Sunday, December 23, 2007

Man Cold

This is, without a doubt, one of the funniest clips I have ever seen. Mom, you will especially love this. Oddly enough, Mike didn't like it much. Perhaps it hit too close to home.

The next clip brings back fond memories of Lunds. What the man points out about the price is true, no matter where you buy a cake. Don't ever tell a baker that you're looking for a wedding cake, unless you enjoy being screwed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"As they say, 'Teaching is a profession.'"

It was the last day of my media class yesterday. Everyone had to present on their final project. Meaghan and I finally finished our wiki. It now has pretty videos and more detail. We should get a gold star for it.

My classmates, Nathan and Chris, who are also great to get together with at 12:30 in the afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving, presented on mockumentaries. They created an awesome video that is posted on Nathan's blog. I hope you go see it. It's a good time and sure to give you some laughs...well probably a lot of laughs.

Verb: It's What's Happening

Among some great references in their video, I think Best in Show is hilarious. If you haven't seen it, there is a clip in the video that is spot on. My favorite mockumentary is Drop Dead Gorgeous, about a small town beauty pageant in Minnesota. I wanted to find a clip from the beginning of the movie, where one woman states, "We like to leave that to the sin cities, AKA Minneapolis/St. Paul." But I couldn't find one, unfortunately. Also, I think this movie has bonus points for me because it was shot around where I grew up, so I know where all of the locations are. Fun stuff.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

To: Red Forman

Dear Dad,

I hope you're doing okay. I went Christmas shopping today. I think even my hands began to swell after being in the mall for too long.

I thought of something you might like. It is in this blog: an early Christmas present from your dearest daughter, who never ceases to impress and amaze you. It is a music video about Barack Obama. I know you probably think I sing this song every day because I love him so much, but I really don't. Honest. I thought this would make you smile and think fondly of the family liberal...I'm really not that liberal...well I guess compared to you I am.

And so, as I stood in the middle of Borders, wondering what you would hate more: a calender of John McCain, a calendar of Hillary Clinton, or a "Countdown to 2008 Bush" calendar, I thought maybe I should go easy on you this year. So, part of your present is to show that I have a sense of humor about my own political opinions, not just one at the expense of yours. Merry Christmas!

Your Daughter, who you love despite her being brainwashed by the liberal media and liberal university

P.S.: Which calendar would you hate more? Because that's the one you're getting.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

No Name Calling if You don't Check Out the Unit...Meaghan!

See aforementioned partner's blog to understand my title.

For our final project, Meaghan and I put together a unit for a class on Shakespeare. This would be the final unit and culmnating project where students are expected to apply techniques and issues discussed in class to a modern adaptation of a Shakespearean play. These would include, but most likely not limited to, looking at symbolism within several of his plays, using the different critical lenses to understand differing perspectives, and comparing and contrasting traditional film adaptations to its corresponding play.

Some examples of modern adaptations might be Hamlet and The Lion King, or The Taming of the Shrew and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Evaluating criteria would be a 5-6 page paper in which students are required to look at a play discussed in class to a modern adaptation. Obviously they would be graded on grammar and organization. Students will need to discuss three important elements between film and text, like character, setting, plot, scene selection, etc. Students must also address at least one critical lens and how it applies to both the play and adaptation, using specific examples from each.

You can go to our wiki and check out the entire plan if you are so moved:

Maggie's Wiki filled with fun and magic!

Here is an example of my favorite Shakespearean adaptation. It is Scotland, P.A. Mom, cover your ears, because there is some strong language. This is the scene from the original play, MacBeth, in which Lady MacBeth hallucinates still having the blood stain on her hand. In this film, it is a burn. But I love this adaptation because it's so true to the play, yet also true to it's modern setting. It does a good job of addressing issues of power and right, but also incorporates cultural and social aspects of America.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Makes an Awesome Cover Song?

Being Cartman helps, in my personal opinion.

Meaghan and I presented on cover songs last Thursday, and I must say it was pretty good. Music is for sure Meaghan's specialty, so I kind of let her do most of it, to be honest. I think she has a better knowledge base for it, and more experience with it, anyway. I mainly discussed covers that had been done in movies, covers of the Beatles, and South Park.

I still cannot get over the fact that the most covered song in the history of music is The Beatles' "Yesterday." Fine, it's a good song, but I definitely don't think it's their best work. Not only that, I have yet to hear a decent cover of that song. But maybe I have nightmares of 10th grade choir in which we sang that song...over and over and over. So perhaps I am biased against it. Anyway.

