This Commercial Made My Day

We've all seen plenty of commercials that quite honestly are awful in the way they represent women. Axe is a huge offender in my book (yes, buy our product and instantly every women in a 5 mile radius will arrive at your door to sex you up), and there are many other offenders that portray women as sex-objects or trophies to be won by using a product. Women can be sexy and appealing, and women can help you sell things, but it strikes me as offensive when someone tries to sell women's bodies to an audience and claim they're selling a product. It's not about me as a woman not having a sense of humor, as the Old Spice commercials have proved: being manly is not about dominating women. You can be appealing to women, you can claim your product will make you more appealing to women, and you can do it without being an ass about it.

I find that a lot of commercials are fairly obviously pointed at hetero-male sexuality. Fine, not a big deal until people start objectifying women to meet their goals. But then every once in a while, you find a startling gem of a commercial that's directed at women and so startlingly funny and even sexy that it is so refreshing and brings a smile to your face.

That commercial is for a free app called Your Man Reminder, which is an app that reminds you to regularly monitor your breast health and perform self-examinations brought to you by Rethink Breast Cancer. Educational, funny, and sexy in a way that doesn't stoop to dehumanizing our friendly hot guy characters. They even get names! (Imagine that, Axe commercial guys!)

The cheesy music, the hilarious visual effects, the way that it's shot and written... A+ all around. It's so funny, so shareable, so brilliant that I had to share it with you all.

PS There's another video on the updated version of the app.

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How To Get Started on LinkedIn

I've been told by many people that I am significantly more career-minded than most have been at my age. Last year, as a freshman in college, I worked at a fantastic full-time internship at Gannett. A big part of the reason I got the job was because I made some valuable connections. It's really important to network with people because people are willing to help people they know and maybe even take a chance on an excited little freshman. One of the biggest tools you can leverage is the site LinkedIn, the professional social network.

Some people will tell you it's like facebook-- don't believe them. It's much better and the approach you take is extremely different. Use LinkedIn to connect to contacts and classmates, follow news from companies and industries you care about, participate in helpful discussions on groups relating to your industry, and even find internships and jobs. It's a fantastic resource.

The awful thing about starting out on LinkedIn-- or really any chunk of the "getting your life together" venture-- is that it looks like you have everything to do. It's intimidating to look at a mountain from the bottom and obsess over how you'll ever get to the top. Obsess and freak out. So for the person who has no idea where to start, here are some little bitty bites out of the pie you can take slowly, gradually, and simply.
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Newsies in New York

So as you all may remember, I spent the past weekend in New York City. I went up there with my girl Jasmin so that we could watch Newsies.

It was one of the best weekends ever. New York is a wonderful city full of great food, good shopping, and of course, Broadway. We stayed in a fantastic hotel in Times Square. The Hilton Double Tree-- we stayed on the 37th floor so we had an amazing view of Times Square. It wasn't terribly cold either although usually winters in New York have not been kind to me.

Side note for fellow travelers: If you're going to New York in the winter, I recommend you pack thick, fleece-lined leggings. I found them to be great both for wearing under my skinnies to keep my legs warm and I also was able to just wear them as leggings with my dresses. The internet suggested I get long underwear, but really thick leggings were much easier to find and I got great deals on them at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Plus they're more wearable, I think.
Jasmin in Times Square!
Anyway, we had a great time, hitting up the Disney Store, The M&Ms World, and the Hershey's store. We did a lot of window shopping-- we're both fairly money conscious people, especially when it comes to clothing prices. It's hard for two girls who love secondhand and discount stores to go nuts on clothes in the big city. I'd rather spend money on experiences-- like watching Newsies.

