You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.

Well, after my last post on Britney, I thought it was fitting that I write about something that receives far less press attention but far greater significance. While many people, and admittedly myself, focus far too much of their energy on the latest tabloid drama or a upcoming television miniseries, I think the genocide that occurred in Guatemala, and went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world, deserves far more attention than Hollywood’s pop stars and celebrities.
After taking my first Ethnic Studies class at UC Berkeley this past fall, I was forced to open my eyes to the daily genocide that plagued much of Guatemala’s Mayan community. According to United Nations’ research 200,000 people were killed, 1.5 million people were displaced from their communities, and hundreds of thousands fled the country. Over 600 massacres were committed, and while 3% were committed by the Guatemalan insurgency, the overwhelming majority of these brutal, heartless massacres were committed by the military.

Using ChunkIt! to do some research, I found out that the indigenous Guatemalans’ livelihood depends on access to good, sufficient land; they are subsistence farmers. Over 60% of the population is rural and 2% of the population controls 70% of the land. For the Mayans, their land was not providing them with enough subsistence, and they needed relief from the horrible conditions of plantations and subdivided lands. As a result, 160 Mayan families created a colonization project in the Guatemalan jungle and built from scratch the village of Santa Maria Tzeja. In 1980 Guatemalan soldiers came and destroyed the town that had taken 10 years to build. They looted, slaughtered, and torched the town; they raped, beat and murdered the women, and when they found Mayans hiding in the village the mercilessly killed them.

Professor of Chicano Studies at UC Berkeley, Beatriz Manz, recounted her firsthand experience in Guatemala titled Paradise In Ashes.

6-10-2004-10-51-55-am-15241022

Manz hypothesizes that perhaps the genocide that occurred in Guatemala and more specifically in Santa Maria Tzeja, because the military felt threatened that the indigenous people were setting up their own villages in the jungle, or perhaps the military was attempting to discourage the Mayans from joining an insurgent movement, or maybe, the killing occurred simply because the military could. Whatever the reason, nothing can justify the lives that were taken, and the families that were destroyed as a result of this ruthless genocide.

Advertisements

The newest addition to my to-do list of Internet procrastination is Vulture, New York Magazine’s entertainment blog.  It combines news about the arts and entertainment scene with just the right amount of cheekiness to keep it from taking itself too seriously.

Vulture Devouring Culture New York Magazine

Vulture not only titles its articles with snarky headlines such as “Recording Industry to Quit Suing Downloaders, the Dead” and “Disney Slays Narnia Franchise, Andy Samberg Weeps“, but it also gleefully keeps readers abreast of new ridiculous quotes by the Hollywood set:

“‘We definitely need a kid ASAP.’Spencer Pratt threatens the world with potential devil spawn [MTV]

‘I guess God just wanted to prepare me for this role.’ Diddy on how his past legal problems helped with his role on CSI: Miami [E!]

‘Favorite song of 2008? I haven’t had the chance to listen to anything but my stuff … so, um, “Right Now.” Favorite Album? Freedom. In stores right now.’ Akon [MTV]”

Vulture, New York Magazine’s culture blog

Most recently, Vulture put out a year-in-review list of its most popular articles with readers and bloggers in 2008.  Here are some teaser photos:

Check out Vulture’s 2008 year-in-review list for such gems as a slideshow of Vulture’s Complete Field Guide to the Facial Expressions of Keanu Reeves, a flowchart to help moviegoers decide Which of This Fall’s Oscar-Baiting Holocaust Movies Is Right for You?, and some handy advice on When Should You Take Your Bathroom Breaks During ‘Che’?

One more reason to read Vulture: without it, I never would have discovered this fan video featuring “talented super-nerd” Timothy Edward Smith’s musical score from his fan project Star Wars: The Musical:

when I read Vulture’s post George Lucas Finally Relents, Signs Off on Star Wars Musical.

Caution: if you opened this post thinking that it would be a profound address to the world leader of the small island country of Nauru, which has been plagued in the past decade by a faltering economy based on depleted phosphate mining, a brief stint as an international tax haven, an offshore detention center for the government of Australia, and accusations of corrupt politics:

You are about to be sorely disappointed.

Nauru Awareness Day!  Nauru is a tiny island all alone in the  middle of the Pacific.  Today let them know they're not completely forgotten by sending the President a friendly postcard at Office of the President, c/o Ministry of Works, Yaren Nauru.

