Life in SF on a Broke Student Budget

Hello again! I haven’t updated in awhile because the past week or so because I’ve been busy with my move to Washington DC! I’m participating in the UCDC program at my school which entails working/interning in the capital, as well as taking two classes (one research seminar and one elective class that has to do with the city). I’ve been here for a week and recently started my internship at the Smithsonian Associates where I’m working as a Digital Marketing intern. Essentially, I’ll be helping out with promoting the various events, programs, and classes that the TSA puts on for its members. I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far, and I love that I can walk into one of the numerous museums on my lunch break and explore.

However, that is not the point of this blog post! I could go on and on, but I will save that for a different post and hopefully, have a pop culture spin on it. The point of this post is how broke I feel out here. You’re probably wondering why I’m feeling that here and now when I’ve been a college student for four years, racking up loans and other expenses. Well, it turns out that Washington DC is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the US. It’s especially hard when you’re working as an unpaid intern and paying expensive tuition and living fees to your school. I’ve been trying to find a website that lists cheap and free events in this city but so far have found little, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing as there seem to be free festivals that you stumble upon while walking around (and all of the Smithsonian museums are free!). Because I’ve been trying to find ways of saving money here, I’ve been inspired to write a post about saving money back home in San Francisco. Here are a few of the ways that have worked for me!

1. One of the best websites that list free or cheap events and happenings in San Francisco is FunCheapSF (http://sf.funcheap.com/). You can find events by day, location, and category. It’s a fantastic resource, especially if you’re like me and often times have no idea what’s happening anywhere. The website also lists their own picks, so you can easily find the most recommended events.


2. Go to free movie screenings! Okay, this is one of my favorite ways of saving money. My friends and I have been doing this for the past few years due to our cheapness and being poor students. It takes a little bit of searching, but the payoff is great. There are a few websites out there that give away passes or find passes to movies that will be coming out. However, keep in mind that having a movie pass does not guarantee you a seat in the theater. The catch is that it is first come, first serve which means that you may have to wait in line hours beforehand, depending on how popular the movie is. A few websites that I’ve gotten movie screening passes from are:
gofobo
Fat Wallet (go to the last page for the most recent screenings)
Film Metro
SF Station

Again, you’ll need to do a little hunting and give up a few hours of your day, but if you really want to see a movie before everyone else and NOT pay for it, then give it a go. It can be a lot of fun to tell other people you’ve seen an awesome movie before it’s even come out! Even better is if it’s in IMAX (case in point – when I got to see The Dark Knight in IMAX a few days before it was released).

California Academy of Sciences

3. Go to the museums when it’s FREE. San Francisco has a wide variety of museums and unfortunately, almost all of them charge an admission price. However, you can save several dollars by researching when the museum offers free days.

The Asian Art Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month.
Legion of Honor, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and de Young Museum are free on the first Tuesday of the
The Exploratorium is free on the first Wednesday of the month.
The Academy of Sciences is free on the third Wednesday of the month.
To find more free museums, click here

Additionally, if you’re a Bank of American customer, you can check out several museums for free on the first full weekend of the month, just be presenting your Bank of America card. More information here: http://museums.bankofamerica.com/


4. Twitter is a great resource for deals/freebies/discounts! I know some people balk at our society’s dependence on social media, but it really can be useful. Most businesses and brands are on Twitter now and many offer freebies or discounts to their Twitter followers. Case in point: just this summer I won a pair of tickets to see “Billy Elliot the Musical” through MyBART and a pair of tickets of Outside Lands through EggCartel. Obviously, I was really lucky, but it is possible to win things through Twitter. Just try to keep an eye out for giveaways and tweet like crazy! You’ll never know unless you try!


5. Research restaurants before you go out to eat! Although it’s nice to be able to say you ate lunch at a really great place that you just happened to find while walking around, it would also be smart to Yelp a couple of places beforehand. You can sort places by neighborhood, type of cuisine, and price. It’s even better if you have a smartphone and can use their mobile app on the go! Typically, I stick to places that have one dollar sign ($) or two dollar signs ($$).


