Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Top 10 Holidays Movies of All Time

A great movie doesn’t have to be a classic and it doesn’t have to be a movie that you watch over and over again. It just has to be a movie that touches you the minute you watch it and then sticks with you from that moment on. With that said, here are my picks for the 10 greatest Christmas movies of all time:

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
An angel helps a broken-down man on Christmas Eve who has lost sight of how lucky he really is by showing him what the world would have been like if he never existed.
My dad and I watch this movie every Christmas Eve, so naturally it has a special, nostalgic place in my heart. But not only does this movie contain brilliant performances and memorable scenes, its storyline and vibe have allowed it to stand the test of time. This movie is guaranteed to be remembered forever and be a favorite Christmas movie for years to come.

Memorable Quote:
George: Help me Clarence, please! Please! I wanna live again. I wanna live again.

2. A Christmas Story (1983)
Ralphie has to convince his parents, teachers, and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect gift for Christmas.
There is absolutely nothing spectacular about this movie, which is exactly what makes it so great. It is about an average family that attempts to have a typical American Christmas only to have almost everything go wrong. Just about every person can relate to some part of this movie. Not to mention, thanks to TNT, you can watch 24 hours of A Christmas Story on Christmas Day.

Memorable Quote:
“You'll shoot your eye out.”

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Charlie Brown tries to find the true meaning of Christmas after realizing that he has lost sight of what Christmas is all about.
With animation technology having gotten so high-tech these days, it’s nice to sit down and watch the simplest form of animation. From the music, to the adorable way Charlie Brown and his friends walk around, this story is sure to make you feel warm inside.

Memorable Quote:
Charlie Brown: I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.

4. Home Alone (1990)
Kevin is accidentally left behind while his family flies to Paris for Christmas and is forced to defend his home against incompetent burglars.
It is impossible for this movie to get old. Every time I see Kevin set up all the traps and then watch them wreak havoc on the unsuspecting burglars, it’s like I’m seeing this movie for the first time all over again.

Memorable Quote:
Kevin: This is my house, I have to defend it.

5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
In this installment of National Lampoon’s Vacation Series, Clark is determined to have the best Christmas ever; however, his attempts to a prefect holiday lead to an array of disasters.
There is no way I can even begin to describe the brilliance of this movie (you’ll have to watch it yourself to find out). All you have to do is say “SQUIRREL!” and I can’t help but cry with laughter.

Memorable Quote:
Eddie: If that cat had nine lives it sure used 'em all.

6. A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This movie turned the classic Charles Dickens tale into a loveable children’s musical.
Growing up, this was the movie to watch on Christmas. But even now, my eyes are glued to the screen when it comes on. There is just something so entertaining about humans interacting with singing puppets.

Memorable Quote:
Gonzo: I am here to tell the story.
Rizzo: And I am here for the food.

7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Based on the book, The Grinch by Dr. Seuss, the story follows a green, mean creature who despises Christmas so much that he hatches a plan to ruin Christmas for the town of Whoville.
No offense to the animated version, but there is something fascinating about seeing the world of Woville come to life in the non-animated adaptation. If this retelling doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will!

Memorable Quote:
The Grinch: Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. Double Hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY!

8. While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Lucy, a lonely Chicago subway employee has had a crush on a regular commuter, Peter for the past three months. While working the Christmas shift, Lucy saves Peter after he is pushed off the platform and onto the tracks. At the hospital, Lucy is mistaken for Peter’s fiancé and is immediately embraced by his family—except for Peter’s brother Jack, who is not convinced that she’s the real deal.
In my opinion this is one of the most underappreciated Christmas movies of all time. Though this might be considered a “chick flick,” it’s still a great movie and I’m sticking by it.

Memorable Quote:
Jerry: You're born into a family. You do not join them like you do the Marines.

9. Elf (2003)
A man raised by elves travels from the North Pole to New York City in search of his biological father.
You just can’t go wrong with an awkward, gangly looking Will Ferrell walking around New York City in an elf costume. If anything, you’ll be mildly entertained by the ridiculous lines and crazy situations Buddy the Elf gets himself into.

Memorable Quote:
Buddy: You sit on a throne of lies!

10. Scrooged (1988)
This film puts a modern twist on the classic Charles Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol. In this version, a selfish TV executive gets haunted by eccentric three spirits on Christmas Eve.
Bill Murray more then embodies “Scrooge” in this movie; the lines that come out of his mouth will shock you.

Memorable Quote:
[referring to a mouse]
Props man: I can't get the antlers glued to this little guy. We tried Crazy Glue, but it don't work.
Frank Cross: Did you try staples?

Honorable Mentions: Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970), and Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Misery on the Metro

I take the Metro everyday to get to my internship in the heart of DC. And yes it is called the Metro, not Subway… Subway is a popular and affordable made-to-order sandwich shop, not an underground train. Anyway on my weekday rides during Metro rush hour I constantly find myself observing the routines and attitudes of the people around me.

Though the people who board these trains everyday tend to be a smorgasbord of races, body types, socio-economic standing, etc. the typical façade is this: utter misery, exhaustion, intense concentration or some kind of mixture of all three. It’s as if the exhaust of the underground train steeping in the coil of tunnels sucks all the happiness out of these people. Maybe the dementors in Harry Potter are a metaphor for the Metro system?

Every regular rail rider conveys the same tone: I hate my life. While this might not be the case the facial expressions I witness almost come across as humorous to a newbie like me. What is it about this commute that is so troublesome?

Today, when I came through the sliding doors of an orange line train, to my surprise I managed to snag one of the last open seats. Usually I would have had to stand with my arm in the air gripping a metal bar for dear life, pressed up against some stranger hoping the train wouldn’t jolt suddenly to send me flying inappropriately into someone’s armpit. The woman next to me didn’t even flinch as I plopped down next to her. She continued to concentrate on resting her head against the window beside her, I’m assuming in attempts to steal some rest on the way home. However, as the train began to move and jostle, this attempt seem futile and from her facial expression far too painful to be considering at the moment.

