Category Archives: random rant

My end of 2012 homework

In 2010, Jamey assigned me some homework, ordering me to reflect on everything that I accomplished that year. So, I did and I wrote a post about it. It was really helpful. So helpful that I did it again last year and I’ve been writing 2013’s homework in my head pretty much all year long.

The 12 Achievements of 2012:

1. I turned 30. I watched the Saints-Lions game at a neighborhood bar with a bunch of friends who decided the only way to make me feel 30 was to encourage me to drink like I was 21. The Saints won, I got to spend time with friends while celebrating the start of my thirties and everybody was happy. At least, we were all happy that night. Darker times were ahead for the Saints. But, thus far, my thirties are still going well.

2. I got my 5th tattoo and “finished” my birthday tattoo project, undertaken between the pivotal years of 25 and 30.

3. I attended a local premiere of 21 Jump Street with cast and crew, which was a really fun experience and the movie was hilarious. Then, I spent the first three-fourths of the year working on two more movies I’ve very proud to have been involved with (#1 and #2).

4. I went on a road trip with Mamma Mia!, after I evacuated for Hurricane Isaac and stayed with some friends. Since we visited both of my grandmothers in Columbus, Ohio and Chicago, I called it The Grandma Road Trip. Not only did we get to see a lot of family members we hadn’t seen in years since we’re all so spread out, but Mamma Mia! and I spent more time together than we had in probably a decade. And we both survived.

5. I wrote a skit for The NO Show, Helen Krieger‘s new-school old-fashioned radio show, then got to see it produced. Helen was looking for material, I said I might have have some and next thing I knew, we were writing a 5-minute version of my idea. Then, there was a table reading and a “punch-up” draft with the actors and other funny people. Then, one of our actors couldn’t make the re-scheduled recording and I had to step in and voice one of the characters! It was a rollercoaster ride, a fun one, and I hope it keeps going.

6. I freelanced for the last quarter of the year. It was really tough, but it was also one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I continued to write for 225 Magazine and also continued some editing work I’ve done for a while. I worked for a friend of my dad’s in the industry I grew up in (conventions and trade shows) and discovered I’d picked up a lot more as a kid than I’d realized. And I wrote. I freelanced on another movie and recently accepted some new work on a tv show, which I won’t be able to talk about for a long time.

My obsession with tango continued. There were a lot of firsts this year.

7. I bought my first pair of tango shoes. This coincided with me dancing as much as possible, at least once or twice a week, and sometimes more, so my dancing improved a lot.

8. I danced in new communities, in Atlanta (three times) and Chicago (once). I hope to go back and dance with them more in 2013, and also, I plan on checking out new places to dance as well.

9. I performed for the first time. I almost didn’t, then changed my mind at the last minute. It was a terrifying and utterly satisfying experience and I hope to do it more. I’m glad I made the decision to be bold and dance.

Photo by Shari Stauch

Photo by Shari Stauch.
Partner is Casey Mills.

10. I won NaNoWriMo. This year, it was easy. I was freelancing, so I had the time to commit. I had a great, fun story. I watched Saints games, tv shows, movies, went out with my friends. Even with voting, Thanksgiving, my shower exploding and getting sick, I still finished early.

11. I won my first major literary prize. My essay “Tango Face” won the essay category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Literary Competition. In my “end of 2011 homework” post, I said I was submitting my work diligently and promised I would brag on myself when the submitting paid off. So, as promised, when it paid off, I bragged on myself.

12. I achieved better balance. Literally, with my dancing, I achieved better balance, working on my core and maintaining my own axis. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but I’ve come a long way. Figuratively, I sought out and achieved better balance in my life, between work and play, between paying the bills and passion. I fought for and found better balance within myself. I talked about balance in both my 2010 and 2011 end-of-the-year homework assignments, each time with more clarity and cohesion. I mentioned balance by accident in 2010, unaware of it’s importance. I knew I needed balance in 2011 and I was looking for it. In 2012, I achieved it for glorious patches of time, which convinces me that it’s attainable. It’s still the goal.

2012 was a banner year, not only because of my 12 personal achievements, but also because the world didn’t end. And since it didn’t end, I’m looking forward to all the experiences and achievements 2013 has to offer.

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Filed under Atlanta, bragging on, coolness, family, freelance work, Friends, musing, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, New Orleans Film Industry, random rant, tango, The Grandma Road Trip

NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 3

Excuses.

There are a million of them. I think of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, a children’s book that neatly explains the concept of the slippery slope from logic (the ONLY college course I almost failed) often – it’s one of the ruling philosophies of my life. If you give in to one excuse, you’ll give in to another and then three more and then ten more. And suddenly, you’re excusing yourself before you’ve even begun.

There are valid excuses, of course. Our children get sick. We have to work. We want to do something else, in any given moment, even if we have a glorious endeavor we’d like to complete. But we can get derailed so early, so easily.

