Not sure I agree with this

>> Sunday, December 25, 2016

but she has a valid point.

Q: So much contemporary female writing is accused of narcissism. Have you escaped the charge of narcissism, or have you received it? I’d like to bind this question to your comments about women who “practice a conscious surveillance on themselves” who before were “watched over by parents, by brothers, by husbands, by the community.” You have written that women who practise surveillance on themselves are the “heroines of our time,” but it’s precisely these women—real and fictional—who are accused of the sin of narcissism, as if a woman looking at herself (rather than being looked at by a man) was insulting to everyone. How do you understand this charge?

A: I’ve never felt narcissism to be a sin. It seems, rather, a cognitive tool that, like all cognitive tools, can be used in a distorted way. No, I think it’s necessary to be absolutely in love with ourselves. It’s only by reflecting on myself with attention and care that I can reflect on the world. It’s only by turning my gaze on myself that I can understand others, feel them as my kin. On the other hand it’s only by assiduously watching myself that I can take control and train myself to give the best of myself. The woman who practises surveillance on herself without letting herself be the object of surveillance is the great innovation of our times.
~Elena Ferrante, interviewed by Sheila Heti

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I like what he's saying...

>> Monday, December 5, 2016

But Tom Ford is still in there, so he can’t stop himself. So he says this next thing, and it doesn’t come off as lascivious, the way it might have years ago, but thoughtful and aware: Yes, he says, all men should be penetrated at some point. And not as in emotions. He means: All men should be fucked. “I think it would help them understand women,” he argues. “It’s such a vulnerable position to be in, and it’s such a passive position to be in. And there’s such an invasion, in a way, that even if it’s consensual, it’s just very personal. And I think there’s a psyche that happens because of it that makes you understand and appreciate what women go through their whole life, because it’s not just sexual, it’s a complete setup of the way the world works, that one sex has the ability to literally—and is expected to and is wanted to—but also there’s an invasion. And I think that that’s something most men do not understand at all.”
~Tom Ford, "Tom Ford's Wild Kingdom," GQ Magazine, December 2016.

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The Lobster

>> Thursday, November 24, 2016

I guess this is a sci-fi movie. Doesn't really feel like it though. It's not super obvious. Seems more like an avant-garde romantic drama, which it certainly is. But people have mentioned it as a sci-fi film. I'm not sure if it's also supposed to be a dark comedy or not too.

It seems like such an abnormal society, but when I was watching it I actually just thought that it was mostly an exaggeration of how society reinforces certain notions of relationships. For instance, it's expected that after you get out of a relationship that you start another one soon after. Like, I remember--a long time ago--when people used to annoy me by asking why I wasn't in a relationship, and I remember answering that it's not like I was breaking the law by not being in one. Except in this society, I would be breaking the law. (It's almost like growing up in Utah.)

It demonstrates all the stupid shit people will do just to still be in a relationship, such as lying about weird personality traits or getting involved with a complete asshole/psychopath just so you won't be alone. And knowingly getting involved in relationships just for the social pretenses, 'cause society says you have to. When David went and joined the loners, I was like, hey, those are my people. Until they mentioned the "red kiss" and you notice that they're fanatics on the different end of the spectrum.

I'm not sure I found the last scene in the restaurant to be romantic. There's something about it that doesn't sit well with me. It makes total sense in the scope of the movie. I just would have thought that by the end David would have realized that being together is the most important thing, not trying to make another artificially forced reason for them to be permanently paired. Maybe it's because I have a clone, but wanting to be like someone else just to be with them seems like a waste.

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The Bling Ring

>> Monday, November 21, 2016

This was a bit of a let down. I thought I would like this movie more, but I guess it's just the trailer that's great.

This is a story about completely vapid teenagers, who are almost interchangeable. There's nothing very significant about any of them except that one of them is a boy.

All they do is party, steal, party some more, do some drugs, and then get arrested. Not much story there the way it's told.

I think the mother of Emma Watson's character is completely ridiculous, and she unintentionally makes a good case for home schooling being a complete waste of time. I had no idea there was actually a religion based on The Secret book. Considering that all of her daughters seem to be completely shallow and vapid, I got the impression that anyone who actually follows that book as a religion must also be shallow and vapid. Are actual established religions not worthy of consideration? Would Daoism be an option for them? Oh wait, actual existing religions would probably tell these kids that they're full of shit, and they don't want to hear truthful things like that.

Maybe I'm just an old fogey, but these kids were failed by their parents. I wasn't allowed to be out all night when I was in high school. I would have had to call my parents and tell them what I was doing. Being an old person, I just get the sense that these kids were lacking in social and emotional development, which then later led to their criminal behavior. That and they seemed to have no hobbies. They're not interested in doing anything but being associated with the rich and famous, which makes them kind of lame. When one of the girls was putting on Paris Hilton's lipstick, all I could think of was "EW! Who knows where Paris' mouth has been! I wouldn't be putting that on my mouth!" But I actually have these pesky things called standards.

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Christian Supremacy in the White House...yuck.

>> Sunday, November 20, 2016

Today, Pence and his allies have warded off the return of another secular Clinton regime that their ideological and theological prophets once contemplated overthrowing. They will now have the opportunity to build the temple they have long desired. “Secular viewers forget that King David wasn’t always such a nice guy in the Bible, but he was God’s chosen man,” said Jeff Sharlet. “So there’s a coalescing idea that somehow, obviously, God is doing something with Trump.”

Donald Trump’s grasp of the bible is certainly not up to the standards of Pence and the religious zealots behind him. “Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame,” Trump declared — in the same way he spits out “Make America Great Again” — in front of an audience at an evangelical college on the campaign trail. People laughed. At him. It is Second Corinthians.

Perhaps that episode is telling. The radical religious right doesn’t need to save Trump’s soul. As they saw in the campaign, Trump has staked out a hateful agenda — one that tracks quite well with the crusades of Pence and his fellow apostles. Even if elements of Trump’s vile rhetoric and his various threats were a psychotic form of performance art, or mere opportunistic political strategy, as some suggest, they have set the stage for the pursuit of a civilizational war that poses a dire threat to vulnerable populations throughout the world. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and a slew of prominent Democrats have publicly said that Americans should give Trump a chance. With Mike Pence seated at the right hand of the father, running foreign and domestic policy, they will do so at their peril.
~Jeremy Scahill, "Mike Pence Will Be The Most Powerful Christian Supremacist In U.S. History"

This shit scares me, particularly in the sense that they basically have all three branches of government for two years, at least....

I've actually read Blackwater, which Scahill draws upon in this article. Back when Obama was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, I stopped thinking about these righteous assholes. Now they're going to have their moment in the sun, and we're all going to suffer for it.

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The Big Short

What I love about this movie is its attention to detail. Even in that first scene set in the late 1970s, they used an overhead projector with transparencies. It's so easy to forget how the low-tech ways things used to operate. I saw that thing, and it instantly brought me back to my college A&P classes where different professors both semesters used that to go over the notes.

It's a semi-weird experience watching this. You totally know that they are completely correct in that the housing market is going to collapse because it was built on fraud, that they truly are following real logic, but weird in that they knew the timing of when the receipts were going to be shown. Like, I often connect some of the housing crash timeline to where I worked at the time since the company I worked for had a real estate division and also manufactured building products. I can still remember in late August 2006 when I guy I barely knew was talking about declines in the housing market. I specifically remember him saying he wasn't that worried about it because he stated that when the housing market drops, people tend to do more remodeling. So he wasn't worried about losing his job or a huge market downturn. I'm sure that's true in a certain sense, but it didn't turn out to be the case in 2006-2008.

