Film Review: Blue Valentine

Before Blue Valentine went to theaters, a friend of mine sent me the trailer to watch. I wasn’t sure what the plot was–a gritty modern day love story–but I knew people would see it since it stars Ryan Gosling (who plays Dean) and Michelle Williams (who plays Cindy). Despite hearing praise for the film and it getting several nominations, I went to a showing with indifference. I entered the film with no opinions and I left the film speechless due to feeling inundated with thoughts and an abundance of mixed emotions. Now several weeks after having seen the film, I still occasionally think about it so I’ve decided that it’s time for me to finally peel back my thoughts.

Perhaps the reason I can’t shake the film is because it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending andهتbecause it seems so real and relative. I think it really churns up the dirt on a question that has been lingering but hasn’t been tackled to this extent in a film: How can you trust your own feelings when they change? How can you love someoneهتthen grow apart while living with them? In many movies we have seen couples struggling to maintain relationships over a distance. The couple struggles to remain a part of each other’s life when they aren’t able to spend it doing things together. But in Blue Valentine, being in close proximity does nothing to strengthen Dean and Cindy’s connection to one another.

After seeingهتBlue ValentineهتI had a discussion with my movie companion. While I don’t frequently have sit-down discussions afterهتthe movies, my friend and I both felt the need to digest the heavy film. His opinion is that Cindy is to blame for the failed marriage because Dean clearly loves her, loves being a dad to “”their”” daughter (biologically, Dean is not the real father), and wants to stay together.

I, on the other hand, think it was a mutual unintentional destruction of the marriage.هتEven though it is admirable that Dean is such a good father to a daughter that technically isn’t even his and he still has so much love for Cindy, I can understand why Cindy desires more. There is a scene in the movie where Cindy asks Dean if he ever thinks about wanting more (you can see what she’s implying).هتDean and Cindyهتgot married and had a kid at a young age which obviouslyهتre-routed their livesهتfrom their previous career aspirations. But flash forward, and Cindy is busting her butt working long hours as a nurse and trying to rise in her field while Dean is a house painter (and arguably somewhat of a bum) with no self-ambition. You can see thatهتCindy is becoming increasingly turned off by Dean’s content with being nothing other than a family man. Additionally, as the film oscillates from the past to the present, the viewer can see how Dean was attractive and charming in his youth,هتand how his looks have deteriorated over the years.

Is it wrong to want more or something different after you have made a big life decision? Is Cindy being selfish because she should be grateful to have a husband that loves her and wants to be a good father? Should she feel obligated to stay with Dean to keep the family together even though she doesn’t love him anymore?

I don’t think Dean is entirely faultless for the breakup either. He has a temper, and a good example of this is when he shows up drunk to Cindy’s work at the end of the film to start a fight with her. Not only is it in public, it is her place of work. That is not acceptable under any circumstance and could have possibly cost her her job she was working so hard at. Arguably, Cindy may have instigated the incident when she left the hotel without waking up passed-out Dean consequently leading him to have to take a bus back. Needless to say, I don’t think it’s fair to take sides. Either way, the movie presents an ominous reality that love isn’t always forever. It’s saddening to see how much Dean and Cindy were in love when they could hardly keep their hands off each other to how Cindy can hardly even stand to be touched by Dean. Their love seems so tarnished in the present-day shots. It’s quite heartbreaking to watch.

One thing

I wish the film would have touched on more is the implications of aهتyoung pregnancy. When Cindy went to the doctor she said she started having sex in her early-teens and that she had slept with over twenty people. Where were her parents when she was out sleeping around? She lived under their roof. Cindy may not have had a perfect relationship with her family, but she was certainly on speaking terms with them. I found it odd that the parents reaction to Cindy getting pregnant was never shown or even mentioned in addition to them not being present when Dean and Cindy tied the knot.

Blue Valentine tells a beautiful yetهتdepressing story of the blossoming of a relationship juxtaposed withهتits demise. I love the films ability to move forward while integrating flashbacksهتof the past. It is well-done. One aspect in which I judge a film is whether or not I’ll be able to remember it months or years after seeing it, and this is one of those films that I think I will continuously reflect on. I highly recommend it, even to guys.هتIt is definitely not your typical predictable,هتcornyهتlove story.

