Weekly Adventure: Spring Break Getaway Edition

It’s South by Southwest time here in Austin, and like a true local, I spent most of it out of town. (This isn’t a slam on SXSW, I find people that complain about it more insufferable than festival goers, I just had other places to be.) Mainly, one of my dear friends was getting married in Chicago last weekend and because plane tickets into Austin spike in price for the festival I chose to take a detour through Dallas. And just in case you were ever in doubt about whether or not I’m a huge nerd, I spent my time there visiting a couple of presidential history museums (oh, and taking advantage of my hotel’s cable to watch Shadowhunters in real time…).

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I seemed to have brought the gray weather north with me, but nothing can ruin this view for me. It gets me every time I come around the curve on LSD.

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As previously stated, this is not a wedding blog, but I’m just so incredibly proud of Julia and my gift to the happy couple. It seems Pinterest worthy, so I’m uploading here so we can make that happen. (Basically it’s a basket full of booze for them to mark milestones in their marriage. And Jules did the bow, I have no crafting talent.)

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The happy couple at their wedding brunch at Farmhouse

 

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Jules expertly Vanna White-ing the delicious pastries

The next day, I went for a good old fashioned urban hike through a long stretch of Lincoln Park, and stumbled upon the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which is currently hosting the Chicago Spring Flower Show. I didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s right up  my alley.

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I took a million pictures, many of which you can see on my new all-flowers Instagram account.

It was one of those Chicago spring days where it can not decide if it’s gray or bright or cold or warm. But Grant looked pretty good in the afternoon light:

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My destination on the walk was the Chicago History Museum, which I had somehow never been to before. (I know, it makes no sense.) But I’m glad I went, it was a lovely mix of traditional and socially conscious, and I nerded out a lot.

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The 1893 Columbian Exposition as depicted in the diorama room. These have been on display since the 1930s.

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A suffragist in the exhibit on social protest

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They have a temporary exhibit right now called “The Secret Lives of Objects,” which is essentially a hodgepodge of intriguing things curators found in storage. Some fun and some ssurprisingly poignant. Like this lamp, it started the Iroqouis Theater Fire (which is the reason we have doors that open out in public spaces.) A really cool exhibit if you’re in Chicago.

The old part of the CHM building is gorgeous:

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In the permanent exhibit, I learned that the Harlem Globetrotters were founded in Chicago (and remained headquartered there until the 1970s but have been named after the NYC neighborhood since the 1920s, which doesn’t make sense), and saw these important historical artifacts:

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They also have a really well designed, small exhibit of some of Vivian Maier‘s street photography, which I really loved:

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What I loved about the exhibit was the way I felt surrounded by the faces of the people Maier captured. It felt like being on the street with her. Very transporting.

That night I got some post-work Bourgeois Pig with Jules and then enjoyed The Bachelor finale with the girls I started the season with. (Such a treat to see them all again so soon!) And then the next morning it was off to Dallas.

Despite the swing in temperature & humidity, it turned out to be another lovely day for a walk, and I was surprised by how pretty the part of downtown I was staying in was. And they had cool, historical photo based, public art:

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I was walking to Dealey Plaza.To pay my respects as a longtime Kennedy fanatic (I won’t go into that now, this post is long enough) and to visit the Sixth Floor Museum (which is a great mix of tribute to Kennedy’s legacy and examination of what happened on 11/22/63).

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The Plaza itself was a WPA project, and is really pretty. But it’s sort of surreal to walk around it. I’ve seen footage and photos of it so many times, and other than the models of the cars and the heights of the trees not much looks that different. It was very surreal.

Also strange, the amount of men walking around carrying strange homemade signs trying to convince you to pay them for their tour of “what really happened”

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Very high tech conspiracy HQ

They don’t let you take pictures inside the museum, but it was a moving and thought provoking experience for me. (For the record, I think Oswald did it. I’m not completely sure how to explain Jack Ruby, maybe the mob was involved, maybe not. Oliver Stone is full of shit.)

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I took the DART light-rail to get around. I found it clean and easy to navigate. I also could have rode for free the whole time, but chose to pay, because I believe in supporting public transportation.

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Across from my hotel there was a place called Thanksgiving Square, it had murals and interfaith scriptures, and this ring you were meant to pause under and give thanks. It felt sort of stuck in where it was, but I said a little prayer under the ring. (I didn’t go into the chapel, but I sort of wish I had, it looks really cool.)

