Monday, March 31, 2008

Dear Diary,

It's Madeleine Kahn day here at 440, dunno why. Except that it started, as everything does, with Blazing Saddles (mumble "I'm tired" once and it rings in your head). She made really interesting musical choices, Ms. Kahn, had a cool repertoire I admire a lot. I ended up YouTubeing through really neat stuff: Porter, Sondheim, "Ain't Got a Home," which we all try to shriek along with but she actually does, way up high and down low too. Then I started Sondheiming, got all verklempt, found the Dench Clowns, got all Stritchy...had to cut myself off. Gotta getta gimmick.

Work continues on the Calatrava Spire scant blocks from my home. I'm not sure which nearby construction project it is that does this--the spire or what--but these days everything in my apartment vibrates gently with a slight, but constant percussive hum. All the time, even through the weekend. That's the minimum noise input from all that construction (obviously sometimes much worse). Sometimes the hum gets so loud that I think my VCR is rewinding or a pot's over-boiling and the lid's rattling. It's annoying, it's loud, and when I connect the irritation/sound in my mind to the Spire I imagine they are drilling into the center of the earth to anchor it, the way people in the 70s gouged into their ceilings to wrap the chains for Pier 1 hanging basket chairs around a joist or beam. They will swing the cable for this building around the steel form center of the papier mache earth and pull it back tight. Don't worry, it won't fall, hop on in.

This weekend I found myself wondering how we've been able to survive without Frank Sinatra, without his world-weary wisdom, his phrasing. This struck me at about 3:25 a.m, which is exactly when Frank thoughts start, either with a little psychic nudge from "In the Wee Small Hours" or "One for My Baby" if it's actually closer to 2:45 (amazing how often it is). I miss Frank! Astonishing to me that some people won't have been alive when he was.

I don't really have eyebrows, much. I never think about them really either, except I realized recently I could do something about this if I wanted to. I don't think I have enough Femme, but perhaps I just lack courage (one and the same?). I mean, perhaps I should be painting them on in a big calligraphic arch. Conventional advice would be to cautiously fill them in, but I think that's sort of silly. Seems like you should either really have eyebrows or not. Although then it also seems like it'd be hard to stop, once you start, and you'd end up troweling them on late-era Joan Crawford style every morning before you go buy milk, bigger and bigger.

I completely and totally missed the Heppner/Voigt Tristan und Isolde, good golly that must have been amazing. Been woefully inattentive to the season this season.

Knocked Up is missing most everything everyone says it is, but I watched it 2-1/2 times this weekend for sheer purpose of ogling Seth Rogen and his rumbly bass voice. Query: Where do chick lit novels/films and Nick Hornby novels/Judd Apatow films go on a date? Where do--do these--two things meet?

Love from American's favorite gay male son --
Lili v. S.


She's tired! (she's tired!)
sick and tired of love (give her a break!)
she's had her fill of love (she's not a snake!)
from below and above (can't you see she's sick!)
...Tired! (she's bushed!)
tired of being admired (let her alone!)
tired of love uninspired (get off the phone!)
she's tired! (don't you know she's pooped!)


And here's to the girls who just watch--
aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
it's a bottle of Scotch,
plus a little jest.


Won't you make the music easy and sad?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Yale Study Shows Weight Bias Is as Prevalent as Racial Discrimination

March 26, 2008 | New Haven, Conn.-Discrimination against overweight people-particularly women-is as common as racial discrimination, according to a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University.

"These results show the need to treat weight discrimination as a legitimate form of prejudice, comparable to other characteristics like race or gender that already receive legal protection," said Rebecca Puhl, research scientist and lead author.

The study documented the prevalence of self-reported weight discrimination and compared it to experiences of discrimination based on race and gender among a nationally representative sample of adults aged 25- to 74-years-old. The data was obtained from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States.

The study also revealed that women are twice as likely as men to report weight discrimination and that weight discrimination in the workplace and interpersonal mistreatment due to obesity is common.

