Friday, December 30, 2011

Mad About Muppets

Today we took my husband's little girl to see The Muppets.  To be honest, we were just waiting for an excuse to see it, and introducing our daughter to something we loved as kids was a better excuse than any.  I mean really, who doesn't love the Muppets?  Who doesn't tear up watching Kermy sit on that log in the swamp, strumming his banjo while singing "The Rainbow Connection"?  Who doesn't feel their heart skip a beat when the intro to The Muppet Show comes on?

One of the most interesting things about the entire franchise is how self-aware the Muppets are.  In all of the movies, including the new one, the Muppets use such metafiction practices as talking directly to the camera and openly commenting on the fact that they are making a movie.  In any other piece of fiction, these types of things would jerk the viewer right out of the story and tear down the magical curtain that allowed one to view the story as real.  Oddly enough, seeing a Muppet talk to the camera about the current film's budget doesn't jerk you out of their world.  If anything, it makes them more real.  I feel like I wouldn't be surprised if Kermit showed up on my doorstep one night. Well, maybe just a little. 

The only thing I didn't like about today's film was the obvious product placement of the iPad2, Cars 2, and Red Bull.  I get that they're trying to update the franchise by bringing them into the new generation, but in this scenario, the obviousness just doesn't work.  Seeing the Cars 2 poster not just once, but twice even, jerked me right out of the least until the next musical number started.

But overall I loved the film, and I don't think it was just out of nostalgia.  Jason Segel, not only the star but also the brainchild of the film, brought something fresh to the franchise that, in today's world of electronic entertainment and superficial relationships, quite frankly, was desperately needed.  We old folks will always love the Muppets, but the youngsters need something new to latch onto, and I think that this film has it.  Yet, at their core, the Muppets are the same as ever.  They still offer unshakeable morals and 1950s ideals, but in a believable and endearing way that doesn't make you feel preached to, but instead makes you ache to join them.  And of course, today's film was again self-aware.  The entire plot revolved around the Muppets leaving their lives as washed-up has-beens to find relevance and fame in the new world--but not, of course, for the sake of relevance and fame, but rather to save their cherished Muppet Theatre.  What's more idealistic (and worthy) than that?

The Muppets was beautiful, touching, and real in the most absurd use of the term. After seeing it, I don't think I could ever call them puppets.  I hope that today's generation will feel the same, and keep the Muppets alive.

Read more about the film at The Muppets.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Goodnight Blog?

This year Santa brought my son a digital e-reader, MP3 player, and laptop. Nana and Papa got him a tablet.

My son is18 months old. And now he has more gadgets than I do. Mind you, his gadgets feature Elmo, Thomas the Train, and that little Leapfrog dog.  But still, it's more than I have now, and certainly more than I had when I was his age.

Today's world is becoming increasingly digital. My son can't even say "See Spot run," and already he's got an e-reader.  I don't even have an e-reader yet.  Hmm. What's wrong with this picture?

Nothing. It's just the state of our world. Things change, and it seems now like they're changing at warp speed.  There are some classics that are timeless and will always be relevant, and there are others that are archaic and in need of a facelift.  And then there's Goodnight iPad.

Yep. I said Goodnight iPad.

Everyone remembers Goodnight Moon, right?  The classic children's book where the little kid says goodnight this, goodnight that, to all of the mundane objects in his room.  Problem is the book was written decades ago, when the glow emanating through our living room windows was more likely to be a fire than a laptop.  Which means that even though the kid is saying goodnight to things we probably still have, they're not the objects we spend time with. The objects we focus on.

These days, we spend all day at our computers, put in headphones for the commute home, crash on the couch with our Kindles by the cool glow of the TV, and then check our smartphones before heading to bed. So it makes sense that in Goodnight iPad (a parody of the classic children's book by a writer under the clever pseudonym of Ann Droyd), when the kid looks around his room to say goodnight, he focuses more on the Macbook than the moon.  With lines like "there were three little Nooks with 10,000 books," and "the bings, bongs, and beeps of e-mails and tweets," who can resist?

