Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sisters are doing it for themselves.

I'm one of those people who is smug and self-righteous about not owning a TV, but I still get starved for pop culture from time to time. So in the last couple of days I read two books written by women who got their start on the talking picture box so many people are chatting about. I actually ordered Suck It, Wonder Woman by Olivia Munn for my library, partly because there was some internet drama about her awhile ago, and apparently I go in for that sort of thing. Also, she's on the Daily Show, which I haven't actually watched in a few years, but if my favourite silver fox Jon Stewart is going to give his stamp of approval, I'm down. I am sad to say this book kind of blows, but I'm also sad to admit I probably should have known. Olivia Munn became famous doing stuff like this:

I know it's "in context" (on a show about videogames watched mostly by pimply boys--and yes, since you've asked, making sweeping generalizations IS part of my yoga practice), and I know she's made a name for herself being the hot nerdy girl, and I know that I am by no means her target demographic, but even in a vacuum her writing just feels so false and trite. She's a bit of a name dropper and tells unfunny anecdotes about taking muscle relaxers and making out with a woman by accident and zzzzzzzz ohhh sorry, I fell asleep just thinking about it. It's not that I don't support the right of a supposedly geeky hot chick to write her book, or her right to include ten pages of fan-produced portraits and ten pages of her dressed up as great women in history, pinup-style, including Sexy Eleanor Roosevelt and Sailor Moon (yes, really). I just don't need to watch or read it. And I don't think the rest of the Sisterhood does either. She's said some pretty wretched shit about women who criticize her, and I can't stand behind the Mean Girl. Especially when in addition to the hate, you also have to read about her boring childhood.

On the other hand, you know whose formative years I'd read about forever and ever? Chelsea Handler's. I'm about halfway through Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang and it is amazing. She chronicles her obsessive childhood masturbation habit, her long hard fight for a Cabbage Patch Kid and her dubious sexual encounters and I just can't stop spitting up on myself from laughing so hard. Chelsea Handler is inappropriate as hell, and also incredibly self-aware, and I think I want to go camp out on her lawn till she agrees to hang with me. Granted, I don't think she's as funny on TV, but whatevs.

It's interesting--I always feel like her books are marketed wrong. I know they're about sex and drinking and other supposedly racy stuff, but she also writes about her family and her relationships in this very real way that just rings really true for anyone with a complicatedly endearing past. I hope the scantily-clad lady on the cover won't keep people from reading.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hey, look! An old man is talking!

I've been watching The Simpsons again. It's been awhile, and I feel like I've been reunited with an old flame with whom I spent, like, ten years before things really went south, and now even though he's still farting around and talking big about "finding himself" and making really specific jokes, I'm okay with reminiscing about the good old days.

It's also really weird to be watching it on DVD. I think it's the first time I've watched a whole run of episodes in a non-home-taped format. I'm so used to the first five seconds of a Parlour Ice Cream commercial before whoever was recording hit Pause, you know? The clean digital editing is really jarring.

Back when I lived in Toronto, I had this one epic tape of Simpsons episodes, recorded over a series of summer Saturday afternoons back at home, in preparation for the year ahead, on my own, sans cable. It was an amazing, serendipitous compilation which included two Treehouses of Horror (and one was the Nightmare on Elm Street tribute!), the Christmas episode where Bart steals the video game and nearly ruins Christmas, aaaaaaand the best episode of all time, Lemon of Troy.

God, I wish there were better clips on YouTube, but still, this is pretty good.

Now, let's all watch a few more Simpsons videos.

Reunited, and it feels so good.

That's all I had to report, I think.

Monday, August 23, 2010

From the random files.

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited audio book of all time in the SERIOUSLY?? department: Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton, read for you by Bronson Pinchot. Yes,
THAT Bronson Pinchot.

Don't you miss the old ABC TGIF lineup? Growing up we were only allowed one hour of TV a day (which would be forfeited if we didn't do our housework, or if we had some kind of public temper tantrum--the latter was embarrassingly common for yours truly) which was usually taken up by reruns of Get Smart after school. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to tune in to the adventures of Agent 99 (Such style. Such grace.) and that idiot Max on Fridays so I could save up my time and cash in for that week's Very Special Episode of Full House. It was a noble sacrifice.

Anyway, I'll look forward to the pairing of Angelina Jolie's absurd life with Balki Bartokamous' absurd narration. I'm not ashamed to admit I teared up a little while listening to the Perfect Strangers theme song. They say you become more emotional in the autumn years.