The researchers found that men are not at serious risk for weight bias until their body mass index (BMI) reaches 35 or higher, while women begin experiencing a notable increase in weight discrimination risk at a BMI level of 27. BMI is the measure of body fat based on height and weight.

Co-author Tatiana Andreyava of Yale said weight discrimination is more prevalent than discrimination based on sexual orientation, nationality/ethnicity, physical disability, and religious beliefs. "However, despite its high prevalence, it continues to remain socially acceptable," she said.

International Journal of Obesity (March 4, 2008)
doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.22


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Candye Kane is another singer facing illness with no health insurance; in this case a (pancreatic) neuroendocrine tumor. It sounds like there will be benefits in coming months. The most recent update isn't on her news page yet, but probably will be; it also has information about helping with health costs.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Is it wrong that I wish a Macbeth-like curse fall upon those who've undertaken to remake The Women, smite them mercilessly for not understanding the difference between a cute story ready for a remake and grinding up a Rembrandt for mulch? No, it is not wrong. May Mary Boland and Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell too, rise from the grave and snatch them all bald-headed, especially Meg Ryan. Ptew. Curses. I'd call it the Jungle Red Curse except I don't wanna be cute, they don't deserve it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Starting to tremble like an ocean liner (MFK) at the thought of the new Doris Day biography. Oh frabjous day!
It is a straight sideways snow day here at my pied-a-terre by the Slip; the snow's blowing in completely perpendicular from the lake, right by my windows, right to left. I almost fancy the wind and snow should be full (a la Wizard of Oz) of small boats and distressed birdies and washing that had been hung out the Coast Guard station and such. The snow's not all that unusual for Chicago in March, although it feels like a jolt in the middle of "spring." It is dreadfully wicked of me, for I wish inconvenience on no one, I'm sure, but it is awfully cozy. I am lucky and blessed not to be directing traffic or delivering mail at the moment. Cor! Tis quite a blizzard.

It is also, today, my mother's birthday. Wish her well, if you would. I'm proud to be but a pale imitation.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's so awful, but sometimes it seems like the only real news in entertainment is sadly charting celebrity deaths, one after the other, like a gloomy Madame DeFarge-cum-Ryan Seacrest. Blech. Sad deaths of important, interesting, talented people, their whole lives pushed into a bag, next to, weighted the same as 'news' about britjlohallello at the Coffee Bean or whatever. (I hate the phrase "baby bump." Every fold of clothing now examined for "bumps." What the hell's a bump.) But I am sad Paul Scofield is dead, he was an amazing dude.

I've been really into Suzy Parker recently. (What does that mean? Silly. What can I say, every time I watch Best of Everything it happens.) She had amazing shoulders. If I could re-engineer any one point of my body it would definitely be toward nice broad shoulders. Sometimes I feel like a wallaby. *futile small-handed waving on short lil arms*

Casting my blog vote

I used to watch Senator Obama's 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention online when I had a free moment at work, over and over. That speech, the hope it offered in the middle a wasteland of civic ideals I had thought were constant but seemed smashed and sneered at, felt like a drink of water in the middle of a desert. It was both the future he suggested and the world we actually live in that I recognized in that talk.

It's four years later, and I still feel the same way. I felt that way reading his speech in response to the criticism leveled at his minister last week. I feel this way despite the alarming, interconnected bubbles of hype, despite a fairly close-up (Chicago-eye) view of both his strengths and weaknesses, despite--because of--having to watch him fight for this nomination. Despite occasionally having that gut sense he's something of a "risk" experientially, although in practice I actually don't feel that way; in fact I find that a mercurial requirement in general and think we are at times downright self-contradictingly inconstant about how we demand it in our politicians (the Kerry Phenomenon).

The strengths Obama has demonstrated--in a consistent manner--are the ones I want in office, matching its challenges. He has one face for all, remembers what he says, talks to us (JS) like grownups. He's caught up.

