Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience - that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”
- Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was born on this day in 1932. While I have never been a big "Liz" person, her power, magnetism and impressive body of work are undeniable. For decades she was the reigning queen of American cinema; the biggest name on the marquee, the headline in every movie magazine and gossip column and one of the few women whose attachment to a project could make that project happen. She combined acting with international celebrity in a way that few people did in her heyday, living larger than life and inspiring an enduring fascination in the hearts and imaginations of her public. There were scandals and health problems and a private life playing out all too publicly, but in the end I think she still inspires a great deal of love and admiration.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Random Lyric Thing My Sister Did

...because I don't particularly have anything else I need to ramble about today.

Random Song Lyric Meme:

Step 1: Put your MP3 player or whatever on random.
Step 2: Post the first line(s) from the first 20 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song. (Skip the instrumentals, the remixes and the mashups)
Step 3: Let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from.
Step 4: Strike out the songs when someone guesses correctly.

Talk about a random assortment of songs. I'm pretty big on variety. This mix is from putting my ipod on random:

1. "Gold teeth and a curse for this town / were all in my mouth. / Only, I don't know how / they got out, dear." - New Slang / The Shins - Identified by count-to-seven.

2. "You keep sayin' you've got something for me /Something you call love, but confess" - These Boots Were Made For Walking / Nancy Sinatra - Identified by Jonathan Lapper.

3. "I used to got out to parties / And stand around / 'Cause I was too nervous / To really get down"

4. "I'm looking down the hole / You're looking up at me / You're cold and tired / That is easy to see / lower the rope to you / a bucket on the line" - Lotion / The Greenskeepers - Identified by count-to-seven (that's right! It's a song ABOUT THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which is bizarre and SO disturbing but ohmygosh it's so catchy. Seriously).

5. "I've got a Dungeon Master's Guide / I've got twelve sided die / I've got Kitty Pride / and Nightcrawler, too"

6. "Each morning I get up I die a little / Can barely stand on my feet / (Take a look at yourself) Take a look in the mirror and cry (and cry) / Lord what you're doing to me" - Somebody to Love / Queen - Identified by Jonathan Lapper.

7. "Tweedily deedily dee, / Tweedily deedily dee, / Tweedily deedily dee, / Tweedily deedily dee, / Tweedily deedily dee, / Tweedily deedily dee, / Tweet, tweet, TWEET TWEET / He rocks in the treetops all day long, / rockin' and a-boppin' and a-singin' his song" - Rockin' Robin / Michael Jackson (before or after the Jackson Five??) - Identified by The Guy.

8. "I won't let you down / I will not give you up / Gotta have some faith in the sound / It's the one good thing that i've got" - Freedom 90 / George Michael - Identified by Jonathan Lapper (ahem. Hahahaha. But, then, I LOVE this song so who am I to talk?).

9. "(spoken) Really? From where I'm standing, the sun is shining all over the place.
(humming) Doo-de-doo doo Doo-de-doo-de-doo-doo...
(singing) I'm singing..."
- Singing In The Rain / Gene Kelly - Identified by Tracey (Yay! I love old musicals and I love that you got this one!).

10. "Billy Ray was a preacher's son / when his daddy would visit he'd come along / when they gathered round and started talking / that's when Billy would take me walking" - Son of a Preacher Man / Dusty Springfield - Identified by Jonathan Lapper.

11. "Shook it up / I never loved nobody fully / Always one foot on the ground / And by protecting my heart truly / I got lost in the sounds" - Fidelity / Regina Spektor - Identified by KateP!

12. "I've wined and dined on Mulligan Stew, and never wished for Turkey / As I hitched and hiked and grifted too, from Maine to Albuquerque" - The Lady is a Tramp / Ella Fitzgerald (hers was the version I had loaded on my ipod) - Identified by Jonathan Lapper.

13. "I like / Where we are, / When we drive, / In your car. / I like, / Where we are; / here."

