Monday, December 11, 2017

Movie Review: Table 19 [SPOILERS]

I ended up having a quiet night at home last week, so I figured I'd treat myself to a movie night. Boy, was I disappointed with my Redbox choice.

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While I didn't know much about Table 19, I thought it was a comedy, since the few commercials I saw for it earlier this year showed some funny bits. Yes, it looked stupid, but I was in the mood for a fun movie.

But it was not funny. If anything it was kind of depressing. Here's the run-down of what made this movie so bad:


1. There is nothing likeable about any of the characters. Those creepy smiles say it all. Lisa Kudrow attended the wedding with her husband but had planned to have an affair that weekend with someone else (She complained that she and her husband hadn't had sex in three years, but never explained why.). The cute random guy Anna Kendrick meets (and kisses) is actually the groom of another wedding. The random relative at Table 19 stole more than $100,000 from the bride's father (as well as stole a wedding cake from a different wedding). No one has any redeeming qualities. Well, except maybe the nanny. She was a nice old lady.


2. This movie does NOT know how to "sell" love. The reason movies, novels, etc. were invented is to tell stories to help people escape from their regular, dull lives. So you'd think a movie that centers around a wedding would want the audience to leave feeling like love conquers all. But no. The message of this movie is this: You will always disappoint your partner, and you're both going to do stupid things (i.e. be "ridiculous," a word the script uses way too often), but you put up with it, and being able to forgive each other is all that love is. WTF. That's the take-away message about love from this movie?


3. The main character has an unplanned pregnancy. I HATE movies that use this sob story to try to make the audience sympathize with the character. NO! You are a complete moron. Pregnancy is 100% preventable (with abstinence) and more than 90% preventable using two forms of contraception. The parents (Anna Kendrick and Wyatt Russell) are clearly well-educated people with high socioeconomic backgrounds, and even they are total idiots when it comes to safe sex. What hope is there for the rest of the world, especially for young women? I can't believe how many movies I have seen in the past year that portray young women as lost, incompetent, irresponsible people. WHY is this the way society views the women of my generation? It's disappointing and embarrassing that this is how my peers are viewed, and even more horrible that this portrayal isn't too off the mark sometimes...

Do NOT bother watching this movie. You will have wasted an hour and 27 minutes of your life.

Monday, December 4, 2017

NIH Philharmonica's "For the Birds" Performance


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My BodyPump instructor invited our class to attend a performance by the NIH Philharmonia. I didn't even know she played a musical instrument (or which one)! But I always like to support my friends in their endeavors, so I marked the show in my calendar.

I thought this would be a small event, but when I arrived, I could barely find a seat! The church where the event was held was packed. It's always encouraging to see communities support local groups like this, especially in the arts.

Look at this outfit! She truly is dedicated to her art.
When the conductor Dr. Nancia D'Alimonte (who looks like a red-headed Emma Thompson) came out, she was wearing a hat with huge feathers as well as a feather boa! She told us about the program and that all of the pieces were inspired by birds (all the while adding "gobble gobble" and other bird noises throughout her speech. Her imitations were actually quite good!). I thought the theme was very interesting and unique. I was afraid that I would have to listen to Handel's Messiah one more time (tis the season...), so I was pleasantly surprised that the program was mixing things up.

Here are the pieces we heard. Some of the music was familiar to me; it's amazing how pop culture and the use of classical music in modern television/movies can introduce these famous pieces to you, and yet you still don't know who composed the music!

La gazza ladra: Overture (The Thieving Magpie) by Gioacchino Rossini [This piece is based on a true story of a servant girl who was sent to the gallows for stealing a silver spoon, just for her master to learn that a curious magpie was the true thief. Rossini is sometimes referred to as the laziest composer because he retired at 39, but in his lifetime he composed 39 operas!]



Gli uccelli (The Birds): Suite by Ottorino Respighi [He was very inspired by past composers, who they themselves were inspired by birds.]

1. Preludio (Prelude)


2. La colomba (The Dove) - You can hear the mournful cooing!



3. La gallina (The Hen) - This sounds just like the pecking and clucking of a hen.


4. L'usignolo (The Nightingale) - This part has a spooky, eerie opening, and then the music morphed into sounds that reminded me of the music in Disney's Sleeping Beauty.


5. Il cucù (The cuckoo) - I love the majestic opening for this part, and the "coo-coo" is very clear.


Le cygne from Le carnaval des animaux (The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals) by Camille Saint-Saëns [He was more precocious than Mozart, learning to play the piano when he was 2-and-a-half years old and composing his first piece at 3! He was quite a Renaissance Man, and had interests ranging from biology, archaeology, history, etc. The carnival suite features many animals, and he wrote it for fun and never expected it to be so popular. He did not want it to be published before his death, but he did let this particular swan piece go to the public.] In this piece, the piano is the water while the "gaggle of cellos" represent the swan.


