A Welcome and a Definition

Culture Vulture: "A person with a strong, sometimes obsessive, interest in the arts." Culture Vultures spend a lot of time observing the world. This is where those observations come out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Hiatus

Just wanted to leave a note and say things have been a little crazy lately! All the chaos leaves little time for culture vulturing. But I plan to return to blogging soon! Have a happy and safe Halloween!! <3

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Waiting for Superman

I know I promised a couple posts on my favorite geniuses, but I wanted to pause and talk about a movie that came out this weekend. Tonight I attended a preview of Waiting for Superman, the documentary that goes in depth about the US public school system. This movie has already generated a lot of buzz because of its frank talk about schools. As someone who teaches in community colleges and wants to teach high school soon, I was very interested in seeing it.

The movie starts off by following various families (mostly living in urban areas, one in the suburbs) looking out to try to get a good education for their children. One student, Daisy, just wants to go to college and become either a doctor or a vet. The movie outlines the problems facing the various students' districts and their schools. The movie makes a very valid wide point that I think many people are not aware: not all high school diplomas are created equally. The education a student gets in School A might be very different from School B 10 miles down the road.

Some of the points the movie makes are very valid; others seemed a little unfair to me. The movie spends a significant amount of time discussing the ins and outs of the teacher unions, and definitely does not paint them in a favorable light. The idea of teacher tenure also comes under fire, basically saying all it does is protect bad teachers. I tend to feel like too much emphasis lately seems to be placed on these "bad teachers," that somehow getting rid of them would fix everything. This seems like more myth than fact to me and I think it is for most teachers. While I'm sure there are some truly bad teachers out there, I doubt it's as widespread as the movie purports.

The movie particularly talks about the Washington DC school system, considered the worst in the nation. The movie talks a lot about the efforts of Michelle Rhee, the now former Chancellor of the DC school system. Many of her efforts for big changes get blocked, despite all the issues of the DC schools. (Rhee has recently resigned, her 3 year term being the longest one served by any recent Chancellor). Her number 1 enemy portrayed in the doc? Teacher unions.

One solution the movie emphasizes is charter schools. The movie says that charters are trying to fix many of these issues; however, there's a catch. When a charter school gets more applicants than spaces (which happens every year), a lottery is held for the students to decide who gets admitted to the charters. In the most heartbreaking scene, each of the students profiled sits in a large auditorium/ gymnasium waiting for their number to be called. This is their only break of getting out of their current situation. While I am amazed this goes on at all, I have to say the slanted nature of this troubled me. I am a product of a magnet program (which the doc touched on but dismissed), a program that is based on merit alone. Portraying the fact that the ONLY way to get a good education outside of a private school is left to a crap shoot seemed unfair and one-sided.

Despite my misgivings, I would definitely recommend seeing it. I do think this movie will be creating further buzz, and I think it anyone with a stake in the education system should have some knowledge about it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Geniuses of History

Enough standing on the soapbox, back to being the Culture Vulture! In the class that I'm teaching, we are currently discussing the Renaissance. I thought this was the opportunity to talk about my one of my favorite people of history, Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci is one of three people in history I truly admire; the other two being Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. I am always hesitant to tell people I admire these three people because they are all well-known historical figures. But I think many people don't realize exactly how unique these individuals were and why they are forever remembered in history. So I thought what a good idea for a mini-series of posts. My next couple posts will be talking about WHY I think you should enjoy these men as much as I do. Coming soon!

National Coming Out Day

Monday Oct 11th is National Coming Out Day. I make no secret on this blog that I am an openly gay male. I have been lucky though; I had a lot of support from friends and family when I came out. I can honestly say no one close to me ever paused or had doubt that I was no longer the person they thought I was. But I know many people who are not that fortunate. With all the news of GLBT teen suicide, I think National Coming Out Day is more important than ever. As a society, we have to let go of the shame and allow people to be who they are. October 11 is one step towards this.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sex and the Screen

In a recent interview, Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny on the TV show The Big Bang Theory, revealed that she and Johnny Galecki (Leonard) dated for two years. Of course, many fans of the show will know that Penny and Leonard have had an on-again/ off-again relationship. This tidbit of news got me thinking again about the blurred line where sex on-screen translate into sex off-screen and how that affects the movie or TV show.

There seems to be an adage that sex off-screen almost never translate into good chemistry on-screen. Possibly the most notable example of that was the movie Gigli, known by many to be the worst movie to come out recently. Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck played a couple on screen, and were possibly starting a romance off screen. The movie and the relationship were both major flops. One of my favorite actors, Cary Grant, never had a relationship with any of his many leading ladies. Some people say that helped add to the chemistry of his films.

However, I can not go so far as to say it is always a bad thing for a film or show. On Designing Women, Dixie Carter's husband Hal Holbrook, played Reece Watson, Julia Sugarbaker's boyfriend. Delta Burke actually met her husband Gerald McRaney when he played Suzanne's ex-husband on the show.

This also brings up a similar controversy: If an actor is openly gay, can the audience ever accept him/ her as a straight character? There was a controversial article a few months ago printed by Newsweek on the topic. I think the biggest counter to that argument is Neal Patrick Harris, who plays the very straight Barney on How I Met Your Mother. Harris is well-loved on the show, but also is considered a notable figure in gay Hollywood. It seems to me if he can do it, others should be able to as well. No one questions Jake Gyllenhaal playing gay in Brokeback Mountain, or Eric McCormack playing gay Will in Will & Grace. It seems like it would work both ways. However, the argument persists, often from gay actors like Rupert Everett.

As for BBT, I don't think Kaley and Johnny's relationship seemed to affect anything on screen. At best, it's an interesting side note of the show. However, it's interesting to note their relationship seemed to fizzle out right around the time Penny and Leonard's did.