For Your Entertainment

It’s been four days since the 2010 Oscars premiered at the Kodak Theater on a cold rain-filled Hollywood night. Yet, we’re still talking about it. We saw history being made, we saw dresses being judged, and we also make jokes about the whole event. That’s Hollywood for you.

When Kate Winslet walked on to the TV screen wearing a silver strapless gown by Yves Saint Laurent, I’m sure the damp red carpet was quickly evaporating. She radiated with beauty, looking like she stepped out of a time machine. She brought that old Hollywood glamor that only those starlets back then possessed.

When Taylor Lautner and Kristin Stewart introduced a tribute to horror films, I was horrified. What were they doing there? They weren’t accomplished actors–they didn’t do any movies that were Oscar-worthy. I’m not a big fan of their acting chops either, particularly Stewart. And why was “Twilight” part of the Horror genre? Then it hit me when I saw a parade of other young stars like Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Miley Cyrus, who haven’t quite established Oscar-worthy performances either. This was Hollywood’s ploy to gain younger viewers. They got to catch us when we’re young, right?

When Sandra Bullock won the award for Best Actress, I was ecstatic. I absolutely love her and her other funny movies, so to see her win an award for a dramatic one–that’s huge! However, I would’ve liked to see the award go to Merryl Streep for her role as Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” mainly because mimicking Julia Child is no easy task. But I’m fine with Bullock winning.

When Katherine Bigelow became the first woman to win “Best Director,” I wasn’t shocked. But I’m sure it was definitely an F-U moment for her ex-husband, James Cameron, who was also in the category for his movie, “Avatar.” I mean, come on, Cameron helped create an entirely different way to shoot a movie using a special camera invented just for the movie, as well as hired a USC linguistics professor to create a working language too. And need I mention that Cameron’s “Avatar” placed some people in depression? Surely, he should have won for creating such powerful movie, especially since his movie made billions compared to Bigelow’s movie, right? Wrong. And as Jimmy Fallon put it best last night:

“Did you watch the Oscar’s, or as I like to call it, James Cameron’s own personal ‘Hurt Locker.'”

Why do we obsess over celebrities? Don’t we have enough stress to keep us occupied–the economy, the job market, our own lives? It surely can’t be healthy, right? Maybe it’s our defense mechanism–escapism. We don’t like how our own lives are going so we fantasize about a better one, or as Fergie Ferg puts it, “by the glamorous, ooh the flossy, flossy.” She reminds us that, “If you ain’t got no money, take your broke self home.” Yah, I’m broke. I think I will.

Maybe we obsess over celebrities because it’s a way to connect to others, or as Professor Nicholas DiFonzo calls it, “The Water-Cooler Effect.” The term comes from a study of office behavior. In a large company, workers would have informal gatherings around the water cooler, chatting, gossiping, and talking about current events. If one doesn’t participate in the conversation or have some kind of opinion or have the latest news about someone, then one was left out of the group. Rejection can be a cruel thing, especially when you see that person for 8 hours of your life of every single work day.

Professor Alex Pentland, in an article for a November 2009 issue of Psychology Today, puts it best when he writes:

…it underscores that we are all social animals and that our connection with others at a local level – our tribe – is vitally important. Second, with increased cohesion likely comes an increase in things such as shared tacit knowledge, shared attitudes and work habits, and social support.

But whatever the case, the celebrities remain present in your life for your entertainment. And they get rich entertaining you. Check out this NY Times graph in which we spend $1000 to $5000 for our entertainment.

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Strokes Are Spelled With S-T-R

I don’t normally do public service announcements, but now that I’m also a nursing major and self conscious about my own health identity, I thought featuring a short bit on strokes was important. You may be thinking that I’m too young to be worried about strokes. Oh the contrary, the youngest stroke victim was 13.

A stroke is a “brain attack” which can occur as a result of a blood clot blocking an artery or a blood vessel bursting and effecting blood flow to the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes are the third leading cause of death in America. The American Heart Association also reports that across America, there are about 700,000 cases of strokes per year.

Here’s a 3-part test that can help indicate if someone is suffering a stroke and needs to go to the ER ASAP.  It’s commonly referred to as the “S-T-R” Test, but is officially called Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS).

S – Smile. Ask the person to smile. If he or she can’t or the smile is uneven, that may mean paralysis.

T – Talk. Ask the person to talk. If  you hear slurred speech or an incoherent sentence, that means something is wrong.

R – Raise. Ask the person to raise both arms. If he or she can’t, that may mean paralysis.

If the person in question has trouble with any of these tasks or exhibits any of the symptoms, call 9-1-1! You may save a life and decrease the likelihood of disability.

