Netflix Documentary Picks!

Monday, June 30, 2014

It seems like the best kind of nights in, the best way to spend a couple hours, and the best way to de-stress: the Netflix binge.

I love having instant streaming available on my laptop, phone, and iPad, and I use it frequently. How else did I get hooked on Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Sherlock, and Doctor Who? However, I also like watching documentaries on Netflix, as there are some really interesting ones. These are my picks for watching a documentary on Netflix:

1. Blackfish
from here

This is probably one of the most popular documentaries on this list, as it has become a pretty big issue recently, especially after the death of a Sea World trainer only a few years ago. This documentary explores Orcas, or killer whales, in captivity, and talks to former employees and trainers who worked with the animals to try and figure out the detrimental effects of keeping large wild animals in captivity. 

2. First Position
from here

My mom was a ballet dancer, and she has taught me a lot about the ballet and instilled an appreciation for ballet in me. I love this documentary, because it shows just how hard ballet is both technically and physically, but also mentally and artistically. It follows young dancers and their preparation for an international ballet competition, where scholarships to prestigious schools and contracts with leading companies are on the line. 

3. Miss Representation
from here
If you consider yourself a feminist, then you've probably watched this documentary at least 5 times. If you don't consider yourself a feminist, then you might after you watch this documentary. If you can get past the crazy idea that feminism is about man-hating, then you may be able to glean something from this documentary.

Basically, this documentary explores how women are portrayed in the media, and how it differs so extremely from the reality that women face. It especially looks at how women are viewed in advertising and media as sexual playthings, and objects for men to try and obtain. It looks at ways that it affects young girls' self-esteem, and how men and women of all ages can fight against the negative images and empower young girls and boys and who they are, not who the media tries to force them to be. This is probably the most teach-y documentary on this list, and one that is probably the most relevant to everyone. I seriously encourage you, if you are going to watch this documentary, to watch it with an open mind and try and see their point of view. 

4. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
from here

Sushi. YUM. Just kidding, I don't really eat fish in Colorado. We don't touch an ocean. #notfreshfish

Anyways, this documentary is about Jiro Ono, a legendary sushi chef with a little restaurant in Tokyo. It's all about his beautiful (seriously - this sushi is actually pretty) sushi and sushi as an art form. It's another one of those artsy documentaries that I watched with my parents, but I like it! If I was in Tokyo and had $300 to spend on a dinner, I would definitely want to eat Jiro's sushi. 

5. Forgiving Dr. Mengele
from here

I saw this for the first time in my AP World History class in high school. I remember being really scared watching it. It tells the story of one of the twins that survived the Holocaust. When those who were rounded up and incarcerated in concentration camps, twins would often be singled out and experimented on. This documentary tells a story of an added layer of the immense brutality of the Holocaust. It is also a fascinating look at the idea of forgiveness in the face of unbearable pain. 

6. The Rape of Europa
from here
I watched this for the first time with my Dad, and I didn't appreciate it or really pay attention to it. I saw it again in my museum studies class, as we were discussing repatriation of works, particularly in the context of NAGPRA (Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act), but also how other objects and works of art have found their way into museums by less than legal means. It's an interesting look, especially if you are interested in the true story behind the Monuments Men (and not the less-than-stellar George Clooney dramatization). Really good if you love art, history, or WWII. 

7. The Square
from here

This is actually a Netflix original documentary, and it's pretty good. It tells the personal stories of young people who are active on the streets of Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution. It was nominated for Best Documentary in 2014. It gives great insight into the emotional ravages and intensity of the Revolution, as well as the power of people. 

8. Happy
from here

What makes us happy? That was the question that the makers of this documentary were trying to find the answers to. They went to many places, like Louisiana and Kolkata, to find answers to these questions. It is certainly interesting and inspiring to hear these stories, and to hear different ideas about how to find the ever-elusive happiness we all crave and aspire to. 

9. Sound and Fury
from here

I watched this documentary the first time when I was writing a mini-ethnography for a cultural anthropology class about the artwork of the Deaf community - more specifically the work of the De'VIA movement (look it up - it's really cool stuff). A lot of the artwork that I was studying had references to Cochlear implants, and I didn't really understand the debate. Although this documentary is kind of old, the issue and the feelings surrounding Cochlear implants are debates that are still prevalent in the Deaf community today, and it gives you a good idea about the kinds of things that people who have disabilities must grapple with. 

10. Helvetica
from here

Who would have thought that the design of fonts would be so interesting? Unless you work in a field where aesthetically pleasing documents are important, you probably don't think much of your font choices. This documentary gives us a look at the design of a font, Helvetica, and what makes fonts popular or good to use.

Are these picks some of your favorites? What other documentaries are on your Netflix List?

Thanks for reading!


