Saturday, January 19, 2013

Teen shows I have known and loved and sometimes hated

I don't think I can ever truly appreciate a TV show (or movie, or book, or any really form of media) until I've experienced it for a second or third or (let's be honest) tenth time.

When it comes to a TV show, on first viewing I'm watching it for the plot. Okay, what happens next? It's not until I watch it again, when I know what's going to happen, that I appreciate all the little things that make it so great to begin with. A line or a sidelong glance or a particular framing of a shot. Things that don't seem important at the time but in hindsight are vital. Things that directors and writers and actors spend hours debating and thinking about, so that the final product looks effortless but in reality is far from it. Especially in TV, which as a medium (compared to film) is built of little blocks that eventually should (in theory) amount to something greater than the sum of its parts, I find rewatching to be as rewarding an experience as initial viewing.

I recently started rewatching the TV series My So-Called Life. If you don't read Entertainment Weekly, or you didn't come of age in the mid-90s, or you weren't mining your way through Claire Danes' complete filmography (ahem... er...), then you maybe have never heard of this wonderful, canceled-too-soon TV show. But it has a cult-like following. It debuted in 1994, which, if you may recall, was also the year that a certain haircut and coffee shop and sextet entered our collective pop culture consciousness. Needless to say, the ratings were less than stellar, and the show itself was far ahead of its time, conceived and aired before the WB (and then the CW) formed a monopoly on teenage girls' school nights and advertisers realized the value in cornering such a specific market.

But like I said: My So-Called Life. I started watching all the episodes again a few days ago. And I love it even more the second time around. Now that I know how it ends (it was a one-season wonder), how it begins, how it gets from here to there, is even sweeter.

It got me thinking about the other "teen" shows (I use parentheses here because it's a misconception that only teens watched these shows; just ask my mother) that I have devoted hours upon hours to: The OC and Gilmore Girls. The former was the first show I really got into, the first show that I took it upon myself to learn everything I possibly could about. The OC was my first television love. (The break-up was hard; just ask my mother.) Gilmore Girls was the show that I fell in love with just as it was ending. The one I never experienced live. The one I latched onto and devoured in large, feel-good chunks. But I loved it just the same.

And the funny thing is, all three shows are more or less about the same general thing: teenagers. But they couldn't be more different, and I enjoy them for different reasons. And with a bit of distance, I've found that the ways I enjoy them (or, conversely, hate them) has changed, too.

The OC
The beginnings: I began watching this show in the eighth grade (2005), just as its third season began. Because of playoff baseball on Fox (the network on which it aired), there is a month-long hiatus for TV shows in the month of October. I assume this is when I watched the previous two seasons in preparation. I remember one sleepover when my friend and I stayed up into the early morning hours watching at least eight episodes of the show. It was the Oliver plotline, so obviously it was memorable.

The end: I stuck with The OC for the next two years, slogging through its lackluster (in hindsight, at least; at the time I was just so happy to be looking forward to a TV show for the first time in my life) third season and then enjoying its renaissance in its fourth and final go-round. When it ended, that fateful Thursday night in February, I weeped as if my life depended on it. 
Photos like this made 14-year-old me practically die of happiness. Please ignore Ryan's quasi-mullet.

Why I love it: Like I said, it was the first thing that really made me feel like a part of the pop culture conversation. Unfortunately, I came in after its early peaks, when it was more "guilty" than "pleasure."

Why I hate it: How long do you have? I watched the entire series again last fall, and there are so so so so many things I hate about it. Theresa. Oliver. MARISSA COOPER. Sandy's emotional infidelity in season two. Everything with a comic book (sorry, "graphic novel"). How much of a tool Seth Cohen sometimes is. How annoying and self-righteous Ryan sometimes is. Needless drama. Frank Atwood. JOHNNY OMG JOHNNY. The sainthood of Marissa Cooper that makes sense when you're a freshman in high school but makes me want to vomit in present day. The fact that none of the "teenagers" were actually teenagers, except for Mischa Barton, whom I'm now praying for. Basically, #firstworldproblems.

