Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Mini Reviews

Since the Writer's Guild is on strike, and there's nothing really to watch on television apart from repeats, and my cable is working corrently, I've been heading over to the cinemaplex after work to plunk down my hard-earned $11.75 to go to the movies.


So far this past week, I've seen Sweeney Todd, Walk Hard, P.S. I Love You, National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Charlie Wilson's War.


Let's start with Sweeney Todd. I saw the original cast of Len Carious and Angela Lansbury on Broadway, as well as the most recent revival with Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris, and the only thing I can say is: Is there anything that Johnny Depp can't do? The man was born to play this role, and his voice totally suits the part. Helena Bonham Carter, although really good in the role, can't match him vocally. And how nice was it to see Alan Rickman? Sigh! Yes, the film is bloody, but the blood doesn't really look all that gory, really. I would definitely watch this again on DVD.


Walk Hard, The Dewey Cox Story - Extremely funny and John C. Reilly can sing. Do not go see this movie if you didn't find Talladega Nights or Blades of Glory funny.


P.S. I Love You - I wasn't going to see this film because I can't stand Hilary Swank. I still think Annette Bening was robbed of her Academy Award for Being Julia in favor of Hilary Swank as Boxing Girl. Plus she was terrible as a femme fatale in The Black Dahlia. Seriously was Jennifer Connelly not available? However, I made an exception for this film because all of my favorite men were in it, Gerard Butler, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Harry Connick Jr. and James Marsters from Buffy and Angel. Plus Mary from The Bandwagon saw it twice and loved it. And I'm glad that I went. I don't know what the reviewer was thinking who said that Hilary Swank can't do romantic comedy, since guess what this isn't a romantic comedy. Yes, there are parts that are funny, but it's about a woman trying to go on with her life after the untimely death of her husband. Not exactly a life riot topic.

This movie was touching, funny, and heartwarming. It's about learning to live and love again when you don't think that you can bring yourself to do either. It's about second chances.

The only time the movie lost me was in the beginning when Gerry was about to make hot monkey love to Hilary Swank, and she got up to put her shoes away because she said they wouldn't love her if she didn't. WTF? You have a hot guy who wants to give you a tongue bath in inappropriate places and you want to put your shoes away? I totally thought she didn't deserve either Gerry or Jeffrey Dean Morgan at that point. Still, I wanted all her clothes and shoes from this movie. Anyone know if they are up for auction on Ebay?
National Treasure: Book of Secrets? I fell dirty that I actually went to see this movie, so I redeemed myself by going to see Charlie Wilson's War on Sunday. I also wanted to see it because my BFF once dated Mr. Wilson. Not in the days when he presumable looked somewhat like Tom Hanks but his later years after he left Congress. Good movie, great dialogue and Philip Seymour Hoffmann deserves to be nominated for best supporting actor for his work. I'm not sure why Emily Blunt was in this film since she only had one scene. Very thought provoking movie and not in a heavy handed way.
So that's it, my movie round-up. Hoping to see Juno this week and The Golden Compass.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A New Royal Baby



I meant to post this when it happened but congratulations to Prince Edward and his wife Sophie on the birth of their son. James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor is the little boy's name. What a mouthful! The last name Mountbatten-Windsor is a combination of the last name that Prince Philip took when he gave up his titles as a Prince of Greece and Denmark and Windsor which is the name the Royal Family took during World War I, when it was decided that the house of Saxe-Coburg Gotha was no longer a good idea.



Quick question though, why is it that the children of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York are princesses but little James and Louise have to make do with Lady and Viscount? Prince Edward is supposed to inherit the Dukedom of Edinburgh when Prince Philip dies, but still I think it's kind of unfair that they don't get to be Prince James and Princess Louise.



I know that Princess Anne didn't want her kids to have royal titles, and maybe Edward doesn't either. Which seems a bit silly if you ask me. If you are lucky enough to be born a Prince, enjoy it, the way Princess Michael does.



Thanks for reading,



EKM

Friday, December 28, 2007

You Call this Technical Support?




So last night I was so excited. I had gone downtown and bought, drumroll please, a region-free DVD player. What this means is that I can order DVD's from Amazon.co.uk for TV shows and movies that haven't been released here and watch them (Strictly Come Dancing anyone?). The problem came when it was time to hook it up to my TV set.


Problem number one came when the wires didn't quite fit the back of the TV set. I fixed that by using the same wires from my old DVD/VCR combo. The biggest problem was that my DVR had been hooked up to the DVD player, along with another cable wire, so now I had two wires and had no idea where they went.



So I did what most people do, I called technical support at the evil empire, Time Warner Cable. And sat on hold for 20 minutes. Fortunately they were playing really pretty classical music. When I finally got someone on line, who actually seemed to live in this country and not Bombay, the real problems started. No matter how many times I explained the problem, that I had wires I didn't know what to do with, she didn't get it.



Finally, she told me that nothing I was telling her was in the manual. WTF? The manual? Seriously, this is what they call technical support? Someone sitting there looking at pictures in a manual? I could look at pictures in a manual and I could have saved myself the trouble. I was so peeved, I asked for an appointment for someone, who you know, actually knew what they were doing to come out to my apartment to figure this out.



Right now, I have a picture on my TV but it's primarily red. Yes, everyone looks red. Not very cheery. But the DVD player works, so I can now watch that DVD from Netflix that's been sitting around for the past 4 months.



Thanks for reading,



EKM

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Even Goddesses have off days

Yesterday I was reading the blog of my sister from another mother Meg Cabot, when I picked up what I thought was some juicy gossip about Elizabeth Gaskell, the author of Cranford (starring the awesome Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Imelda Staunton), and North and South (starring the dishy and delicious Richard Armitage, moi's newest Britcrush). According to mystic Meg, she heard from a friend that Elizabeth had a passionate affair for years with her lover in Italy whose arms she died in.


I was flabbergasted, how had I missed this gossipy morsel? This would totally put Elizabeth Gaskell on my list of Scandalous Women (which grows longer by the day). Of course I immediately scoured the web for more information. Wikipedia, nuthin, the Victorian web, nuthin, finally I found the Gaskell Society which is devoted to the works and life of the woman who wrote the first biography of her good friend Charlotte Bronte. Still nada.


Finally I found an article in the Daily Mail with the dishy title of the Secret Life of Elizabeth Gaskell, which didn't live up to the title. Apparently she did have flirtation in Italy with an American named Charles Norton who was at 30, 20 years her junior. But it was just that a flirtation, no clandestine meetings abroad while her husband and children were back at home in England. No dying in her lover's arms. Meg, like my other goddess Oprah, had been sold a bag of goods. Still, despite leading me down the garden path to nowhere, I still went out and bought Princess Mia: Princess Diaries 9.


Sigh! And it was such juicy gossip too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Boxing Day!




Happy Boxing Day everyone! For those of you who don't know what the heck Boxing Day is and why the Brits and Canadians get a holiday the day after Christmas, well head on over to the History Hoydens where Tracy Grant gives a very good description of the holiday, along with the historical background on other great holiday traditions.


Me, I'm taking it easy today and tomorrow. Actually doing some fun reading instead of research books for a change! Finally digging into Rebel Angels by Libba Bray. Also going to the movies. So far, I've seen Sweeney Todd which was most excellent. Johnny Depp is a god as far as I'm concerned. Sweeney Todd is my favorite musical and the first Broadway show I ever saw. My dad took me and we had a great time, so it's special to me. And I can say that Tim Burton did an amazing job with the script and the score.

Finished my synopsis on Monday, clocking in at a whopping 8 pages. Now, I need to go through it and highlight the bits that are truly important to try and get it down to 3-4 pages tops.
Finally here are some holiday cartoons to keep you amused.










Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone!


glitter-graphics.com


Merry Christmas to everyone from Got it Goin On!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Fun with Synopsis, Not!