The cab is awkwardly silent as usual, other than the occasional cough or newspaper crinkle. I turn my attention to a man in his early 50s standing diagonally across from me. He stands close to the sliding doors, hanging desperately on to a bar beside him. From the look of him, he might as well have been Frodo off to destroy the ring, the next stop being Mordor. He looks intensely concentrated and anxious, with a hint of dread in his eyes. There is a younger man sitting directly behind him, clutching his briefcase to his chest as if it contains the answer to life or the cure for cancer. He stares straight ahead, eyes unblinking looking angry and a little terrified. The woman sitting directly in front of me is making the most noise on the train. I can’t see her face but over her shoulder I can see her furiously shuffling and grading papers. By the way, great job Milo Andres, you got a check plus on your copy book.

Suddenly I notice the only spark of happiness in the cab. It exists between two friends or coworkers. Two girls stand next to each other talking in low voices interrupted by a hushed burst of laughter or gasp. They aren’t obnoxious or the least bit loud but the people standing around them all have taken notice as I have. Some glare, clearly annoyed by their joy; others stare in awe as if they have never witnessed such delight.

The overly-happy-for-the-Metro friends get off the train at the next stop and the mood returns once again to its depressed norm. The intensity of this cab is overwhelming, even for Metro standards. I wouldn’t be surprised if a hole to the center of the earth opened up ahead of us and the muffled voice of our conductor came over the PA system and said, “Next stop: Hell.”

But something happened today to break the misery that suffocated this cab. A young man squeezed his way on board with his daughter who looked to be no older than four. He had three white garbage bags in his hands. The standing passengers were incredibly annoyed with the amount of space his baggage took up.

But suddenly everyone’s expressions changed as they took a closer look at the bags. Through the tightened plastic you could see the outline of a cuff sleeve and button of a jean jacket, the stripes on a navy blue pair of athletic shorts, and the fold of a sock. Clearly this man was carrying all of his and his daughter’s belongings in these three bags. Everyone’s expression on that train melted away from annoyance to understanding, from misery to pity, from exhaustion to concern.

It was at that moment I had hope for the people on this train. No one was going to help this man or ask him how his day was; but these people at least showed compassion or some emotion other than misery. People around the newest passengers made more space for them and their belongings. Some even smiled or winked at the frightened four-year-old. At that moment—on the packed, steadily rocking train—it was enough. This man wasn’t going to find any salvation in this cab, but it would at least get him to the next stop. I’m crossing my fingers it’s not hell.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Prom Dress Drive Fever


Since this feature of mine did not get published or submitted online on behalf of my school newspaper, I've decided to post the concept myself here (don't worry I'm not bitter).

I'm sure my campus is no different from any other when it comes to organizations finding creative ways to raise money or items in support of a philanthropy specific to that particular group.

At Longwood three organizations on campus attempted to host prom dress drives this semester to collect prom dresses for high school girls hoping to go to prom but might not be able to afford a dress during these hard economic times. Only two of the three groups were successful.

The Longwood Ambassadors and Delta Zeta came together to co-sponsor a collection for Prince Edward County Schools. Delta Zeta Philanthropy Chair, Kelsey Ferguson said that the idea was brought to Delta Zeta and Ambassador adviser, Shannon Hersman, from a teacher at Prince Edward County. “They had had the idea before but it kind of fell through. There was either no interest or not enough interest,” said Ferguson. She went on to explain that in order to ensure the donation drive would not fall through again, the association wanted to bring it to Longwood where there would potentially be more interest and involvement.

Word of the Prom Dress Drive passed through Delta Zeta and onto the Ambassadors. Kathleen Maxey, a Delta Zeta sister and Ambassador, decided to contact Maryanne Hull, the Ambassador community service chair to see if the Prom Dress Drive could become a joint effort between these two active groups on campus. “It’s kind of a big [project] for just one organization, so we decided to get a co-sponsor and a sorority [was] the best idea,” said Hull.

Longwood is not alone when it comes to collecting prom dresses for high school teens. Check out these cats who actually mad it on the news for their work collecting dresses:

Prom Dress Drive on NBC -- LPE / Communication Society

Hosting a Prom Dress Drive isn't a new concept and did not originate on college campuses. The Princess Project is most likely where the original concept came from; if not, it is at least the biggest and most successful organization that hosts this type of drive. According to their website, The Princess Project "promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses and accessories to high school girls who cannot otherwise afford them. Our effort is made possible through invaluable volunteer, donor and community support."

The Princess Project started in February of 2002 when one girl needed a dress for her prom. The founders, Laney Whitcanack and Kristi Smith Knutson, responded to her plea by collecting dresses from friends and family. The concept caught on and became more and more popular when an overwhelming amount of donations and support came from women from all over. Today, the Princess Project has expanded to a total of four locations and helps over 3,000 girls every prom season.

All three Longwood students said that they would love to do the drive again and would even consider putting a drive together in the fall for homecoming.
“I would love to do it again. I love to make an impact, not just on Longwood but for Prince Edward County as well. And I think it would be pretty awesome that if we could get at least 100 dresses that would impact 100 seniors, 100 juniors so that they could go to prom,” said Ferguson

“I just want to stress that if you were in that position, you would really appreciate, you know, having a gorgeous dress to wear, to go and to do what everyone else can,” said Hull.

A prom dress is something that I would say most of us girls expect and take for granted. Dress drives like these take something so simple and make girls everywhere feel special. It's hard to believe that there are some girls out there that don't even expect to be able to get dressed up and go to prom. I'm just glad that this simple concept has become something that more and more people have caught on to and want to support.

The prom dress drive at Longwood has concluded, but if you would like to donate a dress you can do so HERE via the Princess Project website.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Standing on my Soapbox

It was the night before Thanksgiving and Andrew, Jess, and Tyler were all coming home from a high school hockey game. It was almost midnight when they stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn from red to green. Suddenly their car hurtled forward into the intersection from some strong force behind them, and then it was dark.

