2/25/2006

The real Olympians

Joey Cheek: not as cheeky as Bode Miller, but managed to get the gold anyway

See, here's the thing. The guys and gals who've actually been bringing home the gold are photogenic and very decent people, which makes it all the more mystifying that anyone at all should care about pathetic Bode (or BOOOOO-DEE as they're now calling him at NBCOlympics.com) Miller, self-promoting Playgirl fodder Jeremy Bloom, and loutish Daron Rahlves. The much-touted promotional "Bad Boys" of Team America turned out to be a bunch of do-nothing big-mouths in the end, didn't they?

I just can't help but draw parallels between our poor choices in sports heroes and our poor choices in politicians. And this goes back to the ape-like USA! USA! USA! chant used to advertise the games that echoed the same at Ground Zero after 9/11. I know it's dangerous to draw such parallels, but I do think they're there.

Do we esteem naked ambition and self-promotion over talent and integrity? Boorish, bullish behavior over poise and decency? Well, it may be the cultural and historical moment we're in. (Ya think?)

The truth is we haven't done that bad for ourselves, medalwise, in Torino. We've won 23 medals in all, second place to Germany's 27. Of those, 8 have been gold (to Germany's 11). Not bad. Totally respectable, in fact. But we didn't obliterate our opponents. We did not annihilate our enemies. It’s not a problem unless you swagger in prepared to shock-n-awe ‘em, and then have to leave with your tail between your legs.

Maybe that’s why the media focus has been inordinately on those on Team America who failed to live up to the hype, while news that the perfectly delightful Joey Cheek announced he was donating his $25,000 bonus to his favorite charity elicited a yawn. OK, so Cheek’s no bad boy. He didn’t grow up in a log cabin without electricity and running water, and has not appeared half-naked in licentious homoerotic poses, wasn’t featured in the Sunday New York Times Magazine bearing his balls. And granted, speed skating is not as dangerous as barreling down a mountainside, but the winter Olympics is not all downhill and giant slalom. There’s bobsled, skating, and curling, for chrissake.

2/22/2006

a shitstorm in a stinkpot

Alan Dershowitz had an op-ed hissy fit in todays Globe over Lawrence Summers' ouster. Now, I don't feel one way or another about Summers. He ran Harvard like the gazillion dollar corporation it is. But then Harvard can fairly well run itself. The flap over his comments about girls and boys that got so much play around this time last year and garnered him his first no-confidence vote was blown out of proportion and showed the worst tendencies of the left in response to the worst tendencies on the right, it's true, but who really cares? It's a testament to the Harvard community's ridiculously bloated image of Harvard as a cultural force.

Now that Summers has said to hell with it, and will be off to bigger and better things, Dershowitz is getting all wiggy over the "coup d'etat engineered by some in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences." He's afraid that now "the most radical elements of Harvard will be emboldened to seek to mold all of Harvard in its image. If they succeed, Harvard will become a less diverse and less interesting institution of learning governed by political-correctness cops of the hard left. This is what happened in many European universities after the violent student protests of the late 1960s."

Settle down Dershy. I mean, seriously, how relevant is the Faculty of Arts and Sciences anyway? Dershowitz himself has been living in the Harvard bubble too long. I mean he's been a professor of law there for 42 years. This internal squabble is not anything any of us outside of the bubble should pay the least mind to. I don't think Harvard's going to change the way it does business. I don't think any of the more culturally relevant and economically viable faculties are going to be suddenly radicalized, and remake America in the image of afroqueer clit-lit theory, or whatever their secret radical agenda is.

It's a shitstorm in a stinkpot is all it is.

2/21/2006

The Dylan of Downhill?

It's all downhill from here, Bode baby.

Now the media's thrashing poor Bode Miller for turning out to be such a loser, or at least not the big winner that he was advertised as being. You know, you bitches set him up for a fall, and now you're kicking the poor sod when he's down. Turns out he is just another pretty face after all. Well, it's enough, I think. I mean, for most of us, a pretty face is more thn enough, isn't it?

But, really, the degree of disappointment is a little ridiculous. He's just some cute party boy on skis, not an American maverick, not an icon. That's the funny thing. You read the snarky commentary and you get the feeling it's at least partly about "falseness in advertising," like Miller had set himself up rather than just jumped on the media bandwagon and ad blitz around him. It was almost like the commentators were saying, "this dude advertized himself as a winner when he really wasn't."

The blame falls squarely on Bode. But what if he lost because there were six or seven other dudes we didn't know about who were just, um, better?

Truth is, Bode Miller qua Bode Miller means nothing to the media or the rest of us. Bode Miller is the latest (but not by any means the greatest) incarnation of the American dream gone bad. He's in illustrious company here. There are countless examples in our nation's short history. We love 'em when they're winning, but once their streak is over...

Bode is being scolded like a naughty child at best (in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, for example) and excoriated as a "drunk-skiing jerk," a "career suicide," and "the biggest U.S. flop of the Olympics" at worst. But there is a strange satisfaction even in this narrative. Because while we love it when someone wins, we get just as much pleasure when after taking all the millions from product endorsements and having their face on the cover of Rolling Stone, they blow it all.

