Category Archives: Pop culture

Really bad T.V…

Jim had a gig last night, so I spent most of the evening writing thirty donation request letters for raffle items for the summer reading program – a seemingly easy task, but always remarkably time-consuming. Last night it took four and a half hours, which includes the writing of the letters, printing of the envelopes, and, most importantly, fact-checking on the web, since donation request contact people often change from one year to the next, and larger organizations like the local minor league baseball teams often change donation request procedures from one year to the next.

At any rate, by the time I finished at 8:15 I was ready to do something totally mindless. So I cracked open a growler of Lost Sailor* and turned on the T.V. And watched “The Bachelorette,” a show I’d normally avoid at all costs. Last week when I was home sick and too dizzy to read, I did watch some bad television, but “The Bachelorette” definitely trumps that episode of “Divorce Court” that I saw on Thursday.

So here’s my beef with “The Bachelorette”: the whole premise of the show is what’s wrong with love and marriage in this country in general.  Ali, the bachelorette, had a great home-based date with a nice guy last night, where they cooked dinner together, hung out and relaxed together, and seemed to have a nice happy time together.  But Ali sent this guy home because she wanted “romance” and a “connection,” and if a guy wasn’t going to be “romantic” in this reality T.V. setting, then there was no chance of “romance” in real life. I’d love to take Ali aside and tell her that diamonds and roses aren’t romantic. Romantic is coming home after a long day of work, feeling kinda sick and crummy, and having your sweet husband smile at you and say, “You look awful. Sit down, take a load off, and let me cook dinner for you.” Seriously. Romance is those little, daily thoughtful things that show how much you care about someone. Sure, a big date night here and there is good, and remembering birthdays (hint hint) is also good, but it’s the day to day compassion and love that really count.

But I didn’t see any evidence of that type of romance and caring on last night’s show. There was a lot of testosterone fueled posturing as the guys talked about “being there for Ali,” a girl they hardly know, and there were a lot of fake smiles and strained facial expressions and a whole lot of wine consumption. It was pretty depressing. Luckily, Jim came home before the end of the show and we muted the volume and made fun of the whole silliness. While consuming popcorn and Lost Sailor, of course.

* Please note that I did NOT single-handedly consume said growler. That would just be gross.

That whole Facebook thing

It’s time I went public with this:  I totally do NOT “get” Facebook.  In fact, despite having giving Facebook plenty of chances, I find it to be the most boring, tedious, horrendous time waster that I’ve ever encountered.

(Right about here I duck under a table to avoid the flying objects -virtual flying objects, of course – hurled by all of you who love Facebook.)

I joined Facebook a few months back because of the library.  The library has a Facebook page to announce teen events, so I figured it would behoove me to at least put in an appearance as a “fan” of the library.  And I’ve become a fan of my favorite tea company, my favorite online clothing store, and Mother Goose on the Loose.  I’ve even gained a few friends – a very few friends.  And most recently, I’ve joined the alumni group for my college class, since there is a class reunion coming up this spring.  But I’m still bored.

Here’s what I dislike about Facebook (prepare to be pissed off, you Facebook lovers): 

It minimizes human contact, so that people are communicating via little badly written blurbs and comments.  I like talking to people, face-to-face and on the phone.  I don’t like trying to sound clever and cute in a one sentence update on my life.

It brings people back into your life who have long since moved on, and who have moved on for good reason.  Many friendships have a shelf life, and once the friendship has expired, it’s in everyone’s best interest to let things go. I probably don’t have much in common now with the friends I had in my late twenties.  But I have new friends now with whom I share quite a bit.

It encourages a highschool popularity mentality, even when you’re resisting that trap.  I’m way past highschool, and would like to think that I’m mature, but when I see that both of my siblings have over a hundred friends each, and I only have five friends, I start to feel my ego shrink and my posture change and I feel again like the braces-ridden runty highschool freshman that I once was.  No thanks.  I don’t need that.

It’s an absolute time suck.  If I were to become a Facebook junkie, I would lose valuable time that I could spend reading, creating, socializing, blogging (yes, I know, I need to be more consistent with that), or taking an afternoon nap on a weekend.  Or cooking or cleaning or volunteering or planting a garden or getting in shape.

But I don’t want anyone to think that I’m a techno-dud.  I have a favorite Facebook alternative:  Goodreads.  Goodreads allows me to see what some of my favorite authors are reading (Gabrielle Zevin, Neil Gaiman), and what those authors think of the books they’ve just read.  Gabrielle Zevin gave 5 stars to that book, and says it’s the best thing she’s read in years?  I think I’ll go find a copy and read it, too.  Goodreads also keeps me in touch with my friends who are voracious readers, and I can read their ratings and reviews on books they’ve read.  Peggy slammed that book, giving it only 2 stars?  I trust Peggy’s judgement, so I think I’ll skip reading that book.  And, Goodreads keeps me accountable for what I read.  I find that I forgo television or watching a DVD more often now so that I can settle down and read a book and then post my review on Goodreads.  I don’t want to look like a literary slacker, after all.  And guess what?  I have more friends on Goodreads that I do on Facebook.

