laurielikesbooks.blog-city.com — January 2003
Uncapable of Making a Decision (Don't you just hate that?)
I'm going to list the problems and proposed solutions as I see them, and as others have pointed them out to me. The most worrisome is that I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too. What do I mean by that? One of my major online peeves are authors who use venues to lash out against online critics. By never naming names in this blog, I hoped I could avoid being guilty of the same, but when spillage occurs on the AAR site itself, I think I end up being guilty even if I don't post w/in those threads, which I've tried not to do.
So one solution was to create a blog-specific MB only linked to from the blog, but as a cyber-friend and at least one other reader pointed out, this is not altogether different from having my cake and eating it too, which means I'd be guilty. So that won't work.
Well, what about the posting of emails w/in the blog from readers who read blog entries? Aside from creating a lot of work for me, is this all that different from having a blog-specific MB? After all, the idea of my blog was not to ask people to publically sympathize w/me - that's what those authors do that I think is wrong. But some who've contacted me think this would be different from a MB, so it's still under consideration.
There are two drastic suggestions, albeit one is far more drastic than the other. The least drastic would be to remove links to the blog from AAR's home page and What's New? page. The only remaining link would be from my bio, which is buried pretty far in the site. Newcomers would have difficulty finding it, but existing blog readers would be able to bookmark and return to the blog. If done in conjunction w/deleting any posts that appear on AAR regarding the blog, this one gives me a "guilt-free" rating, but a number of people have pointed out that the issues I raise in the blog should be fodder for "official" discussion.
The most drastic option would be to stop blogging altogether. One of the advantages of doing a blog is that it seems intimate and personal even though, of course, that's no more than an illusion. I think a reason I freak when I see MB threads about blog content is that it takes it from the intimate and puts it in a very public forum. Since I follow different rules for posting in my blog than I do at AAR, that's definitely a problem.
The final option would be to leave it as is as of midnight last night. Existing links stay in place but any MB posts would be deleted. And yet isn't it hypocritical? Here's the agonizing answer to that. A poster yesterday to the Potpourri MB asked the following: "If a poster had read the letter on the Holt Uncensored site and raised it for comment here would that be okay or not once you discussed it in your blog?" My answer had to be that it would be alright as long as none of the repercussions I mentioned in my blog were MB fodder. Even as I wrote that it sounded silly, and it sounds more silly every time I consider it.
Clearly I remain utterly conflicted about this and will be giving it more thought in the days to come. I realize I'm being incredibly pathetic about this because I don't generally dither like a moron about things. I like to think of myself as a fairly decisive individual. Oh well.
Hope your new year is a good one!
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
I've received a variety of email since bringing into the open my dilemma of "what to do about the blog?" Last night my husband and I opened a nice bottle of wine and I asked for his opinion. Like one of my most trusted friends at AAR, he thinks the links on our home page and What's New? page to the blog should be removed, and my AAR-colleague isn't sure it should stop at that. At the very least, I'll be removing those links.
But the email from my AAR-colleague and two additional reader emails have me thinking more and more seriously about the "having my cake and eating it too" thing I've tried to avoid. As one of these emailers put it: "Do you honestly believe that as publisher of AAR you can get away with saying or doing anything anywhere on the web that's public at this point that won't be connected to AAR sooner or later?"
So I'm definitely thinking about doing away w/that aspect of the blog, although what's interesting to me is that AAR has always, to some extent, reflected the toils and troubles with building and maintaining a web site that so goes against the grain of how many believe the online romance community believe it should be. Tortous grammar aside, I can recall writing column segments throughout the history of the ATBF/LN&V column detailing how it's offended others, and sharing my anxiety and general angst as the site began to take off and grow.
I've just been going through all my bloggings to date, trying to determine which ones would be "verboten" if I stopped posting behind-the-scenes stuff here. It isn't all that easy to do as many of the bloggings are a mix of site-related, reading-related, and even personal "stuff." Some of the site-related stuff I can imagine would be "okay" to continue to post, but then we get into the whole idea of self-censoring, which is something I do at AAR all day long. Sigh. I'm going to continue to think about this. Given that I've found a commenting script, you all can weigh in and let me know what you think if you haven't already. One thing to keep in mind is this: there's a good chance the Pat Holt thingie would have been front and center at AAR if I didn't have this blog. As it was, it was only peripheral - isn't that a good thing? I really don't know.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
A Couple of Fixes
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Weird Movies I Have Known
I like that, I like that very much because it does more to provide that illusion of intimacy I've been talking about in recent bloggings. More importantly, though, is that my talk with Robin helped me see something. Ever since the RWA newsletter article came out and the Pat Holt incident occurred, I've been stressed. Having written my responses to both, I'm waiting for them to be published. I can't do a thing about either other than write those letters and so I've been feeling powerless, particularly since there continue to be repercussions from both. One thing that I can control, however, is what I publish, both at AAR and here in my blog. And so I think I've subconsciously settled on obsessing about them because they are in my control while the other two, which are major concerns, are not.
With that out of the way, I thought I'd change course today. In a November blogging I wrote about the oddest books I'd ever read. Reading about which actor may take over for Richard Harris as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, particularly since one of them appeared in a very odd film indeed, made me think about the weirdest movies I've ever seen.
One recent actor to be mentioned is the Irish actor Michael Gambon, recently in the fabulous Gosford Park. He also starred in Peter Greenaway's 1989 The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover, surely one of the strangest movies ever made. Here's the blurb I found at the Internet Movie Database:
"The wife of a barbaric crime boss engages in a secretive romance with a gentle bookseller between meals at her husband's restaurant. Food, colour coding, sex, murder, torture and cannibalism are the exotic fare in this beautifully filmed but brutally uncompromising modern fable which has been interpreted as an allegory for Thatcherism."
