Playlist of the Month: April Showers

You’re familiar with the old saying, “April Showers bring May Flowers,” so we figured why not give you some appropriate songs to listen to while the rain comes down and you’re stuck inside wishing you were somewhere it was sunny. Check out some of our fave tunes to listen to while waiting for the sun to come out.

Want to listen to all these tunes on one playlist? Check it out on Spotify!

spotify:user:122917273:playlist:4qA9hwgKBOorkL3rPpiOsX

Traci’s picks:

Leave by Steve Kazee (Once: A New Musical)

If you’re not familiar with Once, please please please check it out. Based on the movie of the same name and the songs of The Swell Season, this show is a hit on Broadway, and even won the Tony for the Best Musical. With all this praise, you would think I’ve seen it a million times, but I haven’t seen it at all. Good news is that I’m finally getting to see this magical show when it comes to LA!!! In 2014. Womp Womp. Anyways, NPR was streaming the entire album when the show first opened, and it just so happened that when I listened to it for the first time, it was raining. Ever since then, I can’t imagine listening to anything other than this soundtrack while it pours down outside.

The Shape of Us by Ian Britt

I was introduced to this song from an episode of Parenthood, and per usual, it was the thing that pushed me right over the edge to bawl like a child.

Blue Ocean Floor by Justin Timberlake

This song from JT’s new album is quite different than anything else he’s ever released, and I am loving it. I find that I have to be in a certain type of mood to listen to this, preferably at night or – while it’s raining.

Skinny Love by Birdy

Well kids, this girl is 16 years old and better than you, so we can all stop trying. Her cover of Bon Iver is haunting and comforting at the same time. Like a nice warm bowl of tomato soup.

All My Days by Alexi Murdoch

This was the main track from the Away We Go movie soundtrack, and it was just perfect for the tone of the movie. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph travelled all across the U.S. to find a place to settle down before the birth of the impending birth of their kid, and this song hits just the right notes of the journey to find a home and knowing everything was going to work out.

Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars

Apparently my theme for rainy day songs means depressing songs too. Which is fine by me, because these are all great jams. And as for this one, listening to any Civil Wars song when it’s raining out is acceptable.

Molly’s picks:

Trapeze Swinger by Iron and Wine

Weather that makes you feel happy-sad calls for a song that makes you feel the same. This is one of my favorite songs, but by the end it’s a tossup as to whether I’m smiling or crying.

Kathy’s Song by Simon and Garfunkel

Poor Paul Simon is so broken-hearted and sweet – “I know that I am like the rain/ there but for the grace of you go I” – that I’ll love him if this Kathy girl never comes back.

Aguas de Marco by Elis Regina and Tom Jobim

This is one of those songs that you know, but you don’t know that you know it. After a listen it will probably sound familiar. Technically this is about MARCH showers, but that’s the rainy month in Brazil. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, the song sounds like rain falling. And if you do understand the lyrics, then you’ll probably feel simultaneously uplifted and bummed out. Rain does that.

Sunshine by JJ Heller

JJ Heller is technically a Christian artist, but don’t let that hold you off (to paraphrase a quote misattributed to Gandhi, I like your Christ but I do not like your Contemporary Christian Music). She writes about everything, and there’s nothing religious in this song, or a lot of her others. The laid-back sound of this song reminds me of a rainy day, but the good kind: cozy and happy.

Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson

If it’s going to rain, you may as well stay in and be joyful and charming about it.

How To Survive Life With A Host Family

Studying abroad is a whole lot of exciting mixed with a little bit of absolutely terrifying. This is never more true than when you’re living with a host family. Living in another country- even one that doesn’t use your primary language? Fine! Studying through a new college where you don’t know anybody? Okay! But living with a new family? YIKES. Even living with an American family would be tough in college. Besides,  everyone else I knew who studied abroad got to stay in dorms or student apartments.

I am by no means an expert on the homestay, but I spent almost 5 months with a family in a Madrid apartment and another month in a village in Nicaragua, so I know a little. In Nicaragua I had a sweet host mother and great roommates, and in Spain I had a prickly host family and one roommate I don’t even like reliving over a decade later. In both cases, it was this weird in-between status where you really weren’t part of a family, but you weren’t exactly just renting a room either. Sometimes it was hard, so here are a few tips from someone who has been there.

 Chat with your family a lot:

Homestays are great for language practice but doesn’t always make for easy, casual, fun interactions. The plus is that these situations give you a lot of bang for your study-abroad buck, and your language skills will improve in a way they never would if you lived with American kids. After a while tense changes and figures of speech become almost effortless – all that stuff you can’t REALLY learn in a classroom.

In my second language, sometimes I was like this weird alien who spoke the language just slightly wrong. But what do aliens do? Well, according to Unsolved Mysteries, some weird stuff. But they get to their host planet (or family), they observe, and they try to make sense of what they see.

