Sunday, June 29

Snakes are just like serial killers!

Ben and I were watching TV the other night and had the choice between What not to Wear and Anacondas.. and we (obviously) chose the bad snake movie! After 2 hours of really bad CGI snakeness, I had an epiphany: giant snakes are just like serial killers!

Snake and Serial Killer Similarities:

1) Both big (yucky) snakes and scary people with knives single out those movie characters stupid enough to go anywhere alone. Do not enter the dark garage, the jungle, or the whatever and expect to escape unscathed.

2) There is always a teaser scene.. always. When two people do something seemingly stupid (see above), the music starts getting scary and you think the whatever (snake/killer) is about to attack. Wrong! The two people did not break the alone rule and are thus safe.. for now.

3) Being in a relationship and or having sex usually dooms you to death. If you are the female lead it's likely that you will be terrorized post-sex, but probably end up surviving. Think Neve Campbell in Scream and JLo in Anacondas. Sucks to be the friends in relationships.. they all die.

4) The lead character is a woman. Correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure there are a few exceptions..but generally speaking!), but somehow it's always a woman who is the intended victim. Serial killers tend to be more selective, but snakes also have an uncanny knack for eating all of the bit characters and leaving at least one terrorized girl behind.

5) Both giant snakes and crazy killers are really hard to kill. You can shoot them, light them on fire, stab them or all of the above and they're more than likely to survive and either kill one of your remaining friends or at least scare you when they suddenly rear up and look scary. Then you can kill them for real.

Friday, June 27

The Host broke the rules!

I liked the host until the last few had lots of silly shots of the giant squid, it had plenty of people being eaten and really bad dubbing. Sadly, the director missed the memo about who dies in a disaster movie because he killed off the main character and she was NOT annoying! It is OK when they kill off really stupid or irritating main characters, but this guy killed off a super brave little girl. I was totally down when the grandfather was killed off.. it was kind of like Bruce Willis biting it in Armeggedon-it was heroic and sad but not totally unexpected. There was no good reason to kill off the little girl though, and made me sad at the end of the movie. She didn't break any of the rules (swimming alone, having sex, being really obnoxious) and now I don't like The Host as much as I did for the first 118 minutes. :(

Thursday, June 26

The Host (movie)

I hadn't really planned on blogging about two Host titled items back to back, but I just finished the book the other day and the movie came in the mail this afternoon! Clearly it was meant to be!

Normally I love animal/monster related disaster movies, but I have to admit I'm a little nervous about The Host because I heard it was scary! I'm hoping for B-movie scary, not nightmare inducing..but I guess we'll see! Considering the film begins in a morgue, I'm thinking maybe I'm in for a scary night..scratch that, it's really poorly dubbed. That makes everything funny.

Thoughts so far:
1) They should not have shown the monster this early on. It's only a few minutes in to the movie and it's already wreaking havoc at the waterfront in Seoul. I'm all for early action (ie carnage) at the hands of some yucky mutant squid, but it ruins the fun a little to see how fake it looks.

2) Squids do not fly, and I doubt even mutated ones would have wings. Thus, the huge mutated creature should not be doing something that looks like flying, because that's just silly.

3) The sister, Nam J00 totally kicks butt. Her father dies, her brother is being held by crazy doctors and she still goes after the monster with a bow and arrow. She ends up flying through the air but I'd give her an 'A' for effort.

4) There's a weird vibe with the Americans. Even though the movie was made by a S. Korean, it portrays a lot of the characters are being bumbling and useless. The Americans have to step in and spread chemicals, help with the quarantine and then act very sneaky and scary. The American doctor admits there is no virus, and then straps Gang-du father onto a table for brain surgery. It's also an American doctor who (potentially) created the monster by having his lab partner dump all those chemicals into the river. Hmmmm..

5) The monster regurgitates bones into the sewer pit where Hyun-seo and a little boy are hiding. Ewwww. It reminded me of the scene in that really bad Treat William movie, except I think I was actually less grossed out this time. At least this scene just had bones and no blood and guts.

Saturday, June 21

The Host (book)

I just finished reading The Host by Stephanie Meyers. She's a nice Mormon women who wrote her first three books about a vampire and his human girlfriend. As a total sci-fi geek, I loved her Twilight books and was excited when I found out her first 'adult' novel was coming out this summer.

