Friday, November 21, 2008

Bollocks to the Patriarchy but Romance can be unconventional

Twilight tulips iridescence.

I have not read the books nor seen the film yet (will do so on the morrow). I love Kristen Stewart, so I won't be in the cinematic experience for quality or life-shattering wisdoms. Speaking of which, I absolutely adore Pete Vonder Haar's review of the film.

I have to give a couple of excerpts some attention. Pete remarks:

With his yearning eyes and tortured past, Edward is the romantic ideal for most 13-year old girls (and some boys): he’s androgynously gorgeous, has a dope ride, and doesn’t want to do anything but talk about your feelings and snuggle. It would appear that in addition to robbing his brood of their need for blood, Carlisle also removed their balls.

Indeed. The Byronesque Brooder is the object of many an adolescent girl's lust and adoration.

This quaint fantasy of the boy putting the brakes on would never fly in a traditional romance, hence the “vampire” angle, and the first half of the movie is devoted almost exclusively to the pair’s budding courtship. Unfortunately, this translates into scene after scene of Bella and Edward gazing longingly at each other – in the forest, up a tree, beside the cold and lonely sea – before any real tension develops.

Not everyone wants a traditional romance. Aside from the debate surrounding the efficacy of the abstinence-only approach to sex and sexuality education, why must all hormonally driven youths become sexually active? Is there still nothing equally or more satisfying to do when two people really like each other?

Furthermore, only in films do sparks between two individuals lead to the expression of that attraction a montage or two after sparks are depicted (or by the end of the film if a romantic comedy is involved). In real life, some people only have eye contact, smiles, and silently acknowledged mutual attraction (intellectual, emotional, physical, all of the above, or some other combination) because neither person wants to make a move...out of fear or paranoia or, in the words of Andrew Marvell, a bond that is "the conjunction of the mind but the opposition of the stars".

They're taken already.

The message is clear: don’t inconvenience that handsome boy who was so gallant in resisting your base urges by also straying beyond the boundaries of domestic complacency.

In other words: a female can have a male who profoundly loves her and will not impose his pro-creative instincts on her but if, and only if, she effectively erases her own sense of self and exists only for his well-being.

Oui ou non.

Definitely, bollocks to the patriarchy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The oft maligned elegant lady of post-jazz: Sade Adu

By most people's categorization standards, Sade Adu's music is "easy listening" or "lounge jazz" (a kinder way of saying "elevator music"). The lyrics, "coast to coast/LA to Chicago/west of Maine," from arguably her most well-known song "Smooth Operator" invokes an intercontinental tone can comes off as goofy to American listeners. Her music is oft maligned for being schmaltzy and vacuous. For all the nay-sayers, I advise they listen more closely.

Sade’s music has an excellent sense of rhythm, often makes use of Latin beats including bossa nova and African grooves, and is intelligent and sexy. Lyrically, she has a way of diving very deep into your soul with lines like:

"If you were mine, I wouldn't want to go to heaven" (“Cherish the Day”)
“I’d wash the sand off the shore. Give you the world if it was mine.” (“Paradise”)
"I'll give you my love, I'll give you everything I feel inside...surrender your love to me." (“Give it Up”)
“My love is wider than Victoria Lake. My love is taller than the Empire State.”
(“Is it a Crime”)

Who says the best “love poetry” is written by men? I listen to those lyrics and just sigh – would that I could feel that way about a man, is the thought that comes to mind. I often wish that more women be that direct and courageous about the intensity of desire. In that respect, on the lyrical front, I can compare her to Stevie Nicks.

In concert, she’s surprisingly dynamic. With her smooth complexion, high forehead, and eyes that stare right into you, her stage presence is charismatic. She is only 5’7; however she looks incredibly tall. People with long legs, long necks, and long arms get away with murder when it concerns height. She is no dancer, nor is her music really danceable, but she moves well with it, feels it as it is her own, and even barefoot, is amazingly elegant.

Sade’s sense of style is impeccable. It’s at once evocative of old screen legends such as Katharine Hepburn (for the more male elements), Audrey Hepburn (for the un-fussed simplicity in color and form), and Lauren Bacall (for the film noir-ish mise-en-scene), but at the same time deceptive. She wears black trousers and high-necked, long-sleeved turtlenecks with the back completely open or kimono-like dresses, but with slits high up the leg. I think it’s very reflective of the sense of mystery mixed with sex just below the surface. It’s very clever – it’s about covering it all up so that the skin you do show has that much more effect. And at 49, she looks beyond amazing.

Sade was in a genre of her own in the 1980s – next to Duran Duran, U2, and Madonna, no one compared. Indeed, Sade owes a lot to her predecessors – Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, and even Diana Ross and Astrud Gilberto just to name a few. I think however she deserves major credit for writing a form of jazz that is lyrically lovely, only marginally in tune with the 80s and 90s, and allusive of the 1940s. It’s completely anachronistic, yet totally irresistible.

