Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Nancy Pelosi

So I’m at a book event for Nancy Pelosi last night, and it was kind of like watching the most depressing three ring circus of all time.  She wasn’t depressing, nor was the actual event itself, which should have been a nice evening, no, it was the members of my political party that decide the most logical way to behave in our current society is to act like children.

Here’s the scene.  This event was at the American Jewish University (not Berkeley, not UCSC), it cost $30 to attend, it was mostly well-off jews (what’s new in L.A., that’s pretty much everyone).  There were protesters, which is to be expected at events with major political figures, standing politely on the street with their signs, to which I say ‘fantastic, protest all you want.’  The atmosphere was definitely tense, as is the political climate throughout the country.  There was a battalion of police officers and secret servicemen (who were nice, but a little scary), there were private security officers, basically there was an army of law enforcement.  Now, I’m not the biggest fan of law enforcement and have been chased by a few police officers (I’ve always evaded them), I’ve nearly been arrested several times (it seems whenever I go to Santa Cruz, I come very close to being thrown in jail), and I was never a fan of authority, especially authority that carries guns and billy clubs.  And especially in Los Angeles (Capitola cops are just bored, L.A. cops are entirely different and kind of scary).

About an hour after the Speaker of the House started talking (and after I had consumed the first food I had time to eat all day, which consisted of two mint milano cookies), the screaming started.  Some guy was screaming at Pelosi about dead Iraqis and the normal stuff that we are all pissed off about.  This of course started a chain reaction of events, that basically devolved the event into shifting tenseness, and a few other people standing up and screaming.

Here’s my deal:  I get it.  I’m pissed off too.  I think this country is shooting itself in the foot; we’re going down fast and our elected officials don’t seem to be doing much to stop it.  If you care that strongly about it, get involved.  Get a job with Obama’s campaign, go join a lobby.  GET INVOLVED.  It’s one thing to be Michael Moore at the Academy Awards (which is a nationally televised event that tens of millions of people watch), it is quite another to scream and yell in front of 500 people and no press (plus, going to L.A. county jail in a suit or a dress and heels doesn’t seem like a great time to me).

I believe in free speech.  I’m not saying that these people don’t have a right to stand up and yell at the Speaker of the House about issues that they are passionate about, but really, what’s it going to accomplish?  This is something a child does.  They’re not getting their way so they simply yell.  Democrats of America, stop being fucking stupid, the only people you rally by doing stuff like that is people who are already on your side.  I think we saw with Reagan how reactionary methods can completely screw us over, so why are we using the same tactics?  I went to the protests against the Iraq War and guess what?  They didn’t accomplish anything.

Now I don’t know a whole lot about Pelosi (I just know what my mom told me when I asked her about it) but it seems like she’s not really the problem.  In fact, it seems like she might just be one of the only people who is intent on working and not fighting.  Let’s face facts, we’ve spent 50 years fighting each other in Washington and now we’re fucked.  Perhaps we should try working this out as adults and compromise and take little steps toward something better instead of violently shoving one way and having the pendulum come flying back the other way.  That hasn’t gotten us anywhere.

I was pretty disgusted with the actions of people that are on my side of the divide and for one moment I caught a glimpse of what the other side sees: a bunch of punk kids lashing out because they’re angry.  Well, I’m angry too and maybe instead of whining about it, we should actually do something that will garner results.

Peace, Love, and Politics,
Julia

August 12, 2008 Posted by | Books, Culture, Politics | Leave a comment

Fearsome Foursome

I just got back from watching The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 with one of my best girlfriends (yes, she and I and two others have matching tattoos of lips on our left butt cheeks; we’re classy ladies, I know), and I got to thinking about girls and groups of four.  What is it about female groups of four friends?  Is it that we form foursomes because we so often see them in the media or is it that the media is simply saw these fabulous four-groups of women and saw huge potential?

In any case, it is an interesting kind of phenomenon.  Sure, groups of four lend themselves to drama.  Sex and the CityLittle Women, even The View, have four women talking and not talking, agreeing and disagreeing, fighting and loving each other.  In every case the four women are significantly different, and yet they all turn out to be such good friends.  Sex and the City we all know and love, the pessimist (Miranda), the optimist (Charlotte), the writer (Carrie), and the slutty one (Samantha), who, throughout the course of the show realize that they each have a little bit of the other ones inside of each other.  
In fact, all the four girls movies carry this theme be it in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,Grease (before Sandy joins the Pink Ladies), Now and Then (if you’re my age you know it well),Designing Women or even Golden Girls, all the ladies couldn’t be more different, yet couldn’t love each other more.
It’s the same with my three best girlfriends.  We all come from different backgrounds, different places.  We all behave differently in different situations.  Sometimes we bug the crap out of each other, but we always love each other.  We call each other on our bullshit, we let each other believe the bullshit when we need to, and sometimes we know each other better than we know ourselves.  What is always fun to me is when we try to discover ourselves within our onscreen counterparts.
I was lucky enough to have lived with my three girls in college and in that time we made what can only be referred to as an urban family.  We were shoulders to cry on when boys broke our hearts, we poked fun when certain bodily fluids from certain gentlemen callers ended up on articles of clothing and whatnot, and we were there when we just needed to be crazy.  In fact, we’re still there for all of that.  We’ll still go see the Sisterhood, sneak in and drink a bottle of champagne on a Thursday afternoon, and come out talking about how much we all miss each other, how much we want to all be together when these kind of movies come out.  And it doesn’t feel like a socialized construct for the four of us to be friends, but is it?  Are we just a product of reading Louisa May Alcott or seeing Golden Girls, are we a product of watching Now and Then ad naseum as kids, are we products of numerous nights of Sex and the City and cosmopolitans?  Or is something older, something more primitive and primal at work?  Are we like the women of yore who hunted and gathered in groups of four (did they even hunt and gather in groups of four?  did they hunt and gather?)?
What’s the deal with the foursomes?  
Peace, Love, and Sisterhoods,
Julia
P.S. Perhaps I’ll have to write about threesomes (and not the naughty kind) someday where we will discuss Charlie’s Angels, Crossroads (starring Britney Spears), Clueless and Mean Girls, among others.  