One of Gambon's co-stars in this film is the brilliant actress Helen Mirren. She also starred with Gambon in Gosford Park, but was also featured in the incredibly disturbing The Comfort of Strangers, along with Christopher Walken, Rupert Everett, and Natasha Richardson. This snippet from the IMDB only hints at how bizarre the movie is:
"An English couple holiday in Venice to sort out their relationship. There is some friction and distance between them, and we also sense they are being watched. One evening, they lose their way looking for a restaurant, and a stranger invites them to accompany him. He plies them with wine and grotesque stories from his childhood. They leave disoriented, physically ill, and morally repelled. But, next day, when the stranger sees them in the piazza, they accept an invitation to his sumptuous flat. After this visit, the pair find the depth to face questions about each other, only to be drawn back into the mysterious and menacing fantasies of the stranger and his mate."
Walken has a history of playing nutty characters, but even with all the whack-jobs he's played, he's shown some real comic genius. There are those who caught his hilarious spots as The Continental on Saturday Night Live, but who could forget his role as Diane Keaton's psycho-driving younger brother in Annie Hall?
A.S. Byatt, whose recent film Possession didn't get nearly enough credit, wrote the novel Angels and Insects. It was adapted for the screen in a 1995 release starring Kristin Scott Thomas. The IMBD blurb doesn't reveal a most shocking scene, and neither will I:
"The movie is a study of an aristocratic family in the Victorian England. William Adamson, a young scientist, is introduced into the aristocratic family Alabaster by reverend Alabaster who is also fascinated by insects. William marries the older daughter of the family and studies the amounts of insects in the garden of the villa. His - for the aristocrats - strange behaviours reveal at the same time their own failures and passions."
A truly wonderful and romantic movie that is also quite odd, and made by a filmmaker known for his quirky movies - Alan Rudolph (another of his films is The Moderns) - is 1984's Choose Me. Starring Genvieve Bujold, Keith Carradine, and Lesley Ann Warren, Choose Me tells the story of: "Several lost-soul night-owls, including a nightclub owner, a talkback radio relationships counseller, and an itinerant stranger have encounters that expose their contradictions and anxieties about love and acceptance." (courtesy of the IMDB) I can't be sure, but I think, after watching the metamorphesis of Bujold's character in this film, that I fell in love with the world of vampires because soon after seeing this movie for the first time I read Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, something which I would normally never have picked up to read.
Actress Mimi Rogers, who starred in the wonderful but little-seen Bulletproof Heart (aka Killer) with Anthony LaPaglia, appeared with David Duchovny in a 1991 movie so upsetting my husband still hasn't forgiven me for making him sit through it - The Rapture. I don't think what's said about this movie at the IMDB is particularly helpful, so here's a link to the Roger Ebert review. (LaPaglia also starred in a "so bad it's good" movie Paperback Romance.)
Just as The Rapture was a profoundly upsetting religious movie, so was - dare I say it? - Demi Moore's The Seventh Sign. I remember this movie was almost universally panned when it was released in 1988, but I found it intriguing. Here's the IMDB blurb:
"round the world, the signs of the apocalypse--as outlined in the Book of Revelations--seem to be coming to pass in the wake of a mysterious wanderer. Father Lucci, the Vatican Emissary assigned to investigate, dismisses the occurrences as natural, but Abby Quinn, a young American woman, has reason to fear they're real--and that the unfolding events may spell disaster for her unborn child."
I'll mention one more religious movie that fascinated me: Jesus of Montreal. Here's the IMDB blurb: "A group of actors putting on an interpretive Passion Play in Montreal begin to experience a meshing of their characters and their private lives as the production takes form against the growing opposition of the Catholic church." Although this is a sub-titled movie, it's extremely watchable, but more than a little surreal as what's happening in real life impacts the production.
I've already mentioned a couple of other weird, so-bad-they're-good movies in a previous blogging - She and Cherry 2000 - but I'll provide more detailed information here. She was released in 1985 and starred Sandahl Bergman. The IMDB blurb says: "In a backward post-apocalyptic world, She aids two brothers' quest to rescue their kidnapped sister. Along the way, they battle orgiastic werewolves, a psychic communist, a tutu-wearing giant, a mad scientist, and gladiators before standing against the odds to defeat the evil Norks." Cherry 2000, starring Melanie Griffith, was released in 1987. Here's the IMDB blurb:
"In the future, a man travels to the ends of the earth to find that the perfect woman is always under his nose. When successful businessman Sam Treadwell finds that his android wife, Cherry model 2000 has blown a fuse, he hires sexy renegade tracker E. Johnson to find her exact duplicate. But as their journey to replace his perfect mate leads them into the treacherous and lawless region of 'The Zone', Treadwell learns the hard way that the perfect woman is made not of computer chips and diodes, but of real flesh and blood!"
I'm running out of time now, so I'm simply going to list a few more movies that are quirky, odd, or downright bizarre:
- Metropolitan by Whit Stillman
- Working Girls by Lizzie Borden (not to be confused with Mike Nichols' Working Girl)
- The Hotel New Hampshire by Tony Richardson (based on the John Irving novel of the same name - somehow watching brother-sister incest is different than reading about it)
- The Sailor Who Fell From Grace to the Sea by Lewis John Carlino (although based upon a novel written by the Japanes Yukio Mishimi, I came away after seeing this movie thinking that the English are surely decadent, and this was when I was 15!)
- The Hunger, directed by Tony Scott and starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence also starred David Bowie, and the scene of his execution as a POW in that movie is incredibly powerful)
At a later date I plan to list some of my favorite unusual plays, such as Wallace Shawn's Aunt Dan and Lemon....
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Watching, Reading, and Often Laughing
But then season two of The Osbournes began, and interfered with my neat little schedule, and then when What Not to Wear started airing episodes at the same time, things got messed up. And last night there was no mini-marathon of Changing Rooms, so when I gathered my magazines and turned on the TV at 8:30, I was at a loss. I could easily fill the 8:30 - 9:00 slot with History International's documentary on Henry VIII, but what to do at 9 if I wanted to watch The Osbournes at 9:30? Could I limit myself to the first half-only of the documentary Castles and Dungeons on History International or should I give up on Ozzy, which hasn't been nearly as fun this year as last year anyway?