On my second day in Dallas I took the train out to SMU to visit George W. Bush’s Presidential Library and Museum. I did this, because of my life goal to visit all of the President’s landmarks (see LBJ and Lincoln).

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Although, I was not and am not W’s biggest fan, I’m not going to go into a political rant here. Mostly, because most of my experience at this museum was apolitical and nice. The staff were all really lovely. They had a temporary exhibit about how campaigning has changed that included this carpet that showed all the results of every presidential election:

IMG_5128And Bill Clinton’s sunglasses:

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On loan from his library in Little Rock

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And this awesome looking board game that I am not allowing myself to look up on eBay, because I will buy it

The building itself is really beautiful:

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And, while I found myself disagreeing with the emphasis of the permanent exhibit there were some pieces that were done unquestionably well.

For instance, the 9/11 memorial, which includes a part of one of the Towers and a lot of very moving archival news footage:

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And the recreated Oval Office (one step up from LBJs because you can step in, walk around, and even take pictures at the desk!):

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There were also some nice lighter moments featuring the First Family. Hilariously, when I went searching for a statue to take a selfie with, I couldn’t find one, but these were prominently displayed:

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The only part of the whole thing that made me truly angry was the “Situation Room” simulation.

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Basically, you sit down in rows with a bunch of strangers, and vote on a screen in front of you on which “crisis” you want to tackle. (My group chose Hurricane Katrina. Other options include Saddam Hussein and The Financial Crisis). They then give you a briefing and 3 options to choose from. You can track what others in the room are thinking with a CNN-like approval line on the big screen. Then you vote on what you would do. Then they tell you what Bush did. As I was walking out of the room it felt like a cool multimedia experience, and I was surprised that I had chosen the same response that Bush did to the crisis. (I do not generally think I agree with how he handled Katrina.) And then I started to feel queasy. The flashiness and official look of the presentation makes it seem like in each of these situations, Bush had exactly 3 options, none of which were all that good and that’s why he made some of his least popular choices. Now, I do agree that being the President is an impossible job, and perfection is not an attainable goal, but I think this presentation simplifies the most important failures of my government during my lifetime to “well things are complicated, you couldn’t do any better.”

What sucks, is that this was right at the end of the exhibits, so I left with the bad taste in my mouth. As you can see from the newest addition to my Presidential Photo Collage:

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Now that I’m back in town, I’ve mostly been lying around exhausted. Though I did go see Midnight Special yesterday. It’s amazing. I want to go see it again. Like I want to go pay full ticket price a second time. That’s an extremely rare feeling for me. But like, I may go see Midnight Special again tomorrow if anyone wants to join me.

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Rainy Day Movie: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Today is the official start of my spring break, but my brain mostly checked out of things after this past Wednesday (due to the weather, lack of sleep, and some annoying miscommunication with my landlord). Plus it’s still been raining off and on here for like a week now. Which is good, Austin needs the rain, but also because it gives me an excuse to go to the movies. (Not that I need an excuse, I went to see Hail, Caesar! last week and it was beautiful out.)

I was a bit surprised when my mom’s first reaction to my telling her I went to see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was to ask if it was stupid. Because it isn’t, and I had forgotten, that the trailer sort of makes it look like it is. I went because, as previously discussed, I love Tina Fey and will basically buy a ticket to anything she’s in, and this was written by her TV partner Robert Carlock, so though my expectations weren’t high I was prepared to like it. And I did (though not without reservation.)

Based on war correspondent Kim Barker‘s memoir (which I definitely want to read now), this follows Fey’s journey from copy writing drudge to adrenaline junkie war reporter. It’s harrowing and absurd and unapologetically feminist. It’s funny, but rarely in a laugh out loud way. (That can be hard when every ten minutes or so something explodes.) There’s a lot of drinking to forget the craziness of the danger they are putting themselves in. And a lot of hooking up, in fact the best scene to me captured the actual awkwardness of casual sex. Not the perfect choreography of most dramas or the forced hilarity of everything going wrong you see in most comedies (including Fey’s Sisters from late last year), but realistic fumbling. I found it refreshing.

