It Feels Like February (And That’s a Good Thing)

One miserable February day in high school, I remember one of my teachers illustrating how we all felt. On the white board, he drew two diagonal lines that intersected toward the bottom, each one representing half the school year. He labeled the low point, where the lines met, “February.” He meant it to encourage us; yes, it’s dark outside, but it only gets better from here.

For the last few months, I’ve been living firmly on that downhill slide, heading toward the low point. I should offer a caveat: Nothing objectively traumatic has occurred. I’m in one piece and grateful for my (ultimately very stable) life. But the low point has appeared in the form of wrestling with the realization that, especially in New York City, I’ll never be able to do it all.

One of the most important realizations I’ve made since living in New York/becoming an adult (for me, those two are one in the same) is that time is your most valuable asset. In a city with infinite activity, you have to make choices, and I feel like I’ve had to make a lot of them in the first part of 2017.

These choices are all centered on time – who you hang out with, what hobbies you pursue, where you go, what relationships you prioritize. Inevitably, people, places, and pursuits come and go as the years pass. I’ve only been in New York just shy of five years, and the way I spend my time now looks dramatically different from the way it did when I first moved. And that’s a good thing. But I’m also much more aware of the ways I spend my time now, and while I think the awareness is a good thing, constantly obsessing over how to spend time – and fretting about how I might be wasting it – seems like a rather fruitless endeavor.

“Epiphany” is too strong a word, but as I was washing a few dishes this evening, after just having watched an episode of 30 Rock and an hour of Hail, Caesar!, I thought of that illustration from my high school teacher. I just watched some of my favorite show, and a good chunk of a great movie. Last night, 15 people crammed in my apartment to watch the Oscars. Yes, the process of managing time and priorities never stops. But life is still good, and it only gets better from here.

While I have you here, and since I just mentioned it, let’s briefly discuss the Oscars, shall we? I really don’t have that much to say, except the screenplay winners gave my favorite speeches, and I’m bummed the Best Picture fiasco overshadowed 1) a win by a phenomenal film and 2) a fantastic hosting job by Jimmy Kimmel.

Tonight I decided to honor Hail, Caesar!’s nomination for Production Design with a re-watch while I scrolled through slideshows of the red carpet and Vanity Fair party. It was heaven. (I still think a convincing Supporting Actor case could have been made for Ralph Fiennes, although why would you really want to compete with Mahershala Ali.)

Despite all my love of movies and award shows, this was the first year I’d seen all the Best Picture nominees before the actual Oscars ceremony. Manchester by the Sea was my favorite film this season, but I am thrilled for Moonlight and would have been thrilled for La La Land, too. Even though it wasn’t my favorite of the year, I’ve become something of a La La Land defender in the past few weeks; no, the movie isn’t perfect, but it’s got music, dance, Technicolor, and dreams. I don’t think it deserves all the backlash.

Every year during the Oscar ceremony, there’s a moment where I consciously think about how I spent four months watching these movies for, more or less, the very purpose of enjoying this one night. And every year I question why I do such a thing. And then a few months later I’m yearning for awards season again. We all have our vices.

Last thing.

One of my resolutions for 2017 was to continue, and expand upon, the work I did in 2016 to document as much as I could about what I read, watched, and listened to. From an ease-of-documentation standpoint, at least for TV and movies, I find tumblr to be a more effective medium than this blog. I will definitely still be writing here, but I’m keeping a more updated, visually focused look at my cultural intake on tumblr.

Good night.

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Movie Appreciation: Amadeus

I guess I’m kind of revealing my own personal Internet secret here, but for over two years now, I’ve had a tumblr that I use expressly for my pop culture obsessions. It started as a home for pictures of New York and the Beatles but morphed into something more when I started caring about movies. I didn’t want to put my name on it and a 49ers game was on TV when I decided to make it, so I threw “harbaugh” in the username, and added 71 because 7/1 is my birthday.

