Saturday, September 15, 2012

How many memoirs about Harvard are there?

So far, just two that I know of: "Penelope" by Rebecca Harrington and "That Book about Harvard" by Eric Kester. One of these books is more creatively titled than the other, though that doesn't say much considering "Penelope" is a book about a Harvard freshman named Penelope. Technically, "Penelope" isn't a memoir, but it is probably similar enough to Harrington's own freshman experiences that I'm going to consider it a memoir for the purposes of this post.

Interestingly, both authors graduated Harvard in 2008, both were involved in the Crimson, and both currently work for the Huffington Post. I'm sensing a conspiracy here.

Another fun fact about being a part of a publication at Harvard: Conan O'Brien '85 was president of the Lampoon and Jeff Zucker '86 was president of the Crimson (probably during the same years as each other). Fast forward about 25 years later: Jeff Zucker is CEO of NBC and Conan O'Brien is hosting a late night show on that same network.

Now, back to the books. I'm actually pretty interested to read these, seeing as my own freshman year was a roller coaster of emotions. My amazing academic and personal experiences were unfortunately counterbalanced by tons of social anxiety as I struggled to find my niche. I was just talking to my freshman year roommate about this last night, actually. We both came back from the summer with totally different perspectives on the upcoming year, but I'm losing my perspective a lot quicker than she is. It's only been two weeks, and I can already feel myself regressing to my freshman year mindset. Maybe these books will help me keep things in perspective.

Edit: And now a third. "A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano" by Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Takeaways from living in Los Angeles

“I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Ice Palace

Five things that helped me be happier:

1. Working out three times a week. Joining a gym with a tight community helped me get in shape and meet new people! Crossfit gyms are especially great because all the workouts are done in groups, and you generally see the same people coming to classes.

2. Going out at least twice a week. One of the best pieces of advice I read this summer is from Thought Catalog, and it goes like this: If you’re feeling depressed and you’re not sure why, there’s a 70% chance you just need to leave your apartment and be social.

3. Gaining a new skill. I wished I'd put more effort into learning how to code, but one fun cs project I did over the summer was the redesign of Harvard Fusion Magazine's website.

4. Talking to friends and family back home. It's easy to take them for granted, but they're the only people who will always be there for you when you're feeling down.

5. Reading self-help books and books written by comedians.

One website that might improve your LA experience:

One really important thing that I learned about myself:

I love living in the middle of a city. I love seeing the sides of skyscraper buildings glitter with lit office rooms. I love seeing a cluster of skyscrapers getting closer and growing bigger as I drive deeper into downtown. I love how the skyscrapers loom over me, making me feel so apart of the city yet so small in its history. I feel awe when I'm in a car going down the highway, and I see downtown rising before me. It's cheesy, I know, but I freaking feel like I'm going home.

One thing I wish I had done:

Stay as long as possible on the west coast. I went home on August 15th, which I now realize was horrible decision. I don't return to Boston until the 31st, which gives me almost a full three weeks at home. In that time, I could have couchsurfed through San Francisco or visited a friend in Seattle. I'm annoyed that I missed the chance to get more out of my west coast experience. From now on I will never spend more than a week and a half at home. I've realized that a week and a half is the perfect length of time to hang out with my family and friends while still being relieved to get out of the house at the end of my visit.

Three professions I would love to try some day

This post was inspired by the real life professions of three people in my Groundlings improv class. I've noticed that the people in my improv classes are not only really funny, but also have the coolest professions. Here are three I'd like to try some day:

1. Post-Production Editor for Playboy

Post production is the editing that takes place after a TV show, movie, or short film has finishing shooting. It involves cutting scenes, color correction, sound effects, and any other edits necessary to polish up the video.

The good part:

"I love my job," says Dawn, who works in post-production for Playboy, "I basically edit porn all day. And the people are so nice!"

The downside:

"My job is so boring!" complains Dawn. "I watch videos of naked women all day on a computer screen in a dark room. Nobody ever comes by. I'm practically starving for human interaction all day!"

I don't know what's true with her.

2. Production Assistant for Rupaul's Drag Race

Borges likes to think of himself as an old man. He owns a typewriter and wears a bathrobe at home. He has many seemingly random tattoos on his arms as a reminder of his younger days living with a tattoo artist and drinking a lot. I think he helps out on set. Lately, he's been editing the newest season.

His thoughts on his job: "You get really jaded. Now, whenever I see a hot woman walk by, I first assume she's a man. I've been burned too many times."

3. High Stakes Gambler
Lily is one of the few Asian females who plays poker at these $150 buy-in poker games. She got into poker after her boyfriend took her to a few tournaments.

Her thoughts on her win-loss ratio: "I know it's bad to say, but I haven't really been keeping track of my wins or losses. My boyfriend does that for me. I think I'm in the green though."

If it's possible to have controlled reckless gambling, then she's got it, and there's something strangely compelling about it.

© Yuqi Hou
Maira Gall