6. Utilize sites like GROUPON or LivingSocial. They both have great coupons and discounts on various businesses or activities throughout the city. The catch is that the offers are usually only up for one day so you should be on top of it if you’re seriously considering purchasing a deal. I’m not a huge fan of using these sites only because once I purchase one, I feel obligated to go to the business or restaurant, but if you’ve been intent on visiting a certain place, than buy it! Occasionally the sites do have pretty awesome deals like 2 movie tickets for $9.

7. You’re a student! Take advantage of it! Along with the awesome perks of being young and healthy, being a student means you have the occasional privilege of paying discounted prices. Student prices are not at every establishment, but it pays off to research or ask if there is a discount. Some theaters have student rush tickets, in which you can pay lower prices when you present your student ID card. (Side note = many theaters in SF have rush tickets, which are seats with limited view of the stage. You can buy tickets for these seats that are usually in the front at much lower prices, but you’ll need to wait hours before hand to snatch up the small number of them. My friends and I used to rush “Jersey Boys” a bunch of times and we always paid $25. It was sad when the guy sitting next to my friend realized she had paid $25 for her seat and he had paid almost $200). One of the best student discounts that I’ve used this past year is on my MacBook; I saved almost $100 just because I had a .edu email address. StudentUniverse and STA Travel also offer discounts on plane tickets and other travel packages. I also noticed that when I was in Europe and the UK, many museums and places offered lower prices to students. So even if your ID photo is hideous (like mine), keep it with you at all times because you never know when you might save a couple of bucks or more with it!

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New Florence + the Machine song!

Florence + the Machine at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Taken by me!

I’m a massive fan of Florence + the Machine; her album Lungs was my soundtrack for most of 2010 and to this day, it’s one of my most played albums on iTunes. It’s just been announced that her new album, Ceremonials comes out this Halloween and she’s already released the tracklisting, which you can check out here. She released “What the Water Gave Me” a few weeks ago, and while I enjoy the song, it didn’t blow me away like her older material. However, last night, her new song “Shake it Out” leaked and I was a very excited fangirl. The song features an epic chorus and plenty of drums and organ. Give the song a listen and prepare for it to take over the airwaves, much like her past singles. I can’t wait to see her perform this song live! It’s going to be crazy!

Bonus video! One of my favorite Florence + the Machine live videos!

90s Throwback!

Although I’m technically an 80s baby (1989!), I was only alive for about three months of the 80s and so I actually consider myself a child of the 90s. I think anyone who grew up in the 1990s was pretty fortunate. We weren’t consumed by the internet yet, the economy was relatively stable, terror attacks weren’t always on our minds, and the most of the annoying Disney kids weren’t even born yet.

My memory of the decade is a lot sharper for the latter years, obviously, but I do remember bits and pieces of the first half. I remember all the PBS and Nickelodeon shows I watched. I remember kindergarten and how these boys in my class stripped a Barbie and shook her plastic nakedness in everyone’s faces. I remember how I learned “shut up” from The Lion King. I remember how everyone had to learn the Macarena (forever burned in my memory). I remember Halloween parties, parades, and trick-or-treating. I remember how everyone in my class got excited whenever they got the chance to play Oregon Trail on the class computers. I remember being obsessed with the Spice Girls and how every girl wanted to be Baby Spice. I remember how popular Titanic was and how My Heart Will Go On was EVERYWHERE.

I could go on and on, but I’ll save it for another post at another time. Basically, I love the 90s because everything just seemed so much easier and carefree. Obviously, I was also a lot younger and didn’t have to worry about the things that I think about at night now (WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!?!), but the entire decade seemed so much happier and hopeful. So here I have a playlist of twelve of my favorite songs from 90s. Now I’m going to dig up my Disney VHS tapes and my Sanrio stickerbooks…

I grew up in the 90s

Click HERE

1. Always Be My Baby – Mariah Carey
2. End of the Road – Boyz II Men
3. Hard to Say I’m Sorry – Az Yet
4. How Bizarre – OMC
5. There She Goes – Sixpence None the Richer
6. Don’t Speak – No Doubt
7. No Scrubs – TLC
8. Summer Girls – LFO
9. I Want You Back – NSYNC
10. (You Drive Me) Crazy – Britney Spears
11. Stop – Spice Girls
12. Heartbreaker – Mariah Carey

For more 1990s goodness check out this tumblr: http://thosewerethe90s.tumblr.com/

Review: Contagion

Kate Winslet. Gwyneth Paltrow. Laurence Fishburne. Matt Damon. Marion Cotillard. Jude Law. These are a few of the famous faces in Contagion, a film by Steven Soderbergh. The film details the spread of an unknown virus and the resulting events. Before the screening my friends and I attended, we wondered why this film was being release in September, usually a month reserved for lackluster films. Afterwards, I realized why this movie was opening in the beginning of September and not in November/December.

