Conor Does Whole30: Introduction

I feel like shit because, well, lately, I’ve been eating shit. As a former fat guy who shed 150-plus pounds between 2010 and 2011, even a pound of weight gained sends me into a panic. Unfortunately, I’ve panicked around fifteen times in the last year-and-a-half. My disdainful attitude towards all gym-based exercise hasn’t posed an issue for me in the past; typically I burned calories by walking. Living in New York City throughout the bulk of my weight loss, I chose to hoof it wherever I could instead of using public transportation. When I relocated to Philadelphia, I quickly secured a job providing caffeine to the masses at Starbucks––a position which resulted in walking an average of eight miles per shift. With its plethora of hillsides, living in Los Angeles introduced me to hiking; a form of exercise which not only helped me maintain my weight but also left me toned.

Now, as I approach the age of thirty, most of my jobs have me sitting either at a desk or in my car (the exception being the few opportunities I get to assist photographers on location). I’ve fallen back into the pattern of choosing take-out over a cutting board. Foods I vowed never to eat again have found their way back into my diet. With a vacation to a resort in Antigua on the horizon, squeezing into my 32-inch jeans (which at one point required a belt to stay on my body) is no longer an option. Fad Diets never work for me, and something crazy like CoolSculpt doesn’t really lay within my budget. I must once again transform the way in which I look at food; eating should not be a fun activity––it should be done purely for energy and nutritional purposes. Enter this “Whole30” nonsense everyone’s been chirping about over the last few years.

My 2010 extreme weight loss was achieved by shifting how I viewed food. I cut out fast food entirely, opting to cook my own meals whenever possible. For the occasions I did eat out, I made smarter choices, as restaurants in New York City are legally obligated to publish the calorie count of their dishes on their menu. Steamed is better than fried; turkey burger without the bun; side salad instead of french fries, and so on. If I ate something super crappy, tomorrow was a new day! From what I’ve read so far, the “Whole30” is like that, only on steroids. Seeing as I’ll be sitting on a Caribbean beach in a little over two months, my plan’s got to be super-charged.

On a recent episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, new cast member Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave explains to the other ladies that she is an “accountability coach.” This woman has literally made a living out of texting her clients, “Go to the gym,” and “No, stop. Don’t eat the cookie.” Because having to hire someone to tell me not do something would be fucking embarrassing as an adult, this blog will act as my “accountability coach.” Here I will bitch and moan, complain about wanting a cocktail on Friday night, and lament on how traveling twenty minutes each way to the gym in wind chills below-zero is corporal punishment. Should I see results, here is where I will log my excitement, ostensibly followed by a realization that I’m only halfway to the finish line, and how shitty is this?

Writing my feelings somewhere publicly will ensure I hold myself accountable for thirty days. I can’t promise daily updates but committing to bi-weekly recaps seems realistic. If a week goes by without an update, assume I’ve died on the elliptical.

Note that this is not a “New Year’s Resolution;” this is a solution to, “I’m turning 30, I feel like shit from the inside out, and I have to remove my shirt on a beach in a foreign country.”


Sonic Flashback: “It’s All Over But The Crying” by Garbage

I experimented with acid once in my early twenties, but I didn’t care for it.  The trip was uneventful; colors appeared a bit brighter, but that’s all I can remember.  Many hardcore LSD users have spoken of “acid flashbacks” which from my understanding are lucid flashbacks to hallucinations the drug user experienced during a trip.  While I haven’t experienced an acid flashback, I have been in a situation in which a particular song plays, transporting me back to a moment in time I associate with that song.  Any emotions I had come surging, and I can close my eyes and see the exact location in which the event tied to the song transpired.

“Sonic flashbacks” can happen to anyone, and if you spend as much time listening to music as I do as a music photographer, you probably have a host of stories about the phenomenon.  An article written in 2013 by journalist Christopher Bergland for Psychology Today explains the science behind such flashbacks.  Recent scientific studies have found that “listening to music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including brain regions responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity.” [x]  Furthermore, the “neural tapestry” representative of a specific song will cause an even greater emotional waterfall if you listen to it less frequently.  Overplayed songs water down the brain’s response because “the neural network is constantly being updated” (sorry Taylor Swift fans).

My most recent sonic flashback occurred just this past weekend in the car with my friend Danielle.  I suggested she put Garbage on shuffle, and the moment she did I heard the intro of the one song in the band’s back catalog that elicits the heaviest of emotions.  My eyes widened; days prior I had broken up with someone, so I knew the emotional waterfall was coming.  Warm up your neural tapestries, because we’re going back to 2012 and this one is a doozy.

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Delta will let you “FaceTime” its reservations team.

