Friday, September 28, 2007

So If More Women Ruled the World....

would history be less likely to repeat itself? Or would nothing get done because heads of state would be to busy advising and reminding each other, "remember the last time this happened?"

Fresh from Yahoo News.

Why Women Worry So Much

Andrea Thompson
LiveScience Staff Writer Fri Sep 28, 12:15 PM ET

Scientists have known that on the whole, females of all ages tend to worry more and have more intense worries than males. Women also tend to perceive more risk in situations and grow more anxious than men.

Now we know why.

Women are more likely than men to believe that past experiences accurately forecast the future, according to two new studies.

The research, involving both 3- to 6-year-olds and adults of both genders, tested the extent to which participants' thought that worry can be caused by thinking that a bad event that happened in the past could happen again in the future. (This skill, in its simplest form, is critical to social understanding as it is important to making decisions and assessing risk.)

Females, both children and adults, were more likely to use uncertainty to explain the character's reaction, that is, they tended to explain the reaction in terms of events that might happen versus those that will happen, the researcher reported. They also tended, more than males, to predict that the characters who encountered the new character who looked similar to the wrongdoer would feel worried because they thought the new character would also do them harm.

The studies, detailed in the Sept./Oct. issue of the journal Child Development, also found that children increasingly made these kinds of past-to-future connections as they got older, which yields insight into their cognitive development*.

"These results are significant because they reveal that knowledge about the impact of past-to-future thinking on emotions and behaviors develops during the preschool years," said study author Kristin Lagattuta of the University of California, Davis.

*bolded for emphasis. This result must be important to criminologists and theorizing why some people break the law and others don't. No wonder some individuals grow up thinking all women are evil and others believe all men are evil.


Original study: Why Women Worry So Much.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Dark Side of Social Networking

So everyone has heard about the risk people take on the Internet. From female bloggers being threatened, to children being approached by pedophiles, to people encouraging the desperate to commit suicide for their own sick pleasure; what people do in the digital world may very well be more depraved than the one outside our computers.

Throughout history there have always been the dark, horrific corners of human existence, where atrocities are committed in underground circles that would shame our very existence. Then again, we should also be appalled at the things we have done in broad daylight in front of crowds of gleeful onlookers (lynchings, executions, stoning, genocidal mass murders, to name a few...).

But for the average Internet user who checks their email daily, visits a favorite site or two, or peruses eBay, the online world seems no more threatening than a trip to the mall or a conversation with a friend.

But what if the site you were using to share pictures of your birthday party or to look up old high school crushes was deciding what content it felt was appropriate or deserved removal.

"Fine," you'd say. "Seems pretty standard to me. I don't want to see porno or skeezy people on Facebook."

If only that were true. A blogger I know recently wrote about how Facebook banned a woman who had posted a picture of herself breastfeeding her child. Meanwhile, the site continues to allow anti-Islam, antisemitic, and other hate groups, not to mention (thank you DW) more than 350 pro-anorexia groups.

And of course, the "Facebook spokesperson" didn't have any justification for the organization's actions, other than pointing to the fact that the pictures violated the site's Terms of Use.

I can think of any number of dystopian novels that have warned us of the very threat sites like Facebook present to their users.

We are offered a safe, enjoyable environment to pass the time, at the expense of our values. I would rather Facebook did no monitoring at all then focus on "pornography" and allow hate groups to flourish.

You might say freedom of speech and differing opinions, no matter how distasteful, must be respected--that Facebook cannot be held accountable and should not judge others for their views. But Facebook's own terms of use require they enforce some kind of site moderation. And its not what our Constitution views as freedom of speech, its what Facebook does:

A user cannot "upload, post, transmit, share, store or otherwise make available any content that we deem to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.” [emphasis added]

So Facebook doesn't mind hating people, but it sure as hell doesn't like the idea of a woman breastfeeding. What balderdash. I rarely use that word, but I think it fits.

But only if you are breastfeeding....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gracie: You Wish I Was Born a Boy, Don't You?

Gracie (David Guggenheim, 2007) played in theatres in Atlanta, GA for less than a month. I was going to watch it then but didn’t get around to it.

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Well, it’s now available to rent at Blockbuster and to buy at your favorite neighborhood mega-entertainment store or online retailer.
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Loosely drawn from the childhoods of actors Andrew Shue and Elizabeth Shue, Gracie combines the models of sports inspirational and coming-of-age to tell the story of a young girl (Carly Schroeder) who finds a way to convince “society” to let her do what she loves the most in the whole world: play futbol.

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Andrew Shue explains in the making-of featurette that for the past ten years, he has wanted to make an underdog movie about futbol. I believe the director adds that the film was originally supposed to focus on a father-son relationship but eventually became one about a father and a daughter. Having just lost their oldest son (who was a naturally gifted futbol player) to a collision with a drunk driver, Lindsay (Elizabeth Shue) and Bryan Bowen (Dermot Mulroney) try the best that they can to raise the rest of their kids: Mike (Hunter Schroeder), Daniel (Trevor Heins), and Gracie.