Worth a thousand words...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

You know how some people obsessively hoard certain things? Some people hoard fashionable things, like necklaces and earrings, or books (if you're my parents, then art and design books are your thing). My not-so-secret obsession? Office supplies.

Yes, it's true. I love pens, pencils, notebooks, paper clips, the works. I'm also relatively old-school when it comes to school (no pun intended). Many of my professors do not allow screens in class, so I don't generally use my laptop or iPad to take notes in most of my classes. It has also been proven multiple times that handwriting the information in class can help you retain information better (I know for me, it certainly does). There are, however, a couple of downsides. For one, my professors move so quickly that I cannot possibly get all the information down in my notes (and I don't have a great memory for dates and names. I'm good with big-picture concepts, so I write down all the details). Despite this, my professors allow (nay, encourage) my obsession with cute office supplies.

Here are some of my favorite office supplies and companies!

1. University of Denver Bookstore

Okay, not that big of a stretch. But I like to get DU notebooks for my favorite classes, to make them look nice. :)

The DU Bookstore also sells notebooks from a company called Woof, which is a buy-one-give-one company. Check them out! Plus, dogs are cute, so I don't mind one on my notebooks. The poly cover is nice too, because notebooks can get super beat up in backpacks and totes.

2. Yoobi

This is a company that I recently heard about through Facebook. Another buy-one-give-one company, they offer more than just notebooks. Look at these insanely cute pens! SO MANY COLORS.

The online site explains the company more, and they are sold right now at Target.

3. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner - 20 count

Color-coding my planner, flashcards, and study guides is a must. Seriously, I get nervous when these things break the color coding. If I can't color-code something in my planner on the go, I will white-out over it and re-write whatever it was. For example, I write everything for Delta Zeta in pink, everything for Team 1864 (I'm a DU Tour Guide!) in red, everything for my History Colorado internship in blue, and everything for my Denver Art Museum internship in green! Special events and things related to Study Abroad are in purple (my favorite color). My to-do lists are usually in whatever pen is handy, probably black ballpoint.

My trusty Staedtler pack has made it through two years in college with me. They come in a nice plastic case, which is perfect for propping up when furiously reviewing French grammar or making an Ancient Near East study guide (people in fuchsia, important structures in turquoise, and intellectual concepts in maroon).

4. May Designs

These notebooks are seriously adorable. They come in so many different cover patterns, fonts, and monogram styles. I have one that I use to keep track of my assignments each week, and then I have them to keep my notes for my internships. Plus a cute one that I ordered kind of on a whim and don't know what to use it for yet. Sometimes, when I'm bored, I go to the website and play around with different notebook designs. I have a sticky note floating around with the different pattern-frame-monogram combinations that I would get on my May Books.
Something else I love about these books? The sticker on the back of the packaging says "People Against Ugly Notebooks." How perfect is that? I just wish they made full-size ones (by which I mean 8.5" x 11"), so I can use them in class.

5. Bic 4-Color Pen

I use this pen a lot in my language classes, especially when trying to memorize certain grammatical structures. It's helpful to write different parts of the sentences in different colors to emphasize certain points. Then, when I'm panicking to remember the concept during my exam, I think about what color I wrote it in and I can remember it. Random, but it usually works.

6. Poppin

This website makes me happy. Simple, beautiful, and colorful. I love the simplicity of their pens, and I love all the fun colors they come in! If I could get one of everything, I totally would.

My wishlist:

1. Tiffany & Co. Pen

I can't rationalize a $200 pen, but gosh is it pretty. The signature robin-egg blue accent, silver tone of the pen is just so quintessentially Tiffany. Maybe someday when I'm rich and famous (ha.).

2. Minnie and Emma Peonies 5" Notepad

I've recently become very into Minnie and Emma, mostly because of one of my favorite bloggers, Carly of The College Prepster. She has a collection at Minnie and Emma, and I AM IN LOVE WITH ALL OF IT. I have too many notepads at the moment, but if someone is just hankering to give me a gift, I will gladly accept this adorable notepad. :) With "Zoe" at the top, of course.

Do you have any office supplies that you can't live without?

Thanks for reading!



Summer Reading List

Sunday, June 22, 2014

It's a blog staple, as well as just a staple of life: The Summer Reading List. This is one list that I have that is constantly growing. My Reading List is a mix of many different types of books: historical fiction, historical non-fiction, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, etc. During school, it's hard to find time to read for fun. But during the summer, I am a reading machine. These are the books I have on my Summer Reading List!

1. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
So, Mia is with her family when they get into a massive car accident. This book looks at her life, her loves, and what  is important to her and how it all changes because of the car accident.

I've actually already read this book, and it was pretty good. The style was interesting, because it didn't follow a chronological framework like most books. But I enjoyed it, and it was a good, quick read.

