A Jurassic Review


It’s opening week and even a Friday morning matinee is nearly full of eager people awaiting the start of Jurassic World. You can scan the room and look for the people eager to be there, and then you can find the ones who were dragged by someone else (guilty, right here).

But let’s be honest about something. Who really expected an artistic, well-crafted plot with lovable and timeless characters to grace the screen?

If you did, then you may not have been to the movies since Jurassic Park was released in 1993. The truth is that summer blockbusters have always been a disappointment to most serious movie goers. The big releases of summer are usually spectacles meant to awe and woe teenagers who are at the mall with nothing better to do.

Instead of putting on your critic hat and going to Jurassic World, show up with reasonable expectations. On the surface, the film is quite good. It has those moments of suspense, characters are in grave danger, and the CGI brings to life dinosaurs that used to be the most boring subject in school.

There is no complexity in the characters and their motivations. The film lacks depth and you don’t have to worry about plot twists. There is a problem (a big dinosaur) and they are seeking a solution. Simple as that.

The plot and characters could use some work. For example, many might be uncomfortable with Bryce Dallas Howard’s character who never removes high heels throughout the film despite Chris Pratt telling her that she is ill prepared to track missing children in a jungle of dinosaurs while wearing heels.

You could see the later actions of Howard as saying that women can be strong and still embrace their femininity (we don’t need to shed high heels to be a success or show strength). Or you can see it as 100% impractical that anyone can full on sprint in high heels or that anyone would want to. My feet ached as I watched.

Howard’s character also experiences the shame of a woman without children. She is a corporate career climber and has her nephews visiting. Her sister seems to think one day Howard’s character will have children while the single woman expresses doubts. Why is childbearing an assumed role a women must take one day?

At the end of the film, it is Chris Pratt who fulfills the role as the eye candy for the film. In fact besides Howard, there is a general lack of women in the film. We have younger teenage boys who are quite adorable and will surely bring the Justin Bieber fans to the theater.

Pratt is the over charismatic, rough around the edges, but intelligent and sensitive towards the animals character needed to make this film for both men and women. The males are there for the action, but the women are there for Pratt. This says that the film itself does a good job of appealing to numerous audiences… with exception to the serious film fanatics out there.

For the casual movie goer, it’s like being at a zoo on steroids. The animals are bigger, scarier, and more fascinating. The themes of the film are glaring at you in the face like a gigantic dinosaur.

In fact, the themes are not far off from the original Jurassic Park (if you can remove the cob webs and think back 22 years, if you are old enough to do that). The only difference now is that they have rebuilt the theme park from the disaster that was the plot of the original film. They speak about the original park like a ghost and use whispers and tones of fear and darkness.

Besides making a statement about how humanity is doomed to repeat mistakes, we see a lot of critiques of corporatization. The park itself is a gigantic theme park with corporate labels everywhere. Howard’s character talks about market trends, expected sales, and business words beyond my understanding.

The owner of the park? He is more reminiscent of Tony Stark and not the old rich white man from the original film. So we even see changes in the demographics of the people who hold power.

If you missed the theme of war and military, you may have fallen asleep in your bucket of popcorn. Vincent D’Onofrio is there to portray the unlikeable human who wants to weaponize the dinosaurs to win wars and avoid human casualties.

So not only do we see what happens when we play god with genetics, but we also see humanity at its worst. We see crowds of people gawking at big dinosaurs while a corporation tries to stay up to date with their supply and demand, a demand that leads to the creation of a modified dinosaur who tries to kill everything. This is the first piece of pop culture to predict that humanity will destroy itself.

What does that sound like? Maybe like genetically modified foods in a grocery store that will be produced so long as there is a demand for cheap and easy foods? Maybe tobacco and alcohol products that damage human beings yet the companies can continue to produce and sell those products?

So who is the real enemy in Jurassic World? Corporations or the people who feed them?

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Summer in Chicago means rain, rain, rain


So I survived my second semester of teaching as an adjunct, and I’ve got tons to write about! I wanted to get blogging sooner, but it just wasn’t happening. I have been cleaning, organizing, donating clothes to goodwill, and everything in between. Oh and taking an online course about teaching online.