The posts are mostly expressions of whatever’s in my head, an overflow of the moments and quotes and scenes that fill my mind. Looking at the first page of my tumblr this morning, I thought the three most recent posts were an especially good representation of three movies that have lately had an affect on me: Silver Linings Playbook (I’m pretty much always watching that movie but I went to Philadelphia yesterday and had it playing in my mind all day), Amadeus, and Some Like it Hot. And because it’s Sunday and I want nothing more than to sit on my bed with a cup of coffee and write while looking out my window across a sunny New York City, I’m just going to start writing appreciations of those three movies. First, Amadeus.

Amadeus floated to the top of my mind because it was just added to Netflix. When I wanted to watch it for the first time a couple months ago, I ended up buying it on iTunes because, to my knowledge, it wasn’t streamable or rentable. But somehow watching a movie on Netflix seems easier and more accessible than watching a movie I already own.

It quickly became one of those easy-to-watch movies for me, where you just know and love it so well that you can pick up at any place, have it on in the background while doing other stuff and not miss anything (actually, Silver Linings Playbook and Some Like it Hot are like that for me, too, which is probably why I feel the urge to write about them).

I started retracing my steps to remember how I decided to watch it in the first place. It started in January, when I re-watched The Grand Budapest Hotel in preparation for awards season. I like that movie a lot, and who doesn’t love Ralph Fiennes, but the whole beginning part, set in the 60s with Jude Law as the young author, is my favorite part. And I’d forgotten that the whole movie is basically presented as a story told by F. Murray Abraham’s character.

He doesn’t have much screen time, but there was something I liked about Abraham in the film, so I went down my usual Google/IMDb rabbit trail and found that he had won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1985 for his performance in Amadeus. At that point, the only way I knew about Amadeus was from a 30 Rock joke – when Tracy briefly lives with Liz and she gets mad at him for charging pay-per-view adult movies to her cable bill, she asks about a movie called “I’ma Do Us” and Tracy replies, “It’s a pun on Amadeus, dummy!” I knew that was a movie and I guess I assumed it was about Mozart, but truly – that was the only way Amadeus ever entered my consciousness before a couple months ago.

[SIDE NOTE: I just Googled “30 Rock Amadeus” to confirm that line, and learned there is AN ENTIRE AMADEUS SUBPLOT in the episode “Succession,” from season 2. So of course I just sat here and watched the whole episode. Fitting for a Tracy and Frank storyline, it again involves adult films, with Tracy as Mozart and Frank as Salieri as they attempt to create a pornographic video game. I’d never watched that episode with the context of Amadeus, so obviously the parody was completely lost on me until now. Just another layer of that show’s brilliance.]

Where was I? Oh, the actual movie. I watched it after learning F. Murray Abraham won an Oscar for his performance, and I loved it right away. It was totally different from what I expected, and totally unlike anything else I’d seen. I assumed it was a boring biography movie. I wasn’t expecting Mozart to be portrayed as a disruptive, punk-ish revolutionary who wore pink wigs and had a ridiculous laugh.

But that’s what I love about it. In this movie, Mozart is the Beatles, basically. No one knows what to do with him, or how to accept this totally revolutionary force. He doesn’t act like anyone else and he doesn’t make music like anyone else. He is completely original and effortlessly brilliant.(Roger Ebert named this to his “Great Movies” list, and the Jordan-to-Barkley, Kennedy-to-Nixon comparisons he makes with Mozart and Salieri really helped me understand Mozart’s creative power.)

I think this scene, from early in the film, is a perfect illustration:

 

I didn’t really think much of it in my first viewing, but I’ve been watching pieces on Netflix over the last couple days and am now head-over-heels in love with the colorful wigs. Mozart’s, of course:

mozart pink wig

But also Constanze, his wife, who – and maybe it’s just the way it looks with her outfit – wears a colorful look of her own.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 2.04.54 PM

F. Murray Abraham won the Oscar, and I wholeheartedly think he deserved it, but Tom Hulce was nominated as Mozart, and his performance is probably my favorite of the two. Well, actually, it’s probably more that Mozart is my favorite character. They’re both insane performances. Watching Amadeus is probably the first time I’d consciously realized that the film was great because the performances were great. With any other actors, it would have been different, and…less great.

