"I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man."

25 February 2011

I’m just this girl…

Trying to live a life. Sometimes.
On occasion it works. Most of the time it doesn’t. This week has been a mix of both.

I’ve written more than I have in quite a while and I know this, like love, should lift me up where I belong. Yet as the week ‘ends,’ I’m miffed that everything I wrote was not my specialty. I wrote many a blog and tweet, but no fiction. However…

I began editing my first novel again. Only about twenty pages, but I see now where some of the major flaws lie and even have some ideas on how to fix them. While it’s about as intimidating as facing down an angry hippo, I still don’t hate the book and I count that as a bundle of points in favor of keeping it up.

I stepped way out of my comfort zone and went to a real Hollywood networking party. I could go on and on about the absurdity of these events, but to be succinct: I met a couple cool people, didn’t have to interact with anyone too douchey, and spent time with some awesome friends on top of the W hotel in Hollywood, for free.
So I won’t talk about the outside party downstairs with the disinterested swaying (because it can hardly be called dancing) bikini girls on red-light podiums.

I organized an Oscar party in about ten minutes. Granted the idea’s existed for a while, but the planning and execution have been in doubt for weeks. Not anymore.

There’s accomplishment of varying degrees in all of this, and yet I don’t feel as though ‘productive’ applies to this week at all.
I need a new dictionary.

24 February 2011

Jane the Vampire Writer

Just before I succumbed to the Death Flu, I managed a feat I have not achieved in an embarrassingly long time: I read an entire book in one sitting. Granted, it was literary popcorn – quick, tasty and easy to consume – but after my reading drought I consider it quite an accomplishment.

I read Jane Goes Batty, the second in what now looks to be a series (or at least trilogy) of books about Jane Austen as a vampire. It’s a refreshing take on the supernatural Austen genre simply because it puts the author herself in the present day (in a fictional-yet-similar world to our own) as a vampire. It pokes good-natured fun at the Austen clones and supernatural takes and includes a couple of Austen’s literary rivals and contemporaries. I really enjoyed the first book, Jane Bites Back, because it was a fun, quirky, intelligent little mind-candy novel. The second book was much the same, though not quite as engaging, mostly because of the more Hollywood, as opposed to literary, storyline -- and I mean this literally. The first book was all about Jane trying to be published (again), and then dealing with the success while trying to hide her vampirism (especially from the man she likes). This one deals with the now-standard transformation of book to film aggravations, as well as hiding her vampirism from her now boyfriend and his creepy mother.
I enjoyed the characterization of one of Jane’s contemporaries that I won’t detail here only to avoid spoilers from book one… but I will say his escapades at times held my interest more than Jane’s. While the new characters were colorful, none of them interested me as much as the original characters and I would have preferred more with the starting line-up than the newcomers. I hope the next book gets back to the more literary aspects of the first book with a more streamlined and focused story, still for a popcorn read on a Saturday afternoon it satisfied my novel craving.

And if you're curious about book one and don't mind snark and spoilers, you can read my review of it.

23 February 2011

Digestible Linkage

In addition to spouting off a fair amount this past week, I’ve also been catching up on reading. Sadly not novel reading as my attention span has yet to recover from the Death Flu, but I’ve been reading many interesting and varied articles across the interwebs – enough of them that I feel compelled to share some of the highlights:

Fellow LA Theatre Slave, Gedaly, has a great piece on how theatre still markets itself like it’s 1936. While I believe intrinsic changes need to occur at the AEA level to even begin to move us forward (because even non-equity houses fear the wrath of the AEA), I do concur that internet marketing, specifically in video form needs to be made better use of in productions. The secondary hang-up is that in small theatre, which needs the marketing most, the desire to find inventive ways of incorporating video marketing is often there but the manpower to make it happen on less-than-no-budget is not. That speaks more to the inherent lack of non-actors and designers involved in theatrical ventures (that aren’t revivals or rip-offs of tried-and-true hits) than to anyone directly involved in a production, but it still is a root cause of this problem.

Author J.S. Chancellor has decided to go for pomp (and hopefully avoid broke) in advertising that his new (and unfortunately partially leaked) novel will be available for free download in March. As a starting novel in a series, this grand gesture could garner enough support from readership to gain buzz and profit for the succeeding novels.

