3D or Not 3D?

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Last night my family went to see the critically acclaimed Disney Pixar animated movie Inside Out at our local movie theater. The film was the usual clever, entertaining, emotionally resonant experience we have come to expect from the makers of Toy Story and Finding Nemo, and of course it made me cry. (See my prior blog post “Cry Baby.”)

Because most of the showings were offered in 3-D, we didn’t really have a choice but to don the annoying glasses and watch random images pop out at us. However, 3-D added absolutely nothing to the movie-going experience.

I have read that films shot in 3-D can give viewers an immersive experience, wherein they feel as if they are in the world created by the filmmakers. Inside Out was not such a film. Yet the growing popularity of 3-D movies, especially in the animated field, often gives viewers no choice but to participate.

3-D movies have been around since the Fifties. They always seemed like a gimmick to me. And I find it frustrating that films in 3-D often cost more per ticket than regular movies. In a time when the movie-going public has increasingly chosen to stay home and watch movies on their huge flat-screen TVs, it seems foolish to be charging even more per ticket to fill up the empty theater seats. At last night’s showing, our family and one other family of five were the only customers.

I say filmmakers reserve the 3-D experience for select movies that can best take advantage of the feeling that the viewer is part of the experience. I for one have no trouble immersing myself in the two-dimensional world of movie storytelling. And I can do so without those pesky glasses.

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The Unfriendly Skies

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Air travel used to be exciting and glamorous. The first time I ever flew was with my family in the 1960s, and the distinctive Caravelle aircraft seemed roomy and magical. We were served a full meal, and because we accidentally landed in business class, even shrimp cocktail for an appetizer.

Those days are long gone. More and more, traveling by plane resembles a trip by Greyhound bus, albeit much less comfortable. On a recent flight, I struggled to pull my tiny wheeled suitcase down the narrow aisle of the cabin while holding my handbag out in front of me lest it bang into any seated passengers as I made my way to my seat.

Air carriers are trying to do more with much less – that is, much less elbow room, seat space, and leg room, not to mention the dinky, claustrophobic lavatory one has to claw her way toward when nature calls. Most airlines no longer provide meals, which are not really missed, as the quality of airplane food had begun to rival hospital food in terms of terribleness.

I guess these changes were inevitable as airlines started to compete for the business of ordinary Americans. The resulting fare wars have created an economic situation that forces airlines to pack us in like sardines.

That doesn’t mean, though, that travelers should be treated poorly. Yet recent news stories have indicated that flight attendants and other airline personnel have become increasingly intolerant of their customers. Stories of families with crying toddlers or an autistic child being tossed off of flights, passengers forced to sit for hours on the tarmac without so much as a drink of water, and even the racial profiling of flying nuns have made air travel seem positively hostile.

My husband likes to recall a nighttime overseas flight he took with a colleague on a major carrier that shall remain nameless. His friend was exhausted, so he threw a blanket over himself, reclined his seat (in business class) and promptly fell asleep. When the flight attendant came through, she apparently needed him to do something, such as move his seat up or buckle his seatbelt. But instead of quietly asking him to do so, she shouted in his ear, “Sir, what do you think you’re doing?”, violently waking him up. My husband’s response was to say in a loud voice, “Yeah, Dan. What do you think this is – United?” The passengers in the cabin howled with laughter. Dan didn’t sleep for the rest of the flight to Europe.

This is the treatment modern passengers get when we fly. Instead of being treated like valued customers, we are herded like cattle and are at the mercy of apparently cranky and overworked employees who did not go into the airline business to be of service to people.

Isn’t it bad enough that we have been subjected to long lines at the security checkpoint, where we walk the dirty floors in our stockinged feet and get x-rayed before collecting our scrutinized belongings? Aren’t the mingling smells of cuisine from every culture that are now brought on board by hungry passengers enough of a sensory overload?

I realize that many passengers can sorely test the patience of any human being. Trying to get people into their seats and attempting to get them to share limited storage space can be trying. But flight attendants are in the service business. Their job is to be friendly and helpful in all circumstances.

