Tag Archives: Entertainment Weekly

Re-Reading in the World

Re-reading has understandably become a big deal to me this year. It comes up at cocktail parties and in every day conversations. Actively re-reading a certain subset of books that have been important to me has changed how I think of books I’m reading now for the first time. And also helping me decide which books I really want to read. I think it’s helping me be a bit more selective.

So here are some spots where it has come up in articles I’ve read recently.

In a March article, Hephzibah Anderson writes about re-reading as the ultimate guilty pleasure while reviewing two books about re-reading particular titles: My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead and How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis. Here’s one line that particularly struck me, as I’ve moved into the second half of my Re-Reading Project”

 “…though the words on the page stay the same, our readings of them change.”

Truly. It’s been a really fascinating thing to contemplate, how my readings of these books compare to my memories of them.

And this entire paragraph resonated deeply with me:

For children, it’s a comfort. As we become accustomed to a world in which change is the only real constant, the familiarity of the book at bedtime is something to cling to. Adults aren’t immune to those feelings, either. To quote the septuagenarian writer Larry McMurtry: “If I once read for adventure, I now read for security. How nice to be able to return to what won’t change.”

In the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, Tina Jordan has a rather sad essay about re-reading one of her favorite books, The Mists of Avalon, in light of the allegations that Marion Zimmer Bradley committed sexual abuse, from the author’s daughter. As Jordan  mentions, the author died in 1999 and can’t defend herself, but there seems to be a lot of evidence that something unsavory happened. Jordan re-read The Mists of Avalon, intentionally trying to discover if she could divorce this new information about the author from the experience of reading the book. It turned out she couldn’t.

“Reading Bradley’s work through this new filter made me queasy — and I won’t be doing it again.”

I’ve been wanting to re-read Bradley’s The Firebrand, which was a book I really loved in my teens. I even considered it for this project, but I read it one year too late for my “under 16” stipulation. Who knows if I will ever re-read it now, or if I will be able to “forget” about the allegations about the author and enjoy the story? Who knows what the adult me would’ve thought of it without the knowledge of these allegations?

As a writer myself, this is a tough question. Who I am as a person, what I think and what I do, are all utterly a part of who I am as an artist. But I think it would be possible to not like me as a person and still appreciate my writing. It’s an interesting thing to contemplate since I’m both a novelist and now, a memorist.

Well, as I was searching for a link to Jones’ essay (it’s not live yet, probably next week), I found a happier re-reading essay from her, about re-reading the Harry Potter series over the summer of 2011, which is something I’ve tried to do every year. Enjoy.

 

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Re-Reading in the World: Harriet the Spy in EW

I considered re-reading Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy last month for the Re-Reading Project, but ran out of time (I ended up re-reading twice as many books in January as I’d originally planned). Reading through my Entertainment Weekly yesterday, as I religiously do, I saw a great book essay by Hillary Busis about Harriet the Spy (as well as Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) turning 50 this year.

Busis writes about how influential Harriet was for her, growing up 30 years after the book’s 1960s setting:

…I identified so fully with Harriet–her emotions, fear of change, frustration, and loneliness–that she instantly felt like an old friend. Inspired by her, I even started keeping a journal in which I carefully wrote mean things about my friends. During a fateful fifth-grade camping trip, that choice came back to bite me…hard. (P.S. Katy, Julia, Whitney, Kate–I’m still sorry.)

Despite that episode, Harriet wasn’t a bad influence. My bond with her was so strong precisely because her faults and virtues mirrored my own.

It occurs to me that troublesome female characters like Harriet (and Gilly Hopkins and Sammy Keyes) are especially important for young girls, who so often absorb society’s message that their job is to please others, which usually means not pleasing themselves. They’re not supposed to be nosy, or stubborn, or rambunctious, but they often are these things, or feel these things, and they need heroines who show them that it’s okay to be however they are, to ask questions and accept no one’s answers but the ones they find for themselves.

Have no fear, there will be a Re-Reading post for February–I’m working on it now. And I’ll have a guest post from my sister soon (together, she and I were little girls much like Harriet, Gilly and Sammy and we remain partners in crime today). If you’ve been enjoying theses posts, I hope you’ll consider re-reading an influential book and writing about it, like Maurice has done and Aimee is doing.

