Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hilltop Tryst--Discussion Thread

When Beatrice's dad has a heart attack, she takes over the veterinary practice...the small stuff.  I'm reminded of a scene in the otherwise forgettable and mildly icky The Truth About Cats and Dogs.  Janine (the vet) has to talk Uma (the model pretending to be the vet) through a minor procedure on a turtle.  Gloves were required.  I have a niggling suspicion that gloves are needed to do all the small stuff.

Oliver suggests that she hire a locum "short for the Latin phrase locum tenens (lit. "place-holder," akin to the French lieutenant)".  A wide variety of non-medical 'place-holder' personnel also get called locums--the most interesting was teachers.  Kids might have a locum instead of a (Amercian) sub.  Do any of our international Bettys have insights into this?

He urges her to borrow books from his library (just like we do).  Betty Debbie could probably sell subscriptions to her lending library--her interests are vast and varied and she doesn't turn a hair at sending books off into the world--but she might fix you with a steely eye if you are a tardy returner.

Great-Aunt didn't know you should re-use plastic bags...
When Beatrice has to pack in a hurry to leave Great-Aunt Sybil's,  she throws her odds and ends into plastic bags...'A plastic bag!" exclaimed Great-Aunt Sybil. 'Must you, Beatrice? In my day, no young lady carried such a thing - why have you no luggage?'...I shall give you suitable luggage for your birthday".  Oh dear, oh dear.  It's a good thing Great-Aunt never saw Moving Day at BYU.  Thirty thousand people jealously guarding their possessions (usually arrayed in plastic bags and whatnot) and cinder blocks (more valuable than gold) from an interloper moving in until the person inhabiting their next residence moved out.  The stalemate was always inscrutably broken in a  lemming-like way.

Ella mentions that two of the teachers at school live with their boyfriends.  Eek.  That is rather racy.  When I was a high schooler it was still pretty rare to know the personal status of any teachers--just what you could glean from the photos on their office walls. (The Founding Betty's father had masses of pictures on his wall and the students probably thought he ran a home for delinquents on the side...which, now that I say it...)  Usually, kids knew (or guessed fairly accurately if unkindly) who the teachers were who were batting for the other team but not because they were told and I only ever remember one teacher telling us he was getting a divorce (which explained his penchant for wearing Hawaiian shirts for three months running and shaving his mustache--or so we thought).  One thing was sure to gross us out more than anything else: The idea that a teacher had kids...because then the reality of his or her having done 'IT' at least once was a dead cert.

She buys Cornish piskies for her sisters and her mother.  How very Harry Potter of her.  Betty Debbie reminds me that Gilderoy Lockhart taught about them in Defense Against the Dark Arts:

There are many legends attached to the origin of the piskies (and other fairies). Some people saw them as the souls of pagans who could not transcend to heaven, and they were also seen as the remnants of pagan gods, banished with the coming of Christianity. In tradition they are doomed to shrink in size until they disappear.
Another theory suggested they were the souls of babies who had not been Christened, a story championed by early clergymen, and one which has often been used to explain fairy origins.


  1. I've only ever seen locum tenens mentioned in the context of a fill-in doctor.

    Maybe Betty Miranda knows?

    Don't get me started... Sorry. I got staring at that clause and realized I really don't need to finish it. But what I was going to say was, Don't get me started on The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Maybe I'm wrong, but I saw it in the movie theater when it was released and I was stunned by its essential misogyny. Janeane Garofalo is the less-attractive but way smarter, funnier, and all-together-more-appealing character but still the male lead falls for Uma Thurman solely on the basis of looks. To which the only rational response is, "Why do you even want him, girlfriend?" but as the movie was made by MEN, that's not how the screenplay went.

    I was in a pissy mood for a long time after seeing that movie.

    In the event that's someone's favorite movie, I apologize in advance. It's okay -- I could be wrong.

