Category Archives: Culture

Language: Norman Fait Des Videos

I recently asked acquaintances for recommendations in order to practice my French.
And one of the suggestions was Norman Fait Des Videos.
Win! These videos are HILARIOUS (and very weird).
And, they are amazingly good French practice.



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Film and TV: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorite actors. He is one of the rare few actors where I will watch their entire filmography, just for their performance. His death is such a great loss for the art of filmmaking and of theater. I had expected to be able to watch him in films for years and years to come. I can’t even voice how much my heart hurts thinking of the artistic loss. And the loss of a human life, a flawed and beautiful human life.

I think of all celebrity deaths recently, or in my recent memory, this one is hitting me the hardest. And the only thing I can really do is gather together my opinions, and the things I have read on the internet, into a blog post.

A great article on his acting style and his career in general is from the Monkey See pop culture blog on NPR: Philip Seymour Hoffman And The Blessings Of Friction. It’s where I got the following quote:

“His career never peaked; it just rang out over and over, and the pain of it for selfish admirers is that the peak might still have been coming. We lost at least 30 years of work yesterday; and 30 years before yesterday, he hadn’t even been onscreen yet. He was then seven years away from his screen debut […] More than half, in all likelihood, that’s what we lost. And it’s so sad.” – Linda Holmes, Monkey See Blog, NPR

You can see all the movies he has been in on his IMDB page.

My favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances (that I have seen so far) are

  1. The Talented Mr. Ripley
  2. Pirate Radio
  3. Doubt
  4. Almost Famous
  5. Capote

One of my facebook friends posted this great New York Times article about him from 2008: A Higher Calling

A great companion piece on addiction is Russell Brand: my life without drugs.

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Culture: “Fitspiration” Photos

The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible “Fitspiration” Photos.

This blog post popped up on my newsfeed and it’s awesome.
I hate those “fitspiration” photos on Pinterest and Tumblr.
They are so disturbing.
Exercise Anorexia is a very real thing. Let’s not encourage it. geez.
“Strong is the new skinny” is just all kinds of messed up.
And reading this reminded me of when broadcasters were picking apart the bodies of female athletes for not being skinny enough or pretty enough. WOW, they’re at the Olympics, have some goddamn respect.
So you see, it’s not really about being healthy, or strong, or proud of yourself. It’s more shaming of women.
Par for the course.
And I’m having none of it.

Choice quotes:

“Training so hard as to induce vomiting and uncontrollable sobbing is to slowly undermine the basic human judgement of what constitutes challenge versus what causes injury”

“Strong isn’t really replacing skinny; being skinny is no longer enough. Now, ladies, you need to be skinny and ripped. It’s an additional layer of self-loathing  (perfectly suited for hypergymnasiacs), just in case people had started to get desensitized to the omnipresent and psychologically crippling display of corpse-thin women in the media.”

“If your body or your mind says “it hurts” or “I need to stop”—and I’m going to be as clear as I can about this—FOR FUCK’S SAKE STOP. It isn’t even a joint health thing at this point, it’s just creepy.”

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Fashion: Maintaining the Illusion

I read an article over at Jezebel called Even if Fashion Is an ‘Illusion,’ It Still Has to Face Reality.


“As it stands right now, fashion is an illusion. It does not map onto real life. As the British Vogue film strives to show, it promotes an impossible ideal of beauty and body size. And, as the WaPo article argues, it’s an illusion in other ways as well: the industry continues to be hideously whitewashed even as America grows more diverse and countless mass retailers are propped up by unlawful and completely unethical labor practices. Acknowledging that “fashion imagery does not equal reality” is a good first step, but the real solution lies in making the world of fashion more accurately represent the real world — not in insinuating that it has no responsibility to.”

