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.


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.

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

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

Favorite Childhood Movies (part 1)

In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Little Rascals and the cast coming together to recreate the movie poster, I thought I’d reminisce a bit and think about some of my favorite childhood movies. These are the ones that I watched really often, either in school or at home. (Also, I’m not including any Disney animated features here because well, that list would get really long.)

It breaks my heart a little bit when people don’t get that I’m making references to (memorable scenes that I often quote included!):

  • The Little Rascals

    When people don’t understand why I squeak through this song, I am almost as embarrassed for them as for myself.
  • The Sandlot

    A friend once thought I was having a stroke because I was saying “for-ev-er” so weird. I wept for him on the inside.
  • Annie (1999 version)

    Starring a young Lalaine, Sarah Hyland, and Victor Garber, who I would always refer to as “Daddy Warbucks” no matter how many other roles I saw him in.
  • The Brave Little Toaster (technically distributed by Disney)

    This movie was kind of scary, I had a hard time finding non-nightmare-inducing clips!
  • The Land Before Time + sequels

    I think about “Big Water” really often… and tree stars.
  • Older Scooby Doo films

    I had a teacher who loooooved Scooby Doo and rewarded the class if we behaved by showing Scooby Doo movies. Every single one had this old theme song.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

    The only film to have Disney characters side-by-side with Looney Toons. This was a great one, rest in peace Bob Haskins.
  • Jumanji

    My brother was TERRIFIED of the poacher in this movie but I watched it multiple times at home anyway. Rest in peace Robin Williams.
  • The Parent Trap

    My friend who teaches fencing says that a lot of kids used to cite this movie as the reason they started fencing. Now they’re getting too young for that. Rest in peace Natasha Richardson.
  • Babe

    Baa ram ewe! I didn’t go vegetarian for a long time after watching this, but I definitely thought about Babe when I did.

That’s a good list for now. I need some time to reminisce and be nostalgic for a little bit.

Are these movies as important to you as they are to me?
What are some other key movies from your childhood that you still quote today?

Tired of Inaction

WARNING: I am coming down from a manic episode and have not organized my thoughts yet. This blog is all over the place, so skip to the end for the TL;DR please.

As my roommate knows (thank you, again, for taking time out of your LSAT studying and talking me down), I had a bit of a manic episode last week. (I don’t throw around terminology like this but I literally almost started building furniture at 11 PM because I had so much energy and my mind was racing a lot more than it usually was. It scared me, to be totally honest.)

Something about reblogging photos and Tweets from Ferguson on Tumblr all night and reading about the ISIL execution video triggered it. I had a few casual conversations during the day with some friends that led up to my mania last night. I just started feeling a nagging feeling of restlessness. One thought keeps racing through my mind:

There is something I can do. There is very little that I can do about Gaza or Ukraine or Ebola or Iraq or Syria but HERE, in my own country, there must be something I can do.

The problem is I don’t know what it is that I can do, and there are a lot of personal obstacles in my way. For example, a short while ago there was a rally in DC to show support for action in Ferguson. I wanted to attend but the rally was being held at Howard University, an HBCU (historically black college/university). I felt like as an Asian American, could I even attend? Would I get stares? I don’t think of Ferguson as a “black problem”, and I certainly don’t think that the responsibility of action falls squarely on the shoulders of the black community.
But my need for social approval and acceptance overrode my need to demonstrate.

That bothers me.

This is a significant turning point in my life, friends. I have been calling people out for their inaction for too long to not have a significant body of action of my own. I am a hypocrite and I no longer want to be.

Let me be completely honest: My altruism, as is true of all altruism, stems from selfish desires. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to rid myself of the feelings of restlessness that are brewing inside of me. I long to be an active participant in our world.

HOWEVER, if everything we do is for selfish reasons — and I believe this to be true — then it sure is a nice bonus if our actions benefited other people in addition to ourselves.

This is why I did not participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I donated but I did not post a video. I donated to the ALS Association as well as to a few of my favorite water charities, because I think the waste of water is needless. I’m weighing out how important it is for me to post to social media about these things. How many people am I calling to action? How many people care?

Where is my energy best spent?

I’m still grappling with a lot of this. My thoughts aren’t fleshed out. I struggle with issues like this because I have a hard time seeing the forest and the trees at the same time. In one moment, I’m trying to take in the vast expanse of forest and in the very next, I’m concerned with one bug crawling along one tree. Trying to think about both isn’t something I am capable of doing right now.

I was telling my roommate about this, mania in my eyes I’m sure, and started talking about physics. Politics boils down to economics, economics boils down to psychology, psychology boils down to biology, biology boils down to chemistry, and chemistry boils down to physics. (Which I guess boils down to mathematics.) It’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around the situation in Gaza when I am sitting here thinking about the electron spin of an atom within a neuron in an Israeli teenager’s brain. (When I tell interviewers I am good at seeing the big picture, I’m not being entirely truthful. When I tell them I am detail-oriented, I am holding back.)

My mind races thinking about these things. My blood pressure spikes. I don’t know how to describe it but the only way I can articulate it now is this:

Imagine you suddenly could feel the Earth spinning below your feet and hurtling through space. Gravity is only holding you to the surface for so much longer but you are about to go flying. THIS is the potential energy that I can feel, that of myself gripping onto the memory of a society that isn’t imploding as today’s is.

I am ready to act.
I just need some guidance right now.

TL;DR Recent events have made me want to do a lot more than slacktivism, a lot more than posting angry things to Facebook. I want to be a much more active citizen of this world that I live in and I am currently seeking help in doing so.

Please let me know if you know of ways that I can start being a more active contributor to our world. I am currently most keen on what I can do about the situation unfolding in Ferguson, MO, but I am invested in a lot of issues right now, not least of which are the ones I spewed above.