Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So, many things have changed since I last took the time to publish a post in this blog. One should hope this would be the case, since my last post was, indeed, four months ago. Appropriately, and rather cliche-ly (I'll make up a word if I want), I have recently been reflecting over the ups and downs of 2009.

As many of you know, I spent the first several months of 2009 as an underpaid temp, frantically searching for a permanent job, with things like health insurance, stable hours, and maybe even a retirement plan. Finally, salvation came in the name of the National Association of Children's Hospitals (N.A.C.H.), in the public policy department, no less. Those of you (non-existent readers) who know me, know that I don't believe in any sort of higher power. Yet, even I will admit that I happened upon a job that, while not perfect, is extremely well-suited to me. I don't love it every day, but I enjoy my co-workers, I don't have to stress about choosing between paying my bills and eating (things were not quite that bad, but almost), and I'm not currently worried about being laid off or let go. I am truly thankful for this job, even on the days I don't want to go to work in the morning.

During my frenetic search for steady work, I many times talked about retreating back to school, to get the master's I knew I wanted, but of course would have no way to pay for without a real job. So, instead of forgetting my desire to further my education once I received my "real job," I applied to the Master of Public Policy Program at George Mason University. I received my acceptance letter the day after Christmas, and am very excited to start classes on January 20. I am very much looking forward to studying, researching, and writing papers again, as crazy as that may sound to some. I needed a break after I finished my undergraduate degree, but I'm ready to go back.

While there were times I thought 2009 to be a terrible year, it was, in all honesty, one of my best. I found a job I enjoy, I got accepted to a grad school program, and I got a wonderful apartment with my wonderful boyfriend. But, of course, as I look to 2010, I want to make things even better than they are now. After all, shouldn't everyone want to make next year the best year yet? There for, I'm thinking of a few, resolutions if you will, for 2010:

  • Getting into graduate school was going to be my number one goal - since I accomplished that, now my goal is to start my program full throttle, and truly give it my all.

  • Exercise more - of course it's cliche, but I do need to take advantage of the gym that is two floors below me. Who can't benefit from making themselves healthier?

  • Start writing more - obviously, school will force my hand in writing somewhat, and I'm looking forward to that. However, I also want to actually keep this blog up, rather than posting every few months at random. My goal, actually, will be to post at least twice a week. To aid with this, I need to make the blog more focused, rather than just whatever happens to pop into my head at a moment I'm sitting on the couch with my computer and rather bored. I have a few ideas, but I'll expand more on the focus of the blog when I've determined what it will be.

  • Actually start my monthly "girl's day." In August, I suggested that some female friends and I get together for lunch/coffee on day every month. One friend and I were able to meet that month, and then I never took the time to organize it after that. To get better about this, I plan on picking a day of the month, and placing a recurring appointment on my calendar. Additionally, I'll put a recurring appointment on my calendar two weeks ahead of each outing, reminding me to send the e-mail to confirm the details - where to meet, whether it's coffee, lunch, brunch, etc. There are some wonderful options in the District, and a museum and coffee could be a fabulous and cheap way to spend a few hours.
So, those are my goals for 2010. Of course, all things are fluid. My priorities could change drastically over the next year. We'll see how things progress, and, if I adhere to goal number three, I will keep you updated.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Golden Girls - the ultimate in feminist programming

I know what you're thinking. What a cheesy, terrible show from the 80s - how could any young, intelligent woman possibly find this show remotely entertaining? But stay with me until the end of this post. I think I might be able to convince a few of you of the social value of this program, despite it's inherent cheesiness.

You see, I would claim that the show the "Golden Girls" is the ultimate feminist television show. Much more so than "Sex and the City" or "Lipstick Jungle," shows that are usually heralded as being feminist today. After all, this show depicts four strong, vibrant, and independent characters, who don't pack it all up and knit booties in the old folks' home after the age of 60.

