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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Author Interview: Screw Cupid

It isn’t often that you get to interview the author of a book you wrote a book review for... at least, it isn’t often that I get to do such a thing.

I must admit, I was a bit nervous. After all, while I saw some definite good in the book (Screw Cupid: The Sassy Girl’s Guide to Picking up Hot Guys –Full review Here-) including the writing itself, the style, the ideas of parties and places to meet said Hot Guys, I definitely took exception to a few of her ideas and suggestions. Again, you can read my review if you wonder what I am alluding to.

So then, how to talk to the author of a book that I found disquieting? What to ask her besides the obvious “Really? What were you thinking? What planet do you live on?” sort of things. I managed to curtail myself and decided to ask her questions drawn out of discussions I had with people about the book during the reviewing process and questions that came to me from the review.

I sent her 25 questions and she was nice enough to write back.. I hope she doesn’t regret it.

First off, I don’t want to be overly nitpicky… but some of her answers made my head spin.

Like her use of the word “rad” as in… “Another rad idea…”, I mean. Wow. The idea was indeed “rad” but I think I don’t need to explain how things like this can be really offsetting.

Ok… so without further ado, here is my interview with Samantha Scolfield, author of Screw Cupid: The Sassy Girl’s Guide to Picking Up Hot Guys: (I edited them down to keep this short(er) but if you really want to read all 25 questions, let me know.)

1.Can you tell us why you wanted to write it… and what led you to feel qualified?

I’ve been told my whole life by my friends that I should write down my mishaps in dating but couldn’t really think of a good reason why people would want to hear them. Then, when I figured out the secret to how to easily meet and start conversations with the guys I wanted to talk to, my good reason was there. I wanted to help others to meet the guys they liked, without having to repeat my mistakes.

2.One of the best aspects of the book is your frankness in telling us your mistakes and awkward moments. What do you think you learned from these experiences?

Hmm.... humility and what it feels like to be insanely embarrassed! Mostly what I took away from all my mishaps is to not take it personally when you get rejected (because 99% of the time your rejection is way more about their issues than yours), and that if you like yourself, others will follow suit.

3.Were you involved with the cover art and artistic feel of the book? Why did you go the route of bright pink and cartoon feel?

Yep, I was involved, and am very pleased with what the designer and the publisher came up with. They did a fantastic job. Bright pink happened because it’s bright, and also it’s a girl book and we wanted it to be immediately identifiable as such. The cartoon feel was the favorite out of many, many, MANY different cover ideas.
*(Just a side note here… one of the things that a lot of my readers disliked about th book was it’s obvious pinkness=femininity thing… could just be a case of the audience I tend to attract/interact with, but just thought I would point that out.)

4.Can you talk a bit about what sort of success you had with your techniques?

Well, I met my current boyfriend using my techniques, and he’s awesome, so that’s a check in my success column.
*(Another side note… she met her boyfriend online… so, yes, using the technique of “starting a conversation out of thin air” but if you are on an online dating site, it is hard, nigh, impossible to incorporate the whole Don’t Let Him Know You Are Interested part of Screw Cupid’s advice. Just saying’)

5.You say that you took three years of research to write this… as you get older, do you feel the techniques are ideas are still relevant?

Nothing has changed. Because Screw Cupid is based on a basic tenet of human nature (i.e. we want what we don’t know we have), I expect this will still work for as long as humans date each other.

6.Do you feel the techniques are usable for any geographic location?

Most definitely. As long as there are people to talk to, the techniques will work.
*(Several of my readers took exception to this idea… and the fact that the author resides in California’s LA does tend to make a difference.)

7.There seems to be a focus on bar/club settings. Do you think the ideas of the book can work outside of a meat market sort of place?

I mention bars and clubs only because they’re the first place most people think of when they go “out to meet guys”. I’m actually much more of a fan of outdoor venues where everyone is there to have a good time and hang out - outdoor concerts, food or drink festivals, hiking groups - these are great places to meet people because no one is walking around with a pre-conceived notion that they are there to find someone to date. They’re just there to enjoy life.
*(I really wish she had incorporated this more in the book… )

8. What would be your main piece of advice to single women who are looking for love?

Break out of your comfort zone and try new things - take classes, join new groups, sign up for something you’ve never signed up for before (a marathon, for example). If what you’re currently doing isn’t working, it’s time to change it up a bit.