Care to Karaoke in NYC?

 

I went to a karaoke barهتin NYCهتfor the first time ever on Valentine’s Day.هتYup, you read correctly, my first time karaoking. While I sometimes sing while driving and I occasionally sing in the shower, anytime I do so I do it alone. I never claimed to have good vocals, so I usually keep my singing voice to myself like a courteous citizen. So when some of my single co-workers wanted to do something after work for Valentine’s Day and suggested a karaoke bar in downtown nyc, I wasn’t too thrilled. I told them that I would not sing under any circumstance…unless I was completely intoxicated beforehand.

We went to Radio Star Karaoke (3 W. 35th St.) which is close to our office. There ended up being six of us in total which was the perfect amount. I didn‰غھt know what to expect so I chuckled when we first walked in because I felt like we were in a disco room with the dim lights and multi-colored strobe lights flashing. There was a main stage with a bongo and one large screen in addition to a wall TV that displayed the song lyrics. We started off with a round of drinks as we chose songs out of the book of karaoke songs.

Surprisingly, one drink was all it took to get the party started, and two co-workers voluntarily began the signing session. A few drinks and two appetizer plates later, all of us girls were on our feet dancing and belting out songs. We sang everything from country to rap. What made it even more fun was that there wasn’t that one awkward person sitting in a corner refusing to participate. It seemed like everyone was really enjoying themselves. Rather than drinking to have fun it was more like we kept drinking because we were already having so much fun and we needed a liquid beverage to slake our thirst from singing our little hearts out. Additionally, I think we were entertaining the bartenders too (or maybe they thought some more booze might make us sound better) because they brought us a round of shots on the house.

All in all, my first karaoking experience in NYC was a blast. I won‰غھt turn my

nose up if someone suggests having a karaoke nyc night ever again.هت It’s like bowling actually–you aren’t excited about the activity until you actually get there and start doing it and realize that it’s a lot of fun. What’s also neat is that if you’re really self-conscious about singing in front of others, especially strangers, there’s the option of renting out a private karaoke room (see above right picture).هت So next time you‰غھre out with a group of friends and want to do something different but still want alcohol involved, I recommend having a karaoke night in NYC.

Best Karaoke In NYC

1. Radio Star Karaoke (3W. 35th St.) The NYC Karaoke Bar we went to which was alot of fun for everyone who went!

2. Karaoke Duet 35 (between 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americans) – Review by Mary Q:
Highlight of my evening: unassuming quiet Asian guy within the corner whips out “”I’m on a boat”” complete with sufficient profanities to make the FCC beg for mercy. T-Pain would have been proud!

Came to this Karaoke Duet 35 NYC for a Judy C.’s bday having a celebration of about a dozen individuals, give or take. We had been within the big space using the little stage towards the side and there was a lot of space. Charge was about $8.50 per individual per hour, amazing! Song choice was fairly diverse and also the procedure of getting into the songs in is idiot-proof. Liquor kept flowing the entire evening thanks to the bar outside. We even got a bottle of wine at no cost because we had been there for a bday. So come to drink and let your inner T-Pain shine!

3. Karaoke DUET 48 NYC (between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave) – Review by Trisha B:

When your common J-pop and K-pop loving herd of fans requirs a location to belt out the most recent releases, exactly where do they go? I do not know exactly where you go, but my buddies and I usually select Duet 48 my favorite place to karaoke in nyc.

Apart from the squeaky-clean interior of the nyc karaoke bar, ambient lighting, useful staff, sheer variety of rooms, fantastic soundproofing (in the event you do not scream), and incredible ventilation, the Japanese song list that is updated each and every month keeps my group of buddies very occupied whenever we come here. The Korean song list is updated every two months or so, but we’re by no means disappointed. The staff is also usually prepared to assist if your machine breaks down or if your microphone dies–just call them on the in-room telephone!

