On the (Rest of the) Net.

It’s shocking to know there are other blogs out there on the net besides this one! So I urge you to check out my favourite posts this week (and in the case of some, this year!). I hope you likey:

While I can’t exactly understand this site (it’s written in Dutch!), it’s oh-so-pretty to look at. And I love blogger Nenz’s links to other quirky sites. Below, she lists blogging as one of her fave pastimes (duh!) and THX THX THX blog for its sweet notes. More on this one coming soon!

“In Defence of Taylor Momsen”, over at Jezebel, tells us why we should just leave the 17-year-old the bloody well alone!

Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is subjected to a scathing profile by The New York Times.

I’ve been humming and hawing over whether to write a blog response to this article, but instead, check out Mark Sarvas’ blog, The Elegant Variation, and this article, “Advice for the Lovelorn… I Mean Writers”.

In other Momsen news, Jezebel reports on “the biggest feud of our time week” with Miley Cyrus.

One of my favourite bloggers, Rachel Hills, struggles to marry who she feels she is with who people perceive her to be. I feel ya, sister!

There’s been a bit of unrest in the Facebook ranks of late, and this Jezebel post“Why People Really Hate Facebook: It’s Complicated”asserts why it generates so much hate.

Sex & the City permeated the zeitgeist and defined a television-watching generation. Can Mad Men do the same?

US Vogue worked very hard in 2009 trying to boost its image, what with The September Issue and Fashion’s Night Out. Maybe “Vogue just might be culturally relevant” again?

Sarah Ayoub interviews impending Cleo editor, Gemma Crisp, about where she intends to steer the mag. Exciting!

And everybody’s been raving about Fashematics, which has been around for over a year, but is somehow only just coming to my attention now.

Book Review: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

 

When I heard Bret Easton Ellis was coming to Melbourne for the Writers Festival, I was intrigued to hear him speak in person, to say the least.

My first, and only, exposure to Easton Ellis prior to reading American Psycho was his 1998 release, Glamorama. I had high expectations for that book, and I was sorely disappointed. I found it too fast paced and celebrity-obsessed which, granted, was the point of the story. However, the graphic depictions of violence (a plane crash with flying pieces of sheet metal decapitating whole rows of passengers, anyone? Or how about a massive miscarriage followed by internal haemorrhaging and subsequent death of the main character’s, Victor Ward, girlfriend?) and sex were far too much.

So needless to say, I was very apprehensive about entering into a literary relationship with American Psycho, but I wanted to at least have read Easton Ellis’ most famous work before seeing him live. (Alas, this is not meant to be, as tickets to his talk sold out within minutes of going on sale! As he, and Buffy creator Joss Whedon, whose talk also sold out, are the only writers I’m interested in seeing at this years surprisingly uninspiring Melbourne Writers Festival, I guess I’ll be giving it a miss this year.)

This time around, however, I was pleasantly surprised.

Again, American Psycho is hard to get into initially, as it jumps straight into a boys night out with protagonist Patrick Bateman and his equally materialistic and über-boring posse of yuppie acquaintances (Bateman is too narcissistic to have actual “friends”). But after persevering up to the first kill, I liked what I read.

Even squirming along Struggle Street during the gory descriptions of the murderson public transport, no less!was still a fairly enjoyable literary journey. To give you a taste of just how well Easton Ellis does horrific homicide in print, here’s a description of Bateman’s first kill:

“… I reach out and touch his [the bum’s] face gently once more with compassion and whisper, “Do you know what a fucking loser you are?” He starts nodding helplessly and I pull out a long, thin knife with a serrated edge and , being very careful not to kill him, push maybe half an inch of the blade into his right eye, flicking the handle up, instantly popping the retina.