  2. You've allowed me the room to open my floodgates on TTACAD as well as a gazillion other awful rom-cons:
    The people who make these movies think we (by 'we' I mean readers of genre fiction and enjoyers of the fairly formulaic romantic-comedy films) are stupid. They think that as long as it's got a fairly broody and handsome male lead (Brit accent is a bonus) that their awful plots and flat dialogue and chemistry-less relationships will still earn them money. And they don't believe that you can make a smart, interesting, sex-less (by that I don't mean that there is no sex (though that's what I prefer) but, argue with me if you like, women don't go to these movies to watch bumping and grinding...) courtship.

    Maybe it didn't start with the execrable The Wedding Date (a movie which fails so utterly to respect the conventions (and, yes, there are conventions--rom-cons are like haiku in that there are certain rules you must acknowledge) such as drunken hook-ups are icky and male heroes should be able to support their future families with a career path that doesn't include freelance gigilo-ry) or Cats and Dogs (Phone sex! Yay! A hero that fails to appreciate inner beauty! Hurrah! That's just why I ponied up six bucks.)but those are horrible lowlights.

    (There is a little black cloud above my head.) Why does Hollywood suck so bad?

  3. Bravo, Betty Keira! Dr Lynderlynk and I seldom go to movies. I'm offended by the language, horrified by violence, detest the way people talk about and treat each other, and not interested in (other peoples) sex lives. Give me "Cars" or "Wallee" any day.

  4. There are a couple rom-coms I liked. Love Actually is a fave, Pretty Woman is a huge fave (I have a whole thesis about it, and it is one of my two favorite movies, but because I'm on self-imposed probation, I promise not to respond to anyone's contrary point of view), and I like some of the screwball comedies from the days of black-and-white. My Man Godfrey with William Powell and Carole Lombard is wonderful (and appropriate for The Little Dragon movie -- Godfrey is poor but ...)

    But these days? I don't bother. I like the actresses okay (Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston) but the scripts are horrible. Sad, really. We should be the easiest demographic to write for.

  5. I actually really like Pretty Woman (the TV version--even if I, in real life, disapprove of sex-working, waiting for a man to save you...etc., etc.) and I find it was an interesting counter-point to The Wedding Date (wherein the fella is the one earning his daily bread by sleeping around). I figured that it bothered me so much in the latter case because of that implied HEA case we were having a cock-up about earlier. What sort of stability is he going to give her children when they have some? (Which I know is sexist and whatnot but I think women are biologically interested in these issues if purely from an evolutionary angle.)

    I too like the actresses just fine but Hollywood has a real problem with the genre. They are above producing 'formula' (honestly, their contempt for me (their potential customer) is palpable) and then they pack these films with some real weird elements (raunchy toilet-y little-boy humor, or plot twists that undermine the whole point of a rom-con (which is "Two people fall in love, get married, are happy and perpetuate civilization as we know it so all is well with the world")).

    So I mostly watch old films and occasionally catch the new ones on Netflix wherein, at least, it hasn't cost me twenty bucks to be sucker punched.

    (Climbs off hobby horse...)

  6. My theory about Pretty Woman (which is one of two all-time fave movies; the other is The Killing Fields for the same reason as PW) is that it's about the transformative power of love.

    Vivian (in my opinion) isn't waiting for a guy to fix her. She's actually hooking to make enough money to get away from a string of loser boyfriends, who are even scummier than her "regulars" with the added attraction that they leech off her.

    Anyway, the power of her love transforms Edward more than his money changes her. She "cleans up nice" but she's still the same person inside. He's the moral prostitute who learns to conduct business in a completely different way.

    At the end, she's able to get on with her life -- she's going to take his money and go back to school. He's the one who realizes that leaving her is a huge mistake and would put his improvements in jeopardy. He "rescues" her but the last line is her telling him that the princess rescues the hero right back.

    In The Killing Fields, both protagonists (guys, but it's not a romantic love) survive a horrific ordeal in one case, and the gut wrenching knowledge that he didn't prevent that ordeal for the other. When Sidney Schanberg finally finds Dith Pran on the Thai-Cambodia border, he asks for Pran's forgiveness. "Nothing to forgive, Sydney," Pran says. Both men have learned that the bond between changed them. To regret the ordeal would be to regret the bond, and that Pran won't do.

