Friday, December 18, 2015

Trumbo vs. Spotlight

Maybe I should pretend to write this blog post as a compare/contrast paper as I've requested that my students do. One of the habits they have that I fight to break is the sentence that stretches on and on until you understand that they are trying meet the word count so that they can call it quits.

Title: Two movies based on factual occurrences that happened.

First off, both oaf these movies, Trumbo and Spotlight, have one word titles which are Trumbo and Spotlight. Both are about topics in society today that we care about. Both feature actors and are set in a specific time period not in the one of today. Trumbo, for example, is set in a time period known as The Cold War, or McCarthyism or Reaganomics. The second movie, Spotlight, is not about what it sounds like it should be about. For example, it is not about Mariah Carey or someone else on the stage where bright lights can be found. It too is set in a time period that is not the one we are in currently at this time, the twenty first century. In this second film, Spotlight, a bunch of reporters are trying to prove that Catholic priests have molested children every which way. This is done through characters investigating and going door to door to figure out what exactly happened when this occurred. In contrast, Trumbo centers around a guy who also writes, but his thing is screenplays for actors in the movies who are making films to be projected onto the screen, which at this time, was often in black and white when this was taking place, though we now have movies in Technicolor and have for decades. When summarizing the two films, the main points of each are different. For example, Trumbo tells the story of a man (Trumbo) who used to be in Breaking Bad who writes in the bathtub and has declared himself to be a  Communist, which others find to be un-American, causing him to be thrown into jail where he works for a black man typing and filing papers. Eventually, he gets out and gets a job writing for John Goodman who threatens this other guy with a baseball bat, which was my favorite part of the movie, and really  the only time anything exciting happened.  Louis C.K. starred as his side kick, and he had lung cancer from smoking because this was in a time period before the Surgeon General became popular.  Furthermore, in Spotlight, the story had reporters who

And then the paper just ends. It might be useful to do this exercise in class in real time to illustrate how easy and obvious it is to just write a bunch of words that lead nowhere.

Here is a review from The New Yorker about the two films. For the record, I liked Spotlight more. My boyfriend, Mark Ruffalo, is in it. I love him, even when he has a bad haircut.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Preparing for the force to awaken

I remember that when the original movie that came out in 1977, I liked Luke Skywalker the best. He was the good farm boy, with sky blue eyes and a cleft chin. He was the innocent, the one who was orphaned, the one with the quest. Han Solo, I thought at age 8, was too conceited, mean, and old. I identified with Luke, because he was in love with the Princess and she didn't seem to even notice him (much like Rawl Brown in my third grade class). Han Solo bossed him around and was unreliable, a rebel who had a giant teddy bear sidekick and a sneer. However, by the time The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, I had aged considerably (age 12) and so saw both Luke and Han differently. The actor, by this time, had been in a car accident, which aged his face and took away his boyishness. I actually don't remember much about the movie, except that the love story between Han and Leia was more of a focus and I was at an age where swooning kisses seemed like the only thing I ever wanted to happen to me in real life. I had turned the corner, and now preferred the gruffness of Han than the earnestness of Luke. That has not changed. About Return of the Jedi, three years later, I only remember being appalled by the oozing Jabba the Hut with Princess reduced to his sex toy in a gold plated bikini and neck chain. Does she end up strangling him? I believe so. Luke remains the anointed one, but at the expense of having no love interest. I mean, other than his sister. But probably my favorite character of all was R2D2--he reminded me most of a really smart robot dog or cat. He was loyal and unafraid, and also the most vulnerable in some ways. I am excited about the movie, as long as R2 will be in it.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Addendum: We watched the second half of the film the next night and I liked it much more, even though it ended as I predicted below, with a kiss on a basketball court.

Trainwreck should not to be confused with Trainspotting or Strangers on a Train or How to Train Your Dragon or Planes, Trains and Automobiles, or Titanic (though I did get a sinking feeling after the first five minutes of viewing). I love Amy Schumer. I've read lots of interviews with her where she's normal-sounding and modest and messed up and interesting. Inside Amy Schumer was always entertaining, even if the skits sometimes feel flat or were clever versus guffaw-inducing. And I knew from other people who have seen the movie that it wasn't going to stray too far from the rom-com genre. But I still am not loving the movie (we stopped watching it On Demand after the first hour because we had to go to beddy-bye). I'll finish watching it, even though I know how it ends based on the first hour. Right now, I'm at a part where the two are attending a basketball game and LeBron James is telling Amy not to play with his boy's heart. Next, they'll be some falling out where she'll get too hung up on the exclusivity factor, even though she really likes the guy.  She'll sleep with someone else (the young male intern, perhaps) and he'll break up with her. Then, something will happen with her dad and they'll be reunited and it will end with either a kiss or a basketball joke or both. Where her show is unpredictable and pushes the boundaries of good taste, this movie doesn't stray far from the genre and isn't very surprising. The most surprising thing about it is that it's not very funny.

Okay, here's what I like though. I like that it's about a woman who's not sure she wants to commit and it's the guy whose totally into the relationship. I like that she sleeps around without feeling guilty or trampy or like she should be doing something else, such as nesting. I like that she thinks her sister's marriage is a bore and that the idea to her is repellent. I like that she's a writer and has her own career. I like that there are no jokes about her body or at the expense of her looks (with perhaps the exception that someone says her ass looks like a man's). I like that her boss is a woman and that Amy's character doesn't pretend to like sports just because the guy she likes does. I like that her dad has MS and that's not the whole defining part of his personality. I like that disability is part of the story but not the whole of the story.  Also, Colin Quinn, who plays her father, was the most relaxed and funny actor in the whole film. Him, I believed.

What I don't love:

1. Why is LeBron James in this? I feel like it was someone's bad idea to try to attract the male viewers who may not object so much to seeing the movie if an athlete has a starring role. He's not a good actor and every time he was on the screen, I was reminded that I was watching a movie. I don't get what's funny about having a black athlete as the best friend of a white physician, except maybe because it's meant to be incongruous, which strikes me as sorta racist. Also, didn't they do that twenty years ago in Airplane with Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the literal co-pilot?

2. Many of the scenes beat the joke into the ground. There's a long scene where Amy's having sex with her sort-of boyfriend, a body builder with zero things interesting about him, and that goes on and on and on. The joke isn't about it going on and on; the joke is about him not being able to talk dirty to her. There's a similar scene in the movie theater where he's arguing with another patron and spewing these insults that make him sound gay.  This happens like five times. Yes, we get it. He's super masculine but might be gay. That's not particularly funny or clever. Then yet another scene takes place between LeBron and the love interest played by Bill Hadley (more on him in a second) that also keeps going on forever as they make jokes about how much Cleveland sucks.

3. Bill Hader as the love interest. Like, looks shouldn't be everything, but he seems better suited to an American remake of The Black Adder than the leading man in a rom com. I like the chemistry that they have, and he's funny and charming, but...It reminded me a little bit of the disconnect in When Harry Met Sally with trying to convince us that Meg Ryan's character could be smitten by Billy Crystal. You have this super cute chick and this average guy with a crooked face. I don't think I've ever seen the reverse. Like, I don't recall a romantic comedy where the leading lady was average and the guy was adorable. That would be like having a movie starring Bradley Cooper and Lena Dunham (I like her, but she's not conventionally attractive). Or Mindy Kahling with Matthew McConaughey.  Could we get someone of like attractiveness for her, such as Paul Rudnick or that guy from Bridesmaids?