Plus, you will learn a lot about another culture when you talk with your  family- how they think, what they value. You will find things to like and dislike, and you will probably hear some negative opinions about your home country. You might find yourself questioning things you hadn’t before, even little things – why am I asking for fake sugar for my coffee if I’m not diabetic? And if nothing else, it is a chance to learn a lot about the people in your fake family – and people, as a whole, are so, so interesting.

If, say, your family doesn’t seem particularly friendly, then having these convos can (1) help them realize you’re making an effort, or at least (2) give you this kind of anthropological motive so that even when they aren’t being that nice to you, you can narrate the encounters like a National Geographic special in your head.

But, take space where you need it:

Even with my real family, a lot of times I need to get away. Like, when you came home in high school, what would you do? At some point, no matter how much you loved your family and how many tv shows were on your common schedule, you would go to your room and shut the door. If you need some alone time to do homework, read, or write letters, close your door. It will make you a more sane and happy person, and thus better to live with. I had a roommate (… another story) who told me I was being rude because I was in the bedroom reading when she was at the table talking to our “brothers” one day, but I knew I needed take an hour to recharge after a particularly long day. It’s fine. One of the things that you learn living with a host family is that people everywhere have a lot of things in common. Your family will get it, and they won’t think they’re being rude. The homework excuse is good if they press you on it.

Know the rules:

Hopefully if there are any hard-and-fast rules, your family will let you know in advance. However, some things are so culturally ingrained that they might just take them for granted. This is where your awesome alien skills come into play. Try really hard to observe what people around you are doing so that you don’t get it wrong. One day, I came to the breakfast table and said something to my madre about the weather (or something. It was innocuous and I can’t really remember). She was NOT happy. I guess in Spain, if you see someone (even someone you live with), you always greet them with Good Morning first. Yeah, I… did not know that. And then, I did: feedback, not failure. Also, be prepared for something embarrassing to happen, if you’re an embarrassing person. You might get a stomach flu and puke everywhere, or come home having had too much to drink one day, or tell your host mom that you’re “so pregnant” instead of “so embarrassed”. I know people who have survived all of those experiences, so I promise that even if you slip up, you’ll be fine.

Explore the neighborhood:

You have the advantage of being integrated in a real, working neighborhood. This is amazing! Make sure you walk around your area in your first days and weeks and get to know where the useful things are – maybe ask one of your hosts for a walking tour, if you are so inclined. Over time, you will get to know your neighbors – the unhappy ice cream lady (Nicaragua), the adorable kids in preschool smocks (Spain), and so on. That gives you even more chances to learn about the culture and to practice the language, if applicable.

 Chances are your family is fairly hands-off (my Spain family was, anyway), so you will not have much guidance from them. Plus,  you won’t have the input of school staff like other study-abroaders, since they likely won’t live near you and know your neighborhood. There is a silver lining to this. You will find that people are more likely to treat you like any other local when you’re the only non-native college student in the area, compared to if a pack of you descend all at once speaking English. At the very least, know where your nearest post office, library, pharmacy, hospital, grocery store, and department store is. You know, all that Mister Rogers stuff. This was particularly useful in Nicaragua where the streets were made of dirt and unnamed – if someone tells you that the farmacia is two blocks over from the iglesia, on the corner next to the guy who owns the really huge pig, you better know where that is!

Going back up to the tip about taking space: if your home is small or if there’s no place to get away, you can make the most of your time at home by leaving to take walks and explore the neighborhood. You get exercise, learn about your neighborhood and get some time away from your family. I honestly took a walk just about every day in Spain just to get away.

Get a phone:

Hard to believe, but in both of my host houses, I didn’t have internet access. And I was okay, really! But it’s probably a good idea to get a phone if yours doesn’t travel well internationally. In Spain, I went with one where you pay by the minute, which is good if you won’t be around for a long-term contract and are trying to negotiate a cell phone store while jet-lagged and in your second language. In Nicaragua, I just didn’t talk to my real family, which was fine because it was only a month. Any longer, though, and you should really get one. This goes for students who are staying in dorms, too.

Ask if you can help:

Laundry with my Nica-roomies and our beautiful mom-away-from-mom, Sonia. My Spain mom was named Lidia, but both of my host fathers were named Alberto; maybe yours will be, too.

Since you are paying to stay with a family, there may be some very definite rules about whether or not they can put you to work. Try, anyway. You might be able to learn a new skill, something that you’d never have learned staying in your country or living with other people from your homeland. At the very least, they will probably let you learn how to make a favorite dish if you ask really nice and compliment it. Thanks to that tactic, I make a mean tortilla espanola. In Nicaragua, I learned how to smash open a coconut (not easy!) and wash my clothes without a washer and dryer (even harder!). Little things like that, believe it or not, make the whole homestay experience worth it.

