Sunday, August 02, 2015

Toy Story 3 vs. The Brave Little Toaster

I think I am the only one in the world who doesn't love Toy Story 3. According to IMDB's movie rankings, Toy Story 3 is actually rated HIGHER than Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 99%. And multiple people have told me that the conclusion left them sobbing.

The conclusion of Toy Story 3 seemed a shade too The Return of the King for me; the screen time it spent trying to wring emotion from me was more than it had earned. I didn't cry when Buzz, Woody & co. decide to go into the trash compactor together or when Andy bids farewell to his beloved toys and passes them on to Bonnie. I was just left with the hollow feeling that I had seen all this before.

And then I realized it was because I HAD seen it all before!

Toy Story 3 is pretty much a flashier remake of one of my all-time favorite animated movies, The Brave Little Toaster (1987).

The Brave Little Toaster is a wonderful fable about five appliances, a lamp, a radio (John Lovitz), a vacuum (Thurl Ravenscroft), an electric blanket, and a toaster, who are amazingly human.

The five friends (who feel more like siblings given their bickering, yet loving dynamic) start out in a boarded-up vacation home that hasn't been visited in years, but they still cherish hope that their "Master" will return and they will someday be useful again. They remember The Master fondly as a young boy who "played" with them and we see several flashbacks of him putting toast in the toaster, cuddling with the blanket, etc. The appliances work hard every day to keep the house clean for The Master's return, and go into spasms of ecstasy whenever they hear a car pass by, on the slim chance that it's his.

This is very similar to the beginning of Toy Story 3, where "Andy's Toys" have been boxed up for years, but are still keeping hope alive that someday they will once again be played with.

The wake-up call for the appliances comes when a "FOR SALE" sign is posted out front, forcing them to confront the fact that they've been abandoned. At this point, the appliances decide to take matters into their own hands and seek out their beloved Master.

Sound familiar? Basically the same thing happens to Andy's Toys, who are mistakenly put into a donation pile when Andy is packing up his things to go to college.

The Master is also college-bound, and we learn about two-thirds of the way through the movie that he intends to drive out to his family's old cottage and pick up the old appliances there to take to his dorm. Little does he know that the Brave Little Toaster and her friends are actually on their way to find him.

They are successful in tracking down the Master's address (which shares an address with CalArts, even down to the apartment number A113) and arrive at his apartment. Here they are greeted by an old friend, a TV who also used to furnish the vacation home. Unfortunately, he is the only one who is happy to see them. The new, modern appliances which grace the Master's city apartment are jealous because the Master is taking "some old junk to the dorm, instead of us", and they show off all of their fancy features in a song called "Cutting Edge." It culminates in them throwing the old appliances out the window, while their poor friend "Rabbit Ears" the TV looks on helplessly.

Andy's toys end up in a similarly hostile environment at the daycare. They are abused by hard-playing toddlers and restricted from the more-desired older kids by the long-time toys who have devised a kind of crony system to shut out the newcomers. Eventually, they too are put into the trash.

After being tossed out the window, the Toaster and her pals land in a garbage truck bound for Ernie's Disposal. Ernie's Disposal is a junkyard which features are large magnet whose job it is to place objects on a conveyor belt so they can be crushed and compacted into a small cube. The five appliances manage to avoid the sadistic magnet for some time; meanwhile, the old cars at the junkyard sing a very moving song called "Worthless" where they remember all of the ways they served in their lives; they reminisce about driving people to a wedding, racing in an Indy-500, cruising on the beach, commuting to work, and driving children to school on a reservation. Each verse is punctuated with the reflection that they are now "worthless." Unlike the ending of Toy Story 3, this song actually does bring tears to my eyes.

While the cars are singing their swan song at the dump, the Master has realized that his beloved appliances are no longer at the cottage, and decides to try and pick up something "cheap" to take to college. Here, the Toaster and co.'s friendship with the TV pays off, as the TV is able to give the Master the address for Ernie's disposal.

The Master comes to the junkyard and finds his appliances just as they are being lifted onto the conveyor belt by the giant magnet. He tries to get them free, but ends up getting trapped under something heavy and nearly crushed by the compactor. He is saved by the Toaster who throws herself into the gears of the machine to save his life.

The final scene shows the Master fixing the selfless toaster and tossing her and the other four appliances into the trunk of his car before he departs for college.

