Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Investigative reporting you can laugh at

In probably the most asinine news coverage since Balloon Boy, the media has taken to claiming that attacks on red-headed kids in Calabasas yesterday were inspired by a 5 year old episode of South Park. A few articles even claimed that South Park actually made up the word "ginger."

After some hearty lulz and helpful cluing in by commenters, more thought out stories were published by the end of the day that included mentions of the South Park episode as a satirical episode using Cartman's prejudice against gingers to ridicule general prejudice against given groups.

Even if this story wasn't an earth-shattering mega-important world news story, it's just yet another point scored against proper investigative reporting. It's easy to blame a show like South Park for the creation of the alleged catalyst Facebook group "Kick a Ginger Day," because on the surface South Park has always remained a crass and offensive (to those with delicate sensibilities) show. And because not all of the episodes are trying to portray a specific message, it's not hard to imagine that many might have just seen one episode of the show and written it off as simply crass and offensive. For those of you who are just tuning in to South Park for the first time, here's a big clue in how to analyze the show: almost anything that Eric Cartman likes, or advocates, is NOT meant to be taken seriously and in fact usually is the focal point of the satire. Therefore, in this instance, because Cartman was the one encouraging violence against gingers, the intended message is NOT to agree with him.

Journalists need to stop relying on what the most sensational headlines and stories will be when they're covering what is obviously a very real problem, wherein middle school kids think it's actually okay to beat up red-headed kids. This is just another example of "Blame the Internet!" and "Blame that television box!" when the reality is that those children have parents that have failed to teach them right from wrong. It's one thing to laugh at a ginger joke. It's another thing to think it's okay to actually beat up on gingers, and it's not the Internet or South Park that stripped those kids of their morality. So reporters - I beg you - when you're doing your fancy investigative journalism, I know it seems like the most important thing to get your story up on the internet faster than everyone else, but don't employ the same trite media cliches of blaming the TV because it's the first thing that came to your mind when you were racking your brain about why on earth these sweet little kids would do such a horrible thing. If you think South Park is the reason, I can tell you unequivocally that you are wrong. The reason is that those are not sweet little kids.

At least one blog that my Google News dug up seems to have gotten it right.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I wish I had the guts to say in high school/college... (Part 1 of who knows how many)

I'd been on losing teams before, extremely hapless teams that sucked at doing anything resembling soccer. But, though every game was frustrating, and though we never liked losing, we still liked each other. And, equally important to me as a competitive person, we still practiced before games like we meant it. Even though we knew were probably going to lose, we put the effort in to practice, knowing that if we did manage to get better, we could actually win.

So that was the work ethic I came in with when I joined the Buckley soccer team my freshman year. Suffice it to say, as the years went by, that the losses never got less frustrating - but that wouldn't have mattered if I actually felt like my teammates had any respect: for the game, for our coach (not that he really commanded respect), or for the teammates that actually cared. I couldn't have predicted at the time how bitter I still am today about those years on the team, and even though I just mentioned how I felt my teammates were lacking, the truth is that all of that could have been fixed if my coach had any idea how to motivate and coach teenage girls.

Coach, you rewarded disrespect and poor behavior. You allowed practices to become wastes of everyone's time by not enforcing quality drills. You fostered the sense of entitlement that grew exponentially every year on that team, that allowed my teammates to somehow think we deserved to win games without putting in any effort for it. You under-utilized my talent and dedication, considering that during any given year I was one of fewer than five girls who actually played soccer outside of Buckley. You allowed the girls who took practice seriously to be ridiculed for caring too much. You cultivated egos of girls who possessed neither the talent nor the leadership ability to inspire any of us to understand why you had rewarded them with team awards and captain positions. By the time I was a captain my senior year, I hardly felt like it was an honor because of what the role had already become before I even had a chance to step into it. You made what was supposed to be a fun extracurricular, intended to take my mind off of classwork and social stresses, into a chore that only spawned new social stresses.

I continued to play because I love(d) soccer, but now I realize that what we were playing was a bastardization of soccer and barely worth my time.

File under: Crimes Against Humanity

Until Glee, Hollywood never saw fit to introduce this man into pop culture for me to ogle on my television.

I can only imagine how much more enjoyable dreck like Transformers might have been if the girls in the audience had been gifted hot pieces like Mark Salling to gaze upon instead of Shia Lebouf, since we know that was pretty much Megan Fox's purpose in the movie for the guys.

