"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Saturday, February 28, 2009

For the love of Lulu

(me with Lulu during my most recent visit to Atlanta last year)

I don't usually ask for such personal things as this on my blog, but my dear friend Judith's dog Lulu is very sick. Lulu is 12 years old, and is about the sweetest most perfect dog I have ever known.

Judith is like family to me, I have known her now for 13 years, having met her when I lived in Atlanta.

I would often stay at Judith's house when their family had to travel, and I would babysit Lulu. At one point, I lived just around the corner from Judith's house, and I would go and "borrow" Lulu many afternoons to walk her. Lulu has always had a piece of my heart. I would always find it amazing that after I moved from Atlanta to California and elsewhere, when I would go to Atlanta for a visit, Lulu remembered me.

Judith is still waiting for news, and may have to make some hard decisions--to do what's best for Lulu no matter how heartbreaking it is for the family.

All of us animal lovers know this type of inevitability all too well, and I am sure so many of you can relate. Please send your thoughts, prayers, wishes, and whatever else you can think of Judith and Lulu's way.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Do You Remember...The Snowy Day?

I have been cleaning and reorganizing my house, trying to shed some of my clutter, and the process has been long and daunting. I will open a box and find memories to wade through, and then spend hours--literally--turning back time and remembering certain periods of my life with fondness, humor, joy, or sadness.

Tonight I was sorting through many of my childhood belongings, including toys without any batteries, flashing lights or other distractions... it seemed I was in a Fisher-Price museum. And then, I came upon a box of my books, wonderful children's books that I loved, that still stand the test of time; many titles that I still give to new parents for their children.

And while all the books in the box were special to me, the one that stood out the most was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The cover of that book took me back in time quickly and further than any of the others. I felt a genuine calm come over me as I looked through the pages, remembering how reading this book as a child, or having it read to me gave such a vivid impression of the quiet of walking outside in the early morning just after a snowfall.

In searching the web tonight, I found that there is an Ezra Jack Keats Foundation that celebrates his work, and his many, many other books written for children. I was a little shocked to find that The Snowy Day, published in 1962, was the first book to feature an African American child as the main character. It's just hard to imagine that until that point in history (which really is not that long ago), that had not happened. The Snowy Day also won the prestigious Caldecott Medal that year.

My love for this book is enduring, but as I learned more about the author, I understand how this story came to be. This beautiful story came from a man with the courage and heart to see beyond race and give children an ageless and enduring story that will no doubt be enjoyed for generations to come.

Below is a biography of Ezra Jack Keats, from the foundation's website. There are so many touching parts to this biography, be sure to read it, and also visit the website.

Long before multicultural characters and themes were fashionable, Ezra Jack Keats crossed social boundaries by being the first American picture-book maker to give the black child a central place in children’s literature.
Ezra Jack Keats was born on March 11, 1916, to impoverished Polish immigrants of Jewish descent in East New York, which was then the Jewish quarter of Brooklyn, New York. He was the third child of Benjamin Katz and Augusta Podgainy, and was then known as Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz. It was evident early on that Jack was an artistically gifted child.
At the age of eight, Ezra won the approval of his father when he was paid twenty-five cents for painting a sign for a local store, providing Benjamin with the hope that his son might be able to earn a living as a sign painter; nevertheless, Ezra was in love with the fine arts.
He excelled in art in elementary school, and, on graduating from Junior High School 149; he was awarded a medal for drawing. This medal, though quite skimpy in design and construction, meant a good deal to him; he kept it all his life, together with all his subsequent prestigious awards.
Ezra was a good student in high school, and was recognized as an outstanding young artist. During his years at Thomas Jefferson High School, one of his oil paintings depicting unemployed men warming themselves around a fire won a national contest run by the Scholastic Publishing Company. This award provided Ezra with an important amount of much needed encouragement.
It was the time of the great depression of the 1930s, and Ezra’s family suffered extreme hardship, as did practically all families in the neighborhood. Although Ezra’s mother was supportive and encouraging of Ezra, his father wanted him to turn his head to more practical skills. Working as a waiter at Pete’s Coffee Shop in Greenwich Village, Benjamin Katz knew how hard earning a living could be. He felt that his son could never support himself as an artist.
Despite his desire to discourage Ezra, Benjamin brought home tubes of paint for his son under the pretense of having traded bowls of soup to starving artists. “If you don’t think artists starve, well, let me tell you. One man came in the other day and swapped me a tube of paint for a bowl of soup.”
Upon graduation from high school, Ezra was awarded the senior class’s medal for excellence in art. Sadly, Benjamin Katz died in the street of a heart attack in January 1935, on the day before Ezra was to receive this award. Ezra was called upon to identify the body, and it was then that he discovered in his father’s wallet the carefully preserved newspaper clippings that reported on the notable artistic achievements of his son.