I was very excited to find out that Meaghan wanted to use Alanis Morissette's cover of The Black Eyed Peas "Humps" song. I had seen this video a few months back and thought it was great. I can live with the Black Eyed Peas and some of their music is okay, but Fergie makes me want to hit my head against a wall. I think it's pretty obvious from their own video, as well as the lyrics, that she doesn't feel like she has much going for herself besides wearing little, or uncomfortably tight, clothing in terms of musical talent (in the rest of the world, we would call that a "stripper" rather than "musician"). Morissette's, cover does a great job of taking a song that really is crap, and proving it. The first video is the original music video and the second is Alanis Morissette.

I have also posted a cover by Travis doing "Baby One More Time." I wanted to show that I don't hate all pop music. I like this song now (NOT the Britney Spears original). It shows how a simple song like "Baby One More Time" has the potential to be good in the hands of a real musician, rather than the cheap and ridiculous concoction of the music industry.

And finally, while I am not normally a fan of South Park, I find Cartman's covers quite hilarious. I think the thing that Cartman does is add his personal touch, yet still keeping true to the song. I think this is key to creating a great cover. I like his cover of "In the Ghetto." But then again, I don't care much for Elvis. My favorite, which I have posted for your listening pleasure, is his cover of the Styx' "Come Sail Away." I have yet to listen to it in its entirety without nearly laughing myself to tears. Call me silly, but I love it!

Friday, November 30, 2007

My First Love: Rivers Cuomo

The vast majority of my tastes in music fall into either 90s rock or classic rock. And I'm okay with that. I like a good guitar part and I like strong lyrics. But I have to be honest regardless of how much I may be made fun of. My musical tastes can be summed up in the following bands:

1. Weezer
2. The Beatles
3. Oasis
4. Simon and Garfunkel
5. Dashboard Confessional

Each of these bands holds significance to me. Oasis: 7th grade, brought me into the world of mid-90s rock and the radio station The Edge (the best radio station ever-don't argue because you're wrong). I also love their mellow, yet heavy, sound and I don't think there is a bad song on (What's the Story) Morning Glory. Dashboard Confessional introduced me to the accoustic emo that I fell in love with on his So Impossible EP while jumping snow banks on residential streets in St. Paul with my friend's old Buick (don't tell my mom). I have nothing but respect for the simplicity and true poetry in every Simon and Garfunkel song. My favorites are namely "Bookends," "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "Kathy's Song." And while I'm not normally a fan of greatest hits albums, I will say that my two-disc set is pretty good. The Beatles just go without saying. But, unlike most Beatles fans, I happen to like their early albums as much as their later work. I think I'm also more intrigued by the history (the photos, stories and memorabilia) of The Beatles than the music itself - hint, hint; I'm looking at you, mom, with the unopened vinyl of Sgt. Peppers. But ultimately, my love will always go to Weezer and Rivers Cuomo.

I remember listening to "Buddy Holly" when I was younger on the radio and watching the Happy Days music video, but I didn't get into Weezer until I was late in high school, out with a couple of friends when I bought their blue album and began my downward spiral into emo, when it was still good. I became the obsessed Weezer fan with thick plastic rimmed glasses, wearing argyle and my "I heart nerds" shirt that had a picture of Milhouse in the heart. And, up until recently, I was still that girl, and I still am to some degree, hence the title. Weezer has given me so many indirect memories, from screaming "The Good Life" or "El Scorcho" with friends after a hard night of drinking, to some guy referencing "Tired of Sex" as a pick-up line (I couldn't have made that one up if I tried).

But there is something in the sound of the music, specifically on the blue album, that I am drawn to and brings me back to my early college days (not that they were all that great) to when I saw them a couple times in concert. I first saw them at the Xcel Center, which was surprisingly awesome. I didn't think Weezer would be able to pull off an arena concert so well, considering they had minimal special effects and Rivers is so anti-social. I saw them a second time at First Ave. and it was hands down the BEST concert I've ever been to. And it better have been since I paid almost $100 to see it. The most interesting part of that concert was that they were playing songs off of their then not yet released Make Believe album but everybody in the audience already knew the words because they had most likely downloaded it off of some illegal website, just like I had. I feel elite saying that I saw Weezer at a venue that fits less than 500 people and got to be 20 feet from Rivers. He could have spit on me! It was also great being surrounded by the ultimate in obssessed when it came to Weezer; their crowd is very much a combination of trendy, yet pathetic uncoolness that I revel in because, really, that is what I am. I was always an obsessed Weezer fan, I just hadn't known it until college.

