Friday, May 30

Note on disaster movies..

I realize that my disaster-related postings have been few and far between lately. I know that I have been diversifying on the blog and some of my posts have just been about other topics, but it is also because I have been WAITING for a few movies to finally ship. I really want to know why there is a "really long wait" for movies such as Megaladon.I absolutely positively refuse to believe that there are that many other people desperately waiting for a movie about a huge shark that attacks and eats people. Either blockbuster only has 1 copy of this movie, or I'm missing out on a huge sub-culture of shark and disaster movie lovers..

Joen and Eleanor

I went through a phase in middle school/early high school where I was totally obsessed with Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I read several books about each, and made my grandfather tape the 6 hour mini-series about Joan of Arc (with Leelee Sobieski)! As today is the anniversary of Joan's death, I thought it would be fun to post about my 2 favorite women from history. Most people know about Joan, but Eleanor is (sadly!) not nearly as well known. Eleanor lived in the 12th and 13th century, and during her 80+ years managed to marry two kings, Louis VII of France and Henry II of England, and produce several famous children such as Richard the Lionheart and King John (of Robin Hood!). She also led her sons into a rebellion against Henry, participated on a crusade with Louis and served as the regent of England after her husband's death.

I'm not sure why I was so interested in both Joan and Eleanor, but I think I liked that they were both women and such iconoclasts. It is very possible that Joan of Arc was schizophrenic or simply delusional, yet she managed to convince the French army to put her in charge of a unit and led them through many successful battles. She was burned at the stake by the English for refusing to confess to being a witch and idolater. We also know a lot about her life because they recorded all of the information from her trial (which lasted several months), during which they asked her many many questions about her family, childhood, etc.

In a strange way, I think Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc would have liked one another. Despite the fact that they lived several hundred years
apart, and Joan was ultimately killed by Eleanor's adopted country, they were both strong women, who earned respect in mostly male dominated positions. Both women also suffered greatly due to their gender; Eleanor was imprisoned for over a decade by Henry for daring to lead a revolt, and Joan's charge of witchery or sorcery was strongly tied to her being a woman. It may be weird to consider both a saint (oops, I'm Jewish!) and a long-dead Queen two of your favorite historical characters.. but it could be worse!

Tuesday, May 27

I'm growing plants on my mini-porch!

basil plant

This year I decided to try growing plants on my mini-porch. By mini-porch I clearly mean really yucky and barely there fire-escape area, but at least it gets sun and the squirrels can't seem to find their way down! I also have a few plants on my kitchen windowsill, but those are mostly herbs.

So far my tomato plant seems to be doing well. It has new leaves, and the flowers are just about to bloom. I had a moment of real tomato envy after taking care of a co-workers plants this weekend (she already has little green tomatoes !!), but she very nicely reminded me that we are growing different varieties. I think my slower plant growth is actually because I originally planted the tomato plant and the pepper plant in the same pot, but that's now fixed and hopefully my plant will be happier soon! The pepper (yellow banana) plant seems totally unperturbed by the whole process of sharing/now not sharing a container and I definitely have small peppers already growing. I'm not a huge pepper fan, but the boyfriend loves I figured they'll be OK to have around! I also thought it was only fair to grow some pepper since he was nice enough to make me some beautiful pots.

On the windowsill I have a purple basil plant, a pot with rocket lettuce, and a dutch iris (not an herb, but they're pretty). I'm still considering trying to grow eggplant, but I'm a little afraid that I just don't have the skill to grow so many plants at once. Depending on how much of an impulse buying spree I go on at Bowood farms next time might determine the eggplant question.

Anyway, I've found it really exciting to have plants all over the apt and wanted to share some pictures and my thoughts so far. Tomato Plant (pre-cage!)

Friday, May 23

I've given up on The Stand

I hate to admit defeat, but I have given up on watching the end of The Stand. I can't believe that I couldn't even work up the energy to finish the adaptation of one of my favorite books. It was just too 'blah.' I started thinking about what I didn't like and it came down to staging and casting. The movie simply left out too much of the good stuff and seemed force. Instead of neatly weaving the stories together, all the people seemed random and you couldn't quite figure out how they all ended up overlapping. Some of my favorite plot lines were also totally ignored, especially during the early portion of the plague; I hated that they cut out the total chaos that ensues across the country and the people who died post-plague because of their inability to survive in a world without electricity or modern comforts. That section of the book wasn't very long, but it really illustrated how dependent we all are upon the grid and the little vignette's about people dying post-plague were really interesting.

