Monday, March 31, 2008

Authors I Love - Michele Martinez

Continuing the them of love that I started on Friday, I'm going to blog today about an author that I love: Michele Martinez. I'm a legal thriller girl, I adore Lisa Scottoline and Linda Fairstein, but the new girl on the block that I've come to love is Michele Martinez.

Her series of books feature Melanie Vargas, half-Italian, half-Puerto-Rican, who works in the US District Attorney's office for the Major Crimes Unit. Melanie is a single mom of the adorable Maya, who can't help stumbling into one high profile case and another, and of course solving them. She has an on/off relationship with the delicious Dan O'Reilly, an FBI agent, who she met in the first book MOST WANTED.

Why do I love this series? Because the writing is first rate, and the books are page-turnes without sacrificing character and plot. The characters in Michele's books are multi-layered. Melanie is dealing with the after effects of a robbery that took place when she was a teenager. She accidentally stumbled on her father's furniture store being robbed. The robbery not only took her father, who moved back to Puerto Rico and has had little contact with her sister and her, but also has left other psychic wounds. Not to mention that she divorced her ex-husband for cheating on her.

And the cases are engrossing. If you've ever watched any of the Law & Order series (including my personal favorite SVU. Love ya Christopher Meloni), you will like this series. In fact, I think that Dick Wolf needs to get on the horn and option this series. It has a great role for a Latina actress (anyone but Jessica Alba), and its set in New York and I'm all for more TV production coming to my city instead of say Toronto which no matter how hard you try, does not look like New York.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, March 28, 2008

Things that Make Me Happy Part Deux

I have had a particularly crappy week. Our former chapter president died, my knee is still hurting me, I didn't make the GH finals for my YA, and other stuff that I don't want to blog about. I only know one other person who's had a crappier week than me. But rather than dwell on the crappy stuff, I'm going to focus on the positive.
To wit:
1. Catching Richard Armitage playing Claude Monet last night on PBS in The Impressionists

2. Watching Dancing with the Stars. Go Kristi Yamaguchi

3. How sweet Helen Mirren was when I had her sign a copy of her autobiography for one of my best friends.

4. Knowing that my other best friend is coming through her treatments for breast cancer with flying colors. She's a little medical miracle.

5. Anticipating the release of my friend Marley Gibson's first two books (written as Kate Harmon) and going up to Boston for her book party.

6. Buying a new pair of shoes

7. The blogs, Stuff White People Like and Stuff Educated Black People Like.

8. My SWAT writing group that meets on Mondays.

9. Cutie-pie author's blue blue eyes that I could drown in.

10. The hope that Spring is right around the corner

11. Really good sushi. Or even just okay sushi

12. Getting to meet some many fellow bloggers at the National Conference in San Franciso this summer.

13. The book I'm writing right now

14. The pretentiousness of Alex and Simon on The Real Housewives of New York City.

15. Having my hair and make-up done for parties

16. Getting to watch my friend's little boys grow up.

17. The hope that I will finally meet the man I'm supposed to be with.

18. Diving back into the goodness of JD Robb books. How I have missed them!

19. Finding a real great dress

20. All my friends, both here in New York and all over the world.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Princess Eugenie

"How do I play the princess thing? I don't really."

So Fergie and Prince Andrew's little girl has grown up!

This past Sunday (Easter no less) Princess Eugenie celebrated her 18th birthday. Eugenie Victoria Helena Mountbatten-Windsor (the Mountbatten comes from when Prince Philip renounced his Greek titles. Yes, I said Greek. He was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on a kitchen table in Corfu. When he married Princess Elizabeth, he was simply Lt. Philip Mountbatten. Mountbatten was the name that his maternal grandfather took during WWI when having a German surname of Battenberg was not a good idea) in Portland Hospital.

Two years later her parents seperated and finally divorced in 1996 (see my post on Sarah, Duchess of York at Scandalous Women). However both parents were loving and committed to giving their daughters the best possible parenting despite not being married anymore. "They are the best divorced couple I know," Eugenie has said. "They just went out of their way to make us feel loved and secure. " The Duchess of York endeavored to make sure that both Eugenie and her older sister Beatrice had as normal an upbringing as possible.

Eugenie attended Upton House school in Windsor along with her older sister. Later she moved on to St. George's school also in Windsor. Unlike most of the royals, Eugenie is a gifted student who passed nine GCSE's with flying colors before studying for her A-level exams. She's also modest, saying that she's "more of a worker than a clever person" when it comes to academics. The Duke and Duchess of York have also made sure that Eugenie was introduced to the less fun aspects of royal life like charitable duties from a young age.

Here she is with her sister and mother at a charitable ballet performance at the age of 8. Love the purple tutu and the crazy make-up! Like most young aristocratic English girls, Eugenie went through a horse mad phase, learning to ride at an early age. She's very close to her grandmother, the Queen, whom she describes as "truly one of the most amazing women ever, she has this air of magic about her. And she is incredibly wise."

Unlike her older sister Beatrice, Eugenie says that she tends to be shy in social situations. While Beatrice has a steady boyfriend, an American who works for Richard Branson, Eugenie seems to be playing the field for now. She's a huge music fan, favoring bands like Death Cab for Cutie and The Stereophonics (Now I feel old, I know only Death Cab for Cutie from watching the OC).

Eugenie is very close to her mother and her sister Beatrice. "Mummy, Bea and I call ourselves 'the Tripod' – they are my best friends in the world," she has said in interviews. Many people think that Eugenie resembles her late great-grandmother, the Queen Mother who was born Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore.

She seems to be a very savvy young woman, who has her own MySpace page (you totally know that I'm going to friend her) travels by Tube, and has ambitions to visit Spain to learn the language during her gap year (she can always stay with her distant relatives the King and Queen of Spain!).