That strong force was a drunk driver going 70 miles an hour into the back of their vehicle. Tyler, who happened to be sitting in the back seat, was killed instantly from the crushing blow. Jess, who was sitting in the front passenger’s seat, went into a coma for a month and when she finally woke up she had to learn everything, including how to walk, all over again. Andrew was in the driver’s seat and was the only one to come out of the crash relatively unscathed, despite the countless visits to therapy that he still attends to this day.

In 2005, my friend Tyler was killed by a drunk driver. A drunk driver who was sentenced to 10 years in jail. A drunk driver who was 35 years old. Not some teenager.

Drinking and driving has been an issue for too long in the United States and admittedly, teens are often the culprits. According to AlcoholAlert.com, 40% of all fatal traffic crashes in the United States involve a teenager driving under the influence. But I can’t help but wonder about the rest; that 60%. I don’t understand why teens are always the ones targeted and blamed. I’m not saying they are not at fault, but aren’t we forgetting to educate and caution every other age group?

First off, let me take the time to say this: To drink and then operate a motor vehicle might as well be the same as carrying a gun cocked and loaded, hoping no one will run into you to set it off. You are knowingly endangering yourself and others on the road.

Second, to all the parents out there: TALK TO YOUR KIDS. Teens are still contributors to drunk driving. If they develop good habits at a young age they will carry it on throughout their lives. As lame as it might sound: they are the future. Having open communication could save their lives.

For example, one of the conundrums teens face is whether or not they should drive home to make it in time for curfew, despite the fact that they had been drinking. My parents made it clear to me when I started driving that if I found myself in that situation, my ass better call them to pick me up—no questions asked.

And lastly, listen and support organizations that work to stop drunk driving. I know MADD might, at times, come off as “preachy,” especially to teens. But they have good intentions, I promise.

On their website, MADD explains that they are “dedicated to supporting state legislation that expands the use of current alcohol ignition interlock technology so that interlocks are mandatory for all convicted drunk drivers in all 50 states” They list an explanation for alcohol ignition interlock technology as follows:

• “An alcohol ignition interlock is a small, sophisticated device – about the size of a cell phone – which is installed into the starting circuit of a vehicle.
• A driver must blow into the device and the vehicle will not start if the driver has measurable alcohol (set to a predetermined level) in their system.
• If the driver does not have alcohol above the measurable level in their system, the vehicle will start normally.
• Interlocks may be set for “running retests,” which require a driver to provide breath tests at regular intervals, preventing drivers from asking a sober friend to start the car.
• If a driver fails a running retest, the vehicle’s horn will honk and/or the lights will flash to alert law enforcement – the vehicle will not stop. The interlock does not have the ability to stop the vehicle once it is running for safety reasons.”

It's a nice thought, but is it practical?

MADD also believes that “it’s highly conceivable that in 10 years cars will have alcohol sensors to stop drunk driving all together” because of the rapid development technology these days. For example, on the MADD website, the organization explains that they have “partnered with leaders in the traffic safety and auto industries to further explore the possibilities of eliminating drunk driving through four possible advanced vehicle technologies.” They list the four vehicle technologies as follows:
1. “Advanced breath testing – both individual testing and testing for alcohol in the vehicle
2. Using visible light to measure BAC through spectroscopy
3. Using non-invasive touch-based systems to measure BAC through the skin
4. Eye-movement measurement technology, including involuntary eye movements related to BAC and eye closure that can indicate drowsiness”

Okay I’ve said my piece. Now what’s yours?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Is Lady Gaga... Gaga?

Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986 in New York City. She could play the piano by age 4, wrote her first piano ballad at age 13 and began performing at open mic nights by age 14. She began performing in the rock music scene of New York City's Lower East Side and soon signed with Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, upon its establishment in 2007. Talent is something that she does not lack in…

Gaga’s life moved quickly to get where she is today and it continues to move just as fast now that she’s in the limelight. And from the sound of it, she wouldn’t have it any other way. From epic music videos to outrageous performances, Gaga has a say in every aspect of her career... right down to what everyone can’t stop talking about: her outfits.

Gaga definitely marches to the beat of her own drum, to say the least. If you don’t know her from her music, you sure know her from her unique attire.

Gaga is the ultimate example of how we, as individuals use articles to represent ourselves. Artifacts are typically clothes or some kind of object we carry around consistently. We use these objects, subconsciously or not, to announce our identities and heritage and to personalize our environment. Gaga takes this idea to the next level. She, unlike most of us, is conscious of what she wears and what it means. Many identify her to be similar to Cyndi Lauper ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"). As her audience, we might not always understand what she is trying to say with every outfit.

But does this bother Gaga? …What do you think?

On her January 15, 2010 appearance on Oprah, she opened up about the hidden, symbolic meaning behind some of her craziest outfits.

You can watch Gaga’s appearance on Oprah HERE and HERE.

In part one she explained a number of her outfits. For example, her VMA “Paparazzi” performance, where she hung by a rope covered in fake blood, was symbolic of Princess Diana and how she was—in Gaga’s words “murdered” by the paparazzi.

“All the things that I do in the terms of the fame and the fame monster it’s meant to sort of make it a bit easier to swallow this kind of horrific media world that we live in,” said Gaga.

In part two she explained that her primary message to all of her fans is to “free themselves and be proud of who they are and celebrate all the things they don’t like about themselves the way that [she] did and be so truly happy from inside.”

This interview with Oprah really opened my eyes and answered a lot of questions I had about Gaga. First of all, I realized that I had been incredibly judgmental. Why do I have to make sense of her? Who am I to assume anything about her? Second of all, after listening to what she had to say I now respect her more than ever. She might be insane, but at least she is thought provoking and memorable. That’s a quality that most artists only dare to dream of.

