Watching This is Like Watching Clueless: HBO's New Series GIRLS

Over the past few weeks, my social networks have been abuzz about the new HBO series, Girls. Girls is the brainchild of Lena Dunham who is currently a media darling after her film Tiny Furniture was received with much acclaim on the festival circuit. The 26 year-old Dunham, who writes and directs Girls, also stars in the show as the character Hannah. Among my contacts, the Judd Apatow produced show has received mixed reviews but I decided to watch the pilot (currently available on YouTube) and give it a chance. This is my take and I would warn you that there may be some spoilers in the following so you may want to watch first and read the rest of this after you watch.

The pilot begins with the character Hannah having dinner with her parents at what appears to be a fancy restaurant. As she shovels food into her mouth, her parents begin to slowly reveal that they no longer wish to bankroll her New York City lifestyle. We find out Hannah has been out of college for two years now and is working an internship while trying to finish writing her memoirs. At the time of this writing, I'm just a couple of years older than Dunham as I'm going on 28 years-old in July. When I was two years out of college, I wasn't working an unpaid internship while my parents paid for all of my expenses. On the contrary, I had to work. Immediately following graduation, I found a job. Not particularly well paid compared to some of the jobs my classmates landed at financial firms, but it was a job nonetheless — it paid the bills. In Girls, the prospect of having to try and find a job horrifies Hannah and she spend most of the rest of the scene arguing with her parents and trying to convince them to continue to financially support her. I know lots of twenty-somethings, and most of them don't behave this way.

Later in the episode, we are introduced to Hannah's best friend Marnie played by the stunning Allison Williams. Williams actually feels like the most realistic character. She is portrayed as an ice queen as her boyfriend clearly likes her far more than she likes him. Marnie and Hannah even discuss the possibility of Marnie potentially breaking up with him because he is simply too nice for Marnie. This character is at least self aware as she notes "I feel like such a bitch" for wanting to dump a guy who, as far as we know, has been nothing but doting. However, I have a qualm with this scene: who hangs out in the tub naked with their girlfriends shaving their legs together? I dormed in college and, Judd Apatow, I can assure you this probably happens less often than you'd like to believe! Also, we hear that they watch Mary Tyler Moore together but, correct me if I'm wrong, Mary Tyler Moore was a WORKING GIRL. These girls don't seem to do much of anything, but we'll get to that in due time.

To follow the Sex and the City mold, Girls appears to follow four primary protagonists with Dunham playing the lead (the Carrie role, if you will). The next character introduced, Shoshanna, even makes reference to this. She points out her Sex and the City poster to her new roommate, British cousin Jessa. Shoshanna, played by Zosia Mamet, is over the top in her enthusiasm for the show and which Sex and the City character she most embodies. While I don't think it's a stretch, what should have been a nod with a smirk to a former HBO heavyweight and similarly themed series is instead a long, drawn out, drunken overt surly wink. To say it felt forced is an understatement.

When Hannah's character is at her internship, we meet our first minority — the Asian graphic designer who is apparently more valuable than Hannah because she knows Photoshop! Her scene ends swiftly as Hannah's boss interprets her "I can't afford to work for free anymore" comment as "I quit." This then leads Hannah into the arms of her actor lover with whom we can assume she's had an off again, on again history. They wax poetic about the working world and the lover, Adam, confesses that his parents don't support him — wait for it — his grandma does! Adam's grandma gives him $800 a month towards living expenses so, as he puts it, "I don't have to be anyone's slave." At this point, I'm almost ready to turn off the TV and walk away. Again, I'm not in my 30's — I'm a twenty-something with lots of twenty-something friends. My friends who aspire to be actors work their fucking asses off. Most of them work crappy jobs at Starbucks or administrative assistant gigs that give them the flexibility to go out on auditions and work on their personal projects. It's not easy for them and most of them don't have their grandma's giving them what amounts to rent every month.

The interaction between Hannah and Adam is so awkward it hurts. Hannah can stand up to her parents to try and make them give her money but she's weak and powerless when with Adam? She asks Adam to retrieve a condom before they have sex and he replies "I'll consider it." Later, she confides in him about how her rapid weight gain spurred her tattoos to which he replies, "You're not that fat anymore." All of this seems normal to Hannah; she doesn't bat an eye. And their sex scene is probably the worst of it; I know premium television seems to require them, but in this case it really didn't seem necessary at all.

