Link Bank January 2017: Pop culture gives politics a kiss on the cheek and a knee to the groin

Well, this month really decided to go out with a bang, huh?

In his first few days as president, Trump has done his best to make good on the worst “promises” of his campaign, with truly terrible results. I won’t go into too much detail here, mostly because I imagine you don’t need the reminder.

What I do want to say, though, is that it’s easy at times like this to resent the intrusion of politics into our entertainment. Even the most active of us need a break, and it’s natural to look to our Tumblr feeds or our favorite blogs (*winks*) for  that much-needed breath of fresh fair. So when we’re bombarded with politics even in these spaces, it’s natural to feel frustrated, even angry.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “getting away from politics.” Everything is politics. The fight for diversity and female representation in media is politics. #OwnVoices is politics. #OscarsSoWhite is politics. And from where I’m standing, that’s always been the case – John F. Kennedy’s closest friends were Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Ronald Reagan was an actor before becoming governor and then president; same with Arnold Schwarzenegger (although with any luck we’ll avoid a repeat of that last part).

So here’s to pop culture and politics, a marriage best described as “inevitable.” After all, when you’ve been together this long, there’s not much point breaking up.

When Nerds Protest Our Signs are the Best – Black Nerd Problems

“There’s been plenty of think pieces about how superheroes are the mythology of this generation. Judging from the signs, costumes, and catch-phrases coming out of these marches, it isn’t just superheroes — science fiction and fantasy characters have their places in the new pantheon as well.”

How Princess Leia Became an Unofficial Symbol for the Women’s March – Washington Post

“Fisher’s own off-screen story of struggle and empowerment helped bolster her feminist credentials for many fans. She had openly shared her personal history with bipolar disorder and substance abuse, and assailed stigmas associated with mental illness. She championed feminist causes — and she lobbed plenty of criticisms at Donald Trump, before and after he won the presidency.”

American Idols and Idiots: Pop and the Coming Trump Culture Wars – The Ringer

“Maybe art doesn’t get genuinely political until it’s willing to forfeit the comforts of art altogether. In the near future, maybe albums will just serve as promos for sneak-attack PR campaigns.”

How Pop Culture Co-Opted Politics – The Week

“Increasingly, it’s pop stars or celebrities or pro athletes who strike us as having a voice and agency, and the resources to withstand the felt risks of exercising that voice and agency, that we obscure peons lack, even in large numbers.”

Pop Culture Captures Campaign Politics – Huffington Post

“Once upon a time, popular culture provided sustenance to the masses. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, popular culture served as a lifebelt, to lighten spirits, assuage suffering, even inspire…And now? Pop culture is a crude joke, a poke in the eye, not very entertaining or inspiring.”

Link Bank December 2016: Recapping the year

It’s the end of 2016, and I know what you’re thinking: finally. It’s been a rough year in general, but it’s been particularly bad for movie and music lovers.

But now it’s time to get ready for the New Year, and that means we need be positive. We need to, guys. So in that spirit, let’s take a moment to reflect on the good that 2016 brought us (except for that one about the disappointing movies, but the writer made some good points). Enjoy!

The Best TV Shows of 2016 – New York Times

“Year-end lists are stories: they tell the truth by lying. The idea that a critic can watch all the television there is today, let alone isolate the 10 best works across wildly different genres, is a fiction. But play along with it, and you tell a larger tale of what mattered this year and why.”

The Most Disappointing Movies of 2016 – Film School Rejects

“The worst movies don’t open in theaters, they go straight to DVD or VOD, and some of us never want to speak of them again. So instead I’m offering up a list of movies that promised so much — typically due to the proven talent involved — but delivered noticeably less.”

And check out their #2016Rewind video here.

Best Books of 2016 – Publisher’s Weekly

Take a look at your list and check off this selection of the year’s best books from the editors of Publisher’s Weekly. The list features a lot of nonfiction, including “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond, “A Kingdom of Their Own: The Family Karzai and the Afghan Disaster” by Joshua Partlow, and “Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets” by Svetlana Alexievich.

