As you can tell from my super lengthy playlists, I really love music, and I love being able to have the opportunity to listen to Pandora at my job while I work. I don’t want to play just classical music; I want to play all kinds of music on my cello with people from a variety of musical backgrounds and genres, so I’ve been listening to lots of different music in order to get a sense of rhythm, color and style. Here’s a compilation of the music I’ve listened to this week. I think it’s called Pandora for a reason, for I have uncovered a box full of songs I would have never known about or listened to otherwise. I have been corrupted (jk lol. 🙂
“Ceremony”: New Order
“Sleepyhead”: Passion Pit
“Like Eating Glass”: Bloc Party
“Quiet Little Voices”: We Were Promised Jetpacks
“Soft Shock”: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“The Sound of Silence”: Art and Garfunkel
“Burning”: The Whitest Boy Alive
“Sixties Remake”: Tokyo Police Club
“Vcr”: the xx
“Nachde Nesaare”: Jasleen Royal
“Bubbles”: Herbie Hancock
“Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?”: Moby
“La Vie Boheme”: Rent (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
“Our Swords”: Band of Horses
“Handy”: Weird Al Yankovic
“The Old Mill Steam”: Lena Horne
“9 to 5”: Dolly Parton
“Bluish”: Animal Collective
“Lay Me Down”: Sam Smith
“Tareefan”: Badshah (from the movie Veere Di Wedding. Haven’t seen it but sounds interesting.)
“Mob Ties”: Drake
“F**ckin’ Perfect”: P!nk
“Don’t Gas Me”: Dizzee Rascal
“Roll Up”: B.O.B.
“Wednesday Morning”: Mackelmore
“Good Day”: Nappy Roots
“Home”: Machine Gun Kelly, X Ambassadors, and Bebe Rexha
Symphony No. 9 (New World): The New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein
I was re-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel last night, and there’s a scene towards the end where the comedian Lenny Bruce (played by Luke Kirby) performs “All Alone”. I didn’t know until my friend told me while we were watching it that Lenny Bruce had actually performed the song in real life. It made me think of the profound legacy he left for comedians.
A few years ago, in my philosophy course on Animal Rights, our professor had us read and discuss Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer’s exploration of factory farming and the ethical dilemma he found (and still finds) himself in with regards to cutting meat 100 percent out of his diet. From what I can remember (I’d probably have to go back and read the book despite reading it several times in that one course) Eating Animals mainly talks about the ethical implications of factory farming and how factory farming puts these animals in cruel conditions. In We Are the Weather, published this very year, it goes to another level to talk about the impact of factory farming on the planet. This book attracted me because he forces us to sit back and reflect on not just factory farming and global warming, but on the deeper meanings behind our actions, like in Part 2 he gives these disturbing statistics about climate change and the average carbon footprint, and the ways in which factory farming contributes to increased greenhouse gas production and, in turn, higher climate temperatures. He also talks earlier in the book about the film An Inconvenient Truth (the film that inspired me to go on a save-the-planet movement when I was in middle school). But then in Part 3, “Only Home”, he talks about the concept of home and how it relates to the ways we treat the planet. In one of the chapters of Part 3, called “Mortgaging the Home”, he talks about how his family was just one of many American families with the “American Dream” mindset, where his grandparents’ house was larger than his parents’ house, and how his house is larger than his parents’ house. The “American Dream” dictates that one’s lifestyle should be more expansive than that of one’s parents, but now that climate change is worsening and people are using more resources than the planet can provide, we have to ask ourselves: is The American Dream sustainable? What do we have to lose by sacrificing it? Foer talks about the debt that many Americans have: credit card, student loans, car debt, mortgages, but he takes it to another level by forcing us to think about the debt we owe to our only real home, Planet Earth. He says in the beginning of the chapter that we will need four planets to sustain the average American lifestyle for all 7.5 billion and counting people on the planet, while in other countries that are less affluent, we would only need one planet or so to do that.