The penultimate scene of Toy Story 3 also features a magnet, a conveyor belt, and a trash compactor to a very similar effect. I noticed it when I first saw it in the theater, but until I noticed all the other similarities with The Brave Little Toaster, I chalked it up to Pixar's apparent obsession with giant magnets (see Wall-E).

However, once I noticed how closely the plot of Toy Story 3 mirrors The Brave Little Toaster, I realized why the movie seemed so "eh" to me; it was familiar because I'd basically already seen it. This is not totally surprising, as John Lasseter, who helped write Toy Story 3 was also involved in The Brave Little Toaster, as were many of Pixar's founding members. Wikipedia states that The Brave Little Toaster was Lasseter's first film pitch.

I don't feel like it's bad that Pixar pilfered Toy Story 3 from Brave Little Toaster, because it was essentially stealing from itself, and doing it with a bigger budget and more recognizable characters and an established franchise.

BUT- and I hate to say this, because I absolutely love both Toy Story 1 & 2- I really feel like The Brave Little Toaster is better.

It's got so much heart and soul and innocence, it's so funny, it has great characters and such great music.

If you haven't seen it, I recommend that you watch it, and see if you don't see something really special in The Brave Little Toaster. I realize that if you've seen Toy Story 3 first, you probably are going to see The Brave Little Toaster as sort of a rough draft, but give it a chance.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Last month, I read two very different books about migration in the U.S. I didn't intend to do so; it happened kind of accidentally, but they complement each other well. Both are fictionalized accounts of real historical events and both feature major Westward migrations, so I thought it might be interesting to contrast them. One is the relatively unknown A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher; the other is the cultural juggernaut The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

I read A Sudden Country first. I saw this book reviewed in Entertainment Weekly years ago, and added it to my Amazon wish list. Lucky for me, my Amazon wish list is now so old that most of the books on it are now available in the local library. So lately I've been walking the library with my Amazon wish list pulled up on my phone searching for titles, and that's how I happend to come across this one.

Fisher's book is set during the 1847 Westward migration- just before the Gold Rush- when thousands of Americans took the Oregon trail west in covered wagons. It is the story of Lucy Mitchell, whose husband Israel (interesting that he shares a name with the wandering people of the Bible's Exodus) is obsessed with the idea of leaving his comfortable life and seeing the wild American frontier, oblivious to the dangers and to the bitterness of heart the trip is causing to his wife. Lucy's fears for her safety and that of her children are the driving force of her attraction to a fur trader, trapper and all-around survivalist named MacLaren, with whom she eventually has an affair. MacLaren has his own story; he is married to a Nez Perce woman who left him for another man, and their three children (who are half Native American) have since all died of smallpox brought west by the first migration of white people on the Oregon trail.

This story, set on the wild, vast American frontier, is surprisingly small and intimate. It takes place almost entirely in the heads of its two leads, MacLaren and Lucy Mitchell, and is not so much a love story as a practical grown-up drama. The characters are very real; their thoughts come alive and ring with truth, but the issues presented here, such as how westward migration affected the Native populations (many of which were decimated by smallpox and other European diseases), are not touched on except as they relate intimately to the lives of the two leads. Thus the entire Westward migration and all its tragedy and triumph is a little bit reduced. Given the book's setting, I expected a grand sweeping tale as big as the untouched American plains, and got a small human drama that in many ways could have been set anywhere at any time.

The story also strangely lacks a moral center. Lucy and MacLaren have their affair and neither one seems to feel particularly bad about it- which is surprising in some ways as MacLaren himself is a cuckold whose wife has a series of men throughout the book. The theme that Fisher is trying to get across is one of "stories;" she repeatedly calls the Native Americans people who like stories, and she also refers to the "stories" (meaning the Bible) that brought the white man forward over sea and land to conquer. At the end of the book, MacLaren, held hostage by hostile Indians, tells them his story.

I think the author is trying to convey that our stories are who we are. That the stories of the Nez Pearce drive them in one direction while the stories of the Europeans (Biblical for the most part) drive them another. But to me the overall effect of the book, is that the feelings and "stories" of one person override and obscure the larger "story." Therefore Lucy's story, her bitterness against her husband and her fear of the future, justify her affair and override the big picture story of her family, her marriage, and the entire Westward migration. The book almost seems to say that our responsibility is to make ourselves happy as well as we can, when we can, and that our stories are just kind of there to get us through the night.

