Happiness Unbound

Life has been really stressful lately with taking on more responsibilities at work as well as living in the city on an already tight budget. So, my work in progress is trying to make the most of my (small amount of) free time by doing things that will make me happy. Below are three key things that I can work towards to live a more balanced and healthy life.
1. Feeling good about myself!
This includes:
a.) working out – sweating and getting adrenaline flowing creates endorphins which make us feel good about ourselves. Plus, we want to keep our bods tight and in shape!
b.) shopping – b/c when we wear a cute outfit we feel good about ourselves
2. Sleep! zzzzzzz

I hate feeling grumpy and lethargic because of sleep deprivation. I need to be alert at work, so if that

requires me to make it into bed before midnight, so be it! I'll appreciate it the next morning.

3. Enjoying the moments in life that may be overlooked or seem “”minuscule”” to some, but may be just the break you need to get through the rest of the day/week. For me this includes:
– Starbucks – I literally get a little excited every time I get a beverage there.
– Slurpees – Luckily, I have a 7-11 right across the street from work. Feeling like a little kid again while slurping a frosty slushie is totally acceptable despite all the sugary calories if it'll make me a little happy, if only for a few minutes.
– Nature – One of my favorite things to do one day over the weekend is to go to the park. After being holed up in an office and apartment building all week, it's refreshing to see actual grass and trees. I love central park and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
– Reading – Get away from the noise of a TV or ipod every once in a while and get lost in a story.
– Movies/TV – I love catching up on my favorite TV shows by watching episodes online. That way, I can watch it on my own time.
– Making no plans – Once in a while it's relaxing to make no plans at all and just do what you want to do whenever you get around to doing it. After abiding by deadlines all week and rushing to make it to appointments on time, it's nice to have at least one day to do everything at my leisure.
Doing the above things definitely does lift my mood, but when I think about it, can 1-3 little enjoyable things make up for the remaining hours in a day that are not so enjoyable? I personally think it would be unrealistic to expect to be happy throughout the majority of the day, even though I do wish there was a little more of a balance. Although it sucks and we often complain about difficult things, it is the difficulties that make certain things seem special to us. It gives us something to look forward to.
So tell me, what makes you happy? What gets you through a hard day?

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Pine Cone! Acorn! Bee! Weeping Willow! Grass! Squirrel!

I felt like a five-year-old who was still seeing the world with new eyes this past Saturday while visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. As one who has grown up in lush Michigan, living in the city for even a short two months has led me to appreciate the little things like grass, trees and undomesticated animals that are lacking in the concrete jungle of NYC.
The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens were, simply put, pretty and serene. I felt like I was walking into a completely different world, a world far away from the city with its blaring car horns, dirty streets, unpleasant smells, and air pollution.
What I was rather surprised by was the fact that I spent nearly two hours in the gardens, and didn't even feel bored. It wasn't crowded, there was plenty to see, it was a gorgeous day, and it felt nice to walk around. My favorite part of the gardens was actually towards the entrance. Walking down a set of steps that were lined with trees shading the pathway, it felt as if I were entering a secret kingdom. There were also florescent purple flowers in between the trees. It literally made me stop in my tracks because, even though in reality it was a pretty simplistic layout, it was perfectly gorgeous.
I also enjoyed the man-made pond swimming with turtles and white and orange fish. There is a Japanese-style viewing pavilion overlooking the pond, offering a peaceful place to sit and enjoy the sounds of the outdoors.
I could go on and on about all of the different things I saw that I enjoyed, and as a writer it should be my duty to bring those sights back to life through my writing, but it truly is one of those places that you just need to see and experience for yourself. And, you must have an appreciation of nature in order to really enjoy the abundance of different species of trees, plants, flowers, etcetera that the Gardens have to offer.
During my first visit at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, I felt as if I were having a sensory overload– but in a good way. My eyes were furiously darting around trying to take everything in as quickly as possible as if the scenery were about to disappear before my eyes. There was so much to see in fact that I plan on going back again, not only to discover numerous things that I'm sure I missed during my first trip, but to also get away from all of the city hustle for a few hours.
The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens may not be a hot spot for weekend visitors to New York, but after actually living here, it's finding tucked away beauties like this one that continues to make New York an appealing place full of surprises and opportunity.

