"Sunsets on the Blue Building"

About a year ago, the people who live in the house next door to me painted over the beautiful old red brick with a very bright, deep blue with orange accents.

It is an understatement to say that I am not fond of the new color.

In true honesty, though, the colors are not so bad, but for the fact that they covered over such a lovely brick facade: the quintessential urban Italianate, and a testament to Cincinnati’s legendary architecture status in that category. My bedroom window is flushed up against the building’s side, and, I must say, it is much better to look out over your desk and see the ever elegant ivy-on-brick wall, as opposed to the quaggy deep blue that is now my view’s reality.

The great thing about the change, though, is that it still didn’t affect how the sunset reflects off the building. Despite the fact that even a purple shift is less appealing than the dazzling oranges and glowing pinks of the previously red-brown brick in a sunset, I still can’t help but hold my breath for a moment when I walk into my room at sundown. This beautiful array doesn’t happen everyday, but still often enough that you would think it should lose some awe after a time.

Thankfully, it hasn’t yet.

Seeing a glowing blue sky, opposite the sunset and just barely escaping it’s grasp for a time, wedged in between the newly green foliage of the honeysuckle my father hates so badly, seeing the bright red glow of the nursing home on the next block in the background, draws my eye to the esteem of the sun and clouds, reflected in the blue, now purple, of that horrendously colored apartment building. Even better than seeing the sunset directly, the mood it casts, when I sit down to write or read or get work done, gives pause. It provides an instant sense of calm, of tranquility, even in the midst of next-day deadlines or rabbit deaths (true story). I could stare out that window for hours, just admiring the loveliness of the scene in front of me, beyond me.

I’m not kidding when I say it always makes me stop in wonder. I could sit at my desk forever, just staring out that window, and it would never cease to amaze me.

But the scene only lasts twenty minutes, half-an-hour at most. The sun goes down, the apartments are once again blue and ivy-less.

But maybe sometime next week, the weather will cooperate again. And at least now I can get some work done.

Drawing hands: a foolproof formula.

Drawing hands: a foolproof formula.

We drove to Asheville semi-spontaneously in a day and came back the next, mostly just so we could drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

ALBUM REVIEW: Flood

A’ight, so I haven’t done an album review in a long time, and I’ve been on a big TMBG kick lately, so here: one of my all-time favorite albums, one of the jewels coming out of the 1990’s alternative scene.

A They Might Be Giants classic, Flood just barely pulls through in my book in front of Apollo 18 and Factory Showroom, among others. From the timeless stomper “Istanbul,” a song which everybody knows but is rarely aware of its origins, to the flawless (full) opening song “Birdhouse in Your Soul” with such a full range of dynamic sounds that you can’t help but actually buy a blue canary to put in the outlet by the light switch.

All cliche review talk aside, though, one of the things I like most about TMBG is their exceptional ability to not take themselves too seriously. This is not to say they aren’t excellent musicians, because they are, in fact, unbelievably excellent musicians, but personally, I am glad they do not get too wrapped up in themselves or their musical vision. If anything, it actually adds to their musicality. Songs like “We Want a Rock,” which pokes fun at typical rock ‘n’ roll lyrics, “Dead,” telling the story of a grocery bag reincarnation, and “Someone Keeps Moving My Chair,” which “notes the exaggerated importance of petty concerns when everything else is going haywire” (Linnell in a 2009 interview), all prove that you do not have to use the overused themes of rock ‘n’ roller love and hurt to build a brilliant work of musical art. Plus, the humor also just makes them fun songs, in general. If you’ve never blasted “Lucky Ball and Chain” in the car and screamed along to the one line of lyric in “Minimum Wage,” you haven’t truly experienced all the joy of They Might Be Giants.

The format of the album is magnificently unique, as well. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, albums to me are the greatest judge of a musicians talent, being that anyone can produce a catchy song, but it takes real musicality to be able to create an entire LP and have it sound good. So I really appreciate it when artists add bit and pieces into an album that separates it from just a collection of individual songs; in this case, it’s things like adding a theme song for the album (“Theme from Flood”) and using shorter songs to link the higher production ones together (“Minimum Wage,” “Hot Cha,” etc.).

Overall, the album was just produced well, is unique and just generally speaks to the artists’ voice. Download it, blast it in the car, use the humor to cheer you up on a bad day. Plus, it’s also just good music.

