Category Archives: leisure

Guest Blogger: Katie Levenstein

And the grand prize is…

Game shows are popular forms of TV entertainment that reach out to various audiences. As TV has become increasingly popular over the years more and more stations are creating game shows. Despite the expansion and growth, the premise of the shows is still the same. Participants are giddy money chasers, the hosts are well-dressed men and the prize presenters are sexualized women. What does this structure say about gender roles in our society?

I will occasionally watch game shows while I am at the gym. I never find much interest in the game shows themselves because I am so fixated on what the women are wearing. The brand new car she is presenting becomes sexualized and feminized to me because of the way she fashions it. She strokes the sides, smiles, and flirts with the audience. Is she trying to encourage the participants to win? Or is she trying to flaunt herself?

(by the first 30 seconds a woman presents a car- it’s interesting because this is the first clip I watched on youtube and it was exactly what I was looking for).

I think we need to reassess the goal of these game shows because they embody and reinforce so many gender stereotypes. When women are displayed alongside the prizes they are essentially being compared to material goods. Men, as the announcers of the show possess the control and power. To me, this sounds a lot like a pimp daddy and his ladies.

Why is the focus of these shows so sexualized? Can’t we just watch a fun game show without being subjected to underlying issues about gender roles? Game shows may appear harmless, yet they are actually doing a disservice to our society.


For what it’s worth / it was worth all the while

My birthday is coming up. Two weeks, to be exact. When I was younger, starting in my twenties, I would celebrate by doing something I had never done before. I got my first tattoo on my birthday. I flew a plane.

I went fly-fishing.

I climbed the highest cathedral in the world.

[This was not intentional, btw. I got in the wrong line and was stuck climbing to the top with a tour group.]

I went to a shooting range and fired my first gun.

I held a snake,

a major accomplishment ‘cuz they really scare the crap out of me. I went to the track and bet on horseracing.

I loved this idea, doing something new every birthday. I began planning it in June, two full months before the big day. Some of it was easy to plan. Fly-fishing, for example, my old college roommate’s husband went out every weekend so I just tagged along. And horseracing was a last minute event (I was going to go skydiving) as two co-workers “kidnapped” me for the day and I had no idea where I was going. Some events took a bit more to plan. Climbing the highest cathedral in the world was a by-product of a six-week trek through Europe. I just happened to be in Ulm, Germany on the day of my birthday.

There was a newness to kick off the next year with a special event, a “birthing” moment of who I was hoping to be that year (do not read more symbolism into the snake issue, please. It was more about overcoming fear.). Once I started teaching, I stopped planning special events, as the start of school was too close to the date. (I remember that the very first class I taught began on my actual birthday so that was definitely something I had never done before.) But ever since, school began within days of my birthday so it was too hard to plan events that took me somewhere. I was usually home working on last minute syllabi.

This year, I won’t be leaving town, either. For one, I just got back from three weeks away and I think Jimmy missed home. And school begins on the Monday after my birthday, which is only the Saturday before it. As I sit here thinking about this day two weeks away, I realize that I will have finished my dissertation and handed it in by then. This is a project I have had outstanding for at least three years, mishap after mishap preventing me from completing and submitting it for the required approval to complete my final graduate program. In reality, a project twelve years in the making if I count all of graduate school that contributed to my doctoral degree.

The point here is that perhaps this birthday is the most renewed one of all. I started out with a goal over a decade ago and stuck with it and the culmination of this project is about to end. There is a bittersweet feeling of accomplishment concerning officially completing my graduate program and becoming Dr. Polak. While I am truly happy to receive my degree and finally settle after transient living for the last fifteen years or so, I wonder if I will become that teacher that I always hated, the one that is disconnected from their students and has no idea of the reality of how busy students’ lives can be as they overplan readings and set project due dates right after spring break.

I somehow cannot imagine any of my students letting me go there.

Bros Icing Bros

There is something mystifyingly strange about this whole Bros Icing Bros phenomena. I am a huge advocate of subculture. I love when I hear about silly little popular trends that haven’t yet made their way into mainstream culture. It makes me feel part of something, as if I am cool enough to be part of the “in” crowd (which, for someone as marginalized as I tend to be, is a small girl rush to my psyche).