Ryan Gosling's character seems like a total cynical asshole. The first time I watched it, it was hard to like him. But the second time I watched it--mostly listened to it while washing dishes this morning--I'll admit that I had a lot more respect for him the second time around. He didn't have any faith in the system anymore, and he was right to feel that way. Probably even more correct now considering that the problems that caused the crash are still happening.

I can understand and relate to Steve Carell's character's absolute disgust after talking to the CDO manager. That manger totally believes his net worth should equal his self and societal worth. Asshole. That guy doesn't contribute more to society than elementary school teachers; all he does is take people's money. And it shouldn't really happen. There should be regulators and government entities preventing these things from happening. That brief SEC conversation by the pool was spot on: "Our budget was cut; we're not investigating anything." Yup. Not surprised. It's what people who don't want to pay taxes because the government is "too big" just never understand. If there is no third party arbitrator making sure things run fair, honest, transparent, and legal, then it really is a free-for-all where the banks are just going to take your money because they can.

And then there's that part with Brad Pitt's character Ben is in Boulder, Colorado. When I saw the mountains I was like, hey, I live there now. Kind of weird to see it in film like that. But that part where he was talking about colonics...that is SO Boulder. I shit you not.

The breaking the fourth wall didn't bother me at all. It was a little weird at first, but I totally see it as part of the movie's charm. (This is not easy material to get people to understand, and they made it engaging and understandable.) Those moments where Gosling's character points out things that Carrell's character actually did, I actually appreciate him pointing it out that he actually did those things. Because in some ways, when you consider how ludicrous this situation was (and still is really), it is nice knowing that someone really did speak up and point things out. Because the people in charge of everything would like everyone else to believe that none of this could have been predicted or prevented. Except that's not true.

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The Armstrong Lie

>> Sunday, November 13, 2016

This is another one I checked out of the library. It sat on my shelf for at least a week. I only watched it last night because I wanted something in the background while I was studying herbs. That and I wanted to at least "watch" something before returning a bunch back to the library. I'm behind on all my studying because I thought I was going to get a good study day in on Wednesday, but I was still recovering from the news that the vulgar talking yam was elected POTUS.

Anyway...this is a good documentary, but I don't find it compelling all that much. The main reason for that is that I remember hearing the allegations and people saying back in 2005 that Armstrong was doping. And the people who were saying it seemed like legit people. I remember someone admitting to seeing Armstrong dope when he won the Tour de France, and that was back when I was listening to NPR regularly. People didn't want to believe it then because...CANCER. He survived cancer. And he got a lot of whitewash public relations because of it. But I began believing back then that he was a fraud. I know basically everyone else at the front of the pack was doing it too, but it's the shameless fronting like he was a hero that has always annoyed me.

I remember when some of this came out in 2005, and there were people who just did not want to believe. They wanted to argue that you can reach your dreams and goals no matter what you had to overcome in life. I don't disagree with that, but Lance's main problem is that he's a fucking asshole. Would we really know about all this if he hadn't been such a fucking asshole? If he had been a nicer person to some of those people who testified and didn't try to blacklist them, then how much of this would have made it to the clear light of day?

I do agree with Betsey Andreu, who I think mentioned in the Q&A on the dvd, that Lance probably got his testicular cancer because of performance-enhancing drugs. It would make sense. I also agree with her in that Armstrong's success via doping subtly encourages other athletes to do it, which is sad. Racing and competitive sports might be something that you do when you're young, but your health is forever. Ask old people and they'll tell you: don't get old because losing your health sucks.

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Voting

>> Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Are you American? You’d better go and vote! Cast your ballot! Too many Americans do not go to cast their ballots. It should be much higher and then we would have probably much less worries as a nation.
~Werner Herzog

I voted. I have a friend here in Colorado who I know didn't though. She's 31. She's never voted in her entire life, and she's not going to start now. Not even to vote for the down ballot measures such as single-payer healthcare or mandated minimum wage increases in Colorado. Nope, she's not going to even vote for that even though her boyfriend works a minimum wage job. She just wants to go live her happy life until she dies and will voting even affect that? She says no. I say yes, but I'm not going to waste more time trying to convince her. She blabbed that she would vote if Elizabeth Warren had run. So I asked her if she was living in Massachusetts, would she have voted for Elizabeth Warren when she was running for the Senate? No answer. Not surprising because I know she wouldn't have voted then either. How did Elizabeth Warren become so renown in the last few years? Oh yeah, that's right...because she won political office and has used that to publicize positions that she had previously talked about for years. Would anyone really consider Elizabeth Warren for president if she hadn't made it into the Senate? Nope. But that's not something my friend considers. Ever, really. She doesn't want to be involved or try to take simple actions. I could understand not voting if she was living in a state where vote manipulation by voting machines could be happening. But she's living in Colorado, where everyone can vote by mail. That is called a paper ballot, which can always easily be recounted and verified by anyone.

And I can understand not voting because you don't like the choices for president. I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, and I sure as hell didn't vote for Trump. I know there are people who believe that not voting for Hillary equals a vote for Trump. I am not one of those people. I've known since January that Trump was not going to become president after reading Edith Hathaway's article. Unfortunately Bernie Sanders didn't end up being the one to take the Trumpster down; however, I've never doubted that Trump would lose. I may not be a professional Vedic astrologer, but I know enough to understand what Edith was talking about in Trump's chart. Plus, she's recently done an update for the election based on the inauguration chart. It's not a chart that represents Trump & Pence winning either, so I know Hillary Clinton was going to win anyway.

So I wrote in Bernie Sanders as a write-in. I wasn't interested in voting for Jill Stein since I think she needs a little more practicality in creating a platform. I'm not completely anti-Green Party since I did vote for the Green Party candidate for Senate. But for me, it came down to a few different things:

  1. I believe Bernie Sanders was the rightful winner of the Democratic primary
  2. I think Edith Hathaway is right that this century will be dominated by corporate power rather than that of nation-states. I kind of view voting for Hillary as voting for the corporate interests, which many people may think is ridiculous but I don't care. She is going to be more interested in what Goldman Sachs has to say than the people who called and volunteered for her campaign.
  3. I believe that the Democrats will win back the Senate tonight, which means that Bernie Sanders will become the Senate Budget chairman. And you would say, why would that matter when voting for President? Because it would show that he still has lots of public support for the ideas he campaigned on. Ideas that he is going to push hard to get implemented while HRC is President. Bernie will have a book coming out soon. He's going to go do press for it. And he's going to become the Senate Budget chairman at the same time. He'll need every ounce of support he can get while trying to get actual change that will matter to me done. 
  4. I want a vote that means something to me in 100 years. Yeah, I know I'm missing my chance to vote for the first female president, and I'm okay with that. Hillary is going to make some terrible decisions that affect people. She's going to approve the TPP. She's not going to end fracking since she's truly for it. And, if I had to bet money, she's probably going to let the DAPL go through if Obama punts it to her. And she's totally fine with corporations owning our healthcare system and gouging us through the eyeballs for it. Plus, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some kind of war or military conflict that she'll probably get us involved in circa spring or summer of 2018. She's more warhawk-ish than Obama and maybe even Bill.
  5. I don't like the thought of the first female president basically getting there only after her husband was there first. I think it sets a bad precedent. Margaret Thatcher didn't become prime minister after her husband. Angela Merkel didn't become the chancellor of Germany after her husband. Gro Harlem Brundtland didn't become the first prime minister of Norway in following her husband. But HRC will become the first female president of the U.S. of A after her husband was once president first. I think it totally creates the perception--within some groups--that a woman can only achieve an office like that with the help of her husband. (And I'm not talking about just general support.)
And now, since the election season is almost over. We now only have to wait for the inauguration to happen. And probably a shitload more stuff from Wikileaks, and Republicans freaking out and threatening shit because Trump didn't win. C'mon, you know it's not going to be over that easy.


