I’m a terrible blogger.


But things have been pretty hectic lately. Since the last I blogged, I had my boyfriend’s birthday, my grandpa died, there was Christmas, my son has been sick, then there was my grandpa’s memorial service, and I started back in at school again…all around a singularly unforgiving work schedule. (Heeeey, ‘Manda! You are on Christmas break…can you come in early and stay late in every shift and come in on all of your days off? Kthxbai!”

I know. Excuses, excuses. So…I’m gonna give you some awesome pictures!

11 things I have learned in 2011


1:  There is value in cutting people out of your life. I know that sounds harsh, but we all have one or two people in our lives that really just seem to live to bring us down. Some people are just too immature, two-faced or…or downright disruptive to be a part of it.

2: Motherhood is an isolating thing. Technically, I started to learn this in 2010, but last year, Dominic was still tiny and easily toted. This year, as a 1 year old, he is into absolutely everything, so dragging him out inevitably means chasing him around. Basically, it comes down to whether or not your friends have kids themselves…and mine do not. Thankfully, I have made one “mommy” friend (along with her husband). Otherwise, I’d probably have a concussion from head-desking.

3: Staying organized is nearly impossible. I started the Fall semester with a perfect organization system…but about 3 weeks in, it was in shambles. I’ll, of course, make another attempt at it for the Spring semester.

4: I will never be able to grasp the things that society finds attractive. People actually DO think the “duckface” is hot. I still have no idea why they think that, but apparently, they do. Also, has anyone seen Uggs? ’nuff said.

5: You can absolutely not count on the general populous for common sense. I run into this at work constantly. Examples:

“Hi, I’d like a twelve pack of tacos…I want 8 crunchy tacos and 3 soft tacos.”

“Ma’am, that adds up to 11.”

“I’d like a chicken chalupa supreme, a carmel apple em-pan-dah, and…do you have onion rings?” Of course we don’t have onion rings. Its Taco Bell!

My personal favorite (this was in my General Psychology class and was asked in total seriousness:

“What is common sense? I mean…I don’t understand what you mean by common sense.”

6: Trolls will troll. And people will absolutely overreact to it. Recently, on the PostSecret iPhone app (the best app EVER!), imbeciles could not resist posting pictures of their genitals, of admittedly disturbing porn (Lets just say that I now consider “Two Girls, One Cup” to be tame), and other generally stupid stuff.

My philosophy? Scroll past it and don’t feed the trolls. Trolls LOVE attention. Its like crack to them. So, ignore them, they will get bored, and that’ll be that.

The general philosophy of the PS community? Post 500,000,000+ “secrets” about how “Ontario” and “New Jersey” (the locations from which the craziness were posted) are sick, evil, ruining post secret, etc. Remember what I said about trolls and attention-crack? They just posted more and more and more, and now the app has been taken down. I can only hope that Frank (the founder of PostSecret, an ongoing community art project filled with people’s secrets) will be able to fix it in such a way that it’ll be live again soon. Clicky the link. Don’t worry: none of the crazy stuff gets posted on the blog…people actually MAIL in postcards.

7: Too much of a good thing is too much. Loved Farmville. FREAKING LOVED IT. Until they started doing like 9 billion things at once and you could only keep up if you played all. day. long. Which I can’t/won’t. So…yeah. Dosvedanya, Farmville.

8:  Do svidaniya means “Good-bye” or “Until we meet again” in Russian. Its my new favorite word. My old one was mariposita, which is “little butterfly” in Spanish.

9: Facebook is the fastest news source ever.  I am pretty clicky on CNN. I really do follow the news, I swear. But I get most of the “big” stuff from Facebook before anywhere else. Before the President announced that the SEALs kicked bin Laden’s ass, I saw posts urging me to turn on the news. After that d-bag cop sprayed down peaceful protesters with pepper spray, I saw it first via posted memes. When my aunt died, I heard about it on Facebook before any of my immediate family had been notified. Its crazy.

10: I can be reduced to tears by a movie. Did you see the part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2 where Snape was sobbing over Lily Potter’s dead body? If Alan Rickman doesn’t win an Academy Award for that performance, the Oscars are freakin’ rigged!