First of all, the women of the "Golden Girls" showed a positive view of women in their 50s and 60s (and even older, for Sophia). All of the women were either widowed or divorced, and live together in Blanche's house to help save money. This, of course, is much more believable than Carrie being able to afford a beautiful New York City apartment, and Manolo Blahnik's on a columnists salary. And, while these women are neither young nor married, their lives have hardly ceased.

Sex is another reason this is a fantastically feminist show. Name another show where women this age are portrayed to have a vibrant, healthy sex life. The women of this show formed a very strong bond, and were able to talk to one another about their sex lives. They formed their own family, and enjoyed the company of men when it suited them.

Of course, the women often dealt with very modern issues (well, modern for the 80s, anyway). The show addressed AIDS, artificial insemination, racism, and fat-shaming, to name a few.

In the end, despite the cheesy "solve-all-life's-problems-in-a-half-hour" feel, and the awful Saint Olaf stories, this show provides a very strong role model for young women. One in which life does not end at 50, unless you know a good plastic surgeon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I have not updated this blog in ages (at least, according to "internet time" - in fact, in internet time, I think it may be considered centuries). Is it because I have lost interest in putting words to screen, and exercising my writing muscles? Not in the slightest. It has just been a very busy few months in my life, and this hasn't really been top priority. Suddenly, while watching television the other night, I had several ideas for different blog posts. While I will likely start drafting several of them this evening, I thought that the most appropriate thing to do would be to give an update on where I am and what I've been doing the last few months. This is far more for my own reflection, rather than any assumption that anyone is sitting on the edge of their seat, hoping for a blog update.

First of all, I finally got a job. I am no longer tempting, but I am an Administrative Assistant in public policy at the National Association of Children's Hospitals. This has been a wonderful fit for me, and I very much love my job ( as much as you can love being an admin, anyway. I'm working on moving up a little bit, so we'll see where that goes). Of course, with health care reform moving through Congress at the rate it has been, it's been very busy. It is no coincidence that I am coming back to my blog during the August recess.

John and I moved in together. And I finally got out of Lorton. I loved living with my William and Mary cohorts, but man I hated that small, water treatment plant scented town so far away from everything. Now I live in Arlington, closer to work, and closer to the District. These are both very good things for me. And while I expected that John and I would have the typical relationship growing pains upon moving in together (wet towels on the floor, toothpaste on the vanity, etc), so far everything has been absolutely perfect. I couldn't be happier.

And, of course, there is the book club. I reviewed a book I read for this club the first month I was a member, but I never reported back on how the meetings went. I have always wanted to try out a book club, and I am very glad that I did. It is not a group of intellectual snobs reflecting on their own genius - nor do we read fluff pieces with no substance or intrigue of any kind. The leader of the club often selects books that I would likely have never picked up on my own, but often touch on very interesting issues of race, class, gender, etc. The group varies somewhat in age (although I believe I am the youngest person who shows up regularly - shocking, I know), race, and gender, and has a great dynamic. Everyone looks at the book from a different perspective, and we come together to illuminate these different readings to one another. My next meeting is tomorrw evening, and we will be discussing Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas. I highly recommend the book, but if you don't like stream of conciousness, you probably will not enjoy it. In fact, I have roughly 60 pages to read before I'm done, so I should probably do that now.

Please excuse the rough, rambling nature of this post - I'm not in a re-reading and editing sort of mood.

Monday, March 2, 2009

No more snowdays?

Ah, I think the last vestige of my childhood has finally been crushed. This morning, I woke up to at least 3 inches of snow covering the ground. Now, the last time I saw this (it's been at least 5 years since I've seen this much in the mid-Atlantic during global warming and all), it was enough to cancel school for the entire day. Maybe even two, just for good measure. NO more, ladies and gentlemen.

As soon as my parking lot was plowed (which didn't happen until 9:30, so I still got a nice little morning reprieve) it was time to clean off my car and head into work. Welcome to adulthood. No more snow days.

