Fashion, Personal

My Favorite Jean Jackets

A jean jacket is an American wardrobe staple. Levi’s were born here in California during the Gold Rush and I could wax academic for pages about denim’s evolving cultural significance.

Some of us may remember the skillful “Go Forth” ad campaign for Levi’s, which wove the brand and patriotism together using the audio from newly discovered wax cylinder recordings holding what is believed to be Walt Whitman reading his own poetry.

A crackling voice reads an excerpt from the poem “America” by Whitman. I bet Whitman would shudder to think of himself as a pants salesman.

That being said, don’t you wish you had a cool pair of jeans now? What I would argue is even cooler than a pair of denim pants is a denim jacket. After years of searching for the perfect jean jacket, I now have, not one, but three!

I bought all of these jackets second hand. Two of them I bought on the same day from the same store, which I thought I would regret, but I have yet to!

The first is the quintessential American denim jacket. And while it is not Levi’s brand it is Ralph Lauren, which is just as American as apple pie.

What drew me to the jacket was it’s dainty proportions and embroidered pockets. In the past I have tried on children’s denim jackets but still struggled to find one with arms that were slim. I appreciate the feminine details on this jacket like the pleats and the pulls that can cinch around the waist.

I like to pair this jacket with formal tweed slacks because oddly enough I am trying to phase denim pants out of my wardrobe. After wearing this on a windy day, I am happy to report that this denim jacket can also act as pretty decent windbreaker.

The second jacket is one that I bought on the same day as the first. I couldn’t walk away from it because I knew I would never find another like it. It’s a vintage Wrangler blazer with 70s styling.

The oversized lapels almost scared me off, but when I tried it on the fit was too good to be true!

Because the stitching is orange I like to wear this with a rusty orange checked shirt I own. I usually pair the jacket with black pants. I also like to pump up the 70s vibe with some platform shoes.

The last jacket is one that I have owned for a few years. It’s the most masculine of the three, but I like it for beach days that turn into bonfires. Since it’s a bit oversized on me, it’s like cozying into a jacket a man friend lent you.

 

The denim is soft and perfectly worn in and faded. The inside is lined with a quilted silky fabric. There are also four spacious pockets which is rare in women’s wear.

 

This is a jacket that I throw on more than anything. If I were to wear it intentionally, I would probably wear a dress underneath to counteract the masculine feel of the jacket.

While I never thought I would need three denim jackets, I am happy that I own all of these. Do you have a favorite jean jacket, or multiple favorites like me? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

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Arts & Culture, Personal

Revisiting Nickelodeon’s “As Told by Ginger”

I was raised by the glow of the television, and cartoons on Nickelodeon were my favorite. Recently the theme song for “As Told by Ginger” (as sung by Macy Gray) came to mind:

“Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side
And I paid a visit
(Well, it’s possible I missed it)
It seemed different,
Yet exactly the same
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
‘Til further notice,
I’m in-between
From where I’m standing,
My grass is green
Someone once told me
The grass is much greener
On the other side.”

In my mind Macy Gray has never conformed to gender expectations for women singer-songwriters. And I always appreciated how her voice set the tone for a cartoon show about preteen girls in middle school. The show premiered in 2000 just as I was entering middle school and ended in 2009, the year I graduated from high school.

While I remembered liking As Told by Ginger because the protagonist Ginger is a writer, I did not remember how well the show itself was written. I am not surprised that creator Emily Kapnek went on to create Suburgatory, a short-lived but cutting satire of suburbia seen from the perspective of a teenage girl. Kapnek also contributed to episodes of Parks and Recreation as a consulting producer.

After re-watching, I am impressed by the complexity of each episode’s plot. While the story always centers around Ginger, her friends, her brother and her mother also play significant roles.

In the second episode, Ginger invites her school’s popular girl over for dinner while her younger brother invites the fantastically grotesque older woman he met at a nursing home. “Carl and Maude” was the cartoon’s homage to the movie Harold and Maude. If you’ve been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt you may recognize Carol Kane‘s voice in this episode.

Characters on As Told by Ginger are well-developed and believable as real people while conforming to established archetypes: the mean girl: Miranda, the popular girl: Courtney, the gross younger brother: Carl.

Miranda’s insecurity drives her malice, while Courtney is a popular girl looking for true connection. And Carl articulates his passion for the bizarre with Poe-like eloquence.

With lessons about self-confidence, family dynamics and friendship, I would recommend this cartoon to any preteen girl. I know it helped me get through middle school!

 

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KQED

Read My First Article for Bay Area Bites!

Bay Area Bites is a food blog for Northern California’s Public Media KQED. My first article for Bay Area Bites was published today, and you can read it here! The article is titled: “Pie Ranch Sells Food for Thought at Highway One Non-Profit Farm Stand.”

I first came across Pie Ranch while driving from San Francisco to Santa Cruz along Highway One. It was the first time I had taken the coast for this commute and was enjoying the wonderfully scenic drive. As I neared Santa Cruz, I noticed hand-painted signs for pie & coffee cropping up. There is no one who loves pie and coffee more than I do, so I felt compelled to stop and investigate these claims. I pulled into Pie Ranch and wandered into their farm stand.