Friday, August 20, 2010

End of week free association.

1. Stephen King's still got it, man. Under the Dome is MESSED UP, like apocalyptic, could-maybe-happen, The Stand messed up. Granted, I'm a Stephen King fangirl from way back, and while there was a time that I loved his true horror stuff, when you live alone you can't really read Carrie before bed without being forced to keep every light in the house on all night and checking behind every motherloving door multiple times when you arrive home. And there's something to be said for the complicated, multi-plot insanity of King's crazy sweeping epics. From now on I am only reading books that require a glossary of characters at the beginning. I like a long yet mindless book every once in awhile. Makes me feel like I'm really accomplishing something.

2. Remember the TV version of The Stand, starring Molly Ringwald and about a thousand other people? Remember when network miniseries were event viewing? Oh for the glory days of the early 90s. Apparently they are making a miniseries of Under The Dome. I kind of wish I had cable so I could, like, participate in the zeitgeist.

3. I think The Stand was considered by some to be Molly Ringwald's emergence into adult acting (or maybe that was just me). I remember being a really mean teenage girl and thinking that she looked like she'd been sleeping on her face since she wrapped on Betsy's Wedding and they just woke her up and threw her on screen again. I'm not nearly so catty anymore, partly because I now look like that most of the time too. Thirty: it's no laughing matter.

4. True love is a willingness to put the Beatles vs. Stones debate to rest while quietly holding onto the knowledge that your partner is wrong. I'll see your Let it Bleed.

And raise you Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey.

More cowbell? Hell yes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Full colour glossies.

I drank too many overpriced Starbucks lemonade drinks and lost my will to process information, and you know what that means: It's time for another edition of Magazine Time.

InStyle, August 2010 issue.
I used to read this magazine a LOT. Back when I was a student it was always a splurge, because it cost more than five dollars, and back then five dollars would still buy you a pack of Benson and Hedges 100s (and if you walked all the way down to Yonge Street you could probably use your fiver to buy a pack AND a naked lady lighter to boot. Economics!). Mike Harris's Ontario had its perks. Anyway, now I'm not sure what I was thinking. Now InStyle makes me incredibly depressed. Exhibit A: Sienna Miller in Haiti. Not that I am a poster child for international involvement and volunteerism, but I have a bit of a problem with celebrities taking photos with sad-eyed kids and then using it as a PR move. Exhibit B: a full page on how jean jackets are the in-jacket of this summer. JUST LIKE EVERY SUMMER. Exhibit C: Cringe-inducing punny titles, including "Up in the Hair" for a photo montage of dino poufs (again, how DO they predict these incredibly radical departures from traditional style?). I would've called it "Snook-alikes," but whatevs.

Weight Watchers Magazine, Summer 2010 issue. I read this magazine for the recipes the way pervy dudes used to read Playboy for the articles. I'm also a sucker for its wealth of sensible life and health advice. One thing that creeps me out a little, though, is their heavy use of stock photos of thin-armed waify types. I may need to write a letter.

Good Housekeeping, August 2010 issue. Perhaps I am in denial about my place in the grand scheme of demographics (not to mention my withering, aging state--when I realized the other day that I could now consider myself to be Thirtysomething, I had to lie down for awhile), but it creeps me out that Maggie Gyllenhaal is on the cover of a magazine that usually features people like Jon and Kate Plus Eight, and that other set of multiples that used to always be in the news till the Gosselins took over. What is happening to the women of my generation?? Is it really time for us to start worrying about BMI calculators and playing online Mah-Jongg? (no, really.)

Yoga Journal, September 2010 issue.
Not even Sarah McLachlan's presence on the front cover and the Lululemon ad on the back can diminish my abiding love for this publication. It includes recipes for eggplant caviar and rosemary olive oil cake, and a breakdown of poses to help make your Wheel practice stronger. Wheel is one pose that terrifies the hell out of me, so I guess I'll give 'er a go.

...I guess it's pretty self-righteous that I now love Yoga Journal the way I used to love InStyle (and smoking). I can own that though. I can also own my inability to listen to any song other than this one right now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Drunk and disorderly.

Last night I read most of Nice Recovery, by Susan Juby. Full disclosure: I am a total addiction/crisis memoir nut, no matter how true or how completely bullshit that memoir might be. I totally bought into the James Frey hype (partly because I loved watching Oprah scold him like a lying child on world television) and I read Mackenzie Phillips' unbelievably twisted memoir in one sitting. I love other people's messes; they make mine seem so much less consequential. So, you know, I went into Juby's memoir of alcoholism and sobriety pretty sure I was going to like it, especially because I absolutely and completely adore all of her previous novels.

I wasn't disappointed. Juby is fucking hilarious. She is ballsy and bitchy and nerdy all at once, and her descriptions of herself as a nervously wild teen girl trying to get in with the bad chicks at school hits so close to home it almost hurts. Example:

"I wasn't completely sure what would constitute a great thing. A lot of beer was a great thing and so was weed. The possibility of getting a boyfriend was perhaps the greatest thing of all. The minute I picked up my first drink I jettisoned childish dreams of becoming a doctor or an astronaut or even a Zamboni driver. Instead I aspired to be like some of the tough older girls I saw who dated men who drove trucks or to be like the lead character in Flashdance."

Leg-warmer purchases and blackout drinking binges soon follow. I especially loved when Juby recounted her move from Smithers, BC, to Toronto, where her drinkin' and druggin' spiral further out of control. She returns home for Christmas determined to show everyone what a sophisticated city lady she's become. You can guess how well that goes. From a scene at the local bar on New Year's:

"We were confronted by the girlfriend of one of the boys one of my friends was sleeping with. Names were called. Threats were uttered. As a fashion design student I felt it was my duty to intervene. ... Next thing I knew I was being carried, none too gently, off the sticky dance floor by a bouncer. He was not swayed by my beauty or the urbanity of my clothing. As I was being dragged past the stage, I saw the musicians glance at each other as they kept playing. Something told me they weren't thinking, "Wow, she must be from Toronto!" "

Rarely do addiction and hilarity go hand in hand, but here they absolutely do. Juby's final descriptions of her recovery from addiction strike the perfect balance between zen acknowledgement and endearing self-awareness, making this book not only entertaining but also pretty feel-good in a non-feel-goody way. I'm a fan. You should be too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Know what I'm sayyyiiiiiiin'?

Remember when Jonathan Torrens played a possibly gay guy on a fake reality show on Spike TV in the early part of this century? Wikipedia sure does. At the time I remember thinking, oh man, there goes another semi-talented Canadian selling his soul south of the border, and I pitied the dude. I know Jono's not exactly someone who inspires strong feelings in most people, but I have to admit, I've watched his career with interest for a long time.

It couldn't be helped--he hosted my favourite television show when I was a kid. Street Cents owned the airwaves around my house (and was also the first place I ever heard Thrush Hermit, who provided one of the early theme songs, and Len, who I still think were cool for a long time before Steal My Sunshine wormed its wormy way into our collective ears). A very dear friend and neighbour met him at Cows ice cream in Charlottetown in maybe 1993 and dear GOD was I ever jealous. (The same friend also met Mike Myers in an airport back when Wayne's World was the height of sophisticated comedy and got him to sign a get-well card for me, because I'd just been hit by a car. She is an excellent human being.) In the years that followed, Jonovision became an embarrassingly present show in my daily life, mostly because even as a smarmy teen I'd watch anything CBC cranked out--we start young in our house. Say what you will about this truly absurd teen talk show, but you can't deny that the famous Degrassi reunion episode didn't completely make your life.

After highschool I didn't think much about ol' Jono until he popped up again on the Trailer Park Boys and stole my heart all over again.

And then, of course, there was the Canadian pop culture orgasm that was his appearance on Degrassi TNG as Shane. I swear, watching that episode, you could hear the collective "WHAT? REALLY?" echoing out of a thousand student houses across the country.

This week, he's back in the host's seat at Q. And he's ruling it. His interview yesterday with Andy Kim, the Canadian songwriter behind Sugar Sugar, was fascinating. This morning he's talking about war photography and violence porn, and asking questions that elicit probing, intelligent answers. Dude's a good journalist, and I never really noticed it before. (Not to mention the fact that he interviewed my secret wife Ellen Page the other day and they discussed permaculture, among other things. Radio porn, friends. Radio porn.)

When I started writing this little non-sequitur I'd intended to frame it as a "wow, look how Jono has redeemed himself this week after years of dumbassery," as I thought about his career arc (and yes I realize how totally trivial it is to sit around thinking about Jonathan Torrens' career arc), I realized he's really done pretty well all the way along. Bit part on Joe Schmoe aside, Jono's the local kid made good. You have to respect that.

