Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Old Friend

Sometime circa 1996, Betty gave (or sold?) me this book. It was well written and we both liked it. Tonight, I unexpectedly met the author--it seems he continued as a journalist, but instead of staying a music nerd, he is now something of an expert on China and global warming. While he didn't have anything encouraging to say about our planet, I avoided my usual depression by fondly remembering his warm words about John and Paul.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Trip to the Dentist and Back

Cocoa went on an odyssey of body, mind, and mouth yesterday. It was her first trip to the dentist in her entire eight years!

Although dogs do not need teeth cleaning every year, Co's health and well-being were neglected in many ways during the first half of her life. We do not understand how people could be so cruel to animals - Co's story (never been groomed or to the vet, tail chopped off, then abandoned) sounds positively cushy compared to others we've read. Suffice it to say that animal rescue is becoming a new passion of Betty's, especially given the post-Christmas mass dumping of unwanted animals in city shelters. She is determined to find ways to help other dogs in need, chiefly through the generosity of Waggytail Resuce. Check out some of the "Happy Tails" documented on their site if you're looking for something to read.

Animal abuse and neglect makes both of us so, so sad. As the New York Times wrote in its obituary/editorial for Barbaro called "One Horse Dies", "You would have to look at long, long time to find a dishonest or a cruel horse." The same could be said for all the dogs in the shelters, even the pit bulls (who make up the majority of dogs at New York City Animal Care and Control) who are trained to fight in illegal spectacles. The smaller ones are used as bait.

For little Cocoa, life is changing now, thank goodness! She did beautifully with the dentist. First, she hopped into Emma Zerner's old boat bag and Betty covered her with blankets. The wind made the air bitingly cold, so Betty wrapped Co up tight before braving Delancey Street. She handed her off to the vet on Eldridge without a peep, and by three p.m. the little girl was out, a little woozy from the anaestetia, but walking around with a CLEAN MOUTH. Turns out she had had an infection in there, with one tooth clinging to her gums with only tartar, and the deep grime was affecting her respiratory system. Now she's chipper and feels renewed, and is literally and noticably breathing much easier. We imagine she's sleeping more sweetly, too.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Having lived in the Washington D.C. area for more than half my life, I have grown accustomed to seeing signs of political protest which include: chalk drawings and commentary inscribed on the pavement and walls, rally posters, human blockades, mentally ill conspiracy theorists attempting to bum-rush federal buildings; or simply make a mad dash across the White House lawn, and herds of marching anti everyone and everything from A to Z demonstrators looking to focus policy makers' attention to their cause.

Yup, the nation's capitol is the staging area where people come from far and near to voice their opinions. Ironically, much of the effort put into trying to be seen and heard is largely ignored by both local residents (me) and politicians alike - but for the annoyance of having to figure out how to get over, under, around or through mobs of people, who have something to say, on our way to work or play. But en route home the other day following a weekend of anti-war protests, I saw something that caught my attention. While scanning the ground, I noticed a pile of doggy-doo next to a trash receptacle mounted by two toothpick sized flags with a picture of George W. Bush. Now that's funny. A big statement in a little package, which I heard loud and clear.

The Cities of Our Dreams

Betty rode around L.A. with a displaced Chicagoan last summer, asking him all kinds of prying questions. Did he like L.A.? What were the main differences? Where would he most like to live? Betty sometimes thinks she can really know a place by listening to someone else talk about it.

"Well," Chris began, before admirabley responding to all of Betty's queries, "there's no Shangri-La..."

It's from this pretense that Betty frames her thinking about all cities, but still she can't help but dream when she reads articles accompanied by beautiful pictures of the cities she's currently fantasizing about: Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. Something about the buzz surrounding these cities calls out to Betty, even though she knows they're probably too small and too niche for her taste. The rainy weather is actually a plus as far as Betty's concerned, as are the progressive initiatives (especially around the environment and refugees), dramatic landscapes, music, and the vibrant public squares she's heard about.

What do you know about Portland or Seattle? Do you have a city of your dreams? It can be a place you've visited, but it probably isn't.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Betty and Bimbo Recommend: Sour Grapes

Because no discussion of the Oscars is complete without a discussion of notable snubs.

Betty: There is a reason everyone is gasping over Dreamgirls getting the big backside from the high-minded Academy. Hello! Dreamgirls is the Titanic of this 2006. If you liked Titanic, this movie is a natural rave!

Bimbo: I loved Titanic, and Dreamgirls was horrible.

Betty: But it’s the exact same concept! Big sets, passage of time, doomed love, redemption, American dreams, overcoming class differences and prejudice. Hello!?!? I guess Bimbo prefers middle school dance drivel like "My Heart Will Go On" to the steamroller that is "And I’m Telling you I’m not GOINGGGGG! I don’t wanna be freeeeeeeeeeee!!!"

Bimbo: Seriously now. Thank God Dreamgirls wasn’t nominated- but most of the other films nominated shouldn’t have been. Here is my fantasy top five films. I’m limiting my snubs list to only snubs within the realm of possibility.

Bimbo's Best Picture Snubs:
Volver – Like Speed McQueen, I fail to understand the "foreign film" distinction. Movies like Volver are not “foreign” films in New York and L.A. In those places, the distinction is meaningless. An Almodovar film is a Hollywood film. Penelope Cruz was even nominated for Best Actress, not Mejor Actriz. This makes you wonder about all the other foreign-language films we'll never hear about.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Half Nelson

Inland Empire

Miami Vice


Special Mention: Army of Shadows - Best Movie of All Time, Re-released this year.

Other movies that were snubbed in some way:

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Betty)
L'Enfant (Betty and Bimbo)
Wordplay (Betty)
A Scanner Darkly (Bimbo)
Scoop (Betty and Bimbo)
The Descent (Bimbo)
The Science of Sleep (Bimbo)
Jesus Camp (Betty)
49 Up (Betty and Bimbo)
The Devil Wears Prada (Betty)
Children of Men (Bimbo)

More thoughts on the Oscars coming soon to a blog near you. In the meantime, who do you think was snubbed? Do you think Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen are the five best movies of the year?

Special thanks to Speed McQueen for starting the "Oscars" category.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

GONZO FOR GONZO!

Congrats to Gonzo from Chile, making it to the finals of the Aussie Open! Gonzales would have been the first Chilean ever to win a tennis major, and he would have won it all if he had faced a human opponent; rather than part machine, part superman - Federer. Gonzo could definitely take the French later this year. Congrats to his coach, Larry Stefanki too for a job well done. As a former Stefanki product, it is great to see Gonzo find another level. I am already planning my glorious comeback and running sprints in the law library. The sad part is nobody in the library even looks at me like I am acting abnormal.

By the way, if were talking Oscars, I would like to put forward a little film called, Snakes on A Plane. The sheer human fear and reptile fury is fully captured in this contempoary masterpiece. I feel like we will talking about it for many years to come!

Attention Bloggers: A Proposal

Since we seem to have a fair bit of interest in movies and awards here at Betty & Bimbo, I wonder if there would be any interest in having a blog-wide Oscar event? Meaning, correspondents around the country would post their Oscar thoughts live, as the show is going on. There are so many commercials and boring bits that I don't think anyone could be accused of being a party pooper for taking a few minutes to write a post. And it would bring an enhanced sense of community to Betty & Bimbo: A Blog. Please respond if you are interested, and if we get a critical mass we will proceed.

Speed McQueen's Oscar Picks

Having seen the overwhelming majority of Oscar noms, I'm throwing my hat in the ring of Oscar picking. I propose to all other contributors to do the same. Afterward we'll then see who has got the hot hand and should promptly abandon their job in favor of a life of I-Banking. Honestly folks, if you can really pick stocks there's no way they'll make you work 80 hours a week. And bear in mind that these are my predictions, not necessarily who I feel merits the statue.