As for casting, I can't express how much I disliked Molly Ringwald. She was NOT Fran in any way shape or form, and she can't act. Opening your eyes a little wider does not convey a wide range of emotions, and that really seemed to be her only acting technique. If I could re-cast I would pick:

Stuart: I did like Gary Sinise, but he's too old now! I'd cast Robert Downey Jr. in a new version although he might be too old too! Nathan Fillion is the right age, and I think he would be great.

Fran Goldsmith: Blake Lively (I know this is a strange choice, but I think she fits the part--she plays strong-willed girls with pizazz)

Flagg: Gary Oldman

Nadine Cross: anyone but Laura San Giacomo! I hated her in this role! She was weird and twitchy instead of calm, collected and slowly losing her mind. If Camille Belle were a older she would be great. Summer Glau would be great too, but again maybe too young.

Harold Lauder: an unknown! Someone who can either gain weight and shoot the scenes, or lose weight after shooting the early part. I hated that this Harold did not look the part. The actor was little and wimpy, but he was supposed to be a real outcast, and the physical change throughout the book was really important to his mindset.

Nick: I think you would need another unknown here. It was hard to watch this version because my mind kept screaming "that's Rob Lowe," instead of being able to see him as Nick Andros.

Tuesday, May 20

Adolescent Sexual Health


Oral Sex “Epidemic” Not Supported by Facts

I thought that this article was really interesting, especially because I think that the media often focuses on really strange/misinformed aspects of teenage sexual health. For instance, I remember there were tons of Dateline (or whatever) news specials about the rash of oral sex parties and teenage promiscuity a few years ago. These reporters would go to small towns and shock happy families with their newscasts about sex parties, and teenagers using oral sex as a way to maintain their label of virginity while still engaging in wild acts at parties.

According to new research being published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, something like 25% of teens who consider themselves virgins engage in oral sex, but 80% + of sexualy active teenagers are also engaged in oral sex. The study also suggests “that teens initiate a range of sexual activities around the same time, rather than substitute one for another.”

However you might feel about teenagers being sexually active, it is clear that they are not using oral sex as a way to postone or replace intercourse. Instead, oral sex is simply another aspect of their sexual experimentation. This has clear education and policy implications, because it’s clear that just teaching abstinence will not prevent people from experimenting, and that better sex ed will not cause an epidemic of oral sex among teenagers abstaining until marriage.

Sunday, May 18

I <3 Desperate Housewives (mostly!)

I love Sunday night tv with my roommate. It's part of our Sunday ritual where I cook dinner and sometimes dessert for the week and we sit down for some good yelling at the tv fun. the evening usually starts with me crying through the entire episode of Extreme Home Makeover, and then we watch Desperate Housewives (DH).

DH is usually mindless entertainment at its best; lots of sex, drama, and the occasional tornado cruising through a suburban town. Tonight's episode has been extra dramatic, but definitely not mindless as it has been dealing directly with domestic violence. I've been incensed and impressed by the episode for several reasons..

First of all, i think it's great that DH is dealing directly with domestic violence, especially in a suburban context. Usually women and men in abusive partnerships are portrayed as lower class; the men drink beer and wear dirty t-shirts, and the women have greasy hair and are slovenly trailer-keepers. So, it's great the DH is showing it's 20+ million viewers that women in the suburbs get beaten up too, and that they're not as alone as they might think with their problems. I also think it's great (in a sad way) that this episode in particular has shown how often the legal system fails women and their children. When Katherine goes to the police to report her ex-husband, the detective who listens to her story quite clearly blows her off..because her ex, Wayne is also a policeman. The show then flashes back to show when Katherine tried to report the abuse when she was still married to Wayne, and how a female officer told her that the buddy system on the force was probably the reason an earlier file had magically disappeared, and that her best bet was to get as much money as she could and run. I hope people realize that this is what women often face, and that even if you are lucky enough to get restraining order, it is often impossible to enforce. Also, women who do run with their children often end up dead or maimed. Overall, I think they did a great job showing some of hurdles women face when trying to leave their attackers, how truly dangerous these situations can be, and the that the cops are often useless.

