Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Writer's Rant: 10 Reasons I Don’t Tell People I’m a Writer Anymore

I used to happily declare myself “a writer”. I’d (admittedly) find a way to slip it into conversation. I’d proudly list it as my occupation on doctors’ office forms. Somewhere along the way, though, I realized letting people know about what I do is more trouble than it’s worth. If you’re a writer, maybe you can relate to my 10 Reasons.

  1. People are insanely, unreasonably happy when they beat me at Words With Friends. As if the ability to put sentences together has anything to do with what tiles you get. By the way, I know you’re cheating. No one knows what xebec means. 
  2. People expect me to dress fashionably, especially at book signings. Doing something for a living that you find mysterious does not make everything about me unusual. No, I did not make these earrings.
  3. People expect me to know every author and every book on the market. Did you read [insert obscure book title you’d never heard of until someone suggested it in book club]? I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t know who wrote what classic book offhand, remember details about books I read in 10th grade English Lit, or live my life studying my profession. I love to read, and of course I try to be well read, but if there’s a choice between reading Moby Dick or reading Heart of Darkness on a Saturday night, I’ll choose drinking vodka at least half of the time.
  4. People ask me to read things that they wrote. Or that their children wrote. Or that their grandchildren wrote. If I wanted to read badly executed poetry, I’d read my 4th grade diary. By the way, I think you are a great friend, but you won’t think I am after ten minutes of hacking into your debut novel. No one's first attempt is the finished product, and I’ve spent too many years criticizing my own writing to remember tact when speaking about yours. (Also, just because I write doesn’t mean I can revise your resume for you.)
  5. People correct my social media status updates/blog entries. Unless you are an English professor, and unless I’m submitting a term paper to you, please keep your red pen in your pocket. Writing status updates and tweets are not WRITING in the creative or professional sense of the word. You caught me with a “their” instead of “there”? Congratulations. I was in a hurry and you’re a douche. Also, I don’t keep my editor on speed dial for reviewing 2AM FB statuses about why I can’t sleep.
  6. People assume I’m an expert on the things I write about. Yes, there was a terrible fire in that story I wrote ten years ago. No, I’m not in fact a firefighter. You should probably be looking for a fire extinguisher now.
  7. People want me to write about them. Well, if you insist. I do like to write about grisly crimes. I could start plotting your death by working through the details of it in my next book. Okay, just kidding. I’m sure I could name a character after you though, as long as you don’t ask me later why I named a crack whore after you. No, it doesn’t mean anything that “your” character is: overweight, comically short, nasally or unfunny. I didn’t actually base the character on you. It’s just a name. Unfortunately, there’s no call for a gorgeous Russian princess with your name in this or any other book.
  8. People think I’m waiting to make it big. Writing a New York Times Bestselling book is surely the secret dream of every writer out there, and of course, I'd love that, too. However, it’s like winning the literary lottery. Heck, being published is like winning the literary lottery. This may shock you, but I write because I enjoy it (and someone is sometimes paying me for it), but I’m not holding my breath waiting to see my name on a list. There are plenty of writers out there who are neither bestsellers nor broke artists. We happily float somewhere between writer’s block and delightful fluidity, and surprisingly, we do not sustain ourselves solely on Ramen noodles while doing it.
  9. People think what I do is a hobby. “Oh, you’re a writer? That’s really cool! So, what do you do for, you know, a living?” OR "Can you actually make any money doing that?" OR "Well, of course, I'm sure you just do it for the love of your craft." (The third is always a good excuse to underpay a writer.)
  10. People think what I do is easy. Do you know how often I wished I’d become a mailman, or a waitress, or a court reporter? There are times I wish I had a job title that didn’t have to be clarified or a workday that ended at 5pm. (A writer’s job is never done. When we’re not writing, we’re thinking we should be writing.) Conversely, people sometimes think what I do is incredibly hard. “Oh, I could never do that!” This often makes me feel worse. Writing isn’t rocket science. I’m not discovering the cure for cancer. No one’s life hangs in the balance. I don't do anything practical that affects your life in a specific way other than to entertain you. I’m not a nurse, doctor, electrician, plumber, grave digger. Most of the time, I just pour stuff out of my head, and I’m slightly embarrassed when I actually get paid for it.

