Monthly Archives: April 2012

Music Video Monday #48: Lana del Rey’s “Blue Jeans.”

Say what you will about Lana del Rey, but I dare to you deny that this video is absolutely stunning. There are components that bring to mind Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games” video: the lack of color, the generous use of slow motion, the proximity to water. The water imagery is particularly interesting to me, because whereas “Wicked Games” plays out in the ocean, an open and natural space that feels safe and life-giving, “Blue Jeans” is set in a pool, a confined man-made body of water that holds danger just below the surface. These videos, to me, seem like two sides of the same coin: both explore that notion of all-consuming love, but “Blue Jeans” contemplates the dark side, the blindness that can accompany love. Watching del Rey fearlessly swim with crocodiles and then be pulled under by her man as she sings “I will love you ’til the end of time” is haunting. It’s so cinematic and somehow manages to be cerebral and visceral simultaneously, and I just think it’s really well done. Way to go, Lana!

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Friday ID File: Wallpaper.

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When I was younger, I had wallpaper in my room and I hated it. It was a tacky cream-colored paper with a pattern of grandmotherly roses on it and I couldn’t even pin my Hanson posters over top of it… unfair! My negative feelings toward wallpaper have lessened considerably since then, and in the past year or so as I’ve watched wallpaper start to make a comeback, I’ve even thought that it might be nice to wallpaper at least one room in my home (when I have a home) someday. I’ve seen dozens of companies whose wallpaper designs are absolutely beautiful and oh-so-hip, from designerly florals to bold geometric patterns, and I continue to be astounded at what a difference it can make in a room. It’s also pretty versatile: wallpapering all of the walls is the standard, but wallpapering a single wall and leaving the rest of the walls painted or white can also serve as a lovely accent to a room. The only thing that might deter me from giving wallpaper a go is the mess factor; I’ve heard it’s a bitch to remove from your walls once you’re ready for something new, and that doing it incorrectly can damage your walls. But then looking at all of the gorgeous patterns makes me want to throw caution to the wind and wallpaper to my little heart’s content!

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What are your thoughts on wallpaper? Trendy and awesome? Or dated and boring? Whether you love it or hate it, you can deny that these wallpaper patterns are really pretty. Can I get an amen?

Not Knowing, According to Sagan.

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“Many adults are put off when youngsters pose scientific questions. Children ask why the sun is yellow, or what a dream is, or how deep you can dig a hole, or when is the world’s birthday, or why we have toes. Too many teachers and parents answer with irritation or ridicule, or quickly move on to something else. Why adults should pretend to omniscience before a five-year-old, I can’t for the life of me understand. What’s wrong with admitting that you don’t know? Children soon recognize that somehow this kind of question annoys many adults. A few more experiences like this, and another child has been lost to science. There are many better responses. If we have an idea of the answer, we could try to explain. If we don’t, we could go to the encyclopedia or the library. Or we might say to the child: ‘I don’t know the answer. Maybe no one knows. Maybe when you grow up, you’ll be the first to find out.'”

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as the Candle in the Dark

The Museum of Broken Relationships.

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As the majority of the flights that I made within Europe were on EasyJet, I got into the habit of reading their in-flight magazine (which is great, incidentally) cover to cover. One of the most fascinating things I read about? The Museum of Broken Relationships.

Conceptualized by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, the museum began as a traveling exhibition that explored failed relationships through their tangible remnants, the objects that came to mean something greater than themselves in the context of a relationship. As the exhibition gained popularity, hordes of people began donating personal belongings from their own broken relationships, and the collection that began to amass necessitated a permanent museum location, which is situated in Zagreb, Croatia. According to the museum’s website, these exhibits, “although often colored by personal experience, local culture and history… form universal patterns offering us to discover them and feel the comfort they can bring.”

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I’ve been perusing some of the items in the exhibits and many of them are accompanied by an explanation from the person who donated them. One man who donated an ax recounts how he used it to chop up the belongings that his ex had left behind in their shared apartment, one each day for two weeks, and how he kept the chopped up bits and arranged them into neat little piles for when she returned to retrieve them. Another donor recounts throwing a garden gnome at the new car her husband came home in, how it bounced off the windshield and onto the ground, “a long loop, drawing an arc of time – and this short long arc defined the end of love.” The explanation that accompanies a donated cell phone simply reads: “It was 300 days too long. He gave me his cell phone so I couldn’t call him any more.”

