Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bookshelf Revealed

Wylie Kinson tagged me for a meme.

"The rules are to provide a list of books that you have on your shelves to see if anyone can learn about you from them - but not just any books. They have to be books that you've actually paid for, nothing given, borrowed, stolen, or whatever."

Well... I have quite a monstrous number of books (Hi, I'm Maureen and I'm an book-buying addict.)

In the interest of fun, I'm going to only pick books I've bought in the past year (maybe two) and which I either have already read and loved, or fully intend to read. I find, since I've started to write, that I often buy books without the intention of reading the entire thing. Too many books, too little time...

Here goes:
  • Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay
  • The Unfinished Canadian, by Andrew Cohen
  • The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards
  • the guy not taken, by Jennifer Weiner
  • A Brief History of Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, by Jack Holland
  • Forgive Me, by Amanda Eyre Ward
  • Catching Genius, by Kristy Kiernan
  • Undercover Protector, by Molly O'Keefe
  • Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos

Okay, that's it!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Will the real Hairspray please stand up

Okay, so I went to see the new Hairspray movie.

While it was kinda fun, as a fan of the original John Waters movie, I just can't bring myself to approve of this new silly musical version. Not that John Waters' version wasn't silly -- but on an entirely different level.

John Waters' movies were/are also subversive/experimental/strange, and while Hairspray was certainly his most accessible film, it still had some edge. The only edgy thing in the new film was Waters' own tiny cameo in the opening sequence playing a flasher. And I was the only one in the theatre who laughed at that.

I think part of the problem was the casting. John Waters is famous for off-the-wall, somewhat ironic casting, using a consistent stable of regulars (his childhood friends) including Divine and Mink Stole, but also regularly casting Patty Hearst (yes, that Patty Hearst) and Tracy Lords (yes, that Tracy Lords) and Sonny Bono, and Debbie Harry alongside some brave hollywood stars willing to take a trip on the John Waters train... like Johnny Depp, and Kathleen Turner and Edward Furlong. (Okay, Furlong was a bit of a star at the time. Did Pecker ruin his career? Perhaps.) Also funny was casting Selma Blair as a monstrosly large chested woman in A Dirty Shame. That movie didn't entirely work for me... (the first half was pretty funny) but casting probably the smallest busted actress in hollywood (one of the few slim actresses who have shunned breast enhancements) as the HUGE-chested Caprice Stickles, that, to me, was funny. (In an ironic kind of way.)

Now, some might say that casting John Travolta as Edna Turnblad was edgy, but I don't agree at all. I think casting him was the anti-edgy casting choice for that role. Edgy for me would have been casting Nicole Kidman and not putting her in a fat suit.
I kept trying to decide what really bothered me about casting John Travolta as Edna Turnblad and think I finally put my finger on the issue for me...

The part was originally played by Divine. Yes, anatomically, Divine was a man. And yes, she was grossly overweight. But she didn't typically play men as an actor. She was a transvestite. I doubt Waters said, "wouldn't it be funny if we cast a man in this role." No, I expect he wrote the part for Divine. Divine played female roles in all Waters' movies. All the ones I've seen anyway. Casting John Travolta and putting him in a fat suit just makes a joke at Divine's expense to me. And not the kind of subversive jokes John Waters always made with his bizarre castings in his movies. More of a pre-adolescent-boy snickering-at-someone's-expense joke.

On the other hand, it was fun to see Jerry Stiller, the original Wilbur Turnblad, in a tiny cameo in the new movie... but again, Divine and Jerry Stiller as an onscreen couple -- Stiller being close to two feet shorter than Divine, as well as much smaller -- was much more fun. Travolta and Walken seemed like they could barely contain their own sniggering during their love-scenes together rather than actually acting their parts.

The casting "joke", if there was one in the original Hairspray, was having Divine also play the evil and racist Arvin Hodgepile. "Look, Divine's playing a man. Isn't that funny?" And I don't remember Edna being so insecure about her weight, either. But I may be misremembering. Edna Turnblad in the first movie, like her daughter Tracy, was proud of how she looked. To make Tracy's weight such an obvious, non-subtle issue in the new version destroyed the whole idea of her character for me. Yes, her weight played a part in the original, but the charm of it was that the "good" people in the first version didn't even notice or ever mention Tracy's weight. It was a non-issue for Corny and Link and her parents. A metaphor if you will for the racial issues highlighted in the film.

I probably sound more angry about this than I am... I actually did have some fun watching the musical version. And I'm sure lots of people will like this new Hairspray who wouldn't like the original. To each their own.

And comparing the two movies is a case of apples and oranges (or transvestives vs male actors dressed up as women.) Not the same thing at all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Can it get any better???

Okay, my favorite show on TV just keeps getting better. Yes, it's So You Think You Can Dance.