Chamber Musician Today features a guest blog on how/why to join a vocal ensemble. While it lacks a bit in the directional ‘hows’ of joining (i.e. what to be prepared for in different ensemble types and what to expect in audition/interview processes, and how the rehearsal and performance schedules can differ between various groups), it does offer several varied options for vocal groups and what might appeal to potential members. As someone who’s constantly toying with the idea of finding a new vocal home, this gave me a little push to maybe give it a go.

This interview with Andrew Chambliss would have knocked me on my ass, if I hadn’t already been on it. There’s nothing new or astonishing in the article; it’s just a successful writer-geek talking about his work and those he’s worked with. However, as he’s a) a phenomenal, young writer and b) has worked on shows with writers I worship and adore, it’s pretty much a geekgasm-causing insight into the inner-world of writers I would love to know and would consider myself lucky to emulate.
TV writers also hold a bit of enigmatic awe for me as the concept of anyone’s mind working that fast, let alone a room full of people working at that pace, astonishes me.

All right, so I can’t help but be a bit self-indulgent as this final link (via CJDirector) is to a site which put me on their main page. I’m down in the ‘Health’ section, which is a little off for the entry, but I will certainly take publicity in any form I can get – especially for this entry on music snobbery. I will use pretty much any avenue I can to headbutt the ignorance out of people resistant to Hanson.

Cursing the Cursor

While every advancement in writing technology offers its own v-shaped offensive gesture to writers who experience problems with a blank page, I sometimes think the blinking cursor is the vilest.
The blank page intimidates most writers. Breaking the seal, or popping the cherry as it were, with a hand motion can incite all manner of trepidation. Pros and amateurs alike have tricks and skills to help them overcome their dread and plunge forward with their hand and mind, creating a stained, non-virginal screen or sheet of paper. All these little tools and incentives are marvelous, but do not ever entirely change that fear of starting anew into energy for creation. I refuse to blame writer’s insecurity or mental lapses for this and instead blame something even more daunting than a completely blank page/screen: that damnable blinking cursor.
What did writers ever do to technology geeks that they decided to punish us with this demon? One little move in the name of advancement and suddenly the terror of a blank page becomes amplified by that taunting, teasing little bastard of a cursor who stares at us – daring us to conjure up ideas while it sits there menacingly waiting for us to fail.
Well this time, eternally blinking demon, I have triumphed over you by using your own flinching power against you. This is one game of chicken you lose.

22 February 2011

Give Up the Snob and ‘Give a Little’

Without getting on a giant soapbox of anti-snobbery, I think it’s about time we buried this hatchet.

Which hatchet would that be? The Hanson one.

Yes, that Hanson. The Hanson that MMM-Bopped their way to the top of the charts multiple times circa 1997, then eased and seemingly dropped off the face of the music world. Well, they didn’t. They got royally screwed by the industry and their handlers, gave the whole studio system the middle finger, and started producing their own material (and made a revealing and educational documentary about it). They grew up, got married, had kids (yes, plural) all well before any of them turned thirty. As they evolved into adults, so did their music. They released an independent album, and another, and another, and slowly crept back into the ears of DJs and some mainstream marketers without ever breaking back into the limelight. Yet the general public still can’t shake the image of the golden-haired teens who (with a big helping hand from the Spice Girls) helped re-usher pop music into our lives.

Now, I could list the myriad of reasons why people resist listening to evolving and evolved Hanson, but it basically breaks down to this: those who secretly enjoyed ‘MMM-Bop’ back in the day are afraid they’ll like Hanson again and be ridiculed, and those who loathed ‘MMM-Bop’ and all it stood for cannot wrap their minds around the concept that musicians evolve. So let’s clear the air: anyone who makes fun of you for liking Hanson doesn’t understand the band and should be educated, and anyone who resists listening to Hanson because of pre-existing prejudice should pull their head out of their ass for a few minutes and give a listen to the evolution.