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Ladies Call Me…

Tiger Woods inspired me. There’s nothing wrong with your eyes. Tiger. Woods. Inspired. Me. Sure, he’s a recovering sex addict, but when he got up on that stage on Friday and admitted to his affairs with God knows how many women (including former porn star Joslyn James), the crickets in my mind hopped away. Then a news channel displayed the mia culpa (“I am guilty of”) moments of other famous men. You know, guys like Bill Clinton, David Letterman, Kobe Bryant, etc. Author Brandon Root of “Spiteful Critic” wrote a great list. Oooh, idea time. Mia culpa. And believe you me, I’ve got a lot of mia culpas.

But which of my guilts should I share? I found the answer after reading on of my favorite blogs. You see, I don’t have older brothers, so I take any lessons I can get from older wiser men. Enter Matt. He’s in his late twenties, happily married, and a pastor. He’s also the writer of “The Church of No People.” I have never actually met him, but after reading post after post he’s written and following him on Twitter, I feel like I know him. He’s like a big bro–someone you want to hang out with, someone you learn from about life and how it works. Yup, that’s what I do with my favorite writers–invent a fictive kin identity. Check out his blog, and tell him Gio sent you.

Well, one of Matt’s posts was about his quest to find bromance. And that’s exactly what I’m guilty of. No, not finding bromance, but rather having several. Yah, I’m not a two-timer–I’m just good at juggling bromances. It’s a skill I’ve acquired over the last three years. Just a couple days ago, a bro I hadn’t seen in half a year met up with me. I would lie if I said I didn’t miss hanging out with him. I know what you’re thinking, Gio, you should just get a girlfriend. You talk about marriage a lot. Why not? True, very true. But women are an investment–not just financial, but also an emotional investment. I don’t think I have enough energy or time either with school. So the next best thing, while I’m still young, is to hang out with my best buds. That’s every little kid’s dream. Grow up Gio! Hey, I’m not the only one delaying my adulthood–there are practically several books written about guys like me. But it’s not all bad. According to Geoffrey Grief, a Maryland-based psychologist and author of The Buddy System, “men who are comfortable sharing their feelings with other men may actually make better partners.” See? I have healthy bromantic relationships, which means I make one potentially great boyfriend. Ladies, call me.

I do have to admit that Matt’s post scared me because it also reminded me how the comedy movie, “Bromance” was practically a horror movie to me. Don’t get me wrong–I love that movie. I’m a huge fan of Paul Rudd (also another guy I wouldn’t mind being in a bromance with). But the movie and Matt’s real life situation–it was a wake-up call. Was that a vision of my own impending future when I reach my late twenties? It’s looking more and more likely. Is this how the post grad life is for men? Oh the horror.

You see, we men don’t do friendships as women do them. At times that’s a good thing, and at times that’s a bad thing. How do we ever figure each other out? We just do:

1. We don’t reveal our emotions.

All that emotion crap is for women, right? I think that’s the biggest lie. We reveal our emotions all the time, just not the way women do it. Emotions make us human. One way we men reveal our emotions is with our FISTS! Anger is a pretty common and visible emotion for guys–the classic Hulk mode–You don’t want to see me angry. You wouldn’t like it when I’m angry.

2. We are extremely competitive.

We constantly try to one-up each other. We compete for dominance and status to display that we’re the better man and the better mate. How many times do we talk about who has the better job, the better car, etc.? And that’s why the world of sports speaks to us. It nurtures our competitive drives.

3. We love to insult each other.

It’s another classic display of dominance, another way to one-up another, to see who can come up with the better insult. For guys who are strangers, it can cause a fight as egos are bruised. However, amongst old friends, that’s how we bond–how we display our affection for each other. It supposedly makes us tougher. We don’t say insults to be mean, we insult because we care.  Just watch Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino” where he teaches the Asian kid man-speech in the barbershop and you’ll know what I mean.

4. We have “shoulder-to-shoulder” relationships with each other.

Whereas most women find joy in face-to-face relationships with other women, such as, talking with another woman over coffee, men converse shoulder-to-shoulder. This means that we tend to talk to other men while doing another activity, not necessarily having to see the other guy face-to-face. Take for example the activity of fishing. Guys can talk all they want about life without having to look at the other guy in the eye because they’re simultaneously concentrating on capturing fish.  Or go to a gym with a workout partner and you’ll talk while lifting weights or at a sporting event when nothing exciting is going on.

5. We engage in “report talk.”

Georgetown University linguistics professor Deborah Tannen first coined the term in the 1990s with her book, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. She calls men’s conversation “report talk” because our conversations are short and to the point. Women’s conversations are called “rapport talk” because their conversations are used to create connections. In short, men are about the facts, while women are about the personal details. However, because men have short conversations, they tend not to know a lot about other details about their male friends.

But do all these things affect how men maintain and keep their friendships with other men when they’re older? Could how we interact with each other be to blame? And what’s the deal with the rise of bromances? Do women in relationships feel threatened by their man’s bromances?

Well, all I know is that with my success at bromances, the ladies call me a “Bromanizer.” That’s my identity revealed for now, but for how long, I just don’t know. After all, I don’t want to find bromance in all the wrong places. In the mean time, ladies, call me.

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Too Fat to Fly? Then Lose The Fat And You’ll Soar.

I LOVE to eat as much as the next guy. I am always munching on something. I am a huge fan of tofu and because it’s such a versatile substance–I love eating it in various ways: Mapo style, fried, soup. I also enjoy my steak medium rare. Meat. I LOVE meat. Don’t get me started on Korean BBQ. And dessert? There’s an extra “s” in the word for a reason–dessert is extra scrumptious! But at some point, I have to wonder: am I eating to live or am I living to eat? I’m very fortunate–it’s not like I’m living in parts of Africa where McDonald’s is seen as a luxury. I have choices–I just don’t always make the right ones.

Don’t let the Winter Olympics and the image of healthy American athletes fool you America–you are getting  FAT!  Or maybe I need to be politically correct and more sensitive–you are getting obese–morbidly obese. According to the American Medical Association (AMA):

The researchers found that in 2007-2008, the prevalence of obesity was 33.8 percent overall. Among men, prevalence was 32.2 percent overall and within racial and ethnic groups ranged from 31.9 percent among non-Hispanic white men to 37.3 percent among non-Hispanic black men. For women, the prevalence was 35.5 percent overall, and ranged from 33.0 percent among non-Hispanic white women to 49.6 percent among non-Hispanic black women. The prevalence of overweight and obesity combined was 68.0 percent overall, 72.3 percent among men, and 64.1 percent among women.

Wake up and smell the Starbucks coffee. Okay, don’t because even too much of that can be bad for you. But you really need to get out of your seats and do something active. Currently, obesity is in the media once again as a result of “Clerks” and “Jay and Silent Bob” director Kevin Smith. He was kicked off a Southwest airplane for pretty much being fat. Now, as much as I don’t agree with how Southwest treated Smith, I do hope it’s a wake up call for Smith.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hating on fat people. I think I’m fat myself. I’m fighting my own weight-loss battles, and so far I’m winning slowly. Very slowly. But I’m on the way if I can keep up all this activity I do. I just hate it when we fat people make excuses. We are the first to blame genetics–you know, the classic case in Psychology: nature versus nurture. It’s in my nature to be fat. After all, we can’t all have Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as our mom and dad. And children who have obese parents are more likely to be obese themselves because it’s in their genetic make-up. But we can’t just excuse ourselves because of genetics. There’s also your environment. Your lifestyle choices also play a role. Whether you choose to head to the gym and undergo intense workouts or to pick up that red velvet vanilla frosted cupcake or to go out running a mile or two or to stay at home at watch 6 hours of TV–those choices are yours and yours alone. Unless you have some major health problem that doesn’t allow you mobility, you have no one to blame but yourself–the choices you made.

Writer William Saletan in his 2008 article, “Fat Chance:Obesity, genetics, and responsibility.” :

How do we know the modern environment is a factor? Because the obesity rate has soared in less than a generation. As the authors point out, “The dramatic rise in childhood obesity in the past 15 years is clearly due to changes in the environment, because genes have not altered.” But this implies a paradox: “Obesity is both predominantly environmental … and predominantly genetic.”

How can this be? Because genetic and environmental influences are measured differently. What’s genetic is the weight variation within a population, such as the kids in your neighborhood. What’s environmental is the weight variation between populations: kids in your neighborhood today, compared with kids in your neighborhood 15 years ago.

So that’s it then. My fatness is partly due to my genetics, but it’s mainly on me. If I want ripped abs like Taylor Lautner or a mighty chest like Gerard Butler (who reportedly gained a few pounds last year, but is back in shape in recent photos). I can’t just wish it into existence. I have to act on it. It starts with me and the choices I make. The English poet, William Ernest Henley said it best: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” And so goes my obese identity revealed–I need to drop that donut and go on that mile run now. Oooh…donut. No…bad donut. Run fool, run.