In fact, just consider this my open letter to casting agents. While the teenyboppers might be attempting to persuade you to put Robert Pattinson in everything you're ever planning on making, I'd like to implore you to reconsider in favor of the hot mo-hawk dude from Glee.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Suitably kooky, pleasantly catchy

For the past week Lady Gaga's new single has been stuck in my head. And I've found that I don't especially mind.

For one thing, I love the video. Michael K from DListed had this to say about it: "If Chris Crocker shot a parody of a Nip/Tuck promo on the bath house set of Eastern Promises, it would look just like Lady CaCa's new video for Bad Romance. That basically sums it up. That might be a compliment, but I'm not sure." I have to agree that his quote is a pretty accurate description, and for me it falls on the side of complimentary.

Make no mistake - Lady Gaga is wacked out, ya'll. She's born as some kind of weird spiky-headed robot bath house prostitute (at least from my interpretation of the thing) and proceeds to wear all assortments of bizarre ensembles - including a pair of those batshit Alexander McQueen shoes that even Vogue personnel had no idea what to with them when they were sent over to the magazine's offices. But in this video, she also has moments where she's allowed herself to look soft. It's something you never see from her and she actually looked gorgeous (great, considering that she's definitely not one of those conventionally attractive half-singers that was plucked out of the Mickey Mouse club to have a record deal.)

As for the song itself, like I said in the title: pleasantly catchy. I love that she actually sings in it, and I love that it has the earnestness of one of those mid-90's diva power ballads set to a dance beat. Even though it's a late release for 2009, it's quickly become one of my favorite pop singles of the year... which, knowing me and how much I listen to pop music, is saying a lot, because essentially most pop for me falls into "unlistenable" and "tolerable," with very few in the latter category actually transcending into "good" (in my humble listening opinion.)

I've defended Gaga's music on here before, even despite me having had her album The Fame and deciding that most of it didn't do anything for me. But three of her singles have been solid songs that I've really enjoyed (Just Dance, Paparazzi, and Bad Romance) and I can really overall respect the fact that she's actually a genuine singer-songwriter, having performed a lot in New York before she was ever "discovered." I love the following Youtube video because it reveals her raw talent but you can also see touches of the eccentricity that has become part of her shtick today as a bonafide famous person.

I'm thinking that I definitely will want to check out her upcoming album, as even if the first one in its entirety didn't make the cut to stay on my iTunes, she interests me enough that I don't mind following her career.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I love 99 Ranch Market

My mom sent me on a routine errand to the Valley's 99 Ranch location the other day, and though I'd been before I'd forgotten about what an awesome place it is. Here's a couple of reasons why it's a pretty boss store (despite the inherent jank of it being in Van Nuys):

1. Observing the differences between what the white people buy and what the Chinese people buy
I was sent because they have really cheap oyster mushrooms, and then I consequently spent 10 minutes in the tea isle (more on that later.) I loved watching all of the equally lame as I white people buy frozen chow mein, Asian pears, other random ordinary produce, Hello Panda cookies, and sushi packages; meanwhile, the Chinese shoppers were surveying gelatinized pork blood, assorted fish meatballs, beef heart, dried and salted talapia, and other various shelf items that were hardcore enough not to bother with English translations on the package. There's nothing quite like feeling all cultured when you show up at an ethnic market, only to buy the most white-bread stuff in the store.

2. The tea isle.
Like I said, I spent a good 10 minutes just staring at all of the delicious options. Since I have a problem where I cannot enter a Thai restaurant or boba shop without ordering a Thai iced tea (hold the boba,) I knew I had to hook myself up with boxes and boxes of the stuff. But then, I wasn't sure what else to get to supplement that with. Should I go for the standard but tasty bubble/milk tea that seems easy to make but I could never get right? Should I sample any one of the seemingly hundreds of jasmine green tea options? Perhaps honey milk jasmine green tea? At the end of the day, I stuck to my Caucasian guns and bought what I knew - the milk tea. And I had some this morning, and it was bitchin'.

3. Seeing American food with Asian characters on it
I just find this weirdly amusing. Kind of like when you get something in the supermarket that has one side of the box in English and a Spanish side surprise on the other. I don't mean this like some random sauce or package that has multiple languages on it - I literally mean, like, Easy Mac with Bacon in Chinese. Or Cinnamon Toast Crunch in Chinese.

4. Almost getting killed by sweet old Asian ladies pushing their carts
They're not actually sweet, but they are old, and they don't look back or apologize when I dive out of the way and hide behind the squid and octopus tank. I love them. I want to grow up and scare children and young adults with the same reckless abandon.

