Friday, October 30, 2009

When to quit...

Very rarely do I start a book and not be compelled to finish. I do a fair bit of research when looking for a new book to read and I know what genres I like and don't like. I picked The Third Child by Marge Piercy out of a bunch of beach reading from a friend. I have read and enjoyed some of Piercy's poetry in the past. This book, however, is abysmal.

When I picked up this book I had no idea it was Piercy's 16th novel. I don't know if she's running out of things to write about or what, but I didn't get half-way through it before happily setting it aside. Have you ever written a book that made you think to yourself, "Hey, I can write better than this!" Well, I'm no novelist but I began to think that I had written prose like this in junior high.

Piercy describes people in such a way that you know she wants it to be subtle, but it's not. Perhaps the book bothers me so much because it's about privileged college students. Maybe it's because the book doesn't really depict college as I know it to be. Maybe because the main character, Melissa, is such a whiney little brat.

I just don't buy this story. The dialogue is weird and the characters aren't all that interesting to me. The relationships seem unrealistic. There's nothing original about the writing. I gave up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Finished: Beyond the Pale

I grabbed this book by Elana Dykewomon off my roommate's bookshelf. She was a women's studies major in college and has lots of "women unite!" books from her years as an undergraduate. This book interested me for a few reasons:

1. It was about Russian immigrants during the early 1900s.
2. It was about the early women's movement in NYC.
3. It told the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

It's also about lesbians. Russian lesbians in fact. Now I have nothing against lesbians, but I have never really read anything where they were the main characters. And go ahead and get your mind out of the gutter -- there wasn't any erotic writing in this book at all.

I actually learned a lot. I also began to wonder how many women during that time disguised themselves as men to get better wages. I've always held a soft spot for immigrants who were successful doing whatever they did in their home country and then came to America for a better life and ended up doing a job that was vastly below their education level.

And while I'm not a feminist, I did like reading about the womens' unions during that time and what they fought for. I sometimes get cranky and tired working a 40+ hour workweek. I should be so lucky as to not have to fight tooth and nail for an 8-hour work day. Ah how literature puts things into perspective for me.

Unethical: Bangor Daily and the Press Herald

This morning on my way to work I heard a public service announcement about the upcoming election. One of the most popular votes on the ballot is one about gay marriage. There are two camps. The Vote No on 1 people: who want to uphold the referendum and allow gay married people to get married in Maine and the Vote Yes on 1 people: who want to axe the referendum and keep marriage in Maine to one woman and one man.

The PSA pointed out that both the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald back the Vote No on 1 people. They then quoted a lengthy statement from the BDN on how marriage equality in Maine is important and so on and so forth.

The fact that newspapers take a stand on any issue is one of my biggest pet peeves.

News organizations are supposed to be unbiased. It's their job. When newspapers release a statement saying they support a certain candidate or ballot issue, they're taking sides. They're making friends and enemies. But it's not their job to do so. How can people even begin to think that the BDN or Press Herald is unbiased and fair in their reporting if they are going to choose sides in an argument? How can readers have faith that the news isn't slanted?

If you are working towards a reputation of fair and balanced news reporting, choosing sides or backing candidates is the wrong way to do it. Newspapers should mimic Switzerland. Who hates Switzerland? No one starts a war with them because they never choose a side! That's the way a newspaper should be run. They should report the news as it happens and let their readers decide for themselves.

I found this snippit on Al Diamon's blog for Down East:
On Oct. 18, the papers carried an explanation on their editorial pages of the process used to make political endorsements.

According to the item, decisions on ballot issues and candidates will be made by a majority vote of a board composed of editor/publisher Richard Connor and editorial writers at the three papers, as well as the company’s chief financial officer, human resources director and circulation director.

By adding members from outside the traditional circle of editorial employees, Connor said the endorsement process would “represent the entire newspaper” and add “diversity.”
It seems the people running these papers WANT to represent the entire newspaper.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Mimi Saw: Where the Wild Things Are

Last night I went to see Where the Wild Things Are. Note: going to a movie on a Monday night is great -- we practically had the theater all to ourselves.

