Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits: In Which I Break the Law, Maybe? But I Also Read.

1) So last week we took delivery of a giant TV. Or I don't know how giant it would seem to some of you, but our old TV was from the previous century. And this one is 46 inches big, and it does all the high definition business and it has an awesome dynamic contrast thingie and a lot of megahertz, and it is lemony fresh. Whatever, it's gorgeous. So I've been introduced to the wonderful world of high-definition viewing. Which is like SEEING instead of squinting through a keyhole. Almost anything is interesting to watch in high def, I've discovered. Like that wildlife show where the old guy picks up random rocks and finds very educational lizards underneath. I'm not a fan of that show, but it's wonderful in HD, even if now I can see that the guy needs to shave his neck better. And speaking of lizards, hasten over to Amy's and read about her close brush with lizard-dom.

2) The giant TV inspired me to get wily. Last night I went onto the internets and downloaded the torrent files of the new episodes of "Big Love." (Lord that's a great show. But paying for premium channels is not our way.) Then, THEN, not content to watch my pirate booty on my tiny laptop screen, I hooked my computer up to Giant TV. Matt produced just the cable I needed from his big cache of cables, and I fiddled with various buttons and settings until I could see Bill Paxton and all the sister-wives in free, glorious hugeness. I crowed triumphantly--I felt myself to be the beneficiary of a vast system of cleverness and invention. The moment reminded me of the scene in Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, when the fragile and pampered Nicole goes shopping in Paris, buying everything in sight:

Nicole was the product of much ingenuity and toil. For her sake trains began their run at Chicago and traversed the round belly of the continent to California; chicle factories fumed and link belts grew link by link in factories; men mixed toothpaste in vats and drew mouthwash out of copper hogsheads; girls canned tomatoes quickly in August or worked rudely at the Five-and-Tens on Christmas Eve; Indians toiled on Brazilian coffee plantations and dreamers were muscled out of patent rights in new tractors—these were some of the people who gave a tithe to Nicole, and as the whole system swayed and thundered onward it lent a feverish bloom to such processes of hers as wholesale buying, like the flush of a fireman’s face holding his post before a spreading fire.

Yep, that's how I felt when I got my ill-gotten HBO show download to display correctly on my giant TV. Yes, all you Am Lit scholars who are reading this blog, I'm ignoring the part of the passage a little later where it says Nicole "contained within her the seeds of her own doom," or some such. It harshes my mellow. A great passage and a justly famous one. I can't quit you, Fitzgerald.

3) Other literary moments on the web today include Jamie at I Suwannee, a blog I just discovered and am really enjoying. She's halfway through Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and not sure she wants to finish it. Because of the lacerating despair that comes from reading it. If you've read it or started to read it, go over there and weigh in.

4) And also Keely is passing judgment on Twilight today, and speaking of Keely, boy am I going to submit this post to her random Tuesday. Go check it out. Her feeling about the books is, "Meh." I basically agree, but I do it in more words, below. Here's an excerpted email exchange I had with my friend Brenda about the books. I cite her words completely without permission.

Me: Write and tell me how you are liking Twilight. For me it was constant ambivalence between marveling at how well Meyer knows her target reader, and feeling angered and grossed out by the sexual politics of it all, i.e., male violence is a fact, and constant threat, and that threat is even a normal part of a relationship. Also, the girl is made to adopt a sexually passive role (and is punished and shunned when she deviates). Remember the part in the first book where she starts to kiss him back? It ain't good. I really think no woman under the age of 26 should be allowed to read these.

Brenda: I kind of expected to be sucked in, because so many people whose opinions I trust love it. I admit I read it fast enough. You just eat it up like a can of pringles. I think I'd let my teen or even pre-teen read it. I had no problem there. But I had no interest in continuing to book 3. If it were right in front of me I might, but maybe not. I got pretty tired of it mid-book-2. I thought it was funny that she worked Wuthering Heights into the book, because I felt the same way about her characters as I did those: you knuckleheads deserve the misery you're determined to create for your stupid selves.

I didn't hate it. I have no problem with bad writing. I'm certainly not reading highbrow stuff these days. I enjoyed the "let's see what this person does with the idea of vampires" kind of like I enjoyed Time Traveler's Wife because I enjoyed seeing how she treated the idea of time travel. What rules do they create for their version of vampires/time travel? But once those rules were established and the characters didn't really develop further, I lost interest.

I saw a teenage goth-girl the other day with "Edward Cullen" written up her arm, like a big tattoo. I AM fascinated by that. What is it that they like so much?

Me: The can of pringles comparison is very apt for Twilight. You eat them almost without noticing, but it's not like you feel great about yourself while you're doing it. The teen girl fixation on Edward is one thing, and I agree that the adult-woman fixation on him is another. I understand the roots of the former, but not of the latter. To me, the doctor/father of the Cullen family is WAAAY hotter. But I guess that's our station in life.

As far as the young girls go, Stephen King just gave an interview and kind of characterized Twilight the right way, I think.

He says that the books are appealing because they show a lot of the thrill of sexual desire without overt sex. Like Edward touches her arm and she feels all flushed, and as King says, that's a "shorthand" for stuff that girls don't want to deal with or don't know about yet. The romance between Edward and Bella gives girls a safe way to imagine their own desire.

And for the older crowd, I think it has something to do with the amazing, fantastical way that this totally ordinary girl is magically delicious to this urbane, worldly connoisseur (literally). Like, a lot of thirty-something moms who feel all frumped-out dream of being told that they are the most magically enchanting creature on the planet. Or something.

So what I forgot to say to Brenda is that the books, even with the terrible, horrible, no-good sexual politics, are kind of hot. That is all. Probably only my mom is still reading. Thanks for scrolling, Mom!

And go check out Keely's random round-up!



Keely said...

Yeah, I'm willing to forgive a lot if the characters are likeable or the writing is good. But Twilight had neither. I like books like the Outlander series where the heroine does as much rescuing as the hero. And the sex is hot.

I'm totally jealous of your tv. Ours is like, Pro-Metazoic. Is that even an actual era?

Amy said...

I read all the way to the end!! I'm interested in the Twilight commentary--haven't read the books but I know TONS of people who have. Either way, the guy who plays the vampire in the movie creeps me out. I guess he's supposed to, though.

Congrats on your new TV! We got one around Christmastime, and Jason is always switching between HD and non-HD, so that I can appreciate the difference. "See--isn't that AMAZING?" Yes, it's amazing already. Can I watch House now?

delaine said...

Okay, I need to read the Fitzgerald but probably not the Twilight series. Doesn't seem my thing.I still have psychic damage from "The Ruin"! Now about that ginormous tv, I want to see if four inches makes a big difference (ours is 42). Can we switch our tv to HD now or do we have to wait till the channels all go Hidef ? I totally don't know what our tv can do.I love your long rambling post.

Camp Papa said...

So, THAT'S what Matt meant about "packing" your present. Wow, size really does matter!

Casey said...

Yay for HD! When we first got our HD TV, I was all "I can't tell the difference". Then I watched a hockey game and later a football game and I was practically willing to make out with the damn thing. It's so vivid and you're right, Big Love looks amazing on it. It also further supports the theory that I'm Margene (wife #3)'s twin. Ok, it doesn't really but how cool would it be to look like her.

Jane said...

So, I am going to need all the information about how you got Big Love to play on your television. Like, now.

Andy said...

New TV?!? That's it. I'm bringing my Xbox 360 down next time I come.

dizzy mom said...

I'm pathetic I know...(not only because I liked Twilight) wher did you get Big Love off the internet. It's probably very obvious but I don't know.

Becky said...

Hey Dizzy Mom, to get Big Love off the internet, you have to download a torrent file, which means you need a BitTorrent client (a free download) on your computer. It seems tricky but it is doable. Here is a good how-to:


Jane, as for how to get it on your TV, I know your hubs has a Big Cache O' Cables. Ask him to get him the one that connects your laptop to the TV like it's a second monitor. Plug it in. Then when prompted, tell the computer to have the TV mirror your computer screen. You might have to fiddle with getting a player that is robust enough to not freeze up when you enlarge to full-screen viewing. I downloaded a little AVI player from CNET. Somehow Windows Media Player couldn't handle it, and neither could the player that came inside the BitTorrent client. Listen to me! I sound like a techie blog. Not!

Coffee with Cathy said...

Becky -- This is why I love your blog: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Twilight and Big Love all on the same post! Thank you!!! Also: We got a big ol' HD TV for Christmas and it took us a few days of "Meh -- what's the big deal about HD?" to realize we didn't have it hooked up correctly. But now I firmly believe it's the best thing ever.

Michele said...

Becky, thank you so much for taking me down memory lane today with your mention of Fitzgerald and King in one post. I had the privilege of being taught both the books and film versions of both by an incredidible high school teacher and today I remembered a part of my brain that had been lost. I am reading the poorly written Twilight books because I am fasicnated that women of all ages are checking it out and I just finished #2. There's so much to say but here is something that hit me like a brick. Bella is really enthralled with someone who has access to great clothes, great cars and an awesome house. In contrast we are shown over and over the blue-collarness of Jacob's life. Edward could take care of her in the "Big Love" culture sort of way. For Jacob, not so much--unless Bella was a breadwinner too. Sorry so long!!

Jane said...

Ah, yeah, the big blue tub o' wires. He keeps insisting that he needs all of them because they all do different things. It's not that I don't believe him exactly... it's just that I don't see how it can be true.

Hootie said...

Gender neutrality only goes so far... dudes have containers of audio/video/data cables, non-dudes have spice racks. "Why do you need allspice AND cloves?" Because allspice combines both the luminance and chrominance channels, whereas the cloves separate the two for a better image. And don't get me started on the difference between nutmeg and mace.

Sarah Mac said...

First of all the movie and the books are completely different things. I read the books before I even knew the movie was coming out. For the record.

Anyway, I read pretty much anything but here's what I love about the Twilight series:
1) She totally goes there. Admit to yourselves that you've always wanted a writer to go there. And by "there," I mean a relationship with vampire where you don't die. Awesome!
2) There are so many characters to love and hate. Even random characters that show up for a page or two are memorable. That's darn good writing!
And 3), sort of doesn't belong in this list but go with it. If you didn't like Twilight Series because of the whole teenage girl thing, you should definitely read her other book, Host. It has aliens, love, good and evil, humanism, all kinds of goodies. A truly beautiful book.