Sunday, June 28, 2009

Something's Gotta Give

Enough is enough! I have so much to do! Yes, despite it being “holidays”, I am somehow swamped. And I don’t know where the last 2 weeks went! I know that I spent a weekend on a workshop, and I spent another entire weekend baking for my birthday picnic, and the birthday celebrations themselves took up quite a lot of time, but other than that, I really don’t know where the time went! I haven’t been out partying until 2am, or staying up all night reading murder mysteries (I never read murder mysteries anyway), or being a social butterfly. In fact, the only reason why I’ve seen my friends in the past couple of weeks has been because of my birthday party outings!

I’m really starting to worry now, because I have 7 application forms to fill in for my Masters applications. Gone are the days when application forms asked for your name, ID number and first year psychology marks. Now each form requires an ID photo, a statement about your current mental health, your life story and a justification of why you want to be a psychologist. And a R50 handling fee. As if that weren’t enough, you also have to get 2 referee reports for each application, in which other people have to justify why you would be a good psychologist! So far, I have harassed and bribed 3 people for reports (and will be baking biscuits for 2 of them!).

I am so tired of filling out forms now. And for some weird reason, the clinical psychology departments seem to like getting us to hand-write our applications too! And so I have decided that this must end this week! Even though the University of Johannesburg applications only close in 2 weeks, I am determined to get everything done by Wednesday of this week. I have actually decided that I’m going to go work at Wits this week, so that I can get both the applications, my Unisa work and some of my research project done, and then hopefully have some time to relax (and hopefully go to some art galleries with Paul). I will be a nerd, and if I can start reading through my neuropsychology textbook before term starts as well, I will consider myself as actually having achieved something and this holiday as being worthwhile!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Prestige

It’s official – I’m a snob. A cinema snob, that is. I’ve always suspected this, but it’s finally been confirmed. Allow me to explain. I’ve always liked art house and indie films. I love their creativity, their off-the-wall humour, their use of colour (think Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the master of colour) and their messages. They get me thinking and most of the films that have changed my life have actually been art house films.

I don’t watch art house cinema exclusively though. I do enjoy the odd Hollywood blockbuster, just like everyone else. Recently though, I seem to be becoming increasingly intolerant of mainstream cinema. My friend Kirstan invited me to go watch “Transformers 2” on Tuesday night, and I really felt as if I would rather have my wisdom teeth removed instead. I watched “Transformers 1” a couple of months ago with Duncan, and I suspect that I ruined the entire movie for him (despite the fact that this was the third time that he had watched it). I just can’t take action movies seriously. The plot was as thin as the paper of a comic book (sorry. Graphic novel) and the acting was ludicrous. Yes, the transforming cars were cool and the CGI was flawless, but I really can’t watch an entire film based on the special effects. And so I spent the entire movie laughing at the poor characterization and awful script, and nearly caused Duncan to want to throw something at me by the time the guy had got the girl and they watched the sunset together (while the weird transformed robot/car watched them make out. Creepy!).

I’ve even become fussy about art house films. My friend Granville lent me “The City of Lost Children” a couple of weeks ago. It’s a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, and is thus French. I started watching it and within 4 minutes I felt as if something was seriously wrong. I couldn’t work out what it was, until I realized that I was watching it with the English dubbing on. I had to stop the film and flip back to the DVD language menu so that I could watch the rest of the film in French with English subtitles!

So, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t watch mainstream films. The occasional romantic comedy (as long as it doesn’t have Matthew McConaughey in it) is okay, provided that it’s actually funny and vaguely plausible, and most Dreamworks/Pixar animated films seem to be immune to my disdain. But other than that, I remain a dedicated cinema snob. The problem I now face is that I don't have terribly many friends who enjoy art house or indie films, and so I end up watching "Hell Boy" with Luke and Duncan (although they have been very good and have allowed me to expose them to some art house stuff).

Just for fun, here are 10 art house/ indie movies that have changed my life. Please feel free to add yours!

1. Garden State (the first real indie film that I ever watched. I love every second of it).
2. Amelie (Jeunet is a genius)
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jim Carey doing serious stuff and Kate Winslet being lovely. Bliss!)
4. The Darjeeling Limited
5. Across the Universe (mixed reactions from most people, but I loved it so much that I bought the DVD).
6. Juno
7. Little Miss Sunshine
8. Be Kind, Rewind
9. Hero
10. The Hours

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bowling for Columbine

Exams are over! Hurray! I wrote the monumental 5 (5!!!) hour exam on research design on Monday (and still ran out of time), and wrote stats yesterday. The less said about stats the better – it took me 45 minutes to figure out which statistical analysis to use (fortunately, I seem to have been correct in doing an ANCOVA) and I got flustered. I feel that I could’ve done so much better. Grumble grumble…

Since it was our last exam, our class decided to do something afterwards to celebrate. This was rather unusual, as we’ve been a class for the last 6 months, and this was the first time anyone had suggested that we do anything more *social* than going to buy coffee in the Matrix. But, on Thursday night, I got a Facebook invitation to join the rest of the psychology Honours class at Manhattan on Saturday night (needless to say, I am not going to be accepting this invite). There was also an invitation for drinks at Bowls Club after the exam itself on the Friday afternoon. So, after the exam, a chat to Kirstan and a visit to Luke and Helen’s lab for lunch, I drove off to Bowls Club. I managed to arrive about an hour and a half after everyone else, thanks to my lunch-time lab visit, but this was actually a good thing, because by that stage, everyone had mellowed out after the exam and no one was interested in discussing what anyone else had said about post hoc testing or effect sizes. The rest of the afternoon was thus spent sitting in the sun, with Claire, Taryn, Daniel, Charles, Dani, Amy, Haley and Granville, and discussing our holiday plans. It was actually really nice to see everyone in a different context, generally with a glass of very cheap, very sweet white wine or a beer in hand, enjoying our lack of academic commitments! The presence of a couple of my engineering friends at the next table was also a pleasant surprise – not least because it meant that I could remind them of my birthday party on Tuesday! I actually ended up staying until about 4:30, discussing very arbitrary things with Granville, as he and I are wont to do. And so, I declare my first outing to Bowls Club to be a success – and I can finally tick it off my “Twenty Firsts” list.

I am now officially on holiday until the second or third week of July. I really would like to make some more progress with my research project, but my options are somewhat limited because my sample is composed of students, who are all on holiday! It’s a little frustrating, but I have quite a lot of other stuff to keep me busy! As such, here is my holiday “to do” list:

  • paint. Luke bought me oil paints for Christmas and I am dying to use them!
  • go to Pretoria. I have to attend a 3 day workshop for Unisa in Pretoria for an extra course I’m doing through them. I have my passport ready.
  • catch up on my reading – and by this, I mean reading about something other than brains
  • figure out how to run the tests that I’m using for my research project, and find people to help me test my sample.
  • make some more progress on the “Twenty Firsts” list. In fact, I actually have to complete it these holidays!
  • sort out my Masters application forms. Sigh…
  • watch the rest of the “X Files” DVD’s.
  • find black, knee-length, not-leather boots, in a size 4 or 5. Pretty please?
  • start running again. And maybe start yoga again too.

Drat. I am sure that there were more things that I wanted to do, but I can’t remember what they were now! Updates will follow though, if and when I remember! Have a good weekend - stay warm!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Little Miss Sunshine

The title of this post is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. There is no sunshine at the moment – and not just because it’s 7pm. The last few days in Jo’burg have been uncharacteristically weird, in terms of weather. The 13 degrees Celsius is fairly normal for this time of year, but the rain and cloud cover has been rather strange! I don’t really mind winter and the cold (provided I’ve remembered to wear a scarf and an extra jacket), but I do mind the combination of wind, rain and freezing cold. It’s the one thing that stops me from moving to Cape Town – in fact, it’s the thing that dissuades me from visiting Cape Town in winter as well!

Since the weather hasn’t been great, all that I’ve wanted to do is lie in bed with a good book. Unfortunately, this hasn’t really been a possibility, due to exams. I am determined to not let the weather (or exam situation) get me down though, and so I have written a list of 10 great, sun-shiny things about my life at the moment.

1. I have 1 exam left! As of 12:00 on Friday, stats is over for the year!
2. My birthday party is on the 16th of June, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a picnic/tea party at Zoo Lake, and I’ve invited loads of people, and everyone seems very enthusiastic. A couple of people who I haven’t seen in ages are coming along, and the bizarre combination of psych students, engineers, BA’s, law students and teachers should provide plenty of amusement (or at least an interesting social experiment). I don’t know what I’ll do if the rain continues though – maybe a picnic at Bowls Club is in order!
3. I still have half of season 1 and the whole of season 2 of “X Files” waiting to be watched! I am such a geek!
4. I have a really cool art house film, called “The City of Lost Children” to watch. And I really need to hire “Garden State” and watch it again.
5. I work at a vet, which is fantastic because my kitten, Darcy, is in the wars. He got attacked by a big, nasty, grumpy cat (it was twice as big as him), and then ended up having an allergic reaction to the painkiller or antibiotic he was given. Luckily, my boss doesn’t mind me showing up at work with him, repeatedly!
6. I have a new furry hot-water bottle. Her name is Bolero and she is a very large, very affectionate cat, who I adopted from my friend Claire, who moved to the UK. She keeps my feet warm at night (although occasionally she cuts off the circulation in my feet as well).
7. I’m having a double birthday party! Since Debbie is still in Cape Town when the picnic is happening, we’re doing a second round of partying on the 22nd (which is great, since I’m turning 22 on the 22nd!)
8. I think I know what’s going on in stats (which is good, considering the exam is in 2 days)!
9. My ankle seems to finally be stable enough for me to start jogging again. Now, if it would just stop raining!
10. I went to an art gallery on Friday, with my friends Paul and Jeff. We were very badly behaved. One of the best comments on one of the pieces at the gallery came from Jeff:
“I like this picture. It’s warm and cosy, and everyone looks happy. Oh, hang on. It’s a strip club”.
*cue childish laughter from Paul and I*

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hannah Montana: The Movie

Yes, I should probably be studying! I have spent the morning printing out journal article analyses to assist my studying though, which should count for something! I'm planning on making significant progress on research design tonight - just as soon as I write this post and have a cup of tea!

I was chatting to my friend Paul on the phone last night, and he somehow mentioned Hannah Montana in the conversation (please note that this is not something that usually happens! Our conversations usually involve art, pets, parties and a fair amount of giggling, and he was merely using Hannah Montana to illustrate a point). This got me thinking though, and has brought me to the following conclusion: I have a Hannah Montana phobia. There is just something SO creepy about her (and Miley Cyrus). There's no denying that she can sing quite well, but there is just something weird about the whole thing. Maybe it's because of her dad, or maybe it's the alter-ego Miley/Montana thing. Maybe it's that I'm not quite sure that anyone would care that she existed or give her a second glance if she wasn't pretty and the daughter of the man who brought us "Achy Breaky Heart", which I'm not sure is a legitimate claim to fame!

In fact, I think I'm disturbed by all so-called "child stars". From the Jonas Brothers to the KTV presenters, they all give me the creeps! Even Dakota Fanning scares me! Maybe it's just a symptom of being *old* (or older) and no longer being awed by how cool or pretty or handsome any of them are, but I really can't stand watching anything that any of them appear in. I suspect that they hype around child stars has grown exponentially since I watched Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone" when I was 8, and now the world is filled with more Olsen twins than it knows what to do with! Maybe it has something to do with the level of fame which is now accorded to these kids, which makes them seem even more like adults and allows them to act like adults, even though they don't have a driver's licence (although if they do, it'll soon be suspended for a DUI) and aren’t legally old enough to manage their own finances for the millions of dollars that they're making. And then the celebrity magazines are amazed and confused when they end up being arrested or are found doing drugs.

