“Solving” the Poverty and “Secret Millionare”

I’m sitting around enjoying my Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed some quality (ahem) reality show America’s Next Top Model: Cycle 2.0 (with boyz!!), but I was all caught up, so there was only one episode. And I had a sleeping roommate on me, so I was too limited in my movement* to read articles, so I began exploring Hulu in search of other great shows (previous contenders have included House Hunters, but also Holidate, whose contract with Hulu has sadly expired). I had heard of Shark Tank and was sort of curious about it, since I’m getting to be a bit more interested in start ups, start up culture and the mechanics behind investment in them. Perhaps this show is a good way to explore that, even though it’s still reality. It was interesting, and I discovered that I MUST FIND THESE SWEET BALLZ, but there was also only one episode. Hulu recommended to me a show I had not heard of, ABC’s Secret Millionaire. So I watched the first episode.

I’m so conflicted. Continue reading

Spring Breakers: Insane, or Brilliant? [SPOILERS!!]

Tonight I got to play with Gypsy (improv group) at The Magnet for the Rundown, which was great fun, if not really amazing, and then after some shuffling of plans, ended up randomly seeing Spring Breakers, one of the new films James Franco is in. I’d listened to the Slate Culture Gabfest discussion of the film, and it kind of made me curious. And I’m actually super glad I saw it. And even more glad that I listened to their discussion of it before seeing it, because I feel like this is not a movie you should walk in blind to.

So first of all, I just want to describe the feel–flashy, lots of bright and obnoxious colors, fluorescent lights, and boobs and butts galore. So many bikinis. The opening scene is just girls shaking their butts and naked breasts with alcohol being sprayed all over them in the ocean and on the sand. And it was such a strange combination of titillating and yet really creepily not sexy at all. Like, it was too ostentatious to be really sexually appealing.

After stealing money from a local restaurant with a water gun and sledgehammer, the ladies go to St. Petersburg, FL to see a world different than what they’re used to. And meet Alien, Franco’s character, who is really into money and guns. And also shorts and cologne, much like this guy.

My favorite scene in the movie, and the moment I really started to believe this film is seriously satire was when three of the girls, dressed in one piece swim suits with generously cut out sides, ridiculous pink masks, sweat pants with “DTF” (Down To Fuck, for anyone not familiar with this phrase) printed on the butts, gently carrying AK-47s, stood around a gorgeous white baby grand piano at Alien’s house, by the pool, with an incredible ocean view. They ask him to play a sensitive song, and he proceeds to play (and sing) Britney Spears’ (an “angel on Earth, according to Alien) “Everytime.” This is perhaps the weirdest scene I’ve ever seen in a movie. The screenshot is used for one of the posters:

Spring Breakers, movie poster


Strange. Also a key that the movie is really not supposed to be taken seriously, in my opinion.

Subsequently, one of the girls gets shot in the arm by Alien’s enemy/childhood best friend. She goes home, and the other two girls seek revenge; Alien gets killed in the process, while the girls go on a shooting spree, leaving many of the gang the enemy is a part of, including him, dead. And then they go back to school.

There was lots of gratuitous violence/showing off of guns & cash, and MANY shots of boobs and butts, which were entirely unavoidable, sometimes boobs taking up the ENTIRE SCREEN. But my take is that that’s sort of the point. The film feels (and I don’t know how to explain this really, or why it is exactly) sexual, but in a dirty, creepy way, as I say. It feels like it’s forcing you to be turned on, if that makes sense? But like, not in a fun way. In a forceful, violent way. And through that violence, for lack of a better phrase, the film jolts you into recognizing how unfulfilling these things are, and how demoralizing the concept of spring break can be. Repetition is used throughout the film and creates sort of a strange alternate universe, particularly Alien saying, “Sprang braake 4eva.” It’s eery. The whole movie is. But I kind of loved it.

Jury Duty!