This brings us to the present state of Hanson and their new video which premiered on VH1 yesterday. It’s the second single off their new album (the first single/video kicks as much ass as any mainstream video out right now), and possibly my favorite track off the current album, Shout It Out. While the new CD isn’t my favorite of their work and I think could have used a bit more polishing (mostly in the lyric department), the tunes that work rank up there with the band’s best. The single ‘Give a Little’ is a peppy, catchy little number about losing one’s inhibitions and dancing with your girl because guess what fellas – she wants you to shake it with her because that’s hot. Truth. The mere fact that these young men understand a concept like this that continues to elude men the world over should be evidence enough that you should take a break from the new Radiohead album, ignore that product-placement-laden piece of garble Britney just released, stop comparing GaGa’s “Born This Way” to “Express Yourself,” remove your head from your sphincter for four minutes, give up your snobbish barriers and opinions and give a little open-eared (and open-minded) listen/viewing to this pop-rock gem

21 February 2011

Why Are All My Relatives Such... Twats?

Having recently finished Jane Goes Batty (which I may rant/rave about soon), and with the timely-yet-unexpected random inspirational quote from one of my dear friends, I find myself compelled to follow in the footsteps of scholars and fans far more deserved than I to explore the realm of what many consider the anti-Brontë: Jane Austen.
One might surmise that my overall disdain for two-thirds of the Brontë sisters would create an automatic enjoyment of all works Austen. Sorry to disappoint, dear quick-to-judge readers, but I find Miss Jane flawed as well, though admittedly not with the kind of vehement passion I aim at her Byronic successors. Still, on the whole (and though I have not read all their works), I do gain more personal enjoyment and find more intriguing and worthwhile in Jane's writing than in Charlotte's or (*hurk*) Emily's.
The quote which helped spur on this Austen topic quite took me as both accurate and bitingly amusing:
Apparently to have an Austen-esque romance, your family must be filled with twats.
(Texts from my friends are not, I think, like most people's texts... also, at least in my circle, 'twat' seems to be making a much needed comeback.)

While at first glance the assessment holds true to the 'it's funny because it's true' adage, both for works of Austen and those who hunger to emulate her, on reflection it caused pondering of classic feminine literature in general and how applicable this statement may be.
First, with Austen, it rather amuses me that by all accounts her own family was quite stable and satisfactory, if a little wanting for financial stability. Yet the heroines in most of her novels must deal with family (or those who may become family) who exemplify twattiness while on their individual journey to personal (and matrimonial) bliss.
Obviously Lizzie has to put up with not only her own but Darcy's atrocious relations (I'm looking at you, Aunt Lady Catherine de Twatourge). Twatilicous Lydia even ends up marrying a complete asshat, and I still wonder who got the worst end of that deal: her or Wickham. Even the almost nauseatingly perfect Jane and Bingley must contend with Charles' complete twat of a sister. No wonder Caroline so longs to be in Darcy's family -- she and Aunt Twatty would be the Twats of the Town. And in an informal facebook poll, my friends unanimously crowned Mr. Collins as the King Twat of Pride & Prejudice.
Then we have poor Fanny whose own immediate family pawns her off on her rich relatives at an age where her female cousins can be expected to shat on her like their pet puppies do on the front lawn. Then of course we have the Twat Twins who seduce various members of the Bertram family and end up exposing the fact that Edmund and Fanny are about the only respectable people in that circle -- and even they almost get duped and seduced by the Cunty Crawfords (yeah, I said it).
Similar patterns of familial twattery appear in Emma, Sense & Sensibility and (at least the parts I've read) of Northanger Abbey. The only Austen work which I am almost completely unfamiliar with is Persuasion but I would wager the twat theme queefs mightily in that novel as well.

Still, on my brief contemplation of female literature in general, Jane is not exempt from familial twatishness as a plot device. Miss Charlotte created an epic family of twats with the Reeds, and even the boorish Emily ensured her characters would never see happiness due to their über-twat relatives (of which Heathcliff and Catherine both suffer from and then become themselves). Yes, even my Brontë goddess Anne enlisted the family twat device in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (though Gilbert's family of twats pales in comparison to Helen's husband and Lord Twat, Arthur Twatingdon).
While not 'feminine' literature, She Who Has More Money Than Everyone Else In The World Combined (aka Jo Rowling) excels at using FamTwat. Though young adult literature is steeped in twat tea, few families twat it up as well or as much as the Dursleys or the Malfoys (when your parents' names are Lucius and Narcissa, you're pretty much guaranteed a twatty childhood and thus becoming a top class twat yourself).