Normally I wouldn't include just a classic sci-fi book, because they are not all disaster related. This book, however, fits in perfectly! Without giving away all of the juicy details, it's kind of like a grown up version of Animorphs, without the weird teenagers who can change into different animals. I know that doesn't make much sense, but both books are set in the US where an alien species has taken over by using human beings as hosts. Unlike Animorphs, Meyers' book creates a much more interesting host/invader dynamic. The invaders are a parasitic species that survives by implanting themselves in the heads of human beings and taking over full neural and emotional control. They retain the memories of the person, but they are their own new entity. The parasitic species call themselves souls, and see themselves as the saviours of humanity because they are peaceful and community minded. When they take over the earth, they stop all violence and create a world that is harmonious. There are a handful of survivors (parasite free humans) who see this invasion as nothing less than full scale genocide and go underground to escape detection and annihilation. I decided this book fell under the disaster related category because there is plenty of paranoia inducing situations and lots of hiding and living totally off the grid. One of the main characters (Jeb) states at one point that he knew that something hinky was going on in the world when all of the convicts and pedophiles started turning themselves in to authorities. Think of the crazy gun guy (married to Reba!) in Tremors, and you kind of get an image of Jeb. He already had shelters ready for some type of apocalypse, and when the invasion kicked into high gear he fled with a small group of friends and family members. After reading about his (I know it's fictional!) set-up, I had a sudden urge to learn more about hydroponics, and living underground. While I might start doing a little research into using mirrors as a light source, I'm otherwise going to try and keep my slightly nutty interest at bay.

The book gets really interesting when a soul is put into the body of a girl named Melanie, and finds herself unable to totally overpower the original host. Melanie remains a force in her head, and all sorts of complications ensue. Although the book ultimately gets a little sappy--both the soul and the host are in love with the same man--I thought Meyers' managed to convey some interesting things about humanity and relationships.

Ultimately, I think she took the easy way out in the book. When both Wanda (the soul) and Melanie (the host) fall in love with different men Meyers' could have used this story as a discourse on human sexuality. Without being graphic or inappropriate, she could have chosen to have her characters involve themselves in a complicated intersecting relationship. It's her book and she wanted to make it neater and easier than that.. but it would have been interesting!

ps. this post is entitled The Host (book) because I also requested The Host (the movie!) from blockbuster. I'm sure there will be a similar post coming soon..

Friday, June 20

Gluten Free Dessert!

One of my favorite places to look for recipes is the food blog raspberryeggplant, written by a woman named Roopa in Baltimore. She has a great recipe for key lime pie (or tartlets) which is just phenomenal. I've made it a few times, but since my boss is gluten free I usually make it with a few changes.
I'm re-posting her recipe here, and explaining the changes I usually make to make it gluten free. I would add pictures, but someone (my brother and sister!) ate all of the aforementioned tartlets before I thought to take any pictures. Next time I make them, I'll come back and post some pictures to go along with the recipe. You can find the full original recipe at raspberryeggplant, so I'll just talk about the crust here! Normally you would mix 10 finely crushed graham crackers with 5 tablespoons butter. To make it gluten free, you have 2 options:

1) You can use finely crushed nuts such as almonds or walnuts and mix them with butter. You then follow the rest of the recipe, but know that the nuts will not conform to the shape of the cupcake tin in the same way that graham crackers. Even after you bake the nuts for a few minutes, they will not form a real crust. After you pour the custard mixture into the cooled put the whole muffin pan into the freezer. Otherwise the tartlets will not hold their shape, and will turn into mush when you try to get them out of the tins. If you leave the tarts in the freezer for a few hours you will be able to use the removal method mentioned in the original recipe (hot towels, turn over etc)!

2) The other option is to buy pre-made gluten free cookies instead of graham crackers. I've tried using gluten free cookies once, and it was semi-successful. You can pretty much follow the original recipe if you use the cookies, but they're usually really sweet. I used plain shortbread cookies I found at the store, but the tarts were overwhelmed by the cookie taste. I'm going to keep looking for other gluten free cookies, but for now I suggest using tactic #1!

Wednesday, June 18


I hate PETA. I like animals, but I also happen to like people. I think PETA has some great ideas about stopping animal abuse, but they go about it in a way that makes me really dislike the organization. One of their recent blog pots just catapulted my growing dislike into outright hatred.

Apparently Jessica Simpon recently wore a shirt that said 'Real Girls Eat Meat.' While I think the shirt sounds kind of dumb and paves the way for some dirty humor, I didn't really think it was that big of a deal. PETA, however, responded with a post entitled "Top Five Reasons Only Stupid Girls Brag About Eating Meat."