As a writer, I know I shouldn’t just end my ranty blog with the last point, without some kind of conclusion or summary. Just like I know half of my arguments contain fragmented sentences and one or two may end with prepositions.  Rather than correct my grammar, or secretly compare my writing skills to yours (didn’t you read #5?), tell me instead, writers, which of these is on your top ten?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Marilyn Manson: A Concerted Review of Yesterday & Today

I went to the Marilyn Manson concert yesterday at the Fillmore in Detroit. Almost 15 years ago, I saw him at the State Theatre (same venue as the Fillmore, different name), and I was struck by the differences 15 years can make.

Before I take a trip down memory lane, let me say that I really enjoyed the show. I was worried that it would suck, because I'd heard the rumors about his European tour. Rumors that he was high and rambled incoherently during the show, didn't sing half the lyrics, kept leaving the stage for long gaps of time, and basically ended up getting booed off a few times. Not my experience at all at this show, although the opening act "The Butcher Babies" made me wish I was high and had me rambling incoherently to my husband about how horrible they were. (They were like cookie monsters in latex, though their grunting wasn't very good, so even cookie monster singing is kind of a compliment.) My husband and I both agree that their performance would have been greatly improved if they were naked and didn't have microphones.

Anyway, aside from the opening act (which let's be honest, I've never gone to a MM show because he's great at picking good opening acts), Manson's 1-hour set rocked. But I couldn't help but compare the show with the last time I'd seen him there...

Marilyn back in the Spooky Kids days...
Marilyn this tour

1. I'm not sure who has gained more weight, me or Mr. Manson. Both of us look fifteen years older, but it was a little disappointing that Marilyn used to strip off clothes throughout the concert the drunker he got, and now, he adds clothes.At one point he had a shirt, jacket, and priest's habit on to hide his belly and all I could think about were the old days when he'd strut his skinny tattooed arms around, naked from the waist up. (And sometimes the waist down.) To be fair, last concert I was wearing a little black dress and high heeled boots - this time around, I went with the t-shirt over long sleeved shirt look with knee high ass-kicking boots and jeans. It was easier (and too cold for a corset last night).

2. When things used to fly from the stage, you ducked. It could be something bloody, covered with urine, or otherwise harmful. Now glitter gets shot at the audience.

3. The mosh pit has aged. I know, because 15 years ago, I elbowed my way through the pit to the front row. The entire main floor back then was a battle to stand upright, and I had bruises the next day from being pressed up against the bars as the crowd heaved against my back. This time around, I stayed put on the second level, watching the pit (which consisted of a half-dozen guys, carefully circling each other as if preparing themselves and each other for the smash - "I'm ready, are you ready? Not too hard, okay? I have to work tomorrow" - and even a few women, proof in general that the mosh has aged. If you can mosh in heels, you're not doing it right.) The floor in general still had that gentle wave as everyone pushed to stay upright, but they might have just been grooving to the music. The fact that I could see it from afar instead of being in it are further evidence that I've aged, too.

4. Crowd surfing has changed. There was a consistent tide of surfers last night, but surfing is much more difficult when EVERYONE has a cell phone in their hand. I saw lots of wipe-outs last night, mainly because the younger kids in the crowd looked confused whenever a 40 year old man tried to jump on their heads. "Wait, what? Stop recording the show with my cell phone so I can hold up your fat ass? Wha??"

5. Mr. Manson has lots of toys now. Lazer fingers, a menagerie of face masks, bladed microphones. Everything was much more polished this time around. Polished if you ignore the fact that the show's rhythm is frequently interrupted when Mr. Manson fetches these toys or changes costume. I think they used to avoid giving him sophisticated props so that he couldn't screw them up. It was sad that he was sober enough to operate all his toys.

6. The girls in front of me kept edging back, which was really annoying me. I had my heavy boots on, and they're lucky, cause I was getting ready to start kicking some knee backs. Eventually what we realized was that they were moving back because the guys in front of them were smoking pot. (At least the State Theatre/Fillmore hasn't changed!) Instead of kicking, I started pressing forward. Pot smoke today is much preferable to the smoke machine air we used to inhale by the stage - and the contact buzz got rid of my headache for most of the show too.

7. Mr. Manson reminisces about all the naughty things he used to do - but doesn't do them anymore. "Hello Detroit!! Last time I was here I almost got arrested for fucking a man's head!!" Crowd screams wildly. Maybe we were expecting him to give the middle finger to authority again and grab somebody from the audience to assault him or her mercilessly. Unfortunately, this big talk was just his segue into the next song.

