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The Cultural Gem of Tampa June 12, 2011

Posted by Adam in Memorable Events.
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I have been in Florida for about a year now, and considering I was coming from a few years in DC, it has been a bit of a letdown. There are beaches, but the waves are practically non-existent (plus, I’ve never been much of a beach person anyway). The winter weather was warmer, but the massive, constant humidity almost negates it. And while it’s certainly not true that Florida is nothing but old people, they are undoubtedly a constant presence. Still, there is one thing that I absolutely love here: the Tampa Theatre.

The theatre was built in the 1920s, so walking into it is truly like going to a different world. To start with, the imagery is just magnificent. Observe:

You may have noticed an organ in that picture. Indeed, that Wurlitzer organ is played at least before every showing. The tunes are standards from the 20s-50s, and the organists playing them are quite talented.

Most of the year, the theatre plays one first-run arthouse films a week. But during the summer, a series of classic films are exhibited at the venue. This is when the experience of going to the theatre is just unbelievable. In addition to just seeing the movie on the big screen, the pre-show music is often correlated with the time of the film’s original release, making you feel as close as you can to seeing it when it was new. This is especially true for me, often feeling like I was born born a decade or two too late.

This year’s lineup is quite good. Among the films featured are Spellbound, Some Like it Hot, The African Queen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Red Shoes, and my all-time favorite, The Godfather. In addition, a golden-age Looney Tunes short is playing before each film. It’s a hoot seeing those on the big screen as well, as they’re exhibited less frequently (it’s the first time I’ve been able to experience it).

Even better, I think, is when the theatre shows silent films. Last August saw a restored print of Metropolis at the theatre. There’s something just…indescribable about hearing live accompaniment to such a great film. Ditto for The Phantom of the Opera; the organ makes a particularly appropriate companion there. This year, the silent film is Peter Pan. It will be interesting to hear a whimsical score as opposed to the ominous ones mentioned before.

Realistically speaking, a theater would not be enough to keep me in a location I was not fond of, even a magnificent one such as this. Still, it’s great to have it around, and I’ll be glad to experience it as much as I can.

For now, at least

So This One Time, I Moved to Florida… April 11, 2011

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Yes, it has been quite a while since I wrote a full-fledged update. I’ve got no one to blame but good ol’ laziness. Oh laziness, how you plague me so.

In July of last year, I decided to move down to Tampa, Florida. This move was motivated by a couple of factors. One, I was getting bogged down with things in DC and I thought a change of scenery would help. Two, I got accepted to grad school at USF, but I had filed after the deadline for funding consideration.

The plan was simple: find a job, get settled in the area, and establish residency over the next year. Then, even if an assistantship or other funding didn’t work out, at least I would be an in-state student and pay much less in tuition.

To pull this brilliant plan off, I had to first get a job. I managed to secure one the month before I moved down. It was part-time, and in the graveyard shift, but it was in a field relative to my major and for a high-profile company (certainly a change from the two non-profits I had worked at so far).

As was the case when I moved to DC, I moved to Tampa without a firm grasp of where I would be living. I committed to a room about two miles from the USF campus, sight unseen (well, I did see some pictures, but just hadn’t visited it in person). Thankfully, that worked out well and I didn’t end up being roommates with some cannibal or something.

A couple of months later, I was able to take a shift in the mornings. Though the start time is 7AM, this is *so* much better than working nights. Working the graveyard makes you feel so abnormal. You’re driving to work as the Nightly News comes on, you go home as the sun goes up, and sleep as daylight blares through your window. It’s quite disorienting.

The downside to the job, apart from the earlier start time, was that I was still a part-time employee. Which meant I was paid an hourly rate, with just the bare amount of benefits. I am not complaining about this (and I worked enough hours to where I didn’t really need a second job) but I did start to wonder if I would really go anywhere anytime soon.

Then of course, there was the whole matter of school. The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t really want to go to USF. The campus wasn’t really inspiring, and I’ve started to grow less and less fond of pursuing a humanities field in graduate school. This is unfortunate, as I am pretty much only competent in humanities. Still, I considered the option of going through with it if I got an assistantship. I don’t know if anyone ever told you this, but grad school is quite expensive, even at the in-state level. I’ll take not paying tuition in exchange for teaching some bored freshman about speech communication.