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Random Thoughts on Hump Day Wednesday

First off, congratulations to all the RITA and GH nominees, particularly Kelly Parra who was nominated for First Book and YA. Thank god, we finally have a YA category this year. I can't wait to attend the awards ceremony this year. I was a little bummed that none of the entries that I read was nominated in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category. I thought some of them were very good.

Unfortunately I was not nominated, but I really didn't think I would be. MUCH ADO ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL needs serious work. But I'm glad that I finally bit the bullet and entered. I also received a really lovely email from a friend of Michael's, Jo Manning, after reading my blog post yesterday.

Now on to the fun. The couple in the picture is President Nikolas Sarkozy of France and his new bride Carla Bruni, the former model and now an singer. They were married in February after only dating for like three months. His second marriage ended in divorce in October (his ex-wife Cecilia just got married to the man she once left Sarkozy for.)

This is Carla on her recent trip to England to meet the Queen. What the hell happened? Did she buy her outfit at the frumpy President's wife store? Seriously, the Queen looks more stylish than she does. Love the Jackie O hat, but grey? All of her designer friends couldn't have come up with something better?

Here is Sarkozy with Camilla. Doesn't Camilla look fabulous? If only Carla had taken a leaf out of Camilla's book and added a jaunty hat or something more spring like to her attire than frumpy gunmetal grey. A lovely shade of purple, or heck, even something tri-color would have been better. I have a feeling that she was worried about upstaging him or that everyone thought she would wear some Christian LaCroix or Gaultier disaster. So she went more for the Hillary Clinton collection.

What do people think? Frump or Fashion forward?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In Memoriam - Michael J. Powazinik

Today I found out that our previous President of RWA NYC passed away suddenly. Michael was president for 4 years before I was, and I served as his Vice-President. He's partly the reason that I'm now Presient of the chapter. He pushed and prodded and encouraged me to run, telling me that no one else could take over his crown and scepter after him.

Michael and I bonded over our love of royalty. He was the first man gay or straight who knew as much about European and British royalty as I did. He was exuberant and funny, loved Jackie O, and had an encylopedic knowledge of most of the First Ladies. He adored Hugh Jackman as anyone would, and loved musical theater. He once bought me the most beautiful old book on Marie Antoinette from the Strand bookstore, because he knew that she and I shared a birthday and that I was fascinated with her. I was so jealous that he actually had the Barbie Marie Antoinette doll that I coveted.

He worked for RT for several years as a publicist as well as Berkeley before he founded his own magazine Romance Forever which lasted for several years in the early 90's. The magazine was his dream, that I'm so glad that he got to fulfill, even for a little while. It was full on glossy with color, long before RT went that route. He had wonderful articles on royalty in the magazine. I think the day the magazine died, is the day that Michael died a little inside. He never seemed to fully recover from that blow.

He was one of my first friends in RWA NYC. I regret that we had a falling out several years ago over what now seems like something extremely silly but at the time there were hurt feelings all around, and we were never able to make the first move towards getting back our friendship. We both behaved badly.

And now he's gone, but he will always be remembered for the joyous way he used to greet new members and his funny stories that he used to tell at meetings. We will all remember the way that he used to serve as host of the now GAA awards while he was President.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Nobody Does it Like Me!

Sorry I've deserted you over the past couple of days, but I actually had Friday off for Good Friday and I just wasn't in the mood to blog lately.

Wednesday I went out with cutie-pie author finally (its only taken about ten months for it to happen) and I spent the evening talking my depression after my father died, and stupidly mentioned Dara Joy's new boy Death by Plut-Plut (or whatever its called) which apparently is a street name for vaginal discharge during sex. Yes, that's how stupid I get around a man who is so handsome its criminal. Open mouth, insert foot, hope you like the shoe you're wearing because you'll be chewing on it for awhile.

Still he did inspire me to write a groovy new post over at Scandalous Women about Christine Keeler and the Profumo Scandal as well as about The Mayflower Madam. And he suggested that I do a Scandalous Women of New York walking tour or tour bus tour, which would be totally cool if I could get my friend Leanna to join me on it. Or I could give talks with slides etc. I could certainly do a better job than the woman I saw the Historical Society a few weeks ago.

I have to say even though I totally embarassed myself telling him seriously personal stuff, I did get a wonderful good night kiss. Shame he has a girlfriend. Ah well.

Friday night was guest night at Dancesport, and I've now gotten involved in putting together a rumba to compete down in Miami at the International Hustle and Salsa competition. I'm really looking forward to going down and just hanging out after the competition to drink fruity drinks and to hang out. Although $149 is way too much for a hotel room even with a roommate. Managed to make it through a whole song of dancing merengue with a guy who was flinging me around like nobody's business!

Sunday, I went to church, which I haven't done in awhile but I felt the need to give thanks for my BFF coming through her cancer treatment with flying colors and also to pray for ex-sweetie pie's uncle who is in ICU after surgery to remove a growth on his kidney and aorta. The service was beautiful and Judy Collins came out in a shimmery white pantsuit and got us all to sing Amazing Grace which was when I lost it and got teary. But I have to say that there was a woman sitting next to me with her two daughters who clearly didn't know how to act in church, which was working my last nerve. If I had ever acted up like that, my mother would have spanked me until I couldn't sit down for a week.

Have to start working on Chapter 8 this week. Still on schedule to finish up Chapter 9 and do revisions before I leave for NEC on the 11th.

That's it for now.

Thanks for reading!


Oh, I saw the Top Chef book in B&N this weekend and I totally want it even though its $18 with my B&N discount card.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Blast from the Past!

Look who crawled out of the woodwork! Recognize her? If you don't, then you weren't around or old enough in 1984 when Sidney Biddle Barrows was once of the biggest stories in the news.

She was called The Mayflower Madam because her ancestors had come over on The Mayflower. The Biddles in Philadelphia are an old Mainline family, the type that only have their names in the paper 3 times, when they are born, when they get married and when they die.

