Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rhonda in the City

There is a time-honored tradition, articulated through such vessels as Mary Tyler Moore, "Working Girl," and "The Devil Wears Prada," that young, single women who long for adventure, and perhaps a more glamorous life than their hometowns can give them, will set their sights on the big city. Restless college graduates from the suburbs or ambitious farm girls or women from low-income areas stuck in dead-end jobs will put on their new stylish, elegant, "professional" clothes, pack their new briefcases or handbags, and get downtown any way they can for that first, real-life, grown-up job. The possibilities seem endless, and the limitless sky is full of promise.

I have now joined the ranks of these girls. I've got a job in the big city. It may not be my dream job, and it may only be temporary, but in my continuing search for someone who will pay me to write, the adventure is worth it. The other day, I even wore a beret to work just so that I could stand in the middle of 2nd Avenue and throw my hat in the air. But, a seagull swooped in and grabbed it before it could fall back down. I really liked that hat... I'm thinking next I might try wearing running shoes until I get up to the office and then changing into high heels, except that I'm not sure it would have quite the desired effect, since the office I work in is so casual that running shoes would go without notice (hey, it's the Pacific Northwest).

To document my experience, I decided to create a photo journal, a step-by-step guide to my new glamorous (ha!) life. We begin, as always, at the beginning...

An artful rendering of the bus stop in my neighborhood, where I catch a ride on the snazziest Metro bus this side of the Mississippi.

My bus fare, two shiny dollar coins, featuring the visage of former U.S. President Franklin Pierce.

My current bus book, rather appropriately, "The Best of Everything" by Rona Jaffe. First printed in 1958, this novel follows the lives of four young women who move to New York City in search of work, love and adventure...

The view from 3rd Avenue
Look at the big buildings!

Seattle's Best Coffee on 2nd and Cherry
Half a block from where the bus drops me off and across the street from my office building. I buy coffee here every morning, then sit and read for a few minutes until it's time to go to work.

A grande white chocolate Americano
I order it with room and then add nonfat milk. So much cheaper than a mocha, but it tastes almost the same!

Worm's-eye view of the Dexter Horton Building from 3rd and Cherry
Built in 1922 and named after one of Seattle's first tycoons, this historic building is home to the office where I work!

The front entrance of the Dexter Horton Building, 710 2nd Avenue
Fancy, huh?

Elevator up! This one goes to 11!
(Seriously, the office is on the 11th floor.)

View from the top
The world looks different from 11 stories up.

All these things are great, but I think the best part about working in the city is the people I've met. Like my bus driver, Patti. Or the ladies who work at SBC who, for some reason, think my name is Monica. (I don't know why I haven't bothered to correct them. Does it really matter?) Or the homeless man who likes to hit garbage cans and newspaper dispensers with a giant stick. The city is a magical place, dear reader, a magical, magical place...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Covert Affairs": Full of Surprises

It's not a new premise, really, a brand new CIA field agent at the start of his or her career. I watched the pilot episode of "Covert Affairs" with a bit of reservation, but even though the idea isn't groundbreaking, I was pleasantly surprised by this spy action-drama that seems to be aimed a bit more at a female audience than previous incarnations of the genre.

The surprise started with the appearance of Christopher Gorham ("Ugly Betty," "Popular" and the incomparable "Jake 2.0," which was really kind of a "Chuck" 1.0) as blind CIA analyst Auggie Anderson. One of his opening lines hits the nail on the head: "A blind guy showing you around the CIA..."

Then another thick eyebrow-ed actor (Peter Gallagher; actually, he and Gorham look a bit alike. I wonder what that could mean for future developments...) appeared as Arthur Campbell, some kind of CIA supervisor whose wife Joan (Kari Matchett) has a similarly vague but important job.

Actually, Joan probably had the best line in the whole episode. When Piper Perabo's CIA newbie Annie Walker is preparing to go undercover as a call girl (why is it that whenever a woman in a movie or TV show has to be in disguise it's always as a hooker or a stripper or some other female-objectifying archetype?), she asks, "Do I need a costume or something?" and Joan deadpans, "Hookers in D.C. are pretty conservative. What you're wearing now is fine."

The rest of the surprises can best be expressed in the following manner:

1. Ooh! Leboutins!
Annie wears the iconic red-soled shoes, a pair of sleek and simple black pumps, for her undercover assignment, a transfer of information with a Russian contact. The contact is shot and killed by a sniper, and Annie loses her shoes in a mad-dash escape from the sniper fire. Don't worry, she gets them back, meeting a cute FBI agent in the process.

2. Ooh! Sexual Tension!
With the cute FBI agent, and maybe with the blind analyst? It's hard to tell at this point. Gorham is not what I would call "leading man handsome," but he has a certain appeal, and his character and Annie seem to get along famously. Of course, that could put them in the friend zone. After all, there are plenty of TV male-female duos that always stayed completely platonic: Mulder and Scully, Tony and Angela, Dr. Quinn and Sully...

