Monday, September 30, 2013

"Humans of New York," and why I retain hope for humanity

There is an excellent Facebook page called "Humans of New York," and it has actually played a fair role in my life. It is run by a photographer who lives in (spoiler alert): New York City. He takes street portraits of people and asks them questions. Now, this in itself may seem fairly unremarkable, but please take this story as an example. The photographer is the voice asking the questions; the man in the photo is the one who answers and speaks first.

(Disclaimer: Obviously, I copied the following story and image from HONY's page. I don't own any of it).

"I've been examining my values lately, and determining whether or not I like the feelings that result from those values."
"What's an example of one of your values?"
"I'm very competitive."
"And what's a feeling that results from being competitive?"
"How does competitiveness result in jealousy?"
"When you have a competitive mindset, you tend to view the world in terms of winners and losers. So you resent other people getting recognition, because you somehow believe that less recognition is available to you. I'm learning that this is a false mindset. There's not a fixed amount of success and recognition in the world. So another person's accomplishments don't diminish the accomplishments available to you."

What fascinates me most about HONY is merely his ability to capture deep sketches of real people that he has never met before. (Not to mention how outgoing he needs to be to do that, but maybe I only take note of that because I'm an introvert). When I see someone when I'm in public, say, on the Metro, the stranger and I are generally both in what is known to actors as "first circle:" the impersonal, self-absorbed realm, in which the people in the interaction (if you can even call it that) make no attempt to connect whatsoever. The stranger has stories, and I have stories. But all we will ever know of each other is based solely on the physical, if we even take the time to glance at one another. When I scroll through HONY's page, I get to see a web of stories that are disparate yet interconnected; touching and insightful, or funny and lighthearted; heart-wrenchingly sad, or sweet and innocent. Basically, it's a place where everyone gets to tell their story: whether they're perceived by society as someone invisible, like a garbage worker, or if they're hilariously flamboyant and irrevocably noticeable. 

When I think about HONY, there are two thoughts that strike me the most. The first is that despite the masks we put on-- class markers, facial expressions, clothing-- nobody is as different as we like to believe. We all share in a common humanity, and trying to escape that would be like trying to drain the blue from the sky and the green from the grass. We're different, undoubtedly, and that is a wonderful thing. But we often get caught up in that and forget how much we truly share. 

The second thought is that when I look at the simple (or complex) wisdom of ordinary people, I realize that I'm not giving humanity enough credit. I look at the things going on in the world: hunger, wars, oppression, and just plain, everyday meanness, and I often despair. But it is the majority; the ordinary, everyday people, who will ultimately make a difference in the future. Not some group of politicians: the everyday humans who constitute the biggest part of the global population. And just by getting a small glance at what these ordinary people think about through HONY, I honestly don't feel so dejected. Yes, there are a lot of problems in the world, and yes, they're horrible. People kill each other. People emotionally abuse other people. People are denied what we all agreed long ago were basic human rights: education, happiness, the right to marry the person you love, etc. But we are not without hope. And this Facebook page is just something that helps remind me of that.

As someone truly great once said: Ta ta for now!


Project 365 New Things: Day 25

The bad news is that I'm still sick enough that I had to miss rehearsal. But the good news is that I turned in all my world history homework, I'm feeling a bit better, and my right ear is no longer ringing in a way that I can only describe as a wall of gray with burgundy specks trying to block out all sensation on the right side of my head.

Because I am still sick, I didn't have a lot of options for today's challenge. After I finished the veritable mountain of work I had to do (whoot!), I was still without ideas. I was going to go on YouTube to find a 'how-to' video for something, but I had the attention span of a fruit fly, and soon I found myself watching Hank Green make mistakes on Crash Course outtakes and I wasn't learning anything (other than how hard it can be to pronounce the names of certain molecules). So, in a fit of brilliance, I decided to go to Wikipedia, click 'random article,' and write a poem inspired by the material of whatever article I got. Desperately hoping not to get an article about anything dirty and/or hopelessly boring, I embarked upon this adventure.

I got this very short article about an R&B song called "Lock and Key:"

I then listened to this abominable cacophony of noise on YouTube:

As my ears (and eyes) were assaulted by this very poorly rendered collage of uncomplimentary colors and sounds, I penned this modern classic:

As I gaze upon the voluminous mass that is this woman's hair,
I cannot help but wonder what she could hide in there.
A teapot, a thesaurus, a pair of yellow sneakers,
A colony of starfish or old computer speakers.
This song is both musically and intellectually lacking;
If I were her producer, I'd simply send her packing.
But she'd be just fine; with a cumulonimbus of hair like that
She'd have everything she needed to bring the '80s back.

As always, lemme know what you did for today, if you're following along! If not, and if you have an idea for something new I could try, I'd love to hear from ya!

Peace and prosperity,

I wrote a thing...

Hello, lovelies.

I am taking a short break from studying madly and coughing up my lungs to post a short...thing. I don't know if it's a poem, a short story or an essay, but I do know that I wrote it (that is, unless someone has played a very clever joke on me and I only think that I wrote it). I wanted to post my first draft on this blog. Yes, it's still in draft format, so any input sent via comment or the communication widget on the right of your screen would be greatly appreciated, because it's still at that early stage of life where I can't tell if it's absolute rubbish or not.


Forever Almost
A thing, by Maddie.

