Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One Sentence, Two Prisoners: Movie Review of Orange Is the New Black

One Sentence, Two Prisoners

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) has nothing but time on her hands. She is serving fifteen months for laundering money for her estranged lover, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), who dealt heroin for a West African kingpin in the blockbuster Netflix hit, Orange Is the New Black. Orange Is the New Black, based on the true story and book by Piper Kerman, was created by Jenji Kohan and produced by Jodie Foster.

When we first meet upper-middle-class and ever so cultured Piper, she is preparing to leave her business, her best friend, and her adorable fiancé, Larry Bloom, played by Jason Biggs. It is hard to imagine how she will survive the chaos that awaits her – kind of like sending Chelsea Clinton off to contend with a Russian mafia cafeteria manager, who takes offense at one measly comment about her unpalatable food and decides to starve Piper until she is good and sorry for her faux pas. Meanwhile, cliques, gangs, lewd male prison officials and every other conceivable kind of terror abounds.

Unlike Oz, a series about men in prison, Orange Is the New Black focuses on the female experience. It is a riveting dramedy made all the more entertaining by the fact that it's real.

It also poses the question, who else is affected by our adverse experiences even when we feel entirely alone? Larry is an aspiring writer and one day he has a column published in The New York Times about his experience being engaged to an inmate. Neither Larry nor Piper can truly celebrate his good journalistic fortune because Larry feels guilty that Piper is still in prison and he is living a normal life where no one will suddenly attack him with a wrench or throw him into a moving dryer in the Laundromat, and Piper feels that Larry doesn't know her; he has written about the old Piper, the person she was before IT happened. Larry doesn't know the new Piper, who struggles in the estrogen jungle and she takes issue with the title of his column: "One Sentence, Two Prisoners." Is Larry really a prisoner, too? He thinks so.

Recently I watched Foreverland, a Canadian HBO show about William, a young guy with cystic fibrosis (Max Thieriot from Bates Motel), who spent nearly three hours every day doing physical therapy on his lungs just so he was able to breathe. He hooked up with a girl who encouraged him to go all the way to Mexico to scatter the ashes of one of their mutual friends who had just died of CF. Most people with cystic fibrosis don't live past 21. William made the long trek at great physical cost. At one point he argued with the girl, who was trying to connect with him. She said to him, "Do you think it's easier being the healthy one?" And he shouted an emphatic yes.

Yes, it is easier being the one who is not going to die of cystic fibrosis just as it is easier being the one who can visit the penal system and get in the newly-washed BMW after a stressful hour together and go home. But that's not to say that the people who love us and are involved with us are not deeply affected by our experiences, be that incarceration or terminal illness. They are profoundly influenced and they have the right to their own feelings – but they may not get much sympathy by telling them to the person who is actually imprisoned in a compound or by their body.

Orange Is the New Black is a radically different kind of TV series. First, it's only available on Netflix and not on TV or DVD. Second, it focuses on women, and third, it lets us know what most sane people already realize: the penal institute is failing us. Inmates are disproportionately people of color, they are not treated humanely or with respect (the new blacks), there is little protection from violence within the walls, and the concept of rehabilitation is a joke. These women are just doing their time and desperately counting the days until they get out. Will they have changed? Perhaps, but not necessarily for the better.

Thanks to the criminalization of marijuana, the reduction in rehab centers for addictions, which is where sick people belong, and the large number of illegal immigrants in the US, the country has one of the highest incarceration rates in the industrialized world. Not exactly something to be proud of. With 1 out of every 18 men and 1 in 89 women behind bars, according to CNN, Orange Is the New Black is educational and eye opening.

Sigrid Macdonald is a manuscript editor and the author of five books. You can find her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/  







Sunday, August 25, 2013

An Interview with Carol Hollenbeck, the Author of True Blondes

SM:  Carol, what interested you in writing? 
CH:  I began writing poetry when I was much younger; I had the romantic idea of becoming a poet.  That dream soon changed.  When I was in my early 20s, I fantacized about going to Hollywood. I decided that I was going to become a movie star, not an actress. I soon learned that it was not easy to separate the two.

SM:  Tell me a little bit about the book.

CH:  The book is about two blondes trying to make it big in the wild, wacky world of show business.  It takes place in the 1960s and the '70s.  True Blondes takes  the reader on a journey from New York City to Las Vegas, and Hollywood.  The book tells the tale of the trials and tribulations that these two women encounter on their  journey to stardom. The  question remains, which one will survive: Mandy or Diane? Read the book to find out!

True Blondes is available on Amazon.com.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Download My Novel, Straight and Narrow, for Free!

Straight and Narrow is a story about a woman who is about to turn 40 when her best friend goes missing. This quirky mystery deals with midlife crisis, infidelity, unrequited love, and missing women.

Although the subject matter is serious, I try to inject humor whenever possible and have given my narrator some of my own treasured neurotic qualities.

Read more about the story and the plot and download the PDF for free here:

If you want the Kindle version, download for free on Smashwords:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Newsroom by Aaron Sorkin

Monday night I eagerly anticipated the season premiere of The Newsroom, an HBO series by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin has always delivered high quality material from the acclaimed West Wing to the smash hit movie about Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network.