Why it holds a place in my heart: When it wanted to be, The OC was strikingly good. It had several different personalities. It was a show about spoiled white kids in Orange County, a soap opera about their illegitimate children and the incestuous web a single family spun throughout its community. A journey for its main character to hell and back, several times. It was a show about rebirth, about second chances, and so it's fitting that the show itself had a few different incarnations. Some were beautiful and many were exceedingly ugly. But when it's really good, it's easy to forget the bad times. Kind of like an abusive relationship.

And, of course, any discussion of this series would be incomplete without mentioning the music. So many of my favorite songs come from this show. The OC introduced me to great artists like Rachael Yamagata, Rogue Wave, Sufjan Stevens, and of course, Patrick Park. The music on this show was its own character and the only character that never let me down.

Gilmore Girls
The beginnings: I was droopy (and drooly) after having had jaw surgery and my wisdom teeth removed. So I drifted in and out as I watched various episodes from the couch over Christmas break 2005.

The end: The show went on for another season after I first saw it but I never watched it while it was on. Like The OC, I "discovered" this show after its creative height, but I continued to love it after it was canceled through the magic of DVDs.
My favorite moments are always when Rory and Lorelai are just hanging out. Here, they're probably watching the Brady Bunch variety hour special or Grey Gardens or some god-awful-yet-awesome made-for-TV movie.

Why I love it: The mother/daughter relationship between Lorelai and Rory is, although unlike any I had ever seen or experienced, strikingly real. I envied Rory. Lorelai is flawed and honest and real and talked as fast as I wish I could. The dynamic between Lorelai and her parents is rich and heart-wrenching and incredibly poignant. Paris Gellar. All of Rory's freshman year college roommates. The romanticized version of college the show depicts. The romanticized version of small-town life the show depicts. Luke for the first five seasons. All those pop culture references, only about half of which I understood. The Stars Hollow town hall meetings.

Why I hate it: I think I'm becoming hardened and cynical as I get older because I recently watched a few season 1 episodes and realized that Rory is an insufferable bitch. Like, actually, I actively hated her for more than just a hot sec. (In case you're wondering, it started during the episode where she accidently falls asleep and stays at Miss Patty's all night with Dean after her school dance and she comes home and berates Lorelai for--rightfully!--yelling at and being upset with her.) Part of it is probably just Alexis Bledel, who is really not that fantastic an actress (even more striking in comparison to the revelation that is Lauren Graham), but Rory really does a sick 180 halfway through the series that seriously grates. First of all, her voice changes! Does this happen to some people? Her voice is unusually deep for the first season or so and then it becomes progessively more twee.

Also I absolutely HATE Rory during the too-long rift with Lorelai that drags down the sixth season. Her entire plot just reeks of selfishness and privilege and overall bitch-ery, which is unfortunate because Rory was a pretty cool girl while she was in high school and her personality was the antithesis of all those things (self-absorption, entitlement, etc.).

Also Rory is a pretty sucky friend. She's all take and no give. I'd say she's really only a good friend to Lorelai. With Lane and then with Paris, I never got the feeling that she was deserving of either of their friendships.

I guess I'm just annoyed now that we were presented with this character who we're supposed to respect and adore because everyone else did, but now I don't understand why everyone thinks Rory is so special. (Then again, graduating from Yale in three and a half years is impressive, if wholly unrealistic.)

And I won't even get into the travesty that was Luke's daughter April. Sometimes I think Amy Sherman-Palladino, in her final season, was giving a big "eff you!" to the people at WB for not renewing her contract and so left them the biggest pile of steaming crap possible. And by that I mean--spoiler alert!--Lorelai sleeping with Christopher and April just generally existing.

(It is telling that I can slog through the Johnny episodes of The OC but I can't get past the first few episodes of Gilmore Girls' sixth season.)

Why it holds a place in my heart: When I re-watched the first five seasons this fall I was struck by how funny and heartwarming and just plain affecting this show was and still is. Endurance is a tricky and highly valuable thing for me with film and television. This show debuted in 2000, which is such a long time ago as to seem almost like another lifetime. This show was topical in that the issues and stories it dealt with are relevant to a certain subset of viewers. Issues like self-acceptance, familial conflict, first loves and first heartbreaks, and even the age-old question of whether a man and a woman can ever just be only friends (which they seem to answer with a resounding "no"). And in that way it was so much more than just a "teen show." It was wonderfully quirky and, yes, maybe a little obsessed with its quirkiness, but endearing nonetheless. Plus I have mad love for Lauren Graham, who is a fine, if underrated, actress. Also lines like this:

LORELAI: Stop saying mother like that.
RORY: Like what?
LORELAI: Like there should be another word after it.


