Spoopy Catch-Up

Can you believe we’re almost halfway through October already?

It seems like just yesterday that I was sweating through the end of September and wondering when it would feel like fall. I could see my breath when I went out this morning, and I’ve started contemplating posting a cover of “Sweater Weather” up (don’t worry, I won’t), so it really is that time of year already!

Spoopy time!

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The spoopy season is upon us, and it kicks off 3 months of festive fun, but I feel like I’ve barely had the chance to settle into October. Remember how I was supposed to “cool down for fall“? I’m not great at it, but I am getting better!

So let’s do a quick catch up of what I’ve been doing instead of taking it easy since I resolved to do just that…

DEVFESTDC // Maybe I wrote that post because I was staring down the barrel at a packed itinerary, because that Saturday I attended Day 2 of DevfestDC, a Google Developer Group mini-conference. I found out that my friend Yufeng (still waiting on your wedding photos, friend!) was one of the speakers, and with the venue so close to home, I had to go! It was nice to learn about machine learning and Google’s software (in advance of their big hardware announcement shortly after). It was especially nice to get to spend time with Yufeng, who I haven’t seen since his wedding. And seeing him twice in one year is like a new record!

SEEING RED // I dyed my hair!

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It’s a lot more subtle than I was going for, but I am still happy to have red in my hair for autumn! And to be honest, maybe it’s safer for work that my hair isn’t as vibrant of a red as I was going for?

TWO YELPER PARTIES // I worked at not one but two Yelper parties, one week apart! You know I’m a sucker for a good themed party, so for the famous rivalry theme, I quickly donned an Ursula getup and convinced Ben to do an Eric Disneybound.

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And at the DC Halloween bash, I gave Little Red a little test drive. (You’ll be seeing her again later!)

(And of course, I ate a lot of great food.)

HOMECOMING // I went back to my alma mater for yet another rainy homecoming. It feels very different now, when I go back to campus. I feel super out of touch with the campus community as the neighborhood changes.  The student involvement suite – where I used to spend hours of my week running different clubs and meetings – had been completely redone and I was invited to the ribbon-cutting. It is so new and snazzy now, and I am really excited for the student orgs who are going to get to use that space. The homecoming leadership reception – which I’ve attended for the past 4 years – was held in a different building than usual because the old building… is not there anymore. They are redoing it. I remember feeling super tethered to my alma mater as my first job after graduating was research on campus, but I definitely do not feel that anymore.

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I’ll be honest: part of the reason I come back for homecoming is the delicious food they feed me.

TREVOR NOAH // I got to see Trevor Noah, who currently hosts The Daily Show, perform standup at the Kennedy Center while he promotes his upcoming book, Born Illegal. He was really funny, and I didn’t know that he did so many great impressions and accents! I appreciated his commitment to his one-man skits, which less-bold comics would not sustain the way he did. And then, because my friend Krystal is going to marry him and got the chance to get a photo with him… and bring some friends… I got to meet him!

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I like to think he’s laughing because when Annie and Krystal walked up, he exclaimed “Oh, you guys are tiny, I love that!” and then I approached him and said, “I see how it is, no love for a tall girl?” He then performed a 10:30 show about 5 minutes after this photo.

SETH MEYERS //  Late Night with Seth Meyers is filming in DC this week, and I was able to attend Tuesday’s taping! It was very stressful because even though I left work quite early, Metro was hell-bent on making me late. When I escaped from underground and decided to bike over instead, the first three Capital Bikeshare hubs I got to were full! No where to park my bike! This was one of the rare times I ran in the streets and I immediately stopped when I saw the line wrapping around the block. My friends already had their wristbands to sit in the orchestra section, and I was sure I wasn’t going to make it because there were hundreds of people in line in front of me. But I made it!!! Here’s the episode I watched them film, with guests Lena Dunham and John Mulaney and Nick Kroll as their characters from their Broadway show, Oh, Hello. It was fun to get to see them film live, and I liked seeing Seth Meyers again. (I saw him perform standup in college, shortly before he hosted the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2011.)

CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE // I just saw this last night: it’s the NSO Pops performing Cirque de la Symphonie:  classic Halloween instrumentals to accompany some incredible circus acts. I’m talking aerial artists, strongmen, a juggling clown, a contortionist. There was a woman doing these amazing fast changes! It was awesome, and the set list included a lot of my favorite orchestral Halloween pieces. To top it all off, the weather is beautiful, so we walked to and fro the Kennedy Center and thoroughly enjoyed the stroll.

