Lie To Me, Just Make It Interesting

welcome to the dollhouse

If you have been around reading my blog for awhile you might be aware of my love for a certain show called Pretty Little Liars. Yes, this is commonly a show made for teenagers, but it has managed to transcend that age in a way few things do. There are plenty of adults to watch it. I know because after five seasons of post episode discussions with my best friend I made it my business to know if anyone else over the age of twenty was a fan. I have been with it from the beginning. It started when it was heavily advertised at the start of every movie that played at Regal Cinemas. I saw the salacious adds and thought “I’m watching the shit out of that show!” And then I wrote about it here and a little here. But, to recap quickly; the show is about four girls, Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna, who were all friends and led by mean girl Alison, but when Alison disappears the group dispersed until a year later when Alison’s body is found buried in her backyard and the four remaining girls start receiving texts from a mysterious “A” who knows all their secrets, secrets they thought only Ali knew. The girls realize they need to stick together to find out who is blackmailing them and cement their friendship in the process. At least that’s what it was initially about. Since then the plot has twisted and twisted back so many time that the very act of speaking some of the plot out loud is sort of comical. From here on out I will be speaking candidly about everything and anything that has happened up until now. You’ve been warned. In other words; SPOILERS.

This season we got our biggest twist so far. The show has revealed A before. In season two the culprit was revealed to be Hanna’s best friend, ex-loser, and sometimes Liar accomplice Mona Vanderwaal. Broken by Alison’s constant ridicule, Mona tormented Ali’s friends with Ali’s secrets and her amazing intellect. She was subsequently admitted to Radley Sanitarium before being released back to the same high school as the Liars, where everyone acts like they’re the crazy ones for not instantly warming up to their reformed tormentor. Since, she has acted as both ally and foe to the Liars. She also played a role in helping Alison to fake her death, because, yes that’s right, Alison turned out to be alive and on the lam from A as well. Because while in Radley someone stole the game from Mona, though I think it’s dubious that she as ever completely in charge in the first place. Regardless, since season three there has been a new, much more hardcore, A.

The finale of season five promised to reveal “Big A”, the one behind everything. Something I never expected to happen until the very end of the series. In fact, this is something that surprises me continually throughout the series. I constantly see people complaining that we never get answers and that we’ll be waiting forever to find out who A is and it’s never the end of the mystery. But I have to wonder if those people understand what this show is about. The end of the mystery is the end of the show. The show is about four girls getting harassed by A, if we take that away I am curious what these people think they would be watching. The Romantic Lives of Rosewood Girls? No thanks. I am happy not knowing because it means I get my hardcore guilty pleasure. I will be sad when Pretty Little Liars is over. Which it will be, after seven seasons, two years from now. So, I think it’s pretty clear when we’ll get all our answers. If you can’t wait until then, then I am afraid you’re watching the wrong show.

But, back to the season five finale. After Alison is convicted on Mona’s murder, the rest of the Liars are arrested as accessories. En route of the prison they are kidnapped by A from the paddy wagon and wake up in their bedrooms. Except these exact replicas of their bedrooms are located in an underground bunker where they discover Mona alive, well, and enacting the role of Alison. Soon they discover the identity of “Big A”. It’s Charles DiLaurentis! Except… who the hell is Charles DiLaurentis? Fans felt cheated that A wasn’t a character that we know. They have a point. But, they also don’t. At first I was extremely dissatisfied with this reveal. The Dollhouse (said bunker with room replicas) and Charles creepin’ with a mask was creepy as all hell, but it wasn’t exactly the answer I craved. There are still a massive amount of questions left to be answered. But, of course there are. There’s still two seasons to go after all. But the more I think about it, the more okay I am with Charles. I haven’t read the books the show is based on but some plot points are hard to miss, so I prepared should the show go the way of the books and reveal Alison’s twin, Courtney DiLaurentis, even though I thought that was a terrible idea. So why was Charles initially so annoying? Because I wasn’t expecting it, I guess. But then it was my expectation that A was someone we knew. Should I blame the show for not living to my expectations? Also, the more I thought about Charles, the more awesome his potential became. We were given a name, Charles, and shown a video of Jason and an apparent brother looking at their baby sister at an apple farm. For appearances, we can assume that Charles is Jason’s twin, though unconfirmed and whether identical or fraternal who knows. But if it is identical my immediate thought is that there are at least a few times we’ve interacted with Jason where it was actually Charles. Charles could have made out with Aria, bonded with Spencer, and slept with Hanna’s mom! To that end, Jason could easily be dead. How about when he moved back to Rosewood, papered up the house (where there was clearly someone lurking behind that we never discovered, and did we ever find out what he was burying in the yard? Right now, this Charles thing could go anywhere and since I enjoy the show so well, I have faith it will go somewhere entertaining. Pretty Little Liars might have just hit it’s stride. We’ll see.

A

And because it’s my blog I will go ahead and share my theory. Which I honestly think is awesome and I hope it’s not better than what the writers come up with.