And while I run, I’m going to be thinking a lot about this fat war:

1. Regarding airplane seating: should obese people pay extra if they take up an extra seat or is that discrimination?

2. Why aren’t we making good choices in our eating habits? Is it because healthy food just isn’t affordable?

3. Do we make up lots of excuses so we can stay comfortable being fat?

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Film Fridays: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”

“Percy Jackson” shares the same director as “Harry Potter.” So it’s not a surprise that the font for the opening title of the movie strangely looks Harry-like.  You can start comparing the similarities between Percy and Harry, but don’t let that bog you down. Percy has a new battle, a new story, and is an entirely new hero. Logan Lerman, whose previous work includes the short-lived Jack and Bobby, the 2007 western 3:10 to Yua, and the 2009 film Gamer, plays the teenage hero. He’s definitely a good fit, but as a fan of the books, I’m a little concerned about the differences between the book and the movie. Alas, it’s expected. Annabeth, the hero’s female companion (think Hermione) is supposed to be blonde, but in the movie she’s a brunette. I can only imagine that it has to do with blonde jokes because Annnabeth is the brains of the group. Also, Percy is supposed to uncap his pen, not click it, to turn the pen into a sword. And don’t get me started on an iPhone product placement as a strategy to defeat Medusa.

What I Expected

I expected the movie to be a fun-filled adventure full of magic via special effects. I also expect there to be amazing battle scenes, after all, the characters are supposed to get in touch with their ancient Greek side.

What It’s About

Percy Jackson, a New York teenager with dyslexia and ADHD, discovers that he is a demigod and the son of Poseidon, the god of oceans, earthquakes, and horses. He enters a summer camp for demigods which trains him to survive against battles with mythological monsters. During his training, he learns that he is blamed for the theft of Zeus’s lightning bolt, and Zeus would start a war against Poseidon if the bolt isn’t brought back.

You’ll Like

The special effects – there are a lot of them–a lot for a PG movie.

The monsters – they are plenty scary! The Minotaur and Medusa were incredibly done. I get chills looking at those snakes.

The adventure – going on quests across the nation and in a Masserati? What teenager wouldn’t pass on that.

Logan Lerman – he was perfect as Percy. We’ll see if he becomes Spiderman.

You’ll Dislike

The plot – I have to becareful on this. I enjoyed the movie, but having read the books, the film was a bastardization of the books. A lot of the important character development and important themes and symbols that made the book great was lost in this movie. We hardly spent any time in Camp Half Blood, which was essential to Percy’s trainings. And all the events were all wrong. Where is Annabeth’s famous NY Yankees cap of invisibility? Where is Percy’s ability to stay dry in the water? Where is Clarisse? Where is Dionysus? Where is the Oracle? Where are the different-themed cabins? Where is the Iris-messaging? Where is Cerebus? No where.

Being rushed – You may not think the movie felt rushed. But if you’ve read the book, it was. The Oracle, which was supposed to be important in a lot of Greek myths because it led to quests for heroes was no where to be seen. This was replaced with a quest to find 3 stupid pearls.

Rating

I’d give it 1.5 stars out of 5 If I never read the books I would’ve given a higher rating. But after reading about how it should be done, I felt devastated and cheated that the movie didn’t do the book any justice. At least with Harry Pottter or the Twilight series, their movies stuck with the books as best as they could. In Percy, it wasn’t so. It was almost an entirely different story. The only think they kept accurate was the beginning scene at the museum, although even then, Percy was supposed to kill his teacher (who was a Fury). Even the final battle scene was different!!! Anyway, I’m extremely angry and disappointed in this movie. I understand that there’s a lot of material in the books that needed to be cut to fit a 2 hour movie. But they cut out so much that they lose the integrity of the books. Can us fans get a do-over?

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Break to Dance

I’ll be taking a break for a couple days to participate this Saturday in UCLA’s Dance Marathon, a fundraiser to fight against pediatric AIDS. I can’t wait to be amongst fellow Bruins! The months of getting in shape to dance for 26 hours has finally arrived and I’m excited! My favorite part of the night consists of all the costume changes every three hours–costumes that you voted for. Essentially, I get to play different identities.

You can follow my adventures on Twitter and see pictures on this blog, although they’ll mainly be posted on my personal blog. You won’t want to all the dancers’ costumes–they can be very creative.

I’ll also be watching movies and writing reviews for “Percy Jackson and the Olmpians”  and “Valentine’s Day.” I’m excited for this fun-filled jam-packed weekend.

The Winter Olympics, Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, and President’s Day are all within days of each other.

In the words of the famous philosopher, Lady Gaga, “Just dance!” So come on, and join the dance.