Interesting that this is almost the polar opposite of the second book I read, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I chose this book because Kyle and I watched Ken Burns' amazing documentary on the Dust Bowl, and I was intrigued to find out that the Westward migration of 1930's actually dwarfed the Oregon Trail era migration by hundreds of thousands of people- it was truly an exodus of amazing proportions! I knew that Steinbeck's novel is the classic account of this migration so I felt compelled to read it. Plus I felt a little bit like a sham as an English teacher never having read it! (How did I miss this book and yet had to read Huckleberry Finn in three different courses?)

Whereas I felt A Sudden Country was a large story told in a small way, The Grapes of Wrath is a small story told in a big way! It is the story of the Joad family, who, like so many families of the era are reduced to share cropping on their own land because the drought and the dust storms have forced them to borrow heavily from the banks. At last, the banks decide it is more profitable to plant where the sharecroppers' houses are and kick them off the land. The Joads pack everything into a truck and migrate to California where the lure of good jobs, fertile land and fruit trees has drawn hundreds of thousands of Dust Bowl refugees. Unfortunately, California doesn't deliver all it has promised- after all, there is still a Great Depression on and fear of all the migrants taking good jobs, or going on state aid leads to unfair and unholy labor practices, ridiculously low wages, and a terrible situation for the Joads.

This story is excellently told and drew me in masterfully. I felt the unfairness with the Joads, I was angry when they were angry, and sad when they were, and awed at the sheer meanness, and sometimes the kindness, of humanity.

But beyond the story of this one family, Steinbeck manages to create a story of and for every family that has ever lost their home, for every man who has been desperate for work, for every woman who has struggled to feed her family, and for anyone who ever raged against a hostile and unfair world. Steinbeck's interstitials- chapters that don't mention the Joads specifically but that give a kind of snapshot of the era- are part of the reason for the "big" feeling of this book. There is a chapter about the banks, their hungry and regardless drive for profit, a chapter about the used car salesmen who ripped off the migrating people with ridiculously high prices, a chapter about a waitress who watches the migration of these poor but proud folks. Their testimonies elevate the Joad's intimate and sympathetic tale into a grand opus- a symphony of whirling dust, chugging tractors, grinding gears, humming Capitalism, gnawing hunger, fierce desire. The final scene, where one of the Joads literally offers the milk of human kindness to a starving man, is the perfect final note.

The central idea of The Grapes of Wrath is that we are all beholden to each other, that we are responsible to one another. That our personal wishes and desires, our own "stories" (as Karen Fisher would say) are obscured or lost in the great big story of humanity as it struggles on- that our selves and our own families don't compare to the grandness of what is at stake in the battle for life to go on.

This is shown to us through the transformation of Tom Joad, the eldest son of the Joad clan. Throughout the book, Tom is just trying to get by. He continually does what he has to do to move himself and the family forward without thinking much beyond his next act, his next meal; he is continually telling the other characters that he is just "trying to put one foot in front of the other" and that is all he can think about. Meanwhile, his friend Casey, a former preacher, is constantly trying to get him to see the big picture; to see the forest and not just the trees, to see how his struggle connects with the struggles of those around him.

We know Tom finally "gets" it when he delivers his famous final speech, on the eve of leaving his family to fight the greater battle for the migrant workers and their rights. As his mother begs him to stay, worried that she will never see him again, Tom reassures her; "Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beating up a guy, I'll be there...I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad, and I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise, an' live in the houses they build, why, I'll be there." And just like that, Tom's struggle, which throughout the book was only to "put one foot in front of other" becomes about something bigger and more socially responsible.

While A Sudden Country is very insightful about relationships and sometimes delightfully introspective in a Virginia Woolf kind of way, The Grapes of Wrath is at once intimate and epic, a truly astounding book and one with themes that are still relevant today. As we've watched the economy take a nosedive, and seen so many families displaced from their homes, as good paying jobs become more scarce and as anger against the banks grows, The Grapes of Wrath is just as visceral and moving a book as I imagine it was when first released.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

So I've been watching Tangled with the kids. And now that I've seen it three times, I have questions.

The first one is, if cutting Rapunzel's magic hair undoes all the healing she's performed with it (as evidenced by Mother's turning to dust after it is cut), then why doesn't Flynn's hand injury come back?

