a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Posts tagged “television

Moms

Brooke Shields. Jennifer Aniston. Lindsay Lohan. Eminem. Tori Spelling. Miranda Kerr. Drew Barrymore. Ariel Winter. What they all have in common with Welsey Shaw is mother issues. Severe mother issues. Despite making it in an incredibly difficult business where managing people is a key skill, they can’t manage their mothers. Most won’t talk about it, as in the above where Ellen DeGenerous tries awkwardly to get some “good TV” out Modern Family’s Ariel Winter. The young actress won’t bite. Moms can have a devastating effect on us.

Welsey Shaw’s mother is a conglomerate of stage moms (just as Welsey is a conglomerate of actresses) plus some original stuff (just as Welsey is some original stuff). Like many real celebrity moms, Lynne lives Welsey’s fame vicariously, enjoying the spotlight—the parties, the perks, the money—in many ways more than her daughter. It causes a rift between them, as daughter grows up faster than mother. When the novel begins, Lynne has access to Welsey solely though a phone number she’s allowed to call no more than once a day.

Some relationships are tricky. Lindsay Lohan seems both close to and antagonistic with her mom. Jennifer Aniston supposedly “made good” with her mom a couple years ago, after decades of estrangement. For Tori Spelling, mom Candy is still not a bestie, especially since withholding money because, claims the latter, “[Tori] would close a store and drop $50,000 to $60,000.” Tori doesn’t deny it: “‘It’s not my fault I’m an uptown girl stuck in a midtown life. I was raised in opulence. My standards are ridiculously high. We can’t afford that lifestyle, but when you grow up silver spoon it’s hard to go plastic…I grew up rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. I never knew anything else. Even when I try to embrace a simpler lifestyle, I can’t seem to let go of my expensive tastes.” This is sort of the inverse situation of Welsey and her mom.

More often than not, we don’t have the transparency into the mom-daughter dynamic that we do in Tori Spelling’s case. Ariel Winter has not talked about her rocky relationship with her mom, but back in 2012, when Winter was only fourteen, her older sister filed to become her guardian. She was officially emancipated from her mom at age seventeen, meaning she became an adult in the eyes of the law. While her mother has released a statement saying “the family has moved beyond the conflict,” Ariel doesn’t seem to agree.

I must say I really admire and respect these celebrities. Their professional lives are already uber-stressful, but to have parents on top of that who are non-supportive (with the exception, it seems, of Candy Spelling, who seems to be doing what’s good for her daughter)  must make it all that much harder. Family support is key to success in every endeavor, and my heart goes out to those who, for whatever reason, do not have it.

Welsey Shaw’s relationship with her mother is rocky, and gets worse. But there will be a reconciliation—and a sad one—if I ever get around to write the sequel, which I’ve tentatively titled Ravishing Welsey Shaw. As for the release date of Entertaining Welsey Shaw, well…stay tuned.

 

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Replay: “No time to read”

I hear this a lot.

Often when someone hears I am in the process of writing a novel, they say something like, “Wow. That’s great.” This is unfortunately followed by, “I haven’t read a novel in [insert large number] years.”

I wonder if they realize how their saying that is like jabbing a stick in my rib. Of course my desire to see people read is self-serving. I didn’t labor on a novel for four years only to have people say, “Who has time to read it?”

But my dismay is more than self interest. When asked, the reason people usually give for not reading is not enough time. “I’m so busy these days. There’s so much to do.” (This may explain why we’re now as a nation graduating kids as bad in verbal skills as they’ve been in math for the past several generations. And notice how most doctors and scientists in the U.S. these days are Indian or Asian, and often not home-grown. Also note how these people usually speak and write more literate English than those who are home-grown.)

Here’s why I’m skeptical that anyone doesn’t have time to read: I’ve never met a person who said, “I haven’t watched television in years (or even days). I’m too busy.”

I’ve never really bought the idea that we “don’t have time to read anymore.” When exactly did we have time to read? When we were working fourteen hours a day, six days a week, before the advent of Social Security and mandatory retirement? I know on TV (TV again!) we see people from the past, in drawing rooms, sipping brandy and reading Dickens or Thackeray. Yeah, that’s TV. (Masterpiece Theater to be exact.) In reality few people had that much time to hang around in drawing rooms. (Today we’d call them the “one percent.”)

