Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Confession

So I have a confession to make.  It’s not easy for me to say, and you might not be that shocked, but I, Julia Rose Callahan, am a hipster.  Yep.  That’s right.  I’m coming clean.  I’m a hipster.  I love irony, I wear old clothes, I own records and I listen to NPR.

The term hipster has been bandied about for quite a few years now, and I’ll admit, when I first heard it I had no clue what it meant.  So let me define, in case you’re out of the loop.  Basically, a hipster is a young person, usually in a large city, who wears skinny jeans, ironic t-shirts, and greasy hair.  Men often sport obnoxious mustaches and mullets, women often also sport a mullet-like hairstyle.  Women are often seen sporting old granny dresses and sweater sets.  Tattoos are also a big part of hipster style, usually the tattoos are ill-planned and somewhat ridiculous, but funny.  Hipsters also tend to be smart, artistic and politically savvy.  They read, they listen to NPR, they can’t get enough of indie rock (though they only like the bands that you and I are too unhip to know about yet), and they love movies that are so bad they’re good.  (If you are in the Bay Area, hipsters are almost anyone under the age of 30 living in San Francisco, especially in The Mission).

You see, not only do hipsters like irony, they also like being the first of their kind to do anything.  Thus, they will often move into semi-dangerous neighborhoods and start the gentrification process that seems to be sweeping almost every urban area in this country (with the exception of Detroit).  Hipsters were the ones moving to Oakland when it was still super dangerous, they moved in to Brooklyn and Downtown Los Angeles, while they were still considered the ghetto.

But Hipster has had a negative connotation ever since I first started hearing it (all the way back in 2004).  As I moved into Los Feliz, arguably the most hipster neighborhood in Los Angeles next to Silverlake, six months ago, I started thinking about this phenomenon of Hipsterness.  Was it really all bad?  I mean sure, there is a vain element to it that I would not consider myself a part of (though I do have numerous tattoos and wear obnoxious jewelry), but really, hipsters embody a kind of ethos that I can’t say I’m opposed to.  In fact, I’m all for it.

Coming from a generation where Beavis and Butthead reigned supreme, it’s acutally kind of astonishing that many of us now pride ourselves on the vast knowledge we are able to acquire.  Sure, it can be annoying when faced with someone who knows fucking everything, but isn’t it better than having to deal with Bill and Ted all the time?

Above all this though, hipsters are also in to helping the envirnoment, they ride bikes and take public transit.  They shop local.  Basically, hipsters are the new hippies (and usually they smell better).

So all this being said, I’m claiming my identity as a hipster.  I’m embracing the ridiculousness of having a set of lips tattooed on my left butt cheek.  I’m embracing the fact that I love the soft lisp of Ira Glass.  I’m embracing the fact that I think a man with an ironic handlebar mustache is sexy.  I’m declaring myself a hipster in all its greatness and all its ridiculousness because of all the ridiculous things to be in our modern world, I think hipsters are the least ridiculous.

Peace, Love, and Represent,
Julia

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September 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can’t Hardly Wait

So a few months ago I wrote about Glee, and what a great show it is, and the time is finally here.  After a long hard summer the Fall TV season is back (and thank God it is, there’s only so many reruns of CSI one can scroll by before gouging ones eyes out).  As I watch the sneak peeks available on iTunes, I started to realize what, exactly, Glee has done and they’re changing everything.  

 

The musical T.V. show is not a new thing, it’s been attempted a few times, and failed miserably every single time (I mean, who can forget Cop Rock, where cops actually broke into song).  The problem with this formula in the televisual format is the same that befalls sci-fi and fantasy shows: it’s hard for the vast majority of the T.V. watching public to suspend disbelief for 22 hours per season.  They can do it for a 2 hour movie or a 3 hour play, but to suspend disbelief for an entire season (let alone 6 or 7) is a completely different matter.  Sure, some of us are willing to take trips on the Enterprise for years on end or get up close and personal with demons and vampires, but pretty much all sci-fi/fantasy shows (excluding the X-Files) are cult hits.  

 

Glee, on the other hand, is poised to be a huge smash hit.  The pilot had 10 million viewers and buzz just keeps growing and growing.  So here’s what Glee does right, and why I can’t wait for Wednesday night: 1) it takes modern songs like Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Rehab by Amy Winehouse, and Gold Digger by Kanye West and makes them show choir standards.  Along these same lines, Glee doesn’t go down the road of High School Musical or Cop Rock or any other musical for that matter, in that the kids don’t randomly burst into a fully choreographed song and dance number when they are blue or in love or in need of expression in some way, instead the songs come from the actual performing of the pieces.  It’s genius really, they avoid the ridiculousness of musicals and instead capture an audience of people who like the songs that are getting made over glee-style.  

2) Lea Michele’s character of Rachel Barry combines the best of any good drama dork with Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon’s character in Election).  She’s that oh-so-annoying girl that was always better than you at school, was always class president and got into a better university than you, but what she had in smarts and determination she lacked in social graces.  3) Glee is the anti-High School Musical that just might win over all the lovers and the haters at once.  I’ve written many many times about the atrocity of High School Musical, but this show has the potential to unite the two factions (plus, people actually make out and like, can act in Glee, imagine that).  