My So-Called Life
The beginnings: I'd heard rumblings about the epic greatness of this show for a few years, and I finally checked out what all the fuss was about this past fall. (The entire series is available to watch on Hulu and Netflix Instant.)

The end: It took me a few months to finish the entire thing (there was a long break about a third of the way in), but I binged on the last twelve episodes like candy. And then it ended and I finally understood what all the fuss was about--not just about the series as a whole but about why it's so overwhelmingly cruel that more episodes weren't made. I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!!
The best representation of this show is this picture. Just Angela Chase, staring wide-eyed and honestly. At once terrified by and ecstatic about this whole "growing up" thing.

Why I love it: Well, there is Claire Danes, my girl crush. Even at 15, she was just as emotionally honest, as physically un-vain (and not just when crying!), and as reliably open as in her later work. Also the show is such a perfect snapshot of life as a high school sophomore. The struggle, the triumph, and yes, the mundaneness of it all. And it evokes life at such a specific moment and in such a specific time period, it's almost like looking through a telescope at some really far away, exotic place (so much plaid! Doc Martens! overalls worn unironically!). Danes' Angela Chase is a cool girl heroine who doesn't realize it. Her voiceovers are disarmingly introspective (in one particularly memorable one she debates whether she should resolve to be less introspective in the New Year. She stream-of-consciously thinks about it for a few minutes and then decides that she won't become less introspective) and real and unknowingly funny yet also incredibly insightful. This show is the only one with voiceovers that I can watch and take seriously. In fact, her voiceovers are maybe my favorite part of the whole show.

But aside from Angela, the whole set of characters is great. Rayanne Graff, Angela's new best friend who is unflinchingly unglued but still charming and likeable; Rickie Vasquez, Angela's other best friend who is gay and as such simultaneously fades into the background and stands out like a sore thumb in the battlefield that is high school; Brian Krakow, Angela's brainy next-door neighbor who is hopelessly in love with Angela (who doesn't realize it, natch) but also kind of a sadistic a-hole; and of course Jordan Catalano, the mute-ish object of Angela's hormonal affection, who is a circa-1994 dreamboat but twenty years later has lost much of his appeal (at least to me). Even Angela's parents are strikingly real portraits of two middle-aged spouses struggling with a teenage daughter, or their own parents, or their own preoccupations with growing up and older.

Why I hate it: Certain episodes are less-than-stellar, sure, but there's really nothing in this show that I hate. Also I feel like saying you hate one aspect of this show is like saying you hate puppies or baby koala bears or something: YOU JUST DON'T.

Why it holds a place in my heart: It's the little things. Like a scene of Angela on her bed listening to "Dreams" by The Cranberries and being moody. Or, on the flip side, performing a dramatic rendition of "Blister in the Sun" by Violent Femmes in her room, including the whispering parts (natch). Like, hello, WE ARE THE SAME PERSON. But what I love most about it is how incredibly normal it is. The OC and Gilmore Girls are wonderful shows, but they are escapist, either in setting or in the relationships they portray. They depict a world that is fantasy and fleeting. To borrow a present-day analogy, The OC is to My So-Called Life what Sex and the City is to GIRLS. Similar subject matter but wildly different execution.

One of my favorite episodes of MSCL is called "The Zit." Angela gets a zit on her chin (presumably her first one for how apocalyptic it seems to her), and this littlest of incidents inspires a series of events that unfold organically but materialize into something so wonderfully true and incredible and heartbreaking. Suddenly Angela's skin blemish morphs into her own mother's insecurities about getting wrinkles and losing the beauty of her youth that once validated her. A seemingly harmless conversation at a makeup counter at the mall becomes the basis for a mother-daughter squabble so uncomfortable in the reality it portrays that I get chills just thinking about it. And an ending that simultaneously brings you up and tears you down. It's an incredible hour of television. On the first viewing, on the second, and, if I ever get there, on the tenth.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Notes on a Speech... (this was written with a green pen)

So... about that Claire Danes' Golden Globe speech Sunday night...

