Fall in Love with Fall

Mmmmm… fall.

Hello Autumn

After this last winter, I’m no longer certain if winter is my favorite season of the year. (December may still be my favorite month, however.) I have always been really fond of autumn, however, and with the autumnal equinox upon us, I find myself feeling excited. Not for the cliched, basic things like pumpkin spice lattes (remember that I don’t drink coffee beverages, no matter how much sugar and milk you put in them) but for other things like:

  • The smell – Do you know what I’m talking about here? Every season has a pretty unique smell and autumn’s is one of my favorites. The air becomes clear and crisp as the humidity of summer gets chased away. You can smell fruits ripening and leaves falling. That’s just outside. When you step inside, people start spicing their foods and drinks with cinnamon and nutmeg and you can smell it as soon as you walk in. (Maybe they have a candle, but that’s okay, too.) They bring the outside smells in, with their fresh-picked apples and the crunchy leaves in their hair. It smells warm inside, but it smells cool outside.

    Philosophy knows what I’m talking about

  • The colors – I’ve never been one for super bright colors except as an accent. But when autumn rolls around, we shelve the neons and the pastels and bring out the rich neutrals. I dislike orange (I’m sorry, orange-lovers) but I am head-over-heels for that cranberry/wine/burgundy/maroon/oxblood color. I wish I could wear it all-year-round (and I’ll be honest, I probably wear it more in the warmer months than I’m “supposed” to) so getting to see the fall color palette roll around really gets me excited.

    The only time of year I really tolerate browns

    The only time of year I really tolerate browns

  • The leaves – Of course, who doesn’t love watching the leaves change color? I get particularly excited about this because there is a road near my house that is lined with all maple trees. If the weather cooperates (aka we don’t get so much rain that the leaves get washed away), the entire street is ablaze in red maple leaves, all the way down. I used to really look forward to walking home from school so that I could walk past this street. Back when I lived in New Jersey, we used to take these scenic drives in the fall to see the fall foliage.
  • Hot soup – You can have hot soup any time of the year, and believe me, I do. But it isn’t until autumn that you get to start indulging in hot soups more often. I don’t even have that many different types of soups but I am really happy with my regular rotation. (Holla at me chicken noodle soup lovers.)
  • Hot tea – Same as with hot soup, but not something I get to enjoy as much during the warmer months. I remember really loving holding a thermos of hot tea in my hands as I walked to class. Two of my favorite cool weather feelings are the feeling of a warm mug in my hands and the feeling of drinking hot soup/tea in your throat when you’ve caught a chill.
    http://images2.beautyheaven.com.au/article_images/0031/1323/hands-holding-mug-main_article_new.jpg?1371781132
  • Scarves - I think because a) it’s easy and b) I have a long-ish neck, I have always been most keen on accessorizing my neck with necklaces and scarves (if I accessorize at all). I like having my neck covered when it gets chillier, especially by a soft or silky scarf. (Please note that most turtlenecks make me feel as though I am being strangled so I avoid those.)
  • Cozy sweaters – I went through a phase where I was pretty anti-sweater because I owned a lot of scratchy knits and also because kids in school were too cool to wear sweaters for a while??? I remember being the only person wearing a knit sweater in a class full of hoodies and being very confused but also desperately wanting a hoodie of my own. Now, I can really appreciate a soft sweater in the chillier months.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’m sure I’ll think of other things soon. I realized that this wound up being a very sensory post again, because really, when I think about seasons I think about very specific sensations.

What are your favorite things about autumn/fall?

The Maze Runner (2014)

Thanks to Punch Drunk Critics, I was able to see an advance screening of The Maze Runner on Tuesday. I like Dylan O’Brien, and I know this is a[nother] popular YA dystopian novel trilogy, so I was really looking forward to seeing it and am really really glad I got to see it early.