    In real life, Pran came to the US and was a photographer for the New York Times. Tragically, the guy (also a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide and mass torture) who played Dith Pran in the movie, Haing S. Ngor, was killed shortly after winning the Academy Award.

    So my theory about both movies is that each tells the story of how two people can change within themselves as a result of the love they feel and bond they create with another person. That's what I want my romances to be about -- the transformative power of love.

  7. Betty Keira -- My hobby horse is bigger than yours. LOL

  8. Well, I love your take on PW (and The Killing Fields--which our family had a VHS tape of and I actually remember watching as a way too young lass!)and, of course, you're correct; he is transformed and that's a great basis for romances. I think that's a theme in all the greats.

    You have a lovely hobby horse (a Clydesdale of hobby horses)but I think we're riding different breeds. (There, have I taken the horse thing far enough? My little suburban development is called Morgan's Run and every street name is horse-ish.) I'll hold your hat while you ride yours and you can do the same for me. (hahahaha)

  9. Look up Haing S. Noor's story. It is quite tragic. He was actually a doctor in Cambodia but had to hide that fact when the Khmer Rouge took over. He and his wife were put into a concentration camp, where she died in childbirth. He never remarried and was eventually murdered in the US.

    As for Pretty Woman, I have to admit that I liked it (Julia Roberts really did make the movie for me) but I can't really believe that post limo-"rescue" there will ever be true equality in that relationship. The power imbalance seems insurmountable to me. Hugely disparate education levels, backgrounds, economic positions. And then you're supposed to believe that he's never going to throw the fact that she was a hooker back at her during a fight! I suppose the trick to these movies is to stop thinking about what happens immediately after the end.

    I had less of a problem with the Wedding Date because he was so cute that I may not have been paying too much attention to the dialogue.

  10. Betty Caitlin -- It's an interesting question of how Edward & Vivian's relationship would go post-HEA.

    Yes, I can well imagine a fight including his saying, "When I met you, you were a hooker on Hollywood Boulevard," but then her line is going to be, "Yeah? So what -- you were [crude term for Brightonish activity] business rivals for money. Are you so sure you want to go toe to toe on which one of us was more of a whore?"

    And Vivian always struck me as the kind of person who learned fast and assimilated well. She was young -- 22 in the movie? -- so she would probably have gone to school on his dime and then either picked a career, or more likely worked for a cause.

    I always saw her as the stronger person, at her core. He's the one with growing up to do.

  11. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty Magdalen--Thank you for articulating (much better than I ever could)what is so cool about Pretty Woman. I always looked on it as a movie that was just as much about his problems and growth as it was about the romance.
    I always thought they'd do just fine in their HEA.
    It's not a movie that's in my top ten, but I do enjoy it.

  12. I'm trying to remember the plot of a proposed sequel (that I'm so happy wasn't made). Edward wants to go into politics and the previous employment history of his wife is an issue. Antics ensue. It's an HEA better left to the imagination.

  13. Betty Keira -- I missed that idea. It's so cynical, and kind of upsetting. And very much the product of some very jaded MALE imaginations. Any woman who loved Pretty Woman in the first instance would know better than to think Edward would go into politics -- which is a moral degradation worse than where he'd been as a businessman. Who do they think he is, Donald Trump?

    If they'd stayed true to the HEA of the first movie, they'd have had to make it one of the following:

    1) A variation on Father of the Bride -- Edward & Vivian have teenagers growing up with damaged-but-wiser parents, a lot of money, and some baggage. How do they protect the kids but also keep them from growing up spoiled & bratty?

    2) A variation on some disease-of-the-week plot, as they have their wonderful life rocked by cancer/infertility/Parkinson's etc.

    3) A crusade movie, where Edward's efforts to warn against the mortgage crisis failed and now he's reviled as the bad guy who let the crisis happen. Or Vivian's efforts to support a charity backfire when some disaster happens and she's left holding the bag.

    4) Remakes of The Thin Man movies, where Edward and Vivian inadvertently find themselves solving a murder in their social set.

    I'm not sure all the fans of the original movie would go for any of those, but I like #4 myself...

