23 Things You Should Actually Do Before You’re 23

Two years ago I read the article 23 things to do instead of getting engaged before 23 and drafted this frustrated response (note: after writing my response the original blog post was picked up by Huffington Post, and I am jealous, I admit it). I can tell that the original list is definitely written by a 23 year old. In fact, every time I read it, the list becomes more idiotic because so much of the advice is “Be a jerk! LOLZ” which (by the by) most people do naturally. This is fine, but perhaps not useful, since there’s a lack of perspective in place because the author was 22 when she wrote the list. If your life goals are as whiplash-ey as the Peace Corps and a Pinterest project (not multiple Pinterest projects, just the one) then honey, you have no clue what you’re doing with yourself. Basically, I’m saying that you really don’t know what you should have done to make your 20s efficient and amazing until you’re clearly out of them. Time to swoop in and fix this mess with a ton of unsolicited advice.

I tell my students this and it’s true: your 20s are a stressful decade. In general, you are doing all the work of getting your life together. Except maybe you aren’t. As I told someone last week (which they tweeted): “You can screw up your life, just not too much.” What I meant by this is that you can make mistakes in life and recover, as long as the mistakes aren’t colossal ones. The teens and twenties are maybe not a great time to have a child you’re unprepared for, or to nurture a serious drug problem. Crazy advice, right? I’m just getting started.

And so here is my list of 23 Things You Should Actually Do Before You’re 23:

1. Move Out of Your Parent’s House – Seriously, you need to move out. If your parents want you to stay at home indefinitely then they are working through some empty nest issues. You need to move out and start your own life.

2. Learn How to Budget – Why are you always broke? Because you never bothered to learn how to budget. Get an app or open up Excel, itemize your monthly expenses, and enter in your post-tax pay. Be realistic, too, if you need $100 a month for new clothes put it in the budget and make sure you can afford it and, you know, rent for doing #1. Tip: A good rule of thumb is that your rent should never be more than 30% of your post-tax (take home) pay. In your 20s it might be as high as 50% but that needs to be short-term, not long term.

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The Martian Chronicles, Usher II by Ray Bradbury, Summary and Analysis

Usher II, Hungarian Graphic Novel

Below is a synopsis and analysis of “Usher II” from The Martian Chronicles for my class and, perhaps more accurately, for myself. I hope you enjoy!

“Usher II (2004-2005)” was originally published as “Carnival of Madness” in 1950 by Standard Magazines. It works as Bradbury’s love letter to Poe and feels like a prequel or alternate timeline for Fahrenheit 451 (1953) as it deals with censorship. It is similar to the 1949 short story “The Exiles” which was reprinted in The Illustrated Man (1951). “The Exiles” deals with authors whose spirits are on Mars, fearfully awaiting the burning of the final copies of their books. “Usher II” like “The Naming of Names” covers a period of time rather than a specific month, which is unusual because it seems to take place over the span of 1-2 days rather than 1-2 years. This chapter is also foreshadowed in the previous chapter, “The Naming of Names.”

Characters

William Stendahl: Millionaire and lover of fiction who concocts the elaborate plan for Usher II (which he calls “The House of Usher,” I am calling it “Usher II” for the sake of clarity). Importantly, he is the only character with a first name. Stendahl is characterized by intense anger and, although not likable, is the protagonist.

Mr. Bigelow: The architect who designed Usher II without knowing or caring what it is. He represents the complacent, unquestioning attitude of people, the “common man” in this story.

Mr. Garrett: Investigator of Moral Climates is his official title, he is in charge of enforcing the laws that regulate fiction and imagination. Like many characters in the story he has a robot double. Lack of imagination is his downfall.

Pikes: Stendahl’s right-hand man, an actor who is not allowed to act, and who is characterized by extreme bitterness. Pikes assists Stendahl in engineering the events in “Usher II.”

The Party Guests: Numbered around three dozen, some of which have names (so the narration flows well). They are portrayed essentially as sheep (like Bigelow) who Stendahl had befriended in the time leading up to the “party.” They, too, represent “the masses.” Continue reading

9 Reasons that The Shirley Temple Show’s Version of The Little Mermaid is a Good Adaptation

Shirley Temple The Little Mermaid

Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” is a short story that I teach year after year, and in one class I show a number of adaptations of the story. The Shirley Temple Show version from 1961 is surprising, both because it takes place pre-Disney adaptation (and as such hasn’t been corrupted by the Disney machine) and because it updates the original story in some intriguing ways.