 

Basically, what we’re witnessing here folks is a potential change in Television.  It’s never been done before and it looks like it’s going to be a huge success.  Beware of next year’s t.v. season  when we see The Office: The Musical, Football: The Musical, and CSI: Broadway.  It’s all downhill from here.

 

Peace, Love, and Glee,

Julia

September 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trip of a Lifetime

It’s hard to write feelings about an adventure immediately after you’ve experienced it, so forgive me for my tardiness in writing about my time in Italy, France and England.  I needed some time to let it soak in, to let the subtle changes in my person take over, to let the experiences guide me.  That sounds a little new age-y but I’m from Santa Cruz so I just can’t help myself.  

I always forget, when I travel for a long time, that the memories that stick with you aren’t necessarily the places you got to see, but the people you met along the way, the experiences you had, and most importantly for me, the development of the relationship between you and whoever you are with.  I went with Steve, one of my best friends from high school…one of the two people I still talk to from high school.  I won’t wax poetic about what a great friend he is, because he receives this and that’s kind of private, but I will say that a true friend sees you when you’re ugly and sweaty and injured and tired and generally miserable to be around and still loves you afterward.  A true friend also pours water on you when you’ve fallen down a mountainside and cleans up your cuts when you’re too shocked to do it yourself.

Steve and I started with lofty goals about our Italy trip, Vespaing around, hiking through, but in the end we decided to take the train and sometimes numerous buses between places and save the hiking for the non-life-threatening inner town places.  Basically, Italian roads are narrow and people drive fast…we didn’t really want to get killed on this trip.  Though that almost happened anyway, but more on that later.

When Steve first brought up the idea of him moving to Europe I started saving money.  The two of us have this long running unspoken agreement that we will visit each other no matter what crazy far off place the other is living.  Hence me ending up in India for a few weeks and him mozying around London and Paris with me.  I’m hearing rumblings that Indonesia might be my next trip, but nothing is confirmed yet.  Needless to say, when he said, Avignon, I said, okay…I’ll start saving money.  

I knew if I was flying to Europe I was going to go to London.  I haven’t been back in the five years since I lived there, and I have to say, I miss it terribly.  There were approximately three times where tears flooded my eyes and my throat closed up as I sat at LAX waiting for my flight, and another when I looked down at the uneven and often times insane looking patchwork of brown and green parcels of land that I remembered looking down on six years earlier, when I was moving to a new country and was a completely different person.  

Of course, being who I am, my two gay friends from London met me at arrivals…I like to have gay men meet me wherever I go, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  And throughout the first day, more of our friends arrived to meet me as we hopped from pub to pub. And shit, did I miss the British Pub.  American bars, even the divey ones where everybody knows your name, have nothing on the British Pub.  And going to an American bar for a beer at 3 in the afternoon is still somewhat socially unacceptable.  But at the pub, drinking in the afternoon has no bearing to alcoholic tendencies, it’s just about hanging out with friends.  

I won’t be too schmaltzy about how much I loved being in England again, but I will say that it felt like home.  The tears in the airport were a testament to how much England became my home, and my friends their an extended family, in one life-changing year.  In fact, as I was on the train back to London at the end of my trip, I had to keep reminding myself that I would have to fly back to Los Angeles the next day, that, in fact, I was not home yet.  And it ripped a small piece of my heart out that I had to leave.  (I’ll just take this moment to thank my English friends for letting me stay with them and say that I really truly loved seeing you all.  It meant more to me than you could know and I’ll be back soon…perhaps for another year or more).

Of course, staying with tradition, I had to have another of my gay harem pick me up at the train station in Avignon…again with the warm and fuzzies.  And so started the traveling part, in my mind.  Sure, London was part of my trip, but really it was about seeing friends, drinking with them, and bumming around London for 5 days.  It was being home.  Seeing as I speak almost no French, France felt more like traveling to me.  That sligtly panicky feeling when you have no idea where you are and can’t communicate with anyone washed over me as I sat at my station change in Lille.  Hordes of Frenchpeople, their hands teeming with Mickey Mouse dolls and other Euro Disney crap, passed by me speaking a language where I can only decipher ‘Do you speak English?’ and ‘Do you want to go to bed with me tonight?’  Luckily, a drunk Englishwoman (shocking) helped me find my way and I was off to Avignon…the city of popes.  

I rolled in at 8 PM to the cutest smiling face I’ve ever seen.  Practically jumping up and down to see me.  There’s something so special about having being the kind of friends who never loose that youthful, can’t-contain-myself-excitement, when you are seeing each other.  There’s also something to say about friends who can go a year without seeing each other and pick up right where they left off.  I feel pretty lucky to have that.  Steve, being who he is, took me on a Vespa ride almost immediately upon arrival.  Now, many of you may not know this, but I saw a motorcycle accident a few years ago (and almost ran over the cyclist as he crashed in front of my car) and have had a crippling fear of motorcycles since then.  That’s not to say that I don’t think they’re cool and so fucking sexy I can hardly stand it, but I do have a fear.  For me, Steve is the kind of friend that will push the limits of my comfort.  I mean this in a totally good way.  He can see that I’m scared of something (ahem, the eiffel tower) and will agree to hold my hand or be right behind me as he gently pushes me to do it.  There were a few times on our trip where this happened, but he never lets bad things happen to me and I always turn out okay.

