Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ten Songs On A Thought: Songs For When You're Snowed In

Something about being snowed in: it makes me introspective. I lay down on the couch with a blanket in front of the fire and the music I want to listen to is quiet and soft and pretty and maybe, sometimes a little sad. I was thinking of that today, because Colorado is enveloped in inches and inches of snow and while I realize this is similar to another topic (sweater weather, if you remember), I think music for being snowed in has its own vibe...the kind of music you listen to alone with headphones on when you feel like you have a chance to lay and think for awhile.

For those who don't know, each week I choose a topic and write down the first ten songs that come to mind on that topic in no particular order. Then you do the same. Easy enough, right? I give you:

  1. Ambulance - TV On The Radio listen
  2. Cinder and Smoke - Iron & Wine listen
  3. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight - The Postal Service listen
  4. Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap listen
  5. New Slang - The Shins listen
  6. Wet Ground - Sondre Lerche
  7. For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti - Sufjan Stevens listen
  8. Joga - Bjork listen
  9. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) - The Arcade Fire listen
  10. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes listen

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I know I advocate a lot of ideas on this blog, as I believe it is my duty as a citizen of this country to stir discussion on a variety of topics. However, one thing I haven't advocated is that everyone should


to tell them what you want on ANY hot topic but especially on healthcare. Clearly, I am an advocate for healthcare, but I am also an advocate for building provisions that reduce the actual cost of healthcare rather than just creating coverage for all. I can't do anything about this without contacting the individuals in charge, so:


We are lucky enough to live in a democratic society and our system for communicating our ideas is seriously underutilized. I am flabbergasted whenever I look at reputable opinions polls and compare them to the actual ideas being presented in Congress so sound off and encourage your friends to do so as well. Democracy starts with you!

Friday, October 23, 2009 : College Lectures for Anyone

I gotta say, I don't think I've ever been as enthralled or as excited about something I discovered on the internet as I am about Academic Earth and other sites like it. I had heard about it from a few different places: Time Magazine has spotlighted it once or twice and I've stumbled across the name in newspapers before, most notably this article from the Washington Post.

However, I hadn't gotten around to trying it out myself until today, and I was blown away by how much I liked it. Since I am brushing up for my grad school applications, I decided to try out a literature course and began the series of lectures on "American Literature since 1945" from Yale University's Professor Amy Hungerford. I immediately felt engaged by the content and even compelled to take notes on what she was saying, just as I would in a regular classroom.

I have always believed that the internet is an underutilized resource for the dissemination of academic information to those who are willing but otherwise unable to acquire this information readily. What better way to do this than to see lectures from some of the finest educational institutions in the world? It's an idea whose time has definitely arrived, and I look forward to seeing what other content becomes available.

Academic Earth is not the first or only place to offer this kind of info, and I have provided some links below with further information. I have simply found that Academic Earth is one of the easiest platforms for this kind of information, but there is a wealth of information available if you sift through the offerings, particularly if you would be happy with audio files alone rather than video.

I really do encourage everyone I know to spend his or her free time engaging in something that he or she would like to learn. Lectures like this prove that you don't have to be immersed in the depths of academia or a high level critic to appreciate the benefits of growing your knowledge, and I can't wait until I have time to listen to my next lecture.

Links to academic lectures online:

Academic Earth
Open Culture
OpenCourseware Consortium
You can also find some info online by searching iTunes U in the iTunes store

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pogo is Neat

So there is this guy named Pogo and he is an electronic artist from Australia and he has gotten a lot of attention on the youtube and such for making these really intricate pieces composed entirely from one movie or scene from a movie, mostly kids movies from what I can tell. His best known piece is Alice (linked below) but he has some other really interesting pieces as well. I'm really digging it, so check it out!

Oh, and did I mention you can get all of his music for free here?

To see other videos, check out his youtube page.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ten Songs On A Thought: Songs For A Sweaty Dance Party (Indie Rock Edition)

After watching the movie Fame (hold your laughter, it was free and entertaining for the cheesy movie it is), I remembered how much fun I used to have dancing when I lived in Germany and at clubs and parties during my college years. I guess I've liked dancing for a long time...I do remember trying to recreate music videos in the eighties when I was 4 at most. I, however, am not much on the skill front dancing wise. But I can't resist a good dance party.