But what do you think? Is Gaga off her rocker and nothing else? Or is she more than what meets the eye?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This, I Believe, is a Good Thing

This I Believe began as a radio broadcast and grew into an international project encouraging people from all walks of life to write and share their personal essays concerning the core values that guide their daily lives.
The whole concept started with Edward R. Murrow who hosted the popular “This I Believe” radio series. Below is the first paragraph of his original introduction:
“This I Believe. By that name, we bring you a new series of radio broadcasts presenting the personal philosophies of thoughtful men and women in all walks of life. In this brief time each night, a banker or a butcher, a painter or a social worker, people of all kinds who need have nothing more in common than integrity—a real honesty—will talk out loud about the rules they live by, the things they have found to be the basic values in their lives.”

You can read more HERE
*You also have the option of listening to the original broadcast! This might only be exciting to communication studies majors like me. I wish broadcasts still sounded like that!

Murrow apparently brought the original broadcast to light because he believed that there was a need for such a radio program at that time in American history, and said his own beliefs were “in a state of flux.”

The This I Believe website allows you to search different essays. One essay I found touched my heart and gave me chills. It was written by a 6 year old! As the story goes, when Tarak McLain’s kindergarten group celebrated their 100th day of class, some kids brought 100 nuts or cotton balls. Tarak brought a list of 100 things that he believes in.

Go HERE to listen or read his list.

Not only is this boy now someone I look up to, but he gives me hope for the future... even if his parents wrote this essay for him.

Tarak is now 7 years old. He was born in Thailand and lives with his family in Austin, Texas. He collects and hands out food to the homeless, raises money for orphans and impoverished schools, reads about the world’s religions and listens to public radio. If this kid doesn’t inspire you I don’t know what will.

So thank you to This I Believe for 60 years of inspiration. I hope these essays will bring comfort and motivation to all people, from all walks of life for years to come.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bridezillas: Terrifying yet Fascinating!

There is a show on WEtv that absolutely terrifies me. It’s called Bridezillas. The women on this show scare me more than the little girl from the Exorcist. It makes me sick to watch this show, but I catch myself watching it all too often because I am so fascinated by how crazy these women are; they always manage to surprise me. Here’s a taste of what they are capable of:


Marriage is the most popular form of long-term commitment in the United States with more than 96% of men and 94% of women marrying at least once in their lifetime. But with this show it has become clear to me that some people just shouldn’t get married at all. There are some women, and I suppose men as well, that are psychotic enough to believe that they should act like this when things don’t go their way.

This show is perfect for communication majors in that you can analyze these woman and how they communicate unethically, how they present themselves with articles, how they interact in their interpersonal relationships, how they use nonverbals to get their point across, etc.

Let me take one example and see if I can break it down…

Meet Valerie. In this clip, the bride-to-be throws a hissy fit because she incorrectly ordered her wedding cake.

Unethical Communication: Ethical issues concern right and wrong; therefore, an “wrong” decision in communication would be UNethical. Richard Johnnesen devoted most of his career to studying ethical aspects of human communication. According to Johnnesen, ethical communication occurs when people create relationships of equality, when they attend mindfully of each other, and when their communication demonstrates that they are authentic, empathetic, supportive, and confirming of each other. Valerie proved none of the above.

I-It: This type of communication occurs when we do not acknowledge the humanity of other people; when we treat people as “its” rather than as human beings. One could argue that the relationship between Valerie and the cake shop owner teeters on I-You (when we acknowledge someone as more than an object and more as a means to get from point A to point B); but in the end, the relationship is broken down by Valerie to an I-It.

Nonverbals: This is all communication other than words themselves. There are a number of nonverbals, but some that apply here are Kinesics (body position and motion), Proxemics (space and how it is used), and Paralanguage (the use of sounds in place of words).

Valerie displayed Kinesics by taping the tips of her fingers together in anger, swaying back and forth on her toes, and murdering a perfectly innocent vanilla cake; Proximics by standing far away from the cake shop owner and leaning in when she shouted; and Paralanguage to mimic the cake owner’s explanation for why she doesn’t have a chocolate cake.

I’m sure there is so much more to analyze here! What have I missed? Or… do you have any other general thoughts on these wack jobs?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's Happily Ever After or at Least Until Reality Sets In

One of the biggest cultural influences on my life has been movies. I don’t think that I am being too audacious to say that movies have made me—at times—search for and expect a nonexistent, unobtainable perfect life. It all started with Disney movies; therefore, I blame Disney for my misery.

Every single Disney storyline contains the same basic idea: the female lead could never save herself and would always expect a tall, dark, and always super masculine and handsome man to come save her. This consistent storyline eventually composed my view of what I consider to be an “ideal” romantic relationship; which I now have discovered does not exist.

After many years of Disney motion picture cultural influence, I developed a blueprint of the ideal man. Physically he is: tall, muscular (but not too buff), with dark hair and light eyes. He’s athletic, charming, a gentleman, brave, caring, smart, and has morals. The man I just described is every hero in almost every Disney film.
*Slight variations in physical appearances are typically was sets these heroes apart…but all in all, it’s the same man in every film.

And there are more similarities! You can view them HERE.

Okay, okay I can’t blame Disney for all my problems. I’m not so naive to totally believe in the Hypodermic Needle Theory, or as I call it, “the monkey-see-monkey-do theory.” This theory implies that media has a direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. Though I still argue that media has a very powerful effect, I don’t think that it is as black and white as some people make it out to be. As I grew up, reality set in to my vision of life and I believe that is usually the case for most people out there.

So I guess the only thing I can blame Disney on is pulling my hopes up at a young age, just to have them crash down as soon as my adolescent years began. Thanks for the let-down Disney!

But hey, maybe I shouldn’t pin it all on Disney? What other influences in your life let you down as soon as you got older and reality set in?

PS- I apologize for such a short blog it’s been a crazy week!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do I Really Want to See it?

It’s no secret that sex sells. In fact, this hasn’t been a secret for many years. Sex has been a strategy for advertisers since the beginning. The textbook I have left over from when I took Media Criticism a few semesters ago called Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society by Arthur Asa Berger, devotes an entire chapter to sex in advertising.