Our first stop was Nice, where I swear, I half-expected F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald to come stumbling out of a Brasserie, martini glasses in hand.  This is where we started writing.  I’m going to admit that I have not reread anything I wrote.  All my observations are in a notebook on the floor of my room and will be typed up at some point, and hopefully turned into something amazing, but I wanted to do this completely from memory.  

For Steve, our trip started when we flew from Nice to Rome.  And this, I will say, is when the true adventure began.  First off, my Italian is rusty to say the least, so for the first week or so, I was barely communicating.  Luckily, people spoke English.  Secondly, we started calling Rome Dante’s Inferno (it was hot as hell and there were a shit-ton of tourists) and we started referring to our trip as the Sweating Through Europe Tour 2009.   But our collective misery bonded us.  The thing that gets romanticized about traveling in hostels through Europe for so long is that it’s not all the most fun you’ve ever experienced.  Sometimes you’re dirty and hot and sweaty and have a 20 lb backpack on.  You’re sleeping in a room with 6, 10, 20 people, you’re showering in a place where there is no privacy, you have to shit in one stall while 10 other people are surrounding you.  It’s not all sunshine and roses.  But the good parts, those are sooooooo good.  

Our first real encounter came in Rome, when we were trying to plan where the hell we were going to go in Italy (yeah, we started with 3 nights booked in Rome and nothing else).  It was the 4th of July and a drunk Arizonian came up to our table as we finished off our nightly bottle of wine.  He was one of those people that thrives on being on the outskirts of society.  I can’t say that I haven’t toyed with the idea, but the thought of being so vulnerable is somewhat frigtening to me.  He started talking to us about everything from how he was looking for a job here to how he smoked pot with a bunch of Englishman the other night.  This seemed to be a theme in the trip, American’s smoking pot, and they all asked us if we’ve ever smoked it.  Um, we’re two twentysomethings who are from California…please, do the math here folks.  

Rome, for all intents and purposes, is just the place you have to go before you get to the good part of Italy.  And man did we get to the good part.  When we showed up in Rome we had no plan for where else to go and ended up in some pretty awesome places.  I won’t bore you with a day by day, but I will say that there were places that looked like Romeo and Juliet’s stomping grounds, there were places that I got eaten alive by mosquitoes, there were places where we almost got eaten alive by tourists, and then there was the one person tent.  

Ah, yes.  Being the two yahoos that we can tend to be, we brought, what seemed like a large one person tent.  In fact, it seemed so large we decided that two people could fit in it.  Now, in our defense we did get in it before we left and it seemed perfectly fine for the two of us.  That is, until we actually tried to go to sleep in it.  On the muddy banks of the lago trasimeno, Steve and I basically spooned for about 45 minutes before realizing that there was no way either of us was sleeping at all…I’ll try to provide pictures of the truly comically small tent, but for now just use your imagination.  Of course, we were surrounded by European campers who don’t so much camp as bring an entire portable home with them so we looked even more like a couple of crazy Americans as we rolled up with nothing more than a back pack and a sleeping bag.  Steve in his Panamanian Drug Lord hat, me in braided pig tails and a skull and crossbones cowboy hat.  Um, yeah, we did not blend.  Of course the first night, after deciding that I’d be more comfortable under the stars was nothing like the second night, where a mean cold front came in and neither of us got a wink of sleep.  

The thing that’s funny about the two of us is that we’re musicians (that’s not the funny part) so when we were tired an sweaty and over walking with 20 lbs of shit on our backs, we would often break in to song.  I thought about that later, what a funny sight we must have been, two beet red American kids signing showtunes while walking to and from train stations, hefting heavy bags up steep hills.  It’s one of my favorite memories from the trip.

Of course, our other great funny adventure was my fall down a cliff (only funny because I did not end up killing myself which probably would have been slightly less funny).  So here’s the full story of the cliff fall.  

Steve and I stayed in a town called Biassa, right near Cinque Terre on our last two nights in Italy.  I’ve always wanted to go to Cinque Terre so that was one of our must see destinations.  As we got to the hostel, up on the side of a mountain right outside the National Park of Cinque Terre (we met a group of women on the bus ride up I started calling the Ya Ya Sisterhood on our way…but this story is better told in person, complete with screams and genteel southern accents), and checked in the Hostel clerk told us that it was possible to walk to the first of the five fishing villages of Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore, from the hostel.  

The next morning, being the two gung ho California kids we are, we thought, why take the bus when we can hike, so we set off up the road toward a trail head.  Of course, we didn’t know where the trail actually started so after questioning every small ravine off the side of the road we decided to continue on up to a summit, where the trail head was clearly marked.  And maybe, as we started down the defined trail, we should have sensed something amiss.  But the views of the crystal clear turquoise Mediterranean were too much.  The beginning of the trail made it abundantly clear that this was not used all that often.  Branches scraped our bare legs, and we definitely discussed needing to check for ticks when we got down to the village.  Finally, after about a mile the trail widened out and the overgrowth stopped being a problem.  It was around this time that the breathtakingly gorgeous views came into sight.  The sheer cliffsides, the terraced vineyards that lined the mountain all the way to its triumphant peaks, the small stone houses we passed complete with old Italian men looking over their grapes, testing their ripeness.  