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This gave me a different insight into the war in Afghanistan. I had never seen it from a female perspective before, and I appreciated that. (It helped that I could follow what they were talking about because of this season of Serial.) But, there was one glaring problem here for me. Fahim, Barker’s translator, driver and “fixer,” was played by Christopher Abbott (whom you may remember as Charlie on the early seasons of Girls) and the Attorney General of Afghanistan is played by Alfred Molina. And if you can’t see what the problem may be here, then I’ll direct you to this brilliant John Oliver video about white people playing other races in Hollywood movies. It’s hard, because I think Abbott especially is a fantastic actor and he is so heartwarming and brilliant in this. (As he is in everything I’ve ever seen him in.) But, they should have hired an Arab man to play that character and they should know better. It didn’t ruin the movie, but it did keep taking me out of it.

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Putting that scarf on him doesn’t make this OK

 

Music Keeping Me Awake Today

The skies opened last night here in Austin. And for those of you who don’t know me, I really hate thunderstorms. They just put my teeth on edge, so I didn’t sleep much last night. I definitely think we should get “There Was A Lot of Thunder Last Night” days off, but unfortunately I don’t. So I made a playlist of songs to keep me awake while I have shelve at work today. Enjoy!

Take Back the Power – The Interrupters

Ugh! – The 1975

Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie

(Does anyone else find this mashup video, apparently sanctioned by Queen, deeply bizarre?)

Hold On We’re Going Home – Arctic Monkeys cover

(Credit for discovering this goes to Jules – or maybe her high school students? – but I love it. Almost as much as the Bear’s Den version, but the one won’t keep you awake.)

Lovefool – The Cardigans

The House That Jack Built – Aretha Franklin

Put Yourself First – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

(You can listen to me and Miró discuss this song – and lots of other fun feminist things on the newest episode of Method to the Madness.)

Take Off Your Sunglasses – Ezra Furman & The Harpoons

Thing Called Love – Bonnie Raitt

Best part of this = Bonnie’s voice. Second best = Baby Dennis Quaid

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Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John and Kiki Dee 

Because I’ve been on an Elton kick lately…

Here’s hoping I’ll sleep through round 2 of the storms tonight. Stay safe and dry Austin friends!

Best Picture Baking Project: Casablanca

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Now that this awards season had come to close, I had time last night to return to my other Oscars-based hobby. Pairing up Best Picture winners with desserts. Because the only things anyone seems to consume in this movie is champagne, gin, and cigarettes (Bergman might have an iced coffee at some point) I looked for a Moroccan dessert and found a recipe for orange cake that turned out pretty well. (And I for the first time managed to make a bundt cake that didn’t stick to the pan!) But first, the movie:

Had I seen this one before?

Somehow, no. It’s one of those classics that I missed, and then heard discussed, and quoted, so often that I felt like I pretty much had. And, I did know most of the plot going in, but I’m happy to say it was still a delightful experience and a few things did surprise me.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. It was a bit hokier than I imagined. Some of the dialogue, while wistful and romantic, could easily be dropped into the script of a soap opera. Except, when Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are speaking the words they sound grave and real.

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2. The supporting cast is superb. Particularly Claude Rains as the, perfectly slimy, French officer with very few scruples, but lots of charm, and Dooley Wilson as Sam.

3. This movie was made in 1942, which is just insane to me. That a movie about an ongoing war and refugee crisis, sort of masquerading as a love story, but really about open resistance to Nazi occupation could be made, be popular, and go on to become a romantic classic is really kind of astounding to me. And despite the gentility of Rick’s saloon, the film doesn’t shy away from the desperation these people are facing. One of my favorite sequences, which I’ve never heard referenced before, involves a young Bulgarian wife trying to reconcile trading her body to get an exit visa. That’s really heavy stuff and it’s just slipped into this story about lost love.

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(Bonus observation: This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m glad she got on the plane. Much better story, and Laszlo isn’t awful. I know I sound like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, but I stand by this.)

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Look, I’m clearly not qualified to judge this year. (1942 is a huge blindspot for me apparently.) But, c’mon, it’s Casablanca. It deserved it.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Nope. There are at least 3 named women I can think of. (And there may be a couple more.) But they never speak to each other. And, while I still like that ending, Isla’s fate is decided for her by a couple of men literally passing her exit visa (and her body) back and forth without fully informing her what they were doing.

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But, look, cake!

Moroccan Orange Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (you can squeeze it yourself if you want, but I used store bought & it worked great)
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest (It was most of the peel of one medium sized orange for me)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  • Zest orange (juice them also if you’re ambitious like that)
  • Grease and flour a tube pan
  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Beat together sugar and eggs with a mixer until thick
  • Gradually beat in the oil
  • Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt
  • Add orange juice and blend with mixer until smooth
  • Mix in zest and vanilla
  • Pour batter into prepared pan
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes or until it tests done (in my oven it was about 35 min.)
  • Let cool in pan for 10 min
  • Turn onto pan to finish cooling

*I made some whipped cream frosting (just heavy whipping cream mixed with a touch of powdered sugar) for the side. It’s too light to be iced directly, I think.

