Thursday, November 30, 2006

Everybody's always talkin about the ka-chungggg chord that is Law & Order, how evocative it is, but I've become newly re-in love with the opening of the Six Feet Under theme, by which I mean that one very first chord. It's really brilliant, makes my head whip around when I hear it. It's driving me crazy that I don't have a piano I can use to figure it out what exactly it's composed of. My friend Jenn could do it in two secs in her head, but I need help. There's an octave in there, I think, and a minor second on top? And doubling of a note with another instrument over the piano? Plus the triangle? Even getting this far in parsing it out makes me think it's another one of those things--like many of the best things--that is deeply simple. I don't think it's got that many components. Figuring out the interval(s) is what's driving me nuts... Fun nuts.

candy store

Ginormous sale at Sotheby's yesterday of American art, including! Charles Sheeler's Red Tulips. Also sold were Hopper's Hotel Window, Wyeth's Stand and Deliver, and Rockwell's Breaking Home Ties, which, you know, I really like. I guess that means I'll be bidding against Steven Spielberg in the future (maybe he bought this one). They'are all really delicious. And so American. How is that?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Heather over at Fashion Survivor pointed out some recent scary Hollywood weight drops among the "plus-sized" actress group (such as Sara Rue oh my GAWD, that Reba lady). Sigh. She also pointed out a story I'd heard about Nicole Ritchie firing her stylist, the stylist being notorious for clients who get too skinny.

The thing that suddenly struck me about that is: how incredibly nefarious and WHAT a good plot for a story. A demoness...a Svengali/Iago/Faustus (Iaga? Faustina?) type who pipes women to their doom, tempting them with all the empty spoils of fame that burn them alive but make the stylist burn bright. There are plenty of archetypes to manage that, make it interesting. It's kind of Dorian Gray-y...or even Persona-like. Twisty turny identifications and devilish schemes. I mean, the situation really--on the surface--bespeaks some old-fashioned evil at work, to cozy up to people, play on vanity, get them doing bad things that are probably good for the stylist. Rasputin-y. That kinda thing.


I would never in a million years say I flat-out liked this movie, but I am starting to develop a relationship with it. Do you see what I mean? The relationship is primarily based on my part on interest in technical cinematic issues, as well as a love for movies set in conscribed locations (and how), not to mention a lifelong obsesion with the topic, not to mention an ancillary obsession with Gloria Stuart stemming from years of MFK Fisher obsession...but it exists, that's the point. I am hesitant to note this, even to bring it up, because in the end this could sound like or be unconvincing as anything other than an enormous steaming pile of rationalization, or even a kind of sam-n-diane thing (hah! thin line between love and hate, yo), but really--there are more parts of it I really actively dislike than parts I like. And some of the things I dislike are dealbreakers.

And yet, the point is: I watch it when it's on sometimes--often, parts of it. It's so strange (qv my endless meandering blog about how one consumes or half-absorbs media) the weird way we let movies (or whatever) in, make them our pets. I tend to Lenny them into overfamiliarity. I like to sniff along the seams of things. It's FUN. Can't help it. Once they dive in under the radar, that is. I mean...there's some crappy crappy stuff that gets in there. I read You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again once and was like oh! what a shittily written megalomaniacal piece of crap, but I've probably read it 30 times since. I don't know what you would call this behavior--the DSM probably has a term for it.

I will say this: there is only one word for K. Winslet's performance, after seeing the movie too much recently. CLAMMY.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ignorance Exposed! Film at 11

One of the besetting sins of 1) my know-it-all, ex-quiz-show, trivia-hound personality type 2) the kinds of work environments in which I have indulged is how I manage the deluge of information that is usually floating up to and past our nips in fast-moving rivers. That is to say, I often err on the side of a knowing a little about a lot, when it comes to general topics (not pet obsessions). Easy to paddle around somewhat lazily in the gigantic never-ending flow, especially at a newspaper.

So it can be embarassing to have inevitable huge gaps in one's knowledge pointed out! They almost seem impossible, those gaps, amongst the pressure of the deluge (although of course they're not--and there are tons!), which in turn makes them seem that much more shocking when they surface. How could such big air bubbles exist unpopped?? Shocking...but fun! I'll be honest. Frankly, ignorance is fun. Because learning is fun! I've stopped being embarrassed most of the time when I don't know about some crap, even, frankly, crucial crap--I mean, how can I possibly keep up? Okay, I'm almost always embarrassed by the specificity of my knowledge about current events and the war in Iraq, but that's different. Discovering something wholesale--popping a huge air bubble of ignorance--can be very exciting as well as disturbing! Especially if you like it.