As the film reveals, this endeavor consists primarily of Gracie wanting her father to coach and train her so that she can play futbol for the varsity boys’ team in the next school year and help them defeat Kingston, the school that her brother Johnny (Jesse Lee Soffer) played against in the beginning of the film–the last game he would ever play. Gracie’s dad isn’t very keen on the idea. Initially, his less than lukewarm support is due to the gender excuse–girls aren’t tough enough, girls shouldn’t have to risk injury. Over time, however, the hesitation is fueled by his own doubt in her ability and belief in herself. Thematically speaking (within the sports-inspirational framework), Gracie aims to express its protagonist’s psychological journey from sulking teenager to futbol player.

Overall, despite the metaphorical purpose futbol serves (sports provide structure and an outlet for frustration), Guggenheim’s film is less of a sports film and more of a coming-of-age film. You could take the futbol out and replace it with singing, painting, writing, musical instrument-playing, horseback riding, or even chess, and whatever that activity might be would still function in the same way narratively and thematically.

After all, there are only two futbol games (one at the beginning and one at the end), two proper practices (tryouts for the varsity team and a drill session for the junior varsity team), and half a dozen or so sequences where Gracie practices by herself, with her dad, or with other characters (with or without the presence of a ball). Moreover, at least forty-five minutes of the ninety-five minute-long film address Gracie’s inner struggles. The person that meant the most to her is dead, her own father might as well wish that she was born a guy, and social pressures of being an alluring teenage girl just get in the way of a meaningful existence, which may not even be attainable anymore.

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The futbol element, though, is necessary because the film’s 1978 setting compels the inclusion of certain culturally revolutionizing events and mentalities. Gracie might not enunciate explicitly the words “women’s liberation,” there are discussions, dialogue pieces that confront the issue of whether or not a female is physically and mentally capable of participating in rough (boy) sports. More importantly, though, is the spotlight on Title IX. On the one hand, its place within the narrative and the performance of the particular scene comes off as slightly “convenient” or, if I felt like being mean, a wee bit corny. On the other hand, its appearance in the film makes absolute sense and is essential. I also have to point out that she spends the night in her brother's room (the second night after she and her family learn of his death), and she wakes up determined to play futbol. I'm very glad the director didn't feel the need to have Gracie cut her hair short.

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The futbol also allows Gracie to sort out a conflict with one of the varsity players in a considerably satisfying way. It might be indirect payback, but it’s dual-layered. I don’t want to say more about it–you should just watch the film.

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All right, now on to the aesthetics of filmed futbol. Some of these thoughts are from one of my LJ entries. I haven’t watched much televised futbol, but I did watch a couple of the World Cup games from June 2006, including the match between South Korea and France. As the game progressed, I started thinking about its aesthetic and functional differences with other team sports. I tend to get bored with futbol, which it doesnt make sense because I like hockey. As I’ve probably articulated before, hockey and futbol are basically the same game–they just have different uniforms and gear.

Compared to football, futbol is more fast-paced. The ball is constantly moving, but so few goals are ever scored, and it commonly takes a long time for numbers to go on the score board. After fifteen minutes of game-play, a football team could get 21 points (three touchdowns and one field goal), while a futbol team might scored 1 point (one goal). With football, although the action of the game-play lasts a few seconds to a couple minutes, and repeats for four quarters, something about it is easier for me to enjoy.

Futbol doesn’t excite me as much or make me happy because it’s ideologically, it’s more blatantly maximum effort, minimum results. The players are running back and forth, blocking and kicking…and after thirty minutes of game-play, there may not have been any goals scored. I realize that two quarters of football can go by without anyone making a touchdown or a field goal; and even if no interceptions or fifty yard+ drives are made, the aesthetics of the game-play still make me smile. Should I thank the TV network’s production staff for that feeling?

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Advertizers must prefer football because there are more places for commercials. ^0^

When I was watching the South Korea vs. France game, I observed that most of the game-play was filmed from a high-angle, long shot perspective, probably because any other angle or shot scale would undermine the speed at which the players were running. Televised instant slow-motion replays were incorporated less frequently. When they were employed so that the commentator could discuss the previous sequence (whether or not a goal was made or if a deflected ball should be counted as a goal given where it was deflected), the instant replay footage itself wasn’t necessarily so great because the cameramen didn’t capture it from an optimal angle.