Actually, I have no real idea why child stars scare me. This is all just speculation. But, I’m still giving Hannah Montana a wide berth, on principle.

Utterly terrifying: Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana

Monday, June 1, 2009

Three to Tango

What an utterly fantastic weekend! Wow! The last few weeks have been pretty awful, thanks to extended literature review submissions, the start of exams and some weird friendship and personal issues (when I figure out what's going on, I might be able to blog about it). The worst part of it was undoubtedly the psychoanalytic theory exam that's been hanging over my head though - the course is more like philosophy than actual psychology, and I was really not looking forward to having to study Freudian and Kleinian theory off by heart (since there was really no other way to learn the material). After much procrastination - and then, much panic - I eventually managed to study enough of it to get me through the exam and wrote on Thursday morning. It actually went relatively well, and I feel fairly confident, although I refuse to make any concrete statements about how I might have done until I get my marks!
Writing the exam has certainly changed my life for the better though. It really has! For the past 3 or 4 weeks, I've been stressed and horrible and blowing things out of proportion, drinking far too much tea and sleeping way too much (although struggling to get to sleep in the first place). As soon as I finished the exam, however, I felt infinitely better! After my exam, I went up to the Honours common room to get something and ended up having a 3 hour chat to a friend of mine! It was such fun - and for once, I wasn't standing there thinking, "I really should be at home, reading Freud". I even got to enjoy some "me" time this weekend, as Friday was spent searching Eastgate for shoes, and Saturday morning and afternoon were spent searching Balfour Park and Sandton for shoes (which raises the question of where have all the a) emo shoes and b) black, knee-length flat non-leather boots gone. Specifically, where have all the size 4 and 5 boots gone? I spent about 8 hours looking for shoes and it would appear that everyone on the planet got to the malls before me. *sad face*), and finally got to watch some more "X-Files" episodes! Despite my shoe shopping failure, I didn't come home empty-handed - I bought a book and I had a chat to a friend who works in Sandton and distracted him from his studying.
The highlight of my weekend was undoubtedly going to see John Kani's "Nothing but the Truth" on Saturday night. I love going to the theatre, but very few of my friends have the time or concentration span for it. Luckily, one of my friends recommended that a friend of his might like to go, so on Saturday night we set off to the Market Theatre. The play was absolutely brilliant - if you get the chance to see it, please do! It's the best South African theatre production that I've seen and while it deals with issues about apartheid, it's subtle (far more so than any Athol Fugard!), and more about the experiences of individuals than a grand scale narrative. It's the last time that John Kani (who also wrote the play) is performing in it as well, and he is excellent! The two guys that I went with also thoroughly enjoyed it, and were great company - although it was slightly weird going to a theatre production with two guys who were more interested in each other than in me, if you catch my drift! We had a lot of fun though, between the play itself, swapping our seats for better ones, and then walking through Newtown in the middle of the night to go have drinks (and getting funny looks from the waiter for ordering hot chocolate)! I can't wait for our next outing! There is nothing as fun as going to the theatre with two gay men! Talk about laughing in the face of heteronormativity!
I've still got 2 exams left, but I feel as if I'm able to tackle them. I haven't quite got around to starting to study yet though, as I spent all of Monday replying to emails and organising my birthday party. The email thing was simply ridiculous - 241 emails in my Hotmail account, mostly from Facebook. I looked at it and just wanted to bang my head on the keyboard! Organising by party was a lot more fun though, and I'm really looking forward to it! I'm also hoping to update my blog a little more often now that I'm on "study leave" - assuming that I have something to blog about! Perhaps some more theatre escapades are called for!