I don’t have much of interest to write about these days, and I blame reality TV. In particular, the excitement of Big Brother premiering on Thursday, and managing to get me sucked into the drama much more quickly than usual. Despite the absence of Rachel Reilly, I’m entertained to see another of my all-time favourite players, Janelle Pierzina, return as one of the “mentors” (who are essentially experienced team captains.) The other “mentors” wouldn’t have been my first choices: Britney from Season 12, who makes short people look annoying and mean; Mike “Boogie” from Season 2, who seems to have no problem with the fact that everyone in the house knows him as “that douchebag guy who isn’t Dr. Will”; and Dan, the religious football coach who won season 10, but is so unmemorable that I had to look him up to remember who he was, and I still don’t recall a single thing about his season.

Of course, all the “mentors” they’ve picked are people who seem to have settled down and started lives out of the spotlight of reality TV, are married, have kids, or both. This makes for pretty limited drama in the house, since there are 4 people who are married, two who are gay (but of the opposite sex), and two who barely seem old enough to hold hands in the hammock. I think the producers really wanted no “showmances” this season.

As I remarked to The Guy I Am Currently Dating (yes, he watches some reality TV, too…one of the few entertainment-related things we have in common.), it would have been a more interesting choice to put some of the more difficult/controversial characters on the show as “mentors”, and watch the general instability erupt. I wonder why, instead, they took in in the other direction.They seem to have created an environment that seems almost too peaceful and lacking in drama and impending emotional meltdowns.

They’ve also completely given up on the idea of casting random, average people unaffiliated with the world of reality TV, as one of the new contestants is an L.A. blonde who’s made appearances on The Girls Next Door, and the related Playboy reality TV spinoffs, and another is the brother of Russell Hantz from Survivor. Apparently, he intended to keep this a secret, but it’s really not a smart move when you look exactly like a guy who’s been infamous for being a huge asshole on TV for three years, and come from the same state. It’s impossible when you have returning CBS reality show members who have been around long enough to know Russell Hantz. At this point, CBS needs to give that family their own show. It can’t be any worse than the Kardashians, and well, plenty of people are still watching that.

Despite the fact that Big Brother just isn’t quite what it used to be, it still has a way of sucking you into their all-absorbing lives (which, in reality, are not more interesting than whatever you’re doing at that moment), and making you watch the late night feed on Showtime just because you wonder what’s happening. Usually, the answer is nothing, but it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of people with insomnia and a voyeuristic need for drama, and we’re still going to stay up and watch.

One of the interesting things about the Showtime After Dark version of Big Brother is you get to see endless promos for other Showtime shows. Most of them, I’m never going to watch, like Dexter and The Real L Word, but I’m a Weeds fan, and don’t mind being reminded to watch it on Sundays. Also, there’s a new show premiering called “Polyamory: Married And Dating”. While I haven’t seen the show yet, and it only seems to be focused on married couples pursuing lifestyles involving non-monogamy, I kind of applaud them for showing the various types of relationships out there, and how they do and do not work. One storyline focuses on a triad (a married couple with a shared partner), another on a couple that is in an open marriage (but each has separate partners), another on a couple with a guy who is exerting pressure on his spouse to share partners, and a group that lives together in Big Love commune style, with everyone forming a giant extended family.

(Note:This t-shirt is pretty funny. And, yes, you can buy it, if you are so inclined. It’s on sale here.)

Unfortunately, Showtime will probably turn the show into a largely sex-and-drama fueled reality show (much like The Real L Word has done for lesbians) to get viewers, rather than showing examples of the positive and negative aspects of polyamory, and bring awareness of all types of non-monogamous partnerships in the process, but it’s an interesting idea.

I’m pretty convinced that Showtime’s master plan is to turn any alternative lifestyle choice into either a reality show or a black comedy, one taboo subject at a time. Serial killers, drug dealers, weird folks from California, the guy who played Joey on “Friends”, single lesbians, poly couples, and “Big Brother” make for a pretty interesting line-up, which is why I ditched HBO, but kept Showtime! *laughs*

Work has had a tremendous slowdown, and while I should be using the time to be happy about chilling out a little more and having time to work on my own creative projects, I’ve found myself feeling kind of tired and a little bummed. I don’t know if it’s lack of direction and having a concrete task on which to focus each day—I know there are plenty of things, both productive and relaxing, to do with my free time—or it’s just me feeling a little worn out physically. (This is my first summer following the scary and disastrous heatstroke and associated problems of last summer, and it hasn’t been the easiest. Some days are great, and others very challenging. Migraine, vertigo, and heat intolerance seem to be the main issues with which I still struggle.) It could also be that Mercury retrograde is back today, and that always wants to throw everything in life…especially my sense of emotional stability and “life is fun/everything’s going to be OK” out of whack.

