Tag Archives: TV

My favorite things: Summer edition

Welcome to NYSummer is in full swing now, and as I sit here in shorts and a tank-top, I find it hard to believe just a few months ago I was bundled up in layer upon layer upon layer. Seasons are crazy, man. Especially when the only seasons you’ve previously known are hurricane season and not-hurricane season. (: I last did a roundup of current obsession in the dead of winter, so I figured it was high time for me to do another one.

1. The Morgan Library & Museum
Morgan LibraryOh my god, I am convinced this place was built just for me. I found out that JP Morgan — ya know, like the supah-famous banker — was a bit of a bibliophile and that nowadays his former home, library and study are a museum open to the public. And on Friday nights, you can get in for FREE-NINETY-NINE. My favorite price of admission! So of course I had to check this place out.

I was fully ready for a Beauty and the Beast-esque moment, in which I saw a glorious three-story private library filled with leather-bound, dusty tomes. But I got so, so much more out of my visit than that. First of all, the library room itself is GUH-OR-GOUS. The detail in the tapestry over the gargantuan fireplace and in the ceiling paintings is of the caliber typically reserved for cathedrals and other such places of worship. And who am I kidding? For me, visiting this library was a religious experience.

The museum is filled with exhibits about the history of the written word, including a Gutenberg Bible — Morgan owned three (!!!) — and a first edition of “The Star Spangled Banner” sheet music, complete with a typo. (Copy editors: important, since ALWAYS.) But the things that moved me most were handwritten drafts, edited galley proofs, journal entries, and personal letters from my favorite authors. The first one I saw was a draft of a Walt Whitman poem. I literally could not breathe when I saw it. I spent a whole semester in college studying Whitman, and to be less than a foot away from a piece of paper he touched was just too much.

I also saw scribbles from the likes of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and more! I thought my heart was going to explode, I really did. (Hello, Nerdiest Fangirl Ever, Party of One.) The thing that touched me the most about these artifacts were seeing how many revisions and insecurities these now-renowned writers had about their work. We like to think of genius as a gift, of something easy and lucky. But so many of the Great Literary Masterpieces are the product of So. Much. Hard. Work. I was completely floored.

The piece at the museum that was most memorable to me, however, was a collection of fragments of Sappho’s poetry recorded on papyrus in the third century B.C. I could not move when I saw those little scraps of paper. All I could think about was how absolutely incredible it is that humans have been creating stories for much more than 2,000 years, and what’s more, they’ve been so kind as to have them written down to share with others. And I still get to participate in this great scheme of storytelling, every time I edit a Word document or lay out a page in InDesign! I am humbled and blessed and awed. Human beings are amazing.

I just stood there in awe, and this stranger next to me also totally got it and was in awe, and then finally he said, “Absolutely incredible, isn’t it?” And I used all my energy to say, “Yes. Yes, it is.” HUMAN MOMENT OF CONNECTION, RIGHT THERE. I love museums.

 

2. Stay Gold – First Aid Kit

First-Aid-Kit-band-photosI saw these two lovely, folk-singing Swedish sisters at ACL in 2010 on my 21st birthday weekend. They were one of the morning performances, meaning they were not a big deal and pretty undiscovered. Two albums and four years later, they’ve come out with “Stay Gold,” and It. Is. Fantastic. I’ve been listening to it on repeat. These ladies have always had an incredible set of harmonious vocal chords, but they’ve really matured their songwriting with their latest album.

I saw them perform at Webster Hall a month or so ago, and I was blown away by how much their stage presence has developed. Also, they are adorable. They introduce their accompanists in unison and curtsy, etc. Love them! They make me long for a sister I can record albums with.