4. It didn't push any boundaries. It wasn't dark at all, in any places, it wasn't dirty, it wasn't transgressive like her comedy usually is. The jokes were very PG-13 and not even uncomfortable, like in some of Apatow's other films and definitely not like Schumer's comedy show. They were obvious. I wanted more finger blaster skits, and fewer gay jokes.

I'll watch the rest tonight and let you know if any of my predictions are incorrect.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to be happy

Every other "how-to-be-happy" article recommends giving thanks. I know that would be the case around Thanksgiving, but I recall reading this advice prior to the holiday. I was also recently skimming part of Mary Karr's memoir, Lit, and she talks about trying to get sober and not believing in God and so not wanting to do the twelve step thing where you have to have faith in a higher power. And someone from AA kept telling her to do it anyway, to pray to the universe. So, she does, she prays and she also asks for things, and she ends up getting sober and winning this huge chunk of money for her writing. But still, she doubts.

I've been trying to do this, every once in a while. It mostly happens at the end of the day, when I get out of the car and have to walk two blocks home in the dark, tired, in boots that pinch, hungry, cranky--I try to think for thirty seconds, okay, I'm glad I have most of my teeth. Thank you, universe, that I can walk. Thank you that I live in a small town that's fairly safe and so I will probably not get raped on the way back to my apartment. Thank you that I know I will be able to eat dinner later, and it will likely be some kind of pasta. Thank you that we have a dog, because last year at this same time, I convinced myself that Luke would be allergic and we would have to give the dog away. I worked myself into tears about this, imagining the scene of parting, saying goodbye to the puppy, and only seeing him on holidays (I had figured out that Dan's sister would get the puppy because Juliette loves him so). That didn't happen, and so I occasionally say thanks for Chaplin. Thank you that our heat works, thank you that, even though we have mice, we also have a contract with Terminix. Thank you that I have many people who love me. Thank you that I have enough disposable income to buy Burt's Bee's shampoo and conditioner (because they are amazing!). Thank you that we have electricity and a TV and I can watch back to back to back episodes of What Not to Wear (and, please, universe, let Stacey and Clinton still be friends in real life, even though they stopped doing the show together).

When I was little, I prayed every night. First, it was the child's version of prayer, "God bless Grandma and Grandpa and mom and Oscar (dog) and all my uncles and aunts and please let there really be a Santa Claus, for real." And then, as I got older, it was more specific, like, "Please let me run into Steve Crossett after class at my locker and please let him fall in love with me and ask me to go out on a row boat ride with a picnic after" (I've always been fairly specific about my request, so that there would be no confusion). But then it got to the point where it seemed only transactional, like, "I will try harder not to swear if I can get a new pair of roller skates." And then I had a falling out with God concurrent with my parents being one hour late coming home from a party, and it's never quite been repaired.

God now seems like a fairy tale to me, the thing we comfort ourselves with when confronted with the thought of that our consciousness could be snuffed out forever. At the same time, I hold on to the possibility that there are things in this world we don't yet understand, and maybe, maybe, maybe something more exists. Maybe there is a Santa Claus.

Here is an excerpt from Lit:

If you'd told me even a year before...that I'd wind up whispering my sins in the confessional or on my knees saying the rosary, I would've laughed myself cockeyed. More likely pastime?Pole dancer. International spy. Drug mule. Assassin.

I drive under a sky black as graphite to meet my new spiritual director...a bulky Franciscan nun named Sister Margaret, patiently going blind behind fish-tank glasses that magnify her eyes like goggles.” 

And an interview with Mary Karr from The Paris Review about writing memoir:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Winter reading

Started reading The Girl on the Train last night and was caught by the totally familiar, depressing existence of the main girl, Rachel. She's in her early thirties, takes the train to London to work every day, and likes to imagine the lives of the people she passes as the train creeps by the apartments. She's mostly interested in one particular couple who seem to have an ideal life. She calls them Jess and Jason, and imagines that they are totally in love and problem free. She's also got a fairly serious drinking problem, brought on by her loneliness. Or maybe the loneliness is exacerbated by the drinking. In any case, the drinking has led her to lose her fiancé and she finds herself becoming more and more out of control with the her consumption, having moments where she blacks out and comes to with vomit on the floor and a cut on the back of her head with no recollection of what happened. Then, one day, she sees the woman kissing another man on her patio, and later the same day, the woman disappears.

That's about where I am so far, but was most distressing to me was the drinking, because it reminded me of my drinking days and all of the shameful stories that go along with that. First, there's the shame of always drinking too much at parties or social events when everyone else seems fine with just the one glass of wine. For me, it was always like, I don't want one glass, I want all of it. Why wouldn't you want all of it? What's the point of one glass? But then most people around you seem fine with a single drink, and so there's the need to hide that desire for more and to wonder why you're so weak or different from everyone else.

Then there are the memories of the dumb thing said or done while drinking. Fortunately, I wasn't someone who liked to drink and then take crazy chances (this is the case for Rachel in the book). It didn't cause me to want to meet strangers at bars or take late night walks through the city in my bathrobe or knock on neighbors doors or call ex-boyfriends. But it did make me say things I later regretted or sometimes to cry over stupid things or to ask inappropriate questions. I cringe when I think about some of the philosophical conversations I tried to have while drunk.

Someday, I'll write about the actual incident that caused me to stop drinking. It wasn't anything dramatic (thank God), but it was startling enough for me to realize that something bad could've happened. And it didn't. And so I'm okay and that was three years ago. Now, I check out by watching Judge Judy, which is also probably not good for my brain and is also embarrassing, but not quite as unhealthy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No NaNo for me

Is it too early to concede that I've failed at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? The goal with this annual challenge is to get you to write an entire novel or most of a novel or to write at least 50,000 words, whichever comes first, in the month of November. That breaks down to about 1,600 words per day. I try to write 750 words a day and so far this month, have done that twice. Intention must count for something. I have every intention of writing every day and I get to work at least a half an hour early each morning, but often, I end up checking email, checking the sheep on my virtual farm (this is a full time job) and leaving myself ten minutes to write. For this year's writing challenge, I did write over 1,600 words a day for five days in a row, but it was at I wanted to see what it felt like to try to produce that amount of content in one sitting. I found it wasn't too difficult. It took about 45 minutes.

I started with what I thought would be a fun and easy project, a murder mystery with a female detective who is attempting to solve a string of violent murders of men throughout Philadelphia. These are young, handsome men, and their body parts are being found all over the city. But then I started to get hung up in the procedural stuff. Like, do the detectives first interview any witnesses or the people who find the bodies? Or is that the job of cops? Are detectives cops? How hard is it to become a detective? I realize that all of the answers to these questions are readily available in the universe, but I also promised myself I wouldn't drop out to the writing to Google anything. Not a word. Not even to conduct a spell check or determine the Latin word for dog. Then the second thing I realized is that I have no idea how to write a murder mystery.