*(This is perfect! It is advice like this, common sense to be sure but actually useful, that saved the book… if she had focused more on this and less on some of the other stuff, I think the book would have been much more useful.)

9. Many women might not want to play the role of the helpless, confused, in need of assistance or advice female when first meeting a hot guy… any advice for them?

Screw Cupid’s conversation starters can be a question about anything - they don’t have to be of the damsel-in-distress variety. You could say to the Hot Guy in question that you just got off the phone with your girlfriend and you guys have been arguing about health care reform and you’d like a second opinion.

*(I’m not sure if she is joking about this… let’s leave it and hope so.)

10. You advise to not be overly flirty because then your intentions will be clear and this is a turn off for men, but most of your openers lean toward the flirty side of things… asking about grunting etc. When do you think it is it OK to flirt and when do you think women shouldn’t?

Well, you’re talking about two different kinds of flirting here. Flirting by winking and blowing kisses prior to asking a question (that, using Screw Cupid’s techniques, should indicate that you could care less if you’re talking to him or to some other guy) won’t work. He’ll know in that situation in very certain terms that you’re very interested in talking to him. If, however, you ignore him and then go ask your question, he’s not going to know whether or not you like him - which is attractive. Humans want what they don’t know they have. Asking a guy in a teasing manner why the male persuasion grunts in the gym (which could be construed as flirting) is still a neutral question.

*(No, no it’s not… especially if you are at a social place and if he is a stranger. Also, do people actually wink and blows kisses at strangers/ Am I just too old to have ever found that an acceptable way of making contact?)

11. A lot of women are self conscious about talking to random guys… any advice for a woman who simply can’t just start a conversation with a guy?

Warm up to it, but don’t give up and remember, practice, practice, practice! The fear behind approaching guys is 100% about rejection. Screw Cupid’s techniques are designed to set up a situation where you can talk to a guy without him knowing you’re interested. How can he reject you if he doesn’t know you’re interested?

*(By seeing through the clever ruse and then not talking to you…?)

12. Using your pick up line techniques… what do you hope women will be able to accomplish?

I want to level the playing field in dating. I want women to be able to talk to the guys that they like, without having to wait for the guy to initiate the conversation.

*(Again… this is a noble goal… I personally disagree with how she is setting up the go-about-it-process… but the goal is damn important.)

13. Your approaches seem to count on quantity rather than quality… if a girl isn’t out to collect dozens of telephone numbers but wants to make a good solid connection, do you think your advice is still usable?

I focus on quantity only so that you can quickly weed through the not-so-desireables to find your quality guy. You’ve got to keep meeting new people so that you can fine-tune what exactly you’re looking for and find that perfect guy for you.

14. Do you think attitudes about the double standard of women hitting on and pursuing men are changing in our society? Do you think they are different in regards to age… as in guys in their 20s might be threatened by an assertive women but guys in their 40s might not be?

As far as I can tell, 95% of the male population (20 to 80) would LOVE IT if women took the initiative in dating, so yes - it seems like societal standards are definitely changing. What’s not going to change is an aversion to awkwardness (or what happens when you make your sexual interest in your targeted Hot Guy known).

*(So guys love it when women take the initiave… as long as they don’t know the girl is actually interested… Am I the only one left scratching my head?)

15. Do you watch any of the reality romantic set-em-ups on TV/ (Like the Bachelor, Cupid, etc)

I graduated from high school with one of the guys on the most recent season of The Bachelorette, so I watched a couple episodes of that, but other than that I don’t watch them. I much prefer real life to TV!


So, I hope you have learned a little bit more about Samantha Scolfield and her book Screw Cupid: The Sassy girl’s Guide to Picking Up Hot Guys.

