Thursday, August 28, 2014

#TBT: Middle School or the Seventh Circle of Dante's Inferno

Luke starts sixth grade in one week. Maybe it's different for boys, and easier somehow because they don't mature as quickly as girls, but I found almost all of middle school to be hellish. I was too young to do anything on my own like go to the Quick Mart, and too old to play with stuffed animals and dolls. Plus, I was losing that ability to forget myself in games I made up. Or maybe that happened in seventh grade. I do remember this distinct feeling of loss--losing the ability to be able to make up pretend stories, like when kids play house or imagine they are super heroes. When you're little and making stuff up, there's a part of you that believes it's real--you really are Wonder Woman or Batgirl or slaying dragons or running away from monsters--it's possible to forget that you're a human girl and imagine that you are more than that and the world has mystical things like dragons and if you concentrate hard enough, you might be able to fly or time travel. When you're younger, you can still capture that feeling, or maybe it's more about having the ability to not be self-conscious. Because somewhere around age 11 or 12, those feelings evaporate and you are concious of every single thing about yourself, your family, the car your mom drives, the way your legs are moving as you walk, your stomach rumbling in the middle of class, how nerdy it is to bring a bagged lunch and how your mom still writes your name on the front even though you've asked her not to--all of these things that didn't matter, such as how your arms hang at your sides, become painfully obvious and horrible.

Even the name of where you're going is bad. You are entering "middle school." It's like "middle age," this nebulous existence where you're neither young nor old, you're just in between and stuck.  For years.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wherein All of the Eggs are in One Basket

The show always starts with this benign preview nonsense. We pick up right after the final rose ceremony where everyone is oh-ing and ah-ing over the fact that Michelle got a 100th chance for love on this journey. She literally went from going home empty handed to staying there with huge lines of black mascara running down her Barbie face. AshLee astutely observes that there is one less guy than usual, forgetting again that they always add extra people.

First date card goes to Robert. He better ask out the one-arm lady. He does, mainly because they want to show her jumping into the water with just the one arm. Michelle goes from thrilled to absolutely pissed and crying more in the bathroom. Graham knocks on the door to comfort her. Highs and lows! Dude, he didn't pick you in the final rose ceremony, he's not going to then ask you out on a date, AND let us not forget that you shouldn't want to go on a date with a guy who has just expressed disinterest in you. She's going to go for Graham now.

She is totally wrecking that white towel with by wiping tons of mascara and snot on it. "In the back of her head," she imagines that all of the guys know she has a daughter and so they don't want her. Not in the front of her head, but she knows this in the back lobe, near the cerebral cortex.

Michelle agrees to do Sarah's hair in a Swiss Miss braid so that she can go swimming and sailing with Robert. I hope a shark doesn't attack and take off her other arm. It feels fake and forced to me, but that might be my own prejudice. Is it so hard to believe that a Rob Lowe look alike (named Robert) would be into a one-armed lady?

Hey guess what? Cody has arrived and I couldn't be less happy about it. He is the WORST. Remember? Remember how big his muscles are and remember his stupid hair cut and total frat boy attitude and what Clare calls positive energy and I call cocaine? He asks out Clare, who hesitates and asks Zach what he thinks. Clare is not going to put her eggs in one basket if the other person isn't going to put all of his eggs in one basket, she tells him.
 Zach says, From the beginning, I have had all of my eggs in your basket. He said that, people. While Michelle curls her eyelashes, Clare explains how she feels. She is direct. And I like her again. None of these guys are interesting at all. Graham and Zach with their super shaved buff chests and snakeskin necklaces discuss it. Is Graham a war vet or did he buy those dogs tags at Urban Outfitters?

Clare turns down Cody, because he's a goofball, but she uses the excuse that she wants to see what happens with Zach. Oh, yeah, I forgot that Cody does this thing where he refers to himself in the third person like a caveman. "Cody knows what Cody wants!" Cody decides to give his date card to Marcus because he feels like a dog asking out someone else since it would seem like that person was second fiddle. Clare hopes she made the right decision by following her gut. She wonders if Zach is worth it as she realizes he always wears his baseball hat backwards.

Second date with Lacy and Marcus. She also looks like a Barbie. How long have they known each other--two weeks? One week? Marcus says Lacy looks beautiful and then he accidentally says, I love you for you are--I mean, I like you for who you are. Boring. I bet the producers are banging their heads against the wall, trying to figure out how to make this more dramatic.

Did Sarah and Robert get killed in a shipwreck? What happened to the rest of the date?

A new man arrives and it is...Caitlan, the walking brown-haired Ken doll. He says that he is looking for someone with boobs. Everyone hates him because he's been cast as a pig. I guess he told Emily on her season that her kid was baggage. He says he would like to motor boat the shit out of her boobs. They must have forced him to say it. That makes two full-on duds in this episode. He asks Jackie to go and she says no, and then he asks Sarah and she also says no. None of them like him and all of them say that they are zero percent attracted to him. He decides to go spelunking by himself . He has to comfort himself and his own fears by hugging himself and telling himself he's going to be okay. He says that he hasn't rappelled into a giant Mexican hole, but he has rappelled into a tiny Mexican hole. Hoopla! This guy cannot be for real. He acts out the date with himself and says all of the cheesy lines, which is moderately amusing. He decides to spend the rest of his life with himself.