My theme this week is "Songs For A Sweaty Dance Party (Indie Rock Edition)" because as soon as I tried to mentally compile my list, I knew it would be impossible to do so without somehow limiting genre. This also gives me an excuse to do other editions, which is ultimately very important to the success of this blog. Naturally. Also, I really want to underscore the word sweaty. Sweat is an essential part of any successful dance party, at least in my book.

Anyway, you know the drill. I mention the first ten songs that came to mind on the thought, without regard for order. Then you do the same. Simple, right?

Ten Songs For A Sweaty Dance Party (Indie Rock Edition)
  1. Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt - We Are Scientists listen
  2. Hummer - Foals listen
  3. Electric Feel - MGMT listen
  4. Young Folks - Peter, Bjorn and John listen
  5. Banquet - Bloc Party listen
  6. Worked Up So Sexual - The Faint listen
  7. Heartbeats - The Knife listen
  8. Oslo In The Summertime - Of Montreal listen
  9. Cowbell - Tapes n' Tapes listen
  10. Apply Some Pressure - Maximo Park listen
What about you? What are your picks? You can restrict genre if you like or you can be free-form. I won't restrict you with my rules, man.

Balloon Boy: For Real?

I can't resist the urge to say a little something about this since it happened in my own part of the world...but do we think the balloon boys parents are for real? I mean, it seems insane to me that the kid could say "You said that we did this for the show" and that the family doesn't want to let reporters follow up on a comment like that.

I mean, it made for a rather entertaining 2 hours of television, if not a little terrifying, but the fact that the kid was in the attic (and the Larimer County Sheriff didn't think to check there before sending in the National Guard? Where are my tax dollars going in this county?) the entire time, and the family has not only been on reality tv but is mentioned in an acting book somewhere. I don't know. Seems a little odd.

I'm officially polling. Do you think this family is being legit?

Read this article, dudes

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review (Kinda): All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

I almost never abandon books. Ever. If it's really bad, I'll put it down a week and come back. I kept telling myself I should read this book. Oh, it's won awards! It's an important text! But I was fooling myself.

It was bad, and I didn't enjoy it, and after devoting my time to 100 pages, nearly half the book, I realized that I did not and had never had any desire to finish it. Oh, and the plot alluded to? Definitely not hit by 100 pages in. 100 pages and the plot summary STILL did not match what I was reading. I have a stack of books as tall as I am that says tick-freaking-tock. This was not worth the time I had already invested.

I realize this is the least in depth review I've ever given on this site. I'm okay with that. I kind of feel like I maybe invested the amount of time in this review that McCarthy invested in planning out a plot for this book.

This review was reposted and expanded from my review at Good Reads. Oh, you love reading and reviewing books, too? Join! We can be friends!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Is Your Baby Racist?" - Newsweek, September 14th, 2009

I was reading some older magazines at the gym and came across the
Newsweek from September 14th, 2009 with the cover story "Is Your Baby Racist?". I found this story totally fascinating! It's culled from a chapter in a new book called Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Lucky for me, I have a friend who has already purchased this book, so I will get to read it whenever he is finished, but this article definitely helped pique my interest in the book.

You should take the time to read the entire article (linked above) if you get the chance, but I'll summarize some of the most interesting points for discussion:

  • Even among families that volunteered to participate in a study that investigated children's perceptions of race, researchers found that parents were reluctant to discuss race at all with their children because they felt that not discussing race allowed their children to be "colorblind." In fact, the study found that children are able to distinguish differences in race as early as 6 months old

  • Researchers found that parents who did discuss race used vague terms like "Everyone is equal" or "We're all friends" which did not actually help children process their own questions about race. This leads not necessarily to discrimination but rather to preferences for one's own group. To quote the article:

    Kids are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism; they're going to form these preferences on their own. Children naturally try to categorize everything, and the attribute they rely on is that which is the most clearly visible....children extend their shared appearances much further—believing that those who look similar to them enjoy the same things they do. Anything a child doesn't like thus belongs to those who look the least similar to him. The spontaneous tendency to assume your group shares characteristics—such as niceness, or smarts—is called essentialism.