It might sound like I have more criticisms than praise for the show, but it's not true. I was head bopping through Manson's entire set. He played a great mix of his new and old stuff - not too much new...just enough to remind us he's still making music, but not so much that we couldn't enjoy singing along to the stuff we know and love. He also did a cover of "Personal Jesus" that was really good that I hadn't heard before. Manson is the king of finding the perfect covers, with good beats that he can exploit. (Here's a youtube on that song, not recorded by me of course -

To sum up my before and after Manson, I'd post pics of me and hubs 15 years ago at the concert and yesterday's pic. But I can't - because back in "the day" we didn't spend more time taking pics of ourselves to prove we were somewhere than watching the actual show. These days, we don't either.

We took one pic before Manson took the stage...and even that felt a little lame.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Announcing my New Blog:

I have a new blog on blogspot! (You may have noticed that my profile picture and bio have changed - that's a big hint as to what my new blog is about.)

Basically, I'm a TV addict. A bigger announcement - I'm taking a huge step to get myself off the TV teat once and for all! On May 27, I'm canceling my TV service. My goal - One year, tv-free.

I'm going to blog about it. I hope you'll read my new blog and share this experience with me as I explore what's possible with an extra 30 hours a week and $150 a month!

Please join me at!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Scare Me! 25 Horror Movie Must-Haves

When I was thirteen, I watched a scary movie with my dad. I was curled on the couch, alternately eating popcorn and biting my fingernails while watching the worst parts from behind my fingers. It came to the moment when the heroine was backing up slowly in a dark room to the pace of quiet, creepy music.

Suddenly, the killer was right behind her.

Insert a loud jarring screech as the killer seizes her!

Right about then was when my dad took the opportunity to grab me and scream “BAH!!!!”

No exaggeration, my legs went completely numb. Had I been a few years younger, I might have peed myself; had I been a few years older, certain cardiac arrest. (Much older, the peeing and the heart attack both.)

I’m not exactly a horror film connoisseur, but I know a scary movie when I see it – or feel it. A scary movie should do three things. Immediately following the credits, I should 1) be afraid to let the TV go dark or turn to snow (2) be afraid to take a bath because something might come up through the drain, and/or (3) be afraid to walk past a mirror because something might jump out of it, including my own reflection.

But lately, filmmakers aren’t showing me much, except maybe that they’re running out of fresh ideas to make me pee my pants in public. (Only Poltergeist has had that privilege, and I was 7.) These days, I’m lucky if I can get worked up enough to fear the dark after a horrific blockbuster. Am I just getting immune to this stuff, or is Hollywood losing its punch?

I just finished watching a new release horror flick (which I won’t even bother to name because it will distract from my topic), and I find myself annoyed at the same old clichéd attempts to “scare me” – i.e., the sudden loud sound during a quiet moment and the gallons of squirting blood. That got me back when I was thirteen, but now? Have I outgrown the obvious? Have I outgrown the scary movie altogether?

I don’t have a clue what new methods or ideas will actually scare me or creep me out. But for the fun of it, here’s a helpful list for Hollywood of clichéd things that do still get me when done right:

1. Children. Mostly any children, but children who stare, talk in tongues or get spontaneous nosebleeds are especially good.

2. People pulling out their teeth (or tearing/scratching off their skin).

3. People cutting off or breaking their own body parts to escape anything.

4. TVs or radios that turn themselves on.

5. Reflections or shadows that don’t move when the actor moves.

6. Spiders. Any spiders, any scene.

7. Bodies with altered gaits.

8. Clowns.

9. Clowns with jagged teeth.

10. Sudden, wrenching paralysis - especially when accompanied by cracking noises.

11. Dolls. Even better, dolls with turning heads that make creaking sounds or, worse, CLOWN dolls.

12. Unassuming Serial Killers (Not the Freddy or Jason kind. More like the pedophile wearing glasses and tan windbreaker kind.)

13. Ouija boards.

14. Twins.

15. Mustaches. Even better, mustaches paired with banjos.

16. Dark, unlit bodies of water.

17. Unexplained rashes.

18. Biblical stuff. (Locusts, backwards Latin, etc.)

19. Dogs and cats staring into space or barking/hissing at nothing.

20. Slowly turning doorknobs.

21. Cornfields. Even better, cornfields at night.

22. Inanimate objects moving on their own - especially when it’s not obvious.

23. Carnival music or children’s nursery rhymes/songs. Better, chanted by creepy children.

24. Breaking fingernails. (Like snapping one off when clawing away from the killer. Ack.)

25. Any movie with Christopher Walken.

There’s my 25 “cliché but still effective” horror movie must-haves. These can still get me on a dark and creepy night when I’m watching a movie all alone – or worse, within reach of a loved one.