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2012 Q3 Reading Report

As I predicted in my last Quarterly Reading Report, July and August were a bit sparse, but I made significant gains in September. And as always, I read some really amazing books. All but two of the sixteen books I read this quarter were from the library. I did go back and buy two of the books after reading them, because I wanted a copy of my very own.

July

Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu – This was an odd, sometimes completely amazing, mishmash of other fantastical children’s tales, pulling from fairy tales like Hansel & Gretel, as well as The Chronicles of Narnia. But, these references were homages, touchstones in a tale that was, in part, about the power of stories and imagination.

One for the Money, Janet Evanovich – You’ll be disappointed to know that I was inspired to read the book by the recent movie (once again). I found this first Stephanie Plum tale amusing and entertaining, though completely dated. But, how can it not be considering how much the world has changed since it was originally published in 1994 (that’s 18 years ago!).

August

Two for the Dough, Janet Evanovich – One of the things I like best about reading these books now is seeing simultaneously how absolutely original and completely influential Stephanie Plum has been in this genre. You can see Sookie Stackhouse’s origins in Stephanie Plum, too, even though they live in different genres.

Oyster, John Biguenet – This book devastated me. I began reading it to prepare for my interview with John Biguenet, but finished it out of entirely selfish reading necessity. I was so utterly captured by this book that I had one of those experiences where I felt like I was living in the world of the book and would bump into the characters at any moment. I also felt the unbearable itch to see this book become a movie, most especially with one of the final scenes.

A Million Suns, Beth Revis – This sequel to Across the Universe was a bit slower to start than the first book, but once I was in, I was truly in. It didn’t quite go where I expected it to, which I appreciate. I’m fairly good at predicting plots and twists (both in movies and books), so my hat comes off to a book or movie that can surprise me without making me feel cheated. Can’t wait for the third book, Shades of Earth, which is coming out shortly after m birthday next year.

Out of  Sight, Out of Time, Ally Carter – The latest in Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, which I’ve enjoyed for a while. This one took a bit of an odd turn, elevating the “what I did last summer” essay to new heights, introducing amnesia and a spy adventure after the fact. At first, I wasn’t so sure about this twist in the series, especially since it’s been a little while since I read the last one, but I settled in just fine. I love that Carter writes about teen girls, who also happen to be spies and con artists.

Tiny, Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed – Poor you, if you spent any time with me while I was reading this book. I did not talk (or think!) about anything else as I quickly devoured it and for a while after I finished. Sugar (Strayed) presents a master course on absolute, raw courage in nonfiction, not to mention how to write about yourself without being self-centered. Made me excited to read Wild, though the subject matter hadn’t previously appealed to me.

River Road, Suzanne Johnson – My interview with Johnson will be forthcoming from is in this month’s issue of 225 Magazine. Let me just say, this is what I read during my Hurricane Isaac evacuation.

September

Hot Stuff, Janet Evanovich + Leanne Banks – This is the “fluffy audio book” mentioned in the Leg Three post from the Grandma Road Trip. It truly is fluffy. It did the trick though, which was gave Mums and me something to listen to while driving, engaging enough to listen to, but not complicated enough to distract us from driving.

Naughty Neighbor, Janet Evanovich – This one was begun on Leg Four and finished on Leg Five. I hate to say it, but I kinda wish we’d given this one a pass and moved on sooner to the loooong audio book that I resisted, but which Mums picked out. That one ended up being very engaging and we didn’t get to finish it.

Reunion, Alan Lightman – This one was recommended to me by a writer friend when I told him I’m writing about tango and dance. The funny thing is that though he recommended it to me, in part at least, because it features a dancer, I think I needed to read it for an entirely different reason. Another interesting thing is that this book is of a type that is usually like nails on a chalkboard to me (literary, male character longing for the past and an idealized woman he’s probably invented), yet I loved it. Mysterious. While I didn’t buy Reunion, I did later buy Lightman’s book of essays Dance for Two. It remains to be seen how much the essays will actually be about dance.

The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan – One of two books bought at The Book Table in Oak Park during Leg Four of the Grandma Road Trip. It’s small enough to fit into a purse, so I ended up tucking it into mine and reading the whole thing over the next few days. Partly because the book is written in relatively short “dictionary entries,” this is one of those books where you can say, “hey, I have a minute, let me read a page or two” and you end up reading twenty before you know it.

