Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Failure?

I don’t know if anyone caught it, but last week on VH1 there was a great 4 part documentary called Sex: The Revolution.  It was a four hour series about the sexual revolution from the repressive 50s to AIDS and Reagan’s denial of it in the 80s.  It is a fantastic series.  If you have a TiVo see if you can catch it, otherwise you’ll just have to come visit me and watch it on my TiVo.  

There are about one million things that I want to talk about from this series, but one, in particular, sticks out.  In the first part, which is the part that brings us from the repressive 50s where Doris Day and Rock Hudson were the peak of sexuality (and a little figure named Kinsey changed everything) to the rumblings at Berkeley and Reagan’s witch hunt against university students who fought for free speech.  
Over the course of the hour one of the sentiments expressed is that of communication.  The documentary talks about how the early 60s were a time when freedom and honesty were really coming to the forefront as what people wanted.  Writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg spoke and wrote openly about their sexuality and sexual encounters.  Dean Moriarty in 1958 was a character that had sex with men and women, few of whom he was actually married to.  The piece goes on to say that the dishonesty and hypocracy that went along with sex, which was a dishonesty and hypocracy that permeated all socio-cultual strata, was really what the sexual revolution was fighting.  
So I want to know if this means that the sexual revolution was, at its core, a failure?  Our culture is still ripe with hypocracy and dishonesty about sex and sexuality (hello, abstinence only sexual education anyone?  And seriously, who is thinking that high school students are abstaining from sex voluntarily?).  But our culture is also still ripe with dishonesty and hypocracy at all levels.  In fact, we seem to be in a very similar situation.  Unpopular war, backlash against liberalism (Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, among others), bitter culture war, and little by little we are drawn out of the cave and into the light.  Maybe the legalization of gay marriage in California (and the hopefully ensuing domino effect) is the first of many wins in the culture war.  Then again, if we go that route can we expect a backlash like we got in the 80s?  And can America survive another Reagan?
I’d rather not see.  The bitter cold of England is looking mighty appetizing right now.
Peace, Love, and Unhappy Thoughts,
Julia  
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May 22, 2008 Posted by | Brits, Culture, Education, Politics, Sex, Television | 1 Comment

Neal Cassady and the Beat Kids.

Usually I know when big books are coming out. I mean, come on people,
I work at a bookstore, one frequented by extremely literate and snobby
people. As such, when “important” books come out I usually have
warning and hear buzz and all that goodness. I mean, I can’t tell you
when Jackie Collins or Danielle Steel (can’t even spell her name)
novels come out, but Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, William Gibson, we
have to fight to keep them in the store. So imagine my surprise on
Saturday when I walked into Booksoup for the first time since Monday
and saw a shining pillar of amazingness staring me in the face. A
book that I hadn’t heard was being published, nor did I know anything
about it.

That book was ‘On The Road.’

I think I just gave a literature professor an aneurysm. I’m not
talking about the On The Road with Dean Moriarty…don’t worry, I read
it years ago. I’m talking about the new On The Road. The Original
Scroll, it’s called. Apparently, and this is what I’ve learned from
my impromtu literary history lesson on Saturday afternoon, Kerouac
originally wrote On The Road on one huge scroll that was actually
tracing paper taped together. This scroll contained all the real
names, like Neal Cassady (the real Dean Moriarty), Allen Ginsberg, and
William S. Burroughs. It also featured something appalling for 1957
(when the book was originally published)….Sex. I know, shocking.
And what’s worse, it featured sex between men and women, as well as
sex between men and men.

Now, let’s back track a little bit. I started trying to read On The
Road when I was a senior in high school. It was a futile mission. I
tried to read it again probably four times before one of the biggest,
most life changing events occurred. I moved to London for a whole
year, and I definitely changed A LOT over the course of that year. I
really grew up that year. And in my last month there, when I was
pretty much done with school but just bumming around the city with my
friends, I finally, finally was ready for On The Road. And I devoured
it. I loved every word, hung on every word, and totally just got the
book. Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks of it as Gospel,
but I did come to the conclusion, after having finished, that On The
Road is a particular kind of book. It’s a book that you have to be in
the right time of your life to read. I tried for so long to read it
(and know many people who had the same experience), but once I had
truly experienced even a little of what life had to offer, the book
suddenly became important.