Have you ever had a question about your airline reservation, only to sit with your phone up to your ear listening to cheesy elevator music for what seems like an eternity?  While some U.S.-based airlines have replaced humans with computers and automated voices which never quite understand exactly what you’re saying, Delta Air Lines is moving in the opposite direction.  Already offering assistance via social networks like Twitter and Facebook, the Atlanta-based company announced today the launch of a test program allowing its customers at Washington, D.C.’s Ronald Regan National Airport to video chat with a member of its reservations team.  Delta says it’s a first for any U.S. airline.

The video chat feature is accessible at its re-designed Delta Sky Assist kiosk in DCA, now featuring five interactive digital screens with individual receivers, allowing Delta customers to connect, face-to-face, with a specialist. Simply pick up the receiver, select a button on the digital display, and a live representative will be available to help you with anything from changing a flight, to sharing feedback about your experience.

“More and more people are choosing video chat to connect in their everyday lives, so we wanted to bring that channel to Delta customers,” said Charisse Evans, Delta’s Vice President – Reservations Sales and Customer Care, in a press release. “We have the best specialists in the business – and now, they’ll be able to deliver customer solutions in an even more personal, face-to-face way.”

In addition to implementing a keypad option for engagement via text, the Sky Assist displays are located at a lower height making the new feature accessible to all of Delta’s customers, including those with disabilities.

The program is the latest pilot program offered by Delta at DCA; earlier projects allowed eligible passengers to enter Delta’s SkyClub and board their flight using their fingerprint. The airline will review feedback received from its latest venture later this year to decide whether or not its worth implementing in other Delta-served cities.

Review: Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s EVITA is “high flying, adored.”

“Oh what a circus, oh what a show,” our narrator Che (Dan Domenech) sings at the start of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s stunning production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita.  Although the observation pertains to Argentina’s reaction to the news of the death of their first lady, Eva Perón, Che was inadvertently foreshadowing the grandeur of the production the audience would witness.  Directed by Dennis Razze (who also serves as Associate Artistic Director for the festival), PSF’s Evita revisits the spark that made the original 1979 production shine so brightly.

In the 38 years since the “rock opera” hit American soil, Evita has been re-imagined many times over––Michael Grandage’s 2012 Broadway revival starring Elena Roger and Ricky Martin was completely re-tooled in an effort to add more authenticity (Roger herself is Argentinian).  Razze has gone in an opposite direction, retaining much of the original production’s integrity and design elements (the ring of lights installed within the deck of the stage comes to mind first) while updating the piece for the 21st century.  It’s directorial choice which might seem “safe” in writing, but the decision runs the risk of delivering a stale final product if executed incorrectly.  Razze’s staging (alongside Stephen Casey’s choreography) is one part thrilling time capsule, one part innovation.  It gives the audience a glance at the Evita he first fell in love with in 1979 (after catching a performance in San Francisco before the show moved to Broadway, starring a then relatively-unknown Patti LuPone) while simultaneously updating the piece for a new generation.

Though what truly makes PSF’s Evita shine is rooted in the performance.  The cast assembled for this production works so well with one another that you often forget you’re sitting in an auditorium somewhere in the Lehigh Valley.  FOX’s Glee star Domenech plays Che, an omniscient narrator whose distaste of the Peróns provides the audience with a devil’s advocate.  Originally modeled after Cuban Revolution guerilla leader Che Guevara (who was Argentinian himself), the character has been depoliticized in this production to represent “every-man.”  Domenech has a rich tenor, impressive falsetto and undeniable charm, though in parts his character verges on conspiracy theorist rather than simply presenting an opposing point of view.

Dan Domenech as Che (L); Paulo Szot as Perón & Dee Roscioli as Eva (R). Photos by Lee A. Butz/Courtesy PSF.

Tony-Award winner (Lincoln Center’s 2008 revival of South Pacific) Paulo Szot is brilliant as Colonel Juan Perón.  Perón is undoubtedly a tough character to portray; I’ve often found him falling into the background.  Szot has a commanding presence whenever he is on stage.  He gives the Argentine dictator heart while retaining authority.  Szot’s Perón is a formidable yet tender presence.  With his operatic baritone, it’s no surprise why Eva Duarte was drawn to him.  Szot’s performance subconsciously forces the audience to throw any preconceived notions one has in regards to Perón (as both a person and a character) out the window.

The standout performance of the evening is Easton, PA native and DeSales University alum Dee Roscioli as Eva Perón.  Roscioli auditioned for the title role in another Razze-helmed Evita production her senior year of college.  Ironically, she didn’t get the part.  Now a seasoned Broadway veteran (including breaking records as one of the longest-running Elphabas in Wicked‘s history), Ms. Roscioli’s career came full circle when the same director tapped her to star in the title role.