Now, on to the problems with the episode..which, to be fair are pretty stereotypical issues with the media portrayal with domestic abuse. For one thing, Wayne is pretty much a monster. There is no nuance, just an abusive jerk who beats on his wife and then goes after her and a friend years later with a gun. While I certainly don't think there is an easy way to show such a bad relationship, people who abuse are not monsters. Also, it makes sense for the storyline that the abuser was a man... but it should be noted that this can happen in any relationship. Also, (SPOILER ALERT!) it is pretty unbelievable/unusual that Katherine would get off after shooting Wayne even in self-defense. On average, women serve WAY more time than men after they kill their partner, even if they feared for their life. Men on the other hand serve something like 8 years on avg for killing their partners, and they can rarely claim self-defense. While I'm glad for the character that she didn't end up getting arrested and serving time, most real women would never be able to kill even a man like Wayne and not face serious jail time. Juries punish women for defying gender norming stereotypes, and a 'violent' women is apparently something worthy of exorbitant jail sentences.

Wednesday, May 14

More on the rape kits..

I started thinking about my last post and realized that most people don’t know all the much about rape kits. Even shows like L&O:SVU, which definitely show a lot of people going to hospital for sexual assault exams don’t show much detail. On the one hand, collecting samples for a rape kit is incredibly invasive and often painful, but the more thorough the exam the more likely you are to end up with evidence you can use in court.

Other than my unhealthy obsession with L&O, I know a good bit about rape kits because of my 3 year stint with SARAH, the Sexual Assault Rape Anonymous Hotline at Wash U. During our training we had a trained SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) come in and talk us through the rape kit. The woman who came my first year explained that just following the directions on the kit isn’t really enough—a trained SANE knows to ask hard questions like “Did they lick you anywhere” because they can swab those spots for saliva. An untrained nurse might just swab where it says to swab in the instructions, and miss valuable DNA. One other thing everyone should know about getting a rape kit is that it’s both painful and unpleasant. They have to pull hair from your head, pull hair from your nether regions, swab different parts of your body, and do an examination without any lubricant (just water).

Overall, the process sounds unbelievably scary..but hopefully the new jane doe law will make it just a little easier for women (and men) after assault.

Jane Doe Rape Kits.. Finally

I just found an article on the AP about a new law that will require that ALL states to pay for anonymous rape kits.

All I can say is..FINALLY. The article explains that as of 2009, women will be able to go to hospitals and have an exam and collections taken for a rape kit which will then be held for them in case they decide to contact police. Instead of making them pay for the exam and to hold the collected samples, the state will now cover all the costs or risk losing federal money through the Violence Against Women Act. For those of you are not familiar with current rape kit collection and procedure, most women have to pay for the kits themselves. If a woman decides to go to the police, she can sometimes get the cost of the kit reimbursed through victim advocacy funds, but only if she meets certain requirements (such as reporting the crime within a certain amount of time). Many women wait too long due to fear, confusion or pain to be eligible for these funds and end up paying upwards of $800.

Soon women will be able to go an emergency room, have a rape kit done, and know that the samples will be held for them anonymously. The article does mention that states will be able to decide how long the kits will be kept, so I hope they pick appropriate lengths of time. I would hate for women to still feel subtle pressure to report by way of a rape kit that will be trashed after a short amount of time.

Overall, I think this is a great step & one that is long overdue. Now, if we could just find a way to make sure that all nurses are TRAINED in rape kit collection... but that's a post for another day (or maybe later today!).