At the Hershey Store!
Me and Jasmin-- Orchestra Seats!
Which was, by the way, phenomenal. I've loved Newsies for years and the Broadway show did not disappoint. There were changes to the music and story to make it better for stage and I think that they were fantastic choices, not to knock the original. I think it made a lot of characters stronger which really helped ease the loss of certain other characters-- Jasmin loves Spot Conlon and so when his parts were smaller in the scope of the Broadway show than in the film, she was a little sad. ("Never Fear Brooklyn's Here" Is one of her favorite lines/scenes.) But it's hard to introduce a lot of medium-sized roles in a stage production since there aren't camera close-ups etc. to help the audience understand their importance-- the main characters have to be established early on usually in order for the story to flow and pace well. Movies are a very different medium and there are a lot of ways that filmmakers can carry a message across to the audience (depending on things like zoom, angle, etc.) that have a profound effect on storytelling that stage productions don't have the ability to do. Personally, I get a little annoyed by people who want to watch an exact copy of the film because it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the unique challenges and advantages of both mediums as well as a lack of appreciation for the fantastic work, choices, and extra goodies that the stage version brought to the table. (Like a love interest with Jack who actually has some real personality instead of just a pretty blank. And Teddy Roosevelt storming in to kick some asses. There was a ton of amazing stuff in that musical.)

The cast is amazing. Absolutely amazing. And I got to see an understudy performance for which I am extremely grateful-- Mike Faist as Jack Kelly was absolutely fantastic. He made my night and his portrayal of Jack had a lot depth. I think he's my favorite. He played Jack in a very real way, his choices just absolutely blew me out of the water.

Mike Faist - Morris Delancey and Jack Kelly Understudy
I'm pretty all about this guy, right now. The terrifying thing is, if I'd not seen him as understudy, I probably never would have known how fantastically talented he is, since the Delancy brothers don't have very many lines or any songs-- Mike really shined and did Jack's character justice. More than that even. I think he brought an authenticity to the character and really portrayed the vulnerability in him and conflict he faced. He did it all throughout his performance, but I was particularly impressed with his singing-- I think too many actors fall into the pattern of trying to make songs pretty, sacrificing authenticity or lightening a heavy moment. He sang wonderfully, but he did it while staying true to what was happening to Jack-- he didn't sacrifice Jack's conflict and fear for the sake of making songs sound as pretty as possible. He wasn't just being a singer, he was also an actor, and I think it's really easy to want to sing a gorgeous song in a pretty way, but sometimes it's just not true to the moment. It's the same kind of thing that Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" has been praised for. It was real, it was genuine, and a lot of renditions I've heard didn't come close to that.

Me and Ryan Steele
The set was crazy cool and the scene changes were very well done. The music I of course, adore. The choreography blew my mind and I totally understood everyone's love affair with Ryan Steele. Definitely a stand out as Specs. We laughed, we cried (I cried more), and were just completely take with the show.

I bought a ton of merchandise. I'm not even upset about it. Totally worth it and in all honesty, probably going to buy more. I even got the poster signed at the stage door! So exciting.

clockwise from top left: Playbill, signed poster, pin, tote bag,
Baseball-style long sleeve shirt, travel mug.
We also ate some really delicious food and saw some amazing sights. We checked out the Fashion District and Times Square and had a really fun time seeing the city and spending hours after the show watching tons of videos of the cast and scrolling through the tags on tumblr.

I also got to meet the people I work for at MTV! We had a good chat (after getting lost on the way) and talked about fandom and weddings. I should have taken a photo, but we had to dash for dinner and our train!

One of the best weekends ever. I'm already scheming ways to get back to watch Newsies again, hopefully with Mike Faist again (what can I say? I'm a fan). In the meantime I'll settle for hoarding merchandise, watching the movie every week and singing the soundtrack.

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My 4 Favorite Artists of 2012

I've been told I have eclectic taste in music by many people. I've also been told I have straight up weird taste in music. I like to think I can appreciate a lot of different styles of music. Anyway, I thought I'd introduce you to my favorite artists of this past year. This list is going to include bands/singers I've only learned about this year, as well as artists who've been on my radar for a while and put out great new music this past year. Here's my top 4 in no particular order.

Marina and The Diamonds is fantastic from the backbeats to the lyrics. Marina make great commentary on today's society ranging from the dichotomy of strength and vulnerability women struggle with, the anxieties of youth forced to achieve bigger and bigger things, the sexualization of women, real versus fake... Love her. She does great acoustic versions, too. I first discovered her when I heard her take on Justin Bieber's Boyfriend. I loved her take on the song which is more about heartbreak and a boy who treated her like an accessory instead of appreciating her.

Favorite tracks: How to Be A Heartbreaker, Oh No, Sex Yeah!, Starring Role, Radioactive, Homewrecker, Hollywood.

