Friday, December 18, 2009

Searching the Stars

A friend of mine recently got dumped, and I’ve been solicited for dating advice. I guess I should preface this with the fact that most of my friends are male, and most of them are younger than me, so whenever one of them gets dumped the conversation goes the same way: “Why do I always get dumped? You’re a girl. And you’re older. And you have a PhD. What’s going on?” And so as not to be blacklisted from my little group for sounding too academic, I resort to pop culture to solve these problems. My latest answer: astrology.

I’m not the biggest believer in superstitious things, but astrology seems to fall into the same category as stereotypes for me – they exist for a reason because of patterns of behavior, and while not definitive, can offer some clarity and piece of mind (no matter how frivolous). I often find interesting patterns across astrological signs, to the point that I can often guess a student's sign just by a series of classroom behaviors (yes, I know how weird that sounds). So, I looked up my friend’s sign and found out a lot of interesting things about myself in the process.

There are lots of theories about this stuff – in general, the basic zodiac signs (or Sun signs) have matches that work and matches that don’t. I’ve always looked to these, but in my quest to find some fun conversation starters, I stumbled onto a piece of information I hadn’t considered before: while your Sun sign can determine basic attraction and compatibility, the sign that Venus occupied when you were born is actually a stronger predictor of intimate compatibility. Who knew?! So, I decided to look up my Venus sign, and lo and behold, it’s in Virgo. Which explains my obsession with Virgos for pretty much all of my 20s. Even though Virgo and my Sun sign are totally incompatible. The universe seriously screwed me on this one!!

Anyhow, it’s a fun little distraction if you’re bored at work and ready for it to be the holiday season already. Check it out and see if you learn anything about yourself and your patterns of attraction (good, bad or indifferent)...and of course, feel free to comment!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Films: Take One!

It’s that time again – holiday movie season, leading up to Oscar contenders for the year! Beyond my obvious obsession with waiting for Avatar, I’ve been looking forward to a few releases. The first was Invictus, which I saw last night.

I figured, the film has a lot of things going for it – Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela? Awesome! A movie about rugby? Double Awesome! Clint Eastwood directing? Okay, so not entirely awesome, but not entirely bad. Matt Damon as hot lead rugby guy who will inevitably have his shirt off and be physically beat up half the film? Seriously, I didn’t really need to be convinced to go to the theater.

So, it’s okay. The film tries to be a sports movie AND an interesting biographic sketch of an international icon. On the first front, there wasn’t much different than any other sports movie. Perhaps they thought, well, rugby is sort of novel and setting it in South Africa is novel. There is one message – sports is a great cultural unifier. Well, … duh. Every sports movie ever made has that message. And the racial twist isn’t even that interesting – I mean, this guy designed a whole class on it (check out CES 222)!

On the second front, I’d honestly rather have seen a dramatic piece on Mandela. The film didn’t even feel all that Eastwood – he’s known for long, drawn out characters, and you really didn’t get much in the way of developing Mandela as anything more than a brilliant saint that saved his country (which, I’m not arguing he didn’t do – but people are more complex than that). The only scene that struck a chord was when the rugby players visit the prison Mandela was in…and, unfortunately, I spent most of that scene waiting for Morgan Freeman to say “Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”

I got the feeling Morgan Freeman REALLY wanted to play this part, and that’s why it happened. He might get an Oscar nod, and maybe even win it if the category is weak this year…but I certainly don’t think it’s his best work by any means.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gleek Out!

Well fans, it’s a long haul ‘til April. And now that I have some down time, it’s long over-due for me to post some thoughts about Glee – my latest and greatest television obsession. I’ve been a fan of Ryan Murphy’s work for quite some time, and Glee artfully blends teen melodrama, “high school musical” culture, and sarcasm into sugary-pop goodness that is addictive like saccharine or nicotine. Despite my love of all things Glee, there are a few things now that the fall season has ended that continue to irk me about the series from a critical perspective (I just can’t help it – I’m too tainted to enjoy media on its own ever again).

1) Minority Representation – So, at least there ARE some minorities in the glee club. But their characterizations are so trite they continue to grate on my nerves. Mercedes, while incredibly talented vocally, is a TERRIBLE actress. That and they won’t let her be anything other than a crazy large black diva, which bothers me on a lot of levels. Those who have stood through my rants about American Idol and body image know that large black diva women singers are acceptable caricatures in pop culture, but not larger white women, and not thinner black women. None of the glee club women would be considered “overweight” except Mercedes. The show was a bit better to the Asian women in the final few episodes, but the random black guy and random Asian guy didn’t even have NAMES until the last episode. It was sort of a game Sailor and I would play every time they did a full number, “Who is the random dancing Asian guy for the love of god!?”

2) Musical Staging – I love the music in the show. They’ve done some great mash-ups and re-arrangements of pop standards that are catchy and fascinating. I also like the continual homage to Broadway (which makes sense given that half the cast had a career there before joining the show). What I don’t get is the random musicians that always seem to be available – at glee club practice, or just hanging out (again, nameless people). I’d almost prefer you just layer the tracks over the singing without the random shots of piano guy and string quartet who apparently have nothing else to do at all hours of the school day than burst into song. It’s very distracting, which makes the music less impactful.

3) The Schue Thing – First off, let me clarify that I absolutely adore Mr. Schuester as a character. I empathize with his teachable moments – I mean, seriously, watching him listen to the kids perform through the phone at sectionals brought tears to my eyes. I get the whole “I’m 30 and I didn’t think my life would be here” kind of thing that warrants rethinking yourself and your life goals. What I don’t like is that basically, he’s framed as the innocent bystander to his life. He’s portrayed as a guy who got into a relationship with a horrible person (Terri), thus encouraging all of us to root for the nice girl (Emma). I don’t even disagree that Schue and Emma should be together. What I don’t like is that the whole season basically made excuses for Schue emotionally cheating on his wife while she was pregnant (at least to his knowledge, and to Emma’s as well). It’s frustrating to me as a gender scholar that in the end, Schue comes out of this squeaky clean while Terri is the manipulative, backstabbing bitch, and Emma is the perfect, na├»ve girl. We’re supposed to interrogate them, not question Schue’s actions throughout the series. Really, if he’d been honest with himself and others from the beginning, then there would have been a lot less hurt going around. So while the romantic in me was like, oh good, they're supposed to be together, the cynic in me is annoyed by the emotional games Schue played with both womens' hearts.

It's a long haul to April, but I guess Idol coming back will keep me in my music fix for now. Super excited that Ellen is replacing Paula (whose commentary over the years has proven to be worthless on so many levels, it was about time to get someone else in here).