Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This is a different song o' the day because, well, for one thing, it's classical. But there is a story behind it that started by me having one of those "Argghh! Where do I know this from?" problems, and culminated in me having that satisfying revelation about where I remembered it from.

I was watching ice dancing at the Olympics (I know, more Olympics! Still miss it, still reminiscing) and one of the couples did their routine to this song. It immediately started driving me crazy because I knew the piece was deeply rooted in my childhood somehow, but I couldn't remember why.

I was thinking Fantasia, but I felt that was wrong. My mom offered that it sounded a lot like the scene from Beauty and the Beast when Belle is wandering through the castle unmonitored, and I decided at the time that she was right. It did seem like the kind of piece they would use for that part of the movie, but even so neither of us remembered what it was called or who it was by.

A week or so later, my mom remembered that it was from the Sant-Saens suite, "Carnival of the Animals." Taking that lead, I took to the internet - specifically, Amazon - to seek out the particular movement and discovered that it was "Aquarium." Then, because Amazon has its auto-playlists, it continued after "Aquarium" into the next several movements ("Personages with Long Ears," "The Cuckoo," and "Aviary") and I realized that I knew all of these, grouped together - and I remembered how I knew all of them.

They were all used in a particular show that the studio I danced with actually put on several times: Hansel & Gretel. The movements were all part of the performance when Hansel and Gretel get lost in the woods, meet a big scary crane and his flock, and then the flock kills the big scary crane and turn into happy chirpy birds. Twisted I know, but a lot of ballet is if you look at what the actual story is (see: Giselle, La Sylphide.)

Anyway, that's the story. I just love those epiphanies where something from your childhood comes back to you and you can suddenly remember it all very clearly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So basically most people who have ever eaten with me know that I am obsessed with eggs.

At this point in time, I can't really say I've met an egg I didn't like. But (and Casper can attest to this, as I've recently asked him if he can remember it) I didn't always crave eggs. In fact, for most of my life, I didn't even really like eggs that much at all.

On Saturdays at home, my dad would cook scrambled eggs, and those were the only kind of eggs I ate. I quickly found that if I ever ordered them at a restaurant, they were almost always too dry for my taste. It also seemed like the longer the eggs were cooked, they also tasted different in addition to being dry. The long and the short of it was I only liked my dad's eggs - so those were the only eggs I ate.

My mom had an easy egg cooker that would do pseudo-poached eggs. I ate those from time to time and liked the runny yolks, but I never made them myself and it never occurred to me that I could order various runny-yolked eggs when I was out and about.

The first omelet I ever had was in the dorms, my freshman year at UCLA. It was delicious! I was totally converted. I soon came to find out from others that those weren't even *good* omelets (almost 5 years later, I can say that while I've had better omelets, the ones at the dorms really aren't bad. Really. Especially since they added spinach, bacon, tomato, and feta to the ingredient options. Seriously nommy, for reals.)

But even then, I had those omelets about once a week at brunch, and they were good, and I looked forward to them, but I didn't start having the egg *cravings* until I moved into GPhi. I thought it might be some kind of nutritional deficiency at first - kind of like how (allegedly) some people crave and eat dirt when they have iron deficiencies. (Another sidebar - when doctors thought I might be anemic freshman year, they asked me this very question - if I ever ate dirt for fun.) I'd always look at the hard-boiled eggs Kimmy put out and I'd want to take two to eat and another to put on my salad. It was out of control. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

3 years later, I can't say things have much changed. I'd be stoked to eat eggs for every meal. Every time I go to a restaurant and see eggs on the menu, I have to will myself away from the eggs section and look for something else. Even when I go to get sushi, I order salmon eggs - they frequently ask me if I'm sure that's what I want, like I guess that's hardcore or something. If I don't deliberately steer away from eggs, I end up like that time at Jar with Casper when I ordered the eggs 'n' sirloin which, while delicious, was basically a burger patty with an egg on top, and his steak was a legit gourmet feast. I vowed that when I go back I am going to get a real steak and not fall prey to the egg trap.

I wonder if I'll ever fall out of love with eggs as quickly as I fell in love with them. I don't know. But what I do know now is that I'm enjoying every egg I eat, and if one of my bizarre quirks basically boils down to me enjoying food *too much*, I can't say I'm doing too badly in life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A short list of dumb things that I can remember better than things I need to know for school

1. All of the lyrics to "On a Boat"

2. The cost of my usual order at Chipotle ($8.41)

3. Almost everything Towelie ever said on South Park

4. The wash and style names of each of my pairs of jeans
(NOT my closet... and you thought I had a problem...)

5. The Empire Carpets jingle

Sunday, March 21, 2010

News-ish stuff from this week...

