25 February 2008

Falling slowly, sing your melody

The best part of the Oscars last night for me? "Falling Slowly" from Once winning the Best Song award. I saw this movie months ago, on a Summer Friday, when I was recently broken-hearted-- and those hours sitting in the darkened theater by myself made me have glimpses of a feeling I could scarcely identify: hope.Not hope that I would love again-- I'm dramatic, but not inclined to have that sort of epiphany from a film. More that beauty is possible in a world that often seems anything but. Or that real connection is possible. Or that fleeting encounters can be significant enough to be remembered for a lifetime.
I was truly touched by Jon Stewart's gesture of bringing Marketa Irglova back out so that she could have her share of the spotlight. Glen Hansard's speech was charming enough, but then Marketa-- who is only 19 years old and carried herself with a grace and maturity far beyond her years-- delivered this:
"The fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just proof that no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream, and don't give up. This song was written from the perspective of hope, and hope, at the end of the day, connects us all, no matter how different we are."
How lovely. How profound. The little one can shine against the big, bad blockbuster. You only had to see the radiant Marion Cotillard to see that.

I also have to share this piece from nymag.com, back in January:
"If Once had been a big Hollywood film, it would have starred a frumped-up Mandy Moore opposite some clown like John Mayer, and the movie would have culminated in a crowd-pleasing, macchiato-flavored kiss after a chance (but how you’d been hoping for it!) encounter at the local Starbucks. Instead, John Carney delivered a microbudget indie musical that charmed its way into box-office semi-gold based on its sweet, subtle soundtrack; its unresolved but poetic ending; and the wry performances of its unknown leads, singer Glen Hansard (of the Frames) and Czech neophyte Marketa Irglova.
Irglova's in particular is the kind of role that rarely gets an Oscar nomination: natural, understated, and overshadowed by her tall, sensitive Irish co-star. But it wasn't easy. The inchoate, undefined connection between the two made Once a thing of frustrating beauty, and Irglova — maybe because of her lack of experience on the big screen — took a character that might have been a total cipher and made her feel completely real. When was the last time Keira Knightley had to convince as a love interest in the shackles of an unflattering haircut and a body-thwarting wardrobe so out of date that even calling it vintage would be a stretch? And can Keira sing? Or play piano? Anyone who can do both onscreen without setting off our cheese alarms deserves the Academy’s respect."

19 February 2008

Getting close

Countdown to the big 2-4? 1 day. Countdown to fantastic jazz-age satin-slippered pouty-lipped evening breakfast? 3 days. Tonight: Cafe des Artistes. And karaoke with my fantastic, out-there coworkers.
I have to get in the shower and actually make myself presentable. So this will be a quick post. But I wanted to share my playlist (well, part of it-- there are 60 songs) for the upcoming soiree, and several quotes that are in line with the mood of the evening and my goal for this year as a 24-year-old: LIVE OUT LOUD, WITH PASSION AND GRACE.
"I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flanelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, cretonne, crepon, muslin, poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast."
~Dylan Thomas
"At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvres, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another."
~F. Scott Fitzgerald
1) Sentimental Heart by She and Him
2) I Wish You Love by Blossom Dearie
3) Heart of Glass by The Puppini Sisters
4) Manhattan by Ella Fitzgerald
5) Modern Nature by Sondre Lerche
6) Que Sera Sera by Jennifer Terran
7) You Are What You Love by Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
8) Old Devil Moon by Frank Sinatra
9) Ooh La La by the Ditty Bops
10) Anything Goes by Caroline O'Connor
11) Gay Boyfriend by The Hazzards
12) The Gardens of Sampson and Beasley by Pink Martini
13) Don't Get Around Much Anymore by Harry Connick, Jr.
14) Goin' Places by The Orlons
15) Walk or Ride by the Ditty Bops
16) Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love) by Alanis Morissette
17) They Can't Take That Away From Me by Frank Sinatra
18) Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree by The Andrews Sisters
19) I Never by Rilo Kiley
20) Ain't We Got Fun by Jessica Molasky
21) Angel of the Morning by Merilee Rush

