Thursday, January 28, 2010

New York, New York

Thank goodness Project Runway returned to New York. I don't know who they were trying to kid, everybody knows New York is the fashion capital of America. LA has a totally different style. I just can't handle it when my shows break from formula.

Without Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, the judging wasn't even worth watching. And who were the producers kidding with that satellite Mood store? Weak.

I couldn't even tell you who won last season even though I watched nearly every episode. Looks like they're going to "make it work" this season!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama schools US

"In America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college" - Pres. Obama in his State of the Union address.

So true. And yet, I know so many who are. Going broke I mean. I shouldn't have to be punished for trying to better myself.

Sometimes You Just Need a Little Push

Last week, South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer compared welfare recipients to stray animals. Here's the exact quote:
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that."

Wow, all I can say is wow. This is a public official. And his position is so poisonous. I understand that conservatives want government to stay out of people's private affairs. And I know, believe me I know - having witnessed the first and third of the month behind a teller line - how easy it is to get jaded about government assistance. But this. His position is terrifying. To suggest that the government not "feed" hungry citizens, that is akin to advocating the extermination of low-income individuals.

To this man, though I fear he may not be literate enough to do so, I suggest reading Push, the novel by Sapphire that the film Precious is based upon. The book presents a microcosm of American society. Of the forgotten people, those who must rely on government assistance to better themselves. It humanizes an issue that people who have never been in a position to receive aid may otherwise never comprehend.

Having just finished reading Push for a book club meeting, I will attest that this book moved me to examine my positions on government assistance. Sure, some people abuse the system. But that doesn't mean that everyone does. Like the book's name implies, some people just need a push, a little boost so they can rise above. You would be surprised how difficult it is for people to get by without a network to rely on.

If, like Precious, you've been abused and assaulted by both of your parents, bypassed by the school system, and have no connections at all, then you're screwed. Unless you receive some aid. And maybe the only place you can get it is from the government.
Some people just need a launching pad before they can soar.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our first-year anniversary

It's been an amazing year. We started this project last year on MLK Day and we have grown so much since then. Thanks so much to anyone and everyone who follows this blog!

Love, Cris and Di

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Come Together

Yesterday, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake - hit Port-au-Prince, the worst to hit the nation in 200 years. Early estimates project nearly 1/3 of the population of the country has been affected by the disaster.

Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, carries a lot of historical significance. The first established democratic Black republic, as well as the first independent region in Latin America, Haiti is unique for forcing its independence through a slave rebellion.

Sadly, though one of the first nations to free itself from colonialism, the country has long struggled with political instability. Long after its independence, Haiti continued to be controlled by foreign powers, who created dependency. According to the CIA, nearly 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Imagine the state of the nation now.

Here's a chance for you to help out. Modern technology has made it incredibly easy for us to save a life from the comfort of our couches. To give $10 to the Red Cross, all you have to do is text "Haiti" to 90999. To donate $5 to Yele Haiti, a foundation started by one of Haiti's most famous sons - Wyclef Jean - text "Yele" to 501501. It's that easy to make a difference. If my broke self could do it, so can you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Battle of the Big-Budget Blockbusters

The vaguely ethnic wolfpack from New Moon.

As blockbusters go, I'm pretty apathetic. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy flashy explosions and power ballad theme songs just as much as anyone else but, after a while, they all blend together to me. The plots and characters start to feel recycled.

This year, I had the honor (or dishonor, depending on how you want to look at it) of viewing two of the most-anticipated films of the year on their opening weekends. And let me just say, one clear beat the other. Those movies were the Twilight sequel, New Moon and James Cameron's Avatar. Besides the buzz surrounding these films, the two are almost incomparable.

The Twilight craze is strong and so unjustifiably so (in my view) but, Avatar definitely lived up to the hype. And I'm glad audiences worldwide have warmed to my view. Domestically, Avatar may not have caught up with New Moon (which has been playing longer) but, it's breaking all sorts of international box office records and is on its way to reaching Titanic heights.

If you're on the dark side, I'm not going to try to sway you. But I will present some valid arguments to demonstrate Avatar's superiority.

