Monday, April 27, 2009

The Colors of Cool

Throughout the semester, we have been studying different areas and portrayals of cool. While this movie, Reservoir Dogs, wasn’t one of my favorites, it portrayed a good variety of cools. Joe, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, and Mr. White all have their own style and flare.


Joe Cabot is the man in charge, the head honcho, the man with the plan. He is the criminal mastermind, the one planning numerous jobs. He seems to know everything and everyone. All of the guys like him; they kid with him and seem to have a good time with him. They also trust that his plan is thorough and efficient. Joe is not a man to mess with, though. Mr. Orange described him as like The Thing from Fantastic Four, and the description was a great one. Joe has the growling voice and the big person to make a person think twice about confronting him. He has an overpowering and competent cool.

Mr. Blonde

Mr. Blonde is complex. He is a tough, almost crazy guy. He seems like a loose cannon, one who is going to go his own way. Calling you out, Mr. Blonde will challenge you, but he won’t get in your face. He has a collected air about him, and he isn’t one to get angry or excited or anything beyond calm. There is one cool you would never expect from this man: loyalty. He did four years in prison for Joe when he could have betrayed Joe and gone free.

Mr. Pink

Mr. Pink is a confusion. He cares the most of the guys about being cool, but he just can’t gain that status. He tries to take on too many different types of cool: professional, macho and in your face, and a rebel. Throughout the movie, he is always exclaiming that the guys need to be professionals. He also defends his masculinity by complaining about being called ‘Mr. Pink’. Finally, he tries to stand out from the rest by making a big deal about tipping. He enjoyed and felt intelligent when he criticized something no one else did.

Mr. Orange

Mr. Orange is somewhat like Mr. Pink in that his cool is one he created. Unlike Allen in Play It Again, Sam, Mr. Orange is successful in acting like criminal. Everyone, even Joe until the end, is fooled by this undercover cop’s act.

Mr. White

Finally, Mr. White, my favorite character, is unlike any criminal type. He is caring, almost motherly. He cares the most about Mr. Orange when he is shot, and protects him when Joe is about to take Mr. Orange out. To a fault, Mr. White shows loyalty and compassion for those he takes under his wing. Him as a mother bear is a perfect image: he cares so much for his cub and is terribly fierce when danger jumps upon that cub.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hips and Squares

No fat
To know the hidden meaning
To know everything and have an opinion
Not square

No cussing
Anything not “I…”
So fat
To take something at face value
To be ignorant and unsure of a position
Resource abusive
Not hip

Warning: I am going to be very straight forward and coarse when explaining this list. Some people might be offended.

It was interesting to start this list because I didn’t know that it would invoke such emotion in me. I started out asking myself, “what is THE THING to do, or what does the mainstream find as cool?” I immediately thought about the items that I disagree with. I realized that I don’t see myself as “hip” because I don’t adhere to the “hip” list; I am more “square”. So ironically, most of the “hip” list is what I find as uncool and the “square” list is how I view myself. Then again, I did start putting things on the “hip” list that I do find cool and adding ideas onto the “square” list that I don’t like. I guess I follow the square characteristic of being “unsure of a position.”

I started out with an area that I feel uncomfortable and out of place with: what my friends seem to find fun. I honestly don’t care for rap. I prefer to have drums and guitars in my music, and I especially don’t want to hear about how a guy lusts after this girl or how he “had his way with her” last night with ten cuss words in each verse. I also don’t see the point in getting drunk. All it does for you is make you lose control, have no memory of the “fun” you had last night, and give you a hang-over in the morning. Cussing is another pointless habit people form. I wonder if people really know what they are saying when they cuss. And grinding, I honestly wonder how this is called “dancing”. I always feel so dirty and violated and used after the three times I’ve gone “dancing”. You don’t even face your partner! I thought dancing was all about getting to know your partner in a fun atmosphere. No, to me, “dancing” today just seems to be a rehearsal or sample of what is going to happen after the dance.

After those items, the lists start to be a mixture of what I like and don’t like. I’m not really pro or con Apple products. I can’t imagine being without my IPOD, and my home is all Apple computers. It’s a great brand. I am just one of those people where if the machine works, I’m satisfied. I’ve got a school computer now, and while most people complain about it, I’m happy with it. I don’t have to have the latest, most advance piece of technology to feel satisfied. I’m going to use what I have until it is just worn out.

Next are political and personal critiques. Everyone seems crazy about and even obsessed with Obama, and our culture is getting more and more liberal as time continues. There is both good and bad with these two. Obama hasn’t done a bad job, but I have been disappointed with a few decisions that have been made (and I really wonder why his dog choice was such a big one). The same is with being liberal. I consider myself as between liberal and conservative, but I fall more on the conservative side. Being a Christian, there are just some aspects of the liberal side that go against what I believe in. This leads to one last point I am going to make, the accepting vs. rejecting. Rejecting someone is completely wrong; this is one “square” characteristic I don’t like. But, like in the rant above, there are some ideas that I don’t accept. The rest of the list I believe is pretty self-explanatory.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coming Out is In?