After moving to the city to work as a buyer for Abraham & Straus, a department store in Brooklyn (which sadly no longer exists), poor Sydney realized that its hard to live on only $18,000 a year (and this was back in the 1970's). What's a girl to do, particularly when she comes from a wealthy background? Why take a part-time job working for an escort service.

Now Sydney never sullied her hands with actually working as an escort. Oh no, she was one of the women who answered the phone and made the bookings. Pretty soon, she thought 'Hey I can do better than this!' and opened her own escort agency called Cache. Quick FYI - escort agencies technically are not illegal. Anyone who has read the back of New York magazine or Time Out sees ads for them all the time. What is illegal is if the girls are having sex with the men they go out with, because then it becomes prostitution.

Most escort agencies turn a blind eye if the girls are making a little extra money for some schtupping, others add it to the bill. Sydney had no qualms about her girls having sex with the men they were paid to escort. She even helped them out, taught them how to dress better, how to talk to wealthy men, along with a few sex tricks. According to Wikipedia: "Unlike other escort agencies, Cachet offered an unparalleled service at the time, catering to the wealthy and powerful who either visited or lived in New York City. Some of its clients included industrialists, high-powered business executives and lawyers, foreign diplomats and Arabian oil sheiks. Barrows was well-known for treating her "girls" with respect and dignity while also maintaining strict codes of conduct to preserve high standards and a reputation for outstanding service with elegance."

She was finally busted in 1984, and when her background was revealed, quickly became a celebrity. After all, it was like finding out that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had run an escort agency. She was beautiful, blonde and aristrocratic. There are just certain things that women of that class just don't do. It was shocking to people why a girl of her background and education would willing set foot in the sex industry. After pleading guilty, she wrote her memoir, Mayflower Madam, which was made into a TV movie starring another icy-blonde, Candice Bergen. She wrote 2 more books and finally married in 1994.

Now she's back in the news, giving her comments on the Eliott Spitzer debacle. "These people have nothing better to do?" Ms. Barrows asked. "We have terrorists out there. We have murderers, we have rapists, child molesters. And they're worried about somebody getting [sex]?"

According to her random sex is less hurtful than say having a long-term extra-marital affair with someone.
"Who are we to pass judgment on other people?" she said. "For instance, if he'd gone and had a girlfriend, now that's a relationship. That is something that is truly a threat to a marriage. A relationship would be the worst thing for him to do morally, but he would be in less trouble for that."

Oh and she says that Empire Club's contention that they sometimes charged $5,300 for high-flyers is exaggerated. Apparently back in 1984, her top charge was $200. Let's just forget the fact that 24 years ago. There's a little thing called inflation, and I'm sure some of those diplomats in DC probably don't have a problem paying that kind of money, not to mention rich billionaires. After all, some people feel the more you pay, the better value you get. Isn't that why some people pay $650 for a pair of shoes rather than going to Target or Payless?

Who next? Heidi Fleiss's comments? Can I just say that Ms. Fleiss always looked like 5 miles of bad road.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Rainy Wednesday

So our new governor, David Paterson, here in New York has just admitted that he and his wife cheated on each other over a two year period until they went into counseling and saved their marriage. Wow, and he hasn't even been governor for 2 days! See what Elliot Spitzer hath wrought. This poor man had to reveal personal stuff that he probably hadn't revealed to his parents just so no one could use the information in the future if it was found out.

What got me about this whole thing was that he took one of his girlfriends to a Days Inn. Now, I made a vow to myself that I would never have an affair with a married man, I don't care if he's seperated. If there are no divorce papers filed, I'm not dating you. But if I were so foolish as to fall for a married man, it would be over before it started if he took me to a Days Inn. Seriously, were the hotels in Chinatown that rent by the hour full? He had no friends whose apartments he could use? Couldn't spring for at least a boutique hotel up in Carnegie Hill?

Come on, if having an affair with a married man, didn't tell you that the relationship wasn't going anywhere, having him take you to a Days Inn should seal it.

And how did Rick Fox get a starring role in a movie opposite Angela Bassett? Was Morris Chestnut not available? LL Cool J, Boris Kodjoe, Jamie Foxx, Terence Howard, Ludacris? You know, people who can actually act. The only time I've seen him off the basketball court was a small role on Ugly Betty and he was barely adequate. Of course this is a Tyler Perry film, so my expectations shouldn't be high. If anyone has sat through an episode of Tyler Perry's House of Payne on TBS, you know what I'm talking about.

I did love Miss Kristi Yamaguchi last night on DWTS, and Marlee Matlin was awesome. However, please Priscilla Presley, promise that you will sue whatever plastic surgeon did that to you. You were a beautiful woman and no you look like that mask from Scary Movie. You did rock the fox-trot with Louis van Amstel, who seriously scares me. I can't decide if I want Shannon Elizabeth or Monica Seles to be voted off first. And Marissa Janet Winokur needs to tone down the happy pills that she must have borrowed from Paula Abdul!

Back to the WIP. I'm at the end of chapter 7 and its just not working for me. Ever have that great idea but in the execution, its a bit wonky? Lucky that is rainy and disgusting today to keep me inside working.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dancing away with the Stars

So last night was the premiere of the 6th season of Dancing with the Stars, my most favorite television show of all. Seriously, I love this show even more than American Idol and Top Chef, which just goes to show you how lowbrow I am. What I love about it, is that it's celebrities out of their comfort zone. It is live, there are no re-takes, if you make a mistake, it will be replayed on YouTube for eternity.

So why do B, C and D list celebrities do it? Because it's fun. They get to wear pretty costumes and dance with hot men and women, and their significant others can't really complain about it, because its dancing, not a love scene with kissing and partial nudity. Also they are learning something, how to dance. And possibly reviving their careers like Joey Fatone, Mario Lopez, and Ian Ziering (seriously had any of you seen Steve Saunders since 90210 ended?).