While I was familiar with the storybook, I didn't really remember it so I can't explain to you how closely related the two are. I did notice that Maurice Sendak (author of the book) was one of the producers. What I loved most about the movie:

1. The names of the Wild Things: Carol, Ira, Alexander, and Judith just to name a few. Since when was a 'monster' named Judith?

2. The color. Subdued and almost dreamlike.

3. The soundtrack. The sweet voice of Karen O was a perfect choice for this film.

It was sort of a sleepy film...slow in some areas. Perhaps it was too long. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood. But I noticed a lack of energy in a lot of the movie.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feeling stupid at work...

I admit that I feel like an absolute idiot at work at least once a month. It comes with the territory I think. I have stepped into a leadership role as a relative rookie, working with a group of people who have been publishing a magazine together for the past five years.

My stupidness is mostly due to the learning curve. I came to this company fresh -- never having helped publish a monthly magazine in my life. Sure I had worked at as an online reporter for a national magazine in New York City, a newspaper in New Jersey, and as a blogger in Portland, Maine, but no glossy magazine stuff. I've learned a lot over the past year. I've been humbled and humiliated, too.

Luckily the media business is a fast paced one where one day your mistake is brushed aside the next. Not that YOU forget about it or that your coworkers forget about it...but dwelling on a mistake doesn't fix it. Best to learn from the mistake and try not to make it again.

How do I get over feeling like a total boob? I mope around my house. I cry on my boyfriend's shoulder. I complain to my sister, mother, and father. I make my 2-and-a-half year old niece give me big hugs, and I take a nap. All those things. And I move on and push forward...because deadlines stop for no one, no matter how pitiful you are.

I found this blog post on The Urban Muse on this topic. It has some good ideas on how to handle a crisis of confidence. For all you people out there, writers or not, who have felt like you reached rock bottom, read it. Practice it. Give yourself time to get over it. And move on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

5 Things I Learned on Recessionwire...

I read this post on today and felt both happy and sad. I'm happy that, while losing their home due to job loss, the couple in question is in a stable, loving, and supportive relationship. I'm sad that they bought a home with a $5,000 a month mortgage.

Their house of their dreams cost them $5,000 to own. That's a lot of money. Sure, it's outside of Los Angeles, but who needs a house that expensive? It's The author of the post, Stephanie Walker, is a playwright, blogger, and freelance writer. What job did she have that she made that kind of dough...and how come she felt so secure being a writer?

Am I missing something? Her husband must be making bank and she must have had some hot-shot job to be able to afford a house that expensive. But I wonder...what made it expensive? Location? Probably. Size? For sure. Why do we need so much room? Why do our bathrooms need to be big enough to hold living room furniture?

I'm glad that losing their dream house made them realize what was so important -- their relationship. How do people lose sight of that in the first place?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scary Monsters

I can not watch scary movies. Period. I have the sort of imagination that runs wild. The last scary movie I watched was The Ring several years ago when I was still living in Boston. It really freaked me out. For months afterwards I would look over my shoulder while walking around my neighborhood, convinced that the freaky long-haired girl that crawled out of the television screen was following me. I knew she wasn't, but my imagination ran with it.

My niece, Ayda, seems to enjoy movies with villans -- albeit Disney ones. She likes to pretend to be scared and grab on to anyone sitting next to her. One of her favorite movies is Sleeping Beauty. She loves Princess Aurora to the point that she likes to pretend she IS Princess Aurora and fake sleep until one of us kisses her to wake her up.

I hadn't seen the movie for years until she got it as a gift on DVD. I remember being scared silly by the evil witch, Malificent. She's even scary TODAY! Thos horns, that green face, the eerie music that comes along with her presence. She was the scariest thing in the world when I was a little kid...and to be honest, she's still scary. I can't believe Ayda can stand her.

A post on Scribbit made me feel a little better about my fear of this cartoon witch. Malificent made the list on Scribbit's Best/Worst Villans.
I'm including her on the list because she gave me nightmares when I was a kid. Serious nightmares. It was the horns I think, or maybe that whole thing about being able to change into a dragon? Nope, it was the horns, definitely the horns. - Scribbit
It was definitely the horns.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sad Story. Sadder Reporting.

I just read this story in The New York Times that Conde Nast is closing three of their magazines...including Gourmet. Sure it's sad news. No one likes losing their jobs. But Stephanie Clifford, who penned the article, didn't do the company any favors with her writing.
The moves are significant for the publisher. It has never been quick to close titles, and in the last year or so has closed only newer titles, Condé Nast Portfolio and Domino, along with folding Men’s Vogue into Vogue.
Who says the moves are significant for the publisher? Clifford? I think this needs to be attributed. Perhaps the cuts are saving a lot of money and keeping them from going under. What does 'significant' mean here anyway?
Condé Nast tends to hold tight to its prestigious titles, making the Gourmet closing all the more startling. In an interview in February, even Paul Jowdy, publisher of the in-house rival Bon Appétit, said that such a closing was unlikely. (To be fair to Mr. Jowdy, the economy has plummeted, and Condé Nast has been hit particularly hard since then. Its magazines have lost more than 8,000 ad pages, excluding its bridal titles, so far this year.)
To be fair to Mr. Jowdy? Is the writer apologizing here? It sounds like Clifford is offering excuses for why the magazines folded. Why couldn't she just find someone credible to talk to about why the magazines were being closed rather than speculate for herself?
“They would never do that,” Mr. Jowdy said in February. “They’re both very important magazines in the culinary world, and they’re very different magazines, and they’re both very healthy. So there’s all these rumors that are just ridiculous. I try not to pay attention to them, but you have to know — if you think of two of the most prestigious, credible, trusted magazines in the industry, you’re going to say Bon Appétit and Gourmet.”
This is a really weird ending to me. Basically Clifford just stuck in a random quote from EIGHT MONTHS AGO showing that EIGHT MONTHS AGO no one thought Gourmet would be cut. Eight months is a long time ago and not even very interesting. I would expect a writer for the NYT would do a better job.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What Mimi Saw: The National Parks - America's Best Idea

Last night, by complete accident, I caught an episode of Ken Burns's new project The National Parks: America's Best Idea. And much to my delight I caught the episode featuring the Grand Canyon and Acadia National Park.

I have never been to the Grand Canyon, and if it's anything like the Rocky Mountains, there aren't words to describe how you feel standing next to it. There are literally no words. I was floored at my spectacular timing and luck when Acadia was featured next. My heart swelled with pride as I saw how spectacularly Burns and his crew captured a place so special to me. I think as Mainers we tend to take the beauty of our surroundings for granted, especially if we don't travel and see anything else. It was great to know that people all across America were getting a sneak peek behind one of the most beautiful places in our country -- and it was right here in Maine!

Below is a 26 minute preview of episode 2. It really is worth watching if you have some time. You can find more video previews here.

Why Wikipedia can't be trusted

I harp on this to my journalism students every chance I get. Wikipedia is NOT a reliable news source. Here is a great example...

In my last post I turned to Wikipedia to get some information on Pearl S. Buck. Under the "Humanitarian Efforts" category it said that Buck had established Welcome House Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency.

I googled Welcome House, Inc. to find their website. What I found out was that Welcome House, Inc. was NOT an adoption agency -- it's a company that is dedicated to helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live full and rewarding lives by providing a variety of residential services in an atmosphere of a caring community.


Buck's adoption program is actually called Welcome House Adoption Program. VERY different than Welcome House, Inc. SOMEBODY didn't do their research and anyone who wants to know more about Pearl S. Buck suffers.

The Good Earth

Oh Pearl S. Buck -- how I adore thee! Some of you may know my adoration with books about China and Chinese people. Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors. I'm not sure WHY I have such an interest in this culture -- probably because it is so different than anything I know and am used to. China has an interesting history (to say the least) and it interests me. I am not, however, interested in visiting China. Strange? Yeah.

Anyway. I am almost done with The Good Earth. I honestly can't believe I haven't read this book until now. I look forward to snuggling up in bed every night to read it. My snuggling time has gotten earlier and earlier...last night I was in bed reading at 8:30!

There is something so satisfying when reading a classic like this. It was written and published in 1912 (before the cultural revolution) and the writing style is so different than today's flippant and often ridiculous vocabulary. It's almost like reading a very very long poem. It sounds good in my head.

But Buck did more than write, which is why I think she's such a cool lady. She established Welcome House, the first international interracial adoption agency...very forward thinking at the time.