The point is: I never heard of the American painter Charles Sheeler. In my life that could mean that I wrote a paper on him in college and forgot--not to mention I worked at an American museum for eight years and have no excuse, but still--who knew?! I swear I've never heard of him. He's the subject of a major traveling show right now (National Gallery, AIC, etc.). I absolutely fell in love--this is the really fun part--with his work this morning, even 2x3" on my computer monitor. Really exciting. How did I miss one of the founders of Modernism? I had to call my friend Jill to get all excited, which she let me do, bless her tolerant talented heart. How NEATO. (I guess one of the cool parts/flip side of the Info Deluge is that this stuff comes to you. Crosses your desk.)

I guess he's rather 'opper-y (as in, Edward H.--hallo Skip!), but I don't think that's the part twangin my strings exactly. The painting I really liked is American Landscape (1930), top, which is at MOMA, and completely and totally theirs and borrowed only for eddifyin purposes here, not to mention consider it a big ad for the traveling exhibition! The other one above is Steam Turbine (1939) at the Butler. The Wikipedia entry has links to lots of other neat images.
The beat du jour: I'm all hung up on "Random" by Lady Sovereign. I like her all right, I got a pet peeve about the way she's using the word "random" (the way everybody in her age group does--hate it), but damn! I love that mix/beat. The echoey synthesizer gongggggggggg sound workin in the chorus background...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

see your food

It's been another weirdly warm and thus slightly carefree weekend in Chicago. Today was spent in part dining at a lovely Hyde Park institution* famous in story and song, then in a trip to my local way-gour-may store that resulted in an expensive bagful of helpful staple groceries like one can of sugar-free Red Bull and a box of lemon pizzelle. A single croissant. So glad I crossed those off my list.

I read about 1/3 of the new Nora Ephron book at the Hyde Park Border's (I'm liking it, but that seems about right so far for committment levels). One thing that made me really happy was coming upon her description of the photos in Gourmet: "the splendid, reverent, slightly lugubrious photographs of food that the magazine was famous for." I thought she really nailed it there. I've tried to describe or refer to those photos' qualities with other people before, and had no luck. They were always a little stodgy, or conservative. Almost as if the registration was just the tiniest bit off, like an old-fashioned cookbook, with a haze of blue hovering unappetizingly above an otherwise attractive table. Only they weren't off-register, but still there was that feeling. Just a little too...static. Full frame focus from close-up to slightly old-fashioned styled background. Clearly I can't stop trying to describe these photos, because the feeling they gave was so specific, but "splendid, reverent, slightly lugubrious" is damn close.

This is all before le règne de la Reichl, of course, or as the French shorthand it--la Terreur. Hah! No no no! I kid. The magazine's photography seems to have caught up with contemporary style, all foregrounded n shiny n stuff.

*I'd put up a photo, but I can't for the life of me remember for some reason what the new signage looks like--since the renovation, I mean. And sorry about the Amazon linx, that's tacky I know.
Finally saw W&G: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I am in love with the inane lil squeaking rabbits.
You know how you can get food cravings for things you've never had? For years my imagination has been caught by the idea of la truite Grenobloise, even when I didn't know what it was called; now I'm really craving it! Only, um, I've never had it. And maybe I wouldn't like it, esp. if it were too caper-y. And maybe I have scurvy, that's why I'm craving it (all that lemon). Actually, the lemon is really what makes me want it--seems yummy. And lil bread cubes. And thin delicious fillets of fish, crispily grilled.

First sighting of White Christmas tonight; guess it's official now. I am behind on my Christmas shopping.

I may go to Le Francais in January...this is exciting!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

confused chili a la tejas

I made the most confused pot of chili ever tonight. I started with ground beef and stewing meat that I was too lazy to re-cut in smaller chunks (wondering if it'd ever break down when I threw it in the pot), then chuck I cut up myself, then gallons of chili spices (this is Texas chili, btw), some pureed tomato, and, in a fatally disastrous decision, a wallop of kosher salt that sent the salt levels FLYING. Yuck. Irrecoverable. Disaster. Mon dieu.