11: You learn more about who you are and who you want to be every year.


Movie review: Across the Universe


Writing to Evaluate essay for Composition 1:


Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy

     A film about the United States during the Vietnam War era, as a concept, seems overdone. A Vietnam-era story set to Beatles music is even more so. After all, what self-respecting ‘60s-inspired movie doesn’t have an adorable teenage cheerleader daydreaming to the tune of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” over the clichéd quarterback? The Beatles and their music helped define the decade, from the Suburban innocence of “Love Me Do” to the crazed, angry whimsy of “Helter Skelter.” But Across the Universe shows that you can, in fact, reinvent the wheel.

The plot is relatively transparent, but in an obvious, purposeful way. The first third of the film introduces us to Jude, Lucy, Maxwell, and, briefly, Prudence. All characters are, of course, named from Beatles songs. Jude, from the dingy cobbled streets of Liverpool, comes to America to find the father he never knew, and meets Max, a dissatisfied Princeton student plotting to rebel against his straight-laced parents and partying to “With a Little Help From My Friends.” A side-story shows us Prudence, our adorable teenage cheerleader wistfully and longingly singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from the bleachers, though it slowly becomes apparent she’s singing to a fellow cheerleader. Heading home for Thanksgiving, Max brings along Jude, where he meets his friend’s beautiful sister, Lucy, a high school student pining for her military boyfriend. Given the transparency mentioned earlier, it’s easy to guess Lucy’s love does not manage to return.

After a brief argument with Max’s family, our dynamic duo travel to New York. They move into an apartment owned by a sultry singer named Sadie, who instantly brings Janis Joplin to mind and later her Hendrix-clone guitarist, JoJo. Prudence eventually joins them, as does Lucy, now jaded from the death of her boyfriend.

Around this point, the film starts its decent into trippiness. Max is required to report to a drafting center, where grotesque, dancing toy-soldier military men inspect him, and the drafted trudge through a miniaturized jungle, at once kicking through the fog of war and buckling under the weight of the Statue of Liberty. The imagery conjures fear for the men and it’s easy to imagine the weight of that fear literally crushing them.

Once back with his friends, they attend a peace rally, which gives Lucy and Max hope that the war will be over soon and slowly sucks Lucy in with the grandeur of revolution and propaganda-style speech (“Our voice is our weapon, and united we will win!”). Afterwards, Sadie takes them to a party hosted by a hippie author, Dr. Robert. Dr. Robert is a very thinly-veiled reference to Timothy Leary, and sprouts nonsense (“I Am the Walrus”) while his audience drinks LSD-spiked pink punch. Our group winds up on a psychedelic bus (“Magical Mystery Tour,” anyone?) and Dr. Robert’s drug-addled preaching leads to the insanity of Mr. Kite’s carnival, which is almost nauseatingly colorful and motion-rich.

The final third of the film is melancholy and really brings home the dissatisfaction of the age. Lucy and Jude fight over how sucked into “the cause” she’s become, while he has no cause at all, JoJo and Sadie fight over Sadie’s fame overshadowing her band’s, and Max is surrounded by bloodshed and violence. Paco, the speaker at the peace rally, quickly turns from the inspired face of the hippy revolution to an easy-to-hate, bomb-building extremist.

The acting in Across the Universe is inspired. T.V. Carpio, who plays Prudence, is a master of the exquisite longing that her character personifies. Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy) flawlessly transitions from sock-hopping school girl to frenzied revolutionary, and Joe Anderson (Max) maintains such a wide-eyed innocence, even surrounded by death and destruction, that it’s heart-wrenching, while Jude’s Jim Sturgess maintains a haunted, jaded and stoic exterior. The best acting, though, is the briefest and the genius is likely not in the intended way. Bono plays dear Dr Robert, his nonsense topped with a white cowboy hat and a barely passable American accent. The ludicrousness and humor adds to the falseness of the character.

