Dear Readers,


I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Special Topics in Calamity Physics


A quick, and unpretentious as always, review.

The book was good. Not so good that my gnawing jealousy of Pessl's winsome Aryan beauty and adoration by the cognoscenti of lit-crit was inflamed and I got depressed. Nope, just good enough so I was like, "Hey, Marisha, I'm happy for you girl; you really did a good job and made me laugh and a little scared and even somewhat thoughtful, but you know what, I don't feel like a speck of dust in your massive shadow! At all. You're better than that Safran-Foer distaster, but like him, you were overhyped. It ain't your fault, but still. An aspiring writer who blog-crastinates has a right to be satisfied about that."

A few other thoughts:
  • Pessl's so-called pyrotechnics of canonical references weren't so high-falutin' as all that--they were standard English major fare. We're talking Ode on a Grecian Urn and Wuthering Heights, here. Not even Lacan or any of that mad pretentious shit. I actually liked that aspect of it, I just don't get why the critics were all like "ohmigod she's so smart." Shouldn't they be hip to her citations? Also, Pessl managed to weave a lot of the quotations in quite seamlessly and satisfyingly. However:
  • Her long introductory passages referencing obscure tomes of psychology and criminology should have been wayyy cut down. This would have improved the book tremendously.
  • I relished both the central mystery and the portrait of prep school life. But Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, though smaller in scope, was a better novel of that type; you, know the "psuedo-outsider gazing at the horsey silk stocking blue blooded adolescents dotting the manicured lawn of her elite prep school with mouth agape" genre.
  • I thought Blue Van Meer's dad was a ridiculous and frustrating character, but extremely funny at certain moments.
  • As a rule, I would have liked more character development, less cache.
  • I was actually scared during parts of the novel. Whether that makes it good or me a wuss, I can't say.
  • That is all. My next reading project is Allegra Goodman's Katerskill Falls. I've been reading way too much Westporty stuff and I need to take a detour to the Catskills, fast, if you dig what I mean, readership.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Taking Back the Blogosphere


I want to participate in this blogswarm not because I've experienced online harassment (though I did have one troll, and he's male)--hell, I've barely experienced online anything-- but because when I read about Kathy Sierra and I see the nasty posts on Feministing, HuffPo and elsewhere, I identify so quickly with the writer's experiece that's it's almost a physical sensation.

Unlike many women, I found my voice early and it only faltered later. I remember being called a feminazi and teased by several boys in my fourth grade class, because I thought Gloria Steinem was cool when she visited and I said so.

I remember, with considerable pain, the middle school years, when I raised my hand, leaned forward over my desk, and shamelessly blurted out answers to questions teachers posed, unaware that I wasn't being ladylike. When I did realize it, because of a look or a remark, I remember feeling humiliated, but also angry. Why should I be punished for being myself? For acting the way any guy might?

My sense of not being different came from being raised side by side with a boy and treated equally by my parents. Sure, I played with She-Ra and he played with He-man, but more often than that we threw all the action dolls together and imposed a joint narrative, replete with romance and fighting for all.

But when I entered the socialized world of school, I began to get punished--and punish myself-- for not conforming to my designated role. It was less that I was a feminist and more that I wasn't feminine. I couldn't giggle or flirt to save my life. I didn't know how to assume the new persona of the coy teenage girl. But I did know how to memorize poems and spit them back, and how to argue passionately for choice, affirmative action, and all the issues that bugged me back then and still do. And I had several friends who did the same. The result was that, through blatant comments or simply ignoring us, for desexualizing us or hyper-sexualizing us, many guys and girls at school did their darndest to silence us. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't.

I remember the unfathomable rage the senior guys had for my group of girlfriends when serveral of us dared complain that they were videotaping a truth and dare game with the freshman girls on our debate trip bus for all to see and hear. The idea that their male privilege, their right to treat younger women like property, was somehow threatened was quite possibly the worst thing that had ever happened to them. Ever. They completely lost it.

The point of my little personal history of gender-woe is that this is the fate that meets all women who dare break out of their roles, by caring in an indecorous manner about political or work-related issues, or (god forbid!) not tweezing our eyebrows. Many of us try to minimize our threat to the status quo. We do the latter (tweeze, pluck, poke, squeese) so we can do the former (argue, advocate, work) with more impunity, but it doesn't succeed. The manicured type (Pelosi or Kathy Sierra) get called "soft" or turned into sexual objects. Those who don't shave or primp or conform (Friedan, Clinton) are easily dismissed into the "she's that way cause she's ugly" mannish category. We're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

It's fucking tiring. I actually feel less confident in my righteous indignation than I used to because after ten years of being a token feminist at my various elite schools, I got so fried I checked out for a while. So in that sense, all the patriarchal efforts worked.