My money so far is on Mario and Jason Taylor. Mario because he can really dance, although Mario Lopez might wanna watch out because I think this Mario is trying to make time with Karina, and Jason Taylor just because he's big and yummy. Penn Jilette and Adam Carolla will be long gone soon, and Steve Guttenberg will be this seen's John Ratzenberger or Marie Osmond, you know the celebrity who stays on long past their sell by date because they are cute and try hard.

Then I caved and watched the season premiere of The Bachelor. I know that I said I would stop wathcing this show after Brad Womack, but come on, the new Bachelor is British and cute, I had to watch, if only to see one of the Bachelorettes hand him her panties before she passed out. Yes, she gave him her panties. At least, I hope they weren't the ones she was wearing. I could be wrong, which makes it even more disgusting.

Seriously, is this what women have come to? Giving a man they just met and don't really know their panties after playing footsie and practically feeling him up? You know there is flirting and then there is just being a skank. And panty girl crossed the line. I have to give Matt Grant, the Bachelor, credit for not picking her to stay around to add drama to the show (although from the previews, we get to see angry black woman in the next episode. I know, couldn't skirt that stereotype!).

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 17, 2008

Movies, Men and Me

Okay, so I broke down and went to see The Other Boleyn Girl this weekend. I just decided that if I'm going to bitch and moan, I might as well know exactly what I'm bitching and moaning about. The good news, Eric Bana managed to capture some of what Henry might actually have been like, and he certainly was made to look like him in the sheer bulk of his body in the costumes. Still, the dark brown eyes and dark hair and the broody charisma sort of got in the way particularly towards the end of the film. SPOILER ALERT! Especially when the film shows him raping Anne. Natalie Portman, an actress that I can usually take or leave, I thought was fabulous as Anne Boleyn. The weakest link was Scarlett Johanssen. In a way, it's not her fault since the script made her out to be an innocent little virgin who gets caught up in her family's ambitions, when Mary was anything but (despite what Philippa Gregory might want to believe) and she was Anne's elder sister, not her younger. For once you have a historical fiction writer who makes a real life personage less interesting than she might have been and the film compounds it.

I had a hard time believing that Peter Morgan who wrote The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon and The Queen wrote this screenplay. While the scenes of the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Thomas Boleyn plotting were interesting, the one person who should have been in this movie was Cardinal Wolsey, who is nowhere to be found. Another plot point, what happened to Mary's first husband William Carey? He disappears in the film and we have no idea that he's dead until Stafford asks her to marry him. WTF? Was there a scene where he died and it got cut from the film?

The costumes were beautiful (loved Anne's green number in the poster), and it was nice to see Kristen Scott Thomas on screen.

Saturday however, I saw a great film, Hal Ashby's Being There, starring Peter Seller's in one of his last performances. The Philoctetes Center showed a screening as part of a Brain Waves festival. The movie was so beautiful and profound that I couldn't concentrate on the roundtable afterwards. Something to do with a Mirror and a Lamp, and autism or something like that. Nice looking Scotsman on the panel in his fifties. A little older than I normally like my men. I had fun listening to him talk even though what he was talking about kind of escaped me because I was to busy listening to the accent.

Went out Saturday night with the SWAT team. Met up for the pre-pre party of photos and champagne, and then on to the pre-party which is where I ended the night around 1 a.m.
Oh and the men in the title of this post? I don't have one but today is St. Patrick's Day, so I may go out later and try to flag down a drunken Irishman on his 9th pint of Guiness.

Wish me luck!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

What's a Girl to do?

So the NEC conference is coming up in April and there is a Little Black Dress party and I need shoes people. These are my current top two favorites, both from Nine West. The shoe on the left also comes in green, black, and gold, although in Life & Style magazine they teased me by showing it in a lovely shade of deep purple, which would look fabulous with a little black dress.

This saucy little number would also look fabu with a little black dress and my black leather pants, as well as any number of outfits.
I just can't decide which pair to buy. Or should I be daring and buy both?
Any thoughts would be most welcome.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gone Reality!

Can someone explain to me how Julio Iglesias Jr. won the CMT reality show Gone Country? Seriously, his song sucked compared to the other contestants. The only thing he had going for him, is that for some reason, women find him sexy. Maureen McCormick overcame severe stage fright, Bobby Brown had the most passionate performance, and Dee Snider actually did something that remotely sounded like country and John Rich picks Enrique Iglesias less talented brother? Go figure!

This week was the first episode of the new Top Chef and all I can say is how can you be a chef if you can't make chicken piccata? Seriously, I don't even eat meat, and I know how to make chicken piccata. It's not even hard, you dredge the chicken, after pounding it into thin cutlets, into a mixture of flour and then eggs, and then cook it in a lemon butter sauce with capers, maybe a little white wine. A ten year old could make chicken piccata, and this guy Ryan apparently has been cooking in kitchens since he was 11 years old. He actually bragged about his father firing older employees because he outcooked them. Bet Dad's not proud of him now.

Oh, and casting the lesbian couple, who cares? They are competing against themselves, and each other. The show is called Top Chef not Top Chefs. I can only imagine that relationship is going to end up in tears. But how awesome was the house they get to live in? Apart from Survivor, I think people go on reality tv shows so that for a few weeks they can live in better real estate than they already have. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. Seriously, the women on The Bachelor seem to have a better time in the house than they do with The Bachelor.

What do people think? Julio Iglesias Jr. Country star in the making? Do you know how to make chicken piccata? And have you ever thought of going on a reality TV show just to live in a cool house?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The American Girl in College - 1895 Edition

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I am writing a historical YA set at women's college in upstate New York in the year 1895. I chose 1895 because it meant indoor plumbing, heat and electric bulbs, along with the Gibson girl hairdos and the mutton sleeves. Also, young women at this time were riding bicycles, typewriters were coming into use, the USA was heading towards the dawn of the 20th century. Also it was a few years before the Spanish-American war, which as far as I'm concerned is when Europeans started to hate us. Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx united soon after with Manhattan to become the New York City that we know and love and can't afford to live in.

For my heroine and her friends, going to college was still a relatively new thing, although by 1895 more and more young women who could afford it were opting for a college education. By 1895, the 7 Sisters had all been founded, Radcliffe, Barnard, Vassar, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Mt. Holyoke, and Wellesley.

Mt. Holyoke and Elmira College were among the first schools offering advanced education to women, but Vassar was the first one to call itself a college. Mt. Holyoke didn't start offering a bachelor's degree until the 1870's, by which time Smith and Wellesley had been founded. Of course, going to a women's college wasn't the only option. Syracuse, Cornell, and Oberlin had all been admitting women for years but most middle class women opted to attend a womens college.

At first girls lived in boarding houses near the college before someone came up with the bright idea of building dormitories. At Vassar initially the students lived and attended classes in the same building. Vassar had also established a prepretory school to prepare young women for the rigors of the education at Vassar. The prepretory school last from the founding of the school in 1861 until the mid-1880's.

In order to attend Vassar, young women had to sit for an exam, the way that they do today for Oxford and Cambridge. There were no SAT tests, so girls were tested on Latin, Algebra and Geometry, either German or French and English composition. The Vassar catalogue for 1891 gives the books and plays that might be the subject for the essay on the exam. So basically, in order to apply, you needed to know those books and plays backwards and forwards because you had no idea until you sat down to take the test what the question would be.

Seriously, reading about the exam, I wouldn't have gotten into Vassar in 1882 anymore than I did in1982!

In 1895, I learned that Bryn Mawr and Vassar were the most expensive schools costing a whopping $400 including room and board. The cheapest was Mt. Holyoke. Mt. Holyoke managed to keep costs down by basically requiring the students do the work of servants as well as attending classes. Isn't that great? You get to go to college and wait tables, clean the dorms, and do the laundry. I think they even had to cook the meals as well!

At Vassar, laundry was included in the tuition for up to 15 pieces a week, more than that cost extra. You were also required to bring your own towels and napkins. Most schools had extracurricular activities ranging from student goverment to the glee club. Also sororities or Greek social clubs were also founded. Not like the ones we all might have experienced in college, which had chapters at campuses all across the country (at least 4 sororities were founded at Syracuse alone as an antidote to the fraternities that existed on campus). Most of them were particular to that school.

At Vassar, it wasn't uncommon to have the students perform plays like Antigone in the original Greek! Vassar was also known for having one of the first female astronomy professors and observatories in the country. Sports actually were pretty big news at womens colleges. Pretty much every school required that the girls take gym and participate in sports. Basket Ball (two seperate words back then) was in play at most schools by 1895, the rules having been modified for women at Smith College. Oh and they weren't called swimming pools but swimming tanks!

Most of my research has focused on Vassar for the simple fact that there web-site includes the most information that I could find on the history of the college. The other 7 Sisters schools have little to none. I've managed to incorporate some traditions from other schools from research that I've done on the Internet (yeah Google books). But I have a feeling that most of us would not have wanted to attend a women's college in the 19th century.

Not only did most of them have curfews (which persisted into the 20th century up until the 1960's), but a lot of them also had a morning bell at 7:00 a.m. No sleeping late and missing your first class at these schools.

Well that's just a brief taste of what life was like back in 1895 at college.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Living in a Virtual World

On Sunday I went to a talk/demonstration at The Philoctetes Center concerning Virtual Reality, specifically Second Life and something called Qwack (which reminds me of the way some bloggers refer to Krystal on All My Children as Kwack), not to be confused with Quark which is publishing software.

Well, the demonstration was a bust because Second Life was busy and kept crashing the computers and other technical disasters. It reminded me of how the SIMS kept crashing my computer every time I tried to use it because I didn't have enough memory/RAM/whatever that it needed. I could waste hours with those silly SIMS, creating their homes, decorating them, torturing them by not building bathrooms, setting them on fire. Oops! Did I share too much?

Still I got enough of a taste to realize that I made a good decision when I decided not to activate my Second Life membership. I spend way too much time online as it is what with blogging here and over at Scandalous Women, and doing what I call research aka wasting time (no, seriously I do use the internet to research when I'm not wasting time).

Spending time in Second Life would seriously put a crimp in what little social life that I have. I'm sure everyone by now knows a little bit about Second Life, it's been featured in major newspapers and magazines. You sign up and create an Avatar which I'm told can take hours to dress it and make it look like something, and then you interact with other people. You can join groups just like on Facebook and MySpace.

And of course, there are people who take being on Second Life to extremes. Someone mentioned that a couple broke up because the husband married someone else in Second Life. Its so different than the people who misrepresent themselves in chat rooms (see Dateline) or on internet dating sites. Living in a Virtual World can seem much cooler than you real life, because you're creating your life in Second Life or whatever world the way you want it to be with less effort than it would take to create it in real life. It's totally seductive.

I did learn some cool stuff particularly about doing virtual book signings in Second Life. It looks like it could be another interesting way to promote your work, particularly if you write a certain type of book. It turns out that Mike Naismith who is one of the Monkees is involved with Second Life. His mother invented Liquid Paper and when she died, she left him something like $50MM. Apparently he came up with the concept for MTV and then sold it to Time Warner (at least that's the rumor).

While there are misgivings about Virtual World's like Second Life in terms of people losing the ability to navigate outside the virtual world, it brings up some intriguing possibilities. The bottom line is that there is no turning back. Even MTV has taken the Lauren Conrad show and created the virtual The Hills where viewers can interact in the world of the show. I can see that there will be more of this cross-promotion in the future.

I actually bit the bullet and raised the topic of using Virtual Reality in the classroom, specifically in terms of teaching history. Since most kids may not be able to afford to go to Colonial Williamsburg or even a Renaissance Faire, virtual reality would give them a chance to experience something of what it might have been like living in the past.