Below is an excerpt from the text explaining briefly why sex is used so frequently in advertising:

“John Berger’s Ways of Seeing explores human sexuality as one of the most potent tools of advertising. Berger points out that advertising makes greater and greater use of sexuality to sell products and services. As he explains:
‘…this sexuality is never free in itself, it is a symbol for something presumed to be larger than it: the good life in which you can buy whatever you want. To be able to buy is the same thing as being sexually desirable. (1972:114)’”

And who wouldn’t want to be sexually desirable?

Sex has been embraced by our society whether we like it or not. Often times I catch myself after seeing a commercial on TV or watching a movie saying “Wow there wasn’t a sexual innuendo…when there could have been. Why?” If I am not alone in this, I have to ask this question: If we notice when sex isn’t there, do we notice when sex is there?

Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture can elaborate a little bit on this:

“The mixture of sex and sociological and cultural matters means that there is often a great deal more to sexually exciting and erotically stimulating advertising than we might imagine” (p. 86).

From just about every perfume ad to even milk ads, sexual nods, hints and references are everywhere and attached to every product. I’ve never really had a problem with it; it’s never seemed too outrageous and I hope and expect that parents out there are watching and talking to their kids about the birds and the bees anyway.

But a recent Calvin Klein ad has got me re-thinking this outlook. I’ve only seen it online and I honestly wonder if this will ever make TV. Either way, it’s making waves for how provocative it is… which is exactly what the advertisers wanted.

When I saw this ad my jaw dropped—for obvious reasons. I can’t say I hate it. In fact, I was incredibly entertained by it. But this is definitely a commercial for older audiences and I’ve only seen the “edited” version. I keep thinking: how far is too far? When do should we say “Whoa, that’s enough?”

We can’t forget that there are other underwear ads that push the envelope too. Victoria’s Secret could be considered Calvin Klein’s counterpart for underwear. So the idea of a commercial being drenched in sex like this isn’t new. Not to mention, Calvin Klien has made a name for themselves because of their sexually explicit ads.

Still, I can’t help but be shocked. Maybe it was the language…maybe it was the fact that I haven’t seen men presented like this much… who knows? But this commercial definitely sticks with me.

What do you think? Has Calvin Klein gone too far? Or do you think that they have every right to push the envelope like this in order to get noticed in such an advisement-cluttered world?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The News in Me


As a communication studies major I am able dip my talents into various types of media, both by choice and requirement. I semi-recently wrote an article for The Rotunda, the campus newspaper, about the new Farmville Chief of Police, Chief Mooney, and what changes he would like to see happen with the department. For this article I was also able to speak with Longwood’s Chief of Police, Chief Robert Beach, where he divulged some new information of his own.

Beach informed me that he would like to start a student police academy at Longwood University. The academy would be a 12 week program where students could go to 24 to 30-some hours of training in order to get an in-depth look of how the police and criminal justice system work. Beach hopes to get this program up and running in the fall but has no intention of rushing the project in order to ensure that it is done right. The program will most likely start off being provided once a year and then, depending on interest, may increase to once a semester. There will be a fee, although it should be relatively small.

This program has been a long time in the making. For the past two years, Beach has been working with The Joint Committee for Students Rights Education, of which he is an adviser, in order to develop an appropriate program for Longwood students. The program, according to Beach, would essentially be a “little police academy” where students can see exactly how law enforcement works and even try their hand at some scripted police work or scenarios.

Beach explained the importance of providing and attending such a program. He said, “With every freedom comes a certain amount of responsibility, as a matter of fact a whole lot of responsibility. The interaction between the citizen and its local government and particularly its police department it’s very, very important to understand what your rights are and what your responsibilities are; understanding how law enforcement works, how the criminal justice system works, that’s an important piece for protecting yourself [and] your family.”

According to Beach there are a number of universities around the country that have successfully put on a program similar to the one he is attempting to develop at Longwood. Beach strongly believes that “for a place that speaks to citizen leaders, that’s an important element I think,” said Beach.

Graduates of the student police academy “become a supporting arm of the police department” and “have a relationship with the police department that is different than the average citizen,” said Beach. This is a citizen awareness type program that he believes might actually spark interest in some students in areas of law enforcement or criminal investigation.

The Chairman of The Joint Committee for Students Rights Education, Jordan Miles, said that the main thing the program will need is “support from the students, the faculty and the staff and the administration.” Without that support he does not believe the program will be as successful as it could potentially be if people actually take interest in it.

Kristen Wander, a political science major is excited about this program coming to Longwood.

“I think it’ll actually be really good to have because I know I’m not the only who will think about going into the police academy or into the military; and both I think would benefit from having the student police academy,” said Wander.
Wander also believes that the program should not only be directed to criminal justice or political science majors, but to everyone on campus.

“I think everyone should know what the laws are and what officers do and I think it’ll help for student-police relations here on campus because if you are having more students who are learning about what the officers actually have to do it’ll help the student body understand that they’re not necessarily always out to get us…and some things they have to do,” said Wander.

I am 100% on-board with this program and I hope that students actually take interest in it. As a daughter of an Arlington/DC Detective, I’ve grown up around officers. Not only am I comfortable around them, but I have also had the opportunity to learn from them and see them has actual human beings with families of their own.

Most college kids see cops as power hungry animals who are only out to get them. Although I can’t say this is never the case, I can easily say this it is very, very rarely the case. Just like in any profession, there is always going to be someone who abuses their authority and ruins it for everyone else. But my hope is that when students and police officers come together for this program, they will be able to see the other side of issues and opinions and at least come up with a mutual respect for each other.

Like beach said, it’s important to know the law in order to protect yourself. I can’t tell you how many times knowing the law and the habits of police officers has helped me get out of or avoid a pickle. Whether you like it or not, the day will come (if it hasn’t already) when you will have to interact with a police officer and wouldn’t you want to feel comfortable and confident?

But will students actually take part in this program? Or will they continue to sit back and complain about the injustices in the world? I hope that this opportunity will not go unnoticed or pass by students without triggering any interest.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hip Hip Hurray for Valentine's Day?