But there's nothing like reading the way commenters treat female bloggers--my new heroines--to get me all riled up again.

So yeah. Take back the blog. And take back our voices.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Maureen's At It Again

Thus wrote Egalitarian Bookworm Chick's numero uno persona non grata, Maureen Dowd yesterday in her column:

Usually, I love the dynamics of a cheeky woman puncturing the ego of a cocky guy.

I liked it in ’40s movies, and I liked it with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, and Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in “Moonlighting.”

So why don’t I like it with Michelle and Barack?

I find it incumbent on myself to provide a variety of answers to MoDo's rhetorical question:
  1. Barack and Michelle are real people, not characters, and actually have implications for society. You hate serious stuff like that, I know.
  2. In the movies and media settings you describe, the woman still remains second potato, and thus the "cheekiness" is a mere conceit designed to flatter the man.
  3. The Obamas are black people who act like they're actually entitled to this, like they're people or something. God, how rude of them. Good thing you slammed them with such hard-hitting rhetoric, Maureen.
  4. They have the kind of equal marriage you bemoan you will never have, thereby eliminating your master theory that all smart men date down (actually, Mo', only smart assholes date down).
  5. Unlike the cheeky vixens in 40s movies whom you so admire, they don't conform to 40s definition of gender roles. But then again, it's not the 40s. Hasn't been for a long time.
The entire column is a blot on the face of womankind, but this gem takes the cake:
She throws in nice stuff, too, about how he’s “the real deal” and a trustworthy “brother.” But this princess of South Chicago, a formidable Princeton and Harvard Law School grad, wants us to know that she’s not polishing the pedestal.
And why the hell should she? Also, as swvl pointed out, putting "brother" in scare quotes isn't just racist-ish. It's racist. And calling Michelle a princess in such a dismissive way implies that only the WASPy belle dames of the Hollywood golden age deserve to be princesses. Certainly not African American women, or Jewesses for that matter. They're just bitches. There might be a princess-loophole for a particular brand of flame-haired Irish Catholic broads though-- in Dowd's self-hating fantasies.

Maureen, I'm watching you. I've insitituted Maureen Dowd Patrol on my blog, and am going to try to catch you at your misogynist bullshit twice a week, every week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, schedule permitting. So watch your back, girl. I'm sticking to you like you stick to your vapid credo.

UPDATE: and here's a Salon piece dissing the Edwards haircut fracas.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Am I A Bad Person for Not Loving Joan Didion's Book?


I loved the first half of The Year of Magical Thinking. As a longtime believer in the catharsis of reading sad books, I thought Didion's initial portrait of grief and mourning was spot-on and moving and beautifully written. The passage about not throwing out her husband's shoes because subconsciously she believed he might come back was brilliant, as was her description of her disorientation and frailty, and her desperate quest to piece together every minute leading up to his death.

But as she began to meander through her past I have to admit I got bored and turned off by the WASPy-intelligentsia vibe that pervaded every memory. Her repetition of place names and trips to Hawaii and Paris, dinners at Mortons and meetings with such-and-such a member of the literati and such and such a party at such and such a famous person's house betrayed a certain lack of perspective--and a lack of enough description to clue-in readers who weren't hip to what each experience meant. And although I loved Didion's use of poetic quotations, I was surprised by how often she quoted her own novels and her husband's-- to me, all her reminiscences sounded so much like a typical elderly person's obsession with his/her life and legacy. You know, how many older folks can suddenly switch to the philosophy of starting to judge one's life based on who one knew and what one did, because--well, I guess because because one is in the throes of some sort of mortality panic or insecurity. And Didion's manifestation of that trait was touching in its own right, but far from magical, or illuminating.

Considering myself an empathetic person (but maybe this blog has made me harsher?), I was shocked to find how quickly I was losing my affectionate identification with and awe for Didion as the book progressed. Maybe, I thought, if she had waited another year to publish the book, she might have stumbled outside of her own grief to identify with the larger grieving community--come to the conclusion that because of war, thousands of young women go through the same trauma that she experienced when her elderly husband died of heart failure. Is this unfair of me? How can I possibly demand that a memoirist reach outside her personal experience, or undergo some sort of transformation? The form is supposed to be a rendering of the truth. And grieving and mourning are inherently indulgent, narcissistic, and obsessive processes after all. I suppose I just wish Didion's portrait of her marriage, and her family, was more intimate and less erudite. But maybe that's asking too much.

