Author: Julia Van Valkenburg

Watch “Earthlings”

After years of avoidance, I finally watched Earthlings.  If you haven’t heard of it, Earthlings (dir. Shaun Monson, 2005) is an animal rights documentary that’s inspired countless viewers to re-think their relationship with animals, capitalism, and the world at large. The film, which is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, is broken into five parts covering the use of animals as pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and test subjects. Even as someone who’s knowledgeable about animal abuse, I was utterly shocked by what I saw happening to the animals in this film. It’s certainly not easy to watch, but it’s necessary viewing for those who don’t wish to blindly engage in the exploitation of people and animals. I’d like to note that this film does compare the horrors of human slavery and genocide to our treatment of animals, which I don’t personally support. The oppression of humans and other animals is certainly connected, but I think it’s only appropriate to let the victims and ancestors of those atrocities draw such conclusions. Please watch Earthlings with an open mind and a willingness to acknowledge that our …

27 Songs

Tomorrow I turn 27 (yikes!), and since I’ve been doing a birthday post every year since my 24th birthday, I decided I should keep the tradition going strong. In the past I posted 24 Lessons in 24 Years, 25 of My Favorite Things, and 26 Goals for my 26th Year, and this year I’m sharing 27 of my favorite songs. This doesn’t come close to showcasing all of my favorites, but it does cover some of them! 🙂 This list is very random and in no particular order. If we share any favorites let me know in the comment section below. ❤ 1. Let Me Roll It – Wings 2. Zodiac Shift – Flying Lotus 3. Riders on the Storm – The Doors 4. I Am Woman – Helen Reddy 5. Femme Fatale – The Velvet Underground & Nico 6. Where I Wanna Be – Shade Sheist 7. Feel it All Around – Washed Out 8. Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding 9. I Follow Rivers – Lykke Li (The Magician Remix) 10. Modern Love – David Bowie 11. Don’t Let Me Be …

Catch-all is More of a Hodge-podge

I think that if I started this blog all over again I’d name it hodge-podge. Originally I thought of it like a catch-all dish that accumulates little odds and ends. Bills, bobby pins, loose change, buttons, political stickers, gum. It’s astonishing how many of those catch-all dishes I actually have in my apartment. They start out being useful, but quickly become piles of both important and unimportant things. I end up avoiding it all until it’s time to clean my catch-all dish out and start over again. But this Catch-all has become more of a hodge-podge. It’s like the area of my apartment where I’ve placed shoes, empty picture frames, books, and my old violin I’ve been meaning to donate. It’s my go-to spot for big things that don’t go together but have nowhere else to go – which is kind of like this blog. … As much as I want to pinpoint a specific direction for Catch-all so that I can actually try to reach an identifiable audience, it’s becoming clear that it’s just …

Workout Playlist

For the past few months I’ve been exercising somewhat consistently, which has reminded me of the importance of having a quality workout playlist. If the wrong song comes on while I’m at the gym – something slow or sad – it immediately squashes my motivation. I then have to stop what I’m doing to find the right song, and my whole routine is thrown out of whack! I’m being a little dramatic, but a good workout playlist truly is essential. So here are a few songs that I listen to when I’m working out What are you listening to when you exercise? ❤

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 …