On the up side, I’m almost 1/6th of the way towards reaching my goal towards funding my very first book project, Ophelia’s Wayward Muse. I only have 25 days left and it seems like kind of a long way to go, so if you’re the kind of friend who likes me enough to buy me a drink when we get together, consider donating to this project instead! :) You can make a donation of any shape and size (well, maybe not octagonal) through my project’s Kickstarter link. With all the people I know, there’s no way I shouldn’t be able to reach my goal! ;) Thank you to the friends and readers that have supported me thus far..you guys are awesome!!:)

It seems like the weekend has very much gotten away from me…but it’s Sunday, which means time for relaxation and reality television!! I wish weekends were, in fact, just a little longer…*laughs*

It’s almost that time of year again…the one where I become far more introverted and way less interesting, because I’ve become absorbed in the all-encompassing drama that is Big Brother.

For those of you who don’t know me, or don’t know me well, I love reality television. It’s not because I’m a dramatic person by nature (which I am), or because interpersonal drama and psychological insights into others interest me (they do….I probably should have been a psychologist.), or because it’s over-the-top fun (it is.) I actually didn’t get into reality TV when the rest of my generation was loving the Real World.

Reality TV only became real to me because of Big Brother, and because I had the fun and once-in-a-lifetime experience of going through the audition process for Season 1 of the show. (I’m showing my age, since they’re on season 14, but had I been cast, I’d have undoubtedly been the youngest person on the season, so I’m not that ancient yet. ;p) I made it to the very end of the process, which gave me an interesting insight into what goes into putting together a reality TV show, and gave me an appreciation for the genre. A cross between scripted drama, soap operas, game shows, and having cameras turned on your everyday life, it takes a certain kind of personality for reality TV. There’s also a lot of psychology that goes on in casting a reality show (most of them seem to believe in the Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey inventories in determining how people might interact); if you inadvertently pick the wrong person, the entire season can become boring and lifeless. (at least three seasons of “Survivor” have suffered this problem). If the cast gets along too well, if there’s never chemistry between people, animosity between people, the show isn’t something anyone cares about.

The “right” person isn’t always the loudest, the best looking, the smartest, or the most personable…though, undoubtedly, they try to get one of each. It’s no coincidence that many shows begin with 16 people, corresponding to the 16 Meyers-Briggs types. The trick is to get the most interesting person of each type, and to create diversity, especially when the show is centred around interpersonal dynamics.

Along the way, they’ve expanded casts of most popular shows to as many as 20 and as few as 12, but 14-16 seems to be the magic number. It’s a trick I’ve taken away for planning successful dinner parties. *laughs*

I never did re-audition for the show, or any other reality show, after going through the process. Part of it is that I felt like I was far too sensitive for the level of public scrutiny and judgment that goes along with even one day on reality TV. I have friends and acquaintances who have been on reality television shows, and one in particular had a very rough time of it in life after being portrayed in a way that emphasized one aspect of her personality, in order to paint her in a certain light. It is show business, after all—but people forget that, and when the show was over, she wasn’t met with love or treated kindly. Part of it is that I simply realised I’m not all that interesting. *laughs* I wonder if there will come a time when I put myself out there again, just for fun, now that I’m older, wiser, and still every bit the drama queen. :;

What did come out of the experience is a great love for Big Brother, even if it is the trashiest of the CBS reality franchises. (The main reason I wasn’t cast for the show was the charm and likeability of a fellow actress and Playa attendee named Brittany Petros, and I still wanted her to win! *laughs*) I watch every season, and yeah, I’m totally into all the drama and nonsense. Even the boring stuff is somehow entertaining, in a weird way. I have conversations with friends about the show as if I’m discussing people I know. It keeps me from gossiping about my real friends. :P *lol*

Although I never re-auditioned for the show, I felt like an overdramatized version of me did, and made a huge impact upon the world of reality TV. If you took everything about me and turned it up a few notches, you’d have something kind of similar to Rachel Reilly, the glittery and flamboyant redhead who cries at everything, but has an impressively competitive spirit and determination to give haters the proverbial finger. I really like Rachel, although I don’t know her, I don’t know anyone who knows her, and the only interaction I’ve had with her has been of the virtual variety. I think, in real life, she’s a person I’d enjoy….albeit perhaps in limited doses.

As most of you know, I spent most of last summer being seriously ill…too ill to leave the house, or even the bed, for a significant chunk of it. I couldn’t have much of a social life, and felt too vulnerable to face other people. In between, there were trips to the emergency room, scary drugs, terrible side effects, and a lot of time spent wondering–because even specialists didn’t seem to know what was wrong with me— if I was going to make it through the summer. It really was one day at a time for me, and even that was hard.

