Icebreaker Questions and Answers

Icebreakers and I have a tempestuous relationship.
Despite being something of a hot seat devotee and a major fan of random and revealing questions, my first memory of icebreakers is on the traumatic side.

It was the first day of 3rd or 4th grade.  Our teacher (Probably Ms. Ellis in fourth grade, this seems like just her brand of sadism) told us we would be going on an impromptu camping trip, passed around a roll of toilet paper, and told us to take what we thought we would need for an overnight stay.
I was pretty sure something was up. I may have been eight years old but I was no fool.  They needed my parents’ signatures to bus me to the Science Museum for a few hours. But still part of me was completely appalled at the threat of being spirited away for a night. And having to reveal my toilet paper needs? It was the height of humiliation.
You may have played this game before- you have to share a fact about yourself for every sheet that you take. I don’t remember what I did- probably something middle of the road like 5.  Someone took one sheet and another boy (I think it was Pedro) took about half the roll.

So while I have no problem with sharing some level of personal information and even less of a problem listening to other people’s stories (when it doesn’t border on the TMI) I hate the enforced ‘getting-to-know-you’ of icebreakers, which are really only good for uniting a group against the irritating and condescending authority demanding how many bones you’ve broken.

Which is a long way of saying I found 25 fun icebreaker questions and I’m going tonsure some of them.
Please do not be inspired to use these for their purported purpose of ‘team building at work’.

  • What was your first job?
    My first paid job was as a barista at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks.
  • Have you ever met anyone famous?
    The most starstruck I have ever been was when I met one of the horses who played Shadowfax in Lord of the Rings.
  • If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
    So many I can’t choose: a language, hunting with falcons, parkour, an instrument…
  • Seen any good movies lately you’d recommend?
    Good Time wasn’t my kind of movie but it is being criminally overlooked. It came out in 2017.
  • Been pleasantly surprised by anything lately?
    The only things coming directly to mind are both today: Clinique’s eyeliner is in fact easy and liquid, and it sounds like Black Panther is super intersectional and has strong female characters.
  • Favorite band ten years ago?
    I was twelve, which was about the time I got my iPod and started listening to music for the first time. Honestly it was probably Aly and AJ or Avril Lavigne. Embarrassing.
  • What’s your earliest memory?
    I remember sitting on the rug at preschool and thinking to myself, “I’m three”.
  • Been anywhere recently for the first time?
    Grasse and Nice!
  • What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
    The first big ticket item I bought with my own money was one of those felted cardboard cat condos. It was two floors. We still have it. It was $80 and I had saved for forever. I think I was in Elementary school. I was a high roller.
  • Any phobias you’d like to break?
    Nope, spiders and I are good with where our animosity is, thanks very much.
  • What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
    I’m such an old person, I like raisin bran. But I remember being young and loving the Cap’n Crunch I had at my cousins’ beach house. When I came home and asked my parents if we could buy it they told me it wasn’t sold in our state. Ah, the lies our parents tell us.
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Some Good French Films

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It’s been a weird weekend. And it’s only Saturday. Hopefully grocery shopping is uneventful tomorrow.  One minute you’re sitting on the train and the next you’re disembarking and for some reason your right hip isn’t letting you walk?
Weird stuff.
Pretty sure I’m too young for hip replacement.

SO I was talking to some friends yesterday and said I would send along a list of recommended French films. And SO I figured I would post it since it’s a list.

That said, full disclosure: I haven’t seen every French film ever so this is a superbly and spectacularly incomplete list.

Let’s Start with animated:

  • Ernest and Celestine: Bears and mice and based on a lovely children’s book series that I want to buy for my potential offspring.
  • Nocturna: Amazing world building. So much imagination. Cats.
  • The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart: I walked in on dad playing music from this. He’s never seen it.
  • A Monster in Paris: There’s a giant bug and it’s a beautiful heartwarming story. Also beautiful music.

Also kid-focused but not animated:

  • Le Petit Nicolas: This is what being a child is like. But kind of more so.

