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  

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Brits, Culture, Education, Politics, Sex, Television | 1 Comment

Women’s Movement 2008

So I was listening to NPR the other day, I forget if it was before or after the Iowa Caucus, but there was a woman on who was utterly appalled that these young women were not going to vote for Hilary Clinton.  She was in her fifties and even though she is basically for the same things I’m for, she managed to really piss me off.  Like seriously get under my skin.  I like to think of myself as seriously liberal.  I mean I grew up in the Bay Area, my parents are ultra-liberal, I don’t think I’d met a real, true conservative (in every sense of that word), actually I still don’t know that I’ve met someone that really is a less government, anti-abortion, pro-gun control, anti-gay marriage conservative.  

On the other hand, seeing as I was raised in such a politically correct town, I also have major issues with that shit.  If I have to hear one more person tell me there are more than two genders or that I’m not a true feminist because I’d rather have sex with a man then a woman, I’ll cut someone.  Yeah, I dealt with that a lot at UCSC, but even that is not nearly as condescending as the notion that we young women now are setting the women’s movement back.  
Here’s the deal.  Do I think people like Paris Hilton paint women in a bad light?  Yes.  Do I think that she sets the women’s movement back?  No.  She made a sex tape and that made her more popular.  40 years ago she would have been called a whore and no one would want anything to do with her.  Now, it just endeared the public to her (excepting me and most of the people I know).  But she’s really not who I want to talk about.
I want to talk about this lady on NPR.  She said something along the lines of she couldn’t believe that these young women were not going to vote for Hilary Clinton.  She asked what her and her sisters had fought for all those years ago if we weren’t going to elect a woman president when one was offered to us.  To which I say, ‘Hold the phone,’ you expect us to vote for her just because she’s a woman.  Hmmm.  That seems a) illogical and downright stupid, and b) like it’s not doing much to help the fucking women’s movement (by the way, Betty Friedan, don’t call it that…no one’s called it that since groovy was a cool word to use, and it’s not now, just in case you didn’t get the memo).  Aren’t we setting the ‘women’s movement’ back even further by saying that just because a woman is running for president and is a viable candidate we should vote for her?  What if I don’t agree with her?  And isn’t that really condescending to her to say, we’re only voting for you because you happen to be in possession of a vagina?  We could care less if Paris Hilton was up here, we’d still vote for her because she’s got lady-parts.  It’s perhaps the dumbest logic I’ve heard in a while, and we’re still living under G.W.  
Also, lady on NPR, don’t fucking condescend to think that young women nowadays have no respect for your movement.  We love that we aren’t expected to be wives and nothing else, that we can wear pants, that we can sleep with a total stranger and not feel like less of a ‘good’ woman.  But still, don’t deny us our right to choose that we like Barack Obama better than Hilary Clinton.  Also, what if these young women are Republicans and want to vote for that crazy bible-thumper Mike Huckabee, are they setting the women’s movement back?  Or are they just participating in the American political system?  
And along that same line, what right do you have to judge people for how they vote.  Would you like to amend the 19th amendment and say that women can vote if they vote for a woman?  Sure lady, let’s just totally throw away the rest of what all those men and women fought for before you so that we young women who aren’t fans of Hilary are forced to vote for her.  I think that’s a fantastic plan.  So thank you NPR lady for making women look like total idiots.  Score one for the women’s movement.
Peace, Love, and Constitutional Rights,

Julia

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Education, Politics | 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

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

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

A Battle of Epic Proportions

I come from a long line of teachers.  Granparents, aunts, parents, all
are in the field of education.  And I know from personal experience
that they are all great at what they do.  I have the utmost respect
for educators, especially educators that work with kids that don’t
want to learn.

I’ve dabbled around in tutoring and training, but it wasn’t until
yesterday that I actually came face to face with what teachers are
actually up against.  And it’s not like I experienced the brunt of it,
just a frustrating little faction of how unmotivated kids can be.

I was working at the bookstore yesterday and a kid who couldn’t have
been more than 13 came up to me asking about bestsellers.  He wanted
to know if we had a section of bestsellers.  Now, like any bookstore,
the bestsellers are near the front of the store so I showed him where
they were, but that was not the end of this little terror.  Three
minutes later he asked again for bestsellers.  I got the feeling that
he wanted me to show him exactly what the bestsellers were.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have actually looked at a book
(apparently that kid hadn’t ever seen the cover of a bestseller)
because they advertise the shit out of the fact that any particular
book was or is a bestseller.  So I took this kid, who, judging by his
parents, was a spoiled little you know what, and started grabbing
every book that said bestseller on it.