L'oiseau de feu (The Firebird) by Igor Stravinsky [He was not a particularly well-known conductor when he wrote this piece for the Ballet Russes (He was actually the FIFTH choice of the person who commissioned it), but it became an instant sensation. The story of the firebird is essentially this: Prince Ivan comes across the firebird in a garden, and he wants the firebird to use its magic to save some princesses who were trapped in the castle of an evil king. The firebird casts a sleeping spell on the kind and Prince Ivan is able to rescue the princesses. You may recognize this piece from Fantasia 2000. This is the 1919 version.]


I was so impressed by this volunteer group! And the conductor, who is internationally recognized, is so fun and energetic; she is wonderful at describing the history of each piece, too. I would definitely recommend seeing them perform. Their next concert is on March 3, 2018, so maybe I'll see you there!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thanksgiving in Los Angeles!

This is the second time I have spent Thanksgiving in California. The first time was in 2013*, when my sister first moved out there and my best friend from college was studying at USC. Since I couldn't visit my sister over the Columbus Day holiday this year, I decided to spend Thanksgiving with her instead.

We packed a lot into four full days! Here's a run down of what went down:

Thursday: Thanksgiving! We of course started the day with snacks and football, but since we were on the west coast, we were able to start watching at 9:30 in the morning! This was great because it meant we could get our day started, and that the games were over earlier, too.



But clearly the most important part of Thanksgiving (okay, other than the friends and family you're with...) is the food! My sister did a great job with everything. She made the cranberry sauce and two pies the day beforehand, which helped save us some time. We made brussel sprouts (I cut them up! That was about my contribution for the evening...), butternut squash mac-n-cheese, and mashed sweet and regular potatoes; her friends helped, too, making two kinds of stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, and the turkey itself. We had so much food, but everyone got to take home leftovers. I certainly enjoyed eating all of it during the rest of my vacation!

My online Black Friday shopping included this green velvet bomber jacket from Macy's. HAD to have it! Image found here.
Friday: Clearly we had to do a little shopping on Black Friday. I bought a few things from Express, but we actually didn't end up leaving with much stuff. Part of that was due to the crowds; we didn't even bother waiting for the stores that had lines out the door, but if a check-out line was too long inside of a store, we asked ourselves, "Do we need this item that badly?" We would answer "No," and leave. I ended up buying more online from Macy's and Neiman Marcus Last Call (This holiday season may be the one when I've spent the most money on myself...Oops!).


When we got home, we pulled ourselves together and went to a UCLA football game. It was "senior night," since it was the last game of the season for the team. There was a big celebration with food trucks, bouncy castles, DJ's, etc. outside of the stadium, so we ate dinner there (I ordered chicken tenders and got SIX! Three is the average, so I couldn't even eat all of them. I ended up sneaking the others into the stadium wrapped in a napkin and disguised in my bra...I don't let food go to waste!). The game was in the Rose Bowl Stadium, which was pretty cool. The UCLA Bruins were playing the California Golden Bears. This was quite confusing because a. both schools' colors are blue-ish and gold-ish and b. the mascots were both bears! But we were rooting for UCLA (my grandfather went there for his degree), and we won!

I was very impressed with their marching band.
The boy and girl bear mascots were so cute!




Yay, winning!
Saturday: My sister's boyfriend is a big Ohio State fan (since that's where he went to school), so we started the day watching that game (football was obviously a big part of my trip). But again, it was over by lunch time, so I didn't mind spending the morning relaxing. But then I wanted to get moving: even though I was on vacation, I still needed to get some exercise! So I looked up local yoga studios, and there was a Yoga Works location not far from us. (They had a "residents get one week free" promotion, so I figured my sister could do that, and I would just pay for myself.) The room was quite warm, but not like hot yoga (although the sweat dripping down my face was still distracting). And I was quite impressed by the yoga instructor, who was very pregnant but could still do a head stand! I'm not sure the class was worth $25, but I was glad to be active for a little bit.

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When we got back, I took a shower and a much-needed nap (the time change was getting to me). Then I lounged around reading for a while; I forget how much I love reading until I'm on vacation when I have hours to enjoy a good book. Later in the day, just on a whim, her boyfriend looked up comedy shows, and saw a great one that was going to be that night at The Comedy Store (a venue similar to the DC Improv, with table seating and drink minimums). We decided to go, and had such a good time! It's great because a lot of comics live in L.A., so they can regularly perform out there. Here's who we saw and some of their main jokes:

Greg McConnell (I think that's his name. He was the opener/host, so no one really famous...): He looked like a surf bum/druggie, so he joked about that, along with working for Trader Joe's and telling a story about his mom farting in her Spanx (She had a "stinky back.").