(Pictures above found on the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens wesbite.)

Guggenheim Experience

This past Saturday I visited the well-known New York museum, The Guggenheim, and had quite an enjoyable experience. It was helpful going with someone with a little background knowledge in art as well as having the free audio tour device that discussed certain pieces throughout the museum. The audio device often pointed out things that I would have otherwise overlooked. That is one reason I love art–one piece can mean something different for each individual, and there are some pieces that are so intricate that the meaning may change each time it is viewed and new things are discovered in it.

There are a few pieces that stood out to me in particular:
* Julie Mehretu: Grey Area Exhibit – On a huge canvas she combines precise architectural lines with abstract forms. The use of different materials creates texture and adds density to her paintings. As the Guggenheim pamphlet states about Mehretu's work, “”The images seem to exist at a horizon where the work could either plunge into dense obscurity or nearly disappear into an ethereal cloud of dust. Yet a remarkable sense of pictorial space always exists in Mehretu's paintings, created not just by their layering but also by the contrasts inherent in them.”” My favorite painting of Mehretu that was displayed actually reminded me of the movie Inception the way the buildings folded into one another.
* Pablo Picasso's Woman with Yellow Hair – At first glance I was not impressed with this piece, but it is with thanks to the museum's audio player for giving some of the background story that made me see it with new eyes. The girl in the painting is Picasso's mistress and it shows the girl in an innocent, vulnerable state of sleep. What is also unique about this painting is the few lines used to create the body of the girl. Every line and brush stroke is fluent and precisely round. The gentleness of the strokes resembles the peacefulness of the girl at rest.
*Vincent van Gogh's Mountains at Saint-Remy – Something about this 1889 painting intrigued me. Perhaps it was the rounded mountains that seem to be melting and the quaint tucked-away house and flower garden with his signature sunflowers located at the base of the mountains that give life to the painting. Or maybe it is oddly van Gogh's struggle with mental illness that makes me look more carefully at his work. Either way, I liked seeing Mountains at Saint Remy in person at The Guggenheim, and it may or may not have led me to do a little biography research.

Of course I did not like every painting I saw at The Guggenheim. In fact, I didn't really care for the entire abstract section at the museum. But overall, I was very pleased with the wide variety of artwork displayed. I definitely recommend it to others who are into art or are at least curious to learn a little about art. I also recommend picking up the audio device as it was very helpful.

MoSex

I recently visited the Museum of Sex on 5th Ave, NYC. I’m not sure if it was quite what I expected…but I’m not sure what I expected in the first place. Although the content was interesting, I didn’t think there would be so much reading involved. I should have brought my glasses! I guess that’s part of what a museum is all about though–to educate.

The museum has three floors with a different exhibit on each floor.

Action: ‘Sex and the Moving Image’

The first floor focused on the emergence of sexuality in film and how it evolved over time. There were several TVs that displayed sex scenes from films throughout time that went along with the literature.

Rubbers: The Life, History & Struggle of the Condom

The second floor was divided into two separate themes. The first room had old nude pictures, art work, sexual bodysuits, a sex film made from using paper cut-outs, and other miscellaneous things. The other part of the second floor was the Rubbers exhibit. It detailed the history of the condom, while displaying old condoms, condom dispensers, wrappers/tins, etc. It also discussed the importance of using protection and recalled the syphilis outbreak in Europe that made it’s way to America and threatened soldiers in combat during WWII.

The Sex Lives of Animals

Lastly, the third floor was an exhibit on the sexual behavior of animals. Long story short, the exhibit objective is basically to prove that humans are much more similar to animals than we’d like to think –animals are sexual beings that perform sex acts for pleasure and not just for pro-creation too; they masturbate and often perform homosexual acts. There was even a case of rape in which a duck smashed into a window and died in the hopes of escaping its attacker.

The majority of the information provided at the Museum of Sex were things that I already knew due to taking several Women Studies courses, a class on Animal Movement & Behavior, and a class on AIDS & Other Communicable Diseases, but for someone who may not have had as well-rounded of a curriculum, one could certainly learn a lot from it. My only warning is that you have to have the patience to read everything and have at least two hours of time to explore the museum fairly thoroughly to make it worth the $15 admission fee. But of course, the topic of sex makes the information pretty interesting to begin with, and it appeals to both men and women alike.

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Recycled (he)Art

I’ve always had an appreciation for artists who can create beautiful things, especially when they can take seemingly ordinary or useless things and transform them into a creative piece that most people would never think of doing. Today I stumbled upon the creative work of Nick Gentry who uses recycled floppy disks, cassettes, VHS tapes and Polaroids to create his art.

Here is an excerpt on the concept of his work:
“”As media is rapidly absorbed into the World Wide Web, the physical media formats of the past have been deemed obsolete. This represents a big shift away from real world objects, driving towards a human existence that is ultimately governed by countless intangible data files.””

Given that electronic items are usually deemed cold and incapable of sentiment, Gentry is able to evoke wonderment by telling a story through the creation of a life using paint and inanimate objects. Each of his characters manifest an eerie persona that leaves the viewer wishing to know more. There is gracefulness, yet intensity to Gentry’s work. Some of the poses–from the positioning of arms, to the elongated curve of a neck, to a set jaw line–Gentry seems well-attuned to the elegance of a body.

For me, investing in a piece of art work is like choosing a pet; it’s a fixture that’s going to be around for a while. Some pieces are meant to blend into the decor of the room, becoming a simple decoration, while others demand attention, daring every passerby to steal a glance. Gentry’s work is the kind of curious art that I would hang from a pure white wall, letting it and only it speak for the entire room.

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A Keen Eye for Quality

“”Rather than rely on obvious logos, expensive products use more discreet markers, such as distinctive design or detailing. High-end consumers prefer markers of status that are not decipherable by the mainstream.”” – Teddy Wayne, The New York Times

Apparently for those who can distinguish the work of a well-known designer, apparel bearing the logo of that designer is not necessary in order for them to purchase it. On the contrary, those who have a trained eye for spotting designer wear tend to be more interested in the goods that have the details and sophistication of the designer without the logo that makes it apparent to others, according to an article I read on NYTimes online.

I can kind of relate to this information. For example, when I was fifteen and bought my first Coach purse (which was like a whole paycheck's worth after a month of lifeguarding ha) I made sure it was littered with the Coach “”C's”” so that all my friends would know I was rocking a designer purse. Now, after having developed a more sophisticated taste and being able to afford a little better than Coach, I have found that I look more for the design and material used rather than how conspicuous the brand logo is.

While this Coach purse above is cute, it's very mainstream. Sometimes being too identifiable and too easily attainable takes away from prestige of the product.

I think it's nice when people can appreciate something nice based on little details that usually go unnoticed by the general public. If you're buying something designer, you're going to pay a pretty penny for it no matter if it boldly displays the logo or not, so I agree that I'd rather base my purchase on the uniqueness of the product rather than trying to show off the fact that it's designer and that I have the money to afford it. It becomes another way of differentiating between those who know something about style and someone who simply has the money to afford it.

Logos aren't something that someone who knows anything about fashion needs to show off. Just take Ed Hardy for example. Hardy clothes are not cheap but, in my opinion, they are tacky as hell. Money can't buy someone style (unless they pay for a stylist). Wearing a designer logo doesn't make one stylish.

I absolutely love this Coach purse on the right. I think the color would be great for the Fall. I also like the fact that I haven't seen a hundred people on the street with it.

