Wednesday, May 27, 2009 = Amazing.

I've heard the name Etsy tossed around once or twice. I couldn't remember where or why, but when I stumbled across it in a google search for the perfect teapot, I gave a look. Turns out that Etsy is Amazing! I know I can't be the only one who has this opinion, but the word is not efficiently out, it would seem.

This design is by user ElysiumDesign and retails for 65 USD on

For those not in the know, Etsy is a website which allows people to buy and sell items that are handmade, typically things like art, housewares, clothing and jewelry. Essentially, it is the Ebay or artistic and creative endeavors, and the sellers can showcase their own goods through their own online store on the site. Which really, I think is a brilliant idea that truly showcases how the internet can benefit innovative markets.

This design is by user AmandaKenney and retails for 16 USD on

There are some downsides, I suppose. As I said, I was drawn to the site in search of a unique teapot. I found many amazing handpainted teapots, but my search for "teapot" also insured that I looked through about a HUNDRED tea cosies. Many of them were awesome, incidentally, but not what I was looking for. However, with a bit or prowess, one could narrow just about any search.

This design is by user CarolinaCottage and retails for 15 USD on

What really surprised me was the prices. They're incredibly reasonable. I've felt that whenever I stumble into craft fairs or boutique shops selling things by local artist, they're sort of horrendously overpriced. I get into this dilemma of "well, I'd really like to support local art, but I don't want to pay 35 dollars for a decoupaged coaster." And while that is possible on this site, I haven't found that it's the norm. Sellers seem very realistic about price point and that makes me, in turn, excited to support them.

I will definitely be making many purchases on in the very near future, and I urge you to do so as well. Because, I have to say, supporting a (possibly) starving artist is always a noble cause.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

My initial reaction to this book was positive. I liked it. Perhaps it wasn't what I normally go for, but I generally liked it. The characters were likeable enough and the format was handled deftly, even if it left a bit to be desired syntactically.

However, after chewing on it for the past week post-read, I have to say that it didn't leave me with much. Once again, I enjoyed it. But what had drawn me to the book was the subject matter: german occupation of a remote island during WWII, and the subsequent discussion of the communal experience of occupation and war. That was there, but the author failed to capitalize on it.

Essentially, it ended up being a silly sort of predictable love story/search for one's love. I'm not even sure that side plot had a place in the book. In fact, the story arc of the main character's relation to a little girl in her care is much more fascinating, but at times seemed merely glossed over.

I wanted to like this book, because I could tell that it was enjoyable, and I can see why it is so loved by the many who recommended it. But it just wasn't for me. I suppose it just seemed all a bit too neatly tied up in a little bow. Perhaps I'm alone in this opinion, but I don't want my discussion of the Post WWII world neatly tied up. I like it to be as messy as possible, myself.

This review was reposted from my account at Good Reads. Oh, you love reviewing books, too? Join! We can be friends!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This Week (In My Opinion): Week of May 17th

Here are just a few of my opinions on things I've seen this week. Comments?


Sir, I cannot emphasize this enough: Your fifteen minutes are over. Just stop. Stop giving your opinion in Time articles, stop acting like your brief bit of vague infamy is cause for continuing commentary. You are not actually an authority, even in the post-iceberg Titanic of the current Republican Party. Move on with your life, sir.


I won't lie. This is maybe one of the worst movies I've seen this year. I went in expecting mild entertainment, and got INSANELY how bad this was. No, seriously. Conspiracy theory, overtly religious undertones, aliens, cliche imagery and factual misrepresentation (I'm not buying that the physics instructor conveniantly owns a pick-up instead of something like a Prius) and some truly bad dialogue. Oh, did I mention that it also features THE END OF THE WORLD?!!! I apologize if I gave that one away. No, I don't. It won't change your enjoyment of this movie, miniscule as it may be. However, if you like outright mocking terrible movies, this is a gem.

"Help, I'm Alive" by Metric

I've liked Metric for quite some time, and this song really takes the cake for me. I can't stop singing it. I wager you will also have a difficult time not singing it to yourself.


I'll keep my words brief on this one, because I only need one sentence to sum up:

I can't stand Sci-Fi, and Star Trek was STILL really good.

Go see it!