I think that Charles is Jason’s identical twin. I think that just after Alison was born something happened in the DiLaurentis family, possibly something to do with Mr. DiLaurentis and his pretty insane anger management issues (we know, certainly, that Mrs. D had an affair with Spencer’s father that resulted in Jason [and possibly Charles?]), and Charles started to display some pretty terrifying violent tendencies. Eventually he took up residence in Radley Sanitarium where he lived for the majority of his life and became attached to a girl named Bethany Young. The DiLaurentis family kept Charles a secret from the community and their brand new baby girl, Alison. Mrs. D joined the board of Radley, visiting with her son throughout his life, so that she could still be a part of it, and as an extension, formed a relationship with Bethany, who she told to refer to her as Aunt Jessie. Bethany, somehow, then started communicating with Alison, who invited Bethany over on Labor Day weekend and provided her with clothes, including a yellow top. Charles went with her. A lot of things happened that evening, as the show has revealed to us slowly, but in the end Bethany was killed by we don’t know who. In retaliation Charles hit his sister, Alison, who he blamed for Bethany being out of Radley in the first place, over the head with a rock. Mrs. D saw this but buried Alison’s body in the foundation of the gazebo they were building in order to protect her son. Mrs. Grunwald then pulled Alison out of her grave, and Ali prepared to run. Meanwhile Melissa Hastings found Bethany’s body, thought Spencer had killed her, and buried her in the hole Alison had vacated. Charles then went back to Radley and stewed in his anger at Bethany’s death for about two years until Mona Vanderwaal appeared, spouting vitriol not just for Alison but for her four minions who are just as to blame for everything Alison has ever done as Alison is. Charles then becomes A, in cahoots with whoever Red Coat is. Kills his twin, Jason, in an elevator, and takes his place, disappearing from the hospital right after the accident where he escaped a falling elevator with little more than a broken leg. Not long after Spencer sees a body in the woods which has the same, specific tattoo as her boyfriend, Toby, who turns out to be alive and well. The body was not immediately identified by police because there was severe trauma to the corpse. After we find out Toby is alive and well the body in the woods is never brought up again. I believe that was the real Jason, mangled from his elevator accident, and inked to disturb Spencer. I also think there is another, female, A who has been at it from the beginning and is probably in cahoots with Charles. I have no theory on her motivation or who she may be.

Obviously I have no idea if any of this is correct at all, and I think there’s probably a whole lot more to it than I’ve put into my theory. But, after thinking about it for weeks it was pretty impossible not to come up with some sort of idea of my own.

Whether I am right or totally wrong. Whether I like the outcome or am pissed we didn’t get a face instead of a random name the “Big A Reveal” was entirely effective because I haven’t stopped thinking about it since and I basically can not wait until the show starts up again in June.

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Weekly Roundup: April 10th, 2015

Watching: Salem

salem

I started watching this show right when it started last year. And it’s bombastic, to say the least. I do think it can be problematic to fictionalize real life tragedies by giving credence to how they became tragedies in the first place. I think we can all agree that the real life Salem witch trials was a senseless event that claimed the lives of innocent human being due to mass hysteria. Saying there were real witches in Salem is tricky because in some ways it validates the hysteria. But fictionalizing this event has a long history as well and witches are usually just so… entertaining. Salem takes an interesting approach.

Several years before the infamous trials a young woman, Mary, finds herself pregnant and unmarried. Believing her lover, John Alden, dead she makes a serious decision to sell her soul to rid herself of the pregnancy and gain the abilities of a witch. Years later Mary is leading the witches of Salem, having exacted revenge on George Sibley, who she blames for… quite a lot, by marrying and incapacitating him, leaving her as his proxy and a powerful force in town. She’s also begun preparations for the Grand Rite (basically the big MacGuffin of the first season) when Alden returns to town.

The first thing that I liked about this show was the fact that it pulls zero punches. It’s completely insane. From familiar sucking at witches teats, to a possessed girl biting off her own finger while identifying a new witch, it’s really balls to the walls crazy pants. I didn’t even mention when someone vomits nails or the character that is actually referred as Isaac the Fornicator. But that’s what happens when a show isn’t on a network that anybody knows anything about. Salem airs on WGN. So… whatever that tells you. But less expected viewers generally leads to more risks and, I think for this series, it really pays off. Playing it safe would most likely lead to something tepid, and no one could accuse this show of being tepid.

What this show does that is interesting, though, is instead of taking the stance that the villagers are scared for a valid reason, in Salem the witches are manipulating the villagers into accusing each other, and inching the witches ever closer to the body count they need to complete the Grand Rite without ever lifting a finger.

The cast I mostly enjoy, with a weak point in Shane West as John Alden. The character could be charismatic, but falls flat. I have no problem, in general, with West but I don’t really think he works here. Janet Montgomery as Mary Sibley is the strong point, mixing equal parts malice and vulnerability. Elise Eberle also entertains as bonkers Mercy Lewis. And Ashley Madekwe plays a mysterious Tituba. All these characters are factual, but it should be noted that their resemblance to history is naught. In reality, Mercy was one of the young girls who’s fits led the villagers to fear witches in the first place and Sibley was a participant of little significance. Tituba is probably the most historically significant character on the show, along with Cotton Mather, the holy man behind the trials who’s painted far more sympathetically here than I anticipated.