So you can imagine, when I walked into work on Saturday, I was shocked
that I had not heard a thing about this original scroll. I opened the
front flap and was immediately intrigued…but I was finishing up a
young adult book (they’re good to read at work seeing as I’m actually
reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and you sort of have to not
be at work to read that book). Well, as young adult books go, I
finished within the first hour of being at work and, seeing as we
weren’t that busy, was left with nothing to do…and nothing to read
(which is my worst nightmare). So I nonchalantly picked up this new
On The Road.

One thing you should know, before I continue, is that I HATE hardcover
books. They’re heavy, I can’t put them in my pocket. They’re a bitch
to read when you’re in bed (it’s hard to get comfortable with those
things…they have sharp corners), plus they have that ridiculously
pesky book jacket. I mean they’re just a fucking mess, and I hate
them. So a book has to be very very good for me to read it in
hardcover….usually I just wait.

So back to the story, I sat at the front register and absolutely could
not put down this hardcover copy of On The Road…again. In fact, I
was so intrigued and entranced I bought it and brought it home….I
knew I wouldn’t be able to stop reading it, and I did have to close
the store by this time.

Needless to say, I’ve gotten through a good chunk and it’s absolutely
incredible. It’s incredible to see these people as they were. See
Allen Ginsberg so ridiculously in love with Neal Cassady, hear people
talk so openly and explicitly about sex and drug use in the 1950’s, an
era I usually associate with poodle skirts and pomade.

It’s been a long time since a book has had me distracted at work (let
me rephrase, it’s been a long time since a book that’s not about a boy
wizard has distracted me at work), and who better than distract than
Jack Kerouac.

Peace, Love, and Dean Moriarty,
Julia

August 20, 2007 Posted by | Books, Brits, Education, Friends, Gay/Lesbian, Work | Leave a comment

The Boy Who Lived.

You had to know it was coming.  The email about everybody’s favorite wizard.  That’s right, this weeks topic is Harry Potter….cue John Williams music. 

It’s funny because I didn’t really get into Harry Potter until the fourth book came out.  I was going through that sophomoric phase of college where you think you’re awesome and that you, as a student of english lliterature, would never and could never deign to read a childrens book.  But then, you find yourself holed up at home, bored out of your freaking mind because it’s summer, and you don’t really know a lot of people in town, and the one’s you do know, you don’t really want to see, and the ones you do want to see are working normal hours instead of at 3am as I was, and sooner or later, an easy book starts to sound appealing as you lay in bed watching reruns of cheers for the fifth hour of the day.  So you pick up this ‘Harry Potter’ and stare at it thoughtfully for another hour or so before you finally decide that it wouldn’t hurt to crack open the book…after all, your mom reads them, your professors read them, perhaps they’re not that bad.  And with that, you read the first four books in the span of a few weeks.  OH shit, you think to yourself…..you’re hooked.

And that’s how addiction begins folks.  It’s that first puff from the pipe of Ms. Rowling and you’ll never go back.  Well, as you may know we’re in the thick of Potter-mania.  It’s twice as intense this time out because of the near-simultaneous release of the fifth movie and the seventh (and final) book of the series.  That’s right, it’s an exciting time for us all.  Come next friday at midnight, we’ll finally know what the connection between Harry and Voldemort is, we’ll finally see which one has to die in order for the other to live, we’ll finally see the truth about Snape.  Yes, come next weekend all the secrets will unfold…hopefully.  It’s bittersweet in a way, I mean, it’s been years of waiting and waiting to know what exactly is going on in these books and come saturday it will all be over. 

Alas, I guess all good things must come to an end. 

But I’m not here to wax poetic about how much I love our boy wizard.  I’m here to talk about the phenomenon of Harry Potter.  And what a phenomenon it is.  Let me throw out a couple of statistics for you.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the movie that came out on wednesday) made $12 Million in midnight screenings alone.  It made $44.1 Million on its opening day (which was a wendesday).  Amazon.com, as of A WEEK AGO, reported that pre-orders for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the seventh and final book) reached the One Million mark in the U.S. alone.  That doesn’t include Borders and Barnes and Noble orders or independent bookstore pre-orders.  I mean come on, that’s americans reading books by the millions.  And those are books that don’t have an Oprah sticker on them.  It makes my heart sing a little bit just thinking that. 

