Update (September 2019)

After a month’s of writer’s block, I am finally writing again.

That said, my current priority is not this blog.  I am working on expanding my MA thesis into a full-length manuscript.

I am not ignoring this blog, but I wanted to update everyone on my plans.  While my focus will be the thesis, blog posts will continue, if not at the same pace as before.

 

Fandoms and Universes: A Quick Essay

151784Recently, I took stock of all the various fandoms of which I am a part.  Here’s the list: Harry Potter, Whedonverse, Supernatural, iZombie, and Veronica Mars.  Probably Marvel if you only count the MCU, not the comics.  Some of the DC CW shows almost made the list too.  I’m not a member of the Star Wars fandom, although I’ve seen all of the movies at least once (not Solo).  I’ve never seen the Star Trek shows or movies.  I’ve seen a handful of Dr. Who episodes at random but I keep hesitating to dive into that intense fandom.  There is too much content to devour it all.

The worlds are too big!

the_avengers.jpg

Many of the fandoms I joined when they were just beginning.  I read Harry Potter as it came out.  I watched the Whedon shows on DVD (before Netflix was a streaming services).  I began watching Supernatural and iZombie when the first seasons aired.  I was two seasons late to Veronica Mars but soon caught up and finished before the last (at the time) season aired.  I went to my first Marvel movie because I knew that Joss Whedon was directing The Avengers, which would be the final team-up movie featuring all of these new characters (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America).  I’ve seen every Marvel movie since then (Curse you, Whedon!).  But, in short, I joined these fandoms on the ground floor.

Why do I avoid new fandoms?  Why doesn’t I just watch Dr. Who or Star Trek already?

The simple answer is that I’m afraid.

To be clear, I’m not afraid of the fandom itself.  I’m afraid of diving face first into a deep pool of content.  Dr. Who is a huge series.  Where would I start?  The rebooted seasons?  The older seasons?  What about Star Trek?  Do I begin with the original series?  In what order do I watch the Star Wars movies?  This doesn’t begin to include the expanded universe of all these fandoms.  That’s too much homework for one lifetime!

jl.jpg

In other areas, I’m more selective.  I saw the DC movies Wonder Woman and Shazam in theaters and rented Aquaman.  But I avoided Suicide Squad, Batman Vs. Superman, and Justice League (which I actually forgot existed while writing this post).  Continuing with DC, I’ve seen all of The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow (which I love).  I’ve only watched half of season one of Arrow though.  It doesn’t grab me as much.  Barry Allen is more watchable than Oliver Queen, in my opinion.  I prefer Grant Gustin’s Barry to what I’ve seen of Ezra Miller’s portrayal, although I loved Miller in Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Like I said, I’ve seen all the Marvel movies, but I didn’t watch Agents of Shield.  I enjoyed Jessica Jones on Netflix and liked Daredevil, but I haven’t watched Iron Fist and wasn’t drawn in by Luke Cage.  My fear with the new Disney Plus streaming service is that the new content featuring Marvel movie characters will be required viewing to understand the movies.  From what I’ve heard, this will probably be the case, namely with WandaVision and the second Dr. Strange movie (LINK).

b6c2f9925ae1d585576022bc06a20832.jpgThe MCU is becoming far too big, and frankly, I’m losing steam.  I’m a dirty casual viewer, so they have to take it easy on me.  (I’ve never read a Marvel comic and I’ve barely read any comics.)  But I know Marvel and Disney will not slow down anytime soon.  Marvel movies like Avengers: Endgame are now cultural events.  The comic book movie has come a long way.  What would Christopher Reeve think?  DC and Marvel, no matter the setbacks, are in it for the long haul.  They are not going away.

Marvel-Comic-Con-MCU-Films-Disney-Plus.jpg

What does that mean for the viewer?  Well, we have to learn to be more selective.  I’m not going to become a part of the Star Wars fandom, but I’ll go see The Rise of Skywalker in the theaters.  I’ll probably never watch Star Trek or Dr. Who as a whole.  I’ll continue watching the CW shows (except iZombie, which is in its final season) and go to see the Marvel movies.  I’ll wait for a week to see the next DC movie, if I go at all.  I’m not planning on seeing the next Fantastic Beasts movies after the dud that was the second movie.  Basically, I’ll seek out the characters I find interesting (like Legends of Tomorrow, seriously, go watch it now) and ignore or miss the characters or content I don’t find compelling.  I know fans of the properties I avoid probably don’t like everything I find enjoyable.  It’s a free world.  But we can both enjoy our respective fandoms without swaying the other.  I’ll praise the likes iZombie and Veronica Mars because fewer people know about these shows, but that is becoming rarer.  Everyone knows about Star Wars and Dr. Who.  For the most part, I’ll trust the recommendations of myfriend and family, but that doesn’t mean I’ll watch everything they suggest.

legends.jpg

The sheer amount of media in the world today (movies, shows, books, etc.) is too much to take in and not feel exhausted.  Modern media is overwhelming.  The viewer must decide what to filter out to avoid a never-ending list of shows on your chosen streaming services.