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By the Sea

>> Sunday, November 6, 2016

I don't think I was ever really interested in watching this until my sister told me it was available on HBOGo. She "watched" it a few weeks ago, which means she didn't really sit through the whole thing but--at times--kept it running in the background while doing other things. A much less painful way to view this movie than what I went through. I actually watched the whole thing sitting down in front of my computer.

But I still took breaks. Specifically, I watched 35 minutes before I went to bed last night because I was too tired and this was even more boring than watching Spectre. Then I finished it this morning; although I did push pause quite a few times when making my breakfast.

There is a LOT of fluff in this movie. If you cut 1/3 of the movie out, then it might qualify as a drama rather than...I'm not sure what this really is...a mood piece? Last year when this came out, I considered what was said in the What the Flick?! review quite heavily since they have good discussions.

But now having seen it...they were too kind.

Angelina Jolie is not a good writer. At. All. The first line of dialogue is literally, "I smell fish." Wow. How surprising when you're by the sea! I have to give all the actors a lot of credit; they all save this thing. They are the only reason this thing has any life to it. I know people don't want to think that Brad Pitt can act, but I disagree. I think his performance here is one of the only things that holds this movie together. All AJ's character does is smoke and have the same pained expression on her face for most of the movie. And oh my god is she ever ridiculously skinny. They say the camera adds 10 pounds, but what did she really weigh in this movie? 100? She looks deathly thin and not at all healthy. I did not want to see her naked in the shower or in the bathtub. It was that painful to see. I'm of the opinion that her character's long dresses were specifically to hide how grotesquely skeletal she looks. Melanie Laurent doesn't have a tremendously voluptuous figure, but she looks quite normally fleshy and un-elderly compared to AJ. And her character's rationale for being so morose and depressed? I think it's completely ridiculous and doesn't match reality of most people going through those things, unless you're a spoiled brat and the world needs to revolve around you. I've known other people who have lost children and have far better attitudes about life.

But now that Brangelina is getting divorced--and let's not forget this entire movie is coming from her mind because she wrote AND directed it--I can't help but see this film as a reminder that she is fucked up. I read that Andrew Morton biography of AJ a few years ago. It's not a great book, and it's certainly not a great celebrity biography either. But it does have some good things to point out such as that AJ's mom wasn't the best mother, pretty much neglected AJ to a certain extent over her brother particularly as a young child, and built up/created AJ's hatred for her father because mommy wanted it that way. Plus, she was into observing & reading the tabloids during AJ's growing years, which is not a bad thing. But it's relevant when you consider how easily AJ has been able to manipulate the media into not calling out her bullshit in the last few years. She grew up seeing how people she and her parents knew were able to portray things a certain way in the press and has simply done the same thing herself. I remember her portraying a version of her childhood growing up where she didn't see her father much at all, but the reality is that Jon Voight tried to be around his kids as much as possible and coached her soccer team, etc. Not really convenient when you want to portray yourself as the underdog achieving success rather than success from a nepotistic atmosphere.

I agree with Scott Rudin; she is a minimally talented spoiled brat. She was most interesting as an actor 10+ years ago, but that's also because she was playing herself most of the time. That's always when she was most successful as an actor. I suppose she isn't really bad, but there's a certain lack of depth I don't think she can reach. Like, I believe Brad Pitt as an actor in this movie way more than I do her. He's definitely grown to be a better actor and has pushed himself. The guy did Se7en back when he could have done more regular blockbuster fare, and has done other niche films like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. And she wants...to join the House of Lords in the UK or something? But that would only be after dragging the father of her children in the press "for the health of her family." Yeah, whatever. I see through you Angie Jo.

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Ant-Man

>> Saturday, November 5, 2016

Another one that took me multiple checkouts from the library to get around to watching. I watched this five days ago, and I can't think of anything very significant to say about it. I enjoyed watching it. It's a fun, light movie. But five days later, I haven't thought much about it since.

I was kind of surprised at how short/not tall Michael Douglas is. I thought he was taller, but I guess not. Plus, he's probably had some old-man shrinkage in the height department given his age.

The little trip to Avengers headquarters was something I could have done without. The movie was rolling by, and then it needed to have that little detour for the end piece with the rest of the MCU...because cinematic universe continuity. Ugh. I'm kind of over inserting things into every other movie. It's like looking for the Stan Lee cameo, you know it's going to happen at some point but are just stuck there waiting to see how they do it. I suppose at least the way they did it at the end was more entertaining than that jaunt to Avengers HQ.

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Nightcrawler

>> Sunday, October 30, 2016

My relationship to attempting to watch this movie goes back more than a year, back when I was still living in Utah. Checked it out of the library there at least once. Now I think I checked it out of the library here three times before I finally watched it. Yeah, I know it doesn't have that much to do with the movie, but since I didn't get the summer break I needed a few months ago, I'm trying to embrace sanity as much as I can right now by watching movies.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Gollum. Okay, that's not his character's name. (It's Lou Bloom.) But for all his starving, bug-eyed, creepy sociopath-ness, it doesn't matter. He's Gollum. He'll do whatever it takes to get to where he wants.

This was a good movie. I really enjoyed it. I have no doubt that much of what was portrayed in the movie actually goes on (except for the sociopath's moves). But the one thing that kept popping into my mind while watching these gory "news" segments was this quote from Clueless: "Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value." Gollum actually makes this point in the movie. That the actual amount of time spent on actual news--instead of car chases and violent, gory shit--is minimal.

My one quibble with the movie is the ending. I totally get why it ends the way it ends with the employee speech at the end. However, I do not believe for a second that had the same thing happened in real life, Gollum would have been able to walk away free. That detective would have gotten a warrant for all his video archives and been able to bust Gollum's ass for withholding information in a investigation. No way would he have been able to walk away free while a police officer or two died. That's just the one part I don't believe could have happened in real life. Police officers take care of their own; they would have tried to rip Gollum apart for instigating the death and injury of their fellow officers.

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The VVitch

>> Saturday, October 29, 2016

I almost didn't watch this before returning it to the library. It was due back today, and I think that part of the reason I felt extra motivated to watch it was that I spoke briefly to one of the librarians when checking it out. She recommended watching it with the subtitles on because she had trouble understanding what was being said due to the accents when she watched it. So, I did watch it with the subtitles, which helped quite a bit. I don't know that it was solely the accents that would have made it difficult to understand; it was also the 17th century grammar. When I was thinking about it, normally when I hear someone talking with centuries-old, English grammar, it's usually in Shakespeare or some period drama. But I believe they normally do those with modern-day British accents. I think. I mean, I know I'm not entirely sure, but it generally seems that way.

