Changes Are Coming

Hello everyone! I hope your spring has sprung to a lovely pasture. Where have I been? Finals hell. Thankfully, after this quarter I won’t have such a busy schedule, and I’ll have time to breathe again, which in turn means concentrated blog posts. Additionally, this blog is approaching its first birthday. Hooray!

Within the next two weeks the appearance of this website will change, and so will the URL. On June 7th, its birthday, the URL will become http://www.noellempierce.com. I wanted to provide a heads-up to lessen the confusion of the change. I know I get thrown off a loop when someone I’m following —usually on social media— changes their profile picture or their username and it takes forever for me to remember who the person was that I followed.

Why change at all? As much as I enjoy my current design, I don’t think it’s entirely representative of the work I produce, or at least, aim to create. I’m working primarily on a mix of young adult horror and sci-fi novels, so the pink and friendly design isn’t something I want to capitalize on, even in a subverted way.

Additionally, now that I’ve been inspecting authors’ websites, I have more of an idea of how I want mine to look and the things I want it to contain.

I also have a surprise announcement that I’ll announce via twitter soon, so make sure to follow me there for more immediate news. I’m going to be working on my fourth draft of my work in progress novel What Darkness Does.

That’s all for now! Order will be restored soon. Until then, make some good out there!

She’s Not Your Toy: Defending Netta’s Eurovision Win

Eurovision is an international song contest featuring over forty countries that send in an original song to be performed live that battle it out for ratings and votes from both international juries and viewers at home. As an American, I had no stakes in my country winning. After reading an article so close to the point that it can’t even see it, I thought I’d write my defense of Netta’s “Toy” that won Eurovision 2018 for Israel after a twenty-year drought. While I thoroughly enjoy “Toy,” I admit that it is not the best song in Eurovision history, nor for this year. However, it is a highly successful song and to ignore that fact is to completely miss the point of how winners are produced.

To start off, “Toy” is written by Doron Medalie and Stav Beger, and Doron admitted in an interview that it was inspired by the #MeToo movement. The lyrics contained within the song are a clear echoing of it with lyrics with empowerment like “My ‘Simon says’ leave me alone,” “Wonder Woman don’t you ever forget/ You’re divine, and he’s about to regret,” and the obvious “I’m not your toy.” Some people flavor their feminism with more robust power behind it while criticizing masculine gender roles, like in this case, and that’s not everyone’s flavor. The article “The Worst Song Won Eurovision,” by Jackson, situates the song with “commercialized empowerment feminism.” While Netta herself appears to believe in the message, that is the exact purpose of the song: a marketable sort of feminist anthem.

The aspect of pop culture (in other words, commercialism) is one of the significant aesthetics to the song, along with the imagery. Japan has tons of mascots, even for things like trains. Mascots help for advertising purposes, along with creating merchandise to be sold in addition to whatever the service is in the first place. Pikachu is mentioned explicitly in the lyrics, calling an homage to a character of a franchise that generates an estimated $1.5 billion a year. Netta herself admits to being quite the Pokemon fan, so the connection is valid as to why it would be included in the song at all. Additionally, the Maneki Neko statues in the background serve as a reminder to the commercialization by their ideals of bringing good fortune, inviting happiness, and bringing prosperity to business. The cats featured in the stage were all gold, which alludes to “intense wealth,” which a song like this can produce. Even at the most basic level, the entire second verse is about money and rejecting the idea of a man with lots of money.

Another aspect of the song is calling out a specific type of men that act like chickens through stylistic choices. The chicken imagery is playful and is incorporated mainly through her use of beatboxing, but along with imitating chicken sounds. The wind instruments in the beginning even resemble chicken noises. Something else that Jackson mentioned in her article that also serves the purpose of the song entirely was the inclusion of the Japanese word “Baka,” which means stupid. It also clearly evokes the chicken percussiveness and sounds like the rest of the beatboxing, and even the use of “motherbucka” instead of the alternate swear word.