So, I confess, during my non-writing time, I did look that up, and discovered that most everyone recommends that the writer know from the very beginning who the killer is, and work backwards from the climax of the story. I didn't know who the killer was, other than that I wanted her to be female. See, my original plan was to flip the switch on the typical murder mystery, which often has lovely female bodies piling up like mad. Mystery writers are prone to killing off the young and beautiful and female. Not every mystery writer does this.  Laura Lipman, a writer who I have only recently discovered, has a strong female detective, Tess Monaghan,  and the book I just finished last night had a total body count of six--four were young black men, and one of the women was, unfortunately, a female prostitute. I wonder if most mystery writers have a hard time not killing off destitute, drug addled prostitutes in their stories? So, this is what attracted me to the idea, that I would write something that was unexpected, that the victims would be hot young men, killed not by a crazy woman who had been rejected by them, but by someone whose justification for murder was more specifically cerebral. I won't tell you what my idea was for the main bad gal, but even the solution I came to has some gender bias in it that I can't seem to figure out how to erase. Okay, the hint would be that the murderer has an ethical reason for doing what she's doing, even though it's extreme. But what I'd like to do is to figure out a way to have the killer not have any of the traditional tropes--she's not killing because she feels rejected, or because she was harmed by a man in her life or because she craves love an d attention or because she's a straight up psychopath. Maybe I have to figure out more about what the motives typically are for men murderers in these stories.

If you would like to offer me a $20,000 advance to continue writing, I wouldn't say no.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Borrowed time

I almost choked on a Corn Pop the other day and thought for a second, "Oh, is this how it ends? Death by Corn Pop." Could  anyone have predicted it? Possibly my college roommates since my taste in cereal and inability to create a meal for myself has remained unchanged since those days.

And then, when I realized I was going to survive, I thought, "Oh, I have all of these extra days now, what will I do with them?" Days when I should've been dead, were it not for my coughing reflex. It seems like I should make some changes, travel to India, stop playing Hay Day, do something with my life so it will have had meaning. Today, I started that journey by ordering a large coffee with a shot of pumpkin spice in it. Taking risks, changing things for the better, getting out of my comfort zone.

And then there was another moment of realization of my mortality last night. We were watching Dolores Claiborne with Kathy Bathes and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Have you seen it? It's disturbing and interesting, about an abused woman accused of murdering her boss and her angry daughter who returns home to help her.

There's one scene where Dolores/Kathy is caring for now very old and very undignified boss and the older lady starts crying, because she doesn't want to live like anymore, not in a life filled with wash and wear nightgowns, confined to a wheelchair and soiling herself. Dolores makes her stop crying by bringing her a china pig that plays "Happy Days are Here Again," and that quiets her for a minute, but then she tries to throw herself down the stairs.  And Chap was on the footstool, sleeping and I thought, Oh, no, one of us is going to die first. It's probably going to be Chaplin. How will I survive that? Which then reminded me of that scene from the movie and book Olive Kitteredge when Olive's elderly Dachshund dies, her last tie to her dead husband, and she goes into a field and puts a gun to her head. I understand that impulse better now. Life with a dog only produces good memories and positive attachments. Unlike with humans, you don't have a history of grudges and hurt feelings; it's just joy mixed in with a teensy bit of tedium in maintaining their daily care.

I asked Dan what he thought we should do when Chaplin dies; should we make a suicide? He said, "Yes. Or we can just get a younger dog when he starts to get old."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Being frank about Frank

We watched the movie Frank, starring Michael Fassbender, though unfortunately, he is not nude in this film as he was in Shame. In fact, you don't see his face until near the end of the film, because he's wearing a giant paper mache head for most of the time. The head is cartoonish, with big blue eyes and painted on brown hair and a red-lipped mouth. Kind of like the Big Boy character except without the Brillo cream whoosh to his hair. 

The film is about this wanna-be redheaded keyboard playing musician who works in an office and lives with his parents. By an accident of fate, he ends up being asked to perform with this odd band passing through town and then joins them in the woods to make an album. Frank is the main dude in the band and the others are hostile misfits, including Maggie Gyllenhall at her frown-iest. She wears her hair in a page boy with bangs and walks around in a silky robes as if she's just stepped out of Joan Crawford's dressing room. She doesn't like the redhead (fondly nicknamed "gingerbread" by Frank) but neither do any of the band memos, at least two of whom met in a mental institute. 

In the end, the band comes apart, partially because of the insistence of the redhead that they attend South by Southwest (he's been tweeting and adding YouTube videos of the band recording and running around the woods and they develop a small but intense following), and partially because Frank is unstable. And of course, like the main character, you spend much of the time wanting to know why Frank wears this fake head and what he looks like without it. My favorite scene involved the main character realizing that Frank was in the shower, seeing his head abandoned on the floor, and tip-toeing into the bathroom to catch a glimpse of him without the head, only to have Frank pull back the shower curtain suddenly and be wearing another of the heads, covered in plastic. 

The film had artful, funny moments. Dan said it reminded him of This is Spinal Tap, the Christopher Guest mockumentary of a failing rock band, but for me, it wasn't so much a parody of the rock band documentary--it had whimsical, unexpected moments (Frank twirling on the front lawn with a stranger) and darkly funny moments (one of the band members hangs himself wearing a Frank head so that they first think it's Frank dangling from the tree), but I wasn't that interested in this kid's journey into the fantasy of belonging to a band and it seemed clear that they wouldn't make it. The last few moments were interesting--when you get to see who Frank really is and why he's opted to wear a fake head, but I am still not sure what it was about. 

Finding your own group of people who are as messed up as you? Using your creative energy to stave off your internal demons? The folly of wanting to make it big? How art in some form can save you, especially if you express it in a supportive and equally screwed up community? Paper mache heads are fun? You watch it and tell me. It's on Netflix, which tends to have some really interesting films and you don't have to pay extra to watch them, like you do with On Demand. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mayhem and Murder and the need for more novels where the male body is at risk

Just finished a book called Mayhem but Sarah Pinborough. It's a suspense novel set in Victorian England around the time that Jack the Riper and the Thames Torso Killer were at large, murdering and dismembering women. In real life, neither were ever caught, but this book focuses on Dr. Bond, a man who helped try to solve the murders. In the novel, he's plagued by an addiction to opium and laudanum, but you get the sense that his sleeplessness and need to numb are due to this evil force that has come to England and wrecked "mayhem" (see title) on the city. The book is interspersed with real newspaper articles from the time, describing the murders. I finished that book in about four days and then yesterday, I checked out the second book in the series, Murder, joking with the librarian that the other rewrote them out of order (mayhem and murder vs. murder and mayhem--she laughed politely but didn't teem to have a clue what I was saying).

The second book also features a now sober Dr. Bond, but a new demon has come the city, and it's killing children. I really like the writing, and how the write moves among several different points of view (first person of Dr. Bond, third for other characters, intertwined with medical sports and London Times articles and letters).  I like too that the novel is written by a woman who seems to have no trouble taking up the male point of view. I feel like male writes do this often, pick up the voice of a female protagonist, but women writers don't try on the male voice as often. I admire Pinborough for that.