I’ struggling with categorizing all the rest so I’m just going to throw them at you in one big lump:

  • Belle de Jour: Catherine Deneuve is bored and fantasizes about BDSM so she decides to be a prostitute. Also her name is Severine, which is an excellent name.
  • La Vie en Rose: Marion Cotillard is Edith Piaf and it’s as amazing as it sounds.
  • Les Trois Couleurs: Three movies which you can kind of trace from the Nouvelle Vague style. Loosely connected, all individually perfect as stand-alones. I think Blue was my favorite.
  • La Double Vie de Veronique: For some reason this hangs out with Les Trois Couleurs in my mind. Some lovely music.
  • Huit Femmes: A Christmas musical murder mystery with a who’s who cast of great French actresses.
  • Les Choristes: A teacher positively affects students lives through music. But it’s actually a good film.
  • Bonjour, Tristesse: The book is better but this is nice and light and summery. Still not a huge Jean Seberg fan.
  • The Intouchables: I always confuse this with The Untouchables, a film about taking down Al Capone. This is great too.
  • Elle: Isabelle Huppert is bae and this Oscar nominee (did it win? I don’t remember) from last year is fantastic.
  • Tous Les Matins du Monde: Music again. But also period drama stuff and sex.
  • La Pianiste: Isabelle Huppert being sexy again. But this time even more mentally off-kilter.
  • La Piscine: Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin and Alain Delon are all fabulously attractive people.  And the film is suitably sexy.
  • Les Enfants du Paradis: A long film that flew by. It’s actually a work of art and quite possibly one of the best films I watched last year. It is inspiring me to fall in love with a mime.
  • Eyes Without a Face: French New Wave does Hitchcock. I am obviously a fan.
  • Diabolique: More Hitchcockian stuff. A wife and mistress conspire to kill the guy. Then come strange events.

Weird stuff that I’m not sure I can recommend:

  • Last Year at Marienbad: I will never forget the word ‘couloir’.
  • Triplets of Belleville: What…?

What I’m Listening To: Funk

I can tell you now that, to my knowledge, only one good thing has come from Trump’s ‘shithole/shithouse’ comments- and that is my rediscovery of my love of funk (via having Brick House stuck in my head 24/7).

I can also confirm that the origins of my fondness for funk are almost certainly rooted in numerous childhood viewings of Muppets from Space.
Watch the sky.

As I write this it’s 7:39 in the morning and I’m actively jamming out to I Got You/I Feel Good by James Brown. With earbuds in, of course.

To specifics:

  • Brick House- Commodores
  • It’s Your Thing- Isley Brothers
  • Shining Star- Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • Thank You- Sly and The Family Stone
  • Get Up Offa That Thing- James Brown
  • September- Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • Get Down Tonight- KC and the Sunshine Band
  • Le Freak- CHIC
  • I Got You- James Brown
  • Stayin’ Alive- Bee Gees
  • Boogie Shoes- KC and the Sunshine Band
  • Shake Your Booty- KC and the Sunshine Band

My familiarity with Le Freak and Thank You owe less to the Muppets and more to 102 Dalmatians and Scooby Doo 2, respectively.

Wow, I feel old.

Se Soigner

There isn’t even a pun to excuse my French title.
I’m just a pretentious elitist who thinks the French language is beautiful and kind of encompasses what I want to get across? Except of course it doesn’t really get it across because the majority of my readers (hypothetically, if I had readers- really I know it’s mainly Mom and dad out there- hi guys, how you doin’?) speak English, given that this blog is in English.

But whatever.

Given a few weeks for my resolutions to marinate, I’ve come up with some more concrete steps to take to care for myself. And it’s really necessary, given that I seem to have developed a forte for a) burning myself (I mean, I guess. That looks like a burn) and b) falling up/down stairs (is it still a shiner if it’s on your knee?)

So let’s do this!

  • Start flossing again. You know how flossing is essentially the first thing to go when you’re tired and/or stressed. Given that I’m tired and/or stressed the majority of the time (sigh, modern life), it’s been a while since I’ve been solidly on the daily oral hygiene bandwagon. On the same note- mouthwash?
  • Get a lighter. I have a candle (a beautiful beeswax one that my dad made me for Christmas (again, hi Dad!)  and I need to light its fire, as it were.  Can you imagine the self-soothing happiness and love from a softly glowing beeswax smell that reminds you of the love of a parental unit?
  • Stay hydrated. The world is a broken record when it comes to staying hydrated, but do any of us really listen? I don’t.
  • Take care of my feet. Now that I’m not a *competitive dancer* my feet aren’t necessarily a lost cause. In fact, they might even be resuscitated (resuscitable?). The problem is that it’s a bit chilly to not be wearing socks or slippers 24/7 and my feet want to breathe. I’ve noticed that I have some proprioception issues, so even when my feet are warm enough, I don’t tend to notice (which reminds me to take off my slippers now).
  • Take my vitamins/supplements again. It’s been years since I took my vitamins regularly, which as a vegan is a bit of a no no. Time to get back on the B12.
  • Listen to more music. Now that I’ve confirmed that my 10 year old ipod has not in fact been lost to the winds of time, my horizon of musical possibilities has been reopened.
  • Stretch more. Especially during our class breaks. Sitting and smelling from 9-5 gets a bit exhausting for the body. I always feel so much better after I’ve moved a bit.
  • Don’t skimp. I have a tendency toward self abnegation, which is a lot less now that I’m not anorexic. But there are still a few things I do that I only really realized recently are related to how I value myself.  So I’m going to really use my products for their purposes (i.e. definitely adequate amounts of moisturizer, replacing my contact solution daily, those kinds of luxurious/very necessary things).
  • Replace my mascara and eyeliner. My mascara is almost empty and I’m hitting my pan on my MAC pot, which I’ve had since 9th grade anyway (for reference, I’m in 17th grade now). I shouldn’t have that stuff so close to my eyeballs.
  • Listen to ASMR before bed if I want.