2. Paper Towns by John Green
So you know how you get hooked on a TV Show on Netflix, and you binge watch the entire series, and then you watch all of the other shows that Netflix recommends? That's how I feel about John Green's books. You can read all about my obsession with The Fault In Our Stars here.

Anyways, Paper Towns is about a boy and a girl who live in Florida, and were friends when they were little and then grew apart. Then the girl, Margo, runs away and the boy, Quentin, searches for her. It's mostly about the search for Margo. Interesting, fun, and also a quick read (I've finished this one too).

3. Looking for Alaska by John Green
Miles Halter goes to a boarding school in Alabama, where he meets Alaska, a young, beautiful and intelligent girl who captures his imagination, and his heart. However, Alaska is more troubled and exhibits reckless and self-destructive behavior.

4. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Colin, a child prodigy, graduates from high school as valedictorian - but he's afraid that he will never be a genius. To make things worse, he is dumped by his girlfriend, Katherine, as all of his girlfriends have been named Katherine. He goes on a road trip with his best friend (John Green seems to be a fan of friends road-tripping), and they meet a girl named Lindsay who helps Colin make a mathematical theorem to predict the length of romantic relationships.

5. The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
France. Food. Enough said.

Just kidding. This book is about an Indian family and their restaurant as they move from India, to England, and finally to France. The main character, Hassan, develops an immense love for cooking, and Madame Mallory - the uptight, famous French chef whose traditional restaurant is right accross the street from the Haji family's restaurant - recognizes his talent. This book is about food, culture, and learning to accept those who are different than you.

6. The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, and Bret Witter
While the movie starring George Clooney and Matt Damon left a lot to be desired, the story about the Monuments Men and Women is truly remarkable. These men and women were tasked with protecting Europe's famous, beautiful, and irreplaceable works of architecture and culture, as well as art, as the WWII ravaged Europe.

7. This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun and Linda Coverdale
This book is based on true events of King Hassan II of Morrocco, and the desert concentration camps following an unsuccessful coup. It takes true accounts, witness testimonies, and close work with a survivor to tell the story of the prisoners' lives in these camps, and the countless horrors they endured.

8. The Divergent trilogy: Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Basically, it's one of those post-Apocalyptic, massive-societal-reorganization-shift stories. At a certain age, young adults must leave their homes and choose to be part of one of the 5 communities, known as factions, that value certain traits above others: Candor (honesty), Amity (Peace & friendship), Erudite (knowledge), Abnegation (Selflessness), or Dauntless (bravery). The Divergent trilogy is about Beatrice Prior, or how she later is known as Tris, and her journey in Dauntless, as well as her journey as the factions fall. I've also read this series, but I don't remember Insurgent or Allegiant as well, so I'm planning on reading them again.

9. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

So, I'm obsessed with BBC's show, Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Therefore, I think I need to actually read the stories that inspired the show.

10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I read this book in high school, and I'm pretty sure it's on every high school AP reading list ever, but I fell into the trap of reading it once, writing a quick paper on it, and then forgetting it again. I remember liking it, or at least thinking it was interesting, so I'm going to read it again.

So there it is, folks! Do you have a Summer Reading List? What's on it?

As always, thanks for reading.



Pre-Departure 1: 75 days, 9 hours and 30 minutes to go!

Friday, June 13, 2014

As of today, I have 75 days to go until I board a plane from Denver to DC, then from DC to Paris! 75 days seems really long, I know. But I can't imagine how fast that time is going to fly! Especially with my crazy internship and work schedule.

Anyways, to kick off my summer of waiting for France, I thought I would start a series on this blog called "Pre-Departure" where I write about the process of getting ready to study abroad in France!

Yesterday: I set up my appointment at the French Consulate in Los Angeles. One of the things that is a little bit annoying about studying abroad in France, is the fact that I have to appear in person at the consulate in LA. It's annoying mainly because of the fact that I am working a lot and it's a drag to try and find an appointment time that works with my schedule. However, LA could be fun! Maybe I'll make it into a trip to Disneyland.... TBD.

I probably should have made the appointment sooner, but with finals and work and everything I just kept forgetting. Now that's set, and I have all the documents I will need, and I'm ready to go! One step closer to France!

Next steps: Research what to pack. I have a tendency to overpack whenever I travel. Therefore, I need to do some pretty thorough research to see what I will actually need, and then match it up with what's in my closet. Who knows? There may be some shopping involved...

I also want to throw a party for my friends who are going abroad and are still in CO. Therefore, party planning tips very much welcome.

To finish out this first post of my Pre-Departure series, I thought I would make a list of the reasons I chose to study abroad in Caen!