Just think about this for a second though.  Never, in the history of the book business, has there ever been anything as big as this (well, maybe the bible, but it has a thousand years on Harry Potter).  I mean sure we have the media fuel to add to the Harry Potter fire, but still, this is an unprecedented event, and I, for one, feel blessed to be a part of it. 

So I did just see the fifth movie.  It was hard for me because the fifth book is my favorite of the series so far.  I love love love it.  And I have to say, for all the bad press it’s getting, I really liked the fifth movie.  Here’s the thing with these movies: the books are so dense, there’s no way you’re going to get everything into them…I just like seeing a director and screenwriters takes on what they thought the most important parts of any particular book were.  Though I must say, there is one scene in the fifth movie that I would have spent more time on.  It comes at the end, and it’s not too happy, but I won’t give it away.  Though, going along with that I have to say, the casting in the Harry Potter movies is some of the best in Hollywood (or England, or anywhere really).  I mean, Alan Rickman as Snape is just amazing, Dame Maggie Parks (Professor McGonagall),  Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Emma Thompson (Professor Trewlany), my favorite actor of all time Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), and in this one we get the pleasure of Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and the gem of the whole film Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge).  Plus, we Americans do love Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint (though I know you brits hate them), and all the supporting students.  Yes, I even love Draco….in the way that I absolutely hate him.

The movies are always exciting, but really, I feel they’re just visually supplemental to the books.  I think the people that have real problems with the movies are the people who don’t read the books.  I mean sure, they’re not the best movies when you look at them from a movie-making perspective (with the exception of the Prisioner of Azkaban) but that’s not really the point, is it?  The point is bringing these folks that we love so much to the big screen where we can watch the action that we’ve already read about and imagined play out in front of our eyes.  That’s the purpose of a Harry Potter movie…it’s not Citizen Kane, it’s not Sicko, they’re not about making you think, they’re about letting you escape. 

The books, on the other hand, are all about making you think.  I would, in fact, love to take a class on Harry Potter and the themes in it because it’s such rich text.  Sure, it’s not the best writing there is out there, but the layers to the story are so rich and the themes are so universal, yet somehow fresh.  That’s what Harry Potter is all about.  Universal themes coming out in new ways; in fact, that’s what all great literature is all about, universal themes realized on a personal level.

Now, I just have one last bone to pick with some ‘fans’ of Harry Potter.  I’ve heard this complaint a few times now.  Basically, it goes something like this  ‘Harry Potter is getting too dark…Isn’t it a kids book?’  To this I say, why the hell are we teaching our kids that there isn’t darkness in the world?  It’s a book about witches and wizards and yes there’s darkness, and yes there’s light, and you know what?  That’s how the freakin’ world works.  I mean, I’m not saying, let’s start showing kids Pulp Fiction because they need to see that there’s darkness and light in the world.  I’m saying, what the hell is wrong with people that suddenly Harry Potter is ‘too dark.’   I’m sorry, is it because people die?  Well here’s a newsflash, people die.  It happens.  It’s gonna happen to you.  Get over it.  Is it because there’s a battle between good and evil?  That’s practically every single disney movie there is.  Why does it matter with Harry Potter?  I mean, yeah, Voldemort is scary, but do what my parents did, cover your kids eyes if they’re scared.  But I also think it’s important to explain that ‘THIS ISN’T REAL,’  some uber-powerful wizard is not going to come attack your kids by trying to break into their thoughts.  That’s just not going to happen.  So this is a good forum to explain the difference between fact and fiction.  If your kid is scared during Harry Potter, wait a year before they watch it, but don’t give me that shit that it’s getting too dark.  Or you know, don’t.  Say it’s too dark.  Let’s take all the substance out of everything so that we no longer have to think about anything dark.  Ray Bradbury and George Orwell will be so proud of our society.

But I digress into pettiness, the whole point of this email is a celebration.  So for the next two weeks I think we should all celebrate, who knows what will happen in the end, but what I do know is that we should be thankful for the boy who lived for finally sparking an unprecedented fervor over a fictional character.  Thank you Harry Potter.

Well, I’m off on the floo network to go get some butterbeer in Hogsmead, I’ll see you all on Privet Drive in Little Winging.