Don’t mindlessly consume.  Use your judgment and narrow the flood of media to a stream.

Good luck, fellow viewer!enhanced-17040-1446660609-11

Why Study the Humanities?

My friend is a doctor.  She saves lives and delivers babies on a daily basis.  I study literature and went to college to earn a BA and MA in English (with an emphasis on creative writing).  More than once, she has asked me what I do and why it, whatever “it” is, is important.  This question stumps me a bit every time it comes up.  I give a response, after a pause, boasting the need for analysis of art, media, literature, politics, etc.  Then I let my voice trail away and there is a thick silence.  Usually it is followed by some weak muttering.

91IMHEAmivL.jpg

I haven’t read a piece of critical theory since I graduated over a year ago in May 2018.  On a whim, I picked up a book (Culture by Terry Eagleton) to warm up that dormant part of my brain.  The subject of Eagleton’s book wasn’t causing much response in me, so I let my brain drift.  I landed on the curious question, not meant to be harsh or probing, from my doctor friend.  I don’t think she even expects an answer.  But this is my attempt at one.

What is the point of studying the humanities?

I hate to admit that when it comes to the minutely detailed arguments, it maybe doesn’t matter as much.  The wider world does know one scholar from another (with some exceptions like Freud and Marx).  The general population doesn’t contemplate Raymond Williams or Slavoj Zizek or Jack Halberstam.  Those names probably mean nothing to them.

32838

Zizek

But on a larger scale, I think theory (the act of examining something critically) promotes critical thinking and allows us to analysis the world around us.  In this way, theory and the humanities are key to human life and existence.

Life without art would be blank.  I use the word “art” as a catchall.  Like porn, you know art when you see it.  Life without expression is nothing.  This expression is art.  Art, via media, is everywhere because media is everywhere.  We consume media on a daily basis.  Thus, we should be mindful of what we are consuming.  Lindsay Ellis’s video essays (especially on Disney) are a great example.

Be critical of everything (within reason).

Media is everywhere: the device in your pocket or purse delivers media directly to you at any moment.  It is unavoidable.  And we should be critical of it.

The humanities foster this critical muscle.

What my friend sees me and other scholars doing is the nit-picking stuff—the micro level of theory and thinking critically.  On the macro, however, we are employed in critical work, dissecting the world around us.  This still is vital to modern human life.

Think of Facebook and your crazy, conspiracy-spouting aunt.  Do you believe everything she posts?  I hope not.  And that is critical thinking.  The same applies to all social media.  And media in general.  You shouldn’t be paranoid that everyone is lying to you, but take claims with a grain of salt, especially if they lack evidence to support their claim.

In short, in order to think critically, one should study the humanities.

Supergirl: A Rant

Supergirl poster.jpgSeason 1 was cheesy but interesting enough to watch.

Season 2 built on relationships and I didn’t mind it.

Season 3 started to waver for me, especially when they randomly split up Alex and Maggie for a lame reason.  Why didn’t they talk about children before they were engaged?  How could you not have that conversation?  It was a lazy fix after the actress who played Maggie decided to move on from the role.

But I kept watching.  I enjoyed Melissa Benoist playing the dual role of Kara Danvers and Supergirl and her struggle to be a hero and separate herself from her famous cousin.  I liked that they finally brought her character in the Arrowverse crossover instead of the poor attempt the previous season.  I really wanted to like the series as much as I like The Flash.*

But, season 4, what can I say?

