Category Archives: Criticism

But Mom, I want a gold medal too!

The Olympics are the only sporting events that I truly enjoy watching.

Granted, I’ve taken in a few Buffalo Sabres games with my mother and some Sunday NASCAR races with my father, but sports only snare me once every four years.

However, with this global celebration of athleticism comes the imminent and overwhelming gloom of inadequacy.

Photo credit: Huffington Post
Photo credit: Huffington Post

Watching, slack-jawed, as 15-year-old Russian figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia dominated the women’s team short program, filled me with warring waves of awe and indignation.

I interrogated myself mercilessly, compiling my brief list of teenage accomplishments but discounting them quickly for one reason or another.  Somehow “Making high-honor roll every quarter” still doesn’t match up to the grandeur of “Winning top honors at the Olympics before I had my driver’s license.”

As I sat on my parent’s couch, cat in my lap and frown furrowing my expression, I realized something.

Accomplishment is relative.

Yes, Miss Lipni—too many consonants— may end up with this gold circle to love and cherish for the rest of her life. BUT, that achievement was most likely her only focus since she triple-axeled out of the womb.

For someone like me, a recent college graduate with a severe lack of job prospects, finally finding paid work was enough to throw a block party, ya know, if I wasn’t broke. For someone recovering from serious addiction, accomplishment could be waking up, showering and making it through the day without relapsing.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

See what I mean? It’s all relative.

So, before you sit there berating yourself for your lack of pre-pubescent metallic medallions, remember that everything you do is important. Whether it’s mailing the bills on time, submitting the last draft of a dissertation, or finally proposing to your significant other—your efforts matter.

Keep pushing yourself. Find a goal, and motivate yourself to achieve it.

You’ve got this, so keep going.

Write on!

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Babes, bombs and bullet holes: check out what I’ve been reading lately

I’ve had a lot of extra time to read lately, and I wanted to catch you all  up with some quick reviews of the texts I’ve finished.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson 

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The second book in Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, this fast-paced novel covers the exploits of Bloomkvist and Salander and their various compatriots as they attempt to uncover a horrendous human-trafficking scandal.

The pacing of this novel was far superior to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Larsson spent the majority of Part One catching readers up with Salander in the aftermath of the Wennerström affair, placating them with some small conflicts in the beginning until the real bombs are dropped in the center and end sections.

Bombs? Absolutely. I won’t tell you when, but The Girl Who Played With Fire definitely reveals a huge shocker alongside the explanation of “All the Evil.”

This was my favorite of the Larsson trilogy. It was engaging, well-paced, vivid and, at points, shocking.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The final installment of the Millennium Trilogy, regrettably, starts out slow. Finishing off the jaw-dropping cliffhanger from The Girl Who Played With Fire, this book spends too much of its first half stretching out details and dialogue that’s definitely not as interesting as the action and adventure of its predecessor.

However, once you make it to the end of Part Two a few new characters, and even some old favorites, return to make the story much more interesting. At points, it seemed like Larsson was struggling to round out the ending of book three by adding in Berger’s stalker scandal.

A common theme to all Larsson’s books is the empowerment and strength of women. Because of that over-arching archetype, Berger’s story fits, but it still feels forced.

Overall, the book did a decent job of wrapping up the trilogy, but it was clearly the weakest of the three.

Generation Kill by Evan Wright

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

This journalistic account of First Recon Marines written by former Rolling Stone journalist, Evan Wright, details the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Later adapted by HBO into a TV show, the account follows the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion from the view of Wright as he remained embedded with them for  two months.

The text is gritty, vivid, raunchy and haunting. Wright’s words transport the reader far from their comfort zone, challenging them to accept the truth behind the writing– a feat that should never be taken lightly.

Retelling instances of death, destruction, manipulation and ignorance, the book stays true to Lt. Nathaniel Fick’s words “Write this as you see it. I’m not here to stop you.”

The book is extremely well written, descriptive and unadulterated in its actuality.  There were several times when I had to put it down and take a break for a bit as the details can really weigh on you.