Peace, Love, and  Bertie Botts Every Flavored Beans,

Julia

July 13, 2007 Posted by | Books, Brits, Education, Harry Potter, Movie Reviews, Movies | 1 Comment

The British Invasion Part…How Many Is It Now?

Well folks last night was the night for old country.  That’s right, in
case you missed it, the Golden Globes were last night and man were
they great.

The trend seemed to be Brits take all.  Hugh Laurie for House, Helen
Mirren for Elizabeth I and The Queen (I think it’s kind of awesome
that she won for playing both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II, but that’s
the history geek in me coming out to play with my inner film geek).
Emily Blunt, Jeremy Irons, Sascha Baron Cohen, among others, all took
home little golden statutes, so to my Brits…I salute you.  About
damn time you all came and swept an American awards show, you
definitely deserve it more than we do.

For those of you who didn’t watch it (and I know who you are and there
will be hell to pay when you go to purgatory), here are my highlights
from the 2007 Golden Globes, live from the Bevely Hilton.

Can I just say Meryl Streep is a class act?  Her speech was awesome
awesome awesome.  She thanked the ladies in her category for taking
the great roles for women that there have been this year and making
going to the movies a worthwhile endeavor.  She was beautiful, she’s
the master, and starting today I will bow down and pray to her picture
once a day.  That’s all.

I have to give a little shout out to my employer PARAMOUNT PICTURES
who swept both best picture categories.  That’s right folks,
Paramount’s back in the game.  Babel took home best picture-drama and
Dreamgirls took Best Picture – Comedy or Musical.

Thank the lord that Martin Scorcese won his Globe…Oscar here we come.

Warren Beatty was incoherent (a side effect of the fact that actors
are given Champagne throughout the ceremony, I’m sure) but Tom Hanks
was charming as all hell as he was introducing him.

America Ferrera of Ugly Betty definitely made me cry (which is hard to
do).  She’s the sweetest little thing I ever did see and she’s like my
age which is amazing.  I absolutely love that the show is inspiring
girls to get past the importance of beauty bullshit and just be real,
deep, passionate, and loving people.  Way to go Betty!!!!!

Now the last shout out I have to give is to ABC.  The mid to late 90’s
was the reign of Must See TV on NBC, but the mid-2000’s are all ABC
folks.  ABC swept the major tv categories with Ugly Betty earning the
best comedy and my friends at GREY’S ANATOMY winning best drama.

Now, ABC holds a special little place in my heart because of the fact
that I got to work my first press tour for them on Sunday and I have
to say it was possibly the freaking coolest experience of my life.
For those of you who don’t know a press tour is where all the press
comes out to grill different shows and network people about the
upcoming lineup.

We started out at 7 am on Sunday Morning at the Ritz Carlton in
Pasadena.  My job was to get the cast of LOST to their interviews on
time.  I met Josh Holloway (Sawyer) and Daniel Dae Kim.  Ran into
Matthew Fox (a.k.a. Charlie from Party of Five).  Rubbed shoulders
with Evangeline Lilly and Dominic Monaghan, and follwed around the
Producers of Lost for an hour and a half.  It was great.

The last panel that went in front of the reporters was of the Show
Runners (the people who created and now run these shows).  Mark Cherry
(Desperate Housewives) and Shonda Rimes (Grey’s Anatomy) were my favs,
but all of the creators were extremely interesting.  One of my
favorite things that was said in the conference came from Mark Cherry
who said that the funniest note he ever got from Standards and
Practices (the censors) was from the first episode of Desperate
Housewives when Mrs. Soliz (Eva Longoria) and her 17 year old gardener
(Jesse Metcalf) are laying in a post-coital glow and she is smoking.
The note read ‘does she have to be smoking?’  To that Mark Cherry
responded, ‘so you’re ok with the statutory rape, but you’d rather she
not smoke?’  I thought it was awesome and just so spot on about how
absurd the censors are (thank you Janet Jackson for that).

My day however, turned into the most memorable day of my life when we
were designated as the sign holders to direct people to the big ABC
party that was happening after the press conference.  I was standing
near the check in so everyone who went to the party had to come by me.
 That means that I got to mingle with my heroes, my idols, and the
people I love to hate.  The biggest thrills of the night came from the
Grey’s Anatomy cast.  McSteamy is hotter in person than he is on film.
 Kate Walsh (a.k.a. Addison Montgomery-Shepard) is my favorite
character and she was sweet as hell.  Dr. Baily (Chandra Wilson) is so
little and has the cutest kid ever.  Isaiah Washington (Dr. Burke)
held a door open for me.  Sally Field may be 2 feet tall.  Calista
Flockhart still looks like she needs a sandwich.  America Ferrera is
sooooo cute.

But really I was Mesmerized by Jennifer Westfeldt.  Now I know none of
you know who she is, but she wrote one of my favorite movies of all
time…Kissing Jessica Stein, and she was awesome.

And that’s just breaking the surface.  Needless to say it’s been a
great two days between the ABC tour and the Golden Globes.  I feel
like you men feel after watching all those ridiculous bowl games you
insist on watching.

Peace, Love, and Great T.V.,

Julia

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Awards Shows, Brits, Hollywood, Movies, Television | Leave a comment

Shaken, Not Stirred

Ok,
So my last email was a bit maudlin, but I figure I’m allowed a dark
moment every now and then.  And just wait ’till you all read the
screenplay I’m writing…It’s dark to say the least.  In any case,
I’ve moved past my dark ruminations for the moment and am instead
ready to move on to something much more important than how idiotic, my
hyper-intelligent generation can be sometimes.  That’s right folks the
time has come to talk about the new James Bond movie.

Casino Royale.  Let me just say.  It’s freaking awesome.  It’s really
everything you could ever want from a James Bond movie and more.  It’s
two and a half hours long, but the time flies by.  And those two and a
half hours are chock full of action (in many senses of the word),
adventure, and even a little, dare I say romance?

The villians are awesome.  One guy drips tears of blood from his eye,
how fucking creepy and awesome is that?  Plus, there’s no real
consensus from the beginning on who, excatly the real bad guy is.
They seem to all be the bad guy and then they get killed off.  It’s
freaking awesome.  You get all settled in to ‘ this is James Bond,’ ‘
this is the bad guy’ and then the rug just gets pulled right out from
under you.

Let’s also pause for a moment on how smokin’ hot Daniel Craig is.
Now, I’m fully expecting to catch some sort of flak from the British
Contingent that this email gets sent out to, since I haven’t heard the
British Consensus about how Mr. Craig has completely botched the
newest of the James Bond movies.  But he’s so pretty.  The piercing
blue eyes, the body to end all bodies, and the tight little swim
shorts.  Let’s just say that this Bond is truly for the ladies.

Ok, I won’t torture you with that anymore.  The thing that shocked me
the most about this new Bond film was the sort of back story.  This
was an origin pic of sorts…for those of you that don’t know what an
origin pic is, it’s the movie that establishes the origin of
characters.  So the first X-men movie is an origin pic that
establishes who the X-men are and where they come from.  Batman Begins
was Batman’s origin pic…you get the picture.  Casino Royale
establishes where some of Mr. Bond’s more memorable quirks originated
from.  It covers them all, from why he sleeps with so many women
without getting close to any of them, to why he drinks a martini
(shaken, not stirred).

All in all it’s a great film.  Judi Dench is as ever, the best M of
all time.  The car that he destroys is utterly beautiful (and equipped
with a defribulator…I’m not a doctor, and though I watch Grey’s
Anatomy, I can’t spell that).  But mostly, it makes you fall in love
with Bond all over again.

I have just one complaint and I’m hoping my Brits will back me up on
this.  In the middle of the movie James Bond tells the American CIA
agent that he can ‘have the bad guy.’  The two of them are going to
take the bad guy down, but the American gets to make the arrest.  I’m
sorry.  James Bond would never give up the bad guy to the Americans.
It just wouldn’t happen.  He’s James Bond.  He’s like the Captain
America of Britain.  He doesn’t just let some American Agent steal
Britain’s glory.

That’s the only thing that bothered me and I’m ready for the onslaught
of emails from my brits.  I hope you all are doing well…that’s all
of you, not just my brits.

Have a great weekend.
Love,

Julia

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Alcoholism, Brits, Hollywood, James Bond, Movie Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment