Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

Ugh, I know I said I was reading “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough… and I definitely started reading it, when I realized I had to take another book back to the library within just a few days!

Just to note, I have had my Austin library card for exactly 1 year now, and I haven’t ever had an overdue book or a late fee, and I plan to keep it that way. So, I had to switch things up and read my library book, “HillBilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, first.

I heard about this book on Instagram (I am always keeping my eyes open for books to add to my reading list), and I added to my library reserve list immediately. After months of waiting, I got it – and then of course had to read it within just a few days – which was actually not an issue because it was so good. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

While this book was published before the 2016 election, there are many, many clues within this book as to why Trump eventually won (despite what we now know about Russian involvement). Right after I finished reading this book, I started looking up reviews for it online and saw a mix – many people loved it, while lots of people said it didn’t represent the people it claims to.

But the author, Vance, says he’s not trying to make assumptions about large groups of people – merely stating what he knows about his family, and those he grew up with.

And if what he’s saying is true, I can 100% understand why Trump is our president now. It doesn’t make it any less sad, or difficult to deal with, but at least now I know. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the culture of various people, and/or politics.

Now, for real, the next book I’ll be reading is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough. I swear!

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BBC: ‘Settle for More’.

Hey there! This week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club might be a little unexpected, or at least that’s what my friends were telling me when I told them what book I was reading. It’s “Settle for More” by Megyn Kelly.

Before I get into WHY I wanted to read it, I’ll give you the scoop from Amazon.com:

Whether it’s asking tough questions during a presidential debate or pressing for answers to today’s most important issues, Megyn Kelly has demonstrated the intelligence, strength, common sense, and courage that have made her one of today’s best-known journalists, respected by women and men, young and old, Republicans and Democrats.

In Settle for More, the anchor of The Kelly File reflects on the enduring values and experiences that have shaped her—from growing up in a family that rejected the “trophies for everyone” mentality, to her father’s sudden, tragic death while she was in high school. She goes behind-the-scenes of her career, sharing the stories and struggles that landed her in the anchor chair of cable’s #1 news show. Speaking candidly about her decision to “settle for more”—a motto she credits as having dramatically transformed her life at home and at work—Megyn discusses how she abandoned a thriving legal career to follow her journalism dreams.

Admired for her hard work, humor, and authenticity, Megyn sheds light on the news business, her time at Fox News, the challenges of being a professional woman and working mother, and her most talked about television moments. She also speaks openly about Donald Trump’s feud with her, revealing never-before-heard details about the first Republican debate, its difficult aftermath, and how she persevered through it all.

Deeply personal and surprising, Settle for More offers unparalleled insight into this charismatic and intriguing journalist, and inspires us all to embrace the principles—determination, honesty, and fortitude in the face of fear—that have won her fans across the political divide.

So, there you have it! I didn’t know much about Ms. Kelly before all of the publicity Trump gave her, but I saw a feature on her on “Sunday Morning”, and I really appreciated the fact that she’d come up through the journalism ranks in an honest way. Many journalists you see on TV didn’t earn their spot.

The book indeed dives into Kelly’s issues with Trump, which started well before the primary debate she moderated, and continued for nearly an entire year afterward. The book also covers her personal and family life, her initial career as a lawyer, and how she transitioned into the world of journalism. It also (briefly) touches on the her allegations against Roger Ailes for sexual assault.

Kelly left Fox news in January, also leaving her nightly show “The Kelly Files”, behind for NBC. However, there is no official start date for her (per an article in the Washington Examiner dated March 15).

The only thing I don’t like about Kelly? That she’s very clear on NOT being a feminist, especially when she doesn’t seem to even understand the concept, and she’s in the perfect position to be one!

But, I’d still definitely recommend this book if you’re at all a fan of journalism, or if you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at what happened between her and Trump (she has scanned emails in there).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Unexpected Everything” by Morgan Matson. Read it with us by simply reading it and hitting me up on social media @OrangeJulius7 and/or commenting right here on the blog!

I hope you all have a fantastic, fun weekend. I am thinking about seeing “Beauty & the Beast”, and I know I’ve got loads of “Big Little Lies” to catch up on. Catch y’all on the flipside!

Watch: ‘All the President’s Men’.

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are cracking the case!

On Sunday, I vowed to myself to spend lots of time in bed and/or on the couch, just relaxing, and doing a little bit of cleaning out my DVR. This included watching one of the best journalistic thrillers ever: “All the President’s Men”!

“All the President’s Men” is based on the true story of Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and their investigation into the Watergate scandal in the early 70’s.

I saw this movie for the first time at Columbus North High School (Go Bulldogs!) during my very first journalism class. Oh, the memories! While I enjoyed watching the movie then, I didn’t cherish the details of what I saw when I watched it on Sunday: the typewriters, the newsroom with landlines and rotary phones, reporters in ties and jackets, and the mere fact that to reach a deadline, you physically had to be present in the room to drop the typed draft into the editor’s basket. That is some classy shit.

The Watergate scandal started with a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in DC, and it was later discovered that the Nixon administration was involved – after lots and lots of attempts to cover it up, naturally.

