April 26, 2007
Thought I'd Share...
Now that the thesis is officially done, and handed in, I thought I'd share one of my more favorite essays. My thesis, just to give you a heads-up, was a series of linked non-fiction essays about the semester I spent in India. The peice I've attached to this post is about what options become available to the "little people" in Third World countries desperately trying to compete with and possibly become First World.



posted by Tina at 7:16 PM
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April 25, 2007
Pumpkin: Retardedly Smart, or Just Plain Retarded?
first and foremost, I apologize for the play on words with "retard." I do not, in any way shape or form, believe that people with developmental disabilities are any less human than the next guy. In fact, I believe that sometimes, despite their challenges, people with such handicaps have a finer grasp on what it means to truly live and embrace life--both the good and the bad--then us "normal" folk.

That being said... (and yes this blog was prompted by the entry below it)

I recently re-watched Pumpkin, an art house film written by Adam Larson Broder and directed by Anythony Abrams. It's the story of a "perfect" girl who has a "perfect" life complete with inclusion in a sorority, a jock boyfriend (who she is expected to marry) and, by their mere omission at the beginning of the movie) no apparent goals in life. However, Caroline's perfect world starts to unravel as she experiences multiple "awakenings," all of which are prompted by her "unnatural" love for the disabled young man she coaches for the Challenged Games.

I'm not sure how to feel about the message of this movie. In fact, I was unsure if I was supposed to take this movie seriously. On the one hand it seems highly improbably that someone like Caroline would fall in love with someone like Pumpkin. It is a highly unnatural pairing that at one point seems like Caroline is taking advantage of the mentally handicapped young man in order to redirect her life and find self fulfillment. Furthermore, their love seems illicit and just plain wrong. Yet, when I found myself thinking and feeling that way, I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I would buy into this idea that there is a hierarchy in terms of "appropriate" love, after all doesn't everyone deserve to be loved? And if that's what the writer and directors wanted to convey, then they picked a really smart and sneaky way of portraying that idea.

Yet, at times I couldn't help but feel as though they (being the writer/directors) were making fun of Pumpkin and using him as a vehicle to add a sense of ludicrousness to the plot. Every honest attempt that Pumpkin makes at being "real" and "human" is snicker worthy. He attempts to drive the car off in anger and, having spent most of his life in a wheelchair, merely gets stuck in the driveway. He attempts to communicate with Caroline, and his halting speech makes her scream, which reverberates off every corner of the sleepy little town. He fights Caroline's Alpha male jock boyfriend, and even though he's initially losing on his wobbly legs, he somehow manages to tackle Kent and send him sprawling, quipping "It must be all the working out." The moments that are supposed to be tender and sweet aren't--they're ookie. When Pumpkin and Caroline make love for the first time, all I could think was "is this man capable of making decisions? Cause if not, this is so rape." When Pumpkin and Caroline kiss, its not an "awww" inspired moment but rather one that makes you squirm in your seat.

Finally, the last scene of the movie, where we are lead to believe that Caroline (who has spent some time at the Tech school's artist colony getting in touch with herself and writing angsty poems) has reached enlightenment, Caroline says something really highbrow and educated to Pumpkin who responds with a dumbfounded "huh?" And as the pair walks away, Caroline casts an undecipherable look over her shoulder. The first time I watched this movie I interpreted that look as happy, this time I wasn't so sure Caroline believed in her happiness. Here she was, an smart, confident woman walking off into the sunset with a man that is clearly inferior, and I, the viewer, am asked to believe that her life is going to be happier? I ain't buying that bridge.

Of course, the movie could have been written so that the two become friends and not lovers and the same message could be conveyed. But then again, the shock value wouldn't be there?

posted by Tina at 10:15 AM
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April 21, 2007
I May Watch Too Much Obscure T.V./Movies
Pumpkin, a little known movie starring Christina Ricci is on T.V. right now. I watched this movie shortly after it came out (in 2002). It's quirky, sweet, and dark. A popular sorority girl becomes involved with a mentally and physically challenged boy; personal growth ensues.

It occurred to me, as the story starts to unfold that this face (this face being the guy face) is incredibly familiar yet I can't figure out why:

Which is very familiar to the face of Emory Dick, resident geek on the little known T.V. show Popular. I loved this show when it was on. The story of two girls from different social groups thrown together by their parents' marriage, this show touched on much, much more than just being popular or unpopular. Bulimia, teen cancer, death, weight issues, interracial relationships, gay and lesbian rights, these topics just scratch the surface of what this show was about. Unfortunately, it only had a two year run and most people don't even remember it.

Yet, there is Hank Harris on these two obscure shows, thus proving that I watch not only little known shows, but watch too many shows. I really need to get out more.

posted by Tina at 12:31 PM
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April 19, 2007
Virginia Tech
I've resisted posting about this because frankly, I don't think that I have any authority to speak on this subject. I, nor any of my loved ones, thankfully were not involved in the tragedy. I can not speak to nor for the immense sense of grief and loss the families, friends, and community must be experiencing. My heart and prayers (though I'm not typically the praying kind) goes out to these people as well as the family of the shooter as it can not be easy to bear the stigma that comes with that singular unfortunate decision.