Dowdy and the Patriarchy: A Match Made in Heaven

[A Parody...of sorts]

Poor Dowdy. Despite her "pink Burberry trench coat" and her "distressed denim skirt and very tight high-heeled, knee-high black boots," she can't seem to get herself a man. She likes to bemoan that "famous and powerful men [are taking] up with ...their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers, " (fact checkers? FACT checkers? Methinks she's referring to the not-so-egalitarian Times here--for shame, Times!). She worries that her castrating tongue has sent all the really smart men out there packing--if uber-misognyists like Aaron "fetish for blonde Christian chicks and crack-cocaine" Sorkin (or the Sork) and Michael "fetish for Catherine Zeta Jones" Douglass (or Dougly) count as really smart men.

But Dowdy's problems just start there. Not only do men totally suck, but feminism has kind of let her down too! Why you gotta do that, feminism?
"Before it curdled into a collection of stereotypes, feminism had fleetingly held out a promise that there would be some precincts of womanly life that were not all about men," she says.
Like, wouldn't it be awesome if everyone could emulate her utopian life surrounded with her girlfriends "Alessandera" and "Michi" who also like cleverly phrased put-downs and also enjoy bemoaning the lack of men in their lives---oops. I guess that man-free paradise hasn't quite arrived yet. But seriously, if only feminism had lived up to its promise --then every woman could get together with her girls and come up with new, nasty invective that may gloss over facts the way Bobbi Brown glosses over their lips! That'd be so groovy. And none of those bra-burning stereotypes are invited, for heaven's sakes. Dowdy loves bras. And shoes. And Bobbi Brown makeup too I'll wager.

Yes, she cultivates her image. And why shouldn't she? That shock of red hair helps her flirt with famous people and then quote them in her columns, which is super-awesome and important. That's why when male politicians start worrying about their own images, like a snarling dog, Dowdy's out defending her territory. Fortunately, her column about (arguably) the most femme-friendly candidate, John Edwards, really focused hard on the issues, like his progressive stance on health insurance, reproductive rights, gay rights and poverty. See, here's what she said: "Americans aren't ready for a metrosexual-in-chief." Oh, she was talking about his haircut. Never mind.
"Following his star turn primping his hair for two minutes on a YouTube video to the tune of “I Feel Pretty,” Mr. Edwards... seems intent on proving that he is a Breck Girl — and a Material Boy."
Therein lies the main problem with Dowdy. Here's John Edwards, a "smart" man who isn't afraid of smart women. You know, the kind of guy that Dowdy says are extinct. His wife is in charge of his campaign, he's got Kate Michelmann on board, and if elected he would make the lives of women in our country really better, unlike her ex The Sork, who plasters stereotypes across the screens of millions each night. I don't know if Dowdy can handle the reality that such men exist.

But guess what? The guy Dowdy has referred to as "The Breck Girl" five-plus times got a pricey haircut because image matters now. It matters a whole lot--thanks to none other than, you guessed it, Dowdy and her ilk. You see, Dowdy was more into in Kerry's windsurfing than Bush's windbagging. She cared more about Al Gore's Earth tones than his Earth-friendly strategy, was more interested Hillary's shrewish image than her shrewd understanding of policy. Yup, it's true. Hil's a wonk. She certainly wouldn't know what to talk about with Michi and Alessandera around Cosmos and a rerun of Sex and the City. But would Hil know how to run the country? Let's not be ridiculous. Dowdy doesn't really care! She's a "color" columnist, remember?

Thanks to Dowdy's fun with shameful gender-based character assassination, the nebulous border between the Male and the Female in our political world will remain guarded for a long time. But you know, I think it sucks for her in the end, because every time she attacks a liberal man for being too feminine and a strong woman in politics for not "throwing like a girl" the chances that she'll ever meet a gender-hang-up free guy, the type of real man who doesn't give a shit that she's smart and likes her anyway, are diminished. Let's hope The Sork gets over his drug problem real soon and takes her back.

sources/credits:
Modo on JE
NYM on Modo
Modo on Women
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip--every episode.
A whole bunch of liberal bloggers who attack the Maureen Dowd/Edwards phenomenon from a more political stance. (Yglesias, Greenwald, the American Prospect etc. Go you!)