August 8, 2008 Posted by | Books, Culture, Hollywood, Literature, Movies, Sex and the City, Television | Leave a comment

English Class

I’m sitting here, in my apartment, watching My So-Called Life for thefifty-millionth time and it dawns on me.  On T.V. shows, we rarely seeanything other than English class as an interesting and fun class.  Ican’t think of one T.V. show where characters are in class (be it HighSchool, College, Junior High, etc.) and enjoying it where the class isnot English.There is, of course, a very logical explanation for this.  Writerswrite television and writers loved at least one of their Englishclasses.  And yes, there is always room for parallels between a bookand the theme of a certain episode of a t.v. show.  It says a lotabout characters when they have a favorite book or when they arediscussing literature that correlates to their particular situation,but let’s think about this a little more.  Basically, according totelevision, the only class that anyone can ever have fun in isEnglish.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I had some bad Englishteachers in High School, I had some great ones too, especially inCollege and yes, I did major in Literature (UCSC’s equivalent tomajoring in English), but I remember for much of my youngereducational career English class was a complete nightmare.  Forced toread books I had no interest in…a few pop into mind.  And, though Ilove to do this now, when we were learning how to pick apart texts andget deeper meaning, I wanted to shoot myself.  I distinctly rememberbitching to my mom that we were having to pick apart a text so muchthat it lost all entertainment value.  ‘Why can’t I just read it andenjoy it?’  I would plead to rather amused ears.  It wasn’t untillater, after learning how to pick apart writing, that I was able toenjoy it and pick it apart at the same time.Now, I always side with the characters on T.V. who have a greatEnglish class.  I know how great it feels to have amazing discussionsabout Chapter 3 of Bleak House by Dickens (thank you John Jordan).  Iknow how great it feels to argue about Brett and Jake and theirrelationship in The Sun Also Rises.  But for you that aren’t soEnglish-ly inclined (like that new word…Shakespeare invented words,so do I), I wonder how it feels to constantly have English beingportrayed as the best class when you’re not an English person.  Whatof those that are more mathematically inclined or biologicallyinclined?  I mean sure there’s usually the token, dissecting frogsbiology scene, but do you science people feel left out?  Do the mathpeople feel like Calculus doesn’t get its due?  I personally canrelate to the English scenes but is it Chemistry discrimination?Peace, Love, and Literature,Julia

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Books, High School, Literature, My So-Called Life, Television | Leave a comment

Was God a Writer?

Wow.  That’s what I have to say about the response to my last piece ofwriting.  Wow.  You guys really came through and I think you answeredmy question.  Basically, like all things in history it’s a little ofboth, this decade is partially monumental change, as was theseventies, and partially feels like monumental change because I amchanging monumentally at the moment.  But there have been other thingson my mind as well.  I’m coming to find that being in your twentiesmeans you start making big decisions that may or may not effect therest of your life, and there’s really no way to know which decisionswill effect the rest of your life and which decisions just seem big atthe time and actually aren’t that big.  It’s all pretty confusing andfrustrating.It’s like, your whole life people say that being a teenager is hard,and you get there, and it is, but you expect it to get better and itturns out that being a teenager was just preparation for the realchallenge, which is actually being a person in the world.  My friendand I got in an argument today because I told him that I didn’t wantto be classified as ‘adult,’ I don’t think of myself as an adult, andI never want to be an adult.  I don’t want responsibility.  I don’twant kids or a husband.  I don’t want any of it.  I want to be able topack up and move to a different country with a moments notice.  I wantto decide to go to Seattle for the weekend, and three weeks later bein Seattle.  I want to decide that can survive on less money byworking less and actually do it.  I don’t want to be responsible foranyone but myself.But what happens when you start making decisions like that?  I madethe decision to try and be a writer.  But what does that mean?  Iwrite everyday.  When I feel satisfied with something I have written Iwill send it out and try to get it sold or published, but who knows ifthat will happen or not.  Have I doomed myself to a life of odd jobsbecause I cannot imagine a life behind a desk?  Have I doomed myselfto a life where I actually have conversations that revolve around thenotion that I actually may make little enough money to qualify forfood stamps?  The short answer is probably yes.  The thought ofsitting behind a desk makes me want to kill myself, and the thought ofdoing something completely uncreative makes me want to gouge my owneyes out, but what does that mean for the life I chose?  This is thepoint where I say ‘I guess we’ll see.’  Then I stop thinking about it.Truth be told, this is not what has been eating at me lately.  Truthbe told, my actual dilemma is a much more profound one.  What is therole of the artist in society?  So I’ve made this decision to write,because really it’s all I can do.  But does it matter?  In a worldwhere we face huge catastrophe due to Global Warming; in a world wheremen my age are dying in yet another mistake of a war;  in a worldwhere my best friend cannot get married (even if he wanted to) becauseof the fact that he is a man who happens to sleep with other men, whatis the purpose of the writer or artist?  Sure Rousseau changed thecourse of French history, but am I really that egotistical to thinkthat I have any sort of connection, that I could change anything withmy writing?  I would love to think this could be true, but it isn’t.In literature we often talk about the writer as god.  And many writersactually have a kind of a god complex.  I mean basically, as a writer,you spend your time creating a world and then making everybody in itdo exactly what you want them to.  You have complete control over awhole world of people.  It’s a very powerful and addicting feeling.You might write a situation that you yourself faced and change thedynamic or certain elements and reshape the outcome to something moreconducive to your own wants or needs.  So writers spend all this timeplaying God, but do they really change anything?On the flip side, I think about the books I read as a lost kid.  Bookslike Catcher in the Rye or On The Road; these books made me feel lessalone, less like I was the only person facing any of these moraldilemmas.  Same goes for Television writing: My So-Called Life made mefeel less like I was the only teenager that had problems with friendsODing on drugs or who couldn’t stand their parents, while trying tofiercely cling to them at the same time.In a world that needs so much help, that needs so much to have peoplenot just observe and critique, but act, is there room for writers?I have no idea, but I certainly hope so.Peace, Love, and Uncertainty,Julia

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Books, Culture, Environment, Gay/Lesbian, Literature, My So-Called Life, Television | Leave a comment

Elitism and the Kindle

I was reading the New Yorker the other day (that’s right, I’ve kept to that little resolution, thank you for the subscription Steve) and there was an article about school kids and how they are reading at an all time low.  Basically children are watching ‘educational’ DVDs and other interactive games instead of reading.  The New Yorker gave the statistic that these kids who are doing this stuff instead of reading have an exponentially lower vocabulary than kids who are reading.  The article doesn’t knock the DVDs and interactive games as a supplement to reading, but they definitely don’t replace reading. 
 
