Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reading List

I just finished Pat Conroy's Beach Music, and like all of his novels, it's sweeping and lush, with language that soars.

It's also about three different novels going in about three different directions, with set piece scenes that do not build from character, which is usually Conroy's great strength, and therefore ring hollow.

The book is set primarily in the fictional town of Waterford, South Carolina, masquerading as Beaufort, SC. Beaufort is a lovely town that has only just recently succumbed to prettifying its downtown* into an area indistinguishable from other manufactured downtowns with their yuppified shops and nicey-nice restaurants, instead of the delightful shabby chic the town has sported for the last dozen years or so. In fact, I was dismayed on a recent visit to discover that one of the best downtown, waterfront dive bars ever has been displaced by a bar you'd be safe taking Queen Elizabeth to.

I can understand why Conroy calls it Waterford--it's in essence his home county and I guess he felt the need to provide cover for it. On the other hand, he renames the nearby Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot Pollock Island for no discernible reason. At worst, it's annoying, and again rings false. Those from South Carolina know exactly where he's talking about anyway so he's not really hiding anything, and those who don't know should be given the information, if only for assisting them in physically orienting themselves to the geography Conroy describes.

The other annoyance is the lack of editing and copyediting throughout the book. They're two different things. Editing would have trimmed this 800-page behometh into less of a ramble through Conroy's id and more into an actual narrative. As for copyediting, a good one would have relieved the book of all the annoying little errors/writer tics that are inevitable in manuscripts. Left to its own devices, the major reveals have almost no emotional punch, and at least one is telegraphed so sloppily going in it creates a barrier between the reader and the characters.

I have to admit I skipped about twenty pages in two different parts of the book, I guess because I'd had a surfeit of flowery, repetitive language. I was still able to get the gist of things.

It's a good beach read, but with some discipline, it could have been a great book.

*For a glimpse of pre-yuppified downtown Beaufort, rent The Big Chill--the scene where Kevin Kline and Bill Hurt are jogging in the early morning is along Beaufort's main street. There are other great Beaufort scenes in the movie as well, including the drive from the Church to the burial at the beginning of the movie. It's a gorgeous town, and I dare anyone not to visit and fall instantly in love.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Health, Wellness, and Diet

Over the past two days, the network morning shows have had features on these topics. They have them every weekend. And they're insidious.

On the CBS show yesterday, the 'Health' feature focused on a young woman who'd had liposuction to alleviate her...cankles. That's right, if you have cankles, that's a serious health issue and there are MD's out there who are willing to help you with it. The young lady in question was rather svelte, to my eye, and while she didn't have well-defined ankles, she had discernible legs, calves, ankles, and feet. She talked about how self-conscious she'd been over the years wearing dresses and shorts, and gushed about how the surgery, performed just a few weeks earlier, had already made a difference.

They showed 'before and after' photos of her legs/ankles from the back and honestly? I couldn't tell a difference. In fact, I thought the before photos showed more definition. But the victim...er, patient was happy, so I guess that's all that matters.

On this morning's Today show, the fellow who wrote 'Eat This, Not That' was featured, and the first words out of his mouth were: "If you follow what I'm about to tell you, you'll lose 20 lbs in the next six weeks." My first thought was, 'wow, a rapid loss like that is really not recommended these days, is it?'

His 'advice' for losing said 20 lbs? When you go to Red Lobster, instead of having one kind of cocktail that rings in at 800+ calories, have this other cocktail that comes in at 200 or so calories. And when you go to California Pizza Kitchen, don't have the yada yada asian chicken salad, have the cheese pizza. And when you go to Cold Stone Creamery, don't have the tall shake something. And when you go to...well, I can't tell you the last piece of advice, because I tuned him out. Because I haven't been to Red Lobster in about five years or so, and wouldn't dream of having a cocktail there when I do go. And there are no California Pizza Kitchens in SC, so no choice to make there. And I maybe go to Cold Stone Creamery once every three months or so.

And also because I was screaming in my head (because it makes Le Boyfriend nervous when I scream/talk back to the television), 'What kind of advice is this? It's presented as if people eat out at these places every day, and have one of these cocktails/shakes/salads/whatever every day as part of their regular diet.

Story #1 is insidious in the way that so much of women's appearance is being 'medicalized' these days. When a story is presented as a 'Health' topic, and a Dr appears to discuss the medical/health issues involved, it's not a leap to realize there are a lot of women out there who will think "ZOMG, I have cankles. I have something else wrong with me. My cankles can't be seen in public because they're not perfect."

Story #2 is insidious in the way it posits that everyone makes bad choices all the time and teh fat is BADBADBAD and you should NEVER HAVE A TREAT because it will make you fat and teh fat is BADBADBAD. Plus the writer is an authoritarian dick (disclaimer re: the last statement: my personal opinion).

ETA: I'm equally annoyed with the professional smilers who host these programs. Not once did the anchorwoman handling the cankles story yesterday ask how this was a 'health and/or medical issue; and not once did the anchorwoman today ask the obvious: 'how many people are we actually talking about here who eat like this every day that making these specific changes would precipitate the 20 lb weight loss?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Came Here

a few days ago with all sorts of pithy, hi-larious things to say about Sanford, Mark and Palin, Sarah, but as I tried to log in, I realized I was as blank as could be on my password. So I had to go through all the rigamarole to reset it. And because I'm like the crow and easily distracted by shiny things, the internets lured me with its siren call of links and blogs and online pictures of kitties with funny captions written on them.

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, our two favorite Governors/punchlines. Last Monday, a great show was made of promulgating Mark Sanford's schedule for the week. This week? Ain't seen bumpkus about it.

And then there's Sarah. Who says, in her inimitable way, "Only dead fish go with the flow." I...uh...whaaa?

Let's recap: Four colleges, scant months of City Council before running for Mayor; quits Mayor to run for Governor; jumps right into national politics at barely a year or so into being Governor; quits the Governor job halfway through first term.

Somebody else has issues with distraction, methinks. Or she could just be...oh look, a kitty.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Recap

of the CBS Evening News, for those who missed it:


Commercial stuff


Commercial Stuff

Oh and the dow did something and the President went somewhere and talked to some guy, and uh, there was some weather stuff, and some guy was sworn in to do something in DC.


Tomorrow: We're fairly sure Michael Jackson will still be dead, but we think we can milk this shit for at least another day or two.