I have lately been reading about lifestyle inflation and never thought that our planet would live long enough to still sustain the kind of lifestyles that the American Dream pressures us to pursue. I am fine living below my means, but I can’t speak for everyone since everyone has different goals and situations. But this book left me with this bittersweet feeling of, like, I am hopeful that we will mitigate what we’ve done to the planet, and at the same time I think about all the species that have gone extinct and the communities that have to deal with the worsening effects of climate change (coastal places mainly). I am a vegan, but I also drive a car to work, I keep my phone on everyday, and I have flown a lot in the past on planes and still crave that spirit of travel. I also try to compost and not waste too much food, since I watched the documentary Wasted and realized that being vegan by itself wasn’t going to cut down on greenhouse gases if all the food I ate was being thrown away in the trash so it could go and rot on a landfill and emit even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Part of me wants to start a composting program at my workplace, but since I have composted before, I can tell you that it attracts a lot of critters and that wouldn’t necessarily be good for the firm’s business. Still, I get sad when our office manager has to throw out all this uneaten fruit at the end of the day, and no matter how much fruit I try to take home I know it won’t fit my tiny Pyrex container. So you can only do so much.
I guess I gelled with Foer’s book because in Buddhism, we talk about karma, and how it means that we create karma through our thoughts, actions and words each day, but from Nichiren Buddhism, yes, our karma is deep but we don’t have to be fatalistic and think it’s the end of the world. We can transform this karma not just through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo but also through taking actions in our daily lives to transform the effects of this karma. In a way, as a collective of individuals we have created a social karma through setting up these institutions and systems that perpetuate discrimination and consumerism. And Foer recognizes that people who say we should stop eating meat and flying aren’t being super practical, and also that this perspective might as well be saying that we should become “air-a-tarians” and abstain from having fun altogether. But he also recognizes that the far end of the perspective, aka cynicism, won’t help. He writes a lot about hopelessness and suicide in the last part of his book, and suicide being one of the leading causes of death, but that we need to still have hope even at a time when we don’t know how we’ll adapt to global warming. He says that we can’t just sit back and pray for stuff to happen, but instead, we can take action
“by having honest conversations. bridging the familiar with the unfamiliar, planting messages for the future, digging up messages from the past, digging up messages from the future, disputing with our souls and refusing to stop. And we must do this together: everyone’s hand wrapped around the same pen, every breath of everyone exhaling the shared prayer.”
Foer, We Are The Weather, page 224
We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. Jonathan Safran Foer. 272 pp. 2019.
What kind of world am I going to live in a year from now? What kind of world do I want? In 2030, do I want melted polar ice caps To see skeletons of polar bears, penguins and sea lions That the rising temperatures murdered long ago? Do I want dying coral reefs And extinct species? I know I can't do justice through a poem But at least I'm getting my voice heard.
I may not be the loudest with my voice But I am the loudest with my pen And I speak truth to power With my written words.
I want to live in a future Where greed, anger and foolishness Don't get in the way of people's happiness I want to live in a future Where flora and fauna can coexist with humans And everyone recognizes the interdependence Of everyone and everything on this earth?
Every time I eat outside during my lunch break I hear beauty all around me Even the insects seem beautiful even though They talk a lot, rather too close to my ears. The trees speak amongst themselves As I munch on my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cookie I hear the birds chirping merrily amongst themselves And the lively squirrels chasing each other up trees
Even if climate change were to never happen The planet is our rented apartment It is a mortgage that we don't own We have to pay back our debts every month Or else we fall behind on our credit And go into even worse debts
We still need to take care of our home Even if climate change never existed. And sadly, I can't do more than I can do now. I eat vegan, I turn off the lights, I try to take shorter showers But I still eat fruit bars wrapped in material that I can't compost I drive my car everywhere I am writing this blog on a computer, which uses electricity, which produces greenhouse gases And I always have my phone on
But what has helped me in my journey As one of seven billion renters of planet Earth Is awareness. Awareness that I can make a difference Awareness of the different issues going on. Awareness of how important these issues are and why they matter Awareness of efforts that people are already making Awareness of how corporations can sometimes do good, and then sometimes do bad by sending misinformation. Awareness of differing perspectives on the issue And awareness that global warming is a fact and not an opinion at this point
Ignorance can no longer be bliss I have to know the truth So I can continue my survival In this apartment I am renting Each day I must express appreciation From the bottom of my heart To my gracious landlord, Earth, who Allowed me to stay even when I had (and still have) Debts to pay.
