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Op 16: Girl in Progress Review

Spoiler Alert: Girl in Progress Movie

Girl in Progress is the story of Ansiedad, an intelligent and good-looking teenager whose mom ignores her most of the time. Grace, her mom, instead fills her time waitressing at a restaurant and sleeping with a married gynecologist. Ansiedad goes to drastic measures to get her mom to notice her, and since this movie is advertised as a comedy, it is obvious that she will succeed. However, despite having a predictable ending, this movie strays from the formulaic conventions that comedies about teenagers usually have.

For one, this movie has a metaphysical vibe to it. Movies about rebellious daughters who want to be close with their parents usually involve scenes where the daughter hangs with the wrong crowd, fights with her loyal best friend, and fools around with the good-looking bad boy. Ansiedad also has these experiences, but what makes this movie unique is that she plans them out. After hearing her teacher talk about coming of age stories where characters have to have bad experiences in order to grow up, Ansiedad decides that she is too impatient to wait for these experiences to occur naturally. She plots to befriend the girl with the worst reputation at school, she tells her friend in advance that she plans on being mean to her, and she tries to seduce a guy who she knows will treat her like dirt. She plans her own demise with the hopes that like a phoenix she can rise from her decay and become transformed into a confidant and vibrant creature.

Although these types of movies are notorious for having generic side characters, Girl in Progress adds sprinkles of originality to the guys that show up in this film. Comedies have three types of males: The jerk who would probably sell his own mother’s kidneys to buy a new car, the saint who would sell his own kidneys to save the neighbor boy’s puppy, and the male who starts off the movie as a jerk, but after some heavy introspections and make out scenes, he becomes a saint. Girl in Progress has the archetypal jerk character; however, the saint character has some very real flaws and the jerk does not make a 180 change after he shows his good side.

Grace works with a man who is a diamond in the rough. He is a poor man who can’t read, but he saves the day during a restaurant emergency. Grace starts seeing him in a new light, and the movie viewer assumes that this will be Grace’s Prince Charming. That is until he commits a felony because of his love for Grace, and the movie viewer realizes that this man will not help Grace achieve her happy ending.

Ansiedad succeeds in getting a jerk interested in her. However, we find out that under his tough exterior, the reason he is mean and insensitive is because he wants to annoy his parents. In fact, he is the type of guy who will think twice, maybe even thrice, about sleeping with a virgin (especially one who obviously needs the help of a good psychologist). When this teenager is given the chance to show the fine quality of his character, peer pressure causes him to revert back to his jerk façade. Perhaps he feels bad about his actions, or maybe he decides it would have been idiotic to risk his bad boy reputation for Ansiedad; we never find out because he stops interacting with her.

The end, although predictable (not every movie can be a thriller with twists), is covered with drops of realism. Yes, Grace and Ansiedad have a great relationship at the end, but neither Grace nor Ansiedad have boyfriends.  Movies in this genre usually tie up all the loose ends at the end of the movie, and it is refreshing to see a movie that veers from the norm. Yes, this movie has a sweet ending, but it is not sweet enough to push anyone into a diabetic coma.

Girl in Progress was able to give twists and realism to a coming of age story. Aside from straying from an overly predictable story line, this movie manages to squeeze in a few jokes and funny moments. I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants to have a few laughs and leave the theater in an uplifted mood (after all, despite being 3D, not everyone wants to watch the sinking of Titanic). What did you think of the movie?

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Op 15: Acceptance

As soon as children begin sharing the coveted red crayon from their box, parents begin to warn against peer pressure. They start by telling children to avoid being pressured into being mean, and as the children age, the parents warn them against being pressured to do drugs, have sex, and make bad fashion choices. When a kid complains that all of their friend are wearing pants that say juicy on their bottom, the parents reply, “Well if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” The parents’ words would have merit if weren’t for the fact that all adults also succumb to peer pressure.

Alcohol is a controversial substance which births good times and children. Many religious group such as Muslims, Mormons, and conservative Christians oppose it. They believe that alcohol causes too many tragedies, and that god does not approve of the recreational use of this substance. However, despite being against alcohol, many of these groups do not believe it should be illegal. When the children in these group ask the adults why it’s okay for others in their country to drink alcohol, the adults inform them that each person should have the freedom to live their lives they way they want. However, if the adults who belong to these groups want to live their life the way they want and drink alcohol occasionally, they will be reminded of drunk drivers, addicts, and hell; they will also be asked what type of role models they want to be for their children.

The people who drink socially are just as guilty of judgment as their sober counterparts. The adults who drink margaritas at weddings and unwind on the weekend with a cold beer, have difficulty understanding why someone would choose not to relax in a similar fashion. They might speak with admiration about groups of people who abstain from alcohol for religious reasons  while they sip their chardonnay, but if the friend or relative they are telling this to refuses to drink with them, they will pressure them with mocking and teasing until they agree to have wine poured into their glass. Although this teasing is done in jest, a person who declines alcohol on several occasions will soon find themselves not being invited to social gatherings. It seems groups have a choice when it comes to drinking alcohol, but individuals do not.

People are not only pressured to partake or abstain from mind altering substances, but they are also pressured on the way they educate their children. Parents who send their kids to public school often condemn those who home school. They accuse home schooled kids of suffering not only academically but also socially. However, despite the fact that they think public school is superior to kids being taught by their parents, they will concede that each parent has the right to raise their child the way they want. That is as long as that parent is not their friend or relative. Friends and relatives who choose to home school should be ostracized.

Parents who choose to home school their kids not only enjoy thinking that their kids are academically and socially superior to their peers, but that the parents who send their kids to public school are selfish and lazy. After all, these parents think that since it is so obvious that homeschooling is more effective than regular school, a parent who does not want to devote their life to teaching their kids should have abstained from having children. However, home schooling parents do not want all public schools to shut down because they still concede that many parents have financial obligations that prevent them from home schooling. They will be superficially polite and kind to parents who send their kids to public schools, but they will refuse to socialize with these parents, or allow their home schooled angels to play with their public schooled peers. It seems that when it comes to schooling ones kids, just like with alcohol, the freedom of choice is only given to groups but not individuals.