The romance of flying may be a distant memory, but a little kind helpfulness in the sardine can is not too much to ask for.

Lookin’ Good

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As a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom), I understand the temptation to spend one’s days in yoga pants and t-shirts. After all, there are many days in a mom’s life when she doesn’t even leave the house. Yet I can think of some good reasons for us to ditch the sweats and make ourselves look presentable, even if our only company is a two-year-old and the man who runs the corner dry cleaners.

1. Getting dressed in jeans or other more structured clothing helps keep your weight down. Let’s face it. The operative quality of spandex is to expand, allowing an ever-growing stomach, butt and thighs to sneak up on us unawares. Without warning, when I need to get dressed for something important, I find myself with a muffin top that could feed a crowd.

2. Wearing a snappy outfit can also give us a sense of importance. My only errands of the day may be grocery shopping and running to the bank. But if I’m wearing khaki trousers and a nice shirt, it can seem as if I am just taking a quick break from my important office job to get a few errands done.

3. It gets old being told by friends at the local market, “Are you feeling okay?” or “You look tired” just because I failed to put on any makeup. A dash of rosy blush and a bright lipstick can take away that “just left my sick bed” or “extra in a zombie movie” look.

4. Looking good can make a person more productive. Whether male or female, those who work at home are surely tempted to stay in pajamas and fuzzy slippers. But an unkempt appearance can lead to a lackadaisical attitude. Surely some decent clothes, a pass with a hair brush, or a nice shave can make us more alert and on task.

5. Looking nice can also elevate your mood. I always feel happier when I think I look nice in a cute outfit and a bit of makeup. There’s also the potential for a member of the opposite sex to check you out, another mood booster, whether you’re single or married.

I have a good friend who always looks her best. She wears skirts and makeup and does her hair whenever she goes out, even just to pick up her child at school, which is where we met many years ago when our boys were in preschool together. I must admit that I used to hate her for it. She was so put together while I usually had food stains on my misshapen t-shirt and flip flops on my feet. But she was so funny and fun to be with that I had to like her. And I came to admire her desire to look good in her everyday existence.

I plan to make more of an effort to get dressed in the morning, wear a dash of makeup, and fix my hair. I want to be able to look in the mirror and say to myself, “Lookin’ good.”

Blackhawk Down

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The Chicago Blackhawks’ recent Stanley Cup win has made fans jubilant. Coach Joel Quenneville’s neighbors have TPed his home, the Cup is making its mythic rounds, and a parade and rally are set for today.

With the Hawks’ profile at an all time high, it’s an ideal time to talk about the Indian logo of Chief Black Hawk that adorns jerseys, t-shirts, the locker room, and the ice at home games. In my view, it is time to remove this logo, which is an insult to the dignity of Native Americans.

Many people know that the Chicago Blackhawks were named after the military division of its former owner, Frederic McLaughlin. But most don’t know that Black Hawk was a leader of the Sauk and Fox tribes of Illinois who fought against the displacement of his people by white settlers. When Chief Black Hawk was defeated, “his captors made him the equivalent of a mascot” (“Origin of a Name,” Brandon Zeman), parading him in front of huge, gawking crowds.

It’s time to remove this instance of cultural appropriation. Here’s why:

1. Indian names, likenesses, and mascots for sports teams are dehumanizing. Blackhawks fans argue that their logo is a way of honoring Chief Black Hawk. But most Native Americans would disagree. According to the National Congress of American Indians, which represents different tribes across North America, “Rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate stereotypes, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.” And in an article about the Blackhawks logo, ESPN writer Jon Greenberg acknowledges, “it’s not an honor to some.” (espn.go.com, “Dialogue is key with Blackhawks logo, 6-20-14)

Another Native American named Suzan Harjo, a Washington D.C.-based advocate for Native American causes, explains it this way: Indian logos “relegate native people to a certain time in history that’s not today, and it’s intended to do so. It kind of keeps us in the backwater of history.”(chicagotribune.com, “Protests rare over Blackhawks’ name, logo,” John Keeling, reporter, 6-19-13)

For me, the most poignant evidence of how disrespected Native Americans can feel when confronted by Indian logos and mascots comes from Chicagoan and long-time Blackhawks fan Anthony Roy. In the ESPN piece, he describes how hard it is to go to games and see the logo everywhere he turns. “Being a Native American here, it’s a trigger. It’s a sea of floating dead Indian heads.” Doesn’t sound like much of an honor to me.

2. The so-called support of Indians for the Blackhawks organization rings a bit hollow. In recent years, the executive director for Chicago’s American Indian Center (AIC), Joe Podlasek, has come out publicly in support of the Hawks organization, seeing them as “very genuine in wanting to help and very aware of cultural sensitivities.” (wikipedia) Hmm. Having a mascot named Tommy Hawk doesn’t sound too culturally sensitive to me.

Furthermore, Podlasek’s remarks are a complete reversal of his earlier criticisms of the Hawks logo. In 2010 he stated that “it’s not good for kids to see their culture parodied” and asserted, “The stance is very clear. We want the logo to change.” (abc7chicago.com, 6-9-10) What changed?

The Blackhawks leadership will point to their relationship with the  AIC as evidence that the Native American community approves of the team’s use of Indian imagery. Over the years they have made token efforts to help the Native community in Chicago through the center. They claim to have deep respect for the image of Chief Blackhawk, asserting that no one is allowed to step on the face in the center of a rug that lies on the locker room floor. But you have to ask yourself how respectful it is to put someone’s face on a rug in the first place.

The only time Indian groups seem to be supportive of teams with Native American names or mascots is when it is financially beneficial to do so. This is certainly the case in Florida, where the Seminole tribe has a lucrative relationship with Florida State, getting a cut of merchandise profits as well as donations from the university. Likewise, the AIC has received money from the Blackhawks to build facilities and fund scholarships. While these are laudable acts on the Hawks’ part, they also clearly stem from a certain amount of self-interest.

3. The Blackhawks would benefit by leading the way in being on the right side of history. Since the 1960s, there has been a growing movement to remove Indian names, likenesses, and mascots from sports teams.

Many schools, for instance, have voluntarily changed their team names. Some colleges that willingly made the change are Stanford, Miami of Ohio, Marquette, and Eastern Michigan.

Furthermore, school boards across the country have begun developing rules prohibiting the use of racially-oriented names and mascots in public schools, including Oregon, Washington state, and Houston. The NCAA banned such images and names in 2005, and only a few colleges have successfully retained their Indian names due to their relationship with local tribes. Finally, many states are currently considering imposing limits or bans on the use of racially-connected team names and mascots.

The Chicago Blackhawks are a wonderful symbol of civic pride for Chicagoans. They have done a lot of outreach in the community, not just with Native Americans but with cancer patients and underprivileged children. It’s time for the team to take a real stand for progress and change the logo on their jerseys and team symbology.

Anthony Roy has posted the image at the top of this post on his Facebook page, “This Should Be the Blackhawks Logo.” Like many Native Americans, he continues to call for Americans to get rid of cultural appropriation and restore dignity and respect to people of Indian descent. How about it, Hawks?

Karma

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Yesterday I spent the day with my sister and her sons as we gathered to celebrate the life of my brother-in-law Kent. The visitation was scheduled to begin at noon, but long before that hour, friends and family members were lined up to pay their respects and share their memories with his family.

For three hours the line snaked out the door, and my sister’s family stood tirelessly, greeting the well wishers with warmth and love. As I watched the scene, I thought of the Biblical admonition that we reap what we sow. The outpouring of love, respect, and gratitude from his many friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members was a testament to how much Kent had given to others in his too short life.

So many of us live our lives turned inward, protecting ourselves and our possessions, feeding our own egos and needs. We fear giving too much away, and consequently, we never live life to its fullest. Kent was the opposite. He thought of others first, always striving to include people, taking an interest in their lives, nurturing his relationship with his family and friends every step of the way. As a result, his life was joyous and filled with love, and the outpouring of memories yesterday’s mourners shared with my sister revealed a man bursting with life and enthusiasm.

