27 December, 2009

Street photography

There are many things I love in life, and two of those are photography & my cell phone. So I am in bliss when I am able to use the latter to help the former. I'm talking cell phone pictures. I should probably call them pix; it's more fitting for someone so deeply attached to their celly. Or should celly be spelled with an -ie... I need to consult with a 14 year old and get back to you. Having a camera built into my cell phone is incredible. How did people survive without either of those two inventions? Life simply did not exist before the year 2000. How did people do anything?

In the past few months my beloved cellphone has been trudging along towards the great big recycling center in the sky. While it couldn't reliably receive phone calls or text messages, it could take some decent pictures. (And at the end, I was very grateful it could do anything, really.)

So before the end came, I cleared out a lot of the photos I took with the cell over the course of the last year. A lot of the time the photos look and feel like art. (Maybe one day, it will be). Take, for example, a photo shot while at a dance party my senior year. The shadows and the ground color from the colored lights of the dance, coupled with the dancer's feet, just looks really, really cool. And what is art if not cool and entertaining? (At least the art that I enjoy.)

Sometimes the photos I take offer up information about our culture, like the pictures I like to take of intriguing graffiti. There's Stop sign grafitti, like this first one in New Orleans, and the second two in separate sides of Massachusetts state. 



They say, "STOP War!,"STOP Global warming," and "STOP Bush." I like the idea that separate people felt the need to deface local stop signs with a message. Even if those are clearly only the liberals. I want to find more. (Stop sign defacement. But liberals too, I suppose.) The Stop Bush sign says "4-way" written underneath it, which I think we can all agree is something that should be stopped.

Then there are the photos I take of patterns I find interesting, like the little mirrors under the tealights on my bedroom wall.

and the collage over the pedestrian walkway at the MGH t-stop...

As most cell phones nowadays, there are also incriminating photos, like this of a certain street sign that allegedly was removed. Allegedly.

Then there's stuff that you take a picture of because it's just so ridiculous. Like this sign the MBTA made when the blue train shut down unexpectedly for the night. In blue sharpie.

Sure, that looks legit. Let's all ride the blue line.

And now I have a new and fully functional and photography-enabled phone. Life is good.

17 December, 2009

Why I can't sleep at night

I am a visual person with a vivid imagination. This can be a good thing. Being good at art, writing stories, lying... you know- life skills. But this power can be a terrible, terrible burden for certain terrible, terrible things I've had to endure while growing up. Like the rite of passage of watching horror movies. Shudder.

Horror movies. I hate them. I cannot bear witness to any book, television show, or movie that has any element of horror. Not even a little bit. Not even if it's in a commercial. It might actually be worse if it is a commercial, because you're not expecting it. There's this one ADT Security System commercial that depicts a man breaking into seemingly safe house one seemingly carefree afternoon as the homeowner is playing in the backyard with her daughter. Not only do I not have any sort of security system installed in my apartment, but now I have to be prepared for people who break in during the daylight hours too? Great. Awesome.

Over the years I've tried to cure myself of this affliction through over-exposure, persuading myself that the more horror movies I watch the less real they will become. Voilá- cured. But really the effect is less freeing on my psyche and more debilitating on my social life. I've seen the CSI's. I know that my odds of going out on a "normal" Friday night will probably end in fear, destruction, and death. I am a single white female, and I am a target. I never realized that there were so many different ways to be hurt, stalked, and dismembered. Thank you, prime time cable programming.

That's the thing with horror movies- regardless of which ones I watch the takehome message has always been that I will, most likely, be next. Single female. Target. Take, for example, the movie Halloween H20.

Let me set the scene: it was Casey Ferriter's 6th grade birthday party. Ten little girls were having a sleepover in her basement. There was cake, popcorn, and horror, as supplied by the scary movies her mom had rented for us because we were now adults. Or something.

Halloween H20 is the Jamie Lee Curtis movie where her brother, Michael Meyers, is unhinged. Therefore he kills people. And he doesn't just kill them, he slays them in such fantastically creative and gory ways as hockey skate to face. Ouch, that's real. Because of an excessive amount of childhood pride (which I must have lost somewhere along the ride) I watched the entire movie. It has haunted me ever since.