It would involve the program being created by a team of historians as well as programmers, but imagine what it would be like kids to experience life in New Amsterdam or at Valley Forge. After say 20 minutes of exploring the virtual world, children would then be encouraged by their teachers to talk about what they learned, about not just the practical stuff but also the social world, the heirarchy of a trading post or a colonial outpost. I think it could be way cool.

What do others think? As anyone indulged in Second Life or playing the SIMS? Do people think that there is too much time spend on line in these kinds of communities?

Monday, March 10, 2008

What I did over the Weekend

Was it just me, or did other people forget about the time change this past weekend? I woke up yesterday thinking it was 8 o'clock in the morning only to find out it was actually 9! Thank god my DVR and DVD player update themselves otherwise I might never have figured it out. As it is, I had a bit of a headache from sleeping too long. Does anyone else get those?

Well, we had a bit of a monsoon Friday and Saturday here in New York. My JCrew wellies came in handy, plus they were tres cute. They're navy blue with white polka dots and hot pink trim. Very kicky for jumping over puddles.

When I left my dance class on Friday night, after sweating for an hour doing the samba, I headed off to see a delightful new movie called Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. If you like the movie Cold Comfort Fam by Stella Gibbons that was made into a movie years ago with Kate Beckinsale, you will love this film. It's just delightful. It reminded me of those old screwball comedies of the 30's before the Production Code took over and everyone had to be all moral and stuff.

Frances McDormand plays Guinevere Pettigrew, a governess who is down on her luck after being fired from yet another job. The employment agency is reluctant to give her another assignment so she finagles her way into a job with Deylssia LaFosse, an American actress/singer who has not one, not two, but three lovers that she's trying to juggle including Michael, a pianist who is madly in love with her and wants to marry her, but of course he's broke. Miss Pettigrew straightens everything out and in the end, gets her own happy ending.

I loved this film! Frances McDorman was wonderful and Amy Adams was amazing. The great thing about this movie was that I could totally see it as a Broadway musical. I'm surprised that no one has tried to adapt it for the stage before this. All it needs is a composer/lyricist who is familiar with 1930's musicals.

Also this movie had Ciaran Hinds whom I adore, and have ever since I saw Persuasion in the cinema. Lee Pace, from Pushing Daisies, showed another side of his persona as an actor. I forgot to mention the absolutely glamorous Art Deco apartment that Delyssia lives in that is to die for, or the yummy costumes that she gets to wear.

All in all, I highly recommed this movie.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday's Real Estate Porn

Wow, I wish I had $3.6 MM for this apartment of Betsey Johnson's.

According to the Corcoran site:

This stylish Gold Coast penthouse duplex loft is the New York residence of a famed fashion designer whose underlying respect for classics always has an irreverent edge and sense of fun... A lavishly presented confection of fifties Hollywood glamour trimmed in lace, velvet, and gold tassels, beneath the signature pink paint and fabulously frou-frou furnishings is a home with unique character and great bones:

Oversize windows (four exposures) with priceless views across Fifth Avenue over church spires and West Village rooftops to Jersey, stunning ebonized floors, beamed ceiling, crown moldings, a floating stairway past a glass brick wall up to the private roof deck, and a spacious bath with claw foot tub and that wonderful, slightly loopy Old World plumbing reminiscent of a suite at the Ritz. Space and location are highly coveted; there's approximately 1,000sf of outdoor space for landscaping, entertaining, and enjoying dramatic sunsets overlooking Fifth Avenue at 12th Street, one of the City's favorite locations, perfect for access to Downtown restaurants, Union Square Farmers' Market, nightlife, galleries - - Chelsea, the Village, Soho - - as well as Uptown destinations. Like a Parisian artist's garret with space, light, and views, this unique New York home suggests a lifestyle at once laid back and elegant!

Seriously, I would want to buy the furniture and everything. I wouldn't even change it, although after awhile I think it would be like living in a giant bottle of Pepto Bismol.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Real Housewives of New York City

I watched the first episode of The Real Housewives of New York City and all I have to say is:

Where are the Black people?

Seriously, what is up with homogenity of these shows? Haven't the producers watched Ugly Betty? Wilhemina Slater is one of the most popular characters on that show. You can't tell me that they couldn't find any upwardly mobile Latina/Black/Asian women to feature in this series. Those women who serve on the boards of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Alvin Ailey, or Dance Theatre of Harlem. I know these women exist, all you have to do is read Lawrence Otis Graham's book "Our Kind of People" to know that snobby black people exist. Or call Spike's wife, Tonya, she must know some. Park Avenue Peerage just had pictures of Susan Fales Hill, and I'm sure the writers over at Stuff Educated Black People like know some.

So far in the first episode, the only people of color to appear are the African tennis pro (who looked like he hoped his visa wouldn't be revoked for appearing) and the Filipino housekeeper who complained about having to clean up dog poop, after Countess LuAnn deLesseps (seriously her name is LuAnn) bought her son a westie puppy named Aston after the car.

Okay, I know the conceit is that all these women know each other from the charity circuit in New York and they all summer out in the Hamptons, but heck, people of color summer out in the Hamptons too. Although I suppose I should be grateful that they didn't inflict Kimora Lee Simmons or Omarosa on us, the usual suspects.

I just think that Bravo had the opportunity to really show a broad spectrum of New York City society, but instead they chose to focus on the narrowest segment they possibly could. Still, I'll be watching if only to see thong guy and his wife who are inseperable and Countess LuAnn who next week chastizes little Bethenny for not introducing her properly to the driver of the car they're taking to wherever.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Madonna - Barmaid?

Apparently Madonna has bought more London real estate. While Madonna's been busy putting the final touches to her new album Hard Candy, the queen of pop (no need for Aretha Franklin to get upset about that appellation) and her husband have just bought a traditional British pub in London for a reported £2.5 million. Yes, they bought a bar for $5 million. That's about the price of a townhouse on the Upper West Side or in Brooklyn. You know a place where people actually live.

It seems the pub is their local hunt. It's located just around the corner from the couple's West End home. "Madonna absolutely adores the pub," reveals a source. "They pop in regularly to get away from it all… Guy meets all his pals down there. They've been desperate to own this place for a long time and have been making offers on it for ages. Now it's finally happened."

The pub, which attracts celebrity customers ranging from Robert Deniro to EastEnders veteran Barbara Winsor (who also starred in a lot of Carry On films), is steeped in history. It's been around since the 1730s and once belonged to notorious London gangster Freddie Foreman (who was an enforcer for the Kray Twins). "She'll be the most glamorous landlady alive," added the source about the singer, who's known to be a fan of northern brew Timothy Taylor's Landlord bitter.

Can you just imagine Madge behind the bar pulling pints while Guy dishes up the Shepherd's Pie? No, neither can I but wouldn't it be hysterical? I wonder if she's going to sell that pricey Kaballah water at the bar. In England, they love to ask you if you want still or sparkling water. So maybe it'll be "still, sparkling or Kaballah?"

Will they have Purim parties at the pub? Celebrate the 8 days of Hanukkah with a menorah and the Hanukkah bush in the corner? Will Madge's records be played exclusively on the jukebox? It boggles the mind. I have to hand it to her, Madonna is on the cutting edge. Most celebrities invest in restaurants, not her. She buys herself an authentic three hundred and seventy year old pub. I hope she's updated the bathrooms. I'm going to have to have my friend Chip or my Impossibly Handsome British friend go to Mayfair to have a pint.

And how cool that it's in Mayfair. Did you know there's a red light disctrict in a section of Mayfair where there are lot of prostitutes? I had no idea, if I remember correctly its in Shepherd's market. I took a walking tour of Mayfair once, and the tour guide pointed it out. How delicious, Madonna and a red light district all in one area!

Question of the day: Would you go to a pub just because Madonna owned it? Would you freak if you saw her standing behind the bar?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Diana, Dodi and Hasnat

Hello! Magazine reports that Princess Diana's former boyfriend Hasnat Khan testified at the inquiry the other day via a statement that Diana broke up with him not the other way around as been reported in various biographies since her death. He insists that she came back from her first vacation with Dodi and the Fayeds and told him that it was over. I wonder what Tina Brown makes of all of this? As the most recent biographer of the Princess of Wales, she stated that she had it from reliable sources that it was the other way around. I presume that his statement must have been taken under oath, so he would have no reason to lie.

"I think Diana finally realised that (he) could give her all the things I could not," wrote the doctor. "He had money and could provide the necessary security."

Hasnat added: "She wanted to be with someone who was happy to be seen with her in public and she could do that with Dodi."

Hasnat and the Princess met in 1995 when she went to visit the hospital where he worked. After accepting an invitation to go for a meal at his uncle's home, the relationship turned into a love-affair. "After this our friendship turned into a relationship. We had a normal sexual relationship," he said. Diana would sneak into the hospital and watch him perform surgeries, sitting up in the gallery (the way the surgeons do on Grey's Anatomy).

According to his testimony, Princess Diana loved to do "everyday things" that we ordinary people take for granted, like going out to pubs. During their relationship, they discussed marriage, and Diana told him that she desperately wanted to have a daughter. "Emotionally she felt she was still young," wrote Hasnat. "She wanted a husband to be there for her, to have a normal relationship with him."

I wonder why Diana told her friends that Hasnat had broken up with her? Was this another case of Diana playing the victim of her circumstances? Sort of "Oh poor me, I can't find a man because I'm a Princess?" And if she did break up with Hasnat, the man who was apparently the love of her life, then I have a feeling that she was trying to make him jealous with her relationship with Dodi Fayed. Hoping probably that he would propose to her if he thought that he was losing her. That he would get over his feeling that he would be nothing more than an appendage, that her life would get in the way of her career.

Dodi must have seemed so attractive after a workaholic like Hasnat Khan. Dodi was rich and dabbled in a career as a film producer. We know that Diana loved all the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and film stars. After all didn't Kevin Costner claim that they had talked about doing a sequel to The Bodyguard with Diana in the starring role? (Does anyone else find that idea as horrific as I do? A real actress, it might work, a real Princess, no way. Not that Queen Elizabeth wouldn't have nipped that idea in the bud real quick). Plus Dodi had plenty of money from his daddy, Mohammed, who would have had no problem opening up the purse strings for his son's relationship with a member of the Royal Family.

Still I doubt that the relationship would have lasted much longer. Despite Dodi's money and attentiveness, I have a feeling that after awhile, Diana would have looked again for a man with substance like Hasnat Khan. I think what she really wanted was someone like Prince Charles, but who would have lavished attention on her. All her life it seemed that she swung between men who lavished affection on her who were lightweights like Dodi and James Hewitt, and strong men who had lives like Oliver Hoare, Hasnat Khan, Prince Charles, men who she could look up to but who weren't about to change their lives for her.

What's really sad is that both Charles and Diana had both been starved of affection from their parents as children and seemed to be seeking it from their partners. Charles found it with Camilla, and briefly with Diana during their courtship days, but I don't think either one of them knew how to heal the wounds from their childhoods.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 03, 2008

Historical Friction

Why do I do this to myself? I totally decided against going to see The Other Boleyn Girl because I knew it was probably going to piss me off, so what do I do instead? I decide to watch The Tudors on Showtime On Demand because they're offering all 10 episodes for free leading up to the premiere of the second season. Since this meant that I didn't have to spend $12.00 ordering it from Netflix, I decided to go ahead and watch.

Oy, after the first episode I was in such pain from the historical accuracies, I couldn't stand it. I watched two more episodes before I had to stop. The voiceover at the beginning of each episode says something like "You think you know the whole story, but you don't. You have to start from the beginning."

