Reality > Photography

Wow. So you know when you forget your password for something and then go to your file where you keep your passwords, only to find that that file is password-protected? Which leaves you trying different combinations of passwords you knew you once used, for a whole month? Yeah. It’s intense. What do I even have that people would want? My inbox is mostly Anthropologie deal alerts and my sister sending me things to print off since her computer doesn’t connect to the printer, for some reason… Moral of the story: too many passwords are too many.

Anyway, to celebrate me getting back into my accounts, I was thinking I would post something super random, like pictures of my trip to Florida that aren’t as Polaroidy as my last ones. They’re just kind of random iPhone shots of things that were pretty/cool/interesting etc. Here we go!

We start at this restaurant in the Everglades which was old and Southern and pristine. I call #1 “Mirror, Sink and Lamp” because I think mysterious titles are best.

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#2. The bathroom. Awkward to use (were Wild Westerners more chill than I am or were the saloon doors uncomfortable for them too?) but classic to photograph.

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Mirrors and bathrooms are also featured in #3. So far it’s all I’ve shown you. But they’re nice, no?

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Outside of the bathroom, we find photo #4. And a little phone booth (still inside the restaurant) with a working rotary phone! How rare! (How sad.) But I liked this phone a lot and I think the darkness suits it, kind of antiqued and tired, like a faded memory.

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#5. In the lobby of the restaurant were all of these bulletin boards featuring newspaper cutouts with the hottest headlines!

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#6 takes us outside. BUT ARE WE REALLY OUTSIDE? Nature or technology? One will eventually rise above the other.

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Now, I understand you wanted to stay at the restaurant a little longer, maybe for some dessert. But seriously, yoga calls (and waddles us over to photo #7). IT’S ONLY $10! Everyone’s going!

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#8. I definitely found a new hobby. Alligator-spotting. I’m not even kidding, I am really good at it. Saw this guy from a mile away. Okay, from the road, but we were going pretty fast…

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An Italian couple we saw dining in a little square called Photograph #9:

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And who we joined for a slice in photo #10:

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I bought this little apron-dress for the trip and was so excited about it that I took photo #11. In a mirror. So many mirrors! Get to the end of the post and see if you can figure out what all these mirrors might mean, regarding truth, etc… but seriously, I didn’t plan this:)

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Then I got excited about the wall in the bathroom – it’s so clean and icy – and took picture #12.

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So, reading these little captions and looking at the pictures, you may be thinking to yourself: WHAT? None of these things are really, specifically Florida (other than the alligator…). So why these photos? Why not the Polaroids, which capture the beachy essence, etc.? Let me tell you.

Besides the fact that I already posted the Polaroids, I think the pictures that you just happen to take on the side of the road, or in the hotel room or in some restaurant you end up spending way to much time in, really characterize any vacation. The tourist shots, they’re shots, photos. Not necessarily memories. I mean, palm trees are my favourite. Like actually, out of everything. My favourite. I’ve taken countless “perfect” palm tree pictures. But the way my palm tree above lined up with the telephone post, it got me thinking, not posing. Reality came first. And that’s how photography and vacations should work. Reality first, photography second. Making memories, then fabricating memories (which sounds worse than it is). But aren’t photographs supposed to show reality, in their essence? Point: vacations might be best enjoyed if they’re spontaneous, like iPhone photos, rather than perfectly planned, the way Polaroids are.

So, real moral of the story: vacations, and maybe photography, need to relax. Even photoshoots, which I love, are sometimes just so… effort…ful. Art needs to chill. It really just needs to not try too hard:)

RJ

FOUND: 14 Winter Clothing Items!

Ooooooh my goodness so close to being done my school year! I’ve actually never had this much work. But I handed most of it in this week so now I FINALLY have time to write something other than a persuasive essay! Now, I’m a little frazzled, so I’m kind of just posting something I’ve wanted to post for a while now, even though it doesn’t necessarily fit with my schedule… But here it is…

SO! Canadian winter is of course brutal even with warm clothing on, but without mittens or hats or… socks? it can get really bad. Which is why I am taking this time to give a shout out to all the cold limbs and digits out there who have lost their winter clothes:( This winter, whenever I saw a lost clothing item and had a camera on me, I snapped a photo of said item and put the photo into a file. But really, there were actually so many by the (official) end of winter a few weeks ago, so I narrowed the collection down to 14 that I think best represent the last four months. Anyway, as you go through, think about the story behind each item. Consider where the person was going, or why they were in such a rush that they didn’t notice or didn’t go back for their mitten… you’ll probably come up with some decent plots! (Most of them really depressing… lost mittens will do that to you). And now, may I present to you, Lost and Found!

In our first photo, the wearer of the hat was just too close to the warm car that he didn’t even care if his hat blew off in the bitter northern wind. WELL HOW DO YOU THINK THE HAT FEELS?

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The classic, “Let me just put my hat down on this bush while I fix my headphones.” *10 minutes later realizes ears are completely frozen*

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Little mini-mitts, alone in the world:

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If you are a Canadian girl, you can recognize that this next one is a TNA mitten. Which only means one thing… the wearer of this mitten just lost $50. Or $25, depending on how you look at it, but still, the point is, this is an expensive mitten to lose track of.

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Yes, folks, this is a pair of men’s socks. I’m really not sure how one can lose a pair of socks; I feel like there’s a lot of effort needed to remove them, let alone continue walking down an icy sidewalk without them on. Maybe the sun was too bright for this person he just forgot about wearing socks altogether. I know some people who would do that.

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If I were seven and believed that gloves with separated fingers would keep my fingers warmer than those with just a hole for the fist and another for the thumb, I might have picked this glove up. Also, you’ll notice these specific poles frequent the photos. I’m telling you, this staircase is a battlefield for mittens. Many do not make it.

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Well wouldn’t you know it! Here we are with the same TNA mitten! A few things to say: first, it is embarrassing that I took a picture of this mitten every Monday and Wednesday for about a month before I realized I had already taken one, or 8. Second: imagine this: they were different mittens. Imagine if someone was purposefully leaving nice warm TNA mittens, one by one, for me to find! Worse, what if someone else was taking them? Why didn’t I think of this when I was passing them by? Third: this staircase (different from the one with the poles) is a pretty hidden place at my school. If you know where it is, you know it well and are taking it multiple times a week. Which makes me think, the person who dropped this mitten walked by it many times afterwards. Which makes me think, THIS PERSON IS AS COLD AS THEIR FINGERS ARE NOW, for consciously leaving the poor mitten to fend for itself!

