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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Not since The Mists of Avalon has a book taken the history of men and transformed the story into a beautiful history of women, woven like a fine tapestry with threads of loyalty, intrigue, ritual, and a mother’s love.

Many of us know the story from the Bible of Jacob and his sons. How Jacob married both Leah and the beautiful Rachel… how his son Joseph, who wore a coat of many colors, was sold into slavery by his brothers but rose from prison and ended up ruling at the right hand of the Pharaoh. Fewer might remember the story of Joseph’s sister Dinah whose honor was defiled leading her brothers to exact bloody revenge.

It is Dinah’s story, in her own words, that the Red Tent tells. Though the details of the lives of the larger than life characters are strongly fictionalized, the historical details of life in Biblical times are told with authority and accuracy, most notably the aspects of “women’s culture,” The Red Tent (the seclusion area that where women rested once a month) plays a large role in the tale as it is the place where the women come together to tell stories, share loads, and remember their own secret rituals.

Here are the often overlooked voices of the women, the bread makers and child bearers, the ones who divine dreams, stand on the bricks, and weave the cloth.

Dinah’s story, and the stories of her mothers and brothers, is haunting. It will make you think, make you ponder the rituals of the past, make you long for your own mother’s lap. Starting with the story of Jacob’s arrival and ending only after all the other players have left the stage; the book retells an old familiar tale with enough new twists to keep the reader avidly turning the pages. 

A masterpiece of historical fiction and retelling, this book shines with the echoes of the past, sparkles with passion, and dazzles with a story that is still new and exciting.

I strongly recommend this book!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Playboy Club

And now for another edition of “play by play review (opening scene). I’m your hostess, Kaylia, and the show tonight is The Playboy Club, a 60s era drama that is hoping to be the network answer to Mad Men. 

We open to an upward look at the Chicago skyline at night. We know it is Chicago because eh sultry woman’s voice is singing “Chicago, Chicago…” before we pan down to a moderately busy street and a middle aged voice over tells us that though Chicago was full of corruption and wind, (seriously), he was still able to create a place of perfection. Quick flashes of drums, champagne, full glasses and someone getting out of a cab…

The voice continues telling us about how fantasy could become reality while we get shots of 60 era pin up posters and the music ratchets up a notch. The guy from the cab turns his playboy bunny key over to a playboy bunny who greets him as Mr. Dalton and we see the Play Boy Club sign. Mr Dalton checks his coat and is informed that Carol Lynne is on stage… perfect time for the voice over to tell us it wasn’t the fifties anymore and then there is Carol Lynne singing into a mic and a spotlight, her black bunny costume tight in all the right places, her lipstick dark enough to almost be trashy.

She sings and the voice over tells us that this is a place where “… anything could happen to anybody.. or any bunny.” as we watch a blond bunny in teal watch Carol Lynne sing and sashay herself around the stage.

Blond bunny is Maureen, we discover as red haired bunny, Alice, approaches and warns against her about just standing around. Maureen is quick to blame pretty Carol Lynne for being so distracting and then wonders why she alone gets to perform. Alice tells her that Carol Lynne was the first bunny and thus gets to do whatever she wants. An African American bunny in gold (Same actress as the Playboy Bunny from Mad Men!) approaches and riffs that Carol Lynne wouldn’t want to share the stage with Maureen seeing how Maureen has great legs and has already sold half her tray and it is only ten o’clock.

Case in point, a bald man approaches and asks Maureen to dance. He gets a little handsy (hands on her ass) on the dance floor and she spins away and dances with another guy. Carol Lynne watches from the stage with a look of slight displeasure as the spotlight follows Maureen around the dance floor. Mr. Dalton has also noticed her and he asks the short man next to him if she is new. The short man is apparently Billy and the manager because he swoops in on Maureen and, calling her “Miss”, tells her to get back to work. She corrects him on her name and then rushes off to pick up her tray.

Nick Dalton takes this opportunity to introduce himself to her and buy some of her cigarettes. She is out of his brand and asks him to wait while she runs to the back. He says he doesn’t mind and looks like he is rather enjoying watching her walk away. Carol Lynne finishes her song and the crowd claps. Nick meets her as she comes off the stage. She asks him if he won the case and he assures her that the victims will each get $50,000. She is happy to hear it and wonders how she too can be a victim. He tells he she couldn’t be a victim if she tried (gag) and she tells him she could be just about anything if the price was right. She is needed back on the stage and she points him to table three but he is waiting for cigarettes.