At the height of my obsession with the film, I watched a feature called “The Making of Amadeus.” Typical DVD bonus stuff, like behind-the-scenes photos, interviews with Milos Forman, the actors, etc. The most interesting part is the discussion of casting, especially when Forman talks about casting the smaller roles, and how it was important for all those actors to be distinct. He said it drove him crazy when you couldn’t tell minor characters apart in a film. I totally agree. (Other best part of that feature: Forman talking about his decision to shoot in Prague, saying it was perfect because the city still looked exactly the way it did in Mozart’s time thanks to “communist inefficiency.”)

One other major thing I love about this movie is how the characters speak in totally modern, Americanized English, using contractions and phrases like “they shit marble.” Of course they didn’t actually speak like that, but who cares? It’s the best way to convey the essence of the characters and their time.

There are a million other aspects to this movie I adore, but a lot of them are subtleties in performance that are hard to put into words. It should also go without saying that the music is fantastic, too. The whole thing is big, colorful, perfectly acted, and a pure joy to watch.

On Broadway: “It’s Only a Play”

Truly my favorite thing about New York is being able to wake up, decide you want to see a Broadway show, and go.

That’s what I did Saturday when I saw a matinee of “It’s Only a Play.” I’ve been wanting to see it since it opened in the fall, and I think cold January Saturdays where you have nothing planned are the perfect days to do things like that – stuff you don’t prioritize in the warmer months or around the holidays.

The play was hilarious, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t partially want to go because so many actors I enjoy are in it. Like Martin Short, Stockard Channing, Matthew Broderick and my newest favorite, F. Murray Abraham. Plus, Jonathan from 30 Rock!

The dialogue drips with cultural references and there’s a high name-drops-per-minute ratio. The cast worked really well together, and it’s just a lot of fun. Martin Short has the stage to himself for many of the play’s first minutes, and he did one of the funniest, most engaging bits I’ve witnessed live. Like he was just telling the audience, enjoy this. Watch what I can do. 

But perhaps my favorite part of the whole experience was reading F. Murray Abraham’s credits in the Playbill.

IMG_3736

The man has won an Academy Award for Best Actor and lists his first credit as “Macy’s Santa.” That’s why he’s great.

And why I’m scheming ways to spend more of my winter days at Broadway shows.

Feeling the Birthday Love

If there ever was a day to remind you how blessed you are, it’s your birthday. My 21st was on Friday, and it began with the opening of a box my mom gave me when I saw her the previous weekend. She had commanded me not to open it until my birthday, and I was proud of myself for waiting. Inside, I found 21 little birthday presents – one for each year I’ve been alive. It was perfect, and such a thoughtful gift, including everything from a Starbucks card to a bag of dry roasted edamame, the greatest snack in the whole world.

These are the unwrapped versions but my mom actually took the time to individually wrap each of the gifts.

The day was also special because my friend Miranda, who lived across the hall from me at school this year, sent me an edible bouquet of chocolate-covered strawberries. The fact that she sent me food, not flowers, and filled the card with 30 Rock references is probably a good indicator of why we are friends.

There was also a pink princess balloon attached; Miranda later told me that she wanted it to include a Disney princess balloon, but apparently Edible Arrangements only supports generic-brand royalty.

I received one more special delivery; this one, a non-edible bouquet of flowers from my parents (it should be noted that they are now in full bloom and look even more gorgeous than they do here):

Since I know you were wondering, the #1 way to put a smile on my face would be to send me flowers. The smile will be bigger if you also send coffee.

While Friday was the “official” day, Thursday was also filled with some birthday action. We Sports Illustrated PR interns didn’t have to work on Friday, so on Thursday afternoon, one of my co-workers asked me to walk with him to another department on our floor to pick up some magazines. Our final destination wasn’t magazines, but a small conference room where everyone else on the PR team sat waiting with cupcakes, a balloon and a birthday card. I was blown away by their thoughtfulness, especially because I’ve only been there a few weeks.