Consumers Slow to Embrace the Age of Genomics

I've got a bit of a problem with this article, particularly the headline. I actually read a Cracked article earlier this week that discusses the exact phenomenon the NYTimes article engages in (scroll down to #4 on Cracked to see what I'm talking about.) That is, the headline makes it sound as if the focus of the article is that there is this great new Age of Genomics dawning, ripe with possibility (somewhat true) but that the bumbling consumers are too "slow" (see what they did there?) to accept it.

Page 1 - the "money" page, the page they expect most will actually read - extolls the woes of companies that offer to sequence DNA samples from customers and give assessments of individuals' increased or decreased risk for certain diseases based on their DNA. Their problem? No one's buying. The article offers the possibility that it's too expensive, and then finally this gem is revealed:

But the services face an even more fundamental problem: in most cases, the current level of DNA scanning technology and science is unable to offer meaningful predictions about the risk that a person will get a disease...

... what has become clear to geneticists only in the last year is that the genetic variations known so far can explain only a very small part of the risk of getting most diseases. The rest involves still unknown genetic factors or environmental ones, like a person’s diet. Experts say that, for now at least, in most cases there is little a person can do to act on the information from genome scans.

That quoted bit? That's the truth. That's the long and the short of it. There is no reason at this juncture for someone to spend the money these companies are asking for a full genome scan because we don't have enough information to actually give someone a definite measure of their likelihood for developing diseases with genetic and environmental components.

What's funny is that on Page 2, the article actually continues to reveal more truthiness, such as that identical samples sent to different sequencing companies came back with conflicting results. So by the end of the article, anyone who actually took the time to read it would probably understand why these companies are struggling: it costs too much for little to no benefit. So what's the deal with that headline blaming the public for not embracing our future? It kills me.

Hey Men – Don’t You Dare Blame Sandra for Jesse James Cheating!

There's not much I really need to say about this. Basically, the author recalls talking to male friends about the scandal that broke this week, and the guys blamed Sandra Bullock for leaving him alone with his penis too long. Are these bitches for real? The article itself isn't a super strong rebuttal, but one of the commenters did a pretty good job of summing up what's wrong with that logic:

Lisa McLeod: Men who use a wife’s absence to justify cheating belong in the same category as people who sue McDonald’s for getting them fat.

Question for those men – What would you say if Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama hooked up with the white House kitchen help because hubby was distracted by his job and – whine whine- just wasn’t paying enough attention to his wife?

In other words? Suck it up! If you get married, you're making a commitment to someone who you supposedly love; in addition to that, you're making a commitment to be monogamous. If either of those commitments is something you think you can't keep, don't get married. End of story!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Miike Snow

Another album that was on a few top 10 lists for 2009 that I decided to check out was Miike Snow's self-titled debut. Though it wasn't one of my personal favorites, it's been growing on me the more I listen to it (since I'm trying out this new thing where I actually try to listen to albums and get to know them better before I dump them off into my iTunes to be next played god-knows-when.)

Sometimes the vocals sound a bit like Passion Pit, sometimes they're a bit like the Scissor Sisters with a bit of the Postal Service sprinkled on top, and frequently the vocal quality is evocative of even Marvin Gaye (particularly "What's Goin' On".)

I've chosen two songs from the album. This one might be my favorite: it's got a heavy downbeat, which I tend to enjoy, and I like the old-school sounding video game riff that kind of runs through it, lending some lightness to what's otherwise a dark and murky sounding song (which I also tend to like.)

The other is a solid song off the album that gives a good idea of a different kind of musical sound that appears on the album. This is the song that particularly reminds me of Passion Pit - it's got a dance pop affect, with tight production (which actually characterizes the entire album) and dreamy vocals. It's fun.

Again, I don't really know what genre I would per se categorize Miike Snow as, but they're probably indie, definitely with an electronic influence... I think "dance pop" as mentioned above might as good as any, but it's clearly not bubblegum radio pop.

I'd really love to know where to find this kind of stuff during the year, not at the end of it by reading about it on some kind of top ten list. I'm pretty tapped into the electronic dance music scene and have pretty good ways of finding new stuff there if I desire (which I actually haven't done lately, as 2009 wasn't a great year for trance and house in my opinion), but I really don't know what some good resources are for finding more stuff like this or Florence and the Machine. Pitchfork is too hipster and snobby for me, and I don't really know of a lot of other indie rags. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Dear Facebook,

Let's talk. For one thing, you've gone and made it so that my news feed is full of crap that people write on each others' walls (like I care.) And, so that crap that I write on other people's walls ends up spattered all over everyone's news feed (like they care.) So that's annoying. And it makes me want to write on people's walls less.