Wife 22, Melanie Gideon – I read a write-up about this one in Entertainment Weekly and was both intrigued and skeptical. I wasn’t sure if it would hold my interest, but I ended up gulping it up in like 24 hours. I’m not surprised that it’s going to be made into a movie. It’s got the best combination of knowing what’s coming and yet you can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Switched, Torn, Ascend, Amanda Hocking – Because I don’t live under a rock and I’m somewhat plugged into the publishing world, I heard about a successful self-published writer selling the rights to her already-released e-books to a traditional publisher for what I think ended up being a $2 million deal. So, I thought I’d give them a try. You can see the self-published thumbprint on this books and not for the stereotypical reason you’d think. They’re compelling and well-edited. Where you can see their origins in self-publishing is a contradiction: there was no gatekeeper to tell Hocking her odd-ball ideas wouldn’t sell (trolls as sexy creatures and heroes? depicted sexual acts and cursing?) and you can clearly see that Hocking was writing the type of story she enjoys reading, so it fits nicely on the shelf next to other “popular paranormal teen books.”

Whew. So many books, so little time! I do my best. Already can’t wait for the fourth quarter report cause I’m reading some great books. Till then…

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Where Y’At?

Last week, I got a gig working on a film and I’ll be doing this for a bit. Film jobs have their ups and downs, but all in all, I am really, really glad to be back on another show. The company is great (and it better be, with 12-hr days!) and it just really gets my blood going.

Jamey always says the universe gives you what you want and you’d just better be clear on what you want. I’ve taken liberties with what she says, but I think the message is generally correct. 🙂 Shortly before this gig came up, I was telling a friend in a coffee shop, “My whole body hurts when I see movie vans and I’m not working on a show.” So, the universe gave me what I needed and I’m glad it did.

The bounty of my Netflix queue offered up Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, which started filming at the tail end of The Final Destination, just a few blocks from us. Then, on Friday, at the end of my long-ass work week, I got my issue of Entertainment Weekly. The Summer Movie Preview issue, no less, which highlighted two movies filmed in New Orleans, around the same time: Jonah Hex and The Expendables. I see that Jonah Hex filmed at Lafayette #1, a cemetery near my house. I’ll be looking for that now.

So that’s where I’m at lately. I’ll carve out some time for the book, somehow, because I’m this close to finishing it. This close means I’m at page 231 of what will be about a 300 page manuscript.

Today, I swung by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s Meet the Authors event, which featured some friends of mine. David Madden was representing his newest book, Abducted By Circumstance, and also a story that had been reprinted in Best of LSU Fiction, edited by Nolde Alexius and Judy Kahn. Then, there was presentation by Scott Ellis, author of Madame Vieux Carre and Elise Blackwell read from her newest novel, An Unfinished Score.

Let me tell you about this event. You’d kinda have to know about New Orleans in order to fully appreciate what I’m about to tell you. If you do know New Orleans, imagine the prettiest day imaginable. Bright sun, but not too hot. Absolutely clear, a sweet breeze blowing in. Lots of tourists, but not too many. You’re in the Cabildo, the upstairs room with all the windows overlooking Jackson Square and past that, the little amphitheater that’s on the river side of Decatur, right on the levee. Everything is beautiful and happy, for a moment out of time. You’re in a room with writers you admire and some you know and love. Everybody’s got new books (which you buy, that’s what credit cards are for), everybody’s dressed for spring, everybody’s digging the mint julep tea. Then, Elise Blackwell reads from her book, about a viola player, about music, and from the square below, teeming with Tarot and palm readers, musicians and street performers, an unseen man starts singing opera in this big, round voice that reaches up into the room, dueting with Elise’s voice perfectly. That’s what happy is. That’s what New Orleans is.

And then, there’s always Stanley’s afterward, with Maurice. And a few hours after that, there’s gonna be watching Treme at a great bar with friends. Actually, that second part would be in about an hour, y’all, I got to get going…

But before I do, here’s some pictures, cause you know I’m all about giving you presents.

David and I

Judy Kahn, Scott Ellis, David Madden, Elise Blackwell, Nolde Alexius

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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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Writing about music…

is still writing.