I did like the thin metaphor of Ben Lockwood as an Alex Jones-type who is jingoistic.  But then he’s put on the backburner for the grand villain, Lex Luthor, and I couldn’t take it.  I’ve seen most of Smallville and I get Luthor’s dynamic with the Man of Steel.  It’s like Batman and the Joker.  But revealing that Lex was behind everything and making Lockwood a cog in his system undermined that metaphor in my opinion.  You find out that his “Agent Liberty” persona was his only contribution to the plan.  This organic story of a man who is changed by the world around him and grows fearful of aliens lost all of its punch and made Lockwood into a henchman.  And I get to Lex in a minute, but I want to talk positives…

Supergirl-419-1-Dreamer.jpg

I like Nia’s character and that no one really blinked when she said she was a transwoman, as it should be.  Big props to that casting and that character.  She pulled me through watching some of the more terrible story arcs.  My only fault with Nia is that Dreamer, her hero persona, was too quick a study when it came to her powers.  I would have liked a mentor relationship with Supergirl, teaching her how to be a hero and how to master her powers.  Nia has powers and then—bam—she’s a ninja with them.  I just felt that it could have grown more naturally over a longer period of time.  That said, I really love her chemistry with Brainy and that relationship.  Lately, I’ve realized that I tune into a show not for the action, but for the characters and their relationships with one another.  Which brings me to my next point: Alex’s memory wipe.

I legitimately yelled at my screen when J’onn erased her knowledge that Kara is Supergirl.  Their relationship is the key of the show.  It’s the reason Kara became Supergirl in the first place.  The wipe was dumb because you knew Alex would remember somehow by the end of the season.  Her tie with Kara shapes the show at a fundamental level.  You can’t take that away and have the same show.

Alex.jpg

Let’s talk about Alex.  I didn’t have any feeling towards Alex during the first season.  She grew on me as she evolved and became her true self.  I loved her romance with Maggie, and the way the show handled it just like a hetero romance.  Good job, writers’ room.  But her seemingly sudden need to be a mom irked me.  Again, I understand that the show writers had to cover their asses after a cast member left.  I don’t know how I would have handled it, but it didn’t feel genuine to me as a viewer.  Then, the show introduces Jimmy’s sister, Kelly Olsen (I just finished the season finale and I could not remember the character’s name, so there’s that), on the back half of season four and smashes her together with Alex like two puzzle pieces that don’t fit.  I knew when she mentioned that her former lover was a woman that they would pair them up.  It was the same formula as Maggie and Alex, as the only queer characters introduced in the show, but it was too easy of a hookup.  They gave them one intense moment to struggle through and then they are together.  As well as they handled Nia and Brainy, they dropped it for Alex and Kelly.  It was lazy writing.

Final point before we get to Lex but its related.  Red Daughter.  I was pumped for this story to unfold and it sat in the background and I nearly forgot about it.  I have never read a Superman comic, but through cultural osmosis, I know that Red Dawn was a “What If” comic about Superman going up in the Soviet Union.  So I was ready for this season to work in something about a soviet country and add that to the Lockwood/Agent Liberty storyline.  I didn’t care for Melissa’s accent, but the two facing off was a fun idea.  I was interested.  And then along comes Lex Luthor, puppet master supreme.

Lex Jon Cryer.jpg

We find out that Lex was behind pretty much everything and that Eve Teschmacher working for Lex.  Eve has been around for a least a season, because I remember the phrase “Miss Teschmacher!” being shouted.  I’ve only seen reviews of Superman the movie, but I know that’s where the character comes from.  I like how they turned her into a scientist to assist Lena on her project.  That was a good move for her character.  And the stinger at the end made me curious about next season.  But I can’t take it with Lex.

lexosuit.png

Okay, I want to talk about Lex’s discount Iron Man suit.  As far as I understand, this is something form the comics.  But it looks silly.  I couldn’t help but see a knockoff Tony Stark.  CW, hey you, don’t link your Lex Luthor to Marvel’s most popular character.  It doesn’t do you any favors.  The only time I endured Lex on screen was when he verbally sparred with his family.  But come on, Mama Luthor and Lena are great together, sniping and quipping up a storm.  Any character you add to the mix will not dilute the formula.

I didn’t know until watching a Chris Stuckmann review that Jon Cryer has previous ties to Superman, in Superman: The Quest for Peace.  He was Gene Hackman’s Lex’s nephew in that dud of a film.

