Tabula Rasa

The written English language is pretty strange, a fact that is never more apparent than when you are teaching a small human to read.  My daughter is only 2 and a half, and even though we read to her a lot, and of course there are plenty of alphabet based books out there, I was still surprised to learn she had mastered the recognition of the entire upper case alphabet.  It happened when my back was turned, so to speak, the same as when I discovered she knew how to match shapes  (flash cards.)  I was trying to teach her how to put like colors together, and the next thing I knew, she was putting the shapes together.  I continue to underestimate her capabilities.

In the past couple of weeks, her speaking has taken off, and she often mimics words we say (much to our embarrassment, sometimes,) as well as echoing the tail end of songs from her favorite kids shows.  The point of this long intro is that it seems as if she will be learning to speak and learning to read simultaneously.

The favorite show of the day/week/month is Super Why!   For you non-parents or non-toddler having parents, Super Why! is a PBS kid’s show featuring characters who read, spell,and solve “super big” problems through the use of books (in this case, usually a spin on a common children’s tale like Humpty Dumpty or Aladdin.)

For now, we’ll just set aside the idea that even the littlest issue (like leaving the water running) is a “super big” problem.  As it goes, Super Why! is a pretty good kid’s show.  And now that J* is proudly recognizing letters everywhere, from Nike sweatshirts to the “input” channel on the TV, she loves this show.  No matter what hubby and I are watching or playing, J* is hovering around, waiting to steal the controller with her lilting request to watch “Boy? Boy? Boy?” (She calls it this because of when I taught her the main character was a little boy.)

As I sat on the couch this morning, cuddling with my sick little snuggle bug and watching her favorite show, I was again reminded of how strange English can be.

We were learning to spell “kick,” to help the little duck in the story learn to swim.

Princess P asked , “What letter makes a keh sound?”  The answer she was looking for was of course “K.”

It was around this point I began to ponder what a useless letter “C” is.

What words start with C?

Cat. Car. Cane. Crown.  They all begin with a “hard” C.  Why don’t we spell them kat,kar,kane,krown?

How about Ceiling, Cease, Cement?  They’re soft C’s that sound the same as an S (esss.)  So why not Seiling (or better yet “seeling,”) sease, sement?

So what function does a C serve that can not either be served by a K or an S?  Why does the alphabet even have a C? I’m sure there’s a reason.  I just don’t understand the logic behind it.

Then when you consider “long and short vowels” and words with silent letters like head, kick, read (which can be either “reed” or “red”,) kneel, and basically any word that ends in a silent “e,” it’s a wonder anyone ever learns to read.

Really, it seems that learning to read English is only 2 parts phonetics, and the other third is simply rote memorization of the rules of linguistics and grammar.

Apparently, at her school, one of my nieces is being taught to read without phonics.  I’m assuming she is being taught the whole language method.  If I had to guess, I would say the way most of my peers learned to read was probably a combination of both, taught at age appropriate levels.

In any case, my child is a blank slate, eager to be filled with new words and experiences, and I think she is already on an early path to reading.  However she learns to read, I hope takes her everywhere she wants to go, and that she enjoys reading as much as her father and I.

photo credit: quickmeme.com

photo credit: quickmeme.com

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“She must have been beautiful…”

She must have been beautiful…  At the beginning of the first episode of the French cop drama, Engrenages (it means gears or cogs, but the title is translated to Spiral for US viewing,) a nude young woman is found in a dumpster, her face savagely beaten and mutilated.   Within the first few minutes of the show, when told by one of the investigators that the victim’s face was smashed, the Prosecutor replies, “She must have been beautiful.”

The first time I read this (the show is subtitled,) it gave me pause.  What?  Was something lost in translation, or was this ham-fisted remark somehow considered a normal observation in the context of a foreign investigation?

A few mere minutes later he offers, “She was killed because she was beautiful.  Hence the ferocity.”

