I think I've pretty much had the wanderlust bug my entire life. I grew up watching old French movies, and the walls of my bedroom were covered in pictures of Paris. After I graduated from uni, I told myself that I would work for a year or two, and save up enough money to spend the entire summer traveling around France. Two of my close friends were going to join me for a weekend here and there, but the majority of the time, I would be traveling by myself.
Honestly, I was so excited for my solo trip, but my grasp of the French language didn't go past Bonjour! I wanted to be able to speak enough French to really enjoy my experience with the locals. But I work a lot, so I didn't really want to commit to a full online course. I definitely didn't have the time (or money) to pay for a class, so I started deep-diving into Google to search for options. That's how I found out that Rosetta Stone has an app!
Rosetta Stone is a language learning program designed to help you learn a new language in the most efficient way possible, without memorizing boring lists of vocab you'll never use. They have developed new features to help your brain absorb a new language through short, interactive sessions that focus on real conversational skills, and their cutting edge app makes it easy to learn on the go. As I mentioned before, I've been working so many hours to pay for my dream holiday, so I loved that I could fit learning French into little 15-30 minute sessions on my morning commute or lunch break, and didn't even need WiFi to learn.
Eiffel Tower and Seine River in the morning, Paris, France
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What I ended up loving most about learning French with the Rosetta Stone app is that I was able to move at a pace that worked for me. There was no pressure to take a test or hand an assignment in on time, and the sessions were so engaging and fun that I found myself actually wanting to spend more and more time each day learning. One of the parts I was most looking forward to about traveling was having meaningful chats with locals, and building lasting friendships. The Tru-Accent feature was really beneficial in helping me develop my accent so I could actually hold conversations with native speakers. It showed me exactly how accurate my pronunciation was with a little icon that would go green, yellow, or red when I spoke, which was really cool because I feel like I never know what I actually sound like. This gave me so much confidence when my trip rolled around a few months later. Even though I wasn't 100% fluent, I felt ready to chat with the locals in Paris.
I spent 2 weeks in Paris with my best friend before heading to the south of France alone -- well, not totally alone -- I had my Rosetta Stone App! The Phrasebook section of the app was a godsend for when I got lost in a little village in Gordes. Phrasebook tells you out loud how to say short, useful expressions. It has categories like getting around and dining out -- really helpful for someone traveling alone. The Seek & Speak feature provided for a fun scavenger hunt while I was shopping for fruit at the local market. All I had to do was take a picture of one of the fruits (with my iPhone), and the app was able to detect the image and translate it into French on the spot!
For anyone thinking about taking a trip alone -- I couldn't recommend it more. I made memories and friends that will last a lifetime, and I surprised myself with how well I was able to carry a conversation in French. Thanks to Rosetta Stone, I had a good grasp of the local language, and the app was there to help me when I didn't know a particular word or expression. I'm planning to go back and visit some of the friends I made this summer, and I'm excited for them to see how well my French has come along since last year!
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Growing up, I had a really tight-knit family, but because I was adopted, I always wondered about my heritage. When we did family tree projects in school, I couldn't help but wonder what my heritage really was.
When my wife gave me one of those DNA testing kits this year for Christmas, I was nervous and excited. When I got the results, I was completely surprised — it turns out I'm about ¼ Italian! I had absolutely no idea, and while I don't love my Scouse family any less, I wanted my kids to know about this new part of their heritage, too. So my wife and I decided to take our kids on holiday to Rome for their next mid-term break. It had something for everyone: tons of art for my wife the Art History buff, freshly made pasta for me, and the kids even studied ancient Roman mythology in their history class! There was just one problem: none of us spoke a word of Italian.
Taking a language learning course after work was going to cost us almost as much as our plane tickets, so I did some research to find a good alternative. I discovered that Rosetta Stone had an app with plans starting at around £10 per month. Rosetta Stone has a reputation for being a trusted language learning program, so I thought it would be a great way for my family and me to dive a little deeper into Italian culture. We started by bringing the kids into the kitchen while we cooked dinner and did the lessons together as a family. We'd dedicate about 20 minutes a night, so they were a perfect cooking companion. I was never interested in language classes when I was in school, so I was worried I was going to be bored, but the exercises were really engaging and interactive. Plus, they focused on conversational phrases we would actually use on our trip, so we could practice speaking to each other.