Recommended Tracks:
"Birdhouse in Your Soul" (track 2)
"Lucky Ball & Chain" (track 3)
"Dead" (track 5)
"Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" (track 10)

Sketches of yellow warblers, from early January, 2014.
jilliankartwork.tumblr.com

Sketches of yellow warblers, from early January, 2014.

jilliankartwork.tumblr.com

Also, AP exams are in, so I can start posting art pieces from this past year on the internet now. Jillian K. Artwork is currently in the process of being updated, so stay tuned for more fabulous art!

Blog Update

Just an update, I am now posting on both this Tumblr and on a new Wordpress account, so as to better tailor to the general blog audience and to (hopefully) get more regular readers. It’s the same exact stuff, just in two different places, and everything will get queued for the same general time. So if you tend to be more of a traditional blog reader, this addition is the thing for you!

Like I said, though, I will be continuing to post onto Tumblr, as well, so nothing will change in terms of this particular account.

The new, additional site is here, same URL, just on Wordpress instead of Tumblr.

I actually just really love the internet.

5 Reasons Disney did good by the GMW pilot and 4 Reasons they didn’t, pt. II

(Part I here)

Alright, guys, so we already covered a few of the things Disney did wrong in the new Girl Meets World pilot, so now let’s go over the good. I want very badly to give this show a chance, because I feel as if Disney has an awesome opportunity to start changing their vision and approach to preteen sitcoms with this show, especially since it is already based on a solid backstory.

I want to start off with a good attitude for the rest of the season, so here are five things I think Disney did well in the pilot episode (starting with number five, after part one):

5. Keeping so many of the characters from Boy
I think it goes without saying that the single greatest thing about Girl Meets World (at least in the eyes of my generation and those before it) is simply the return of Cory and Topanga to our television screens. That being said, the show is still very clearly targeted towards the typical Disney demographic, which is good and to be expected. Even so, though, the producers have still kept so many of the characters from BMW that, honestly, the story line could be nonexistent and we would still watch it just to see their faces again. And it actually does seem to enhance the show for even those who are too young to remember 11-year-old Cory and Minkus: it takes some of the focus away from just the main characters (Riley and Maya) and gives the show a broader spectrum of life, which, hopefully, is what the writers were going for. In the same way that Amy and Alan Matthews played a big role in the lives of Cory, Eric, and even Shawn, and not to mention in the same way parents play a huge role in the lives of most of the kids in Disney’s demographic, it is good to see that the same theme will be carried out into GMW. My only request is that they please bring Will Friedle back for a few episodes.

6. Casting
Along the same lines, I actually think that, so far, the directors have done a phenomenal job of casting. With the exception of Corey Fogelmanis’ Farkle, who is just an awful character in general, all of the actors have so far done an excellent job with their characters, especially considering how young some of them are. Rowan Blanchard even looks very much like Ben and Danielle, which is more than you can say for Cory in relation to his parents. It is still only the first episode, though, and it will be interesting to see how each actor or actress grows into their parts.

7. The theme song
You cannot tell me that you have not been singing this all week and have me believe you. It’s downright catchy, and not in the awful way that preteen sitcoms often are. It really is just a fun song.

8. The actual presence of moral lessons
I know that this sounds incredibly corny, but I can’t help it. I grew up with PBS. But even most Disney Channel shows used to be centered around some sort of moral dilemma. Now it seems like all of them are either about boyfriends or social media or controlling people, or something worse (don’t even get me started on Sam & Cat, or the “Terry the Tomboy” TV movie). That may seem like an unfair generalization, and I’ll admit that to some degree, it is. I’m not at all denying that there are still a few wholesome tween shows out there. But it is very clear to me that there are a ton of horrible messages being sent to the 8-13 demographic, especially the girls of that group. In basic terms, I’m just really glad that Riley Matthews is being portrayed as a smart, capable young teenage girl. There definitely still needs to be some work done on a few of the images, of course; I’m not completely satisfied with how the contrast between Maya and Riley is presented, with the trouble maker still being shown as “the cool one,” but that is a very prevalent view in our society, and was an issue in BMW, too. And, of course, you already know how I feel about Farkle. But overall, I am much more confident in the moral standings of Girl Meets World now after seeing the pilot than I am with that of most other Disney Channel shows.

Which brings me to another question entirely: is Cartoon Network still a thing?

9. Feeny
"Jillian, are you crying?", my mom says at the end of the premier.
"No!", I say, as I turn away and start tearing up.

