Do you love to write as well as read romance? Do you long to spend the day with a group of similarly introverted yet brilliant people who spend way too much time talking to imaginary people? Then have I got the event for you!
The conference theme this year is Light Up Your Career and, boy howdy, can we help you do that! Check out our keynote speaker, the fabulous C.L. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of the fantasy books, the Novels of the Fading Lands. We’ll also be featuring local writers Renee Ryan, an award-winning author for Harlequin Romance, and Vic DiGenti, the acclaimed author of the Windrusher Adventurers. Vic is also the regional director of the Florida Writers Association, so he’ll have lots to tell us about the business of publishing.
And did I mention that we’ll be holding the event at the lovely Marriott Hotel in Jacksonville, and also including lunch? Then there are all the editor, author, and agent critiques up for raffle, as well as some really swell gift baskets to give away. Really, you don’t want to miss this!
Super Bowl Sunday. Love or loathe it, but it’s hard to ignore. I’m not a football fan, although everyone else in my family is, some to the point of lunacy. So I grew up with it as a background note, even being dragged to the occasional Eagles game by my parents. But now that I’m an adult I never watch football. Except for that one Sunday, when like bazillions of other people I’m sucked into a vortex of canny programming, uber-patriotism, stunning talent, and even more stunning idiocy.
Even if you don’t like football, there’s something for everyone. Such as some truly spectacular men like the Packer’s Aaron Rodgers.Sue Grimshaw, the romance buyer at Borders, rightly pointed out that Rodgers is hunky enough and cool enough to be a hero in his own romance novel.
But even if the game or the athletes leave you cold there are the commercials, which have become a sport unto themselves. This year saw the usual group of winners, losers, and just plain bizarre entries – yes, I’m looking at you, Groupon.
Then there’s the idiocy part, which was Christina Aguilera mangling the national anthem. And the halftime show by the Black Eyed Peas was pretty wretched, too, another example of spectacle overwhelming the performers.
But my favorite part of the entire evening happened before the game with the reading of the Declaration of Independence by current and former NFL stars, joined by military personnel and by people from local communities. Yep, I know how corny it’s supposed to be, and I’ve also read the criticism about it. But I found it pretty darn moving, and I also liked that it showcased the men and women in the armed forces who risk their lives every day.
I gotta say, though, by the end of the looonggg evening with way too much food and alcohol, I was happy – very happy – to turn off the TV. Super Bowl Sunday is a lot of fun, but I’m grateful it only happens once a year.
Remember that ad campaign from the 1950s? The one with the animated boxes of high-caloric snacks parading across movie screens? Innocent at the time, it now seems slightly sinister when you realize just how much crappy stuff folks were pounding back with each tub of popcorn or cup of soda. Of course, the serving sizes were smaller than today’s gargantuan servings, but it’s the demented joviality of an ad telling us to consume junk food that really seems so odd. Or maybe it’s just the sight of a dancing bag of popcorn that gives me the creeps.
In these days of cultural and medical sensitivities, it’s an interesting and hilariously horrifying exercise to look back at the ad campaigns of the Mad Men era. These were the Wild West days of advertising, where just about anything was acceptable to push a product down our naive little consumerist throats. Hey! It was the 50’s and early 60’s, a seemingly golden time of prosperity and peace, and the rising middle class. We were buying into a lifestyle and, as they have always done, advertisers were hell-bent on luring us into consuming their products.
Some of the most prolific and bizarre ads – at least to our modern eyes – were the smoking ads. Using movies stars to promote smoking was a popular technique, including stars who would be future presidents.
Even doctors were getting into the act. After all, if your doctor smokes, how could it be bad for you?
Babies have always been popular vehicles to sell products, even cigarettes.
Really, Mom. Just light up the damn cigarette! It’s either that or scream at your kid. Who knew that cigarettes could prevent child abuse?
Of course, companies have been using babies to sell products for decades. Here’s an even earlier example that expounds the health benefits of beer for both mother and child.
And we ALL know how good sugar is for babies, right?
Whew! And if you survived all the smoking, drinking, and junk food consumption, who knows what shape you’d be in when reached your Golden Years? Not to worry. The advertisers had a solution for that, too.
From cradle to grave, the Larry Tates and the Don Drapers of the world were looking out for us. Of course, that kind of silly, obvious advertising would never work on us today, now would it?
Now that the tree is decorated and the presents are wrapped, it’s time to relax a bit and enjoy the holiday. One of the things I love to do during the holidays is watch movies, and I intend to spend a good part of the next few days doing just that. When I’m not eating and making merry with my family, that is.
What are my favorite Christmas movies, especially from the classics? There are, of course, many versions of Scrooge and A Christmas Carol to choose from. But for my money, no Scrooge takes a longer or harder path from sheer hatred to redemptive joy than Albert Finney in the musical version of the tale, simply entitled SCROOGE.
A musical, you say? Sacrilege! Okay, some of the music is corny, but some of it is actually very good. The gritty, poverty-ridden depiction of London’s poor also contrasts beautifully with the opulent scenes featuring the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the old-fashioned, extravagant musical numbers. The sets and costumes are wonderful and portray surprisingly faithful renditions of both the Regency and Victorian periods.
But the strength of this version of the tale rests with Albert Finney’s stupendous portrayal of the iconic character of Scrooge. He’s not just mean; he’s so full of hatred and guilt that he’s almost Shakespearean. His body is as shriveled as his soul, and his personal hygiene ain’t so good, either. He looks like he hasn’t taken a bath in weeks—even his nails are dirty—and his house is filthy, empty, and cold. Clearly, this Scrooge won’t even take refuge from despair in the physical trappings of wealth.
But when Finney’s Scrooge finally breaks free of the bonds of hatred and discovers the spiritual and physical beauties of the Season, his joy is boundless. Scrooge didn’t just get scared straight; his former hatred of Christmas and all its abundance gives him monumental insight into what really matters at this time of year: family, generosity, love.
There’s a second movie I watch to get in the holiday spirit, and it deals with another kind of curmudgeon—the average joe. The movie is A CHRISTMAS STORY, and it stars the wonderfully grouchy Darren McGavin as a put-upon father who battles a broken-down furnace, the neighbor’s marauding dogs, and demands for inappropriate Christmas gifts from his son, Ralphie.
As the dad, Darren McGavin is everyman, trying to keep food on the table and keep the furnace working. He’s more than a little put-out by all the fuss of the holidays. The only thing he really wants is his Christmas turkey, and when the neighbor’s hound dogs invade the house and carry off the bird, Dad’s modest dream for a Merry Christmas is crushed. But how does he handle it? He doesn’t take his anger out on his wife and kids, as you might expect. Instead, he takes them out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The scene where the family is confronted with a whole roasted duck—with head intact—is hilariously funny and very sweet. Like any good man, Dad rises above the stresses of the Season to give his family exactly what they need: love and joy, and a few laughs besides.
I wish you all a wonderful holiday, full of joy, love, peace, and maybe even a Christmas duck!