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Isn’t it fascinating how otherwise unimportant objects can become imbued with so much meaning when they’re connected to a relationship? The MoBR’s website briefly refers to these objects as ruins, but I think that’s a really powerful characterization of what the objects represent. I keep thinking about Rome and how there are ruins everywhere, monuments made from the remaining fragments of things that were once beautiful and imposing and important. If these objects are ruins, then these ruins are almost paying homage to the relationship, acknowledging that it was once beautiful and imposing and important even though it isn’t anymore. It seems like a powerful and ceremonious way to honor the importance of relationships even after they’re broken, and to overcome the pain of loss through artistic creation. I hope I’m able to see this museum someday.

Want to donate something to the Musuem of Broken Relationships? You can do so here!

EuroTour 2012: The Video.

songs: “Under My Thumb” by The Rolling Stones and “Laura” by Girls

I knew, before I even started traveling, that this was going to be among the most epic three and half weeks of my life and as a result, I had my iPhone constantly on the ready to record all of the incredible experiences I was having. I think it annoyed the people I was with a little, but I’m so glad I did it. I’ve watched this video probably twenty times since I’ve completed it, and it never ceases to bring a huge smile to my face. It was amazing to live it and now I’m so glad that I have this video as a memento, and that some of my best memories of my travels are preserved in moving pictures for all time. I hope you enjoy watching it too!

New York! New York!

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppWhen I first stepped foot on American soil again after six months away, it was in a place I’d never been before: New York! My parents drove up from Georgia to meet me and spend a couple days in the Big Apple with me. I was beyond excited to finally lay eyes on the epicenter of American culture and see all of the iconic places that I’ve only seen in pictures and on television. Our hotel was just a few blocks from Times Square so that was one of the first things we saw, and it was overwhelming, to say the least. So much visual stimuli! Danger, Will Robinson! And there were so many people everywhere. Of all the cities that I visited in Europe, none of them felt as busy or crowded or simply as big city-like as New York; it’s one of kind, that’s for certain.

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Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppMy mom and I were really excited to see a show on Broadway, and we ended up getting tickets to see “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” starring that little Jo Bro darling Nick Jonas. It was Fantastic with a capital F. It was really funny and well-choreographed and the costumes were very Mad Men-esque, not to mention… NICK JONAS! What a dreamboat. And he’s crazy talented. I feel little weird about having a crush on a nineteen-year-old, but whatever, the heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing. I heart Nick Jonas, in a completely unironic way, and I don’t care who knows it!

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Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppThe Empire State Building was also really lovely. To see the location of such infamous love scenes in films like An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle was awesome, but it was absolutely mind-blowing to look out over all of Manhattan and try to imagine how an island that houses eight million people and supports the weight of thousands of tons of buildings and sky-scrapers doesn’t just sink into the Hudson River. It’s kind of a miracle, if you think about it.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppMy parents celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary on this trip. Aren’t they adorable?

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Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppGrand Central Station is an architectural marvel, and there are also tons of delicious little food stalls underneath the station. WIN.

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Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppAfter my dad had to leave New York to return to work, my mom and I visited 30 Rockefeller Plaza. We watched ice skaters for a wee bit (the ice skating rink is so much smaller than it looks on 30 Rock!) and then went inside to try to find Kenneth and Liz Lemon. Just kidding. We did, however, go up to the observation deck, the Top of the Rock, and again I must reiterate how massive and expansive Manhattan is. Epic.

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Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppWe also took an afternoon at MOMA to peruse some legendary art. It was pretty incredible to see original works by masters Van Gogh and Monet and Picasso (so many!), as well as contemporary artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. There were also some pretty interesting modern art installations, like basketballs floating in a fish tank and hundreds of cellophane-wrapped candies arranged in a pile on the floor and free for the taking. Moral of the story: ART IS AWESOME.

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Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppThe subject of this painting by Van Gogh is the spitting image of my boyfriend, Nate. No joke.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppOn our very last day in the city, we decided to take a wee dander across the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked from the Brooklyn side to the Manhattan side and back again, and the whole time I kept thinking of Dan Humphrey and how much abuse he gets for living in Brooklyn from his Upper East Sider friends; surely, I thought, there can’t be that much of a difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Boy, was I wrong! Whereas Manhattan is huge and intimidating and fancy, Brooklyn seems more welcoming and low-key, but still really hip. Just driving through, I noticed so many locally-owned shops lining the streets and not a single chain store. It just seems like such a great community, and while I would never want to live in Manhattan (and could never afford to, anyway), I could definitely see myself living in Brooklyn for a time. I guess we’ll see!

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EuroTour Week 3: Madrid, Valencia, and Reykjavik.