However, it was not to be. I was denied any financial aid. I was quite disappointed, but also a bit relieved to have a decent excuse to bow out. So yes, that does mean no grad school for at least another year. (Plus, it is quite possible that because I was accepted while I was still living in Virginia, I would have been an out-of-state student anyway)

Those circumstances sort of sent me into a tailspin. I wasn’t really too enthralled with Florida (more on that in another post) and without the school necessitating my stay there, I had more or less made my mind up that I was going to leave when my lease was up later in the year. I was torn between going back to DC, or trying some other pricey metropolitan area (probably New York or Chicago).

As soon as I made those tentative plans, however, the fates were all, “Haha, let’s just mess with your head some more!” I discovered that I was going to get a promotion at work. And not just the “let’s put you in different hours” kind but the “let’s make you full-time and give you a raise and benefits and perhaps even put you in charge of people” kind.

Considering that I like my job and the company I work for, it is conceivable that I am going to be in Florida for longer than expected. And if that’s the case, I’m OK with that. Tampa may not be DC, but there are many places in Florida alone that are far worse.

Now you know………the rest of the meaningless update.

Mawage is Wot Bwings us Togeder June 7, 2010

Posted by Adam in Memorable Events.
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As we grow up and mature into adulthood, certain milestones signify significant change along that path – not just for us, but for those around us as well. Two weeks ago, I observed such an event: my younger sister got married.

Slowly but surely, this spectacle that we call a wedding has been permeating around me. It started off mildly enough, with acquaintances tying the knot. A little weird, sure, but nothing hitting close to home yet. But this year, it’s really starting to hit home. One of my best friends (whom I’ve known since childhood) tied the knot a few months ago and now it’s a family member.

The funny thing is, I thought it would feel so unreal when one of my sisters got married. Aside from the obvious fact that they would change their last name, it’s this sudden realization that the group dynamic we’ve always had as siblings is changing. Parts of it will remain the same, but it’s clear that other parts are evolving.

I flew out to Tucson for the wedding, which also served as a family reunion of sorts, with my aunts, uncle and cousin joining the fray. It has been several years since we were all together, so that was nice.

The wedding itself was fairly low-key. I was a groomsman, and as the ceremony started I was anxious to see how my sister looked. And as she walked down the aisle, she had the biggest beam on her face. I have never seen her that happy in my entire life. That made the wedding for me right there.

The reception also went well. A couple of amusing notes: my sister and I left after taking pictures with our family (and the photographer dismissed us) but it was only after we made the 20-minute drive that they called us back to get bridal party pictures. Oops. Then, as the DJ was introducing me and one of the bridesmaids, he pronounced my name as Andy. D’oh.

At the end of the evening, the bride and groom drove away to their honeymoon in Tahoe, and I caught an early flight the next morning to make it into DC in time for a bell concert (which I did).

Earlier this week, I noticed my sister had updated her Facebook profile with her new last name. Even though I half-jokingly said she should keep the Shuler name, seeing it did make me smile. Because I know she’s happy and she’s with a good man who loves her. As a big brother, that’s all you want for your little sister.

Here are a few pictures from my sister’s special day:



The Next Step May 2, 2010

Posted by Adam in Memorable Events.
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Three years ago, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from NAU. I knew my life would head in a new direction, but I could never have expected it would involve a move to the Washington, D.C. area. It has been a wonderful time out here, but the time has come to take the next big step in life. So, I am moving to Florida! Tampa, to be specific.

The reason I am moving is that I’ve been accepted to the Communication graduate program at the University of South Florida. However, I am deferring my start for a year because I didn’t get any funding. This is my fault; the program has two deadlines, one for aid and one for general admittance. Unfortunately, these split deadlines weren’t noted on the school’s main admissions page, which listed just the latter in its table. Based on my conversations with the graduate director, in which she said I had a strong application, I am going to try for funding at the appropriate time next year. At the very least, I will have established Florida residency, so tuition will be lower at least.

Thankfully, I am not venturing forth alone like I did when I moved to D.C. My friend Sam has been wanting to go to Florida after he graduates this month, so this was certainly a perfect fit. Right now, we’re both looking for jobs and places to live. I have given my notice at work, and would like to move when I find a job. But realistically speaking, I know that will be tough. At the very latest, I will head down there in late July/early August.