So now I’ve got two questions: How long can something as inane as Facebook survive?  And how many of you are mad at me right now?

Edward Scissorhands

At KMart yesterday, there was a large bin of DVDs for sale for $5.00 each, which seemed like a wonderful alternative to driving all the way across town through rush hour traffic to rent a DVD for $4.00.  (Not the usual approach my anti-clutter self takes, especially given the size of our house, but it worked for yesterday.)

So I bought two movies, Bee Season and Edward Scissorhands.  Last night was the first time I’ve ever watched Edward Scissorhands, and I really enjoyed it, though less for the story and more for the visuals and some of the acting.  I understand that it’s a “fable,” and that you’re supposed to suspend disbelief and roll with the story, but I still can’t accept the fact that The Inventor would create such a perfectly human creature without giving that creature real hands.  I know that The Inventor was inspired to create Edward after holding up a heart-shaped cookie in front of one of his other inventions, a robot which sliced and diced lettuce with his scissor hands.  But Edward is unlike that robot in every way, except for those scissorhands.  Why would the inventor saddle his creature with such a handicap?  Why would he spend time reading poetry to the young creature rather than attach “real” hands to his arms???

That aside, I love Vincent Price as the Inventor, and Johnny Depp as Edward.  And Dianne Wiest makes a lovely and believable Peg.  And I love the colors – every shade of pastel you can imagine, which juxtapose so nicely with Edward’s black and white ensemble.  And, of course, Edward’s topiary creations are just plain awesome, especially the topiary sea monster at the mansion.  I found myself paying little attention to the storyline, and instead focused my energy on enjoying the visual feast laid out by Tim Burton.

So I’m nineteen years behind in seeing this movie, but it stands the test of time well, and I’m actually glad that I purchased it and that it will live in our DVD library.  It’s always good to add a few movies here and there to Jim’s music DVD collection; helpful when I’m home sick, or when we just need something to watch on a Saturday evening.

Not to brag, but…

I totally called it.  Totally.  Kris Allen won last night, just like I’ve been predicting for a while.  An excellent outcome for both Adam and Kris – a year from now, they’ll both be doing very well, and I can guarantee that Adam’s first CD will definitely be living in our house.

And the finale last night was pretty good – no great surprises like last year (George Michael) and the year before (Prince), but still a lot of Jim’s and my favorites: Queen, Rod Stewart, Kiss (or should it be KISS?), Jason Mraz…it was a pleasant way to spend an evening.  And now I have my Tuesday and Wednesday nights back to spend reading, something I haven’t done much of since Idol started back up.

One way to tell you’re sick…

So I’m home sick today, and I just figured out how bad it is:

I’m watching the Today show while resting my ghost-white self on the couch, and Lisa Rinna has now been on the show twice (let’s not even start on why I’m watching all fifteen hours of the Today show) promoting her new book Rinnavation.  And I found myself a moment ago logging on to Amazon, thinking to myself, “I simply MUST have a copy of this book!!!”

Luckily some shred of sense still exists in my virus-ridden body, and that shred caused me to look and see if my library system owns the book.  Still frightening that I wanted to request the book from the library, but at least I saved myself from owning it.  And more good sense kicked in when I saw that neither the library system for which I work owns the book, nor the library system for the town I live in – “Hmmm,” I thought, “If none of those libraries owns the book, maybe it’s no good…hmmmm.”

It’s definitely time to turn off the computer, have some cranberry juice, and get over this blasted cold.  I need my intelligence back.


I haven’t written much about American Idol this year on my blog, but no worries – I’m as big a fan as ever, and my Idol viewing has cut dramatically into my blog writing time.

My favorite this year?  Adam Lambert, of course.

My pick for winner this year?  I actually think Kris Allen will win, and that’s just fine.  Kris is a talented, creative guy, and he deserves to have a great career.  And if Adam comes in second, he can make a better, less-rushed, album than if he won. 

So who’s tuning in on Tuesday and Wednesday nights with me?

Twilight, the movie

Alyson and Lisa and I went to see Twilight the movie a little over a week ago, and this past Saturday Lisa hosted a Twilight movie discussion at the library for teens.  So in the past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie, and having a lot of conversations with others about the movie.  And my verdict stays the same as when I left the theater: it’s pretty bad.

I’ve read the whole Twilight saga, but I’m not a huge fan of the series.  The books are compelling at times, and also outrageously dull at times, and I was actually pretty relieved when I got to the end of Breaking Dawn and knew that I was DONE.  So I went into the movie without any huge expectations for what I was about to see, and would call myself more objective than someone who loves, loves, loves the books.