1. Avatar respects women and New Moon really doesn't. For the fact that author of the Twilight series is a woman who wrote her books from a female's point of view, for all the buzz the films have received for providing young women with a positive role model, New Moon is the most anti-feminist movie I've seen in a long time. Whiny, co-dependent Bella is the least likable character I've seen on screen. Most of the movie, she spends her time plotting various ways to kill herself because A.) her man left her and B.) she "sees" him when she's in dangerous situations. Every time this happens, some guy has to swoop in and save the day. Bella is an anti-heroine. I would never want my daughter to idolize her, even if she promotes chastity. Avatar, on the other hand, written by Cameron and told from a male point of view, features strong female characters. Ones who I respect and would like my daughter (if I had one) not to worship but, to admire qualities of.

2. Exploitation - The whole draw of New Moon is half-naked exotic looking boys. Where Twilight was all about Robert Pattinson's hotness, New Moon is all about Taylor Lautner's abs. For some reason, his character can't seem to keep his shirt on. Maybe he's allergic to wearing clothes. Either way, I found my self guilty of making this 17-year-old (the same age as my little brother) a sexual object. It really creeped me out. Society's always making a big deal about half-naked teenage girls (Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus) yet, nobody seems troubled that the climax of New Moon is when Lautner exposes his perfectly indented abdomen for the first time. This is the only time I will probably ever state this, so listen up: New Moon promotes a male double standard. And don't get me started on the clearly ethno-centric bent of this film. In Avatar, even though the characters are mostly naked for the whole film, it feels natural. Maybe it's because they are computer-generated but, I feel like the avatars are tastefully undressed, if that makes sense. It seems natural for the Na'vi culture to wear minimal clothes, as they would just
interfere with their connectivity with nature and their hunting and gathering activities.

Zoe Saldana's character, Neytiri, daughter of the Na'vi tribe's chief.

3. Plot vs. Not - From most the reviews I have read, the plot of Avatar is the one aspect of the film that has been heavily criticized. I realize that it was not the deepest film I have ever seen. Yet, I do understand the overarching themes - respect for humanity, anti-imperialism, indigenous rights, man's return to nature, and they speak to me. I feel there is a point to the movie. When I was watching New Moon, I just felt like I was wasting my time. Since it was based on a best-selling novel, I expected some substance. Yet, I felt like the film was just banking on the franchise's power and unlike the Harry Potter flicks, I did not feel like it could stand alone. The characters were cardboard and one-dimensional and the pacing was terrible. The first 3/4 of the film dragged on forever and all the action took place at the end. I think this is because we were supposed to go on a psychological journey with Bella but, it was shoddily set up.

4. Acting ability - I won't say that the actors in Avatar are the best in the world. Zoe Saldana's accent shifts around at times. But the voice actors are so much more emotive than the human figures in New Moon. Kristen Stewart still hasn't grown out of her awkwardness. Where at first, this characteristic might have been endearing, I'm over it. She's been acting for years and she should have developed her craft by now. All she does is make a pouty face and roll her eyes. Robert Pattinson's career seems to based on his attractiveness. His acting consists of making sour faces, like he just sucked on a lemon. Since his casting appears to hang on his beauty, when Taylor Lautner upstages him in that department, his existence is just sort of pointless. I'm glad an unknown was chosen for the lead role in Avatar. Since I had no idea who he was, I didn't associate his personality with his performance, which I thought was acceptable - he served his purpose as an action star and I got that his character was undergoing a transformation.

There's no comparing special effects as Avatar has broken a mold in the film industry in terms of its innovative 3-D technology. What I will say is that as a traditional film, Avatar crushes New Moon's in all the non-blockbuster categories.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Decadence: A Decade's End

As 2010 crawls to a start, I can't help but reflect on not just the past year but, the last decade. I can't help but imagine that in history books, the 2000s will go down as a time of extreme materialism and for lack of better term ... decadence. In the words of Britney Spears, the official motto of this decade should have been "Gimme gimme more."

