Archives for the Month of September 2009 on Cereal Monogamist
When What You Think You Know is Not What is True
Today I took the bus onto campus to do a little work, and, to my relief, I actually did some work (mostly related to Toni Morrison, two of whose novels will provide the textual basis for my paper about the function of gossip and the sharing of superstition in communities of African American women). Yesterday, I admit I lived a bit of a cliche, facing my recent life changes by wallowing in bed all day and watching half the first season of Lost on Netflix Instant. Work is going to have to be extremely important to me for the next few months (though, I daresay Netflix Instant will be a big help, too).
Today on the bus, a guy in the seat in front of me was reading a self-help book. There was a list of "things we tell ourselves" and my nearsighted self could mostly make out what it said. I did not lean in too close, because the guy was a bit smelly.
Anyway, one of the entries on the list really spoke to me. It said, "I think because I am good to people that people are good to me." Wow.
Don't misunderstand the diction here, which is a little ambiguous. The writers of self-help manuals do not tend to be masters of the linguistic arts. What the statement is not saying is, "one reason people are good to me is probably because I am good to them in return. Basic cause and effect."
No. The book is saying, to people like me, and probably like this smelly guy, and anyone else who needs self-help books and therapists and cathartic blog-writing, "Just because you treat people well does not mean that they respond in kind. You may get along well with everybody, and proceed generally without conflict. DO NOT MISTAKE THIS FEELING FOR THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS ARE MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE."
Some of us are putting good things out there all the time, trying to be selfless, trying to make other people feel better. Eventually, you have to ask yourself, "Who does this for me?" When you realize that the answer is, "Nobody," then you know you have a problem.
Sorry to my blog audience--you know, my immediate family and those spammers who are advertising acai berry pills and teeth whitening systems?--for the radio silence this week. I've been dealing with some personal issues that have somewhat overwhelmed my ability to concentrate on writing snarky comments about television and stuff.
The good news is that some major life decisions have been made, and discussions of that will follow.
Emmys Day-After Recap
I’ve got my Emmy food (pizza and mint creme Oreos) and I’m ready to go!
Neil Patrick Harris is totally cool. He’s singing and dancing, he’s wearing a white dinner jacket, and I think he just insulted Two and a Half Men. (Theme songs are getting so short, next year’s theme to the show will just be "meh." HA!) Later: I love the way he keeps introducing people from their obscure early credits (“from the 1987 Afterschool Special…”).
Click ahead for much much more!
Fun and games
Jeremy and I went to a birthday party for one of his coworkers last night. The party was OK--and anyone who chooses a birthday cheesecake can be my friend--but the true event of the evening was when we discovered that we kick ass at Mad Gab.
This is the game where you get a card with a nonsense phrase on it, have to say it aloud, and try to translate it into a common colloquial phrase or saying. Like this:
"Up Racked Hick Gulch Oak" equals "A practical joke"
"Rye Doubt These Dorm" equals "Ride out the storm"
The game is enormously frustrating because as you say the nonsense phrase aloud, everyone else can hear what you're saying ("a practical joke") but your mind is so focused on "up racked hick..." that it's difficult to make the connection. It's quite hilarious to hear someone saying, "A prACTical joke. A practicULL joke. A practical joke? I have no idea what I'm saying."
It's comparable in difficulty to that name-the-color game, where you see the word "blue," but it's written in red and you have to try to identify it as red. It's hard because you're reading "blue."
Jeremy and I pretty much figured it out, though. You have to play with the stresses, putting the emphasis in different places experimentally. Also, some of the nonsense phrases are better-rendered than others, so you sometimes have to try eliminating consonant sounds, for example, dropping the "g" in "gulch" in "Up racked hick gulch oak."
Edited to add: Found the other game online! For real, try it.
It Was a Fine Day...
Some friends of mine got married in Seattle in August. Unfortunately, I'm poor and couldn't join in their festivities.
They sent some photos out over the Internet today, and I am relieved to find that my absence did not hang over their heads that day. They're both smiling. They had a good time. Also, they had their one-month anniversary last week!
Congrats, Becky and James! You guys looked great.
MASH, Cuckoo’s Nest, and Internalized Sexism in American Culture
I promised earlier that I would elaborate on why both of these classic films made my AFI hate list and why I pegged them as being sexist. Here I am. Let me first note, for the record, that I have not read Ken Kesey’s book, on which one film is based, nor have I seen any episodes of the TV show spawned by the other film. All my criticisms are restricted entirely to the two movies.
It’s like this; both of these movies were all about that seventies-era rebellion (Easy Riders and Raging Bulls) in which any kind of institution is bad, and rocking the boat is good, even if it makes you an ass. The characters played by Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland in MASH were, frankly, jerks. Not just to the nurses, not just to their nemesis “Hot-Lips” O’Houlihan (I report that nickname with the same distaste I would have holding a dirty diaper between two fingers). They are jerks to each other, to their superiors, to everybody. Being a jerk was apparently very edgy and cool in the 70s, or so this movie would have you believe. Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest was also a jerk. It seemed that he was put into the mental institution because he had played crazy to get out of work duty while in jail, and that he thought this was a pretty awesome plot. Forgive me if I don’t think the same.
Click ahead for more.
Staying in school is apparently controversial
Really, the reason President Obama's speech to school children was considered 'controversial' is because he chose to make one at all. Some school districts banned their students from watching the speech; some just allowed their parents to 'opt out' their kids. Why? So they could avoid socialist indoctrination! The right wing is apparently feeling so powerless against Obama's monster charisma that they are seeking to shield their children from seeing him or hearing him at all. (Don't get sucked into his liberal vortex! He'll hypnotize you with his eyes!)