Basically the article went on to say that at the rate we’re going in the future (a somewhat closer future than we may imagine), if we haven’t caused the earth’s ecosystem to completely collapse and we’re still around, there will be an elite reading class of people, and the rest of people will be pretty much functionally illiterate.  The Others will be able to read things like email and they will be able to write, but they will not read books.  They simply won’t.  There will be a class of people that does read literature and everyone else will be basically Movie and TV watching, Blackberry text speaking drones. 
 
Needless to say I found this article to be beyond disturbing.  As long as education stays somewhat above water I am assuming that this will not be the case, but still.  The fact that many people don’t read for pleasure is an alarming fact.  I never really thought about it until I moved to L.A. and made friends out here…some of whom don’t read.  I’ve never had a friend that didn’t read for pleasure. Never.  And I guess I’m actually the weird one to have a pretty reader friendly family.  Even those of you (read dad) who read mostly crap still read.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to end up in some sort of uber-reader class of people.  Not to mention the fact that I don’t want to write anything that I can’t refer to other works of literature in; it would actually make it extremely hard to define certain things if you couldn’t call something that was Dickensian, Dickensian.  
So to coincide with this article, the Amazon Kindle has been making news waves as well.  If you don’t know what the Kindle is, it’s like an electronic reading machine.  You can download books to it, you can get a daily newspaper on it, you can order magazines on it.  It’s pretty cool in theory.  My problem is that I like my material books.  I love them in fact.  I like the satisfying feeling I get when I shut the last page of a book.  Also, as a good lit student, I write all over my books so that doesn’t really work on digital screens.  Right now it seems that the only books available on the Kindle are either recommended by Oprah Winfrey (you know how I feel about her) or on a Bestseller list.  Well, that’s all fine and dandy except for the fact that, generally speaking, books on bestseller lists in this country are crap.  I’m sorry, but David Baldacci and Patricia Cornwell are not books that I want to read.  By my logic, at the rate this Kindle book thing is going, we are not only going to have a non-reading group of people, but we will have a group of people that only read trash.  Yeah, I’m elitist when it comes to literature.  But I’m sorry, I have no respect for authors who write the same story with different characters in it over and over again.  That’s just a lack of imagination.  I can understand exploring the same themes from different angles, but the same story over and over, that’s no fun….it’s like CSI or Law and Order….BORING!!!
Sorry, got off topic there a little bit.  Anyway, the way I see it, the Kindle is trying to be like an iPod for books, but the great thing about books, unlike music, is that it actually is a material object with words on a page.  And let’s think about this for a second, when we’ve destroyed the planet and cockroaches are the only things left, and some other species of humanoid-like creatures, discovers books and a rosetta stone like key to decipher the different alphabets, they will be able to read what we’ve read.  That doesn’t work with the kindle if the battery has died after 6000 years.  And even duracell can’t claim that kind of life.
Peace, Love, and Elitism for All, 
Julia

February 21, 2008 Posted by | Books, Culture, Literature, Music | 3 Comments

San Francisco Intelligensia

So I’m sorry I’ve been incommunicado for a while.  I’ve decided to work less and oddly enough am not working any less.  Hmmm, thank you parents for instilling me with ridiculous work ethic.  Anyway, I believe when we left our heroine (that would be me) she was all hot and bothered about two lovely lady writers that she looked up to.  Yes, as I predicted Diablo Cody was nominated for that Oscar.  But more importantly I got to hang out with Beth Lisick after her event. 

Beth’s totally the kind of lady you want to go to a super divey bar with, and that’s just what we booksoupers did.  We went to a place called Little Joy in Echo Park, which you wouldn’t know by the sign since it’s been shot out (literally there was a shoot out and a stray bullet hit the sign).  But it was awesome and I got to hang out with a bunch of Bay Area homies who made me miss San Francisco even more. 

This outing and the conversations that ensued got me thinking about intelligensia for some reason.  I remember being in college and having to read about the Russian Intelligensia or the Algonquin Round Table or the Lost Generation of writers and I always thought, why don’t we have those around any more?  You know, even the Beat Generation hung out at divey bars and got drunk together and discussed literature.  What’s up with this generation of writers? 

So after doing a minute bit of research I realized that (as usual) I had simply come to a wrong assumption.  As it turns out a modern intelligensia was sitting right under my nose.  I just had yet to discover it. 

This actually dates back to my culture email a few weeks ago where I promised to start reading ‘The New Yorker’ and ‘Playboy’ to help culture myself further.  In an extension of that I decided that maybe McSweeney’s was the way to high culture.  For those of you who aren’t ridiculously pretentious, McSweeney’s is a publication of Dave Eggers.  It’s a quarterly pretentious lit mag thing and they dress it up all nice and sell it for $25 a pop.  I’m not a huge McSweeneys fan, but they do publish a monthly magazine that I love.  It’s called the Believer and it’s my pretentious lit mag that isn’t quite so high-brow because, let’s face it, I’m a low brow kind of girl.  Anyway, all these publications are located (conveniently enough) on Valencia St. in San Francisco. 