3. Ooh! Witty Banter!
While bonding over a beer after a hard day of spyin', Annie tells Auggie her story in a self-reflective, insightful sound byte of a personal history. He then tells her that she fits the "profile" of the typical CIA recruit, in a very charming and witty way, of course.

4. Ooh! Car Chase!
'Nuff said.

5. Ooh! A Wise and Perceptive Older African American Character!
Annie goes to one of her former language professors at Georgetown for help with her case, but she can't tell him what she's really doing, of course. It turns out that something the "Russian" contact said to her during their brief meeting wasn't really in Russian; he was speaking Estonian. Hm, suspicious... So, of course the rookie agent knows more than her supervisor; I wouldn't expect any different. So, Annie has to strike out on her own with only the help of her trusty sidekick and her MacGyver-like wits to prove her theory.

6. Ooh! Intrigue!
And then, of course, it turns out that the cute Spanish guy she met at the very beginning is the real Russian agent (never waste a meet cute!) and he tries to kill her. She is saved, though, in the nick of time by her long-lost lover whom she met in Sri Lanka, though she can't be sure it was him because it happened so fast and then he disappeared again.

Back at the CIA, the all-knowing Joan and Arthur privately discuss young Annie's progress and potential, revealing that they have been watching her for far longer than we thought. And then, in a total "Say Anything" moment, except without the boom box, we see Annie's long-lost love sitting in his car and gazing longingly at her bedroom window. ("It IS him! It IS!")

All in all, a solid start. There were enough twists to keep me guessing and laughs to keep it light, but not frothy. Of course, my knowledge of "Alias" has me wondering if Annie is really working for the CIA, or if it's actually some shady assassins' operation. As long as there are no dead fiances in bathtubs of blood, I'm good.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Emmy Love for Conan

The ill-fated “Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien” received two Primetime Emmy nominations, for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy series, as announced Thursday by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Conan's run as host of the iconic “Tonight Show” lasted only seven months (before the time slot was reclaimed by former host Jay Leno), but it was enough to get the academy's attention.

The nominations also caused a bit of controversy, some questioning if they were only sympathy noms, or a statement of protest directed toward NBC. Many Hollywood insiders seem to think that the Emmys are taking sides in a Leno/O'Brien debate, the most heated rivalry I've seen since Team Edward/Team Jacob.

An exec from a rival network was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter as saying that the nomination “seems like a political statement rather than a vote about the quality of the program itself... I don't think even Conan would say that the show yet represented what he wanted it to be in terms of an Emmy-winning performance."

As a long-time fan of “Late Night with Conan O'Brien,” I was excited when O'Brien took over for Jay Leno, whose bland, run-of-the-mill humor never failed to put me to sleep. Sure, Conan's “Tonight Show” had a rocky start, but what new show doesn't? A couple more months and I'm sure the show would have found its stride.

Meanwhile, Leno's ill-conceived nightly primetime talk show was bombing (What? Early risers don't want to watch this guy for an hour before they go to sleep every night? Who would have thought?), but NBC wanted to keep him, for some reason. So I was grimly unsurprised when the network announced last winter that Leno would return to his old time slot, leaving Conan out in the cold.

So what if Conan's Emmy nominations are just the academy's way of sticking it to NBC? In my opinion, they deserve it. And while I'm watching the Emmys this year, and waiting for the premiere of Conan's new show on TBS in the fall, I'll be wearing my Team Conan t-shirt.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Love, Money and "Say Yes to the Dress"

Who can explain the appeal of watching spoiled, rich women try on gowns that cost more than my car, and complain about the height of the waist or the angle of the neckline, demanding that they be altered fractions of an inch? Or, even worse, bridezillas with mothers to match going into the red for dresses they clearly can't afford and will only wear once in their lives? I am at a loss.

Is it the human train wreck of emotion, fashion, over indulgence, and all the feminine wistfulness that comes with anything related to weddings that hooks me? Is it watching the bridal consultants' mysterious talent for finding each bride's proverbial perfect wedding dress? Or seeing the manager, Randy, with his pink silk ties and childishly mild voice, swoop in to save the day when that talent fails?

Maybe the appeal goes deeper than voyeurism and superficial drama. During one episode I actually teared up a bit when the salon gave a huge discount to a breast cancer survivor on her dream dress. And I never get tired of seeing a mom's reaction to the sight of her daughter in a wedding gown for the first time.

I've heard it said that girls and women fantasize about weddings because they are one of the few socio-cultural events that center on the individual female experience; a wedding, and especially the kind of weddings that women on “Say Yes to the Dress” have, allows a woman a socially accepted excuse to indulge every narcissistic whim that enters her head.

I don't know if this is true or not, but it seems a logical, if rather cynical, explanation for this cultural phenomenon of wedding obsession. With divorce rates skyrocketing faster than the cost of the average wedding, my practical side has to balk at the thought of breaking the bank on such a short-lived investment. It seems that people obsess over their weddings, but neglect their marriages.

But all of these real world reservations are pushed aside when watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” I am cordially resigned to the fact that when I plan my own wedding, I will be hitting the $99 dress sales and buying off the rack, but that doesn't mean a girl can't dream.