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Can you spot the hummingbird in this picture?

Something about the late afternoon light and the surprise of this quaint roadside offering really captured my imagination. Once inside I was impressed by sumptuous produce and socially conscious offerings. I have been able to visit multiple times and have learned more about the farm with each visit.

If you live in the California Bay Area, or plan to pass through during a road trip on Highway One, you’ll want to check out my article to learn about what Pie Ranch has to offer. Their next family-friendly event is happening this Saturday, April 16!

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Arts & Culture, Travel

From the Archives: “Snæfellsjökull Healing” for the Reykjavík Grapevine

The following is an article I wrote in 2013 about Iceland’s Extreme Chill electronic music festival while interning for the Reykjavík Grapevine. Thanks to the Panama Papers, things are not “extremely chill” in Iceland at the moment. The beats you’ll hear in Iceland today are the beating of pots and pans outside government buildings protesting the deceit and corruption of the prime minister.

Make sure to follow the Reykjavík Grapevine for up to date coverage of the protests in Iceland. If you need some “Snæfellsjökull Healing” (like Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”) read on and harken back to chiller times.

Covered Kirkjufell close to Olafsvik.

Armed only with rumours that I would most likely encounter cold weather and people doing A LOT of drugs, I headed for the fourth annual Extreme Chill Festival bundled up in my warmest gear, haunted by visions of neon booty shorts and glowsticks. What I didn’t expect to find was a warm and welcoming group of electronic musicians and fans communing with nature under Hellissandur’s mystical glacier, Snæfellsjökull.

It all began with a stop in Grundafjörður to plant a tree. The Sterna bus we took to Snæfellsnes doubled as a guided tour of the Snæfellnes peninsula, and when it stopped I woke up in confusion. A guide invited passengers off the bus to plant a birch sapling in a community garden that we christened “Little Chill Fest” in honor of our final destination.


Undír Jökli

Thanks to the tour guide, I soon realized Hellissandur was near Ólafsvík, the birthplace of my great great grandmother, Ólína, whom I share a name with. She emigrated to Canada near the turn of the 20th century during a famine, and tragically lost contact with her sister. As the first Ólína to return to Iceland from our family tree, I have reconnected with her sister’s offspring but had yet to make the pilgrimage to her hometown.

 

This is when I first began to sense the pull of Snæfellnes’ glacier, Snæfellsjökull. It is this same glacier Jules Verne made famous as a portal in ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ and the same glacier my great great grandmother undoubtedly saw many times in her early life, and while, the distinctive twin peaks of the 700,000-year-old ‘jökli’ were hidden by low clouds, there more than enough scenic views to go around.

Calm before the storm

We set up camp in a grassy field near a corral of friendly Icelandic horses that came right up to the fence to watch the first tents pop up. A group had already established itself at the far end of the site, with eight smaller tents surrounding a covered communal area complete with a voodoo skull planted on a stake. Despite the skull, the group was incredibly welcoming and explained they had come together to honour the memory of a recently passed friend who had brought them all together. As the campsite began to fill up, car stereos pumped muffled beats and a small colony of nomads formed and spread out along the banks of a small stream.

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Up the street from the campsite, a few Extreme Chill posters pasted to covered windows identified Röst, a modest venue with all the necessary amenities including a sizable stage, a projection booth and acoustic wood panelling. Inside, electronic music pulsed along to visualizations from the surrounding environment: snowy roads, rushing waves, craggy rocks and grassy fields. Tea candles and incense burned on tabletops surrounded by chairs. The overall effect was more calming than raving. Throughout the festival it was common for the crowd to sit or lay-down, some even practiced yoga near the front of the stage.

According to Árni Grétar, a.k.a. Futuregrapher, Extreme Chill is unlike any other electronic music festival because of this spiritual element. While violent fights are common at many Icelandic festivals, Árni maintained Extreme Chill attendees “don’t want to destroy themselves or others.” Which is an atmosphere the controlled number of attendees, purposefully capped at 400, helps maintain.
However, this is not to say the festival was lacking in moments of intensity. The second day in particular featured the eerie stylings of father-son duo, Stefán Finnboga Péturs; the heavy beats of the Swiss artist Mimetic, and the hardcore dance rhythms of 101 Reykjavík’s Future-grapher and Maggi Lego.

Beyond the MacBook

I talked with one of Extreme Chill’s organisers, Andri Már Arnlaugsson, at Kaffi Sif, where performers and attendees congregated over beers and hamburgers. As we sat on the outdoor deck, he explained the festival’s rigorous selection process: “We seek out performers with a stage presence. Nobody wants to see a guy standing behind a MacBook. Enough of that already.”

Acts like Úlfur, Modesart and Samaris featured live instrumentals, most unconventionally with Tumi Árnason on saxophone. My only criticism would be that with the exception of Jófrí›ur Ákadóttir and Áslaug Rún Magnús-dóttir of Samaris, the festival’s line-up was overwhelmingly male. Overall, the festival successfully highlighted some of the best experimental electronic music in Iceland while attracting big foreign names. Unfortunately, Le Sherifs from Egypt were unable to make it due to political unrest in Cairo.

