new eyes

My new camera finally arrived! It’s a Canon EOS Digital Rebel: kinda outdated, I think it came out in like 2004 or something, but it does the job well. I got around to snapping a few pictures with the new device, and I think they turned out pretty nifty. I tend to take really dark pictures, though – I just like shadows…But then everything looks a little gray — any suggestions for a better shot?










anything for you, boss

I’ve known for a while that I need to catalog my thoughts – to organize my feelings and to feel normal – but what I’m now realizing is that I need to catalog my muses. I’m finally allowing myself to follow them, but I’m forgetful. I may enjoy reading literature and watching films and TV a whole dang lot, but for the life of me I can’t remember more than a few details from the works I love. Which sucks, because I’m surrounded by friends who are real nerds, and while I love them for this, I also resent them, with their quick recall and memorized quotes… I feel like I’ve already hit dementia: the only things I can remember well are conversations and how long it’s been since someone texted me back. But god forbid I remember some one-liners from my favorite movies…

I’m tired of this. So I’m starting a catalog. A catablog, if you will. I don’t care how many people read it, or if anyone agrees with me. I just like projects. And I’d like to remember what I love, too. That’d be nice.

The way I see it is I’ll pick someone who I’d love to be my boss – someone who makes things that inspire me and someone who I would like to be somewhat similar to in my creative pursuits. (I am deliberately avoiding the word “idolize” here because that carries a passive worship that doesn’t make good art, and doesn’t engage the mind.) I think of the world of creative expression as a bubbly, ongoing cocktail party, forever in the time after it’s gotten into full swing and before anyone gets more than just buzzed, with the art my muses make engaged in conversations with other works from anywhere in the world, at any time, in any medium. And all I aim to do with this project is to eavesdrop.

I’m thinking I’ll call it something like anything for you, boss and it’ll go like this: I’ll pick a boss and I’ll research her or his or their filmography, discography, portfolio, list of works, whatever it is and go through it one post at a time. I’ll compare my thoughts to other thoughts I “overhear” from critics or other writers. I’ll probably also acknowledge some of the works I’ve seen too many times, or works that got enough attention already, and stick to the works I haven’t yet looked at in detail. I’ll intersperse things I make in the process, inspired by the muse. It’ll be an exploration into my muses: a personal gossip column for my cocktail party adventures; I’ll be the shy intern who has to mingle for the first time among people actually getting paid and act witty enough to hang.

this was an inevitable reference

this was an inevitable reference

My bosses will generally fall into the avenues of: film (all its parts), writing, music, photography, and perhaps even cooking. The first few people that spring to mind are Kristen Wiig (film and TV acting), Esperanza Spalding (jazz vocals/bass), and Linus Lohoff (photography) – but these could change, muses are fickle anyway.

This blog here will remain, of course. This is my personal brain-dump, remember? There’s just another kind of brain-dump that needs to happen, and I don’t believe it fits with this intimate conglomeration of thoughts.

gif from here

shots shots shots

Here are some photos made in the past few weeks of warming up and moving back home. I just ordered a used dlsr so these might be the last unedited phone photos you see for a while!


paint it white




cemetery dirt


sunset at the edge of Temple


I love windows


traffic soldiers


it looked like a butt, so


pleasing ivories


black and blue


it’s too bright out




moving back in


did I mention I love windows?



If there’s one thing you absolutely need to know about me, it is that my muse pulls me every which way at any time of day, and to have a task loom over my head that I can’t ignore or finish and get out of my hair is a death sentence to my motivation and creativity.

linus lohoff 1

I have a parchment brain and bones of flint: anything can set my mind on fire. I am a sort of phoenix when it comes to following my muse: I have to burn to ashes before I can move on. I’ve always been flammable, and it is indeed fun sometimes when I can feed the flames and get a roaring creative fire going, but it is precarious around other humans who are made of so much water. I can’t squelch my own fire – I haven’t learned how yet – but others can with the flick of a finger, and it ruins me. I become half-charred, unused and unusable. It is better for me to have burnt all the way out than to have been stopped in the middle. It leaves that looming, unfinishable task.