We do wonder why we’re usually placed within the exact same space, although. It is also usually a great deal of enjoyment to “”dub”” whatever’s playing on the screen amongst song options, haha.

The marathon from Mondays to Thursdays is your most effective bet to obtain probably the most out of one’s cash: it is $3/hr, and $12 flat in the event you invest 4 hours or more. Also, do not forget that you could in most cases bring your personal food. Make sure to make reservations on weekends and throughout the vacation season or you will be pleasantly shocked. If you are under eighteen (?), you will need to leave at 8PM sharp simply because they do not permit any minors within the building once they begin their evening hours.

Happy Karaoke In NYC!

Now That’s Rad – Katy Perry Nail Polish

h1>Katy Perry Nail Polish

Yes, I did just use the word Rad. Rad with a capital “”R”” in fact. In my Ulta Cosmetics catalog I came across an ad for Katy Perry's new nail polish collection with OPI which includes a top coat called Shatter. Shatter is black polish that does not dry like normal polish, it cracks allowing the color polish underneath show through. Of course, being the nail lacquer connoisseur that I am, I had to try it out for myself.

I wasn't sure what to expect and I wasn't sure if it would even look how it did in the pictures, but I figured since OPI is such a well-known brand that I personally use frequently I might as well try Shatter out for myself. First, I put on my delicious scented Revlon polish in a vibrant purple color, Grape Icy, then I applied one coat of the OPI shatter. I had to paint quickly because the Shatter paint dries even quicker on the nail than regular polish. I got to see the results in a matter of seconds, and it was really neat. Not one nail looks exactly like another, but it's fun and edgy, and I love it. Below is a picture of my actual nails.

Katy Perry's OPI Shatter Nail Polish Verdict

Have I mentioned just how much I adore the web? Prior to the release of the Katy Perry, Serena Williams, and Shatter Black nail polishes from OPI, we're already capable of seeing what they resemble on. For anybody who's ever bought a pretty nail polish and came home to only discover that the nail polish looked absolutely nothing like it did inside of a bottle, this review is for you. From a glitter-filled pink to an iridescent gunmetal, the new Katy Pery Opi Shatter colors are all excellent and exciting. My pick? The black OPI shatter-effect nail polish that leaves these geometric blotches of crackled black polish that, when layered on top of an additional polish, make your nails appear to be

some Lisa Frank lizard.

You heard it here, folks, it actually works. So if you're looking for something to spice up your nails or to put a spin on the traditional black nail color, check out OPI Nail Lacquer BLACK SHATTER – Katy Perry Collection.

Visit to the MoMA

I took my first trip to the Museum of Modern Art a few weeks ago, and I felt lost–not in the sense of being physically distraught about ones whereabouts in the maze of floors and people, but lost as in being entirely mentally absorbed in the paintings. It was the first time I’ve been in a museum and spent more than an hour being consumed in the artwork. In fact, I had to break my visit into two consecutive trips in order to spend adequate time seeing everything.

As I’ve grown into adulthood and my taste has become more refined, I feel like I have a better appreciation for art. Spending hours in the MoMA made this all the more apparent as I starred in awe of paintings Iهتlike while givingهت just as much time to those that I didn’t understand. One such artist’s work I had a hard time with was that of Jackson Pollock, especially One: Number 31. During my first visit,هتI told myهتmuseum companion that I didn’t understand why it was a famous painting when all it looked like was a bunch of splatters. My friend explained to me that although at first glance it may simply look like a blob of colors, Pollock actually put a lot of thought where to place the colors and that through all of the seemingly tangled mess,هتthere is a form ofهتorganization and the colors are actually evenly proportioned.هت

During my second visit I madeهتsure to grab an audio head set, and I learned even more aboutهتOne: Numberهت31. It was discussed that theهتهتtechnique of splashing the canvas with paint requires much more skill than one may think and the even distribution of colors–black, forest green, white–becomes a play on organized tangles. In addition,هتهتthe man who first bought the painting said that during a dinner with Pollockهتhe explained thatهتhe had felt at peace with the world and nature when he made the painting.هتAfterهتlearning moreهتof the background story and hearingهتothers’ comments,هتهتI began toهتfeel the calm serenity in his work and the paradox of feeling lost inهتa forestهتyetهتstillهتfeeling safe and secure.