After just a few weeks, the family knew enough phrases to incorporate Italian into our lives. My youngest daughter loved to play Maitre D and pretend our kitchen table was a restaurant in Italy and asked us if we wanted a table for dinner and how many people were in our party. We would respond cinque persone per cena, per favore (five people for dinner please!), and she would pull the chairs out for us. It was so cute! Her accent is brilliant because Rosetta Stone has a feature that helps you perfect your pronunciation. That means we would actually be able to speak confidently and be understood when we went on our trip.
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When midterm break rolled around, and we landed in Rome, I was so impressed with how much fun my kids were having speaking Italian to order gelato (too many gelatos!), and I felt really confident when asking for directions or shopping. Plus, if I ever didn't know how to express myself, Rosetta Stone has a Phrasebook feature, which puts all the most commonly used phrases right at my fingertips. Sometimes at night, after the kids went to bed, my wife and I would go down to the hotel bar and have a glass of wine and some warm olives and have conversations with the bartender Paulo. We became really good mates with him, and still keep in touch! Something we could never have done without Rosetta Stone.
It ended up being an incredibly meaningful experience to be able to discover my Italian heritage and to watch my kids have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of feeling confident in a foreign country. Rosetta Stone gave us the freedom to make friends and connect with the culture on a whole different level than we could have if we didn't speak Italian. My kids are enjoying Italian so much that they're still doing lessons, and I feel like they're connecting to their roots more and more every day.
The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Get Access To Unlimited Languages With Rosetta Stone!
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The musician directed the video for Charly Bliss's new single Capacity, the latest in a string of gorgeous videos helping to solidify her reputation as a star in multiple mediums.
"I was watching a lot of heist movies at the time," said director Michelle Zauner of her work on the music video for indie pop up-and-comers Charly Bliss's new single Capacity, released today. With its dizzying series of shots featuring neon cacti, speeding cars, blurry TV screens, and plenty of cash, the video plays on all the best tropes of kitschy-crime 80's shows and films like Twin Peaks and Badlands in a display of what's becoming its director's signature style: dreamy slow-motion sequences and vaguely cultish imagery that both leans into and laughs at vintage pop culture's most extravagant excesses.
Charly Bliss - Capacity [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com
The video is another installment in the growing body of directorial work for which Zauner, most famous for her excellent solo work as psychedelic-indie-rock musician Japanese Breakfast, is becoming increasingly noted. Alongside frequent collaborator Adam Kolodny, she directed the videos for Jay Som's "The Bus Song," which captures a blissfully homey Californian summer, and Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers' new project Better Oblivion Community Center's "Dylan Thomas," which transports the viewer to headquarters of a mysterious, quasi-religious cult.
Jay Som - The Bus Song [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] (Amazon Original) www.youtube.com
Better Oblivion Community Center - Dylan Thomas www.youtube.com
She's also directed most of the visual counterparts to her own songs. " Boyish," from her excellent 2018 LP Soft Sounds from Another Planet, is a dismally gorgeous interpretation of a high school prom. Zauner dons a suit, slips into her characteristic bath of ethereal pink and purple lights, and soundtracks one girl's shift from pining over a boy to taking the stage and shredding on her guitar.
Japanese Breakfast - Boyish (Official Video) www.youtube.com
It's a similar narrative to the story told by Mitski's Your Best American Girl video, in which the protagonist exchanges her unrequited desire for an archetypical, all-American guy for a much more satisfying love affair with her bass. Japanese Breakfast joined Mitski and Jay Som on tour in 2016, a lineup of all Asian American women that—although musically very different—were unified by a sense of creative ambition, talent, and a knack for crafting lyrics that cut through all bullshit.
Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Zauner is also signed to Mitski's label,
Dead Oceans. The label's interest and that subsequent 2016 tour with Mitski was a marked surprise for her, for earlier that year she had been working at a "soul-leeching" ad job while quietly dealing with her mother's death by writing what would become Psychopomp, an album that explores many dimensions of grief through waves of reverb-heavy electric guitar and lyrics, sung in her distinctive wail.
A psychopomp, in Greek mythology, is a nonjudgmental tour guide who carries the soul from life to death; and the eponymous album's composition served this purpose for Zauner, providing catharsis in the midst of a storm.
