"The Definition of Insanity is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results" - Albert Einstein

Monday, January 31, 2011

You’re Still Here…. But Do We Want You?

Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck’s new mockumentary film “I’m Still Here” follows the life of actor Joaquin Phoenix from his announcement from retiring from acting through his pursuit of a new career in hip hop. Phoenix plays himself in the film.

But does he?

Watching the outrageous antics of a narcissistic and overweight actor hardly feels like watching anything that could be likened to the actual character of Joaquin Phoenix, despite the literal attempts to be au natural. I no more believe I’m watching the true conversations and private moments of the Academy Award Nominated actor than I actually believe that he gave any serious interest to a career in hip hop. The only clear interesting thing about this film is that it can’t be argued that I at least watched Phoenix do all of these outrageous things. I was part of the audience for all of those decidedly awful rap performances, and I watched Phoenix snort cocaine and party with hookers and at one point I even watched him get defecated on.

Or at least that’s what the cameras wanted me to think. It’s impossible with cinema nowadays to discern anything as visual truth, because of editing and other “movie magic.” Sure, I think I watched Phoenix snort cocaine, but it could very well have been powdered sugar or ground up chalk. And the defecation scene is so poorly lit who even could see what happened. A reaction can be filmed to anything.

Which brings me to the point of this review. So what if this film isn’t true? Really. It’s a film. It doesn’t even profess to be a true documentary. Four of the ten films nominated for Academy Awards in Best Picture this year are supposedly “Based on a True Story” but what makes “The Fighter” any of them more inherently “real” than “Inception”? In the end, the best-made movie wins the Oscar, not the movie with the most facts or attention to historical accuracies.

This same theory holds for “I’m Still Here.” And I could possibly forgive the fact that I don’t believe in the “reality” of this film at all if it had been emotionally compelling or an extremely captivating film technologically, but it is neither. I’ve already alluded to the poor lighting in the film, and the camera work is in the same unimpressive and unpleasing vein. Furthermore, the plot is boring and the “emotional arc” of Phoenix seems more like a joke to me. Watching him “return to his roots” in Puerto Rico as a climactic ending to the film strikes me more as a cliché joke than any sort of true catharsis for the character. And the attempt at symbolic meaning involving Phoenix submerging himself into the water until he is completely underwater actually offended me as an audience member in its obviousness.

In the end, watching “I’m Still Here” felt like a waste of time. I’d have rather spent two hours watching animation in an attempt to find reality. Affleck and Phoenix should stick to what they know best, portraying the lives of other people.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Zen Cha Tea Salon

This blog is rapidly only becoming about places I eat. Which is perfectly fine, because I love to eat and I love to blog, but my wallet is getting annoyed with me. All readers wishing to make a contribution to the "Keep Jaclyn Blogging About Food Fund" (KJBAFF) need only contact me to make a donation. All forms of cash, credit, checks, gift cards, tradable goods, bridal dowries and coffee dates will be accepted.

So this is a bit of a late post, but too good of a place to miss. And while technically Zen Cha Tea Salon in the Short North District doesn't exactly qualify for the Coffee Tour of Columbus, it can go in the Honorable Mention Tea House Category with an award for one of my favorite places ever. It is the perfect place to bring some reading, order a pot of tea, and sit for hours.

Most excellent part of the menu at Zen Cha? Tea selection. I challenge anyone who goes there to not find at least 5 teas they want to try, hence the reason for return trips. Zen Cha must have over 100 teas on their menu, and I've yet to find one that I didn't absolutely love!!! My personal favorite is the Chai tea selections, pictured below. I've had Hazelnut, Coconut and Almond. All smooth, creamy, and sweet. An excellent choice for any rainy day tea. Hot Chai will warm your socks and warm your soul.

Another honorable mention goes to the Spring Tea selections, pictured below. A naturally sweet tea, usually with fruity tones. Delicious Hot or Iced.

But what really gives Zen Cha the edge over other tea salons? Their food menu. A little pricey, but not out of the question. Also, the menu changes with the seasons. For help pairing food with tea, just as your server. I've never been steered in a bad direction. Not to be missed is Edamame. Perfect for a light snack with a tea.

