Weekly Wanderings: September 9, 2016

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Ann Arbor’s historic State Theatre, closing for restoration next week.

I decided to start a new feature here at the blog, as I often find myself holding on to little thoughts that are too long for tweets but not big enough to become blog posts of their own. “Weekly Wanderings [of my brain]” will appear here on Fridays and serve as a catch-all for stuff that doesn’t fit elsewhere. I’ve also decided to stop doing a standalone post every time I publish something at another venue or have a public event on the calendar; from now on, I’ll make those types of announcements in each Friday’s post.

What I’ve written: I’ve published two essays at The Billfold in the past month: one on using frequent-flyer miles as a form of payment in the airport, and another about the three years I spent as an ER clerk during college.

Where I’ll be: No event links online yet, but I will be at Penn State October 18 and 19 to give talks about embarking on a non-academic career after graduate school, as well as about my research on Chinese cartoonist Zhang Leping. If you’re in the State College area, please come by and say hello!

▪ In the first decade of this century, I used to spend hours upon hours in front of computer screens reading the recaps and forums at Television Without Pity (RIP). Thought TWoP is now gone, there are suddenly a bunch of great podcasts that fill the same role in my life: I started with Gilmore Guys and Downton Gabby, then added The Baby-Sitters Club Club, and just binged on all the episodes produced so far of The West Wing Weekly. I love revisiting old favorites—even The Baby-Sitters Club, which I haven’t thought much about in 20+ years. Maybe the TV shows weren’t as good as what we’ve gotten lately in “the golden age of TV,” but I’m still nostalgic for them and always enjoy a re-watch. At least podcasts, unlike reading endless rants at TWoP, lend themselves to multitasking; I usually knit or walk or do housework as I listen.

▪ Speaking of nostalgia: I can’t believe that some day I’ll walk into Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and won’t hear the “fffft-fffft-fffft” of the classic old Amtrak departures board, which is being replaced with a digital version. Is nothing sacred? Maybe Amtrak could record the flipping sound and play it in the background as the new digital board makes updates, as local news radio station KYW did when it eliminated teletype machines and then had to feed their clacking sound into the background of broadcasts after people complained that the station had grown too quiet.

▪ I almost never go to see movies in theaters anymore, as it’s so much cheaper and more convenient to wait until they’re available to stream online, but I found a Fandango gift card when I was moving and used it a couple of weekends ago to see the new Ghostbusters. I had mixed feelings going into the movie: I was completely on board for a female-led big-budget summer blockbuster, but I wasn’t so happy that it was made by rebooting one of my all-time favorite films. I still had mixed feelings when I left the theater, too. At the top of my negative column is that I simply don’t find the gentrified New York of the new movie as interesting as the grimy, gritty city of the 1984 version. (There’s a small joke in the new release about how much things have changed: when the Ghostbusters look for a headquarters and tour the iconic TriBeCa firehouse of the old movie, they learn that it rents for $22,000 a month and quietly slink away.) I do think that the 1984 Ghostbusters is objectively a better movie than the 2016 version, but I also think it has a much deeper sense of its time and place. Seeing the new Ghostbusters just made me want to go home and watch the far more satisfying old one.

Have a great weekend! It’s supposed to be humid and rainy here in Ann Arbor tomorrow, but all sunshine on Sunday for the Kerrytown BookFest, which I plan to attend.

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