Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Layers Of Skeeze

As a fan of Pride and Predjudice, I have been enjoying "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries".  I tend to be a little particular with spinoffs and adaptations, but I would rank this up there with "Clueless" in doing a wonderful job of remaining true to the spirit of the original, while also being an interesting modern story.
Now, obviously, many things have changed in the last 200 years, including the fact that being an unattached female caught unchaperoned with a male is not quite the danger to one's future that it used to be, even if there may have been a whole night involved. 
(I feel, I should note that I am writing this before the entire story has concluded.)
(Also, if you consider information about a 200 year old book a spoiler, or are not caught up on the videos, stop now.) 
So, the videos had the letter.  (Oh, the letter.)  And Elizabeth shared some of the information about Wickham and kept some of it private since it involved a third party. Now that she and Gigi have been working together, Gigi decided to tell the story herself. And as I watched I was struck by the interesting challenge presented by the combination of our more modern sensibilities and the aging up of Gigi. In P&P Gigi (aka Georgiana) is 15 when Wickham swoops in and attempts to elope with her in order to access her fortune.  In "LBD" Gigi is in college.  Now, certainly 15 in the time of P&P was entirely marriageable age, so I can see why the producers made the choice to make her more college-aged.  But, to me, the 15 always seemed a crucial part of that.  (Especially when you consider that Lydia is also 15, although again, in the book there is less distance between the two events. And Wickham does try to woo Elizabeth for a bit too. So he has range.) 
Certainly I didn't make perfect choices in my college years either. (Or after.) But, as Courtney Milan and others have pointed out, as presented in "LBD" this is now really about money.  It is in many ways the difference of being someone born into a fortune vs. someone who grew up in a fancy house, but was not rich themselves (which exists in PnP and I'm not suggesting that class differences was never part of it).  While we all know that person in the story who takes the check and agrees to stay away from their true love is always the bad guy or girl, it becomes a little less awful because when one does not, for example, have a place to live or a job.  It's really hard to turn down a big check in the best of times. 
Now, this isn't to say I have become a Wickham apologist.  There are still plenty of ways to be skeezy in the modern world (um, yay?).  It's still skeezy that he hopped from dating Lizzie to Lydia.  (In fact, considering the differences in what dating can entail in the modern world vs. a few hundred years ago, I would argue more skeezy.  I realize this happens outside of fiction, and I have to tell you, my sister and I have differing tastes, but I still can't imagine dating someone she dated.) He's also skeezy in his use of the same nickname for all his special girls.  And he's skeezy in the way he treats Lydia and tries to control her. In fact the "Heartbreaker" episode of "The Lydia Bennet" is almost textbook in it's depiction of controlling behavior. But it struck me how the differences in the modern version meant it took more pieces to make me really dislike Wickham, whereas in the original, it pretty much just took the letter. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

I am Against Cofftea

So here's the thing.  Coffee is a drink.  It is a totally acceptable drink for many people.  I don't have any moral or ethical objections myself to coffee, I just happen to not like it.  (It smells delicious.  I find I do not enjoy the taste.  Even when laden with chocolate.)  These days lots of places provide a hot water station for the tea drinkers among us.  The thing is, many of these hot water stations are just rinsed out former coffee stations.  The result of making tea in such a station is that you get tea that tastes like coffee.  I tend to carry around large stashes of tea, because fortunately for me I like my tea strong and black and some times three to four tea bags can overcome this.  Sometimes.  Three to four.  The thing that is fascinating about this is most coffee makers have a lovely little hot water tap that just runs the water directly from the water source to the tap, bypassing the coffee making parts that tastes like **cue chorus** water.  It's all these free form pre-filled stations that apparently rotate (and for you coffee drinkers, if I can still taste the coffee in the water, aren't you just getting muddy tasting coffee?  Or is it like a blend?) and can't just keep one marked water to be used for water all the time.  This also applies to every in room hotel drinks making station I have ever encountered, but I consider those bonuses, rather than all the places you go where they charge you several dollars for the cup and then leave it up to chance whether you will get tea or cofftea. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Show I Have Never Seen

