New Year’s Eve Permission Slip

Story time.

TL;DR: Do what will make you happy on New Year’s Eve, and don’t feel beholden to mythical expectations.

Ten years ago, I was so desperate for an exciting New Year’s Eve, that I called up a crush of mine who lived four hours away and somehow casually asked what his holiday plans were. He said he’d been thinking of heading to Kansas City to visit a friend, and suggested I meet them there.

And because I was so desperate, I agreed, and headed three hours south.

I looked here on my blog to see if I wrote about it, and I did, briefly, and all I said was “I had a nice time.”

I didn’t.

I mean, it wasn’t terrible, but it was full of terribly awkward moments. I’ll just share one here: we ended up at a church dance for about 45 minutes, and while my crush and I danced, he said, “I HAVE to get married this year, because looking around this dance, this is bleak. This cannot be my future.”

I am certain that in my head I screamed, “HI! JULIE HERE. MAYBE DATE ME?” I am equally certain that out loud I said, “Ha, yeah, for real…”

You’ll be happy to know, dear reader, that said crush did get married, and therefore has avoided the bleak existence of having to, you know, make friends with people or figure out how to manage a holiday rife with unrealistic expectations every year.

I don’t let myself think about that New Year’s Eve too often, because I just feel shame. Shame that I thought spending time with a crush and two strangers was a better alternative than anything I could’ve cobbled together in my own city. Shame that I thought I could will a crush into seeing me as an actual dating prospect. Shame that I bought into the idea that having an exciting New Year’s Eve was some yearly rite of passage that signaled to the world “I am an adult and I do adult things.”

And so, like with Christmas, I have since created my own New Year’s Eve tradition. I make a giant skilletful of Chicken Korma, watch movies, and I work.

This is your permission slip, should you need it, that New Year’s Eve can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to be with real friends, be with real friends. If you want to get caught up in revelry, go out and revel.. If you are over expectations, though on the PJs and tap out before the ball drops.

What you do *not* have permission to do is feel obligated to celebrate. You do not have permission to think you aren’t a magical human being just because you might not have people to hang out with that night.

And you definitely do not have permission to wedge yourself into New Year’s Eve activities with people you don’t know you or don’t know how magical you are.

What kept me company while I was sick.

Hello and welcome to a rundown of popular culture detritus. I actually wrote this a month ago and forgot to post it. Better late than never?

Last month, I caught my first cold since February of 2020, and was it ever a doozy. In my old age, I am quicker to take time off work (bless substitute teachers, for real). Since I was unable to work or focus on the written word, I watched a lot of TV. So. 

Here’s what got me through my illness:

Television: Season 5 of The Crown dropped the first day I was home in bed, so it served as a perfect backdrop to floating in and out of consciousness. I don’t know why, as an American, I am fascinated with palace intrigue, but here we are. Was not a fan of the casting of Dominic West as Prince Charles, though. Season 4’s Charles was perfectly awkward and petty, and Dominic West is just too manly a man to be believable as the wannabe king.  

Podcasts: Rachel Maddow shares an untold (under-told? I’m not sure) American story in her podcast Ultra. It’s the story of how several U.S. senators and congressmen were sympathetic to the Nazi government, distributed Nazi propaganda to constituents, and how the Department of Justice tried to hold them accountable. I knew there were Nazi sympathizers in the U.S.—Charles Lindbergh, most notably—but I did not realize the scale of Americans who were openly pro-Axis powers. 

Film: I finally got to watch See How They Run, as it came to HBO Max. If you like clever edits, flashbacks, and self-referential dialogue in your films, this one fits the bill. It’s also relatively short—1 hour 38 minutes—and it’s been so long since I’ve watched a film so tightly packaged, that it really was a nice surprise. 

Books:  I counted up all the books in my possession between hard copies, Apple Books, Kindle, and Audible. Friends, it is…significant. Yet I don’t know how to stop falling for recommendations I see on Instagram which just add to the pile (even though I tend to read those quickly anyway). So. Plan for 2023 is to try and get to as many of those as I can. 

Want to guess how many unread books I currently have? 

Thanksgiving Movie Roundup

With a full week off for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make sure I watched as many movies as I could. And with several new releases in theaters and on streaming services, it wasn’t tough to see a movie nearly every day. Here’s what I saw, with brief reviews of each.

  1. A Christmas Story Christmas (HBO Max): Ralphie is married with two kids and is a struggling writer when his father dies right before Christmas. Ralphie throws his family in the car and drives home to be with his mom, and from there the film is patterned after the original. Bullies? Check. Triple dog dare ya? Check. Active imagination fantasies at possible outcomes? Check. Was this a movie I’ll come back to every Christmas? Probably not. But it was a nice way to spend a Friday night.

2. Spirited (Apple TV+): Watching the opening credits and seeing that Pasek and Paul did the music for this Christmas Carol-inspired film, I knew I’d cry at least once. Something about their lyrics and music just hits me (see: Lala Land, The Greatest Showman). This film has Ryan Reynolds doing Ryan Reynolds things and Will Ferrell being genuine a la Elf and Stranger Than Fiction. So many surprises in this one that I refuse to give away, so I’ll just say this: it’s worth your time, and I cried twice.

3. Sidney (Apple TV +): I’m a sucker for a celebrity documentary, and this one about the life of Sidney Poitier did not disappoint. Interviews with his children, friends, actors and directors inspired by him–and Poitier himself–give varied perspectives on how his film career intersected with working for civil rights in the U.S. As I get older, I feel more passionate about preserving stories from the past that inform the present. Sidney is one of those films that I wish could be required viewing.

