Micah Ling

Do It: Pine Creek Camping

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Growing up in the Midwest, I thought I had a pretty good appreciation for fall, and particularly fall foliage. And then I moved to Colorado. There’s nothing like a grove of aspens alight with yellow, not to mention an entire mountainside of color. The drive from Denver to Buena Vista via 285 is better than a fireworks show. At Kenosha Pass cars lined the road as people stopped to snap photos.

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We departed Watershed Ranch just before 5pm. Our first leg involved a Jeep trip about 3 miles up an old mining road. From there we hiked 2 miles up, to where Pine Creek meets the Colorado Trail. We arrived right around sunset, built a fire, set up camp, prepared dinner, and gazed at the stars. This was baby Henry’s first camping experience, at 8-months old (Henry’s parents own Watershed Ranch).

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Our campsite was at 10,000 feet, and temperatures probably dipped to the upper 30’s by early morning. I made myself stay in my tent until a little after 6am, and then got up to watch sunrise. This alone was worth the trip. I hiked in a mile or so, to enjoy the light. Two moose walked through the meadow just in front of me.

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After oatmeal and baby prep, we departed camp around 9am. We hiked the Pine Creek Trail to a small falls, snacked and relaxed before retracing our steps back to camp. We did 8.2 miles all-in, and topped out around 11,300 feet.

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After breaking camp and packing up, we hiked the remaining 2 miles to the Jeep and were back at the ranch around 3pm. Perfect weather, peak fall color, and good company = pretty great backpacking weekend. Until next time, Collegiate Peaks!

Race/Fondo Report: Buffalo Bicycle Classic--Epic to Estes

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About a month ago I was feeling like I should have signed up for one more triathlon this season. Last year I had the Harvest Moon Long-Course, but this year I didn't really want to do another Boulder Reservoir race. I searched for cycling events instead, and found the Buffalo Classic. In its 16th year, 100% of the money from this ride funds Colorado student scholarships at the University of Colorado. There are a LOT of choices for this event, which allows almost anyone to participate. I decided to go for the toughest option: 100 miles with 8,000 feet of climb. Called the "Epic to Estes," it is aptly named. 

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Only the first 18-miles of the ride (up Boulder Canyon to Nederland) are considered a race, though I tried to ride pretty hard for the whole thing. I came away with 12th-place female and 4th in my age group. This was my first time riding up the canyon and it was a huge perk to have the road closed to traffic for that initial climb. 

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Overall, this race is really well organized. The start was right around 7am as planned (60-degrees to start the day off), and the aid stations throughout were amazing. I stopped at the snack area in Estes and was surprised to find fresh fruit, PB&J, and tons of Honey Stinger and Skratch products. I made a couple other quick stops in Lyons and at Diagonal Highway, just to fill up water. By the time I got to the last ten miles (around 1pm) it was probably around 85-degrees. 

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I was also really impressed with the signage: there are directional signs for the riders, but also TONS of signs up for vehicle traffic, to make them aware of the cyclists. They obviously can't close 100-miles of roadway, but the signage definitely made me feel safer. 

Awesome day, great weather, and amazing views of early fall foliage. I will definitely do this event again. 

 

Backroads & Bikeways: Loveland to Denver

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My brother and his wife recently moved from Brooklyn, NY to Denver, CO. They invited us down for a cookout and swim (their new apartment has a nice little pool). I figured this would be a good opportunity to see what it was like to bike from Loveland to Denver. The short version is: 50 miles of fun, 7 miles of not the best roads for biking. But! I'm determined to learn the city trail system better. 

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I started at 6:30am in order to beat the Sunday cycling crowd and the car traffic, and because I love starting at sunrise in the cool starting-to-feel-like-autumn air. The first 20 miles were familiar and easy. Then I went through Niwot, Lafayette, Louisville, and Broomfield, all on low-traffic, country roads. There were several hot-air balloons trailing me for about an hour. 

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Next I got on the I-36 Bikeway, which goes from Boulder to Denver, and is generally amazing. Every mile or so there's a self-service bike station, with tools and air. I continue to be impressed with Colorado's bikeways, and how well used they are. Lots of people out, all ages and abilities. 