So, in continuation from the last entry, I am going to start with the question posed by the referenced blog: if we discovered that those we see as relatively good people are revealed to have questionable lives after hours, would we respect them any less? Maybe we should also go one further: what about those whom we already know to do that stuff? Homosexuality is the action to address in this entry. There is the personal reaction, which depends on each person and his or her views. Then, there is the public reaction; how the masses accept the person. I can’t predict how each individual person would react, but I think I have a pretty good idea about how society would.

Directly related to the first question, think of a character that has captured the hearts of parents and children everywhere with her “just keep swimming” attitude. Yes, Dory, that forgetful, funny, friendly fish on Finding Nemo was brought to life by none other than Ellen DeGeneres, the successful comedian who came out of the closet in April of 1997. The linked article explains quiet a bit about what all she went through, and I’m not surprised. After she came out, the public was confused about how to react, so she was rejected by most of our culture, or at least made fun of. It seemed that her proclamation as a lesbian canceled any good entertainment she had provided before. This isn’t the point I want to end on, though. DeGeneres rose above people’s prejudices and won her spot back. She now hosts her own show and is doing very well.

This is where I believe society is heading in respect to the homosexual acceptance. For so long, they have been spat upon and rejected as the scum of humanity. Think of the movies Blow Up and Saturday Night Fever where homos were jeered at and seen with contempt. I feel that the intensity of this rejection has subsided quite a bit over the past few years. We still have a long way to go, but overall, society is becoming more accepting of homosexuals. We are seeing them as the people they are, not some freaks with weird desires. It seems that “coming out” is a common occurrence as people become more comfortable with who they are and who others are. It is no longer un-cool to be homosexually-affiliated. In fact, it seems to be a very cool, individual-defining thing to not be titled straight. You can be fully Homosexual or Bi or anything. Gender is no longer simply male or female. The specification makes people stand out and have a cool independence about them.

The queens in Paris is Burning are just wanting to be accepted for who they are, as does any one in the world. I don't know if I would say what they do is deemed "cool"...yet...but the end footage of the news coverage of the Drag Queen Ball fundraiser was a mighty step into acceptance. I would say that the coolest thing about these people is that they stand up for who they are. Instead of submitting fully to society, they make a special event to flaunt their identity.

Friday, April 17, 2009

That's a Drag

So, this week’s movie, Paris is Burning, was definitely an interesting one. I have seen perhaps one drag queen in my life (that I know of), and I really don’t know what I thought about that. I’m definitely ok with homosexuals (I mean, they are people, too), but seeing one where I couldn’t tell if the person was a he or she, that was…uncomfortable. And really, I am ignorant as to what to call them: he or she? I think we are all kind of lost when it comes to homosexuality, even the homosexuals. That is why this movie is interesting.

In the Balls, these people are allowed to be anything they want to be. They want to be a soldier, go for it. They want to look like America’s Next Top Model, why not. They want to show the world what stars they are; the floor is theirs. These Balls seem like they’d be a lot of fun, actually. I mean, there are all sorts of categories, basically any category you want. The freedom and spirit seems contagious. However, if you look closely, the freedom really isn’t there.
These queens compete to be most “real,” which is ironically a competition to see who looks the most authentic when dressed up, not who is the best representation of who THEY are.

In this documentary, Realness was judged on whether the person could walk out in public without question about their sex. So, these queens aren’t allowed to be exactly who they are; they have to take up a mask and be who society wants them to be. These Balls, which are supposed to be a place where they can let their hair down, so to speak, judge them with very standards they are fighting. The only difference is that everyone knows that the person is gay.

While these queens were being interviewed, the audience learned about what these queens want. Julie was definitely right when she said that these queens sounded like pre-teen or early teen girls wanting fame and fortune. Now, this could be the poverty speaking, but I also think that these aspirations are influenced by society’s standards as well. If they aren’t going to be guys, then they have to be the complete opposite: very feminine like the female stars. It would be so rough being one of these queens. Society AND the Balls don’t reward them for being who they truly are. To finish up, here is a blog that I ran across. The question it asks is the question I think society is asking.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It never fails. Me and the girlfriends are out having a good time. We are either eating out, or stopping by Wal-Mart to get junk food and all of the necessities for a girl’s night. The final decision comes: what movie should we watch? Here is the fail-proof part: the one movie that I just wouldn’t care to see (usually a romantic comedy) is the very one that is heavily considered. Now, sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, but other times, I have been proven right; I would have enjoyed another movie more. Of course, the movie I would like to see is the one completely opposite of my friends’ choice: the action movie. The action movie is nearly always my first choice.

