Stars Upon Thars

Did you ever read Dr. Suess' The Sneeches? I was thinking about it the other day, and how well-timed it was for me, a regular kid mixed up in the consumer-paradise that was the "Oughts." There were so many things that "defined" you at that age. I only noticed when I moved out to a new school district around 3rd grade. Suddenly kids cared about how much money you had: if there was a trampoline at your house, if your parents went to the Racquet Club, if you could afford Carmellos over candy cigarettes or had 3 American Girls instead of a Magic Attic doll, or if you carried a Tamagachi and a colored Sony CD player, wore Limited Too zip-off pants and Old Navy sweatshirts, and (perhaps least noticeably) bought new school supplies every year, you were solidly "in."

I came from a well-off family, but rarely (if ever) did I see my parents flaunt their money. We were able to afford more things as time progressed -- or maybe it just seemed that way as we accumulated more space. We did have a trampoline at one point or another. I had two American Girl dolls -- not to mention a dollhouse, my own room, and enough Beanie Babies to fill an orange crate. We earned an allowance doing basic chores. In time, we even got a dog.

That all being said, I grew up understanding that not every kid had it the way I did, and I was taught by my parents that as a child of good fortune it was my duty to donate to those less fortunate than me. I went through bouts of greed and selfishness as every child does (sometimes adult-me does, too), but in time I realized that it didn't matter whether my least favorite doll sold at a yard sale for .50 or .75 -- it was enough to see her again in the arms of someone who really loved her.

We recently had a yard sale near my house and it made me think of all the stuff in my life that I really don't need -- that I would surely benefit from selling or donating. Yet somehow every time I sit down and try to de-bulk I end up hanging on to more than I ought to, out of sentimentality or guilt or... something else.  Anyway, I'm going to try and be less concerned with my Sneech-ness in the coming month, and focus more on my goals.

Which brings me to Poo-Poo Stars.

When my brothers and I were being potty trained my (brilliant albeit quirky) parents developed this reward system to encourage us to use the toilet, rather than absently drop one in our diapers. (I apparently had the most trouble with this concept, for I hated to abandon any game I was playing for a time-wasting trip to the loo, and I took a personal delight in leaving "presents" for my parents in the back of my closet.) Anyway, the system made use of those foil stars that most everyone's seen somewhere or another -- most likely at a yard sale or on school assignments:

The illustrious Poo-poo stars.

My parents, being who they are, termed them "Poo-poo stars," though their delegation stretched beyond a timely bowel movement. At this point, I don't really remember which one was for what, but I have a sneaking suspicion that gold was for having a pee -- that only makes sense -- and the subliminal sense of pride I feel when I see that silver one suggests it must've been a top reward star. I can't remember if there were punishment stars. Probably not, since my parents were never ones to dwell on things we did wrong.

When they pressed one of those stars on your hand and you got to parade it under your less-trained younger brothers noses all day, the pride was overwhelming. More importantly, it was a sweet reminder that someone out there was rooting for you, even for something as mundane as taking relief in the proper receptacle. I was thinking today that as I progress on this journey toward self-discovery, I might want to rekindle the Poo-Poo Star principle -- reassign rankings to the colors and decide what I deserved from day to day, in terms of self-fulfillment. If I were to journal about my daily triumphs and truly assess what kind of impact I made on my own future and self-worth, would I like what I saw? If not immediately, could I aim to make myself like what I saw? It's important to me to become better in-tune with my blessings, for, as Amy March sighs in Little Women "I'm a selfish girl..." so often and in spite of my luck.

So, for the month of August, I pledge to create my own stars-upon-thars, embrace my inner Sneech, and stop caring about the stuff that isn't Rachel, that really doesn't define me at all.


Inspirational Sight of the Day

I love seeing fathers taking their children on bike rides with them, in tow on a seat above the wheel or a hitched trailer.