The one song that I absolutely love is "Undone (The Sweater Song)" by Weezer, off of the blue album. It is best to listen to it at decibles that border on deafening to get the full effect of the clashing instruments at the end, and plus, it makes you sing it louder. It's funny how so many people have told me, "I love the 'Sweater Song.' It's a song about nothing." When, in reality, it is a disturbing look at wanting to fit in and allowing yourself to be taken advantage of for the sake of fitting in, although you never really do become part of the crowd you so desire to belong to. I think they do this in a very lyrically metaphoric, as well as, musically symbolic way: the obvious metaphor being the destroyed sweater that leaves the person naked, and music being the clashing of sounds symbolizing the compromising of who someone is, wanting to fit in, never really fitting in and being taken advantage of and the complex tension this may create internally in someone. Below, I posted the music video for "The Sweater Song," which is also fun to watch. I still haven't quite figured out what makes them so appealing to watch when there really isn't all that much to them.

My one true love, Rivers, is in red.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I am Technologically Sound...Okay, that may be a Stretch

Lisa, A.K.A. Olive the Wonder Hamster, showed me how to put links on the side of my blog, so now I can be cool like her. I only put a few up, but these are some of my classmates/fellow sufferers of the U of M graduate program. The top three are Lisa's, followed by Meaghan's and then Jessie's. I'm very much excited and proud that I was able to pull off such an amazing feat in my blog. I hope you like their blogs as much as I do.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Minnesota in a Nutshell

Okay, to be honest, I completely missed that we were supposed to write about a podcast a couple weeks back (I know, not the brightest bulb on the tree sometimes). So here's my blog on podcasts.

I will be up front: I love Kevin Kling. Not only is he ridiculously funny, but his stories have as much reflection as they do humor. He is able to take his comedic and artistic sides and put them together to create entertaining and meaningful stories about his life. I think his stories are useful in classrooms such as creative writing, speech or even a unit on narrative writing because his stories have a clear beginning, middle and end that students can incorporate into their own work. He is able to weave sub-stories into the over-arching one to add meaning and humor, specifically in his bit about prayer. Most of his stories are in podcast form on under the "All Things Considered" program. You can also download them on iTunes by going to his website

It's important to know that his career as a storyteller began after a near-death motorcycle accident, paralyzing his right arm, and his lifelong disability MD, effecting his left arm. My favorite story is "My Brother's Bachelor Party." I recommend checking it out if you enjoy baseball at all, or even have some vague familiarity with it. The story I have here is "Tips on Winter Survival from a Minnesotan." Maybe I'm the only one that finds this funny. Maybe it's because it is so true to Minnesota winter. Or, maybe it's because I tried to bury my brother in a massive amount of snow when I was little too. Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

Also, I was a trick-or-treater during the blizzard of '91. I was a fairy. In tights. Yeah, I still went.

Tips on Winter Survival from a Minnesotan (Windows Media Player)
Tips on Winter Survival from a Minnesotan (Real Player)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"It's Only a Flesh Wound"

This is one of my favorite topics (no, not flesh wounds). I love looking at modern adaptations of literature through movies and TV shows and I think integrating these in to the curriculum not only makes your job fun, but creates a less painful environment for your students. It also sets your class up to be culturally relevant as it seems media art is shifting from books to movies and shows. Our society is becoming increasingly visual through the use of film so it's important to prepare students for what they will be exposed to and how media is altered, presented and used as a form of art.

In my classes this week, we discussed satire. Expecting this to be a really difficult topic, as they're 11 and 12 year olds, I was surprised how well they caught on. I showed the episode of The Simpsons in which Sherry Bobbins (not Mary Poppins) comes to help the family. Not only was it an excellent example of satire, but the students really enjoyed watching TV in class. Later, I showed a large chunk of the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and they loved it, even Denzell, the kid who hates everything. I'd stopped the movie every couple of minutes to explain some of the jokes, British history and social atmosphere that the movie is referencing, but by the end of class, students were able to pick up on it and call it out for me. I think this is great because not only was I expecting students to really struggle with the language, but also because English humor can be so dry.

Among other great uses of modern works, for example the movie Clueless in a unit on Jane Austen, I came across a great movie for class. I'm still trying to figure out how to exactly use it though. I'm thinking I will spend some time talking about artistic representation of the creator versus the interpretor, or even for a unit on poetry. The movie for this is Across the Universe, a love story using the Beatles music. It's a little cheesey, yes, but it does an awesome job of taking a song you've always had a clear grasp on what it's about and changing it entirely in the context of the movie. I don't like giving away things, but this scene was so interesting: Using the Beatles song, "I Want You," the film creates an intense look at the draft during the Vietnam War. In the beginning, Max shows up and is quickly stripped down and given a physical. The officers of the military are singing the song while he goes through his training and is then deployed. At that point the song transitions into the end with the line, "She's so heavy" and the soldiers are tracking through the field carrying the Statue of Liberty. I thought this was very powerful, especially since I never really thought about that song as an anti-war statement. Beyond that, the guitar part is one of the best I've ever heard, enough said.

