Thursday, May 15, 2008

THE SOPRANOS- a feminist perspective

The Sopranos (1999–2007) is an postmodernist gangster/ soap opera American TV series directed by David Chase. Gangster stories, such as “The Sopranos”, are morality tales in which criminals live in an inverted dream world of success and wealth. The series refers to American cinematic gangster traditions, and includes various allusions to classical gangster films, most notably The Godfather. While "The Sopranos" is a primarily modern exploration of the gangster genre, it also falls into the subgenre of soap opera through the focus on community (mafia) relationships and exploration of the domestic melodrama.

The protagonist, Tony Soprano is a perplexed but highly influential New Jersey mob boss who leads a conflicting life as father of two families: the mafia, and his wife and children.
He is a stereotypical gangster: he is a perversely heroic figure, materialistic, street-smart, immoral, and self-destructive. However, one must sympathize with this larger-than-life triumphant villain as he is portrayed merely as a victim of circumstance.

Chase has cleverly structured The Sopranos so that the drama simply arises from conflicting ideologies, which are trying to living alongside and harmoniously with one another. The ideologies I focused on were, eroding standard of the present and the dismantling of the family unit, consumerism, struggle for identity, home as a safe retreat, morality in law, and feminism.

Feminism is a fundamental, yet subliminal ideology which is explored throughout the series of the Sopranos. Feminists want to challenge the power structures that keep women subservient.. Carmela (the mob boss, tony’s wife)… was content to cooperate and benefit from a marriage that was demeaning to her. But just because Carmela isn't a feminist doesn't mean that she represents the hyper-masculine, Mafioso culture either.

Carmela is a Roman Catholic who believes strongly in the sanctity of marriage and has tackled some uncomfortable women's issues. These issues include: the acceptance of infidelity in exchange for an indulgent, luxurious lifestyle, Catholic guilt over divorce, stifled professional and sexual desires, and jealousy that threatens to overtake her happiness for a daughter who is embarking on a much happier life than she will ever know.

Carmela is so clearly discomfited by her daughter's self-sufficiency, romantic life, and poise, that Meadow even knows about it. Carmela spent previous seasons willing to sacrifice herself in order to make her marriage to a cheating husband work, but at the end of the fifith season, Carmela threw her thinking about responsibility into reverse: In separating from Tony, she looks beyond the patriarchal power structures and she reasoned that this was the best way to take care of her entire family. She saves herself and her children from emotional harm by ending a disastrous marriage.


The new booming pastime of competition poker has taken Sydney and the region by storm over the past few years. More than 6000 players are registered with various 'Pub Poker' leagues offering games every day of the week across Sydney. According to the Australian Poker League, The speed of poker's growth over the last 18 months is close to 400,000 and is said to be only the beginning of the poker phenomenon.My friends and i can't get enough of the game!

A boost for poker in Australia was Melbourne player Joe Hachem winning $US 7.5 Million at the world series of poker main event in 2006, to become our best known player of several Australians on the international scene. After Hachem’s win in Vegas, poker coverage expanded in clubs, on television, on the net and in ordinary suburban homes right around the country. This unanticipated occurrence is often coined as “The Poker Revolution” amongst Sydneysiders. Sydney local, Daniel Marano talks about why he enjoys watching televised poker; “It's surprisingly good drama to see players agonise over a tough decision - especially when the pocket cameras show the TV viewers each player’s cards as they blunder into defeat.” On Foxtel, you will see that poker is featured on ESPN, Fox Sports, Fox 8’s Celebrity Poker, and MTV’s Hip Hop Hold’em.

Mr Bajada, UTS University professor of Economics, says that universities “are now using poker exercises to demonstrate deductive reasoning, critical thinking skills and probability calculation to their students.” Poker tournaments are drawing college students away from their Sony Playstations long enough for actual social interaction. Paul Constantine, a local at the Regent hotel in Kingsford, states; “It’s more enjoyable to go out and have a few drinks with the boys and have a game, rather than just bum around at home on the net or something.”

OzPoker Tours runs PokerDome, one of the city's biggest games at the Newtown RSL. The tournament organizer, Brad Locking, has bottled No-Limit, a non-alcoholic caffeine-laced drink. Its special ingredient, ginkgo extract, is promoted as a "brain tonic" in marketing documents published on the company website. He feels that “No-Limit might overhaul Red Bull as the caffeinated elixir of choice among overtired gamblers.”

The Newtown Pokerdome is a room full of poker tables where all one does is sit down and play games and games of poker. A Vaucluse resident, Michael Brown, proudly confesses he is addicted to poker. He states, “First it was once a week, then it was going to the pubs and playing there about 3 times a week, and then my friends discovered the pokerdome”, adding under his breath “scary place”. There is no clock on the wall and there is nothing to do besides read a poker magazine called “Bluff” if your not actually playing poker. There are people wearing sunglasses, caps, hoodies, and others listening to their i-pods. This, in contrast to pub games, is not a social scene. Luke Tremlowe, a graduate from Scots College in Bellevue Hill states that “I am not here to have a good chat to be honest with you, I just want to play poker and get out of here.” The Dome is predominantly filled with young people aging from 18 to late twenties. Along the walls are photos of famous poker players surrounded in either chips or cash. It’s opened from 10 AM-3 AM every day.