3. Friday Night Lights

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I can’t believe I’m addicted to a TV show about a fictional high school football team. But at the same time, I totally can. Friday Night Lights is one of the best representations of Middle America I’ve ever seen. I love how Texas-centric this show is (cowboy boots, country music, BBQ, H-E-B, a Dairy Queen thinly disguised as an “Alamo Freeze”), but in so, so many ways the town of Dillon reminds me of my own hometown of Niceville. I mean, we did go to state semi-finals and finals. But in Florida, not Texas. (I sat next to our Lyla Garrity in my Algebra II class, I swear! She was dating an older guy on the football team, was on the cheerleading squad, was the perfectly adorable Christian girl-next-door type, and her dad owned all the McDonald’s in the county.) Part of the reason I never wanted to watch this show, despite both Netflix’s and friends’ recommendations, is because I went to every single home and away football game at my high school as a member of the marching band. Why would I want to watch an imaginary team play?

tumblr_le9sttBSLS1qbujvho1_400Thankfully, this show is about much more than football. My favorite character, hands down, is Tami Taylor, the coach’s wife. She is so flawless as a wife, a mother, a guidance counselor/principal, a friend, a community member, you get the idea. Connie Britton is killing it in this role. Even when Tami makes mistakes, as humans do, Connie’s performance makes me support her 112%. Also, to be honest, I love the way she talks! I wish I could call my husband “hon” and not sound like a total drag queen. Tami & Eric’s marriage is perhaps the most authentic, exemplary  marriage I’ve seen presented on TV. They have their hurdles and challenges, but they are such respectful, loving, and sacrificial partners to each other. I’m not even embarrassed to say I think that they are great role models, even though they’re not…you know…real.

On a slightly more lowbrow note, I wish someone had just said “Google image search ‘Tim Riggins'” to me about five years ago. Case. Closed. Sign me up to watch “this football show.”

tim rigginsSorry, but no one I knew in high school looked like THAT. That would be because this actor is at least five years older than me (nine, to be exact…Lawd!). Also Canadian, not Texan. Behold, the magical delusion of television!

Bonus points to Friday Night Lights for having a character go on to play for Texas A&M and for using actual Texas high school football footage as B-roll. One of my college friends (who, I would like to note, is one of two football players I’ve known who was not a total jerk) appears in the first season this way! Whooo.

But seriously, I cry an average of 1.2493 times per episode because the writing is so good/hormones. OK, and Coach Taylor’s speeches are the real deal. (He reminds me a lot of my high school band director. And I know music programs aren’t sports, but that man would either inspire or beat perfection and ambition into us, so help us, God. There are some teachers who view what they do as a job, and a select few others who few it as a vocation. You’ll know the latter when you meet them within minutes.) Living in a ginormous city, this makes me so nostalgic for small town life, where everyone not only knows everyone, but everyone genuinely cares about everyone. And where everyone is passionate about the same thing, at least for one night a week.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t stop watching this show. TEXAS FOREVER, JAY. TEXAS FOREVER, RIGS.

I’ll stop now, I swear.

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OK, now I’m for-reals done. I swear I roll my eyes at redneck, alcoholic jocks in real life, but on TV…

 

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SPOTTED: Me, at my laptop, freaking out over Gossip Girl

GossipGirl-6I’m sorry to put everyone through this, but it’s the last time I will ever write about this trainwreck of a show. Because, guys, Gossip Girl FINALLY ended last month after six drawn-out seasons of drama and ridiculousness. I ended up just skipping most of the episodes from the last season and watching the finale over the New Year’s weekend. (And then, uh, maybe the special “looking back through the years” episode they also had on CW.com.)

Because I just knew that if I could see the big reveal of who “Gossip Girl” actually is, my obsession would end, and I could move on with my life. So don’t read any more if you, too, want to waste hours of your life wading through nonsensical plot lines to eventually reach the big finale in chronological order. (a.k.a. SPOILER ALERT)

gg-610First, I need a new fashion-conscious television show in my life to fill the void. Honestly, GG hadn’t been doing so hot on the fashion front the last couple of seasons, but they won me back over with Blair’s stunning ice blue wedding dress and shimmery tiara. It was just so gorgeous and different and so Blair. (See, you watch six episodes of this show, and you lose your ability to summon proper adjectives. That’s how much it boils down your brain. You’ve been warned.)