Also not to be forgotten are the decorations/gifts from my wonderful suitemates. I went out to dinner on Thursday night and returned to find this at my door:

The birthday surprise from my suitemates: custom-made birthday poster, sweets from Dylan's Candy Bar and "21" spelled out in Dove chocolates.

On Friday night, I went out for dinner and drinks with a group of about 10 people. I can’t even begin to describe how lucky I feel, knowing that after only a month in the city, I have that many people who want to celebrate with me. We had a fantastic night – dinner at Hill Country and drinks at a couple places near our building in Midtown. (Don’t get your hopes up; I’m pretty much the least exciting person to go out with in history. I remember every minute of the night, and my drink total only came to 1.25 drinks.)

The birthday crew at Hill Country.

Thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate in person or left me a note via Facebook or Twitter. Here’s to making it a great year!

What’s a Weekend Without an LLM?

Let us take a moment to review one of the most important concepts in the English language: the Liz Lemon Moment.

Liz Lemon Moment, n. – a situation one might find him/herself in that involves embarrassing, awkward, absent-minded or otherwise culturally unacceptable behavior. The name comes from 30 Rock main character Liz Lemon, aka my hero, who often finds herself in such awkward situations. Editor’s note: “Liz Lemon Moment” was actually the winning word in the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The idea of an LLM is best described by these 30 Rock clips:

I am inclined to define the Liz Lemon Moment because one of the greatest LLMs of my lifetime just occurred.

I’m in my dorm’s laundry room. (Note to self: never do laundry on a Sunday night again. That’s when EVERYONE does laundry.) I’m carefully sorting my clothes, making sure all the whites are together and ready for detergent. Then, I realize my little bottle of Tide is sitting in my room, eight floors up.

Detergent in hand, I return to the laundry room. I’m halfway to dumping a cup of Tide into the machine when I hear a voice behind me.

“You know that’s a dryer, right?”

Oh, um, yeah, I just usually put soap in with my clothes when I put them in the dryer.

I moved my clothes to the proper machine and scurried out of the laundry room as quickly as I could.

Embarrassing? Yes. But Liz would have been proud. If Liz Lemon can survive a day with lettuce in her hair, surely I wouldn’t let the dryer incident ruin all the great moments from the weekend.

Our Tuesday crew at the Met. (Photo credit: Jonathan Knight)

I’ve been lucky to have found a great group of people in my building who want to explore the city. This weekend, we took a stroll through the recently opened High Line Park in Chelsea, a converted freight train track that’s now a walkway offering views of nature (flowers and plants line the path) and the city (gorgeous views of the Empire State Building). We also saw Super 8 (definitely worth your money) and made a couple of visits to our local Pinkberry.

On Saturday, I went with a couple of friends to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is stunning. If you haven’t been, you MUST go on your next trip to New York. I actually went twice this week (we went for an hour on Tuesday night but had to go back for a longer stay) and still didn’t see nearly enough. I’m no art connoisseur, but these were a few of my favorite pieces:

This ad encouraging people to buy war bonds in 1918 was printed as a supplement to "Electrical World"

Edgar Degas, "Dancers, Pink and Green" (ca. 1890)

James Ensor, "The Banquet of the Starved" (1915)

It should also be noted that, in the midst of museum-hopping and Pinkberry-eating, the Mariners (1/2 game back in the AL West!!) took two games of three from the mighty Phillies, including a complete game shutout from Jason Vargas. It’s still mind-boggling that the M’s are good this year (knock on wood) so I have to give a shout-out whenever I can.

That’s about it for the weekend – relatively low-key, but a lot of fun. S’pose I should go put my laundry in the washer…I mean, dryer.

(Credit for the black and white Met photo goes to Jonathan Knight of JKNIGHTPHOTO.)

Brooklyn, Skylines and Stalking Liz Lemon

Eight weeks down, two to go.

What?!

Somehow, eight weeks flew by and left me with just two more weeks in New York City. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to go home, but I’m also sad that time has gone so quickly and am determined to make the most of what remains.