The theme of this year’s contest was “All Aboard,” using the imagery of the logo to promote “diversity, respect, and tolerance,” all of which “Toy” accomplishes. Whether it’s entirely genuine or not is another point. It is unique through her use of beatboxing and vocal looping to provide layers through her pop genre, and the evocation of specific imagery. Eurovision claims that there are no political involvements in the show, although in the past—looking at you Ukraine in 2016— there are clear glimpses that the opposite is just as true as well. She wasn’t the first choice by the jury, but the fans who are being sold the image of this sort of feminism ate it up. It wanted to sell, and it sold. It’ll loop around in your head like it did on the looper on stage. Who doesn’t love a good excuse to sing along to a sassy song with chicken noises?

April Book of the Month

April’s book of the month was Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa. I’ve been following Joey’s YouTube channel since around 2014, so I was more than excited to add his first foray into the world of fiction to my read list. I’ve been sitting on this book for quite some time now, and I decided enough was enough: time to pick up another dystopian novel. Because I’ve been following Joey for so long, I was able to pick up on aspects of the story that I wish I hadn’t. As much as I enjoy Joey’s content on YouTube, I have to say that I was partially let down by his novel. I’d give it 3/5 stars.

Children of Eden follows Rowan, a secret second-child who grew up hiding away in her home in a society with a one-child policy. The society is fairly advanced with eye scanning technology that can verify the identity of the person based upon the surgical lenses that are implanted in the official citizens. Rowan’s well-off family tries to get her an illegal pair of lenses that function well enough to give her another identity, but things go wrong, and she’s launched into a life or death scramble to find safety in a world where second children are sought to be eliminated. She tries to find safety between other second children and her brother’s friend, Lark.

The first thing I noticed reading this was Joey’s writing style. There were moments of beautiful description, but I found the majority of his style uninviting. There are adverbs everywhere. If I had a dollar for every adverb, I’d be able to pay rent for the next two months at the least. To be fair, the reason I’m noting it with distaste is due to Stephen King’s writing advice in On Writing, which I agree with for the most part. An adverb here or there isn’t too distracting, but they’re everywhere and take away from the power of proper word choice. Another thing Joey does is tell repeatedly instead of showing what’s happening. There are only two times I can remember this choice making sense within the story, and the majority of the other ones (I lost count) can be solved by just having Rowan say whatever Joey’s telling us she said. Also knowing Joey’s past of having not getting into a college writing program, I recognize that he likely wouldn’t have known this almost universal lesson. It still detracts from the quality of the novel, however.

The other part of Joey’s style that irks me is how clear his agenda is behind writing the novel. He criticizes the human race’s destroying of the land and its resources —which to some extent is good, we are destroying the planet— but it’s so blatantly pointed in the way he pins it to Rowan it doesn’t make sense. A girl who has never escaped her house and has only read about the past have such a strong opinion of a world she isn’t connected to doesn’t make sense. At points, she becomes a mouthpiece for his views, like one moment when she criticizes humans having previously eaten animals. (Again, why would she care? She’s never seen an animal. Maybe it’s for that reason; since they’ve been wiped out and she can’t see any? Weak motivation, but that’s as far as I’ll buy into it.) If you don’t know much about Joey, he’s a passionate vegan, and in a more recent video, he told (his boyfriend) Daniel’s nephew that meat was bad. Sigh.

This immaturity of Joey’s transfers to Rowan, who acts younger than her age at some points. She’ll lash out at random times and remain calm when it would make more sense to lash out. Rowan’s character isn’t focused, and I never knew what to expect from her. I wound up finding the characters surrounding her —Lark, Lachlan, and even Rook— more interesting and developed. The side characters seem to have more clear motivations and defining for the majority of the book until Rowan has to step up and take some kind of control of her destiny. It was a little late in the book, but when she does start to step up, I found the story a lot easier to read.

At this point, it sounds like I have more bad things to say than good, but I did wind up liking the story in the end. I never found myself wanting to shelf it, but it was a bit forced in the beginning. I couldn’t figure out what was the inciting moment or reason why it was that point in Rowan’s life that things would change besides some details after she explores the world outside her home. The world kept me involved as more pieces started coming together about their form of government is shady and the different groups that are joining together that disagree with it. Even the way fashion works to identify where different people are from in the rings and even what schools the children go to.

