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RGmen

Robert, Lord Grantham & Rick Grimes

Come with me to a bygone era, where people dress for dinner, and have servants, or are servants, but in either case speak with accents and know Their Place, even while that Place changes under their feet. Where families, literal and extended, stick together through thick and thin, through death and disaster, around a common ideal—Downton Abbey.

Love the Crawleys, Lord & Lady Grantham, their daughters and their various loves, the servants and their various loves, all the drama, triumphs and tragedies. It’s great stuff!

One wouldn’t think one could juxtapose the British elegance of Downton Abbey with the, dare I say it, down-and-nasty noir of The Walking Dead, would one?

But since I got sucked in to a Walking Dead marathon recently, and Downton Abbey is on my dvr, I’ve had the you-could-call-it-pleasure-if-you-wanted-to of seeing most of TWD season 2 & 3, followed by the relaxation of the Crawley saga.

Are there parallels? Of course there are, my friends, and not just because I’m tired and my eyes are falling out of my head—uh, due to excessive TV, and not, you know, a zombie bite.

1. Male Lead Character: The patriarchal figure, struggling to make the best of a changing world, slightly less sure of his footing than he used to be, I give you Robert, Lord Grantham.

And then there’s TWD’s Deputy Rick Grimes—leader of the pack o’survivors, struggling to keep it together, and keep his ‘family group’ alive. And avoid, you know, zombies. Is there death, destruction, grossness? Yes. Do beloved characters die? **SPOILER ALERT** Yes. Well, not much of a spoiler, as one might expect lots of death in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. And reanimation, and death, again, given, you know, the zombie thing.

The Crawley Sisters2. Themes: The strong male lead, the strong females around him, the struggle to survive and thrive in the face of change. The Big Questions—not just life and death and avoidance of zombies, or modernism, depending on the show, but how do I protect my family? Some of whom don’t want to be protected. How do you do the right thing in a changing world? How do you know what the right thing is? How do you help the group and maintain some Standards, damn it!

And Rick, whose standards have seriously slipped in the face of … okay, now the **MAJOR SPOILERS**—if you haven’t watched either show or are not caught up, read no further. Really! I’m going to name names and deaths and major plot twists.

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IN THE ‘CAN YOU BELIEVE THEY DID THAT?’ ZONE

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3. Death by…? : Downton AbbeyThe Walking Dead—the creative minds behind both these shows are not afraid to kill people off. Beloved characters! No small-time red-shirts here. We’re talking emotional, gut-wrenching—okay, in zombie land, there are usually some actual guts involved—game changing, life-altering deaths.

And, means of death they have in common—death by childbirth. AAAUUGGHH!!!

Downton Abbey: We Moderns take living through childbirth for granted—not so in Downton Abbey times. Lady Sybil! So bright and fun, rebelling against her class and family, loving ‘beneath’ her—and what happens? She gives birth, then dies. O M G! And that whole, doctor snobby v. doctor-who-knew-her-from-childbirth. And whose doctor-decision was it? Lord Grantham.

Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t go over too well with his wife, Lady Cora. The restrained grief! The blame, self-blameMatthewCrawley and guilt. It was awful, it was fabulous, it was tragic at every turn.

And, not satisfied with One Major Death, (and there were a few minors before this one) they end the season on Another. Matthew. AAAUUGGHH!!! Matthew, so handsome, so in love, so bringing out the best in Lady Mary, so happy to be a daddy. SMACK! I can’t even speak about that one. Plenty of emotional fodder for season 4, that’s for sure.

Shane WalshThe Walking Dead: As if there weren’t enough dead things around! Shane (and of course, many, many dead before him, but SHANE!) Best friend, in love with Rick’s wife, Lori. So maybe Lori isn’t quite sure who her baby daddy is, but she had a good reason to stray—she thought Rick got eaten in Atlanta. One has to Move On, and quickly, during a zombie apocalypse.