14. "Sometimes I feel I've got to run away / I've got to get away / from the pain you drive into the heart of me" - Tainted Love / Soft Cell - Identified by The Guy.

15. "I want love, but it's impossible / a man like me, so irresponsible / a man like me is dead in places / other men feel liberated" - I Want Love / Elton John - Identified by lynn.

16. "I need someone, a person to talk to / someone to care, to love / could it be you, could it be you? Situation gets rough / and I start to panic / it's not enough / It's just a habit" - Kiss Off / The Violent Femmes - Identified by The Guy.

17. "I certainly haven't been shopping for any new shoes and / I certainly haven't been spreading myself around / I still only travel by foot and by foot, it's a slow climb, / But I'm good at being uncomfortable, so / I can't stop changing all the time" - Extraordinary Machine / Fiona Apple - Identified by lynn.

18. "Old pirates, yes, they rob I; / Sold I to the merchant ships, / Minutes after they took I / From the bottomless pit. / But my hand was made strong / By the hand of the Almighty. / We forward in this generation / Triumphantly." - Redemption Song / Bob Marley & The Wailers - Identified by Nerka!

19. "Yo listen up here's a story / About a little guy that lives in a blue world / And all day and all night and everything he sees / Is just blue like him inside and outside" - Blue (DaBaDee) / Eiffel 65 - Identified by The Guy.

20. "It was Christmas Eve babe / In the drunk tank / An old man said to me, won't see another one / And then he sang a song / The Rare Old Mountain Dew / I turned my face away / And dreamed about you" - Fairytale of New York / The Pogues - Identified by The Guy.

So guess away! Post the name of the song and artist along with the number in my comments section. As the songs are correctly guessed, I will mark them off and indicate the first person to correctly name the song (along with a link to your blog or website if you include that information with your comment).

Edit: I forgot to tag anyone! I'm tagging Sheila, Nina, Tracey, Jonathan, lisachelle and Lola! ...but if it doesn't work with your format, guys, I totally understand. ;)

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Marilyn/Audrey Effect

Women compare themselves to other women. I may be pretty, but when I see the girl standing next to me is VERY pretty, internally some part of me decides not only that I am less attractive than her but that I am less attractive than I believed I was just moments before. Her attractiveness actually makes me mentally subtract from my own. It's not a conscious thing and it's not quite as pathological as that - I'm oversimplifying - but it is, essentially true. In some weird-ass unconscious way, most women think this on some level (just because you say you don't doesn't mean you don't. It just means you aren't consciously aware of it). We feel thinner of fatter or prettier or plainer or more stylish or more awkward based on our unconscious mental comparisons with other women, both in person and in the media. Partially because we perceive from an early age that other people - male and female - make similar distinctions.

Popular women's magazines now run sections where you can compare two different celebrities wearing the same frock - and see the results of readers voting on who they feel looked better in the outfit. No matter how different the two women are, no matter how irrelevant it is that the dress looks different on different figures and each should be appreciated on her own merits. A standard of beauty is established by popular consensus. For example - the popularity of the television show Ally McBeal not only spawned a rash of ingenues showing up gaunt and waifish at red carpet events, but actually resulted in multiple co-stars of the (purportedly) naturally uber slender Calista Flockheart (the title character) later doing tell-all stories about their own eating disorders. They stood on set and watched the popularity of the young star of the show grow and compared their own build to her delicate physique and decided that it was high time they stopped ingesting anything. Women compare themselves to other women.

I read GoFugYourself on a pretty regular basis. Is it hollow and useless information? Yes. But I enjoy seeing what Bai Ling decided to wear as a skirt this week. It makes me smile. So I don't mind the loss of IQ points... AND the popularity of GoFug is probably a throwback to the comparison effect - i.e. "I may not be gorgeous or famous but at least I know better than to show up in a public place with my underwear showing! HA!" It makes people feel good to know that thin, pretty people can make stupid choices about what to leave the house wearing. Because we compare ourselves to them (And all of us dress better than Bai Ling).