“The bum is too surprised to say anything. He only opens his mouth in shock and moves a grubby, mittened hand slowly up to his face. I yank his pants down and in the passing headlights of a taxi can make out his flabby black thighs, rashed because of his constantly urinating in the pantsuit. The stench of shit rises quickly into my face and breathing through my mouth, down on my haunches, I start stabbing him in the stomach, lightly, above the dense matted patch of pubic hair. This sobers him up somewhat and instinctively he tries to cover himself with his hands and the dog starts yipping, really furiously, but it doesn’t attack, and I keep stabbing at the bum now between his fingers, stabbing the backs of his hands. His eye, burst open, hangs out of its socket and runs down his face and he keeps blinking which causes what’s left of it inside the wound to pour out like red, veiny egg yolk. I grab his head with one hand and push it back and then with my thumb and forefinger hold the other eye open and bring the knife up and push the tip of it into the socket, first breaking its protective film so the socket fills with blood, then slitting the eyeball open sideways, and he finally starts screaming once I slit his nose in two, lightly spraying me and the dog with blood, Gizmo blinking to get the blood out of his eyes. I quickly wipe the blade clean across the bum’s face, breaking open the muscle above his cheek. Still kneeling, I throw a quarter in his face, which is slick and shiny with blood, both sockets hollowed out and filled with gore, what’s left of his eye literally oozing over his screaming lips in thick, webby strands. Calmly, I whisper, “There’s a quarter. Go buy some gum, you crazy fucking nigger.” Then I turn to the barking dog and when I get up, stomp on its front legs while it’s crouched down ready to jump at me, its fangs bared, immediately shattering the bones in both its legs, and it falls on its side squealing in pain, front paws sticking up in the air at an obscene, satisfying angle. I can’t help but start laughing and I linger at the scene, amused by this tableau. When I spot an approaching taxi, I slowly walk away.”

Now if that didn’t make you wince and writhe vicariously, there’s also the attacks of several other dogs, the tortures of countless prostitutes, the dissolving of several friends’ bodies in lime, cannibalism, the murder of a child, the capture of a sewer rat to use in later tortures, and in a comical scene that illustrates just how sad and detached Bateman has become in his life of depravity, he feeds his girlfriend (just one of many he has on the go at any given time) a frozen urinal cake coated in chocolate and served in a decadent Godiva chocolate box.

If the reader needs more proof of Bateman’s derangement and obsessive compulsive consumerism, they need only to look at the chapters interspersed throughout the narrative on business cards, sound systems and musical artists of the time (1991), like Genesis, Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis & the News.

Here is another example:

“Another choir, on Lexington, sings ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ and I tap-dance, moaning, in front of them before I move like a zombie to Bloomingdale’s, where I rush over to the first tie rack I see and murmur to the young faggot working behind the counter, “Too, too fabulous,” while fondling a silk ascot. He flirts and asks if I’m a model. “I’ll see you in hell,” I tell him, and move on.

“… vases and felt fedoras with feather headbands and alligator toiletry cases with gilt-silver bottles and brushes and shoehorns that cost two hundred dollars and candlesticks and pillow covers and gloves and slippers and powder puffs and hand-knitted cotton snowflake sweaters and leather skates and Porsche-design ski goggles and antique apothecary bottles and diamond earrings and silk ties and boots and perfume bottles and diamond earrings and boots and vodka glasses and card cases and cameras and mahogany servers and scarves and aftershaves and photo albums and salt and pepper shakers and ceramic-toaster cookie jars and two-hundred-dollar shoehorns and backpacks and aluminium lunch pails and pillow covers…

“Some kind of existential chasm opens up before me while I’m browsing in Bloomingdale’s and causes me to first locate a phone and check my messages, then, near tears, after taking three Halcion (since my body has mutated and adapted to the drug it no longer causes sleepit just seems to ward off total madness), I head toward the Clinique counter where with my platinum American Express card I buy six tubes of shaving cream…”

This kind of stream-of-consciousness and disjointed conflict between the Patrick Bateman that is presented to the outside worldthe one that manages to convince a cop investigating the murder of one of Bateman’s lime victims that he has nothing to do with the disappearanceand the inner workings of his own mind, and even again with the superhuman he becomes when killing, continues and only becomes more frequent as the tale continues.