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The third week of my travels got off to a bit of a rocky start in Madrid. I arrived late on a Thursday evening and had had a couch surfing host all lined up, but due to miscommunication, when I arrived at the host’s apartment he told me that he wasn’t able to host me after all. Trying not to be upset, I went to the first hostel I came across and ended up paying 40 euro for a single night’s stay. I sent out a few emergency couch requests, and from 9am until about 3pm the next day, I was walking around the city with my huge backpack, just waiting to hear back from someone who was willing to let me stay with them. I started getting really down about it and started thinking that the rest of my time in Madrid was probably going to be a bummer, but a miracle happened: I was offered a couch by a guy named Herman, who ended up being my favorite couch surfing host I’ve ever had, and of all the places that I traveled in those three weeks, I had, without a doubt, the most fun in Madrid.

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I barely took any photos in Madrid. The city is really large and spread out, so most of what I saw of the city was from the passenger seat of Herman’s Mini Cooper. With the top down. Just sayin’. We spent an entire afternoon just driving around so that he could show me all of the landmarks, and later we picked up Natasha, a couch surfer that he was hosting from Russia, from the airport. The three of us went up to the viewing deck of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid (the City Hall) for a really lovely view of the city center, then out for tapas and drinks in the evening, and then later met up with some of Herman’s friends and went to a seven-story dance club called Kapital, where we stayed until 6am when it closed. It was absolutely crazy.

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After Madrid, I had planned to take a quick day-and-a-half jaunt to Alicante (on the coast of Spain), and Natasha was going to come with me. However, we met a Turkish guy named Zahid at Kapital and he told us that he was leaving the next day for Valencia (also on the coast) because there was a huge celebration/party taking place that weekend, and that we should go to Valencia instead of Alicante and stay with him and his friend Adrian. And so we did.

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The city was in full celebration mode when we arrived. The celebration is called San Jose, for the city’s patron saint, and it’s the city’s way of welcoming the beginning of spring. Apparently there’s an artist that designs these incredibly detailed large-scale art installation pieces, and he works all year with a team of builders to create these pieces. There were over four hundred of them this year, and they’re put on display throughout the city for four days before being burned to the ground. During the day, people just walk around the city center and set off fireworks in the street, so we were constantly being startled by loud explosions, but after a couple hours we were used to it. We set off a few firecrackers ourselves, sticking them inside oranges that had fallen from the trees or throwing them into an empty alley way and then running to hide behind a car. We had so much fun.

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There was a parade in the street, and in the procession there were people twirling fiery batons, men dressed in indigenous headdresses and Arab robes and turbans, as well as little girls in enormous traditional Spanish dresses. It was so surreal. Adrian took us to the most amazing sandwich place called Mare Meua (which translates to “Oh my Mother!”) that had the most delicious mini sandwiches and tinto de berrano (red wine and fizzy water) for 1 euro each. Natasha and Zahid and I each vowed to open a sandwich place like Mare Meua in our respective countries.

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We decided to camp out at an art installation that featured some monkeys dressed as humans and wait for it to be set ablaze at midnight. Since there were so many installations throughout the city and none of them could be set on fire without a fire crew at the ready to keep the flames from getting out of control, it ended up being 2am before our installation finally started burning. By 1:30am, it had started raining and we were worried that they might forego burning this installation all together, but after a few small fireworks were set off from around the front of the installation, we watched as the largest piece began to burn from the inside out. The flames grew higher and higher and the fire crew sprayed their hoses on it to keep it contained, and there was so much heat coming off of it and everyone cheered as the giant monkey’s head burned and burned and finally fell to the ground. There was something sort of magical about it, and I felt a strange solidarity with the crowd of people that surrounded me. It was definitely one of the coolest things I experienced while in Europe, and definitely worth spending a single day in Valencia to witness.

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Reykjavik was my last European destination before returning to the U.S. When I was booking my airfare a month earlier, I just knew that by the end of my travels I would be almost out of money, so I made plans to stay in Iceland for only one night. I definitely want to return to Iceland in the future, to go camping out in the wilderness and see more of the natural wonders of the little island, but since I was only going to be there for a day, I only got to see a bit of the city. Reykjavik  is more like a small town than a city, really: it’s very quaint and quiet and has a wee population of 200,000 (which, interestingly enough, is two-thirds of the population of all of Iceland). I spent most of my time at the Blue Lagoon, which is a geo-thermal spa about forty minutes outside of Reykjavik. It was pretty fantastic. The fifteen or so steps I had to take to get from the inside of the guest center to the edge of the water were absolutely freezing, but once I was submerged in the water, it was like instant heaven. The water was so warm and soothing and steam was rising up from the surface, and there was a soft breeze rolling down from the hills that blew the steam across the water in the most ethereal way. I wanted to sit in that geothermal pool forever.

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