For reference, here it is again:

My initial reaction:

Clearly I was fixated on the fact that she had a CHILD less than FOUR WEEKS ago, so I didn't yet appreciate the brilliance of her speech.

Then this:

And now this, hat tip to Amos Barshad at Grantland:

"Clairie Mathidanes, Method Agent 
What must have been going through the minds of the venerable members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association when Claire Danes swiftly power-walked onstage to collect her award for playing Carrie Mathison, and then indeed began to channel Carrie Mathison? Did they feel at all silly for voting for a performance that is, quite possibly, plucked effortlessly from the burbling stream of mania apparently omnipresent somewhere just below Claire's surface-level behavioral patterns? Or was the HFPA internally slow-clapping for the fact that Claire Danes has chosen to live her life in character? Me, I'm saying the latter. When Danes really got going, and started dropping Carrie-ism after Carrie-ism — the "in this medium in this moment in this company" [finger point, swallow]; the "such brave choices so relentlessly" [arguable seduction face]; the "and we're all better for it" [deep breath deep breath] — I got sucked right back into the unceasing whiplashing insanity of Homeland S2. A season's worth of virtuoso crazy-person shit, stuffed into a neat minute and a half."

Slow-clap, indeed.

Next we'll find out that Damian Lewis was also channeling Brody and that whole British accent was actually just his newly acquired disguise meant to trick people into thinking that he's not actually "that ginger terrorist." (So, if you're keeping score, he was Brody acting like someone other than Brody. It was Brody-ception.)

(I obviously spent way too much time thinking about this, but Jodie Foster's speech is still making my head hurt and this is like Jodie-lite level stuff. Also, of course I just wanted to use the tag "claire danes being awesome" again.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When I get really excited about something...

...but I have to restrain myself.

I'm like:

In particular, this Sunday. Golden Globes and Tina Fey/Amy Poehler lady awesomeness. Girls premiere. Shameless premiere. ALL IN ONE NIGHT.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Different Kinds of Gloom

When I wrote my year-end best-of piece a week ago I went on a tangent (natch) about the different kinds of gloom that my favorite music elicited. And then I got to thinking (all Carrie Bradshaw-like again) about the types of gloom that some of my most favorite doomy songs evoked. (You may be wondering why I'm so devoted to such depressing songs, but I'll never forget that my sophomore English teacher said that the best novels are ones that don't necessarily have happy endings, or even happy subject matter. I tend to agree, in literature and in music.)

Like that old story about how the Inuits have several different words for "snow," I too have several different incarnations of "gloom."

The following is not a comprehensive list, but it comes pretty close...

"Hallelujah" by Imogen Heap: This song just makes me want to go crawl in a hole and weep in the fetal position. It's haunting, but in a really beautiful way. It's entirely a cappella, and you wouldn't be wrong to guess that some of its beauty is diminished by the connotations it draws from the scene in which it plays on The OC: when Marissa dies. I wish Mischa Barton didn't look like she was about to vomit as she gasped for her final breaths (or that I started laughing when I just watched this scene again, what is wrong with me?!), but you can't have everything I suppose.

"Civilian" by Wye Oak: Any time there is vicious percussion accompaniment I get a little screamy in my gloom (a little grungy and plaid, if you will). It's more than just "noise" though. Especially when it's accompanied by lyrics like "I still keep my baby teeth/ In the bedside table with my jewelry." So it's creepy gloom, too, if we're being wholly accurate.

"Someone Like You" by Adele: If you've never performed a dramatic rendition of an Adele song, you haven't lived. This is the perfect candidate for such a performance; it's simple, subtle, not showy at all. But the lyrics twist my insides in the most delicate ways (is that possible?). Adele is like a puppet master manipulating my heartstrings. Remember, sometimes it hurts instead.

"Vienna" by Billy Joel: When the line between feeling hopeless and hopeful becomes so blurred it may as well not exist at all. I nerd-ily love Billy Joel for a 21-year-old girl. What can I say, I am soulful like that. By the way, isn't this song like the anthem of Marissa Cooper (RIP?)?

