Books have always offered a way to escape. In more recent times, while they may have had to yield to movies, TV and video games, nothing quite matches the growth in imagination, the building of vocabulary and general peace that comes with a consuming novel.

Just another precious gift that most youngsters today will never receive.

However, as I get older and the world becomes a little scarier, when I run for a bookstore, I find myself gravitating more and more to cookbooks, health magazines and travel guides. Three hobbies I adore. And yet, just once, I wish I could come across a book without teenage vampires, five obscenities on every page, descriptive intimacies and violence.

Books are supposed to be about escape. About fantasy. Who wants to fantasize about sadistic terrorists and unthinkable rape crimes? Unless you are in fact a sadistic terrorist. In which case, you got bigger problems buddy.

Both of the aforementioned books are currently found on the bestsellers lists, might I add.

Truth be told, these types of books have always been on the shelves. Although maybe not as blatantly explicit: Invisible Man, The Great Gatsby, The Fountainhead, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Jane Eyre. All depictions of real life for colored people, privileged debutantes, social outcasts and orphans.

Fact is, humans have always enjoyed learning about life on the “other side of the tracks,” strolling in someone else’s shoes.

I guess things haven’t changed so very much over the decades. What has changed is our idea of reality. We’ve moved from reading about the abuse of the poor and under-priveleged to unflinchingly evaluating a 2-day-old bloodied body and then reliving the murder through the killer’s mind.

The human psyche is continuing to disintegrate into an oblivion of blood, sex and anger. And we have the books to prove it.

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Following on the coattails of the very recent Glee/GQ uproar is criticism of Mike & Molly, a sitcom stuffed with fat jokes and flavored with lovable hi-jinks made funnier by the characters’ portliness.

I remember when fat jokes were offensive. Actually, I believe they still are–in the real world. But, conversely, on television, fat jokes are just another way to get a laugh, lighten a situation or make a character appear more likeable (think: Barney on How I Met Your Mother). Never mind what would happen in real life if one were to regularly chide his workmate about his fear of his partner falling on him and smothering him to death or if a mother constantly referenced her daughter’s big-bonedness as she feeds her more food. Because, by now, her fat daughter must have come to grips with her size.

I guess then that fat jokes are okay as long as they are told by the overweight people themselves or by their loved ones.

Perhaps we’re supposed to feel proud of these characters–that they’re able to accept and seemingly embrace their rotundness. With no outside appearance of embarrassment or shame. Just, maybe, an eating disorder, skewed body image and lifelong health problems. It’s okay, honey. Have another Twinkie.

We’re expected to rejoice in their triumph of self-esteem in a society that worships toothpick-sized models and ripped weight lifters.

But I personally cannot rejoice in a character’s ability to see past her weight. Her extra poundage is not something she was born with, like freckles, curly hair or big feet. Albeit, she may have a hereditary tendency toward obesity or heaviness, but she is not forced into obesity against her will, like a slave sold into slavery. No, obesity usually begins inchoately, maybe with an extra dessert every night, flowering over the years into a debilitating health issue that is either accepted or fought against on a daily basis.

Instead, overweight people are told that it’s okay. That there’s nothing wrong with how they look. (Which, there isn’t, if it weren’t killing them.) No judgments. Just acceptance. That is, unless you count the blogs about how fat people make skinny people feel nauseous. But as many people as there are like that in the world, there are plenty more who are eager to praise them for their ability to be extra-sized in a society of under-eaters.

One less person to fight them for the last size 8 dress.

At the gym this morning, I glanced at the television to see two men on Fox & Friends interviewing three Victoria’s Secret models in all of their luscious glory.

I’m sure those two had some mighty fights on their hands in order to receive those coveted interviewing chairs.

And, I’d like to interject that the topic was completely male appropriate.

Apparently Victoria’s Secret is unveiling a new bra . . . .
Yes, you heard me right: the PhD genuises at a top news organization decided that its viewers’ time would be best spent listening to two googly-eyed males ask three beautiful, but not the greatest at intelligent talk, women about cup sizes, adjustable straps and adequate support.

Are you kidding me?

No, sadly Fox & Friends was not kidding, and neither am I.

Maybe Fox researchers decided that America has had enough political, environmental, military and terrorist discussions to last us till 2020, so let’s add in a little fluff fun for the masses.

