‘Sup, y’all? It seems like spring is finally creeping its way in…in Massachusetts we get like 9 months of winter, about 2 days of spring in early May, and then oppressive summer for the rest of the time. It’s so great! #thxglobalwarming
Also, it’s the end of the semester, so things are peak stressful. Here’s what’s up.
Hi there, just checking in from New England! It’s 46 degrees outside as I write this, y’know, at the end of April. 2018 was certainly not the coldest or snowiest winter of my lifetime, but it sure as hell feels like the longest. Here are a few things keeping me sane (or driving me crazy).
Spring’s not coming. Here is a series of jean jackets that I may not have a chance to wear this year: this one, this one, and this one.
I just started using New Wash and I’m NEVER going back! Pricey, worth it.
I think I should do Dry January again…Dry May? I loved the feeling of being free of vices—it’s easier to do in the dead of winter, since everyone is cooped up at home!
Hello, hello, Opalhouse is in the building. I’ve been laboring under the suspicion that Target is trying to bankrupt me for quite some time, but this is egregious. So g-d, m-f–ing cute! You KNOW I bought this dish towel. #EastCoast
What a holy disaster the past couple of weeks have been. Unstructured time does not agree with me. We had Spring Break, and a Nor’Easter, followed by another Nor’Easter that basically shut down the state for another week. I had so much extra time to do schoolwork that I got everything done and am now up to speed in my life! Just kidding. I lounged around like an indolent monster and binged so much TV. Here’s a quick summary:
The Good Wife is my new favorite show, an not just because the literal angel Matt Czuchry plays a lead role. It is so goddamn good that I’m legitimately considering going to law school now. (No, YOUR crush is unhealthy.)
Gotta shout it out to my beloved Better Bean. The best sandwiches and coffee in the Bridgewater, MA area, hands down. I’d get nothing done if I couldn’t hang out there for hours on end.
I finally saw Rogue One! I’m officially caught up on the Star Wars universe. K2-SO is the best droid, don’t @ me.
I dyed my hair Infra-Red. I think. I can’t be bothered to go check the label. I have to accept the fact that I am meant to have dark hair, so this is a stopover on the way out of highlights land. I look like a demented mermaid. Oh, Manic Panic, how you bless my life.
This week was Valentine’s Day, and although I am the world’s least romantic person, I got to have Thai food and watch Freaks and Geeks with the bae after a long day’s work—V-Day success! Plus, this is a long weekend, so I am RELISHING the break. Here are a bunch of things that brightened my week (which felt really, really, really long, didn’t it?)
It’s Valentine’s Week, as Logan Huntzberger might say, so the number one thing I love this week is Bae. The only cute bae nickname I can think of that hasn’t already been taken is “The Bae Harbor Butcher,” but that’s a pretty deep cut Dexter reference that no one would understand. Happy belated Valentimes to my hubby.
Bae and I will probably go see Black Panther this weekend—I’m so excited! I’m not a superhero person at all (I basically just likeJessica Jones), but it apparently lives up to the hype! Now if I could only get around to watching Wonder Woman…
2017 is over and frankly, BYE GIRL. What a rough year. I went from severe election depression, to a Mexican vacation, to not knowing WTF I was doing with my life, to going to grad school. The transition was rough, but not just for me. This year has also, obviously, been an actual trash-fire for the entire country.
But apart from praying for mercy from our overlords, there were a few enjoyable things about 2017. I went to Cancún and Atlanta for the first time, and got to spend two weeks in L.A., which I proudly yet undeservedly consider my homeland. I dove even deeper into my comedy obsession, and turned it into a final paper on feminism and comedy writing (in which I got to use the quotation “Men are a cancer! God made a mistake!“). I binged so much TV that it should be considered a crime against (my own) humanity. I started therapy and got back on meds. Actually, if it weren’t for the backdrop of constant nuclear panic, 2017 might have even been a good year.
Luckily, even in the darkest timeline, artists gonna art, so there was a barrage of dope shit released this year. Here are the things that really stood out in my 2017:
Literally everything Roxane Gay has ever written is perfect, so it was a no-brainer that this incredible book would be on my “Best Of” list. This book is so powerful and emotional; I cried reading it. Hunger is, genuinely, a memoir of her body—unlike so many other books written in a similar vein, this one has no self-help aims or “happy ending.” It is a raw, honest rendering of past and present traumas, and though Ms. Gay’s journey is unique to her, her writing speaks to the universal truths familiar to all those who inhabit bodies and navigate the world. For six months, the words of Hunger have stayed with me, like a haunting presence.
