December 30, 2014

Looking back.

Thinking back on my semester abroad in Scotland, it's almost as if it never happened.  It was one of those experiences that often felt too surreal.  Like, am I really living in another country?  Is this actually my life?  But once I got used to going about my day-to-day: attending classes, buying groceries, it was honestly harder to imagine what it felt like to be living anywhere else. 

The city of Edinburgh provided an excellent backdrop for me to continue exploring who I am.  The locals were friendly, the streets were (fairly) easy to navigate by foot, and the green spaces were peaceful.  Quickly I learned that I take many aspects of being American for granted and in particular my liberal arts education.  I also learned that loud, touristy and obnoxious photo-taking-to-prove-I've-seen-this-landmark-obsessed Americans exist but I am definitely not one.  I can function without wifi 24/7.  I'm hella gregarious; and I am at my best when I consistently see friends.  Alcoholic ciders and ginger beer ain't half bad.  I don an English accent when  asking questions.  I can seamlessly impersonate a Canadian, adding 'eh' to the end of every other sentence.  I can never stop making mix CDs, especially for those poor souls who have never had one made for them before.  I love my pen pals and sending snail mail remains very important to me.  I am lucky to have seen The Antlers live in concert, twice, on two different continents.  Getting coffee alone with someone you may or may have romantic feelings for does not constitute a date.  From personal experience, fortune favours the bold.  (Seriously.  When I am competent and confident, I am nearly unstoppable.)  Sometimes you have to chill and not over think things.  Self-care is an ongoing process.

Flying home was a strange experience.  I felt quite 'adult', whatever that means.  The most interesting person I met on my epic journey (Edinburgh to Paris, Paris to NY, NY to FL) was an older woman, probably in her late 60s. We were waiting to board our delayed flight in Paris when we began chatting. A little girl growing up in New York, she saw The Great Wall of China in a textbook once and decided then and there that she would travel to see it one day. And when she did finally experience it -- albeit many, many years later -- she was overtaken with great emotion. "The Chinese must've thought: 'who is this crazy Westerner?'" She kept mentioning other places she's traveled to and even those short anecdotes filled me with such wanderlust. At one point, she shared that she was diagnosed with brain cancer. This silenced me, but she assured me that it's been ten years and that she's fine now. The ultimate takeaway from our conversation is that you never know where life will take you.  Having just spent three months living out my dream, I just had to nod as the tears silently streamed down my face... 

See you again soon, Scotland.

November 24, 2014

Noise sensitivity.

Some days, like today, I can't stand listening to any noise that I'm not producing myself in what is supposed to be a quiet place.  Outside noises become so bothersome to me.  I even grow quite angry.  With this condition plaguing me, I've settled for my favorite place on campus, Appleton Tower's "absorb," as I work on this paper.  Yes, I definitely procrastinated on it, and I should have planned my time better.  Blah.  But what will I remember in five years?  The stress of finishing this paper last minute, or days like the weekend I just had with Emma, filled with adventures in the glorious city of Edinburgh?

Oh, yes, hi.  I'm in Scotland now.  Specifically Edinburgh (ed-in-BRUH).  I've been living and studying here for the past three months.  I love it, even though currently I am a mess of emotions.  I'm simultaneously working through feelings of sheer happiness to guilt, to laziness, to who-even-can-tell.  I partially blame entering my twenties.  That's right, folks.  I want my time to shine (and by shine I mean fail miserably and wallow in it) before quarter life crises are passé!  I'm twenty!  Let me in the club!!

Although I've given myself much needed space from the blogging world, I've still been documenting my life through daily videos.   Recently, I made a list of things that I'm looking forward to, and on said list is traveling to London next weekend.  Hopefully I can meet up with long-time Blogger Fam member and pen pal, Nicola.  I'm also eager to return to Minnesota and see how Kaitlyn, her beagle and Joey are surviving in the snow and ice.  Speaking of which, I'm not sure how I will survive.  I love the cold, but risk of frostbite and -40 degree weather always sounds extra dangerous and y'know, the opposite of fun.

Like a conversation going stale, I've turned to the weather.  Probably means I have nothing else to say.  I hope anyone who happens to be reading this is doing okay.  High School Musical is right: we're all in this together.

xx (ha ha am I British now?)

August 31, 2014

The end of an era?

I have been reluctant to write this.  Mostly I've been unsure how to formulate my thoughts properly.  But to avoid beating around the bush…

…I've discovered blogging doesn't make me happy anymore.

There.  I said it.

Even though initially blogging wasn't about pleasing anyone else, it kinda has become that way for me.   It feels shameful to even admit.  Like, how could I be so shallow?  How could I put my importance on the number of comments I received?  I shouldn't be so disappointed when I get zero comments.  Zero comments doesn't mean I'm worthless.  Zero comments doesn't somehow negate my awesome experiences.  (At this point I want to thank Natalie, who still consistently reads and usually comments.   Also Blogger Family members in general.  You all helped to keep me going longer than I probably would have otherwise.)

I kept thinking that if I just tried hard enough, I could be better.  I thought if I was "better," surely the comments would follow.  Yet after struggling for two-ish years at this, I finally learned that perhaps blogging isn't my scene.  Except if I wasn't a blogger -- what was I?  "Blogger" had become a large part of my identity.  I couldn't let that go, could I?