Shane was mostly a good guy. Dangerous, volatile. Sexy. The rules of civilization, no longer applicable, and for him, no point in pretending. You had to love that about Shane. Plus his great abs and… Ahem. A man of action, was Shane. Sometimes angry, loose-cannon action, but action none-the-less. In the face of some of Rick’s dithering, there was a purity to it. They balanced each other.

Too bad Shane tried to kill Rick.

What a down and dirty fight, I didn’t think Rick was going to pull it out, but a man fighting for his life and his wife and his baby and his boy—in the end, Rick wins. Boo hoo! Lose/lose all the way.

Shane-Rick-LaurieAnd then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we get death by childbirth.

Lori! O M G. Okay, Rick and Lori, not getting along so well, what with one thing and another, but still, they loved each other. But, as usual, disaster strikes, Rick is off somewhere, the zombies are at the door. Lori gives birth—well, it was more like, rip this child from me—and dies. Noooooo!

Needless to say, Rick’s been a tad off the deep end since. He’s been bringing ‘I see dead people’ to new heights. Hugs, Rick! You need them.

4. Humor: Along with death and heartache, both these shows have their humorous touches. Downton Abbey—British wit, Maggie Smith’s delivery—always spot on, as it were, Carson’s face in the face of, well, all the Stuff. Quite right!

The Walking Dead—a tad darker, yet who can forget dangling Glen over the well as biter-bait, as in how many living does it take to get a walker out of a well?, and when they finally get that bloated corpse out—lol, if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a (gross) treat.

For what is life without a bit of humorous leavening?

5. In Sum: Plenty of angst in the air, both in the post-Edwardian past and the hope-it-never-happens zombie-apocalypse future. How to explain their parallel appeal? Well, they’re good, of course, the characters, the drama, the emotion. Plus we live in times that are filled with dangers, and change, and uncertainty, and both of these shows speak to those elements. In their own unique way.

6. Last parallel:  Robert, Lord Grantham. Rick Grimes.

R. G.

Just saying.

******Have any obsessions that seem like they couldn’t possibly go together? Love the Dead, hate the Dead, bored of the Dead? Downton Abbey fan? Mad about how killing off major characters seems to be such a big fat trend? Is it drama or melodrama? Or just plain annoying?******

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Have you seen this TV show? It’s on TLC, and is a source of fascination and, ok, yes, horror, to me.  I kinda love it, and I’m appalled at the same time. This is super drama TV, with all the draw of dress up princess play, only the princesses here are competitive little divas trying to work out a crown or three. Glitz me, baby!

Crowns are nice, playing dress up is nice, putting on mommy’s make-up is fun—but this is extreme. Check it out, this is scarier than many paranormal phenomena! TLC Wednesday at 10/9 C. Or there is plenty of material to look at here: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/toddlers-tiaras/toddlers-and-tiaras-pictures.htm

As the title implies, it’s about the world of child beauty pageants, and unless you are in the life, I don’t think you can understand it. Actually, I don’t think you CAN understand it if you’re in the life. Or looking at it from the outside in, or, ever.

A pageant family (in much the way that we are a soccer family in my house minus the curly wigs and mascara) has invested time, money, and a whole lot of – how does one even describe it? – invested a whole lot of, well, a whole lot in their child.

Who is spray tanned, bewigged, flippered (fake teeth to cover that 2-year old gap in the front) and dressed in dazzling and expensive costumes, then paraded on stage, strutting her two-year-old self in front of a panel of pageant judges.

There is glitter. There are crowns. There is sugar. There is stampage of feet. There are obsessed mothers, fathers, aunts and grannies. There is the prized quality of sass.  Yes, that quality we as parents work to control in our children is elevated to stage presence in these little divas.

Now, don’t get me wrong, liveliness in a child is a wonderful quality, and no one wants to squash their child’s ego . BUT, correct me if I’m wrong (I’m not), a parent’s job is to temper the self-centered “I” of their darlings with a good dose of discipline and boundaries.