I thought…Oooo-kaaay.  That makes a little more sense.  Maybe this is a serial killer and the Prosecutor is familiar with his MO.

But this turns out not to be the case either… and yet people throughout the show continue to remark on the victim’s beauty.  One cop goes to his prostitute informant (who he apparently also likely beds and occasionally scores coke from) to see if she has heard anything that might help identify the victim.

Prostitute: Are you sure she was a prostitute?

Cop: No, she was a nun.

Prostitute:*laughs* You’re right.  If she wasn’t in the game it’s odd.  Especially the mutilation stuff.

So now it has been inferred not only that her beauty somehow precipitated her murder, but that being the victim of a horrific mutilation makes much more sense if you happen to be a working girl.  Having studied violent crime, I will allow that being a prostitute is considered to be a high risk factor in terms of one’s chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime.  There is a real correlation there.

However, in the general public’s view, (and regrettably, sometimes in law enforcement) there is also an implied and sometimes spoken assertion that a sex worker killed because of or during the course of her work somehow deserves her fate.  The fact that the prostitute/informant in this particular show would consider the mutilation of the victim “odd” if she wasn’t a sex worker seems downright inappropriate.  Again, is it simply that something has been lost in the translation from the original French dialogue?  Or maybe it is a calculated tactic by the script writers to infer how many women in “the game” feel, how they view their own self-worth?  Or maybe it’s exactly what it sounds like; an ignorant and flawed assumption that may be indicative a a larger problem, the way people view female victims of violent crimes?

I seem to remember the coroner in the autopsy scene similarly remarking on the savagery of the victim’s injuries and also linking it to her beauty.  He claims the attack to her face was postmortem and methodical.  He also posits that it was done not to hinder identification of the victim (as her hands and fingertips were left undamaged,) but rather out of some sort of spite for alleged beauty.

Again with the beauty?   

And then again, almost exactly halfway through this first episode, the coke snorting cop tells his colleagues that the neighbor claimed a certain person of interest was a “real beauty”, and that he would “let them know” when he saw her.

What?!  Why does this keep coming up?  I’d understand if they had some specific reason to believe in this situation that the victim’s beauty was an emotional catalyst for suspect, IF they had any information that backed up that theory– previous crimes possibly committed by the same offender, evidence collected from crimes scenes, a criminal profile… A person can be driven to fatal violence by many things.  Their victim may be the actual focus of their rage or they may be no more than a convenient surrogate, chosen for reasons that have nothing to do with aesthetics.  Furthermore, the mutilation of the face, especially done postmortem, could also be indicative of the perpetrator’s desire to “erase” the victim’s identity, not from a literal standpoint, but from an emotional perspective.  A person’s face, specifically their eyes, are often considered to be symbolic of their essence, representative of what makes them a real person in the eyes of the perpetrator.

Alas, the episode ends on a sort of cliff hanger, with the crime not yet solved.  I guess I’ll have to watch a few more episodes to determine whether the attitudes expressed towards the female victim in this episode are indicative of the overall flavor of the show.  I hope not. I found the frequent references to the victim’s appearance distracting and irrelevant.  Not to mention completely inappropriate.  Unless it turns out to be relevant to this particular plot line, I think I’d find those sort of repeated remarks too irritatingly misogynistic to continue to watch the show.

cast of Spiral

cast of Spiral

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TV: End of Season Grief

As hubby and I work our way towards the end of yet another much loved television series (at least, the most current season that is available,) I have that familiar feeling, a sort of sadness and disappointment that’s a little like grief.

I know, it sounds silly.  But after a whirlwind journey through the extremely entertaining British comedy-drama, Misfits, I have been mulling over the effect our entertainment can have on us.  If you’ve ever read a really engaging book, (or even better, a series like The Dark Tower novels or Harry Potter), you are likely aware of how you can become transported to another world, and how you can become attached to and love the characters with whom you’ve spent so much time.  I think our television can have a similar effect on us as a good novel.