Friday, October 17, 2008

An underrated little gem: Stevie Nicks' Street Angel

Don't judge an album by the artist's life at the time of its production.

Stevie Nicks' 1994 release Street Angel was dismissed by the majority of critics as being insipid and stale. I listened to it for the first time over 10 years ago on cassette, and perhaps I was over-influenced by the comments. I found myself at Cheapo Records in Central Square, Cambridge the other evening, looking for used CDs while waiting for my take-away dinner at the Indian restaurant next door. At $3.99, I had to buy a copy, as it's the only Stevie studio album I don't own.

Of course, quality of sound differs greatly on a CD opposed to cassettes (does anyone even own a tape recorder anymore?). The CD possesses high-quality production values that are superior in fact to Rock a Little (1983) and even to Wild Heart (1983) – though not superior to the songs.

Overall, these are beautifully written songs from the catchy pop sound of "Blue Denim" to the poignant "Greta" (alluding to the screen goddess) and the wistful "Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind." Even her cover of the Bob Dylan classic "Just Like a Woman" is well done. If ever there was a woman with the voice to cover a Dylan song, it is Stevie. The take-it or leave-it attitude and open-road feeling of "Kick It" is very satisfying. In fact the only sub-par song on the record is "Jane," her tribute to anthropologist Jane Goodall. Something about the line "the forgotten chimpanzee" makes me cringe, even if the song was well-intended (sorry, Stevie). Most surprisingly, the songs are contemporary for mid 90s popular music, along the lines of Natalie Merchant. Admittedly, her voice was *not* in the best of conditions, but I do love the gravely, lived-in sound, and where she is unable to hold the verse on her own, her long-time back-up singers Sharon Celani, Lori Nicks, and Sara Fleetwood, more than adequately support her vocals.

In retrospect, it almost appears that the reviewers dismissed Street Angel on account of the personal troubles in Stevie's life – she was at the time, overweight and fighting a drug addiction. Her voice was not in the best condition. They seemed to have thrown the record out with the woman, as it were. Street Angel showcases a calmer Stevie and a thoughtful songwriter with excellent rhythm (as always) and exceptional musicality.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

You're not fully clean unless...

I was reading Dr. Sanjay Gupta's blog post memorializing Michael DeBakey, a surgeon Dr. Gupta called a "medical legend." One of the comments from a medical student says that Dr. DeBakey said in a Q&A session many years ago that his biggest regret was wasting too much time. How anyone considered a pioneer in their field can think they have wasted too much time speaks of either tremendous arrogance or almost saintly humility. In Dr. DeBakey's case, who credits his mother's sewing instructions as the key to his success as a surgeon, I'm willing to bet it was the latter.

In my career, I doubt I'll be saving any lives, but I am highly likely to be wasting quite a bit of time. There's the 10 minutes I waste every day listening to Ann Curry gush uncontrollably every morning while I wait for my local news and weather; the hour I spend tooling around on the Interwebs every evening, looking for nothing in particular; and the untold weekend days where I can't seem to get up before 11, then lay in bed for two hours reading trashy books, only to finally get washed, quaffed, dressed and ready to meet the world by 4pm.

Did I do the laundry? Nope..but I still have some clean undergarments so I guess it can wait until next week. Did I go through the mail? Nope, but the stack on the kitchen table hasn't fallen over yet, so it can wait another few days. Did I exercise? Nope. Woke up too late and then ate too late, and who wants to go to the gym on a Saturday night??

Of course, the amount of wasted time in my life is nothing compared to the useless junk taking up space in my brain. There is a scene in Jim Henson's iconic film Labyrinth where Sarah is dreaming about searching for her brother and finds herself in a junkyard. An old woman tries to distract Sarah by offering the girl all of her favorite toys from childhood. Eventually, Sarah remembers what she has come for and yells something to the effect of "I want my baby brother!" (Sorry guys, no youtube luck, though I tried).

This scene haunted me as a child, and even still gives me the heebie jeebies as an adult. In a way, I wonder if my mind isn't a big junkyard, filled more with advertising slogans than literary passages, juicy celebrity gossip instead of complex philosophical concepts.

For example, the other day, I noticed a frozen food lunch my boss was eating. It was Thai peanut chicken or something, in a "zesty" sauce. I thought to myself, "Zesty--that's a word for green things like, cilantro, pesto.... and Zest soap."

I actually spent a few minutes wondering why "zest" the name for the soap means something like enjoying or relishing an experience; but the simple addition of a "y" to the end of the word evokes images of Latin food. Certainly "zesty" wasn't the right world for things with peanuts in it, and although the mango flavored Zest was a tremendous failure, I still stand by my belief that it would have worked if they had kept the soap green.

All this, and I could have been contemplating a solution to our country's current economic difficulties, or learning a new word like "piquant."

Maybe, I simply don't have the mental stamina for such intense intellectual musings. Or perhaps I can blame it all on Corporate America.