Another film I'm excited to look at in the classroom is Moulin Rouge. I'm not a big fan of the movie personally, but the filming and symbolism are outstanding. Much like Across the Universe, the imagery and use of color are very important to the themes and plot. My argument, and I'm beginning to think it's only my argument, is that the director wanted to make make sure the characters did not embody any of the key ideas in the film, "truth, beauty, freedom and above all things love." I'd like to study with a class how each of these concepts are held up in the movie. To me, it seems like each character fails miserably at achieving truth, beauty, freedom or love in the end. The entire movie is more like a massive web of manipulation and destruction. This makes the movie better to me for some reason. I know that the movie is based on another story, but I like this look better. Instead of making it into this soft love story, I'd rather look at how none of the characters actually lives up to what they believe and are all around weak characters. What can I say, I'm optimistic in that way.

And finally, I want to figure out a way to show Scotland, P.A. because it is hands down the best Shakespearean adaptation ever. It is based on "MacBeth," but in 1975. It takes place at the dawn of fast food and has some pretty kick ass classic rock for the soundtrack as well. Like the play, Pat (Lady MacBeth) and Mac (I shouldn't have to explain that one) have a very ambiguous relationship in terms of power and no one is really sure who (Lady MacBeth, the witches or MacBeth himself) is to blame for putting the idea of killing other characters into MacBeth's head. The problem with this movie is it has a lot of graphic language. And it has some sexual scenes. And there's a lot of drug and alcohol use. Oh and it's pretty violent. Okay, so maybe it's not the best movie for class, but it's still pretty awesome.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ken Burns is a God and there is Nothing, No, NOTHING that Would Top Him

I've been told my grandfather had a lot of war stories. I don't remember any of them, as he died when I was seven. But I really would like to do a documentary on his journey through training and Normandy. I'd really like to know what brought him to hate shit on a shingle so much during the war since it was my favorite, as well as my brother's favorite, meal when we were little. Maybe this just seems interesting to me since I didn't grow up with him all that much.

Ken Burns called World War II a necessary war and I truly think that my grandpa believed that to the core of his soul. My favorite story about him is one that my mom tells a lot. My uncle had just returned from Vietnam and refused to stand for the anthem at a hockey game. My grandpa was so angry he spent most of the song yelling at my uncle about what a disgrace he was to his country. I think my grandpa always knew how to separate all of what America gave him in his life from where it was going during the 70s, which was quickly to Hell in a hand basket. I'd like to see what created such devotion and how it changed and developed into his later years, how it shaped his family and influenced his job. I want to show how the war became such a massive point in his life. I'd have to interview my parents and aunts and uncles. If anyone in his company is still alive I'd interview them to see what he was like in Europe around them. I'd really like to know what my grandpa was like when he was young. I only knew him in his 70s, watching Wheel of Fortune next to him as he smoked his unfiltered Camels (a smell that is still a pleasant one to me). The obvious problem in all of this is that he is no longer alive to tell it himself. I don't know if there is any film footage or photographs taken of him during the war. All I've got are the stories that my family tell and his uniform jacket, which is too small for me to even try on.

I have to say this was not entirely an original idea. When I went to see the presentation for The War when Burns was in Minneapolis, many vets came to see it. I quickly realized how jealous I was for all those family members that got to hear those war stories straight from the teller's mouth. Though not normally someone who is brought to immense tears while watching movies, especially documentaries, I must admit that I was brought to embarassingly passionate sobs that I had absolutely no control over as I watched the footage of The War. I'm sure the friend that I went with thought I was crazy, as well as the old woman across the aisle that stared at me all night, but I couldn't help it; I was grieving for the loss of my grandfather again, as well as for the men that died so he could live. This is what makes me want to do a documentary on my grandfather: to relive what he did, to understand what it may have once meant to be an American.

Also, I will die knowing that Ken Burns is the only man ever that is able to pull off the classic 90s bowl cut and still look professional.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No News is Good News, Right?

I realize this is late and the moment for discussion has past, but I still wanted to post. I watched ABC's evening news. I was always a big fan of Peter Jennings. I really liked how he got down and dirty when it came to reporting and understanding the issues. After he passed, however, I really haven't watched the news all that much. Something that really bugged me was how little the reporters and anchors seemed to actually know about the issues they were reporting on. They didn't seem to go in depth on what they were reporting on, and they didn't include issues that may have lead up to what they were reporting on.