So it's the day before Christmas and I'm here at my day job trying to be productive, since I don't have any real day job stuff to do. I thought I might try and put together the first draft of my synopsis for my new historical YA which I'm calling Veiled Beauty. Here's what I've come up with so far:

Rose Healy arrives at Beardsley College as part of the Class of 1899, eager to start
her new life. However she has a secret that could ruin her life if revealed. While
adjusting to the academic rigors of college life, stuff happens and much fudge is eaten.
As the year progresses, she discovers she’s not the only one who has a secret that
could change everything.
Scintillating no? Of course not, it sucks! But at least I've started the process of writing it down and not just twiddling my thumbs thinking about the book or "plotting." Now I just have to write out a short 3-5 page synopsis which I will then refine. After that comes the chapter by chapter breakdown to make sure that I have enough tension in the story.
Ooh, I'm buying a ticket to see Sweeney Todd tomorrow because nothing says Christmas like lots of blood and Johnny Depp singing.
Happy Holidays,
EKM

Friday, December 21, 2007

Emergency Mental Health Day

funny pictures
moar funny pictures


So yesterday, I took an Emergency Mental Health Day because I seriously needed it. The night before I was training a new writer at my night job, who took four hours to write four questions on a half-hour show. Now what I do for my night job is not rocket science. I watch TV for crying out loud and then I write questions about the content. This guy took an hour to watch the show before we even got to writing the questions. Meanwhile, I wrote my 4 while I was waiting for him to finish watching. What made it even worse, was the editor made him rewrite all four of his quetions because they weren't memorable. And the show we had to watch? Tyler Perry's House of Payne. The name says it all because it's the most painful half hour of television ever. We're talking set the race back terrible.

By this time it was 1:30 in the morning, and fortunately the editor let me go but by the time I got home it was 2:00 in the morning, so there was no way I was going to work yesterday. So I called in sick, and the one thing that I asked my boss was that he not leave the Christmas Cards when he was done on my desk. So what did I find when I walked into the office this morning? Of course, the Christmas Cards were stuffed into my chair. I should have expected this from the grown-up version of Archie Andrews that I work for.

What did I do on my day off? Well, I slept for one thing, and then I went shopping for more Christmas music. I bought Sarah McLachlan's CD which is awesome, and Josh Groban's which is not as wonderful as Oprah makes it sound. It's good but not as good as Sarah's.

Then I headed over to the Strand Bookstore which is like crack for me. Four floors of nothing but review copies and used books. I was looking for a research book for my Scandalous Women blog. I found it but it was $12.00, so I'm just going to reserve the single copy they have at the library. I would have bought it but I have about 5 other books that I need for this historical YA that I'm working on, and they're not cheap. I just did a search on Alibris and the grand total was like $80!

I did however finish writing the synopsis for my GOSSIP GIRLS meets SCHOOL TIES book. And I'm pretty pleased with the ending. I was sort of resisting the ending, but I gave in, and I think I've made it a little more upbeat than it was originally going to be.

So now, it's the weekend, and I plan to relax and get ready for Christmas.

Thanks for reading!

EKM

P.S. Update on Jamie Lynn Spears. She's not getting married and Nickelodeon is apparently planning a special about the whole thing, probably called "Don't End up like Jamie Lynn Spears." Oh and her boyfriend is 18 which is technically statutory rape in most states, although I doubt that he'll be arrested.

P.P.S. Is anyone surprised that it turns out that Mel Gibson got special treatment when he was arrested last year?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What the hell happened?

Is there something going on in the cosmos that I don't know about? What happened to the end of the year bringing peace and light and joy? First Amy Winehouse gets arrested in conjuction with her husband's case and now this.

I just read on People.com that Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's 16 year old sister is 12 weeks pregnant by her boyfriend.

Wait, wasn't she the normal one? The one who wasn't going to act all crazy like her sister? So now, we not only know that her sweet and innocent sister is not only been having sex but doesn't know the first thing about birth control either.

Funny all those tabloids that have been saying for weeks that Britney is pregnant with her third child completely missed this one. Apparently even her mom couldn't believe it, because as she put it, Jamie Lynn has never missed a curfew. Well, now Mom knows what she was doing before curfew.

Britney and Jamie Lynn's mother, Lynne Spears, had been contracted to write a book about parenting, which was going to be published by Thomas Nelson, a company that publishes inspirational books and Bibles. Guess what? The book has been postponed "indefinitely" which means that I hope Lynne Spears didn't spend her advance.

Seriously, does anyone really think that this book is going to see the light of day? The evangelicals would be up in arms, planning boycotts. I can't imagine anyone wanting to buy a book from Lynne Spears talking about parenting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You Gotta Have Friends


Last night, got to spend time with writer friends, shooting the breeze and doing some writing. Things are progessing nicely on the historical YA front. I'm almost done with my plotting, and I hope to have my synopsis done by New Year's which would give me a little over a month to knock out the first 3 chapters. It was great to share some good news with people, but then today I got some not so good news about one of my best friends which I'm still reeling about, so I'm kind of not in the mood to make snarky comments or much of anything right now. However, I'm trying to stay positive for her, so I'm sure I'll be in better form tomorrow. So bear with me!
Thanks for reading,

EKM

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My favorite Holiday flicks


Since Christmas is a week away, I thought I would share some of my favorite holiday movies (Happy Birthday Jane Austen and Noel Coward).


My first pick is Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Sure it's a cartoon and it stars Mr. Magoo as Ebenezer Scrooge, but it's utterly charming and totally true to the spirit of Charles Dicken's. The songs are lovely and I always get a little weepy at the scenes of young Scrooge at his boarding school singing "Alone in the World." And what person wouldn't be affected by Tiny Tim's death, even if he's a cartoon.




My second pick for favorite holiday movie is the 1950's version of White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye. Even though it's pretty much a remake of Holiday Inn, I still love this version. I think it was Rosemary Clooneys' first film. It's a charming romantic comedy where Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are a musical act and of course so are Rosemary Clooney and her sister Vera Ellen.


Two talented song-and-dance men--reserve officers--team up after the war with a sister act and trek to Vermont for a white Christmas. Shenanigans begin when they discover that the inn they've chosen is run by their old army general, who's in financial trouble. Hilarity and hijinks ensure, and Bing Crosby learns the meaning of Christmas. There's a stage production going on right now in both Boston and Toronto, so somebody check it out and let me know how it is.


My final holiday flick is a relatively new film, well it's about four years old. Richard Curtis's film of Love Actually starring Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and a cast of thousands. Seriously it seems like every actor in Britain is in this film. This movie has more plot than a Harry Potter book. Hugh Grant plays the Prime Minister who falls in love with his tea lady Martine McCutcheon. His sister played by Emma Thompson discovers that her husband played by Alan Rickman has bought a gift for his very pretty and flirtatious secretary. There's a heartbreaking scene when she realizes that the necklace that she found was not for her. Liam Neeson just lost his wife but he has to help his stepson Sam with his romantic problems. Laura Linney is in love with a guy in her office, but she's also taking care of her schizophrenic brother. That's just for starters and I haven't even gotten to Colin Firth's plot or Kris Marshall, not to mention the incomparable Bill Nighy as Billy Mack.
Not only do I love this move, but I also love the soundtrack, especially Eva Cassidy's version of Fleetwood Mac's Songbird.
What are your favorite holiday flicks? And will you watch anything that Colin Firth is in?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mini reviews: The Farnsworth Invention and Luxe



So, on Thursday since there is a writer's strike, I decided to make my way through the slush of the rainy and disgusting weather that we were having to see a play. And not just any play, but Aaron Sorkin's new play. For the record, Aaron Sorkin was a senior my freshman year at Syracuse and I thought he was an untalented jerk. Fortunately for him, he turned out to be a better writer than he was an actor or a human being. I enjoyed Sports Night and The American President, but loathed The West Wing and I'm a huge Martin Sheen fan. So I was curious to see the play that had brought Sorkin back to Broadway after about 2o years.
The Farnsworth Invention is about Philo T. Farnsworth, boy genius, who was basically responsible for the boob tube that we all know and love. Actually, there were other inventors who were also working on television but Farnsworth was one of the first to actually make it work. All at the tender age of like 22. Apparently he invented the key lock in cars at the age of 12 as well. And he first designed his prototype for television at 14. But of course, David Sarnoff, the president of NBC/RCA, wanted his inventor/scientist to be the first to invent television so that RCA would own the patent.
The play is incredibly talky but very interesting even as it plays fast and lose with the facts. The biggest quibble that I have, and it's a big one, is that Sarnoff via Sorkin implies that a) Farnsworth lost the patent fight against RCA and b) that he never did anything of significance in his life after television, which is simply not the case. He also portrays Farnsworth as a drunk which is also not the case, at least not during the time period in the play.
While I can understand in the interest of trying to compress alot of information into 2 hours, I can't stand the way that the play ends. I think it's dishonest, and I think that Farnsworth deserves better than to be dragged up from obscurity and then maligned. So I have to give this a C+, which is my average for A for effort, D for delivery.
That's not the case with Luxe, the new book by Anna Godbersen, which is being touted as Gossip Girl in the 1890's. I was lucky enough to get an ARC from her publisher to read this week, and I flat out adored this book. If you love Libba Bray, than you will love Luxe. It's set in the same time period, but with out the paranormal element, and set in New York during the Gilded Age. The author gives you a peak into what it was must have been like to have been both old money and new at this time. It's more like Gossip Girl as written by Edith Wharton if you want to know the truth. And I think the characters are richer and have more depth.
The book is about Elizabeth Holland who discovers that her family is not quite as rich as they once were. She must marry Henry Schoonmaker, who's family is rich. However, her frenenemy Penelope Hayes is also in love with Henry, and Elizabeth loves someone else, who will surprise you. Then there's her rebellious little sister Diana. There's also a subplot dealing with Elizabeth's maid Lina.
I tore through this book eagerly and I can't wait for the sequel next summer. I don't even hold the fact that the book was published in conjuction with Alloy Entertainment against it. The book is in hard cover which I think is a mistake. I think it should have been published in trade paperback like Gossip Girl. I think asking teenage girls to pay over $20.00 for a book is never good. But that's just my opinion.
Still I would give this book a definitely A-. I'm taking off because I'm not really sure what Henry's family were getting out of the marriage to the Holland's, and why the father was so eager for it.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Houston, we have lift off!