The trail ends (as far as I could tell) around Westminster, and you can jump on another trail: Little Dry Creek, which is a little strange. Like being on an irrigation trail in LA. Definitely not as nice as the 36 Bikeway, but still away from cars. The last few miles were a little shady: from Dry Creek to downtown via Pecos Street. Nothing went wrong, and I'm obviously spoiled by never having to bike in traffic, but I'd still like to find a better way to downtown. 

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Overall, a fun ride, and one I'll look to improve on. Anyone who hasn't tried the 36-Bikeway: get on it!

Broadmoor Pike's Peak Hill Climb Gran Fondo

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12.42 miles, 156 turns, start elevation 9,390 feet, finish elevation 14,115 feet = 4,725 feet of climb at an average grade of 7%. 

We got an Airbnb and stayed about 30 minutes from the start, which was good considering my wave went off at 6:15am. Sunrise in the mountains was amazing. The weather was perfect: almost no wind, mid-40s at the start and mid-30s at the top. I wore light gloves and a super light wind jacket. I packed a heavy jacket and heavier gloves for the descent (a shuttle took drop bags to the top) and was pretty much perfect for the whole experience. 

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There were only about 20 women in the fondo, which I still don't really understand (why isn't this climb more popular?!) There were over 100 guys. I had no real expectations for my time, though I've been training on hills quite a bit (mostly because I just love to climb). For the first 5 miles I was back and forth between 2nd and 3rd place. Then for the rest I was back and forth between 3rd and 5th. I think I came away with 4th place, but mostly I just had a great time. The switchbacks are awesome. The last two miles are by far the toughest: not only are you nearing 14,000 feet, but it's got to be above 9% at that point. 

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I'm definitely ready to do this again. My time on the climb was 2:03:47. So, obviously I need to get sub-2. For a first-timer, I couldn't have asked for a better day. 

Something I Learned: Balance

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Two years ago I gave up alcohol and rest days, and I've never felt better. Spoiler alert: the key was living at elevation in a place so beautiful it demands activity. Also, I discovered that speeding up recovery times and doing not only a variety of activities but a variety of combinations of activities equals less real rest.  

I spent a lot of years (like, 12 years) running between 40 and 70 miles a week. (Sometimes more). Each day was essentially the same. Out the door within 10 minutes of waking for as many miles as I felt like going. I usually took a rest day every 10-14 days, usually after a longer or tougher run. Sometimes I pushed it to 3 weeks. Don't get me wrong, I loved it. Sometimes I planned what I'd do the night before, and sometimes I'd just see where my feet took me: hills, long slow distance, to the track, the park, etc. But I also started getting chronic stress fractures in my metatarsals. I am HORRIBLE at being injured. Anyone who knows me well, without hesitation, will confirm. I have a really, really hard time being still. I got so many stress fractures that I invested in my own "boot," and would throw it on for a few weeks whenever I felt the burning pain in my foot bones. 

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But eventually I was sick of sacrificing even 5 or 6 weeks a year to heal my feet. I decided to spend more time on my bike, in the pool, and generally doing things other than running to get my fix. When I moved from New York City to Colorado in June of 2016, I first moved to Leadville: a town that sits at 10,200 feet. For people coming from life at sea-level, even 5,000 feet of altitude takes some adjustment; but 2-miles high can be straight-up scary. It took most of 2 months before I could run 3 miles without stopping to catch my breath. For a while, just walking and talking was a real workout. Swimming was ridiculous: a rest after every 50 meters. Each morning for the first month, I woke feeling hung over, even if I hadn't been drinking. And when I was drinking, it usually wasn't more than a beer or two before I'd feel sick. 

Going from NYC to Leadville was kind of like being injured, and I wanted to get better. I decided I'd give up alcohol entirely until I was used to the altitude. But after one month of a clear head and no alcohol, I dared myself to go a year. Honestly, after a year of no drinking, it wasn't even something I thought about. I'm pretty good at discipline: almost to a fault. If I give something up, it's just gone: not an option. I also noticed that I woke each day ready for adventure. I was discovering so many things to do that I had a constantly growing list. Two years later, my list is still very long. Just this weekend I started looking into kayaking lessons, and I totally want to surf the Buena Vista river park.

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I also made my vow because something really bad happened to a friend of mine involving alcohol. So there was a secondary drive of solidarity in the decision. Around that time I remember hearing someone on the radio say something like, "If you can't get through a day, week, month, year without alcohol because you think it makes things more fun, then you might just be a really boring, uncreative person." I remember being offended at the time, and then a little scared that they were right. Now, I totally agree. 

Obviously I'm not against rest: I usually rotate which disciplines I'm going hard in from week to week. For my first year of triathlon, I worked with a coach to learn how to pair activities together. A hard run in the morning and an easy swim in the afternoon. A long bike ride the next day and a short swim in the evening. Occasionally a trail run in the early morning and a short/hard hill ride in the afternoon. And then skiing, rock climbing, rowing, and SUP-ing every once in a while for a different kind of core strength. With so many days of double-duty, the body learns to recover quickly. I found that several two-a-days followed by a day or two with only one activity, feels like vacation. And if I've gone really hard for a while, or am just feeling drained, a hike with the pup or an easy swim feels better than doing nothing. So, rest is good, but variety and active recovery has been the name of the game for me. Basically, I just never want to miss a day outside. 

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I'm also not totally anti-alcohol. I fully support kicking your feet up with a cold beer or cocktail if that's your thing. Des Linden and Linsey Corbin are absolute heroes of mine, and both are known for their ability to recover with a libation. But for me, relaxing has come to include things that make me feel recovered instead of in need of recovery. Relaxing these days means hammock time, garden time, and falling asleep on the couch to a movie. 

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People talk a lot about a man in uniform. I've always had a theory that this is more about cleanliness than the actual uniform. And the fact that a uniform stands out when separated from its crowd. Which is close to being irony, I think. A sailor in a sea of sailors (pun intended): no one stands out. A sailor in SoHo, well...there could be a lot of reasons for that, but they stand out. Tom Chiarella wrote an article for Esquire Magazine about what we wear: an investigation into the power of the uniform. In real life, Chiarella is many things: a writer, a professor, a score keeper for college football and basketball games, a poker player, a golfer, a father, a husband, an artist; but none of his roles really require a uniform. For the article, he chose a priest, a security guard, a mechanic, and a doctor. Chiarella leaves a lot unsaid, but that's his style: to gain a connection to the reader by letting them find their own connection. What he doesn't say is, when people think we belong, we do; and so the sub-sub text is, when people think we don't belong, a lot of times we don't. He also says (but doesn't say) a lot about how comfortable we are with ourselves: what do we enjoy wearing? I just bought a new dress, and now all I want is occasions to wear it. You'd have to really love your job to feel that way about work clothes. The point is, we're all looking at each other to figure out what's going on--to figure out who's important and who's not--judgment, yes, but also to know where we fit in to the whole big mess, too. 

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I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, but I like to think that I grew up in Indiana. College and graduate school and the years after: that's when you do your real growing. I never long for Ohio: never think of it as home; but every once in a while, I think Bloomington could pull me back. I spent a lot of active time on the streets of Bloomington. I rode a lot of miles on my bike, and ran a lot of miles on my feet, and walked my dog all over that town. I remember the first time I saw "Elephant Micah" advertised on the marquee at The Bishop--a small music venue on South Walnut Street. I thought it was a funny name: my name. But I never managed to get to a show. I saw the name several more times, and even planned to go when Elephant Micah was on tour with Magnolia Electric Company, but our worlds never did collide, exactly. Nevertheless, I feel like I've been a fan from afar for several years. And just now, I was blown away with the single, Pearl Bryan. Songs like this sound like southern Indiana: narrative songs. Long, slow songs that ache. Murder ballads. Joseph O'Connell is Elephant Micah, and he has a beautifully simple voice. The story he tells is true: about a woman from Indiana who was killed--decapitated--and the men who hanged for the crime. They were the last men hanged in Newport, Kentucky. The sadness here is real: it echoes and echoes until there's a small sense of calm. 

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Netflix describes Joseph Gordon-Levitt's new project a "crowdsourced variety show." I remember reading about this when he launched the project. I remember thinking, "Damn, I wish I was famous enough to pull something like that off." But I'm not, and he his, and that's the whole point. He organized it, and now he's leaving the talent part up to everyone else. It started in 2005, with just Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his brother, Dan. He calls the ongoing project, hitRECord. As in, do something and record it. Even now, there are only 8 people who work for the company, the rest is people remixing and creating via the internet. Gordon-Levitt is also pulling out themes from the projects that have been recorded, and putting them into a "TV show." It's a good idea. Basically, he throws out assignments or ideas, and people create. The show itself comes off as a bit corny, (the live audience, Gordon-Levitt being a ham), but if you stick with it, the actual projects created are super impressive: especially when you see the breakdown of how many are involved in each. So, someone writes a script and posts it, someone acts it out and posts it, someone writes music and posts it, on and on, and the result is pretty amazing. The short film and the song in the first episode are memorable. If Gordon-Levitt maintains this brand, it seems like it's only going to grow. 

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Beirut has a new album, No No No, with a September 11th release date; until then, there's a single, "Gibraltar," with a video. Pitchfork sees this as an island of trash, and it is, partly, but there's more going on than that. The song is catchy, with more of a beat than some of Beirut's more melancholy tunes. But this video seems to point at what we so easily abandon. We walk away all the time: we move on, but we leave things behind. That loss accumulates, maybe on an island, maybe in our minds, and it turns into something gained. Certain things remain true, no matter our accumulation. The moon is beautiful--the way it makes everything blue. The tide comes in and out. Pigeons circle around what we toss. It doesn't take long before we pick up and move on again. I like this song a lot. There's so much gained in loss: there's so much truth in shedding. 

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By definition, adjunct means, "a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part." So, we know what we're getting into. Still, it sucks to be nonessential when you do essential things pretty well. There are 2 or 3 weeks before any given semester begins when adjunct instructors get to feel entirely essential. Today alone I've had two phone interviews and gotten no fewer than three other email inquiries about whether or not I can teach at X institution. Some of these are schools that I approached 6+ weeks ago, when I was putting my schedule for the fall together. I've played this game many times. So! Onward! I'm preparing to teach a class of all men (boys?) business majors at a private college. I'm teaching Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams. I planned this syllabus weeks and weeks ago, before I knew I'd have a class of all men, but now, it seems even more essential. Everyone needs to learn empathy. But maybe especially men. Maybe especially men, empathy toward women. Not that that's what this book is about. It's more about just seeing other people for who they are. Understanding lives that seem entirely different from your own. Jamison investigates super weird communities: people with obsessions and diseases, and biases. She writes beautifully about them. She becomes them, in a way. Someday I'd like to become a real teacher, with a living wage and reasonable benefits; but until then, I'll do my best at being essential, in a supplementary way. 

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So, Wilco released a new, surprise album. Amazing! It's called Star Wars. I won't pretend to be a super-fan of the films: they're fine. But! Wilco! It's been 4 years! Jeff Tweedy explained the surprise by saying, What's more fun than a surprise? Good point! This is like arriving home and finding a note from the one you love. This is like getting a check in the mail. These 11 tracks are just goddamn good. Like songs you already know: like favorite songs. "Random Name Generator" and "The Joke Explained" and "Cold Slope" are why so many people love Wilco. These are short songs, and the album is over before you know it, but it's packed like a perfect poem, and you definitely need to read it again. 