In the past outdoor sets were extremely popular in the sunny weather, however, I chilled myself to the bone listening to Mixmaster Morris in the cold. The master lived up to his name as he mixed CDs live like a psychedelic gorilla, pacing behind the table in tie-dye pants and a sweater with large black sequins that swayed to the beat. The misty gray setting was a nice juxtaposition to a masterful sampling of Rhye’s lyrics, “It’s one of those pretty summer, summer days. Just a tiny one,” before I headed back to Kaffi Sif for a warm cup of tea.


Techno teepee

After the official sets ended at around 3:00, the party continued at the campsite. Local kids took matters into their own hands, appearing over a ridge shuffling under the weight of large speakers. On Friday night the biggest tarp I’d ever seen was turned into a pop-up techno teepee with the help of a few pieces of wood. The party continued well into the wee hours until the wind ripped the tarp off the ground and the structure collapsed.

Strangely enough, sleeping through this 24-hour dance party was easier than you would expect. It was only when the music stopped around 8:00 in the morning that I would wake up with a start. At Extreme Chill your body becomes accustomed to a constant, persistent beat and without it, you become suddenly lost. Luckily it usually wasn’t long before someone else’s stereo would take over the metronomic duties.


Clouded in mystery

On Sunday a blue sky peeked through the clouds and I hoped to get a better look at Snæfellsjökull, but the winds were not in my favour. Until my next journey, this glacier will remain clouded in mystery. But as Futuregrapher said, “It is beyond man to understand, but for man to feel,” which sums up most of my experiences at Extreme Chill this year.

Snæfellsjökull National Park - Iceland

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Books

Book Review: Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier

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In a flurry of excitement about San Francisco’s public libraries, I checked out a criminal number of graphic novels.

To quote Julian Smith, “I’m at the library where they call me a crook. I never even pay for my library books. I take them from the shelves and if anyone looks, I say, ‘I’m reading a book man, I’m reading a book!'”

If you don’t understand this reference, watch this video now:

 

I finally got around to reading Paul Hornschemeier’s Life with Mr. Dangerous today in my favorite reading nook. I was actually interrupted, but I didn’t mind as much as Julian Smith did.

The first thing I will say about Hornschemeier, is that his drawing style seems to be heavily influenced by Daniel Clowes. I could be completely wrong about that though. Hornschemeier is skilled at weaving different cartooning styles into his narrative, although I think his pages that delve into the surreal are stronger than his representations of daily life.

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I loved this page about Amy’s relationship to her sweet tooth

The book gets its title from a cartoon show that the main character Amy is infatuated with. Unfortunately, the cartoon does not make much sense in my view, but perhaps that’s the point. With amnesia curing manure plot devices and catchy sayings like “My, but you’re fecund!” that may be hard to believe.

The dialogue was sometimes too wordy or sparse for my liking. At one point, Amy thinks to herself, “…Sigh… Barren, sweating, and twelve minutes late. What’s not to like?” This kind of forced exposition takes me right out of the story. What does Amy’s fertility have to do with going to dinner with her mother?

 

Hornschemeier’s biography for this book says a lot about his style of writing:

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“Paul Hornschemeier was born in 1977 [. . .] He currently lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife. As he writes this about himself, a discarded Christmas tree rests on its side, waiting by the curb outside his window, to be picked up as trash, breeding simultaneous and oft-coupled pangs of nostalgia and depression. Then a dog walks by.”

I’m still cringing. Sorry Paul.

During a major turning point in the story, I was forced to skim some of the wordiest panels I have ever encountered in a graphic novel. Here’s a little taste without any spoilers, “Here you are, an invisible referee for an interspecies cage match. Your method of invisibility was explained to me by Moritz as he tamped a pipe with tobacco (that hinted of raisins and the South), but I lost the details. Something about string theory and a since discredited biography of Milton Berle [. . .]”

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Is it just me, or is this a lot of text?

As complex as these sentences may be, the story itself ended up being fairly bland and straight forward. There were certain themes that were well thought out and explored in the story, including ageism in the workplace and mother-daughter relationships, but Amy’s overarching trials in love were not among them in my book.

Perhaps Hornschemeier will speak more deeply to you if you work in retail and actively seek out manic pixie dream girls/guys?

 

 

 

 

 

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Personal

Childhood Reflections

As a child, my room was furnished with my great grandmother’s furniture: specifically a diminutive vanity and chest of drawers. This set is now in my parents’ guest room.

During my last visit to my parents’ house, I was folding laundry in the guest room and noticed my reflection. How many hours had I spent observing myself in this same mirror? How many hours had my great grandmother?

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Selfies make me uncomfortable. It was hard to lower the camera to attempt a self-portrait, but I wanted to capture this moment of reflection.

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In so many ways I still feel like a child, like the baby girl in the picture hanging behind me.

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This chest of drawers has lived more life than I have.

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Collecting objects, scars and memories.

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I just make believe I’m older by posing in the mirror.

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