Now, this is something I'm turning around in my head some, possibly as a topic for a more expansive essay...but as a Gen Y-er that has been dragged around in the mud by the Baby Boomer heavy press, I'm getting a little tired of how the economic crisis seems to lie heavily on their post-war birth shoulders. They continue to demand benefits from taxes paid by everybody, but also continue to soak up all the available jobs for post-grad young Americans. Meanwhile, all the debts they've burdened us with still can't seem to save us. Don't get me wrong, I'm very much of the belief that we need to spend some money to make some money. But it seems like THESE guys got us into this mess and MY GENERATION is going to be saddled with the burnout for years to come. Maybe this is a biased opinion, but I stick by it.


I'm sorry, but these animals are hilarious/awesome. I saw my first Sand Dune Cat at the Berlin Zoo and was reminded of their excellence by some late night nature show. Just look at them. Adorable.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Haiku Poll #1: How does the economic situation make you feel...

For those of you who don't know, here are the results of our first Haiku Poll!



Thank you, Obama!
You stimulate my package
With your pretty face

In case you didn't know, Barack would cross an ocean for you...

AND NOW, PLEASE VOTE IN HAIKU POLL #2: How do you feel watching reality tv?
(In case it's not clear by now, all poll answers are done in haiku format)

Your options:

-Always a blonde whore/A mean one who loves to booze/Thank you, Bret Michaels
-Who are all these hacks?/I can race amazingly/At least get a rose
-Reality is crap/Just give me back my dateline/We'll catch predators
-Too cool for TV/A modern day Kerouac/I don't wash myself

VOTE NOW! (To your left, as always...)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review: Frost/Nixon

Just finished watching Frost/Nixon. I'd been looking forward to this movie for some time, even though I am not as familiar with the Watergate hearings as I am other aspects of the eras politics, given that my schooling dealt primarily with foreign relations. In any event, I'd heard that the movie was well done. I'd of course wanted to see the play as well, and I was hoping that the movie would capture the intensity that the play is said to have.

I have to say that I liked the movie quite a bit. It might move a bit slow for those not interested in politics, but even so, I felt it did a good job of keeping pace, whereas most movies with similar subject matter tend to drone on. The writing was impeccable, and even more importantly, the acting was top notch. Michael Sheen (as David Frost) pulled off his role with a fine attention to detail and a vaguely smarmy smile that punctuated each line delivered with a certain level of poignancy. I also felt that Sam Rockwell's portrayal of James Weston, Jr. and Kevin Bacon's portrayal of Jack Brennan were both finely executed and added to the overall quality of the film.

However, my hat is off to Frank Langella and his portrayal of Richard Nixon. Though I say nothing that hasn't already been underscored and bold-face exclaimed in every review of the movie I've seen (not to mention lauded via Oscar nomination for Best Actor), Frank Langella breathes life into Nixon from the background of a story that slaughtered Nixon's reputation. It's hard to believe that one could feel bad for Nixon, even slightly, let alone empathize, in a heartfelt way, with the position he was put in by doing the Frost/Nixon interviews. Langella manages to showcase Nixon's strength and stoicness without eliminating his vulnerability, loneliness, and regret. It's really quite a captivating performance, and worth the watch alone.

Overall: A-

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

This is Sahra. She has an adorable face. But it's not that adorable face I'm promoting, or even her keen sense of tastemaking in music that was the initial bond for our friendship.

I'm mentioning this because she runs a most excellent blog on fashion, style, and culture called Seams and Stitches. It's chock full of information on the latest in fashion news, tips on sales that can help you score high-end merchandise, and Sahra's unique perspective on how fashion can enrich our lives and our culture.

Not to mention, Sahra is a supporter of the "curvy girls can have fashion, too" brigade, which is all the more reason to support her cause.

So check her out, and become a follower of Seams and Stitches!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Photographer Spotlight: Todd Hido

While I'm the first to admit that I'm not up to snuff on the latest and greatest names in the art world, there is one name I always turn to when seeking inspiration. Todd Hido's photography summons an eerie sense of the beautiful and the lived-in meeting as one, suggesting that beauty comes in the broken down, the broken in, and the scuffed up.

It's Americana put through a filter. His photographs, usually of abandoned home interiors and nighttime scenes of home exteriors, are so ethereal that they are hardly recognizable as suburbia. In his nature landscapes, he turns the overcast into something far beyond blurred rain and greyscale.

This ten minute movie (source not mentioned, but linked to this polish blog) captures the full details of his artistic approach, and shows a bit about Hido's process:

What is so arresting about these landscapes, made over long exposures, is that they are thoroughly charged with emotion. They emit a sadness that isn't ever over-indulgent, and slips a sense of loneliness into situations that with any other light might seem comforting.

