Ozu’s A Hen in the Wind.

Yesterday the Criterion Collection on Hulu announced that they were having a 101 Days of Summer summer cinema event.

Basically, every day a new film from the Criterion Collection will be available for free on Hulu Some of these films are not available through more conventional means. This is a fantastic opportunity.

The film that was technically chosen was Harold Lloyd’s Speedy. But when I noticed that one of the six bonus titles for the initial launch was Yasujiro Ozu’s A Hen in the Wind (which is not available on DVD), I knew which film I was going to watch this afternoon.

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Blogging Reboot

There are many different types of blogs.

One of my good friends makes a new blog for each new subject she will be blogging about: a blog about gardening, a blog about a summer vacation, a blog about low-fat dairy-free cooking.

It’s a convenient way to categorize blogs and it certainly makes them more popular among certain groups. Dieting lactose-intolerant people browsing the internet might not want to browse through a mixture of gardening tips and wacky hijinks to get to their delicious recipes.

On the other hand, virtually all modern blogs have tagging options, making it easier than ever to quickly sort posts by interest. Another friend of mine has a blog with a mixture of interests, including documenting her costumes, reviews of TV shows and political opinions.

Which style of blogging is “better?” Well, I would certainly say that themed blogs are more likely to be noticed for many ways. If I wanted to assemble a list of political blogs, it would be a little silly to recommend a blog that includes reviews of Fringe and Firefly. Yet at the same time, there are many popular blogs with few overarching themes, if any. The writer is the connecting line, and all of his or her posts will trace back to the author’s opinions and thoughts.

I have been toying with the idea of committing to a post a week on this blog, which was originally designated for travel. I have dozens of untold stories and musings from my few trips, and I do want to record them in some written form. But I have so many thoughts beyond just traveling, and the format was stifling instead of freeing.

So instead of limiting myself to one topic, I’ve decided to release this blog into the wild. I’ll try to actually put up one post a week, but on any topic I’m interested in exploring. Hopefully this will make it easier to maintain the once-a-week-minimum posting schedule I’m reaching towards.

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Sratim Mei’eretz Yisrael

I’ve never been to the New York Public Library before, and clearly that was a mistake. Especially considering that I have hung out in the British Library a few times. This building is gorgeous.

Of course, the fact that I’m here doing research for a college research assignment isn’t a big deal. The fact that I am doing research in Hebrew, though, is not only a big deal but also HILARIOUS. Because my Hebrew is mostly verbal and not exactly fantastic. And here I am. Waiting for four (FOUR) books in Hebrew. Which I will attempt to read. And take notes on. And possibly photocopy for later.

This project on the Israeli Audiovisual Industry is getting more hilarious by the day.

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Blogging Platforms

I have a friend who hates WordPress.

I’m not sure WordPress deserves it. Sure, it’s a little bit restrictive, and the controls feel almost outdated now like the whole thing could use a reboot. But as a blogging platform, it gives so many options, even if most of the default ones sort of scream “WORDPRESS” when you look at them. (I think her anger comes more from the fact that a lot of people take a WordPress base and build real looking websites. They look slick to the end user, but have you tried to use one? It’s incredibly counter-intuitive.)

So, on the one hand, as a non-programmer with limited HTML knowledge at best, I’m awfully fond of WordPress.

But shhhhh — don’t tell — I dislike it a little too.

It’s undeserved. WordPress is still good at what it does. But what it does is pretty limited.

I’m a blogger, yeah. This isn’t my first blog under my real name, I made a Blogger blog a few years ago, because I was in Israel and it was easier to update there than email everyone about my activities. I was pretty horrible at updating that blog as well.

On the other hand, I’m a whiz at updating facebook. Which is, in a micro sense, a blog! A little blog, snippets of thoughts for just your friends, but the status updates are basically blog posts, And they invite conversation and debate. They also invite useless idiocy and insults for some people. The length is limited and I can’t control anything about the appearance, yeah. But while WordPress is a great blogging platform and Facebooks is a pretty terrible one (I think) the social interaction is happening on Facebook, not on WordPress. And I think that’s the problem.

The only two blogging platforms that I can think of that actually combine the social aspects with the blogging aspects are Livejournal and Tumblr. (And Twitter, possibly, but Twitter is the epitome of micro-blogging and has more limitations than Facebook, which is saying something.)

Livejournal has a somewhat negative reputation online for being full of whiny teenagers who write emo poetry and wear black. It’s an undeserved reputation, especially when you realize that it’s a highly respected blogging site in Russia, used by Russian politicians.