Another thing I feel needs to be bbroughtto attention is the difference between a witch and a wiccan. I have never considered witches as anything to do with Satan and it always annoyed me when they were portrayed that way. But then I thought about it a little differently. Certainly Wiccans have nothing to do with the devil but witches aren’t quite… real, though often witch is used in place of Wiccan. Witches, on the other hand, have a long history of being whatever fanatical religious people need them to be. This incarnation of witches fall firmly in the realm of what the Salem Puritans were afraid of. Which, frankly, is the only thing that would make sense for this show.

History, also, should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Given it’s supernatural themes it should also go without saying that this is not historically accurate. But still there are small nuggets of events or character we recognize. Those looking for a piece of historical fiction should certainly look elsewhere, this is a supernatural show.

Salem is not a show for everyone. It’s sometimes gross, sometimes over the top, and always pretty insane, but if you can let it be what it is, and not what you were expecting or wanting it to be, then it can shine on it’s own. Is it great? Probably not. But it is tremendous fun.

Salem airs Sundays at 10:00 EST on WGN.

Reading: The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

heiresses

I was fully prepared to give my first negative review on my weekly roundups with this book. Usually I have more than one book that I read during the week and I have a bit of a choice. But this week I had a rather strong reaction to this book even when I thought it was useless shit. And, don’t get me wrong, this is shit. I picked this up on the description alone and only realized when I got it home that this was by Sara Shepard of Pretty Little Liars fame and that this is the first installment of a new series. For adults. Now, make no mistake, I love Pretty Little Liars, the TV show. I also read a lot of YA books so there was a hot second when I considered reading the books. But, then I heard a few things and decided I’d rather just still to television. The books seem even more far fetched and overly long. Sixteen volumes? Overkill. I also gave ABC Family’s version of Shepard’s other series, The Lying Game, a shot and enjoyed it well enough, though it was no PLL. The Heiresses is more of the same. Five cousins from the Saybrook diamond dynasty seemingly have it all, but typically each have their hidden problems. When Poppy Saybrook, everyone’s favorite cousin and president of the company, is murdered her cousins, Rowen, Corrine, Natasha, and Aster start to receive threats that they may be next.

This was soapy and awful but also, after awhile, wildly entertaining. In the first few chapters I thought I would put this down, but then I didn’t and actually started to enjoy myself. Don’t get me wrong, this was pure trash, but every once in awhile that sort of thing really hits the spot. This had all the elements; family secrets, rampant scandal, murder, and inevitably, mystery. The characters are essentially stock; the wild child socialite, the perfect sister who’s crumbling inside, the guy’s girl in love with her best friend, but eventually they seemed to take off and become real enough that they almost became natural.

I had an experience like I had with this book once before. Many years ago while working at camp for the summer and saw the trashiest looking book I’d ever seen. It was called Gossip Girl and no one was talking about it because no one had heard of it. So, I picked it up, read it, and realized with dismay that it was the first in a series and that I cared about the characters just enough to read what turned into something like ten volumes of absolute crap. I am deeply afraid this is going to turn into a similar situation.

Would I recommend this? Probably not. It’s not good. Really. But I can’t say that I didn’t end up having a good time with this piece of crap and I can’t say that I wont end up picking up the next volume.

Listening: Vienna Blood Waltz by Johann Strauss II because sometimes you just need a good waltz.

Random: I was all prepared to write about how spring was basically here and I’ve been able to resume my schedule of long walks through various parks and neighborhoods. I was even planning on including a few photographs of the beautiful scenery. I was planning on writing it out on Friday evening after I came home from work. But then Friday happened, and it was such a bitch of a day that I realized I have to write about it instead.

Friday started with my taking my car in for a much needed oil change. It had been way too long since the last one and I was a little nervous because the car seemed to be dragging a little and I really shouldn’t have waited as long as I waited. But sometimes my fear of what professionals think of me sort of hinders my life and only exacerbated the situation. Anyway, there is this process that takes place at good old Alternative Solutions. I bring the car in, they hoist it up to do what they need to do (usually the old oil change), and I sit in the waiting area hoping that this little window isn’t going to open. Sometimes it does and whoever is in the back passing something forward. The guy behind the desk then goes to the phone and starts communicating with whoever is on the other side, usually about car parts. He gets whatever answer he’s looking for and then walks around the desk to the (usually) various people who are waiting for their cars. At this point I am practically holding my breath like that scene in A League of Their Own when a telegram arrives from the war office and Tom Hanks reads it and every married woman thinks they might pass out until he stops in front of the recipient. This particular time, it was me. Luckily it was the serpentine belt, which wasn’t terribly expensive, the bad news was that I walked out of them having spent a hundred and fifty dollars more than I had anticipated.

Still, that’s not the worst. Cars do need maintenance after all. So I proceeded to pick up two of the littles for whom I babysit at school. I got there about a half hour before they were both nicely settled in the backseat and read my book for awhile. When it was time to leave I turned the key in my ignition and…. nothing. I tried again, just for good measure. And then I kept trying because I had two small children in the back seat wanting to get home and watch Star Wars on iTunes. Apparently, when I turned off the car to read I left on the headlights, which promptly drained the battery. I texted their dad to say we would be late while I called AAA and he offered to come with jumper cables, which was a pretty favorable outcome, so I headed over to the playground with the littles while we waited. All was fine as I helped the smaller one climb over the equipment. But then the older one wanted me to join in a game of tag. He tagged me and, naturally, I chased after him. I chased after him as he ran onto the grass, but apparently his dexterity didn’t extend to me because as I ran into the grass I hit a giant slick puddle and before I registered that anything was happening I was flat on my back on the ground, my arms flung akimbo. I couldn’t even move for about thirty seconds.