It also makes me think of a short story I'd like to write where all of the murder victims are beautiful young men. And the murder would have to be a woman as well, some crazed woman who has no discernible motive. Like, it's not that she was rejected by men, it's just that she kills. And she's deadly smart, despite her insanity. Because 99.9 percent of mysteries novels unravel in this way--women being killed by men for sport. The lead detective would have to be a woman who lives alone and gets obsessed by the details and has no desire for a love life of any kind, though the men she encounters seem to find her attractive and wish for her attention. Has there been a female Holmes? It must exist somewhere, right? If not, I think it should and so I will write it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Wherein I reveal the ending to a film you were problably never going to watch anyway

We recently watched a documentary called Dear Zachary. The description appealed to me because it was about a murder and a custody battle, so like, this longer version of a Dateline or 48 Hours, but more artfully done. The film was about a man named Andrew who was killed after being shot five times by his ex-girlfriend. Whether she did it or not isn't in dispute. Andrew told his friend he was going to meet her one last time and then turned up dead. She lived 16 hours away but had driven in and cell phone records pinged in every location, showing her movement into his town of Latrobe, PA (where he was a well-liked resident doctor) and then away after the murder, and also acknowledging that she had bought a 22 caliber gun and taking shooting lesson a few days prior. And a history of violence and erratic behavior.

And so the documentary (made by one of Andrew's closest childhood friends) isn't about figuring out her guilt or innocence; it's about getting to know the victim. The friend has been a filmmaker since he was a kid, and so has lots and lots of footage of Andrew through the years, as he was an actor in many of his movies. There's also footage of Andrew giving a toast at a friend's wedding, and then dozens of interviews with the people who knew and loved him. And the parents. The parents are devastated.

The murderer, Shirley, is from Newfoundland, and somehow is allowed to get out on $75,000 bail (not a penny of which is actually eve collected), and goes back to the island. Then, the parents discover that she is four months pregnant with their dead son's baby. So, in order to get to see him, they move to Newfoundland and have to endure these weird crazy visitations with the woman who murdered their child. This goes on and on and they are loving grandparents and the baby, this chubby blue eyed carbon copy of their son, stays with him while Shirley is temporarily in jail awaiting something, and so then there's all of this film of him tottering around and scenes of him with the grandmother and Shirley, sharing time with him. In one scene, you watch this game they're playing where the adults are sitting on the floor and calling to the baby, and the baby always goes to his grandma, not his mom, as if he knows something is missing in her.

The movie is called Dear Zachary because the filmmaker's quest is to show this baby what his dad was really like, so that when he grows up, he can hear from all of these people about his dad who he will never know in real life. And then... And then I will tell you what happens next and if you want to see the film, you shouldn't continue.

And then, the mother disappears with the baby, after being again let out by a judge who finds her not to be a threat to the general public, using some twisted logic like, Well, she already killed the one person she wanted to kill, no reasons to think she will kill anyone else. She's still not gone on trial for the murder, due to different legal maneuvers, so the hope is that eventually, eventually, she must be convicted. But she vanishes, and takes Zachary with her. And then a little while later, the baby washes up on shore, eyes to sky, because she has strapped him to her chest and jumped into the Atlantic Ocean, murdering her son and killing herself. Here's when Dan got up from the couch and left the room. Here's when I clutched the sleepy dog to my chest. The parents, having lost their son to this woman, then lose their second best love, their 18 month old grandson.

What is the meaning of this? The parents survive, somehow. The dad becomes an outspoken activist for harsher legislation and writes a best-selling book about the experience. Laws change, people are fired, but their two family members are still dead, and the filmmaker has to find a new ending, so the movie becomes a letter to the parents, Dear Kate and John...

I think I might talk about this in class tomorrow, because I'm trying to convince my class that they need to be willing to change their minds about issues. They need to understand why someone might want the death penalty, or fight for incarceration before trial. Until something of this magnitudes happens to you, how can you ever expect to understand the wave of rage and grief that threaten to swallow up this mom and dad? Empathy and open mindedness, that's what I want them to strive for in this class. And what I need to do in my own writing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Monster Speaks

Somehow during my middle school, high school and undergrad education, I missed reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (I can't even write that name without thinking about the movie Young Frankenstein where Gene Hackman keeps correcting the pronunciation of his name, "It's Frankenstein!").  In fact, the only book I can remember easing in high school was Silas Marner by George Eliot (a female writer, by the way). I wrote a paper about it or put on a play about it, or something, and I remember that the little girl's name was Eppie, and she had sausage curls to color of gold. One of my first brushes with symbolism--the gold of her curls mirroring Silas' own love of gold. But I can't recall any other books we were required to read. I read a lot anyway, so I got my Bronte and Austen from the public library or as gifts from my mom or grandma (Little Women, The Girl of the Limberlost). We probably read Mark Twain's Huck and Tom and we may have read some Conrad (not Heart of Darkness though. That's another classic I haven't read and don't want to). We did read a lot of short stories too, but books...I do not recall.

I've read Dracula a couple of times and liked it because it's got different points of views and it's scary and because Lucy dies. Frankenstein though...I started reading it this weekend and was surprised to discover that it doesn't take place in a deserted castle on a hill, there are no flashes of lightning that bring the monster to life, and the monster does not have greenish skin, a square forehead and bolts in his neck. In fact, he's very human, he speaks well, and like a gentleman. He also has only turned violent because he's been rejected by society. Did you know this? Did you know that the monster (unnamed or referred to as Prometheus in the books subtitle) could say things like, "I felt as though I had been pushed asunder by my almighty, my God, my creator" instead of only being able to say "Ugghhhh..."

Here's the story, in a nutshell: an ardent natural sciences student learns how to create life while at the university. In his dorm room, not a castle. No one ever suspects what he's doing or finds it odd that his room smells like decaying flesh. He is purposefully vague about how he re-creates life, by saying that he doesn't want others to figure it out. He then makes a man out of bones he finds in the cemetery, though this part of the story is skimmed over, so that it reads like, "The next day, I created a creature in my likeness from bones I stole and saw his limbs stir." The man he makes runs away to the woods (somehow, he makes it to Frankenstein's home town, though he has no money, no language, no knowledge of where the guy lives, no transportation and he looks like a giant freak). But forget that for a minute. He makes it this forest and then finds a hovel next to a house and learns how to speak by watching the poor people who live there. He spends most of his time watching them through a peephole. That's where I stopped for last night, but my guess is that the family will discover him someday soon and be repulsed by him and then he will have to kill them. Also, it's not scary. It's sad. and melodramatic, but not frightening.

I will probably finish it this weekend. I'll let you know if there is a surprise ending.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Presents from Strangers

Have you heard of this not so new but still startlingly American phenomenon of paying a total stranger to send you presents? You can do this for all sorts of products--makeup, dog treats, clothes, arts & crafts, whimsical house items. The way it works is that you sign up for the service, and add some specific details about your skin and hair coloring, your likes and dislikes, the size of your bra. For Stitch Fix, you give them all of your measurements and choose colors you like and dislike and take this little quiz that gives you options of sets of clothes in certain styles--like, one that's termed romantic because it has lacy blouses and floral prints, or "classic" which includes polo shirts and khaki pants and an anti-choice button. You also say generally what you want to pay for certain items, though there is no range option for 0 to $20. Once you've filled out your style sheet, a person in this company picks out five items of clothing or jewelry for you and then sends it to you. You try everything on and decide what to keep and what to send back, free of charge. The package also comes with a little note from your stylist that says something like, "Hi Aimee (no comma)! I picked out the Pirates of Penzance black stretch pants for a Friday night date. The Wrinkled Fleur de Lis Off the Shoulder T-shirt is good for on the go, and the Crushed Cranberry Swinging Skirt will be perfect for a shot gun wedding. x0, Brittany."
They offer this other incentive--if you buy all five items, the entire order is 25% off. That's not totally true though, because each month, you pay a $20 "styling fee" prior to your order being shipped out. So, even if you buy all five, it's 25% off minutes (or plus?) the $20 you've already paid. You could opt to just buy two things or one thing or none, but whatever you do, you will be paying $20.
You still might feel like you're getting a deal though, because the $20 comes out the week before, it's already lost money that you won't get back, so that $58 white T-shirt with the tiny pocket costs $38 at checkout which is somewhat more justifiable if you ignore that you're really paying $58 for a shirt you could buy at Target for $10. It took me about six months to realize this automatic $20 deficit. Buying nothing results in paying $20 for the fun of opening a box of clothes that you don't really like or that don't fit (note to Brittany: pant and shirt sizes vary by brand and cut). In the ten times I have done this so far, I have never bought nothing. Even if I only sort of like one of the items, I buy it, because I don't want to lose the $ I've already spent. This is why I have a magenta tie dye shirt hanging in my closet like a unwelcome step cousin. I think there have been four times that I've bought all 5, even if I don't love every single item, because I'd rather pay $190 for five pieces of clothing than full price for two items that total $110. Keep in mind that math is not my strong suit, so please intervene if my logic is faulty. I mean, I know it's faulty, but usually, I do like all of the pieces and love maybe two. No, not true. I usually love maybe two items, like two and tolerate one.