I haven’t finished this book yet, so no spoilers! (lol)
Part of me loves this book so much merely because I love Secretary Clinton and want to push back against the haters that think, for some reason, that it’s unacceptable that the first female presidential candidate of a major political party should write a book chronicling her experiences. I know this about myself. What I didn’t expect, upon beginning to listen (I’m checking out Audible this season), is how deeply First Lady Clinton’s words would affect me. She gets pretty real about her journey, and doesn’t shy away from being honest about the present danger in which America finds itself. But it’s never sad. In What Happened, hope eclipses sadness and darkness at every turn. It doesn’t hurt that Senator Clinton is funny as hell, either. Listening to What Happened is like inspiring meditation for all of us who were deeply hurt last November.
So, if Popular Vote Winner Rodham Clinton wants to hit me up for a glass of Chardonnay, just DM me @highwaytochel, bby.
Just realized I keep switching up her name! I guess she just has so many accomplishments that I’m not even sure what to call her!
This list was getting pretty heavy, so I had to turn up the levity to 11.
Matt Bellassai is a national treasure. I first heard of him on Throwing Shade, so I’m a bit of a late adopter, but as soon as I heard him on TSPod, I sought out his podcast Unhappy Hour, which led me to his book, which I scored, again, on Audible. I knew the book would be funny, but I didn’t think it would be laugh-out-loud-like-a-maniac-alone-in-my-car funny. The writing is so, so good. He has such a clear, distinct voice that it’s shocking he’s only my age. It’s so powerful, in fact, that I find myself relating on a deep level to a chubby, sheltered, Midwestern, gay, cis-male child, most of whose adjectives don’t describe me at all! I rarely advocate for audiobook over real book, but hearing Bellassai’s delivery is the icing on the cake.
Amy Sherman-Palladino has blessed us once again! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which Jen Kirkman consulted on, nbd) is my favorite new show of the year! I’m not even that bitter about the fact that the lead actress, Rachel Brosnahan, is the same age as me!
The MMM tells the story of Midge, a 26-year-old mother of two in 1958, going through a separation following her husband, Joel’s, infidelity. Joel had been fervently pursuing a stand-up career (i.e. plagiarizing one), but it turns out that his wife is the real natural. Coached by Susie, played by the incomparable Alex Borstein, Midge begins to perform, to varying degrees of success. Oh, and Lenny Bruce is a character.
In true ASP fashion, the dialogue is fast-paced, joke dense, and sensational. If there had to be an heir to Gilmore Girls, this is indeed the one. I just watched the series but might start it over and force the huz to watch it with me. 10/10
Is Get Out the best movie I’ve ever seen? Strong possibility. Give Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya and Betty Gabriel all of the Oscars!
I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be that good. I only just watched Get Out this fall, since I am horror-averse to the extreme, but I already know it will be one of my life-long favorites. Unfortunately, to write pretty much anything about it would spoil the majesty, and for once, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I was shocked, despite waiting months to watch it, and I wouldn’t take that experience away from anyone.
Jordan Peele is a genius. The film is aesthetically gorgeous, socially aware, hilarious, and terrifying. It’s a horror film, and a comedy, and a documentary.
P.S. I had the unique privilege of writing one of my final papers about Get Out, which I’m submitting to conferences!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
If you didn’t like this movie, please eject yourself from planet Earth. I won’t spoil it for anyone (it was spoiled for me by my brother), but it was a joy and a pleasure. I gasped in surprise or glee multiple times, and I got to experience the entire thing sitting between my husband and my best friend—best combo ever. I’d write more about how much it rocked my world, but I’m busy going to see it again.
I finally discovered the true, unadulterated joy that is Hallmark Christmas movies. I watched Christmas in the Air*, which only made me thirst for more**. These things are a bright spot in an increasingly dismal world. Plus, where else will you experience the true joy of a 49-year-old, childless female lead? Hallmark doesn’t even know that it’s feminist!