  • Research suggests that by age 8 or so, when most parents finally figure it is necessary to talk about race, children's opinions about race have mostly formed, whereas discussing it earlier tends to allow children to openly question their curiosities about race. The idea is that they are not necessarily prompted to discriminate immediately, nor do they see any specific reason to, but rather that their self identification with their own race can lead to classifying others precisely as that -- "others."

  • Sadly, school integration may not be the key. Research found that "the more diverse the school, the more the kids self-segregate by race and ethnicity within the school, and thus the likelihood that any two kids of different races have a friendship goes down." This is perhaps because students recognize more social constructs around them that center around race (one example might be a lunch table that a student assumedly cannot sit at because it is populated by another race) and thus is less likely to pursue opportunities to interact with students of other races.

  • Interestingly enough, informing kids about the sordid history of racial discRimination at an earlier age may be the key to preventing such group discrimination. Another interesting excerpt:

    Bigler ran a study in which children read brief biographies of famous African-Americans. For instance, in a biography of Jackie Robinson, they read that he was the first African-American in the major leagues. But only half read about how he'd previously been relegated to the Negro Leagues, and how he suffered taunts from white fans. Those facts—in five brief sentences were omitted in the version given to the other children.

    After the two-week history class, the children were surveyed on their racial attitudes. White children who got the full story about historical discrimination had significantly better attitudes toward blacks than those who got the neutered version. Explicitness works. "It also made them feel some guilt," Bigler adds. "It knocked down their glorified view of white people." They couldn't justify in-group superiority.

Anyhow, that's just a tiny snippet of some of the interesting stuff contained in the article, and it really makes me wonder how racial discrimination has shifted, especially with the election of a mixed-race president, which seems like it would be an opportune point for discussion between parents and their children.

It seems especially poignant that as older generations who grew up with more prevalent racism age, the newer generations are faced with their own unique obstacles to discussing race, such as the assumption that children are "naturally colorblind," which seems a bit idealized when you think about it. That said, I don't think children have a natural tendency to discriminate, and it seems to me to be more of an issue of not addressing a natural curiosity that arises about something in the child's world.

I know I have a couple parents who read the blog, how have you tackled the question of race with your children? How did your parents tackle it with you?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fall Television Weigh-In

Now, as much as I love television, I don't watch every show that premieres. I don't have the time, or patience, or in most cases as of late, the slightest interest. Not to mention my addiction to Bravo style reality shows leaves me pretty busy, even with the benefit of a DVR. I just have to do what I can do when I can do it.

But still, there are some shows I am loving this fall. Naturally, I am excited about the return of certain old standby favorites...the current seasons of both Project Runway and Top Chef: Las Vegas have been excellent so far, and I'm really pumped for The Amazing Race (I want the kid with Asperger's to win!). But I thought I'd give some thoughts on the three new shows that I am really digging and see what you all think of them as well.


Community is one of those shows that so far is so good and so funny and so original that I'm worried it's going to get cancelled after the first season. After sampling some of the "best" sitcoms on television and being annoyed by the sheer amount of cheese, I was excited to see something premiere that for me is on par with the likes of 30 Rock or Arrested Development for the quality of humor and the originality of concept.

It was definitely a smart move to cast Chevy Chase in this show, because his experience brings a lot to the table, but it's Joel McHale (of The Soup fame) who really carries the show as its leading man. McHale plays Jeff, a successful lawyer who must go to community college in order to please the bar after his original college degree is proved to be fraudulent. I was happy to see that the kind of deadpan delivery and wit that McHale brings to The Soup translated to scripted comedy flawlessly, and I'm glad to see someone so genuinely talented getting a chance at his own show.

One of the breakout stars of the show is Danny Pudi who plays Abed, a very blunt and straightforward character with Asperger's whose timing and delivery is unmatched. This show is, frankly, one of the best I've seen in years and you would be seriously disappointed if you didn't do yourself the favor of catching up with the season on Hulu. Lucky for you, I provided you with a link. You could watch right now! Or you could watch on NBC Thursdays at 8/7c.


I'll admit, the first time I saw previews for this show, I didn't think it was going to be that good. I thought it was going to be another show that relied on a bunch of stupid cliches for cheap laughs. And while there are some cliches (I sometimes feel that, while hilarious, the gay couple on the show is a series of "gay man" caricatures), I think the show is original in its handling of the cliches. In fact, the strength of the show is its ability to take those stereotypes and make them funny again by forcing them all together into one family dynamic. What emerges from this mix is some pretty witty satire on the modern family (thus the title, I assume) and it's just a funny show to watch.