In middle school, I remember being handily smothered and left half-burnt and hurt. Learning fed my fire – school was easy for me – and for that, my flame was doused without a second thought. If you can believe it, I was ridiculed for being “smart” – as if I didn’t matter because I was “farther along” than the other students. To burn passionately as was natural for me felt like arson: a destructive crime that no one benefited from. They couldn’t see my fire for its glorious heat, energy and radiance – they only saw that it was different from their murky water, and extinguished it.

linus lohoff 2

Since then, I haven’t been able to truly dry out and get a fire going unless it was one of self-ridicule. That one burns in another part of me, the part that’s always stale and dry. That one can become a wildfire, oxidized by a number of factors in everyday life: there’s air all around us, so it’s not hard.

I try to keep paper lists, hoping they could kindle a spark into something greater. If you can believe it, I have to keep a list of the things I love and want to pursue because it’s entirely possible for me to forget them. They feel like trying to burn green wood. They are too young. I need to wait longer and longer until I find older wood, but it’s springtime and everything is green. Everything seems to be blooming except for me.

I want to burn.

linus lohoff 3

all photos by Linus Lohoff in Form Colour Material Light (link to his website)

zu hause

Last weekend started on Thursday for me.

"redefining art"

“redefining art”

I put some photos in an art show called MESH at Temple, which sought to redefine art as coming from any source where work is put into – papers, engineering drafts, etc. as well as traditional art forms, no matter what major the artist is studying. While wandering through the cozy, one-room show, I got a text from a friend in the music school saying there was swing dancing happening elsewhere on campus. I kinda ditched the art show…

Friday I didn’t go to any of my classes because I had the house to myself this weekend while my parents went to the beach. My only responsibility was to take care of our pets and soak up as much new spring sun as possible. Here are a few snapshots of the excellent weekend.

the weekend started off rainy and gross, but it turned itself around just for me…probably


one of the many times I had to yell in Bean's face to get the heck inside already

one of the many times I had to yell in Bean’s face to get the heck inside already…so distracted, she is.





a lone cauldron in our backyard.

a lone cauldron in our backyard.

the flowers look pinker in real life...

the flowers look pinker in real life…


milkshakes post-cartilage piercing (I deserved it!)

milkshakes post-cartilage piercing (I deserved it!)



have a great week y’all

by way of the green line bus

What attracts me to film is that it’s a funneling of different art forms into one. Film is acting, cinematography, music, design, costumes, writing, and all the other hundreds of jobs listed in the credits of any film or video (which I’ll hopefully learn more about as I embark on my cinematic journey to graduation). The fact that it’s an artistically complete sum of extraordinary little parts that all work together gets me so hot ‘n’ bothered. I may not be a film buff – my watch-list keeps growing, and my library of watched films is v. random – but when I watch a film, I get all introspective and I love it. Why it took me this long to let myself admit that I want to make art, I don’t know. I thought it was selfish of me to do something I really want to do. (?!?!)

Anyway, in an indulgent celebration of my new major, here is the beginning of what will become a long series of posts about scenes that I have the biggest crushes on. This is but one scene of many that I rewind and rewatch until I’ve had enough to continue watching the film. In this case, the significance of the music of the scene is particularly why I love it because music is the easiest way to manipulate my mood. (Also, the singer of the song is from Cologne, Germany so that makes me love it even more!!)

If you do not already know, you will soon learn that I think Wes Anderson is just so dang neat. My favorite film of his (and otherwise) is The Royal Tenenbaums. And my favorite scene ever is this one:


oh my good lord.

Anderson is a master of extras: there are dozens of suitcases full of people’s belongings, and dozens of people milling about; there’s a bunch of older men in brown trench coats, and ship workers in uniform, and all these other people and shit moving around on those golf cart-things. Most importantly – in my opinion – this amounts to the strongest lines in the scene being horizontal: the ROYAL ARCTIC LINES sign, the logo on the Green Line Buses, Richie’s (Luke Wilson) headband, the rows of suitcases; the pedestrians and cars criss-crossing from left to right and vice versa… There’s also a feeling of smallness among all the “things” in the scene and because there’s a big-ass boat in the background of Richie and behind the bus Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) arrives in, there’s a bunch of big-ass buildings.

