Monday, June 14, 2010

The Recycle, Reuse, Redesign Project: 5 Minute Crafts

I'm still in the: What to do with my old/broken jewelry? phase of this project. I'm also a little lazy right now. I'm on day three of seven days straight of working, and today I had to be at work by 6:30am. Needless to say, I'm a little tight on time and a little tired.

I think some people get turned off by crafts because they think crafts take forever and that they don't have the time. But when it comes to recycled crafts, a lot of the time everything you need is right in front of you, already made, it just has to be assembled correctly.

So, get out your old jewelry, ignore my grainy photos and be prepared to do 5 minute crafts.

Craft One: Table Decoration
You need: Old jewelry, a glass/vase/etc.

Take jewelry:

Put it in the container of your choice:

I suggest maybe using something a little more upscale than an old wine glass. It was all I had lying around though.

Craft two: Pin
You need: A safety pin, an old pendant from a piece of jewelry, a piece of clothing

Take the pendant:

Pin it to a shirt/whatever:

I think sometimes we just give up on broken things, but really, most broken things can be reused. It takes a little bit of thinking outside of the box, but you can usually reuse your old things. And it doesn't need to take hours, or an hour... sometimes, creating something new out of the old can take 5 minutes.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Recycle, Reuse, Redesign Project: Necklace

So today I made a necklace out of beads:

And out of the scraps of an old dress that I'm in the process of altering:

It was super easy, I just put the beads in an tied a knot after each one to hold them in place. It took maybe all of five minutes. The beads were from a broken necklace, and it was a good way to reuse some old beads and a tiny bit of extra fabric.

This is the finished product:

The question I have for the people out there who are maybe a little better at fashion than I am is do you think that the colors clash too much? How about the patterns? All in all though, it's a simple project and a good way to reuse broken jewelry!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Recycle, Reuse, Redesign Project: Paper Trees

I can't tell you how much I'm loving my new project. As mentioned in my previous post, I'm back in my hometown for a bit. My room here is a plethora of old shit that needs to be upcycled and redesigned.

Some of those projects are going to take a little longer, and I'm only home for so many days, so it looks like I'll be taking things back upstate. Today it was rainy and gross, and after a lunch with some family members and before dinner with some other family members, I decided to sit on the couch, watch stupid TV, and create a project out of some of my parents' old magazines.

I decided to make a tree, inspired by a post I found on that lead me to this (amazing) tree with magazine paper for leaves. Apparently, the post was originally from a blog called Simply Modern Mom, and the writer put the pictures of the tree in her bedroom. Hers are way more "adult" looking than mine, but I figure it's okay, since I'm only 20. This is a picture of her paper tree:

For my tree, I grabbed a stack of magazines and some glue, as well as a blue piece of paper. I didn't have paints or a canvas, so I had to make the tree trunk out of paper as well, which is how my tree differs from Simply Modern Mom's. Also, I used a collage style, opposed to making the tree leaves all one pattern.

It was a slow process, and I definitely recommend outlining your design first. This makes visualizing cutting pieces much easier.
Here's my finished product:

I scanned it in, so you can kiiiiind of see my pencil lines. I notice that when I look at other people's crafts blogs, their stuff is flawless. And so far my projects have been flawed in some way. But, it's a learning process. So to all new crafters out there, practice makes perfect, and I'm sure we'll get there eventually. =)

However, I am totally proud of myself that my tree looks like something out of an Eric Carle book!

Back in Joisey

So I'm back in Jersey at the moment, and have limited Internet access since it doesn't seem to be working properly. I'll update with some projects either later today, tomorrow, or later in the week (what a broad time frame).

Last night, my friend Sharon and I met up to catch up, and ended up talking about people we went to high school with. Sophomore year seems to be the year you lose touch with people from high school, maybe because it officially becomes to hard to try and balance your New Life at college while still holding on to your Old Life from your hometown. We tried to figure out who was up to what, out of the kids we graduated with, and discovered that we only really knew vague things about people that we saw on Facebook.

Sometimes I miss the people I was close to in high school. My college friends are wonderful, and the people I still talk to from New Jersey are wonderful, but there are times when I wish the people from when I was younger that went off in a separate direction from me were still around.

I think Stephen King gets it right:

"It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant."

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Recycle, Reuse, Redesign Project: Paper Baskets

Sometimes, when I make crafts, I wing things and then I rush things and then they look sort of shitty. This is what happened last night. I wanted to use an old issue of Cosmo to make a container to hold some of my beauty products that I just leave sprawled out on my dresser. I used a paper weaving technique that I found a version of on The author of My Recycled Bags Blog suggested that I check out Ravelry's from Trash to Treasures group for project ideas.

Poster Emily Blades posted a picture of something her daughter made on the forum there. Her d
aughter's basket is to the left. her daughter's basket is a lot better than mine, and also more basket-like.

Mine is sort of just a cylinder to hold my stuff. What I did was cut a magazine page in half, then fold one half into four sections to create a piece to use as a weave:

Now here's where I messed up. I didn't have any glue in my apartment, so I used staples, which makes things look shitty. Use glue. Please. So, glue (or staple if you must) two pieces together, these are going to create your horizontal pieces. Single pieces are for vertical pieces. Your first horizontal piece should be a circle. Start gluing the single/vertical pieces to the base circle, one in front of the circle one behind. Once you've gone all the way around, start weaving the horizontal pieces through, and attaching them with glue to create more circles.