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Just a little bit of colour in a brown March world:

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Forgotten by one, trampled on by many:

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It’s sort of like sitting under a tree in the summer reading a book… except it’s actually being discarded under a tree in winter with no reading material at all.

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Another pair of socks. But this one looks clean! I’m always losing socks, maybe I should have picked them up. Hey, maybe they’re mine! Tomorrow, I shall revisit the site (not actually).

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Well, this is the saddest thing that I’ve ever seen. Cold, wet, lying in a gutter? A definite low point for this otherwise classy glove. Look! He’s trying to wave… Hello! Little (actually pretty big, but little in his vulnerability) glove: keep your spirits up! These puddles will be melted by the sun soon!

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One of my favourites… two pairs of socks. Look further down the sidewalk… there! There is the other, the little black dot! I’m really wondering what happened here. I think someone had a hole in their laundry bag.

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And, my all-time favourite lost winter clothing item picture, below. This one was clearly staged for those of us who needed a little wave in our times of trouble, and homework (synonymous). Which makes me think… were all of these staged? Was someone walking in front of me, leaving a trail of mittens and hats and socks so that I might make it through the winter? To my guardian angel who has read Hansel and Gretel one too many times, and is very cold now… thank you for guiding me through the toughest season of all:)

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So there you have it! If only I could share all of my photos… honestly though, after 50 mittens they start to look the same, so I’m sparing you. But the point is, there are so many lost and discarded stories that we miss every day, because we’re so focused on what’s ahead. The moral here: look down to warm up in winter. Stories are lining the sidewalks.

RJ

My Favourite Overall Moments (Moments of Overalls) Through the Years

When is March going to be over?! I cannot stand writing this many essays! But I enjoy wearing overalls. So I’ll talk about that instead.

Last summer, I decided overalls were missing from my wardrobe, so I bought a few pairs (not too many though, they’re so expensive!) and I absolutely love them. They are SO versatile, SO no-hassle and SO comfortable. Overalls are a win-win-win. Maybe even a win-win-win-win because they have such a great history. Want to explore it? Great! Come along!

I’m not going to go too far back because, well, it’s just too much to talk about overalls in the Ice Age. Even though they were big. But we can still go a little further back than Justin Bieber’s HORRIBLY EMBARRASSING overall stint with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (Picture to come… if I can bring myself to include it). Anyway, what I’m going to do is list my favourite overall moment from each decade starting with the 1930’s. Note: these are my favourite overall moments, not my favourite moments overall:) Let’s begin!

1930’s

Here we begin with the classic and superbly frightening painting by Grant Wood, American Gothic (1930):

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wikipedia.org

You see? The man is wearing overalls. Now, not only does this represent the most prominent presence of overalls in farm culture, it represents the presence of overalls in art! I know, the overalls are not the centre of attention in the painting nor are they meant to be (at least I don’t think so…) but still, almost half of the painting is devoted to the subjects’ apparel, and thus a lot of work went into those overalls. Look at the detail: the wrinkles, the faded look of the denim, the yellow-orange stain on the front pocket… the overalls are definitely not an accident, and they are definitely making a transition from the farm to the art gallery here. Also, the wife looks like a stretched-out Laura Linney.

1940’s

Hello, Rosie the Riveter!

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wikipedia.org

In this iconic Norman Rockwell painting Rosie the Riviter (1943) we have, of course, Rosie the Riveter, the symbol of working women during WWII and more broadly, feminism and the entrance of women into the economy! The painting, originally featured on the May 29, 1943 cover of the Saturday Evening Post, uses overalls in a big way. The overalls are taking the idea of work from the male farm culture that we saw in American Gothic and giving it to the women! The overalls serve as a representation of women stepping into the traditionally male roles in the world. Altogether, overalls are very inspiring in this painting!

1950’s

James Dean is so gorgeous:

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You see here he’s wearing overalls (really well) in East of Eden (1955), and beginning to combine their work-only status with film and also with fashion! I mean, he is iconic not only as his character Cal, but also as himself, James Dean. People looked, continue to, and will likely always look up to him as a fashion icon, and here he is, sporting overalls in what I think makes a great fashion photo and possibly introduces overalls into fashion for the first time.

1960’s

They certainly have confidence in themselves in this classic:

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Ok, not quite overalls, but very possibly better. LEDERHOSEN! Thank you, Friedrich and Kurt in The Sound of Music (1965) for restoring my confidence in young men and their ability to wear overalls successfully after, you know, what the Biebs did. On that note (I promise this is relevant), think about where Justin was… he was meeting Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Okay, I’ll show a picture:

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gawker.com

So. Kind of disgracing the country. Now, I know he said that it was at his venue so he didn’t have time to change, and I sort of believe him. But it’s still embarrassing, and I doubt this meeting was completely impromptu, so I think he should have had a backup outfit. It’s not like he wouldn’t have had more clothes backstage and I’m pretty sure he would be able to change costumes quickly anyway because, you know, he does that 10 times every show. Okay, the point of this whole thing is… overalls and national identity. Bieber’s national respect in this scenario? I give it a 1/10, the 1 for showing up. The overalls make an awkward statement about his level of respect towards his nation, regardless of his intentions. But Kurt and Friedrich? Man, they are using overalls to stand up for their country.

In The Sound of Music, Kurt and Friedrich use overalls/lederhosen to not only represent the sort of play and fun and relaxation that the Captain forbids but also, their country! Lederhosen are a symbol of the Von Trapp’s Austrian identity and pride, which is so important in this film where the Austrians, of course, are very strongly encouraged to follow agendas other than that of the edelweiss. Anyway, this is a fantastic musical movie (which I first bought in the early 2000’s in the “New and Hot” section, showing the film’s ability to not only survive but also to remain in demand), and a fantastic use of curtains as clothing (I’ve done it before! Kind of…) and just a fantastic way to live. Definitely my favourite overall moment of the 60’s. Maybe my favourite moment overall…

1970’s

SOS! These outfits are too amazing!