Today I am faced with a short review of The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips in EW and then his playlist blog for Living with Music. Guess which was more effective in making me want to read the book?

EW gave The Song Is You an A-, but the reviews are so wildly unreliable in determining what I will like that it’s amusing. But then they’re not reviewing for me, are they? Who are they reviewing for? Who does anybody review for?

I’m not going to answer that.

So I read Living with Music religiously, yet somehow seemed to have fallen behind. Today, I caught up and when I read the following, I was like, “I’m sold…”

2) Sympathy for the Devil, the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger, channeling Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita” and feeling more than up to the task of speaking for Satan, ends up producing one of the great works of the 20th century, encapsulating a couple millenniums of evil in six minutes and, like a good alumnus of the London School of Economics, blaming the Russian Revolution on the Prince of Darkness.

I managed to write about music and a book. I’d say that was a pretty successful use of my time.

[4.17.09: My copy of The Song Is You came in today. At Cheers, I read the prologue and since it deals with Billie Holiday’s I Cover the Waterfront, I put that on while I read. I honestly got chills. It was hard to put the book down and get to work.]

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A yummy all-media post

Going back to one of my favorite things to blog about – media. Yum.

Let’s start with movies. In a distant time and place (okay, say for a while before spring 2007 and in Baton Rouge), I used to have a Sunday-movie tradition that got disrupted by graduation, my European tour and moving to New Orleans. I re-established it with Confessions of a Shopaholic. I haven’t read the books, but I did enjoy the movie. I remember reading somewhere (EW?) a review that questioned whether big-spending would go over well with a recessed audience. But I think some of the messages of the film – don’t count just on material possessions, credit cards and debt collectors are the devil – is all the more poignant because of this recession. Isla Fisher is amazing and I always love Hugh Dancy (oh yes, I do), so even though I felt like the romantic elements were a little rushed, I still believed them cause the actors are awesome at what they do. I love that Isla Fisher is such a physical comedienne, which is reminiscent of the best of Debra Messing (I’ve been a fan since 1998’s 13 episodes of Prey, which was NOT comedy) and, even better, Lucille Ball (who I’ve been compared to in my dizzier, hopefully more brilliant moments).

Now let’s talk t.v. I think I’ve come out as an American Idol fan before and if I haven’t, I suppose this is my big confession. I started watching a few seasons ago and probably got hooked cause it was fun to watch with my neighbors and friends. Now I’m just hooked. The good, the bad, the ugly, I’m there. Sad to say. I am more reluctant and less enthusiastic about the early train-wreck auditions, if that does make you feel any better. Enough defense. 🙂 So far, though this season is definitely weird, I’m entirely satisfied with the first six going through. I looooove Alexis Grace and Allison Iraheta really blew me away (she wasn’t really on my radar before her performance). However, if anybody is reading this, I do hope this is heard – Megan Corkrey and Stevie Wright MUST, must, do you hear me, be wild card picks for the top 12. I’ll tell you now, I don’t care what happens to Megan Corkrey on this show – I will buy any c.d. she puts out. I love her voice. It’s probably too early to say the word “favorite,” since I haven’t even seen 12 people perform and I do love some others, but… Predictions for the three picked from this last set of 12 (really, AI, confusing) are: Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds and let’s say…Alex Wagner, but I remember liking Kendall Beard, too. Let’s see what happens tonight.

[3.6: I must’ve had a premonition that they’d pick four contestants, rather than just three. And I was right about two of the last set of three before the wild cards. That was a pretty easy call, though.]

More t.v. Can I just say that, after catching up with all three episodes of Dollhouse so far, I am a BIG fan. No, I won’t be staying in on Fridays to watch it, but YES, I will watch it. Hear that, Fox peoples? Let’s have a deal here and now, between you and me. I will watch it, do not cancel it. But then, I knew I would love it, since I do love my Joss Whedon (insert collective sigh for Firefly here). Big fan of Eliza Dushku, too (in part thanks to Joe, love you dear). This show is smart, funny, addictive. And it’s slick and pretty. Has all the best elements of classic Whedon, also reminds me of Alias a bit (which is great as J.J. Abrams is another big love of mine). I think, honestly, it would’ve been paired better with Fringe than The Sarah Conor Chronicles (Fringe has a strong, kick-ass woman lead, too and my mamma mia! and I text throughout the episodes), but maybe the Fox folks felt that was too much science and technology and weird conspiracy for one night. I will bow to their greater knowledge of these things – provided they don’t cancel either Dollhouse or Fringe. Have I revealed yet just how big of a dork I am?