Speaking of cigarettes, Maureen is in the storeroom and as she turns around from the cigarette cupboard she comes face to face with leering bald handsy man. Back on stage, Carol Lynne is on to a new number and Nick is watching from the bar where the bartender, Max, knows his complicated drink order by heart.

 In the storeroom, bald handsy man is telling Maureen she shouldn’t have pushed him away. She tries to leave and he stops her by pushing her up against the cupboard…. … Carol Lynne is still singing and her spotlight is red. I take a moment to guess at whether this is intentional symbolism or just a way to show that it was s different take. Nick is getting antsy waiting for his cigarettes and checks his watch.

Up against the cupboard, Maureen is getting felt up and creeped out by bald handsy man. He goes in for the kiss and she fights back ending up on the floor next to an overturned, something. Seeing the opportunity, he is quick to get on top of her and wedge himself between her legs as she struggles.

 Nick, having decided that five minutes is too long to wait for nicotine, lets himself into the Employees Only section and comes to her rescue. Or.. he tries.

Bald handsy man knocks Nick down and then comes back for Maureen grabbing at her feet. I am unsure if he plans on raping her next to Nick (who wasn’t hit all that hard) or if he is going to try to kidnap her, but Nick recovers and attacks again. In the struggle Maureen and her (magically still on) high heels strikes out and bald handsy man gets a stiletto to the neck. Then, the blood, the wet raspy sounds, and the almost instant and not that messy death.

Maureen recovers quickly and offers to go call the police but Nick stops her, “Do you have any idea who you just killed?” Instead of a bitter or sarcastic “My would-be rapist?” Maureen looks worried… and Title Card!

 Turns out the guy Maureen killed was a mob boss. Nick takes his money, she takes his Playboy key and together they dump the body in the river. As the show continues, Carol Lynne is too old to be a bunny and she goes above the head of Billy, the manager, to Hef who gives her a new job of Bunny Den Mother. (She is no Joan Halloway, but she is dynamic on the screen.)

The episode, in true pilot style, does a fair bit of exposition and character introduction while setting up at least three story arcs. Here are some good and some bad points from the pilot.

Bunny suits need a partner to unzip
Bunny territories shouldn’t be crossed! Rawr!
Secret bunny lesbian who is there for the money.
Nick Dalton does a decent Don Drapper impersonation… seriously there are a few times when he has the voice down pat!
Brenda (the Africal America, or Chocolate Bunny) is awesome. “Is it true what they say.. that he has a really big….. ? Oh honey, you got a dirty mind, I was going to say penis.”
The term “Chasing Bunny tail… hee!”
The Tina Turner and Ike stand ins are a lot of fun to watch.
Not just lesbians, but hot hunky gay men too!

 And the Bad: 
 Rampant sexism… it can’t be authentic period piece unless they play up that angle, right?
The whole “We have to pretend to lust each other… let’s kiss.. for, umm, the sake of others.. yeah, for their sake we better make out.”
The voice over of Hugh. Who is he talking to? Why? We are a relatively adult and well read audience, we don’t need things spoon fed to us.
Almost too many stories and side stories. I worry that the show won’t be able to do them all justice while still keeping us entertained.
 The whole tag line (from the voice over Hef) that in the Playboy Club you can “be whoever you want to be” rings decidedly false since the bunnies can’t be anything really other than waitresses and the men can’t really be their lovers.

 In short, there is potential. I plan on watching a few more episodes to see where it is going… and will try to leave all Mad Men comparisons behind me while I do it. And… here is a trailer that pretty much shows you the entire first episode….


Up All Night and The New Girl

Fall is officially here… at least according to the TV Guide, and with it, some new TV shows. Let’s take a look at two sitcoms, Up All Night and The New Girl.

 First, The New Girl, a sitcom about finding love and family in the place you might east expect to find it. The premise, a quirky girl (Zoey Deschenal from 500 days of Summer) who moves in with three guys she found on craig’s list. Predictable crazy hyjinks ensue. The show is a decently written sitcom and if you are a fan of that genre or a fan of sexy girls playing dorky girls, this show might tickle your funny bone. Though predictable as taxes and breaking no new ground, the show is harmless and offers a few laughs. One hopes that the shtick of the pretty girl who is too dorky for her own social good will be retired a bit and make way for more interpersonal funny situations and some slight character development.

My take: worth watching to see if they can get over the pilot hump and make a potentially very funny sitcom.


 Up All night, on the other hand, is tired before it begins and a waste of talent. The premise is two thirtysomethings who are surprised at the workload of raising a baby and… well.. that’s about it. Though it strives to tackle issues of balancing work and home life, the characters are horribly one dimensional and the “funny” moments are overdone and have been done, and done and done, before. Also, we skip the whole brand new infant phase and the baby is a few months old and yet the change of a diaper seems an insurmountable challenge. One hopes that given a few more episodes and some sort of character arc, the star power of Will Arnett and Christina Applegate won’t be a footnote in the cancelation notice. There is potential but without some drastic changes, this show will stay in the heap of “can totally skip” TV shows this fall.

My take: could be worth watching, but would take some serious changes and twists to hold anyone’s interest for long.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fall 2011: What’s Gay on TV?

 Labor Day has come and gone… making it officially fall to many people. With fall comes cooler weather (right???), football games, the turning of the leaves… and TV shows! Whether back from summer hiatus or brand new, let’s take a look at a few of the shows in this fall’s Fall Line Up… through the lens of how LGBT friendly they might be.

 First up, Dancing With The Stars comes back with a bang and makes history with the inclusion of Chaz Bono . I doubt he needs an introduction on this site, but here goes: Chaz, formerly Chastity Bono, is the sole child of Sonny and Cher. His female to male transition has been public for the past three years and has been supremely instrumental in bringing the idea of transition into the day to day lives of a lot of Americans who had never heard the term before. He is, I think, one of the most famous transgendered men in pop culture and is an activist and a lecturer. Transgendered groups, as well as Cher herself, are loudly supportive of this casting choice, and while there has been a flurry of “The sky is falling” rhetoric from the Christian right, one can only hope that the more often the general public is reminded that trans people are not just present in our society but also dramatically active and useful members to boot, the better. DWTS premiers on September 18th.

 Next up we have The Playboy Club which many are calling NBC’s answer to AMC’s Mad Men. Also set in 1961 (but in Chicago) this period piece will showcase the changing American world through the lens of, you guessed it, a Playboy Club. The tag line for the show is “Where the men hold the keys but the women hold the power” and for us skeptical women out there, the show promises to dwell on the positive aspects of being a bunny. Like the money. And to bring it back to our LGBT theme, there is a lesbian bunny. Alice a closeted lesbian bunny who is married to a gay man. Together, they pool money for theMattachine Society Chicago chapter, which was a huge LGBT rights group in the 1960s. Although this storyline was only a small part of the pilot, the producers say it will definitely be a big part of the show.

Glee returns on Tuesday the 20th . With new cast members and the eventual story arcs involving the winners of the Glee Project ( including Alex who performed in drag a good part of the time) we have high hopes for the third season of this very LGBT friendly show.

 Attempting to market to those a bit too old for Glee but who still love musical theater, NBC offers Smash which promises to deal with LGBT related themes as well as appeal to a broad LGBT audience. Only time will tell if they can hit the high notes on this. (Smash is a midseason show and won’t premier until 2012.)

 On The Good Wife, Owen will finally get a long term love interest moving this gay side character into the gay limelight. Producers want to be realistic… gay brothers aren’t always single, apparently. Also a reoccurring guest spot will go to out actor Harvey Fierstein The Good Wife already gets a nod of appreciation for a series regular bisexual character, Kalinda. (Archie Panjabi won an Emmy for her portrayal.) The next season begins on September 25th.

 On FX, Archer, home to two regular gay and bisexual characters, will premier its 3rd season In late September but keep the rest of the season for 2012. If you need to catch up on this animated twisted espionage show that is really like no other, the episodes are available on hulu.com 

Gossip Girl returns on the CW on September 26th. This fan favorite broke ground with its gay character and GLADD has repeatedly showered praise on the CW for its portrayal of its queer characters.

 And lastly a random tid bit of information from GLADD and The Advocate : ABC Family: The only cable network to receive an "excellent" rating [from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's annual report on the media's portrayal of LGBT people]. ABC Family was initially founded in 1977 as an extension of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network. Nowadays the channel is nothing like Robertson's network, with a history of gay-inclusive shows like Kyle XY and Greek, which have attracted a young, loyal viewership. Fifty-five percent of the network's prime-time programming was LGBT-inclusive, thanks to shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Huge, and Make It or Break It

 ABC Fall Preview:

 CW Fall Preview:

 NBC Fall Preview:

 FOX Fall Preview

 I know this list isn’t complete, but I hope it helps you figure out what to watch while procrastinating whether it be your homework or your laundry. Happy viewing!