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EEEEEEEE! ABBA! You would not believe the amount of photos of ABBA where at least one of them is wearing overalls. Just google-images them and you’ll see. Anyway, ABBA represented the best of disco music and the best of disco fashion. And here they are, in their best! This still is taken from the video for “SOS” (1975), and it kind of captures the meaning of all of this life stuff. In terms of the actual video, the angles are ground-breaking, the shots of the keys put incredible emphasis on the instruments that we seem to have lost in the last couple years (the emphasis, not the instruments… okay, maybe both) and the Photo Booth techniques are revolutionary. Fine, were revolutionary. They don’t seem that fab now, but let me tell you, Photo Booth was not something everyone had on their Macbook Airs back in the 70’s. At least, they didn’t have all 45 effects that we have now. (Seriously, Apple. Nose Twirl? There are real problems out there. Actually, Nose Twirl is one of them). Anyway! Look down at Agnetha (the blonde one, not the brunette who looks a little like Julianne Moore in this video). Red overalls! Amazing! And they look a little like lederhosen!

Also, look at Benny’s getup in the shot against the white background:

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listen-free-music.com

Do I spot a white jumpsuit? LOVE IT. Overalls have entered pop culture here, drawing inspiration from their Austrian forefathers Friedrich and Kurt Von Trapp!

1980’s

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Well, once the ultimate fashion icon and example of elegance wears them, you know they’re in style. Here’s Princess Diana at a polo match in 1987, wearing these effortlessly classy “dungarees.” For me, this marks the ultimate entrance of overalls into high fashion.

1990’s

Okay, the 90’s are HUGE for overalls! Let’s start with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air!

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Maybe this is where Justin got his one-strap thing? I like the slacker look… but for Will’s character alone. Seriously, Justin, I can’t bring myself to forgive you.

So let’s move on to a group who’s really got it together… ‘N SYNC!

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Remember this? 1998 in France, or so the internet tells me. Anyway, this shot is unreal. A little overwhelming, but definitely worth it.

Finally, the Olsen twins! I’m obsessed with matching, and I always loved Mary-Kate and Ashley, so let’s look through some of their best overall moments, shall we? Like ABBA, these kids wore overalls A LOT.

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Ahh! Too cute! Basically inspired my sense of fashion in the 90’s.

So, the photos from the last decade of the 20th century clearly represent the entrance of overalls into the adolescent crowd! Too exciting!

2000’s

Now, I know I have written at length about Uptown Girls (2003), so I’ll make this quick. Look at Molly’s dress:

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We haven’t seen any overall dresses yet, but they exist! And this photo definitely sparked an interest in them, at least for me. Now, look at the length and the appliqué on the denim; it’s very retro. Which means that overalls were officially a thing of the past in the 2000’s but were, as a result, being used in vintage fashion. This idea of a pair of overalls as a vintage item has carried over a little into the present, but I think overalls are also coming into their own again, at least trying to! Anyway, here we go, into the present…

2010’s

So, there have been many overall moments in the last couple years that I love, but I decided to make a few of my own. As I was saying back in the 2000’s, overalls are sort of coming into their own again. So, I tried my best here to make them their own… but also to draw from the past. See, I took these photos in my grandparents’ fabulous 70’s house, but then I tried to make the overalls classy with a black chiffon shirt and black tights. Also, I tried to make them, you know, not the centre of attention, because I think that’s what they should be. Kind of normal. Like, everyone walking around the street wearing them, taking in their surroundings (in my fun dark lighting) while enjoying their overalls’ comfort and style. At least that’s my dream. Anyway, here the pictures are, and if you want a song to go with this, let’s go with “SOS”, because it’s unreal:) I wish my overalls were as cool as Agnetha’s red ones though:(

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So! The history of overalls, including me! Fun, right? Join in! Go buy some! They’re amazing fashion items. Anyway, this post is mainly to say: don’t forget that overalls were a big part of our past and will, or at least should be a big part of our future! Because they can do great things:)

RJ

P.S. Every time I google-imaged anything that had to do with overalls, this photo came up, and I think it’s really beautiful so I’m going to include it. Also I need this outfit!

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pleasurephoto.wordpress.com

Clothing:

Overalls by Celebrity Pink Jeans; shirt by American Apparel

Painting is Sort of Writing… No?

Okay, so I know I’m supposed to be writing today, but I have been doing SO MUCH writing lately (and not the fun kind! Essays for requirement classes!) so I’m going to show you some of my visual art! I’m inspired to paint, and thus it is happening – who cares about the schedule sometimes, right?:)

Wherever I go lately, the weather seems to be crazy. Global warming. *Sigh.* So to cope, I decided to paint it. The weather. Or rather, the seasons. This is a watercolour painting I am calling “The Seasons Forest”:

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And, because I use napkins to get rid of excess paint, I’m going to show you an Art Outtake here (remember them?)! This one’s called “Excess Leaves” because that’s what these little paint splooshes are: leaves that have fallen from the trees in the main painting, and have happened to create a work of their own.

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It’s a nice metaphor for all excess art, eh? Fallen leaves? So, you should never throw out those newspapers and napkins and paper towels and even clothes that have paint splatters on them; you should rather rake those scraps up and see what kind of pile of art you get! Maybe jump in it afterwards! No, that doesn’t work.

Also, look at the texture in this napkin. I couldn’t find my regular brushes so I used really old ones and they were retaining a lot of water. So, naturally I had to press the bristles down hard to get the napkin to soak the water up, instead of the painting. Looks like a Barbara Reid picture, huh? (LOVE HER). Okay, not nearly as good, I know:)

Let me know what you think of all of this season-changing! (In the paintings or in the world in general:))

RJ

The Trick is to Look Closer

Hello! Alas! It has been too long! Between midterms, illness and Florida I have not been able to write in almost a fortnight! (I’ve been reading a lot of 18th-century epistolary British literature lately). So anyway, let’s ditch those first two, eh? Midterms and illness are gross. They are the bane of humanity. And having them both at the same time? Disgusting. Sorry I’m clearly not ditching. Ditching starts… (I feel sick and I do not like school)… NOW.