Now here’s where I actually laughed out loud in the kid’s face.  Yeah,
I know I’m a bitch.  I have no problem laughing in a kid’s face when
he’s being ridiculous.  Hell, I have no problem laughing in anyone’s
face when they’re being ridiculous.  I know that being ridiculous is a
sort of L.A. thing, but I don’t buy into it and find endless amusement
in how damn seriously people take themselves (in all fairness, I had
no problem laughing at the same kind of people in Los Gatos or Aptos
or any other self-important group of rich people when I lived
elsewhere, so it’s not exclusively a trait specific to Los Angeles,
but it does seem abundant in the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills area).

But I digress…this kid actually scoffed at the books I handed him.
And, to tell you the truth, I did put some thought into the books
before it became obvious that this kid couldn’t care less what the
book was.  This revelation came when the kid scoffed, and then noted
that all the books I was handing him were ‘too long.’   Now, I’m not
feeding this kid War and Peace.  Hell, I didn’t even give him John
Irving.  I was giving him books that were around 300 Pages long.

I’m sorry, but I can read that in a day.  I know that not everyone
can, but 300 pages is not that many even for high school.  I swear, it
took all my might not to just slap the kid. Like I said, I did laugh
out loud at this point.  And promptly gave him a novel that was about
150 pages long.

So I said earlier that I’m a mean nasty bitch.  This is probably the
reason that if I ever go into teaching, I’ll be teaching college.  I
have not one ounce of patience for that shit.  I almost walked away
and just said find the damn book yourself.  Then it caught my eye.
Just released on paperback in a nice aquamarine colored cover.

I gave the kid Everyman by Philip Roth.  Have fun with your short book kid.

Peace, Love, and Vindictiveness,

Julia

P.S.  Thank you to all my teachers and my family who are teachers for
putting up with that kind of shit.  I would just slap them.  You’re
better people than I am and my deepest thanks for molding the minds
that will allow you.

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Education, High School, Los Angeles | Leave a comment

I Saw the Best Minds of My Generation…

So I spent Sunday night working (who’s shocked?).  I worked at
Paramount, where they threw a huge party on the New York City backlot.
 The Killers played, me and the other pages who were working snuck off
to drink some champagne.  All in all it was a good night.

I’m not shocked easily.  The Santa Cruz I grew up in is not the Santa
Cruz most of you know.  I was 12 when I made my first friend who also
happened to be a speed freak.  I started smoking cigarettes at 13.  I
started drinking alcohol at 14.  When I was 15 a friend of mine died
of a heroin overdose.  By the time I was 16 I’d already taken more
than one friend to planned parenthood for various reasons.  Now, I’m
not saying this to elicit any sort of sympathy and I know that all
that information may be shocking to some of you.  I’m sorry.  I mean
no harm and I promise I have a point, a big one.  My point right now
is that it takes a lot to shock me.  In fact, I can’t really remember
a time when I was really and truly shocked about something that people
were doing.

Moving to London, and then to Los Angeles was certainly eye-opening
and both of them were a change, but neither were shocking.  And really
nothing that’s happened to me here so far has been, categorically
speaking, shocking…until Sunday night.

So this party at Paramount is rumored to have had 6000 people at it.
But really, it seemed more like 2000, maybe 3000.  In any case, there
were a lot of people there.  And as I was carting around drunk old
people (going to and coming from a private party on the lot)  I passed
by what seemed to me to be an extremely high percentage of drunk
women.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting drunk on New
Year’s Eve…Hell, I’m all for getting drunk period.  It’s fun, it
makes you to funny shit, and it’s a good way to let yourself let loose
like you wouldn’t normally.  It seemed to me, however, this New Year’s
Eve, that everywhere I turned there was some girl who was so drunk she
couldn’t stand.  Some girl puking in the very expensive, very highly
manicured plants, some ambulance coming for some girl who drank until
she was poisoned.  Some unbelievably drunk girls.

Now, when I was in college things like this happened.  Hell, when I
was in high school things like this happened.  Now this party cost
these people $150/person to get in.  Drinks were not free, neither was
food.  I guarantee you, most of the people attending this party were
25 or over.  They were old enough to have jobs that paid them enough
to spend $150 to go to a party (either that or they’re hot off the
real life Beverly Hills 90210).  Now don’t get me wrong, the people at
this party were, by and large, young.  But they weren’t that young.

