Lingua Mea Vita


I Am March Madness

Before I start this next LMV entry, let’s take note of the above image. Who would’ve thought that I Am Charlotte Simmons, a novel that tackles race, sex, and class politics at Ivy League colleges, was written by the lovechild of Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders.

And in a way, I Am Charlotte Simmons even sounds like it was written between a cross between those two. Tom Wolfe has the sharp wit of Mark Twain and the…home-y-ness (?)…of Colonel Sanders. Is that right? Is fried chicken home-y?

What I mean to say is that Tom Wolfe’s voices as the books main characters, noob social-climber Charlotte, power Frat Packer Hoyt, Great White Hope Jojo, and narcissist nerd Adam ring so true. They are incredibly round, and hit so close to home. Home-y. (Plus, Charlotte is from North Carolina and there’s a lot of fun dialect peppered in the novel).

If you are looking for the perfect time of year to read this book, might I suggest now (during March Madness)? I first read this book a couple of years in March. I watched the basketball tourney and read this book in my free time, and I tell you—it built some crazy excitement. This also could be because my alma mater was named-checked in it.

Let me preface the rest of this entry by saying that I Am Charlotte Simmons is not about NCAA. Or college basketball, really, despite one of the main characters being on the basketball team. Like I said earlier, the book is really a critique of college-kid behavior (especially in Ivy League schools, where Americans have an assumption that these kids are “classier” and “know better”), and the methods of doing so through the plot are deliciously, shamefully fun—brainy Charlotte latches onto womanizer fratboy Hoyt for recognition, Hoyt comes across a politician getting a blow job, Jojo battles an upstart basketball star while being white, and Adam balances being Jojo’s bitchboy, Hoyt’s power-trip of a story and a crush on Charlotte.

It’s like Degrassi! But in college! And sophisticated!

And for those sketpics who doubt an “old fogie” like Tom Wolfe can effectively write in a voice that rings true of a college student…there is an incident called “The Night of the Skullfuck.”

Enough said.

WHY  I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS?

Though I got an amazingly awesome (almost…scary) rush reading this book while reading this as a college student, I really wish I would have read this book before I went to college. I glided through high-school with intellectual, tea-drinking friends and was blissfully unaware of what college social lives were made of…and when I actually got to my university, I shut down.

I see this book as high quality high-school required reading. I know it’s got lots of sexual content and coarse language…but so does “Skins”, and “Jersey Shore”, and everything else on MTV. At least with putting I Am Charlotte Simmons in a school setting, you get to read about the same situations seen on television AND get a good teacher-led discussion.  The students read something that is stimulating for them and learn something in the process! I feel like if I’d read something like this before I’d left, I’d be more prepared. (Trust me, it still would’ve been rough, I was never at the level of your average college lush).

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Is “Eve’s Bayou” Southern Gothic Literature?

Eve’s Bayou is a fantastic movie.

fantastic [fan-tas-tik], adj.

  1. conceived or seemingly conceived by fancy; so extreme as to challenge belief; exceedingly large or great
  2. marked by extravagant fantasy or extreme individuality
  3. excellent, superlative

[Again,] Eve’s Bayou is a fantastic movie. Even by definition. What is NOT fantastic about the story of a mischievous 10-year-old Louisiana Creole girl who believes she killed her womanizing father by performing voodoo rituals with the local shadowlady?

After watching the movie the other night, I perform my post-movie ritual of going to imdb and reading comments on the movie’s discussion board. One of the topics was:

“Is Eve’s Bayou considered Southern Gothic Literature?”

I kid you not, I shouted “YES, OF COURSE” at my computer. This is only because I have a deep appreciation for Southern Gothic Literature. I like to blame this on my ragin’ Cajun roots.