Okay but which beginning? Two episodes in and we already have Anne Boleyn showing up, which didn't happen until Henry was in his mid-thirties. So why does Jonathan Rhys-Meyers look like he's only 22? And whose idea was it to portray Henry as an immature idiot? Why doesn't he have red hair? Or Catherine? Seriously if it weren't for the performances of Sam Neill as Cardinal Wosley and Jeremy Northam as Sir Thomas More, I wouldn't have made it past the first episode. Also, Maria Doyle Kennedy as Catherine of Aragon is brilliant. But the inaccuracies are driving me nuts. And if you are going to claim that we don't know the whole story, why don't you give to us instead of this souffle of nothingness?

According to Wikipedia these are just a few of the liberties the writers and producers have taken:

Time is conflated in the series, giving the impression that things happened closer together than they actually did. By the time of most of the events in this series, King Henry VIII was already in his mid-to-late 30s. Henry was about a decade older than Anne Boleyn, who was born circa 1501, and did not seriously begin his pursuit of her until he was in his mid-thirties.

The character of Henry's sister, called "Princess Margaret" in the series, is actually a composite of his two sisters: the life events of his youngest sister, Princess Mary Tudor, coupled with the name of his eldest sister, Margaret Tudor (to avoid confusion with Henry's daughter, Mary I of England). Historically, Henry's sister Princess Mary first married the French King Louis XII. The union lasted approximately three months, until his death; Louis was succeeded by his cousin Francis I, who was married to Louis' daughter Claude of France. Mary subsequently married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. As The Tudors begins, Henry is already negotiating a peace treaty with Francis; the series' Princess Margaret thus marries the Portuguese king, who lives only a few days until she murders him in his sleep. By the time of the events of this series, the historical Brandon (who was already in his early 40s) and Princess Mary were long married with three children. Henry's eldest sister, Margaret Tudor, was actually married to King James IV of Scotland and became the grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots.

(I completely don't get why they decided to squish the two sisters together, especially since Lady Jane Grey is a descendent of Mary Tudor, and that's her claim to the throne. Plus the Scots were a huge thorne in Henry's side during his reign, and his sister was married off to James IV to try and prevent problems. Also it was Princess Mary Tudor, Henry's sister, who was betrothed to Charles of Castile, Holy Roman Emperor and not Henry's daughter Mary, and the ship Mary Rose that Henry mentions in like episode 2 was named after her).

While Bessie Blount was famously one of Henry VIII's mistresses and did give Henry an illegitimate son (Henry FitzRoy), historically, her son did not die as a small child. FitzRoy died at the age of 17 in 1536, roughly 10 years before the death of his father, Henry VIII. Blount was also not married until after the birth of Henry FitzRoy.

The papal politics depicted in the first several episodes of the series also have no clear relation to actual events. A Pope Alexander is depicted as on his death bed at the time of the Field of the Cloth of Gold meeting between Henry and Francis (in 1520), whereas the actual pope at that time, Leo X, died suddenly at the very end of 1521, and there had not been a pope named Alexander since 1503, before the beginning of Henry's reign. A Cardinal Orsini is depicted as being elected following the death of the fictional Alexander, which, again, does not correspond to actual history, when the Emperor's tutor Adrian of Utrecht was elected to succeed Leo, and, following his death just a year later, Cardinal Medici, who as Clement VII would refuse to permit Henry's divorce, was elected to the papal throne.

In the first episode an English ambassador described as the uncle of Henry VIII is murdered in Italy by Frenchmen; the historical Henry VIII had no such uncle. However, the character is named "Courtenay," suggesting William Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon, who was married to Henry's aunt Catherine of York but died of pleurisy in 1511. There is also no historical evidence that composer Thomas Tallis was bisexual, as portrayed in the series. Plus Tallis did not perform before the court until at least 10 years (1543) after the events portrayed in the beginning of the series.

The Palace of Whitehall as shown to be the home of Henry VIII from the beginning of the series, only fell into Henry's hands in 1530 after he removed Cardinal Wolsey from power. Up until this point in time it was called York Place, and was taken by Henry to be his home with his fiancée Anne Boleyn.[6] The Palace was not referred to as Whitehall Palace until as much as a decade after.

Cardinal Wolsey was not imprisoned and did not commit suicide. After being accused of treason, he set out for London to answer the charges and died en route in Leicester. Wolsey's death came in 1530, three years before the death of Henry's sister Mary; in the series, the two events are juxtaposed.

In the second episode of season one Henry VIII is seen celebrating the birth of his son and fires a flintlock to do so. However, this type of musket was not invented until 1630, a century later.

So, I don't know if I have the strength of will to continue to watch the other 6 episodes of this thing without throwing something at my brand new television.

What do others think? Have you seen The Tudors and did it drive you nuts? Or did you just accept it as entertainment?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Almost Fabulous by Michelle Radford

I'm pleased to pimp out author Michelle Radford today. Her first YA came out on Tuesday called Almost Fabulous. Michelle is not exactly a new author. Under her real name Michelle Cunnah, she's written 3 adorable chick-lit novels including the 32AA. Michelle was one of the first chick-lit authors that I met at the 2003 New York conference.

Here's the synopsis of Almost Fabulous:

Fiona Blount lives by one rule: Remain anonymous and nothing bad can happen to you. But these days, Fiona can't avoid the spotlight. Because crazy things just happen around her, and suddenly everyone's looking her way—including her London school's resident mean girl and Fiona's supersecret crush. As if growing up isn't already confusing, dealing with the fact that she now has the power of mind control is enough to push any fourteen-year-old girl over the edge! Could this newly discovered talent have anything to do with possibly locating her long-lost father? And will she be able to stop tripping her archenemy with her mind? Fiona might be a little clueless and a lot confused, but she's totally entertaining and way more than almost fabulous!

Almost two years, Michelle told Kwana and I that she had sold her first YA to Harper Teen and here it finally is. If you want a sneak peek at the first chapter, head on over to Michelle's website.