For me, the last 10 years have been completely transformative, as I started the Millennium as a pimple-faced adolescent. So for me, it's almost hard to imagine a time before the Internet. I honestly can't believe that I've only had a cell phone for the last 6 years because texting is now just the fastest way to communicate with someone. And my goodness, I don't even know what college students did before Facebook and YouTube. They probably got out more often. Or just were drunk more often. Either way, these advents have come to define my generation.

Here's a look back at what I mean about the Gimme More years.

The Web

The Internet has taken over our lives. But with every advance, it seems that we are always want things to be faster, stronger, more accessible. Pretty much every cafe, library and even public parks now offer wi-fi, a concept that was just not conceivable (at least to me) 10 years ago.

I didn't have access to the Internet until I was in high school and now, I don't know what I would do if I lost access to it. It's just so much easier to hide behind an e-mail than to put yourself out their face-to-face.

I know some people might call Gen. Y the "Look at Me" generation because, let's face it, technology normalized our self-absorption. Blogs have pretty much replaced diaries and bonus! - we can now broadcast our feelings to the whole world. Depending on how self-obsessed we are, we can tell people what we're doing pretty much any time of the day. And as I said before, it's hard to believe YouTube has only been around for a half-decade. Viral videos are so prevalent in our culture now. It's hard to imagine the college experience without the joy of the Pearl/"Landlord" video or egads being totally and utterly disgusted by just the mention of "Two Girls and a Cup." And like YouTube, Facebook brought procrastination to a whole new level. Hours upon hours can be spent on Facebook, if you have the time and don't burn your lap with your laptop. You can invent a whole new cyber persona, friend people you haven't so much as spoken to in real life, and stalk crushes through this medium. If that's not enough, you can create party invitations, organize photo albums, and carry on entire conversations with friends without so much as talking to them. And you can lie in bed the whole time you're doing this.

And now, you can do all these things from your phone! It give me a headache just to think about it.


There have been quite a few trends in films this decade including the Manchild movies (ie: the Hangover, the 40-year-old Virgin, and anything starring Will Ferrell), tween flicks (anything starring anyone from the Disney Channel) and the re-emergence of the musical (Moulin Rouge, Rent, Nine). But the one constant has been epic special effects movies. The stories are simple: superhero stories (Spiderman, Batman, Ironman), the archetypal hero's journey (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) and most of these stories are adaptations from comic books and popular novels. The equation's always the same = simple plot, strong characters, and big, huge explosions. Movies were all about demonstrating technical mastery, not of the craft of acting but rather, the developments of computer-generated technology. Each and every action film seems to be trying to outdo the last.

And even simple cartoons got in on the action. One-dimensional cellularly constructed cartoons grew nearly invisible by the end of the decade. Pixar and Dreamworks owned children's movies and every year, computer animated films got more precise, more realistic looking.


The 2000s was the decade of overproduced, overpackaged musicians. In my opinion, women reined supreme this decade. But most of these women were created by men. They were taught to sing (or at least lip sync) with over-the-top gesturing, dance like pros, flirt with men and women alike and just generally sell their brands. Britney and Christina were pumped out of the Disney machine. Beyonce and Jessica were cultivated by their fathers. Pink went from punk to pop-music mold. The top group of 2009 was the Black Eyed Peas, a "band" made up of mostly producers. And keeping with the mechanization of our society, synthesizers and auto-tune took the place of vocal talent.


The idea of bigger is better ruled this decade. It's now wonder Hummers became an unofficial symbol of our culture. As a society, we became hyper-consumers, we wanted it all. Anything we could get our hands on.

After the longest period of peace in the United States, we entered into not just one but, two wars at the same time. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, 'civilian casualties' became a daily part of our lives. Thanks to all the money pumped into the military complex, the country entered into a historical level of debt.

And it wasn't just the government that couldn't control it's spending. As objects got shinier, our collective credit card bills grew out of control. Personal debt skyrocketed. Our eyes got bigger and bigger and we strove for items we knew were completely out of range, such as houses with mortgages that were completely unaffordable. It was only a matter of time until our spending caught up with us, which it did the last two years. And now, even our numbers of unemployment are outrageous.

I could go on and on. But I'm going to stop here. I want to hear from you, do you agree with me or am I totally off-base?

Either way, I hope the new decade provides something of a social cleanse.