If I loved you, I would love you in the complete and indisputably, unquestionably existent way that the wind blows through branches in October, creating fingers of air that, just for a fleeting instant, are solid enough to shake down dead leaves and toss them into a stormy sky, to turn and flip in one final celebration of a vitality already lost. I would love you in a way that just happens, so normal and so right that no one thinks about it, like the clockwork heartbeat of the universe. I would write you songs that could freeze snowflakes in the air and leave them there to hang, as specks of lace trapped in an immortal beam of cold afternoon light. I would sing down the moon and the stars and all the planets for you, and then launch them back into the sky to hover more brightly and more brilliantly than they ever could have before.

If I loved you, I never would have expected to. My love would be the lazy, slinky light that seeps in through the window at about four o’clock in the afternoon, and reminds me that even though the morning was full of life, the late, sluggish hours of the day will still slink in and claim my productivity as they trap sparkling dust in their glittering wakes. Though I forget this will ever happen, it does, as surely and as predictably and as beautifully as it can. You would have crept up on me, becoming an integral and irreplaceable part of my life before I even had the sense to stop and catch my breath.

I would tell you wonderful things, if I loved you. All those secrets that I have been saving for the one I love would be yours, by right of birth. I would tell you the word that means the smell of puddles, dirt and worms right before it has finished raining. I would show you all the ways that I hide my soul in plain sight. As we would lie down on our backs to look at the late September sky, I would talk about reds and yellows and blues, but mostly blues, because they are my favorites. And you would tell me things, too.

If, someday, you read this, then the future from this point, this fleeting and pregnant now will have laid itself out along the pebbled path of my imagination, to meander down streets held up by cafes and cobblestones and clouds and glass windows and the smell of books and the probable freckles on your nose. If you never read this, someone else will, someday. If you never read this, I wonder if you will know that you were my almost someone, and I yours. I wonder if one day, when your grandchildren are out of the house and you look up at the October sky, if you will remember our small, wind-tossed dance of possibility. And then the dead leaves will sink to the ground, and the memory will once again be claimed by the past.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Days 22, 23 and 24

I write to you from my bed, which is covered in disheveled blankets, crumpled tissues, and, most notably, my cold-germ-infested body. There is also a textbook. I am trying to ignore the textbook. The textbook is trying not to be ignored, and is, as far as I can discern, going to great lengths to continue to be white and immobile in the most attention-grabbing, flamboyant and irritating way possible. And I think it's winning.

Anyway, this and an all-day event yesterday are the reasons why I did not write individual posts for days 22 and 23. So, before I begin studying and/or sneezing again, here are the short versions of the new things for the past three days:

September 27, day 22: I learned the word "entrepĂ´t." It is French in origin, and means 'a trading port.'

September 28, day 23: I went zip-lining. It was a blast, and I loved it. Unfortunately, it only served to exacerbate the cold germs which currently reside inside my body.

September 29, day 24: I applied to become an admin on a Facebook page. The page is called "Stay Strong," and it's a lovely community for teens struggling with depression, bullying and/or self-harm. I've been a fan of it for a while, and I just have a strong desire to make the world a better place by helping these people maintain the awesome online support community they've built. (Before you start worrying about me, I just want to let you know that I personally am not depressed or anything, but cannot help but have empathy for those who are).

Now I am in bed, recovering slowly and trying to get homework done. I am beginning to have fantasies about mailing the good-natured, albeit very vocal small dog under my window to a nice, warm place that is far, far away, where he can yell at squirrels and chew bones such that his canine heart may overflow with contentment without making my fevered head pound in agony.

Hope you had a splendiferous weekend. Is that a word? It is now.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 21

Today, I saw the first episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." It's set in the Marvel universe, and was basically created because people were really upset when Whedon killed off Agent Coulson in The Avengers (or so I hear). I gotta say, I'm a huge fan of the Marvel movies, and I was especially pleased to learn that Joss Whedon himself played a major part in the creation of this series (even if, like Steven Moffat, he is a massive troll who kills innocent characters in the way that most people slap mosquitoes).

I honestly think the show is off to a brilliant start, and I look forward to the next episode. (I've purposefully avoided giving too many details, just because I have an anti-spoiler policy on this blog).


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 20

Today, in celebration of banned books week, I read the entire list of books that have been banned by various people and organizations, as listed by Wikipedia (so who knows if it's accurate or not, but I'm just gonna go with it). I have read 19 of these books. Also, if any of you can explain to me why Where's Waldo was ever banned, I would actually appreciate it, as I haven't the faintest idea why.

Onward and upwards!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Let me show to you a thing...

So, you know the vlogbrothers?

(If the answer to this question is 'no,' please take a moment to watch this video. After you've seen it at least once, you may rejoin us for the rest of this post. Thank you for your cooperation).

Let me try again.

So, you know the vlogbrothers? (And you say, "yes, I do," and I nod at you encouragingly and we can now continue).

Well, the wife of our dear John Green, Sarah Green, is starting this wonderful, amazing, fantastic project that I am just like ASDGFHJAKSFDASLDKHJAS about. Please watch this brief, explanatory video to be sufficiently enlightened:

Isn't that just wonderful!? This is exactly the sort of thing I adore. (Well, I mean just look at Project 365 New Things). God, I love the whole Green family :')


Project 365 New Things: Day 19

Today, for the first time ever, I watched (wait for it): Friday, by Rebecca Black.

Now, before you balk, let me stress that being the pop-cultural hermit that I am, I had actually never seen it before, only heard about it. I decided to make today's new thing something that I would never, never do if I weren't going out of my way to try something that is as yet an alien sensation to me. And it was every bit as awful as I expected. Honestly, I don't know why I do these things to myself.