  14. Number four! That short, weasel-y fellow gets a shiv in the back during a polo match!

  15. Oooh, I love it -- and both Edward and Vivian are suspects in Stucky's murder (they both have motive!!) even as they are able to *solve* the crime because of their unique smarts, witty repartee and ability to move among many social strata.

    Wanna co-write the screenplay with me?

  16. There needs to be a 'like' button on this blog.

  17. Uh oh, don't get me started on Pretty Woman. (The noise you hear is Betty Magdalen ripping up my engraved invitation to The Founding Betty Gala.) I hate Heart o’Gold Prostitute plots. I hate Become a Prostitute to Meet Wealthy Guys Who Will Want to Marry You implications. And I hate Richard Gere. I do like Roy Orbison and Hector Elizondo (can I get re-invited, Great Magdalen of the Rose?).

  18. I hated Richard Gere too, Betty JoDee, but I love the movie enough to make an exception just this once.

    What I hated, back in 1990 when the movie came out, were knee-jerk assumptions about how it was a Pygmalion story. Edward doesn't make Vivian over -- Hector Elizondo's hotel manager does (with that lovely cameo by Elinor Donahue as the saleswoman he sends Vivian to -- that's the same actress that played the older sister on Father Knows Best). The rest of the work she does herself.

    And I don't get this idea that the world is overrun with heart of gold prostitute plots? Where are the others? La Traviata? (Which the movie winks at -- that's the opera Edward flies her to San Francisco to see.) After Verdi, I'm drawing a blank. Make a list, Betty JoDee, so I can continue to miss them.

    The movie is actually pretty comprehensive about the spectrum of possible outcomes for sex workers in Hollywood circa 1990: Vivian doesn't use drugs and hasn't entirely lost herself in moral or personal degradation. Her roommate, Kit, does use drugs and may or may not be able to leave that lifestyle. Skinny Marie dies of an overdose.

    I realize the movie isn't exactly even handed with screen time for the sordid outcomes as it is for Vivian's romance, but she does get assaulted by Stuckey, so I wouldn't say it's all designer gowns and borrowed jewelry all the time.

    And she became a prostitute after seeing that dating schmucks was worse. Meeting Edward is pure coincidence. It could have been Kit who walks over to the car -- as Kit says, "I gave him to you." -- and in that case, the movie's over in record time because Kit wouldn't have been able to effect the same transformation in Edward.

    Vivian gets where she gets because of who she is, not what she does. If there's a "Do this and you too can marry a bazillionaire" message, it's "Be a decent person who can teach a cynical SOB to care again, and you too can have a life eased by money but complicated by other stuff." It really boils down to "Be a decent person," which isn't quite the same as "sleep with men for money."

    Maybe it's just me, but I think she earns the money and she earns her happy ending.

    Of course you're still invited to The Founding Betty Gala. If being wrong occasionally was a bar to attendance, none of us -- me, least of all -- could come!

  19. Darn, this is why I should have been paying attention in Betty Magdalen's Hyperlink Class. A sampling of Hooker with a Heart o' Gold stories:
    They left off Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke.

    Betty Magdalen, I'm glad you'll be able to attend your own gala....

  20. I agree that Hector Elizondo was responsible (with Elinor--yeah!!!) for the external makeover (and some internal bolstering)--and that Vivien did the heavy lifting for her transformation/growth.

    I refuse to concede that dating schmucks is worse than being a street (or any other kind of) prostitute. Stop dating schmucks then. I certainly agree that prostitutes with hearts of gold exist; however, I don't find them compelling romantic plots and view them as male pathetic fantasy fiction. While Pretty Woman is seductive while viewing, ultimately I find it sours with reflection.

    Can I still come swimming, Betty Magdalen?

  21. Okay, my last PW comment: I'm glad I'm not the only ones who isn't sure about Richard Gere. He's icky but, as Betty Magdalen says (and I whole-heartedly agree with), he's not so icky that it spoils the movie (and anyway, he's supposed to be a bit icky--he's the type of man who just propositioned a street walker and wants to pass her off to his 'friends').