It will probably look like a strange hat at some point:

Finish weaving until you get to a height you want, and cut off the excess. It will look something like this:

This is why you shouldn't staple:

You can see the staples, and they look unattractive. I rushed through the directions there, so if anyone needs a more detailed explanation, let me know.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Recycle, Reuse, Redesign Project: Crocheting Flowers

Summer is a time to start new projects. Theoretically, you have more time (although I'm not sure if I do because I'm working and interning). Lately, every time I look in my closet or around my room I'm tired of all of my "stuff." I want new clothes, new jewelry, new decorations. But it's expensive and over-all wasteful to buy new stuff when I have perfectly good old stuff. So I've decided to start a little summer project:

1. I will recycle my old clothes/things by selling or trading them at buy/sell/trade places. Or I will donate them to places like the salvation army or various clothing drives. This will give me the opportunity to buy new things without having an excess of stuff.
2. I will reuse old clothes, old pieces of fabric, leftover yarn, and anything old in order to...
3. Redesign my old clothes, jewelry, etc. using things that I have reused.

For the past couple of months, I've been into crocheting. I made hats in the winter:

After my hat project, I had lots of leftover yarn. So I made a blanket out of the leftovers, creati
ng blocks and sewing them together.

The blanket took forever, and I had trouble coming up with a good picture of it, but it's a little bit smaller than a double bed, and it's goofy looking up I absolutely love it! And it's really warm in the winter.

But now summer is here and it's too hot to be wearing hats or lying under wool quilts. So I've moved on to crocheting flowers.

I've decided to use some of the tiiiiiny bits of leftover wool I have to make flowers. And they're
great for decorating--reusing and redesigning! This site has some great patterns for flowers. I suggest using them to make jewelry. I've seen some really great crocheted necklaces, and I still haven't attempted them yet. This necklace looks beautiful.

However, my favorite thing to do with the flowers is add them to clothing. You can pin them to clothes as either a way to add color or alter the garment. For this skirt I attached some different colored flowers to the side. It's a work skirt, and I have to wear black shirts at work and I end up look like I'm going to a funeral without the flowers on this skirt!

Another thing I tried was I had a dress that kept falling off of my shoulders. The dress is a weird cut... there's a little tie in the back but otherwise your back is bare. So I pinned the back and stuck a flower on it to make it look nicer and make it fit:

I'm super excited about redesigning my stuff. If anyone needs any crochet patterns for anything, let me know and maybe I can help you out!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Festival! Forks!

Right now, Ithaca Fest is going on here in upstate New York. One of my roommates and I wandered around for a little bit, eating general tso's chicken from a little booth. Festivals always bring out the most interesting people--I saw a woman who was legitimately dressed like a colorful witch in the 85 degree weather.

At one point we were eating our food and this old woman asked if the chairs next to us were taken and when we said no she sat down right next to us, not moving the chair or anything, and struck up a conversation with us about her spinach curry and the weather. She was sweet though.

Anyway, we walked into a new thrift store and I got a pencil-style dress for 6 dollars and then we headed down the street. The coolest thing we came across was this:

Incase you're wondering, yes, that is a car made of forks. The guy at Fork-Art had everything from little people made of forks playing instruments, to the grim reaper, to a spoon in a coffin, to jewelry. So cool.

This one was awesome too:

This is the first summer of my life where I've discovered how cool fork art is-- Too bad I don't know how to do it. It'd definitely be something cool to try!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This American Life, Busses, Road Trips, and the Transitional State

This weekend I traveled to a different part of New York by bus since I'm (happily) car-less right now (go public transit!). This morning, I had to wake up at 4:30am because I had to work at 6:30am and found myself listening to This American Life, a radio show that interviews different people about their experiences on any given topic, as a way to wake me up before a nine hour shift. It wasn't like there was anyone on Facebook chat to talk to or anyone I could text.

This particular broadcast focused around road trips, which was fitting since I had just been on a road trip of my own only the day before. The first guy they interviewed was Dishwasher Pete, a man who traveled across the country via greyhound bus, washing dishes as he went as a way to support himself. He published a book about it, Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States, and was also the author of a zine.

This American Life gave Dishwasher Pete some equipment and sent him out to prove a theory he had: That people on greyhound busses were in some type of transitional state where they were deep in thought and in the middle of a grandiose story/journey.

I couldn't agree with him more. I don't really mind long bus rides (I was on a bus for a total of 10 hours this weekend). I love thinking of where I'm going, where I've been, and I love watching the scenery as it rolls by. I've had some pretty scary bus experiences, where I've sat next to some pretty terrifying individuals--ones who told excessively violent stories, for example. But I've sat next to some nice passengers too. I've seen passengers bring kids on busses. I've seen them bring pets. And we're all stuck together for x amount of hours, watching the scenery fly by.

When Dishwasher Pete took a tape recorder on the bus with him, he couldn't really talk to any passengers that were in transition. Some didn't trust him, because of his radio equipment, and he couldn't really find anyone in a transitional state. He grew to dislike the bus, after having spent so much time on it.

I remember a particularly long bus trip that my friend Charlie and I were on about two years ago. We would be dying to get off the bus, and then we'd get off the bus at a rest stop, and all we would want to do was get back on the bus. We joked that the bus was basically like what growing up in New Jersey was like-- You'd want to get the hell out, and then you'd get out, and you'd feel like there was nothing to do except go back.

But all joking aside, I think what This American Life was getting at is that busses and road trips can be seen as these end-all be-all experiences where people's lives will be in transition and they will actually come out of them transformed.