But then I got to the local news. It made me want to cry. This is why I quit watching local news altogether. I don't even remember what they reported on, but it reminded me of when that person was shot in Uptown. Everyone was panicking that Minneapolis was ridden with crime and all of Minnesota was going to melt into L.A., taking the rest of the Midwest with it. Mike and I were in Minneapolis at the time, and he so neatly pointed out that Minneapolis had already surpassed New York in crime, a city with over five million people in it. Everyone is so worried about the wealthier, safe part of town, but no news stations are covering how the north end seems to be getting worse, or that people live that way every day of their lives. There just seemed to be this utter lack of community involvement, despite it being a local station.

Another thing that gets me is the bias for politics and sponsors. Despite Americans assuming it is this great and free country, we are limited in the news we receive depending on who is sponsoring it and what political backing the station has picked up. No, that doesn't sound like communism at all.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

FINALLY A Real Purpose For Shakespeare

Yay! Our Movie Complete!

My partner in crime describes it in better detail than I could, so here's a shameless plug: go see her blog too and learn about our movie-making experience:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Remember, This is OUR Country, Not Your's; Got That??

Car commercials are interesting to me I guess. So here goes another discussion on car commercials. Never one to be unsupportive of American jobs and businesses (except Walmart and my passionate love for VW), but the Chevrolet commercials struck a cord with me.

It must be kept in mind that the song repeats "this is our country" over and over while showing classic images of Americanism. The bulk of the images that show up: white rural men. Interesting to note: the only black people in the video were Martin Luther King Jr., some random guy standing next to his chevy truck in New Orleans, Muhammad Ali and a Rosa Parks-like image. I'm sure she'd drive a Chevy truck after the stand she made on the bus (because deep down, she's a white rural man). I made that last parenthetical comment because, really, what do Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. have to do with trucks? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I understand that Chevrolet is attempting to show that such classic moments in American history are what make America, for example, Richard Nixon, the 9/11 memorial, the hippie movement, and also Chevy trucks. I get that. But something that I think is also interesting, while they threw in arguably the three most famous black people in American history, they also failed to show any other minorities. How about Latino/a people and their illegal migration each year that contributes to cheap crops? Or Asian Americans...oh wait, we can't show them because the commercial is supposed to encourage Americans to buy American trucks, not Honda or Toyota trucks. Of course they did manage to sneak in the helicoptor landing in Vietnam during the war ( see this is what we're fighting against, people! Why are you supporting the people we were at war with??) It makes me cringe. I understand that the possible majority of people who would drive Chevy trucks are white rural American men. However, it's a little offensive to include images of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and MLK when they aren't really associated with Chevy trucks except for the fact that they're all American, and really, Chevy trucks themselves probably did not directly have any overall influence on these events and people.

I guess I would have felt more comfortable if they had made a commercial about the west/midwest and rural white men, or the modern cowboy, and left it at that, appealing to their target audience. But no, they had to bring in a broad, sweeping generalization of American culture and history. The images of war, 9/11 and MLK were bordering on offensive because it creates a sense of exclusion against outsiders that are not considered "American" enough. For example, when I saw the 9/11 memorial images, it almost screamd "look what those foreigners did to us!" The same goes for the Vietnam War images, completely ignoring the fact that those very same races are attempting to create just as American of a lifestyle as you and I. It almost seems to appeal to the inner racist by implying "this is our country" and they attacked us; men died because of them. Therefore support American-made Chevy trucks, regardless of exactly who attacked us. Which makes about as much sense as assuming Rosa Parks is a white rural man. The parody clip says it all really.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Godfather, Played by Frankenstein

I must admit I am just about the biggest Gothic novel fan ever. I took a class on it in my undergrad and loved it. My instructor told me two things that will stick with me:

1) "No, this not just dirty professor David Luke talking; other people have written papers about this too."
2) "After taking a class on the Gothic novel, you will never look at any kind of literature, novel or film the same way again."

While I'm not sure sure about the first one, the second is definitely true. It's incredible how much "Gothicism" (I may have just invented a new word) is present within seemingly innocent works. For example, I no longer can watch romantic comedies with that soft, happy feeling unless I try really hard to block the image of Dracula, or worse, necrophilia, from my brain. And Romeo and Juliet? GROSS! I don't even want to think about the perversion that Shakespeare must have embodied to come up with that.

The whole point of Gothicism is an overarching theme of obsession with the erotic horror is present within all forms of romance and other stories. The erotic horror roughly means that we as humans are indirectly attracted to mortality to the point of sexual intimacy. Everything we live and breathe for is an attempt at bringing us further away from death. Their best example: why women are so idealistically youthful, and babies are adoreable--youth and babies are about as far away from death as possible, which is what makes them so attractive. So there is this whole idea of seduction to mortality and death.