As for Gossip Girl, if you watched the last episode, then you know “she” was none other than “Lonely Boy,” a.k.a. Dan Humphrey, a.k.a. The Only Character I Ever Really Liked and Who Now Betrayed My Trust. WHAT THE WHAT.

tumblr_mf8nne7IVy1qe6s2yo1_500I guess it does make logical sense by Mean Girls rationale, as Dan’s hair got bigger and bigger each season. You know, as he kept more and more gossip stored up inside of his writerly self. And seriously, what other character would have the intelligence to pull that kind of a thing off? He is the published author, who you could believe would adopt the tongue-in-cheek, saucy voice of a Park Avenue Princess. He is the only one who had a really motive for such shenanigans, as he explains in the final episode:

“The Upper East Side was like something from Fitzgerald or Thackeray. Teenagers acting like adults. Adults acting like teenagers, guarding secrets, writing gossip all with the trappings of truly opulent wealth. And membership in this community was so elite, you couldn’t even buy your way in. It was a birth right. A birth right I didn’t have, and my greatest achievements would never earn me.

All I had to compare to this world was what I read in books, but that gave me the idea. I wasn’t born into this world – maybe I could write myself into it. […] Within weeks, I was getting dozens of emails with stories about Upper East Siders, so I posted them anonymously, and then I got more. Before long, it was a monster — everyone was sending tips. And when Serena came back from boarding school, I wrote my first post about me: Lonely Boy, the outsider, the underdog. I might have been a joke, but at least people were talking about me.”

I like this explanation; it’s neat and simple. Apparently, if you go back to the pilot episode, as the Gossip Girl narration says something along the lines of “Who am I? You’ll never guess,” Dan is seen typing hurriedly on his laptop, closing it and rushing to the bus. When the show creators tested out the pilot on a small audience, they had to edit the timing of this opening sequence because everyone thought the overlapping of the narration and Dan typing meant that he was, obviously, Gossip Girl.

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Learning about this makes me feel really, really dumb. Like, was it really that obvious? I, like Mayor Bloomberg in his finale episode cameo, really wanted it to be Dorota, Blair’s childhood nanny/housemaid.

I just didn’t want it to be Dan from Brooklyn, OK? Dan with the dad always making waffles for breakfast, Dan of the protective older brotherliness, Dan whose bookshelf was overflowing, Dan of the flannel shirts and corduroy pants.

And TV!Dan was always sooo much more likeable than mopey Book!Dan, who made dark coffee from instant mixes under hot tap water, whose favorite word was “death,” who wrote emo poetry, and who dated shaved-head Book!Vanessa. Anyway. I’m getting away from the point.

So you know what happens next, right?

Naturally, I’ve already started back at Season 1, Episode 1, because I have to sort out for myself whether it is really plausible that Dan is Gossip Girl. I mean, the show’s creators claim that they’ve always known who GG would be (GG is never unveiled in the books — trust me, I read them), it was just a matter of if it was right to actually unveil her true identity. Riiiight. This coming from the people who brought a character BACK FROM THE DEAD.

So I guess my little two-year stint with the fantasy world of the rich Upper East Side has come to an end. The fantasy has diminished a little, now that I live in the Upper East Side, and I haven’t spotted any real-life Serenas or Blairs (although I do see private school lacrosse players and teenage girls in plaid skirts here and there, hanging outside the UES Shake Shack and stuff).

I am grateful for the show as an easy form of escapism, into a world where anything can be bought without a second thought, where your enemies’ lives can be ruined with a simple email, and anybody can fall in love with anybody else (and do). I guess it indulges our deepest whims. And it definitely makes you fall in love with New York City, the infinite possibilities and the whole idea of it.

Also, it gives me an excuse to begin sentences with “SPOTTED” or end them with “XOXO, GOSSIP GIRL” when talking to my husband, who has a good humor about my more embarrassing traits, like my obsession with this teenage soap opera.

And can you blame me, really, if as I walk to Central Park for my usual Saturday stroll, I just ever-so-casually glance over the Met steps, just in case Serena and Blair are there, catching up, while sipping lattes or finishing off their yogurt lunches?

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Gossip Girl: I can’t quit you.

Do you ever have the show you just refuse to give up on, no matter how bad it gets? For me, that show is Gossip Girl.