What scares you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

S.O.S – Sailing on the Seas with NKOTB -PART ONE

(Note: Keeping new friends’ names private until I have permission to use them.)

Last year, I "came out of the Boy Band closet" to friends and family as a mild to moderately obsessed New Kids on the Block fan. When I left off, the boys were back, I had it bad, and I was looking forward to the 2010 cruise to the Bahamas with them. You’ll notice, however, that I never wrote about my cruise experience. In truth, I needed to stew on it for a while. 

The word “Stew” might lead you to think it was a bad experience – it was not. It was an experience that fulfilled all of my expectations. But there’s a strange phenomenon I’ve experienced after their concerts that I experienced tenfold after the cruise - the day after detox. “Day After Detox”, like rehab detoxification, feels like crap. Everything I looked forward to all year was now suddenly behind me, resulting in a sadness akin to a breakup – all I wanted to do was listen to songs that reminded me of my ex, lay around in my sweatpants and eat large quantities of Rocky Road. 

After the cruise, I was excited about the new friendships I’d formed, but otherwise, I didn’t really want to tell anyone my stories yet. It was too soon – I just wanted to curl up, catch up on sleep, and binge on all of the things I’d denied myself pre-cruise. Knowing that I’d probably experienced one of the best vacations of my life, and might not have the opportunity to do so again, made Day After Detox worse.

I’ll back up and start at the beginning. 

Because I wasn’t on the first cruise, my best chance to get on the second one was to pair up with a past cruiser. (I’ll spare you the lengthy explanation on why.) Since I didn’t know anyone going, I had to find someone – and I did this on the New Kid’s official website (, in the forum. I met someone pretty quickly, found out we were close in age, with the same first names, and she was a past cruiser. Good enough for me!

At this stage, some of my non-“Blockhead” friends thought I was going a bit overboard – no pun intended. They thought going to another country, on a big ass boat, without knowing anyone but New Kids on the Block (using “knowing” loosely), and rooming with some girl I didn’t know, could somehow be a bad thing!
In retrospect, I suppose my choice could be seen as a bit nutty, but I prefer to see myself as adventurous. There were also a few things I knew that they didn’t:
  1.  I love to cruise, and I don’t get seasick.
  2.  My husband can’t cruise, and he gets seasick in the bathtub.
  3.  I knew I’d love the entertainment on the boat!
  4. The boat would be filled with lots of girls my age with the same interests
  5. I enjoy my own company. I can go days without talking to anyone else if I’m so inclined.
  6. Lived with a girl from Korea I didn’t know for 2 years in college. She could have been psycho, too.
I met my cruise mate a week before the boat sailed. We each drove 4 hours halfway to meet at a restaurant. Had I discovered at that point that she was an ax-murderer, stalker, or really a man - it would have been a bit late to do anything about it. Fortunately, all went well –she was several hours late, but whatever. She didn’t have a glass eyeball, communicable disease or anything else that would make me feel uncomfortable.

Let’s skip to Miami. My roomie, J, and I decided to share a hotel room the night before the cruise in Miami Beach. We changed into our bathing suits and cover-ups practically the moment we stepped off our planes. Staying at the beautiful Palms Hotel, we kicked things off right eating and drinking under a straw umbrella on the beach. I realized pretty quickly I’d best forgo future eating in Miami when I saw my quesadilla appetizer was $25. Better to spend my money on over-priced drinks on the boat than food on land. Later, we took drunken naps and then worked on our door decorations, between fluttering around the hotel room nervously and exclaiming how we’d never be able to sleep.

My roommate slept. I know this because she snored like my father. I slept about two hours. It wasn’t really the snoring that kept me awake – neither J nor my father can hold a candle to my husband – I was just too keyed up. Notably, I survived the night intact and roomie turned out to not be an ax-murderer.

It was a mad rush to the Port of Miami, despite the fact that we left in plenty of time. The cab driver clearly felt a greater urgency to get there than we did – a tough feat considering we were pretty damn eager. I alternated between clinging to the door and nursing my arm that was still in a soft cast from recent wrist surgery.  We experienced another trauma when we got there, because J didn’t have a passport. She had a birth certificate which she was 90% sure they would accept. Since she wasn’t completely confident, she was 90% freaking out, too. 

Accepted – all good – got to the terminal. Waited forever for boarding, made much more agonizing when the guys came through, waving at us from above as they crossed to the ramp, because now we could see them but not get to them. 

