Blue Jasmine: A Dazzling Tale of a Faded Woman

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Upon your first glance, Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett) is a snob. Her chronicle of her marriage to an undefended elderly woman harangues over the course of the journey from the first class cabin to the San Francisco airport’s baggage claim, where she enlists a fellow passenger to retrieve her Louis Vuitton suitcases. You chuckle at how ridiculous she is; you may even hate her.
Then you realize Jasmine has been talking to herself the entire time, and wonder what has left this woman so deluded.

Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s latest film, doubles as a modern interpretation of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer-winning play about an elite woman’s decline. Following her husband Hal’s arrest for fraud, Jasmine (née Jeanette), a New York socialite, downgrades to San Francisco to live with her estranged sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) because she simply has nowhere else to go. As expected, Jasmine doesn’t settle into her new middle-class neighborhood so easily. In her struggle to get her life back on track, Jasmine encounters guilt, grief, and a series of panic attacks she offsets by popping Xanax and draining Ginger’s vodka supply. Jasmine’s new life is interlaced with flashbacks of her complicated marriage to Hal (Alec Baldwin). Allen’s orchestration of these flashbacks, along with Cate Blanchett’s striking performance, spectacularly conveys Jasmine’s mental illness. Even when they are laden with tension and strife, these flashbacks are luxurious in their rich detail, setting, and lighting. After the flashbacks end, we’re greeted with a close shot of Jasmine trembling and mumbling to herself. Allen pulls us back into her present, which is defined by her neurotic soliloquies. We feel like we’re experiencing Jasmine’s flashbacks and anxiety attacks, and Allen’s tactic is spectacular.

Jasmine, however, is not the only character with a problem, and her plagues don’t dominate the film’s screen time. Ginger is trapped in a cycle of dating different versions of the same man, who in this case happens to be “Streetcar’s” Stanley Kowalski.  Jasmine advises Ginger to date a different type of person, which prompts an affair with Al (Louis C.K.), a “nice guy” she meets at an elitist party. Meanwhile, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), Ginger’s ex-husband, still resents Jasmine for initiating a business deal gone wrong between him and Hal.

In addition to the greed that comes with glamour, Jasmine tackles mental illness extraordinarily well. Coming from someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, Blanchett’s interpretation of Jasmine’s episodes was hauntingly accurate. Blanchett also effortlessly channels Jasmine’s snobbery. Her tone is stuffy and cool, and her motions are as airy and ethereal as the patio at Hal’s Hamptons beach house. Blanchett’s portrayal of Jasmine’s annoyance, such as when Ginger’s fiancée Chili (Bobby Cannavale) sets her up on a date, is humorous; her interpretation of panic during Jasmine’s attempted rape scene is as strong as the situation is horrifying. There’s no way she’s walking away from the film without an award. Jasmine’s supporting roles and casting were done well. Alec Baldwin owns sleazy Hal so that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing him. Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) makes Ginger’s romantic insecurity and forgiving nature charming. Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), in his blue-collared auto shop uniform with “Chili” monogrammed above the right breast, screams working class.

This film is one of the better movies I have seen this year. Although Allen isn’t telling an original story, the deftness and confidence of its execution make it one well worth watching. It is engaging, poignant and makes you think. Blue Jasmine is beautiful – it’s terrifying, but it’s beautiful. 

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I Need You – Yes, You

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It seems I’ve become a master of absentee blogging – and by that, I just mean that I’m really good at neglecting things. Sorry. I was busy, and now I’m lazy and self-conscious. But disregard that, because it isn’t why I’m writing this post.
I’m writing this post because of school. I’m currently in a class where I have to create my own journalistic startup company (for any of you in Grady, it’s called Entreprenurial Journalism with Greenman, and I give it as many thumbs up emojis as my phone could fit into a text message or tweet or something), and I’ve got a good idea. A good one. And I’m currently in the phase of my product where I’m developing my audience (and I don’t think linearly, so I’m also thinking about potential advertisers and establishments I would feature on my site) and seeing if anybody would actually use my site.

My idea is something I like to call Townie Travels.