It's partly human nature--a simple case of schadenfreude--but it also serves as the flipside of our American Dream narrative. Bode Miller is the latest in a long line of cautionary tales. Bode had it, and lost it. As Mike Celizic put it here:

"The reality is clear that Miller took his talent for granted for too long. Last summer especially, when he should have been getting himself into supreme shape for the biggest skiing meet he’d ever be in, he partied instead.... [C]hampions ... work as hard as they play not because they love work — most of them don’t like it any more than the rest of us do — but because they want to win, and if that’s what it takes, that’s what they do."

So there's your problem. Bode rested on his laurels. But even worse than his lack of discipline is the essence of his character: "Miller has always portrayed himself as an artist." And you know how those artists are.

Described as "brash," "rebellious," a "roguish" "free spirit," Bode was an unlikely Olympian, and that's just what the media liked about him. I mean, aside from his scruffy, boyish, WASPy good looks and dreamy--some might say vacant--eyes. Like I've said, if he'd been brash, rebellious, roguish and free-spirited, and, say, Asian-American, nobody would know his name (Toby who?).

But you can't be too hard on him. He's an Olympic Athlete for the American Idol Age. Self-centered and self-indulgent, it's not about the nation, Team USA, or even the medal. It's all about Bode. "The American Cowboy". But that's what we esteem in our heroes nowadays, isn't it?

There is always a certain satisfaction in having our cliches confirmed. Even if we have to lose to do it.

Brokeback Barracks


And you thought Brokeback Mountain was THE gay movie of the year. The only reason this one hasn't gotten as much press is because of that whole "don't ask don't tell" thing.

2/20/2006

The Church of the Holy Makeover


Of all the makeover shows on TV, easily the most ridiculously ageist is TLC's 10 Years Younger. I mean, obviously that's pretty much the whole premise. But still it takes it to dizzying extremes. Looking old--and especially looking older than you are--is not just negligent, it's a sin. I mean, first they take the willing victim--the penitent--and throw 'em in a plexiglass box, and parade 'em in the public square, where they have people gawk at 'em, mock 'em, and finally guess their age. All this while the preening pink-clad fashion priest Mark Montano (pictured above) berates them for their own good and, of course, for their eventual salvation.

It's very medieval.

The show is somewhere between Queer Eye, where makeovers are mainly private affairs and don't include any medical procedures, and the invasive bone-breaking of Extreme Makeover and public "reveal" of The Swan.

All of these makeover shows are quasi-religious to begin with. I once was lost, but now I'm found. So what if it happens to be by a bunch of finnicky queer eyes? But this one is the most overtly quasi-religious I've seen so far. The penitents subject themselves to public humiliation for their sins before they submit themselves to the scheming monks and evil priests who will finally transform them. But in this case it's not eternal life they're aiming for, or even 25 years of omnipotence, like Faust. It's enough to just knock ten years off their looks. Fair enough. I mean we live in an age of diminished expectations.

The host, the aforementioned Mark Montano, is actually less like a preening evil priest than a gay golem in a greased-up pompadour. Saturday I went to the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton to see the excellent Edges of Grace exhibition, and with all due respect, Montano reminded me of the "Little Homo" figure in Russell Bile's rather provocative porcelain sculpture, Onward Christian Soldiers (Little Homo, Jesus & Terri Schiavo). You have to admit there is an uncanny resemblance. I mean, were Montano to lose the pompadour, and be covered from head to toe in thick greasy black fur you would not be able to tell the two apart.

The TV makeover craze has certainly been a boon to bitchy fashionistas. But can someone tell me why anyone would go to someone dressed like Montano for advice on what to wear? It's like Carson Kressley on QEFTSG. I lived through the eighties, people. There's nothing the least bit funny about them.

But at least Queer Eye's got some cute queer guys. I mean, Kyan is practically edible. Thom is definitely cute, even when he camps it up. And even Carson, when he's bitchy, is bitchy in a lovable way. But then the show has a different dynamic because it's always guys who are getting the makeovers. The queer crew has got to be on its best behavior.

The crew of 10 Years Younger is lacking somehow, sorry to say. Hairstylist Jenn MacDonald has a dayglo paigeboy that makes her look like Prince Valiant on X. Would you trust this woman with your hair? Then there's dolled-up Damone Roberts, "considered the most gifted artist in the eyebrow business," whose flagship eyebrow salon is in--where else?--Beverly Hills. He's just way too eyebrowcentric for me. Especially with the boys.

For once and for all, there is nothing--REPEAT NOTHING--wrong with male monobrows.

And nowadays even just a little hair at the bridge of your nose is considered a monobrow in bad need of waxing. Leave it alone, bitches. People don't know when to stop. I mean, look at Jason Schwartzman. LEAVE THEM ALONE, JASON.

Even these Nascar bitches are getting in on the trend. Yeah, I'm talking to you, JIMMIE JOHNSON. Do you want to be mistaken for Joan Crawford? LEAVE 'EM ALONE, BITCH.

Separated at birth?