So finding out about Bros Icing Bros was kinda cool. But I realize that the theory of it occurring and knowing that not everyone knows about it is a more romantic notion than what Bros Icing Bros actually is.

For those of you not cool like me, I will give you the bylaws:

When one bro spots another bro he can ice him, no matter when or where. This involves handing the approaching bro a Smirnoff Ice. Said bro must then get down and one knee and drink the entire bottle at one time. Failure to do so will leave said bro “excommunicated and shunned,” according to BroBible. (ha! And you thought I was making this whole bro thing up! They even have a bible!)

Now, if a bro is about to be iced but is already carrying a Smirnoff Ice, he can offer it up, thus essentially blocking the ice. Then the offending bro must drink both bottles to continue his part in the bro community.

Why Smirnoff Ice, you ask? Well, because it apparently tastes like shit. And to prove real manliness, a bro should be able to down an entire bottle of the sickeningly sweet beverage in one gulp.

Lemme tell you why this whole thing is fascinating to me. Firstly because there is a definite idea of who does and does not constitute a bro. No women, of course, and only the slickest of men. Mostly fraternity-bred but in my research, not all have fraternity backgrounds. Bros tend to be professional, newly minted executives in some type of corporate setting. I conclude this based on the various icing videos posted on YouTube that take place in the halls of financial offices and golf courses.

Now I am not saying that women cannot be iced—I have seen a few videos of women getting iced but c’mon…we know these chicks are pretty much hopeful mascots. They will never be a real bro, no matter how many times they do bro-like things.

What is perhaps most disturbing to me in this whole bros icing bros thing, is that there is this notion of inclusion and non-inclusion. And we all know how badly we want to belong (hell, I admitted in the first paragraph how cool I am for merely knowing what this icing thing is. And it’s because I belong). At the risk of not belonging, said bro will down the 12oz alcoholic drink (or larger, if their bro buddies are especially cruel) no matter where they are. This means that a lot of icing occurs on the way to job interviews, first thing in the morning, or behind the wheel of a car. Because let’s face it, if you ain’t a bro, you must be…a chick. And what man wants to be called that?

So don’t worry if you haven’t heard about Bros Icing Bros until this blog post. Because you’re still cool. By default. Our own Prez Gearan got iced at this year’s graduation. Cuz you know. Gearan’s a bro.

Staticy Cat vs. Balloon

OK.  I already posted this on my FB wall but could not resist posting it here.

I don’t know why this is so damn funny to me.  I think it’s because I grew up always having cats around and I know they have that “What.” attitude.  Like they are going to look at you and suddenly they assume a Tony Soprano voice that says, “what the fuck you lookin’ at?”  In my mind, even fluffy kittens say this when you look at them.

So for an owner to do this to their cat…well.  It is just damn funny.  Because you know it is pissing the cat off but he is way too cool to admit it.

Taking suggestions

I decided not to go anywhere for spring break. I am horribly behind on my writing and I am sure by the time spring break actually rolls around, I will be behind on my grading. Since I usually am. Plus, I have to learn a whole new software program for my Rhetorical Bytes class for a new project I am determined to teach. Here is an example of what we’ll be doing:

It’s called Kinetic Typography, if you are curious, btw. (I’ll be teaching the class again next spring semester, 2011 if this is something you are into.)

Anyway, since I will be working most of my break, today I decided that I need to buy myself a present. Not anything extravagant but something worth my time, something that makes me feel as if I am being rewarded for all my hard work. (Stop laughing. I can hear you all the way over here.)

You all know what a geek I am. So something tech-related would be cool.

Don’t be funny. I meant something I can afford. I thought I might buy a nano.

Since I only have my iPhone and seldom keep music on it since it is loaded with my day-to-day info. So the point here: what should I buy? What do you think will keep me entertained and rewarded through my totally dull upcoming spring break. Any ideas?

Big Hits Snowbound Mix (1)

So I am entering into a cold and snowy Friday night. And while I actually considered going out tonight, the heaping mound of snow that blocks the passage way from my front door to my car has made me turn back inside and crawl into my office, keeping pleasantly warm and cozy with iTunes. This is what I randomly tossed into a Big Hits Snowbound Mix. How fantastic is this?