But here's what you really need to stop. I've got like 500 "friends" right? How about you create some kind of "people my own age" filter or "people who graduated college" filter so that my news feed isn't full of people younger and funner than me having a grand old time in college, and making me stabby and bitter that I'm a weak-sauce graduate student with no spring break and summer vacation? Why can't you make my news feed instead full of people's updates who are my age and older, with jobs and lives with suck and weekly boredom levels greater than or equal to mine?

I no longer want to read about how people are getting blackout drunk every night of the week. Not because I disapprove; rather, I'm insanely jealous that a) your schedule permits and b) your freaking body permits. Drinking is NOT like riding a bike. You can't take time off and then jump back into college-levels of drinking without your body treating you the next day like rather than drinking the night before, you were actually in a cage match with The Rock (non family friendly version.)

And what's worse? I hate to break it to you kids, but I think I finally unraveled the government conspiracy that had them settle on 21 being the drinking age. Because by you turn 21, you've got about another year and a half of being able to handle drinking like a spritely youth. By the time my summer after graduation is over, nights spent at the bottom of a bottle meant mornings spent trying to find a happy place where there was no light and my whole body didn't hurt. And by giving you only that much time to drink legally before binge drinking turns into a battle of wills with your body, they're really giving you a biological lesson in motivation to not get hammered drunk.

So this wasn't really all about you, Facebook, and I'm sorry for running away with myself like that. But I think you can understand why I'm asking this of you - please stop showing me so much fun. Oh, and you can also stop asking me to reconnect with my elementary school friends. It's precious and all that we're friends on Facebook to begin with, but it's not like we're really planning on striking up a conversation with each other any time soon outside of an (unlikely) reunion.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ruined for me!

Every now and then, I'll go sour on a TV show I enjoy because they introduce a character I hate, or because one of the current characters will start to become totally annoying - and what the writers intend to be salacious drama is actually boring and stupid.

I also have a habit of picking a show I'd never watched before and dedicating an obscene amount of time to catching up or just watching it to see what all the fuss is about.

The two met for me this week when, since I've been laying in bed a lot, I decided to pick Weeds as this year's Buffy and go through - at the very least - seasons 1-3, as I'd read online that generally those were the seasons worth watching. My love affair with the show began on Monday. I found it delightful: funny, sardonic, charming, and still heartfelt. My love affair with the show ended on Thursday, two episodes into season 3.

Even though there are five seasons currently, and allegedly three worth watching, I just don't think I'm going to finish out the third season. The reason why? I can't stand the main character's snotty, arrogant, disrespectful, and wholly un-redeeming oldest son, Silas.

He's pretty much responsible for, at the end of season 2, his mother being held at gunpoint and then having to become the bitch of some gangsta kingpin at the beginning of season 3. In a dramatic gesture to his mother to show her that he wants in on her business (because he sucks at actual school and life in general so he feels that, pretty much, drug dealing is his best option) he steals all of her weed which, coincidentally, she was trying to sell off to aforementioned gangsta kingpin to avoid getting busted by the DEA. So when the weed is gone, she's up shit creek.

But that was actually just the last straw for me and Silas. I started hating him much earlier on when he finds out that his girlfriend (who is actually smart and has, y'know, ambition) got into an Ivy League school and thus is not going to be near him in California for his final year in high school. So what's his solution? He proposes that they have a lot of sex and then pokes holes in all of their condoms to try and get her pregnant. I mean, I think anyone can see that's a dick movie, but especially watching that through a feminist lens, I was just infuriated. Then, even worse, when she gets an abortion, he gets all ragey and tries to break into her house. Luckily her dad was able to intercept him and punch him in the face for me, because with Silas obviously having so little respect for her and her bodily autonomy I would have feared for what he might have done to her.

The thing is, one character, I can manage hating. Usually. But actually with this show, I soured on more characters more quickly than I expected. In addition to my unadulterated loathing of Silas, I also started getting tired of the main character, Nancy, and her inability to make a wise decision. Worse, she drags other people into her bad decisions, so when stuff goes south she ends up screwing a lot more people than just herself. Most of the men on the show have no redeeming qualities; the only one who is usually pretty entertaining is Nancy's brother-in-law Andy. The supporting women are equally useless, most of them being vapid cackling hens, and the only one besides Nancy with a shred of personality is Celia, who is pretty much a raging bitch. So though she's entertaining and most of the time funny, she's also difficult to watch at times because she's just such an awful human being.