And then, of course, I realized how hilarious it was. It was a full on, cartoon style fall. It was only a few minutes later when I realized I was going to have to go to the little’s house and watch them for two more hours with sopping wet clothes that I stopped laughing. Meanwhile, the kids were all starring at me, shocked, as if they’d never seen an adult make a fool out of themself. I guess they hadn’t met me.

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Weekly Roundup: March 27th, 2015

Reading: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

the royal we

So, I’ve never read Go Fug Yourself. I’ve never even heard of it. But, when you’re sitting on the beach and NetGalley starts alerting you to a book basically about the most recent royal wedding then you’re reading a book called The Royal We. I’ll be the first to admit that I, along with too much of the world, is super into the British royal family. And, like everyone else, I worship at the altar of Kate Middleton (she’s so classy!). This is basically about Wills and Kate, but… you know, fictionally. This is undeniably inspired by Kate. However, how much I can’t be sure since I am not privy to the intimate details of the Duchess’s life before she stepped reluctantly into the spotlight. Though a lot of the circumstances are the same. This book is about how the main characters felt in the face of these extraordinary circumstances and there’s no way that could be anything more than fiction.

Rebecca Porter is an ordinary Ivy Leaguer when she opts for a year abroad at Oxford University. There she falls in the lap of the future King of England, Prince Nicholas Lyon, and his friends. As she gets to know the Prince the two find themselves falling in love. But, by accident of his birth there is no way for this love story to run smoothly. Hounded by the paparazzi, dealing with unruly siblings, and often stumbling over their own impetuousness Nick and Bex’s story may be rocky at times but their faith in each other is unshakable, and the reader know they’re headed for the wedding of the century.

Let’s start by saying this book was good. I would venture to say very good. About as good as I can imagine for the subject matter. The writing is not exactly deep, but is seamless (especially for two authors). Bex is a completely likable protagonist, even while she makes mistake after mistake. Nick is also genuinely charming, in that he often seems like a very normal dude (thank god). At Oxford Nick and Bex bond over a terrible American supernatural soap opera, and who doesn’t appreciate a man who can enjoy a bit of the cheese. He is also ridiculously sweet, procuring American snacks while wooing Bex. But he’s not perfect (again, thank god); he’s uneven, overly concerned about the paparazzi, isn’t always honest (though, neither is Bex), and can be reactionary. What this book did very well was almost make us forget the Cinderella side of things because we’re too focused on this completely normal love story.

My main issue with the book comes in a fourth act scandal that just felt like too much. We’d already weathered so much by then than a smooth wedding would have been reward. But, the desire for drama was too high, I guess, because instead we got a scandal over something that seemed sort of unbelievable in the first place. But then, I guess we already got our flawless wedding a couple of years ago when Nick and Bex’s real life counterparts said I do.

Watching: The 39th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival

CIFF

The Cleveland International Film Festival is in full swing, which is always a good time. So often it’s difficult to pick which movies to see because there’s not a lot of talk about them at all. It’s rare that I even see a film with stars I know or directors I’m aware of. But to me, that is part of it’s charm; getting to see films that I wouldn’t necessarily be privy to otherwise. The first two movies I saw this year were insanely cryptic and I was desperate to talk about them. Which was problematic because I saw both of them alone and there are no posts about them on the imdb message boards. I generally see about five or six movies at the festival, mostly due to my lack of funds and them costing fifteen dollars a pop. Someday I will just buy one of those all access passes and see everything, but for now six will have to do.

now we're alive

Now We’re Alive (Et Maintenant Nous Sommes en Vie) was the first film I saw and I picked it because it sounded like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was about a man, Tom, aged 25, who, per tradition, attempts to find his soul voice after being blindfolded in a room with a group of women born the same day and choosing one to be his bride. Then he has to find her. Yet after he is presented with his choice he is positive it’s not her, as she doesn’t match up to the picture of his head.

midnight swim

The Midnight Swim was about three sisters who’s mother dies, diving in Spirit Lake which’s bottom no one had ever found. The sisters invoke the spirit of the legendary “seventh sister” for answers but only find more questions.

anywhere else

Anywhere Else (Anderswo) was the brief story of Noa, a woman having a bit of a crisis. An Israeli living in Berlin, Noa’s working on a dictionary of untranslatable words, which her thesis advisors don’t quite understand. Impulsively she decides to go home for a few days to visit her critical family and ailing grandmother, much to the consternation of her German boyfriend, Jörg.

apartment troubles

Apartment Troubles was a straight up comedy about two best friends and roommates who are on the verge of eviction from their illegal sublet in New York. Instead of dealing with the situation at hand the two travel to Los Angeles to stay with one of their aunts, throwing in a dead cat, a psychotic ride share, and an audition for a reality show for good measure.

