Music: Hamilton: An American Musical is a musical about the life and death of America's first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Fans of the other founding fathers musical (siddown, John!) are in for a surprise, if not an unpleasant one: Hamilton is a hip-hop musical, energizing the dialogue of the American Revolution through the aggression and urgency of rap. Written by and starring first-generation Puerto Rican-American Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton recasts every white historical figure it features as a person of color – save, of course, mad King George. The show portrays Hamilton as a loud little man who “writes like he's running out of time,” and I can identify. Embarrassingly, I know all 20,520 words to this musical.
Movie: Star Wars was a big part of my childhood, having grown up with the prequels – I remember one of my most formative movie theater experiences was during Revenge of the Sith, when the audience erupted into applause as Anakin Skywalker took his first iconic breath as Darth Vader. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens “awakened” the big nerd in many this winter, and I was no exception – I want to be an X-Wing pilot when I grow up. I have compared this franchise to Shakespeare and Roman history, but honestly the real draw is how large-scale and absurd it is while being grounded in such warm concepts as spirituality, friendship, family and love. Also, who doesn't have a big crush on Han Solo? You too, boys.
Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde has to go in this matrix because it was such a formative piece of art; I read it when I was fifteen, and Oscar became my man immediately. The effects of his rich, luxurious, liberal prose can still be seen in my writing style, despite years of being trained out of it by instructors who (rightfully) understood the value of brevity better than Wilde or I. To this day, when I pick up Dorian Gray, there's something that tickles my brain, makes me utter “oo, that's good,” like I've just eaten something flavorful and complex – gourmet prosecraft. Come talk to me about Oscar Wilde for more weird poetic gushing.
Comic: Daredevil caught me off guard when the television series came on Netflix. I knew who he was – I knew the horrible Ben Affleck movie, and I had read Marvel 1602 and wondered who this blind guy was supposed to be. After watching the Netflix series, I was in love, and I needed more. I bought three volumes of Frank Miller's iconic DD run (read with a tongue firmly planted in my cheek, because Miller is Gritty™), and I continue to accumulate more Matt Murdock content from my local Collector's Corner. A self-destructive Catholic martial artist who rails violently against gentrification, a defense lawyer by day and vigilante by night, walking the tightrope of the law while permanently blindfolded - that's the overwrought, grime-coated superhero for me.
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Music: Spotify: Music has always been a huge thing in my life, and by far the most productive and organized thing to happen to my interest in music has been Spotify. I’ve been able to store all of my music cohesively and reliably, and the user interface is so intuitive and user-friendly that it makes even just listening to music an engaging and motivational experience. My favorite part about it is how easy it is to make, store, and access playlists from the app. Recently I’ve been keeping playlists of the music I listen to during any given month and naming the playlist that month’s name so that I can easily go back and tap into whatever things I was thinking or feeling at a specific time. I find that music or certain songs can take you back somewhere as effectively as a smell can summon certain memories.
App: Neko Atsume: Life is stressful. Period. I love this app because it offers an escape that isn’t prolonged or stressful in its own ways. Neko Atsume is simple: you have a yard and you put out food and toys for little cats that will come visit you. The app offers a simple and short respite from whatever is on your mind, and you get to see these little animated cats playing with toys or eating sashimi. By far one of the best parts of this game is the cute little cats' buttholes which are aptly represented by a little "x." Plain and simple, it’s just cute shit and sometimes you need some cute shit.
Website: 750Words: I’ve developed habits both beneficial and crippling throughout my life, but the most meaningful and crucial habit I’ve developed is journaling and free-writing. No matter what you’re up to, there is something on your mind. The therapeutic value of putting it down on paper to either immortalize your thoughts or get it off your mind is unparalleled. 750Words is a lovely and simple way to implement free-writing in a structured and habitual way into your day. Furthermore, it offers an analysis of your word usage and mood based on your use of passive or positive language. It is very minimal and has stayed that way for the last four years I’ve been using it; it tallies my streaks of writing and only emails me when I happen to miss a couple days.