5. The store itself scares and traumatizes young (white) children
I had never been to the store for the first 10-15 years of my life just because my parents never bothered taking me, but I knew all about it from my sister. She found the smell to be horrific, and to this day she likes to remember the store as some kind of open air meat market with animal carcasses hanging in the back where the meat is as if they slaughter them on-site. She has never gone back.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A two-and-a-half hour long WTF moment

Last night I was with a group of people, one of whom put on the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer saying that his brother had recommended it to him. I should note that the last time this happened to me, specifically where a family member recommended a dark-themed movie to one of my friends, I ended up seeing Kids in the GPhi TV room with Michelle. And that was the most disturbing film I'd ever seen -- right up there with Requiem for a Dream, except that I found Requiem to be less exploitative and therefore, to me, more acceptable.

The comparison turned out to be pretty on par. I hated Perfume. The Cliff's Notes version of the story is this: the protagonist is an orphan, sold into slavery. He is blessed with an exceptional nose that can detect any aroma/scent/fragrance/odor for (the film would have you believe) miles, and his gift lands him working for a perfumist (not the correct term, but I don't care) in Paris. Within the first 20 minutes, he comes across the most delightful smell he's ever encountered: the smell of a girl walking down the street. He creepily stalks behind her and sniffs her; when she is frightened and tries to escape, he holds her down and ends up strangling her. He's devastated when, upon her death, her scent evaporates and is lost. This experience causes him through is work in the perfume labs to want to be able to capture any scent forever.

So time goes by (over an hour) and he finds out how to capture the scent of a woman, but the catch is, they have to be dead, and he has to immediately wrap their bodies in cheesecloth soaked in animal fat to catch the scents before the leave the corpses. So he goes on a killing spree, bottling the fragrances of as many beautiful girls as he thinks it will take to make the perfect perfume.

For the sake of you reading this whose curiosity might just drive you to actually see this movie, I'll not tell you what happens at the end. I'll simply note that when I was watching it, I said "This is the dumbest shit I have ever seen, and that includes the Paris Hilton sorority movie." Which is pretty much true. In different ways, the two films were equally offensive to me.

I had heard of the film before, but I hadn't heard much about what people thought of it. So after my loathing reaction last night, I took to the internet to find out what kind of mass consumer appeal it had. As it turns out, it's one of those love-it-or-hate-it types of films where the people who hate it don't understand how anyone could love it (me) and the people who love it think the people who hate it just don't understand art. And sure, I could see that the way it was filmed was artistically pleasing - it took great care to paint stunning visual images in every scene. It had a magical realism vibe to it, which in and of itself does frequently seem to lend an aura of creativity to films and books that utilize it.

But in the end, I just couldn't get over the disgusting misogyny of the story. Thirteen women die in the film so that he can make an otherworldly perfume, disposable women who we intentionally are given very little background about because we're not supposed to care if they die. I saw this argument made on some IMDB boards that I was perusing to read other people's thoughts on it, and a lot of the comments against the argument were singing the tune of "You're missing the point," "You're making a big deal out of nothing," "It's just a movie, it's not supposed to reflect reality," and "It was creatively done, and everyone knows it's not possible, it's just for the story." I just can't disagree more. This movie, for me, was no different than a stupid slasher movie with some dude going around killing girls (but even slasher movies slay the occasional guy.) Just because you throw some sepia-tone on the film and the background motive of trying to create something beautiful, it doesn't justify the plethora of stories in cinema that do little else other than to perpetuate the notion that violence against women makes for worthwhile entertainment.

The one thing that kills me, because the truth hurts, is that something I read over and over on from established critics is that this movie is the type that "love it or hate it, it stays with you." That's the truth - I can't stop thinking about it. It's on my mind enough that I wrote a lengthy blog post on it, even though the sardonic bit of me would like to believe that the freaking 2.5 hours I spent watching the movie were a huge waste and I'd rather not waste more time thinking about it. I guess then, that's one area in which the movie is a huge success. You can love it, love the provocative story, and want to recommend it, or you can hate it, hate the provocative story, but find yourself unable to forget it.

It's Kids all over again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A housekeeping note, music wise

Basically, the playlists are getting unwieldy and tough to keep up with. I may do a themed playlist from time to time, but for the most part they're going to be retired. I am fairly certain that very few people were listening to them even when I was first describing taking the time to talk about the songs, but now that I'm just kind of throwing them up without any explanation, I think it kind of defeats the purpose of trying to introduce music to my (small) audience if I don't even take the time to promote it. So.