Tonight I will be seeing two more; Gemma Bovery (because I have a girl crush on Gemma Arterton) and a collection of short films. And, so far, I’ve really enjoyed everything.

gemma bovery

Random: 

Something great about Cleveland (and many other cities, I am sure) is that there are a bevy of free things to do all the time. The Cleveland Metroparks are a grouping of green spaces that circle Cleveland in our emerald necklace. My two besties and I are doing “tours”; ice cream, coffee, hot chocolate, and now Metroparks trails. We go to one each week, or at least that’s the goal. For our first Metroparks we went to Rocky River Reservation for their maple sugaring. They had a quick guided hike where we were shown techniques on tapping sugar maples and different methods through history. In the end they gave us a silver dollar pancake with their maple syrup. Delicious. Afterwards we went on a short two mile hike on a nearby trail. The weather is just starting to turn warm (though, it’s snowing today, which is typical) and there was some beautiful scenery.

An example of sugar maple tapping done by Native Americans.

An example of sugar maple tapping done by Native Americans.

 

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Weekly Roundup: March 20th, 2015

Again, late, I know. But I have been super busy!

Watching: iZombie

izombie

The title iZombie really initially made me roll my eyes. Not another zombie thing about zombies with feelings. For me, zombies are the mindless, shambling, braineaters that I’ve grown to know at love over the years. But then I found out Rob Thomas, of Veronica Mars and Party Down fame, was making this show, and that it’s loosely based on a comic. I picked I picked up the four trade paperbacks that the comic ran from the library and realized that this could make a pretty good show. And then it starred Rose McIver, who I somehow started to really like between her playing Tinker Bell on Once Upon a Time and as a serene blonde on Masters of Sex.

The comic is about a girl named Gwen who becomes a zombie (she initially can’t remember her death) and works as a gravedigger for access to the brains she needs to eat in order to retain her humanity. Along for the ride are her friends Ellie, a ghost, and Scott/Spot, a wereterrier (yes, you read that correctly). It all get very complicated very quickly but I’m not going to get into that here. In the show we get Liv Moore (hilariously, she deadpanned), a once promising medical student who was scratched in a zombie outbreak (this is… sort of glazed over but suffice it to say there’s an outbreak that happens and it’s dealt with swiftly and then hardly mentioned again. This not The Walking Dead) and has since let herself go. Now she works in the morgue for food access, and has distanced herself from friends, family, and her ex-fiance. She has to feed regularly so that she doesn’t become a mindless monster. Otherwise she just looks like she’s in desperate need of a tan and a dye job away from the white. But, as in the comic, when Liv eats a brain she absorbs the memories of the person to whom the brain belonged. Soon she hooks up with a police detective, who thinks she’s psychic, and helps to solve murders in a delightful mashup of Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and Tru Calling. With the snark of Veronica Mars. Because, yes, this is definitely Rob Thomas. Only one episode has aired but I thought it was well worth watching; the dialogue was witty, the characters likable, and McIver delightful. Of course, with future episodes it could either shine or start to stink up the place like an old corpse but for now it has my seal of approval and my inklings that it will continue to amuse.

iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST

Reading: A Mad, Wicky Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

madwickedfolly

It’s weird writing about a book that I fished several books ago, but being on vacation I plowed through five and a half books in nine days. Right now I’m in the middle of one of the most fun books I’ve read in awhile, but nowhere near finished and certainly not reading for writing about here. A Mad, Wicked Folly was something I picked up awhile ago because the plot is basically right up my alley. Victoria Darling doesn’t care about the dresses and parties that she’s supposed to love as a wealthy Londoner in 1909. Her family, members of the nouveau riche, are anxious that Vicky should marry well and help elevate the family name. Vicky doesn’t care about any of it. Instead she is determined to become an artist. After a scandal in France Vicky is sent home and given a choice; marry the man her parents have chosen or else accept a life of exile with an elderly aunt in Norfolk. But Vicky wants a place at the prestigious Royal School of Art, and she’s willing to do what she needs to do to get it. Together with a sympathetic maid and the policeman who has become her artist’s model Vicky builds her portfolio; but there are greater things at work in these turbulent times and Vicky soon finds herself involved with the suffrage movement almost despite herself.

I liked Vicky. She was plucky and willing to break traditions for her dream. This is basically something I’ve been on board with since a kid. I love rebellious princesses (hello Ariel). Vicky didn’t always know the best ways to go about things but these flaw made her real to me. Her hesitation to throw herself full throttle into suffrage, at first, didn’t seem cowardly to me, it seemed realistic. And her reactions to changes in circumstances was natural, if frustrating to those around her. She was a good heroine. She didn’t always know the best way right off, but she figured it out.

A lot of this book was struggling against tradition, but there were a lot more things at play. The Darling family, for example, seemed stodgy, old school, but the fact that they weren’t really was an issue. Mr. Darling was in the toilet business. Literally. They had spent years clawing their way into the aristocracy, in a country where there really is an aristocracy, and weren’t happy about having their name ruined by a daughter who appears naked in public as a nude model and who breaks an announced engagement. Their indignance makes sense for their point of view.

However, we are reading this over a hundred year after it takes place. Women did win the vote, and options have been opened up (though true equality is something women still fight for). Vicky’s lack of choices was infuriating. She was thwarted at every turn and ultimately had to sacrifice far to much. I loved that this book made me care to much about the flight of not just Vicky and her aristocratic problems, but also many of the women struggling for freedom and those who put freedom away for comfort. It’s easy to side one way or another, but this book made me look at the big picture. I say bravo.