Chic Galleria

I've been working an internship for a little over a month now, for a great website called Chic Galleria. Though geared toward women in the 35-65 year range, the site has fabulous information for a woman (and men too, on occasion) of any age. Please check out my articles below -- and do comment! We writers are always happy to hear someone out there's listening! ;)

My first outfit post! "Summertime Blues"

Happy Bitch Wine from Debbie Gioquindo

Travel to Beautiful Dubai

Travel to London (I finally got to write about my travels!!)

MFIT Online Collections Annoucement

Credit Plus Car Loan Review

Soaps: "The Bro Bar" and "The Vagacial"

Featured Recipe: Flank Steak with Creamy Pico de Gallo

Featured Recipe: Chilled Avocado Soup

Featured Recipe: Carrot and Celery Slaw with Yogurt Dressing

I wish I could say I came up with those last two recipes, but basically all I did was input the information. I can't wait to try them out, though!

How exciting to see my work on the page! It's so nice to be published-ish.

Stay tuned for more articles! Here's a direct link that should keep you updated: http://www.chicgalleria.com/?s=rachel+brow


New York, New York!

It's finally happening. I've been dreaming of visiting New York City since I was a little girl -- probably the first time I saw A Little Princess or Home Alone 2 or Little Women. I've booked my ticket to go there, just for three days, but that's enough at least to satiate a palate that's been salivating for a taste of this city for just under two decades. A dear friend of mine is probably packing her own bags for NYC as I type this. She's been granted the adventure of possibly staying over there for good though, and I'm monstrously jealous :)

Anyway, it's some time before my visit still, and since life's hopefully going to slow down a bit in the next couple weeks, I've decided to start up a new project which I've just now decided to call "The Big Apple on the Big Screen" (BABS, for short, which is appropriate, 'cause of the very minor Barbara Streisand reference.) My BABS journey is an attempt to expand my knowledge of the city by accessing it through the other films which glorified it -- the ones I haven't seen yet. I got a list from NYC.gov and am proud to say I've already seen 26 New York films (plus three more I could think of that weren't on the list.) Here's my list of to-sees before I leave the Emerald coast for the Empire one:

-Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) 8/3/12
-Goodfellas (1990) 8/12/12
-Kissing Jessica Stein (2001) 7/15/12
-Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)  7/10/12
-Manhattan (1979)
-Mean Streets (1973)
-Midnight Cowboy (1969) 8/10/12
-On the Waterfront (1954)
-Requiem for a Dream (2000)
-Saturday Night Fever (1977)
-Sophie's Choice (1982)
-The Hours (2002) 7/29/12
-The Pick-Up Artist (1984) 7/28/12
-The Seven Year Itch (1955) 8/9/12
-The Wiz (1978)         I tried. Couldn't do it. -7/22/12
-Working Girl (1988)

K, so that's 16 films. I highly doubt I'll be able to get through even half of them before I'm gone, but I fully intend to try. If you have any further flicks to recommend, or you'd like to root for one on this list to start with, I'm all ears!

7/15 update:
I'm not sure if it's because I took it in chunks or just cause it's so endearing, but Kramer vs. Kramer was one of those movies that I thought about long after I finished the viewing. I wanted there to be more! Mostly I wanted to know to keep watching Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman be awesome (two of my acting heroes) and watch Billy grow up into the 16 Candles kid.

Kissing Jessica Stein featured one of those unrealistic New York apartments -- right up there with Friends and...well, Friends. You know, where the apartment isn't necessarily swanky, but it's still really spacious and well-decorated with quirky not at all unpractical features like this:

Maybe if I become a film location scout I'll finally figure out where the characters in these films score slam dunk studios like this yet still manage to hold jobs as copy editors, artists, actors, cafe waitresses...what-have-you.

Secondly, can anybody tell me where this is?
Jessica Stein goes running here several times throughout the film, and I'm pretty sure it's the same place Dustin Hoffman went running. Not in Kramer, but in Marathon Man (if memory serves). I think I've seen it featured in some other films too. Is it an area of Central Park? Just curious, since it keeps showing up everywhere.