SO! Florida! Went with the fam for reading week and, before you get jealous, please be aware that it was freezing. To the point where they were fearing for oranges. And thus I was fearing for my orange juice at breakfast. I wouldn’t settle for anything but freshly squeezed (I read something like that in a Judy Blume book and I actually laughed about it for a year). Anyway, remember how I said the cold kind of affected my Polaroids when I was in Germany? Well, it might have been the same situation in Florida… yes, we are back to Polaroids today, continuing my ever-difficult search for the perfect Polaroid🙂

This Christmas, someone gave me the Impossible Project’s (kind of) new Silver Frame B&W film, even though I decided to boycott IP – by the way I’m totally off that. I’M ADDICTED! The good thing about the film: it was free. The bad thing: it’s risky. I mean, silver frames? Kind of declassicifies everything Polaroid. But, the gift-giver said they had nothing else left at the store, so I inserted the pack into the camera as soon as I got to the beach, and I started shooting. Let’s take a look. Prepare to be disappointed. (WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?)

Most of these photographs are even more frustrating than those in the Germany collection, so I’m not going to write essays on the good and the bad within each because, let’s face it, the good is: they came out of the camera; the bad: they came out of the camera like this. I’m still going to name them though, because that’s fun. Also, I don’t know why my scanner is producing a glare on the left side of the frames – it’s not this way in real life!

Photo #1: Bayshore

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This is called bayshore because it was of a sign that said “Bayshore.” Unfortunately the sea swept this one away, along with three of my dollars.

Photo #2: Umbrella in the Mist

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Look a little closer… no, even closer… there it is! You see the umbrella! Best used to protect your camera from all the sand flying at it.

Photo #3: Standing and Floating Away

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I was really looking forward to a picture of my feet in the sand, but it didn’t happen. It does look sort of cool, but I think it’s too confusing. Rule about Impossible Project film (which will likely not apply to the next 100 pictures because that’s how this works): sand and sea do not show up. Also, shoutout to my sister for taking this picture – I would have taken it of her feet, but her pants were all wrong for the vibe. But really, this picture wasn’t her fault. If anything, she made it what it was. Look at the ones I took. Hmmm. Maybe she should be the one Polaroiding here? Okay, it’s not that good:)

Photo #4: Shoes in the Sky

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It’s kind of like Holes (2003). Except these are Havianas, not Clyde “Sweetfeet” Livingston’s runners. Zero was so cute. I wouldn’t have arrested him. But really, I don’t remember it being this windy!

Photo #5: The Fifth and Sixth Ones Ended Up in France

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Please see Harris Burdick for an explanation. So you know though, there are two chairs in the sand, in the centre of the picture. They’re those long beach chairs that bend under you and keep your shape for the next person who will always compare their size to yours. This one goes to the lovely beach boy (is that a thing?) who let us borrow a hotel towel for the shot. Man, was the awkward conversation worth it.

WARNING: We are about to see some decent photos, including a few ex.tra.ordinary ones if I do say so myself…

Photo #6: Transportation Options

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NOT BAD! Which is the best we can hope for. But really, I like it! The bike rental throws us back to the olden days where Bike Share wasn’t a thing (not complaining, but the US Bike Shares didn’t accept our credit cards so… kind of complaining. Either way, great find here!) Now, while I hated the left side of the photo at first, look closer (the trick to most of these photographs): there’s a car, speeding away! The future is leaving the present to speed back into the past. Dare: figure that out. Love this photo. P.S. Scooters available as well. And they’re the best.

Photo #7: Lifeguard on Duty

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Lovely! But. A subpar Polaroid photographer/blogger once saidsmall font does not show up in Impossible Project photos. She was wrong. Here it is, and it’s the worst thing that any kid could ever read: “Lifeguard on Duty,” followed by all the fun things you can’t do at the beach. Look closer, and read for yourself. Fun sucker. Okay, but I’m not going to get too worked up. I really enjoy this photograph!

Photo #8: The Perfect Septagon

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YYEEESSSS! A winner! See, these are the photos that keep me going, keep me coming back to IP and paying obscene prices for film. Strange that while, very often, photos don’t work out because of the sunlight, this one is actually pointed at the sun, and it’s perfect. I just don’t get it. Also see Wayside School, specifically Mrs. Jewls, for an explanation of the title. (What is it with me and YA references today? Specifically works by Lewis Sachar!) Anyway, great photo! Worth the trip to Florida! Actually. That’s why we all went. To get one decent Polaroid. It’s why I get up every morning, really.

So, that’s the end of that collection, of that run through two photos that made me cry, three that dried my tears and three that, darn it, made me start crying again. But really, what does this all mean? Why do I continue to pour my life into these photographs that on average turn out below average?

I think I know why: to not let go of something classic. Polaroids, they were all the rage. They were the way to see a memory as it was happening and the way to instantly forget all the chaos behind the camera. The white frames gave our stories outlines and the matte yellow and perfectly-speckled insides gave our pasts presents again. Polaroids were a completely unique way of storytelling and the truth is, they are gone. I’m thankful for the Impossible Project, I am; it has allowed me to hold onto something even after it left. But I have to say goodbye now. I have to put the idea that Polaroid film will be the same, out of my head. Because it will not be, and it has not been since 2008 when the Polaroid factory shut down. The truth is, I have a choice: I can hold onto my memories of Polaroid film, the ones that I couldn’t capture with photographs because really, how do you take a picture of the film pack from which your photograph is coming, and I can stop Polaroid photography altogether. Or I can adjust, mostly to the idea of constantly adjusting. I can buy less of the expensive IP film and savour the pictures I do take, trying my best to pin down this crazy Impossible Project and to be thankful for every single photo that ejects, regardless of its quality or of the memories I will have of it.

I’m just watching the segment of the Oscars where they go through the artists we lost in the last year. So you’ll probably be able to figure out that that last paragraph isn’t really about Polaroids. Take it as you will,

RJ

P.S. Back to photography for a moment, read a really great letter right here, written to the Impossible Project by a brilliant writer and photographer who lists things that are wrong with the project and also the things that keep us coming back.