Listening to: this rad track

Random:

I’m back from Sanibel by about twelve hours as is writing this and it’s super depressing. It was so relaxing and beautiful. Yesterday at this time I would have been on the gorgeous beach for my daily two mile walk. Today I woke up from a dream I was Lucrezia Borgia to a text message confirming that nine in the morning was a good time to report to work. The nice thing is that the snow that was pretty much piled up taller than me is more gone than not and I was able to park on the street with more ease than I actually remembered. It’s the first day of spring and I can actually feel like we’re on our way there. Which is clearly lovely. But! But. I miss the beach. And it’s making me yearn for summer like I can’t even believe, given I live in a city where an April snow covering is almost as required as the leaves gently blowing away in Camelot. At night, of course. So, I guess I’m going to need to get a jump on my spring bucket list and find some things to look forward to in the upcoming months. Winter’s bucket list was the lamest so far with a few things left to check off, I definitely wont make it. But that’s okay. More for next year. In the meantime there will be trolley rides and daffodil hill, and this hilarious gif:

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Weekly Roundup: March 13th, 2015

Random: 

Well, here I am in Sanibel, Florida where it looks like this:

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Obviously I am past the point in my life where I go on “Spring Break” but going on an early spring vacation just about hits the spot at any age. Especially after the crap winter we’ve had (though I still maintain that it was not as bad as last year and that people have insanely short memories). Sick of snow, it’s amazing to see some green things again. And the blue sky and green Gulf of Mexico really don’t hurt either. Plus, there is shrimp. Oh so much shrimp.

Watching:  Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt

Produced by Tina Fey this show was passed over by NBC and found a two season order from Netflix. It stars Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt, a woman who was kidnapped at age thirteen by a Doomsday cult and forced to live in an underground bunker for fifteen years after she was told the apocalypse had taken place. After she is rescued Kimmy impulsively decides to move to New York City where she lands a job helping Jacqueline Vorhees around her townhouse and an apartment equipped with a fabulously gay roommate.

The fact that Tina Fey created this show pretty much guaranteed I was going to watch this. I was decidedly tepid about Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids is probably the only thing I’ve actually seen her in) but this show likely relies on a lead that’s able to carry off Kimmy’s mix of stunted development and unrelenting optimism, and Kemper really pulls it off. The ancillary characters also charm. Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline essentially plays her 30 Rock character, if Jenna Maroney had married well and never worked instead of playing the diva television star. Tituss Burgess as Titus, Kimmy’s roommate, delivers some genuine laughs (my god, the werewolf episode…) and manages to make a cliche, that could come across as tired, endearing. Carol Kane entertains as Kimmy’s world weary landlord. Overall, Kimmy Schmidt is very cute and often laugh out loud funny. Not quite 30 Rock, but what is. And what’s more, why would I want it to be? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stands on it’s own and it’s own is hilarious.

Reading: Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel

charlie presumed dead

I started out my vacation reading Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer and found it to be one of the most profoundly disappointing reads of my reading career. It was full on ridiculous from it’s overly unreliable narrator, to it’s poor use of magical realism, to it’s incredibly dumbed down language. It’s a horrible misconception that the only way to write a YA novel is to write a book about teenagers poorly. I was pretty annoyed. But then I found the antidote. Charlie, Presumed Dead was something I picked up on a whim. The plot seemed interesting; a college age boy is involved in a plane accident and presumed dead then at this funeral two girls discover they were both his girlfriend and together go across continents, searching for answers. And the high ratings on Goodreads boded well. This was a perfect vacation read. It was fast paced, intriguing, mysterious, and frothy in all the right ways. It’s not terribly deep and there are certain things (especially the epic ending) that could easily be picked apart from the crowd less inclined to go along for a ride, but there were enough exotic locales and twists and turns here to satisfy even the most jaded reader. Every time I thought I had a grip on what was going on the mystery went even further. I liked all the characters, even while they did terrible things, because they were well drawn and multifaceted. It’s YA, which I’m inexplicably addicted to, but it’s the best kind of YA; fun as hell and written maturely enough to prove the author doesn’t think all young people are incapable of reading a well constructed sentence. I would definitely recommend this for anyone who thinks all this sounds interesting. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Listening to: The sound of waves on the sand.

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Weekly Roundup: March 6th, 2015

Reading: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

these broken stars

This is really not what I expected it to be. It was much better. I thought I was getting myself into a fun but ultimately tepid space romance with a pretty cover. Instead this was a (sort of realistic) love story set in a survival situation.

Lilac LaRoux is the daughter of the most powerful man in the universe and Tarver Merendsen is a soldier, a war hero son of a teacher and poet. In other words, not nearly good enough for Lilac in her father’s eyes. But when Lilac and Tarver are the only survivors of a ship disaster that leaves them stranded, alone, on an unfamiliar planet. Struggling to survive the two come to depend upon each other and soon form the blossoms of love, but it’s soon evident that the planet is far different from either of them could ever have imagined.

I can truly say that this was a very original story. There were genuinely points where I had no idea where this was going and I was never disappointed in a plot twist. The other books in the Starbound series apparently deal with different characters, which makes sense because this story is a complete one, so I wasn’t sure that I felt the need to continue. But upon finishing this book I am interested to see what else these authors can come up with.

