January 2011

01.30.11

Check it out, my name is in lights!

This was an image I captured from a webcam that was directed at the Australian Museum's William Street facade.

It was done in the name of art!

Precisely, it was done for John Baldessari's art work, Your Name in Lights. Over 100,000 people have participated (including some of my friends) by registering their name to be put up in lights, Hollywood style.

It's nice to feel famous.

Jen

01.28.11

So, I'm an only child. I never really think about me not having any brothers and sisters, but every once in a while I meet someone who is absolutely horrified that I grew up ALL ALONE, which makes me feel inadequate for about two seconds until I do a breakdown of why their conceptions of only children are wrong.

Myths:

1) When you meet an only child you NEED to console them.

Wrong. We don't need any consolation because we don't miss the siblings we never had. We're just living our lives like anybody else. Trying to make us feel better by telling us that only children have "some ups" becuase we tend to be smarter is really condescending and makes you sound like an ass. Although yes, I am smart, thank you.

2) Only children are spoiled.

False. I personally know people with siblings who not only got more presents and money for holidays and birthdays than me and other only children, but were also allowed to run around doing whatever they wanted. It's all about how one's parents raise their kid(s). My parents were pretty good about letting me know that I can't have things just because I want them. In fact, for the first 9 years or so of my life I was convinced that we were dirt poor, because it was the only explanation I really had at the time for why my friend with two brothers got a Power Wheels for Christmas and I didn't. And even while I thought I was dirt poor I still used to buy my friends presents at the toy store (for no reason either!) with my "savings" because I was a) a sucker and b) because my parents taught me to be compassionate, thoughtful and giving. A recent Times article also shows that there is no evidence that only children are overindulged or considerably different from children with siblings. The only thing that only children may consistently get more of than children with siblings is attention from their parents, which has shown to have more positive effects than negative ones, e.g. higher in achievement motivation (Polit, D.F. & Falbo, T. "Only children and personality development: A quantitative review," Journal of Marriage and the Family 49: 309-325.)

3) Only children are lonely.

Maybe sometimes, but isn't that true for everyone? Only children tend to replace siblings with friends, and I would say that I have friends who might as well be my siblings. I'm looking at you, David (web master of CLV). Some people with siblings might say that having a sister or brother is different from "just having a friend" because of some sort of mysterious "special bond" that one can "only" share with their siblings. But after seeing how things can go down in dysfunctional families, this argument seems really arbitrary and I can't see why you can't form a familial like bond with someone to whom you're not related.

4) Only children are "messed up" because they're lonely/spoiled/some other negative stereotype.

You're messed up.

Seriously though, there's nothing that proves that only children are more emotionally handicapped than children with siblings. The Times article, I believe, debunks this myth and I think I remember it saying that only children tend to feel more secure because of the undivided attention they receive from their parents. I'm not sure if that's true, but in my experience the only truly "screwed up people" in the world are those who were born with psychological problems or those who experienced some serious trauma... and these things can happen to anyone, only child or not.

The only damage that I can see only children suffering from is people pitying them and making up reasons for why we suck. So stop it. Didn't your parents teach you not to judge?

Jen

01.27.11

Happy birthday, Mozart!

Jen

01.22.11

This post is a sequal to my last blog entry. Here I provide you with additional financial tips along with some tips that were passed down to me by another graduate student (and a personal friend of mine), Galia!

1) Gali's tip: POWDERED SPICES. "I never bother with stuff like fresh garlic or basil anymore. Go straight for the powders and they vary up the taste of your food for very cheap." I do this as well, only opting for fresh spices when your recipe definitely calls for it. For instance, when I make fresh salsa (which is easy to make and cheaper and tastier than buying a jar, I use fresh cilantro)

2) Galia's tip: "Paper towels in your veggies and opened cheese. Sounds weird, but when I open up a chunk of cheddar (for sandwiches) or mozzarella, I put it in a sealable container lined with paper towels. The towel absorbs the condensation that occurs inside the container from refridgerator fluctuations. This makes the cheese last longer without getting musty/clammy icky. I do the same with boxed/bagged spinach. Shove a paper towel in there and also make sure to toss up the spinach each day so that the same leaves don't end up getting crushed/rotting on the bottom of the bunch." I never heard of this, but I'm definitely going to start trying it now.

3) Galia's tip: "Double up on curtains in the winter to save up on heating costs."