Jessie, yet another playboy, shows up. That's all of the crappy men in one place. Does he or does he not have a beard? He can't commit to facial hair and so I doubt that he can commit to a woman. He asks out Jackie and Marquel immediately puts his hoodie on in distress. Marquel has very chiseled features as though he has been carved out of stone.

Jessie takes Jackie to a Mayan cave with stalactites. He says, If you don't look someone in the eyes when you say cheers, that's seven years bad sex. Jackie wants to know if he's strategizing to make sure that he gets a rose. He says yes, sort of. She can't be falling for all of this. Oh, no. A two person band in the middle of a cave. Guys, what am I doing with my time? Like, I can see how someone might want to watch this show the first four times--but then...It stays the same. It is always and ever the same. Time for a cereal break.

Conflict is brewing as AshLee disses Clare in the hammock to Zach, not realizing that cameras are capturing it, even though she is on a reality show that is meant to catch interesting conversations, a rarity. What's also weird about the show is that half of the people disappear at a time. Because they focus on certain narratives, others don't get told or wrapped up properly. It's another example of a fiction "don't." Don't have too many characters in your story. You should only have as many characters as you need to tell a story--too many, and it's confusing and/or watered down.

They all gather by the fire and then AshLee decides to face Clare, realizing that it will give her more air time. She says that she's not sure why Clare is mad and Clare says, You have no idea what this is about? They go back in forth wiht AshLee stupidly saying that she's not upset with Clare and Clare looking at her like, Oh, good, you're not upset with me? She tells AshLee that it was tacky and not becoming a woman of her fake character. Also, could she please spell her name normally? AshLee, misreading ever social cue that Clare is giving her, asks if they can hug it out. Clare says, No, I'm good.

All the girls have baby voices.

Final Rose Ceremony

We can guess that Cody and Caitlan will be going home, and from the previews, we also know that Graham will be conflicted about whether or not to accept a rose from AshLee. Oh, wait, I forgot that Cody gave Michelle a back massage and so she's falling for him. Gross! He is so bland and obnoxious at the same time. Jesse looks exactly like Chris who looks exactly like 100 other unshaven guys. They are accidentally catching the bartender guy on camera, who turns out to be a hot Hawaiian dude. Maybe Michelle should date him. The bartender doesn't know how to get out of the shot. Michelle tells Graham about how AshLee is full of shit. Graham says, If you can't be yourself, then you can't be who you are, because that's your true self. Too much vodka.

Wrap it up, already. Do you realize that there is an extra show tomorrow night? I am not 100 percent sure I can commit to it.

Graham is too drunk to know what he will be doing for this evening. I hope Marquel gets to stay.

Lacy gives the rose to Marcus. Is she a human person?

Clare gives her rose to Zach. Clare is wearing a fake ponytail.

AshLee offers her rose to Graham. Graham does not move!! He asks to have a moment to himself, hence the extra episode.

TO BE CONTINUED (they write in huge letters across the screen). Cut to singer from the cave.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Because of You, a Novel illustrating how annoying it is to use the second person

It's not written in second person, not really--what I mean to say is that the first person narrator spends most of the novel in direct address to a man who is stalking her. With sentences like, "You were waiting for me at the bus stop. Seeing you made my stomach turn over, like a fish was dying in it. You smiled, your perfect teeth reminding me of a wolf from a fairy tale story that ended badly." I made those passages up, but you get the gist. I only read about fifty pages before giving up.

 Look, I know it's fiction and we should maintain our willing suspension of disbelief, but I was annoyed that the woman didn't consider going to the police to report her stalker until well into the harassment. And when she did, the police were like, Has he hurt you? Threatened you? No. Then there's nothing we can do. That may be true, I don't know. But it's still annoying to read a book where the suspense created isn't because of an interesting story with compelling characters, it's because of a victim whose main action is waiting to be attacked again.

I should remember this problem for when I teach fiction again--we want our central characters to  be active participants in the story, not little lambs bumping around in their day-to-day existence, waiting to be slaughtered. Do something, damnit. I also was annoyed early on by the writer doing that thing where she describes the narrator by having her look at herself in the mirror: "She noticed that her brown shoulder length bobbed hair had become threaded with white and her cornflower blue eyes with the thick eyelashes were looking haggard and dull." Cheater!

I also started reading Madness, by that woman who wrote Wasted--she likes to put herself on the entire cover of her memoirs--here, I found myself annoyed by the over-dramatization of the story. I like my nonfiction writers a bit like Cheryl Strayed--flat and matter of fact, rather than overwrought. This woman's story is compelling because she's struggling with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, but again, there was something victim-y about it. It didn't help that she was from an upper middle class family and so money wasn't an issue in terms of her care; it was just that she wouldn't or couldn't stay still enough to get help, and the cash flow allowed her to get even more crazy--to drive off to Mexico and live on whiskey in bad hotels without fear of running out of money. Her writing is affecting in some ways--difficult to read as she's purposefully cutting her own wrist, not in a suicide attempt, but because she wants to feel something. But then she would have passages like, :"I am standing on the cathedral steps. I am flying. I am drinking a bottle of vodka, where am I? I wake up on the floor with a velvet cushion pressed to my head and take the little pill that has appeared before me and disappear again."

