What I’m Watching: Nerdy YouTube and Comedies About Depression

Super Carlin Brothers is a channel I’ve watched off and on, but I’ve finally subscribed to on my YouTube account. Most of the videos I’ve watched focus on Pixar and Disney, plus some great videos breaking apart Harry Potter. They talk about the Pixar theory, the history and meaning of things like Inside Out and Beauty and the Beast, and basically out loud have the conversations that churn in my own head, waiting for someone to talk at.

Taking a different turn, I’ve also started watching the YouTube channel The School of Life. Their About page states they are “devoted to emotional education” and they are great, talking about overcoming childhood or bad inner voices, or how romanticism is bad for love in general, with beautiful animations to illustrate their points. I’ve only just started digging into this channel, and there are some videos about philosophers and writers and…oh my goodness, there’s a video called “In Praise of Hugs“, gotta watch that…

I’ve also been watching Lady Dynamite, the Netflix show starring comedian Maria Bamford. My husband and I both love her — I tried to listen to her to make packing go by faster when we were moving, but I was laughing so hard I couldn’t see or move. I was a little nervous about the show, though, because her comedy is weird, and sometimes comedians don’t translate well into their sitcoms. But no! This show reflects Maria Bamford so well, with random fourth wall breaks, sudden surreal moments, and frequent shots of her pugs. She even manages to jump between three timelines in an amazingly clear way (an issue she addresses in the show through a conversation with Patton Oswalt) and is so funny in a way that I can’t really explain, because you just have to see it. Oh, and it’s about her past and continuing battle with anxiety and depression. We’re halfway though it now, and it is a great time.

Animated Distractions: Peridot, “An Effort to Understand”

The majority of Steven Universe spends time with only three gems — Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. As Steven’s trio of moms, they’ve taught Steven not just about being a Gem, but also about love, bravery, and loyalty. And Steven, in turn, has helped them understand friendship, persistence, and heartache — basically, helping them to be a little more human.

Because, despite their vibrant emotions (and tendency to break into song) the Crystal Gems are aliens, and they had to learn, and understand, and change things about themselves in order to exist on Earth.

Peridot RainEnter Peridot, the newest “Crystal Gem,” as she says with a kind of manic sarcasm. She’s been stranded on a planet she didn’t even want to come to, amongst people she’s been told are traitors to their kind. She has faith in her superiors and a deep belief in the system she was born and raised in, a system that denounces everything the Crystal Gems have ever done.

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Animated Distractions: Disney’s Zootopia

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided to totally forget how many children really do go to opening weekend Disney movies (all of them, every child) and popped into the newest flick, Zootopia. Once I managed to fine-tune my attention so I no longer noticed the loud mom over-explaining every single theme in the movie to her toddler, I became suddenly thrilled to realize I was watching a movie about prejudice and biases.

A couple of these biases are obvious before you even go into the movie. Judy Hops is a little bunny who’s told her whole life she can never be a cop, and even after she aces the academy she’s given no respect from her lion and elephant coworkers and her water buffalo boss. Then there’s Nick Wilde, a hustling fox who’s not really as shifty or untrustworthy as he seems.

Then, Zootopia gets a little more complicated.

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Animated Distractions: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Ah, Christmas season. That wonderful time of year where we gather together to watch TV holiday specials.

I have a lot of holiday favorites. Rudolph, forever and always — I still remember a year when a snow storm cut out the cable partway through, and my brother and I started losing our minds. Elf is a newer one that I feel the need to watch every year, and I’ll always get a little emotional when the Grinch’s heart grows two sizes.

One I know I always watched as a kid was the Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, mostly because it was on every year, and like Rudolph, it was just something that you watched. I read the comics and watched the other cartoons as a kid, so I always liked this special, with the soft, iconic music, the sarcastic jokes, and the absurd seriousness of little kids. (“I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.”)