 Kill the green-eyed monster:

Unless you have a super-amazing host family, in a fabulous house or apartment, in the best city ever, you might be a little jealous of your friends who are back home having the real, normal college experience. Or, your friends who are staying at a dorm in London while you are in an old lady’s apartment in Adalucia. This was very true in Spain, where, in my experience, you weren’t so much part of a FAMILY. It was a weird cross between being a boarder and being a visiting cousin or something, and sometimes it could be uncomfortable. It’s fine to have these feelings, but acknowledge them and then let them pass. Yes, those friends of yours back home or in dorms are having more of the typical “college experience” than you, and you chose to give that up for a semester, or a year. You gave things like chatting after dinner, and speaking English, probably, and hanging out in a big group at all hours, and running through what happened last night at Sunday breakfast. But you got some other great things in return.

Listen. I’m not writing this because staying with a host family is THE way to go and I want everybody to know how awesome it is – I’m writing it because it’s hard sometimes, and this is the advice that would have helped me. However, big rewards come when you do hard things. By the end of the semester, and certainly years down the line, I can almost guarantee that it will have been worth the trouble – so don’t be too jealous. You will have had 6 or 7 semesters of regular college compared to your 1 or 2 abroad – you are not missing out. Really.

Get an activity:

This actually goes if you’re doing a more traditional study abroad experience, too. Find a way to interact with your new community outside of whatever courses you take at your university. Temporarily join a church, if you’re into that. Volunteer. In Spain I volunteered with Girl Scouts; Nicaragua was a bit different because the whole point in going was to teach, translate, and work at a camp. Take classes. I took flamenco class in Madrid, because  where better to learn flamenco than Spain? Maybe cooking classes or music lessons appeal to you Join a recreational soccer league. Get out there and do something!

If your host family is not great — sometimes people find this post searching on things like “my host family hates me,” and I don’t mean to minimize that — this is also a way to get the heck out of there and meet other people. You just might find that your unfriendly host family isn’t typical of the country as a whole, which can make your study abroad experience a lot more pleasant.

Accentuate the positive:

Like I’ve said, there are some down sides to the homestay experience. Remember, if your family is awful, they don’t necessarily represent the whole country.  If you’re having a tough time, make a list of the things that you actually do like. If you don’t even have much that you like, make a list of the things that you’re learning instead. Make a paper chain until you can go home, like you’re a child awaiting Christmas. Until you board that plane, though, try to take advantage of this situation as much as you can. I know it can be difficult, but it can also be really amazing. One of the hardest things when I came home was people asking “how did you like it?” Well, it was five months of life. You don’t just like or not like almost half of a year.  You live it – and I can almost promise that you’ll be glad that you did.

Cups: A Tutorial

When Molly and I were in high school, we separately knew how to play the cup game, until one day we found out we both knew how to play it and proceeded to play together and continued our quest to become the coolest people ever (still on that quest, probably not going to ever happen).

However, the cup game/rhythm became popular as of late, thanks to Anna Kendrick’s solo performance in Pitch Perfect.

While Anna used the basic cup rhythm as an audition song, we were used to playing it with a group of friends, like this:

*this video reminds me of when I first learned how to play – at a retreat with a bunch of youth group kids from across New York state. Except these folks are going super slow, and the point was to speed up as you went on.

So we decided it would be a disservice to not teach you loyal readers how to do it. Please enjoy this awkward video of us teaching the cup game in a Starbucks in Rochester.

Monday: I Am Okay.

Monday was a weird day.

I woke up and checked my phone, scrolled through all my friends’ pix of Marathon Monday and felt extremely jealous I wasn’t there for the big day. As I drove to work, three separate cars literally almost smashed into me. I have a 30 minute commute and three different assholes weren’t paying attention to where they were going, and could’ve resulted into a major accident. I was hoping the odd and horrible start wasn’t going to be an indication of the day to come.

About 15 minutes into my shift, my boss came in to tell me two bombs went off at the Marathon and I was shocked at what I saw on TV. I couldn’t believe it. I started to tear up, watching this scene of tired yet accomplished runners crossing the iconic finish line painted onto the Boylston Street pavement, and seconds later a cloud of white smoke and utter chaos erupted. It was all too familiar but foreign at the same time. This warzone was a place I used to frequent almost every day – I worked blocks away from an area where there was now bloodstained sidewalks and undistinguishable debris…