But I think it’s time for some updates on my blog. So far this summer, I’ve vacationed in Miami and Key West, attended the celebration for the Blackhawks winning another Stanley Cup, gone to the Chicago Gay Pride Parade, got the new iPhone 6, bought my very own office desk, and spoiled my cats with attention.

So naturally, I’ve got plenty to talk about and no idea where to start. So expect some fun posts from me this summer. I have no classes to teach, student emails to answer, but I have been casually seeking a job.

Anyways, we have had nothing but rain as of late, so it’s time to do some writing. Be back soon!

Gone Girl – a movie review


The premise of Gone Girl was pleasing to my brain. I dislike Ben Affleck for some reason, so I found it incredibly plausible that he would murder his wife. Of course I know that it is actually Ben Affleck’s character in a movie, but I still liked the idea.

A student of mine gave me movie passes, so Dan and I agreed on this movie and made our way to the local theater. My expectations were based on some feedback from other movie goers, so I expected plot twists and good acting. I got both, but I still left feeling like there was a hole (and it wasn’t in my pocket, the movie was free for once).gone-girl

SPOILER ALERT – I got to give some more details than that, but I’ll be revealing spoilers in the rest of the post so cover your eyes if you haven’t seen this film yet.

There were numerous plot twists in this movie. The first being that the wife, Amy,  is not dead, but instead she faked her own death and framed her husband Nick. This was slightly predictable to me as I felt like the character was too active in the narration and plot to be actually dead. But besides having figured it out on my own, I experienced a Hell Yeah moment in the theater with a few others.

The other people were probably reacting out of shock or disbelief. But I had a cynical female laughter ringing through my ears that really becomes a laugh when the rest of the events unfolded.

I was cheering for her all along, hoping she wasn’t dead but an evil maniacal genius. My wish was granted and then taken away rather too soon (couldn’t you have waited for a sequel to kill my buzz?). Then the character loses her monetary funds and has to call an ex-boyfriend. A real female evil genius would have done anything but call a man to save the day.

Let’s cut Amy some slack. She was flat broke and sleeping in a car. The character also comes from a trust funded family in New York, so maybe I should give her a break.1938383-L

During all this is a news media frenzy that every American is not only accustomed to but expected anytime a murder or disappearance happens (think George Zimmerman or Casey Anthony). The film does a good job portraying the media and how they feed flames of drama and not truth and honesty. I think the film was trying to send a message about the influences media has on people.

But Nick has the mental capacity to read clues and realize that his wife isn’t actually dead. Over his anger, he realizes that the correct words on national TV will convince Amy to return to him and end the circus.

Here’s the problem. It works.

Amy’s reaction is to then frame the ex-boyfriend for kidnapping her and raping her, slit the guy’s throat, and then return home safely though covered in blood.

Here’s my problem. A woman that diabolical would never want to return to her husband. She saw him with another woman and was getting revenge on him. How can she just abandon that plan and return back home? Lastly, she also impregnates herself with Nick’s sperm from a sperm bank.

Men who cheat get punished, but if they are clever enough, women will abandon their plans and return home to be the mother of their child? Hell no!

The real plot twist isn’t that Amy returns home or that Amy wasn’t dead in the first place. The real plot twist is the poor feminist in the audience who finally feels a sense of identification with a character who plots revenge on a cheating husband. Then the feminist gets stabbed in the back with an ending where the character returns to the husband to be the mother to his child. Seriously?

Everyone I’ve discussed the film with has had positive things to say. But of course I can’t go all feminist ranting on my students (though it may slip out occasionally). So essentially Dan heard an ear full on the way home (not in a blaming him way but in a I’m so frustrated that I want to SCREAM way).

Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe there is some aspect of the novel that didn’t translate onto film. Maybe I should just let this one go. Maybe I should get films about women that don’t involve a man’s love dammit.

The best part about the film was when the credits began to roll, for Dan and I looked at one another and said “Let’s not get married.”

A promise is a promise


I promised myself to get back into blogging especially since I am forcing my ENGLI1101 students to blog this semester. So far, the students were nervous and scared the first day of class when I told them they were blogging. But since then, they are finding it fun and useful.

I’ll have an update at the end of the semester about the blogging project with my class. I also have a collaborative film project to do, but I’ll add that next semester.