Lizzy Bennet doesn't giggle.

Many Jane-ites and Austen purists likely felt a visceral anger towards Pride and Prejudice 2005 (the one I've nicknamed "Love, Actually, and Pride and Prejudice") the minute they saw it, and perhaps with distance softened to realize that a good film adaptation of a good novel, to use an Austen-phrase, "may take liberties." (That's certainly how I feel about the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility, which turns Austen's anti-Romanticism upside down with fantastic results. )

But my trajectory vis-avis "LA&P&P" '05 has been the opposite. I saw it on a cold November weekend, during a hard year in my life, and was for the most part drawn in by its warmth and romance and visual beauty. I quibbled a bit, but viewed it as another S and S -- a well-done, if Hollywoodized, two hour adaptation of a much longer novel. I also likened it to the Olivier/Garson version from back in the day. This new movie imposes a contemporary wistful and unsure mindset on the story, just as that one infused Austen with the golden age of Hollywood's sassy back and forth aesthetic.

In retrospect, though, I've found the adaptation harder to take. The whole reason I'm writing about this now, in fact, is because I tuned in to the last 40 minutes on HBO the other night, and was amazed by how much more cynical and irritated I was , yelling "WHAT?" at the screen, and "Lizzy Bennet would never do that!" Even my viewing companion, who may have a more lax attitude towards Austen purism than I do, audibly groaned during several scenes, particularly those that involved Kiera Knightley giggling or whimpering. For heaven's sake, LIZZY BENNETT DOESN'T GIGGLE.

And that's where I'm the most frustrated with the adaptation. Lizzy Bennett is the strongest, realest, most fascinatingly intelligent female character in history--or at least the most resonant example of the "spunky heroine." The way the film dumbs her down and makes her more in thrall to Darcy (and even casting a physically small actress in the role) is kind of, well, it's clearly the work of a man. And pushing both Darcy and Bingley towards being a pair of awkward and shy frat boys who can't get their love lives together undermines their patriarchal arrogance and immense power, which is a huge part of Austen's landscape.

The portrayal Mrs. Bennett, whose hysteria in the book begins to make the reader doubt her sanity, and Mr. Bennett, who is self-righteously indifferent, as well-meaning and kind parents is one thing, but robbing Lizzy of her self-command and sauciness by bestowing her with trembling lips, teary eyes, and moments when she's so consumed by her overwhelming love for Mr. Darcy, she stands against the wall and breathes to calm herself down is somewhat offensive. And it's just not my Lizzy.

As for the dialogue, it insults our intelligence at times by going beyond Austen's words in an unnecessary way. Here's Darcy's second proposal, during the part of the movie where I start yelling "Cathy! Heathcliff!" because of its turgidity:
My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.
To quote a friend, HUH? Was that last bit really nceessary? This happens over and over in the dialogue. There's a line right from Jane Austen, we laugh or gasp because it's brilliant, and then whatever was being cleverly replied is immediately re-stated in blunt modern terms. We may laugh or gasp again, but it's not for the same reasons, I assure you.

Anyway, I don't mean to be too much of a hater or a puritan-- as a rule, I adore a little sexing-up of Austen. And I deeply appreciate some of the finer moments in the film, as well as its luscious scenery and score. The classic scenes--Jane and Lizzy in their bedroom, for instance--still pack an amazing wallop.

The film is hardly a butchering. I just feel that it could have been that much better if it had trusted the audience to read the source material's subteties. And I wish the film-makers had kept Lizzy more composed, and yes, even arrogantly prejudiced. I happen to like Kiera Knightley, but Jennifer Ehle and even Greer Garson are so spirited and clever and strong in comparison. Giving Kiera more snobbery and headstrong self-importance to work with would have been a bigger challenge, and perhaps done more justice to her talent.

And lastly, the "American" ending with the bit that the Brits refer to as the "snog" and the "goddess divine"/"Mrs. Darcy" crap. At this point both my companion and I changed the channel, because it's a complete travesty--(and a great example of how the Brits view Yankee sensibilities). And maybe that's why my repeat viewings are so negatively influenced. Watching the movie without knowing about that final scene was a lovely experience, but perhaps the sacrelige of the ending colored my view of the entire two hours preceding it. Who can say?

The Andrew Davies version is definitive, in my opinion, not because of Colin Firth or Darcymania of any of that silliness, but because of Ehle's assertive, attractive, clever and pitch-perfect Lizzy.