But I will keep doing it. Because it's nice to get presents, even if you're paying someone to choose them for you. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mistress America vs. Shame

We went to see Mistress America on Saturday and it was charming and annoying and I felt like we were 20 years too old to enjoy it. The plot is about a first-year college student in Manhattan who feels out of place and so calls up her stepsister to be, who introduces her to the city and is quirky and funny and damaged and egocentric and grandiose. The young girl writes a short story about her called Mistress America and it's not flattering and then there is this long scene at someone else's house that felt like a play--all dialogue in the living room for twenty minutes between secondary characters. After the movie ended, I tried to uncover a second meaning. How the character played by Greta Gerwig is really a metaphor for the city or for lost youth or for America as this hopeful yet misguided place where amazing and terrible things happen, but I couldn't sustain it. Mostly, I watched the movie never forgetting that I was watching a movie, because the dialogue and acting appeared purposefully stilted (i.e. lines delivered in this self-conscious monotone as if the actors were doing a cold read; characters stringing together quotable sentences that don't happen that often in real life). But that could have been the director's intention--to keep us always aware of the artifice of these superficial situations. Mostly, I just felt like I was watching a super polished grad student film filled with characters I didn't particularly like or care about.

But that experience was starkly different and much more enjoyable then the one I had on Sunday, when we rented Shame. Michael Fassbender was on the cover of this past weekend's NYT Style magazine and so I read an article about how he got his start in films directed by Steve McQueen (not the 1960's actor), including Shame, made in 2011. I remember hearing about this movie, and rumblings about the nudity (i.e. his penis), but I didn't see it when it came out because I usually prefer Woody Allen films were Freudian references are made to genitalia, but you never see them in action.

In case you missed it too, Shame is about a thirty-something New Yorker who suffers from sex addiction. This means that he's preoccupied with getting his fix at almost any moment--- in the middle of the day at work, by watching live sex acts while eating Chinese food after work, through prostitutes and bar hook-ups.  He rarely smiles, and he rarely seems to enjoy himself. Then his very needy, messed up little sister shows up, and there's a weird tension between them--like, at first, you're not even sure who she is, she just appears naked in his shower and then you see her with no bra in the kitchen. She could be a former lover. She's sloppy and boundary less, sexy and vulnerable and needy. He agrees to let her stay with him, but he's not happy about it, in part because she is interfering with his masturbation routine.

The movie has a couple of very drawn out scenes, such as the sister singing the entirety of "New York, New York" in slow, pained notes and another of him jogging though Manhattan and then this other scene where he's with two prostitutes and it looks as though he's descended into one of Dante's circles of hell. It's all about habit and not being able to escape this need for his next fix, so that's disturbing and you see that he will always be alone because when he does try to sleep with someone he likes, he can't get it up. I kept thinking, Get a therapist! Talk to someone! But alas, he didn't seem capable of asking for help, even though he was clearly suffering and hating every second of his behavior. Then, something horrible and dramatic happens and he may be changed by it; it may be bad enough to break through the self-abuse, but at the end of the movie, we go back to the beginning, with him sitting on the subway, checking out this same married woman he chased after at the start, and he stares at her and clenches his jaw and we're left to wonder... Can he resist? Will he follow her and begin again? If the movie is truly about addiction, the answer is yes. Yes, of course. You don't necessarily wake up one day and find yourself able to put an end to your worst behavior. Then again, maybe this touching moment in the hospital  with his sister is enough for him to stop. Maybe his clenched jaw is a sign of resistance and not one of agonized sameness.

Whatever the case, watching that movie totally obliterated any of the pleasure of Mistress America.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why you should buy my house

No one has ever died there (to my knowledge). One cat was put down, but not on the premises and it was his time.
Not this cat. This cat lives and has moved to New Jersey.

Exposed brick, built in bookshelves in the kitchen. Very lovely and perfect for cookbooks or a row of increasingly smaller Russian dolls.

This little secret toothbrush holder in the bathroom.

It's listed as a two bedroom, but there's a small room that could be a baby's room or an office or a huge luxurious walk in closet. My mom used it to keep her Singer happy. I used it for bookshelves. The previous owners kept a baby in here.

Along with having central air, it has ceiling fans in both bedrooms and the living room (I'm proud of that one because I commissioned it).

Which fan is it?? You'll have to come visit the house to see.

The bathroom and kitchen have both been redone in the last three years and I got this little bitty dishwasher, and there's a garbage disposal and a gas stove and these drawers that slide out. The shower has that kind of removable shower head with five different water pressure choices (make of that what you will).

Cute little backward with a new fence around the top and a little built in brick place for potting a rose bush or a small tree or anything else you may be inclined to add, sparkly lights?  Flower beds? A mini-waterfall?

Winton Street is featured in Rocky I. There are a couple of scenes where he runs down the street and you can go, "That's my house!" No one will really care but you; still, it's a satisfying thing to know, as if Sly Stone may drop by at any moment.

This is a scene where he's talking to Little Marie. Behind him, the end of my block near 12th Street. Those awnings may still be in place. 
The house is located on a quiet one way street right next to a church, which means, that unlike other houses on the block, you don't have houses facing each other--you are facing Jesus.

This may or may not be the church. 

You know how long it takes to get to the Snyder exit of the Broad Street line? Four minutes, not even hurrying. There used to be an added bonus of passing a store that had an all white cat in the window, but the business has since changed hands and the cat is nowhere to be found.

Some rich people bought the row of buildings on 12th street and will soon be renovating them and turning them into nice new condos. This will elevate the neighborhood and may actually bring in coffee shops.

Speaking of coffee, there's a Starbucks one block away on Broad St. and Jackson. They always have The New York Times, and people often leave behind the Arts & Leisure section, so you can do the crossword while sipping your latte and people watching.

The Pope is coming. You could rent out the apartment for a weekend and make thousands of dollars in profit.

You're really only a ten minute walk from all of the Passyunk Square businesses and the Italian Market and numerous good restaurants (including Fond) and Doggie Style.

The neighbors are nice and no one owns a motorcycle.

All hardwood floors and so no vacuuming, ever.

Charming hanging chandelier that Dan put in, You may also keep the wardrobe in the larger bedroom for extra storage. There are lots of closets and two of them are specially built cedar closets.

