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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 can something so simple be so powerful? Don’t take anything personally. I grew up reminding myself that the way people act towards you is a reflection on them, not you, but I would still end up feeling bad about myself somehow. Now I’ve taken the action into my own hands – I can’t take anything personally – it’s my new personal rule and it’s been transformative.

Trying not to take things personally takes constant effort. I tend to be very self-aware and notice the little things people do and say. This can become destructive, as I wonder why that acquaintance didn’t make eye contact when they were talking to me, or what made a friend describe me as being shy, or why a family member questioned my decision to go to grad school. All the little things we put up with from others can build and become unbearable, but when we work to not take these things personally we can liberate ourselves from unnecessary pain. Why waste my energy on worrying about the rude thing someone said to me, when it actually has nothing to do with me? What someone says is a reflection of themselves, so you shouldn’t take it personally. And there comes a point where you can’t take it personally if you want to preserve your emotional energy and health.

I can only speak for myself and how the stress of minor insults or acts of sexism and misogyny impact me. I don’t know what it’s like to be a part of a marginalized group and be the victim of micro and macro-aggressions based on my race, ability, sexual orientation, etc. In those cases, I can imagine that “not taking things personally” isn’t always do-able or constructive. But again, for the little things that can cause us massive stress over time, this personal agreement is truly freeing.

Don’t be afraid of anyone

I encountered this rule for life in a very modern way! I was watching journalist and all around badass Ann Friedman’s Instagram story, and a clip from a talk with artist Laurie Anderson came up. In the clip Anderson says that one of her rules for life is to never be afraid of anyone. Again, wow! I’ve always been afraid of lots of people. As a kid I was very afraid of teens, and as a teen I was still afraid of teens. I’m intimidated by people I’ve deemed smarter or cooler, and even just folks who happen to be older than me. I’ve been working on this in recent years and have gotten much better, but even when I’m outwardly confident or have convinced myself not to be afraid of someone there’s still a part of me that is.

Imagine existing in the world and not being afraid of anyone. I know I’d have a much different life – likely a more prosperous one. I probably would have pursued creative endeavors with more ferocity, and wouldn’t second-guess myself nearly as often as I do. I think this issue is especially true for young women, since we’re socialized to feel this way, but I’m lucky to know many fearless ones too. Most of these women I imagine have grown to be fearless, and I hope to grow fearless too.

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What are the rules you try to live by? Let me know in the comment section below!

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 openly. Rather, these ideas are explored through Bickle’s paranoid and hyper-masculine gaze. This gaze, more specifically, is informed by white heteronormative masculinity, which reflects a particularly conservative perspective. Taxi Driver’s characterization of urban space, coupled with Bickle’s violent – yet fragile – masculinity, represented the shift in power from the politically progressive counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s, to Nixon, Ford, and Reagan’s right-wing America.

Taxi Driver’s opening credits are featured on a black background, where bold red text floats in a menacing void. The blackness dissolves and a white, billowy cloud of steam fills the screen, followed by a taxi, which enters the frame and proceeds through the haze. Bernard Herrmann’s warm, yet uneasy score seeps into the soundscape; it’s as though this cab came straight from hell. Who’s in that cab? Where did it come from? In the first moment that the audience meets Travis Bickle, the frame fixes on a close up of his eyes as he tensely scans the horizon. Herrmann’s score becomes smooth and sensual in an almost parody-like manner. Who is this creature? What’s outside of the cab is distorted by rain, but the audience is shown blurred city lights, gleaming in the night, and bodies slowly passing, shrouded in hues of red and blue. This opening sets up the paranoid and voyeuristic vehicle through which Bickle occupies public space, whether or not he is protected by the shell of his taxi. In an interview with Film Comment, Paul Schrader described Travis Bickle as “The man who moves through the city like a rat through a sewer: the man who is constantly surrounded by people, yet has no friends. The absolute symbol of urban loneliness.”[i]

As Bickle’s taxi travels through New York City in the film’s opening, there’s a very specific attention to detail highlighted by the film’s cinematography, editing, and production design. Water is everywhere; it’s sprinkled on the taxi’s windows and it covers the streets. Bickle splashes through puddles and drives by kids playing in water from fire hydrants as he traverses the city. Nearly everything and everyone around him is wet, yet he remains dry. Taxi Driver also features a distinct and saturated color pallet of reds, blues, and yellows, all three of which are prominent in the film’s costuming and production design. The camera moves poetically through space, oftentimes without any obvious motivation. This sensual, dreamlike, and film-noir inspired representation of New York City is established and carried throughout the entirety of the film. The lush intimacy that Scorsese creates visually is sharply opposed by how Bickle interprets the city.

The audience is given insight into Bickle’s thoughts through his diary, which is used as a narration device in the film. A few minutes into Taxi Driver, Bickle’s narration introduces the audience to his feelings about the city and its inhabitants: “Thank God for the rain, which has washed away the garbage and the trash off the sidewalks.” He continues, “All the animals come out at night. Whores, skunk-pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies. Sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”[ii] This diary entry is juxtaposed by images of New York City at night, seen from the interior of Bickle’s taxi cab. The streets are soaked and brimming with energy; there are women, black men, and presumably gay white men. Nothing seems troubling about these images, which complicates Bickle’s perspective even further. Throughout Taxi Driver, Bickle references a need to cleanse the city – to rid it of its problems – and the metaphor of water as “redemption” returns time and time again. These ideas are strongly coded and often explored visually. When Bickle picks up a customer who happens to be presidential hopeful, Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris), Palantine asks, “What is the one thing about this country that bugs you the most?” After pausing for a moment, Bickle responds:

