Author: Julia Van Valkenburg

The Two Rules I’m Trying to Live By

Somehow life has gotten easier and more difficult the older I get. I’m very comfortable with myself, but constantly battling with questions of the future. Where’s my “career” going? What about my personal life? On top of that I’m living in an America that’s in decline, and a tech-driven world that’s oftentimes difficult to navigate. These are modern problems that we’re all dealing with, and it’s complicated and messy and weird. Never take anything personally I’m only partway through Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, but this book has already had an influence on how I try to exist in and move about this complex world. It’s a valuable read for anyone who’s open to it, but I do think being “open” is key. Ruiz calls everything into question – who we are, what we are, why we are – so it requires a willingness to listen and reflect. All four of the agreements that Ruiz presents are revelatory, but the one that’s stuck with me the most is “Don’t take anything personally.” Wow. How …

Representations of Urban Space & Masculinity in “Taxi Driver”

Representations of Urban Space & Masculinity in “Taxi Driver” & the Rise of the American Right-Wing Though Martin Scorsese’s 1976 psychological thriller, Taxi Driver, was released over 40 years ago, one could argue that many layers to the film’s harsh societal critiques are just as relevant in today’s sociopolitical climate. By exploring 1970s New York City through the perspective of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), an intense man whose past we know little about other than that he served in the Vietnam War, Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader allow the audience to see the world through a particularly conservative lens. In the film, Bickle’s taxi cab works as a device that carries him through spaces he may not otherwise occupy. In this vehicle he’s shielded from that which fuels his fear and contempt. He sees, though might not necessarily be seen. He’s a vigilante on the edge of sanity, a sort of messiah figure who strives to clean up the city, though his racist and sexist rational for this metaphoric “clean up” is never stated …

Spring Has Sprung!

Since I’ve posted a mood board for every other season of the year (here’s winter, summer, and fall), it’s finally time to share what inspires me during the springtime. Spring in Los Angeles is lively and colorful, so my mood is energized by blooming flowers, the laughter of the apartment kids when they’re goofing off together, and the little discoveries that I make on long walks through my neighborhood. This collage is also brimming with work from renowned architect and artist, Josef Frank. Frank’s patterns and furniture design have been a source of inspiration for me for many years, so I wanted to include him in this post since I recently rediscovered my love for his work. Creating these “mood boards” is a relaxing and fun way for me to express myself, and although I’ve gone through all of the seasons, I’m going to continue to find reasons to make more collages. Lately I’ve been exploring new creative outlets, and although it may sound corny, I’m a happier and more fulfilled person because of it. Whenever …

A Few Things I Learned as a Freelancer

Until very recently I was a part of the “gig economy,” along with millions of Americans in my age group. The experience was exciting, but if I’m being completely honest it was also terrifying. The stress of finding work – consistent work – and being able to earn a living wage is something I could write an entire essay on. For now, however, there are plenty of other great articles out there on this subject already (including Why Freelancers Are So Depressed by Anya Kamentez). Instead, I want to share some of the healthy habits I cultivated while leading an on-again-off-again work life. Being a freelancer can be fun and rewarding, but also exhausting, depressing, and isolating. Because my work was inconsistent, when I wasn’t on a gig I often found myself feeling unmotivated, frustrated, and lonely. In order to overcome that hurdle, I needed to create positive habits, which I wish I would have realized earlier. So for the days when you don’t have a gig, or if you work freelance from home, here’s my …

March for Our Lives LA

This past Saturday millions of people marched all over the world to take a stand against gun violence and emphasize the urgency for common sense gun laws. I marched in Los Angeles with my boyfriend and thousands of others to say “Enough is Enough!” The streets of Los Angeles were filled with people from all ages and backgrounds, marching in solidarity. It was a beautiful sight to behold, and I was in awe of all of the young folks who were organizing against a system that has failed them. As adolescents they shouldn’t have to be putting in such difficult work, but I’m so grateful that they are. Check out some of the pictures I took at the Los Angeles march, be sure to follow and support these organizations, and vote! Everytown for Gun Safety Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Why I’m Vegan

