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16 September 2013 @ 12:25 am
So tonight's episode of Boardwalk Empire made me feel a lot of things about race and gender. Like A LOT of things. I'm putting my analysis under a cut just in case but I needed to articulate it a little. First, because I love the show and want to wrap my head around how to feel about this weirdly ambiguous thing I've watched and second, because it's weird... weird in a bad way...? Good way...? Miscalculated way...?

So that was a thing...Collapse )
02 July 2013 @ 09:33 pm
I saw this on tumblr and I had to respond.

I really enjoy the things that AQuietRevolutionary posts. She's even headed, fair, and open. She gets it, as we all like to say. BUT, this is something which people seem to agree with that I DON'T fully agree with. The piece basically says that labels are important and people who insist on not having any and wanting people to just be people are wrong. Some of the arguments are valid and sound. When you remove one groups insistence on being labelled you are robbing them of the choice to define themselves in a way they'd prefer. Not how YOU prefer but how THEY prefer.

But labels are also a way in which we continue to box each other in, even within our own little bubble of otherness, or own little community of marginalized people coming together to try and fight the hegemony together.

So for example, if you are bisexual but you don’t like the word bisexual. You don’t agree with that label for yourself. You are allowed to feel that way and consider yourself undefined and go on living your life having sex with men and women and want to be just a person in this world existing. Because we’re all not super clear on who we are and it takes a long time to get there and define ourselves in a way that makes us happy. All that on top of society and people in your own demographic (the gay/straight community) telling you that what you are isn’t real and that you can’t be bi because you’re probably just gay and in denial or straight and making a mockery of homosexuality. This is a real thing. In the gay community there is a lot of weirdness with regard to bisexuality.

In my own personal case, and case studies aren’t generalizable but bear with me please, I often feel a resistance toward telling others I am Chinese. Not because I am ashamed of being Chinese. I am very proud of my birth country, my ability to walk that line between eastern and western cultures, my bilingualism, and all the physical traits that come along with NOT being white. I feel a resistance toward ethnic and nationality labels because when you’re Asian, any Asian, there is a compulsion for EVERYONE (although more white people than black/Hispanic people because I suspect they get why it’s annoying) to try and guess who you are. What are you? Where are you from? No where are you FROM? I KNEW you were Chinese. See I could tell you apart. I’m good at that.

I hate it because it is once again the society I have come to identify most with is othering me. I am being put at the forefront as being alien and in order to complete my otherness this person must first identify where I am from. I’m from Delaware. No I mean where are you FROM? Like where were you BORN? I was born in China but in cases like this I lie. I am American now. That is the label I choose. I took a test and I renounced my Chinese citizenship. Don’t strip me of that because you aren’t able to grasp the idea that someone who is not white can possibly be native to your country.

So in some ways labels are good because we can choose to define ourselves by the one we choose and in doing so forcing society to except us on our own terms. But labels are dangerous when we INSIST on having them, even counter to an individual’s own wishes and desires and preferences. Are you bisexual? No. You’re not. You are gay. Step out of the closet already. Are you American? No. You’re not. You’re clearly some kind of Mexican or whatever. Are you Black? No. You’re not. You definitely look mixed. Labels make us rigid and can limit our own world views no matter how open minded or progressive we think we are. Even when we have been marginalized either as women or Chinese or homosexuals we can see someone else and marginalize them. Feminists and the big glaring issue in that community when it comes to minority women is one great example. Just because you are a white WOMAN doesn’t make you exempt from WHITE privilege.

My issue with the whole “where are you FROM thing" is probably especially relatable to people in the Latino and Hispanic community or African immigrants or Native Americans. For them it’s about the country or specific nation they are from. Are they Cuban? Ghanaian? Kenyan? Mexican? Cherokee? All of these countries and communities, no matter how small, have their own specific culture and history and what someone does by mistaking us for one thing when we are another or insisting we define ourselves for them, is lumping us together as one homogeneous group. Stripping us of our individuality and diminishing the importance of the myriad and spectrum of cultures and backgrounds that comes with being “Asian" or “Hispanic" or “Native American." People from African nations especially feel this because it is so often glued together into one giant landmass. So where are you from? Guinea. Guinea? It’s a country in Africa. OOOH so you’re AFRICAN! That is such a frequent complaint people from African nations have about Americans. No. They are not African. That is the name of the continent. These people have identities beyond just “Africa."

I understand the sense of community that can come from being just gay. The gay community is supportive, vibrant, and passionate. But at the same time we run the risk of forgetting how broad words like “gay" and “woman" and “black" are, that they mean something for one group but a completely different thing to other groups and that unless we truly understand that community and its nuances we can never truly understand what those labels mean to them.