Here goes:

Best Picture: Babel (immigration, terrorism, globalization! it was like an issue of the Economist but with pretty people)

Best Director: Martin Scorcese (finally Marty, finally)

Best Actor: Forrest Whitaker (taking one back for lazy eyes the world over)

Best Actress: Helen Mirren (admit it, she was still sorta hot in those clunky shoes)

Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy (yeesh)

Best Supporting Actress: Rinko Kinkuchi (probably the best performance of the year)

Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth (Al deserves to win something)

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth (i can't stop thinking about that monster with his eyes in his hands)

Best Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine (shut out in all other categories, but a winner here: call it the Pulp Fiction effect)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Little Children (i loved it, i loved it, i loved it)


I suppose we could all hazard guesses about sound mixing, but let's cap it here. With that said Notes on a Scandal should win for Best Score, and Makeup should go to Pan's Labyrinth.

Of course the movie that could have taken every award this Oscar season is a quirky, uplifting tale of a plucky youngster's suburban malaise in a grim, but imaginable, future: "Miss Sunshine's Little Children of Men." I'm working on a treatment now!

PS How can Letters from Iwo Jima be up for best picture and not for best foreign-language picture. Was it not in Japanese? Did I imagine it as I sat there reading subtitles?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Betty Recommends: Dr. John Zerner, born today!

This is a Happy Birthday salute from Betty and Bimbo to John Fox Zerner, born many good years ago today!

Zerner is the only man on earth who can make Tootsie Rolls grow from trees, or find them growing in your nose and ears when you just can't dig deep enough. A tremendous Brooklyn Dodger fan (don't tell him they moved) and the father of many adorable dogs who have also loved baseball (and a couple of human sons with beautiful grandchildren, too), Zerner is a teacher of all he loves. In addition, he has read more books about China, or about anything else, than anyone we know. For all these reasons, for loving the luscious LIBBY, and for catching many of us when we rolled out from our mothers' wombs, we salute you, Zerner!

YITB,
All of us here at the blog.

P.S. We couldn't find a picture of Zerner online, so please refer to this picture of former United States Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, and get the idea

Friday, January 26, 2007

B&B Bark On About the Oscars: Part 3

Best Supporting Actor

Bimbo: Djimon Hounsou always plays some kind of noble savage. Blood Diamond is like his third noble savage role. And Mark Wahlberg?! Mark Wahlberg should have won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Boogie Nights, but to borrow a phrase from the blogosphere, WTF?

Betty: Now that you mention it, Bimbo, every one of these nominees was doing a take on the noble savage role. I guess that’s the prototypical sidekick function. You know I was wild about Dreamgirls, and Eddie Murphy’s performance was good, but it was also confusing given his past turns as this character. Like, I was always waiting for him to break into the James Brown “Gettin’ in the Hot Tub, Getting in the Wa-tah!” song or the immortal “Boogie in Your Butt” from the SNL days. I suppose he deserves some credit for treading that line and not making a total fool of himself. Oh, and speaking of James Brown, you must see this.

Best Supporting Actress

Bimbo: Jennifer Hudson is the only performace I saw, and she was the best thing in that movie. She should win. I can’t be snarky about that.

Betty: I agree with you. I also think that when she’s supposed to be doing some other crappy song from Dreamgirls at the Oscars she should stop the band and just let it rip on “And I Am Telling You,” because that is what the people want to hear. She should also start singing that when the nerds in the orchestra pit start trying to cut her off during the acceptance speech.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Bimbo: I want to say that Borat should win, but I don’t think it should. Something really went wrong here, because the only horrendously bad thing about Children of Men was the screenplay. It should have been nominated for Best Picture, sure, but no way for Best Screenplay.

Betty: Children of Men. Is that the one with Kate Winslet?

Best Original Screenplay

Betty: The best thing about the best movie of the year was its excellent screenplay – all rise for The Queen!

Bimbo: And when the Queen’s husband climbs into bed with her and says “Move over, Cabbage,” that was the line of the year.

Betty and Bimbo: Who are they really?

When people become famous enough, it's inevitable that their deep, dark secrets begin to surface. The rest of us--jealous, perhaps, that our blogs aren't taking off--take pleasure at shining a light on the dirty underwear in deepest pockets of their laundry baskets.

In any event, this blogger has a source very close to Betty and Bimbo, who has access to B & B's Netflix queue and rating history. According to this source, Betty and Bimbo have made some absolutely scandalous ratings. For instance, my source claims--it's hard to believe, I know--that B & B "really disliked" the fabulous documentary "When We Were Kings," giving it a mere two (out of five) stars. "I know," says my source, "I couldn't believe it at first either. But the rating stars on Netflix don't lie." This blogger contacted Betty and Bimbo's press secretary, who vigorously denied the allegation. "It's outrageous," she said, "this is just another right-wing smear campaign against Betty and Bimbo's blog." The press secretary refused to comment, however, on the claim that B & B gave "Bridget Jones's Diary" four stars, nor would she deny the allegation that they gave "Run Lola Run," "North by Northwest" and "Midnight Cowboy" only two stars each.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Oscar Wild Monologue: Part Two

And United 93 was really brilliant. It should have gotten more attention than it did, but really it was such a different kind of movie than I've ever seen before that I don't think people knew what to do with it. The mood was more like a TV movie than a theatrical movie, but the performances were great and it created real tension and drama out of small moments.

Oscar Wild Monologue: Part One

There really are no sure things this year except for one: An Inconvenient Truth will win best documentary. (I say this having seen none of the other nominated movies in this category.) And I tell you, I'm looking forward to it. I enjoy discovering the many faces of Al Gore, and I hope they will let him accept the award even though he is only the documentary subject.

Oscar Wild Play: Part Two

Betty and Bimbo consider some other categories.

Best Director

Bimbo: I heard Paul Greengrass did a great job with United 93. But if he did such a great job, why did it only get one nomination? Being really depressing is not a reason NOT to be nominated for Best Picture. Also, being depressing in an abstract way is not a reason TO be nominated, as happened with Babel. I mean, I wonder who Academy voters feel a greater sympathy for and identify with: the people on a 9/11 flight, or a Japanese mute nymphomaniac? Scorsese will win this year.

Betty: I really don’t care about directing. Does the average person understand the distinction between directing and editing and cinematography and a good script? I can’t tell the difference.

Best Actor

Bimbo: First off, let’s get this right out of the way: Forrest Whitaker is going to win. I didn’t see his movie, so that’s cool with me. I’d like to see it.

Betty: You speak for yourself.

Bimbo:I only saw one performance out of all of the nominees, but it was one of the greatest performances ever – Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson. His character reminded me of someone I could have gone to school with, yet he was totally also original. That movie should have been nominated for Best Picture.

Betty: I didn't see any of these films. I did see the PREVIEW for Blood Diamond, and that accent was a shame.

Bimbo: One more thing: Please can Will Smith not win? If Will Smith wins for The Pursuit of Happyness, please can we give an honorary Oscar to Ronald Reagan for trickle-down economics?

Best Actress

Bimbo: This is the only category where they’re all awesome and they should all win. That said, Penelope Cruz should win. When she acts in Spanish, she’s amazing. It’s hard to be that beautiful and act that unselfconscious and be that good an actor. She's the best looking best actress ever.

Betty: Yes, she rocks my shit in Volver. She’s frumpy and trashy and no nonsense. I love how she’s always wearing so much makeup and the other characters make comments about her breasts sticking out. Helen Mirren will win, so good for her. Just as Bimbo said that The Queen should have been in the nonexistent made-for-TV category, I think they should string together all the episodes of Prime Suspect and give Helen Mirren an oscar for that, because that's a great movie. Finally, Meryl Streep was awesome, but damned if that wasn’t a supporting role.

An Oscar Wild Play: Part One

The dawning of the Oscars is a special day around Betty and Bimbo’s place. We look forward to the Oscars all year round, and today they're just exactly one month away. When their little dog barked at a bearded stranger the other day, he kindly smiled back and said she meant know harm and was “just sharing her many opinions”. Betty and Bimbo will now begin to bark in your direction.