Richie came by a boat and Margot still managed to come later than him, too, which I love because it agrees with their characters, as Margot is rebellious and secretive, and Richie, a peacekeeper.

Alec Baldwin narrates the scene – and, really, the whole film – in this sophisticated, formal diction, with words like “request for his usual escort” and “by way of the Green Line Bus,” making everything seem just that much more organized. And once he says those magic words – “as always, she was late” – the people and things shift away for the bus to arrive and the camera to zoom in on Margot, whose identity as “his usual escort” was only supposed and not revealed until now.

The entire feeling of the scene shifts very literally. Suddenly there is one strong line in the landscape that is not going horizontal and that is the path Margot walks, straight towards Richie. (Even the other bus riders act as part of the traffic of the scene, following in the same horizontal paths.) Funnily enough, the traffic lights parallel to Margot’s path are red, but Margot goes anyway, in true Margot fashion. As the bus releases steam, it sounds like an exhale, which fades into a held silence, like that of an inhale: THIS is the moment that grips my chest, holds my breath, because for a perfectly timed beat of silence, we are Richie and Margot, making eye-contact after how many years of physical and emotional separation… This moment serves to show that no matter how late Margot was to “escort” Richie – no matter how secretive she is, hiding in her fur coat – her feelings for him are undoubtedly strong.

The cars behind the bus slow down and Margot “exhales” and some exhaust smoke rises around her, blurring the background traffic. The music tumbles in and it’s the perfect release. How does he do it? Anderson might as well drop the mic now because he nailed it. Just look at the lyrics to “These Days,” by Nico that we hear in the film:

I’ve been out walking
I don’t do too much talking
These days, these days.
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to.

I’ve stopped my rambling,
I don’t do too much gambling
These days, these days.

It’s Margot.

Also, the music starts when the time slows, which is fascinating because music is art set in time. But music is also an expression of feeling and emotion, which, for Richie and Margot, survived time and miles of ocean between them, among other obstacles. Because time around them slowed, but the music still represents ideas that are concentrated within time, it’s clear that the relationship between Margot and Richie – their romantic feelings – feels like it isn’t set by the same rules as the rest of the world. (And it really isn’t, because they legally are brother and sister.) Every movement in a world occupied by one’s lover is pregnant with complicated emotion, especially when they are adoptive siblings in a dysfunctional family…

After all this, they have the most concentrated conversation (all Margot’s lines):

“Stand up straight, let me get a look at you.
What’s so funny?
Well it’s nice to see you too.”

The understatement is so great…Richie barely straightens, he doesn’t laugh, and he doesn’t say he’s glad to see her, but she perceives all this anyway. Yet then the smallest movement of their faces shows their emotions shift – Richie’s arms drop a little, Margot’s smile drops a little – and they forget trying words altogether and embrace. They don’t do much talking, but they understand each other. Maybe the slowed-down meeting they had was a glimpse into their world together, they see everything as richly and choreographed as we did. Maybe things fit together as geometrically and organized as we see them when they’re together.

I’ve heard some (dumb) people criticize Wes Anderson’s movies for looking “fake,” as if they are over-choreographed, too colorful, and not set in a real-life setting. Firstly, I’ve already proven that this over-choreographing serves a role in this scene particularly, but there is also certain bittersweetness that haunts each of his characters’ lives that is completely cohesive with an over-choreographed, too colorful, and not set in a real-life setting because even in that kind of “fake” world, shit happens – life isn’t organized no matter how much one tries to organize it. The Tenenbaums were hailed as a family of geniuses – encouraged by their parents -but that plan failed in too many ways to recount, and it couldn’t cover up their personal demons, anyway.

There are a series of books published throughout the movie by most of the characters, also, and this in itself mimics a public facade of organization when the life behind the novelist is not always revealed or truly known. Heck, the whole movie “is” a book that Alec Baldwin narrates from: their life is planned out, choreographed and illustrated, but the hallmark of good fiction is conflict. (This is why the narration is sophisticated prose and not a sort of stream-of-consciousness dialogue.) It’s bittersweet that the best tales always have complex conflicts, and The Royal Tenenbaums is no exception.