I'm so excited. My chapter just launched its new web-site today. You can check it out at here. Not only does it look slick and professional, but we have videos and profiles of our published authors. Our lovely web-mistress, Morgan Doremus really took our site to the next level.

We've been extremely lucky in our chapter with our web-site. Since the beginning, the site has been designed by chapter members. First by Darlene James, then by Sapna, and now by Morgan.

What I'm most excited by is the videos. Visitors to our site can get a real glimpse of our published as well as our unpublished authors. The plan is to have a new video up on the site every week.

Visitors can also preview a copy of our newsletter as well.

So mosey on over and check it out. I'm dying to know what people think!

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Thursday, December 13, 2007

World building in historical YA's

So since I've pitched this new book to lovely agent, I've been hip deep in research creating my fictional college for my heroine. I've learned a great deal in just one day about the evolution of higher learning for females in the United States.

The very first colleges for women were Mt. Holyoke which was founded by Mary Lyons in 1837 and Elmira College which was founded around the same time. Although Mt. Holyoke was one of the first, Vassar College was actually the first to be accorded the title of College in the 1870's. Soon after Wellesley, Smith and Bryn Mawr were founded, rounded out by Radcliffe and Barnard. Bryn Mawr was actually the first to offer advanced degrees to women when the college was founded.

Even before the idea of higher education, female seminary's which offered a high school education were founded. The most famous being a school founded by Catherine Beecher in Hartford, CT. Catherine was a member of that famous Beecher family which included Henry Ward Beecher, later to get into a great deal of trouble in Brooklyn, and the most famous Beecher of all, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. A contemporary of Catherine Beecher, Emma Willard, founded a school in Troy, New York which still exists today as a boarding school.

My school, Beardsley, is going to mainly based on Vassar. I've always had a soft spot for Vassar even though they didn't accept me when I applied (the only one of the 7 colleges that I applied to that didn't). I want my campus to close enough that young men from Harvard, Yale and other male colleges can conceiveably offer romantic opportunities for my heroine and her friends. Also, Vassar is the only school to offer immense amounts of historical information on their sight. Tuition in 1861 when the school first opened was $350. Sounds like a good deal until you remember what the yearly salarly was of most working men. From 175 students at the outset by 1895, the year my book is set, the student body had increased to 475.

Also Vassar had a reputation for not just being academically rigorous but also of being the most aristocratic, meaning that the daughters of some of the best families attended Vassar. It was interesting reading what an ordinary day was like for a Vassar student. Up at 6:00 a.m. , breakfast, chapel, then classes until dinner at 1:00, more classes and than supper later on, study or free time and then all students in bed by 10:00 p.m. Weekends were taken up with clubs or letter writing to their families and church.

I haven't found out much information yet about their social lives but I'm looking foward to it. Of course, the two books that I need, the NYPL only has as reference copies. I see much xeroxing in my future!

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Serendipity


This is one of the paintings from the Kasisi Children's Home in Zambia that was auctioned off last night at The Philoctetes Center. By the way, I chickened out and didn't go. Seriously my roots were that bad, and I realized that I'd forgotten to put on deodorant. There was no way I could go looking like that, particularly if it turned out that cutie pie author's girlfriend was around.

Now I feel bad, so I'll be writing a check to the home tomorrow. See, I knew that even though I couldn't afford to bid on anything, I would have anyway. And then I would have probably ended up buying a painting that I couldn't afford and eating ramen for a month. I can't take all that MSG people.


Today, I had lunch with lovely agent, who I hope to work with. I must have been out of my mind because I pitched a book that I had just come up with on my walk to the restaurant. Actually, I came up with the idea on the way to the Post Officer earlier, but I fleshed it out on my walk to the restaurant. Fortunately her eyes lit up and now I have two months to work up the synopsis and the first three chapters.

Have you ever had the experience where all the links in the chain come into place. I had bought a book at the Chicago Historical Society just on a whim back in May, not knowing that book would come in handy now as research. And then like two months ago, I found another book quite by accident that works for my research. So clearly this is a book that I'm meant to write. Plus it scares me which is another sign.

She said something interesting to me during the course of our lunch, that she had felt when she read my last proposal that it felt kind of like I was writing what I thought an editor wanted, instead of what was coming from my heart. Which now that I think about it is kind of true. The first version of Crazy Little Thing Called Love was like Gossip Girl lite but with less creativity.

The two times that I've tried to write a YA that was outside of the box, I froze, because I was too worried about what an editor would think of it. I choked and abandoned the books after the partial. This time, I'm going full throttle. I know that I can write this book, I know that it has a great high concept, I just need to buckle down and do it in two months.
No pressure!

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Indecision 2007


So I'm sitting here dithering about whether or not to go to the Philoctetes Center this evening for a reception for an art show called Healing through Art. Its an exhibition of paintings created by the children of the Kasisi Children's Home, which is a haven for AIDS oprhans in Lusaka, Zambia.

So here are my reasons for not going:

1) I don't want cutie pie author to think I'm stalking him.

2) I don't want have to spend the evening watching cutie pie author with his girlfriend.

3) My skirt has a stain on the bottom.

4) You can see my roots.

5) It's that time of the moon.

6) I'm already going to be out 6 nights this week.

7) I can't get anyone to go with me.

8) They're probably only going to be serving cheese and crackers

9) I can't afford to bid on any of the paintings that are being offered in the silent auction.

10) I think I'm getting a zit.


On the other hand, the Center is on my way home, if I lived on the East Side, which I don't. I mean, I could take the bus across town at 86th Street to go home after the reception. Normally, I wouldn't have this dilemma because I would have my salsa classes on Tuesday, but since I had to skip this month because I was out of town, and I went to see Atonement last week, I'm actually available.

Sigh! Everything was so much simpler when I was still deluding myself. It's not like I don't have things to do. I have 3 hours of television to watch on my DVR, research to do for my other blog Scandalous Women, and a copy of Anna Godbersen's new YA novel, LUXE, which Harper Collins thankfully sent me in the mail just for being President of RWA NYC (I love perks!).

Still I'm tempted to go. What's wrong with me?

I am such a wimp!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dancing the Night Away

Ah, if that were only me! On Saturday, I attended the Christmas Gala at Dancesport, the dance studio that I go to here in New York. Because of my work schedule, I wasn't able to attend the Halloween Party at the studio, and I really didn't want to miss this event, so I made sure to leave the night free and I'm glad that I did.

It also gave me an excuse to wear the pretty party dress that I bought to wear when Fun Guy invited me to a New Year's Eve party last year, before he dumped me the day after Christmas. Correction, stopped calling me which is the same as dumping me as far as I'm concerned.

The dress was a BCBG Max Azria that I found on sale at Lord & Taylor. It's black, sleeveless, made of jersey with two trailing chiffon scarves that fall from the waist like a train. I wore silver evening sandals and carried this cute black purse that I bought for a friends wedding and never used because I forgot it at home (I ended up carrying my make-up case as a purse instead).