Tuesday, May 13

The Happening/The Cell

I have a not- so- secret obsession with reading and other celebrity dish sites. It's a truly terrible addiction, and I kind of hate that I like reading about other people so much.. but oh well! This morning I was reading dlisted (another fave) and noticed an item about M. Night Shyamalan's new movie The Happening. From an interview with him/reading the comments on the imdb page, I figured out that the film is about some type of airborne toxin that does something (?) to most of the population. A married couple, played by Zooey Deschanel & Mark Wahlberg, then spend the rest of the film trying to survive or escape.
I'm not sure exactly what the toxin does to people, but some of the comments on imdb likened the plot to Stephen King's Cell. As I happen to like both Zooey and Mark, I hope that this movie is not like the book, because I thought it was a tired, not very good re-worked version of some of King's older books. In the interview quotedon dlisted Shyamalan says that this movie is going to be really scary, and that the opening scene features a woman watching her infected friend doing something "so disturbing" he didn't want to give it away in the interview.
I can't figure out what else could be so disturbing to watch, so I'm assuming the infected woman is doing something not just yucky but also really bloody/gross. Based upon the possible connections to Cell and the director's comments I'm a little afraid to see this movie. I hated Cell, and am not a huge fan of gore but I LOVE disaster movies. Guess I'll have to wait and see....

Buttercream Frosting

Last night I had an impromptu dinner party at my apartment. Most of the food was basic frozen from a bag/box stuff (we're busy people!) with some fresh ingredients thrown on top, but one thing we did make was homemade buttercream frosting to go with our mix chocolate cupcakes. While some people would want chocolate frosting with the cupcakes, it was decided via a vote that buttercream was the way to go. I am going to take a picture tonight and add it to this post, assuming the roommate hasn't eaten the 1 (!) frosted cupcake that is left. To be honest, buttercream is not my favorite frosting. I think it can be too sweet, and bland.. I like a little pizzaz in my frosting! This batch was pretty good, but I think next time I'm going to try something a little more interesting.

2 lbs confectioners sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons milk
1 stick butter
*vanilla to tasta

Put sugar and shortening together in a bowl and mix for a minute or two. Add the milk,vanilla, and butter and mix some more.

We also decided that this recipe was too sweet at the end, and added some lemon juice, a little more vanilla and about 1/6 cup of milk.
Not too bad! Next time though I'm heading back to the food blog I like reading and trying a buttercream with some extras!

Thursday, May 8

THE 'eh'

I'm already on Disc 2 of The Stand and so far I'm a little disappointed, actually I think I'm way more than a little but less than totally bored. Does that make sense?

Anyway, as I mentioned before The Stand is one of my all-time favorite books. Not just because it deals with a form of post-apocalyptic America, but also because I think that the characters are incredibly real feeling. Stephen King may not be the most high-brow or literary writer, but I think he writes characters who seem like people you know, or people you might like to meet. I knew going in that watching the mini-series was most likely going to be a let-down, but sometimes SEEING your favorite characters come to life is worth the inevitable plot botching etc.

Sadly, the film version of The Stand is seriously lacking..something. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's almost like this is a watered down, watching from far away version of a story that I love. The book follows a handful of characters closely, but also interweaves TONS of other people and details into the larger plotlines. Somehow the film loses the magic of all of these interactions. It dutifully follows several of the main people (Stu, Frannie, Trashcan man, Lloyd, Nick etc), but it doesn't spend enough time with any one person or story. I know that there was a lot of material to work with, but since they knew it was going to be a mini-series why didn't they just go all out and really work with each character? Instead it feels rushed, which is pretty crazy when you consider I've already watched about 3+ hours!

In addition to the rushed pace, I HATE some of the casting choices. I'm sure he's a nice guy and a great actor, but the guy playing Larry Underwood is awful. He's not believable, he doesn't have any of the rock & roll meets sleazy edge, and he isn't likable even as he's trying to redeem himself and grow up post-flu. I also really dislike the woman playing Nadine, mostly because she's not at all how I imagined the character. That's not really the fault of the actor, just a bad casting choice in my opinion.

I could go on and on about what I don't like.. but I will at least finish the mini-series before ranting too much!

Tuesday, May 6

Can I give back my Wash U degree?

One of my friends is interning at MORCRC this spring and it's nice to have her in the office, especially when she can fill me in on the Wash U gossip. I'll also be attending Wash U's graduation in May because lots of wonderful people are finishing up various degrees and deserve me getting overheated in the quad for a 3 hour ceremony. It seems like the ceremony this year will at least be interesting, because Wash U has decided to give Phyllis Schlafly an honorary degree. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Schlafly, she is an anti-feminist who has argued that feminism "is incompatible with marriage and motherhood." A St Louis native and graduate of the law school, she tours the country telling women that they can't be both mothers and professionals. Disregarding this mind-numbingly offensive statement in terms of female autonomy, I would love to ask Ms. Schlafly how she would respond to a woman who does not want children. Are childless women abnormal freaks?
I couldn't help pulling an entire paragraph from a Florida newspaper article, because I think it sums up her position so neatly:

"Schlafly asserted women should not be permitted to do jobs traditionally held by men, such as firefighter, soldier or construction worker, because of their "inherent physical inferiority."

