Katabasis by way of the cinema

Several weeks ago, a friend at work talked me into a truly bonkers journalism experience that I’m finally undertaking this week: Twenty-four straight hours of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, all 11 screened in order in a theater, culminating in Avengers: Age of Ultron. That’s Wednesday and Thursday, basically, and I’ll probably be pretty loopy through the weekend, if I’m honest.

At heart, though, I am someone who loves committing to big endeavors hard, and I’m really looking forward to enjoying everyone who shows up to do the same. Given all this, I thought I’d clear out some of the great articles I’ve been hoarding in the depths of my One Tab bookmark/tab keeper. We all need some good reading to get us through things.

From Metropolis to Ex Machina: Why Are So Many Robots Female? is a smart, intriguing look at the history of person-shaped AI (although, in the case of Her‘s Samantha, not always).

The art and science behind the glow of Chicago’s skyline answers some questions about the look of my best beloved toddlin’ town.

Instagram’s Endangered Ephemera is sort of a twee New Yorker piece of fluff, but I am 100% its target audience and I tend to love very narrowly focused visual blogs like it describes.

The Case for Leaning Out is an all too familiar look at work-life balance and the terrible way in which that’s even a thing in the first place.

Today was a great day for being in Prospect Park.
Today was a great day for being in Prospect Park.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are apparently soulmates and that fills me with joy.

One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake makes me, as a copy editor, want to slow clap right out of my seat.

The Road From Danzig is a vivid look at Gunter Grass and his complicated biography. I have both an unread and an unwatched copy of The Tin Drum somewhere on my shelves, and I’ve always meant to fix that. This should push me.

Andre Braugher, the Undercover Comedian of Brooklyn Nine-Nine gives me something wonderful: a look at an actor I’ve only recently discovered (via the aforementioned half-hour comedy) is completely, astoundingly, winningly flawless onscreen.

Among the Reindeer is personally interesting to me. Apparently, thanks to one of those DNA ancestry tests, we know on my father’s side that I’m descended from people who lived north of the Arctic Circle. This writer gets similar results, and goes to vastly greater lengths to understand them.

Mark Watches Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the perfect maraschino cherry on top of this post. Winter Soldier is far and away both the best MCU movie (fight me) and my favorite. Mark Oshiro’s unspoiled reaction and unfiltered feelingsplosion sums up so much of what it is to love and engage with these films.

The deep breath before the deep dive. Catch you on the flip side, cats and kittens!

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Empty NYC

It is this weekend, isn’t it — five months since I’ve been in Chicago; five months since I moved to New York. Five months since I said anything here too. I’d apologize, and I do, but it’s been an interesting busy, a sometimes staggering busy, the kind of readjustment I haven’t had to do since after I left college for a brief and ill-advised move to San Francisco.

I miss my camera. I have this great camera that I love using, but time management is a lot of work when you’re trying to just straight-up find your feet. I do love Instagram, though, and I recently got my first iPhone. It’s no Nikon, but it helps me do a thing I love in little bursts.

I notice this about my Instagram feed, though: It doesn’t take place in the city I see every day, but some sort of post-apocalyptic quiet, with very few people and interesting light. I think this says less about my state of mind than about when I’m comfortable snapping pictures in public — I don’t have the instinct to whip out my camera phone when I’m just hanging out with friends, most times.

I remember, when I came to Chicago from my small college town in Appalachia, how worried I was that I would never experience silence again, that somehow a city would be nothing but noise and lights and I’d never get a reprieve. But of course those moments and those places and times do exist, and they’re a good time to remind myself that I can spare a pause, and that I really can do something other than hurry to wherever I’m going. That it’s okay to be in the world and observe it and frame it to keep for later. New York is neat. I really do like it here.

I yelled and screamed about coming here before it actually became a possibility. New York believes a lot of its own hype, which is infuriating if you have lived in the places it considers not real or inferior. But coming here, I’ve thought less about the self-obsession (which is surely a coping mechanism for the cost of living) and let myself be surprised (and proved wrong). The light, when there aren’t clouds, is always like an Edward Hopper painting — I think that must be the effect of the ocean somehow, all that light bouncing off all that water. I’d always loved the Chrysler Building, but it’s the Empire State that I’ve come to regard as a friend. I saw Don Cheadle walking toward me on a sidewalk as I made my way to work. I’m not going to lie — that’s neat.

I’ve seen almost none of this city, is the thing. In five months, I haven’t yet been to Central Park or Coney Island or most of the museums. I’ve ventured into Williamsburg and Park Slope, though not a lot. But I got lost in the Financial District in a snowstorm, and fell in love with the twisting streets and surprise federal-style buildings. I know where to get good duck in Chinatown and great mofongo in Washington Heights. I’ve already spent too much at Forbidden Planet and the Strand. I know where to pick a straight line and just walk.