“Well, whatever it is, he (the president) should clean up this city here because this city here is like an open sewer, you know. It’s full of filth and scum. Sometimes I can hardly take it. Whoever becomes the president should just really clean it up, know what I mean? Sometimes I go out and smell it. I get headaches it’s so bad, you know. It’s like…they just never go away, you know. It’s like the president should clean up this whole mess here. He should just flush it right down the fucking toilet.”[iii]

In the mid-1970s New York City’s infrastructure was in decline. The city’s lack of funding for public goods, such as education and social services, led to a steady increase in crime. In 1973, as a result of a deteriorating city-structure, a semi-truck fell through the West Side Highway, visualizing the fiscal destruction that was previously only known behind closed doors.[iv] New York City’s problems were further augmented when President Ford denied the city federal aid. On the morning of October 30th, 1975, New Yorker’s awoke to an alarming headline in the New York Daily News: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.”[v] But in many ways, Bickle’s response to the city seems to be about something entirely different. Rather, as Sabine Haenni points out in her essay, Geographies of Desire: Postsocial Urban Space and Historical Revision in the Films of Martin Scorsese, “the decline of the city seems to engender the decline of the male hero – Travis’s inability to function in individual, collective, and heteronormative terms.”[vi] Bickle makes numerous attempts to structure urban space and formulate an identity as the archetypal white male hero. This desire to control space is expressed through his treatment and perception of black men, and his attempts to woo and save the women he encounters and pursues.

In God’s Lonely Man: Vietnam, Gunplay, Race and Blood-Letting Are All Part of the “Taxi Driver” Myth, But Does the Film Deliver the Truth About Men in Crisis, Asks Amy Taubin, Taubin discusses how racism is at the core of Bickle’s character. “It’s there in his body language when he’s hanging out with a group of cab drivers, one of whom is black; it’s there in his eyes when he’s looking through the window of his cab at the action on the street. It’s there, most overtly, when he shoots a skinny black junkie who’s trying to hold up his neighborhood deli. It’s not merely that Travis shoots to kill; it’s the way he puts his foot on the (arm) of a dying man – as if the guy were not even human.”[vii] Italian-American machismo and the instability of masculinity are themes explored in many of Scorsese’s films, but in Taxi Driver specifically, Scorsese’s lead attempts to assert his masculinity in an urban space which he believes to be in crisis. For Bickle, this underlying crisis seems to be that black men are capable of exerting their masculinity (which he may very well feel inferior to) and that women have agency and the ability to reject patriarchal ideals.

As a result of his yearning to establish the archetypal white, American, heterosexual life, Bickle desires to “master space,” a term used by Haenni in Geographies of Desire.[viii] This mastering of space includes the possession of women whom Bickle can fetishize and “save.” Bickle is rejected by three women throughout the course of the film. First, he is brushed off by a clerk (Diahnne Abbott) working at the porn theater concession stand. He repeatedly asks her what her name is, but she denies him despite his insistence. Though this moment is somewhat minor compared to his obsession with both Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) and Iris (Jodie Foster), it works to establish Bickle’s eagerness in realizing his masculinity through the possession of a feminine counterpart. Betsy and Iris represent two different types of fixation Bickle has with women. Amy Taubin aptly describes Betsy as “the Madonna he wants to turn into a whore,” while Iris as “the whore he wants to save.”[ix] By initially pursuing Betsy, a statuesque woman with blonde hair and blue eyes – the embodiment of mainstream American beauty standards – Bickle is constructing the version of himself he would like to actualize. When Betsy eventually rejects him, he turns his attention to Iris, a 12-year-old prostitute, whom he wants to rescue. At first this aim may seem noble, but after Iris explains to him that she does not want to be saved, his insistence becomes misguided. Iris’s unwillingness to take part in mainstream culture doesn’t make sense to Bickle, and he wishes to place her back in her predefined space. Though he believes he is liberating her, rather, he is inflicting his unwanted patriarchal control.

While Iris’s role in Taxi Driver is significant, Bickle’s relationship with Betsy frames the film’s structure and indicates his acute misunderstanding of women. When the audience first meets Betsy she enters the frame in slow motion and gracefully floats into Palantine’s campaign office. The camera is positioned from inside the taxi, assuming Bickle’s gaze. His narration plays, god-like, over the image: “She was wearing a white dress. She appeared like an angel…out of this filthy mess. She is alone. They…cannot…touch…her…”[x] Bickle’s interest in Betsy is based purely on his physical attraction to her. He studies her from his cab for some time, before eventually building up the confidence to ask her out. When he meets her for the first time he’s dressed in a maroon corduroy sports coat, with his hair neatly combed and parted on the side. This is his attempt to match her embodied refinement. After a little persistence, Betsy agrees to get coffee with him.