On the boat, I immediately ran into a married couple I’d met at the Detroit airport. We sat down for food, knowing it would be a while before suitcases made their way to the cabins, and J went off to find the guys. I had vowed not to be a stalker and waste time fruitlessly searching for the guys, so I was a bit bummed (for myself) when she returned 10 minutes later beaming. She’d run into Jordan already! 

It suddenly came crashing home – I was on a boat with the New Kids on the Block and I could potentially bump into them at any moment. Onset mild panic attack. The best way to deal with this was drinks. And more drinks. (Later, I would learn that our cabin was on the same floor as the guys and that they would be passing by our door regularly. More drinks!)

Fast-forward to the Sail Away party! This is a little deejayed hello that the guys do to kick off the festivities. It took place on the Lido Deck, and because J and me were lucky enough to have our mustering station be the Lido deck, we were among the first there after our mandatory safety drill, lining up around the stage to wait for the guys. And lucky for me, I maneuvered my way in front where I could safely put my injury out of the way of the packed crowd directly on the stage. During the Sail Away party, I proceeded to get many great pictures and signatures from all 5 New Kids on my cast.

The best signature of all was from Danny – mostly significant because of how I got it. I happened to make eye contact with Danny’s daughter, Chance, who had introduced herself to me outside my room earlier while she was checking out our door decorations. At the party, I waved at her, and then pointed at her Dad. She took one look at my cast and sharpie and mouthed, “I’ll hook you up!” and gave a little thumbs up sign. She grabbed her dad and pulled him over to me. So sweet! I love networking. ;)

Other memorable Sail Away party moments:
  1. Joe climbing on the railing to say hello to people and giving me a heart attack.
  2. Singing happy birthday to Danny.
  3. Enjoying Jordan lying in front of me on the stage while he talked to the girl next to me (who he seemed to know) for about 10 minutes. I was eye level with his unit the whole time. Yup Yup.
  4. Seeing Jon smile. (My vid of Jon during Sail Away:
  5. Getting a raging sunburn on my hair-part.  
Later that night was the “Game Show”, which was really a trivia contest between some lucky fans and the guys. Once again, we got fortunate with our cabin choice, because its location determined our seating for this event. I remember the guys dominating the game because they knew MOST things about themselves, at least one girl getting kissed by Donnie, a scavenger hunt in the audience for animal print bras, Donnie proving his superior math skillz, a few malfunctions, and lots of laughter.

The boat was divided into three groups, and dinners and events were alternated, so the Game Show would pretty much occupy the guys for the evening. This was a good thing, because at the end of our Game Show, they had called 2 names as winners for VIP tickets at the cocktail party that night, and J recognized the name of one of them as someone she knew from last year. We met up with them after, and that’s when I met V and P. We decided to join them for dinner – enter E (V’s brother and P’s son) and S and M (a married couple, not a sexual philosophy). My new cruise besties!

Don’t remember a ton from dinner, except we all got along like we’d known each other forever, we pretty much ordered one of everything because we could, the waiters danced to NKOTB songs, and our head waiter sort of seemed to like me and insisted on cutting my meat for me because of my cast. 

Because the theme for the night was Casino Royale, we had to change clothes. I wore a black lace vintage dress that I adore. J and I helped V and P get ready for their VIP, too. They were freaking out. I was sort of freaking out for them! At one point, I remember grabbing V in the hallway and forcing her to breathe. I thought she was going to pass out. We walked with them as far as we could and then sent them off to the veranda deck with hugs and best wishes. I knew they were feeling some pressure to try to get us up there with them, and I tried to quash that as best I could before we parted. I was so excited for them – and I really just wanted them to get up there and enjoy every second, not waste time trying to talk someone into more bracelets. It’s hard to explain how I could feel that way for someone who I had basically just met, but I was picturing how I would feel. I knew it was a once in a lifetime experience for them and I wanted them to be in their moment fully. 

I can’t remember what we did while we were waiting for the Cocktail Party at Midnight, but I’m pretty sure it involved drinking cocktails. I do remember trying to throw cigarettes and lighters up to V, and P and everyone taking lots of pictures. (I'll post when I get permission from cruise friends to share images of them.)

At this point, I should interject a note that the cruise was 4 days (the last day being solely packing up and disembarking), and I slept a TOTAL of 6 hours. So, some of the details are going to get shaky as we go. It was that good - and I was that into it. 