Obviously this is not a plot epidemic limited to female authors (Shakespeare was king of family twats), but from one little text I find yet another way to examine feminine literature and authors. I know Familial Twats: Exploring Twatticism in Post-Colonial British Female Authors probably won't garner me any academic accolades or grant money, but it is very interesting as a topic and damn fun to write about... or maybe I just like finding new ways to use 'twat.'

Coming Soon:
Coping with Twats Leads to Bliss? -- how the twatty behaviour of literary families correlates to the ultimate happiness of their protagonist relatives.

Fiction Battle

Or: Why snobbery in any form only makes you look like a douche...

The Death Flu cramped my writing for over a week, no doubt about it. While my brain functioned on occasion and I wrote more than before I caught the Death Flu, little of it felt substantive to me. With the exception of the migraine rant, I wrote because I felt I needed to but the passion behind the writing, the drive that keeps me going, was simply lost in the sea of a mind clouded with phlegm.
I’d like to thank Joe Hill for breaking me of my malaise. After a series of tweets which delivered the right amount of snark and disdain for an article on literary versus genre fiction (in which he advised readers not to seek out the originating article), I caved and followed the desire to seek out this supposed atrocity.
To say that it bothered me would be a bit of an understatement. It’s not entirely the content of the article but the tone that drives me to imaginings of strangling this writer with his own pompous ascot, which I envision he wears just to keep his inflated head from floating off his body. Yes, I resorted to cheap jibes. I suppose I’m just not ‘literary’ enough to appreciate his pompous, condescending, insulting tone as it relates to the general reading populous.
However, in reading this article I found my way to this one which, while it doesn’t entirely refute Mr. Pompousity does point out that readership and acceptance is a two-way street. Just as an article slamming all fiction that isn’t literary makes one seem like a giant douche, a retort which only serves to praise the mass consumption of Grisham and Steel books and casts aspersions on meriting works of literary fiction for being too high-brow makes that critic seem like the giant douche’s hillbilly cousin – who’s still descends from the family of Lord and Lady Douchebag.
The writer of the second article sees merit in both types of literature, and the problems inherent in either side dismissing the other for either pandering to the common folk or targeting only the upper echelon that sneers at the fiction of the plebes.
I understand that everyone has different tastes, but there is no pride in ignorance of literary fiction. Genre writers can learn from literary fiction, just as literary writers can learn from genre fiction. There's a middle ground.
Now that is an anti-snobbery statement I can stand behind.

I won’t pretend that I do not place labels on certain types of fiction based on my own personal tastes. However, I will say that for me great fiction, regardless of status, is about a compelling story, engaging characters, and a mark of creativity. A lack in any one of these areas does not discount the book for me as an example of poor writing or storytelling because each of those qualifiers contains no small amount of subjectivity. Still, if my interest is not captured you’re probably going to lose my investment in your writing – and even high-brow writers of the highest caliber get props from me even if your writing (and subsequent acceptance into the bourgee canon) frustrates this little pixie because all I got from your story was an intense need to throw your book across the room. Unless you’re Emily Brontë, even a violent reaction still merits note because it provoked thought. I’m not a huge fan of LitFic, but I’d rather be incensed at your pompous popularity than bored to tears by your drivel.

Still, if you want my respect, be a good writer, a good critic and an anti-snob. In simple words: Don’t be a douche.

18 February 2011

It's not 'just a headache,' imbecile

All right, so while I can get ranty and ravey on here occasionally, I tend to steer away from ‘deep topics’ such as politics, religion, health care, the financial stability (or lack thereof) of the world, education, etc. I’ve got my opinions on these, but it so rarely affects my writing as it relates to the topics I spew about on here that I steer clear of hotbed topics.
Well, not today.
Most people not living under the proverbial boulder of social blindness are probably aware that the biggest story to come out of the Grammys was not about the show, but about a reporter who suffered a medical emergency during a live broadcast about the show. It’s now been confirmed by her physicians and the media that she did not have a stroke but had an episodic lapse in speech and feeling due to a migraine. Is it good that this woman did not suffer a stroke? Absolutely. Is this going to raise public awareness about a serious physical and neurological disorder that affects millions of people and can mimic, and eventually cause, strokes? Probably… for about an hour. Does that frustrate me? Hells. Yes.
Now, I’m not saying we should drop everything and focus on migraine research because there are worse medical conditions that do not have cures or even decent treatments. However, as someone who has lived with the migraine stigma of “Oh, you have a headache” for over ten years, and seen friends and family deal with the same BS, when national media covers migraines in a high-profile manner I get instantly hopeful and angry, because to date no amount of coverage has done enough to change the perception that migraines are anything more than a really intense headache… oh, and sometimes people have to lay in a cool, dark, quiet room like they have a hangover until the headache goes away.
I could detail for you all the symptoms I get with various migraines (and yes, they can differ), or list all the medications I’ve taken since I was a teenager that either never worked or stopped working after a short period of time, or launch into a description of what it actually feels like (for me, because every sufferer is different) to have a migraine. However, none of this ever seems to get through to the core of the issue: migraine sufferers have a serious, debilitating medical condition which, because of a lack of knowledge and (typically) visible effects, most people write off as a minor inconvenience in our lives. Also, because migraines can be caused and triggered by a myriad of factors (and each sufferer reacts with different symptoms), no one treatment or solution is feasibly possible so research is far more complex than it is for disorders where the contributing factors are more easily pinpointed.
So any time a story like this is touted in the media, I give a little fist pump for my fellow migraneurs, and then get a little incensed on behalf of us all because I know the chances of it creating new opportunities to explore treatments are slim to none. One day perhaps an event large enough to garner heightened exposure will occur (and I sincerely hope it’s not anything catastrophic), but until then I want to express my solidarity for my fellow sufferers and state for the record that this is one issue where I will always give a voice, both on my own behalf and that of anyone who’s ever had to cope with a migraine while being patronizingly gazed at by those who don’t comprehend what it is we experience.

A little sampling of great creative minds that suffered from migraines...

I promised you an eternity of misery, so I'm just keeping my word.

Since I apparently still possess the obsessive power of a twelve-year-old (at least emotionally, if not fiscally or with as much devoted time and energy), I decided that I could no longer wait the span of mere days in order to indulge my love of The Vampire Diaries. Thus, I caved and used some hoarded gift cards to purchase series one on DVD.
Surprisingly, my memory for this show only lasts about half a season as many things I noticed in watching just the first few episodes I completely forgot about. This either means I’m getting old, or I really did dismiss the show utterly in the early days and only focused on scenes Damon was in… or both (scary thought).
So here’s a few items I jotted down last night in my pre-NyQuil haze that struck me as Things Maybe I Should Have Noted and Retained From the Beginning:

Naïve Bonnie is Naïve – who’s the first person to notice Stefan? Soon to be anti-vamp-everything Bonnie. Her spew of how good he looks from behind is even more laughable when you know how much she grows to despise him (and it doesn’t take that long)

Emo Jeremy is kill this stupid child now – Elena has a line early on about how she knows who Jeremy really is and it’s not this guy. She’s right. Real Jeremy is the HotJailbaitMan we have now. Whiny, lovesick, druggie, emo Jeremy is just an annoying dick… almost as annoying as Tyler.

WTF fog? Damon! Really? Why doesn't he use this more. It's pretty freaking cool. – No, really, why did we get rid of vampires having the ability to control fog (and animals)? It’s a traditional and pretty awesome power. Plus, it’s like Damon’s slinking around Elena before Stefan even knows he’s in town, which is pretty brill.

Weeping angel statues For the Terror! – Forgot about those early cemetery scenes with G-D angel statues that are going to burst through the television and displace me in time or snap my neck as soon as I stop looking at them. Damn you, Steven Moffat.

Seriously... the Vicki/Tyler/Jeremy triangle makes me want to hurl – ‘nuff said.

Caroline doesn't change much and I kinda love her for this. Other characters I can't wait until they evolve, or die, but Caroline's basically a sweet but shallow, tactless twat from the get-go and I pretty much adore her.

I epically forgot about Logan... probably because I have infinitely more love for Alaric.