“May 26th, 4:00 P.M. I took Betsy to Charles’ Coffee Shop on Columbus Circle. I had black coffee and apple pie with a slice of melted yellow cheese. I think that was a good selection. Betsy had coffee and a fruit salad dish. She could’ve had anything she wanted.”[xi] Bickle’s attention to detail, particularly in retelling what he and Betsy ate, exemplifies Bickle’s insecurity and desire to navigate space in a normative manner. The date goes well enough for Betsy to agree to see him again. On the second date, Bickle’s atypical behavior becomes socially destructive when he brings Betsy to a porn theater. This moment reveals the depth of his social ineptitude, and as a result, Betsy rejects him. Because of her refusal, Bickle’s attempt at mastering space, through his identification as an archetype of ideal masculinity, is hindered. He cannot understand Betsy’s dismissal, and rather than come to terms with his own fault, he blames her. “I realize now how much she’s just like the others, cold and distant. And many people are like that. Women for sure. They’re like a union.”[xii]

In the third act of the film, Bickle prepares for what he sees as his final calling – an opportunity to find redemption. “Listen, you fuckers, you screw-heads. Here’s a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is someone who stood up.”[xiii] He unsuccessfully tries to assassinate presidential hopeful, Palantine (who arguably may represent a sort of father-figure to Betsy), and successfully murders Iris’s pimp and lover, Sport (Harvey Keitel). Bickle attempts or actualizes violence against these men because he sees them as the paternal-figures who have influence in Betsy and Iris’s lives. Bickle may also feel inferior to Palantine and Sport, both of whom have a sort of relaxed masculinity and sexuality that is alluring to Betsy and Iris. This inferiority, coupled by his inability to imagine a world in which women have agency, causes Bickle to perceive these men as being the reason why he is rejected. The logical solution, in Bickle’s warped mind, is to eliminate these men and assume his position as a father-figure, messiah-like character. These attempts at possession and control are a result of Bickle’s need to create an image of himself that fits within his understanding of what it means to be a man.

In Barbara Mortimer’s Portraits of the Post Modern Person in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The King of Comedy, she discusses how Travis Bickle functions as a character structured by postmodernism. Mortimer describes the postmodernist character in terms of the idea that “…a coherent, stable self is an enabling fiction that has not so much been abandoned in the late twentieth century as exposed. Scorsese’s films participate in this postmodern exposé of the fictive self.”[xiv] She explains that Travis Bickle (and for that matter, De Niro’s characters in multiple Scorsese films) must “perform or enact his selfhood. Subsequently, identity becomes a matter of impersonation.”[xv] Bickle’s desire to construct his own identity is best articulated in one of his journal entries. He writes: “All my life needed was a sense of some place to go. I don’t believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention. I believe that one should become a person like other people.”[xvi] What does Bickle mean when he says this? Does he wish to assume a sort of “normal” state of being? And if so, what does normal mean to Bickle? Mortimer calls this “identity as impersonation.” Throughout the film Bickle performs; often as a voyeur, sometimes as a “father figure,” and most devastatingly as a vigilante. All of these impersonations are based on his aspiration to become the archetypal hero. In classical Hollywood cinema, the typical “hero” triumphs that which does not qualify as distinctly white, male, and heterosexual.

In The Power and the Gory: Taxi Driver, Patricia Patterson and Manny Farber discuss the role of power in the film, which could be interpreted as another way in which characters attempt to navigate and master space:

“A chief mechanism of the script is power; how people either fit or don’t fit into the givens of their status, and the power they get from being socially snug. Travis’s dream girl has power because she has a certain golden beauty and doesn’t question or rebel against her face or her position as political campaigner. Various pimps are shown as editorialized icons of illegal power. The cabbies, more or less at peace with themselves, are glimpsed as a gang not fighting job or status. The movie shows the facts of being in or out. Everyone plays this power game but Travis – he can’t figure out what kind of game he wants to play.”[xvii]

Bickle’s social isolation seems to result in his misunderstanding of the outside world. This misunderstanding, in turn, drives him to attempt to master and control that which is unknown. In order to not be scared by something, he must dominate it: “Now I see it clearly. My whole life has pointed in one direction. I see that now. There never has been any choice for me.”[xviii] In order to truly conquer the unfamiliar, Bickle resorts to killing. Though because of the complexity of Bickle’s deranged personality, his motivation isn’t necessarily as simple as finding purpose in heroism.

In an interview in Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-drugs-and-rock-‘n’-rock Generation Saved Hollywood, screenwriter Paul Schrader described his own solitude as an inspiration for Travis Bickle. Schrader was in his mid-twenties; he had dropped out of AFI, left his wife, and was eventually dumped by his girlfriend. He was living out of his car, drinking every night and driving around town, and started to feel sick. He went to the hospital and found out he had a stomach ulcer, and it was there that he realized he hadn’t spoken to a single person in over a week. “While I was in the hospital, I had this idea of the taxi driver, this anonymous angry person. It jumped out of my head like an animal. It was like, ‘Oh, this is a fiction; it isn’t really you. Put it in a picture where it belongs and get it out of your fucking life where it doesn’t belong.’”[xix] Aspects of Travis Bickle, and the inspiration for using a diary as a narration device, were also motivated by Arthur Bremer’s attempted assassination of Democratic presidential hopeful, George Wallace, in 1972.

Similar to Travis Bickle, Arthur Bremer was an isolated young man who had problems with women, and his expressions of sexuality were often aggressive. When he was 21 he became fixated with Joan Pemrich, a 15-year-old girl whom he dated briefly. Bremer quickly began to make sexual advances and Pemrich broke it off after only three dates because he acted “goofy” and “weird.” After the breakup, Bremer spiraled out of control. He obsessively contacted Pemrich and shaved his head to show her that he felt “as empty as (his) shaved head.” In 1972 Bremer began writing in a diary, in which he declared that he would assassinate either President Nixon or Governor George Wallace. Due to strict security, Bremer never got close enough to Nixon to shoot him, though he tried. Wallace, however, was more accessible, and on May 15th, 1972, Bremer shot George Wallace, paralyzing him from the waist down. As a result, Wallace withdrew his candidacy.[xx]