1. French Language and Culture - I knew I wanted to study abroad in France to improve my language speaking ability. I've been studying French since I was in middle school, and I can understand it pretty well, better if it's written. I cannot speak it. My accent is thoroughly American, and it's too academic. I get nervous when I speak French here. A small town in Northern France sounds like the perfect place to immerse myself in French language and culture! Paris, while beautiful, is almost too worldly. I feel like I would only speak French in class, and then be able to speak English at the other times, which is not what I wanted out of my study abroad experience.

2. Historical importance - If you look at pictures of Caen, and of the Université de Caen- Basse Normandie, you will notice that it looks pretty modern. Not exactly the ornate, medieval architecture you would expect from a University that was established in the 1400s (at least not what I expected). Also, ever heard of D-Day? 70 years ago this past week, the invasion of Normandy occurred. This little town, Caen, was pretty much decimated during WWII, which is why it doesn't look as old as one might expect. Today, there is a WWII Memorial and Museum in Caen, which I am very much looking forward to.

3. Proximity to England - Caen is really close to the English channel. I'm excited to live near water for the first time in my life (I've grown up in Colorado - never on a beach). My cousin is also studying at art school in Bournemouth, England, which is almost right across the channel from Caen! It will be nice to have a familiar face on that side of the pond.

4. The food - On my program website, it says that Normandy is famous for it's cottages and it's cheese. I LOVE cheese. And French cuisine in general. I can't wait to try these amazing cheeses! Also, being close to an ocean, apparently the seafood is pretty good. I try not to eat seafood in Denver since we don't touch an ocean. So, being in a city where you can actually eat seafood might be fun!

5. Small town vibe - In many ways, Caen reminds me of Boulder (from my research, I've never actually been there). It's pretty small, and it's a college town, since the Université de Caen is there. Boulder's the same way: small college town, filled with nice people. Now that I live in the city, although Denver is a pretty small city, it's loud and polluted and busy. While I love it (my short-attention span loves it, I should say), it will be nice to live in a less-busy, less-polluted, smaller town.

But most of all, IT'S IN FRANCE! When I first started taking French in 7th grade, I did not think it would turn into the love affair it is now. I'm a francophile, through and through, and I cannot wait to live in such an amazing place!

As always, thank you for reading. :)



Obsessed: The Fault In Our Stars (Spoiler Alert)

Monday, June 2, 2014

I know everyone's been talking about it recently, but I am just in love with The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. When I first heard that there was a movie being made of it, I thought I would read it (I hate seeing movies when I haven't read the book). It's a pretty quick read, I read it in two days over spring break. It is seriously engrossing, once you get hooked it's hard to put down. It's the perfect coffee shop book. Grab your favorite drink, find a comfy chair, and hunker down for a while.
from here

The storyline is pretty simple. My one-sentence summary (SPOILER ALERT): Hazel Grace meets Augustus at a support group, and they hit it off and end up developing a really deep relationship where they have a whirlwind adventure and romance, then he gets cancer again and dies. Obviously that's missing a lot of the details, but that's basically what happens.

I love Hazel Grace. She's unapologetically herself, and pretty honest, which I love in characters. She's skeptical of Augustus at first, and definitely does not try to change for him. Augustus is incredibly cocky, attractive, but also deeply sentimental and caring. I just loved their relationship for its beautiful simplicity, although at the same time it was intricate in the same way all of our relationships are intricate and unique. Basically, I don't think we can understand it.

But let's talk about the real part of the book that scarred me: The death of Augustus Waters. I, for one, did not see that one coming. Definitely thought it would be Hazel Grace. But anyways, I think his death provides an interesting look at the human condition. I've never lost anyone close to me, so I have not experienced it first hand. But it gives the reader an interesting perspective on death and life, and how we deal with both.

I loved John Green's writing style. It was funny, sarcastic, didactic, and depressing all at the same time. I appreciate how it was written simply, but also smart enough that I learned a lot, and it challenged me to think in new ways.

Also, I'm obsessed with the soundtrack to the movie. I just bought it on iTunes, and I've been listening to it in a pattern, alternating between Coldplay's Ghost Stories and this soundtrack. Ed Sheeran, M83, Grouplove, Ray LaMontagne - I CAN'T EVEN. Also, it's a good mix of more pop tracks, there is a rap track (interestingly enough), and some slower, folksy tracks.
from here

Anyways, the movie also looks really good. I know I'm going to be sad, because they always change the movies from the books, but in all of the trailers it has looked absolutely amazing. Plus, I think Shailene Woodley is one of the best actresses of my generation, even for getting her start on an annoying ABC Family drama and the fact that she doesn't know what feminism is (but that's a different blog post).

I know I will go see it when it comes out on June 6! Maybe as a post-spring-finals gift to myself? :)

Always, thank you for reading.