Now, books. Reading this cool French girl-adventurer book called The Princetta (and the Captain, apparently). It’s massive and translated and really, really good. Just finished a fun (if a bit weird with the Brit-infected “New Yorker” main character) book called Me and Mr Darcy. Not as good as Austenland, a bit too reminiscent of Bridget Jones, but fun nonetheless. Also, while I’m always a big fan of Sarah Dessen, I was blown away by Lock and Key. Even wrote the author a very personal fan letter.

And something I’ve been wanting to blog about for a few weeks. Let’s see if you can follow this. In a distant time and place (okay, circa 1996 as far as my documents certify and in Georgia), I started reading an author named L.J. Smith. I became a BIG fan, getting involved in a massive fansite online (remember in my first blog when I talked about first engaging in an online life?) called The Night World, which was devoted to all of her books. She wrote several trilogies and a quartet of books (after two linked stand-alones) before beginning a longer series called The Night World, which was supposed to be 10 books long, the last of which, Strange Fate, would be released right before the new millinnieum (which featured in the series). However, due to mysterious illnesses and etc., the book’s never been released. Now it’s 9+ years later and, to my knowledge, the book’s still not out. She’s reappeared, writing under the name Ljane Smith and according to her website, she’s still writing Strange Fate. And coolest of all, as I discovered while at my not-so-local bookstore (I was in Baton Rouge), her series’ are being re-released, omnibus style!! There’s lots of L.J. (as I’ll always know her, short for Lisa Jane) news lately, actually. The CW is apparently creating a t.v. show from The Vampire Diaries. It has a lot to do with the success of the Twilight books and movie, almost certaintly, but these books pre-date all that and rock in their own right. As I said in my comment responding to this piece on Pretty Scary. However you get into L.J. Smith, get into her. I love these books. They predate when I was educated about writing (and judgmental) and just enjoyed books for all their cheesy potential (see: Dean Koontz). And you know what? I was a kid when I read L.J. Smith and Dean Koontz. And all these years later, I still get crazy excited about them, still enjoy their books. So that must say something… Can you tell me what? 🙂

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Personal change and political change, a recap and celebration

Where in the world has Emilie been?

So I fully intended to write a blog responding to the inauguration, was super excited about so many things that day. However, in addition to that good kind of excitement, the rest of the day was devoted to a lot of personal emotional highs and lows. It seemed like drama and emotion was coming at me from every angle and all at once. I did get to cap the evening with a drink to toast President Obama with some friends and that was nice, to come back round to that excitement.

I’m kinda surrounded by President Obama at the moment. I’ve been reading Dreams From My Father for some time now. It’s a brilliant achievement in and of itself, but reading it while knowing that the author became America’s president a few years later is pretty cool. I’m consistently amazed at Obama’s storytelling ability, impressed as a writer studying another writer. And I’m fascinated at how troubled and conflicted he is in the book, that he’s brave enough to demonstrate that. And awed at how fluently he describes things I feel every day and struggle to capture.

Additionally, he’s been on pretty much every cover of Newsweek and Time Magazine lately, or at least it seems so. C., my out-going roommate subscribed to both of those, so I got to peek at his copies when they came in the mail. I believe he was even prominent in EW, which is the mag I subscribe to. A few days after the inauguration, I remember grabbing several magazines and DFMF and laying them out on my desk, suddenly struck by the fact that Obama was featured in and on every one. Luckily, I’m happy to be so surrounded. But it’s gotta be tough to be so exposed. I think this is going to have to subside a bit or we’ll all get a little overwhelmed, even and especially President Obama himself.

Right after the inauguration, I planned to break down my favorite portions of his speech, to discuss my feelings and opinions quite leisurely and completely. But since some time has passed, I’ve come to feel that words are largely inadequate to describe everything I’ve thought since the inauguration completely. There will be no completeness – I can’t blog once and finally about this. It’ll crop up later, I’m now quite confident.

In an opening summation, I feel like the speech hit all the right notes. We need to celebrate Obama’s historic presidency, but we also need to get to work right away. So many of us have such faith in him, faith that he can bring about at least some of the change that we need. But for that faith to work, we need to give him time and have patience and he needs to roll up his sleeves and begin immediately. His speech delivered a confidence that he knows this and is ready, while also celebrating what we have already achieved just by choosing this man for the job. His election stands already as a vote of confidence in our future, a willingness to embrace change and each other.

I was rapt for the entire speech, but my favorite parts were mostly toward the end.

– “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.”

– “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

– “And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”

– “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass…”

– “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” [By far, my favorite moment of the speech.]

– “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

Read the entire text of the speech here.

Newsweek‘s latest issue commemorates the inauguration and I very much enjoyed the quotes at the end from artists, actors and writers. “What Obama Means to Me” in the Voices section is a must read. Here are some of my favorite parts.

“The United States, a country that (to borrow from Kanye) never really cared about black people, has elected a positive, liberal, non-self-loathing black man to the most powerful office on the planet! WTF?! Who besides the science-fiction writers and the producers of 24 and the most optimistic among us could have imagined this? …. I grew up in a world where people in power didn’t look anything like me. I grew up in an America that didn’t reflect me at all, where I was therefore a ghost. …. India and Matteo, though, will grow up in a world where the most powerful man reflects them back, at least in part. This might mean nothing. It might mean everything. But for the first time in human history we’ll have a chance to find out.” – Junot Diaz

“He is a person whose head and heart are connected, who sees people as linked rather than ranked…” – Gloria Steinem

“The world can put faith in our elections. We finally picked the most qualified man.” – Wynton Marsalis [Despite my desire to someday have a woman president, I actually think we finally picked the most qualified PERSON this time around.]

“…and for the first time in the lives of a lot of white Americans, and maybe even Latino Americans and Asian-Americans, there is going to be a black person in their midst on a daily basis. And over the course of time, gradually, they’re not going to see his color, and certainly won’t focus on it. They’re going to see him as Obama. His race is going to disappear. And in and of itself, that’ll be a tremendous revelation: that, to quote the Muppet movie, ‘people is people.'” – Scott Turow

“He’s a very smart guy. I’m sure he will eventually get that his beliefs should not infringe upon my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The same way he fell in love with a beautiful woman and had the right to marry her, I should be able to do the same.” – Wanda Sykes

“He is not a black man. He is a black man and a white man. That’s running in his blood, and this is important. It’s a symbol of the bringing together of two sides…” – Nadine Gordimer

“When we look at Obama we see our own possibility. When we look at ourselves in the mirror of our new leader, we aren’t looking for a single simple narrative to take our differences away. We know that’s not real. We know how complex we are. Maybe we didn’t realize how ready we were to accept our complexity.” – Anna Deavere Smith

“Obama means a world I never thought would come to pass. At least not with me here to see it.” – Sidney Poitier

“I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.” – Barack Obama from his “A More Perfect Union” speech (near the end of the Newsweek issue).

For the record, I couldn’t find any of the Commemorative Inaugural Edition online so I could link to it – I think Newsweek‘s trying to keep it special so people will buy the issue to commemorate the event. I recommend you do so, cause I only selected partial quotes and there was a lot of cool stuff in the issue.

Right after the inauguration, I was talking with anybody who’d listen and started musing over an Obama/Superhero analogy. Because he’s become an important historic figure and such a pop icon (so relatively quickly), I think it’s important that we keep things in perspective. I’m not so worried about President Obama himself – anyone looking at his family can see they’ve got that covered. Now for my superhero comparisons, let’s take the various movie editions because they’re the ones the greatest majority (including me) are more fluent in, because they’re the pop culture result of another pop culture entertainment format that often embodies a lot of psychology and philosophy.

Batman – At first, I thought Obama and Batman are only shallowly related because of the Chicago/Gotham City aspect. Batman is essentially a vigilante and that goes against my vision of Obama. But then I found this blog discussing Obama and politics in relation to the newest Batman movie and I thought it was interesting. It made me think maybe they do have more in common. Batman has no powers and has to use the resources he does have to compensate in order to protect Gotham – intelligence, cleverness, money. And then I remembered an EW piece I read where Obama and McCain were asked their favorite superheros and Obama said, “‘The guys who have too many powers, like Superman, that always made me think they weren’t really earning their superhero status. It’s a little too easy. Whereas Spider-Man and Batman, they have some inner turmoil. They get knocked around a little bit.”