By drawing inspiration from Bremer and carrying Taxi Driver’s narrative through the point of view of a psychotic loner, Bickle’s perspective, and therefore the audience’s, is substantially complicated. This complication, and the irrational nature of the lead character’s anger and violence, seems engrained in a sort of metaphor for the complexities of the time. In an interview with Roger Ebert for the Chicago-Sun Times, Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader discussed the film’s reception and the general stir that Taxi Driver had caused. According to Schrader, “The immediate response is usually very visceral and angry. But if this film weren’t controversial, there’d be something wrong with the country.” Scorsese went on to explain, “You can’t make movies any more in which the whole country seems to make sense. After Vietnam, after Watergate, it’s just not a temporary thing; it’s a permanent thing the country’s going through.”[xxi]

The year that Taxi Driver was released was also the same year that the United States celebrated its bicentennial. On the night of July 4th, 1976, President Ford gave his bicentennial speech from the Oval Office:

“In its first two centuries the nation has not been able to right every wrong, to correct every injustice, or to reach every worthy goal. But for two hundred years we have tried, and we will continue to strive to make the lives of individual men and women in this country and on this earth better lives – more hopeful and happy, more prosperous and peaceful, more fulfilling and more free. This is our common dedication and it will be our common glory as we enter the third century of the American adventure.”[xxii]

In The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, historian and journalist Rick Perlstein points out the hypocrisy of Ford’s speech within the context of the cost of the bicentennial celebrations: “…the estimated $400 million spent on the parties, including $51.8 million in federal funds for the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission, could have been spent more patriotically by actually making America a better place.”[xxiii] But instead, millions of dollars went towards reminding conservatives that their country was a noble one, that their cause had value, and that tradition would triumph over change. It was also a reminder that the country was great despite the fact that the U.S. had lost the Vietnam war, leaving approximately 200,000 American troops dead and over 1 million Vietnamese.[xxiv]

Though direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam ended on August 15th, 1973, it wasn’t until April 30, 1975, with the capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese, that all American troops left the country.[xxv] The wound caused by Vietnam was still very fresh, and despite the briefness of its mention in Taxi Driver, the fact that Travis Bickle identifies as a Marine who was honorably discharged is a significant piece of information. Though the audience isn’t told outright that all of Bickle’s problems came from his time spent in Vietnam, it can be assumed that at least some of them did, or if anything, they were enhanced by any trauma he experienced there. While it’s never established exactly when Bickle returned from Vietnam, or if he was anywhere else before ending up in New York City, it is evident that the country he returned to was different than the one he had left. Not only was New York facing substantial economic setbacks, but the country as a whole was becoming increasingly divided.

As a reaction to activists, protestors, and rioters – those whom were fighting so that America would make room for their ideas too – President Nixon coined the term “the silent majority” to signify Americans who weren’t as loud and boisterous. In the eyes of Republicans, these were the “true Americans”: the men and women who put their noses to the grindstone, worked quietly and diligently, never blamed the government, never asked for handouts, and supported their country no matter what. In actuality, the silent majority represented a homogenous group of individuals who were upset about the ways in which the country was changing. This change was signaled by the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, the fight for LGBT rights, and anti-war activism. Travis Bickle’s explicit racism, sexism, and homophobia can all be attributed to a socially conservative perspective. American conservatives, who have often been characterized as attempting to uphold traditionalism, were threatened by the growing influence of the Black Panther Party, feminists, gay rights activists, Marxists, and pacifists. In many ways, Bickle’s attempt to master space, by establishing his white heteronormative masculinity, is reflective of the silent majority’s intent to curb transformation, particularly within urban settings. Bickle struggles to assert his masculinity over and over again, until eventually turning to his last option: violence. The gun, in particular, is an especially recognizable symbol of American masculinity.

References to guns, including “finger guns,” are scattered throughout Taxi Driver. A fellow cabby asks Bickle if he’s interested in buying a gun, just to keep him safe in his cab, and he initially declines. But after his failed attempts at realizing conventional masculinity, he acquiesces. Rather than buy one gun, he buys four. When examining one of the guns he points it at two older women talking outside. He’s above them, god-like. Though he does not enact physical violence on any women, he fantasizes about the possibility. He’s referred to as “killer” by his fellow cab drivers, who point finger guns at one another in a non-aggressive manner, though Bickle perceives it as an assertive act. In the porn theater he points his finger at the screen and pulls the trigger, just as the woman in the film is climaxing. He listens to a man in the back of his cab graphically describe how he is going to murder his wife. She’s been cheating on him with a black man. Bickle says nothing in response; he looks disturbed, yet curious. He glances at the window again and watches the woman’s silhouette. What is he thinking? He begins to prepare for his final chapter: “The idea had been brewing in my brain for some time. True force. All the king’s men cannot put it back together again.”[xxvi]

In the third act of the film, Bickle decides to enact his selfhood through tremendous violence. He begins excessively working out in order to fit the physical qualifications of a male hero, and starts dressing more and more like a cowboy. He practices his tough guy performance in front of a mirror, confronting himself and the self he wishes to be: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Well who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?.”[xxvii] Though Bickle does not successfully assassinate Palantine, he continues on to “save” Iris. The brothel scene visually stands apart from the rest of the film because it is significantly desaturated, a decision Scorsese made in order to secure an R-rating for the film, rather than the initial X-rating that the MPAA gave it.[xxviii] Brown-tinged blood stains grimy white walls as a pale Bickle realizes his masculinity through violence. The result is a scene that is almost more grotesque and ominous than it would have been if the color scheme remained realistic. There is something ceremonial about the emotionless way that Bickle executes each man sharing this space with Iris. He conquers everyone, including Iris, and attempts to kill himself in a failed act of martyrdom. The camera hangs above the bloody scene in a divine manner, traveling out of the room like a spirit moving on to another realm. Though that spirit is certainly not Bickle’s; he, instead, remains clenched to the physical world.