4) Galia's tip: "Never be a one stop shopper. While it seems really nice after a long day to just get all your groceries in one supermarket, the bodega up the street probably has cheaper and better fresh veggies than the super. It doesn't seem like a lot of difference that onions are 89 cents/pound in the super and only 59/pound at the bodega, but when you're buying two types of peppers, two types of onions, tomatoes, carrots, celery, zucchini, apples, plums, and mixed greens, it ends up being the difference between 10 bucks and 18-20. I also get my soda, paper, and cleaning produts at the drug store instead because they are cheaper there." I shop at multiple stores too. By the way, milk and ramen are also often cheaper at my local Rite Aid than at the super market (at least in NYC). My mom, when she went grocery shopping more religiously, also shopped at multiple locations. She bought all of our fruits and veggies at this hispanic market nearby our neighborhood. Everything there was a lot cheaper than the big supermarket that was slightly closer to us. Shop around!

5) I personally refuse to pay more than 99 cents on a bottle of shampoo. Rite Aid, CVS often have rebates and sales to make this possible. Your hair won't suffer for it either- my hair is very healthy and shiny.

6) Make your own coffee! Buy a coffee maker and learn how to use it. I personally have a french press because I like making my coffee "by hand" and because it's small, which is great for my NYC apartment. I buy a pound of coffee from Starbucks (which comes with a free small cup of coffee by the way) and make it every morning. A pound at Starbucks costs around 10 dollars and lasts me 2-3 months. A tall cup of coffe at Starbucks costs something around 1.75-1.90. Clearly, you save a ton of money by just making your coffee every morning. Also, invest in a good mug so that you can take your coffee with you to work. Make sure to store your coffee beans/grounds in a cool, dark, dry space.

I think that's it for now!

Movies watched while inking:

Wonder Boys: My friend JewNick recommended that I watch this, which is what I did (and he synched up his DVD to my netflix stream so that we could watch it "together," which was fun). Like JewNick promised, it was very good. I was expecting it, for some reason, to be a lot more depressing but it was very humorous and uplifitng. I'm also a sucker for plots that are set in colleges and universities.

Elevator to the Gallows: A French "atmospheric thriller" about the perfect murder gone wrong due to an elevator malfunction. I was skeptical about this movie because the basic plot sounds like it could be a trifle dull, but it did a good job of weaving together several characters and mini narratives together to make a genuinely suspenseful experience. It gets a little melo-dramatic at times, but I blame it on the fact that it's from the 50s and French. =P

Jen

01.16.11

For a grad student, I'm in pretty good financial shape. This is partly due to extreme luck of being born into a financially stable family and getting scholarships and fellowships but also because I'm pretty frugal. I often read articles that provide money saving tips, but I'm ultimately disappointed by them. The suggestions just seem so obvious to me, but the more people I talk to, the more I realize that people really have no idea how to cut back and cut corners. I suppose I have my mom to thank for imparting her knowledge to me, because I may have ended up being completely clueless as to how to handle my finances otherwise.

Here are some more financial tips from a grad student (the sequel to my "Poor girls guide to looking fab"). Some of them may be really obvious, but maybe there will be something here that will be of use to someone:

1) The first one is obvious: don't spend more than you earn. This involves a lot of prioritizing as well. For instance, for me, I would rather save my money for travel than to have new clothes all the time or a fancy phone. I only buy clothes when they start looking ratty, and I always buy off season when they're on sale. This means that I don't get the trendiest clothes, which are going to go out of fashion in a year anyway, but instead classic pieces that mix and match easily (thus expanding your wardrobe with a only a few key pieces).

2) Use coupons and only buy when something's on sale. If you're embarrassed to use coupons, then get over it. It's not that big of a deal. I'm pretty sure that the people at the cashier are only working minimum wage or slightly above it, and won't judge you for it.

3) Plan your meals before you go to the super market. This not ony prevents you from buying stuff you don't need, but it also helps you strategize what to buy so that you don't end up throwing out food that goes bad. I can feed both Edouard and myself in New York City for about thirty dollars a week or 120 dollars a month. I do this by making sure I buy vegetables and meats that I know I can stretch out for multiple meals throughout the week. You don't have to live on frozen meals to eat cheaply. In fact, I find that frozen foods cost more than my method of grocery shopping.

4) Sometimes generic is just as good. For certain things like butter, sugar, vegetable oil, olives, shredded cheese, I always go for the generic brand. The only thing that really sets the generic apart from the brand names is that the packaging is super uggers- but it's not like you have to stare at the branding while you're eating your well cooked meals eh? Note: there are some exceptions to this rule- I will only buy brand name sodas, for instance.

