Friday, November 19, 2010

The Madness of "Mad Men"

I'd heard very little about "Mad Men," just that it was hot. At a friend's party a few months back, one of the guests was gushing about the show, trying to involve me, and I replied "I've never seen it." He was shocked, gasped, and said I simply HAD to. Then told me doing so would make me want to chain smoke and drink whiskey. Having seen season one, I can confidently say, I wish to do neither of those things, but I do now know what the fuss is about.

The show is smart. The writing is top-notch. The acting is good. I love the casting, as well. I know it's been discussed, at length, in many other places, but the historical attention to detail is magnificent. Assuming you're like I was a few weeks back and know nothing about it, "Mad Men" is a show about the world of advertising executives in 1960 (beginning of the first season). The main character is Don Draper, a big man at the firm with a mysterious past- seriously, nobody seems to know anything about his past, even his wife. Other characters are introduced- co-workers, neighbors, family -and though their roles are often minor, their stories are intertwine with the main one that involve Draper.

I read an article recently (forgive me, I don't remember where) where the writer discussed meeting a number of women who refuse to watch the successful drama. Why? They remember being treated the way the female characters in the show are treated. Let's just say, 1960: WAY before any kind of sexual harassment laws. I spoke to a co-worker recently about this show, who said she was of an age to join the workforce in the mid-1960s and she won't watch the show for that reason. I described a bit from the first episode, where a new girl is being shown to her desk and given advice by the office manager (the incredible Joan Hollaway, played by Christina Hendricks), and my co-worker asked if the men called the new employee "fresh meat." I looked at her and said, no, but they sure looked at her that way. My co-worker went on to say, that as a young 20 something starting her job, she was called "fresh meat" and at some point later on was propositioned by an "old dude" who worked there. (He explained his wife was an invalid and he wanted a companion to go to dinners, the theatre...would she be interested? She declined.) On similar note, a friend of mine said her husband refuses to watch. His reason? "I just can't stand the way they talk to those women!"

So we know that the interactions are played authentically, how about the rest? Well, it's just beautiful. Clothes, cars, decor- all 1960s. It's fantastic. Even the smoking- which I learned online are herbal cigarettes, because there's no way it would be legal to actually smoke that much on a set. It's very apparent that the folks behind "Mad Men" are very detail-oriented and strive for accuracy.

Now, we have season 2 to watch, god willing. (It's a library copy, which can sometimes be rather banged up.) I know I will continue to enjoy this show, even if at least once every episode I laugh, snort derisively, or just say "Wow!"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Spaghetti Squash is Amazing!

A few years ago, my husband surprised me by asking me to cook spaghetti squash. Having never heard of such a thing, I looked at him in confusion & he had to explain. For those unfamiliar, it's a largish, oblong yellow squash that, when cooked, one can use a fork to scrape out the innards which are stringy like noodles. Since then, I've been sort of  hooked on this tasty vegetable.

There's a few different ways to prepare it, I think it may even be printed on the stickers they put on the squash. The way I always do it: cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds & strings. Place cut side down in a pie plate that has about 1/4 cup of water & cover w/ plastic wrap. Microwave for about 6 minutes.

You can have it as a side dish, but we always use it instead of pasta in main dishes. A couple weeks ago, we even used it in an Asian style beef dish to substitute for noodles! Tonight's adventure was spicy sausage and mushrooms in a homemade tomato sauce. Added parmesan cheese in at the end & topped with mozarella in the bowl. Fantastic!

Spaghetti squash is versatile, healthy, and has a great texture. I plan on enjoying it more before the season's up!

Night Angel Trilogy

To start off with reviews, etc, I thought I would post a few words about a series I read last year. Brent Weeks is the author of The Night Angel Trilogy (Way of Shadows, Shadow's Edge, and Beyond the Shadows). It's an ambitious debut, with all three books coming in at over 600 pages a piece. They were recommended to us by a friend of mine, who called them "solid sword & sorcery." 

All three definitely fit into the sword & sorcery niche of the fantasy genre. They tell the story of Kylar, who starts book one named Azoth, a street kid who just wants a way out of the slums. He sees his opportunity in the form of the city's best wetboy, Durzo Blint. Wetboys are those who kill for money, and are able to use Talent (basically, personal magic) in order to assist them in being very silent and efficient. He manages to become an apprentice, but he never stops thinking about his two friends, Jarl and Elene, who were left behind. Durzo builds an identity for Kylar, who then infiltrates into high society. The twists & turns abound in this one, with some great characters, such as Momma K, the city's Mistress of Pleasures who also helps run the city's Underworld. The biggest issue I had with Way of Shadows was the pining. My husband coined the term "sword emo" for this one. It seems that everyone pines for someone and at times, it's very distracting. The only thing that saves it, is the writing. In this well-crafted story, the shit hits the fan towards the end of book one, leading us right into Shadow's Edge. 

In book two, Kylar has reunited with Elene and they've taken in a child named Uly. Due to the events at the end of book one, they've left their home in the country of Cenaria and have moved. Kylar has decided to give up killing in order to be with Elene, who doesn't approve of that lifestyle. He has troubles however, that culminate when he gets an unexpected visit from an old friend...who is killed in the kitchen while talking with him. Kylar then takes up his old grays (the uniform of the wetboy) and sets off after the killer. The killer meanwhile, kidnaps the child and also heads off in the same direction, Cenaria. Shadow's Edge introduces a few more characters and plot twists, and really is my favorite of the series. 

The issue with reviewing a trilogy comes in when trying to sum up this one without giving too much away. Suffice to say, enough happens to require a third book, Beyond the Shadows. Book three gave the impression that Weeks turned in a fine, huge manuscript that was perfect. An editor then said, "this is too long" so he trimmed it down and some of the book comes off as disjointed. There are also some elements that lend the reader to say 'seriously?' It seemed as though there were too many plot threads to keep going smoothly and he really could have (and should have) stretched this to four books.

On the whole, it was a great debut. The storytelling style made me think he was trying to channel George R.R. Martin at times, but couldn't quite get the hang of it.  Even though I didn't care for book three, I would gladly give his future writings a try.


This is the first time, outside of myspace, that I've actually blogged. I look forward to posting random musings, reviews, recipes, etc! Maybe even a short story or two. Pull up a chair & set a spell...