The cocktail party consisted of the guys dancing and singing along to music from the veranda while we screamed and danced below on the Lido deck. I think there were shots. I know there were over-priced frufru drinks for $9 each. I had bought myself a Coke card (unlimited soft drinks for a set, per-day fee) and so M bought some liquor from the duty free – and that was the end to the frufru drinks. Also the beginning of the end when it comes to my memory, at least for that night, because now I was drinking REAL drinks that were barely tan in color. 

Roomie disappeared, and then eventually S and M disappeared too. I found out S and M were up on the Veranda in the VIP. (One perk of bringing your hubby on the cruise – males not with the entourage are rare and tend to get special attention for being cool enough to come on the cruise.) A while later, the two of them peered over the side and waved at me and E, and then suddenly a flashlight shined on us. We flipped out because it meant we were getting invited up by the VIP God, Jason Fowler. 

We looked for my roomie, couldn’t find her, and hurried over to the stairs hand-in-hand. When we got there, I was informed that E could come up but that I couldn’t go with him. I was disappointed but told myself not to let it get to me. I came on this cruise knowing that I didn’t know anyone, right? So what was the big deal now if I had to dance alone? Okay, so it was kind of a biggish deal. Honestly, I was feeling like the odd man out. I put my head down and danced.

I danced alone for maybe an hour or so, and then looked up to find V and P in front of me. They were tired, and God bless them, were going to give their bracelets to me and J on the sly. I couldn’t believe their generosity, and V explained that it was because I told her not to spend time trying to get me up there that she wanted me to have hers. She had enjoyed every minute of her time up there, and when she’d gotten her fill, she wanted to pay it forward. I still remember that as the best moment of the cruise. Not getting up to VIP, (which I did with J somewhat illegally, after we found her in the room), but HOW I got to VIP. One of many examples of the vibe on that boat – it was all about sharing the experience, with NKOTB and with each other. 

By the time I got up to VIP, only Jordan and Donnie were still circulating. The guys were wearing tuxes for the theme night and looked absolutely edible. I desperately wanted a picture with Donnie, but I didn’t want to ask. I’d met Donnie once before in a Meet & Greet and never said a word, and I was pretty sure if given the opportunity, I wouldn’t be able to say anything again. 

I walked up near him, freaked out inside, and tried to walk away. E was there, grabbing me, ushering me back, and practically forcing me not to chicken out, like any true friend would. I started to say something, saw I had gained Donnie’s attention, and couldn’t get anything to come out. He said something like “Oh, did I miss you?” and put an arm around me. We stood there in the wind for a long moment, and finally E admitted his camera wouldn’t work. Donnie said “Sorry”, kissed me on the cheek and left. I was glowing. I got an arm and some lips and I never had to say a word. Added bonus:  I hadn’t completely embarrassed myself by saying anything stupid. 

We stayed up there all night, in the wind, enjoying the couches and each other. 

Memorable moments from the VIP:
  1.  Jon coming down to sit by us (one couch over)
  2.  Donnie leaning on the rail next to me for a bit while on his cell phone
  3. Me and M trying to light a cigarette in the wind for an hour.
Ok, kind of lame recollections, I know. But it’s hard to explain – just being up there, how I felt part of the “in crowd” for once. This isn’t to say those not up in VIP aren’t in the in-crowd. Or that I’ve never been in a VIP. It was more about the people I was with and feeling grateful that I’d found a home on the boat. 

Wow – okay, so I’ve only gotten through one day so far! Let’s call this Part One, and I’ll pick up Part Two in another blog so I’m not trying to post a novel on Blogspot!

To be continued….

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Press Release - American Business Women's Association


Detroit Movie Makers Support Local Businesswomen

January 5, Novi: Local Director Virginia Mardeusz (Catty Productions) and Director of Photography Erik Rubner (Sovereign Creative) have teamed up to create a pro-bono television commercial for the Novi Oaks Charter Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association.

“It’s really a beautiful advertisement,” says Holly Hengstebeck, ABWA Novi Member and Co-chair for the masquerade ball fundraiser that the commercial advertises. “It doesn’t look as much like a commercial as it does a movie! We were blown away that the local film community came together to do this for us.”

The 30-second commercial was shot in November at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan in Troy, MI (who generously donated their set and equipment for the one-day shoot). Filled with local actors and entertainers who also volunteered their time - including award-winning performance artist Satori Circus, contact juggler Vincent John II and illusionist Elton Litzner – the commercial is an intriguing taste of the masquerade ball experience.