  • Townie Travels is going to be an Athens travel site that is specific in that it will cover all of the neighborhoods here (unless I decide to skimp out on Watkinsville and Bogart, I need input on that).
  • Why should you care or show any interest? Because Athens isn’t just UGA or downtown – it’s a whole city. There are over 116,000 people here, and a lot of those people aren’t students. There are things happening besides shows or little craft fairs downtown (not that those aren’t great and won’t be covered). However, if those things aren’t going on in your neighborhood, you probably don’t know about them. Look at Flagpole – they post tons of event previews every week, but you’re primarily reading about things going on downtown.
  • This is where Townie Travels would come in. Athens is more than one neighborhood, and people should be able to experience that.

I should also go ahead and present the demographics of my audience (I even have a nice, crude diagram):

  • Townie Travels would primarily aim towards people who live here and aren’t enrolled in university. This crowd would be in the 30s-40s age bracket and would most likely have families and pets. These people also likely have jobs. What else are these people like? Well, maybe they’re stressed. Maybe they want to have a nice weekend, but can’t afford or mentally handle the drive to Atlanta or the mountains. They don’t want to travel far – they also want their kids to have a good time (and according to my research thus far, there are a lot of parents here who aren’t aware of activities or programs that kids could participate in), and maybe they want to bring their dog along, because that dog is crying and these people have hearts (Did you know there are bars here that allow dogs? Well, now you do.)
  • The secondary aim is going to be most of the Athenians who see this post: transient Athenians. They’re in college, they just graduated and want to stay here, or they just moved here. They want to explore their new city, and wouldn’t it be great for them to know that there’s more to Athens than college culture (which is great, but, you know, there’s more!). Or, perhaps in their short or nascent time here, they need to entertain members of my third group:
  • Visitors – parents, sisters, cousins, brothers, friends, colleagues, pen pals, grandparents, high school classmates, in-laws – are my final target audience. How does this apply to you? Well, you’ll probably have a visitor during your time here. What if your grandparents are visiting and you want to take them to lunch? Townie Travels could recommend a restaurant that’s not too far away for you. Less distance, less hassle.
  • Below is my lovely diagram:

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Or maybe you’re wondering about how I’d make money. Well, I’ve thought about that too. I’d aim for advertisements for local businesses (oh yeah – Athens is also unique in that its passion for local business is really strong, and you can bet I’ll feature them on my site), and have a donate button somewhere for anyone who’s feeling generous. But I also have some other ideas, like raffles and wristbands. Users could pay a dollar for a drawing for something like a ticket to a local concert or gift card to a local shop. Or they could buy a wristband for a little restaurant tour or bar crawl itinerary I’d set up, and customers with a wristband would get a discount.

As you can see, I’ve thought about this startup a lot. So, why on earth would project this be problematic?
My mind is exploding with ideas all the time. My thoughts aren’t really linear or fluid unless I’ve had a lot of iced coffee. Seriously, right now I’m working on three different paragraphs at the same time. So I miss things, or lots of my ideas don’t fully develop.
This is where I need you.
I need you to tell me what you think. Yeah, it would be awesome if you like my idea, but if something is bothering you, I want to know about it. Criticize me! Tell me my thought process is scribbly! Tell me how I could improve! Give me suggestions! This startup isn’t about me, it’s about Athens, and there’s a chance it’s about you.

Color Therapy

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The week before finals my first semester of freshman year, the dining hall right next to my dorm made a major and marvelous change: every table was covered with gigantic sheets of paper and adorned with Crayola crayons. It was great because most (if not all) of us hadn’t colored at the table since we were ordering off the kids menu, and for a few minutes, we could take our minds off finals and scribble next to our plates.
You see, Bolton was on to something – finals, obviously, is the most stressful time of the semester because it kills students’ brains. And coloring is brainless – that’s part of why it’s so empowering. Even though some people say that coloring books kill creativity, they’re great for therapy because you don’t have to make any decisions grander that what color crayon you’re going to use next. You don’t even have to follow the rules. Your parents didn’t care when you didn’t color inside the lines, did they? No, because they wanted you to be happy, so they hung your masterpieces on the fridge or even framed them regardless of whether you filled the lines in neatly or scribbled all over the page. And that made you really happy.
Coloring is therapeutic for me because I can feel myself pushing my problems out through the colored pencils. For 15 minutes, I can cast whatever I’m worrying about (so, you know, everything) away and just focus on getting a job done, and nobody is going to assess my performance because well, criticizing how somebody filled out a coloring book is kind of ridiculous. Maybe you’re super anti-coloring book and hating everything I just typed, but you know, coloring works for me. It really does.
So, what did I think when I came across a Lisa Frank coloring book that’s selling for a dollar last night?