The thing is, though, that every time I've been on a bus, I've thought of all these great things I was going to do when I get off the bus. And I don't really do them. Maybe it's easy to be in an transitional state when you're moving, but once your feet hit the ground after you step out of the vehicle, even if you're hundreds of miles away from home, 9/10 times your life hasn't changed that much.

The broadcasted episode was really great, and if you want you can get it here or subscribe to their podcast on itunes.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bridging the Generation Gap-- Clueless and the Golden Girls

Clueless is probably my favorite teen movie ever. My birthday was Clueless themed.

Also, I grew up on the Golden Girls and would watch it with my mother. Everyone in my family loved that show, including my grandpa, which was sort of strange. Lately, Betty White has been huge on the teen/young adult circuit, and the newest development has been this:

Honestly, this was kind of a pointless post, but I feel like I need to pass this link around through as many avenues as possible.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Something About Being 20

One of the things I've noticed about living in a new place is how amused I get by stupid errands. I think I feel like I'm playing house, and although I lived in the exact same apartment during the school year, I suddenly feel more inclined to do apartment-y things. I just color coordinated my closet for no real reason, and today I found walking to the grocery store super fulfilling. I'm not really all that domestic of a person, and I feel like I'm sort of just playing house. During the school year I was too busy to really focus on taking care of myself--like trying to eat really healthy and going for walks to get exercise. And now that I can it's new and exciting. Maybe I'm just a little kid who likes living in a kind of fantasy land where I'm playing adult--going to work and cooking good meals.

That's the thing about being 20, you're just kind of floating in this place where you're not financially independent, really, or not old enough to go to bars but you're out of high school and conceivably "more mature."

Yesterday, my roommate, our friend and I went to see Sex and the City 2 to see for ourselves how much of a shit show it was going to be (plot was better than I was expecting, but it was sort of racist which really pissed me off). There were these girls sitting in front of us (they came in a pack of like 10-12) and the three of us started to take bets on whether or not they were seniors in high school or college students. They ended up having just graduated from college, and I could've sworn they were all 17.

One of them let out a high-pitched excited scream during a Twilight trailer. When my friends and I started laughing hysterically at the overly-dramatic trailer a few of them turned around and gave us pissed off looks and one actually said, "I don't understand why it's so funny that I turned around." We told her that we were laughing at Twilight and I felt like I was in the tenth grade during the whole awkward exchange.

But the thing is, they were older than all of us and on their way to having actual Adult Lives and living in The Real World and not just playing house but one step closer to owning a house.

I feel like I spend my time feeling totally split between the younger-young adult world and the older-young adult world. I can hang out with people who are 24-26 and feel totally comfortable, but couldn't go out for them with a drink if I wanted to and I don't work full time and I'm still a student, and suddenly the differences seem more extreme.

And I'm not even really complaining. I don't find anything unappealing about playing house and being twenty, but I can't help but wonder: When I was 11, I felt in between a teen and a kid; when I was 14, I felt in between a middle schooler and a high schooler; when I was 17, I felt in between a senior in high school and a freshman in college. And now I feel in between again. When I'm 30, will I just feel in between my 20s and my 40s? They say the awkward, growing years are supposed to end once you're out of your teens, but I'm not really sure if I believe them. Most of the adults I know seem to be in between different milestones, and just go on living their lives neither here nor there.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A New Cast of Characters

I've decided to start reading one non-poetry book and one poetry book per week. So far, with starting a new job, I've only really gotten through the one poetry book. It was Walking the Black Cat by Charles Simic. I liked it but didn't love it, although his poems are about eerie and strange characters and wandering the streets and insomnia, which are all pretty interesting.

I guess they're also themes I know a lot about, in some way or another. I'm in a place that's relatively new to me (I've experienced the college side of where I live, not so much the town side) and now that I'm working in a local business and heading downtown everyday, I start to recognize the same strange cast of characters. People missing teeth, people who talk loudly about their sex lives, people who sit stone-faced on benches with only their eyes moving on the other passerbys-- people that I might have known for years had a grown up here; people that might not be so intriguing if I was from the area. Some of them talk to me about past jobs or overdoses or their various ailments while I work, and they're just these adult wanderers heading through a little city, and they're young in their unsettledness and old in their age all at the same time. And they're fascinating.

There is something about the odd cast of characters that come with every town, and I feel like that's what Simic captures in Black Cat. It's like a journey through a strange place, and I'm beginning my journey in a strange place, wandering through the streets to and from work and the grocery store, as one of the new girls in the town's ever-developing story.

Dark Corners
By Charles Simic

So, how'd you find me?
Ordinarily, I act deaf and dumb, but with you
It's different. Darting in and out
Of doorways, prowling after me
Like a black cat.

Just look at the suckers, I kept
Shouting at the world. It was no use.
They just stepped over me holding on to their hats,
Or lifting their skirts a little
On the way to hell.

He must be crazy, sprawled there
On the sidewalk, his fly unzipped.
His eyes closing. Only you came back
To see how I'm doing,
Only you peeked into every dark corner.

I'm a bird fluttering in flight.
Find me a nice, large cage with the door open.
Back me out of here with your kisses.
My shoes and laces.
My pants need your fingers to hold them up.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Oil Spill

I haven't blogged about this yet, and I feel like I'm way behind. Things are continuing to get worse. Anderson Cooper has been following it a lot, keepin' them honest, you know, and since I'm in love with him, I've been using him as a way to keep up on the oil spill.

BP is being sketchy about releasing figures and videos about how much oil is still spilling. But, they're BP. They're a major oil company. This is what they do.

They say they're not being sketchy, everyone else says they are. So it goes.