I must be in the throes of something myself, perhaps annoyed that I feel like a victim of circumstances I created, and so I'm doubly-irritated when I see that quality in others--this inability to find the door yourself, to figure out how to get out.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rainbows and Condoms

I don't know what all this chatter is about. Has the show started or is this all a preview? Or is it a recap? Or a preview of the recap?

Elise says, "Through the storm, comes a rainbow. And I want Chris to be my rainbow." There must be a dirty joke there somewhere.

A semi-black girl named Danielle joins the group, just to throw in a little excitement and so they can make a gesture toward diversity. Her date card says, "Choose a man of your choice to go on a date." I guess that's written by the same person who came up with the rainbow line. "Pick a person who is picking a people's very first choice." Danielle chooses Marquel. It appears that nerd glasses are in.

Meanwhile, this other girl is upset, but you can't really tell because she's wearing a distracting Cleopatra head dress and a watermelon-sized turquoise ring.

Lacy is so beautiful that she's hard to look at. It's like she's this super cute puppy that you just want to squeeze until it pops.

Elise gets the next date card. She's been waiting for this for such a long time, she says. One week. AshLee is bummed because she wanted to go with Chris. Who is Chris? Oh, the jerk who looks like a date rapist. Elise sits on his lap and he says, "Hell, yeah!" Elise thinks she and Chris will make a beautiful rainbow together. She SAID that. Uh oh, he can't go because he sprained his balls. Or something. Serves him right, is what I say. I just know he's guilty of something.

Back to Marquel and Danielle in an unprecedented moment where there are two black-ish guests on a date together. This has never happened before because they never cast an African-American as the lead. Danielle confesses that she's had a crush on him. They keep smiling at each other. I think maybe they do like each other, a little. The wind picks up and so they decide to hop out of the hot tub and almost get killed by a lightning bolt. Should they take this as a bad sign?

Michelle is purposefully over-curling Elise's hair into a huge bouffant so that she'll look ridiculous. I kind of feel sorry for Chris now that he's sweating in pain from his torn ball ligament. Even though he just said, "She's hot, and she's got a banging body." She does have a banging body and it's enclosed in turquoise mesh.

I missed a bunch of stuff because I was eating ice cream. Hey, Sarah, you're going home. What did I not get a chance to write about? About Elise and Chris having two very different experiences. She's experiencing him as a true gentleman, and he's experiencing her as a hot piece of ass.  They go to the fantasy suite and he manages to push through his pain. Michelle and Clare couple up with two other guys and Sarah feels left out and like she doesn't measure up because of the one arm thing. Michelle firmly states that she has closed the door with Marquel and put all of her energy into convincing Robert that she likes him so she can get a rose.

Another hot chick shows up and all of the women comment about her amazing body.

Below, please find the choices for what type of body you might have. Mine, I believe, falls under the classical "full hourglass" shape. Do they have these same type of body types for men so they can decide what kind of Dockers to buy to look thinner?

Zack B. thinks the new woman is adorable. Who is Zack B? The new arrival also picks Marquel for her one on one date and Michelle accuses him of being a slut for saying yes to all of these dates. I mean, who cares? He's only gone out once with all of them. And anyway, what's the woman supposed to do when six of the seven available men are holding hands with a woman who is clinging to him like a burr? Did Graham go home? I thought everyone was into Graham.

Oh, speaking of Graham, he's complaining to Michelle about how AshLee glommed onto him and how she's way ahead of the curve. They haven't even kissed and she's acting like they're getting married. I find Graham to be kind of average looking. He has a great six pack, but an average face.

Marquel feels a lot of chemistry with Jackie in her short short short white shorts. I also don't remember Jackie from Sean's season. Marquel asks Jackie what her definition of love is. She says it's attraction, a feeling of comfort, and that spark. And a rainbow. Marquel thinks maybe she was the one he was "waiting on." He says he doesn't believe in kissing on the first date, but he'll make an exception for her and kiss her loudly on an Aztec blanket.

Elise describes her night with Chris as incredible, and then they rush him to the ER because he has over-extended himself and will now have to be in a wheelchair and become an Oxycotin addict. Aw, bummer for Elise, who goes to fetch ice. Meanwhile, Robert picks a zit on his arm.

Elise likes to take care of Chris and be his nurse and she can't wait to be his full time care taker for the rest of her life and possibly even be on Intervention with him due to his brand new pill-popping habit.

Sarah warns Elise not to be too into Chris. Elise says she isn't, she just can't help it that she falls in love so fast. Robert may be playing games with Sarah by casually putting his arm on the back of her chair, the arm that he just picked a zit on.

Clare is cuddling on the beach with someone who might be Zack B. She is missing her dad so bad, she says. Zack has really stepped up by listening to her and not telling her to suck it. Clare then snaps out of it by spotting a dying turtle crawling across the beach to perish alone in the water. She sees it as a sign of her dad, who also died after laying eggs in a sand pit.

Graham and AshLee finally have a date together. Why is Graham wearing a newspaper rubber band on his wrist? Graham warns AshLee not to put too much pressure on forever. AshLee nods in instant agreement and quickly stashes the Bride magazine underneath her tiny floral dress. They are offered two keys and Graham, who might be religious, makes it clear that he does not want to sleep with her on the first date, even though he knows she would totally give it up for him and Jesus. Did she really just say that she thinks they would have hot babies? Yes, she did. Graham is a dope. A dope in a wife beater under a denim shirt. "Later," he says when they part.