At one point, Schlafly also contended that married women cannot be sexually assaulted by their husbands. "By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape," she said.

She clearly believes that as the weaker sex, women should not dare to put themselves or others in danger by engaging in 'manly jobs.' Of course this ignores that any women who could not pass the mandatory fire fighter tests, or boot camp requirements would not be allowed to work as a firefighter or soldier--the same as any man! Who died and made Phyllis Schlafly better able to identify what makes a good firefighter than say a fire chief or army commander??

I also think her views on marital rape are patriarchal and insulting. Getting married is a way of expressing your love and devotion to your partner. It does not give them the pink slip to your body,and to treat it the same way they would a piece of property.

Although Schlafly will not be speaking at graduation, it should definitely be interesting because I will be gladly participating in a protest. Some people created a facebook group explaining their dismay over Wash U's choice of an honorary degree recipient and the anticipated response. I will be proudly standing up and turning my back (or whatever the group ends up deciding to do) on a woman whose views I find utterly appalling.

Monday, May 5

Looking forward to..

I'm really excited because I just added some neat things to my queue on blockbuster, and 'ordered' a half dozen books from the library! So, here's what you have to look forward to in terms of disaster movie/book blogging:

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (I've read this before.. but it was a long time ago!)
The Beach
The House with a Clock in its Walls

The Stand (parts 1 & 2)

I'm actually a little scared to watch The Stand because it is one of my all-time favorite books. I am a little dubious about Rob Lowe as Nick, and definitely would not have cast Molly Ringwald as Fran. I am going to reserve judgment until after I watch, but then I might have to post my theoretical re-casting ideas!

Friday, May 2

Article on women breastfeeding..

According to a New York Times article "More Mother Breast-Feed, in first months at least." I thought the article was worth noting for a few reasons. First of all, I think it's great that people are breast-feeding their babies more! It passes along natural immunities and (in my mind) has to be more natural and healthy than something chemically. The only problem with the article, is that it follows the all too-standard medical practice of shaming women who don't breast-feed. While this may seem like such a little issue, when an articles says "studies have shown that children who are fed formula have increased risks of ear and respiratory infections, obesity, diabetes and even cancer," they're yet again placing women in an impossible situation. If they breast-feed they are doing the "right thing" according to medical advice, but if they can't or choose not to, they are somehow responsible for their child's possible propensity for obesity or ability to develop diabetes. Women are already told that if they don't eat the 'right' things or follow all the rules for childbearing and childbirth, their lax behavior or unwillingness to follow the advice of doctors is going to put their babies at risk. Think about childbirth--women who choose to have home deliveries or seek the services of a midwife (versus a hospital and doctor attended birth) are harassed and castigated by the media and medical associations for daring to work outside of the system. Instead of allowing them to make decisions about their own bodies, hospitals have medicalized a totally natural process. While I'm certainly all for breast-feeding when possible, I think it's important to recognize that it's not always possible and that scaring women into complying with conventional medical wisdom is NOT a good tactic.

Thursday, May 1

The Birds!

I don't know if The Birds counts as a disaster movie, but as of now it does.. because I'm only 1/2 hour in but I think there is definitely some bird-induced carnage in the future! Also, I need a movie that is actually GOOD to counteract I am Legend..

Thoughts so far:
1) Tippi Hendren is pretty bad ass. A gull attacked her while she was out on the bay and she didn't faint or become hysterical (thank you!). Pretty blase in fact while blood dripped down her forehead.

2) Suzanne Pleshette is also pretty awesome. She manages to look sultry and angry at the same time, and even though she likes the same man as Tippi's character she lets her rent a room in her house.

3) I think it's weird that Mitch (Rod Taylor) calls his mother dear and darling a lot.. just because.