One last thing, and then I’ll wrap up. What the f&*k was that scene were Supergirl is dying, practically dead, and she pulls the sunlight from the plants around here??!?!?  I just… that’s dumb.  I know she just fought her equal and she’s dying, but it looked like something from a stupid cartoon.  I reminded me of what I struggled with in the first season: the power of hope.  I know Supergirl/Kara is an optimist sort of person and that’s what the Supers are all about—Truth, Justice, and the America Way—but it verges on ridiculous most of the time and just plain cheesy at some points.  It doesn’t work with the America of 2019, even on Earth 36.

dakmj5i-d376080a-59c9-4748-9300-37f9ac4fb835.png

So I don’t know if I’ll continue watching Supergirl when it returns in the fall.  It has tested my patience and I have been beaten down by it too many times.  But maybe my interest in the Arrowverse is my kryptonite.  I do want to check out the crossover episodes.  Only time will tell.

 

*Side note: A little background info for the reader.  I have watched every season of The Flash, it’s when I jumped onboard the Arrowverse.  I began season 1 of Arrow but lost interest around the halfway mark.  I love Legends of Tomorrow and really enjoy watching how that has evolved as a show.

Some Thoughts on Supernatural

I sat down to write an essay about my favorite show, Supernatural.  And then I started at a blank screen for several minutes, realizing the Herculean task I had just set myself.  How can I put into words what this show has meant to me and so many other fans?  Where do I begin?  There’s a lot of ground to cover.  This might become an ongoing series of essays, but for now, let’s start at the beginning…

Turns Spotify to classic rock station…

In 2005, a show debuted after Smallville on the WB, so I watched it because I like monsters and it might be a good show.  Over a decade later, I am still watching.  Supernatural has been a constant in my life and I’m sad to know that it will soon end.  But that will never take away what it means to me.  It is a safety blanket, a source of entertainment (and some frustration), and a link between me and every fan out there.

In the beginning, there was Sam and Dean, cruising the backroads of America in search for creatures that went bump in the night.  From these humble origins, the lore of the show added demons, angels, heaven, hell, and alternate dimensions.  But the evolution was logically, as the world of the boys expanded.  As a fan, I relish a good lore.  That’s probably what attracts me to Harry Potter and Buffy and so on.

The cast of two expanded into three, then four key characters, including an angel named Castiel and the future king of hell named Crowley.  Family, a key theme of the show, remained at the forefront as other characters populated the world of the show.  Characters like Bobby, Chunk, Charlie, Sheriff Jody, and others became family.  Actors who joined the cast could look forward to an adoring fandom; the only despised character, Metatron, might be the exception.

The show became self-aware, and I loved it for that.  It nodded at its audience all the time, including a meta episode that introduced Chuck (“Monster at the End of the Book” 4.18) and a musical episode where the boys see their lives played out in song (“Fan Fiction” 10.5).

s-l640.jpg

There were two attempts to create spinoffs to Supernatural, neither of which took off.  I loved the ideas of another show set in the same world, but I don’t think it would be the same without Sam and Dean.  The look and feel of the show, the world, is only part of the show.  The relationship between Sam and Dean, and, by extension, Jared and Jensen, is the core of the show.  Their self-sacrificing ways have become a cliché of the show, but that love is the heart of it all.  What started as a search for their father—which sets the ball in motion—becomes a fight for the world and everyone in it.

These are my initial thoughts on the series, but they are far from all I have to say about Supernatural.

 

My Disenchantment with Technology

You can blame this blog post of Cal Newport.

After reading his book Deep Work [Amazon], I became interested in his ideas and ordered a hardcover copy of his newest book, Digital Minimalism [Amazon].  While not dismissing the benefits that technology has created in our lives, Newport goes on to examine the habits that have led to phone addiction.  I am guilty of such an addiction.  Over a year ago, with extremely important deadlines pressing in on me, I deleted the social media apps from my iPhone.  However, once those deadlines had passed, I added them back onto my phone and carried on scrolling for hours on end.  If I was bored, I found myself scrolling Facebook or Twitter mindlessly.

However, a few days ago, I deleted Facebook again from my phone.  I also limited the amount of time I could use the remaining social media apps to thirty minutes a day.  In these last few days, I have found myself calmer and more focuses.  I don’t check my phone nearly as often.  I don’t feel the desire to scroll while watching television.  I have been reading regularly again, despite thinking before that I didn’t have the time in my day.

images.jpg

Newport’s Defintion of Digital Minimalism

I still have bad tech habits.  I watch too much YouTube daily.  I constantly check my calendar because I forget my schedule for the day.  But I am working on these habits as well.