Scarlett Johansen Hosting SNL.

For the first fifteen minutes, I couldn't figure out whether it was a repeat or not because literally the sketches were all the same shitty-ass crap from the last time she hosted. There's the racist sketch where she plays the ghetto girl and Kenan is her mom, and the sexist/homophobic sketch where Kristen Whig has the hots for Scarlett. So lame.
Quoth M. Twist:
What if there was a news anchor who likes women, and is ALSO a woman? what a brilliant concept. I know right. She's a Girl and she also likes girls.
Wow.
SNL has jumped the shark very, very, vigorously. And after a viewing of the clever action parody Hot Fuzz this evening, the comedown has been very, very, trying.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Road--just in time for the most cheerfulest week, like, ever!


It's been a gloomy week here at EBC headquarters. What with the horrifying, nightmarish massacre at VA Tech, the alarming supreme court decision on partial-birth abortion, the growing number of bombings in Iraq, and the lying scoundrels stuttering before congress all taking current affairs to a brand new low, I decided to read a book with a cheery outlook on the future... not.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road just won the Big Ol' Pulitzer Prize,, and of course is doubly honored by being selected for Oprah's Book Club, returning after its Frey-induced hiatus. (Don't get me started on Oprah--post Secret, she's on notice).

So how could I not jump on the literary bandwagon? I pilfered my parents' hardcover copy (and by pilfering, I mean "mom and dad, can I borrow The Road please?") and set to work reading.

I was trembling with fear within minutes, close to tears within hours, and done within a day. The book was surprisingly short and sparse. But I'm still having nightmares about burned corpses in garbage cans, cannibals roaming the deserted, ash-covered country, and a father and son huddled close together through the black, black night. What's scary about post-apolocalytic worlds is how recognizable they still are (at least to overimaginative sorts like me), and how easy it is to believe that this might happen--how quickly our busy interstates could become long, charred paths through wasteland. And with Senator McCain cheerfully humming about bombing Iran, which is allied with China, which is allied with Russia... I mean, how far away are we, have we been for decades, from our own destruction?

But back to the literature. The Road, for all its gruesomeness, has been called beautiful by the creme de la creme of reviewers, and I agree. The relationship between the man and the boy is nerve-vibrating, both uplifting and at the same time terrifying, because the humanity they represent puts them in so much danger. McCarthy has a gift for language that is both complex and discernible. He doesn't make you struggle too much but you can appreciate his verbal twists and turns. The Road is an essential read: frightening, stark, moving, prophetic (let's hope not too prophetic). It hounds its readers with an iron grip and a vision of darkness.

Both Ms. Winfrey and that Pulitzer guy have really good taste, I guess.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Stephen Colbert--Closet Egalitarian Bookworm?

I can't believe that he invited Robert Pinsky to judge his completely absurd and hilarious "metaphor-off" with Sean Penn tonight. How literary of him. And how hip of our former Poet Laureate.

Stephen's metaphor for love?
"love is a full length mirror"

Sean Penn's favorite line:
"the moisture of George Bush's soiled and dirty underwear"

Stephen's promise about his so-called upcoming "hyperbole-off" with George Clooney:
'It will be the greatest event in the history of the United States of America." (get it? Cause it's a hyberbole-off. heeheehee. Someone knows his figurative language devices.)

I'll update tomorrow with the youtube clip if I can find it.
UPDATE: Watch the whole Meta-free-for all, right here!



And now, as per Stephen's wishes, I'm going to help make Pinsky's new poem the NUMBER ONE POEM IN AMERICA. Anything for you, Stephen.

Robert Pinsky Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kandukondain Kandukondain--Sense and Sensibility, Bollywood style



Ahh, Jane Austen. Thou'rt so infintely adaptable. Much like your fore-daddy, Bill Shakespeare, you can transcend time place and space* and be moved to a Beverly Hills high school, Scarsdale, or in this case, Madras, India. Yes, Mizz JA's tales can be plopped anywhere where there's a social code or a class system and still function. I guess that means that basically, she works everywhere. Even in supposedly status-free hippie communes (can you imagine Emma being a know-it all flower child? I can.)

Anyhow, always in search of the perfect modern adaptation of a classic work, and hoping for a repeat of the wondrous experience that is and forever will be Bride and Prejudice, we rented Kandukondain Kandukondain, the Bollywood adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. The movie stars the stunning Aishwarya Rai and Tabu, of Bride and Prej and The Namesake respectively (so in other words, the only two Bollywood actresses I know) as the Marianne and Elinor Dashwood characters.