Since my last post, I have been really trying hard to keep up with grading and teaching. It’s quite a challenge, but I have great groups of students. They are already forming into a little community or family, and they make me laugh and feel like I am in the right place.

Today we talked about scary clowns, wine making, and some recently released movies. My class has given me a hard time for never having seen Breaking Bad, Lord of the Rings, and Minority Report.

I’ve had a student give me movie passes so I can go see a movie. I’ve had about three students thank me for the comments and feedback on their writing. I had one student read my feedback to her mother with pride because of the positive remarks I gave her.

On to some other important things in my life. I’ve started a baking adventure with this cool chica named Miranda. Funny story, she lived in my old apartment building. I lived there for three years and didn’t really speak to her besides a wave and smile when passing one another.

Then I met this coworker named Julia, and she says she knew someone on the block. It turns out to be my neighbor. So before we know it, Miranda and I are friends. And it turns out we have more mutual friends.

We came up with a brilliant idea of having our own baked goods company and setting up shop at farmer’s markets next summer. What does that mean? We got to start testing our recipes, and I need a third blog to manage for that as well! Duh!

As expected, I need to return to grading and eat an early dinner before my Monday night class starts. Expect some upcoming movie reviews as I’ve been a bit of a movie junkie as of late.

One year and three months later…


Every blogger goes through long periods of craziness where they cannot find the time to blog. I am guilty times three or four on this one.

At the end of the summer in 2013, I added on some new life responsibilities and things spiraled out of control from there (hence the lack of posts). I started adjunct teaching at a City College of Chicago, then I bought a Condo, then I agreed to marry Dan, then I became a mother to TWO cute cats, then I quit my full time job to teach full time (well part time at two schools equals full time).

And there you have it. You are pretty caught up on my life right now. I have one final week at my full time job in Marketing and then I move on to focus just on teaching. I’ve basically spent my whole Saturday working on multiple syllabi and creating a master Calendar to keep myself from drowning.

One reason I decided to say goodbye to full-time office hours is that I need to make myself a priority. I had a full time job out of fear of paying the bills and always staying above the water in that respect. But working multiple jobs (especially one that requires some travel and another that requires a lot of dedication and passion to help people) was not making my life simple.

In fact, I gained a lot of stress and subsequent weight because of it. I’m not trying to make excuses, but sometimes we keep ourselves busy so we that we can’t stop and evaluate our personal lives. I am deciding that I want to make myself a priority.

Yes, teaching is still a lot of work, but I will do the majority of the grading and prep work from home where I can make a healthy lunch or prep a dinner. I also have an elliptical, books, and other things to help me relax. I have two cats that will play with me if I need cheering up.

So I might not have all the time in the world to focus on losing weight and getting healthy, I have a better chance when I can control my circumstances. I am sick of sitting at an office desk all day only to drive quickly to a classroom and eat a quick meal on the way that isn’t healthy for me.

So I plan to buckle down on a few things. I’m going to make myself a priority and do the things that make me happy. This means writing in my blog, spending more time in classrooms, and hopefully still keeping my finances in order.

Of course this comes at a price. I’ll miss my old coworkers at the full time job. I really worked with some amazing people there that I want to see and hear from often. But at the end of the day, I have to make decisions about what makes me happy. What better way to convey my path to happiness than a list?

 

The Things That Make Me Happy (in no particular order)

1) Thinking about complicated things and writing about them too

2) Walking in the sand and soaking my feet in the ocean

3) Daniel

4) Locking a cat accidentally in a cabinet

5) Singing along with a song and being 100% out of tune

6) Having those moments before an amazing idea forms in my mind

7) Learning from my students

8) Fresh air and exercise

9) Reading a great book

10) Laughing at my own jokes

 

Maybe it wasn’t the adult decision, maybe it wasn’t the best for finances, but it was the decision I had to make to keep me sane. I love teaching, and I can’t wait for classes to start (and can’t wait for Christmas break and summer break too).

From left to right: Martha and Luna. Introducing the two newest editions to the family.
From left to right: Martha and Luna. Introducing the two newest editions to the family.

Let’s see a movie, Old Sport!


If there is one thing in life that I have a love/hate relationship with, it is film adaptations of great literature. I love it and I hate it. On one hand, I love the visualization of a great novel on the big screen.