iphone8-plus-select-2017.jpg

This brings me to another point that I’ve recently realized.  I usually jump when a new iPhone is released.  I always think the new product is an improvement on the older model I have in my possession.  But lately, I noticed that I didn’t get the new model when I came out.  I almost didn’t notice it and I couldn’t tell you the name of the newer version.  I own an iPhone 8 Plus, which has 256 GB of storage, more than enough for me.  The screen is fine, although I need to replace the chipped screen protector.  I think I had my current phone for almost two years, and I don’t plan on upgrading in the near future.  Honestly, I have no desire to do so.  I even recently looked at purchasing a Google phone, but it lacked the storage capacity I require.  The only reason I have stuck with Apple is because I became enamored with their products in college.  I am typing on a MacBook Pro, I own an iPad Pro, and an Apple Watch.  But as I come to rethink my relationship with technology and, frankly, its effects on my mental health, I have become more mindful of the devices around me.  I would like to phase out my Apple Watch, but I value its fitness features, although I’m beginning to weigh those against the constant nagging on my wrist.  The only reason I wouldn’t switch to a conventional watch is that I have to keep track of my steps and other data throughout the day.  Aspects I once found appealing—the notifications, the Siri voice feature, etc.—now annoy me.  I’d rather wait to look at my phone, in my own leisurely time.

Rethinking my use of technology has led me to understand that the constant bombardment of messages, notifications, and data has been causing me unneeded anxiety.  I already have generalized anxiety; I don’t need my devices added to it.  So if you message me, I may not respond quickly, a quality that used to frustrate me with other people.  I am taking a lesson from Newport’s book and being mindful of the tech around me.  I am even experimenting with analog habits like paper journaling.  Oh, what a brave new world.

Thinking about Meditation

For the past 177 days, I have been meditating daily.  I wanted a way to “switch off” before bed in order to fall asleep faster.  After a few false starts, I have kept the habit going for almost six months.  Before developing this habit, I had never really meditated.  While many starts with YouTube videos of guided meditation, I didn’t go that route because I was worried I’d get distracted by other, more exciting videos.  Instead, I downloaded an app called Headspace onto my iPhone (I believe there is a version for Android as well).  Many may find the act of meditation as too crunchy or hippie for their tastes, which I completely understand.  I did not look to mediation for a spiritual experience.  I merely wanted a way to quiet my brain before bedtime.  Headspace, for me, does a great job at handling both the long history of meditation, as well as the facts about what happens when a person meditates.  According to the Headspace website: “[W]e see meditation as both a practice rooted in ancient history and a topic of modern science.  This is why we are as equally committed to providing authentic expertise in meditation and also studying the science of meditation” (LINK HERE).Unknown

There are many benefits to meditation according to the research that has been done.  Some of these benefits include: reduced stress, better emotional health, enhanced self-awareness, and improved sleep, among many others (LINK HERE).  The Headspace website even includes peer-reviewed studies on the list of benefits (LINK HERE).  But, again, I am not pushing this on anyone.  I just found that it works for me.

In the past 177 days, I have meditated for a total of 24 hours over the course of 231 sessions.  I have integrated mediation into my nightly routine.  I turn on the app and select from one of its many courses.  I only do between 3-10 minutes per night, although I find myself more focused the longer the session.  Since I began this routine, I have found myself slipping easily off to sleep at night, instead of overthinking and tossing and turning before sleep happens.  It has made me feel more rested in the mornings and more aware throughout the day.  I’ve always been told I was a self-aware person, but this routine has helped me realize my own thoughts more.  I can usually catch myself when I’m too deep into my own head.  I highly recommend this app or any others out there.  I should also mention that the Headspace app isn’t free.  If that holds you back from trying it, please do look for other options.  Any mediation is better than none at all.

Thinking and Awareness.png

1 https://www.headspace.com/science

2 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section8

3 https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-benefits

 

What is Hypomania?

The image of the maniac is ingrained in our culture.  What is a common image of mania?  While I hate to perpetuate the stereotype, I even think of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, hacking through a door with an ax.

What do you think of when you hear the word mania?  You may imagine a business person, working long hours and getting things done.  You may even discount the term mania because you think it is a harmless thing, like Sonic Mania or Mattress Mania, where some spokesperson in a commercial shouts “These low prices are crazy!”8E4463B6-F3FD-4B1C-916B-5C333B453D80.png

But that is not the normal or reality for most people struggling with mania.  How would I know?  I know because I have bipolar disorder and I often deal with something very similar to mania, which is hypomania.

What is Hypomania?