Watching: House of Cards, season three

house of cards

I’m about halfway through the season (due to my lack of time) but I managed to make it through season two in less than a weekend. I love me a political drama, and this is a stylish one. It follows the political career of ruthless Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). Initially the House majority whip, passed over for Secretary of State, a position he felt promised, Frank deceives and connives his way up the political ladder. At his side is his equally devious wife, Claire (Robin Wright). After two nearly flawless seasons I’ve heard the third has some issues, but I’m still curious to see what it has in store. House of Cards is based on a British series of the same name from 1990. I’ve only seen the first installment but know there were two more. Perhaps that’s where the American version should leave off, but Netflix has a hit on its hands and is understandably loathe to let it go. It’s already been renewed for a season four. And, really, since we’re getting it, I have faith that the writers can come up with a compelling fourth season, no matter where season three leaves off.

Listening to: 

Taylor Swift 1989

 

So, this CD is fucking good. It haven’t really stopped listening to it since it dropped like three months ago. I liked her country(ish) albums, but honestly how far was that going to go? Swift is a pop artist at heart and this album only proves it. Her tunes are impossibly catchy and her lyrics are far better than anyone gives her credit for as they dismiss her as a girl who can’t keep a boyfriend. There isn’t a single song on this album that I would classify as a dud.

Random: 

In embarrassing news, I went with my friend (who’s name will be left out of it lest she should die of embarrassment) to see Fifty Shades of Grey.

50shades

Yes, I felt that way too, Anastasia.

There was really not a point where I wasn’t going to see this movie because there was a point where I had every intention of reading the books. I feel, as a pop culture addict living in this time, that I have to experience cultural phenomena. Like Twilight before it (awful but oddly magnetising) and Harry Potter before that (luminescent, obviously) [and leaving out all the Hunger Games (posted about that a long time ago, here) and Divergents in between] Fifty Shades is something liked by so many people that I feel like I need to have an opinion. I also feel like unsubstantiated opinions are bullshit. I was gearing up for a vacation a couple years ago that was going to involve a lot of driving and I thought it might be a good time to experience Christian Grey and his closet full of whips and restraints. As I was transferring the audio CD to my iPod I had the misfortune of hearing a thirty second snippet. It sounded like it was written by a mentally disabled middle schooler and I just couldn’t. I was waiting for the movie. And now I can fully report that Fifty Shades of Grey sucks ass. But, it sucks in such a way that makes it rip roaringly hilarious. Miss Steele has very little personality and Mr. Grey is a bundled nerve of contradictions. The film is so prevailingly… gray that my companion leaned over early on and said “No wonder he falls for her, she wears color!”

And really, we couldn’t stop whispering to each other the whole time. For awhile I burst out laughing  and literally could not stop. This pile was achingly unromantic and decidedly not very racy. I was actually surprised by how vanilla the sex was. But then, this isn’t a story about BDSM as I have so often been told, it’s about the ordinary girl who normalizes an emotionally damaged man who’s into BDSM. Or… something.

On a more serious not, there are those who claim the story features an abusive relationship. That’s tricky, but on a whole I do disagree. This relationship is not healthy. Anastasia does not get the emotional connection she craves, and Grey is a controlling asshat but I don’t think he’s abusive. And I found Anastasia to have a lot more backbone than I was expecting. Nothing physical happens without explicit consent and he is upfront about his emotional issues and what he can and can not provide in a relationship. His controlling nature, which I think is the main issue, is problematic, but not, to me, abusive.

So, yes,it was awful, but pretty amusing too. Afterwards my fellow viewer and I went to coffee and found ourselves wondering about what happens in book two. Soon we looked it up on our phones and were in peels of laughter as we read the synopsis. Stalking, vendettas, cheesy marriage proposals… we actually high fived in amusement at one point because it read like a bad episode of Law and Order. But, you can bet your ass I’ll be seeing the movie.

 

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Weekly Roundup: February 27th, 2015

Yes, I am aware that it is March 5th and that I am almost a week late at posting this. But better late than never so here is last week’s Weekly Roundup.

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Reading:

Love, Fiercely by Jean Zimmerman

love fiercely

This book purported to be a love story of two prominent New Yorkers during the Gilded Age. In 1897 John Singer Sargent painted Edith Minturn Stokes and her husband, Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes in a stunning double portrait, which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both individuals were remarkable and contributed much to society, while loving each other far greater than most of their contemporaries, but I would not call this a love story. They fall in love, but this is much more about what they created. Apart from the acclaimed Sargent, Edith was also the model for Daniel Chester French’s Statue of the Republic at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893; her face gazed upon by 27,3000,000 visitors. Stokes is the author of an astounding six volume iconography of Manhattan. Also detailed was their day to day life, slices of a lost era that was known for it’s over the top decadence. Which, is probably my favorite era.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

art of racing in the rain

For months my dad pestered me about reading this book. Every time I saw him he would somehow ask me if I had read it. I had nothing against it… really, but my pile is often very large and this is narrated by a dog. A dog that’s into race cars. I am a cat person. Blah. But, when one’s father is continually asking about a book and insisting it’s good then it’s time to read a book about a dog and race cars. Luckily, this book isn’t really about either of those things. This was the poignant story of a family. It’s plot isn’t the typical family story, but it’s not anything we haven’t heard before. Without the narration gimmick this book would not have worked. Enzo (the dog in question) was a pretty great character who hoped for more but worked with his limitations. A lot of the plot was easy to see coming, but, like Enzo, the reader is helpless to do anything but sit and watch. I’m glad I finally got to read  this. And I will admit, at the end, I couldn’t help but cry.