I’m super bored because I have jury duty today.  And who knows how long that will last.  I’m kind of liking it.  Listening to Justin Bieber’s new song, Boyfriend, writing some post(s???), reading some work stuff.  I just get to hang out!  That seems pretty awesome to me.  Also, this is fascinating.  I am continually impressed with how incredibly diverse Kings County (where Brooklyn is, and where I live, thus, where I am serving my jury duty) is.  It’s really quite amazing.  And we watched this silly little 15 minute video about jury duty, and I just realize what a unique institution our court system is.  Not to be too cheesy, but it’s kind of cool to be a part of that.  Even if that means waiting in a room all day.

Uhm, also, they have Wi-Fi!  So that’s pretty spectacular.  Just wish I’d brought my computer charger.  I’d be all about some laptoping then.

Aaanyway, if I have more sweet stuff to post about, I will do it in a bit.  For now, just listening to this silly song on repeat, and letting the joy of being a teenager seep into my pores.

Understanding the Other Side

I religiously listen to Planet Money, an NPR podcast that is amazing, and I highly recommend. The podcast has great music, is short and sweet and the folks who host it are great–funny, entertaining and best of all, it is a really accessible view of economics.  The folks that host the show also write other things occasionally, and I’m usually quite satisfied with the outcome.  Adam Davidson, one of the main Planet Money folks, wrote the cover story for the NY Times Magazine this past weekend, and it is seriously worth a read, though it’s a bit long.  The story is really a profile of a past co-worker of Mitt Romney’s, Edward Conrad.  He worked with Romney at Bain Capitol, and has recently released a book, Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong, explaining his theory that income inequality is actually a good thing for all of society.   There are a lot of reasons why this upsets me.  Conrad’s theory is well thought-out, and as far as I can tell, logically sound.  Davidson agrees.  The problem is that Conrad describes a world that I do not want to live in.

This constant calculation — even of the incalculable — can be both fascinating and absurd. The world Conard describes too often feels grim and soulless, one in which art and romance and the nonremunerative satisfactions of a simpler life are invisible. And that, I realized, really is Conard’s world. “God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. “It’s not beautiful. It’s hard work. It’s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o’clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It’s not serenity and beauty.”

This seems like a stale, sad, sad world.  I want no part of it.  Conrad basically argues that we need really intense, strong incentives for people to work hard and take risks, and that therefore, we need inequality so that the top is worth striving for, and the bottom worth striving not to be in.  And this is problematic for me because the world he is talking about is pretty entirely work-focused and really all about money.  But we made money up!  It is a metaphor and conduit for resources and power.  The world I would like to live in is more equal because I don’t like the idea of living in a world whose sole purpose is about amassing wealth.  That seems crazy to me, and icky.  I don’t have a great logical argument other than ick.  But that’s it.  Davidson does argue that part of the problem with inequality is that those with money (ie, power and resources) will use that money to influence society to help them maintain their status, money etc, and inevitably the system will reward those who initially obtain money, not those who actually work hard and take risks. Much better argument than mine.  But ICK!  Really, who wants to live in a world that is all about money??!!  No, thank you.

My dad’s girlfriend also posted a great post from a friend of hers who is an anthropologist. The post aims to explain how Evangelical Christians hold the political beliefs they do, while secular liberals are so flummoxed by  Evangelicals seemingly voting “against their own self-interest.”  I definitely agree with her main thesis, that Evangelicals see the world how they wish people would be, and that they see government programs “[step] in when people fall short.”    In my arguments with my Facebook friend, Peter, I have definitely seen this.  His arguments are based upon (it seems to me) legislating as if all Americans are the most ideal Christians, and that any law falling short of that is condoning a relatively evil way of living and being.  His arguments, as much as he tries to avoid it, are based upon his very Christian (Catholic, even) ideal world, and one where values held by Catholics are not just held but also attempted to be attained by all citizens in the US.  I know he is a caring and generous person one-on-one, and that his intention is not to hurt people, but I also believe the policies he supports do just that.

Anyway, a few articles worth their salt and time, courtesy of the New York Times.  What can I say–I’m a liberal New Yorker!!

Bon Iver Makes Me Contemplative

My goodness. I hadn’t thought anything of this Bon Iver fellow, and his ubiquitous (at least among middle class, young white people) music. Then I listened to “Towers” with the video and was sucked in. So I bought his first album, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” and I am paralyzed by where it takes me. Sometimes music just does this thing, right, where it takes you somewhere. You lose power to decide where you are, emotionally, because whatever you’re feeling gets hijacked by the music’s emotion. That is Bon Iver.

I am kind of loving it though–I feel contemplative, it’s ruminating, complex, but also simple. It has this sadness intertwined with bits of hope and there’s something sort of strangely uplifting about it. Haunting, but uplifting. Ok, I know I sound like a total tool, but I am going, “oh. This is why people like this dude.”.

That’s all for now. Bon Iver. Listen, if you are living under a rock like me and have yet to experience the intensity.

Black HIV Awareness Day

First of all, I am LOVing this song:

Second of all, it happens to be Black HIV Awareness Day. Usually I don’t get all excited about the things we do at work, but we had an event today, and it really was refreshing and a reminder of how I can love my job, and see that we are actually making a difference, which is pretty incredible. We watched this incredible video here:

It’s a bit long, but it is seriously incredible. I think it does a fantastic job of providing some explanation about how this particular population has such a horrific infection rate, and why it is quite literally invisible at a higher political level.

I will say that one of the biggest differences between 2006, when this piece was filmed, and today is President Barack Obama.  He is part black, and that doesn’t hurt, but he has, for whatever reason, created a National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is the very first of its kind.  We discussed today how Bush funded $48 billion toward the global fight against HIV, and any country receiving any of that funding needed a national strategy/policy in place; we in the United States never had one until 2010.  Incredible.  But really, I highly recommend the piece on AIDS in Black American–it’s really well done and informative.


Mental Health on the Jersey Shore

One of my guilty pleasures is the Jersey Shore. I began watching the show in Season 1 out of curiosity, and quickly became hooked, in part because of Rich at Four Four’s amazing re-caps. Even if you have always thought the show was awful, you should check these out because they are seriously awesome and incredibly entertaining.

This year, thanks to my roommate Dina, I got sucked back in (had not watched Seasons 2-3, thank you very much) when the guidos found themselves in the lovely Venice, Italy. I didn’t watch all of Season 4, but I did tune into the last few episodes and got hooked back in. Ridiculous. It is all such lunacy!! I seriously cannot believe that these people are real. At least that is how I felt until I watched the latest episode, in which Vinny, one of the characters, leaves the show due to anxiety. His frank discussion of anxiety his struggle with anxiety and depression and then another clip including his roommates blatant misunderstanding of anxiety are fascinating to me. First of all, I was really impressed that Vinny is so open about what he’s going through, and it is heartening to see it brought up in the fake world of Jersey Shore. In my opinion, Vinny is way too intelligent for these people, and I can understand what he’d be going through after 3 years of this insanity. Gawker has a decent re-cap of the show if you don’t want to watch all of it. But I think there’s more to this episode than meets the extremely made-up eye. Sammi, in the aftershow video, says she thinks Vinny left because he saw his mom and it made him sad. Which is why seeing what Vinny says is so important. Vinny explains that no one in the house understands (I totally agree), and that they just want him to be happy and keep trying to make him happy, but that he needs to leave to get better. Because he needs permission to go through a tough time, to not be the person who is easy and not a problem. I can’t even begin to explain how much I identify with what Vinny’s going through–it was eery watching and realizing that I have been there, emotionally, exactly. Especially because any feeling I had for this show was horror and shock that these are real people. So I’m even more surprised that this person is not only real, but just like me (maybe not just like, but stil. relatable). I wish he could be around other people who’ve experienced depression and anxiety–he says he’s alone and no one understands, but that isn’t entirely true. Other people do understand, they just sure as hell aren’t at the Jersey Shore (Vinny himself notes that the Jersey Shore is not the place you want to be when you’re going through a high-anxiety time in your life). In any event, I really am proud of MTV for their portrayal of mental health. There is dignity and respect there, and I’m impressed by that. For all the shit they get about being a horrible continuance of disgusting pop culture, I actually think they do a relatively good job of being open, honest and non-biased. Though I’m sure some people would consider that to be liberal.

Side Note

Kanye’s new album is vulgar, hilarious, poignant, enchanting and totally listen-able.  Love.