Last week, it was pretty sad when Hok got cut and the judges are clearly out to get Kameron now, in revenge for the fact they couldn't get rid of him in the top 20 because he and Lacy were so popular as a couple.

Tonight, when they said everyone was going to do the same routine I wasn't sure how entertaining that would be. The same routine, 10 times... And then Jamie went first and, for me, she's one of the best dancers, so I was worried when I wasn't blown away by her. But wow. A few of the other dancers really did blow me away. And which ones did surprised me, too. Danny was breathtaking. Neil, too. Lauren was amazing and Sara made me tear up. I really hope she lasts. She dances with so much power and feeling. And how cool is it that she's a break dancer?

Okay, done being a dance geek now.

One last note... because I'm watching it right now... A Spanish Viennese Waltz? Who's stupid idea was that? Dominic and Jamie were terrible, but I don't think it was totally their fault. What a stupid routine. Paella and sauerkraut don't mix. Know what I mean?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Coming out of a fog

Allergies suck. I've had them most of my life and for the most part, I've grown pretty used to it. It's not like they're life threatening, or anything. (That I know of.) My head just gets really fuzzy on occasion and my nostrils turn into faucets. Not pleasant, but usually manageable with drugs.

But today I had one of those scratch tests for the first time since I was a teenager. To prepare for the test, I wasn't allowed to take any antihistamines for 3 days and let me tell you, I learned I'm more addicted to my Reactine than I thought I was. I swear I don't take one everyday, I don't. I only take them when I'm feeling like I need it or when I know I'm going to be gardening or visiting a cat infested household, but being off them for 3 summer days in a row, must be one of the stages of hell.

And then there was the scratch test. That must be a higher (lower?) level. They tested about 30 foods on my left arm, and nothing really happened, so I was just left with this bizarre pattern of pin prick marks... but my right arm was a whole other story. Within seconds of the nurse scratching each evil droplet of allergen laced poison, each scratch started to bleed (the other side didn't bleed). And then they stung and then itched and then swelled. By the time the 6 hours (okay, maybe it was 10-15 minutes) of waiting passed, my forearm was a nasty, bright-red, swollen angry mass of itchiness and burning. (That 15 minutes of waiting for the reaction really did feel like hours.)
The nurse didn't think my reaction to flax seed or feathers was too bad (2 of the twenty-odd scratches on that arm), but the doctor basically took a look at my right arm and said "let's just call it everything". (All trees, flowers, weeds, grasses, dogs, cats, dust, molds, etc. etc. etc.)

Imagine being bitten by 30 mosquitoes at the same time, all on the inside of your forearm -- all within a 7x1 inch rectangle -- and then have each bite welt up so much they meld into each other. That was my arm this morning.
After I got out of there, I double dosed on my reactine so I could slow the flow of my nostril faucets, dull the redness and burning to something more in the pink range and to shrink the welts, but I was left with a foggy head all day and barely got any work done. (So I went to the movies :-)

And now my arm looks like I'm some kind of cutter or something... A very precise one.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry arrived (and author overdoses)

My new Harry Potter book just arrived. I don't remember ordering it. Oh, the dangerous combination of staying up too late and internet ordering. I'm itching to read it. In fact, I read the first two paragraphs a second ago and that woman does know how to grab a reader...

The problem is, I still haven't read books five and six in the series. Further confirming my late-night-ordering craziness, I pre-ordered those two to arrive on the days they were released, too.

Some backstory: I didn't read any of the the Harry Potter series until the first four books were out. I was working at the time with a woman who had pre-teen kids who were reading the Harry Potter books, she was raving about them, so I bought them mostly to see what the fuss was about.

Like so many people, I got hooked, hard and fast. I think I devoured the first four books in just a few weeks. Very fast reading for me. After finishing the fourth, I couldn't wait for the fifth to arrive. (Hence my first pre-order.) But by the time it came out, I'd moved onto other things. I'd started writing myself and was busy reading a lot in the genre I was attempting to write at the time (romance) and was burned out as a reader.

Do you ever get burned out reading one author or one genre too much?

With very few exceptions -- mostly authors I personally know -- I think I'm over reading romance. I think that's the first genre I OD'd on... But I've OD'd on specific authors in the past, too. When I first read Anne Rice, I think I read at least six of her novels back to back. Similar story with Anne Tyler (do I have a thing for writers named Anne?) Simlarly with Robertson Davies and John Irving -- although I first read Irving when he was still in his book out a year stage and so I did have gaps between those books but bought most of them in hard cover as soon as they hit the stores.

Back to my new Harry book.... Do I need to read Potter's five and six before reading seven? I'm anxious to get going...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The true north stoned and free

According to a study done by the United Nations, Canadians smoke more pot than just about every other country in the world. Yes, even more than Jamaica. (Okay, it wasn't based on total amount smoked... just the percentage of the population who admit to having smoked pot in the past year.)