In reading this article I can’t help but think of how popular fashion bloggers have become.
And fashion bloggers are almost the anti-thesis of what fashion magazines claim their readers want.
A person who blogs about fashion (usually) looks like a real person, doesn’t have the technical skills to be overly photoshopped, and can’t afford to  wear “inspirational” clothes.
I’ve always been bothered by the fashion spreads as inspiration and so there is nothing in there a real person can afford.
I love fashion spreads as art, yes, I do not mean to diminish their beauty and importance in finding inspiration in fashion.
But I believe that those artful and amazing fashion spreads need to be interspersed with other features in a magazine that show clothes the reader can actually buy, and outfits they can actually put together.
And I think this is the void that fashion bloggers fill.
In a way I have sometimes found Tavi to be more inspirational than any fashion magazine I have read in the past 3 years.
And I’m not even going to start in on the fact that I haven’t seen a good fashion spread in a long time.
And I love beautiful actresses, but they are not models.

I think that fashion magazines have begun the march towards becoming obsolete because they are completely unaware of their own failings.

Everything has gotten so detached from reality that it’s just untenable.
And I don’t know where the Grace Coddington I fell in love with went.
All of Vogue is just ads, and half of the ads have ugly clothes in them.
And I love high quality products, they make me swoon, but I don’t love the industry.
I mean a well made purse is fabulous, but Marc Jacobs, 400 dollars for fake leather??? ARE YOU KIDDING?
Because I’m certainly not buying that.
I don’t agree with buying something just for the name. And I don’t like brand recognition.
I don’t want someone I see on the street to know how much I paid for something, I don’t choose my purses as status symbols. I choose them because I love the leather and the look of them. If they are a no-name brand, are well made, and don’t cost 400 dollars all the better!
Selling an “image” is so much a part of the white-washing and “illusion” problem.
You’re buying the Marc Jacob’s girl status. Her image. Who she is. She’s a slightly edgy rich white girl.
I just want to buy a purse.
I want to express my own self, my sense of style, my personality, not a designer’s.
I don’t need to see an “illusion” to be inspired. How very little imagination they must think we all have.
I know for myself it’s so hard to imagine a piece on myself when it’s on a model who looks so different, much smaller, a different shape, and different coloring.
Maybe if magazines actually showed how to convert trends in real life wear-ability people would be able to dress better.

I have a lot of feelings about fashion.
And the above is a bit of a jumble.
But the point is that I agree with the Jezebel article, and I hope the fashion industry gets a reality check.

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Psychology: Mark Manson

So I stumbled onto this website: Mark Manson (subtitle The Psychology of Life).
And he has some good articles and good observations.
I don’t agree with everything, but that’s life.
I have read a bunch of stuff because there can be some gems in there.
A summary of two articles I found to be really good are found after the cut.

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TV: Twenties


This should be on my tv so I can watch it.

Up-and-Comer Lena Waithe Is More Than Just the ‘Black Lena Dunham’

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TV: Jack Gleeson on Playing a Villain

Jack Gleeson GQ Interview

He is an excellent actor.
And I didn’t know that he is Irish.
Also, it’s a nicely filmed interview by GQ.

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Society: Gender Flipping

Is Gender-Flipping The Most Important Meme Ever? 

In the article they referenced this feminist website called The Hawkeye Initiative. What disturbed me the most about the Hawkeye initiative was how, even seeing the two examples juxtaposed, I still had to work at it to see how unnaturally contorted the female characters were.

My favorite gender-flip thing so far is the cover-flip. Coverflip: Maureen Johnson Calls For An End To Gendered Book Covers With An Amazing Challenge. I love book covers, and I hate the “girly” covers. So it was awesome to see them gender-flipped.

In summary:

“The basic skill to develop, though, is the one that lies at the heart of flipping: asking, “What if?” If I were a woman, would I talk to me at parties? If women told men their complaints were irrelevant, would that attitude be worth worth fighting? If I were writing about a male musician, would I talk about his clothes and his famous exes this much? If I drew Hawkeye in the pose I’m sketching Black Widow in right now, would he look ridiculous? If Trayvon Martin had been a white kid, and George Zimmerman a black man, would the verdict have been the same?