More soon.

7/29 update:

I'm beginning to think every movie about New York has to have Harvey Keitel in it. That guy just pops up in the most random of places (not that I'm not always glad to see him!) Finished The Pick Up Artist today -- Downey, Jr. and Ringwald: I can't believe I didn't see this one sooner! RDJ is rumored to have been the top choice for The Breakfast Club's Bender after Judd Nelson and also Molly Ringwald's choice for Duckie in Pretty in Pink. With RDJ's character shouting "Randyyyyyy!" all over this film (which is almost "Andieeee!") and with the two's incredible chemistry throughout, I can kind of get on board with what that movie might've looked like had it not involved Jon Cryer. I think overall RDJ would've been too sexy for Duckie, but in a world where John Hughes endings work out the way they're written, that actually might've been right on track.

This part of the film is set around another one of those quintessentially New York landscapes. I know I've seen this area in other movies (isn't there some film where some awkwardly-dressed guy has to take someone else's dog outside to pee? Is it Kate and Leopold? Enchanted?) There's always these evenly spaced trees and apartments with steps leading up to them -- the male actors almost always take them three at a time. Maybe New York just has residential areas like this all over.

THE HOURS: Wow! Heavy stuff, bit confusing, Nicole Kidman's nose made her a different person. Booked hostel tickets before watching this -- I'm going! It's for reallllllls! :)

8/3 update:

Desperately Seeking Susan. I've been meaning to see this since I was 12, I think! I'm glad I did. It's a fun celebrity-focused romp that just saves itself with an interesting story, the way Cher's Mermaids does. Three other thoughts: (1) Rosanna Arquette is beautiful. I don't imagine I'm the first to notice this. (2) I don't ever want to be alone at night in New York. (3) If I do have to be alone at night in New York it would be great if this was the outcome:

8/9 update:

The Seven Year Itch is a movie I know I've seen at least a bit of before. Certainly the classic scene in the white dress with the subway wind, and also the scene with Marilyn in the other white dress with the straps he has to help her with.

I was jotting down some thoughts as I watched this flick, and I'll punch them out here:

-5 minutes into the movie: There is some *champion* acting in this. (About 30 minutes in I started to realize this whole thing is tongue-in-cheek, and that made me appreciate it much more.

-EMAGAWD THE PRE-HIPPIE COFFEE SERVER IS TOTALLY THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST!!! --- But, alas, I was wrong. She does bear a striking resemblance to Margaret Hamilton, though, and she's worth mentioning anyway because she gave probably my favorite performances in the whole film.

-15 minutes or so into the movie: THERE'S THOSE APARTMENTS AGAIN!!

I'm convinced New York is just lined head to toe with places like this. Would people seriously use the same strip of apartments for every movie set in NYC ever? SOMEONE EXPLAIN.

-On-the-nose dialogue. On-the-nose dialogue ALL OVER THE PLACE. At least both of the leads are pretty hilarious in their delivery, so it's survivable. (The producers also won back points by including metatheatrical moments such as "You're imagining in Cinemascope..." and "I don't know, maybe she's Marilyn Monroe!"

-Speaking of Marilyn Monroe: Every time I watch one her films, for about 5 minutes I think, "Why am I watching Marilyn Monroe act like Marilyn Monroe again...she's infuriating." And then 5 minutes after that I'm imitating her facial expressions, going all to pieces over her wardrobe, and thinking "Champagne and potato chips...that's genius!" It's no wonder this woman was a serious sex symbol -- she wins your heart right over no matter who you are or what reservations you come in with.

-Finally, I'm thinking I'm going to be quoting this a lot in the coming week:
     "I'm just not made for the heat! This is my first summer in New York and it's practically killing me!"

Oh, and of course: "I think it's just delicate!"