But of the crew of 10 Years Younger the creepiest of them all is the evil Doctor Botox, here. Dr. Guanche is its real name, and it has obviously taken the age-old adage "Physician, treat thyself!" to heart. Again and again and again. Its flesh is eerily flawless, sure, but honestly, who wants to look like a J.C. Penney's shop-window mannequin? Of course it has lost any and all facial expression it may once have had. It's probably 107 years old.

2/16/2006

LAT-VI-A! LAT-VI-A! LAT-VI-A!

Poor Team USA. Tied with Latvia in Hockey yesterday. We're starting to look like bunch of blowhards, aren't we? I know it's in large part the media's fault. They hype up posterboys like Jeremy Bloom and Bode Miller as a means of hyping the games themselves, but when the athletes they choose to hype don't live up to the hype, then what?

Neither Bloom nor Miller have lived up to the hype so far, that's for sure. I've seen Miller referred to in the press as "the American maverick" but if by that they mean "an unbranded range animal," they should have a look at his ski bunny outfits. Talk about branded. Audi, Barilla, Briko, Quattro--the kid's usually got so many brands plastered on him he's like a skiing billboard. He placed fifth in the Men's Downhill. Old Mr. Big Balls, Daron Rahlves, who's given new meaning to "nasty, brutish, and short," placed tenth.

Bloom's a master of self-promotion. And came in sixth in Men's Moguls. Team USA garnered a bronze in the competition, but since it wasn't won by an A&F model voted "Sexiest Athlete in Sports" it was a little disappointing for the media. I mean, first of all, Toby Dawson, who actually took home a medal, is Asian-American, and that's so NOT A&F.

Bloom's profile on NBCOlympics.com looks like a page out of Tiger Beat Magazine. It's pure, unadulterated masturbation fodder. "King of the Hill," NBC gushes. Dawson's profile is somber by comparison: "Admittedly not the best athlete" NBC concedes, but at least he's "consistent". On ABC this morning, Dawson got no mention. "The real hero," according to ABC, was Lindsey Kildow, who despite injuries finished eighth in Women's Downhill. Well, that's admirable. I mean, that she competed with her injury and all. But Dawson actually won. But he's not as cute as Kildow, much less Bloom, so who cares.

Aside from the choice of who to hype, though, is the way they're hyped. I think the lion's share of athletes conduct themselves admirably (although stories like this one on CNN about sub-par food service in the Olympic Village make Americans sound like spoiled brats), but the portrayal of Team USA in ads for the Torino games has tended to be as bullies barking USA USA USA! It's a lot of gorilla-like chest-pounding and posturing. Personally, I think Olympic athletes should conduct themselves as ladies and gentlemen, not loud-mouths and braggarts. They are, after all, our goodwill ambassadors. And the truth is, if you've really got the talent, you don't need the bombast.

Not to beat a dead horse, but look how Toby Dawson just went about his business and took home the bronze, while flashy-assed Jeremy Bloom left empty-handed. Is this a metaphor for America at large? For the inordinate value we place on flash, over substance? Not to mention the media's seeming unwillingness to grant hero status to Asian-American males.

I think the USA USA USA! chant itself is in bad taste. Is it sports or politics? I mean, you remember people busting out into the chant at Ground Zero when Bush showed up with his bullhorn. Of course it's more of a sports chant, but since 9/11 it's become a succinct statement of American foreign policy, too. The point of it is to shout down and drown out anything else. Period. But politics isn't sports, and the United States of America isn't Team USA. Promoting the Olympics with this politically-tinged bombast defeats the point of the Olympics themselves.

2/12/2006

Cheney is off the hook

The man must be stopped. Check this out.

"I am Blanquita Bananas and I'm here to say..."

I was watching Howard Kurtz’s misnamed Reliable Sources on CNN this morning, and discovered another gem of the conservative movement: Blanquita Cullum (right), who was on the show to discuss the King funeral, all done up like a Babylonian whore. She’s as petty and vindictive as the dried-up Bay Buchanan, whose big argument for the president’s wiretapping powers, as I have mentioned before, is that he has the power to bomb people's homes. But each time she mentions this she elaborates on it a little more. She gets pretty gory with it. She’s like, “if we authorize him to bomb people’s homes and blow innocent women and children to bloody bits, their bowels and body parts splattered all over the rubble, then certainly he can do a little wiretapping if he wants.” Maybe she’s a Stephen Colbert-style Comedy Central plant? I mean, she can’t be serious.

Both Bay and Blanquita are so bitchy it surprised me when they started taunting Hillary for being “angry”. They’re already revving up for ’08. Kurtz showed some footage of an angry conservative talk show host (they’re proliferating like rabbits) who angrily condemned Hillary for being too angry to appeal to Americans. Blanquita patronizingly put in that, yes, she thought Hillary was angry, too, but she couldn’t imagine whyever for. And then cackled that every time Hillary got angry she spouted off and said something stupid and did her opponents a big favor, so Blanquita hoped Hillary would run. It would be so delightfully entertaining to see her lose.

The Hillary is too angry strategy is a rehash of the McCain is crazy strategy Bush used to secure his party’s nomination in 2000. These people are ruthless campaigners and live for character assassination. Can you imagine their elections for president of the Country Club or garden society? Bet they’re brutal.