The oil has started to hit the Louisiana coast. Oil dispersing chemicals, human hair, domes... no one can come up with a functional idea of how to stop it, and it's pretty scary.

Here are some links:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Deal With New Beginnings

I started my new job yesterday. I really think I'm going to like working with the people at the job. Everyone was super friendly and they seem organized and all-in-all on top of their shit.

Starting a new job is always a little awkward. I feel like I repeat the same phrases over and over, "right", "that makes sense", "of course", "yeah", and obviously: "Sorry!" or when directed to someone who doesn't work at the business: "Sorry! I'm new!" Plus you're in this place where you're meeting a bunch of people you don't know and learning a whole bunch. But new beginnings are always as exciting and interesting as they are nerve-wrecking and awkward.

And this summer is all about new things, particularly being in a new location during the summer and living a new type of summer. Sometimes, I find myself feeling completely separated from Jersey summers: from my friends there, my family, and my boyfriend. And in those moments, a cool feeling creeps up on me and I just want to be back in Jersey with them, driving around with my friends or my boyfriend or having dinners on the porch with my parents.

But in most of my time, I get excited even when I go outside of my apartment to see the beautiful upstate New York summer that I've never experienced before. I get excited hanging out with my friends here and exploring everything. I could walk to a poetry reading this weekend; there are no walkable poetry readings by me in Jersey. Being able to have excitement and culture and things I love a few blocks away is totally new. Not the awkward and nerve-wrecking kind of new, the AMAZING kind of new.

In Jersey, sometimes I feel like I've met everyone in my town. Which is sounds like a stuck-up kind of thing to think, but it's more just like I've lived in a small town forever, and even though it's home, it's not always satisfying. I guess home can't always be satisfying.

And just because a new place is satisfying doesn't mean it feels like a home. Which I guess is where I am right now. I love living here, but it's not quite a homey-Jersey-summer.

I think the way it goes with new things though, is that you have hope that once you get past the awkwardness and the nervousness, that once the new becomes the old, your life will at least little better than it was before.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Two Dinners and Born to Run

My friend took me to Wegman's today; my roommates and I hadn't been shopping in way too long and I basically bought the entire store. I'm still in my time of High Summer Expectations, and bought all this stuff to make different chicken meals, even though I'm a bit challenged in the kitchen.

When I got home, I made a salad with feta cheese, onions, and apple cider vinegar and then tried to make sesame chicken, only to realize I forgot to buy sesame seeds. But I made it anyway and, fun fact, sesame chicken without sesame seeds is just chicken with honey on it. Delicious, but not the same.

Then I went over to a friend's house and we made another dinner-- Jambalaya with chop meat, cornbread, and then rice pilaf mixed with diced tomatoes and chicken. It was pretty good, considering it was a makeshift meal of all the shit left in my friend's apartment since his lease ends tomorrow.

After dinner we sat around and listened to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run and for a second I felt a pang of homesickness. If anyone read my post about summer albums, that was my number one. The summer album to end all summer albums. I always thought that album was great because it was an album that people from my parents' generation and my generation, and the generations in between, could drive around and listen to when it was hot outside. It's a trans-generational album.

And I guess it's a trans-state album too. Part of me will always associate Bruce with Jersey and my parents and family and friends there, it was great to have the album make that jump: to have it go from being a Jersey album to an upstate NY album. To the summer album no matter where I am.

Even though I missed home a little tonight, it was nice to be living a life of making dinners with friends in our apartments and not in our parents' kitchens (although I acknowledge that all of our parents help us pay rent on some level at least, if not paying for it flat out... so financially our kitchens in our apartments belong more to our parents than they do to us). There are things about Jersey that I miss, but things about upstate NY that I can't have there. It's a give and take.

At one point tonight we looked up what a "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" means. Turns out Bruce doesn't even know. But if I had to take a guess, I think a Tenth Avenue Freeze Out takes place during the summertime.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Let the Different Summer begin...

Yesterday was my last final, thank God. And I'm officially done. This summer I'll be living in upstate NY, interning for the Committee on US-Latin American Relations (where I interned this spring) and then working at a coffee place (finally got a job!). I'm pretty excited, albeit a little homesick.

This is the first summer that I haven't spent in New Jersey. Summer number 20, and finally I'm spending the season somewhere else. I miss Jersey, and I think it's a missable place (even though people continually insult it). But sometimes, especially when you're in college, you need to do things a little differently than you used to. So here I am--not in Jersey.

Today I walked around town a little bit and started doing the thing I do at the beginning of every summer, when I have really high expectations for myself. "I'm going to write poetry everyday... in fact, I'll write a chapbook!" I told myself as I walked to the library. Then: "I'll read one book of poetry every week and one non-poetry book. And I'll watch movies. Particularly The Graduate... I need to see that again. And I'm gonna listen to Paul Simon's 'Graceland' on repeat. And maybe I can convince someone to start driving me in the direction of Graceland while the album's playing since I don't have enough money to actually go to Graceland... That way I'll get to pretend for 45 minutes.

And exercise. I'll do that more. Or, well, let's be honest here, I'll start exercising.

And clean my room, and the rest of my apartment. All the time. I'll be neat for once. And I'll start eating organic and learn how to ride a bike again."