The pilot has Kevin Williamson all over it: teen delinquency, quippy one-liners, mystic symbolism... and that whole 'no teens actually talk this way' dialogue.

The diary device worked well in the early episodes, but I'm glad they did away with it. – Even by episode three I was tiring of it. It’s good establishing technique to see what Elena and Stefan are coping with internally, but as the writing and acting improve, it becomes rather ridiculous.

Wuthering Heights? NOOOOOOOO! Too cliché! – I mean, of course Damon knocks Twilight and Edward, but then why must Stefan give Elena a copy of this book? Not only is it a vampire cliché now, it’s a PIECE OF SHIT NOVEL.
Yes, the queen of anti-snobbery has a big vendetta against this book, but that’s a rant for another day.

15 February 2011

Unexpected Rest

Or: Why Blog Posts Now Come in a Flurry

The latest problem in the realm of 'be careful what you wish for' has surfaced in my world. Apparently the universe decided to interpret my desire for a bit of rest to de-stress and recharge as: let's give her the flu and knock her out for three days. That'll require her to rest and so it's sort of the same thing, right? Right?
Being stuck in bed for three days because you're incapable of being up for more than ten minutes without falling over or bumping into things is not the same as choosing to lounge in bed and relax when you could be running eight hundred errands. Having the time to be able to write, read, or veg in front of the telly loses its appeal when it's all your capable of doing and is interrupted not infrequently by the need to fall back on your pillow and pass out for a few hours.
I'd much rather my brain not be on overdrive during these couple hours of lucidity a day as all it does is ram home how incapacitated I am. I can think of great and productive things to do with my time (or just productive), but all I can manage is to contemplate before wheezily hacking up half a lung.

It's only mid-February and so far I've had a two-week Death Cold and now a minimum-three-day Death Flu this year. I shudder to think what March might bring.
Still, my time in bed has instilled one drive in me: to stay the hell out of my bed as much as possible in the coming weeks. Three days stuck in it not of my own will/desire is enough to make me want to stay busy for the rest of the month.

I though all writers drank to excess and beat their wives...

You know I think at one time I secretly wanted to be a writer.

On the topic of favorites, my favorite movie usually elicits one of the following responses:
I've never seen that...
That's a great movie!

Obviously it's the final response I like to hear. I also make the delineation between 'favorite' and 'best' in situations like this. A favorite does not equate to the belief that this is the most exceptional item in whatever list is being discussed -- though both are quite subjective, despite what creators and discussors of 'best of' lists would have people believe.

So what is my favorite movie? The Philadelphia Story.
It replaced The Princess Bride sometime after I turned 19. One day I want a dog that I can name CK Dexter Haven. I will call it Dex, except when I have to call it across distance ("CK Dexter Haven! Ohhhh, CK Dexter Haaaaaaven!" will ring out then) or want to chat to it (this is when "CK Dexter Haven, I would like to talk to you," will be employed).
I'm going to preface the intense gushing by stating up front that generally speaking I'm not a huge fan of either Hepburn or Stewart. This isn't to say I don't like or appreciate their work (though in my younger days I generally did not), but merely to state that neither of them interest me much as actors -- not in the way I'm interested in Cary Grant or Ingrid Bergman or Leslie Howard or my own trifecta of Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

What has, from my second viewing on, fascinated me about this movie is the balance it strikes between farcical and biting comedy, light-hearded and emotional performance, and frivolous and serious issues. I cannot think of another move that is this funny while examining, on a very real level, societal conventions, prejudices, marriage and alcoholism. Still, the serious undertones of the movie never deter from the fact that it is one of the sharpest, wittiest, best-timed comedies ever.
Not only is the writing spot-on (and with some improvements I think from the original play), but the direction and casting are intrinsically linked to how good the movie is. It's one of Cary Grant's most understated (and therefore, I think, under-appreciated) performances. It's a perfect fit for Stewart's style without seeming repetitive of his other work. It's an obvious tour-de-force for Hepburn who obviously knew how to steer her own career as she tailored this film to suit her and did so flawlessly. Personally, other than Grant's wonderful portrayal of Dexter, my favorite performance in the film is Ruth Hussey's Liz. There's more than a touch of myself in her character so there's the self-identifier working in her favor; however, it's also a role of great sympathy and gumption, written and played with a sincerity rare in any era of film.