I realized that Dave Eggers, Beth Lisick and, as I soon remembered, Michael Chabon (author of my favorite book ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ all live in or around San Francisco.  And, after looking on the Believer credits, I realized that authors I love like Vendela Vida and David Foster Wallace (don’t think he lives in the Bay Area) are also associated with what I’m going to term the Golden Gate Circle (I know it’s not original, I made it up right now).  
I have to say, growing up on the West Coast, I’ve always looked Eastward for the intelligensia.  New York, London, Paris, and Vienna always seemed to hold the greatest minds for art and literature, but it seems that smart people are cropping up in California too.  Go us!  For the very first time we have a circle of intellectuals who have congregated here on the ‘Left Coast.’  And I’m extending a message of gratitude to Eggers, Vida, Chabon, Lisick and everyone else for taking us out of the image of the hippie movement to an image of intellectual maturity and excellence.  The Golden Gate Circle is proving that California is more than just a place where wine and plastic surgery come from.  It’s a place where we have culture.  Culture beyond the San Fernando Valley, beyond Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.  We finally done good.
Peace, Love, and Pretentious Literary Circles,

Julia 

January 29, 2008 Posted by | Books, Culture, Literature, San Francisco | Leave a comment

Cultural Snobbery 101

I’m writing under deadline today.  It’s the first time in two years (i.e. since college) that I’ve had to write under deadline, seeing as I have a job (or three) that a well trained Chimpanzee could easily perform…in fact, I think G.W. will become a P.A. as soon as he’s done with this White House gig.  Anyway, like I said I’m writing under deadline.  No, this is not what I need to turn in by a certain time.  I actually have to finish a screen play (I actually have to write about 25 pages) before 7pm tomorrow.  But I have to work tomorrow, so I actually have to finish tonight.  Now, this is nothing new for me.  I’m nothing if not a world class procrastinator.  Yes, I have been known to start and finish a 10 page analytical paper on the opera Carmen a mere 7 hours before its due time.  In fact, in that particular instance I had a major movie moment where I sped to school, parked illegally and sprinted to the door, which the secretary was just about to lock, miraculously turning my A paper in on time.  And yes, I really did receive an A.  In fact, it was one of the best papers I’ve ever written.  In any case, that’s not really what I’m going to write about today, you see, over the past week or so I’ve come to a major life decision.  I want to be cultured.  No, I don’t want to sip dry martinis (though I won’t say no to that) and talk about the merits of Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past.’  I mean, I did try to read the first volume once, got 100 pages in and didn’t know the protagonists name, so I’m leaving Proust on the back burner for now.  This big epiphany came to be while I was reading Diablo Cody’s (writer of Juno) book about her year as a stripper.  Now, you all may or may not know this, but I do love to read the stripper/porn star/sex trade bios.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me.  In all fairness, I also love to read the rockstar bios, the drug addict memoirs, all that shit.  Basically, my theory is that these lives in no way resemble mine (except at one point some of the drug addicted memoirs) and thus are endlessly fascinating.  No, I’m not planning on hitting up the Body Shop for a job.  I never intend to work for Vivid Pictures.  In fact, I presume I’ll never get into a pair of leather pants and a sequined top and belt out anything on stage.  I’m quite content being holed up in my meat-freezer of an apartment and staring endlessly into the black eyes of my macbook, wondering how a place in Los Angeles can be so fucking cold.  And where the hell did I put my gloves because I actually can’t feel my fingers right now (thus explaining any typos).  But I digress.  Basically, as I was reading Diablo’s book, I a) was struck by how similar to me she seems in the book, and b) how much different popular cultural crap she references.  Now, I, for one reason or another, have always aspired to be one of those Dorothy Parker-esqe ladies whose tongue is as sharp as a knife and who always has some sort of obscure referential to throw out in any given situation.  I actually, now that I think about it, kind of attribute this want/need to Clueless.  I always thought it was great how quickly Murray called Christian and Oscar Wilde reading, Streisand ticket holding, friend of dorothy.  I mean that paints a pretty vivid picture, and as I have previously stated, I do love intertext.In any case, I think this desire to employ, as Seth Cohen calls it, ‘pop-culture laden bromide’, was helped along the way by Gilmore Girls, The O.C., Dawson’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, to name a few.  Amy Sherman-Palladino is the goddess of pop-culture laden language, as seen in Gilmore Girls.  It’s remarkable really, the crazy things she does with words.  But it’s not just about speaking in a way that only an elite few can understand (and yes I’m aware of how ridiculous and, for lack of a different word, elitist, that sounds, but I’ve always been in the pion group so I wanted to be elite somewhere, and if that made me incomprehensible, so be it).  On the other hand, even though I’ve always publicly detested pretentious people, especially pretentious New Yorkers, I, as a small town girl, always sort of envied them.  Sure at heart I’ve always been a big city lady, but really I grew up a million miles away from anything that resembled an intelligent and cultured environment, with the exception of my actual house, and even then spend 5 minutes with my father and it seems as though you’ve entered some sort of distorted reality that greatly resembles National Lampoon’s Animal House.  I also have recently realized that I spend an unhealthy amount of time talking about Movies and T.V. when really my interests, even within the entertainment industry, go far beyond that.  Funnily enough I actually got some great advice the other day from someone who said that the best thing a writer can do is make a name for herself and then get the fuck out of Los Angeles because really there isn’t any interesting fodder in L.A.  Now, I don’t know if I agree with that completely, but there is some truth to that statement.  I know I don’t want to spend my life writing about movies or television.  I mean, I’m content to do that a little, but there are more important things to write about.  So I started reading some Dorothy Parker.  And yes, I’ve read her before, but I started reading her again.  I realized that if I am going to get some culture in me, apart from the West Coast culture I already have, I’m going to have to suck it up and make nice with the pretentious New Yorkers.  Dorothy is a good way to slowly slip yourself into that kind New York is the center of the world and the only great city in America kind of bullshit that just makes me want to scream.  But today was a banner day.  Today I decided that I would give The New Yorker magazine another try. Now, I had a subscription to the New Yorker in college (the logic behind it was ultimately the same, smart, sophisticated people read and write for The New Yorker).  Of course, this was an ultimately stupid maneuver seeing as I double majored in Literature and History and barely had enough time to read street signs, let alone a weekly literary magazine.  But now, as I sloth around my apartment in between working 60 to 100 hours a week, I want some reading material.  I have a ton of books, but this is a great way to stay plugged in to my literary roots.  So today, I went to the newsstand and picked up a New Yorker. If you still think of me as you’re sweet little girl, which is misguided, but ultimately fine with me, you might want to plug your ears for this next bit because it’s the real me.  I just couldn’t help myself on the other magazine I bought.  You see, for weeks now, at Booksoup, we’ve been discussing porno mags.  I don’t know how it gets brought up, but it ultimately usually does.  In any case, my side of the argument has always been that Playboy is maybe the best magazine of all time because the articles in it, as cliche as this is, are really awesome.  I mean this month’s issue has a short story by John Updike, an interview with Tina Fey (comedienne extraordinaire), and an article about John Muir, among other things.  Sure there are naked ladies in Playboy, but I just read it for the articles, I swear.  Actually, my opinion on the matter is that men (and smart women) truly do read Playboy for the articles.  If it was all about the naked ladies, they’d buy Hustler or one of those other dirtier magazines that my small town girl eyes generally avoid.  So if you haven’t gotten where I’m going with this here it is.  Today, for the first time since my eighteenth birthday, I bought a Playboy.  I’m contemplating getting a subscription to both Playboy and The New Yorker because, unlike the pretentious New Yorkers I refer to, I get that being cultured means more than Proust and William Burroughs and Kofi Annan.  I’ve read Dickens and Shakespeare and Ron Jeremy and I loved them all in their own right and they each taught me something different.  So I’m going to go write the kids movie I’m supposed to be writing.  Maybe in five years you’ll see it on screen.  Maybe you won’t.  Maybe Miss Diablo Cody and I will follow similar trajectory (not with the stripping because we all know I don’t have the body to strip, but if I did I could see it as a lucrative way to make money) with our writing careers.  Maybe I’ll become a professor of pop culture studies at UCLA or Berkeley or Bowling Green, OH.  In any case, I’ll be cultured in the fullest sense of the word.Peace, Love, and Playboy,Julia

December 18, 2007 Posted by | Books, Culture, Education, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Politics, Porn, Ron Jeremy, Sex | 2 Comments

No Country for Bad Taste.

So I saw No Country for Old Men last night for the second time.  As before, it was fantastic, but this time I saw it with a bunch of people.  Now, I get that people have different tastes in film, in art, etc, but I respect some of those differences and (if we’re going to be honest) I judge for some of those differences.  That’s right.  Now I don’t judge on the big things, but I’ll tell you the truth.  If someone thinks a film like American Beauty is a piece of crap, I lose some respect.  There are very few things that are like this, but recently I’ve found a new one.  It’s No Country for Old Men.I get that it’s not a typical film.  But that’s really what makes it so awesome.  It’s really not a typical Coen Brothers film, and even though I love the Coen Brothers, that’s another thing that makes the movie so awesome.

So here’s the real deal.  A bunch of the people I saw the movie with said ‘what’s the point?’  No Country doesn’t really make it’s point like most movies do.  I mean, the underlying theme of the film is really truly underlying.  And everyone sort of zones out during Tommy Lee Jones’ final speech because they don’t know it’s his final speech, but that is where the whole point of the movie is.  I mean, it’s a movie about how an older generation becomes obsolete.  Yeah, it’s not happy.  Yeah, it’s almost taboo.  But you know what, like American Beauty, it’s a film that outlines an inherent truth, that at a certain point (this was even more true for Vietnam Vets in the ’80s) the older ways of functioning within a particular area of society out grow the older members of that same social demographic.

I think why I take such offense to people who don’t like the film is that, much like the book, which was also amazingly brilliant, the point is not splayed out, not spoon fed.  You don’t know much about the characters, just that they’re interesting, and you want to know more.  You don’t know who the real villains are, just that they are omnipresent.  I love that you have to work for the film to make sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fun movie.  I mean, you all know that my favorite movie is Clueless.  On the other hand, I also like when I have to work a little bit for a movie.  You know, like when art actually makes you think…I mean, isn’t that kind of the point?

I have to say the other reason I get really peeved is that many of the people that hated this movie are the ones that say they don’t want movies that are too realistic.  I mean, why do you need to see real life on screen, isn’t real life depressing enough?  I don’t know, I really don’t know what to think about that.  I really don’t know how to react to that kind of logic.  I mean, that’s like saying that the Mona Lisa should have never been painted, the statue of David never been made because we all know what real people look like.  And I’m sorry that’s just not a good argument.  I get that there are times for the realistic movies and times for the fantasy.  And as I have said before I’m a big fan of romantic comedies, which are complete fantasy.  I also see the importance of art being honest and real.

So here’s the deal.  See the movie, like, don’t like, just don’t tell me there’s not a point to it.  And do me a favor.  Read the book and see what an amazing adaptation the film is.  Then watch as the Coen Brothers win Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture…and watch Javier Bardem win Best Actor.

Peace, Love, and Chigurh,

Julia

December 9, 2007 Posted by | Awards Shows, Books, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, Movies, Politics | 2 Comments

Now this is a Story all about How….

Sorry ’90’s kids, I just got that stuck in your head.  And for those of you who aren’t ’90’s kids, well you missed out.  Don’t worry, you will find out the top 1.5 movies of Julia’s favorites, but I’ve been pondering weak and weary on this subject for a few weeks now and thought I’d let you in on the crazy wanderings of my freakish mind.

It all started one day with a little R.E.M. song called ‘Losing My Religion.’  I was driving to Booksoup and Losing my Religion came on the radio.  Suddenly, goosebumps sprang up all over my body.  Now, this is something that is not all that uncommon.  It happens during great scenes in movies (in fact, that ‘I too can command the winds sir’ speech in the trailer for the new Elizabeth movie gets me good), it happens during great scenes in T.V. (the Ross and Rachel break up in Friends gets me good), and it happens especially in great theater, I erupt in goosebumps at least five separate times while watching Les Mis, and Rent, well, it’s embarrassing.  But it’s never really happened during a song I’ve heard eighty million times, and one that’s not connected to some sort of story line.  My mind had been sort of orbiting around a concept, but I hadn’t quite put my finger on it, until that exact moment.  The moment R.E.M. gave me goosebumps, it all slammed together in my head.  I think that ’90’s kids (a.k.a. Kids who grew up in the ’90’s so were born in the early ’80’s) have it made.  We’ve got the best deal.  I mean, we grew up at a time that had the best of everything. 

