Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Iggy Was Poor So He Needed A Job (because even people with great hair need jobs!)

Everyone knows it's hard to land a job these days. But in the 1980's, it was easy.  In "Iggy Gorgess," Iggy walks into Caterpillar clothing store and interviews for manager, Rosalie:  "Have you ever worked retail before?"  she asks him.  "No,"  Iggy says. "That's alright.  Everyone has to start somewhere."  That's how it was back then during the decade Iggy lives in.  Even so, for those of us lucky enough to have a job in this decidedly non-80's economy, we, and Iggy, still have a huge hurdle to jump over every day:  Dealing with our co-workers.

We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our family.  So naturally, a hierarchy gets formed whether we like it or not.  Think about it:  your boss takes on the parent role; your closest co-worker friend takes on the sibling role; and everyone else takes on the cousin role.  Sometimes there are much older co-workers at our jobs, and they take on the grandparents role.  But just like a real family, you don't always get along.  Iggy is naturally antisocial, and he believes the worst part of having a job (other than it taking him away from his real passion, novel writing) is to have to deal with his co-workers.  First, he meets Janna, his spiky-blonde-haired supervisor, who he believes is lazy and shouldn't even be in that position.  Later, he meets Robbie and Marta. He likes them but feels they aren't as mature and worldly as he is (after all, he's lived on his own in Germany for two years).  He thinks his boss, Rosalie, is pretty, and he feels safe when he's around her (the parent role).

It's human nature to try and categorize the people we come in contact with in order to make sense of where we stand in the world.  Especially when it comes to co-workers who are essentially strangers yet you're thrown together and forced to interact with each other eight hours a day, seven days a week.  Iggy immediately analyzes his co-workers and makes judgments of them in order to understand how he measures up in a social situation he's never comfortable in:

Marta chatted with the two teenage boys who were looking at the rock pins.  Iggy watched her.  He thought she was too outgoing.  Too happy and so young.  Janna disappeared into the office.  Iggy was confused about her.  In some ways, she seemed friendly, but in other ways, she was cold.  He wasn’t sure what to make of her.  Rosalie was the nicest, he liked her.  She was warm, he felt protected around her.  But she was the owner and probably didn’t leave the back office very often.  He wouldn’t see much of her. It was too bad though.  She was the only one he felt comfortable around. 

But by far, the worst co-worker he has to deal with is Craig.  He's a tall, blonde-haired giant who Iggy meets on his second day of work.  He comes off as a bully, and he used to date Janna who still fawns over him, which makes dealing with the two of them double trouble for Iggy.  Here's another excerpt where Craig is leering at Iggy who tries not to notice:

“Did anyone tell him the 70’s are over?” the blonde giant said loudly.  “Sid Vicious is dead.”
“Craig!” Janna said, laughing.

Iggy didn’t look up. He just steadily counted his nickels.  He didn’t even lose count.  But he’d heard what the idiot said, and he knew it was directed towards him.  But what did he mean – Sid Vicious is dead?”  He thought about it for a second. Oh yeah, the hair.  Iggy jotted down the total of nickels onto his paper.
There is nothing Iggy would like more than to be able to quit his job. But he doesn't want to end up like the homeless men he's befriended who he often chats with in Washington Square Park, so he sticks it out. He's just like the rest of us who have no choice but to try and get along with people who we normally wouldn't socialize with outside of the workplace. There are countless books on the market on how to deal with difficult co-workers.  There have been times I've wanted to invest in one of these myself, but I've found that the easiest way to deal with difficult co-workers is to always be one step ahead. Know your co-worker's weakness (in Iggy's case, it's Craig's lack of intelligence) and use your sense of humor (even if only to amuse yourself) whenever possible:

“You live alone?” Craig asked Iggy.
“Yeah.”  Iggy came back behind the counter and picked up the price gun.
“I live with my buddies.  I would get so bored if I had to live alone.”
“I’d get bored too,” Iggy said.
“But you do live alone,” Craig said, looking confused.
Iggy peeled off a price sticker that got stuck inside the gun.  “I mean, if I were you and I had to live with myself, I’d be – bored.”
Craig thought for a moment.  “Is that some kind of crack or something?” he asked Iggy angrily.
Iggy stared down at the clothes on the counter and smiled closed-mouthed.  “Can’t you take a joke?” he asked.
Craig relaxed.  “Oh, yeah, yeah, of course." 

"Iggy Gorgess" novel will be released in Winter 2014.  Cover illustration by Dan Schurtman

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Iggy" Novel Coming This Winter!

Iggy was bored so he moved to New York.  Before there was Felicity -- the lead character of my "Bliss, Bliss, Bliss" novel -- there was Iggy.  In fact, if there hadn't been an Iggy, there would have never been a Felicity.

When my best childhood friend, Ania, and I were teenagers, we loved taking the subway on Saturday afternoons to Greenwich Village in Manhattan. We saw people with dyed black or blue hair, mohawks, and black leather clothes with silver studs and safety pins on them when we went to the Village.  We shopped at the stores "Flip" and "Butterfly," which sold black leggings and punk clothing.  Butterfly also had jewelry and postcards.  It was a Bauhaus postcard that gave me the idea for Iggy's look.  That dyed black, punk hairstyle spiked up high, and black eyeliner always stayed in my mind.  That was a real punk.

Years later, while living in Canada, I enrolled in a Women's Writer's Workshop at the local college and wrote several short stories with female lead characters, but I never liked them.  They didn't speak for me, and I couldn't find a female voice I could relate to.  One night, while flipping the TV channels, I stumbled upon a 1970's movie starring Jon Voight called "The Odessa File."  Something about the mood of the scene captivated me.  It is about an American man living in Germany with his German go-go dancer girlfriend.  He spends many hours one evening reading a manuscript when his girlfriend suddenly enters the living room and says she's trying to get a taxi for work.  He says, "Don't I always take you?"  They both seem aloof and moody, and the scene just drew me in.  Suddenly, Iggy was born.

I immediately wrote a short story called "Iggy's Dailies."  It was about a moody male character who I put into a scene similar to that evening in Germany in "The Odessa File" movie, but I made him live in Greenwich Village, NYC. I remembered that Bauhaus postcard I'd seen in the punk shop those years ago. I made him look like that.  There was still the problem of what to name him.  I had such a hard time coming up with one, so I told myself that I was just going to look down at the magazines on my coffee table, and I'd choose the first name I looked at.  The first thing my eyes caught focus of was a tiny picture of Iggy Pop.  Iggy.  I couldn't come up with any other names, so I decided to just call him Iggy.

I brought "Iggy's Dailies" into my Women's Writer's Workshop.  They didn't like the title and told me it was not a "slice of life" story, as I'd called it. At the time, I took their word for it, but looking back, I think Iggy is a slice of life story.  It is a sample of Iggy's life.  It's him hanging around in his living room, reading his manuscript.  It's Iggy. Simply Iggy.  It's a depiction of Iggy's everyday reality.  The only difference between my novel and a typical "slice of life" story is that I developed Iggy's character.  He's not just a bit part in a story that's front and center. 

I took Iggy with me to my Novel Writing course and began writing Iggy in chapter form. Next semester, I took a Screenwriting class and adapted the first 10 pages of my Iggy novel-in-progress as a screenplay.  Our final assignment was to choose a few people from our class to act out the dialog in the screenplay.  I chose someone named Joel to play Iggy. He was an actual actor who I'd seen in a Canadian beer commercial where he said "Hi, I'm Joel, and this is my beer commercial."  He played Iggy and told me afterward that he really enjoyed it.  I got encouraged.

When I moved back to New York City, I submitted a few chapters to "Antimatters Magazine," a magazine that published articles about the musicians who performed at a very popular East Village Antifolk Music Club called "Sidewalk CafĂ©."  Iggy seemed to be a good fit for the magazine because he lived in Greenwich Village, and he had a musician's look and hairstyle. "Antimatters" published excerpts of Iggy in four of their issues. 

Now, I'm preparing to publish Iggy in complete form as an E-Book and limited paperback.  I will be pinning to his "My E-Book Iggy Gorgess" Board on Pinterest, tweeting about him and running contests on my Facebook Author Page, and I've got a first line for his introduction into the social media world too:  Iggy wanted to meet you all, so he decided to join Facebook.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Wish I Were A Weeki Wachee Mermaid

Weeki Watchee, Florida is "The Only City of Live Mermaids."  When I was little, my parents took me there to the underwater theater to see the live mermaid show.  I watched the mermaids in awe as they stayed underwater, breathing through hoses while they swam and acted out an action story.  Outside the theater, there was a machine to put coins into to create your own mermaid figurine.  When it popped out, it felt like wax.  Mine was a blue mermaid riding on a seahorse.  I kept it all the way into adulthood, but one day, I threw it away along with my dreams of becoming a mermaid myself.

My fascination with mermaids began even before my Weeki Wachee visit when I came across a record in my parents' collection called "The Lonely Mermaid."  It had a light blue and white label, and when I played it on my portable orange record player that had a white cover that closed and a handle for carrying, it sounded so sad.  I pictured one mermaid sitting on a huge rock in the middle of the ocean as she listened to that sad song.

A few summers later, we got a 4-foot, round swimming pool installed in our backyard.  I remember sitting with my dad in our screen porch, both of us fascinated while we watched the men dig and dig to put up our Esther Williams swimming pool.  I learned to swim in that pool and discovered I enjoyed being under the water even more than above.  I often pretended I was a mermaid in captivity, living in my own 4-foot deep, contained water tank.  But I spent too much time underwater, and one of my ears began to hurt.  The doctor said I had "Swimmer's Ear," and I needed to take drops and wear earplugs from that point on.  Turns out I wasn't really an actual mermaid.

But to keep my dream alive, I began collecting mermaids. When I went away to college, I brought my few mermaid dolls and two really cool ceramic mermaids along with me.  But on one of my return visits, I discovered that my best friend, Ania, had started her own mermaid collection, and hers was way better than mine!  Her new friends were world travelers, and they always remembered to pick up some rare, handcrafted piece for her that they had bought from some place exotic.  Soon after, I abandoned my own collection because my Disney Ariels just couldn't compete with Ania's new beauties!

So, I couldn't become a mermaid, and I couldn't surround myself with mermaids, but I still had the ocean.  The ocean brings me home.  When I stand at the edge of the ocean and breathe in the salty air, I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be.  When I swim in the ocean, I like to float on top of the water.  My favorite time to float is right after a big wave comes to shore and it's followed by a small, yet wide wave that is calm.  When I jump with it, it pushes me up gently, and I'm floating and soaring.  These days, I'm content with the jump, although I used to swim a lot more.  Instead of staying put when that big wave came, and waiting for the smaller one, I used to turn around and swim back to shore along with the big wave.  Sometimes, the wave was so huge, it whipped me roughly back to shore, knocking me down, in a rocky landing. During those times, I wished I were a real mermaid because as a mermaid, I'd have no problem staying afloat with my fishtail! 

Even though I can never be a mermaid, it doesn't mean that mermaids don't exist.  After all, the oceans' depths have not been completely explored by humans, so I'll never know for sure if there really IS a lonely mermaid sitting on a huge rock in a hidden section of the ocean somewhere, just like the one I pictured in that sad song.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Breathtakingly Beautiful "Mad Men"


"And then I realized, I don't know anything about you."  These are Sally Draper's words to her father, Don, during an "edge of your seat" episode of this season's "Mad Men," its sixth.  I enjoyed every minute of Season 6 which led up to a breathtaking finale which saw Don's life unraveling into misery until the finale's very last seconds. I'm already longing for "Mad Men" which used to air every Sunday night, but maybe blogging about its finale will help me miss it less tonight.

"Mad Men's" writer and creator, Matthew Weiner, kept the manuscripts for Seasons 1 and 2 in his briefcase for ten years before he sold the show to AMC. It's obvious that he spends a lot of time thinking about his characters because each season plays out like a mini novel with plot twists and foreshadowing elements planted so purposefully, I enjoy them even more during second viewings when I already know how things turn out but can appreciate the genius of what he'd been doing to lead up to all those "a-ha!" moments.

"Mad Men" takes place in the 1960's, and Weiner takes great care to make sure everything in each show is authentic to the sixties, even down to the train route Don takes.  "Mad Men" IS Don Draper, an advertising executive on Madison Avenue who grew up poor but stole a dead soldier's identity and privileged background.  Even Don's wife, Betty, doesn't know this fact or anything about his past until Season 3 which prompts her to divorce him.  Their children, Sally, Bobby and Gene still don't know, and a major storyline of Season 6 involves Sally's frustration at knowing so little about her dad.

Sally's quote at the beginning of this post was uttered after she spends the night talking to an intruder who breaks into Don's and his new young wife Megan's apartment while Don is high at the office on a speed trip injection that all the ad execs received from a "Dr. Feelgood" who told them it was vitamins and would help them work faster on their new Chevy account.  Megan is out late schmoozing with theater people in hopes of landing a play even though she's already a soap opera star.  So Sally is alone with her younger brothers, startled out of her sleep by an older African-American woman who claims to be her "Grandma Ida."  She tells Sally that she raised her handsome daddy.  Since Sally doesn't know anything about her dad, she believes that Grandma Ida really was invited to the Draper residence in the middle of the night and doesn't think it strange that Grandma is wrestling with their TV while commenting that it's screwed in "good!" Finally, Sally comes to her senses and sneaks in a call to the police, but Grandma Ida catches her and suddenly isn't so "grandmotherly."  She holds Sally hostage, and when Don arrives home, he finds the police in his apartment and Sally feeling guilty.  The next day, Sally tells Don that she was stupid to believe Grandma Ida's story, but Don assures her, "I left the door open.  It was my fault." 

All of Season 6 is essentially about Don "leaving the door open," and about doorways in general.  In past seasons, Don's door is always shut as he carefully protects his successful adman persona, while inside feeling like the poor, neglected farm boy he truly is.  But this season, Don's door to his past opens up to us through flashbacks of a teen aged Don living in a whorehouse.  He spies on the prostitutes through the doorways which sheds some light on why he is now a chronic cheater who has trouble trusting women and sustaining mature and healthy relationships with them. 

By the start of Season 6, Don is pulling away from Megan and is having an on-again/off-again affair with Sylvia who is the wife of his downstairs neighbor and friend, Dr. Rosen.  During one of its "off" periods, Don wants Sylvia back so he begins leaving his back door open so he can sneak downstairs and spy on her through her front door (again, the door symbolism) without Megan or Dr. Rosen finding out.  His leaving his back door open is what allows Grandma Ida to get in that night poor Sally was held hostage.  But Sally becomes even more damaged after Don wins Sylvia back, and Sally catches them in the act through an open door in the Rosen's apartment.  Don is devastated, and he fears Sally will tell Megan.  When he sees Sally later on back at the apartment, she won't talk to him, so he speaks to her through what, but of course, the bedroom door:  "I know you think you saw something," he tells her, but "I was comforting Mrs. Rosen."  I know she's a teenager, but if Sally believes THAT, Don has got a bridge to sell her.

Which brings me back to the Season 6 finale.  Don is on a downward spiral.  He's drinking constantly and clashing with his co-workers, and seemingly tired of living up to the image that everyone has of him yet was built on a lie.  It's two days before Thanksgiving, and Don is getting drunk in a bar when a preacher tries to talk about God to him. Don punches him out, and the next thing we see is a flashback of a preacher being thrown out of the whorehouse where teen aged Don lives.  Don follows the preacher out down his front steps and watches the preacher gather himself together.  The preacher tells him:  "The only unpardonable sin is to believe that God cannot forgive you."

Next, we flash back to Don the man who is spending the night in the "drunk tank" for punching out the preacher in the bar. This night changes Don, maybe.  The next morning, he resolves to change and make a fresh start. He goes to work without having a drink and prepares to pitch the agency's campaign to the Hershey's Chocolate Bar people.  He tells them that when he was a boy, his dad would take him to the drug store and tell him he could pick whatever he wanted.  He says that he always chose the Hershey's bar because "the wrapper looked like what was inside."  Of course, the story he is telling the Hershey's people is completely untrue.  Don's dad was an angry, poor farmer who never bought him a chocolate bar.  We also know that Don is the opposite of a Hershey's bar because his "wrapper" isn't anything at all what he is like on the inside.  Don's hand begins shaking because he is going through alcohol withdrawal, but suddenly, we know he is going through more than that. He is having a complete breakdown in the middle of an important sales pitch.  "I grew up in a whorehouse in Pennsylvania," he begins.  This is a HUGE moment in "Mad Men" history.  Don's fellow partners don't know that Don didn't grow up with the same privileged backgrounds that they did.  After Don's admission, "Mad Men" can never be the same.  He continues to tell his TRUE Hershey's bar story by saying that the only time he ate Hershey's bars was alone in a room at the whorehouse when one of the prostitutes would buy him one after seeing him go through a john's pockets.  This is the true story, and the next morning, on Thanksgiving, his partners inform him he will be taking a mandatory leave of absence, effective immediately. 

But in the final minutes of the finale, Don doesn't seem to care.  He picks up his children, Sally, Bobby and Gene, and takes them for a car ride during which his son Bobby exclaims, "This is a BAD neighborhood."  We don't know where Don is taking them, until the camera pans out, and we see that same white whorehouse we've been seeing all season long in the flashbacks featuring the teen aged Don.  It is worn out and broken down now, but it is positively the same house.  He tells his kids, "This is where I grew up."  Finally, we know that Don is going to begin opening up to his kids and telling them the truth about his childhood.  It may be a small first step, but through all the turmoil of Season 6, we feel like we've gone full circle with Don.  We can finally begin forgiving Don for the things he's done because we realize he is willing to change. Just like the preacher said:  "The only unpardonable sin is to believe that God cannot forgive you."  Beautiful, breathtaking, "Mad Men."


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Cicadas Are Coming!! But Why Am I Happy About This?

The cicadas are coming back to New York City after 17 years, and most of the people talking about it are completely freaked out! We're going to see them here on Staten Island more than on the other 4 boroughs, and word is that the streets will be covered with them, and that at night, they will sing so loudly outside, it will sound like a thousand lawn mowers.  People are really agonizing over their arrival, asking: Will they jump on us as we walk down the street? Will they follow us into our houses in swarms? Normally, I'd be in on the anxiety.  I know what it's like to anticipate things and worry about them needlessly.  A few years ago, I worried every time a piano gig was coming up.  Had I practiced enough? Would I remember how to play the music once I got up there onstage?  Or worse still, I'd flood my mind with questions like: How is it that the mind can even remember how to play the music? What sends the signals from my brain to my fingers? And will my brain send the signals fast enough?  That is definitely overthinking it, but worry has always been my middle name.  But these ugly, red-eyed swarms of bugs? I don't feel any trepidation about the reappearance of them at all.

One of my favorite summers was when I was 10 years old and the cicadas crawled their way into my hometown neighborhood.  Although they never did come into our house, I did see them everywhere outside.  By the end of the summer, they were still strewn dead all over the street. They really were everywhere.  Every morning, my dad and I would watch TV in the living room, he on the couch and I in my favorite chair, and we could hear them very loudly from outside.  I don't know if they lived in our Sycamore tree right outside our second floor window or just outside in the bushes and grass, but we could hear their unusual buzzing, even over the volume of our TV. We heard their singing the entire morning. I remember drinking my glass of Strawberry PDQ Milk while we'd watch game shows. Then, after morning TV with my dad, I'd go outside and play with all my neighborhood friends.  There was my best friend, Ania, who lived on the corner, and all the boys who lived on her street.  We'd play Kick the Can or swim in each other's pools. There were other summers like that but only a handful.  So when I think of that year the cicadas came out, I associate them with one of those precious and few summers.  Same thing goes with spending time with my father.  He died when I was 15, so the summer when I was 10 was a precious and extraordinary summer too. 

Overall, I don't like bugs, except for illustrated versions of them made to look cute with big eyes and long eyelashes. When I was a teenager, I liked this song called "Hey There Little Insect" which was poppy and catchy.  I found out it was by a not very popular but very original singer named Jonathan Richman.  The song got me to reading about the symbolism of bugs. I read that if you like bugs, you have a negative ego, and if you dream of bugs, it means you are worried or annoyed about something or that there is a part of yourself or a situation in your life that you don't want to face, some kind of truth.  Having a negative ego will consume you with worry and anxiety. If I liked all bugs, maybe I'd be onto something.

But logically, cicadas are really nothing to worry about because they don't actually bother you.  They don't sting or bite or come into the house so there really is no need for anxiety, they are just something to look at.  That's another reason why I prefer to have a positive ego when it comes to  cicadas.  Besides, I have other things to worry about -- like a mosquito giving me West Nile Virus, or getting a dangerous allergic reaction to a bee sting, or termites eating my house, just to name a few.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Which Is Really Longer -- A Day Or Twenty Years?

Sometimes a day feels like forever. I've always liked movies that take place in one day. Like Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing." So many things happened in that one steaming hot day -- the pizza shop got trashed, then set on fire, a young boy got saved from almost being run over by a car, a young man got murdered, and that's just to name a few. Most days are not quite that eventful.  Most days are ordinary, and they seem to fly by. 

When I was a child, "twenty years ago" seemed like an entire lifetime.  I guess it still seems like a long time, but not nearly as long as it used to.  For instance, my mom and I were shopping at the mall yesterday, and I pointed out to her which stores were new and which stores were around when I was a kid.  There are about two stores still in existence in our mall that were also there when I was a kid.  All the others are new, but by "new," I don't mean the ones that had just opened two months ago, or even two years ago.  When I say "new," I mean that they've been open for about the last twenty years!
Time jumps around so much in our memories, some things we strain to remember, yet other things seem like they just happened yesterday. For some reason, when we think about the future, it seems like certain days will take forever to get to.  My daughter was crying over Spring Break because she'd had so much fun with my younger niece, and she didn't want her to go back home which is miles and miles away from us.  It prompted a memory in my older niece who is now a teenager. She asked, "Remember that time when I cried so hard when I had to go home after a visit?  I clung to you and wouldn't let go, and my dad had to pry me off of you?"  I do remember that time very clearly. I had no idea that she remembered it though.  She did cry, and it made me cry, because I knew it would be at least a year until we saw each other again.  I had to ask my brother for help because if she clung to me any longer, I'd have burst out in tears, and I didn't want to make my niece any more upset because she had only been about four years old.  My niece continued, "That was probably the last time I really cried."  Unlike me.  I cry or at least get teary-eyed just about every day.  I'm not sure whether it's due to being overly sensitive or just sleep-deprived.  I told my niece, "I know she's upset because they won't see each other for a while, but maybe someday, they'll both live near each other.  If they both wind up going to college on either the East Coast or the West Coast, they can even be roommates together!"  The thought warmed me.  "Well," my niece said. "That's a LONG time from now."  I thought for a moment.  "It's only about eleven years from now."  It seems like a long time, but eleven years can go by pretty fast. "I still remember very clearly the day I first saw you when you were one week old," I told her.  "That was even longer than eleven years ago.  Your dad brought you out and you had really long legs." 
Time jumps seem smaller as you get older.  Sunday night, "Mad Men" began its new season.  That show always has time jumps.  Sometimes it is a year and a half, other times only seven months.  I hear that next season will be their last. I think they should end the series with a huge time jump, like into present day.  I would love to see what happened to all those characters.  Why not be clever and move them into present time, something we can relate to?  If they do a time jump like that, it will be a more than forty-year time jump.  But if they don't do a time jump that long, and they just end the series in the sixties, I'll always wonder what happened to those characters and how they turned out.  If they do a time jump at all, it will probably be just a year again.  Or maybe it will be twenty years, smack into the decadence of the 80's.  Twenty years is really not that long of a time.  But then again, at other times, a day can seem like forever.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"We Saw Your Boobs" (Was Seth MacFarlane's Oscar Song Sexist?)

Last week's Oscars were hosted by "Family Guy" creator, Seth MacFarlane.  I enjoy "Family Guy," and when Seth MacFarlane was featured on an overhead screen singing his controversial song, "We Saw Your Boobs," I thought it was funny. In the song, he rattled off names of actresses and the films they appeared topless in.  He mentioned Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball," Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler," and Nicole Kidman in "Eyes Wide Shut."

Some of the reviewers claimed that MacFarlane's song was sexist and that he made other sexist remarks during the broadcast.  I can't judge the rest of the show because at 9:00 p.m., I switched to HBO to watch "Girls." Speaking of which, Lena Dunham, the creator/writer/director/lead actress/brilliant person of "Girls" spoke out against MacFarlane's song, saying it didn't help to further the cause of feminism, but then, of course, shortly afterward, she dropped out of the conversation by saying: "Now I've said something murky about women's lib, and will return to eating edamame/thinking about moving to Austin like I always do!" One of the complaints I heard was that many of the movies he mentioned contained rape scenes, however, I've seen all the movies I've named above and those nude scenes were definitely not rape scenes.

These actresses and many current big-name actresses chose to go topless in order to further their movie careers.   Did they expect nobody to ever mention it again once they'd reached their goals? Why? Sarah Jessica Parker refuses to do nudity, but other actresses either feel they have to or realize they'll reach their goals faster if they just do it early on in their careers. Still, other actresses, like Ashley Judd, have claimed they enjoy doing nude scenes. Regardless of whether or not an actress does a nude scene and regardless of the reasons she does them, these actresses are adults, and I refuse to believe that women are children who need protection from their own decisions and that they must be treated with kid gloves just in case we "mention" the fact that they once performed nude scenes onscreen.

At one point during the song, MacFarlane referred to Charlize Theron in "Monster." After he said her name, the camera panned over to note her reaction, and she looked visibly upset. But when the clip was finished, MacFarlane performed a different number, and Theron suddenly appeared onstage dancing to it. Obviously, her stunned reaction was staged, and she was as much in on the joke as he was. Why, then, were women's groups and other actresses who weren't even mentioned in the song speaking out against it, saying that MacFarlane was sexist by performing such a number?

I believe it is because we still live in a "man's" world where it is OK for women to behave in an indecent or slutty manner as long as it is considered an indiscretion, a past mistake, and that now they are sorry.  We can't accept the fact that sometimes women behave opportunistically, that they mean to do the things they do, they'd do them again, and they are not sorry. Apparently, many people believe that if a woman once took off her top during an early film of hers, but now she is famous and doesn't choose to do nude scenes anymore, Seth MacFarlane is not supposed to draw our attention to these movies anymore.  They are now big stars, and he is wrong to bring it out into the open.  MacFarlane did not lie, he didn't reveal things that he found out in a sneaky manner, he didn't commit any crimes, and he didn't even commit slander.  These movies are forever available for rent. You can Google them, and they are included in these actresses' bios.  All he did was sing a song about them.

I think that if reviewers or the general public have a problem with MacFarlane's "Boobs" song, they should ask themselves exactly why it is the song bothers them,  and once they figure out the reason, they should just go back to eating Edamame and maybe considering a move to Austin.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Dream Of Brooklyn

Last Sunday's episode of HBO "Girls" had everyone confused.  It was a dreamlike episode, unfolding surreally.  We saw Hannah as we never had before.  She wasn't eating Cool Whip out of the container in her small Brooklyn apartment, complaining about her horrible love life.  Instead, she spent two days with a handsome doctor, barbecuing steaks on the patio of his brownstone and taking a sauna in his giant bathroom.  The episode was like a fantasy of what Hannah's life could be in the future if she stopped struggling and earning $40 a day at "Grumpy's Cafe" and instead lived the lavish lifestyle of a doctor's wife in an expensive Brooklyn brownstone.  Hannah was awake, but she was dreaming.

Not too long ago, I had an actual nighttime dream about Brooklyn.  I dreamed that it was an early Saturday morning, and I called up my best childhood friend, Ania, and told her that there was nothing I wanted more in this world than to go to her condo in Brooklyn really early in the morning and hang out together.  The desire in the dream was so strong.

From the time I was 8 until 18, Ania and I were inseparable.  We spent almost every single day together.  She lived on the corner across from my street, so I would call her up and we'd meet outside and hang out all day.  She was always just a phone call away.

The next day after the dream, I e-mailed Ania and asked, "Can we set a date to get together? Like at your house?"  She wrote back, pleased.  "You want to come to Brooklyn? I'd love that."  So we set a date for breakfast.

On the scheduled Saturday morning, my family set out for Brooklyn to have breakfast with Ania's family.  Her husband cooked eggs with salsa and Mexican cheese.  Ania made vodka breakfast cocktails.  My daughter and her son took turns riding his scooter back and forth on the hardwood floors while the rest of us sat on stools and talked all morning.

Last spring, Ania said that she'd often come home from work to find the HBO "Girls" film crew sitting on the front steps of her condo.  They were filming the second season in her neighborhood right in front of her house.  And now Hannah and I were both fantasizing about alternate lives.  Hannah imagined what it would be like to have the material things and lifestyle the doctor had. I fantasized about what it would be like if I could revisit my childhood -- the constant daily steadiness with Ania, playing Connect Four on her front steps at 9:00 in the morning when no one else in our neighborhood was outdoors yet.  This is the fantasy of my alternate life.

But Hannah doesn't really want to go into the future and be settled yet. She'd lose her edge, her writer's restlessness and her need to, in her words, "Feel it all."  I don't really want to go back to my childhood, all that uncertainty and second-guessing.  I finally feel secure with a fierce sense of responsibility.  But sometimes, it's nice to dream with the background setting of a really nice condo or brownstone in Brooklyn.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why I'm Old School

Recently, I had a flashback.  It happened while teaching my daughter to play backgammon.  As I explained the mechanics of the game, I suddenly flashed back to my nine-year-old self learning to play with my best friend, Ania, whose dad taught us after giving her a set for her seventh birthday.  She had been so disappointed to find a little brown suitcase after the wrapping paper came off, but we learned the game, and we were forever hooked.  Ania's aunt and uncle had a blue leather backgammon set with blue swirl and white chips. As soon as I saw it, I told Ania that when I grew up, I was going to get one just like it.

We played constantly, and didn't even play competitively.  Half the time, we never knocked each other's chips off the board, even when they were left single and vulnerable.  It was so relaxing to just move the pieces, hear and feel the sound of the dice rolling in the cup, and just talk about other things while our hands focused on moving our chips, closer and closer to home. 

I prefer old school games to computer ones or X-Box.  At Chuck E. Cheese's, I go straight to the skeeball and would have no trouble staying there the entire time.  The constant movement of my right arm tossing the ball, getting better and better with each throw, having to get the gentle tug of my arm just right to get the ball into those little circles at the top.  Maybe they are 1,000 points, but I don't even know because I don't play to get tickets, I like to stand there and think of other things while my arm tosses the ball as second nature. 

This love of the tangible is similar to people saying they love the feel of a book and smell of its pages rather than using the Kindle.  Or those who have said the sound of the grooves of a vinyl album and its wear and tear transports them back to the first time they heard the songs. But more than the tangible, for me it's that zoned-out relaxed feeling that I love when I play backgammon.  I can't imagine getting  that feeling while staring at bright lights on a laptop version of the game.  Being zoned out, then having my laptop freeze or crash, forcing me back into reality.  That can't happen while I'm playing the board game.

Backgammon is zen to me, which is defined as "absorption or a meditative state."  While playing backgammon, you're cleaning out your mind because you are focusing on moving the pieces on the board, your thoughts have emptied.  You have redirected your focus.

After I taught my daughter backgammon, we immediately turned on my laptop.  We didn't do it to play a virtual board game or for social networking or FarmVille.  We did it so we could do a Google search in hopes of finding a blue leather, blue and white swirl chip backgammon set.