Ozzy lost. When the castle documentary opened with images of the Welsh castles my husband and I visited on our trip to the UK in 2001, I was hooked. Even the fabulous local castle guide at one of the castles was featured on the show, although I was surprised that the documentary's American narrator used American pronunciations for the castles' names as opposed to the Welsh.
|All in all, it was a terrific hour, and a brief discussion at the end about the gorgeous AlcÃ¡zar of Segovia in Spain gave me today's Castle of the Week.|
The second half hour of So Graham Norton was particularly bizarre last night; two of his guests were conceptual artists Gilbert and George. I had never heard of them, but they create art using fecal material that they gather by pooping in their hands. One of their pieces required something like 600 poops - I kid you not - and their work sells for the equivalent of $90,000. Yes, the English really are a decadent lot!
I had some trouble sleeping last night and used the awake-time to finish off my Entertainment Weekly, which has a new feature column by Time columnist Joel Stein. I've enjoyed his work for a few years now, ever since he and the fabulously funny Calvin Trillin shared column space in Time's "Notebook" section. Stein is like the smart-ass Jewish friend you had in college. While his newest EW column wasn't as brilliant as his Poop-scooping Ozzy? Shoplifting Winona? The biggest winners of 2002 were losers. column, published late in December, merely-average-Joel-Stein is better than most. If you like Joe Queenan and haven't read Stein yet, give him a shot.
What particularly tickled me in this new issue of EW was Owen Gleiberman's review of Pinocchio, directed by and starring Roberto Benigni. Gleiberman's grade for the movie is a big fat "F," and here are my favorite parts of his review:
- "In Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio, the beloved/insipid Italian director and clown skips through rooms like a hypomanic elf while the gee-whiz voice of Breckin Meyer...."
- "His Pinocchio is meant to be adorable, but he comes off as less an enchanted puppet than as a harmlessly deranged middle-aged man prancing about in the kind of froufrou cream-colored pantsuit that Dinah Shore retired to her back closet in 1977."
- "...the shoddy fake sets and general tone of rustic medieval rib nudging are enough to make you wish that someone would stop Roberto Benigni before he commits wooden whimsy again."
Right now I'm working on finishing the second of two traditional Regency Romances I've been reading. I should blog about both tomorrow.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
This author said it far batter than I, so I'm pasting most of her post here:
I'm an author and a member of RWA. I don't mean to insult anyone here by posting anonymously. I want to comment on ______ belief that comments on online message boards and online reviews hurt her sales to the point she had to write Pat Holt a letter.
I'm always one to say that if you can't take the heat, don't come over here and read the message boards. But to address the fear that bad online buzz hurts sales--RWA just sent all of us a survey, where they'd tabulated the results of a poll of romance readers. I don't have it in front of me, but it was a significant number of readers. Of those, only 4 percent buy their books online. I would guess many of those are the same consumers who use online sites such as this one to make buying decisions. Four percent! If you slice that down by the number who'd actually buy or not buy based on a message board flame war *at this site* you've cut that down even further. I'm not a statistician but that's a very small number. And yet, the "threat" of online sites such as AAR has aroused so much passion.
In the same survey, it says that 20% of readers buy their books at big discount stores like WalMart. Twenty percent! And yet when recently Anderson, who is WalMart's sole supplier of books, decided not to carry a romance because they didn't like the subject matter, it didn't even rate one line in the RWR, which is supposed to be an industry magazine. All I heard at my local chapter meeting of authors was a sniffy, "I don't see what all the fuss is about. WalMart doesn't carry my books either." (for the non-industry types here, their books weren't declined because of content, mind you, but because of typical marketing factors, which is a very different issue indeed.)
So, authors, what's the bigger threat: A huge chain with enormous impact sanitizing our reading choices? Or some passionate posters on a message board on a single website with, according to RWA, very little impact on sales? I know we women are emotional, but I think we're battling the mouse when we really need to be battling the mammoth, and that's really, really dumb.
But getting back to the Time article itself. Most of you no doubt know how successful Wal-Mart is; indeed, during the just-finished holiday shopping season, Wal-Mart sales were up while other retailers were down. So its influence cannot be denied, and according to a retail analyst, Wal-Mart's "goal is to have a 30% share of every major business they are in."
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
The Phantom Tollbooth, A Reckless Bargain, & A Prudent Match
I'll be writing a DIK Review of The Phantom Tollbooth when I finish rereading it, but as I got into it last night, I was reminded how perfect the book is not only for bookies, but for wordies; it may, in fact, be the penultimate wordie's book. /p>
The Phantom Tollbooth is my third book of the new year. The first and second were traditional Regencies - A Reckless Bargain by Elizabeth Powell and Laura Matthews' A Prudent Match (as the book no longer in print, I've not provided an Amazon link). The former was granted DIK status by Megan Frampton, one of our new reviewers, while the latter received grades of C+ and D+ from Robin Uncapher and Ellen Micheletti respectively.
I don't generally buy books that get negative reviews from my AAR colleagues, but had bought the Matthews book before it was reviewed back in 2000. It had sat on the Regency section of my library for over two years, and it was what I grabbed the other day on my way out of the house. After reading the first few chapters while sitting in a doctor's waiting room, I came home and checked out our review and discovered that neither Robin nor Ellen had much good to say about it. My tastes are quite different from Robin's; where Ellen is concerned I often like the same books she likes (although to a lesser extent than she likes them).