In this interview on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah talks with Jameela Jamil, actress on The Good Place, about her social activism. One thing that really stuck with me about the interview was Jameela’s ability to take criticism when it came to having discussions around injustice. When people have told her she didn’t include a certain marginalized group in her activism or corrected her on things she has said as an activist, she accepts it and then strives to do better. Trevor asks her if it gets tiring to have this happen, and Jameela says that no, it’s not tiring because activism is about progress, not being perfect. And I think it’s important to remind ourselves of this when we do activism. I’m an activist, too, but not a perfect activist. I have said some pretty ignorant things in the past about race, class and gender, and many times when people would call me out on it, I would shut myself away and feel guilty about it. One time I said something racist, and I had made this racist joke in the past, and my friend corrected me on it later in life, and then I made the joke a second time even though they told me it was wrong. Finally they unpacked for me why my joke was racist, and afterwards I took it personally and dwelled on it, like “Wow, I am so racist, so ignorant, no one is going to talk to me now.” But after a while, I had to realize that what’s in the past is in the past, and the only solution was to watch what I say next time and educate myself better. I appreciate the classes I took on philosophy and Africana Studies so I could educate myself and also learn from other people’s perspectives. Even though at the time I didn’t like being corrected or called out for saying something incorrect, looking back, I appreciate the opportunities I had to have these discussions.
And it reminded me of a conversation I was having with a white acquaintance of mine, and she was recounting all of these stories about anti-black racism, and we were in the lunch line and she recounted this awful experience her black friend had to go through. She recounted the story word for word, even verbalizing the slur that the guy called her friend. Of course, I got rather tense when she said the slur (the n-word) because it has such a loaded history and even when people aren’t directly calling you that and are just quoting something someone said, it still freaks me out a little when I hear that word, which is why I don’t say it. But then the friend went on about how she feels so bad, so guilty, so terrible for being white, and sucking in my cheeks and trying to remain calm, I asked her, “How will you constructively process this white guilt you feel?” And from there, our conversation got better and I guess I lifted the burden off her shoulders. Now, of course, this friend would continue to ask me to educate her on my experiences with encountering racism, and I could have told her to talk about something else (like, “Let’s lift this white guilt burden off your shoulders and talk about, let’s say, the new show on HBO that’s coming out). But her white guilt taught me that as an ally, even from a marginalized group myself, I need to own my class privilege. What am I going to do when I talk to my friends from low-income backgrounds, just ruminate about how guilty I feel for being middle class? How is that even productive? Whenever I said something classist, I felt guilty at first and would often not talk to my friends for fear I would say something ignorant again, but as time went on, I realized that I’m not perfect and no one else is either. Like Jameela said, you need to own your mistake and move on. Cancelling someone doesn’t give people the chance to have dialogue. Then again, if someone repeatedly does stuff that is racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, or transphobic (I’m leaving out a lot of other -ics and -ists, so please forgive me) you have to wonder if their apologies are actually genuine or they are just not wanting to have an honest conversation about their ignorance.
This is one of the few times I have heard someone talk about how no one is perfect in activism and we are all improving. Cancel culture is very real, but after I watched the interview I reflected on how it has affected opportunities to have dialogue with one another. I have learned to be more careful about what I say, but also to not take comments personally if I say the wrong thing or mess up. I am still working on how I react when I mess up in these social activism conversations, but I’m glad I am working on it because it’s part of the process and instead of feeling guilty about what I said, I should appreciate the opportunity I have to learn from the other person, to do better. I should also appreciate opportunities I have to speak up when someone says something offensive because many people of color in history have had to fight hard so people like me could have the platforms for speaking out against injustice.
If you have not seen Booksmart yet, I recommend it. It is an incredibly fun and brilliant movie, and two of the ladies behind it are Olivia Wilde (the director) and Sarah Haskins. I haven’t seen Olivia Wilde’s other films, but I was just happy that she was directing this movie, and I know Sarah Haskins because she did these really funny parodies of products directed at women called Target Women, in which she gives fun and informative commentaries about things like yogurt commercials marketed towards middle aged women and the portrayal of women in movies with Disney princesses. I hadn’t seen any new videos from Sarah in a long time since I watched Target Women ages ago, but I was so glad to see her in action with this movie!
