Saturday, August 9, 2008

Songs that make me cry


Be forewarned. I don't seem to experience emotions like many of my fellow women. I can't stand sappy movies, most romantic comedies, and there isn't much in the world that makes me cry. A few songs at various points in my life have brought tears into my eyes with their wrenching lyrics and plaintive melodies. Though you might need to get out a hanky whilst listening to these tunes, you also might be amused by the seemingly random assortment of songs that move me deep down inside.

Ani DiFranco - You Had Time
Lamenting the impending end of a relationship, Ani uses some lovely metaphors to describe her feelings and anticipation of coming home and ending things.
You are a china shop
and I am a bull
You are really good food
and I am full
In other words, "it's not you, it's me." But really, she's so great at portraying a mix of complicated emotions. (full lyrics)

The Clash - Bankrobber
File this one under "random." Joe Strummer sings his heart out about inequality, morality, and the death of his (fictional) bank robbin' daddy. I didn't really understand all the lyrics at the time, and they're really quite good, but like, existential-crisis pondering-social-justice good. I wonder how many other people have cried at this song? (full lyrics)

Coldplay - The Scientist
Nobody said it was easy... but no one ever said it would be so hard, either. Who hasn't wanted to go back to the start at some point, especially when heartache is involved? The video is a work of art itself, comprising one long shot of Chris Martin (the lead singer) in reverse. And he's even singing the lyrics. (full lyrics)

David Bowie - Life on Mars?
OK, I have to confess. I have no idea what this song is about. It's kind of an abstract collection of images that vaguely suggest of despair. Or maybe not.
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she's hooked to the silver screen
But the film is a saddening bore
For she's lived it ten times or more
All I know is something in it deeply resonated with me. Am I just a sucker for pianos and men in blue eyeshadow? Perhaps. (full lyrics)

Dixie Chicks - You Were Mine
There's nothing funny about this song. It's an utterly heartwrenching tale told by a jilted wife who is abandoned by her husband for another woman. While I can't relate to the song's premise, I nevertheless always wince at the lines
I Can Give You Two Good Reasons
To Show You Love's Not Blind
He's Two And She's Four, And You Know They Adore You
So How Can I Tell Them You've Changed Your Mind
Ouch!! Abandoning the kiddies too for some little hussy? "Sometimes I wake up crying at night, and sometimes I scream out your name"... man, talk about simple and evocative lyrics. Now excuse me while I grab a tissue. (full lyrics)

Tracy Chapman - The Promise
In general, I'm not a huge Tracy Chapman fan, but there's something so simple and beautiful in the way she sings this song. It's utterly unpretentious and she sings each word as if it really matters. She's pining for an old lover, but she's not chewing up the scenery in the process. Bravo! (full lyrics)

Bonus: A dance that made me cry
From So You Think You Can Dance. I watched a lot of it last summer. The choreographer dedicated this dance to her father who had just passed away. Very moving, if a bit blurry in this version.

So there you have it, folks. Breakups, heartache, death of loved ones, rage at social injustices... tearful trails to you!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gender and the internet

Table of Gender Internet Use

"Excuse me, your gender's showing."

Although online surfing and communities would seem to offer some degree of anonymity, we may be giving away clues about ourselves due to our writing styles. This website analyzes writing samples and offers probabilities of the writer's gender as either male or female. Man, how gendernormative! Note that likelihood is counted differently based on formal or informal writing styles. Apparently my writing style is male and European. Close, but no cigar! (link)

Also, we may be leaving a trail of gender breadcrumbs behind us as we surf the web. Based on the most recent sites you've visited, are you more likely to be a male or female? News sites are more male, and retail sites appear to be more female. I had no idea my femininity was determining my browsing history, as often it puts me at about 90% likely to be a woman. If only they could see my writing! (link)

Finally, there have been scientific studies which track gender differences in eye movement while surfing the web. If you're a guy, chances are you fixate on crotches in photos, regardless of gender or species. (Raise your hand if you're surprised.) Women focus more on faces. (link - via Boing Boing)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Heartwarming things

Originally uploaded by amber_b.
Things that make you go "awwww!"

<3>Sometimes I find myself losing faith in humanity. Seriously, what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding? Especially the middle and high school years can be peppered with all kinds of social aggression. That's why it's so heartwarming to read this story about a group of teenagers who stood up to a group of bullies in a creative way. Here's hoping they inspire others to do the same. Go Canada!

This video is an oldie but goodie, but the Free Hugs campaign video is quite moving. Definitely makes me want to go out and give someone a hug!

What can be more endearing than Cute Things Falling Asleep? As a cat person, my favorite ones are the wee little kittens who just can't keep their eyes open. I love that they rate each video on cuteness and sleepiness levels.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

80s music videos based on movies

The 80's often get criticized for lauding style over substance. Well, can you blame them, when music videos and MTV took over the world? They could make so many cool special effects and swirly neon thingies! Artists could rely on image and fashion over substantive lyrics to get their message across. And of course the disaster of Milli Vanilli wouldn't have been possible in a pre-television, pre-music video era.
Some 80s videos were just spectacular. Some were more like giant car crashes you couldn't look away from. Here are three music videos that hold both plot AND hairspray as equally valid forms of musical expression, paying homage to a diversion selection of films.

Human League - Love Action (The Graduate)
This is one of my favorite Human League songs of all time. The beat is fabulous! I have it on repeat these days. The male lead singer Phil Oakley plays Dustin Hoffman's character, but with way more sex appeal and eyeliner. Two of the bandmates are the would-be bride and groom.

Berlin - No More Words (Bonnie and Clyde)
Before Berlin, like, totally sold out for "Take My Breath Away" on the Top Gun soundtrack, they were a pretty edgy new wave group. Though lead singer Teri Nunn was sometimes dismissed as a Debbie Harry wannabe, her strong set of pipes distinguish her pretty well. She makes a pretty hot Bonnie, and I dig her two-toned dye job. It's nice that they've deviated from the movie's plot slightly; instead of ending in a bloody massacre, they have a Robin Hood-ish change of heart.

Paula Abdul - Rush Rush (Rebel Without a Cause)
I'm not a huge fan of Paula Abdul, but isn't it shocking to remember that she was a recording artist before she was an American Idol judge? She enlists the help of Keanu Reeves in this unabashed slice of 50s nostalgia. And yes it's technically a 90s video because it came out in 1991, but close enough for government work.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Personality Test II: The Wrath of OCEAN

Giant waves on the seafront at Seaham, County Durham
The Myers-Briggs (as blogged earlier) is hardly on the only personality test out there. In my academic neck of the woods, the five factor theory of personality holds a good deal of clout over the MBTI. In Myers-Briggs, I was an ENTP. Each of the four scales is a strict dichotomy, which are:
So with some combinatorics, we get that there are 16 distinct personality types, at least in this Jung-inspired methodology. You can't be a strong ENTP or a weak ENTP, you're just ENTP. (or ISTJ, or INFP, or what have you.)

The "Big 5" approach is quite different. Instead of distinct categories, each trait falls on a continuous scale that takes degree into account. And they measure slightly different traits, which are summarized by the acronym OCEAN:
Openness to experience (Opposite end of the scale = Closedmindedness)
Conscientiousness (Opposite end of the scale = Disorganized)
Extraversion (Opposite end of the scale = Introversion. This is familiar!)
Agreeableness (Opposite end of the scale = Disagreeableness, how creative)
Neuroticism/anxiety (Opposite end of the scale = Calm/relaxed)

I'm a O95-C17-E96-A74-N55 Big Five!!

I scored as very open to new experiences, very disorganized, very extroverted, somewhat agreeable, and neither calm or anxious. My Big 5 score interpretation said:

*"You probably have a messy desk!" - historically, this is very true. Me and paper don't get along too good.

*"You enjoy having novel experiences and seeing things in new ways." - well since I said that on my Facebook profile, it MUST be true.

*"You tend to consider the feelings of others." - except for when I have a strong opinion... then my diplomacy can suffer just a tad.

I'm not quite sure which approach I prefer, though I know there's a lot of studies that support the Big 5 model, including cross cultural ones. (Don't even get me started on the SIXTEEN factor model!) I like that the Big 5 includes a scale instead of forcing people into boxes. And also, the Myers-Briggs contrasting of thinking versus feeling seems a bit strange to me. Surely one doesn't preclude the other? But I guess we can all agree that introversion and extroversion are useful to measure. A bigger question to me (and the crux of the debate between personality and social psychologists) is whether "personality" and "traits" even exist. If they do, how much of a role they determine our behavior, as opposed to situational constraints such as cultural norms, specific circumstances, temporary moods, and so on.

So what's your MBTI type? (find out) What's your Big 5 type? (find out)