DeBakey didn't grow up with television and failblog. He didn't grow up in a world where every waking moment was a bombardment of marketing strategies aimed at convincing you consciously or subliminally to become another lemming.

I can't help it if I grab the Sunny D from the fridge and think to myself, "It's not OJ or the purple stuff." The jingle just eeks out of me, perhaps like a maestro finds himself humming the Moonlight Sonata when driving at night.

What I'm really arguing is that the consumerist culture that pushes Prada and iPhones on my generation and American Girl Bistros and Guitar Hero on the one after me is making us dumber. Certainly, others have wondered the same thing.

So, my brain, which has infinitely less capacity than the late Dr. DeBakey's has no chance against all the catchy slogans and sitcom theme songs that have been engineered, focus-grouped, and triple-tested to stick in the deep nether regions of my consciousness--and the equation for finding the area of a circle and the definition of a gerund are not. And that urban legend that we use only 10 percent of our brains during the day? Untrue. So much for the possibility of finding an alien technology that could help me remember my shopping list.

And this blog? Has it been a waste of intellectual energy and time? You tell me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In between the dark and the light: memory before time

While listening to Pandora radio recently, a lovely Heart song called “There’s the Girl” came up. It’s not on the greatest hits compilation I own; however, I subsequently recalled hearing it occasionally on the radio as a little girl. All of this brought to mind something I’m calling musical memory. Not memory of playing a piano piece learned per se (I guess, which is muscle memory too), but more one’s unconscious memory of a song – or set of songs.

Almost always, I can trace back the time or era of my life in which I was first aware of a musical artist I like. I remember listening to Michael Jackson when I was 3 or 4 years old (this, the Challenger disaster, and the time I saw through my bedroom window, a flock of hundreds of birds carpeting our lawn in Yonkers, New York in a migratory pit stop, make up some of my very first, if not truly first memories).

I remember first paying attention to The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and the Velvet Underground – all mostly off my radar until I was in my teens and going through my enjoyment of all classic rock. Those were the days when I wouldn’t turn off the radio when Led Zeppelin came on (sorry, I like them, I do- they just give me a headache a lot of the time.)

I never had this moment with the Eagles. It’s not that I especially love them. I don’t adore them unconditionally the way I do Fleetwood Mac, whose songs sometimes rip out of my heart, throw it on the floor, and then proceed to step on it. I don’t appreciate them the way I do the tunes of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – romantic and gritty at the same time. Nothing to hold par with the brilliance of the “oh, my my/oh hell, yes” refrain in “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” I don’t connect with their lyrics or orchestration the way I do with the raw, elemental power of Kate Bush which makes me want to spin and spin until I collapse. I even like hip Japanese pop artist Namie Amuro much more.

Yet, every time I listen to an Eagles song, it’s like coming home. There’s never a conscious “Oh, I heard this first when I was 5 years old” or “I started liking them when I was 10.” It’s like there was never a time when these songs weren’t in my memory. I always knew of them. No, no, I do not go into a trance like Elaine’s date does in Seinfeld when listening to “Desperado.” It’s just a simple, yes I know this song and have always known this song – there is no time I was not familiar with the ritualistic, drum intro of “Witchy Woman,” the waltz beat of the country-laden “Take it to the Limit,” or the depressed bass-line underpinning the bluesy “One of These Nights.” These songs need no explanation – they are just there, part of my unconscious.

For many years, I vaguely wondered about this effect and suffered my dad playing their Greatest Hits compilation all the time and attempting to sing. Until one day, my mother said very blithely in Tamil, “Oh, not this again. Your dad played this record all the time in the house when I first came to the country.” It is to be noted in 1980, when my mother moved to New York, the Eagles had already split up. And suddenly, it made sense to me.

Though I know that the fetus can listen to music while in the womb, I don’t know if it’s even possible to have a memory of something experienced before you were born – but if that is possible, then this it. Sartre would say that essence does not precede existence, but for whatever it is worth, this is my memory before time.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bringing Up Baby

I have noticed that just as heroes, cowards, and religious zealots are made in a foxhole, every man's mettle and faith is tested when he is asked to hold a baby. Perhaps it is good that none of us remember being crowd-surfed for kisses. After all, I am sure we have all been exposed to our fair share of danger at the hands of smelly or frightening relatives who have no children and referred to us as "it"--largely in the context of: "it needs to be changed," "it spit up on me," or "it started crying, you'd better take it back."

Perhaps older generations have more excuses. Propriety demanded our grandfathers and great-grandfathers shun any and all knowledge on pregnancy and childbirth--an ignorance that would put today's six-year-olds to shame.

While American men are not nearly as blissfully unaware as their forefathers, thanks, in part, to tasteful and educational movies like "Junior" and "Knocked Up", the single, sub-30, male relative of a new arrival may have no better idea how to hold a baby than how to make a quiche.

