Tag Archives: Popular Culture

Learning from Hollywood – the Harry Potter Model

USC recently hosted a conference entitled: “Learning From Hollywood: Can Entertainment Media Ignite an Education Revolution.” USC professor Henry Jenkins put forth his ideas about how Hollywood’s new ‘participatory culture’ (as seen in the Harry Potter Alliance) can and should be harnessed by educators and social activists.

Jenkins believes that schools should embrace the powers of social media and leverage it as a means to engage students — especially those at risk of becoming disenfranchised.

Read more thoughts about the conference and its ideas in this KQED Mind Shift Article.

Friday the 13th – Fears, Realities, & History

Do you suffer from triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13)? Even the least superstitious of us seem to go on high alert today – Friday the 13th.  Check out this list of bizarre superstitious practices on MSNBC that are still prevalent today.

Is it unlucky? Why do we fear it so?

MSNBC published an article today looking at the statistics today with some alarming results (and fascinating insight). Apparently, unlucky events (car accidents, falls, etc) happen at more regular dates on the 13th, but perhaps for reasons other than cosmic misfortune.

So, where does this fear of the number 13 come from? Apparently, it’s a combination of mysticism, religion, and… who knows. National Geographic explores our irrational trepidation.

The Vampire Diaries Season Finale – My Take

So, my Friday evening is sadly under-scheduled and I’m stuck online patrolling my Facebook page. You see, one of my students decided it would be ‘funny’ to access my Facebook account via my phone and send out a series of friend requests to other students. So, I find myself sitting here, watching for them to ‘accept friend request’ so that I can quickly snipe with an ‘unfriend.’ I’ve hit six so far. This joke quickly became unfunny :/

So, I thought I would spend a portion of my evening writing my take on the latest “Vampire Diaries” season finale. If you haven’t seen the “Vampire Diaries,” I highly recommend it. I mean, it won’t change your life or give you insight into life’s greater truth. In fact, I think that viewing might in some ways stain your soul. Still, it’s really fun television in that steamy, teenage, prime-time, soap-opera kind of way. I haven’t missed an episode – in fact, I have an iTunes Subscription to get new episodes right away. I then watch them on my HD television while my husband vomits in the other room, probably slowly losing respect for me. Yet, I continue on. Why? Because it’s horribly addictive. It’s been the best Vampire series on television since Buffy – well, without the incredibly strong female protagonist… or the three dimensional characters… or Joss Whedon’s brilliant whit.

So, the basic premise of the “Vampire Diaries” is that Stefan Salvatore, brooding handsome, Vampire teen returns to his hometown in order to pursue ex-girlfriend doppelganger/non-vamp/high school student. Now, this is already problematic to me – this is also my issue with the Twilight Series. If you’re an incredibly attractive vampire with a century plus of wisdom and life experience, perpetually late-teen/early twenties, and cursed with a definitive, non-early bird schedule – why the heck would you go back to high school? I mean, college, I get that – especially if you’re not going to actually enroll in a class – parties every day of the week, attractive co-eds, and all the pretentious deep discussions that you could want. But seriously… high school? And why doesn’t anyone point out the inherent creepiness of these 150+ year old guys and their obsession with a teenage girl? Yeah, they might look 19 (or in this show’s case 27), but they’re not. We have laws against that in this country! Even in countries without laws against it, they frown on people who’ve past the centennial mark hooking up with sixteen year old girls.

I am incapable of breathing without assistance from an attractive man.

So, let’s talk about the main characters. First, there’s Elena Gilbert. She’s stunningly beautiful but with one extreme flaw – she is utterly incapable of taking care of herself in any way, shape, or form. Honestly, before the debonaire Salvatore brothers showed up, it’s amazing that she didn’t die from falling down in front of a train. Every time I see her walking around in heels, I’m nervous that she is going to trip and impale herself on something sharp – I think that was the focus of one episode. She is so excessively needy and dependent that I’m fairly certain that each episode sets back the clock on the women’s movement. By the end of the series, I will probably no longer hold the right to vote. Still, as I continue to watch it, I have no one to blame but myself. This ultra-needy personality seems to enrapture every person who ever meets her. I don’t get it.

My boyish good looks distract you from the significant age difference with my girlfriend.