  1. LISA FRANK. MY CHILDHOOD AND THE DOLPHIN STATIONERY I LOVED.
  2. I can’t believe Urban Outfitters isn’t selling this same book for $15 yet.
  3. Okay, but really, this is the only coloring book in the whole dollar section, and I think I’m supposed to take it home with me and use it.

I didn’t even flip through it until after I got home, and do you know what I found? Leopards. Puppies on a giant heart in a checkerboard dimension. Angel kittens in angel kitten heaven.
And then I saw it: a cow and her baby. This was the first page I was going to color, and it was going to make me feel better.
And you know what? It actually did.

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Hi, I Have Tendinitis

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I don’t know how school manages to get even more overbearing each semester, but it definitely does. This go around, it’s a little different. I’ve got the typical situation – I don’t have time for anything, my majors are conflicting like crazy, I’m so stressed I can’t think straight or sleep – but I guess this semester really wanted to take things to the next level. Now I also have physical pain to deal with!
I’m in two writing intensive majors, I know. But the thing is hand cramps and arm pain have never been a problem aside from the essay portions of exams, and even then, the pain goes away after a while. That is just not the case here. Something very specific here is turning me into an old lady.

It’s comm law. No, not common law – this isn’t England. Communication law, the hell class for all journalism students. Comm law is like AP US history (or government, but I never took that class because I wanted to take journalism and chorus instead) on crack. You know what else comm law is like? An abusive boyfriend. You drive yourself into exhaustion trying to be good enough for this class, and then it just turns around and slaps you in the face. Well yeah, enough about that. The point is that this class is terrifying and intimidating, especially to a control freak like me. And when the professor said we should spend five hours preparing for each class, I took it very seriously. This class took over my life.

Comm law even made it into my Instagram feed

Comm law even made it into my Instagram feed

I had a comm law test last week, and I was so ridiculously afraid of failing it that I started preparing for it the first week of school. Yeah, you know, five weeks in advance. And I didn’t just study: I put myself through hell. There would be days when I outlined my readings for three or four hours. And by outlining, I mean going back through everything I had already highlighted and writing it down. And in the week before the test, I made a bunch of flash cards, so I wrote down a bunch of the stuff I had already written all over again.
The result looked something like this, so I actually had to give up on studying:

BC3cVFmCYAAUTvo
But then, you know, my test was last week, and once I got that out of the way, I thought I could just refrain from using my hands and arms for a while. I thought that once they were done being dramatic and hurting all the time, I would be able to write again, although nowhere near as hardcore as I went in the first month or so of school.
Yeah… that didn’t happen. Even when I wasn’t using my hands and arms, they were still hurting. I had an advising appointment last week, and I happened to look down and realize my right arm was swollen and didn’t look like the left one. The next night, I went to buy groceries and experienced an attack of arm pain that was so bad I had to go home. And you know what? It was Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to go out and sing karaoke that night, but instead I lay in my bed and cried for a little while because of my arms.
Then the next morning, I woke up and my pain was magically gone. And it stayed that way for a few days – then reality (school) got in the way, and my hands were getting sore from activities as light as holding a highlighter for 20 minutes or using a keyboard (it’s actually taken me two days to write this blog post).

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This is when my arm turned into a balloon

I know this sounds really stupid, but I feel kind of helpless. I mean, this is really interfering with my life. There is absolutely no way I can survive without using my hands – I mean, people use their hands for everything! Isn’t that something that separates us from animals, at least to a degree? I have to use my hands to read and write and take notes and hold my books. Without my hands, I will fail school unquestionably. But then there are other things that have become so much harder too, like washing dishes, carrying groceries, and texting. And I don’t know what I’ll do if it hurts to use my hands to use utensils or hold my food. I am not about to endure food-related trauma at the expense of tendinitis – eating is just way too important to me.

But yeah, I’m totally going to a doctor, because as silly as it is, I really cannot afford to deal with this.