14 February 2008

Happy pointless commercialism day

Yet another reminder not to talk to my mom about my love life-- much as she loves me, she has an amazing ability to twist my words and not understand the phrase Please, I just don't want to talk about it. I bet the Von Trapp children never had this problem with Julie Andrews.
"Mother, what do you do when you think you love someone...I mean when you stop loving someone... Or he stops loving you?"
"Well, you cry a little...and then you wait for the sun to come out."
~The Sound of Music

13 February 2008

Photos from my "weekend"

Taken from a camera phone, so forgive the poor quality...I was in a quirky mood and started playing around and making a fool of myself in public.
Last night, in the snowstormExploring my own lashesThe current book of choice...The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth BowenI love discarded objects on the street. The gloss actually seeped out of the tube!
Speaking of making a fool of oneself, I had a moment when I was reading at the coffee shop. This particular shop fills with schoolchildren around 3:30, since it is surrounded by about six schools. A little boy-- he must have been about 10-- walked in with his mom and his little brother. His mom sat at a separate table with a friend while he and his brother settled at their own table with slices of chocolate cake. First off, I should state that this boy had "misfit" written all over him; I could sympathize. He had crazy curly hair that is probably always yanked (BOING!) by the girls, and his clothing had that odd fit characteristic of pre-adolescents who haven't grown into their own bodies yet. He spoke with mannerisms and a vocabulary beyond his age-group. Anyway, while this boy was sitting chatting with his far-less-awkward brother, the beginning of The Sounds of Silence ("hello darkness, my old frienddddd....) piped in over the sound system. "MOM!" the boy yelled excitedly. The mother quirmed in her seat. "It's The Sounds of Silence!! I LOVE this song!" The man next to be smiled as the boy started to sing. The mom tried to shush her son without calling attention to herself. I started to feel as if any second a spontaneous movie-like sing-a-long was about to start, like "Benny & the Jets" in 27 Dresses or "I Say a Little Prayer" in My Best Friend's Wedding. But the point is that the boy had no shame about who he was. Rather, it was his mother who felt shameful, and he will without doubt pick up on that over the years. I couldn't help feeling sad...right now he's singing with reckless abandon, but sooner or later others will make him feel like he's strange, whereas he's just wonderfully, fabulously himself. At that moment, him being blissfully unaware of his mother's judgment, I felt envious of him. How wonderful not to care about what others think! And how terrible the years to come could be once he does become aware...Boo. Our society is so closed-minded. It makes me squirm.

11 February 2008

Brain dumb

Had one of those knock-down days at work, where I walked out feeling unsure and wavering, and I know it was just today. Normally I really like my job. But today was one of those days when I was wholly not myself...snapping at people...being even more obsessive than I normally am...not paying attention to detail and starting to be filled with doubt. So I'm choosing to think of lovely thoughts and perfect my Elegant Evening Birthday Breakfast in my mind, the way it would be if I had unlimited funds...
* We would drink our prosecco out of these vintages glasses, appropriately called Amelie Footed Glasses.
* John Derian=perfection. We would have to eat our quiche and crepes on these!
* Sateen pajamas for all of my guests. These are so Eloise! Couldn't you picture yourself lounging at the Plaza with a cup of pink-tinted hot chocolate?And lots and lots of candles from overseas in luxurious scents, giving soft golden light to my apartment. Tomorrow I have a day off, thank goodness. I want to refresh, rejuvinate, maybe take a bubble bath and treat myself to some gourmet hot chocolate and an indie film...