The original cast of Misfits-- "Kelly, Simon, Alisha, Curtis, and Nathan"

The original cast of Misfits– “Kelly, Simon, Alisha, Curtis, and Nathan”

So, as we began season (series) 4 of Being Human, amidst some seemingly very rapid (and unceremonious) cast changes, I mentioned to my husband the fact that how we view our favorite television programs can actually affect the way they affect us.  

When you watch a particular show on a service like Netflix or Hulu, you can become immersed very quickly.  There is an instant gratification sort of effect.  You don’t have to wait a week for the next episode.  There’s not anxious anticipation, rather a desire to bull through and watch as much as you can (if you’re really into the show.)  If you’re like hubs and I, you’ll watch three or four episodes a night.  You reach the end of a season or series fairly quickly. Consequently, twists in the plot, changes to the cast, and deaths of main characters often seem very abrupt and are a bit of a shock to the system.

Conversely, if you watch a series as it airs on television, obviously it’s going to feel like you spent even longer with the characters…however, if you’re like me, and you get behind on a series, or even just waiting until next week’s episode, sometimes the sense of urgency you feel to see the next episode kinda of gets muted with time. (I went through this when we went without cable for a while; at first I thought I’d just about die if I didn’t see the next episode of True Blood, but after a while I was just like, Meh.)

Still, I think I prefer to be able to watch a series consecutively (thank you, Hulu!)  In addition to having my instant gratification, I never have to wonder “what’s on TV tonight?”  There are less commercials, you can pause for snack or a bathroom break, and rewind when your kid’s screaming (or you have to yell at them for pulling the cat’s tail) and you’ve missed a bit.

funny-pictures-baby-will-pull-cat-tail1

What is your favorite way to watch your favorite shows?  Do you think the way you view your programs effects how they impact you?

Run, Rabbit, Run!

Leporiphobia-  fear of rabbits.  Who would be afraid of rabbits? you may ask.

House of 1000 Corpses- for victims, these two sure are creepy

House of 1000 Corpses- for victims, these two sure are creepy

For your entertainment, I present, some of the scariest bunnies of all time.

The Killer Rabbit of CaerbannogMonty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Need I say more?

"Run away! Run away!"

“Run away! Run away!”

The rabbit from the hatTwilight Zone: the Movie (1983)

oh.my.word. Put it back! Put it back!

oh.my.word. Put it back! Put it back!

Frank the Bunny RabbitDonnie Darko (2001)

The mysterious vision that appears to Donnie to warn him of the end of the world…

"Why are you wearing that human suit?"

“Why are you wearing that human suit?”

Mysterious Rabbit Family– Inland Empire (2006)

Original Footage from Rabbits a 2002 David Lynch project

Original Footage from Rabbits a 2002 David Lynch project

Creepy Not-White rabbit– Starfish Hotel (2006)

The rabbit is a reference to Lewis Carroll‘s “White Rabbit,” and leads the character to an underground brothel called Wonderland.

rr7

The Acid Rabbit- Misfits (2012)

Born of a freak lightening storm and a bad acid trip, the rabbit stalks people with a golf club.  The most frightening aspect of him is his dynamic and reflective eyes.

rr6

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So, in conclusion… Who would be afraid of rabbits?  Me. I would.

 

Edit (2/11-2014): I don’t remember where this one came from but it definitely belongs on this list:

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CSI Doppelgangers?

I’ve been watching re-runs of the CSI: Miami.  You know, one of several CSI: Crime Scene Investigation spin-offs?  Apparently, the general public’s obsession with the CSI franchise has gotten so bad that it’s created a problem for law enforcement and the court system, in that criminals are using techniques learned by watching CSI and other shows in the same genre to help cover up evidence, and juries often have unreasonable expectations of real-life forensics because of what they have seen on CSI.  I remember in a college Forensics course I had, my professor, who worked with a Baltimore crime scene unit, complained about CSI and what a bunch of bullshit it was.  Even with my limited knowledge of forensics, I sit and shake my head or yell at the TV sometimes when I watch the shows, because so much of their “science” is complete crap…

But I still watch for the entertainment value.  Apparently, they’re trying to further confuse the dimwitted members of the viewing population by hiring doppelganger actors to play similar characters in the series.   It’s a conspiracy…okay, maybe not, but has anybody else noticed the resemblance between actors Eric Szmanda  and Jonathan Togo?