Actually, I really thought about going to work at the normal time. I went outside at quarter to 7 to clean off my car, so I could leave at 7, per usual. As I was cleaning off my car, I noticed two things. 1) I was the only jackass outside trying to clean my car 2) My parking lot was covered in 3-5 inches of snow. I decided that I didn't want to test my theory that my car was too low to the ground to make it over the snow. What are ya gonna do?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Life's Guilty Pleasures

Ah, Sundays are always fantastically relaxing and lazy. I usually end up spending almost the entire day in my pajamas. Not that my Saturdays are all that much more eventful. In fact, many times, they aren't more eventful at all. I really should take more advantage of all DC has to offer to me, but I really don't. However, my free weekends may soon be busy waiting tables. Which won't leave me with time to do things on the weekends, but it will give me the money to do the things I don't have the time to do. What a conundrum. Ah, well, what are ya gonna do?

For lack of any decent segue, let's just jump right in, shall we? I was reading Time magazine yesterday morning, as I like to do. There was a very interesting little article by James Poniewozik about our culture's current obsession with the elite class in our society, despite not having the means to remotely live like them (and for this, I am rather grateful).

As an example, he cites many of the shows on the Bravo TV network, and let's face it, the man has a point. His prime example, of course, is the Real Housewives of (enter city/region here, there's a whole slew of 'em). Now, I must admit, I occasionally get sucked into this show. Don't get me wrong here, I don't actually go out of my way to seek it out, ever. However, if a roommate is watching it, or perhaps I'm flipping through channels, searching for something mind-numbing, I may stop to watch to this show. It's like watching a train wreck. No matter how badly you may want to stop watching, you just can't do it. The drama, the petty fights, the absolute spoiled behavior. It is absolutely unbelievable to me that adults can act in this manner. And man, is it ever entertaining.

But, do these women really deserve a show on television? I mean, I know everyday people who do wonderful things every day, and make these fantastic contributions to society. Yet these women, who usually have no sort of job and rarely lift a finger to volunteer or make the world around them a better place, get reality television show deals, where they can make an ass out of themselves in front of an audience of millions, making I'm sure I don't want to know how much money. And we are the ones that give them at money. Yes, you and me. After all, if we didn't watch, advertisers wouldn't advertise, and there would be no money for the network to hose the show. But we do watch.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not some crazy superhuman who thinks that we should have no source of mindless entertainment, and everything should be taken as a serious reflection on our popular culture, with no time to be entertained. I mean, like I said, I watch this show too, and I find it extremely entertaining. And while I don't seek out any of the Real Housewives series, I certainly do seek out America's Next Top Chef, another of the shows mentioned in the original article. And I love it.

But, let's face it, not at least acknowledging the ridiculousness of the things we find entertaining may lead to a slippery slope of a mind-numbingly dumb society. Ever seen the movie Idiocracy?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The White Tiger

I just finished reading the book The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I was only exposed to because I recently joined a book club (I haven't attended the first meeting yet, more on that when I have), and that was the title for this month's meeting. All the better for me, since I probably never would have picked up this book while browsing the shelves of my favorite bookstore (note to self: I need to find a favorite bookstore in this area).

It was very interesting to see the movie Slumdog Millionaire while reading this book, since they both take place in India, and deal with extreme poverty. The White Tiger, however, handles the extreme poverty a little bit differently. As you may or may not have read earlier, I thought in many ways, poverty in Slumdog was romanticized. Two brothers, struggling against all odds, often triumphing, getting money from American tourists and engaging in humorous tricks to earn extra money. The White Tiger, also told from the point of view of a man living in poverty, does not romanticize the extreme poverty in India whatsoever.

As a boy, the protagonist was his father's only hope of a family member actually completing school, and getting a decent job; thus ending the cycle of poverty for the family. However, when the father dies from tuberculosis, the young protagonist, like his older brother, must drop out of school and start working in teashop. Eventually, the young boy decided to become a driver, because this will bring in more money for the family then working in the teashop.