Parents teach their kids about the evils of peer pressure, but what they really mean is that their kids should avoid being pressured into behaviors the parents feel are unsuitable. If a child complains that their friends are pressuring them to make A’s and do their homework, a parent will gladly encourage their child to succumb to peer pressure. While good and bad peer pressure tends to be black and white when you’re a child (stealing is bad, getting exercise is good), when a person becomes an adult, good and bad pressure definitions become gray (democrats are bad, democrats are good). Our society says it admires individuality, but what it really means is that individuality is only admired in groups of a 100 people or more. Have you ever felt peer pressured to act a certain way?

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Op 14: Weddings

Weddings are events where the guests get to experience a plethora of emotions. Anticipation as they wait for the bride to walk down the aisle. Amazement at how beautiful the bride looks in her white gown. Worry, because their tears of joy which stream down their face as they watch the bride and groom declare their love for each other, might leave mascara marks on their face. Laughter as the bride shoves cake into the groom’s mouth. Competitiveness as the garter and flower bouquet go flying in the air. However, these customs are only prevalent at western weddings, and the world is filled with unique wedding customs that are often not portrayed in Hollywood movies.

In western countries the groom is always welcome at the wedding ceremony; however, in African countries this is not always the case. In Ethiopia, when the groom and the groomsman reach the bride’s house, her family and friends block the entrance of the house. The groom has to sing loudly as he forces his way inside the house. Hopefully, for the sake of the bride’s family and friends, the groom is able to carry a tune. Once the groom is inside the house, he sprays every room with a strong smelling perfume. Maybe the tradition of trying to keep the groom from entering the house was started by a bride who had allergies.

While in western countries it is common to see a bride dressed in white, certain areas of Japan have taken it to the next level. A bride has to paint her entire body white before the wedding ceremony. In Western cultures it is enough for the bride to represent her virginity with her dress, but in Japan a woman must wear it on her skin. One must wonder if the wedding guests will have scandalous thoughts about the bride if some paint off of her toe rubs off.

It is common for the bride to cry during western weddings. Some of them cry from happiness, some from overwrought nerves, and maybe a few from the lingering pain of the bikini wax from the night before. However, in the Tuija culture of China, it is an obligation for the bride to cry. A bride that does not cry is not only disgraced, but she is also beaten by her mother after the ceremony. I guess the Tuija brides have the option of either crying during the wedding ceremony or after it.

In western cultures, right before the wedding ends, the bride and groom thank the guests for coming and sometimes give them a small wedding gift. On the Marquesas Islands this gift is a back massage. Once the wedding festivities are over, the guests lie down on the floor, and the bride and groom walk across them to the exit door. Aside from the free back massage, the guests also get to enjoy the lovely sound of cracking backs.

After the wedding is over, despite strange and sometimes uncomfortable traditions which the bride and groom have to endure, they get to experience immense pleasure on their honeymoon. Except if the bride and groom are from Northern Borneo. After the wedding, the bride and groom have to spend seventy two hours together without going to the bathroom. To make sure the bride and groom comply with this tradition, family members guard the bathroom door. This tradition is supposed to bring the bride and groom closer together, and a couple who tries to murder family members together, stays together!

What are your favorite wedding traditions?

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Op 13: The Evolution of Family TV Shows

Adults are always nostalgic about their childhoods, and they enjoy complaining about about the fact that life was better when they were young. The prices were were lower, the clothing was more stylish, and the music had a better beat. One of their main complaints is how kids these days are less respectful. Of course they have to blame something for this phenomenon, so why not blame  the culprit that is allegedly responsible for underage and sex and violence, The Television. Adults believe that family shows have deteriorated into something that teaches kids that disrespecting their parents is cool. So in order to find out if their accusations have merit, let’s examine the evolution of family shows.

In the 60’s, a popular family show was Leave it to Beaver. The parents were perfect. The father had a high paying and respectable job, although what exactly that job was no one knows, and the highlight of the mother’s day was cleaning the house and cooking meals. They had a perfect marriage, where arguments didn’t exist, and where the man always put the toilet seat down. Their children were just as as perfect as their parents. Sure they broke the rules every once in a while, after all every show needs a bit of drama, but they accepted their consequences without arguing. In fact, most of the rules they were breaking were hilariously harmless: Faking sick to get stuff from their parents, or reading other people’s diaries. Apparently in the 60’s, bullying, diseases, and poverty did not exist.

A decade later, a show about a very dull lady and her very dull girls aired on television. Now the Brady Bunch, which also featured a dull man with three dull boys of his own, was a story of a mixed family with 6 kids. It seemed though, after the pilot episode, the entire family got amnesia, and they forgot that they weren’t all blood related. This show could have explored how blended families work, but the kids of the 70’s weren’t ready for that. Instead, we see a happy marriage with a white collar dad and a homemaker mom. At least in this show we know the dad’s profession, architect; and the parents sometimes disagree with each other, although they never actually argue. The kids sometimes disagree with the parents, although these disagreements only last 5 minutes, and the kids never forget to say “yes sir”. Also, although the problems these kids face are also on the harmless side, they do explore such issues as not going to college to explore a career in sports, and how being shallow can have bad results.