As I sit here writing this and desire to delve into the depths explored in the movie, I'm rendered incapable of being too serious about it since right now Mike is drunkenly hiccuping his way around Dexter's house as Dex patiently takes it all, and all the while the plot thickens. Yes, a comedy where you have to pay attention. Concept.
That in itself is the underlying brilliance of The Philadelphia Story: it doesn't let you rest. Similar to His Girl Friday and yet I think more accessible, more romantic, and blatantly more humourous, it takes multiple viewings to understand all the layers within it, yet never loses the core of romance and comedy. For first, and even second, time viewers I wouldn't recommend trying to read too much into the film. There are some disparities in how it treats the ideas of relationships and prejudice which are reflective of the time in which it was made, and there are a lot of feminists who slam the movie because they only see the film for these flaws and not the overarching messages. Still, as a snapshot of society created for entertainment, it's remarkably reflective and perceptive of the world it inhabits.
However, even if you just come for the romance and the funnies, you can't do much better than this movie.

14 February 2011

...there's a picture of a train.

Valentine's Silliness

You know what I like about Valentine's Day? Cards and candy. No more than that. And that joy dissipates pretty much the instant you hit junior high and instead of giving everyone in your class a Valentine and reveling in the cute and funny cards while gorging yourself on sweets, you start having to quench emotional fires between your classmates because people didn't get Valentines from the person they wanted.
Oh yeah, and when I say 'candy,' I mean actual food, not those chalky imitation Rolaids with cheesy phrases on them which are somehow supposed to express true emotion AND be tasty. Epic fail on both counts.

Am I cynical when it comes to this holiday? You bet your cupid's diapered butt I am. Does it relate to never really having a 'good' Valentine's Day? Not really. I've had a couple good ones, none of them romantic in the traditional sense, but very good nonetheless. Is it because more than any other holiday I see it as a commercial gimmick to get people to spend ridiculous amounts of cash trying to cram all their caring for someone into one day while simultaneously making those of us without a 'special someone' to lavish these attentions on feel like utter shit for not being able to hook someone for this 'special day'? Yeah, that may be it.

Honestly, I think the best way to have Valentine's Day is the way we do it as kids: everyone gets a Valentine, even those you don't particularly like, because everyone deserves a day to feel special (or at least not left out). Everyone gets some yummy candy, because everyone deserves some now and again. We spend an hour or so reading our silly notes and giggling about Choo-choo-choosing someone to be our Valentine and spend the rest of the day sneakily trading candy beneath our desks, and then we move on with our lives.
And the people who are truly special to us? They have birthdays and bigger holidays and every days for us to make them feel special and loved. February 14th might as well be Everyone Day if it's about showing affection for people, but that's not exclusive enough for marketing purposes, so we go with the feast day of a random martyr and a set-up courtesy of the creators of chivalry and suddenly there's a toddler with a bow and arrow shooting shafted hearts at people, demanding we couple up and spend hundreds of dollars on dinner, drinks and some jewelry.

At least this day, sadly like so many more important holidays, disappears the next day and won't even be thought of again for about 340 days.