Finally, toward the end of the episode, Hannah — who is now high on some sort of opium tea — decides to storm into her parent's hotel room and demand that they support her because she has a "voice of a generation." If Lena Dunham's voice is the voice of a generation then it clearly isn't mine. Her voice, which I assume is scattered over all these characters, tells of a breed of entitled bratty little girls. In keeping with the entitlement, Hannah pleads "All I'm asking for is $1100 per month every month for the next 2 years." Wow, what I would've given to have someone gift me $1100 per month! Instead, I had to earn it. And to be honest with you, I probably earned that much working while I was in college full time!

The end of the episode leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth. Hannah's parents check out of the hotel and Hannah wakes up in their hotel room, alone. Her first inclination is to order room service! Yes, room service after her parents explained how they can't afford to, you know, pay for this make-believe lifestyle she leads. Upon finding that the room service tab is fully closed, she decides she should leave before housekeeping comes. On the hotel room desk, she finds an envelope addressed to her with some money. Her parents also left an envelope on the desk for housekeeping. Hannah steals the money left for housekeeping and pockets it before leaving. Oh, and by the way, at the end of the episode we get minority sighting #2; the homeless black man that sings at Hannah as she walks down Sixth Avenue. I thought there were more minorities in New York City, but I guess I'm just mistaken.

One of my friends, who saw this show before I did, described the girls as "vapid" and I can't say I blame her. Girls is a terrible portrayal of elite, entitled twenty-somethings living a fantasy Disney princess life in New York City on borrowed money and/or trust funds. But perhaps I'm not part of the key demographic for this show as I'm not white, I don't live outside my means and I don't have other people footing my cable bill? To be honest, this makes me rather sad. I was looking forward to Girls being an exploration of coming of age as women in a big city where you need to work hard (and sometimes get a lucky break here and there) to survive. Instead, it was a bunch of unredeemable adult characters acting like little girls. But, as the title suggests, maybe that's the point. Though, after that pilot, I won't be sticking around to find out.

Captured: One Light Portraits of Anthony

My boyfriend Anthony is probably my greatest model. He is always ready and willing to stand by and let me take his portrait. Secretly, I think he enjoys being in front of the camera a tiny bit (even though he will never admit this). Below are some photos I captured of Anthony with a one light set up. The one light, besides ambient lighting, was a Canon flash unit that I shot through a softbox.

Anthony Test Portrait #1 by Jen Gallardo
Anthony Test Portrait #2 by Jen Gallardo
Anthony Test Portrait #3 by Jen Gallardo

What's the deal with Warby Parker?

As many of the dozens of you who read my blog know, I wear glasses pretty much daily. On a rare occasion, I might break out the contact lenses, but like I said, it is rare. I find that contact lenses put a huge strain on my eyes during the course of a normal work day where I generally sit in front of a computer screen most of the time. And I'm still very scared of laser surgery where they slice open your eye (!) so, yeah, I wear glasses.

I've been wearing the same frames for years now. I originally found them for sale on ebay and purchased them something like 5 years ago. After years of wear, they started to get old so I decided to do a search for new frames again. I looked around and didn't see much I liked. I ended up buying the same frames again but in a different color. These are the frames that I'm wearing now. I really like them, but they are starting to age and it might be that time where I decide to get new glasses (especially with insurance…score!).

My first thought this time was to try a different sort of online purchasing experience. Warby Parker (warbyparker.com) has revolutionized the purchase of glasses by taking the whole experience, with the exception of the eye exam, online. You send them your prescription, pick glasses, and BEHOLD, you have new glasses shipped to your door. Also, they are a company committed to good. For every pair of glasses you buy, they send a pair of glasses to someone in need. I'm a sucker for a good cause. Continue reading "What's the deal with Warby Parker?"

Where did all the cowgirls go?

I recently read a blog post by Clay Shirky about the difference between how women talk about their own abilities versus men. He wishes that more women would stand up and exert their influence because women are just as talented, smart and capable as their more effusive male colleagues. I wish for this, too.

In fact, many other women wish for this as well. COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg has given many a talk aimed at women. She says that women should take a seat at the table and not count themselves out by default because they want to have a family. Sheryl is living proof that it is possible to maintain a family and still be successful; and she acknowledges the challenges that come with that.

However, she also touches upon the big elephant in the room that many who talk about the disparities between men and women fail to acknowledge. A man who goes for the gold is assertive. A woman who does the same is off-putting at best, and at worst simply labeled a "bitch." Often when I say this, people roll their eyes; Sheryl present a famous Harvard Business school study that proves this is not simply "women getting easily offended" or "being emotional" (which, by the way, is another topic for another day).