So yes. Labels are important in some ways but they are only as important as how we define them, how rigid we are in our own belief systems, and how willing we are to allow people to find ways to personalize those labels for themselves. After all. People are individuals in very unique ways, in the very most basic ways of their genetics but also in the very most complex ways of their human experience. Gay, straight, cis, trans, Chinese, Latino, Woman, Man. These are all such broad demographics of people, even when some are so heavily marginalized. It is understandable to have that compulsion to be something more, to move beyond it, to find it restrictive when others find it liberating.
So I was on Tumblr which is usually the place I go for artsy things but I read this:

"of course guys think its attractive to have low self esteem it means they’ve succeeded in forcing you to internalize the bullshit that makes them the arbiters of your self worth and gives them power over you for your whole life don’t fall for it love yourself and delete what makes you beautiful from your itunes" ~LeoSquad (tumblr now defunct)

Now look, I don't think guys CONSCIOUSLY do this but I also think most guys are so USED to expecting girls to respond to this bullshit that they've been taught to spew that it's just a matter of fact guarantee. And if she already knows she's beautiful like what the hell are you going to say to her now? That she's cute? That you like her hair? What?!LKJ@!? It's the exact problem of white people not understanding why telling me my slanted eyes are so exotic and beautiful is creepy and uncomfortable or why asking me "what are you?" is a little bit racist. It's not KKK burning me at the cross racist but it's that sad truth that when you're used to being the dominant group it becomes second nature to externalize all other people and then treat them as alien by making a point to point out their otherness. This is not just a white person thing. It is a "dominant demographic" thing. In Thailand it was done with non-Thai people. In Ghana it was done with non-Ghanaians. It is a thing that people do and it is annoying even when it's a thing that they do.

Which leads me to...

Look. I think it’s sweet when guys are all, “you’re beautiful no matter what! Your smile! Your eyes! The way you laugh!" Ahahaha. Ha. Except that it’s kind of condescending isn’t it? And all part of the general issue which is that a woman’s worth to her men and to society is based on superficial outward features. If you’re “ugly" that’s ok because Bruno Mars thinks you’re beautiful anyway. If you have low self-esteem that’s ok! One Direction thinks it’s fucking HOT that you hate yourself. “That’s what makes you beautiful," they sing. And of course guys like to say, “Well you’re just being an over sensitive militant feminist. Give it a break. Like they’re just trying to say they love their woman no matter what." But no! He literally says, “the fact that you have low self-esteem is the key thing about you that makes you beautiful!" thus furthering the idea that a TRULY attractive woman is humble. She does not admit to her beauty. She does not carry herself with ego. She does not declare her own worth and talent to the world. If she does she’s a bitch. She’s a whore. She’s Angelina Jolie vs. Jennifer Aniston when both women are successful, smart, singular women who lead their own fucking lives and aren’t defined by whether or not Brad Pitt is fucking them. And it’s not that physical beauty shouldn’t be prized, because we’re human and we love beauty. Physical or otherwise. It’s that men are allowed to be strong, smart, fun, funny, successful, workaholics, angry, stoic, dangerous, and passionate and these are all things that people instinctively use to describe them in a positive light ALONG with them being handsome, muscular, or sparkly-eyed. But women? WOMEN?! All the songs are, “Oh she’s beautiful. Her smile is great. You are so beautiful! Beautiful girls all over the world! She’s so beautiful and I tell her every day! You don’t know you’re beautiful girl!" No. Fuck you.

Look, I am kind of an angry person when it comes to this and yeah, I’m speaking from the side of someone who has never had self-esteem issues aside from random little things like, “well maybe I could be taller or my arms are kind of hairy or I wish I had a six pack." I’m often told I’m attractive by the opposite sex and I’ve never been in doubt that I am in fact beautiful. And so perhaps I am speaking from the point of view of “attractive privilege" which is a thing and don't pretend like it's not but I’m also Asian which is one of the world’s most fetishized minorities, especially by white men, and I’m a woman so I understand being marginalized in some way, just not in every way, and as a woman in general it is demoralizing and dehumanizing to constantly be told from every outlet that you are worthy ONLY if you are attractive. You can be smart or strong or funny but none of that matters if you’re not ALSO attractive in some way. Either because your man considers you beautiful despite your imperfections (oh how big of him) or because you are actually beautiful. But never be proud of it! Never show how much you know you’re beautiful! Because women are told all their lives to hate that in themselves and in each other and men will feel threatened and so dismiss you as a bitch. Or maybe you are a bitch. Maybe you are kind of just a jerk. Well then people will say it’s because you’re beautiful and that’s why you’re like that. Not because you inherently have some deep personality flaw. No. You will always be judged in some way based on what you present on the surface.