In an interview with his friend, the poet Lee Bennett Hopkins, Keats described this experience. “I found myself staring deep into his [my father’s] secret feelings. There in his wallet were worn and tattered newspaper clippings of the notices of the awards I had won. My silent admirer and supplier, he had been torn between his dread of my leading a life of hardship and his real pride in my work."
Although Ezra was awarded three scholarships to art school, he was unable to attend. He had to work to help support his family by day, and he took art classes at night when he could. In 1937, he secured a job with the
Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a mural painter. After three years, Ezra moved on to work as a comic book illustrator. In 1942, he began work on the staff of Fawcett Publications, illustrating backgrounds for the Captain Marvel comic strip.
Keats entered the service of the United States Army on April 13, 1943. Taking advantage of his skill as an artist, the army trained him to design camouflage patterns. After World War II, he returned to New York. Eager to expand his experience at easel painting, Ezra was determined to study in Europe and he spent one very productive year in Paris. Many of his French paintings were later exhibited in this country.
After returning to the states Ezra painted covers for The Reader’s Digest, illustrations for The New York Times Book Review, Colliers and Playboy, among others, and was exhibited at the Associated American Artists Gallery in New York City in 1950 and 1954. His easel paintings were sold through displays in Fifth Avenue shop windows, and provided him with a very welcome income. Two years after the war, Jack, in reaction to the anti-Semitic prejudices of the time, legally changed his name to Ezra Jack Keats. It was Ezra’s memory of being a target of discrimination that provided the basis for his sympathy and understanding for those who suffered similar hardships.
In 1954, Jubilant for Sure by Elisabeth Hubbard Lansing was published. The book, set in the mountains of Kentucky, was the first book Keats illustrated for children. Keats, in an unpublished autobiography, stated: “I didn’t even ask to get into children’s books.” In the years that followed, Keats was hired to illustrate many children’s books written by other authors, among them being the Danny Dunn adventure series.
My Dog is Lost was Keats’ first attempt at writing his own children’s book. He co-authored the book with Pat Cherr and it was published in 1960. The main character is a boy, newly arrived in New York City from Puerto Rico, named Juanito. Juanito does not speak any English, only Spanish, and he has lost his dog. In searching the city Juanito meets children from different sections of New York, such as Chinatown and Little Italy. Even in this very early book Keats was innovative in his use of minority children as central characters.
In the two years that followed, Keats worked on a book featuring a little boy named Peter. An article Keats had clipped from Life magazine in 1940 inspired Peter. “Then began an experience that turned my life around—working on a book with a black kid as hero. None of the manuscripts I’d been illustrating featured any black kids—except for token blacks in the background. My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along. Years before I had cut from a magazine a strip of photos of a little black boy. I often put them on my studio walls before I’d begun to illustrate children’s books. I just loved looking at him. This was the child who would be the hero of my book.”
The book featuring Peter,
The Snowy Day, received the prestigious Caldecott Award for the most distinguished picture book for children in 1963. Peter appears in six more books growing from a small boy in The Snowy Day to adolescence in Pet Show.
In the books that Keats wrote and illustrated, he used his special artistic techniques to portray his subjects in a unique manner. One of these was his blending of gouache with collage. Gouache is an opaque watercolor mixed with a gum that produces an oil-like glaze.
The characters in Keats’ books come from the community around him. Many of his stories illustrate family life, the simple pleasures and more complex problems, that a child often encounters in his daily routine. To create his books, Keats drew upon his own childhood experiences, from having to flee from bullies to taking a ribbing from his pals for liking girls. But these are also the experiences of almost all children growing up in neighborhoods and communities in many parts of the world. This commonality explains the continuing popularity of Keats’ books and characters.

By the time of Keats’ death following a heart attack in 1983, Keats had illustrated over eighty-five books for children, and written and illustrated twenty-four children’s classics. Keats had just designed the sets for a musical version of The Trip, [now entitled CAPTAIN LOUIE] the show is still presented around the country and licensed for production by Musical Theatre International designed a poster for The New Theatre of Brooklyn, and written and illustrated The Giant Turnip, a beloved folktale. Although Keats never married or had a family of his own, he loved children, and was loved by them in return.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Anne-Julie Aubry

I am a big fan of Etsy, and I can easily spend an afternoon browsing through all the beautiful and unique creations from people around the world. All the items are hand crafted, so it is a wonderful site for artists to display their handiwork, who might not otherwise have an opportunity to showcase and sell their items.

During one of my afternoons of browsing last year, I came upon Anne-Julie Aubry's work. Her whimsical and sometimes dark illustrations pulled me in and I have become a big fan, checking for new pieces from her all the time. I ordered a few postcard prints from her last year, and they are lovely in little frames scattered around my house. Also, she is from France, so this endears her to me even more! When I received my order from her, she included a few little extras, and the sweetest hand decorated thank you note. In the age of things ordered online arriving with only a packing slip (if you are lucky), it was just such a nice reminder of how special ordering from an artist like this can be.

She also has a website and a blog, so take a peek! (Her blog is especially fun!)


Sunday, February 22, 2009

From Across the Room...I Wonder

I have become a great aunt. A child came into this world only days ago and stretched the branches of our family tree, unknowing, barely seeing, warm and safe. I have never been married or had a child, but I stand by in amazement and wonder each time it happens in my family or with my friends. This afternoon I watched my family-- and the other sets of great grandparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles-- gather in a house this child will grow up in, awkward moments and silences eased by watching the baby do anything--cry, sleep, stare into my eyes or someone else's. I watched my parents move and react warmly to others and one another, and wondered in my own quiet mind if they used the same gestures with me when I was a baby, or if years and wisdom have just softened them to become the people I see across the room.

As I held this baby I wondered for her if her life would be peaceful and joyous, or stormy and uncertain, and wished deeply for the former.

I wonder if any two people know as they bring this life into the world, the real and beautiful responsibility of what they have created, the burden they must bear, the future they begin building as that child draws its first breath. There is such a clean slate in these first days and weeks.

I wonder if almost all births bring this moment, this out of focus optimism that emanates from this new being. It seems powerful enough--that given whatever outside rivalries, dangers, or broken histories--they can all lie in wait for these first moments--put aside for another time, another day, and in some cases, forgotten altogether by the magic of this new life.

But it is the mystery of it all that I wander through tonight, wishing for the technology of today when I was the new being, wishing video cameras were in every hand as they are now, so I could look back and see--not remember--but see from the future--me, there in the center of whatever mood filled the room, seeing myself in the place I started from.

I wonder if I had those moments on film if it would all seem foreign and disconnected, warm and familiar, or if there would be any small moments that could answer questions I have today.
And in some ways, maybe it is better to not have the time captured on film, to think instead that like all babies, I was a new life that connected a family, even for a few moments.