The verdict? In short, it was a lovely film and the actors and actresses were completely fantastic, but it couldn't hold up to Ang Lee's adaptation of the novel. The plot rambled too much, and it lacked those social back-and-forths that give Austen her oomph. I know it's a different form of movie, but Austen doesn't get its zest from plot and plot alone. The tension wasn't amped up as much as it could have been. The best part of the movie was the sisters-- they played off each other perfectly and summoned the spirits of their literary inspirations.

Austen-purism aside, there's something so wonderful and vital about those Bollywood music scenes where the couples wear flowy clothing and dance freely, in front of beautiful natural backdrops and across the turrets and papapets of castles and ruins. It's something no US director could do unironically. At the risk of projecting my Western understanding onto the form, those scenes hearken back to what Romantic with a capital R is all about. Shelley would be proud. As would Kate Bush.


*[Here was a woman about the year 18oo writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without protest, without preaching. That was how Shakespeare wrote, I thought, looking at Antony and Cleopatra; and when people compare Shakespeare and Jane Austen, they may mean that the minds of both had consumed all impediments; and for that reason we do not know Jane Austen and we do not know Shakespeare, and for that reason Jane Austen pervades every word that she wrote, and so does Shakespeare.--Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back to Middle Earth with The Children of Húrin


Anyone who knows Fellow-ette, like, at all, knows that back in elementary school, F-ette and her twin brother sat rapt nightly while they read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy with their dad, a fan since the Tolkein-obsessed 60s of his youth, or something. Anyway, he actually read pretty much the entire series to us, and it took nearly an entire year of our lives and was a nice break for my mom, and a wonderful journey for us kiddies. A perfect farewell to nightly family reading times that had spanned from Goodnight Moon through the Moffats, E. Nesbit, and a few fruitless stabs at Dumas.

Since that early indoctrination, LOTR has had an incredibly huge place in my and my bro's lives. We both re-read the whole thing periodically-- when I was a teenager I used to read it so intensely that I would dream about Middle Earth at night. When they appeared, we became completely beyond obsessed with the films. I saw the movies at theaters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Stowe, Vermont, Galway Irelend, my hometown of New York City and Cambridge, Mass (yeah I saw them in theaters twice each, whatchoo gon' do about it?). Then two years ago when an avalanche warning kept my family locked in our cabin in Alta, Utah, for 24 hours, we watched the three extended version DVDs in a row and were basically hallucinating by the time we were done (replicating that precious childhood experience in quick-time, Freud might say).

So what's a hobbit-lover to do with The Children of Húrin, the new Tolkein book pieced together by JRR's no-longer-a-kid, Christopher, whom Salon's Andrew O'Hehir says is "rather like some Dwarvish smith trying to reforge a great Elven sword from discombobulated needles and splinters?" (Wonderful Tolkienish metaphor, Andrew! But hey, your name could come straight out of the first age of man for goodness sakes, so why be surprised?)

Anyway, according to the review, the book is darker and more sorrowful than LOTR---which is pretty durn dark---but not nearly as mundane as the Sillmarillon, which is a fucking good thing, because the Sillmarillon was a line of boringness that even a hard-coreish fan such as I could not cross. It separated me from the true Tolkein freakazoids. As O'Hehir aptly says, is has a "ye-olde-homework feeling." And true Frodo Lives!ers hate homework above all else.

Methinks I'm going to have to buy this book and read it, ASAP. A Elbereth, Gilthoniel, readers! Til next time. (That's elvish for: "I so heart Viggo Mortenson and this Turin fellow sounds dreamy.")

Monday, April 16, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation--The Sopranos and Entourage


I have so much to say about last night's HBO line-up, including how I can never sleep on Sunday nights because every time I turn over images of Tony and Carmela burn into my head, but I will start by commenting on how many recognizable and ironic guest stars I saw last night.

  • The obvious: (Daniel Baldwin--whom I saw going into a Gap store last month--playing a Tony-like boss in Chris' gangster/slasher flick and
  • Sidney Pollack as a murder-cum-doctor)
  • Christopher's AA Sponsor, played by none other than Shooter McGavin from Happy Gillmore! Talk about dramatic range.
  • On Entourage, Vince's new "girlfriend" is the sexually abused starlet/model who turned out to be a she-male on House.
  • And Turtle's canine-loving love-interest was Joey Potter's spoiled nympho roomie on Dawson's Creek.
  • The rather stereotypical and unoriginal gay TV writer was played by the guy from Mad TV--you know, the one who plays TONY SOPRANO in the best parody ever.
  • ...And we've come full circle.

But speaking of all these blonde women on Entourage, when are the writers going to understand that by trying to make the boys' equivalent of Sex and the City, they're losing sight of everything that made the former show good? Now don't get me wrong; I have plenty of quibbles with SATC--well, actually just one big one, and her name begins with a C and ends with an "ie"--but one can't argue that the show didn't favor its characters' personal growth. While Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda may have begun as somewhat caricaturish, they became real-er and realer as the series went on. Not just through relationships, but through their jobs, their friendships, and their health. Each episode ended in fact, with some sort of internalized lesson. And despite its ample attention to its heroine's libidos, SATC did not objectify men. Steve, Aidan, Harry, even Trey and Berger were real people with souls and personalities beyond the bedroom.

I have yet to see one single fleshed-out woman character on Entourage. All we have are the ball-busters (Amanda and Ari's wife) and the blonde gigglers (everyone Vince screws, everyone Turtle and Drama ogle). And then there's Sloane, or Sloan, or whoever, who has as much personality as a low-fat, sugar-free ice cream pop.

Come on, Wahlberg et. al. Giving Johhny Drama part in a TV show should signify some sort of change in his personality or attitude, but he's still moping about chasing skirt and wishing he were as famous as his brother. Turtle's still smoking weed. E is still the most annoying character to ever grace my TV screen. Vince is still a superficial cad whose creators are scared to give him any real faults. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

Furthermore, a lot of the shallow crap SATC got away with squeezed by as acceptable because of its whole table-turning dynamic. It was novel to have women sitting around talking about the relative sexual prowess of men. But having episode after episode of young pothead guys whining about threesomes and being blue-balled is a lot less okay. Hey, I'm all about getting the characters' real perspective, but surely the male fans of Entourage would identify with horny dudes who experience some sort of emotional range beyond "girl hot, must have." The Sopranos guys are misogynists, after all, but they're misogynists with guilt, and feelings, and regret, and passions, and women in their lives for whom they actually care. And that's okay with me because it's what fiction should be--an exploration of real human traits.

That's my 2 cents, y'alls. But as a coda, can we just reminisce for a second about how Miranda and Steve are like, the best TV couple, ever? Just thinking about them makes me all mushy inside. Sigh.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Saying Bye to Harry P, Tony S

I loved this article in Salon by Rebecca Traister. It sums up so much about our long-term obsesh with HP and the Sops... as the hours tick down towards the final installments of each, she makes the connection that all good Egalitarian Bookworms have been posing over dinner to their buds in recent days:
It's the old Dickens story told over and over again: giant groups of people gripped by the same question -- what will happen next?
Yes! Dickens comparisons are always deserving of EBC brownie points. And what will happen next indeed? Will Hermione seduce Snape to get pivotal Dark Lord 411? Will, as Swvl often jokes, Meadow get fed up and pop one in Uncle Junior's skull? I'm breathless with anticipation.

Breathless.

Where the Girls Are...

Happy Spring Nor'Easter, readership! If you're anything like moi and everyone else I know, you're cuddled up in some cozy room listening to the pitter-patter (err, make that pelting-pummeling) of the rain and wondering if these April showers will kill all the May flowers.

Fellowette's been a bit of a mess this week. I got back from a wonderful ski trip in Utah with a pesky cold and a nasty case of jet-lag/altitude-induced fatigue. I've been having a hard time dragging my sorry ass to work and play, so this weather gives me a nice respite and a chance to finally dump my thoughts on this'n'that here, where it belongs.

A wonderful family friend who lives in Salt Lake gave me and my mom a copy of Susan J. Douglas' great book of media commentary, Where the Girls Are, and perusing it has gotten the gears up in my mental attic a-churning. The essential thread of the book was this: on TV and in music, the power-brokers follow the zeitgeist by creating powerful female characters, but they always take something away from them too. In other words, put a feminist on TV--Maude--but make her old and un-feminine. Put a band of strongly-bonded sisters on TV--Charlie's Angels--but make them wear skimpy clothing and report to a beneficient patriarchy. Give women a message of empowerment but use it to sell things like face creams and female-centered cigarettes. You get the point.