That being said, I do not condone the obnoxious negative behavior that people tend to engage in when discussing this video. Yes, the song is poorly written. Yes, the artistic direction of the video isn't very good. Yes, the song is out of sync with the lips of Rebecca Black, who is not very good at singing in the first place. But I think that celebrity culture-- in which the majority of a population chooses a random person and elevates them to an insanely high status that they may or may not deserve-- can make us forget that behind that microphone and under that stage makeup, a real, live person with wants and hopes and fears lives and breathes.

We put people up on pedestals for two reasons: so that we can tear them down, and thus feel better about ourselves, or so that we can create a (false) image of perfection, thus making that perfect ideal something tangible and attainable (at least in our heads). By 'fictionalizing' real people and turning them into celebrities, we are able to explore who we are by comparing ourselves to that other person. This can sometimes be a dangerous thing, because we imagine them as, well, perfect-- or at least, only as perfect as we want them to be in our imaginations. Because (spoiler alert) celebrities are just human, that can be unhealthy for both the fan and the famous person.

Now, I'm not saying that comparing oneself to someone else is necessarily a bad thing, conceptually speaking. It's very important for humans to learn from other humans, because one of the main reasons that we are so successful as a species is that we are very social, and share knowledge with one another. Before the age of newspapers and radio, people compared themselves to people that they actually knew, and so these comparisons, by virtue of their nature, did not rise to the level of obsession that comparable comparisons do nowadays (yes, I'm looking at you, Tumblr).

This was because it would be pretty awkward to obsessively follow around someone you know in real life because a) seeing as you know them in real life, you've perhaps seen examples of their faults thrown into sharper relief, and b) wouldn't it be awkward if they came to your house and saw all those swimsuit photos of themselves plastering your bedroom walls? But because we don't actually know celebrities, it's easy to imagine them the way we want to. This becomes unhealthy when we forget that they are real people and either start bashing them in ways we would never do to people we know, or start making ourselves miserable by believing that we can never be as physically attractive or talented as the idea of that person that we've cultivated in our minds is.

Perhaps I'm getting a bit too philosophical over what is really just a bad music video, but that's what I took away from this experience, and so that's what's going on this blog. Deal with it.

Hope your day was filled with pretzels and/or other lovely things,


Monday, September 23, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 18

I am about to collapse from fatigue, so I'll keep this brief. No, seriously, I'm engaged in an active battle with my eyelids, who insist that they want to set down their burdens and extend across my eyes, thus shrouding me in darkness and making it difficult to type. And I think they're winning.

Today, at the suggestion of Drew, I listened to several songs from a band called Walk Off the Earth. They're really creative and quite talented. Here's one of their covers:

Now, as I was listening to these awesome people, I remembered that I had, in fact, heard their cover of "I Knew You Were Trouble" a while ago. But I'm going to count this as a new thing anyway because that was a long time ago and I didn't know it was them at the time and it was only one song AND I'M BLOODY TIRED, OKAY?

As always, I'd love to hear any suggestions for things to try or challenges that you've been working on for the project, if you're one of the few who are following along.

Sweet dreams, lovelies :)


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 17

Today's new thing: I did about three and a half day's worth of Spanish homework in roughly five hours. Yeee-haw. I'm not saying that this is particularly exciting. I'm saying that it's new. I don't think I'll be doing it again if I can help it, though.

I suppose the main thing I'm learning as I do this project is that finding interesting new things to try is challenging when one has a busy life, but worth it. Sometimes, you just need to appreciate what you're able to do and not fret over what you're not able to do. Occasionally, that means accepting a somewhat boring 'new things' challenge and moving on. Drew and I were just talking about how lucky North Americans are to have access to such wonderful educations, and so I'm doing my best to appreciate what I have in that regard, even when the going gets tough.

Also, in a break from the crazy studying that happened today, I wrote an article about synesthesia, which, in addition to being a condition that I have, is a scientific interest of mine. The article was linked on The Young Synesthetes Association's page, and, as you can probably see, right beneath the header of this blog.

Looking forward to getting a reprieve from my weekend break so that I can go back to Young Company workshops tomorrow. My parting words for all of you are: Take life head-on in a confrontational stance, brandishing an umbrella threateningly if needed.

And now: To whatever adventures await! In my case, this adventure is getting a good night's sleep. Adieu!


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 16

I went to the Renaissance Festival today with five of my good friends. We had a blast, and while I was there, I did today's new thing: I played a kind of musical instrument called a bowed psaltery. Here's a picture:

They were selling these at a booth (the Unicorn Strings Music Company, if you care to check them out). I'd never played one before, but I just really took to it, and I began making up songs on it. The man was very nice to me and let me play it for a while. I absolutely loved it-- it sounds kind of like a bowed harp. 


Friday, September 20, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 15

Today, I climbed a tree and put my ear next to the trunk so I could listen to a woodpecker rhythmically searching for food above me. I was surprised at how well the sound carried through the wood, as the bird was easily 20+ feet above me and I could hear the pecking sound descend down the trunk to my ear, as if through a naturally grown tin-can telephone. The sun shining through the leaves was beautiful, and almost exactly the color that I hear G Major in. And that's really all there is to tell. It was just a lovely, spontaneous thing to do in the midst of a day filled with studying and work.

Good night, lovelies!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 14

Disclaimer: Today's new thing may not seem all that exciting to you, but it is a big deal to me. So deal with it.

