Monthly Archives: April 2010

Aliens in Pretty Dresses, Sort of Part 4

So there’s buzz about body size and fashion once again, only it’s kind of an interesting angle. Lane Bryant, who among other types of clothes sells plus size garments, decided to do a t.v. ad campaign for their plus size lingerie line. The key first ad (below) is pretty much shot for shot like a Victoria Secret’s ad without the wings, but with serious curves. (It actually kind of reminds me of the Charlize Theron perfume t.v. ad where she strips.) Lane Bryant claims that when they wanted to run the ad on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and Fox’s American Idol, that the networks gave them lots of flak, wanted lots of changes, and would only run a version of the ad in the last ten minutes of the shows, near ten o’clock, even though Idol showed a Victoria Secret’s ad a half hour before. So Lane Bryant is calling foul and running an Internet campaign about how the networks are big meanies who can’t deal with sexy larger women.

Now, the part that interests me is not this battle, where it is rather unclear how much actual fighting did occur over the ad and its over-sexiness. Bryant may be taking advantage to a degree for publicity’s sake, or the networks were perhaps not so much appalled at the ad’s standard of beauty as uncertain that those random and often hypocritical network censors wouldn’t hit them with a fine for having a more buxom model in underwear in a prime time commercial in the post-Nipplegate age.

What’s more interesting is that my original blog entry on this subject was about a photo ad featuring actress Audrey Tautou selling Chanel perfume in which the issue was not that her image had been photoshopped and airbrushed, but that it had been done in such a way that part of her looked inhuman, like a stick alien, and decidedly unappealing. My question was, does this really work with the ad campaigns these companies are trying to do — why are they so intent on making models look strange, inhuman, out of proportion and extreme in their skeletalness, when it does not seem to fit with trying to sell flowery dresses or romantic perfume, nor even creates fantastic art images that would draw anything more than a “ew, gross” response from both men or women on average. (Men tend to prefer the Victoria’s Secret curves at the least.) It seemed like a sabatoging approach to advertising that was becoming more and more bizarre, not to mention putting fashion increasingly on the defensive about their models.

But in counter to that now, we have Lane Bryant not only selling a plus size rack of lingerie, but aggressively doing so with t.v. ads and industry complaints, going after Victoria Secret’s share of attention even if Victoria’s Secret doesn’t sell plus size garments. Bryant is clearly taking a page from Dove’s self esteem playbook for cosmetics and toiletries, a campaign that Dove has sometimes been hypocritical about, but also found useful to sell products by complaining about fashion and advertisers and offering alternate body images. Bryant may well have photoshopped and airbrushed their model for their ad, but the woman has not been turned into a parody of humaness. Will fashion advertising shift to chase after the gains Bryant and Dove are and will be making? Or will there be a continued counter-reaction of making women even more like stick aliens? What demographic research are these people actually getting from their marketing consultants? Are we going to see continued pressure on women that they have to choose between the va-voom frame of Christina Hendricks and the near death experience of Nicole Ritchie, or will it even out? Does the lure of photoshopping toys mean we’ll continue to see even buxom models in impossible stances and proportions that don’t match reality? Will it spill over on to male models, besides giving them distorted abs?

Or — and this is interesting — as we move into an environmental green craze that speaks more to Earth Mothers than concentration camps, will heroin chic disappear except for a few edgy products? WalMart has a t.v. ad running about its green products in which the handsome guy is hanging laundry on a clothesline while his admittedly svelte but Earth Mothery wife appears looking really, really pregnant. Sure, WalMart, not exactly high fashion, but decidedly influential on what masses of women buy. That’s the sort of effect that will bleed upwards to socially conscious affluent buyers too. So maybe the stick aliens won’t further invade. Or maybe they will and we’ll have to have an even more extensive talk with our daughters about reality and special effects.

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Filed under Life, Women

Movie Trailers — They’re Like Popcorn!

Okay, so the guy in Beastly isn’t really Beast enough at all for this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. He looks like the lead singer in a punk shredder band. Where is the limp, the elephant man tumors, the true disfigurement? But they get points for playing and having a really nice cast, including Neil Patrick Harris. And seeing Mary Kate Olsen as a Goth actual witch is just somewhat brilliant. Anyway, it looks fun:

And this one, Get Low, well yes, it’s corn pone, but Bill Murray is there to keep things subversive. Plus, I like corn pone. I like sentimental village movies. Especially when they are funny, as this one seems to be. I like Duvall when he’s funny.

*Ha, fixed the problem! I’m slow but I’m steady.


Filed under Movies/TV

Happy Mark Twain Centennial!

