Monthly Archives: October 2009

Off Topic: Because I said sew

She was born Gabrielle,
Coco Chanel,
left at a convent with her sister Adrienne

Then years go by, both sing as an aside
to daytime tailoring

Gabrielle, le Coco,
it echoed at the tip
of a revolution yet to begin

Pare down,
choose breath over féminin every time

Don’t fall in love,
make it

Don’t follow the whims,
the excitement of special attention
given by hypothetical lives

Cut, cut, trim,
No. 5

Chanel never married
and neither will I

–yiqi Halloween 2009 7:23 PM

Audrey Tautou was amazing in Coco Before Chanel (Anne Fontaine, 2009).   Read more about Chanel here and here.

And, just so you know, Florida took a major stomping to UGA, winning 41 to 17.

Read This, Not That

Or I should say, “Read These, Not Those.”

One Penny:

The Bystander Effect.  Most of us know it as not helping a fellow human being who has called out for help or appears to be in physical distress when there are numerous observers.  As Natlee75 remarks, however, it could be as simple as not speaking the truth…and as serious as a recent headline news story. The entry may be too frontal cortex-heavy for anyone who needs a shot of espresso before doing any critical thinking in the morn, but it really got me juggling two opposing viewpoints, which Natlee75 touches upon in two paragraphs in the bottom of his post.

To re-phrase, how can man be so evolved intellectually and philosophically but then succumb to altruistic paralysis when someone is in need of help?  What is more unfortunate, to be in duress and manage to garner an audience of more than two? Or for every person that walks by to keep on walking?  A list of possible explanations suggests that the number of people around is irrelevant.

No good deed goes unpunished.  In the escalating adrenaline of the moment, fear as well as good intentions could very likely override a person’s ability to analyze the potential consequences of his actions.  So, if you decide you are going to help, say, a car accident victim, and for some reason don’t just call 911 and  get as close to the mangled car as possible and keep the injured individual talking.  If, instead, you choose to take it upon your non-rescue-trained self to really do something, your help could do more harm than you thought.  This man learned the hard way.

If we agree that reality is varying shades of gray (rather than black-and-white), whether or not you help your fellow man and the extent to which you offer assistance would necessarily be assessed on a case by case basis.  Ideally, you’d be able to make that choice without fear of guilt or prosecution.  Moreover, there’s a scale of helpful/harmful behaviors and actions contextualized with degree of consequence.

On one side, there is Good Intentions Gone Horribly Wrong, on the other side is Received With Much Gratitude, and in the middle is No Actions Taken.  Generally, helping someone bring in their groceries or opening a door or holding their place in line would be on the side between No Actions Taken and Received With Much Gratitude.  It’s more of a favor.  Yet, I imagine that you can conceptualize a situation in which carrying someone’s groceries to their car would result in something regrettable.

Any act that is meant to relieve another person’s pain, no matter the context, could go either way.  The person in pain could be supremely appreciative or irate…depending on whether or not the aid you facilitated or administered ultimately produced favorable or unfavorable results.

I’d like to think that there’s a meta-balancing act between the multiple pendulums that govern human interactions.  Those individuals that are afraid to ask for help vs. those individuals that don’t want to get involved.  Think about all the people that you know and who have ever been the victim of someone else’s deception, violence, manipulation, inconsideration, or all of the above.  How many of them confronted the wrong-doer?  How many of them filed a police report and pressed charges if applicable?  Now, think of all the people you know that wouldn’t hesitate to “do something,” anything if they were to witness an illegal act happening in their line of sight?  Which list is longer?


Two Penny: Brian Westbrook’s Monday concussion.

Three Penny: More Coke in Atlanta.

Four Penny: NBA Digital deal.

Five Penny: The Leaves on the trees are falling.

NFL 2009: Cowboys tie down the Falcons

Televised by Fox and narrated by Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman, 80,000 spectators watched the Atlanta Falcons knit a sweater in  Texas with the Dallas Cowboys.  Question: who would finish first?  The first quarter began with the Falcons on offense and a touchdown, courtesy of a great Jason Snelling run and a Matt RyanRoddy White connection.  Atlanta 7 and Dallas 0.  The first quarter ended with Cowbacks backup quarterback Jon Kitna going in for Tony Romo (who fell pretty hard against the turf and was experiencing neck/head discomfort).

Romo returned in the second quarter.  The Cowboys got a field goal.  Atlanta 7 and Dallas 3.  The ball volleyed between the teams for the next several minutes.  Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin TD run in the second half of the second quarter put his team on top.  The quarter ended with wide receiver Patrick Crayton catching a TD pass in the back of the end zone.  Dallas 17 and Atlanta 7.

The third quarter progressed halfway through before the Falcons demonstrated substantial momentum.  Jason Snelling ran the ball well, and Roddy White caught a pass that tight end Tony Gonzalez was supposed to catch.  Running back Michael Turner punctuated that rise in power with a touchdown.  Dallas 17 and Atlanta 14.  Miles Austin widened the score gap with his second TD in the bottom of the quarter.  Dallas 24 and Atlanta 14.  The fourth quarter enlarged that space for the Cowboys with a forty-seven yard field goal by Nick Folk.  Dallas 27 and Atlanta 14.  What on Galileo’s good planetary beliefs would the Falcons do offensively? Would Matt Ryan sharpen the accuracy of his projectiles?  Well, nothing really.  Patrick Crayton returned a punt for seventy-three yards for a TD.  Dallas 34 and Atlanta 14 with essentially half a quarter left to play.

Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins ran into Falcons wide receiver Marty Booker, picked up the ball and headed straight for the end zone because no whistle blew.  Falcons head coach Mike Smith challenged the alleged fumbled ball.  He won the challenge.  Six minutes left in the game and Atlanta was down twenty points.  Would a one-point win be a lost cause? a pipe dream? Well, Matt Ryan connected with Falcons wide receiver Eric Weems for a TD.  When the fourth quarter was drawing near the two-minute warning, Nick Folk launched another field goal.  With what was surely the Falcons’ last possession, Matt Ryan was intercepted by Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick.  One of the cameras caught his reaction in a medium close-up.  He huffed and puffed and unbuckled his helmet as he walked to the sidelines (towards the position of that camera).  Dallas 37 and Atlanta 21. Final score.

Observations & Miscellania:

1.  How strange was it for some of the Falcons offensive player to go against their former teammate, Keith Brooking?

2.  Matt Ryan’s shoes were hot pink.

3.  The mantra or hype over the Falcons ever since Mike Smith, Thomas Dimitroff, Matt Ryan, and Michael Turner joined the Falcons family is one of strike hard in the first and rock steady thereafter.  By mid-season last year, a pattern had emerged with respect to the Falcons’ scoring.  They’d put the numbers up on their first few possessions in the first half of a game and then work to maintain the lead in the second half.  With roster changes, both offensively and defensively, in the 2009 season, why must we all assume or expect that strike hard in the first and rock steady thereafter would necessarily still apply?  The Falcons have had to play with a stronger emphasis on adaptability this season.  Whatever gets you through this drive, whatever will get the ball back.  And then, sometimes you just need a reality check.  Yes, you were just intercepted; yes, you just fumbled that ball; yes, you just got that first down, now do something with it.

4.  Miles Austin has Hyori smiley eyes (the eyes disappear!)….and horrific teeth.  My gourd.  He’s got too many teeth.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.   Click here for the Cowboys roster.

I saw Amelia VI

Friday, cries of agony and a treatise on healthcare policies.  Saturday, clouds and the Electra that would have.   In other words, I watched Saw VI (Kevin Greutert, 2009) and Amelia (Mira Nair, 2009).

wasiv Ailema

I’ve seen each of the films in the Saw franchise.  I was impressed with the first one and its use of narrative information withheld from both the characters and the audience (until the plot-twist end).  The second one wasn’t too disappointing. I reviewed the third one for FilmThreat during its theatrical run.  I don’t remember my reaction to the fourth one, but the fifth Saw film was pretty amazing in the way it weaved together more subplots and flashbacks.  Saw VI is the most blatantly political.  The central character is a head at a health insurance company.  Jigsaw’s wife has a decent amount of screentime and she plays a very important and spectatorially pleasurable role.  And that’s all I’m going to say about it.


Mira Nair spoke at my alma mater when I was in second semester of grad school (in 2006).  What I found especially memorable about that talk was how she decides whether or not to accept a directing offer.

1. If there is someone else who can direct it, then she won’t.
2. Would she want to spend a year or more in the world of the film & obsesses about it.
3. Is it political.

She said something else that I really liked, which was that one shouldn’t view doing something as a step to something else.  Rather, one needs to do the present task fully and completely and then one will be able to see where it can lead.


My motivation to see it had been solely on account of Nair’s participation.  I ended up liking Amelia a lot more than I thought I would.   Instead of lathering, rinsing, and reprising most of Matt Sorrento’s review of Amelia, I’m just going to urge you to read it here.  I’d like to single out the following excerpt, though:

The film must address the Earhart’s unresolved tragedy, when her plane went missing after it could not make radio contact. Thus, Nair uses Amelia’s last flight – one around the world, the grandest travelogue of them all – as the film’s framing device. This flashback structure offers a mandatory sense of doom while celebrating the pilot’s legacy, and thus a conventional flashback device feels not at all dusty.


I’ve seen many of Mira Nair’s films.  Monsoon Wedding (2001) was my first.  I rented Kama Sutra (1996) soon after.  I watched Vanity Fair in NYC in 2004.  Mississippi Masala (1991) I saw in grad school.  I reviewed The Namesake (2006) for FilmThreat.  Even when the art direction, visual style, and cinematography complements the film itself narratively or otherwise, Nair’s creative echo is unmistakable.  I’ve always admired Ang Lee’s ability to magnify the non-verbal communications that occur between his characters through the staging, framing, and editing of conversations.  Mira Nair has a very similar talent. Her aesthetic tendencies may linger closer to the side of reverie, but she doesn’t rose-tint the world.