The camera continues to float into the final scene while Herrmann’s dreamy score fades in, bringing everything full circle. Iris’s father narrates a letter written to Bickle, thanking him for returning their daughter: “She’s back in school and working hard. The transition has been very hard for her, as you can well imagine. We have taken steps to see she never has cause to run away again.”[xxix] The camera passes a newspaper article, mounted to the wall, that reads “Taxi Driver Battles Gangsters.” The letter from Iris’s parents is attached to the wall too, displayed next to all of the other evidence of Travis’s heroic achievements. The first time the audience sees Bickle since the massacre, he’s back with the cabbies. His hair has grown in, he’s wearing his usual garb, and he seems at ease with his peers. Someone has gotten into his cab, so he runs over to take the fare. It’s Betsy, who seems to be interested in Bickle again, presumably because of his heroic deed. When she arrives at her destination, she tries to engage him, but he denies her. “So long” he says, as he drives off.

At the end of the film, Travis has become the hero in the eyes of the public. In what may be his most precious achievement, Betsy pursues him, giving him the opportunity to reject her. From the back seat of his cab, she has submitted to his control. He has the power. But in order to perform masculinity to the fullest extent, he must deny her. When he drives off and looks into the rear-view mirror, for a moment the audience is yanked into his world of warped perception – nothing has changed. What will become of Travis Bickle?

There are various elements to Taxi Driver that make it a challenging film to digest, but the ending is quite possibly the most difficult. Not only does Bickle get away with these atrocities, but he is celebrated for them. White manhood wins again, and his enactment of masculinity through violence is validated by the media. In an interview in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Paul Schrader explains how this choice was meant as a criticism of the media: “Characters like Travis are justified by publicity. If you’re on the cover of Newsweek, like Lynette Fromme, then you’re important. The reason why you’re on that cover is unimportant.”[xxx] By publicly validating his performative masculinity, Bickle seems to achieve his goals. He’s a man – he’s become somebody, and he has mastered urban space and subverted his inferiority.

Through Taxi Driver’s lead, the audience is able to explore complex ideas about masculinity, power, and the politics of space. The film is further complicated by its sensuous and lyrical visuals, which celebrate the city while simultaneously inflicting abuse from the perspective of Bickle. There are numerous other instances in the film in which two conflicting things seem to be happening at once. Bickle is simple, yet layered. At times he is respectful on the surface, but seething underneath. He is meticulous and methodical, yet totally irrational. He’s a loner who is socially inept and bad at communication, yet in one instance, he is able to connect with Betsy. He doesn’t seem to understand himself, he confuses those around him, and the audience surely doesn’t understand him either. As a result, and in order to establish his masculinity, he attempts to conquer the spaces around him and those who inhabit it. It’s what he must do in order to relieve his inferiority and uphold what it means to be a white, heterosexual, American man. This expression of Bickle’s masculinity, and his failure to accept the transformations of urban space, are reflective of 1970s right-wing America’s inability to welcome a changing landscape, where women, gay people, and people of color were gaining ground in the pursuit of a country they could call theirs too.

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[i] Richard Thompson with Paul Schrader, “Paul Schrader Interview,” (Film Comment, Mar-Apr. 1976)

[ii] Taxi Driver, dir. Martin Scorsese, 1976

[iii] Taxi Driver, 1976

[iv] Sam Roberts, “New York City Tallies The Human Costs of Its 1970’s Cutbacks, (New York Times, 3 Feb 1991), E20

[v] Sabine Haenni, “Geographies of Desire: Postsocial Urban Space and Historical Revision in the Films of Martin Scorsese,” (Journal of Film and Video, 62.1, 2010, Project MUSE) 68

[vi] Haenni, “Geographies of Desire,” 67

[vii] Amy Taubin, “God’s Lonely Man: Vietnam, Gunplay, Race and Blood-Letting Are All Part of the “Taxi Driver” Myth, But Does the Film Deliver the Truth About Men In Crisis, Asks Amy Taubin,” (ProQuest, 1999)

[viii] Haenni, “Geographies of Desire”

[ix] Taubin, “God’s Lonely Man”

[x] Taxi Driver

[xi] Taxi Driver

[xii] Taxi Driver 

[xiii] Taxi Driver

[xiv] Barbara Mortimer, “Portraits of the Post Modern Person in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and the King of Comedy,” (Journal of Film and Video 49, 1997), 28

[xv] Mortimer, “Portraits of the Post Modern Person,” 28

[xvi] Taxi Driver

[xvii] Patricia Patterson and Manny Farber, “The Power and the Glory: TAXI DRIVER,” (Film Comment, May-June 1998), 42

[xviii] Taxi Driver

[xix] Peter Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-drugs-and-rock-‘n’-roll Generation Saved Hollywood, (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998), 290

[xx] “Portrait of an Assassin: Arthur Bremer,” PBS

[xxi] Roger Ebert with Martin Scorsese, “Interview with martin Scorsese,” (Chicago Sun-Times, Mar. 1976)

[xxii] Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and Rise of Reagan, (Simon & Schuster, 2014), 711

[xxiii] Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge, 711

[xxiv] Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 442-3

[xxv] The American Experience: Vietnam, PBS

[xxvi] Taxi Driver 

[xxvii] Taxi Driver

[xxviii] Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, 307

[xxix] Taxi Driver 

[xxx] Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, 314

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 and wherever you have the chance to express yourself or make something, go for it!