For a lunch option rather than a snack, go with any of their salads or soups. My personal favorite is the Coconut Lemongrass Noodles, with honorable mention to the Dumplings.

Thai Rice Salad. With Peanut Sauce. Delish.

We are some happy campers.

And here are some weird shots of Zoara.

Love her.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

33 Days of Oscar

Academy Award Nominations came out this morning at approximately 8:50am. Which means today is the first day of 33 days of my obsession with the Academy Awards. This year, I will be making 5 ballots:

1. A Preliminary Ballot
2. A Hirsch Family Ballot
3. A Meshuganotes Ballot
4. A Fantasy Ballot
5. A Final Ballot

Each category is assessed a certain number of points. More points are awarded to the more difficult categories to predict the winner of. More points are also given to guessing correctly in the preliminary ballot, than in the final ballot. This is because momentum can shift between the nomination announcement and the actual ceremony, and also because once the Guild awards are announced, it is much easier to predict some of these winners.

The Preliminary Ballot and the Final Ballot will be used in a pool with Andy, to determine bragging rights for the upcoming year. The Hirsch and Meshuganotes ballots are used in those two pools respectively. And the Fantasy ballot is for my own purposes, just because sometimes it is nice to imagine a perfect world where everything I want to win actually wins. All of these ballots have been organized on my computer into a fabulous excel document by my wonderful and magnificent friend, Alex. I won't be giving updates on how I am filling out these ballots because members of my various pools could read them, but I will be able to give commentary on the different movies as they pertain to my blog posts.

As of right now, I've seen 7 of the 10 nominations for Best Picture, and I intend to see them all before the ceremony in 33 days. Still left on my list is True Grit, 127 Hours, and Winter's Bone. Once I view all 10 films, I will decompress them for readers.

And now, the truly exciting information: My reaction to the nominations.

Well, on first sight, I'm happy. But I'm not sure if this is just happy because it is Academy Awards season, or because I happen to like the same films most of the critics liked. However, there are some serious gaps in nominations that I feel like I need to address.

1. HOW ON EARTH IS CHRISTOPHER NOLAN NOT NOMINATED FOR BEST DIRECTOR? To quote E! "What on Earth does Chris Nolan have to do to get an Oscar Nod? We have no idea."

Seriously Academy? How did you nominate Inception for Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Art Direction, and Score but NOT for Best Director? I feel like this is Baz Luhrmann and Moulin Rouge syndrome all over again (To paraphrase Whoopi Goldberg, 'Apparently that movie directed itself'). Accept that I like Chris Nolan, and Baz Luhrmann is a directorial Hack.

But seriously. I hate to throw in some theoretical critique of movies, but it needs to be done. For anyone who has read Andrew Sarris' work about Auteurist Theory, it could not possibly be more supportive of Nolan's necessity of an Oscar Nod. Because Inception is Christopher Nolan. It is his vision in every single aspect of that film. But not in a crappy, over the top way like when watching Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland," but in a perfectly crafted and balanced wheel of motion that combines directorial vision and style with result. Inception is Chris Nolan, and to nominate it for that many awards and not acknowledge that none of it would have been possible without Nolan's directing is political film blasphemy and garbage.


It's a movie about dreams that we don't truly understand how we got here (or whether or not it was all a dream, but I'm not stupid enough to try to nail down the meta-themes of Inception) But the whole reason that movie works is the editing. Example: Cobb and Ariadne sit in a cafe, and he asks her how they got there. We as the audience are waiting for the explanation because we want to know as well, but then there isn't one. Why, because of the FILM EDITING. And every other single scene about entering and escaping the world of the dream is only possible because of the film editing. Why this fantastic oversight was overlooked in favor of 127 Hours (which yes, I know I haven't seen yet, but believe you me, it will be soon remedied) is beyond me.


