Monday, December 22, 2008

Quotable

"You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." - Rainer Marie Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bobby

Netflix never does me wrong.

Due to my overwhelming and inexplicable interest in the year 1968 (movies, books, documentaries -- you name it, I'll absorb it), Netflix recently recommended the movie "Bobby." As I'm sure you can guess, it's about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I thought now seemed like a good time to watch it, since NYC just renamed the Triborough Bridge in his honor. Also, I'm fixated on assassinations at the moment - right now I'm reading a fantastic book called Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer.

Anyway, the movie really took me by surprise. I thought it seemed odd that Netflix said the "supporting cast" was full of superstars (William H. Macy, Anthony Hopkins... Ashton Kutcher...) -- now it all makes sense. Bobby is barely in the movie, except in numerous authentic grainy news clips, and yet at the end of the movie I was sitting on my sofa sobbing like a fool. (I guess I get a bit involved with movies.)

I love films based on true stories. Zodiac, Capote, The Last King of Scotland, Shattered Glass, All the President's Men... the list goes on and on. I'd watch them a million times over. I thought this one was interesting because it's so focused on the other people who were shot during Bobby's assassination. You become captivated by the lives of the guests at the hotel, almost as if Bobby is a mythical figure drawing them all together. Then he gets shot - and some of them get shot too. It's tough not to get wrapped into the story. They also make some interesting choices with video and audio clips. Some might not like how often they're used, but I think it adds a powerful touch... and a reminder that this isn't just a fictional story.

However, I do have to say that based on what I've read about the actual assassination, most of the characters in the movie are purely fictional -- which I think is unfortunate and quite misleading since it's paired with news clips that were not fictional. Regardless, it's a movie that was well worth my 2 hours.

In case you haven't seen it (and especially if you're not as unhealthily intrigued by 1968 as I am and maybe don't have the sequence of events morbidly memorized), it's definitely worth a watch.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events -- and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." - Robert F. Kennedy

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mad Shade Cred

I honestly can't believe I'm actually posting about this again. In case
you missed my post from last December - "Supersize My... Report Card?" - last year I was outraged that Seminole County, Florida was selling ad space to McDonald's on the front of its report cards, in exchange for McDonald's fronting the printing costs of the report cards.

Well it looks like Seminole County started a bit of a trend. This article: "Teacher Sells Advertising on Tests" explains that a San Diego teacher is selling advertising at the bottom of math tests in order to pay the cost of printing the tests. Ads like "Braces by Stephen P. Henry D.M.D." go for various prices, depending on the kind of test. Advertising space on quizzes is sold for $10 a pop, test ad space goes for $20 and final exams rack up a whopping $30 per ad.

Let's be clear. I feel teachers' pain. I understand that they have to do the best they can with slashed budgets and support. They're overworked and underpaid and they're responsible for shaping the future generations. The billion-dollar budget cuts for education that these school districts are facing are absurd, especially considering all the other things this country is spending money on. And when underpaid teachers are expected to pay for things like test printing and classroom supplies out of their own pockets, it's understandable that they would search for alternatives. One innovative example is the Gold Star Registry, which lets teachers put together a wish list (just like a bridal registry) of school supplies, bulletin boards, posters, etc. that parents can purchase for the class. Clever idea. But it goes to show that if schools' budgets are cut and teachers are in a pinch, there are other ways to subsidize that don't involve advertising to kids.

Don't get me wrong - I am all for advertising. (How could I not be - the ad industry writes my paycheck.) But I don't think kids should be advertised to in school. Like I said in my previous article - Channel One's advertising-rich school news programs, fast-food-chain-sponsored reading programs... these are dubious choices by school districts in my opinion. But at least kids and parents have some opportunity (if limited) to opt-out of these sales pitches, by not paying attention to the Channel One programs or not participating in the fast-food-sponsored programs. Kids can't opt-out of a test.

Although the example in the article is an ad for braces, which seems relatively harmless, this sets a dangerous precedent. What's next? Product placement in the classroom? I can just picture it now. "Kids, if you add 3/4 cup of Tropicana Orange Juice..." (holds up Tropicana bottle, label side out) "...and 1/4 cup of Welch's Grape Juice ('100% juice!'), how many cups do you have?" And maybe we move from quiz-ads for braces to test-ads for Frosted Flakes to final-exam-ads for Grand Theft Auto IV.

Kids are in school to learn. Not to be advertised to. They're already advertised to in the lunchroom, they're advertised to in homeroom (with Channel One and similar programs), they're advertised to on their classmates' clothing and accessories, and in some districts they're advertised to on their report cards. Tests were the last bastion of ad-free goodness. Math problems, essays, true/false questions, and that's it. But not anymore.

Are you SAD? Is the quadratic equation getting you down? Turn your frown upside down with Zoloft.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blondes have more fun?

Well, I can't sleep, mostly because I'm up worrying about things. Shocking, I know. So I decided to put my insomnia to use and open up my ever-shiny Mac to write a brief post about the movie I watched tonight for the first time - Legally Blonde.

I hate to be a hater, especially since I like Reese Witherspoon, but... really, everyone? That movie really bothered me. I know, I know, it's just supposed to be a cute romantic comedy and I shouldn't overanalyze it. Honestly though, I can't help it. Elle is trying to prove that she's smart and not just a dumb blonde... and the climax of the movie has her winning her big case (in which she can't pronounce any of the legal lingo) by using the skills she racked up in all those years of reading Cosmo? Shoes and hair care? Seriously??

I'm sorry, I just don't get it. I'm sure watching it on cable TV didn't help my experience since the movie was constantly interrupted by commercials. But... I really don't think I'd have any different opinion of this movie if I watched it sans the ads for Lipitor. And also, in the movie's defense, I can't stand watching stereotypical sorority girls from LA. But this is kind of my point. How does Elle running around with a tiny dog in her purse, wearing hot pink outfits to court, and solving the case of the year with a perm-slash-wet t-shirt contest anecdote help anything at all?

Well, at least Elle gets engaged on the day she graduates, right? Finally got that MRS degree.

This is not a movie that's going on my top ten list. Let's put it that way.

Let's Go To The Mall! Today.

Tonight's How I Met Your Mother included Canada jokes and a surprise visit from none other than Robin Sparkles... yep, Marshall sang karaoke to "Let's Go To The Mall." This inspired me to post the original here for your viewing pleasure. Because this is what it's all aboot. Enjoy:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Banana

I always learn something new when I watch Bill Moyers. Tonight is no different. Maybe I'm just an idiot (who never payed attention in history class... oops), but I had no idea that "banana republic" was an actual term that represented anything beyond expensive clothes in muted colors.

But tonight Bill Moyers used "banana republic" in its originally intended context -- it means a country ruled by a corrupt dictatorial regime. Apparently it originally referred to Central and South American dictatorships that were created in order to exploit natural resources - specifically banana crops. Colloquially today, it usually just refers to a small, politically unstable country whose leaders are corrupt and whose economy relies on one export.

According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know, really reliable source), the term was coined in 1904 by a writer whose alias was O. Henry, in reference to the corrupt regime governing Honduras at the time.

I'm having trouble finding any reliable sources online, so I'll spare you the links. Instead we can all just go look it up in a book like we used to in olden times.

You learn something new every day. I have to say, it seems like a strange choice for the name of a company. (See creepy photo below.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Link it up!

A lot of great links flying around today. I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Are you a real geek? Read 50 Skills Every Real Geek Should Have to find out. I am definitely not a real geek, as I only have done/can do very few things on this list (cpu pins, html tags, hulu - I should be their poster girl, warranties, photoshop, wifi, pick a lock, and dr. pepper - but can't break down the ingredients). What does that make me, a novice geek? I'm okay with that. I do think it would be impressive to learn pi to 23 decimal places...


Windows Explorer oops
- this is really funny to me. Check it out for yourself.

Type Race - Race against other people to see who can type faster. I schooled the people I was playing against, but 88 wpm really isn't good... I need to practice typing faster. (The sentences are kind of weird... they purposely include strange characters. But it's fun!) ... Okay, now I'm typing 104 wpm, I think that's better. Right?

2008 on the Web: The Key Events - This article from Mashable is a highlight of the year's headlines in Internet phenomena. Some of these include the rise of Hulu, Twitter coming into its own, the Facebook redesign, the Justin.tv suicide, citizen journalism taking a new form (like it did with the Mumbai attacks), and everybody's favorite - Rick Rolling (which culminated at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade).

On a semi-related note, read about the Top 10 History-making Moments of 2008. It includes good stuff like cannibalism, Stonehenge, and the Olympics. Crazy year.

After all my speculation regarding Grey's trying to kill off Izzie, it turns out she's not getting the boot. The brain aneurysm/Denny sightings storyline has been written in because Rhimes is attempting to give Heigl Emmy-worthy storylines. Questionable, in my opinion, after Heigl's McAttitudeProblem about the Emmys. The big news today is that there's a different Grey's exit approaching. T.R. Knight asked to be written off the show. Guess it's curtains for George.

"In Defense of Teasing" - This article from the NY Times debates the merits of teasing in our social and psychological development. What do you think?

Also, I'll leave you with an oldie but a goodie in honor of the holiday spirit -- Christmas at "The Office":

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Helloooooooooo... I'm a carrrrrrrr...."

I keep hearing the Dane Cook car alarm outside my window!!! It's driving me crazy. So crazy that I decided to watch Dane Cook's skit just to make myself laugh about it instead of poking myself in the eye.

For your viewing pleasure... skip ahead to 0:32...

Proposition 8: The Musical

Starring Jack Black and lots of other famous people - including the one and only NPH!

Take a watch:

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Actual reality. Act up. Fight AIDS!"

Today (Monday, Dec 1) is World Aids Day. Show your support!

Get tested:

To find HIV Test Centers near you Text: Your Zip Code To: KnowIt (566948) www.hivtest.org

Buy a peppermint mocha from Starbucks:
"To mark this World AIDS Day, on Monday only, Starbucks will contribute 5¢ directly to the Global Fund for every single handcrafted beverage purchased at participating stores."

(Need more encouragement? BONO: "It's pretty mind-blowing to think that millions of people can buy (RED) going about their daily lives and in doing so raise millions of dollars to fight AIDS in Africa. That's not a bad hit from your caffeine.")

Shop other (RED) products: http://www.joinred.com

(If you're in NYC, the Empire State Building is going RED tonight too! Keep on the lookout.)

And watch these videos:





"Think Different...ly"

This is a funny Simpsons parody of the Apple craze. Even as an Apple lover, I still think this is great. So true:



In other news, I still want an iPhone for Christmas, and my Macbook is still my favorite thing in the world. Also, here's one more reason to love Steve Jobs. (Yes, I clearly drank the Kool-Aid.)