Bimbo: I think this is the most embarrassing slate of Oscar nominations ever. Still, I would like to pose a question by way of pointing out that NO ONE’S OPINIONS ON THE OSCARS – NOT EVEN YOURS, NOT EVEN MINE -- ARE ORIGINAL. You might say “Oh my God, the Oscars are so awful and ridiculous this year!,” but chances are your favorites films of the year are all on some New York Times critic’s list. Are there small secret movies we don’t know about that aren’t merely quirky, that are... good?

I think that 2006's best film of the year is also the Best Film of All-Time, Army of Shadows (Yes, the New York Times already said that - and I heartily concur!)

Betty’s: Dreamgirls is the perfect Oscar movie. What’s with the haters?

Betty and Bimbo regard the list of Best Picture Nominees:

1. Babel

Bimbo: Thematically and structurally, Babel seems to be filling the Crash slot this year. Plus, it has Brad Pitt, which means that if you're a member of the academy you get to have your cake and eat it, too. In other words, you don’t have to nominate Brad for anything, but you can still nominate the movie and thereby support the prestigization of Hollywood celebrities.

Betty: I don’t like serious sad movies where people get shot. I had a breakdown at Pan’s Labyrinth, ok?

Bimbo: By the way, did you know that in Hollywood they've taken to calling the directors of Babel (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro) and Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron) "The Three Amigos"?

Betty: Get out.

Bimbo: For real.

2. The Departed

Bimbo: This was excellent entertainment. I could watch it again and again. Still, it will be sad if Martin Scorsese wins for this, because you can barely tell that he did it. It seems to have been made by a very competent studio director.

Betty: Exactly. The style of this movie was lilke Scorsese making a tribute film to himself. Did you think he really meant to play "Gimme Shelter" twice on the soundtrack?

3. Letters from Iwo Jima

Bimbo: This I’m not outraged about. But I haven’t seen it. I do hope Clint Eastwood beats Scorsese for best director. I love The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Betty: I have no opinion about this movie.

4. Little Miss Sunshine

Bimbo: Didn’t see it. My guess is that it’s a little quirky faux independent film that people want to see as a sign that Hollywood is vibrant and diverse.

Betty: Hasn’t this movie been out for like ten years? Didn’t see it.

5. The Queen

Bimbo: I love Helen Mirren and I loved this movie's sympathy for Elizabeth, who reminded me of my grandmother, so I formed an emotional attachment to it. But this should only win in a "made for TV but came out on the big screen" category. I mean, Stephen Frears is the guy who did The Grifters so he can do better. Though he has done worse.

Betty: This is my pick for Best Picture, and it would be even if it weren't nominated. Hollywood should make more movies like this. They should put Helen Mirren in all their movies, first of all, and also they should not be afraid to interpret and imagine recent events that aren’t 9/11. The strongest script and the strongest directing, and the best, most compelling movie since Brokeback Mountain. I also liked the animals.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jim Webb is Great

Seriously, that was one of the most abstract, evasive State of the Union addresses we have ever heard. Even when Clinton was going on about seatbelts and school uniforms he was at least going on about something and not just insinuating in code. Is there a war going on here? Hey, is that Dikembe Mutumbo?!

Sorry, we are trying to be sober and indignant and analytical but we just can't believe this administration. It's too absurd to be true. Also, the people analyzing it on CNN are like fucking high school gossip columnists. Did you HEAR that OBAMA got a better SEAT than HILLARY??? Ooooh, Ted KENNEDY's not standing UP when he says 'TAX cuts'!!"

Jim Webb is now talking about class and improper corporate influence and actual history and "the value of our lives versus the enormity of the national interest that would cause us to go into harm's way." We are going to shut up now.

Liveblogging from the State of the Union



OK, we just watched George W. Bush's SOU address and holy shit! This is hands-down the most American thing we've ever seen. You're NBA superstar Dikembe Mutumbo? You lost your legs in Iraq? You make baby Einstein videos? It's all good!!! We're all Americans! Don't complain about the war!! Show some love! Jump in front of the moving train like Wesley Autrey! Support the troops! Axis of evil nine eleven lower taxes enterprise no animosity and no amnesty ethanol veeee-hi-cles!!!

Pages of 2007

A couple of days ago, Betty finished her first book of 2007, the A++ read What is the What, by Dave Eggers. As Betty told it to a friend this afternoon, What is a "totally compelling adventure story and a beautiful piece of literature and humanity" - WHOA!!! But she didn't do it justice; it's really much more (and much less imposing) than any of that. Read it! If you want to know more about the book before plunking down thirty bucks (for a beautiful piece of humanity!!), e-mail the blog. Or visit Valentino Achak Deng's great website.

In return, this friend told Betty that Dave Eggers runs a writer's workshop in Brooklyn that is hidden in the backroom of a superhero supply store where you can try on different capes and spandex unitards and strategically positioned fans blow wind on you when you check yourself out in the mirrors. Is this guy the coolest or what?? We hear he has a book coming out about people who lived through Hurricane Katrina.

And he's cute?! Can somebody please confirm or deny this?

Betty is now reading technophobe Nobelist Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red (or as Betty and Little Hun greatly enjoy calling it, Me Llamo Rojo), which is totally original and part of a five-hundred year old novelistic tradition at the same time. AWESOME! It's about art and the grunt work of artists, and also about texts and peoples' relationships with words, fiction, history, religious literature, and the physical world.

This novel is Betty's first Pamuk potboiler, but there will be more! How can she be so sure after only 53 pages? An illustrated sketch of a tree tells us at the end of Chapter 11, "I Am a Tree" , that he is content to be a rough sketch of a tree rather than a sophisticated reproduction, not because if he looked more real he'd be afraid that all the dogs in Istanbul will mistake him for a living tree and piss on him, but rather because: "I don't want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning."

What are you reading these days?

Family and Forgiveness

Betty is aware that her recent dispatches have exclusively discussed a dog. But animals, with their severely compressed existences, may illuminate truths about life, survival, dependence, and love that we thinking man's men and women often overlook.

The first thing Cocoa has inadvertently shown me, in only two weeks, is that it is good to walk.

Bundling up and heading outdoors, watching the steam float out of the tunnels and the J train rumble over the Williamsburg Bridge, watching people walk through my neighborhood at all hours of the evening and early in the morning - for Cocoa, of course, this is all background to a mission. For me, it's life itself, everything you miss when you're "doing stuff". Having a reason to go downstairs, out doors, and into the air to look at my neighborhood reasonlessly has genuinely been good for my urban sanity. Like going to the gym, walking Cocoa is something I rarely look forward to but always enjoy. My responsibility has gone up in direct proportion to my stress levels taking a dive.

Not that there is never stress involved. This morning, Cocoa went on a barking spree that almost made a little girl cry! Co means no harm and never bites, and she does come from the shelter, but none of this excuses her actions. "No!" I snipped assertively at the little animal below me "No, Cocoa!". She didn't cool it until two floors up, when she looked at me, clearly asking for a piece of cheese with her oversized eyes and ears. I forgave her immediately, as we all tend to forgive our family when they trespass against others, ourselves last of all. And really, if everyone has someone they consider family, isn't this good for life on earth? Forgiveness may be the most underrated virtue in America today.

Stay tuned for Betty & Bimbo's Oscar round-up.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Obamarama

As my brother Koko can tell you, I tend to be particularly susceptible to certain fashionable trends. In Koko's words, I am always in the midst of a particular "phase." For instance, as a young child, I had a "pogs phase," a "magic phase" (though I never really knew how to play either of these games) and, of course, a "pez phase." Now that I'm older, my phases are a bit more staid, though no less banal. Now, for instance, I find myself caught in the eye of a rip-roaring "Obama phase."


The point of this post isn't to justify my Obama obsession; I'll let my fellow bloggers read Audacity of Hope, which speaks for itself (it literally speaks for itself if you listen to the book-on-tape version read in the low, soothing voice of the man himself). Rather, I just wanted to note that, contrary to the opinion of Betty and likeminded naysayers, Obama can win the primary. If you look at the recent polls from eight different states, you'll notice that Obama is either winning or running neck in neck with Hillary in three states, and is in second almost everywhere else. Now, in several states he is a far second, but this is expected, considering that 1/3 of Americans have never heard of Obama, and "Another 14 percent said his name sounded familiar but they didn't know enough about him to have an opinion". That's 47% of Americans who don't know Obama well enough to support him.