13 Best Books of 2016 – Harper’s Bazaar

For a more fiction-based take on the best of 2016, here’s a gallery by Harper’s Bazaar featuring “The Girls” by Emma Kline, “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith, and “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi.

The Best and Worst Swag of 2016 – The A.V. Club

In this video, The A.V. Club’s Josh Modell and John Teti unpack the “swag” (i.e. merchandise) they’ve been getting from movie studios and other Hollywood bigwigs over the course of the year. There are a lot of USB drives, and there’s also booze. Don’t send The A.V. Club stuff unless it’s really good, is the lesson here. (It’s actually pretty hilarious, check it out.)

Here’s to 2017 – may our television shows maintain their character development, may our movies keep CGI to a minimum, and may our books make us smarter.

Link Bank November 2016: A recap of NaNoWriMo

Welp, November is officially over, and with it National Novel Writing Month. Whether you participated this year or not, it’s a time to focus on your writing overall and see what you can accomplish and what needs to improve. Over the past month, I’ve written lots of writing advice here, but I wanted to record some of the best advice from around the internet for future reference.

5 tips to win NaNoWriMo (and survive life, creatively) – The Tempest

“But I’ve met a lot of people who finish and never go further, even if they say they want to. People whose eyes go glassy when I tell them that going well above 50,000 words a month is my normal routine, regardless of what month it is. But there’s nothing special about me! I was not given a magic potion to drink! I have no fairy godmother! I just want to jump off the cliff and into the void.”

*I am an editor at “The Tempest.”

Advice from authors for your NaNoWriMo success – Unbound Worlds

“Don’t try to create and destroy at the same time. Either you are ‘creating’ draft – and your inner critic is turned totally OFF, anything goes, you just write without judgement, or you are ‘editing’ – destroying – this is a separate stage, it happens after you have a draft and after you know your idea – you are reshaping that draft and refining your words to convey that idea with more clarity. Then you have your inner critic turned on, and you cut what’s garbage. ”

How to fall in love with your writing – Nerds of Color

“Early in my writing career, I made the mistake of forsaking fun and enjoyment while writing. I wasn’t invested in the short stories I wrote. Don’t get me wrong, they were well structured and well-written, but… the stories lacked my enthusiasm/passion/soul (or what have you).”

NaNoWriMo – The dirty truth – Sacha Black

“Writers block, unblocked, blocked again, Shovel more chocolate in to cure depressive writers mentality. Self criticise. Stupid NaNo. Suddenly remember why you started the challenge, tap tap tap, chocolate, crisps, hate on work for getting in the way of writing, tap tap. Feel the burn, feel the slump, can’t do it any more, for the love of god why did I start this… Stupid idea.”

Link Bank October 2016: Spooky fun facts for Halloween

I’m going to level with you: I’m not a fan of Halloween. The kids are cute, sure, but I never understood why you don’t just buy the candy you want and eat it at home. At least then you’d always get the candy you like!

“Give me the Reese’s! Give them to me or die!”

Clearly, however, the rest of the nation feels very differently. Regardless of whether you love or hate the holiday (is it a holiday if you don’t get the day off?), I guarantee you will be spooked by these fun facts.

25 real facts that make common fears less scary – Cracked

“More people are killed by vending machines than by sharks.”

40 scariest books of the last 200 years – The Lineup

“All of Poe’s poems are scary, but this short story [“The Fall of the House of Usher”] in particular—about a crumbling house whose inhabitants are riddled with anxiety—will give you chills.

(This is true. I read the this story in English class several years ago, and it still haunts me.)

Handy Halloween guide explains how much candy it will take to kill you – The A.V. Club

“You’d probably be throwing up like crazy long before you reach either of those limits, but they still seem weirdly low.”

