In defense of TV shows

I love television. The logic then follows that I love Netflix. And I do. I spend hours — I mean hours — watching and re-watching TV shows (because let’s be honest most of the movie choices are crap). I consider that time well spent.

But we live in a world where not everyone is so enlightened. There exist humans that enjoy other, non-television activies — like physical activity sustained over long periods of time. That’s okay. Not for those poor unfortunate souls of course, but I guess you can’t miss what you don’t know. Somehow they go on. And yet for some of these people it’s not enough to just dislike television; no, they have to speak out against it.

Now, up to this point most of what I’ve said is meant to be taken with some level of sarcasm. But this next part I mean seriously: I hate when people tell me “it’s just television.”

Do you know what makes something “good television”? Of course not. There’s no formula, road map, blue print. One good show can’t just be replicated a few years later and still stay good. Do you think just any show about nothing would succeed? No. Seinfeld was special. It’s the writing, the acting, the story telling, the casting. All of those components make you, the viewer, invest. Not just your time, though certainly we will give that, but your emotions. Good TV makes you feel feels.

Take The Office. If you ever want to cry for an hour straight, watch the final two episodes of this show. Recently, I did this — for a third time. During one of the previous two occasions I was confronted by someone who asked me (as I was mid-sob): “Ali, it’s just a show. Why are you crying?” They were dumbfounded that a TV show could elicit such an emotional response.

But how could it not? I was given nine seasons of this show. And I consumed, voraciously, all nine seasons of this show. Were all of them amazing? Not really. The Robert California years were a little sub-par for me, but all of those years and episodes and Jim-pranks and cringe-worthy Michael Scott moments bred for me a deeper connection with the characters. And that’s how it’s supposed to happen.

A different perspective: You go to dinner with a friend every Wednesday night at 8:00pm. That person makes you laugh, that person lets you in on their life, they tell you their secrets, you feel their vulnerabilities and relish their triumphs. You feel connected to them. One day they decide to move away. They can’t go to dinner anymore. Don’t you feel sad? Don’t think ‘no’ just because you know this a TV metaphor. Really consider this.

I’m not crazy. Of course I know that Pam and Jim aren’t real or that Mindy Kaling isn’t my friend (but if you want to hang out, girl, I’m down). But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel connected to these people through their characters. And it’s not just The Office.

The first show I really cried at was Boy Meets World on one of the few, but still too many, times that Corey and Topanga broke up. I felt a great deal of sadness when we saw the ultimate fate of Walter White and I felt a similar level of justice when we saw how Jesse’s story ended. I’ve been experiencing a serious amount of anxiety as Trueblood moves ever-closer to it’s meeting with The True Death.

So yes, I’m crying over a TV show. And yes, you can take that negative tone elsewhere if you have a problem with that.

‘I quit’: A necessary (but still bittersweet) ending

On Wednesday I followed through on a feeling that had been nagging at me for the better part of a month: I quit.

Now I’ve never been a quitter, especially not of things that I’m passionate about. But unlike high school or college where your commitments have seasonal moments of reconsideration and renewal, post-grad passions don’t tend to work that way. Sweet Lemon definitely didn’t. It was an all-consuming passion project; I used to call it my second job. I always meant that in a positive way — until I didn’t.

At some point the previous joys of editing, writing, and running Sweet Lemon turned into tasks that I dreaded and put off. That’s the funny, fickle thing about passion: it can be fleeting. I waited to see if this was part of a natural ebb and flow, that maybe my love for my second job would come back. It didn’t.

I promised myself early on that once it stopped being fun, it was time to end it. A simple barometer that you can’t lie your way through. You’re either having fun or you’re not. It was a promise I’m glad I made to myself because it helped me to realize that while it would be hard to leave something I’d worked so hard to build and shape, I just wasn’t having fun anymore.

And that’s OK. In fact, it’s the natural course of things that the “don’t quit” mentality has (unfortunately) taught us to ignore: some passions aren’t meant to last forever. Sometimes, it’s good to quit.