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 advice for achieving happier, more fruitful days:

PS: I’ve thrown in a few dog gifs for fun!

→ Don’t sleep in

If you’re like me, sleeping in will throw off your entire day. Getting up later means less time to be productive, but also less time for yourself. When I get up early I have the chance to make coffee, read, relax, and get my morning started peacefully, which makes a world of difference throughout the rest of my day. You may have the time to sleep in, but trust me – don’t do it!

→ Go for a walk

Working from home or spending long amounts of time inside can be a complete bummer. Whenever I’m feeling down for any reason, I get up and go for a walk around my neighborhood. Sometimes I call home, other times I listen to a podcast or music, but often I just walk without my headphones in and think about things. Going for a walk is a great way to clear your mind and also get in some physical activity. And physical activity is also important for your mental health and productivity!

→ Get out of your pajamas

This is something I didn’t start doing until recently, and the result was surprisingly impactful. My “aha moment” came when I was watching the sixth episode of Queer Eye (🙌), which features Remy, who works from home and pretty much lived in his gym clothes. Tan (oh wonderful, beautiful Tan!) explained to Remy how important it is for people who work at home to dress nicely in order to boost their confidence and delineate between work life and home life. I decided to try this theory out and I admittedly felt better about myself and my abilities immediately. When I was at home and not working a gig, I made sure to get out of my pajamas, and as a result I was more proactive about finding new work.

If you need more reasons to get out of your PJ’s at home, read What Happened When I Dressed Up to Work From Home for a Week by Stephanie Vozza.

→ Be consistent

If you’re getting up early, going for walks, and dressing up while at home, be sure to be consistent. Without consistency, none of these new practices will become habitual. And in order to have a lasting impact on your work life, and personal life, it’s essential that you create positive habits.

→ Have fun

In order to work from home or survive periods of no work, you must have fun sometimes. This means rewarding yourself from time to time (or every day if you want) and going easy on yourself if you have an off day.

→ Exercise and eat healthy

For the longest time I was not exercising or eating particularly healthy. If you work from home or aren’t working, you likely have the time to plan and prepare healthy meals for your week. Slowing down and taking time to make your food can be a relaxing ritual, and is the best way to be sure that you’re treating your body as well as you can. And daily activity is essential for anyone who is working at home! As someone who spends a lot of time on my computer, once I decided to start exercising consistently, my entire outlook changed. I began to feel more confident in myself, and more in-tune with my body’s needs. When you’re cooped up at home, it’s especially important to get out and exercise. I recommend taking classes at a gym because it’s an opportunity to get in a quick, intense workout, and also be around other people.

→ Get creative

What I love about working gigs is that every week is different from the next. So when I don’t have a gig and I’m at home, I’ve found that it’s crucial for me to listen to music, draw, and write. If I’m not exploring some sort of creative outlet, I’m often disappointed that I’m not working, instead of feeling fulfilled in my personal life and getting excited for my next job.

→ Establish goals

Just like working a “traditional” job, it’s important that you have an idea of where you want your current path to take you next. As a freelancer your work is what you make of it, which can be both satisfying, and difficult. In order to be as successful as possible in your given field, it’s important that you set both short and long-term work goals, as well as personal goals.

→ Make plans

Being home alone all day is isolating, so it’s important that you make plans throughout your week. If most of the people you know work 9-5 jobs, then make plans to get lunch nearby their work. If you have friends that freelance too, meet up with them when their schedules allow it. If you both work on your laptops, maybe once a week get together with that friend and work from their home, or at a coffee shop. And make plans for the evenings too – go to a reading at a bookstore, a concert, or get dinner and drinks with an old friend. Evening plans also give you something to look forward to during the day!

→ Get comfortable with yourself

Being alone often requires that you are self-aware and in-tune with your feelings. For example, I know that when I’m working on my own schedule, my productivity and inspiration comes in waves. That means that if I’m feeling especially inspired at 1 AM, I go with it. And if I’ve spent all day at home and can tell that I’m heading towards a mental block, I head to a coffee shop for a change of scenery. When I’ve been sitting for too long and am beginning to feel restless, I go outside for a bit. I listen to my mind and body, and take action accordingly.

→ Leave the house whenever possible

Being alone in your home can be enjoyable, but after a while it may also become stifling. I do my best work when I’m spending some time at home, and occasionally working at a coffee shop or with a friend at their home. In order to not get bored, I try to mix things up and get out as much as possible. Sometimes, simply running a few errands can lighten your mood when you’ve been inside all day.

_____

Do you work at home or spend time at home when you don’t have a gig? Let me know in the comment section below what healthy habits you’ve created in order to stay motivated and productive. 

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!