8 super weird things you didn’t know about Halloween – The Huffington Post

“In some parts of Ireland, people celebrated Halloween by playing romantic fortune-telling games, according to Nicholas Rogers’ “Halloween: From Pagan Ritual To Party Night.” These games allegedly predicted who they’d marry, and when.”

7 weird Halloween facts that will scare the wits out of you – Mirror

“There are all kinds of urban myths about the mean old crone or crazed madman in the tumble-down shack slipping poison or dangerous items into cakes and candy for the unsuspecting cherubs who knock on their door on Halloween. But in reality almost every case of Halloween candy tampering has been performed by a family member.”

Link Bank: August 2016 – What’s new in Fall 2016

It’s time for a new season, and when it comes to television, Fall is all about premieres. This August, we look at what’s new in TV, movies, and books:

New MacGyver Trailer Reunites Hero and Paperclip” – Entertainment Weekly

There’s a new reboot of MacGyver coming out on September 23, 2016. I’ve watched a couple episodes of the original series and I’m actually kind of excited to see this newer version.

Here’s Why Netflix ‘Gilmore Girls’ Will Release All Four Specials at Once” – ScreenCrush

After months of buildup, the Gilmore Girls revival is finally here! The four-part special will be available on Netflix, that savior of cult classics, November 25, 2016.

TBS will marathon Search Party, announces premiere date for People Of Earth” – The A.V. Club

I don’t know about you guys, but nothing gets my attention like the phrase “murder mystery comedy.” That’s how Alia Shawkat’s new TBS show Search Party has been described, and I for one can’t wait to watch it when it premieres November 21, 2016.

Meet the Women of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” –

The film adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by the kind of weird Tim Burton, releases September 30, 2016, and promises to be utterly bizarre if the trailer is anything to go by.

Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Documentary ‘The 13th’ Will Open 54th New York Film Festival” – IndieWire

The 13th, a documentary by Ava DuVernay about the prison system in the United States, releases October 7, 2016, in theaters and on Netflix.

Read the first chapter of A Torch Against the Night, the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes” – Entertainment Weekly

Good new for fans of writer Sabaa Tahir – the sequel to her book An Ember in the Ashes, A Torch Against the Night, comes out today, August 30, 2016.

Fantastic Beasts’ Sequel in the Works, Release Date Set – The Hollywood Reporter

After the buzz surrounding Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling’s magical world is the star of the show in the movie adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of the most anticipated releases for this fall. The movie premieres November 18, 2016.

Last but definitely not least (technically not last, either), Tahereh Mafi’s new book Furthermore comes out August 30, 2016. Come back on Friday for my review!

What are you looking forward to this fall? Share your favorites in the comments below!

Link Bank: July 2016

This month it’s all about the craft at the Link Bank, with advice on writing and film-making from the experts:

The Visual Writer’s Guide to Pacing and Tension – Sacha Black

“Once you’re knee-deep wading through the slush of your story, you know as well as I do, you can’t see the commas for the sentences. Let alone step back enough to see the shape of your newly trimmed bush manuscript.”

The Secret to Sequels is in the Details – Film School Rejects

“For a lot of sequels, adding characters audiences will latch onto should be a no-brainer for the studios. Often it’s a way to give kids a new toy to buy, and that’s surely Disney’s original thinking behind both Hank and BB-8, but to sell those toys the characters have to leave a mark on viewers, and that benefits audiences not concerned with such merchandise because great characters are still great characters.”

5 Tips To Finish Your First Draft – Writers in the Storm

“Even with the looming due date and clear path, I still have those days where I stare at the screen digging for the right phrase, clueless how to take a scene from point A to point B. I wander through the words—a babe lost in the woods. It sucks. But it’s not my first rodeo (truly, I’ve been to a real rodeo in Wyoming) and I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade.”

50 Blog Topics for Fiction Writers – Mixtus Media

“Blogs are a great way to think outside of the box, challenge yourself as a writer and, as an added bonus, engage and grow your audience.”