"My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion: Don't hate, y'all. This song is pure gloomy brilliance, and if you can't take it, get outta here. Listening to this song in conjunction with the final minutes of Titanic (she rode a horse with one leg on each side! she went on the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica pier! she never let go! SHE STILL HAS THE NECKLACE!!!!) never fails to make me sob like Claire Danes, all ugly-like. But it's okay, because I own it.

Plus I have a weakness for circa-mid-90's Celine Dion, because my sister and I used to perform dramatic renditions of "Because You Loved Me," "All By Myself," and most definitely "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" (funny, because those memories are all coming back to me now). You can't fight the cheese when it's this delicious, folks.

"Wash" by Bon Iver: I love Justin Vernon something fierce and he is never in finer form than in this song. I don't really know any of the words to this song (except "climb," "bed," "sound," and "hardly"). So whenever I listen to it I'm just singing gibberish in the same melody.

Example (actual lyrics in parentheses):
Ohhhhh      (I....)
I'm going like the quickening you      (I’m growing like the quickening hues)
Ooooh aaahhhh      (I....)
I'm telling darkness from lies on you      (I’m telling darkness from lines on you)
Over head falling from the norris      (Over havens fora full and swollen morass)
You're habitat      (Young habitat)
I'll be livin alone      (All been living alone)
With the air snap and the hole, oooh      (Where the ice snap and the hold clast are known)
I rest my case. 

"Twenty-Two Fourteen" by The Album Leaf: I have a soft spot for purely instrumental pieces. This one is mostly piano with some xylophone ditties and cymbals mixed in. But it's also magnificently silent at some parts and the longing just echoes. It makes you feel sad in a hard-to-vocalize way, which is fitting since there are of course no words at all.

"Bad Dream" by Keane: This song is a bit of a strange choice, because it's not immediately recognizable as gloomy. But the lyrics are pretty depressing. Basically I chose this one because at the climax of the song--"Where do we go?/ I don't even know/ My strange old face/ And I'm thinking about those days"--I feel kind of empowered. Empowered by my gloom, or past it, I can't tell. In that way it's uplifting, I suppose. Superficially, this song is rather upbeat, and therefore probably misinterpreted (kind of like how "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day is preposterously like the universal song for goodbye slideshows).

"Candle in the Wind" by Elton John: aka, the greatest eulogy ever written. When I'm in the mood, I can really get into 40-year-old music by the likes of Elton John or Billy Joel or (God, making me cry) Harry Chapin. It's very generic and safe and just so easy to like. But it's sad in a real and true and approachable way. I love that.

"9 Crimes" by Damien Rice: This is like the quintessential gloomy, doomy song. It's about loaded guns and infidelity and I'm thinking also some kind of murder-suicide situation. Plus it's all in whispers, so it's really very eerie. The Damien Rice brand of Gloom is like feeling this blanket of bleakness and darkness descend over you. And you're just powerless to break through it. Fun, right?!

"I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie: I suppose it's kind of redundant to call this song "emo gloomy" because, well, isn't all gloom kind of emo by default? But anything that Ben Gibbard sings automatically has a one-up in the emo department. Can we just consider the title of this song--"I Will Follow You Into the Dark"? I mean, really? Subtlety is so not their thing, but at least it's not as stalker-y as "I Will Possess Your Heart." (I forgive everything for the masterpiece that is "Transatlanticism," though. That song is the most perfect.)

"Terrible Love" by Birdy: Birdy (Jasmine van den Bogaerde) is 16 years old and singing about "terrible love" and oceans and things that I'm not sure 16-year-olds should be singing or feeling. I'm saying now, for the record, that she will be the next Rachael Yamagata (and you're like, who??), because she has that bleak, wounded thing down pat. She is also pretty powerful because she actually makes me like "Skinny Love."