Chris Harrison shows up, dressed like Danny Terrio in a three piece suit with a vest. What is the goal of this game? I don't understand how these people are supposed to win. Sarah still has hope that Robert will give her a rose. He won't, unless Michelle totally blows it. And she might. I hope she does. Robert tells Michelle that he doesn't want to talk about the final. rose ceremony, and Michelle says she does. Maybe she should stop wearing such dramatic eye shadow and head dresses.

This is boring.

Final Rose Ceremony

I believe that Danielle will be going home. Marquel needs to pick either the glasses or the Hawaiian shirt. Both together make him look like a wacky radio host. Quiet please, we must begin.

Graham picks AshLee, even though he doesn't like her very much.

Zack B. picks Clare. Zack looks like a former football player who might become pear-shaped very soon.

Marcus picks Lacy. Neither have had much air time this show, because they are equally desperate to find someone and paired off thirty seconds after meeting. Mostly, they sit in beach chairs, holding hands and having nothing to say to one another.

Marquel will pick Jackie. Danielle thinks that her mind is racing. She's not sure. She definitely thinks that it is. He picks...Jackie.

Robert will pick Michelle. He looks a bit like Rob Lowe. Pick Sarah. Don't be a dick. He picks...Sarah. Wow, she gets to stay one more week! Michelle starts crying.

Chris could pull a total dick move and pick Michelle. THAT would be great, because Elise has waited on him hand and mouth. He picks Elise, but will toss her off for the next hot bod that comes along. WHAT, he can't give her the rose because he has to go home to Chi-town and he wants her to travel with him to continue to cater to his every need without pay.

Does that mean that Michelle can stay or do the two women have to arm wrestle for the rose? Elise mentions rainbow again. He gives the rose to Michelle instead. He is totally drugged up and can barely articulate his clouded thought process.

So, Michelle will stay and hope someone better comes along. Sarah must be pissed that she has to continue to vie for Robert's half-hearted attention. Chris and Elise limp off the set. Elise is limping too, because of her high heels.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sort of Liked The Likeness

Just finished reading Tana French's The Likeness, the second literary detective novel featuring Cassie Maddox, a weary detective in Dublin. The first was In the Woods--I have no recollection of the plot, as I read it a few years back and the details have since fled my brain. Something about some missing kids, and she and her partner Rob end up finding one of them, but there's a bleak ending. Most of this I recall because it's referenced in the second novel.

In any case, this plot centers around a girl who is found stabbed to death near an old mansion outside of the city. The twist is that she's a doppleganger for Cassie, and she happens to be using Cassie's old undercover identity. It sounds a bit on the soap opera side, you know, like when an evil twin suddenly surfaces and wrecks havoc on things, but it doesn't read that way.

Cassie, who has transferred out of the undercover life and into the numbing hell of domestic violence, is persuaded to go back in undercover, this time posing as Lexie, the dead girl. The detectives are able to come up with some tale for her roommates about how she wasn't really dead---she may have appeared to be dead, but it was hypothermia and now she's in a coma. Cassie watches all of these old videos of the dead girl to get down her voice and her personality, and then she returns to the house where Lexie lived with four other odd graduate students from Trinity College.They've created this comfortable family life in this old but interesting house, and spend their evenings reading or working together to repair the house. Cassie immerses herself in their lives and they accept her. Meanwhile, she's trying to figure out who might have stabbed Lexie--could it be someone in this group? An angry ex-boyfriend? Someone who is actually after Cassie, but not Lexie? In the meantime, the detectives on the outside are attempting to puzzle together the identity of this mystery girl, without much luck.

Do you want to know who killed her? It does not come as much of a surprise. What's more interesting is how Cassie falls in love with this life that doesn't belong to her, and these people who are virtual strangers.There is a bit of a fairy tale-like ending, where Cassie gets engaged to her steady, good boyfriend, the case is solved, and she is able to reconnect with one of the members of the house later. And then, if I'm not mistaken, there's a bit of a mystery remaining as to whether or not they caught the right murderer, or if this person took the fall for someone else (here, I'm momentarily resisting the urge to Google what other readers thought of the ending). Overall, I recommend the book, but only if you are interested in reading a thriller that's got a slow burn, and focuses more on the psychology of wanting to be accepted than it does on the motive for murder.

#TBT. Travels to Italy

When I lived in Chicago, my friend Becky Wittenstrom (who I worked with at Northwestern), suggested out of the blue one day that we take a trip to Italy. I'd only ever been to Germany, and had never taken a trip with a friend, but she was a go-getter and found us tickets for a long weekend to fly to Rome and then take a train to Florence. Or maybe it was the other way around. She was an excellent travel companion, organized without being too bossy, un-fussy, and interested in both seeing the important sites (the Uffizi, the Colosseum) and walking the streets to just see what was happening.