The days are getting longer now. I keep joking that I’ve only ever seen New York in the dark, after work, and that I won’t recognize any of the places I do know in the light. What a thing, to get to be in a new place. We should all be so lucky.

From “The Astronaut’s Dilemma” to “The Taming of the Fondue”

Last night I saw my last Improvised Shakespeare show in Chicago for what is likely to be quite a while. They’re probably one of my top three favorite things about this city, and while I am super sad to lose out on regular access to their shows (especially in their gorgeous new theater at iO’s new, incredible space on Kingsbury Street!), they visit New York often enough that I shouldn’t be bereft for too long.

Oh shoot, that was me burying the lede. Hi, world. The reason Magpie & Whale has been so incredibly quiet on the WordPress side is that I’m moving to New York in a week for a job. Very exciting! Very stressful. Very odd to say goodbye to the city I’ve lived in for the majority of my adult life.

I’m pretty up to my ears juggling work and packing and organizing, but I’ve had a little time to enjoy the last of a very pleasant October here (save for the three straight days it rained this week; now it’s sunny and mild and perfect, and hopefully it’ll stay that way).

A photo of Wicker Park I'm sure no one has ever taken before.
A photo of Wicker Park I’m sure no one has ever taken before.

Overall, I’m surprising myself with how calm I feel about it at heart. People keep asking me what I want to see before I leave, and most of what I can think about is how I still need to find poster mailers that fit the unframed prints I’m bringing. I have a few things to hit up still, though: a bike ride along the lakefront, an hour in the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a dinner at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant. Last weekend I went hiking and finally went to a Chicago hot dog stand, in addition to visiting all my favorite works at the Art Institute. Really, though, I think I’m ready for something new, even if I never envisioned that that new something would be Brooklyn.

For all that I just want this move to be over, for all that I just want to be there already, for all that I’m eager to set up my (amazing!) new apartment, Chicago is never really going to be done with me. How could it? I love this place too much, too wholly, even if I’m ready to go.

The Panopticon of Celebrity: Thoughts on Chicago Wizard World ’14

Last weekend I paid a lot of money to sightsee another human being up close. I had a great time, but I’ve been thinking about the fundamental weirdness of it ever since.

I’d never been to a big, multi-fandom convention before Wizard World Chicago, but it’s something I’ve seen my friends get a lot of joy from for many years. When I found out my favorite actor from my favorite movie this year would attend, I decided to take the plunge, and so I wound up with a Sebastian Stan VIP Pass (really, that’s what it says on the badge I wore around my neck all weekend). The VIP experience promised early access, faster lines and better seats, though I honestly only bought it because I couldn’t figure out where to buy the individual tickets online. It also entitled you to a couple of con exclusives, including a limited edition Guardians of the Galaxy comic and a huge lithograph of your nerd icon of choice.

The con ran from Thursday through Sunday, so on Thursday night I decided to head up to Rosemont, near O’Hare Airport, to pick up my things and scope the place out. After some tragedies as far as getting to the convention center on public transit (for all who follow, it turns out you can walk a few blocks to the building from the Blue Line), I made it there as the day was wrapping up. People were totally in costume, milling around and carting bags of merch. I was already delighted. Then I got my swag.

That’s when I knew everything about the weekend was going to be hilarious.  Continue reading “The Panopticon of Celebrity: Thoughts on Chicago Wizard World ’14”

My imminent, self-inflicted Sebastian Stan problem

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Me at the movie theater before the first Captain America movie, 2011. This is important later.

Yesterday I did a thing I haven’t since 2008: I bought a ticket to a fan convention. This one is a whole other level of different, though. In 2008, I a la carted my way through a Supernatural Creation Con, and while I met and hugged and asked questions of and got autographs from and pictures with many of my favorite secondary players on that show, I assiduously avoided the stars, save for the one question I asked Jensen Ackles during the panel appearance. (Video exists, but I’m not linking it. Short version: Yeah, Jensen probably would have been friends with Dean Winchester in high school.)

The ticket I bought yesterday to attend the Wizard World Chicago convention next month is a so-called VIP package, which gets me early floor access, some limited edition goodies, premium panel seating and at least two opportunities to up-close meet actor Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Deceptively handsome for what a doofus he’s proved to be. Which only makes me love him more, so job well done there, pal.

