Frequent Fascinations: May and June 2018

So I realize it isn’t the end of the month but I’ve been gone for two months during which I’ve found a lot of new obsessions too delightful not to share. If you don’t know the deal behind my Frequent Fascinations posts, check out my previous posts to see my bizarre and geeky favorites that make me who I am. It’s fun to spend a lot of time talking about things that have happened in the past but why not take a brief moment to look at all of the amazing things that are happening now?

The United State of Women Summit

Ironically, I was watching this while I edited and posted my last article on Victoria Woodhull before the break. My mom had sent me a post from the United State of Women that said that they would be livestreaming a conversation between Tracee Ellis Ross and, my favorite person in the whole world, Michelle Obama. Naturally, I cleared my schedule and found a room by myself so that I could sob freely without anyone judging me. It turned out that the two were not going to be speaking until an hour and a half into the event but that turned out to be the most wonderful turn of events ever. I got to hear the powerful words, stories and passions of the dozens of other women who spoke before them. To hear the support and enthusiasm of the room as the audience embraced each of the speakers was unlike anything else I have experienced. One of the most powerful moments of the night was Tamara Burke’s speech so if you check out nothing else, at least check that out at 1:11:17 in the full livestream below. 


David Sedaris

I have always loved David Sedaris. When I read his work for the first time, I was stunned by the way he used humor and observation to capture the poignancy of the mundane and the momentous in life. He was part of what made me want to pursue my love of writing because I wanted to tell stories that impacted people the way that he impacted me. In fact, I brought nearly all of his books with me my freshman year of college and read almost nothing else. He was who I turned to when I felt homesick. I even used his writing as my choice for two imitation pieces in my writing classes.

I’ve been trying to see him in person for years now but every time he is in my area, I’ve had a flight or the tickets have sold out before I’ve had a chance to grab one. Well, he came to a bookstore in the Albuquerque area a month ago and the second I found out, I called for a ticket and finally got the opportunity to see the man behind the magic. Despite the fact that it involved standing for four and half hours in the hot sun and then in a cramped book store, the reading was incredible and his new book, “Calypso,” is a gem. If you have the chance to hear him speak, I urge you to take the opportunity. You will never laugh harder. When I went up to get my book signed, this is what he wrote:

As a girl who spends most of her life in baggy t-shirts and leggings, I’m flattered. I’ve debated just making this picture my business card. 


The Bold Type

Image Credit: Quartz

I was going to have the opportunity to interview Melora Hardin this past February at a television conference in Atlanta but, sadly, she was unable to make it to the press junket due to some scheduling issues. I was so excited to be able to meet Jan from “The Office” and was fully prepared to fangirl after the requisite professionalism of the interview had worn off. However, I had watched the pilot of her new show, “The Bold Type,” to prepare my questions and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I binged the rest of the season to console myself for the missed opportunity.

The show is about the people who work for the fictional magazine Scarlet, which is loosely based on Cosmopolitan. At first glance, it would appear to be your usual best-friends-trying-to-make-it-in-NYC show that I would normally pass by to watch some kind of political drama or historical documentary but this is so much more than that. It is incredibly nuanced and understated in the ways it deals with tricky issues most shows normally glaze over. Just a few of these include rape, slut-shaming, deportation, breast cancer and the actual struggles women may face in negotiating their careers such as asking for their worth in salary and choosing their career over love. By adopting a kind of goofy, bright, colorful theme, I can easily understand how the show has helped many viewers cope with their own variation of these issues by assuming the role of a best friend. The series, now over halfway into Season 2, is available on Hulu. 



The last time I went into my favorite bookstore in Savannah, E. Shaver, there was an electric typewriter set up with a blizzard of notes pinned around it from customers. Some of them were funny, such as “Savannah, ooh na na.” Others were heartbreaking, like one that read “Maybe someday my words will reach you. I hope so.” I was transfixed by these messages floating freely without the weight of an identity or purpose and I bought the book about the display at Literari Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan that this display had been modeled after. The book is called “Notes from a Public Typewriter” by Micheal Gustafson and Oliver Uberti and I read it all in one sitting, again inspired by the powerful poetry created by strangers.