It can be hard, with the crying and the big liquid eyes, but you really do have to do it.

Or you’re making a monster.

Which is not to say that all those little girls from baby-dom to pre-teen diva-dom are dreadful. They have their dreadful moments, which the show is pleased to let us have a peek at.

When the camera catches them talking back to their parents, ooh, my mommy alarm goes off big. Quiet chair for you, angel girl, and no crowns or candy today!

As fascinating as the children are, the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, let’s just use the word entourage, is just as fascinating.

The mothers that swear up and down that their daughters WANT crowns and LOVE pageants, while their 2 year olds tell them they hate them, or cry and totally tantrum out in the middle of the action, well, I suspect someone is kidding someone.

And TLC doesn’t comment or judge. Which is really awesome TV. You do the judging! If you feel you have to judge anything, and you might feel like it given every episode has pageantry and costumes and razzle dazzle and judges and applause and mega-sass. There are many prizes, but only one Grand Supreme! And a lot of frozen smiles at the end.

Points for poise, girls. Stay sassy!

So, fascinated? Horrified? Think child pageants are a good idea, bad idea? Just want some bling? Try Rhinestone jewelry corp http://www.rhinestonejewelry.com/index.html or http://www.tiaratown.com/ or for all your pageantry needs try http://www.beautypageant.com/

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In Zombie Time—after 1 am, before 3 am—TV can be a challenge.

And sleep. You know, if you don’t make it to the pillow before 1 am, the brain does a little jump, and it’s harder to get it to shut down. At least, for me.

Also, things that you watch during Zombie Time, you might think they are better than they actually are. Because, you know, you’re tired. Maybe a little punchy.

And despite the hour, you’re in the Zombie Zone so you feel compelled to see it through to the end.

That said, MARS NEEDS WOMEN. It’s your classic B movie. OK, probably a C- -. Does that make it a D? Anyway, in that odd confluence that sometimes happens, the plot ended up being exactly the same as an episode of STARGATE SG1, ASCENSION. And yes, I was able to catch the gist of both these shows, even though they were on at the same time.

Both feature your classic tale of doomed love. Alien (surprisingly human-like) sees human woman, falls for her, woos her, and…yeah, you guessed it, it hits the fan. There’s military intervention. Some shooting. A little self-sacrifice. A woman without her alien cutie at the end. Tears. Fade to black.

OK, Major Sam Carter (Amanda Tapping) doesn’t cry much. But when she clutches the empty jeans of Orlin (Sean Patrick Flannery) the Ascended Cutie, you feel her pain. Sniff. He was/is a nice guy. Just, Ascended, so, no longer corporeal. Kinda sucks.

MARS NEEDS WOMEN—why, you might ask? Apparently there’s some kind of genetic mutation and they ran out of females on Mars. So, Earth being handy, they’ve come to get  some.

However, their dating/wooing skills aren’t fabulous, and volunteers being short on the ground, they decide kidnapping is the way to go. But scientist Dr. Bolen (Yvonne Craig, later Bat Girl on the TV cult classic, Batman) is there to help. She catches the attention of Martian operative Dop (Tommy Kirk) (really? ‘Dop’?) who decides he’s going to recruit her/spy on her, some combination of that. However, after he poses as a reporter, he catches Dr. Bolen’s eye. Dop and the Doc go for a stroll and fall in love. He changes his mind about The Plan, and his buddies are all upset.

The military come and the Martians need to skedaddle, and Dop’s boss says, either she comes with us, or you do, and you know what’s going to happen to you when we get home. So, he goes.  He kisses his Doc goodbye, and confesses his love.

There are tears, guns, the women are saved, and the lonely scientist faces her future not knowing what happened to her Martian. Sigh.