The basic set up of a Gothic story is a "light" heavenly character, that attempts to bring the Byronic hero (or for women, the "femme fatale") out of his sinful, nearly "monstrous" earthly ways. The "dark" earthly character is symbolic of the fall of man in Genesis and is surrounded by moral ambiguity and always ends up dragging the heavenly character to earth with him, killing them, or symbolically killing them by basically destroying their life. I guess the best way I can describe a Gothic "lens" is by telling you to imagine Romeo as Dracula. Run through the whole play with Dracula (the attractive, seductive Dracula) attracted to Juliet and that is the Gothic ideal in a nutshell. And, I would argue there is some truth to this set up for the most part.

Another part of the erotic horror is this issue of necrophilia; I'll try not to go too deep into this one. So we have this indirect attraction to death. And characters, usually the "dark" characters, are somehow desiring necrophilia. Now, the key here is that it doesn't have to be graphic fantasy of body-on-corpse action, it's more just like an allusion to the act. So going back to Romeo and Juliet, it could be argued that the only time that the two can actually be together is in death, hence a desire (although they may not have been aware of it) to be romantically involved with their dead partner. This would be considered a Gothic take on necrophilia and the erotic horror. Have I grossed you out enough yet?

So, with the gangster genre of movies, I think it's pretty easy to see how Gothic themes are laced within the plot. See what you can piece together from these clips. Pay special attention to the song in the second one and see if you can decide which characters are which.

So it's pretty obvious we have Vito and Michael as the earthly characters, and Kay as the heavenly character. Michael is an interesting character because at the beginning he could be viewed as a heavenly character. However, that changes when his father is shot. I don't think it could be said that he is dragged down by the earthly characters because his family doesn't want him part of the business at first and his father expresses great disappointment when he finds out that Michael has joined. It is better and easier to keep these ideas in your head while you watch the movie, rather than me attempt to explain this in a blog, I promise.

Okay, so we have Apollonia, who is described as being "more dangerous than guns" (you guessed it: the femme fatale). Also, her death is something that Michael never truly overcomes. In each movie he is brought back to her and thinks about her (you guessed it again: necrophilia). Vito and Michael's "profession" is nothing but moral ambiguity. This could be a 10 page paper if I got into details. Now think about other gangster themes: Goodfellas, The Sopranos, almost any Robert DiNero movie really. They all have the same morally ambiguous justification for their life. They all have that woman who attempts to save them but is eventually brought down to earth and is basically destroyed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Although I was unable to actually go to my husbands "meeting," and that is what I call it, I was able to interview him on how he and his friends interact and how the game is set up...barely. I do have some familiarity with the game, but have never played it. An ex-boyfriend also played it (I'm basically a nerd magnet) and his mother used to talk about how she always had to be the dungeon master.

The initial conversation I had with my husband went as follows:

Me: "So tell me about Dungeons and Dragons."

Mike: "Why do you want to know about that? What are you going to do? Who says I play Dungeons and Dragons? You can't prove anything!!"

Me: "Hey, man, I was just trying to be interested in your life."

Mike: "Yeah, well you'll never find my 12-sided dice. EVER!"

Me: "Jesus, sorry I asked."

Okay, maybe I exaggerated a little. But it was pretty close to that. The first thing I realized was that Dungeons and Dragons is an extremely secretive and guilty pleasure that was very difficult to talk about. My husband rarely, if ever talks about playing it, or even the people he plays with for that matter. I sometimes think he would rather I assume he just disappeared to an unknown world for six hours and mysteriously returns home around 11 that night...which is basically what he does anyway.

There definitely seems to be a social class within the game itself. The DM (or, dungeon master, for all of us non-dungeon master's guide holders), has all the supplies and has been sending objects like oddly shaped dice and booklets home with my husband. He has charts and white boards and all sorts of other things that Mike has used to assess his worth to the group. I found this out when I asked if he wanted to host D & D night at our house. His absolutely shocked face clearly stated we did not measure up to the luxury requirements of D & D.

Another thing that is most irritating to him is if he has to miss a meeting. Apparently this is extremely important to him as a "character," because missing meetings causes him to lose bonus points, or skill points. When I raised an eyebrow to show he was being melodramatic about "bonus points," he quickly yelled, "you don't understand! The more skill points I get, the more powerful I get, and the more things I can do (insert Napoleon Dynamite-like 'gosh' or 'idiot' here)!"