04 February 2011

So-and-So on…

Thus far I have rather failed in my ‘embrace Fauxbruary’ mantra due to succumbing to my largest time/emotional-suck addiction: theatre.
Now, were I in a divulgatory and supercilious frame of mind, I might expand on a great many reasons why I feel the need to leap into situations in theatre; however, with my current sleep deprivation that would reach Epic Snark levels in about two sentences and then devolve into an intense rant which would probably give people a whole different impression of me.
Instead I will attempt, in my over-exhausted haze, to convey a little message about life addictions and how we use them to avoid engaging ourselves in activities we either should be or would rather be doing. We all have them. Sometimes we call them hobbies, other times obligations… chill-out time, organized social activities… all these things teeter on the edge of a line which, for those of certain temperaments, can very easily spill from leisure activity or enhanced social interaction to obsession. The biggest problem with something you like doing becoming something you do all the time is stagnation (closely followed by over-exhaustion). You become so involved that it consumes your life in ways you never intended for periods of time which far exceed what your dedication was meant to be. No matter what you learn, who you meet, how enriching experiences may be, it will continue to eat away at other areas of your life more and more until what was once a fun and exciting break from mundane life necessities or aggravating creative struggles becomes both mundane and aggravating.
As I see it, you have two options at this point: continue with this obsession in the hope that sweeter waters are around another bend in the road – and vow to take it easy on yourself next time (which is good when you’re committed to something you can’t in good conscience abandon), or take a mother-lovin’ break (which is what to do when option one fails miserably, or when you have a better ability than I do to say ‘no’ to people). Well, after five years of following option one, I’m finally about to stride down the path of option two, and I must say that as exhilarating as the prospect is, it is also utterly terrifying. Why? Peril number two in the extracurricular-to-obsession realm is safety.
Once you find that activity, hobby, video game, travel blog, etc. which consumes your life bit by bit, leaving it (or even easing off in a controlled-dose-of-weaning way) not only equates to the possibility of losing whatever new talents, skills, friends, connections and whatnot you’ve built, it’s a loss of emotional safety. By becoming so involved in this endeavor you have effectively shut off other areas of your mind and emotions to concentrate more on your obsession. Now, reconnecting with those parts of yourself, and the world, can seem counter-intuitive. You’re safe, you know your way around, you like the people, you used to like the obsession… so what’s the point in letting it go for a while (or ever)? Again, stagnation -- AND the fact that the very safety you feel when enveloped by your obsession transforms into fear of doing something new and different (when wanting something new and different is what likely got you into your current obsession in the first place).
So while it is with an inordinate amount of fear, uncertainty, and a dash of reluctant sadness that I take temporary leave of theatre, it’s for my own personal, creative, and professional development that I need to step out of comfort’s loving (and smothering) caress and run headlong into a terrifying blackness of potential. Here’s hoping beyond the black I find new lights, and that one day those lights will lead me back to seeing the light in theatre again.

01 February 2011

Ye Olde Monthe of Fauxbruary

February always feels such the odd month to me. It’s shorter than every other month, and extremely short in comparison with the two it is sandwiched between. It’s the only month that fluctuates its number of days, ever. It sits in post-new-year-pre-shitstorm position on the calendar, never accomplishing much other than reminding us that another year is fully underway (and if you’re single you’ve got the first two full weeks of the month for all advertising, retail outlets, and sickening couples to make you feel like a leper). In short, February is the red-headed stepchild of months; everything about it seems to enhance the idea that this month is only a faux-month.
Except February precedes March -- March for me is, historically, the second shittiest month of the year, nearly tied with perennial first-place August. Still, is that enough to work in February’s favor and make it a worthwhile month? Probably not.

And yet… here’s my brand new thought on this month of Fauxbruary: use it, and use it well, like a really good hooker (not that I have experience with that). If this month doesn’t want to make something of itself then it’s up to us to make something of it -- even if that something equates to using this time to reexamine our goals for the new year and instead of burn ourselves out before even getting to the quarter mark, take some time to stop and smell the proverbial flowers. You know, those things buried under two feet of snow in two-thirds of the country right now.
Use this sculpted block of four weeks to take a deeper look at ourselves and life and really contemplate what we want out of it. January typically crashes in with fanfare and demands that a new year means new life and you’d better decide on all that you want RIGHT NOW. February, I now say, exists to take all those aspirations and crazy thoughts and cull them down to a manageable pile of to-be accomplishments AND should be a time where we give ourselves permission to try and fail at life a little bit. January is never perfect, and never will be. Instead of giving up for February, why not dive further in: explore and screw up and pull out unexpectedly to dive into something else. Pause in writing your novel and try writing a play. Cease counting every calorie and try eating one new food every week. Turn one run a week into a more leisurely walk or hike and enjoy the scenery you usually dash past. Treat Fauxbruary like the summer after high school when you get all crazy and wild because it’s your last chance to screw up whatever you want and party like a not-so-grown kid… minus the weekly house parties playing Russian Roulette with alcohol poisoning (not that I know anything about that either…).

So who’s with me?
Use Fauxbruary up like your favorite pair of Chuck’s. Run this month into the ground with use, all the while learning from it what you really want from the rest of this year.

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