It’s a stagnated site in many ways. The ultimate design hasn’t changed in years, and typically that’s a bad thing. But it’s brilliant in it’s simplicity. You make a blog/username, and you can use it anywhere on the site. Comment on other blogs, sure. But the Community feature is key. Do you like crafts? Join a community and talk about it with people! Live in New York? There’s probably a community for you. Where you can post, and other people will respond. You can choose communities or journals to follow, and your friends page is an automatically generated RSS feed of all of those choices.

There are forks of Livejournal (Ultimatejournal, Insanejournal, Dreamwidth) but the most people are on the main site. And in social networking, people are key.

Now, Tumblr is new and it’s still figuring itself out. I like to call it “twitter for pictures” which is shortchanging the site, but not by much. People mostly use it to post images, and links and gifs. Mostly a “look how cool this is everybody!” sort of place. Now, you can do full text posts, but they don’t look as interesting, and the way commenting works is a mess. Really, the comments get horribly stacked and it can be hard to track who said what and when the screen is too narrow the comments get narrower and narrower…it’s just messy. I have seen a few truly clever Tumblrs that utilize the format well (We are the 99 Percent is a good example) but overall, it’s not my type of site.

But again, it has the people, and it supports the social networking structure very, very well.

Back to WordPress. I’m not expecting people to read my blog just because it exists, obviously. But if I want to put up a post about how I’ve been making bentos, there’s no way to network with other WordPress users who make bentos. If I want to put up a post about fun things to do in New York City, I can’t network with people about that. It’s like I’m operating in Web 2.0 and on all my other platforms I’m already on Web 3.0. I want to blog. I have a lot to say. But the structure I’m working with means that I can’t necessarily find other people to talk to.

It’s one of the reasons I have at least a dozen drafted posts scattered around my hard drive. I want to write, sure, but I want to discourse even more. And even when I cross-post to Facebook, I can’t blame people for not responding here. It’s just not as accommodating.

(This is where Google+ could have just been amazing. If you combine a real social networking site with a blogging platform? I would have been far more over that. Circles are nice. I want a blog that all my friends can see and comment and argue about.)

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The year turns over at a different time for students.

I have been intending for this blog to be something more. It started as a Macaulalay College requirement, to post about my doings while studying abroad in the United Kingdom, and I think I’ve had mixed success. Certainly I got the blogging done, but I never managed a consistent pattern of posting.

But I’m trying to structure my life more this semester, at the beginning of my last year of Queens College. I have long-term plans that I need to sort out for myself, like what I’m doing next year, where I want to go from here.

For now I’m focusing on more short-term goals. Setting up my weekly gym schedule around my classes this semester. Study groups for BALA 303 and physics classes. Planning and cooking meals for the week. Cleaning up the apartment and keeping it that way. Making and arranging shabbos.

And working on my Macaulay thesis, because that’s something I want to try and get as close to finished as possible in a single semester, despite my lack of a firm idea.

I’ve been quietly recording a lot of my media habits on this on some of the pages. At this point, I’d like to just be able to keep track of the various books, movies and films I watch and read. As a media studies major, I want to work on the types of media I’m absorbing, as well as the “quality.”

With all of this, I’m hoping to set up a rhythm of posting at least once a week. Thoughts, musings, ideas. I could write about an episode of 30 Rock or my adventures in bug-catching, as the official bug-catcher of my apartment. This blog is going to turn into more disjointed rambling and thoughts on myself. At some point I hope to do a more thorough wrap-up of my study abroad experience, perhaps when comparing it to my time back at Queens.

And, of course, lots of experimenting with the layout of this blog!

The header right now is Caerphilly Castle, an enormous castle a short bus ride from the center of Cardiff. The background is another shot of the same castle, not that you can really tell from the way the current layout.

A screencap for posterity!

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Video of Adventure

I recoded this video on the train from Chester to Manchester Airport (see my last post for more details.

I tend to get a little rambly when I’m tired. But the experience was really that surreal!

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ADVENTURES do not require sleep

These posts in my past weekend have mostly been divided by day, but I’m going to go straight through until my flight home. Mostly because I was awake for all of it, so it certainly felt likened extremely long day.

Sunday was the Wales Comic Con, which I was planning to attend largely to meet one particular actor, but also because comics! How could I not go?

But the convention was in Wrexham, in North Wales. And as Leora can confirm, public transportation in the UK is…less than stellar on Sunday mornings.

So I had to catch the 8:13 train from Liverpool Lime Street station to Chester, where I had to switch trains to arrive in Wrexham by 9:38, which should be plenty of time to find the convention before 10 when it was due to open. I was worried about the change, but it all went off without a hitch and I even met two other girls on their way to the convention on the platform in Chester.

We walked to the con together and got on line and avoided being terrorized by the guy dressed as the alien from Alien. I met some more people in line, and during the day, and I spent a ridiculous amount of money all told. But it was brilliant.