We’ve been through six seasons, more than 100 episodes together. I am deeply emotionally invested in its characters, in its plot lines — no matter how mediocre the writing is at this point.

Let me summarize Gossip Girl for you very briefly: A bunch of incredibly spoiled teenagers (who are now in their early 20s) attend an elite Manhattan boarding school. Their parents are all famous/rich, too, so like every socialite, their lives are tracked on Page Six and in this freaky blog called Gossip Girl. People start using Gossip Girl to manipulate others, by spilling one another’s secrets and ousting scandals. It makes no sense whatsoever, and almost has a bit of a sci-fi element to it — because who really allows a website to dictate their lives? shouldn’t they sue for slander? — but it is deeply fascinating. To me, at least.

Here is a cover from one of the GG series. As you can see, it is not fine literature.

I read most of the Gossip Girl YA series in high school, when the books were slowly coming out. The whole time I read them I would think, “These books are so awful. But I can’t put them down. But they are so terrible. BUT I CANNOT STOP BUYING AND READING THEM. You know what? They would be better as a TV show.”

And then you know what those foolish people in Hollywood did? They made it into a TV show.

I remember being captivated by the idea of these ridiculously wealthy teenagers, whose trust funds gave them no bounds. They lived in the ritzy area of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and they wore high-fashion designer clothing. The problem was that in my small town world, Hollister and Abercrombie were pretty high-end. I didn’t know that Louboutins are identifiable by their trademark red soles, or that Pucci and Gucci were two different things. I definitely couldn’t picture the many fancy-schmancy New York places where the books’ drama unfolded.

But I did read in the author’s blurb that Cecily von Ziegesar went to a private prep school in Manhattan, and with a posh name like that, I was prone to believe everything she penned was at least remotely connected to reality.

I now live on the Upper East Side, and all the myths they develop in the books/show about this magical, slightly terrifying place of extreme wealth and social order is only the teensiest bit true. Then again, I’m not a Park Avenue princess. I wouldn’t really know.

Anyway, I put off watching the show until my senior year of college, when I got Netflix. Then I became hopelessly addicted. Why, when I’d already read the books, you ask? Because Episode 1 is a synopsis of the first book, and then the screenwriters took the characters and rode with the wind!

New couplings were formed, new characters, new subplots. Everyone was pretty much terrible to one another all the time, AND IT WAS RIVETING.

 

Also, the fashion in this show was to die-for for at least the first four seasons. So. Much. Eye. Candy. (See the NY Times article on this very topic.)

And it featured my favorite NYC TV-apartment, the Humphreys’ Williamsburg, Brooklyn loft:

Fun fact: the exterior shot they use of this loft is actually in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, right where you can see the Manhattan Bridge. I walked on the very street outside it on my way to a job interview this summer, and almost died of excitement as soon as I recognized it. Yeah, I’m cool.

On a deeper level, I felt like in some of the earlier seasons, there was sort of this Great Gatsby-ish theme going on, about how money can’t buy you love and happiness. And I also observed some interesting commentary on modern social media (and traditional mass media). Kind of like how in 1984, Big Brother is watching everyone, only in this case: EVERYONE is Big Brother. If you can now share your every action and thought with the world, what’s to stop others from taking recording your actions and thoughts without your permission, and sharing them with the world? What are the consequences of that?

Let me tell you: one sickeningly addicting television show.

I can’t really explain why I stuck with the show for so long (other than the gorgeous cast members), but I guess I just really held up my hope for the characters. Every now and then, one of them would clean up their act, turn good, and my heart would grow three sizes. Then, inevitably, there’d be some misunderstanding/scandal/vengeful plot, and it would all go downhill for them. Again.

The last season I watched started to get EXTRA soap opera-y, with hazy flashback scenes, the cheesiest dialogue, and the most improbable relationships. But I refused to admit it had quite yet reached soap opera territory.

You see, my mother has watched Days of Our Lives for longer than I have been living on this earth. I have watched bits of it here and there, and I have scene toddlers grow to rebellious teens in the course of a single season, and perhaps the most ultimately soap opera thing: A CHARACTER CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD.

