4.16.2012

BOSSYPANTS - Tina Fey


Tina Fey is one funny lady. But more than that, she's an incredibly smart one. It's not easy to be as humorous, self-deprecating, inspirational and charismatic as this lady. (Trust me; I've tried.) So I was intrigued at the prospect of learning more about the lady behind the laughs.

Though I've never been much of a fan of SNL or 30 Rock (yes, I know, you're shocked), I had absolutely no problem stepping into her hilarious, sometimes ridiculous, and always entertaining world. I gobbled up most of the book (including the early years of Tina Fey, complete with pleated jeans) in a single weekend and am impatiently waiting for all this boring work stuff to get done so that I can move on to her more recent exploits.

But underneath all the humour is a woman who has some important lessons to teach all of us - particularly young women. As much as hearing about the barriers facing young women in business can get a bit tired, that doesn't make them any less real. And we need all the role models we can get.

I think Fey is one of the best. Not only has she managed to become successful in show business - not an easy feat by anyone's reckoning - and have a family while doing so, but she's done it with grace and, let's face it, no small amount of laughing at herself.

One of the best things about spending time with Fey (I'm talking about her book here, but I imagine she'd be the same in person) is that she's not perfect; nor does she claim to be. In fact, she points out her flaws openly, makes fun of them, accepts them proudly, and moves on. I think we can all learn a little something from this. It's not easy - particularly in a profession so obsessed with appearance - to be comfortable with who you are.

Overall I highly recommend picking up Bossypants, whether or not you're already a fan of the lady or her work. There's something for everyone in here, and we can all use a good laugh.

I liked Tina Fey before reading this book. Now I think I love her.



4.11.2012

MY LAI 4: A REPORT ON THE MASSACRE AND ITS AFTERMATH - Seymour M. Hersh


War is a strange concept. It has rules. Certain populations are off limits, and certain acts are prohibited. And yet, the purpose of a war is to take human life on a mass scale. It seems inevitable, then, that lines become blurred, that war is the cause of (or sometimes a haven for) atrocity. 

In his classic journalistic work, Seymour M. Hersh presents, in stark and disturbing detail, the events that became known as the My Lai 4 massacre - one of the worst events of the Vietnam war. An entire village - nearly entirly comprised of old men, women and children - was massacred in the course of a few short hours on March 16, 1968 by Charly Company, 11th Brigade, American Division. Hundreds of civilians were mowed down with machine gun fire, piled in ditches and shot at point-blank range. Thanks to Hersh's unflinching research, and despite the army's attempts at covering up the incident, this book brings the events of that day to light. 

Though the book isn't very long, it's not an easy read. To be completely honest, I made it about halfway through and then had to stop because it was inducing nausea. It's nearly impossible to bear witness - even at the remove of nearly 60 years and countless miles - to an atrocity of this magnitude without becoming sick to one's stomach. But at the same time, it's important to know what human beings are capable of. 

I applaud Hersh for his diligent work, and for his writing, which makes the unbearable easy to understand, if not comprehend. His reputation as one of (if not THE) most influential and courageous journalists of our time is well deserved.

I'm glad that I managed to read as much of this book as I did - and I hope one day to be able to finish it. I recommend that you do the same. Just perhaps not today.

4.07.2012

IF YOU ASK ME (AND OF COURSE YOU WON'T) - Betty White


I have so much respect and admiration for Betty White. Let me just say that up front. Not only has she molded an ever-growing and -changing career during a time in life when many performers are withdrawing from the public eye and enjoying the fruits of their years and years of hard work, but she has done so with humour and strength.

In her most recent book, it's as if Betty opens her front door, invites us in for tea, and shares some of her favourite anecdotes with us. She discusses everything from her career to why she didn't have kids to her choice to live alone to the loss of her husband - and, of course, her love of animals.

My favourite part is where she discusses her speech at an awards show. She explains that show business is a small community, and it tends to create an immediate sense of familiarity. At this particular event, Betty gave a speech during which she said, "I look out here and everybody is famous. And I've had the privilege of knowing many of you and working with some of you  -- I've even had a few of you! You know who you are." George Clooney, ever a class act, stepped up to the mike as Betty returned to her table. As he concluded his speech, he spotted her and added, "And while I'm here, I'd like to thank Betty White for her discretion." Can't top that. 

Here is a woman without a bitter or mean bone in her body, who has found the funny side of life and who manages to shock younger audiences with her ability to be more edgy than they are, while simultaneously holding onto her down-to-earth straight up practical values. There's nothing but inspiration here. If you're feeling down, if you've had a bad week, or if you just feel like there aren't enough awesome people in the world, grab this book and spend an afternoon with Betty. I guarantee by the end of it your heart will be warmed and you'll have tears of laughter in your eyes.

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