July 19, 2017

Smile. It enhances your face value.

Dolly Parton, Steel Magnolias

July 18, 2017

For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.

-Ernest Hemingway

July 17, 2017

The moon is swimming naked and the summer night is fragrant with a mighty expectation of relief.

-Leonard Cohen

Spontaneous Outings

It’s never fun when your original social outing plans get cancelled. But that also opens up a whole day to be spontaneous and explore new things. My best friend Siddiqi and I did just that.

We started first off picking up a vinyl player in the Hyde Park area for Siddiqi’s friend whose birthday is tomorrow. Next came the grand adventure at Half Price Books on North Lamar for 50% off day. Sold two overflowing bags of books for $24.50 (a major success) and got a couple CDs for close to $14.00. Siddiqi found two vinyls of Russian classical music for wayyyyy less than that.

We had lunch at MezzeMe in the Triangle. MezzeMe is a relatively new Mediterranean restaurant (I was overdressed for Peace Bakery). Siddiqi got a braised lamb (it’s halal btdubs) pita wrap with spicy tabouli and hummus. I got a Crazy Grain rice bowl with braised lamb, roasted eggplant, hummus, and sprinkled with parsley and feta cheese. It was pretty good. The braised lamb was spot-on. The hummus was amazing too and this is coming from someone who doesn’t like hummus. There was nothing really grand about the rice and the roasted eggplant had too much vinegar. If you get a pita wrap with the lamb, hummus, parsley and feta, it’d be a pretty damn good pita wrap.

Lunch at MezzeMe

He seems to be liking his deconstructed pita wrap.

MezzeMe is located on 4700 Guadalupe Street, #9, Austin, TX 78751.

Our next stop was Goodwill on Peyton Gin near 183. This is the only Goodwill in the Austin area that has a computer store. We browsed through the general area, finding old microwaves and a couple Sony cassette players. We then caroused to the computer store. I am not a computer nerd. I am far from it. I call the Motherboard a flat plate that pricks your fingers. You would think I would be bored as Siddiqi looked for power supplies and cables for a computer he’s building. Actually, I was not. Computer parts are like one big puzzle game with colors and boxes and shapes and weird foreign pieces. During the hour or so we were there I found a cool BG camera that takes lomography for $5.00. Held onto that for dear life. Also found an old Apple keyboard for $12.95. It’s got the USB cord and the traditional clicking sound and everything. The staff was super friendly and helpful (Siddiqi said it was because I’m a girl who was pretty dressed up and girls are rare finds in that part of the store). The supervisor of the computer store knew quite a bit about cameras and helped me look for more film cameras. His mannerisms reminded me of Doc from Back to the Future. Probably my most favorite part of the day. Who knew?

Photo Jul 16, 6 39 32 PM.jpg

Our next stop was Tours Les Jours, a Korean-French bakery in a small Korean plaza on North Lamar in Central Austin. Siddiqi was craving bubble tea and I was craving anything cold (100 degree burning sun is not fun without a cold drink).  He’s never been to TLJ and it was super close to Goodwill. I got blueberry cream cheese bread and a cold chocolate roll. Unfortunately, they ran out of tapioca for the bubble tea. 😦 We weren’t going to give up though! We went to the interwebs and found a place nearby called Snow Monster. We jumped into his Subura and drove off to this 4.6 star place.

Tous Les Jours is located at 6808 N Lamar Blvd B-115, Austin, TX 78752.

Snow Monster is a “build your own shaved ice” joint on Lamar and Braker. It’s relatively new, opened in 2014 by two Taiwanese UT Alumni. Snow Ice is, according to Snow Monster’s website, fruit extracts and fresh milk made into blocks and shaved finely to create flakes. You can add your own toppings, including fresh fruit, nuts and chocolate chips. You can also use soy milk if you are dairy free. It gives the same fluffiness as whole milk. I got vanilla snow ice with a side of strawberries and chocolate chips, topped with  condensed milk. Siddiqi finally got his bubble tea and according to him, it was delicious.

Snow Monster is located at 11220 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78753.

It was a grand day full of spontaneous productivity and amazing food. The clouds came in and the wind picked up so it was perfect timing to head on home. Pretty excited to go back to Sno-Mo and the computer store. Hopefully I can come up with a glossary of computer-to-my mind’s version terms of computer parts soon.

Poetry Games: The White Stripes

Because why not The White Stripes? Enjoy!

Let’s grab our “Seven Nation Army”

And head over to the “Hotel Yorba”

Because “I fell in love with a girl”.

Let’s sneak out of the rooms

“In the Cold, Cold Night” to 

Hear the “Icky Thump” rant away.  

