31 May 2008

A different kind of movie review

Hotel Rwanda is a stunning movie. Let's put aside for a moment that the cinematography, the score, and the acting were pretty close to phenomenal.

I'm aware that this was a fictional account of actual events. "Based on a true story" is one of my least favourite phrases when it comes to marketing films. It usually means, "We cut out all the political stuff and changed the story enough to make the protagonist sympathetic." But in watching the movie, I can't help but pinpoint an essential truth: The West doesn't care about Africa. Hell, The West doesn't care about anything that isn't The West.

An estimated 800,000 people died in Rwanda when tensions between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis exploded. Most of those killed were either Tutsis or Hutus who refused to join the militias. I'll point out that this is generally accepted as fact, although not everyone agrees on how the bloodshed started, or why.

Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) has the same horrifying realization over and over again: no one is coming to help and no one cares. In the beginning, he just wants to stay out of the whole mess. He is Hutu married to a Tutsi. He doesn't understand the ethnic hatred, but doesn't want to take a stand, either.

Of course, he does, or there wouldn't be a movie about what a hero he was.

The movie upset me, and it wasn't just because of this particular story. It was because of how disturbing it is to know that atrocities like this happen and the world frequently shrugs its shoulders and begs off with an excuse. However, when someone knocks down some American architecture, or we're afraid that oil might break $75/barrel (oops, too late) intervention is everywhere.

I'm not necessarily blaming the US -- or its leader (although these people do) -- for what happened in Rwanda, or what's happening anywhere (except, specifically, Iraq). But this stupid "not my problem" idea that exists is completely detrimental. Wars are happening. You might be sitting at home in your living room (I am), but it affects you. You just haven't seen the damage yet.

Well, maybe someone will buy carbon offsets before the next slaughter. Then we can at least breathe easier.

30 May 2008

Why you should care about Feminism

It would seem to many people that Feminism is dead, passé, or that it's a battle we've won, hands down. To you, I submit the following:

What I find so scary about this woman is her misogyny.

24 May 2008

I can't breathe

I don't know how accurate this site is, but it's scary as hell. And the noises give me the creeps too.

Can we save the planet now, please?

23 May 2008

Crazy kids

What these kids do is so amazing, even Simon Cowell agrees.

22 May 2008

Such a waste

I read the following fact today and thought it was absolutely heartbreaking, from both an environmental, but also a social and health standpoint as well.

Americans throw out 122 POUNDS (55 kg) of food every month (and I'm sure Canadians aren't that far off).

Considering the rising cost of staple foods, it's pretty financially irresponsible to be throwing out food at all. But when you factor in how this has an effect on the poorest people in the poorest countries, it becomes a moral issue as well.

What does 122 lbs. of food look like? Take a peek.

19 May 2008

Friends and Enemies

I had an interesting conversation with a student. She often feels like she doesn't have any friends. I remember feeling that way a lot. In fact, only a few months ago I felt like I only had one or two really tenuous connections.

I wonder if this is a female thing more than a male thing. Do men obsess about their friendships as much as women do? I feel like men are pretty clear on who they like and don't like, while women are in a constant state of turmoil about it.

Without doing lots of research, or over-analyzing it, I'd say that some of it has to do with socialization. But I also feel like it must go deeper than that. With men, it often feels like, "I like beer, you like beer; let's be friends," whereas with women, it's something more, something deeper.

If you take it one step further and consider bullying, even that sees a significant gender difference. I remember in elementary school, when my best friend was a boy, if he was picked on, it was something physical -- a shove, or a sucker punch. My clearest bullying experience was when a bunch of girls in my neighbourhood ganged up on me to humiliate me. Two of them separately had conversations with me about how a third girl annoyed them, and when I admitted that I was also annoyed, they used my admission against me. They cornered and confronted me at the local pool. They made me out to be the bad-guy. I can still remember that image of trying to walk out of the locker room, but being surrounded by them as they called me "mean" and claimed that they were just trying to find out what I thought. I remember leaving the pool in tears and biking home, feeling betrayed. Even back then I knew that I'd been set up. That was almost 20 years ago.

Movies like Mean Girls are based on the premise that girls interact on a different level, that they connive and scheme and manipulate in order to belong. Is it always true? No; but my experience is that girls are often trying to prove to each other that they have something special that makes them belong.

I'll make note of the fact that it's not true that boys can't be conniving and manipulative in social settings, nor that physical bullying isn't as psychologically damaging. But that isn't my point.

Why do people have to make it so difficult to be friends co-exist?

Back to my student: she is a lovely girl, who is probably too mature for her age. At the same time, she doesn't have a ton of life experience, so she is also immature. She hangs out with people who generally keep her at arms length. When someone shows interest in her, she is suspicious because she is used to being ignored. When someone disconnects from her (even momentarily) she is paranoid that it has deeper meaning. It's what she's used to.