I just find action movies so cool, but I never really thought about why I liked them. To start with, everything is big: the characters, the problems, and the stunts. The heroes of this genre have superhuman abilities (and these can be obvious as in super powers or subtle as in a hyperbolic ability like intellegence), and will typically come out winners in the end. The problems are ones with cataclysmic consequences if not resolved. Finally, the stunts of the action movie genre seem to spearhead many of the advancements of movie technology. Think of The Transporter, Watchmen, Die Hard, or The Fast and the Furious. All involve physics-challenging/defying, massive exploding sequences that make you exclaim “Cool!”

Robocop is an incredibly cool movie because it incorporates all of the above features. Murphy and his new partner, Anne Lewis, both stand out from the start. They appear fearless, independent, tough, and able to fend for themselves. As the movie continues, their loyalty to their cause as police officers is revealed to be unflinching. Such strength is to be admired and even desired.

Murphy’s coolness can be called into question through his situation, though. After dying, he is made into the ultimate cyborg cop. How much of his cool is made and how much of it is himself? His superhuman strength and other physical abilities come from his manufactured side. This is very much like taking the suit in Iron Man and wondering how cool it is. The abilities are awesome, but they are only abilities. Ed-209 in Robocop has the same abilities as Robocop, but the machine doesn’t have Robocop’s drive or knowledge, the human side. It is what Murphy does as Robocop that makes him cool; he stands for justice, even if it destroys him, twice.
Robocop also faces a big problem: the corruption of corporation. His abilities and cause are challenged as he has to face those who created and control him. If he fails, justice itself will have been bought out, and the city would go to ruin. Such a dismal situation can be depressing, but we cling to hope that good will prevail, and we aren’t disappointed. Cool points go for a happy ending. We are raised up in our hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

Then, there are the special effects that give this action movie its genre. While they aren’t much compared with what we have today, the robots, explosions, technology, and crime fighting spark our imaginations and take us to the edge of our seats. Life can be so mundane, so having these out of the ordinary situations on the screen is exciting, new, and cool. Robocop definitely delivers all of the requirements of an action movie, but it is also successful in being cool.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Laughing Matter?

I really enjoyed watching Robocop. The violence could have definitely been toned down in my opinion, and I always wonder why there has to be cussing, but the movie was otherwise fun to watch. I think I enjoyed it so much because of the satire. Just as a reminder, satire is the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice or folly. Basically, through the seriousness of the movie; ideas are actually being made fun of or warned against. There were a few satirical points that really got me thinking, but on that really got my attention was the focus on overpowering.

Throughout Robocop, there is a show everyone watches with a catch-phrase, “I’ll buy that for a dollar.” It is an idiotic, sexual, demeaning, and without any meaning. The main character always seems to have birthday parties thrown for him by “Hooter’s” girls who always end up having cake on their persons. Out comes his line, “I’ll buy that for a dollar.” This side of the movie reminded me of Idiocracy, a futuristic movie showing how humanity is getting dumber and dumber. In this movie, the favorite show is called “Ouch, My Balls”, and it is precisely about how the title sounds, a man constantly being abused by hits to the groin. These two shows cause the characters of the movies to crack up and be purely entertained. But what is so funny about these shows? Nothing. The “I’ll buy that…” show melts the audience’s brain and also replaces that brain mush with abusive and demoralizing ideals. Women are nothing but dumb toys to “buy for a dollar” and men should just use them like props. Sex is the shallow drive of life and humor; it is the model to follow. Anything deeper than that is not entertaining, therefore not worth entertaining. The news follows this line as well. While not sexual, it is filled with violence and tragedy juxtaposed with pointless news. It gets your attention, but what does it teach you? If you think these are examples made specifically for the movies and not a reality yet, think about these shows: "Jackass" and any of the “love” shows on MTV.

All of this is a warning against the power of the media. This Robocop’s media is telling you to be destructive, women are sex toys and cheap, and to “get [your enemies] before they get you”. As we watch the movie, the audience can see these ideals overtaking the characters’ lives. Crime is going up as morals and society’s standards plummet. The people are desensitized to the junk in the media, and this flows into their real lives. During class, we discussed the effectiveness of coupling the robotic features with the human flickers in Robocop. I think this was very effective and pertinent to the meaning behind the meaningless media and ideas of the movie. The people are basically made into robotic, greedy, villainous pigs that are very effective in destroying what is in front of them. But, there is hope, the human side. This is the side that seems like the memory of a memory; we may simply feel it like Robocop feels his previous life’s memories, but it is there. It drives us to set things right and question what we are meant to do. Instead of following the media’s destructive ideals, we can turn that program off.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just Dance

Saturday Night Fever was an interesting movie. With songs like “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “If I Can’t Have You,” “You Should Be Dancing,” and “K-Jee,” you can’t help but tap your toes, sway your shoulders, and bob your head. With such a boogie-ing tune as the background, you’d think that the movie would be about having a good time on the Disco floor. This is only a corner of the picture this movie is painting, though. As a slice of life, Saturday Night Fever follows Tony Manero as he prepares for a dancing contest. This movie does more than just dance; it takes the audience past the happy dancing floor and into the troubled lives of the dancers.