I was happy there. So was my mom. You will be too. Now, go look at it:

Emma Carol again, looking as if she hopes you will fall so she can eat your face.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Fall

I've been thinking a lot about college and a particularly bad crush I had. I don't know why this is on my mind, maybe because there are so many songs that remind me of college on the radio lately. For instance, every time I hear Prince's "When Doves Cry," I picture him, but only like the physical details of him, like my brain is making an amalgamation of the MTV video and his corporeal self--ladder-like abs, too-long curly hair and blue eyes. And it also reminds me of a certain stillness that would come over me in his presence, and awe that he didn't deserve, but I couldn't seem to stop myself from feeling that way.

And thinking of my younger self reminds me how long and short life is. That sounds trite, but it's weird how thirty years ago seems both like forever and not long ago at all. I was thinking about far away/close when I was singing to a Pat Benatar song this morning in the car ("We're running with the shadows of the night..."), imagining her big slanted eyes with the heavy eyeliner and short boy hair, and wondering how she's doing today and then thinking about how awful it is that the older you get, the more deaths you experience, and that includes seemingly God-like pop stars such as Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Sting (who, not so coincidentally, reminds me of the aforementioned boy--same chiseled good looks and far off look in his eye as if he is thinking of more important things, such as how to write a song that includes references to Lolita. That, in turn, reminds me of a Shakespeare quote I can't quite put my finger on "greater things than can be imagined in the dreams of men" or something like that, probably a line from one of his tragedies.Which also reminds me that there was a time when I memorized the entire balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, "In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond." And wouldn't it be nice if I had more verse in my head and fewer song lyrics?).

There's a tendency to romanticize the past and talk about how amazing it was, wow, what it was like to feel so deeply for someone else? Particularly someone who I never knew very well at all. To feel it in the palms of my hands; that's how I remember it anyway, this sharp pain by my life line, but it wasn't that I enjoyed it--i-t felt like a bad ending to every movie, every shot dog story you can remember, this inevitable loss, because I knew he would go away without saying good bye. He did go away.  He dropped out of school to be an actor and I stayed behind and slept with his friend who reminded me of him, except the difference was that his friend liked me back and so therefore wasn't interesting.

Maybe I'm thinking about the past because Luke just started seventh grade, and he has all of this anguish still to experience--first dances, liking the wrong person, sweaty hands, scribbled love notes left on car windows in the middle of the night. I envy that and also don't envy it, because it's terrible. Much of growing up and falling in love is painful; it's only in the looking back that we pretend it was better than it actually was.

Still, I wish I could remember more than I do. There are a handful of moments. I remember being at a theater party and wondering if he would show up.  I am sure I dressed in a particular way, probably wearing that green cardigan sweater with the soft suede patches my friend Debbie gave me (I still have it. It's in the bottom drawer of a dresser in the attic).  At the party, I checked every corner of the yard, looking for him, opened closed doors and peered into bedrooms. I took a plastic cup of warm beer and squinted into the dark living room. I felt a hiccup in my chest when I thought I saw his face, but it turned out to be someone else, someone not him. And then I turned around to go into the kitchen and bumped into him, recognizing the way he smelled first (he smelled good, like patchouli and wood smoke), and he took my hand and we went up to the roof of the house, standing on the dangerous, slippery tile. I didn't care if I fell.  I could feel that adrenaline rush you get when you've just swerved to avoid a bad car accident, and I could feel my hair, long then, down to my waist, blow across my face, perfect, and he brushed it away and said, Why did you make me wait so long? And then, of course, he kissed me.

I'm telling you, that's how I remember it. I remember so few things, but I remember him saying that, because it was just what I wanted to hear, like something from a movie, and also so wrong, because I was the one who had been waiting. And anyway, he had his own love who he ached over, his own unattainable person who had way more confidence than he or I put together and if you asked him today what he remembers about college, he too will think of a song or songs (always REM in those days. "Losing My Religion") and a girl with long hair (hers was lighter than mine) who only kind of loved him back (not me).

P.S. I found the quote:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 


Monday, August 17, 2015

No Rhyme Nor Reason

For whatever reason, this super beautiful girl is into this super redneck wearing a flag for a pair of swim trunks. Pretty much all they do is make out in pool and she lets the curtain of her hair fall over his sunburned, cross-eyed face. Again, I feel bad for these cast members who have to pretend to care about any of this.

Samantha claims that she, as a human being, would never plot against another human being. After she says this, they show secret footage of her as human being, plotting. She looks like she stepped off the pages of Vogue, circa 1962. She has really long hair and a wide mouth and should be wearing white lipstick and go-go boots.

Everyone is upset because they feel like Juelia (who can't spell her name) has been played by Joe and that it was super unfair because she has a dead husband and a baby girl. Like, it might have been okay if she was single and no one died.

This new girl has arrived. Her name is Amber and she is of indiscriminate ethnicity (i.e. sort of black). Amber, of course, picks Dan who was supposed to be in love with Ashley who is a portrayed as the strange one, but all I've seen that is weird is that she uses the word literally too much. Like literally every second. Ashley will be kicked off the show. Literally. With a kick. They show footage of playing with a sand crab, in direct contrast to the woman last night who squealed when she saw a crab on a rock.

Megan and JJ go on a date. Megan is the one who was afraid of the crab. She has a black feather tattooed on her arm. She may or may not be wearing false eyelashes. JJ was for certain a member of the young Republicans of America. They go on a jet ski and she can't stop smiling. Back on the boat, they cuddle up and he stars at her fake breasts. Dolphins have been paid (in fish) to swim next to the boat.

Ashley may have had one too many Coronas. They show her going to talk to the birds. I mean, who cares? She likes animals. I mean, who cares?

Dan and Amber go on a date where she has to climb up a ladder in a short skirt for some reason. Dan wears a white pressed shirt tucked into jeans. The locals force them to kiss and fireworks go off. My Dan says, "Hey, that's what happens to us when we kiss."  Dan the TV person is crazily shiny in this lamplight.  He has his hair down in the style of a 1930s movie star, lots of gel and product and a serious part. My Dan says some more inappropriate things about what's going on under the table, that I will not retype here. Dan says he didn't expect that the conversation would keep going or that they would keep kissing or that it would be this intense and exciting and that he would sweat this much. Is she getting his sweat on her face? Is his beard sweaty? MD says that he hopes their next day will be going food shopping at Shop Rite (that's what are date nights involve).

Well, almost time for the rose ceremony. Going home will be Juelia and Ashley, even though she's the most entertaining. I don't know who else will be on the chopping block, because I can't remember who else is on fantasy island.

Once again, the guys have to stand around and drink things out of coconuts and pretend to give a crap that Joe knew Samantha prior to coming to the show. Samantha seems to be made of wax. JJ might threaten to beat up Joe. JJ confronts him and Joe gets up to leave, but then he sits back down again  JJ says that Joe lied to their faces. Joe calls JJ dumb for a banker. JJ calls Joe out for always making circular references. Jared is shocked that he likes JJ better than Jared. JJ wantsw to be the crap out of Joe because that's the better way to solve problems.