I don't even remember the plot anymore. I am fairly confident my mind must have blocked out most of the scenes in self-protection. But I do remember this one school scene where Michael Meyers lowered himself down by one arm from a pipe in a school hallway right behind a (single white) girl, who was either totally oblivious or deaf. (Spoiler alert: she dies).

First of all, the kind of muscle it takes to lower your entire body down like that is ridiculous. The core strength alone! But then you get to thinking about the take home points. How many hallways do I walk down on a daily basis? How many have pipes? Far too many.

After this movie, I avoided staying at my school past dark. Way too risky, even though I'm pretty sure the character Michael Meyers died in two of the movies preceding Halloween H20. Michael Meyer's terrifying strength is only overshadowed by his apparent inability to die.

And so I vowed to steer clear of horror movies (and move back into my twin sister's bedroom because of a newfound fear of closets). Years passed, and I was happy, save for the occasional lone walk down a hallway. Then I hit college. I was a little older, a little wiser, and my friend Thatcher convinced me that I should watch the first Saw film. He claimed it was an "interesting piece, psychologically" (as opposed to the merciless gore I thought it to be). We watched it in the student center early in the evening. Admittedly, it was interesting. But inevitably there came a point when I had to return home. Alone. That's where the trouble began.

I was scared that someone would jump out at me, even though I was on a bike. Would I be able to pedal away fast enough? I was kind of out of shape. Like in the movie, what if someone had been watching my every move to wait to abduct me? Never mind that I'm no longer a little girl, I still feel Stranger Danger at every situation. What was that person doing, walking behind me? Walking to the snackbar? A likely story. They are probably waiting until I turn my back to capture me. Happens all the time. I've seen the movies.

So I had to call my boyfriend Dan to walk all the way across campus to get me, so that he could walk me back. Even then, in the relative security of Dan's company, I questioned his true intentions. Could he really be trusted? What if this past year has been a façade, and he's just been biding his time? What if he snapped suddenly, a product of an undetected brain aneurysm? Wouldn't be the first time it has happened; there was an episode on CSI about this. And all this about a boy I loved, because I do not handle the separation of fact and fiction when it comes to horror movies. Curse you, imagination. Go do something useful.

During my senior year of college I moved into an old fraternity house. I chose a room with a fire escape, or as I liked to think of it, a personal metallic balcony. It had a view of the forest and keypad access so I could never get locked out. I probably might have enjoyed it more if other people, too, could be locked out. But criminals are smart, and I wouldn't have put it past anyone to break into a 9-digit keypad. I'd been known to crack a few in my day. I also might have liked the room more if my mom didn't constantly remind me to keep my windows locked at all times because someone could sneak in and wait for me til I got home. But this is assuming that the only criminals that go after me are ones that can afford to wait a few hours for me. That's already saying something. Though I didn't always lock my windows (you can't box me in!) when I came home I always punched in my keycode with my body halfway out the door, ready to flee at the first glimpse of an unfamiliar arm or leg.

My mom doesn't really help the situation. There will be times when I will be happy-go-luckying down the street, not a care in the world, when mom calls me to tell me to "be careful." It will inevitably be at night, and I will be walking alone.

Mom: "Where are you?"
Me: "I'm out heading over to Jen's house."
Mom: "Why are you going to Jen's?"
Me: "...to hang out. For funzies."
Mom: "Ok, don't stay out late. Where are you now?"
Me: "Just got onto Hanover."
Mom: "Are you almost there? Stay on the line."
Me: "No, Mom. I'm cool, I gotta go..."
Mom: "Ok, but send a text when you get there. Are there other people around?"
Me: (No.) "Yes, of course."
Mom:"Ok good. Stay on the main road. Text me when you get in. I love you."

The "I love you" might as well be "We'll never forget you. God bless." Stay on the main road clearly means "there is a psycho pacing 100 yards behind you waiting 'til you turn down a deserted road." She might even tell me about a recent assault spree involving a man targeting women in my city. He could be anywhere. He could be on the street. He is probably right behind me. I'm not normally a fearful person, but there are times when I do not want inuendos or ideas put into my head. For I am impressionable.

By the time I actually get to where I was going, I have most likely freaked myself out so much with all the various things that could have happened on the walk that my keys are already in position between my knuckles in case I need to defend myself (thanks, self-defense class!). I pound on the door manically, and pray for the person to come quicker.  Has someone been watching me, mapping out my daily life patterns of times when I get home from work? Should I change up my normal paths? Should I leave my light on to make it seem like someone is always home? Can Jen defend me if need be? What if Jen is actually evil? Horror movies are terrible.

My mom hates that I can't just get to and stay in my apartment after it gets dark. But I'm a Massachusetts girl, and pleasing her in that way would require being locked into my apartment by as early as 4pm in the wintertime. And summer's not for another 6 months. Is that a life, really? But I suppose that doing so would mean I would get to watch a lot more television (so long as it's not scary). The good news is that I can be assured that there aren't strange men in my apartment, because sometimes I can barely get the door unlocked with the right key. And my apartment has no hallways.

So there are a few pluses. But I'm definitely going to wait at least a few more months before I start watching CSI again. At least until it's sunny after 6pm.

16 December, 2009

Any day that ends in a ballpit is a good day

Last week I connected with a new friend from the Berkshires living in Boston. We did all the same things that Berkshire County kids love to do- go to Starbucks to grab coffee, go aisle shopping in Target, and driving around town. The good life.
 He's a few years into grad school and gets to enjoy all the perks of dorm life. Being around kids your age (ish), late-night dorm snacks, bearing witness to walks of shame, etcetera. Another perk of his dorm living? Oh, just that one of the rooms in his dorm is devoted entirely to being a ball pit. It's for "stress relief." It's an entire room filled two and a half feet thick with brightly colored plastic balls! An entire room!

I can't even imagine the possibilities this would have held for me at school. I would have done all my studying there. My daily exercise. My late-night romantic trysts. (Kidding. Half.)
Needless to say, I made him stay there and swam through them and bounced them off the walls for as long as felt socially appropriate (an hour). It was our first friend date, after all- don't want to give a totally childish impression. But the fact that MIT devotes money to this endeavor, AND that a committee probably had to sign off on it, makes me seriously consider applying there.

14 December, 2009

Edge of Existence

Friends, I have reached the edge of existence: the point in one's life where the decision between carrying on with life, and not, comes perilously close. When every breath is a labor, and the actions of looking back or moving forward both cut equally deep, so one is forced to a crossroads of indecision. Lacking motivation, zest, music in my heart of hearts.

For today my ipod passed. And with it, the majority of my music collection. Thousands and thousands of songs, vanishéd into the air around me where they weigh heavily, quietly on my heart. On my very soul. An (admittedly) young lifetime of enthusiastically collecting and trading, making mixes, spending obsessive hours scouring radio stations playlists and other's personal music stashes, as well as generous sessions analyzing lyrics... all for naught. Naught, I say. In Julia's words, "I want my tears, so I can feel my sadness." So wise for a six year old.

Please send all (good) music to 09emf@williams.edu. Do the right thing. It's Christmastime.

13 December, 2009


Whilst Christmas shopping for the ever-fertile Flynn sisters, I came across this site called Peek-a-belly.com. It sells onesies for babies that open in the middle for, as they put it, "for the gift of delicious belly access." Now, babies bellies are adorable and all. But I don't know- something about it rubs me the wrong way.

As my sister Kate put it, "It defeats the purpose of a onesie. And it invites creepy people to kiss your kiddo's belly!"

Peek-A-Belly. Cute or evil?

10 December, 2009

Aquarium Days

I've been at the Aquarium for over 2 months now. Within that short amount of time my boss has learned to trust me enough to leave me alone in the lab for a few hours and not have the lab be flooded upon his return. I feed the starfish, dogfish, urchins, seahorses, and flounder all by myself, and they're all surviving quite nicely (a fact of which I am very proud).

In the beginning, I tried to name all the animals I came across. Most were given physical descriptors, like the starfish I named 'Lefty' because he was missing an arm. (Because starfish have five arms...ha...ha). There was also Lumps, Spotty, Red, and Flopsy. You get the idea.

The Edge of the Sea exhibit is where I spend most of my time. There is constant background music provided by the nearby Amazon River exhibit. More specifically, the music comes from the deforestation video that plays on loop throughout the day. The music gives a soulful, driving ambiance to my exhibit. Because of that video, I am endlessly subjected to an a capella version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," where the "in the jungle, the mighty jungle" parts are accompanied by the piercing sounds of chainsaws and trees falling. Deforestation. About 4 million times a day, everyday (approximately.) The visitors themselves don't seem to be affected the same way that I am, but then again- they can always walk away. When you're cleaning out a tank for about half an hour and hear the refrain "A hym a way-a hym a way-a hym a wayy..." it's enough to make you wonder: if I cut down all the trees, will it make the music stop?

On Wednesday I wandered into the cold-water area, where another intern was working. We chatted a bit about our respective jobs, and then he said that if I was sticking around I could help feed Truman and Athena. Truman and Athena are the aquarium's North Pacific Giant octopi. Athena is, admittedly, not so giant (as she is just under a year) but Truman is a dude. So now, on my life list, I can cross off "feed an octopus." I can also add to that list (only to cross it off immediately, for I have done it!): touch an octopus (not shockingly- they are smooth and slimy), as well as be suctioned by an octopus tentacle (all the way up to my elbow).

Sure, the internship is unpaid. But you can't pay for experiences and character-building like that. Right, mom?
 How many seahorses do you see in the picture? 
Correct answer: at least 8. Camouflauge, baby.


Autotune is so 2009. It's when you take a clip of someone speaking or "singing," and alter their pitch higher or lower. The result is that a rapper that can't sing (e.g.-Kanye West) can "sing" on their hits. The additional benefit of Autotuning something is that one can also make pundits and television personalities sing the news, which increases my desire to watch ABC news more than ten-fold. Gubernatorial? More like gu-boring-natorial. (Zing.)

The year in review, courtesy of VH1 (and my flatmate, for the clip).

Autotuning the news. Who doesn't love Katie Couric? (Fact: she spoke at my school. She should have been auto-tuned.)

05 December, 2009

So I Saw New Moon

New Moon is For Lovers
Tonight while googling New Moon, I found this photo of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the stars of the Twilight sequel's New Moon. It is my new favorite
So. New Moon. New Moon is the second in the Twilight trilogy of star-crossed lovers, vampires, and werewolves that came out on November 20th and broke all the box-office records. My mother, twin, and I are obsessed with the story, having read them before the movie came out. (Yes, I am pulling that card.) It's not so much the 17-but-actually-108-year old Edward Cullen that really draws us in (though he is played by rogue-ishly handsome and wildly haired actor Robert Pattinson), but the story itself. The two main characters are in love. They're kept apart by uncontrollable forces (here, the fact that he is undead and that she is human.) They fight to be together and overcome adversity. Hey, a good love story is a good love story.

There are a lot of crap movies made lately that are targeted at women and the stereotypical things that women like. Cooking, romance, repentant ex-boyfriends. Etc, gag. Must I remind you about 2009's female-oriented films like Julie & Julia, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Sandra Bullock's The Proposal, AND My Sister's Keeper? Not only are these movies major downers, they make you either end up crying with emotion, crying with joy, or just crying because the dialogue is terrible. And while most of the time I'd like to opt out of the female genre entirely, I do proudly admit that I love Twilight. The dialogue is admittedly terrible, but at least it didn't make me cry.

Twilight doesn't really have any of those traditional and pesky elements like "feelings" or "emotions." Well, they actually do, but it's all on the inside. In fact, more than half of the time the characters are seemingly so caught up in thinking about how they feel that they don't really express them aloud or to each other. While this does create the major obstacles in the plot for the characters (attempted suicide, jaded lovers) it is something I can really get behind: people talk about their feelings too much. Twilight doesn't. I choose Twilight's angsty quiet brooding over analyzing the minutiae of a relationship anyday. ANYDAY. While I actively avoided all the other romantic comedy and chick-targeted gagfests, I was all aboard the New Moon train. Toot toot.

This strategy is also very true to real-life teenage romances. No teen really knows what they're doing at that time anyway- confused angst is inevitable.

Twilight does specialize in super sexy elements of "danger". Edward loves Bella, but he wants to bite her. Odds are bad for them, but they work hard against all odds to stay alive and be together. In real life if a guy had to stave off the urge to kill you everytime you touched, a restraining order would (or should) be involved. But Edward's constant battle between love and thirst just serves to rev up the sexual tension from 0 to 60, promptly send all unsuspecting 13 year old hearts aflutter. But the best part of the movie for me is the fact that the plot is entirely driven through dark looks, heavy sighs, terrible dialogue, and a general lack of tear-jerky parts. Win.

The audience in my theater was filled with (as expected) a bevy of 10-13 year old tweens, as well as a lot of older women attending the showing under the guise of "taking their daughters to the movies." There were maybe six 20somethings in the theater, of which my group accounted for half of them. I think I saw one guy, maybe. I thought that was very brave of him.

If you're not going to see it, here's what you missed of Twilight: New Moon
*More than half of the movie was entirely emoted through brooding and wordless, pensive stares. A lot of the movie we, the viewer, were (I guess?) supposed arrive at our own interpretations of the character's true feelings through the variations of their sighs and eye movements. Nearly every scene with Edward, the vampire, opened with Edward's hands in his pockets, looking stoic and distractedly off to the side. I'm gonna go with 25 of the total 30 scenes started this way. So I arrived at the conclusion that Edward has a lot of feelings. That's like half the plot there, so if you're only reading this far in the post, feel free to take your leave now. You're welcome.

*All the characters are riddled with some serious inner conflict. There was a lot of this:
and this:

As my friend Kate used to say, "No words, just feelings." I think it sums up the character's interaction quite nicely. Why talk about our feelings when we can just try to send them telepathically to each other? It's hard to talk about a love that endures past death without sounding contrived anyway.

*There was a gratuitous amount of Taylor Lautner's abs. And not just abs- Taylor Lautner's abs in jean shorts, or "jorts", proudly named by my friend Ben who loved his own pair once. The jorts were a dominant part of Jacob's (and Ben's) ensemble. Moving on.

Taylor plays the character Jacob, the reticent native american teen/werewolf. Mind you, he's a 17-year old in real life, but the way the older women in my theater behaved he may as well have been George Clooney. In the real world these women could be put into jail for lusting after a barely-legal like Taylor. But with the striking popularity given to "Cougars" lately, this probably shouldn't be shocking to me. Personally, I felt a little weird thinking he was hot as he was because he was young. I can only imagine how I'd feel if I had a son his age. Hopefully, more than a little wrong. 

*My favorite scene of the movie? Bella, the angsty and dreadfully insecure protagonist, played by Kristen Stewart, falls off her motorcycle and hits her head against a perfectly placed lone rock. As you do. Her friend, Jacob, aka Taylor "Jorts" Lautner, comes to her rescue. He decides to wipe up some of the blood from her head after her accident, which is a good start. But he stands up in what can only be described as slow-motion soft-core movement, and then peels off his gray tee shirt. The camera pans up from his shoes and suddenly all you see are abs-abs-abs. And then he hands her the shirt. Wasn't I supposed to be concerned about Bella?? Yes. But with the placement of this scene, you get the feeling that the director just gave up ad gave in to what all the prepubescent girls wanted. You know what I'd be pissed about if I was Bella? If I just got a concussion I would be pretty upset if someone tried to upstage me with their nakedness. Even if he looked like Taylor Lautner.

Not surprisingly, this action illicited shrieks of glee from the pre-teens and their mothers. It was, honestly, so unbelievably over-the-top that I couldn't help but laugh. My twin fervently believes that the director, Chris Weitz, was trying to embrace the hokey campy nature of the script in a tongue-in-cheek way. Verdict's still out.

It's kind of like the time that I saw Harry Potter after seeing the SNL parody where Rachel Dratch had such a spot-on Harry Potter impression that when I finally went to see the actual movie, I couldn't stop laughing because I just imagined it to be Rachel Dratch as Harry. If the director DID knowingly make New Moon as parody-ing as he could then the guy needs an award. Because New Moon was hilarious, even when I didn't think they meant to be. It was a parody of itself.

*Interestingly enough, the New Moon's official symbol depicts the shadow of the moon moving right to left across the screen. This is actually a waxing moon, not a waning moon that preceeds a "new moon." Thus, the logo is scientifically incorrect. You'd think that as the title of the movie was New Moon someone on the production team might take the time to fact-check that their image of the moon was accurate. But you would be wrong. But what can we expect from the angst-ridden sexually tense sequel to Twilight?

While I wasn't obsessed with the movie (or even involved in the story enough to not laugh during the movie) would I see it again? Hell yes, at least twice more. Though exactly why I was was entertained was most probably not the director's true intent, I was thoroughly entertained throughout the whole thing and recommend it highly. The New Moon poster Dan got me in my bedroom wasn't just put up to be a conversation piece.