Next is Stefan Salvatore. He was born the son of a plantation owner in the ante-bellum south. He refuses to fight in the Civil War because, as we all know, tons of slave and plantation owning sons of the Confederacy were truly early Civil Rights Advocates. It keeps us endeared to him as we can appreciate his age, fall into the romance of a “Lost Cause,” and don’t think he’s a complete tool because we know that at heart, he didn’t support slavery (although had no problem benefiting from it). His good looks let us forget his predatory nature – not the vampirism, but the fact that has a thing for women that are more than a century younger than him. Again, why is this okay? I mean, everyone’s complaining about Hugh Hefner’s pending nuptials, but at least his fianceé can vote. His hair is also confusing as it looks the same in all flashbacks. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t have hair gel during the Civil War… at the very least it had to be rationed (like coffee and tobacco). His personality? He’s so overly sensitive that it makes you want to vomit. He so focused on ‘feelings’ and how everyone else is doing, whinily offering himself up for every sacrifice that he’s incapable of developing a real personality.

I'm very attractive - your love will change me.

Next is Damon Salvatore. Damon…. Mmmmm… Damon… Damon is your quintessential ‘bad boy’ with just enough vulnerability that girls think their love can change him. He’s also ridiculously handsome
. It’s the blue eye/dark hair combo – you just can’t beat it. Unlike his annoying brother, Damon is not even playing with the notion of going to high school. Sure, he’s also in love with sixteen year old, helpless Elena, but I can ignore the fact that he’s committing a felony in several dozen states. Every episode, we learn more about his past that shows us how he’s not really a ‘bad guy,’ he’s just misunderstood – sure he has killed hundreds of innocent people just for fun, but we understand him like no one else!! Now, in spite of the fact that he plays a stereotypical bad boy, playing to that female caricature (and I’m pretty sure that I dated ‘that guy’ in high school), I’m confident that if Damon and I ever dated, I could change him. I truly understand the depth of his character and my love would be different cuz I’m special. I’m just saying.

In my world, gays are still in the closet.

Then there’s Bonnie Bennet. Bonnie is a lesbian. Now, I don’t have a problem with lesbians whatsoever. Decades of living in Miami and Los Angeles have made me as progressive as the next girl. My issue is the fact that the show is incapable of letting Bonnie out of the closet. Instead, she is clearly pining after her friend Elena and seems to spend every episode coming up with new ways to sacrifice herself to prove her loyalty to her BFF. Now, I certainly had my teenage besties, but no way on Earth did I spend every waking moment thinking of how my life could be offered up to better demonstrate that commitment. She even starts dating Elena’s brother as an evident replacement for her affection. While her boyfriend follows her around with a sad, puppy-dog look, she continues to be far too involved in her BFF’s life or death shenanigans. Yeah, she’s a witch and all powerful, but it seems like those powers would be better used to win the lottery or gain the affections of a certain, blue-eyed Salvatore brother. But nope, Bonnie is constantly trying to strengthy her witchy ways so that she can make an apt sacrifice for her teenage BFF. Again, what is it with the helpless, damsel in distress? How does she not fall down all the time?!

So, the series two finale – warning there will be SPOILERS, so stop reading a while ago if you haven’t yet watched it. This episode largely focuses on a helpless Elena once again needing others’ protection and guidance while she is being hunted by a supernatural something or other (who actually seems to have no interest in dating her – or perhaps because he needs her dead, has moved passed that). The Salvatore brothers along with Bonnie are pulling out all the stops to protect her – swearing on their lives and souls that she will walk away. Sure, everyone else might die, but Elena will come out of this breathing! Her male family members, the Gilbert men (primarily her brother and uncle/father) are surprisingly impotent. It seems like helplessness runs in the Gilbert family – it’s a wonder that natural selection didn’t take them out years ago. I mean… how do these people bathe or dress themselves? How did they all not die from inability to prepare food? It’s ridiculous. Bonnie has come up with yet another plan to save Elena that will result in her (Bonnie’s) death. She is a stickler for this plan – it’s like the fourth time this season that she’s had a plan with the same outcome. She also adamantly refuses to investigate any other type of scheme. Damon is okay with this proposal – he’s all too willing to sacrifice others for his own needs (dang he’s hot). He handles all the tough situations stoicly and with a snarky grin; at one point he suffers a (fatal to vampires) werewolf bite but is more concerned with not worrying Elena. Elena spends most of the episode crying and helpless while everyone is trying to save her. It would be nice if she even tried to have an idea, even faked it. It’s just sad.

Stefan runs around being overly concerned for everyone else making his personality even more devoid of life. His ineptitude and overly emotional bungling ultimately lead to Elena being unprotected for a few seconds which means that she is captured by ultra-evil-supernatural guy. He (Stefan) really, really wants to sacrifice his life for somebody (in this case, Elena’s aunt Jenna), but is ultimately too pathetic to even accomplish that feat. Turns out that über vampire has plans for him that don’t involve his immediate death. I guess his supreme strategy involve a lot of crying and sentiment. Again, I would like to point out that he is more than 150 years older than his girlfriend. Seriously… that is not okay.