If these polls bespeak trouble for any candidate, it's John Edwards, who is only polling ahead in one state (his own) and is no better than third anywhere else. Indeed, in some states he is a distant (and John Kerry-like) third. In California, for instance, Hilary and Barak are both in the 30s, and Edwards has 6%! This all despite the fact that, though not as well known as Clinton, Edwards is a far more familiar name than Obama (though probably not as well known as “Osama,” two men CNN seems to consider interchangeable). In short, this race is Obama's for the taking.

maguro blues

while taking a rest from writing notes for a lecture that spans from the cafe voltaire and dada to the japanese avantgarde in the 1920s, v stumbles upon a disturbing, and yet hopeful bit of news. you see, we still believe in talks and committees, despite their utter uselessness.

the japanese government is hosting a conference on tuna conservation, bbc news online reports. tokyo has recently agreed to halve its annual tuna fishing quota, facing up to the truly devastating ecologic footprint of a maguro-obsessed nation. my friend t., a geographer and urban planner, warned me a couple of years ago in tokyo that, at this pace, tuna would be done and over with in only a couple of years, especially as the u.s., europe and even countries like chile are catching up in the massification of tuna fish consumption, partly due to the rise of the crappy sushi fad and its concurrent industrialization. "maguro? that's sooo noughties!" we will most probably be thinking in 2020-- will it be because quorn will become the new sushi? or because maguro will be the new dodo?

a world without tuna!! what sort of decadence would that be like???

take ohtoro, the fattiest, rosiest cut of maguro sashimi (the raw fish cut), the most prized piece of the imposingly large tuna fish's body-- it truly is corpus delectabilis, it is the o in orgasm, it is the very stuff of dreams, it is the matter of the kantian sublime human logos cannot account for-- it is not body, soft, pink, curvaceous and lovely as it is, but moment, performance, absorption, dissolution of the self in the palate, in the moment the ohtoro covered in a thin coat of soy sauce explodes in perfect harmony massaging every taste bud and we are completely overcome by successive waves of being-in-oneness-with-the-world. to think that in its folly, humanity would be deprived of yet another three-second happiness...!
so much for "progress," venus infers.

from back to front, rosiest to reddest: ohtoro, chûtoro and the more frequent but still delectible akami, all appearing as nigirizushi, accompanied by some yellow ginger pickles and a small dish of soy sauce in the background. the blogger i took this snapshot from identifies the setting as "somewhere in roppongi (tokyo), and i'm not saying more because it's quite small, and people are always lining up..." via kirinuki (in japanese).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Goodbye to all that: The New Haven Coliseum falls

Deep pangs of sadness and regret filled my heart this morning, when I discovered that the New Haven Coliseum had been imploded yesterday morning - and I wasn't there.

When I used to go visit Betty in the 'Have, I think it was on Dwight Street (?) - she had a neighbor across the street named Jay, a graduate student and intellectual goofball who shared with Betty and myself an obsession with the impending implosion. We talked about all making sure we would go together - Jay was keeping tabs, waiting for the announcement with great glee and anticipation - but for whatever reason, it kept getting put off.

When Betty finally moved from New Haven after six years or so there, and at least a couple of years after we first began awaiting the implosion, it didn't even occur to me that my ears on the ground in town were no longer there. We all lost touch with Jay along the way - for one thing, he stopped dating Betty's roommate - and life went on.

But waking to the news of the implosion today, seventeen marvelous seconds that I have missed forever, brought a tinge of happiness amidst the regret. My memories of the Elm City - Pepe's Pizza, Betty's music shows, walks around the city and up to East Rock, that crazy poet woman, making fun of and patronizing the bookstore/cafe that sold sandwiches like the "Ernest Ham-ingway" - came rushing back.

And of course, let us not forget the Dairy Queen in Hamden, Connecticut, an important landmark of our halting transition to adulthood and responsibility - we drove ourselves there, and chose our own indulgence, and we weren't too old for a cone dipped in fake chocolate.

Goodbye, Coliseum. Goodbye to all that.

Infidelity: A different instrument to learn from




I have just finished reading Nadine Gordimer's excellent new story in the New Yorker about a month ago. The story is titled "The First Sense" and is about a white South African couple, the husband a successful musician and the wife a white-collar worker whose musical ambitions never panned out.

The couple forgoes children for the sake of the husband's career, and it in this context, it seems an understandable decision that the wife, when pregnant, terminates the pregnancy without telling her husband:
One month—when was it?—she found that she was pregnant; kept getting ready to tell him but didn’t. He was going on a concert tour in another part of the country, and by the time he came back there was nothing to tell. The process was legal, fortunately, under the new laws of the country, conveniently available at a clinic named for Marie Stopes, a past campaigner for women’s rights over their reproductive systems. Better not to have him—what? Even regretful. You know how men, no matter how rewarded with success, buoyant with the tide of applause, still feel they must prove themselves potent.
But this dishonesty between them seems small compared to the lie she eventually feels him harboring, senses in the playing, in fact, of his cello:

He makes love to her. Isn’t that always the signal of return after he has been away?

There’s a deliberation in the caresses. She is almost moved to say stupidly what they’ve never thought to say to each other: Do you still love me?

He begins to absent himself from her at unexplained times or for obligations that he must know she knows don’t exist.

The voice of the cello doesn’t lie.

But, when she goes through all the possibilities in her head, she decides not to confront him about it - or doesn't decide, really, but just waits, and never receives a confession. "She waited for him to speak," Gordimer writes.
About what had happened. To trust the long confidence between them. He never did. She did not ask, because she was also afraid that what had happened, once admitted, would be irrevocably real.
But confession, or at least confirmation, comes in a different form. And I must here quote the entire conclusion of Gordimer's story, lest I take anything away in the retelling:

One night, he got up in the dark, took the cello out of its bed, and played. She woke to the voice, saying something passionately angry in its deepest bass.

Then there came the time when—was it possible, in his magnificent, exquisite playing?—there was a disharmony, the low notes dragging as if the cello were refusing him. Nights, weeks, the same.

So. She knew that the affair was over. She felt a pull of sadness—for him. For herself, nothing. By never confronting him she had stunned herself.

Soon he came to her again. The three of them—he, she, and the cello against the wall—were together.

He made love better than ever remembered, caresses not known, more subtle, more anticipatory of what could be roused in her, what she was capable of feeling, needing. As if he’d had the experience of a different instrument to learn from.
I am not quite sure whether to take this ending as a hopeful or a resigned one. A full reading of the story doesn't make it clear: is this a disfunctional relationship, or have they reached the limits of "function"-ality? Is this new lovemaking at the end actually better for being better, or is it worse for being so? Does the experience of "a different instrument to learn from" mean things will be better in the future, and even so, does that undo or allow forgetting of the past?

Though many relationships with infidelity fall apart irreperably, I am not sure that is inevitably the case. And it's not even clear to me how often it is that when things do fall apart, the infidelity that occurs is to blame (it may, for one thing, be the effect rather than the cause). Nadine Gordimer, who has lived fifty years longer than I, simply brings these questions back. She makes no pretense, I think, at answering them.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Obamarama's first post

For a long time I have wondered whether or not to join the realm of blogging. After much consideration (and assurance that this blog supports O8ama), I've decided to throw my hat into the ring that is Betty + Bimbo's blog. Also, this is a good time to deny all reports that I once ran into a telephone pole playing football.

Now for the important part of this first post: for those of you already following the '08 race, some interesting polls were just released. http://time-blog.com/real_clear_politics/2007/01/08_poll_dump.html

Thankfully these polls show that Obamarama is gaining some serious ground on Hillary.

Take care all,

Go Yankees

Co-Co-Coooold and Sno-Sno-Snoooow!