Not more than five minutes after greeting one such a man, Steve and I were making our way down the trail, the side of which was unrailed and led down a steep down toward the Mediterranean.  I, of course, felt the need to comment on the fact that this could easily turn into a 90210 episode (you know, the one where Brandon and Dylan are fighting and Brandon falls down a cliffside, only to be saved by Dylan).  Surely enough, almost immediately after recounting that story, I stepped down on to what looked like a piece of trail, and the road fell out from under me.  I was not drunk, as I have been asked on numerous occasions, I did not trip, as I am known to do, the road simply ceased to exist and I went crashing down the hillside.  Lucky for me, it was a piece of hillside that was ripe with foliage because it stopped me from rolling down into the ocean.  

As Steve tells it, I scrambled to catch the cliffside before turning into what he dubs a ‘hurricane-like’ fall.  Limbs went everywhere as I rolled approximately 15 ft before being stopped by a tree (and the mound of dirt leading up to it).  Steve yelled down to make sure I was okay and if I needed help.  But I didn’t.  He talked me through my the stunned shock that I had settled into as I righted myself and realized what had just happened.  I also realized at some point that I couldn’t see.  My glasses had flown off my face, my shoulder bag had come off my body and I sat dirt covered on the ground of a huge hill.  
I got myself back together and managed to climb up the hill, Steve’s soothing voice helping me along and then his strong hand pulling me up.  He was great, pouring water on me and wiping me down as I was now bleeding from each of my limbs.  My ankle had been tweaked hard and both Steve and I were a little shaky, he more so than me I think.  I mean, he had to watch me fall and couldn’t really do anything about it.  
After that little adventure, we hiked down to Riomaggiore and spent an enjoyable two days in the beauty of Cinque Terre.  Then it was time to go home.  One of the hardest things for me was taking the train from Paris to London and realizing that I was going to have to fly back to Los Angeles the next day.  I’ve made that train trip numerous times and always was home at the end of it.  Alas, not this time.  
Even still, it was one of those trips that will stay with me forever.  A trip of a lifetime.
Peace, Love, and Italia,
Julia

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Twihard Discrimination

Hey all,
I’m back from Europe, definitely changed, maybe a little maimed, but refreshed and ready to keep writing. For those of you who have seen any updates on Facebook or have talked to me, or have not talked to me, here’s what happened. Steve and I were hiking down a dusty mountain trail in Cinque Terre and I stepped down and the road came out from under me, I then proceeded to tumble about 12 feet down the mountain. I’m fine, though still slightly bruised and my ankle is still swollen. I went to the doctor today who told me that I’m fine, but I’m not 16 any more and thus will heal more slowly than I used to. Great… Other than that slight hiccup, Steve and I had the time of our lives. I promise I will write a whole thing about that, but right now there is something else on my mind.

So, two days after flying back from Europe I made my way down to San Diego for Comic-Con. Yes, this convention of real nerds and the cool nerds alike, brings upwards of 130,000 people to the Gaslamp area of San Diego. Movie stars mix with fan boys and hot girls dress in gold bikinis; pretty much, everyone wins at Comic-Con. Everyone, that is, except the Twilight girls. Now, I find thousands of screaming teenagers as annoying as anyone else (though there is a sick part of me that wants to study why they feel the need to scream so loud for so long), and the phenomenon of the screaming teenager is not anything new (hi, Beatles, Elvis, Spice Girls, etc). I think what is so amazing about the Twilight phenomenon, and I know I’ve talked about it a lot, is that these kids are freaking the fuck out over a series of books. They’re freaking out more than Harry Potter fans ever did (I mean, sure, Harry Potter fans attended midnight book launches in full costume, but they were relatively demure and docile when it came down to it), and it’s all over books. I mean, as a bookseller, that’s enough to endear me to them right there. Sure, the books are not much more than pre-adolescent wet dreams, and I’m not saying they aren’t worth reading, but they’re a lot like crack. You know they’re bad for you, but you keep reading them anyway. Still, I’m on board with a series that will get this many people to read. THANK YOU STEPHENIE MEYER.

That being said, the movie Twilight phenomenon was kicked off at last year’s Comic-Con when a shocked cast of relatively unknown actors took the stage in front of 3,500 screaming girls. Homemade Team Edward and Team Jacob (you’ll know when you read it) shirts glittered in the lights of Ballroom 20 or Hall H, wherever they were, and the cast caught a first glimpse of what exactly they were dealing with. New Moon, the second of the Twilight books, which is being edited for a movie release date of November 20th, came back with a vengeance at this year’s Comic-Con. Much like Iron Man, the reaction last year, really fuelled this notion that what sells at Comic-Con sells in the box office. Many a movie has been made and broken at this Comic Book Convention and Twilight was another reason that studios send movies out there.