Think about this.  We are young enough to remember Bush the 1st and we were born when Reagan was president, but the president we truly remember throughout our childhood was Clinton.  We grew up when health consciousness was strong, but not crazy like it is now.  I mean, we didn’t have atkins or south beach when I was a kid.  You just ate your veggies and your parents kicked you out of the house to play after school.  We grew up before the great germophobia happened.  I mean, most kids today are weak and sickly because their parents are constantly squirting that anti-bacterial shit on their hands.  I ate dirt.  I fell out of trees.  I broke toes like they were going out of style.  And now I’m sick maybe once a year, if that (and last time I was sick it was food poisoning).  I mean, we had the good cartoons, we had the good music, we had the good movies, we got to see what a real president is like.  That’s right, I’m going out on a limb and saying it.  The 1990’s was the best time to be a kid (and a young adult)…and here’s why…

Like I said, we had the best cartoons.  Now those of you that grew up in the Looney Tunes era may fight me on this, but trust me, ours were better.  See we had the Looney Tunes.  We got to see Bugs and Daffy and Road Runner and Coyote, but we were also born into the Era of Nicktoons.  That’s right those of you younger than I.  I remember when Nickelodeon first came on the air.  I remember the advertising for Nicktoons (before they ever aired) and best of all, I remember the delightful sunday mornings (that’s right SUNDAY mornings) when I sat and watched Nicktoons.  Some of you, I’m sure, are wondering, what the hell is she talking about nicktoons, what are Nicktoons?  Ah, yes.  Well, Nicktoons gave us gems like Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, Doug, Aaah! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Hey Arnold.  These were truly great cartoons.  I mean, sure Spongebob Squarepants is great, but he’s got nothing on Ickis, Oblena and Krumm from Real Monsters.  We also had the non-Nicktoons, that were awesome.  I mean, when I got home from school there were Animaniacs with Pinky and the Brain, there was Batman the Animated series, there were Gargoyles.  It was a good time for cartoons.  Plus, as we grew up, we got the good adult cartoons.  I mean, we were around when the simpsons started (and was great), but we also got Beavis and Butthead (the music video portion is still, arguably, the best critique on music video to date), we had Aeon Flux (please don’t watch the film, it’s horrible and nothing like the cartoon), and my personal favorite (also my halloween costume this year) Daria, who came from Beavis and Butthead and got her own show.  Basically, Daria was me in high school.  She hated everyone, she was smart so everyone hated her, and she just wanted to get the hell out of there, but she was super witty and awesome and I love her.  I was also in love with her best friends brother, Trent.  Trent is the only cartoon I’d ever consider sleeping with.  In fact, I’m pretty sure he sparked my own sexual awakening…is that wrong?

So that settles it then, ’90’s kids had the best cartoons.  But it wasn’t just cartoons, we had the best television in general.  When I got home after school, I watched Blossom.  Who can forget the beautiful denim hats with a huge flower on the top (pre-sex and the city huge flower accessory, hmmm, wonder where they got that idea from?).  Plus, Blossom always talked about the real issues, her boyfriend hit her in one episode, her brother was a recovering drug addict.  These were real issues, it wasn’t that ‘Leave it to Beaver’, ‘My Three Sons’, ‘Brady Bunch’ kind of crap.   When I got home after school, I watched Full House, the Fresh Prince (the theme song is the beginning of this email, and everyone my age can sing the entire thing.  Don’t ask unless you really want to hear the whole song, but I will sing it for you) and Family Matters, sure they didn’t deal with issues (not big ones anyway), but they were great for their time.  The early ’90’s was the hey day of TGIF.  For those of you who don’t know, this was the ABC friday night extravaganza.  When I was 11, this was the thing to do on Saturday night.  This is when Full House would air new episodes, but it was also home to Boy Meets World, Mr. Belvedere, Step by Step, Family Matters (remember steve urkel), and eventually Sabrina the Teenage Witch (oh, Melissa Joan Hart, please come back to work).  And by the mid-’90’s Friday night was X-files night.  I mean, what other generation can claim that these were the shows we grew up with.  Of course, I’m leaving out the golden two and I’ll get to those now.  These were the shows that every single person my age knows.  Even if you didn’t watch these shows, you couldn’t really escape them. 

Drum roll please (they get their own paragraph).  They were Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210.  Oh, my little ’90’s girl heart still gets all twittery when I think about Zach Morris (I was a Zach girl), Dylan McKay and Brandon Walsh.  I scratch what I said about Trent the Cartoon being my sexual awakening…Luke Perry with his James Dean haircut and that rocking Porsche was the real moment I first said, ‘Woah!’  I still, to this day, want a porsche or a mustang because that’s what Dylan McKay and Brandon Walsh drove, respectively.  I don’t know if that’s great product placement, or a symbol of how imprinted those fictional characters are on my soul.  Storytelling, be it books, movies, music or television, has always been my kind of religion.  I go to these media for solace, to feel less alone, to experience things I have never and may never experience.  And 90210 was my first foray into the Television aspect of storytelling.  It was my first television addiction, the first show I couldn’t miss.  And even though I started watching it in the third grade, all my friends were exactly the same.  It was our version of water cooler chatting, we had the swingset chats about Brenda, Brandon, Kelly, Dylan, Donna, Steve and David.  Sometimes Emily Valentine.  And eventually Valerie Malone.  Oh yes, Tiffany Amber-Thiessen was the goddess of the early ’90’s.  On a side note, she came into the bookstore once and I got so excited my palms started sweating.  I mean, she was Kelly Kapowski, the good girl who loved Zach (who didn’t?) on Saved by the Bell, and then was Valerie Malone, the resident bitch after Brenda left on 90210.  And what a beautiful reign it was.  Saved by the Bell, though super entertaining now, was the show that everybody watched.  We watched it on Saturday mornings like we were at temple.  And boy did we love it.  The thing that never ceases to amaze me is the fact that ’90’s kids still know the plot lines.  And I don’t mean big plotlines like Who shot J.R.?   I mean like the stupid little, only happened briefly in one episode plot lines.  We still quote it.  Saying ‘I’m so excited’ to a ’90’s kid does not, in our minds, end with, ‘and I just can’t hide it.’  No no.  It ends with ‘I’m so excited.  I’m so excited.  I’m so scared,’ from the episode where Jessie gets addicted to caffiene pills (becuase they couldn’t use real drug references on the show).  We remember the words to the music video Zach, Slater and Screech were in.  These were shows that had an impact on the whole of the youth of the ’90’s.  Like I said earlier, even if you didn’t watch them, you still knew them…you still know them.