The poem below by Sharon Olds has always been so powerful to me, I discovered it in Anne Lamott's book for writers Bird by Bird.

I Go Back to May 1937
by Sharon Olds

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,

I see my father strolling out

under the ochre sandstone arch, the

red tiles glinting like bent

plates of blood behind his head, I

see my mother with a few light books at her hip

standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the

wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its

sword-tips black in the May air,

they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,

they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are

innocent, they would never hurt anybody.

I want to go up to them and say Stop,

don't do it--she's the wrong woman,

he's the wrong man, you are going to do things

you cannot imagine you would ever do,

you are going to do bad things to children,

you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of,

you are going to want to die. I want to go

up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,

her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,

her pitiful beautiful untouched body,

his arrogant handsome blind face turning to me,

his pitiful beautiful untouched body,

but I don't do it. I want to live. I

take them up like the male and female

paper dolls and bang them together

at the hips like chips of flint as if to

strike sparks from them, I say

Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Knowing Women

I have searched and searched for this piece to post it here on my blog. I read it months ago in O, The Oprah Magazine while in the waiting room at a doctor's office. I read it several times and found all the statements to be unwaveringly true, and so beautifully written. This piece always stuck with me, and finally tonight I was able to search with the right words on Oprah's website and find it. What I love about this list is that the things I see sometimes in myself as flawed or weak, he represents here as attributes of what makes women the unique, mysterious creatures we are.

What I Know for Sure About Women
By Mark Leyner

1. Even little girls, in all their blithe, unharrowed innocence, have a presentiment of sorrow, hardship, and adversity...of loss. Women, throughout their lives, have an intrinsic and profound understanding of Keats' sentiments about "Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu."

2. This sage knowledge of, and ability to abide, the inherently fugitive nature of happiness somehow accounts for the extraordinary beauty of women as they age.

3. Women have an astonishing capacity to maintain their equilibrium in the face of life's mutability, its unceasing and unforeseeable vicissitudes. And this agility is always in stark and frequently comical contradistinction to men's naïvely bullish and brittle delusions that things can forever remain exactly the same.

4. Women are forgiving but implacably cognizant.

5. Women are almost never gullible but sometimes relax their vigilance out of loneliness. (And I believe most women abhor loneliness.)

6. In their most casual, offhand, sisterly moments, women are capable of discussing sex in such uninhibited detail that it would cause a horde of carousing Cossacks to cringe.

7. Women are, for all intents and purposes, indomitable. It really requires an almost unimaginable confluence of crushing, cataclysmic forces to vanquish a woman.

8. Women's instincts for self-preservation and survival can seem to men to be inscrutably unsentimental and sometimes cruel.

9. Women have a very specific kind of courage that enables them to fling themselves into the open sea—whether it's a new life for themselves, another person's life, or even what might appear to be a kind of madness.

10. Women never—no matter how old they are—completely relinquish their aristocratic assumption of seductiveness.

And here is one last thing I know—and I know this with a certitude that exceeds anything I've said before: that men's final thoughts in their waking days and in their lives are of women...ardent, wistful thoughts of wives and lovers and daughters and mothers.

Mark Leyner, a husband, a father, a son, and a brother, is the author of eight books and a co-writer of the movie War, Inc.
article courtesy of Oprah.com


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'd Like to Buy a Vowel...

Just for laughs, some misspelled signs from all over. I don't know why, but the "Poduce" one got me, I giggled all morning.



Thursday, February 12, 2009

Close to Home

I think we have all heard before that it is common to find yourself in a relationship with someone like your father (women), or mother (men). Usually, this is talked about in a negative light, highlighting those that find themselves in damaging relationships, who also grew up in dysfunctional households. What I found interesting about this article is that it not only delves into the negative aspects, but a few positive outcomes as well.