4. Glass Onion (in theaters now, on Netflix in December): Here’s all I want to say about this one. I want everyone I know and love to see this movie in its purest form, void of opinions, details, or spoilers. 

5. The Fabelmans (in theaters): Steven Spielberg has such a prolific career that a vanity project was inevitable, hence, The Fabelmans. It’s a semi-autobiographical film that he wrote with Tony Kushner (whose work I adore). It has typical Spielberg markers, along with a couple of really cool Spielberg-centric Easter eggs, but its 168 minute run time feels long—I looked at my watch twice to approximate how much time was left. If you’re a Spielberg fan and want to learn more about his life, I recommend watching the HBO documentary Spielberg first, and then The Fabelmans. 

6. Disenchanted (Disney+): This sequel to “Enchanted” had a very “Into the Woods” vibe to it. What happens when you get happily ever after? Gisele realizes that, try as she might, a fairy tale life just isn’t real. I enjoyed the songs and big production numbers, and just like Spielberg did in The Fabelmans, there’s some Easter eggs for long-time Disney consumers.

There are still movies I didn’t get to that are still on my list. It was nice to be back in the theaters for the first time since July, so I just need to get back to making that part of my life. From the previews I saw in just two films, there’s plenty of content coming out soon.

See any good movies lately?

Fourth wall, advice, and sing-a-longs

Hello and welcome to a weekly rundown of popular culture detritus. 

I missed the last two weeks due to life being, well, life. 

Here’s what I’m loving this week:

Television: Just two words: She. Hulk. Or is that one hyphenated word? Or will you not find it if I don’t use the full title, She-Hulk: Attorney At Law? However you refer to it, I have excellent news. All episodes are out so you can binge it as you wish (though I liked the week-to-week savoring), and it is oh so very worth it. My comic book nerds friends tell me it is true to the source text. And I daresay the season finale is the most perfect 35 minutes I’ve seen on television recently. It was definitely the most delightful 35 minutes of my week.

Podcasts: I was so happy to wake up Wednesday to see the first episode of the new season of Don’t Ask Tig had dropped. On this pod, comedian Tig Notaro has celebrities on to offer advice to people who write in with a variety of problems. The banter always makes me laugh, and Notaro has such a calming voice that it’s just a pleasant podcast to listen to. 

Friday Morning Soundtrack: This week’s album was Sara Bareilles’ debut album, Little Voices. I completely forgot how much I love this album—it’s a no skips for me. It was a good thing I was in the journalism lab alone because I occasionally belted out lines like “can I hold you?” (from City Lights) and “set me free/leave me be” (from Gravity). That album is just a perfect sing along album right in my range.

Pop Culture Lesson of the Week: I’ve been wrapping up a music unit with a different pop culture class, and the tail end of that unit focuses on sampling in popular music. While we tend to associate sampling with rap or hip hop, it shows up in other genres as well—even country. I send them to the website Who Sampled, where they can look up their favorite songs and see how many samples are used. My favorite sample to play for them is “Pastime Paradise” by Stevie Wonder—most years the kids lose their minds—but this semester I couldn’t be there when they watch the clip from the documentary “Copyright Criminals” that shows how Coolio used Stevie Wonder’s music in “Gangsta’s Paradise.” My hope is always that they end up listening to “Songs in the Key of Life” in its entirety.

Do you have a favorite use of a sample? 

What are you watching and listening to that’s worth your time?

History, Faith, and Covers.

Hello and welcome to a weekly rundown of popular culture detritus. 

Here’s what I’m loving this week:

Television: I know this has been declared at least a dozen times since television began, but we really are in a golden age of television, so there are about half a dozen shows that astound me each week. But I’ll just keep it to one this week: “U.S. and the Holocaust” on PBS. This is Ken Burns’ latest docuseries, and while I am a bit of a fangirl when it comes to 6+ hour deep dives into an American topic, I really think this series is his most important yet. I thought I knew so much already about the Holocaust, and turns out, I really didn’t. I’ve heard Burns say in interviews, “History doesn’t repeat itself—it rhymes,” so if you are concerned about the current state of affairs in the United States (and elsewhere—if you haven’t seen what happened in Italy Sunday night, Google is free), watch this and make choices that will lead to a different outcome. 

Podcasts: Every Sunday morning I listen to The Evolving Faith Podcast. If you find yourself in a bit of a faith wilderness, this podcast is for you. Hosted by Sarah Bessey and Jeff Chu, this podcast is comprised of sermons preached at previous Evolving Faith gatherings. Nearly every Sunday I feel less alone, called to action, and uplifted. 

Friday Morning Soundtrack: This week’s album was Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox’s “Back When It Was Music.” For the uninitiated, Scott Bradley’s takes popular music and flips the genres to somewhere between the 1920s-1950s. It’s such fun to hear pop favorites crooned by a variety of talented singers. 

Pop Culture Lesson of the Week: Speaking of covers, this week my students took a popular song and did their own Postmodern Jukebox treatment, albeit only about 30 seconds instead of an entire song. It’s a fun project that I learned at an online Apple Teacher conference, where students use the GarageBand app on their iPads and create a cover. It’s challenging to teach, and it’s challenging for some of my students. But I really do love the end product, and helping students step out of their comfort zones never fails to inspire me.

Have you ever done something you had no idea how to do, but did it anyway?

What are you watching and listening to that’s worth your time?