More likely to happen is that every now and then I'll choose to highlight one song that rocked my day and talk about it a bit. I'm definitely not a music critic and I don't delude myself that my opinion is especially important. But - since I am personally so into music and have amassed such a large collection, I do think having music be entirely absent from my blog would be doing a disservice to this space I created for myself online. If it's supposed to be a window into my life or my brain or whatever, there has got to be some kind of music somewhere. So there shall be. But just in a more manageable way. And I think in a more rewarding way, since I'll actually get to share my thoughts with the song(s) instead of throwing a playlist out there carelessly.

So, without further ado:

PNAU is one of those groups whose tracks I always came across during DJ sets and EDM (electronic dance music) compilations - and always liked - but never bothered to check out one of their original artist albums. Now, three years later, I finally did, and I've been listening non-stop. I can't get enough of their sound. It's energetic and fun, and as much as I tend to be drawn to darker sounds in my EDM, something about PNAU radiates innocence. It just makes me happy.

Also, as someone with literally too much music on her iPod (I say this not in an ironic trying-to-brag-that-I-have-so-many-songs kind of way, but because I really don't know what most of the songs are when they come on. I just had heard them at one point, liked it, downloaded it, and never really gotten it burned into my brain) there's this thing that happens where music will be playing; some of it I will know, and some of it I won't know, and the trick is - if I don't know it, does it become background noise? Or am I interested enough to look at the iPod to actually see what's playing? And that's the crux of why it's been so great to re-discover PNAU. Countless times since I downloaded two PNAU albums have I been intrigued by what my magic music shuffle box is playing, to find out that it's PNAU. I love that a group is so consistently interesting that they continue to stand out among my shuffle. And some of you may be thinking "Well why do you have so much music on your iPod that you don't pay attention to?" Which is a fair point. But really depending on my mood, something I skipped the day before will perfectly fit the bill the next day. It all depends. But when a group transcends my mood swings and has the potential to land on any playlist for any mood, that's magic. Top marks for PNAU right now.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Windows 7 Adventure

So, I haven't posted an entry lately, and it hasn't been out of laziness (for once.)

A little over a week ago, my computer crashed. 1 new hard drive and copy of Windows 7 later, I was ready to get up and running. The trouble is, my getting up and running process was a complete disaster.

Last Thursday, I began the installation. Needless to say, it didn't go well. Without going into excruciating detail, I was basically running an unstable installation for about a week that would blue screen every time my computer came back from sleep mode. It would also do this annoying thing where every time I turned on the computer it flashed black a couple of times for about a second per flash. ANNOYING. Anyway - those of you who run Windows have surely encountered the infamous blue screen of death (BSOD) at least a couple of times, and those of you who run Macs probably have at least heard about it, as Apple uses the BSOD as a marketing push toward their computers.

I disabled sleep mode and ran that install for about a week, since I had a midterm last Thursday and didn't have a ton of time to fidget with it throughout the week. Then this Friday, I re-installed Windows 7 on a different hard drive so that I could go back to the files I had used on the other hard drive during the week it was running on the computer. For about 24 hours, it worked like a charm. No blue screens, no black flashes. Yay.

But then as I was transferring files yesterday, some of the hard drives connected to the computer would randomly vanish mid-transfer, thereby interrupting the transfer. Cue me exasperatedly thinking, "Oh, good, another Big Problem."

For both major issues, I had scoured the internet looking to see if other people were having similar issues (they were) and if there were solutions (there weren't.) Both times, my only option was to do another install and cross my fingers and hope it solved the problem. First retry obviously didn't work, but second retry - so far, so good. Does that mean third time's a charm with installs? Well, I'll just hope so. I don't want to have to do this again.

I had gotten to a point where I was wondering if I should just backtrack and re-install Windows XP, but the thing was, from my brief usage, I really do like Windows 7. I love the re-imagined task bar, how easy it is to pin applications, and I really like the feature that auto-resizes windows to work side-by-side. The driver installation process was streamlined after every install, and I think the overall look is great. Windows Aero, inspired by the Mac OS, is also a great feature that I enjoy. I didn't want to revert back to XP, because there were a lot of things that 7 has really gotten right.

My install process was a nightmare, but now that I'm finally working again I'm looking forward to exploring this new system further and seeing what it has to offer. I'm also planning on posting a lot in the next few days to catch up.