A decade after we were forced to watch a big family on TV, we were given yet another big family on TV. However, in Full House, the family was less traditional because it involved cool uncles and wacky friends. Unlike it’s predecessors, the adults of Full House were portrayed more accurately. These grownups were still loving parents, but they also had issues with jealousy( which entered their friendships and relationships), career drama, and the women worked. The kids often disagreed with their parents. In fact, during the episode in which D.J.’s father snooped through her things, D.J. Was angry and rude to her father for almost 20 minutes. Of course the kids apologize to their parents for their bad behavior after each episode, but that bad behavior occurs a lot, and the kids have also forgotten how to say “yes sir”. This show also deals with the issues such as drunk driving and smoking cigarettes. Although both these things are portrayed as negative, it shows that kids have to know how to deal with it.

One of the most recent family shows is Hanna Montana. This show tells the story of a girl who is secretly a famous singer, and about her relationships with her friends and father. Her father, like the adults in Full House, is a realistic character. He has to learn how to balance his personal life with being a father, and he also has to deal with negative emotions such as jealousy and sadness. Now the yes sir’s have disappeared from this show entirely, in fact some parents would argue that the main character is quite rude to her dad. She often makes negative remarks to him, and is constantly trying to break the rules. However, despite the fact that she doesn’t give him the “proper respect”, she always puts his needs ahead of her own. In fact she has been known to cancel dates in order so spend time with her dad. This show, despite being on the Disney Channel, still deals with realistic issues. The characters have to deal with the consequences of lying, and also one of the guest star characters  has a dad that is a soldier stationed in Iraq.

After examining these four shows, it does seem the level of respect in family television has slowly gone down over the years. However, just as people wonder what came first the chicken or the egg, one must wonder what came first, disrespectful behavior or a TV show that depicts it. After all, it was 500 years ago when Shakespeare wrote about rebellious teenagers;  and the kids who grew up watching Leave it to Beaver started a sexual revolution. It seems that family TV shows have evolved to represent everyday family life, and not the fantasy family life in the delusions of nostalgic adults. What are your thoughts about family TV shows?

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Op 12: The Best Disney Moments

Everybody loves Disney. After all, those warm fuzzy feelings one gets when the hero finds love and saves the world, almost makes it worth paying 20 dollars for a DVD. However, the best Disney moments aren’t the picture perfect ones that occur onscreen, but the scandals which occur behind the scenes.

The Top 7 Disney Moments:

1. In the Little Mermaid, a young mermaid princess wants to trade her fins and her life in a sea castle for legs and a castle above water. Perhaps the real reason she wanted to become human and marry Prince Eric, isn’t because she fell in love, but because she wanted to live in a castle that did not have a tower shaped like a penis. Disney has been accused of making one of the towers in the Little Mermaid look like a phallic object. According to rumor, the castle drawing was done by a disgruntled employee. However, Disney claimed that it occurred on accident because the animators were in a rush. Perhaps the penis is a symbol of the activity that goes on in the castle. After all, the king does have 7 daughters.

2. In a different scene of the Little Mermaid, the clergy man allegedly has an erection. Disney claimed that the bulge is actually the short man’s knee, and the misconception is completely accidental. Perhaps Disney should hire different animators, ones that can draw better, or at least ones that can handle working for a movie that features a half-naked mermaid. Whether the misconception was on accident or not, one must wonder who was the person who paid such close attention to the priest’s knees.

3. Aladdin is also not immune to sexual scandals. In the scene where Aladdin is attacked by the tiger, he tells him, “Good kitty, take off and go.” However, Disney has been accused that Aladdin actually said, “Good teenagers take off their clothes.” Supposedly this was said to convince teenagers to act promiscuous. Although Disney denied these allegations, they did change the lines to say “Down kitty.” Guilty or not, one wonders why Disney would even have subliminal messages of promiscuity. Perhaps Disney hopes that teenage promiscuity would lead to more children, and that would lead to more customers. Now that would be a unique marketing plan.

4. Disney is not only involved in sexual scandals; they are also involved in racial ones. In the opening scene of Aladdin, the song lyrics are, “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, its barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” The American Arab Anti Discrimination Society felt that this song sent a message that the Middle East is violent. To prove that they love all races equally, Disney changed the lyrics to, “Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” The moral of the story: Only nature is allowed to be barbaric!

5. Like all media giants, Disney has been accused of plagiarism. Allegedly, The Lion King plagiarized its story not from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but from an anime called Kimba the White Lion. The animation of these two cartoons is so similar, that one of the people who worked on the Lion King, thought he was working on a remake of Kimba. The creators of Kimba decided not to sue, not because they felt they weren’t plagiarized, but because Disney could afford better lawyers, and the people with the best lawyers always win. Just ask O.J. Simpson.

6. Perhaps the weirdest Disney scandal, was the fact that hyena biologists had an issue with the way the hyenas were portrayed in The Lion King. One started a boycott against lion king (as a way to help preserve the hyenas in the wild), and another sued Disney for the defamation of character of the hyena. Just because it’s not human, does not mean Disney can ridicule it! Personally, after watching hyenas on National Geographic, I think Disney was too kind in their portrayal of this animal.

7. It wouldn’t truly be a list of best Disney moments, if it didn’t end in yet another sex scandal. In The Lion King, when Simba flops down and dust flies into the sky, supposedly the word SEX is spelled out. Disney is once again accused of sending subliminal promiscuity messages. Disney defended itself by saying that the letters were actually SFX, an abbreviation for special effects, which the animators intended to be a signature. Either Disney really is using sex as a secret marketing plan, or the world is filled with people who see sex in everything. I wonder what Freud would say about this?

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One might wonder why the best Disney moments are the embarrassing scandals and not the family friendly story lines. Although the family friendly story lines are fun to watch, they are too perfect for a person to relate too. However, when a company that thrives to be perfect is accused of ugly deeds, that is symbolic of life. What are your favorite Disney moments, either on-screen or off?