For me, then, the movie didn’t fail because of the little details that are different from the books (I couldn’t care less whether the Cullens’ house is white and traditional or brown and modern), but because it’s poorly done and badly acted.  The pace of the film drags, and Edward and Bella have little “chemistry” with each other.  Bella looks perpetually mentally overtaxed, as if it hurts to think, and Edward is stiff and awkward and anything but sexy.  Their scenes together are way too long, and the pauses in their conversations that are meant to be pregnant with meaning are simply overdrawn and deadly boring.

Aside from the problems with Edward and Bella, the film fails in other ways.  The makeup is overdone, most notably the first time we see Carlisle Cullen in the emergency room.  Carlisle’s face is powdered vampire white, but his neck is its natural color – there’s actually a makeup demarkation line along his chin.  And, as one of the teens attending on Saturday noted, Carlisle’s hair is obviously dyed blonde.  “Hello,” the teen commented, “Couldn’t they have found any naturally blonde attractive actors?????”

Other failings:  Lisa noticed a cameraman showing in the scene where Bella is being harrassed by the thugs in the city (and Lisa saw the movie three times); some of the actors are poorly cast (Jasper comes to mind here, as his doofus expression inspired an explosion of laughter amongst my fellow theater-goers); and the plot would be pretty hard to follow if you hadn’t read the books.

I thought the movie sucked (great word to use when describing a vampire movie!), and I was shocked to read David Denby’s review of it in The New Yorker.  I had to read Denby’s review three times to confirm that yes, he liked it.  Huh??  I almost lost faith in my own opinion after reading that review: maybe I’d missed something?  Maybe I’m a lot dumber than Denby and am showing my ignorance by hating the movie?  But then I watched Paul Giamatti in John Adams and felt confident again in my condemnation of Twilight.  I’m no movie critic, but I can tell the difference between a well-done, well-acted film and a C+ vampire flick.

The mystery of readership

Blogging is fun, but there is an element of mystery involved in being a blogger.  Who, really, is reading this blog? 

I know there are “lurkers,” people who read blogs without ever leaving a comment, and in the case of my blog, I do know who some of the lurkers are, since they’re people I know well who have confessed to reading without commenting.  I might see one of these people at work, or at Thanksgiving dinner, and the person will say, “Hey, I read your post on X, and liked it.”  (Or maybe they didn’t like the post, but we don’t want to go there, do we?)

The mystery for me, though, is whether any resident of the town in which I work has ever found and read my blog.  The residents of this town are well-educated, and most people who live in the town have a computer and internet access at home.  In addition, it’s a small town, which lends itself to residents taking an interest in the workings of the town.  So it feels like someone, sometime must have Googled my name and found my blog.  Yet I’ve never had a posted comment from a town resident, and no town resident has ever mentioned to me that they read my blog. 

Why does this matter, you wonder?  It matters to me because if I knew that town residents were reading my blog, then I would make a concerted effort to post entries about registration deadlines for events and storytimes, and I would also periodically post entries about newly arrived books at the library (much as I send lists of newly arrived books to the local newspaper in my weekly submission).  But I certainly won’t bother writing those posts if there’s no demand for them.

What a mystery.  While I ponder it, I think I’ll enjoy the company of pacified Pippa (nice woodstove fire going today), sick Ophy (kitten stress has, predictably, given her a UTI), and tuckered out Max (all that attention and love from the Thanksgiving dinner guests!).  And I’ll steel myself for going to see the movie Twilight this afternoon with Lisa and Alyson – it’ll be lots of fun to hang out with L. and A., but I’m not sure I’ll love the movie…

American Idol

Yup, it’s true – I do still watch American Idol.  Why not.  And this season has been pretty great so far.  I’m blown away by the number of talented singers this year, and by the fact that there aren’t any singers who make you cringe and shake your fist at the screen.

I’m hard pressed to make any predictions of who might win, since the contest truly seems to be a week-to-week thing, but I will list my personal favorites – the contestants who I’d like to see continue on to the end:  Michael, David A., David C., Carly, and Brooke.  So if those guys can hang on to the final five, I’ll be psyched.

And now I’ve got to stop writing, since George Clooney is due up on the Today show…

The Namesake

We watched a pretty good movie this weekend – not the best I’ve ever seen, but good enough that it’s worth tracking down in your local video store (or, shudder, through NetFlix):  The Namesake, based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri.  Directed by Mira Nair, the movie stars Kal Penn of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, who acts with depth and intelligence (which would have surprised me if I had only seen him in Harold & Kumar, but he does now also have that role on House). 

What I liked about this movie is its gentle perceptiveness as we follow this family over twenty-five or so years.  We don’t ever see Gogol going to Yale, nor do we see his father teaching a class; instead, we are presented with smaller moments of their lives, mixed in with some of the biggest moments – deaths, births, marriages.  Family interactions take center stage here, and once I got used to the slow pace of the movie, I was hooked.  And I love that the ending doesn’t fall prey to the common trap of tying everything up neatly for the viewer, but instead leaves the possibilities of the future wide open.  It’s a fine movie, one that stays with you; three stars from me.