5) Another obvious one, though many people don't follow it: Pay off your credit card in full every month, if you can. A credit card is not pretend money. Every time you make a charge on your card, whether it's for 1000 bucks or for 1.79, you gotta think of it as spending actual money... why? Because you're going to need the funds at the end of the month to pay it back! Interest really builds up and you're going to feel awfully foolish that the tall Frappuccino you charged a year ago now costs you 20 bucks because you didn't just pay it off when you were supposed to.

6) I personally avoid getting fancy phones with data plans. I work in libraries and offices all day. I have the internet with me all the time. If people want to contact me, they can call my office phone or e-mail me (which is why I have the absolute cheapest T-Mobile plan). Instead of relying on a gps to get to a party, I- get this- write down the directions and address on a post-it and pull that out when I get lost. If I'm really really lost, I call another friend going to the same party and ask them how to get from point A to point B or I ask someone on the street. It's old school, but it works, and it saves me an extra 20-100 dollars a month.

7) Buy things in bulk when you can. This is trickier for me, because I live in a tiny New York apartment, but I have found room to buy at least toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. I also buy family pack chickens and freeze individual cuts so that they last longer. And um... we also found room to buy Trader Joe's wine in bulk. =/

8) Cut the bottom end of your toothpaste tube when it becomes harder to squeeze the paste out. By cutting the bottom end of one's toothpaste, my grandma's discovered that you can get at least 1-2 weeks more of toothpaste. It all adds up.

9) Pick up those pennies and quarters on the ground! What, are you too proud to pick up a penny on the floor? Fine, more pennies for me. Pennies add up too- after several years of picking up loose change, one can accrue several hundreds of dollars. That's like getting a free winter coat for just bending your knees and extending your arm.

10) Use your local library for DVDs and books. Now, I half break the rule on this one because I subscribe to Netflix, but frankly I watch tons of movies (as you all know) so it's worth the 10 bucks a month to me. If you're only a casual movie watcher though, your local library actually has a good collection waiting for you. My parents do this and are very happy with this system. As for books- if you're not going to be referring them a million times (like say, if you're writing a dissertation), you probably don't need to *buy* the book. Why not save yourself the money and the space? If you're under the impression that libraries stink or have old people cooties then I say try again... you might be surprised. Or... just go to a public university library where the patrons are young and hot.

11) Going back to grocery shopping- make sure you get a couple of cheap, easy things to make things, like pasta, ramen, rice (if you have a rice cooker), or mac and cheese. There are nights when you won't feel like preparing a decent meal and you'll be tempted to order in. Unfortunately, ordering in is expensive. For me and Edouard, it would be about a third of what we normally spend on food per week. That's a lot of money. There's nothing wrong with ordering in or going out once in a while, but getting cheap, easy to prepare meals will help curb that kind of spending.

Grad student tip: go to those lectures! Refreshments are often served afterward! Free dinner (albeit unbalanced most of the time)!

Jen

01.15.11

A little less than a year ago, I urged you all to visit my friend Andrea's cooking blog. If making her own wedding cake wasn't enough of an incentive for you to go, then how about this: her great grandmother's plum cake won first place in the Museum of Modern Art's recipe contest for their exhibition Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen (up until March 14th). In conjunction with the exhibit, MoMA hosted a dinner event called "Kitchen Culture", where Andrea got to make her great grandmother's plum cake for 100 guests. The event is captured in video here. Andrea's part begins at 3:44. WATCH IT. If you just want the recipe for old school German plum cake, then here it is.

I've only had time to watch one movie while inking, and that's because it's kind of a modern epic: Casino directed by Martin Scorcese. I'm a big fan of gangster films and movies based on life, so I figured that this would be a guaranteed "like." It was. It's nice and long (3 hours) so you can feel involved with the unfolding narrative and the characters, the screenplay is gritty, and I like the fact that the over voice narration does throw you off a bit as to what happens in the end (if you don't already know the real life story on which Casino is based). Scorcese for the win again.

Jen

01.09.11

This weekend I made a quick stop to Boston to see one of my best friends, Ava, for her birthday. Because it's still her birthday, I dedicate this post to her (especially since I wasn't able to get her one of those Crumbs cupcakes she likes so much):

So my school has this system where an "older" student gets paired up with a first year to show them the ropes- it's called "the buddy system." Ava came in as an Egyptologist and I was apparently her assigned "buddy," though according to her, I blew her off. For the longest time, I didn't even remember being her buddy and was denying that I was, until right before my wedding, Ava provided me with some cold, hard evidence: an e-mail that I had sent her about 4 years ago saying that I was. Oops.