First of all, Temple’s made-for-TV version is absolutely kitsch through and through, the character actors in the episode are iconic in that time period, and the sea witch and her minions are camp to an extreme, not to mention how early 60’s the makeup and costumes are (I can’t with Temple’s wig, the bangs, I can’t). All of that needs to either be enjoyed or overlooked to understand the significance of the changes the show made to the original story. How ever “dated” the Temple version, I still strongly believe that some of the changes made to the story actually act to modernize it while retaining the integrity of Anderson’s original story. I started this as a long form article, but, as I worked on it, I decided that it needed to be a list, so I humbly submit to you 9 Reasons that The Shirley Temple Show’s Version of The Little Mermaid is a Good Adaptation.

#1 No Soul, No Problem

In Andersen’s 1837 version the core of the story is love, yes, but also the mermaid’s quest for an eternal soul. After she learns about it, the mermaid never mentions the prince without mentioning the soul. Why? Simply put: in Anderson’s world mermaids are animals, and, when they die, they cease to exist. This is something that is always left out of reinterpretations because of the colossal Christian controversy that would follow if it were left in. When the soul is taken out, you just have the love of a newly teen-aged girl to drive the plot forward, which is not enough to die over, but is enough to learn from. Even Anderson gave the mermaid a reprieve and had the Daughters of the Air rescue her and give her a chance to “earn” a soul. In Temple’s version, without any discussion of a soul, the mermaid is given a second chance at life as a mermaid by the god of a sea (note: not her father). I feel this is an appropriate change considering that the stakes have been lowered so much by removing the whole soul controversy.

#2 Sea Witch + Minions = Fun

In Anderson’s story the sea witch is not “evil” as one would expect, and neither is Temple’s (the mer-witch), though both are slightly malevolent. Anderson’s witch has a toad that eats sugar from her mouth and snakes that cuddle with her bosom (Flotsam and Jetsam anyone?), and these pets clearly influenced the introduction of minions. Andersen’s sea witch is slightly antagonistic to the mermaid, saying that even though the mermaid is foolish, the witch will help, but Temple’s minions (a lawyer stingray and a hateful octopus) allow the witch to become a more fully-realized character without fading into the background as Andersen’s character does. Andersen’s sea witch is mentioned at the end of the story, but never appears again, whereas the mer-witch gets more screen time and, while she doesn’t have any strong feelings about the mermaid, she does have an ethical compass that she follows. The mer-witch is also given a back story that involves the mermaid’s grandmother, which means more complex character motivations and a richer story. Continue reading

August Wilson’s Jitney by American Stage

August Wilson's Jitney by American Stage

The American Stage production of August Wilson’s Jitney is my first August Wilson experience and tickets to the production were my birthday gift to my partner this year. Both he and my father are huge August Wilson fans, however, so I heard a lot of praise before I went to the play itself, and I’m happy to say it stood up to the hype fairly well. Note: spoilers to follow.

As for the play itself: Jitney takes place in an illegal taxi cab office in 1977 Pittsburgh run by Becker, whose son Booster is about to be released from jail for murder. The drama surrounding and between the men in the office comes bubbling to the surface, including conflicts between Youngblood and Rena (the only woman on stage), Youngblood and Turnbo, Turnbo and everyone, Becker and Fielding, Becker and Booster, and everyone with women basically. It’s not a feminist play, I’m warning you. This includes arguments, a stand off with a gun, fisticuffs, and a lot of door slamming. In the end Becker’s sudden death (obvious from foreshadowing) gives Booster the chance to redeem himself, and Youngblood reconciles with Rena, bringing hope of a life outside their declining neighborhood.

There is some discussion of racial tensions in the play including the juxtaposition of two speeches: one by Becker about how the white man doesn’t care enough about you to oppress you as an individual, which is thrown into sharp relief against the fact that Booster’s white girlfriend accused him of rape when her father caught them together, so he shot her. Becker refuses to forgive Booster for throwing his life away, and Booster realizes his father is right too late to make a difference. As the play comes to a close no reconciliation has taken place between the two men, but Booster takes up the mantle of business owner, and it is implied he will try to be the same pillar of the community that his father was.

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