"Day 31: Nauru Awareness Day! Nauru is a tiny island all alone in the middle of the Pacific. Today let them know they're not completely forgotten by sending the President a friendly postcard at Office of the President, c/o Ministry of Works, Yaren Nauru."

Yep, another daily task from This Book Will Change Your Life.  Nauru is a tiny island nation near Australia with a population of about 13,000, which sadly means that ASUC President Roxanne Winston yields power over roughly twice as many people as President Marcus Stephen of Nauru.  I couldn’t try roast Nauru pig today as my book recommended, but I did send President Stephen this friendly card purchased especially for the occasion at Avant Carde on Bancroft:

avant carde card

and wrote him a note:

I was not being facetious.  The guy is a gold medal-winning weightlifter.

With that last paragraph, I was not, in fact, being facetious:

President Stephen of Nauru (right) discusses lifting up President Ma of Taiwan and spinning him around WWF-style during a ceremonial inspection of the troops.

President Stephen of Nauru (right) ponders lifting President Ma of Taiwan up over his head and spinning him around WWF-style during a ceremonial inspection of the troops.

Too bad ASUC President Roxanne Winston never won any weightlifting championships.

In the spirit of Nauru Awareness Day, familiarize yourself with basic Nauru facts and scope out Nauru’s tourism bureau website to acquaint yourself with accomodation options.  This information will come in handy should you choose to visit Nauru yourself, as the larger of the two hotels on the island boasts a swimming pool and air conditioning.  Or glance over President Stephen’s international medal record and bemoan the complete lack of pictures of Nauru’s specialty roast pig on Google Image Search.

Thrift stores can yield awesome like-new stuff for reasonable prices, if you’re patient and willing to dig through racks of clothing.  Shopping at Buffalo Exchange on Telegraph for the first time this semester was a magical and eye-opening experience for me.  I walked in feeling completely crapulous at the tail end of a fairly awful week, and walked out two hours later with a twinkle in my eye and spring in my step, clutching a bag stuffed full of cheap new clothes.

The buy counter at Buffalo Exchange.

Michael's roommate calls this phenomenon "retail therapy".

Buffalo Exchange essentially buys, sells, and trades used clothing.  It, like several other thrift stores in Berkeley, is based on the premise of recycled fashion.  Keep in mind that we are not talking old-lady puffy-paint applique holiday themed sweatshirts here:

You know the kind I mean.

You know the kind I mean.

Rather, thanks to the discerning eye of the store’s buying team, shopping at Buffalo Exchange feels akin to raiding the closet of an older sister, cool aunt, or best friend.  Every item in the store is unique, and the merchandise changes constantly.  Low prices make it affordable to experiment with new pieces that I might otherwise not be daring enough to try.  Pieces such as:

Polka-Dot Skirt, Express, $8.50

Polka-dot skirt, Express, $8.50

Party dress, Roxy Rox, $12.00

Party dress, Ruby Rox, $12.00

Brown top, Express, 50% off at $3.25

Brown top, Express, 50% off at $3.25

Mock-tweed jacket, La Belle, $9.50

Mock-tweed jacket, La Belle, $9.50

Black fitted jacket, Arden B., $14.00

Black fitted jacket, Arden B., $14.00

Green hooded vest, rue21, $11.50

Green hooded vest, rue21, $11.50

I am particularly stoked with my discovery of the $12 strapless Ruby Rox dress.  I recently paired it with on-sale shiny black peeptoe heels from going-out-of-business Shoe Pavilion on Shattuck, $2 bold red hoop earrings from Wet Seal, and black nail polish from the dollar store.  I felt quite glamorous, with a punk-rock sort of edginess.

Katherine’s Tips: How to shop at Buffalo Exchange

When you first arrive, it’s tempting to want to buy twenty things in one go because they’re all so cheap.  Just be sure to follow these ground rules to avoid complete anarchy of the wallet:

  1. When you decide to buy something in the fitting room, first make a mental note of the maximum price you would pay, then look at the price tag.  Compare the two.  If your price is below Buffalo’s, buy the item.  If not, save your money for a better discovery.
  2. Remember that some items would be steals if they were new, but are only mediocre deals when you consider that they are used.  In these cases, save your money for actual new clothing from an actual new clothing store.
  3. Before your final purchase, inspect the clothing for damage and wear.  Nothing deflates consumer surplus more than finding out that half of the sleeve of your new jacket is falling off.

Like any great store in Berkeley, Buffalo Exchange does its part to help the environment.  In addition to the resources you inherently conserve by not demanding the production of new textiles, the store encourages customers to bring their own bags.  Buffalo Exchange also holds an annual Earth Day Dollar Sale, wherein certain items are a mere dollar, and the proceeds go to nature conservation.  As if you needed any more incentive to get shopping.