Let’s see the “White Moon” rise

As the “Little Ghosts” draw 

a “Blue Orchid” on the walls.

La Fête Nationale 2017

Bonne journée de Bastille!

In 1789, revolutionists stormed the Bastille, freeing the political prisoners, providing a symbol to the Revolution and a cannonball to the Old Regime.. A year later, the French government named July 14 a holiday, commemorating the event. To those in the States, this holiday is known as Bastille Day.

“Storming of the Bastille” by Jean-Pierre Houël

Today, we celebrate with food, parades and fireworks. The fête begins early, with articles on food tips, culture lessons and fashion trends. Here are a few articles I found:

How to Celebrate Bastille Day like a True Parisian” – Vogue

Eric Kayser of Maison Kayser is interviewed on his favorite Bastille Day traditions and, of course, food suggestions. Parisien sandwiches made with Parisian cooked ham and Gruyère cheese? Oui s’il vous plaît!

The Best Bastille Day Movies: The 13 Frenchest Films of All Time” – Vogue

This is more of a #FlashbackFriday article, written back in 2015. Movies are timeless. I must say, they should have named 14 movies to match the date July 14th, but their choices are spot-on. My favorite choice was Les enfants du paradis, a 1945 film about a woman being pursued by four men, one of them being a mime. Yes, you read that correctly.

Party like a Parisian on Bastille Day with French food, cinema and activities” – Chicago Tribune

For those of you in the Chicago area, here are a few suggestions to party it up at eateries and bars. There is also family-friendly event suggests, including a Bastille Day Picnic at the Lycée Français de Chicago.

France Remembers the Nice Attacks: ‘We Will Never Find the Words’” – New York Times

Though Bastille Day is meant as a day for patriotic celebration, it (unfortunately) is a sad day for many. One year ago, a horrifying attack was made in Nice where a terrorist drove a truck through a parade, taking 86 lives and wounding 450 people. Men, women, children from different continents with different faiths. Though things have returned to normal and tourism rebounded, the scars of those affected will never vanish. Please have a moment of silence tonight for those who lost their lives, those who were wounded and those who tried to stop the truck.

Eiffel Tower fireworks mark Bastille Day 2017 in Paris, France” – YouTube

ABC News provided a live show of the fireworks in Paris. This is a great way to see the beautiful celebration in France if you are not in Paris…or France. Merci tech world!

 

 

Downtown Travels Mixtape Vol. 3

Another edition of Downtown Travels is here! I’m sensing a very foreign theme here. Not just geographically as most of these artists are Western European, but in a time sense too. Edith Piaf and Frank Sinatra (once again) grace the list with their soulful, jazzy voices. Shout out to the only ATX band on the list, Ghostland Observatory.

  1. 1901 – Phoenix

 This Versailles band is known to insert many historical symbols in their songs and “1901” is no different.

“Girlfriend, your girlfriend is drifting away / 1855 – 1901 / watch them build a meteor tower / think it’s not gonna stay anyway / think it’s overrated”

They reference France’s time period that included the Art Noveau Movement and the World’s Fair of 1889, which, for you history and architectural nerds out there smiling, was the debut of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Most Parisians hated the Tower, seeing it as a total eyesore. But the World’s Fair was a time of seeing far into the future, so the Tower was meant to stand as a symbol of the future. When the World’s Fair ended and new monuments were made elsewhere, the Tower only became a symbol of a society that is stuck in its glorified past. This could also pertain to a modern-setting such as a relationship stuck in a rut.

2. The Mother We Share – CHVCHES

Every time I listen to this song by the Scottish band, I always find a different meaning or story. I’ve heard it as a story about Lauren Mayberry’s experience with other bands. I’ve heard it as one person with two streams of consciousness essentially fighting for dominance. I’ve heard it as a brother-sister relationship in which one has to take care of the other due to incompetent parents. It’s a great song and their music has helped me write many stories.

3. Beautiful Lie – Ivan & Alyosha

Pretty sure this group is the most obscure hipster group I’ve got on my iPod/iPhone. Okay, maybe obscure is a stretch. I&A toured with Brandi Carlile and NeedtoBreathe earlier this decade. The group formed in Seattle back in 2007. They got a cool indie folk sound going. I found them a few years ago on Pandora (remember Pandora?).

4. Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash

Ah yes, the Clash. You can’t get better 70s/80s British punk than The Clash. Just saying.

5. Dare You (feat. Matthew Koma) – Hardwell

I’m not really into the DJs these days but years back I was interested. Hardwell is a Dutch DJ who got together with New Yorker Matthew Koma, whose early start was in punk rock before moving into the EDM world, writing songs for Zedd. The song is catchy. A total “get up and dance for the hell of it” song.