First, let’s look at a definition because I’m a good English scholar.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, mania is “one of the aspects of bipolar (manic-depressive) mood disorder, characterized particularly by euphoria, grandiose thought, rapid speech expressing loosely connected thoughts (flight of ideas), decreased need for sleep, increased physical activity, and sometimes delusions or hallucinations” (OED).

But I said hypomania, not mania.  So what does hypomania mean?

Hypomania is defined as “A minor form of mania, often part of the manic-depressive cycle, characterized by elation and a feeling of well-being together with quickness of thought” (OED).  But this definition, in my opinion, is underselling the condition.  As someone with bipolar disorder, I occasionally suffer from hypomania and it is far from simple.

The Reality

When I’m hypomanic, I can go with little or no sleep.  Despite this lack of sleep, I feel an extreme boost of energy, like lightning in my veins.  I speak quickly, think quickly, zip around the house like The Flash or Quicksilver.16377486875_bd27a6a6a2_o

I am invincible.  I can do no wrong.  Every idea is pure gold.  I need to buy that useless something when I don’t have much money in the bank.  My mood changes on a pin, from happy to angry to irritable.  I forget to eat.  I think up a thousand new projects that need to happen now.  Then I reach a tipping point.  I become highly aware that I’m out of control.  I’m dangerous to myself and those around me.  I need to stop.

But I can’t stop.  I can’t focus.  I can’t come down off this high.  My thoughts and actions become foreign to me, to the point of annoyance.  I can’t control myself.

Then the crash. My seemingly endless amount of energy falls to E. Unknown.jpeg

Now there is only regret and exhaustion.  Can I return this item on Amazon or in store?  Do I really want to start a podcast?  When was the last time I had a meal?  I did what?

Depression begins to creep in.  I go from Flash/Quicksilver to some slow turtle creature.  My life becomes boring and everything takes effort, like walking through Jello.

What Can Be Done? 

When I describe this process to people, they are usually stunned.  Then they all ask the same question: How do you recover?  Here, I’d like to break down my answer.

First, I have to acknowledge that yes, I am hypomanic.  I am experiencing something that may feel wonderful at the time but it will pass.

Second, I try to minimize the damage.  I avoid Amazon.com, which is my Kryptonite (apparently, I have superheroes on the brain today).  If I cannot avoid Amazon, I put all the things I want to buy in my Wishlist or my Cart, but I do not press “Buy.”  For food, I stock my fridge with easy-to-make items and snacks.  I schedule my day to include meals and I will sometimes set reminders telling me to eat.

superman-kryptonite-lego-970x545.jpg

Third, I take advantage of it.  The ideas that come when I’m hypomanic can be great.  But I don’t pursue them all.  I write them down in a notebook or an app like Evernote.  I get everything out of my head when it hits.  Maybe one day, I’ll start that podcast, but not today.  Once the ideas are out, I don’t have to dwell on them.

Fourth, I try not to let it interrupt my schedule.  My hypomania is typically tied to my monthly cycle, so I know when it is coming.  I block off days that I know I will be hypomanic and do not try to be productive on those days.  If I have an appointment, I try to reschedule.  But some things can’t be avoided.  If I have classes or something that can’t be moved, I tell the person in advance that I’m feeling a little off today, just a heads up.  I don’t go into detail unless I have to; they don’t always need to know.

Last, I try to fight it.  I try to sit down and write or read with no distractions.  I use my energy to clean the house–might as well put it to good use. (PS- I generally hate cleaning, but when I’m hypomanic, it is a great outlet.)  I try to be calm and not give into the hyper energy that I feel coursing through my body.  This doesn’t always work, but I try, which I feel is more important.

Conclusion

While hypomania, or mania, is not a walk in the park, it is manageable.  The key to dealing with it is the same key to dealing with any aspect of mental health: self-awareness.  Look at the patterns in your life.  Notice things that seem to crop up.  Keep a journal or even a mood journal.  I use an app on my iPhone called iMoodJournal, which is also available on Google Play (link here).  I’ve been using this app for over a year and it is great for tracking moods and patterns.

Also, know that you are not alone.  There are many people who struggle with the same things.  Reach out.  Ask your friends and family for help.  Ask your doctor.  Look for communities online.  I am a member of a few groups on Facebook, including TWLOHA,  who remind me that my struggle is valid and I don’t have to be in it alone.

Note: If you want to reach out to me, you can reach me on Twitter @LeslieJClaussen or via my website, LeslieJClaussen.com.