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I had the great fortune of reviewing Trampled by Turtles back in my Indiana days. I remember that show so well: the weather was hot and stormy, kind of like it is right now in NYC, and throughout much of the country. Rain you're sort of rooting for. Trampled by Turtles opened for The Head and the Heart that night, and they played a pretty rocking show for a band that can be so mellow. Their newest album (which isn't brand new, but still worth noting), Wild Animals is delightful. A little more whispery than Stars and Satellites. These guys are very confident about their instruments: everything is clean. Having spent some time in Indiana, Tennessee, and Montana, I've heard a lot of string music; some of it you get sick of, but not these guys--you can hear the talent. The Current described the new album saying, "this as bluegrass for people who don't necessarily like bluegrass," and I agree. This feels like a summer album: it feels like moving on music. 

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Waiting in line to see Pixar's Inside Out on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Harlem, yeah, it was mostly filled with kids and parents. Tired, tired parents, and kids who smelled like sweat and rain. But this is an important film. We all know about the voices in our heads, but sometimes we forget that everyone is struggling with the same emotions. Pete Doctor, one of Pixar's animators, got the idea for the film when he was trying to figure out what went on inside his 11-year-old daughter's head. This isn't one of Pixar's silly/sarcastic films--it's actually quite sweet from beginning to end. And its overall message centers around the importance of being sad. Welcoming all of the emotions: really feeling them. This film sticks with you because it forces you to think about how your own mind works. Why do we remember every detail from one childhood day but not the rest? Why do we sing the ice cream truck song at random when we're trying to think seriously? There's so much about the brain that even the experts don't know, so why not give personality to our feelings and imagine a whole team helping us each out? 

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Nightcrawler is billed as a neo-noir crime thriller, which may be a category entirely created for this film. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is passionate about finding his niche, and when he does, it's in a job that banks on other people's tragedy. Bloom becomes a stringer: someone who shoots footage of accidents and crime scenes and sells it to news stations. Bloom becomes good at it: too good. He starts aiding his job by contributing to the cause. He's obsessed and sociopathic. Gyllenhaal pegs the creepiness. Bloom gets to the point that he's basically running the show and blackmailing the director of a news channel (Rene Russo). Bloom moves from Toyota Tercel to Dodge Challenger: from handheld camcorder to professional equipment. He transforms into a geeky little monster and stops at nothing. Proof that the good guy doesn't always get ahead. Proof that what we see isn't always as important as how we see it. 

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If you're anywhere near the Marlborough Chelsea Gallery, stop by before June 20th. Tony Matelli's "Garden" is on display and it includes several eyebrow raising sculptures. The centerpiece(s) are in the back room and, you might not be able to stay very long. They are a pair of painted cast silicone human figures: a man and a woman, on their heads. The figures are SO REAL that you're sure they're going to move their eyes, or flip onto their feet and ask you why you're looking at their naked bodies. They're so real that you can see the lines where their socks certainly were, just moments before you entered the room. The gallery press release suggests that their being upside down is reminiscent of the distress of a flag flown upside down; there is certainly distress in the room. There's also the question of how and why we've become so uncomfortable dealing with personal space, and bodies, and rules. Both the man and the woman are safely average. Nothing worth gawking at--neither would make a head turn on the street, with clothes. Yet there's something about looking at these pieces--these people--that makes you feel like you're invading: like you've walked in on something you shouldn't have. 

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Sharon Van Etten's EP "I Don't Wand to Let You Down" is lovely. Strings and piano. A beautiful voice and a beat. Van Etten always reminds us that when you strip things away, simplicity is much better than fluff and production. The title song was released as a single a few months ago, and it remains one of those tracks to listen to over and over. I also like, "I Always Fall Apart." This has flavors of Lucinda Williams and St. Vincent. I just read that Van Etten loves PJ Harvey, which makes sense--this has just enough rock in it to keep things interesting. I'm a little less than one month older than Sharon Van Etten, which I can't believe; not that she seems old, just wise. She sounds like someone who knows everything--like she should be my mother. It makes sense that she grew up in Clinton, NJ and went to college at Middle Tennessee State University: both of those places are like the movies; like where you'd want to grow up and go to college--where people sit around and chat, sipping cold drinks and watching the river. 