The imagery is powerful. The streets of Jude’s hometown, Liverpool, are dingy and dirty. Soot seems to coat every brick on every wall, and its easy to feel Jude’s desire to be free of such a place. Several musical sequences are two things at once, in a clever duality. The “Strawberry Fields Forever” sequence shows Jude’s angered, frenzied painting juxtaposed over Max on the battlefield. Strawberry-bombs fall heavily onto a jungle landscape and land alternately in a fiery explosion and a dramatic splash of bright, blood-red paint that makes you almost as queasy as the blood of Max’s fallen comrades.

Music is, of course, the main focus. The musical numbers are presented in such  a way that one doesn’t need to be a Beatles fan to appreciate the inclusion, or even to really be able to recognize them as Beatles songs. Most of the soundtrack fits in seamlessly with the plot and the ones that don’t merely add to the fantasy and freedom of the time. That being said, having a running knowledge of the Beatles does help move the subtle references along. Only one of the characters’ namesake songs were actually featured in the film (“Hey, Jude”), though “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” did play through the credits. Knowing that Max was named through “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” makes a scene with him beating a fan with a shiny hammer amusing, and knowing the song “Sexy Sadie” lends an obviousness to her character in more ways than the Joplin imitation. Some songs were only referenced (“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”) and some were understated, such as JoJo strumming (not singing) the tune of “A Day in the Life” while news of Martin Luther King’s death played on the news (“A Day in the Life” begins “I saw the news today, oh boy”). Fans may even feel that some other songs would have fit in well, but are absent, such as “The Long and Winding Road” towards the end of the film or “Help!” in several places.

Despite the transparency and predictability of the movie, it was beautifully done. Across the Universe captured the essence of the late 60s, in all its civil unrest, useless violence and stolen innocence.

Michelle Duggar and misogyny


Michelle Duggar is expecting her 20th child. Congratz to the Duggars, who are obviously happy about the news.

The internet is in an uproar. 20 kids! They should be forcefully sterilized! How dare they! Peppered in with the righteous indignation that someone would choose to have a large family are frequent clown car and hoarders jokes.

Feminists are sprouting hateful nonsense like that girl in The Exorcist was sprouting split-pea soup. How dare Mrs Duggar be nothing more than an over-glorified baby-machine?

Environmentalists, of course, have their panties in a twist. How could a family be okay with bringing 20 kids into an overpopulated world that’s filled with starvation and famine?

Every news channel has some sort of medical expert weighing in on whether its responsible to have a 20th pregnancy, based not only on Mrs. Duggar’s age, but also the complications she had with her last child, Josie, that almost killed both of them.

To all of these people, I say:  Stuff it.

Love it or hate it, we live in a pro-choice nation. Why would someone have the choice to have birth control and abortion (concepts I personally support) but not have the choice to have children (which I also support)? How ridiculous. Their religious beliefs keep them from birth control. The United States was founded on the concept of freedom of religion. They love each and every one of their kids, who are by all accounts happy and healthy. They are not living off of the government, and it would not be anyone’s damn business if they were. Their children may not have brand new Air Jordans at every corner, but they have what they need.

My personal distaste for feminism aside, I would like to remind our split-pea spewing friends that the feminist movement is based, more than anything, on choice. Michelle Duggar could have chosen to be an astrophysicist. I suspect that would not have made her happy. However, having children obviously does, or she probably wouldn’t be pregnant with her 20th child. I think its lovely that she has chosen a life that suits her and brings her happiness and fulfillment. And you should too.

Yes, 20 children is a lot. And while the whole “overpopulation” thing is sketchy to me, no one can deny that those Duggar kids are huge charity-driven people. They’re raised in such a way that they find joy in helping other people in times of need. I would think that the good these 20 kids will do in the future for their fellow man far outweighs whatever impact having 20 extra people on the planet would cause.

Josie Duggar was born extremely premature. But she’s healthy now. So is Michelle. Statistics show that women Mrs. Duggar’s age are more likely to have developmentally challenged children. Health concerns about the lady are real, even if people are just gossiping about them. 20 kids is  a lot for one body to take, that’s for sure. I’ve only got one child, and I feel like I may never be, physically, the way I was before I was pregnant. Chemically, I have changed. I’m sure she goes through that. But guess what? None of these things concern me. I suspect that even if, heaven forbid, this new baby has problems, the entire Duggar family will love him or her unconditionally and without reservation or regret. They just seem like that kind of family. Also, I kind of resent the implication people are making that a handicapped child is less deserving of life and love than a “normal” healthy child. Previous pregnancy complications do not necessarily lead to future complications, and her health concerns are between her and her doctor.