Hailee Steinfeld is in every single scene in "True Grit." That movie is about her character. She should be nominated in Best Actress. And consequently, Jeff Bridges should be nominated in Best Supporting Actor. Why Steinfeld is nominated in Supporting is beyond me, considering it can't be a political ploy to secure her a win versus a nod, because in my opinion the Supporting Actress category is pretty tied up (I won't say with who right now). So really, Steinfeld should have been moved to Best Actress, which would have left a spot for Mila Kunis in Supporting. And Kunis is awesome in "Black Swan" and it totally would have ruled if she had gotten nominated for it. Granted, I understand why she didn't, but still, should have happened.

Other notable acting nominations missing include Andrew Garfield (and honestly Justin Timberlake too) for The Social Network. I'm not entirely sure why Ruffalo beat out Garfield for the spot, because I found him just ok in that movie, but it could have been because of the complete oversight that was not nominating Julianne Moore from "The Kids Are All Right" instead. And Moore was much better than Ruffalo in that movie. But as we all know, the Academy doesn't often listen to me.

Let's just hope 33 days from now, we'll be in sync.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cup of Joe

Stop Number 2 – Cup of Joe at Lennox

This is my first of what I assume will be many chain establishments on this tour. Immediately what I like about this location is the wealth of free parking located within eyesight distance of the coffee shop. Sorry Luck Bros’, but point to Cup of Joe. In 8-degree weather, minimal walking is essential. The atmosphere here is unpretentious, and more people come and go in smaller increments than at Luck Bros’. There are also a lot more kids here than at Luck Bros’, but this could be because today is a Saturday and yesterday was a Friday.

Cup of Joe gets major bonus points for its excellent food selection. They have 5 or 6 different types of cake, pie and cheesecake, brownies, cookies, rice krispy treats and my personal choice, the coveted Egg Bagel. Very few establishments have egg bagels these days, considering them to be too close to the plain to be worth buying. This makes me sad, because these are actually very different types of bagels, but Egg’s are far superior to their Plain counterparts. Therefore in conclusion: Egg Bagels Rule, Plain Bagels Drool.

But seriously, this is a coffee shop. The coffee here is definitely the best of the chain restaurants. I had a large flavored coffee of the day, which happened to be White Chocolate Macadamia Nut. It’s hard for me to say anything bad about copious amounts of hot coffee so rapidly in my grasp, but I’m gonna be real, of course the coffee here can’t compete with that of Luck Bro’s –esque family owned and operated places, but it is still damn good. Way better than the coffee at Starbucks, which I sometimes equate to burnt chalk. And it’s a good place to get away from school and do some work without having to see everyone and their brother that you don’t want to talk to.

There's something really nice about writing here. Maybe it is the intangible feeling of community one gets from being surrounded by other people drinking coffee and writing on their laptops. There are at least 4 presumably college students working on homework here. And a little blonde boy walked up to me and asked where the trash can was, and then said, "Thank you so much for showing me where the trash can is." It was so adorable I about died. This is the kind of community I love being a part of. Midwest for the win.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Luck Bros Coffee House

Stop Number 1 - Luck Bros’ Coffee House

A smaller establishment, located in Grandview Heights, The Luck Bros’ Coffee House is the first stop on my tour of coffee shops in Columbus, Ohio. I was recommended Luck Bros’ by my friend Bryan while we were on summer abroad in London. At that time we were attempting to visit the best places for Flat Whites in London, and I distinctly remember him talking about how much he liked Luck Bros’. So here I am.

Because there is very limited parking, I have to park almost three blocks away and walk. Today is January 21st, and it is 11 degrees outside. Luckily, I checked the thermometer before I left the house, so I’m wearing three layers of clothing, including tights and knee socks and also snow boots. Gotta love January in Ohio.

I’m starving, so ordering the last everything bagel with cream cheese is a no brainer, but the coffee decision is a bit more complicated. I contemplate ordering just regular coffee, but when I mention it to the barista she doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about it. She’s a tall girl, who looks to be perhaps in her mid-twenties, with short dark hair and a white plastic gauge earring. Immediately, I know she is cooler than me, so I will now trust everything she says. She tells me that they make really good lattes here and I’m on board. It seems to me its hard to go wrong with something that's good enough for an employee, so it’s good enough for me.

The walls here are a nice orange color, which is really surprising only because I hate the color orange, and, I’m usually hard pressed to find a shade that pleases me. But this warm pumpkin shade is aesthetically suitable. When I first arrive the only other people in the shop is a man with headphones and a laptop inconspicuously sitting in a booth by himself and a large table of gents with books, pens, papers, computers and the vibe that they are also, much cooler than I am. A couple of them are wearing hats, two others have dark rimmed glasses, and most of them are wearing dark thermal shirts or man-sweaters. Only two of them are clean-shaven, I immediately equate this with intelligence and aloofness.

I naturally assume these men are clearly academics, participating in some sort of informal coffee roundtable, perhaps editing works of literature, or debating the creation of the universe.They are cool. They have that indefinable thing that I lack as a novice intellectual. They have a circle.

I settle into a small table across from the counter where I can observe the goings on easily. It takes me a few seconds to situate myself, latte, bagel, and laptop on this small metal table, but once I do, I feel very much like I could blend into the scenery. I take a few pictures of my latte and prepare myself for the experience.

This is probably one of the best lattes I’ve had in a while. For starters, its super cute. It is served in a white porcelain mug which is short and fat with a small handle shaped kind of like an elf ear from Lord of the Rings. The foam on top is swirled where the frothy milk meets the dark espresso below. As I cradle the smooth glass in my hands, I can feel the warmth seeping into my pores before I’ve even taken a sip.

The latte is smooth and the perfect temperature. The espresso is strong but not overpowering against the steamed skim. Really, Really Excellent. I immediately want to drink the entire cup in about .74 seconds, but I remember that I have writing to do and how sad I will be if I drink the whole latte before I even start writing. So instead I turn to my everything bagel, which has been perfectly toasted and smothered which regular cream cheese. This is my breakfast of choice, never mind that it is past noon, and I’ve only been awake for a few hours. This is the perfect way to spend a pseudo-morning. Two Enthusiastic Thumbs Up!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Working on a Manuscript

This quarter I'm taking my second class in Creative Non Fiction Writing (English 468). This is awesome because it means that I get to write another long personal essay and call it schoolwork, and because it encourages me to sit and think extensively about the minutia that I like to call my life. Our large project for the quarter is to write a "Personal Narrative." Last time I took a CNFW class, I wrote my personal narrative on addictive television watching. This quarter, I think I'm going in the same vein of thought, but with a more literary journalistic spin. So, the theme is (drumroll please) :


It's a good theme because, I'm addicted to it, so if I ever want to publish a book of essays, it will tie in nicely with the television piece. Also, I have a plan. I'm going to make a list of all of the different coffee shops in the Great Columbus area and visit them all. I'm going to go to them and order a drink, and write. This may or may not include someone to go with me, but that is debatable and should only include one person per Coffee shop visit. I want to explore the coffee shop atmosphere, what it means to be addicted to coffee, what it means to hang around in a coffee shop. Interview an employee perhaps (or perhaps not), write about ambiance, write about drinking coffee and writing while wearing a scarf, essentially about everything and nothing.

And Yes, I'm aware this is an overly ambitious project. I'm ok with that.

So, if you have a favorite coffee shop in Columbus, please leave a comment on this post. Assume that I will not visit every coffee shop in the entire city, but that those posts left with the most enthusiasm will probably receive priority.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Being Sick is Not Fun

Being sick is not fun.

Today I have a cold. My sinuses are draining and I'm coughing up crap. My nose is stuffy, my eyes are runny and my head has felt fuzzy all day. I drank hot tea for breakfast, ate soup with hot tea for lunch, had soup and half a sandwich for dinner and drank a third cup of hot tea as a midnight snack. Then I watched all 125 minutes of "Fantasia" and if I don't wake up at least 70% better tomorrow morning I will probably cry. And then make myself a cup of tea.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Think of a Pair of Shoes

I spent most of this past winter break at my childhood home. And while I preferred to sit around and do as little as possible every day, my mother insisted I should at least use the time to be mildly productive by cleaning my room because she was sick of the more-frequent-than-necessary phone calls to her requesting confirmation that certain items were hiding somewhere in the abyss. So partly because I had no reason to reuse doing so, and and partly because I did have to admit it might be nice to actually know where everything is in my room, I decided to at least clean out my closet.