What's up with that, dude? I have to say, our top ranking here surprises me a little and makes me believe one of the possible theories put forward in the article I read -- that Canadians are just more honest about answering the question.

This makes some sense to me... First, Canadians aren't as afraid of their government as Americans (based on my observations) sometimes seem to be. So, people (paranoid from all their pot smoking) wouldn't be afraid that if they tell the pollster the truth, that cops will suddenly break down their door and snatch their stash. Related to this theory, I think in the past few years, not only has the stigma about pot virtually disappeared in Canada, I'd be willing to bet that more people lied and said they did smoke pot in the last year when they didn't, than the other way around.

Not that pot is legal here. There was a law introduced five or so years ago to decriminalize possession -- such that possession of small amounts would get you a ticket, but not arrested or a criminal record -- but the government changed before the law was passed, so it's still a criminal offense. Although it does seem like the cops take a much more blase attitude toward it the past ten years or so.

Me? I've never been a pot smoker. Not that I never have, it's just never been my thing. (I'm more of a gin girl. Okay, and scotch.) I've even been in relationships with men who smoked just about every day... and still, I didn't.

But I feel kind of proud (in a very bizarre way) that Canada made the top five. The only countries in the world that smoke more than we do are Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Ghana and Zambia.

Go Canada! Party on!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Alarm clocks and taxis and laptops, oh my!

Sorry I was missing in action all week. I really did plan to post at least once from Dallas, BUT....

Too late last Monday night, already sleep deprived (because I'm stupid and didn't get enough sleep Saturday or Sunday nights) I set my alarm for 5:45 PM.

Problem was, I had a car picking me up at 6:45 AM. Oooops. So my wake-up call was the taxi company calling wondering why I wasn't answering my door.

Luckily, I was 99.9% packed, but one thing I hadn't packed was my laptop. I figured it would be smart to leave it charging and turned on over night, so that I could check my flight information in the morning, then turn it off and pack it...

I realized I'd forgotten it before the car even hit the highway... But since I was already running later than I'd wanted (and had made the driver wait for 20 minutes while I frantically got ready) I didn't ask him to turn back.

The result was the most cut-off I've felt in a long, long time. Even when traveling in Morocco two summers ago I managed to check my e-mails several times and to read the headlines on a few news websites. This year the world could have ended and I wouldn't have known... Not that there's a lot of spare time during Nationals to blog or read e-mails... Just saying...

So, that's my long-winded apology for not blogging from the conference. I'll try to put something worthwhile re the conference on DWT later in the week to make up for it.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Stephen King -- Prince of a Man

Now I've never been a big fan of Stephen King's books. That's not true. Well, not untrue, either, but it sounded like I don't like his books. That's not it. I simply haven't read him. Horror just isn't my favorite thing. (Did you read my description of how many days(weeks) it took me to watch The Shining (movie of one of his books) on video? How could I possible read it???)

But since I've become a writer myself, I find myself admiring Stephen King more and more and more. It's not that I've actually started reading him (although I am really intrigued by Lisey's Story and will probably read that) it's more about who he seems to be as a person (through his words and actions), and how he helps other writers.

I first fell into a deep admiration of him when I read his book On Writing. When I read the speech he delivered on winning a National Book Award my admiration of him increased and his words helped me deal with my own turmoil over my decision to write genre fiction instead of "serious literature".

And today, again, on reading this article my admiration grew.

The article's a generous, objective and interesting take on the end of the Harry Potter series from the perspective of another writer and without an ounce of bitterness, criticism or jealousy. But what really stood out for me in the article and inspired me to blog, is how he TWICE mentioned a manuscript he's just read and really loved. He didn't need to do that.

How thrilling for Lauren Groff, the writer of said manuscript to a) have him read it, b) have him love it and c) have him possess the grace and generosity to use the platform of this article about the end of the Harry Potter series, to mention that he loved this woman's not yet released book. SO HUGE for her.

One classy dude.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Has anyone else seen this movie? The only word I can think of to describe it is lovely (I'm thesaurused out working on my revisions).

It's billed as a kind of musical, but really it's just a movie with a lot of music in it -- where so much of what's going on, so much of the relationship developing between the two main characters (guy and girl -- never named) happens through songs. But not in an artifical break into song kind of way. They're both musicians. All the singing is organic and natural. It's more like a performance movie, with a story built around it, than a musical.

And the leads are fabulous. Glen Hansard, who plays "the guy" and wrote most of the music, is incredibly talented. I can't believe he's not famous. Perhaps he is in Ireland. And Marketa Irglova, the young Czech actress/singer who plays "the girl" was totally compelling and understated at the same time. So guileless.

This movie won the audience award at Sundance and it's no surprise why. An accessible and, well, lovely film.

Highly recommend this movie.
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