Well, not exactly happy. We’re celebrating 100 years passing since the date of his death, which is not really a happy occasion, per se. But still, it’s good to remember the guy who both overtly and sneakily commented on the world, America, the evils of slavery and oppression, life and love, in ways that were funny, warm-hearted, sly and often scarily accurate in both non-fiction and fiction. He wasn’t a perfect person by any means, (nor do I agree with his views of Jane Austen’s work,) but he was one of our leading persons of American letters, and a best-seller to boot. And we just had Equal Pay Day too. He’d have liked that, I think.  And his house in Connecticut which is now a museum escaped its financial problems and is up and running once again. (Go see it, if you can; it’s a very cool house.)

Andrew Wheeler did a quote on his blog from a recent collection of Twain’s essays, Who Is Mark Twain?, that he felt summed up the state of media today as well as back in Twain’s time, and I have to agree. Which is kind of eerie. In the quote, Twain is putting words into the mouth of then New York Sun editor Charles A. Dana for the essay “Interviewing the Interviewer”:

“The first great end and aim of journalism is to make a sensation. Never let your paper go to press without a sensation. If you have none, make one. Seize upon the prominent events of the day, and clamor about them with a maniacal fury that shall compel attention. Vilify everything that is unpopular — harry it, hunt it, abuse it, without rhyme or reason, so that you get a sensation out of it. Laud that which is popular — unless you feel sure that you can make it unpopular by attacking it. Hit every man that is down — never fail in this, because it is safe. Libel every man that can be ruined by it. Libel every prominent man who dare not soil his hands with touching you in return. But glorify all moneyed scum and give columns of worship unto the monuments they erect in honor of themselves, for moneyed men will not put up with abuse from small newspapers. If an uncalled-for onslaught upon a neighboring editor who has made you play second fiddle in journalism can take the bread from his mouth and send him in disgrace from his post, let him have it! Do not mind a little lying, a liberal garbling of his telegrams, a mean prying into his private affairs and a pitiful and treacherous exposure of his private letters. It takes a very small nature to get down to this, but I managed it, and you can — and it makes a princely sensation.”

And some other quotes:

“There is no distinctly American criminal class — except Congress.”

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

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Interesting Writings for a Tuesday

Tor Books is about to celebrate their 30th anniversary and to commemorate it,, their online mag, is asking employees for favorite memories of the company (which also involves a bit about Baen Books too.) The memories are fun, but they also serve to highlight what has always been an interesting fact in fiction publishing — the average book editor changes jobs/companies every 2-4 years. But in the SFF imprints and presses, while many people do stay awhile and then leave, it’s not unusual to find editors and publishers and staff who have been working in SFF for thirty, twenty years, sometimes more. SFF people tend to stay SFF people. They like it and they liked it long before fantasy became the It Girl of fiction publishing. (Although technically suspense is really still the It Girl.) So it’s great to hear these old stories, and the stuff about paper and books everywhere on every inch of space? That’s book publishing, and I agree that it probably won’t change for a long while, even with e-books.

Author and editor S.M. Duke has done an interesting blog entry about SFF in airports. It’s interesting for three reaasons: 1) the anecdotal but certainly accurate note that SFF has become more prominent at airport bookstores; 2) that there are more bookstores in the airports, not less; and 3) that non-bookstores are selling books. I did a blog entry on how I discovered a major up at the counter book and book tie-in display of mostly fiction and some non-fiction at a major music chain store. Now Duke is talking about an electronics store — which I’ve long said is where publishers need to be also selling  SFF if they can.  So there is clearly some kind of major effort going on here to get books into these stores with special displays, which is exactly what needs to be going on, at least for the next few years, so that’s all good news. And you can check out Mr. Duke’s blog as well. S.M. Duke


Filed under book publishing, SFFH

A Faithful Machine

Yesterday, we had a sad occurrence. Our HP laser printer, which has served us for nearly twenty years, developed a mechanical problem loading the paper into the printer.  Getting someone just to look at it will cost a wad of money and it’s likely that they can’t fix something this old anyway, so unless it miraculously heals itself, we will finally have to send the old gal to the great recycler in the sky. This printer has been with us longer than our marriage. In its later years, it developed a squeaking noise as it printed, but it still put out quality print at a rapid clip. We managed to keep finding the big dry ink cartridges for it that just slide right in and out. It was really good at printing envelopes and labels. It is the best machine I have ever owned. It has outlasted most of the computers and monitors we’ve had working with it, from the early dinosaurs with itsy tinsy harddrives that seemed so large back then to wireless laptops. It is a grand testiment to engineering in a time of floating garbage islands of throwaway plastics and electronics. I will miss the stupid thing.