Now, it’s a little bit harder to argue the movie aspect, because, in truth, ’80’s movies are hard to compete with, as are the classics, but the ’90’s were a renaissance in film.  I mean sure there are iconic movies in every decade, but usually they are iconic of that decade.  Movies like Valley Girl or  are iconic of the ’80’s but a lot of people I know have never seen it.  Just as the Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies are iconic of the the late ’50’s/early ’60’s.  Sure we all know this, but really, when’s the last time you popped in Pillow Talk?  Basically, what I’m saying is that there are certain periods when a whole mess of movies come out that become iconic.  And they seem to come out around the same time.  The late ’30’s/early ’40’s saw ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Gone with the Wind,’ and ‘Casablanca’ (among others).  The Late ’60’s/early ’70’s saw ‘The Graduate,’ ‘Easy Rider,’ and ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’  The ’80’s had John Hughes movies and ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High.’  The ’90’s had ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ ‘Titanic,’ ‘Pretty Woman,’ ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Ghost.’  And in the ’90’s there was a distinct shift within the business of making movies.  Because in the ’90’s we were introduced to the concept of the Independent Movie.  Nowadays we take this for granted, but sometime when you’re bored go on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website and look up past oscar winners.  Now, I’m not saying that any of these movies were bad, but before about 1994 movies were nominated based on their box office appeal moreso than their actual status as great movies.  I mean, Chariots of Fire won over On Golden Pond and Reds.  This all changed in 1994.  Now, I’m not saying that the Academy doesn’t still pick blockbuster movies, but times are definitely a-changing.  I didn’t just pull the date 1994 out of my ass; a very important thing happened in 1994: PULP FICTION hit the ground running in 1994, and it completely changed the face of film.  Bob and Harvey Weinstein became underdog heroes for financing and distributing this movie (and they were very daring to allow Tarantino final cut on the movie…that would never happen now).  Pulp Fiction opened the flood gates and by the late ’90’s independent movies took up 2 or 3 of the five best picture nominees (in 2005 all the films nominated for best picture were independent films).  Now I would never ever say that The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction, or any other indy movie of the ’90’s are better than other decades movies (in fact, many of the indy movies blatantly steal from older movies…think American Beauty with Sunset Boulevard), but I’m just saying we’re a pretty lucky crew, us ’90’s kids.  I mean sure, we had Titanic (the highest grossing movie of all time.  Please, we all saw it in the theater multiple times), but we also were privy to a revolution where talent and quality filmmaking won out over box office success. 

Now one area where I think we ’90’s kids lost is in literature.  There are some notable exceptions: My favorite book of all time, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,’  for instance.  We also had Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, and John Krakauer, but really there are few notable, will last for a long time, kind of books that came out in the ’90’s, the first few Harry Potter books are a giant exception, but we’ll see how their staying power is.

The penultimate category I’m going to cover is other crap.  In other words, all the little things.  As I mentioned earlier, my mother never had antibacterial purel stuff, and it is my opinion that I’m all the healthier for it.  Now, I have no facts to back this up, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  I mean I bled for hours from my nose before my mother took me to the emergency room for them to tell me I had fractured it, and maybe that was irresponsibile, but I thank my mother for doing that because it made me tough and strong and independent, perhaps to a fault.  And maybe that example is strictly personal, but it seems that with this, as Barry Glassner calls it, ‘Culture of Fear’ that we live in, it’s getting harder and harder to steer away from overprotectiveness and irrational fear.  But it’s not just this other crap…I’m taking the plunge, I’m saying it.  We had the most awesome toys of any generation.  Now, hear me out.  We had all the soon to be confiscated toys: Slap Bracelets, Pogs, etc.  We had the Bedazzler, we are just old enough to have puffy painted our keds and to have worn gigantic shirts and tied them at the side with that plastic dohickey (or for those of us who didn’t have the puffy painted plastic dohickey, we tied our shirts with scrunchies).  There are embarrassing picutres of us with crimped hair, but we were not old enough (or long enough in the ’80’s) to have done anything crazy embarrassing, like dress like madonna in everyday life, or have an actual flock of seagulls haircut.  Sure we wore overalls with one strap unhooked and our backpacks over just one shoulder, but I never wore a polyester jumpsuit or a turqoise puffy sleeved prom dress with a side pony tail.  So I’ll give you the fact that I wore ripped jeans, doc martens, and flannel shirts (I’m wearing one right now actually), but ’90’s fashions were never, and I mean never, as embarrassing as ’80’s fashions or disco fashions.  Yes, once again we ’90’s kids scored.

So I’m going to round out this tome with the subject that started it all:  MUSIC.  Yes, music is the glue of the ’90’s kids world.  Because we, like the generations before us, but unfortunately not the generation after us, were blessed to grow up with great music.  We started life Like a Virgin with Madonna, and by the time we were growing into our own muscial tastes we had a spectrum to choose from.  Guns N Roses was the band of 1990/1991 (and anyone who doesn’t love Appetite for Destruction, I can no longer talk to) but my first real love was actually hip hop.  I know, I know, the past 12 years of my life have been dedicated, almost exclusively, to rock of all kinds, but I was a street little 10 year old and I loved Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle (of course, I was too young to know what either of those titles meant).  Plus, we had the whole, T.V. music tie in on one of my favorite episodes of 90210, when Brenda, David and Donna go to a hotel and meet Color Me Badd.  Oh yes, it still gives me shivers.  I always laugh when I think of the fact that I was 10 and singing ‘I wanna sex you up’ at the top of my lungs.  And, of course, let’s not leave out Boyz II Men (abcbbd) and the Motownphilly.  But the end of my hip hop road came along with a blonde guy from seattle named Kurt Cobain.  Yes, we ’90’s kids not only saw the birth of hip hop, we also saw the birth (and death) of grunge.  We were the grunge kids, dancing in the mosh pit, coming as we were, we smelled like teen spirit.  But only for a few years, before we were crushed by Kurt’s death.  I still remember that day as one of the worst of my life.  It was the first celebrity death I ever cried at (the only other was Joey Ramone).  But Kurt brought out the whole seattle scene.  I mean, Jane’s Addiction, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, it was just a great time for music.  And even the poppy crap was still good.  Smashmouth, Blink 182 (the early stuff), Sugar Ray, I mean, who didn’t just want to fly in 1998.  Plus, we had Sublime, Weezer, No Doubt (circa Tragic Kingdom), Bush (god I loved Gavin Rosdale), the Sneaker Pimps, Porno for Pyros, it was just a great time for music.  The likes of which can only be compared to the late 60s/early 70s.  And because we weren’t involved in anything like Vietnam, our music of the ’90s was about society and how messed up it was/is.  We didn’t have to protest a stupid war back then, so we could focus on ourselves, on our problems.