So basically, Booksmart is about these two high schools seniors named Molly and Amy. Both of them are friends and are really smart, and they are about to graduate with the rest of their class (Molly is valedictorian). However, Molly’s world comes crashing down when, contrary to what Maya Rudolph’s motivational voice tells her at the beginning about how she is better than everyone at school because she studied instead of partied like them, even the students who spent their school year studying are, like her, going to top universities. She and Amy realize that unless they spend the night before graduation living a little, they won’t get to end their senior year with a bang. So they go to the party of Nick, who is Molly’s crush. At first Amy doesn’t want to go because she thinks it is pointless, but Molly tells her not just that they need to end their senior year with a bang (especially since Amy is leaving for Africa that summer) but also because Amy’s crush, Ryan, is going to be there, and it would be Amy’s only chance to sleep with a girl before she leaves for Africa. So they go to the party and it turns out to be a night they will never forget (pardon the cliche).
Although I couldn’t 100 percent relate to Amy and Molly, since I didn’t drink in high school or have any relationships, I felt for them so much when it came to their social consciousness and their nerdiness (and their love of the library). Like Amy and Molly, I was a feminist and studied a lot, but Molly also worried about her class rank and where other people were going to college. I didn’t even bother getting in line with all the other students during that lunch period to check my class rank, and when a fellow student came up to me and asked what my class rank was, all I told him was “I don’t know” because I didn’t care enough to check it. Even in my high school orchestra class, where most of the kids were gunning for the top 10 percent of their class, my teacher gave a 10 minute speech on why looking at your class rank was pointless. His idea, which I completely agreed with and still agree with, is that no one cares about your class rank when you leave school (of course, this might depend on which people you happen to be around, because there are grown adults who care about class rank and GPA. And of course, if you go to grad school, you definitely need your GPA from undergrad. But again, depends on what the situation is) and, moreover, your class rank says nothing about who you are as a person. And frankly, he’s right. Not once in college did anyone ask me about my class rank. No one at work has asked me about my class rank. Not my friends. Not my family. Most, if not all, people couldn’t give a rat’s butt what your class rank is.
To add to his point, I was more interested in learning for the sake of learning, not so I could beat everyone else in my school year. Which is why after all these standardized exams I got burned out and tired. There’s this film called Race to Nowhere, and I saw it during my last year of high school because I was fed up with everyone’s focus on class rank and GPA and standardized exams. It is a documentary about how messed up the U.S. education system was (and still kind of is, as is evident by this video) and at the beginning of the film a song by The Weepies called “Nobody Knows Me At All” plays as we see kids going to their classes and the visible stress they feel about their work and extracurricular activities. The students interviewed say that they have to cram in all this information before they take their exams but after it’s done they can’t remember any of it. This is because the teachers, having to follow a set curriculum and deadlines, don’t have time to teach their students more than just what’s in the textbook. In my environmental science class, I was so frustrated because I wanted to delve more into the ethics part of environmental science, ask the hard questions that one couldn’t find by just looking at the text book. Working on a project about invasive species brought me peace as I listened to Seal’s “Dreaming in Metaphors”. But of course, the teacher, being already stressed enough as it was, told me each time, “It’s in your textbook.” “It’s in your textbook.” “It’s in your textbook.” I almost gave up on asking so many questions because I didn’t want to bother the teacher, but I couldn’t, because I have loved environmental activism since middle school, so it made no sense for me to back down just because it seemed as if the other students didn’t care about the material.
Although I definitely see the point of a movie like Booksmart, because the film’s message was that while it’s important to take your work seriously, it’s important to not take yourself too seriously. In other words, it’s ok to let loose a little, although in my opinion, everyone has their own definition of letting loose. And the film isn’t the stereotypical high school party movie because the film gives the studious characters more dimension and personality. Molly and Amy aren’t side characters who go to the party and get laid; they are the central protagonists of the film who prove that they can have some fun even though they study a lot. I remember carrying the same study habits I had in high school to college (aka study hard and don’t party. The only party I went to was my senior year prom, but there wasn’t any alcohol there and I went with a few friends who were also studious like me to college) and I got burned out. So burned out that one of the seniors had to remind me at least a million times (more like the entire school year, to be more accurate) to make time for myself to have fun. After her senior banquet (which I didn’t go to because, well, #studies) she dropped a gift by my door (they called them “wills” since it was their last year of college). It was a planner/calendar for me to balance my commitments and schedule some time for self-care, because, in her words, “it’s not just about the classes”. That whole year I poo-poohed her advice, and this carried on into senior year (although I did go to a few parties that year). It wasn’t until after college that I learned to take care of myself, and my definition of self care has evolved to include doing my laundry, taking a shower, eating right, and blogging about movies like Booksmart without caring about my bad grammar skills or trying to sound like Roger Ebert or Peter Travers (when I clearly do not have the years of experience they had).