Award Show Round Up: Academy Awards 2016

Sorry about the delay in getting this posted you guys. I was waiting on the Academy to upload the legal videos of the acceptance speeches to YouTube (I feel like they did it faster last year, but whatever I’ll do what I can and update this post when they’re out.)

As you know, I went with some friends to watch this show at the Violet Crown Cinema in Austin, which was really fun. I highly recommend getting dressed up, drinking champagne and enjoying the Oscars as a communal experience. As for the actual show, my highlights were:

Chris Rock’s opening monologue:

I thought he addressed the controversy well, and managed to be funny at the same time, which is hard. And I liked that he never undercut any individual winner’s moment, but also never let the audience get too comfortable. (Though, to quote Emily Nussbaum on Twitter – “Some thins are about sexism though.” And not to get on my high horse, but as I was talking about with my dad the other day: The problem is not with asking a woman about her clothes.-See my list of pretty dresses at the bottom of this post-It’s about reducing a woman, being celebrated for being at the top of her professional game, to her clothes, designed by someone else and (most likely) chosen by another someone else. That’s a problem. And frankly it’s lazy to pretend that men all wear the same thing because of some inherent trait. I’m not going to go into centuries of feminist theory, but ever think of why the women are asked to wear more ornate clothes Mr. Rock?) Anyway, rant over. He was funny, and I loved the Girl Scouts.

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The night began with a win for Spotlight, which was great and then we had a few hours (seemingly) of people thanking George Miller. This woman was my favorite:

(I didn’t notice while I was watching, but apparently a lot of people didn’t clap for her. Including my nemsis (though he doesn’t know this, and he gave a lovely speech on Sunday – Alejandro González Iñárritu – I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s a long walk for her to get to the stage and they were done polite clapping. Also – sorry for another feminist rant – but enough with the headlines calling her a bag lady. She wears what she wants.)

Amid the Mad Max sweep there was this glorious moment:

And this one:

Louis C.K. came out and was funny:


And more importantly, gave an Oscar to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who is a bad ass. (Side note to the Academy orchestra, I know you’re trying to finish the show on-time, but don’t play over someone talking about honor killings. We can all wait 2 extra seconds to get to that – admittedly funny – Kohl’s commercial.)

I fell in love with the Irish winner for Best Live Action Short film:

And was super (happily) surprised that Mark Rylance got to go up on stage and be delightful at the Oscars (a little bummed he didn’t recite a poem though):

(Sorry Sly…)

Bree was adorable as always! And Leo, was pefectly Leo-esque:

And then, I of course, was thrilled that Spotlight took home the big one (I may have shrieked and thrown my arms up in the air, but I was a few glasses of prosseco in at that point):

But, the most emotional part of the night for me, was Lady Gaga’s performance (and Joe Biden’s important words before it):

(Sorry about the weird video…hopefully will have an official one to post soon.)

I’m actually angry that Sam Smith won. (Not because he thinks he’s the 1st openly gay Oscar winner when that is far from the truth, but because his song is forgettable, and what Gaga is singing about is fucking important, and the Academy missed an opportunity for no reason.)

Anyway, this is an akward segue, but there were some really pretty dresses. It was actually hard to chose a manageable number to share:

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Cate Blanchett in Armani Prive (Photo Credit: Steve Grantiz/WireImage/Getty Images)

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Margot Robbie in Tom Ford (Photo Credit: Getty/Tom Williamson)

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Jennifer Garner in Versace (Photo Credit: Getty/Jason Merritt)

(Otherwise known as the best ” I refuse to be the ashes.” dress ever.)

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Brie Larson in Gucci (Photo Credit: ABC)

(I also liked her after party look – not often someone can pull off head-to-toe pastel velvet.)

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Olivia Munn in Stella McCartney (Photo Credit: Vogue)

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Naomi Watts in Armani Prive (Photo Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein Collection (Photo Credit: Getty/Jason Merritt)

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Jennifer Jason Leigh in Marchesa (Photo Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty)

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Daisey Ridley in Chanel Haute Couture (Photo Credit: Getty/Steve Granitz)