"Fix You" by Coldplay: Say what you want about Coldplay and Chris Martin and Moses and Apple and Goop, but this is a masterpiece of a mainstream gloomy song. I obviously associate it with the penultimate episode of The OC when it actually debuted for all the world to hear. There is just absolutely nothing wrong with this song and whenever I hear it I feel transfixed and helpless and motionless, exactly like Sandy Cohen when he tells his alcoholic wife that her father has just died. (I refuse to let Mischa Barton's dead eyes and/or Ryan's awful haircut ruin this moment.) And that fact--that this song can make me feel like a 50-year-old Jewish man from the Bronx with killer eyebrows--somehow makes everything else before not matter (that was a little Homeland/OC mashup and my life has thus come full circle).

"Imagine" by John Lennon: Lennon wrote this song in 1971 and more than 40 years later this song still resonates with me. I'm not an overtly political or politically active person, but I do believe in a world where children can go to school knowing they are safe, or where people can worship their own god in peace, or where it doesn't even matter which god people worship, or whether they even do at all. I just wish these beliefs didn't make me a "dreamer." And that is why this song, and the world it "imagines," which still has not been realized today, makes me gloomy.

"Fog (Again) (Live)" by Radiohead: I do this thing that I believe is my gut being wrenched (wrenching itself? I'm not sure how this phrase originated...). Usually it involves a facepalm and a noise that sort of sounds like "UuuuuuiiiiigggGGGGhhhhHHHH." Contrary to what you may think, this great expression of emotion isn't a negative reaction but a positive one. Like to something so heartbreaking it's incredible. I'm reminded of a line from My So-Called Life when Angela Chase imagines the best thing someone she loved could ever say to her: "You're so beautiful it hurts to look at you." And that is what this song is. It's so beautiful it hurts to listen to it, but I'm a glutton for punishment and all that, so I can't help myself. (I think my next blog post will detail things that are so beautiful in some way that it hurts to look at them. The wheels are already spinning.)

"Everywhere I Go" by Lissie: This song just echoes for me. I think part of that may be because it always seems to play loudly whenever it comes on, but I also think the singer's voice is so beautiful and conveys a dreariness that enthralls me in the gloomiest of ways and echoes in, you know, more figurative ways. She seems to be yearning for something, anything, and as the song goes on this wanting becomes louder both literally and figuratively. I'm so in love with everything about it.

. . . . 

Finally, because it's kind of depressing to start off the year on such a gloomy note, I give you...

"Dreams" by The Cranberries: This song empowers me. It will empower you. Go confidently in the direction of your "Dreams." I have a "Dreams" today! The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their "Dreams." Explore, "Dreams," Discover. I dreamed a "Dreams." If you can "Dreams" it, you can do it.

On writing and all that...

Why do I blog? That is this century's Big Question.

I have been reading blogs for a few years. I used to read lots of food blogs, but I now find myself disenchanted with the content, because I feel no personal attachment to the blogger (writer?). I've read what feels like a million different posts varying on the same theme. There is not much variation in that genre. Really, there is not much variation in any genre.

I recently pared down the blogs I read by a lot. I dumped the blogs that I didn't enjoy reading. Sometimes just opening up my Google reader felt like a chore, instead of what I think it should feel like: opening up a new book (or returning to an old favorite), or meeting a friend for coffee.

In the past, my litmus test for subscribing to a blog was looking at the first page of posts and determining whether the subject matter matched with what I enjoyed reading.

That is a bad criterion.

That's how I ended up with more than 100 blogs in my reader and on average about 600 unread posts. You can tell how that would begin to suffocate my blogging mentality. And maybe that's why the posts here became so much less frequent and inspired themselves.

But why? Why do I blog? Why do I have a blog? The word "blog" comes from "weblog." What am I "logging" in this "web" of information that pervades my life, your life, our collective lives? Is it of worth? Do I care? Should I care? Does it matter? Should it matter?

These are questions I've asked myself recently, as I've pondered blogging and the place it has in my life. What do I value in a blog?

I value a unique writing voice above all else. Good writing. Writing that feels like an embrace, or like being talked to, not talked at. Writing that is real, and organic, and natural. Not scheduled and sponsored and veiled and disclaimed. I realized that I had known this all along, but had forgotten it somewhere along the way.