It will certainly be tough to leave this area. I have made so many wonderful friends, and I still love a lot of the sights and places D.C. has to offer. But at the same time, it will be nice to go somewhere different and get a real start on what I’d like to do with my life (college teaching and research into communication and culture). Wish me luck!

Banana Branding April 1, 2010

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It’s no secret that advertising pretty much dominates our lives, at least if you’re even a semi-normal functioning member of society. Lest you think we’ve explored all possible facets of getting you to buy crap you don’t need, check out this evidence from some Chiquita bananas I bought at Harris Teeter.

I didn’t even notice this when I bought them in the store. It wasn’t until I went to tear it from its brothers that the Wii symbol caught my eye. The ad is for the latest installment in the Super Monkey Ball series. I get the superficial connection here (monkeys and bananas, har-dee-har-har) but I don’t see anything else beyond that. Have tests shown a link between potassium consumption and hand-eye coordination? Or do the companies assume that because we simply eat bananas, we want anything and everything to do with monkeys. (If this sticker ever appears on a bag of manure, they must think we love to fling that too)

Either way, I don’t like the idea of this type of extraneous advertising on fruit. This could be avoided, of course, by frequenting a farmer’s market, but how many people have access to those versus grocery stores? And worse still, what if this spreads to other fruits? Imagine: Fig Newton ads on apples, Looney Tunes stickers on carrots, SpongeBob on pineapples. So what do you think of the Wii banana ad: harmless revenue-generator, or ominous foreboding?

Mega Movie Marathon March 15, 2010

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Last weekend, I spent an entire day cooped up in a movie theater. AMC has put on a Best Picture Showcase for the past few years in which they run a marathon of the Best Picture nominees for that year’s Oscars back-to-back. There was an interesting wrinkle this year, however, because the field was expanded from 5 to 10 nominees. So in most locations, the chain simply spread out the films over two weekend sessions. But in 5 cities, including D.C., they hosted a 24-hour marathon of all 10 in a row, from midnight to midnight.

The films, in order, were: Avatar (3D), A Serious Man, Up (3D), District 9, Inglorious Basterds, The Blind Side, An Education, Precious, Up in the Air, and The Hurt Locker. I had already seen half of the lineup, but wanted to catch up on the others. Plus, considering the ticket was $45 for all 10, it was still a good deal if you only consider the films I hadn’t seen.

So here’s what I learned from this unique endeavor:

People will get territorial about their seats
I arrived at 11:00 pm on Friday because I knew I wanted to get a decent seat considering I’d be stuck in it for quite a while. When I arrived, there were only a handful of people in front of me. However, a wrench was thrown into these plans because after Up, we had to move into a new auditorium so the theater could use the 3D projector for the day’s Alice in Wonderland screenings. This caused some grief to one gentleman in particular, not coincidentally the first one in line. He asked about protocol for the switch and seemed unnerved at the thought of staking out what was supposedly the “perfect seat” twice in a row.

At the end of Up, when we had to make the switch, some people, including the aforementioned fellow, didn’t even wait for the credits to start before vamoosing out of the auditorium. I strolled at a leisurely pace and got a fine seat in the center of a far-up row, which was fine for me. Normally I’d chuckle at being so obsessive about seat location, but this is a circumstance where I suppose it is justified.

Free swag makes people crazy
Throughout the breaks between films (which averaged about 15-20 minutes per), AMC employees came by and conducted movie trivia to win promotional prizes. This is a common occurrence at advance screenings, where a promotional company hosts the screening and gives away small things like posters and shirts. Some of these items were a cut above that; they gave away the screenplay and soundtrack to A Serious Man as well as a specially-designed AMC Snuggie.

But the way these prizes are awarded is an aggravating experience. One employee will ask a question, and as soon as someone figures out the answer, their hand shoots up. Inevitably, there are about 8-10 people who are ready to answer almost simultaneously, so it’s up to another employee to act as referee and determine who was first. This selection, naturally, leaves the others audibly upset, as they feel what’s rightfully theirs has been unfairly denied (because they knew the answer, of course). Sometimes, these complications drag on for what seems like hours.

I tend not to even participate in these giveaways, even though I know the answers a lot of the time. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not as much of a pack rat as I used to be, and I’m not motivated by acquiring some item I don’t really want or use just because it’s free. Plus, it looks pretty ridiculous when you’re waving your arms wildly for some cheap swag. See also the shirt tosses at sporting events for a similar reaction.