Like his previous works, The Newsroom was sharp, quick witted, and intelligent. Jeff Daniels stars as Will McAvoy, a jaded news anchor who is forced to work with an old flame, Mackenzie MacHale, played by Emily Mortimer. As the show opens, Daniels is burnt out and co-opted. He has given up trying to deliver hard, real stories that matter. But as he sits on a college panel, trying not to divulge his personal thoughts and opinions about the state of the country, he sees Mackenzie in the audience holding a sign about America intimating that it was once a great country; it's not now but it can be again. This provokes Will to announce exactly where America stands in terms of literacy, infant mortality, and other important indexes that constitute success. From there on, working with his old love, whom he bitterly resents because she obviously hurt him deeply, enables him to emerge as a noble newscaster and semi-decent guy.

The show would have been perfect – great acting, perfect combination of drama and comic elements, informative yet not preachy – but it used real material. The first episode was all about the BP oil spill. Sorry, but I followed that catastrophe day by day when it occurred in 2010. I don't want to go through a blow-by-blow description again. Will next week's episode be about the spill? Or will we move on to some other old news like the Haitian earthquake or the terrible plight of the trapped Chilean miners?

The Newsroom would have been better off creating its own fictional news stories. I don't see how we can move from real life events to fantasy at this point, but I will tune in one more time next week.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released "The Pink Triangle," a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James is hot and I say that against my better judgment. In fact, my uber rich, dreamy looking lover is breathing down my neck at this moment, threatening to beat me to orgasm with a riding crop, and forcing me to write this. Just kidding. But I am serious about the fact that I didn't want to like this book.

I expected it to be too soft or maybe too hard, too saccharine or perhaps too dark and disturbing, but it was none of these things. It was a very sensuous and interesting look at a gorgeous, rich man with a predilection for domination and his fascination with a naïve 21-year-old whom he met by chance.

Why is Fifty Shades such a hit? Is it because married women are bored with the familiarity of their sex lives and single women find theirs to be erratic and unstable? Are male readers fantasizing about tying up their female partners?

Or is it because, at heart, North America continues to have deeply ambivalent feelings toward sex? On one hand, we use sex to sell everything from soap to magazines and, according to Forbes Magazine, pornography is a 2.5 to 4 billion-dollar business. On the other hand, we're not likely to tell our boss that we are late for work because we had a quickie with the next-door neighbor after breakfast and lost track of the time. That's not just because sex is a private issue but rather that we feel a sense of shame or discomfort talking about it. We are still imprisoned by our puritanical roots; this is particularly prominent in fundamentalist religions, which are anti-sex. And much like strict dieting causes a craving for sweets or carbohydrates, a fear, hatred, or taboo of normal sexual urges can result in either avoidance of such activity or overindulgence. So, when we see something mainstream that screams SEX, it sells.

Also, I believe readers are drawn to both the romance in Fifty Shades–Anastasia Steele falls head over heels for Christian Grey–and the forbidden nature of the arrangement. Due to childhood abuse, abandonment, and other complicated factors, Christian is incapable of love, although we suspect that he may evolve during the trilogy. Like vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight, Christian becomes the symbol for Every Alluring Yet Unattainable Man, and just as some women want to tame bad boys, others want to make the unattainable man their own.

In addition, Christian has a fetish for BDSM and Anastasia has never tried bondage or submission. When she does, she's not sure if she likes it. This conflict–I want him, I'm falling for him, but he will never love me and he derives pleasure from hurting me–is at the crux of the book and is what makes it interesting. If both parties were committed to the dominance, submissive lifestyle, the book would be dull.

As it is, the sex scenes are hot and the author talks about sex in a frank, unabashed, yet delicate manner. This is not pornography. It's not even soft porn. And as far as I'm concerned, it's not demeaning to women because the dominant/submissive relationship is consensual, and both genders and any orientation (i.e., straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender) could play either role. It is a highly sensual romance, even for those who have no desire to be someone's sex slave and it appears to be chick lit. I can't imagine many men wading their way through all 528 pages, but my good friend told me that couples on The Dr. Oz Show read the book together and the men were very turned on.

It's hard to describe how a book that links climaxing with pain could arouse anything but despair in someone who is not a sadomasochist. In this respect, the book reminds me of Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Very few people sympathize with serial killers, but our darling Dexter is portrayed in such a way that you have to love him even when he is plotting to decapitate someone who fails to meet his moral standards. Thus, although many readers may have no interest in S&M, they may still find this tale titillating.

Having said that, James indulges in a huge degree of repetition and the characters are ridiculously one-dimensional and unrealistic. This is not a literary novel. It's juvenile in many respects and I skimmed large parts, especially the sex scenes. She could have cut them in half and used more originality. Despite the fact that the book is a runaway seller, the Amazon community is divided as to whether it’s worth reading at all and many reviewers hated it or found it offensive.

But, as I said – against my will, and my better judgment, I devoured Fifty Shades, and will no doubt embark on the second book in this trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released "The Pink Triangle," a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Pink Triangle Is Now on Amazon Kindle

"The Pink Triangle" is now available on Amazon Kindle. Check it out and leave comments.
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

Monday, May 14, 2012

My New E-Book on Lesbian Erotica

Attention Romance Readers!

Silver Publishing just released my first story, part one of a sequel entitled "The Pink Triangle," which I wrote under the name Tiffanie Good. Although the story is erotica, my background is in psychology and social work so I never miss a great opportunity to delve into social issues. In this case, I examined some of the difficulties gay and bisexual teens and young adults face, such as discrimination, rejection, and resulting addiction or depression.

All in all, it's a good read and I would appreciate it if you would check it out and tell your friends. And if you're part of the GLBTQ community, please try twice as hard to get this message out!


Tiffanie ;)