Szmanda plays crime lab analyst and investigator Greg Sanders on the original CSI, while Jonathan Togo plays a startlingly similar character in CSI: Miami.  Both are generally handsome, in a frat-boy sort of way, and each seem to have quirky, juvenile aspects to their personalities.

Here’s the photographic evidence (~wink, wink~)

Eric Szmanda as Greg Sanders

Eric Szmanda as Greg Sanders

Jonathan Togo as Ryan Wolfe

Jonathan Togo as Ryan Wolfe

Okay, they’re not exactly twins, but it’s close enough that I have gotten the actors names confused before as to who plays which onscreen identity.  Fellow CSI fans, what do you think?

Tunnel Vision: More on the Predictable Pathology of “Bad Guys”

Bad guys are pretty predictable.  Especially Hollywood bad guys.  I’ve noticed a few banalities commonalities amount these TV and movie baddies, and I wonder how often real-life bad guys fall afoul of their own predictable character flaws.

....his face just pisses me off...

….his face just pisses me off…

Aside from the usual single-minded arrogance which allows them to wreak havoc with other people’s family, money, and lives with little or no assault to their delicate psyches, they always seem genuinely surprised and outraged when one of their friends, family members, or partners becomes casualties of the crimes they are committing.

badmenjack3

You can’t blame him; he’s bat-shit crazy!

If you and your friends are doing something sneaky, underhanded, or downright malicious to someone else, chances are someone in the group will have no qualms about stabbing you in the back, figuratively or literally, if the opportunity arises or it will increase their payday. Similar but not exactly the same is the the naive sort of tunnel vision that bad guys seem to have in regards to their partners in crime.  Maybe in a way it’s a form of arrogance that allows them to overlook the fact that they are all bad guys.  After all, you’re all no better than rabid dogs anyway.

WTF, dude?  That was MY bloody rabbit?

WTF, dude? That was MY bloody rabbit head!

And yet… the bad guys are always charmingly shocked when one of their own turns on them.  I feel like saying to the TV villains, while petting the screen affectionately, Awww, isn’t that cute?  They’re all hurt and surprised.  That’s just so adorable… and stupid.

And I just throw my hands in the air and– (just kidding).   I just kinda smirk in a self-satisfied manner and think, serves you right, muthafucka!

Anyway, this concept is actually one of many common TV tropes.  So…maybe the bad guys need to bone up on their prime time dramas before their next heist or… whatever.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Monk

I can’t remember if I ever mentioned it before, but Hubs and I don’t have cable (which around here, you need even to bring in the major broadcast channels.)  We’re pretty used to it, managing with our extensive DVD collection, games, and rented/borrowed TV series.  In fact, it’s kind of spoiled me in terms of TV, because I have even less tolerance for commercials than before, and if I get into a show, I’d hate to have to wait a whole week between episodes (damn instant gratification.)

Anyway, recently we acquired access to Hulu and whole new worlds of TV series have opened up to me!

hallelujah praise the lawd

Right…so, anyway, I’ve been watching re-runs of Monk, a show I had watched before, but not on a regular basis.  Here’s the basic premise, if you’ve never seen the show.

Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub) was a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb in a parking garage.

Trudy’s death led Monk to suffer a nervous breakdown.  He was then discharged from the force and became a recluse, refusing to leave his house for three and a half years.

