Monday, August 10, 2009

Disney Alienation

So I've been entertaining myself by watching some classic Disney animated films on youtube, and I was struck by a theme that seems to unite many of them, certainly in the era after they discovered that heroines should actually be given personalities. Beyond even the twisted notions of love for which Disney is so justly famous, almost every protagonist was suffering from a severe case of alienation at the beginning of the film. They all felt different, out-of-place, mocked, and so forth.
I stole the list below from the official Disney site- let's have a look:

1937 –Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: not really, I suppose
1940 –Pinocchio definitely
1940 –Fantasia well, no, but N/A really
1941 –Dumbo yup
1942 –Bambi I suppose not
1943 –Saludos Amigos never heard of it
1945 –The Three Caballeros ditto
1946 –Make Mine Music ditto
1947 –Fun and Fancy Free ditto
1948 –Melody Time ditto
1949 –The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad never seen, not really a classic
1950 –Cinderella well...she is out-of-place and unloved, but she doesn't really harp on it because of the aforementioned personality thing
1951 –Alice in Wonderland haven't seen the Disney version, certainly high on the alienation in the original

okay, this is tiring, let's skip over several because it seems pretty clear at this point that all the films I was thinking about are from one, shorter era.
1989 –The Little Mermaid: whole songs about it
1990 –The Rescuers Down Under: haven't seen
1991 –Beauty and the Beast very much so
1992 –Aladdin: to some degree
1994 –The Lion King: I suppose not.
1995 –Pocahontas: a little, but not a major theme
1996 –The Hunchback of Notre Dame: well yeah, the poster child for it. Not even posting links here
1997 –Hercules: quite
1998 –Mulan: very much so
1999 –Tarzan: oh yes and understandably so

So in that 10 year period, 6 of the films had alienation as a major theme, including 4 in a row. (And all those four with a pretty uniform structure: Someone feels that they will never fit into their society because they are different and flawed. Others assure them that they are wonderful as they are. Then they dare to be themselves, save the day, and everybody recognizes how very wonderful they truly are.) Now I know that alienation is one of the themes of modern existence, but that seemed a little extreme.

And the situation is even more odd when you think about the target audience. Firstly, these are little kids- is it really true that all little children see themselves as ostracized outsiders? And we're not talking about fringe films for the kids who are a little different- this is mainstream entertainment that seems to assume that every child will relate to the problems of this protagonist.

It's possible that these messages are pitching to slightly older children- the little ones will come for the music and adventure and so forth, so the messages of alienation are trying to hook in the young adolescent crowd. And such feelings are stereotypical of adolescence.

It's also possible that Disney just enjoys the message and doesn't really care about the target audience, but that hardly sounds like their M.O.

But still, this sentiment of being a rejected outsider- I had always assumed that it was typical only of those who are atypical. It's strange to think that Disney, at least, assumes that all kids feel this way enough to make it a major theme of their existences.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ad Hoc Poem

Explicating the diagram: This evening, I suffered something of a disappointment. Nothing apocalyptic, but enough to be legitimately frustrating. Short version: There was a poetry reading in Jerusalem. Miri talked me into coming and reading with her and I got myself sort of psyched at the idea of reading in public, since I've never done it and I'm trying to make myself have experiences. Psyched enough to re-arrange my studying schedule, ignore the fact I have a final tomorrow (albeit open book), rush out of my final today straight into the 1.5 hour bus ride to Jerusalem, skip dinner to make it there as on time as possible. Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch and my name did not get on the list and this was not realized until it was too late. The following is the extremely ad hoc pseudo-poem that I scribbled on the bus ride back just expressly for the purposes of this very blog post:

I'm not quite sure how to play it.
I mean, I think that once
I have the character down
the line readings should come
more or less naturally.

I mean, okay, anger is a given,
and disappointment, sure,
frustration, sure,
bits of stress slipping over the edges,
sure sure sure.

I think maybe she might cry a little?
Not on stage, obviously,
but off on one of the pockets
Maybe when she's walking home
in the darkening streets
in the rain.
Except obviously it's not raining
and I'm not good at crying
and the timing's all horribly off.
Walking down Yaffa sobbing
crosses the line into bathos.
And this mustn't seem ridiculous.

My instinct, of course,
is to go straight to martyr-
Brave smile, chin up,
think of real people with big troubles.
But would the audience get it?
I mean, would they notice how very, very
wonderful she was being?
Because if not,
well that just misses the point.
and if I have to keep on
shooting them pointed looks,
it sorts of destroys the whole illusion.

I suppose someone else might play it
straight out anger
or grumpiness
or resignation
or whatever.

Actually, I have no idea
how they would play it.
I think I'd like to see
some talented people give it a shot.
Maybe I could pick up
some techniques.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yeats, Just Because

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Automatic Breathing

Last night while I was waiting for the paralysis of sleep to strangle my brain into unconsciousness, I started wondering about the following hypothetical: what would happen to a person for whom breathing was exclusively a voluntary function?