Update (May 2019)

Hello all!

The plan from here on out is to write more.

In order to do this, I’m setting up a writing schedule to resurrect my writing habit.  I’m be blogging more, with more content in the next couple of months.  My plan is to focus first on simple essays and then move onto revisiting my MA thesis around July.  I’m publishing this update to hold myself accountable to the vast void of the internet.

Look out for more content and possibly some stories and pictures from my recent travels to Europe!

Favorite Television Shows

I’m struggling to write anything, so I decided to tackle an easier topic: television shows.  The following list does not include reality show-based content, which may comprise another post.  When I tried to rank my favorites, I quickly gave up for a general list instead.  I will also include a list of honorable mentions that aren’t as beloved and enjoyed by me now but did deserve a spotlight.  Keep in mind, this list is not a ranked list, but rather a chance to gush about some of my favorite shows.

 

Drum Roll….

 

Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

This Showtime series posited a question that several low budget horror films have also asked: What if a bunch of Victorian novel villains interacted with each other?  Unlike those horror movies where the Wolfman meets Frankenstein, Penny Dreadful handled the idea with care and consideration.  The plots of the various “monsters” intertwine in interesting ways and leave the viewer wanting more.  From the novels I have read (Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, etc.), the series kept the characters pretty close to their literary counterparts.  The biggest take away is the setting of this show.  Victorian London is shown in all its grime and glory.  The costumes are stunning.  And the cast is great.  The one actor I thought would stick out worked in the role, as he’s meant to go against the grain of Victorian London manners (I’m speaking of Josh Harnett as Ethan Chandler).  Other standouts include Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, Billie Piper as Lilly, and Rory Kinnear as John Clare, and Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray.

 

 

Supergirl (2015-)

This DC show started on CBS with—for me—a weak first season.  The characters grew and expanded once the show moved to the CW and joined the Arrow-verse lineup.  While some missed Cat Grant’s character in season two, I maintain that this was the beginning of a strong show.  I do admit that season two fell neatly into the CW mold, for better or worse.  However, the best part of the show is the relationship between Kara (Supergirl) and Alex (her adopted sister) is the heart of the show.  The show also has a strange habit of casting actors who previously played a superhero, such as the actress who starred in Supergirl movie from 1980s, both Superman and Lois Lane from Lois and Clark in the 90s, Hercules star Kevin Sorbo, and Lois Lane from Smallville.  While some are fun cameos, others are reoccurring characters, such as Kara’s adopted mother and father.  I get the gesture but…

I sometimes struggle with this show and how close it aligns itself with real world politics.  My main gripe is not the parallels—far from it—I just want the lines to be a little more blur and not so obvious.  One character in season four is clearly an Alex Jones type.  Otherwise, I’m very happy that the show is progressive, including casting a transwoman as a main character in season four.  I wish the writers’ room could get better at veiling their real-life inspirations for their plots and characters.

 

 

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016-)

This show is batshit crazy and I love it.  While the first season did explore life aboard a timeship, by season four, we have puppets in the mid-season finale.  I don’t what kind of drugs they have in the writers’ room, but they are strong.  The cast is made up of side characters from other Arrow-verse shows (The Flash, Arrow), but they really get to shine in this show.  I haven’t seen much of Arrow, but you don’t need the character’s complete backstory to understand his/her motivation.  Sarah, for example, is a complex ninja warrior with a troubled past; I know there’s more to the story, but I get the basics.  The show really has fun with the concept of misfit heroes on a ship that can travel the world and the timeline.

 

 

The Flash (2014-)

This show sits somewhere between Legends and Arrow for tone.  While season one features a monster-of-the-week setup as Barry learns to master his speed force powers, the show has evolved nicely (if unevenly) over the years.  Barry has become a true hero, who has a bit of a dark side, but part of his charm is the positivity.  While the approach is very different, The Flash plays with the timeline too.  But unlike Legends, the consequences for Barry and his team are far-reaching.  The best part of recent seasons is the exploration of the multi-verse, including visiting Supergirl and world where the Nazis won WWII.

 

 

Bones (2005-2017)

While I hate most procedurals and their copy-paste formula, this series starring Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz landed on my radar two years after it premiered in 2005.  I continued to watch the show regularly until they killed off my favorite character (Dr. Lance Sweets, in case you were wondering[*Spoilers*]).  Otherwise, I found the series interesting and I loved how the show tried to use real science terms, to the frustration of the cast.  The characters were all developed naturally, and the procedural aspect quickly moved to the background.  Each week’s case usually helped shed light on one of the main characters, giving them time to explore something, rather than just solve a case.  Over the course of several seasons, you understood these people and their motivations.  I actually felt bad when I gave up on the show, but I haven’t revisited the series.  Maybe one day I will return to the Jeffersonian Labs.

