July 19, 2017

Smile. It enhances your face value.

Dolly Parton, Steel Magnolias

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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

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!

 

 

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

June 21, 2017

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Beautiful words from a beautiful book about a beautiful time of year. Bring it on 100+ degree Texas weather!

June 19, 2017

Books are for those who have cabin fever but can’t physically escape.

-Someone, somewhere (aka me)

 

Last 100 pages of Anna Karenina? Challenge accepted.

Note to self: stay away from the Russian writers for a long time. Hm, I wonder where that copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls is in my home library. I feel like going on an adventure.

Amazon to buy WFM for Billions

My phone lights up, spitting out various news sources all saying iterations of the same thing. I stare at it blankly. I couldn’t believe it: Amazon, the online giant, bought Whole Foods Market, the hippie grocery stored turned luxury health nut food store, for $13.7 billion. You read that right. Billion.

Now, I have a soft spot for WFM. I’ve lived in Austin for almost 11 years. WFM is the Austin thing, so the loyalty ran extra deep since I was an Austinite working at an Austin staple during the college days (corn is great 4078! #cashierlife).  I was there when the grand news of WFM’s financial success in late 2013 spread throughout the land. I was there when they came out with their first commercial. I was there when the fancy H-E-B location came along and began to make my WFM store a ghost town(ish). I was there when Trader Joe’s came into Austin and slight pangs of worry hit every manager’s face. I was there when the prison labor controversy was running around causing questions. I was there when they put more fruit inside their Berry Chantilly cake (it’s a disappointing three berries and 99% cream now).  I befriended many fellas from various backgrounds–including the friendliest porter you ever met and the wackiest guests–even met celebrities (Jesse James was kind enough to donate $25 to one of our donation drives one year and Meatloaf is super nice despite his large size). Days spent among friends during the lunch break exchanging gifts of books, food and music were the best. I’ve seen the stock plunge and rise and repeat, staying in the $30 range.

Bakery @ WFM Gateway, ATX


I was gone by the time their financials were not rising, their overprice asparagus water caused uproar, the closing of different extra aspects of the company is other regions, the stepping down of co-CEO Walter Robb in November 2016, and the opening of 365, the “lower-priced” store that follows a Trader Joe’s format.

I’ll be honest, I don’t shop there as often as I do now. You can’t go back when you had a 20% discount card for two and a half years. I still follow the news though. I cheer when they hit a high point and feel a slight pain of sadness when they lose (except for the asparagus water incident. That was just a “raise an eyebrow and face palm” moment).

I do find the timing a little funny. Texas Monthly just came out with an article called “The Shelf Life of John Mackey“. John Mackey, who is regarded as the “animal spirit” of the company (Robb was the business brains), was interviewed by Tom Foster. Mackey pretty much lashed out at NY hedge fund Jana Partners for trying to buy them out without really telling Mackey. He was starting his book tour for The Whole Foods Diet, his second book, so he considered the move “intentional”. The article is well-thought out and details everything from WFM’s inception to the present day conundrum. Foster even plays out what I call the WFM contradiction: as it got bigger, it became more corporate, less healthy and the core values became more….confusing…Was it a hippie store? Was it a rich people store? Was it a rich hippie store? I’ve seen my fair share of both groups at the store I worked at, so honestly I can’t really tell. I just saw happy folks buying kale salad and kombucha. No need for labels.

Anyway, Amazon. Good on you for allowing WFM to operate under their name. Also, good on your for raising the stock price from $33.06 at 9:30 AM on June 16, 2017 to $42.00 twenty minutes later (I knew I should have bought WFM stock three months ago when it was $29). I hope you can keep the spirit of WFM alive and well. As much as I don’t want the online robots to take over and ruin any chance I have at working at Vogue (print is not dead people!) or open my coffeeshop/bookstore, I guess it’s better than having WFM disappear altogether.

(Read the articles here, here, and here, or just Google)