But then there is the struggle to capture a literary voice in a new medium. Sometimes it goes well, but other times it goes horribly, horribly wrong. I rarely allow myself to be excited about a film adaptation.

But The Great Gatsby film adaptation released in 2013 is one that I looked forward to seeing. So when Danny Boy and I realized we could use our college id’s (makes me sound younger than I am…) to see a film at Hollywood Blvd. for $3 last night, we jumped up and headed out the door.

First of all, let me explain Hollywood Blvd to those outside the Chicagoland area. They serve dinner while you watch the film and include some clever-named menu items. It’s basically a haven for film enthusiasts since they also host special events and decorate every inch of wall space with movie images or memorabilia.

A place like this often gets two responses. You are either annoyed that a waiter is disrupting your movie watching with drink orders and food or you love it and embrace it wholeheartedly.

I personally love this place and yelp about it plenty. But I am getting distracted from the main point here, the movie. Warning, there will be spoilers coming up!

The goods:

1) The Soundtrack. This is as good as it gets in my opinion. The music is great blend of contemporary music and the sounds of the 20’s. You may also feel the urge to jump up and dance though most theaters frown upon this behavior unless you are at a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

2) Visualizations. The overall film is visually vibrant and fun to watch. They paid attention to the details of the book and really made them come alive. The Valley of Ashes with the old billboard eyes looking through the glasses was done perfectly. The party scenes were loud and bright as expected. However, the visuals did not take away from the character development which was pretty spot on. I feel like some movies try to focus on the visuals and forget to develop the characters.

The best moment is when Myrtle Wilson is hit by a car. F. Scott Fitzgerald was very descriptive in how her breast was ripped open and bleeding. The film made sure to include that along with visuals of the billboard that so amazingly symbolizes many of the themes.

3) Carey Mulligan. I knew walking into this that I was going to like Carey Mulligan in her portrayal of Daisy Buchanan. If you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan, and Mulligan stars in one of the best episodes “Blink.” If you haven’t seen that episode or watched Doctor Who, then I am required by fandom law to advise that the episode does not tie into a huge plot and is worth watching as a stand alone episode.

In fact, go watch the episode now. It’s in Season 3 of Doctor Who and all on Netflix watch instantly. I’ll wait here a few moments so you can report back how much you love that episode. Seriously, go watch it!

Not so goods:

1) Excessive use of ‘Old Sport”. Every English major in the world would have been writing angrily on blogs had they not used “Old Sport” in Gatsby’s dialogue. Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job in his portrayal, but it felt like “Old Sport” was said a hell of a lot more than the book. I could be not recalling the book entirely well since it’s been 2-3 years since my last read, but the movie definitely said it a few too many times. Not the end all, be all, but just an added note to my review.

2) Some narration issues. Did anyone else notice that Spiderman was narrating this film? I kid, I kid. Tobey Maguire was great as Nick Carraway, but I did find some issues with the framework of his narration. While the novel is written from Nick’s perspective, and I really appreciate the films hard work to recreate that narration, it felt strange that it all started with him talking to a psychiatrist in the beginning.

As a reader, I do not recall the book mentioning Nick as unstable mentally in any way. It makes slight changes to his credibility though scholars would argue that the book already does that in other, more subtle ways.

3) There’s nothing else to complain about. I look forward to seeing a film adaptation of a novel so that I can ridicule the lack of dedication to stay “true” to the book. I barely have any complaints in this respect. I guess it’s not a bad thing, but give this blogger something to moan about! The characters were spot on between Tom’s subtle racist and sexist attitude to Jordan Baker’s cool and calm nature. Daisy maintained her very dependent personality and confusing comments that don’t really make any sense. She lacked any real backbone or ability to exist outside of a relationship to another person, just like Fitzgerald wrote it.

How to Guide for Spontaneous Vacations


Did you ever want to be spontaneous and take a quick mini vacation? Here’s a easy to understand how to guide for just that!

On Sunday June 12th, Danny Boy and I watched Travel Channel’s Top 10 Roller Coasters. Exactly six days later, we packed up my new car aka “Sparky” and made the drive to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

Since this was a first in my life, I decided it was a great blogging opportunity. Spontaneous mini-vacations can be great fun and here’s how to have one of your own.