Recently, I've embraced that videos are my preferred mode of self-expression.  Perhaps you've been able to tell; my last few entires have been riddled with my latest work on YouTube.  Undeniably, the satisfaction I get from finishing a video quadruples any of the satisfaction I've probably ever gotten from writing a blog post.  Sadly, I know that these same posts have once again yielded zero comments. I can't -- and won't -- let that hold me back.

Still, I'm hoping to be able to blog on occasion.  Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel, pandasinfedoras, to stay in the loop on my adventures in the meantime.  I won't be offended if you don't.

Until later, alligators.

August 16, 2014

In the midst of August.

So far the week has been a succession of goodbyes.  First, Abby left St. Paul to go home to Texas.  From there, she will shortly head out to Bolivia for her fall semester abroad.  It simultaneously seems like forever since I went to the Irish Fair with her and Aparna and also like it happened months ago.

I talked on the phone with Andy one last time on Thursday.  I am selfishly glad he is going in the fall, too, so we'll both be back at Mac in the spring. Actually, it worked out that I will see most of my close friends when I'm back from Scotland.  In general, though, junior year feels extra disjointed.  It's already strange telling people, "Have a nice trip.  See you next fall."  Fall 2015.

This morning I had to say farewell to Erin.  Yesterday we filmed a 'before abroad' interview of questions.  She's headed to Copenhagen, Denmark to study film.  I will miss her immensely. But like I said, she'll be back in the spring so it's okay.

Anyway.  I am very tired.  Talk to you soon.

August 06, 2014

Still at it.

Originally, I thought I would have time to blog daily about each video I'm making.  I was wrong.  But to catch you up:

August 1st, 2014
Dan and I planned a trip to Mickey's, a historic and delicious restaurant in downtown St. Paul, only to find ourselves in the far-eastern suburbs of the city.  Sometimes you just have to take the bus to the end of the line.

August 2nd, 2014
My housemate Hayley and I harvested some of our own carrots and potatoes in our backyard.  Then we headed down to the St. Paul Farmers' Market to have a look around.

August 3rd, 2014
I chronicled burning Nicole's monthly mix for July.  She and I have been swapping mixes like this since October 2012.  And we have no intention of stopping.  Sometimes we blog about our musical musings here.

August 4th, 2014
I spewed thoughts on thinking too much.  Tried not to think too much about any potential responses.  C'est la vie.

August 5th, 2014
Last night I relieved my first year of college and compiled this retrospective.  Looking back, I am honored to have met some genuinely kind, funny, talented, beautiful and honest souls.

Tonight, I have a confession to make: everything I own is green.

July 31, 2014


We were checking our college P.O. boxes one spring day our first year when he looked at his box, sighed, and commented aloud -- to no one in particular -- about never getting any mail.  That's when I piped up.   I asked him his name and told him I would send him something.  That was how Andy and I met, and it's still one of the best origin stories I know.  Well, perhaps I'm biased.

After that moment, Andy and I exchanged a few cards.  I took his polaroid portrait.  Then we hung out a few times last summer.  Last fall, we had an epic exchange of Emma Stone & Andrew Garfield couple pics.  (We crafted witty captions and everything.)  He drew me a beautiful drawing of a cat turning into a panda for my birthday.  This summer, I had an incredible time visiting his Wisconsin hometown and we spent five hours driving back listening to Lana Del Ray and talking about our lives.  Then there's all the other small moments that we've shared that I'll hopefully never forget.  I am lucky to have this goof in my life. 

But today, he and I said goodbye for six months.  He's off to China soon to visit a mutual friend and then he's traveling to his study abroad program in Japan.  So yesterday, when he was visiting Mac one last time, I asked if he would be in a video with me.  As one last hurrah.  And given the awesome, tolerant friend he is, he said yes.  It's a miracle I edited these down from the raw 30 something minutes of footage to five minute videos.  Enjoy!

(Stretched these out over two days because I thought I would have to babysit tonight.  I'm loving this video-a-day project.  Gonna keep it going!)

July 29, 2014

Campus dance.

Compiled from mostly familial footage, here's my take on Providence, RI  -- and particularly Brown University's campus dance -- in May.

So far I'm two for two.  I know it's okay if I miss a day, but I'm appreciating the consistency for now.  I am realizing how much one needs the stability of something after your grandmother dies and you can't be there to say goodbye.

July 28, 2014

July 25, 2014

Film Friday: Director Richard Linklater

In anticipation of seeing his film Boyhood this evening, I wanted a space to ruminate on the work of Director Richard Linklater.

Perhaps best cited for his 90s film, Dazed and Confuzed, Linklater has made his name known in the independent film circles.  I have not seen that film, though, so it's on my to-watch list, along with his animated film Waking Life.  Hopefully that doesn't make me unqualified to talk about how his work has affected me.

Because honestly, if they are anything like his "Before" trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, I might just be in for something great.  This series of three films stole my heart this summer.  They effortlessly captured a "truth," that may seem overwrought in some audience members' eyes, but which spoke deeply to me about how random life can be -- and the benefits of being susceptible to said randomness.

The premise of Before Sunrise (1995) intrigued the hopeless romantic in me.  Boy meets girl on a train.  Girl does not go running and screaming in the other direction.  Boy and girl spends day wandering and talking together in a European city.  Throughout its duration (conveniently the time before midnight), I am cheering for the two leads to fully experience their evening together.  The location and glorious settings are merely backdrops for the couple, who remain a pinnacle focus for the entire film.  As such, audiences can connect deeply with their dialogue.  This fact proves the skill of Linklater's writing and gall to think that a film like this would be entertaining enough.  All the other elements are spot-on.  The ending was slightly gimmicky, clearly angling for a sequel.