They served hors d'ouevres, and champagne which unfortunately was flat. Of course, that didn't stop me from drinking it. I met a lot of of lovely people that I hadn't spoken to before from my dance classes, and I actually got to dance, although not as much as I would have liked. Part of the problem is that I haven't been able to go to the practice parties so everyone was dancing with people that they knew.

There were two rooms for dancing, the one in the front was playing tango music and the one in the back salsa. The salsa room had a live band which was great and it was fantastic to watch people dancing particularly those who seem to have been dancing salsa since they were in utero. The way they moved was fantastic. It made me really want to step up my salsa classes. Plus they also played songs that you could cha-cha and merengue too. Since no one was asking me to dance, I just danced a little by myself, since the music was too good to waste. When I did get asked to dance, it was nice to know that I could follow a partner that I didn't know, and not just the people I dance with in class. That was something that always concerned me. Would I know what to do? Would I be able to follow someone's lead? I amazed myself frankly. Now I just want to go dancing all the time.

The instructors also performed a little show that was amazing. My International Latin teacher, Anya was phenomenal, but then I knew that. She was on the Dancing with the Stars tour last year. But now she's added salsa to her repetoire, which she's only been dancing a year, and she was fantastic. And the tango instructors, unbelievable. I love to watch tango, but I can't imagine dancing it if you don't have a steady partner. It was also hysterical to watch one of my other teachers, Toby, attempt to do hip-hop. Not really his style!

I talked a bit with some of the women from my salsa class and we all agreed that if we won the lottery we would be in dance class all the time. I love swing dancing and I would love to try fox-trot and quick-step but I don't have the time or the money right now. Dancing is an expensive hobby, even more expensive than my other hobby, drinking. When you factor in the cost of private lessons, which you really need to take if you're going to improve, you start to go crazy. As it is, I'm on the frequent dancer package, which means I can take as many classes as I want a week, but it's more expensive than going to New York Sports. But more fun, than running on a treadmill anyday.

I stayed until about one o'clock in the morning and then it was time for this Cinderella to go bed before she turned into a pumpkin.

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Friday, December 07, 2007

How stupid are Sherri Shepherd and Kellie Pickler?


EW had an intersting article in Pop Watch about Kellie Pickler and Sherri Shepherd, whether or not they were really as dumb as they seem or if it's just an act they put on. I've wondered the same thing about Kellie Pickler ever since her days on American Idol, where she frequently made bone-headed statements. However, she was recently on that Fox show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, where apparently she isn't smarter.

According to Kellie, she'd never heard of Hungary, and she thought Europe was one country. Which makes me wonder at the educational system in Albemarle, NC. My feeling is that she's playing the dumb blonde role for all it's worth, the way Jessica Simpson does in those terrible Macy's commercials, where she can't get the door open. Seriously, Joe Simpson thinks that his daughter playing dumb, and him making comments about her breasts is good career management. It's no wonder Ashlee Simpson has had so much plastic surgery.

But Sherri Shepherd is another story. Seriously, I wonder why ABC hired her, other than for her bubbly personality, because her ignorance is seriously offensive. Apparently she believed that Christianity predated all the Greek and Roman civilizations. Which is interesting since it says in the New Testament that Israel was part of the Roman Empire. Then she had the nerve to equate wearing a kilt to cross-dressing! And said that she wouldn't want her child to hang around anyone wearing a kilt.

Seriously, I hope that James McAvoy appears on The View to take her to task for that one, because she just insulted every single Scottish and Irish American sitting in the audience and watching the show. Not to mention Sean Connery! I'd like to see her call him a cross-dresser to his face. I'd hate to hear what she thinks about the men who wear sarongs! Nothing like insulting someone's culture.

The fact that she thought the world was flat because the Bible said so, I don't even want to touch. Even Evangelical Christians I don't think believe that. Believe in Creationism or Intelligent Design if you must, but the earth being flat? Has she not seen pictures of the earth from space?

I used to think that listening to Elisabeth Hasselbeck spout her conservative views was painful but at least Elisabeth reads a newspaper and is informed enough about the world to formulate an opinion, no matter how boneheaded I think she is. At least she's no Ann Coulter, for which we can all be grateful. But Sherri Shepherd is another matter entirely, when there were so many other more qualified candidates out there for the job on The View. Heck, as annoying as I find Oprah's best friend, Gayle King, even she would have been preferable.

What do other people think? Sherri Shepherd and Kellie Pickler? Seriously dumb or they just play dumb for profit? And how far back is this setting the women's movement?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holiday Gifts for Writers



Last night while I was at work, I came up this site, Shakespeare's Den, which has some really groovy gifts for writer's not the least being this Jane Austen action figure. Yes, Jane has gone action! From the looks of it, she's not very big, but you can probably move her arms around. She's carrying a copy of Pride & Prejudice I think (of course!), and a quill for those quick flashes of brilliance on the go.

There are other adorable gifts, such as the Philosophers and Great Writer's finger puppets which consists of Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. You can even purchase them seperately including a Jane Austen finger puppet and a Freud finger puppet that comes complete with couch.

I've actually been thinking of making donations in people's names this year for Christmas instead of giving gifts. At the same time, I love the fun of choosing just the right gifts for my friends. This was the part of the year where ex-sweetie pie and I would exchange gifts. I used to always subtley start dropping hints around September of what I might want.

When we first got together, I just automatically assumed that he would know what to give me, since I had no problems finding great gifts for him. But I soon learned that sometimes men have to be guided. Which is why my dad used to just give my mother money so that she could buy what she wanted, instead of him guessing and getting it wrong. Although once I noticed that he used to keep her measurements in his wallet.

Ex-sweetie pie quickly figured out that if he bought me anything in red, than I was probably going to like it. Plus books were always good, and I was great at pointing those out at Barnes & Noble.

So what do you plan on getting the writer or special someone in your life?

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Movie Review: Atonement

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new film Atonement with James McAvoy, Keira Knightley and Romola Garai through the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It was so worth the money I spent on joining the Society, let me tell you.

Before the movie, I had a quick glass of wine at P.J. Clarke's at Lincoln Center which is this old fashioned looking bar and restaurant. The original is on the East Side on 55th Street and 3rd Avenue, where's it been since the early part of the last century. It's owned now by a consortium which includes Timothy Hutton, and they've opened two branches, one downtown in the financial district and one near Lincoln Center.

I had a nice of glass of reisling and the Oysters Rockefeller which contained a little too much spinach for my liking and I adore spinach. I had to dig through to find the oyster and the bottom, and they weren't exactly meaty which might explain all the greenage on my plate. It's kind of pricey but the bartenders are way cute, although it reminded me of that scene in Boys on the Side where Mary Louise Parker laments that after 5 years of Happy Hour, she'd only managed to go home with the bartenders.

Now to Atonement. I haven't read the Ian McEwen novel on which it's based, but now I definitely want to, just to fill in the gaps. Here's the description from Yahoo! Movies: In 1935, 13-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous mansion. On the warmest day of the year, the country estate takes on an unsettling hothouse atmosphere, stoking Briony's vivid imagination. Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the educated son of the family's housekeeper, carries a torch for Briony's headstrong older sister Cecilia (Kiera Knightley). Cecilia, he hopes, has comparable feelings; all it will take is one spark for this relationship to combust. When it does, Briony - who has a crush on Robbie - is compelled to interfere, going so far as accusing Robbie of a crime he did not commit. Cecilia and Robbie declare their love for each other, but he is arrested - and with Briony bearing false witness, the course of three lives is changed forever. Briony continues to seek forgiveness for her childhood misdeed. Through a terrible and courageous act of imagination, she finds the path to her uncertain atonement, and to an understanding of the power of enduring love.

Well that's in in a nutshell. I had a hard time with this movie partly because I wasn't that innocent when I was 13, and I had to remember that 1935 was a different time, and that young girls like Briony wouldn't really know what to do with their budding feelings of sexuality. In fact, if I hadn't heard someone say that she was 13, I would have thought she was a lot younger, because she acted like she was no more than 10 or 11, while her cousin Lola is clearly a budding Lolita, who ends up seduced by a friend of Briony's brother Leon, which Briony mistakes for someone else. Briony is not the only one who has to atone for what's she done. Lola knows who her seducer is but lets Robbie take the blame, so that know one would know that she was a willing participant, and Paul Marshall wouldn't have gotten in trouble for seducing a minor.