It is so easy to live life in judgment of others. We nurse grudges and vow revenge on those who slight us. We recite a litany of the ways we have been wronged and live in bitterness. Kent’s life teaches me to let karma take care of the mean, the selfish, and the spiteful people in our lives.

My sister told me that Kent thought of mean-spirited people as disabled. Instead of writing them off or treating them in kind, he treated them with compassion, recognizing their emotional deficits but choosing to love instead of hate. His reward was that he was loved with extravagance by countless people, both personally and professionally.

Kent’s legacy lives on in so many ways: in his three fine sons, in his loving wife, in the professional accolades he was always too modest to brag about. His name even graces the educational policy center he helped create. Most importantly, his memory lives on in the hearts of his friends and family.

Now that’s karma.

Band of Brothers

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Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.

– Emily Dickinson-

In the past few years our family has lost three good men. All of them joined our female-dominated family by marriage and became a band of brothers-in-law.

Pat was known for his quiet and gentle humor, Bill for his love of debate, and Kent for his ready laugh and unfailing kindness. All three died too young, leaving wives, children, and grandchildren to grieve.

Becoming part of a family with nine girls and two boys is no small feat of courage. As my older sisters married, our extended brood kept stretching to fit these new men into our lives. Each of them brought their unique personalities and interests.

Bill had a passionate love for rock music. His kids were raised with the backdrop of MTV. Pat loved to fish and cook, a serendipitous combination for sure. Kent was a Fighting Illini fan born and bred, despite the meager victories they achieved over the years. Of course, these men were so much more, and their families have a host of memories on which to rely in the future.

There are some drawbacks to being in a large family. Resources were stretched tight, the household could be noisy and chaotic, and fights flared up at a moment’s notice.

But in a large family, there is plenty of love and support to go around when times are tough. This weekend we will gather around our sister and her children to shower them with this love and support, to share our memories of our beloved brother-in-law.

Although my grief is not even close to the sorrow of their wives and children, I miss these men terribly because they had truly become my brothers.

Facebook Addict

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The other day I decided to make a list of all the things I actually do in a day. It went something like this:

Made coffee. Went on Facebook.

Got kids up for school. Drank coffee while on Facebook.

Made breakfast.

Drove kids to school. Came home and went on Facebook.

Drove husband to train. Came home and went on Facebook.

Read an article about how sitting takes years off our lives.

Got up and threw in a load of laundry. Cleaned the kitchen.

Went on Facebook.

You get the drift. I realized that I have a certain obsession, bordering on addiction, with my online community via Facebook.

To be sure, Facebook has helped me connect with old high school classmates, former students, and other friends who live near and far. And I have learned a lot from the many posts my friends have shared on their Timelines. I have also been entertained by snippets from Jon Stewart and Bill Maher from their shows that I don’t really watch on TV. And as my friend Janice would say, who doesn’t love a picture of baby goats in little sweaters or pajamas?

The problem is that my Facebook time is eating into my productivity time. While no one is going hungry in my family and they generally have clean clothes to wear, I must admit my housekeeping has gotten a bit slovenly. This would be fine if I were busily writing the Great American Novel, but I’m not. I’m scrolling through my news feed to see what interesting posts there are – or checking my notifications to see if anyone “liked” my latest blog post or silly pun about donuts.

One of the pitfalls of being in charge of your own daily schedule is the ability to get sidetracked and waste time. Facebook has not caused this problem, but it has certainly facilitated my procrastination tendencies.

Ironically, many of the posts on Facebook admonish us not to waste a precious moment of our fleeting lives. How is it that I nod and smile at these nuggets of wisdom while refusing to acknowledge that my behavior contradicts those sentiments? It’s akin to my penchant for reading nutrition advice while eating a cheese danish and drinking lots of coffee. (I’ve also been known to sit on my couch and watch exercise videos.)

I think it’s time to tame the Facebook habit. A short perusal of the news feed in the morning and some Facebook time at the end of the day as a reward for all my hard work might be a sensible way to enjoy the wonders of social media while still living a happy and productive life.