Yet, after watching NBC reveal the contents of the package that Cho Seung-Hui sent, watching the subsequent reactions this morning on the news, and, finally, prompted by a flier sent from job #2's head office, I feel as though I must say something, however scattered.

It is clear that Cho Seung-Hui--for he has a name, even though the media (almost) blanketedly refuses to use it, rather denoting him as merely "the shooter" and thus dehumanizing Cho and reducing him to nothing more than a sum of the violent and unfortunate actions of the last few hours of his life--was not a well or normal human being. It is clear that he needed more help than what was provided or received. By all accounts, he was a sick and desperate individual who failed to make the connection between what he was feeling and thinking, and the moral implications of his actions. In a sense, he deserves our pity for that--some how, some where, someone (that "someone" more likely being a compilation of multiple persons and institutions) failed this young man and he acted desperately in response with tragic results. Yet that does not excuse his actions. To take another's life is the gravest of all sins. Yet, according to research (such as that below) this type of violence is increasing.

This flier that I received cites the following passage from the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence:

Intentional violence accounts for one-third of all injury deaths in the United States.

As levels of violence in the general society have risen sharply, it is a disturbing, but not surprising, corollary that the levels of violence in and around schools have also increased.

Research suggests that violence in schools derives mainly from factors external to schools, but may be precipitated or aggravated by the school environment. Student assaults on other students are the most frequent type of violence reported in schools.

What distresses me about this statement in light of situations such as Virginia Tech or Columbine High School, is that they (said situations as well as "regular" street violence) are treated as isolated incidences. They are reported in the news, spin-off and special interest stories are generated, maybe someone publishes a memoir, and then eventually the incident recedes into some dusty corner of public memory until the next horrific re-occurrence. Furthermore, it worries me that we do not look at the human face behind the shotgun, glock or whatever weapon these individuals have chosen to carry out their actions.

Disclaimer: I do not condone or excuse the violence of Cho Seung-Hui, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold or any other such person. What they did was wrong; morally, spiritually, socially wrong. They took innocent life. Period. But... I can't help but feel that some how, again, these people were failed. Something happened at some point in their life that irreversibly damaged them. And for that, I feel for them.

Lastly, a note on violence. One has got to stop and wonder what is sparking and enabling this violence. I don't buy the "guns kill people" mentality. Guns do not just "go off." I was raised using guns and raised respecting the power of such a tool. I love shooting hand guns and if I were to move back home (or at least set up "home" in one place for longer than a year) I would work toward obtaining a pistol permit and a pistol. This, however, does not mean that just because I can/could wield a gun, that I would EVER go out and randomly shoot someone. People, plain and simple, kill people. So where does this urge to kill come from? Are we just destructive by nature? I think that yes, in part we are.

Think about, for example, the daily news (be it print form or media). When was the last time something positive and good made the front page of the newspaper, or was the lead story for the nightly news? Think about movies and T.V. Violence is the number one seller, and the target audience is males between the ages of 15-23 (I think... that stat seems to change frequently). Don't get me wrong, I think some of the most pheonomal and beautiful films ever made are/depict violent (The Departed, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Boy's Don't Cry, Hotel Rwanda, etc.) . There seems to be a disconnect, however, between what is seen on the screen (be it big or small) and what is real. Violence on the screen, it seems to me, is glorified as righteous and just in some way, and thus, it must be ok to translate that into real life. In a movie (or T.V.) if a charcter is wronged, bloody vengence is an option. We've internalized this, accepted it, and as a result it has become a "norm." Someone disses you, accidentally brushes by you without apologizing? Beat the ever loving snot out of them (true story from Boston--a group of teen girls hospitalized a 20-something coed because she bumped into one of their posse). History has proven that humans are destructive--we are the only species that intentionally wages war over non-tangible items (i.e. oil rights)--yet, we seem surprised when we act violently.

They, the media, keeps asking the question, How safe are our schools? I would say not very. Violence is not limited to a distrubed individual with a handgun. Violence can be physically, mentally and emotionally damaging with out killing. Women and minorities--including the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community--have suffered violence for a long, long time. Women are raped and afraid to report it because of the stigma. Minorities have been singled out and degraded for as long as learning institutions have been established. First they had to fight to be included (as in Brown v. Board of Education), now our youth are dealing with the negative labels foisted on them because of their sexuality (true story: a student at the college I teach at transferred because she was continually harassed via dry-erase board and later stick-it notes about her sexuality, and the school did little in way of punishment for the perps because the burden of proof lay on the accuser and, as the sneaky f*cks left messages only when they knew she wasn't going to be there, and therefore couldn't catch them, she removed herself from the situation). Violence, in this author's humble opinion, at ALL levels needs to be stamped out. Our children need to be taught with even more diligence what is acceptable and what it not, what options are available to them if they are the recipient of some sort of violence and so forth. On the flip side of that, authority figures (i.e. adults) need to be instructed in what is curiosity and what is cause for alarm (I'm thinking here about all the kindergartners who got suspended for hitting a friend and the like). We need to examine, as a society, what it is that draws us to violence and how we can "fix" that fascination.