Although he won't admit it, I have tried to tell him that maybe his obsession for getting more points was getting in the way of a happy marriage or other important things, like reality, he shakes his head and informs me that I just don't know anything about D & D.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Iconic Lucy

I always thought that the show I Love Lucy was really quite unique to all the other Leave it to Beavers and Father Knows Bests. Why? Because the show was about Lucy! It wasn't about Ricky or the husband or the father or the man. It was about a woman!

The feminist theory can look at Lucy in two ways. The first is that Lucy is a concoction of a male led media world in which a woman must be clumsy and funny in order to have her own show. The common phrase that sums up about every episode is "Lucy gets into a mess." Her scheming womanly ways always get the best of her and her plan is always a disaster ("she should have left it to a man"). She fills the same female character that appears in every TV show at that time: a housewife that does her best to run the family and lets the husband have the last word. In this first clip, Ricky's boss even states it's expected that he "wears the trousers."

But, a more optimistic and, I think, appealing look at Lucy, and her show, is that Lucy plays the revolutionary woman humorously and with class. I say this because deep down I wish I was Lucy. I wish I had the courage to make my way through a man's world of television and have the guts to have a sense of humor about what it meant to be a woman at that time. I think Lucy is very progressive because of this. Lucy takes those everyday "roles" of being the housewife and mother by creating more real and human-nature filled situations (even taking it so far as to appear pregnant on the show--a big no-no at the time). I specifically like these two clips because I think they are very common to a family and also because they can be symbolic of the way women are treated, even today. For example, in the first clip, Lucy is forced to go on a schedule that Ricky created for her to follow. I think it's worth noting that he devises this not because Lucy needs to be put in her womanly place, but because he wants to impress his boss with this new plan he thought up for work. However, Ricky exploits the control and scheduling of Lucy's time. But Lucy actually fights back and puts him in his own place. Another thing that I thought was interesting was that Lucy also got Ethel and the boss' wife in on the vengeful plot. The second clip, although hilarious, can really be looked at as a metaphor for how women should be concerned with self image; Lucy presents this in an extremely witty manner. Lucy goes on a diet and is satirically given a single celery rib for dinner while the men eat a hearty meal of steak and potatoes. Ethel even snatches a potato from Lucy's fork, showing how women (not just men) have standards for other women to abide by. In the end, Lucy ends up replacing the dog under the table, licking the hand of the master, as an attempt to get food. It almost seems like she has sunk as low as the dog to gain approval for what and how much she eats. I thought it was an extremely sobering take on self image, especially since Lucy is wearing pants (something rarely seen on TV at the time) in that clip and it seems like Lucille Ball goes out of her way to pretty herself down by styling her hair and make-up in a somewhat chaotic manner throughout the run of the show.

Something else key to the show is a postcolonial look at Ricky. Desi Arnaz is Cuban and I always think it's interesting how "American" he is depicted, despite the obvious heavy accent. Rarely is his culture brought into the show. There are no Cuban-looking props or sets on the show and it really doesn't give much breathing room for ethnicity and cultural pride. But something to note is that the show still had a male character who was portrayed just as American and strong as Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffith in the show. In fact, I think the show is incredibly progressive because it has a strong female character paired with an equally strong Cuban character. After all, they didn't have to have Desi Arnaz. They could have chosen a character without an accent to make him more American seeming. But what I think can be looked at as a glimmering moment of hope for American culture is how millions of people love the show without even a thought in regards to the accent, the obviously Spanish last name "Ricardo," as well as the even more obvious "mixed" marriage.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On the Road to Life, There are Passengers...Well, You Know the Rest

As an avid fan of VW (most of you know I have expressed a desire to have my Jetta buried next to me when we both expire), I am always amused by their commercials and ad campaigns. Not only because I think their commercials are hilarious and great at making fun of real life situations, but how they are able to narrow their demographic so well. I posted two very different VW commercials. The first is clearly aimed at a very young audience. It first suggests that a VW looks trendy and cool without all the crap younger teens do to the other types of Focus/Civic cars, and, second, uses extremely choppy, and almost chaotic editting. I think this attracts a younger audience because it moves quickly and barely gives the viewer time to process each frame before the entire commerical is done. This kind of editing is similar to a music video, or even some video games. It doesn't require a lot of thought and time to consume and it catches the younger audience's attention by alluding to pop culture ("drop it like it's hot," signing the VW logo with hands like it's hip "east side/west side" lingo).

The second video is obviously aimed at the college graduate to 30-something, middle class type of person. It offers enough information, although not much compared to a Buick or Cadillac (clearly aimed at a different crowd altogether), to get the viewer interested and its editting is much slower to transition into a different frame than the first video. The plot of the video creates a very clear message that the "average Joe" who doesn't do anything too exciting is encouraged to display the highlighted feature, exciting him so much that he begins speeding and screaming at other cars. The viewer equates Volkswagen to, not only to a more advanced type of driving, but also more exciting.