Lack of Focus

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I have a nasty habit of being all over the place – well, I guess you’d call it more of a personality trait than a habit, but my point still stands. If you need better evidence, just take a look at the majority of papers and drafts I’ve gotten back from my professors. Somewhere there is a “lack of clear focus” or “these ideas aren’t tied together” scribbled in the margin. To be honest, the only situation I’m really good at fixating in is anxiety attacks, and I certainly don’t want to make a life out of that.

Journalism school terrifies me sometimes because I feel like everybody has a trademark: there are the fashion-obsessed, the foodies, the music junkies, the editors-in chief, and the technologically savvy mass media people, and they all have outlets in which they represent themselves accurately and wholly. And then there’s me, the one who blogs almost anything from recycled homework to rants about stupid people and ideas she really doesn’t agree with. And I don’t know why, but I feel like trademark people just have everything together and are taken way more seriously because of it. Just thinking about it frightens me (go anxiety theme). My fingers are even trembling right now.

But I have to stop thinking about things like this, because I don’t think I can ever be one of those one-track people. I can’t even pick a single favorite color or food. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a trademark. It’s a quality I envy and don’t think I can ever have, just because of my history, genealogy, and influences.
Everything about me is a multiple. I consider myself multiracial to a degree, or at least multicultural – if I can’t qualify as multiracial because I look white and middle eastern is technically white on every standardized test I have ever taken (even though I check both “white” and “other”), then I’ll just settle with spicy. My home life is split in two. Ever since I was six and my parents split up, I’ve had to live under a joint custody. My shrink says I’m a dichotomy between an old soul and a child. I’m a double major because I couldn’t decide whether I liked literature or writing stories more – I like words! Why can’t I just like everything about words?

One hundred percent of me agrees that I’m not cut out to be one of those one-track people, and at least now I am entirely agreeing on something. I like too many things. I like words. I like eating. I like humor. I like sleeping. I like clothes. I like music. I like traveling. I like playing psychologist. I like taking pictures and recording things. I like people (well, sometimes). I think most of all I like liking things. It’s way easier to narrow down a list of the things I hate: bees, brussels sprouts, not being warm enough, being the tallest person under the umbrella, and numbers. See how much easier that was for me?

I don’t know if dualities are the way to get noticed in the real world and the future, but I guess I’m going to have to deal with it, because even though not having a clear focus makes me look really juvenile, I kind of like not having a trademark.
So from now on, I’ll just sell myself as someone who likes everything excluding that list above, because god forbid I will ever write a story about something like beekeeping.
I’ll work this.
Or, I guess I should say these.

This isn't in focus either. Get it?

This isn’t in focus either. Get it?

Mary

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“Are you really bringing Mary to Athens?”

My sister responds with a picture message of her cat sitting on the floor of her car.

She tells me she couldn’t leave her at our dad’s house, which I understand. It is far better for Mary to be an inconvenience than ignored.

Three hours later, Lea is in my apartment and Mary is settled. She scurries around the vicinity, taking in flashes of her new surroundings. It doesn’t take long for her to become comfortable, and she darts into my room for a more thorough exploration.

But Claire sees her, and naturally, Mary has to approach any new being she encounters.

“Oh no. Why is there a cat in here?”

Minutes later, Lea spies Mary in Claire’s arms.

Lea thinks that Mary was born erratic. Claire told me that since she’s technically still a kitten, she’s still in the phase where she wants to play with everything – and for her, playing is clawing and biting whatever comes her way. I say she experienced a somewhat terrifying event as a baby. Why else would she always be on the defense? Whatever the back-story may be, one cannot deny that there is something about Mary – it’s just hard to determine whether this something is a good thing.

Despite the threat of attack that still exists after her recent declawing, you want to touch her more than anything.
You want to cuddle with her and hold her like a baby. You want to scratch her chin and feel her fur that’s so soft you swear there’s a rabbit gene somewhere in her chemistry. Getting to feel her fur for a number of seconds is worth whatever scratches and bite marks she inflicts on you – yes, she’s that fluffy. She’s so fluffy that she feels luxurious, and it doesn’t even have to make sense.

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She’s so fluffy that she looks fat – she’s actually very skinny, though, which was proved the time she decided to jump into the bathtub with my sister.