So no. It’s not like I hate when a guy I like tells me I’m attractive. No one hates that. But I HATE the way guys have been taught to only say that as a means of a compliment. And I HATE the way that guys do it thinking that’s all you want to hear because honestly. I could live my entire fucking life never being told again that I’m beautiful. If every guy I ever dated from now on complimented me only on my intellect, physical strength, positive personality traits, or ability to blow a snot rocket I would be perfectly content. Because when you are a human who lives her life being defined by fleeting superficial traits and you allow yourself to define yourself that way you will only ever end up depressed and insecure. Why? Because it will always be a society that values youth and you will never be young forever. Because I refuse to let some superficial surface trait that has NOTHING to do with myself and everything to do with a happy marriage of genetics be that thing that defines me or the thing that other people define me by. I can do better than that and every person on earth with a penis has been taught since infancy that they are more than that. So why are women robbed of that choice? Do you CHOOSE to be defined only by your physical merits? Or do you CHOOSE to be something else? If you're a woman you will always have that giant soul sucking tick of beauty on your back no matter what else you accomplish or do with your life. But not Bill Gates. Not Donald Trump. Not Tiger Woods. They get to be more. So no. Don't tell me I'm beautiful. I already know that thanks. I don't need you around to boast my self-esteem like you are the gate keeper of my self-worth. Give it a fucking rest.
11 April 2013 @ 11:48 pm
So it's only 2 episodes so far but I'm really into this new NBC show Hannibal. Which probably means it will either be cancelled within the first 10 episodes or it will die a long slow death in which every year I have to bemoan how all my favorite shows are watched by me and 2 of my friends.

I wasn't sure about Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter when I first heard the news and thought they were going to make this an annoying procedural show like NCIS or Law & Order but (TWIST!) one of the crime fighters is a serial killer! No one's done that before!!!!


But now that I think about it, it was stupid. Mads Mikkelsen is fantastic. I watched Valhalla Rising the other day and was fascinated by the kind of emotion he could convey without saying a word and maintaining a stoic persona. Also, Nicolas Winding Refn has a problem with dialogue. Save for Bronson I can't recall watching a single movie done by him that wasn't filled with silence and mood music. What's up with that? And all of them featured surprising and oddly visceral violence.

As Lecter I think Mikkelsen is TOO weird. If he was my doctor I think I would've gotten the creeps from him. He's too cool, too collected, and he comes off almost emotionless. There is a certain charm to him but I always imagined Dr. Lecter as being quite relatable. Very charming. Like no one would notice that he was a complete psychopath because he could charm you with how urbane and cultured he was. Certainly he's making his way through the cast with his fantastic cooking, which by the way, is a really creepy and effective narrative device. We as the audience know who Hannibal is. The show takes advantage of the knowledge we bring into the show. He eats people. Who hasn't seen Silence of the Lambs? So in knowing this every scene in which he is eating or feeding someone we wonder, "is that really pork? Or is it a person?" And when you watch another character eat the food he prepares you visibly cringe. You don't know, they don't know, but they have the luxury of ignorance. We don't.

I love it.

But sometimes it's people. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's just pork.

But generally speaking I feel like Mikkelsen plays him in such a way that you wouldn't be surprised to learn he's a mass murderer. He's kind of creepy.....

The focus of the show is on Will Graham and his relationship with Lecter pre-Red Dragon. Back before Graham caught Lecter. I haven't read Red Dragon in a while. I know that Graham was written as a brilliant detective who was able to get into the heads of the killers but I don't remember him having an autism spectrum disorder. It's an interesting approach, I guess, except that there are already A LOT of these characters floating around. Abed. Temperance Brennan. River Tam. The issue with these sort of things is that the behavior isn't always consistent with an autism spectrum disorder and it's not always actually Asperger or whatever. Sometimes writers just borrow the behaviors as they see fit without quite understanding how these things work. We'll see where Will falls with that. The show has already stated he's on the very functional side of the spectrum but how strict are they going to be with this diagnosis?

Hugh Dancy plays Will good though. I like how they shape his character, how by the end of the second episode we as the audience begin to question just how much he is able to separate himself from the people he understands so well. Are you a bad person if you enjoy killing killers? Or are you a bad person for enjoying to kill in general?

Maybe it's partly my own tastes but I love that the show focuses heavily on the impact these cases have on the characters, on the emotional toll this work has taken on will. Then I love the way it's filtered through Dr. Lecter's cold methodical eyes and I love seeing how he sees things, seeing how he interprets Will and his struggling. Hannibal Lecter is one of my favorite fictional characters. I'm relieved and glad that Hannibal turned out to be something that does the character and the material justice and not something hackneyed and cliched like how it could have so easily gone.

One interesting thing I'm going to have to keep an eye out for is the journalist character, Freddie Lounds. Freddie was originally a male and I like the change to female given that Harris never offered a whole lot of female characters in his book sin general. But I always hated Freddie. Like HATED him. He was a complete dick. He ruined cases, obstructed justice, got into things he shouldn't be getting into, and I was constantly hoping someone would murder him. I started falling into old habits while watching episode too, wishing Lecter would just eat her and save me the grief. Making her female kind of forces me to reconsider my animosity toward the character. I want a more involved female character since the main cast is all men. There are a couple supporting females but they are supporting with a capitol "s." Freddie Lounds is annoying but she gets some things to do and is genuinely clever, albeit completely morally bankrupt and devoid of any remorse for anything that she does. I get the feeling Lecter will keep her alive simply because he finds her amusing but he wont allow her to continue to deconstruct Will who - let's just admit it - is hanging on by a thread emotionally speaking. I feel like Lecter likes Will but he also understands the serial killers in a way Will never will. He feels like these people should be allowed to do what they want and he doesn't care who dies, probably because that's how he feels. Lecter always functioned on a strange twisted sort of moral code. He respects Will for his ability to understand these killers and catch them but he also enjoys existing in a world where these killers can continue to do what they do.