The movie also exposes the class system in England. Cecilia and Briony's father had paid to put Robbie through college, but the minute he's accused of rape, they automatically assume that he must be guilty because he's lower class. There's never an inkling of doubt apart from Cecilia who believes in Robbie's innocence.

The jumping around in time and perspective took some getting used to as well. The audience sees certain scenes from both Briony's point of view and Cecelia and Robbie's. I also knew where the film was going at certain points, although there were still some surprises which I won't spoil here.

I think Keira Knightley is an incredibly beautiful actress but it was painful to look at her in her evening gown because she's so thin. Seriously, I just wanted to force feed her a hamburger. There's naturally thin and then there's bordering on emaciation, and she's about crossed the line. I thought she was cast perfectly in the role of Cecilia but for me the heart of the film is James McAvoy. His performance is full of passion and yearning, for Cecilia and for the life that was stolen from him by Briony. He's amazing and his range is incredible. When I think of his cocky Tom Lefroy, and now Robbie, and his role in Last King of Scotland, he' s a major talent.

And a sweetheart too. There was a Q&A after the movie with Christopher Hampton, the screenwriter, and James where he talked about his performance and making the film. He was so charming and funny, and a real gentleman. He actually apologized for taking the piss out of audience member who complained that the film became too melodramatic at the end. It was interesting to hear that Christopher Hampton literally had to audition for Ian McEwan (the author of the novel) for the job of writing the screenplay. Apparently McEwan, as one of the producers, had approval over who got the job. Luckily Christopher Hampton was approved, he was able to preserve the romantic atmosphere of the movie without it becoming too sentimental whereas Tom Stoppard might have been too cynical.

Adapting a book is always tricky. Most authors accept that when they take the money to have their book adapted, they have no control over what turns up on screen. Some authors, like Meg Cabot, have a wonderful sense of humor about it. Some, like Anne Rice, don't. The book will always exist, and hopefully viewers after seeing the movie, like myself, will be curious to read the book. I actually ended up enjoying Unbearable Lightness of Being when I read it, and I hated the movie. And I thought Prince of Tides was a much better book then what Barbra Streisand did to it.

What grade do I give this film? Well I have to give it a B+. At times it just felt too long, like the sequences in France around Dunkirk just seemed to go on for days. And I wasn't always convinced of the relationship with Cecilia and Robbie. It seemed forced, like the actors had no real chemistry, which is strange since James McAvoy said they had 3 weeks to rehearse. It might be because they spend so much time apart in the film, and because their relationship is never able to fully develop. Still it's worth it to see it for James McAvoy's performance as well as the young actress who plays Briony at 13.

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fun with Fairy Tales

To cheer myself up since I've been battling a cough and losing since I returned from London, I went to see Enchanted last night. Can I say it was absolutely adorable and not just because Patrick Dempsey has the most perfect hair on the planet. Seriously, he should be cloned, or donate his body to science after his death, so that scientists can figure out why his hair is no amazing. And the rest of him is not bad either. Move over Matthew McConaughey, Patrick Dempsey (along with Hugh Jackman) makes a perfect romantic comedy hero. He may not have that twinkle in his eye the way Josh Lucas did in Sweet Home Alabama, but he's decent, and kind, and sexy and you just know that he would care about your satisfaction in bed.

Umm, where was I? Oh yeah, about the film. The basic premise is that Disney took every fairy tale cliche put in a blender and came up with the plot of Enchanted. I'm not say that's a bad thing. The animated sequence at the beginning of the film reminded me of the animated classics from the 1950's.


And then when the evil Queen Nerissa, played by Susan Sarandon like she's having the time of her life, banishes Giselle to New York City, the movie really takes off. Amy Adams is so perfectly cast as Giselle. She manages to be sweet and earnest without being cloying and annoying. You don't want to hit with a cluebat for not knowing what anger is. And I loved her making her dresses out the living room curtains. Patrick Dempsey's character doesn't believe in love because his wife ran off and left him and their adorable daughter Morgan who wants to believe in fairy-tales, despite her father giving her a book on important women for her birthday instead of say a Little Mermaid DVD. Speaking of which did anyone else get that his secretary was played by Jodi Benson who was the voice of Ariel in Little Mermaid?

The biggest weakness in the film is the character of Robert's girlfriend played by Idina Menzel. First of all, I thought it was a waste to cast her and not even give her a chance to sing at the end. Two, she really doesn't have much of a character. We hardly see her and you have no idea if she's supposed to be the evil girlfriend or the female equivalent of the Bellamy (the Bellamy is the character that Ralph Bellamy played in a series of romantic comedies where he was the decent boyfriend who got dumped by the heroine, usually for Cary Grant).

The other reason that I wanted to see Enchanted is because I went to a roundtable at the Philoctetes Center on Friday about fairy tales. The genesis for the roundtable seems to have come from recent article in Time, entitled "The End of Fairy Tales?" In the article, the author James Poniewozik refers to Shrek and other recent fairy-tale films and writes, "This is a new world of fairy tales: parodied, ironized, meta-fictionalized, politically adjusted and pop-culture saturated. . . . What these stories are reacting against is not so much fairy tales in general as the specific, saccharine Disney kind, which sanitized the far darker originals."

I was excited to see that Donna Jo Napoli, who is a YA author was going to part of the panel, but I have to say that I was a little underwhelmed with the discussion this time. There was very little talk about how fairy tales have been transformed in different ways, particulary for adults. This panel did kind of talk about the sources of fairy tales but it was sort of haphazard. I loved Donna Jo Napoli's story about the Inuit and their traditions as well as the Sicilian storytellers that she's met. Apparently in Europe as well as among the Inuit, they don't censor the stories if children are around.

A lot of the talk centered around the definition of fairy tales, myths, and bible stories, and the violence in fairy tales and how they might affect children. Truthfully I never found fairy tales any scarier or violent than Saturday morning cartoons. Most fairy tales seem to have a moral center, or a warning. Look at Hansel & Gretel, getting lost in the woods, and being taken in by the witch. Talk about what happens when you talk to strangers! or Cinderella? That story still has resonance given how many families nowaways include a step-parent.

I really wanted to ask the panel what they thought about fairy tales being interpreted in erotic literature, paricularly Angela Carter's Company of Wolves which reimagines the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a young girl's sexual awakening. Her grandmother tells her stories warning her about the dangers of men, disguised in this case by comparing them to werewolves. And we can't forget Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy, which turns the fairy-tale on its head, since Sleeping Beauty doesn't end up with the Prince, but has to go through various trials and sexual situations until the end. And now Nancy Madore and Cathy Yardley are turning to these fairy-tales. My question was whether or not the sexuality was always there under the surface and re-telling the stories as erotica is just illuminating that.

Unfortunately I got cold feet. Most of the panel had multiple degrees, and here I was bringing up sex! I just had this feeling that I was going to go down as that chick who asked the sex question. Seriously I should have been brave enough to ask the question. It might have actually livened up the discussion a bit. Certainly it would have been different. Sometimes I think I let myself be initimidated too much. I just had this feeling of a sign lighting up over my head saying 'Intellectual Lightweight.'

I also wanted to bring up Bill Willingham's series of graphic novels called Fables which I recently discovered. In his version, the Fables actually live in a parallel universe as it were to ours, until their homelands are taken over by the Adversary and they are forced to flee to our world where the human fables live in Fabletown and the non-human Fables are forced to live upstate on the Farm. I just loved the way that he turned the stories that we knew as children on their heads. I've written about this series before but they are amazing. Just the notion of Prince Charming being the same guy who married Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and turning out to be a charming cad who can't hold a job was brilliant. And the Big Bad Wolf redeeming himself and becoming a sort of anti-hero in a way.

I think we're addicted to fairy-tales because there is a certainty to them, we know how they are going to turn out, but at the same time if they don't, we can reimagine them in our heads to how we want them to turn out. Certainly in erotic literature, the women are much more active participants than they tend to be in classic fairy-tales where they spend most of their time waiting to be rescued by the Prince.

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Monday, December 03, 2007

Taking Tea with Tut

This is my final post about my trip to London and I'm almost as sad as I was when I had to get on a plane to come back here. Particularly since yesterday it snowed here in New York! Then it rained, so apart from the Parks, all the pretty snow is now gone. Thank god, I have a Payless two blocks from my house, because I was completely snowshoeless.