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She holds a fascination with anything that is bathtub. If you shut her in the bathroom, the first thing Mary does is run to the ledge of the tub and hide between the shower curtain and its plastic liner. Always. She does it when I shut her in my bathroom before we leave. It is out of respect and precaution.
I have already been blamed for Mary’s great escape in December. I am not about to put up with this demented animal’s antics again.

She darts.

She invades spaces and claims new territories – atop a desk or buried away in a closet.

Earlier today I spied her trying to climb my coat.

She has taken a peculiar liking to a large Ziploc bag back home, and likes to lie inside it, face out, like she’s inside a transparent sleeping bag. She’s staring at my sister in the photo. She always stares.
I still don’t understand how a creature without thumbs can warp this way.

But then again, I don’t really understand much about her.

Late last night, I awoke to find her nestled beside my legs. She looked straight at me, her eyes yellow and wide like twin full moons.
She didn’t race up to swat my face or pounce on my thigh when I turned. She just sat there and stared at me. She might have even been purring.
Mary and I had officially formed a bond.

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Ode To Babies

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Before I get carried away writing this, I need to establish that I am not a baby person. Being near babies freaks me out. If baby anxiety is a real thing, then I definitely have it. If I hold or touch a baby, it will immediately start fussing or crying – I call myself the anti-baby whisperer – and it terrifies me. I don’t want to have any kids, but I feel like if I did have a baby, I would go into anxiety overload because I wouldn’t be able to give it what it wants or make it like me. Some people are great with babies; then there are people like me.

Around 10 months ago, a baby came into my life. It’s a more intimate relationship than most of the baby situations I know of, which are limited to my aunt and uncle having two babies in the past five and a half years and all the teen moms I stalk on Facebook. No, this baby and I shared a father – that’s right, I am 20 years old and have a 10-month-old half-sister.

Our relationship was pretty stunted for many months, because the majority of time I am away at school, and she is two hours away at my dad’s house. I don’t think I existed in her memory for the first six months of my life, because, well, I wasn’t there for it. What’s a weekend-long visit home to someone who hasn’t even developed a long-term memory yet? So for a really long time, our relationship kind of went like this: I thought she was cool because she is smart, but I hated it (key word: panicked) whenever she cried or became upset around me because there was absolutely nothing I could do about it except tell someone she liked a problem was going on; she didn’t really know who I was, and if I held her or something she got scared.
Note: I will say that she liked me shortly after she was born. This might have been because I tried to communicate with her by imitating her facial expressions.
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But then something wonderful happened: winter break. I had three and a half weeks off from school, and that meant I actually had time to bond with the baby. Almost every morning (um, okay, afternoon) after I woke up, I would just go to her room and hang out with her. Mostly I watched, because that’s what I’m best at  when it comes to babies. Watching her try and learn to walk and grasp the pronunciation of many syllables made me think of how difficult being a baby actually is.

If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend observing the interactions between babies and animals

If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend observing the interactions between babies and animals

Think about it. I will admit that when my half-sister was born, I was extremely envious of her because she got to sleep all day long and I didn’t. She didn’t have to worry about school for a few years. All she had to do was chill at home and play with toys and enjoy having such a short attention span.
But I was wrong. You know what babies spend the majority of their time doing? Trying to be just like you and me. This whole time, I have been envious of someone who dreams of accomplishing tasks I find fairly simple, like speaking, writing, and eating without having someone force a spoon down my throat.

Don't mind me, I'm just being a genius

Don’t mind me, I’m just being a genius

Babies just want to be people – they are incredibly aware of what separates themselves from the rest of us, and they are constantly trying to change it. Babies are always babbling not to amuse us, but to communicate with us. I think they know most of what they’re saying is complete gibberish, but they’re probably telling themselves that after so many mistakes, real words will start to come out. It’s fascinating. It’s science and psychology and – yes, I’m going to say it – Paradise Lost and Songs of Innocence and Experience in real life. Babies have the luxury of being completely innocent, but they cast it aside for knowledge because they want to be like the older people they aspire to be like one day.

Babies are driven little geniuses that should not be taken lightly. 

But the best part is that she doesn't mind my camera

But the best part is that she doesn’t mind my camera