I had always been interested in typewriters, as someone who loves history is invariably apt to do, but I had never thought about using one until reading that book. Well, it turned out my mom had held on to the electric typewriter her parents had given her after her high school graduation. After dusting off decades of dust, she showed me how to use it. I found it so soothing to watch as the words banged onto the page and I found an increased potential for expression in the misspelled or line-broken words. So now, I’m one of those people I never wanted to be: a millennial hipster with a typewriter.


Hilary Swank

Image Credit: Calvin Scott

While I did not graduate this past June, many of my close friends did and I wanted to be able to be at the graduation ceremony to support and celebrate them for all that they had accomplished. Tickets to the event, however, are highly coveted and difficult to get your hands on, as each student only receives four to give to friends and family.

However, as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, I got a media pass for the very front row to cover all the proceedings. A couple of weeks before, it was announced that Hilary Swank was going to be the commencement speaker. To be perfectly honest, all I knew about her at that point was from “The Office” episode when everyone is debating whether she is hot or not. I had no idea what a profoundly inspirational woman she was and hearing her speak was such an honor. This is the excerpt on her from the article I wrote about the inspiration students could take away from the commencement ceremony:

There is no such thing as an overnight success.

Powerhouse actor, producer and designer Hilary Swank, who served as this year’s commencement speaker, reflected on the press branding her an overnight success after she won her first Academy Award. “Interesting,” she said. Growing up in a trailer park, “all I had to do was move thousands of miles to Los Angeles, get enough money to survive, get an agent and compete with thousands of other actors for very few jobs. Easy, right?”

She drove out with her mother with 75 dollars in their pocket, lived out of their car and cold-called agents from a payphone. Swank started to audition. “I had hundreds of no’s and almost no yes’s. I had no idea this overnight success thing could be so hard.” Finally, after several years, she landed a multisession acting contract on “Beverly Hills 90210.” “Unfortunately, it was in the eighth season of the show when no one was watching anymore.”

Then she got fired. However, two months later she booked “Boys Don’t Cry.” “Had I not been fired, I would have been contractually obligated to 90210 and I would have never been able to book the movie. It was a blessing to be fired,” she said.

“So…that’t my overnight success. Nine hard years. That’s one long night,” she said.

Pay attention.

When Swank was eight years old, she knew she wanted to be an actor when she performed skits. “When I was up there, I felt time stand still and every cell of my body came alive,” she said. “News alert: when you feel something like this in your life, pay attention. It’s the universe telling you are onto something.”

“Make a choice and then make it happen every single day.”

“Sometimes that may mean getting out of your own way, whatever that may be,” Swank said. “Your mindset, your fear, a seeming obstacle, a setback, whatever. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, who’ve you’ve been or where you are now. All that matters is that you make a choice every single day to work toward your dream.”

Don’t assume curveballs are bad.

“Inevitable, the universe is going to throw some very ugly curveballs,” Swank said. “No matter what they look like, never assume any of them are bad. We all have our ‘firing from the eighth season of “90210”‘ moments. They will pass and after the dust settles, be on the lookout for the opportunities that are about to present themselves.”

“Ignore what everyone else is doing or what society is telling you to do.”

“Don’t let anyone tell you how something needs to be done for you to achieve your goals, including me,” Swank said. “Don’t worry about how fast or slow you are going compared to others. Speed doesn’t matter. It’s how present you are in each moment that matters.

“There are a million different paths to your end goal. Any path you choose will likely be full of ups and downs so choose the thing that brings you the most joy and that makes you feel the most alive. Then pursue that goal with all the grit, passion, and determination you can muster. Whatever you do, don’t ever give up.”

“Remember that none of your goals are worth anything if you lose perspective on your humanity.”

“This is the most important one,” Swank said. “At the end of it all, when you are lying on your death bed, what matters most is what is around you and that you are able to take comfort in the fact that you moved through life with grace, kindness, and integrity.”

Swank ended by wishing the following advice for the graduating class of 2018:

“May your calling be clear and beautiful, may you have a deep well of grit and strength within you to pursue your goals, may your hardships be opportunities, and may you be shining beacons of inspiration and positive impact as you move throughout your life.”

I’ve continued to hear her advice in my head ever since the speech and it has truly shifted my outlook and my creativity. I have so much respect for her and everything that she stands for.

That pretty much catches us up until the end of this month, when I’ll have five more obsessive rambles from the things that are making me the most happy and inspired in my life. In the meantime, have a great July, folks!

xo Elena