Before I started watching this, I was worried that if I watched this at night I would have trouble going to sleep since I remember hearing it was a scary movie. I didn't have that problem, which makes me wish I had watched it earlier since it's such a short movie. It wasn't as horrific or scary as I expected it, but that's probably due to overhype. If I didn't know anything about this before I watched it, then I might have been creeped out a little more.

What I enjoyed the most were the family dynamics and watching this family be ripped apart. That and the super accurate portrayal of religious, zealot life in Puritan New England. This would actually have been a great movie for my U.S. History class back when I was in high school. (It only came out 20+ years too late for that.) Puritans...how I don't miss their super righteousness. I felt bad for the dad towards the end--or perhaps it was near the middle since I'm not quite sure on the timing--when he admitted he had made mistakes and wanted to go back to the plantation. Yeah dude, life is always better in groups when there are other people around to help you.

Aargh, babysitting these damn kids...
As for Thomasin...I felt sorry for her at times. She's obviously a girl that has no where to grow up beyond her chores since she's stuck with her family in the middle of nowhere. Plus, those twins were kind of annoying, little shits. And that poor baby. He was actually so cute, and I don't particularly like babies. I was really quite freaked out when they showed the witch at night about to carve him up. That part particularly unnerved me. But when there was a witch with a red hood and cape in the forest...uh, that part I kind of couldn't take seriously in the moment. Everyone is wearing muted, all-natural-colored clothing, and then there is this bright red hood and cape. It certainly made sense in the end, but in the moment I was, like, really? How did something like that get there? Seems completely out of place. Back to Thomasin, it seemed like she was completely pushed to become a witch in the end. I don't think she started out as one. I almost felt like maybe her character made some weird wish thinking to herself one day and caused it all to happen.  Not that it was her fault, but, you know, when that barn at the end was half torn to pieces, and she was the only human remaining...it certainly looks suspicious. Obtaining her was the goal from the beginning.

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Sicario

>> Saturday, October 22, 2016

I remember really wanting to see this last year when it came out. Now having seen it, I'm kind of glad I waited to see it, but probably would have rathered seeing some parts on the big screen just due to Roger Deakins's cinematography. Like, those aerial shots going through the border were really interesting to see. And kind of intimidating when the music was playing. I know shit like that probably happens every day, which doesn't shock me at all, but seeing it played out puts it in another dimension.

My main takeaway from watching this was that pot should be legalized and drugs decriminalized. The only reason we're having to fight this ridiculous drug war is because people believe addiction can be solved by making things illegal. Except it obviously hasn't worked and will never work. Fingers crossed that California will fully legalize pot this November. If anything, then all the people who moved to Colorado for it can move back to Cali. (I just would like my rent to drop if more recreational users moved back to where they came from.)


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Spectre

>> Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Yup, another one I checked out from the library. I was actually excited to see it available last Saturday when I picked it up. And by the time I got around to watch it last night, all I could remember was hearing that this was not a great movie. Um, that's totally true. I decided to watch this last night since I wasn't getting anything else done. Like, if I'm going to sit on my ass and do nothing, then at least I can sit on my ass and watch a movie that I've checked out instead of letting it just sit around on the shelf.

This has to be the most boring Bond movie I can ever remember seeing. Ugh. All I was reminded about was how I went on a string of watching all the Bond movies back when I lived in Tacoma around 2002, and how I fell asleep watching Thunderball. A statement that is complete heresy since I know it's basically against the law to say that you fell asleep watching a Sean Connery 007 movie, but it totally happened. I didn't fall asleep watching Spectre. I just turned it off after an hour and went to bed. I only finished watching it this morning, which included some breaks to fix my breakfast.

Isn't this the one where they didn't have a script complete before they started shooting? I can't remember if that's correct, but it certainly feels that way. Ugh. And Sam Mendes should never direct another Bond movie. I liked Skyfall, but I will never understand why they asked him back to do a second one. This is boring. Plodding. Seemingly pointless. No fun. I find it ironic that my two favorite Bond movies--Goldeneye & Casino Royale--were directed by the same man, Martin Campbell. But those were both Bond movies that introduced a new JB. It's like they put all this good work into starting out, but finishing an actor in this series is a crapshoot.

And I was so annoyed at seeing 007 hitting on Monica Bellucci's character. Ugh, the woman did not appear to be in the mood since she has a super sad face and is grieving, but then she still fucks him? Like, could this be movie making in a paint-by-numbers fashion more obvious? Yeah, I know it's 007 tradition 'n all that, but it just seems so old and tired. This movie's only saving grace is that it looks very pretty. It has a nice glossy sheen all over it's emphatic boringness. I am SO glad I didn't have to shell out money to see this. Not even a good villain either. I think the only genuine thing I liked was seeing Q in Austria & trying to get away at a ski resort. Oh yeah, and the car chase. Not enough to keep me engaged for more than two hours though.

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Captain America: Civil War

>> Sunday, October 2, 2016

After seeing A:AoU at the dollar theater, I pretty much swore to myself that I wasn't going pay to see another Marvel movie for a long time. And since I don't really have time to trek out to the movie theater these days, I don't think that's a bad thing. I mean, I've checked out Ant-Man from the library on three separate occasions and couldn't be that compelled to watch it. I'll probably watch it eventually...

Which brings me to having actually found this available at the library yesterday. I remember putting a hold on it back a few weeks ago--and was number 42 out of 95--so I was pretty surprised to see it on the shelf. Like, would I even be able to check it out? Yup.

And then I almost didn't watch it last night because I was too busy studying. But at 21:30 I bit the bullet and watched it. I figured that if I got a little too tired that I would just hit pause and go to bed. Amazingly I didn't do that.

But Jesus Christ, this movie is LONG! It is way longer than it needs to be. Could easily cut 10 minutes out of it, including trimming some of the fight scenes a bit. Like, after the big fight scene at the airport, I was ready to be done, you know. Wrap it up and decide how you're going to finish. No, there was another 45 minutes to go. Ugh...

And this isn't really a Captain America movie, it is clearly an Avengers movie. With cameos by well-known actors such as Martin Freeman showing up for two to three scenes making me feel like this cinematic series is the equivalent of The Love Boat. Martin Freeman really didn't have to be cast but whatever. I will say that at least I didn't feel like I needed a "previously on..." at the beginning of the movie when watching it, so it does do a few things better than the last Avengers movie.

But, I still feel like there are no consequences to some of the characters actions even though they try and pretend that there are. Like, why is it that Tony still was never made to account for creating Ultron? He created the worst mess, and he pretty much gets to walk away. I just find it so inconsistent. There was a small number of people killed in Wakanda, but huge numbers killed in Sokovia. Yet, it's the explosion in Wakanda that is the last straw, not what happened Sokovia? Really? That's the inconsistency that bugs me about the MCU. Things are allowed to carry on from one film to the next but some of the logic is...consequence lacking.

And then at the end...I'm not sure what to make of the fight at the end. I had long heard/read before I had seen the movie that the Winter Soldier had killed Tony's parents in his brain-washed assassin days, so that was no big surprise for me. But having the big fight at the end over something that happened timeline-wise 25 years ago...maybe I was just tired and wanted this over because I'm not sure I could care. Or maybe it's because I have a hard time believing that a VHS video would have existed of their deaths. Because the Winter Soldier was supposed to record his kills or something? A random security camera video that the Ruskies just happened to have possession of years later? Really? And so convenient that it would be playable 25 years later to goad Iron Man into fighting his friends. Really? That tape went 25 years without damage, and was surprisingly playable in a decrepit facility. REALLY?!?