Something else that Joey did that I found to be pleasant surprises was the little details to the characters that I don’t find in many other places. I haven’t read any other books where a character in the main cast, Lark, has seizures. Additionally, Rowan’s brother Ash has asthma, which even plays into the desperation of one scene later on in the book. I wouldn’t be the judge on how accurately he depicted these conditions or not, but it’s nice to see some attempt at diversity from the usual straight, able-bodied main characters that riddle most popular fiction. Rowan is also depicted as bi/pansexual with interests in both Lark and Lachlan, using the trope of the love triangle but twisting it. Initially, I was annoyed by this addition, until I recognized that Rowan has only grown up with her family, where she likely would associate a kiss as a form of appreciation or affection. Maybe that’s me reading into the situation too much, but I believe it validates the inclusion of the love triangle. Lark and Lachlan seem to be more confused by the act than Rowan is.

I already own the sequel, Elites of Eden, which I would’ve pursued getting even if I hadn’t had it already. My main interest in the book is in its world and what would become of it if the (spoiler-revealing) plans went through, along with the twist ending. I didn’t expect to be left on such a cliffhanger that gave me a pleasant surprise, but I look forward to reading the second book. As much as I found the book a pleasant read, it’s still clear to me that it was likely published due to Joey’s millions of fans willing to buy it. There’s a couple of editing errors as well throughout that stood out, but only one made me struggle to understand what was happening. For now, I’m going to let Children of Eden sit aside so I can focus on a book that has a more substance to it. For May’s book of the month, I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – Results

When I posted my last blog, I was a little over a thousand words behind my planned pace. It was also midterms for me. For the next few days I wrote about a thousand words a day and pulled ahead of schedule to complete my goal on the 29th! (Which you could’ve seen ahead of time if you follow me on twitter. 😉)

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In April, I wrote 21,403 words towards my work in progress novel Obscura. I tried to finish it for NaNoWriMo back in November, but that crashed and burned about halfway through. This time, I was able to come back from the mini-crash halfway. It helped to have a smaller goal where I had to write about 666 words a day instead of 1,666 words per day. I found I was most successful when I made it a part of my routine to write an hour or so before going to bed.

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As happy as I am about meeting my goal, I still have a couple of scenes left to get done. I estimate I’ll have about 10,000 more words before I finish the book. It would set the book at about 60,000 words. While I usually aim for 70-75 thousand words, I already have an idea what I’ll have to edit and also rewrite certain sections. Of course, I’m currently editing my novel What Darkness Does, so I’ll save Obscura for after that.

I hope everyone did well on their goals; even if you didn’t finish, you still have more than you started with!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – Weeks 2-4

There’s a reason this blog is late as well as any updates; I haven’t been able to sit down and write for almost the entire first week! Moving took more energy out of me than I imagined. I was so close to 10,000 words –my halfway point– that I felt that I wouldn’t post an update until I at least reached that goal.

I hit it Wednesday night after four nights of being unable to write. The only other writing I managed to do that week was about a hundred words the day before moving, and about a hundred words the first day of my moving process. I had some time to sit down and focus while waiting for the Comcast guy to arrive and setup my TV and internet.
Immediately following that, when I finally got to getting back on track, I got hit with some sort of upper respiratory infection that has given me a low fever since Friday. I had time to write at that point, but my energy and concentration was focused on being able to breath and stay upright.

I missed last night, since I had to catch up on schoolwork that I didn’t have very much energy to complete over the weekend. Otherwise, I’m at about 14,000 words when I should be at 16,000. I’m not too worried about catching up; the past few days (with the exception of last night) I’ve been writing about 800-1,000 words per night. Now with midterms out of the way, I’m confident that I can catch up and finish on time or maybe even earlier. I look forward to finishing this novel, and finishing this marking period of classes since wow 20 credit hours is doing a toll on me.

I hope everyone else’s Camp NaNoWriMo experiences are going better than mine!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – Week 1

I don’t know how I’m doing it, but I’m managing to keep up to pace with my word goal. In my first week, I wrote 6,061 words, with a goal of 4,662 words if I went to my predetermined pace of 666 words a day. On average, I’ve been writing about 772 words per day. I generally spend around 30-45 minutes each day to focus on writing my novel, which is a lot considering I have a course load of 20 credit hours a week. My time between getting assignments done and packing to move is very sparse, and I expect to be tested in the upcoming week.