What I’m getting at here is that on Sunday night, for the first time
in a long time, for the first time that I can remember, I was really
and truly shocked.  This kind of obscene alcohol consumption never
used to bother me.  But at a certain point it’s just sad and…wait
there’s a word for it right?  Oh yeah, fucking alcoholism.  I’m sorry
but what was once, us being young and stupid, is now really
depressing.  The shocking part of it for me was the sheer number.  I
saw, and I’m not being hyperbolic, at least 10 or 15 girls who were so
drunk they couldn’t walk.  And  I wasn’t even at the party…not
really.  I was working at a different party and they just happened by
me on their way out of the studio or on their way to a nice manicured
bush.

I guess what shocked me so so much is the fact that we’re not kids.
I’m sure these people have been doing this since college.  And you
know what, I used to do it in High School.  I got drunk all the time
and puked in bushes and generally was a complete asshole, but I grew
out of it.  So much so that when I do drink, I never get to the point
where I can’t walk or can’t get myself home by walking, cab or subway
(yes, L.A. has a subway).  Is this what my generation has come to?
People work all day in jobs that are obviously paying them too much
since they can afford this party, then drink themselves into oblivion.
 I mean, we’re a smart group of people, my generation.  We’re
disillusioned by everything, we’re completely skeptical, a bit
cynical.  We have trouble with relationships, we sleep with people we
shouldn’t, and we were raised completely by television (this is not
meant as a bad thing, just a simple statement).  But overall, we’re a
pretty smart group of kids.  Our parents are, on the whole, a college
educated bunch.  A huge percentage of us are college educated, and
those of us who aren’t are smart in other ways.  I’m hard-pressed to
find a truly stupid memeber of my generation.   Lazy, yes.  Cluless,
sometimes.  But really fucking stupid, hardly ever.  So why do people
feel the need to get so unbelievably obliterated that they can’t
function?

And you know what.  For once, I don’t have an answer.

Don’t mean to leave this on a downer people, but it’s 9 and I have to
work tomorrow and I’m so unbelievably exhausted (from working every
day except one since Thanksgiving…that’s right Christmas day was my
first day off since Thanksgiving and I haven’t had a day off
since…there isn’t one in sight either) I’m going to bed at nine.
And I’m sleeping until seven so I can get up and greet people to go on
the Paramount studios tour.  Living the dream people, living the
dream.

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year.
Love you all,

Julia

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Alcoholism, Education, High School, Santa Cruz | 1 Comment

Oprah’s Book Club: Beyond Good and Evil

So I’ve been grappling with the idea of Oprah’s book club for a while
now, and I now plan to subject you to the crazy inner monologues I
have with myself.

Before I really begin I’d like to note that it was brought to my
attention (by my mother) that there were some typos in the last email
and I’d like to preface this by saying.  These emails are usually
written late at night after at least one glass of bourbon (tonight
it’s been one relatively large glass, and yes, I’m now channeling my
grandmother and drinking bourbon).  Also, I have no idea how to work
gmail spell check so sorry about typos, but y’all are just gonna have
to deal.

Ok, that being said…for those of you who have been living in a cave
for the past decade or so Oprah Winfrey has this tradition of sticking
a little sticker that says ‘Oprah’s Book Club’ on it and those books
then shoot straight to number one on the New York Times bestseller
list.

For the most part I try to avoid the Oprah sticker of success because
the books are usually absolutely awful and have some sort of uplifting
message.  Call me a pessimist, but I don’t believe that everything
always turns out ok.  If some of these books ended tragically (or were
actually written well) I might give more creedence to the Oprah
sticker, but as it is, I generally avoid that sticker like the plague.

I think Toni Morrison’s Beloved (which, if I’m not mistaken, started
the whole Book Club) one of the only good books to ever be on that
list.

But it’s more complicated than that, because, as I’m sure none of you
know, last summer Oprah stuck her sticker on Anna Karenina by Leo
Tolstoy as well as a trilogy of Faulkner novels (Light in August, As I
Lay Dying, and The Sound and the Fury, to be exact).  Now, any of you
who have read these books may know that they don’t fit the uplifting
part of Oprah’s criteria and they, unlike the other trash on her list,
are actually well written.  Here’s the deal though:  Anna Karenina is
about 700 pages long and ends with the main character throwing herself
under a train (yeah it’s a real upper).  It’s Russian Lit so you
basically leave the novel wondering why you’re alive and thinking that
maybe throwing oneself under a train is not such a bad plan.