To those who are unfamiliar with exactly how big this day is, I’ll do my best to encapsulate it in a somewhat brief paragraph. Officially titled Patriots Day, this annual state holiday falls on the third Monday of April, when schools and businesses are (for the most part) closed down in honor of the battles during the Revolutionary War. However, this day also marks the day of the Boston Marathon, which is regarded as one of the foremost long-distance running competitions in the world. People from all different countries come to run the 26.2 miles through picturesque eastern Massachusetts. More than 500,000 spectators line the entire course route to cheer on the runners, even if they don’t know anyone running. This is an inspirational day where everyone comes together to celebrate and support each other – it’s really an amazing sight to see. On top of that, the Boston Red Sox have a home game in the morning at Fenway Park, just a stone’s throw away from the marathon finish line. Needless to say, it’s a busy day in the city, and you can feel a different energy in the air. Everywhere you look, there are runners, tourists, baseball fans, college kids, families, etc. who are just excited (and maybe a little drunk from too much celebrating) for the day. Think of it as a small scale version of New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

After learning of the bombings, I scrambled to make sure my friends running in the marathon were ok, constantly checking all forms of social media for any updates on them and all my friends in town. That first hour or two was just making sure I saw the three words on my screen: I Am Okay. Thankfully everyone I know is safe. One of my best friend’s sisters was literally about to turn down Boylston Street but the police stopped her and all the other runners from continuing on. If her pace was just a few minutes faster, she would’ve been crossing that finish line when the bombs went off. The rest of the work day was a mix of wanting to know what was happening but not. I had my TV locked on the news, and my boss, bless him, was trying to make me feel better by continually asking if I was okay, telling me overdramatic people in these situations are the worst and that he had been in Boston years ago and he loved the city (Is that near Cheers? No). Ok cool, thanks, but not helping. Appreciate it, but not helping. I am okay.

I felt helpless, heavy in heart. The only way I can describe it is that I haven’t felt this way since 9/11. I had the feeling that there is only so much you can do when you are miles away from the situation. The feeling that everything you do in your normal routine feels so trivial compared to what people are going through in Boston. The feeling of wanting to continuously cry all day, because someone’s monstrous attack effected the lives of innocent bystanders. The feeling that it could have easily been someone I knew injured or dead, but it was leaving me grateful yet guilty at the same time.

Throughout the day it took every part of me to not break down and cry. I’d see photos of what was leftover from the broken stands and injured spectators. First-hand videos of people running, not knowing where to go, trying to get in touch with loved ones, fear in their eyes. Stories of runners who crossed the finish line, only to go to the hospital to try to help or donate blood. Reports that an eight-year-old boy was among those killed, and many people had to have amputations due to the injuries from flying shrapnel. The tireless policemen, EMTs, first responders, volunteers, anyone and everyone who ran towards the bombs to help rather than run away. Just knowing how absolutely chaotic it must have been around that area is scary enough – I purposely avoided that area because I knew it would be a shitshow of too many people when I lived there. Thousands of people crammed in a fairly small area, not knowing where to go, what to do, how to get to whereever they were going. The subway was shut down, roads were already closed because of the marathon, it must have been just utter devastation. On my timeline, I saw current kids at Emerson, my alma mater, reporting the school was on lockdown. Isn’t “lockdown” just a word the media uses when something like a shooting is happening…? It’s all too unreal and too overwhelming that I won’t let myself focus on it for more than a few minutes at a time. I am okay.

“Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people.” – President Barack Obama

However the one thing that has stuck with me and somewhat helped in coping with this is that Boston is a strong, loyal, kind, city. I know those words aren’t necessarily the first thing you think of when you hear Boston, but it’s true. People may seem like assholes at times, but they’re coming from a good place. It’s one of those, “You can make fun of your own family members, but if an outsider messes with your family, you’re dead meat” type of dynamics. However, it’s not like we’re an exclusive bunch. Boston is a town of transplants and college kids – you stay there for one day and you feel like it’s your home. I lived there for five years, but it feels like I’ve lived there all my life. In some way, I feel like Boston is just as much of a hometown, at times maybe even more so, than the actual town I grew up in. It’s where I found out who I was as an adult, where I made lifelong friendships, experienced life on my own for the first time. So when something like this happens, we are all Bostonians. We help out our own.

“If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out… This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” – An excerpt from comedian Patton Oswalt’s response to the bombings

The online outreach for my college alone is a testament to how strong the community is, and again made me tear up even more. The Facebook group for alumni was filled with posts asking if everyone was okay – these are people who don’t even necessarily know people at the school anymore! I keep seeing stories of restaurants opening their doors, serving people for free, offering a place to charge cell phones. A former New England Patriots player was spotted carrying an injured woman to safety. People stopping runners on the streets to see if they’re okay or need to use their phone. A woman carrying young kids who were injured and looking for their parents away from the bombing area. We help out our own.

So here we are, enough time has passed that it’s still fresh in our minds but seems so long ago. I feel like I’ll go to sleep and wake up the next day thinking this was all a dream. You hear it all the time when horrible incidents such as this occur. “Not us. Not this town. It could never happen here.” But it did. No matter how many times I see  footage of the bomb go off, I don’t think it’s real life. No, that is my hometown. That is a street I have walked countless times. I know that area like the back of my hand. This did not happen. People I know did not escape the incident by mere minutes… I’m in denial, but thankful. Angry, yet reflective. A million different emotions which I can’t fully comprehend. Monday was a weird day – but I – we – are okay.