As most of you have doubtless deduced by now from reading this blog, I am about as coordinated as an intoxicated housefly. As you also undoubtedly know, I am part of a Shakespeare company that I have been rhapsodizing in great detail as of late. I am absolutely loving it, but it is incredibly physically demanding. We do several warm-up exercises that leave me with the general feeling that I have been liberally coated in meat tenderizer. However, the more I do these exercises, in general, the easier they become. Except for (wait for it): The headstand.

Yes, just lean back in your chair and picture it for a moment: A lanky blonde, clad completely in black, surrounded by reasonably coordinated people as she desperately flails like an aerial starfish in an attempt to create a mere, pale shadow of their success, falling over a lot in the process. That blonde is me. During the first day, I couldn't even get my feet off of the ground. BUT. Today --and this is where the new thing comes in-- today, I GOT BOTH FEET OFF THE GROUND. AT THE SAME TIME. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. Now, I didn't manage to a) do a complete headstand, or b) keep the aforementioned feet in this position for more than the count of three, BUT. Progress was made. I found (more or less) my 'balance point,' which is apparently an important element of a satisfactory, non-lethal headstand.

I will keep practicing this at home, but I will avoid doing so right next to my book case again, as tonight I nearly knocked it over as my blonde head went sailing through the air on an unexpected journey towards the Earth's core. Fun stuff.

As always, comment what you've done today if you're doing the project too, and feel free to leave any ideas for new things that I could try.

Farewell for now.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Days 12 and 13

It has been a long, long, long (yet very wonderful) two days. Hence the lack of posting. I assure you that I did do a new thing both yesterday and today; I just couldn't find the time to post about it between homework, sister's birthday celebrations, and rehearsals.

September 17th: I attended my first rehearsal with STC's Young Company. It was physically demanding, very difficult, and mentally and emotionally challenging. I loved it. I LOVED it! I can't even begin to tell you how much I learned about acting just from that first rehearsal. As far as I can tell, the other people in the company are enthusiastic, intelligent and curious individuals, and I look forward to getting to know them all better. I pretty much want to live there. Which I will basically be doing until May, because the rehearsals are four nights a week, probably with more to be added. So it's all good!

September 18th: I took the Metro alone, which I had actually never done before. My mother was way more worried about it than I was. To the best of my knowledge, I was not harassed, killed, kidnapped or relieved of my worldly possessions, so I'm going to say I was pretty successful.

I am exhausted, but content. And so, dear readers, I bid you good night.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Enough To Make The Most Hardened Azalea Beat its Wooden Fists and Wail "WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!"

I am a huge fan of botany. I just love learning about plants and the cool ways that they do things, not to mention their intricate medicinal qualities, methods for achieving homeostasis, and amazing external features. I am also a big fan of philosophy and literature. So when I was taking notes for my botany homework, this happened:

And yeah, for those who were wondering, this is basically what it's like being in my head. Only it's more brightly colored, noisy, and filled with confused fictional characters walking around, getting into arguments and bumping into things. All in all, it's even stranger and more random than the notes that you just read. (*cough*Bonus points to the reader that can find the subtle Shakespeare reference in the paragraph in the photo.*cough*)


Project 365 New Things: Day 11

Today, the Shakespeare program that I had been so long anticipating was postponed because of the shootings in DC. It starts tomorrow instead, and honestly, I'm not so much disappointed as I am grateful to be safe today. I'm praying for everyone affected by this horrible emergency. I have asked Jesus to comfort and keep alive those who have been wounded.

For today's challenge, I learned how to drive a forklift. Or, at least, after reading the WikiHow article containing this information, I know the theory. Here, in my own words, is a summary of what I learned:

1. Driving a forklift is nothing like driving a car. Driving a forklift is more like driving a boxy, top-heavy pumpkin in a windstorm through which several cats holding baseball bats are attempting to knock down everything in their paths. Proceed with caution and, if applicable to your area, make sure you earn or steal a licence before trying to drive a forklift.

2. Check the forklift for any damage or espionage-related sabotage before driving it. Make sure you inspect the "hydraulic mechanisms and tire conditions" very carefully, as it is extremely important that they are functional. I don't know about you, but I predict that this would be the downfall of my forklift driving career, as I know slightly more about mechanics than your average blind dog from 13th century Russia does. As far as I can tell from guessing, a 'hydraulic mechanism' might have something to do with water.

3. It is a good idea to read the manual. If my lack of knowledge about the hydraulic-thingy-whatsits was going to be a problem, this recommendation most certainly will be as well. I am, always have been, and always will be an autodidact. This has occasionally caused me some problems in the past, but overall, it's worked very well for me and I think I'll stick with it. I hope that manual didn't have anything important to say.

4. Pay attention to the size and shape of the object you are lifting. Make sure you have the right kind of fork attached to the front of your wobbly vehicle. Check the work environment for obstacles, including but not limited to: dirt, plastic bags, people, plants, ponies, blenders, speed bumps and clams. Only lift the object high enough to lift it off the ground. I was kind of disappointed by this last rule, because that pretty much leaves no possibility for trick and/or gymnastic lifting, as far as I can tell.

5. The forklift is operated by several levers and knobs that control the height of the fork and the speed of the vehicle. Try practicing with sandbags or otherwise boring objects before trying to lift anything or anyone important.

I think I'm set for a fork-lifting career now. Let me know if you want me to lift anything for you!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 10

Today I gave a flower to a stranger, and it's safe to say that I've never done that before. I was at church, and I picked a flower from my family's plot at our community garden. I gave it to an older lady I didn't know. It was just a very simple way to make someone else happy.