Roscioli is transcendent as Eva; her soaring vocals during infamously difficult numbers such as “A New Argentina” and “Rainbow High” send an instant chill up the spine.  The notes glow in her distinct vocal tone.  Combined with masterfully nuanced acting, Roscioli’s performance is the vessel in which the audience is fully transported to World War II-era Argentina.  Chronicling seventeen years of Eva Perón’s life in two hours is a daunting task for an actor, a task at which Ms. Roscioli excels.  Subtle changes in mannerisms (paired with exquisitely designed costumes by Lisa Zinni, many of which seem as if they crawled from the real Evita’s body, out of the history books and onto Dee Roscioli) chart Eva’s progress from a naïve fifteen-year-old from the slums of rural Argentina leaping to the bright lights of Buenos Aires, through Eva Duarte’s career as a movie and radio star, arriving at her position as First Lady and “Spiritual Leader” of her nation.  Roscioli’s abilities are such that no suspension of disbelief is required in regards to the timeline.  Her understanding of the sheer personal drive which fed the real Eva Perón gives a well-rounded performance; vulnerable yet confident; egomaniacal yet empathetic.

Ms. Roscioli’s turn as Evita alone is enough to warrant a trip to Center Valley.  This triumphant production as a whole makes Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s Evita an event not to be missed––if you can find a ticket.

Through July 2, 2017
Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales University
Center Valley, PA

Tickets available here.


6 Things I Learned During My First Storm Chase

Behind the Bear's Cage

Prior to beginning Phase One of this project, the only “storm chasing” I had done was accidental; driving up the New Jersey Turnpike at the same speed as a severe thunderstorm in 2009.  I’ve long been interested in severe weather, but the four chases within the initial phase of Behind The Bear’s Cage were my personal firsts.  This is what differentiates Phase One from the rest of the project: I had to shift from thinking like a photographer to thinking like a storm chaser.

I’m not referring to the meteorological aspect of the chase (that learning curve is a lot steeper), but rather my introduction to the storm chaser lifestyle.  Since I will never again have the “first chase” experience, I’ve decided to begin the written portion of Behind The Bear’s Cage with six important things I learned during my time with Tornado Titans

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L.A. in 2 Days – “Dos” and “Don’ts”

I lived in Los Angeles for a year.  I don’t know if anyone could have come to that conclusion on their own, especially considering the content of my blog.  I also fully plan on moving back to Los Angeles again at some point.  But for now, my place is cleaning out the Playbills in my parents’ basement and selling them on eBay (shameless plug if anyone’s into theatre).

Since I have had the experience of navigating the gridlocked streets, I enjoy passing my wisdom onto others in hopes that my advice will cut some misery from their trip.  L.A. is a huge, sprawling city; it can be tough to pick things to do.  Look at me… I still didn’t do a lot of shit and I lived there.  This list is really targeted to three friends who are traveling out West beginning tomorrow: Mikey, Abby and Eric.  But I’m not going to be cliquey about it, anyone who plans on traveling to the City of Angels is allowed to look at this “guide.”

STEP ONE SHOULD BE A RENTAL CAR.  I think there’s a myth that it’s possible to get around Los Angeles via public transit, but whomever is saying that is on crack.  Get the car.  You will be able to see so much more with it.

Sidenote: if anyone is actually planning to use Airbnb while in L.A.; please read my post on how I stayed in a Halfway House by accident before you make a decision.

Here goes nothing.  Or everything.

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HALFWAY HELL – My #MovingToLAStory

I feel like “Moving Horror Stories” are to “Big City” as “twerking” is to Miley Cyrus.  It doesn’t necessarily always happen, but it makes for a great tale later on.  Before I relocated to Los Angeles, I had already lived in two “hub cities;” New York and Philadelphia.  Therefore, I foolishly expected to be immune from the “L.A. Story.”  There is a certain level of street smart acquired when inhabiting a big city, and I had my fair share of drama in New York City.  To my surprise, I was being completely naïve because shit did go down.  We weren’t swindled out of hundreds of dollars by a greedy landlord; nor were we forced to live in an illegal basement “apartment” (both of those were actual stories retold to me).

My first misstep was assuming my roommate and I would be able to secure a lease in six days.  I arrived in Los Angeles on May 25th (a holiday weekend) and figured we would find something by May 31st.  Nope.  May 30, 2013 was spent on Airbnb looking for some semblance of temporary housing so we had a roof over our head.  I was staying in a hotel in Culver City and my roommate was in a sublet in Long Beach; we needed to act quick.  My roommate found a shared bedroom in a house (for $1,650) that we booked in desperation.  I decided to ignore the fact that I paid $1,650 a month to live in a two-bedroom apartment in Queens, because it just wasn’t time to be picky.  The listing looked fantastic: although we would have to share a bedroom with two single beds (and one bathroom with however many other guests came), it had “sweeping views of Downtown Los Angeles.”