Nonetheless, it seems that we were destined to be friends anyway. Our first class together was a seminar about the history of comics and graphic novels. Pretty much everyone in that class was studying contemporary and modern art, and Ava and I were the only "out of field" students, being the Egyptologists that we are. From that, I had an inkling that we would probably get along. Finding another female comic fan is pretty difficult, but finding another female comic fan who is also an Egyptologist is pretty remarkable.

Ava's one of the primary reasons, I have to say, that I was/am able to survive graduate school. She's probably one of the most down to earth and fun people I know, and incredibly supportive to boot. Any time I doubt my abilities as an Egyptologist, she's there to slap some sense into me. Since she's one of the best Egyptologists I know (definitely better than I am), I have no choice but to trust her judgment. =)

Even though Ava moved back to Boston about a year ago and I don't see her as often as I'd like, she continues to play an immensely important role in my life. She's always got my back as a friend and as a colleague, which is something that I will never take for granted. I only hope that I provide her with the same level of support and encouragement that she gives me. So happy birthday, Ava! I'm very glad you were born!

And now, movies I watched while inking:

Les Enfants du paradis: A classic French film that was supposedly the "French response to Gone with the Wind." The history behind the making of this film was interesting, as it was made during Nazi occupied France. I got drawn into the story pretty easily, but man was it melodramatic... it always is when a "love polygon" is invovled.

Shutter Island: There were some genuinely creepy visuals and I did enjoy the general storyline, but maybe this made a better book. I pretty much knew right away- at least within the first 30 minutes- what the twist was going to be and how the narrative was going to unfold, which is not as fun.

The Son- I don't really know how to sum up the plot without giving anything away, so I'll just use the Netflix description (abridged slightly): "Olivier is a divorced man who teaches carpentry at a vocational training center. When a pscyhologically damaged teenager named Francis turns up in class, Olivier becomes obsessed with the boy. But when Olivier's ex wife learns of the boy, she's horrified, which adds another cryptic layer into the drama." This is yet another French language film and I thought it was a very well done story about forgiveness and redemption.

Murder in the First: I thought it was a decent courtroom drama. The best part of it for me was seeing the shots done on Alcatraz, which I visited for the first time last April. It was interesting seeing what is now a crazy tourist spot "in action." Takes place in 1940s San Francisco (which also made for some cool settings).

Jen

01.01.11

Happy New Year!

In binary code today is 010111, which translates to 23, which reminds me of that horrible Jim Carey movie The Number 23. Mr. Carey should stay away from the psychological thriller genre.

I was in Los Angeles to visit my family for Christmas. Edouard couldn't come with me because he had to make a trip back to France for visa purposes and I couldn't take enough time off of work to join him. I wasn't too sad though because it's always nice to go home. The weather also can't be beat, and I took some pleasure at watching the east coast blizzard from the relative warmth (it was unusually cold there this year) of Southern California. The best part of the blizzard? I got to stay in LA for a few more days.

I flew back to New York yesterday morning in time to celebrate New Year's Eve, which no, did not include standing around in Times Square. I would go into detail about my New Year's Eve party, but it was pretty low key. I sipped some prosecco in Brooklyn with friends and watched the fireworks being shot next to the Statue of Liberty. On the way home, though, I saw all sorts of drama. I witnessed multiple break ups, crying fits, and on the train home, a knife fight almost broke out in my car (everyone promptly moved to the neighboring car once we saw the rather large box cutter knife whipped out for attack). The fight didn't actually happen, but that was probably the only time when I felt genuinely scared in New York. I guess there's a first time for everything?

I haven't seen too many movies while inking since my last blog, but here's what I did see: Mockingbird Don't Sing- an independent drama based on the true story of an LA girl who was locked in a room without human contact for 13 years. The movie is really about her assimilation back into society and her relationship with various doctors and linguists. I would not recommend it though- the acting was terrible and the score made it seem even more like a made for TV movie. Then I saw Merci Pour le Chocolat, which is a Hitchcockian French thriller involving chocolate and muuuurder. I liked it though it is may perhaps be too slow moving for some. Finally, I watched Interview with a Vampire. It's a pretty fun movie, and I was greatly amused because as David, web master of CLV, pointed out to me, it seems that it was trying to shy away from the homo-erotic nature of the characters, while failing pretty miserably at it.

Jen