Part of this coverup meant the Nixon administration went to great lengths to figure out who was on to them, including bugging offices of their opponents, and anyone who seemed suspicious. The administration also used the FBI and the CIA to investigate activists and political figures. Hmm… sound familiar?

All of this drama from Nixon was actually a violation of the constitution, which lead to impeachment, and eventually, his resignation. And Bernstein and Woodward had a lot to do with uncovering all of the coverups, basically following the money that was given to the “robbers” back to the Nixon campaign.

We’ve been hearing a lot of references to Watergate lately, especially with President Trump’s blind accusation of former President Obama of wire tapping Trump Tower. Why? How? Really? Nothing has come out yet, and if I had to guess, it won’t.

But what I do know is that there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the Trump administration – a lot of tricks to get the opposition to look one way, while there’s a shit storm in the other direction, and frankly, it’s creepy.

The thing is, Woodward and Bernstein used two very old-school journalism tactics to get the information they needed: charm and trust. They were able to get solid sources, and their sources handed over valuable information without fear of being named and getting caught.

This is one reason why Trump’s “Fake News” is the most terrifying thing out of his mouth, perhaps ever. Because he’s already insinuating that when (not if) the news reports something dangerously true (RUSSIA), then, well, it’s simply “fake”.

We’re what, two months into the Trump presidency, and shit is already super questionable, so I’m certain these comparisons to Watergate won’t stop anytime soon. The cool thing is, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are still around to comment on it, like the bad asses in chinos they once were.

“Trump’s attacks on the American press as ‘enemies of the American people’ are more treacherous than Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press,” former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. You can read the full story here, and you should probably go ahead and watch “All the President’s Men”, at least for the indoor cigarettes and parking lot shots of Deep Throat.

“Nothing’s riding on this except the first amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of this country.” -All the President’s Men

Weekend at the Alamo (Drafthouse).

Emily Blunt in 'The Girl on the Train'.

Emily Blunt in ‘The Girl on the Train’.

I read “The Girl on the Train” a few months ago, and I just loved it (read my full review here) – and I was counting down the days until the movie adaptation made its way to theaters. But, I’ll also admit I was a little bit scared. It’s no secret that this story is jarring, and violent. Luckily, I had someone to see it with me.

We went to the Alamo Drafthouse, which is where I’ve seen every single movie since moving to Austin. Not familiar with the Drafthouse? It’s your typical movie theater, but it has comfy chairs and tables… and waiters, because there is a full menu and adult beverages. It’s pretty fantastic and I don’t know why anyone would see a movie any other way.

I did have a beer and a burger with this movie – and it helped to ease my nerves a little. So, the premise of the movie is this: (don’t worry, I will alert you before mentioning any spoilers) Rachel, the girl on the train, watches a couple from her train seat. She starts to idolize this couple, as they appear to have a beautiful life and be deeply in love.

Her obsession with the couple and their home derives from the fact that she used to live just a few doors down from them; with her now-ex-husband. He still lives there with his new wife and their baby.

It should also be known that Rachel is an alcoholic, and sometimes it seems as though her drinking is what has built a seemingly low life around her: no friends, no real home, no job, and no real purpose. That is, until, she sees something happen with her ideal couple, all the way from her seat on the train.

Then, she starts a small investigation inside herself as to what could have happened to the couple, and why? But before she can get very far, she’s approached by police and investigators, and they need her alibi, because something really wrong has happened. The problem? Rachel’s drinking has gotten in the way of her memory, and now she’s in deep – but she’s about to get herself in even deeper.

So, okay, I’d already read this book, so I pretty much knew what to expect when going to see the movie. And I’ll say, the movie really brought the book to life – although there were some parts that were definitely more sensationalized, for film’s sake.

However, there were a few themes in the movie that seemed obvious, but I didn’t notice them while reading the book. I don’t know if I just didn’t notice them in the book, or if they weren’t there, and were added into the film. These themes are:

  • Alcohol

Yes, obviously Rachel is an alcoholic, so there is lots of drinking throughout the movie. However, there’s also things outside of the drinking: such as, what people around her think of her drinking – from strangers on the bus and people in the park. Her ex husband also tells her that her drinking is what got him fired from his job – which turns out not to be true. Alcohol is also used as a truth serum, as Rachel is offered it many times in order to tell stories or act a certain way.

  • Memories

The memory is an interesting thing; and sometimes our mind does us favors by altering the way we remember things – which is huge in the movie. In Rachel’s case, she often relies on others to tell her what happened, because she was usually to drunk to recall. However, what if they’re not telling the truth? Then her memory has to make itself up – and she’s technically remembering things that didn’t happen. This really hit home for me. I’ve definitely had my ways with alcohol, and have had many nights where I need to stitch things together in order to remember them. I’ve also been “that girl”, drunk in public, and unaware of my surroundings. Seeing these parts of the movie was jarring to me.

  • Guilt, Blame, and Manipulation

Whew! This one is a difficult one for me. But all of the women featured in this story are in manipulative relationships – and I’d say the saddest part is, many of these seem like typical relationships. There is a lot of blame – blame on Rachel that she couldn’t have children; blame on her for her addiction; blame on the wife because she was too tired to have sex; guilt for the story line with the baby… and a lot of this hit very close to home for me. I’ve been in too many relationships like this, and it’s so damaging. It was very difficult to watch.