You also have to respect the fact that I am a lame Cancon fangirl. I know I do.

Now let's all relax and listen to Bubbles for awhile.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Does anyone want a bathtub mint julep?

I'm not sure why, but I've been on a bit of a Southern kick lately. Maybe it's the fact that I haven't watched Steel Magnolias in over a year and I am overdue for some classy, brassy, down home lady charm. Lucky for me, the great serendipitous gong show that is the public library saved the day once again, and I happened to spy You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start In The Morning by Celia Rivenbark sitting on the audiobook shelf. I knew absolutely nothing about the book or the author, though I had a vague recollection of reading a review somewhere. Given the stellar quality of the review journals I read these days (People magazine actually is my favourite source for book reviews, I'm not even kidding) it was probably in a back issue of Good Housekeeping. But I digress. I have a thing for semi-literary essayists, as well as daylight boozing, to say the least.

Anyway, I nearly ejected the first disk within the first sentence because Rivenbark (who reads the book herself, in all its breezy, drawling glory) sets the scene at an elementary school assembly she's attending. Oh lord, I thought, I do not need a lame mommy book right now (POOPY DIAPERS, AM I RIGHT??). Thank goodness I kept listening, because sweet merciful crap, Celia Rivenbark is a motherloving genius. A genius who boos the children at her daughter's school as they receive their perfect attendance awards, claiming their commitment to constant presence only spreads disease and discontent.

I'm only halfway through the book, and so far Rivenbark has made fun of Bible action figures, blamed her generation's inexplicable love of High School Musical on a childhood spent listening to Jethro Tull, gotten herself crowned queen of the local pecan festival and then shit-talked the teenage girls in her royal court, and won two flashlights at "the bingo" at her mother's seniors home. Best of all, she has also made references to both the Lawrence Welk Show (perhaps my deepest, darkest secret shame, though I am not afraid to admit that I saw the live show ten years ago, and it was EPIC.) and Zac Efron. Friends, I think I'm in love.

This is the perfect audiobook. Full-stop. And it's keeping me off the Steel Magnolias for a few more days, which is probably a blessing in disguise--it always sends me into an emotional tailspin and I end up in the fetal position humming Dolly Parton songs under my breath for a few days post-viewing. Celia Rivenbark, you have saved my life.

But that shouldn't stop us from listening to a little Dolly to finish off the week.

Goosebumps. Every time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fight the power. Fight the power.

If you haven't already heard about the dark cloud over Kingston this week, you can catch up here and here. That second link is particularly good. If you're too lazy to click, let me give you the capsule version: our country is being run by a complete nincompoop, and this week said nincompoop's truly reprehensible and totally out of touch government's plan to close the last of the prison farms came to a horrifying close when the last of the cattle at the Frontenac Institution were carted off.

I try not to use this blog as a forum for grandstanding about anything more serious than my undying and somewhat creepy love for Zac Efron, but this is an issue with which many of my friends in town have been involved, and it's one that hurts my heart. I'm not really one for strong arguments or lists of talking points, so I'll keep it brief, and say this: local sustainable agriculture is a project with which I thought it would be really hard for most people to have a problem. What's not to love about milk, vegetables, and meat grown in your own backyard? And what's not to respect about giving incarcerated individuals the opportunity to participate in something that helps the community, that gives them skills they can use on release, that encourages compassion and holistic thinking?

Don't even try to answer those questions, because I guarantee you, you can't.

And with that, here's an amazing recipe I made up this week using the dregs of my CSA share, because, as I said, local agriculture is killer.

Mother Of Invention antipasto-esque salad (serves 1)

2 beets
3 teeny tiny gorgeous eggplants
1 kohlrabi
1 white onion
3 or 4 pepperoncini peppers (aka the best hot peppers in the universe, found in the never-ending salad at East Side Marios! You know what I'm talkin' 'bout!)
a whole ton of fresh basil
2 tbsp or more of pesto

Chop the veggies the way you usually chop veggies for roasting. Coat in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast till soft and golden, usually 20 minutes on 375 or so. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile, chop up basil and hot peppers. Throw it all in a bowl, and toss with pesto. Eat while reading this letter from one of the prison farm protest arrestees, and think about how horrible this government is. Resolve to vote for anyone but the Conservatives next time.

...hey, remember when Flavor Flav had a political agenda, and not just a whole host of STDs?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A few reasons I might be an eighty year old lady.

1. I bought a muumuu a couple of weeks ago at Sears. Sears pajamas are an excellent and fashionable bargain.

1a. When the ladies around the library mention a sale at Sears, I listen with interest.

2. An elderly lady signing out books about the history of the Acadians in Canada complimented my (super comfortable and stylish) sandals, claiming they looked very "sensible." I was so flattered.

3. I am reading a LOT of Joanna Trollope, and would love to just stroll right into one of her domestic melodramas. There really is nothing like a British woman novelist, I tell you (see also: Fay Weldon, Barbara Pym, et al).

3a. After googling Barbara Pym, I am both stoked that she also went to St. Hilda's College (okay okay, it was the one at Oxford, whatever. Close enough, says I) and disappointed that the Barbara Pym Society has a Facebook page. I would rather believe that they communicate via tart, typewritten telegrams.

3ai. Nevertheless, I am now thinking of joining the Barbara Pym Society.

4. I find myself feeling a kinship with the people who take the time to write letters to the editors at People Magazine. Example:

Thank you for the interview with Rebecca Budig. I have admired her since her debut as Greenlee Smythe on All My Children in 1999. I met Ms. Budig recently at the Beverly Center shopping complex in Los Angeles, and she chatted and joked with me as if we had been friends for years. I wish this special lady much happiness!

from Magnolia Boddy, Los Angeles, Calif.

Indeed, Magnolia. Don't we ALL wish this special lady much happiness.

4a. If we're truth-telling here, I should probably admit that in 1994 I went to see Heather Tom, aka the original Victoria on the Young and the Restless, at the Eaton Centre in Hamilton. She entered the room via descending glass elevator, and it was awesome.

5. I am seriously offended by reinterpretations of classics from my childhood. Example: Ramona and Beezus on the silver screen. I don't care if it's great and critically acclaimed (which I bet it isn't. I'm not even checking, that's how mad I am)--it will be a cold day in hell before I will accept Ginnifer Goodwin as Aunt Bea.

5a. I think Beverly Cleary would be okay with this anger--she strikes me as a pretty scrappy old lady. JUST LIKE ME.

If you need me, I'll be planning my trip to the UK to go on the Barbara Pym Walking Tour.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

bad advice for good people.

Here's what I love about Daniel Handler: He sneaks up on you.

I've been reading You're a Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice. This is an excellent book for summer days when you are too hung over or otherwise affected to muddle through a novel, when all you really want is something hilarious to read out loud to your companion as you loll around on a beach towel and pour yourself in and out of the water. All your favourite funny folks are here: Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Rainn Wilson, Samantha Bee, Janeane Fucking Garofalo, AND MORE. And they each have a whole lot of awful advice to dole out to their unwitting audience. It's like reading Dear Abby if Abby had been drunk and cranky, which is pretty much my idea of journalistic heaven.

Anyway, Daniel Handler's section starts out sort of disappointingly. He spends most of the chapter giving snappy answers to stupid questions. Example:

Dear Daniel,
Now that we have a black president, is it okay to be racist again?
Terry R. Eureka, CA

Dear Terry,
Daniel Handler

It goes on like this for several pages. And yes, it's funny, but it's one trick pony-ish. And then. Just when you're starting to get a little annoyed, he just whips it out.

Dear Daniel,
How do you break up with your boyfriend in a way that tells him, "I don't want to sleep with you on a regular basis anymore, but please be available for late night booty calls if I run out of other options"?
Charlotte, NC

Dear Lily,
The story's so old you can't tell it anymore without everyone groaning, even your oldest friends with the last of their drinks shivering around the ice in their dirty glasses. The music playing is the same album everyone has. Those shoes, everybody has the same shoes on. It looked a little like rain so on person brought an umbrella, useless now in the starstruck clouded sky, forgotten on the way home, which is how the umbrella ended up in her place anyway. Everyone gets older on nights like this.

And still it's a fresh slap in the face of everything you had going, that precarious shelf in the shallow closet that will certainly, certainly fall someday. Photographs slipping into a crack to be found by the next tenant, that one squinter third from the left laughing at something your roommate said, the coaster from that place in the city you used to live in, gone now.

...Handler goes on for another page or so, and it's all so heartbreaking and evocative that you just want to crawl inside it and die a little. It's especially poignant because is it ever NOT what you expected in a book this funny and pointless. You'll be so overcome you might tumble right into the campfire, I'm warning you. A Betty Draper-esque fainting couch may be in order. I'm not sure if they make an outdoor fainting couch, but they ought to.