The second is, was the magic tear that heals Flynn a one-time thing, or does Rapunzel now have magic tears? If she DOES have magic tears, how could she live happily ever after? I would think having magic healing tears would be a tough burden; so many injured and dying people to heal and yet she has to weep for all of them to heal them? And if she takes a break from her weeping, and tries to have a little fun, she has to feel guilty, because she has to think of all the people she is now not healing.

And yes, I know, as people have been telling me my whole life, I have "thought WAY too much about this." What can I say? Born with it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Watching Back to the Future on the big screen for the FIRST TIME was amazing! I was only seven when the movie premiered- and although I watched it hundreds of times in subsequent years and saw the sequels in theaters, I have never seen the movie so clearly, and in such detail.

It really is a great story, and meticulously told.

Kyle bought the blu-ray disc and we watched some of the special features last night. One of the documentaries has Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale talking about the painstaking process of writing the script- they talk about how they laid the story out on index cards and how for every idea they came up with (for example, "Marty invents the skateboard"), they had to then create another scene ("show that Marty can skateboard") which plants the seed for the audience and pays off later in the movie.

It took them five months to finish the script, and it's easy to see why it took them so long. It's because the script is so well written! Every idea is fully fleshed out, every character is true. Every idea comes to fruition, there are no wasted, pointless scenes and random dead ends, like so many movies.

And like every great comedy, there are no "jokes," per se. What I mean by that is that the humor comes from the characters and the situation that they're in, and so it comes from a place of truth. When Marty realizes that he's sitting next to his own teenaged father at the cafe, his bug-eyed reaction is funny because, well, who WOULDN'T react that way on seeing their own father at their age? We can all put ourselves into that situation, we can all relate- and so the humor comes from that connection with every audience member- a moment of truth. And Marty's discomfort when his own mother is trying to make out with him before the dance is so entertaining- it's so fun to watch him squirm and Michael J. Fox plays the moment brilliantly for laughs, but the laughs come from our understanding of the characters and from the situation, not from (as is so common in movies nowadays) a pop culture reference, a mocking nod to another film, or a clever put-down.

The closest thing in Back to the Future to those kinds of cheap laughs would perhaps be the "Ronald Reagan is president" bit, and all the jokes about Marty's "life preserver" - (his orange 80's style vest). But since Ronald Reagan really WAS president in the 80's and WAS formerly an actor- even the more "jokey" jokes (what I mean by that is jokes that aren't character-driven) contain truth.

I just don't see that in a lot of comedies nowadays. It seems to me like most comedies today rely on the audience's understanding of pop culture more than their understanding of human nature.

Back to the Future also sets itself up in a totally natural way- laying out the characters and letting the story unfold without any obvious exposition. Anyone who has heard me talk about movies knows that my pet peeve is obvious exposition.

For those of you that aren't English teachers, exposition is a natural part of any story, when details that are important to the story are shown or explained. These are the details you NEED to know for the rest of the story to make sense. EVERY movie contains exposition- some just do it better than others.

My favorite example of GOOD exposition is in the movie Steel Magnolias. What we need to know to set up the rest of the movie is that two of the characters, neighbors, have a long-standing feud. Now, a BAD MOVIE, using OBVIOUS EXPOSITION would have another character say something like "Oh, Drum and Ouisa. Those two are ALWAYS fighting!" Instead, the scriptwriter gives us the information brilliantly with this conversation:

OUISA: "Get those magnolias out of my tree!"
DRUM: "The judge has not yet decided whose tree that is, exactly."

Perfect exposition. We know everything we need to know. Drum and Ouisa are at odds. Their enmity goes back a long way- they will even argue over something as stupid as whose property a neighborhood tree is growing on.

Back to the Future is a great example of good exposition, because it holds to the old saying "show, don't tell." And that is difficult, because Back to the Future needs to give us a LOT of information before Marty can go back in time. We need to know about the relationships between George and Lorraine McFly (including how they met, their first kiss, etc.), George McFly and Biff, Mr. Strickland and the McFly family, Doc and Marty, Doc and the rest of town (they think he's a lunatic), and it also needs to set up that Marty can skateboard, play guitar, charm women, and that he's following in the footsteps of his own father by being fearful and cowardly about putting himself out there as a musician. Not to mention the whole history of the clock tower, the lightning strike, etc.