Le Monde des Mondegreens

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Apologies for the punny title (which translates as ‘The World of Mondegreens’)- you know I can’t resist a punny title, especially when it gives me a chance to show off my remedial French.

So for those who don’t know, a mondegreen is essentially a misheard lyric.  Here are some I’ve got going on recently.

Havana by Camila Cabello: In which the word ‘Havana’ is replaced by ‘Banana’.
Original: Havana, ooh na-na (ay)
Half of my heart is in Havana, ooh-na-na (ay, ay)
He took me back to East Atlanta, na-na-na
Oh, but my heart is in Havana (ay)
There’s somethin’ ’bout his manners (uh huh)
Havana, ooh na-na (uh)

(Thanks for the lyrics, google).

Translation: Banana, ooh na-na (ay)
Half of my heart is in Banana, ooh-na-na (ay, ay)
He took me back to East Banana, na-na-na
Oh, but my heart is in Banana (ay)
There’s somethin’ ’bout Bananas (uh huh)
Banana, ooh na-na (uh)

Les Etoiles by Melody Gardot: Being already a pretty big MG fan (Shout out to the soignee yet depressive ‘Burying My Troubles’) I was primed.  And then I got to Paris.
That’s right, Les Etoiles became Les Epaules, or ‘the shoulders’.  But not in a sexy way, but in a ‘the French eat shoulders’ kind of way.

Cocaine by Eric Clapton: PLANTAINS!

Someone get me a lobotomy…

New to Me: Best Movies Watched in 2017

Most of my movie watching is not new releases, so much as catching up on films that were once new releases but haven’t been from somewhere between a year to a century.
And they’re none the worse for that.

To be eligible for this list, the film must be one of my favorites that I watched in 2017 but NOT released this year.

  • Shall We Dance (1937)
    I can’t say enough about this film- one of the most beautiful Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers vehicles that I’ve ever seen.  Highlights: Slap That Bass and Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (roller-skates!)
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
    I’ve already talked tons about Kingsman so I’ll keep this short. You’ll never think of Free Bird the same way again.
  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
    While the more recent version is good (particularly for a modern remake, that most justly maligned of categories) it still doesn’t really hold a candle to the absolutely masterful original- the frustrating but heroic town drunk (completely cut from the modern version), Van Heflin’s scrappy portrayal of Dan Evans, and above all Glenn Ford’s suave outlaw Ben Wade. Plus the song.
  • Django Unchained (2012)
    Tarantino’s films are very hit or miss for me, but Django Unchained was very much a hit.  The cast is excellent, the plot is fun and exciting. Tarantino does his fun soundtrack thing.
  • The Piano Teacher/ La Pianiste (2001)
    This movie is beautifully repulsive. Basically a piano teacher (Heyyy Isabelle Huppert) conducts and affair with one of her students who believes that she is falling in love with him, essentially misreading the symptoms of her rapidly deteriorating sanity as signs of romantic obsession.
  • The Hurt Locker (2008)
    I had pretty much decided not to watch this because it looked a bit testosterone-heavy for me, but a confluence of circumstances led to me watching it and discovering that it is in fact a thoughtful and well-paced film with interesting characters and developments.
  • La Piscine/ The Swimming Pool (1969)
    Alain Delon is beautiful. So is Romy Schneider. So is Jane Birkin. So is summer.
  • Les Enfants du Paradis/ Children of Paradise (1945)
    This film had me absolutely spellbound for all 3+ hours of runtime.  A theater mime is in love with a courtesan who is also beloved by three other, very different men- a pretentious actor, a conniving thief, and a rich count.
  • Contracorriente/ Undertow (2009)
    Contracorriente is my most recent addition to this list, having just watched it I think the day before yesterday. It’s a surreal and poignant ghost story in which a married fisherman has to find a way to reconcile two aspects of his life: his more conventional family life with his pregnant wife and his devotion to his male lover, a painter and town outcast.