While I began to take an interest in Pollock’s work, I became lessهتimpressed with Pablo Picasso. While I loved his painting,هتWoman with Yellow Hair, in the Guggenheim Museum, I couldn’t talk myself into liking his work shown in the MoMA. When I think of a woman’s body I think of softness and allure, but Picasso draws his women like giant beasts with thunder thighs and cellulite arms which makes it difficult to find the figures beautiful. One thing I can say though is that his work is very distinct and one-of-a-kind.

Additionally, I wasn’t that impressed with the Andy Warhol paintings–theهتfamousهتMarilyn Monroe painting (which is justهتa small squareهتof her face on a larger canvas in bold colors) and the Campbell هتSoup Cans painting–but I did like the Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures exhibit of his art in the form of film in which he had people sit in front of a camera and replayed the footage in slow motion.

“”Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures focuses on the artist’s cinematic portraits and non-narrative, silent, and black-and-white films from the mid-1960s. Warhol’s Screen Testsreveal his lifelong fascination with the cult of celebrity, comprising a visual almanac of the 1960s downtown avant-garde scene.””

I think that using film as photography is very unique and it was really cool to seeهتthe exhibit inهتperson.هتهت Filming celebrities of that timeهت in conjunction with the trendy and innovative idea of film photography makes Warhol’s one of the pioneers of artists of his time.

The design of the MoMA itself is very cool. The architecture was perfect for a modern art building. As you walk from one side of the floor to the next there are narrower pathways that overlooks a stage on the first floor and square windows of adjacent floors–everything is crisply symmetrical.هتA fear ofهت heights actually kicked in as I was walking over the pathway, especially since thereهتwere only clear glassهتside rails as a protective barrier from the heights below,هت but it made it a little exciting.

What is nice about the MoMA is that seems to be something for everyone to enjoy. One can easily spend several hours there. I personally recommend either splitting the visit in two separate day or week visits or eating a hearty meal before going so you have enough energy to cover each floor.هتThere isهتfree admission on Fridays after 4pm,هتso expect it to be more crowded than usual Friday evenings. It would be ideal to go on a weekday, but if not, the weekend wasn’t too ridiculously crowded.

One of the most important things

I learned after my two-day visit to the Museum of Modern Art is that you don’t need to “”understand”” what’s going on in a painting. The artist invites you to make your own interpretation. What’s most important is how a painting makes you feel. So next time you’re bored and want to feel inspired, take a trip to the MoMA.

Freedom and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

After reading Jonathan Franzen's bestseller, Freedom (2010), I didn't know what to say about it. Sometimes when you enjoy something so much and have so many thoughts, it's hard to get any thoughts out. I originally bought a copy of Freedomهتbecauseهتit wasهتdoing wellهتon the New York Times Best Seller List and on display at every Borders.هتAfter reading and enjoying it so much, I wanted to check out his other work, so I picked upهتa copy of one of his earlier novels, The Corrections (2002). Once again, I was not disappointed. Franzen is a very talented author, and I now consider him one of my favorites.

One of the things I love most aboutهت Franzen's writing isهتthe way he brings hisهتcharacters to life. Many characters in the novels I read oftentimes feel one-dimensional because the authorهتtends to place a greaterهتfocus on bringing the reader to an understanding ofهتthe character'sهتthoughts and behaviors of usually one central theme in the story, whereas in Franzen's work his characters seem more like real people dealing with multiple issues. The charactersهتfeel multi-dimensional because we get a glimpse of their past and present not only from themselves but also through the eyes of others close to them.

Another reason I like both novels is because they deal with aهتnumber of intertwined issues that seem very adult-like, yet Franzen's characters are very much human and they still act childish and make mistakes. I actually find it a little inspiring that the majority of the characters in his novels are grown adults still learning things about themselves and working to become better people/more successful. I also like his underlying message at the end of both novels that it's never to late to change whether it be in terms of your career, your relationships with family/friends/significant others, your hobbies, anything really.