#FALLINTODISNEYSTYLE // I’ve been occasionally participating in Disney Style’s fall  Instagram challenge, and I have been getting to know a lot of really cool Disney Instagrammers through it!

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I’m not as hardcore as most of the community is, but it’s still a really fun community to get to know.

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Otherwise very unaccustomed to posting photos of my socks or my desk!

Believe it or not, this is actually a slightly slowed-down few weeks for me. I have been very consciously giving myself days at home to cook dinner, clean, and prepare for future activities. (Halloween is rapidly approaching and then the holiday season will be upon us before we know it!)

What have you been up to lately as fall kicks into full gear?
What are your favorite politically-minded comedy shows?
I don’t really watch a lot of TV anymore, and I definitely don’t stay up late to watch them, so I actually don’t watch much of The Daily Show or Late Night with Seth Meyers.

P.S. Are you in the spoopy mood yet? Get in it with Required Halloween Viewing and laughing at my resolution to Cool Down for Fall.
P.P.S. I quickly set up a Facebook page if that’s your preferred way to read blogs!

Do You Hear the People Sing?

First of all, huge shout-out to MyTix, which gives people ages 18-30 or who are active duty members of the armed forces access to crazy discounted tickets to performances at the Kennedy Center.

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These are not some dinky $2 discounts, either. You can see shows at something like 75% off the regular ticket price, in really great seats, for really amazing shows. You can look at a show and see that tickets cost $50-$150 depending on your seats, but then buy them on MyTix for about $20.

What’s the catch?
You might have to fight for these ticketsTo the death.

My friend Annie told me that the NSO Pops was doing a tribute to musical theater duo Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg (you may know them from their most famous musical, Les Miserables) featuring the flawless Lea Salonga (you may know her as the singing voice of Disney’s Jasmine and Mulan).
For a measly $19. Say what?! Pause that spending freeze, I needed to get in on this.

Tickets for “Do You Hear the People Sing?” went on sale for MyTix members at 10 AM.  So you best believe I was on the website at 9:55, ready to refresh at a moment’s notice. I was armed and ready. I had coordinated with Annie so that my seat was next to hers when…
… I never got a ticket confirmation. I looked at my ticket page and the ORDER DIDN’T GO THROUGH. Panic mode engaged.

I must have typed in my credit card number wrong (typical) and luckily for me, my seat was saved. I made it. I did not think I would ever be able to afford Kennedy Center tickets before a more respectable age but here I was, going to my first show at this amazing venue.

Kennedy Center at night from DC Metro Arts (source)

First of all, there is a free shuttle that goes to the Kennedy Center, and on the shuttle ride I was able to listen to classical music and smooth jazz. I mean, honestly, I could’ve just sat on that shuttle bus and rode around DC if not for how crowded it was.

Second of all, the venue is spectacular. I didn’t manage to snap a photo of the main hall, but there are flags on either side and a paper cut art installation at the end when you walk in:

Kennedy Center
Tracy over at DandelionMama.com posted this great shot though! (Source)
Bronze bust of namesake President John F. Kennedy by artist Robert Burke
One of the views from the terrace
The ceiling of the main concert hall features these bubble chandeliers that make it look I moved my hand while taking the photo, but the crisp hexagonal pattern defends my basic photography competence.

Oh friends.
The show itself was so marvelous. It was so well-structured, the transitions were done very nicely. The orchestra was, of course, superb, as was conductor Steve Reineke.

But let’s talk about the ineffable Lea Salonga for a moment. Oh Lea. There was so much talent on that stage over the course of the show but Lea demonstrated the best vocal control up there. In my head, I reasoned that these other Broadway stars were just intimidated being in the presence of Lea Salonga because, well, I would! Save for Terrence Mann, who is such a seasoned performer that he doesn’t need to feel nervous around anyone ever, the other singers didn’t seem to have the same control of their voices that Lea did: strained verses, losing control and going sharp, little things that I’ve come to expect Broadway performers to not do. No one is perfect, so I don’t think I really would have taken notice if Lea Salonga wasn’t so incredible and on her game. (But I’m a biased fangirl. What do I actually know?) (Answer: Nothing. I don’t know anything. What is a blog?)

Boublil and Schönberg are best known for Les Mis as well as Miss Saigon, two shows that I would say Lea Salonga is also best known for starring in, so our tribute concert began with some pieces from Miss Saigon, came around with La Révolution Française and The Pirate Queen, and finally indulged us with Les Mis.

What I really loved about the show was the insights to each musical and song that we got. It wasn’t just “Here’s a song from Miss Saigon, enjoy!” Someone on stage (the maestro or one of the singers) would explain the context of the writing of the musical, the context of the song within the musical, the background of the singer performing, and more. Truthfully.. <leans in close> I’ve only seen Les Mis. But I could still appreciate that a naïve  17-year-old Lea Salonga was taught how to make love to a man onstage by her male director for Miss Saigon. And that The Pirate Queen was conceptualized after a suggestion from Riverdance.

The entire program was excellent, marvelous, spectacular, magical. The best part was at the end. We had this amazing surprise:

Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg came out!!!

Literally, I gasped in unison with the theater. We did not expect the composers themselves to be there! They popped out for just a brief moment and then ducked back out, but I mean… I actually stopped breathing. What a surprise. Their music brought us all here, and it brought them out as well.

L to R: Terrence Mann, Kathy Voytko, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Steve Reineke (a bit behind Boublil), Marie Zamora, Eric Kunze, and Lea Salonga

Super magical spectacular evening. And my friend was so worried that “Do You Hear the People Sing” wasn’t in the program. Come on. It’s the name of the show, it’s obviously the encore piece. 🙂


What are you favorite Broadway musicals?
What are your favorite concert/arts venues?

Because you only live once?

As I’m in-between full-time jobs and/or possibly starting school in the fall (shhhhh), I have been more careful about where I spend my money than usual. (And I’m pretty frugal as it is.)

But you know what? Sometimes, experiences that cost money give you a lot more in return.
Also, I like to think that I’m investing in things to look forward to this year. Remember how I said that I said yes to more opportunities in 2013 and then didn’t do that in 2014? Well, time to say yes again.

Because I’ll admit, when I hit those mood lows, I don’t look forward to the next day, week, month, year, whatever. I get very stuck in the stress of living in the present and stressing over the past that I don’t even want to begin stressing about the future. It was really important during really difficult weeks of school for me to give myself something to look forward to at the end of the week so that I didn’t just give up in the middle of the week, no matter how much I wanted to. Even if it was something like: “Okay, Starr, you have three exams this week BUT if you survive them, you can buy an éclair for dessert on Friday. For lunch AND dinner if you want!” (Fact: I love éclairs.)

I hit a low like this last week. It wasn’t fun; I felt like I was just existing and it was getting really exhausting. Don’t get me wrong; there were no thoughts of self-harm involved here. You know that feeling at the end of a really long day when you barely want to change or wash up, you just want to collapse onto your bed and close your eyes and put the day behind you?
Take that and concentrate it and you’ll get an idea of what I was feeling. Very emotionally exhausted by life, specifically by worrying about life, and not seeing an end to that worrying anytime soon, which was exhausting to think about it and of itself. I just felt so… done. Spent.

So, this weekend, I’ve been giving myself things to look forward to, investing in myself for those days and weeks and months when I don’t want to do things and need to be forced to leave my room.

Here are a few things I have planned over the next few months that I’m pretty excited for!

  • March 22 – Kazuo Ishiguro reading and signing for The Buried Giant
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    • I haven’t found a friend to attend this with yet, but maybe I should really work on being comfortable attending things alone?
    • Linking to his US book tour if you’re interested in an event in your city or mine!
  • March 27 – NSO Pops: Do You Hear the People Sing ft. Lea Salonga
    • I have never seen the NSO before and I love Lea Salonga, so I cannot communicate how excited I am for this!
  • April 8 – Christine & Karen‘s visit!
    • Super excited for them to come visit, especially because I actually have never attended the Cherry Blossom Festival!
  • May 17 – Color Run DC

    • I know, I know, I hate paying to run around, but apparently having money on the line is the only way to get me to practice evading kidnappers?
    • If you’re interested in joining me, I do have a team set up, so let me know 🙂
  • September 18 – Stromae concert
    • Tickets haven’t gone on sale yet but I’m excited to see Stromae in person!
    • Also I haven’t been to a concert in a long time, so this will be fun
    • Linking to his US tour if you’re interested in seeing him perform in your city or mine!

I have other things going on, but these are the things I’m locking down just this week.
(And also I’m just super excited for Karen and Christine to visit, but that’s been in the works for some time now!)

These are gifts to myself, to reward myself for just surviving. I wish I didn’t need it, but some days I do. And it’s important to treat yo self, right? I’m still learning to do this.

How are you planning to treat your self in the coming weeks?