Quitting my PhD was the second best decision of my life (the best was marrying such_heights) and has brought me so much joy, happiness, and personal fulfilment.
I think a lot, on and off, about whether there’s anything that could have helped me quit it sooner. I suspect probably not, to be honest — all anyone could do was what they did do, which was love me, support me, and welcome me back with open arms when I did finally come home.
But for my past self, the one who got on that plane weighed down with ambivalence, here are a few things I’m glad you’ll learn:
( Thoughts for a quitter )
I'm in the mood to take requests. What would you like to see me write a blog post about? All suggestions will be entertained (writing, politics, mental/physical health, true crime, Shakespeare, etc.), but may or may not be acted upon.
I'm screening comments, in case you want to ask privately for a public response.
Shaped and themed cakes are awesome, of course, but I still drool and dream over more traditional wedding cakes, too. After all, they've come a long way from just simple tiers with flowers - even the simple tiers with flowers!
Love this SO MUCH.
And take a look at this amazing "fabric" pleating:
(By Delectable by Su)
Hard to believe those tufted pinwheels and embroidered borders are all sugar. It's so perfect!
And check out the string work on this engagement beauty:
(By Hana of A Piece of Cake)
I love the curls on the top tier, and the piping on the bottom lace collar and upper level strings is simply awe-inspiring. Skill like this always renews my faith in cake artistry. :)
Here's a sweet dress-inspired design:
Look at the design at the bottom of the skirt ruffles!
And how's this for a modern twist on a classic?
(By Elizabeth's Cakes)
If you've never stacked or tried to support cakes in the shape of a ball before, let me assure you: it's hard. And all that detail! Totally swoon-worthy.
Another rounded design:
See that lace border on top? Someone piped that. Yeah. Respect!
And speaking of mad piping skills:
(By The Cake Gallery)
Whoah. This reminds me of the Victorian-themed Grand Floridian resort here in Orlando. Frills and bows and hand-piped lace, oh my!
Or, for a more modern touch:
This has been one of my favorite designs since before I even started CW. I love the swirls and the bold flowers.
Or, how about John's favorite?
(By Sugarbelle Cakes)
And finally, the cake that had me scooping my jaw off the desk:
(By Susan Trianos aka Peecheekeeno)
That's all *cake*, guys. Look at that tufted tier in the middle. LOOK AT IT. Now, tell me: how the heck do they DO that? Not to mention the perfect corset lacing, the bows, the ruffles, the porcelain-perfect gumpaste roses...seriously, I think I could stare at this all day. Just. Gorgeous.
And from my other blog, Epbot:
19.A song that makes you think about life
Rizzo's story is sadly overlooked in many productions of Grease, perhaps because this song is the only time that any of it is directly expressed (although it's very much there in the film, if one looks for it in her expressions and tones of voice) - but she's perhaps the only character who understands the whole game that everybody is playing, and conciously chooses how much to engage.
The first Andean Bear to be born in mainland Great Britain has emerged from its den at Chester Zoo.
The rare cub, which is yet to be sexed, arrived to parents Lima, age 5, and Bernardo, age 7, on January 11. After spending months snuggled away in its den, the cub has started to venture out and explore for the first time.
Made famous in the UK through the classic children’s character Paddington Bear, the Andean Bear is the only Bear to inhabit South America. They are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
The species is listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Conservation experts from the zoo say the birth of this cub is especially significant given how threatened the species is.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at the zoo, said, “The cub was tiny when it was born but Lima is doing a fantastic job, particularly given that she’s a first-time mum, and the cub is developing quickly. Lima is keeping her new charge close and she certainly has her paws full. But even though she’s not letting it stray too from her side, we can already see that her cub has a real playful side."
“This is a momentous breeding success for us. To become the first zoo in mainland Great Britain to ever breed the species is an amazing achievement,” Rowlands said.
Little is known about Andean Bears in the wild. Information learned from the zoo birth will aid conservationists working to protect these Bears in South America.
Population estimates for the species were last made a decade ago, placing wild numbers at just 20,000. Conservationists are convinced that the Bears' numbers have decreased further, but are unsure how many remain in the wild.
The main threat to the Andean Bear is habitat loss, with some 30% of the forests that contain sufficient food disappearing in the past 20 years. Hundreds of Bears are also illegally killed by farmers and business owners every year, largely to prevent them from raiding crops and livestock.
Chester Zoo works with scientists in Bolivia to study Bear-human conflict.
See more photos of the cub below.
"Ice cream is the perfect buffer, because you can do things in a somewhat lighthearted way. Plus, people have an emotional response to ice cream; it's more than just food. So I think when you combine caring, and eating wonderful food, it's a very powerful combination." -- Jerry Greenfield
[Eid Mubarak to everyone celebrating! And unrelatedly, distant greetings to all my friends gathered in NYS for ice cream and camaraderie this weekend -- hoping next year I can manage to make it up there myself again, after too many years absence.]
(Question: is the young man in one of the photos a fan is holding out to be signed truly Cranston some decades ago? Yikes, I wouldn't have recognized him.)
The director of Wakefield, one of his movies which are shown this year in honor of him (and yes, of course several Breaking Bad episodes are s hown as well), Robin Swicord, joked that both she and Cranston have German grandparents, and: "I don't know why they left, but you know, I think the fun is over. Might be a good idea to come back now, and I think you all know why. So thank you for welcoming political refugees." Former opera director Sir Peter Jonas outed himself as a Breaking Bad fan, complete with Heisenberg t-shirt, and held a speech praising the glories of narrative arc driven television. My only irritation with that one wasn't the series he singled out (other than BB) for being exceptionally good at this - The Sopranos, Oz, The West Wing and The Good Wife - , but the one he didn't mention. Babylon 5 still doesn't get as much credit in breaking ground with its narrative arc tellng format as it deserves.
Anyway, Bryan Cranston's own speech was lovely, mostly about the way being a storyteller is the best vocation (I agree), with both wry humor and sincerity. After the ceremony, Wakefield was shown, but due to an unshakeable real life obligation, I could only watch the first hour. Mind you, I had mixed feelings anyway. Because I could see why Cranston was cast (excelling as he does in playing dislikeable characters whose pettiness isn't air brushed away who are still interesting to watch) , and I enjoyed seeing Jennifer Garner again (playing his wife), and found the concept something of a suburban Hitchcock satire without crime (Howard Wakefield, lawyer, due some circumstances ends up disappearing into his own attic, watching his wife and family carry on without him with the bickering zest of a true voyeur while literally reduced to eating garbage) in a clever way, it still made my skin crawl. Because in the hour I watched, most of Howard Wakefield's voyeurism and assholery was directed against his wife, and while I knew the narrative was absolutely on the same page with me here, it still felt very disturbing to watch, and so it didn't exactly break my heart that I had to leave early. (Otoh I missed the Q & A with Cranston afterwards that way, alas.)
On to movies I could watch completely:
La Familia, a movie from Venezuela, directed by Gustavo Rondón Cordóva, currently stuck in Caracas and thus unable to make it to the festival, though he might make it to the Latin American directors general Q & A on Monday. This was a taut, intense story starting in the poorest quarters of Caracas. Our two main characters are Pedro, a twelve years old boy, and his father Andres, who works several jobs at once to make ends meet and thus hardly sees him. The introduction sequence has Pedro (Reggie Reyes) playing with some other children, and the playing has that edge of violence, those moments when shoving at each other suddenly threatens to become more, which has you sit up already. And sure enough, various scenes later, which establish Pedro's day with best friend Jonny and minus his father (who sleeps like a stone on those rare occasions when he's home), violence does explode, as a child threatens Pedro and Jonny with a gun and Pedro ends up seriously hurting the other child. His father Andres understands the implication at once because the child in question has revenge hungry people, and goes on a run with his estranged son, which is the plot line for the rest of the movie. "Going on a run", however, doesn't mean what it might were this a US film, because Andres still needs that money for Pedro and himself to survive, so he takes Pedro with him to his various jobs on the other ends of the city - they just don't go back to their own quarter, though Pedro urgently wants to because he's worried for Jonny, which makes for a big confllct with his father.