For more on the Angry Hillary strategy, here's a recent op-ed from Mo Dowd over at the Times:

Who's Hormonal? Hillary or Dick?

The Republicans succeed because they keep it simple, ruthless and mythic.

In 2000 and 2004, G.O.P. gunslingers played into the Western myth and mined images of manliness, feminizing Al Gore as a Beta Tree-Hugger, John Kerry as a Waffling War Wimp With a Hectoring Wife and John Edwards as his true bride, the Breck Girl.

Now, in the distaff version of Swift-boating, they are casting Hillary Clinton as an Angry Woman, a she-monster melding images of Medea, the Furies, harpies, a knife-wielding Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" and a snarling Scarlett Johansson in "Match Point." (How many pregnant mistresses does Woody Allen have to kill off in movies before he feels he's reversed Dostoyevsky and proved that if the crime is worth it, there should be no punishment?)

Republicans think that men who already have nagging, bitter women in their lives will not want for president the sort of woman who gave W. a dyspeptic smile or eye-rolling appraisal during State of the Union addresses.

In "Commander in Chief," writers were careful to make Geena Davis's chief executive calm and controlled under pressure — even when her rival, played by Donald Sutherland, made an insulting menopause crack.

The hit on Hillary may seem crude and transparent. But in the void created by dormant Democrats, crouching in what Barack Obama calls "a reactive posture," crude and transparent ploys work for the Republicans. Just look at how far the Bushies' sulfurous scaremongering on terror, and cynical linkage of Saddam and Osama, have gotten them.

The gambit handcuffs Hillary: If she doesn't speak out strongly against President Bush, she's timid and girlie. If she does, she's a witch and a shrew. That plays particularly well in the South, where it would be hard for an uppity Hillary to capture many more Bubbas than the one she already has.

It's the riddle of the Sphinx that has been floating around since the selection of Geraldine Ferraro. Betty Friedan worried then that a woman seen as a threat to men would not get to the White House. But how can a woman who's not a threat to men get there?

The G.O.P. honcho Ken Mehlman kicked off the misogynistic attack on George Stephanopoulos's Sunday show. "I don't think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates," he said. Referring to Hillary's recent taunts about Republicans, he added, "Whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger."

Hillary did not sound angry when she made those comments — she's learned since her tea-and-cookies outburst in the '92 campaign. A man who wants to undermine a woman's arguments can ignore the substance and simply dismiss her as unstable and shrill. It's a hoary tactic: women are more mercurial than men; they get depressed more often and pop pills more often. As a top psychiatrist once told me, women are "hormonally more complicated and biologically more vulnerable."

But as the G.O.P. tars Hillary as hysterical, it is important to note that women are affected by lunar tides only once a month, while Dick Cheney has rampaging hormones every day.

Republicans have also labeled men hysterical (from the Greek for "womb"). Howard Dean was skewered on the Scream. And when John McCain was soaring in the 2000 primaries, Bush supporters viciously whispered that his fits of temper signaled that he had come back from Vietnam with snakes in his head.

Senator McCain went over the top again this week in a letter to Senator Obama. Although Mr. McCain tried to cast his "I'm the reformer — you back off, new guy" letter as "straight talk" after an Obama dis, it was snide and bitchy, more like an angry missive of a spurned lover to an ex-boyfriend than a note from a respected senior senator to a respected junior one.

Mr. McCain could take a lesson from Condi Rice, who gets hyperarticulate and bristly when she's mad, but not bitchy. Or Oprah, whose anger at James Frey had a Mosaic dignity.

Hillary's problem isn't that she's angry. It's that she's not angry enough. From Iraq to Katrina and the assault on the Constitution, from Schiavo to Alito and N.S.A. snooping to Congressional corruption, Hillary has failed to lead in voicing outrage. She's been too busy triangulating and calculating to be good at articulating.

The Republicans can't marginalize Hillary. She has already marginalized herself.

2/10/2006

USA! USA! USA!

Daron Rahlves, an American athlete to be proud of.

From the Times: 'On his wedding day in the summer of 2003, Californian Daron Rahlves decided to "take the edge off." So he hired a stunt bride to make it seem as if his beloved had fallen into Lake Tahoe. "It worked," he says. "Totally freaked out her dad." Rahlves has been freaking people out for years. Undersize as a teenager, the downhill and super-G racer is still smallish — 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds — in disciplines dominated by linebacker-size Austrians. But Rahlves, 32, is also the most successful American male downhiller ever, a distinction enhanced in December, when he won twice and rose to No. 1 in the overall World Cup standings. With another win last month, in the Lauberhorn downhill in Switzerland, he's peaking at the right time. Less brash than Bode Miller, less alpha than Austria's Hermann Maier, Rahlves has something just as compelling: heart. "What's bigger about me," he says, "you can't see."'

Somehow, I don't think he was talking about his heart. And I bet his thingy's not that big, either. Dude's got "Napoleon Complex" written all over him, doesn't he? Whatever it takes.

USA! USA! USA!

in the news...

There's this story about the landlord who set up cameras in his female tenents bathrooms. On CNN's Paula Zahn Now, they're advertising the "outrage" of the voyeur landlord with voyeuristic footage from the voyeuristic landlord's private stash. This is a little like NBC's "Perverted Justice: to catch a predator" series, where NBC becomes the predators' predator.