While there is no finite conclusion to the storyone might guess that Bateman was caught during the murder of a taxi driver, when the tone switches from first person to third person, however it is later revealed that he escaped, but is recognised by another cab driverthat only makes it all the more disturbing.

Easton Ellis is a very cleverthough slightly disturbed; you would have to be to write as graphically and as convincingly as he doesauthor, and I would have loved to hear him speak about his most prolific work.

However, while I rate this one highly, I probably won’t return to, nor enjoy, his other novels.

Pop Culture Power Women.

This is an edited version of an article originally posted on Girl with a Satchel.

Magazines and media blogger Erica Bartle, of Girl with a Satchel, has recently upped her workload as feature writing and fashion and style journalism tutor at Queensland’s University of Technology. Erica’s first lecture inspired her to write this:

After experiencing some minor audiovisual issues (during which time I had a little jokey internal monologue with Tina Fey in Date Night about the “computer sticky thingy”) and giving my introductory lecture on feature writing on Monday, I opened up the opportunity for questions.

“Are you going to be referencing Sex and the City every lecture?” deadpanned one male student channelling Daria. Touché!

I actually hadn’t intended to make reference to the show (in fact, I genuinely try to curb such things, knowing how tiresome it can sound), but sometimes a pop culture reference comes to mind that fits the occasion aptly enough to illustrate a point and simply must be voiced (cue the scene in Sex and the City when Candice Burgen, playing Carrie’s Vogue editor, returns her piece on shoes dripping with red ink).

Though more “serious journalists” prefer witty literary/historical/political references and high-brow in-jokes, I love a good pop culture reference in a feature; preferably if it’s Gen-Y nostalgic. It says, “you speak my language”. Gillard and Abbott (or, rather, their speech writers) should really think about throwing some random Simpsons/Mad Men quotes into the mix (okay, it didn’t work for Joe Hockey!).

Give me Seinfeld, give me slinkies, give me scrunchies, give me The Goonies and Gilmore Girls and I’m yours. As Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy”. So does good pop culture. And puppies.

So who better to inspire the writer’s musethat voice that sits upon your shoulder like trusty Tinkerbellthan some of the feisty and fabulous gals you pointed to in response to the pop popularity poll? Make like Buffy Summers who “slew all manner of demons and even had breath to spare for puns and quips”.

Erica Bartle.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Women of Pop Culture & the Unashamed Use of Cutesy Clichés.

TV: The Hills Finale—All Good Things Must Come to an End.

 

A lot of viewers might have argued that The Hills had passed its prime awhile ago, probably around the time its star, Lauren Conrad, bid farewell midway through season five.

While that may be somewhat true (personally, my favourite seasons were the second half of season three, and season four), The Hills has always been what it was intended to be; a guilty pleasure.

It was also one of the first shows to really catapult the “scripted reality” notion into the mainstream, in the footsteps of which so many others followed: The Real Housewives, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Girls of the Playboy Mansion and pretty much every other MTV show since The Hills’ debut (bar Jersey Shore, which Perez Hilton, in last week’s column for Famous, called “raw [and] real”the antithesis of The Hills).

But the buzz has been around the show’s final episode, which aired two weeks ago in the US, and which Australia is still waiting for.

After so much criticism of the action on the show being fake vs. real, with scenes being shot several times for the best angles (both camera- and storyline-wise) and “cut up to death”, the producers and writers (?) decided to capitalise on that allure.

SPOILER ALERT: The final scene sees Kristin Cavallari and Stacie Hall packing the rest of Kristin’s things into a waiting car, as she’s moving to Europe (E! television personality Joel McHale of The Soup hilariously noted that Europe is a continent, not a country, and Kristin never once mentioned where in Europe she was going!), to “find myself” and “figure out what I want”. Brody Jenner is waiting by the car to say a final goodbye to Kristin, who told Brody she loved him but was knocked back. He says he would have got together with her if he knew she would move away when he rejected her. Kristin says “that’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear”, but she’s still going. They hug, kiss, cry, and the car drives away with Kristin inside, leaving Brody brooding beneath the Hollywood sign.