When you think about it, what a DAUNTING task for a writer, and yet the screenwriters manage to make it all seem effortless and organic, each piece of information coming onscreen naturally for us to absorb, understand and process. The woman from the Hill Valley preservation society tells us about the clock tower and the famous lightning storm while teenaged Marty, true to character, is just macking on his girlfriend (in other words, no dumb scene where Marty happens to wander into the Preservation Society in a totally out-of-character moment). The wrecked car gives Biff both a reason to be at the McFly home so we can meet him and highlights what a jerk he is. Linda's boy trouble gives Lorraine a reason to tell her daughter the details of her and George's first meeting, their first dance and first kiss, and the fact that she pours herself a Vodka in the meantime shows us how unhappy Lorraine now is with her husband. And the opening scenes of the film, set in Doc's workshop, tell us all about his eccentricities and his genius before he even gets a moment of screen time.

When you think about it, it's no wonder it took them 5 months to write the script! I mean, wow! But BOY does it make a difference. I wish more writers in Hollywood understood that. To me, the only movie studio of late that really understands good storytelling is Pixar.

Anyone seen a really well-written movie lately that wasn't from them? I can't think of any. I think the last one I really really liked as far as an original story with great writing, and truly character-driven humor- was the first Pirates of the Caribbean. To me that was perfect storytelling.

Everything else that good has been a Pixar kids movie! It's sad that filmmakers take more time crafting a great story for children while supposedly more intelligent adults get fare like The Love Guru. Hey, Hollywood, grown-ups like good comedies, too! Just because you're not making Schindler's List doesn't mean you need to fall back on R-rated humor and making fun of other movies (although I guess it's working out for the Wayans brothers, who've made an entire career of it).

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Way I Was

No one wants to be alone on a sunny day, but what is it about a cool, cloudy fall day that goes so well with absolute silence?

For the first time in what seems like many years, I am alone on such a day, enjoying my brain. My brain is ordinarily on loan to three monkey-sized tyrants and filled with their thoughts, requests and random gibberish. Sometimes, when I am trying to write an email or even make sense of conversation with another adult, I have to actually tell them that I NEED MY BRAIN FOR A FEW MINUTES.

So it's nice to have it to myself today. The sudden feeling of independence made a pleasant memory bubble up in my mind; the memory of moving into my first apartment.

It was a dump of a one bedroom about half a mile or so from the campus of Illinois State, where I was a then a junior. My rent was $360 a month and that included furniture and utilities (wow!).

For the first time in my life, I was living without my family, without a roommate, with no one in the world whose opinion to consult but ME.

I remember walking to Jewel-Osco on a cool cloudy day and buying a broom, a mop, cleaning products, eggs, soup, milk. I remember thinking that $50 was a lot for groceries (ha!). I remember putting everything away in my apartment- broom in the broom closet, milk in the fridge and thinking how empty the giant fridge looked with my groceries for one- how big the broom closet seemed with my broom and cans of Campell's Chicken'n'Stars.

I know this probably makes me selfish, but oddly enough I remember it as one of the best days of my life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Want to Be a Nurse

No, not literally. I don't want to be a nurse. I actually kind of get woozy when I think about blood draws.

But I was talking to my friend Amy, who had just watched her sister Emily give birth (to a gorgeous little girl, by the way). She was talking about how Emily was in labor for SO long that the doctors wanted to give her a C-section, but the nurse just kept pushing Emily to keep going, not give up, and deliver the baby naturally (which she did!). Amy said something that really stuck in my head- she said - "You know, the doctors didn't really do anything except breeze in every now and then and check on her progress. It was the nurses who were there through all the pain, putting up with Emily when she was upset, coaxing her, pushing her, encouraging her. The doctors just came in to see if they could do anything, and when they couldn't they just left."

And something about it struck me, because I so often have the doctor mentality, especially with my children. How often when they complain to me ("my finger hurts!" "my toe hurts!" etc.) do I actually answer with the phrase, "What do you want me to do? Do you want a band-aid?" And if they say no, I shrug my shoulders and move on, when what they really want is a nurse to sympathize and encourage, to practice compassion, and FEEL WITH them.

I've posted about this before, in my note about compassion because it is such a glaring weakness in my character. I want to go straight to the fix so I don't have to put up with any whining- I don't want to deal with pain, and suffering and hard times.