09 February 2008


When did normal become the watchword?
I am anything but normal. I'm a self-proclaimed dork. I have gone to a bar before and ordered hot chocolate and bread. I laugh at people or insult them when they hit on me. I relate to fictional characters more than most real people. I seek people out based on the proper amount of awkwardness-- not too much, but not too little. I have an outfit I call my "Victorian childhood" dress. I read home decor magazines even though I have no need for home renovation. I feel things deeply and sense memories as physical beings. I have a hard time letting go. I hate bars and grew out of that scene before I grew into it. My daily conversations have allusions to old movies and classic novels. I buy wine because of the pretty bottles. I never had wild teenage years, and I have no problem with that. I rely on a good night's sleep. I am disgusted by the superficiality I observe around me.
It makes me sad to say so, but I feel like very few people actually know me. Even fewer really appreciate me. Sometimes I feel like I'm the token misfit who is present only to make others aware of what the weirdos are like. In the movies it's the misfit who always attracts the most stereotypically attractive guy; they want "girls with horn-rimmed glasses and vegan footwear and Goth makeup," to quote Juno. Or they are Jake Ryan and interested in "more than a party." But I think it is much harder in real life to find people who actually appreciate eccentricity, rather than keeping it around for amusement or to make the supposedly "normal" feel superior. I don't want to think about myself as being different from everyone else-- but the more I look around the more I become aware of it. I want my quirks to be an added bonus that makes me me, not an impediment to connection. I used to have a theory called the Chipped Teacup Theory. The idea is that some people are chipped teacups on shelves, among the normal, "perfect" cups. Sometimes they sit ignored by those who think them deficient, but others snatch them up because they realize the chips add to the cup's beauty rather than taking away from it. The chipped cups are special, and not in the derogatory, scare quotes sense. The main problem with this theory is it that it leads one thinking of herself as completely separate from most of the world...how am I supposed to navigate if I expect most people not to "get" me?
I was thinking of the film version of Mansfield Park the other day-- nothing like the book, but entirely beautiful. Fanny Price is different from people in her world. She is also different from any other Austen heroine and has attracted the most critical controversy, scholarship, and discussion. She is not beautiful like Emma Woodhouse or charming like Elizabeth Bennet. But she has Edmund, who doesn't need her to explain her quirks. I relate to Fanny Price-- feeling like "like is just a quick succession of busy nothings." But I have yet to find many friendship Edmunds or even the real deal Edmunds, who are permanent fixtures, embrace my intensity, and assure me that "surely you and I are beyond speaking when words are clearly not enough."
Words are overrated sometimes. Banter is just banter. Connections are a sense, an intuition. An intuition that seems...evasive...or at least cruelly fleeting, in my case. It's a thought I don't want to have...but can you really ever find yourself in this world? Or are we discouraged from that and encouraged to embrace the ordinary?
Look at the intensity. And the understanding. Oh yes, I've been here before.
"There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time."

06 February 2008

The best birthday I've experienced...

It wasn't mine. It was my friend Matt's, his 21st, while we were studying at Oxford. We'd barely been there for a month, and yet a group of us had bonded like we'd known each other for a lifetime. Jenny, my freshman roomie, serendipitously ended up being my flatmate, and we bonded like sisters with another girl in our house, Elizabeth. One long, fantastic night we spent 8 hours sipping Strongbow and tomato soup at the Eagle & Child and talking about anything and everything with Matt, Dave, and Max. One of the questions that got tossed around was what meal we would eat every day of our lives, if we were forced into monotony.
Matt and I had a strong bond from the beginning. I had never met anyone had such certainty-- his world was very clear-cut, whereas mine was always a muddled, passionate mess. Jenny had a theory that our best feature is also our fatal flaw-- mine was passion, whereas Matt's was nobility. But at the same time I loved having someone who was so reliable and interesting in a way that was so different from me. It challenged me, brought depth, and so we became fast friends.
Since Matt's birthday was the first one we had abroad, and since I wanted to ensure that he had a splendid birthday away from home, I conspired with my roommates to create a dinner party. But this was no ordinary dinner party-- it was based upon the favorite menu that Matt had shared with us, which included spaghetti with his mother's meat sauce, a good salad, and chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. And in order to make sure that the meat sauce was exactly what Matt had in mind, we called his mother in the states to get her recipe. However, we had a small problem with the chocolate cake. Namely that the first time we tried it, it looked like this:
I blame it on our inability to convert the English-system measurements to suit our metric-system measuring cups and spoons. The cake was as hard as a rock. And furthermore, by the time we finished it was 2 AM, and we had a full day of tutorials the next day, so what to do? We resorted to a mix, which we ran out to purchase at 7 AM, as soon as Marks & Spencer opened, and then passed off as our own at the dinner party.Once Matt saw what we'd done for him, he was touched. Even though it wasn't my birthday, I felt so wonderful because of the part I'd played in making someone else's birthday special.So, based on this evening and how much fun we had, I've decided on at least part of what I want to do for my birthday! I got the idea from a conglomeration of Matt's birthday dinner, party ideas from Blueprint, Domino, and Victoria magazines, and this image from Jezebel: I will be hosting a...drumroll please! a very small evening breakfast birthday party at my tiny apartment. We will have a prosecco bar (prosecco with mixers such as ginger syrup, cassis, and apricot nectar) and hot chocolate, Quiche Florentine, strawberries & cream, spiced beignets, croissants and jam, and whatever else I decide upon. I will probably have about 8 people, all of whom know each other, because when I've tried a small get together with people from different groups, it quickly dissolves into disaster. Of course I'm worried about insulting people by not inviting them, but this happens every year and is why I always end up having 2 weeks or so of birthday celebrations. In fact, my senior year of college I had a part I and part II in the same night! I'm thinking on my actual birthday it'll just be dinner, maybe a trip to do karaoke later with some of the work people...? Here's a question though-- is it inappropriate to ask people to bring a bit of cash-- like $5-- to cover the food I'll cook, in addition to bringing a bottle of prosecco or something? My finances are just terrible right now, and I can't pay for an entire dinner party for 8-10. So what do you think??? About ALL of it!

04 February 2008

Almost-birthday blues

I really want to be this girl (image from The Sartorialist):Or this girl (image from Lucky):Or most definitely this girl! This gorgeous, rocking, chica:
I don't know, lately I've just been wishing I could look different. I love being a redhead, I love my smattering of freckles, I love my big eyes and big lips...but lately I've definitely been less than satisfied with my body. I feel like I haven't gained weight but rather that it has redistributed itself. And I don't believe in dieting-- how do you enjoy life when you aren't letting yourself eat? I get envious of girls I see on the street, especially those super-skinny-pulled-together-Uptown-girls that I see everywhere. When did we start living in a world in which size 6 is fat? Or is that just New York?
I don't know, maybe I'm just picking on myself and finding reasons to be dissatisfied. Around this time of year I always get antsy. In a few weeks I will turn 24...and I am dreading it. I do not do well with birthdays, especially even number birthdays. I had a small crisis when I turned 20 and tried to relive all of my teen years in a single night; I cried hysterically for two hours when I turned 22; and I foresee a similar reaction this year. I hate even numbers to begin with. It's a weird quirk. But I feel like the past 3 even-number birthdays have been turning points at which I'd expected to have accomplished so much more and have so much more going for me at that point in my life.
Last year I had the amazing, city girl living the life birthday. I had the big party with my friends, with champagne and dancing. I had several birthday dinners. I had the fantastic boy and the anticipation of the gift he swore was "perfect" (it was, plus our lovely night out on the town, and of course the cuddles). My parents were in town for the weekend and treated me to all sorts of goodies.
None of that really applies this year. My parents aren't coming in, and I don't even expect them to give me any gifts because they've been helping me so much with rent. I have no urge to have the big party or even to go out. I am no longer with The Boy. Grad school stuff is still very up in the air, so I'm unsettled about that. I know I don' want to do nothing for my birthday (since I know that if I ignore it I'll find myself spontaneously crying alone in my apartment) but at the same time I can't think of anything I want to do or anywhere I want to go. And of course money is an issue.
I was studying abroad in England on my 21st birthday. My roommate Jenny surprised me with an entirely planned-0ut evening, starting out a trip to Oscar Wilde's favorite teahouse. Next was dinner with all of my friends at a French restaurant (dressing up of course), where we bought champagne and delicious food. My friends gave me books of poetry (Jenny gave me The Decadent Cookbook) and we adjourned to Freud, a decadent Oxford bar and restaurant in an old church. We talked until 3 in the morning. I didn't take 21 shots. I didn't even kiss 21 men. But it was magical.
I don't have much hope for a magical birthday this year, especially since I don't know what I want. And I don't have a Jenny here to plan something for me. Last night while brainstorming I almost felt like some of my friends were planning a birthday celebration for them instead of for me.
Any suggestions? I'm clueless here. I want something laid back and classy and entirely me...where I don't have to deal with trashy drunk men.