It’s really the sitting that tires you
I made it a point to stay awake through the entire marathon. To aid this accomplishment, I snuck in some 5-Hour Energy shots, a few bags of fruit and some granola bars. (The theater provided unlimited popcorn throughout the day, but I can barely stomach one bag before I get sick, so I knew I wouldn’t want to try) Additionally, I made sure to walk out of the auditorium during each break, even though I didn’t leave the theater itself.

However, the group sitting next to me never left their seats the entire time. I’m not even sure if they ever got up to stretch! But they did fall asleep at various intervals, so that explains that. For me, I didn’t flirt with nodding off until about the last reel of the last film. I was close to dozing, but I managed to stay alert. It just doesn’t help that 90 or so percent of your time is spent simply glued in your seat. My coworkers and I had a discussion a few days prior about how the act of sitting is such a low-energy-generating activity. So even though it might seem like an accomplishment to survive a 24-hour marathon, it’s tough to laud such an extended period of sitting.

I don’t know if I would repeat this endeavor next year, as 10 films in a row is tough to take. But I’m certainly glad to have done it once, and now maybe smaller-scale marathons won’t seem as arduous!

Sodalgia December 14, 2009

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A friend and I were renting some video games at Blockbuster, and she mentioned she was craving Vault soda. The clerk informed us the energy soft drink was, in fact, discontinued. I was kind of shocked to hear it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I hadn’t seen any on the shelves lately. This fact turns out to be false (as I would, when specifically looking, find at least 12-packs of Vault), but it got me thinking of other sodas that have come and gone. I used to be a more voracious soda drinker, and I would consume these regularly:


SURGE

As I recall, Surge was Coca-Cola’s answer to Mountain Dew. I have read more about bringing this soda back than any other; there was even a website devoted to the cause. On a random note, I remember the last time I had Surge: at a Taco John’s in Ogalalla, Nebraska.


CITRA

On a similar line, Citra was Coca-Cola’s version of Squirt. I kind of liked this for the novelty of it all, but Squirt is one of my favorite sodas, so Citra had no chance to usurp it.


CRYSTAL PEPSI

There were two things wrong with Crystal Pepsi. One, its marketing campaign seemed to suggest that it was going to revolutionize soda. As if to somehow say there was never a clear soda. “I can see right through my soda? Get out of town and take a bus!” The second thing was that it tasted just like Pepsi. Like it was Pepsi’s albino twin brother. So why drink the inferior-looking drink for the same taste?



DIET COKE WITH LEMON/DIET PEPSI TWIST

My family are Diet Coke-aholics. As in they won’t drink Diet Pepsi if a restaurant doesn’t carry Coke products. I’m not quite that crazy, but I don’t really like the taste of Diet Coke. But with lemon (or at least a lemon-ish extract)? Surprisingly tolerable. And I like Diet Pepsi already, so a lemon-infused variation was just icing.


PEPSI THROWBACK

This came and went just this year, but it needs to come back. This variation featured the old-school formula using sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Not that it’s healthier or a strikingly different taste, but the difference was enough to make me wish for more.

Time Flies December 14, 2009

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Has it really been close to three months since I wrote…anything? Unacceptable! More random ramblings to come.

Stuck in an Elevator. Not Going Up & It’s Not Going Down September 23, 2009

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Some people may be unnerved by elevators, but I’m not one of them. When I step into one, I don’t wonder what would happen if things went awry and the elevator ceased to function. Which makes Monday’s adventure that much more surprising and amusing.

Intending to eat lunch, I got on the elevator, pressed the button, and started going down. Right away, I noticed something weird was going on because the elevator usually beeps as it passes floors, and I heard no beeping. It took me to the mezzanine level (one floor lower than I was aiming for), stopped for a bit, and then rocketed back up. It stopped at the top floor, and then proceeded to careen to the bottom. It was as if the elevator had turned into a yo-yo, going back and forth from top to bottom. During this time, my thought process was mostly one of bewilderment. Confused as to what was happening, wondering if this was going to keep up, and annoyed when I realized it was going to keep going unless I did something.