As the camera pans out, the Hollywood sign starts moving, and it is revealed that Brody is standing on a film lot. Kristin runs from the car as the director yells “cut!”, embracing Brody as the two are congratulated by the crew for wrapping the last scene. END SPOILER ALERT.

Confusing, much?!

While The Hills season final may not get as much publicity and/or examination as, say, The Sopranos or LOST, it is a clever poke at the media and Hollywood. Brody said:

“I think the show has always battled with what’s real and what’s fake, and this ending was perfect because you still don’t know what was real, what was fake and it’s kind of like LA in a sense.”

Oh, how poignant!

There are still a lot of loose ends that fans are left hanging with, though, and I guess that’s the dilemma of having a “reality” show that is based on the real lives of its stars, but it scripted to within an inch of its life, and some of its stars (ie. Speidi) can’t reconcile those difference.

I would like to know what happened with Heidi and Spencer, and if they ever reconciled with Holly, Heidi’s sister, and their mother, Darlene. And if Audrina finds what she’s looking for by moving out of Hollywood. Ditto Kristin in Europe.

But I guess we will find these things out in Heidi’s new reality show with The Hills alum Jen Bunney, and Audrina’s rumoured show, The Audrina Patridge Show.

Until then, there’s always the tabloids.

Related: The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.

Elsewhere: [MTV] Brody Jenner Reveals Alternate Hills Ending with Lauren Conrad.

Magazines: Everything They Touch Turns to Gold.

 

Sometimes I look back at some of my favourite editions of magazines like Girlfriend and Cosmopolitan and think, they’re not what they used to be.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re still great mags changing the glossy face of Australia, what with Girlfriend’s Girlfriend of the Year, Think. Do. Be. Positive and I Delete Bullies and Cosmo’s Body Love campaigns.

My favourite issue ever of Girlfriend (and at almost 23, should I even be reading this magazine anymore?!) was back in November 2007, with Indiana Evans fronting the mag.

And, while I will always be a Cosmo girl, I’m struggling to get as excited about the mag as I was when I first started reading it seven years ago. I was lucky enough to get a taste of Mia Freedman’s editorial skills before she left the mag soon after, and have been a sucker for her ever since.

Only now am I starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together as to why Girlfriend, in particular, meant so much to me during that time.

Erica Bartle, creator of Girl with a Satchel and former Girlfriend staffer herself (more on that in a minute), recently blogged about current Cleo editor Sarah Oakes’ resignation and subsequent appointment as Sunday Life (Fairfax’s Sunday newspaper supplement) editor, and thank God she did!

I am now able to prepare myself to love Cleo a little less, and Sunday Life a little more. Much like falling out of love with Girlfriend around the time Oakes left, and falling fast for Cleo, especially following its recent redesign.

For my money, Oakes is the next Freedman, and I will buy anything she puts her name to.

I became familiar with her whilst she was editing the teen mag, which I began to read again at about age 18. Admittedly, I was out of the mag’s target audience age range, but the left-of-centre features, quirky crafts and “Click It” pages exposed me to a whole new internet world, comprising of Etsy stores, Gossip Girl fashions, creative projects and so much more.

Back when I was pursuing my magazine dreams, Girlfriend was a mag I wanted to internand eventually be paid to workat.

Then Oakes moved over to Cleo, and I immediately felt the shift in the quality of the content. Cleo used to be a magazine I felt I’d wasted my money on after purchasing, but it slowly surpassed all other magazines on my must-have list. I’ll be sad to see her leave, but glad that I now get my Sarah fix weekly, and for free! (Well, at the low $2 price of The Age.)

It’s no secret that the aforementioned Girl with a Satchel is a blog I frequent regularly; a blog that I have written for, and a blog that inspired me to start my own.

I think Bartle is a clever, self-deprecating and an “everywoman” writer, perhaps in the vein of Oakes and Freedman. Considering Bartle worked on Girlfriend during Oakes’ editorship, it’s hardly a surprise. (As I said, I have a soft spot for the “Click It” pages, which Bartle was responsible for compiling.) She has a knack for making the reader feel like they’re besties, or BFFs, or whatever it is the cool kids call it, and although I would merely call us sometime-collaborators/fellow bloggers, I sometimes wish we were.

Its no surprise the magazine world is a small, incestuous little family, and the same names usually pop up all over the place, from ACP to Pacific, and now, to the blogosphere. (As Bartle writes, Cosmo features editor Caelia Corse is now heading over to Women’s Health, which is edited by fellow former Cosmo girl, Felicity Harley nee Percival.) And I think it’s safe to say that the output of quality writers that readers can relate to may be due to the nurturing and mentorship of some great editors; in addition to the Oakes-Bartle dynamic, Lisa Wilkinson was the editor of Cleo when Freedman got her break, who then went on to mentor Harley and Freedman’s successor Sarah Wilson at Cosmo, and Wilson’s successor, current Cosmo editor Bronwyn McCahon. Phew!

As much as many people who write-off the magazine industry as fashion, beauty, diet and pop culture poppycock (many of my friends do, but they read this blog anyway ’cause they love me!), there’s no denying that it does attract many of Australia’s best female (and male) writers, and with the help of the seasoned and talented editors who’ve come before them, there’s certainly a bloodline of glossy (and bloggy, and newspapery) flair that is being secreted by the Australian magazine industry.

The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.

 

While The Hills has come to an end (more on that to come), its final season has been one marred with controversy.

First, Heidi Montag debuted her plastic (not-so-) fantastic look in the lead up to the premiere.

And in other Speidi news, the couple accused a producer of sexual harassment and left the show soon after.

Kristin Cavallari was suspected of having an eating disorder and a drug addiction, while Stephanie Pratt came clean in the tabloids about her past food and alcohol problems.

And finally, Heidi filed for divorce from Spencer, who demonstrated signs of drug dependence and anger management issues in his final episodes.

Phew!

A recent episode, aptly named “This is Goodbye” for Speidi’s last hurrah, was troubling, in that it showed just how distorted Spencer and Heidi’s perception of reality has become.

Kimberly, in a topical blog post on I Love Wildfox (a component of the brand Wildfox Couture), came to the defence of Kristin, Audrina et al, saying that with the seemingly low expectations the producers have of its cast, it’s no wonder Heidi, in particular, “has a warped perception of who she should be”:

“Maybe I need to watch the prior seasons to understand what MTV was really going for, but basing my opinion on this [one] episode I gathered this message from the astoundingly popular series: look pretty, gossip, sunbake, flirt, look pretty…

“The girls on the show are all incredibly physically beautiful. Looking good in every light at every camera angle is not normal. Most girls don’t look half as pretty on camera as they do in real life.

“It saddens me that MTV chose the easy suck-you-in route once again, telling all girls everywhere, ‘this is what you should talk about, this is what you should want to be,’ without showing (even once in an entire episode) what these girls actually struggle with, what they are good at, or what they dream of; even The Girls of the Playboy Mansion managed to do that!”

The buzz surrounding the final episode, which aired last week and featured Kristin leaving for Europe, with a saddened Brody Jenner (Kristin’s ex) watching as she drives awayonly to have the Hollywood sign Brody’s standing in front of revealed as a green screen, and that the whole final scene was shot on a film lot, seems to be taking a stab at the “scripted” label, leaving audiences wondering whether the whole thing was a set-up or if it somehow morphed into one along the way.

Kristin has been quoted as saying that The Hills was just her job, and she would never put her real friends and the people she cares about on TV.