For quite sometime I watched "Jon and Kate Plus Eight".  For a long while it was a fascinating peek into the logistics of what happens when one has eight children all pretty close together in age.  And then, well, it turned into a peek into some other things.  But, in one of their interviews with the camera, Jon and Kate talked about why they would open up their home to cameras, and they said they were impressed with the producer and how his concept was to take unusual seeming families and film them so people could see that while the logistics of packing ten lunches for a picnic are certainly a little different, that in the end this was a family that operated much like other families. 
And while I know absolutely nothing about "All My Babies Mamas" and whether it really was that kind of show, or the kind of show that sets out to mock, while simultaneously glorifying bad behavior (which is also a choice) part of me hopes that it's intentions were good.  (All of me hopes that really.)  Because as this article points out, there are a really low number of people of color represented in reality TV, and whatever your personal thoughts about reality TV, certainly one could agree that it could at least do better at reflecting the population.  (Yes, I realize that reality is an intriguing and often misleading term when it comes to TV, but I certainly think that a TV landscape that includes a show about people who used to party in Jersey, and a show about people who moonshine, and a show about people in Alaska, and a show about people in a Boston neighborhood has space for some more shows about more diverse groups of people.) 
On the flip side, I recognize that this is a title and a scenario, a man who has children with ten different women, that is designed to titillate and does not, on its surface appear to hold education or illumination as its goal.  But I confess, I am a little intrigued as to how one manages the logistics of eleven children with ten different mothers. I also understand, that when your group is under-represented on television, it is more galling for some of those portrayals to feed into stereotypes. 
But, as the article pointed out, sometimes you tune in for one thing, and discover that it really is not that different from your own experience.  I'm guessing most people don't have to juggle ten co-parents, but I can only imagine that in many ways it's not that different from juggling two, which is really not that uncommon with today's blended families.  The Bradys never had to talk to their original spouses, but that's not really how it works for most people. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

You Don't Know Her

I think in many ways this Deadspin story (which it seemed like the whole of my Twitter feed linked to, so hat tips all around) about the fake girlfriend of a well known college football player speaks for itself.  But here are some of the things it has me pondering.  It still seems up for grabs at what point the player in question was aware that this was a not real person.  (Deadspin has some reasonable evidence that it was pretty early on, but people are often pretty blind to things when they want to be.)
With the "Catfish" documentary and now the TV show, there's some focus on the number of people adjusting themselves in online relationships.  I'm going to argue that this type of fakery has existed since the first person lied about their family money (ie pretty much forever) but certainly the internet can facilitate such things.  I don't believe I spoken before about a former roommate's story but what struck me reading this one about the player was how their seems to be a pattern to such things.  (Perhaps this is me extrapolating too much, but these are the admittedly random samples that I have.) 
So, roommate (as I'll refer to him for obvious reasons) met a girl in a chat room online.  They hit it off and progressed to regular emails and IMs.  They mailed each other photos.  (No I cannot recollect why they mailed photos rather than emailing.)  They, or at least he, referred to themselves as dating.  (Note: I do know real and substantive relationships that started this way.) They progressed to phone calls.  Then she confessed she had fudged her age.  She was a few years younger than she had originally said, but she was super smart and had gone to college early.  Then she confessed she had a brain tumor and had been given only a few months to live, but since falling in love with him had exceeded the doctor's predictions.  Then her friend called the roommate and told him she had died. 
Now I haven't spoken to roommate in quite some time, but at the time he considered this a real substantive relationship that had been cut tragically short.  And I'll confess that technically I have no proof that this did not happen exactly as relayed.  I just suspect that the person he dated was at best an avatar. 
So, reading this story about the football player I can see how - again possibly because the sum total of my knowledge of this situation comes from the story linked above, so this is me spitballing with no proof or anything - but I can see how maybe he thought he'd encountered a cool girl online and that they had all this stuff in common.  And then he started telling people he was dating and when people asked if he had met her, he did what many of us might have considered which is to say, of course.  Because even when you are sure there's nothing to worry about, you know that it sounds weird to be dating someone you never met, so you say yeah, we've totally met.  (Note: Again, I know people who's relationships developed significantly online, but in person meeting is always eventually a goal.) 
And then you've told this to your friends, your family, your coach, the news reporters, and now its a thing.  And more interestingly its a thing that people seem to really like about you.  So now you feel like this is your story.  So, I can see how this would be a challenge if you then discovered that yeah, no, not a real person.  Or, yeah, no, that's that guy who I met at that thing.  Again, I don't know if that's what happened.  I'm not suggesting that this would make it acceptable or okay.  It would not.  If he was legitimately tricked the whole time, or part of the time, or non of the time, it helps explain why one might do this, it doesn't make tricking people about yourself or others okay.  The vehemence of his teammates and coaches in initially defending him, even the fact that many of the first links I saw about this started with, "If this is true" indicates a lot of people believed this.  Even the number of news articles discussing this piece of backstory (and yes, we could take a moment to decry the decline of journalism, but, still, wow, imagine now you have to check every time someone says they are dating someone to make sure they are real?  I mean, possibly so.) 
So, technically, if this girl never existed, this is a victimless crime. Except of course if the player didn't know.  Or didn't always know.  And yes, theoretically, the player's ability to play should be the thing we care about.  But, we all know that isn't true.  Human interest angles help us feel more attached to people we don't know.  Or in the case of his teammates and coaches and family, people we do.  Maybe he would have been just as awesome and dedicated to a real life girlfriend.  But it's hard to tell.  It doesn't change the way he played.  But if it didn't change the way we talked about him, he could have just said they broke up a long time ago. 
In his statement to Deadspin, he says, "If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was."  And I'm not sure at all that that's the take away.  I think, sure, a healthy dose of caution is a great idea, both with people you meet on line and in real life.
I certainly have met lovely people on line with whom I now have in person relationships.  And in many cases, they turned out to be much like I expected from our on line interactions. I talk with long distance friends and family on line.  And there are plenty of people for whom my only interaction will likely be on line, our paths in real life might never cross.  Or cross only once or twice. And all of this is fine. The internet, the phone, video chat, all of these allow people to start, continue and maintain relationships.  But not all people are honest about themselves.  And not all people are honest about, well, their girlfriend in Canada.  That's not really the fault of the internet. 

Note: I had this all written up, and then saw a commenter on ALOTT5MA post this link, and yeah, this is looking less hoaxy by the minute.  I don't agree with the leap that he might be gay, although certainly it would explain why he might choose to not really pursue meeting someone in person when you are a person who travels regularly. Others have suggested a fake girlfriend solves a lot of issues when one is trying to live a chaste life, especially as a college football player.  Also, I have seen suggestions elsewhere that some reporters did mention that they were unable to find the obituary for the dead fake girlfriend and were asked to leave it alone.  Doesn't really sound better, but just to note that some people apparently attempted some due diligence.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

RIP, Mr. Drummond

There were a lot of lovely TV parents in the sitcoms and dramas I watched growing up.  Mr. Drummond in "Different Strokes" was a lovely one.  I remember watching "Different Strokes" as a family and then later on my own.  It addressed a number of issues - and also led to the wonderful spin off of "Facts of Life".  My family watched "Webster" so he wasn't the only parent with what we now sometimes call trans-racial adoptees.  We watched "Silver Spoons" so he certainly wasn't the only rich dad we watched.  And while the specifics of most of the plot lines of "Different Strokes" have disappeared deep into the recesses of my brain, I have the fondest of feelings for Mr. Drummond and am sad to hear of his passing.  I know "Different Strokes is hardly the only thing Conrad Bain did, but it holds a special pace in my heart.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Not So Fast

I don't particularly like waiting in lines.  Yes, it is a rare day when I don't have a couple of forms of entertainment in my bag, but my theory is one of the things that people like most about online or catalog shopping is the elimination of the line. Of course, there are things for which the immediacy overrules my desire to avoid lines, such as getting a pair of boots right now, or food.  And so we have lines.  Much like the parking spot search I am generally of the view that one should do a pass past all the lines to check for newly opened, or seemingly accidentally ignored lines.  This is especially true when there are double stacks of registers.  And sometimes, I have just a few things and might consider the express and/or self check outs. 
My first reason to love self check outs is that it annoys me when some baggers will somehow turn my small basket of items into three to four plastic bags.  With the rise in DC of the bag tax, and also reusable shopping bags, this has improved.  But, some places also have a number of registers, with one big line assigned to their self or express checkout, so even if there are more people in line, the relative speed with which you might make it to a register seems higher.  But where there is one self or express checkout register, this article suggests you are better off moving elsewhere. 
I personally am a fan of picking one person who has a ton of stuff but seems very organized.  It's a risky maneuver, because you also want an efficient checker, but most people look at the volume of stuff and pick another line, whereas if this person already has their coupons and their payment method ready, this could go really fast, while, as the article points out those three people with smaller batches in the other line all turn into line stoppers. 
But, in addition to hopefully providing some good info about lines, it also brings up an interesting point.  We often have assumptions about what certain things will or won't cause things to take long, and then when faced with the actual math, find, that whoops no.  Something to ponder. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

2012 Reading Tally

I don't think of myself as a big stats geek until I get to this time - the books I read in 2012.  And then my love of tagging, sorting, and calculating goes nuts. 
Total books read: 174.*  This means I beat 2007!  And the other years too
Number of these that were novellas**: 8.
This still means I have about two years worth of reading in my TBR pile, but possibly not a complete two years.  So, progress.  (Of course the likelihood that I will hit this level again next year seems very low.)
I read 104*** different authors, so perhaps authorial diversity helped a lot here.  Jill Shalvis was the author I read the most of, with nine different titles.  About 90 of these titles were from 2012, so I am still tilted towards new releases. (Also, one of these books is tagged as being published in 2013, but I read it firmly in 2012, due to it being a staged release.)  I had thought April, where I travelled like a crazy person would be the winner, but apparently, July (where I did also travel) is the winner with 37.  Now, I know that seems like a typo, but no, really.  A few of those were novellas, and several of those were started outside of July, but yeah, I had a good run there. January and February tied for low months with 8 each, possibly because I took two crazy courses then, plus did some contest judging, so was reading stuff that did not count. 
Romance still wins as highest category with 115. YA was next with 49.  Series**** junkie status remains high (and is assisted by the trend of everything in YA being a trilogy) at 99. 

And for the books I found myself telling people about (that are not ones I blogged about already), we have the following:
Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day is the story of a grad student at the University of Chicago who begins hanging out with a local gang in the 1990's.  It's really fascinating, and I think the distance he has from the events really lends some important perspective to the work. 
E Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is one of those books I told many many people about.  To one friend I said it's a girl who makes up grammar, go read.  This is not the description that will hook everyone.  Other people I mentioned "Gilmore Girls".  But basically, it's a girl who discovers that there is a secret society on her boarding school campus and decides to make it better. 
Rob Thomas' Slave Day I've been meaning to read for a while.  It is the tale of a school that has what they call, well, slave day, where student council members and teachers are auctioned off to students for the day. Told from the perspective of a number of participants, it's a really great read.
Gayle Forman's If I Stay is hard to describe without it sounding like a terrible, horrible, gut-wrenching story, and, well, it is gut-wrenching, but still amazing.  The main character spends most of the book in a coma, after her family is in a horrendous, and for some passengers, fatal car accident. Mia, separated from her body, watches her visitors in the hospital. 
Sylvia Day's Bared to You showed up on a lot of those if you liked 50 Shades of Grey lists.  It is the story of two very damaged people falling in love and navigating those issues, and it is very hot.  It also, like some of those YA trilogies, ends, not on a cliffhanger, but clearly with more to follow, so, if lack of full resolution is an issue, you might want to wait for the whole series to be out. 
Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is a futuristic story in which a teen finds the first secret clue that folks have been searching for ever since the guy who created the virtual reality that everyone uses died.  The first to find all five wins the whole company.  I'm not a big gamer, but I do love some eighties trivia so there were plenty of entry points for me. 
Sherri Smith's Flygirl is one of those books that falls squarely into my wheelhouse.  I have read quite a bit of World War II fiction, especially pilot fiction. And I've read several books about the WASP and ATA programs where women pilots flew planes.  This is the story of a young woman who is black, but decides to try to pass so she can help in the war effort in the US. 
And speaking of wheelhouse, Julie Ann Walker's Hell on Wheels, fits squarely into my love of fictitious (or so I assume) spec ops groups, this one operating out of a custom motorcycle shop in Chicago. 

*I counted re-reads if I re-read the whole thing a didn't just skip to my favorite parts. 
**My rule has been that things I can buy separately count as a book, so a book that was released with three novellas, or a collection of short stories counts as one read.  With the rise of electronic publishing the number of novellas that are released all by their lonesome has gone up, but hey, if it was a separate payment (or borrowing) transaction, I'm counting it. 
***I counted authors, not pen names, where possible. 
****Series is based on the book being part of a series, whether or not I read any others.