But back to Freddie. I don't like that our first interesting female character is a moral-less slimebag, especially because unlike with the male characters we don't get a legitimate/morally ambiguous hero. The other is sort of a wet blanket and is obviously just the love interest. The FBI coroner, Beverly Katz is pretty cool though and I hope we get more of her. She doesn't flinch at dead bodies and she makes funny jokes. I'm interested to see where they go as the series continues and also, if the show is popular, how many seasons they would stretch out the Lecter thing. I mean, at some point, Will figures it out and catches him. But that would signify the end of the series. I don't know if NBC has the kind of integrity to let a show have a set number of seasons in order to create a real and well crafted series ender but I hope, if they cancel it within a few seasons, they give them enough warning to make it work.
14 January 2013 @ 11:14 pm
So I watched The Silver Linings Playbook tonight because I was bored, didn't want to study, and wanted to see people fall in love. Also I fucking LOOOVE Jennifer Lawrence. Can someone please explain to me how anyone in their right fucking mind would ever ever EVER cast Kirsten Stewart over her? In anything? Even the role of petulant teenager? Because you know Lawrence would be able to make it look more genuine than actual real life petulant teen Kirsten Stewart. I bring this up because there've been rumors. I'm not saying it's true but it's deeply troubling.

Anyway, the movie was great. I think when you get older (I'm 24 but bear with me here) you start to come to terms with things. For example, back in my teens I would NEVER admit to liking movies centered around romances. Just never. It was girly and gross and only stupid girls liked that stuff and I'm not a girl. I'm beyond that. I'm beyond girly stupid girl things.


But then I get older and I realized a lot of things, one of them being that as a woman I can define my womanhood however I want and I can be who I am, someone who enjoys potentially unhealthy portions of visual violence and rarely flinches at scary movies, and also enjoy a good quality love story. Sometimes it's nice to just see two people connect and work things out.

So anyway. Silver Linings Playbook. It was really good. I've never been especially drawn to Bradley Cooper's acting but I have to say he impressed me here. The entire cast was pretty winning. The story centers around two mentally ill people who through an uneasy friendship manage to make each other better. At first I had some serious issues with the portrayal of Tiffany, Lawrence's character. The world "whore" and "slut" was thrown around A LOT. But I decided I'd see where they were going with it.

The movie didn't shy away from the stigmas geared toward the mentally ill and the way that manifests against women and men. Promiscuity is not an uncommon way in which some women deal with depression and anxiety. It makes sense for several of the characters in the film to see Tiffany and her behavior and judge her. The filmmaker (a man) doesn't spare us from the male gaze either. Lawrence is stunning and the camera and the cameramen know it. But what I liked was the way the main character treated Tiffany. Wary of her, yet intrigued, he allows her to rope him into a dance competition in exchange for a potential reconciliation with his estranged wife. Tiffany, for her part, does try to help him. At first he has the same reservations about Tiffany as many do. Only he's very vocal about it. But as he gets to know her he learns to realize his own faults and misconceptions and he apologizes to Tiffany as well as displays real respect for her. That part is important because often times filmmakers ask us to just assume the male protagonist apologized for his indiscretions, especially those meant to insult a woman's sexual motives and practices, but Silver Linings actually puts it on camera. Yes Tiffany has been around the block. No that doesn't indicate anything about her quality as a person and no it doesn't mean it's ok to proposition her for sex.

The film makes Tiffany into a clearly unstable, deeply unpleasant, and yet sympathetic character. She's smart. She's funny. And she actually cares. I was worried they were going for the insane manipulative bitch who is turned into a better person by our male character storyline but was pleasantly surprised when it didn't turn out that way. Instead the movie steered us one way but laying bare our own misconceptions about a woman who sleeps with 11 people to deal with her husband's death and then turning it around to show Tiffany's genuine willingness to help Pat (Cooper's character) recover or at least find some sort of stability in his life.

She's not perfect. One scene in particular shows how Tiffany has earned her reputation among the denizens of her neighborhood. But at the same time you understand why she's better for Pat than his wife, who comes off as unfaithful but not insane or mentally ill. Which is another thing I'm on the fence but leaning toward positive about. There's not really any slut shaming over Pat's wife cheating on him, which is what led to his outburst which is what put him in the mental hospital int he first place. Bit by bit it's revealed that Nikki was demanding and that her and Pat's marriage was troubled but there's never a sense that it's all her fault. It's implied that Pat's continued instability and inability to deal with his bipolar disorder had put a strain on their marriage for quite some time. Pat's continued obsession with Nikki wasn't out of love but out of years of insecurity. He couldn't let her go because she was the first woman who loved him and made him feel good about himself, even as an overweight underachieving nobody.