Why are you vegan? I’m asked this question all the time and the full answer is far too complicated for me to answer succinctly. Instead, I tackle the interrogation with a simple answer – “for the environment, animals, and my health” – but the truth is there’s far more to it. Sometimes my response is enough, but more curious folks will press further. How is being vegan better for the environment? But aren’t dairy cows treated well? So where do you get your protein? In such moments, I wish I had a packet I could give them and say “read over this and that’s your answer.” Although realistically I can’t walk around with copies of a document highlighting the facts that informed my decision to go vegan, I can share one digitally. So here’s my web-based Why I’m Vegan fact sheet for those who are curious and for vegans who need a reminder of why they made changes to their lifestyle. Let’s start with one of my favorite facts: “Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 …

What “Lady Bird” Means to Me

When I finally watched Greta Gerwig’s beautiful Lady Bird, I felt so much and still do. Unlike Lady Bird I have a wonderful mom who’s kind and understanding, I was never ashamed of my socio-economic status, and I wouldn’t lie to a peer about the house I live in or who I’m friends with. But like Lady Bird I wanted to go to college in New York City despite never having been there, felt stifled by the mid-sized city I called home, and was sure that there were bigger and better things out there for me – whatever that actually means. Lady Bird somehow brought me back to my undergraduate years, when I felt like the world was this new and exciting place to explore and express myself within. Since then I’ve grown to be more realistic and a bit cynical, but seeing Lady Bird’s struggle to figure herself out reminded me of a part of myself I had forgotten. While I’m much more sure of myself than I was in college, I missed the hopefulness I found within my confusion. I …

Complaining About LA Doesn’t Make You Cool

People complain to me about Los Angeles all the time. Mostly it’s grumpy folks who don’t live here, but sometimes it’s even those who have never stepped foot in the city. Everyone in LA is shallow! There are so many hipsters! The traffic is horrible! Everyone’s so snotty! There’s no culture! There’s no history! There are too many health nuts!  I wonder why friends, family, and acquaintances who live elsewhere feel the need to tell me how much they hate LA? Why they waste their time and energy whining about a place they barely know, to a person who openly loves calling Los Angeles home? There are folks who live here and can’t stand it because it’s not the right place for them, but some of them decide it’s objectively bad. LA’s too crowded, dirty, and pretentious…and I don’t fit in here because I’m different! These types of arguments seem to be based on a very narrow view of the city, ignited by ideas about what life’s like for predominantly white, upper-middle class people who live here. …

Winter Wonder

Back in the fall of 2016 I posted my first mood board and since then I’ve been sticking to the seasonal theme. Although I skipped the following winter and spring, I did do a summer board and have now finally gotten around to making a winter one. When I make one of these digital pieces, I start with a few places and objects that evoke certain feelings for me this time of year like the cold, dry, desert air – or bright, dewy oranges. When I think of winter, snow and the holidays don’t easily come to mind. Instead, I’m reminded of crisp Arizona mornings and the quietness that accompanies the cold. Or cloudy coastal afternoons, where a calmness overtakes even the most frantic of places. I imagine warmer climates in the Southern Hemisphere, and the commanding pine trees of the Pacific Northwest. I think of animals – thriving or barely surviving – and desolation and fire. I also think of warmth, bright colors, and far away cities – or people drinking hot coffee in …

“Twin Peaks” Podcast for NERDSoul Sunday’s

This past week I was invited to contribute to the NERDSoul Sunday’s podcast by The Comic’s Bolt, and in the podcast I talk about Twin Peaks (of course) and why I love the series, what made it viable for primetime broadcast TV, and the show’s use of melodrama to hybridize other genres. If you have the time, take a listen and let me know what you think! If you’re a Twin Peaks fan, do you agree with some of my points or take a different stance? And if you haven’t watched the series, maybe it will pique your interest? I’ve also included a link to the video essay I made in 2016, which is the source of much of the research I reference in the podcast. PODCAST: The Strange World of “Twin Peaks” VIDEO ESSAY: Exploring “Twin Peaks” And as a bonus, here are two of my favorite Twin Peaks videos: Twin Peaks, Without People Twin Peaks but without context (*spoilers*)