And that is why being a ’90s kid is the best thing ever. 

Peace, love, and Yo homes smell you later, I’m off to sit on my throne as the prince of bel-air,

Julia

October 29, 2007 Posted by | Books, Hollywood, John Hughes, Movies, Music, Oscars, Quentin Tarantino, Sex and the City, Television | 1 Comment

The Music in You

Even the name is cheezy. So I know this is a little unprecedented for a Saturday, but I just read an article and I can’t help but respond.

For those of you who don’t have kids under the age of 15 you may never have heard of High School Musical. Indeed, I work in the business that makes stuff like this so I have to know when something makes such a huge splash. In any case, I’ll give you a little background before I totally freak out so you’ll know where I’m coming from. The Disney Channel, about a year ago, made, for very little money, a made for t.v. original musical set in High School…sort of like Grease for the new millennium. Except it’s not at all like Grease. You won’t find a cigarette, or tight leather pants, or racing for pink slips in High School Musical. In fact, in the first movie (yes, there’s more than one) the romantic leads don’t even kiss. I know, I was appalled as well.

Now, I’m not really one for the Disney channel. I mean, I’ve got a weird thing for teen drama on television, but the tween stuff doesn’t really tickle my fancy. I guess, I take issue with the fact that they sugar coat everything about that time in life. I mean, there’s these tweens running around with not many problems. Maybe they have a bad day because they have a pimple or something, but I remember Junior High as being more similar to torture every single day. Like, here, you’re at the most awkward you’ll ever be and everyone else around you feels the same way, but you all try to hide it by making fun of each other, and thus just advance the spiral. So anyway, that’s why I take issue with the Disney Channel and most of its programming.

But, I give the Paramount Pictures studio tour and we have many high school groups that come through and take the tour. I always get asked about Zac Efron (who I’ve met and is very nice, though pretty short). For my first 9 months at Paramount, however, I had no clue who he was. I had heard Kevin and Bean (the L.A. morning djs) talking about how much High School Musical sucked, but other than that I knew nothing. Then one day I was working a Press Event at the Beverly Hilton and High School Musical 2 was one of the shows doing publicity. I saw the little clips and it looked just as lame as all the other Disney Channel shows so I really didn’t think anything of it.

Then I gave a tour to some high school girls and on it they asked me about the movie RENT. I was ridiculously excited that people younger than myself still loved RENT and connected to it. Little did I know that these girls had gotten me in to quite a vulnerable position. That’s when they started talking about High School Musical. Just after the RENT…in my weakened condition I thought, well if these girls like it then maybe I should watch it…see what all the fuss is about. So I set the TiVo and the rest is history.

I watched High School Musical alone in my apartment, and have let very few people know that I actually did watch this thing all the way through. But I guess the secret is out now. Basically, as I got more and more into the movie, I became more and more appalled. It’s the corniest thing I’ve ever seen. I think what disturbed me the most (and I’m still not sure I’ve I’m more disturbed for myself or for them) is that these girls, that were fans of RENT, which doesn’t have a shred of sentimentality in it, loved High School Musical. And then I thought about it, like really thought about it…this is where I might just be disturbed for my own crazy messed up adolescence. I thought, when I was 15 would I have liked this. The answer is a resonant and astounding NO FUCKING WAY. I was drinking and doing drugs and doing boys when I was 15. I would have NEVER ever ever watched a musical where the biggest problem the characters have was whether or not to try out for the school musical because that’s not what basketball players do.

But apparently we’re in the middle of a huge backswing. The second installment of HSM earned a viewership of 17million people (it’s on cable, not everyone has cable…basically, this is the average rating for Ugly Betty – on ABC – every week). So what did I do…..simply to torture myself. I TiVoed the second freaking movie…and I watched that too. I just needed/need to know what is so appealing about this musical. It’s funny because the article I just read had a bunch of parents quoted as saying that there is no swearing and no sex so they don’t have to worry about it. I’m sorry, but that, to me means you’re a shitty parent. I guess I’m just lucky to have the most awesome parents of all time (which I do believe that I have) because my mom sat on the couch and watched 90210 with me every week. When Kelly got addicted to diet pills, we talked about it. When Brenda lost her virginity to Dylan, we talked about it. When they almost didn’t let Donna Martin graduate because she got drunk at the prom, we talked about it.

And thus I come to this conclusion, High School Musical is responsible (in cahoots with the disney channel) for the decay of America’s youth. Parents, according to this article, think that it’s better to not have to talk to their kids about issues, than to actually have to discuss something real. I guess, the other thing that really gets to me is that as a writer, I strive for truth. I want to portray the human condition accurately and realistically. I don’t believe in Sugar-coating, even for pre-teens…even for kids (see my email on Harry Potter). Basically, let’s get serious about our situation people….ignoring problems is how we got to where we are…let’s not continue. And if we need to escape to a fantasy land where everything is perfect…I suggest Brave New World or 1984 to slap reality back into you.

Peace, Love, and Reality (but not reality t.v.)

Julia

September 30, 2007 Posted by | Books, Education, High School, Movie Reviews, Movies, Musicals, Rent, Television, Work | Leave a comment