Here is a picture that represents one of the happiest moments in my life, because all of my favorite things converged at one time--a shop dog named Crisso (I wrote his name on the back of the photo), a gelato, and an adventure in a foreign land with a good companion.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Existential Crisis Brought on by a Another Dead Celebrity

Robin Williams killed himself yesterday and I'm not going to offer some supposedly meaningful quote from a movie script he didn't write anyway, or say that we just don't yet understand it but God does, or like, post a comment to his now-dead self on his Instagram account. He will not be reading Instagram any longer, not from heaven or hell or somewhere in between. This manic, too smart person who struggled with addiction and had three kids and two ex-wives and didn't slide away into oblivion like whomever Mindy was from Mork and Mindy---he still couldn't find a reason to live. Like, he built a film career which is rare for people starting out in sitcoms and he was supposedly doing what he loved and that wasn't enough. And maybe it wasn't what he wanted it to be or maybe he hated Sarah Michelle Gellar and thought that sit-com was crap (it was crap, really, not funny, not offbeat enough), and we all die anyway so what the hell.

Except then I started thinking about what that is like to be dead, or what that is not like, what does it mean to no longer be, forever? Because I do not believe in heaven or past lives--I think those are stories we tell ourselves to avoid startling awake in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, faced with the possibility that the end is the end and it's like those dark patches when you sleep, except you never wake up to remember them.

For a long time, I told myself that even in death, you are part of the eco system, this body in the ground that will eventually become some other matter, because, yes, your body turns to dust and dirt, but I never really followed that path to its logical conclusion to test how that would work exactly. I just sort of decided that by returning to the earth, you eventually will be reborn, into something else living, like a flower, but really, the goal would be reincarnation into human form.

However, when you start to question how that might happen, the concept quickly breaks down based on the fact that dirt does not eventually become another human being, no matter how you try to make it work out, with like, a bird swallowing a clod of your remains and then pooping onto a man sleeping on the beach who accidentally ingests some of the the bird poop with your trace DNA in it and then that somehow absorbs into his blood flow and then gets funneled into the sperm canal (I mean, clearly, I was doodling  nervously in health class when they explained the male reproductive system), and then that guy lives and has sex with his girlfriend, who gets pregnant, and voile! You are back in the world again. And what are the odds of all of that happening? Also keep in mind that unless you're cremated and have your ashes scattered on a bunch of seagulls, this will take like 700 years to happen, because you'd have to wait for the whole cemetery to disintegrate. So dead is dead is dead and if you are Robin Williams or Phillip Seymour Hoffman or whomever is next on the list of self-destructive people, how much time can you spend thinking about what it's like to be nothing or how much it will wound the people you leave behind?

I suppose that's the goal all along; you don't want to feel any more, not the good or the bad or the guilt or the pleasure or the anything. And so you end it, because to keep going is too hard. Even though you know people who love you will never understand it, never forgive you, and never stop blaming themselves for not figuring out how to stop you from leaving them.

And so all we have left are kittens.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Taming the Cast

When we last left our heroes and heroines, some people were making out and others were upset because they were not being made out with and then even others were leaving the show for unexplained reasons, which may or may not have had to do with making out.

I just learned that someone's job is "cast handler." What a job. How much handling does a person need? Is this person a licensed cast handler or a free lance cast handler? And who would you ever assign to Puck ('member him?).

The first thing we learn is that Michelle, who I don't recall at all, was interested in one of the microphone guys. He came to her room, she almost got caught with him, and ended up jumping off the balcony to avoid getting caught and broke both his legs. His name in real life? Ryan Putz.

Chris B. has been invited to the show and allowed to pick whichever hot babe he wants. I don't like the looks of Chris B. Or any of these guys, really, except for Marcel. All of the other dudes are blond, scruffy, and look like they smell like heavy coconut oil barely masking the stench of excessive armpit odor.

The super beautiful Lacey has glommed on to the early-ly balding guy (Marcus) and Robert is very upset by her lack of fidelity to him. They are holding hands and starring into each others eyes and not having anything at all to talk about. He wears a piece of twine around his neck, like he just finished working at UPS and ripped off his shirt.

Meanwhile, back in the hut, Clare gets a date with Chris and they are given twin massages by twin island boys. We don't actually get to see the faces of the masseuses, just their arms, because they are not part of the plot (unless they jump off a balcony at some point). Chris admits he's been a player, but would love to settle down with the right girl or girls if she or they come along.

Lacey and Marcus are having an amazing time, just amazing. It's almost like love at first sight, they think. She is stunningly beautiful, but both of them are total corn dogs. They kiss in front of exactly 1,000 candles from IKEA. No ones hair catches a-flame, unfortunately.

Back at the other hut, they are all doing shots and licking each others' faces. Elise is drinking too much and flirting with Dylan while still kissing some guy in the ocean. Graham and Clare and Michelle and Robert watch on. Sarah, where have you gone? Is anyone talking to Sarah or what?

Wouldn't it be great if two of the guys feel in love? Can't that please happen?

Elise is saying how she thinks her making out with Chris in the ocean is just a turning point in relationship with Dylan. She tells Dylan that she hooked up with this guy, but she was thinking about him the whole time. He says, "That doesn't make sense, think about what you're saying." She is being portrayed as stupid. She just said, "You are literally killing me right now." I guess she said that because he's stabbing her with a knife. Or is it because he's strangling her? Or is it because he's sitting there staring at her in disbelief?

This one guy gets a date card and he asks Clare to go with him. I have never seen him before. I think his name is Zack--Clare is cute and annoying and horrible and amazing. She says, "I felt his connection in the ocean." Good one, Clare!

Most overused word on the show is the word "connection."

Sarah is still being ignored. She gets to stay one more week because the women pick the men this time.

Elise has decide to visualize herself with Dylan. She is telling herself stories about how it's going to work out, right, right??? Is she from California?

Chris thinks they should call Dylan Fat Damon, as in, he looks a bit like Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting, only fatter. Mean streak for Chris, which you can see almost immediately in his foxy, pointed face and slicked back hair.

Dylan asks Sarah to go with him. Sarah could get a prosthetic arm. I mean, she probably shouldn't and she should probably be okay with her body the way that it is, but are they asking her not to wear the arm? Or does she not want to wear the arm? I guess I am wondering if this is just a sensationalistic thing. Sarah goes to talk to Elise about the date. Suddenly, Elise says that she sees Sarah as her best friend and she thinks she would be the best one to go with Dyaln, as he could never possibly be really interested in her, the one-armed girl. Is anyone in disability studies chatting about this at all?

What the hell has AshLee been doing this whole time? And Marquel? And Ben?

Dylan tells Sarah that he didn't ask her by default, he asked her because he's hoping he can schmooze her enough to get a rose from her, so that next week, he can be back on top to pick.

The cast wrangler has planted a love note in Ben's bag and Marcus "found" it. Marquel and Marcus go to confront him after he's had twenty drinks. This should go well. Marcus tells Ben that he was brushing his teeth and accidentally dropped his toothbrush into Ben's suitcase and then discovered this note at the bottom of the bag under his hair gel. They are about to chest bump each other. Both are wearing competing necklace made of rope, perhaps with a tooth or a gall stone at the end? Ben does not deny it--but it's someone he met three weeks ago. He doesn't think it's a big deal. He will be going home. The women rage about it, because he is obviously not on the show for the right reasons. Ben is forced to wear his baseball hat backwards and to leave the show to get back to his girlfriend in Dallas. Does that mean that no guys will go home? Michelle is crying because she could've met someone better in his place. Has she not noticed that they keep adding new guys and gals all the time?

For the final rose ceremony, Michelle wears a Cleopatra headdress and asks some guy if he thinks she drinks too much. Sarah says that she's worried that she shouldn't pick Dylan because Elise will be mad and Dylan reminds her that she didn't come on the show to meet her best friend. Dylan pulls Elise aside and tells her to be real and that he sees her as a friend. She puzzles over this...He says, Don't hold back with Chris because they are going to be just friends. Elise still doesn't get it and is still unsure what he means when he tells her he wouldn't accept a rose from her and then gives her a hug and squeezes her ass. Only as a friend though.

Final Rose Ceremony Drama with Real Emotion and Real Connections

Someone picks someone.

Someone else picks Graham.AshLee?

Clare picks Zach/k.

Michelle picks Marquel to be her Anthony. He wears adorable nerd glasses.

Elise picks Dylan. He does not accept the rose. BRAVE. He tries to give her a hug. She says thank you and then launches into a speech about how everyone here deserves 100%. She says that she knows that he knows that life brings a lot of things. Ups and downs, and she knows that herself and every woman here needs a man to be there for her through thick and thin, sickness and in health, bikinis and thongs They play circus music during her speech. She picks Chris as her second choice.

Sarah will pick Dylan, who has played this game well and she did not! She picked Robert. That means Dylan has to go home. Whoops, Dylan, you don't get to stay. He says that he thinks Elise is out of her mind. He is bummed that Sarah passed on him. He is admirable, at least. I mean, in this context, he is.

Strangers on a Train

I will admit that I have personal space issues, particularly with strangers. I would never keep my sanity in a place that allowed for a person to be one centimeter away from me in line, so close that I could feel her breath on my neck. I don't like to be packed in an elevator or too close to someone on an escalator or having my forearms touching with another passenger on an airplane armrest. I'm funny that way, even with people who I love dearly--I need a little breathing room. Like in Dirty Dancing when Jennifer Grey's character says, "This is my dance space. this is your dance space..." I need a lot of dance space, even if I like you.

So then when a tweaky-seeming guy asked me to move my bag on the Trenton regional rail yesterday, I sighed and didn't say anything, but moved it and reorganized myself so we could have some space between us. Then he did that thing some guys do, where he sat with his legs widely apart, as if suffering from elephantiasis of the balls. Unless you have a physical deformity or known groin ailment, who really needs three feet of space between his legs to sit comfortably? I squished up to the window and his bare leg was still touching mine, so I said, "Do our legs really need to be touching right now?" As I spoke to him, he jumped up and moved away.  I can't say if he was planning on moving and I spoke at just the right time, or if he changed seats because I said something.