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Broad City. Watch it. You might be disturbed by how much you like it. Everyone I've talked to likes it. My boyfriend likes it. His co-workers like it. Gay friends like it. Straight friends like it. We all goddamn like it. But why? It's about 20-something women living in New York City, but not in the Girls sense: it's a lot less in your face than that. It's easy to watch because it's so silly, and so sharp. Lines from the show will come back to you days after watching it, and have you laughing in the shower (just, for instance). The writing is so good that it will always take you off guard. They're slackers, but as anyone who lives in NYC knows, even slackers have to work pretty hard to keep their heads above water. This show has been renewed for its third season on Comedy Central, but was developed as a web series from 2009-2011 by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, who star in the show. Amy Poehler took notice, and is now one of the executive producers. Just in the first two seasons there are a number of cameos (Amy Sedaris, Fred Armisen, Seth Rogen, Janeane Garofalo), suggesting, these women, in all of their raunchiness and oddity, are getting at some raw truth. 

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This past weekend, 30 or so people gathered at 383 West Broadway in SoHo to smoke cigars and catch up. This is the site of the now permanently closed OK Cigars, where guys (and a few gals) had been smoking, and (more importantly) becoming friends for the past 17 years. The building has sold, and H&M or some other big box store will take over soon: it's tough making a living in retail in New York City. But locally owned places to gather are important for New Yorkers--vital; whether it's a cigar shop or a barbershop or a deli or a running store: New Yorkers find THEIR place, and then visit it religiously. I would argue that community is treasured most in big cities: we want to be part of something small and significant amid the chaos. So when those places close up shop, or get bought out by something bigger, customers take it personally. People--maybe especially New Yorkers--have a need to tell their story. This happened to me today, this is what I'm working on, this is where I've been and what I've seen. And if shop owners and workers are smart, they'll listen, and care: they'll learn something. Jackrabbit Sports joins the ranks of locally owned stores, where people stopped by just to chat and laugh, that has been bought out by a bigger entity. Maybe all of the conversations won't end: maybe some of the employees who went through 3 months of training in order to talk about the biomechanics of feet will stick around. But probably, this store won't remain a religion; probably, the customers will find a new place to have community.  

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It's a remarkable thing when an ad actually works. There are so many horrible examples of ads that don't. My boyfriend works in ads: brands. It's difficult to balance all that needs to be accomplished in a few words, or a few seconds. Ads can be the poetry of the media spew. More often than not, though, they're just ignored. We recently got Hulu, which means we watch ads after not doing so for a long time. Mostly, the experience is groaning and wanting to get on with the show, but a few stand out. Or, they do for me. (But then, I imagine every dog I pass on the street is humming a little tune and giving commentary on the day). JetBlue works. Pigeons taking on the voice of people on planes is adorable and sharp. It's funny. On the same note, an ad by the Argentina Liver Transplant Foundation is even better. It pulls on emotions. It uses the same music from the movie UP, which so many adults realized was NOT just a kids movie. It might bring you to tears in under 2 minutes, mostly because it's true. If you've ever had a dog, especially as a single adult person going through tough times, you can say for sure, that your dog saved you: maybe even literally saved your life. Dogs know things. You might actually WANT to watch this ad, which is pretty impressive. 

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Fort Frances' new EP, No One Needs To Know Our Name, is only 7 songs (well, 5 songs: 2 of them are unplugged variations): only 24 minutes, but well worth playing on repeat. Lead singer-songwriter David McMillin graduated from DePauw University as an English major, as did most people worth hanging out with. "Anonymous" seems especially fitting for NYC, but it's probably fitting no matter where you are. So much of living in a packed, packed city is trying to get away: escaping within the chaos. "Oh, let's be anonymous: we can hide, hide, hide, hide away from the world, from the world..." No one in NYC wants to give up on NYC (necessarily) but we sure as hell all want to get away from it: we want to find the cafe and the bar and the park that's only ours. "These Are the Mountains Moving" isn't for NYC: it just takes you to the mountains--to Montana or Colorado or wherever you've met mountains that move you--home. The percussion in these songs is great. The piano and the brass and the lyrics are great. This is great.