The Maze Runner really delivers on action and I particularly liked taking a look at how these teenage boys have to figure out a way to coexist and keep each other alive in the society that they’ve been forced to create. It seems relatively utopian in that pre/post-technology way: everyone working together to make sure that the collective group has food, water, shelter, and most importantly, each other. That is, of course, unless you remember that every single boy living on The Glade was put there against their will with no explanation and that they are trapped there. So we have a very interesting dynamic and conflict between newcomer Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who immediately wants to figure out how to leave and how he got to The Glade on his first day, and Gally (Will Poulter) who dislikes Thomas rocking the boat and works to maintain the status quo that has been keeping them alive.

Spoilers after the jump, but here are a few thoughts I had about the film while watching. (Please bear in mind that I have not read the novel.)

  • I really like Dylan O’Brien. I’ve liked him since I first (and, really, last) saw him in The Internship. (Which, itself, wasn’t a great movie.) He essentially has to carry the movie with his performance and he does a great job with that. (He also does a great job looking confused. Definite bonus for this role.)
    Thomas
  • While I’m glad that Ki Hong Lee got to have a prominent role in this film, his character kind of lacks depth in the film. But I like Ki Hong, so I’m glad he got this really huge break. Maybe Minho will get more fleshing out in future films?

    Minho

    You may know him from his work with Wong Fu Productions or The Nine Lives of Chloe King

  • Also, I’m so glad to see Thomas Brodie-Sangster. I don’t watch him on Game of Thrones, so really the last time I saw him was Love Actually, and he was teeny tiny back then. I like his face, it’s so playful.
    Newt
  • Maybe it’s because I just have a lot of anxiety about being chased and having to run away from things, but I thought that they did a really great job building tension with all of the running scenes. (“Maze Runner” = there are a LOT of running scenes)
  • I usually don’t notice things like this, but I thought the scoring really did a great job elevating anxiety during those tense running scenes. I was VERY STRESSED watching this movie and the music was just adding to that.
  • Actually, overall, really good use of lighting, camera angles, AND scoring did a great job of building tension.
  • Did I mention that I do like the cast? Good chemistry with them, although we really didn’t have a lot of time to explore their characters. We did get to hear from more supporting characters than I expected, which is nice.
  • Also speaking of the cast, good amount of diversity among a group of boys. I liked that. (Not sure if it’s written this way in the book or not.)
  • I remember flinching when the first girl (played by Kaya Scodelario) because I was really worried about what the introduction of a girl to an all-boys society would do. Luckily, it didn’t do anything other than elicit the comment: “Are all girls like this?!”
  • Also, I am really glad that Will Poulter got this role and is an actor because a) he clearly worked really hard to bulk up for this film and b) he looks a bit like Sid from Toy Story aka has a “bully face” and I’m just really happy for him because ordinarily that might be annoying to deal with in life but he is literally being paid a lot to make that bully face work.

    I just kept thinking throughout this movie that Sid looks like he could have been modeled off a today-version of Will Poulter.

    Gally

    Poulter in the film

  • Not sure if this is because of the book or the film adaptation or what, but I left the theater kind of mad that none of my questions from the moment the movie started were answered. Like NONE OF THEM. If anything, I had more questions, and I kind of hate sequel-baiting. Movies should be able to stand alone.

In general, this was a really well-done movie. Not sure how true it is to the book and whatnot, but it’s definitely a very good action film. As far as comparing it with The Hunger Games and Divergent, which everyone knows is going to happen, I still favor The Hunger Games as a solid story and for the complexity and depth. I was never all that impressed with Divergent to begin with.

The Maze Runner comes out today, Friday, September 19th. Spoilers below this jump. (And by spoilers, I mostly mean my unanswered questions.)