A Prudent Match is very explicit sexually for a traditional Regency, but since much of the plot surrounds the heroine's fears of the marriage bed, the extra sensuality was appropriate. Here's a thumbnail sketch of the book: After a lengthy engagement to a young man who died in India and left her a small fortune, Prudence Stockworth marries William, Baron Ledbetter, in what she believes is a marriage of convenience. William is no stranger to Prudence; they'd met during her come-out some years before and his masculine attentions frightened her. This much is made clear fairly early in the story. What becomes apparent as the book progresses is that although William is in need of Prudence's dowry, his feelings for her are not typical to MOC stories. The reader is presented with what I'd call emotional red-herrings from William; at one point early on he muses on mistresses and decides that to keep one after marriage would be too expensive.
I appreciated this sort of mundane thinking; it's typical of the book, which centers around Prudence and William's day-to-day lives as they come to know one another. This isn't a plot-driven romance. Instead it is entirely character driven and the reader comes to know these virtual strangers as they become better acquainted. There's no sub-plot involving mayhem - the only mystery involves a bequest his mother made to the local church that takes an unfortunate turn late in the story. It's well integrated, though, because it brings Prudence's underlying fears of abandonment to the forefront.
William is fairly high-handed, but he's also pretty reasonable when confronted with Prudence's gentle stubbornness. As he patiently woos his wife, she begins to come alive. I particularly liked that he adored her wild head of hair and encouraged her to showcase rather than tame it. And though teaching his wife about the joys of sex during her period was rather icky to me, it's one of the few historically-set romances I've ever read that even broaches the topic.
Both Robin and Ellen criticized the book for a lack of chemistry outside the bedroom, and though this is not a book that zings, I found it had a nicely quiet sensibility. But I can see how others would find it too quiet. It took me longer to read than expected because it was so easy to put down.
In the end, I can say that I enjoyed A Prudent Match far more than Ellen; as for how far apart my grade is from Robin's is something I'm still thinking about. My feeling is that once I write about A Reckless Bargain and assign a grade for it, I'll be better able to assign a grade to the Matthews' book.
I wasn't sure whether or not to buy A Reckless Bargain. Megan loved it, but the only other book we've reviewed for Elizabeth Powell earned a D+ from Blythe. Still, the premise interested me and I picked up the book last weekend, began to read it immediately, and finished it in one sitting.
25-year-old widowed Kit Mallory lives a simple life in the English countryside, far different from the life she lived in India with her wealthy Cit husband. On the voyage back to England she nursed and befriended the Dowager Duchess of Wexcombe, one of those flamboyant and unconventional older characters often found in romance novels. The dowager's grandson - the current duke - believes Kit may have undue influence on his grandmother and after trying to pay her off failed, enlists his cousin, Nicholas Darcy, Marquess of Bainbridge, to seduce Kit and separate her from his grandmother.
When the dowager invites Kit to the ducal estate she is loathe to come, but how can she deny her friend? Once ensconced at the estate, Kit is treated shabbily by the duke, his wife, and her sister. The only one to show her any consideration at all is Nicholas, and the chemistry between them is both exciting and scary.
Nicholas isn't totally convinced Kit's the she-devil, but he loves his grandmother enough to give his cousin's plan a try. A rift between the dowager and the duke develops over her globe-trotting ways and Kit's proposed solution presents Nicholas with the opportunity to test her intentions toward his grandmother. What doesn't fit in his plan is falling in love with Kit. Unfortunately, the duke is a prig and the duke's sister-in-law is as bitchy as they come. Kit is destroyed when the Big Secret is revealed to her, and things only get worse from there. How can Nicholas win Kit after her humiliation?
A Reckless Bargain follows a more typical romance novel path than A Prudent Match. That said, it's not a book of stereotypes, although most of the characters are familiar types. I've a penchant for misunderstood heroines, and Kit couldn't be more different than the gold-digger she's believed to be. The author does a wonderful job bringing Kit and Nicholas together, ripping them apart, and then bringing the two back together for a fitting finale. This is an emotional read - not a two-hanky read but certainly worthy of a single hanky.
This book does not earn DIK status from me, however. If I could give it a B and half a plus, I would. But that's silly and there isn't a half a plus to give. I recommend A Reckless Bargain but I'm not begging anyone to read it. So I'll settle for a straight B, which leads me back to A Prudent Match, which is not nearly as good. It's somewhere between a C+ and B-, but there's no grade for that, so I've got to give it the B- if for no other reason than the author presented me with something I hadn't read before even though she didn't totally succeed.
I realized after reading this past paragraph that it's rather absurd to go through these machinations to come up with a grade when all I'm going to do is input it into my database. So what if one book is a B-- and the other a B 1/2+? But then, you already know I'm obsessive when it comes to reading. Oh well, I'll check in after I finish The Phantom Tollbooth, which I do recommend heartily to one and all - adults and children, men and women. All you need in order to fall in love with Juster's classic is a sense of the absurd and a sense of humor.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
A Slice of Life and a Bit of Advice
After insisting that I write out a specific list of stores, shoe types, heel heighths, and dollars - to which I said, "If you can find two pairs of sneakers and and a pair of other shoes/boots that fit and look appropriate for a ten-year-old, just buy them!" - the two of them left on their quest. I took a long shower and settled down with my new EW and the remote control. As I was flipping I came across MTV and a mini-marathon of The Osbournes second season. As I had missed some of the episodes, I decided to catch up. Luckily the latest column (sorry I can't provide a link - can't find one) for Joel Stein (whom I mentioned in a previous blogging) was up to his usual standards. After he mentions his experience as a commentator for the VHI show I Love the 80's and his insatiable need to be famous, he writes that he called the show's producer to ask if he could appear on an I Love the 90's series, where he could "cleverly ask how someone could drink a whiskey drink, a vodka drink, a lager drink, and a cider drink - twice - and still get up again." Whenever I "get" a pop culture reference to something "after my time," I'm always impressed with myself , particularly since when my husband came home later and didn't know of or remember the Chumbawamba song.