Other awesome things about this film? The frequent references to influential women figures. At the beginning of the film, we see, as Molly meditates to the motivational voice of Maya Rudolph, posters with slogans such as “We Should All Be Feminists” (I’m sure it’s a reference to Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s book), photos of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama, and a pro-choice poster with the words, “My Body, My Choice”. Molly and Amy use a code word before they go to the party because Amy is thinking of backing out of the party, and Molly just says, “Malala” to remind her that they are friends and stick together at all times (they are referring to Malala Yousafzai, a young woman in Pakistan who is an activist for women’s education). Like Molly and Amy, I was a hard core feminist and I told people in school I was going to a women’s college because I was a feminist (there were of course other reasons for going to the school but that’s for another time). However, I lacked the knowledge that Molly and Amy did about feminism, because the feminists I idolized happened to be white women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who, as Adam Grant explains in great detail in his book Originals, didn’t care about all women, and by that I mean black women. It wasn’t until I got to college that I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of women’s rights and the history of the feminist movement to include women of color. Amy and Molly were advocating for Malala before I even heard about this young woman getting shot in 2012 (I was in college by then). They had more posters about feminism and reproductive rights than I ever did (in high school, me, a single poster? Nope.)
The movie also sends a positive message about how it’s okay to be yourself. Even though Jared, one of Molly’s classmates, seems to have slept with his supposed girlfriend, Gigi, and even though he rolls up in a fancy car and, on the night of Nick’s party, has a yacht where there are giftbags with his name on it and fancy hors d’ouevres (sad truth: no one attends his party other than Gigi, Molly and Amy). However, he later tells Molly, when they’re at Nick’s party together, that he is a nerd like her and contrary to popular belief, hasn’t slept with Gigi or anyone. He also tells her that he likes airplanes and theatre and wants to do that after college. Earlier in the film, there is a group of popular kids who talk poorly about Molly while she is in the bathroom stall, and Molly tells them that she worked harder than them and is going to go to a good college because she worked hard. But each of them tells her that they are going to pursue higher education like her, and one of them says that he’s going to work at Google over the summer. The film showed me that while hard work is fine, it’s also okay to spend time with people and not just bury your face in your textbooks (although I am incredibly appreciative of my K-12 education and college education and that I had time in college to study and learn about philosophy and social activism). There are also two students who are passionate about theater, but the film, unlike a lot of films, doesn’t portray them as the outcasts. They are embraced, too, in the film, and really everyone in this high school (the movie takes place in Los Angeles and was filmed in Los Angeles) is a nerd in some way.
The film reminded me of the film Dope. Although of course, there were differences in the storylines (Dope was about three nerdy black and Latino students who sell cocaine on the black market after someone they meet at a party puts it in one of the kids’ backpacks. Booksmart is about two young white women who spend their last night before graduation partying instead of hitting the books so they can make a good impression on their peers), the films have one main similarity, and that is that both of them transcend the traditional white male nerd archetype. Historically in Hollywood, nerds were often straight, cis-gendered white men who were standoffish and incredibly misogynistic. It’s why The Big Bang Theory rubbed me the wrong way during the first few episodes (no shade, but I couldn’t finish it). All except one of the main characters was a straight white man, and the one person of color in their friend group didn’t speak much during these few episodes I watched. I don’t know, maybe I am completely wrong and that I should have finished the show. But after reading and watching so many films and TV shows with LGBTQ+, POC and female protagonists who tell their own stories without following society’s standards on what viewpoint they should have, I didn’t want to watch The Big Bang Theory anymore.