I don't see any way that they could sleep without being hooked up to breathing machines, given that one generally loses control over voluntary functions with unconsciousness. Perhaps one could train oneself to have some sort of surface-level sleep, like those who can sleep standing up or the descriptions given by soldiers of learning to sleep while marching. Of course, I'm not sure how such a training process would be conducted, under the circumstances.

But the day time is actually, for me, a more interesting question. If we posit that the person would experience all of the normal discomfort associated with holding ones breath when they forgot to breathe, then they might be able to function. Should they forget to breathe, they would be alerted to the fact in plenty of time to take a deep breath without any real adverse effects; their breathing might be more sporadic, but there's no reason to assume that it wouldn't get the job done.

After a certain amount of time, I think it would become an automatic function of its own- not in the sense that the brain stem would handle it, but in the sense that every thirty seconds, the person would remember to take a breath so that it became a part of their daily rhythm. I wonder if that would interfere in any manner with higher brain functioning- having to have a basic point on one's mind constantly, like they say that having to remember a three digit number impairs mathematical ability, etc. It's even possible that the person would prefer to be hooked up to the automatic devices to avoid the trouble of remembering, although this is somewhat dubious considering the degree to which such machines impair ones freedom.

Of course, the person could never fall asleep accidentally, since we've pretty much determined that that would mean stopping breathing. This, though, I don't consider such a huge limitation on freedom, compared to the other stuff, but that could be because I tend not to fall asleep until I have given myself 'permission' to do. In any case, it would probably be wise for the person to have some sort of device monitoring oxygen levels and emitting a loud alarm before they become dangerous, since the unpleasant sensations of holding one's breath might not be sufficient to wake the person up in time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

American Students

I love American students. It's been years since I've heard Nietzsche quoted with such fluency, such fervor, and so little relevancy.

Update: And today, they presented our professor with a birthday cake. With those trick candles. Our professor, for this particular class, is Dean Kenneth Starr.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I have decided that if I could pick one person to write my biography, and under the assumption that I had accomplished something in my life to justify such a work, and under the condition that being dead was not construed as a barrier to such a service, then I would totally pick Irving Stone. I have read only a few of his books (Agony and Ecstasy, Those Who Love, They Also Ran), but from what I've seen he combines sensitivity to historical context and character with healthy dose of fictionalization that would be necessary to make my life interesting and relatable to future generations.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I Prefer Adjectives

I have recently discovered why I so badly hate the term "Jewess". Not because of any cultural load that it may or may not have adopted over the course of years of antisemitism, sexism or both. It's because it's a noun.

Here me out. There is something about adopting any sort of noun that I find gets deeply on my nerves. I know, on some basic level, that is almost entirely a meaningless semantic distinction to which no real difference can be attributed. Yet there it is. I have discovered that, while I will freely state that I am Jewish, under circumstances when such a statement is relevant, I cannot imagine myself ever using the phrase "I am a Jew" (let alone a Jewess).

And it's not just the tricky things like Jewishness, or femaleness (yes, I vastly prefer to say that I am female than to say that I am a woman. There it is.) It's also the more bland things, like saying I am an American, or saying that I am (going to be) a lawyer. Any noun, excluding perhaps 'person', just seems strangely limiting.

To adopt a noun seems to fully embrace a label, or perhaps even to fully embrace it as a category that can completely define you. It seems to place an equal sign between you and that adjective* and I am not comfortable with making any such equivalency.

*Perhaps if the English language allowed for more complex shades of meaning in 'is', I have less of a problem with the noun. If we could incorporate such mathematical shades of meaning such as "is a set containing, but not limited to, the following element" or "is greater than or equal to" or possibly even algorithmic conventions such as "has the lower limit of" or better "has as one possible lower limit". But I digress.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

It's Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiive

Does that call for an exclamation mark? I find it more entertaining if it doesn't have one. So I shan't. You see, I have reached a new conclusion with regards to my blogging.

Blogging, done right, requires a good deal of devotion. The blogs that succeed are those whose authors work hard at posting frequently, putting up quality posts, keeping updated and involved in the blogosphere, keeping tabs on the world at large, and/or all of the above.

I long harbored a secret wish to have a successful blog. Not a very strong wish, but enough that I would be gnawed with envy at people whose blogs actually had followings or whatnot, beyond their immediate relatives and a few random stumblers-upon.

This was not, of course, the reason that I stopped blogging, but it may have played some part in it. I wanted to blog right - I tend to want to do things right, but I have very limited resources of caring, which I must ration strictly. Blogging doesn't make top twenty.