For those who are like, “What the hell is Southern Gothic Literature”, it (is):

  1. An offshoot of gothic literature, set in the American South. (Gothic literature put very simply is atmospheric, supernatural fiction. Think Frankenstein, Interview with the Vampire, House of Leaves)
  2. Usually features strange characters. Puts a twist on your stereotypical Southern characters, e.g; the southern belle is a murderer (“A Rose for Emily”), the righteous, football-hero, man of the house may have feelings for another man (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”).
  3. Use of the grotesque (which was described by my Chicano/Latino Lit proffy as “something disturbing, but you feel an affinity for it, and in the pit of your stomach, you may want to laugh”) to criticize Southern culture (as Wikipedia puts it). Example: To Kill a Mockingbird and racism. The trial is the “something disturbing”, you feel an affinity for it because you believe that Jim is going to get off, and you may want to laugh at the drunken ridiculousness of Bob and Mayella Ewell.

So clearly Eve’s Bayou fits this. It’s got the supernatural aspects of old gothic literature (the voodoo, Mozell’s psychic ability), strange characters (Louis, the womanizing father, Cisely, the nearly-psychotic 14-year-old sister), and use of the grotesque (the affair, the SPOILER ALERT: kiss between Cisely and Louis, and the relationship between Elzora and Eve).

So why would there even be a question about this movie being counted as Southern Gothic Literature?

I think it’s because it’s a black movie. I’m not implying that the poster who asked this question is racist. It’s more of the fault of black movies that often rely on the formula of “let’s commit a crime and make it funny” or “let’s tail-chase an impossibly annoying (but sexy!) woman and make it funny” or “let’s take a man and put him in a dress and make it funny.” Eve’s Bayou not only was more thoughtful and exciting than your typical “black” movie, but actually thoughtfully researched and  artfully written to fit under the SGL genre.

In fact, the fact that this movie has mostly black (or rather, Louisiana Creole) characters puts an interesting twist on an already interesting genre. Eve’s Bayou combines between Black literature and Southern Gothic Literature, that have been somehow separated for some reason, despite black people being a rather large part of Southern culture.

FUN FACT: This movie was written by Kasi Lemmons, aka Jodie Foster’s FBI agent friend in Silence of the Lambs (which also could be considered Southern Gothic Literature, in my book).



Growing Up Guate

I don’t know how I feel about fate.

On one hand, I desperately want to believe in the power of my own agency. But then, from the other hand,  “fate” throws little zingers my way that force me  to believe that I’m not always in control. But after today, I’m almost sure fate exists…almost.

I’d tuned into Snap Judgment on NPR today while I was speeding around town looking for a Girl Scout cookie booth to satisfy a (very rare) chocolate craving. Whenever I catch Snap Judgment on the radio, I half-joke to myself, “I should send in the story about how I was kidnapped in Guatemala on Friday the 13th”.

Then it hit me that tomorrow (March 13) will be the two-year-anniversary of the kidnapping.

Then Glynn Washington emotes,

“…there’s a guy in the corner, and he says, “Yeah, I’ve got a story. Once, I was kidnapped. By the FARC. In Colombia.”

I immediately cranked the volume up like his story was a pop song.

I listened to Jason McLaughlin (with annotations from the story’s producer Anne Elizabeth Moore) tell my whole life with his words (Oh, Roberta Flack and your Killing Me Softly…you have nothing on this):

  • He was in college at the time of his kidnapping. I was in college at the time of mine.
  • He went to Colombia and was kidnapped by a guerrilla group. I was in Guatemala and was kidnapped by what the locals call guerrillas, but I don’t know much about the men who did so (except one had a Salvadorean accent, not Guatemalan.) Either way, both countries do not have the best reputations in North America.
  • Jason (and his friend) had been hiking in the jungle, attempting to canoe the Putamayo River. I’d been doing volunteer work in the jungle (with my friends) and was headed to Lake Atitlan at the time of my kidnapping.
  • He was tied up, and led through a field, through woods, to a river. I was tied up, led through a field, to a river.