Inspiration

The first thing you need is inspiration and motivation. Find something you can be excited about. Seek out something not to far away that can really be a good time.

Dan and I realized we had never gone to an amusement park together. Living in Chicago, we’re about an hour and a half from the Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. The problem is we’ve both been a million times throughout our lives.

Since this was a first roller coaster filled day in our relationship, we needed something different. Sandusky, Ohio is about 4.5 hours away from Chicago. To cut costs, we decided to make the drive early in the morning so that we go directly to the park and crash for a night at a hotel before driving back.

Research

You may feel tempted to over research this type of thing. Trust me, I found other places in driving distance and was tempted to push back our mini-trip to Memorial Day weekend since I have an extra day off.

It starts to feel less spontaneous so tread carefully. Make sure you have enough time to make the drive and enjoy your destination without spending lots of money. Two days of driving somewhere means a total of four days in a car to make it back. Unless you have things to visit along the way or a lot of vacation time, keep the actual driving to a minimum.

For something outdoors, check the weather. I checked every day in the six days between the idea and the actual mini-road trip.

But here’s a thing to remember, weather forecasts are not perfect. All week, I was told it would rain that Saturday in Sandusky, Ohio. Did we cancel? No. Did it rain? Not a drop of rain all day!

Planning

So you found your motivation, your place of interest, and you know it’s doable. Avoid over-planning everything. Here are a few things to ask yourself:

What do I need to bring?

What time do we have to leave?

Can I buy tickets online for my destination? Can I find a coupon code or a discount?

I was able to find a discount and get our Cedar Point tickets for only $37 each. We planned to leave at 4:30am. Yes, we actually left at 5:15am, but it didn’t ruin our good time.

Anything else of importance? How about making a fun playlist for the drive–one that could be put on shuffle while you laughed your way across state lines.

My road trip playlist included a lot of crazy choices: Freebird, Send Me On My Way, Dream On, Bohemian Rhapsody, Bitter Sweet Symphony, Walking On Sunshine, 99 Luftballons (yes, the German version), the theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel Air, ABC by the Jackson 5, Blue Monday, Baby Got Back, Chelsea Dagger, Low Rider, and many more.

Packing

Oh, the subject of packing. I am a guilty party to over-packing. I did it when we went to Cancun, and I’m sure it’s not the last time.

For Cedar Point, I had a game plan. The weather could have been really nice or a little chilly and rainy. So one outfit was for chilly/rainy weather and one was for hot/sweaty weather. I brought a change of PJ’s and that’s it. Remember it’s not worth stressing about. And make up? Leave it at home!

Execution

So you planned, packed, and are ready to go. A few small tips. Make sure your partner in crime has the same ideals about this mini-trip as you do. If you don’t have the same motivation, you will bicker a lot.

Dan and I had only one goal. To ride as many roller coasters that the roller coaster gods would allow us. We shared the drive there and stopped when we felt like it. No fighting, no bickering, and no stressing!

PUBLIC SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT

You want to road trip? Put away your cellphone. If you are sitting in the passenger seat, put away your cell phone and give your driver some conversation (unless you are searching for something related to your mini-vacation).

From Chicago to Ohio, we saw two car accidents (one was really bad). Just keep in mind, you are going incredibly fast, and even if you are bored, stay safe and focus your mind on the road.

Stay Dedicated

Next is to just have fun and enjoy your day. If you are at an amusement park, don’t get bored waiting in lines. Be excited and don’t let your old age make you feel too tired to really get as much fun as possible out of your day.

Don’t sweat the little things either. The new roller coaster that opened at Cedar Point was called the GateKeeper. We went straight there and turned away from the line when we heard there was a four hour wait.

So we got in line for another coaster and right when we got close, it shut down for maintenance. After 10 minutes, it reopened and it was smooth sailing the rest of the day.

I also managed to drop my phone and crack the screen while waiting in a line. But you don’t let those things ruin the rest of your fun. Emotions are all about perspective, so focus on the positives and walk away with good feelings.

We went back to the GateKeeper later and sat in the first row. It was the highlight of the day!

Recap

Here are a few photos from our mini-vacation. They are all from my cellphone since we didn’t even pack a real camera.

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