The End…A Farewell

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hello all,

It has been wonderful being in a class with all of you. I had a great time and it was easily one of my favorite classes, in no small part due to the our awesome class. I doubt many of you will read this – what with the class being over and second semester seniors to boot – but I wanted to thank all of you for such a great semester. Especially Carla, since it’s not often that I get watch The Lion King and call it research =D


Have a great 5 days and 2011 everyone!

-Matthew Roy, “sǝɹıɟ & sɹıɟ”





December 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

Imagine this.  You are a child, about 12-years-old with a practical grandmother whose temper has only gotten shorter as her life gets longer.  For some reason she has decided to take you to see a “kids movie about cute little birds” (as she described it).

This is the situation in which I first saw March of the Peguins, a documentary about the breeding ritual of emperor penguins.  We entered the theater along with a long of quiet, civilized adults.  I walked by the first row of seats to see two women, bent over staring at their laps and knitting iddly.  The rest of the theatre’s occupants were likely from the same graduating class.  They were a lively bunch.

I remember taking my seat before the movie began, and for the rest of the way through I wished I hadn’t.  The rough documentary attracted no children, and for good reason: it bored me.  My take away message was, “If the Penguins fail to do 1 of 2 million incredibly difficult tasks… they will die.”

When I heard that we would be watching th film in my senior year English class I, predictably, did not have high hopes of enjoyment.

As I sat for the second time and watch the movie begin I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, portrays the story of the Emperor penguins as one of hardship, adventure, endurance, and love.  Though I still stand by the belief that the documentary is not targeted to young children, I was shocked by my intense inability to relate to the film as a pre-teen.

The animals, cute penguins who walked, sang, and behavioral like humans (at least according to the narration), were very like those in my adored Disney movies.  They were flexible characters, generally personified to allow the watcher to project their own lives onto the screen.  Why, then, was my own preteen life so un-applicable?

Was it simply the lack of animation?

Or maybe it has to do with the fact that penguins were constantly in hardship? In Disney there is usually one main challenge the character must overcome, and in doing so they experience adventure, excitement, and growth.

Or maybe it was the idea of sacrificing for offspring or even for your family, that I could not yet comprehend at that age.  none of these seem like complete answers.  Maybe it was a combination?  opinions?

Why Use Penguins?

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Following up on our class discussion about why we need animals to use as a means of expressing and discussing human emotion is because it is an act of simplifying the way humans think. After reading puakogirl’s blog post I was left wondering the same thing. Why do I still have so many questions about penguins when I thought this movie was going to be a documentary on the life cycle of Emperor Penguins, which would most likely cover a lot of informational territory. I think that Luc Jaquet, like many directors, decided to use animals to make a deeper comment on human life cycles because it would be a simplified story for the viewer.

Personally, I like this approach because watching the movie I didn’t do a lot of self questioning – there was no real way to make a direct comparison immediately like “oh I wonder if I could waddle 70 miles inland just to lay an egg.” Yes, that natural feat is impressive and I have a lot more respect for penguins but I wasn’t wasting my viewing time constantly comparing them to myself (which might have happened if it were a movie about humans). Instead I was able to think about more broad questions – questions about love, life, and death. I think that this is because of how little I know about this species. I had very little background knowledge going in and so the penguins represented life at a very basic, representative form. They are incredibly cute so they are entertaining to watch, they live in an unusual and horribly harsh climate, and they are very wild. All of these things make them very mysterious so seeing a description of their life cycle in an 80 minute long documentary simplified many of the complex emotions and choices that come with human life and packed it into short, adorable, and beautifully done documentary of a creature we know very little about.

What is Appropriate?

December 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

As we were watching “March of the Penguins”, I  kept wondering how I would have reacted to the movie as a child. I remember when the film came out reading articles and hearing conversations about whether or not it was suitable for little kids. Obviously it is a pretty G movie but the scene with the gull was pretty upsetting. The entire classroom of 17 and 18 year olds was cringing and had we been 10 years younger there very well could have been tears. This got me to thinking about what is appropriate for children. I know that this was a source of controversy for “The Lion King” and “Bambi”. I came to the conclusion that the loss of a parent or a home or predation in wildlife is indeed acceptable for children to see and actually important for them to understand.