But this year was different. This year, the backlash was in full effect. Last year, people didn’t know what Twilight was. They knew there were a lot of teenage girls running around in glittery puffy painted shirts, but that’s not really out of the norm at Comic-Con, in fact, it’s celebrated. This is a convention where it is possible to see an army of storm troopers, clingons (that’s probably spelled wrong, forgive my Star Trek ignorance), Captain Jack Sparrow, and Superman in the course of one booth. This is a convention that embraces grown men who want to dress up in a darth vader costume and carry a light saber around all day; a convention that gets absolutely giddy at the thought of a woman dressed as Wonder Woman roping fanboys with a golden lasso. To be succinct, this is a convention that embraces what is otherwise thought of as weird or socially unacceptable in everyday life.

So I was actually a little shocked when I saw people (all young men) walking around with cardboard signs that stated simply, ‘Twilight ruined Comic-Con.’ In a way, I get where these young men are coming from. This is their convention, where they and others of their ilk can have endless discussions about whether Superman could really impregnate Lois Lane or whether his ejaculation is too strong and would tear a hole in her, therefore the only woman Superman could have a child with is Wonder Woman who has a strong enough uterus to deal with Supersperm. But really this hasn’t been their convention for some time. If you’re going to argue that Twilight ruined Comic-Con then you have to argue that Hollywood ruined Comic-Con (and many do) because really Twilight is only doing what so many before it have done. It’s creating a space for something that is somewhat culty, though fairly popular, to reign.

I hate to pull the gender card because I rarely believe that this is a factor, but I think the young fanboys are pissed that the young fangirls have out done them. They’re more excited, more ravenous for any bit of information that is given to them, and they’re becoming a major tastemaker. I think the young fanboys are threatened that the fangirls are proving their monetary worth to the movie studios and networks. One look at this years Comic-Con, premiering not only clips from New Moon but also from True Blood (southern vampires) and the new show The Vampire Diaries (teenage vampires), not to mention the daddy of vampire shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which always makes a stake at Comic-Con, even though it went of the air years ago), shows that teen girls are a demographic the studios are catering to.

I’m a little saddened by this community of people that prides themselves on embracing ridiculousness and fantasy is not more supportive of Twilight. Sure, you don’t have to like it, but at least don’t hate on it. I mean, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan (in fact, I kind of can’t stand it), but I support it’s right to be at a place like Comic-Con. Like it or not, Twilight is sticking around for a bit, and these girls are making a little peice of pop culture history.

Peace, Love, and Acceptance,
Julia

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ch-ch-changes

There have been very few times in my young life where I have embarked on some kind of adventure or enterprise and been aware that that adventure or enterprise was going to change me deeply. Life is more a series of subtle, unnoticeable changes, accented by a select few large, noticeable changes, than a series of leaps followed by long stagnations. Leaving for college, moving to Europe, traveling to India, moving to Los Angeles, being present at both elections of George W. Bush, all of these experiences carried with them some sort of anticipation (whether good or bad), some sort of prior knowledge that after having those experiences I would be fundamentally different as a person in some way.

It’s a precarious, and often uncomfortable, position to be in, sitting on the deck of a ship looking at the horizon ahead, but not being able to anticipate the storms, the sharks, the white wales, that might knock into your ship along the way. And yet, though one may anticipate what changes will come, inevitably, as with any kind of change, the hypothesis are almost always off, not just off, but dead wrong.

I’ve been walking around in this anticipatory stupor for the last few weeks. An odd sense of overwhelming excitement combined with a fluttering nervousness has followed me around as I try in vain to get work done (I should be doing some right now), or do laundry, or clean, or pack. After a year of living like a monk (or well, maybe not totally like a monk) I’ve managed to save enough money to flit off to Europe for the next 27 days.

Unlike scores of American’s before me, I, with my best friend, will be hiking, scootering, camping, and roughing it through Italy and France (with a stop in London to see my beloved Brits). There’s something scary about just going to Europe without hostel reservations or safety nets, but something sort of thrilling about it too. Like maybe, for a few weeks, it’s still possible to live without the comforts of even an apartment that sometimes covers you with brown water or no water, that sometimes is so loud you can’t fathom how the world could create such cacophony. Sure there is something romantic and romanticized about roughing it, but there is also such a deep part of my own humanity that yearns to know I don’t need all these modern luxuries to live a life, to be a full person, that my humanity does not come from my job or my BlackBerry or my car or even my little writer’s apartment, that some part of the soul, no matter what life throws at it, soars in the face of unluxuriousness.

So until next time.

Peace, Love, and a Nine Hour Flight,
Julia

June 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Treatise on New York

Treatise on New York
I tend to sit impatiently on airplanes, still waiting for the day that I can just be beamed places and don’t have to put in the hours to actually travel to distant lands. There’s something about knowing I’m either ending up somewhere exciting or going home that makes me antsy. Not to mention that, unlike a car ride, traveling on a plane is not half the fun of the trip. I check the weather out the window, look down at the patchwork of farm land that makes up the majority of the United States, read sporadically, watch tv or movies, listen to my iPod, any of the myriad of distractions afforded us in our modern technological age. So as I finally descended through the clouds into New York last Tuesday, I was nearly ready to jump out of my skin.

It has been ten long years since I stepped foot on Manhattan Island. The Twin Towers still stood, the city was still somewhat gritty and dangerous, and I was too young to really venture out that far on my own in the big, unknown city. At that point I had been studying maps of Manhattan for a year an a half, looking up the cool hangouts like CBGB’s and Gray’s Papaya Hot Dogs, dreaming of moving to the city of cities.