Beyonce is probably one of my favorite artists of all time. I consider her a role model and place her in my holy trinity of divine people (which is made up of her, Will Smith, and Michelle Obama). While she didn't release a new album in 2012, she did release another single off her 2011 album, 4, which was End of Time. I don't know why it didn't get as much buzz in the US as it should have (it actually did better on UK charts, but I've noticed I tend to side with UK charts anyway...) but it's a really excellent track. B hasn't released an official music video for it, but Todrick Hall (of Beauty and the Beat and Cinderfella fame) did another one of his epic flashmobs to this song-- which Beyonce herself loved and thanked him for!

I love this song. Beyonce is extremely talented and is one classy woman. Sometimes, when I feel down about the world or start losing faith in humanity (which often occurs whenever I have the poor sense to read through internet comments on news sites-- we've all seen 'em) I just remember that somewhere, out there, Beyonce is out there, being Beyonce, and somehow we're both humans.

Favorite tracks: End of Time, Run the World, Why Don't You Love Me, Diva, Jumpin' Jumpin' (Destiny's Child days), Listen (Dream Girls), Love on Top, Say My Name Say My Name (Destiny's Child), Bills, Bills, Bills (Destiny's Child)

If you've not heard of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, you've probably been living under a rock. Macklemore is fantastic, his words a just so full of truth. He talks about some really heavy issues and even when the truth isn't pretty he makes it so profound, so beautiful, that you really believe there's hope to change the issues he sees in the world, from violence to hate to sexism to racism and everything in between. He doesn't have any pretense of trying to look hard or tough or bad-ass-- he's honest and I really appreciate an artist who can let go of what he thinks his audience will want to hear and just tell us what he has to say. And Ryan Lewis produces some really great beats for him to rap to. The two are a fantastic duo and if you've only heard a couple of their more famous songs like Thrift Shop, you're missing out, because they cover some really deep things. I also like the way these two aren't stuck in one kind of sound. They mix it up and excel.

Favorite Tracks: Same Love, A Wake, Wing$, Ten Thousand Hours, Thrift Shop, Thin Line

Cue collective groan from my closest friends who have put up with me not only playing this music and singing it constantly, but my persistent mantra that this man is pretty much perfect. Alexander Rybak is a Norwegian/Belarusian popstar who is best known for winning Eurovision the international song competition where unknowns attempt to win a recording contract and fame throughout Europe while representing their homeland. Alexander Rybak is a violinist/singer/songwriter/composer who is basically like the cutest thing ever in addition to being extremely talented. He won the Eurovision competition in 2009, breaking the previous score record by over 80 points, with his song Fairytale. He's very well-known in Europe and it launched a solid career. I discovered him last year out of nowhere. I like his sincerity when he writes. He write a lot about his feelings and about girls but not at all in sexualized or superficial way-- he is actually after love and I love that he is, instead of other artists who sort of treat women in their music as props or trophies. He also has like, the sweetest personality in the world, is multilingual, and loves playing with Legos. Like I said, he's perfect. I adore the way he writes music and lyrics. It just really gets to my heart in a way few other artists can.

As far as music new in 2012, he released a single called Leave Me Alone, which is a song he wrote about his stalker, some girl from America who fairly frequently flies to Europe to harass him. She apparently has gone to his apartment several times and even showed up at his parents house. When the video was released, he thanked his fans for showing their support by writing letters, sending teddybears... and not showing up at his door with a knife in hand. (Did I mention that he also wrote a song all about how much he loves his fanmail and how he appreciates having a piece of his fan's lives to read? Because he did because he's perfect.) He has such a good sense of humor, even about the really dark things. He's on the list of people I would no questions asked drop everything for. I'm a little bit actually in love with him.

Favorite Tracks: Fairytale, Strela Amura (Cupid's Arrow), Funny Little World, Dolphin, First Kiss, Europe Skies, Kiss and Tell, 13 Horses, Dare I Say, If You Were Gone, Leave Me Alone

Did you find any great new music last year? A New Favorite Artist? An old favorite who once again blew your mind?

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Newsies this weekend!

Remember how over the summer I went to New York and while there I saw Newsies billboards everywhere and I swore I was going to go back and watch Newsies? Well guess what? This weekend I'm heading to New York to watch Newsies with my best friend.