Wolf Blitzer's a riot. The other day I was watching (I was multitasking, people), and he's got some Vanna White-type chick that he turns to every so often, and she stands in front of this big touch-screen TV and reports on websites of interest. Yesterday's was http://www.expectmore.gov/ and Vanna raved about how "they" rated the performance of hundreds of government agencies, and how "they" had rated FEMA's performance "acceptable" or something. Never bothered to say who "they" were, of course. And needless to say, Wolf never asked.

This afternoon they were talking about Bush's revelation of a thwarted terrorist plot in LA in '02, for which it's implied we should give him carte blanche. They’re asking now when a threat becomes a thwarted plot. But instead of asking the “analyst” du jour if the administration might not be exploiting fears of terror attacks for political ends, which clearly they are, he asks who’s doing better with the public on “security”. "Well, Wolf," his analyst says, "according to the latest CNN poll, the Republicans are winning that one." Wolf thanks him and before the commercial break reminds us to stay tuned to CNN “all day and night” for our “security needs.”

a funeral fit for a King

There’s been a lot of talk about the Reverend Joe Lowery’s speech at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, and whether or not it was appropriate to criticize the President there. I don’t know why the pundits and the hacks chose Lowery to pick on. The only one who didn’t make some kind of anti-Bush remark, veiled or otherwise, was Bush’s father. All I can say to Bush & Co. is you reap what you sow. Unfortunately for Mr. Bush, his people could not screen the audience this time, so he got a taste of how the other half feels. And it’s about time.

Rev. Lowery was not the only one to bring politics into it, and that’s partly because King’s legacy is not as some sentimental feel-good beauty makeover queen. Both she and her husband were public—and political—figures. She was as much an activist as a pacifist. And speaking truth to power was what they were all about. And that's what Rev. Lowery was doing. And I say bravo.

But isn’t it funny that instead of expressing outrage over Bush's budget cuts targeting the poor while hundreds of billions are poured into the black hole of Iraq, for the pundits and hacks it’s all about how improper Rev. Lowery was to criticize him? Which is the more important issue? Obviously, it's propriety. It’s impolite to criticize the President. Especially when he made such a nice effort to come down to this negro woman's funeral and make a nice speech. You should have better manners, Rev. Lowery. Shame on you.

While I enjoyed Rev. Lowery’s Seuss-like rhymes, and was moved by Maya Angelou’s electrifying speech, I have to admit I found Bill and Hillary to be speakers of particular interest. Bill Clinton, “America’s first black president” was greeted like a rock star. That was not surprising in and of itself. It was Hillary’s reception once she stepped into the limelight that I thought was telling. She garnered her greatest applause from one of Bill’s lines, which he set up beautifully: “I'm honored to be here with my president and my former presidents, and [pregnant pause] and…” His inflection, and the thrust of the phrase, as well as the fact that he was standing there next to his wife indicated that the rest of the sentence would be “and the future president.” But he didn’t have to say it. There was raucous applause that probably lasted a minute. With Hillary rolling her eyes and gesturing for the audience to settle down.

But when it came time for her to speak for herself they gave her a cool reception. Bill’s rambling speech had an intimate, unscripted feel. He didn’t have any notes, and he spoke in a chatty tone, punctuated by no less than sixteen pauses for applause and laughter, and many more “mm-hmms” and “amens” along the way. 16 to Hillary’s 3. That’s a rout.

Part of the problem with Hillary’s speech was that in tone and content it seemed self-serving and overtly political. She opened with what was surely meant to be a sly, but not too sly reference to 2008. “As we are called, each of us must decide whether to answer that call by saying send me.” It was obvious she thought the line would garner appreciative applause, but it got nothing. No reaction. She repeated the phrase twice more, in the middle and toward the end of the speech, and got the same reaction, which is to say stony silence. Even her husband seemed to have scooched away (he was not holding hands with her throughout, as has been reported) and was staring at his feet.

She clearly erred in drawing even implied parallels between herself and Coretta Scott King, which is obviously what she had attempted to do. Not only was it in bad taste, but it was received in the same spirit as recent pandering comments comparing the House of Representatives to a plantation, which she followed up with “and you know what I mean.” This was some more outsider-insider nudge-nudge-wink-wink “you know what I mean” business, and it went over about as well.

You get the feeling that if she runs in ’08 at least half of those who vote for her will actually be voting for her husband. She hasn’t got his gift, that’s for sure. But on the other hand, she’s at least as gifted a speaker as any of the presidents, aside from him, who preceded her at the podium. So what the hell, right?

Brokeback Shopping List

Just got this forward from my friend Robert. Thought is was pretty funny...