No characters had come back from the dead on Gossip Girl, so I figured the show hadn’t completely run into the wall, crashed and burned yet. I mean, the priest was having an affair with the prince’s sister. There was the fact that there was a prince on the show, and one of the characters was engaged to him. Yes, there was that whole weird the long-lost-cousin-is-really-a-con-artist-trying-to-get-Grandma’s-inheritance ordeal. There is the strange fact that Nate is running an entire Huffington Post-esque operation without every apparently finishing his college degree at Columbia (forget the part about how he was a pothead for all of the high school episodes, too). Let’s not even remember all the pregnancy scares, secret affairs, and back-stabbings of the past.

The show was a disaster, but no one had come back from the dead.

And then.

You guys.

A CHARACTER CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD.

I won’t tell you who, unless you’re addicted like me and would hate for anyone to ruin the show for you. It wasn’t a supernatural resurrection, or anything. Rather, they poorly wrote this huge plot loop about how this person didn’t really die when everyone thought they did,and why they hadn’t shown up for, oh, the past three seasons. I mean, I really think this conversation happened:

Writer 1: What if we bring back ______ from the dead? Spice things up?

Writer 2: No, that doesn’t even make sense.

Writer 1: Does anything we write make sense? Do the people who watch this show really think about it that much?

Writer 2: No, you’re right. _______ is coming back!!!!

For goodness sake, the producer of this show is the cousin of freaking Jonathan Safran Foer. One of America’s greatest contemporary authors, who penned Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Could said producer not call up his bestselling, awardwinning author-cousin and rectify this situation?!?

Oh. Wait. It’s too far gone.

Don’t be sad, Blair. It’s not your fault you’re stuck in that nonsensical world! I WILL NOT GIVE UP ON YOU AND YOUR FRENEMIES.

Besides, I only have what? 10 episodes left? Pass the popcorn. Let’s watch this thing go down in flames.

 

 

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I *heart* NYPL

One day I would like to have a personal library with one of these rolling ladders against the fully stocked shelves.

New York Public Library, that is. I love libraries–I always have. I was the kid who happily dropped by the local public library at least once a week, all the way through high school and the following summer until I arrived on my university’s campus and discovered an even BIGGER library just for students and faculty. I always participated in those summer reading programs in elementary and middle school, and in high school, I volunteered with Youth Services to help run those same summer and after-school programs for younger students. I think it is a testimony to the stupendous state of our society that anyone can get a library card at their local library branch and receive FREE access to nearly unlimited knowledge and adventures. Oh, no, libraries are not just where homeless people flock to enjoy the Internet and air conditioning. Libraries are magical.

I love bookstores too; I really do. My heart actually starts beating faster when I enter one and smell all those fresh, untouched books–or musty, well-loved used ones. There are very few things that thrill me more in life than discovering a truly fantastic used bookstore. You know the kind: overwhelmingly cluttered, totally disorganized, tucked away in some unexpected place.

But libraries will always have an extra-special place in my heart.

Mine looks just like this, and it is simply BEAUTIFUL.

You have no idea how absolutely much it thrilled me to receive my New York Public Library card at long last a few weeks ago. It took a while because, long story short, I had to wait forever to get a new U.S. passport with my married name. I needed that passport to get the library card in some way, either using the passport itself with a recently postmarked piece of mail to my NYC address, or using the passport as the means to get a NY driver’s license and then obtain a library card (an even longer route). When I saw that piece of mail postmarked from the U.S. Department of State, I almost jumped with glee. And no, I’m not planning on any international travel any time soon–unless it’s fictional.

Did you know that there are more than 8.5 million items a person can check out from the New York Public Library? 8.5 million! “Why, life is so unfair! I’ll never be able to read them ALL,” the nerd cried.

Fun fact: You know the iconic NYPL building next to Bryant Park in Midtown? There are not really any circulating items there. However, there IS awesome architecture and a wonderfully quiet reading room with unbeatable ambiance.

Oh, but it gets even better: our nearest branch of the NYPL, the Webster branch, is all of four blocks from our apartment. Four blocks. I can’t handle it. That is closer than my preferred grocery store and the church we’ve been attending. Do you fully comprehend this? Sweet fate has place books closer to my current residence than both food and worship.