In general, I like a happy ending in my romances. But these worked for me. Or maybe it was fun because they had the same plot. Maybe it was better to switch back and forth, less is more. Or maybe I was under the influence of the Zombie Zone!

Anybody have any Zombie Zone experiences? Favorite bad movies? Serendipitous alignment of plot? Feel compelled to watch something to the end, even though you know you should turn it off?

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Is the truth ‘out there’ for you? (Long live Mulder and Scully!)

As a writer of paranormal romance, I love how reality TV has branched out into the paranormal field. Who doesn’t want to believe in ghosts, aliens, and sasquatch? The possibilities inherent in the strange, and human connections to the unseen world are fascinating.

Science has debunked a lot of superstitions, but at our core, we humans know that the universe is large, mysterious, and dangerous. Fear of the dark is atavistic—and wise. But there are those who go boldly forth to confront the mysteries and try to make sense of them.

For those of you who think applying the scientific method to the paranormal is a contradiction in terms, Paranormal TV—probably not your cuppa. But the rest of us—come huddle round the fire, my friends!

GHOST HUNTERS http://www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com/  and on SyFy http://www.syfy.com/ghosthunters/ Love, love, love Jason and Grant—two plumbers who moonlight as paranormal investigators.

Stop right there! The awesomeness of that premise alone is killer, as well as alliterative. Steve and Tango? The best sidekicks. Nobody does scared better than Steve, except maybe Tango. Amy and the New Guy (Adam)— adorable! (again with the alliteration, it’s a disease) And the dog, Maddie, she’s awesome. And Jason rescued her and trained her, extra points for that. Also, love the gadgets!

Other Ghost Hunting / Haunting Shows—

GHOST HUNTERS ACADEMY—SyFy—they already picked their guy, Adam, but it was lots of fun watching Steve and Tango screen their potential coworkers in the paranormal. Next time, I’m putting in my application! http://www.syfy.com/ghosthuntersacademy/  Also GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL—travel and see haunted castles, not too shabby. Might be a little cold and damp, though.

PARANORMAL STATE—A&E, http://paranormalresearchsociety.org/ not on currently, but I’m sure it’ll be back—A&E isn’t that good about showing episodes, try HULU

FACT OR FAKED—SyFy—the team chooses a case and goes out in the field to try and debunk it—or maybe they can’t and it’s…a real mystery! http://www.syfy.com/factorfaked/about

GHOST ADVENTURES—Travel Channel, http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Ghost_Adventures

A HAUNTING–Discovery Channel, I get scared just looking at the website http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/haunting/haunting.html

Paranormal TV Channel on HULUhttp://www.hulu.com/paranormal-tv Oh, you could spend days in there, my friends, days. It might even be its own dimension.

Anybody have any other paranormal shows on their favs list? Or, perhaps, a ghost tale of their own?

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Did you see the Oprah special at the Double RL Ranch with Ralph and Ricky Lauren? http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/American-Icon-Ralph-Lauren-and-His-Fascinating-Family_2/5

I am so impressed!

Well, heck, who wouldn’t be? First of all, the Laurens seem like lovely people—and happily married for 46 years to boot.

A Nice Boot

Parrah Distressed Western Boot--Price: $995.00

They look great—they dress fabulously, they have fabulous talented children, and they have tons of fabulous stuff.

Talent, ambition, and hard work rewarded with success—the American dream in action. Forbes estimates Ralph Lauren’s net worth at $5.8 billion dollars. http://www.forbes.com/profile/ralph-lauren Not bad for a kid from the Bronx, ey?

Their ranch in the Rockies—holy smokes! Panoramic vistas of the Rockies, rustic million-dollar charm, beautiful people on horseback, all dressed in RL, natch. Oprah sitting down to dinner with the fam—that Oprah, she gets to go everywhere and meet everyone.