Take India Cabaret (1985) for example.   Semiotically, there isn’t a whole lot of diamonds and pearls flowing through the course of this documentary on strippers in a night club in India.  There is no allure of sophistication, no awesome elegance.  And yet, Nair’s cinematic and storytelling voice locates the grace in the saddest and most unenviable situations.  Whether it’s visual, vocal, or something perceived as the result of juxtaposing sights and sounds, there’s consistently a moment when all that is wrong about and for the people in front of the camera suddenly loses its oppressive power.

India Cabaret is part of the special features in the Criterion Collection treatment of Monsoon Wedding.

Click here to read NPR’s article on Mira Nair and the process of making Amelia.


pic creds: yahoo movies

Click here for more Saw VI pix and here for Amelia.

Look at all that Tau

in your brain.

The salmon scented patches, a confetti spread,

forming a network of weakenings.

Invitations to forget, provocations to wretch

and pummel unsuspecting,

unconditionally supportive conversations.

You watch from the dematerializing balcony seats,

this spongy, rosy mass that was once

the epicenter of everything.

Every hit, every block,

every history-making feat.

They ask you–

will you ever ask yourself-

“Was it worth it?”

–yiqi 22 oct 09 9:40 PM

The above poem was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s article “Offensive Play” in the Oct. 19, 2009 issue of The New Yorker magazine.  I read it at a coffee shop after work today and nearly succumbed to tears three times.  Three times.  Gladwell’s article covers nine pages of text and contemplates the violent, injury-prevalent nature of football vis-a-vis dogfighting and stock-car racing and the path of degeneration it can leave in a player’s life post-concussion.  There’s science, personal stories, and philosophical pondering.

I initially had some difficulty understanding the comparison Gladwell was making between football and dogfighting and football and stock-car racing.  He asks whether or not the gridiron game is more like dogfighting or stock-car racing in terms of spectacle and violence.  The connection between the latter was clearer because Gladwell remarked that after Dale Earnhardt and three other drivers died in a horrible crash at the turn of the 21st century, “Nascar mandated stronger seats, better seat belts and harnesses, and ignition kill switches, and completed the installation of expensive new barriers on the walls of its racetracks, which can absorb the force of a crash much better than concrete” (55).  Gladwell then made the point that the rules of football, dating back to the college days at the turn of the 20th century, had been changed to decrease the likelihood that players would get hurt in ways that could be prevented.

But thinking about football vis-a-vis dogfighting? Minus the direct and literal bridge that is Michael Vick?  I was thinking, while drinking a hazelnut latte from the San Francisco Coffee Company in the Highlands, that the two shouldn’t be juxtaposed.  The dogs don’t have a choice.  They’re bred and conditioned to be (even more) truculent.  Football players do not channel intensity and tenacity in the same way or for the same reasons.

And then, Gladwell elaborates and I saw the point he was making.  Nice dogs don’t survive fights; nice football players don’t help a team win.  Insisting on going back out there even when one is bloodied and bruised is commendable.  “In a fighting dog, the quality that is prized above all others is the willingness to persevere, even in the face of injury and pain.  A dog that will not do that…is abandoned.  A dog that keeps charging at its opponent is said to possess ‘gameness,’ and game dogs are revered” (59).

The next part I found especially compelling and was the second passage that nearly made me cry:

In one way or another, plenty of organizations select for gameness.  The Marine Corps does so, and so does medicine, when it puts young doctors through the exhausting rigors of residency.  But those who select for gameness have a responsibility not to abuse that trust: if you have men in your charge who would jump off a cliff for you, you cannot march them to the edge of the cliff–and dogfighting fails this test.  Gameness, as Carl Semencic argues, in ‘The World of Fighting Dogs’ (1984), is no more than a dog’s ‘desire to please an owner at any expense to itself’” (59).

The first portion that brought on moisture was a description of a dog fight, which you can read by clicking the link embedded on the name of the article a few paragraphs up.   The third take had to do with the end of the piece.  Gladwell notes that boxers keep boxing for themselves as well as the audience, and that “There is nothing else to be done, not so long as fans stand and cheer.  We are in love with football players, with their courage and grit, and nothing else–neither considerations of science nor those of morality–can compete with the destructive power of that love” (59).

Now, if you’re wondering about all that “tau.”  As the article explains, “The stained tissue of Alzheimer’s patients typically shows the two trademarks of the disease–distinctive patterns of proteins beta-amyloid and tau.  Beta-amyloid is thought to lay the groundwork for dementia.  Tau marks the critical second stage of the disease: it’s the protein that steadily builds up in the brain cells, shutting them down and ultimately killing them” (53).    A brain that has suffered any number of concussions continually over a period of time (days to weeks to years) will be positive for the tau but not the beta-amyloid.


Gladwell mentions The Sports Legacy Institute co-founded by former NFL player Chris Nowinski.  I highly, highly recommend you buy the October 19 issue of The New Yorker.

Click here to see a clip of Harvard’s Brain Bank.