Women of all ages have bashed down the door of the old boy's club and are playing and winning poker against their male competitors. In the Pokerdome there is a rough ratio of 1 girl to every 20 guys. Adam Touma, a regular pub poker player states, ”I’ve seen a few girls come into pubs with their low cut tops and “blonde” personalities, who make out that they’ve never played poker in their lives… and miraculously start winning over all of the chips!” Justin Watts admits, “I just can’t fold to a girl”. Other guys have pre-conceived notions that “girls can’t bluff”. However,
According to my own research (as you can see on the graph below), 68 out of 100 men respect women on the poker table, the most common reason being that they think and bet completely different to guys, making the game a lot more confusing.

The harm in poker lies in the money that is spent. In the Dome, minimum table costs $20 and the rest of the tables range up to $500. Even if you play five $20 games while your there and win none, that is $100 you’ve lost. Pokerdome regular, known by everyone as Juice (won’t reveal real name) is 18 year old bar-tender, who won’t leave the Pokerdome until he wins a game. A friend of Juice’s, UTS business student Joshua Blomfield admits cheekily; “If we want to have a friendly game at someone’s house Juice is the man who is invited over without fail, because it is guaranteed that the pot will be significantly larger with all of his re-buys.” Allan, an 19 year-old landscape gardener, has dedicated his basement to poker, and has made his own professional poker table using materials from Spotlight.

Enthusiasts such as Richard O'Neill, managing director of Sydney poker equipment seller, says there are about 100,000 Australian online poker players. Globally, he says, most players fall into the 18-40 year-old "computer generation", and he estimates “about 35 per cent are female and 1 million are professionals.” Sydneysider Neil Pheeney, 32, a non-professional who has played internet poker off and on for the past few years, says he wants to try to win through to the World Series by playing online. However, he's well aware of the risks. He says, “some of my friends spend about $1000 a month on internet poker and it's tough to make a profit.” Others, however, are happy to play with only virtual money. Lesley Fernandez, 23, has been into online play-money poker for six months. Fernandez plays for three hours every weeknight and says she got into it because she spends a lot of time online and enjoys pitting herself against real opponents.

According to Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney, Online poker has a very addictive nature that often affects younger generations. While online poker is convenient, fun, and safe for most players, it also presents some serious consequences for others. Judy Boucher, A spokeswoman for ACPS states, ”When playing traditional poker, people do not usually take their entire bankroll to the casino. Rather, they take only the portion that they are willing to lose. But with online poker, your entire bankroll is just a mouse-click away. You can transfer as much money as you need to without ever leaving your chair. And under the cloak of anonymity, people feel less pressure to make sound plays and temper their spending.” Online poker chips are an abstraction of actual chips (which themselves are an abstraction of actual money). Their image on the computer screen does not hold the same weight as physical chips or money. “Online poker’s lack of fiscal reality lends itself to hooking susceptible youths into addiction” Boucher confirms.

Poker isn’t just your average card game. It is a sport and it offers one dreams of making a fortune. Success stories of normal players are always mentioned but there is a neglect to mention the more common failure stories. The problem is that in order to “practice” and become better at poker, players lose a lot of money and become addicted in the process. Research shows the earlier a person begins gaming, the more likely they are to be habitual gamblers their whole life. Poker’s growth rate is too rapid to be considered just a passing trend. Poker is definitely here to stay.


Why is everyone so obsessed with facebook and myspace? there is nothing socially entertaining about typing away on your keyboard and staring for hours at your friends pages on a computer screen. there may be photos of you on the weekend and little messages from your crush but why do you set a date with your computer every night to fix up your profile or send cyber hugs and nudges to your friends' pages?
Do you think it's cool or could you just think of nothing better to do with your time?

Reflections on CHANGE

Change is such a transparent, mysterious word that I wouldn’t want to define because, by defining it I am trying to understand and grasp it, which is impossible for me to do. Sometimes I find that when I try to define something it takes away its full meaning, because I am reducing it to a few words on a piece of paper. Words don’t define “change”, actions and life and experiences do. If someone were to ask me to define change, I would answer, “it is something only you can experience for yourself, don’t try to define it just experience it and reflect on it because it will happen no matter how hard you try to stop it. All you can do is attempt to lead change into a positive direction and for the benefit of yourself and for other people.’

I just searched the internet and seriously every quote I read was worthwhile, and these are just a few that stood out in my mind. They all seem to grasp change, none of them try to challenge it or alter it, they just accept it for what it is.

Alan Cohen:
It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.

Anais Nin:
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Arthur Schopenhauer:
Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.

Charles Dubois:
The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.

Henri Bergson:
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly


Eyelids flutter,
Eyes glitter.
Stream down her face,
Fall from her cheeks.

She shakes slighty.
Her lips part softly,
Silent words escaping,
Catching the breeze,
They die.

Her soul is screaming.
The light is fading.
The dark is clouding
Her thoughts…..

She is lost
There are too many trees in the forest
She cannot see
The mountains rise too high,
The ocean endlessly deep.
She cannot see.

Where should she go?
What can she do?
How can she stop her heart from pounding?

Her eyes are fading.
The spirit is leaving.
Who will stop her soul from screaming?


His ice blue eyes open, lost and unaware. They search his surroundings seeing more than what exists. They even meet hers for a second but then blink quickly and wander off. Refusing to believe the reality of the morning, he engages in sleep for a few more hours. It is early afternoon when the eyes are alive again, and he jumps out of the bed as if it was something attacking him. His feet take him to his desk, his arms pull out a chair, and his fingers pick up a pen. The book opens. He stops suddenly, looking back at the bed, thrilled to create an alternative way in which his journey from the bed to the desk was determined. His eyes plot, his mind expands and his arm vigorously works his hand across the page.

She sits there, poignant and affected. Watching him is hard to do without falling into a depressed state. She feels the hot tears fill her eyes as her emotions try to express themselves. She, like him, is also lost, but in a world of reality, a world so much harder to accept. She is angry that he did not bother to invite her into his world, angry that he left her to deal with it all on her own. She feels like screaming, but knows her voice will not resonate into the empty room.

Her eyes wander precariously around the room. Paintings and drawings blanket the white walls, covering his boyhood room of the past. Most drawings are inane to her, appearing unfinished and forgotten, but one seems to present itself to her. It compels her to look at it, examine it, feel its meaning. The cave of black ice threatens the children in the picture, and they look as if they are lost together in an unknown environment. The soft, snowy valley in the centre is juxtaposed with the sharp hard edges of the black iced cave. Streams of light exist in this drawing, glinting like promised hope. This light waits for the children to find their way to it from the caves above the valley. It wants to covet them, hug them with its warmth, and envelope them with love.

She realises that this light is what is lost to them both. As she examines the children covered in shadow, she recognises them. They both need to touch the valley, as they both lack the comfort and warmth which was once offered to them so freely. They are afraid of the sharp black ice threatening to envelope and trap them. She notices that there is no staircase in the picture leading to the valley. The staircases deceive the children, guide them in the wrong direction, and have no intention of leading to the sunned valley. Anger arises in her, she wants to tear the picture up and wish she never glanced at it. Why did it compel her to look at it? Why does she understand her brother’s world so well?

Tears break away from her wrath filled eyes. She wishes she was in the valley, in the past. She wants her mother’s light to touch her skin and envelope her aching body.
‘Just one more hug, one more kiss’, she thinks.

The girl’s eyes gaze to the fragile frame of her brother’s bony back. She notices him noticing her and shifting uncomfortably in his chair. She suddenly realises that Ben is aware of her, aware of his reality, and that he imagines and creates to distract himself from their horrible past.

“I see” she declares to his back, “I understand you now. I like your picture of the valley.”
He shifts again, awkwardly on his chair. His head lowers and his hand drops. The pen he had been holding has fallen to the floor and he makes no move to retrieve it. He starts to shake a little and she hears him begin to weep with grief. Sarah slips off her bed, and steps slowly towards the small figure of her brother. Her arm reaches out, sending with it comfort and affection. He refuses to turn or respond.

“I loved her as much as you, and I love you.”

Ben’s ice blue eyes now blanketed in tears slowly shift their gaze from the desk to her. His hard, cold, and angered face slowly appears as a half smile. She smiles back at her only brother, so content that he has acknowledged her.

He examines her own ice-blue eyes and her full peach tinted lips. His hand reaches up, and his outstretched finger wipes a tear from her cheek. More come streaming from her, and she is unable to contain them. Ben’s feet surface and his body rises up off his chair. His arms wrap around Sarah and he rests her head on his tiny shoulder.

“ I love you too.” he whispers.

The Boy

They sit in the straw basket on the filthy pavement.
Staring, staring.
The young boy meets my eye, unwavering.
Avert my eyes, I cannot.
I stop, turn.
I feel my feet walking towards this boy, as if under a spell.
His eyes do not leave me.
They are intent, curious, strong, detached from his body.
His skin sticks, glued to his skeletal frame, his stomach shows off his hunger.
How dismal, pathetic, I think.
I reach absently for my purse and a gold coin is withdrawn.
He sees the coin glint in the sunlight and his eyes are desirous, greedy, eager.
I feel the cold, hard coin against my skin.
Strange, I think, how this round, stiff, piece of metal could bring this boy such happiness.

The coin falls heavily from my fingertips.
He catches it in his outstretched hand.
What appears to be a smile creeps up upon his lips.
As he looks up at me his smile deepens, a gleam of hope flashes in his eyes.
I turn my head, and continue walking.