Tiffany's husband on the other hand understood her. He was willing to work with her and help her. Their marriage ended because he died, not because she drove him away. One of the character's greatest traits was her honesty and how we were supposed appreciate it and respect it. She knows that she's promiscuous but she not going to apologize or feel ashamed for it. It didn't make it ok for men to assume she wanted to have sex with THEM, only that she was willing to have sex with more than one man. It didn't mean that she was befriending Pat based on sexual attracting. It only meant that she needed companionship as much as he did.

With all that said, the main issue I have with the film is how much the focus is on Pat. The movie is about Pat. That's fine. He's the main character. But I really don't think there's enough done to really explain how he's helped Tiffany. Tiffany began to get better too from her interactions with Pat. She didn't just exist so that Pat could get better. She's more than just the cure. She was a human being her was dealing with her own struggles. The film explains her backstory and Lawrence imbues her with real life and pathos but pretty much the entire film Tiffany is serving Pat's story. Sure Pat agrees with dance with her but he does it so that she'll help him. In the end the dancing helped toward HIS recovery. I would have been nice to get more on Tiffany's relationship with her sister so that it was as well reconciled as Pat's relationship with his brother. This would've also been nice because Tiffany's sister was played by Julia Stiles and when you underutilize Julia Stiles like that it's just wrong.

In the end the best part of the film was still Lawrence. She's once of those awesome actresses who can convey so much emotion with just a deadpan face. I really can't wait for her to do more independent films like this. Big budget films like the Hunger Games and X-men are great because it puts her on the map, gives her some extra cash, and allows her to continue to pick roles she wants to do. But stuff like this is where she really shines.
19 December 2012 @ 06:04 pm
So there has been some dialogue about the role of mental illness in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. If mental health care was better could it have been prevented? Are withdrawn violent prone children the future mass murderers of America? Can you determine something like that from early behavioral patterns?

It suddenly occurred to me that these are some of the questions addressed in two very different films. One is Looper and the other is We Need to Talk About Kevin. Both feature mothers who take care of troubled withdrawn children. And of course it's always the struggle of the mother in the role of caretaker. The children are smart but have some kind of autism spectrum disorder. The children appear antisocial, sometimes even violent, and we as an audience are asked to question whether these children are safe or good for society.

It's an interesting thought because they're children. But even children in this society are put under the kind of black and white judgement so common in American rhetoric. Good innocent children are blameless and mourned. Bad children who kill their families, shoot their classmates, and (in the case of females) show their breasts to strangers have to some degree "it coming." When you kill someone unprompted and without reason that is wrong. That is a given. But you can't put a child (someone under 18) into the same category as adults. People like to think that they can but they can't. Developmentally and biologically that doesn't make any sense.

I think that's what I love so much about Looper. Is someone born evil or do they become evil? Can you look at a murderer and go, "oh yeah I can see how his life has led up to him becoming a murderer." In the end there are too many factors involved in turning someone from zero to murder to attribute it only to biology. Or abuse. Or circumstance. For example, the 12-year-old child a while back who shot his mother and sibling? That was terrible but I was disgusted by the response many had. Throw that kid in jail. Of course he deserves life. He should be tried as an adult for his crimes. Fuck him. So our response as a society is to take someone who has not even matured to any definition of a 21st century adult and put them into the system for the rest of their lives? Where they can subsist off of tax dollars, gain access to health care that most Americans who aren't incarcerated can only dream of, and languish behind bars forever? That's the solution? So often people's responses are simply to punish but they don't think about what happens after.

A little extra time spent trying to understand why these things happen and how you can assist parents with troubled children, children who have issues dealing with anger and normal social cues, could make all the difference. But not just to prevent murders. So that you can help every person out there be a benefit to society, not a burden. So that you aren't marked from day one by your mental illnesses and your past mistakes. I mean for fuck's sake, I guarantee a legitimate mental health care bill costs five times less than what we spend annually on the goddamned military.

My second thought of the day?

Angelina Jolie's directing a movie about a WWII POW. I mention this because I find the vitriol around Jolie to be interesting and also a prime example of how our society tries to pit women against one another. Why do people hate Jolie? Because she's pretentious? Because she's so fake? Because she stole a married man away from America's sweetheart? Because she's probably a bitch and also she's weird looking and GOD she's just annoying!

These aren't real reasons to hate anyone, especially because if you ask someone why they think she's fake they'll say something along the lines of, "well I mean, all that humanitarian work she does. You know she's just doing it for attention. Or whatever."

Oh REALLY!? You think she travels around the globe living in horrible conditions working with refugees and disease ridden populations for attention?! It reminds me of this Cracked article C posted on Facebook. In it the guy wrote that people will always try and shit on people who do things, who create things, who make something of themselves. Jolie is a beautiful woman who has become one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood. And she doesn't like to be nice all the time and she doesn't always give interviews and sometimes she's weird and she's not candid about her life and when you ask her about it she gets defensive. She doesn't think her job as an actress is the most important thing in her life and she let's her daughter dress like a boy and cut her hair short and play with BB guns.