Poet = Kanye West

Def Jam Recordings Kanye McCartney

knowyourname.com

So if you pay attention to music, you know that Kanye West released a new single at the end of 2014 (featuring Paul McCartney<3), and just this week released the music video. But we’re going to focus on the song here. I am kind of the biggest fan.

You see, Kanye’s a poet, and one of the best of this era. He just doesn’t get enough credit as one because, the way I see it, people hear an angry man who’s just going through a phase. And then they don’t listen to what is behind a very purposeful tone and image. But they should, because what lies behind is an incredibly honest, perceptive and hey-that’s-my-life-you’re-describing wordsmith.

Now. The song. “Only One.” Here’s the album artwork:

onlyone_final2

Listen to it here, or watch the video below:

So! What I like about this song? Well, it’s so raw, and it provides access to this deep thinker, this simple Kanye, who is too often overshadowed by genre and haters. To start with, the video strips away the layers of the industry’s expectations and produces just him and what defines him (in this case his adorable daughter who has eyes that seem to know things I don’t.) This idea, however, starts in the actual lyrics of the song. So, as I thoroughly enjoy working through things, lists, manuals, my own projects etc., I decided I would work through the lyrics of “Only One” to show you why Kanye’s poetry is so beautiful and what I specifically got out of it.

“As I lay me down to sleep”

Invoking the old prayer. Already, showing that he kind of gets childhood, and kind of gets wanting to just be tucked in by a mother sometimes. Also, this lullaby-line aligns with the xylophoney sound that singlehandedly backs the track; it’s simple and childish but therefore holds so much meaning. But let’s dig a little deeper into this line. Kanye (I feel like he appreciates the use of his first name more than his last name, so I’m going with that… but if you think it’s at all disrespectful, feel free to copy this into a word document and change it yourself:)) uses the first line of the old prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Except, he changes that first word, from “now” to “as.” My interpretation of it is, he’s not looking at this bedtime routine thing as a moment, but rather a process; now’s last for just a second, but as’s last for a little while. Living in the as. (Don’t go anywhere with that). I think this process informs the whole song. It’s all a process, going to sleep and entering this world where you can talk to what you can’t see, and you can dream about what you don’t know. Which brings us to the next line:

“I hear her speak to me”

So the song is about his mother, who has passed away, and what she is saying to him. Kanye is “laying [himself] down to sleep,” possibly because he has to now that he has grown up, or possibly because he feels like a child again, who is getting a goodnight prayer from his mother. This idea of listening to his mother addresses the “talking to what you can’t see” thing about sleep.

“Hello, ‘Mari, how ya doin’?”

This line actually just makes me want to cry. Note: it’s now his mother speaking, as it will be for the rest of the song. I’m assuming the name Mari is a nickname his mother may have used on Kanye, since his middle name is Omari, and it’s just so beautiful that he still thinks of himself that way.

Also, the “how ya doin?” part sounds like a conversation, so natural in spite of the circumstances.

“I think the storm ran out of rain, the clouds are movin’”

This is poetry. It’s just such a literary way of communicating the age-old idea of “the storm is over.” First, he’s personifying the storm. But while this tool is usually used to build storms up, make them look powerful, he’s using it to make the storm look exhausted, and submissive. It’s genius. Also, keep in mind that this is still his mother speaking, which makes me feel like although she’s in Heaven, she can see the storm. Which makes me feel like those people we’ve lost can still see we’re going through hard times; while they might be perfect themselves, they know we’re struggling. Which makes me feel (sorry, there are lot of which’s and feelings here) like humans and those who have passed away can still see the same things; we just have different perspectives.

“I know you’re happy, cause I can see it / So tell the voice inside your head to believe it”

First, this is, again, a kind of they-can-see-us idea, which I like. But also, there’s a they-can-see-our-thoughts idea, which is frightening, but I don’t think it’s like, they can read our minds (that is, our loved ones who have passed away). I think it’s more like, they still know us and our patterns of thinking; we’re still connected.

“I talked to God about you, He said He sent you an angel
 / And look at all that He gave you
 / You asked for one and you got two”

This is lovely. First, I love that his mother is the link, at the moment, between him and God. And second, she can see his beautiful family life (I actually love that family and the fact that he and his mother see them as angels), and is kind of reminding him how beautiful it is. And third, keep in mind that, although it’s his mother speaking, it’s Kanye writing, acknowledging his life and how thankful he is for it. But again, this is all communicated through his mother. You see? Everything’s connected, everything’s working together.

“You know I never left you / Cause every road that leads to Heaven’s right inside you”

I am sincerely in love with the lyrics “You know I never left you.” Thinking about it in terms of all of us and our losses, it indicates that there was a gap where somehow, things weren’t connected. But then the words “I never left you” tells me that maybe it was our fault. Like, maybe we were the ones who, not forgot, but strayed from what someone we trust thought was best for us, or what we had promised them. But regardless, that person was there all along. Even if we couldn’t see them.

Now, the line, “every road that leads to Heaven’s right inside you” indicates that we can do it ourselves, that is, get to Heaven. As in, while the people who are already there are rooting for us, it’s all up to us to focus. This sounds like a sports interview. Really though, it’s like, we’ve kind of got to go our own way. Even though our loved and lost ones are there for us, even though they might know which paths we should take, those paths might be different than those that they took. And we’ve sort of got to let go of these people to be able to meet up with them later.

“Hello, my only one”

I really like this line because of, yes, “my only one,” but mostly, “hello.” It’s a formal greeting, something you say to someone when you’re meeting them for the first time. Thus, the relationship seems renewed, refreshed.

“Just like the morning sun / 
You keep on rising till the sky knows your name”

I can’t put it into words. Relating your son to the sun, turning something so personal into something so universal. Also, a sense of trying and trying and trying, forever, never giving into the sky’s presence as the most important thing out there. The repeated imagery of the sky and the sky as a connection to Heaven. There, I tried. But I couldn’t do full sentences.