Now I really want to see the wedding dress RL designed for his daughter Dylan—RL teared up when he was talking about it, it was touching. Come on, Oprah, couldn’t you have sneaked a peek or something? But maybe it’s at one of the family’s other 4 houses—NYC, Bedford, Montauk or Jamaica (the island, not Jamaica, Queens). I wonder if Oprah’s invited to the wedding? Maybe she can do a special on that, the American version of a Royal Wedding.

So I’m beyond jealous! OK, it’s so far beyond me that it’s ridiculous to be jealous. I can just go out and buy (some) Ralph Lauren stuff to partake in a smidge of the Lauren Life.

Hey, wait a second…!

This is total immersion marketing—living the life and selling the life and inviting you to buy a piece of the life.

But marketing aside, there is something in this for us all to think about—how the Laurens built the life they imagined. I really admire that. They built a company based on quality products and their vision of the American dream, and of course they worked really hard and kept strong to that vision.

I don’t remember which one of them said this, but I like it a lot. “You should only do the things that make you happy.” That’s simple and elegant, and often really hard to do in life.

So here are my Lessons Gleaned from the Laurens:

1. Do the things that make you happy

2. Family is important—take care of each other, be proud of each other, encourage each other

A Nice Pillow

Saranac Leather-Back Pillow Price: $209.99 | Sale Price: $146.99

3. Have a plan—create your vision, figure out what you need to make it real

4. Work hard and work smart to make that plan unfold

5. Enjoy the fruits of your labor

And now…there were some pillows at the Double RL Ranch that were speaking to me. $146.00 on sale? For ONE pillow? Krikey!

You know, I’m going to see if I can get them in Home Goods for less.

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For more on the Laurens (he has an AMAZING collection of cars, btw):

http://www.architecturaldigest.com/homes/homes/2007/11/lauren_article?currentPage=1

Ralph’s Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Lauren

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What is it about a guy with an accent and a fishing pole that is so…yum?

I mean, seriously, Jeremy Wade–total fan!  When he goes looking for man-eating catfish, I get the shivers. Creepy things that slide along your legs in cloudy water before they take a BITE…Holy Smokes. That’s some action and suspense, folks!

You have to admire a guy who can make fishing–not something known for its hot action, let’s face it–interesting and sexy. But since this blog is mostly about writing, let me bring it around to The Muse and not a mere River Monsters love fest.

So here are 5 things to be learned from River Monsters.

1. PATIENCE: it doesn’t show on TV, but having fished with my husband (another guy with an accent and a fishing pole, hmm, maybe that explains some stuff), I know getting the Big Fish requires not only mad skills, the right spot, and good bait, but a zen-like concentration, luck, and a lot of waiting around. Remind you fellow authors of, say, the Road to Publication?

2. PERSEVERANCE: Jeremy Wade stands in the swirling shallows, on the lonely shores, in the rain, on dinky boat-like constructs, traveling to hell-forsaken places, all in pursuit of The Big Fish. If he doesn’t find the Monster in one spot, he goes to the next—and keeps going, until he gets that bad boy hooked.

Ditto the Big Fishes in writing–finishing books, getting them out there to editors, and keeping at it.

3. LOVE WHAT YOU DO: JW, passion for monster fish, Me, passion for writing. Otherwise why bother with 1 & 2 above?

4. EVERYONE HAS A STORY: There’s built-in drama to a life and death encounter with Killer Fish, but sometimes it’s all in the telling—and the teeth marks on the boat and scars in the flesh. >shiver< Give your stories that same drama, suspense, & risk to the characters and you’ll have a winner!

5. RIVERS MAY CONTAIN MONSTERS—Respect Them!: Say it with me, Catch…Release… Did you ever think there were so many things out there with so many teeth in them? Hungry things, big enough to snag a human? Be careful, people!

And if my husband gets inspired by Jeremy Wade’s adventures in fishing, and suggests a trip to the Amazon or the Congo, er, well, I guess I’ll try and talk him off the ledge.

Although he would look kinda cute with a necklace of Goliath Tigerfish teeth.

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