It just goes to show that even though we still love the classics--my son got Goodnight Moon as a gift before he was even born--there's always room to expand into the future. And Goodnight iPad, even though a parody, is on the right track.

See more about the book at Amazon.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 10s

Today Nielsen Bookscan released their 2011 top 10 (in sales) lists for entertainment, advertising, and television.  The Harry Potter films took 2 of the top 3 DVD spots, while The Help didn't make the list at all (although it took both top 2 spots on the adult fiction list--so maybe I'd like the book even better?).  I was glad to see Bridesmaids make the list (who said women can't be funny?), and that American Horror Story, in my opinion the scariest show to hit the tube in our generation, topped one of the television lists.

In non-fiction, it's no surprise that the new Steve Jobs hardback took spot #2.  I'm not into biographies, but I've heard great things about this one. And of course, heading up the Children's/Young Adult list were Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games books.  Haven't quite gotten to those yet, but they're in my One of These Days pile.

What I found most interesting about the non-DVD lists is how DVD-oriented they were.  And by that, I mean that even though the lists are for 2011, not all of the books were actually published in 2011.  They simply sold the best in 2011.  So obviously, the film industry had something to do with book sales this year (I'm sure that's not a first).  Only a minority of the books on the Children's/Young Adult list were actually published in 2011, and one was published as far back as 2006.  Water for Elephants made the Adult Fiction list, even though it was published 4 years ago.

Been to the movies, anyone?

But I like that films are inspiring people to read.  At least we aren't giving up on the written word altogether.  Although I do hope that in future years, when (fingers crossed!) my books are on the bookshelves, people will start buying the newly-published.  Or maybe I should just push for film rights right from the start and build my audience that way...? 

Check out the lists at Nielsen Bookscan.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How "The Help" Helped Me

Today the hubs and I are off work.  We had a rare night out last night with my old college buddies and kept our poor son Asher out 'til the wee hours.  That means that he's now been napping for...oh...three hours probably?  At any rate, Chris and I aren't used to staying out late anymore, and since the kid's asleep, that leaves us free to lounge on the couch all day long.

And that means movie marathon.

We started with The Help.  And I gotta say, I really enjoyed it.  I can't normally just sit down and do one thing at a time.  I get it from my mother, who would get up twenty times whenever we tried to watch a movie with her, because the laundry had to be done, or we had to have some brownies, or the mail needed to be opened.  She could never just relax and watch.  And I've always had the same problem.

Today, I started the movie off by sitting on the couch and opening up my netbook, thinking about what I might write for my post as I scanned through the day's emails.  Within 15 minutes, I'd set the computer aside, and spent the rest of the film sitting in engaged silence.  It wasn't just that the protag is a writer--which I obviously connect with--or even that she was played by Emma Stone, with whom I've been in solid love since Easy A.  The film wasn't my type, and it didn't even start with the typical hook (something I've been studying a lot this week).  And yet, it hooked me.

I am by no means a film critic, but I hope that it's enough of a thumbs up from me just to say that I was distracted from my computer and my books and my own life long enough to sit still and enjoy a film for once.  And now, I feel refreshed.  (It's amazing what focusing on a single task can do.)  At any rate, The Help was quite the film, and I can't say enough about the stunning performances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.  And now, I'll give it back to Mom, so that she too can distract herself from her own work long enough to enjoy a piece of art.  Thanks Mom, for letting me borrow it.  :)

Asher's still asleep, so now, on to Limitless, to see if it can hook me too...


Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Bookstore War

I don't think I can properly close out the week without acknowledging the Amazon scandal.  It's been all over the news this week: vs the brick-and-mortar bookstores.  It started when Amazon sent out a one-day offer giving customers $5 off of a product if they used Amazon price-checking when inside the actual store.  And even though books were apparently not part of the deal, booksellers everywhere were outraged.  Some even offered their own deal days, offering a discount to anyone who brought in proof of a cancelled Amazon account.