I simply find it revolting how much hate is directed at a woman for choosing to have children.

Legacy of Lies: Joe Paterno


“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

–Elie Wiesel

Maybe Joe Paterno did actively cover up child sexual abuse. Maybe he didn’t.

He did, by his own admission, know about it. He knew a little boy was being raped by a coworker. They say he went to the school, and it was the school that neglected their responsibilities. And certainly, if Mr. Paterno went to them and they did nothing, then they did neglect it. They would be just as responsible. But even if he did report it to his school’s chain-of-command, he was still neglectful. Hearing what he did, he should have called the police immediately. He should have exhausted every avenue to make sure that child was protected from his coworker, as well as protecting other potential victims.

It is our duty as adults to protect the children in our lives. If they can’t look to authority figures for help, what kind of life are we teaching them?

One of the most vile parts of this is the outrage “fans” are showing about this. They were rioting! Joe Paterno is “The Face of Penn State,” a “sacrificial lamb,” and a “hero to thousands.” This is sickening. He failed to protect a boy from being molested. HE is not a victim. I don’t care how gifted he is at coaching sports. I don’t care how likable he is. He’s pathetic, sick, and a derelict.

Its a poor reflection on America, I think, that the collective “we” excuse bad behavior if the person is likable. Instead of calling for justice for a poor little boy, crowds are rioting on behalf of someone who basically stepped aside and allowed his life to be a nightmare. Its okay that Paterno didn’t protect the kid, because everyone loves Joe, right?

Its twisted. I am glad Paterno is no longer in a position of authority. I hope that he goes to jail, frankly, along with the officials of Penn State that did nothing and, of course, the child molester himself.

Most of all, I hope that little boy gets the help and the justice he deserves and lives a happy, healthy life in the future.

Oh, The Horror # 3


“Movie” — The Absent

Summary: Small child kills his loser parents. Then, years later, his twin brother (who is a teacher) seduces a student. After that, people start dying. A lot.

My take: If I could rate it zero stars, I would. I was not scary at all. Unless you count the attempt at a plot. The “twist” has been done hundreds of times (I’ve only seen it done WELL once, in Fight Club). The acting is ridiculous. The story line is…somehow hard to follow, but not in a clever, cerebral way. Its in a way where nothing actually makes sense. I’ve seen 8 year olds come up with better stories.

Seriously, don’t watch this. I’m not even sure how it was rated “horror.” I can see that it was an attempt at a slasher flick, but other than that…I’m dumbfounded.

The Absent on IMDB

Oh, The Horror #2


This time: The Last Exorcism

Summary: A con artist preacher takes a film crew along with him to film a documentary about how exorcisms are scams that prey on the poor and weak-minded. Of course, this exorcism is far from text-book.

My take: I’d give it a good four stars, though the ending was pretty lackluster. The plot, though, was relatively well done, with funny parts mixed in (a sermon about banana bread? Can I get an amen?) and pretty good graphics. While I didn’t find this “scary” per se, I did find it disturbing. The movie was in “found footage” format, which has been seriously overdone (and nothing recent can come close to how well Cloverfield did it) but I can’t find myself too irritated by it. The clever, misleading writing more than makes up for it. There are several times that you find yourself jumping to the same conclusions as the preacher and the film crew, only to find yourself suckered. The girl, played by Ashley Bell, was very talented.

Modern movies are generally so ridiculously predictable, its refreshing that this movie wasn’t.

So, to wrap it up, The Last Exorcism was disturbing, but not scary. The plot was great, but the ending was weird. All in all, I would recommend it–Especially if you curl up with some peppermint hot chocolate like I did.

The Last Exorcism on IMDB

Apparently, they are making a sequel, but no word yet on the premise.