Of course, moving to New York City is expensive, not to mention the fact that my underage drinking schedule afforded me no access to NYU or Columbia, both of which I dreamed of going to. I plastered maps of New York City to the wall above my bed, studying how the grid of streets fit together and just imagining what the graffiti covered, piss stained walls would look like once I finally got to live there. I watched countless movies, television shows, and one particular play (ahem, Rent), hoping to gather any information about the city that had captured my imagination at the ripe age of twelve. I started reading Henry James, Edith Wharton, Dorothy Parker, Hubert Selby, Jr., and F. Scott Fitzgerald, trying to grasp a picture of a New York that had long since been covered up with sex shops and hipsters, but still lurked underneath the surface of Starbucks and H & M.

It was drizzling when I left the airport, skies grey and dreary. Having been in the too bright sunshine of Los Angeles just five hours earlier, the cloudy coolness of New York was a much welcomed change. That is one of the inherent quirks of living in a city where the sun shines most days of the year, it is a treat to experience rain. To feel cool drops on your face, to smell the musk of the air right before it starts soaking the sidewalk, cleaning away the grit of the city.

After hours of taxi rides to the hotel, checking in, and unpacking, I finally was able to venture out into my much dreamed of city. Two of my co-workers and I walked the two blocks to the subway and it all came flooding back. I missed New York, so deeply, so thoroughly that my entire body ached from it. The smell of the subway, the subtle scent of humanity lurking below street level, flooded my senses, memories from London, San Francisco and New York ran in a loop. Somehow all subways smell exactly the same, no matter what city or country they race under.

We got out at Bryant Park and walked two blocks to the famed Algonquin Hotel. The drizzle had all but stopped, still a slight chill remained in the air, a lethargic East Coast breeze cooled the air enough to require a thick sweatshirt. Even on a Tuesday night at 11:30 pm, the day after labor day, New York was bustling. People walking toward and away from Times Square, people drinking in darkened wood-paneled bars, looking like they’re from a different time.

Dorothy Parker’s presence permeates the old painted ceilings and big velvet chairs of the Algonquin Hotel. The hotel cat slinks around before settling on a luggage cart, claiming her thrown for the moment before moving on to a more private nesting place. The martinis are infamous here, known best for propelling the drunken wit of Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, and of course, Dorothy Parker, among others. The bartender knows the stories of the Round Table, the deep cutting wit, the strong drinks, it all sets the tone for a week of publishing meetings and parties, where the ghosts of a publishing industry passed looms in the shadows.

Throughout the week, between work obligations, and many times during them, I found myself in all areas of the city, discovering what I had known on my first visit with my 8th grade cohorts, I belong to New York. A part of me isn’t at home unless it is eating pierogis at Veselka in the East Villiage, reading Henry James in Washington Square Park, or strolling through the heavily wooded ramble of Central Park.

There was never any doubt that I belonged most hungrily to Greenwich Village, that in my dreams, I live in a tiny old tenement apartment, one with an old wooden water tower still attached to the roof, where a century ago my Irish and Italian brothers and sisters hung laundry out the window and suffered through the disgusting summer heat to afford a life here in this land of promise. A certain part of me forgets that sacrifice without seeing the remnants of it every day. Still, the Village and its history of intellectualism, of artists and writers, musicians and poets, radiates a kind of passion that seems lost on the large sprawling boulevards of Los Angeles. Where is there to have an artist collective in L.A.? Only Venice can boast any kind of artistic integrity, and even that ended 40 years ago.

New York is a wholly encompassing experience. The sights, the sounds, the smells, they stick to a person, sinking their soft claws in until you have no choice but to give in to the magnetic pull. I don’t buy the pretentious, snobby New Yorker adage that L.A. is not a real city, and New York is the only city that matters because it’s a ridiculous statement, but still, there’s a certain magic to the fire escapes and rooftops, to the narrow cobblestoned streets and the wooden watertowers, to the tenement apartments that practically beg to sing West Side Story, that is just not present on the dusty broad streets of a too crowded Los Angeles. There’s something about New York that screams to be loved and used, to be worked and appreciated. And though I won’t say it’s the most important city in the world, it just might be the best.

Peace, Love, and NYC,
Julia

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Finally!

So I had about a million ideas about what to write about today. They ranged from super serious, to somewhat less serious, and then this afternoon as I was mindlessly entering data and catching up on tv at work (I listen to tv shows while I’m doing stuff I don’t really need to think about because I no longer have cable, which is endlessly painful) I happened innocently upon my subject.

My old roommate works at Fox Television and about three or four months ago she told me about a pilot she thought I’d like. It sounded fun and funny, but I promptly forgot about it until I saw and ad plastered onto the side of some scaffolding on Hollywood Boulevard. So I decided to listen/kind of watch as I logged upcoming events onto a press release (fun, I know) and before I knew it, I was completely engrossed in Glee.