*I will say, specific to this film, that it espoused one trash value, which is that messiness and imperfection is acceptable. You should have let her clean your office, dude. You’re not a creative genius—you have untreated ADHD.
**There’s an upcoming one starring Candace Cameron Bure and Marilu Henner!
I. Love. St. Vincent. I finally got to see her in concert last month at the House of Blues! I’ve liked her for years, but I have to admit, when she started getting super high concept, starting with Strange Mercy and continuing even stronger with St. Vincent, I really became a superfan. Masseduction doesn’t disappoint for a second—it’s got killer visuals, tight tunes, and her sexiest sound yet. Go purchase this album with human currency!
As if The National could put out a bad album. I’ve been waiting for what seems like decades for new Ntl jams, and finally, my prayers have been answered. Sleep Well Beast is everything I dreamed it would be and more. It has more tech-y, electronic-y moments (please, don’t be intimidated by my vast knowledge of music) than previous releases, but it works. Get on this album, my dudes.
I know. I’m going back on years of hating on T. Swift. I can admit I was wrong! In my hour of darkness she was standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, so let her be.
Reputation is bops for days. I adore it. I’ve listened to it more than the previous 2 albums combined, which severely deducts cool points from my street cred. But I don’t care. I even like “Look What You Made Me Do” which was pretty much universally panned. Highlights are, for sure, “Endgame (feat. Future & Ed Sheeran),” “Ready For It,” and “I Did Something Bad,” but basically every song is great so just go listen to it? T. Swift redeemed.
Guys, I got to actually go to PYHT in Hollywood! It was probably the craziest night of my entire life—maybe I’ll share the story someday—but it was an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. The whole drama is recorded on the podcast, so if you’re a listener, you may know what I’m referring to. It was definitely a…teachable moment.
Cam & Rhea, thanks for being the moms we all need, and being genuinely the warmest and best people I’ve ever met.
My ABM ladies started a natural beauty line! Lipstick, lip gloss, and essential oils, oh my! I am obsessed with clean beauty products (#backonmyhippiebullshit), so these gems were a total godsend. I took advantage of all of the launch and holiday sales, so I, of course, have the full lip collection. They go on smooth, hydrate, last, and bonus: the lip gloss smells like yummy vanilla!
Céline Dion is Québécois royalty and this we avow*. If I’m being completely honest, for most of my life, I never gave much intentional thought to Ms. Dion. Growing up in the nineties and early ’00s, she was a ubiquitous, essential presence. I absolutely dare you to go grocery shopping without hearing at least one of her enduring bangers on the radio. The soft rock/pop vocalist genre never really did it for me, but it is impossible to deny both Dion’s talent and her contributions to pop culture.
*I deeply apologize for this ill-placed Evita reference.
The music of Céline Dion harkens back to a simpler time in popular culture, when talented composers created sleek, radio-friendly hits for talented songstresses and their angelic voices. Now, I’m all for the singer/songwriter as a cultural character and a genre, but in many ways the push for authenticity of subject may have actually done damage to pop music in general. I want Ryan Adams to write all of his own songs, but I don’t feel personally connected to Kelly Clarkson’s input in the songwriting process, y’know? Songcraft is important.
Dion, whose 49th birthday is next week, is experiencing something of a career Renaissance right now (or maybe I’m just projecting?). She’s been performing on tons of awards shows, she recently recorded a version of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” that did quite well, and she recorded a ballad “How Does A Moment Last Forever” for the new Beauty and the Beast live-action film, starring Emma Watson and literally every other actor. The new song was a sweet throwback to when she recorded the theme song to the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast with the criminally underrated Peabo Bryson.
Last January, Dion lost her husband René Angélil, whom she had known since she was 12 years old. In honor of this beautiful queen rising from the ashes of tragedy, I’ve put together a short retrospective of her classic English-language hits.
Vive la Reine, and may she never relinquish her French-Candian accent.
That’s right, guys. The “I’m your lady / and you are my man” song. You are lying if you don’t know at least one couple that used this as their wedding song. This song is a classic—it’s sappy, romantic, and that high note at the end? Girl’s got the pipes. If you, unlike me, are ashamed of your love of power ballads, watch this video for no other reason than the haircut. #thefuckingnineties
How to listen: Drunkenly, at the end of a girls’ night out. Alternately, karaoke at a Bachelorette party.