One movie that we watched this year that I however do not think is appropriate for children is “Fantasia”. When I was a little girl “Fantasia” scared me  shitless. It does not teach children to fear rational things such as death but completely insane things like Satan and vindictive Olympians. As a child I would experience an odd combination of fear and boredom during “Fantasia”. It was too creepy for me to enjoy! When I re-watched it this year it was a bit like what I would imagine an acid trip to be like. Now I recognize that the film has some very admirable qualities. It teaches children to appreciate classical music, science and mythology but it is legitimately frightening and I think I will wait until my children a bit older that I was to let them see it. 

“Dirty Trash Can Full of Poop”

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

While watching “March of the Penguins”, I was reminded of the characters from one of my favorite films, “Surf’s Up”. “Surf’s Up” tells the tale of Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf), a young penguin from Shiverpool, Antarctica and how he realizes his dreams of becoming a great surfer. “Surf’s Up” mimics classic surfing documentaries, with scenes that perfectly mirror parts of another one of my favorite movies, “Endless Summer”. The soundtrack of the movie features songs by Weezer, Greenday and Lauryn Hill and is delightful and appropriate to the overall mood of the movie.  “Surf’s Up” is lighthearted, entertaining, laugh out loud funny and extremely sentimental.

I was first introduced to the movie by my mother. I went upstairs one day to find her in bed with a box of tissues crying. When she informed me that an animated penguin movie was responsible for her tears I quickly went downstairs to escape the insanity. The next day I went to her room again and she was actually re-watching the movie. At the time I was rightfully apprehensive about the singing/dancing penguin cartoon craze so it took a lot of convincing for her to get me to sit down and watch a movie about  animated penguins who of all things surf. I’m glad I finally caved though. “Surf’s Up” has become our family movie. My mom and I force almost everyone who comes over to watch it with us and we are yet to get a bad review. We watch it on holidays, when we are sick, we even have two copies of the movie- one for  home and one for our beach house. My mother always says that it teaches its audience the true meaning of life. Although this may be a bit of an exaggeration, “Surf’s Up” does serve as a lesson on the importance of perseverance, passion and friendship. I would obviously recommend it to anyone who reads this post.

You can stream the soundtrack here.

Also enjoy this trailer to understand the title of this post and find out what it really means to be a winner. 

March 14th of the Penguins

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

I really enjoyed watching March of the Penguins. Now, that may have had something to do with it being a relaxing break amidst the sound and fury of finals.

However, while watching the penguins’s bumbling antics I couldn’t help but feel cheered. They were so cute and adorable that I inevitably walked out with a spring in my step. Which just made me think of mirror neurons, and the speaker we had a couple of weeks ago. Yay, this post has a topic now!

If you remember the exercise the happiness speaker had us do you’ll know what I’m talking about. Just seeing someone smiling makes you smile, because our brain’s mirror neurons interpret another person’s actions as something we ourself are doing. Hm, I hope you followed that because that was kinda bad grammar. Sorry about that.

Which leads us (or maybe just me) to the question: why does the bumbling clumsiness of a penguin chick – or any baby – make us smile? It is not just the emotions that the baby is feeling. I doubt that the penguin chicks were particularly happy to trip and fall on their faces. Yet seeing that makes us happy.


The first thing that comes to my mind is that we are hard-coded to feel affectionate for helpless baby behavior. It makes no sense that we would be so delighted to see a baby take its first few steps or to yawn and wave its pudgy arms around. Yet something like that will elicit squeals of delight from most women and likely cause even the “manliest” man to break into a smile.

Even cuteness seem to follow rules, even if they are strange at times. Just throwing some up here, please add more (or shout some of mine down) if you think of them.

1) Fluffy, furry, or soft. Anything that looks like half of its size is made up of some downy soft material is usually cute.

2) Clumsy. The more a baby trips, waddles, or runs into things, the cuter it is.

3) Helpless. If a baby can’t do anything, it is usually cute. Never mind that it may grow into a vicious predator or something.

4) Gibberish/baby noises. Like clumsiness, except verbally.

5) Ugliness??? Sometimes, if something is ugly (but NOT creepy) it makes it cuter. I don’t really understand this one, but this is sometimes the case. Bulldogs or pugs are an example. It only seems to work when you are young though, because while baby mole rats are cute, the adult ones are kinda gross (IMO).

Babies                                                                      Adults

6) Size. Smaller is cuter.  How cute a baby is directly related to the fraction of their full grown size.

Plenty more, but I can’t think of them right now.

So, to get back to my point: Why do babies appeal to us? Why are they cute when they are young?

Some baby pictures just ’cause. Notice how you react to some of them. For a couple of them my reaction was a mixture of slight disgusted and “d’awwwwwwwwwwwww”.

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