She and I talked about the importance of honesty and how it hurts less when someone comes out and tells the truth about how they feel about you. Knowing the truth is always better than not knowing. Understanding where people come from is something that you can build on. Uncertainty doesn't do anyone favours.

The worst enemies you can have are the ones who don't admit they hate you. They best friends you have are the ones who would rather tell you the hurtful truths than the pacifying lies.

Submit stories and comments below.

18 May 2008


So, the 4 visitors to my blog may have noticed a difference in my blog since the last time they visited (unless they visited it late yesterday). I'm trying to head in a new direction with it.

I'm looking for suggestions for a new title. "Drama" doesn't quite encompass what I want it to be anymore.

Leave suggestions in the comments. I won't publish the suggestions. Just the winner. :)

17 May 2008

Oh. My. God.

Watch this. It's horrifying. And amusing.

I totally understand that this guy doesn't talk for all Republicans, and that there are plenty of intelligent Republicans out there who do know what Neville Chamberlain did and why it was such a catastrophe. What upsets me is that, knowing the general ignorance of Americans on foreign history, except for some general recognition, they are trotting out "experts" to compare Barak Obama to a man who agreed to let Hitler take over Czechoslovakia because Obama says that he plans to talk to groups like Hamas to try to resolve issues such as terrorism.

President Bush started this landslide when he spoke at the Knesset yesterday. Now, all kinds of people are annoyed at him. Bush's thinly-veiled racism comes as no surprise. His overt fear-mongering is even less so.

So, kudos to Hardball host Chris Matthews, who demanded an explanation of *Kevin James' talking point. It's nice to see the media press someone on an issue and then call it what it is: partisan politicking using fear and ignorance to manipulate American voters. I'm am so glad that Mr. Matthews is obviously intelligent enough to be able to call him to task like that. Bush's comparison was irresponsible, and the way the pundits are tripping over themselves to exploit this misrepresentation of history is sickening.

I'm glad Obama is already all over this.

Chris Matthews is my Hero of the Week.

*I love how quickly James' Wikipedia article was updated to include his Hardball gaff.

07 May 2008

This upsets me

I can't believe how some people feel entitled to treat women like crap.

04 May 2008

The Sound of Silence

It is quiet in my condo. The fridge is whirring and the dehumidifier recently started its nap, but it's so pleasantly hush in here.

There was a time when, no matter the time of day, there was music on. Some people find it comforting. I find that it gets in the way.

I've done a lot of thinking over the past month. A lot has changed. It occured to me that I never thought I would be doing what I'm doing right now. Lying on the couch, typing on my laptop isn't strange; neither is my teaching career. But I didn't think that I'd be sitting here alone. And I certainly didn't foresee that I'd be okay with it.

I forgot myself. It happened before. In fact, I can't name a time when it didn't happen. I feel relatively certain that it will happen again. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. There are, however, limits. For example, I did realize one thing in particular in this last month. When everything in my life seems to be going swimmingly, and yet enormous amounts of anxiety are crushing my will to live, it's time to re-evaluate.

Other things I realized:
  1. I am not No Good.
  2. Judging is for people who can't self-reflect.
  3. My parents are the best friends I have.
  4. My friends are the best and most supportive in the world.
  5. No matter what, no one can ever say that I'm a coward.
Let me break it down:
  1. I was told a lot of things about myself that I came to believe. I was told that I was broken and needed fixing. I was told that the breaking was my fault and that I needed to try harder to fix it. I was told that I wasn't doing it right and was therefore No Good. I was told that I would be like that forever. None of that is true.
  2. I think a lot about the things I say. In fact, when I don't think, I say a lot of atrocious things. I've yelled things across restaurants without thinking; I've said things to students without thinking. When I don't think, bad things happen. So, I've generally learned to think a lot about the things I say. I think about how other people might react. In fact, I'm so good at this, that I've come up with about 40 different ways in which tomorrow night will play out, because I'm really good at thinking about what I think and want to say. People who don't or can't self-reflect do a lot more damage than they realize. The sadest part is that they aren't doing damage to other people, because other people can forget and move on; they are doing damage to themselves because history repeats. Or Karma kicks ass.
  3. Over the past 8 months, my parents have been wonderful to me. They have been there for me when no one else has been around. They have let me stay with them when things were tight. They lent me money when things were even tighter. They didn't judge or cajole, they just loved. They are amazing people. One day I will have to learn to live without them. In the meantime, I'm so glad that I can rely on them.
  4. I had been keeping lots of friends at a distance over the last little while. The irony is that I needed them. Luckily, they didn't take any offense to that, and when the bottom fell out, they were wonderful and supportive beyond measure.
  5. I have never lobbed a grenade and taken off. I stand my ground. When I have something difficult to do, I see it through to the finish and I don't let other people clean up after me. I've sure wanted to plenty of times, but I try to give in to my conscience and not my ego.
That's what silence gives me the time to sort out.

03 May 2008