So my last day in London, I headed out to North Greenwich to see the King Tut exhibit. Yes, I could have gone to Philadelphia to see the exhibit as one of my co-workers so helpfully pointed out, but I wanted to see King Tut in London since it was an Englishman Howard Carter who discovered the tomb in 1922.


One of the things I love about London is the subway system, which they fondly call 'the tube.' I think it's the best system in the world, certainly better than New York's where any given weekend, either a train is not running or there are changes due to track work. In London, they helpfully give you details every morning about how well the trains are running. Plus, not only do they let you know how long you have to wait until the next train (which they do in DC as well) but they also tell you how long it will take you to get to a certain station. So I knew it would take me 19 minutes to get to North Greenwich.


The exhibit was held in something called the O2 which looked kind of like the Millenium Dome. In fact it may just be the Millenium Dome, if so, good for them for finding another use for it. It's now a concert venue, along with several restaurants and two Starbucks. It kind of reminded me of Universal City in LA, except without the theme park. The line to get into the exhibit was incredibly long, and they search your bag twice, just in case, somehow you managed to make a bomb in between the first time someone checked your bag.


It wasn't quite as crowded inside, but the exhibit could have been spread out a little more to maximize the impact. Still, it was pretty impressive, I have to say, and I'm glad that I've seen it. The exhibit traced not just King Tut but gave you information about his lineage back to Ahkenaten or Amenhoetep, along with pertinent information on what it was like to be a Pharoah. The end of the exhibit they talked about what caused Tut to die so young. The myth that he was murdered by a blow to the head has been debunked, but it appears that he may have taken a fall, and blood poisoning set in, or a blood clot.


I roamed through the gift shop but given the exchange rate, I quickly concluded that I could just wait until I returned and buy stuff off the National Geographic web-site since they were one of the sponsors of the exhibit. Seriously earrings that I know cost $30 in the States, were twice that in the UK.


I saved the best for last on this trip. As a special reward, I took myself off to the Berkeley Hotel for their Pret a Port tea. I love to do Afternoon Tea when I'm in London. Over the years, I've head tea at the Savoy, Brown's Hotel, The Dorchester, the Waldorf, the Lanesborough, Claridges, the Ritz, and Harrods. There's something so 19th Century, about taking time out of your day to sit down and have tea, with lovely little sandwiches and snacks.
The Pret a Port tea though tops them all. The conceit behind this Afternoon Tea is that all the sweets are designed to look like outfits from the latest London collections. The pictures here are from the current Pret a Port tea. I can tell you that they were just as yummy as they look, although I hated to eat them, they were that pretty. I also had a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne to wash everything down. Hey, champagne is the drink of life as far as I'm concerned.
The tea was served in the Caramel Room which was this lovely room off the lovely decorated in the most luxurious shades of brown. The wait-staff couldn't have been lovelier, and my table had a little placecard with my name on it, which I kept. I thought about keeping the menu but I thought that might seem a little tacky. I can tell you that there were about ten treats that were served, which was out of proportion to the amount of sandwiches! Still it was enough to fill me up.
I ended the day by heading to the National Theater to see a production of Women of Troy by Euripides.
So that's my trip to London in a nutshell.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Macabre London

So on Sunday I skipped off to the London Eye in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament. I'd always intended to 'do' the London Eye but just never got around to it. The only reason why I bought a ticket this time was to be able to purchase a ticket to see the King Tut exhibit out at the O2 in North Greenwich (subject of another post).

I decided to go whole hog and purchase a ticket with the addition of a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne during my flight. So decadent! But heck, if you're going to do it, do it right I always say. The London Eye, if you've ever seen pictures of it, is really a giant ferris wheel that was put up during the Millenium year. It was supposed to be taken down but 7 years after the Millenium, it's still up and destined to stay up until after London hosts the Olympics.

I was so lucky, the day was absolutely beautiful, clear and sunny so I had good views all around of London all the way out to Canary Wharf, the City (including St. Paul's Cathedral) and the West End. And a glass of champagne to top it all off. It my pod was a 21st birthday party and several couples. For a minute, I felt kind of sad that I was there by myself and not with a significant other, but I decided to put all that aside and just enjoy myself. The thing about the Eye is that it moves so slowly that you can hardly feel it moving as it makes it way around, and you have no idea how high up you are until you see the next pod at the top and then you realize, Wow, I was really up there.

After the Eye, I took a stroll along the Thames to the Tate Modern, having never been there before. It's in an old powerstation about 20 minutes from the London Eye, very modern and sleek. One of the biggest draws was downstairs in the Turbine Hall, an artwork called the Shibboleth which was literally a crack in the floor from the top of the Hall to the bottom. I found this fascinating. The literature stated that the artist was using the crack to represent oppressed people, if you looked closely the walls were imbedded with barbed wire. Because the crack ran the length of the Hall, it was big in some places and smaller in others. What was interesting for me, even more than the crack itself, was watching other people react to the crack. Some people took photos, some were straddling the crack, others were leaning down examining it. I personally tried to open myself up to the Universe to find out what I was supposed to get out of the crack, but I'm sorry to say that in my case, sometimes a crack is just that, a crack!

I met up with my Chip later for Indian food on Brick Lane in the East End of London. I got so confused that he literally had to guide me to the proper street while talking to me on my cellphone!

I ended my evening taking the Jack the Ripper walking tour. If you're in London and you're interested in taking a walking tour, this is the one that I would recommend. It used to be led by Donald Rumbelow who is one of the foremost authorities on Jack the Ripper. I took the tour with him 10 years ago. Unfortunately, although the London Walks literature says that he leads the tour on Sundays, he didn't the weekend I was there, so I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to get his feelings about Patricia Cornwell's controversial books claiming that the painter Walter Sickert was the Ripper. I knew that he would have had something interesting to say even if it was just a string of expletives. The crowd was so huge though that they had to split us up into 3 groups with a different guide for each one.

I chose Andrew because he seemed the most fun and I was happy about that. I've always been interested in the Ripper. I've seen From Hell and Murder by Decree which is virtually the same movie. I read Patricia Cornwell's book, so I was familiar with all the theories of who might be the Ripper. If you haven't seen either of those movies, the most popular theory and the most enduring, primarily because it's kind of romantic and it involves the Royal family, is that the murders were committed by Sir William Gull to cover up the fact that Albert, Duke of Clarence, who was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) had entered into a marriage with a lower class woman who had a child.

If Albert had married, it would have been illegal, because the Royal Family was subject to the Royal Marriage Act to prevent them from making unsuitable marriages. Until the age of 25, a member has to have permission from the Queen to marry, and they can't marry a Catholic either, without giving up their place in the succession. Prince Michael and the current Earl of St. Andrews (son of the Duke of Kent) have both married Catholics and have had to give up their rights. The prostitutes of course were friends of Annie Chapman, Albert's beloved, and had banded together to protect her, so they had to be picked off one by one. Oh and the killings had Masonic overtones because the Masons are behind everything (see Dan Brown).

This theory has been completely debunked. Gull was in his 70's and had suffered a severe stroke. There is no evidence that Albert ever contracted an illegal marriage, although he was involved in a scandal concerning a male brothel. The other theory is that Albert himself was the Ripper, although that too has been debunked given that he was in the army at the time.

No one knows who the Ripper was. The Casebook of Jack the Ripper is one of the best web-sites around to read about the case, and the various suspects. Part of the reason that the Ripper was never caught was the fact that the crimes were committed in both the East End and the City which had two seperate police forces and still have to this day. Back then they were both territorial and wouldn't share information with each other. Also, the forensics and CSI techniques that we take for granted didn't exist. Fingerprinting was just starting to be used, and DNA wouldn't be used until the late 1970's. Also, because the case was never solved, it allows criminologists as well as novelists to put their own stamp on the story and to try and come up with the solution. It's like playing a game of Clue.

It was kind of creepy and eerie to be walking around the City and the East End at night. Like downtown New York, the place is deserted at night, particularly the City. You can just imagine what it must have been like for those poort women who were just trying to earn enough money to have a place to sleep at night and ended up murdered for their pains. Back then, poor women and men would go to doss houses at night where depending on how much money they had, they either ended up sleeping in a bed or leaning over a line. No wonder so many of them were drunk on gin.

Going to the Ten Bells pub for a pint used to part of the of the tour but the owners got fed up with so many tourists coming into gawk, so now you kind of have to go and pretend like you just weren't on the tour. I've been there before and it's kind of eerie to see the names of the victims on the wall. Seriously, I was kind of glad to get back on the tube to safety.

