor Nation.

Another contestant on Andi's season, Chris, became the Bachelor. And, as these things go, a contestant Chris eventually dumped, Kaitlyn, followed as Bachelorette. Kaitlyn dated a group of men that soon included...Nick. He joined Kaitlyn's season late, citing a pre-show connection with her, and not wanting to regret letting her get away. The romantics swooned at his persistence. The haters scoffed at his ploy for attention. The TV-lovers popped another bag of popcorn and settled in for the entertainment.

Nick also dated Kaitlyn to the point of a proposal. He made it all the way again, only to (again) be dumped. On television. And passed over for a dude with some seriously great hair (love you, Shawn B). He remained a villain, for the "sneaky" way he came on the show (mid-season) and amidst accusations of "using the show" to make some sort of public comeback, instead of to find love. And because of his "past" with Andi.

One of Kaitlyn's exes, Ben, became the Bachelor and his runner-up, Jo Jo took her turn as Bachelorette. Bachelor Nation didn't hear or see much of Nick, except in lists of top Bachelor Villains and as one of Andi's exes in her tell-all, It's Not Okay. Then came Summer 2016, and the third season of Bachelor in Paradise.

Nick has been a breath of fresh air on BiP 3. His commentary is spot on: he says what we're all thinking and he neither sugar coats nor goes overboard with the drama. He's the sarcastic guy in class we all want to befriend. Early on in the season he was (again) at odds with his old nemesis, Josh (who, spoilers, didn't stay with Andi & is also looking for "love" on BiP), but in all altercations Nick comes across as down-to-earth and genuine. And now he's our next Bachelor.

Villains don't get to be Leads. That's not how the Bachelor world works. Nick took on the mantle of his "villain edit," and came back for more - to show Bachelor Nation another side, or sides, of himself until he became what he is today (and more specifically, tonight): America's Sweetheart. He's a fascinating person, and the editing team for all the Bachelor iterations deserves an Emmy for what is about to be a three-year character arc on a reality television show. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Beautiful Ruins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Italy in 1962 and present day Hollywood collide when Pasquale decides to find the actress who stayed at his secluded hotel when they were both younger.

First thoughts: I had a lot of fun reading this. Both timelines and the various characters in each one are well-crafted. There is a little bit of mystery, and lot of human emotion.

Favorite quotes:

"the whole world suddenly seemed so unlikely, our time in it so brief and dreamlike....Life, he thought, is a blatant act of imagination." -p13

"the smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be." p304

"What business does memory have with time?" -p337

"And even if they don't find what they're looking for, isn't it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight?" -p337

Recommended for: travelers, lovers who've lost and found, or found and lost, wannabes, has-beens, chance-takers, and choice-makers.

Final thoughts: I loved all the different stories - and they were all pretty different from each other. I even enjoyed the different types of telling the stories: scripts, other "books," narrators, and authentic dialogue. A great addition to any vacation, or a perfect way to getaway without leaving your couch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Batman v Superman & Suicide Squad

My take on the latest DC installments: entertaining, yet not without flaws. Neither films were loved by critics, but as a person who doesn't read comics or follow comic book storylines, I enjoyed both.

I found Batman v Superman a little long and, like Man of Steel, slow until it picked up at the end. While BvS was overall a better/more enjoyable experience than MoS, once again I could have done without the first 45-60 minutes. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman was the highlight for me (and I'm looking forward to her standalone, coming out in 2017). The action at the end almost makes up for its slow start, and at the very least left me interested to see what happens next...

Which brings us to Suicide Squad, this summer's followup to BvS. It was quicker-paced and somehow more lighthearted while also being quite dark. I liked the break from typical superhero storytelling and the exploration of the less-than-heroic characters that make up Task Force X. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are fun to watch and other supporting roles kept things from getting either too campy or too depressing.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Shine, Shine, Shine

Shine Shine ShineShine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of a pregnant Sunny, a space-traveling Maxon, and how their childhood as friends led them to fall in love and brought them to where they are today.

First thoughts: The imagery in this book is divine - it's all math and/or space related, so people become moons orbiting each other, decor flows like ellipses across a room - this was a beautiful book to read.

Recommended for: story lovers, fans of space travel, people who wonder about the people left on earth when loved ones go to space, anyone looking for something unique and off the beaten path.

