Hodge Podge: Ordinary, Occasional, Spur-Of-The Moment

The silence on this blog hasn’t been so much due to a lack of inspiration, but rather the time — or the quiet — to put it all down on paper. A lot of what I’ve had to say comes between the lines of real-life events, catching up with friends, and spending pool side time with a book.

None of these moments are particularly revelatory. In fact, they are ordinary, occasional, spur-of-the-moment flashes of joy. Like nerding out every time the John Adams theme plays at a Washington Nationals game.

So the latest Hodge Podge is a look at 500 episodes of This American Life, A few short book reviews, and a round up of a mish-mash of things my brain stopped to examine in the last two months.

This American Life at 500

It would be funny to joke that the radio show was five-hundred years old, but really five hundred episodes of top-quality storytelling is something that deserves a few lines. When I first started this blog almost four years ago my intention was to spend every week commenting on the latest TAL episode. While that hasn’t exactly come to fruition, I still find myself listening every week and thinking about the people that are profiled, their lives and what they say about living and being a citizen of these United States.

So some of my favorites from the last two years in no particular order:

Harper High (Part 1 and 2): This is one of the newer stories. It looks at a school in Chicago and the nature of what it means to be a teenager in a world so defined by gangs and violence.

What Happened at Dos Erres: From May of 2012, this episode told the story of a military massacre in Guatemala. It’s hard, its gritty, but its a story about silencing the past, and how that silence is uncovered.

Original Recipe: From February of 2011. Ira Glass thinks he found the original secret recipe for Coca-Cola. Enough said.

Hooray for reaching 500!


Coldplay recently released its latest song, Atlas, via a lyric video. The song was composed for Catching Fire, the second adaptation of  the Hunger Games trilogy. I thought the video was whimsical, and if you love constellations it is pretty engaging.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries….and Emma Approved

Something else that I’ve written about this past year is the internet series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s a modern day re-telling of Pride and Prejudice that uses video blogging and Twitter to tell the story. Well this past week they just found out they won a Creative Arts Emmy.

Over the Summer the company, now called Pemberly Digital, has been playing around with the format trying to create a virtual community in a virtual “town.”  Using a snippet of Jane Austen’s called Sanditon they built the story as a brief offshoot of Lizzie Bennet following Darcy’s sister Gigi. The story wasn’t as strong as LBD but it provided a forum for engagement that allowed participants to do a little role-playing.

Up next? It looks like the next venture will be called Emma Approved and will be a retelling of Austen’s Emma.

Book Reviews:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: There was news this summer that this very popular book by Susanna Clark would be turned into a mini-series so I, upon the urging of my roommate, decided to give the book another chance.

At over 950 pages long, it was pretty rough. I understand why this book is so popular. It’s atmospheric, and Clarke is a master of placing the reader in the moment of 18th century English magic. But the story is long on lead time and very slow on delivery. It was only when something dramatic happened around page 400 that I found myself wanting to finish… until the end where the payoff is disappointing and frustrating at best (minor spoiler: it is a non-ending, so it feels like the entire book is set up for a sequal).

A Sense of an Ending: Another recommendation from my roommate this book teased my love of historical philosophy/historiography. The language is tight, yet teases and forces you to think about the nature of memory and truth. It’s a short book but I found it satisfying with a bit of unease about how you interpret your own life.

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel: David Rakoff’s last novel is quirky, elegant, and worthy. Only 128 pages it is a story told through rhyming couplets. Individual stories are heartbreaking but hopeful.

ET Come Home//Run, Forrest, Run

The nice thing about this summer has been the ability to explore and engage with outdoor events. I attended an ice cream taste off, and more than once enjoyed the sunset in public spaces while watching movies.

Both ET and Forrest Gump drove home the nostalgia factor this year. I probably first saw ET in elementary school, shortly after it first came out. I’m certain I saw it before I was introduced to Star Wars–which makes me wonder if all the references to the galaxy far, far, away just didn’t register.

For Forrest Gump it was the stumbling race through American History that hooked me in. It’s mostly fluff with little commentary (and I could have done without the run across the country), but it reminded me about how many individual stories are out there about some of these big moments in our history.

Punk: Chaos to Couture

I must have read about this exhibition in four different places before I managed to see it.  The show was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and looked at the roots of punk and its influence on Haute Couture from 1970 to present day.

As is to be expected the exhibition was incredibly designed. The texture of the walls-plastic, trash bags, matte black-mimicked the fabric choices of the DIY clothing while the music of the age piped in from room to room. The couture was equally beautiful, gowns made of trash bags, t-shirts with witty words of ferociousness. What I found interesting however, was the way in which the high-class clothing, in all its creativity and magnificence, felt fake.

Part of the intrigue of DIY-Punk Rock in the United States and England was the feeling of spontaneity and rebellion and the clothing exhibited had just that extra inch of refinement that made them feel devoid of emotion and expression.

The irony, which was probably intentional is that the exhibition opened with a faux bathroom built to look like the bathroom at popular night club CBGB. So a fake object for an exhibition about not-quite-real punk clothing.

What I’ve been writing: posts on PreservationNation.org:

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