It seems to have become a moral issue in the publishing world, and I can't yet tell where I sit on this fence.  On one hand, I get that stores felt threatened by Amazon's apparent attack.  After all, they're Amazon, and they've changed the face of not only online shopping, but of all shopping (I myself am a happy Amazon Prime customer).  And with the recent death of the Borders chains, it's reasonable for bookstores to take offense, even if books weren't included in the offer.

But on the other hand, Amazon is a company, just like all of those brick-and-mortar bookstores.  And for-profit companies exist for one thing: to turn a profit.  How can they be blamed for a successful business venture?  Besides, Amazon isn't making books obsolete; it's merely creating a different channel for getting them.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm fans of both.  I order a lot of books on Amazon simply because I don't have time to drive half an hour to a bookstore (not to mention that they are, in general, cheaper there).  But I also did truly mourn the passing of the two Borders bookstores closest to me, and to this day I feel sad when I pass by the dark Borders sign.

I guess the bottom line (at least for me) is this: I'll shop at Amazon when I'm looking for convenience and cost-efficiency, and I'll shop at Barnes & Noble or my favorite used bookstore when I'm looking for an experience.  Both are valuable to me, and I would hate to lose either option.  So my hope is that there's a way this can be worked out so that both sides win--that way I can keep my Prime membership and still enjoy the occasional brick-and-mortar visit.  Why can't we have both?


P.S.  There's a good opinion piece on the subject at Publisher's Weekly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's better than a free book?

On April 23, 2012, thousands of World Book Night volunteers will give out a million free paperback copies of 30 popular titles in an effort to spur public interest in reading. With a price tag of free and titles like The Hunger Games and The Lovely Bones, what's not to love about this event? I especially recommend Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls; I read it almost in one sitting. Raw, beautiful account of a young girl's struggle with eating disorders after her best friend dies of one. You won't forget it.

Check out the book list at Publisher's Weekly.

Sign up to be a volunteer at World Book Night.

Here's hoping this hits our communities!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Welcome to Fictiffous!

I know, silly title. (You should see my brainstorm list!)

I've got to be honest, I've resisted blogging for years now. It's odd really, considering I religiously kept journals growing up, and was so terrified of them magically disappearing that to this day, they are kept in the fireproof safe Santa brought me one year. But for some reason, when it came to putting my thoughts out there in cyberspace, for anyone to just didn't feel enticing. It doesn't help that one of my recent obsessions has been with the film The Social Network, and when I've thought of creating a blog, I've remembered that biting scene halfway through when Mark's girlfriend very snidely remarks, "It didn't stop you from writing it, as if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared." I am certainly not so arrogant that I think every thought tumbling through my head ought to be shared...nevertheless, here I am.

I'm writing this because I am a writer, first and foremost, and this is what we do. We write. Usually I do it privately, from the safety of my couch, penning young adult novels on the same first-generation netbook I'm using right now. But at some point, I have to step into the new millenium. And considering I'm still (barely) under 30, it's a shame that it's taken me this long.

So I'm not promising a daily gem, or anything remotely life-changing. Maybe I'm writing this more for me than anyone else. But the truth is my journals are dusty, and my keyboard is clean. And that means that no matter what I tell myself, I'm not writing this for me.

My aim for this blog is to talk about anything that strikes me in the world of fiction, whether it's books, movies, the art of writing, the search for an agent, or anything else that pops up. Because I don't keep a regular journal anymore, from time to time bits of my own life (quite firmly grounded in reality) will seep in, and for that, I apologize in advance. But I figure that my life revolves around fiction anyway--I am a novelist, after all--so the two must be related. At least for me.

My philosophy will be, the more the merrier! Tell me what you think, ask me questions, post comments, let me know what you'd like to see next. I'm open to anything, and hope that some interesting things will be in the future of this blog. Who knows? Maybe I'll figure this out after all!

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading, and I hope to see more of you in the future...