These are the things I told myself all throughout today and the chances of any of them happening are kind of slim. But it's nice to think about them anyway. That's the way the beginning of summer is--expectations are always high and that's the way it should be. No one should ever start a summer without saying: "This is going to be the best summer of my life."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Living Without Money

I stumbled across an article that discussed how Mark Boyle, a man in the UK, decided to live without money for an entire year. He lived off the grid and created his own energy, grew his own food, and foraged through the wilderness or got leftovers from restaurants for the rest. He took some advice and assistance from the Freeconomy Community--another UK group that's been living without money in an alternate community. My main question about Boyle, is that he's been writing articles for The Guardian; so is he getting paid to write these articles? I couldn't really find any info. If you're aware, let me know!

However, the more I looked into living without money, the more I realized that Boyle was far from alone in the quest, and that others had been doing it long before he had. They all had different reasons for trying to go moneyless. Boyle did it because he was disaffected with consumer culture and money, and also to live a more sustainable lifestyle consuming others' waste.

There is Suelo, from the US, who lives without money in a similar manner by consuming others' waste. This involves dumpster diving and asking for leftovers from restaurants. Suelo focuses on faith and philosophy as a backdrop to surviving life without money. He's been moneyless for 12 years, with the exception of one month. His life seems more nomadic than Boyle's, who set up camp in one place.

Heidemarie Schwerner, from Germany, was a psychotherapist who after years of seeing people's lives destroyed by money decided to go moneyless. She began exchange circles where people could exchange services and objects. She then gave away or donated all of her possessions and "cancelled her flat" (that's what the article says, not totally sure how that works) and moved in with friends, working for them in exchange for living space and food. Heidemarie's philosophy is very different from Suelo and Boyle who often live off other's excess. Heidemarie is moneyless, but basically works for friends, simply cutting out the exchange of cash. However, she has been living without money for 12 years, just as Suelo has and the idea of exchange circles has expanded all over Germany.

Obviously, most of us don't have the skills or knowledge or, let's be honest, the drive to simply quit money cold turkey, but perhaps in hard economic times (or for us broke college kids) and dire environmental circumstances, we could all learn a few things. Take leftovers: furniture and appliances that other people don't want anymore--pick them up off the side of the road (I have definitely done this before), check Craig's list, dumpster dive if you're brave enough and not germ-phobic; you could try asking restaurants for leftover food like Suelo and Boyle do. You can exchange favors with friends. It's simple advice, and a lot of it is common sense unless you want to build an apparatus to live off the grid like Boyle. However, I think we've all forgotten that there are other ways to get food, objects, and services when we utter the phrase, "I'm broke as shit."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Real Housewives of New Jersey Returns

The show is back! For some reason last summer I watched more reality TV than I'd like to admit to. It rained a lot and I had nothing else to do, which is my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Real Housewives was discussed A LOT back in my home state. I discussed it with other people who don't really watch reality TV; I discussed it with my neighbors; I discussed it with my family.

So I'm really glad it's back. I've seriously started to doubt that the show reflects any type of reality of the New Jersey suburbanites on the show. They all say that the drama of the last season really hurt them and was hard on their lives, yet they decided to come back for a round two.

For example, Jacqueline's husband wanted her to stop talking to Danielle. Why the change? What happened in the time between the seasons that made him want to do that? Was it scripted or legitimate?

But, I mean, I don't really think that reality shows are ever that reflective of reality. The goal is to get viewers, and sometimes reality is pretty dull. So it's better to just look at reality TV as entertainment.

My fingers are crossed that new situations will crop up and that it won't necessarily just be the book drama drawn out for another season. 'Cause as entertaining as that was, I'm not sure if it can carry another whole season.

All in all though, the first episode was funny and entertaining and drama-filled.

A hilarious highlight for me was when Teresa's family was making tomatoes and they asked a woman with them if she was on her period. It's an old Italian tradition that my Italian family has joked about that you're not supposed to make bread sauce on your period.

Some other happenings include a fancy dinner at Caroline's place, Jacqueline having her baby, and Danielle still being conflicted about her feelings concerning the book drama.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

All across the world today, people have come together to protest for worker's rights. In countries other than America, May Day is International Worker's Day or Labor Day.

In an age of ever more unemployment, I feel like May Day this year is particularly necessary. I took place in one of the demonstrations in my area and found that this May Day has come right in time for everyone across the nation to show solidarity with immigrant workers in Arizona. CIR or Comprehensive Immigration Reform (reform that urges law makers to handle the illegal immigration situation in American with a focus on Human Rights) floated around a lot today, and I think that with this new bill in Arizona, CIR is ever more important.

Not every protest today was peaceful, however. In Greece's protests turned violent because of the current and very serious economic crisis happening in the country. The protests were to fighting against wage decreases and pension reductions as Greek tries to deal with it $400 billion dollar debt. In addition, the protests were trying to keep Greece from accepting loans from the IMF and the EU. This article reports that protestors were yelling, "No to the IMF's junta!"

Other protests happened all over Europe and the New York Times has some neat pictures in their slide show including this one below.

More emphasis on worker's rights is always necessary throughout the world, and strong May Day demonstrations are one small, but important, step in that direction.

Summer Music

It's a beautiful day today; 85 degrees where I am. Hopefully summer's coming soon. I can't want to spend time outside once the semester is over and I can relax a bit.

There are certain albums that just remind me of summer. Of lying out on the porch or driving around or vacations. I figured in celebration of the nice weather I'd post my favorites:

10. The Problemaddicts-Dark Side of Oz: Really interesting rap album; it samples Dark Side of the Moon and concepts from The Wizard of Oz. I really have no idea why I associate this album with summer, but somehow I do so it's on the list.