Here’s to another year of good films!

Doings in Milan

I’m not going to go into the details of why I’ve been referring to my long weekend in Milan as a #SeriesofUnfortunateEvents, but instead focus on the positive.

Because it was a beautiful city and traveling is hard and once my phone is working again (the bad luck has followed me!) I’ll only (mostly) remember the good and happy parts.

So I set up a Google Map before I went (bluntly titled ‘Milan 2017’) and divided my places into ‘cultural’, ‘walking’, and ‘shopping’ designations/destinations.

Let’s have share time!

Cultural: I was mostly going for a cultural/high-brow/pretentious weekend to myself. The things I loved most are In CoLoR

  • The Duomo and the Museum: It’s the one big church that everyone is supposed to go to but honestly (as you can see from my colors) I found some of the smaller ones more worthwhile. It’s a big cathedral, not colorful, not particularly unique. But grand.
  • La Scala: The 6,50 euros I spent on la Scala cheap seats (for a philharmonic performance) were some of the best moneys I’ve spent in my life. It’s awe-inspiring. The people watching is as amazing as the performance, which sounds silly but you can very much see that people-watching is what the space was designed for. The boxes are each like a tableau of attendees, all spread out in front of you across the way. like so many paintings or television screens, so many snapshots. Also red velvet.
  • La Scala Museum: My phone wasn’t working when I was at La Scala for the performance, so it was very worthwhile for me to go back and take photos. (And check out a box).  They also had some Maria Callas costumes on display, which was cool. Reminded me of how much I like ‘Addio del passato’. Which just autocorrected to Addio del pasta. Oh boy.
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie: Not the church itself, but The Last Supper in the building adjoining. It’s set up so well, though you do have to reserve your place for entry. They let you in with the painting with a small group of people for a carefully timed fifteen to twenty minutes. It’s actually a pretty excellent way to view it- very few people, lots of space, uninterrupted views. Mind blowing and so striking.
  • Pinacoteca di Brera: All of the Madonnas and Childrens to put my own struggles in perspective. Gorgeous Titians, Veroneses, Botticellis, Bellinis, all that good stuff. The area around it is lovely of a nighttime walk.
  • Museo Poldi Pezzoli: Another art museum with an immense and majestic staircase with a fountain and goldfish and a room full of watches.
  • Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore
  • Sant’Eustorgio
  • San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore: I’m pretty sure the first thing you’re supposed to say when you walk into a church isn’t “Oh fucking fuck”, and yet. This church is so beautiful. It filled my soul. 100% worth seeing.
  • Santa Maria Presso San Celso: this was my other big church favorite. Beautiful ceiling moldings and all that. Honestly pick this and the one above over the Duomo. Go to the Duomo piazza to see the church from the outside and feed the pigeons. And to check out Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, not for the shopping but for the architecture.

If I could add anything that i didn’t get the chance to see, it would be Bagetti Valsecchi, an ornate ducal residence with difficult hours.

Walks:

  • Sforzescu castle: I lived super close to Sforzescu, and while I didn’t go into the museums, walking through the court and the gardens outside it was lovely.
  • Navigli: The Navigli are a set of channels in the South of the city, and something I almost ended up skipping. I was lucky to roll in when there was a huge street market of antiques and vintage clothes happening. Beautiful and lots of fun.
  • Piazza Mercanti: A cute little corner that’s seen better days. It’s pretty central, but still a bit hidden. By all means roll through.
  • Casa degli Omenoni: This is not a walk so much as a neat building facade that one can walk by. But what a cool facade.

I ended up not sticking to my shopping destinations at all, but ended up doing these:

  • L’Erbolario: Where I finally succeeded in getting myself a bottle of Meharees, a spicy musk perfume (reminiscent of Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle) that I’ve been wanting forever (and regretted not buying when I was in Milan two years ago).
  • Kiko Milano: Turns out Kiko Milano is cheaper in Milano. Especially when they have a buy three get three Black Friday sale. Eyeshadow sticks.

Food:

  • Granaio: Gelato.
  • Farini: A lovely pizza place just by San Lorenzo Maggiore, where they sell different types by the slice. Delicious. I ate three, Two probably would have been better.
  • Juice Bar: A cheap eatery in my train station (Milano Cadorna) that had a yummy Vegano sandwich with what was perhaps the most delicious roast pepper I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
  • Centro Botanico: My nearest health food store, because it’s me. I bought hummus and bread and peanut butter and lived on it when I wasn’t going out to eat. And Fuji apples.