I’ve failed at blogging this past week, so here’s a recap of what’s been going on in the Big Apple:

Last weekend, my dad visited! It was great to spend time and explore the city with him. Our first stop on Friday afternoon was the Museum of Modern Art. It’s not far from where I work, and admission is free after 4 pm on Fridays, so we walked over and looked around for a while after I finished work.

My dad (sporting Oregon State gear, as always) and I at the MoMA

I’m not an art connoisseur by any means, but I really liked seeing Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans in person.

Me with all the Campbell's soup you'd ever want.

We spend most of Saturday exploring Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, which was awesome. I hadn’t really had the chance to venture into Brooklyn, so exploring it with my dad was a lot of fun. He took a walking tour of Brooklyn back in June when he helped me move in, so he was able to tell me a little bit about the area’s history. One of the area’s most impressive landmarks is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, which commemorates the sacrifice of soldiers and sailors in the Civil War. My dad explained that the statues on the top of the arch are facing south, as if to rub the northern victory in the Confederacy’s face. Awesome.

The arch in Park Slope. Statues of Lincoln and Grant on horseback are on the inside.

We also walked around Prospect Park, looked at some cool hipster clothing stores (I guess that was mostly just me) and explored the neighborhood, which mainly consists of old brownstone homes. These houses are beautiful and historic – I have long-term plans to live in one of them.

Brooklyn's brownstones; a far cry from the apartments of busy Manhattan.

I think I’ve picked this one as my future home…52 Berkely Place:

A pink brownstone in Park Slope. I'll take it.

My dad and I also explored Chelsea Market, took the Staten Island Ferry and went for an exhilarating run (sense sarcasm) along the Hudson River. All in all, a great weekend with my padre in the big city!

I know this post is all about what I did on the weekends and not really about what I’m doing at work; I’m still loving my internship, but there aren’t really any great pictures and the stories aren’t as exciting. Unless you count the conversation I had with the guy in the cubicle behind me about the possibility of a Liz Lemon-Jack Donaghy relationship on 30 Rock. Turns out he loves Tina Fey, too.

Friday night, some friends and I treated ourselves to ice cream from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, a cute little place that’s under the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s an observation-deck-esque platform next to the shop that gives you an expansive, breathtaking view of the city.

Looking out at the skyline, I had a serious New York City “moment.” No, Frank Sinatra did not come back from the dead and serenade me in the moonlight, but I could see the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the Empire State Building. Someone was even playing Frank’s “New York, New York” in the background. It sounds cheesy, but I took a minute to just stand there and take it all in. The city never looked better and I felt like a true New Yorker, at least for a moment.

And even though it’s not the same as being there, I took a video of the whole expanse with my camera so you could get a little taste of the view (you also get a taste of my mad zoom in – zoom out skills):

If you’re still reading this novella, you’re almost to the best part. Okay, it might not be as great as the shimmering lights of the New York City skyline, but if you’re a total nerd like me, it’s close.

Yesterday, I had the morning and afternoon free so I decided to explore the Upper West Side, a neighborhood I hadn’t really been to yet. I’m sure a lot of famous people live there, but the most famous of all is my hero, head writer of The Girlie Show and 30 Rock main character Liz Lemon. (Yes, my hero is a fictional character.)

Many 30 Rock episodes feature scenes in Liz’s apartment, and the shot shown before each apartment scene is the outside of an apartment building at 160 Riverside Drive, on the Upper West Side. As sad as it is, I actually looked up directions to the apartment on my phone while I was walking and took a little stroll past Liz’s place. I didn’t go right up to it and take pictures for fear of looking like a total lunatic, but I did grab a good shot:

I was in full-on stalker mode. Anything for a picture of Liz's apartment!

Anyway, now that I sound like a totally deranged person who stalks fictional characters, I’ll end this post. Thanks for reading about my adventures – I appreciate it more than you know!

NYC: The First Two Days

A week ago, I was cramming for finals. Now, I’m staring out at a bunch of tall buildings in New York.

