Saturday, March 24, 2007

Slacking Again

Hey, I haven't even been LJing regularly f0r about a year either. It's really depressing.

So, in a fit of "screw it, let's live" I started to plan vacations a few weeks ago. One of the places I'm going is LA, right after Christmas. Which, while convenient for my current line of work, is an odd time to be traveling anywhere.

It was with a start that I realized where I got the idea from. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang takes place primarily during the Christmas season in LA.

Apparently there is a whole spate of movie-inspired traveling, however. Not only can you take the Hogwarts tour of Britain; you can take the Sideways California wine country tour if you so desire. Though arguably the Harry Potter example is as much based on the books as it is the movie.

However, I swear I'm not going to design a Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang tour to follow. I'm just going there for the beaches, a look at the movie palaces that survive, and Disneyland. I don't like their movies but am crazy about their themeparks. But I wonder how much of this choice of destinations came from my Netflixed rewatching of one of the slashiest* movies of all time.

* I mean, come on, you know Gay Perry has a thing for Harry

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Still slacking

So, the mediated slacker has been noticeably slacking these last few weeks. I'd like to have a good excuse, but really I've been watching obscure, and increasingly bad, British TV after work for two weeks straight. And going to see movies. And taking a standardized test in an absurd bid to make myself look attractive to people who will graciously allow me to live in poverty for the honor of receiving their training and wisdom.

But I have posts planned, and one I even have a draft waiting for me to do a final rewrite sometime this weekend.

  1. Why the second season was, imho, the best season of West Wing, and how Sorkin's best reflects the uneasy tension between patriarchal liberalism and feminist liberalism.
  2. Voice, authority, gossip, the four year election cycle, ostriches, and why Inconvenient Truth is an interesting film, even though it is mostly a powerpoint (actually, I think he might have been using keynote) presentation. Or at least some of the reasons.
  3. How the TV show Hex features queer characters, but still punishes them in the usual way. With death.
But in the meantime, I'm thinking about last week's (in Britain anyway) Doctor Who, humour, narrative structures, fictional heterosexual relationships and misogyny.

I was not amused and I know why, but I want to know why anybody would even think of that ending as a "happy" ending, of sorts.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Farmgirl Fare

I'm a small-town girl and so I have enough knowledge that I do not romanticize the farm life, but this woman apparently did not have the benefit of my informal education. It's hard work that can take over your life. But obviously foodie farmgirl, aka Susan has found something to keep her engaged in the world.

From her profile bio "I went from attending restaurant openings & gallery receptions to working the rural fire dept's BBQ booth at the crafts fair & munching fried pies at country auctions."

Yep, that sounds like the rural life to me. Being from the rural to almost-rural midwest I marvel at how urban-dwellers can have these get back to nature fantasies about living in the country and farming and don't realize it's a business, and it's a business that has been eroding the small family farm since the Reagan era. Farm aid wasn't just a lark.

However, interestingly enough, there is a whole movement back away from corporate large-chain food stores and towards buying more goods from local producers. Which is interesting as there are fewer small grocers out there as the mega-department stores drive even the family run corporate grocery chains towards ruin.

I love the small-producer movement. It supports family farms. The food you get probably isn't certified organic, that takes a lot of money to get, but the food you buy from a farmer at your local farmer's market probably was grown organically, or close to it. Though not all small growers do organic so you should ask if that matters to you. Once you taste really fresh produce you'll wonder if the bargain at your grocer is really a bargain after all.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Getting the Girl vs Loosing the Guy

Through the miracle of my Netflix queue I received But I'm a Cheerleader and How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days at the same time.

But I'm a Cheerleader, a romantic comedy/satire about camps that "treat" homosexuality, was actually a far better example of the romantic comedy genre than 10 Days, even though it was an upbeat ripoff of Girl interrupted. It was a better because it featured a relationship that was more satisfying between characters that actually engendered my sympathy.

After making myself watch How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days straight through the middle of the second act, I wanted to wash my mind out with Meg Ryan movies. Or maybe Two Weeks Notice, my current guilty pleasure that's been running on cable recently. Instead I flipped forward through the DVD trying to find a chapter stop that didn't make me squirm.

While the initial setup in Cheerleader was clunky and cliched, ultimately the relationships between the characters had real chemistry and the characters themselves genuine vulnerability. Not so with 10 Days, which was less a romantic comedy than a bitter sendup of sexed behavior.

One of the profound failings of the script for 10 Days is that it doesn't set up the relationship between the principles in a way that makes it believable that these two characters could have genuine feelings for one another. Neither one is actually invested in the other as a human being. Advertising guy, Ben, just wants the chick to stay with him long enough to take her to a party so he can get the chance to bag an account -- and to score seats to a Knicks game along the way through her -- and columnist chick, Andie, wants to use him as fodder for a column she's writing for the Cosmo-look-alike magazine she works for.

The major premise of the column Andie is doing research for is that women torpedo their own relationships because they feel too much, they are too demanding, and can't just sit back and enjoy the sex without making it be all about a future together. Michelle, one of Andie's work buddies, seems to do all that and more. And with her guidance she's going to help Andie loose the guy she expertly bagged.

The behavior that Andie, and we can assume her buddy Michelle, engages in is nothing short of embarrassing. Not because women do it, but because the behavior is obnoxious and rude. This isn't feminine behavior she's portraying so much as behavior that is selfish, self-centered, and downright boorish, with a patriarchaly informed feminine twist.

By midway through the movie I thought Ben was an ass for using this girl to get clients, and into a Knicks game when she obviously had plans to go with someone else who she didn't just meet, and Andie was an ass for shamelessly engaging in the type of behavior she was indulging in to get this man to flee. Both characters felt like they were bland caricatures of stereotypes -- not even caricatures of people -- draining even the slightest interest on my part to care about them.

But I'm a Cheerleader's script was very derivative and the art direction absurd, but they at least managed to create characters I could care about through the script and the acting. There was chemistry and heart which made the romance satisfying. There was nothing satisfying or even funny about How To Loose A Guy In 10 Days .... Well beyond the costume design. Everybody looked really spiffy. I just wouldn't want to hang out with the vapid jerks.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Better living through my uterus

Main Entry: agent
Pronunciation: 'A-j&nt
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin agent-, agens, from Latin, present participle of agere to drive, lead, act, do; akin to Old Norse aka to travel in a vehicle, Greek agein to drive, lead
1 : one that acts or exerts power
2 a : something that produces or is capable of producing an effect : an active or efficient cause b : a chemically, physically, or biologically active principle
3 : a means or instrument by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result
4 : one who is authorized to act for or in the place of another: as a : a representative, emissary, or official of a government b : one engaged in undercover activities (as espionage) : SPY c: a business representative (as of an athlete or entertainer)


I'm a big fan of Alias. Yes, Alias was the show about the English lit grad student who worked as a kick-ass spy and wore crazy wigs. In later years it was about a woman who took her strong liberal arts education and didn't follow the expected path for somebody with a Master's in English lit. Instead of working as an adjunct at a community college and getting drunk often to cope with the insanity of it all, she defeated nefarious terrorist organizations run by Europeans hell bent on fulfilling the mysterious and coded prophecies of Milo Rambaldi, or just achieving world domination.

Of course if there was any really scary torturing and murder that needed to be done by somebody who is never shown to have a conscious, they left it to characters with a little darker skin pigment. This, by the way, wasn't why I was a fan. It was why I was a conflicted fan. Anyway, as the series came to a close this year my conflict rose up again as Sydney dealt with her Mommy issues by ... becoming a Mommy.

Now, I'm not against parenthood as a concept. I'm all for other people choosing to breed and raise good citizens, it means I don't have to. But Alias went beyond all that. It set up a dichotomy, you can either work in the dangerous world at large or you can be a fulfilled and responsible parent. You can't be both. There isn't room for both.

Sydney Bristow, the heroine of this show, is often compared to her mother, Irina. While she was studying lit, she thought she was following in her mother's footsteps through her education and financing her education through her job as a super-spy. However, it was the other way around. Mommy wasn't a teacher who died in a tragic car crash, like Sydney was always told. Irina was a deadly enemy super-spy who's alias was teaching, but really she married Sydney's father to steal secrets from him. And the car crash was just her extraction. Even one of the Rambaldi prophecies was misinterpreted so that they believed Sydney as the chosen one about to wreak havoc, when it was really Irina. Sydney was the "good" female super-spy, and Irina was the "bad" one.

As the series came to a close, and this is where people might want to stop reading if they want to remain unspoiled, Irina came back to steal another Rambaldi artifact and to help Sydney give birth to her daughter at the same time -- Irina is a good multi-tasker. But not good enough. Before she leaves Sydney with her newborn daughter, Irina tells her that when Irina held her the first time she knew she could not be a mother and an agent. In the last episodes she goes on to plot to murder millions of people in an overwrought plot to obtain power -- agency if you will -- for herself. The only thing she has ever really wanted. This obsession with power -- with maintaining her identity as an agent -- leads her to physically turn away from her daughter and life and towards the symbol of power and death. And the prophecy was about Sydney afterall, but not in the way it was first interpreted.

The ending of the last episode featured as flash-forward where our heroine has taken her mother's words and actions to heart. She is no longer an agent -- going so far as to remove herself from the world at large -- and she resists being pulled back. Instead she is a mother, and is happy, happy, happy.

Now, we can make the argument that the fathers in the show also can't balance being an agent and being a parent either. Jack Bristow always seemed to be an awkwardly earnest parent, and Sloane actually murdered his own daughter because she got in the way of his pursuit of the Rambaldi prophecies -- the location of his agency. However the weakling geek Marshall, who needed to be protected and saved for the longest time, has grown up to pump out virile boy sperm four times. He doesn't seem to be giving up his agency -- he is just adding to his identity by saving the world and being a father (of boys no less) -- even though we can only assume he has continued his work. And Sydney's old partner, Agent Dixon, struggled with finding balance between his two identities as father and agent but went on to become a deputy director ... again.

We can try to see the emphasis on parenthood as a positive movement within the series. There was always an aura of ridiculousness and excess to their missions and exploits. By maintaining that the really important work is not in the world, but in the home as parents, it emphasizes the importance of raising good citizens who won't try to take over the world. However, I'm left with the feeling that like Harry over at crookedtimber in the Alias world being an Agent and working in the world at large is the frivolous distraction from our real work, which is pumping out babies.

When Rachel is in deep cover in some nameless place somewhere she is denying -- or at least delaying -- her true calling, which is being a mother. Rachel has already been coded ambiguously, comments about Rachel not competing her evil friend for men and long lingering looks at Sydney while wearing shared pajamas made many a fan wonder if she was a lesbian. Until she slept with Sark. But that only proves that she's interested in men, not men exclusively. Especially cute, secretly evil men.

So I'm left wondering if this show, which featured a woman who was sensitive and driven, ultimately portrays women as being happiest when they are barefoot and pregnant. Working in the world as being as frivolous as spending my evenings doing jello-shots out of people's navels. Why does there have to be a choice between being in the world and being in the home? And why can't being in the world be good enough?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Non-social-networking blog take four

Let me begin by making you a promise. Here you will not find blather about my family, including my dog, my trips to the dentist, my vacations and weekend trips, my work, my other work, my other other work and my freakouts about it, what I did with my friends or anything of the sort unless I can draw it into a discussion about culture and media. I have a livejournal for that sort of thing. (Though if by some miracle I start posting frequently and regularly I will do tiny posts informing you, my hopefully loyal blog reader, of the short, planned, hiatus.)

What you will find here is bloggish blather about ... well, you can read the blog description up on top can't you?