Why you're likely to marry your parent

By Celeste Perron- Special to CNN

(LifeWire) -- When Lynn Houston was 27, she met an affectionate young man during a business trip to Virginia. Although she lived in Arizona, the two began dating; they married six months later. But after she joined him in Virginia, he became distant and had angry flare-ups, Houston says.

Dad Mike Chorley and husband Mike Wobschall agree on everything, according to Alison Wobschall.

He barely resembled the man she'd married, but he did remind her of another man she knew well: her father.
"They were both very emotionally unavailable and prone to outbursts of rage," says Houston, now 44 and a business consultant in Phoenix.
After six years of attempting to rescue the union through therapy, Houston filed for divorce.
Alison Wobschall also married a man like her father, but with much better results. "I have a great relationship with my dad, so I suppose I looked for a partner who shares some of his good qualities," says Wobschall, 22, head of marketing and public relations for a Minneapolis nonprofit.
Both men are "really interested in politics and the stock market, and they agree on everything," she says. "Also, when I'm upset about something, they'll always help me put it in perspective."
Both share the name Mike, and they even look alike. And Alison bears a striking resemblance to her mother-in-law, in appearance as well as personality. "We always laugh at the same things, even if nobody else is laughing," she says.
Although Houston's and Wobschall's
marriages couldn't have been more different, both women chose partners who resembled a parent. And, say experts, their experiences aren't that unusual.
Comfort in familiarity
Berkeley, California, psychotherapist Elayne Savage says familiarity is a big reason people may choose someone like Mom or Dad as a partner.
"When you grow up familiar with a certain type of person, you're attracted to that same type of person because it feels comfortable, whether you like it or not," says Savage, author of "Breathing Room: Creating Space to Be a Couple." "That's what people mean when they meet a potential partner and say, 'It 'feels like I've known him my whole life.'"
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that a parent's physical or intellectual traits may have some influence. A Hungarian researcher studied the facial features of 52 families and found a significant correlation between the appearance of men and their fathers-in-law and those of women and their mothers-in-law.
And in a survey of approximately 2,700 "high-achieving" men -- those in the top 10 percent of their age income bracket and/or with an advanced degree -- a University of Iowa researcher found they are likely to marry women with education levels and careers that mirror those of their moms.
Miami resident Aaron Gordon, 27, wouldn't argue. Gordon's wife, Rebecca, 27, has the same career as his mom -- teaching gifted elementary-schoolers -- and the women share a love of cooking and talking on the phone.
"When I met Rebecca, she was pursuing a career in advertising, and it wasn't until well after we started dating that she decided she didn't like advertising and opted instead to get her master's in education," says Aaron. "Although I definitely wanted to marry an educated woman, I wouldn't say that it was critical that she match my mom's level of schooling -- though in the end, they both earned master's degrees."
Rebecca says Aaron is just like her dad. "The longer I'm with Aaron, the more I notice idiosyncratic things, like the fact that they both love politics, and are both bad drivers, and both love going to supermarket for like two hours and buying too much stuff," she laughs.
Righting old wrongs
Sometimes, people choose mates who resemble their parents not because of fond memories, but to make amends for an unhappy childhood.
"This is most common if you felt rejected or abandoned by a parent and still haven't worked through it," says Stephen Treat, director of the Council for Relationships, a Philadelphia nonprofit. "Your psyche wants to go back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and resolve that parental relationship in a marriage."
Women who felt abandoned by their fathers are likely to choose emotionally unavailable husbands, for example, and men raised by hypercritical moms will be drawn to wives who pick on them, he says.
It's not a good idea. "You think you'll be able to heal this way, but you're probably no more equipped to deal with the situation than you were as a child, and the parental dynamic gets repeated in your marriage, usually with bad consequences," he says.
Reclaiming personal history
Does that mean it's a mistake to marry somebody like Mom or Dad?
Casey Clark Ney, 30, hopes not. She and her dad, who is now deceased, lived in different states after her parents divorced when she was a child. Although they had a warm phone relationship, Ney only saw him once or twice a year, and he wasn't very physically affectionate.
Her husband, James, 31, resembles her dad and has a similar "hard-working, calm, kind" quality. But James, too, isn't very affectionate.
"He grew up in a family who didn't do a lot of hugs and kisses and 'I love you's, and that does bother me," says Ney, a freelance journalist in Boise, Idaho. "I think there could be some truth in the idea that I'm working through my history in my marriage."
Breaking the chain
Despite evidence that suggests some of us are attracted to mates who resemble our parents, it's not a foregone conclusion, says therapist Barbara Swenson, director of the Couple Center in Sherman Oaks, California.
"If you want very badly to have a different and better relationship than the ones you grew up with, you can accomplish that if you go about it very consciously."
Swenson offers these pointers:
• Don't jump in. "Ideally you should date for a couple of years before engagement -- and not just long distance," she says. "You need to be together on those days when your car won't start ... to see how you and your partner support each other."
• Don't be afraid to disagree. "Assert yourself and see what your partner does with that," she says. "Can they put their needs aside and follow your lead once in a while? Make sure your relationship has room for give and take."
• Talk about life issues. Some questions to discuss sooner rather than later: If we have kids, will one of us stay home? Who will manage our money? "Premarital counseling can get these questions out on the table in a civilized way, and prevent problems down the road," says Swenson.