For me, Eric Stonestreet's over the top portrayal of a proud gay man in a couple that just adopted a baby is fantastic. I thought at first that he would be the main tool of cliche dispensation, but what I like about his choices is that they seem very natural. Sure, he's flamboyant but he also seems like a real guy. There is a moment in the second episode in which he reacts to one woman's criticism of Meryl Streep that just slays me each time I see it. I was also really impressed by one of the kids on the show, an actor named Rico Rodriquez, who plays Manny, an over the top romantic little ten year old who professes his love to a sixteen year old girl who works at the instant photo booth at the mall with a poem and a frilly white shirt. This kid is excellent. He practically makes the show himself.

The show is on ABC on Wednesdays at 9/8c.


ABC is well aware that when Lost finally ends in early 2010, they'll have a gap to fill. They want to keep their audience engaged and so they're clearly looking for something to fill that gap. I believe Flash Forward was one of the ways they were hoping to do that, so I was skeptical that it would be all that successful. So far, though, I'm really interested in what they have going on on this show, and I hope it can keep the momentum that its had since the first episode.

Now, I'll be the first to admit it-- this show is kind of cheesy. Maybe really cheesy. But I also know that I have a lower tolerance for cheese than the average viewer, especially in a seemingly "sci-fi" sort of plotline, and I still think this show has an interesting premise, so that says a lot. The basic plot of the show is that the entire world blacks out one morning for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, only to determine that each of them had a "flash forward" in which they experienced their lives roughly 6 months from that date. Obviously lends itself to a lot of drama and interesting twists, but could also easily fizzle out if the show doesnt handle the issue of passing time delicately. I've heard that the show was originally conceived as a mini-series, which seems smart, but I wonder if ABC will take the success and try to stretch it out for multiple seasons, which could definitely lead to some crappy gaps in the drama.

I will say that Joseph Fiennes has the making of any great leading man, and not just because he's so delightful to look at. He has a solid sense of delivery, which is rare for an action-packed show, I've found. I'll be interested to see how long this show can keep it's momentum. It's on every Thursday on ABC at 8/7c.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Time Magazine on Glenn Beck

I don't like Glenn Beck. I'm not gonna sugarcoat that one. And I just plain don't think that the stuff he says is necessarily good for America. Not that I think he shouldn't have the right to say it, and I thank God that I live in a country where he has that right, but anyone who thinks that he's somehow speaking the "truth" to the country is seriously dilusional about the world we live in, let alone what decade we live in.

To be fair, I haven't listened to much of his show at length, mostly because the one time I tried, I was infuriated about 30 seconds in. But I do know that most of the quotes I hear from him that infuriate me most are those that stoke the fires of racial tension in the US (some particularly horrifying quotes of his, including a forced "blackface" voice here). It is comical to me that anyone argues that his hatred of Obama does not stem partially from the President's race.

Yes, I realize that conservative talking heads would attack a Democratic president regardless but I think the election of a black man to the office has opened up a pandora's box of ugly rhetoric and viscious thinking that I had really wished I wouldn't see again in this country, and in my opinion, Glenn Beck is one of the spearheads of this movement. I believe his tactics are based less on news or fact than they are on intentional fear-mongering and biased pandering to a specific demographic.

Video of Glenn Beck's statement that Obama is racist

I believe he knows he taps into people's fear and is using it to make money, not even necessarily espouse something he truly believes. And if he truly does believe it, then I don't like him for being a racist, pompous hypocritical fascist. The only thing that brings me solace is that these racially charged comments are the primary reason that so many advertisers pulled their advertisements from Beck's program. It helps me to believe that I'm not in the minority of Americans who won't tolerate those kind of statements as the norm.