Image via Rolling Stone
Since then, she hasn't stopped creating. Her
first published essay won Glamour's nonfiction contest, and she hopes to turn a lauded essay about Korean food and grief published in the New Yorker into a full-length food memoir about her childhood growing up Jewish-Korean in a predominantly white town.
In the midst of it all, she's found time to turn her knowledge of heist movies and crime dramas into Charly Bliss's newest visual. Judging by the quality and the sheer breadth of the output she's been gifting the world with over the past few years, "a lot of heist movies" probably means endless numbers of films watched at all hours of the night. Zauner seems like the kind of person who's constantly uncovering new conspiracy theories, always knee-deep in a rabbit hole of pop science and personal reflection.
Certainly her own music videos belie a huge variety of filmic and cultural influences. 2016's "
Jane Cum" is hypnotic and haunting, following Zauner on a journey through misty woods to a fiery ritual. Directed with Kolodny and House of Nod Productions, the video borrows from vintage movies, mostly riffing on the 90's horror flick The Craft. 2018's "Road Head" continues this tradition of using occult themes to express the complexities of human feelings.
Japanese Breakfast - Jane Cum (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Japanese Breakfast - Road Head (Official Video) www.youtube.com
"Machinist," also from Soft Sounds, is a nod to sci-fi, inspired by Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and takes inspiration from the Mars Project, an initiative meant to eventually make Mars habitable. It's a trip through a subterranean laboratory that finds Zauner writing love letters and dancing beneath glowing wires and flashing TV screens, using a vocoder and autotune to tell a cyborgian love story; throughout, she almost seems to be laughing at the surreality of our modern technology-saturated world while relishing in its aesthetic beauty.
Japanese Breakfast - Machinist (Official Video) www.youtube.com
"The Body is a Blade," of the same album, is also a tribute to 80s nostalgia, as well as to her mother's memory. It shuffles grainy, faded shots of summertime fields and beaches with family photos as Zauner sings about the body's persistent will to live in spite of all odds. It's classic Zauner: aesthetically beautiful and effortlessly dreamy, a tradition that Capacity dutifully follows, its lurid celebration perfectly framing the song's sonic buoyancy and moody lyrics. Maybe soon enough we'll be getting our own full-length feature film from her, but until then, it seems a safe bet that there are more cyborgs and redemptive senior proms to come.
Japanese Breakfast - The Body Is A Blade (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @edenarielmusic.
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A San Francisco designer retold The Original Trilogy in the style of the London Tube Map.
Not many people sit down and watch George Lucas's classic trilogy and then think to themselves: What if this was a public transit map? What if we viewed every destination the various characters encounter on their journey as subway stubs? Luckily, Jacob Berman not only had that thought but spent several weeks acting on it. It should be mentioned that he has made numerous maps in the past, so he clearly sees the world and its culture in terms of cartography.
Fifthythreestudio, Jacob Berman
Now, of course there is no better way to incur the rage of internet geeks than by remastering anything Star Wars-related. So Mr. Berman attempted to reduce the rage by posting a drafted version in the place with the most concentrated rage: Reddit.
In his own words, he was "torn apart by people who were quite passionate about the subject." If you want to see a classic Reddit explosion, checkout the whole post here. It has some important facts about the original film, including the fact that "C3-PO was throwing dead Jawas into a fire." I, for one, didn't know that.
Fifthythreestudio, Jacob Berman
Also, the Reddit post led to some amazingly specific jokes about Star Wars and the New York City Subway system, including parodies of its delays such as, "THIS SAIL BARGE IS CURRENTLY RUNNING EXPRESS. EXPRESS EXPRESS EXPRESS EXPRESS. WE WILL NOT BE MAKING STOPS BETWEEN 59TH STREET-JABBA'S THRONE ROOM AND 125TH STREET-SHUTTLE TYDIRIUM."
Nonetheless, Berman used the exchange as constructive criticism and integrated the helpful feedback into his final products. Check them out and stay tuned to see if he is going to validate the prequels by incorporating them into his next designs! Or, god forbid, see if he draws inspiration from the new films.
After selling for $1.4 million, Girl with a Red Balloon self destructed.
Even Banksy is sick of Banksy.
Everyone's favorite laptop decal designer has been up to more mischief, this time destroying his own painting at a London auction on Friday. In a seemingly coordinated stunt with Sotheby's, one of Banksy's trademark paintings self-destructed after being auctioned off for $1.4 million. The anonymous artist posted a video of the painting passing through a shredder built into the frame. Sotheby's denied having any prior knowledge of the incident.