So I’m sad, but I’m also ready to find something fun again. Some of that will take place on but most of it will — at least for the time being — take place right here in this space. So come and get it, boys and girls! Let’s bring (back on) the fun.


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You know it’s coming, but it’s still humbling

I’m kind of weirded out at how good Tulane has been at keeping track of me as an alumni. And no, I don’t just mean in terms of following up about donating money back.

Take a look at this interview one of the gals over in the Political Science Department did with me earlier in the week. I’m reaching new levels of alumni nerdiness over in this corner of New York City…

Check it out here.

Why I’m thankful every day to have “Tulane” on my resume


And yes, I really do mean every day. But especially on days that include interviews or meetings with people I don’t know.

I’ve only been in the workforce for about a year and a half. But I’ve had my fair share of professional encounters during that time. I’m a qualified graduate. Graduated with honors, won a few awards, have had my fair share of internships and experience. What I’m saying is, I have enough material for the standard cover letter/interview #humblebrags.

A few months ago I walked into an higher-ups office at work who I was meeting for the first time. I was nervous – and then I saw The Blue Dog. You know the one. I said, “you a New Orleans fan?” motioning to the frame. Turns out he’s close with the artist. Who knew? A few months later, in a not so dissimilar setting, a producer asked me “Tulane? How was it?” It wasn’t in that disinterested, killing time, kind of way. He wanted to know how it was.

Here’s the thing you realize when you leave New Orleans: it really is as interesting and unique as Tulane marketed it to be. The city itself is amazing, not just for what it endured and rebuilt after Katrina, but for the traditions, weirdness, and people it attracts. It is a city unreplicated anywhere else in the U.S., and I’d go so far as to say the world. Now, of course you can say the same about New York or D.C. or LA. Of course these cities have something special and cool about them, those certain traits that move millions to call them home. But not like New Orleans.

New Orleans has a je ne sais quoi. You can’t quite place what makes you love it, what makes you want to know about it should you encounter someone who has spent time there or even called it home, what makes you want to be around people who understand just what it means (both to miss her and to know her). It’s hard to put your finger on a tangible reason why your heart swells when you hear jazz through your headphones and you just imagine it for real at Blue Nile. And you can’t explain why plastic beads and the color combos of green, purple, and gold – or black and gold, for that matter! – make you feel a little drunk and a little nostalgic all at the same time.

So when my cold-meetings get New Orleans-warm simply because my resume lists me as a Tulane alum, or when a conversation with strangers leads me to say I grew into myself for four years down in New Orleans, I’m thankful.

Not that I wasn’t before. But it’s always nice to have a reminder.

Sweet Lemon Magazine’s 10th issue is here!

Everybody CHECK IT OUT!


One piece I’d particularly like to highlight: Clare Austen-Smith’s piece entitled Rick Ross’ Rape Problem Is Our Problem, Too.

I can honestly say I’ve never been prouder to be a part of a piece for this magazine. I edit a lot of great content on a daily basis, but Clare’s piece was a true labor of love. She provides a too-rare commentary on rape culture and does so through a very emotional, personal lens — one which I am so humbled that she chose to share with our Sweet Lemon readers. I hope you love it as much as I do — and be sure to comment, share, tweet, Facebook us your thoughts. We love to hear from you!

Getting by with a little help from old friends

Specifically one old friend. Ms. Emily Dingersen was kind enough to create my lovely new header for me! I love it and everyone should give her an e-round of applause.

Look for more of her graphic design work in our upcoming issue of Sweet Lemon Magazine! Out verrrrrrrry soon (July 1!).

Richard Engel reporting from the ground in Turkey…with a gas mask

If this isn’t journalistic commitment to a story, I’m not sure what is. Watch NBC’s best explain what’s going on in Turkey as protests escalate in Istanbul, as well as why this situation is not the same as what’s happening in Syria.

{Click me.}