I’m so nervous I might hurl. Which I keep reminding myself is silly: This dude is not even two years older than me, and by all accounts presents himself as the sweetest, hammiest, most gracious nerd imaginable. It’s also not like the five minutes total of one-on-one interaction this will entail will be earth-shattering; my goal, really, is to have fun and be classy. But I also keep thinking about what I’d want to communicate in those few minutes, and it gets complicated, especially now that I’ve put my finger on what it is about his performance as the Winter Soldier that hits me so hard. Continue reading “My imminent, self-inflicted Sebastian Stan problem”

Fourth Decade Serenade

So, I’m turning 30 tomorrow. Never done that before.

Thirty is a big one. It feels bigger than 20 or 21, even if there’s some “I finally get to be an adult!” associated with both of them; it feels bigger than 25, my official quarter-life crisis, or 27, which felt scarily close to 30 at the time. At each of these birthdays, I think I expected to have more of my life figured out by then. I’m pretty sure that’s never going to change, and I’m equal parts frustrated and excited by that.

Three and a half years ago, I wrote up a list of things I’d like to accomplish by my 50th birthday. Some of them have happened: photography classes, swing dancing, trying more music; whale-watching, putting up less with bullies, the vague-but-aspirational “find a career.” Others are still to come: Dating is still an undiscovered country with me, and I absolutely need to get better at planning so I can take those extravagant, far-flung trips I want. But it’s still a good list. I’m pleased with that list, and with the person younger me wanted to become.

I’m also pleased with the person I am now. I don’t have it all figured out, of course, but I’m less anxious about certain things than I used to be, and I’m working on scrubbing myself of the unhealthier strains of perfectionism that hobble me. I can’t find the exact quote at the moment, but there are many variations on the theme that I want to take with me into the future: The conditions will never be perfect, so you might as well do it now.

This knowledge feels pretty hard-won. I often feel like I lost or gave up my twenties: At 23, my mom got her brain cancer diagnosis, and at 28, she died. I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to do a lot of the stupid and reckless shit you’re “supposed” to do with this decade, and I sometimes wonder if I’ve missed my window for exploring or experimenting with the world. This is not true, of course, but — I’m not going to miss my twenties. I grieve sometimes for what they could have been, but they weren’t, so there’s not much else to say.

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Me and Dad at my Medill graduation ceremony, an A+ day and weekend in general.

So, gosh, who am I on my last day of my twenties? I love my city; Chicago is so beautiful right now, milder than July usually is. Sometimes it staggers me that I’ve lived here since 2002 and still don’t feel like I’ve found everything I love about it. I really like my work, and the people I work with. I am stupid invested in Captain America in ways I absolutely never saw coming, and thanks to a man who got in trouble with convention staff for giving fans too many hugs, my primary qualifier for a boyfriend is that he must be a goober. I feel energized about art and storytelling and fiction; I want to keep trying more. I am someone who gets annoyed when she can’t go running or biking. I am addicted to Whole Foods’ pita chips and frozen palak paneer. I am throwing a birthday party this weekend primarily centered around using art supplies. I want to spend tomorrow pampering myself — maybe some dresses, maybe some shoes, maybe even a manicure! — before hanging out with my friends and bringing them to my favorite comedy in the world.

I’m doing okay, all told. Thirty isn’t looking like I expected, but heck, it’s looking super good.

July 4th on the beach at Union Pier, MI. A really good way to watch fireworks.
July 4th on the beach at Union Pier, MI. A really good way to watch fireworks.

Off-Road Pecha Kucha: Repairing Cymbeline

My lovely college friend Hannah Kushnick co-runs this awesome thing every month in Chicago. Pecha Kucha is Japanese for “the sound of conversation,” apparently, and it’s a presentation format in which you make 20 slides that hold for 20 seconds each. She and artist Rachel Herman ask presenters to adapt this any way they see fit, including using theatrical devices and audience participation. This is an unofficial series, held at the amazing Hyde Park Art Center, and Hannah asked me back in April if I wanted to present on the theme of “repair.” The other presenters were so, so great, and we had an awesome discussion (with wine!) after, plus it took place inside a giant sculpture of a bull. You should make it to the next one if you can.

You all know how much I love Cymbeline. A lot of that comes from how frankly wacky it can be. I started thinking about our desire to fix or iron out things we don’t understand, which then led to thoughts about the PowerPoint presentation we’ve all dreaded (and secretly always wanted to sabotage). Here’s my off-road pecha kucha; I hope it makes you smile.

Hello. Hello, welcome. Thank you. To both our esteemed chairs, I appreciate your time. I’m Edeth Garblers, team leader for this action committee, and this is my presentation.
Hello. Hello, welcome. Thank you. To both our esteemed chairs, I appreciate your time. I’m Edeth Garblers, team leader for this action committee, and this is my presentation.

Continue reading “Off-Road Pecha Kucha: Repairing Cymbeline”