School children enjoying story time at the NYPL Webster Branch in 1910.

The Webster branch was built in 1893 and opened to the public in 1906. The branch originally served a predominately Czech immigrant population in the early 20th Century. Most importantly, the library branch’s founders foresaw more than 100 years in the future and determined that the Webster branch would be four blocks from the apartment of myself, an avid reader and loyal patron of public libraries everywhere. Ahem.

The library branch itself is fairly small, but the items within the branch change out as items from other branches are brought in. It is cozy old building filled with people reading and the occasional individual whispering in Czech (yes, really). But the absolute best part is The Book Cellar, a used bookstore in the branch’s basement operated by Friends of NYPL. The Book Cellar is a magical place filled with SO many donated books. There were too many books to fit on the shelves, so there were even more boxes of unopened donations stacked beneath tables and in high nooks. And everything was amazingly priced, even for places outside of NYC! I scored two good-as-new novels for $4.

Let’s do a little math problem: If Rebecca learns that she can purchase two used books for $4 from the basement of the public library branch that is all of four city blocks away from her apartment, how quickly will she drain both the savings from her meager copy editor’s salary and her husband’s more ample accountant’s salary?

Actually, let’s not think about that. But there is good news in terms of my book-buying hoarding issues. NYPL offers quite a few ebooks for free temporary download on ereaders, including the Kindle. I received a Kindle as a college graduation gift from my parents last year, and I have used it quite a bit. Although ebooks are much cheaper than new novels, I am–as I mentioned earlier–a hopeless sucker for used bookstores. I go in hoping to save money, and leave with arms loaded down with books I won’t get around to for months and a wallet that is $40 lighter. But do you know what tempts me more than the allure of cheap, used books? FREE LIBRARY BOOKS.

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) wouldn’t believe it if you told her that you could download library books for free nowadays! Poor girl had to use an old-fashioned card catalog.

Checking out ebooks from NYPL is so convenient, it’s ridiculous. I don’t even have to walk the measly four blocks to the Webster Branch to retrieve new reading material. I can sit on my couch and have a new book in minutes. After searching around the NYPL website and discovering an available volume that catches my eye, I simply request a copy, fill out my email, and receive an email directing me to my FREE download on Amazon. You can choose to “check out” ebooks for one, two, or three weeks, after which time, they will no longer be available for you to access until you check them out again. If an ebook isn’t available at the time, you can request it and you will receive an email when it’s available for you. Needless to say, I’ve requested a lot of ebooks in the past week or so since making this discovery.

I consider my ability to park it on the couch and receive a new book to be the epitome of New Yorker laziness. In this city, you can have many things delivered to you–from Chinese or pizza to your groceries and your laundry. But what do I get most excited about? Ebooks from the public library. Figures.

OK, so the only thing that has made me slightly more excited about the library than the ebooks is finally getting Downton Abbey, Season 2 delivered to the Webster Branch. I have been watching it religiously after work every day so I can be sure to finish all of it by the end of this upcoming Labor Day weekend, when it is sadly due. Can we please talk about how incredibly emotionally invested I have become in the Crawleys and their servants? Can we please talk about the fact that I sit on the edge of my seat for entire episodes and then shake my hands at the goshdarn cliffhanger endings of every. single. episode. Because it means, SIGH, I have to watch yet another episode right then and there.

Can we talk about the fact that I want all of Lady Mary’s dresses, even if they went out of style with pantaloons? Or about the fact that seeing Daisy scrub all the upstairs people’s dishes motivates me to finally go clean my own dishes? Or that it makes me want to read The Remains of the Day all over again? And want to adopt a British accent?

Seriously, if you have never watched this show before, do yourself a favor, and do. You’re missing out on some quality television. At least the first season is available for instant view on Netflix, so no excuses. (Plus, you get to learn about WWI-era history and British culture and stuff because, I mean, it’s PBS.) It has so many things I adore in it, half the time I like to believe these brilliant television makers created this show just for me. I’m only slightly delusional…turns out, a lot of people adore it!

Excuse me, just going to have to go watch *one* more episode. Just one…

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