The E Book and I

Last friday, all of my fellow CreComm first years and I walked the few blocks to the Cinematheque to see “Page One: Inside the New York Times”, a documentary that captures one year inside the New York Times newspaper. I found the film to be a gripping snapshot of a medium that is painfully in flux and uncertain.

The biggest concern for many of the NY Times staffers was the increasingly unclear future of the printed word. As citizen journalism becomes more and more popular and inexpensive to produce, many are beginning to question if knowledge should be for sale.

I myself feel concerned about the E revolution, but for somewhat different reasons. As a former English major, I love my books. And I’m not just talking about first date, giddy kind of love. I’m talking mind-blowing, unforgettable, truly one of a kind love. It’s the kind of love that you allow to order the Ultimate Feast at Red Lobster. Yeah, it’s that serious.

Needless to say, I don’t get the same life-changing love from an e book on my iPad than from my perfectly preserved first editions. My e book of “Pride and Prejudice”, for example, would get a Red Lobster  side salad. And I wouldn’t even share a single cheese bun.

But of course there are so many great things to be said for online reading materials: they’re cheaper, they’re better for the environment, they’re more accessible. But I just can’t see a real future for us. It’s not them, it’s me.

So as the world begins to change around me and I grip onto the spines of my wonderful novels that helped me see so many new worlds, I just can’t help but be a bit afraid, a bit unsure, and a lot nostalgic. Just don’t tell Steve Jobs.

How do you feel about the E revolution? Do you sleep with your iPhone or still work on a typewriter? Either way, I want to know. Comment and share your two cents, or twelve. Whichever.

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Here’s the thing about Glee . . .

I remember hearing in May 2009 that there was going to be a new show coming out in the fall about a high school glee club. How wonderful! And it’s on Fox, you say? How strange! But, as a person who has a certain high school performing arts program to thank for her sensational triple threat abilities and confusing crush on Nathan Lane, I could not wait to tune in.

I was pleasantly surprised with the first episode. It had everything a show about singing show tunes in a high school multipurpose room should have; wit, self-awareness, and bizarre sweater choices. The comedy was off-beat but charming, the characters were odd but authentic, and the music had just the right blend of top 40s, Broadway standards, and classic oldies. Yes indeed, I was a fan, and not just because I could commiserate with lusting after a man who is clearly homosexual or dressing like a high school toddler. It was all going so well. Which meant, of course, that it had to somehow jump the shark in season 2.

I don’t know if I can truly pinpoint Glee’s downfall to a particular episode. It’s more like a series of unfortunate choices and meta pop culture happenings that just gave it that push over the edge. Ok, fine! You talked me into it; I will be naming a few truly ridiculous things that made Glee the self-conscious and overly-hyped program that it is today. Just to name a few;

1) Grilled Cheesus – Yeah, that whole episode where it was all about religion and Finn thought he saw Jesus in his grilled cheese. Oh, and he thought that the grilled cheesus was making wishes come true. Also, Kurt’s dad was teetering on the edge of death and Kurt was all losing his religion (omg, they sang that song too). So, the conveniently-for-this-episode-Christian Glee kids tried to force their religion on poor Kurt. Yeah, of course Fox would treat a gay kid who’s also an atheist like it’s the end of the world.

2) Super Super Homosexual Kurt – I don’t know if it happened one particular episode or over many, but Kurt just became a ridiculous stereotype of every bad gay cliche. Is he overtly sexually aggressive with disinterested straight men? Check! Is he a social outcast and bullied to a ridiculous proportion? Check! Is he effeminate to the point of wearing women’s clothing? Check! It’s not that I find any of these characteristics to be particularly  inauthentic or offensive. No, it’s just the certain combination of stereotyped attributes along with the absurd degree to which they’re underlined that I find to be just so demeaning. Would it kill them to have an original gay character? Would it?

3) Ryan Murphy vs. Kings of Leon (huh?): Last January, Kings of Leon totally turned down Glee creator Ryan Murphy’s request to use their music. Whaaat? But everyone loves Glee! Why, it’s the biggest and best show on television! Ryan Murphy was equally as shocked and decided to tweet “It’s like, OK, hate on arts education. You can make fun of Glee all you want, but at its heart, what we really do is turn kids on to music.” Woah woah woah. Apparently if you don’t want to have your music on Glee, you’re against arts education? Is that right? Ok, perfect. Just checking. No no, Ryan Murphy, your show totes is the most important thing since sliced bread and sequins. Rock on!

3) Gwyneth Paltrow: Yeah, her goop was just all over that second season.