There were a few things that got me through that time in my life, but as weird as it sounds, Big Brother was one of them. I remember being in the hospital one week when the show was on, and saying, “I think if Rachel doesn’t get voted off this week, when it seemed certain she would, it’s a sign I’m going to be OK.” No logic behind that at all, except I somehow identified with this person who was putting herself out there on reality TV every day, and being judged quite harshly…a cross that’s tough to bear for an insecure person. I know what that’s like, and how perplexing it is when it turns out that “just be yourself” doesn’t equate to everyone liking you.

Of course, the summer ended, and I survived…and slowly recovered. And Rachel Reilly went on to win half a million dollars, despite being ridiculed by pretty much everyone, often including her fiance.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, of course, it’s because the new season of Big Brother is airing beginning next Thursday, and if the media day footage and other rumours are to be believed, one of the cast members was dropped at the last minute to make room for three returning duos.

I’m actually pretty excited at the prospect of another season of Rachel and Brendan, and potentially Evel Dick and Daniele. Certain personalities just make shows more interesting, and for me, it’s always the people other people find less than endearing, annoying, or downright villainous. Maybe it’s just because it’s been my experience in life that these are my people—misunderstood, intimidating to others, and full of emotion and insecurity.

So, maybe I’ll never decide I should attempt to be on reality TV, or become a public figure in any capacity—I have far too many skeletons in the closet and people who’d be too happy to talk to the tabloids about me :P —-but I’m going to keep on cheering for Rachel, and hoping CBS continues to use her in their franchises. Someone’s got to represent the temperamental redheads of the world, and show that we may be loud and crazy and hard to keep under control, but it doesn’t matter one bit. The world doesn’t need to love you, after all, for you to succeed at whatever it is you do. It just needs to pay attention.

This year, BB14 will have to share my attention with the Olympics, which also start in a few weeks…but that’s another story for another time. I hope The Guy I’m Currently Dating is up for more nights in with me, the remote, and some Moe’s. *lol*

Fortunately, I have a DVR. :P

Perhaps it’s a good sign, one that means I’m regaining some strength and ability to concentrate on more than just 30 minute television shows, but I’ve gotten back into the habit of reading a good deal lately. I think some of this is to do with the fact that The Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a Kindle Fire for my birthday, and as with my enthusiasm for anything new, I very quickly filled up my shelves with classics I’d been meaning to read and interesting works on Amazon’s $3.99 or less shelf. However, ironically, most of what I’ve been reading seems to be in the format of actual books.

I love my new tablet, for a number of reasons; when I am well again, or at least well enough to travel or spend my days outside my apartment, I suspect I will greatly appreciate the convenience of never having to travel with a carry-on bag full of books and computer accessories. I love, love, love the size and portability of it, and since getting an awesome pink case for it, it kind of resembles a little pink Bible.

On the down side, however, a number of the books on my wishlist—particularly newer ones—have the Kindle version priced at twice what it would cost for a used version of the book, plus shipping. Once I’m finished with a book, I tend to keep it on my shelf (if I love it; I only have so much space.), send it to a friend (if it inspires me enough that I absolutely must share), swap it on Paperback Swap, or sell it back for a few dollars on Amazon. On the Kindle, once I’m done reading it, I can’t do anything else with it. Therefore, I’ll likely never pay full price for a Kindle book when the actual book is being sold for the same, or less. Why would anyone? I hope that as book readers become more popular, there are more businesses launched like Paperback swap or apps where you can swap books with friends. This is just what people do, and have always done.

Yet, I’ve gotten back to reading, something I’d abandoned when I first became ill because attempting to look at the words on the page would trigger vertigo. Instead, I’d gotten in the habit of simply crawling in my bed and watching TV at night until bed, or eventually, writing in my journal.

I’ll probably put up a page on the site about what I’m reading this year, but here are some of what I’m reading one month into things. (I doubt I’ll reach my 100 book a year quota this year, but that’s OK, because I’m covertly working on writing my own from time to time.)