Now as I get older and become less enamored of the Rudolph special (apparently the North Pole is just a collection of intolerant jerks) I appreciate A Charlie Brown Christmas even more. Compared to others, this show is soothing, again with the music, but also because it doesn’t fall into some of the trappings of a lot of other specials, like a big cheesy musical number, and other things that would ring too false today. (I recently found out that Charles Schultz prevented the network from adding a laugh track. Ugh.) But even more, I find I can really relate to the sentiment of the show, and with Charlie Brown’s attitude about Christmas.

Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.

I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.

I’ve mentioned before some of my ongoing issues with anxiety, and the holidays, despite my love for the food and the atmosphere and the people I get to see, do a lot more to exacerbate my emotional problems than help them. Trying to fit in time with multiple friends, two different families, spending money, not getting nearly as much work done as I’d like (Anne Lamott says that “December is a month of Mondays,” and she is not joking around) all adds up to me feeling as if someone is lightly choking me for a few weeks. I’m anxious, a little depressed, and sometimes, like Charlie Brown, I struggle to feel the way I know I’m supposed to feel.

Recently I’ve learned how to better cope with my anxiety; I knit, or I exercise, or I separate myself so my brain can slow down. And I manage to enjoy loads of things about the holidays, like all of these annual specials. But, sometimes, those feelings that aren’t supposed to be associated with this time of year crop up, and that’s when, like Charlie Brown, I have to find something little and sweet to remind myself what this time of year is all about.

Book (and Cartoon) Thoughts: Teen Fantasy and Crystal Gems

Some varying thoughts on things I love that have been pinging in my head.

I’ve been reading a lot of great teen fantasy lately. I loved Cinder and it’s sequel Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and I’m just waiting to finish up a couple other half-read things before I dive into the copy of Cress sitting tantalizingly in my Nook. The other day I finished Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, and I could hardly handle how much I enjoyed that (I’ll have a mini review of it, likely next week).

I went into a Books-a-Million for the first time yesterday, realizing that’s what took over a Borders I used to go to when I was in college. It partly reminded me how much I miss Borders, but also got me thrilled by how big of a graphic novel section they have (not to mention the area of just nerdy merchandise). It was a little messy, and a little sparse, but I’m hoping that’s just because it was the middle of the week and they were organizing.

As for cartoons, there was a big reveal episode of Gravity Falls, and now I just want to know when the next episode airs.

Steven Universe, Pearl, Rose's Scabbard
I need one of these hugs.

Cartoon Network has been playing Steven Universe episodes all week, though their way-too-early airtime means I have to wait a day, putting me a day behind. They’re drawing into the end of the season, which means the plot is getting heavy, but Rebecca Sugar and her team are revealing more and more about the characters, who they really are, and how the loss of Steven’s mother a long time ago affects them all differently. And oh man, the Pearl episode, Rose’s Scabbard? I need to watch that a hundred times. Basically I end each episode in a state of extreme emotion, so I may have a heart attack before this whole thing’s done. (I might need to write another big post on this show.)

Really, what an age to be an adult who loves books and cartoons made for children.

Weekly Finds: Princesses, Agents, and Delicious Food

I saw on, of all things, a People magazine article that Disney will be coming out with a new Disney Princess, Elena. This will be Disney’s first Latina princess, which I think is a good step towards diversifying their lineup. It’s a TV show, not a movie, and it will be on Disney Junior, so I probably won’t watch it personally, but it’s nice knowing this will exist. (Maybe now Epcot’s Mexico can have a character meet up other than Donald in a Sombrero.)

Literary agent Janet Reid wrote a nice post about what to do about unresponsive agents. Basically, if you’re waiting on someone who’s holding your manuscript, a polite email to check on it from time to time isn’t out of line, and that you shouldn’t feel beholden to someone just because you’ve been talking to them. I have not had someone who I’ve felt like is holding my book baby hostage, but it does make me feel better about double checking the status with people who have shown interest.

And just to make sure that everything on this list is completely unrelated, this week we found an Indian restaurant nearby, and despite the fact that they sat us directly next to the door on the windiest winter night ever, it was excellent and delicious, and pretty quick. There’s still a pile of items I’d like to have tried there, but I had just enough restraint to not go too (too too) crazy with my ordering. We’ll be back, just hopefully not anywhere near the door. (Now we just need an Ethiopian restaurant to roll in…)

What have you found this week?