See, I lead a Newsies appreciation lifestyle. I first watched it on the bus ride home from Chicago after yet another trip with my school's choir department. Jasmin and I watched it and loved it. I became a huge fan of the 1994 Christian Bale musical. It didn't do well in theaters but has become a cult classic since. It's a wonderful musical that I think resonates really well with any people who have been denied their fair shot. It's about the little guy--the kids, even-- rising up against the man and fighting for their right to be recognized and treated they way they deserve-- as people. The music is fantastic and so is the choreography (apart from one scene I don't particularly care for).

I ordered the DVD shortly after getting off the bus and I watched it as often as I could. I'd watch it while cleaning my room or doing laundry. I used to just keep the DVD in my laptop in case I ever had the time to watch it while doing any other mindless task. I listened to the soundtrack. When the musical was announced, I was losing my mind and signed up for the mailing list so I could pre-order the soundtrack. Which I did. I later used the same email newsletter to get great tickets. I could not be more excited about this trip! The Broadway adaptation has won many awards and I couldn't be more excited to see it live. Sometimes I listen to the lyrics and just get all choked up... Yes, I am that crazy person you see jamming out in their car while sobbing out a sing-along to the lyrics. I am that kind of fan. Music just really gets to me you know?

I bought this Newsies! shirt during my last trip to NYC!
Jasmin and I are extremely pumped-- we've been planning this trip for months. It will be really cold, but I'm positive it'll be worth freezing temperatures to see it! We spent all day yesterday trying to find great deals on clothes to keep us warm. I got some nice gloves, some fleece-lined leggings (much more wearable than long underwear!), and some warm sweaters for layering.

While there we also hope to see sites, go shopping, and eat delicious food. I'll let you all know how it goes! If you want to see it all up to date, be sure to follow my instagram @harperdearest
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How to find the best deals on Textbooks!

The cost of being a college student is not cheap. The entire country is lamenting this. While financial aid and scholarships are a great way to cut costs, they're not the only ways to save money. Textbooks are very expensive-- hundreds of dollars. Taking 4-5 courses can mean dropping some serious money each semester.

I'm a big fan of cost comparison. If someone else has it for cheaper, you bet I'll take it. To buy textbooks, I both work with friends who took the course before and use a site called SlugBooks, which compares textbook prices from major online retailers, your school's bookstore, rental services, and any books they have in stock.

Over the past year and a half, I've saved a lot of money using this site. I like that it shows me who has the book in stock, for how much, and I can even compare rental prices to retail! On SlugBooks, you can search by ISBN, Title and author, or just plug in your school and course and it'll pull up all the listings for your courses. It's really easy to use and it's shown me great online book sellers that I wouldn't have known about without it!

Want more tips on saving money on textbooks?
  • Know whether a book is required or recommended. This type of difference can save you a lot of money. Required books are one you will need for the class, whereas recommended or suggested books are ones that you may find helpful, but may not be necessary. Suggested books are the ones you can hold off on buying, if you decide to buy them at all!
  • Build a network of friends and know what kinds of classes they take. Friends will sell you textbooks for less than a retailer (usually) and you won't have to pay shipping. It's a good idea to ask if you any of your friends still have their textbook as soon as you can, before they sell it to Amazon or what have you. Having an idea of what classes your friends take will save you time. 
  • Be wary of shipping costs. They can add a lot to the price of an item.
  • Also be aware of seller ratings and condition descriptions. Too many people will pay for a cheaper book, not realizing the seller has poor ratings and get stuck with a late book, an awful copy, or the wrong book. 
  • Remember, you can't sell rentals. If a book costs $10 more to buy than to rent, but you can probably sell the book back for more than $10, it probably makes sense to buy it-- you can make the $10 back later.
  • If you can avoid it, don't buy from your school's bookstore. Just a general rule of thumb. 
  • Ask if you can use an older edition. Older editions are typically cheaper than new ones, and in many textbooks, there are few changes from edition to edition. 
  • If you have a good buddy who lives close by and will be your study buddy anyway, ask if you can share. Be wary of this, since any high-pressure sharing situation can get ugly, but it's a good way to cut the cost of a book in half! I have had friends who've done this. I only recommend it if you're both planning to make sacrifices so that it'll work out, and if you live near each other and are around each other a lot. 
Happy savings! Share your tips on buying textbooks if you have any!