“Remember who you are / 
No you’re not perfect but you’re not your mistakes”

Again, it’s up to us. We’re the ones doing the remembering, they’re only reminding us. Who we are is inside ourselves, not inside those people we love and sometimes, whose deaths seem to define us. Who we are is also not in our actions, especially not in our bad ones. The “no” reminds us not to get too cocky, but still to remember that we are all someone. It’s also about balance here. Not being perfect, not being your mistakes. Being… somewhere in the middle.

“The good outweighs the bad, even on your worst day”

This, I’m not sure about. I would appreciate some explanation on this one. Because I have had those bad days where the good DOESN’T ACTUALLY EXIST. So… maybe it’s different in Heaven? Or maybe it’s just different with Kanye. I can see that.

“Remember how I’d say, hey, hey, one day
 / You’ll be the man you always knew you would be”

This is just so sentimental. “Remember how” implies that she used to, she’s not saying it anymore. Because, I think, Kanye has become the man he always knew he would be, and her job in this regard is done. I don’t really know what he used to think or thinks now, but I know what I think, and that’s it. Now, the interesting thing about this is that, although she says “remember how” and is thus not saying it anymore… she kind of is. It’s a sort of apophasis, except not used for deceit. It’s rather used for an “even though you’re grown up now, I can still show you that you have a future to work towards” purpose. WordPress is underlining apophasis, so maybe that means that you who are not rhetoricians or at least, don’t know you are:) are unaware of this term. Long story short: it’s saying you shouldn’t say something, in order to say it. Like politicians will say “I won’t bring up my opponent’s recent stay in jail” (sorry, random example), in order to make themselves look like they’re not stooping that low, while they are stooping that low. Anyway, all this to say, that’s not what’s happening here. At least, the deceit part of it. I actually think it’s a really nice use of apophasis, sort of a disguising-motherly-advice-as-memory-in-order-not-to-insult-a-grownup’s-indepencence use. Which again, is beautiful on all accounts.

“And if you knew how proud I was
 / You’d never shed a tear, have a fear / 
No you wouldn’t do that”

I love this. I also say that after every line. But seriously, it’s just a reminder not to cry for someone’s death, if that someone is happy for us. It’s also really sad, the “if you knew” part because a), there’s no way to know how proud someone who has died is, or how much they love us, because we’re in different spheres, but b) even when people who are alive tell us that, it’s still impossible to know, because those emotions are not quantifiable. See, it’s always an if, and so we always and will always end up crying and fearing.

“And though I didn’t pick the day to turn the page
 / I know it’s not the end every time I see her face”

A beautiful spin on an overused metaphor (this song seems to do that, rework everything we’ve heard before to make it new). This is the one time Kanye evokes pathos towards his mother. Turning the page, it’s necessary. But the verb “turn” has no subject. Which usually makes us feel like we are the implied subject. But we’re not, we usually are not. The subject is someone else entirely, something else entirely. And she had to discover that too early.

Now, the second part of this is also just beautiful. “I know it’s not the end every time I see her face.” The possibility of it being the end is really interesting, because of course, the speaker here is not on earth. This is really tragic, but I think maybe she’s saying it’s not the end for him. She’s past the end, but when she sees his daughter’s face, she sees him inside her and knows he has a future, in this baby but also in himself. So there’s a mixing of subjects here, which is interesting because it unites what has been separated again. I mean, death is the thing that can ever separate two people, but then this union of those who have been pulled apart blurs that line and kind of shuts down the power of death. Which is always wonderful!

“You got the world cause you got the love in your hands”

Love it. When someone gets to Heaven, I assume, they can see the world and what the world is, what it means. To suggest that the world is love is really beautiful, but to suggest it’s love that one person can hold, produce and receive, that is really powerful.

“And you’re still my chosen one / 
So can you understand / 
One day you’ll understand”

I like this because of, first, the word “still.” Was, always, will be, that’s it. And the next lines. “So you can understand”: there is the possibility of understanding what “chosen one” means, and what everything means. “One day you’ll understand”: it’s not going to happen now.

“So hear me out, hear me out”

You have to listen to be able to hear all this, that’s it.

“I won’t go, I won’t go / 
No goodbyes, no goodbyes / 
Just hello, just hello
 / And when you cry, I will cry / 
And when you smile, I will smile”

This is classic. Kanye’s not necessarily reworking the idea of I’ll-go-where-you-go, but in all of the renewal of ideas, a little classic simplicity is appropriate. Again, throwing us off guard, this time by ironically using something that’s been used millions of times before. (But is nonetheless always super comforting). This line actually reminds me of that scene in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) where Heathcliff is asking the deceased Catherine to “take any form” just as long as she stays with him. The line in the song is kind of an answer to Heathcliff’s wish, because it is someone who has passed on promising to stay, whatever that means. But I think this is a much nicer scene than that in the novel; the latter is a little strange and really intense.

“And next time when I look in your eyes, / 
We’ll have wings and we’ll fly”

This promise that I hold on to, but can never seem to put into words. (Thank you, Kanye). The promise that not only will we look into those eyes of people we’ve lost but also that we’ll all be more beautiful than ever.

“I just want you to do me a favour / 

Tell Nori about me”

Simplicity seems to be like a prayer-sigh in this song. The track starts with a simple recitation, then builds to a really personal and powerful prayer, and finally fades down to one small wish that is now not coming from someone on earth but rather someone in Heaven. The last line, “Tell Nori about me,” is really quite powerful because it represents the ever-present desire to be remembered, even after we’ve gone onto other things. And to not only be remembered, but further to pass something on, especially through generations of one family.

Finally, remember that little prayer at the beginning, “Now” or “As I lay me down to sleep?” Remember the last lines of that, the original? Or at least, the second last line? “If I die before I wake.” The first time I heard this song, I thought it was Kanye speaking here, telling us to tell his daughter about him. (Since one can’t hear quotation marks, I was confused. But… I know that’s on purpose! Mixing subjects again, taking advantage of the medium that relies on sound!) I think that that’s kind of how it works though. I think Kanye himself is echoing his mother’s wish to be remembered, especially by his daughter. And doing it through his song, leaving his legacy.