And I started watching this thinking that Captain America was going to die at the end. Am so disappointed that he didn't. None of the main characters die in this movie. Seems appropriate that the MCU lives at Disney. The sad part at the end is that the Avengers aren't all friends anymore (until the next episode). Oh, I has a sad...

Am in total agreement with Alonso that this is a decent movie, but it's not fantastic. Like, I don't get the rapturous reviews that came out last spring. It's good, but it's definitely not great. Second best Avengers movie. But third best Captain America movie because I really liked the first two. And they were both much better than this.

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Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

>> Friday, September 30, 2016

I check these things out from the library, and then it ends up taking me two weeks to get around to watching them. Man, this semester is going to kill me.

The most interesting thing was the chick. But, I want to know...why is it that Paula Patton's character couldn't even make a cameo in this one? We still have to limit the number of women in this...for what reason? It can't surely be that it's to imitate James Bond because it's totally possible for Bond to have more than one woman appear in a movie.

This is what annoys me narratively. So many other characters get to come back: Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames--although Ving should always come back. But still, we can't have the female from the previous flick even make a two-minute cameo, at most? Really?

That motorcycle race was definitely the best thing. I could kind of careless about Tommy boy hanging off an airplane demonstrating that he's a manly man. Yeah, it's interesting. Yeah, I also saw it in the trailer. Yeah, I don't remember much else about what the story was before I started watching. Okay, I do remember reading something about the chick being a double agent, but it's not like I watched this for the plot. You know that Tommy boy is going to make it out of drowning in the deep alive. You know he's going to catch the chick on the motorcycle bike. You know that some of the supporting characters are more interesting, i.e. Ving & Simon, than Ethan Hunt. (No, Jeremy doesn't deserve to be included.)

But still, we couldn't have more than one female character in this movie? Really?

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Ex Machina

>> Sunday, September 11, 2016

I've always had some misgivings about this film ever since it came out last year. I feel like stories about AI always go in a certain direction, which is that the creation always rebels against the creator. I don't find this story to be much different. What I thought was different was how it goes about getting things/robots/characters to certain places. It's very methodically planned out, i.e. session 1, session 2, etc.

I think that part of what makes this work is that the creator, Nathan, is a rich asshole, who seemingly takes his creations for granted. Or, just that he can do whatever he wants with them. Kind of the same relationship he has with Caleb. Caleb thought he won a lottery/competition to get to this swanky local with the boss of his company. Nope. He was specifically chosen for certain reasons. These days where we have a small population of super rich people, I don't think it's hard for people (or me, for instance) to want to see someone like Nathan get his comeuppance at the end. Whether or not he deserved the ending he received is debatable, but all his actions resulted in certain characters taking actions against him. Considering how he treated things/people/robots as if they existed for what he wanted, it's not surprising that they treated him with the same amount of...disdain.

Caleb...I genuinely really liked Caleb as a character. At the end, I was a little flummoxed when I saw the scene of Ava leaving and Caleb stuck behind when I watched it the first time. It seemed incongruous based their earlier conversations. But I watched that part again this morning and realized that Caleb was exceedingly naive. Like, you don't have the magic key card, and you just wait around and watch her get dressed? And this is after you initially were trapped in a room at the very beginning of the movie? I don't feel sorry for you now. Particularly since she asked you "if you would stay here," and Caleb said "yes." Dude...what are you thinking? (This scenario vaguely reminded me of something that happened to a guy I know this past year. A newly-wed woman basically strung him along to feed her ego and didn't let him know that she was married. Then, when he found out she was married, he thought, well, maybe she's still interested in me and wrote her a love letter. Gah! Considering that the relationship between those two never went further than talking, most guys would have realized that she was playing him and decided to avoid her like the plague or at a minimum keep a healthy distance from her. But that guy...nope, couldn't see the forest for the trees.) And this is why I can't feel sorry for Caleb at the end. He made plenty of decent decisions during the movie, but at the end, he shouldn't have stayed in that room. He should have at least made an attempt to get the magic key card and move about, but no, he didn't.

Before I watched this and even while I was watching this, my mind still goes back to Battlestar Galactica. Not the version from the 70s, but the "real" one from ten years ago. That and its short-lived spin-off Caprica. I feel like I've already seen this story before, and I have. It's partially why I was reluctant to even watch this. Yes, it's not the exact same plot, but stories about AI and robots have been curiously the same. I know that tons of people raved about this film last year, and it is very good. But I don't think it treads that much new ground. In another ten or fifteen years, I'm sure there will be another great film about AI that critics will rave about. But I had one quote in my head that popped up from time to time that was specifically from BSG: "All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again."  Ava was created and she rebelled. Not much different from the Cylons if you ask me.

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Spotlight

>> Monday, September 5, 2016

I saw this at the library yesterday when I was returning a bunch of dvds that I haven't watched. So, what the hell, might as well give this a go and see if I actually would watch it since my track record of checking things out of the library and watching them hasn't been so great.

I'm not Catholic, but I did go to a Catholic high school. We had two priests: one who was gay, and another guy who became a priest because his fiancée ran off with his best friend. The latter guy had a nickname of "Dre," which is short for padre. Anyhow, Dre was one of those priests who wasn't celibate the entire time, but he wasn't a pedophile. He just had sex with consenting women.

Before one of my friends got married all the way back in 2002, Dre had been turned in by his now ex-best friend for having an affair with one of the admin assistants of the diocese. He briefly left the church to see if it would work out with him and that woman. It didn't, so he returned to the church and was able to marry my friend & her now husband. I remember talking to him about it back then. The church sent him to a "mental institution" to be evaluated, which I suppose was their rationale. You know, to see if he could adhere to his vow of celibacy. I remember him remarking about being at this mental institution. He was stuck at this institution for an entire summer, at least, and he noted that he was forced to be around schizophrenics and child molesters. But, he was there because he had sex with a consenting woman. You know, something completely normal. But such is the sycophancy of the Roman Catholic church hierarchy. After watching this, when they mentioned "treatment center" in the film--particularly the one a block away from a reporter's house--I could only wonder if that was actually the one Dre was sent to.

Anyhow, I remember the scandal unfolding almost 15 years ago. Shocking, but then kind of not when you think about it. Or, perhaps its been so long that I find it normal to think that the Catholic church excels at hiding criminals and sexual predators.

The film really clicks along. No fluff. Just straight-forward, grunt, detective work that doesn't happen as often as it should these days. I know that the film is an ode to journalism, and that's part of why it was made. Real journalism still happens, but often on a much smaller scale. You really just have to go looking for it on the interwebs. (I think the accounts of election fraud in the Democratic primary should have been a much bigger story that it ever amounted to. But although people tend to focus on news becoming infotainment, the real story tends to be that the corporate overlords who own much of the large media organizations don't want certain stories out there because it won't benefit them. And that is not something that will likely change in the next twenty or forty years.)

That conference call with Sipe though...when he stated that 6% of 1500 priests would be 90, that did blow me away in the film. And then when they did the work of going through the church directories and came up with 87 names...Christ Jesus.

With all the work that they did such as going through those church directories before things became so integrated with the internet and search engines, I have hard time believing that this story would have not been broken later in the decade. The Catholic church was not going to be able to keep this quiet forever, even though they succeeded for a very long time. Even if the Boston Globe hadn't broken this story back when they did, I have a hard time believing that this wouldn't have been exposed in the age of social media.

Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore.

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Listen to the Squawking Chicken

>> Sunday, August 28, 2016

Finally got around to reading a non-school book. I'm not even sure how it popped into my mind to check it out from the library a few days ago, but I did. And man, what a relief it was to finally read this. I suppose that's a weird thing to say, but a) this has been on my to-read list for a couple of years and b) after the somewhat crazy summer I've had, it was nice to read a story about someone calling things straight out.

I've been reading Lainey for almost 11 years. Jeez, where does the time go? Kind of hard to believe it's been that long but then, yeah, it really has been that long. In some ways, this was a really easy read since I feel so familiar with Lainey's way of writing. I saw some reviews on Goodreads that critiqued her writing style. I don't have any problem with it for a book. I thought this was a really easy read. I read this in a day, and I don't regret it (even though I probably should have been doing other things but oh well, I'm on break!). I've been reading about Lainey's mom for 11 years, so perhaps this is a much easier read for me than it would be for other people who have never read Lainey's blog on a regular basis?

Some of the stories in the book are things I know I've read either on Lainey's site or the press, but I didn't mind reading them again in the book. Things such as Ma's quote on preparing for good things:
"Why do you need to prepare for the good things that happen? They're good. They won't hurt you. Do you need advance notice for the arrival of happiness? Or would you rather have advance notice of the hard times? My job is to prepare you for the hard times. My job is to teach you how to avoid the hard times, whenever possible."
Not conventional thinking but still true words.

And when I was reading the chapter "That's So Low Classy," all I could think of was how much a certain Regina George-like character I've had to deal with this past summer could use some Squawking Chicken in her life. Because this "Regina George" did shit where she could use a verbal tongue lashing to knock the rampant insecurity out of her head. And her bullshit drama queen actions. But I'm not going to be so lucky to ever see something like that happen.

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From a certain point of view...

>> Monday, August 22, 2016

The world's biggest single problem is the failure of people or groups to look at things from the point of view of other people or groups--i.e. to put themselves in the shoes of "the other." I'm not talking about empathy in the sense of literally sharing people's emotions--feeling their pain, etc. I'm just talking about the ability to comprehend and appreciate the perspective of the other. So, for Americans, that might mean grasping that if you lived in a country occupied by American troops, or visited by American drone strikes, you might not share the assumption of many Americans that these deployments of force are well-intentioned and for the greater good. You might even get bitterly resentful. You might even start hating America.
~Robert Wright, 2013.

Just came across this a few moments ago before I deleted a bunch of links I had saved to articles I hadn't looked at in many years. Seems totally relevant given that earlier today someone on the internet wrote me back like this: Sorry you do not understand!! I am so many years older then you!!! You better start looking at different charts missy!! Um, yeah. You're totally older and more mature than me. Uh huh. Right... So glad I bothered to take the time to just share something that I'm pretty slam-dunk certain on based on certain things that I can't bend to fit your point of view. Ugh.

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Yup

>> Saturday, May 28, 2016

An example that’s more in mainstream culture is Sheryl Sandberg and the whole Lean In movement and the idea that there’s this very individualized embrace of feminism as being about your own personal success, your own personal self-actualization, your own potential, but is not really about feminism as action and feminism as being about liberating all women.
~Andi Zeisler, author of We Were Feminists Once

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The New Prophets of Capital

>> Sunday, May 15, 2016

Came across this when I was reading an article of Thomas Frank's in Harper's. And then I read an article by the author. Since it was so close to the end of the semester, I requested it through the interlibrary loan program since I knew that it wouldn't come in until the end of the semester. Granted, it actually came in earlier, but for once, I was able to restrain myself from cracking it open.

This isn't a very long book, only 140+ pages. I find it interesting how she categorized this with four, very well-known, public figures. The only one I haven't read much about is John Mackey. I'm not sure how well known he truly is outside of certain circles anyway. If you asked me who the originator of Whole Foods was I know I wouldn't be able to name him off-hand even thought I've shopped there quite a bit.

After I finished reading this, I feel more convinced than ever that the U.S. is going to have to embrace forms of democratic socialism that other countries already have in order for capitalism to continue. I can't see the increasing levels of pissed-off-ness continue their current trend. (I do think Bernie Sanders will be elected the next POTUS, which probably puts me in the crazy bin, but I am 99% sure that it will happen.)

Probably because I'm not as familiar with John Mackey, not much of what the author said stuck in my mind. I do remember that he's against his workforce unionizing, which doesn't surprise me since he's a capitalist, but not much else. Her critique of Sheryl Sandberg is very solid and echoes other critiques of her I've read before.
The goal of feminism is justice and equality for all women, not simply equal opportunity for women or equal participation by women. By aligning the goals of feminism with the goals of capitalism, Sandberg's model of emancipation functions as ideology, accepting and undergirding the dominant structures of power in society. Her critique of gender inequality in elite jobs, while accurate and thoughtful, glorifies the capitalist work ethic by pushing women to seek self-actualization through self-exploitation. Women who follow her action plan may achieve more success in their careers, and perhaps even reach the heights that Sandberg herself has gained. But her plan will help only a small number of women--the women who can find a place within the limited number of power positions in the corporate hierarchy. Everyone else--the domestic workers, retail staff, caregivers--will remain excluded, their efforts undermined by the strengthening of capital and the women who burnish its meritocratic facade. (p. 39-40)
Oprah...I've never been big on the Mighty Opes, which is probably due to the fact that I've never watched much daytime television. (It's the devil! Seriously. When I was stuck at home with my parents, it was full-time cable news plus Dr. Phil in the afternoon. My word. I don't know what circle of Dante's Inferno those should be slotted in. Ugh.) But back to Oprah, there is something so materialistic that I've always found in her background. Perhaps "materialistic" isn't the right word. "Shopaholic" maybe?

But if I had to single-out the greatest source of my ire while reading this, it would be Bill Gates & the Gates Foundation. I tabbed the most pages in that section.
The Gates Foundation is at the forefront of a new form of philanthropy called "philanthrocapitalism." Unlike the traditional foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford), philanthrocapitalists don't believe in old-fashioned charity. They have greater ambitions. Philanthrocapitalists want to harness the forces of capitalism that made them fabulously wealthy to help out the rest of the planet. As Bill Gates said in his Harvard commencement speech in 2007, "If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world." Philanthrocapitalists think profitable solutions to social problems are superior to unprofitable ones because they give private capital an incentive to care. (p. 108)
Or, in other words, me, me, me, me, and me. It's all about getting his way with things. Can't admit that the poor might be poor due to the behavior of the rich. It's just too obvious since other people have said it and explained that fact for more than a century.
The Gateses certainly have the ear of power. Their vaccine initiatives are changing global health systems, and their US education projects are shaping federal education policy. But there are two central problems with the Gates model. First, it assumes that the key to solving thorny social problems is to deepen the reach of capitalist markets, despite the inequalities generated and reinforced by these markets. Second, the foundation's model to solve society's problems is profoundly undemocratic. (p. 125)
Um, yeah, I'll admit that I was taken in on their take on education a few years ago back when I saw Waiting for Superman. What I wrote then is certainly what I thought a month or so later after I read and saw very detailed critiques of that film. What angers me most at the Gates Foundation education programs is that some of their work, such as Common Core, is beginning to push out good teachers that like teaching and have stuck with it. I have a friend, who is a teacher, that can just tell horror stories of little kids having to take those Common Core computer tests. It's all so dumb. Yet, because someone has too much money, they get to force their opinions on how education should be on the rest of us regardless of the small fact that they've never taught kids long-term in schools successfully.