And then I spent the rest of the ride wondering if he would come back and put a knife in my side. But mostly, I was trying to figure out if it was intentional leg touch or an accidental one because you hear all the time about guys exposing themselves in church or grabbing some woman's ass on the platform or whatever lewd and unexpected act they can come up with. Nothing too upsetting has ever happened to me personally, but ask five random women if they've ever seen a guy's penis when they shouldn't have (public library, park bench, parked car, funeral) and at least one of them will say yes. Yes, we have. And we don't like it. And we are scared of you for this reason. And we would rather that you squeeze up next to someone of your own gender.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Judge Judy Makes Me Feel Better than Everyone Else

Watching Judge Judy is not educational in any sense that you're walking away with more legal knowledge. What it does do is to reinforce the concept that many, many people in the world are not very educated. The stakes of the cases are low--no one is coming into the courtroom to settle a domestic violence case or to get custody of children. They revolve around three main topics: damage to a car, rental property disputes, and troublesome animals. Often, the two plaintiffs are former friends or ex-partners or tangential family members like mother-in-laws. On the whole, they are often arrive to court unprepared, like they forget the promissory notes or the photos of the smashed in headlight, or the pit bull's papers, imagining that they can just tell their side and the judge will believe them. I wonder if anyone has ever done a socio-economic study on the participants, because many seem to fall on the lower scale and others are in some way gaming the system (seemingly able bodied people receiving disability assistance, men trying to hide income form their soon-to-be ex-wives, 32 year old students who haven't worked or actually taken a class in twelve years and receive welfare checks). So, like, you never see a doctor on the show suing her neighbor for wrecking the car or a business person asking that his roommate pay him back for the broken coffee table.

But I think what I find most satisfying about the show is that calls people on their b.s. And it never feels wrong, because the ones she lambastes appear to be liars or thieves---you don't often see her coming down hard on a person who is organized and straight-forward, but she sure as hell torches those who can't get their stories straight. So, you get to watch the bad guys get fined for hiding the money or the angry girl made to pay the $3,000 for smashing in a stranger's windshield and you don't have to feel torn or ambiguous about it.

This is what happens when you live in New Jersey. You spend so much time in your car, getting angry at people for bad driving, that a show about poorly educated people with bad tattoos who make poor life choices becomes a source of welcome release.

In case you want to read what the NY Times thinks about her, here's a link to an article about the show and her durability (and likability off screen).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Paradise Lost

I have a sense that we will be seeing a lot of linen in this season. Linen and flip flops and chest hair. So far, we have been re-introduced to Clare (villian from Juan Pablo season), Marcus and Marquel from Andi's season and Sara, also from Juan Pablo and also with the one arm missing. It's hard not to be distracted by it, which shows how much we don't see that many differently abled people in TV land. Here comes a very curvy woman named Lacy and all the guys love her because she's big-breasted. None of the men look familiar to me. Clare hopes that the guys aren't douche-y. Cue the entrance of the biggest jerk of all--Ben (don't recall him at all). Will anyone drown? I think I like Clare the best and I don't care if she's a phony. More  blondes and scruffy faces added to the mix. Not one girl with any ethnicity to speak of--and one black guy. The women look very similar--mostly blondes and the guys are not nearly as hot. Chris explains the rules--only one guy gets to take his shirt off and only one woman gets to wear a bikini, but all the men get to wear gold necklaces. Seven women and six guys--one of the women will be going home at the end of this week while all the men get to stay. How will gender politics play into this?

I wish AshLee knew how to spell her name. She's into Graham, who she finds to be dreamy and who I find to be in need of having his ears pinned back. Lacy goes right into the ocean and wraps her legs around Ben or one of other guys--it's difficult to tell the men apart. Marcus isn't over Andi, so he has to go stare into the surf and hopefully be joined by someone with bodacious ta-tas. He puts on his tight orange speedos and attacks the waves. Oh, luckily, he is immediately joined by Lacy who will relinquish her pink bikini to anyone who evenly slightly suggests skinny dipping. Everyone is pairing up, including these two indistinguishable bods in the water and I am wondering why they have Sara on the show--like, are these guys so very very progressive that they will be able to look past this difference when faced with six other model-like choices? This show seems to be more about how shallow people can be than how much they will be open to difference.

It looks like the first date card goes to Clare, who I am again starting to not like again. She decides to ask out...Graham and I don't get it. AshLee starts crying and she is so mad at him for not saying no. Hi, you've known him for less than a day. She will no longer talk to Clare either who is now crying. A raccoon comes out to see her crying. Stop crying, women. Why are the producers making it seem like she is talking to a raccoon? Not nice. Okay, here we go, the women are all crazy, back stabbing criers and the men are oblivious meat heads.

Clare decides that she won't go on the date with Graham because AshLee is upset. AshLee says that she won't let Clare take someone else and she won't take the date herself and then when Graham wants to talk to her, she pretends like she can't hear him just like I did in seventh grade with Steve Crossett when he didn't sit next to me in youth choir. I like Clare again. This is a rocky road that I'm on with Clare. She chooses Robert to go to the ruins with her. Robert gets bitten by red ants and is forced to take his shirt off. Clare says, "I'm literally speechless." I refuse to point out that if she were literally speechless, she wouldn't even be able to tell us that. She changes into a bikini that might have a thong bottom and and they are forced to frolic in the ocean.

The women keep saying how weird it is that have never asked a guy out on a date. Sara asks Marcus if he would like to go. Lacy is upset because both the guys she likes went on dates with other girls. Sara has to strip down to her one piece bathing suit. She has a slightly boyish figure. He asks her if she can swim and she says, Kind of. They jump in together.  Will he touch her at all? Well, she goes ahead and asks him for a kiss and he obliges. When Robert returns from his date with Clare, Lacy tells him that she's upset because both of the guys she likes got dates. I mean, good for her that she told him that she likes two guys but bad for her for crying a little. That's three women crying to none of the guys.