“”A book which is funny, moving, generous, brutal, and intelligent, and which poses the ultimate question, what life is for –and that is as much as anyone could ask.”” –The Guardian (U.K.) on The Corrections

In addition,هتI like how Franzen divides his novels into chapters of sorts in whichهتafter spending an adequate enough timegetting the reader familiar with one character's situation, he's able toهتfindهتa proper breaking pointهتto switch to another character. He has a gift of flowing from one character to another and intertwining several characters' stories without making it too confusing and without taking away from any of the characters' story plots. The oscillating point of view is actually what allows the reader to most identify with the characters. It's the idea of “”putting on a show for others.”” In The Corrections and Freedom, Franzen's characters are always comparing their seemingly disastrous lives with another character's seemingly “”perfect”” life, but when Franzen switches to another character's viewpoint, the reader soon comes to realize that not a single character in either novel has a perfect life. They're all going through issues of their own which makes the novels more realistic and enjoyable anyway.

Despiteهتworking with some serious topics in his novel, Franzen is able to lighten the mood with his sense of humor throughهتinterspersed comedic scenes.هتThere were a few scenes at which I literally laughed out loud or smiled incessantly while reading. Whileهتboth novels are overهت500 pages long, they are worth spending numerous hours with. They are very entertaining, and I actually looked forward to picking up where I had left off each night. I highly recommend both novels. In fact, I was contemplating which one I enjoyed more and I surprisingly can't pick one over the other…so read both! A large part of the U.S. is experiencing some harsh weather, so while many schools and offices are closed, now would be the perfect time to snuggle up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and one of Franzen's books.

Sweet on Doughnut Plant

Doughnut Plant – 379 Grand St. – New York
No one likes waking up early, especially on the weekend, but this weekend I found myself jumping out of bed after becoming determined to make it to the doughnut shop before the best doughnuts were sold out–but not just for any plain doughnut at any ol’ doughnut shop, for a “”special”” doughnut Doughnut Plant! Finally after four months of phone conversations with my father ending in inquiry if I’ve finally visited the famous doughnut shop that he’s seen featured on the Food Network several times, I made it downtown to get a taste. And let me tell you, the early morning trek out in the cold was definitely worth it.

When I first walked into the doughnut shop I was not impressed. There isn’t anything of note about the shop itself; it is kind of like the dive bar version of a doughnut shop. There isn’t much sitting room and it isn’t nicely furnished–it’s almost empty feeling. Even upon entering the shop I wasn’t wooed by the sweet doughy scent. It was when I laid my eyes on the assortment of doughnuts on display that I knew I had not been mistaken and this was in fact the Doughnut Plant I had heard so much about. And once I took a bite of doughnut I realized why it doesn’t really matter what the interior of Doughnut Plant looks like; people go there for the doughnut itself not to have a pretty place to sit. Also, apparently I had beat the mid-morning rush because it made sense why the place isn’t more furnished as a group of customers crowded together in line leaving little moving room.

Since I had been waiting in anticipation for so many months to try a doughnut from Doughnut Plant, I figured I could be a piggy and order a few different flavors. I ended up ordering a hazelnut, peanut butter & jelly (the one specifically mentioned on “”The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Sweet Tooth”” on Food Network), chocolate and upon suggestion from the doughnut plant employee, a carrot cake doughnut. Surprisingly, I ended up liking the best doughnut I thought I would like the least–the carrot cake doughnut. It was moist and full of flavor yet it wasn’t too overwhelming or sweet. De-lic-ious.

The chocolate doughnut kind of reminded me of a volcano cake the way it had what I would like to call a volcano of liquid cream running through its center. The only doughnut I wasn’t that impressed with is the hazelnut glaze doughnut. I’m sure by other doughnut standards it’s still great, but compared to the flavor of the other ones, the hazelnut didn’t stand out. To top everything off, I ordered a chai which I became just as impressed with as with the doughnuts. After I had my sweet tooth filled and was giddy with a sugar high I skipped off to the train station in contentment.