In November I was thrown off my groove from some things, but one of the more prominent being finals. Midterms are approaching. However, I only have one formal midterm test to take. I expect that I might slump a little this weekend with my moving situation, but thankfully I’m ahead right now to hopefully deal with that. I have a couple of other things that are popping up — because when else besides when I’m doing a monthly challenge— like applying for more scholarships and for a potential peer tutor job.

When it comes to writing the novel itself, I’ve discovered that I’ve been shifting different scenes back and forth. While they logically are in better order and my plans are rough touchstones, I worry about keeping track of everything that still needs to be paid off. I usually allow flexibility so certain things can arrive naturally while I’m writing, but it still worries me as I move forward. I think that’s my overhanging sense of general anxiety, however, so I will pursue 20,000 words nonetheless!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018

Remember how in a little blog post back in November I revealed I didn’t actually finish my NaNoWriMo novel? I decided to finish it for Camp NaNoWriMo! I was about 29,000 words in, so my goal is to write about 20,000 more words to reach the original NaNoWriMo goal. Due to a crazy amount of pop up issues and events in November, I hadn’t accounted for them to plan around them. In April, I’ve already planned out all of my assignments and when I’m doing them plus about how much time it’ll take to complete them. I may have an overfilled 20 hours a week course load, but I’m up for the challenge.

What is NaNoWriMo? It’s an acronym for National Novel Writing Month (in November), and also a nonprofit organization. The goal for November is to write at least 50,000 words of a novel. There’s also Camp NaNoWriMo, which is where you can set your own goals; whether it be editing or a different amount of words. It typically takes place sometime near the summer (although it’s a little early this year if you ask me; can’t go “camping” if it’s not summer).

For this, I’ll be continuing a novel I’m working on called Obscura. A major issue I had where I left off of writing was how to get between major plot points. I can’t just go from little events to something catastrophic, so finding the incidents to build up to the climactic scene was what I focused on solving in the past few months. Now that I’ve got almost as many events as I had already written, I feel confident enough to continue.

Despite the fact I have three lecture classes and a studio, so far in the first couple days of writing it hasn’t been too difficult. Although I might be overestimating for the difficulty level from being the second week of classes, I don’t think it should be too difficult to find time to work on this project of my own. Because I want to write about 20,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo, I would need to write about 666 words per day. This takes me about half an hour on average, and so far I’ve been able to accomplish such. Because it’s been only school nights so far, I’ve been holding off until my homework’s done to write. It’s a block of time I’m sure I can devote for the rest of April, however, I can see being mentally overloaded from classes to be a potential issue. I’ve only written Sunday and Monday’s additions, totaling 1,845 words. I look forward to working on this for the next month and coming out with a solid first draft after having fixed the issues I was struggling with before.

March Book of the Month: Survive the Night

My book of the month for March was Survive the Night by Danielle Vega. As much as I love the horror genre, I was surprised to realize that this was the first official book I’ve read in the genre. I’ve watched more horror movies than I can think of, but I was shocked that it took me this long to read something in the current genre. (Besides Carmilla, I suppose, if you count that as horror.) Overall, I found the book incredibly enjoyable and I was able to finish the last hundred or so pages in one sitting because I was so invested. (I usually read between my classes, therefore, multiple sittings. I read outside of my class time for a lot of this book.)

I immediately related to the main character, Casey. Although, that’s likely just a coincidence. She had dislocated her kneecap playing soccer, and from being active, meanwhile, I dislocated mine walking energetically in gym class. However, unlike her, she became addicted to her pain medication, and we are introduced to her as she’s coming home from rehab.

I only have a few aspects of this book I had some critique on, and the first act was so long it almost made me flip ahead to check if anything juicy happened sooner. I was eager for the horror. The information delivered, while important, took up slightly over four chapters of the book before we got to the promise of the premise, surviving the night. At the very least, getting to the actual club and the first hint of horror.

Another aspect I didn’t enjoy that also occurred throughout the first portions was Casey’s fixation on her ex-boyfriend. At first, it seemed a little below her character to be so focused on him for his sort of approval but looking back I’m more lenient on it after certain revelations. I suppose you could say his love was one of the drugs she had been addicted to in a way. His character confuses me a bit as we find out more about him, along with his involvement with Shana.