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Darrell Hammond: We all wanted to see one thing... And his Clinton impression did not disappoint. That was probably my favorite part of the evening, having seen him play the President on Saturday Night Live for so long. He also told several jokes about Jaegermeister (always a good story, right?), and talked about preparing to tell a Trump joke in Jacksonville, FL and having someone in the crowd yell, "Uh-uh!" before he could even tell the joke!

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Dane Cook: He's kind of a hit-or-miss comedian for me (I usually like my humor cleaner than his), but I thought he was very funny at this show. He talked about hating the song, "Christmas Time is Here" from the Charlie Brown Christmas album, and sang his own version, replacing the lines with other words like, "I don't know anything/I want to kill myself" and so on. He also gave lessons on how to tell if you're in love or not: when your partner calls your name from another room, do you say "Coming, sweetheart" or  scream "WHAT?!", or when you wake up next to someone, do you want him/her to wake up so you can spend more time together, or immediately want to spit on him/her? Later Cook asked an older couple several questions about their relationship (that's what happens when you sit in the front row...), and then requested that they have sex later that night for all of us to live vicariously through them, and to shout Cook's name at the climax. Scary image...but hilarious.

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Brian Monarch: He was the least famous of the main acts performing, but I thought he was very funny (a lot of the jokes we heard are in the video on the homepage of his website). I wasn't a fan of his jokes regarding not using condoms (with strangers!), but his lip syncing to Adele while his GPS interrupts his jam session was great.

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David Spade: I was very excited to see him come on stage, since I love his movies like Tommy Boy and Grown Ups. I mainly remember him joking a lot about "porno" (He claims calling it "porno" as opposed to "porn" gives away his age) and all the different kinds of porn available online now.

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Jay Mohr: When he came on stage, I immediately thought that he looks just like a guy I dated last year, and wondered why I had never made that connection before. But I digress... His Christopher Walken impression was very funny (granted, any joke about Walken is good in my good book), and he told jokes about other famous people, like Bruce Springsteen and Sarah McLachlan. (She's never going to live down those SPCA commercials.) He ended his set telling a story of how his son was having a sleepover and there seemed to be some homoerotic things going on ("My son woke me up and said that his friend was punching him in the dick too hard. Not that he was punching him in the dick PERIOD, but that he wasn't doing it right."). Classic.

The common threads between a lot of the comedians were the use of the "Valley Girl voice" to imitate women, and saying embarrassing things to famous people (Hammond said, "Thank you for buying my house" to Clinton, and Mohr asked Walken "Would you rather fly or have a tail?"). SUCH a funny show! I was looking at the venue's upcoming line-up, and they always have great stars doing comedy! Now I have another reason to be jealous that my sister lives in L.A....

Sunday: Again, wanting to get some fitness in, my sister took me to the Pure Barre studio where she does classes. I bought a Groupon for her to go there, and she likes it a lot, so she wanted to take me to a class (and she had a free guest pass, so that worked out). It was really hard! I thought the class would be more similar to dance (like the barre in ballet), but it was more fast-paced and energetic. And I am STILL sore, especially in my calves and hamstrings. The class was only 45-minutes long, but it kicked my butt!
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After heading home and having an early lunch, we headed over to the Disney lot to see a free screening of the new movie Coco. It was really neat being at the studio like that! Disney characters were everywhere, and recognition of some big names were, too:

The columns are the seven dwarfs! I don't know how they got the hat on Dopey...



We saw lots of hand prints like these, including those from Sir Elton John, Tim Allen, Phil Collins, Betty White, and more!





The movie was really cute! I'm not sure it has the "song power" of the 90's Disney films (i.e. I'm not sure I'll be singing any songs from Coco for the next 20 years of my life), but I thought the story was engaging, and the film is so colorful and beautiful to watch! I also learned a few things about Dia de los Muertos: I didn't know that the alter where families place photos of their families is called an ofrenda (like an offering), that marigolds are an important part of the celebration, and that dogs, or spirit animals in the movie, help guide the spirits.** I know that Disney has been trying to add more cultural/racial diversity to its film repertoire, and I am glad this is a story they told!