The third season just premiered two nights ago and it’s looking as wobbly as last. All I can say is that I hope it remembers its sweet, odd-ball, humble energy of its first season and loses this awkward self-centeredness that seems to leak from Leah Michele’s very pores. As far as arts as education goes, I look to Sesame Street as the gold standard. And boy, do they have Glee’s number.

Am I right? Am I wrong? Do I have waaay too much time on my hands? I want to know! Comment or be forced to read Ryan Murphy’s Twitter feed for the rest of eternity!

Twits

It’s #FF (follow friday) and I have a few recommendations;

1) @katherinemdow (Yeah, that’s right. Follow me immediately)

Why you should follow: I often tweet about kittens. Oh, I’ll also update you as to when I put up my newest blog entry.

All Star Tweet: “@pauloguzzi @MicheleBachmann @Sn00ki – You make me lolz”

@vulture

Why you should follow: If you like my snarky yet academic take on pop culture, these guys wrote the book.

All Star Tweet:  “fallacies re: Mel Gibson’s Judah Maccabee film. That it’s tentatively titled ‘Dirty  Hanukkah Harry’ not one of them: http://nym.ag/qkpLtS

@ConanOBrien

Why you should follow: He’ll give you a good LOL. Let’s be honest, we could all use a few of those on our feeds.

All Star Tweet: “Sorry @AndersonCooper, but as long as there is blood in my scalp, my hair shall defeat yours. (Maniacal laughter)”

I’m still uncomfortable in the Twitterverse. But having these people on my feed makes following fun. Oh and when I say following, I don’t mean in the same way that I followed Kirstie Alley all day when she was filming a movie on my street, (call me Kirstie! You rocked DWTS!) Anyway, if you’re a new tweeter, like myself, and could use some interesting, fun, insightful tweets, I’d seriously consider adding these folks, especially me.

Kisses and judgement,

Katherine

P.S. I love kittens

Reunited and it feels so . . .

When I was 8 years old, I fell in love for the first time. It happened one Sunday night, in which I felt particularly rowdy and unable to sleep. I heard my Dad in the family room watching a movie. I left the comfort of my Beauty and the Beast sheets to join him, hoping he would let me stay up a bit longer to watch. What ho, success! He was either feeling generous or too annoyed to protest; (I believe I had drop-kicked my sister down the stairs that day after seeing the move performed in a “Power Rangers” episode. Therefore, I’m going to go with the latter). Regardless, he allowed me to watch the movie with him.  Within this film, I was to discover the first love of my life; the film was “Annie Hall” and the man was Woody Allen.

Now if any of my readers have seen “Annie Hall”, you’re probably thinking right about now, “My, what an inappropriate and bizarre film to show an 8 year old, and what an inappropriate and bizarre man for an 8 year old to fall in love with. Wasn’t Woody Allen 42 in that film?” Well judgmental reader, all I have to say for myself is that the heart wants what it wants. At 8 years old, my heart wanted simultaneously for a Barbie Jeep and a 42 year old neurotic Jewish New Yorker. The film showed me an authentic and melancholic archetype for a male romantic. For this, I am forever grateful.

After this life-changing moment, I became an Allen fan for life. I began watching all of his movies and plotting my future life with him. When my Dad saw that my infatuation with Allen was not ending, he informed me that he was in fact taken and I was “not to be involved with that creep”. When I immediately asked why, he hurriedly responded, “never mind”. After further probing, my Dad told me he was in a relationship with Mia Farrow and that he was not single. Lies, all lies!! My trusty library card and a few inquiries with some loose-lipped, inappropriate uncles revealed the truth; the love of my life was no longer with that woman Mia Farrow. No, he was with his . . . wait, what? With his adopted daughter? Whaat? (8 year old heart shatters)

Last sunday, TCM aired a slew of quintessential New York movies to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 911. Annie Hall was one such film. I tuned in, thinking it was time for a reconciliation. I figured I would fall in love with my long lost Woody all over again. I thought that we just had a brief parting of ways, a trial separation, if you will. How could I stay mad at him? After all, we are meant to be. But alas, the spark was no longer. Like Alvy meeting Annie at the health foods restaurant in Beverly Hills, everything was just off. My heart just knew too much. It made me wonder if we allow celebrities personal lives to influence us too much. Soon-Yi aside, Woody Allen still made great films. His characters are still original, endlessly romantic, ridiculously neurotic, and a hundred times over authentic. Knowing about his relationships shouldn’t change that. Knowing Sinead O’Connor and the Pope aren’t exactly bros shouldn’t change how lovely her voice is. Knowing Kate Moss has a thing for cocaine in recording studios doesn’t stop her from being beautiful. Knowing Tiger Woods has an avid texting life doesn’t change how great his swing is. Oh, wait . . . anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that we shouldn’t let these things influence our perception of their work. And yet, we do. So Woody, if you are reading this, (as of course you are), I just wanted to say that I’m not mad at you anymore. As only an 8 year old lusting after a 42 year old knows, the heart wants what it wants. At least we’ll always have New York.