First of all, there is nothing stupid about deciding to eat meat. While it is definitely better to be aware of where you meat came from, how it got there, and how it was treated while it was an animal I don't think there is anything inherently evil about deciding to partake! It's a choice, and a valid and moral one at that! Second of all, I hate hate hate that PETA attacks people instead of calmly and nicely explaining their reasoning. Their entire blog post is snarky and mean-spirited. They are not trying to educate, they are trying to shame! And they're a bunch of mean misogynists to boot! They rag on Jessica Simpson for being known for 'less than stellar brain' and her ability to fill out daisy dukes, and then go on to call her stupid and (basically) vapid. While they make some good points about the benefits of being a vegetarian or vegan, everything they say is twisted to make meat eaters look and feel stupid. I also really hate that #4 is:

"4. Meat will make you fat.
All the saturated fat and cholesterol in chicken wings, pork chops, and steak eventually leads to flabby thighs and love handles. I hope the upcoming "Jessica Simpson's Intimates" line comes in plus sizes! Going vegetarian is the best way to get slim and stay that way."

Being slim is NOT THE SAME THING AS BEING HEALTHY. What they are trying to say is that eating more veggies (and whole grains, and other things) can help you maintain a healthy weight. Since when did being healthy automatically mean being slender? I think it's offensive that they are intimating that you should be ashamed to be plus-sized, or that flabby thighs and love handles are not simply a part of women's bodies. It's also clear that this is aimed at women, because only a girl should be ashamed that her meat eating has led to a decline in her physical appeal.

Shame on PETA.

Monday, June 16

Full Frontal Feminism

I just finished reading Jessica Valenti's book Full Frontal Feminism..and have a few quick thoughts:

1. She swears too much. I don't care if that's the way she talks, I don't like that there is soooo much profanity in her book. It's one thing to use F*** and other words occasionally, or when quoting others, but I think it's in there way too often. I don't care that it's not ladylike, I care because I think using 'bad' words don't add anything to the dialogue. I do not feel any less or more empowered because a certain sentence is peppered with f*** and damn etc.

2. Apparently religious people are all freaks. As someone who works for an inter-faith reproductive justice organization, I found it frustrating that she spent so much time talking about how 1st and 2nd wave feminists disenfranchised so many groups of potential allies, to then go on and lump all people of faith into the 'anti-choice crazies category.' In one section she talks about the Quiverfull movement, which values a traditional patriarchal Christian home and as many children as god chooses to give. They eschew all forms of birth control, even the Catholic-revered rhythm method and consider EC, and hormonal contraception the same as abortion. While she spends some time ridiculing this movement, there is no mention of some other religions or faiths that value feminist values of equality within partnerships and the ability of individuals to make reproductive decisions.

3. I really liked her discussion of all things non-feminist, and her reaction to criticism by others. For example, she states several times that she likes wearing makeup and will not stop wearing it, despite the fact that she knows that there is a lot of context (ie women must make themselves pretty because their value lies in their ability to please others..). She explains that recognizing why you do things, and the intentionality are really important. Thus, even if you watch shows like ANTM, it's OK as long as you recognize that the program relies upon stereotypes and the objectification of women. While you might find it necessary to protest particular episodes, you don't have to be ashamed of enjoying something that doesn't fit in neatly with your idea of feminism, as long as you can understand why this is the case. I don't think she's trying to give us all a free pass to ignore our principles, but instead to be aware of when you are in conflict with some personal beliefs and making a cognizant decision.

4. I am now a little ashamed of my love of all things wedding related. Valenti makes some really interesting points about the way we celebrate weddings has a lot to due with our consumer culture, and not much to do with the celebration itself. I really wish she hadn't also pointed out that engagement rings relate directly to women as property and men as providers ('look, I have something sparkly that proves my MAN makes a lot of money and I'm taken'). My love of all things pretty and sparkly is now warring with my ongoing attempt to figure out my brand of feminism and trying to be anti-consumerism (I'm growing my own food! 2 plants at a time!).

ps. I obviously stole the picture from Amazon.

Friday, June 13

Finished The Quiet Earth

I finished The Quiet Earth yesterday and wanted to add a few thoughts:

1. I liked that there weren't a lot of cheesy action sequences. Normally, I'm all for them-the more ridiculous the better-but they wouldn't have fit in this movie, and I liked the more restrained approach to the end of the world.

2. WHY WEREN'T THEY TALKING ABOUT REPRODUCTION AT ALL??? At some point during this movie, it becomes clear that there are very few people left in the world. Given that three people survived in New Zealand, it stands to reckon that there are other people in isolated spots around the world. Since 2 of the survivors are men, and 1 is a woman you would think they would at least discuss the implications for humanity. Nope! Other than some sex, based mostly on the need for human contact, they seem to ignore this aspect of their survival entirely. I found that strange.

3. The ending was really ambiguous. Usually I find that irritating, but I kind of liked it in this particular movie. I did want to know, however, if the plumes of smoke/vapor shown all over the horizon where the result of nuclear bombs, or some type of tornado made out of rain.