I'm really the kind of person who owns too much of anything and refuses to throw any of it away. It's honestly a miracle TLC hasn't come to stage a "Hoarding" intervention.

My strategy for tackling the closet was to start from the ground up, which means very literally, my shoe collection. I probably own somewhere between 40 and 50 pairs of shoes. Granted this is a collection I started accumulating in 7th grade, when it became apparent I wasn't ever getting taller and I was thus going to be a size 9 show for the rest of my life. Eight years later, and my theory is still valid.

As I sift through the shelves, I am nostalgically reminded of the different occasions I wore all of these shoes to and simultaneously must justify why they cannot be thrown away. I think to myself, I can't throw away my rhinestone-studded cream colored peep toe kitty heals from senior prom, I wore them to senior prom, and hence MUST be saved. Never mind they pinch my toes and are hideously ugly. They hold enough sentimental value for me to hold on to them, which is to say, they hold at least a shred. And I definitely can't get rid of my black pleather hooker boots because I wore them for three Halloween's straight in middle school. What if I someday need these black hooker boots again?

This same process continues until I get to the one pair of shoes in my close that actually doesn't fit anymore: Size 6 pink ballet slippers. They are an extremely disheveled relic from my elementary school years when my mother would have done anything for a peaceful hour to herself, including enrolling her severely uncoordinated and considerably pudgy daughter in a room full of skinny blonde Stepford wives-in-training with an instructor hell bent on stamping out individualism.

Granted I have to admit, I was four years old at the time, so I clearly didn't have anything better to do with my time, and I'll always be indebted to the Dublin Dance Studio for introducing me to my love of classical music, but I hated ballet class. I didn't like the conformity of the dance steps, the all too revealing nature of my white tights and black leotard, and above all, I hated being clearly the least talented ballerina in our class of clones. Over the 5 years of dance lesson I took, I learned not how to find a spot on the wall to use as a focus point when pirouetting, but instead how to spot every imperfection on your body in a full-length mirror. And I was never the girl who went home and practiced her side splits to increase flexibility, preferring to be the girl who ate banana splits while flexing her intellectual muscles instead.

Eventually I must have complained enough to be allowed to quit, and I remember ceremoniously taking all of my itchy tutus and overly bedazzled costumes and moving them promptly to basement storage. In retrospect, I can't believe I didn't throw them out. In fact, I'm sure they are still in our basement somewhere in a "dress-up cabinet." But this really shouldn't surprise me. I can't bring myself to throw out these ballet slippers either, no matter how physically useless they are to me now. Because I can't throw them away just yet, I may still need them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Yes, I realized that I haven't blogged in a while, but that was because I came home from Bermuda and my life became boring again and every writer needs a sabbatical right? Anyways, Happy New Year readers, I hope 2011 is as wonderful for you as it is looking to be. So to kick this blog post off...

New Years Resolutions for 2011
1. Get Good Grades. Despite the cliche familiarity that this resolution has, it's message passes the test of time year after year. Plus it is an alliterative statement. Win.
2. Eat Healthier and More Exciting Food. I've decided that I'm going to become a restaurant critic because my true life's calling is to eat and to write about it. So why not start now?
3. Play More Sporcle.com Quizzes. Consider this training for Jeopardy.
4. Watch More TV. There is some speculation, that this seems destructive. I'd like to point out to all the naysayers, that I watched more TV last quarter than in any other single 10 week period in my life, and got the highest GPA I've ever had. Clearly the more TV I watch, the better my grades get.
5. Write More. This is not exclusive to blogging, so I don't want to hear any complainers if the blog posts slow down as school picks up. I heard somewhere from someone that Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers, that all one really needs to do to be absolutely proficient in any single activity is complete 10,000 hours of it, and I'm going to become a proficient writer by the time I'm 30.

So those are my goals for the quarter. Otherwise, I'm trying to not go insane staying indoors and get through all of my classes. My schedule is awesome, but you'll hear more about those once I start taking them tomorrow. 'Til then, Happy 2011!!!