It also disturbs me that while this violence is being glorified, we forget who the victims are (unless, of course, an exclusive story with one of them can boost ratings). They have faces, they have names, they had dreams and hopes. They should be the focus of this story, not the actions of a sick person. Yes, I understand that families want--and deserve--privacy in which to mourn. But at the same time, I think its incredibly sad that these 32 victims have been reduced to a number. When this event is remembered in 10, 15, 20 years, it won't be their names, faces, hopes and dreams that are publicly remembered. Rather, these individuals will be reduced to a paragraph or sentence about 32 people who were killed in the worst mass killing in U.S. history.

I guess, in closing (as I'm not 100% sure that this post has gone where I initially intended it to), I need to say again that what happened at Virginia Tech is a tragedy. In no way should the actions of a disturbed young man, Cho Seung-Hui, be excused. It was horrid and sinful what this individual has done. I can not say it enough, my heart goes out to the students, faculty, parents and community of Virginia Tech.

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posted by Tina at 2:34 PM
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April 12, 2007
I'm Done! I'm Done! I'mdoneI'mdoneI'mdone!
As of 4 p.m. EST on April 11th, I am done with writing my thesis! It's not perfect, I would go as far as to say that it is still in the drafting process, but it has been printed and handed to my thesis committee. I have to say, I'm particularly proud of myself--I wrote 100 pages of solid, publishable (with a few tweaks), non-fiction material. I have a MANUSCRIPT. More importantly, I proved to myself that with dedication, I CAN do it. Granted, I also learned that I need to set a more rigorous writing schedule for myself and actually stick to it, otherwise it's a lot of late nights. Though, I seem to writer better and am most focused after 12:00 p.m. Apparently, this means I'm going to have to get a "real" job (I scoff at you real job) at night or really early in the morning, I suppose...

So it's DONE! (does happy dance for like the 1 millionth time).

In other news:
Author Kurt Vonnegut has passed. In truth, I haven't read much Vonnegut, and I haven't read Vonnegut recently. However, I do recognize what I have read (a handful of essays, Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle) as true masterpieces. Not only do these books weave an amazing story, but they address hugely important social issues. To have the ability to tell a story that, upon completion, makes the reader set down the novel and go "Wow, man" is something that most writers can only dream of. To have your books impact not only a generation, but generations upon generations is something many dream and only a few achieve. And to do it in a wry, satirical manner...

I remember the first time I read Vonnegut. My 12th grade A.P. English teacher, Ms. Vigneaux, assigned Cat's Cradle as a "modern" novel. I remember not being able to put it down (which maybe doesn't say much--I have a seriously bad habit of losing entire days to novels. Poof! Gone just like that.) and reading through the night. It was funny, sad, and metaphorical all at the same time. I found myself going, "Wow, man" as I finished the last page.

So here's to you, Kurt. I raise my imaginary pint in honor of your literary greatness. May the light of your genius never burn out.

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posted by Tina at 10:48 AM
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April 03, 2007
Thesis Blues
Things... and by things I mean thesis... are not going that well. I realized today that I've got four, that's right, four days until I have to have a completed draft to my chair. And then I've got like 4 more to revise the ever loving shit out of it before I have to re-submit it and defend it. And I'm totally blocked. I need a writing enema or laxative or something. It really shouldn't be hard to write like ten more pages. It shouldn't. I'm a professional--or at least a near approximation of one--and I should be able to crank this shit out. But it's really not working for me.


In other news... I won my college basketball pool. By like 380 points. Ha! Take that boys who thought a mere slip of a girl wouldn't know diddly about basketball. Did I fail to mention I grew up in a basketball family? Oops! Sorry!

I'm shelving the puppy search for now. I've decided that if I get one, it'll be post thesis and pre-birthday (which is in May if anyone cares and would like to send me birthday wishes). I've narrowed it down to Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or a Boston Terrier. I'd love to get a boxer, but it's a big dog and I'm probably going to be stuck living in apartments for the next five years or so... so, yeah.

Speaking of... have managed to send out one application to Ithaca College. Am working on one for Savannah College of Art and Design and contemplating sending one to Hawaii. I would so love to move some place warm!

And I think that's random enough for tonight. As promised, word vomit.

Edit to add: Puppy search is back on. I've added French Bulldog to the list of potential "can haves" and Mastiff/Bull Mastiff to the list of "some days". Really, all this is, is a way to waste time and not work on the craptacular thesis. F*cking thesis.

posted by Tina at 8:18 PM
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