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Op 11: The Price of Pain

Pain, it doesn’t kill you, but it makes you want to die. We have all experienced pain in some form. Sometimes it’s a headache, sometimes it’s a toothache, and sometimes it feels like your soul is being shot with a nail gun. Regardless of the type of pain we feel, unless we’re a masochist, we want it to end as soon as possible. Since we have all experienced pain, there is a universal empathy for all those who are afflicted with it. Our empathy causes us to condone the drastic measures people take to make their aches vanish. These measures include organ damage pills, nerve damage shots, and death operations. Yet we are unwilling to allow people to smoke medical marijuana!

Even the states that allow medical marijuana put a lot of restrictions on its use. In many states a person has to be dying in order to have access to medical marijuana. It seems a bit extreme that the only way a person can have their pain alleviated is by getting a visit from the grim reaper. Isn’t medication supposed to be used to help the living also? Some states don’t require upcoming death to be a prerequisite for medical marijuana, but they do insist that a person has to be in pain for several years before they have access to it. This also seems a bit extreme. How would people feel if every time they walked into the drugstore, they were forced to wait three years before they could obtain some aspirin? There would probably be a lot of suicides, but perhaps some of those suicides would get botched, and the people who survived might finally get access to pain medication that works. Many might argue that people can get hooked on marijuana, and while that may be true, how can those same people approve of Vicodin?

Vicodin is a small white pill which helps with pain. Anyone who has ever broken a bone or gotten a tooth pulled has been offered this pill. It is easier to obtain than candy at a gas station. However, despite it’s popularity among patients and doctors alike, this small white pill can cause organ damage, addiction, and sometimes death. Every year several hundred people die from overdosing on Vicodin, and over 40,000 end up in the hospital because of Vicodin abuse. Not only does it cause these horrific side effects, but it’s often less effective than medical marijuana. Remember medical marijauna, it’s the drug that DOESN’T kill several hundred people every year.

Another argument against medical marijuana is that people might fake pain in order to have access to it. This is true, but it is also true with other medications. A pill by the name of Vicodin comes to mind. It seems that although medical marijuana does have side effects (social and medical), it’s one of the lesser drastic solutions when it comes to pain control. At the very least, any side effect of medical marijuana is preferable to death. It seems that the only real objections people have against medical marijuana is that it has a history of being used as a recreational drug. However, shouldn’t we be able to overcome our prejudice in order to give our fellow humans a chance to overcome pain. After all, pain hurts! Do you believe medical marijuana should be legal?

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Op 10: Books, Movies, and Love

Spoiler Alert: The Count of Monte Cristo, Chocolat, The Painted Veil

There have been many great love stories written in this world. Some of the love stories involve multiple characters, some involve love triangles, and the most tragic of all stories involve loveless marriages. Each of these stories is filled with intricate story-lines and intense emotions. However, when Hollywood gets a hold of these stories, it uses a simplistic formula to turn them into predictable and mundane movies.

In the book The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond (the count) is separated from his beloved Mercedes because he has to serve a jail sentence for a crime he did not commit. After nearly two decades of jail time and adventures, he is reunited with the love of his youth. Although she recognizes him, neither of them want to rekindle their romance. He’s is busy plotting revenge, she is busy with family problems, and the love they had for each other had been killed by his twenty year absence. However, the count does not need to mourn his lost love, because he falls in love with another. Hollywood could not handle the idea of two main characters no longer in love with each other. In the movie, The The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond’s love for Mercedes does not fade, and his beloved is willing to risk gangrene when she spends twenty years wearing a piece of twine (which represents Edmond’s love) on her finger. After a series of misunderstandings and dramatic scenes, the two star crossed lovers end up together. Luckily for Edmond, the son that she had from another marriage during his absence, turns out to be secretly his. The perfect ending!

In the book Chocolat, Vianne falls in love with a man named Roux. After dances under the stars and town fires, she realizes that he is a good man whom she loves. She is happy when she discovers she is pregnant with his child. However, despite her discovery, she still notices the innocent glances between him and her friend Josephine. Vianne had always been able to predict things before they happen, and she realizes that although neither Josephine nor Roux have realized it yet, the two of them are soul mates. Although Vianne’s feelings for Roux do not fade on command, she realizes she was a passing fancy for him on his journey to true love. Like all stories of unrequited love, this one leaves the reader with a bittersweet feeling. However, Hollywood did not feel their viewers could handle a bittersweet ending. In the movie Chocolat, Roux only has eyes for Vianne. The movies ends with a strong and obvious hint that the two of them will have a happily ever after.

The book The Painted Veil explores the marriage of Kitty and Walter Fane. He is a serious scientist, she is a socialite who enjoys playing cards, and they don’t have any similar hobbies or interests. So Kitty finds herself a lover with whom she does have similar hobbies and interests. When Walter finds out, he punishes Kitty by forcing her to go with him to a village that has been plagued with cholera. In this village, away from the distractions of civilization, Kitty realizes her husband is a smart and compassionate man. She begins to admire him. However, admiration is not love. One might admire Gandhi, but that does not mean they want to marry him. Towards the end of the book, Walter dies from Cholera, and although Kitty is sad about his death (after all is always sad when a person dies, especially a good person), a part of her is relieved. Although she had grown to appreciate her husband, she still found him boring, and the idea of being married to him for the rest of her life did not appeal to her. However, Hollywood does not believe in making movies with such lukewarm feelings. In the movie The Painted Veil, Kitty falls madly in love with Walter, and she is soaked with grief when Walter dies. The audience is forced to witness an ironic tragedy when a selfish woman loses her husband who she had only recently started to love. In Hollywood, love has to end either happily or tragically.

When a book is turned into a movie, changes often have to be made. Most movies tend to have a two hour time limit, and because of this certain scenes have to be cut. Sometimes scenes have to be added to show some of the inner monologues that are so common in books. However, when Hollywood gets its paws on a book, it chews and tears the book until it is turned into a generic story. Does it bother you when movies that are based on books have altered story-lines?

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Op 9: Uncensored

I remember watching an episode of Step by Step. A little girl had learned where babies came from, and she shared this information with her playmate. The mom of the playmate was very upset, but after a couple of comedic moments and conversations, everyone was again happy in this fictional world. At the end of the episode the two kids are watching an animal show on TV, and the mom of the play mate again had a worried look on her face. “Don’t worry,” the mom of the little girl replied, “they are just watching the animals rip each other apart.” The other mom sighed with relief, thankful that her small child was not watching animals procreate.

When did the fear of kids seeing sex become so much larger than the fear of them seeing violence? Many parents allow kids to see R rated movies, as long as the movie has such a high rating for violence and not for sex. Society censers what kids can watch because they don’t want them emulating bad behaviors. However, shouldn’t parents worry more about kids emulating violence. After all, sex is something natural (unlike violence), and most people have biological and hormonal desires to copulate. Every person reading this article is alive today because two people chose to have sex. Those adorable little kids playing hopscotch outside your window, the ones you want to keep innocent, will be having sex in less than two decades. However, there is a good chance they will never blow up cars or shoot their enemies in the head.

Everybody hopes that the kids in their lives will not grow up to be gangsters, thieves, or killers (and these hopes usually come true). In fact many people want to have grandchildren; something that evil sex makes possible, but nobody wants their kids to violently beat up their enemies. Yet we allow kids to see images of this on TV. If parents worry that their kids will have sex at a younger age because of a movie they saw, why aren’t they worried that a kid will join a gang after watching a mafia movie? There does not seem to be a rational explanation for this.

The game Grand Theft Auto was popular among many teens. Most parents did not mind that their children spent the afternoons practicing skills to succeed in organized crime; however, when it was discovered that it was possible to have consensual sex scenes inside the game, there was a panic among parents. The game started to make national headlines, and famous politicians vowed to help parents protect their kids from digitized porn. However, these same parents that were so incensed at the idea of their teenagers seeing sex, did not seem to care that their teenagers spent their free time enjoying to steal cars.

When Janet Jackson showed a nipple on prime time TV, America was outraged. After all it is a well-known fact that if kids see a nipple it will cause a huge rise in the teenage pregnancy and STD rate, and most kids had never looked at their chest before this incident and had no idea what a nipple looked like. The most humorous part of this incident was that the infamous nipple was partially covered with an earring. So while the parents of America’s youth were worried about a clothing dysfunction, the young impressionable minds of America were watching news channels filled with stories of murder and violence. It seems that someone placed all of our society’s values in a box, shook it up, and picked a random value(not the most important one) to care about. Do you feel that America censors sex more than violence, and if you do, do you feel that America is correct in doing this?

 

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Op 8: Don’t Curse!

“Wash your mouth out with soap” are words we have all heard at one time or another. Even if we only heard these words from our sarcastic friend, who just used curse words we didn’t know existed. However, why are curse words considered bad? Their meanings are usually pretty benign, in fact many other words have the same meaning. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” yet a curse word by any other name is no longer an obscenity. There have been words (e.g. crap, dang, heck) that were invented only to be used as a substitute for a curse word, yet these words do not need to be washed out of your mouth. One could argue that it is the actual sound of the word that makes it inappropriate, but if that was true there would be no children taking the Hoover Dam tour.

So if the curse word is in a certain context it looses its power, and if another word (that sounds similar and has the same meaning) is powerless, why are we so afraid of cussing? It’s true that using a ton of curse words in a speech can make a person sound uneducated, but we do not shield our children from bad grammar.  However, movies that use the F-word more than once are considered unsuitable for children under seventeen. This seems like a drastic measure. The movie The King’s Speech was given an R rating because the main character cursed. Although PG movies have more sex and violence than The King’s Speech, and even though the king only cursed after being provoked by a speech therapist to say those words in order to relieve stress (what child over five does not know that cursing relieves stress), this movie is still considered to be harmful to America’s youth.

Curse words also breed hypocrisy in adults. Many grown ups cuss though out the day, yet if they hear their children (or the neighbors children) repeat any of those words, they fly into a rage. Okay, perhaps it’s not a rage, but they will give a stern lecture, which to many children is worse than a rage ( at least during a rage you get to see mom ‘s or dad’s face change color). Now there are certain activities that are for adults only, such as sex and vodka. However, curse words don’t cause car accidents or unwanted pregnancies, the worst they can do to a child is expand their vocabulary.

Not only are certain words deemed obscene, but also certain gestures. Showing a middle finger on television is not allowed under any circumstance, but showing a blurred middle finger is considered okay. Do people think that a child will not figure out what is supposed to be in the middle of a hand. “Hmmm, there is something blurred between the index and the ring finger, I wonder what it is . I think it’s the bat mobile.” Also, it is not considered offensive to raise your ring finger instead of your middle finger, even though a recent widow might take more offense to this.

We have a war against drugs in our country, however there is no war against profanity. Perhaps it’s because the way to combat profanity is to say curse words so many times that they become obsolete, and it’s no fun winning a war where no cops are involved. What is your opinion about curse words?

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Op 7: Psychology or Judgment

Disclaimer: Certain parts ofthis article have been exaggerated for humor purposes.

Once upon a time man’s life was simple, it was either eat or be eaten. When man was not busy chasing animals or being chased by animals, he was busy making tools that would make the chase shorter. Today, man is no longer chased by animals, and in devolved countries, most people do not worry about where their next meal is coming from. This leaves lots of time for thinking, and while thinking has produced antibiotics and the i-pad, it has also produced loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The way modern society deals with these ailments (when medication, hot baths, and vodka has ceased to work) is therapy.