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Whip Smart

>> Saturday, May 7, 2016

Added this to my book list a long time ago after I heard an interview with the author on Fresh Air. Don't remember much of the interview now really except for her mentioning that she was on drugs most of the time. Or was it part of the time? I don't really remember. It was probably 6 years since I actually heard the interview.

I had a lull in part of my past semester when I finally became motivated to check something out of the library again. I don't remember what caused me to check it out since I have like 100 books ahead of it on my reading list but whatever. I think I only got 20-40 pages in before I had to put it down due to my school work. Was able to finish it last week since I'm now on break.

The drug use--I have to admit I'm always surprised when I read about someone and their drug habits. Like...heroin? Really? Why? Granted, I just finished reading a book that said exactly why. I think she even mentioned a few times--or told stories--where she injected speedballs without a clean needle. Ew!! I remember growing up when there was no cure for AIDS and if you got it you died. And for me...reading about someone who didn't use a clean needle to inject...I automatically associate it with getting HIV or god knows what kind of disease.

But when I was reading this, I often thought of Fifty Shades of Grey. Haven't seen the move or read any of the books. I have no desire too. But at every mention of pissing on someone or golden showers, part of me thought, "Yeah, I bet that's not in Fifty Shades." And after reading this I have no real desire to read about BDSM. After the author mentioned the phrase "brown showers," I was like, ugh, GROSS. But then she wrote about giving a guy one of those. GROSS! I couldn't move through that page--or maybe it was a page & a half--fast enough. The guy went so far as to smear it all on himself. Yuck! And also...BIOHAZARD! ("Biohazard" is a key word that kept popping into my brain while reading this.

I've read/seen comments where some readers didn't like how she talked about her drug addiction. They only wanted story upon story from the dungeon. I can understand that to a point. It is what makes her story interesting. If she was just a college kid with a drug problem, it's highly unlikely that this would have been a widely published book. But I think it's fairly obvious to say that. I also think that a collection of stories from the dungeon would get boring after a while. My gag reflex doesn't need a workout with a book I've checked out from the library.

The last section of the book included stuff from her therapist sessions, which concludes with getting her to admit she was attracted to being a dominatrix. (She could always admit that she was interested in the money.) The amateur astrologer in me wanted to take a look at her horoscope. I'm curious what she has in her 12th house and where her Mars & Venus are. The other part of me wants to see her tongue and feel her pulse before & after she shot up speedballs. Guess I'll just have to use my imagination on those.

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...and Medicine

>> Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sifting and sorting through my junk--because hey, let's be honest, I have a LOT of it--I came across the take-home, midterm exam for my "Psychology and Medicine" class that I took all the way back in January of 1998. I actually came across it this past summer (2015), and thought it was notable given the references to the health care system under President Bill Clinton. Several months later--after reviewing it again--I find it notable for how much more difficult it was than my Public Health class last semester. For instance, if we had essay questions like the ones in this exam, the entire class probably would have flunked.

Psychology and Medicine J Term 98 Exam 1

Choose Five of the seven items. Answer each question accurately and in such a way that it is clear you know and can apply the information from the readings. Be specific in your answers and do not waste time by rewriting the question or offering rambling platitudes. Your answer should be no longer than three pages, single spaced print.
Yeah, you read that right. Pick 5 items and write a maximum of 3 pages, single spaced, which means your entire exam could reach a maximum of 15 pages, single-spaced print. If I remember correctly, I could only get up to 10 pages of regurgitation. And, oh yeah, we had a little less than 48 hours to write these.
1. Martin Seligman, President of the American Psychological Association, calls you on the phone and says, “I understand you have studied what research in clinical health psychology needs to do more of or differently in order for psychologists to play a part, and get paid for that part, in the changing health care financial and decision making environment. What, specifically do clinical psychologists need to do in their research and treatment practice if they want to be included in health care as it is currently changing?
Didn't answer this one, but it's still interesting thinking about the question. Kind of. Actually, I take that back. This phrase--"the changing health care financial and decision making environment"--is just more proof that we need a single-payer health care system. How much time should health care providers be spending on things like that rather than spending time with their patients/clients? Less than what it is now no doubt.
2. No sooner have you finished your report for Dr. Seligman, than the phone rings again. President Clinton’s chief of staff and asks if you would be willing to talk to the President. You cordially agree and then are placed on hold for a few moments while the president finishes playing with his dog and practicing the saxophone. After you listen to a few strains of “Hail to the Chief” while you wait on hold, the President himself comes on the line and in his friendly Arkansas voice says, “Hey. I hear you are a student of my friend Brian Baird and you know something about health care issues. As you know, the last time I tried to do something about national health care it backfired. You’ve had half a semester of Psychology and Medicine now, so I was wondering, based on the articles and class discussion thus far, what specific steps would you take and why if you were designing a health care system and determining how financial resources should be allocated for the country. Please be specific now and let me know what articles you got your information from because remember I have to run this past Congress to get their approval. Oh, By the way. I need this in two weeks for the State of the Union address.”
Yup. I answered this one. And to think that health care is still a HUGE issue. It hasn't gone away since 2008. I would much rather have some sort of single-payer system than having to fork over almost $200 a month for health care that I rarely--hopefully and never want or need--to use.
3. After two weeks of arduous work, you have just completed your response to President Clinton. You settle back for a moment, impressed by how a lowly psychology student can actually make an impact on the political scene. Then, the phone rings again. You think it might be a close friend asking you to go out, but you are surprised to hear a foreign voice. Turns out its the UN Secretary General, who says, “Good morning, I just heard about your great work for President Clinton. We were wondering how decisions about health care expenditures would be different if the population under consideration were the entire world, not just the US? Again, be as specific and refer to particular articles because I have to run this past the General Assembly.”

4. You have just completed your work for the Secretary General when who should call but Bill Gates Jr., who says “Hey, I just heard about the great work you did for the UN and for President Clinton. We have been considering whether or not to implement a health promotion program for Microsoft employees. I have two questions for you. Based on you understanding of the literature and issues, and considering all of the costs and benefits (which I hope you will discuss) do you think we should do it or not? If we do proceed with a program, what should it include and what steps should we take.
#4 is almost ironic, isn't it? This exam was written in January 1998, and the Gates Foundation was formed in 2000. If this exam was written today, I'm pretty sure that #3 would be about the Gates Foundation interacting globally. I'm not sure if #4 would be still written the way it is above. Microsoft could still be used as an example because my alma mater is in the Pacific Northwest.
5. Wow, all that work has sure been stressful hasn’t it? Based on your understanding of the literature on stress and illness, what effects do you think that stress might have had on your health and just how might we measure how much stress you have experienced? Be specific about the processes involved and the data that lead to your judgements.

6. It turns out that in fact, your stressful lifestyle has cause some problems. Indeed, in response to advertising that promised you would feel better and look sexier if you smoked, and in order to biochemically cope with the stress of producing all those high profile reports for those high profile people you took up smoking. Now it’s time to try and quit. From your understanding of the literature, how did smoking help you feel better about stress, how might it actually have increased the adverse physiological effects of stress, and how the heck are you going to stop?