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Thanksgiving London Style

On Saturday, I was invited to spend Thanksgiving dinner with my good friend Chip and his partner at their friend MW's house in the middle of nowhere Hackney. Seriously, we took a ten pound cab ride from Liverpool Street Station to MW's flat, which is in a converted synagogue. Can I just say this flat was to die for? Oh my god, I just wanted to move in. It's not large but it's amazingly decorated and on two floors so it seems bigger than it is, plus it has a bath and a half, so if you have a guest staying in your living room they have their own bathroom.

I met an amazing group of people at this Thanksgiving dinner. MW has an eclectic group of friends. There were people from South Africa, Australia, Egypt and also the States at this dinner. Prosecco was flowing. I could feasted all night on the spinach artichoke dip alone it was so good, but Chip made this amazing green bean casserole from scratch instead of the usual way with cream of mushroom soup and those Durkee crispy onion things on top. I don't even like green beans really but I could have eaten the whole thing. I've begged for the recipe so I can make for myself. It's one of those dishes that you could eat as a side dish for the whole week. Everyone contributed something to the dinner. One woman even made pumpkin pie although I could tell she'd never made it before and was worried that it might not be right but it was so good. Since I don't eat turkey, I just feasted on the mashed potatoes which I could eat a vat of and the green bean casserole (I do talk a lot about food in this blog don't I?)

Much of the talk at the dinner party was about the murder of Meredith Kercher, a young English woman who may have been killed by her flatmate (a young American woman) and her boyfriend. I'm ashamed to admit that I really didn't know much about the case until recently. After the whole Madeleine McCann and the young woman who may have been killed by her older husband, I'm a little true crimed out. Particularly since they haven't figured out what the motive was for killing Meredith yet. Was it drug induced? Does hashish make you violent?

One of the other cool things about the evening was discussing things of a spiritual nature with Chip's partner. It seemed that everyone I met had something to say about spirituality. But what Chip's partner told me was interesting about the concept of time. What if there really wasn't any such thing as time, just the here and now. There is no past and no future really, just the present. Wouldn't it make it easier to enjoy life as it is instead of worrying about what might happen tomorrow or what happened two weeks?

I also went to a revival of this Caryl Churchill play Cloud Nine at the Almeida which is this really groovy Off West End theater in Islington. I love the way the British have appropriated the term Off-Broadway and then changed it to Off West End. It used to just be West End shows and then the fringe, and theaters like the Almeida, the Donmar and the Soho Poly were all fringe theaters. So Cloud Nine is neat because it's really about sexuality and how fluid it can be, not to mention the British Empire. The first half of the play is set in the Victorian era in Africa where this typical English family is living with their faithful African servant who may not be so faithful and the parallelogram of relationships that are going on amongst the various characters. Women play men, men play women, some actors play more than one character.

The second half was set in the 80's in England, but with the same characters. Only they're not much older than the characters they played in the Victorian half which is kind of weird but neat. The daughter Vicky grows up and leaves her husband for another woman and her brother who is gay moves in with them in some kind of weird menage a trois. Very thought provoking for a Saturday afternoon in Islington.

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Friday, November 30, 2007

London Calling - Mad about Millais



Friday morning, I headed off to the Tate Britain in Pimlico to see the Millais exhibit. Since it was one stop over on the Victoria line from where I was in Vauxhall it seemed silly not to go. Plus they were having an exhibition on the paintings of John Everett Millais and I was dying to see it.


When I got off the tube and I started walking towards the museum, I noticed that several of the streets were named after the Earl of Bessborough, including Bessborough Street, Ponsonby Street, and Ponsonby Square. It made me wonder if the area had once been owned by them or they lived in the area. I'm not sure but it's certainly something for me to research!


What's cool about the Tate Britain which used to just be the Tate until they split the collection up between the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern were these little guides they have for paintings you might want to look at if you're hung over or just went through a break-up. They were very clever and an interesting way for people to look at the collection.


I immediately headed downstairs to the Millais exhibit which cost a whopping 11 pounds ($22) but since this was the first exhibition in a long time of most of his paintings, I just closed my eyes to the price. Millais is a very interesting man, he was admitted the Royal Academy at a very young and had his first painting exhibited there when he was 16. He was also a member of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt among others, who rejected the traditional painting of the day and looked back towards the Renaissance painters.


He was also involved in a scandalous love triangle. John Ruskin, an art critic, befriended young Millais and invited him to stay with him and his wife Effie. Effie's family and Ruskin knew each other and they encouraged a match between them. However there were problems between them from the beginning. Effie posed for Millais and they fell in love. It turned out that her marriage to Ruskin had never been consummated although they had been married for over five years. Apparently Ruskin didn't find her physically attractive (one wonders if he had ever had sex with a woman at all before he married. It also seems as if he was only attracted to very young adolescent girls.). Anyway, the marriage was annulled and Millais and Effie were married. She bore him eight children and they were apparently very happy. However, because of the annullment, Effie was barred from some social functions, including nto being allowed in the presence of the Queen.


What struck me about the exhibition were a series of paintings that Millais did concerning lovers who were in a crisis moment. The painting above is about a young Hugenot couple just after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, where hundreds of Hugenots were killed. She wants him to wear an armband that would proclaim him a Catholic to protect him, but he's refusing her, his faith means too much to him. If anyone is ever stuck on what to write about, any of these paintings could kick start a plot.

He also did a famous painting of Ophelia floating down the river as she drowned and the two princes in the Tower. One painting was a revelation and that was a painting of Charles Dicken's daughter Kate Dickens Perugini was also a painter.
Famished, I stopped off at Pizza Express, a chain of pizza restaurants that put Pizza Hut and California Pizza to shame. Think upscale pizza chain with some strange combinations including one served with a fried egg on top. I had a lovely Pizza Margarita, and a glass of Pinto Grigio Rose. Fortified, I went off to my afternoon walking tour of Dicken's London, led by Jean, a very tiny elderly woman wearing a Victorian costume.
The tour mainly centered around the Inns of Court, and the Strand. I had hoped for a little bit more, but I did get to see the Old Curiousity Shop which is actually not the one in Dicken's novel but it claims to be. I was amazed as well by how Jean had managed to memorize great swaths of Dickens (the man did tend to go on and on), which she duly recited to us during the walk.
That evening, I went to see The Sound of Music, which I was curious to see because the star of the show Connie Fisher, had won the role during this reality TV show called, "How Do You solve a problem like Maria?". I had picked Friday because I knew that she didn't perform Wednesday matinees or Saturday nights (Okay mini-rant here, it's amazing to me that stars like Mary Martin were able to do 8 performances a week with no microphones but today's West End and Broadway stars who are miked! are to fragile to do a full week of performances. Sound of Music is not Evita or Phantom).
Well, Ms. Fisher did not perform, her understudy did. Understudy No. 1 since she has 2 as well as the alternate who does 2 performances a week. The understudy was okay, and I applaud her for being able to give a well-rounded performance at a moment's notice. An understudy's lot is not easy, particulary if you aren't part of the ensemble during the performance. You're just waiting around to see if the star is sick or not. Yes, you're getting paid but to do nothing which is not as much fun as it sounds.
I enjoyed the show nonetheless, and the scene where the Captain joins in when the kids are singing The Sound of Music just brought me to tears. Yes, I wept openly during this show. I admit it, I'm a total sap. After dinner, I met my friends PH and his husband to have dinner at Ping Pong which is a groovy chain of dim sum restaurants. We ordered and ate way too much food but it was a great evening. Seriously the vegetable puffs were to die for.
I took the night bus home which took forever but it beat taking a cab which is way too expensive. Oh, and they have those annoying rickshaw bicycle guys in London the way they do in New York.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