Due to the recent promotion of the film The Other Boleyn Girl, there have been a couple of entries regarding the two female leads hitting the carpets and doing the publicity schtick. The result, of course, is all these pics of Natalie Portman (who plays Anne Boleyn) and Scarlett Johansson (who plays her elder sister Mary - although I believe the book and film choose to inaccurately depict her as the younger. Perhaps to explain her ability to attract the King's attention? Who knows. Leave history alone, people.) standing side by side.

Johansson, a petite 5'4" and physically quite svelte, looks somewhat large next to Portman (who is actually only an inch shorter than her, but built so very differently). Portman looks dark and wispy. Johannson looks zaftig and pale.

It's like someone took a picture of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn next to each other (interestingly enough, I found, AFTER I had drawn that conclusion, that a W Magazine article had made essentially the same comparison).

Neither is less beautiful. They are both lovely women. But the contrast is striking. Portman is so small and delicate that she actually makes Johansson look less so. Johannson's vibrancy and overtly sexual presence makes Portman look more mousy. I find the contrast odd, but I also find my awareness of it rather telling.

The article in W discussed the fact that the casting seems "backwards" to many people. Anne (played by Portman), as written in the book and screenplay, is the driven, outgoing and perhaps even conniving sister while Mary (played by Johansson) is portrayed as the innocent and wholesome sister. And the public expect to see those two actresses taking opposite roles. Ironically, in life, history suggests that things were quite the other way around. Mary had an affair with Henry VIII in spite of the fact that she was married and after having already been the mistress of the King of France (she caused quite a scandal with her promiscuity). Anne was a very religious woman and best known for her dedication to the church and her wrongful execution for crimes she was later said unlikely to have been guilty of, in addition to being the mother of Elizabeth I. The women's roles in life may have been quite the opposite of the portrayal we can expect to see on film. Either way, even in history, these two women are compared to each other. Some accounts depict Mary as the prettier sister, some make mention of Anne being considered pretty but too dark for the fashion of the time. Even back then, women's appearances were being judged not just based on their own merits, but on a comparison to their contemporaries.

Is voluptuous better than sylphlike? Is dark, delicate and genteel better than bright, blonde and cheery? Is my red hair, pale skin and curvy figure less attractive because I am sitting next to my beautiful olive skinned friend with her thick, dark mane and slender, boyish figure?

Of course not. But we do compare. We cannot help ourselves. As women, the healthiest thing we can do is to try to embrace variety and learn to appreciate our own personal attributes completely separately from any contrast with our peers. But that isn't an easy thing to do. It isn't easy to remember that someone else being thinner or more fashionable or more feminine in no way impacts your own appeal. Seeing ourselves as individuals and appreciating the beauty of that is a difficult thing when we are so programmed to compare.

Click the photos for links to the posts about them on Go Fug. Kinda' hilarious.

In spite of any sartorial missteps, sometimes they DO both get it right:

While still, of course, being so vastly (and fascinatingly) different.

...Oh, and on a completely seperate note, isn't Eric Bana hot?

I really doubt Henry VIII was so good looking.

Come On-A My House

I'm in one of my "Italian" moods. I feel like being surrounded by people and making my homemade spaghetti sauce with big huge spicy meatballs and drinking wine and talking late into the night. I credit my one-quarter Italian blood with these periodic cravings for cooking huge meals and making people into family (as well as my brief moments of insanity where I miss the Catholic church and wonder what it would be like to have 6 babies like my Grandmother).

Along with these urges come bizarro pop culture compulsions... 'cause you know - with me it always comes back to books and music and movies.

First and foremost, I've got Come On-A My House stuck in my head. Which isn't even Italian. I think the tune was originally based on Armenian folksongs. And Rosemary Clooney refused to record it at first. She was not such a big star, then, however. So this singer whose first musical love had been Sinatra - due to his immaculate diction - was told that she would either record a song in this awful fake Italian accent or she could hit the road. She relented, realizing she didn't have enough pull to force their hand and, well, a star was born. Come On-A My House was her first huge hit. Irony of ironies, this little novelty song that was the opposite of everything she loved was what made her a household name. It opened all doors for her.