But my complaining stops there, since Linklater's Before Sunset (2004) was an excellent follow-up to the first.  As soon as the two leads share the screen, we are presented with a similar engrossing technique that is just as successful the second time around.  Linklater shows he knows what he's doing. I hungrily listen to the stories that Jesse and Celine tell, trying to fill in the seven-year-long blank that Linklater created between the two installments.  The characters become even more fleshed out through the details they reveal (and those they don't).  This style once again could be perceived as boring and unimportant, seen as having no place in a film.  Yet from my perspective, it was a smart and realistic approach to telling a story about life and two strangers who are pulled together in life's current.  The banter feels authentic, and the steadiness of the camera on Jesse and Celine, both simultaneously engulfing the frame with their ideas, passions and compassion for one another is excellent.  Linklater had a clear vision and his artistic genius cannot be questioned.  But can he do it a third time?

Before Midnight (2013) opened and poured salt in wounds in me that I didn't even know I had.  Picking up nine years later, we get to meet Celine and Jesse as a committed couple.  In the very beginning, they are less of the focus, until the car scene in which their infamous back-and-forth exchanger resume.  The interactions now seem tinged with an even more "this is life, beautiful and messy" tone.  Hmm, that feeling may too intangible to describe.  The last act of the film echoed some of the conversations that my parents have had, and there's almost nothing as surreal as practically seeing someone you know and their habits being portrayed on screen.  Although there are other nitpicky comments I could make about this third film, I disagree with Shelby that it was negative for negativity's sake.  The way it crescendos mirrors life's fluctuations and I think it's a breath of fresh air knowing that not everything is coming up roses, even when you are sharing the journey with someone who understands you, cares for you and longs for you.

Falling in love with these films, with a story that nearly destroyed me and my spirit, makes me unbelievably excited to see what critics are claiming is his masterwork tonight.  I have a strong sense it will get under my skin…in the best way possible.

July 04, 2014

Film Friday: Netflix Picks

Happy Fourth of July, American readers!  Any exciting plans for the long weekend?  Watching Netflix?  When I did a Netflix free trial a few summers ago, I did my best to milk it for all it was worth.  Of course, this was a time before shows like Orange Is The New Black made exclusive releases to the site, and before there were a million OTHER ways to stream thousands of movies.

For this installment of Film Friday, I thought it would be fun to share a few picks of what I've watched and enjoyed on Netflix.  In no particular order:

Breaking Bad (2008-2012)
So this still makes the top of the list.  Sorry not sorry.  All five seasons are now available to stream.  I might have to marathon the series again.  I may be able to skip the first season, though.  Goodness knows I've seen that alone at least 10 times.

Friday Night Lights (2006-2010)
Full disclosure, I have not finished watching this entire series.  However, I am convinced the first two seasons are most worth watching anyway.  Written by an alum from my college, I think this does a good job with character development.  Plus there are actors that it's hard not to love, like Connie Britton.

Parks and Recreation (2009-current)
Need I blather on about how fantastic this show is?  I am probably preaching to the choir.

Rita (2012)
I had no idea what exactly I was getting myself into with this foreign drama series from Denmark.  The gorgeous title sequence exuded promise.  I immediately liked how sassy the protagonist is, even though I'm not sure I would've liked her as my schoolteacher.

American Psycho (2000)
This was a movie I had always heard about, perhaps even had seen a few stills from, and yet still never quite understood what it was all about.  After viewing this grotesque 2-hour character case study, I still don't know how to coherently explain it.  Yet if you're looking to go on a terrifying ride, look no further.

C.O.G. (2013)
Jonathan Groff surprised me in this.  Although the story wasn't particularly new -- and I'm not sure how I felt about the ending -- this thoroughly sucked me in for its duration.

Tabloid (2011)
I stumbled upon this earlier this summer purely by chance.  This tells the story of a woman who was arrested in Britain for kidnapping and raping the love of her life who had been sent there for mission work with the Mormon church.  The entire movie seems nearly unreal and -- without spoiling anything -- shocking.  This made me think more critically about who is telling what story and for what reason.

Frances Ha (2013)
This film and I have a very special relationship.  It's filmed in black-and-white with the backdrop of NYC.  The main character, Frances (Greta Gerwig), is a 27-year-old aspiring dancer still figuring out her life.  Filled with comedy, drama, genuine emotion, captivating dialogue and entirely relatable moments, the movie oozed life.  I swear it is part of my soul now.  Just go watch it already.  If you don't think you'd like it, then at least watch this scene.

Bo Burnham: what.
I can see why some might find Bo's brand of comedy offensive.  I would go so far as to say he is one of the best comedians of our generation.  He understands the way we operate nowadays and mocks it brilliantly.

Let me know what you've watched!

June 21, 2014

It's a small world after all.

I am officially convinced that the world is not as vast as society typically paints it out to be.  It has to be.  Otherwise explain to me why my good friend from middle school, Zack, and a classmate from my college, ended up working the same summer job in San Francisco.  Mind blown.  Faith shifted.