Weekly Finds: Internet Comics and TV Cartoons

The latest story arc on Octopus Pie ended this week. It’s been a pretty emotional one, which I truly need to go back and reread, but I can’t get over how good Meredith Gran at conveying complex emotions with her drawings, and sometimes a little bit of dialogue. The last page of the arc is particularly wonderful, showing, I think, pretty well how someone can get better and worse as they struggle to get over something.

pantyhoseAnd another comic: I read this one last week on Boumeries, but I still think about how very true to my own personal life it is.

I was also very excited about this past week’s batch of cartoons on Cartoon Network. Of the three that I actively watch — Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Regular Show — they all had interesting growths in character and plot. We got to see Princess Bubblegum try and teach herself to chill out on Adventure time, which grows from a personal revelation in another recent episode, and Regular Show tied off a story arc that took a close look at how complicated relationships can be, especially for a kid’s show.

Steven Universe got me very excited, though. I’ve pointed out how much I love this show before, but a big event at the end of the episode shows how the plot is deepening, making the deceptively simple show more fantastically complicated than it already is.

Me, waiting for the next Steven Universe episode.
Me, waiting for the next Steven Universe episode.

Animated Distractions: Steven Universe

When Cartoon Network started showing commercials for a cartoon featuring three lady warriors last year, I was certainly intrigued. With unique character designs and an art style not really similar to anything else on television, I thought, This could be great! Then a pudgy kid talking about a cheeseburger backpack ruined it for me. Here we go–another cartoon with a stupid main male character overshadowing the others. I should have had no hope. But then, two things sat me down for the premiere. First was the showrunner, not only an ex-Adventure Time team member (who wrote the best songs* and storyboarded some of my favorite episodes), but also the first woman to create a Cartoon Network show, Rebecca Sugar. Number two? A single line Steven and his dad said in the longer preview: “If every pork chop were perfect…” “…we wouldn’t have hot dogs!”


So I sat through the premiere episodes, “Gem Glow” and “Laser Light Cannon”, and all the things that piqued my interest before hand — female characters, goofy lines — were there in wonderful full force and the scenes were beautiful, the backgrounds with a light, pinkish hue.. Every second fixed my eyes more firmly on the screen. And then, the Cookie Cat Rap happened.

Yeah. This is my kind of show.Read More »

Animated Distractions: I Love Cartoons

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ve figured out that I like comics. Possibly you’ve also used your deductive prowess to realize: I also freaking love cartoons.

Bee and PuppycatI think the only time in my life when I wasn’t watching cartoons was somewhere in that awkward 11-13 year old stage, when I thought that I wasn’t supposed to anymore. I got over that pretty quickly. Then I found anime, and after that there was no hope really that most of my television viewing would be of the non-live action variety.

So, as an adult, I constantly watch animated shows. Not just the Adult Swim variety, but the things shown on the regular Cartoon Network/Nickelodeon blocks. And while I enjoy a great deal of what gets made even today, there are some that I’m simply obsessed with, those that I find so impressive that I’m thrilled with the creativity of people and inspired in my own work. Since cartoons have and always will influenced me, I feel like even on a blog about writing and books there’s room to talk about them.

I’ll ramble on specifically about different shows and movies in the future, but for now, here are some cartoons that are currently just making my life better:

  • Adventure Time. So weird, so crazy, yet so. Emotional.

    Adenture Time Marceline and Ice King
    This episode blew my mind.
  • Bee and Puppycat. You can really tell Natasha Allegri likes Sailor Moon. In a good way.
  • Steven Universe. Adorable kid saves the world with some kick-butt ladies. Yes.
  • Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Not as fantastic as the last series, but still, fantastic.
  • …and others that I won’t pass up if I happen to catch it, like Clarence, Wander Over Yonder, My Little Pony, and Gravity Falls.

Do you watch cartoons? Is there anything that influences you creatively? What other cartoons should I watch?