A super hot surprise girl shows up to make it even more unbalanced--eight women to six dudes! She is also white, big breasted and has two arms.

AshLee apologizes to Graham for acting like a third grader and all the ladies just thinks he's the nicest guy ever. He says he thinks communication is important and he gives her a hug while she bats her false eyelashes and talks in a baby voice.

I don't know who this new girl is--Michelle from Brad's season and she's insecure about her age, her stretch marks and her nine year old daughter, she says in that order. She asks Marquel if he would like to ride her on this date--tee hee! They will go horseback riding and he will ride the white horse. Really. Marquel takes to it. He sits with Michelle on the beach and tells her that she seems like a real girl. Cue shot of an iguana.

Marcus says that he likes Sara okay, but he really wants to make out with Lacy. Lacy has to do eenie-meanie to decide who to go out with. She says that she's "80-40." Third dumb remark from a woman. Marcus feels crappy about not getting picked, so he might give his rose to Sara because he likes her okay. Lacy piles her hair on her head and Marcus again stares out into the surf. Robert says that he loves romance and he loves feeling those feelings for the girl that he's going to marry. Dylan gives Marcus some bad advice about not following his instincts and playing hard to get. Marcus goes to bed and tosses and turns on an itchy Indian blanket.

First Ever Paradise Rose Ceremony 

All the women are insecure because it's the last cocktail party before the first final rose ceremony and two girls are on the chopping block. Chris reminds everyone of the rules and lets the women know that two of them will be put back on a boat to America tonight. But like, what if one guy picks the girl that the seven other people need want to date? Clare says she doesn't want to leave "Clare-a-dise." Don't like her again.

Sara goes, "It's really hard when their are only six guys and three of them are wife-d up tonight." She asks Marcus what he wants to do, and he lies to her and says that he thinks she deserves a rose because she only has one arm. That's pretty much what the subtext was. Please discuss this trope of pitying but not seeing value in the woman with one full arm among your friends and family now.

Lacy is going for it with Robert while at the same time giving Marcus a come hither look. Marcus doesn't want to give a rose to Sara because he can't imagine being with her and Marquel advises him to go ahead and not give the rose to a person who only has one hand to hold. Why not have a guy with a noticeable physical difference and I don't mean skin color?

Ding, ding, ding. Go ahead, guys.

Marquel starts to give out a rose and the other Michelle interrupts the show and volunteers to leave the country because she thinks they're all duds and plus she's engaged to someone else. Okay, now only one will go home and it will probably be Sara or Danielle.

Marquel picks Michelle, the late comer.

Graham is forced to pick AshLee in fear for his life. Lightning strikes. He chooses her.

Dylan, who hasn't talked to anyone, picks Elise who "literally would've said I love you to him already except it's too soon."

Marcus will pick Lacy, leaving Robert to have to pick Clare.

Robert is shocked that Marcus picked her even though she point blank told him she likes two guys. CLARE. Of course.

Ben will pick Danielle and not Sara and that will make him look like a shallow jerk. "This sucks," he says, realizing his predicament All right, he picks Sara instead, even though she will go home next time, probably.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Father, May I?

We started talking at work the other day about this idea of man asking the father if he can marry the daughter, and two of my very best friends at work think it's fine because it's adhering to a tradition and respecting the dad. I think it's not fine because it's perpetuating this idea that the woman is part of a transactional process and a passive participant in the decision. I know that's not the case---it's a social formality, but it's still based on what used to involve a trading process--a bargaining to see what kind of deal you can strike with the dowry---"listen, I will take this dead weight daughter off your hands, but you've got to give me 25 donkeys to do it."
There are other previously strongly held traditions that seem laughably outdated now (showing the bloodstained sheet after marriage, requiring the bride to promise to "honor and obey" her husband, wearing corsets, not being allowed to vote...). But more than anything, what bother me most about the concept is that it perpetuates the idea that women don't choose, they are chosen. The man asks the dad for permission, the man does the proposing on one knee (often in public just to add a little more social pressure to the lady being questioned), and the woman is supposed to swoon with excitement at finally, finally being chosen. Then they get to spend the next year picking out the exact ornamentation they want on their wedding day to make them even more presentable and desirable and the husbands-to-be get to roll their eyes and hopefully get one last night out at a strip club. And then when it's over, and the woman has gotten it all, this thing she's been told to want her whole life and that is at the heart of every story she's been told, every movie geared toward her, what's left for her to want? Even if it's just a gesture toward an outdated tradition, I don't want to participate in something based on reinforcing men as the actors, women as the watchers.
That's the subtext and the basis for asking permission from the father--it's a man to man transaction about property and ownership, made  in the den with a glass of Scotch while the women wait in the kitchen with baited breath. They are passive and men are active. Women hope to be asked to dance, the prom, the Sand Castle Inn Reception Hall, and men are the ones who do the asking--alongside other men. 
I like Mr. Darcy and all, and I think there's a scene in Pride and Prejudice where he asks the dad if he can marry Elizabeth, but I like it in the past. In the same way that I don't really want to wear Empire waist woolen dresses or for my man to don jodhpurs and top hats (though I am not unhappy about vests coming back in), I don't support giving a nod and a wink to a tradition based on oppression.