I'd be lying if I didn't say my past week has been exhausting.  Fortunately, one can often find solace in the little things.  This morning at my office job in the library I felt very zen.  I realized that the majority of my mornings in 2014 had started in the college's library.  Then I thought, "Dang.  I must love it that much."  And I do.  Even the basement with its flickering light above a certain computer I have vowed never to use for that reason--the flicker is too distracting.

My exhaustion may be linked to when I watched Before Sunrise (1995) last night.  Devastingly good.  I teared up, of course.  I was glad I had also rented the sequel, Before Sunset (2005), because I watched it immediately, hungry to see how the story continued.  I swear an hour and a half movie never felt so short.  The characters are so charming and incredibly human.  I am planning to rent the third movie in the trilogy from the library soon.  After watching those films and reading this collaborate blog, 40 days of dating, chronically an experiment two NYC designer friends underwent in dating (read the 'about' page first), I am emotionally spent.

Watch out, no real segue here...

I wonder if my friends and I will plan a barbecue for the 4th of July.  We already have one successful potluck under our belts.  Here's the photographic evidence:

Mmm, check out that strawberry nectarine crumble.

Tomorrow, er, today, the majority of classmates around the Cities this summer are having a picnic at a nearby lake.  At the beginning of the week, I was stoked to go.  However, my mindset and health have changed drastically since Monday.  I shall remain in bed to rest until this cold is over.

Currently taking any song or movie recommendations to take my mind off feeling miserable!

I hope everyone is having a fun summer.  The common theme I've been seeing, though, is mostly surrounding adulthood?  Yeah, that's only mildly terrifying.

June 03, 2014

Onto the next one.

(I apologize if this post is all over the place.  That's my  mind  life right now, for ya.)

Why hello there.  I am currently seated at my summer house's dining room table.  As devastated as I was to lose the house I had planned to live in, this alternative has proven quite great -- dare I say better.  Several of my friends have come over and agree, so this isn't just my gooey-honeymoon-eyed biased opinion.  All the real credit -- and gratitude -- goes to my friend Jenni who offered this subletting option to me after everything feel through.  She, Miya and their three other friends picked a fantastic spot for the next two years.  I shall have to come over plenty when I am back in the spring.

The phrase "back in the spring" fills my vocabulary lately as I begin planning for my semester abroad in Scotland.  Even writing those words seems more like a dream than my not-too-distant reality.  Okay. I'm going to stop talking about it.  Can't psych myself out too much.

Settling into life here again has been surprisingly fun.  Granted I love getting the chance to redecorate a new space, probably more than most folks.  What can I say?  I like making spaces my own.  Pictures to come when I'm done.

Most of the fun and belly laughs have come from my housemate Liz (not confusing at all).  She and I have spent quite a bit of time together these past few coordinating this and that.  On Sunday her boyfriend Declan was kind enough to drive us to IKEA (plus Target…and the grocery store).  I had the hardest time navigating IKEA and ended up buying nothing save for some Swedish meatballs for dinner.

All of this unpacking and unloading almost makes me forget the time I spent home, then in Providence, Rhode Island for my brother's graduation from Brown and home again.  Blah, blah, blah, yes, Emma Watson was there at the graduation.  No, I did not meet her.  Brown did not make as big a deal out of it as the presses did.  Besides, I was focused on my brother and how proud I was of him.  Look at this (teary-eyed) graduate!  Everyone comments on how we look so much alike.  Genes: magical things.

I will keep the majority of my thoughts about the trip to my journal.  Basically I was stunned four years had already passed.  And by the end of it, I have come to realize sometimes it is better to accept the messiness of life.  

Take care, folks.

P.S.  I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Would definitely recommend.

May 19, 2014

The semester is over.

The reality keeps sinking in now.  Minute by minute, hour by hour, I have to keep reminding myself: I'm a junior.  In college.

This past semester marked plenty of differences in my life.  Notably, I wasn't blogging very much.  I also didn't stay in touch very well with the Blogger Family.  Even though I briefly toyed with the idea of doing BEDA, I'm glad I didn't.  My studies became a larger focus in my life and that was to be expected.  For once I was taking classes that I felt incredibly invested in.  Even Educational Psychology, which at first may have seemed like an odd choice for me, ended up being highly applicable to my life.  The course has taught me valuable lessons that I will carry with me until I have my own kids (much, much farther in the future).

But yes, academically speaking, I had my best college semester thus far.  Grades came out a last week and confirmed my suspicions.  I am proud of my efforts.

I also probably had my best social life this semester too.  I set weekly dinner dates with my friends Jenni and Miya for Mondays and Thursdays were reserved for Kari.  Nicole and I continued to host our radio show every Sunday.  I became even closer with David, who -- as I'm sure I've mentioned before -- is quite possibly the nicest and best person I've ever met.  We've talked until 3 am and commiserated over why the world has to be so difficult sometimes.  Now that's friendship.

Sadly not too much else happened these past few months.  I continue to document all the movies I watch this year.  My Film Fridays have been somewhat successful.  It is still fairly difficult to post on a weekly basis.  (I can try better this summer!)

The really terrible, downright awful things include getting very sick the week before two major presentations and papers were due.  I remember barely leaving my room.  Fortunately everyone's well wishes made it less unbearable.

Then there was when I learned that my housing for summer, spring and senior year was actually impossible.  The landlords didn't realize that a city ordinance restricted them from renting to 3-4 students.  This not only adversely affected me, but put everyone I had planned to live with in a tough position to find an alternative…in the midst of finals.  I was very lucky to secure the other summer house that I did (it has air conditionin, and is closer to campus!)  Meanwhile, I am still reconfiguring where I'll be living in the spring after my semester abroad.  I think the best option will be to sublet from my friend Ariana and to essentially live with Zoe again.  Nothing bad about that, just not what I initially would have hoped.  C'est la vie.

Other photos from the past month or so:
Here's a glamourous shot of Erin writing her last final paper after packing up her entire room. 
 I will definitely miss living on the same floor as her and her roommate Abby.

I wrote this on the chalkboard at the gelato shop where my former quad mates Sana, Zoe and I reunited.  
Emily had already left to go home, but I was glad to see Sana and Zoe one last time before summer.
Fortunately I think both will be around this summer and adventure awaits.

Because who doesn't love the cliché Instagram sunset?

Time to go finally submit my application for the University of Edinburgh.

Take care, everyone.

May 02, 2014

Film Friday: What Makes A Good College Student?

I'm astonished.  Where did April go?  And more importantly, how do I only have a week left in my sophomore year of college?  Blah, blah, blah, time is strange.  I will save a super sappy post for when I'm officially all done.

But now, to give you a taste of what I've done in my absence, here's my final film project for my Oppositional Cinemas class.  After complaining to various friends and just generally flailing about getting it done, I've made something that I'm happy to share.  Any feedback is welcome!

April 04, 2014

Film Friday: "The Grand Budapest Hotel" review

One of my highly anticipated films of 2014, Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, did not disappoint.  I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into, but before going I did best to keep my expectations undefined.  We had discussed it briefly in my film class and my professor described it as "candy".  I would agree.  Not only was the film's color palette was delectable -- and I am sure that was intentional, given the focus on the treats at Mendl's -- but the symmetrical shots were ultimately pleasing to the eye, like most other Wes Anderson films.  (Don't believe me?  Watch this video.)

The friends I went with noted a darker and more gruesome tone overall, yet without a "dark" or morose character.  Adrien Brody's character may be the closest to that trope.  Generally speaking, though, the actors were phenomenal.  Most critics have acknowledged Ralph Fiennes standout performance as Gustave H., but I really thought Tony Revolori as Zero the lobby boy was the real star.  Each man had great expressions and the scenes with them together were superb.  To me, Saoirse Ronan's character Agatha didn't seem fully fleshed out, and I think I would've wanted other strong female characters represented.

Bottom line, if you like Wes Anderson and his quirky filmmaking style as I do, you will not regret spending the money to go see it as soon as possible.  Here, I will definitely say that watching it in the theater on the big screen was a delightful experience and I highly recommend it.

4/5 stars

March 30, 2014


I've neglected to follow up on a number of things, including The Dalai Lama's visit to my college campus.  His talk was actually kind of…underwhelming?  Not to discredit His Holiness, but I found there was little he said that I hadn't already taken to heart.  I think it's because I've already embraced 'happiness' in the simplest terms as he discussed.  And don't get me wrong, I definitely teared up.  As I wrote in my journal, it was important for me to experience it.  That meant I kept my phone in my pocket and my mouth shut though.  If you're interested in a more detailed account, a senior at my college blogged about the experience, too.

This semester marks one of my best academically.  My midterm grades impressed me and I am proud to be where I am.  So proud, that I desperately want to continue that trend.  Unfortunately, there is so much to do and so little time to do it.  I am already beginning to work on my final projects…ahh.

As you may have seen in my spring break video, last Saturday Andy and I finally went to the Walker Sculpture Garden.  We had been meaning to go since last summer when he still had a (functioning) car in the Cities.  It worked out that we were both free, though, so we braved the cold and made our way over there, relying on buses the best we could and walking the rest.

After taking the typical photos with the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture and generally wandering about, Andy suggested we go to a place called Uncommon Grounds for "the best chai."  The chai was very good indeed.  My only regret was not getting a larger glass.

Spring break felt other worldly.  Everything about it made me really happy, though.  Since spring break, there have been assignments due non-stop and busy work to finish every day.  Not to mention other events out the wahoo.  Seriously, there were so many events this past Friday alone that I ended up not going to any…

Yesterday I saw senators Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren speak on campus.  They stressed the importance of young voters actually coming out to the polls.  Their speeches made me excited for the possibilities of the future if we all become more active in politics.

In other news:
  • I broke down and got Spotify Premium today because they're doing a half-price student discount.
  • In an hour's time, I will be calling to congratulate admitted students.  Has it really been two years since it was me on the other end of the line?
  • I'll be seeing Dan Croll in concert soon.  He and his family are criminally adorable.
  • My study abroad proposal was approved!  I just have to finish my application for the actual university.  And figure out my visa.  And have pre-departure orientation.  (In essence, this is just the beginning.)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel was great.  Full review coming Friday.
Stay cool, everybody.

March 28, 2014

Film Friday: "Weekend" Review

French auteur and director Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film Weekend is a remarkable commentary on bourgeois society.  I will do my best to explain the general plot of this film, but fair warning: the reason Jean-Luc Godard is an avant-garde auteur stems from his counter-cinema stance, where he twists classic filmic techniques to the extreme.