So? Fortunately my week of rest is coming to a close, because though I have more of this show available to me to watch, I just don't think I'm going to be doing it. I've read that Terrible Silas matures over time and actually does some useful things during season 3, but frankly, the most useful thing he could do for me at the moment is die in a fire. And since I haven't read of anything like that happening, I think it is time for Weeds and I to part ways. It was fun while it lasted, homie.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I didn't watch the Oscars, but...

Just like every year, there are nominations I agree with, nominations I disagree with, movies I haven't seen or heard of that are somehow nominated for everything, and movies/characters/actors that fail to be recognized by the Academy. Let's focus on some of my favorites in the latter category, shall we?

Best "Actor" in a Supporting Role:

Dug from Up was one of my favorite characters of the year from one of my favorite movies of the year. This guy was just too freaking precious, with some of the best lines spoken all year:

"My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you."
"Hey, that is a bird! I have never seen one up close, but this is a bird."
"I was hiding under your porch because I love you."
"Won't you please be my prisoner, please please please!"
"Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, 'I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.' Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead."

Best Original Screenplay:

Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and Scott Sanders for Black Dynamite (White was also the leading actor)
Ok, it's kind of cheating for me to list this one because I didn't see it until last weekend (though it was released in 2009 so TOTALLY eligible, technically.) So what was the deal with the complete lack of promotion and press for this movie? It was hands-down one of the top 5 funniest movies of 2009. A well-done and good-intentioned parody of 1970's blaxploitation films, Black Dynamite really deserved to be screened at more theaters and receive a lot more buzz than it actually did. I hope it gets more attention on DVD because it is definitely worth watching. Here are some memorable quotes, though frankly the whole movie was full of memorable quotes that make more sense in context:

O'Leary: We heard about your brother's death and we don't want you running around turning the streets into rivers of blood.
Black Dynamite: Then tell me who did it and I'll just leave a puddle.

Black Dynamite: First Lady, I'm sorry I pimp slapped you into that china cabinet.

Black Dynamite: Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!

Black Dynamite: Now Aunt Billy, how many times have I told you not to call here and interrupt my Kung Fu!

Black Dynamite: The worst thing about these dealers getting children addicted to this new smack, is that these children are ORPHANS…. And orphans don’t have parents.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Art vs Sport

As I said in a previous post, I wanted to talk about figure skating a bit more. One of the criticisms I read somewhat frequently of the Winter Olympics (particularly in comparisons between the Winter and Summer Games) is that the Winter Olympics doesn't have as many actual sports as Summer does. For one reason or another, the Winter Games do seem to have a higher percentage of events that are "gray area" sports - they blur the line between art and athletics, and this causes some viewers to quibble over whether or not those events qualify as worthy of inclusion in the Olympic Games.

This debate is particularly relevant in figure skating. At some point during the men's competition, host Bob Costas was interviewing guest Dick Button, Olympic gold medalist and current television analyst for figure skating. Button made a comment about the ongoing "art vs. sport" debate, and his argument essentially was that figure skating couldn't be just art because it was so physical, and physically demanding. I've never liked this argument, and I've heard it applied to defend cheerleading and gymnastics in addition to figure skating. The reason that I don't like the argument is that having danced for some fifteen years of my life, I can sure as shootin' stake the claim that dance is some pretty damn physical performance art. And it's not like dance is some obscure thing that people won't have heard of when they argue that any "stuff" that requires strenuous motion is sport, not art. The implication behind this whole argument, of course is that art is inferior to sport; otherwise, fans of "sparts" such as gymnastics, cheerleading, and figure skating wouldn't feel like they had to justify the validity of those things as sports rather than arts in the first place.

In the case of the Olympics, the tendency seems to be to believe that in the world's most prestigious and anticipated athletic competition, the events need to be Real Sports™. Anything else is just taking up space. But if events that can be arguably considered art are in fact highly athletic, then why should it matter if they're more arty or if they're more sporty? Why is it so important for so many to place sports above the arts?

The two being set at odds goes back to the root of high school tropes that everyone recognizes, where you have the arty set usually inhabiting a more geeky nature, while the sports-playing jocks are typically seen as ruling the school (even if their stereotype states that they're deficient in brain matter.) Granted, (female) dancers usually tend to get a pass from the geek treatment when these tropes are employed, but even if they're not necessarily painted as nerds, they're largely ignored. As far as the arts go, dance may be more or less respected, but it's still art, and no one has really tried to make the case that it's a sport just because of its physicality.