This is a movie which trusts its actors (Giovanni García plays Andres), because the dialogue is terse and rare, and you experience the shifting father and son relationship mostly through physical interaction, looks, gestures. Andres doesn' have a "killing is bad" conversation with his son, or a "how do you feel about what happened?" conversation - that's just not how they interact. And yet you can watch them becoming closer throughout the film, and at the end they truly understand each other, and even in their desperate situation have some hope for the future.
Clair Obscur, a Turkish-German-French-Polish coproduction (yes, these do exist) directed by Yesim Ustaouglu. With a female Turkish director and two female main characters, this movie explores, among other things, various ways of what it means to be a woman in Turkey. Our two heroines live completely different existences - Shendaz is a psychiatrist with a seemingly good relationship with her boyfriend, living in very well off circumstances at the Meditterranean coast, while Elmas is still a teenager imprisoned in a marriage to a much older man who revolts her, serving him and his mother in their small flat in a skyscraper. The two storylines eventually connect when due to various spoilery circumstances Shendaz becomes Elmas' therapist; by that time, the cracks in Shenaz' own life have been revealed, but refreshingly for therapists who tend to be either demonic or incompetent when presented in a fictional story, she's still able to truly help Elmas (especially once she figures out how young Elmas really is), and eventually finds away to escape the mess in her own life as well.
The director and several of the actors were there, though not the two leads. The actress who plays Elmas' mother-in-law said whhen she read the script, she thought that this was the best discussion of female sexuality in a Turkish movie. The sex scenes aren't just surprisingly frank in the case of Shenaz (with Elmas, who does not want to have sex, the camera stays on her agonized face, and later goes with her to the restroom because the aftermath is also very painful to her), but always make a character point. In the Q & A the director was asked whether the movie could be shown like this in Turkey, and she answered she had to cut around two minutes for the general release version (though she was allowed to show the full length in Turkish festivals), which since she knew this would happen in advance she could do without taking away the meaning from the scenes in question. Mostly the general release cuts avoided the full nudity of the complete version. Since the only Muslim women showing up in Western media tend to wear headscarfs and/or hijabs, in short, live Elmas' life, I suspect the fact that Shenaz is sucessful in her profession, has unmarried sex and enjoys wine when dining with her boyfriend (who does the cooking) would be as startling as the sex and the nudity if this movie gets a release in the US or Europe. At the same time, there's the awareness that Erdogan's government and party is doing its best to make Elmas, not Shenaz' life more common again in Turkey, and that subtext is also there if you're sitting in the audience watching this film.
Shenaz is played by Funda Eryigit, Elmas by Ecem Uzm, and they're both delivering terrific performances. In the Q & A, Ms. Ustaoglu mentioned that the incredible scene in which Shenaz gets Elmas to roleplay a dream she has (which finally allows Elmas to vocalize the pain in her life) needed only two takes, one for Elmas, one for Shenaz, that the actresses were that good. And having seen this movie, I believe it.
(because if the finale was this weekend, then it will not be safe for me to check out FB until I've caught up since half of my friends watch the show and will quite likely be talking about it)
eta: Answered! It's a two-parter with the second part next week, so it's best for me to avoid FB today just in case :)
Anyway, I was restless enough that I went out for a drive at 1 a.m. despite the rain. ( A new bridge, getting somewhat lost in the dark, a newly discovered bridge, a very wet New York City, and a lot of new buildings )
I survived and my car survived, I discovered parts of Queens I'd never been before though I didn't get to really see them (Russian fan friend who sent me some WK manga images years ago and asked me to identify the New York City places in them, the park I couldn't identify turned out to be Queensbridge Park. I'm sorry!), and I miss getting to see cool window displays.
Leave prompts! Fill prompts!
(Heads up, it's on LJ, which I know doesn't work for some of you. I could post a prompt for you, if you want me to?)
... unrelatedly, I cannot BELIEVE how loud the biker bar up the highway is. It's about a mile/mile-and-a-half away, and when they're having an outdoor concert, as tonight, you can actually make out the lyrics in the music. IT'S A MILE AWAY!