Other characters make the story unique: the principal, Jordan Brown, played by SNL’s Jason Sudeikis (I just found out that he’s the film director’s spouse), turns out to be a Lyft driver because he has to supplement his income (the movie makes this a brief but brilliant commentary about teachers’ salaries in U.S. schools) and is writing a novel about a pregnant female detective whose fetus kicks every time she finds a clue (I have no idea why these writers are so creative. In no movie have I heard a school principal writing a novel with such a random storyline). The teacher Miss Fine (played by Jessica James), an African-American woman who doesn’t play a major role in the film but relates to Amy and Molly very well because she used to study a lot in school and not party and she tried to make it up by being wild in her 20s (she mentions she is not allowed in Jamba Juice anymore because of her behavior). The tall girl in Amy’s class who makes snarky comments and hangs out in the bathroom alone and smokes during Nick’s party (she plays a key role later in the film). And Mike O’Brien, also from Saturday Night Live, who plays a pizza delivery driver. Overall, the film was amazing, and absolutely hilarious! The first time I saw Beanie Feldstein was in her film with Saiorse Ronan, Lady Bird, another, albeit more serious, coming-of-age story. The two actors play friends, but Lady Bird’s story is at the center, while her friend Julie is there to provide support for Lady Bird. The main characters of Lady Bird are Lady Bird and her mother (played brilliantly by Laurie Metcalf). In Booksmart, however, the friendship between Molly and Amy is at the core of the film. Julie is a good polite student like Molly, but any other development of her character stops there. In Booksmart, Molly curses, talks about masturbation, and drinks Heineken (the only out-there thing Julie does is eat the communion wafers and chat with Lady Bird after school. The nun calls them out on it soon after).
Honestly, I wouldn’t mind watching Booksmart again. And like I said, if you haven’t seen it, it is a great film. It got more than 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and I believe it deserved that rating. I felt like I wanted these characters in the film to be real. I wanted Amy and Molly to be my friends so we could talk about feminism together. I also felt for Amy because she is a lesbian, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I felt for her. Also, Amy isn’t an outcast because she is gay; there are a lot of films that make the characters outcasts because they are gay. But Amy is an outcast because she studies a lot and doesn’t engage in the silly games her classmates do. This is the thing that makes her stand out, not her sexual orientation. The film embraces Amy’s sexual orientation and that’s what keeps Amy and Molly’s friendship so tight.
Anyway, I have to go to sleep, but watch this movie when you have time. I wish I had seen it in theaters when it came out, but I’m glad I got to watch it period. Also, like the soundtrack for the film Dope, the soundtrack for this movie has me grooving, especially at Lizzo’s “Boys” and Leikeli47’s “Money”.
Booksmart. 2019. Rated R for strong sexual content and language throughout, drug use and drinking – all involving teens.
Now this book took me quite a while to get through, not just because I had a lot of other books I was reading at the time, but because I couldn’t stomach most of the pain that the soldiers went through during the Civil War. The depictions of violence are graphic because the author, Charles Frazier, wanted readers to see how awful this war was. While of course the love story between a soldier named Inman and a preacher’s daughter named Ada, who used to be his love before the war, while reading this book I was mainly focused on how messed up the war was and the psychological, emotional and physical damage it did to not just the soldiers fighting in the war, but also those family and friends of soldiers that the war affected. Also how people had to survive at that time makes me feel incredibly spoiled to have access to grocery stores, to schools, to three square meals a day, not to mention the fact that I can eat vegan and feel full. Back in the day you couldn’t eat vegan if you were trying to just survive in the South during that time. I felt like I was reading the book version of The Revenant (I haven’t seen that movie, but from the trailer I know it’s about survival).
This book reminded me of Tim O’Brien’s short story collection The Things They Carried because even though his book and Frazier’s Cold Mountain are set during different wars (The Things They Carried takes place during the Vietnam War) the depictions of war are so vivid and brutal to read about and stomach. But that’s why these kinds of books exist, to show us how war can tear people apart. I don’t remember much about the book in detail because I read it over a span of days and didn’t take notes while reading it, but all I know is that I had to take breaks and stop reading because of the horrors that Inman and his fellow soldiers endured at that time. It’s one thing to learn about it in school because while they teach how bad the Civil War was, reading a novel like Cold Mountain serves as a grim reminder of how war messes people up. Frazier’s language captures both the grimness of war and the beauty of love, and this language is what kept me reading even when I didn’t think I could handle the rest of the book. I actually found out about this book a long time ago, and put it on my list of books to read, but yet again, like many other books, I didn’t get around to it (I was also much too young to read it. Now that I’m older I was slightly able to handle the novel’s mature content more). But I finally decided to read it because I had put it off for a long time. Hopefully the book is just as good as the film, although after reading the novel I don’t know if I can stomach the film. Overall, excellent novel.