Watching: Sleepy Hollow

sleepy hollow 

Well, this could be the last time I am actually able to talk about this show in the present tense. A year ago I wrote a whole post about how this show was so fun and that it shouldn’t work but really does. I never quite finished writing and never posted it.

I don’t even know how this show got past the development stage. I can’t imagine anyone being pitched this concept; Icabod Crane from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleep Hollow wakes up some 200 years after battling the headless horseman (who, in this version, is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse), and thenceforth exists to battle the forces of evil in modern times, would think this was a good idea. Sleepy Hollow uses different mythology but sets it against a brand name that’s recognizable. It’s a silly show, to be sure, where anything, from demons emerging into this world to holograms of founding fathers that can speak and interact with the characters, can happen and quite frequently does.

But I have never been one to shy away from the fantastical, as Buffy and Lost are two of my all time favorite shows, both of which went to some very strange places. I love battling the forces of evil, and since I can’t do it personally I have to watch characters do it for me.

I was very hopeful about season two, especially after the pretty epic season finale last year, but… it really fucked it up. The lead character’s witch wife emerged from Purgatory where she had been trapped for over two hundred years and became a major character. Unfortunately, her powers were boringly limited and her character did very little but exhibit angst over various plot points that I wont recount here. A new, roguish, character appeared who traded in mystical items and inexplicably had the hots for both the lead actress and her sister, depending on the episode, and really didn’t fit in at all. To be honest the shift of focus onto both these new leads (Katrina, the wife, was in season one but she didn’t have a large role) seemed to a lot of viewers as an attempt to shift attention from the established cast, which included three black actors in lead roles, to new lily white characters that no one cared about. The writing was, frankly, all over the place and everything that worked in season one ceased to in this mess of a sophomore season. I didn’t hate it as some did, but it certainly lost it’s magic. Still, I hope it gets its chance to fix itself in a season three because right at the end it seemed to show signs that it could redeem itself.

Listening to: 

Marina and the Diamonds, FROOT

 

Marina is probably my favorite singer; the pop I love with a little more substance. She writes about all things of life, from romance and that backstabbing bitch, which we hear about from so many pop artists, to dealing with neuroses, all with the additional aid of a great hook. I’ve loved her since her first CD, The Family Jewels, dropped in 2010. FROOT is her latest and reminds me more of the first album than her second, concept, album, Electra Heart.

Random: 

I’m writing about this for posterity. There are certain cultural things that just take people by the throat. I don’t care about sports at all but I watched the Superbowl half time show because I love Katy Perry and was amused as anyone by her dancing sharks. I didn’t care one way or another about the lack of dance skills from left shark, I just liked those ridiculous costumes. The next day the website Shirt Punch unveiled a shirt featuring an imagine of the shark with the slogan “You the real MVP”. Couldn’t agree more, Shirt Punch, but as my friend tried to convince me to buy the thing I just had to refuse. How long, really, would that be funny? Such is with this dress:

the dress

Last week this picture of this dress caused quite a stir on the internet when it became clear that some people saw completely different colors in it than other people. Some saw the dress as white and gold and others saw it as black and blue [which, ew, black and blue together is not cute, and actually the dress was pretty ugly in general]. This phenomenon apparently caused rifts between family and friends. The ones who saw blue and gold felt marginalized and people booked eye appointments for fear of color blindness. Many have told me they started seeing one combo and then switched to the other.

I went to a hockey game last Friday and they showed a picture of the dress and had the crowd cheer for which they saw. The man behind me started screaming “Black and blue” like a mad man and even started in again when I pulled the picture up on my phone and started discussing it with my friend. He was so sure of his opinion that he became belligerent. I found this interesting. Others insisted that it was stupid to care at all. I could not disagree more. I found this fascinating. I saw white and gold and nothing else ever, except a brief glimpse from the corner of my eye that I might have called black and blue. I saw several people post, the next day, a page of optical illusions that are “more interesting than that damned dress”. I had seen all of them before and have always been able to separate the illusion from what is there. Not so with the “damned dress”. What I find interesting here is something that I have always wondered; How can we possibly know that the colors we preceive are the same colors that others see. I know what red is because I have been told red while pointing at a color, but there is no way to know if other people see the same color. I am sure there is something scientific that I don’t understand to answer that question, but on a “what does it all mean” scale it’s a question I think about. This dress was like the whole world asking a similar question all at the same time. Yes, I know the dress is black and blue, but my inability to see it as black and blue is astounding to me. I can understand how a light colored dress could look darker because of shadows but I have seen blue in terrible backlighting before and it has never looked white before. But more puzzling; I can see how something could look the wrong color in a photo, but the fact that two people can look at the same photo and see two different colors is amazing. It’s amazing.

 

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