The Best Moments of the MTV Movie Awards

The lovely Rebel Wilson did not disappoint on Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards, and the show had its fair share of memorable moments, including the much awaited Pitch Perfect reunion and Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt!

And while I haven’t watched Movie Awards as religiously as I used to as a teen, I wanted to take a second to remember some of the greatest MTV Movie Awards moments of the past. Ok, in full diclosure, this is basically a way for me to relive the golden era that was Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. So what.

Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise (as Len Grossman) dancing – 2010
This is just as odd as it sounds.

Jim Carrey accepting Best Male Performance – 1999
Jim got into character to receive his award. Word is still out on exactly which character it was he was getting into.

Jimmy Fallon & Kirsten Dunst co-hosting – 2005
Good lord everything about this is sooo 2005. Sorry KiKi – you tried singing. Good thing my mad J Fall was there to rescue you from sucking.

Kristen Stewart dropping her Golden Popcorn – 2010
HAHAHA

Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes – 2003
This clip isn’t even from the actual awards show, but it’s a reminder that as a child star, you can go either one of two ways when you grow up.

Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling accept Best Kiss – 2005
Best moment in the show’s history? Probably. I will randomly think of this and rewatch it, hoping my powers will bring these two soulmates back together… I need a boyfriend.

Digging Through the Archives: Vacation Bible School Treasures

Molly has previously written about how when we were in high school, the two of us, along with our friends Sarah and Monica, volunteered to be teachers at Vacation Bible School at my church (Spoiler: We got kicked out).

In the post, she mentions a lovely young girl we taught who we called A.C. Slater. An excerpt:

There was a girl who looked just like A.C. Slater. I don’t even mean like Slater’s nine-year-old sister, but I mean … I mean she had a jheri curl mullet. And the same dimples. Even her skin tone and eye shape were the same. Obviously we referred to her as A.C., and we may have tried to get her to repeat Saved By The Bell catch phrases and sit backwards on her chair like she was chillin after school at The Max. Oh, and on the last day, we took a picture with her, holding up a photo of Mario Lopez behind her head where she couldn’t see it. A.C. also had a younger brother who we predicted would grow up hot. Does anyone want to check on that? It’s been 10 years so that’s way less creepy now.

We may have been good people and volunteered with kids at a church, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t make fun of the children.

I recently came across this in one of my LiveJournal entries (yes, laugh all your want) during our time at VBS. It’s a worksheet we made the kids do, but apparently I stole it, scanned it, and put it in my LJ. What a loser. Except I’m so glad I did that, because I totally forgot about this. It’s like looking into a time capsule. I mean this 5th grader incorporated George Dubya into her VBS activity. I think we underestimated A.C. She even managed to name her dog – Molly.

Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Veep

There is one main reason you should watch this political comedy and that is Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Don’t get me wrong, the secondary characters are fantastic (like Tony Hale/Buster Bluth and Anna Chlumsky from your VHS copy of My Girl), but the star of the show is clearly JLD.

This bodes well since she plays the Vice President of the United States and this show is clearly called Veep. However, VP Selina Meyer is not exactly what you would call competent. She often needs the guidance of those around her to tell her what to do, how to vote, etc. She’s disregarded even in her high position in office, and is even often forgotten by the President himself (see video below). She’s honest, eager to please, but at the same time a brash woman who swears like a sailor. Take everything you thought you knew about how the White House is run and throw it out the window, because VP Selina Meyers is the exact opposite of how you think government should be run.

Just take a look at some clips of the show, and you’ll know why JLD received an Emmy Award for this role, and why our very own Joe Biden is a fan of the show too. From politician bribing to a pregnancy scare, this show’s entire ensemble of characters is so solid that they’ve never even shown the president once. You still have time to watch all 8 episodes of season 1, before season 2 premieres on Sunday!

Season 1 Trailer

What the Fuck Amy? – Selina’s Chief of Staff is in some hot water

I’m the Vice President!

Did The President Call? – The running joke of the show is that Selina is so unimportant that the President doesn’t even want to talk to his VP

This might be my favorite line in the entire series, as crass and ridiculous as it may be.

Characters I Would Not Hate If They Were Played By Different Actors

You know when you’re sitting at home, watching one of your regularly schedule programs, and enjoying every minute of it, until this one person shows up on your screen and ruins everything? Like, everything about your TV watching experience? My boss and I both love Parenthood, and agree that it’s one of the best dramas on the air right now. However, we greatly differ on one thing: Lauren Graham. He hates her. He can’t stand her acting, and he can’t stand her character, so put it together, and you get this 40-something year old guy ranting about how he has to mute it when she comes on or wants there to be a plot line that kills her off.