So when the elevator hit bottom, I pressed that red STOP button and the lift indeed halted as well as emitted an annoying ringing sound. Admit it: you’ve always wanted to press that button every time you ride an elevator. Well, I got a geeky kick out of pressing it, but that didn’t last long because I realized that I was stuck in the elevator.

Some workers heard the alarm and sent for a building manager. She came down and immediately went into “coaching” mode, by which I mean she was trying to talk me through this terrible ordeal and let me know she was there. She said things such as, “we’re going to get through this,” and, “let me know if you start feeling uncomfortable.” I find it amusing that she went into that uber-supportive mode right away without gauging my reaction first. I was simply annoyed about the ordeal. Ultimately, I spent 45 minutes in the elevator before a mechanic finally forced the doors open and set me free.

A friend of mine posted about this adventure on her blog and she said the following: “It’s not that I’m claustrophobic…well, maybe a little, but I think it’s knowing that after pressing that button, you no longer have any control over what the elevator does. That’s what scares me.” Indeed, the only slightly disconcerting moment for me was that iota of concern that the elevator would snap off the rails or perform some other catastrophic malfunction. Such a thought is a little freaky. As it is, I was merely the center of attention in the office for an afternoon.

‘Cross This Land August 22, 2009

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Tardiness concluded

I can get by out here without a car (and sometimes I’m glad I’m not dependent on one), but there are some instances where I would like to have my own transportation. Not everything is Metro-accessible, particularly when I go to bell rehearsals or want to check out parks outside the beltway. So I decided I would drive my car from Arizona to Virginia, this immediately after our trip to Alaska. I didn’t make a lot of plans; most of the trip would be along I-40, and I figured I’d just stop and check out anything interesting.

My first stop was in Amarillo, Texas. In college, I used to work at an entertainment retail store called Hastings and their corporate headquarters were here. So like a dork, I stopped by for a look. I couldn’t help but chuckle the whole time, and wished my former co-workers were with me so we could plan some kind of prank.
Road Trip - Hastings
Then, I had lunch with my childhood friend Jenna. Just as she and I started to develop a solid friendship in 4th grade, she moved away. Sad times, but we eventually got into correspondence via email and Facebook and such. But this was my first time actually seeing her since the move, and it was wonderful. She works at a local ABC (I think) affiliate editing video, and we had a nice conversation.

Jenna suggested I check out Palo Duro Canyon while I was in town, so I did. Unfortunately, most of the canyon was inaccessible due to a flooding the night before. Still, I did get to see the canyon and go on a small hike through it.
Road Trip - Palo Duro
I stayed the night in Oklahoma, and woke to rain falling. By the time I left, the downpour wasn’t quite as intense, but the rain never let up during my entire drive that day. I stopped off for lunch at Taco John’s, a childhood favorite. But my happiness at eating there was quickly dispatched due to the rains becoming increasingly stronger. I later found out the storm was moving east, the same direction as me, so it would be tough for me to drive past it. Near the Arkansas-Tennessee border, the downpour got worse, and there were semis to my front and side splashing water on my windshield, making driving next-to-impossible. So I pulled off and checked into a hotel. This was at about 3:00 pm, making it an unfortunate early end to the day. Watching news reports, I learned there were tornadoes in the area, and one local Kohl’s got its roof ripped off during the storm. Sad.

Things were clear the next morning, and I decided to stop at Graceland in Memphis. I’m not really an Elvis fanatic, but it’s one of those tourist attractions that seems to be a pre-requisite for would-be sightseers. And indeed, the destination is worth a visit. The mansion is not nearly as gaudy as I had expected (with the exception of the astroturfed “jungle room” perhaps). The house looked great and there were a lot of neat artifacts on display, though you would definitely love it more if you loved Elvis or rock and roll music.
Road Trip - Graceland Exterior
Road Trip - Graceland Jungle
Road Trip - Graceland Tomb
My only other notable stop was in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Again, this stop was more for seeing something noteworthy because it was along the way than a passionate yearning to see the location. I don’t dislike country music, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to it either. Still, the museum was a great stop. I learned a lot about the history of country music and it was interesting to hear the development of the genre’s sound.
Road Trip - Country Gold Records
Road Trip - Country Hall
Road Trip - Country Williams Jacket
Over four days’ worth of driving later, I finally arrived home. Too bad vacations have to end.