No rose ceremony. Damn.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bachelorinos in Paradiso

I watched a little bit of last night's show and here's how I can summarize: the women all got together
and decided to wear fake eyelashes. The men all got together and decided to get bad tattoos. I don't know what else happened except that I felt sorry for the contestants because they were forced to have these phony conversations where they pretended to care about who is scamming who. I have no idea who went home (did anyone?) or what happened of any significance, but I'm confident that the first ten minutes of tonight's show will be a recap of those 3 important minutes. I also don't understand why the show is now three hours long per week, when it really only needs to be 9 minutes.

Clare and Jarrod/Ashton are on the sailboat, guided by a ghost. They will now be forced to go bungee jumping. Cue picture of love birds grooming each other. Both must go down topless. I'll say that it's pretty high. Clare and Ashton bond over Clare putting her nose in his armpit right before they are pushed off the cliff in an embrace. Clare poops her bikini bottoms as they tumble but the producers edit it out. He's holding on to her and they may be engaged in intercourse. It's unclear but not unlikely.

Where did the twin-ish sister go? Ashley is crying because Clare had a great date and Tenley is, like, so confused because two guys are into her. But guess what? Another dude has shown up and he too is in love with Tenley, who he calls "Elevensey" GET IT? He went to Notre Dame, you guys.

Here's a new dumb way that they're talking. They ask an obvious question and then answer it in an even more obvious or else oblique way. Like: "Do I want to their date too be a good one? Of course, I don't. I hope he pukes on himself. Do I want her to ride on a horse in white shorts while he stares at her butt? Of course I don't want them to ride on a horse, separately or together and especially not in those shorts. Is there an echo in here? Of course there's an echo in here, in here."

Tenley (whose name I have to re-type three times before my spell check will allow it) is so excited that Michael from Desiree's season is on the show She modestly asks why he likes her. He says, "Well, you're strikingly beautiful and you're always smiling and you have so much positive energy." Michael may want to re-think those white pants.

You guys, there is no way that they don't give these men some camera-ready kiss training. They totally coach them in how to first push back the woman's hair and then put their hands on either side of their faces before gently descending. And they must wear leather bracelets.

Jarrod turns into kind of a dick by reminding Clare that she's eight years older than him and that might be an issue. She's 34, practically ancient. Clare goes, "Well, that's it then." Thank you for not crying, Clare. The dude has not yet learned how to shave.

Two guys are telling this blond woman that she needs to send Joe home because he's not here for the right reasons and also because he's from the South and his eyes are too close together. Joe denies that he is playing her and then he lunges for a kiss to prove that he's sincere. Because no one would ever kiss you if they didn't truly like you. They should just cast this show with 15 year olds. Joe is passed and wants to beat the shit out of Mikey. "I swear to God, ya'll, I want to bet my brass knuckles out and take him out back..." By comparison, Mikey is starting to look like a dreamboat, samurai ponytail or samurai ponytail. Joe manipulates two of the guys into admitting they were wrong. Someone is crying in the bathroom but I don't know who it is. Who it's the other guy. Come on. That's okay.

I missed a few minutes because I was watching some guys with crazy hair on American Ninja Warrior. Ashton goes the crier and tells Herr that he wants to put his hands on her face and kisses her. She goes, "I was waiting for that long enough. Holy shit, dude!" So romantic.

Rose ceremony. That strange girl is still there. I wish she would stay the whole time. Clare could give the African American guy a rose. Clare gives an impassioned speech about how no one has asked her what she likes. Then she tells this other girl that if the shoe fits, she should wear it.

Blond girl picks Kirk with the bow tie. He's a ginger and reminds me and looks like an extra from The Walton.

The weird girl gives the rose to Dan.

Jade gives it to Tanner who elbows a few guys out of the way.

Tenley picks Joshua, the drug addict.

Clear, rather than forfeiting the rose, goes off to cry. She does not know who to give the rose too. It's to be continued...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Say Anything Still Works

Watched Cameron Crowe's Say Anything last night for the first time in about fifteen years. I am trying to decide if it's a feminist film or not. It's one of the few teen movies where the guy is totally willing to give up everything for the girl and the girl is the one who has big plans. In this movie, she's the valedictorian and she has earned a fellowship to study in London. Conversely, Lloyd isn't sure what he wants to do (aside from not want to "sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career"). His main goal in life is to be the boyfriend of Diane Court. He's Lloyd Dobler, as played by the long-eyelashed, super tall John Cusack, who I have a fondness for because he's a native Chicagoan and because I also like his sister, actress Joan Cusack, especially her green-eye-shadowed character in Working Girl. 

There was a spat of these "unpopular guy gets popular girl" films in the 80s, like Patrick Dempsey's Can't Buy Me Love and Eric Stoltz in the one with Amanda Jones...Oh, Some Kind of Wonderful. Essentially, they all run something like this: unpopular or unknown guy gets super hot girl, who discovers that he's way better than the dumb jocks she's been dating.

But Say Anything is somewhat different because it's not that Lloyd is unpopular, it's just that he's not in her league. He's older, and has no plans for college. He lives with his sister, his parents are nowhere to be found, and he likes to kick box. Diane is the one with the future and the plans and the brains. They have this great kiss in the rain where he's super tall and they're both soaking wet and he's got his hands tangled in her hair and then there's this other sweet moment right after the first time he sleeps with her that he's shaking but denying it, but still shaking and he says it's because he's happy. 

Of course, there's also the fact that he keeps saving her, kind of, making sure she's safe at the party, that she doesn't step on glass on the sidewalk, that she can travel to London without freaking out on the plane, and he's this replacement dad figure, because, in an unexpected and possibly unnecessary plot twist, Diane's dad (played by the guy who was Frasier's dad in the show) turns out to be a crook, embezzling from his elderly clientele. And still. And still, it has this amazing Lily Taylor as his best friend who writes countless songs about her ex boyfriend, and who rejects him when he wants to get back together and she doesn't end up with someone else and that's okay and there is not sexual tension between her and him, and that's okay too, they're friends and she thinks he's amazing and that's it.

Then again, is it stalking to leave eight voice messages and stand outside a girl's window blasting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes?" Naw, it's not too bad. "I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen."

Monday, August 3, 2015

Day two, starting half way through

Wait, this is on again? I was watching Unreal, a TV drama about the making of a reality TV show.