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’ve decided to look into the holiday’s origin and the traditions we carry on today.

There are many different versions as to how Valentine’s Day came to be; here is my version:

St. Valentine was a priest or holy man who preformed secret marriages for lovers after Claudius II decided that single soldiers preformed better on the battle field. Once his actions were discovered, he was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. While imprisoned he fell in love with his jail-gaurd’s blind daughter, who was the only one who visited him. He sent her a final letter before his execution signed, “from, your Valentine.” It is also rumored that he performed a miracle by giving the jail-guard’s daughter the ability to see. These actions earned him the title of Sainthood as well as a day dedicated solely to him. St. Valentine was martyred on February 14th which is why we celebrate Valentine’s Day when we do.

My version is a combination of three legends pertaining to three different people… clearly. Notice the contradictions: a priest who falls in love would never be inducted into Sainthood by the Catholic Church and how would a blind girl read love letters? But there are the similarities: all three legends concerned a man named Valentine, each man was recognized by the Catholic Church as being a Saint, and all three conveniently were martyred on February 14th.

But no matter which version you believe in, it is safe to say that St. Valentine didn’t exactly have a perfect love life or the best February 14th; which is why I don’t understand why people today demand perfection on V-Day. If the guy who created Valentine’s Day had a bad day, what makes you feel so entitled to have a good day?

By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. How did we get from “small tokens of affection or hand written notes” to elaborate evenings filled with 12 dozen roses, 50-piece boxes of chocolates, $75 per person dinners, and $550 diamond necklaces?

I feel like V-Day is either a competition between couples to see who can give the best gift, thus making them the most romantic; or it’s a day spent in worry, where the couple tip toes their way through every action hoping it’s the right thing to do—just because it’s February 14th.

Too many times have I heard a wining rant about how nothing went right and the other person in the relationship is to blame. Whatever happened to looking back on imperfection and laughing it off?

So here is my challenge:

Guys, don’t throw down big money to impress your date this Sunday. Be creative and make the day fun for BOTH of you. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things.

Girls: Instead of expecting your date to wait on you hand and foot maybe you should make the day about him too. Surprise him and do something nice for him because actions speak louder than an expensive gift.

But is this even possible? Will both parties be satisfied? You decide what’s more important: spending time with your loved one or having the “perfect” day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Imitation is the Biggest Form of Flattery

Let me begin with an anecdote:

When I was 7 I was the biggest Spice Girls fan on the planet. I satisfied my imagination by pretending to be Geri Halliwell a.k.a. Ginger Spice. I walked, attempted to talk, dress, and act like her. I also knew every word to every Spice Girls song… and I mean EVERY song. This included the song 2 Become 1, released in July of 1997 making me 8 years old. As one might be able to deduce from the title, the song is about sex.

I had a dance and everything for this song, which I practiced religiously.
Here’s a taste of some of my dance moves:
When Baby Spice (if I remember correctly) sang, “Come a little bit closer baby, get it on, get it on” I would beckon my finger and shake my hips; then, when she sang, “'Cause tonight is the night when 2 become 1” I would spread my arms out like a was Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic and bring one inward in a circle; the first time around holding two fingers up and the second time around with just my index finger.

*To read through the complete set of lyrics, click HERE*

Sidenote: Parents, if I—an innocent 8 year old Catholic school girl who went to church every Sunday—did this in my spare time, then you better believe that your kid did, is doing, or will do the same.

The learning pattern of children is to learn, then imitate. This pattern is called Social Learning. A child will notice someone who they consider a role model that possesses desirable attributes (in my case, it was Ginger Spice) and then imitate the role model. Although this imitation can be, at times, concerning for parents, it’s usually isn’t something to call a child psychologist over. If kids are this easily influenced by someone in the media, for example, then they are can just as easily be influenced by other individuals in their lives (parents, siblings, teachers, etc). Therefore, one of these other role models can quell a child imitating a not-so-great quality or individual by simply setting a good example.

But here’s the issue: The advantage I had over kids these days was that I didn’t have access to technology; or at least technology as advanced as today. I may have pranced around in my mother’s heals, short shorts, and a boa singing 2 Become 1 at the top of my lungs, but I never had the ability to broadcast my imitation phase of Geri Halliwell on, say for example, youtube. Not to mention, even though the subject matter of this particular song is no where near appropriate for 8 year old ears, it’s not like I had any idea what any part of this song meant.

But kids these days not only engage in their imagination like I did but they can also broadcast it for anyone to see; and naturally everyone is freaking out because they can’t believe what they are seeing.

There are so many young girls with their own youtube channel where they dance and sing to popular songs of the day, making their own music video. One of the most popular is doglover199709.

But recently, one little girl has gotten the most backlash for her youtube music video: Miley Cyrus’ 9 year old sister, Noah.
The only reason why anyone is paying more attention to her (I’m guessing) is because she is associated with someone already famous… someone a lot of people already don’t like.

If you watch this video, you can tell that her intentions are just to have fun and she clearly has no idea what “getting crunk” means seeing as she fake chugs a Red Bull (see the 1:04 mark)…although maybe this is because she couldn’t get her hands on a real beer can…
Actually my biggest concern when watching this video is the sketchy guy dancing in the background.

Needless to say, even though I think her parents should have monitored her activities a little bit better and maybe kept this particular video for home video use only, I really don’t think it’s anything to freak out about. Sadly, my only reasoning for this is just because I turned out just fine.

But what do you think? Has Noah Cyrus already been showing early signs of Lindsey Lohan Syndrome?

UPDATE: Word on the street is little Cyrus is starting a lingerie line… I think now people can panic.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Capturing What We Care About Most

A large part of how we represent who we are can be attributed to the personal objects we are fond of the most. We use these objects, subconsciously or not, to announce our identities and heritage and to personalize our environment. Specifically, in face-to-face contact, we craft our intended image by the way we dress and the objects we carry. Many times these objects are representative of hobbies, professions, and even relationships.