I hope if any of those parents have any education themselves, they're feeling really stupid today, now that the full text of the speech as well as video is online. They can read or see for themselves now and discover that actually, Obama is hammering home the message of personal responsibility, pretty much the most un-socialist tenet there is. You have to stay in school, you have to want to learn, you have to work hard. That's what he said. Don't expect handouts. Don't expect to make a living as a rapper, a professional basketball player, or (this was my favorite) a reality TV star. You know that there are teenagers of all colors out there right now thinking that their golden ticket is not law school, but in fact VH1 and its multiple opportunities to date aging rock stars.
I continue to be surprised by how Obama repeatedly encourages Americans, especially minority Americans, not to allow racism, lowered expectations, or social circumstances to stand in the way of success. Here he tells the members of the NAACP that they need to stand up and raise their kids right. He's drawn some real controversy (legitimate controversy, not stupid controversy) for making statements like this. Some people believe that even a well-intentioned kid can't survive in a broken institution, and that first we have to fix the institution. But Obama's about tough love--don't wait for someone else to lay out the red carpet, I got up at 4:30 in the morning to study, and so must you.
There are a lot of valid viewpoints on both sides of this stance that he's taking. But I think one thing we can agree on is that our president has a lot of nerve, and that's very cool.
to the NAACP: "I want [your children's] horizons to be limitless. I don't -- don't tell them they can't do something. Don't feed our children with a sense of -- that somehow because of their race that they cannot achieve."
to schools, yesterday: "But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying."
Another carb addict in the family
Probably my nephew was just sleepy. But I like to imagine that he's thinking, "Macaroni and cheese...is SO...GOOD." Ah, to be one year old and living on the good old orange stuff.
Even though nobody asked, my favorite mac and cheese recipe is a slow-cooker recipe by Paula Deen. So, so delicious. I look quite a bit like Brandon there when it's gone. Luckily, the recipe makes 12 servings, so it takes like, three days for the two people who live in my house to finish it. Don't do that math, please.
Movie Review: Western Round-Up
I watched four westerns in one day during my Summer Movie Watch, and a fifth before it was over. Recently, I watched a sixth western just for the hell of it, during TCM’s Summer of the Stars. (It was Glenn Ford day, which was also the first time I saw the amazing Gilda.)
Anyway, that’s a lot of movies to juggle for a single review; also, my recall is not so strong that I can devote tons and tons of words to all of those movies. Still, I have westerns on the brain because I've been researching Tarantino movies for my film class and his work is heavily inspired by classic westerns (including his recent WWII epic, Inglourious Basterds).
So, instead of writing standard reviews, I have commented on a few interesting aspects of the individual films I watched and will allow my readers to draw their own comparisons. Please note: Spoilers ahead, though the majority of them are 40 years or older.
When Entertainment Headlines are Not a Shock
Because when the celebrity in question in Russell Crowe, this seems like...something he would do.
Full story here.
Shameful Movie Cliches
Seen yesterday at The AV Club: Which movie clichés would you like to see abolished from culture?
They hit a lot of my favorite bad clichés—even “Cool guys don’t look at explosions!”—and Tasha Robinson’s inclusion of the suddenly whiny wife is one of my favorites. Gone Baby Gone had a pretty terrible one—I remember commenting to Jeremy after that movie, “Hey, you know why Michelle Monaghan left Casey Affleck at the end of the movie?” “Why?” “So we would know how completely the case destroyed his life. You know, in case we weren’t getting that.”
Here are some other clichés that make me groan, roll my eyes, slap my forehead comically, or sometimes just say, “Oh, hell no”:
- characters explaining who they are to each other so that the viewers at home understand the relationships: “Jennifer, we’ve been best friends since we were 5! We shouldn’t have any secrets from each other”
- revealing that a character is pregnant by having her faint or vomit in one scene and facing the positive pregnancy test (and/or doctor) in the next
- guys who jog on sandy beaches at sunrise live charmed lives, but if they are running on a treadmill, they are soulless, bourgeois go-getters
- the hero is a crack shot who can take out the villain with one bullet between the eyes; the villain's forty-seven henchmen were unable to so much as wound the hero, instead sending bullets whizzing past his head, where they lodge themselves in the drywall
- crime thrillers in which detectives input evidence into ADVANCED HIGH TECH MACHINERY and get all the answers they needed, and/or seek the assistance of psychics or otherwise spiritual people who can “envision” the crime, all so the detective may avoid any type of critical thinking or, you know, investigation
- the mom bustling around the kitchen in the morning serving eggs and bacon and orange juice; while the dad and the kids race through, on their way to somewhere, mom idles away, as though she has nothing to do until 6pm when it’s time for her to serve everyone another meal
- the morbidly obese person as un-self-conscious sex maniac
- the girl who was a nerd in high school who (for some reason) wanted to date the dumb, sadistic captain of the football time
- superhumanly attractive actresses who are thought to be more relatable if they have boy’s names like Alex, and/or fall down a lot
- montages where an actress tries on a bunch of outfits or different pairs of shoes
- romantic comedies where the couple's fights are about the guy leaving the toilet seat up or the cap off the toothpaste (get better things to fight about!)
- romantic comedies where the protagonist whines that they “just want to grow old with somebody!”
- romantic comedies where the couple’s relationship is established through a series of still photos of the two of them gazing into each other’s eyes and/or kissing—who continually takes pictures of themselves nuzzling each other?
- romantic comedies in general
There's room for more hated cliches in the comments!