For instance, from the very first sequence we see an inter-title that says "this film was found in a dump."  Clearly this denotes the quality of the film as sub-par, but as a self-aware inter title, it begins to foreground the processes of creating the film rather than providing a transparent story with a seamless production.  At other points, the film is also self-referential.  And that's what adds to the absurdity and hilarity of the entire film.

Generally, the film follows the story of a married couple as they travel to meet their father.  We soon learn, though, that the two are only interested in his inheritance and wish him to die quickly.  Cruel, right?  Even crueler acts of violence are committed by them or in their precense, making for a very interesting film that chooses moments of extreme violence to comment on society.  The images are extremely powerful and I already know I will never forget the eight minute-long continuous shot of the two driving through a traffic jam.  That's right, that involves cars honking for eight. consecutive. minutes.

One scene that was particularly amusing was the one pictured above.  The main characters got into a car crash and yet all the woman can shriek about is her Hermès handbag.  Forget about her husband lying on the ground in distress. My classmate told me that a similar instance happened with Kim Kardashian and her losing an earring in the ocean.  Apparently one of Kim's sister tried to reason with her and say, "Kim, there are children starving in Africa."  For this reason, I would argue this film remains completely culturally relevant and worthy of your time!

I'm glad we watched this for my Oppositional Cinemas course, though to be honest I haven't seen the very ending yet.  But as we also discussed, Wes Anderson's film style was heavily influenced by Godard.  The portraits of characters, the titling of "chapters" and other elements are particularly reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

4/5 stars

P.S. I'm seeing Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel tonight!  Should I review that for next week?

March 21, 2014

Film Friday: "Liberal Arts" Review

(A quick apology for completely dropping the ball on this whole 'Film Friday' shindig.  I was actually engrossed in my schoolwork quite a bit this semester and it has paid off.  And I plan to continue that trend, so don't get excited just yet.)

This spring break I headed to the school library and checked out a handful of DVDs.  One I was particularly excited for was Liberal Arts, which I've been meaning to see ever since it played on a plane ride that I took sans headphones.
The basic premise is nothing complicated.  Jesse Fischer (Josh Radnor) revisits his alma mater for a professor's retirement where he meets the sophomore Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), who he has a fling of sorts with, and various other college students that essentially reawaken the 35-year-old's passion for his own life.  The supporting cast, including Zac Efron and Allison Janney, add some humanity and wit to this otherwise somewhat stale albeit more realistic spin on a rom-com.

I enjoyed the component music played in the lead character's relationship.  As a person who deeply values a well-crafted mix tape -- and furthermore sentiments attached to those selected songs -- I could get behind the idea.  Others may find it strange.  The movie certainly deals with the age difference, but I think I would've liked a different conclusion (trying not to spoil anything).  The very final ending seemed a bit trite too.

Overall, I think I wanted to like this film more than I actually did.  Sure, I thought the performances were good and the writing halfway decent; it just lacked the final punch I was expecting.  Perhaps it's a movie I'll have to revisit in over to fully appreciate it.  Essentially, it is great for a rainy day spent in bed.  I imagine it would be best if you can relate to some of the idiosyncrasies of liberal arts students this movie puts on display.  I certainly did.  Also, there was a brief shootout to my college, Macalester.  That was pretty darn cool.

Click here to watch the trailer.

3.5/5 stars

February 25, 2014

Still in the tundra.

Keep in mind that I just saw the documentary film Terms and Conditions May Apply and am therefore very mindful of what I'm posting to the internet.  Funnily enough Netflix has been showing a message about accepting the new privacy policy and terms of use.  And I actually read them more thoroughly than I would have before.  As the film points out, though, you, nor I, could amend our actions for everything we've already opted into.  It's just not possible.

Sorry to start off with a bummer.  Generally my life has been excellent!  Like all my college classmates, I stressed and strained over the study abroad proposal.  I submitted mine on Saturday a full three days before the deadline.  What a relief for that to be done.  I hear back in exactly a month whether or not I'm allowed to go forth and apply directly to the University.  Exciting times!

Now the focus shifts to finding subletters and housemates for next year.  Some of my friends have decided to live on campus another year and that sounds like a solid choice.  I was considering it myself until I was contacted about living in a 4-bedroom duplex from a family I babysat for that are moving.  The house is absolutely adorable and everyone will probably get sick of me Instagramming it.  But I've accepted that.  Hopefully I can also live there this summer.  The lease part of this whole ordeal, however, is still up in the air.  I'm shocked at the number of classmates who have already signed theirs. Nothing like competition and comparison to spark action, right?  It appears I'm still processing what outspoken education writer Alfie Kohn spoke about last week.

Otherwise, my classes -- Educational Psychology, 19th Century British Literature, Oppositional Cinemas and Blackness in the Media -- are equal amounts engaging and challenging.  I can tell that none of my classes seem like a burden this semester.  Of course that doesn't mean they aren't, like I said, challenging.  For instance, the final project and curatorial paper for Blackness in the Media looks terrifyingly hard.  But I will cross that bridge when I come to it.  In the meantime, I can revel in reading Jane Eyre and learning about developmental disabilities.  Shout out to Shelby and her interest in speech pathology.

I deeply cherish the days I get to host the radio show with Nicole, text David the most random stuff, play tennis with Andy, laugh my bum off with Emily, or just generally exist in the company of awesome people.  Everything is perfectly aligned.

Music continues to be a large part of my life.  Case and point.