Weekly Grocery Lists for Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist,Summer, 1962

WEEK ONE
Beans
Bacon
Coffee
Whiskey

WEEK TWO
Beans
Ham
Coffee
Whiskey

WEEK THREE
Beans
Bacon
Coffee
Whiskey
K-Y

WEEK FOUR
Beans
Pancetta
Coffee (espresso grind)
Whiskey
2 tubes K-Y

WEEK FIVE
Fresh Fava beans
Jasmine rice
Prosciutto, approx. 8 ounces, thinly sliced
Medallions of veal
Porcini mushrooms
1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream
1 Cub Scout uniform, size 42 long
5-6 bottles good Chardonnay
1 large bottle Astro-glide

WEEK SIX
Yukon Gold potatoes
Heavy whipping cream
Asparagus (very thin)
Eggs
Lemons
Gruyere cheese (well aged)
Walnuts
Arugula
Butter
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
6 yards white silk organdy
6 yards pale ivory taffeta
Case of Chardonnay
Large tin Crisco

2/06/2006

"Dudes With Boobs"/"Numb & Number"

I've been to see a couple of mediocre movies in the last week, one of which was at least amusing. In TransAmerica Felicity Huffman gives a praise-worthy performance as a soon-to-be MtF transsexual. The problem was that the movie, as a friend of mine said, turned into a sitcom midway through. I have always liked Felicity Huffman, though. There is something very Francis McDormand about her, don’t you think?

But does the banality of the plot say something essential about the banality of transsexuality in a Jerry Springerized America? I don’t know. I have known transgendered folk (they’re always referred to as “folk” aren’t they?) in my time, and have always found them to be as fabulous and flawed as anyone else, and while that may be one message the GBLT “community” would like to get across, there is something just a tad disingenuous in it, coming from folk who very clearly believe themselves to be more fabulous on the whole than the general population. It’s kind of like, aside from the burden of our fabulousness, we’re just like the rest of you. That’s why I think the appeal of transsexual road movies is limited. On the one hand transsexuality is fringe, but on the other, transsexuals in and of themselves are no more (though no less) interesting than the rest of us.

Transsexuality for me is pretty cut and dry. I mean, OK, so you’re a boy in a girl's body or vice-versa. You wanna go the distance I’m all for it. But do it and have done with it. None of this endless, “oh, by the way, I used to be a dude” shtick. Be it. Believe it. It’s like young gay guys who are always talking about their bisexuality. Mm-hmm. Once you haven’t been bi for ten or so years, it’s probably safe to say that for all intents and purposes you’re gay. No one's interested in hearing about the blowjob you got from your prom date anymore. It doesn't mean you were ever straight. Sorry.

People are incorrect for the most part when they assume other people, in general, are overly concerned with their sexuality. The only people concerned with it are probably your parents, if they don’t have any grandchildren yet, and anyone who wants to sleep with you (the number is always less than you think). Otherwise, your preference in partners is really not something that looms large in the collective unconscious. The world will move on through its grief on its own. And accepting it will let you get on with the business of getting laid.

Anyway, Itchy liked TransAmerica a lot. Said it was hilarious. I wouldn’t go that far. It was too predictable to be hilarious. But it was humorous and heart-warming. And enjoyable. And Itchy didn’t squirm or fidget at all through the whole thing.

For the first time ever, though I’m loath to admit it, I somehow forgot to silence my cell, and it went off during the movie. I usually have it set on vibrate anyway. It’s never set to “ring,” so while I suspect sabotage, I don’t know who I would blame. Maybe Itchy. I have harangued him on this topic ever since we went to see De Battre Mon Coeur s'est Arête and his phone went off. And he answered it. He says he didn’t like the movie anyway, but that’s not really the point. I don’t see how he could not have admired—nay, adored—Romain Duris in it, myself, but then there’s no accounting for taste, as everybody knows.

The other movie, which I saw last night, was Woody Allen’s Match-Point, which could have been called Numb & Number, and was nothing if not numbing. Thanks in part to the mind-numbingly numb performance of Jonathan Rhys Meyers. My film-going friend said she thought his character was supposed to be that way, and I agree, which is all the more reason the film should not have been made. It may be all the rage to make movies about vacuous characters we don’t care about and aren’t meant to, but that’s not the realm of art, that’s the realm of life. Life should imitate art, not vice-versa. This movie may be about Woody Allen’s unmitigated misanthropy, as some reviewers have suggested, but if it is, so what? Join the club, Woody.

There are many silly, incongruous things about the film that are the result of lack of discipline on the part of the writer/director. They’re too many and too silly to name, in fact. But one is the silliness, on many levels, of this most Jewish, most Manhattan of directors directing this most Waspy of British films. He doesn’t know the idiom and it shows in the lack of depth and color of all the characters, except for the hysterical Nola, played awkwardly by Scarlett Johansson, who is, tellingly, the only American in the cast. She is described in the press packet as a “femme fatale type”—which seems unfortunately accurate. No one in this movie is anything in and of him or herself. We are dealing with types. They don’t even aspire to be anything more than mere points in a not-very interesting polemic about the centrality of luck to success in life. Woody Allen himself has been famously quoted as saying “eighty per cent of success is showing up,” and he was apparently hoping that would work for him this time, but I don’t think it did. The rest of the cast showed up, too, to little effect.