The parallels were eerie. But there was something unsettling comfortable about knowing someone had gone through a similar trauma to me. But the very best part was that Jason McLaughlin was able to verbalize what I’ve tried to tell people when they ask me if I was scared during the ordeal:

“The thing about being kidnapped is that you have to get used to the idea that you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know the rules, you don’t know what the situation is, you can try to pay attention and figure stuff out. The very hard thing is feeling okay with not knowing what the plan is, though one part of the plan may mean you get killed really soon.”

Our stories started to differ when he revealed that he’d been held by the FARC for over a year. I’d been held for hours.  And though I hadn’t experienced a kidnapping with the same length of time, I felt like I could relate to every thing he mentioned.

It was hands down the easiest story for me to relate to that I’d heard on the radio. And it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

So could my unusual chocolate craving have been the universe forcing me to my car to hear Jason McLaughlin’s story on the anniversary of my kidnapping? Maybe. I’ll entertain that idea. But what I know for sure is that by listening to Jason’s story, I learned a way to explain my story and answer people’s questions about my kidnapping in a way that feels more honest and whole.

We are all connected, folks! And sometimes it takes little bits of fate to make us see the connections.

To listen to Jason McLaughlin’s story for yourself, check out Snap Judgment’s Warning Signs episode.



From the Mouths of Babes

I will never forget back in my sophomore year of college when my art history proffy came up to me in his little brown elbow-padded jacket and asked me through his awkward, gap-toothed smile,

“What does PINK mean? I see all these girls walking around with the word “PINK” on their backsides.”

And then and there I had to explain what exactly the Victoria’s Secret PINK brand was to a forty-something man, when I didn’t even own any underwear from Victoria’s Secret at the time.

For a 19-year old co-ed, not owning anything from Victoria’s Secret was a rarity, especially when the VS PINK brand was targeted specifically at my age group. But the last few times I’ve wandered in or around a VS store, I’ve noticed more girls this age (like 10 or 11):

purchasing the above pictured sweatpants, perfume, and stuff like this:

Am I the only person extremely bothered by the fact that these girls are being sexualized ravaged before they get their periods?

Despite coating their PINK stores in clothing in child-attractive colors and glitter, Victoria’s Secret has removed responsibility: they have come out and said that the PINK brand isn’t targeted at the youngins. And actually, I think they’re right in doing so! Victoria’s Secret shouldn’t have to police the children that want to buy their product. However, I still fit in VS Pink’s target age group of 18-30, and there’s no way I would walk around with “Let’s Get A Room” or “I Get Around”  in glitter on my ass.

I mean, whatever happened to just the word “PINK” or the puppies (not that I bought any of those either, I prefer solid colors). What killed the mystery, Victoria’s Secret? You went from using one ambiguous, could-be-dirty-if-you-twisted-it-the-wrong-way word (…a PINK what, exactly?) to very blatant statements calling out someone’s a young woman’s promiscuity. “I Get Around?” Why not “Always Open”? Or “Slut” or “Whore”? Don’t sluts and whores “get around?”

And some questions come up:

  1. Can a girl wearing “Let’s Get A Room” underwear get upset if a man calls her a whore?
  2. How young is too young to be wearing hyper-sexed items of clothing (the dirty lines don’t stop at the underwear).
  3. Should hyper-sexed clothing exist in the first place? (I’m sorry, shouting “I’m sexy” from the rooftops does not make you sexy. It’s like the boy who is constantly talking about sex, but is a virgin?)

It’s amazing how a couple of words on a pair of underwear can strip you of your self-respect.



Rollin’ With My Homies

Jane Austen’s Emma was a cherry-popper for me in a few ways. It was the first book that I read on my own outside of required reading in high school. It was the first “old-timey” language book, I read (and trust me, I was petrified that it wouldn’t make any sense). And it was the first Jane Austen book I read.