A lot of the stuff about 60s and 70s pop culture was a wee bit dated for even me, but it still resonated (I watched Nick at Nite after all), and Douglas' chapter on the 1980s fitness/personal care product boom hit extremely hard , particularly the "buns of steel" craze and how it took feminism's message: "be strong, be in control" and fed it to the patriarchy--"you must work harder to be perfect," "return to a pre-pubescent ideal" etc. etc. And her chapter about how the media pitted Gloria Steinem against Phyllis Schlafly during the strife-ridden women's lib era was extremely provocative--and true, natch.

The book was thoughtful and even moving, and it justified my endless scrutiny of how tv shows and pop singers represent women as a whole--like my bitching about how the Holiday forwent Kate for Cameron, f'rinstance.

And then, on Weds night, I saw Lily Allen at the newly-christened Fillmore east, and I listened to the shrieks of approval from the mostly-female audience at Allen's profanities, cigarette breaks, and alternately up-yours and reflective lyrics...

(sample:
I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognaise,
and not feel bad about it for days and days and days.
In the magazines they talk about weight loss,
If I buy those jeans I can look like Kate Moss,
Oh no it's not the life I chose,
But I guess that's the way that things go)

...and the message of how much pop culture matters was reaffirmed. Go Lily Allen and Susan Douglas. Three friggin' cheers.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Wasatch Mtns, Utah, where I's Been



And where it's a gazillion times as warm as it is here in shitty shitty NYC. Ugh. Me Want Spring.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Killers are Killin' Me


This video (and song) have been haunting me since I first saw it on JetBlue a month ago...I realize it's neither rife with literary allusion nor even a current indie darling (ahh, the fickleness of "alternative" tastemakers), but seriously, all the more reason to trumpet in on EBC.
I am obsessed with the bizarre filming of the video, and the refrain is so sweet and catchy. So Brandon Flowers, this one's for you. Fellow-ette hearts ya.

Monday, April 09, 2007

HBO premiere night...

Ari Gold on Edith Wharton:

Do you know Edith Wharton? It’s always the same movie; guy can’t fuck the girl for five years ’cause those were the times.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Insufferable presumption!

The New York Times and Gawker discuss the Austen beauty myth. Was she pretty? Wasn't she? I kind of agree with the Gawk when I ask: who gives a flying fuck? Honestly, the Times just knows people are mad obsessed with saint Jane and they're trying to cash in on Austen-Mania with this drivel.

Why not publish a thoughtful article about, oh, let's see...anything, instead of horribly biased election coverage and sniveling features about the trials and tribulations of the upper-upper-upper class in Manhahattan? (What's with designer diapers? Have you been to the Hampton lately? Wot, who cares?) They're trying to Sunday Styles-ify Jane A, and I won't let them. I'll leave that to Anne Hathaway.

Thanks to Romancing the Tome for the ingenious way of summing it up: "they've gone all Caroline Bingley on Jane Austen."

And my favorite Gawker commenter on this thread (someone knows their JA) who said "she's handsome enough to tempt me." Hahahahahaha that was a hi-larious Austen in-joke. My bosom is heaving with laughter, like, right now.

In conclusion:
  • Is this to be borne? It shall not.
  • I am most seriously displeased.

I haven't tried Pinkberry yet...


...but I did try "ZaBerry," Zabars' would-be-Pinkberry yogurt today. All I can say is (holds breath) while I will always be greatful for the years of happiness Tasti D-Lite has given me, and I won't stop ordering raspberry cheesecake cones with oreos for dessert when I'm near a Tasti outlet, this new, more natural flavor has utterly won me over.
I am besotted, readership. Besotted. I can't wait for the weather to really warm up, so my Frozen Dessert obsession can run free and guiltless throughout the skinny-chick lined streets of NYC.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Jane Austen Season on ITV

Damn you, United Kingdom! Damn you. We have to wait til the Autumn. We always have to wait til the Autumn.

This is sort of a silly preview, but I'm still really excited, esp. for Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. No version of Persuasion, or any Austen movie in fact, will ever ever touch the 1995 Amanda Root Ciaran Hinds one for me. In my mind, it' s the most perfect two hours of cinema ever.




Enjoy!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My Official Freelance Writer Website is (sort of) Up and Runnin'

check it out. You like, you hate, you're amused by the tone of amateurish cheekiness that pervades my online presence?

Let me know. Or don't. Suit yourself, readers fair.

/F-ette.