Baby-holding pre-dates the wheel and fire--but single guys still haven't gotten it right. Was it a deeply rooted fear of a tiny wailing thing that sent the men off to hunt wolly mammoths instead of indulging in berry picking? I mean, what man doesn't relish every opportunity to sit near a food source and eat?

Truly, little has changed since the homo sapiens walked the earth. Men from pre-history to the apocalypse still try to smash something that doesn't work and they fall into three main categories when they are asked to hold a child for the first time:

The 007: This man is too suave. He's never picked up a child in his life but he's suddenly asking burping and feeding like a pro--showing his mad skillz off to any hot chick who will watch. You hate this man. He would never be unruffled at 3am with the third feeding of the night or ever get his shirt stained with applesauce reflux.

The Hail Mary: This guy thinks it's fun to throw a baby up in the air 12 feet and catch him/her one-handed. If you voice any concern, you're likely to be told he's "got 'em" and to "quit being so'll never raise an first-round pick Falcon that way!"

The Wuss: He won't buy tampons at the store or even want to be in the same room as a breast pump. If you give him a baby, he'll hold it at arms' length and be quick to pawn it off on someone else. For him, babies are a contaminant, oozing out "commitment" germs wherever they touch or grab.

While 007 has his game on, you may be doing your cousin Sandy a favor by giving the baby something that smells particularly bad when it comes out the other way.

As for Hail Mary, you can rescue your child by asking him to explain the Falcons third-quarter play the other night (assuming this is football season, feel free to use basketball, or baseball alternatives as necessary). Put an appopriately innocent expression on your face and take the baby from him once he starts talking. Hail Mary won't notice the baby's gone becaus he'll be too busy gesturing with his hands about how so-and-so rushed center and Joe Bob fumbled at the 10 yard line...or whatever.

Finally for Wuss, the easiest option is to go out for the night and leave the baby in his care. Pretend like you had understood he'd agreed to babysit, not just come visit. He'll call around 9:30 and beg you to come home, during which time you are free to request any favor you actually need.

Product Differentiation

In the world of retail and commerce, originality, quality, and appeal of merchandise must be carefully formulated and executed so that potential customers and patrons do not feel alienated, confused, belittled, discriminated against or unimpressed. Depending on the product or service offered, price can influence the degree of the public's enthusiasm.

Thriving in clothing or restaurant businesses, for instance, requires an adherence to already established standards and products on the content level, but to exceed everyone else in content quality and presentation (using better materials and ingredients, maintaining a healthy relationship with employees, hiring quick-thinking staff). A white blouse might be a white blouse no matter how you cut it, but it must look good and fit properly. Similarly, a hamburger may be two buns and a beef patty no matter how you bite into it, but it needs to taste a certain way. Business persons who want to re-invent the wheel are certainly free to do so, but unless quality and appeal outweigh potential confusion, the only response they'll get is "don't fix what isn't broken."

A hamburger with baguette bread? Hmmm....I know it's served this way in a few dining establishments, but if you re-think the bun but don't re-think the beef, you're probably going to get fewer repeat customers.

It dawned on me today that as much as human beings yearn for acceptance and a sense of belonging in a larger group, the desire to be unique is strong enough to alienate the audience. The thought actually originated with thinking about goals and dreams I've tossed to the wayside due to the sheer impracticality of retaining them. Specifically, to seek and acquire the kinds of emotional bonds I've craved for a long time.

America was founded on principles of self-agency and individuality, among others. Reclining beneath the "life liberty, and pursuit of happiness" tenet is the notion that being better than everyone else (or sometimes just different in a rewarding way) is preferable to being just like everyone else. Dance to the bass line of your own groove; snack to the percentage of your own sodium needs; read to the themes and plotlines of your own preferences. In terms of self-expression, being different (unique) is commendable and frequently refreshing. With respect to human interaction, however, being unique has a tendency to get lost in transmission.*


I pride myself on being different--to the extent that I must risk coming across as disarming or plain weird. While I wouldn't necessarily alter my behavior or favorite conversational topics just to increase the chances I can reclaim those discarded dreams, I understand now that the reason I've failed on every mission is that I am unique rather than above average. Someone who is unique might be the best in the time zone, but this person is also unpredictable intellectually, emotionally, and behaviorally.** Someone who is above average will be the best in the room (and even zip code) and is much more predictable. By no means is this kind of predictability steeped in convention or monotony. Someone who is above average can be every bit as original and new as the unique. The difference is that the unique person functions along a separate source of motive and intent as well as modus operandi. The above average person exhibits the same motive and intent as the average, but his/her modus operandi can differ.

For people trying to make connections, originality, quality, and appeal are less daunting when you know what is likely to be behind the curtain. How many people are willing to venture towards the unknown?

*Excepting cases where your deviations from societal norms are shared by enough (analog or digital) people such that you don't feel completely alone.