8/10 update:

Midnight Cowboy is the most heart-felt, wonderful unexpected film I've seen in ages. What a fantastic movie! What great characters! A simple, touching story complete with cinematic eye candy, some great music, and two of the greatest actors ever. Dustin Hoffman can do absolutely anything. And Rico Rizzo -- just another deformed character to adopt into favoritehood -- up there with the Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo, and the Grinch. Brilliant, unique film.

One other thing -- does anyone notice how Hair, released 10 years after this, sort of characterizes that beginning? I mean what with cowboy-ish Claude coming into NYC on a bus and being totally taken aback at the hippie culture in the city... Just a thought.

8/12 update:

Thoughts on Goodfellas: I should probably have planned my cinematic New York examination more carefully. I left all the great 70s movies until right before I leave, and I'm now certain that my trip (or, more likely, my life, if I ever move there) is going to include homelessness, loneliness, muggings, and an accidental run-in with gangsters that will result in my imminent death. For the first time it's dawned on me that I'm going to be in a big(ger) city...whose landscape I don't know...at night.

Goodfellas was full of quite a few things I really hate to watch, even in the world of film: visceral violence, obsessive f-wording, demeaning actions toward women, and the gradual breakdown of a family through its selfish patriarchal unit. I was super happy with Karen for most of the film (especially when she a. pulled the gun on her douchey husband and b. didn't fall for DeNiro's death trap), but right about the time she started shopping and doing cocaine, I got disinterested. The other thing that drove me totally crazy was the cocky, roller-rink dialogue. "Funny how? How am I funny? What do you mean? Funny, what is this funny? What do you mean, funny?" or "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. I can't help it I -- I'm sorry. I don't know, man... I'm sorry." Wait, are you sorry? I get that the dialogue serves to emphasize how unreasonable these gangsters can be once they're over the edge of male edginess, but cinematically it's annoying to listen to. With a little more editing in this regard, the movie could've been at least 30 minutes shorter.

Overall, though, I understand why many folks (guys mostly) love this film. For one, it's Martin Scorsese doing what he does best -- testosterone-pumped, violent explorations of the collapse of an already-corrupt system that we still end up rooting for the continuation of because we still partly (or fully) respect the protagonist (who is usually a vengeful but overall well-meaning guy.) And all of that rooted in some great attention to historical detail. I'm sure there is at least one person out there who won't hesitate to correct me if this analysis is wrong. :)

Two, BEST SOUNDTRACK IN THE WORLD. I just about died as soon as Darlene Love started playing, and I'll never shake the classic instrumental "Layla" sequence in that horrible pink car. Three, Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro. I just like watching these guys' faces!! They knocked Ray Liotta out of the water for me, and even though I liked watching Liotta's expressions as well, his line delivery completely failed to measure up to either of these greats'. Liotta reminded me of a less-capable DiCaprio, which makes a lot of sense considering where Scorsese went with his casting in future projects. He also reminded me a little of Joaquin Phoenix's Johnny Cash. Maybe it was just the drug addiction.
Debi Mazar, being Satan (again.)
On a final note, really enjoyed seeing this creep-o woman pop up. I only know her from Beethoven's 2nd ("Regiiiiiina!!" "FLOYD!?"), which is ironic, because that movie was written by John Hughes, who also wrote Home Alone, which itself stars Joe Pesci. I almost feel like Hughes was being ironic, including actors like these in kid's movies.

8/16 update:

Well, my children, the time has come. I'm off on my adventure very soon now, and though I didn't get through all sixteen films, I did more than half! Only 6 left! I definitely want to see the rest of the films on this list, and it'll be exciting to look forward to watching them after the fact, so I can shout at the TV: "I've BEEN there!" which, let's be real, is my favorite thing to do.

Wish me luck! I'm hoping for good connections, survival of the DC subway system and the NY heat, no rain, and a good old fashioned (non-mob-related) Big City time. Basically this, even though tis' nowhere near the season.

In the winsome words of Bilbo Baggins: "I think I'm *quite ready* for another adventure..."