4. The movie brought up some really interesting points about human interactions. Although the single surviving woman sleeps with both men in the film, the writers or director (or someone) couldn't quite make the jump to a polygamous sexual relationship. Instead it seemed likely that the main character was going to abdicate his 'right' to the woman in favor of her connection to the other man. I didn't think this was a very realistic decision, but maybe that's because of my reading The Last Ship. I did like that the movie brought up issues of class/race among the survivors; at one point a disagreement about leadership directly addresses the idea of post-apocalypse the reign of the white man is over. I'm glad they addressed these concepts, although I obviously have a problem with the way in which they resolved these issues (the native man seems smarmy, the woman is still property etc).

Thursday, June 12

The Quiet Earth--Some thoughts so far..

I'm about 30 minutes in to The Quiet Earth and all I can say is..WOW. Unlike some of my favorite B-list disaster movies, this one is fantastic. Unlike the recent Will Smith atrocity, this film is not at all fluffy or overdone. It begins when Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up in hid bed to find that he is (seemingly) the last man on earth. At first he drives around his hometown searching for people, and then ends up at the lab where he worked. At the lab we find out that he was involved in some type of weapons (?) project called Flashlight, and that this has something to do with the disappearance of all the people. He finds his boss dead at the computer, and then has to escape the radiation contaminated lab by planting a bomb. As the film progresses, Zac begins to slowly lose his mind due to the isolation and fear. At this point in the movie, he is driving around in a tractor wearing the remains of woman's slip. In addition to the general post-apocalypse nuttiness (abandoned houses, silence, etc), I have really enjoyed the film's approach to loneliness. At first Hobson does everything in his power to find other survivors, and as he become more despondent he seems to go temporarily insane. He gives speeches to paper people, and tried on a woman's slip and touches himself in the mirror (not sexually, just in despair). He also shoots a statue of Jesus on a cross in what seems like an appeal for god or some being to either strike him down or save him, and puts a gun in his mouth before some type of human impulse makes him want to survive.

I've been a bad blogger this month...

In my defense I have been writing and updating my boss's biking blog as she travels from New Orleans to New York.. but I know that I have let my own blog wither a little in the interim. Now that the boyfriend and I have finished all 6 seasons of The Sopranos, my queue is nice and full again of disaster movies galore. Next up: The Quiet Earth.

Tuesday, June 10

Disaster Movies vs Post-Apocalypse

I have been really remiss in my disaster movie watching lately, mostly because I have been watching all 6 seasons of The Sopranos in order. The boyfriend and I are ALMOST done with all of the episodes, but it's been hard to fit in much else. I did come across an interesting site the other day though, and wanted to share some thoughts.
A blog called Rustic Girls has a list of the top 10 Post-Apocalypse movies, as well as a description of their criteria. I think it's interesting that they only allow movies that show the aftermath of a disaster, and they disqualify any movie that includes scenes of the ongoing apocalypse. While I definitely don't have a problem with their criteria, or that they differ from my own, I think it's interesting that there are so many sites about similar movies and that people create such strict guidelines.
I wonder why wer are so fascinated with disaster movies, or post-apocalypse, or ongoing apocalypse movies and books! I'd guess that for some, movies about the end of the world in any form serves as a reminder of what we have to fear if nucluear proliferation continunes, or we start allowing biological warfare. Since movies are often fantastic, I'm sure it also helps to alleviate some paranoia--if it happens in the movie, it can't happen in real life. In my case, I think it actually creates a little nervousness..but I can't stay away!

Monday, June 2

Not fair! Insurance and c-sections..

I read the New York Times online almost every morning. Usually I start with the US frontpage, but I always meander on over to the the health section. Today, there was an article about insurance for women who have had C-sections. As someone who has struggled to find health insurance after graduating from college and beginning work at a non-profit, I definitely feel like it is really hard to find something that is cheap and yet still worthwhile. I hear my co-workers complain all the time that they're insurance does not cover dental or vision adequately, and yet everyone just has to make due with the current plan.
The article in the Times today was about how women who have had a c-section often find it impossible to get insurance, or are penalized with higher premiums for several years. Some companies will only insure women if they are beyond child-bearing age, or can prove they have been sterilized (post c-section). The rationale for this discrimination? Since having a C-section is more costly than vaginal childbirth, the companies see women of childbearing age at risk for another surgery and thus higher spending on their part.
In the past I have blogged a little bit about women breastfeeding, and the shame culture that pervades producing and raising children correctly. I definitely think that having an elective c-section is not something that should be done lightly, and that the medical community has been less than responsive to women's personal decisions..but c-sections happen, and often in emergency situations. It is kind of ironic that doctors are pushing for more c-sections and a medicalized view of childbirth, and then when women acquiesce (either by choice or necessity) they are penalized! For some women this means higher premiums for 5 years, and others are simply rejected by insurance companies. I realize that c-sections are surgery, but what kind of message are these companies sending? Have a complications-free birth...or else?