Overall, I actually didn’t find many things cool in this movie. I enjoyed watching it, but there was nothing I found worth emulating. First of all, Tony’s ability to dance, which made him top dog in the dance world, wasn’t all that impressive to me compared with the other dancers. He just had a few solos and was constantly told how well he could dance. Even at the end of the movie where his big dance hit should have come; he just slow danced around the floor. Tony was also a very needy person with no determination. He constantly needs his importance reaffirmed; he always wants people’s approval. When he is with his friends, Tony always reiterates that they “can’t do anything without him.” A great depiction of his quest for attention is during the second Pirates of the Caribbean, when Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Commodore Norrington are fighting over the chest containing Davy Jones’ heart. Elizabeth Swann is left to guard the chest, but she doesn’t want to; she doesn’t want to be left out. So, she starts shouting and throwing things at them, demanding that they stop fighting. When the men ignore her and continue to fight, she feigns fainting, hoping her shift back into “delicate lady” would get their attention. Tony tries to get the attention of the people outside of the dance floor, his family for example, and this usually happens with his shouting at them. When he doesn’t get the attention he wants, he goes back to what worked before; he returns to the dance floor. Nothing comes out of his actions.

What would have made Tony cool is if he had been determined to do something and not need all of the attention he demanded. If he had been like Jody Sawyer in Center Stage, a girl whose life revolves around dancing, he would have had that specified cool. Specified cool also give the character a new level of cool because it eliminates the character’s need for approval in some ways; the joy of dancing for Jody is what drives her on, not the praise of those around her. Tony just seems like a guy heading nowhere who likes the small spotlight on the dance floor, until the end. He finally sees that his dance paradise is a fake one, and that he is destined to go nowhere. We don’t see Tony as a success, but we are left hoping. We see him changed and starting down a cooler road.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mum the Words

Picture a concert. Perhaps one you’ve been to or one that you wish you had gone to. What did you imagine? Your favorite band? The excited crowd around you? The body-moving volume of the music? What kind of music is the concert featuring? Rock? Rap? Country? What about instrumental?

Music is something I absolutely adore, and instrumental music is like candy to my ears. Popular music has some good qualities to it (goodness, I always have my radio going), but instrumental music, or the music without words and mostly involving string and brass instruments, is truly something special. Now, most people I talk to will listen to instrumental music if they are working on homework, but I wonder how many listen to it beyond that time. The longest playlist on my IPOD is instrumental music, and I even have other playlists devoted to soundtracks. Instead of David Cook or Barlow Girl playing, I will oftentimes listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack on the way home. To me, instrumental music has an essence that can never be captured by a lead voice, and I hope to share this with others.

To start with, turn up your volume and listen to these songs by Jennifer Thomas, Casting Crowns, Nuttin’ but Strings, Rihanna, Steve Stevens, Bela Barto, and my favorite composer, Hans Zimmer (you will have to push the "play" button for some). Did you get enveloped by the sound? Did you tense when the notes clashed? Did your heart pound when the tempo raced and volume blared? What about in the softer parts? Did you feel deep when the sound turned heavy and melancholy? Did you feel carefree when the melody turned joyful and even quirky? Words can be beautiful, inspiring, and a great part of music, but I feel that you tie down music the moment you put words to it. With instrumental, music is free to move around and inside you; it can mean anything you want it to. It can awaken passions and dreams. It can set you free.

What I also love about instrumental music is its life! To start with, there is the work and passions that goes into a piece that is so moving. Some suites are as long as or longer than 30 minutes. Like an organism, notes turn into phrases, and phrases turn into movements, which then turn into the piece. This piece is also divided among dozens of instruments, and these instruments are divided among dozens of people. These musicians play their parts, and together breathe life into the song, the story, the painting, the spirit of music.

I still haven’t given this music justice. Words can’t describe fully the passion and life in instrumental music. It is like trying to fully appreciate a play by just reading it in a book. It’s like caging a wild animal instead of admiring the beast in its natural setting. Instrumental music is supposed to be experienced and allowed to live.