These objects are known as artifacts and they help define us everyday. Some people are so proud of these artifacts that they choose to capture them forever in a picture. It’s one thing to take a picture while you’re playing your favorite sport, with your co-workers at work, or at an anniversary party with your spouse. It’s another to pay for a professional picture while clutching or wearing one of these artifacts proudly.

Which brings me to one of the most brilliant websites that I have ever come across in my Internet probing experience. This website combines professionally taken photographs with individuals proudly showcasing exactly who they are among the objects that help define them. AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com is a website that we all can relate to but at the same time question the sanity of some people living and breathing among us.

-Warning: some of the images you are about to see may be offensive to certain viewers.-

Say you love Star Trek. In another life you believe that you were Captain Kirk. Why not get the whole family involved, creating your every own Starfleet platoon, and making your dream a reality by posing for a quick picture? I’m willing to bet that this family, to this day, has this picture hanging proudly in their living room…which is probably a replica of the Starfleet command center. Live well and prosper my friends.

Holy hot pants! Is this required attire for avid cyclists? You know what… even if it is this pose is definitely NOT required. I just can’t imagine the photographer for this picture saying, “Perfect! Hold it right there.”

Who in this family said, “I think we should dress up like characters from Winnie the Pooh for our family portrait?”
Two questions:
1. Where on God’s green Earth did they find these costumes?
2. Since when is Eeyore ever smiling? If you’re going to dress like him you better act the part, mister!

This is just a taste of what people are capable of doing in a family photo. I must say, I have to give them credit for celebrating the things they love; however their execution missed the mark. So, what’s the lesson here? Some obsessions are best kept behind closed doors and never meant to be frozen in time. Of course, when they are captured, they make for some GREAT entertainment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inspirational Words Can Lead to Inpirational Actions

Today I attended an event where Longwood students and faculty as well as representatives of the Farmville community came together on the steps of the Student Union to read inspirational words from the diary of Barbara Johns, the student who lead the Moton High School walk-out in 1951. According to the host of the event, the purpose of this dramatic reading was to symbolize the need for dedication to social justice, to display the importance of valuing diversity, and reinforce the idea that everyone must strive to work together in order to obtain equality for all.

After listening to the diary reading, it was clear that Barbara Johns was an ordinary African American girl growing up in central Virginia. She worked hard at school, at home, and in every relationship with her family, friends, and teachers. The difference, however, between her and her peers was that she saw an inequality and sought out a way to rectify it.

Long story short: when Barbara Johns’ saw that her “all black” school was much less efficient and equip than the neighboring “all white” school, she immediately gathered her piers in protest. This protest is still recognized today, almost 60 years later. How many Americans today can say that they made a significant difference in the lives of their community or nation... or even their friends by the age of 16?

Unfortunately, the sixteen-year-olds of today seem to be too busy emulating Miley Cyrus and taking shots of peach schnapps when there parents aren't looking. Although, as sad as it is to see wasted youth, I can't say I was much better at that age (which wasn't all that long ago when you think about it). But I guess with age comes maturity and eventually you open your eyes and realize that you're not the most important person in the world. Hopefully someone can figure out a way to inspire not only the younger generation but pretty much everyone these days to get out there and make a difference...and I don't mean give them a free ticket to Disney if they do a measly one day of service.

As harsh, insensitive, rude, or ignorant as it might sound, donating $20 to a local charity every few months isn't exactly "making a difference" or helping your neighbor. MOST of the time you actually have to get off your ass and -literally- offer a helping hand. You can argue that everyone isn't entitled to just be given everything they want or don't have, but everyone should be given the opportunity to get what they want or don't have; and everyone at some point in their lives needs that boost from their friends, families, and neighbors.

If the story of Barbara Johns doesn't help inspire others that they can make a difference, I don't know what will. Think about it: an African American sixteen-year-old girl in 1951 brought her entire school to a protest. I think everyone can take a lesson here and maybe aspire to do the same. Her story has proven that no voice is too small and no action will go unnoticed as long as you have the passion to do what you believe is right.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Remember: Change is Acctually GOOD

-July 6, 2009-

"It's summer time and it's our last night at the beach. I just got back from the pier and now I'm getting ready for bed while watching Dance Your Ass Off with Lauren and Missy. This show is AMAZING! It's Dancing With the Stars meets The Biggest Loser. I'm seriously considering entering my name for next season...
Earlier I went out to the pier to take pictures and take one last look at the ocean. Tonight couldn't have been a better night. The moon was a bright orange and it hung over the ocean casting a perfect orange reflection on the tips of every ripple and wave. Naturally I tried to get a good picture of this but no luck. As much as I tried to focus the camera the picture kept capturing blurry. Of course, perfection can't be captured.
I gave up attempting to get a good picture and walked to the end of our dock, right where it met the sand. I stepped up onto the railing and leaned forward just as a family of five came running and screaming past me with their flashlights waving in the air. I couldn't tell for sure but I think they were being chased by an extremely frustrated crab. As they scurried past, I looked straight out to the ocean in front of me, to where the water seems to come to an edge and drop off and I realized that I was having a pretty symbolic moment. There I was...or I guess I should say here I am, the summer before my junior year of college completely lost. Don't get me wrong, I know where I want to end up I just have no idea how to get there. I guess I have some time to figure that all out. But standing there on the edge of the dock I realized that even though I may not be at the edge yet, I'm SO close. One wrong move, one wrong turn and I could lose myself...or my dream...or even worse BOTH.
I looked to my left and then to my right. The family had long since disappeared down the beach and I was now completely alone. Another symbolic moment: not only am I so close to the edge but I'm also alone. Alone to make my own decisions. Alone to chose my way in the world. Alone...
I'm 20 years old and I haven't had any interest in taking my life or my relationships very seriously. Which is probably why I haven't been able to hang on to a lot of them, romantic or not. I don't want to get negative though. I am so grateful for everything that I have been given so far in my life and I am even more grateful for who I've become.
Standing on that dock alone on such a perfect night on the beach would have been the perfect opportunity for some tall, dark, and handsome man or at the very least a celebrity to come walking by and say something to me; like, "Why are you, such a beautiful girl, alone on such a beautiful night?" But as I glanced to my left and right one last time, not a soul seemed to be coming my way, so I turned and headed back inside. I have never been a patient person and I have no intention of stopping my life to wait to anyone now."