I get in this mood and I want to listen to that song... as well as her recording of Mambo Italiano (which IS based on a traditional Italian Folk song), Dean Martin's recording of That's Amore (not Italian but became popular in Italy after being recorded here in the states)... or really most any Dean Martin...and Perry Como's Papa Loves Mambo (did you know Como was Italian-American? I didn't). It's this mood I get in.

Then I want to watch Moonstruck (one of my all-time favorite films which I have been working on a post about for like three months) and Big Night. Stanley Tucci is the bomb. So is Tony Shaloub. I love them. I love the brothers they play. I become tremendously emotionally invested in that movie.

Then I want to make everyone I know come over for big bowls of spaghetti with meatballs or pasta puttanesca ("whore's spaghetti"! Seriously! It's really like potluck pasta) and make THEM watch Moonstruck and Big Night.

Then I stay up late poring over my Italian cookbooks and re-reading Under the Tuscan Sun.

It's a thing. I get like this. Maybe because I sometimes feel my connection to my Italian heritage, unlike my more immediate Austrailian and Irish roots, is more tenuous and slipping away from me. Maybe because all things Italian make me think of my very Italian father and his (native) Italian father. Times and places and people I grow homesick for. My father's huge family, who are now spread far apart from each other, and the gatherings we would have and the food and the sense of COMING FROM somewhere. I miss my diminutive grandmother lecturing me saying, "Always remember that you're a (insert my ridiculously long Italian last name here). Be proud of it!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Meme, Rather Belatedly

Back when the earth was still cooling, Sheila (she of the awesome reading skillz and amazing brain) tagged me with this meme. Ungrateful twit that I am, I'd not gotten around to it. Finally, Here are my answers:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Similarly to Sheila, I refused to read the Harry Potter books for a very long time - certain I would hate them because EVERYONE loved them. But I did eventually break down and read them and fell in love with them... so I suppose they don’t count.

I don't know that it's irrational, but I refuse to read The DaVinci Code. I'm so glad the dull roar of constant, inane praise has died down. People talked about it all the time. I refuse to go near it.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Jubal Harshaw (Stranger in a Strange Land), Hagrid (Harry Potter Books) and Elizabeth Rapella (from Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn, she is the main character's unique, loving, free-thinking and wildly charismatic friend)

They aren't the main characters. The books they are from are not great classics (well, not by most standards). They aren't even necessarily my favorite characters. They are simply the characters who I feel I would enjoy the company of. I find them interesting and pleasant (well, Jubal isn't exactly pleasant in the traditional sense but he'd be excellent company). A lot of the great and iconic characters in classic fiction are, quite simply, people I would not want to know. Certainly meeting some of them would be momumental and fascinating. But after meeting them... I might find I wished I could excuse myself. So instead of choosing characters whom I have always wanted to know more about or who are so universally known... I chose people I would want to sit around and have a drink with.

Hagrid was a close tie with Gaspode the Talking Dog from Terry Pratchett's discworld. But I seem to remember Gaspode being referred to as stinky (he IS a stray and presumably does not get regular baths) and thus probably a questionable choice.

I also seriously thought about Jim Williams from Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil (non-fiction technically but clearly a somewhat fictionalized account and, anyway, he's dead so that would be interesting) and a variety of characters from my favorite childhood books. But you cannot very well invite Dickon from The Secret Garden to the same table as Jubal Harshaw. It would be wierd and complicated and Dickon wouldn't be allowed in a pub.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

I can't think of anything. Maybe a collection of Chekhov's plays. I can't stand Chekhov. I realize it isn't a novel, but it's fiction. I find his approach to the plight of the Russian aristocracy mind bogglingly boring. I know. Sacrilege. Whatever. It's how I feel.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