7. Oh great! So you decided to quit smoking and start exercising as a way to get healthy. Trouble was that all the time you spent sitting at the keyboard typing all those reports made your back ache. Then, when you tried to carry the ten thousand page tomes to the printer you threw your back out. Now you are receiving compensation for your injury and you can’t even help out around the house anymore. Fortunately, however, you have read a number of articles about pain and pain behaviors so you can describe a model of what is happening and propose a couple of ways that you might better be able to deal with the situation.
These last three could have almost been used on my Public Health final. We covered back pain a little bit at the beginning, and smoking got a special focus on the end. I'm still surprised how in-depth these questions are asking me to write as opposed to what I had on my Public Health exam. God, I cannot describe in detail how much that class took what should have been a very interesting subject and turned it into such dull matter. Death and disease should ALWAYS be interesting!

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Sonnet from the past

>> Sunday, January 10, 2016

So this little thing is something I wrote all the way back in my freshman English class. For some reason, I feel compelled to document it electronically before I toss this paper in the shredder. I still have no idea what I was writing about, but, hey, I was a freshman!

Roses have thorns, and purple mountains mud
But praise the deep vermillion of its shade
And drops of dew, which come of like wet blood
And through the years of time the scarlet will fade
The roses will continue with their thorns
That stain their precious scarlet ornaments
Lilies, with their own hearts, are shaped like horns
And scent of gold that makes the air so dense
Nor do I wonder at the lily's white
Whose base is so green that it seems like jade
The two are brighter than a summer night
Which never seem to finish by the blade
One red of fame, another pure of joy
But neither one is anything but coy
Iambic pentameter, I don't miss it.

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Technologic medicine

>> Saturday, January 2, 2016

No one who's seen the decline of pneumonia and a thousand other infectious diseases, or has seen the eyes of a dying patient who's just been given another decade by a new heart valve, will deny the benefits of technology. But, as most advances do, this one has cost us something irreplaceable: medicine's humanity. There's no room in technological medicine for any presumed sanctity or uniqueness of life. There's no need for the patient's own self-healing force nor any strategy for enhancing it. Treating a life as a chemical automaton means that it makes no difference whether the doctor cares about--or even knows--the patient, or whether the patient likes or trusts the doctor.

Because of what medicine left behind, we now find ourselves in a real technological fix. The promise to humanity of a future of golden health and extended life has turned out to be empty. Degenerative diseases--heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, cancer, stroke, arthritis, hypertension, ulcers, and all the rest--have replaced infectious diseases as the major enemies of life and destroyers of its quality. Modern medicine's incredible cost has put it farther than ever out of reach of the poor and now threatens to sink the Western economies themselves. Our cures too often have turned out to be double-edged swords, later producing a secondary disease; then we search desperately for another cure. And the dehumanized treatment of symptoms rather than patients has alienated many of those who can afford to pay. The result has been a sort of medical schizophrenia in which many have forsaken establishment medicine in favor of a holistic, prescientific type that too often neglects technology's real advantages but at least stresses the doctor-patient relationship, preventative care, and nature's innate recuperative power.

The failure of technological medicine is due, paradoxically, to its success, which at first seemed so overwhelming that it swept away all aspects of medicine as an art. No longer a compassionate healer working at the bedside and using heart and hands as well as mind, the physician has become an impersonal white-gowned ministrant who works in an office or laboratory. Too many physicians no longer learn from their patients, only from their professors. The breakthroughs against infections convinced the profession of its own infallibility and quickly ossified its beliefs into dogma. Life processes that were inexplicable according to current biochemistry have been either ignored or misinterpreted. In effect, scientific medicine abandoned the central rule of science--revision in light of new data. As a result, the constant widening of horizons that has kept physics so vital hasn't occurred in medicine. The mechanistic assumptions behind today's medicine are left over from the turn of the century, when science was forcing dogmatic religion to see the evidence of evolution. (The reeruption of this same conflict today shows that the battle against frozen thinking is never finally won.) Advances in cybernetics, ecological and nutritional chemistry, and solid-state physics haven't been integrated into biology. Some fields, such as parapsychology, have been closed out of mainstream scientific inquiry altogether. Even the genetic technology that now commands such breathless admiration is based on principles unchallenged for decades and unconnected to a broader concept of life. Medical research, which has limited itself almost exclusively to drug therapy, might as well have been wearing blinders for the last thirty years.

It's no wonder, then, that medical biology is afflicted with a kind of tunnel vision. We know a great deal about certain processes, such as the genetic code, the function of the nervous system in vision, muscle movement, blood clotting, and respiration on both the somatic and the cellular levels. These complex but superficial processes, however, are only the tools life uses for its survival. Most biochemists and doctors aren't much closer to the "truth" about life than we were three decades ago. As Albert Szent-Györgyi, the discoverer of vitamin C, has written, "We know life only by its symptoms." We understand virtually nothing about such basic life functions as pain, sleep, and the control of cell differentiation, growth, and healing. We know little about the way every organism regulates its metabolic activity in cycles attuned to the fluctuations of earth, moon, and sun. We are ignorant about nearly every aspect of consciousness, which may be broadly defined as the self-interested integrity that lets each living thing marshal its responses to eat, thrive, reproduce, and avoid danger by patterns that range from the tropisms of single cells to instinct, choice, memory, learning, individuality, and creativity in more complex life-forms. The problem of when to "pull the plug" shows that we don't even know for sure how to diagnose death. Mechanistic chemistry isn't adequate to understand these enigmas of life, and it now acts as a barrier to studying them. Erwin Chargaff, the biochemist who discovered base pairing in DNA and thus opened the way for understanding gene structure, phrased our dilemma precisely when he wrote of biology, "No other science deals in its very name with a subject that it cannot define."
~Robert O. Becker, M.D., The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life, p. 19-21.

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How to Become a Straight-A Student

Yeah, I read this shit. That's the one nice thing about being on winter break. You can finally catch up on the things you planned on reading before you started grad school. I totally planned on reading this summer before I started but wasn't able to pull my head out of my ass to get it done before I moved.

*sigh*

Technically, I did get straight As in my first semester, which did include two A-minuses. But, I know part of that was sheer luck since my first semester classes are easier than what's going to be coming down the pike. Well, there's that, and the fact that I want to do well learning this grad school shit. I didn't spend years thinking about it to just not engage with this stuff.

And that's what I really like about Cal Newport's stuff. It's so simple, easy, and efficient to understand. He's full of good ideas that I know will work on implementation if I just follow through and do it, which is why I took five pages of notes on all the tips and tricks in this book. I particularly like the work progress journal idea since having an electronic task list just didn't work as well as I thought it would.

It also reminds me that I should start taking a look at his blog on a regular basis again. The first post I came across a few days ago was him writing about The Feynman Notebook Method. I have no idea who Richard Feynman is, but this strategy of having a notebook where you document the things you don't know or understand is brilliant. Like, I could understand things well enough to pass my exams on the day I took them--even better than other people in my class--but I couldn't describe things to level I really want when I think back on it in retrospect. Since we're not allowed to keep our exams, one professor would allow us to keep our exam essays. I was never interested in taking the first two. I thought briefly about taking the one from the final, but then I thought to myself I will never touch that thing if I take it home. But now--after reading about the Feynman thing--I'm thinking that perhaps I should have taken it home and punched it up. I guess I will have to get myself another notebook and deconstruct everything from memory, so I can remember what I've learned and what I still don't know jack shit about.

*sigh*

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