Therapy is for people who have over bearing or emotionally unavailable parents, bad behaving children, flirty husbands, annoying siblings, unappreciative friends, evil bosses, and a fear of car accidents and death. Not only does a person get to complain about all these ailments to a trained professional, the therapist also comes up with a strategy to help a person with their problems. They will tell the person their feelings are valid, and then they will proceed to tell that same person how they need to think, talk, and feel if they want to be a healthy adult. They will explain to the person what type of boundaries they need to set with the people around them, and how they need to converse with these same people. After choosing to follow the instructions that the therapist provides (therapists don’t give advice), a person is considered normal, healthy, and happy. If the person is still unhappy after leading a normal and healthy life, well then the person obviously has a chemical imbalance, and he/she needs to take advantage of all the anti-depression medication available.

If a person chooses to ignore the instructions of therapists, and instead decides to remain happy with their unhealthy boundaries and dysfunctional relationships, their friends, neighbors, and random people they talk to in the grocery line, will tell them they are living their life the wrong way. People have always been judgmental, and this will never change, but now people’s judgment is laced with quotes of professionals who have spent 5-10 years studying human interaction. After all, if someone has a PhD in psychology, they are not giving you an opinion about how to live your life, they are telling you the correct way to live your life (that is the correct way if you don’t want to be a failure as a human being). If you fight every day with your husband (even if you are happy with your marriage), or if your friend calls you twice a day (even if you enjoy talking to them), you need to be “cured”. It doesn’t matter if your life choices make you happy, because there is a right and wrong way to live. Just like female circumcision is always wrong (regardless of circumstance), so are your relationships (if they are not sanctioned by the American Psychiatry Association).

It seems that the goal to be an  “emotionally healthy” and “normal” individual is much more important than being a happy individual. After all, if you’re unhappy you can always go to the local pharmacist, and your purchase will also help boost the economy. However, what exactly is an emotionally healthy and normal individual? Different therapists will give you slightly different definitions, and different cultures will give you contradictory definitions. Unlike with medical health where the world (for the most part) agrees on what constitutes a healthy person, each region of the world has its own idea about the definition of mental health. It seems psychology has become a way that judgmental people can give more importance to their criticism. What do you think defines a mentally healthy person, and have you ever met one?

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Op 6: The Tree of Life Movie Review

The movie The Tree of Life is an innovative and artistic movie, and like most innovative and artistic movies, it is extremely boring. The movie tells the story of a man who is remembering his childhood. He recalls his interactions with his free-spirited mom, domineering dad, two brothers ( one talented, one mundane), and the family dog. Since most people don’t go through their memories in a linear fashion, this man’s memories are not depicted that way either. The audience is subjected to clips of events, snippets of dialogue, and meaningless voice overs, which attempt to paint an emotional picture about the protagonist’s childhood and make the audience feel as if they are sitting inside this man’s brain; and while I can appreciate the artistic message this movie is trying to send, there is a reason most movies have a linear story line, it is what makes them entertaining.

The most interesting fact about this movie is how different the reviews from the critics and viewers were. While most critics raved about this film, their sentiment was not shared by the movie viewers. Terrence Malick created an original movie, but the originality came at a high cost. The cost of entertainment! The goal of any movie should be to captivate an audience, and it seems in this case, the movie was only created to be artistic. When art is made only for the sake of art, it produces disastrous results. A great example of this is the Mondrian Square. The painter tried so hard to get an original message across in his art, that he forgot that a painting is supposed to depict something that at least resembles an image. Although this painting is worth a large sum of money, and many art critics rave about it, most museum connoisseurs will admit that they get no enjoyment from looking at it. The same can be said about The Tree of Life.

Artistic cinema does have a place in our world, and that place is called a movie short. If the Tree of Life was only 30 minutes long, I would have probably enjoyed it (along with the rest of the people in the theater). Instead, after about 90 minutes of similar imagery and non-memorable dialogue, I was battling sleep. Perhaps I should have given in and taken a nap, because I’m pretty sure my dreams would have been more interesting.

When I came home, I had a flash back about a similar movie I had seen years ago. The New World, although it had a linear story line, also substituted dialogue with voice overs that sounded pretty but were actually gibberish. After I researched this movie on IMDB, I found out that is was also written and directed by Terrence Malick. I guess it’s safe to say that Terrence Malick has a movie type; He creates movies which are only enjoyable if one has a flask filled with 80 proof liquid.

I would recommend this movie for people who love artistic cinema ( and when I say love, I mean can’t live without), and insomniacs. Have you seen The Tree of Life, and did you enjoy it?

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Op 5: No Child Left Behind…in Suburbia

Most people have heard of the No Child Left Behind Act. This act was created to ensure that all children in America can read , write, and do arithmetic; and while this is a very noble goal, the way this act is enforced leaves much room for improvement. The main stipulation of this Act is to only give funding to the schools in which students had been able to pass the standardized test given by the state. This is a great rule for schools in which the students are able to meet these requirements( i.e . schools in suburbia), but the schools for which this act was created ( the schools where the students are academically behind their grade level), still continue to suffer. This Act was created to motivate schools/teachers to get their students to academically function at grade level, however to achieve this goal schools need money, and when the government cuts funding for the schools who need it most, it is shooting itself in the leg.

The students who live in suburbia are raised by doctors, lawyers, and engineers. From birth, the importance of education was instilled in them. They go to school to learn, even if they aren’t in the mood, and all they need are teachers who can present information to them in a memorable way. Most schools which are struggling academically are located in poverty sicken neighborhoods, and the students who go to these schools only come to class to socialize. Nobody in their family had ever gone to college, and as long as they don’t fight and are able to pass class, their parents are thrilled. Many of these kids feel that it is more important to know what shoes are in style than the quadratic equation. These schools need teachers who not only are able to teach well, but are also able to motivate these kids to want to learn. To hire exceptional teachers a schools needs money (yes, there are exceptions, but we don’t make laws based on exceptions), and when the funding gets cut a school is forced to hire mediocre educators. However, giving all the funding to poverty-stricken schools while ignoring the schools in suburbia is also not a solution, the government should not punish the schools where the students are excelling.