If William F. Buckley reads this blog, we're sure he's already drafted the damning letter in which he enumerates then laments the ways in which the quality of our editorial discourse has slid, no, charged downhill since the little dog came into our lives. "Have your minds gone soft with this creature?," goes the paragraph in which he calls himself a "longtime reader who's had enough". Buck continues: "While I used to await each penetrating new post on Britney and shiver with delight at Koko the Clown's political-horror-fiction, now I can't even open my browser without a picture of this coddled mutt filling my monitor with pointy-nosed filth. Shame on you! Consider me a lost cause."

Readers, we assure you our blog will not be exclusively about Cocoa in the days and weeks to come, but remind you that she is our little baby, and very sweet, and that we fall more in love with her each day. Take this morning for instance: the little angel waited outside our bedroom (from which she's banished) door and then flopped around like a sea otter on the couch, her stub-tail flying, all the while shaking her head happily and barking silently (how zen, Co!). Then she plunged into her little sweater and let us dress her in her leopard print jacket (inherited from Waggytail Rescue) and gamboled out into the newfallen snow! Her elation was short-lived - her feet got so cold - but ours won't be.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Home is Where the Bark Is

Last night - and would it were every night! - Auntie M. came over to meet little Cocoa. This historic summit was fraught with Co-created tension at first, but soon the little angel came around, particularly after M. dangled cheese cubes and other treats over her nose (sometimes, Betty literally dangles carrots) and then gathered Co into her loving arms for a dance or two around the kitchen. Seeing an opening to extort more treats and snuggles from the blonde goddess, Co soon took to barking each time her paws touched linoleum. You can't sweep a lady off her feet and expect she'll demand less, M.!

In other domestic news, Betty is working at home today, and it appears a family of wild elephants, or perhaps the U.S. cannonball-shot-put team, participants in a new Olympic event open only to sumo wrestlers, has moved in upstairs. To slip a polite but pressured note under their door, or to wait it out? Bimbo went on a fact-finding mission this a.m. and filed the following report:

They have huge square letters and numbers on their door, the kind people usually stick on their mailboxes on poorly-lit suburban roads. Also, they have a huge sign that says "This house is protected by ---- security services!", even though they live in a fourth-floor apartment in a building full of security cameras.

All of which begs the question: Where might we purchase a neon orange "Beware of A Killer Dog!" sign?!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Betty Recommends: The Internet

Betty asks: Is it redundant to blog about my appreciation for the Internet?

Probably; but there is just so much THERE there, if you know where to look.

Don't misconstrue me: I dislike e-mail and I hate ads and I hate computer-induced isolation (that actually sounds like a new Apple product: iSolation). But I just loooove the following free perks. In fact, they have all changed my life a little bit. Maybe they will change yours?:

1. Despite the much-touted breadth of the Net, blogs and web can be particularly powerful at the local level. Your Local Public Library's website can tell you what books and films are in and what's not and you can usually reserve and renew books and films through the site. Meetup.com connects people around specific interests and discussions, and pulls them off the computer.

2. iGive.com - Sign up on behalf your favorite good cause and they get a donation each time you shop at places like half.com and Netflix.

3. Speaking of Netflix, have you heard of Netflux? The Internet is always, always introducing new words into language.

4. Pandora Internet Radio is so awesome! You type in the name of an artist or a SONG you like and it feeds you continuous music based on your initial input, most of it stuff you've never heard before. May I suggest "Otis Redding Radio", "Justin Timberlake Radio", "R.E.M. Radio" and "Love Is a Battlefield Radio"?

5. Petfinder.com connects you to abandoned and neglected animals in your zip code. You can sponsor or adopt them, or simply contribute to the organizations that take care of them and save them from rougher fates.

6. Wikipedia current events - While Betty shudders to think of Wikipedia as the omnipotent information source some lazybutts would have it be, the current events page is a terrific complement to Google News. Betty also likes Wikipedia's Random Page feature, and suggests you designate it as your web browser's opening page for many pleasant and educational surprises each day!

7. Gawker Media Sites like Deadspin, Gawker and Lifehacker are intelligent, zingy/gut-busting/boffo and above all self-aware sites when it comes to the potential of the Internet to alter consciousness and change our lives. Perhaps this is why I feel compelled to post this list and to also ask for your ideas about what's good on the Internet. The more aware we are of how we're using this tool - which has become almost transparent in our work and home lives - the better we will resist it when we want and need to.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is New England Cool?

When Betty was growing up in Portland, Maine, New England's hipness was pretty much proportional to its average temperature during football season. Fittingly, the region's scarcity of cultural cool was also reflected when the pigskins started flying. By early September, the Red Sox would invariably be done with another embarassing year and the Patriots would be donning those dorky uniforms again. Here is a reminder of that snarling and ruffley minuteman ("Patriot Pat"), easily the gayest image ever to be sanctioned by the NFL. But we didn't know this was ironic and cool in the 1980s, and so we defected en masse to other teams.

By 1993 or so, the only person I know who wore a Patriots t-shirt in public was a five-year-old named Jonny A. He was cute, and so was his devotion to the Pats, but his older brothers and I, along with many of our friends, thought we knew better, and sought a way out. Little by little, we distanced ourselves from the team we'd inherited as children of Maine. Whenever we played touch football, no one ever tried to be the Patriots. Once teams were diveded up, there was almost always a race to see who could be the first to scream "We're Cowboys!!!!". It wasn't that any of us particularly liked or related to the Dallas Cowboys and their style of play. But in the absence of a team we could take seriously, the easy-winning 'boys seemed like the next best choice.

Betty's style of football fandom will forever be marked by the failures of the Patriots in her youth; though there are some teams she will always root for (Green Bay, Chicago, New York and New England), she feels no real allegiance to any team, simply preferring a good game to enrich her Sunday crossword puzzle.

But much has changed for the Patriots since Betty was sprinting down touch football fields and Jonny A. was crashing into telephone poles on those same sloping lawns. In the late '90s, Drew Bledsoe introduced the Pats to cool by being young and attractive and leading them to a Super Bowl victory in 2001. But the real revolution came in the form of TOM BRADY - who has singlehandedly changed the aura of the Patriots beyond recognition. Suave, worldly, sexy, smart, down-to-earth but not grotesquely so, Brady represents everything we learned that the Patriots, by definition, were not supposed to be. We hear Giselle Bundchen was waiting for him after last Sunday's playoff victory against the Chargers in San Diego. Our eyes will be peeled for her, perhaps wearing a silver Pats jersey, in the coming weeks.

A similar transformation has taken place in the soul of the Boston Red Sox over the last five years. Not just good, the Sox - recently led by "caveman-chic-sexpot" Johnny Damon, and hotheads Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, are now insultated by that special shield of cool that makes it ok to root for them even if you are not from New England. This used to be the Yankees' job, or the LA Raiders', or the Cowboys'. Even David Ortiz is cruelly cool beneth the Teddy Bear veneer.

So what's happened? Has New England actually gotten cooler??? Or are these Version 2.0 Pats and Sox just new teams, bearing no relation to the losers with whom we grew up trying to avoid all association? Are the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox like Roger Moore, who offered a new take on an early model with continuity, or more like the slim and sexy Daniel Craig, a beast reborn for a new generation of fans? The Patriots' "new" logo, more than a little Cowboy-esque in its colors and spikes, implies the latter, as does the following anecdote:

I rang up my friend Magwich, a sometime contributor to this blog, after the final out of the 2004 World Series was recorded and the Red Sox won their first championship in 86 years. I had jumped ship for the Yankees very early on, and had always admired Magwich's loyalty to the Sox in the face of our undeniable superiority. Of course, this superiority was often more cultural than statistical; the Red Sox were simply not cool in the late 1980s, even though the Yankees sucked too. Anyway, when Magwich came on the line, I congratulated him on a long-overdue victory. "Huh?", he said. "What are you talking about? Did something happen on TV?" The team he had loved was long gone, and so was he.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Co Sponsorship



Betty and Bimbo and Cocoa bonded today. A walk in Tompkins Square Park for Co drew out dozens of smiles, beeps, exclamations, head-turns, elbow nudges, and commentaries in several languages. The family seems to be taking to each other. Co is laid back around the house, just needs a little work on trusting strangers not to mistreat her. A beautiful day that reminded us of how beautiful New York is, and made us see the city anew - not just through tiny little eyes peaking out of a boat bag (which was once Emma Zerner's!), but through our own.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

America Beckhams

Betty is inspired by the goodwill and ambitions for American soccer that David Beckham is expressing to the press. When was the last time a pro athlete was in a position to make a difference on behalf of the sport that gave him everything, and embraced this inherently stressful position with total openness, humility, and honest high hopes and plans to alter the consciousness of his new homeland? Even if this never happens, we like how he's talking.