In other news: I spent the day with Elizabeth watching Galaxy Quest and discussing fanfiction, Doctor Who, and Welcome to Night Vale (since yesterday, I'm now on episode 10 and harboring a strong desire to move to the small, desert hamlet in which the podcast takes place, not least because I want to see Carlos's perfect hair for myself). I read several of Shakespeare's sonnets this morning. I cleaned my room. Yes, you read that right.  I actually cleaned it. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. I, Maddie, cleaned. My. Room. Young Company starts tomorrow. If, wherever you are, you hear a faint, high-pitched squeal, I assure you that it is not because your computer or any of your other electronic devices are malfunctioning. What you are hearing is pure excitement leaking out of my ears in a highly-concentrated, gaseous state. It's a bit loud. I will put on earmuffs if it is bothering you.

And that, friends, is basically what's going on with me right now. I hope your weekend was, if not altogether enjoyable, at least somewhat satisfying.

Until tomorrow!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 9

Today, at the urge of Elena and Elizabeth, two of my favorite humans and both good friends of mine, I listened to the first episode of a new podcast that I had never heard before. It's called "Welcome to Night Vale."

The words that come to mind as I try to describe this podcast are as follows: Weird. Random. Dark. Hilarious. Slightly creepy. Wonderful. Basically, the premise is that it's a newscast for a small town in the middle of a desert. It is very hard to predict what the narrator will announce next in his deadpan, calm radio voice. He will announce the discovery of a house that, contrary to all appearances, does not exist in the same tone of voice that a man would use to ask his wife to buy milk at the store. These "news bulletins" will start out very normally, say, with the announcement of a new dog park. And then the newscaster will inform us that there is a "no dogs allowed" rule in said dog park, and that in fact, no people are allowed either, due to the presence of several hooded figures whose origin is as yet unknown, because no one has the courage to come close enough to do much investigating. We are not to look at, go to, or even think about the dog park for this reason.

Basically, it's dark and hilarious and I am absolutely in love with it.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 8

And now for today's actual challenge: I helped my good friend Joseph earn his Eagle Award by being a volunteer for his project. I am counting this as a new thing because I have never volunteered for someone's Eagle before.

His project is refurbishing old, rusty furniture at an adult day care center. Incidentally, this day care center is located in the same government building as the auditorium that my former and much beloved theater company, the Homeschool Theatre Troupe, does its performances in. I have wonderful memories associated with that building (and so does Joseph, as he's in HTT as well), so it's awesome that he decided to do his project there.

We got a lot of work done, and the furniture looks much better after being cleaned and rust-proofed. Joseph is coming back to finish it up on Monday, but unfortunately I can't volunteer that day, as I will be in a rehearsal then.

Looking forward to tomorrow, mostly because that means one fewer day that I have to wait until Young Company starts. No one has yet invented a word that describes the wild joy that I feel because I get to do this.

As always, comment any suggestions for a new thing that I could do for this project, and let me know what you've done if you're following along!


Project 365 New Things: Day 7

Yes, I know, I'm a day late. Sue me. In my defense, day 7's new thing wasn't done until it was technically day 8.

Last night, I saw the Shakespeare Theatre Company's rendition of a Shakespeare play that I'd never seen before: Measure for Measure. It was pretty good, but I feel like the director overemphasized the, er, bawdy nature of the text way too much. (All I'm going to say about this is that as an intelligent and observant human being, I can tell that the setting is a 1920s stripper club without the presence of: a) enough actual cigarette smoke to make even my non-asthmatic lungs gasp in vain for sweet oxygen, and b) actual strippers). However, that being said, once the awkward, scantily-clothed, tobacco-infused pre-show was over and the actual play began, things started to look up. The set design was just beyond incredible. The acting was fantastic. And the writing wasn't half bad, either. ;)

(Disclaimer: if you are younger than about 15, I would not recommend even reading this play until later. STC's interpretation was one thing, but to be fair, the actual text invites quite a lot of innuendos and 'adult' situations. It is, of course, full of beautiful language and it has an interesting plot. However, think of this play sort of like a 16th century cousin to Looking For Alaska: a brilliant, eye-opening read that explores the human condition, albeit a read that must be swallowed along with a certain amount of wordiness).

One of the best things about seeing this play was that I got to meet several members of STC's Young Company, and they're all just really wonderful people, as far as I can tell from our brief time together last night. For those who don't know, I was accepted to this acting and educational program earlier in the summer, and I'm pretty much over the moon about it. We start this Monday and I am trying not to explode from joy and anticipation. I am just really honored and lucky to be working with what I can tell will be an amazing group of teachers and students.

Today's post will be posted later today, as per usual.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Gentlemen and/or people who find fashion boring: please enjoy this vlogbrothers video while I discuss things of a girly nature with the other readers. Thank you.

And now that it's just us girly-girls here, I would like to discuss some tips and tricks regarding the concept of fashion. Yes, it is true that I identify as a nerd. However, do remember that this is just a label. I also enjoy many things that don't fit this stereotype, such as outfits, backpacking through the wilderness, makeup, hairdos, terrible romantic comedies in German, training animals, dancing, etc. My point: real people are much more varied and infinitely more three-dimensional than either the labels they use to identify themselves or the stereotypes that they are often forcibly crammed into. And so, without further ado, a fashion post.

Firstly, a method for making ponytails more interesting.

I like this style because: a) it's easy, b) I'm lazy, c) it looks good, d) it's versatile, and e) I'm really lazy. All you have to do is make a ponytail and then take a section of hair from inside the elastic. Wind that section around the base of the ponytail, keep it in place with bobby pins and/or a barrette, and hey presto, you've upgraded your head.