Continue reading

The Fray, The Zoo, & The Star Spangled Banner

We interrupt my slow (agonizingly slow) catching up of past summer vacations to bring you BREAKING NEWS: I actually had quite an eventful weekend!
WARNING: As a result of my unusually fun and exciting weekend, this is a rather long post. Please skim through by days if you’d like. :)

I actually want to start off with THURSDAY evening, because that’s when I started just having actual plans that were not just… sitting…

NextNOW Fest

So on Thursday, I went to NextNOW Fest at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (aka CSPAC). Lemme tell you something about CSPAC: It is a beautiful and amazing facility. My residence hall used to be nearby, and I’ve taken a class there. Great and awesome building, and they decked it out to the max for this event. I recently made a friend who works at CSPAC, and I also have a friend who is a stage manager trained through CSPAC, so it was nice to see them and enjoy the events! I don’t have photos, but here is a video that includes some of my favorite moments from the festival including:

  • Seeing my friend Don dancing in the balloon suit
  • Johann Sebastian Joust, which is basically like Ultimate Ninja but with PlayStation Move controllers and set to classical music, aka an amazing time
  • Watching 30 two-minute plays put on by the Neo-Futurists in a hilarious program called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
  • Getting a sonic massage (which was actually pretty boring but relatively relaxing I guess)

On FRIDAY, I had a really jam-packed day that started with Rock-N-Roar at the Smithsonian National Zoo, a concert put on by Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) to raise money and support this amazing institution. As you know, all Smithsonian institutions are free to enter, so every bit counts when it comes to supporting them. (Recently, the National Zoo had to close its invertebrate exhibit, so support is definitely needed.)

I received two tickets to Rock-N-Roar from the DC Yelp CM Kimberly, who wanted to thank me for always being on hand to help out even when I’m not signed up for billable hours! Imagine my surprise, then, when I picked up my tickets at will-call and got VIP badges, which gave us entry to the VIP lounge. Two important things about the VIP “lounge”:

  • It was next to the lions and tigers. AWESOME.
  • It was catered by Whole Foods. DOUBLY AWESOME.

Now I am not fancy enough to shop at Whole Foods. The idea intimidates me. But you guys, the food was SO. GOOD. On Friday, I got to eat oysters, lobster rolls, charcuterie, meatballs, gazpacho, chicken skewers, carrot cake, and more. I wasn’t even able to photograph the food, I was so busy stuffing my face. There was also beer and wine available with drink tickets that were provided to us, but since I don’t drink, I had waters.

ALSO, while we were there, the tigers put on quite a show! At one point, the zookeepers threw some bones with meat on them into the little moat that surrounded the tiger area, forcing them to do a bit of swimming to get them. Tiger #1 got his and retreated to a quiet corner to enjoy his treat. Tiger #2 got his (were they even male tigers? I couldn’t actually tell sorry!) and retreated to a spot under a tree to enjoy his treat. Tiger #3 moped around a bit, begrudgingly got into the water to get his treat, and sat down near Tiger #2. Soon after, Tiger #2 walked away, whereupon Tiger #3 immediately took his bone and #2’s bone for himself. When Tiger #2 came back and protested this unfairness, Tiger #3 roared at him and they fought! I have never heard a tiger roar in person before, so this was pretty exciting.

Then Tiger #3 straight-up sat down on Tiger #2’s bone, forcing #2 to leave and making everyone who was watching laugh.

Rock-n-Roar

Oh, that’s right, also THE FRAY WAS PERFORMING!!!

I’m a casual fan of The Fray but it was really great to see and hear them live. They played all my favorite songs of theirs. I just loved being at the National Zoo with maybe 250 other people watching The Fray after chilling with lions and tigers and lobster rolls. Definitely a night to remember.

My boyfriend and I went straight from the National Zoo (which I actually haven’t visited before Friday, and haven’t gone to see the animals before!) (although I guess The Fray could be considered a special animal exhibit?) to Arlington for a friend’s housewarming party. I met this friend at nerd camp in 2006 and now he works at the same company as my boyfriend! Small world right? (Different buildings, though.) He told me that I was actually the friend who went farthest back with him at the party, given that most of the guests either went to college with him or were his coworkers, with a small sprinkling of high school friends in there. Since we met in the 8th grade, I was the OGest of friends. (Also, I got to witness a kegstand in person? Did not think these were things that people did in real life.)

Although I was originally nervous that I would be the only person who didn’t know everyone else at the party, people were generally REALLY friendly and I had some great conversations with folks! I had a really good time and I’m glad I got to see my friend and his new house.