Perhaps it’s the musical theater lover in me, but it’s about damn time that the drama dorks, choir kids, and band geeks got a show. I mean, we’ve had our fair share of newspaper editors (Andrea Zuckerman on 90210, Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls), a film nerd (Dawson Leery on Dawson’s Creek), even a comic book geek (Seth Cohen on The O.C.), except for the girl who does an unspeakable thing with her flute in American Pie (which, by the way, came out 10 years ago), and the amazingness of Drumline (both of these are movies) there haven’t been many drama, choir, band kids on T.V. Not in any kind of heroic setting. I mean, we’re the butt of the joke, we’re driven and discuss people like Charles Mingus and Ella Fitzgerald, we enjoy the oddness of people bursting out into song and choreographed dance at a moments notice, and yes, the band kids have to wear appallingly ugly (and uncomfortable) uniforms, but we have enough drama to warrant our own television show.

And finally we have it. I’ve talked previously about my utter detestation of High School Musical, but seriously, I don’t have a problem with the premise of a musical set in high school (in fact, I’m totally on board with that part), it’s the underlying vein of Bush-era abstinence-only preaching that I have the problem with. Excuse me, but I was in band and we weren’t chaste bastions of un-reality. Nor were the choir kids, or the drama kids. We were normal teenagers; some waited, some didn’t, some did everything but, some did everything. And personally, in a post-Bush world, High School Musical does a disservice to young people in these certain aspects.

Glee, however, takes the best of High School Musical (like I said, I love the idea of musicals in high school, especially good ones) and mixes it with just the right amount of camp, and just the right amount of real drama, plus they throw a little nod to Bring It On (best cheerleading movie ever). Not only did Glee hire real Broadway actors (most notably Lea Michele from Spring Awakening, the best answer to High School Musical ever), who are absolutely astonishing singers, but they throw in songs by Amy Winehouse, Katy Perry, and Journey (uh, yeah, that’s right, Journey).

Glee has smash hit written all over it. And the awesome vocal rendition of Don’t Stop Believin’ happens to be #1 on iTunes. Crazy!

Thank you Fox, for finally overcoming your crazy right wing politics and making the show I’ve been waiting for since I watched the first episode of 90210 at age seven.

Peace, Love, and Glee,
Julia

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

That Day

When I was a child I remember feeling this deep sense of jealousy over the Kennedy assassination. A feeling of exclusion from this club that remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard that the President had been shot. We had a big earthquake, but that seemed different somehow. That was just something natural that happened, not necessarily a unifying experience. Until high school there was never a unifying moment like that in my generation. I was too young to remember the Challenger blowing up. Too young even to really have had a reaction to the Oklahoma City Bombing. This may seem like a sick thing to have felt jealousy about, but I was a kid. I didn’t get then that the true bonding experience came from this kind of universal mourning that happens in the wake of a national or international tragedy.

On April 20th, 1999 I was sick. Like really really sick. So sick I probably shouldn’t have been at school, but my mom wouldn’t let me out that easily. I had to be hospitalized to be allowed to miss a day of school. It was also, as the date suggests 4/20, which, in Santa Cruz, is a kind of town holiday . Everyone smokes pot all day and it’s pretty much overlooked by academic administrations, police officers, parents, teachers, the whole town becomes complacent in this 24 hour long Cheech and Chong movie.

On that particular 4/20 my fellow classmates thought I was the most stoned out of all of them. My bloodshot, glazed over eyes, my out of it demeanor could only mean one thing. Of course, I’ve never been a huge fan of pot (I’m being serious) and as I said before, I was really sick, hence the glazed eyes and inability to focus. Little did we know that day would be the first day a tragedy unified us. The first time we could all finally say we remember where we were when we watched those lines of kids covered in blood, running across a field at gun point, hands over heads, to triage areas and swat vans. We finally had an experience that we would remember always, that would leave an indelible mark on our collective consciousness.

In all honesty, I don’t remember much of that day. In my Dayquill induced stupor I remember coming home to watch the Rosie O’Donnell Show and instead seeing blood spattered children crying on T.V. before I passed out for the better part of the afternoon. I remember my parents coming home and talking about what had happened in Colorado. My mother asked me if she ever thought something like that could happen at my school, to which I responded in the normal teenage way: an exaggerated roll of the eyes and brush off. What did it matter anyway? Everyone liked me, or maybe everyone had no clue who the hell I was, but I wasn’t a complete tool like those water polo players. If anyone should be worried it was them.

What I really remember is the aftermath. The school assemblies. The mourning in class. The trappings of tragedy that seemed so far removed from what was important to me at the time. Still, I remember our first ‘Lockdown’ drill, where we were told what to do if an armed intruder were to come onto our campus. I remember teachers and students alike thinking what a fucking waste of time it was. I remember thinking that the problem at Soquel High tended to revolve around the fact that many of my fellow students were already battling meth problems, heroin problems and the vast majority could be classified as alcoholics, not just getting wasted at a party, but actual alcoholics.

So when I saw that there was a new book entitled simply, Columbine, coming out, I grabbed the free copy from work and stared at it for a month. Did I really want to go back there? Where was I going back to exactly? Well, last week I found out, and it was nowhere near what I expected. I realized something as I read that book (which is amazing and everyone should read it); I have never dealt with what I felt about that tragedy.