  • Women as Meaningless Objects

Another difficult topic here, but I noticed sex was a bigger theme in the movie than what I noticed in the book. And a lot of the sex was just physical – in fact, taking a women into the woods to have sex is so demeaning to me. That’s where people burn trash. And by the things said during those scenes, I’d venture to say the man didn’t give any shit about the woman involved. There was a lot of this attitude that women are basically expected to be sex servants, and that was very difficult to see. And frankly, a lot of what I saw were things women have to constantly worry about, but men do not: walking alone, riding public transportation, being out after dark, being drunk in public, having non-consensual sex, being pregnant, having an abortion, raising children… the list goes on.

None of this is meant to bash the movie, as I thought it was a really great adaptation of the book. However, it was difficult to watch; perhaps my mind was able to only focus on certain things when I was reading it. I drove home from the theatre a little unnerved, and was happy once I got home safe. It’s not a movie I would ever watch again; as it hit me to the core. But, would I recommend seeing it? Absolutely.

Hmm...

Hmm…

Sunday night, I went right back to the Drafthouse to watch the second presidential debate! Before the first one, I saw that the Drafthouse, along with many other restaurants and bars were showing the debates and I thought that sounded like a lot of fun. After all, a presidential election only comes around every four years, and this is one for the books.

And what better place to watch this spectacle than in a movie theatre with beer and burgers? However, my nights during the week are pretty busy with dance classes and my blog class. But a Sunday night, I can handle.

I was happy to see that upon arrival, there were booths set up to help people register to vote, since the deadline is TODAY! I thought this was so neat! Once I got into the theatre, there were little American flags at each seat, and they were playing the “pre-debate coverage”. An employee came out to explain the rules – clapping and cheering were allowed, but no negative comments or shouting, and yes, we could use social media!

All-in-all the experience was fun. I got to eat a giant pretzel (with queso) and hard cider with about 100 strangers and watch this crazy spectacle of a race. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh. My blog class falls during the next debate, so I’ll have to DVR it – if it even happens, right?

If Trump Wins: How to move to London.

Okay, GOP, I'M OUT.

Okay, GOP, I’M OUT.

I’m not really sure what the Republicans are thinking, but then again, when do I EVER know, or understand, or really care what’s going on there? Meh.

But in general, y’all have lost it. We put up with Bush. But Trump? No ma’am. That shit is no joke. Like I am moving overseas if this happens. So, if you’re on the same page as me, I’ve done the dirty work and figured out how to actually move to London, should the crazies take over.

Get a Visa

Not the credit card kind. If you’re a student, lucky you – visas are easier to get if that’s the case. You can also try and get one through your current employer, which is also fairly easy. For most of us though, we’ll have to prove we’ve got enough work experience and education to make the move without a job (unless, of course) you can land a job overseas first, and get a visa that way.

Visit here for more information about how to get a visa and exactly what kind you need.

Get a Flat

How chic does that sound? Start looking for a place; and yes, it’s going to be expensive. This means two things: 1. Don’t fall for any places that sound cheap, because they probably don’t exist, and 2. Don’t wire money over. You’ll get scammed. It’s also probably important to note here that places in London are going to be smaller, and will also have about zero storage. So, time to get rid of everything you own. Bad news for Blanche, London landlords are not keen on cats and dogs. Looks like Blanche will have to fend for herself when it comes to Trump.

Just kidding; we’ll find a place to house my arugula-eating kitty (though she may have to be quarantined for six months).

One important part of figuring out a place to live is exactly WHERE; there’s lots of boroughs in London and you’ve got to find the right one for you – here’s a map of them.

Transportation

You can have your car shipped overseas, or you can get a new one once you arrive. But, keep in mind, that if you have a car either way, you’re going to have to find a place to park it. I saw screw the car, London has a great public transportation system.

And while all of this sounds fine and dandy, my research proved to me one thing: moving out of the country is not easy – and why would it be? Moving ANYWHERE is a pain in the ass and there’s all sorts of things that need to change. That whole visa thing – it’s expensive, difficult, and takes a very long time and a lot of hard work. So, step one may very well never get accomplished.

But I will admit, the idea of moving to a completely, completely new place does sound appealing. This does not mean I hope Trump wins. No, no.

In the meantime, I found some blogs from people who moved from the United States to England:

Maybe I’ll make this “If Trump Wins…” a regular thing; you know, we can relearn how to survive; how to make rope-ladders and wash clothes near the rivers. The media surely won’t be around so I’ll sneak underground and report the news from a blocked IP address.

OK, I’ll stop.

Register to vote, y’all. Right here.

Meanwhile, Beyonce stole my brand:

Have a fantastic weekend! I am hoping to get some gardening in tomorrow, and I’ve got tickets for the Calder Cup playoff game with the Texas Stars…and I’m also going to the Drafthouse to the “Bridesmaids” quote-along! Gonna be a fun one, and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!