So of course when she does something like "direct a movie!!" she has shit on. Oh now she thinks she can direct? What a fucking snob.

No you asshole. She's trying to create something.

Oh of COOOURRSE she's making a film about Bosnia because she's SOOOO self-righteous.

Like no. Just. Fuck you.

Look. I'm sure that woman has an ego the size of Jupiter on her. I'm sure she's extremely self-confident, doesn't like to talk to just anyone, and thinks some of the stuff she does is incredibly important. Well you know what? No one shat on Steve Jobs for that kind of behavior and he didn't exactly start a Bill and Melinda Gates foundation or anything. No Jolie didn't invent the iPad but what the hell is anyone else doing to make this world better? Are we supposed to be mad at her for deciding that the first piece of work she is going to create for herself is going to be something that highlights a really horrible woman's rights failure in human history? Am I supposed to be smug that it wasn't a critical darling even though it was her first movie and no one's first movie is the Godfather?

People love to attack the character of others, especially women, in order to diminish their accomplishments and demonize them for the things they do. I'm not Jolie's biggest fan. I mean... I guess she was good in Girl Interrupted but other than that I've never been crazy impressed with her acting. I am impressed with her humanitarian work though. I don't give a shit why she does what she does. She's still a thousand times better than me or probably 99.9% of the people out there who like to give her shit for it. Because she's already contributed more to society than me or those assholes.

In fact I kind of love that she's always seemed like someone who really just doesn't care. Her entire persona seems to boil down to, "Oh you think my role as a goodwill ambassador is a put on? That's so cute. I'm going to go meet with the ambassador to Egypt now, right before I go bang my smoking hot husband and take care of my half dozen young children. Because I couldn't give a flying fuck."
10 December 2012 @ 08:11 pm
I had this extreme desire to rewatch Red (that movie about retiree spies) and I'm 8 minutes in and I have some thoughts. Thoughts like Willis's relationship with the pension lady. That's creepy right? It's creepy. She's some lady on the phone and then they're flirting and then he's asking her out and how has HR not talked to her already? I mean they make it seem sweet but I stop and think about it and it's weird. And preposterous. There's no way that would happen in real life.

Also the first action scene is terrible. The quick cuts and swooshing cameras is supposed to make the action look faster and more impressive but why do you need to do that? I get if this was Morgan Freeman and he doesn't really do action that often but it's mother fucking Bruce Willis. He's impressive enough on his own without the aid of fancy camera editing. So annoying.
09 December 2012 @ 10:01 pm
So it's been a few weeks and NaNoWriMo is done. Which is great. This year was kind of weird. I felt really unmotivated and getting my words in was really hard and I really felt like I didn't know where I was going with the piece. I don't know what's been happening with me writing wise recently but this entire year has been kind of a bust in that area. That's why NaNo was especially valuable this year. You can't just sit there waiting for inspiration to strike you so that you can pour out a million words. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to sit down and write something.

I haven't really worked on it since November 30th and that's because I want to really figure out what I want to do for the rest of the book. Then C and I are going to do something crazy and attempt 50,000 words in a day and I'll finish the novel (hopefully) on that day. With significantly fewer road blocks.

The holidays are coming up though so I've been scrambling to get my Christmas shopping done. Also I think part of why I haven't really been exploring my creative side is because I've been busy getting jacked. Or at least trying to get jacked. The gym I belong to isn't an affiliate of Crossfit but it's the same concept and format. It's addictive. When people talk about the cult of Crossfit they're not lying. You walk in there and you do something crazy like put 95 pounds over your head and it feels amazing. You want to do more. You want to keep going. Yesterday I went to a Crossfit competition that some of my gym people were in and I watched a girl clean and jerk 205 pounds. She didn't hold it for long enough so the attempt didn't count but it was still amazing to watch. Really inspiring. More so was the girl who completed 185lb who was about my size and build but obviously way stronger. Watching the girls do these things just made me want to hit the gym and do squats forever. I should think it's obvious but it is empowering and addicting to put a barbell in your hands and lift weight.

For the most part I've never been the kind of person who considers the exercises I do based on how I'll look in a bathing suit or in order to lose weight or to fulfill some kind of superficial vanity in myself. I just want to be strong and fast and unstoppable. So for the last month and some change I've started doing the Crossfit workouts and a strength training regime my trainer wrote out for me. I admit that I fed into the idea that only men do bench presses, that if I do stuff like bent over rows or bench presses I'll look like a man and that it will be unattractive. Because while for the most part I don't feed into the idea of female bodies and some prescribed idea of beauty I am still a product of my society. That is something that will always be on the back of my mind affecting my views, my feelings about my own body, and my opinions. The whole part of doing what I want to do and not giving a shit about outside opinions and values is fighting whatever indoctrination that's seeped into my brain from every LCD screen and piece of paper in existence.