I came to realize that I reacted to that event as any fifteen year old would. I shrugged it off and thought about the mountain of homework I had piling up. Thought about the fact that the boy I liked had a girlfriend and my friends seemed hell-bent on self-destruction. I didn’t have time for anyone but me, and my tragedy of being in high school in a town I couldn’t stand with people I thought were obnoxious.

But really, somewhere along the way I had buried the fact that we all watched on television as horrors were exacted on an unsuspecting and innocent population of people my age. And as this book has come out and started to make waves, being touted as a new In Cold Blood, people in my office (who are all around my age) have all come out with their stories of where they were and what they were doing when they first heard that a high school in Colorado was under attack. Now, as a twenty-five year old woman, I’m not so keen on this idea of generational unification through tragedy. Not so jealous now that I understand why the Kennedy generation has those strong memories. Unfortunately, the only way to learn this lesson seems to be though experience. An experience I don’t wish on anyone.

Peace and Love,
Julia

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Festivals

The last weekend in April, every year, UCLA hosts the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Now, I’ve made my fair share of snide comments about how no one reads in Los Angeles, which, I will tell you, is completely unsustained by facts. In fact, L.A. reads more per capita than any other city in the U.S. (sorry San Francisco and New York, get off those high horses), except for whatever hole that Iowa Writing Program is based in.

Every year, the Festival reinforces this in my mind. As tens of thousands of people descend on UCLA and I run around like a crazy woman trying to organize four separate booths, I draw a year’s worth of inspiration from the fact that people are excited about reading. That they get upset if we sell out of a particular title. That they get excited about their favorite author talking to them about something completely inane, or totally inspirational. Some bring their well worn, well loved copies of books for an author that has touched them to inscribe something meaningful on the page. Some simply come to find a new story, a new love, a new escape. Some come for Giada, some come for Bradbury, some come for the experience, but they all come for books. And how thrilling that is for someone in an industry that has faced so much struggle in the past fifteen years.

My absolute favorite thing this year was this canvas wall that the L.A. Times booth had. It read simply ‘What Are You Reading?’ across the middle and throughout the weekend people wrote thousands of titles all over the wall. Books from Twilight (which had the biggest showing on the wall) to the Qur’an, The Giver to Columbine, all scrawled across the wall. Parents lifted their kids on their shoulders to get room at the top, people wrote over each other’s books, and by the end of the weekend it was a black wall of hope for readers. Hope for people who love a great phrase, a great story, a great sentence.

Awe inspiring, that’s what it was. And this morning/afternoon as I trudge off to work after a week of working no less than twelve hour days to go reconcile the accounting (my least favorite part by far), I am inspired for the next year to continue selling books and writing books and dedicating my life to the pursuit of a higher truth through books.

Peace, Love, and Graffiti Walls,
Julia

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t Dream It’s Over

I watched Adventureland last night. And aside from it being one of the best and surprising movies I’ve seen in a very long time, it was also one of the only recent movies set in the 80s that is not completely ridiculous. Now I understand that the 80s were a completely ridiculous decade – the amount of neon alone worn by everyone, myself included, was absolutely astonishing, not to mention the presidents (Reagan and Bush, seriously?), the dancing, the cars, and, of course, the music. Still, most movies about the 80s just ham it up a little too much. Movie’s like the Wedding Singer are pretty perfect, but even one of my favorite movies, 200 Cigarettes, gets a little heavy handed with the weird Flock of Seagulls haircut comedy. The best of this new oeuvre comes when the 80s are a backdrop for a great story, where the story isn’t the 80s, but merely an extra layer to paint a full picture.

The thing I realized as I was sitting in Adventureland was that 80s music is the only kind of music that really can’t be used as a background to any other time period. If I’m watching a modern romantic comedy and a Crowded House song comes on, all I’m thinking about is how funny it is that they’re using this song. I feel the 80s, more than any other decade claims this trophy of its music being so totally of the time. A romantic scene in a movie can use a Cat Stevens song or a Joni Mitchell song and you, the viewer, aren’t automatically transported to another decade. However, the same scene, with Duran Duran or Pat Benatar over it is automatically just going to pull you back to the 80s.

This is not to say that particular bands from each particular decade don’t have this same effect: Jefferson Airplane will always be 70s and can really only work within a 70s context. The Smashing Pumpkins will always be 90s, more so than Nirvana or Pearl Jam, and will always pull an audience into the 90s when used in film. But no decade even comes close to being as recognizable as the 80s. Perhaps it’s the overuse of synthesizer or keytar, perhaps it’s the fact that video and music were married in the 80s on MTV and we’ll always match those songs with their videos (I mean, can anyone listen to Take on Me by Aha without picturing the crazy half-animated video?).

But when a movie is set in the 80s, when it uses music right, there’s a kind of magic that happens. Maybe it’s only magic for me, for whom those songs are completely intertwined with major childhood and young adult experiences, but I think this may not be the case. Perhaps, the magic comes from the fact that we don’t hear those songs under every love scene, that for once we’re not hearing Norah Jones while the two main characters are getting together, and the relative newness of hearing an old song after so long of not hearing it brings us back to a more innocent place. In any case, my love of 80s music has been rediscovered thanks to Adventureland, and in all honesty, it’s pretty damn sweet. Well, with the exception of Rock Me Amadeus.

Peace, Love, and Big Hair,
Julia

April 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment