Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Two More Stop-Animations

Guys, I made two more animations! I gotta admit, I love them both as much as my owl, but my heart is really beginning to love the caterpillar one the best. Of course, that would be like picking a favorite child, which people never do, of course.

These animations were an activity for The Greenhouse, which is a creativity collective I'm in with some of my friends where we are attempting to get together once a week and work on creative projects in a variety of medias to spawn further creative thought for both our group and individual endeavors. I think it stems partially from our mutual appreciation of Ira Glass' discussion on taste and the creative process but so far has just been a really good and uplifting way to get together with like-minded people and make use of our time in a thought-provoking manner. Let me know what you think of these!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned Book Week: September 26−October 3, 2009

I have always been vehement in my opinion on book banning: I'm 100% against it. Nothing seems more fundamentally in opposition with the ideas of freedom of speech and freedom of choice than the idea of limiting content in the written word from the public eye. The sordid history of book-banning has long been a tool for oppressing the frank and open discussion of race, sexuality, violence and other cultural issues in an intellectual venue. Literature has a way of tackling these issues that few creative mediums can, and the continued treatment of such issues is necessary in provoking informed discussion about our ever-changing culture.

Now, I understand that with the issue of their own children, some parents may exercise the right to keep their children from reading certain books, just as some parents may choose not to allow certain television, movies, or music into the home. But when arbitrary panels of lawmakers, parent groups, or educators take the matter into their own hands, they are refusing students the ability to make their own decisions about what is suitable reading material, effectively limiting their ability to discover the world around them through an intellectual medium that provides open and thoughtful discussion on a topic.

The act of reading itself is always a choice: no one can force you to read the words on the page, even if they put the book in front of your eyes. Why shouldn't that choice be left to the person doing the reading? And where do the limits on suitable material stop? It is already easy to notice the trends in some of the most commonly banned books of all time (the list of the top 100 can be found here) and they seem to revolve around books that deal with race, sexuality, gender confusion or violence. It is logical to suggest that the censorship is used entirely as a way of attempting to suppress discussion or advancement on such issues and in turn suppress such people. The only thing offensive about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is that a black man is allowed to be a character, and the frank discussion about the validity of slavery and the treatment of black people that it suggests.

In any event, I encourage you all to read banned books and exercise your right to make choices for yourselves. Because ultimately, that is a freedom we all have and that extends to your choice in books.

For useful information on banned books, check out these websites:

ALA Banned Books Week
AS IF! Authors Support Intellectual Freedom
Huffington Post - Banned Books Week: Still Needed In The US
Banned Books Week Website
The Map Of Book Censorship - this one really gets me

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ira Glass on Taste

I am a self-professed Ira Glass fan girl. I'm a huge fan of This American Life (both the radio and tv versions) and I just think he is a genuinely insightful, creative man with a lot to offer artists and thinking types of all sorts.

However, this clip on taste is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received from anyone on the topic of creativity. It's part of a four video series on Storytelling that is in and of itself quite informative, but this part is the most worthwhile, I think, and I believe sums up the struggle that anyone pursuing a creative endeavor, regardless of type, must go through:

How fantastic is that advice? For those of you who aren't huge fans of Ira Glass by now, check out the website for This American Life.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Feature I'm Considering? Ten Songs On A Thought

So you know how cool blogs with lots of comment happy fans usually find some resourceful way to create common features? I tried the haiku polls, not sure I'll keep up with them since no one was cool enough to submit answers (if they're wanted, I demand that readers express demand!), but I thought I'd try this idea here. It's sort of like a mixtape. Sort of, I guess.

Basically, I'll present a thought or theme for the ten songs, and suggest the first ten songs that come to mind for that theme. There doesn't have to be any rhyme or reason to why the songs come to mind, they just do. I want to toy with the idea that music can provide a sort of sense memory or thematic element that isnt always present in the music itself. I then encourage you, the blog reader, to present your own ten. It's fun!

Ten Songs On A Thought
Songs That Feel Like Sweater Weather

  1. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
  2. Blacking Out The Friction - Death Cab For Cutie
  3. The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! - Sufjan Stevens
  4. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths
  5. Us - Regina Spektor
  6. No Surprises - Radiohead
  7. The Dream Of Evan and Chan - Dntel
  8. Crutch - Pinback
  9. Blood Bank - Bon Iver
  10. Oh, Comely - Neutral Milk Hotel

So what are your ten?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Forcefeeding in Mauritania" from Marie Claire, Oct 09

Today while at the gym, after both my Time and Nylon Magazines had run out with me (I'm too hardcore to be contained on the elliptical as far as reading material is concerned), I turned to Marie Claire and stumbled upon an interesting, albeit very sad article about the practice of forcefeeding young girls in Mauritania for cosmetic purposes. That article can be found here.

A summary of the article, essentially, is that because of cultural norms associated with female obesity representing a husband's prosperity, obesity and stretch marks have become the height of cosmetic allure in Mauritania. Further, a woman's soft, rolling flesh has been considered to make a girl seem older and thus ready for marriage, allowing her family to marry her off earlier. Consequently, girls are being sent to "force-feeding" camps for weeks at a time where they are forced to consume as much as 16,000 calories a day and lie around without exercise to insure that the food becomes fat, rather than muscle.

The story is shocking and truly sad in many ways, not least because many of these girls have no desire to change their bodies. Many of them have at least been exposed to Western culture and are not of the mindset that fat is beautiful. Further, it is clear that forcing so many calories on a young girl, let alone contributing to morbid obesity so directly, is tantamount to child abuse. Ethnocentristic views on the relative merits of fat beauty aside, its not healthy and ought to be viewed as an issue worthy of intervention.

However, what I find a little shocking is the brazen manner in which the article handles such an issue with shock and horror but makes little mention of the reverse behavior being essentially condoned by western society. Our obsessive views on the merits of thinness lead to fat camps, parent inflicted dieting, and widespread eating disorders, and our media only perpetuates these impossible norms, markedly influencing the behavior of young women. It is a near guarantee that in many cases, these views are reinforced by overbearing parents who continually remind their daughters of the importance of remaining thin.

This is not to say that combatting obesity is a bad idea. Of course it is a good idea, because promoting healthy behavior, especially in youth, is always a good idea. I am simply stating that the opposite behavior of perpetuating overly thin ideals is just as unhealthy as perpetuating obesity.

I don't mean this to downplay the sadness of the article itself, but given that the pages of Marie Claire are littered with ridiculously thin models (particularly because this seasons shows, more than many I've seen previously, seemed overwraught with skeletal gauntness), Marie Claire could pay heed to the fact that our culture perpetuates the opposite views at times to similar extremes. I think its just a bit sad in general that all over the world, women are held to impossible standards of beauty (relative to their culture) that for most women are impossible or unhealthy to achieve.

Photo credit of Marie Claire/Joost De Raeymaeker

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Best Part Of Waking Up

You guys, I made this myself! My friends are starting a sort of creativity collective where each Sunday we devote time to doing something creative, and this was my first project! Let me know what you think...better yet, go straight to YouTube and leave ratings and comments there, too!

Really though, proud of me for doing something new.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From NPR: Almost 3/4 of Doctors Support Public Option

Just found an interesting story on doctor's opinions and healthcare reform. I originally heard it on NPR "All Things Considered" yesterday afternoon and found the print version. Some highlights from the article:

  • 63% of doctors favor a plan that would include a public option as well as the freedom to purchase private insurance. This is the plan supported by Barack Obama and many others, including this particular blogger
  • Another 10% of those doctors polled say they support a public option only
  • The survey found that the support was widespread and did not differ much between specialists and generalists or those salaried or in private practice.
  • Many of the doctors who wanted a public option were AMA members, despite the fact the AMA is opposed to a public option

I stole this graph from the NPR article, linked above

What this means is that compared with polls conducted on the general public (ostensibly, patients), doctors are more in favor of a public option and that much of the political dissonance surrounding healthcare which uses doctors as an example of who might be victimized by such reform is inaccurate, at least with regard to an overwhelming majority of doctor's opinions. Certainly something to chew on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 11th, 2001

I've never been one for grandiose sentimental or patriotic statements about things like this, but whenever September 11th rolls around, I like to look at some of the pictures and reflect. These pictures of people throwing themselves from the buildings always seem to hit me hardest.

Plus-Size For Me Is Plus-Hot (+ Crystal Renn)

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of fashion. But I am not such a fan of the fashion industries single-minded, outdated obsession with being dangerously thin and unhealthy. Some may argue that this trend is slowly dying out, but that just isn't so. Small steps do not equal actual progress until models on the runway start looking more like healthy women who take care of themselves, rather than emaciated skeletal beings.

That's why I was so pleased to hear about Crystal Renn's new book, Hungry, which talks about her experiences growing up in the modeling business and going from her normal weight as a young model to an emaciated weight, and back to a size 12 again to work as a plus-size model.

I've seen Renn in a lot of different ads for a long time, and I've always thought she was unbelievably gorgeous. I'm glad to see that she stuck with it and went back to her normal size, because I think she is a lot more beautiful and natural that way.

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't women who are naturally small. My younger sister, through some genetic repositioning that I clearly did not personally come in contact with, is a natural size 0. Great for her. But battling the construct of models being 5'10" and a size 2 is certainly more a matter of representing clothing and fashion in a realistic manner that makes allowances for all shapes and sizes.

Does Crystal Renn make this Jean Paul Gaultier couture gown look any less fabulous and chic by mere merit of being full-figured? Not in the slightest. If anything, I think it makes the fashion more beautiful. Renn is zaftig and comely, with curves in all the right places. This is what women want to look like in a dress, at least most women I know, and as a male friend pointed out, this is what attracts men to women. Sure, there are some guys who go for stick-figures, but there are an awful lot more men who are attracted to a voluptuous figure.

In any event, I found some of the interviews shes been doing about the book pretty enlightening. What do you think?

Crystal Renn: New Book 'Hungry' - ABC News

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Obama on Healthcare: 09/09/09

So what did you all think of the Obama speech to the joint session of Congress tonight? I haven't had a chance to watch the entire speech yet, but I've been watching all of the highlighted clips on CNN and I have to say, I was impressed.

It was really time for him to take at least some strong stances rather than sort of letting the chips fall where they may in Congress. I think he did this, particularly in his willingness to address tort reform, a typically republican issue, for the merits it does present, which is that doctors forced to cover themselves are wasting money on unneccessary procedures. It's certainly hard to find the right balance between reform and allowing victims of malpractice a venue for justice, but I do agree that some reforms need to be made in order to drive these costs down. (Side note: in general, I think Americans can be a bit lawsuit crazy on all fronts, but that is a topic for another discussion).

How about South Carolina's Rep. Joe Wilson heckling the President in the middle of his speech? As I said on my twitter page, the only thing classier in such a forum would be if Rep. Wilson had called Obama a poopie-head to boot. I'm glad to see both sides condemned it but come on, Wilson, have some decorum.

I think the best moment in the speech was this:

I think many critics of healthcare reform lose sight of the fact that we are supposed to be one of the most advanced democracies in the world and yet our system fails a huge portion of our citizens, myself included. Regardless of how it gets done, some form of coverage needs to be readily available to those people. Period.

I am also glad to hear that he openly states that he wants to eliminate the ability of insurance companies to exclude based on previous condition, faulty paperwork, etc. I think both sides can agree on that one and if nothing else comes from the reform, I think that will.

I'd like to sum up with this quote from the speech, which I wholeheartedly agree with, especially because the context of the speech is that he was addressing members of Congress. This is a quote regarding the kind of program he'd like to extend to those without insurance:

"As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance and it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we give ourselves."

I think I'm just excited to have a President who cares about the fact that I can't afford the medicine that I'm gonna run out of next month.