Oh, and The Dalai Lama is coming to my college on Sunday to speak about happiness.  No biggie.

January 31, 2014

Film Friday: January Reviews

1. Manhattan (1979)
This was only my second Woody Allen movie so I was still not used to his style and mannerisms.  Yet by the end of this film, I felt wholly acclimated to, not to mention entranced by, his quirky dialogue and charming characters.  In short, it was gorgeous, intellectual and witty.
3.5/5 stars

2. Amélie (2001)
After hearing many people talk about it, this was one of those films that I thought was horribly overrated.  And for this reason, I thought I'd dislike this film.  But no.  I really, really loved it.  Paired with the humorous narration, the eccentric personalities of Amélie appeared relatable and real.
4/5 stars

3. Father of My Children (2009)
There's something particular about the way the French move that was brilliantly captured here.  The ambling walking, the playfulness of the younger sisters and the apartment they lived in all pleased me in a purely aesthetic way, distracting me from the not-so entertaining plot.
3/5 stars

4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Undoubtedly, this trumps the first. This video eloquently sums up the majority of my thoughts.
4/5 stars

5. Drinking Buddies (2013)
Perfect for a lethargic day, the slow chronicling of a friendship on the verge of being something more intrigued me.  Sadly, it wasn't the most original nor inspiring film so I'm rating it quite low.  It appears my love of Olivia Wilde as an actress (and human being) proves not enough to boost it into 3-star territory.
2.5/5 stars

6. Everything You Want (2005)
Once I realized it was a made-for-TV-movie, I simply embraced most of the hokeyness.  Took me a while, too, in order to understand exactly what constituted the conflict.  Decent enough for watching in bed on a break yet unlikely to change your views on life.
2/5 stars

7. American Psycho (2000)
Throughout this violent tale, I was simultaneously engrossed and revolted.  I think I need to watch this film again to fully appreciate it.   I missed a large portion of the dialogue as he was *SPOILER* murdering various victims.
3.5/5 stars

8. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
These ensemble drama/comedies have a special place in my heart, rooting back to my unconditional love for the TV classic 7th Heaven.  In this movie, life and families were captured as complicated and ever-changing.  Who can't find some humanity in that?  P.S. Younger Josh Hutcherson was a cutie.
4/5 stars

9. Noah (2013)
If you're spending any time on the internet, you have 17 minutes to spare to watch this student-made short film that takes place entirely on a computer screen.  You can read my full review here.
4/5 stars

10. Don Jon (2013)
Joseph Gordan-Levitt proves to be an even more accomplished and remarkable actor, creator, director, everything.  Interviews he did to promote this film helped framed his satirical statements about the objectification of women and the media-produced illusions of love, relationships and anything in between.  Well acted and tightly edited, I became invested in the title character, even though he was still kind of a jerk.
3.5/5 stars

11. Fruitvale Station (2013)
This film details the events leading up to the unjust death of a young man trying to do right by his family.  Portrayed as neither fully a hero or fully a villain, the real-life story of protagonist Oscar brings greater awareness to police brutality and racism in America.
3.5/5 stars

12. Penelope (2006)*
Self love, my friends.  Self love.  Practice that and just maybe someone like James McAvoy will come along!  In all seriousness, if you like modern-day fairytales with good twists, this film is for you.
3/5 stars

13. A Movie (1958)
Watched in my Oppositional Cinemas class as an example of montage film.  Not worth watching unless you're very into bizarre, theoretical short films.
3/5 stars

14. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)*
Wes Anderson's incomparable directing style makes films like these a great joy to watch.  If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?
4.5/5 stars


January 28, 2014

In my element.

Hello from frigid Minnesota! The whole state was cancelled yesterday, but classes weren't -- in case that gives you any indication of what I'm dealing with here.  I could complain about the cold except I mostly have been voluntarily trekking out into the -45 degree weather.

You see, my classmates envy me because I've managed not to have any classes Mondays and Fridays this semester.  Yes, I will rejoice in a my four-day weekend every weekend, but the bulk of my work study hours are allotted to those "free" days and c'mon, I'll still have plenty of homework!  If you're wondering how I managed this, I have two T/TH classes and two 3-hour film classes on Wednesday.  I've always thought "Wednesday hump day" was a poor description of this particular day in the week week.  Now I'm thinking it's just about right.

I have absolutely loved being back.  I am truly in my element here.  Already, this is the fourth time for buying books, scheduling advisor meetings, etc so I can't help feeling like a pro.  I realize I've also established such a tremendous network of friends with all sorts of majors and interests that walking across campus, I usually see four to five friends.  And while some people may doubt my general ability to genuinely care about so many friends, I can only say its their loss.  It wasn't until college that I truly understand the capacity for friendship.

I'm off to read seven chapters for tomorrow's class, assigned only just a few hours ago.

College: the struggle is real.

January 24, 2014

Film Friday: Review of Noah

Noah, a 17-minute short film created by Canadian film students Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg, debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The mildly NSFW film begins from the moment the protagonist logs into his laptop and then proceeds to chronicle the hazards of technology, relationships, and jumping to conclusions.  Oh, did I mention everything takes place on one teenager's computer screen?  Now before you think this creates the most boring premise ever, let me explain!

