Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Mash-Up

Greetings Friends,

Happy Memorial Day to everyone south of the 49th parallel! Here in Canada, it's only Monday, but it is a day worthy of remembering those who serve, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of both great countries. Keep that in mind as you grill your burgers and dogs and enjoy a day off from the grind.

As for me, I'd like to share another one of my lists. Along with a killer sinus headache (blasted humidity), I've got some topics rolling around inside my cranium that are just itching to get out. Hope you like them.

Skinny Jeans and Stilettos Will Bring You Down: Back in my Sassoon, Sergio Valente and Jordache jeans-wearing middle school days, I don't remember anyone bitching about how tight their jeans were. They were and you just dealt with it. Add to that the fact that my mother insisted on having mine dry-cleaned, so not only were they tight, they could stand up and walk away on their own. Today, I have to read about fashionable skinny jeans being bad for your health. According to some, too much time spent in skinnies can cause meralgia paresthetica, a condition that compresses the nerves in the outer part of the thigh, causing numbness, tingling and discomfort. Add a pair of towering heels to that mix that cause your pelvis to tilt, and you're putting even more pressure on those nerves. Folks, let's keep in mind that most of today's jeans have a percentage of Lycra in them that makes them a hell of a lot more comfortable than their truly torturous predecessors. As for the ridiculously high heels, a broken ankle can cure you of them right quick.

BlackBerry Going the Way of Betamax: It seems the once ubiquitous BlackBerry, or "CrackBerry," has lost much of its clout with all the iPhone and Android smart phones in use now. According to one report, Research In Motion (RIM) is preparing to announce more layoffs this week in light of their shrinking global market share, which as of this writing is down to a meagre seven percent. Sony managed to recover from its Betamax tape fiasco, but I'm not holding out much hope for the BlackBerry. As a devout iPhone user, you'd have to rip it out of my cold, dead hands before I'd consider an alternative. I'm very certain I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Evil Penguin: Last month, Google, otherwise known as the "Evil Empire," unleashed its latest algorithm update, affectionately known as "Penguin," on the SEO community. According to what I've read, it was not supposed to affect English language Web sites all that much, but those that are written in "highly spammed" languages. I don't know which languages they're referring to, but I know of a few English language sites that got slammed. Burgess Meredith's "Penguin" character in the Batman series was never this evil. Anyone up for an "Occupy Google" sit-in?

Are You Mom Enough? When I got an eyeful of Time magazine's May 21 cover, showing a woman breast feeding a little boy who looks old enough to chew steak, I thought to myself, what's wrong with this picture? Don't get me wrong, I am a strong proponent of breast feeding babies (even though I don't have kids of my own), but all these "extreme" parenting trends are a tad much for me. I'm all for raising healthy children, but "attachment parenting" that leads to "helicopter parenting" spells disaster for an entire generation of young people who will most likely be unable to function independently as they age. Unfortunately, I'm not a Time online subscriber, nor do I have any desire to pick up the print edition of the magazine, so I have not read the article. You can, however, view the cover by clicking here.

And lastly,

Thank You Pinners! I've picked up almost 50 new Ink & Paint fans since I joined Pinterest. Thank you for your support.

Now, go forth and grill.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Have a Conversation

Greetings Friends,

There isn't much on television these days that blows my skirt up, so when I find a program that does, I want to let everyone know about it.

My latest discovery is "The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet." I stumbled upon a link to the show's Web site and was riveted to the two episodes I was able to stream. You can catch the show in the U.S. on Lifetime, which surprises me since that channel has been the home of "Movie of the Week" type dreck for as long as its been in existence. From what I've seen, "The Conversation..." is the anti-Oprah, with de Cadenet conducting thoughtful interviews with strong, outspoken women like Jane Fonda, Diane von Furstenberg, Melissa McCarthy, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Silverman and others. Watching it was indeed a revelation. 

For years I've been hating on Oprah because I believe her message to the women of the world is that it's okay to be weak. The message of "The Conversation..." is the polar opposite. The show depicts women who aren't afraid to go after what they want, and aren't afraid to admit that they've made mistakes. They don't rely on men for happiness and they believe that strength and independence are two of the most important things women should have. Most importantly, they believe that a woman should not fall victim to societal stereotypes about perfection - both physical and emotional. 