So why did “Heidi’s family appear on the show to discuss her surgery, further condoning the need for limelight on their daughter’s sad and massive insecurities”?

You will notice that it’s really only the Pratt and Montag families who were caught up in the “drama” of the whole show, which bodes the questions: were Speidi’s marital woes all a set up? What is the extent of Heidi’s body dysmorphia and the necessity of her multiple surgeries? Did her family really express shame at her new look, or were they all in on the act, if it was an act, too?

Going back to “This is Goodbye”, there is a scene at a club that Heidi and Spencer rock up to, uninvited, during a fun night out with most of the other cast members. Spencer speaks of he and Heidi’s life together, saying, “I don’t let her go on [watch] TV, no computers. The only thing Heidi does is read and write poetry, and pray, and pet puppies…”, while Heidi sits there genuinely and enthusiastically nodding along, only interjecting to add, “and I read books”.

When Kristin confronts her about being isolated from her friends and family, Heidi says she’s just focussing on her love for Spencer and asks, “who am I without Spencer?” If she’s not an emotionally battered wife, I don’t know who is. As Holly said, “she’s brainwashed”.

Furthermore, Kristin and Audrina add that “there’s nothing going on behind those eyes anymore” and “there’s no emotion”, respectively.

I would tend to agree with these statements, however I don’t agree with what comes next.

When the girls discuss what to do about the abusive state of their friend and sister’s marriage, Lo asserts that “Heidi is guilty on all counts… she hides behind Spencer and plays the victim”.

If this was real life, I would say that Heidi’s alleged friends and family should have stuck by her a little harder, supporting her through her inevitable marriage breakdown.

But we don’t know how real The Hills really is, so I have to say that maybe Heidi did willingly become a victim to Spencer’s controlling ways or, to take it a step further, to Hollywood’s ideal of what a woman should be.

Kimberly declares that she hopes “those of you out there who criticise yourselves and your bodies, who look at thin girls all over the place in fashion, who watch outlandishly pretty young ladies on television, who admire movie stars and supermodels and yearn to be like them can know: That’s not what it looks like. Ever.”

It is also interesting to note that Heidi, and to a lesser extent Stephanie, Holly and Audrina, is the only one whose succumbed to this ideal.

Lauren Conrad, the original star of the show, got out when the going was good, and now leads a relatively quiet life as a fashion designer-cum-author slashie. Kristin, as her earlier comments illustrate, knows it’s only a job. Lo is fairly low-key and we really don’t know that much about her, which is probably the way she likes it. And while Audrina, Holly and Stephanie may have had surgical augmentations of some kind or another, they all remain fairly down-to-earth girls, or so it would seem.

Kimberly also notes that while almost everything on the show is fake, The Hills “is the realest account of female self-destruction I’ve ever seen on television”. This may be true, but this unravelling of Spencer and Heidi can be taken as an exercise in critical discourse about “reality” television, Hollywood and celebrity culture, which bodes the question: why can some people handle fame whilst others become the next Lindsay Lohan, trapped in a prison sentence, both literally and figuratively?

Elsewhere: [I Love Wildfox] That’s What Girls Are Made Of.

Book Review: Sex & the City: The Movie Coffee Table Book.

 

A few weeks ago I reviewed the Sex & the City 2 coffee table book in accompaniment to the movie.

There was quite a lot of controversy surrounding the second film, and while I still maintain my stance that it wasn’t that bad, I will state for the record that the first film shits all over the second.

In terms of coffee table books, though, I think I prefer the second book to this one.

Nonetheless, it is a beautiful exercise in film photography. The fashions, the furnishings, the friends!

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.

“How often do you ‘colour’?”

“Charlotte Poughkeepsie’d in her pants!”

Big Man on Campus.

In Vogue.

The hero dress.

The hero shoe that saved Manolo Blahnik from going out of business.

Apartment Therapy.

Carrie’s apartment is the quintessential single girl’s digs.

How dreamy… even though Carrie is in the midst of depression!