On Saturday, I went home for one of my former coworker’s birthday party. Again, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know many people there but I got to catch up with some other former coworkers and the other guests were really friendly and funny and nice. (I’m so glad my friends have nice friends! Seriously!) I wound up having a really nice time and forcing everyone to watch Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda music video. (This video is very important to me.) (No, I don’t know why.) I thought that since it started at the respectable hour of 8 PM that I’d get kicked out before midnight but I and a small group stuck around until about 3 AM just chilling and talking and discussing the fart version of Anaconda.

I thought the fun would stop there, but guess what.
THE FUN DIDN’T STOP THERE.

We are in the midst of some 2-year bicentennial celebration of the Star-Spangled Banner. I went to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, aka maybe the prettiest part of Baltimore, to watch the Blue Angels airshow and feel some more AMERICA in my veins. While the Blue Angels were performing primarily for Fort McHenry, we got to see them loop around in formation and get ready to head back over. (We got leftovers  essentially, but they were still spectacular!)

The weather was perfect on Sunday and, all in all, I had a pretty amazing weekend.

How was your weekend?

The Trip to Italy (2014)

I recently had the good fortune of attending a CMYE (community manager Yelp event) where I was able to snag a pizza from &pizza while watching a screening of The Trip to Italy, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, at the Landmark E Street Cinema. (One of my favorite spots in all of DC, seriously.)

The Trip to Italy

The Trip to Italy was originally broadcast as a 6-episode television series on BBC Two, as a sequel to The Trip, which took place in England (and is available now on Netflix!). I believe both TV series/films had similar premises: Coogan and Brydon play slightly-fictionalized versions of themselves and play off each other as they take a foodie road trip.

What you need to know about The Trip to Italy is there is no point. Once you have accepted this, the movie is pretty enjoyable. It’s mostly improvised by brilliant comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. I’m personally more familiar with Coogan — who I haven’t seen without his longer hair before!

Steve Coogan, circa 2012 (Photo: The Telegraph)

Here are a few things you can expect when you sit down to watch The Trip to Italy:

  • PLENTIFUL. IMPRESSIONS. Coogan and Brydon are talented impressionists. Some of the impressions you’ll hear include:
    • Michael Caine
    • Christian Bale
    • Tom Hardy
    • Al Pacino
    • Robert Deniro
    • Marlon Brando
  • References to The Dark Knight Rises

    • References to how impossible it was to understand Bane in The Dark Knight Rises
  • References to The Godfather and The Godfather II
    • References to how The Godfather II is maybe the only time a sequel was as good as/better than the original

      (This clip wasn’t shown in its entirety in the edited-down film.)
  • Alanis Morrisette songs
  • Following along the poet, Lord Byron, and his time in Italy
  • Nods to several old Hollywood films that were filmed in Italy
  • Gorgeous Italian scenery porn
  • Gorgeous Italian food porn
  • British humor
  • Every so subtly, two aging actors acknowledging their changing place in the world and mortality

I really recommend watching this for just a little aimless stroll of a comedy. If it gets released on Netflix, as The Trip has been, I really really encourage checking it out.

Internet Slowdown Day – 10 Sept 2014

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2604438/internet-slowdown-day-faq-how-netflix-wordpress-and-other-web-giants-are-fighting-for-net-neutralit.html

I wanted to keep my distance from net neutrality because I didn’t think it would truly be compromised. I signed a petition during the SOPA/PIPA protests and didn’t think too much of it.

We are now about to see the end of net neutrality. It’s easy to take action and if we don’t, the precedent will be really difficult to reverse. Please sign the petitions going around, and please call your senator if you can.

I’ve always been too scared of calling my senator but it’s easy:

  1. Your senator won’t pick up. It’ll be someone working in his/her office. (Not sure why but this makes me feel a bit better.)
  2. Phone calls >>>>> online petitions as far as impact on elected officials.
  3. There are a lot of scripts that go along with these petitions so just follow along with those and you’re in the clear!

Please act ASAP.

//

Alaska: The Last Frontier

Last time on “Starr blogging regularly and in time with actual current events in her life”, I had started telling you guys about my family trip to Alaska by telling you about the cruise ship where I spent most of the vacation.