Podcast: Night Vale: I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and quirky imaginative stories or settings. I also like things to maintain some kind of order or organization. With the podcast Night Vale I get both. I commute about 30 minutes to get to school every day and most of my life and responsibilities are in and around Towson, so I do a lot of driving. This podcast is structured like a daily news report in the town of Night Vale. It can be hard to get into at first because any semblance of plot or linearity is stripped and the only substitute for it is in the organized and structured nature of the daily reports. It’s just quirky and strange enough to not get mundane and to hold my attention while driving.
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Magazine: Otaku USA is a bi-monthly magazine for lovers of anime and manga. It features reviews and information on new manga, anime, and related video games. The magazine also publishes stories about cosplay and other aspects of Japanese culture such as music. One of my favorite parts of Otaku USA is the short excerpts from two different manga in order to give readers a taste of them. The magazine even has a contest in each issue where readers can win free anime DVDs. Because of my bad luck, I haven't won anything yet.
Manga: Heart No Kuni No Alice, or Alice in the Country of Hearts, is a manga series based of of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The twist in this version is that the animals are actually humans with animals ears and/or tails, and supporting characters are faceless. The worst part is that Wonderland is full of violence and wars; characters carry around weapons and are not afraid to kill anyone. This is in part due to the fact that they all have fixable clocks instead of hearts. Fixing the clock causes characters to be reborn as a new person. Alice has to teach Wonderland that killing is bad, but she still has to stay alive despite fights between Heart Castle's Queen of Hearts, Mad Hatter's Mafia, and everyone else. This manga is full of action, mystery, romance, comedy, and even some psychology - which is why I enjoy it!
Music: "The Odyssey" by Symphony X is one of my favorite songs. Its genre is progressive metal or neoclassical metal, which means it mixes heavy mental and classical music. This song is the entire epic of Homer's The Odyssey. It has great lyrics and awesome instrumental parts. Also, the vocalist for this band has one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard in my life. It's around twenty-four minutes long, but it's always worth listening to it in its entirety, because its sounds change. I can never just skip over the song if it pops up on my iPod.
Website: Iwaku Roleplay is a site where I roleplay daily. Roleplaying is when you create a story with other people through writing. I create characters and roleplays, then roleplay as the character in the third person to collaborate with others. The site has plenty of other features as well, such as helpful tips on writing and places to showcase your works of art or writing. I have an account with Iwaku Roleplay, and I usually go on every night. It's fun and a great way to work on my writing and creativity.
Book: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
YouTube Channel: TheBestAMVsOfAllTime
Anime: Fairy Tail
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App: A Color Story lets you edit pictures on your phone using a variety of filters and tools to achieve the perfect look. Although the app is free, it offers in-app purchases to expand the number of options you have to brighten whites and make colors pop. I was surprised by how versatile A Color Story is, and I have had a lot of fun playing with all of the different options.
Book: Where'd You Go, Bernadette was a bestseller a couple of years ago, and over winter break it was finally available for check-out at my local library. If the concept of a daughter tracking down her runaway mother is not interesting enough, readers get to experience the story through a series of emails, notes, reports, and other gathered materials. It had been a while since a book grabbed my attention this way, and it was fun to be engrossed in a novel again.
Podcast: Elise Gets Crafty is a podcast exclusively for creatives. Elise Joy hosts a series of small business owners and creative thinkers to speak about their specialties. My favorite thing about this podcast was the way Joy allows her guests to discuss their topics without interrupting them. There are multiple seasons available, and the episodes do not need to be watched in order. Elise Gets Crafty has helped me find some amazing YouTube channels, blogs, and websites.
Literary Journal: Tin House is perhaps one of the most well-known literary journals, and I had the pleasure of enjoying their "Theft" issue after receiving it as a Christmas gift. I might have skipped a poem or two, but overall Tin House impressed me from the first page until the very end. I was originally skeptical about how many possible interpretations there could be for the concept of theft, but the contributors of Tin House did not disappoint!
Magazine: Broken Pencil
Music: Twenty-One Pilots' Blurryface
YouTube Channel: Amy Tangerine
The image above is "Flight" by Gillian Collins.