The Hawkeye Initiative and Flip The News won’t make us all into enlightened, thoughtful social justice warriors overnight, but those moments of epiphany and empathy add up. Social change happens slowly – often so gradually, you don’t even notice until it’s all around you.”

I am happy to see this kind of awareness and social change happening around me.

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Books: NPR Summer Books 2013

I love the NPR Summer Books list. I look forward to it every year.
Most of my reading list comes from NPR recommendations.

The books I have added to my reading list this year (and the NPR critics’ list they came from):

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (from Secrets Of The Universe: 5 Great SF And Fantasy Summer Reads)
  2. The Shining Girls (from Secrets Of The Universe: 5 Great SF And Fantasy Summer Reads)
  3. Love Minus Eighty (from Secrets Of The Universe: 5 Great SF And Fantasy Summer Reads)
  4. We are all Completely Beside Ourselves (from Secrets Of The Universe: 5 Great SF And Fantasy Summer Reads)
  5. Missing Links and Secret Histories (from Secrets Of The Universe: 5 Great SF And Fantasy Summer Reads)
  6. I Await the Devil’s Coming (from Lost And Found: 5 Forgotten Classics Worth Revisiting)
  7. Waiting for the Barbarians (from Making Art From Art: 5 Nonfiction Reads For Summer)
  8. The Curiosity (from Summer Adventure: 5 Thrilling, Chilling, Far-Ranging Reads)
  9. Exercises in Style (from Lost And Found: 5 Forgotten Classics Worth Revisiting)
  10. One Thousand and One Nights (from Lost And Found: 5 Forgotten Classics Worth Revisiting)

Obviously the entire list of SF/Fantasy reads makes up the first 5.
And, typically, as I read the description of each one I thought to myself “OMG That sounds really good!”

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Society: Supreme Court Decisions on Genes, AIDS Funding and the Right to Remain Silent

While I wait on pins and needles for the big two gay marriage decisions, I’m keeping up with Supreme Court decisions like never before.

The Supreme Court decided on 3 important cases in the past week.
I guess one could argue that all cases the Supreme Court decides are important, but anyways.

Those 3 cases are:

  1. Genes
  2. AIDS Funding
  3. The Right to Remain Silent

1. Genes

The decision: nobody can patent human genes because they are products of nature
My opinion: I do not believe that genes should be able to be patented. I was born with my DNA, it’s mine. I think it’s really messed up that corporations think they can patent parts of the bodies of human beings.
Read up and decide for yourself: on NPR Supreme Court: Human Genes May Not Be Patented

2. AIDS Funding

The decision: the government cannot force private health organizations to denounce prostitution to get money to fight HIV/AIDS overseas
My opinion: I’m glad they decided this. I think that requiring organizations to denounce prostitution is counter productive. I think that if orgs were required to denounce prostitution that it would tell the people they treat (who are prostitutes) that they are less than and unwelcome. Which goes against what those organizations are trying to do, which is not to eradicate prostitution but to eradicate AIDS no matter what the source. Because I don’t think you get anywhere by telling people you don’t accept them, a safe space needs to be created to do this important work. And furthermore I don’t agree with compelled-speech.
Read up and decide for yourself: on NPR Supreme Court: Provision In AIDS Law Violates Free Speech

3. The Right to Remain Silent

The decision:
My opinion: I found the whole thing really disturbing. I would like to find a more thorough article on this.
Read up and decide for yourself: on You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent

A good quote from the article:

“The court’s new ruling puts the “defendant in an impossible predicament. He must either answer the question or remain silent,” Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissent (joined by the other three liberal-moderates). “If he answers the question, he may well reveal, for example, prejudicial facts, disreputable associates, or suspicious circumstances—even if he is innocent.” But if he doesn’t answer, at trial, police and prosecutors can now take advantage of his silence, or perhaps even of just pausing or fidgeting.”