Like I said before, sometimes it's nice to go back down memory lane to take a quick look around for old times sake. I'm sure I'm not the only one that can say that it's nice to see how far you have come. Most change in my mind will eventually turn out for the better even if at first it comes across as bad.

So today, on Martin Luther King Day, it's important to see how far we've come; but, it is also important to look and see how far you have come. If you don't see much of a change maybe you should start reworking your life a bit because there is always room for change.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another Day... Another Diet

I am the biggest conformist when it comes to New Year's Resolutions. Not only is my resolution to start eating healthier and to get my ass to the gym, but I also plan on breaking it very soon. Today my favorite pair of jeans burst at the seams in the upper-inner thigh area. Most people I know would look at the damage and vow to start staving themselves immediately. I, on the other hand, suddenly had the mouth-watering urge to find a piece of chocolate to eat my feelings. But then I thought of my New Year's Resolution and remembered that I planned on sticking to it for another week or two.
It's times like these that I remember how all of my other diets have gone. I think I can sum it up in two words: painful and frustrating. As I prosmised, here is another two excerpts from last years journal to prove my point:

-January 20, 2009-

"...it's day 8 of my New Year's Resolution to eat right and exercise and I'm about to eat my hand. I've worked out every day and I've been eating nothing but fruits, veggies, whole wheat (which by the way tastes like I would imagine cardboard to taste). I'm not exactly sure what possessed me to put myself through all of this...maybe I can blame my agony on the media shoving skinny bitches in my face all day? *score one for Communications Majors*"

And another...

-February 11, 2009-

"Day 9 of APO's pledging process and I want to vomit every time I look at my jam packed planner.

Day 31 of my diet. I still would like to eat my hand; but, fortunately resisting the temptation has become increasingly easier. Also, I have major beef with the scale at the gym. It says I haven't lost any weight... I say it's a lying piece of shit.

Day 7,190 of my existence. Nothing exciting to report except that I have made it to college, I can now drive a clutch in heels, and I have had 1.5 boyfriends."

I think it's safe to say that when I'm on a diet, I'm also on suicide watch. So keep me in your thoughts. In the mean time, I'm going to go have some Oreos and peanut butter... I mean some dry lettuce... while I sew up the gaping hole in my jeans that my right thigh so graciously created.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Embarassing + Awkward = My Life in a Nutshell

I've decided to uncover some old journal entries of mine from years past (and by years past I mean last year). It's nice to go back through these old entries and take a brisk walk... or better yet a sprint... down memory lane to see how far I've come. I'm sure I'm not the only one with the thoughts that I penned not so long ago. Maybe these entries will be relatable? ...But hopefully for your sake they're not. Here is the first entry I am willing to share with the world:

-January 21, 2009-

"Small Revelation:
When it comes to relationships I tend to have, what I'm sure most people these days consider, an old fashioned way of thinking. Could this ultimately lead to my demise? (Thank you, Thesaurus)
Maybe my "old fashioned" tendencies don't fit in with the modern way of thinking, but is it asking too much for a guy to have some manners? I'm not just talking about the chewing-with-their-mouth-open-while-spewing-food-everywhere-because-their-busy-telling-a-great-joke-guy or the let's-see-who-can-hock-the-biggest-loogie guy. I'm talking about those manners that momma hopefully taught you. I'm not ashamed to say that I would like a chick-flick to play out in my life: I want to be wooed and courted and maybe have a door opened for me every once and a while. I think, deep down, I'd like to have that fairytale, happy, cheesy, cliche , etc ending--even though, let's be honest it's probably not going to happen (at least not the way I hope). Regardless, I still hope that one day someone will come along and prove me wrong.
So what can be the lesson here?
Hope for the best and expect...less."

Wow. That got depressing pretty fast. I promise not all of them are this "holy hell I want to slit my wrists" worthy. Stay tuned for another embarrassing & awkward journal entry!

About Me

I can be a vain person every once and a while, so here is a list of what I consider to be interesting facts about me:

Favorite Color: Currently... Lime Green

Favorite Books: Oh, the Places You Will Go!
Heavier Than Heaven
Go Ask Alice
The Lovely Bones
The 5 People You Meet in Heaven
Pride and Prejudice
The Harry Potter Series (I'm not ashamed)

Favorite Movies: Almost Famous
American Beauty
The Boondock Saints
Pay It Forward
Forrest Gump
Heavy Weights (the most under appreciated Ben Stiller movie of all time)
Tommy Boy
Titanic (nope, still not ashamed)
Singin' in the Rain
Some Like it Hot
Now & Then
Stand By Me
Saving Privet Ryan
*Okay there are too many to list. I'd be here all day...

Favorite Songs: Lullaby - Billy Joel
Swing Life Away - Rise Against
Fire - Augustana (or just about anything by them)
Only Hope - Switchfoot
Reason to Love You - Meiko
New Slang - The Shines
I Will Alaways Love You - Whitney Huston (I actually got pulled over for speeding while blasting this song and singing it at the top of my lungs...and no I'm still not ashamed)
*And just about anything by Dave Matthews, The Beatles, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, and Blink182
BONUS! Musicians I love Live ~ Eric Hutchinson, Meiko, Steven Kellogg, and Joe Purdy

Favorite Animal: Tiger (I secretly wish I was Jasmine from Aladin)

Favorite Food: Oreos & Peanut Butter

Favorite Holiday: I don't have just one. I love three holidays which I consider to be "The Holy Trinity of Holidays": Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Favorite Sport: Volleyball (Football is a close second)

Favorite Childhood Memory: My dad taking me and my sister to DC to run around and explore the museums. I later found out that he only did this to tire us out...

I would love to travel to the following places:
Go backpacking across Europe
Los Angeles