I had been meaning to read the book Originals, by Adam Grant, for a while, especially since I loved its colorful design on the front cover. But I never got around to it, like many great books. Finally, I stopped at a bookstore at lunch and thought, Sure I can get this at the library, but why not splurge on my own personal copy I can keep and write in? After all, a book about people who go against the grain sounds like it was written specially for me. So I bought my own copy, and oh my goodness, I devoured that book as if it was a molten chocolate brownie sundae from The Cheesecake Factory (not that I can eat that much sugar anyway, but you get the idea).
In Originals, Adam Grant examines how creative people think differently about success and the plans they take to make that success happen. One thing that stood out to me was that a lot of originals don’t quit their jobs, contrary to popular belief. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, musician John Legend and the creators of the glasses company Warby Parker are just a few originals who kept their day jobs while working on their creative pursuits. There’s this idea that if you quit your day job you will somehow have more time to “follow your passion”, but to be honest, even if I were to quit my day job (which I don’t want to, thank you very much) I would still need to work hard as a freelance musician. Being freelance would mean I would need to always be promoting my work, always negotiating my salary, and always practicing my instrument. Work is work whether you work for someone or work for yourself.
And Grant argues that while it may seem that day jobs distract us from our passions, they actually don’t, because “having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another.” (Grant 19). I needed money to buy the domain for this blog, I needed the time and money to read books, stream movies on YouTube and Amazon so I could write these fun movie reviews, and…well, okay, I didn’t have to buy Pandora because I can stream it free as long as I play ads, but I do have to have money so I can buy the sheet music for all the cool pieces I want to play (aka the pieces I can’t get on IMSLP). Even though at first I thought having a day job would mean less time for my passion, it has actually made me more creative. I find myself thinking of new ideas as I file emails and do a variety of repetitive tasks at the desk. I listen to Pandora at work and explore a variety of artists, like Youssou N’Dour, Bjork, Sufjan Stevens and ’90’s hip-hop artists like Biggie Smalls and Tupac. These artists help influence my own musical performance. After listening to the scores during films, I have gone from solely focusing on being in a professional orchestra to “Hey, what if I did music but also integrated it with film? What if I shot for the moon and got a Grammy? What if I played cello on a feature-length film score? What if I collaborated on a cello-voice duet with Lady Gaga?” Having this time to figure out what kind of musician I want to be is valuable and rare, and it took me quite a long time to appreciate this fact. I am also glad I went to college while pursuing music. While I could have majored in music, I didn’t, and I ended up loving philosophy and Africana Studies while still also loving my music and spending a lot of time in the Music Department after classes. My (albeit rather brief) jobs as a dishwasher and as a daycare teacher not only helped me make money, they were another thing that I did outside of my studies and music. Working with kids taught me that it’s ok to be silly sometimes and to not always read heavy stuff by Foucault and Descartes. I read so many children’s books while working at the daycare, and can say I felt quite nostalgic walking into that kids section in the local library basement. Working as a dishwasher taught me organizational skills and how to manage my time since I often had to sub for people. Basically, having a day job has helped me take risks in my writing: an f-bomb here, a messy draft there, a spoiled bratty character in that part of the story. Risks I wouldn’t dare take in my day job.
Originals also learn how to take criticism. Sometimes we have an idea and we want people to accept it so badly, but that’s not always the case. Many times people are going to reject your idea or think it’s not practical. Publishers were reluctant to sign on J.K. Rowling because they thought her book wouldn’t sell due to its length. They thought no kid would want to read something more than 35 pages, but they turned out to be wrong because that book sold like hotcakes, and guess what? It’s probably still selling like hotcakes because people still reference Harry Potter all the time. Also, the books were just good, end of story. In college I didn’t want to give my writing to professors or peers because I was worried they wouldn’t like it. I was so focused on pleasing people and getting them to agree with me that I wasn’t looking the cold and hard truth in the face: everyone is entitled to their opinion, and sometimes they may have a few good points you can use to improve your performance. This goes for any field, not just creative arts fields. Grant says that originals seek out people who don’t agree with them rather than sticking with people who agree with them on everything. This is the point of communication; it’s not to get people to agree with everything you say all the time. It’s important to not agree on everything because then you might find that person to agree with you on certain things.
Excellent book with a lot of great historical examples of originals in action. I highly recommend it. Oh, and watch Grant’s TED Talk because it is also really good.
Originals: How Non-Comformists Move the World. Adam Grant. 2016. 321 pp.