London Calling - The Lure of Couture


Tuesday, I woke up feeling refreshed after having a good night's sleep in my lovely double bed at Janine's. After a hearty breakfast and cups and cups of tea, I headed out to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the Golden Age of Couture exhibition. The V&A is one of my favorite museums and I always try and go there whenever I'm in London. It's like comfort food for me. There's always a fun fashion exhibit going on, probably because the museum is dedicated to the decorative arts and there's nothing more decorative than clothes, clothes, clothes!
Last year, they had a really groovy exhibition on clothing in the Swinging 60's and also Black British fashion which was interesting. I even made upstairs to see the rooms of 18th and 19th century furniture.
Now the museum has the complete collection from the Theatre Museum which closed in Covent Garden, so I'm hoping that they'll do more exhibits apart the most recent one they did on Kylie Minogue!
The couture exhibit was fascinating. I had seen a similar one about ten years ago at the Imperial War Museum but that one was more about clothing during the war. This exhibit covered the years 1947 through 1957 when Dior died, and showcased his New Look, Balenciaga, Chanel, Givenchy and the few English courtiers Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies. One of the most interesting part of the exhibit were a few of the dolls from the Theatre de la Mode that were created to showcase French fashion after the war.
It was a touring exhibition of nearly two hundred dolls in sets, created by Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau among others. The Théâtre brought together a community that was still suffering hardship. The Théâtre toured to Britain, Scandinavia and the USA, raising funds for war victims and promoting French fashion.
See before the war there had been there were seventy registered couture houses in Paris, including the grand establishments of Chanel, Schiaparelli and Balenciaga. The industry was disrupted by the wartime occupation of Paris. Private clients dispersed, international sales almost ceased and many couturiers closed. The Germans planned to move couture to Berlin but Lucien Lelong, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, objected, saying, 'It is in Paris or it is nowhere'.
What struck me about the exhibit was not just how exquisite the clothes were but also how time consuming it must have been since pretty much everything was sewed by a small band of seamstresses and I'm sure a lot of it was done by hand. There were some women who only wore one specific designer for all their clothes! Imagine if I could only wear Diane von Furstenberg! I love her but I think I would be bored if I couldn't wear other designers, even if John Galliano was designing for me himself.
You got to see sketch books and then some of the finished dresses so that you could get a sense of how the dress went from concept to creation. The old newsreels from fashion shows were also interesting when you consider what spectacles some of the couture shows are nowadays in Paris. Images of women walking down the Seine or exploring Paris and showing off the clothes. And the footage of women walking the runway, nothing like it is today where the models are not just emaciated but look like they're stoned. No giraffe walk for these women.
At the end of the exhibit there were fashion spreads from British Vogue among other magazines. These glorious black and white photos taken by Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon. It was truly art what these photographers were doing back then. Generally magazines at the time used fashion illustrations to show off the clothes not photography, since the illustrations could give more of a feel for the clothing than just a flat photograph but these pictures were just stunning.
In the gift shop, I was dying to buy the book that went along with the exibition, but it was 25 pounds which is over 50 bucks. Plus it was heavy even in paperback, so I left it. I might try and find it online at Amazon or order it direct from the Museum if I decide that I still want it. They were running Funny Face with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in the gift shop, the Think Pink number which I love. What was interesting was that the museum was selling clothing inspired by the exhibit. I loved that.
All in all, it was a good first second day in London, topped off by spending time with the Impossibly Handsome British Friend at the theater seeing The Country Wife with Toby Stephens and David Haig at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where I got to see Maggie Smith in college in Way of the World and ogle Christopher Reeve during the intermission (he was theere in the audience) and sharing a glorious bottle of French champagne during the interval.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

I'm back!

Yes, I have finally flew in from London and boy are my arms tired! (Sorry I couldn't resist). It was an amazing week and I can't believe how fast it flew by. Seriously, I almost wept when I had to get on the plane yesterday which is why I was so stroppy with the security guard who searched my bag before I got on the plane (this was after being searched like 3 times since I'd gotten to the airport. And seriously if you're not searching everyone's bag before they get on, don't tell me you're 'providing security' because you may have just let a terrorist slip by while you were searching my Tommy Hilfiger bag which isn't big enough to hold an umbrella let alone a bomb) I'll probably be writing quite a few posts on my trip over the next few days giving the highlights, so bear with me.

The day I left I received my 30 pages back from the editor from Pocket Books who's critique I had won through AAR's auction. Note to self, when you've just suffered a heartbreak, everything seems worse than it is. After I read her critique I just fell apart. I felt as if the universe was crapping all over me. Picking myself up of the floor, I wiped away my tears and read it again. Everything she said made sense and now I'm kind of excited to go back and make changes. I just wish I had gotten this critique before I submitted the novel to Llewelleyn Flux and The Golden Heart contest.

Things went from bad to worse when I discovered that I had booked the wrong date for my SuperShuttle (due to my lack of focus from the aforementioned heartbreak) which left me scrambling for a way to get to the airport. However, I decided to make lemonade out of lemon and I managed to grab a cab to Penn Station where I took the train to Newark Airport (quite nice for $15).

I was beginning to get worried about how the trip was going to go when we got on the plane at 10 p.m. and then sat on the runway for two hours. Apparently there was something wrong with the plane that they just discovered when we were about to take off. So instead of landing at 10 a.m. in London, I landed at noon.

But then things changed for the better once I arrived. After schlepping my bag from Gatwick Express through Victoria station to the underground to take the tube to Vauxhall, I finally arrived at Janine's house which I booked through At Home in London. She wasn't home but I couldn't believe how lovely my room was and there was a framed copy of the Romney portrait of Emma Hamilton over my bed! I knew that I had found a kindred spirit.

I quickly dropped off my bag and headed back out to Central London where I went to Mysteries, always my first stop in London, where I had an amazing tarot card reading from Barbara which cleared things up for me. Then I was starving, so I hightailed it over to Wagamama's which is this groovy Japanese noodlebar, for dinner. I was so hungry by this point that I could have poured soy sauce over my arm and eaten it. I scarfed down my vegetable gyoza and my pad thai which wasn't since it was Japanese. Then I headed over to Waterstones to browse through the books for an hour or two. What's cool about the Picadilly location is they have a wine bar upstairs.

I'm telling you I think that Borders and Barnes and Noble are missing out on a cool thing by not having a wine bar in their store. Plus the Picadilly branch is like 6 stories high jam-packed with books and they have more than one bathroom. I ended up buying Isabel Wolff's new book which I'm sure Red Dress Ink will publish at some point. Saw lots of biographies that I longed for including Claire Tomalin's books on Mary Wollstonecraft and Dorothy Jordan and at least 3 books on Mary Robinson. The biography section was so huge that it covered most of the 3rd floor in the store. Unfortunately book prices with the pound being so strong were unbelievable. 8.99 which is about $17.00 for a paperback and that's not even trade size, we're talking mass market.

By this time, I was knackered. Normally when I arrive in London, I hit the ground running, booking theater tickets, etc. But the long delay and everything just wore me out so I went back to the house around 8:30 and just sat in the kitchen with Janine, her other lodger Mark who was from Canada (he was in town looking for work and a flat for him and his girlfriend), and Janine's friend sipping wine and talking until I finally went upstairs around 11 to watch the end of 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here," with Janice Dickinson of all people! Yes, the same woman who had her own hair and make-up artist during The Surreal Life is in the Australian outback with a bunch of D list English celebrities. It was hilarious!

So thus goes my first day in the UK.

Thanks for reading!

EKM

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane


So I leave tonight for London and I can't wait. There's nothing better for getting over heartbreak than traveling to another country, where there are no reminders of the one that you love. I suggest that the two women from The Bachelor do the same thing. Take a vacation to Club Med and stop mooning over Brad Womack. Be grateful that he didn't pick either one of you and then dump you after a month (FYI, I only watched the final episode of this season. ABC should do everyone a favor and cancel this travesty of a show or invest in a team of pyschotherapists to deal with these women.)
My plans for my trip are evolving. I'm now staying in a private home which will save me 28 pounds a night instead of staying in a hotel. I'm seeing some great theater and hanging out with my lovely American and British friends while I'm there. I'm even having Thanksgiving but on Saturday.
I'm still torn about taking either a day trip to Bath or seeing what the heck is up with this Dicken's World theme park. I'm kind of curious about it. It depends on what the cost is. I'm not spending the equivalent of what it would cost for a day at Disney World to watch people run around pretending to be living in Victorian London.
I'm also going to have afternoon tea at the Berkeley Hotel. It's called the pret a port tea, because all the cookies and cakes are dressed up to look like dresses from the latest collections, so I'll try and take pictures if they'll let me. I'm also going to stop in at Mysteries to have a tarot card reading. Maybe I'll get some good news that I'll finally meet someone else to help me get over cutie pie author. Hopefully someone who looks like James Purefoy! Hey a girl can dream can't she?
I don't know if I'll be blogging while I'm there. I don't have a laptop and it depends on if I can find an internet cafe. So don't miss me too much!
Thanks for reading,
EKM