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Resolutions for 2013

This year is going to be the year I stick to my resolutions.

I know I say that every year, but I'm telling you, this is the one. This is the year I'm turning 20. I think I need to start becoming an adult. At the very least in the ways that I really should. I've never been a big fan of the kind of growing up that means becoming boring and blase about life's wonder. I hope to never grow out of doodling and cartoons (the good ones anyway). I hope I never grow out of enjoy stickers.

You've got to keep the joy that comes from the little things for when the big things get you down. There are a lot more big things as I get older. 

But I also want to get that sense of accomplishment that comes with holding myself accountable for the things that I am way too young to start making excuses for. 

I want to excel in school. I think high school me would in many senses be appalled by my study habits. Instead of studying a week ahead of time I'd study non-stop a day or two before. I need to really buckle down and do well!

The Plan: The first step is to go to class and take really good notes. I always start each semester taking good notes, but it always deteriorates. Color coding, after class review, office hours, and yes I will actually do the readings. I'm thinking of finding ways to read at the gym while on the elliptical. I think that will help eliminate the excuse of not having time to work out and build in time for me to do reading-- somewhere far from my bed. Yes, I am that person who works from their bed. This is why paper-writing goes over a lot better than 60-page readings.Taking better notes will also cut down on the number of all-nighters I have to pull.  

I want to get healthy. I am healthy on basically no fronts. I eat horribly. I don't sleep well. I don't work out. I'm overweight. I want to change this. I cannot call myself body-positive if all I do is destroy my body. I don't want to tell anyone to conform to society's idea of what you have to look like to validate your worth, because that's bullshit. It's not about the way I look. It's about the fact that I want to love my body, and the things I do to it are not acts of love. They are acts of weakness. I turn stress into calories and make it harder for me to be at the top of my game. Over the past year, I allowed myself to get away with a lot. I told myself that I had earned this meal or that for what I had accomplished-- and I accomplished a lot! Which turned into my eating a lot. I also fell victim to eating too casually. This is not the work of someone who takes care of themselves, it's the work of someone who loves fast food more than her stomach does. 

The Plan: I'm going to walk 30 minutes a day, which is not too hard, but will get me out and about, which is half the battle when you live with your two best friends. Our dorm room is a nest of snacks, DVDs, and a lot of Say Yes To The Dress marathons. And we study too. All three of us have also agreed to aim to get to the gym three times a week. This way even if we fall short, we'll at least get two trip to the gym. I also want to consciously eat better. This means I'll have to cook more (because honest to goodness, Dining hall food is extremely hit or miss near where I live, and usually it's a miss). I'm also going to try to eat more nutritious food and keep more healthy snacks on hand. I also want to drink more water. 

I want to get ahead in my career. As always, I want to stay on top of my game and set myself up well for the future. I'm hoping to get a job, a summer internship, and keep up with all the balls I have in the air. I have some good forward momentum and I want to keep that up!

The Plan: Apply for a job. Probably at the local movie theater or maybe a store at the outlet depending on the hours. Apply for any and all internships that are up my alley. Put together a boss cover-letter, get into Business School, and save some money so I can afford  place to live (or at least contribute to my living expenses). I'm also hoping to do more writing. Write for this blog, HerCampus, and also for other blogs and websites if I can swing it.

I want to stress less. I have an anxiety disorder, specifically Panic Disorder. I need to get in control of that and make better choices in order to lead a less anxious, more healthy lifestyle. A big part of minimizing Panic Attacks (which honestly, I don't have very often) is to learn my triggers and learn what relaxes me, both mentally and physically.

The Plan: First of all, I'm going to sing more. Singing really puts my body at ease. Expressing things I feel really cuts down on my anxiety (which is why I express more outward emotion than others). Keeping things in is a trigger for my anxiety and singing is a really positive way for me to let those things go. I also plan on eating better and exercising so that my body doesn't freak out as much. I also want to sleep better and manage my time better, since not getting stuff done also makes me freak out a bit. I can't keep doing things from deadline to deadline. If I just handle myself well, it'll cut down on a lot of anxiety. I also need to figure out what to do about my apparent addiction to television.

What are your resolutions for the New Year?
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