The book provides an interesting look (at least, I assume it is an interesting and honest look, I suppose I am no expert) at the cycle of poverty in India. The servants, though they make money, hardly make an outstanding amount of money, and what money they do make must be sent home to their families. In turn, the families spend the largest part of the money renting the land they use to farm from the wealthy landowners, so it is still never saved. In the end, it is almost impossible to rise above the cycle of poverty you are born into.

The protagonist, in this story, is one of the few that manages to rise above the poverty and become one of the wealthy. The only way he is able to accomplish this is by murdering his master. Trust me, I'm not giving anything away. This is something the protagonist lets you know from the very beginning. The book left me, well, questioning how I felt about this protagonist. He was uneducated, subject to extreme poverty, and in many ways, a sympathetic character. However, there were things about him throughout the entire novel that detracted from this sympathy.

In terms of style, the book was written in a unique fashion. The book was a series of letters written by the protagonist, to the Premier of China, who was making a trip to India to see what motivates men to become entrepreneurs in such a corrupt, impoverished nation.

While this may never make a list of my top ten reads, I would certainly recommend it to others. It is interesting, and insightful. Even if it doesn't expose the true India, it certainly captures some honest aspects of human nature, some more attractive than others.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Well, better late than never, I always say. While I love the Oscars, and trying to see as many of the movies nominated for Oscars as humanly possible prior to the lovely award ceremony, I am also poor. So, clearly, this does not always happen. In fact, it never happens. This year, before the show, I managed to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon. The former I thought was a beautiful story with an exceptional performance by Cate Blanchette, although I felt it lagged a little in the middle/end; the latter I thought exceptional.

Two days ago, on my way home from work, my boyfriend balked at the idea of sitting in traffic hoping to get home, and we took an unplanned detour for dinner/movie while traffic cleared up. He's just going to have to get used to the traffic at some point, since neither of us can afford to do dinner/movie every time the traffic is bad, and it is always bad. So, we decided to see what all of the fuss was about, and check out Slumdog Millionaire.

First, let me tell you, I enjoyed this film immensely. The cinematography was beautiful and full of emotion, the music was beautifully and creatively paired with the story/scenery. The acting was...well, the acting was good, and it certainly moved the story forward, and served it's place in the movie. After seeing the movie, I can understand how a movie could be nominated for (and win) so many Awards, yet not a single individual performance was nominated. Don't misunderstand, it wasn't bad, there just weren't any devastating performances. For example, while I do not think Benjamin Button deserved a nom for best picture, I do think Cate Blanchette deserved at least a nom (I'm so happy Winslet won) for her performance. If only the judges agreed with me.

However, I had a few problems with the movie. For one thing, while the movie certainly portrayed some horrible aspects of poverty in India, it also somehow romanticized it. I don't know if I can quite articulate what I mean. While the protagonist, his brother, and his love interest suffered some horrible fates as children, it was always portrayed in this sort of "resourceful and scrappy kids at odds with the world, but winning in the end," that I think trivializes the very real problems of poverty facing India right now.

And there was one scene that I had real problems with. Well, let me rephrase that. I thought it was a fairly accurate representation of the truth, and I didn't like what I saw. In a scene in the movie, Jamal is being brutally beaten in front of American tourists, and he makes a comment about this being "the real India." So, of course, the wife in this pair of American tourists says "Well, we're gonna show you some of the real America," and looks meaningfully at her husband. He takes a minute to catch her drift, pulls out his wallet, and hands the young Jamal a $100 bill. The two leave, looking very satisfied with themselves. Now, while $100 is a generous sum if money, especially for an adolescent living in poverty in India, what exactly is this going to do to help this kid in the long term? Yet, as Americans, we do seem to throw some sort of money at the problems abroad, with no real help or long-term solutions, and then walk away regarding ourselves as saviours of the downtrodden. It did nothing to end the abuse, it did nothing to change the boy's lifestyle. No help. No guidance. Just a sum of money and the attitude that with that, we can save the world.