And, if that was their thought, they’re right to a certain extent.

Let’s not forget too that Fox & Friends is far from the most highly respected nor reliable source of news information. And they don’t tout themselves as such–for the most part. So I guess that merits them some acknowledgement.

However, that does not in some way allow them license to use a somewhat-credentialed national news service in order to make a mockery of the American people.

But, then again, I guess that’s never stopped them before.

And, frankly, if I were from a foreign nation,–oh, how I wish I was–and I ran across that broadcast, I would cackle all week long about the laughableness that has become our nation.

kill the writer

May 22, 2010

I’m trying to be more observant. Paying better attention to my surroundings and the people around me. Even to what I hear on tv. Once I started doing that, I vetoed every show I’ve ever watched.

First, I felt shock and abhorrence. Then, after those emotions came an action. Laughter. It’s no wonder we have so many programs mocking the embarrassment that is cable television. That’s the kind of laughter I’m talking about. Mocking disbelief laughter. The way someone might laugh at the ridiculous woman who honks at the old man in front of her, in a drive thru line, because he’s not putting his car into Drive fast enough–that pitying, I Can’t Believe This Is Happening Right Now, kind of laugh.

We all know the shows. They’re similar to people. Vapid and self-obsessed; repeating the same problems week after week. Never knowing when to change or just to stop talking about it. Case in point, The Hills, Desperate Housewives, Private Practice, Two and a Half Men, and all talk shows, where hosts try to keep audiences interested week after week, whether it’s with the aid of a dog in a tutu or a prank call to the hospital. Hilarious! Or, of course, the talk shows that try to hit us right in the gut by interviewing real-life people, “just like me.” Because I know that all I want in my day is more stories about the hardships of life. I especially enjoy Dr. Phil who spouts off every proverb ever found in a fortune cookie but in nice hickish drawl so no one will notice.

Just as a recent example, I’ll quote The Hills. Need I say more?

-I just want her to be happy.
-Screw that. I don’t want her to be happy. I, like, want her to be normal again.

(Yes, your idea of normalcy is totally on point.)

-I’ve never had to deal with people losing their minds when it’s not due to some kind of substance.

(Well that’s a relief. You sound like you know some really great people.)

televised trash

February 16, 2010

I have sworn off television.

I actually feel dumber after watching it.

Partly because I know better.

Partly because, try as I may, I know I won’t be able to find anything worth any brain power.

Today, I witnessed Judge Judy humiliating her guests as usual–and herself at the same time. Tyra talking about herself . . . or sex–it’s always one of the two.

I paused to check out Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Unquestionably, the longest two minutes of my life.

What were Brad and Angelina thinking when they accepted these roles? Maybe they saw it as a way to work together; far be it for the script to be any good. They probably figured that with their breathtaking looks and neverending star power, they could scoop dog poop for two hours, and audiences would giggle in ecstasy.

They weren’t far off, unfortunate to say.

Another show that helped bring up my lunch for the day was Secret Life of the American Teenager. Now here’s a sure-to-be classic. 15-year-old girl gets pregnant. Lives with no obvious consequences. Goes to school like a normal girl without a baby. Comes home to a nice, spacious house and a loving family–albeit with obvious mental problems. But no economic issues. No discussion of money. No dreading of bills. No crying over depression or lost opportunities that come with mothering a child. Just smooth sailing. Dating with no concern for her baby’s future. No late-night feedings or changings. The season finale might even be that her baby is simply a figment of her imagination. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Reminds me of Rachel from Friends when she had a baby. But where was that baby? The gang at the coffee shop hardly ever saw her and definitely never heard her. Best baby ever!

And Rachel sure didn’t look any worse for it. Her hair was always quaffed in her Rachel way. Outfits always neat and ironed. No baby spit-up for her. No, her baby never did that.

Man, if parenthood were that easy, what’s all the fuss about?

Molly Ringwald plays the 15-year-old’s mother on Secret Life. She was bragging about the program one day, calling it a family show that kids and parents could enjoy together. Storylines for everyone.

Except, that is, for people with standards. And those who want their kids to grow up well-adjusted and not sex-crazed.

Those people might want to just say no to the show. Maybe even tv in general.