My husband and daughter returned home victorious - with two pairs of sneakers and a pair of boots) just in time for a repeat of the most recent Osbournes episode, and while she went to prepare for a sleepover at her friend's house, I cajoled my husband into watching Ozzy, Sharon and the gang along with me. Smells Like Teen Spirits was the best episode of the year, as far as I'm concerned. Here are the highlights:
- 17-year-old Kelly Osbourne has gone overboard in her party-hardy mode and relays how she was nearly attacked by a cabbie driving her home the night before, but escaped and ran down the street to the nearest bar. Although clearly upset, Sharon quips that so much has happened to Kelly in 24 hours... "I haven't even taken a sh_t in 48 hours."
- Sharon's father Don comes for a visit from jolly old England. They've been estranged, I believe, since she married Ozzy (didn't her dad used to manage Ozzy?), but her colon cancer has brought the two of them back together, and there is clearly a lot of love between them. They dissolve into giggles when he does a Norm Crosby on "chemotherapy" and when Sharon tells him her kids think Tony Curtis once called her a whore.
- Ozzy is on a burrito binge and is seen driving to Chipoltle, a chain of high-priced burrito bars. Seems one isn't enough - he'll get one to eat now and another for later. At the same time we see Sharon, son Jack, and Kelly at L.A.'s famous Nate 'n' Al's deli where she compares and contrasts her teenage hijinks against those of her kids. All she did was sneak off to the movies, not get banned from bars.
- I wasn't nearly as taken as Jack when wholesome teen-singer Mandy Moore partied at his house, but that's just me. Far more interesting was watching Ozzy work out to Tina Turner and later Bette Midler. Who knew he had such middle of the road tastes?
- Another scene between Sharon and her dad is destined to become a classic. She recounts the time Kelly called a child-abuse hotline to complain that Sharon had hit her. The counselor asked what precipitated the smack, and after Kelly shared what she'd said/done, the counselor told Kelly Sharon was right to smack her. By the time Sharon tells her dad "they should have a hotline for parents whose children abuse them," I admit I was LOL. Whether it's during this scene or another when Don quips "I can see why the first one left," in reference to Sharon and Ozzy's oldest daughter who moved out of the house rather than be on the show, I dissolved into tears of laughter.
- Watching Ozzy lecture Kelly on drinking is one of those ironic yet classic Osbourne family moments. Watching him shuffle off to the kitchen to eat his other burrito and get so full he's ill from it is yet another classic moment - whenever Ozzy or Sharon engages in something "normal," there's always a twist to it.
- Kelly hasn't listened to Ozzy and Sharon can't sleep knowing her daughter is out doing something she oughtn't. What's a mum to do? Why, clean the fridge in the middle of the night. She goes at it like a fiend. When Kelly eventually comes home, she spends part of her night being as sick as my college roommate used to get when we were freshmen.
- Perhaps my favorite scene was when Kelly realizes her drinking makes her unhappy. She comes to this conclusion after telling Sharon how horrible she feels the morning after. Sharon, with her sly wit, proceeds to tell Kelly she should eat some butter, perhaps bacon and eggs, and sauage, among other foods guaranteed to make her stomach roil. You can see Kelly becoming ill from this mention of foodstuffs. As a mother, I'm going to try and remember Sharon's version of child psychology. Absolutely brilliant.
- The episode ends as Ozzy eats another burrito - he's promised his binge is complete.
After laughing so hard for 30 minutes I had a horrible coughing attack - a remnant of this fall's illness. Then we drove our daughter to her sleep-over and enjoyed Part I of our "evening out," which was a lengthy trip to Borders, where my husband and I picked out several CD's, including one he refuses to listen to even though I actually like a couple of the songs (it's the "clean" version of The Eminem Show). Even though I warn him that if he doesn't stay current on music, it'll be tougher to stay close to our daughter, he says he draws the line at Eminem. Even my telling him that some of the songs are very good and that if we listen to the music with her we can talk through his misogynistic whining about how bad everyone is to him, he doesn't budge.
After we finish our music selection, we go to the mystery section. I've noticed that AAR Reviewer Jane Jorgenson and I have similar tastes, and she's noticed it too. Since she enjoys mysteries, I asked her a few weeks ago for some recommendations - unfortunately I didn't know we'd be going to the bookstore and don't have them with me, so I'll have to go it alone. I decide to start with a food mystery, and end up picking up Diane Mott Davidson's Sticks and Scones, and since it's a newish entry in a long-lived series, I also picked up the earliest entry in the series they had - Dying for Chocolate. I'll let you know if I like them. This is a major step for me. I've never read a mystery before, although I'm still quite proud that many years ago I won grand prize at a "mystery dinner party" we attended.
Then we had a terrific dinner at The Blue Mesa, a Mexican restaurant a cut above the usual Tex-Mex fare and when we finished, made our way to the movies to see About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson. Nicholson brilliantly portrays a 66-year-old man who has just retired as an insurance executive. He's dissatisfied with his wife (she's old, she smells) and the man his daughter is about to marry, and begins to share these sentiments in letters to a 6-year-old boy from Tanzania whom he "adopts" after watching a television commercial. When his wife dies abruptly, he is lost; after he discovers his wife had a long-ago affair with his closest friend, he goes a little crazy. He plans to drive the new Winnebago (he made his wife pay for part of it out of her own money, the daughter complains to Schmidt when she chides him for being so selfish) to Denver from Omaha and spend some time with his daughter before the wedding, but she can't spare the extra time for her dad. Instead, he drives throughout the midwest and has "experiences" before arriving at his daughter's prospective mother-in-law's house. The family his daughter is marrying into, to put it mildly, isn't typical, but then with Kathy Bates as the mother and Howard Hessman as the father, that's no surprise. Dylan McDermott plays Schmidt's ponytailed son-in-law-to-be, and all three supporting "characters" are wonderful in their roles. The reason for Bates and Hessman's divorce will shock you as surely as it shocked Schmidt, and an hilarious scene in a hot-tub is made all the more funny by Bates' courage as an actress in the scene. To say more would be a spoiler.