Let me leave you with this gem:

You know all those “great guy friends” that every woman has? Most of them don’t talk to girls they don’t know anymore because they’ve been burned by fake phone numbers and bitchy reactions to their pick-up attempts. These guys aren’t losers - they just don’t know how to initiate conversation. Why not take the initiative and start the conversation yourself? By the way, I’m currently working on the sequel to Screw Cupid - teaching these Nice Guys how to meet girls.

(Full interview available upon request.)

Read full review here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Screw Cupid

Book Review for Screw Cupid: The Sassy Girl’s Guide to Picking Up Hot Guys written by Samantha Scolfield

Where to start? Maybe with the word “Sassy” which seems out of place, maybe with “Picking Up” which is 1999-speak for today’s “Hook Up”, and maybe with “Hot Guys” which actually sets the tone a bit for the book… in that it plays upon shallow stereotypes, oversimplification, and an almost detrimental view of gender role relations.

We could also start with the fact that the book is bright pink.

Here’s the thing… the idea behind the book is worthwhile…. It is the methods that are nauseating. So, for real, let’s start with what actually works.

Samantha Scolfield has written what amounts to a quick and easy guide on how to start conversations out of thin air. This is a valuable skill… the skill of small talk, of extroverted communication, of finding a way to talk to strangers in ways that will usually inspire them to talk back to you.

Her voice as a writer is delightful, funny, and honest. Her recounting of bad dates and embarrassing moments are cringe worthy and can be widely appreciated and sympathized with. She even gives a pretty decent list of places to meet people (even if she sticks to examples featuring the gym and the bar), and her party theme ideas had me taking notes.

It’s just the rest of it.

She starts off with the premise that Hot Guys (described as any guy you personally find hot) won’t ever be attracted to girls who are assertive and honest about what they want. Therefore, it is the job of the Sassy Girl to start a conversation with her intended Hot Guy… but, and here’s the kicker, not let him know she is interested.

It’s a whole new way of playing hard to get. A way, she assures us, will work because the guy will suddenly become so engrossed in making sure the girl wants him, that he will forget any idea of not wanting her.

Before we even discuss the problems of her actual advice, we must first consider the premise. Are Hot Guys turned off by women who make their intentions clear? I would wager that the percentage probably mirrors girls who are turned off by guys who are a bit too on the nose. But, let’s be clear. There is a big difference between “Nice boots, wanna F—k.” and “”Hey, my name is….” To distil all men’s attraction or non attraction to women who actually show interest is taking the cheap way out of the question.

This, sadly, isn’t the only time or place where Scolfield decides to forgo actual thought and rely on antiquated perceptions of how guys think. According to her, most guys like golf, most guys don’t want to be hit on, most guys can’t see through her “clever” ruse.

Yes, those quotes were intentional… there is nothing clever about her conversation/not flirting/secret ruse of picking up on the hot guy.

Here are a few examples of how you too could start a conversation with a guy so that he won’t know you are interested:

Ask him why guys grunt at the gym.
Ask him what’s up with guys hogging the TV remote.
Ask him if he thinks Angelina Jolie is pretty.
Ask him to interoperate “guy speak” that some other guy told a some other friend.

If Scolfield finds anything wrong with starting off the conversation by having the female throw herself into the bimbo helpless victim role, she doesn’t show it.

You know what’s coming right? I have to say it… books like this perpetuate the double standard and the objectification of women. Scolfield is telling us that is it okay for women to make the first move… just as long as no one can recognize it as a move.

And what’s worse… any guy not drunk off his ass or with two brain cells to rub together will see through this and know that she is interested, throwing the original premise out the window.

Let’s face it… girls don’t randomly start conversations with guys unless they are interested in something. It isn’t always sex… sometimes we need to know what time it is… but if you are male and in a bar and a girl starts to chat you up about practically anything (especially things like grunting and Angelina Jolie’s prettiness) she probably has a watch.

That brings us to location. Most of the scenarios that are discussed are bar/club sort of interactions. Couple that with the term “picking up” and what you get is a lesson in Quantity, not Quality. In fact, SC extols the virtues of thinking of dating as a numbers game. One of her key pieces of advice is to not talk too long to any one guy… get a date on the schedule (or his number) and then move onto the rest of the guys at the bar.

Because nothing says I’m not at all a flakey bar fly like schmoozing your way through ten different guys in one night.

I would like to point out, Samantha Scolfield lives in LA. Methinks there might be a location driven aspect to this book. Maybe these superficial techniques for winning the numbers game works in what is easily one of the shallowest cities in the world… do you honestly think it would work anywhere else?

The ironic thing is that that it doesn’t really matter what the girls say to the guys at the bars or clubs (or vice versa). With the amount of noise inherent and the over all meat market mentality prevalent in 98% of them… connections are going to be made based on mutual attraction no matter what she says to start the conversation. This is where the book could really have worked… if the idea had been “it doesn’t matter what you say, get out there and start talking” we would have a very different, and much less offensive, guide. Instead the focus is, again, on quantity and getting connections.

But what sort of connections? Again, Scolfield does a great job of listing p[possible ways to start a random conversation… and her ideas of how to mentally psych yourself up to do that if you happen to be shy are worthwhile, but her goal here is to get you as many numbers and dates as possible… which might be just what some people are looking for, but I guarantee that a lot of people out there want actual connections. Quality over Quantity.

Ironically, Scolfield says that she did “research” for this book for three years… which means that she went on a whole slew of first dates but didn’t actually manage to turn any of those into relationships… until yes, apparently she now has a boyfriend who she met using her methods.

She met him online.

Ironic? Maybe.. but also totally understandable. What this book really does is list possible conversation starters and prove that it is hard to meet people at bars.

Like most things in life, we can take what works and leave the rest. And that, is where we have to end it.

PS: I had a chance to interview Scolfield, Read it Here!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie & Julia (movie)

My book review for Julie & Julia is here.

Movie review for
Julie & Julia

This movie was a delight. The movie is told in parallel structure which can be dangerous, but in this case works beautifully. First we have the story of Julie Powell, (played is sweet perfection by Amy Adams) who is a government drone bored post 9/11 New York resident turned food blogger as she cooks all 524 recipes from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in the span of a year.

The counterpart story is that of Julia Child (Meryl Streep is perfection) as she changes from bored housewife to a mistress of French cooking and and then works on writing a cookbook about it.

The two paths never really meet… there is clear intention to keep the story lines distinct which gives both women and both stories the ability to flourish. The movie done exceedingly well; we care about both Julie and Julia and never feel that they are competing with one another. Both could have carried an entire movie but by having the two interwoven we never get sick of the Julia Child voice and we are treated to their lives in steady small delightful doses, sort of like courses in a fancy French dinner.

Both actresses do wonderful jobs and let’s give a shout out to the supporting men (Stanley Tucci for Julia’s Paul and Chris Messina as Julie’s husband ) More than just second tier characters, the love story woven between the couples is genuine and romance at its best.

“You are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life.” Paul (and then Julie) says and the entire audience swoons.

One of the best parts of the movie is that it really is exactly what the title promises… two stories that have overlapping themes but are still their own.

I find it interesting that this movie was released on the same weekend as the tripe “The Ugly Truth” and the overblown “I Joe” Despite the fact that Julie & Julia is a sweet even tempered romantic story about cooking and loving, it managed good numbers on opening weekend, (In fact it came in as the number 2 movie behind GI Joe. This is good news, it means that we can keep encouraging nice wholesome fun movie to continue being made; the kind of movies that I could take my grandmother or my lover to see.

Again, wonderful movie, well done. I highly recommend it… and ladies, drag your boyfriends/husbands… like good cooking, this movie is meant to be shared with those we love... even if you hate hate cooking!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Circle of Souls

Book Review for A Circle of Souls by Preetha Grandhi

I read an advanced copy of A Circle of Souls and so I got a copy that had some problems… I am sure that an editor helped fine tune the book before mass market availability. There were some minor formatting issues, a few errant typos, and some pretty major plot inconsistencies…

I am not an editor, my concerns are more story driven, and thus despite these distractions I was able to concentrate on the story and the overall feel of the book.

What I found was a mixed bag. On the one hand, the idea behind the book (a young girl communicating through her dreams with a murder victim) is interesting, but upon execution there are issues.

The first of which is the tone. The themes of the book are dark: murder, child abuse, drug abuse, child psychology, etc. The verbiage, however, and the structure are decidedly simplistic. There is a recurring sing song sort of repetition of names and ideas. The author also relies heavily on “telling” us what the characters are feeling rather than “showing” us.

Maybe that was intentional… to make a point about the interactions of children and adults, to point us toward the truth of these two overlapping worlds, but it wasn’t quite there. Instead the diction seemed watered down for unknown reasons.

The potential of a compelling story was there, it just got lost in the trappings of Trying Too Hard.

There was also the overuse of flashbacks, problems of one dimensional characters, and some unbelievable actions by law enforcements. Add to the mix an obvious red herring of who the bad guy is and a late addition of idea of reincarnation. What we are left with is a story that could have been so much better had it been, in a word, less.

I look forward to future novels by the author, who I believe has a unique voice and an obvious desire to showcase the world from a child’s point of view. A Circle of Souls, however needed more work and fewer issues.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Ugly Truth

Movie review for The Ugly truth

It is ugly, but thankfully it isn’t the truth.

Rarely have I been subjected to such a minutia of insipid downright mind burning entertainment as I was last night while watching The Ugly Truth.From rape jokes to misogynist smarminess masquerading as humor, from the cliché rom/com moments of naked guy and girl in tree to the overt sexual harassment work situations that are laughed off, this move had all the ingredients to warrant it a special place in hell.

The premise is unbelievable, the moral structure is offensive, the chemistry between the two leads is more third grade than anything else, and the wanton use of vulgarity and sexual humor would be laughable if it weren’t so predictable. Oh look… vibrating panties… oh, let me guess, she is going to loose the remote and be subjected to rip roaring orgasms during a corporate meeting. How… funny?

No. Not funny.

This movie seems to take particular delight on cutting down women, on perpetuating misogynist stereotypes, and of giving an updated version of “The Rules” that apparently works and is seen as gospel truth. The main character might be a successful professional women, but only because she is a control freak. She has to be literally remade in the image of what is most desired in order to be able to catch the man she has her heart set on. This includes fake hair, new wardrobe (because her elegant business attire and very stylish comfy clothes are dowdy…. Which, by the way, they wouldn’t be in any universe outside of this movie), advice to laugh at what the man says no matter what, fake orgasms, never criticize, stick her boobs out, play hard to get…. The list goes on and on.

Of course it works because men are all shallow buffoons and they all want bimbo Barbie doll lovers.

Overly cliché, downright offensive, this movie is a severe waste of time energy and talent.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Defying Gravity

TV Review for Defying Gravity

This show was surprisingly good. I had it pegged as a space soap opera with too much sex and too many silly romantic entanglements. What I got instead was a decently written Sci Fi show with (yes) some significant romantic entanglements but more than enough interesting space and mystery stuff to make up for it.

The production value of the show alone is worth checking out… this isn’t the Sci Fi of Star Trek with clean futuristic lines and fancy computers that talk to you…. this is near future drama where people still wear space suits and space travel is an expensive dangerous calling.

The basic premise is that there is a six year mission to travel throughout our solar system, visiting seven planets. Haunted by failures in the past and working under the direction of an as of yet unexplained entity that is pulling the strings, the story of the mission is told in parallel structure with flashbacks of the training on earth and the day to day work of the journey as it unfolds. With a stellar cast and some very written over ridding themes of humanity, intimacy, trust, and cohesiveness,… this show is off to an amazing start.

I highly recommend Defying Gravity and would like to throw out kudos to ABC for producing this space show that feels more like a miniseries than a formulaic people-in-interesting-circumstances sort of drama.

Best part? You can watch the first two episodes on hulu.com!