**I realize that a unique person can become predictable given enough time. If you spend enough energy and time with such an individual, you can better comprehend them and anticipate how they will react to a number of situations.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rio Reiterated

It opens like a steel knife slicing and segues into an entrancing cacophony of sounds that is disorienting and provoking. I think I’ve got it figured it out, but listening to Duran Duran’s “Rio” is always like I’ve never heard it before. In fact, I’ve heard it many times, but I’m forever amazed at how it sounds *different* every time I hear it.

Sometimes I choose to pay attention to the bass line that underpins the song. Other times, I concentrate on the pulsing drum beat. In some instances, I focus on the waterfall-like, flittering melody of synthesizer. A lot of the time, it is Simon Le Bon's beautiful voice with its almost piano-flat, oblique intonations, that captures my attention. And other times, it’s the grating, electric guitar, which grounds the song into a tangible reality. Interspersed with all this are bird-like sounds in the background, a saxophone interlude bridging the song, and the sound of a woman’s laughter, sharp and ringing, almost mocking.

The tone of the song begins with a cool indifference, “cherry ice cream/I suppose it’s very nice.” It builds a driving energy and then cascades. By the time you’ve reached the end, you feel a little more reckless, ready to dive in, to take a risk, because “luck is on your side or something.”

“Rio” proves to be as simultaneously satisfying and as frustrating as the elusive, titular woman of the song. You think you’ve found it, only to have it escape from your grasp . . .

“Who is Rio anyways?” asked a male friend of mine once. “That’s what I want to know.”

I just shrugged & smiled.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Farewell, My Column Scribe and the Price of Aggression

Sydney Pollack.

Jim McKay.

And now Stan Winston.



I was looking through an old email account and found the following saved as a draft. I don't remember where I was going to post it, so I'm putting it here:

So many filmmakers make "war" films about the futility of war. Do politicians ever listen? No.

No matter how passionately filmmakers or other artists voice their "war is good for nobody" mentality, there's always going to be war. Still, some people say that accepting "theres always going to be war" doesn't help.

What I liked about Taegukgi (Kang Je-Gyu, 2004) is the idea that maybe people shouldn't be soldiers of ideologies if it's not just about defending your country. I think what the director was really trying to say was "civil war should not be..."

One of the making-of featurettes mentionedhow disconcerting and sad it was that your enemy spoke the same language as you...and before the US and the Soviet Union made their tension "official," the fight between capitalism and socialism was happening in Korea.

So then I thought, 'But hey, we had the civil war....there were families broken up. What about the Revolutionary War....families were broken up there too." Whenever there's a conflict of interests between humans, it always gets ugly.

The theme song of Taegukgi: "Oori" (We). Performed by BoA.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Clubbing

There isn't always safety in numbers because you could be stuck with a lousy set of numbers. As I've realized recently, one can be surrounded by people and still feel alone. Among the places where a person can feel this sort of isolation (a waiting room, a classroom on the first day of school, a subway car), a nightclub heightens it like no other place.

Thus, I don't like clubbing or even going 'out' to dance. I don't believe I ever have.

There have been moments where I've enjoyed it— most memorably, an evening out with close friends when I went to Atlanta sushi-bar-turned-night-club Aiko, where I was wearing was wearing sky-high stilettos for the very first time. Earlier in the spring, I found myself at a popular Boston club non-elegantly called the Liquor Store. I dressed to emulate Audrey Hepburn— it's not important why– in a black shift dress, pumps, and a black wide-brimmed hat. Several college-aged boys walked by me and lifted the brim of the hat to get a better look at me, which I found most vexing. A once-over was all they wanted.

Environments that aren't conducive to conversation don't make sense to me. For this reason, I end up feeling intensely alone in a club, because I'm enveloped by people that don't invite communication. Simultaneously, I’m unable to talk to my own friends. It’s like being under the sea and breathing silently, talking and drawing in water instead.

I find it unsettling to dance in clubs. Club dancing, like courting, is a mating ritual. If the dancing doesn't involve hip-hop (where it's more about self-expression), then you're left feeling very self-aware of your body's weight and motion. Any other kind of dancing (choreographed or not) is about so much more than a "come hither." If I'm going to be dancing, I desire structure and rhythm (as I unconsciously desire it in poetry), which is probably why I loved ballroom when I had lessons in college.

To me, any non-choreographed dancing is the most fun and fulfilling when it's simply about one's reactions to music with a good bass-line, a certain tempo, and occurs amongst people who don't care if you can't 'carry a tune' with your body. Think dormitory parties celebrating birthdays, All Hollow Eves, New Year's, and themed parties. I was around a lot of people (some I knew and some I didn't) and never felt alone. Parties at our own apartment enabled my friend & I to pull capers like sneaking in “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys, regardless of the theme or music.*

In these settings, it doesn't even matter if the music isn't even good for dancing. The party itself isn't always the most anticipated part of the evening. What I've always enjoyed most about the process is the lead-up-- getting dressed, going over to a friends’ places, chatting, having a little bit to eat and drink, the drive over, and perhaps mostly, Waffle House afterward (this is a Southern thing). Or more recently, the few minutes I shared with a friend while sitting on a bench at the Boylston T-stop waiting for a friend of his to arrive. We had a chat filled with non-sequiturs as usual, and I was at ease.