Monk’s compulsive habits are numerous, and a number of phobias compound his situation, such as his fear of germs. Monk has 312 fears, some of which are milk, ladybugs, harmonicas, heights, imperfection, claustrophobia, driving, food touching on his plates, messes and risk.  The OCD and plethora of phobias inevitably lead to very awkward situations and cause problems for Monk and anyone around him as he investigates cases. These same personal struggles, particularly the OCD, are what aid him in solving cases, such as his sharp memory, specific mindset, and attention to detail.

Talent Names - Tony Shalhoub

Well, I like the show.  I mean, I don’t ask much from my television and movies, usually.  Mostly I just want to be entertained, distracted.  Monk is pretty much your typical crime drama, except with an added element of dark humor based largely on the antics of the main character.  And it definitely has its funny moments…

But it’s also irritating to me, on several levels.

The same thing that makes the show funny in one moment can make it borderline infuriating the next moment. Monk’s inability to perform even the simplest task without making a mountain out of a mole hill, and his tendency to alienate every other person he meets with his paranoid and compulsive behaviors is often cringe-worthy.  It’s no wonder Sharona (his assistant until season 3) threatens to quit every other episode.  The man can’t function without her, yet he’s often ambivalent or oblivious to her needs or feelings.


(I think that clip is in another language, but it was the only one I could find of the beer race.)  Note the dudes are chugging straight from the pitcher, while Monk is insisting on pouring Sharona the perfect cup of beer, until she yells, “It’s a race, Monk!” and snatched her own pitcher, gulping it down, and putting her opponents to shame.  WIN for Sharona!

Aside from the small annoyances, there’s another reason this show bothers me, and that is the treatment of OCD in the series.  One thing I noticed is that although one of the early episodes makes a point of mentioning that Trudy’s death pushed Monk over the edge (perhaps implying that Monk’s behavior is extreme even for OCD,) I have yet to hear Sharona actually use the technical term/diagnosis when attempting to explain away Monk’s odd or downright rude behavior to people he’s offended.  I haven’t even heard his therapist use much actual medical terminology.  As I am not even past season two episodes yet, there may well eventually be some more direct discussion of his diagnosis, but I haven’t seen it yet.  The point is, it seems like they want to use OCD as a comedy prop, but almost like they’re afraid to actually name it.  Could it be that the show’s writers are attempting to cover their asses should they offend any actual people with OCD (like me?)  But I’m not even offended, really.  I can take a joke as well as the next person.

What bothers me about this is the stereotype it spreads.  Maybe it would be different if they were writers were to make a point of specifically detailing the idea that Monk’s OCD is an extreme version.  See, half my life I’ve heard people carelessly self-diagnose themselves as “being OCD”, or having OCD simply because they have a few idiosyncratic habits.  That’s not OCD.  OCD is an anxiety disorder wherein the patient feels significant anxiety from consuming thoughts and ideas, usually only finding relief through the performance of rituals, rituals which may or may not have any logical link to the fear.  Being a little germ phobic and washing your hands often, or checking the stove a couple extra times is not OCD, not unless you feel so anxious and upset about these things that you can’t NOT perform the accompanying rituals.  So when a person in casual conversation claims to “be” OCD, I kinda have to restrain an impulse to bitch-slap them.  That’s like a person taking some Excedrin for their “migraine” and feeling better– if you feel better after some Excedrin, you didn’t have a migraine; you had a headache.   Until you are cowering in a dark corner or kneeling in front of your toilet, until you feel like you might stroke out from the pain, until your vision is affected or you’ve been to the ER, you probably haven’t had a migraine.  You wouldn’t tell a person with skin cancer you know how they feel because you’ve had a sunburn before, would you???

You see my point right?  Anybody who has seen some ridiculously false and misinformed status repeatedly re-posted on Facebook knows it doesn’t take much to fool misinformed or uneducated people.  I wonder how many people watching Monk think that all people with OCD are like Monk.  I wonder if they’d call us freaks.  And I wonder if they truly understand, as they watch this show that treats OCD like some goofy little character flaw, how truly horrible it can be for someone who does not have their symptoms under control.