This is a wonderful movie and I heartily recommend it, not only for the story, but for the acting, which is superb and without vanity.
I've droned on long enough, but having an entire day that's fun is such a rarity in my life that I tend to go overboard. Sorry. Oh, wait... there was one "blight" on the day - I must have blocked it out as traumatic for a moment. It happened while we were in line to buy our movie tickets. I happened to say to my husband, "I can't believe anyone would see Just Married" when the man in front of us turned around and said, "That's what we came to see." Utterly embarrassed, I apologized and told the man and his wife that I hoped they enjoyed the movie. Never one to let a zinger go by unzung, my husband turned to me and said, "That's almost as bad as "the Bloom incident," referring to a horrible faux pas I'd committed shortly after we married. We'd been invited to a party of some business associates and while waiting in the buffet line with the hosts, I was asked about the worst wedding gift we'd received. After telling our hosts about the cornball clock we'd received with our wedding invitation as its face, I noticed they had a similar clock lovingly displayed on their sideboard. Oops.
Every once in awhile it's a good thing to say something you regret because it serves as a reminder to zip the lip more often. That's my advice for the day.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Mom's Live for This and I'm Tired!
One of my goals for 2003 is to read 100 books, as compared to the 91 I read in 2002. So far I've read almost five - I'm still working on The Phantom Tollbooth, although I did finish the two Diane Mott Davidson mysteries I mentioned in my last blogging. I'll write about them tomorrow, along with some thoughts on The Phantom Tollbooth, which I'll also be writing up as a DIK.
My daughter came home from school today quite upset that, after having typed in her name in a search engine at school today, a page of the stories she wrote as a very young child popped up. I keep the page extremely well hidden at AAR; it's only accessible via my bio page, and she's known in the back of her mind that the page is online, but being confronted with it in front of her class was embarrassing. First she asked me to take it down immediately...just a moment ago she said she wants to "look at it" first. The reason why I rarely refer to my daughter or husband by their names is just for this reason. She doesn't know it yet because I told her I'm "thinking it over," but I'll be removing the page asap, even though I think it's sad that she's one of these kids who is embarrassed to even consider that she ever was five.
I took the day off from updating AAR today - I'm frankly pooped and suffering from "post-project" headache after yesterday's massive posting. Robin finds her yearly buried treasures/year in reading column the most difficult to write, and it's an exhausting process for me to work with her to finalize it and then prepare it for uploading. Not to mention it coincides with an annual contest and the kick off of our annual reader poll, which posed extra problems this year relating to one of our "ghost" domains.
AAR's main domain is likesbooks.com, secured before I changed the site and its name to All About Romance from The Archives of Laurie Likes Books. When I made that change I tried to buy allaboutromance.com but couldn't - it took two years before I secured the domain. At the same time I tried to secure allaboutromance.net, but the squatter who bought it wanted $20,000. It took me three years to get the domain. I call both "ghost" domains because they don't really exist. I do all the uploading to likesbooks.com, and for a fee, my host created virtual sites at the other domains that, when accessed, show all the material I upload at likesbooks.com. Unfortunately, when I try to perform certain functions or set up forms - aka ballots - they've got to do something at their end to make it all work. I discovered Tuesday morning that while the ballot form worked at likesbooks.com and allaboutromance.com, it didn't work at allaboutromance.net. It took six hours of testing, calling, and pure frustration to get the thing in working order at all three domains; at one point it stopped working at each and then both of the first two.
Robin and I are thrilled that the new column was so keenly anticipated; within an hour of posting it we'd already had 200 hits, and by that time I'd already received the first few ballots. I just checked the column again - we're already up to nearly 800 hits, and it's just been a little over 24 hours since I did yesterday's update. We've also already received dozens of ballots (none bogus so far) - including my own. I was surprised just how hard it was to fill out the ballot, even though I'd read so few 2002-published romances! Shelley will start her database for tracking the ballots this weekend, and hopefully it'll run more smoothly than it has in the past, when she and I would huddle over our computer screens, phones in hand, double-checking totals.
That's all for now; I'll be back tomorrow with some discussion of those two mysteries.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Dying for Chocolate, Sticks & Scones, and the Mavs
I should have waited for my next bookstore visit because I didn't find these books all that great, although I did whip through them incredibly quickly. Dying for Chocolate is the second book in a series of mysteries featuring Goldy Bear, a divorced woman in her 30's who lives in the small Colorado enclave of Aspen Meadow with her son. She's a caterer who left her abusive doctor/husband after seven years of marriage and, in this installment, she's no longer dating policeman Tom Schulz, whom she apparently met in the first book of the series - Catering to Nobody. Instead she's sort of been seeing an old college friend - psychiatrist Phillip Miller - that is until he drives his BMW into a truck as she's watching in horror. What could have caused the good doctor to drive so erratically in the last minutes of his life? As Goldy tries to solve this mystery, she must cope with the demands of being the on-staff cook for a bizarre "retired" terrorism expert and his perfectly perfect wife, the young man staying with the family who has a huge chip on his shoulder where Goldy is concerned, continuing threats made by her oh-so-mean ex-husband, and the care and feeding of her son.
I'm not sure what I expected in a food mystery such as this - the author has been called a cross between Mary Higgins Clark and Betty Crocker - but I had problems with it regardless. First was the whole evil-ex-husband, who had far more access to his son than I thought believable given his violent - and documented - history with his ex-wives. Even in a small town where money talks, it seemed unrealistic that he would have the typical divorced father's every-Wednesday-every-other-weekend with his son. And then there's the unusual relationship Goldy has with Tom Schultz in this book; why in hell does he call her "Miss G?" This complaint continues in the later book, Sticks and Scones, where the two are married!
As far as whodunit and why, I had a pretty fair idea who the villain was, although I hadn't a clue why the good doctor was killed. There are a fair amount of red herrings, but something that made little sense to me was a scene right near the end wherein the villain does something to Goldy and a third person that I saw coming a mile away... and Goldy should have as well. Of course, had she seen it, this last-minute scene wouldn't have happened, but for a smart woman with a talent for solving mysteries, she sure was dumb, and very nearly (and literally) TSTL.