Film Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I recently saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a film based on the same titled book by Swedish Stieg Larsson. At first I was a little weary because I had to grab my glasses in order to be able to read the Swedish subtitles, but I quickly forgot that I was even reading when I became absorbed in the movie. It was honestly one of the best movies I have seen all year. I love the kind of movies that require you to think, or to at least be forced to pay close attention to details in order to be able to follow the unfolding of events taking place in the movie.
The central theme of the film is the unraveling of an unexplained disappearance of a young girl which leads to the chasing of a murder mystery. Meanwhile, the audience gets a preview of what the main female character, Lisbeth (the girl with the dragon tattoo), goes through on a daily basis‰غسharsh abuse and degradation by males. Many of the issues throughout the novel involve the sexual abuse of women. Lisbeth is one of the most interesting female characters I have seen in a long time. Instead of being an unrealistically strong woman who can overpower men, she instead uses her brains and patience in order to seek (justified, in my opinion,) revenge against them. As weird as she seems, there is something about her that is likeable and keeps the audience rooting for her‰غسperhaps it is sympathy for the unfortunate, undeserved beatings she endures, or maybe it is the glimpse of helplessness in her eyes that angers me even more for what is being done to her. Many of the scenes were very disturbing to watch, but at the same time, I think it‰غھs important for people to realize that abuse is something that women all over the world still face on a daily basis. I later learned that the original Swedish title translates to “”Men Who Hate Women.”” That would have been an appropriate title to keep because the film is filled with abuse towards women.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in Stieg Larssson's trilogy followed by The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. If the books are anything like the movie, then I am sure I will also like them. I recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to anyone who enjoys mystery/thriller films and can handle some unsettling images. It is definitely meant for a mature audience.

My film rating: 4.5/5

Controversy Over Short Film Revisited

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog about a police raid during the early days of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and I said that the film may have been the Swedish film, I Am Curious (Yellow). I have been informed that although I Am Curious did cause quite a controversy, and was even banned in the state of Massachusetts, the actual film that was shut down was Jack Smith‰غھs short film Flaming Creatures (1963), and it was actually shown by the Cinema Guild (CG), the oldest student film society on U of M‰غھs campus.

It was January 1967, and according to an interview in the Fall 2008 Department of Screen Arts & Cultures newsletter (see pages 10-11) with film professor and Cinema Guild Faculty Advisor, Hugh Cohen, he was contacted by an Ann Arbor Sheriff and told not to show Flaming Creatures, only after CG showed another controversial film, Jean Genet‰غھs Un Chant D‰غھAmour (1950) two weeks before.

As can be imagined if a film running for a packed auditorium of students is stopped short, uproar was caused with the police seizure. Not only was the reel confiscated though, a few CG board members were also arrested after disobeying police orders not to show the film. On January 20, 1967 The New York Times reported that about 100 students demonstrated outside the police station afterwards. It wasn‰غھt until over a year later that the CG members who had been taken to court for misdemeanors were dropped of the charges. Ironically, after the charges had been dropped, the State of Michigan published a report saying that the members shouldn‰غھt have been arrested and that the film was much too dull to be considered pornographic.

What I found most interesting about the information brought to me is the number of controversial films that were being shown underground during the 60s and 70s. I watched Flaming Creatures to see if the film was as provocative as had originally been described, and although it may have been considered to push boundaries in the mid-to-late 60s, it would be considered amateur by today‰غھs standards. I was actually bored watching the film, and its filming was rather choppy and dizzying. It‰غھs amazing how far we have come today in being able to exercise artistic freedom. It‰غھs also incredible how desensitized people have become over nudity and violence. The quick flashes of breasts and intertwined legs in Flaming Creatures that was deemed too sexual a few decades ago would be seen as trite today.

It‰غھs fascinating how much of the history embedded in the clubs and organizations on U of M‰غھs campus are concomitant with the changing views and practices of the general public during those times. It just goes to show that Michigan has always been on the forefront when it comes to taking an active role in the issues about which they feel strongly. Even when negatively deemed rebellious, and sometimes even faced with more serious consequences (like jail), those involved with U of M do not back down from voicing their opinions. It seems that Michigan students are often a step ahead in movements of change, and that is something to be proud of.