6. La Vie En Rose – Edith Piaf

If the playlist if foreign-themed, then you cannot forget Edith Piaf! The beautiful French sound is classic.

7. Sad Sad City – Ghostland Observatory

It’s not a true Downtown Travels Mixtape without at least one local ATX artist.

8. Call Me – St. Paul & the Broken Bones

I’m a sucker for the soulful. This six-piece band from Birmingham is amazing. They’ve got a trombone player and a baritone sax player. I wish I saw them in March when they came to Stubb’s. Good thing they’re coming back this September to play at the Cedar Park Center (HEB Center for the newbies).

9. The Way You Look Tonight – Frank Sinatra

You know my saying: Frank Sinatra is the answer to everything. I feel like watching My Best Friend’s Wedding on my VCR.

July 4, 2017 – Happy Birthday America!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.

-Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, signed July 4, 1776

30 in 3 Book Challenge Update: Anna Karenina

Update on the book challenge!

I finished Anna Karenina! My 771-page book has been mastered! Took a few months due to fluctuating interest, but закончено. I’ll be honest: When it comes to Anna’s portion of the story, I should have stuck to the Kiera Knightley movie. But that would be terrible. Though I have never seen the movie, I don’t think the movie could encapsulate the other literary aspects Tolstoy so carefully placed in his mega novel. AK is beyond a mushy story about an affair between a beautiful aristocrat and a Russian count. There’s gender roles, philosophy, questions of religion and mental states.

The romance between Anna and Vronsky is exciting at first, but as you keep reading (and reading…and reading…and reading…), you start to think if Anna’s choice to escape with Vronsky to the realm of love and passion was a good idea. You question her credibility and her entitlement. Then, you think “Jesus! I’m just like the Russians in the book!” when you realize you are scrutinizing the woman and not the man. In the beginning of the book, Oblonsky’s, Anna’s brother, affair comes out. No one really does anything though. They don’t exile him. They don’t genuinely scrutinize him because he is the man, the master of the home, the breadwinner. They pity Dolly, Oblonsky’s wife, but it’s only surface deep. And this was set in the mid-1800s! When I think of today’s world with female empowerment and equal rights for all, it’s sort of the same yet sort of different. Women can easily be breadwinners and masters of the home. The shame though when a woman partakes in “inappropriate matters”, like an affair, well from what I have seen and even judged, is gray area. You hear a woman cheats on her husband or partner and others instantly go “what a slut!”. In this time and age though, you also scrutinize the man. I mean, it takes two to tango. Way to go Tolstoy, you got me thinking of gender roles.

My favorite storyline from AK is Levin’s, the co-protagonist. He’s kinda the odd ball out in Society because of he’s not a rebel like Nikolai, his brother, or a bookworm like Sergei, his brother who’s the shining light of Society’s intellectual clique. He’s nowhere near a socialite and hundreds of miles away from bureaucrat city. He doesn’t fit in any category of traditional high society, hence the appeal. He also poses many questions when it comes to Russia’s future. During this time in Russian history, Russia hasn’t full gone Western. Throughout the book, many folks in Society switch from Russian to French to English. Levin refuses to see his homeland go Western, but knows his homeland needs to use Western technology to stay relevant. There is also Levin and Kitty’s love story that is adorable: lost love followed by suffering but triumphed in the end. I am happy that there was at least one happy ending in AK. Literary nerds say Levin is a self-portrait of Tolstoy, citing examples as Kitty and Levin’s wedding and Levin’s acceptance of faith. I can’t necessarily agree nor disagree since I have don’t have much knowledge on Tolstoy, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been known to do that from time to time in my own stories.

Spoiler alert: The mental stability was great towards the end of the book. Anna and Levin’s reactions to their situation greatly juxtapose each other. Anna’s choice to be fully involved with Vronsky sends her down a spiral of living nightmares, delusions and mental anguish, leading to her downfall, both metaphorically and literally. Levin, on the other hand, experiences great inner anxiety about his position in life after his baby is born. He even contemplates suicide more than a few times. But, unlike Anna, Levin finds the moment when everything makes sense and everything will be alright. He accepts his position and his faith and lives happily ever after.

I did love the book, again, mostly for Levin’s storyline. Anna’s storyline did bring a little relief from the intense economic, philosophical and self-reflection aspects Levin brought about. If I read this four years ago, I would have been all over Anna’s romantic story. Now, it’s like “you’re a rich girl with first world problems. You’ll survive (or not….cough cough wink wink)”. I would recommend everyone to read it. I would also recommend you take a longgggggg break from the Russian writers afterwards because it does mentally drain you.

Next stop, the French!

July 3, 2017

There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.

Edgar Allen Poe