So after a quick consult, I drained off a big portion of the salty chili liquid, then threw in water and chicken stock. And more chili spices. With no salt. And started cooking again. Lid on, lid off. Medium, Lo, Medium-Lo. Couldn't decide. Eventually I got it at a brisk simmer with the lid off.

Later I fell asleep watching the Beverly Sills documentary (she is a miracle. I wish I were Beverly Sills). When I woke up: luckily no burning, but all the liquid gone, just a steaming cake of cow meat, starting to crackle ominously around the edges. I threw in more water--too much--brought it to a boil, stirred it all up, then mixed in some paste from masa harina to try to thicken up.

I'm really not sure what state it's in now, except I'm quite sure the chili was confused in the end by all the dessicating and hydrating and boiling and rehydrating. I think it actually might not be thick enough. Regardless, I had a bowl (after six hours of chili-ing, I had no patience for 45 minutes for rice) with a blop of tangy Greek yoghurt on top and it was really good! Now it's cooling down (will take about two hours) and I will have not nearly as much chili as you might think from all that cow, but it'll be good. And I will freeze it, 'cause I'm actually already almost sick of chili.

organic ground beef
2 lbs. of beef stew meat, cut up
2 lb. of chuck, cut up
olive oil
s&p (more P)
chili powder
tomato puree
chicken stock
masa harina

Sear meat well in olive oil in a big stew pot in batches so it doesn't braise. Drain fat if you need to. Put all the cooked meat back in the pot, cover it in huge shakes of spices (biggest: cumin, chili & oregano), letting them crackle in the fat in a bit. Then bung in water and two big cans of tomato puree. Cook forever, until the stew meat breaks down. If you need to, add more water or chicken stock, also spices. Stir occasionally to keep things from Sticking. At the end, mix in a paste of masa harina, and adjust s&p. Great with cheese, yoghurt, sour cream, whatever, on toast, rice (esp brown), pasta, quinoa, even, believe it or not, leftover Thanksgiving stuffing if its spice profile is complimentary (oh so good).

Your seats are a featherbed

Okay. When I was writin that rant about Thanksgiving media, the coda I left out was that for me, the one real Thanksgiving-related media phenom I know is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, because that movie was always on TV Thanksgiving afternoon, post-dinner, in my suburban DC youth. We only watched the first part, though, up to the part where they start flying.

But I turned on the TV tonight (ABC Family--a Disney channel) and...wham! Chitty Chitty B.B. But I don't know why. Was the Wonderful World of Disney the vehicle for it then when I was a kid? Or was it local? I don't remember, but it feels a little magical that it should be on now, only there's no way in the world the programming decisions were that fascinating, I'm sure. But still.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Okay, nobody get too excited, but there's a Doris Day marathon on TCM tomorrow. Based on the thinnest of linguistic jokes ("Thanksgiving Day Marathon"?) but--who cares! Romance on the High Seas, It Happened to Jane, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, The Glass Bottom Boat, That Touch of Mink and Lover Come Back. I don't know why not By the Light of the Silvery Moon (pictured), more Thanksgivingy, but--again--who cares!?!
Posted a turkey rant in the Reader food blog I kinda like. Gobble gobble. Also one about Gordon Ramsay. The thing I didn't say in that one? His food will probably rock. Funny how that's kind of irrelevant.
Nothing much to say about Robert Altman (everyone else is doing that), but I surfed obituaries sadly for a while last night, thinking about the alarming gaps in my film education despite a lot of reasons why there shouldn't be. I never seemed to give myself over to rabid fandom with him, and I don't know why--he was ripe for it. I think it's partly the challenges that his movies present. They don't ever have easy toeholds, they are are like portals to a new dimension that turn themselves inside out once you enter, and there isn't a lot of room for grey. Very black and white, in a completely non-bossy but demanding way, cinematically.

To complete the image of a Anglophilic parvenu (the subtitle of this blog), I have given myself over totally to Gosford Park--that movie made it clear how much liking his films is about familiarity, because the more I see it, the more I like it, the more there is to see. I adore that film. I think it's unbelievably smart, and wears its virtuosity easily. And, thinking about it--The Player arrived at a point in my GenX life that was significant. It seems, in looking back, to have provided a crucial transition in filmwatching, a broader validation for film's cultural relevance that we take for granted now. Knowing about the opening sequence of Touch of Evil went from a film school convention to a general cultural one.

I told two people at work the news about him yesterday with (I am in an honest mood today) what felt like a bit of the unflattering relish and adrenaline that comes with imparting bad news, and I can still remember the looks on their faces! Was revealing to see, especially in a work environment that trafficks in information and the timing of the acquisition thereof and is thus somewhat unsurprisable. We should all have people grieve like that when we go.

I guess I do have a few things to say about Robert Altman. It would be much cooler to announce in the spirit of the sniffy endings of sad newspaper articles everywhere that I'm going to spend some quality time with Nashville or McCabe & Mrs. Miller this weekend and think about my blessings, but I think it may be Gosford Park again. We'll see. Oh how long a Robert Altman film festival would be!

Monday, November 20, 2006

gemisch gemosch

* So, the end of Prime Suspect was this evenin'. I dunno, think it was rather a hopeless mixed-up mess in some ways, with lots of fabulous elements that needed a much tighter weave. I stand by my Helen Mirren fixation--she was a good portion of the fabulousness--that, and good editing (I sometimes think the opening sequences of both parts were the best things about them). The show had grand plot elements, they were just all kinda jumbled together, even in the ending. The whole thing felt a bit like a trial run. But still--some very good moments. What is it about her that is so good? I feel bored at even trying to parse that out, except that she is smart, she is committed. She's the greatest.

* Saw my first helpful/non-irritating minutes of a Steve Raichlen cooking show this weekend. This is news. He has maybe the most un-attracting TV demeanor/voice/everything of anybody I've ever seen host a cooking show. Anyhow, he was going over cuts of meat, which is as far as I'm concerned something you can't do enough, and it was very clear and helpful. And non-annoying and non-grating. Odd.

* Saw Proof for the first time this weekend, the adaptation of the David Auburn play. I dunno, eh. I guess I'm in an Eh mood, but still. Eh. It's a pretty great premise, and I know the movie veered far enough from the play that he wanted to take his name off, but I found it not quite fully realized for such a great story. I didn't find Gwyneth P. particularly convincing as somebody who could be that smart (why is she ever the Smart Girl choice for mainstream movies? blah blah blah), although I'm trying to imagine Mary Louise Parker (who originated the role in NY) and I think I would have clocked her--I cannot STAND her mannerisms, her open-mouthed, wide-eyed reactionism that passes for acting. Hate her. Anthony Hopkins kinda put everyone to shame with his easy brilliance, but even that felt...I dunno! I don't wish I had seen MLParker, but I certainly do wish I had seen Larry Bryggman in NY. Golly. And (since I'm sort of playing fantasy football here with my casting wishes), definitely Richard Coyle from London for Hal, because he's so deadly yummy, although I thought Gyllenhalwhatever was pretty good.

I will say this: good Chicago geography. He got the way Hyde Parkers talk about Northwestern exactly. And Hope Davis was amazing.

* Also lazily saw for the first time this weekend: Murder, My Sweet, which was Raymond Chandler's adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely. I was surprised I hadn't seen it before, although in some ways not since I haven't been that interested in Marlowe-mangling in general. Don't think anybody really got it much right on screen.

I know the plot of Farewell well enough that I could kind of 1/2-watch the movie and say, oh, that's whomever, without much checking, but lost it once the plot veered off tremendously from the book. One thing I liked was making Anne Mrs. Grayle's stepdaughter--made more emotional sense. And some of that book is so racist--it was almost a relief that for whatever (moviely racist) reasons they didn't include so many scenes with black folk in the movie.

The thing they never ever get right is Marlowe. I think Mitchum gave hints of how he would have been perfect for the role in that bizarro English Farewell adaptation, but only 40 years prior. Dick Powell (that's him up there, on the right, with Moose Malloy on the left) was pretty good, but everybody's missing the world-weary, quiet but not Dana-Andrews-like quality that character should have. As well as the sex appeal (he's a Jane Eyre-like 1st-person narrator, in that you know he's hot). And the smartness. And the idealism. And the physical ability. It's pretty impossible to do him right, I guess. Maybe he's too delicious to ever come down from the page. Oh mystery writers and their delicious protagonists they fall in love with...

* Current can't-stop-playin song:

"Sista Big Bones" by Anthony Hamilton. Hookityhookityhook. His voice is sweet as pie, sweet as PIE. I love that Mo'Nique is the slo-mo video honey, and I love the goofy sweet expression on his face. But mostly I love his voice! Good GOLLY.