Sticks and Scones takes place a few years (and several books) later. Tom Schultz is married to "Miss G," her son is a teen, and her ex-husband is supposed to be in prison for assault. It all hits the fan pretty quickly when Tom is out of town on a case. The front window of their home is shot out, the ex-husband is let out of prison early on good behavior, Goldy discovers the dead body of one of the suspects in Tom's case, after which Tom is ambushed and shot . Will Goldy and her son (and later, Tom, when he gets out of the hospital) be safe staying at the transported medieval English castle/hotel where she's been hired to cater a couple of events?
There's a large number of nasty folks who populate Aspen Meadow, and most of them don't seem to care for Goldy, which means she's always struggling with her catering business. The owners of the castle seem harmless, but they're odd; when he's not making preserves and jellies he's digging up facts about Elizabethan cuisine, and when the wife's not scrubbing some surface clean... well, she's always scrubbing some surface clean. The ex-husband is even more threatening in this book, but his prison record and the restraining order Goldy's got against him don't seem to count for much. He even threatens her in front of the police, which seems odd given she's married to a cop and they tend to look after their own.
I didn't have a clue whodunit, or why, which is good, I suppose, but I came away with the feeling I often get when I've finished a romance with a dastardly villain. Bad people in romances (and mysteries, I suppose), are incredibly brilliant, don't you think? They plan for long periods of time, coincidences aren't really coincidences, and nobody but the protagonist is ever able to match them in terms of cunning. After re-reading this paragraph, I've come to the conclusion that mysteries probably aren't for me, but I will try a couple of the titles Jane suggested to see if they're better. After all, she's just about the only AAR Reviewer whose taste is anywhere near my own!
Tomorrow I'll be writing my review of The Phantom Tollbooth, and my daughter, who'll be tested on the book next week, has promised to help. It's a lot of fun to talk about the book with her; every time she's read it, she "gets" more and more of the word-play, which is nice.
She told me on the way home from school today that her school raised more money than any other private school in the whole state for UNICEF, which means the Dallas Mavericks will be coming to her school in a couple of months and will autograph anything they want. She says she's not even embarrassed that I'll be asking her to get Steve Nash's autograph on something for me, which is an accomplishment in and of itself; she's at that age when I'm a huge embarrassment to her simply for existing. Yes, she's a tween.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Reality TV and Me
I admit that I was an avid watcher of The Real World for several years and would sometimes watch marathon showings of various seasons when I had the chance. And then came the first Survivor. My daughter and I were immediately hooked, but my husband refused to join us as we watched every Wednesday that first Survivor summer.
I don't know that many of my AAR colleagues watched Richard Hatch demolish the competition in the South China Sea, but it was one of two of the four full "season's" worth of shows I watched in which the right person won, as far as I'm concerned. By the time the second series began in the Australian Outback, we were beginning to talk about it on our internal discussion loop, and by the end, when Tina stole the prize from the ever-gentlemanly (and hunky!) Colby, I know at least one of our group threw a final episode party for her family.
When the third "season" began in Africa, my daughter began to lose interest and I wasn't sure I was up to watching after having been in a prolonged post-September 11 funk, but some of my friends from AAR promised me it would ease my troubled mind, and we set up an alliance on the now-defunct Survivor Deadpool site. At one point I moved so high in the standings that my competitive nature began to take over, and when the inevitable fall occurred a couple of weeks later (when I dropped from 15th to 90 in the overall standings), I realized I'd begun to take the show and the game far too seriously. When I was invited to join an "exclusive" alliance for those in the top 100 (by this time thousands were playing the game), I realized the game was no longer enjoyable and I declined. I finished playing the game to keep our original alliance together for the rest of the series, but retired from future play knowing I cared about how well I did far too much. Still, I was very glad when Ethan won; he deserved it.
We'd started debating among ourselves just how long the show could sustain our interests, and the interests of the American viewing public. Way back when we were enthralled in the second "season," I'd surmised it would probably last five or six "seasons" but that interest would wane by about the fourth or fifth. I didn't have to watch the fourth season - in the South Pacific - by myself; by then my husband threw in the towel and watched with me, although to this day he'll deny he was intrigued by any of it. I was thoroughly disillusioned by Vecepia's deceit toward Kathy and trace my growing discontent with the show to Vecepia's win.
I gave up on Survivor Thailand just a couple of weeks before its conclusion, although my heart wasn't in it from the start, and I don't plan on watching Survivor in the Amazon. After overdosing on the hideous Anne Nicole show this fall, I told myself I'd never again sink that low! I'd been so proud not to have watched either of the two "seasons" of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, either of the two skanky Temptation Islands beyond a very quick scan one evening early on, or Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire!
But then an AAR friend started talking at length about Joe Millionaire. Even though I'd sworn not to watch it, I remembered everything she'd said (which was fascinating in a car-accident rubber-necking kind of way) and when I turned on my TV last Thursday and noticed an encore presentation of the first two hours, I got sucked in. And tonight I forced my long-suffering husband to watch the latest episode. I've gotta say, Melissa M continues to impress me. If I didn't know Evan was supposedly a $19,000-a-year man, I'd be rooting for her to land him, not only because she's the least traditionally attractive of the women, but because she's presented herself well, smoking aside. But Sarah got a kiss on the lips tonight and Melissa M only got a peck on the cheek.
My husband thinks the joke's on us - that "Joe" may really be a millionaire, but if he is, he's as uncouth as Allison found him to be tonight. It was really fun to watch Melissa Jo talk about her Paris "date" with Evan at dinner and the Moulin Rouge - she thought they hit it off and he found they had nothing in common and no spark. He also had nada with Zora, so I was shocked when she didn't get the boot and Allison did, although his eliminating her speaks to more character and insight than I'd given him credit for.