9. Janis Joplin-Pearl: I always feel like Joni is for winter and Janis is for summer.

8. The Max Levine Ensemble-OK Smartypants: A good driving summer album, since it's relatively fast tempo pop-punk.

7. Gaslight Anthem-Sink or Swim: I've heard people make fun of this band before, but I really like them and this album is another one of those driving-around-for-ages albums. They borrow from Bruce Springteen and from Meatloaf (who are also on my list), and I think that's why people make fun of them. But, I dunno, it works for me.

6. Meatloaf-Bat out of Hell: This album and Born to Run are really similar in my mind, but a lot of people don't really see the connection. But this is one of those other albums about driving and young love and hot summer nights. And it's awesome

5. River City Rebels-Hate to Be Loved: I ususally skip the slower tracks when I listen to this album by this punk rock band during the summer. But the faster ones ("Glitter and Gold", "Cloudy Times", and "Her New Man" in particular) have such a great summer feel to them. They remind me of working in the dry cleaners that I worked at in high school. During the summer months, I played this album on repeat and wished I was outside while I took care of other people's dirty laundry.

4. Ray Charles-Ray Charles: This album is perfect for summer nights on a porch. Nothing like some Jazz and the night air to relax you. The only bummer is that this album doesn't have "(Night Time) is the Right Time" so I'd recommend putting that song on after this album is over.

3. Neutral Milk Hotel-In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: I've heard this described as the best concept album of our generation. And it is pretty damn good. Try this: Put this album on if it's sunny and you're driving somewhere rural. I swear it'll make your day.

2. Paul Simon-Graceland: This album. Oh god. Simon's album has African influences and it's absolutely amazing. It makes me want to go on a road trip to Graceland. It's an album about love and redemption and traveling. It should be the soundtrack of any vacation, even if you're not "going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee... "

1. Bruce Springsteen-Born to Run: I don't even feel like this needs an explanation. If there was ever a summer album, it's gotta be Born to Run. What's more summery than
songs about driving and escaping and young love and wasting your "summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets"?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NJ Education Battle Continues with Student Walk-Outs

I'm insanely proud of the thousands of New Jersey students who participated in the mass walk-outs yesterday across the state! Students left their classrooms to chant against budget cuts and hold picket signs and engage in the political atmosphere of the state.

The biggest demonstration was apparently in Newark, where thousands of students marched to city hall through the streets.

I haven't heard of any protest like this involving high school students happening in years, and it's great to see that New Jersey's students give a shit about what's going on involving their education.

On that note, I'm pretty sure my generation has been called lazy and apathetic and a bunch of other nasty words. I think this is a great example of how we can be motivated and political, and I wish governor Chris Christie would feel the same. If he doesn't feel guilty about what he's doing from seeing the teacher's perspective, he should certainly feel guilty for what he's doing from the student's perspective.

But, apparently, that's not the case, according to the New York Times:

Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, released a statement on Tuesday saying that students belonged in the classroom. “It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever,” Mr. Drewniak said, “and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey.”

I think that it's really despicable that thousands of students take part in a protest and the governor says it's because of spring fever. New Jersey's high school and college students want a good education and it should be our state's responsibility to give it to them when they are asking for it, not tell them that they're just being youthful rebels.

When thousands of students march into the streets chanting about how they don't want their teachers to be let go, it's NOT because they just wanted to play outside.

*If anyone is looking for ways to help out with the grassroots movements happening around the education cuts, this Facebook group is really a great place to start.*

Arizona Immigration Bill

Last week, I talked about some issues in New Jersey. And even though I live pretty far away from Arizona, I'm one of hundreds of thousands of people who are concerned about the new immigration law that just passed there. The bill gives the Arizona police department the right to stop anyone that they think is undocumented.

So, Arizona's State Legislature, what exactly does an undocumented person look like? Last time I checked, being undocumented was a status, not a physical trait or a matter of mannerisms. Also, under this bill, legal immigrants are being asked to carry around their papers. What's the difference between a legal immigrant and everybody else in America? Do we all have to carry around papers?

I could write a lot more on this subject, but here are some links instead:
1. This bill obviously holds the power to allow for racial profiling, and that's where a lot of the concern about the bill (rightly so) is coming from. If you're interested in having your voice heard on the subject here is a great place to start.
2. A blog on my blogroll, Waging Nonviolence, posted an article about this recently.
4. Jon Stewart on the bill

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Human House" by Ryuichi Tamura

I've decided to post another poem I like. I read this one a few years ago, and I've quoted it again and again for various things. It's by a Japanese poet Ryuichi Tamura and this is a translation. There's another poem by Ryuichi Tamura that I really like, but that'll be for another day.

Human House

I guess I'll be back late
I said and left the house
my house is made of words
an iceberg floats in my old wardrobe
unseen horizons wait in my bathroom
from my telephone: time, a whole desert
on the table: bread, salt, water
a woman lives in the water
hyacinths bloom from her eyeballs
of course she is metaphor herself
she changes the way words do
she's as fre-form as a cat
I can't come near her name

I guess I'll be back late
no, no business meeting
not even a reunion
I ride ice trains
walk fluorescent underground arcades
cut across a shadowed square
ride in a mollusk elevator
violet tongues and gray lips in the trains
rainbow throats and green lungs underground
in the square, bubble language
foaming bubble information, informational information adjectives, all the hollow adjectives
adverbs, paltry begging adverbs
and nouns, crushing, suffocating nouns
all I want is a verb
but i can't find one anywhere
I'm through with a society
built only of the past and future
I want the present tense