 “The Mask Worn Too Long Becomes the Face” is a fantastical fundraiser that will take place on March 25, 2011 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. The concept for the masked ball, as accurately portrayed in the commercial, is that every day we all wear masks. We play many roles in our professional and personal lives, and it’s easy to let what we do for others become our identity. At the masquerade, guests will celebrate all of the roles they play in their lives by taking a step away from them all for one magical night, becoming someone else they always imagined.

To portray this concept, Mardeusz tells the story of a woman who comes to the ball wearing a metallic, harsh looking mask and is affected strangely by the magic of the event. She undergoes three mask changes, each mask progressively more beautiful and whimsical, until eventually, these masks actually become a part of her face, an effect achieved by makeup artist Chastity Tappan.

“It’s not easy to convey the theme and feel of an event in a 30-second commercial,” says Jennifer Oddo, President of ABWA Novi, Event Co-Chair, and producer of the commercial in cooperation with Catty Productions. “But Virginia, Erik and their crew ran with our event concept and did a magnificent job of telling a story while giving the audience a peek into a masquerade experience.”

 “I knew that recreating a masquerade ballroom scene, with all of the beautiful costumes, dancers and performers, would be fun for me and my crew,” adds Mardeusz, “as it’s the perfect subject matter to let our imaginations run wild. But I also did this project because it was for a good cause. I’m a local businesswoman, and I have the ability to use my knowledge to ultimately help other women in business.”

The American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) is a non-profit organization that supports and promotes the education and business development of women through scholarships, grants, tuition reimbursement, presentations, seminars and leadership opportunities. The Novi Oaks Charter Chapter of ABWA provides over $3,500 annually to Madonna University for scholarships, to the Stephen Bufton Memorial Education fund and additional training and education opportunities for area women. The masquerade ball is Novi Oaks’ first attempt to do an event on such a large scale – they are hoping they can count on the support of the community and local businesses to sell out their 600 person capacity.

The masquerade commercial is currently airing on WTV10 (Comcast Ch 10 in Waterford Township; AT&T Uverse Ch 99 in Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties), broadcast to 250,000 viewers across Southeast Michigan. Novi Oaks is thrilled with the donated air time on WTV10 and is hoping other television stations will also offer to do the same in order to help get the word out about the fundraiser. “Our advertising budget is limited,” says Hengstebeck. “Donated air time, or even sharing the video of the commercial on social networking sites, is a huge help to us.”

“We know we are competing with many other non-profits for the community’s support,” adds Oddo. “Our hope is that if we can offer a fun, unique event, we can entice those who would not ordinarily put the education of local women on the top of their annual donation list to come out and have a great time regardless of the cause. The event is open to the public – adult men and women – and guests will enjoy eclectic finery, breathtaking strolling entertainment, DJ music, photography, mystics and unique vendors, hot hors d’oeuvres, a candy buffet, a cash bar, an art gallery, raffles and much more.

Tickets are $65 each and are on sale now at and at the Royal Oak Music Theatre box office. For additional information about “The Mask Worn Too Long Becomes the Face” and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jennifer Oddo or visit

Jenn Oddo, President
ABWA Novi Oaks Charter Chapter

Masquerade images & on-set photographs are available if desired.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eyes Wide Shut: The billion dollar industry solving a problem that doesn't exist

Like most women, I’ve had to work on my body image since I was a teenager. From the moment I read my first Seventeen and Cosmo magazines, “no woman really looks like that” and “I love myself just the way I am” are mantras I’ve had to adopt to preserve my self-esteem. 

Over the years, I’ve also been able to maintain a fairly healthy self image by appreciating my good points while trying not to obsess over my not-so-good-points. However, I admit to being frustrated by “advancements” that seem to diminish the uniqueness of what I’ve embraced as my good points. For instance, the earliest memory I have of being usurped by technology was my eye color. I have blue eyes, and particularly when I was younger, people would remark on them. Unfortunately, “What big blue eyes you have!” was replaced by “Is that your real eye color?” when colored contact lenses came on the scene. One good point I could no longer see as defining me – because anyone could have the same eye color or better for $99. 

Another example - I was blessed with nice tatas at an early age. When they came out, I was so happy – finally, no longer a wallflower! I owned something special, right out there where the boys could appreciate them! Typically two cup sizes larger than most of my friends, I remember being able to ignore things that I didn’t like about my appearance by appreciating my better features. “Well, my legs are a little crooked, but hey, at least I’ve got a D cup!” But sadly, technology plowed ahead once again and took with it an appreciation of one of my natural assets. In the 80s and 90s, breast augmentation became all the rage, and even as early as high school, I remember boys asking me if my boobs were real. 