From what we gather on his desktop, web browsing history and Facebook profile, our protagonist, high school senior Noah, enjoys porn -- yet has a girlfriend -- and chats with his friend about playing 'cod' (Call of Duty).  Still, I can see why if you haven't seen it, this could be mind-numbingly boring.  Except it's not.  We see a potential breakup, an actual breakup, and the potential rebound all in a matter of minutes.  The whole film's soundtrack was cleverly supplied by Noah's own iTunes playlist and made expert use of the 'ding' noise we can associate with Facebook.

I thought this was a relatable yet original and inventive look at how we've become increasingly more reliant on technology, and moreover, how this can adversely affect our relationships.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts!

4/5 stars

January 17, 2014

Film Friday: Films I'm Looking Forward To in 2014

Overall, I thought 2013 marked a fairly decent year for film releases.  Finally no more Twilight installments!  Dozens of quality movies hit cinemas, several of which I've yet to see -- The Wolf of Wall Street, FrozenInside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Her -- and some I did see -- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity, Monsters University, The Great Gatsby, Frances Ha, The Kings of Summer.  I'm always curious what will be named Best Picture, but I'm not sure I can pick from this year's nominees.  Anyway, 2013 is already behind us so here are the films I'm eagerly awaiting in 2014.

  • dir. Wes Anderson, starring everyone amazing ever Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revolori, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, William Dafoe
  • IMDb synopsis: "The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend."
  • Why I'm excited:  C'mon, it's Wes Anderson.  Need I say more?  I will add, though, that unlike any of his other films, I'm determined to see this one in theaters with my really good friends.
  • release date: March 7, 2014

  • dir. Neil Burger, starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Zoē Kravitz, Jai Courtney
  • IMDb synopsis: "Beatrice Prior, a teenager with a special mind, finds her life threatened when an authoritarian leader seeks to exterminate her kind in her effort to seize control of their divided society."
  • Why I'm excited:  I have quite the girl crush on Shailene Woodley and I enjoyed the book enough to see its screen adaptation.
  • release date: March 21, 2014

  • dir. Marc Webb, starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Denis Leary
  • IMDb synopsis: "Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of supervillians against him, impacting on his life."
  • Why I'm excited:  The first one in this series wowed me.  I expect good performances, fantastic chemistry and a killer soundtrack.
  • release date: May 2, 2014

  • dir. Bryan Singer, starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage
  • IMDb synopsis: "The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants."
  • Why I'm excited: Umm...JAMES 'EFFIN MCAVOY! Plus the excellent ensemble cast.  I suspect an enjoyable superhero flick.
  • release date: May 23, 2014

  • dir. Josh Boone, starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, William Dafoe
  • IMDb synopsis as if we don't already know: "Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey.  Their relationships is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group."
  • Why I'm excited:  Like everyone, the book has a special place in my heart and I'm proud that I've been with the book since the beginning.  This film will just be icing on the cake.  
  • release date: June 6, 2014

  • dir. Francis Lawrence, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Natalie Dormer, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • IMDb synposis: Katniss Everdeen reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the autocratic Capitol." 
  • Why I'm excited: Catching Fire made me interested in what Francis Lawrence can do to bring the books to life.  I anticipate this film will be better than the third book.  Besides, I will probably always go pay to see Jennifer Lawrence. 
  • release date: November 21, 2014

  • dir. Rob Marshall, starring Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Lucy Punch, Christine Baranski
  • IMDb synopsis: "A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children's stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel."
  • Why I'm excited: This is one of my favorite musicals, and once again, the cast looks incredible.
  • release date: December 25, 2014

January 10, 2014

Film Friday: Why Films Are Important To Me

My introduction to film analysis class invigorated my passion for film.  Without being too melodramatic, this class' syllabus of films and readings expanded my knowledge of film in a deeply satisfying way.  I have fallen head over heels in love with the craft and art of filmmaking.  Moreover, its nuanced ability to influence culture and in some instances affect real social change thrills me to the core.

All the cells in my body were completely mesmerized as I watched the beauty of Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood for Love.  After only ever reading about or seeing references to Psycho, Rear Window properly introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock and his directorial prowess.  I've never contemplated the serious corrosive nature of capitalism until being fully immersed in the alternate reality of Lars Von Trier's Melancholia.

Beyond the films we saw and the corresponding analyses we read, the class discussions we had illuminated greater truths and provoked deeper questions for me.  I understand the importance of scientific research, but the discoveries I made in this class felt equally important.  With each powerful, brilliant scene that plagued my thoughts, I uncovered a newer understanding of the universe.  I saw the world we inhabit a little bit better.  I saw…humanity.

For the average moviegoer, I would wager elements like camera angles and costume design do not factor into their critiques.  Rather, their focus may be on character identification and believability.  For example, I know one reason I did not enjoy Gravity (2013) was for its depiction of an unrealistic voyage home.  And I think there's nothing wrong with fluffier yet stunning films like this.  I just personally want to challenge myself to think more critically about what I watch: the good, the bad and the ugly.

So I've decided to talk about films on here every Friday.  I hope to span a variety of topics -- from your standard reviews, to (abbreviated) in-depth analyses, to monthly recaps of what I've watched (inspired by Amy) and my thoughts.  I will probably also compile lists of films befitting certain holidays or current events a la mass movie reviewing sites.

In 2013 I saw 127 films.  That's nearly two films per week!  I just can't get enough.  In 2014, I want to beat that record and I think I'm already off to a great start.

January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!
I'm ready for adventure.

What are you looking forward to most in 2014?