...Maybe I should delete that last sentence. 'Upgrade your head' just makes me think of, well, this:

But I digress. Don't limit yourself to doing this with just a ponytail, either. Try it with a side and/or low ponytail, the ends of pigtails, a bun, the end of a braid, etc. Here are some pictures of the wrap, if you're having trouble visualizing it:

And yes, that is a picture of a sci-fi character in a 'fashion' post. That's how we roll here on Rembrandt and Rubber Ducks. Have I made my point yet? ;)

(A note for Whovians: the ponytail wrap is actually what Jenny wears. Just throwing that out there for those of us who cosplay as her).

A second fashion thingy: Belts. As I'm sure you're aware, a cool belt can be a great way to spice up an otherwise bland outfit. However, if you wish to wear a belt over the waistline of, for instance, a skirt, sometimes there is too much slack on the belt and no way to secure it, as I have yet to encounter a skirt with belt loops. I have, however, found a solution for this: merely slide a small, clear hair elastic onto the belt, and tuck the excess into it. Magic.

A third fashion-y thing: Nails. You know how to keep them trimmed and not broken, because you're a big kid now. But I would like to point out it is a bad idea to keep them painted all the time, regardless of how nice that paint looks. Having paint on your nails all the time makes them dried out, yellowed, and prone to breakage (as I painfully was reminded this week). This is akin to wearing foundation on a daily basis: over time, foundation actually makes acne worse, especially for people who have horrible skin (me). So by covering up that acne with, essentially, cosmetic peanut butter, you're making your problem much worse in the long run.

Also, here's a fun nail design that I sometimes do:

1: Choose two colors that look nice together.

2. Paint one stroke slanted sideways from the base in one of the colors. Repeat this on every finger. (I apologize for the lack of photos). 

3. Once that is reasonably dry, paint another color coming from the opposite corner of the base and going in the other direction.

4. Repeat until the nail is completely painted. Here's how mine turned out:

(Again, note the pendant with Gallifreyan writing. Am I shamelessly beating you over the head with my thesis statement yet?)

One last fashion thing: vintage vintage vintage. I cannot express enough my love for society's current obsession with all things vintage and vintage-inspired. In the words of Justin Timberlake (er, sort of): We're bringin' classy back.

Gentle reader, please remember that this-- and all fashion and physical beautification, for that matter-- is very much overemphasized in our culture at the moment. Remember that makeup, hair and outfit designs are loads of fun and an awesome way to be artistic, but they're not a necessity when it comes to being happy with the way we look. Take it from me that there is nothing more classy or more hot than an aura of confident intelligence, and it doesn't matter how much lipstick you put on that. And (as I have hopefully repeated often enough in this post that you are now rolling your eyes at the fact that I am typing it yet again)-- say it with me: labels are just labels, and it is possible to be a nail-polish-loving, stylish nerd. Or a sports-loving nerd. Or a cheerleader/astrophysicist. You get the idea.



Project 365 New Things: Day 6

Today, like the true Girl Scout that I am, I learned what to do in case of a flood. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, live in an area where this is a serious concern, but I figure the more I know about everything ever, the better off I'll be in this life. And it occurred to me that if the skies suddenly opened up and dumped an ocean on my home town, I honestly would not know how to handle it, so this most certainly counts for today's challenge.

Did you know that fires are the most common concern after a flood, because power and gas lines may have gotten messed up? In retrospect, I suppose that makes perfect sense, but while I read it I couldn't help but think that that's sort of like worrying about a drought if you're a mermaid and you live in a coral reef.

Basically, the recommendations if you're caught in a flood are fairly obvious: get to high ground. No duh, Sherlock. Do not try to wade, walk, drive or swim through a flooded area, because the current may be strong and it may be deeper than it looks. When entering a building, wear thick-soled shoes, carry a battery-operated flashlight and look out for wildlife, fire hazards, broken electrical lines and signs that the building may collapse. If you're in a car, do not try to drive around a flooded area if you can help it. Turn around and find a different route rather than driving through a flood.

Remember this information. It might save your life one day, dear reader. And then you'll thank me for this somewhat boring post.

As always, comment suggestions for things that I could try or an account of your own exploits today (or a link, if you are Cassandra). Until tomorrow!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 5

Long day today. My adventures included making ad hoc cookies, carrying home a dog, and wondering via spontaneous song what lunar dust tastes like. But, more importantly, today I invented a new kind of ice tea for my fifth new thing.

Now, a bit of background.

I actually have many strange and somewhat useless hobbies/skills. These include such things as being able to catch escaped crickets like a ninja, interpreting the body language of geckos and playing a mean game of Pacman. The useless skill that has relevance in this situation, however, is my ability to make tea out of fresh ingredients. I have an absolute mania for tea. I took this obsession to the next level by planting a tea garden, in which I grow several kinds of mint, lemon verbena, and stevia (a plant that is used as a natural sweetener).

And now, the recipe for my new kind of ice tea:

Fresh mint (I used chocolate mint (yes, such a thing exists), pineapple mint, garden mint, spearmint, and a type called Kentucky Colonel).

Stevia leaves

Two black tea bags


Vanilla extract

I heated up some water on the stove, chopped up all the leafy things and put them in a tea ball infuser, and put it in the boiling water. I added the two prepackaged tea bags, some honey, and just a tiny bit of vanilla (do NOT overdo the vanilla with this one). I let it steep, put it in the fridge and iced it. It was actually really delicious.

As always, let me know about what you've been doing and share any ideas with me, if you feel so inclined.