There was once a time when strong, outspoken women were considered scary feminists. Now, post-Oprah, it seems we are more willing to accept the role of a strong female in society. I find it ironic that Oprah's OWN network is floundering on the brink of implosion in the face of this one little show that has the guts to talk about things like titties, and a plethora of topics that matter to most women; not to mention favourite sexual positions and things you would tell your 14 year-old self if you could. I found the candour refreshing after years of watching Oprah cackle and screech about all the things that were important to her, as opposed to what is really important to women in general. When you make it to the pinnacle of your own media empire, it's only a matter of time before you become so insulated that you lose touch with what's important to the masses. The chickens have come home to roost in Oprah-land and for the first time in a long while, she's going to have to own up (pun intended) to a potential failure.

 While I must admit to some degree of schadenfreude about Oprah's current boggle, I would love to see "The Conversation..." succeed beyond the limits of a home on a whiny little cable channel to something more along the lines of, say, Charlie Rose, or even Bill Maher. Women have valuable things to say and we need strong outlets for our voices. The show is a bit too risqué for the comfort level of the networks, but I'm hoping that despite its venue it manages to survive. I am committed to regular Internet viewing, and I'm hoping my readers will follow my lead and check it out. Men too; you might just learn something. 


Monday, May 7, 2012

Fifty Shades of Bad Writing

Greetings Friends,

Early on in my second career as a student, I encountered a somewhat jaded classmate who told me something to the effect of, "The more degrees you obtain, the less you will enjoy the books you read. When you get your Ph.D you're bound to hate everything." Well, I stopped at a Masters degree, only because Ph.D programs in English Literature are now about as hard to get into as a keyhole, or those trendy night spots that have bottle minimums that run into the thousands of dollars. Unless of course if you're James Franco, then your celebrity opens every door with a smile, even the doors to Ph.D programs in literature.

I admit to being a book snob, even during my downtime. The thought never occurs to me to pick up a mass-market paperback by one of those churn 'em and burn 'em serial authors, or indulge in any of the latest crazes like Twilight, Hunger Games or Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. None of that remotely interests me. Give me literary or historical fiction, a good memoir, or the latest by one of my favourite authors, and I'm more than happy. So, what was it that drew me to the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy? Read on...

I had a Chapters Indigo gift card burning a hole in my wallet since Christmas, and last week, I happened to be in one of the stores. I was perusing the stacks when I encountered a display containing all three books in the Fifty Shades trilogy, and thought, what the hell - these aren't books I would normally pay for so why not use the gift card? And before all you library-hounds get on my case, no - it didn't even occur to me to borrow them.

So, home I went with these "erotic romances" in my hot little hands, anxious to read what all the fuss was about. I put aside the tome I was currently about 100 pages into thinking I would read about 20 pages of Grey before I gave up and carted the books down to my building's laundry room for my neighbours to fight over. Seven days later I chewed through all three volumes, just over 1,500 pages of what had to be the most insipid, formulaic drivel I ever laid eyes upon. Even the S&M-laden sex scenes became boring after about the first two. The "suspense" was predictable and the main characters were vapid and self-involved. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I stuck with all three volumes until I polished off the last one (no pun intended) yesterday afternoon. Then, it hit me.

At some point right before I re-entered academia, it dawned on me why I love to read so much: reading a good novel is a challenge; the author's imagination and his or her ability to weave a tale that captures yours is what makes reading worthwhile. An author who writes many successful novels that stand on their own is supremely talented, in my opinion. An author who engages in the churn and burn, like many of the most financially successful ones do, relies on a tried-and-true formula that the average reader never ceases to tire of: sex/romance/suspense. Before Fifty Shades, I can't remember the last formulaic novel I read. It had to be something by Danielle Steel (gasp!) way back when I was in high school. I had high hopes for John Grisham when I read The Firm, but he amounted to nothing more than a churner and burner; mass market authors are little more than tree-killers.

As for E.L. James and her trilogy, I believe she is the latest in a long line of financially successful authors who are guilty of making the great literary talents resort to mewling and begging for publishing deals; that is, if mewling and begging even works. In the world of sex/romance/suspense, at least in the one conjured by James, writing about mewling and begging equals a huge payday. It's sad that talent still must starve, and formula is the perennial glutton at the smorgasbord.