So, you see all the poetry? Perhaps next time, I’ll talk about the music of the song, because I think it’s quite genius as well (nicely done, PMC (my hip hop name for Paul McCartney)). But let’s just leave it here, focusing on the lyrics. They’re so good. They’re so unreal. Just listen to this song, or at least stare at the words for a few hours, please. Let them marinate in your heart as you listen to that last, stretched-out instrumental bit that sounds a little like gospel after 100 listens. And then let me know what you think about the song?

RJ

Sources:

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Mineola: Dover Publications, 1996. Print.

West, Kanye. “Only One.” Roc-A-Fella, 2014.

Uptown Funk: Dialogue and One-Liners in Uptown Girls!

Welcome to the movies!

So, the other night, my dad and I were deciding what movie to watch, and it was between three: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III. So we went with Uptown Girls (2003), because it was the most classic option. Let’s have a look:

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imdb.com

Now, I haven’t watched this movie in kind of forever, but I remembered it defined the early 2000’s for me so it had to be good for some reason. When we began, I realized it definitely wasn’t for the editing. Transitions are awkward, there are uncomfortable screen silences (my new name for crossfades that are much too long)… okay, mostly just transitions. I mean, there are really meaningful scenes between Molly (Murphy) and Ray (Fanning), but they seem to be consistently interrupted with club music from the next scene or that frustrating band boy’s voice telling someone he’s not ready to commit. So anyway, I knew it wasn’t the editing that got me.

On band boy: just annoying. Not only would he be unbelievably difficult to deal with in real life, but his grasp of music is nonexistent, as is his idea of music videos (although we might have to blame Gooey Huey for that one). And most importantly, he doesn’t fit the movie. My dad argues that he does, because he’s the person on which Molly really practices adulthood, but I think there were other ways to do this or other guys to do this with. Neal just feels… wrong. He’s not an adult himself, and he’s just weird to watch. He can’t decide on a genre of a music, his plot really doesn’t go anywhere… I say go back to band camp. So, not editing, not Neal… lead performances? They are great. Especially little Dakota; she manages to capture the sometimes-cute, sometimes-frustrating precociousness of intelligent children, in her tone and gestures. Also, her representation of hypochondria is intensely accurate. But it wasn’t that. When we had finished the film, I knew: it was the dialogue between Molly and Ray, and their one-liners that kind of define life.

I’ll admit, there are some awkward and out-of-place lines. But the ones that work, really work. So, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite lines from the movie; I included the YouTube clips that I could find, and where applicable, the time frames. Now, without further ado…

1. 

Ray: I had shoes like yours once. When I was five.

This line reminds me of every time I feel like I’m older than I am. Or every time I look at someone my own age or older and I think, “man, I’ve been there.” People always get mad, like, “you haven’t been there because you’re just a Thumbelina.” But the truth is, experiences come at different times for everyone. It’s so hard for me to accept, because I keep thinking “aren’t you a little young,” like Molly, when someone younger than me tells me they’ve been there. Kind of like, “you’re only 8? Well then you don’t know life.” But they do, they know life. In their own way. Also, I love this line because the shot right after it is of Ray’s uptight old woman shoes, and it’s just so funny.

2. 

Ray: When you work for me, you leave when I say you can leave!
Molly: For you information, I do no work for you. I am employed by your mother.
Ray: Oh yeah? Take a look around. Do you see her anywhere? News flash: you’re not gonna. Unless you make an appointment with her assistant or hang around her bedroom door at 3 o’clock in the morning. So in the meantime… you’re working for me.

This is a great exchange, and not because it’s original. I know it’s sad, but we’ve seen the Upper East Side neglectful mother a million times (also, shout-out to all the Upper East Side mothers who aren’t neglectful – you don’t get enough credit!). The thing that makes this exchange unique is how blunt and strong Ray is about her situation. I know, she might not be as strong as she seems, but unlike a lot of kids in movies she knows what’s going on. And unlike a lot more kids in movies, she can handle it. Maybe too well, but I nonetheless admire her ability to cope and be honest with herself. Her entrepreneurship is also commendable.

3. 5:35 – 5:60

Ray: I don’t see any grownups around here.
Molly: What’s so great about being a grownup anyway? So I can turn out like you?
Ray: You’re scared… Sometimes when Mu hears people walking by outside the door, he gets this funny expression and runs into the bathroom, like he thinks they’re coming to get him. That’s how you look.

First of all, Molly’s line is a great verbalization of their switching ages. Of course, turning out like a grownup would not usually mean turning out like a 6-year-old but again, this just defines their roles as backwards. Then, the question “What’s so great about being a grownup anyway?” is also really interesting. It’s been asked a lot, and it’s valid. Perhaps there is actually no answer, except that you get to stay up late and eat whatever you want (but that never turns out well). But while there is nothing “great” about being a grownup, there is something necessary. At this point in my own life, I really am not finding anything that makes being a grownup better than being a child. But. I am starting to get that it’s necessary, to be a grownup. Not because it’s fun and sometimes not even because you have to do it (i.e. Molly before the movie starts), but because the world expects it of you. I know, that’s so sad that you have to do something based on the world’s expectations, that you can’t just avoid it. There are things you have to do because our society says you have to, and that is unfortunate but real. And also, it’s between that and running into the bathroom every time something grown-up walks past the door. It’s a lose-lose, but one loss has a little more potential and a little less time living in the bathroom.

4. 5:15 – 5:20

Ray: Other people always let you down. Why don’t you forget them and do something for yourself? 

I am liking Ray more and more. She’s got great insight. It’s funny, because Molly seems like the most selfish person there is, just because she’s not into growing up. But that’s not it. She is actually quite selfless, in a way. Not in the way that she’s always donating to charity (but she does donate all her gifts… maybe she is a sort of saint?) but in the way that she rarely shows any concern for herself as an individual. Perhaps it’s because she’s so scared of being on her own (cue band boy), but it might just be because she is so social, she is so surrounded with other people. She might just have to be alone for a while, and actually worry about herself (the worry wrinkle is already there, so she may as well). Now. Onto Ray’s first sentence: “Other people always let you down.” There’s a lot out there that says things like “trust no one,” things that paint other people as deliberate enemies that are constantly scheming to make your life miserable. But Ray’s approach to the negative presence that other people have is refreshingly underwhelming. And it’s the truth. People don’t build you up as enemies or targets as much as they let you down, let you fall; they forget about you rather than remember you in a different way or pay extra attention to you, and they walk away more often than they follow you. So, I think this approach to social selfishness and selflessness bears a lot of meaning.