Do you agree with me? Do you disagree with me? Either way, I want to know! Post your feedback, pretty pleeeeeaaaaaase.

The Help: “You ain’t smart, you ain’t kind, and you is kind of important”

This story may seem a bit passé to some of you, as the Tate Taylor directed runaway hit The Help opened in theatres almost a month ago. However, I’m feeling the need to light the internetz ablaze today with talk of this film. This is mostly because in the past week, I have been hearing Oscar buzz for a well-deserving Viola Davis, but also for the film itself in the Best Picture category.

On August 11, 2011, The Association of Black Women Historians released a statement urging fans of both the original Kathryn Stockett book and the film adaptation to re-educate themselves on the true racial tensions of Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. The statement explains, “Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism.”  Baaaam. These ladies ain’t playin’.

I myself both read the original Kathryn Stockett text and saw the film opening weekend. I was underwhelmed with both. While I hate to sound like a Negative Nellie here, the ABW may have hit it exactly on the nose when deeming the “Mammy” stereotype alive and well in this rose-coloured Black History lesson. For those of you unfamiliar with the Mammy archetype, the ABW explains it as “a mythical stereotype of black women who were compelled, either by slavery or segregation, to serve white families.  Portrayed as asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites, the caricature of Mammy allowed mainstream America to ignore the systemic racism that bound black women to back-breaking, low paying jobs where employers routinely exploited them.” Again, you just got served The Help, seriously served.

My personal understandings of the Mammy archetype stem from one of my all-time favorite movies, the Victor Fleming masterpiece Gone With The Wind.  I first saw this movie at age 8, one rainy day at the cottage when all my grandmother could do to keep her sanity was to stuff my sisters and I chalk-full of the MSG deliciousness that is Chinese food and put on the longest movie known to man, i.e. Gone With The Wind. I initially loved the Mammy character who is, in the film, literally named Mammy. It wasn’t until my post-secondary English classes in which I became familiar with how damaging these portrayals actually were to an already oppressed African American population. (Thanks for the education, Dad. Money well spent, for serious).

But I think what really miffed me about The Help, (and here I am speaking more to the film than the text), is the saviour complex given to the Skeeter character, played respectably by the summer box office It Girl Emma Stone. It wasn’t just that the African American female characters all seemed to be variations on the same stereotypically sassy yet silent Mammy archetype, or that the African American man was represented as “drunkards, abusive, or absent,” as the ABW explains it. It was that the most important narratives of all, the Black maids incredible courage in sharing their stories in a time of tremendous conflict and bloodshed, took a back seat to Skeeter’s own lame triumph. Yes, I said it. Her triumph was downright lame. Yeah, Skeeter got to become a published author while sitting comfortably in her own Jackson version of Tara. I mean, who cares that Aibileen and Milly risked life and limb to tell you their stories. Good for you, Skeetz! You totes rocked it, girl!

So as it stands, The Help is getting a ton of Oscar buzz. Now, if anybody reading this knows me, you know that Oscar night is my holy night. Seriously, I train all year to not only have enough energy to make it through the excitement overload that is the Oscar telecast, (OMG Harvey Weinstein, OMG I think Hugh Jackman’s going to dance, OMG that movie is soooo overrated, right? RIGHT? ANSWER ME OSCAR PARTY GUESTS), but also to truly destroy my Oscar pool. (Yeah, take that Uncle George. I just destroyed you. How to Train Your Dragon for Best Animated Feature? Gaaawwwd). But every few years, there comes along a movie that presents a moral challenge for me. This is a film, not to name any names (cough King’s Speech cough),that although it is a lock to clean up, I cannot bring myself to vote for it as I feel it is overrated. I worry that The Help will be one of those movies. I’m in full support of Viola Davis getting an Oscar nod, Emma Stone I could even deal with. But as for the movie, I just can’t get behind it. So I’m going to start taking sedatives now in preparation for Oscar night. So far, none of my guests from last year’s Oscar party said they’d be attending this year, but whatevs.

What did you think of The Help?  I want to know! Comment, share, destroy!