Still, the entire premise of this show is so hideous I feel guilty even watching it. It shows women in a very unflattering light - not only these individual women, but all women, even those of us who don't cat-fight, aren't gold-diggers, and don't judge a man by his looks or the size of his wallet. If they were going to go down that route, wouldn't Fox have produced a better show with an average-looking "Joe?" Or an ugly one?
What reality TV are you watching? From here on out, it's only the second season of American Idol, primarily because my daughter wants to watch it. Since they botched Kelly Clarkson's career following her well-deserved win in the first season of the show (see my blogging for September 5) by giving her a crappy single and her first CD hasn't been released and the new season starts tomorrow, I'm not impressed. At least Dunkleman's history. Hopefully Simon won't be a parody of himself, but I've my doubts, particularly since Paula Abdul has hired someone to write "zingers" for her. Oh well, that's what we do in America - we take a good thing and run it into the ground.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
In the end Pat had to excerpt my letter. And so we settled on a compromise: the letter in its entirety has also been posted to a page at AAR with links to and from the germaine Holt Uncensored columns. In this way those who read the letter in either newsletter or web form can read the remainder at AAR, then return to the Holt site. Pat deserves kudos simply for putting up with my craziness as I sweated over multiple versions - thank you, Pat!
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
My Work Here is Done
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Gotta Love the Osbournes
As for the other episode, it too focused quite a bit on Kelly, who doesn't seem to understand that when you are being paid to do things, it's your responsibility to do them. Sharon, still obviously so ill she can't get out of bed, tries to counsel and protect Kelly, but Kelly throws tantrum after tantrum... not a pretty picture. Sharon finally sends Ozzy to talk to Kelly, but she screams at him and he shuffles back to tell Sharon he'll not do that again.
There's a moment in this episode that I will never forget. Kelly has gone to New York for an engagement and for a reason that currently escapes my memory, meets up with Puff Daddy aka P Diddy, who promises to buy her a diamond bracelet. What a normal mum would do under these circumstances is unclear, but Sharon's reaction is hilarious. She begins to fantasize about P Diddy marrying Kelly, which is one thing, but it's entirely another when she starts salivating over the idea of his penis, which she imagines is all oiled up. She goes on, it seems, for some time about P Diddy and his beautiful penis... isn't that just how your mother would react?
On the reading front, I've finally gotten around to reading Stephanie Lauren's Devil's Bride. I realize everybody else read it four years ago, but I wasn't ready to read it until now. I'm nearly finished and will report on it here shortly.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
The Bar Cynster
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
Elizabeth Young, Chick Lit, and more on Ozzy and Sharon
Here's the back-cover blurb from A Promising Man:
From the fire-hot author of ASKING FOR TROUBLE comes a second irresistibly funny and romantic novel, in which we meet the delightfully wicked Harriet and John, who are matched as perfectly as scones and clotted cream -- if only Harriet would let herself indulge.
Up to her eyeballs in her friends' dramas, Harriet Grey has no time for her own, let alone getting entangled with John Mackenzie. And though it's been ages since she's met one of the most gorgeous men London has to offer, it seems John's entangled with someone else. Or is he?
Though they say all's fair in love, Harriet isn't about to complicate her life -- or risk her heart. But the persistent John seems to pop up everywhere she turns, and soon she's agreeing to meet him for a cocktail to repay a favor. After all, what harm can come out of one innocent little drink? Maybe a few breathtaking kisses, some suspiciously lingering embraces, and a wonderful weak-kneed dizziness that most definitely is not the flu. And that's before she finds herself all alone with John at Christmas....
At just over 400 pages in a trade-size format, I didn't get into this book until some time after page 300. The secondary characters Heidi so enjoyed never seemed real to me, and the hero, whom Heidi felt she didn't get to know, seemed more like a real person than anyone else in the book, save the heroine. In classic Chick Lit fashion, heroine Harriet Grey is in her 20's, isn't tremendously ambitious, lives communally, and many of her friends are similarly drifting through their lives. While Harriet doesn't drink as much as many Chick Lit heroines do and actually behaves responsibly more often than most heroines of the other Chick Lit novels I've read, the meandering nature of the plot bored me.
Very little actually happened throughout much of the book. I enjoy a good character-driven book as much as the next person, but only when the characters are of interest to me. The secondary characters in this book did not. And while there were humorous moments to be sure - Harriet's nickname for her nemesis is the Witch of Narnia, and I always enjoy a smart put-down - it's only after 300 pages, when her relationship with hero John MacKenzie grows into something substantial, that I became fully engaged in the outcome. Given that Chick Lit novels are not romances, this was a problem for me. I was supposed to care about more than Harriet and John getting together and I did not.
Why it is that I couldn't care about the other characters in this book while I do care about the bizarre human beings who are The Osbournes is odd, particularly to my husband, who turned to me last night while I was watching the latest episode, said, "This is disgusting...I don't know you anymore!", and left the den for our bedroom rather than watch one minute more. I'll admit that seeing dog poop all over a house and yard and watching a dog seemingly fellate another dog is a bit much (that was the exact moment when my DH had had enough), but it made me feel so much better about my own sorely lacking housekeeping skills to know that we have no poop on our floors even though we don't life in a multi-million dollar mansion. The irony of seeing people at that income level stepping in dog poop, seeing their lives so out of control, is something I think about when one of our cats misses the litter box by an inch (to let us know he's mad that he can't go outside because it's too cold), or when our kitchen turns into a disaster area the day after we've spent hours straightening up.
I do wish my husband had stayed through the end of the show, though, because what he didn't see was Ozzie's frantic care for Sharon. This, after all, is a man who has so thoroughly abused his body with drugs and alcohol that it's left him a shuffling mess, and yet he's so worried about his wife's recovery from cancer that he carries around bottles of hand disinfectant so she won't come down with an infection in her chemo-driven/low-resistant state.
TTFN, Laurie Likes Books