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 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.” [c]

The environment

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than all of the combined exhaust from transportation. [c]
  • Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32 million tons of carbon dioxide per year; that’s 51% of all the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. [c]
  • Methane has a global warming potential of 86 times that of CO2 in the next 20 years. [c]
  • Emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050. [c]
  • In the US, methane emissions from livestock and natural gas are nearly equal. [c]
  • Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day. [c]
  • Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually. [c]
  • Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US. [c]
  • Californians use approximately 1500 gallons of water per person per day – and close to half of that is associated with meat and dairy products. [c]
  • 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 lb. of beef. [c]
  • A person saves more water by not eating a pound of meat than by not showering for six months. [p]
  • Approximately 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1 lb. of eggs – and almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1 lb. of cheese. [c]
  • 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk. [c]
  • Only 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes, while 55% is for animal agriculture. [c]
  • 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world is attributed to animal agriculture. [c]
  • Livestock or livestock feed occupies 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land. [c]
  • Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land. [c]
  • Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. [c]
  • Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead-zones in our oceans around the world. [c]
  • The EPA says that animal agriculture is the number one cause of water pollution, and is responsible for more than all other industrial sources combined. [p]
  • The meat industry is directly responsible for 85% of soil erosion in the U.S. [p]
  • Nearly half of the continental U.S. is devoted to animal agriculture. [c]
  • Approximately 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared in order to make room for cropland to produce feed for animals raised for food. [p]
  • Every minute, 7 million lb. of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the U.S. [c]
  • A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. [c]
  • 10 million pigs in North Carolina produce the waste equal to 100 million humans. [w]
  • In the U.S., liquid pig manure is pumped in to waste pits that leach into rivers and streams and is sprayed unfiltered onto nearby fields. [w]
  • 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the U.S.; that’s 1.4 billion tons of waste from the meat industry annually. [c]
  • In the U.S. livestock produce 116,000 lb. of waste per second. [c]
  • Livestock grazing is the number one reason that plant species in the U.S. go extinct. [p]
  • 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted. [c]
  • We could see fishless oceans by 2048. [c]
  • 90-100 million tons of fish are taken from our oceans each year. [c]
  • As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the ocean each year. [c]
  • For every 1 lb. of fish caught, up to 5 lbs. of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill. [c]
  • As many as 40% – approximately 63 billion lb. – of fish caught globally each year are discarded. [c]
  • Scientists estimate that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins, and seals are killed each year by fishing vessels. [c]
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction. [c]
  • The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feed crops. [c]
  • About seven football fields of land are bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals. [p]
  • 1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second. [c]
  • Up to 137 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction. [c]
  • 136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture. [c]
  • Worldwide, humans drink 5.2 billion gallons of water and eat 21 billion lb. of food each day, while cows drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion lb. of food each day. [c]
  • The land required to feed one meat-eater for one year is 18 times as much as one vegan. [c]
  • 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 lb. of plant-based food, and the same amount of land can only produce 375 lb. of beef. [c]
  • If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and ate vegan food instead, the impact would be equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road. [p]
  • The University of Chicago found that going vegan is more effective in fighting climate change than switching from a standard car to a hybrid. [p]

Animals

  • Factory-farmed animals are mutilated and abused their entire lives before being gruesomely killed. Watch this video from PETA to see what billions of animals experience in the U.S. alone each year.
  • 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are for livestock. [c]
  • 70 billion farmed animals are raised annually worldwide – and more than 6 million animals are killed for food every hour. [c]
  • Factory-farmed animals are genetically manipulated to grow larger or produce more eggs and milk than they would naturally. Often, chickens grow so unnaturally large that their legs can’t support their bodies. [p]
  • Chickens, turkeys, and ducks often have their beaks removed in factory farms to reduce the harm they cause to themselves and others due to stress. [ds]
  • Globally, approximately 2 in 3 animals live in factory farms. [ds]
  • In order to produce dairy, factory farm operators impregnate cows using artificial insemination. Calves are usually taken away from their mothers the day they are born, which causes both of them immense emotional pain and anxiety. [p]
  • According to the USDA, 16.5% of dairy cows suffer from mastitis (a painful inflammation of the udder) which is one of the leading causes of death for adult cows in the dairy industry. [p]
  • When dairy cows give birth, female cows often become dairy producers while male cows are slaughtered and sold as veal. [p]
  • Every year, more than a billion animals are slaughtered for leather across the globe. [p]
  • Dogs, cats, and sheep – in addition to cows – are slaughtered for leather in China. And unless specified, there is virtually no way of knowing what animal your leather purchase comes from. [p]
  • 300 million hens are used in the U.S. each year for egg production. [p]
  • After birth, female and male chicks are separated. Female chicks will be used for egg production, while male chicks are either suffocated when they are put in garbage backs, or ground up alive. [p]
  • In many U.S. hog farms, dead hogs are processed into feed and then fed back to the hogs. [w]
  • In West Virginia and Maryland, male fish are growing ovaries. Scientists suspect that this is the result of factory-farm runoff containing drug-laden chicken feces. [p]
  • The wool industry is extremely violent and deadly. Read more here: 16 Things You Need to Know About Wool
  • If you buy down products, you are contributing to the abuse of geese and their eventual slaughter. You may also be supporting the foie gras industry, since producers of foie gras often sell the feathers of force-fed ducks and geese in order to increase their profits. Learn more here: The Down Feather Industry.
  • Over 100 million animals suffer and die each year in chemical, drug, food, and cosmetic tests. Many species are used for testing including cats, dogs, monkeys, fish, birds, pigs, and goats. [vb]
  • U.S. industry-backed laws make it legal to do almost anything to a farmed animal. For example, in 1996 Connecticut legalized “maliciously and intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, wounding, or killing an animal” as long as it’s done “while following generally accepted agricultural practices.” The same type of abuse inflicted on a cat or dog could send someone to jail. [f]

I couldn’t possibly include all of the information on animal abuse worldwide – so please do additional research to learn how animals are abused and killed for food, clothing, entertainment, and experimentation across the globe.