Now for those of you who don’t know, I love Lauren Graham. If I had to pick my favorite actress ever, it would be a tie between her and Amy Poehler. I’m a huge Gilmore Girls fan, so naturally I adore LG. I love her personality even more – have you seen her interviews with Ellen? Anyways, the point is that my boss always says Maura Tierney would’ve been such a better Sarah Braverman, and he would probably like her much better than LG now (if you didn’t know, Maura Tierney was originally cast as Sarah, but she was diagnosed with cancer and decided to leave the show, and they cast LG, and had to reshoot the pilot).

So in saying that, here are some characters I think would probably be much more tolerable if it was a different actor playing the role.

Jason Stiles – Gilmore Girls

Ah, Digger Stiles. Out of all of Lorelai’s boyfriends, you were the worst. And I’m including coffee shop Alex who made plans with Lorelai to go fishing, but it was Luke who taught her how to fish instead, and now he’s the main guy on Revolution. I really try not to judge a book by its cover, but with Jason, I am. He is a 4 compared to Lor’s 10. I mean she ended up with one of the manliest hottest men ever, Luke. How can you even compare him to Digger Stiles? His character was just not her type at all, so add an unlikable actor to that, and it’s not going to be well received by the fans.

Ellis Boyd – Smash

not an actual quote from smash

I found that picture from an article called “The Most Hated Character on TV?” I’m not the only one. For anyone who watched the first season, you know that this was the one person on the show who you could just picture yourself crawling into the TV and smacking him upside the head. I’d say hating Ellis is 50% hating the character and 50% hating the actor, played by Jaime Cepero (and coincidentally used to work in the Boston theater scene). He was just the absolute worst assistant would would literally do anything to get further in his career. But luckily for him, it looks like he’s not really missing anything since he’s been MIA after the first season and the show is doing horribly.

Dr. Erica Hahn – Grey’s Anatomy

This bitch. She came in and swooped in on Dr. Burke’s cardiothorassic legacy, leaving his gf and Seattle Grace’s fave doctor, Cristina Yang in the dust. Not only was she mean to Dr. Yang, but she also macked on Dr. Callie Torres, making them the first same-sex couple on the show. But there was always something off about her, and it’s probably the fact that when I look at her, I feel like I’m staring at a cold, damp, cement wall that is stationed somewhere in the middle of Russia. I don’t know why, but that’s what I feel, ok? She didn’t last long, because word on the street is that ABC execs didn’t like her either and forced Shonda Rhimes to kick her off the show.

Mark Brandanawicz – Parks and Recreation

ugh your face

More like “Mark Brandanaquitz!” Am I right, ladies? Long before Ben and Leslie liked and loved each other, she once pined for this guy. Who in my opinion, looked like a potato. He was just there. The fact that Leslie, one of, if not the most, strong-willed female characters on TV, was still harboring feelings for this guy who she hooked up with a long time ago is beyond me. He also dated Ann, which again, we’re back to the Jason Stiles complex, if it had been a better looking guy (so sorry, Paul Schneider), I might have believed their romance? But, I didn’t get it. No chemistry between any of them. Hell, Leslie and Ann have better chemistry with each other than he did with either of them.

Ivy Dickens – Gossip Girl

I still can’t tell you why Ivy was brought in as a new character in season 4. Maybe it had something to do with Serena’s grandma and the fact she was bribed to make the VanDerWoodsen clan believe she was their long lost cousin, ugh I don’t know. I can’t even really tell you why I kept watching Gossip Girl after season 2. But there was just something about Kaylee DeFer’s acting AND her voice that bugged the shit out of me. Like, just stop talking. No.

Pete Campbell – Mad Men

Pete CampbellPete Campbell is the epitome of a character you love to hate (see: 30 Reasons why you love to hate Pete Campbell). He’s WASPy, an ass, immature, and as of last season, an adulterer. And on the other hand, you have Vincent Kartheiser. He is a weird dude. In an interview with The Guardian, these words literally came out of his mouth:

“I don’t really go anywhere to buy things. In fact, I have been in a slow process of selling and giving away everything I own… Like, I don’t have a toilet at the moment.”

This is the man who is marrying Rory Gilmore IRL. But the thing is, you’re not really sure if he’s actually an asshat or of it’s just some ruse he does for the media. And if he is really a douche, then he’s perfect for the role of Pete. I’m so torn but I can’t not put him on this list.

Supreme Court Crash Course: Marriage Equality Edition

There’s a lot of speculation about the decision the Supreme Court may make in a few months about marriage equality. Chances are, you took at least a high school civics/government class, and have a pretty good working understanding of how the Supreme Court works. You understand that they’re interpreting the constitutionality of a law. You know that they don’t just look to the language and intent of the Constitution, but also to how the Court has interpreted the Constitution in the past. This is called stare decisis, or standing by what is decided. Feel free to pull that one out at your next bar night if you want to impress nobody and go home alone.