Now, analyzing every movie as some commentary on society as a whole will certainly suck all of the life and enjoyment out of it. However, it is silly to overlook this aspect of movies, since they are usually an accurate reprsentation of where we are as a society. Either by accurately depicting us, or simply by demonstrating what we find entertaining and are willing to pay to see (for the example, there is nothing wrong with a movie aimed at heteronormative dating. It's the lack of movies geared towards a homosexuals that is telling about what society wants/is willing/will pay to see). However, taken as a form of entertainment, I have to say, I truly loved the movie. It was heartbreaking at time, it struck and emotional chord, but in the end, you were rooting for the protagonist, and should have felt a profound sense of joy. At least, if you have a heart.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

He's Just Not that Into You

So, I attended the movies with my mother this weekend, and watched "He's Just Not That Into You." It was, to say the least, an entertaining movie. Funny at some moments, emotional at others. I would lump it into a category with Sex and the City. In fact, the author of the book was a writer for the show Sex and the City, and developed the story out of a line in one of the episodes.

All in all, it was a very interesting movie. Not quite as fluffy as, say, "You've Got Mail" or "Sleepless in Seattle." More along the lines of Devil Wears Prada or, as I said above, Sex and the City. Definitely a genre I go to when I want to be entertained without having to think too hard, although these movies usually cause me to consider some interesting constructs within the society it represents.

For example, He's Just Not That Into You focuses very heavily on heterosexual relationships, with little consideration for homosexual relationships of any kind. In fact, what little representation of homosexual relationships exist in the movie is used as comedic relief, reducing sexual interest to 3 seconds or more of eye contact, while less than 3 seconds indicates a lack of sexual interest.

Furthermore, I don't really like the way women are represented in the film. I mean, yes, I do think the very underlying point of the movie is actually true. It opens with a young girl playing in a sandbox, and a little boy comes over and kicks her sand castle, saying mean things to her, such as she is "made entirely of poop," or something very comparable to that. The young girl's mother explains to her that the boy did this because he likes her, and doesn't know how else to show it. Thus, girls are taught from a very young age that when a guy treats you like shit, it's because he's interested. As we grow older, our girl friends give us excuses for the bad behavior on the point of males, explaining it in a million ways that don't indicate a lack of his interest, but rather his inability to commit, the fact that he clearly feels intimidated by you, etc. I agree that this is a lie fed to most young women, and that we would all be served better if we realized that men who treat us badly aren't worth are time, whether they are just that into us or not. Of course, the focus of the movie is not to not waste time on men who are jerks, but rather men who are just not that into you. So that you can spend more time finding the man who is just that into you.

Now, being that I actually am in a committed, loving relationship, I am not going to poo poo on the concept of love. However, the idea of needing to find a man to be happy and complete is exactly why women settle for men who treat them as less than the best. Furthermore, the representation of women, particularly Ginnifer Goodwin's character, is appalling. She just waits by the phone, calling the man she wishes were calling her, leaving bumbling, rambling messages on his voicemail. Her life it completely defined by trying out multiple dates, desperate for someone, anyone to call her back. Her eventual love interest hits the nail on the head, accusing her of waiting by the phone, anxious for the man to call, even though the date was mediocre at it's very best. Jennifer Anniston's character is upset that her boyfriend of 7 years won't get married because he doesn't believe in marriage, even though they are committed to one another in every other way. Though she breaks up with him, after a family tragedy, she realizes her relationship with him unmarried is more equal and loving than the marriages of each of her sisters, and is willing to live with him without getting married for the rest of her life. This would be a wonderful ending, and a strong statement on the social construction of marriage, except of course, the boyfriend decides to make her happy by marrying her anyway. Jennifer Connolly's character decides to put up with her husband's cheating, although she shouldn't. However, she does snap, kick him out, and ask for a divorce after discovering that he repeatedly lied about quitting smoking. Fair enough, I suppose.

The whole movie is full of stories like this. And of course, in the end, everyone finds their perfect love. Well, except for Jennifer Connolly, who simply has to put the pieces of her life back together after leaving her lying, cheating husband. At least she left him.