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And of course we ended my trip with some more shopping. We stopped by DSW (I still cannot find the right pair of boots), World Market (such cute gifts!), and Marshall's (like I needed another blouse for work). After this outing we went home, had dinner, and watched The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), a film with a cast including Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Adam Sandler. I'm not a fan of movies about dysfunctional families (this is the epitome of such), but there were some funny bits to it. I'm not sure I could truly recommend it, but...it's not so bad.

I headed out super-early the next morning. This was such a good trip! How was your holiday?

*I had forgotten how terribly adorable that past Cali Thanksgiving was. We are too cute! (If I do say so myself...)

**Here are some cool articles about Dia de los Muertos:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/11/01/163549325/day-of-the-dead-decoded-a-joyful-celebration-of-life-and-food

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/mexico/top-ten-day-of-dead-mexico/

http://insider.si.edu/2016/10/5-facts-dia-de-los-muertos-day-dead/

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Stay-cation Museum Day

The other week I took a day off from work for a little stay-cation, and I decided to visit some local museums in D.C. I shouldn't have to wait 'til I have out-of-town visitors to do that!

Image found here. The entire exhibit was based around this painting, "Luncheon of the Boating Party."

The Phillips Collection has a Renoir exhibit going on right now, so I definitely wanted to check that out. The exhibit was based upon his "Luncheon of the Boating Party" painting (see above). We got to learn about the models that were used for the painting, including his wife Aline Charigot (the one kisses the dog); I rarely ever think about the faces in paintings as belonging to real people whom the artist knew! We also learned about fashions of that time period, Renoir's history as an artist, and how his friends supported his dream of painting. We even saw pictures of the painting under infrared light and x-rays, where you could see changes the artist had made (for example, some characters were shifted slightly, and the awning overhead was a last-minute addition).

Want to learn more about the painting? Mental Floss lists "15 things you didn't know" about the piece: http://mentalfloss.com/article/75976/15-things-you-didnt-know-about-renoirs-luncheon-boating-party.

The Phillips Collection also had several paintings by Pierre Bonnard, another artist from the Impressionist era. I'm not sure why I had never heard of him before, since Impressionist art is my favorite and his works definitely have a Monet-feel about them. And I love his use of color! And I myself am inspired by nature, so I like how many plants/trees are in a lot of his pieces. Here are some of his paintings that I saw:



Here were a couple more of my favorites from The Phillips Collection:

"House at Auvers" by Vincent van Gogh

"Summer" by John Henry Twachtman, another piece that reminded me a bit of Monet.

The deer are so cute in this one! This is "Deer in the Forest I" by Franz Marc.

Another nature one that I really liked. Who knew Georgia O'Keeffe painted leaves as well as flowers?

Then we headed to the National Portrait Gallery to see a new exhibit on Marlene Dietrich. I didn't know much about her except that she was a famous actress from a while ago. The photographs of her were amazing, and part of that was the fact that she knew a lot about lighting and her own angles. She was really ahead of her time: she had an open marriage, frequently wore pants (even in Paris where it was illegal at the time for women to do so), and she was unashamed of her bisexuality (although the exhibit focused nearly exclusively on her male lovers). Both men and women loved her for her beauty, talent, and attitude!

Here Dietrich is wearing a suit like a man, a men's overcoat, and round glasses, a "code" or "sign" for lesbians at the time. Image found here
 Click here to see more about the Marlene Dietrich exhibit.

Image found here

The Portrait Gallery also had a room dedicated to Sylvia Plath. I have never read anything of hers, but I really should! I think her most famous work is The Bell Jar, which I need to add to my reading list. The exhibit featured poems she had written, photographs of the writer, and letters from her or others who knew her; there were also pieces of studio/fine art, like paintings and collages. She dealt with depression throughout her life, and soon after she was divorced she killed herself, leaving her two young children without a mother. So sad!

Click here to read more about the Sylvia Plath exhibit.

Photograph by Louie Palu. Image found here
There was also an exhibit called "The Faces of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now." The works of six artists were featured, and the exhibit showed how war has become a part of our daily lives since the attacks on September 11th (For example, we always have a "Salute to the Troops" at major sporting events), and yet we still feel removed from war because it's happening overseas. Most of the artwork featured were photographs, but I found Emily Prince's drawings to be the most interesting. She would read obituaries of soldiers, and then draw their likeness and take notes about each one on a different colored card (relative to the person's skin: brown for African-American, peach for white, etc.). Although only some of her cards were on display, she has made more than 5,000 of them and has several boxes of notebooks filled with these faces.

Some of Emily Prince's cards, as well as how they are displayed at the museum. Image found here
Read more about this exhibit here.