Once they finally get to Survive the Night, the exclusive club that they had to get a homeless man’s help to find, the fun begins. Well, the deaths do at least. And that’s what we’re here for in horror. Or I am, at least. The promised premise certainly delivers, and it amps up to the point I kept wondering what could happen next. Usually I’m able to generally guess where a plot is going, and this one kept me fresh and engaged the entire time. The stakes were eternally high throughout the book.

While the ending tied up the majority of the plot points with grace, I guessed the mysterious insinuation it leaves you with from when I read the synopsis. It almost reminded me of the movie Shrooms. However, it left enough threads throughout the narrative to be able to make your own conclusion while further heightening the events that happened. I’m trying not to spoil much with this, so I won’t say here what I think happened. I plan on making a video about that with a spoiler-filled review on a new YouTube channel I’m making. I’ll post the link on here when I do.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Survive the Night. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Besides the few minor grievances, I think it’s safe to say this is one of my more recent favorites. It also makes me interested in reading Danielle Vega’s series The Merciless. I loved her style throughout the book. I don’t own The Merciless so it won’t be the next book of the month. I think I’m going to go for a sci-fi approach and read Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa. I’ve had this book for a little over a year now, and I should get down to reading it.

How Digimon Inspired Me to Pursue Writing

Digimon was —and is— my favorite animated TV show. Sometimes it’s hard to tell between Digimon, Sailor Moon, and South Park, but ultimately when I look at my impulse purchases around me, I see that I am surrounded by the Digimon franchise in various forms. (I bought a Koromon plushie last week off of eBay. It still lasts.) Digimon will forever be an influential experience on my work, not just because of the high quality of the show itself, but the experience it provided.

 

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How can I resist this face?

 

The premise to Digimon, if you’re unfamiliar, is that average kids go to a summer camp and wind up getting sent into the “digital world” within the internet. They were the “DigiDestined”— children from the regular world who could travel to the digital world, and by the help of their digital monster (Digimon) friends, they could restore peace between the digital world and the real world. The latter’s effect we see more throughout the end of the first season, along with Digimon: The Movie.

Within the spirit of the premise, it allows the viewers (albeit children) to put themselves inside the narrative; it gives them a chance to believe in the possibility of joining that reality. (Which is ultimately why Digimon will forever be better than Pokemon, but I digress.) The level of craft that allows the viewers to be able to engage with the suspension of disbelief to achieve full immersion is something that is incredibly inspirational to me. I aim with everything I write to be able to have that level of plausible believability.

We not only see the characters struggle with the problems presented as being digi-destined, but we see them come to age as they grow up. They age throughout the series, and while they do change, they still remain true to their core being. With such a large main cast for a children’s show, Digimon approaches several important topics like divorce, separation, loss, and when your strengths can become your weaknesses. Tai, the main character, is the digi-destined who has the crest of courage. He is, therefore, the most courageous. He takes this too far at one point where he made Augumon digivolve when Autumn wasn’t ready, turning Augumon into SkullGreymon instead of regular Greymon, resulting in Augumon turning into a terrifying and corrupted beast. Through that, they learn the importance of not only boundaries but how to be responsible with one’s courage and not cross the line into being reckless. Those are deep meanings for a children’s show to approach –especially in the early 2000’s–, and the ability to do so without diverging too far from the plot is something that I wind up thinking about whenever I wonder if I’m going off too far on a tangent.

In addition, the villains are a terrifying, and impressive threat to the characters. (Lookin at you, Jesse, James, and Meowth.) Devimon attacks TK—one of the children— but Patamon saves the day by sacrificing himself. While Digimon doesn’t die, Patamon’s data is reverted back to a digi-egg until he has enough power to digivolve up the power chain again. In the second season (which continues with the kids from the first season, who are now older, along with some new kids) it turns out that one of the enemies is another kid who’s been calling himself the “Digimon Emperor” and enslaving Digimon in the digital world. That’s a risky move to make especially with impressionable kids being the audience. However, we see that he eventually comes to his senses (he didn’t think Digimon were real beings) and winds up being one of the DigiDestined.