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THE 10 LIST – 10 Reasons I’m Glad I’m Turning 26 in Tweets

I had a first draft of this post, in which I bitched about getting older and everything that goes along with it.  When I re-read it, it seemed like a plot outline for an episode of Girls.  Truthfully, I might be having some growing pains: much lower alcohol tolerance; inability to operate on little-to-know sleep; bills piling up faster than I can make money; but it could be worse.  I could be 20 again.

I turned to old faithful… my Twitter archive (which is thankfully only on my hard drive and no longer on the interwebs).  Unfortunately (or fortunately), my early 20s synced up with the launch of Twitter.  Literally, the Twitterverse became a thing when I was 20 years old.  I sat down with a beer and  hand-picked the absolute best tweets from my early 20s to show you (really to show myself), that some things get better with age.

I still eat food that might be bad, though.

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“GIRLS;” Do I have Hannah Horvath Syndrome?

It’s Monday which means a new episode of Girls aired last night.  Yes, I’m adding fuel to your “I’m sick of hearing about Lena Dunham and her television show” fire.  Last night (Episode 27, “Free Snacks”), viewers watched as Hannah (Dunham) secured an advertorial writing gig at GQ.  In true Girls fashion, it is an opportunity that Hannah almost immediately begins to shit on.  I will spare you from a full episode summary (if you have yet to see it, or if you can’t stand to watch the show Vulture has an on-point recap) and instead provide just a brief synopsis.

The episode appeared to be a step in the right direction for Hannah; she quits her barista job at Grumpy’s and is initially overjoyed to start a job which utilizes her self-described “myriad talents.”  Her excitement quickly dissolves and is replaced with dread after realizing that her cushy new job has become a creative trap for her co-workers.  They all started out like Hannah: trying to balance work with their own personal projects in hopes of making a name for themselves in the literary world.  To Hannah’s horror, the benefits of GQ are too enticing, too comfortable.  Her co-workers have abandoned their dreams in favor of a fully-stocked snack room.  Cue a full-scale Hannah Horvath meltdown: complete with tears and a trip to the bathroom to stick her head under the faucet (An aside: Do people actually do that?  She’s done that twice, albeit one time she was high on cocaine).

“Free Snacks” was one of the more uncomfortable installments to watch.  While last night’s episode did not include anything traditionally unsettling (e.g. Dunham’s character rupturing her eardrum with a Q-Tip amidst a fit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Adam’s mentally unstable sister Caroline (guest-star Gaby Hoffmann) suddenly appearing completely bottomless and crushing a glass with her bare hands), I still experienced bouts of anxiety.  Why?  Because I hated to admit that I knew exactly how Hannah felt.  While I don’t necessarily identify with Hannah Horvath’s obscure, borderline-unhealthy detachment from reality, I do recognize some uncanny parallels to myself within the monster character Lena Dunham has created.

Like… it’s sort of eery.  Follow the Yellow Brick Road…

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THE 10 LIST – 10 Awkward Unemployed Moments


Video from BuzzFeed via YouTube

At the end of 2012 and into the beginning of 2013, I watched as my younger sister grappled with the consequences of quitting her job.  Around Christmas, she felt she had outgrown the company she was working for (to put it in the nicest way possible).  I witnessed the stress she dealt with when she realized she still had Christmas presents to buy before she could return to Baltimore and find a new job.  She had to face the probing questions from a firing squad (also known as our fairly large extended family) on Christmas Eve.  After the holidays, my sister embarked on a harrowing monthlong journey that few could relate to.  Exactly one year later, I found myself in the exact.  Same.  Boat.

In the United States, the major difference between quitting your job versus being furloughed or laid off is that when you quit, you are ineligible to collect Unemployment.  My decision point came in November; I moved to Los Angeles with a goal to work toward: the ability to support myself as a full-time photographer.  A goal which is difficult to attain while waking up for work every day at 3:30am.  So I made the decision to part ways with my company, which was a month ago (as of yesterday).  Today I saw the above video on BuzzFeed (while “working from home”) and for the first time in 31 days, I finally felt someone (besides my dear sister) could relate to me without simultaneously shitting on me.

So I give you the Conor Clancy List Of 10 Awkward Moments When You’re Unemployed in Your Twenties.  And please, anyone who has been in/is currently dealing with this situation feel free to share YOUR 10 Awkward Moments!

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