Final thoughts: This is a quick, strange yet familiar, whimsical yet honest ride of a read. I barely took notes on it because I was too interested in reading more.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Night Links 33

The 2016 Rio Olympics come to a close this Sunday, ending a Games filled with victories big and small, and defeats memorable and ripe for redemption at Tokyo 2020. NBC has been criticized for its US-centric and commercial-saturated coverage, but luckily it's 2016 and viewers can easily turn to the internet for a wider variety of Olympics news. Here are just a few:

The Olympics are supposed to transcend politics, but sometimes they influence them and are in turn influenced by them in unforeseen ways.

Before the Olympics begin (and long after they are over), the Games have an effect on the host city's most vulnerable citizens. (One of the reasons why I was cool with Chicago losing the 2016 bid.)

For all the winners at the Games, there have to be some losers as well.

It's not all bad - for US athletes, just being part of Team USA has benefits, regardless of medals.

And because we run the world, 18 golden moments of feminism.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

River North Adventure

Sometimes you just gotta get out and about in your city. Jesus and I did that Sunday and we were treated to a fun day of exploring and people-watching. We strolled up and down the Riverwalk (which has changed so much since I've moved here!), making up backstories for the people we saw and speculating on condo prices in the neighborhood. We waved to visitors on their boat tours and marveled at the bravery of kayakers who seemed to not have a care about whatever toxins they sat in.
Our main reason for being in River North was to see the Discover Da Vinci exhibit at Water Tower Place. We gazed at replicas of Da Vinci's masterpieces, tried out a few of his inventions, and heard Mark Rodgers speak on Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and their influence on the Italian Renaissance. Our tickets also got us entry to the Chicago Sports Museum, so we re-tested our reaction times and shot a few hoops with the greats. And since we were there, we of course had to visit The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery and American Girl Place. (We'll never not be amazed at the accessories you can buy for a doll.)
Then we took our time walking back towards the train - Jesus was playing Pokemon Go, so he wanted to chill near parks or cross the street (and back again) to catch something new. We stepped inside Fourth Presbyterian Church and saw their courtyard, an altogether strange juxtaposition next to Hancock and the shops of Michigan Ave. A sign outside of the Historic Water Tower caught our eye and we stopped there as well to walk through a short history of Cards Against Humanity (Chicago-based!). When there were benches, we sat for a few minutes.
Yep, sometimes you just gotta get out (sans agenda).

Saturday, August 13, 2016


BedBed by David  Whitehouse

Book rating: 3 of 5 stars
Cover rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story of a man who decides one day to stay in bed - forever.

First thoughts: This is a sparse story. There are only a handful of characters, and not much by way of flowery description. The metaphors are rich, though, and we get a lot of the inner-workings of our narrator's thoughts.

Plot device: I like the dual timeline. We get the past racing to meet the present, knowing something big will happen when it does.

Favorite quote: "What if life is this, giving you the wonder of a heart that beats and then smashing it into a million tiny pieces? When everything you're taught to expect comes to nothing? If this is life, then why get out of bed?" -p226

Recommended for: fans of stories and extended metaphors, people who wonder what the deal is with life.

Final thoughts: Huh. We get what we're waiting for in the end, but still not sure if it's an entirely satisfying end.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

As Puerto Rico Does: Beaches, Caves, Waterfalls, & Rainforests

This is less a post about what Puerto Ricans (or visitors to Puerto Rico) do and more about what the island has to offer by way of geographical landmarks. While only 100 miles at its longest and 35 miles north to south, PR has enough land formations and bodies of water to quench even the most intrepid explorer's thirst for adventure. This collection is by no means exhaustive - these are just several spots we were lucky enough to see during our vacation.

Playa Cerro Gordo: Come for the (clean, uncrowded) beach, stay for the hike that brings you to a breathtaking view, unobstructed by anything man-made.

Cueva de las Golondrinas & Poza de los Mujeres: Take a nice long walk to get away from civilization and reward yourself with a day of exploring a few caves at low tide and/or laying out on the beach.

El Yunque: The only rain forest in the US National Forest System and home to stunning vistas and nearly private waterfalls. (Bring swimsuits and water shoes!)

Cueva del Indio: Climb down an old (but sturdy) wooden ladder to see Taino carvings in the rocks. Stay up top to enjoy (yet another) breathtaking view.

Rio Camuy Cave Park: This guided tour takes you into a natural limestone cavern formed by the Camuy River. Watch out for bat poop!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

One for All & All for One

This is a post about Disney's classic musical, Newsies, but also a recommendation for Block 37's street food-style market, Latinicity. Both are classic crowd-pleasers with spunk, pep, and flavor.