In order to break the spell, I switched over to the new DVD I got (swag) of the Maazel/Raimundi/Te Kanawa Don Giovanni and it's a fairly complementary switch. Sista Big Bones by Johannes Chrysostom...

* Completely and totally unrelated:

Don't you wish sometimes you could swish your hair clean after washing in a bucket of water like you were a Barbie doll? Sometimes when I'm in the shower trying to rinse my hair I think: I wish someone could pick me up by the feet and just...swish. Get it clean that way. Thank you.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I hate getting even this far into the whole stupid tomkatwedding (makes me feel a little barfy) but the fashion nerd in me has to notice (she was wearing this at the airport in Italy)--phwoar! The cloche is back. Or I mean--maybe not back, but has shown itself for the moment. This is interesting.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nerdfulness & weirdness.

1) I have received my new Panda lunchbox in the mail from LLBean and really couldn't be more excited.

2) I had a very celebrity-driven calligraphy dream the other night. Yes, because celebrities care as much about calligraphy as you do.

In this doozie, I and other art "students" were going to meet this master calligrapher/artist in staggered clumps. His name was...CCIJJO. Or...CCIZZO. That was his signature, his first initial/last name, which was what he went by. I was calligraphing it over and over and in my dream with "ZZs," but I kept dotting them, like "JJ"s, so I don't really know what the name was.

(All I know is, when I woke up, I started doodling this name on paper like I was Richard Dreyfuss with the mashed potatoes.) When I got to my meeting with the calligrapher, Ashton Kutcher came out and said, "yes, it's difficult isn't it?!," very smiley.

Then I discovered toward the end of the meeting that the reason we were all auditioning was because that Johnny Knox guy who's in Jackass and the Dukes of Hazzard movie couldn't read scripts unless they were: comprised of many sheets together, all stapled in the MIDDLE; calligraphed in a modified Italic hand; cut around the text so in each case the margins were mostly removed; edited so that his lines somehow were centralized on all these weird jagged oval pages, around the staples. Anyhow, we were there to audition to the calligraphic work. Oh yeah! I remember being very excited that Ashton understood the demands of the art. Ahahahhahahahahah can't stand it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

QV that last post

More Chicago sentimentality: I got a great-lookin book at work recently called Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class. It'd normally be right up my alley, but now I can barely stand to look at the photos because every other one is of Marshall Field's! Not to mention every other paragraph. Breaks my heart. I was all prepared to be overly sentimental about the department stores I got flashes of in my youth--Robertson's in South Bend, Indiana, for instance, but this Field's wound--how long before it goes away?? How long before the sight of MF green or a dashing brush-script font or The Clock doesn't make me a lil choked up?? Wah! I hope they bring it back. Macy's (as a coworker said) doesn't deserve the Tiffany Dome. It's like trying to rename corn or George Washington: it's either Marshall Field's or it isn't. Can't rename it. Go somewhere else.
My great-grandfather was chairman of this old-fashioned but still thriving (unfortunately) Chicago charity, the Pacific Garden Mission, 100 years ago--it's fascinating to see some major--and green--architecture attached to this and the new Near North SRO as well. The new Pacific Garden Mission building (image left) is by Stanley Tigerman.

The Times reported on these two buildings on Sunday--they've been reported on locally much more as they've gone. As usual, I was struck by the wild contradictions and undercurrent in these kinds of things. It's so great we're building forward-thinking green architecture, and it makes me insanely proud to read about housing initiatives and attaching important architectural work to the lives of the homeless, but...what about all the SROs torn down to make Presidential Towers? What about the condos taking over every affordable neighborhood? What about all the significant architecture torn down and thugged despite preservationists' best efforts? What about the people putting up tall luxury buildings in my neighborhood like they're in a race with the devil despite low occupancy rates? What about the (packed, constantly used, popular, featured in films) YMCA on the near north side that is closing because of insane real estate costs? What about the psychotic property taxes? Who can afford to live here?

Chicago breaks my heart constantly as an architecture fan and a citizen. But the small solace you find, you have to find, is that if you have to characterize an entire city you know we are tigers. Sometimes it does feel like it hasn't stopped since the fire. Build build build. Tear down tear down build start over. People here always care, and something is always happening to care about. We are not like other cities that worry and talk but in the end nothing happens, good or bad--like or not, something's always about to change. Chicago doesn't feel particularly like it's moldering unattended--at its core--even if it feels like you spend your life grieving for old buildings and brutal change. I don't know...will the new SROs be better? Did this have to happen? Is this about necessary urban growth and change?