Because you open a door
doesn't mean there has to be a room
because there are windows
doesn't mean there's an interior
doesn't mean there's a space
where humans can live and die-
so far I've opened and shut
countless doors, going out each one
so I could come in through another
telling myself each time
what a wonderful new world lies just beyond
what do I hear? from the paradise on the other side
dripping water
waves thudding on rocks
sounds of humans and beasts breathing
the smell of blood

it's been a while
I'd almost forgotten what it smells like
silence gathers around a scream
on the tip of a needle
as he walks slowly toward me
the surgeon puts on his rubber gloves
I close my eyes, open them again
things falling through my eyes
both arms spread like wings
hair streaming out full length
things descending momentary gaps of light
connecting darkness and darkness

I rise slowly from a table in a bar
not pulled by a political slogan or religious belief
it's hard enough trying to find my eyes
to see the demolition of the human house
the dismemberment of my language

My house, of course, isn't made of your words
my house is built of my words

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NJ Governor Chris Christie's Battle with Education

If you're not from New Jersey, you might not be following what's been going on with Governor Chris Christie's cuts to education. He has proposed $800+ Million in cuts to education in his '11 budget and has asked teachers to take wage freezes. NJ voters recently voted on the school budgets for their districts, and the governor encouraged people to vote down budgets in areas where teachers refused to take wage freezes. 59% of school budgets in New Jersey were voted down.

To put it frankly, all of this is really pissing me off. I'm sick of politicians not caring about education. Yes, New Jersey is overtaxed. But seriously, do we have to destroy public education in order to get tax cuts? In case you were wondering, Christie's kids attend private, Catholic schools.

Not only has Christie waged a war on teachers financially, he's made it personal. Recently, students in Monroe school district were asked to complete a civics lesson on voter participation. The students were instructed to ask IF their parents planned to participate in voting concerning school budgets. The questionnaire wasn't asking HOW they were going to vote. I remember having to ask my parents if they were planning on voting in both budget matters and in presidential elections throughout k-12 grade. As far as I know, no one took offense to it.

Enter Chris Christie.

The following is an excerpt from this news article:

"'These are the typical kind of scare tactics that they involve themselves in,' Christie said about the 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association, which has been critical of his proposed $820 million cut in school aid. 'Scaring students in the classroom, scaring parents with the notes home in the bookbags, and the mandatory 'Project Democracy Homework' asking your parents about what they're going to do in the school board election, and reporting back to your teachers union representatives, using the students like drug mules to carry information back to the classroom, is reprehensible.'

Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the NJEA, said a third-grade teacher in Monroe distributed the homework as part of a civics lesson on voter participation, and it had nothing to do with how parents would vote.

'It's just astounding that a governor who just spent a week telling people how to vote would be upset at a teacher for just wondering if people are going to vote,' Wollmer said."

Um, what? Drug mules?

Apparently in the anti-teacher wave that's been sweeping the state, New Jersey teachers are becoming afraid to tell people their profession. I talked to a teacher from New Jersey (trying to let the individual remain anonymous here) who is retiring who said that she's going to be afraid to tell people that she's a retired school teacher. And, sadly, I don't think that she was joking.

I always thought being a teacher was a respectable position. But I guess Chris Christie would disagree with me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"How to Like It" by Stephen Dobyns

It's a Sunday and I haven't really done much today except watch a movie for class and debate finishing a paper. I was just going to not post today, but then I decided that I'd post one of my favorite poems. I always thought that if I had a miscellaneous blog I would post Stephen Dobyn's "How to Like It."

A year and a half ago, I did a week long master class with poet Stephen Dunn and essayist Barbara Hurd. It was a pretty great experience and on the first day of class with Stephen Dunn, he read us "How to Like It." Maybe it stuck with me because it was Fall. Maybe Stephen Dunn has a really good voice for reading poetry. Maybe I loved it because it was quirky. But maybe it just struck me because it was good.

So, even though it's not Autumn, here's the poem:

How to Like It
by Stephen Dunn

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff
people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let's just go back inside.
Let's not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.
Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.
And that's what they do and that's where the man's
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept—
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.

"How to Like It" was published in Issue 26 of the Cortland Review.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The College Student Job Search

Why is it so hard to get a job? Rationalization and Suggestions from a College Kid

I'll be honest here: I haven't been in the working world very long. I mean, what do you expect? I'm 20. I worked for 2 1/2 years in a clothing store from the time I was 16 until I was 18. During that time I took on two separate jobs, one at an ice cream place and one at a dry cleaners. I returned to the dry cleaners last summer when I came home from college.

So, do I have a lot of experience in trying to get a job? No, not really. A pretty good amount for someone my age, but not a lot as far as the general American goes.

But I know one thing: it's freakin' hard to find work right now. I managed to have two jobs just a few years ago, and now I'd be lucky if I could find one. Which I can't. I've interviewed, sent out applications, looked on Craig's list, and so far... nada. To top it off, I'm looking for jobs in two different states because I could stay up at school or go back home. Still, nothing.

I applied to a coffee shop recently that said they were having "call backs" for interviews. They had so many people applying, they had to do call backs.

The economy is supposedly getting better, so what the heck is going on?

First of all, I think it's necessary to address the fact that we aren't really a production based economy anymore, we've made the transition into being a service economy. I know my mom worked in a factory during her summers in college, but there aren't really that many factories around in USA. We all know outsourcing exists and a lot of people here are suffering from it, and I think we all know that it isn't going to change. Unless the people who own the companies that do outsourcing decide they want to give up the cheaper labor for more expensive labor, we're stuck with the situation.

Second of all even though the economy is getting better, it doesn't take away the fact that a lot of people lost their jobs only a little over a year ago and now there's a whole lot of people competing for a small number of positions.