By joining the L.A. Galaxy, Beckham aligns himself with a mediocre franchise in a league searching for respect and identity. In the past, Betty and Bimbo have been soccer fans only every four years, or when travelling abroad, but now we will start paying attention to Beckham and his American reception - and by extention, to the existence of Major League Soccer. Won't you? The stakes are high and the dramatic potential - for feeding frenzies, for run-ins, for spikes and lulls, for scandal, for culture shock, for California cliches, for tangible triumphs on the field and at the box office and for off-field hijinks - is hot. If only one or two of these possibilities come true in the next few years, we'll surely be riveted and made more soccer-literate.

''I'm not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. That would be difficult to achieve,'' Beckham said. ''Baseball, basketball, American football, they've been around. But I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could make a difference.''

Friday, January 12, 2007

Betty Recommends: PLENTY

Before a train trip to Boston this week, Betty was fretting (as usual) over what to read. Celebrity rags just screamed old news. Dave Eggers' indescribable, wonderful new book What Is the What was too heavy. With the clock running down at Penn Station's Hudson News, Betty grabbed Plenty.

What a terrific magazine! Betty hadn't been this thrilled by the accessibility, layout, and A+ quality content of a mag since she used to get Zillions as a child. You can read PLENTY online here, but you owe it to yourself to pick it up in person. It's printed on recycled paper and it looks beautiful.

Briefly, PLENTY is a magazine by and for urban environmentalists concerned for the sustainability of the planet and the health of the ecosystems in which they dwell. In the current issue, Betty learned all about companies that are finally getting with the sustainability program (however slowly), urban composting with under-sink earthworms (very cool, not gross), excting and not-too-pricey volunteer vacations, and some precise philosophical strains in the new generation of environmental activists. You needn't be a crunchball or a bearded wanderer to love this magazine. A subscription is the logical next step forward from An Inconvenient Truth.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Everyman's Loss, Our Loss, Our Gain

Standing near the gravesite at the funeral that begins Everyman, Nancy, the protagonist's daughter, addresses her father with "his own stoical maxim from decades back".

"There's no remaking reality," Nancy says, to her father's dead body, as she is about to throw the first clod of dirt onto his coffin. "Just take it as it comes. Hold your ground and take it as it comes."

Everyman is a book about loss, but, more importantly, to me, it's about how we deal with it-and Roth's Everyman, much as he might like to hold his ground and take it as it comes, cannot help but let the feelings of sadness wash over him. The loneliness, regret, and disappointment with which our main character lives his last days may be hard to take - but I think there is something essential about our experience of life more generally in this man.

The more women he sleeps with, the more he realizes he is essentially alone. The longer he lives, the more he appreciates his earliest years in his father's jewelery store- and the closer he gets to death, the more he clings to life, disappointing or no. The fact that the character has made many mistakes in his life - that he has not been the father he could have been, that he took his second wife for granted and later regrets the loss that resulted - does not make him extraordinary; nor does it make him inferior to any of us. He is human, all too human, and to the extent that his story depresses or angers those of us who read it - the question I think we should ask is how we feel about our own imperfections, our own failures, our own mistakes.

We cannot remake reality - but there's a few different ways we can proceed from that fact. The inability to remake reality only frees one from regret if one can truly accept the fact -and for the title character, mouthing it for many years as a "stoical maxim" is not tantamount to believing it.

But for all of life's difficulties and disappointments, there are also its gifts. The main character's relationship with his daughter - her love, specifically, is one of those in the book, one of its very bright, hopeful spots:

He never really stopped worrying about her, nor did he understand how it happened that such a child should be his. He hadn't necessarily done the right things to make it happen, even if Phoebe had. But there are such people, spectacularly good people - miracles, really - and it was his great fortune that one of these miracles was his own incorruptible daughter. Sometimes he was amazed when he looked around himself and saw how bitterly disappoint parents could be--as he was with his own two sons, who continued to act as if what happened to them had never happened before or since to anyone else--and then to have a child who was number one in every way. Sometimes it seemed as if everything was a mistake except Nancy. So he worried about her, and he still never passed a women's clothing shop without thinking of her and going in to find something she'd like, and he thought, I'm very lucky, and he thought, Some good has to come out somewhere, and it has in her. (76-7).

Yes, even this hopeful, thankful moment has its dark sides to it - the loss never hides too far from view.

But I don't know that we read, in the end, to be happy. Nor do we read to be sad or depressed - but if we can learn something about ourselves, and our own predicament, in our reading, than perhaps we have gained quite a good deal.

Cuckoo for Cocoa!

Betty & Bimbo have let a little brown ray of light into their lives - for this trial week, at least. Her name is Cocoa, though we are considering changing the spelling to Koko in honor of our good friend Koko the Clown. We call her Co.

Like all chihuahuas, she is exceptionally skiddish and sensitive. This morning Bimbo hit the couch to encourage her to snuggle, and she freaked at the sound! This week we will work with her on getting comfortable in our home. Since she comes from a abusive background, this will not always be an easy or a quick process, but it will certainly be a cute one.

Like us, she loves to cuddle and watch movies, so we'll take it from there.

Little Hun Recommends: Barranquilla, Colombia

Little Hun has been having some adventures with her Moo and her Tita in Barranquilla that seem to have come straight from her grandfather's fantastical stories, Los cuentos de Juana.

Tita - looking like a radiant movie star in her giantic sunglasses - came to greet Moo and Little Hun at the airport. But no sooner had the pair landed on Colombian soil than the little taxi (a very tiny one called a zapatico, or tiny shoe) had disappeared because the driver apparently got a bit distracted, when buying a fried snack or two to pass the time, by a carnival queen parading by in preparation for February's festivities.

The next day, the trio visited Sabanilla, a beachtown mentioned in Los cuentos de Juana as the place where a woman steals dogs from neighboring towns so she can eat them. It's also the place where Juana wants to build a house, even though Álvaro tells her that it is the ugliest beach in the whole world. It's a dry, dusty place where the trees are bendy and where Little Hun and Betty used to go to huts on the beach with their parents and grandmother to eat fried bananas to their hearts' content. This time, Tita casually offered us huevos de iguana (iguana eggs) on the bumpy ride there, as we passed by papayas the size of bellies and a church where the priest raises the dead.

Little Hun and Moo find amusement in many things: in being the only women at the country club with real boobs, in hiding from Moo's old boyfriends, in the fact that one of Tita's friend's sister had two jaguars as pets that she calls tigers (but now there is only one very pregnant jaguar-tiger because the male had to be killed for eating two dogs, including a German Shepard, and also for having eaten human flesh, as the owner was known to feed him the remains of people who had died on the farm), in the driving skills of their dearest Tita, who insists (sometimes charmingly, other times blood-curdlingly) that she does not have to stop at red lights, but only to beep rather frantically, because all of the city's bus drivers already know her, and that stop signs don't mean to stop where they are, but rather somewhere nearby, as long as its in the shade, in the fact that the last carnival queen was named "Tiviplay," and in the antics of the Tita's little darling Juanita, a furry-browed mini-schnauzer who, among other things, enjoys french fries, going to the gas station, toes, and Marlon Brando movies.Tomorrow morning the girls are off to Cartagena to listen to music in beauteous plazas and to visit some islands, where they always feel at home.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Teddy Bears CD

Does anyone know if this Teddy Bears CD is any good? I have only heard the song "Punkrocker" which is already in a Cadillac commercial. I saw the CD in Best Buy and couldn't decide whether to buy it. Punkrocker is pretty good, one of the lyrics is "I am bored with looking good." I actually dropped this line on my nemesis, here at law school, and it definitely seemed to throw her for a loop!