Oddly enough, despite 95.2% of my female friends in high school being obsessed with finding their own Mr. Darcy, Emma still is the only Jane Austen book I’ve read.

I  read Emma in the first place because my inner-teacher’s pet had been awakened in my 10th grade English class, and I was going to impress my teacher by showing that I had a broad taste in books. I borrowed her copy of Emma and realized it was the same story as one of my all-time favorite movies, Clueless.

SUMMARY

Aside from Dionne and Murray, the characters  and plot in Emma and Clueless totally align:

Cher Horowitz and Emma Woodhouse — The pretty, spoiled brat main characters in their stories, both Cher and Emma decide to fix up singles in their high society group after successfully matching up their teachers.

Josh and Mr. Knightley — Like, Cher and Josh, Emma and Mr. Knightley share the awkward is-he-my-brother-though-he’s-not-my-brother relationship. Also like Josh, Mr. Knightley is older than Emma, and irritates her on occasion, but she sees the good in him. SPOILER, BUT SERIOUSLY HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN CLUELESS: They end up together in the end.

Tai and Harriet — Both Harriet and Tai are naive, but sweet. Emma/Cher tells her to reject the guy she’s actually interested in, for another disinterested guy. At one point, Harriet wants Mr. Knightley, like Tai wanted Josh, and that makes Emma/Cher uncomfortable.

Elton and Mr. Elton — No parallels here. 😛  These are the guys who Emma and Cher try to set up with Harriet and Tai, but rejects her because he’s a snob and more interested in the “higher class” Emma and Cher. Ends up with Augusta/Amber.

Christian and Frank Churchill — This is where the main difference between the stories occurs. Emma/Cher are trolling for new guys for Harriet/Tai when she stumbles upon Frank Churchill, whom she wants for herself. In Emma, Frank Churchill is really interested in Jane Fairfax, who is pretty much perfect. Clueless does away with Jane and puts a modern twist on it, by making Christian gay.

Mr. Martin and Travis Birkenstock — Both are the guys that Harriet and Tai are initially interested in, but are rebuffed at the assistance of Emma/Cher. Mr. Martin is a farmer and Travis is a stoner.

Mr. Hall and Miss Giest and Mr. Weston and Miss Taylor — The couple that is set up by Emma/Cher in the beginning. In Clueless, both Mr. Hall and Miss Giest were her teachers, though in Emma, only Miss Taylor was her teacher (governess).

And if that wasn’t enough to confuse you, just remember: Emma is the same as Clueless, just instead of Valspeak, they spoke old-timey language.

WHY THIS BOOK IS RELEVANT

Though there are other Jane Austen  books on the BBC Book Challenge list, Emma is the only singular romantic-comedy book that made the cut. When you think about it, Emma is the the original “modern” romantic comedy (Shakespeare wrote RomComs, but they just don’t seem to make as much sense as Emma). There are mismatches and mixups but in the end, everyone is coupled up and happy. We know the warming (or groaning) effect that romantic comedies have on women today, imagine the impact of a romantic comedy written by a woman way back when everything was “serious-serious-find-a-husband-or-die-alone”!

So on top of being the original RomCom, Emma really opened the doors for modern romantic comedies. Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, you owe your careers to Miss Jane Austen.

I would like to end this entry by giving a shout out to the late Brittany Murphy. I know you’re rollin’ with your homies up there in the sky.

Also, completely unrelated, HOW OLD IS PAUL RUDD ANYWAY?



Stay Hungry

You will never believe this:  a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Young Adult novel series is being turned into a big-budget Hollywood movie.

THAT NEVER HAPPENS! Just ask Harry Potter and the vamps from Twilight.

This time it’s The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins that’s getting the movie treatment. I’m pretty excited for it: The Hunger Games is darker than both Harry Potter and Twilight—It’s like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire meets Fight Club with a little bit of Z for Zachariah thrown in. It has the potential to be  an excellent movie.