Buffalo Exchanges Tokens for Bags program donates five cents to one of several worthy charities when you bring in your own bag.

Buffalo Exchange's Tokens for Bags program donates five cents to one of several worthy charities when you bring in your own bag. (Flickr credit: jvree)

Jealous?  Don’t despair if you don’t live in Berkeley — there’s likely a Buffalo Exchange near you.  You’ll probably walk out with the same twinkle in your eye and spring in your step, cheerfully asking Buffalo Exchange, as I did, “Where have you been all my life?”

I love you, Trader Joe.  To the moon and back.

This is going to be a short post because I’m up late tonight writing an essay on free indirect discourse in Jane Austen’s Emma for my Literature & Linguistics class.  But I could not let the opportunity go by without telling you how, in the midst of the writing frenzy that accompanies my usual eleventh-hour inspiration, I would have starved tonight if it wasn’t for Trader Joe.

This was almost going to be me, but it wasn't.

This was almost going to be me, but it wasn't.

Dinner?  Who has time for petty societal conventions like dinner when there is free indirect discourse to be analyzed, preferably before 2 pm in the third-floor English office of Wheeler Hall the following day?

Me, that’s who.  Thanks to my trusty Trader Joe’s Indian Fare in a box, I was able to enjoy a meal of Pav Bhaji, jasmine rice, and garlic naan before getting back to work on that tense-aspect analysis.  What is Pav Bhaji, you ask?  Good question.  I like to describe it to people as The One In The Teal Box.

cinemafia)

Told you. (Flickr credit: cinemafia)

See, Indian Fare is ready-to-heat Indian food just like your roommate’s mom so lovingly brings her in thirty thousand tiny labeled Tupperware single-meal portions every other week.  The only difference is that Trader Joe encloses them in silver pouches that you can dunk in boiling water or slit open and dump into the microwave, so you feel way more badass when you heat up your dinner, like a Navy SEAL preparing C-rations or something.

While you’re at Trader Joe’s picking up your multicolored boxes, you should also be sure to swing by the frozen foods aisle and pick up some Garlic Naan, which heats up marvelously in a toaster oven.

This is actually almost what frozen garlic naan from a bag looks like.

This is actually sort of what frozen garlic naan from a bag looks like.

I think that food this good deserves its own stereotypical ethnic Trader name, to join the proud ranks of Trader José, Trader Giotto, and Trader Ming.

Tonight, I attended the fall showcase of a UC Berkeley student theatrical group, Theatre Rice.  TR is celebrating its ten year anniversary this year, and always puts on two great shows per semester.  The shows are usually a medley of performances, and in the past, I’ve seen improv, student films, comedy, drama, one-acts, and even a musical.  TR shows are almost always fantastic, and tonight was no exception.

I saw my first TR show as a freshman, and I was hooked, because I haven’t missed a show so far.  This year, Paul joined TR, so I usually go with a group of friends to be his personal cheering section.  The cast is a group of super talented and hilarious individuals, and I give them kudos for being capable enough (and insane enough) to put on two quality shows per semester while juggling classwork, other extracurriculars, jobs, and life as college students.

Here are a few video clips of my favorite performances from past shows.  Please be advised that most of these would be rated about PG-13 or above for language:

“Definition: Normalcy Part I”: An engaged couple, a frustrated job applicant, and a couple with marital problems all sing about pretending to be normal — but what if everyone is a little crazy in this delightful musical?

Highlight: The cleaning aisle song spoofing The Little Mermaid at 2:58.

If you liked this, be sure to see:  Parts II and III of the musical.  Totally great.

“The Girl From Yesterday (Trailer)”: Andrew has a crush on his classmate Kristin, but his bumbling attempts at flirting and her seeming indifference offer more than a few setbacks.

Highlight: Seriously jaw-droppingly gorgeous cinematography of the UC Berkeley campus by student director Huy Vu.


If you liked this, be sure to see: The entirety of “The Girl from Yesterday,” around 33:00 running time.  Huy Vu’s other films with Theatre Rice, including “Darkness, My Old Friend”,  mockumentary “Theatre Rice: Behind the Laughter,” and the trailer for tonight’s film, “Anniversary”.