The last few days have been crazy to say the least. On Friday morning, I officially finished my sophomore year of college. That was enough to make it a pretty cool day, but later that night my dad and I hopped on a redeye from PDX to JFK and arrived in New York City on Sunday morning.

Armed with coffee (thank you, Dunkin’ Donuts), we hopped in a cab and rode into the city. The New York skyline is breathtaking and I couldn’t wait to see it. Even thought I’ve seen it before, this was the best time; everything looked so HUGE. Well, obviously, it is huge, but you get the idea.

I took this picture from the back of our cab. The Empire State Building is in the distance.

As I stared at it, it began to sink in that I was actually going to be living there for ten weeks. Of course, I’ve known this since April, so you’d think it would have sunk in earlier, but seeing the city for the first time really made it seem real.

After some stealth backing-up-in-the-middle-of-the-street maneuvers by our cab driver, we arrived at the dorm where I’ll be staying this summer. We did a bit of unpacking and then headed out to test-run my walk to work and grab a few things at Bed, Bath and Beyond. To get a sense of a trip to BB&B in a big city, just imagine my father and I trekking up several blocks with massive plastic bags in our arms, hangers and small ironing boards poking out at all angles.

The view from my dorm room, on the 21st floor of the building.

We also had a delicious deli sandwiches for lunch from a small deli/grocery in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood. Those sandwiches totally validated Liz Lemon’s worldview: “All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich. I believe that all anybody really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”

And yes, it’s dorky, but I made my dad pose with the AWESOME cart escalator at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Because it has three floors and you can’t take a cart with you up the escalator, they had a little contraption that took your cart up on its own. These are probably commonplace for New Yorkers, but I was amazed.

My dad, on the human escalator, poses with our cart on the cart escalator.

That evening, we saw West Side Story at the Palace Theater on Broadway, which was fantastic. We also walked around the Rockefeller Plaza. And even though it’s not a great picture, this is me in front of the entrance to 30 Rock (aka, where Liz Lemon walks into work every morning).

This picture is a bit washed out, but this is where Liz Lemon goes to work! This is where Kenneth held his page strike! This is where the opening shots of 30 Rock are filmed!

Still with me? Thank you. I’m getting pretty excited.

This morning I began my internship at Rodale, Inc., a publishing firm that publishes health and wellness titles like Prevention, Men’s/Women’s Health and Runner’s World. I’m one of their corporate communications interns this summer, which will allow me to use and expand my public relations skills.

The very front of the Rodale office on 3rd Avenue. I'm on the 9th floor.

I was nervous about starting because I haven’t had much real-world PR experience and the work I’ve done is more agency based (if you don’t know anything about public relations, it’s alright. I appreciate that you’re still reading, 528 words in.) This summer, I’ll be working with the PR teams for three magazine titles: Bicycling, Runner’s World and Organic Gardening.

With the Tour de France starting soon, Bicycling will have a lot on their plates. I don’t know what I’m going to do every single day this summer, but so far I’ve been working on learning how to use Cision, a public relations tracking/monitoring software, getting acquainted with what topics those three titles typically cover and learning how they typically pitch media and organize their work.

The public relations staff worked with at Rodale has been supportive and helpful! It’s been a great environment and I’m excited for the coming days. One thing I discovered is that I won’t really be around the other interns. There are interns working in many different departments, so we’re spread out throughout the building. Another corporate communications intern will be starting next Monday, so I’m looking forward to having another PR person with me!

I was excited to find out that I get my very own cubicle, complete with my own work e-mail and phone extension. I have thumbtacks, Post-It notes and filing cabinets. So far today, I walked past my own cube roughly five or six times, twice got lost trying to find the bathroom twice and came home with 13 magazines to peruse and learn more about.

I'm hoping to get a wider shot (wow, this is like the fifth picture where I apologize for my amateur photography skills), but this is my cubicle at Rodale!

Okay, I know that was long. Thank you for reading to the end. (Mom, I know that probably just means you.) I promise the rest of my posts won’t be so wordy…but hey, you probably only spend summer in New York once.

Thanks again for reading and feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.