He tried to liven it up a little, or give it some depth, or something, with transparent references to Crime and Punishment, with Rhys-Myers’ Chris as Raskolnikov, and La Traviata, with Johansson’s Nola as Violetta, I guess. Other than this there are scenes where he seems to think he can simply transpose the New York of 1977 to the London of 2005. The whole opera thing—I mean, when Rhys-Myers meets the Hugh Grant look-alike (Matthew Goode) who will provide him his surprisingly easy and swift entrée to high society, they connect over opera. Two men in their mid-twenties. I’m like, so is this Woody Allen’s long-awaited gay movie, or what? Two star-crossed opera queens meet over fru fru drinks at the country club? In fact, Rhys-Myers' Chris is so cagey throughout it would have befit the character to have had a secret gay lover, except that then he would have no reason to off him in the end. Gay affairs are so much simpler, it’s strange they haven’t caught on more.

There’s also a funny scene at the Tate Modern where Nola is staring intently and with what is supposed to be real interest at this gigantic, truly hideous piece of modern art. She seems to be the only person at the Tate who’s there to look at the art, and you just know everyone’s laughing at her. I mean, who really scrutinized Chris Ofili's painting of The Holy Virgin Mary, the one with the clump of elephant dung? You know, nobody really looked at it. It wasn't made to be looked at. It was made to be talked about. That's why the show was called Sensation. But here Woody’s got Scarlett studying this huge splatter on the wall like it’s a pointillist masterpiece. My rule: don’t look at it for any longer than it took to make it.

But the point was, these are people who go to the opera and to art museums, but is that really what the generation of people the movie centers on—even the blue bloods—really do? And not just do, but do passionately? In London? Don’t they go clubbing? Don’t they snort crystal meth and have group sex and throw up afterwards? What happened to that Woody Allen? Now that he’s old he’s treating young people in his films like they are too. Like everyone is. But no. Two randy young heterosexual men with huge disposable incomes don’t sit around with their legs crossed chit-chatting about their love of opera. Sorry. Even in England.

So everything in this would-be morality tale is off. As we were leaving my friend said, “there was no schlemiel” Not to mention no Schlimazel. But this is actually the capper, the final silliness of this silly movie. In a short scene from some other movie, but with the same bad actors, after Chris commits his Dostoevskian crime (for which he will, of course, go unpunished), he either wakes from a dream (or is in someone else’s dream—it’s not entirely clear) and offers a high-flown philosophical disquisition on the nature of the guilt he does not feel, which ends with him telling the ghost of one of his victims: “The innocent are sometimes slain to make way for grander schemes. You were collateral damage.” Of course, the grander scheme is… well, there isn’t one. It’s more like, “sometimes the innocent are slain to make way for, er, me.” Which is fine, but why not just say it? It would have been more in keeping with the character.

I did like the twist with the ring, on which the whole plot turns. It was nicely done, plotwise, though my moviemate didn't think so. I agree it wasn’t worth sitting through the whole movie for it. Plus the scene with the ring itself—when he tosses the ring it doesn’t look real. He used CGI. Woody Allen goes all CGI on us. Unfortunately, like the rest of the movie, it looked totally fake, too.

2/02/2006

rumblings from evil niece no.2


I got an email from another of my evil nieces, who's got to be thirteen by now, with the plaintive subject line: "HEy!!!???"

It read: "how r u..............im brillant i have a b/f named joey he goes to my church kewl huh............new subject???????lolim goin 2 church 2nite 2 eat and stay 4 uth groups & all my friends r gunna be there???? wat r u doin 2 nite???? email me bak!!!!! luv ya lots!!!!"

First of all. Children should be restricted from emailing adults until they can learn to spell properly, and punished severely for emailing them before they do. Punishment should also be meted out for sending e-cards and forwarding jokes and chain-letters that have been forwarded to them. I'm not sure exactly how this would work, but there's probably some way that an electric shock could be administered via email, so that when they opened my reply, they would get about 300,000 volts. That should probably be enough to stun them into using standard English, wouldn't you think?

This is definitely a meme thing. And this particular niece is particularly susceptible to memes. She's desperately desperate to be accepted by her peers. To be "kewl," as the kids (apparently) say now. The punctuation is also indicative of her desperation--and she is at least this insistent in person. You're like, where's your remote? Where's the volume knob?

The problem here is, I really don't want to encourage her. I don't necessarily want to discourage her, but the truth is, my love of standard English may be greater in the long run than my love for her. You know, "luv ya lots" means nothing to me. I don't recognize any of those words. You might as well be writing in Swahili, sweetheart.

I don't do kidspeak, either. If kids want to be fed, if they want something at the shop, if they need some money, they'll have to petition me in standard English. You may live in Kidworld, but I'm just visiting. Sometimes it's hard to resist--you get in a when-in-Rome mindframe, and kids are very controlling anyway. But, trust me, you must resist. Your dignity is at stake, and so is any hope for theirs.

I remember whenever you'd take one of them along on a drive, they'd reach for the radio dial like Radio Disney was a God-given right. And then, you smack their grubby little paws away (the driver's the DJ in my car), and they think they're gonna negotiate with you. It's like, I'm not your hostage, honey, you're mine. And anyway, you got nothing I want. I've got the cash, I've got the car. What do you have to negotiate with except my sanity. I mean, sure, you can hound me until I break, but then you'll never get another chance with me. And I'm not like your folks. When I say I'll lock you in the trunk if you don't pipe down, I will lock you in the trunk. When I say you're excommunicated, you are dead to me.