article courtesy CNN.com


Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar

(Bobby beside car with unidentified people.)

I caught this story on my car radio a few days ago, and I was absolutely enthralled, even skipping the errand I originally drove out for. Instead I drove around, listening to this story, and parked in a Starbucks parking lot to listen to the entire thing.

I have recommended a story from This American Life before, and this one is just as gripping. Most stories that the host, Ira Glass, features are special in some way. I am addicted to this program. Read below about it, and then go to the website to click on the link to listen to the entire episode. You won't be disappointed!

352: The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar

In 1912 a four year-old boy named Bobby Dunbar went missing in a swamp in Louisiana. Eight months later, he was found in the hands of a wandering handyman in Mississippi. (The picture at left was taken just days later.) In 2004, his granddaughter discovered a secret beneath the legend of her grandfather's kidnapping, a secret whose revelation would divide her own family, bring redemption to another, and become the answer to a third family's century-old prayer. We devote our entire episode to the story.


Host Ira Glass plays the song "Mystery of the Dunbar's Child" by Richard "Rabbit" Brown. It describes Bobby Dunbar's disappearance and recovery and the trial of his kidnapper, all of which was front page news from 1912 to 1914. Almost a century after it happened, Bobby Dunbar's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, was looking into her grandfather's disappearance and found that the truth was actually more interesting than the legend. And a lot more troubling. (1 minute)
Act One. Part One.

Reporter Tal McThenia tells the first half of Margaret's story. Everyone in her family knew the legend. Her grandfather went missing in a swamp in Louisiana, and was found 8 months later in Mississippi, in the hands of a wandering handyman named William Walters. But then another woman came forward and claimed the boy as hers. There was a big trial, and the boy was awarded to the Dunbars.In 1999, Margaret's father gave her a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings from the period. A lot of the clippings didn't match up exactly with her family's legend. So Margaret went on a quest to learn as much as she could, to small town libraries and archives all through the south, and eventually, to the living children of the "other mother," a woman named Julia Anderson. Her family had their own legend about the kidnapping. But in the Anderson version, Julia's son Bruce was the boy who was kidnapped, and it was Margaret's family, the Dunbars, who kidnapped him. (23 minutes)

Act Two. Part Two.