Now I will be the first to admit that there are radicals on any side of a debate. And when a liberal commentator says something that I disagree with vehemently, I'm just as happy to denounce it. However, I think Glenn Beck is not only in poor taste but it actually disheartens me a little to think that people listen to and give merit to what Glenn Beck has to say. It really upsets me, truly, and I am reluctant to even discuss him with my conservative friends because I can openly say that if I found out a friend of mine was a Glenn Beck fan and thought what he said was real "truth," I don't know if I'd be able to maintain the friendship because I don't know if I would want to associate myself with people who would support someone who stirs that kind of hate and fear. Honest to goodness. Luckily, I'd like to think that most of my friends are the type of people who would be able to think rationally and see past that kind of scaremongering. Unfortunately, his seeming popularity leaves me unsure about that assertion.

That said, Time Magazine ran an article on Glenn Beck two weeks ago that I thought was interesting. I didn't like it, because in some ways it seemed to glorify Beck but I also respect that Time does try to, at least some of the time, give merit to both sides of any debate. But what I liked best is this week's issue, when the Letters section featured the first letter I've ever read that sounds like it could have been written by me myself:

"Deanna Frankowski, the Beck fan mentioned in your article, is "sick and tired of being ignored"? Give me a break! I had to wait through eight years of an Administration that brought this country to the brink. Frankowski should sit down quietly while the rest of us get to the task of cleaning up Bush's mess. Besides, this health-care debate isn't about those over 30; it's about the millions of uninsured, recently graduated young people saddled with loans we can't imagine paying off, who are sick and tired of living in an abyss created by our elders' stupidity. Obama would be smart to focus on college towns. Step aside, Grandma. We want health care, and we want it now." -Agnieszka Marczak, Lincoln, RI

Thank you, Agnieszka. I couldn't agree more, even if I'm partial to subtler wording. And worry not...Beck would probably not like you either, on account of your foreign sounding name.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ten Songs On A Thought: Songs To Celebrate A New Start

This weeks theme for Ten Songs On A Thought? Songs To Celebrate A New Beginning. For me, this was about celebrating the fact that after 16 months of absolutely hating (loathing, abhorring, coming home from and crying about) my job at a local restaurant, I finally got the guts to quit, regardless of the financial outcome.

The idea behind this feature is, I'll write down the first ten songs that come to mind without any real editing, and I encourage you, the reader, to do the same. It's fun!

Ten Songs To Celebrate A New Beginning
  1. Brand New Colony - The Postal Service
  2. Independence Day - Elliott Smith
  3. The Box - Johnny Flynn
  4. Pink Light - Laura Veirs
  5. Sleep The Clock Around - Belle and Sebastian
  6. Caring Is Creepy - The Shins
  7. Prescilla - Bat For Lashes
  8. Oh, Mandy - The Spinto Band
  9. Let's Get Out Of This Country - Camera Obscura
  10. In This Home On Ice - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
What are your ten?

Book Review: In The Bedroom by Andre Dubus

This collection is a series of short stories by Andre Dubus culled from his other works and is ostensibly patterned around stories that handle characters at pivotal moments in their lives. I found this theme to be what was ultimately so moving about this collection of work, particularly reading the stories all together.

The first story, "Killings" was the basis for the movie In The Bedroom, as the preface by Todd Field illuminates, and incidentally, I found "Killings" to be one of the least compelling stories in the book, perhaps because it really would make a better movie (and thus, why I am now dying to see the movie In The Bedroom).

What I found most interesting about the stories was the idea of loss as indicated by a change in one's state of mind or quality of living. Each story dealt with the idea that something big has happened and then investigated whether things could or could not go back to the way they were before. Whether this end was sought through some sort of atonement, or reminiscence, or a physical action, this return to when times were better or different was a string throughout. It felt a bit like a thought that guided you by the hand through each story, making each one richer than the one before it.

All of these stories have a heartbreaking resonance with the human spirit that is a testament to Dubus' skills as a writer. He is king of the short story, for each of his stories is exactly as long as it needs to be, and he provides the exact amount of detail necessary to satiate the reader without limiting the capacity for reader response. As a writer of short stories, it was really a treat to see someone so adept at the genre make such skill seem so effortless.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone, but particular to those who are fans of the short story format, for it is on excellent display here. My favorite stories in the book are "Rose," "The Winter Father," and "The Fat Girl," but all of them are excellent, excellent stories and I can't wait to read more Dubus.

This review was reposted and expanded from my review at Good Reads. Oh, you love reading and reviewing books, too? Join! We can be friends!