So, Elena is a prisoner of super-supe and spends the last 15 minutes of the episode crying, helpless, and watching while others give up their own lives for hers. Her aunt and caretaker, Jenna, is imprisoned with her about to be sacrificed. Damon is actually trying to come up with a real way to save everyone and not all whingy about his fatal werewolf wound (attractive). See? He’s clearly a deep feeler. I mean, sure his plan is about sacrificing Bonnie, but aren’t they all? Ultimately, the Salvitore brothers (namely Damon) succeed in rescuing Elena, uper-supe lives to fight another day, and Bonnie is once again unsuccessful in her suicidal proclivities. However, she must bury her aunt Jenna (a relatively minor character, but significant enough that we’re shocked to see her go). The funeral is held but only about six people attend, and apparently only out of their support for Elena. I guess Aunt Jenna didn’t have any friends of her own. Also, everyone there is just entirely focused on Elena. I mean… didn’t Jenna also have a nephew she cared for? Isn’t anyone sad about her passing? Why didn’t anyone teach Elena that no matter how black the dress is, a dress that short, low cut, and tight is inappropriate for a funeral. I guess without her aunt to pick-out her clothes, she’s helpless.

The season ends with a few cliff-hangers: will Elena learn how to appropriately dress herself? Will Damon succumb to the werewolf bite? How will Bonnie be able to sacrifice herself to prove her love & devotion to Elena? Will Stefan be able to develop a personality independent of saving damsels in distress? Will the authorities finally intervene in this statutory relationship? These answers and more next season… and yes, I will be watching. 100%

Why Tyler Doesn’t Ruin Radio

It was recently brought to my attention that in my last post on my Loveline, Southern California, potential serial killer adventures, that I left out a very important figure – Tyler White, better known as “Tyler Ruins Radio.” I think that he was also called “Petey” at some point, but I really don’t know… he was wearing a t-shirt that said Petey… But I digress.

However, the point of this addendum is that when Katy and I made our appearance at Westwood One (a.k.a. serial killer warehouse), we also met the lovely and witty Tyler White, former Loveline screener and current Tech Guru for the show (and numerous others). He was also quite the friendly and welcoming guy, even though we were clearly thrust upon him by his senior radio colleagues in spite of never having exchanging a tweet with me. He entertained my questions about his pending nuptials and was sure to throw in some amusing drops and germane commentary.

He was an integral character in mine and Katy’s Los Angeles adventures. However, I wonder if, with his online techy knowledge, he was truly the secret serial killer and with his non-chalante attitude was able to easily make us feel comfortable… suspicious.

My last point – he definitely does *not* ruin radio.

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen, Doctor Who’s “Sarah Jane Smith”

This morning, I sadly read that Elisabeth Sladen, famous for her role as the Doctor’s most famous companion “Sarah Jane Smith” passed away today at 63 after losing her battle with cancer.

Whether you’re a fan of the old, new, or both, Sarah Jane embodied the quintessential character of the Doctor’s companion – compassionate, courageous, inquisitive, and full of life. Rest In Peace Elisabeth… Sarah Jane

BBC Obituary Doctor Who Announcement

My Southern California Adventures – Loveline, Serial Killers, & Comedians

A friend of mine asked me to write this blog entry, although I’m unsure as to whether or not I will leave it posted. It catalogues my recent, non-academic, adventures in Southern California involving several radio personalities, potential serial killers, and comedians/photographers.

So, if you have known me for any length of time, then you know two things about me. One, I’m a huge fan of technology and online networking. Second, I’ve been in love with Dr. Drew for twenty years (since my formative teens when I stayed up late to listen to him on Loveline); on a side note, you would also know that I cannot act ‘normal’ when I meet celebrities in real life and instead become awkward, nerdy, and weird (see my in-life meeting with Eddie Izzard).

Over the course of the last few years, I have been listening to several podcasts. I’ll admit, I like to listen to them while playing World of Warcraft, elevating myself to a whole other special kind of nerd. I can’t explain that one away or justify it in any real way and I’m not even going to try. You will just have to accept it, as have I. In the course of my podcast cruising, I discovered a few that I absolutely love and the two most relevant here are the Film Vault and the After Disaster (both directly connected to Loveline via personalities and piggy-backing). These two feature a series of charming guys, but the two pertinent here are a certain sardonic, lovable curmudgeon named “Engineer” Anderson and a brilliantly funny comedian/professional photographer, Mike Carano. Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been listening to their podcasts and commentary, as well as exchanging twitter comments and conversations on a variety of topics (none of which are truly germane to my focus on this blog).