Here's that one girl from Chris' season (Clare?) going on a one-on-one with Mikey. Mikey, the muscle monkey. Mikey, with tattoos who says things like, "Deep down, I have always had like this fifth grade crush on you and I think you're like so awesome." Their date is to simulate sex in yoga poses. No kidding. They will be focusing on the four chakras--the heart, the mind, the groin, and the butt chakras. They must touch ads to ads and pull each other back and forth. Please do not fart, they're both thinking. Actually, only Clare is probably thinking that. I doubt that Mikey cares. His favorite position is downward Clare and hopefully, he will be "able to experience it with he done day without all the cameras."  They dive into a pool and Mikey says that he wants to get to know her bette rand would like to kiss her. She says, in not so many ways, I am not interested in you at all. He tells the camera later "I like that we're on the same page together." Let's see what happens when I Google tantric yoga...
The people are starting to couple up and Tenley, who has a made up name and refers to herself in the third person, pouts, wondering who will give her a rose? Except you have to imagine her saying that in a bitty baby voice, as in "Who will give me a wose?" Mikey has his super short hair in a teeny tiny ponytail, not at all resembling a samurai.
Who raised these two sisters? They seem like brats. They both cry immediately and decide they need to start doing shots. Sounds like a good idea. The dark haired one says, "I'm going to hafta claim my stake." She interrupts Tenley's walk with Ashton and she tells him that she's awkward around hot guys. He does not know what to say to her.  The two sister are a little bit funny together as the one tries to comfort the other by saying, "You're way better than any of these girls running around with fake boobies. It's like saline central around here."
Tenley is throwing herself at J.J. and giving him permission to kiss her and rub her butt just below where the microphone pack is placed. The twins are now all dressed up with dramatic red lipstick. Ashley now suddenly has long dark hair and she looks like a Hawaiian pin-up princess. She and Jarod/Ashley tell each others how amazing they think the other person is and then he goes to talk to Clare. This, of course, make Ashley cry, but she does that crying thing that my friend Donna pointed out, where they don't let the tears actually fall down their faces, they grab them up with the tips of their fingers as if they are precious jewels. I think this is because they don't' want their foundation to come off in cakey rivers.
This show is more like a cross between The Bachelor meets Big Brother, because there is strategy involved.
Rose ceremony. Guy picks girl.
Tanner chooses Jade. She accepts.
Kirk chooses Carly. She accepts with gold shit in her hair.
Sweaty guy picks Ashley S.
Black guy picks blond girl.
Mikey picks Clare. She will accept this rose, even though she doesn't like him and he doesn't know it.
Jarod is the one who will make of break the lives of these other women. He picks Ashley I. That means that she and her sister ret to stay and only J.J. is left.
Jo.J. chooses... He seems like a total prick, by the way. It's between Jillian and Tinley. He picks...Tenley. This kiss paid off. Jillian is shocked because she thought she had him eating out of her own hand, as she mimed a couple of times.
Oh, no, bad news. This is on both Sundays and Mondays. I won't be able to watch it both nights ever.

Live Frat Party on TV

I will not be watching the whole show because I have another TV date for PBS' Poldark, a show where, to date, no one has worn a thong.

Thus far, we've met a meathead, three sweet girls, and the woman with the Bambi eyelashes who brought her sister. Not sure if she's a twin or what, but she is already having throwing her wet body against a guy in the ocean as he fortuitously grabs her boobs so she won't fall over. Ashley wears a  white v-neck T-shirt with no bra. They have reminded us the Ashley is a virgin but her sister is so NOT (their emphasis, not mine). Kurt the ginger shows up and Carly likes him. I like Carly but she has dyed her hair a little too blond. One black guy so far and Ashton Kushner is back with the same half-hearted facial hair. Jillian bounces in wearing a super cute neon yellow bikini with her butt cheeks hanging out (cue black bar). Jade, remember, is the hometown girl who posed for Playboy and was promptly dumped when she told Chris and then forced him to watch her video.  J.J. has just arrived in pink pants and been cast as the villain. Any adult who goes by just their initials should rightfully be played seen as the bad guy. The other Ashley enters, ready to take on the role of the kooky girl. She immediately goes to look at the parakeets, right after saying she wasn't correctly portrayed as a loony on the last show. There will also be a wedding between the two previous Paradise contestants.

Chris tells them to follow him into a tent and to sit on the wooden settees. He announces that one of the women will be going home. As for the sisters, Chris says that if you extend a rose to one, they will both be staying. Why? The other girls are immediately jealous.

Chris Harrison wants to show them something interesting. He wears a blue leisure suite--matching pants and jacket, probably no socks, but we never do get to see his ankles. He's going to take them to the wedding of those other beautiful people who met and bonded within fifteen minutes in the last season. Boring. I forgot how boring this particular show is. How much money did they pay Marcus and Lacey to pretend to be married by Chris Harrison? Fifty thousand? Only two of their family members are allowed to attend. Chris reminds them that they failed at love on their first reality shows, but that love was with them and they were able to find each other on the second reality show. Wow. They share some canned and unsurprising vows and are pronounced Harrison, which means that all of the vows are extra meaningless. Smiles all around from the cast. The one girl with a tragic story that I don't remember catches the bouquet. Almost no teeth were knocked out in the grabbing of the bouquet.

Lots of drinking will ensue, tears will be shed, and bikinis will be worn. I'll try to catch up next week (it moves the Monday nights after this one special episode).

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Books I've Read in the Last Two Weeks and Barely Recall Now

My ability to hold on to a plot line beyond a month is severely limited, which is good and bad. The bad part is that I think I may have a brain tumor. The good part is that I can read books more than once, always with a sense of de ja vu, like I may have read it before. Some of the time, that's because I'm not reading with great attention, but with one eye on the dog and the other eye closing in tiredness (I read mostly at bedtime). But here's an update on what I've read recently, as far as I can remember it. All of these books came from the wonderful, amazing, fantabulous Princeton Public Library. If that library were a man (or a woman), I would gladly make out with it.

1.  Finders Keepers by Stephen King. This book includes characters from his last volume, Mr. Mercedes, which I also read but can't remember very well. According to Wikipedia, it's the second in a trilogy devoted to this town, these characters. Finders Keepers runs over a slightly familiar trope for King, a fan obsessed with a writer (think Lisley's Story and Misery).  But it was... boring. By King standards, because one of his greatest strengths is that he creates page-turning tensions. You must keep reading until the end. That was true of this book, but the plot was boring. A bad guy kills an author and steals his money and all of his unpublished work and then buries it in his own back yard, after killing the other two people who helped him pull off the heist. He then goes to prison for a few decades for a different crime, and the kid whose family buys his house uncovers the treasure a few years later.  The novel centers around the killer being released and tracking down the little boy. Not to ruin it for you, but there is a scene at the end where the bad guy burns to death trying to rescue the books, not unlike what happens to Annie Wilkes in Misery. I didn't care much for the kid or his plight and the characters seemed flat. I read it cover to cover though.

2. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham. If you haven't read The Hours, you must. This book did not compare to that one, but the writing was lovely, so many beautiful sentences. He reminds me of McEwan--they both write about moments in life where the character is trying to decide what it all means, why are we here, what does life mean, but not in a pontificating or obvious way. The story was about an art curator who thinks he might be falling in love with his wife's fucked up younger brother.

3. Long And Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney. This is a crime novel about two characters trying to solve mysteries from the past. One is a detective hired to figure out why this woman is being harassed at her place of business (he's also a survivor of a terrible crime 20 years earlier); the other a woman whose sister disappeared at the county fair twenty years ago. I liked it, but it felt like the writer wasn't sure how to resolve the mysteries. Both were solved when other characters just messed up to what had happened. With no consequence. Also, the two crimes did not link up in any way and the characters only fleetingly intersected. Which story was more interesting? The guy who couldn't figure out why he survived this mass shooting in a movie theater after-hours. No answer was forthcoming. That question was not answered.

4. The Dangerous Husband by Jane Shapiro. I picked this one up mostly because I thought, Oh, finally, a book with the word "husband" in the title instead of "wife." This quick read was a dark comedy about the difficulty of staying married, particularly when the husband is chronically, hyperbolically clumsy and prone to knocking over bookshelves and people at any given moment. Halfway though, the wife realizes she can't leave him, and so he must die. The writing was entertaining, strange, and somewhat tiring with its quirkiness, but I guess that means one should just not try to read it all in one sitting.

I'm also now reading Charles Baxter's interrelated collection of short stories with titles like "Bravery," "Loyalty," and "Chastity." I'll let you know how that goes. Library trip is imminent for later on today.