I'm a film NUT so, when a book is adapted to film, I am always fascinated by the process of my two great loves joining. If the subject matter is sufficiently interesting to me, I run out and read the book so I can compare and contrast when seeing the film. But if I am NOT sufficiently interested, I have still done all this research abut the adaptation. So I go into conversations about the film knowing how the character was originally described by the author, knowing what major departures the screenwriter made from the original plot, etc. This has lead to some confusion. But I NEVER lie about having read the novel. I try to make a point of letting people know, "I haven't READ it. I've just read a lot ABOUT it." Since the subject at hand is the film, I refuse to feel guilty about making certain I'm informed.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

I know there has but I cannot think what so I give up. I never finished War and Peace (although I did finish and very much enjoy Anna Karenina). It took me forever to remember that I only got 3/4 through.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If this person doesn’t read often, I’d want to give them something that’s an easy, unintimidating read. I wouldn’t want to waste the VIP’s time on something culturally irrelevant to start with and Hitchhiker’s widespread popularity has made it a cultural reference point (if, perhaps, an odd one). I’d want them to have something they were likely to enjoy - to encourage the habit. Also, if they don’t like it then I don’t want to work with them anyway.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Ironically, probably Russian. I think I have read more books translated from Russian than any other language. And maybe if I could read in his native tongue I wouldn't hate Chekhov as much. Maybe something is lost in translation.

Or maybe French. I've read quite a few books that were partially in French. I have no idea why. It's very irritating to miss a passage on account of that.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Richard Grant’s Rumors of Spring. Because I already do. I also own five copies of it - different editions, including one of those advance copies the publisher sends out for proofing and reviews.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

That it really is possible to read everything. So I need to get my act in gear. (Sheila's reading makes me feel totally inadequate.)

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

My perfect library would have high vaulted ceilings and floor to ceiling shelves of dark wood built into the walls all the way around the room, except for large picture windows on one wall, preferrably facing a pleasant view, taking up maybe a third of that wall. The window should have thick, heavy curtains in a rich dark color and a seat set into the wall beneath it with lots of cushions. I don’t know the correct term, but I would prefer a second level of a walkway set into the wall all the way around the shelving and a circular staircase to the floor - to enable reaching books using only a stepstool for the highest shelf on each level. The room itself would be full of comfy chairs and chaise lounges and little tables for setting books down on. The books would be a vast assortment of rare tomes, paperbacks, coffee table books, out of date encyclopedias, classic works and whatever else strikes my fancy - all having been handpicked by moi thanks to the good fairy giving me an unlimited budget to quit my dayjob and spend my time feeding my biliophile habit. Because filling the library is an enormous part of the joy of a personal library.

And were I to tag someone (which I tend not to)... I would have to say my sister. Consider yourself tagged, kiddo.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's That Time Again

“I don't understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.”

Sorry for the unexplained absence. Just having a bout of writer's block / being too busy to pee much less blog / being too sick to convince myself that the long walk to the computer from the couch is a worthwhile investment of time and energy.

BUT it's that day again! And since I know so many of my fellow females struggle with this day, I just want to do my annual thing and remind you:

Whether or not you have a romantic interest in your life says nothing about your value and nothing about whether or not you are loved.

If you're feeling sad about a lack of flowers and candy this year, make better use of the time you might spend bah-humbugging this day and get flowers or candy for one of YOUR friends who might also being having a tough day.

LOVE isn't just sexual desire and romance. Love is what you share with your friends, your child, your parents (well, okay. sometimes. Depending on the parent), your siblings (most of the time), and a wide variety of other people who enrich your life. Tell THEM that you love them today. You can even make a little list of the people you haven't said that to often enough and call them up and let them know. If nothing else, catching up with people wll certainly be a distraction.

OR you can do what I do: Buy a big bag of Hershey's Kisses and hand them out to everyone you encounter today. If you want to be really classy like me you can hack and cough a little while holding out the bag. People LOVE that.