 

 

Veronica Mars (2004-2007 [film in 2014])

If you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will like this show.  It has the same quick wit and surprisingly great acting.  Keep an eye out for some of the original Buffy cast, too.  Not enough is said about star Kristin Bell’s acting range.  While you may know her from The Good Place or Frozen, if you want to see her play smart, kickass character who outsmarts the bad guys and solves the case, this is the show for you.  I always recommend this series to anyone looking for a new binge-worthy show; I’m super upset that Netflix—in all their wisdom—doesn’t have this show in their roster.  If you can get your hands on this great show, please check it out.  You’ll thank me.  The cast is great, the story is compelling (although it does verge on edge of soap opera at times), and the writing is brilliant.  As a fan of well-written shows, I’ve followed creator/showrunner Rob Thomas (not the singer) throughout this career.  If you want more like this show, check out his latest venture iZombie.

 

 

Angel (1999-2004)

Well, the inclusion of this show was destined.  Although I haven’t binged the show in several years, the cast of oddball characters holds a place in my heart.  Based on the character of Angel from Buffy, the show follows the vampire with a soul as he tries to live and not die in Los Angeles.  While you shouldn’t get me started on some of the choices later in the series, the cast keeps me rooting for these characters.  Standouts include Cordelia, who evolved greatly after her time at Sunnydale High; Fred, who is sweet and sassy; and Lorne, a demon with the voice of an angel; and Wesley, another character who follows Angel from Sunnydale to LA.  I’m keeping this short because I could really fill a book with all that I have to say about this series.

 

 

iZombie (2014-)

Speaking of Rob Thomas, this is his current series and I absolutely love it.  The main character, Liv Moore, is a zombie working as a medical examiner, who takes on the personality of the brain she eats.  Rose McIver is a chameleon as she transforms into various characters; she does such a great job that I couldn’t picture anyone else in this role.  Her co-worker, Ravi, is a gem and her partner, Clive, is clueless about Liv’s true nature.  The whole cast is perfect and the writing, like Thomas’s other show, is sharp and crisp.  As a side note, my favorite brain is Liv as a grumpy old man.  Don’t worry, the gore in the show is minimal and almost comical.

 

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

I’ll keep this short.  Great show, great cast, great writing.  I haven’t read much of the comics.  Go watch it if you somehow haven’t done so yet.

 

 

Supernatural (2005-)

I’ve been watching Jensen and Jared since this show debuted in 2005.  I remember watching season one on an old tube television, that’s how long this show has been running.  While I have taken a few breaks from Supernatural, I always find myself coming back to the show.  I even went to my first-ever fan convention this last year and it was magical.  This show is like the music you loved as a teenager, it holds a special place in your heart.  You connect it to moments in your life and couldn’t imagine not having it around.  I won’t get into if it should still be on air.  I have my nit-picks about recent seasons.  For my money, the first five season are pure gold.  I have come to appreciate music I would never otherwise listen to because of this show, including the very important song by Kansas (you know the one).  As this show becomes more popular, I find myself strangely possessive, like I found it first so get your hands off of it.  However, I did love sharing my fandom with fellow Waywards (is that the fandom name?) last November in Minneapolis.  Whatever I think about the current goings-on, this show will always be a safe bet on Netflix for me.

 

 

Firefly (2002 [film in 2005])

Much like Supernatural, I always find myself returning to this short-lived show about space cowboys.  This show managed to be wonderful in less than a season.  The movie is a great continuation of the story, as are the comics, which I have read.  These characters are not unique (many are based on Western tropes), but they are all individuals.  Much like Buffy or Supernatural, you know which character would say what time.  You know these characters and I always wish the series had continued.  I’d love to pull up a chair to the dining room table onboard Serenity and share a meal and a fight with these fine folks.

 

 

 

I know, I didn’t list your favorite shows.  No Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black.  My life is too busy to take on another series, but below are some honorable mentions.  One day I will watch GoT, but until then…

The O.C.

Arrow

Smallville

The Good Place

Lucifer

Sherlock

The Vampire Diaries and The Originals

Misfits