Fiction suspends reality to make a comment on it, and I think Wes Anderson does it extremely well in his films, particularly this one, and I LOVE HIM.


Four months! The length of my last relationship! Not a long time, but long enough for it to mean something!

I have ignored this poor blog because college. Really, that’s my only reason. I have to read so much for classes that my brain is worded out every night before I can write anything. But I have made some changes in the past four months, so this hiatus has indeed meant something.

In my Intro to English class, I learned that art should be surprising, but make sense. In that way, my life so far has kind of been like art. I came into college thinking one thing and have shifted at least 90 degrees in my thinking since then. (I guess…I don’t ever have to take a math class again, so who cares?)

I came into college as an English major. Why? Because I’m good at it, and because I like reading and writing. Once I finally got to take English major-specific courses this semester, I couldn’t stop thinking, Is this it? I felt dead-ended in my freshman year – that’s a red flag. I asked myself what I would do if I could, and the answer was make films…

….I’m a film major now!

I kept an English minor because storytelling is what I love to do, but my medium changed. It was a surprise to myself, but once I changed my major and started planning my schedule for next year, it felt so natural. And I can finally justify how much TV, movies and videos I want to watch. (It’s research!)

Plus, I don’t know how many times I’ve asked myself and whoever else was around whilst watching a program, “I wonder how they filmed that,” “I wonder how many takes that took,” “How did they come up with that?!” I WANT TO ANSWER THAT!!

So if you stick with this blog some more, maybe I can give you all my own answers to my own questions. In any case, anything I do artistically will either be with the sketch comedy show on campus, Temple Smash; on my Vimeo account, samanthala; on my Instagram, @s.l.auman; or right here on let’s be extraordinary! It kind of blows my mind that I’ve written this blog for almost five years now, and it finally feels like I am getting the hang of my life. I’m sifting through the pieces of myself gradually, and I feel like I’ve got maybe a corner completely put together! I’m starting to look like something!

stories, conversations, and gazing



When something in life begins, happens, and ends – a project, a joke, a relationship, or perhaps something as simply as the sun’s movement bookending a day – that event becomes a story. A life story. These little narratives of human experience are extraordinary because they are valuable, meaningful currency if we share them. It seems like it wouldn’t be that difficult to do since we all have them; the existence of the arts and humanities proves this. I fancy myself as a sort of journalist for the lives I brush against every day because I feel compelled to report the extraordinary stories we can learn from everybody with this simple inquiry:

“What’s your life story?”

My brain is like a tape recorder; I ask that and click Record. Usually this question gets a chuckle, or a joke, but eventually the shock of such a vague but personal question wears off and they see I’m actually kind of serious: I ask to get them talking about things that matter to them. (And most people welcome that!)

I still have that journalistic layer behind trying to make extraordinary conversation, though: I still want the story. I want to give it life, and share it, and use it to discuss things. In my photo class, we learned early on that good photographs require politics – a context, a time and space – to effectively mean something. In a similar way,  stories need to be situated in a time and space, too, to be meaningful. The story alone isn’t the agent here: it’s the reader and the listener who ultimately do something with it and by asking for a life story, I bring stories into a time and space – the here and now.

Sometimes the stories I uncover are seeing the outside of their authors’ heads for the first time: it’s the first time they have the opportunity for a context, for meaning, for comment, and for reflection. As a small-scale journalist, concentrating in conversational life stories, I believe I am doing humanity a service by documenting and sharing the ordinary extraordinary – by showing people how their lives can be a artistic when framed.20141104_145040

During a talk given by photographer Byron Wolfe I attended for my photo class, one line he delivered towards the beginning of his lecture stuck with me throughout the entire presentation and long afterwards. He wondered what the “length of the gaze” is, or how long it takes to really look at something. Obviously, photographs themselves take hours or so to make – whether just because one waits for the perfect moment to capture an image, or the processing and editing take forever – but after they’re made, they’re within time and space: where a photo slowly reveals meaning to each of its viewers, who contextualize it with their own perspective. This is what I do when I’m presented with a story: I gaze, within my time and space, and hope to report what I find.