Recently, I attended a Global Education conference in San Diego. A casual comment on that to Carano finagled a spontaneous invite to Loveline. Now, I’m sure that it was the type of invitation that was entirely meant to be a polite offering that no one anticipates the other will take them up on. However, clearly, as an academic I am not familiar with standard forms of common courtesy or social interaction and, much to his chagrin I’m sure, I readily accepted the invitation.

Now, in spite of my excitement and yearning to see Loveline, meet the lovely Drew Pinsky, and eagerness to meet Anderson & Mike in real life, I’ll admit that I had some apprehension. What if these guys were serial killers and this was an elaborate plot laid out over the course of several years and intricate computer hacking? In spite of the unlikeness, I decided to invite my friend Katy to attend with me. I figured that, worst case scenario, I could trip her while making a speedy exit. After all, what else are friends for if not to take your place in a bizarre, dungeon torture chamber? So, on a Wednesday evening, we loaded into the car and began our journey of 2.5 hours to the Westwood One studios in Los Angeles.

During the course of the drive, I began preparing and planning for the worst case scenario – we would be the weirdo stalker girls, Drew would be absent, Anderson & Mike would be skinning us alive and wearing our removed epidermises as a creepy new L.A. fashion statement… essential avoid disappointment by not setting expectations too high. To make myself feel better for potentially offering Katy up as a serial killer sacrifice, I paid for gas and bought her some In N’ Out as a pseudo last meal. What followed can only be described as one of the greatest adventures in my life!

We pulled into Westwood one, cleverly disguised as a run-down building in a potential serial killer warehouse. We were greeted by what we thought was a homeless man wanting to petition us for beer money, before realizing that it was the famed security guard Reggie (that I’ll admit, until that night, I had assumed was a made up character). He escorted us inside to the studio where low and behold I was greeted by a group of familiar, smiling, and friendly faces!

Mike and Anderson immediately jumped forward to make introductions and made us feel immediately welcome, and not at all stalkerish (well, just less so). Even more so, I was immediately introduced to the good Doctor and his cohost, Mike Catherwood. Drew was more than gracious, as well as ridiculously handsome, and it was all could do to not squeal like a teenage girl at a Jonas brothers concert. He immediately began a conversation with me about my study of Architecture (confused from Archaeology) and a star-struck, doe-eyed girl, I just went with it (I think at some point someone corrected him, but to be honest, the adrenaline and awkwardness leaves a bit of memory gap). I believe that he attempted to have some type of mutual conversation, but all I could do was focus my thoughts on “Don’t scream, Drew I love you!!” I should also add that Psycho Mike was quite the charmer as well, making us feel immediately welcome. At the end of the night, one photo (and a possible restraining order) later, I did get a great memento. Throughout the show, our wonderful hosts, Mike & Anderson, allowed us to get a closer view of the inner-workings of the studio and made a serious effort to put as at ease (and not in a serial killer, we’re trying to get your guard down kind of way).

As the night went on, Loveline came to a close and Anderson and Mike truly showed us the ropes of a radio studio (which believe me was magical to me – who is more familiar with the insides of libraries and museums). There was a green button that did something techy and another one that either accentuated coughing noises or muted your mic… don’t remember. I was a bit overwhelmed. The aftershow started, hosted by Mike & Anderson, and we eagerly watched as they ad-libbed a hilarious live feed. At one point, completely out of the blue and much to our surprise, they actually invited us into the studio to have a bit of a participating role – something I’m sure that they immediately regretted with my stilted, unfunny, and awkward commentary.

The night ended quite late – with hugs, goodbyes, and a gift of five hour energy to help the 2.5 hour drive at 2:00am back to San Diego. At one point, Anderson repeated Mike’s original mistake of inviting me back to the studio any time I found myself back in So Cal (will he ever learn)? The night was full of laughs, thrills, and absolutely no serial murder. I can honestly say, it was one of the best trips I’ve taken in my life (in the top five – up there with the token American voyage to Cambridge and the Friday night booking/boarding faery ride to the Netherlands).

Me, the brilliant funny Mike Carano, the illustrious Anderson, & potential sacrificial victim Katy

So, what did I learn from this trip? Sometimes, people can be as awesome and gracious in real life as they are on the radio and via their online personalities. Dr. Drew is more handsome in person. And, always bring a friend in case you have to make a hasty escape and need someone to take your place in the basement grave.