Category Archives: entertainment

The 90s Nostalgia Writer Position at Bustle Mag

 

Hey Mariah! Go back like babies and pacifiers.

There’s a part-time position open in the Lifestyle vertical at Bustle. One of the questions on the application is “Give us sample pitches” that pertain to this vertical. I thought it would be fun to share my possible articles for Bustle.

Headline: How Mariah Carey saved 90s music.
Vision of Love was released in 1990 and since then, the ubiquitous diva has proved she’s not going away. Like her or not, she outlasted the one-hit wonders and released the greatest holiday album of all time. And you know you’ve tried to hit those high notes.

Headline: The Teacher Took It: An Index of Confiscated Artifacts from the 90s Classroom
Don’t get caught adjusting your snap bracelet over and over. Don’t get caught feeding your Tamagotchi. And definitely don’t get caught passing a note.

Headline: The Best Literature of the 90s (No, this list doesn’t include Oh, the Places You’ll Go)
You think you know 90s literature because you read Harry Potter when it first came out? You don’t. Expand your mind and have snobby books to namedrop in conversations with these titles: The Things They Carried, Infinite Jest, Underworld, and The Love of a Good Woman.

Headline: My Pager: An Essay about Life before the Tyranny of Smart Phones

(I forgot to write the first few lines for this one. I blame my kids. Insert anxious emoji here.)

Headline: Sh*t We Were Scared of in the 90s (and the sh*t we should’ve been concerned about):
Y2K? Clinton’s taxes causing a massive market crash and recession? No.
Climate Change? Apparently scientists in the 90s didn’t think it was an issue.

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Dare Me by Megan Abbott (or Cheerleaders are scary)

SPOILERS ABOUND

(I wrote this for people who read Abbott’s book already.)

If you weren’t already frightened by the competitive cheerleaders you see on ESPN2, you certainly will be after reading Megan Abbott’s novel Dare Me. The book, which follows second-in-command Addy Hanlon as she is torn between Top Girl Beth and Coach Colette French, is a vivid depiction of the incestuous, competitive sub-culture. The cheerleaders are  powerful, self-serving individuals but also a force to be reckoned with when they act as one body. Abbott constantly builds the image of one connected body/spirit as she describes the girls doing stunts. And this almost-mutant-like physical connection carries over to their loyalty to each other in the most scandalous of circumstances. They are indeed the scariest version of Voltron ever to grace the pages of a paperback.

Let’s talk about the plot. Nothing new here. It’s actually bland and predictable. Really. Try to imagine yourself pitching this read to a friend. It’s Mean Girls, Heathers, Babysitters’ Club on steriods. Maybe not the last one. The point is that Abbott uses a very “used” plot structure and makes it new, unpredictable, and at times, horrifying. Abbott’s writing chops are impressive to say the least. Dare Me, similar to Gone Girl, features tight, controlled prose. Like the textual version of a Hitchcock film. You discover ONLY what the writer wants you to know, what the filmmaker wants you to see. Any brilliant deductions you make are NOT due to your brilliance but due to the curating of the story.

Sorry. I think you’re smart.

No, really. I do.

So let’s talk about how the predictable plot is rendered unpredictable by the author. In my opinion, Abbott achieves the suspense in two ways. First, the creation of narrator/protagonist Addy Hanlon. Addy is unsure of herself in the beginning and looking for an alpha-female to follow / model herself after. Because Addy trusts Coach, her processing of the Sarge’s murder is unreliable and adds to the reader’s suspense. What’s most impressive about Addy is that she finds her own power in the latter half of the novel. The last chapter left me with a sense of discord–almost as creepy as the end of Gone Girl.

Second, Abbott’s depiction of the world of a competitive cheerleading team is amazing.  Just as interesting as the question “Who killed the Sarge?” is the inner-workings of the team and the hierarchy, and fight for dominance between Beth and Coach. And if I may flex my English-major-muscle, the team culture is further reinforced by the presence of Sarge and his boys.

Questions for you…

1. Do you think Dare Me should be a movie? (I think that Gone Girl would be awesome as a movie but Dare Me will be seriously diminished as a story in cinematic form.)

2. Who’s your “Top Girl”: Beth, Addy, or Coach? (As I mentioned above, I liked Addy the best.)

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Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL…Reese Witherspoon as AMY?

A NOTE ABOUT MY REVIEW: So my review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl will be split into two parts: one that everyone can read (no spoilers) and one that only people who finished the book can read. Actually, everyone *can* read both parts. It’s a free country after all. You can read whatever you want. But if you plan on reading Gone Girl, I don’t recommend reading the second part of this post. The book is a thriller–much depends on the your discovering details as it moves along.

REVIEW FOR EVERYONE: Let me say first–this novel belongs on the NYT Bestseller list. The list is currently populated by books that pale in comparision (*cough* Fifty Shades) in terms of pyschological insight, engaging story and characters, and sharp wit. This book made me smarter. Seriously, I learned new words and lots of other useful shit. (If C.K. reads this post and then reads Gone Girl, he will definitely want to know what “useful shit” I learned.)

A few good points

  • Strong narrative voice: I should say “voices.” There are two narrators: Nick and Amy (in the form of diary entries). Both are intriguing, realistic, and reveal deafening psychological problems. I don’t like either of them and yet I’m completely obsessed with both.
  • The twist: I’m not going to say what it is, of course. But I will say that I didn’t see it coming AT ALL. With thrillers (either in film or books), your brain can’t help but try to figure things out before the author/director gets you there. It’s part of the amusement, I think. You want to have the “gotcha” feeling before the protagonist gets puts all the clues together.
  • The pacing: This is the most perfectly paced book I’ve read in a long time. Nothing is superfluous. Everything is meaningful. Flynn’s writing is tight–either providing details for the kidnapping/murder or the illuminating some deep recess of the character’s mind (and in the process defining his/her moral code).

One disappointment: I didn’t feel satisfied at the end. More on that below in the second part of the review.

James Marsden should play Nick Dunne.

SPOILERS ABOUND! SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK!

REVIEW FOR FELLOW READERS OF GONE GIRL: Oh my GOD! Part Two of this novel, people! I didn’t see it coming. Actually, I saw some hints of it coming but still, nothing jived with Amy’s personable diary entries. I absolutely adored that first or second chapter in part two when she describes how she framed Nick, how she hates her parents, how she did it all to punish him for cheating on her. The framing is just impressive–you know you’re dealing with a very intelligent narrator. The resentment for Rand and MaryBeth had me exclaiming “Of course! Who wouldn’t hate those parents? They took her trust fund!”

And if the framing has you loving how intelligent Amy is, the punishment of Nick damns her as a reliable narrator. I love a good unreliable narrator (Hello, Nick Carraway in Gatsby!). Furthermore, Nick Dunne was the unreliable one / the unlikeable one but after the shift, Amy fills that role. As a reader I was totally on Nick’s side–the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. And the scope and dedication of such an elaborate punishment reveals Amy to be a sociopath fit for an orange jumpsuit.

My one disappointment was the ending. However, I think my reading this on a Kindle killed it for me. I laid down in bed Monday night and looked at the Kindle: 94% at the bottom. I thought–I can finish this tonight. But with 6% left there has to be another twist. And I was spoiled with how beautifully paced the twists in the narratives were. Nick has to get Amy somehow. Boney has to figure something out. Jacquelyn Collings finally gets a sympathetic soapbox in the media and a really good lawyer. But the novel ended abruptly as 97% and went into acknowledgements. Where’s my last 3%? Where’s my twist?

But nothing! Nick just stays with Amy because she’s having the baby he always wanted. That baby, by the way, has no chance. Flynn created a completely innocent victim. Who would want to be endowed with those genes? So the only character who has my sympathy is the baby. However, I wanted vengeance despite not liking any of the victimized characters. And maybe that’s the point–Nick and Amy are screwed up and deserve each other. I guess Desi is just collateral damage.

Now, I’m reading Gregory Maguire’s Out of Oz, fourth and final in the Wicked Series. Talk about superb writing and getting smarter from reading. The man is a genius.

I read the wikipedia pages for the first three books: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. I think I need to read them all again to be prepared for Out of Oz. So much rich history there.

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Sleep No More…It’s No Jersey Boys

PHOTO: New York Times 

“I heard it’s better on shrooms”

So said our waiter Nestor at Son Cubano, a Nuevo Latino supper club that featured both intoxicating coconut mojitos and delicious Serrano ham croquettes (dubbed “ham balls” by our party). And Nestor, like his character in The Odyssey, was wise in pointing out that Sleep No More is for those who partake regularly in acid trips.

Here’s a few thoughts…

The Set…is freakin’ impressive. The scope of this production is amazing. The show takes place over several floors in a warehouse. The rooms are decorated to look like a nasty old-timey hotel. Think HBO’s Carnivale meets Clue. The McKittrick Hotel also contains a forest and a psych ward. Because why not? You are invited to open drawers, go through closed doors, and snoop around. In fact, the host told us, in his put-on Christopher Walken accent, that “bold will be rewarded.” Rewarded with what? I didn’t find shit. Blank envelopes in an office? Fish tackle? If I wanted to snoop around a musty place with weird items, I’d go to my Oma’s basement. This brings me to my first disappointment: I would’ve enjoyed Sleep No More if I wasn’t given the impression that I could make meaning of the stuff I found in drawers. I felt like I was wasting time.

The Plot…is a challenge. Speaking of “making meaning,” there really isn’t much of a plot. The play is based on both Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hitchcock’s Rebecca. (I knew about Macbeth but not Rebecca—knowing both would have helped). All the characters have their own sequence that they repeat a few times in the course of an evening but I didn’t catch how many of them connected. I spent the majority of my time in the McKittrick trying to figure out how others fit into Macbeth’s story (and looking for my others in my party). That’s the problem with basing a production on well-known story. Viewers try to organize new information according to what they already know.

At the end of the night, we were presented with a book that explained everything. Purchase this coffee table book and find out what the hell was happening. My friend aptly reacted, “That would have been helpful three hours ago.” Indeed I wonder if this is how Jackson feels when he watches Yo Gabba Gabba. Maybe his internal monologue is similar to mine: “This shit makes no sense but I can’t take my eyes off of it.”

The Dance…is awesome. It’s nice to see a successful production largely based on contemporary dance. Dialogue is nonexistent so dance has to do the work of storytelling.  Grunts, screams, shouts abound. But the only line I heard was Mrs. Macbeth whispering “Let me see your face” to her bloody husband. Mr. & Mrs. were stirring, athletic dancers. It was a shame I couldn’t find many other dance “scenes.”

 Should You See It?

This was definitely the most interesting theatre experience I’ve ever had. I’m happy I got to experience it (note I used the word “experience” not “see” or “view”). The play is full of sensory overload and truly is an experience. Moreover, while I didn’t enjoy Sleep No More at every turn, I thought about it for a long time afterward—still trying to make meaning of what I saw. Sleep No More clearly straddles the divide between a show and fine art in this respect. When you go see a Broadway show, there’s really no room for dialogue beyond what was your favorite part? or didn’t you love that guy’s voice? But with Sleep No More, each member of our party saw different things, had different information to relay, and different impressions to report. The conversation on the way home was very informative.

See Sleep No More if you like…

contemporary dancing

nudity

Haunted Houses

Feeling like you don’t know what the hell is going on

Don’t see  Sleep No More if you like…

melodious, fairly recognizable music

symmetrical choreography

sitting down

a spoon-fed plot

Jersey Boys

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Annalynne or Blake for Colette Baptiste?

It’s not just a matter of curly or straight. Blow dryers can fix the former and hot rollers can fix the latter. Who do you think is right to play Colette Baptiste when my amazing book eventually gets made into an insanely successful premium cable series? You’d think Annalynne McCord is edgier and her work on Nip/Tuck was amazing. But then you’ve probably not seen Blake Lively in The Town.

Would a picture help?

 

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Summer Reading List

At Preston, we require students to read the following: two required books, one from the nonfiction list and one from the fiction. I’m not sharing any of those lists here because I don’t feel like searching my computer to find them. But I did want to share what books I read this summer.

Two Required Books: Sister of My Heart by Divakaruni  & The Kite Runner by Hosseini (These are the required books my seniors needed to get through.)

One from the Fiction pile: The Help by Stockett (This is easily my favorite book in a long time.)

One from the Non-Fiction pile: Decoded by Jay-Z (I confess I started reading this to break up my other non-fiction pic–What to Expect: The Toddler Years. And I started it because C.K. wasn’t finished with Clash of Kings, the sequel to Game of Thrones. But Decoded is smart, engaging, and has moments of real depth. Jay-Z’s talents in writing extend far beyond his incredible songwriting capabilities. And his perceptiveness is evident on every page. It comes with endnotes for when Jay-Z “close reads” his own songs–an aspect of the book that borders on academic. Decoded is definitely the “Seabiscuit” of my summer reading so far.)

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Christmas Songs

New Kids Christmas AlbumNot that you asked…

Here’s my TOP TEN favorite Christmas songs (in no particular order):

1. “Joy to the World” as recorded by Mariah Carey

2. “O Come All Ye Faithful” as recorded by Celine Dion

3. “This One’s For the Children by New Kids on the Block (awesomely bad but still a favorite)

4. “Up on the Housetop as recorded by Jackson 5

5. “What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder

6. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Whitney Houston

7. “Sugar Rum Cherry” by Duke Ellington

8. “Frosty the Snowman” by Harry Connick, Jr.

9. “Trepak” from The Nutcracker

10. “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by Bruce Springsteen

And, just for good measure, here’s my TOP TEN least favorite Christmas songs:

1. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by whoever sings that song (It was cute in Elf. Other than that, it’s just creepy.)

2. “Santa Baby” by Madonna (There is nothing “Christmas-y” about Madonna. Never will be.)

3. “Give a Little Bit” by the Goo Goo Dolls (The Gap commercial killed it.)

4. “Here We Come A-Caroling” by anyone

5. “Happy X-Mas (War is Over)” by John Lennon (I know lots of people like this song. They are blinded by mindless Beatles worship. Get over it.)

6. “Jingle Bells” (This song is almost as annoying as “99 Bottles of Beer.”)

7. “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Good song. Played out.)

8. “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by anyone but The Boss

10. “Feed the World” by Band Aid

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This is why I love YouTube

I was floating around on YouTube the other day, mostly stream-of-consciousness searching and viewing. I stumbled upon the scene below from The Karate Kid, arguably one of the finest movies ever made. (Move over Orson.) A tale of triumph in the face of overwhelming hardship. Well, maybe not “overwhelming.” But it’s still an awesome movie.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. So I included the last scene from Blood Sport and a scene from The Transporter. One could never write a post about awesome fight scenes in movie history without including Van Damage. And Jason Statham? I just threw him in for good measure. Enjoy.

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Heroes: The Second Coming and The Butterfly Effect

heroesbwcollection8360(2)Heroes season three premiered last night. It was good. Leaps and bounds better than Heroes second season. The show suffered both the “sophomore slump” and the WGA Strike last year. But those two reasons aside, the writers made the unfortunate decision to add a bunch of new (crappy) characters to the show and follow them around (hello? the mascara twins. puh-lease!).

It’s seems from these first two episodes that the show is returning to its old characters (Claire, Hiro, Peter, Nathan, Matt, HRG, and Sylar). They kept the one mascara twin, presumably because the actress is extremely attractive. Sure the show has some other lookers, but Ali Larter hardly ever gets screen time and Hayden is like twelve. (Sidenote: It’s totally gross that Milo Ventimiglia is dating her. I read that somewhere. “Somewhere” equals Us Weekly or some other high-gloss publication. Extreme sidenote: It’s a little disturbing that Dooney and Burke gave Hayden her own bag. I guess D&B is going for the younger customers now that teenagers carry Coach and Vera Bradley bags.)

And now I’m sidetracked. Heroes was pretty good. It kept my attention.

Interesting development: Dr. Suresh finally has powers. These new capabilities include spidy-sense and an out of control libido.

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Proseco Cocktail

I made this cocktail for a dinner party C.K. and I threw this past Saturday. We had a great bottle of Proseco to start as it was a celebratory dinner. Our close friends Tara and Jay are getting married next September. I’m a bridesmaid and Jay asked C.K. to be the best man. It’s a decision I’m sure he’s already rethinking. Directly after C.K. accepted the honor, he began goading Tara about how he would dye Jay blue for the wedding. Jay wouldn’t look bad as a smurf though.

We also enjoyed this lovely proseco cocktail from Martha Stewart Living. It tastes like a variation of White Sangria. Here’s how to make it.

1 peach, diced

1/2 lb. strawberries, diced

3 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup of vodka

bunch of basil, chopped up

1 bottle of Proseco, Italian sparkling wine

In the bottom of a pitcher add all the ingredients except the Proseco. With a wooden spoon, mash up the fruit well and leave it in the fridge to marinate. When you’re ready to serve it, add the bottle of Proseco and mix well.

Also on the menu…

Shrimp Cocktail

Salad with carrots, dried cherries, bleu cheese, balsamic vinagrette (Tara made it. I think it had nuts too.)

Filet Mignon with Bernaise sauce

Brussel Sprouts with Pine Nuts

Baked Potatoes

Cupcakes from Lulu in Scarsdale. (Very nice!)

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