Wednesday, April 27, 2011

in which I discover my favorite things in the faraway land known as Queens

So, a few weeks ago, I started a new volunteer position helping out with Gallop NYC, which is an organization that teaches therapeutic horseback riding lessons to people with disabilities. Right now, I'm most useful with the horses, since I'd never worked with anyone who had special needs before very recently, but I hope to gain some experience and then look to get certified as an instructor with NARHA. All in all, it's pretty rad and also pretty exhausting, but I feel like I'm doing something, and there are a lot of moments in which I wonder if it's more therapeutic for me or for the riders.

The only catch is that the volunteer opening was not at the Brooklyn location. It's in Queens -- and no matter which public-transportation option I exercise (all involve two trains and a bus), it takes me about an hour and a half to get there. So, to be there at 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday, I have to leave at 7:30 (7:15 if I want to buy coffee and a bacon wrap, which isn't really an if, let's be honest). For those of who you know me even remotely well, you know that takes a Herculean amount of effort for me.

So, suffice to say, that while I was setting out on my first weekend volunteer expedition, I was beginning to question my sanity.

But then! I reached the final leg of my journey, and right when I got off the bus to begin my 15-minute walk to the stables, I saw them: all of my favorite things.

A Panera (yes, please, I would like some bread on the side of my bread sandwich), a Five Guys, a library, and a Michael's (craft store), all within about a two-block radius.

Clearly, it was a sign. (Addendum: I have other favorite things too. But these are some of them. I'm like Oprah in that way.)

On my way back from the stables, I walked through the Michael's parking lot and inhaled. It all seemed so nostalgically Midwestern -- the families with kids getting into cars (cars! existing, and being owned by normal people who use them to get places!), and the teenage girls with big bags of colored t-shirts and puffy paint (I, once, was one of you. Confession: much, much more than once).

Then I walked in and saw this:

Isn't it beautiful?! High ceilings! There's just so much space! And no mirror on one side to make the place look bigger!

I didn't buy this, but I admired the fact that it existed:

I was tempted to get a row of these to put on my windowsill (SO TINY AHH), since I really want to try to grow something either pretty or useful (like dudes, it seems that plants are generally one or the other) (j/k, you guys, pretty dudes can totally be me). But then I remembered that I can't stand the sound of clay pots, so, I was relegated to simply admiring them, like the zebra-print hot glue gun.

This is probably just as well, since I usually just bring a small amount of cash for lunch and a Metrocard when I go to the barn. I did, however, manage to budget $3 to go towards buying two spools of ribbon, one of which is hot pink with skulls & crossbones. But this, too, is a good development because then I can continue to add to my ribbon collection whenever I'm out there, and it will help to act as an incentive. (You guys -- what should I do with all this ribbon? I just think it's pretty. I use it for bookmarks, and to tie around wine bottles to make them look fancy, and I have an idea that I will bring back hair ribbons. However this is unfortunately at odds with my goal of looking more like a grown-up on a day-to-day basis, and less likely to be mistaken for an intern.)

This is unrelated, but maybe someone can help me solve the mystery -- I was walking down Atlantic Ave. sometime last week or maybe it was the week before, and it looked like they were filming something. Everyone seemed busy plus I was on the other side of the street, so I didn't ask what it was. Instead, I took a low-quality cell phone picture (keeping it real, like all the other photos I post on here) and told myself I would figure it out later. How I imagined I would do this, I'm not quite sure.

Any ideas? (Either what it is, or how in the world I thought I was going to figure it out from that picture.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

heart, don't fail me now -- courage, don't desert me

This song will never stop being awesome. 1997 forever.

It seems like mainstream music videos used to be a lot less glossy. I miss that quality. I also love that Aaliyah is wearing a drawn-on eye patch here.

So beautiful, so talented, and such a tragedy -- she was definitely a class act.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

new desktop? MAYBE

Via Nina

...and what is possibly my new most-visited website.

Someday I would like to own a herd of corgis. And then I'll throw a frisbee and they'll all run to catch it, with their tiny little legs moving like cartoons and their tongues flopping in the wind.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why I Am Bad at T.V. (but also great)

I recently made the decision, which may or may not have been influenced by a hearty amount of wine, to participate in Script Frenzy, a yearly event during which people from around the world attempt to write a 100-page play during the month of April. I should point out here that the last time I attempted to write a play was about 10 years ago, when I was a first-year at the Renaissance School for the Arts and took a playwriting class with the late Fred Gaines. I learned from this experience that writing a play is actually really, really hard -- especially if you write like I do, by which I mean if you find dialogue extremely challenging to write and rely heavily on description and pretty language to make it seem like something is happening when you write narrative. However, I'm coming back to give the medium another try for a number of reasons. I've been exploring the idea of dialogue and monologue within the medium of poetry recently, and also the idea of human voices acting as both a time marker, an instrument, and a mode of transportation for words. My friend Monica and I were discussing recently how exciting it must be to write a play and see it come to life through the eyes of directors and actors, and how in the case of film, the director has the privilege and responsibility to allow his or her imagination to become canonical. Think of books that you've seen remade into movies. If you read the book first and then saw the movie, are you able to remember what you thought the characters looked like before you saw the movie? Are you able to remember what you imagined the world to look like? I find that, in many cases (Harry Potter, anyone?), I can't. In a way, the director's imagination has superseded my own. I was telling Monica about the poem that I have fermenting that involves two parts, which I've recorded as my own speaking voice as a duet. Certainly, the choice (in this case made out of the necessity of 3 a.m. alone in my bedroom) to record both parts myself creates a certain canon effect. But what would happen if the voices were a man and a woman? Two men? What if the voices were very old? What if they had accents other than American? What if they had speech impediments? I've enjoyed imagining how actors would create the characters in my poems.