Read the book. Be prepared for some internal turmoil, but read it all the same.

I hope you enjoyed my mini reviews! Feel free to let me know how you feel in the comments below, and check out my profile on Goodreads! 

Write on!

Watch your language: Commentary on Elite’s “20 things women shouldn’t have to apologize for”

I’ve seen this list floating around on Facebook and Twitter lately and it’s not as great as the comments and status updates would make it seem.

Photo credit: Elitedaily.com
Photo credit: Elitedaily.com

The list does cover some good things, indicating that women should not be given a separate set of expectations than men concerning their sexual partners, bodily functions or financial and social independence.

One of the more interesting points was not having to apologize for “not liking children,” however, that seemed like less of a feminist point and more of a point regarding the acceptance of someone’s personality and/or preferences. Continue reading Watch your language: Commentary on Elite’s “20 things women shouldn’t have to apologize for”

Hunky plumbers and gushing garbage men: comedy or misandry?

The Hefty Brands YouTube channel recently published a commercial named “The Ultimate Garbage Men- Hefty Ultimate Commercial.” However, the only “ultimate” thing about it is the amount of misandry poorly disguised as humor.

While misandry, or the hatred of men, may seem a little extreme in its use, the commercial is still very degrading and openly objectifies men on a sexual and physical level.

The video features a troop of four men– three muscular and one fairly overweight. While all body types are represented, the heavier set of the men is still “comically” outcast from the group at the end. Each of the muscular cast members says “hefty” to complete the brand’s catch phrase, “hefty, hefty, hefty,” leaving the heavier group-mate to enter the frame at the end and isolating him as the “hefty” example. Continue reading Hunky plumbers and gushing garbage men: comedy or misandry?

No fault in Green’s stars: TFiOS exceeds expectations

The Fault In Our Stars faltered, but once, during its delicate unveiling of the unceasingly-defiant and terminally-ill teenage humanity.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Though I tend to avoid books about illness, organ transplants, or medical abnormalities, I elected to read John Green’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel simply to see if it was as good as everyone claimed.

The story follows teenager Hazel, who has been struggling with thyroid cancer since age 13. She is stagnantly unconsumed by her illness, fighting through the very essence of her self-hood for consideration as a being, and not a disease. Green writes her well, though she, at times, descends into some rather stereotypical teenage tropes.

But, she is only 16, and for being so young she is incredibly and believably deep.

During one of her support-group attendances, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old amputee with an addiction to gracious flamboyance, metaphors and tragic-hero sacrifice.

The two pique each other’s interests immediately, and the story cascades from there.

If you haven’t read, or finished, the novel, please don’t click the “continue reading” section as there will be ample spoilers past that point.

But, before you depart, don’t hesitate to read the novel. Green writes each character nearly flawlessly, keeping the story poignantly realistic with a dusting of optimism to dull the reader’s masochistic pursuit.

Don’t let anyone spoil it for you, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

**CAUTION, SOME SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT** Continue reading No fault in Green’s stars: TFiOS exceeds expectations

Turn it up: Female pop stars advocate for positive empowerment with newest albums

In her most recent stunt, “Queen B” Beyoncé Knowles released her latest visual album, BEYONCÈ without any prior advertising or promotional work.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The music mogul posted a message on Instagram on Friday, December 13, at midnight saying “Surprise,” leading followers to the iTunes album page.

In the first 24 hours, the self-titled album sold half a million copies.

The internet was quick to point out the potential for feuds between Queen B, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, all who released highly-anticipated albums in the last six months.

But, listeners should be more focused on absorbing the messages of these powerful female voices, rather than pinning them against each other.

These four females, though their musical stylings may differ, share a common theme of positive gender empowerment and self image in the lyrics of their newest songs.

People should praise and promote these messages instead of pointing out each artist’s pitfalls, especially with the level of justification for rape, assault and objectification that is so glaringly apparent in most popular music today.

In Knowles’ song “Pretty Hurts” she says,

 “Pretty hurts, shine the light on whatever’s worse. Perfection is a disease of a nation,”

exposing rampant superficiality and its negative effects on body image.