5. 3:20 – 3:30

Ray: Act your age, not your shoe size. 

Ray’s obsession with shoes is fascinating, considering how boring her own are. But that’s really not the point here. I think it’s just a really witty and clever remark that I will definitely be using on people who frustrate me. While of course Ray does not think it up on the spot and rather the screenwriter thought it up long before it hit her tongue, it speaks to Dakota Fanning’s acting. She makes dialogue or one-liners seem very natural in her ironically forced tone; by making it sound like Ray has planned everything out in advance, she comes across as she is meant to: deliberate and succinct.

6. 

Molly: That’s your dad?
Ray: Was. Now he’s a vegetable. And soon he’ll be nothing.
Molly: That’s kinda harsh…
Ray: It’s a harsh world.

There are things wrong with Ray’s perspective. But there are so many more things right with it. This kid, however fictional, has an amazing ability to deal with difficulty. And I know, she’s “not actually dealing with it” or whatever, but she is, in the way she knows how. And she’s “bottling things up,” I know, but she has an understanding that I sometimes can’t get to. We all know it’s a harsh world. But to say it, that’s hard. Because I think a lot of us secretly believe that maybe, if we don’t admit that the world is harsh… it’s not? That’s how I think about it. And I wish I could put my sunglasses on that smoothly and say it that confidently. It’s just that the glasses always get caught in my hair and then I don’t bother.

7. (I can’t find a link for this one! This is a good time to watch the whole movie and find it!:))

Ray: You’re lucky. That you were mad. See, when you’re mad you don’t miss people and if you stay mad, it’s like you never knew them at all… that way you don’t have to feel sucky about it. You were lucky.

This line comes in response to Molly’s story regarding her parents’ passing. While Molly later says she wasn’t mad and while I’m not actually sure I get this… I think I kind of do. There are emotions that somehow enable us to not feel anything. I don’t know if I can say much else because I’m still not sure I get it. I just know I like it. Also I went to get ice cream during this scene and when I came back, my dad had paused and wanted me to rewind, so this speech must be good if not even ice cream is worth missing it for.

8.

Molly: The Teacups were the only ride they would let me on by myself, so I got on it and I started spinning around and round and round. But I feel like I’m still there… spinning round and round and round… and the ride won’t stop… and I won’t dare get off. You were right, Ray. I am scared. But you’re scared too. You’re scared as I am and I thought that maybe if we could go together…

Well I just really love The Teacups. Not only is it the only ride they let me on (albeit due to height, not age) but also, they are kind of freeing in their chaos. But only while you’re on them. The chaos stays with you long after you’ve gotten off and charmed all of Coney Island by vomiting into a very public garbage. Molly says it perfectly: “I feel like I’m still there… spinning ’round and ’round and ’round… and the ride won’t stop… and I won’t dare get off.” Leaving the vomiting metaphor behind, the ride metaphor alone is a great one. Molly feels like she hasn’t ever gotten off, and while it sounds stressful and she admits that it is, she’s more scared to get off than she is to stay on, because the chaos is what she knows. That’s horrible to think about, being so comfortable in a sort of pain that you’re too scared to try anything new. But it’s a reality, and often I find people just sugarcoat that idea so it doesn’t sound so emo. By saying “You’re scared too” to Ray, Molly makes just this argument. Ray herself is in her own pain, and she’s so used to accepting a “harsh world” that she’s literally frightened to find a new one. Finally, I love how chill Molly is about age here. She really relies on Ray as a friend and while, as she later acknowledges, that’s maybe not what one needs in a nanny, she treats Ray as an equal and that’s kind of what Ray needs. To be taken seriously. Not to act seriously, she does enough of that, but to be treated like an actual human who might be deeper than her presentation. This line speaks to their friendship more than anything. Right here, age doesn’t mean anything.

So before I go on to my last two lines, you should know that they’re not lines. But they are definitely dialogue.

9. Ray punches Molly in the stomach

This is by far my favourite scene. I just think it is an amazing conversation between the two characters, that really represents the stages of their entire relationship. First, Molly looks out for Ray in a physical sense, literally wondering where she is. Then, they both get on this ride that spins them “round and round and round” as equals; their facial expressions especially show their very similar anxiety. Then they’re off the ride and Molly’s helping Ray, again in a physical sense, just coaching her through vomiting (so charming). And this entire time, Ray is sort of out of it, bottled up, as she has been the entire movie. But then Ray kind of lets something out, in slapping Molly. When she tries again, however, Molly stops her, and then, in a very childish effort to win the argument, hits back. Then Ray releases everything, in a beautiful and tragic series of weak and powerful punches. And in her physical anger, Ray becomes a kid again. You can see that Molly hesitates, she wants to hit back. But then she doesn’t. She just waits and lets Ray be a kid; she is now there for Ray in an emotional way. And in that moment, she becomes an adult.

10. The dance recital

Let’s get one thing straight. I still hate band boy. Not hate, just really don’t find anything good about him. In terms of the character or his plot, nothing. But Ray’s dance: it’s unreal. I get that it’s funny and kind of uncomfortable to watch, but I think it is one of the most beautiful and honest dances in movie-dance history. It shows everything that Ray’s gone through: her quirkiness, her weird vibe, her uptight deadpan approach to emotion, her loss, her Coney-Island-inspired discovery of immaturity (in a good way), her brushing everything else off and her decision to start having fun. It’s interpretive and it’s funny and sad and mostly, it’s a summary of the movie. Also, the backup dancers with the guitars are fantastic.

So there you have it. The best lines of the best movie ever. Okay not ever ever, but still a really great commentary on growing up, regardless of band boy and unfortunate editing. My dad loved it, I loved it, I loved it when I was a kid and I’ll love it when I am not a kid. I don’t really know where I am in there, but does anyone?

RJ

P.S. Brittany Murphy, you were so great in this film and your presence in the world will forever be missed.

Sources:

Uptown Girls. Dir. Boaz Yakin. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2003. DVD.