Another disastrous effect of this Act is that schools lower their standards. Each state gets to decide what material goes on their standardized test, and ever since this Act was created, many states have rewritten their tests to make them easier. While it is understandable what drove these states to do this, we are living in a semi-global economy, and we want to raise the academic bar, not lower it. This situation is very reminiscent of the book Anthem by Ayn Rand, where equality meant that every body needs to be equal to the weakest link.

Even when standardized tests are not changed, the classroom suffers. Teachers are afraid of loosing their jobs, so the only way they can ensure that every student passes the test, is to only teach the information that is on it. It is a well known fact that with enough repetition most people can learn almost anything. While this type of teaching might get every single student to pass the test, that is the only skill they will have. They will not acquire any higher level knowledge, and this will leave them unprepared for college. While one can say, “well, at least they will know the basics,” many of these kids would have been able to pass the test anyway, and now that is the only skill they learned in school.

Although this act is based on good intentions, “all roads to hell are based on good intentions.” This Act is unable to achieve its goal, and while the idea of the Act is terrific, it needs to be heavily revised. How do you think the No Child Left Behind Act should be changed?

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Op 4: Beauty vs. Brains

A woman walks down the street. She knows she is beautiful, and her family, friends, and nearby strangers agree with this knowledge. However, despite the fact that she is proud of her perfect hair and perky nose, she does not want to advertise this fact because she is afraid she will seem shallow. Two weeks ago, she was hired by a fortune 500 company, and although she is smart and competent, the reason she got hired is because she has big boobs and a pretty face. She is ashamed of this fact and she has not even disclosed it to her closest friends. She would have said no to the job, but the economy is bad, and people must do drastic things during a recession. She enjoys getting compliments for her looks, but if someone tells her that her beauty is her best feature, she will be highly offended.

Her best friend goes by the nickname little Einstein. She has always excelled in every class she has taken, and she usually does not need to study before a test. She knows she is smart, and the only thing that keeps her from boasting about it every three minutes is good social skills. Many people tell her that with her brain she can accomplish anything, and she never gets tired of hearing these words.

Society respects intelligence,  and  although admiring attractive people is considered shallow, both these traits come from the same source, genetics! Why are brains considered more admirable than beauty? Perhaps it’s because a person is born with beauty, but they must work for smarts. This logic only has one flaw, we admire people with natural intelligence more than the people who worked for it. Sure, we may respect the kid who did eight outlines of a chapter to make an A on a test, but we are in awe of the kid who was able to achieve that same A after only skimming the chapter. Also, any woman with manicured nails and designer eyebrows will tell you that achieving beauty requires money, time, and pain.

Perhaps we admire brainpower more because beauty fades, while intelligence stays till death. Unfortunately, anybody who has visited a nursing home, will disagree with that statement. Also, thanks to the wonderful breakthroughs of science, we can now battle gray hairs and wrinkles for over six decades( which is why actresses have longer shelf lives).

I believe the reason people have different attitudes about looks and smarts, despite the fact that it’s something most humans have no control over, is because of guilt. It only takes five seconds to decide if a person is pretty , and people feel guilty respecting a trait which they can identify that easily. At the same time, it takes at least two minutes of conversation to figure out if a person is smart (one minute if it’s Einstein), and therefore people admire the smart person, not for their intelligence, but because of the effort they put into deciding if that person was smart. Perhaps it’s also genetics that dictates how we prioritize the good characteristics of people. Why do you think brains is considered more admirable than beauty?

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Op 3: Based on a “True Story”

Spoiler Alert: The Way Back movie and Quills movie

We all have watched movies that either have the famous “based on true story” words written on the screen before the movie actually starts, or are about a famous person (therefore implying that the movie is based on a true story). The presumption that a movie depicts true events helps make a dull movie seem more entertaining, and it makes an exciting movie even more titillating. The only problem with these presumptions is that they are often untrue.

The movie The Way Back is about a group of men who escape from a Siberian work camp. This movie can be summarized in one sentence: The main characters walked, and then they walked, and then they walked, and then they walked a bit more. Although the cinematography was gorgeous, and the dialogue was humorous at times (unfortunately most of the funny bits were shown in the preview), it did not change the fact that a person could take a 30 minute nap during this movie, and not see anything different on the screen when they awoke. Well that’s not true, after all sometimes the characters walked in snowy woods, and other times they walked near a frozen lake. However, after I watched this movie, not only did I have an urge to hike, but I also felt that I did not waste my time sitting in the theater. After all, this movie is based on a true story, and I just witnessed a reenactment of extraordinary events. Except the only true part of this story is that a place called Siberia does exist. The movie is based on a ghost written autobiography The Long Walk, and this book has been declared fiction by many sources. Not only would it be impossible to complete the strenuous walk depicted in the movie, but this walk has not been recorded anywhere. The fact that there is written proof that shows the main character had been released from the work camp before the walk occurred, severely shakes the credibility of this movie. When I found out the movie was only based on a story (there was nothing true about it), I not only felt that I wasted my time watching people walk, but I also felt that the actors wasted their time walking. I would not have been that disappointed with the movie if I knew is was a piece of fiction from the beginning.

Unlike The Way Back, the movie Quills is very captivating. Quills tells the story of Marquis de Sade (the father of sadism), and how he faced imprisonment, torture, and death because he wanted to be allowed to write naughty novels. As a huge fan of free speech, I can empathize with the plight of the father of sadism (even if I don’t enjoy his stories). Not to mention, who can dislike a movie where the protagonist is so dedicated to his novels, that even when all his writing instruments are taken away from him, he uses his own excrement to write on the walls. The fact that he commits suicide by swallowing a cross, makes him almost seem like a martyr. Unfortunately, many events in this movie are also fictionalized. Marquis de Sade was imprisoned several times during his life, but it was usually for committing sadistic acts, not writing about them. Feeling compassion for a man who enjoyed to write about depraved acts is a tad different from feeling sympathy for a man who forced others to do depraved acts. Also, Marquis de Sade died while he was sleeping in his bed, and unless he dreamed about swallowing a cross the night he died, that part of the movie is pure fiction. I would have enjoyed this movie if I knew it was mainly fiction from the beginning, but finding out the outrageous events in this movie came out of someone’s imagination (and not based on facts as I had previously thought), left me feeling the way I did when I found out the tooth fairy wasn’t real.