What would all of those teetotalling, civic-minded Chicagoans like my great-grandfather thought of the new architecture? Would they have thought it "too nice" in their paternalistic, Victorian way, for those it seeks to help? Or would it have been the fulfillment of unknown dreams to see such big gestures come to fruition? Would they have been shocked at the fact that social ills are still all around us or accepting in a Christian way?

I do know--it suddenly occurs to me--that I will be sad to see the landmark of the Pacific Garden neon sign disappear from its current location. I look for it every time I'm on the El, every time I'm around there. The buildings in that part of the South Loop aren't quite as thick as some places, so sometimes you can see a stretch of State Street and, usually, the men lined up in front of the Mission. It's one of the first landmarks I learned in the city, one I came to feel threaded me to my past a bit. At least they are keeping the sign.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cor blimey, pretty good (Prime Suspect). Nobody really does turgid like PS, and why do I like it there and not in Law & Order/CSI/Cold Case/1-Hr Scenery-Chewing American Drama? I dunno. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to bring back creepy old Bill Otley, like a weird fallen AA angel. Although, as ever, they pushed that device pretty far...did they? See, we dunno. Looks pretty good, I'll be back next week. This episode has the strengths of the best earlier ones, which is pressure within (the sexist lads made for great drama) and without the investigation situation, but I'm not sure it's quite as gripping.

I still miss Jack Ellis, from the first season (turns out he's the brother? cousin? of the guy who played whom my mom called Poldark&Handsome in the 70s...80s?). Anyhow, greatest speakin voice ever...bring back Muddyman!
I care only idly about the whole James Bond hoo-ha, but I have to say I like what I've seen of Daniel Craig. Partly it's sheer Blonde Man liking, but he also just seems more like a rough-hewn English bloke, and less like a smooth magical Everyman. I mean, he frankly has that wing-nut look when his hair's wet and his ears stick out. I guess I am also slightly more interested since Judi Dench's involvement in the whole franchise. And reading more Kingsley Amis. Maybe this new one will get me there. Oh! And to finally see Sylvia. DC sure has that Ted *look*, kinda. Beaky, manly, leathery--could excise him from his 50s surroundings and plop him in a bar in Wicker Park this weekend with no problem.

Every time I see the words ted hughes it makes me want to read Philip Larkin--his letters, etc. He was so funny about his appeal (and PL's lack thereof).

Pensées de, um, Mlle. Brigitte Jones

1) Censorship is so...fickle. Broadcasters go to great lengths to excise the words "tits" and "fuckwit"--aurally and visually, even, from over-the-shoulder shots of instant messaging and journals--but leave in phrases like "Sod 'em all" and "I don't give a toss." It's just odd to have evidence of all this linguistic arbitrariness right there. In the same mix.

2) So, this bum. Okay, it's a bad screen grab and probably stretched/skewed in the getting. And putting a camera on a body does add difference if not weight. And there's camera angle. And costumery. But adding and subtracting everything you want, you are basically looking at a bum that needed 20-30 lbs. to get even this big, which when you watch the film isn't very big at all. It's a little scary to actually see. I know this is obvious ground, but I needed to tread it. Goddamn starvation thinkin.

3) It seems to me that in order for Hugh Grant to play somebody even as nasty/edgy as he does in this film (and it's not that bad), he has to have this whole other career of jollity underneath it. 50 years ago he might have been a charming cad, professional roue (which he's clearly better at playing) with not nearly as much preliminary nice-making. I mean, Nine Months? Come on. Well, he was certainly much more interesting in his early career. Maybe it's just America's fault.

Friday, November 10, 2006

PBS Sunday

Reel Fanatic reminds us that Sunday is Part I of the final Prime Suspect (#7) on Masterpiece Theater. The plot promises Tennison battling alcohlism in a "brutal way," which I take to mean barf scenes, but I'm still excited. There's a little bit of chasing the dragon involved with liking Prime Suspect; nothing ever quite compares to the breathtaking discovery/experience of the best ones in the beginning for the first time, and not all of the series were that good. Plus they never quite acheived the fabulousness of her first series haircut again. But I'd pay to watch Helen Mirren dial a phone, frankly. I get teary-eyed just *thinking* about some of the best, most powerful moments in that series and other things she's done. There aren't too many people worth the hyperbole and praise heaped on them once the world decides to start doing so, but she's one.