Queen: Under Pressure

Liz Phair: Polyester Bride

NWA: Straight Outta Compton

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Gimmie Some Salt

Newton Faulkner: Teardrops

The Grateful Dead: Bertha

Miley Cyrus: 7 Things

Timbaland (feat One republic): Apologize

Rufus Wainwright: Vibrate

Rick Springfield: Jessie’s Girl

Pink: So What

Beck: Loser

Matt and Kim: Lessons Learned

so what’s in your Snowbound Mix?

Two creams, one sugar. Please.

I am sitting here in a Caribou Coffee as I write this blog post. I arrived a little over two hours ago for chat class and am now playing catch up on emails and such (like blog posts).

Before my niece grabbed my keys and ran out with my car, I asked her to toss me a blog topic. She said “coffee.” I didn’t want to hit up that topic since I have already in the past. You can read that post here.

So I start surfing the web. And look what I stumble on:

No More Perks: Coffee Shops Pull the Plug on Laptop Users

WTF? I mean, they could have written this article about me. Because I have been here for two hours and the only thing I bought was a medium Mint Condition.

And I cannot even tell you how many times I have been here to work a nine-hour day and ran next door to Chipotle and brought food back with me.

[have you had one of their burritos? They are like, the size of a newborn baby.]

I am not certain that I agree with this laptop banning issue. Working in coffee shops is like, my thing. My entire graduate career survived because of my ability to plug in and get writing with the sound of a coffee grinder and music I am not cool enough to have discovered on my own. Coffee shops turned me onto Sufjan Stevens. Kate Nash. Pete Yorn. Massive Attack. coeur de pirate. matt & kim.

Some of my fondest memories are from meeting my best-est friends Trav or Kristen every Saturday, grabbing an open outlet before others monopolized them.

We spent hours here, grading or reading for class. I could not imagine getting any work done at home in my tiny apartment, by myself with all the amenities of home to distract me.

Now that I have moved to central NY, this is my backyard—my house is one of these. (and yes, I brag about it as often as I can):

So you would think that I would never have a need to hit up a coffee shop ever again with a view like this. Which means this whole “no laptop” rule shouldn’t even make me think twice. I get it. I cannot imagine how smaller coffee shops could survive with someone like me there, only ordering one coffee, perhaps a bagel, in a nine-hour period. But then I read this:

At Café Grumpy in Chelsea, Ty-Lör Boring, a 32-year-old chef, says he often uses his laptop at coffee shops, but loves it when there are none around because, then, people talk to one another. “You can isolate yourself behind a laptop,” he says, “but look at this place: Almost everyone is having a conversation.”

I don’t know that working at a coffee shop has ever isolated me. I can’t even count the number of times I have seen community build because of a full day at the coffee shop. I often see people like me, taking up space with a laptop open, hoping to find an empty outlet before the battery dies. We have all commiserated at the amount of work we have to do but we all bonded over the fact that here we sit, in a coffee shop, maintaining a sense of social normality despite our work ethic that has us working on a Saturday or until 11p.

Conversations always start up because there is a shared bond there—conversations I would not be having if I were working at home, alone in my home office. Even when I have houseguests, a coffee shop is still a space we end up in, bringing our work with us and, as always, broadening our community.

As a college professor, I cannot imagine being so far disconnected from the college community that I am not out on Exchange St. ordering a Zebra Mocha from the fantastic ladies at The Coffee House. I love that buzz that happens during mid-term, when everyone is busy and fret with late night studying. Imagine getting through those moments alone, without study groups or an escape from the dorm.

While the student center and library is always an option, don’t you need to know there is life beyond the college property, itself? Living in a college town and you know that you will be reminded that there are others living in your community. And hitting up a coffee shop in a big city is a chance to integrate into larger communities of diversity.

So you go ahead, coffee shop misers, and ban us laptop users from your place of business. But I can pretty much guarantee that my frequent visits for a single cup of coffee probably exceeds what a random customer buying a meal might purchase. Because they might only grace your establishment once or twice every few months but I am there all the time.