Silicone (not to mention wonder bras and water bras) took away something that I had previously seen as uniquely setting me apart. Of course the boys still looked, but I couldn’t help but think they were questioning if I was what I seemed. The few physical features I liked about myself were being quickly ticked off a very short list by the cosmetic industry. (I can say the same thing for my lips, hair color, skin tone, and any number of things that we can so alter that the bodies we were born with aren’t unique anymore.) 

All of that resentment has mostly faded as I’ve gotten older. I’ve come to understand that just because I didn’t need those particular advancements didn’t mean other girls didn’t need or want them to improve their appearances. The industry responds to demand, right? And whether people think my eye color is real or enhanced, I still get compliments on them. Whether women can improve their chest size doesn’t mean that my natural beauties aren’t still fabulous in the light of day! 

Self-acceptance aside, I can’t help but notice that the cosmetic industry today seems to be working in the reverse. Things most of us didn’t even comprehend as a “feature” we should worry about are now identified for us by the industry as things we should want to improve - and a technological advancement we didn’t even know we needed is out there to make it happen. Stuff we didn’t even know we were supposed to be insecure about we’re now insecure about!

Case in point: The $1 billion a year mascara industry. Of all the things I worried about when criticizing my teenage body and image, it never occurred to me to hate my eye lashes. Sure, mascara has been around a long time. I’m even old enough to remember when blue mascara was all the rage. But apparently, while I was busy trying to accept myself, the problem of the thin eye lash became a serious epidemic! Who knew? Sure, there are some women who lose eyelashes, don’t have many, or worse, who pull them out as a bad habit; but surely this doesn’t call for dozens of commercials about volumizing, defining, lengthening, separating, curling, and growing eye lashes does it?

Did you know that you aren’t at your sexiest unless you have luscious, magnified, bold, extreme, lush and dramatic eyelashes? You need “big, bold, look at me” lashes according Drew Barrymore in her LASHBLAST Covergirl ads. And did you know you can stop traffic with your eyelashes?? Yves Saint Laurent says you can! Revlon wants you to use their GROW LUSCIOUS, DOUBLETWIST or DEFINITION mascaras. Don’t forget the COLOSSAL VOLUM from Maybelline New York or LASH ACCELERATOR from Rimmel London. 

In addition to mascara (and the old standby glue-on eye lashes or standard eye lash curler), you can also get a prescription for Latisse for your “inadequate” lashes! Sweep it on your eye lids, and in weeks you’ll have longer, darker lashes. The potential side-effects include a permanent change to your iris pigmentation. But who cares about that? You can always get colored contacts to fix your new brown eyes back to blue. And the commercials will have you believe that now that Brook Shields has longer, fuller, darker lashes, she can go to birthday parties and dance with strange men – surely she could never have achieved these feats without Latisse! Claire Danes can run into friends with their dogs on the street, meet girlfriends for lunch and go window shopping! I’m sure before she solved her baby lash problem, she stayed in a dark room. 

What are these commercials really saying? You should be embarrassed of your eyelash volume. How dare you have fun with skimpy lashes? If you don’t buy mascara or get a prescription, you’ll never stop traffic. Because bigger is better and you’re just regular. Pair beautiful women in bright colors against white backgrounds with pounding, upbeat music and flash words like “MASSIVE” and “LUSCIOUS” and statistics like “80% fuller”, and we women are convinced we’ve got yet another physical feature that needs improvement – add it to the list. 

Do you know there are literally hundreds of kinds of mascara now? Maybelline itself has 34 different mascara products on their website! In the 80s and 90s, I remember a variety of different colors (black, brown, clear and, of course, the fashionable blue) and either waterproof or not. And fake eyelashes and tips were also the norm. But were there really so many ways to tackle the “eyelash problem” back in the day as there are now?

Do we need this war being waged against the weak eyelash – or does the fashionable media, perpetuated by the cosmetic industry, tell us we need it? 

Well, I refuse. That’s right, Covergirl! I refuse to accept your war on the inadequate lash! You got me on my cheek bones need to be higher, my lips need to be fuller, and my eyelids need to be smokier. Like everything else I’ve had to accept about myself as a woman, I’ll just have to learn to live with the fact that my tiny little normal lashes will never help me hail a cab.