So yeah getting under that bar and doing a bench press felt weird at first but the benefits were fast. Really fast. Everything that my trainer had me working on, targeting my shoulders and pecs, my back and my lats, it all combined to help me do my first pull-up since grade school! One day I just jumped on that bar and tried it and to my surprise I kept going up. I didn't burn out after lifting my body two inches. I did work and it was amazing and my chin went over that bar and I did it a second time and I was thinking to myself, "this shit works!" The moment that happened I had to keep going. I want to be that girl who clean and jerks 205 pounds. I want to deadlift over 200lb. I want to do 30 burpees in under a minute. Goals man. You set them and then you crush them. Or something. Back in April I made a list of goals.

1. Front and side splits. I'm so close but yet so far!
2. Going back into and recovering from a bridge. Thus far I can get into a bridge from the floor and if I try really hard I can get up from it but I cannot go back into one. A huge part of it is fear. I'm convinced I'm going to fall on my face and break my neck.
3. Be able to do pull-ups without a band for all work outs at the gym
4. Be able to do regular push-ups for all workouts at the gym
5. Do a full pike on an exercise ball. Right now I can only do the ball tuck.
6. Run a 7 minute mile. Currently my recorded best time for the mile is 9 minutes.
7. Run 10 miles continuously. Right now my longest length is 4.5 mi. The goal is to get my time really good for that length and then work my way up.
8. Handstand push-ups. This is a skill that gets put into work outs at the gym but I cannot do them so I do the rookie alternative. I want to be able to get into the push-up without walking up the wall and then eventually be able to do a handstand independent of the wall.
9. Deadlift 200 pounds.
10. Beat this girl Melissa at the gym in at least one work out using the same conditions she uses. This girl is crazy awesome. If I can best her time using her weights I'll be beastly.
11. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is something my old college roommate and I have put down for next summer and it's happening. Essentially all of my obsessive working out is to keep my strength up for the ultimate training next year that will need to be done in order to conquer that mountain.
12. This isn't really an immediate goal but it's nice to put on here as future thinking. One day, at some point, I would like to run a marathon.
13. Also. Fly.

Approximately 7 months later here is where I stand on these goals:

1. I can do the splits now and I'm working on the over splits to increase flexibility and make them real comfortable. The straddle still isn't there yet but I'm going to make it happen bitches.
2. The bridge is something I dropped off working on. I'm going to try and get back on it since I'm working on everything else.
3. I can do pull-ups now. But I can probably only do a few at a time. It's progress but I have a while before I can do them unassisted for the actual workouts.
4. Regular push-ups though? That's been handled. I am doing them and they are so much easier now than they were back in January. You don't realize the kind of improvements you're making until you do a simple body weight exercise like push-ups and you realize it's so much easier than it was before.
5. Full pike is accomplished too. I need to work on it more to make me stronger because I think it'll help with the bridge.
6. and 7. My running has been nonexistent though. During winter I just don't have any motivation to run. Instead I focus on the interval and high intensity training that is part of a Crossfit routine. It's 20 minutes of work but it has helped with my stamina and endurance a great deal. Something I am currently working on though is breath control. Really good breath control is the technique I've always been shitty at.
8. I'm a long way from this. We'll just leave it at that.
9. My current one rep max is 155lb. It's 45 pounds and I'm going to get there. My last one rep max was 130. It seems like so long to only improve 20 pounds but I know sometimes progress can be slow. I hope I can make faster gains now that I'm also focusing on strict strength training.
10. Melissa is still a beast. There is no contest.
11. Unfortunately Kilimanjaro wont be happening. My friend's foot is a beast that cannot be tamed and she will not be recovered in time for such a rigorous and demanding hike. I will do this one day though. Just maybe not in 2013.
12. Right now a half is more reasonable.
13. But I can fly. It's amazing. Also the air is cold up there.

I'll wait until the New Year to set new goals but I am actually surprised by how many of them I've managed to hit. They kind of just snuck up on me but I never stopped going for it. Now all I need is to learn how to shoot properly and I'll be 100% ready for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Speaking of zombies, I'm a few episodes from being completely caught up with the Walking Dead. Watching season 3 has only increased my critical and often times disappointed views on gender dynamics in that show. It's part of why I abandoned it in the first place. That and the total lack of character development, the erratic plots, and the aimlessness of the story. Still, the zombies are fucking awesome to look at, the action is good, and there is so much going on that could be right if only the writers could get their shit together.

I also need to catch up on Fringe. But I don't want to. This is the last season guys. If I never watch them it'll be like the show never ended.

23 November 2012 @ 01:36 am
So I watched Looper today and it was amazing. Like really really really good. It's a movie about time travel and though I had some questions about the logistics of the time travel (as is want to happen with all time travel films), the plot itself was very interesting. I especially enjoyed the motivations of the characters and why they do what they do. Also the implications of going into the past to change the future. It's something lots of people address but I don't know many who've addressed it quite like this. I would say it's a more compassionate spin on the concept than what others have done.

I'm here actually to comment about one scene in particular though. I keep thinking about it and playing it in my brain because it is just perfect. From a writer's perspective, from a story teller's perspective, I thought it was such an effective way of conveying horror and brutality.