People who don’t have time to read learn to play guitar or build remote-controlled model planes. They coach the neighborhood kids in soccer, become Four-In-A-Row champs and download videos of cats swinging on ceiling fans. They go to the auto show, have season tickets to the ball team, manage to see every IMax movie and have watched Star Wars so many times they know all the ropey dialogue and can tell you what “T.I.E.” stand for in T.I.E. fighter. They’ve managed to download fifty thousand apps to their iPhones, most of which, let’s face, don’t really do anything anyway.

Everyone has time to read. You just have to make it higher on your list of priorities. Why, for instance, is reading always below television or tweeting or Facebooking?

I go for walks at night in my neighborhood, and see almost every house aglow with the light of a television screen. Sometimes there are two or three in a house, a big one downstairs and one or two smaller ones upstairs. My personal preferences are quite the opposite. I only watch TV when I don’t have anything I want to read at the moment, or when there’s a really special broadcast event (rare). Books are almost always first for me. Oddly enough, I always find plenty of time to read!

I’ve missed some popular TV, however. I try, really, but I can’t seem to find the time. Busy, you know. Steven Tyler and Chef Ramsey will have to wait.

 

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Decisions…

“Everyone loves a parade!”

While writing and simultaneously listening to a new recording of the Mahler 3rd Symphony, I began thinking about the strange decisions we are called upon to make continuously when we are working on any artistic attempt.  Sometimes strange decisions.  Always tough decisions.

Mahler’s 3rd, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it (which is probably most of you), is two hours of savage symphony sounds, primal goop (as opposed to other GOOP).  Well, much of it, anyway.  But in the middle of the first movement, which begins with the creation of the cosmos from dissonant and indistinct rumblings, we suddenly switch to…a jaunty parade melody.

I’ve been listening to this symphony for years.  But yesterday I really started thinking about what I was hearing, as I was trying to decide on different directions to take in my novel, and I thought, “What on earth inspired him to segue into parade music?!  And how did he know it would be successful?

How did he know he wouldn’t be laughed out of the concert hall and be called a fool?  Of course, you could argue the same thing with Fellini, who loves to put circus parades in his movies.  But with the surreal Fellini, the absurdity seems to fit.  Mahler’s 3rd is in the midst of somber gurglings of the primal earth when suddenly a jaunty little march breaks out.  And don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing deliberately fey about this music.  No irony or post-irony or post-post-irony.  Mahler is taking it all with upmost seriousness and gravity, and wants you to, too.

I realized for the first time yesterday what balls ol’ Gus had to do this.  (I wonder if Alma had an opinion.)  I remember when I took driving lessons to get my license many years ago.  The instructor said that as a driver you have to make decisions every few seconds.  It’s that way with creative endeavors too.  (Many would argue that driving these days is a creative endeavor in itself, especially finding parking.) When you’re writing or composing or creating in anyway, you make a decision about some aspect of your creation every few minutes.  “Do I go this way or that way?  Does this end here or there?  F Minor or B-flat Major?”  These decision can make or break a work—in several ways.  First of all, if you make a choice and you quickly perceive it as the wrong choice (“I knew I shouldn’t have killed off the detective’s girlfriend here”) you lose days of writing.  You have to go back and correct.  I have many crossed out pages in my notebook.

But the bigger issue is if you take a wrong turn and do not become aware of it.  Your work ends up very different than how you planned, of course, but that’s not always a bad thing.  However, when it is, well, that can be anxiety-inducing.

I kept fixating on the question of how Mahler knew turning the bubbling creation of everything into a gay little parade wasn’t the dumbest idea ever after moving Jay to prime time.  Where did he get the self-assurance to know his decision was right?

Can one ever have that self-assurance, really?

People laugh at all the stupid television program ideas, but consider a nun who flies.  A romance between a jeanie and an astronaut.  A crime fighter with a talking car.  A bunch of people stranded on the weirdest tropical island in the history of the world. They were all smash hits.

Dancing cops.  A boy whose next door family is literally a living, breathing TV sitcom.  Moving Jay to 10:00pm.  All flops.  Not just flops.  Stupid ideas.

Who could know?

I think of that that every time I am faced with a new direction my plot could take, no matter how small. Will I lose everyone?  Will they hate me now?  I guess I’ll find out the hard way. Like everyone else.