Clubbing is banal, freestyle dancing isn't always enjoyable. Could you concur? Can you see what I see in this observation?

Century Fille's own YiQi C. has noted that when someone like me makes this kind of realization, a waiting audience sees nothing but logic and sense in it. In contrast, when she make such claims --and then proceeds to say that 90 percent of what social people find fun (like amusement parks and mini-golfing) she finds completely not fun— she is cast as the brooding gothic even though she’s not decked out in emo gear. She says it must have to do with the differing vibes we give off. She is perceived as a party pooper, whereas I appear the wise one who has stumbled upon the truth that bumping & grinding on a dance floor (for the sake of being seen and not to spend time with friends per se) isn't fun. I say it has to do with my higher tolerance for and adaptability to sub-optimal environments. However, this also comes with my lower ability for discerning the sub-optimal situation in the first place.

It's not only that I do not like clubbing, I find it a colossal waste of my time. I'd rather be out for drinks and dinner. Or just dinner. Or coffee. Or at a quieter lounge. Or shopping. Or at home with a good book or an academic journal. Not to suggest I can't be enticed out to an 80s night every now and then— it’s just very unfortunate during my last opportunity to do so, I decided to take a nap before going out, watched some of the mind-blowing Battlestar Galactica mid-season finale, fell asleep during it, and then managed to somehow make it through Doctor Who to catch up again with my favorite colonials & cylons at the midnight hour.**

* No matter how loud you turn up the volume on this song, it is impossible to dance to.
**I’m an Anglophile, sensitive to British humor, and I don’t get Doctor Who.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

In the Head : Outside the Body

Some may beg to differ, but thought does not equal action.

Something I scooped from the internet:

Orientation is not Behavior

Orientation is who/what gender one is attracted to. This applies to both sexual and romantic orientation. Who you are attracted to does not necessarily determine how you act towards those individuals. Personally, I do not believe that orientation is a choice. However, I do believe that one's orientation CAN change multiple times over the course of one's life, though it does not HAVE to change.

Behavior is how you act towards people, in romantic and sexual contexts. One is more likely to pursue an individual that one is attracted to, but there are countless other factors that will determine couplings/intimate relationships (some examples of these other factors; familial pressure, societal norm, religious law and custom, fear of rejection, holding another value in higher priority to sexual behavior or preference). Personally, I believe that behavior is entirely within one's own control, and that no-one else is to be held accountable for romantic or sexual behavior (with the exception of situations involving coercion or force). I believe that one's behavior CAN change multiple times over
the course of one's life, though it does not HAVE to change.

One's orientation does not determine behavior, though it will most likely influence it.

Homosexuals and bisexuals in the past have had to deny their orientation in their behavior due to societal norms. They have had to behave as heterosexuals in order to avoid persecution. This does not mean that they are not bi/homosexual, just that they do not display bi/homosexual behavior. If their behavior changes, it does not mean they have 'become gay'; it simply means that they have chosen a certain way to act in certain situations.

Sexuals do not always follow a sexual life style. Taking religious dedication as an example, many people take vows of celibacy. This does not mean that they become asexual, or that they are no longer sexual; it simply means that they have chosen a certain way to act in certain situations.

Asexuals do not always follow a celibate life style. Many asexuals enjoy sex for it's own sake, or for the sense of connection that it enables with their partner. This does not mean that they are not asexual; it simply means that they have chosen a certain way to act in certain situations.

I have no problems with any romantic or sexual practices or traditions, as long as all participants are fully informed individuals enabled with fully-functioning faculties to make critical decisions about personal well-being, and have fully consented to all activities under no duress, coercion, or force.

I believe no one has the right to criticize another's orientation or behavior, with the exception of ensuring that all parties are involved consensually. Past that altruistic concern, no one has the right to judge another's orientation or behavior.

There is no right or wrong orientation or behavior (save for non-consensual activities), and every factor changes with every individual.

We love who we love.

source: Boards at Aven.

Friday, May 2, 2008

There is That


I'm not surprised that Atlanta made the list. For anyone who isn't familiar with GA's capital city, here are a few points to consider:

1. It takes just about 20 minutes to go anywhere in Atlanta--unless you're going fewer than 3.75 miles. Without traffic, it could take about 12 minutes to go anywhere that's fewer than 10 miles from your starting point.

2. Unmarried couples or unmarried singles may have a shorter they wouldn't necessarily be living in the best school districts, which might put them at least thirty-minutes away from their place of employment.

3. Houses in the suburbs are less expensive than those closer to town. Thus, a longer commute.

4. Just as any amount of precipitation puts some drivers into a state of torpor, any kind of visually distracting stimuli at the side of the road will compel some motorists to cruise and gaze. What would've been a seventeen-minute drive could easily turn into a twenty-five minute trip.