There was a concert after the con, and it was due to end by 10. My original plan was to take a cab, which would cost me about £50. But one of the people I met called her mother and confirmed a train possibility. It was mildly crazy, but I booked a ticket.

So after the concert, the girl walked back with me to the train station, and I had to make a choice. I had to either go back to Chester, or back to Liverpool (where she was going). At either place I could catch a a train to the airport slightly past 3:30 in the morning. I had no idea which one to choose. So I rode the train with her to Liverpool so we could chat. Multiple people advised me to stick to Chester, as Liverpool has a bit of a shady reputation and Chester was just a nicer place. The train I was riding to Liverpool runs on a loop, and just before it pulled into Liverpool Lime Street, I decided to stay on to go back to Chester.

I don’t know if I made the right decision, but it was certainly adventurous. Chester is a cute, little station and I settled myself on a bench around midnight, daring myself to go as long as possible without digging out my snuggie for warmth.

Then a rail worker came over and said, “Miss? The station is closing.”

And I panicked. Clearly I made the wrong decision! I should have gone to Liverpool! I was going to spent the night on the streets of Chester!

But I calmly replied, “oh, no. I’m taking the 3:30 train.”

The gentleman seemed surprised, but he just warned me that they were closing the station and I would be unable to leave. Not a terrifying opening to a horror flick at all!

So I pulled out the book I bought at the convention and settled down again. Then Leora called from America. This was the best thing that could have happened. I had asked her to do it, but she was s total lifesaver. I was eventually kicked out of the main hall to the waiting room, which I would have gone to earlier if I had know of its existence, as it was much warmer. Leora and I spoke for about two and a half hours, which was probably the only reason I was still awake when the train platform was finally announced.

I rushed to the platform early. Normally, a train at the origin station will be open and ready to board a good fifteen minutes before it departs. This train unlocked the doors about 45 seconds before it was supposed to depart. You bet I panicked.

I had the whole railcar to myself, so I propped my head up on my bag and prepared to take a nap for the ride. Then the ticket guy came by to check my ticket.

There were two passengers on the train! We were locked in the station for over three hours to catch this train! I feel like any person who went through all of that to get on the train should just earn a freebie.

The rest of Monday was mostly a blur until 8. I staggered to the baggage check-in and stretched out and had a pretty restless sleep. Slightly before 8 I staggered vertical and queued in front of the counter. No way was I not going to be first, with a flight at 9:50.

I grabbed my bags and ran for terminal three, where I paid the nice AA people lots of money for my second bag, and then my overweight bag. Then I had a lovely dash through security and ran right on to the plane, which had already started boarding. My plan had been to buy chocolate at some point, but at the time I was lucky to remember where I stuck ky boarding pass.

I did have some great sleeping time on the flight, as well as an unexpected amount of food. And my mother came to pick me up, which was amazing, as I was not really ready for public transportation with two giant suitcases and a some pretty heavy carry-ons.

After finally getting a shower, and then a haircut, I got to dress up for my brother’s graduation, which was the entire reason for my whole crazy sleepless train-dash early morning flight. It was lovely, and I even managed to take some pictures on my cell phone. And then I crashed.

But like I said, weekend of awesome. Everything worked out!

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Shabbos with ADVENTURE.

I made it in time for shabbos! Which was actually fantastic. The family I was staying with were very friendly and we went out for dinner to a student house, so I got to meet a lot of Liverpool University students. I also saw Penny Lane, of Beatles fame.

Shabbos morning was the most adventurous, though. I woke up in the morning to walk to the old shul, which was about an hours away, but was utterly gorgeous and totally worth the walk. They had a choir balcony with these domes and pillars and the whole thing had gold trimming!

Lunch was also lovely, and I slept in the afternoon in preparation for the next day. Shabbos didn’t go out until 11, but then there were a few British experiences to be had! I ate beans on toast with real British tea — for possibly the last time in a while — and we all watched the mid-season finale of Doctor Who.

Britain! Woo! Then I repacked everything and triple-checked my trains and set my alarm clock with five back-ups.

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Friday – full of ADVENTURE

Crewe ended up being a great stop. First, a woman on the train, who saw me neuroticaly pulling my suitcases into the vestibule ten minute before we were due at the stop, offered to help me unload the bags. In the end, a guy getting off the train helped me, and they were both very kind.

I fell asleep for about half an hour at the begining of the ride to the airport, but I was so afraid of missing my stop an hour later that I couldn’t do it again.

Anyway, in Crewe I didn’t see any elevators and I had a panicked vision of myself trying to drag both suitcases up the stairs to another platform only to miss the train to the airport. I huddled next to an information kiosk, scanning for my train time and platform number. (To clarify, I had an open ticket, so I could take any train from Crewe to the airport. So if I missed a train it would be ok except for the running stairs with two huge suitcases.) But when my platform appeared on the screen and I looked wildly around for directional signs, I found out that the platform was only a walk of fifty feet or so — no stairs!

Manchester Airport was interesting. I checked my bags, no problem, and then I traced the route to my check-in counter, so I would be prepared on.Sunday. I’m cutting it slightly close.

The guy who design that airport was clearly just having a good time. Terminal three is only a short, twisty walk from terminal one (where the baggage check is) and then up another flight of stairs. To check in, you go left. But for security, you go right! Which makes no sense! Becauee you have to retrace your steps after checking in! Oh, and the American Airlines check in area was deserted, so I couldn’t ask if I could check in without my suitcases and then bring them later. I’ll have to figure that out Monday morning, I guess.

So far, Liverpool seems like every other industrialized British city, in both good and bad ways. I went down to the port, which I thought was lovely, and went through the Maritime Museum, which is also host the the Slavery Museum. I felt they were both somewhat poorly laid out, but the information was fascinating.

And now i’m waiting for my bus to go to my shabbos hosts. I got lost and turned around getting to the bus stop, so I’m already.late. and my bus has yet to show. Adventure!

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My weekend of ADVENTURE! Or, how I left the United Kingdom.

I was going away for my final weekend, but I had a problem. My suitcases were huge and unwieldy, but I wouldn’t have time to go back to London and pick them up before my flight out of Manchester airport Monday morning. (Why is a long story, let’s skip it and go straight to the action!)

So, I decided that before I went to Liverpool for shabbos, I should check my suitcases in at the airport, and I could just pick them up again Monday morning. According to the internet, this would cost me £20-£30 which was more than worth the hassle.

Ok! So I had to get from London to Manchester airport, Friday morning! Booking the tickets was fun. Because I was booking late, as usual, even the morning tickets were something like £110. Which is ridiculous.

But I noticed that none of the trains were direct. They all stopped over in Crewe or Manchester Picadilly. So in my only moment of clever train planning this term, I booked a ticket from London to Crews and Crews to the airport, saving myself over £50. Woot!!

Ok, the train was leaving Euston at 7:35. I wanted to take a train from King’s Cross, but no luck. Now, Euston isn’t that far from me. Imagine a straight line. On one end is my dorm. On the other end is Euston station. In between you have a few blocks of shops, King’s Cross, St. Pancras, the British Library, a Novotell, an office building and a student bar. Now, it is a straight line, and it only takes me about 20-25 minutes walking, most days.

But I wasn’t just walking. I was walking with the aforementioned wobbly suitcases. I arranged my morning to wake up at 5, and be out by 6. I figured, even with them slowing me down, an hour and a half should be plenty. But people did recommend taking a cab, which shouldn’t cost too much for that distance. I wrote down some local minicab numbers, just in case.

I decided to walk to King’s Cross and see how I was doing. The guard from my dorm helpful walked one suitcase to the first road with me, and then I began.

The suitcases were really heavy, and I needed to take a breather, but I figured I could do it in the amount of time I had. But the weight in one suitcase sliiiid over to one side, and the suitcase kept tipping over and wrenching my hand. It took forever to get it back up and not let the other one fall. By King’s Cross I was worried.

And then, revelation.

Outside King’s Cross, there were luggage trolleys! I paused, bcause I was pretty sure you’re not supposed to walk one of them quite as far as I was going, but there was no one to ask. I read the back of the trolley and they all basically said, “This trolly is the proper of Euston Station, if found please call —-” Euston Station? Perfect! That was where I was going!

So I grabbed trolly, hauled my suitcases on it, and off I went!

I got some weird looks, but let me tell you — it only took me another 20 minutes to get to Euston, despite the weight. 😀

Of course, the information boards in Euston weren’t working, but I was early enough that I didn’t care! I sat outside for a bit! I went to the information booth to ask where my train was leaving from at my own sweet pace! I started writing this blog post in my phone’s WordPress app! I was the only person I saw with a trolley. In fact, I didn’t see any trolleys at all, but I parked it neatly in the empty trolleys stop on my platform before my train departed.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. The trains were the worst-constructed trains I have ever seen, first time I was seriously disappointed with the Virgin Empire. I requested a seat near luggage storage, no other requirements. So they gave me one…in the middle of the train car. Instead of big luggage storage at either end of the train, they had little ones scattered around the train. Great for weekend commuters. Bad for me. I dragged my suitcases down the narrow aisle to the nearest luggage thing. I’m only worried about getting off now – the train doesn’t terminate at Crewe, so I’m going to have to have my luggage ready when we pull up, but I have no idea when that is going to be.

Part one of MY ADVENTURE!

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