People & Politics

  • 1,100 land activists have been killed in Brazil in the past 20 years. [c]
  • We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people. [c]
  • 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten in Western countries. [c]
  • Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock. [c]
  • The U.S. government spends approximately $38 billion each year to subsidize meat and dairy, but only 0.04% of that to subsidize fruits and vegetables. [f]
  • In the U.S. there is a disproportionate number of hog facilities located near communities of color and low-income communities. These areas are impacted by environmental and health problems, which is environmental racism. [w]
  • USDA Dietary Committee members have received money from animal products, sugar, and alcohol industries. [w]
  • The U.S. dairy industry spends at least $50 million promoting its products in public schools. [w]
  • Meat and dairy spend at least $138 million lobbying congress. [w]
  • Ag-Gag laws in the U.S. criminalize whistle-blowers who photograph or video tape the abuses of the animal agriculture industry. [w]
  • According to a Human Rights Watch report, U.S. meat and poultry workers endure hazardous working conditions and companies often use illegal methods to terminate union organizing efforts. [h]
  • Meat packing is the most dangerous job in the U.S. [h]
  • Jamie Fellner, the director of the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch, says that meatpacking companies will “hire immigrant workers because they are often the only ones who will work under such terrible conditions.” Fellner added, “they exploit the illegal status of undocumented workers to keep them quiet.” [h]
  • Approximately 23 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts, which are areas in which access to affordable, healthy food options is limited or nonexistent. As a result, many people living in low-income communities have a difficult time accessing fresh fruits and vegetables. [ds]

Health

  • The World Health Organization has classified bacon and sausage as carcinogenic to humans. [w]
  • Approximately 70% of deaths are largely lifestyle related and preventable. [w]
  • In one study, one serving of processed meat per day increased risk of developing diabetes by 51%. [w]
  • The number one dietary source of cholesterol in the U.S. is chicken. [w]
  • Dairy is the number one source of saturated fat. [w]
  • Bio-toxins accumulate in fish flesh, and fish have become sponges for mercury. [w]
  • 93% of dioxin exposure comes from eating meat. [w]
  • There is a strong link between dairy and autoimmune diseases. [w]
  • Most people in the world are lactose intolerant. [w]
  • Milk is a hormonal fluid and dairy products contain pus. [w]
  • Countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. [w]
  • Americans eat more meat per person than any other group on earth. [f]
  • 3,000 people in the U.S. die each year from food borne illnesses. [w]
  • Dairy consumption is linked to many different types of cancer. [w]
  • Dairy can increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer by 34%. [w]
  • For women who have had breast cancer, one serving of whole dairy a day can increase their chance of dying from the disease by 49%. [w]
  • The USDA has admitted that eggs cannot legally be labeled nutritious, low-fat, part of a balanced diet, healthy, good for you, or safe. [w]
  • Plants have plenty of protein. [w]
  • Testing shows 88% of pork chops, 90% of ground beef, and 95% of chicken breasts sampled were contaminated with fecal bacteria. [w]
  • The largest, strongest land animals on the planet are herbivores. [w]
  • You can stop and reverse heart disease with a plant-based diet. [w]
  • Vitamin intake and overall nutrition go up when transitioning to a plant-based diet from a meat-based diet. [w]
  • Humans closest living relatives are chimpanzees, and they get 97% of their calories from plants. [w]

Resources

Documentaries
  • Forks Over Knives (dir. Lee Fulkerson, 2011)
  • Vegucated (dir. Marisa Miller Wolfson, 2011)
  • Cowspiracy (dir. Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, 2014)
  • What the Health (dir. Kip Andersen & Keegan Kuhn, 2017)
Blogs
Cookbooks
Magazines
Organizations

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 longed for the messiness that comes with being 18-22 and feeling uncertain about the future, yet sure of the possibilities.

I’m a very emotional and introspective person, so if the wind blows a certain way I sometimes feel like I’ve been transported to a time and place I can’t quite identify but love deeply. I found that sort of connection when I was watching Lady Bird. Her high school experience was unlike mine, yet there was a familiarity in her struggle. Watching Lady Bird reminded me of the person I was just a few years ago, and has reinvigorated the sloppy hopefulness of the spirit I once had.

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. Yes, there are folks who live in LA who are famous on Instagram. Yes, the Kardashians live here. Yes, there are dozens of overpriced smoothie shops. Yes, there’s a ton of traffic. But those are just minor pieces to a massive and diverse puzzle.

Los Angeles county is also home to millions of immigrants and children of immigrants from all over the globe. The city boasts world-renowned universities, museums, and restaurants. Most people living in LA and the surrounding areas are part of the working class; only a minuscule percentage of the population stars in a reality show or drives a Bentley. The area was once home to the Tongva people, was conquered by the Spanish, and later became a Mexican settlement before becoming a part of the U.S. in 1850 (see: Historical Timeline of Los Angeles). Through a Euro-centric lens of what American history and culture looks like, some may think LA is lacking. And though critics of Los Angeles may not realize it, this interpretation of the city is glaringly racist.

If you think of LA as mainly a place where thin white girls take cool Instagram photos, then you’re ignoring most of the city. And Los Angeles isn’t just for people who want to work in the entertainment industry and love shopping at Whole Foods (though I am guilty of both). The vast majority of people who live here aren’t actors, personal trainers, or socialites – and to think that’s all the city is erases the unique and varied lives of millions of people.

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 the mornings and stretching their arms to the sky before starting their days.

Below is my sort of visual interpretation of the many (often conflicting) things I described above. What does winter look and feel like to you?

“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.

PODCASTThe Strange World of “Twin Peaks”

VIDEO ESSAYExploring “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*)