One thing's for sure, in a world where the definition of art is becoming looser and looser, that torn Pulp Fiction poster you never bothered to take off your wall? A commentary. That pizza sauce stain you can't get off your white sofa? Expressionism.
"The urge to destroy is also a creative urge," Banksy captioned a second Instagram post about the incident, quoting Picasso.
The New York Times reports that it seems unlikely that no one found the shredder, supposedly built into the frame twelve years ago, before the auction. Indeed, "Detailed condition reports are routinely requested by the would-be buyers of high-value artworks. Unusually, this relatively small Banksy had been hung on a wall, rather than placed by porters on a podium for the moment of sale. And the artwork was also the last lot in the auction."
So if Sotheby's was in on the stunt, is it still the moment of anti-establishment rebellion we all want it to be?
Sotheby's senior director Alex Branczik said in a statement that is difficult not to picture him practicing in the mirror the night before, "It appears we just got Banksy-ed."
This is not the first "subversive" act of Banksy's to make headlines. In 2005, the artist hung one of his "modified canvases," showing a woman wearing a gas mask, for two hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Similar to the Sotheby's incident, the 2005 stunt—and subsequent similar stunts at other museums—seemed unlikely to have reached fruition without collaboration by the very establishment Banksy claimed to be condemning. In 2005, Banksy told NPR that he'd read biographies of Harry Houdini to learn how to sneak into the museums with his artworks, some of which were large and heavy.
The Independent reported Saturday that the work has "doubled in value" since its partial destruction. Whatever Banksy was trying to prove with the stunt, consumers ate it up.
But still, there's something about it all that seems a little, well, Disney. If Banksy's intention were to criticize the commodification of his art — originally intended to be street art belonging to no one — doesn't the uptick in the piece's value only cement Banksy as a consumable, commercial artist?
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The popular 2000 film is returning for a live rendition
It has been 18 (yes 18!) years since Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous became an instant classic.
The semi-autographical film was beloved (and still is) by movie and music fans who love the idea of passion and performance lived out by young people determined to make their dreams come true, through riveting rock-and-roll-led lives.
If you've never seen the movie, W Magazine sums it up: "Almost Famous follows the journey of a 15-year-old boy who lands a once-in-a-lifetime assignment from Rolling Stone to write about a rising rock band. The assignment leads to a life-changing experience for the main character as he navigates professionalism and being swept up in the rock scene himself. The story was, in fact, a fictional version of Crowe's experience working for the publication in the 1970s." Sounds like Broadway gold, and that's exactly what is in the works.
As Deadline reports, "The project was confirmed by producers Lia Vollack on behalf of Columbia Live Stage, Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner and John Johnson. The new musical will feature a book by Crowe based on his Academy Award-winning screenplay, music by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), lyrics by Kitt and Crowe, and directed by Jeremy Herrin (People, Places and Things)."
The cast of the movie was a "cool crowd" collection of up-and-comers and seasoned actors who had chemistry and charisma, making the people on screen as fascinating as the plot. From Billy Crudup to Kate Hudson to Philip Seymour Hoffman to Frances McDormand, the all-star line up made this film one to watch, and still holds its own nearly two decades later.
Rather than a reboot or a sequel, the story is sure to succeed on The Great White Way. While the cast will change, the storyline will be just as captivating, set in the '70s and wrapped up in the rock star way of life. The live music aspect of the Broadway version is sure to add even more authenticity as we watch the performers give their all to the "groupies" in the audience.
The screenplay for Almost Famous won an Oscar, giving the Broadway version a Tony to try for. But when can we get tickets? So far, there is "no official timeline for the project's release," as reported by W Magazine. But when the wheels are in motion, it won't be long until the seats cost hundreds and critics are all over the latest show of the moment.
Will Hudson have a cameo? As Vanity Fair notes, " No word yet on the cast, but expect plenty of attention around the casting for Penny Lane, the role that earned Kate Hudson an Oscar nomination and may still be the gold standard for cinematic dream girls." Can we expect new music or theatrical twists? Something special is sure to arise, making the Broadway rendition of Almost Famous fined-tuned and fresh.
Stay tuned 'till more news emerges about this highly-anticipated Broadway show. Rent the movie and watch it again and remember why you loved it so much back in 2000.
Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.
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