Filed under Life

2010 SFFH Novels to Check Out

1) Kim Harrison – Black Magic Sanction (Rachel Morgan series)  – Contemporary fantasy — Bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan has to hunt down a witch for her enemies to save her own skin.

2) Alexey Pehov – Shadow Prowler, translated by Andrew Bromfield – A Russian alt world fantasy about a thief who becomes entangled in saving his kingdom from dark forces.

3) Joe Hill – Horns – Bestselling horror author tells the tale of a man, suspected of killing his dearest love, who finds himself turning into a devil and plans to use his powers to find the real killer.

4) Ian Douglas – Earth Strike: Star Carrier – military SF – Alien forces attempt to keep humans from becoming a major power.

5) Susan Beth Pfeffer – This World We Live In – YA SF — The main characters of the previous books in the series — Life as We Knew It, and The Dead and the Gone — come together in the after years of a global disaster caused by the moon’s changed orbit.

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Filed under SFFH, SFFH Novels to Check Out

Interesting Writings for the Weekend

J.K. Rowling doesn’t come out of her burrow and check her shadow very often — she doesn’t have to — but recently she did to complain about Tory policies in Britain against single moms and the poor in the Times. The richest woman in England explains why becoming so did not make her automatically a conservative after her past experiences as a struggling single mom, and adroitly spears the lies that get made so often against the poor and lower income families. J.K. Rowling

PersonaNonData, a blog new to me — thanks Andrew Wheeler — had a cogent comment on the developments of the e-book market.

I disagree on one point proposed — it’s not going to be the printed books that get loaded up with the extras, except in terms of whatever bundling they decide to do (T-shirts are not going to work.) It will be the e-books that get loaded up with special content as a package — video interviews with the author, book trailers (although I was kind of hoping those would die since most of them are awful,) featurettes of various kinds. And the likelihood is that publishers will be farming that 0ut to production companies supervised by new personnel the publishers have for their e-book divisions. But all that, again, is 5-10 years in the making.

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Filed under book publishing, Life

Nicholas, Here’s Hoping

Nicholas Brendon served me well as an actor for seven seasons as Xander Harris on the t.v. show Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, doing it all with that character from deep drama to whacky comedy, including with his twin brother, Kelly. And in anything else I’ve seen him in — he also starred in the shows Kitchen Confidential and Criminal Minds — he has been dynamic and smart, an actor with a way with a line.  In 2004, he went into rehab for alcoholism and recently, he fell off the wagon and while drunk, swung at a cop, possibly caused some property damage and got himself tasered.

I’ve lost and nearly lost relatives to this very nasty disease. The only ones who make it are those who don’t give up trying to beat it, even though there will inevitably be times — in this case, dramatic times — when they fail. It changes who you are into someone you don’t want to be. So Nicholas, I hope you get better, stay sober, deal with the consequences of what happened, and, very selfishly on my part, get to show us more of what you can do as an actor and producer. We are rooting for you, not because you are Xander, but because you breathed life into that character and made us your fans. I hope you win.


Filed under Life, SFFH

Haruki Murakami Has New Release

Internationally best-selling Japanese SFF writer Haruki Murakami just had the third volume in his 1Q84 series released in Japan and it was greeted with long lines of fans at the bookstores.  The series is a continuing story of two former friends trying to find one another.  The first two volumes are available in Japanese, but us less linguistically talented folk will have to wait for the English translations, but you can check out his other novels and works such as Kaftka on the Shore or Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Murakami is one of the brightest lights on the international scene. He has won the Tanizaki Prize for Wonderland, the World Fantasy Award for Kafka on the Shore, the Yomiuri Prize for The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the Franz Kafka Prize and the Jerusalem Prize. Plus his novels are just plain, beautifully written, super trippy  fun.

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Fashionable Books

Seems fashion and lifestyle empirist Marc Jacobs is opening up a sixth store on Bleecker St.  in Manhattan and this one’s going to be a bookstore. So books are apparently the new hot accessory (along with colorful e-readers presumably.) We’re in, baby! We’re in! (No, seriously, this is a good thing.) The bookstore is going to be called Books Marc, natch. But no website or further information has been released.

The former tenant of the space was the long-standing Biography Bookstore, which closed last year, renamed itself bookbook and moved to another locale on Bleecker St. They don’t have a website either, it looks like.

If this keeps up, then I may not be able to make the argument that no one cares what George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker are reading in fiction for much longer.  Which would actually be a highly enjoyable development.

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