I recommend any and everyone living in the city to try Doughnut Plant at least once. I personally will be going back to try the other flavors I haven’t yet tasted. Doughnut Plant also offers seasonal flavors that are worth trying out. I’ve heard that their pomegranate doughnut that’s offered around the winter holiday season is amazing. Going to Doughnut Plant and feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to choose from an assortment of flavors and feeling like a little kid excited to try every flavor is certainly a worthwhile experience. I’m already looking forward to my next visit! 🙂

My Visit to the International Center of Photography

I recently visited the International Center of Photography. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy photography and a bit of history you may want to check it out. Some reading is required and there are many small photo reels, so definitely bring your glasses if you wear them.
The ground level floor of the center contained pictures from the Spanish Civil War. What I liked about the exhibit was that the succession of pictures told a story like a history book. (The photograph on the left of the woman breast feeding her baby during a political speech is a famous shot by David Seymour.)

The bottom floor contained pictures from the Cuban Revolution beginning in the late 1950s with focus on Che Guevara. I liked the Cuban Revolution exhibit more than the Spanish Civil War exhibit because photographs were used more as an artistic form of political speech. Many solo shots of Che were featured because his face became a symbol of his beliefs.

The International Center

of Photography has rotating exhibitions which is a great way to get people to return. There is one exhibit in particular that I would love to see, the Avedon Fashion traveling exhibit. It’s currently at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until mid-January 2011. If it came back to the NYC Center I’d definitely return to check out the post-WWII era fashion photography by Richard Avedon. (One of his 1967 photographs is featured on the left.)

The International Center of Photography is a different experience than going to a museum, but I enjoyed it. I’d just recommend looking at the list of current and upcoming exhibits so you can visit when the exhibits that are of most interest to you are on display.

Check out the International Center of Photography website for more information.

Capturing the Elusive

*Extraordinary, breathtaking, memorable images that make us desire to continuously look despite how many times our eyes have scanned every millimeter of the picture with hope of cementing every detail in memory.
Photography is pretty amazing. It’s no wonder the saying goes, “”A picture is worth a thousand words.”” I particularly admire photos that require not only a good camera, but also skill–an eye for the right lighting, positioning, etcetera that the average person with a camera cannot capture.

Today in my Yahoo news updates I came across a compilation of high-speed photographs. The first thing I thought as I looked in awe at the pictures was, “”That’s so cool!”” Photography is a form of art, and the neat thing about these pictures is that it feels like a science experiment too. Being able to see things that the human eye cannot capture itself is spectacular. I love the parallel of the photograph and the image
within the photograph–the camera acts like a time slowing machine, being able to capture something that happens in a fraction of a second, and the photograph stops time as well by being a preserver of the image.

Enjoy 🙂

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yahooeditorspicks/galleries/72157625550600212/page2/)

Scenes to be Seen

I truly believe that a vacation, even if it's a mini “”staycation”” and you don't travel very far, is important for one's health (and for me, my sanity). I can only be a homebody, workaholic for so long until my inner Columbus desires to get away and explore some unseen territory. Even living in New York City where it's said one may be able to live for many years and still not have visited all of its hidden hot spots, one can fall into a comfortable rhythm–walking the same way to and from work, going to the same three places for lunch break, eating at the same Thai restaurant in my neighborhood because I swear there's no place better. What can I say, I tend to be a creature of habit.

At the same time, what breaks up the monotony and makes me happiest is when I leave my bubble of comfort and check out a new place (museum, hiking trail, bar, restaurant, boutique, etc.) where I unexpectedly have a great time or when I go on a vacation with friends or family. I recently read a post by a fellow blogger in her 20s, Grace Boyle, that made me realize that I neither need to stay in Manhattan nor travel hundreds of miles to the Caribbean in order to find something fun, exciting or relaxing to do. As traveling can be a bit difficult when one has a full-time job and limited vacation days, Boyle had me pondering three other options to mix things up a bit: taking a weekend trip, picking 10 places in my residing state to plan to visit, and hosting visitors.

I found a site that lists many fun things you can do/see in NYC that may be helpful if I ever have any problems brainstorming things for my visitors and I to do. The neat thing is that regardless where you're living and how much you've done in or

near that town or city, there is always more to be seen. That's what makes hosting a visitor fun for everyone–you both can experience new things together.

So while full-out, week-long vacations where I pack a bursting suitcase and jet set off to another country are still my favorite kind of vacations, I would definitely like to start making more regular plans to do some local exploring as well. What I think is important to remind ourselves is that life is crazy. We often say that our schedules are hectic and that we're too busy to do this or that, but when does life ever truly slow down?–when we're in our seventies and are complacent with a house and grown children when we actually will be too tired to do extensive traveling/exploring? I admit that I'm often guilty of using the excuse that I'm too busy or tired to meet up with friends. From here on out I'd like to vow that whenever an opportunity arises that sounds interesting, I'm not going to turn it down with the thought that I'll do it next time around. While health and rest and yadda yadda is important for one's well-being, I'm going to take a leap and assert that doing things out of routine from time to time may actually make us feel more alive.

Book Review: Shop Class as Soulcraft

I recently finished the book Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. I'll be honest and admit that I originally didn't expect to enjoy this book, mostly because I'm not really a “”let's get our hands dirty”” kind of girl–I can hardly cook, I do laundry about once a month (and average about at least one ruined article of clothing per wash), and I grew up having my dad do any necessary house/car/misc. repairs. But while there were many parts of the book where it was a little hard to relate, I still understand Crawford's main points.

First, here's a little background on Crawford. He has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago, served as a postdoctoral fellow on its Committee on Social Thought, and is currently a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He also happens to be very passionate about motorcycles. In fact, he owns and operates Shockoe Moto, an independent motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, VA. So basically, this guy is the real deal.

In Shop Class as Soulcraft, Crawford describes some of his jobs after getting a higher education. To his disappointment, he found that most of the work he did stuck in a cubicle did not actually require him to challenge himself mentally. To make a long story short, he ended up opening up a motorcycle repair shop, and he enjoyed it much more than simply doing chug and plug autopilot kind of work in which he never got to see physical results. When he was describing the kind of work he previously did and how unsatisfactory it was for him, it really got me thinking about my own level of content with my own job. In describing the intricate and oftentimes frustrating process of learning as you go and figuring things out through trial and error while repairing motorcycles, it made me gain an appreciation for the work of mechanics that makes my life so much easier. It's a shame that blue collered jobs are looked down upon and viewed as “”lesser than”” in today's society, although their work is so important. It made me realize the backwardness of someone having a college education receiving more value than a tradesman who may actually produce more viable work.

Society today is pushing for everyone to have a higher education, and while I think that there are many great institutions out there, I don't think college is for everyone. Also, depending on the field, more knowledge may be acquired while getting actual hands-on experience in the work place than in a classroom. I really respected Crawford's decision to break from the conformity of society to do what he really feels passionate about. I don't think many people today with a Ph.D. would turn away from a white collar job to open up his/her own motorcycle repair shop. From Crawford's experience it made me realize that for some, in order to find true happiness it may require rejecting a life course mapped out by others as obligatory and inevitable. To some it may seem crazy and stupid, but it's your life, and you should do what you need to do in order to be content. As Crawford would say, “”Live well.””

Lastly, Crawford asserts that in order to be a better worker and to challenge yourself, you must learn to accept failure. You can never know too much; there is always something else to be learned. I think that is something we all forget from time to time as we become comfortable in our jobs and fall into a monotonous routine. We should continuously challenge ourselves even if the outcome isn't what we had hoped

it to be, and in doing so, we will become improved individuals who will take that experience and apply it to the next, thus doing what it takes to “”live well.””

So ask yourself, are you content? With your career? With your life? Are you doing what you want to do or are you simply following the path that society has already shown its approval towards?