However, both Harry Potter and Twilight did something so right that I think that the production team for The Hunger Games is already missing the mark for—casting. (The reason I’d heard about the Hunger Games movie was because of a blog post about the casting, back when Hailee Stienfeld was the favorite).

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter? Perfect. Emma Watson as Hermione? Even more perfect. And though I am deeply creeped out by them, Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson as Bella Swann and Edward Cullen? Perfect and Perfecter.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen?

I think if you’ve ever posed wet in a bikini for Esquire, you’ve given up your right to play a 16-year-old girl.

But the casting directors (I hope) are familiar with the book, so why cast a 20-year-old for such a young role? My best guess is that they had problems with casting Peeta, the main male character.

Peeta is 18-year-old, blonde, smart, and the definition of good. Are there any 18-year-old hot-boy actors (with tween girl pull) that can rope in big money at the box office? No. The casting directors are wise enough not to cast Justin Bieber.

The closest thing they can cast are these early-20s, blond hearththrobby guys that keep popping up. There are a ton of them. Perez Hilton loves them. But due to their age, they have to age Katniss. But if they age her…it just isn’t The Hunger Games done right.

I think the only young actress who is even remotely capable of pulling this off is Chloe Moretz.

She’s tough (Kick Ass), smart (500 Days of Summer), dark (Let Me In), and proven that she can handle material above and beyond her age. I don’t care if you have to cast a 20-year-old blondie and it looks like pedophilia, CAST. THIS. GIRL.

But the casting won’t be the nail in this coffin.

The best thing that HP and Twilight had going  for them was the wild, inconvenient, absolutely-ridiculous-in-every-kind-of-way popularity preceding the film release. And while this battle of the actresses is garnering more attention for the movie, it’s not going to make an affinity as strong as a Twi-hard or a Pott-head. The movie has to be smartly cast and promoted to avoid whatever happened to Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

(Note: Stop trying to cast Alex Pettyfer. He’s not attractive. And he scares me. Cast an unkown and breed a new heartthrob—a charming, acting Bieber, if you will. And cast Chloe Moretz.)



Wordplay with Willem Dafoe

So, I JUST saw something amazing on television that didn’t involve hoarding or Kim Kardashian:

It’s creative! It’s visually dazzling! It’s Willem Dafoe reading to you!

Don’t tell me you didn’t recognize the moody, rumbling voice of Gil the Fish (or the Green Goblin! Spider-mannnnn). What stands out to me about this commercial (outside of the fact that it seemingly has nothing to do with yogurt) is the poem:

Plain was the same as it ever was the same
plainly plain, samely same.
But then—
someone lit the flame!
Plain rode away on  lion’s mane
where plain met fruits with strangely names
such wonderful things did they did contain—
a shot of life to a hungry vein,
the captive beast who broke the chain.
And there upon that fruited plain became what plain became
So much more than more than plain.
Plain will never be the same.

Did they resurrect Lewis Carroll to write copy for this commercial? Who is the genius who did this? Believe it or not, the poet is Brian Tierney, a copywriter for Mullen (as far as I know). Not the Jabberwocky! Amazing, right?

Even if you aren’t a fan of poetry, Willem Dafoe reads slowly and with an inflection that makes you pay attention. And the poem isn’t really hard to decipher—it’s about something that is plain becoming not so plain at all.  It doesn’t sound overly cheesy and gives an ethereal quality to the commercial. Why yogurt needs to be ethereal is beyond me.

I guess the downside of this commercial is that doesn’t directly have much to do with yogurt at all. It may be too arty and some people may not get the point. But I can excuse it because it’s Fage, which isn’t…Dannon. AND I saw this commercial on Cooking Channel, which is like the Food Network gone through puberty living in a hipster, urban setting.

I’m already a big fan of Fage yogurt to begin with, and now, because of Paul Smecker and his fancy-dancy poem, I’m going to keep an eye out for their blueberry acai flavor.