    And this 'Hooker with a heart of gold' trope doesn't fuss me much. (Or rather, I should say, it doesn't fuss me every time.) I have hard and fast rules about explicitness (it's always going to sour me on a book) but, depending on the author and the approach (and the book), I can approve (within that book) a number of scenarios that I would never approve of in real life--in the land of Neels these would be things like:
    Sacrificing your life for a cruel mother.
    Sacrificing your life to drag house pets around England.
    Not leaving home and gaining marketable skills.

    (Which is why,perhaps, we get so frustrated with one another when we're hashing out the 'logic' of a book--it's a complex calculus for me to approve actions in one and not the same actions in another...)

  22. Betty JoDee -- I apologize for being hard-arsed about this, but you said "Hooker with a heart of gold" plots and very few of the stock characters in that wiki list (here's the list as a link) has the plot hanging on her being a pro.

    On the other hand, I will agree the Melanie Griffith in Milk Money is a particularly distasteful example, so you score points there. (Poor Ed Harris, that's all I can say.)

    Look, I don't disagree that if prostitution is the worst thing ever, then it just is and an otherwise quite delightful movie like Pretty Woman is ruined for you. And that's going to be true even after factoring in the WWJD notion that it would be better if we judged ourselves before judging a woman who sells her body for money. Someone watching that movie either sees Vivian as a bright but unfocused young woman with poor self-esteem, or as a woman with no moral code.

    Which reminds me to share with you all a funny story that isn't about Pretty Woman. I'm working on a romance about a judge, Jack, who walks out into his courtroom, takes one look at a lawyer and falls in love. Unfortunately for him, he has to recuse himself (the rules say he can't hear a case when he has feelings for one of the lawyers) and even more unfortunately, he's required by the rules to state his reasons for recusing himself. Which puts his efforts to woo the lawyer, Elise, rather at a disadvantage.

    It's called Blackjack & Moonlight. And they go to Brighton, so no Bettys are required to read it.

    Anyway, I entered the first 35 pages in a contest and I'm a finalist! Whoo-hoo! Here's the funny part. Four people judged it. One gave me a 94 (out of 100), one a 95, the third gave me 100 (!), and the fourth 58.

    Yup, 58 points. She hated everything. And I think it all started with Jack. She couldn't believe that a judge a) had feelings, b) could get nervous, c) could fall in love, or d) do anything other than abuse his power. And, since she didn't like Jack, she couldn't stand Elise for even being attracted to Jack (which she is, which then annoys her until she figures out a way to make him go away). Jack's efforts to uh, persuade Elise to go out with him were, in this judge's eyes, stalking! And when Jack gets frustrated with Elise, the contest judge felt Elise should be frightened of him.

    Needless to say, the other contest judges had a completely different reaction to Jack. Luckily for me, the lowest score was tossed out.

    But it made me aware of how our reactions to books, movies, people, etc., can rely on some fundamental premise. If you believe that Jack is a Bad Man, then everything he does is creepy and scary and it won't work as a romance. If you believe that Vivian is taking the easy route by hooking, then everything that follows is distasteful and it won't work as a romance.

  23. Betty Magdalen,

    Congratulations on your book! I wonder if the low scoring judge had had a bad experience with the judicial system in the past and couldn't see past it.

    Betty Debbie

    p.s. maybe you could make a Betty appropriate version available (like Keira watching PW on cable..) or maybe a Betty's Guide, wherein we're told which pages are most Brightonish.

  24. Betty Debbie -- I can definitely make a Kindle version that has all the trips to Brighton taken out. But here's why that might dull the book just a bit.

    They say that the Brighton excursions should actually be part of the plot. I've taken that advice very much to heart. The way Elise figures she'll get rid of Jack is to set the GPS for Brighton from the outset. (He was planning to take her to a 5-star restaurant, so he's more than a little surprised.) She doesn't want to go out to dinner. What Elise figures is that every man of her acquaintance enjoys a few excursions to a seaside resort after which the relationship has pretty much run its course. (That she is, in fact, precluding any non-oceanic developments herself is something Elise is pretty oblivious about.)