A Pair Nostalgic for the Nineties



Did you ever stop and think about why doctors’ and dentists’ offices overflow with heaps and mangled heaps of celebrity magazines? An answer occurred to the Spandex Twins only yesterday: celebrities stave off fears and anxiety about pain and death. At the very least, they instantly absorb us into their gated (and yet paradoxically wide-open) world of beauty and fun, and draw us back into their ever-unfolding stories, no matter where we may have left them last. Just as we may feel when revisiting family members we have know since childhood, we are comforted by our passive and limitless place in these unending real life novels.

Celebrity-themed television shows are less satisfying, mainly because they tend to pack lots of ads into the “content”, usually for new shows on their networks. Also, still pictures in magazines invite the imagination to work harder. Still, the Spandex Twins have just heard from one such show that BILLY CORGAN and COURTNEY LOVE are DATING. We understand they are even living together.

In the early 00’s, Corgan wrote some songs with C-Love for Hole's “Celebrity Skin” record. We don't know if they were romanticos back then, but this new entanglement is big news. It's like 1990s planets colliding! The Spandex Twins believe that generation is historically collapsing, and this is evidence (further evidence would be if Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani broke up, because Gavin would be left back in the ‘90s while Gwen plowed on towards the 2010s).

Our analysis of the love-match: In the nearly two decades we’ve “known” him, it often seemed that Billy Corgan had, or has, a Napoleon complex, and wanted to be the savior of the 90's and the voice of his generation the way that Kurt Cobain was seen to be. With Courtney in hand and lip, he's movin' in on that territory. We also observe that Corgan often says he feels burned by the media in a way that he actually isn't, and, being such a romantic, he now thinks he will suffer it out with Courtney Love, who has a history (and name) that mirrors characters in his gothic-Victorian-romanticism -obsessed mind. She's some kind of archetype to him, and all the songs he has written about love have now effortlessly, retroactively become love letters to her. No matter that they were written in the 1990’s – in fact, that makes them even more appropriate for Ms. Love, since she was in her heyday when Billy was writing them.

Anyway, Billy will love her defects for a while, but will soon realize that it's not actually anything like his fantasy, and he won't put up with her because he's got a Napoleon complex, and he will say that her demons are messing with his genius.

However, we think she will tire of him first. She's strong-willed and will sniff out that obsession of his; even if they are both out of touch with reality, their delusions differ sharply, and Courtney Love lives in the here and now, not in Victorian England or some Rock Arcady. She will totally sick out on him and say nasty things about him to Extra or The Insider or Entertainment Tonight.

What this all means for 2007 is that it will speed up our distance from the 90s, making it even more like the 80s in our distant regard for it, and faster. If the 90s were a sheet of brightly colored paper, it just got valley-folded, and is one step closer to becoming an origami swan in a museum.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

houstoniana

"dec 18, a car pulls up and forces venus into a black van. venus's brother, saturn explains: it's because we love you, please understand. venus spends the year's end away from family and friends in somewhere, arizona, undergoing detox. but venus is not lonely: his gregarious self blooms in the intense therapy sessions, and v. makes new friends-- there was also diana and liza and britney, and a couple of others. and they all enjoyed shaken truth martinis and hors d'oeuvres."

alas, it quite wasn't that type of vacation. instead venus cozied up in the warmth of houston, v's diasporic home away from home away from home. there, v. enjoyed the blood in the aero's ice hockey game, which they lost; watched unwieldly amounts of college football while drinking wine; did ten days straight of bikram; almost finished knitting a green alpaca wool scarf; scavenged nightly for cookies; opened presents and bickered; frequently prowled throughout montrose and its lovely cafés, antique shops and vintage clothes stores.

and also saw fabulous shows at the contemporary arts museum houston and the museum of fine arts (mfah), and at the menil collection (see picture). the pipilotti rist show at the contemporary arts museum was gorgeous, her video art pieces are sublime. at some point they felt like proust's madeleine: smallness, color, texture all evoked in v. intimacy and childhood, much in the same way that klee's "polyphonic" paintings, on show at the menil collection, do. v confesses feeling disarmed before klee and rist. much like a detox program, they return you back to zero. houston as the launching pad of the new year.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Stronger than Yesterday?

Now that Britney's k-shed K-Fed and he's wrecked any chance of reconciliation with his quintessentially Kev-tastic behavior ("F*** a wife, give me my kids b****", he scrawled on his (surely last ever) dressing room mirror)), we - and she - have officially entered that murky corner of the twilight zone known as the post-Britney era.

Britney Spears has now cycled through every stage of fame that we scientists of celebrity know to exist. She's been an ingenue, a brat packer who ran with boy bands, a supergirlfriend, a lesbian, a Kabbalist, a torch-bearer, political shorthand for several sins, a faux hip-hop artist, a sower of wild oats, a slandered vixtem, an unearthly power-wielder, a sabbatical-taker, a working class heroine, a liberated tramp, and that's just UNTIL she met Kevin.

I'm not even counting "virgin" as one of these overlapping versions of Britney's fame - I'm just talking about phases we KNOW and can be sure we WITNESSED. As members of Britney's audience - willing or not - we actually invented, demanded, and retouched many of these incarnations from dentists' offices and airport lounges around the world. Britney in fact went through several of the above phases more than once, in case we missed her acting out a timeless Hollywood cliche - always with her own flair - the first time.

Now pinch yourself, cause Britney's star - and her legend in the making - are pretty much gone.

Her mythic legacy sputtered briefly after Kevin left the picture, and fate made him like that ex-boyfriend your cousin brought to two Thanksgivings in a row ten years ago, then disappeared from both of your lives forever. The Kevin era left two small boys behind, and two brief months in which Britney still had two familiar frameworks of fame to enact. First, she triumphed, striding through New York and cutting her hair. She freed herself of the dead weights of Kevin and what looked like fifteen pounds of heft and hair at once. The time was ripe for creativity of self and song, but instead Brit hit a wall and that wall was named Vegas.

Paris could fly out of Nevada reputation unchanged, but not the more impressionable and stress-addled Britney. We've all seen the pictures - both below and above the party dress - and have thrown up our hands in bafflement and a total lack of comparison. Indeed, Britney's unspectacular and utterly ordinary downturn is an historically unprecedented phase in the long pageant of fame. Oh sure, there have been public breakdowns before, but never quite like Britney's long road home from her star. With her panties off and her blinders on, Britney has exited the stratosphere of recognizable fame. She hasn't broken down, but she's become one of us, as unscandalous and unglamorous and middle-class and knowable, and we have absolutely no idea what to do with her anymore.

Update on Yesterday's Post: The Cost of Our New "Truth"



Yesterday I discussed the absurd new truth that in order to support the troops one has to support endless funding of the war.

Steve Greenberg has this worthwhile take on the $400 billion we have spent so far. The shocking piece is that we have spent eight times the annual income of each Iraqi, to kill lots of them and screw up electricity and water for most others. Oh yeah, and we're stopping terrorism too.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stone Temple Pilots: Keepers of the Alt

Today Daffy Duck was watching his roommate play a simulation video game called "Guitar Hero II," which, as you can guess, is a lot like Dance Dance Revolution. Here, you play along with some songs the video game designers have deemed "rockin'" enough to want to play along to; the notes, color-coded, appear on a scrolling fretboard on the TV screen and you must press the corresponding buttons on a small plastic guitar as you "strum" along on a toggle switch. It's kind of awesome, despite the overall lameness or "WTF?"-itude of some of the song choices. Did you ever have a hankering to air-jam along to "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers? Neither did I.