And yet, I want great relationships! And great relationships are usually forged between NURSE and patient, not doctor and patient because who is there when times get tough and the pain becomes unbearable? The NURSE.

So... I want to be a nurse. I need help. Pray for me!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Chicken or the Egg?

Is it just me or does every women's magazine from Parents and Family Circle to Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan feature the same articles over and over again?

They all fall into 8 basic categories.

1. The Five Minute Health or Beauty Tips. This is the part of the magazine that shares such valuable nuggets as: "Don't have time to work out? Lug out that vacuum and give your carpets a good cleaning! It could work off up to 100 calories and as a bonus, your house will be clean!" Also, "We all want to take care of our skin, but who has time? Our experts give you the 5 MUSTS for healthy skin!" (article will then proceed to detail a nightly skincare routine that takes $50 worth of creams and 30 minutes a night).

2. Recipes. They will all be some variation on chicken and pasta with an added ethnic spice ("Spicy Saffron Rice Bowl!")or some type of disgusting looking mini-pizza ("You can't get much simpler than an English muffin with Spaghetti-O's and spinach! Your kids will beg for seconds on these fun (and healthy!) little pizzas!")

3. Kids Say the Darndest Things/Revolting and Humiliating Tales. In mommy magazines like Parents and Women's Day, it's the former. You know, "My Aunt Linda came over for Thanksgiving dinner and my four year old son, Java (always an ambiguous or feminine name for a boy) said "Mommy, why can't I put my teeth in a glass of water by my bed like Aunt Linda?" In the young women's magazines, it's the Revolting and Humiliating Tales, which I won't even put an example of because most of them are gross and involve people getting their period on things.

4. Household Organization. This section is all about stating the obvious. "Cut the clutter! Go through your closets, cabinets and garage. Take everything you don't need out for an impromptu yard sale! You'll clean your house and maybe even make enough to take your family out to dinner!" And often it includes the sneak sales pitch, "Stow your stuff! These colorful bins, $24 at The Great Indoors, are big enough to hold Johnny's soccer cleats AND class science project, plus they add sophistication and fun to your entryway!"

5. The Sob Story Article. This is the closest thing in a women's magazine to real journalism. Usually, this is a good, in-depth article that tells a story we often have already heard on CNN or read about in a paper or heard from a friend of a friend, but at least it's well-written and touching. For the mommy mags, autism, SIDS, dealing with divorce are classic topics. For the young women's mags, anorexia, alcoholism, and abusive relationships are common.

6. The More Light-hearted But Still Serious Article. As the holidays approach, the More Light-hearted But Still Serious Article will be Holiday themed- how to have a "simpler" holiday, avoid excessive materialism and credit card debt, and get along with relatives always works at this time of year. The rest of the year it will be articles on playdates, birthday parties, politeness, safety and enjoying motherhood for the mommy mags, blind dates, being single, being in a couple, weekend getaways for the YM's.

7. Sex. In the young women's magazines, this section is far more extensive, and gives plenty of quotes from 'real' men about what they REALLY want in bed, and what they think is attractive in a woman. In the mommy magazines, the poor men only get a page or two and the tone of them is a complete downer- "We know you don't feel attractive after nursing a newborn all night, but experts say sex will bring you and your spouse closer!" or "Take 5 minutes for sex!" - as if sex in any form would be a miracle.

8. Crafts That You Will Not Do. Halloween costumes you will not sew, cupcakes you will not bake, candlesticks you will not cover in glittery pipe cleaners, no matter how cool it looks in the picture. 'Nuff said.

Each magazine has between a year and two year's worth of material in each of the 8 Basic Categories, which are rotated and recycled over and over again, so that by the time you have subscribed to any of them for about 18 months, you already feel like you pretty much "get" everything any of them has to say.

That being said, I continue to read them. I usually flip right to the Household Organization category, as if simply by reading a couple of tips on how to organize that are more commonsense than anything else my house will suddenly be clean and organized. I sob over the Sob Story Articles. I sometimes even buy the materials for the Crafts I Will Not Do, even though I know I will not do them.

I can't figure out if it's because that's what they print, or if they print what I secretly want to read... I guess that's a chicken and egg question, like that of the Paparazzi. Are they worse for taking those pictures or are we worse for gawking at them? (I'll admit I wanted to read about ANGELINA'S LIES today while I was in line at Ralph's...)