The two games in Gracie were filmed on a field that didn’t have any line markings aside from the boundaries of the playing stage itself and the area in front of the goal posts/nets. I don’t recall there being any high–angle points-of-view other than a couple of crane shots from behind and over the goal nets. Theoretically, then, it’s possible or arguable that editing a futbol sequence is less headache-inducing than a football sequence, assuming that each editor has sufficient, equal amounts of coverage (wider shots where the entire field is visible, medium shots of players’ in motion, close-ups of feet, hands, and faces). Match-on-action cuts would be just as time-consuming and would require near obsessive-compulsive attention to detail, but as far as ordering a series of game-play, the futbol movie editor has got to be much less stressed than the football movie editor.

I won’t talk any more about the film’s plot trajectory, because I want you to see it for yourself, but I do want to present the following:

Lessons That Gracie Teaches:

1. Don’t ever discourage your daughter (or sister or girlfriend or niece) from participating in traditionally male athletic activities for fun or for sport. If she wants to try out for a school or the local town/county/state team, let her and support her. Otherwise, she could adopt the ways of the stereotypical, anti-authority male–and that’s no picnic. Worry about the intersection of athlete-and-trouble-maker when/if it happens.

2. Don’t ever tell a female she can’t do something just because she isn’t male. You’ve seen the films where a male is told he isn’t smart/fast/strong enough to accomplish something and what does he do? He does just about everything he can do prove his critics wrong. Imagine what a female who gives a flying frappuccino would do if she were told that it is solely her sex and gender that makes her inadequate. I wouldn’t want to be the one to have doubted her.

3. Expectations are placed equally on young men and women to behave a certain way (with each other or with society) and to develop interests in particular activities. As Lindsay Bowen tells Gracie near the end of the film, after having experienced another setback, something along the lines of “you can limit yourself if you want to, but don’t let other people do it for you.” On the flip side, don’t feel obliged to be like everyone else or what they assume you’ll be. Be what you want to be… long as no laws are broken in the process.

Doesn’t she almost look like a field goal kicker for a football team? The back cover of the DVD offers an even more convincing pose.
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Notice how Gracie is sitting in the middle of the cheerleaders and the other futbol players.
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Gracie rated PG-13 for brief sexual content.

The stunts crew consists of Jared Burke, Blaise Corrigan, Stephen Mann, and Anthony Vincent.

Dan Metcalfe is the futbol coordinator. Andrew Shue and Elizabeth Shue both grew up playing soccer, so they undoubtedly contribued to the futbol sequences.

For more information on Title IX, please visit its official site here.

pix cred: yahoo movies &

Originally posted at Sitting Pugs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Sad Day for the Body Shop

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick dies

By D'ARCY DORAN, Associated Press Writer Mon Sep 10, 10:16 PM ET

LONDON - Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, who used her international cosmetics chain to promote eco-friendly practices long before they were widely fashionable, died Monday night after suffering a major brain hemorrhage, her family said. She was 64.

Roddick, known as the "Queen of Green," was lauded around the world for trailblazing business practices that promoted environmentalism and other causes dear to her heart, from human rights to Third World debt relief.

"Businesses have the power to do good," Roddick wrote on the Web site of the company, which was bought by the French company L'Oreal Group last year for $1.14 billion.

The Body Shop opposed animal testing and tried to encourage Third World development by purchasing materials from small communities in poorer countries. It founded a human rights award and invested in a wind farm in Wales as part of its campaign to promote renewable energy.

"Before Body Shop you could only find cruelty-free products in hippie shops — now they are everywhere," said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals vice president Dan Mathews, who worked with Roddick on campaigns in the 1980s, when Body Shop became a global brand.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Somewhere, there are people who aren't so happy that their niche has been commercialized, re-appropriated by corporations touting their intentions are for the greater good, the preservation of the flora and fauna of the planet...but in reality, it's all about making even more money. Because to sell a product, these companies must sell wardrobe styles, eating habits, and philosophical beliefs that capitalize on the proclivity for human beings to want to belong and be accepted by those who sit atop the throne of the cultural elite.

I realize that economic development and saving the Earth are not easy or simple tasks to undertake, and that more than a handful of groups are necessary for any kind of observable progress to be made (within our lifetime). Nonetheless, it isn't a cause for sustained celebration when something you called your own (or your community's own) is cloned or even taken from you because your own efforts are no longer (good) enough. Not to suggest that it's what happened with the Body Shop.

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May Mrs. Roddick rest in peace.

pic cred:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Riposi In Pace Maestro Pavarotti

This morning my mom told me that famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti has died. He was one of those rare artists that had such a warm vibe about him. I don't think I ever saw a picture or video of him where he wasn't smiling. I don't know much about famous opera singers, but I have loved opera ever since I saw a performance of Puccini's La Boheme on PBS when I was 13. I think I also am rather sentimental about opera because my great-grandfather was a little known opera singer during Caruso's time, and they say, had Caruso's style not been so popular, my ancestor would have been famous.

