A Plague, the Trials and Travails of Gorgeous Women and Some Sheer Stupidity

Before I jump into some things that upset me this week I want to talk a little bit about a book that I enjoyed, called The Eleventh Plague, by Jeff Hirsch. Set in a post- apocalyptic world devastated by war and disease, it's the story of teenaged Stephen, who has grown up in this awful new world. As the book begins Stephen's grandfather, a tyrant whose strict rules helped keep the little family relatively safe, has passed away. The next thing Stephen knows he and his father have lost virtually all their possessions, his father is critically injured and the two of them have been taken in by the residents of a small village.

Living in a real house, in a real community, is shocking and dreamlike for Stephen, who has a difficult time adjusting. Almost everything he sees seems frivolous when compared to his former life of scavenging and avoiding slavers. To make matters worse he butts heads with the most powerful family in the village, endangering the family that took him in and is caring for his father.

The Eleventh Plague was a nice read but didn't really visit any new ground. It was also short, maybe too short, and I felt like things were just getting started when the story ended. It was more like an episode of serial television than a stand alone novel. But I still enjoyed it. It may have suffered in comparison because I read it right after the Chaos Walking trilogy, which was excellent. I once read a book that was so good I couldn't read anything else for like a month, which was quite a hardship.

You can read a fairly substantial excerpt from The Eleventh Plague here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/62326036/The-Eleventh-Plague-Sample

About Face: Supermodels Then and Now
I watched a documentary this week from HBO that was difficult to watch. Popular culture would have you believe that anything about models would be fluffy and banal but of course it wasn't. It was intense enough that I had to pause it several times and take a break. I was especially heartbroken during the segment about AIDS and how it devastated the fashion industry. One of the models described it as like wildfire that went straight through the industry. I was a teenager when the AIDS epidemic hit, living in San Francisco and I know firsthand how much damage it did. Watching these lovely ladies discuss losing their friends and mentors brought it all back again.

I loved Isabella Rossalini, especially when she was discussing the inherent misogyny behind plastic surgery. Of course the entire modeling industry is terrible for both sexes, making people feel they aren't good enough, commodifying human bodies, and promoting false expectations of physical beauty. The documentary also talks about drug use, the pressure put on very young women and the damage it does, and the changing face of modeling, such as how it was scandalous in the forties and then became a coveted job. I don't even want to get started on the sexual harassment the women who are being interviewed faced, even as young teens. My head will explode.

If you're interested in a riveting historical perspective of the modeling industry you should catch About Face: Supermodels Then and Now while it's still airing on HBO.

Newsroom - SPOILERS
I was dismayed by recent “character development” on Newsroom. Neal, who has previously been intelligent and respectful towards women, much more so than some other characters in the show, suddenly decided his best course of action was to malign Sloan, Olivia Munn's character. Not just malign her, but harass her. He says he's trying to write a story about trolling and he needs to get accepted into the troll community by wreaking havoc on a message board. He says he needs to call her awful things, say she slept her way to the top, insult her body, treat her like an object instead of a person, and he says this to her face, seeking her permission.

Then he goes ahead and does it. This is terrible for a lot of reasons. It is not behavior that we would expect to see from Neal and there isn't any real reason he would behave this way. If he needs to troll there are a billion topics he could bring up. There is absolutely no need to be misogynistic. To make matters worse he talks directly to Sloan about her breasts, which again seems completely out of character.

Speaking now as an actress I was doubly horrified by these scenes. In real life Olivia Munn, who plays Sloan, has been subjected to the same kind of abuse Neil posts in the show. She has been heavily criticized in sexist and demeaning ways so to ask this actress to say these lines, when they don't even work for the story, is appalling. I frequently find this show frustrating but I don't think anything had bothered me as much as this story arc. It's getting harder and harder to justify watching the series.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is a comic from Nathan Bulmer. It's about anxiety relieving techniques. http://eatmorebikes.blogspot.com/2012/08/when-i-blow-bubbles.html