will the history girls please stand up?

Last night I stayed up way too late watching the National History Bee, televised for the first time this year. While as a history major I was obviously really excited by the concept, the execution was not so great. This post isn’t about the execution, however, because there was something worse happening on screen than Al Roker’s forced humor (bordering on meanness), or the color commentary, or the fact that Dallas, M.A.S.H., and I Love Lucy were all answers.

Out of 16 finalists, zero were girls.

Yep. Zero.

Honestly I don’t know who to be upset with here. The Bee’s sponsor Houghton Mifflin Harcourt probably wasn’t like “omg guys let’s keep out ALL the girls they have cooties,” and if it was the boys who got the questions right, it’s not like they were going to be like “nope, sorry dude, we have a quota we’re taking this girl instead.” But somewhere in the path to the History Bee finals, someone failed. Girls weren’t encouraged to apply, girls weren’t supported in their classes. I don’t know. But I refuse to believe that there wasn’t one middle-school girl in the entire country smart and educated enough to be among our nation’s top 16 history geeks. Why wasn’t she there?

And maybe this lack of girl contestants made me even more aware of the lack of women’s history questions. I stopped counting at 6, but there were definitely no more than 10 in the almost two hours I watched, and about half of the female figures only got “partial credit,” as part of a group of men (Vivian Vance and Desi Arnaz, for example). That is something I can be upset at the Bee for, and I am. Surely Oprah, Mother Theresa, Betsy Ross, and Anne Frank are not the ONLY women who have contributed to history. I remember five musical questions, all male-oriented. What about Janis Joplin? Josephine Baker? Loretta Lynn? Should we count the Verdi question as partial credit because the answer wasAida?

At least they mentioned women’s suffrage. I guess.

Frankly: I’m disappointed in you, National History Bee.

I would be interested in your theories about the lack of female contestants or questions, because I really don’t have any. Hit up the comments.

why FACE OFF is the best reality show on television

Face Off on SyFy is yet another Project Runway-type ripoff reality show, this one focusing on special effects makeup artists. (Get the feeling they’re running out of niches?) Of course I watched the first season last year, because really now, and it was a lot of fun, but it’s so oddball that I was afraid it wouldn’t get picked up for a second season.

But! Luckily! Season 2!

the cast of season 2

Aside: I almost missed the start of Season 2 because SyFy (I hate typing that every time) did a poor job of advertising it. I only saw an ad a few days before, and it didn’t even have an air date—just “January 2011.” I had to look it up, which just goes to show how excited I was for the show. (Thursdays at 10, icyww.)

Anyway.

Conor's Frog Prince from season 1

My favorite part of the first episode, honestly, was when last year’s winner, Conor, showed up as a guest judge and it turned out he had been hired by one of the permanent judges, Ve Neill; both are currently working on The Hunger Games. It’s honestly so rare for winners of these shows to actually go on to become something in their given industry (Christian Siriano being the notable exception) that it’s awesome to see that he won this goofy little reality tv show and is now employed doing what he loves.

But back to the show. I don’t know why this one is so cool versus all the other copycats like Work of Art or Project Accessory. I think it might be because there is so. much. art involved. They sculpt and paint and design costumes and create characters and it has to be pretty and functional and tell a story all at once. The judges have exacting standards. The characters, er, people (at least last season) are the right mix of likable and dramatic. It’s simply fun to watch (especially if, like me, you have a professional artist on hand to go “ooooh that’s a bad decision” and then watch things go bad).

I think it helps that the show is so new that the challenges haven’t become monotonous yet. Project Runway, much as I love it, can get pretty predictable. You know every season they’re going to do certain challenges; with Face Off, everything is still new and exciting.

So. On the one hand I’m being selfish and advocating for this show because I want lots of people to watch it so it doesn’t get canceled. On the other hand it is actually a remarkably entertaining show. So! The moral of this story is if you aren’t watching Face Off you should give it a try. Because I mean really, look at this shit:

re-imagining of the scarecrow from the wizard of oz, season 2

prep and landing

So I just saw this trailer on ABC (in the middle of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! for those of you who are interested).  And I am kind of ridiculously excited, all things considered. All things being that it’s an ABC Christmas special and I’m an adult.

mish-mash muddle

Hi! I’m here! Been busy this past week, what with work craziness and friend awesomeness. So a quick catch-up of my recent activities and ponderings.

So. Bullet points, methinks? Why yes please.

  • On Kanye: I’m with O’Bama here, what a jackass. I don’t care if you’re drunk, I don’t care if you haven’t recovered from your mother’s death (I mean I do, but dude take some time off, nobody will blame you, and stop using it as an excuse) but you don’t have to ruin the girl’s moment. On the other hand and also, I’m tired of hearing about it. I’ve enjoyed its week of press, but enough is enough. Move on.
  • On Joe Wilson: Okay so maybe I’m an insensitive bigot, but could everyone just chill the fuck out, please? Telling the President he’s a liar is okay. No, really. I personally think O’Bama is the shit, but if we can’t call our politicians out when we think they’re wrong, what’s the point? Sure it’s disrespectful. Wilson didn’t mean to be respectful. He doesn’t like our President. And that’s okay.
    Of course, if he doesn’t like our president because our President is black, as some people are saying, that is not okay. I haven’t really looked into Wilson’s past—he’s a Republican from South Carolina, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But even if he were a card-carrying member of the KKK, those two words—”you lie”—don’t reflect that at all. They’re just rude and ill-timed and my god people get over it already.
    Devil’s Advocate, that’s me.
  • 9: Don’t go see this movie. It does not live up to expectations at ALL, and I was really expecting it to be good. It’s really really pretty, and if you have to see it, definitely see it on the big screen, but ugh plot wtf. It’s taken Harry Potter and Star Wars elements and squished them all together with the apocolypse. Things are not explained, things are weird, dialogue is blah, it’s just a total ugh.
  • One of my bffs just moved to New York City and I am sooooo jealous of him. Haha I just called him a bff. I hope he properly appreciates it.
  • I would not make a good politician’s wife, because I don’t know how to tie a tie. (Currently watching Brotherhood.)
  • roadhouse
    RIP, babe. I’ll miss you.