Unfortunately, with all that A-list talent, the film fails to effectively use its impressive cast. Each star has an important role in the story. Winslet is a pandemic specialist sent to Minnesota by the Center of Disease Control to figure out why and how the disease is spreading in the state. Paltrow is the first known victim and Damon is her husband who happens to be immune. Fisburne is impressive as the head (?) of the CDC. Cotillard plays a worker from the World Health Organization who travels to Hong Kong to figure out how the pandemic began. Law plays a radical blogger who preachers the usage of a homeopathic solution. One of the more frustrating things about this movie was the fact that there was TOO much going on. It was incredibly jumpy, using “Day 1/2/3” labels in a sort of documentary style to creative a narrative. There was almost no interaction amongst the listed actors, and the film would cut to the various locations where the characters were located and as a result, the films jumps from story to story. Most of these stories are never fully resolved and annoyingly, left open to “interpretation.”

I don’t usually mind open ended stories because they can make the audience think and generate discussion, but in the case of Contagion the films jumps into a lot of stories, but doesn’t do anything with them. It’s as though the filmmakers thought it would be a great idea to introduce a certain plot element to make the movie exciting or interesting, but didn’t know how it would fit within the context of a film about disease. For example, someone is kidnapped and forced to stay there into a village is healed. Okay, cool, but what happens then? How does this character react? Does this change her in anyway? Rather than exploring the various issues that result from a pandemic – fear, rioting, anger, death- the film presents these situations in a almost superficial way, in that it fails to dig deeper. Out of fear of contracting the disease, people stop working and begin looting, which the film seems to say is in our human nature, that it’s inevitable that we will resort to a “survival of the fittest”/”all for one” mentality when we are in danger. Although that may be true (I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened), the film doesn’t explain what the consequences of this is. So people start looting…great, then what? How is this resolved? What does the country do to recover from the chaos created by the desperate citizen, by the blogger, by CDC?

I was incredibly underwhelmed by this film. I had foolishly thought that film with so many great actors had to be good, but it seems like all of them needed a little extra money or wanted to hang out together on set. The film offers nothing but a sad attempt at trying to find out what happens when a small series of events affect an almost too interconnected world. You’d probably be better off watching a Dateline or History Channel special on the actual pandemics that have happened in the past, I know I definitely was thinking that throughout this movie.

Bottom line: Wait till this movie is on DVD, more specifically wait until this movie is offered at Redbox where you can rent it for a $1. Or better yet, when it’s playing on the plane. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t do anything for the viewer. Also, Jude Law’s fake snaggle tooth was incredibly distracting.

Boom badoom boom bass

Happy slightly early Labor Day everyone! I’m definitely happy to have Monday off tomorrow, but I’m equally sad because the arrival of Labor Day usually means that summer is coming to an end. At the beginning of this summer, I made a list of things I wanted to do and naturally, about two things on that list were actually accomplished (buy plane tickets and figure out internship stuff). One of the more embarrassing and trivial things on my list was to learn all the words to Nicki Minaj’s ‘Super Bass.’ Yes, that’s right. That was my goal and now that summer’s ending, I would say I’m satisfied with my progress. That song was one of my favorite songs this summer and it inspired me to put together this post of my summer jams. Here we go!

5. ‘Florescent Adolescence’ – Arctic Monkeys

This song is actually fair old, but I became obsessed with it this summer after watching Arctic Monkeys perform on Lollapalooza stream. It’s mostly due to that beginning riff…bonus points if you know which of my favorite shows frequently uses it! More bonus points if you know who the director of the music video is! Thanks to the wonder of Spotify, it played on repeat as I went through various internship duties and it always pumped me up in the mornings. I got to see Artic Monkeys perform at Outside Lands and this was definitely a highlight. Maybe my Fall goal will be to lean all the words to this song…the whole song’s a tongue twister!