5. Mishmash of drivers going too slowly with those going too quickly creates a less than optimal dynamic.

6. School buses--dare I even suggest it--that pick up a horde of children on the street in front of apartment complexes (rather than just inside the complex).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Audrey Loren March

Sophia Loren will be the Star of the Month in June TCM. As I was formatting images of her for the June Memory Game, I thought to myself, Sophia Loren is like the voluptuous version of Audrey Hepburn," which gave way to, she and Jane March look somewhat alike too, which produced (click the image for the complete view):


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Janet: What you’ve done for us lately

It was Janet Jackson’s appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live (Feb. 29) which for me signaled the existence of her new album, Discipline. Her charming, unaffected demeanor caught my attention, and I went out and bought the CD the next day.

I love Janet Jackson. I always have. While she’s never really surpassed the quality of her 1989 Rhythm Nation, a brilliant concept album which is also a lot of fun and resulted in an unparalleled seven top 5 hits, she’s done extremely well. She’s had nine consecutive albums debuting in the top three on the Billboard charts. It’s unfortunate that most recently, she’s better known for her 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe snafu while performing with Michael Jackson wannabe Justin Timberlake during the half time show, rather than for her music. While 2006’s 20 Y.O (the title in part a nod to 20 years since the release of Control in 1986) is pleasant for a rainy day or a 16-hour flight, it is sometimes bland.

Released on Feb. 26, Discipline entered the charts at #1. At 41, she proves to all the amateur pop starlets that she still reigns in her status as a pop cultural icon. And unlike Madonna, who has constantly reinvented herself (for better and for worse), all Janet has had to do is be herself. And she looks fantastic. The collaboration with her long-time boyfriend, music producer Jermaine Dupri, is successful. Overall, Discipline is a sexy, racy, dirty, and gritty album (mind you, with zero profanity). It’s better not to pay too close attention to the lyrics, because if you’re sensitive like me, you’ll just be gasping every few seconds.

It opens with the charging, industrial-sounding “Feedback” and by the end of it you’re also thinking “yeah, that’s sexy, sexy, sexy.” It’s followed immediately by the uplifting, light “Luv,” perfect for a spring day. The danceable “Rock With U” (phonetically the same title as brother Michael’s 1979 hit from Off the Wall) is somewhere between Duran Duran and Kylie Minogue. “2Nite” has a pop flair that makes me want to listen to it repeatedly. “The 1” with Missy Elliot shows us how effortlessly relevant Janet remains.

Janet continues the tradition of formatting her album with “interludes,” which are primarily spoken. While rarely reviewed, this element is one of my favorite aspects of a Janet album. She began doing it with Rhythm Nation, in which they are extremely effective in keeping the album cohesive and tying together what I see are basically the 3 sections of it – the socially conscious section, the lighthearted dance/pop section, and the ballad section. There’s nothing quite as brilliant as the 4-second “Get the point? Good, let’s dance” (which Michael lip-synched for his on-stage performance of “Dangerous”) on Discipline, but the club-setting “Bathroom Break” and the meant-to-be-provocative “The Meaning” keep the listener’s interest piqued.

The verdict is that Janet still has it. To be honest, she’s kind of up there in a league of her own compared to anyone else out there today. She has nothing to prove but proves it anyways. And listening to her music is always a delightful escapade : )

As a dancer, she pretty much has no comparison besides her own brother. For your pleasure, along with a Good Morning America performance of "Feedback," I include a little old school Janet, the “Rhythm Nation” video. I enjoy few dance sequences more - possibly only the video for Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

And the Golden Statuette Goes to...

Last night was the 80th Annual Academy Awards; I am so happy that Tilda Swinton won for Best Supporting Actress, Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor, and No Country For Old Men for Best Director and Best Picture.


Read more about the ceremony here.

Click here for photos.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Statistics are sexy

Of course, you probably didn’t think so the last time you had to calculate the probability of picking a red marble out of a basket, run an SPSS regression, or assemble a meta-analysis study of different data sets. Yet, I’ll admit there’s very little that’s sexier than someone objectively good-looking who has an exceedingly strong command of what he or she is talking about, imparting statistical information in front of some spiffy slides or charts. I become thoroughly absorbed, the rest of the world seems to fall away, and my mouth would be ever so slightly open.

In the case of CNN election coverage, it would be in front of some very high-tech LCD or plasma screens, and the reporter in question is chief national correspondent John King. Gasp! Not Anderson Cooper? As much as I loved the silver-haired, blue-eyed anchor, he doesn’t have the same grasp on politics . . . not by a long shot. It is King whose thinking and analyses are shrewd, nuanced, and impassioned.

I’ve enjoyed CNN election coverage thus far. It’s really quite entertaining to see seasoned reporters get worked up about Iowa and New Hampshire, some of the most sparsely populated states in the Union. It’s been engaging to watch them make judgments, backtrack on it, and try to explain where their thinking went wrong (as in the case of New Hampshire). It’s more to appease their shortcomings than for the benefit of viewers.