How To Write A Screenplay – The Write Practice

“In college, I took a class with John Wilder, a veteran film and TV writer, who began the class by writing, “STRUCTURE! STRUCTURE! STRUCTURE!” on the chalkboard in big bold letters. “What’s the most important part of a screenplay?” he would ask at the beginning of nearly every class. It was obvious what he thought: Structure.”

Looking for even more advice? Check out How To Write Everything by David Quantick, Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, and more How-Tos at the bookstore.

Link Bank: June 2016

This month’s Link Bank explores issues of diversity, representation,  and more…

Who Gets to Tell Other People’s Stories? – NY Times

“There are times when such efforts can appear profoundly self-serving; when bearing witness or showing compassion feels more like public performance than real acknowledgement or understanding of another.”

Asian-American Actors Are Fighting For Their Visibility – NY Times

“It’s never been easy for an Asian-American actor to get work in Hollywood, let alone take a stand against the people who run the place. But the recent expansion of Asian-American roles on television has paradoxically ushered in a new generation of actors with just enough star power and job security to speak more freely about Hollywood’s larger failures.”

X-Men: Apocalypse Needs To Be The End For Bryan Singer – Film School Rejects

“This is a cast that is easily likable, but the creative teams behind it aren’t giving us anything that feels fresh. No matter how many new visual tricks, or beloved characters and moments it adapts from comics, it seems like more of the same. And even though Oscar Isaac is a great actor, Apocalypse is an indistinct big bad whose stakes are so high that it has a numbing effect on the audience. The fact that he looks like Ivan Ooze the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show just feels like a twisting of the knife. ”

A Cup of Tea With Oliver Sacks – TEDTalks

“Out popped Oliver Sacks, peering at me uncertainly. His prosopagnosia, or face blindness, made him unable to recognize me from my author photo. When I told him who I was, he engulfed me in a great big bear hug.”

How Do Artists Make a Living? – TEDTalks

“After all, artists innovate — it’s what we do, no matter what our medium is. We imagine ways forward that no one else has imagined before, in literature, music, theater, dance, art, performance. There’s no reason we can’t do it with economics as well.”

How Can We Best Help Talented Underrepresented Students? – The Creativity Post

“It was support from teachers that helped students feel connected to school. Further, rigor without attention to social-emotional and talent development proved to be a deal-breaker, especially for adolescents at this critical period of identity development. We came to understand how proactive schools needed to be in building collaboration with families.”

Link Bank: May 2016

Great reads on creativity, media, and more that I’ve compiled for this month:

Secrets of the Creative Brain – The Atlantic

“I have spent much of my career focusing on the neuroscience of mental illness, but in recent decades I’ve also focused on what we might call the science of genius, trying to discern what combination of elements tends to produce particularly creative brains. What, in short, is the essence of creativity?”

When Storytime Blows Kids Minds: The Power of the Plot Twist – NPR

“”I, am your father!” I stopped, and drew my breath, elated. I had said the words. I was overcome, like the Sith Lord, by what I could do. I, his mother, was the first one to expose what may be the greatest plot twist since Mr. Rochester’s wife turned up screaming in the attic. I was drunk with power, and my entire history as a sentient consumer of story flew through my head. It felt so good, I contemplated spoiling every other thing I knew.”

Who Are All Those Newborn Extras? – The A.V. Club

“There’s a small army of tiny, barely sentient extras. Whose babies are they? Where do studios find them? What’s that weird fake placental goo made out of?”

The Point of Stories – Sweet Talk

“We tell stories to supplement for experience, so that we can be prepared for things that haven’t happened to us personally but can be imagined to happen.”

On Raising Backyard Chickens – Broad Street Review

“Chickens, alive or oven-roasted, weren’t much a part of my childhood. My father — still haunted by the memory of Friday night dinners in Brooklyn, boiled chicken congealing on the plate while he refused to eat and his mother scolded — banned chicken in any form from our family table.”

Betty and Veronica #2 Covers Revealed – The Mary Sue

“They seem more representative of actual teenage girls than a caricature of them, which I really appreciate.”