Which brings us to Superman – Superman is iconic of America and though he grew up here and protects America, he’s from elsewhere, Krypton. He was sent here in order to give him the opportunity to survive and thrive, but he remains an insider/outsider. Though American, Obama was raised in Hawaii (at the time a new addition) and Indonesia, his father and many of his family members are from Africa. Like Superman (Kansas), Obama was influced by the midwest (Illinois/Chicago). As Superman can treasure and come to embody American ideals, Obama is an insider who has the perspective of an outsider, who can truly value America because he can see it for what it is, both positive and negative.

And finally, Spider-Man – Remember when Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man gets full of himself from all of the acclaim and attention? Remember how he is brought low? Sometimes the public depicts him as a villain himself. The lesson this should teach us, President Obama included (though I suspect he knows it), is that Spider-Man is a man who does great things. Sometimes he messes up, sometimes he saves us. Despite a superhero’s superhuman status, the essentially function to remind us about human qualities. We need to allow President Obama his humanity, value and respect him, appreciate all that he has done, is doing and will do for this country and our global community. We need to have faith and give him time and we need to keep this pop-frenzy in check so that we do not lose sight of the man within the image, the legend.

So I smile when I see Barack Obama’s face everywhere, but I worry too. We’ll get it right, I know. When it’s hard to have faith, I have faith in President Obama’s humanity and in his awareness of ours.

The economy is troubled and rapid, vast change is underfoot. Ironically but probably appropriately, my life mirrors this. Whenever change happens in my life, it usually comes from all directions and all at once. That is the case now. I was a little preoccupied the past few weeks, but I hope to be writing here regularly again.

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Sex in the City and "uncontacted tribes"

No spoilers here, this time.

First, let me say that I never watched Sex in the City except in snatches whenever my former roommate T. used to watch it. I did read the book, which wasn’t very good, and saw enough snatches to know that the t.v. show brought new life to it. It’s not that I think the show was a bad one – I suspect that it was very well produced, written and acted.

I just can’t be bothered. I’m not interested.

So no biggie. The movie’s not for me. I’m not going on a rabid rant about the fact that the movie exists, but I would like to complain for a second about the fact that Entertainment Weekly, which I subscribe to, devoted over 80 PAGES of their magazine (two issues ago) to the SiC movie. WTF???? WHY??

I understand that some people will find this fascinating and will lap up every exquisite detail of the articles from varied angles. But what about those of us readers, male and female, who don’t give a shit about this movie? That was a wasted issue for us because there were maybe 10 pages we could actually read. I’ve NEVER seen EW devote so much of an issue to a single item (a lot of an issue, yes, but not over 4/5, not 80 FREAKING PAGES). Even if they devoted 80 pages to something I cared about, I’d still wonder why they were doing it. 80 pages is a lot in a floppy, glossy entertainment magazine. I mean, why didn’t they just publish an insert that those of us who don’t care about SiC can throw away???

What makes me sad is the fact that I haven’t seen and will likely never see SiC and I’m still willing to bet it’s a better movie than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. At least in the sense of keeping true to its universe and having a legitimate story that makes sense.

I still don’t care, though. That’s probably SiC‘s worst crime – failure to make me give a shit. Otherwise, it’s pretty freaking awesome, I’m sure.

Now. “Uncontacted tribes.” Yeah. Go read the article and look at all of the pictures they link to. Two thoughts. First, if they’re aiming weapons at you, you have contacted them. They’re not “uncontacted.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m splitting hairs. But still. Second, what’s with my suspicious mind that immediately thought – this is a hoax or an advertisement for Survivor. I love me some Survivor (been watching it my entire adult life), but I seriously wouldn’t put it past Probst and Burnett. If there are “uncontacted tribes” on this planet, let’s all do them a favor and leave them that way. That means, no logging their villages away and no flying aircraft over them in order to get pictures. Get it? Got it? Good.

And no matter what you think, SiC and uncontacted Amazon tribes ARE connected in a very real way and viable co-subjects for one blog post. Promise. 🙂

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