It's an issue that permeates regardless of industry. In politics, Hilary Clinton was often given that label. Her wardrobe of pants suits and "attack dog" stance during her campaign gave her a harsh exterior in the public eye to both women and men. Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live commented on the whole thing and turned it into a positive with the saying "Bitches get shit done."

I love that sketch because I sympathize. I am good at my job. I get things done. If that wasn't true, I wouldn't now be earning nearly triple what I was offered upon graduation in 2006 (in a "bad economy", to boot!). However, as a result of my focus on process, keeping on schedule, and GSD (getting shit done), I am sure that there are many colleagues, past and present, who think I'm a bitch. In fact, I can name them (and there are, unfortunately, women among them).

And the truth of the matter is, I'm not a difficult person to work with. Despite going to school for Computer Science, I'm self-taught at a lot of things, lousy at some others and definitely still have quite a bit to learn. This invigorates me to learn more but also terrifies me at the same time; being in technology, I sometimes feel the need to know everything and be on the cutting edge. This isn't necessarily true, but motivates me to keep on my toes and at the very least stay relevant in a few things (and, given current trends, looks like my decision not to dive head first into Flash development wasn't so bad after all).

But the point of writing this wasn't to brag about myself. The point is that yes, women need to step up to the plate more to brag and take credit — myself included. Often times, we shy away or defer to others when we know what the right answer is. This is a problem of self-doubt and wavering self-esteem that perhaps everyone has at times but tends to be more evident among women. However, the flip side of that is let's call a spade a spade. When a woman steps up, do we encourage it? Or do we add to this doubt — do we doubt her abilities because of predisposed notions? Continue reading "Where did all the cowgirls go?"

Magazines and Women

I'm a big fan of magazines. While I usually stick with fashion magazines, lately I've been reading some other more business oriented titles. This year, Anthony and I started our own company for our personal pursuits and I felt really lost throughout the process. So when I got the opportunity to redeem some points for magazine subscriptions, I decided to go with a few titles that would help me wrap my head around our business needs. I subscribed to Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur and Fast Company.

I've really enjoyed my subscription to Inc Magazine. I find their articles to be super informative and their interviews, like recent ones with execs from Tumblr and Kid Robot, to be truly inspiring. And, for what it's worth, I appreciate the attention to detail in the graphic layout of the pages themselves. I love that it's a happy marriage of helpful content and creative design. I also like that the magazine is not written for a particular gender. Women and men alike can pick it up and get something out of it. This is not to say that every magazine should do this, but it's nice that a magazine marketing towards small business owners does not discriminate.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Entrepreneur. Now, working in technology in various industries, I've realized it's a boy's club — not that that's entirely a bad thing! I've worked with some pretty talented men and learned a lot from them (most notably that the lack of women in their midst is mostly an oversight, not intentional). I also happen to like a lot of things men typically like more than most women (sports, fried foods, gadgets) so it doesn't really bother me to spend time in the company of dudes. Continue reading "Magazines and Women"

Captured: The Things We Carry

Last year, I was inspired by a photo project going around (as well as countless magazines I'd purchased) that showed the inner contents of a person's handbag. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they carry with them day in and day out. As you can see above, those are the contents of my bag as of July 7th 2011, when this photo was taken.

It's quite a different spread compared to 2010:

The biggest difference to me is the cellphone. I've replaced the Blackberry Pearl and Black & Red notebook with an iPhone. It's funny to think that it's only been a year and yet having the iPhone has completely changed my way of life — for the better! Although, I'm still a fan of paper and have been known to carry around notebooks too. I still can't type fast enough on my iPhone to get the ideas out whereas with a notebook I can speed through them.

The other big difference is the lighting. The 2010 photo was making use of available light and as a result was not the right color temperature (thus why it's greyscale) and a bit underexposed. The 2011 photo is still a little darker than I would've liked, but made use of bounced Speedlight flash (I bounced off the ceiling) to illuminate the items and details therein. However, the lens I used for this year's photo is not as great in quality so I still feel it's a bit off. In addition, my current camera isn't as great about capturing low light as the camera I'd like to buy soon. So next year, it will be better!