One of the songs, "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart," by Stone Temple Pilots, is a standout headscratcher. My roommate and I didn't even recognize the title at first. "What the hell is that about?" I thought. The strangest thing about it though was how quickly we picked up on the tune once we had chosen it, and how comfortably it fit into our memory, like a piece of furniture that you forgot had been there the whole time. If you don't recall the tune, don't worry, it's not important. Just imagine that you have probably heard it, you can't make out any of the lyrics, and that it's catchy if only because it's playing right in front of you. You would tag it as "Hard Rock" even though it doesn't rock all that hard. It's perfect for this video game.

Just then Daffy's roommate reminded him that STP had a long string of hits, which is fishy in light of the fact that STP generally isn't considered a seminal band. They were never anyone's favorite, but their songs are eminently recognizable on the radio. Why, then, were they so popular in their heyday, winning all sorts of music awards and sometimes even breaking projected sales expectations?

Stone Temple Pilots. . . the name is as weird now as it was then. But do you remember that there was a split-second in the 90's when it made absolute sense? It seemed so modern, so right. You could imagine what it might mean, but that wasn't the point, nor could it add any note of consequence. It was nonsense, but it had a certain cadence that made it palatable, even fun to say. It was fun to say nonsense in the 90s. It was, however, a very distinct kind of nonsense that could only have come from that decade.

The question "What does 'Stone Temple Pilots' mean?" is partially answered in this helpful article. We know it doesn't mean anything in the end. But it did mean something in the world of "Alternative" music, that creature from the black lagoon that many of us fell in love with as kids in the 90's. Little did we know that it was of any cultural significance, but it pointed to the desperate need to reinvent the rock wheel and everything involved in its roll, from how it was made, to how it was sold, to how it was heard.

Many people credit a handful of "college rock" bands (extra-special thanks to the Pixies) with surreptitiously slackening the taut fabric of hair metal (the "Hair Net" if you will) at the close of the 80's, allowing the upstart grunge parade to kick a hole through it like a football team through a pep rally banner. Suddenly the airwaves of the 90's became an olla podrida of rock quirks and oddities, sardonic curveballs and angsty anti-anthems, revealing the squalid and strange, but always pop, underbelly of American rock music. It was like an open wound oozing some unidentifiable discharge.

In the 90's bands were free to work out their psychological kinks publicly, from their songwriting and arranging down to their names, often adopting--quite liberally in some cases--all manner of contrived quirks as aesthetic ends in themselves. The more baffling the better. It was the generation's way of providing itself with an antidote to the excesses of the 80's, a way for it to approach its future and confront its skeletons creatively, just as all generations must do. Protracted weirdness was OK as long as you were loud about it. Young people's fascination and alignment with "freaks" and "creeps" (think of all the songs you know called "Creep") became their security blanket. The cryptic, intentionally vague, and sometimes vapid lyrics of the time now seem to reflect a desperate confusion, apt for the first scene of the last act of a millennium, but nonetheless delivered with force and aplomb. It soon, very soon, became the dominant aesthetic of rock music, and that decade's bid for musical freedom.

The watershed was so overwhelming, and the trickle-down so quick, that the music industry scrambled to lump it all into a new genre and christen it with that most unfortunate, but brilliantly marketable moniker, "Alternative." At first it sounded like a concession, but as buyers warmed up to it, it began to seem revelatory. This is the point at which STP made its bid for our ears, and as such, by critical accounts at least, its legacy is mired in speculation about its commercial intentions. Were they simply copping grunge poses for the bandwagon buck? Did they have anything to say to the bored, weird American youths? In some way, it honestly didn't matter, because the style, in its superficiality, was the bearer of meaning, and despite that generation's self-sustained and celebrated confusion it was peripherally aware of how culturally telling its musical forms were. As such, it could celebrate confusion because it was reflected in its music with such surety.

It was through the Alternative window, through its progressive but confused mien, that the name Stone Temple Pilots made total sense. The helpful article tells us that the members simply liked the letters "STP". Most bands arrive at their names this way, and the names are as nonsensical. Manhattan Transfer? What the hell is that? Asia? Huh? You might as well name your band Zack Attack. But, like the best of 'em, band names with little to no personal mythology in their back story are the ones that best reflect their zeitgeist by inadvertently sounding the most dated--they wear their time like a badge. Take, for instance, Scott Weiland's most recent appellative masterstroke VELVET REVOLVER. It has the pomp and the soft material/weapon dynamic of Guns 'N' Roses (it even has some of its members), but is somehow dopey, a dud that seemed fresh at the time. It belongs to this here decade, a little easier to fathom than Stone Temple Pilots, if only because it affects a touching romanticism, but no wiser.

STP had sixteen (!) top ten hits on the the Billboard Rock chart. If you heard them on the radio you could certainly pick them out. Some are better than others, and some are actual gems. The album Purple even deserved most of its accolades. Though they were popular, they were never lauded with the laurels of celebrity (If celebrity ever found them it was through Scott Weiland's drug fiascoes and run-ins with the law), and their exit from the music scene hardly registered on anyone's radar. But because of bands like them, self-avowed Creeps and Weirdos who worked out the kinks in rock music and struggled through one of its more strenuous growth spurts, even if they didn't know they had a hand in the decade's experimental spirit, our present music scene is in a confident, stable, and inventive place. Luckily, one can't take music for granted because one can only consume it by appreciating it. So let's try to appreciate some STP, for even if they did not rock all that hard, they rocked the best way they knew how, and the world is better for it.

Zizek on war, truth, and other things that don't go together


The incomparable Zizek has a very interesting piece in yesterday's Times about the perversion of "truth" and the ability to ignore facts in the US vis-a-vis the misadventure in Iraq.

Zizek has perhaps the best retort I have read to the tired non-argument that the world is "better off" without Saddam Hussein.
Recall the old story about the factory worker suspected of stealing: every evening, when he was leaving work, the wheelbarrow he rolled in front of him was carefully inspected, but the guards could not find anything, it was always empty. Finally, they got the point: what the worker was stealing were the wheelbarrows themselves.

This is the trick being attempted by those who claim today, “But the world is nonetheless better off without Saddam!” They forget to factor into the account the effects of the very military intervention against him. Yes, the world is better without Saddam Hussein — but is it better if we include into the overall picture the ideological and political effects of this very occupation?

The fundamental problem for the world about the current position of the US, Zizek concludes, is that it pretends to be an empire while continuing to act like a nation-state. The world would be better off to have the US truly embrace its status as an empire, rather have Washington than carry a big stick for decidedly small and self-interested purposes.

This is not, I think, an attempt by Zizek to actually advocate for empire, but rather to point out the contradictions of the current situation. All kinds of contradictions have resulted, including this one with which he concludes:

[N]ow the United States is continuing, through other means, this greatest crime of Saddam Hussein: his never-ending attempt to topple the Iranian government. This is the price you have to pay when the struggle against the enemies is the struggle against the evil ghosts in your own closet: you don’t even control yourself.
What we are now faced with, apparently, are three choice that Bush is considering: whether to increase troop strength by 4,000, 9,000, or 20,000 troops. Democrats have stated their opposition, with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi even penning a strongly worded letter (!!!) to the President. But the fight, aside from the political theatre, may stop there, as the Times notes:
The bigger question is whether Congress will seek to stop the troop increase. In theory, it could cut off financing, the only way it could actually interfere with the commander in chief’s plans. But Democrats have said they would not take such a step, largely out of fear of being accused of undercutting the troops.
Apparently, the "truth" that stopping the gears of the war machine is tantamount to not "supporting the troops" will continue apace. As Zizek notes, truth is what we want it to be. It certainly was for Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, the Iraqi information minister under Saddam who was resolute in his version of truth to the end, claiming that television images of tanks near the palace in Baghdad were just special effects. "There was something refreshingly liberating about [al-Sahhaf's] interventions," Zizek writes,
which displayed a striving to be liberated from the hold of facts and thus of the need to spin away their unpleasant aspects: his stance was, “Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?”
George Bush may not be in total control anymore, but we still believe his words - about "victory", about "supporting the troops," etc. - more than we believe our own eyes. What a pity.