Pavarotti was one of kind not only because of the sheer drama and power of his voice, but also because he was so charismatic and accessible outside of the opera world. A common criticism of opera in the United States is that it, like classical ballet, or the symphony, is an upper middle class entertainment, inaccessible to most of society due to high ticket prices, fancy dress codes, and in opera's case, whole stories in a foreign language.

There have been many recent attempts to "humanize" opera, if you want to call it adding electronic subtitle screens above the stage, RENT, Elton John's revamp of Aida, or even having free outdoor showings of Metroplitan Opera performances via satellite feed.
Whether any of this will boost a new generation's interest or ticket sales I cannot say. But I can say that unlike Caruso, Callas, Sutherland, or even today's Bocelli, Pavarotti is a name the whole musical world knows. This may be because he was one of the first opera singers to branch out in a major way into collaborations with other non-opera or non-classical musicians.
Looking only on YouTube, I found Pavoratti singing with James Brown, Barry White, Queen, and U2 to name a few. It was Pavoratti's accessibility and willingness to participate in these kinds of musical endeavors (not to mention sing the 1990 World Cup theme) that opened the rest of the musical world to him and opera to the rest of the musical world.

And I give him credit (along with Sarah Brightman though she's not an opera singer) as the reason why Opera Babes, Il Divo, Charlotte Church, and other pop-opera acts have been even possible given the popularity of trash like "My Humps" and Clay Aiken ::shudder::.

I was quite shocked that Pavarotti had died, as all the press about him had said that although he was ill, he was remaining positive. His wife even seemed upbeat and sure about his recovery. Whether expected or no, he will be sorely missed for the international treasure that he was.
Riposi In Pace Maestro.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Men Want Hot Women, Study Shows"

According to a new study conducted in Germany, men go for good looks (you can find the article here).

The gist of this study is that men may say they want certain qualities in a partner, but when it all gets boiled down, they go for the attractive girls. While women are much pickier, they tend to go for guys with an attraction level equal to their perceived level of attraction. In conclusion, the woman's attractiveness affects both party's decision-making process.

To quote a friend: in other news "new study shows water is wet".

How is this news? How was this study even funded? How sheltered from the dating world do you have to be to not already intuitively know the above?

Our culture is abnormally obsessed with relationships. From the tabloids that spin random pictures of celebrities into drama-laden romances, to the plethora of dating sites; from speed-dating, to more expensive match-maker services; from magazines devoted to "brides", to the embittering national divide about gay marriage. Publishers and marketing wizards spend huge amounts of time, energy, and money on these topics and consumers are right there to scoop it all up. Check out the "Health" section of your local bookstore or library, and you will find a huge variety of self-help books devoted to attracting and keeping the "perfect mate." There are numerous articles written analyzing everything from how one's smell can affect attraction levels (pheromones), to how to use body language to send the right signals (shouldn't body language be subconscious and natural?). People are obsessed with not only their own love lives, but the love/sex lives of others (celebrities in particular).

And, we have another study and article focused on telling us that "looks matter."

I myself am not immune from this cultural obsession. I subscribe to a couple of dating sites (my Mom calls it a shopper's mentality - more on that in a minute). I've read Cosmo (10 ways to turn a man on!). I have a couple of dating books (What Men REALLY Want). I date. A lot--I've lost count of the number of first dates I've been on--and all in the search to find a good, lasting relationship. I am embarrassed to think of how much wasted time and energy I've invested in this search.


In our consumer-based society, we treat dating and love as something to "consume". We shop for it, in the same way that we would shop for clothes or a car. We do our research, try a variety on for size, and are always on the look-out for something better than what we have. We don't seem to be content or happy unless we have it, and even then, we're restless. We learn all we can about it, fascinated by those who seem to have it, and even more intrigued when it's lost. This mentality pushes us to spend millions if not billions of dollars on dates, books, magazines, websites, clothing, beauty products, etc. What a waste. And it never ends. There are always new books, new ways to make yourself more desirable, and more studies telling us what we (should) already know.

Enough is enough. When will you people just learn to RELAX? To get out there and live your life, and just let what happens, happen. Stop obsessing over every little detail of your own and others' love lives, and instead just have fun? If you find love - great! If you don't, at least you're still enjoying yourself. I don't necessarily believe in fate, but I do think that when you find the "right" fit, having your nails freshly done or wearing the imitation pheromone perfume or knowing that both men and women care about looks isn't going to change a thing. It's just going to click. You and him or her will simply work.

So please, stop feeding the machine that pumps out these ridiculous studies. Stop buying all of the books that will tell you things that you already know. Stop worrying about looking good for others, and simply look good for yourself. Stop shopping for a relationship. Have fun. Enjoy that wonder that is life. Love (and sex and maybe even marriage/children) will happen, but until it does - don't waste your time worrying and over-analyzing. What's the point? Don't wait for something to make you happy, be happy now.

Editor's Note: Shout hallelujah, Come on get happy.

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