My favorite reporter on all things Supreme Court is Nina Totenberg on NPR.
Check out: Nina Totenberg Answers Your Supreme Court Questions.

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Film: Movie Stars and What the Face of Cinema Looks Like

  1. Festival de Cannes : anatomie des héros de cinéma
  2. France vs. US – What Do Movie Stars Looks Like?

Article number 1 is the original article, in French, with the infographic shown below. It was published in honor of Cannes.
Article number 2 is how I found the original article. It includes a brief summary translation and then in the comments there are some good translations of the infographic.
Nothing surprising about the data. My summary below the infographic.

My summary (mostly by translating the comment bubbles):

  1. In the US there are almost twice as many leading actors as there are leading actresses
  2. In France the leading actress is 10 years junior to the leading actor and in the US the leading actress is 15 years junior
  3. The career of actresses in the US drops off drastically at age 40, contrarily this is the ideal age for an actor.
  4. Looks graphic The Actress: France is marginally worse at diversity on screen for actresses. Both are crap at overall diversity.
  5. Looks graphic The Actor: France is marginally better at diversity on screen for actors, especially those from Northern Africa (Maghreb = Northwest Africa, west of Egypt). Both are crap at overall diversity.

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Feminism: Sexual Assault and Not Understanding Social Cues

“He might be on the spectrum.” But what about me?

“It’s like the sun rising in the east: Whenever the subject of harassment or stalking comes up, you invariably get a bunch of dudes barging in, insisting that the guy who followed you and screamed at you for not paying attention to him, the guy who groped you, the guy who tried to follow you home, the guy who kept looking you up and down when you were wearing a turtleneck at brunch with your friend, the guy who refused to accept the “no” and the “I’m not interested,” the guy who waited for you outside of your place, the guy who told you how the way you look gave him a boner, might have had Asperger’s or was somehow autistic. He just had problems understanding social cues/rules.”

Interesting article. It throws into perspective the excuse of “He’s really a nice guy”. If you have to explain away someone’s experience with a statement like that, I call BS. He may be a “nice guy”* most of the time, but in this instance he was not being “nice”. I think it’s scary how pervasive the dismissal of a woman’s experience of sexual harassment is in this day and age.

*tangentially related to the feminist definition of the “Nice Guy” phenomenon. Posts about that at a later date.

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Film: Girl Rising

Women and Hollywood coverage: “Regal Cinemas Bringing Girl Rising to Theaters

There is this amazing documentary coming to theaters.
And it’s about educating girls.
It’s called Girl Rising.

The best way to improve the status of women in the world is through access in education.
And there are many places in the world where girls cannot get an education.
This movie tells the stories of 9 girls from 9 countries.
Education can change the world.
And it is one of the tools to help women reach full equality worldwide.

Overall it looks like an incredibly powerful movie.
And it’s amazing how many wonderful actresses are behind this project.

The Trailer:


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Politics: France Legalizes Gay Marriage

Jezebel: France Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, Bien Sûr

After months of intense debate, civil unrest and increasing incidences of anti-gay violence, French parliament has finally approved legislation to legalize same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex parents. It is the 14th country in the world and the ninth country in Europe to do so.

LA Times: France approves same-sex marriage

Vive la France!


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Culture: The Aftermath of Terrorism

As disturbing as the Boston Marathon Bombings were, what concerns me more is the aftermath, the reaction to that terrorist act.

I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Articles that express some of my concerns:

Why Should I Care That No One’s Reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev His Miranda Rights? (Slate)

10 Essential points about the Boston Marathon bombers, Islam, and America

Hey, White Liberals: A Word On The Boston Bombings, The Suffering Of White Children, And The Erosion of Empathy

The 10 Essential Points article articulates the main idea pretty well:

It’s not about Islam, or Chechnya. It’s about America.

What happens now matters. How we as a nation move forward is critical. Do we turn our attention where it belongs, on comforting and healing the victims of Monday’s attacks, and do we allow a fair and legal process to bring charges against the captured suspect?