Until tomorrow!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 4

Today I learned how to mend a broken nail with a tea bag. Now, before you tell me how hopelessly boring a skill this is, let me assure you that it was out of necessity rather than just for fun. Ouch. I had so much work to do today that I decided just to count that as today's challenge, because I actually hadn't done it before.

Basically, you cut a nail-sized piece out of the tea bag mesh, glue it onto the nail (I used a glue stick, as I am truly lazy), and then put on clear nail polish to keep it on. And it actually worked pretty well.

And then, because I am truly talented in the art of hurting myself, I topped it off with a Sesame Street band-aid, because yesterday I cut myself a knife bit me. I am actually really happy about the artistic content of my band-aid, and have been wearing it with pride and joy. Why don't big people get cool band-aids anymore!? I'm going to go to the store and buy a whole box of princess and/or Sesame Street band-aids the next chance I get.

And now, I have a special announcement.

My good friend, who is calling herself Cassandra for the purposes of the blogging world, has been following along with the challenge for the past couple of days. If I can speak for her for a moment, she has really been enjoying it. She decided yesterday to start her own blog, so that she can record her own 365 new things as well as opinions and thoughts and other bloggy material. Please check it out! Her url is I'm just pleased that other people are invested in this too, and it's not just me being crazy :)

I've got some ideas for tomorrow. Stay tuned! :)


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 3

So today, I kind of hit a wall. I'd spent the whole afternoon doing Spanish, and when I decided to take a break to do today's challenge, I could not think of a single thing that I could do. I didn't have the energy to cook something, I didn't have time to memorize a Shakespeare sonnet, I was at home rather than in a densely populated area and in possession of a bouquet of tulips, etc.

So I wandered around the house, looking for inspiration. Out of pure desperation, I picked up a bag of sidewalk chalk, determined to do something, anything with it that I had never done before.

After a fruitless Google search (did you know that you can use sidewalk chalk for the monumentally boring task of polishing silverware?), on impulse I ran into the bathroom, filled up the sink, and tossed in the chalk, just to see if it would float. It did not. I then ran downstairs to the microwave, and an astounding quantity of nothing happened after I heated up the chalk in it for ten seconds. Then I picked up a crayon so that the chalk could have mimed epic art supply battle, but they just ended up becoming friends and doing a dance on the kitchen counter. I then decided that the noble thing to do would be to give up, because I was clearly and unmistakably showing the signs of a textbook case of 'getting absolutely nowhere with these shenanigans.'

So I went into my room and decided to write a poem using the first line of the first ten songs that came onto my iPod when I shuffled my songs. Here is the result:

There's a fog upon L.A.
We made love all day
I'd like to be under the sea
Have a bit of me and a whole lot of you
Sun is shining in the sky, there ain't a cloud in sight
Haven't seen you since high school
She's not a girl who misses much
There'll be girls across the nation that'll eat this up
Cecilia, you're breaking my heart
No, I can't take one more step towards you.


I apologize for the lack of interesting content today. I will do something much more interesting tomorrow! As always, if you're following the project, comment your challenge for today, and if you have any ideas for me, please oh PLEASE comment those as well.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 2

I did an art!

I've seen this done a couple times, and I've desperately wanted to try it for a while. I used my hot glue gun to place the crayons on the canvas, and then I took a hair dryer and melted the crayons. Things learned: use newspaper underneath. Pink doesn't like to do as it's told. Don't overdo it with the hairdryer. And no matter how hard you try, the colors won't melt in exactly the way that you want them to, though the end result is probably prettier than you could have imagined. I am vaguely aware that this last observation, with a bit of tweaking, could become a rather soppy and rainbow-y metaphor for life, but I've decided not to bother too much with that one.

Now, I want to know: does the art look better like this:

Or on its side, like this?

By the way, if you're doing the project too (I know a few of you said you were going to), go ahead and comment what you did for a particular day on my corresponding post! I'm honestly having a ball with this project so far, and I'd love to hear what all of you have been up to.

Yours in spontaneity and rainbow-y-ness,

Friday, September 6, 2013

Project 365 New Things: Day 1

Today I was very busy getting world history homework done, but I managed to take out some time to do today's challenge.

I learned how to say the word "bird" in three languages that I didn't already know it in: Finnish (lintu), Polish (ptak), and Dutch (vogel).

Now, if I'm ever stranded in France, Spain, Germany, Finland, Poland or The Netherlands, and I simply MUST procure a pet bird, I'll know how to get what I need. I feel so accomplished! ;)

I'm totally psyched about this project! A bunch of my friends on Facebook said that they were going to try it, too. My evil plan is working...

Looking forward to tomorrow. I've got a Girl Scout reunion (yay!), and I've already got a few ideas for a challenge that I could do.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

365 New Things

Recently, I was thinking about how to make the world a more interesting place. I thought that a good way to bring this about would be if every person on the earth did just one thing each day that they'd never done before. This thing could be anything, from going to a new country to taking a shower with the lights out.

I thought about this some more, and then I realized that since I am the only person in the world who I can completely control, I would do it myself. So, beginning tomorrow, for the next year, this blog will focus primarily on this project I have decided to attempt. I'll still keep posting the usual content, but every day, starting tomorrow, I will write about the new thing that I tried for the first time that day.

This should be interesting. I look forward to September 6th of 2014. I can't wait to find out about all the things I did, and if I actually stayed on task and finished the project.