So I wonder, too: How long do I “gaze” at something? Why do I find most, if not all, life stories extraordinary when everyone has them? One quotation offers an answer:

Understanding Jazz isn’t quick. It’s like a quote Duke Ellington told a listener who said she didn’t get his music. “I’ve been working on this for 20 years, why should you expect to get it in five minutes?” I like that, because it does take time to receive all that’s being given in a Jazz context.

Esperanza Spalding via EBONY

It takes time to receive all that’s being given in any context. “Being in the moment” is sure helpful for understanding things that happen in life, but life also deserves some reflection because we are, at the very least, a sum of our exclusively human memories and experiences. The length of a gaze – the length of a self-reflection – the length of a life story – are important to consider for this reason, and it’s up to the framers – the artist, the author, the audience – to decide how long to look.20141109_161954(0)

A person lives. Things go on. An artist takes an interest – it might be they who lived this particular story, or it might be someone else they know. They investigate the circumstances and record the story in whatever medium they use to project their perspective – their time-and-space. Audience members experience the product in their time-and-space.  Thus, we have the arts and humanities: studying famous life stories that have found relevance throughout different times-and-spaces.

I want to add to that conversation. I want to bring my perspective to the table, but with my little spin: that we’re extraordinary just for living out our life stories. Gazing and reporting never ceases to amuse me. Precisely this is the reason why I live and write Let’s Be Extraordinary: I love it. I believe life stories deserve to be artistically framed, and if I can lend my time-and-space to the conversation, then by all means I will. Up to now, LBE has been mostly my own life stories because – as I’ve discovered – I’m unique in my constant self-reflection (maybe it’s an introvert thing?), but with access to my notebook, one would see evidence of other stories. I’m framing, I’m gazing, and I’m hoping to do my collected stories a justice here soon.


all photos taken by me.

the importance of an education

“So what do you want to do with an English/German major? Teach?”

The reason I study English and German is not so I can turn around and teach them once I graduate; I haven’t done much professionally with them yet. Seems a little premature, doesn’t it?

“I love writing: that’s why I’m studying English. I love German: that’s why I’m studying German.”

I know I will eventually end up teaching – I can feel it. It makes sense. I have enjoyed every taste of teaching I’ve ever had – tutoring math, leading a section of the marching band, editing friends’ essays for class – almost as much as I enjoy learning and creating. And if it all works out – if I learn and create things I’m proud of – isn’t it only natural to want to share that experience and knowledge?

“I’m letting my internships and work experience direct where my career goes.”

I want to be a student for as long as I can, though, and procuring a degree doesn’t signal the end of my education. Even if I end up teaching eventually, I won’t stop being a student; there will always be things I don’t know or things I’m not good at: things I can learn from. I don’t plan on being – or desire to be – the top of whatever field I enter as soon I leave my current field – being a student.

The boundaries are blurred. In fact, they are only visible once one passes them and reflects: how is one to know exactly when she’s become an expert in something? Don’t most geniuses only gain that title after they die? In that case, I don’t have to think about myself and my career in a clear-cut fashion at all! Whoever followed me and my work will do that for me after I’m gone.

My point is not to go dying so that life makes more sense. My point is this: it’s really too early to be questioning this stuff. There’s no pressure to define a career before I can fully know what that looks like for me. The fullest picture of one’s career comes only when it ends – and that is not for quite a bit of time. Now, for me, is the time to get an education that speaks to me. If I learn things that I feel passionate about, won’t I be more inclined to use them as much as possible in normal life, i.e. make a career out of them?

Whether I teach now or later doesn’t matter much – as long as I learn and do things I find important right now. To me, that’s English and German, and I trust that learning those important things now will help me do important things in the future.

a definite return

I want to go back.

Welcome to Cologne. This is DER Dom.

You’d think it was because of this view, but there’s more.