Does finding out a biographic movie is fictitious ruin the movie? If the reason you went to watch a movie is to take a break from life, then it doesn’t matter if your break was actually based on a true story or not. However, if you plan on watching a movie to learn new information, you should probably stick to watching documentaries (at least until Hollywood stops monopolizing the movie industry). Does it matter to you if a movie is actually based on a true story?

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Op 2: Family Dinner, and other Family Drama

Disclaimer: Certain parts of this article have been exaggerated for humor purposes.

Growing up in a Russian-Jewish household, dinner was an almost religious affair. Especially when extended family was involved. Dinner was always an interesting activity, and I use the word interesting because any other words to describe it would be too colorful for this article. The first rule of dinner was that all the guests had to eat all the food. Sometimes I did not want to eat all the food (because I wasn’t that hungry, not because I was feeling malicious). The hostess would ask me several times if I wanted a particular dish, and by several, I mean 30. When I would say no for the 30th and final time (feeling proud of myself for sticking to my guns), the hostess would say “its okay, I understand” with such a mournful look in her eyes, I would have no choice but to respond with “okay, I’ll have a little bit.” I would console myself by thinking just because it was on my plate, didn’t mean I would have to eat it.

Wrong! As soon as the food was on my plate, the hostess would keep a watchful eye on me to make sure I was actually eating the food. Clearing the plate would not be enough to keep the hostess happy; I had to eat the food in a certain order, with certain combinations, and spend an equal amount of time on each type of cuisine. When I had a piece of chicken in my mouth, I would either be told to eat it with cheese “it tastes better that way”, or I would be asked why I wasn’t eating the salad. The excuse that I already had food in my mouth never seemed to be believed. I also had to time my dinner to make sure I did not finish too early; if I finished before other family members, I would be forced to get seconds, and then I would have to endure round 2 of defending my eating habits. By the time I finished eating dinner, I was feeling more stressed out than when I took the SAT.

At every extended family dinner, there is a Russian-Jewish man present (above a certain age), that cannot serve himself food. This man might have a bowl of potatoes sitting 2 inches away from him, but the hostess, who would be on the other side of the table, would have to get up to serve this man his food. I think it is genetically impossible for a Russian-Jewish man to serve himself. In fact, I have heard of an urban legend about a Russian-Jewish man who was so hated by his wife, that she stopped serving him meals. The man died of starvation. This Russian-Jewish man did have one good purpose during dinner, while the hostess was distracted because she was serving him his entrée, I was able to move some of my food to the plate of an unsuspecting relative. I had to partake in such sneakiness because I had to save room in my stomach for dessert. The only acceptable excuse for not eating dessert was being on a diet, and even then there was only a 25% chance that this excuse would work.

So if family dinner is such a stressful affair, why do I still attend? For the vodka of course. Also the people at dinner are quite pleasant to talk to. Do you have an interesting family dinner story?

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Op 1: To Conform, or not to Conform

Disclaimer: Certain parts of this article have been exaggerated for humor purposes.

Remember when your second grade teacher told you to always be yourself? Remember following her advice? If you remember the latter, then you probably also remember being ridiculed before you even entered high school. Although teachers, parents, and after school specials tell you that if you show your true self and always do what is in you heart you will be happy and successful, in reality it is the opposite that happens. From the clothes you wear to the way you act in public, there are distinct rules you have to follow.

The type of clothes you choose to wear seems pretty harmless. However, even then society mandates what type of clothes are appropriate. The only time its okay to wear non main stream clothes, is when there are at least 10 million people who also follow that trend (e.g. Hot Topic). Although celebrities like Lady Gaga might make it seem glamorous to have a unique style, movies about high school show you what happens when you stray from the fashion norm. Not to mention unless your can make your own clothes, it is very difficult to find something that is not trendy. Have you ever tried to shop for bell bottoms after they went out of style?

Having to wear a certain type of clothing is a small sacrifice compared to having to act a certain way. Once you enter the dating world, you also have to follow a strict set of rules. Well you don’t have to follow them if you never want to go on a 2nd date. A very important rule in dating is how long you wait to call (or text) a person after the first date. Some people might tell you that it doesn’t matter how long they wait until they are contacted again, and these are they same people who refuse to go on the second date if they are contacted too soon after the first encounter (after all that means the potential partner is probably a stalker). There is also a set of rules on how you need to act on a date. Sure you might hear the occasional “I went out with this really unique person last night, and it was like a breath of fresh air,” but its the same type fresh air that’s in Antarctica. It might be a great place to visit once, maybe twice, but you certainty don’t want to vacation there every year.

Once you get married, have kids, and get a career, you still have to conform. In fact, it is more important to conform once you are a settled adult. When you march to the beat of you own drummer as a youth, you are only considered weird; If you don’t follow the norm as an adult, you are considered flawed. You have to follow specific rules on how you talk to your spouse, how you raise you kids, and how you behave at work. Amazon offers hundreds of books that give you detailed instruction on how to behave in your daily life. Sure you can choose to act anyway you want, but then you have to deal with being ridiculed, pitied, or shunned by society.

So, although the advice your teacher gave you in second grade came from a sincere place, it wasn’t realistic. Although there are people who by acting unique set their own trends, most end up being ostracized. Have you ever been forced to conform? Have you ever chosen not to conform, and been happy with that decision?

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