Tal McThenia's story continues. Margaret meets the living relatives of the kidnapper, William Walters, discovers a long lost court file with lots of answers, and finally arrives at an incontrovertible truth, which, depending on your point of view, is either very troubling, or the answer to your prayers. (32 minutes)

Song: "The Mystery of the Dunbar's Child," Richard "Rabbit" Brown


Garbage In, Garbage Out

In the age of reality TV, there is certainly no shortage of trash on a variety of channels. But I daresay that the leader of the pack is Oxygen's Bad Girl's Club. To be fair, until a few days ago, I had only seen the advertisements for the show, so I watched a few minutes of an episode the other night. I say a few minutes because I couldn't tolerate any more of it. After I hurriedly changed the channel and reached for an antacid, all I could think was...WHY?

Why would anyone come up with such a horrible concept? In case you don't know the concept, it is this: take about 8 of the trashiest, immoral, stupid, violent, self-involved women (and I use the term women loosely), put them together in a lovely mansion, and watch them drink, have sex with random men, beat each other up, and scream profanities. I mean it. That's it.

I remember when the Oxygen network began, and I THINK I remember that their tagline had something to do with empowering women. I guess that marketing slogan is in the archives room somewhere in the Oxygen offices, long forgotten.

The other "why", though is--WHY is this show so successful? WHY are people watching this crap? This show is THE most popular show on Oxygen, and I don't even want to know where it falls in ratings compared to other shows on other networks.

Today, more than ever, our young girls need to see role models, and hopefully parents are guarding the remote. But even high school and college women don't need to see this. It sends a message that this behavior can land you fame and fortune and a large following. And if I was a betting person, I would say that a good portion of the audience for this show is young men, and as young women see their reactions to the show, they might determine that a little "bad girl" behavior would do them some good.

But, until the ratings drop, the bad girls play on.

'Bad Girls Club': Well, they got the 'bad' part right ...
Feb 2, 2009, 03:00 PM by Jennifer Armstrong

Call it "television for trashy women." Seems the growing popularity of Bad Girls Club has made January one for the record books at Oxygen. The third season of the "reality" show -- which basically just puts a bunch of, shall we say, young ladies with challenging personalities in a house together -- boosted the women's net to its best ratings ever among 18- to 34-year-old women. To this I say: Really? We're talking about a show that basically goes: girls drink, girls make terrible decisions regarding inappropriate men, girls say really catty things about each other and fight, repeat. Points for honesty, I guess, given that most reality shows cover the same basic territory, even if they pretend to be about skill-based competitions (see Oxygen's other ratings-booster, reruns of America's Next Top Model) or, um, documentaries about a particular lifestyle (see The Girls Next Door).
MTV will be assaulting us with the similarly themed Girls of Hedsor Hall starting Feb. 9, in which, according to the press release, "12 of America’s rowdiest young women are shipped off to England to repair their bad ways," and VH1 has been doing it for a while with its Charm School (a distressingly watchable franchise). But even those questionable shows -- along with The N's strangely sweet bitch-rehab show from last summer, Queen Bees -- come with varying degrees of "lessons," unlike Oxygen's now-marquee hit. You know things are bad when you're a downmarket and more shallow version of MTV and VH1 fluff. And what's more worrisome is that now that Oxygen has found its defining hit -- cable-network-marketing's version of lightning in a bottle -- it's likely to spawn more of the same. I know it's tough to get out of Lifetime's schmaltz-soaked shadow, but the world of women's TV could use more smarts -- and fewer bad girls.
article courtesy EW.com


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Suite Dreams

When I lived in California, I visited the wine country several times, and took a few tours and attended tastings. It is truly beautiful there, just looking across the land and seeing nothing but vines and gorgeous houses and other scenery.

I remember on one tour seeing huge wine barrels or casks and marveling at the size of them and the room that held so many of them. But, I don't remember them being as huge as the ones pictured above.

In the true spirit of recycling and the love of wine, the De Vrouwe van Stavoren Hotel in the Netherlands has converted four wine casks from a French Chateau in Switzerland into cozy rooms for travelers. The hotel is very affordable and allows you to bring your dog along, so you have to love that!

To learn more and see more photos, click here.



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