He brings this same sense to his portraiture, using his subjects more as conduits for the emotion than necessarily capturing their face in a way that seems typical of a portrait. They become part of the landscape, or act as landscapes themselves, in a way. It's hard not to look at over and over again, and every glance at a Hido piece illuminates something new.

If I had it my way, I'd reach a level of success where I could own a Hido of my own. Until then, I can't help but haunt his website, staring at the pictures over and over, and constantly reformulating my reactions.

Photographs copyright of Todd Hido

Square Butts and CONTROVERSY

So, here's the thing: I find that Spongebob Square Butts commercial for Burger King hilarious. And once more, completely harmless. But of course, it comes as no surprise to me that it sparked some form of controversy. In my opinion, it's a prime example of how over-protective parents are chomping at the bit to freak out about the slightest thing.

However, I'm not a parent myself. Who am I to say what I would want my child to see? That said, I find it hard to believe that the Burger King ad is the worst thing a child could see. Even on prime time TV, there is violence, sexuality and foul language, as well as plenty of thematic elements that shouldn't necessarily be shown to kids. And while I'm sure that many of the kind of parents who are freaking out about the ad do their best to limit a child's exposure to regular television, I'm willing to bet money that most of them do not. There is an overwhelming number of 9 year old boys who have probably seen multiple episodes of 24.

The unfortunate truth that most parents seem to deny is that, unless you home school your kid and hide them from the TV eternally, they're influenced by what's around them. Most kids have heard Sir Mix-a-lot's song and they usually find it funny. And they don't find it funny because of the sexual undertones, at least not if they're still fairly young...

they find it funny because it is about butts. And butts are ALWAYS funny.

So what do you think? Is this commercial too lewd for the child demographic it targets? Or is it simply an example of parents blowing something way out of proportion? In any event, it makes me chuckle.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Exclamation! Point Gets Hot

To commemorate these humble beginnings, The Exclamation! Point received a makeover. Considering my web skillz should probably lose the "z" that implies street cred and awesomeness, I don't think I did too bad. Tim Gunn would be proud, because I'm always making it work.

Feel free to comment on the new look of the blog. Also, ideas for cultural topics worth investigating? It's a space in progress. I love it.

Review: A Larum -- Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit

Johnny Flynn made me stop in my tracks. And it wasn't because he was particularly different or interesting, although he was, or even that in that difference, his music had a sort of familiarity that one doesn't often find in a song they hear for the first time, which it did. I think it was something in the words, something that shook me awake with its simple sentiment.

It was the first song I'd ever heard of his, and I heard it in the car while listening to my local college station, 90.5 KCSU, which is based out of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. The song was called "The Box" and the words I heard went like this:

Sweep my mess away
Leave my body, leave my bones
Leave me whole and leave my soul
Leave me nothing I don't need at all
Nothing I don't need at all

To hear Johnny Flynn belt out words like this in a rich, honey-coated warble is an experience worth pursuing. Ever since that defining moment, I've listened to as much Johnny Flynn as I can, and pressed my fellow music fans to give a listen as well. They are usually right pleased with him, and I think it's because they hear what I hear in the music. That is, that Flynn seems genuine in his delivery. There isn't a lot of posturing, no over-production to mask the words so that they drown in the instrumentation.

He's a storyteller, as anyone planted in the roots of folk tends to be, but there is a raw energy to his stories such that you sense the empathy he feels toward the subjects of his words. And for someone only 25 years old, he lends a maturity to his music that is usually reserved for weathered old men in rocking chairs. It can be arresting at times, especially because you get the sense that there is much more to come, and that what's on offer is simply a humble beginning. Given the first release from the band he fronts, Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, it seems that it's high time he starts to get the recognition he deserves.

Their first album, A Larum, came out in 2008 and is definitely worth picking up. My favorite tracks on the album include "The Box," "Tickle Me Pink," "Leftovers," and "The Wrote & The Writ." But the album as a whole has a fluidity that makes it perfect for a long drive or a day thick with clouds. Flynn has mentioned in a few interviews, such as this one with NPR, that his music is inspired by Shakespeare and events that occur in the news. It seems that these literary influences have helped him shape the poetic quality of his lyrics, and may explain why his words are so steeped in a charm that seems cut and pasted from another time.