The irony of blogging and presenting yourself to the entire world, is that usually you are not really presenting yourself to the entire world. You are presenting a particular version of yourself. A version that is less messy (or more messy, depending on the message you're trying to convey), a fleeting ideal. It is not "real life," but we present it as such. I'm not sure how many of us prepare a bowl of oatmeal and eat it with a spoon tied with twine on a rustic (but not too rustic) wooden chopping board. I eat a bowl of oatmeal most mornings in fifteen minutes before class, with an orange spoon, usually burning my mouth, all while checking Twitter. But that's pretty boring, and it's really not that beautiful or twee or Pinterest-worthy. (But kudos to those whose real life is a steaming latte enjoyed while reading The New Yorker (on the iPad, natch) and gazing out at the early morning fog.)

My writing voice has changed a lot in the past two and a half years I've had this blog, since I first started college (and so have I, so it seems only fitting). I've become more aware of myself and how I write and what I like to write about. I've become less censored and correct. And so this blog has changed a lot, too--most obviously in its scope and what it means to me and the way I treat it, the prism through which I choose to view it and view myself as its creator.

I used to set a timetable for myself in blogging. "At least once a week," I'd tell myself. Why why why? That kind of rule sucks the life out of this blog and out my desire to write, too. Quality over quantity. It is a cliche for a reason. I'm not sure how or why I came up with this kind of perverse rule for myself. It is decidedly unfun. It's silly and stupid and kind of embarrassing when I think about it.

But why do I blog? It is not for the readers, or else I would write about far less esoteric things than Oliver Trask being the greatest TV villain of all time, or Songs I Can't Stop Listening To (complete with Angela Chase references!), or my love of the word "Also." And the same goes for Twitter, because I write the most random, crazy, niche tweets that I'm sure no one ever understands, but I do.

I don't even like the word "blog" as a verb. Because I'm not exactly what it entails and what it means.

But I do write. I write because it's fun, and it's escapism, and I have a weird satisfaction reading things that I wrote from a distance. (When I moved all my stuff out of my old room at home I found my portfolio from my senior year of high school, which included every piece of writing I'd ever done in high school. And you can bet I spent like the next hour reading it. I was mortified and charmed. But mostly mortified. Also, yes, I realize how narcissistic this is. I do this with my tweets, too.)

I write because it is exercise putting your thoughts into paper, whether real or virtual. I do not take many pictures in my day-to-day life, but I like to think that what I write, whether 140 characters or 10,000, is a word snapshot of me, on this day, at this hour that I clicked "Publish."

How cool is that?

I've got thousands of little word snapshots floating around in space, each specific to me, and to who I was at that very second. That is very cool.

So do I write "for me"? Yes, I guess I do. I write for all the Saras--tomorrow Sara, and next week Sara, and next year Sara, and 2020 Sara, and maybe even 2040 Sara. But I write only as today Sara.

That is confusing to me in the most surreal way. (Like when you look at a word, such as "freely," for a long time and then suddenly it loses all meaning. The same thing happens to me when I think deeply about the concept of "hair." Nothing else makes sense anymore.) It is fascinating that we can focus our thoughts and our energy into separate threads. And it's not until we step far enough back--until we have that distance--that we appreciate it as a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

. . . .

On Christmas Eve, I impulsively bought Shopgirl, Steve Martin's novella that became the inspiration for the 2005 film. It's a short book, only 130 pages or so, and I read it all that night (in between a little George Clooney film fest). It was the first book I'd read in a few months (sad, I know) but the writing itself affected me more than a book had in a really long time. The story itself is not as groundbreaking or enthralling as something like Harry Potter or Gone Girl, which sucked me in for the plot of the thing.

This was all about the writing. The way Steve Martin constructed his prose, the chapters, each a little story, a little thread. And when I finished it and took it as a whole I realized just how magnificent it was. Calm and subtle, sweet and delicate at times, the prose just blew me away. I looked up words to see what they meant, paused for a few minutes at the sheer brilliance of a single sentence. This was writing that made me actually feel something. I felt satisfied, but also hungry for more. I felt really and truly inspired. This was pure writing.

I went to bed that night feeling inspired by this book, by this story, and by the building blocks that created it--the metaphors or similes, phrases, witticisms, use of an esoteric word over a commonplace one. It was elegant and perfect and it wasn't trying to be anything more than what it was.

. . . . 