See, I’m voluntarily protective of learning foreign language, literature and culture, and the only explanation I can offer why I am that is that some sort of divine passion grips me and makes my ears perk up when I hear German spoken, or makes me start shaking with excitement when my English class dives deeper into a poem, or makes me swoon when I hear people civilly discussing the problems of today.

It's seriously as beautiful as it sounds, and more.

The Alps are seriously as beautiful as you think they are.

At the root of this divine passion is really a desire to understand everything – that’s why I ask a lot of questions. That why I prefer to listen. That’s why I feel so strongly about learning language, literature, and culture, and find them so fascinating – because studying them basically makes one a better “understander” of her fellow humans.

Why I chose German as my main squeeze is up to the Universe to know, but I know I connected with it the first time I saw a travel program about Switzerland during Christmastime. The chocolate – for one thing – mesmerized me, and there was something about the European style of celebration and tradition that enticed me.

While these look especially scrumptious, these shops are everywhere!

Scrumptious and everywhere.

Then, the language, too, transfixed me: I remember sitting at my desk for a few weeks in middle school studying a German language book from the library and I’d spelled Deutsch wrong on the cover of the notebook I studied with. Conveniently, however, that was the year my middle school allowed us to study German at the high school, since only Spanish was taught in the middle schools; and thus I learned not only how to spell Deutsch correctly, but also how to speak Deutsch, itself.

So that’s why I want to go back: I was only just beginning to understand Cologne. Germany. The German language, as a native speaks it. Traveling abroad. Being truly myself because I didn’t know anyone there like me (yet). I want to understand those things more and I want to define my experience – understand it. That will realistically take until I return again, so what I can define for you are the memories that I will, in all honesty, cherish for the rest of my life.

For instance, I will remember the fall of last year, when my friend Sibby stopped me in the hallway between classes and said, “My mom is taking me to Germany for graduation and said I could bring a friend and I thought of you. Do you wanna come?” I think I may have slurred my words, but I said something along the lines of, “How could I say no?”


I will remember the familial affection I instantly felt for my friend Sibby’s extended family in Germany – including their cat – ever since each one of them embraced me in my nasty airplane clothes without having ever met me before.



I will remember the time I sat in a circle of Germans, Americans, and German-Americans speaking both English and German, laughing and eating and drinking together as if being a family were just that easy.

I will remember the time I spoke English with some German teenagers, and asked them what it’s really like to learn the troublesome past of their country as a native citizen, and learned that it’s difficult and awkward and boring – just as any over-done topic brought up over and over again becomes – but necessary, because one finds these historical themes all over the world, past and present.

I will remember Sibby’s mom telling me that “it’s hard to be yourself in a foreign language,” and realizing how great it is to impolitely vent in English sometimes…

I will remember the entire 2014 World Cup final match, wearing my schwarz-rot-gold lei and other German paraphernalia when Germany won, and the three weeks it took to find a damn 4-star Weltmeisterschaft jersey in the Vaterland that won the darn thing.

Schweini und Poldi

Schweini und Poldi

I will remember the extremely minimizing feeling I felt when I slid my eyes up facade of der Dom and remarked “My gosh. That is huge.”

But this is something I'm gonna miss.

I will remember trying to slyly weep after leaving my “adoptive family” on our last night there, and getting caught by the people actually related to them, who instructed me to stop cryingbefore I make them cry, too.

I will remember tearing up again as the plane landed in America and then bursting into tears as I hugged my mom, sister and dad, thinking I had been done with the waterworks. My eyes leaked for a final time when I hugged and parted ways with my two marvelous traveling partners, Sibby and her mom.

Now that I’m home – and even though I had only a week to recover before moving into college, where I sit forcing myself to finish this awfully late post – I realize that I like my home. It’s important to me to have a place called home, where I can return and regroup between my quests of “understanding.” Now that I’ve entered my newest adventure, I’ll be mighty glad each time I return home to sauteed vegetables, incredibly sassy pets, and relatively normal life. And though I may not cry each time I return – it’s only an hour away! – I need a home-perspective to understand where I’m coming from and have something to compare to wherever I’m going.

Cologne from der Dom

Cologne from der Dom