Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Decline of...Something

I’m still offering a contest to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of my usual writing spurt. Summer is when I get most of my writing done. So, I will put the names of everyone who responds to my blog this week into a hat and draw. I’ll give the winner a copy of Seeing Me and a deck of the Ellora’s Cave Silver Screen playing cards.

I have to admit that in recent times I’ve been very happy about my quiet little life. But I’ve also become very worried about what is happening to our society and the way that we are showing increasing disrespect toward our fellow human beings. I’ve been more and more sickened by the feeding frenzy that seems to surround individuals who choose to entertain others as part of the way they make a living for themselves and their families.

Yes, I know that when someone becomes a celebrity there is a certain amount of give on the degree of privacy you can expect. If you’re at a public event, someone is going to take your picture. But I’m fairly certain that no where in the contracts of the actors, actresses and musicians of the world are there clauses that say that they give up the right to be human beings and have real lives. They have jobs. Jobs just like the rest of us. I teach children. My dad manufactured cars. My mom was a nanny. Some people carry the mail. Some people fix our cars or computers or sell us things at the local grocery store. None of us gives up our rights to privacy because of our jobs. For the celebrity, their jobs are to make a product that we can view or listen to that will bring entertainment.

Recent photographs of Angelina Jolie have made news because they were topless. But the way I heard the story the woman was inside off a balcony of a house she was staying in when someone caught her with a high power telephoto lens. Excuse me. She wasn’t outside at a topless beach. Then, feel free to click away. She was in the confines of a house where she had an expectation of privacy. If Joe next door took his telephoto lens into his back yard and took pictures of you as you undressed in your own home he’d get arrested. The photographer who photographed Jolie gets paid.

Why do we find it acceptable to strip away someone’s right to be treated with dignity and respect (and trust me there are a lot of other people I’d rather be making this argument on behalf of than Jolie)? I’ve seen two partial episodes of the television show TMZ while waiting for the next program to begin. I was sickened and horrified. During one segment, again on Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt, the photographer was filming them with their sons getting into their car. One of the men present could be clearly heard to call the boys “adoption lottery winners.” That is crude, cruel and crass. Now it’s okay to make their small children the butts of our jokes and to demean their family?

I worry about what this says about our society. How little respect we seem to have for each other’s humanity.


In honor of the blog topic above it just seems right to post another excerpt from Seeing Me. Seeing Me is the story of a new author who is attending her first convention. She is pleasantly surprised to be on the panel with Him. He is a box office star who finds himself under attack by one of the writers on the panel. Cara jumps to his defense and finds that she has his attention along with the attention of everyone in the large ballroom.

When she’s asked to come upstairs for a private signing, she’s stunned to find out it’s for Him. But a slip of the tongue just may ruin any chance she has of getting to know Him better.


He sat down next to her and lifted his glass. He took a swallow of the contents then leaned back. “I asked you up here because I wanted to ask you to sign your book for me.”

“You’ve really read my book?” The words and the accompanying incredulity landed between them with an almost audible thud.

He frowned. “Yes. Didn’t my assistant tell you that you were being asked up to sign your book?”

“Yes, but...”

“But you didn’t figure someone like me had read it.”

“No. I never dreamed someone like you would have read it,” she admitted. She was pulling a large sip from her own glass when he stood up and walked away toward the windows.

“I see. You’re surprised that someone like me would even attempt to read such a work. I might muddle through a script alright, but real books are something else.”
She stared at him in shock. “I didn’t say that. That’s not what I meant.”

“Right.” He turned to face her, the orange rays of the sun backlighting him, a golden corona forming about him. His face was blank, a calm practiced look of boredom, but his eyes seemed to be alight with something more. His voice, when he spoke again, betrayed the bitter edge of anger. “It’s fine. I’ve heard it before. Actors are just parrots, right? They look pretty and showy and repeat whatever lines they are taught but understanding those lines is beyond them. We’re just a bunch of ridiculous boys and plasticized bimbos who drink too much, party too much and make way too much money for standing around playing pretend like a bunch of preschoolers. Look, I’m sorry I got you out of your reception.”

“Wait a minute,” she stood up. “That isn’t what I meant and I certainly never said those things. It seems to me that if anyone is jumping to stereotypes here, it’s you. I’m a writer so I must be self-important and egotistical? I must be absolutely certain that every word that falls from my pen is pure genius? Someone’s ego is involved here but I don’t think it’s mine.”

He just looked at her, his brow creasing, slight confusion etched on his face. The hurt was still in those dark eyes, and it was as if he wasn’t entirely sure he was really hearing the words she was saying.

“Look when I said I didn’t expect someone like you to have read my book I meant I didn’t expect it would even be noticed by someone like you. It’s an obscure piece of drivel by an unknown author who only got invited today because she’s a local girl. Hell, if I hadn’t been a volunteer for this convention for the last few years no one here would have given me the time of day.” She wanted him to believe her. Wanted it badly. For some reason it mattered a great deal that he believe she hadn’t been demeaning his intelligence. “I can’t believe any of those people today actually took time out of their lives to read my book, let alone someone like you who has people pulling him in a hundred directions every minute of the day.”

He pursed his lips and his head dropped. Silence filled the room for a long moment as he stared down at the floor. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m a bit raw from that confrontation downstairs. You might be surprised how often I get that. Not just what that guy said, but the whole thing. I was a marketing tool today. A new and improved product. Bright and shiny, tell your friends. I was being used to sell this conference, to sell the books of every person on that panel. When you first start out it’s sort of cool, look at me and the power my face has. But after a while it gets old.” He lifted wary eyes to hers. “I’m sorry. I made assumptions that were incorrect.”

She simply nodded. The truth in what he was saying was overwhelming. He was right. Every person there today had treated him like the leggy, breasty bimbo who points to the new model of car and says, “Pretty.” Her included. All she had seen was Him. Her first thoughts, if she were honest with herself, had been about the exposure and the attendance this panel was likely to get. Okay, not really. That was her second thought. Her first thought had been that of a giggling fourteen-year-old teenager who was just told she was going to meet her idol. The great movie star whose presence seemed to turn something inside her to jelly. No, not jelly, lava. Red-hot, cascading, chocolate flavored, lava. Sudden thoughts of the possible uses for warm liquid chocolate filled her mind along with the image of herself lapping up said chocolate. Her face, and everything else, grew even warmer.

He stepped toward her. “The truth is I asked you up here for two reasons. One, because I did read your book and I liked it. I was thrilled when I learned today that you’d be on the panel. I hoped at some point during this conference you might sign it and maybe we could talk about it. I decided to ask you up here to do just that because of what you said down there. Not that you took my side, but that you called the guy out for his hypocrisy.” He let a slow grin slide over his lips, “That and the fact that those were some of the most original metaphors for sex I’d ever seen. Not to mention the accompanying illustration.”

She hadn’t believed it possible, but she flushed even more and he lowered his head. He looked down and then lifted his eyes to hers. The move gave his face a sweet, naughty little boy expression that stirred something inside her. “What do you say? Now that we’ve already had our first fight, do you think we could sit down and talk about your book?”

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