In any event, this album comes highly recommended for anyone who can appreciate a bit of folk driven rock with a pop sensibility that seems equally culled from the likes of Bob Dylan, folk music of southern gothic americana, and English tradition, all without sounding like knock-off. You can obtain it on iTunes or at, and for more information on the band, please check out their website or their MySpace page.

Instant Gratification and the Society of I-Want-It-Now

***Author's Note: This is my first attempt at an essay, and is subject to what I might call the gap in taste and execution. Ira Glass discussed this gap in detail, but that's a post for another day. In the meanwhile, constructive comments and general feedback on your thoughts on this matter would be much appreciated.


Instant Gratification and the Society of I-Want-It-Now
by Lacey Smith
Friday, May 01, 2009

The preeminent expression of current American ideals does not occur on election day. Nor does it occur in the House, the Senate, or any of the branches of government we hold so dear. It is not republican or democrat, nor did it waste it's vote on Ralph Nader in 2000. American ideals are just as likely to shop at Wal-mart as at Whole Foods Market, and they don't discern when it comes to preferred VH1 Celebreality shows. It would seem that the beast that is American Ideals does not show itself overtly, though it is ever-present, kind of like those Billy Mays infomercials for cleaning products with exclamation points in the name. But this element of our current culture as Americans is not elusive, or even subtle for that matter. We want everything, and we want it now.

I once asked a russian-born, now proudly American friend what her predominant stereotype of America had been before moving here at age 13. Her response was that everything comes pre-packaged, so that you can have your own individual anything at any time, a statement not far from the truth. One can get everything from 100-calorie portions of Ritz Bitz to tuna fish lunches in convenient packs that save time, but create waste. And while the green craze has taken both the nation and Al Gore by storm, it's hard to believe that many Americans would willingly accept a disappearance of all individually wrapped Little Debbie snacks. In the war between ethics, morality and convenience, convenience will win nine times out of ten.

This change is not merely food-related. Ancient people as old as 22 or 23 years old can now remember a day before Wikipedia, when doing research meant walking to a library and finding an encylopedia. In this instant culture, makings plans does not require more forethought than a text message and real-time conversations occur less often face to face than mac to PC. Back in the day, maps existed. So did newspapers. The United States, with our internet and our iPods and our newsfeeds, is addicted to convenience in all areas of life, pampered far beyond the wildest dreams of generations before us, and often lacking in the characteristics that can only be forged in some form of genuine struggle, like fighting for women's suffrage or civil rights. We've likely obliterated patience as a virtue, but at least now we have Facebook.

It might not seem possible to suggest that a culture raised on the readily available convenience of things like Easy Mac and DVR could be inherently linked to an increasingly irreverant view of the merits of hard work, sarcrifice and paying ones dues to society. With convenience comes an overwhelming sense that all is within immediate grasp, and with that, a sense of entitlement that pervades the public psyche in a way few things can. We've become pushier, ruder, and generally more exacting of impossible standards not just with beauty or technology, but with academics, medicine, and the assumption that all of the worlds problems ought to have been handled by now. In the view of a society based on instant gratification, Swine Flu should have been cured about two days ago.

In an economic climate such as this, satisfaction may be a bit more delayed. And that could be a great thing for anyone who has grown a bit weary of a world where nail polish is supposed to dry in sixty seconds and food comes as quickly as it's ordered. Maybe the financial pause will have a spillover effect, and allow us the chance to breathe, take a second, and perhaps indulge in those things, like big weddings, trips to the doctor, and college educations, that we once took for granted but are now hard-earned and a long-time coming.

Beginnings are always awkward...

In conceptualizing this blog, I thought it best to conceive some sort of earth-shatteringly excellent essay so that I might astound and inspire in ways as yet unheard of.

I then realized that I was likely not capable of this, and settled on something straight from the heart. You know, like a bloggy poem on a rainy day. Only in paragraph form.

My intention with this blog is to comment on culture: on music and movies I deem interesting, on the news I read and the political debates such news stirs up, on fashion and fads, and on the culture as it develops and changes in increasingly globalized, increasingly self-aware societies.

It'd be foolish not to mention that my inspiration comes from the likes of Joel Stein, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ira Glass and a hodge podge of particularly astute stand-up comics, as much as I'd like to think I could ever achieve the taste level or impact of such voices. But I'd like to think of this little space as a contribution. My contribution, at least, entirely of my own whims and wits.

And thus, I give you The Exclamation! Point. Welcome