Her Russian background is interesting--looked it up the other day.

If that isn't enough for Sunday night, then note that the evening begins an hour earlier with an episode of Nature all about penguins of the Antarctic! It's enough to start shoveling bread at PBS.
H. just told me that Gerald Levert died. Oh golly...that is sad. He had a beautiful voice, just like his daddy Eddie of the mighty O'Jays. Cleveland's very own, which is where he died. Ungh. I will make sure to listen to V103 this there will be good tributes. He was so fine. Also died: Jack Palance, and this whole Adrienne Shelley thing is so awful. What a weird news week. I'm not keeping up.

I sent this link to lots of people, but I will post it here too. The paper was the first place to really report on the immolation death of a Chicago war protestor/fixture of the music scene last Friday. It's colored a lot of how I've felt about all the Big News this week.

requiescat in pace

I mention this not to make anybody more sad, or be lugubrious or uncomfortable, but I wanted to say goodbye to Puck, who was not my dog, but a very very very good dog I was privileged to know, even babysit once or twice. He was the kind of dog that was All Dog, you know? All Id. He made me giggle a lot, as he charged about, even when he was a pest. Very very doggie, even though he had the usual charming non-dog quirks, some of which ran hilariously counter to stereotypes about his partial pit bull ancestry. I always thought of Puck as an inspiring survivor, a street dog, a fundamentally sweet animal whose loyalty and companionship to J. was the sweetest thing about him, as was her unwavering devotion back. It seems one of the best things you can say about a dog, that he hung in there through the creation of many years' worth of art, like a midwife, the ultimate studio dog. I know he will be missed a lot and I hope there are no fireworks where he is now.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

More Proof That I'm a Horrible Human Being

New Manly Hugh vs.
Old Rubbery Hugh
- - - - - - - - - - - -

This is about me, see, me. Not other people, because if it were, then not only would it be passive-aggressive and sad, it'd be about people I love and am related to, and see--it's not.

Here's the point: I am not feeling this big nouveau cultural American TV Schwärm for Hugh Laurie. I hate it! I resent it! I hate it! HE WAS MINE FIRST. In the very most decorous and understanding and non-psychotic way, but MINE FIRST. I never thought I was going to marry him, but ohhhh. And yuck.

I have been having sexual fantasies about that man since he played Lord Monty on The Young Ones! I have been scouring the web for Hugh information since I first had access (the internet was actually a better resource for Laurienalia, say 12 years ago, before worries about copyright restrictions and when it was more directly ruled by BritCom-loving geeks); downloading scripts from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, reading first-hand accounts of his first show at The Fringe. I have the entire boxed set of Jeeves and Wooster. I even found ways to fantasize about him and Imelda Staunton in Peter's Friends, and I'm sorry that movie sucks, same with Maybe Baby. I've dived into every ancillary thing I can think of: partly just Anglophilic prediliction, but sometimes just for Laurie context: Ben Elton novels, Elton plays, bad video tape copies of TV series like Comic Strip Presents and Thompson, Stephen Fry's books. Okay, I haven't read The Gun Seller--HELLO PEOPLE, it wasn't released in America because it was thought too Anti-American at the time--but I read every UK review when it came out.

And now there's this new sardonic heartthrob American Hugh Laurie. I'm not quite sure what to even think! It's hard not to feel that he's pulling this enormous hoodwink on touchy-feely Americans (whom he dislikes); financing his kids' education or a new second home in Majorca with 3-4 years on a TV show that wouldn't run more than a couple years in England since they are much more humane about putting shows out of their misery before they outstay their welcome.

I mean, it's not that I always/only like the nerd before we've taken off his glasses to reveal the Hunk Beneath, but if there ever were somebody whose appeal lay partly in his lightness of touch, it's this guy. That, and his sense of the absurd, and all this heartthrobby HughFandom seems very absurd.

This is my problem, and I must deal with it. Maybe I got a little haterism in my game. He is a good enough actor to pull this off and this new brusque manly doctory Hugh (I know, I know, his father was a doctor...I probably knew it before you!) is Hugh too, somewhere, and I must accept it. .38 Special tells us we must hold on loosely and not let go--so I will. This proprietary feeling is not healthy. And how much of this is self-hatin' jealous snobbery, you might well ask, if I think I have a better sense of how he dislikes Americans than others? No, forget it, it wasn't all snobbery, it wasn't. Dammit, I liked him. He makes me giggle, he's smart and weird and hilarious and talented. Sigh. Anyhow.