You're either a fan of musicals or you aren't - and if you are, there's a good chance you're already on the Newsies bandwagon. If not, hop on my friend. Newsies is the classic David v Goliath tale, with more singing and dancing. And two Tony Awards! Here, take a look:

Do you want a burger? Tacos? Ceviche? Maybe just a drink, or some coffee? Latinicity is the answer for hungry people who can't agree where to eat in the Loop. Like a high end food court/bar/market, there's a little something for everyone - and it's all good. I know, I've had (almost) all of it. That's the other beautiful thing -  smorgasbord eating. It truly is a restaurant for all, where all of the food can be just for one.

In music and in eating, it's all about seizing the day.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ender's Shadow

Ender's Shadow (Ender's Shadow, #1)Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of how Ender Wiggin led Battle School students into victory against the Buggers - from Bean's point of view.

First thoughts: It was hard to believe some of Bean's more precocious behaviors at first, but all was explained eventually. I liked the different perspective - on the story, on Ender, on Battle School - Bean is an odd character, but interesting.

Favorite quotes:

"God raises up the children that he needs, and makes men and women of them, and then takes them from this world at his good pleasure. To him all life is but a moment. All that matters is what that moment was used for." -p208

"Not many people are enemies to anyone. But the ones full of greed or hate, pride or fear - their passion is strong enough to lever all the world into war. -p286 (Thanks, 1998, for knowing the political situation of 2016.)

"One mind can think only of its own questions; it rarely surprises itself." -p402

"...sometimes you just have to tell people the truth and ask them to do the thing you want, instead of trying to trick them into it." -p445

Recommended for: fans of the Ender Quartet, sci-fi buffs, political leaders & wannabes.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed being back in this world. I'd recommended reading this companion novel right after Ender's Game (or after the Quartet). I was pulled in, even knowing how the story would end.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016


Here we are again, another year older and wiser. It's interesting to me to look back and see what I wanted for myself in the past year - and to see how it came about - and I also like to look forward and imagine what shape next year might take.

When I turned 27 I wanted to:

Embrace new friendships & Cultivate old friendships: I can now add some of those "new friendships" into the cultivation category.
Reach out to potential mentors: I'm still figuring out my Fellowship experience, which means leaning heavily on work mentors and Fellowship alums - especially in my second year! I'm happy to say I have a handful of people to call on when I have professional (and personal) questions.
Create a home: One year and several apartment arrangements later...this place feels like home (and also a work in progress). We also now have a tree.

What do I want for 28? More of the same. 27 was a good year, so instead of giving myself specific goals I'm gonna stick with my most recent guiding philosophy:

Follow your (my) curiosities.

I've never been great at goal-setting (or answering the dreaded "Where do you see yourself in five years?" question), so this mantra feels more genuine. I prefer to choose a direction rather than a goal, and "adjust accordingly" as I go. Even the goals I do set for myself are open-ended, more like guidelines or "intentions," (that's the tag I use on here for more traditional "goal" lists). 

I agree with Jason Fried, who says, "I just worked at whatever I was working on and ended up wherever I am. I continue to approach work and life that same way today." For me that sounds like graduating college, then moving to Chicago. Working in a group home, then nannying. Now I'm teaching middle schoolers and coordinating volunteers. Next year? We'll see when we see.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lights Out

I led with the trailer to this summer thriller, because I think it's scarier than the movie itself - not that I wasn't on the edge of my seat (or tucked into the back of it, clenching Jesus's hand) while watching, but I didn't leave the theater checking around corners for creepy silhouettes. Based on this YouTube short (which I haven't watched yet), Lights Out sets up a story, gives the "rules" of its world, and resolves the conflict in a neat 81 minutes, leaving little lingering fears afterwards.

The basic premise is a presence has attached itself to Sophie, the mother of Rebecca, now grown, and Martin, still young. This presence was a part of Sophie's childhood, messed with Rebecca's, and has now returned to disrupt Martin's. Rebecca, still dealing with the issues that came out of her experience, tries to rescue Martin from having to deal with the same things, but the presence seems to follow them and is inexplicably tied to their mother's mental health.

Lights Out shows its viewers the toll depression can take on a family, the redemption of family ties and motherly sacrifices, and the effects of friendships both strong and unhealthy. When I researched it after watching, I found that there was originally a different ending that wasn't shown in theaters. I personally would have appreciated that ending more, and I think it would have upped the scare factor a bit. I also read that there is a sequel planned, which might delve deeper into the issues raised around depression.