    Jack wants to woo Elise, and Elise wants to "unwrap [Jack] like a Christmas present." An impasse. So, like the superior lawyers that they are, they negotiate a compromise. For every date that advances Jack's romantic cause, Elise gets to book them into a nice B&B with a view of the English Channel. (She figures her plan to make Jack go away will just take longer that way.)

    And as enjoyable as a walk past the Pavilion might be for Jack, he worries that he's not reaching Elise emotionally. Those worries, and Elise's reactions to Jack, actually come up in Brighton.

    Thus, while I can Bowdlerize a version of the book for you to read on your Kindle, there will be some poignant (and also funny) bits that you'd sadly miss. And even if you don't see Jack & Elise on the promenade, you'd know how it is they got sand between their toes.

    Plus -- and truly I know this isn't the point for any of you, and I respect VERY much your scruples about books with Brighton in them -- Jack & Elise's trips to Brighton aren't very you know. They're really about love and affection - whether it's there or it isn't there. (Jack keeps worrying that all he'll ever have with Elise is some holiday snaps from Brighton, so to speak.) And while Elise is enthusiastic about Brighton, we watch her fall in love not as a result of Jack's 5-star restaurant dates but because she gradually can see that Brighton isn't enough. She wants Southampton and Dover and Plymouth and Cornwall...

    It's not a very sexy book (compared to what's out there) but it's very Brightonish if you see what I mean. (Plus, where would I draw the line? Before the car crosses the municipal border of Brighton? Or before they check into their B&B? Or -- well, you get the idea. I can delete those activities and situations that we know can only take place in Brighton, but I worry you'd still be uncomfortable when the next scene has one or the other one thinking about Brighton. It's all a long slippery slope...)

  25. No, no, I'm not a big fan of editing the uneditable.

    If I might draw a very broad analogy: This Betty is like Rosie Perez' father. (What?! Just go with it.) Sure, 'Do the Right Thing' might have been a film of searing realism and enormous social import but if it has his daughter's boobies in it than he'll take a pass. Presumably, though, he is enormously proud of his daughter even if he couldn't sit through the bit with the ta-tas.

    To sum up: So, so excited that your book is going places! (Remember us fondly from the Oscar podium...)

  26. P.S. Whoever came up with 'Brighton' as shorthand was genius. I'm wondering if we could introduce it into common slang...

  27. Golly. What an amazing discussion. I'm not going to attempt to get into it.

    Like Betty Magdalen, I never heard of the word locum used except for a doctor. I'm trying to remember the British term for a substitute teacher but I don't think we had them. Most of my teachers were nuns and they were far too tough to need sick days. They had God on their side.

    1. Substitute teachers in England - and there are plenty of them - are known as supply teachers.

      Thinking of RomComs, I don't like Pretty Woman, but think Betty Neel's books are like Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan pairings - Sleepless and Seattle and You've Got Mail - as well as one of my favourites While You Were Sleeping. All very sweet and with great sexual chemistry, without being too overtly sexual.

    2. Ditto the second paragraph above. My three faves!

      Betty AnoninTX

  28. Betty Miranda -- You'll read my book, won't you? [insert winsome smile here]

    And yes, it's fun to work out all the permutations of England's southern coastline as euphemisms for Rosie Perez's ta-tas.

  29. Of course I'll read your book, Betty Magdalen.

  30. Betty Magdalen, I guess I was too sleep deprived and exhausted to make my point clearly--it's not the prostitutes whom I judge (in fact, just the opposite), it's the institution that is glossed over (in some cases) rather than exposing it as the soul-crushing trap that it is--I just don't find the scenario appealing as a romantic plot. If your guy objectifies women to the point of using prostitutes (even if it is you), keep looking.

    I have to admit that I skipped your comment revealing a bunch of your plot of Blackjack and Moonlight because all I have read (hint, hint!) is the first chapter--which became a major topic of discussion at Prof. van der Herntenzoon's and my anniversary dinner date. We decided we needed more info to settle our discussion (hint, hint!).

  31. Ah, Blogger ate my homework, I mean my comment.

    Betty JoDee, email me with whatever you need to settle the discussion about Blackjack & Moonlight!