In the morass of these reporters, anchors, and pundits, there is a beacon of light that is King. He’s done his research. He places the emerging results from the primaries in historical context. He takes the time to explain things properly and thoroughly to the viewer. He delves into the complexity of the predictors of voting outcomes. Sometimes, he gets a little too excited and speaks a little too quickly, but I find this rather charming, as he is usually really quite sedate and level-headed. And wow, is he really good at using that complicated technology CNN has provided him.

Click here to see him in action.


Picture credits: CNN

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...

so expressed by William Congreve in his play "The Mourning Bride."

I was browsing when I came across this book written by University of Vermont professor Hilary Neroni. It's called The Violent Woman: Femininity, Narrative, And Violence In Contemporary American Cinema.


While debating if I should get this book, I did some searching and came across and interview and a book review. The interview is really neat; I'm xeroxing most of it:

INTERview: Hilary Neroni
The author of The Violent Woman discusses film and fur

By Amanda Waite
Article published June 23, 2005

Hilary Neroni, professor of film and television studies, met with the view on June 17 to discuss her new book, The Violent Woman: Femininity, Narrative, and Violence in Contemporary American Cinema (SUNY Press), which explores the recent emergence of violent female characters in mainstream productions. Previously confined to particular genres and historical situations, the violent woman can now be found across genres in contemporary film. The trend began with the release of Thelma and Louise, the 1991 film about two women who run from the law after killing a man who tries to rape one of them. The film sparked a public debate about violent women — a reaction, Neroni says, that mirrors the hysterical public response to real female murderers like Lizzie Borden and Susan Smith. In her book, Neroni explores the disruptive quality of the violent woman, paying particular attention to how the narrative of the film itself is affected by the presence of these traumatic characters.

What is it about violent women in film that inspires you to study the phenomenon?

I think that the reason I was drawn to talking about the violent woman is because she’s an extreme of the strong woman. You could do a similar study of strong, dramatic, women characters in film, but I think that the physicality of violence makes a nice extreme example that shines a very bright light on all these machinations of the ideological workings of masculinity and femininity and how very strongly ideology and Hollywood needs (masculinity and femininity) to be complimentary… Also, I was very fascinated how historically, until this moment, the violent woman had been confined to particular genres and was linked to historical moments of crisis and tension between genders that have been very well documented by theorists and historians, like after World War II or during and after the suffragette movement in the teens.

In your book, you discuss violent women as traumatic and show how films depicting violent women frequently attempt to heal that trauma by forcing women back into more familiar gender roles or by splitting the woman’s violence from her femininity. What do you think this reveals about the status of women in society today?

I tend to look at Hollywood films as the workings of contemporary ideology. There are trends going on socially, and Hollywood is reacting to those trends. Because it’s mainstream and it’s part of ideology, it at times works to contain those trends. But sometimes, by accident or not, it ends up celebrating a trend. I think that it’s not always a one-to-one indication of exactly what’s going on, but it’s an interesting indication of tension and angst. These days, it would be hard to imagine an action film in which a woman doesn’t do something to help the hero, whereas in the 80s, even the first Terminator film, it was very common to have the woman just along; she’s not someone who would help out. Today, I think every audience member starts to be frustrated if a woman is just hanging out — if someone’s in trouble and there’s a gun lying there and she doesn’t pick it up. It’s interesting to see how our expectations have changed. I think film is an important place to look at in terms of what’s happening in society. Gender roles are changing, and the movies are dealing with it in their own way.

Your book offers analyses of the violent female characters in Thelma and Louise, The Long Kiss Goodnight, G.I. Jane, Courage Under Fire and Tomorrow Never Dies, among other films. Are there any films that have been released since you sent the book to press that you would have liked to have written about?

Well, Mr. and Mrs. Smith just came out, and that would have been a great one to talk about…and then there’s Kill Bill, which I have in a couple of footnotes in the book, but I would have liked to talk about that further. Million Dollar Baby, which I was kind of mad at. Three quarters of the way through the film — one of the only mainstream, big blockbuster films with a woman boxer in it — she becomes a complete quadriplegic! You’ve got to be kidding me! Those films would have been fun to talk about, but that’s one of the things about a book like this one when it’s on a topic that clearly keeps going; the films keep going.

It must be rewarding to see that your work is still relevant…

I just keep waiting for mainstream Hollywood to prove me wrong! But it doesn’t.

Moving from the specific to the general, why do you think it is important to study film?

We walk around in our day, and everything presents on a screen. Our computer screens, our iPods, our telephones often, and then we watch television or go see a movie. Our days are so drenched in screens, so I think it’s essential for students to study film and television and be able to analyze video games and internet and film and television as texts and be analytical about the way in which ideology and society is working within these texts rather than just consuming them as entertainment. I think it’s the essential thing to study. It’s our contemporary existence.

Source: UVM publication

To read a book review, click here.


Originally posted at Sthemingway.