5 Reasons Disney did good by the GMW pilot and 4 Reasons they didn’t, pt. I

(9 reasons why, total.)

I’m doing this in favor of an outright review because I want to wait until the first season is finished before I make up my mind about the series as a whole. This is specifically about the pilot episode of Girl Meets World, which premiered on June 27th. I also know that by the time this post goes up, the second episode would have already been aired (I’m writing this on the 28th and queueing it up, since I needed to get all the Fourth of July stuff out of my system first). Plus, that gives me time to make sure more people have had the chance to watch it, thus minimizing spoilers.

So, in the spirit of convention, let’s start with the bad news. Good news will be on part two.

1. It’s way too glamorous.
To be fair, we knew this going in. From the first announcement of the new sequel and their respective publicity shots, we knew that Girl Meets World was coming back Disney-fied. One of the best things about Boy Meets World was its authenticity—all of the characters could have easily been real people. Their house could have easily been your friend’s house down the street. They looked and acted like a basic, middle-class family living in Philly. Given, now they are in New York, and the kids are starting older than Cory and Shawn were in season one of BMW. Plus, times have changed and preteens are more culturally involved than in the ’90s, plus we’re dealing with girls instead of boys. But still: most seventh graders are not that stylish, much less can afford all the vibrant, glamorous clothing that is characteristic of Disney characters nowadays. Same with the house decorations, fancy old school building, and were there rumors of Topanga owning a pudding shop? (This wasn’t officially released in the pilot, but at the time of the show’s announcement, there was talk of that being the new “Chubbie’s.” It may or may not appear in the rest of the series.) Also, how does someone who has no one at home (Maya) afford the coolest clothes in school? I miss the authenticity of the original series. Again, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. We expected it. It is still Disney Channel, after all. But it would have been nice to see this be the start of a transition for Disney’s vision, and for children’s programming, in general. Disney had an awesome opportunity and excuse to bring back a genuine cultural setting to television, but they didn’t even entertain it, which I am honestly a little disappointed in. Which brings me to…

2. Stereotypes
Whatever happened to the idea that you don’t have to only be a “good kid” or “bad kid?” Can’t we land somewhere in the middle? It’s great that Riley is represented as a smart girl who thinks for herself (I’ll talk more about that later), and I like that they included a Shawn-esque character in Maya, but seriously, aren’t they both a little too far on either end of the spectrum? Even at the start of the BMW series, neither Shawn or Cory were extremely bad (or good) kids. They were both normal students who just cared more about baseball than Romeo and Juliet—a basic depiction of many sixth grade boys. True, there were Minkus and Topanga, who were both very extreme, but by the second season Topanga’s hippie-dom had mellowed out, and the unfair depiction of the nerd stereotype is the main reason they cut Minkus’ character. Acting like personalities only come in extremes teaches kids to mold into a label instead of trying to be their own person. Even when a show has such a theme as GMW does, “make the world your own,” this reliance on stock characters runs the risk of sacrificing all those words to what you’re actually showing in the characters’ actions.

3. The story line is incredibly cheesy.
This could be just because of the pilot, as first episodes tend to be pretty cheesy anyway, so I don’t want to put too much stress on this. I’m sure this aspect will improve. Besides, BMW had it’s fair share of cheese throughout the series. It’s forgivable. But again, it goes back to the authenticity issue: too much sentimentality, and you risk losing the relatablility. The producers just have to be careful of it, is all.

4. Farkle Minkus
Alright, I have some serious beef with this one. All the other oversights could have been overlooked and forgiven, and Disney was actually doing great in my book until… Farkle.

I actually think that Disney couldn’t have done anything worse in terms of characters for the show. In the original series, Minkus was annoying, but at least he was sill believable, and therefore, tolerable. And they still took him out because of his overly nerdy demeanor (see reason no. 2). If Stuart Minkus was a distraction, Farkle Minkus is one thousand times worse. I legitimately hate what they’ve done with this character, and that’s difficult for me to say about anything BMW related. If anything were to bring this show to the ground, it will singlehandedly be Farkle. The sooner they get rid of him the better. I’m going to leave it at that, because otherwise this could go on forever. There are so many more reasons I can’t stand this character, from stereotypes to image to just general obnoxiousness. I’m sure most of you who watched it already agree to some point.

Outside of these, though, I think Disney did a pretty good job with the show, overall. I’m going to save the 5 good reasons for Tuesday’s post. Stay tuned for part two!