Then comes Faulkner.  Now, I graduated with a degree in Literature and
still cannot figure out what the fuck is going on in any Faulkner
novel.  As an example the first 150 pages of The Sound and the Fury
are narrated by a mentally disabled (or whatever the fuck the P.C.
term is) child.  There is no punctuation for 150 pages and the scene
and time constantly changes with no indication of this change.

Now, all of these books, when an Oprah sticker was placed on their
covers, shot to number one on the bestseller list.  I know that just
because people bought them doesn’t mean they read them, but just the
fact that enough people bought Anna Karenina, which was written 150
years ago, to put it on the bestseller list is an amazing feat.

I’m a firm believer in the notion that anything that gets people to
read is good.  I myself am a total snob when it comes to books and
will admit it freely, but for the love of all that is holy.  Faulkner
on the bestseller list is, in my book, a clear sign of the apocalypse.

As you may be able to tell, I’m mixed on this whole book club thing.
At least the people who read Oprah books are reading (even if they’re
reading absolute crap).  At the same time, this woman got people to
read Anna Karenina and Faulkner.

I’ll bet you thought this little rant was close to being over.  No,
no, young soul.  There’s a whole other can of worms to open and this
is the one I feel really strongly about.  Subject: James Frey’s A
Million Little Peices.

So for those of you who don’t know James Frey wrote a book, which he
said was a memoir about his time in recovery for crack and alcohol
addiction.  Oprah slapped her snazzy sticker on it and it immediately
went to number 1 (who’s surprised???)  So it came out that this wasn’t
a memoir, but a work of fiction (apparently his publisher had said
that it would sell as a memoir but not a fictional novel).  Oprah then
had Mr. Frey back on the show where she proceeded to berate him for
duping the American public.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume that no one has read this book
(because I like to belive that you all have the good sense to never
pick up a book with the sticker of doom on it).  I’ll defend my
purchase of the book by saying that I bought it after the whole
debacle with James Frey going on her show and was curious (and I was
at an airport, which automatically hinders one’s judgement on
literature).  Plus, I’m a vindictive bitch and would have loved to see
the book skyrocket back to number one after Oprah yelled at him (it
may very well have, but I don’t have time to research that).

So I read the book.  And I must say it was one of the best fucking
books I’ve read in a long time.  It was funny, gross, heartbreaking,
hopeful, real, gritty, and, most importantly, it was well written.  In
fact it was one of the most well written books I’ve ever read.  I was
engaged the whole time and would often find myself sitting down to
read (usually backstage at the Dr. Phil show, trying to block his
annoying texas drawl out of my life) only to look up after a hundred
pages had gone by.  All in all it was a great book.

So here’s my question to Oprah:  Why the hell does it matter if it’s a
work of fiction or a memoir if it is well written and engaging?
Plenty of memoirs are totally crappy, and isn’t the point of fiction
to represent a reality that has never necessarily existed.  I mean, do
you really think that David Copperfield or Tristram Shandy actuall
lived and walked the earth?  No, they didn’t (though young David is a
semi-autobiograpical representation of Dickens’ young self).  Now I
ask you, did anyone yell at Dickens for saying that much of David
Copperfield was based on his young life?  No.  Did anyone really care?
 Absolutely not.

Furthermore, isn’t the purpose of good fiction to make you believe
that these people really exist and these things really happened to
them?  Umm, yes.  So it seems to me that Oprah is pissed because she
fell for it.  SO WHAT?  The guy wrote a great work of fiction, and you
believed that it really happened to him…THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT A GREAT
WORK OF FICTION.

So Oprah, get the fuck over it.  It’s a great book and should be
promoted.  And please, for the love of god, start putting more books
like that on your list.

Ok.  That’s the end.

Hope everyone is well.  I’m off to bed as I have to work at 10 am tomorrow.
Love you all,

Julia

P.S. I feel the slightest bit of animosity towards Oprah for making
Dr. Phil famous, but I tried to keep him out of this arguement because
that’s just fighting dirty.

June 14, 2007 Posted by | Books, Education, Oprah Winfrey, Politics | Leave a comment