And the reality is, without procrastination and excuses, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon this video:

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

And, in turn, I wouldn’t have remembered experiencing my own murmuration of starlings on the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway at 17 years old. And a story I will now write (surely, once all of my excuses are exhausted) might never have been written. Well, it’s not written yet. But it might be. Because I let myself be distracted. Which is another word for inspired.

Total word counts:

Aimee: 2,800 (approximate)

Emilie: 3,272 (348 words today)

NaNoWriMo Day 3 Goal: 4,998

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You Are Lucy and I Am Charlie Brown

“This time, you can trust me,” Lucy says to Charlie Brown, enticing him into their eternal battle of wills – kick the football and I won’t pull it away this time, I promise.

I love t.v. I love narrative in general and I get hooked into the story structures of t.v. shows over and over and over again. Even a “reality” show like Survivor has all the classic story elements that I crave and enjoy.

But I have been frustrated more and more the last few years. Here’s why:

– I have a busy schedule and like most people my age, I can’t be locked into watching a t.v. show at the same set time every week. Luckily, most shows are available online within 6-12 hours (sometimes a full day or week) later and I catch up with my “stories” when I have the time, which is often just a few hours or maybe a day or two after the original airing.

– The online viewing model seems to me an excellent one. I am still viewing advertisements, which should still be paying for the shows. In fact, I feel that I’m a more captive audience for online ads than the ones on my t.v. because I tend to walk away from the t.v. during commercials. I am watching the show at my convenience. Excellent, all around. But I’m not sure the Nielsen rating system is still in any way an accurate schematic (I don’t know how it could be) and to my knowledge, nothing else has replaced it. So how do networks know what shows I’m giving my loyalty and attention to? Theoretically, they should be able to track the downloads and online viewings, right?

– Yet, some of my favorite new shows are consistently getting canceled, sometimes mid-season or after only one season. This breeds a vicious cycle that makes me and other viewers wary of investing in new shows. Why care about characters that might suddenly disappear, give our attention to stories that will remain unfinished? But what are a studio’s “obligations” to the viewers of its shows? I feel like a full season should be a standard network-viewer “contract.” Promising shows should really get two seasons to build their audience. Yes, it’s expensive. However, as far as I’m concerned, so is my time and my attention.

You might ask what has brought about this rant. Monday, the list of canceled t.v. shows was disseminated. First, it includes 32 shows across the networks, which is quite a lot. Also, it features some great new shows that I feel weren’t given a solid chance. Last, there are many shows on this list that I thought were already canceled several months ago because of reports I’ve read in the past.

I’ll break down the list for you.

Canceled shows I didn’t invest in because I figured they’d be canceled:

Better with You, Mr. Sunshine, Off the Map (ABC); Perfect Couples (NBC)

Shows I might’ve watched, but thought were already canceled or off the air ages ago because of reports I read, so clearly their networks were not doing a whole lot to support them:

My Generation, Detroit 1-8-7, No Ordinary Family, V (ABC); The Event and Outsourced (NBC); Lone Star and Running Wilde (FOX); Life Unexpected (CW)

Canceled shows that had a really solid chance to build their audience (regardless of how you feel about the quality of the shows and their demise):

Brothers and Sisters (ABC); Friday Night Lights (NBC); Human Target and Lie to Me (FOX); $#*! My Dad Says (CBS); Smallville (CW)

Canceled shows I’d watch if they were given a second chance:

Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC); The Event (NBC)

Canceled shows I’m really pissed about because I’d invested in them:

Breaking In and Traffic Light (FOX)

FOX has long been guilty of creating pretty good shows and then scrapping them before they’ve had a solid chance, in my opinion. Keep in mind, FOX also airs two of the shows I talk about most, American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, but those are reality competitions and I don’t know that FOX has worked out their dynamic for scripted dramas and sitcoms. Out of all the networks on the list, FOX is canceling the most good shows, I think. Many on the FOX list had a good chance to sink or swim, but I think Breaking In and Traffic Light should be given more time. They are both hysterical half hour ensemble sitcoms, which I think we need more of on t.v. Good ones, that is.

So what are the networks gonna do next season? Give us 50 new shows, two thirds of which they’re prepared to sacrifice if we don’t invest quickly enough? Break our hearts again? Yank the football once more before we can kick a good, solid field goal? FOX, as well as all the networks, needs to create good shows and then stand by them. Have some faith in what you create, Networks.

Now, on to the slightly related topic of the Castle finale, appropriately titled “Knockout.” How is this related to my giant rant above? Well, first of all, it’s still about t.v. Second of all, one of Castle’s stars, Nathan Fillion was in not one but two shows that fell victim to FOX’s wishy-washiness (Drive and, ahem, Firefly, anyone?). Third, the finale happened to air on the same day the canceled show list was disseminated.

Castle is a fun, gripping show, a worthy vehicle for Nathan, finally, at long last, hallelujah, on a network that will support the show and create interest with tie-ins (novels, graphic novels, etc). It’s one of my favorite shows, especially because it has such a great cast and also all the qualities I loved about Bones in the earlier seasons. I’m still watching Bones because I love the characters, but it’s lost some of its sheen.

One of the elements I like best about Castle is that it is unafraid to be cheesy and emotional and sometimes feels like a sitcom wrapped up in a drama. This feels like old-fashioned, classic t.v., even while it is cutting edge. So it shouldn’t surprise me that every part of Castle‘s Season 3 finale felt inevitable in that way that good storytelling always feels. While the storyteller in me can appreciate the Castle finale’s unflinching and yes, even cruel twists, the viewer in me feels absolutely shellshocked, almost betrayed. And pissed. Pissed that they punched me the guts like three times in an hour and then walked away for several months, leaving me nursing my wounds and dying for more.

But you know what? You better bet I’ll be tuning in next season. And for that, I must congratulate them.

For a moment at the end of “Knockout,” in light of the canceled show list, I was very afraid that this was the end, that Castle was one of the unlisted “bubble” shows and it might not be back. I had to remind myself that it’s a popular show and that ABC has just as much invested in it as I have invested (some would say more). But that fear, that paranoia, is the best example that I can give you of what the networks have done to us with their “yanking back the football” behavior.

Should I, like Charlie Brown, continue to trust all the Lucys promising me big and then yanking it all away? Despite all the times that I have been burned and lost “stories” that I loved, should I trust the networks? Like Charlie Brown, I hate looking stupid by falling for it again and again, but just like him, there’s no other choice for me. I love stories too much not to take the kick of faith every time.

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LJ Smith: Strange Fate

A little while ago, Borders sent me an e-mail and said I might like to pre-order Strange Fate, the tenth and final (?) book in the Night World series by L.J. Smith. I couldn’t help but laugh as I scrolled through the comments from readers that all generally said the same thing, “I love this series, but I’ve been waiting for it FOREVER.” The comments are generally the same over at B&N and Amazon, where there’s even a forum called “When is this REALLY coming out?”

I’m not laughing to be cruel, it’s just that I’d be willing to bet money I don’t have that most of these readers/commenters, a lot of them anyway, have not been waiting over a decade to read this book, as I have. Most of them don’t even know that Lisa Jane Smith’s books were originally published when I was a teenager, before they were born in some cases. Strange Fate‘s original publication date was shortly before the new millennium and accordingly, the plot of the earlier books reflects that.

When the Night World books were published, 1996-1998, I was 14-16 years old and L.J. Smith was my favorite writer. Her books meant the world to me and I was bewildered by the inscrutable, almost entirely unexplained delay in the publication of the last Night World book. I went to college and still periodically checked in on a giant fan site for updates. L.J. was sick, we heard, but was back to writing and the book would be published soon.

Years passed and I started to believe that the book would never be published. Then, just a few years ago, all of her books were re-issued in new editions that would appeal to rabid fans of Twilight. The Vampire Diaries series was adapted into a t.v. show, which I watched for a while. I had to stop, though, because the t.v. show didn’t reflect either the books or my experience of them as a teenager, or both. But then, I knew they wouldn’t. To be successful in this millennium, they couldn’t. The Secret Circle series is being adapted now and I’ll probably watch a few episodes out of curiosity and because I like Britt Robertson from Life Unexpected. I think she’ll be a great Cassie.

I’m a little annoyed that when (if?) Strange Fate is released, it won’t match my series (though, yes, I have bought all of the reissues). On the left is what MY Strange Fate should have looked like a decade + ago and on the right, what Strange Fate will (maybe) look like when (if?) it’s ever published. And that’s something Lisa Jane’s newest fans may be learning, which her most senior fans have long known – I’m not going to invest my money (and hope) till I hold the book in my hand.

Many of the teenagers reading Lisa Jane Smith (or L.J., as I’ll always think of her) don’t realize these are not new books, as evidenced by one of the comments I read that said Lisa Jane should stop writing multiple series of books at the same time and just finish Strange Fate. 🙂 I feel sad and nostalgic when I think about these books now, especially Strange Fate. Now that I’m almost thirty, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to experience it the way I would have when I was 16 years old, moving to Louisiana and completely adrift.

But just like a teenager, I’m waiting… and waiting… and waiting… to find out.

P.S. While researching online for this blog, I found the following paragraph on the Wikipedia page for The Vampire Series page. This horrifies me as both a fan and a writer:

Unfortunately, Smith stated in her blog on the 9th of February, 2011 that she was fired by Alloy Entertainment and that ‘Midnight’ is her last book. Alloy Entertainment will be hiring a ghostwriter to continue the series. She will still be mentioned as the creator of the series on the covers of the new books but she will have nothing to do with them. Smith has asked her fans not to boycott Harper. L.J Smith has also already given Alloy Entertainment her manuscript for ‘The Hunters: Phantom’, although there are no guarantees that it will be released, let alone with any of her input.

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The Emily Curse

Earlier this month, Maurice sent me a link to a Radiolab story called “Finding Emilie”. It is a phenomenal story about an art student, her tragic accident and her boyfriend’s conviction that she could recover. It WILL make you cry, regardless of how stoic you think you are.

There’s a point partway through the story where Emilie’s mother talks about how, of all her children, Emilie always seemed to get the bad stuff and she asks, “Why? Everything bad seems to happen to Emilie.” My automatic, flip answer was…”Because of her name!”

Having been an Emilie my whole life (except for a period in my early teens when I tried to make everyone call me Rachel), I have long studied this phenomena. Yes, it is a phenomena and it is real. And here is my evidence.

All of the really famous Emilys are generally creative, often writers, are usually unlucky in love and/or depressed and die early:

Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, died at age 30 and never married.

-The poet Emily Dickinson lived till age 56, but never married and barely left her room in her later life. Her poetry dealt extensively with death and mortality.

Fictional Emilys seem to fare even worse than real-life creative Emilys (even Maurice admits he has an ill-fated fictional Emily in his work):

-Emily Grierson from A Rose for Emily, who kills a suitor and presumably sleeps beside his corpse in a wedding suite until her own death.

-Emily Webb from Our Town who dies giving birth.

-Emma/Emmeline in the song by Hot Chocolate, who wants to be a famous actress and kills herself because she can’t achieve her dream. (Minute 3:12 will give you chills, but you have to listen to the whole song to get there.) This song is probably based on lead singer Errol Brown’s mother, I’ve read.

More scientific Emilys seem to be longer living. Not quite as famous as the creative ones, they are just as successful. But that makes sense because one of the meanings of the name Emily is to strive or excel or rival. I’ve also heard that Emily means “industrious one.”

I don’t buy into the Emily Curse… but I’m getting a little ticked off by this perception around the name. Doomed, fragile Emilys vs. hard-working scientific Emilys? Why does everything happen to Emily?

And that’s what I like about the Emilie in the Radiolab story above. Though there’s tragedy in her story, I get the impression she is the most stubborn, persistent person. And that she will continue to triumph. I want more Emily/Emilies with her spirit and determination in fiction and in real life.

In that vein, there’s Emily the Strange, a goth teenager with attitude, who doesn’t entirely fit the mold. While she wears all black and never seems to smile, she’s strong and sarcastic. I hear Chloe Morentz may play her in the movie version. All I can think is that after her roles in Kick-Ass and Let Me In, she is NEVER going to smile in a role again.

But, check out a coincidence I stumbled upon while putting this post together:

Emily the Strange

Emilie the not-so-strange

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Street art reconsidered

I wrote a post last year about street art. Well, the post was kind of a goulash of images and ideas I was thinking about. I’d been having conversations about street art, which I’ve compulsively taken pictures of for years, which made me think about Banksy coming to New Orleans. And all the street art I’d taken pictures of in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Included in that post (and the galleries of street art images), is one particular image that I kept thinking about.

Just a portion of the work.

Is this street art? Art, yes, available as you walk down the street, yes. But graffiti? It takes up the entire side of a building near my house. Because of the size and the color, I wondered if it might be a mural, perhaps even commissioned by the store housed in the building. This isn’t quite the same thing as street art — which is often spray-painted and involves stencils, for the speed of execution — even if it is beautiful.

So, I decided to ask.

Today, I went into the store Neophobia (which I’ve loved for years) and asked one of the co-owners, Amanda. She said that the artist hadn’t been commissioned by them, but they loved it when they saw it, so they invited the artist back to finish the work. She took my name and number to pass on to the artist, so if I hear from him, I’ll post again.

Meanwhile, this brings to mind another debate. Street art can legally be considered vandalism, though people like me consider it art and photograph it. People like New Orleans’s Gray Ghost take it upon themselves to censor it. Where’s the line? What distinguishes vandalism from art?

And I’ll give you a perfect example.

A friend of mine was commissioned to paint a mural on the backside of a local bar. She spent weeks on it, adding incredible touches to make it look like a fine New Orleans double. And it is a nice thing to see while walking in the neighborhood, rather than an ugly white wall.

Only. Someone tagged it. I couldn’t help but feel upset. Here I am, a proponent of street art, and I’m upset by some tagging? Well…maybe it’s because I think it’s rude to tag someone *else’s* work. It’s like going up to a painting on a museum wall and signing it. Right?

Judge for yourself. Here’s the mural (with the tag) and a close up of the tag. Lemme know what your thoughts are.

5.22 Update: So, on a recent walk in the neighborhood, I noticed that the tag had been painted over. Was this Jenn, the artist, while she was back in town visiting? Was it the property owner, who’d paid for the gorgeous mural? Was it a kindly citizen? Here is a snap of the “fixed” mural:

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This is not funny or appropriate

Below, I’m posting my letter to the editor of offBeat Magazine, the preeminent New Orleans music magazine. They’ve recently shown such a tragic lack of sensitivity and journalistic responsibility and awareness, that I simply have to remark upon it. I will not post the cover of the most recent issue on my blog, as I find it repulsively offensive. But Jamey has it up, along with a bit of her response, on her blog and I will link to it, so you can join the discussion. And I hope you will. Loudly.

From: emiliestaat@yahoo.com
To: offbeat@offbeat.com
Cc: janramsey@offbeat.com, eslahahne@offbeat.com, josephirrera@offbeat.com, alexrawls@offbeat.com

Dear offBeat Staff,

I was shocked, shocked and offended, to see the “Strange Fruit” headline on an image of six white guys hanging from a jungle gym. Whoever designed and approved this cover – what were they thinking? Were they thinking? Or worse, did they have no clue what they were referring to? “What’s in a name, indeed,” a friend said to me as we discussed it today. I fear that this offensive cover threatens to overcome any good the story was intended to do for the band.

The song “Strange Fruit” refers to the bodies of lynched black people hanging from trees. I’d expect a music magazine to understand the history of a song like this, as it’s not exactly obscure, as well as the implications of using this song title as a headline over the image of white guys hanging from a jungle gym. But perhaps that’s too much to hope.

Shame on the entire editorial staff.

Emilie Staat

It’s an even more horrifyingly ironic note that this comes right on the heels of Black History Month. I honestly don’t know how this cover passed any sort of editorial review and why anybody imagined “Strange Fruit” was an appropriate title for this cover.

7:12 p.m. Update:

offBeat had this to say on Twitter: @KAMMsTheACE intentions were COMPLETELY benign, but it was poor choice of words. we understand if we offended, and sincerely apologize. about 3 hours ago via web in reply to KAMMsTheACE

And I had this to say to them:
@OffBeatMagazine: I’ve been beating round the bush. Your cover is not just irresponsible. It’s racist. https://emiliestaat.wordpress.com/ 3 minutes ago via web

@OffBeatMagazine: You say the intentions were benign & I think you owe us an explanation. What WERE your intentions? 1 minute ago via web

@OffBeatMagazine: You let the band, your advertisers and your readers waaaay down and I want to know why. What response did you want? half a minute ago via web

Unfortunately, after the “Twitterversy” that the Publisher’s Weekly “Afro Picks” cover may have caused, I’m afraid that a rabid, viral offended response might have been what offBeat Magazine was going for. We’ve seen time and again that it doesn’t always matter these days what people are saying about you, as long as they’re talking. Yuck.

I haven’t seen a response from the band on their website or on Twitter. I wonder how they feel about the cover image and headline.

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Let’s talk about movies: The Ugly Truth and Fanboys

Just so you know, spoilers abound.

Every time I saw the trailer for The Ugly Truth, I thought, “Oooh, I can’t wait to see that.” I love both Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, and I love rom coms. I’ve already debunked any accusations of film snobbery, so that can hardly be surprising. Then, before seeing it with Becks, I read a review of the movie on NPR, knowing as I did so that the reviewer would hate it and it wouldn’t change my desire to see the movie one iota, as much as I adore NPR.

And Ella Taylor did seem to hate The Ugly Truth, as her review begins, “Sit up straight, girls, the he-men are back to instruct you in what women really want.” And while there were places where I physically winced or I just didn’t feel like the movie was all that great, I actually don’t agree with Taylor’s arguments about who this movie is for and what it’s saying. She’s addressing women alone, but we exist in a film market that has started (finally) making some blatant attempts to reach more of the audience quadrants than romantic comedies have traditionally expected to reach. Yeah, probably most of the men in the audience were still there with girlfriends or wives or really good gal pals. But I suspect The Ugly Truth was trying to entertain not only the boys once they were there, but also the women who loved The Hangover and Judd Apatow movies, who really dig the big blockbuster/comic book/fantasy movies that were traditionally the realm of boys [The newest EW has an article by Christine Spines called “Horror Films and the Women Who Love Them,” which I can’t seem to find online at the moment, but Diablo Cody (ahem, Juno) has a great quote, “Growing up, I was absolutely mesmerized by the horror section at the local video store. It wasn’t a particularly feminine compulsion, and my parents didn’t want me watching that crap.”]

So the problems I had with the movie was where it felt like it hadn’t really identified itself or its audience – because probably it wanted to be many things at once and reach as many of the quadrants as possible. With audiences gobbling up Borat (but not so much Bruno), Talladega Nights, Stepbrothers and Pineapple Express, the over-the-top-but-sadly-incredibly-realistic shock jockness of Gerard Butler’s character Mike Chadway, appeals. But in that stroke of classic romantic comedy convention (that works here, perhaps saves the movie), while both Abby and Mike both think that his he-man instructions are getting Abby what she wants – they aren’t. She gets exactly what she thought she wanted – her checklist boyfriend – using Mike’s techniques (which, if you’re honest with yourself, do work at least in a surface, introductory way even in real life, even if they are loathsome), but she realizes that the “perfect” candidate works on paper, but rarely in real life. The scene between Abby and her checklist boyfriend in the hotel room works for me because of Katherine Heigl’s gut-wrenching, “Who would love somebody like that?” realization. She sees herself for who she is, doesn’t entirely like herself and is frightened that nobody will love her for and despite that person – and that is an utterly true realization, whether you’re a woman or a man (a girl or a boy, a proud feminist or a “I’m not a feminist but” feminist or not a feminist at all). But the amazing thing for me is that, though she’s not sure she can be loved for who she is, she can’t close the deal with the checklist boyfriend while still pretending to be something she isn’t. And what could be more feminist (and enlightened) than that?

It’s not so much that Mike (the he-man) has the answers as he thinks he does and Abby’s so lost romantically (her assistant producer says, “This could be a good boyfriend for us!”), she can’t help but listen to someone who sounds like they know what they’re talking about. (He’s lost too, which Taylor seems to dismiss, but Mike’s brand of defensive humor does seem to exist and I find his utter terror when confronted with the vulnerability that love brings utterly honest). When they both learn something, that’s what I find fascinating. Though, I felt like the end was a bit forced into a rom-com box after what seemed to me a pretty daring, sometimes more subtle than appearances would have you think, illustration of the contradictions and fears of modern romance. Taylor calls it a “nasty little sex war,” and yes, it is. Because that’s how it feels sometimes – the truth is that power is an issue in relationships and it seems like the person who cares the least fares the best (see: Mike coaching Abby on manipulative, abusive telephone etiquette). But we all hope that we can find someone in the end with whom it’s okay to be vulnerable, who’ll put their own vulnerable hearts in our hands and that perhaps the power can go back and forth.

The line in Taylor’s review that kept giving me frustrated flashbacks was, “Alert, however, to the fact that they’re catering to the I’m-not-a-feminist-but … generation of women — ladies who want their career achievement and their happy-ever-after tied up together in a shiny pink bow — ”

Yes. My generation of feminists (thanks to the generations and waves before us) have learned that’s it’s alright to say, “We want it all. We want to be capable and successful human beings and we want marriage and kids too.” Or whatever you want, or don’t want, that’s okay too. If you want to be a stay at home mom, guess what, that’s okay. If you don’t want marriage and kids, also okay. And what the hell is wrong with that? Did our feminist foremothers fight so that we would have to choose between slices of a life? The apple or the peach? Why not the whole pie or several slices on one plate? Did they fight so that we would force EACH OTHER out of the home and refuse to acknowledge that’s where some of us what to be? I find myself a more well-rounded feminist when I acknowledge that, for me, a full life includes both writing/publishing my books and a happy family with a husband and children. Of course it’s hard to have everything you want and even harder to have it “tied up together in a shiny pink bow,” because it requires negotiation, communication and work. But my foreparents have taught me well – I’m not going to deny myself any aspect of a life that I feel compelled to have, because that would make me a less complete, fulfilled person.

Taylor lauds Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday (and I’m not knocking it), but I think it’s a difficult thing to put His Girl Friday against most movies that accurately and emotionally reflect gender dynamics these days. I’m a feminist who can say that rigid gender roles are constricting and wrong – but as a girl dating in the aughts, I’m envious at times that there used to be expectations that were generally understood by all parties. This is an age where it’s not always possible to know you’re on a date because you have no idea what the other person’s expectations are, this is an age where people are avidly reading each other’s Facebook statuses to try to understand other people’s moods, where it may be ages before you actually have a voice-to-voice (let alone a face-to-face) because of the oh-so-common fondness for texting. Abby may actually be a pretty good example when it comes to modern dating and knowing how to be a lady (what does that mean these days?!?) and be happy and get what you want.

Taylor says about Abby that she’s a “tightly wound career woman, ripe for chopping up, tenderizing and ravishing by an alpha male who knows what’s good for her (no, it’s not a promotion) better than she does.” No, Abby doesn’t want a promotion. Because she’s already got that covered – she rocks at what she does. The parts of the movie where Abby was able to be confident were when she was doing her thang as a producer. But even then, something that struck me was the virulent invaldiation Abby suffers from her boss and the corporate honchos once Mike arrives on the scene – from the good ol’ boy dinner with the bikini twins to production choices being made for her, without her knowledge or approval. She’s good at her job (though perhaps the show did need a shake up, none of us are infallable), but consistently undermined in a way that’s not even addressed. Part of me likes that it’s so vivid in the movie without being addressed, because it’s inherent in our society and so rarely communicated. A woman is expected to act outside of a “womanly fashion” in order to be considered professional (here, I’m thinking of when Abby is hiding in her closet at work, etc.), but then is entirely unappreciated as both a woman, or a person doing a good job. The qualities that make Abby a good producer appear to make her a bad woman and I don’t blame the movie for this because this is an accurate reflection of the climate, what we’re still working for (“we” being feminist of every gender).

And until we see this “nasty little sex war,” depicted in all its nastiness in our modern media, how will we learn to communicate about it and then change it? Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday don’t reflect the men and women that are trying to figure out how to connect with each other today (and that’s not even scratching the surface, what about the spectrum of sexuality?). And if you doubt me, read this NPR piece called Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships.

A friend of mine recently told me how uncomfortable he was in “Women and Gender Studies” classes in college because he was a man and everything seemed to be his fault. I actually felt the same way in some of mine, uncomfortable. The idea is to be equal, to have equal rights and responsiblities and renumeration, right? But then I think of another friend of mine who has the “right” to work outside the house when she doesn’t want to and it’s still her responsibility to do almost a full percentage of the tasks at home. Her husband “helps” her take care of their home and family, as if this is still uniquely her task and when she is working outside the home as much as he does. I think of roommates and boyfriends I’ve had who seem to have been incapable of doing anything an adult does to take care of their home without expecting or waiting for me to tell them to do it and then coming to me to announce they’ve done it, seeking my approval. And you know what? It’s not just any of these individuals’ fault…it’s all of society’s fault that we still see things as belonging to one gender or another and then feeling guilty for it because we know we shouldn’t and then not achieving a well-balanced way of discussing and communicating these things in a way that creates healthy individuals.

And in that, I find The Ugly Truth to be a pretty fair illustration of the muddle we all find ourselves in these days, being women and being men and trying to figure out what the hell any of that means.

Fanboys was a lot of fun. I watched it, then watched it again with the commentary track, which was hysterical. I adore the last line of the movie (won’t spoil that for you) and I love the depiction of fandom and friendship. And it was just really funny. I have almost nothing to critique about the movie, I just loved it so much (especially all of Seth Rogan’s cameos), but of course there’s much I could say about gender politics here, too.

Are you groaning? 🙂 Well, just look at the title and that pretty much says it all. Fanboys. Who can deny how feminine and beautiful Kristen Bell is, yet her fangirl Zoe isn’t seen as a girl because she can “keep up” with the boys, because her amazing knowledge and passion is very fanboy-like, in the minds of her fellows. Yet, she keeps them all together and going. Even as she’s calling them “girls” in a derogatory fashion.

Well, in some cases, it’s not the movie that’s at fault just because it does a good job of depicting our screwy society. And I found both of these two movies very entertaining, in same cases really funny and always fascinating. Reviewing them soley for their quality as movies (trying to ignore content as much as possible, which isn’t possible), I’d give Fanboys an A and The Ugly Truth something like a B-.

[7.29.09: See this blogger’s discussion of “Horror Films and the Women Who Love Them,” since I’m still struggling to find EW‘s article online.]

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

[Slight spoilers, just so you know…]

Just saw what seems to me the best Harry Potter movie so far. Was reading in Entertainment Weekly some hubbub about whether the HP franchise still captures attention in light of the edgier appeal of Twilight and such.

Here’s the thing, Twilight rocks. I love it for some of the same reasons as HP and some very different ones. But it’s not been around as long as Harry has, so it hasn’t had the chance to grab us quite the same way, quite as pervasively. Not yet. N said she hoped there wasn’t a new New Moon trailer for HP because she couldn’t deal with the “Beatlemania,” and that’s just it. I’m not saying Twilight is going anywhere (I don’t think it is, and I don’t want it to) and the hysteria is quite livid, but.

But it’s not Harry Potter. I was 17 in 1999, when I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the recommendation of someone in the Library Club (where I met J, who remains my friend to this day, though he thought I didn’t like him when we first met). They’d already been around in the U.S. for two years and I’d heard about them, but was reluctant to jump on the bandwagon – which seems funny now because compared to how many people would eventually get on the bandwagon, it was nothing in 1999. I was a lonely student who had transferred halfway through high school and I could identify with orphaned Harry Potter and I found it impossible not to get sucked in. I quickly read Chamber and Prisoner, the only books that were out when I started reading. For a long time, HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban was my favorite.

I would eventually turn many people on to Harry Potter, including Mamma Mia! and one of my ex-boyfriends, who was hooked after I read the first chapter to him in the car on the way to a movie. I couldn’t wait till a friend of mine’s son was old enough to be introduced to Harry Potter. Until I could read them to my own children, watch them discover that world for the first time and, in some way, recapture my first time experiencing the world that JK Rowling has given us over the years.

Over the years. That’s an important bit. I’m 27 now. It’s been ten years. A decade. Which isn’t a lot of time in many scopes, but in terms of a “fad” or “craze,” it’s an eternity. So, perhaps, we can say finally that Harry Potter is no fad, no craze. Many of us have grown up with Harry Potter – I imagine the children who were 10 (or younger) when they first read the books, who are twice that now. Half of their life has been influenced by a fictional character in a time when it’s been predicted that every generation will read less and less and seem to forget they have imaginations to use, or even more horribly, sometimes seem not to even have imaginations to use. And I always remember the father who told me, while I was working a HP event at Barnes and Noble, that his 7-year-old son had been behind his reading level, struggling with simple chapter books, then he discovered Harry Potter and finished Goblet in less than a week. That book is 734 pages long. And a 7-year-old boy who’d had trouble reading had finished it in a week. That boy would probably be around 16 or 17 now, the age I was when I began reading. How could he fail to be sentimental or nostalgic about Harry Potter?