I kind of wonder if in the minds of many, one of the biggest distinctions between (performing) art and sport is something that is never articulated. Namely, that people see things that are traditionally graceful or "feminine" and they associate that with artistry; meanwhile, things that are traditionally aggressive or "masculine" never are questioned as anything other than sport. This gets interesting when you consider, as I mentioned earlier, that the art vs. sport debate generally begs the question that sport is better than art. In fact, I wouldn't surprising at all if subconsciously, that is a distinction that people tend to make. It would fall right in with a well-established pattern of activities that are seen as traditionally feminine being considered in society as of less worth or value that activities that are seen as traditionally masculine. And it makes perfect sense that events like figure skating would be questioned as a sport given the delicacy and fluidity of many of the movements; like ballet, figure skating is meant to look smooth and easy - "feminine" - even as the dancer or athlete is truly working his or her butt off.

For me, I draw the line very simply: if one's standing in the event is determined by a subjective measure, like a score from a panel of judges, there is probably a strong artistic component to what you're doing. My standard, therefore, includes not only the more hotly debated events, but also events like snowboard half-pipe and ski jumping aerials. Art in practice is in the eye of the beholder, and its merit is generally appraised via the net sum of its praises and critiques. This includes the performing arts, which again, can be highly athletic. Therefore, frankly, I'd say that all of the events I mentioned in this post are things that I would consider to be more on the side of art than sport. But for me, I don't value one more highly than the other, so it's not a put-down to the events that are competitively scored by a judging panel. I understand the competitive and athletic value of physical and performing arts.

But what does that say of the Olympics? Is it not supposed to be a sporting competition? Frankly, I'm not sure that I have the answer. If one concludes that it's a celebration of athleticism, and a competition among athletes, then I think the inclusion of all of the current events is pretty justified. Certainly everything in the Winter games requires tremendous strength, endurance, and physical performance. All of the athletes have trained their bodies to be in peak physical condition, whether or not their events are judged by a human for artistry or by a clock for speed. Not everyone has to like every event - I find cross-country skiing pretty boring to watch - but I'd love to see people move away from the tired denigration of some events by accusing them of being art instead of sport. For one thing, it's not an insult, and for another thing, it's quite inconsequential in the end. If any one of the civilian critics could get up on an ice rink and manage to look graceful on their first pass around the rink, let alone complete a triple jump and suspend the arabesque landing, they'd probably have to admit that there is a ton of athleticism there and that indeed, the property of physicality is not restricted to traditional sports.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some post-Olympics reflections on figure skating...

I'm going to write another post later strictly on what is probably the most divisive of Olympic sports, figure skating. By "divisive," I mean in this case that there is always a strong and vocal contingent of people who think figure skating pretty much sucks, isn't even a sport, and certainly doesn't belong in the Olympics. In direct opposition to that opinion remains the simple fact that figure skating routinely brings in the most televised viewers out of all of the events, and it is staged in the largest-capacity arena out of all of the events. Like gymnastics, success is measured by a judging panel, which means that even under the supposed control of a very calculated and objective set of scoring rules, winners are crowned via not just an ounce of subjectivity in the judges' preferences. This, of course, creates competitive environments ripe for controversy - and since most people like watching drama unfold, like having strong opinions about said drama, and LOVE finding fault with the judgments by panels of "experts" in competitions small and large, watching figure skating appeals to most people, who can then passionately debate the results later on.

The judging subjectivity, in my opinion, became particularly evident when it came to one infamous American figure skater - Johnny Weir. Despite being a three-time US National Champion and serious competitor at World Championship events, the focus on Weir has always been more about his theatrics and indeed, his sexuality. Though he certainly invites a bit more attention - and perhaps, drama - than your average athlete (see his tiff with animal rights organizations over fur on his costumes and his reality show, "Be Good Johnny Weir") even the NBC Olympic commentators were able to acknowledge at the end of both his short program and his free skate that he certainly delivered in his performances and lived up to the hype. However, he finished in sixth place, behind several skaters (including the bronze medalist) who had more obvious stumbles and falls; meanwhile, to the untrained eye, Weir looked as if he skated perfectly in both programs. Thus, the discussion over Weir's ranking has been rife with reasons why the judges seemed to skew the supposedly objective scoring against him.

This video hilariously sums up what I believe definitely contributed to the overlooking of Weir as a possible medalist and overall serious contender at the 2010 Olympics. (For those who haven't seen "That's Gay" or any other Infomania videos before, you've really got to spend some quality time checking them out. My other favorite series is "Target: Women.")