The High Cost of a Low Price

Everyone (well, mostly everyone) knows that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

When it comes to low prices, I've learned the hard way that sometimes you get what you pay for.  The adage is true: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

I remember when I moved into my first real apartment post-college.  Unlike a lot of my peers, I had to pay for all of my initial expenses myself, with support from my boyfriend who I would be living with.  At the time, I worked for a nonprofit organization (for those that don't know, that's code for "not getting paid much") and he worked in theatre (also an industry where low salaries are not surprising).  This meant we had to get creative about how to spend money on furnishing an apartment.  Luckily, the apartment wasn't very large so there wasn't too much to buy.  We were also very fortunate that bed bugs were not widespread then; many of our furniture pieces then were found objects of unknown pedigree.

Though I tried very hard to find one on the street, nobody was getting rid of a pine wood antique chest of drawers like I desired for myself.  Some things just don't come easy.  Seeing no other way of affording a place to put my clothes, I ordered a filing cabinet made of particleboard that would happen to be large enough for my clothes and fit in our small bedroom.  For a short time, it did the job.  Until one morning, I was getting ready for work and the thing just crumbled.  If you can imagine a dresser imploding and collapsing upon itself, that's exactly what happened. Continue reading "The High Cost of a Low Price"

Captured: Hazy Shade of Winter

Ice Shards

I was born in the summertime.  My ancestors lived in warm weather nearly year round.  This leads me to believe that I am not built for cold weather.  However, being born and raised in New York City, I've adapted to some cold.  I have learned how to layer up and prepare for most temperature ranges.  That said, the winter always takes me by surprise.  I always find myself saying "This winter MUST be colder than last year!" even though that's probably not at all true.

Instead of spending too much time complaining about the weather, I've decided to celebrate the beauty in the cold.  With my camera in tow, I've been wandering around the snowy city (and surrounding parts) ready to capture what fills some folks with joy, but just makes me wear tights under my jeans and long-sleeve tees under my dresses.

I found I do best when the weather is cold, the winds are still, and the scene is drenched in sunlight.  But I still desperately long for spring.  I'd love to wear a jacket and not a coat.  I would also very much enjoy not wearing double socks and being able to walk out of the house with wet hair without the fear of icicles developing at the ends of my curls.

So with baseball's spring training just around the corner, I've decided to share a set of photos dedicated to celebrating winter.  I'd like to think of this as a indefinite moratorium on winter, at least until this time next year.

Just the Geese and Me
Slush
Thawing in Chunks
No Time for a Picnic
Stormy
Mounds of Snow
Snow Flurries

Mentorship in the Age of Instant-ity

Quite a few years ago, I had a conversation with a colleague about mentorship.  She mentioned that she didn't mind being a mentor but found it exhausting and often not worth her time.  Then, I was younger, looking for guidance and surprised by her thoughts.  Now, I understand her meaning.  Let me explain.

I believe information should be free and that knowledge is power.  Currently, we are in the age of "instant-ity"; you can get most information you need pretty easily from the convenience of your cellphone, laptop or even television.  Thus it appears that information is, for the most part, free and that you can wield power over your own existence through the knowledge you've obtained via this information.  But this is where the problem lies, and ultimately the disconnect between generations lately. Continue reading "Mentorship in the Age of Instant-ity"

Why The Beatles on iTunes is Important

Yesterday, Apple (Apple Computer, the company behind my beloved iPhone) changed their homepage to read that on Tuesday November 16th, a big announcement was coming from iTunes.  Over the years, Apple has made lots of big announcements but usually they are pretty easy to forecast.  For example, around "back to school" season, Apple usually has a music event where they'll release new iPods and refresh iTunes software.  This big announcement, in the middle of November, was not really in keeping with Apple's usual release cycle.  My first thought: The Beatles must be coming to iTunes.

The Beatles on iTunes
Screenshot of Apple.com announcement of Beatles on iTunes

And turns out, I was correct!  The Apple.com homepage changed to reveal that The Beatles have officially come to iTunes.  The new content available for purchase on iTunes now includes the fab four's 13 studio albums as well as video content (concerts, commercials, and etc).  As a big Beatles fan, I'm really happy to see their catalog added to iTunes; but truthfully, it's far more important than just making me happy.  A lot of folks on the internet (well, in my twitter-verse at least) are making noise about being somewhat disappointed by this announcement.  It's actually a really big deal for The Beatles' members and their estates, as well as a big deal for Apple Computer.  However, it's a much bigger deal for music history. Continue reading "Why The Beatles on iTunes is Important"