Let me tell you about Alaska itself. In brief, I loved Alaska. It left a really deep impression on me that I’m going to attempt to summarize in a 3 key points.

1) There’s something incredibly patriotic about visiting Alaska, our last frontier. I felt more American coming home. Seeing the vast expanses of untouched land out there and thinking about the folks who came out here in search of a better life really helps you think about the history of the state and of our nation. This is the same pristine beauty that people beheld during the gold rush. Even though we think of the United States in terms of the cities, seeing Alaska makes me think of the scenic beauty in this country that many Americans will never see outside of a calendar or screensaver. I was seeing a side of America that seemed unmarred by modernity. I felt connected to the grandness that Americans before me had fallen in love with.

Driving down Seward Highway

Seeing bald eagles soaring everywhere definitely lends to the overall feeling of AMERICA.

2) Another thing that lent itself to my increased feelings of American identity was how much respect there was for the First Nations people. Each state has its own culture, and the culture of Alaska seems very much connected to the cultures of its First Nations people. I learned as much about the Tlingit during this trip as I did about the Lenni Lenape (the First Nations people of New Jersey that we learned about in the fourth grade). I saw more Native American art on this trip than I have maybe ever seen, and a great deal of it wasn’t in a museum. From the totem pole outside the governor’s mansion to the sculptures in the airport, it was clear to me that the First Nations people of the region are held in reverence, and I can only hope that the rest of the country can follow suit.

The Tlingit story of the Eagle and the Raven features very prominently in Alaskan decoration

Totems at the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Alaska. These were over 10 feet tall and you can see the years that have tolled on them

Decoration on the glass roof of a bus stop

3) A very uniquely Alaska point in American history is its rich gold rush history. Most towns/”cities” in Alaska started out as prospecting towns, so I learned an immense amount about the incredible pasts of these towns. The preparation that went into going out to Alaska was massive. To leave home and go thousands of miles to live in this cold frontier, you had to bring literally one year’s supply of food with you. Think about people making multiple trips over mountains and ice fields with pounds and pounds of cans and sacks so that they could feed themselves and their family for possibly an entire year. One big takeaway is that where there is gold, you will find so many saloons and brothels, oftentimes more than there were prospectors!

Creek Strete in Ketchikan, the most picturesque Red Light District I saw on this trip.

One of the brothels on Creek Street

Dolly’s House: where both men and salmon swim upstream to spawn

Other fun tidbits from my trip:

  • I went ziplining for the first time in my life with my brother — on North America’s fastest, longest, and highest zip-line. It was GREAT.


    A rather unattractive photo of me coming back to the ground

  • The state flower of Alaska is the forget-me-not. I’ve always liked forget-me-nots but I think I came home loving them.
  • I wasn’t able to see any live salmon but Alaskan salmon is a big deal and you likely already know that
  • No aurora activity while we were there, but remember the great thing about summers farther north in latitude: crazy early sunrise, crazy late sunset.

    This photo was taken our first evening in Alaska at dinner. It was 10 PM.

    Sunrise: 4:33 AM Sunset: 11:22 PM

  • I tried reindeer meat via reindeer sausage included in some dishes. I don’t really eat non-Chinese sausage but it was pretty good!

    Seafood étoufée from Simon & Seafort's in Juneau, Alaska, featuring some chunks of REINDEER SAUSAGE

    Seafood étoufée from Simon & Seafort’s in Juneau, Alaska, featuring some REINDEER SAUSAGE

FUN BONUS: Finding my name in random places!

One of the Tlingit totem poles was carved for the STARR family

Walter A. STARR, U of Cali graduate who went out to Alaska in search of gold

All in all, I had a great time in Alaska and was so rejuvenated by the time we made it to Vancouver for the last leg of our trip. Here are just a few random fun photos from our trip:

A snowplow for the old railroads

A whale skull hanging among antlers

Hole in tree

Broadway… in the “city” of Skagway

I passed this 10 times and then on the 11th… a little giggle.

The namesake of the Star House