Basically Loopers are people who live in the past and kill people who get sent to them from the future. They eventually must confront their own selves though because in thirty years they themselves are to be sent back to be executed. Sometimes people fail at doing this and when this happens both of their versions must be hunted down and taken care of. One of the ancillary characters fails to kill himself and allows himself to get away. His name is Seth. Old Seth gets away and Young Seth gets captured. We don't ever see what happens to Young Seth although we know he is in the custody of his bosses. We do however catch up with Old Seth. As Old Seth is trying to escape he notices that his fingers are going missing one by one.

As the audience you immediately realize that whatever his happening to him is being done to his younger self at that very moment. On his arm he sees instructions etched into his forearm. He needs to go to a specific location at a specific time. One his way to get there more of his limbs begin disappearing. First his fingers. Then his nose. Then his feet. Then his forearms. And so on and so forth until he is crawling to the door of his destination and piece by piece his limbs just disappear, his cloths sag, and he's just this torso lying on the floor outside this door. Then the door opens and this guy shoots him in the face.

In the background you see medical equipment and someone on a bed attached to a respirator. You don't really see a person but you assume that's Young Seth, who will be kept alive for the next thirty years so that he can then be executed.

I absolutely loved this scene. It was such an elegant way of giving you torture but not showing you anything. In your brain you can only imagine the kind of hellish pain Young Seth is in as his body is slowly removed from itself piece by piece. But instead of showing you the torture, which would be gruesome but boring, we see Old Seth struggling to escape as what is being done to his young self immediately impacts his body. And as an audience member you look on in horror and disgust because you don't need to see it. You can already imagine it. It's more horrifying in fact because you are being asked to think about it in your head, to just picture in your mind what is being done to Young Seth.

It's fantastic.
18 November 2012 @ 04:47 pm
So before we discuss NaNoWriMo I just wanted to wax poetic about Xena. For a bit. Because I haven't done that in a while.

I was watching with my sister because we are desperately trying to get to the musical episode and I realized something. Almost all of Xena's significant relationships in the show are with women. By significant I mean people who had a deep and lasting impact on her life. There are three men of note: Borias, Caesar, and Ares. Borias was by far the most positive influence (after first being one of the most toxic). The rest are all women. There's Alti, Lao Ma, Gabrielle, Callisto, M'Lila (the slave girl who taught her pressure points), her own daughter Eve, Grinhilda (a story arc in around season 5 or 6), an Akemi (season finale). Her mother of course is also a recurring character. It's really interesting because while Xena has sexual and obviously pleasurable relationships with men, her truly deep loving and lasting bonds are with women. I've always believed that Xena was bisexual. While she enjoyed the company of men and women she only really truly ever loved women.

But what I find interesting is how these days TV shows and movies always pair female heroes with men. Olivia from Fringe has Peter and Walter Bishop. Astrid is there but they don't interact nearly as much as they should. All their adversaries are men and all the mentors who influenced Olivia are men. Sarah from Chuck has the same issue. Studios recognize that they need to create an illusion of gender equality but then maroon these fantastic female characters in a sea of men. There really aren't enough female interactions in media. That's why it's so remarkable what Xena: Warrior Princess did. Xena's most influential mentors were women, powerful women of different philosophies and ethnicities. Xena's greatest enemies were women and Xena's greatest friendships were with women. Why can't more shows do that? It really doesn't make any sense.

Thank God for Parks and Rec and Community but sadly those two shows don't get great ratings.

So anyway. NaNoWriMo. Word count is doing ok. I have 1,000 words to hit the quota for today but I'm hoping to get past that at least by a few hundred. I think I'm having issues because I didn't write a thorough outline so I'm not 100% sure what I'm doing. It's not as thrilling as you'd think. It's going slow because I don't want to meander and write a bunch of useless crap. I want to keep the plot moving forward. It's sort of working? I don't know. I was going to write something more meaningful about the process of writing or something but actually I'm not going to because I mostly wanted to talk about Xena.

I suck.

Oh but here's an excerpt I guess:

“Ok so you do realize that if we fail any of the portions to this test the unit could explode right?”

Val nodded. “Yes, I know that.”

“So uh…how do you plan on getting Alex’s hand print?”

“I’m going to go to the morgue and steal her right hand.”

Pratt narrowed his eyes at Val. “That’s not funny. I really can’t tell if you’re kidding or not.”

Val replied with a sideways grin and a shrug. “It probably won’t come to that. I believe I have a copy of her hand prints on file.”

“What? Why do you have that? Do you have mine too?”

Val shrugged again. “Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t.”

“Seriously, Val. Do you? I didn’t sit down for that.”

“I’m a master spy, Pratt. I don’t need you to sit down and make finger paintings for me to get one of your hand prints.”

Pratt stared down at his keyboard, then over at the mug of cold coffee sitting to the right of his keyboard. Then he looked back at Val, frowning. “Sometimes I hate you."