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The Other Jackson

Move over Michael, there’s a new Jackson in town and he’s captivating the hearts of children and adults every where. His name is Percy Jackson, and he’s a kid from New York with ADHD and dyslexia who has been kicked out of many schools.  You see, you are not alone because the kid’s got major daddy issues. But with Percy, he can hardly remember the time he met his birth dad. He may not be a dancing machine, but he is dangerous on the battle field, receiving special training at a summer camp for demigods to survive life. That’s right, his human nature means he can die in battle, but his godly nature means he has extraordinary powers. You don’t wanna be startin’ somethin’ with this hero because he’s the son of Poseidon, which means he can control water and create earthquakes. Percy wants to heal the world of a bunch of bad guys–monsters, actually, who seek revenge and the demise of the Olympian gods. If evil triumphs, then you can bet the humans will be enslaved. Join him on his adventure–a teenage thriller–because evil just doesn’t know when to beat it.

Poseidon's Trident, Photo Credit: Flickr

Okay, there you have it–my “Michael Jackson-inspired Percy Jackson” introduction referencing some of the King of Pop’s songs.

I can’t believe the first Harry Potter film came out in 2001–nine years ago! Within that span of time, I received my high school diploma and bachelor’s degree and a horrible British accent.  I can’t help it–I grew up with the wizard. But Harry Potter lives on because his movie series isn’t close to being done. And when the Harry Potter book series finished with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, I couldn’t help but wonder what new series would captivate the worldwide audience and receive its own Hollywood treatment.

The Narnia series were the first, but they’re based on books far older than Harry Potter himself. Then came the Twilight series, and it seemed that the world was bitten by vampire mania. But unlike the Harry Potter, which appealed to both genders, the “glitter-in-the-sunlight” vampires had less male fans. The Percy Jackson series bridges the gender gap again, reminding girls that they too can be heroes and fight along side the boys.

But is Percy Jackson a Harry-Potter wannabe? Both are half-bloods (half wizard vs. half god). Both have two best friends–a smart girl (Hermione vs. Annabeth) and the comic relief (Ron vs. Grover). Both have wise sage mentors (Dumbeldore vs. Chiron).  Both attend a magical school to train (Hogwarts vs. Camp Half-Blood). Both belong to a specific team within the magical school (Gryffindor vs. Cabin 3). Both have the potential to succumb to the darkness. But that’s where the comparisons end.

When we first meet Harry, he lived with family members who detested him. Percy, on the other hand with the exception to the horrible stepfather, has a loving mother and you just have to read for yourself what kind of father Poseidon was. Harry Potter, in my opinion, is a nerd who is at first rejected, and later accepted because of all the times he saved people. Percy Jackson is a student with learning problems who is rejected because he sticks up for those who can’t defend themselves.

I love the Percy Jackson series. I love how Richard Riordan, the author, takes the ancient Greek myths and modernizes it. Some of the gods wear suits, drive cars, have businesses, etc. And as violent and sexualized as the Greek myths really are, Riordan strips that away and focuses on what it takes to be a hero and withstanding the temptation of being a villain. As a result, Riordan makes a fun adventure for all ages to enjoy. Not bad for a dad who originally conceived the idea of Percy Jackson after exhausting all the Greek myths he told his son for bedtime stories. I also appreciate how Riordan deals with death in the books. There are more deaths in here than Harry Potter. Whereas in the Harry Potter series, the deaths of heroes are surrounded in darkness and gloom, in the Percy Jackson series, death is filled with life, honor, and celebration.

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, you’ll enjoy the Percy Jackson series–he’s essentially an American Harry. You’ll want to be part of his adventures as you sword-swing, fly on pegasi, and dive into the deepest parts of the ocean. Give Percy a chance to captivate you, and the only thing that you’ll be disappointed in is how short the books are.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Percy learns that he is the son of Poseidon and must find Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt before the Olympian gods start a war with each other.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters – Percy’s best friend, Grover, has been kidnapped and taken to an island in the Sea of Monsters. Percy and his friends must find him before it’s too late while also retrieving the Golden Fleece to save Camp Half-Blood from an impending attack by monsters.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse – Percy and the gang search for two powerful half-bloods and are attacked, resulting to the disappearance of Annabeth. They must travel cross-country to rescue her and the goddess Artemis. All the while, the Titans have raised a strong army.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth – Percy and the gang discover that there is a weakness to the camp’s defenses. The famous Labyrinth, built by Daedalus, runs right underneath it. The gang must journey deep into the heart of the maze and somehow prevent the bad guys from using it.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian – The Titans, monsters, and traitorous demigods have joined forces and grown stronger ultimately leading to a showdown against the Olympian gods and their loyal children.

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