The basis of the American criminal system is that we evaluate people for what they do, not for who they are.    As one source put it, it’s about verbs, not adjectives.     Let’s keep it that way.      It’s about criminal actions, not their ethnicity or religion.

Information on Chechnya:

What You Should Know About Chechnya as the Boston Story Unfolds

9 questions about Chechnya and Dagestan you were too embarrassed to ask

A perspective that most of my friends share on the lockdown:

The Psychology of a Citywide Lockdown

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Uncategorized: Boston Marathon Bombings

I’m not sure how to process what has happened.
I would never have thought that I would feel this affected.

I went to Wellesley College, outside of Boston.
So I lived in that area for 3 years.
I also travel there fairly often to see my college friends who stayed in the area.

There is a special place in my heart for Boston.
To me, it is the great American city.

This whole thing is just so sad.
All my friends are safe.
It’s just really frightening.

Patton Oswalt said it best in his fb status update:

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

Going to college outside of Boston this article also resonated with me:
You May Leave Boston, but Boston Never Leaves You

“This means that there are millions of men and women wandering around America today who spent some of the best years of their lives in and around Boston, walking some of the very streets splattered with blood yesterday in the wake of the Marathon bombings. Boston is where those students like me came of age.”

Weirdly comforting:
29 Reasons to Love Boston

And some appropriate humor via Colbert.

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Culture: Sir Patrick Stewart on Domestic Violence

Jezebel: Sir Patrick Stewart: ‘Violence Against Women Is Learned’

The truth is that domestic violence and violence against women touch many of us. This violence is not a private matter. Behind closed doors it is shielded and hidden and it only intensifies. It is protected by silence – everyone’s silence. Violence against women is learned. Each of us must examine – and change – the ways in which our own behavior might contribute to, enable, ignore or excuse all such forms of violence. I promise to do so, and to invite other men and allies to do the same.

I didn’t know Sir Patrick Stewart had been abused.
What a powerful story, and beautifully told.

Trigger Warning:
In the video below Sir Patrick Stewart speaks about his own experience with abuse in his childhood home.
Beware of triggers concerning domestic violence, violence towards women and children and verbal abuse.


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Travel: Abandoned Places

Another great Buzzfeed List: The 33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places In The World

Abandoned places are so gorgeous and evoke so many emotions as well as stir a sense of mystery.

Some of my favorites:

Kolmanskop in the Namib Desert

Kolmanskop in the Namib Desert

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Film: Oz and Women and Baum

Why ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ Is A Major Step Back For Witches and Women

This was a really interesting article, I didn’t realize what a feminist Baum was. And I didn’t know he wrote so many books.
And the trailer for “Oz the Great and Powerful” is not compelling to me.
It bothers me that the wizard is the center of this movie, and a lot of the points made in the above article are things I was thinking while watching the trailer.
Plus it just seems like more of James Franco being egotistical.

From the article on Jezebel: Why Is Michelle Williams in Redface?
Wow, I didn’t realize what a racist Baum was.

So thoroughly disturbing that I can’t process this statement:

“The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are.” – L. Frank Baum

I will not be supporting his legacy with my money.

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Culture: Feminism and Sex Workers

I read a really interesting article called “The War on Sex Workers“.

A good summary would be this quote:

“It is not sex work that exposes sex workers to violence; it is our willingness to abandon sex workers to violence in an attempt to control their behavior. Prohibition makes prostitution more dangerous than it would otherwise be by pushing it underground and stripping sex workers of legal protection. The fight over that policy is about more than just strains between generations of feminism. It is about an unholy marriage of feminism with the conservatism and police power that many feminists claim to stand against.”

I found it via an article on Feministe.

I didn’t realize that there are people working against “sex/human trafficking” that are not actually talking about people that are kidnapped and forced against their will. That is completely not the same thing as prostitution. What the hell?

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