I realized that Christmas Eve night, which soon turned into the early morning hours of Christmas Day, that there is great wisdom in the saying "Write what you know." Well, I mean, obviously. It would be pretty difficult to write intelligently or at least in a respectful way about something you didn't know about.

Then I realized that's what I've been doing for the past year on this blog anyway. I think I've published a recipe only once, my harrowing journey into the unknown world of Brown Butter Tart. Even then I was incapable of resisting detailing my entire thought process and strategy, complete with a nerdy and embarrassing Microsoft Excel anecdote.

This summer I posted more prolifically than I had in a long time as I traveled through Europe. Looking back through those posts, it's kind of glaring how devoid of any historical frame of reference or actual objective fact they are. But I love that. I can look up that stuff on Wikipedia any day, but with time my memories of the cities and the places I visited and the people I was with will fade. They already have, as much as I try to fight it.

But if I'm being honest I wrote those posts just as much for my family, who wanted to follow my experiences, as I did for myself. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, but that also meant I kept the posts decidedly PG rated (not that I was like doing NC-17 stuff left and right, because I was not, but some of the other travelogues I read of my friends at the time were so much more honest and flawed and true, and I wished I had the courage to write like that).

In the past few weeks I've shifted away from that toward things that I wanted to write about. (It's not that I didn't want to write about my study abroad experience, because I did and I'm glad I did, but I've never been the "this is what I did today" type of blogger because I find it incredibly boring and bland and uninspiring.) I know for a fact that only the most nerdy OC obsessive will understand, let alone appreciate, my dive into the realm that is Oliver Trask's unmatched villainy. And when I wrote about my beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy (obvi, Homeland), I restrained myself from veering down that entire rabbit hole (complete with my own twisted theories and opinions) for fear that I'd be too alienating in my attempt to describe why I loved this show. As an exercise, I'd like to ask you to read these two takes on the season two Homeland episode "Broken Hearts": one, two. I know which one is more enjoyable and also which is more embracing of its own craziness.

I guess that is what I decided to do in these past few months: not just to accept the crazy, but to embrace it.

I mean, I can't even write a semi-normal "Songs I Love Right Now" post without going off on tangents about Angela Chase or the Girls Season 2 Trailer, which I want so desperately to talk about in mediums that allow thoughts longer than 140 characters. Pitchfork, this is not.

My "Best of 2012" list is a mockery of all those other top 10 lists you see this time of year. I'll say officially I did it on purpose, tongue-in-cheek, but really it was just my excuse for talking more about Homeland, Girls, my love for Lena Dunham and GIFs and Twitter and depressing music.

And finally, my post the other day about following me on Twitter was basically a vehicle for me to read all my old tweets (at the time, some 1400 of them) and laugh at how witty and also weird I can be. Those posts didn't feel like obligations or requirements or tasks to be checked off a list. They felt like the exact opposite of that. Like something I couldn't help, a side project that I pushed unabashedly to the forefront.

But I so loved writing them. I had more fun writing them than I did writing any of those Europe "recap" posts or those tired and why-did-I-do-that? "well said/friday inspiration" posts. Sometimes that can be fun or funny or even downright inspiring. But it just reminds me of "...and now back to our regularly scheduled programming" and that does not inspire me anymore.

Today, at this very moment on this first day of 2013, I am inspired by things that I love, and thus by things that I know. (Because I have an obsessive and addictive personality, so if I love something, then I really know it. Today I listened to Lena Dunham's audio commentary for the Pilot episode of Girls and she talked about how she was so in love with Chris Eigemen, who plays her boss in the episode, that she tracked down episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street that he was in just so she could say she'd seen everything he'd ever been in. Then I realized that this was what I was doing with my girl crush, Claire Danes, and I felt less crazy.)

(The scary thing about all this is the thought that one day I'll just run out of things to write about. Like I'll become so disenchanted with everything on this Earth that everything will cease to inspire me. Obviously I don't see that happening anytime soon, but I'd be lying if I said the notion itself didn't simultaneously frighten and thrill me.)

I don't for a second believe it coincidental that once I tore down the walls that I had put up that served as my boundaries in this space that I not only began to have more fun writing, but that I also began to write more. Once I rediscovered the truth in my writing voice, and in what I wanted to write about and why, I was set free. And that is glorious.