Although you already know all of this, you might not know exactly which former cases will come into play and why. That’s where I come in. Here are some Supreme Court cases that may affect the marriage equality debate, what they’re about, and why they matter now – in a short-ish, for dummies package. Not because you’re  dummies, but because I took Con Law four years ago and I can’t even remember what I packed in my lunch this morning or where my keys are.

* Note: I may have gone to law school, passed the bar exam, and have “attorney” in my job title, but none of this is legal advice. I have an employer, and my opinions are mine, not theirs.

Griswold v. Connecticut

What it’s about: Birth control – but, in the grand tradition of Supreme Court cases, it’s about so much more than that. The story was that a Connecticut law (not often enforced)  completely banned contraceptives. Some brave people opened a birth control clinic in New Haven because hey, that law was seriously not enforced anyway. Well, and also because the Court had previously held that it was totally fine to outlaw birth control, and I think they had a hunch that the times were changing. Or a-changin’, as Bob Dylan would have me believe everyone talked at the time. They got fined $100 and the case made its way up to the Supreme Court.

How they got there: This established that the right to privacy is found in “penumbras” and “emanations” of other constitutional rights. So, it’s implied, pretty much.  A broad privacy right is implied in the Fourteenth Amendment (personal liberty, restrictions on state action) and Ninth Amendment (rights reserved to the people). This reasoning showed up about 8 years later in Roe v. Wade (you know that one! That’s the abortion one!). The Court declared an all-out ban on abortion illegal by reasoning that the Constitution and the cases that interpret it carry an implied right to privacy. There’s also some stuff about trimesters in there that really doesn’t have much to do with marriage. Although, now I am anticipating that we’ll get a misguided Google hit asking “what trimester should I get married in?” My vote is to wait til the baby is born because the only thing harder to  find than a good maternity prom dress is a good maternity wedding gown. Cue the misguided Google hits.

Why it matters: We’ll get there, but basically cases with more direct implications for the marriage equality struggle rely, in part, on an understanding that citizens possess a right to privacy.

Loving v. Virginia

What it’s about: Interracial marriage – but really, the basic right to marry whomever you choose (I mean, as long as one of you has an XX and the other an XY chromosome. OMG remember Kyle XY? Is that on Netflix? Loved that shit. ).

How they got there: A Virginia law prohibited mixed-race couples from getting married out of state and then living as a married couple in Virginia. Sort of like how now, gay couples can go from, say, Ohio to New York to get married, but Ohio won’t recognize their marriage. But this was even worse than that, as Virginia didn’t just fail to recognize the marriage – it was a felony. Here’s the big thing: VA tried to say that since both white and black people were affected by the law (You’re a felon! You’re a felon! Everybody gets a felony!) then it wasn’t racially discriminatory. The Supreme Court thought otherwise, and said that this law violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Check out this little gem from Justice Warren: “marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as… these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the fourteenth amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of the law… Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Why it matters: Loving declares that marriage is a fundamental right. Laws that impinge on fundamental rights are subject to a harsher level of review by the Supreme Court than other laws. Standards of review crash course ahead:

  • The lower level is rational basis review – does this law have a reasonable relationship to a legitimate state interest? The anti-gay marriage folks would argue that the state has a legit interest in protecting kids from growing up in bad homes so that’s why you and your boyfriend/girlfriend can’t get married. I’m not even going to go there because we all know that’s ridiculous.
  • But if a fundamental right is at risk, the stakes get higher: strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny asks whether the law was narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest. Loving matters because it seemingly gets us to the strict scrutiny level when the right to marry is in question. It’s harder for a law to meet “narrowly tailored” and “compelling state interest” than it is to meet “reasonably related” and “legitimate interest,” so if you support marriage equality, you’d really like to see strict scrutiny applied.
  • What happens if the Supreme Court says that there isn’t a fundamental right at stake here? There’s also a strict scrutiny review if a law targets a suspect classification. No dice: courts have tried like crazy to get around declaring sexual orientation a suspect classification, even though suspect classes usually include things you’re born with (race) and even some things you’re not (religion).
  • But even if we can’t get there, there is a level called intermediate scrutiny. If a law unfairly targets a quasi-suspect class, then we ask whether the law is substantially related to an important government interest. So, it’s harder for a law to meet intermediate scrutiny than it is to meet rational basis, but easier than strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court has not yet said that sexual orientation is subject to intermediate scrutiny, but the Second Circuit Court Of Appeals has, so who knows? But anyway, even if sexual orientation isn’t a suspect class, gender is. Loving says that a law that limits what race you can marry is racial discrimination. If anti-gay marriage statutes limit what sex you can marry, then maybe, just maybe, it is sex-based discrimination and gets intermediate review.