movie review: Star Trek

trekUsually I can review something without spoilering it to death, but I really don’t think that’s going to work here. So if you want to go into Star Trek unscathed, you should stop reading. You have been warned.

So if you sit back and actually think about the new Star Trek movie, it’s really ridiculously flawed. I mean, there is a lot wrong with it, from small aesthetic decisions, to large plot holes, to pure and simple what-the-fuckery.

Fortunately, JJ Abrams doesn’t let you catch your breath long enough to notice.

I’ve seen the movie twice now, and I left the second time going, “wow that was even better than the first time!” But with the space of a few days, and time to think, all the things that are wrong with it are becoming clearer—all the things that should make this movie horrible and unwatchable. And yet, I still love it. I still want to see it again.

So here are some of the many reasons we should dislike this movie:

  • Time travel wtf. The movie begins with a time travel/alternate reality trigger so that JJ Abrams could ignore canon and basically do whatever the heck he wanted. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but what’s the point in having canon if you’re just going to throw it so far to the winds? It doesn’t really seem like a real Trek movie. JJ basically just ran rampant through Trek lore.
  • One of the most blatant examples of this was the Spock/Uhura romance. Granted, I generally tend to be against romantic entanglements in my action movies. (“hey! something could be exploding right now! stop it!”) But alternate reality or not, I really don’t think Spock would have turned out that differently…
  • Some of the comedy was atrociously out of place. The swollen-hand-and-tongue gag was interminable and seemed to have stumbled in from a different movie. The Scotty-in-the-tubes gag was funny for approximately 2 seconds—actually more like negative 2 seconds, when Scotty was still just in the big canister. But yeah that got old quickly. (even though I would pay good money to watch Simon Pegg do, well, anything. paint fences. drool. sneeze.)
  • There were some ridiculous Star Wars moments. Let us take, for instance, the Hoth scene. (Delta Vega in Trek) Our Fearless Hero is marooned on a snowy, icy planet, and then OH NO there’s a big toothy furry creature coming after him! We then switch monsters, as one eats the other, and then our Fearless Hero is saved by an Old Guy waving shit and making lots of noise to startle off the creature. (*cough* Obi-Wan and the Sand People *cough*) So basically… yeah. That’s the only time I was really jolted out of the movie, when I was like, “uhhhh is JJ confused about which saga he’s working on?”
  • Also, of all the gin joints in all the world… Young Kirk and Old Spock just happen to end up in the same random icy cave together?
  • The Ewok. Excuse me. The weird alien thing that’s hanging out with Simon Pegg on Delta Vega. Apparently it’s played by Deep Roy (the guy who played ALL the Oompa-Loompas in Tim Burton’s Charlie in the Chocolate Factory). Which is really all you need to know. Seriously? Didn’t people learn anything about annoying alien sidekicks from Jar Jar Binks?
  • So at the end of the movie (in case you ignored my previous spoiler warning, I repeat it now) when Old Spock is talking to Young Spock, he says something along the lines of “You ask why I did not just come aboard the Enterprise and explain everything? I could not do that! You and Kirk had to find each other and realize you are meant to be lifelong friends.” Ummmm sorry? Total bullshit. Yeah it’d be nice if Kirk and Spock stop hating each other but there’s a universe to save damn it. If I’m Spock, having mini-me be friends with Kirk is not worth an entire universe.
  • “Red Matter?” Really?

I could go on. The fact that the movie has all this^ but still makes me want to see it surely is a credit to JJ Abrams’s filmmaking abilities. Right? Or maybe I’m just a sucker for shiny exploding things and men in Starfleet uniforms. I don’t know. Anyway. Here’s some of what makes it good:

  • The acting. I’m going to go ahead and place Simon Pegg at the top of the list, because he is so absolutely, absurdly amazing that I pretty much died of joy every moment he was on the screen (too rarely), but really everyone was fabulous. Zachary Quinto played young Spock to perfection. His voice was perfect, his eyebrows were perfect, even his shoulders were positioned right. Chris Pine (cue swoon) played young Kirk to cocky asshole perfection, a reluctant young hero who grows up to be a kick-ass hero. And Karl Urban, bless him, made Bones a character I was actually interested in. Eric Bana as the bad guy did not have as much to work with, but still managed to growl his way into a memorable performance. And did I mention Simon Pegg as Scotty?
  • Rip-roaring action. Even though there’s a totally superfluous car chase scene, it’s crazy fun. The whole movie is crazy fun. It just goes by in a flash, so quickly you don’t even notice the plot holes.
  • It makes enough sense. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it makes enough.

Really what it all comes down to is that the movie’s a great ride. One that I want to go on again and again and again. You shouldn’t think about it too much (she says to Star Trek fans… yeah right) and just go with it. You won’t be sorry.

N.B. This may actually be the worst movie review ever written. I do apologize. List format? What Grace?