I've also been considering the role of good writing in TV, film, and stage. What makes it good? I might argue that what makes good writing is the ability to connect -- but how exactly does one accomplish that?

Consider the case of the show Huge (you can, and I recommend that you do, watch the whole thing on Hulu). After close to a year of hearing wonderful things about this show, and reading reviews by pop culture critics who hold similarly radical ideas (and how I wish these ideas didn't have to be radical!) as I do about the importance of diverse forms of media representation for minorities of all conceivable categories, I finally got around to watching the show. And I was totally floored. (This, right here, is why I am both good and bad at TV: I don't own one, and I don't watch TV all that frequently. It often takes repeated and persistent nudges from varied sources to convince me that maybe I should watch something. But, when I do and if I love it, invariably the show will have been cancelled by then. See: Arrested Development, Firefly, and now Huge.)

The show takes place at a "fat camp," and deals primarily with the friendships that form among the teenagers that are the campers. But I don't think that description would have compelled me to watch the show -- after all, I've never been overweight, and I've definitely never been to fat camp. What makes Huge extraordinary, though, is that on some level, I could identify with every single character. Especially as someone who has gone through the different stages of camp life -- from camper to counselor to program director -- there was so much that rang true for me, or reminded me of someone close to me. There are some scenes that are so true that they were sometimes difficult to watch. There's the fickleness & fidelity of close teenage friendships and the heartbreak that so frequently accompanies it, the goofiness of being a camp counselor and putting on a happy face and jazz hands through the most challenging of situations, the conundrum of what to do when a camper's parents just won't leave, and how to tell a camper sensitively that he or she needs to employ better hygiene. There's the utter fear that the boy you like will read your journal. There's the feeling of ascending in the camp hierarchy to feel the pressure of living up to those that came before you. There's the navigation of making peace with your body, despite whether it conforms to what's accepted culturally as acceptable.

And Huge's ability to make all the characters ring true is its triumph. And I think that's a big part of good writing, and something to shoot for in my own screenplay. How do you make the audience ache when your character makes a bad decision? How to make them grieve for failures and celebrate for victories? It all seems like both the hardest and the most important thing (amazing how many times these two categories seem to overlap).

For those of you who are going to watch and are interested in reading some commentary -- I recommend Lesley Kinzel, who writes the blog Two Whole Cakes. You can read her comments on Huge here. She's an extremely perceptive and funny writer -- I'm actually going to see her live with Marianne Kirby (event info here) in a few weeks. Occasionally, she writes something in her recaps that makes me cackle with glee, such as her description of George, the counselor on Huge who is the most conventionally-attractive male character, as looking "about as tough as a baby lemur." (Funny because it's true, and also, how cute are baby lemurs?!)

Oh, also, as a very important PS -- Gina Torres, who plays Zoe on Firefly, plays the director of the camp. I think she is a totally spectacular actress, and it seems like she picks great projects, so I look forward to seeing what she does next. (Although, it is probable that in everything I see her in, a part of my brain will say, "Why, Zoe?! You're supposed to be with Wash!") Also, one of the campers is played by Hayley Hasselhoff, who is David Hasselhoff's daughter. And if I'm mentioning that, I definitely need to mention that the show's main character, Will, is played by Hairspray's Nikki Blonsky. And Gina Torres's character's dad is totally the dad in Sixteen Candles, and his character is awesome because it's very reasons-why-your-dad-is-funny. The cast is overall spectacular. There are just so many reasons why this show is awesome -- beyond what I've mentioned so far, it's so refreshing to see race, class, disability, sexual orientation, and gender expression explored in a sensitive way on a mainstream TV show. It's what Glee tries to be, but fails. Oh, also, when was the last time you saw a TV show take a nuanced view on eating disorders, and even showed that in order to have one, you don't have to be thin? Never? Yeah, me either.

This concludes my diversion from screenplay-writing! And now, back to work/play.

EDIT: Oh, and just one last thing! Somebody found this blog the other day by Googling "I have so much street cred..." I have never been so proud of anything. Srsly. #streetcredFTW

Friday, April 1, 2011

oh, goodness...

...this photo is one of my favorite things about today:

This was published on March 11, 1969 in the Schenectady Gazette. Via the Sarah Lawrence Girls tumblr, which I thoroughly enjoy for its dedication to sleuthing out SLC references in pop culture.