4. ‘Lost in the World’ – Kanye West

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of rap or hip hop…I enjoy certain songs or artists, but it’s not like I actively seek it out. However, I really like Kanye West. Not only is he one of the more amusing entertainers out there, he puts out music that isn’t just aimed at the club/party crowd. I like my dancey music (if you know me at all, you know I really like my guilty pleasures), but it gets tiring hearing the same recycled beat in every song or the ubiquitous “PUT YOUR HANDS UP!” in EVERY SINGLE SONG. Yeah, I’m actually driving right now, so no, I don’t want to put up my hands, thanks. This song was another one that I blasted almost every day this summer to get me through spreadsheets, emails, and more. I think it’s a great usage/sampling of Bon Iver and to all the bitter Bon Iver fans commenting all over the video on Youtube, at least the song’s putting his music out in the mainstream and hey, maybe there’ll be more Bon Iver fans because of this song. Anyway, I absolutely love ‘Lost in the World’. I am terrible at writing about music, but there’s something about this song when the beat drops and when the female vocals come in. Ugh, it is just SO GOOD! This song actually makes me want to go running in the woods or something, which is impressive in itself because I hate running! Good job, Kanye. You may be a egomaniac, but you know how to make great music.

3. ‘Show Me Lights’ – Friendly Fires

Thank you Spotify! Friendly Fires has always shown up in my recommendations on Last.FM so I’m glad I finally listened to their album ‘Pala’. It’s a great album, especially if you’re into dancey rock like I am. ‘Show Me Lights’ is definitely my favorite on the album! I love the drums, brass and the 80s feel this song has. It almost reminds me a bit of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Futuresex/Lovesounds’ and I think that’s one of the reasons why I love it so much. It’s got a gritty pop/dance feel along with the indie and electro sounds. Oh jeez, I’m just awful at this whole describing music business, but seriously, this track is fantastic. This one was one I put on repeat every morning as I walked to the bus stop and put back on repeat at the end of the day.

2. ‘Helena Beat’ – Foster the People

Can someone explain to me just how Foster the People blew up so quickly? I remember when Kev from Two Door Cinema Club mentioned them in a tweet back in March or April about playing ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ for a DJ gig or whatever and then over the summer, their song shot up the charts and it’s now number 3 on the Billboard 100 last I checked. INSANE. I got to see them as well at Outside Lands and because I was in the front and I’m short I had no idea how large their crowd was until I watched the videos on YouTube. They put on an amazing show and while I enjoyed their music before, I became a huge fan afterwards. They seemed to genuinely enjoy performing and were very happily surprised by the huge crowd that came out to sing and dance to their music. They were recently nominated for a VMA so I’m eager to see this band become even more successful. It definitely seems they’ve already wooed the overseas crowds! I love ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, but the entire album, ‘Torches’, is unbelievably catchy. Please do yourself a favor and give it a listen…you don’t even have to pay for it as it’s all on Spotify! I chose ‘Helena Beat’ because it’s the first track on the album and draws you in instantly with its catchy beat, preparing you for about 40 minutes of music that’ll make you want to drop everything and dance.

1. ‘Super Bass’ – Nicki Minaj

How could I mention ‘Super Bass’ and not include it in my list of favorite summer songs?! Come on, anyone who knows me knows this has been my muthafuckin’ jam all summer long. This song completely snuck up on me because I was mostly indifferent to it when it first came out, but the night I went out with my friends before graduation weekend, this song came on and I lost it…as in, my shit. This song is so fun to dance and sing along to, who wouldn’t have this on their list of summer songs?! Remember when I mentioned my dislike for songs telling me to “put my hands up” when I’m driving? This song actually makes me dance while I’m in the driver’s seat, dangerous I know, but I can’t help it! It’s the only mainstream/Top 40 song I’ve enjoyed this summer and I’m pretty sure it’ll define summer 2011. It’s so sweet and catchy and the video is super cute! I’ll even admit that I’ve tried to learn some of Nicki’s sweet booty poppin’ moves from the video (it’s hard) and hey guess what, one of my favorite directors approves of the song too, which makes it 10343437483787 cooler.