From the first aggressive piano chord, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” is a fantastic, nuanced jam that manages at once to be angry ex-girlfriend diss track and a lament of lost love. It’s equal parts “I Will Survive” and “You’re Still the One”. Céline adopts a sexy rasp during the pre-choruses that breathes life into me. Baby, baby, BABY, this is, possibly, a perfect song.
How to listen: Home alone, belting along with hairbrush microphone in hand.
“Because You Loved Me”
I can’t find a decent version of this video, which is a shame. This song is excellent, so excellent in fact that it was the theme song to a Robert Redford movie. This is one of those Céline songs that has burrowed itself so far into your brain that when you hear it, you will unwittingly sing along to every word. The lyrics are essentially a laundry-list of reasons to love your bae, and frankly, it was a missed opportunity that I didn’t use them wedding vows.
“Because You Loved Me” won a Grammy and was nominated for the damn Oscar. I would be mad that it lost the Oscar, but it lost to “You Must Love Me” from Evita, and Andrew Lloyd Webber can do no wrong. In any case, the following year, Céline was vindicated, because “My Heart Will Go On” won for Titanic!
Céline’s cover of the 1975 Eric Carmen song is arguably as popular as the original—not an easy feat! This is an anthemic jam and you all know it. The lyrics are beautifully minimalistic, which imbues them with even more meaning—she’s by herself and she DON’T WANNA BE all by herself, damnit! “All By Myself” is probably the #1 sad jam ever written, and putting a varnish of Céline talent on it makes it all the more iconic.
How to listen: Driving home from work in the rain after a really hard day. Crying optional. I’d say post-breakup, but you’re no cliché.
This is the most late-nineties song ever recorded. Every pop artist had a song that sounds eerily like this one in the late nineties (see “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)“, “As Long As You Love Me“, and “Shape of My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys, “Sometimes” and “Born to Make You Happy” by Britney Spears, and probably an entire LeAnn Rimes or Faith Hill album, if I’m being honest. Is it the chord progression?) Céline’s, of course, is the epitomization of the trope. “That’s The Way It Is” is a pep talk in song form. Only Céline could get away with the lines, “Don’t surrender / ’cause you can win / in this thing called love,” and make the word “love” span 3-5 syllables.
How to listen: In the car with your single friends, to subliminally plant inspiration and positivity into their brains! Because you’re not a busybody or anything!
This song is about the birth of her son. Could anything possibly be sweeter? Lines like “I was waiting so long / for a miracle to come” and “I can’t believe / I’ve been touched by an angel with love” are so uplifting and precious! What kind of sociopath doesn’t want to listen to a new mother’s impassioned love song/lullaby to her baby?
How to listen: At a gender reveal party, to liven up the mood when everyone finds out it’s a boy.
It is beyond fitting that the theme song for the movie about the French Disney princess would be sung by the only French (Canadian) singer most Americans can name. And Peabo Bryson! How good is that guy? You may recognize his voice from every Disney theme song of the late eighties/early nineties.
It is also incredibly fitting that the updated 2017 version of this song is performed by Ariana Grande and John Legend—two powerhouse vocalists who can actually hold a candle to the original performances. Ariana Grande’s impression of Céline is a divine inspiration. Go forth and reward your ears with this sultry ballad.
This Oscar-winning song is an enduring classic. I will never yield in my belief that this song is at the pinnacle of songwriting achievement. I don’t care that it’s cheesy. I don’t care that it conjures up images of baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio. If you don’t feel a profound connection to your emotions when you hear this song, check for a pulse. That flute/recorder part in the beginning? I melt. When the guitar and the harmonies come in in the second verse? RIP me. Dramatic key change? My spirit rises from the grave and floats off into outer space.
“My Heart Will Go On” is still a part of the zeitgeist 20 years later for a reason. Do you still hear “You’ll Be in My Heart” by Phil Collins on the reg? Of course you don’t. You forgot that song even existed until right now. Before you rush off to watch Tarzan, at least finish reading this, though.
How to listen: When you can give it your full attention. When you can let the calming strains wash over you like a soothing bath. This song is the essential oils of music.