Lots of good artwork in DC that is worth checking out!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Concert Review: Drew Baldridge and Joe Nichols

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This past weekend my dad and I went to see Joe Nichols perform at the Harrington Raceway and Casino. I had seen Nichols perform previously, and he was so good that I wanted to see him again.


His opener was Drew Baldridge. I had never heard of him before, but he was rocking the place! After the show, I'd say half the audience went to his merch table to get a picture with him. I think he's going places! Here are a few of his songs:

Rebound (My personal favorite. I totally agree with him: you should never be someone's second choice or someone's rebound.)


Dance with Ya

Burnt Toast

Guns & Roses (his biggest hit, I think)


Notice the weird wires coming out of his head.
Then it was Joe Nichols' turn. I knew something was wrong as soon as he came on stage. He was wearing earbuds that had enormous wires on them, rather than the high-tech wireless kind. I'm not sure if he lost his regular ones, or they got broken, or what, but it was obvious that these were 1. not what he regularly wore and 2. not working well. He was pushing on his ears the entire show, taking the earbuds out, putting them back in, and all the while not singing strongly because he couldn't hear himself. Between each song he would tell the crowd how much he appreciated us for coming out, like he knew how poorly the night was going and wanted to show us how badly he felt about it. It was just kind of sad...I'm glad I had seen him perform well before, because after this I'm not sure I would pay to see him again.

Even so, he still sang his biggest hits. Here are some of my favorites:

Sunny and 75

Yeah

Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off


Brokenheartsville


Joe, I wish you better luck next time!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton Exhibition in New York City

I was in New York City last week for a quick trip to visit my grandmother and some friends. We mostly just grabbed meals together and relaxed, but one day I went out on my own to see the new Louis Vuitton exhibit that's in lower Manhattan. Coincidentally I had just read about it in the latest issue of Harper's Bazaar magazine*, so I figured I'd check it out.

The exhibition focuses on how changes related to travel impacted the House of Louis Vuitton. He started out as a box maker, and then started making trunks that were sturdy but light-weight, perfect for travelling. As more people started using cars and flying more often, and continued to travel by boat and train, Louis Vuitton created trunks to suit their needs. "Necessity is the mother of invention" it is said, and so these trunks and bags, and therefore their place in fashion, transformed as travel did.

I took TONS of photos:

The name means "Fly, Vogue, Travel" (well, according to Google Translate).


The man himself, Louis Vuitton

The classic trunk that has become so iconic to the House's name



Each drawer was meant to hold a shoe.

This trunk was designed with drawers, one specifically for ladies gloves.


Here you can see a mix of his newer trunks and bags along with the older ones.


When people would travel to faraway lands, they would need to pack ALL of their things. That means a lot of trunks.

Traveling by boat was no longer just a way to get from Point A to Point B, but now "resort wear" was coming into fashion for vacations taken by boat.



This trunk was designed specifically for tea-time.

A picnic trunk kept in cars

The trunks not only came in the classic brown with gold; this one is black with the blue design.

One room of the exhibit was designed to make you feel like you were in a train car.

These are coats from more recent collections.

Louis Vuitton created many library trunks, even one for Ernest Hemingway.

In these drawings you can see the first rough sketches of what would become the iconic logo design for the House.


The walls in one of the rooms were covered in the LV design.

This library trunk could even transform into a desk!

This is a newer design by Marc Jacobs, who was the creative director for Louis Vuitton for 16 years. Not my fave.




The line between art and fashion has always been quite blurry. You can see that these trunks and bags were not only designed to be functional, but to be beautiful as well.

The chandelier and draped ceilings in this room made it feel very glamorous!

A trunk design for Greta Garbo and her shoes

A newer custom piece: a make-up case for Sharon Stone


Several cases were designed for hair brushes, shaving kits, perfumery, and other small items.

This was a trunk owned by Katharine Hepburn. Notice how it has drawers and hangers.



This collection was a collaboration with artist Yayoi Kusama, who had an exhibit in DC earlier this year.

The latest collaboration with Jeff Koons called "Masters" takes famous paintings and transforms them into handbags.+



Trunk were also designed to hold musical instruments, including drum sticks!

You can see how popular the bags were even in the beginning!

Dresses of celebrities were on display as well.



The front one was worn by Alicia Vikander at the 2016 Oscars.

Taylor Swift wore the front one to the 2016 Met Gala.
The exhibit will be in New York City until early in the New Year, so I highly recommend it! It's free to attend, but registration is recommended.

*Here's the article from the magazine: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a13060498/louis-vuitton-exhibition/

+Read more about the collaboration between Jeff Koons and the House of Louis Vuitton: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/art-books-music/a12823707/jeff-koons-art-history/