Yay VW!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Not So Ugly TV Show

I decided to check to see if I could find any good "Ugly Betty" clips since it is, in many ways, a satire on the world of fashion and glamour and might provide different filming techniques from regular sitcoms. Originally, I wanted to use a clip I had of "Friends." But I figured no one really wants to hear about unrelated issues such as an entirely homogoneous and sexist character set-up. So I opted for a show I actually like.

"Ugly Betty" is an interesting show, not only because of the plotline, but also the way it is filmed. It emphasizes extreme versions of characters within a fashion magazine world. It does this by placing a comparatively unattractive girl into the mix of men and women and lets the characters display the differences.

I realize this is a clip video, but the first scene is long enough to discuss some of the filming techniques used. "Ugly" Betty enters her job on the first day. In terms of mind reading, it is clear that Betty is excited to be working at such a high profile place, in a high profile position, judging by her large braces filled smile (we've almost all been there--people who have perfect teeth are definitely missing out on some serious bonding topics) and her constantly raised eyebrows. Amanda (the receptionist) is equally shocked that a girl showing up in a red tourist poncho from Mexico got such an important job. The tension is obvious in the way the camera keeps switching quickly from one face to the other as they speak, each with totally different facial expressions and tones of voices.

When the camera switches to behind the two as they walk down the hall, the differences in personalities are even greater. Amanda walks as though she is modelling the new trend in a slimming outfit and stilettos, where Betty looks large and awkward next to her in her poncho and big hair. It seems clear from this angle that Amanda is out to prove her confidence and competance by how well she fits into the fashion world and Betty is not out to prove anything.

Amanda is an interesting character in general because with other equally "fashionable" characters, she doesn't seem so ridiculous. But when she is paired with Betty or her family, as she is in this first scene, she seems extreme and totally one dimensional.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Vlog on a Stick

Always one to indulge in local flare and culture, I chose to go to the Minnesota Stories vlog. Beyond the interest in Minnesota life, I also heard there were restaurant reviews on the site. Never being one to decline a suggestion to eat anywhere, I thought this was the vlog for me.

Oddly enough, I chose the video, "Minnesota State Fair on a Stick." I say "oddly enough" because I, myself, hate the State Fair with a passion that only other State Fair haters could understand. But there is just something about it, much like a train wreck, that makes me watch when it's on TV, or listen when someone is talking about it. Does it make me dislike the artery clogging food, the rides, the people, the ridiculousness any less? Never.

So I watched the video, which was basically over five minutes of people holding insert-quirky-food-product on a stick and then eating said quirky-food-product on a stick. As one would imagine, there were things that seemed more tangible to be on a stick: shrimp, fruit, chunks of meat (apparently State Fair goers don't understand that this is more often referred to as a "kabob" rather than "--- on a stick"). Then there were the products that just plain bordered on insanity: spaghetti, pork chops, candy bars, TWINKIES. People were decked out in true State Fair attire as well: plastic bead necklaces that made them look like they just stepped off the plane after a long night of Mardi Gras, paper visors with pig ears on them (I don't even want to know why), and the ever popular concession stand uniform, complete with apron and hairnet.

With my usual cynicism, I rolled my eyes, thinking, "typical." But the longer I watched, which I am shocked to say was the entire video, the more I started to see something about State Fair fans that I hadn't noticed before. It was this ironic awareness of the frivolity the State Fair seemed to have. People had ordered these products for the sheer pointlessness of the product, well aware that what they had just bought held no value of nutrition, taste or bragging rights. They bought it because that's what you just do at the State Fair. For an entire day, let all inhibitions go and wear paper pig ears and eat something that may kill you instantly, just for the hell of it.

Maybe the people that loved the fair loved it for the same reasons that I hated it. It wasn't that the entire time I had been missing out on some secret area of the fair that was actually cool. But rather, it was that these people had come to respect and enjoy the shameless freakishness the State Fair embodies so well.

This video was made by people that probably shared a distaste for the State Fair like I do. But by the end, they saw it too: the sheepish smiles the people gave as they held up their stick and then ate it, the way the final boy kept explaining how it was the most unhealthy food on the planet. They knew this is what the fair was about all along. This video was made for people that love and hate the State Fair. Hopefully the haters can see past the surface of the State Fair to what I saw. It wasn't a location I had missed; it was an entire attitude of giving in to ridiculousness for a day that I never understood. Has this made me want to go to the State Fair? Hell, no. But I do have a new found respect for it and the people that go.

Here's the video if you were so interested: