I’m especially happy to write to you today, because it’s my 29th birthday. As an only child, my birthdays have always been something of a special annual event to me, never contained to a single day of celebration. This year, I’ve had three days of lovely outdoor activities scheduled with close loved ones. Next year (the big decade shift), I have a week with family and friends planned in the Dominican Republic.
Since I last wrote, I also got into the MPA program that I applied to, so change is on the horizon for me. The first course I think I’ll sign up for is on state and local taxation, and I must admit I’m pretty excited about it... Words I never thought I’d say. I must be getting old(er) indeed ;)
Hopefully you can forgive the fact I skipped an issue (again), and I can work on my consistency (again). For now, enjoy this special birthday-edition digest I’ve pulled together for you. It features many of my classic favorites, and is probably my most passionately written digest to date. I hope you like it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This is, and will maybe always be, my favorite show. Not simply for nostalgic reasons, as I grew up watching the show, but because no other show I’ve seen balances emotional impact and comedy like Buffy does. I’ve seen every episode (there are 144 in total) upward of ten times. Each episode has a runtime of around 46-minutes, which means I’ve spent at least 1,104 hours of the last 29-years watching Buffy. I regret not one minute of that! The real monsters are never supernatural, but societal, which the show explores from hundreds of angles over its seven seasons. Female power, grief, misogyny, slut shaming, human sexuality, lesbian love, school shootings, sexual trauma, classism, depression… the show covered a lot of ground, never shying away from tough topics. Buffy is also the most widely studied pop culture property in academia, and for good reason. I could link any important issue to an episode of Buffy, and probably espouse an impromptu essay about its symbolic value. It’s also quick-witted and funny as all hell (pun intended). But the main reason I love Buffy is each of its characters. You grow incredibly fond of them as you watch the show, and even when you know exactly what’s going to happen as I do, you still care. It feels familiar to watch an episode of Buffy and see the old gang, and that kind of comfort is always a lovely thing.
When I was in my final year of high school, and early university, I loved this song. It brought me a certain kind of light, happy serenity, so I played it a lot. It was on my iPod back when those were a thing, and I’d play it on repeat over and over. One year when I looked at my total played list on iTunes, this track had over 10,000 plays (really) and the next-most-played song only a few hundred. I’d be remiss not to share this as the song in this list, given I’ve listened to it more than any other song made. You’ve probably heard it, and you mightn’t connect with it in the same way. But if it induces a gentle kind of warmth in even one of you, then I feel like I’ve done a good thing today.
This is the only film I can quote in its entirety from start to finish. Clueless was released in 1995 and I first saw it on VHS while living in Singapore when I was four. I remember it vividly because of its iconic costuming and how it felt like the Barbie dolls I was obsessed with had come to life, and even though 99% of the plot went over my head, I fell in love. I ended up taping a copy when it played on TV sometime later, and watched it over and over again, for years. Interest naturally waned over time, and I went through my exclusively ‘serious’ film phase as a teenager, but I don’t actually recall a 12-month period passing in my life where I haven’t watched it. I’ve proclaimed that Clueless is my favorite film for many years, despite the chagrin that induces in people who reduce it to something trivial and unimportant. It’s a film that, perhaps ironically, is always underestimated because it deals with young women and adolescent subject matter. The film is full of so many genius details that lie under its shiny, Beverly Hills teenage surface, which is part of why it’s so subversively brilliant. Amy Heckerling, the female director (a very big deal in the 90s, and still kind of a big deal now) created new slang and fashion for the film that is totally its own, intentionally so that it would sit slightly outside of time. While it is a quintessentially 90s film in many ways, it also occupies its own universe which makes it so special. It’s also jam packed with witty quips, pop culture, literary and political references, and no matter how many times I’ve seen it (thousands). If you love it already, you get it. If you haven’t seen it… correct that. If you have and feel a little whatever, maybe parse it with a more critical eye and ear again, for me.
This is my favorite sentimental-fancy dish. Whenever my family would have a really special dinner, we would go to an Italian restaurant by the sea in my hometown, Perth in Western Australia. I would look sheepishly at the menu, noting the ‘MP’ beside this item (market price, which is restaurant-speak for probably very expensive). If my mum ever said I could have anything, and I knew she meant it, I would get this. It was extremely rare, I probably had it three times, but every time was meaningful to me. Now that I’m an adult with the income to indulge my whims, I try to embed it into family specialness too. For Valentine’s Day this year, I whipped up a seafood feast for Alex, Leo and I, and made sure this lobster mornay dish was on the menu. It was a hit, which made me feel warm and fuzzy in a sentimental way. But I suppose, what kind of monsters would complain about cheesy, buttery shellfish? No family of mine.
I only know a few poems by heart, and this is one of them. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s words capture something about the ephemeral nature of life, and of power, in a way that has stuck with me for many years. Ozymandias, the fallen king, frowning and sneering half buried in the sand, alone. It reminds me that greed, arrogance, asserting oneself above others at any cost… none of these things last. Nobody who seeks them is worth attention. I thought of this, often, refusing to read certain tweets or sensationalist news headlines for four years… while I quietly worked in my community and did what I could to mobilize others to resist and to vote. My own kind of resistance involves not breathing life into the things I oppose, but not burying my head in the sand (yep - pun intended!) either.
BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
As a general rule I don’t share my own content in The Seven, but this is an exception. Sometimes I google my own name (auditing for professional purposes, etc) and I have an old blog from when I was a teenager that still always ranks relatively high up. I wrote this piece about my Nanna’s stroke in 2008. I used to be so critical of my own writing, and as a sixteen year old I felt like I could barely string a sentence together and everything I produced was trash. Now, with more self love and kind reflection, I’m proud of myself for articulating something painful so well. It’s powerful to read this now, because I don’t remember the details this well, and the prompts bring a painful but important time back to life for me.
In meme terms, this is an old favorite. It’s super-silly but it makes me giggle every time. Never thought you could do a Glaswegian accent? Try it. If you can’t get it, here’s will.i.am for reference.