Later, she says,

 “Ain’t got no doctor or pill that can take the pain away. The pain’s inside and nobody frees you from your body. It’s the soul, it’s the soul that needs surgery,” ending the song with “Are you happy with yourself?”

In another song, “Flawless” she features a verse from gender-equality activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, saying,

 “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful otherwise, you will threaten the man.’”

And later says,

 “Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”

Both songs teach women, young and old, to respect and empower themselves with their intelligence, compassion and kindness.

In Katy Perry’s song, “Roar,” from her album Prism, she says,

 “I guess that I forgot I had a choice. I let you push me past the breaking point. I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.”

And later,

“I went from zero, to my own hero. You held me down, but I got up─ already brushing off the dust. You hear my voice, you hear that sound like thunder, gonna shake your ground.”

In another song, “It Takes Two,” Perry advocates for equal responsibility in  relationships, saying,

 “I point my finger but it does me no good. I look in the mirror and it tells me truth, yeah. Why all these lessons always learned the hard way. Is it too late to change? It takes two, two sides to every story.”

Perry aims to empower anyone, not just women, with her words. What she says encourages positive communication between partners, and positive self-image and self-respect.

Lady Gaga’s newest album ARTPOP embraced her femininity and sexuality in her song “G.U.Y,” saying,

“I’m gonna wear the tie, want the power to leave you. I’m aimin’ for full control of this love (of this love). “

And later,

“I don’t need to be on top to know I’m wanted, Cuz I’m strong enough to know the truth…I’m blessed when I’m in love, and I’m in love with you.”

GaGa encourages healthy sexual expression and mutual trust and love in relationships.

Instead of admonishing females for wanting to dominate men, she advocates for equality, saying that either party should be able to dominate as long as there is open communication and trust between partners.

In Miley Cyrus’ new album, Bangerz she show’s listeners her vulnerable side, admitting in her song “Someone Else” that

 “I’m hurting myself. I’ve turned into someone else.”

But, in tenacious tune “Do My Thang,” she belts,

“Every single night and every single day, I’mma do my thing, I’mma do my thing. So don’t you worry about me I’ll be okay. I’mma do my thing, ’cause I’mma do my thing.”

And in “On My Own” she says

 “I need to stop sleeping on myself, wake up and do it on my own! I found a way, yeah, and I’ll do it on my one, hey! I can do anything, yeah, and I’ll do it on my own.”

Cyrus encourages listeners to accept their failures and shortcomings, as she has within her own personal relationships, and move forward in a positive direction of personal empowerment.

Though some of the songs focus directly on relationships between women and men, the idea of equal empowerment and positive self-worth extends to any relationship, regardless of gender.

All four artists encourage listeners, especially young women, to draw strength from their inner beauty instead of their physical appearance.

Listeners should absorb and perpetuate these positive ideas, instead of worrying about who dropped their album when.

Watch your language: Judge’s statement grants custody to wrong parent while unfairly castigating mother

In a New York Times story posted November 23, author Erik Eckholm told the story of a mother denied her reproductive rights.

Photo credit: The New York Times
Photo credit: The New York Times

Within the last year, Sara McKenna, United States Marine, firefighter and ivy-league student was forced to surrender custody of her son after being reprimanded for “virtually absconding with her fetus.”

After exploring a short relationship with Olympic skier and Alpine racer Bode Miller, McKenna became pregnant. The two ended their relationship, but kept in touch.

After seven months of pregnancy, McKenna alerted Miller that she intended to attend Columbia University and planned to move to New York.

Photo credit: @Sara_A_McKenna
“It’s Brooklyn baby.” from McKenna’s Twitter
(@Sara_A_McKenna)

Miller accused McKenna of fleeing and a New York judge accused McKenna of “absconding” with the fetus. That statement allowed a California court to grant Miller custody of the baby—before he was even born. Continue reading Watch your language: Judge’s statement grants custody to wrong parent while unfairly castigating mother