One clip that I wish I could show you is Theatre Rice’s Experimental Troupe, which has been doing great things this year with percussive dance performances (think Stomp with dining ware and luggage).  Unfortunately, no clips are on Theatre Rice’s YouTube channel yet, but new videos are added periodically.  In the meantime, if you go to UC Berkeley, you simply cannot miss Theatre Rice’s shows in the Spring 2009 season.  I’ll see you there.

Hi everyone!  Today we have a guest blogger.  Katelyn was my roommate last year in the dorms, and now she interns at ChunkIt! with me to show Cal students how they can research faster and more effectively.  She’s pretty awesome.  She got me addicted to The Hills, and today she’s going to tell you about Britney Spears’ new album, Circus.

2994635477_1f1511c942

Alright, hello everybody! While my Saturday nights have recently been occupied by Spanish tests and Political Economy papers, I have discovered one of the best stress relievers- just in time for finals; Britney Spears’ new album, Circus, debuted last Tuesday. And, although her previous album provided the aging Britney fan base with one intriguing single, Womanizer, the new album is jam packed with techno-influenced dance songs perfect for a study break dance party.

Britney has experienced quite the transformation since she first appeared on MTV’s Total Request Live over ten years ago as a “not that innocent” teenager. Over the past decade, Britney has managed to produce six albums, two not-so-successful marriages, two baby boys, one blockbuster bust and the infamous bald fiasco we all wish we could forget.

Britney's close shave

Since then, however, Britney’s hair has grown out and she has managed to reclaim the hearts of her unwavering fan base. Last Sunday MTV premiered  Britney’s documentary, “For the Record,” in which Britney explained that there was a lot the public did not know about her life over the past few years.

“People think that you go through something in your life and you need to go to therapy, but for me art is therapy,” says Britney. “I sit there and I look back and I’m like I am a smart person, what was I thinking?”

Britney Spears

So, before you typecast Britney as another one of those pop artists gone insane drug addict, try to look past the superficial facade of Circus’ album cover, and listen to some art therapy.

The Project

In my senior year of high school, my final Physiology group project was to formulate a plan to reduce the prevalence of HIV in Africa.  (At the time of our project, 62.5% of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide were in sub-Saharan Africa, and 1 in 4 adults in Zimbabwe carried the virus.)  Ambitious?  Quite.

Signs like this one are a sad reality in countries where treatment of HIV is not widely affordable.

Signs like this one are a sad reality in countries where treatment of HIV is not widely affordable.

The Facts

FACT: In Zimbabwe, there is a 90%+ awareness rate of HIV spread and prevention, thanks to education and free condom programs, yet the disease still has a 25% prevalence rate.  There is a general attitude that if there is no treatment available, it’s better not to be tested:

“With no access to antiretroviral drugs in many areas, [many Zimbabweans] see testing as pointless.”

World Health Organization Report, 2006

FACT: Zimbabwean artisans handmake gorgeous batik prints and intricate woven baskets using techniques that have been passed from generation to generation for centuries.

This handwoven basket was woven from indigenous materials by the Zulu tribe in Zimbabwe.

This handwoven basket was woven from indigenous materials by the Zulu tribe in Zimbabwe.

FACT: Socially conscious consumers in the United States are willing to pay a premium for folk art that benefits entrepreneurs in developing countries.

FACT: Pharmaceutical companies have developed antiretroviral drugs, which help slow the replication of the HIV virus and can extend a patient’s lifespan.

Pharmaceutical companies are willing to discount ARV drugs in developing countries, but the average patient there is still unable to afford them.

Pharmaceuticals are willing to discount ARV drugs for patients in developing countries, but the average patient there is still unable to afford them.

FACT: These drugs are, unfortunately, expensive and require an ongoing and complex administration process.

An AIDS patient shows a picture of himself in 2003 before he received antiretroviral drug therapy and began a food program. He was so ill then that his family purchased his coffin. (Reuters Canada)

An AIDS patient shows a picture of himself in 2003 before he received antiretroviral drug therapy and began a food program. He was so ill then that his family purchased his coffin. (Reuters Canada)

The Proposal

This cycle is self-sustaining and is a vast improvement over current reliance on sporadic donations and overstretched medical volunteers.

This cycle is self-sustaining and is a vast improvement over current reliance on sporadic donations and overstretched medical volunteers.

The result

The result is a win-win-win-win-win situation.  The artisans support their families, the customers preserve Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage, the pharmaceuticals engage in philanthropy while covering costs, the students gain valuable field training, and the HIV patients live longer, fuller lives. All parties involved contribute one critical piece to create a viable, self-sustaining cycle of benefit.

I’d like to hear what you think.