Learning To Breathe:My Yearlong Quest To Bring Calm To My Life
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book. While I’m a fan of Paulo Coelho and other writers who bring a sense of spirituality into their stories, you’re not ever going to catch me quoting from Eckhart Tolle or The Secret. I’m just far too much of a realist to really believe in what’s being espoused, though I have no doubt it’s helpful to others. However, this book was recommended to me by two different people in response to talking about my recent diagnosis with an anxiety disorder, and then I later read multiple articles where it was highly praised. It’s more of an “Eat, Pray, Love” story about coming to terms with yourself than a book of Louise Hay affirmations, which I appreciate. It also gave me a clearer understanding of what was happening to me; like me, the author suffered from having a “highly-strung” personality most of her life, but managed to live a fairly well-balanced, productive life, often self-medicating with vodka. She was unaware of having a panic disorder, or why she’d have one, until later in life, when forced to come to terms with the idea of mortality. Her journey through therapy, Buddhism, meditation, Klonopin, and all sorts of treatment is a good read for anyone who suffers with anxiety or panic attacks. These issues are rarely cured, but when the reason is identified and treated, it can get better. The down side? The author’s detailed descriptions of panic attacks provoked anxiety in moe in a way that I had to put the book down and come back to it later. It sucks to identify too much with someone else’s experiences, particular when they resemble your own.

The Book Of The Courtesans:A Catalogue Of Their Virtues. Like their Japanese counterpart, the geisha, the idea of the courtesan is an old-fashioned one that’s not understood in today’s society. Sometimes street prostitutes who worked their way up into a different realm of society, sometimes actresses and ballet dancers kept by a succession of powerful, rich, and titled aristocrats, sometimes middle-class girls longing for a better life, courtesans represented power in a time when women had none. Throughout history, these women lived independently and owned property when aristocratic women could not, freed themselves of the restraints of chastity and inhibition when society dictated that being confined and without want or feeling or opinion was the role of women, and associated with some of the most brilliant minds in history in a world where a woman’s purpose was largely decorative. Of course, in today’s society, where women are presented with more opportunities and the ability to choose independence in virtually any aspect of life, choosing to exploit one’s sexuality in exchange for being kept by a man, or series of men, is frowned upon—whether you’re a prostitute, stripper, gold digger, mistress, kept woman, or conniving baby mama. These women were all of the above, and their stories range from the dramatic to the tragic to the inspirational. (many of these women appear in paintings by grand masters, are the subjects of plays, operas, and novels, and have become synonymous with luxury and opulence. Some died penniless, or at the hands of the guillotine, or an enraged lover. Others became nuns or wrote novels. Still others married into aristocracy, and amassed fortunes beyond belief. One, Sarah Bernhardt, became the grande dame of the theatre, acting from her wheelchair well into her 80′s.) It’s a great book that re-examines what the meaning of “virtue” is, and should be, and gives a glimpse into many other periods of time in which beauty was less to do with physical beauty, and more to do with an innate ability to charm and captivate.

Wintergirls. A book I discovered because it was an Amazon special for the day, Laurie Halse Anderson has a lyrical way of writing that’s provocative and beautiful at the same time, much like the two girls whose stories she tells in the novel. Dealing with the lives of two teenage girls struggling through the angst of growing up—one with anorexia nervosa, the other with bulimia, and both lost and depressed souls struggling to appear normal in the midst of dysfunctional suburbia—it’s the kind of story that’s been told a million times, in every Lifetime movie. However, the way it’s written is extraordinary; the writer is unknown, but gifted. I’d liken her to Jodi Picoult, and I stayed up until 5 AM in order to finish the book in one reading. It also proved to me I could get into reading books on my Kindle.

Over the holidays, I also finished reading biographies of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say they belonged to last year’s list.

Next up, I have a few more biographies, as well as Paulo Coelho’s Aleph, which I will drop everything and read as soon as it arrives.

I haven’t tackled any classics yet, but maybe I’m just not in that classic state of mind quite yet. You see, Jersey Shore is back on, along with MTV’s new Challenge show, Battle Of The Ex-es. There’s also the Real Housewives Of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, and soon, Orange County…as well as Project Runway. February will bring Survivor and yet another Celebrity Apprentice, so I need to leave some quality reality TV viewing time.

Oh, and I’ve been catching up on How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, although all out of order, which is often on the confusing side.

Regardless, I’m pleased to note that Atlanta is #4 on the most literate cities list (odd, because I can’t remember the last time someone wanted to engage me in a conversation about a book.). Washington D.C. is #1, but then, they were also ranked #3 on the list. Maybe people in D.C. are only rude because you’re trying to interrupt them WHILE THEY’RE READING? :P

Whatever. I’d personally give Atlanta a spot in the top 5 on the rudest cities list. I suspect that, for some reason, gossip, judgment, and passive-aggressive behaviour are not registered as “rude” on this study. If they’re measuring the capability to be a total jackass to a stranger and not lose any sleep over it, might I recommend my home city of Philadelphia (which I’m convinced is nicknamed “The City Of Brotherly Love” by those who appreciate irony.)?