So what does it mean for us, the college students looking for summer work? Based off my not-so-scholarly experience of applying for places and not getting hired, I'd say we're kinda screwed.

What do we do? I can sit here and point fingers all day at outsourcing and the change to a service economy and the economic crisis, but that's not helping me. If you're looking for a summer job, here are my suggestions if the typical retail or waitressing job isn't panning out for you:

1. Summer Camps: Cannot stress this enough. I'm considering applying to one on Monday if my continued job search over this weekend proves fruitless. These jobs are good because they're seasonal yet steady for the season. Also, they want young people. They want college students. You can work in the dining services, with the kids, with the administration, etc. etc.

2. Babysitting: It's under the table, and even though the economy stinks parents still need to escape their children. If you get a nanny-type position you're set for the whole summer.

3. Tutoring: Good money for short amount of your time. Try posting an add on Craig's List. If you did well on your SATs this is a good place to start. Also, if you're in a major that's a subject in grade school (English, history, science, math) then you might be pretty set.

4. Census Bureau: Look to see if they're hiring in your area. The pay is great ($13-$15/hour!). I'm not totally sure what the work entails, but click here for more information.

5. Swimming Pools: If you're a lifeguard or have the capacity to be a lifeguard, these are also seasonal jobs that like to hire college kids. Unfortunately, I can't swim well at all.

6. Amusement Parks: If you can stand the crowds these have tons of different types of jobs. Everything from being a mascot character to operating rides to life-guarding the water parks.

7. Farms: The pay isn't always great, but low pay is better than no pay!

8. Odd Jobs: Offer to mow people's lawns. Seriously. And you get to be outside!

9. Ice Cream Places: Work goes fast in these places for the summer, but if you can snag one of these jobs you do really well in tips. Also, from what I know, the turnaround rate with ice cream can be kind of high sometimes, so it might be worth it to periodically check with your local ice cream place over the summer if you're still jobless.

PS: Have a suggestion for a summer job? Leave a comment and I'll update the list!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reduced Shakespeare Company

I'm a fan of Shakespeare, which I know doesn't really set me apart from most people. Some people hate Shakespeare, which I don't really understand, but most people can usually get into something Shakespearean; whether it's reading Hamlet to watching Romeo and Juliet with Leo or simply getting into Then Things I Hate About You when it comes on TBS. If you've been through any type of schooling, you probably have read some Shakespeare in English class. Or at least Sparknoted some Shakespeare for English class. Maybe you were required to memorize a sonnet; I know I was.

But I wish that when I was studying Shakespeare in English class when I was younger we had gone to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Reduced Shakespeare is a comedy troop that performs all 37 plays in 97 minutes.

I know, I know, it sounds impossible. But they do it, and it's hysterical. Reduced Shakespeare hits upon some weird area of humor that had the entire theater I was in laughing. First of all, they were taking long, wordy plays (sorry, Will) and making them short and funny. They began with an introduction then Romeo and Juliet which took up 12 minutes. Then the show moved on to Titus Andronicus which became a morbid, Silence of the Lambs type cooking show. They condensed all the comedies into one play and did the histories as a crown-passing football game. And they turned Othello into a rap. I won't even say what they did with Hamlet. You're going to have to go check out one of their performances for yourself. But it involved audience participation, so everyone watching got to become part of the show too.

Secondly, the play was funny because they didn't just utilize one type of humor. There was Abbot and Costello type humor, Monty Python type humor, bathroom humor, sexual humor and smart humor. When you think about it, Shakespeare used many different humor tactics in his plays; from the intelligent puns and dramatic irony to the sexual innuendos that the groundlings would understand. So, really, Reduced Shakespeare was just mimicking the master's style in an updated way--Reduced Shakespeare talked about Eric Massa (the ex-Congressman who discussed tickle fights with staff members on an interview with Glenn Beck); they quoted Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies." They were all-around freaking hilarious performers.

Their website is here and click here to watch the Othello rap. Try to check them out if they're in your area! And a word of advice: if you're gonna go, spend the extra few dollars to get seats up close. I was in the third row and felt that I would miss some of their facial expressions/have trouble seeing if something was on the floor if I had been sitting further back.


Hey everyone!

As my little blurb at the top of the page says, I'm a 20 year old Writing and Politics student. I worked on a blog over the summer last year Summer of the Old and the New Jersey that ended up being more successful than I anticipated.

It was basically just me going around to places in New Jersey and writing about it. But I had an awesome time doing it, and I took a few friends along for the journey. Best of all, people actually read it, and like it, and told me so either in comments or on my Facebook! It got me hooked on blogging, even though I didn't really post as much as I should've. Once the school year started, I got distracted with other things.

Anyway, last summer is over and a new one is starting pretty soon since the end of my semester is in a few weeks. I've been itching for another blog. I'm not sure where I'm going to be in the summer or what I'm going to be doing, so I wasn't sure if I could continue the Summer of the Old and the New Jersey. But I definitely wanted to muse about my life and do cool things.

So I said that maybe I would start a "Project Per Day" blog where I tried something new everyday. But, let's face it, I don't have that much ambition.

So then I thought maybe I would try writing a political blog. But I felt that I'd get bored only doing that.

So this is my all-purpose blog. My "Projects When I Actually Get My Act Together and Do Them" blog. My "I'm Going to Write About This Political Problem" blog. My "I'm Going to Ramble on About an Adventure in My Life" blog. My "I Read this Book/Watched this Movie/Listened to this Album" blog.

And I'm excited to get it started!