I'd love to hear any thoughts about this. Also, I'm open to ideas of new things I could try each day.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

How To Be Classy and Aloof Without Getting Kicked Out of Public Places: A Guide

Many of the thousands of my adoring fans often ask me how I manage to be so suave, so classy, and so spiffing. They plead with me to tell them how I manage to have such a marvelous air of je ne sais quoi about me, wherever I go. And so, this guide is for you: How To Be More Classy and Enigmatic: A List, By Maddie. 

(Note: the following guide may also be helpful if you wish to enhance your steampunk personality). 

(Another note: if you do not know what steampunk is, firstly, I feel sorry for you, and secondly, nothing is stopping you from going and looking it up).

(Yet another note: in this post, I'm kidding a lot of the time. Please don't arrest me or actually adopt a pet raven).

1. Stop using predictable colloquialisms. When Humphrey Bogart bade farewell to Ingrid Bergman in The Maltese Falcon, did she get into that plane, look down at him for the last time, and say 'YOLO'? No, she did not, and you shouldn't, either. When you text, use full sentences and proper punctuation. No abbreviations. In your spare time, work to improve your vocabulary. Read the dictionary for fun, and make sure that people walk in on you while you do so. Use words like "milieu," "idiosyncratic," and "dirigible" in everyday conversation as much as you can. Learn to enunciate properly. Proper usage of the word 'whom' is a must. And remember, as somebody clever once said on the internet: never underestimate the flirtatious power of a decent vocabulary.

2. Adopt a signature item of clothing. What do Indiana Jones, BBC's Sherlock Holmes, Captain Jack Sparrow and the Tenth Doctor all have in common? They each have a signature item of clothing, of course. A signature item of clothing, be it a hat, a blue scarf, or a trench coat, does not only serve a functional and stylistic role; it gives a person a sort of marker, to identify them from the vastly less interesting members of the human race. While the rest of your personality, motivations and mannerisms may be shrouded in mystery, unpredictability and the exploits derived from your fascinating mind, that signature clothing item gives your followers something predictable and understandable about you. Because people can pin point and understand the fact that Sherlock Holmes wears a blue scarf, the rest of him becomes all the more enigmatic by comparison. Don't chose something loud; I favor a pocket watch, and (when the weather is permissible) a leather trench coat. Subtlety is key here. Unless you are the 11th Doctor (and I imagine that this is a relatively small portion of my readership). In which case, fezzes, bow ties and stetsons are allowed, because you are a lovely man.

3. Read books. I cannot stress enough the importance of this rule. If one is to become truly mysterious and classy, one must be well-read. Read up on the latest news and scientific theories, to be sure, but do not neglect the classics. Make occasional intelligent and obscure literary references in regular conversation, especially if you know that no one in the room will understand them. Develop an opinion about the Oxford comma.

4. Acquire a sidekick or companion. As Sherlock Holmes once said to John Watson, "That's the frailty of genius, John. It needs an audience." You must have a companion who simultaneously understands why you are so misunderstood and who makes you look smarter than they are. It is also helpful to find one who cooks, because, as we geniuses know, one can become so involved in research or experiments that it becomes difficult to remember to eat regularly.

5. Move into a dark mansion with a study and a library. What is more satisfying then saying dramatically "I'll be in the study," slamming a pair of heavy wooden doors, and sinking into a leather chair behind a desk in a room walled by book shelves to have a good, old-fashioned, solitary brooding session? Oak furnishings, candles, quill pens, leather-bound books, bronze or iron accents, obscure objects from around the world, large and impressive oil portraits of historical people and oriental rugs are a must. 

6. Develop a side interest. These days, every decent genius has a side interest, it seems. One must have something to do whilst unwinding from a long day of scheming, experimenting, or adventuring. Do not chose the violin, as that has been done before. Beekeeping, composing, breeding goldfish, taxidermy, gardening, creating different blends of tea, collecting antique maps and horseback riding are all suitable options. Remember: your side interest cannot be too closely related to your main work, be that research, armchair adventuring, airship captaining, exploring distant regions, political scheming, etc. I repeat: a small touch that humanizes you can make the rest of you seem all the more mysterious by comparison.

7. Have excellent hair. The Tenth Doctor. Princess Leia. Albus Dumbledore. Need I say more?

8. Learn to read people. Though some of you may accuse me by now of being far too obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, I must stress that the ability to read people is invaluable and should not be viewed exclusively in the narrow light of the Holmes universe. It is not only a survival skill, but it helps one get a better grasp of social situations-- and being reasonably socially adept is essential if one wishes to be classy. The best way to learn these skills? Sit on a park bench and watch people for a day. Write down observations in a notebook. You'll learn more than any psychologist or Conan Doyle novel could tell you. A note: do not walk up to people, introduce yourself, and begin to deduce them out loud. This only serves to create social tension, resentment and awkwardness. And that, as I'm sure you've picked up by now, is not behavior exhibited by the truly classy. Also, if you behave in an off-putting manner, this will not only create the uncomfortable environment I have just mentioned, but it will rob you of further opportunity to learn about that person.

9. Things to do: Be somewhat solitary without being a recluse. Learn your manners. Use sarcasm and deadpan humor discreetly and infrequently, but to great effect. Drink lots of tea. Wear sunglasses. Keep a journal, and perhaps call it a 'log.' Don't call your front yard a 'lawn' or a 'yard.' Call it 'the grounds.' Learn another language. Get a raven or a tame wolf. Invest in a decent set of candelabras.

10. Things to avoid: Don't speak in an accent unless you can definitely pull it off. Act mysteriously and intriguingly aloof, but not rude or off-putting. Whatever you do, DON'T adopt a tagline. 

I hope this guide helps you to achieve your mysterious and misunderstood dreams.