Lately, there's been a lot of talk (recession-driven in large part) about the real value of a college education, both in the media and that I've been privy to in my own circles. The youth unemployment rate hovers at 17% and even as the economy recovers, the specter of long-term effects on those who launch their careers during the downturn looms. With college and university commencements currently taking place all over North America, it seems like a perfect time to ask whether or not we should be encouraging so many HS students to enroll in college vs. pursuing technical or vocational training and whether a college education is really the ticket to future economic stability that it is portrayed to be.
I can empathize with students who hold graduate degrees and, due to a lack of options in their field, are returning to community college for more practical programs as a last-ditch effort to break into the workforce in a meaningful way or those from the class of 2010 who have done what they believed to be everything right (good grades, internship experience, volunteering, networking, assumption of big-time student loans) and whose introductions to the working world (which ain't exactly embracing them with open arms) will serve as a cold wake-up call.
A few days ago, the Hollywood Scoop reported the same crew behind HBO's boys & toys hit Entourage were cooking up another show for the network. This one would be a spin-off of Entourage, but this time based around women in Los Angeles. The only report is that it would be like Entourage meets Sex and the City - which is a bit confusing because it's all the same show. However, I'm looking at this development a bit more skeptically than usual.
Trouble is, HBO already aired a different show that the Entourage crew executive produced. It was called How To Make It In America, and if we've learned anything from the treatment of female character Rachel Chapman (played by Lake Bell), we know that a well-written woman is hard to find.
Most of us are taught that 'good' music is polished, without background noise or distortion. Popular culture embraces this kind of music. We're shown that if we want to succeed as musicians, we must aspire to make flawless music with the best equipment out there (meaning the most expensive, of course). Lo-fi music is awesome because it rejects this idea. It breaks convention. It's distorted and fuzzy, contains background noise and limited frequency response. Lo-fi doesn't give a shit about the rules.
We've all heard one of Audre Lorde's most famous lines: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." Let's take a minute to apply this to the music industry. If the house we're talking about is the music industry, well, it's important to mention that it's long been dominated by privileged white males. The music industry was not built with most people in mind. So it's no wonder that riot grrrl and queercore began to reject the 'master's tools' (the expensive equipment, polished sound, the idea that conforming to an industry created without you in mind is something you should be doing). Lo-fi rejects the 'master's tools' and creates its own sound.
This mix is comprised of music made primarily by women. I don't mean to ignore the guys in the bands by calling this a "lo-fi ladies" mix; rather, I want to highlight lo-fi female-fronted music. Additionally, I can't say why these bands decided to make lo-fi music and I won't pretend to know each band's politics. While some of them definitely made the music as a statement against mainstream music/the man, others were probably just into the sound. Either way, this mix makes me feel like all I need to start a band is a $1 microphone and a couple of friends.
I blame Douglas Coupland. Before he coined the term Gen X and set it loose into the cultural lexicon, we didn't care about analyzing and compiling character profiles of generations.
I was reminded of how damn I annoying I find these caricatures while reading A. O. Scott's NYT piece on Gen X's mid-life crisis, or more actually A. O. Scott's piece about 40 year-old men feeling dissatisfied with their lives (gasp! really!) that he attempts to cast as a generational phenomenon by name-checking Ben Stiller's latest movie, John Cusack's Hot Tub Time Machine and a novel no one has read. I'd like to believe he was spoofing the ennui-associated traits that Gen X gets tagged with, but, unfortunately, I think Scott has actually swallowed the stereotypes attached to his peers (especially male peers) hook, line and sinker and has chosen to regurgitate them on the pages of the New York Times.
Iranian lesbian activist Kiana Firouz is currently seeking asylum in the United Kingdom after a controversy over the upcoming release of Cul de Sac. The film, which stars Firouz and includes explicit lesbian sex scenes, is based heavily on Firouz's life and struggles as a lesbian in Iran. Directors Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan posted the trailer on YouTube in December 2009 (below, NSFW) and since then, the Iranian government has attempted to deport Firouz back to Iran to be tried and punished for her crime of homosexuality. Firouz applied for refugee status in the UK, but was rejected.
If she is not granted asylum in the UK, she will be sent back to Iran, where the minimum punishment for homosexuality is 100 lashes. The punishment for "unrepentant" homosexuality, which Firouz's LGBTQ activism clearly demonstrates, is public execution by hanging.
I have always kind of liked Katherine Heigl. Maybe it's because I think she has pretty good comedic chops, maybe it's because she is (a little bit) curvier than many of her counterparts, maybe it's because I spent an inordinate amount of time watching Grey's Anatomy on DVD whilst trying to distract myself from a breakup. Whatever the reason, my fondness for her has led me to give her decidedly douche-y taste in film roles a pass for some time now. No longer.
Comedy is a prime weapon for devaluing and belittling marginalized bodies. Laughter aimed at an oppressed person because of their oppression intensifies and isolates the victim, and emphasizes their status as an outsider. I don't have to tell you this – if you're interested in feminism, you've probably had these jokes aimed at you and your body. Oppression is a serious topic, and jokes about it must be carefully thought out.
In analyzing comedy shows, how do I differentiate between actions that reinforce the ism at hand, and actions that superficially reinforce but actually subvert or critique the cultural assumptions the characters live with? When is a show making fun of oppression, and when is it making fun of oppressed bodies? Is there a difference? How do you tell?