The Supreme Court is usually loathe to declare new members of the suspect and quasi-suspect classes, though. We may be more likely to see them say that laws against gay marriage don’t even meet the rational basis test, then stop there.

Lawrence v. Texas

What it’s about: Texas had an anti-sodomy statute, as did twelve other states, as recently as ten years ago when Lawrence was decided. Over 25% of the states in this country cared a whole lot about what you did in your grown-up time. Police walked in on two gents going at it, which usually would be the worst thing EVER anyway, right? But it gets a lot worse when instead of a bit of embarrassment, you get a misdemeanor. And the Supreme Court was like, nah, Texas, you can’t do that.

How they got there: Kennedy’s opinion rested on the right to privacy (Griswold! Roe! Thanks, ladies!). Lawrence struck down Bowers, a case that said that it’s okay to make laws against sexual conduct between consenting adults because condemning homosexuality is “firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian moral and ethical standards.” Basically, it’s fine to discriminate against gay people, because it’s our tradition! Like apple pie on the Fourth of July! Or, for those of us who aren’t that into pie, like those cakes with strawberries and blueberries that look like the American flag on the Fourth of July! Because that cake is GOOD.  After Lawrence, limiting what adults do behind bedroom doors is understood to be a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Why it matters: Note that they didn’t go with the equal protection analysis and invoke a suspect or quasi-suspect class. Just the legitimate basis test, which these laws failed gloriously. There’s no legit state interest in who you get busy with and when and how.

So what do I think is going to happen when the Supreme Court term is up this summer? Well, I didn’t discuss the DOMA challenge here, but I’m hoping that’s a goner. But as for the right to marry in California, my guess is that we’re probably going to get a narrow decision that doesn’t help many people outside of CA. I think the lower court’s holding will get reversed, but only on the grounds that the people who brought the challenge to same-sex marriage didn’t have standing. It just didn’t affect them, pretty much. I think we might have to wait for a case from someone with standing – a person who wants to get married and can’t. Or at least a state defending its law instead of an interest group from the state doing it. But I’m not putting any money on it or anything, because the Supreme Court can surprise you sometimes. And also because legally I don’t think I can put money on it.

Update: 6/26/13: Well, SCOTUS sure did keep us waiting til the end of the term, didn’t they? For anyone who follows these crazy kids, it’s no surprise (now can they PLEASE just let my girl Ginsberg retire?). Also, this is the 10-year anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, which might make you a little emotional if major Supreme Court decisions make you happy-cry like they do for me.

As I predicted, SCOTUS held that the petitioners in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the prop 8 challenge, did not have standing to appeal the district court’s ruling to the 9th Circuit. Here’s why :”we have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.”

But do you know what that means? Since they didn’t have standing to appeal the initial ruling on Prop 8, the district court’s decision stands. Which means…. Prop 8 is struck down! We revert back to the district court’s order, which was lovely. Here, a little light reading for you, Perry v. Schwarzenegger (actually one of the better opinions I’ve read lately): https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/files/09cv2292-ORDER.pdf

This isn’t as useful to the rest of America as an outright ruling on marriage equality would be. It’s state-specific. But, it’s a victory for California!

100 years ago, when suffragettes were doing their thing, there was a debate about whether to achieve equal voting rights state-by-state or by Constitutional amendment. The state-by-state thing was slow-going, and we all know how that ended up getting resolved. But for the time being, anyway, that’s what we’ll have to do with marriage.

The Coachella Exodus

For two weeks in Los Angeles, all you will hear is whether people are going to Coachella or not. It’s literally a mass hipster exodus out of the city, and everyone heads out to the middle of nowhere in Indio, California. For $300 a ticket, you can stand out in the hot desert, drink, do drugs, spot celebs, and wear ridiculous outfits, all while watching the best of indie bands play at various stages. And I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t really not it existed before I moved to LA, or that in general the festival just got more popular, but it is a big deal out here. Like all over your Facebook and Twitter feeds type thing.

I’ve never been, nor do I ever want to, unless it’s free and I would be guaranteed a spot in an air conditioned tent with real bathrooms. I’m making all my assumptions based on photos and videos I’ve seen in the past, but the idea of being that close to sweaty annoying people is my worst nightmare, but I commend the people who can put up with that sort of thing.

And by people, I mean there is definitely a certain type of crowd that goes to Coachella. You have your hardcore hipster types that actually want to see all the bands playing there. Then you have these people:

These people are REAL. Paying $800 for a VIP ticket to see “GOTyah” is absurd, but people do it. But in all fairness, the Coachella lineup reads like a list of names that come up on one of those online band name generators, so you’d have to be pretty legit to know a lot of them. In fact, take this quiz and see if you’re worthy enough to head to Coachella. Unfortunately I got a 0 – “Listens to the Radio”. Well, I guess it’s fate that me and Coachella are never meant to be…