The show doesn’t sugarcoat the crimes he’s committed against Digimon; multiple Digimon, even after he’s reformed, are wary of him and call him out on how awful he was. In Digimon: the movie we see Diaboromon, whose influence has leaked into the human world by spreading computer viruses around. At one point intercontinental ballistic missiles are launched from the Pentagon getting hacked. Diaboromon (in another form) manages to age regress the kids in the real world, putting a few in danger from how young he makes them.

The show expertly weaves different storylines together while staying true to its themes and its goals. It is character driven and allows the audience to become characters themselves by allowing there to be a suspension of disbelief. The show is still fresh after I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and I fully believe it is one of the best-animated shows out there that are oriented for children. While the audience for my writing is young adults, I wish to be able to tap into the power of nostalgia and the feeling of being involved with the narrative. I could probably write an entire book about how much I love Digimon, but for today, I’ll end my praise here.

 

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The merchandise might’ve helped the immersion too… 😉

 

Springing Papers from My Locker

Of all the habits I have that can vary between annoying and concerning, one of the most prominent is my need to hang onto paper materials. What do I mean by paper materials? I filled the bottom compartment of my locker with drawings, notes, academic papers, and pads of specialized paper that I’ll probably never use again. To top it off were a pile of tangled wire items like a router, backup drive, and a multiplug adapter. I’m moving into my own apartment in five weeks, and in a plight to avoid studying for my last final, I decided to clean out that locker and decide what I actually had to keep. Some Spring cleaning, even if it isn’t quite Spring yet.

I’m a Junior at an art college, and so I have more papers than I have ideas what to do with. I have empty lines of notebooks and empty pages sketchbooks sitting around waiting to be used. Those had a simpler solution than the rest; reuse. I’ll use a single notebook for a couple of different classes until it’s filled to near maximum capacity. A few pages leftover is fine. I have three in this state: A flowered journal from my English Composition class that was used as a journal for that class alone, not even taking up half the journal. A notebook with skulls and constellations from Urban Outfitters that I used in my Physical Science class that’s 60% full, but potentially able to be used for my Psychology class in the summer. I also have one more notebook that I have from my Fiction One class. It’s not even half-filled so that I’ll reuse as well.

The next token category of paper goods were academic sheets and essays. I apparently enjoy hoarding syllabi along with assignment sheets that I’ll never need now that the class is over. Because many of the academic sheets were from my Poetry and Fiction One class, I decided to recycle almost all of them. I have my files on my computer, except the one project that I accidentally saved over. I kept the paper version of that. As much as I love assignment sheets that give details and guidelines about what we’re supposed to do, they take up a ton of unneeded space.

The largest category of wasted space were papers for one specific class: my horrid Basics of Animation class. Apparently the “basics of animation” includes drawing like cavepeople on the old sheet by sheet animation, taking overhead pictures, and uploading them to the computer. I’d say 75% of my waste was from this category. Each sheet was about 1/12th of a second of animation. How many trees died so I could realize I didn’t want to be an animator? Rest in pieces, along with my one dream of being an animator. Maybe in another life.

The sheets for these two animations made it into the save pile.

So what did I keep? Besides the items with more space in them, I kept a few things I still enjoy. One prototype of a final project I can’t seem to locate, and some extras from the collage background of that project. Two papers: one analytical paper I was proud of about comparing two different art pieces, and another paper on a local Savannah artist that we were told we be put in the city archives but I’m unsure. The aforementioned Poetry project that I messed the original file up to. Two animations from the basics of animation class: One of my furious fairy character doing a head turn with some concept art, and one of my final flour sack project with concept art for that as well. And finally, a couple of scattered pictures I drew for various assignments that made me smile.

When I was done, I realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the before status of the locker, but here’s the aftermath.

I feel like many artists, I get attached to my work a little too much. I hold onto it for too long when it likely will serve no purpose later. I don’t need forty sheets of a ball bouncing across the pages of what is now my minor. As much as I love keeping any random sheet that may inspire me in the future, I do know when enough is enough. And now that I’m moving, I finally had a reason to decide what doesn’t need to travel with me… and a reason to procrastinate studying for a final essay.