The new surge in AmericanHughitude that sent me over the edge recently was everyone kvelling (nicely) about his appearance on Saturday Night Live, as if he had just pulled off a neat little trick. This guy is a major comedian and done TV comedy since the early 80s...why are we so surprised? We are we always so myopic about things in America, things so far up our noses they're touching olifactory receptors?

It's a strange row to hoe, being a pervy heterosexual Anglophile. Maybe I should try actually watching House. Hah! Shuddup.

Monday, November 06, 2006

E. Carey deceased

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey died Saturday...obituary today in the Times.

I published the most obsessive article in the world about Cheaper by the Dozen in our paper a few years ago (a first version appeared in my zine), about the central fact that there only were ever eleven children in that family, since one had died. The article was the result of years of research, sparked by littlekid book obsession, writ large. At the very end of the process, literally, I ended up interviewing Ms. Carey via email--a big push into actual journalism, that, at least as far as I could go. I had researched and researched this thing in every way I could, but in the end I had to ask the source (encouraged my editor). It was a combination full circle/brave new world/slightly anticlimactic/wait, there's more kind of experience. Very interesting.

I like Cheaper by the Dozen a lot, it should be noted--hence some of the obsession--even if I thought her brother was a better writer. I'm not sure if she saw the article or not before she died, but I was worried about her seeing it--in the end it felt very honest and real but maybe sort of unnecessary, I imagined, from her POV. Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe I'm not cut out for the chips-falling aspect of journalism, if you can attribute any to that piece. Neh, I'm glad I wrote it. But still--sad.

Sounds like someone's got a case of the "s'pposed-tas"

To sum up the last week:

I like watching The Girls Next Door, even though I shouldn't
I just can't watch Grey Gardens, even though I should
I like watching Torville & Dean, even though I shouldn't

Something like that. I don't actually believe in shoulds, but parsing that out just means I dig the hole deeper. But more to come about T&D soon, for sure.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Has there ever been a better news week for fat, boozing mice? Sloppy drunk, lying about? Telling strangers they love them? Drunk-dialing, doing the walk of shame, calling old girlfriends? Their PR reps must be thrilled. And working their tiny little cellphones.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yahoo. Ooo.

Tonight, strangely--two good headlines. So often it's a parade of completely demoralizing news.

First Woman Elected Leader of Episcopal Church (proud to be one of god's frozen people!)
Ex-Surgeon Generals Say U.S. Needs 'Sexual Literacy'--(I believe that with all my heart [The things I hear 'sexually-educated,' sensible people say!! Gawd!] and GO Joycelen Elders. And Satcher. Yes YES! Very impressive.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sex and City (can't stop talking like Borat) is like a Sesame Street counting exercise that only goes to four. Samantha = 4x as slutty as Charlotte. Miranda = 4 units of cynical vs. Samantha's 3 and Carrie's 2. Let us take this issue and and dole out the reactions in equal proportions among these four characters, who overlap only when statisticaly indicated. Nobody out of character, nobody out of the various ranges. And we are supposed to like Carrie the most because she is the most "universal," the closest to the middle in each case, the least whatever (character trait), but it makes for boring. 12345678910eleventwelve
No more William Styron.

I just crush a lot

I've been on a Big Pun kick recently (last year my Fat Joe interest started around this time too--is fall fat rappah season?), to the point where I've been pondering iTunes-ing that freakin song ("Feelin' So Good') he did with FJ and Jennifer Lopez, but I am *damned* if I'm going to give J.Lo 99 more cents so she can make more videos (like "Feelin' So Good") where she wears Starter jackets and pretends to still shop in the Bronx. Except the FJ/BP part of it is so good--he was so smooth.

There is an interesting essay about Big Pun in a book I reviewed last year, Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession. Fascinating, sad, poignant. He had eating issues almost similar to those with Prader-Willi, related to his impoverished childhood.

You wanna fight?

You know what I really like? Torvill & Dean. TORVILL AND DEAN. I watch them. I WATCH THEM ON YOO TOOB. You wanna fight? You wanna fight, motherfucker? I'll take off my holiday sweater with the puffy paint and I will WRECK YOUR ASS.