But I still enjoy blogging and I have somewhat missed it as a template for the organization of my thoughts, so the new plan is this: I will post as I choose and when I choose; I will not mind that I get no readers; I will make no effort to be involved in the blog world as a good little community member; I will post as weird and random as entertains me; I will take down anything that might monitor hits; I will respond to comments if I so choose and likely not at all; I will, in short, pretend that y'all do not exist and see if this is sufficient to support the current vague whim towards unforsaking this particular hobby.

Update: ten minutes from having posted the above, I begin to doubt to my ability to remain uninvested in the process. This will, in all likelihood, simply be another reincarnation, short-lived and inherently ephemeral, that fades into another long lull. I almost prefer to leave the blog dead, unpolluted by posts that will, I know, be increasingly apathetic and low quality. But that would be caring, and I'm really making the attempt to avoid that, in this particular case. So...I guess the update is just to expand my un-caring front to my attempts to uncare. Now I've gotten meta and that makes me cranky.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Facebook 25 Things List

1.My favorite form of "athletic" recreation is scrambling up rocks like a spider monkey. Not rock climbing- scampering.
2.When I'm bored, I play text twist in my head, with words picked randomly from my surroundings.
3.I have gotten drunk exactly once, in an effort to discover what kind of drunk I would be. Turns out I talk a lot, demand attention, and use a vocabulary about four times more sophisticated than my regular one. Also, I analyze my level of drunkenness a lot.
4.I was secretly hoping that getting drunk would turn off my continual self-editor, so I could see what it would be like to not have one for ten seconds. It did not.
5.I waste obscene amounts of time fooling around on the internet.
6.I pick up verbal quirks with malice aforethought. Some of them end up sticking, but I never have any way of guessing which ones.
7.I use the terms 'darling', 'dear', 'honeychild', and such like constantly, but on principle I will not use them towards male friends.
8.I stopped wearing my retainers after six months. This was because they broke and I was too afraid of my orthodontist to dare to admit it to him. I spent months afraid that I would run into him at a social gathering, remind him of my existence, and be called to task for not having had a check-up in years.
9.I have at least two alternate personalities that tend to surface when I am around unfamiliar people. One of them is sweet, demure, and quiet. Refraining from the urge to lapse into them is one of the achievements of my adulthood.
10.It bothers me that all of my talents are mental-related. Properly well-rounded people should have discrete talents, in my opinion.
11.I think that I could be very happy as a cat lady. I wouldn't even need cats, per se- I could function chillingly well with little to no contact with other beings. I base this not on conjecture, but on around a year of experimentation.
12.I have never had to work hard in school. I wonder what it would be like.
13. have an eight year old nephew who requested a potter's wheel for his birthday. I have high hopes for his geekiness potential.
14.On the subject of geekiness, I'm not sure that I'm a proper geek, despite my proud self-identification. There is no one topic that I am sufficiently obsessed with to be a geek in that subject. The closest I get is law geek.
15.I have no idea which vaccinations and so forth I have actually received. No doubt records exist somewhere, and I am operating under the assumption that I received all the regular ones, but beyond that it is all an enigma wrapped in a mystery.
16.I am constantly assumed to be vaguely British. This is due to a combination of my slight speech impediment and my tendency to inflect Britishly. I have no way of accounting for either of these.
17.I learned to talk at an insanely young age and was extremely verbose. The rabbi's wife at our synagogue allegedly wrote her doctorate on said phenomenon.
18.In middle school, I wrote poems so typically mediocre that I still cringe to think of them. Poems about the seasons as spirits, rhymes like 'Sunrise, sunset\caught in times endless net'. I can't decide which is more painful: the phase itself, or the fact that there are many adults who do not seem to realize that it's a phase they should finish going through by junior high.
19.I am terrified of speaking in front of crowds. It is for this reason that I forced myself to join the debate club and to act in Bar Ilan plays. They have not been one hundred percent effective, but at least I am learning to play through the fear.
20.My nose is distinctly crooked. All the cartilage veers off to the right side at the bottom. You mostly notice if you have occasion to feel my nose or to look at it from the underneath. I also have weird toes, but that's harder to describe.
21.I am having a surprisingly hard time thinking of 25 interesting things about myself. This worries me.
22.I went to a Beis Yaakov high school and have yet to discover how not to be bitter about it. I was a model student during high school, excepting my tendencies to ask heretical questions and to wear uniforms with gaping holes in the elbows and stapled-up seams.
23. I played the piano for several years, off and on, receiving lessons from my mother. I gave up just after learning 'For Elise', having suddenly realized that I had neither talent nor large amounts of interest in the whole thing. I sometimes regret it.
24.I am magnificently sedentary. During seminary, I could spend weeks at a time not leaving the building without feeling the least bit claustrophobic.
25.I believe that most emotions, particularly in the long run, are decisions. I therefore have little patience for consistently unhappy people. It seems inefficient.