Kids think they'll eventually get what they want just by wearing you down. I mean, they've got all the time in the world. And they've got no scruples. They'll do anything in their power to get their way. They're parents pussy out on them, and they think the whole world will do the same. But so long as I'm bigger than they are, I'm the boss.

Anyway, I'm debating whether or not to dignify this email with a reply. It's not just the English language, it's the psychodynamics of my brother's family that are at stake here. See, I've had some correspondence with this niece's little sis, who initiated it. But when I wrote back, little sis got all excited. My brother even wrote to tell me how much she was enjoying our correspondence. So big sis gets wind of it. I mean, little sis is getting A LOT of attention out of this. And big sis wants some of that, too, understandably enough.

But then it feels icky. It feels like you're being coerced into corresponding with her. That you have to make sure each email you send is equal in length to the whatever you sent the other, and so on, lest you be subject to that worst of all tweenie cries: "it's not faaaaaiiiiirrrr!" That, and "but YOU said...", seems to be what breaks most adults. Because adults want to do the right thing. But they're playing two different ball games here, because kids don't. Kids are in a battle to death for finite resources like food and attention. Affection would be nice, too, but it's not essential. And none of it has anything to do with what's right or just. It's about the survival of the shrillest. But they see that appeals to fairness get their parents where it hurts most. If they can find the guilt button (it's the equivalent of the "easy button" for adults), they are ruthless about pushing it at the least provocation.

So I think insisting on some minimum standards is my duty as their uncle. I mean, I'm doing them all a service by being a dick about it, don't you think?

2/01/2006

the state of the Tim Kaine's eyebrows


Hmm. I'll be honest, I was in the middle of a multi-orgasmic sex-marathon last night when the President was giving his little speech, so I missed it. I'll read the speech itself sometime in the next day or so, I reckon.

I did manage to catch Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's rebuttal. Kaine has the mischievous look of a satyr, and despite the strange, halting cadence of his speech, there's something irresistible about him. There’s something slightly Jack Nicholsonish about him, too. It could be that arched eyebrow. We definitely need more politicians who can do that. Watch the eyebrow in action here.

Last night that irrepressible eyebrow—something just short of a wink—gave his speech a delicious subtext. It said things you can’t say on the national stage after a big, silly State of the Union address, when everybody’s supposed to pretend to take the presidential palaver seriously. It said, “listen, y’all—you and I both know this joker in the White House don’t know his ass from his elbow.”

Kaine (along with his arched eyebrow) was sworn in a mere three weeks ago, and already he's the darling of national Democrats who are in desperate need of fresh faces and new blood.

I saw Barack Obama last weekend on one of those Sunday morning squawkshows, and thought, God-amighty, man, speak English! Obama is smart, but apparently not smart enough not to act smarter than the rest of us. He's not as bad as John Kerry, who is not as smart as the rest of us and not smart enough not to act like he is, but that's small consolation. Barack, baby: you can't be a populist spouting Shakespearean soliloquies. It's the twenty-first century, sweetie. The vernacular has changed slightly since Elizabethan times. I would love to see someone as smart as Barack in the Oval Office, but, crikey, tone down the ten-dollar words, will ya?

And remember, people who are smart and funny are always preferable to people who are just smart. Just funny even trumps just smart. I don't make the rules, that's just how it is.

Anyway, on very first glimpse I sure liked this Kaine fella's eyebrows. After watching his bemused, delightful little rebuttal, I did some channel-surfing, and wound up watching the last few minutes of the dreadful Bulletproof Monk. The reason I watched was, of course, Seann William Scott's eyebrows, which rank among Hollywood's finest ever. What a delightful face he's got, too.

All in all, a good night for eyebrow watchers everywhere.

Jill Carroll: a modern-day Patty Hearst?


Seeing Jill Carroll's latest video the other day, I had a gnawing, forbidden suspicion. Has she gone Patty Hearst on us? Yes, she appeared distressed, but not in the way we're accustomed to seeing weary and wary hostages at this point in their captivity. She looked healthier than when she was abducted, and something about her hysterical plea seemed contrived. I'm sorry, but I could picture her captors, off-stage, directing her: "emote! No, No! Cut! Jill, Jill, Jill, reach deep down, find the emotion! Let's do it again! Quiet on the set! Take 27, and... action!"

Now, hear me out here.

If you think about it, what we know of Jill Carroll is that she is sympathetic to the plight of ordinary Iraqis, that she has tried to be balanced in her reporting for the CSM, meaning she has not exactly been a cheerleader for the US in Iraq.

We know that the US has been practicing what the administration is calling "leveraging," which is basically state-santioned hostage-taking, in Iraq. The US military has on more than one occasion taken the wives of alleged insurgents hostage in order to get the insurgents to surrender (see more about it here, here, and here).

So what do you think an upstanding, conscientious woman like Jill Carroll would think about this? Who do you think she would be likely to side with? It's not even a question, is it? But when does a conscientious objection to what is clearly an illegal practice undertaken by your government become straight-up sedition?

Of course, this is just a hunch. But I don't think it's such a stretch.