I missed out on a midnight showing, but I woke up early to make it for the 10 a.m. at my neighborhood theater. There were some children in the audience, at least two toddlers (who made noises throughout the movie), but by the end of the two and a half hour movie, the entire audience was collectively and completely silent. I’ve rarely experienced that in a movie, where it was clear that we were so wrung out from the emotions we’d experienced and we so needed time to take it in that there was just no way to speak, nothing to say.

Of course I cried. [SPOILERS] An important character died, one who is evocative and beloved by many, but by me, too. And there were two fires at important, cherished dwellings. And much destruction of Hogwarts. That was hard to take, after everything else.

But in its own way, it was satisfying and cathartic, despite the sadness (if that makes sense and I hope it does). I wouldn’t want it any other way because, having read the end of the story, I know that this is the way it’s supposed to be.

I’m going to go re-read the books. I can’t help it. And I don’t want to help it. 🙂

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Some updates

The Book: One reader has gotten back to me – finishing the book in a day and a half! Which is good news itself. She had some really good feedback and I did break down after 9 days and begin a bit (very little) work on the book. The things that need to be fixed are relatively minor and just a matter of layering in a bit more, fleshing some things out. Which is what I was hoping for. Now, it’s been two and a half weeks and except for that bit of work, I’ve been focusing on other things. But the cool thing is that my brain is still processing the book, coming up with the things that I need right before I lay down to sleep or in my sleep, etc.

The Next Major Project: I already have what I believe will be my next book in mind. It will be drastically different from TCB/TWC, very genre. Me said that it sounded like the kind of thing I used to write when I was younger, before grad school, more like the books we read growing up (Dean Koontz). I won’t divulge here, but it will have a kick-ass female protagonist who will literally kick ass. For now, I may do some plotting and research occasionally, but probably won’t get to working on this in a major way till NaNoWriMo in November.

SYTYCD: Very upset that Paris and Tony got booted last week. I really liked them both and enjoyed their hop-hop. Honestly, I think Tony experienced some reverse-favoritism because of his looks, his lack of experience and his height. I suspect Paris got sent home primarily because none of the other boys in danger were tall enough to partner her. She clearly danced better than the other two girls in the “dance for your life” aspect. I really hope Asuka leaves soon cause she annoys me and she seems really one-dimensional as a dancer. Of course I’m watching tonight.

[6.18.09: I claimed that no one was tall enough to partner Paris and watching last night, I realized that Ade probably is (of the guys in the bottom three last week). But I tend to forget about him. He’s a great dancer when he’s right in front of my face, but I never remember him. After watching last night, I’m agreeing more and more with this post by Lyndsey Parker where she discussed the potential for the judges to be giving opposite feedback. Something is off with the judges this season – they claim to be wowed by routines that leave me cold and needlessly pick on routines that I love. For instance: they loved Asuka and Vitolio’s waltz (Mary cried, which I don’t buy) and I was so bored and disinterested. I can’t connect to either of those performers and luckily, it seems like people (other than the judges) agree with me. Whereas I love Randi and Evan, adored their performance last night and the judges seemed to be looking for negatives to pick at. I tend to agree with this break down of the couples and last nights’ performances. We’ll see how it goes tonight. What I really love is that Mamma Mia! and I text each other throughout the show.]

Last night: I experienced a phenomenal show last night, The Devil Makes Three at Hi-Ho Lounge. I hesitate to say much about it here, for the moment, because I’m hoping to review the concert. We’ll see. However, it was perhaps the best live show I’ve seen in a good long while. I’ve already listened to the new c.d., Do Wrong Right, twice since I bought it at 1:30 this morning. The show was opened by a (local? it’s hard to tell, I can’t find them online) band called Death By Arrow that was pretty interesting, especially once they hit the mid-point of their set.

Some quick links:

An SLS teacher of mine, Tom Swick is in the latest issue of Oxford American.

I’m writing about the latest One Book One Community read, Poor Man’s Provence, for 225.

Dave Eggers writes non-fiction about Katrina.

AP Style gets with it re: Twitter.

Toad and Frog, some of my favorite characters, have new adventures.

This piece about race in a community magazine has a bit of a Rorschach test in its title.

Christian group wants to burn Francesca Lia Block books as part of an effort toward “Safe Libraries” and I’m thinking they’ve never read Fahrenheit 451. Which would make sense. This makes me very angry and there’s a lot more flip and funny and mean things I could say, but I won’t. Read the piece, read all the press and I’m sure those flip, funny and mean things will come to you naturally.

Ending on a good note, Flashlight Worthy Books is on Twitter. And everywhere else, too. 🙂

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