I don't want Senator Clinton for president, and that has never changed. I am thrilled I have the choice the DNC is offering, proud of it, but I'm tired of people assuming my identity would presume one candidate or another. It's naive to say race and gender plays no role in this election, stupid, really, to even phrase it like that, but the fact that I agree Clinton is often reported on and treated with pernicious sexism doesn't mean I want her in office. Most of all I dislike the sense that we somehow 'owe' this position to her, an idea which feels the most sexist, despite the way and contexts in which people phrase it.

119,000 Republicans voted for Senator Clinton in the Texas primary; 100,000 in Ohio, and 38,000 in Mississippi. Rush Limbaugh, among others, has been openly urging Republicans to cast a vote for HRC, if they "can stomach it," to keep the DNC roiled up, the Democratic nominee unclear until the last minute and maybe even influence getting HRC on the ballot, since they know they can beat her. The difference in votes twixt Obama and Clinton in Texas primary? 101,000.

It's awful to think that the sincere fight the Democratic candidates are engaged in could be derailed by more voting games. This is the kind of stuff that has been breaking my heart the last eight years. I hope it changes, and I'm not really sure it will if HRC gets the nomination.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Robert Frost
The Flood

Blood has been harder to dam back than water.
Just when we think we have it impounded safe
Behind new barrier walls (and let it chafe!),
It breaks away in some new kind of slaughter.
We choose to say it is let loose by the devil;
But power of blood itself releases blood.
It goes by might of being such a flood
Held high at so unnatural a level.
It will have outlet, brave and not so brave.
weapons of war and implements of peace
Are but the points at which it finds release.
And now it is once more the tidal wave
That when it has swept by leaves summits stained.
Oh, blood will out. It cannot be contained.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Apologies for my absence...I have been seriously licensed to Ill the last few weeks and am only just now maybe seeing either the illusory or very far-off light at the end of the tunnel. Yuck.

I never saw crucial works such as the English Patient and I thought The Talented Mr. Ripley was something of a (beautiful but limited) paean to art direction and pretty people, but I am sad that Anthony Minghella died in a film-y way because I really love Truly, Madly, Deeply and that was a movie that I know was all his. It's a little crusty, but it's beautiful. For some reason I am endlessly enamored of the way he handled the last shot--the Bach helps, of course, but it's the way that very dark shot suddenly cuts to black that is so important. It would have been so easy to do something dreamy and fadey, but that simple sharp cut...that's an ending, somehow. Just thinking about it makes me bawl. Obituaries are calling that movie a comedy, which seems awfully wrong.

Seductive and dangerous:

Friday, March 07, 2008

femme chat

Of all the kinds of reviews I've ever read, I never expected to find perfume reviews to be helpful, but both of these were interesting and informative in identifying what it is so much I love about my (dare I call it this? I'm not Slim Keith) signature scent. I started wearing Diorissimo in high school and it's only felt more and more like me, the older I get. It's gotten hard to find again, although I just had a reassuring chat with a heavily French-accented salesperson (I'm such a sucker...he was straight out of central casting) about its continuing availability through European sources. I have a lot of perfumes, but the only one I ever run out of is Diorissimio. Completely infatuated with it.

One of the things that frustrates me with trying to describe what I love about it to other people is that they can't read/see past the floral notes--people get a whiff and hrmph, "flowery"--which is so reductive and not the point and makes me zasperated. It's like turning up one's nose at all white wines thinking that makes you sound macho or like a smart wine person. These reviews were very on the spot about some of Diorissimo's best qualities: how alive it is, not sticky, nor yet "clean" in the parlance of atheletic women's fragrances of last 20 years; its non-
abstract yet rather stylized feel. It actually grew out of a reaction to some of the sweety-sweet and lactonic fragrances of the 1950s (it was created for the house of Dior; C. Dior considered lily of the valley his lucky flower). I don't find it sweet-sweet or super-floral, rather layered and very lasting and satisfying all over again every time I smell it. I don't have the words for it, I really don't--I guess that scares me a little as a word person, because it satisfies so deeply on this core level. But the reviews are interesting.

Yes, I'm a total mark, what can I say. I even think that the pink and black design of the bottle (in the 80s there was a houndstooth pattern around the center) influenced my love of that color pallette, not to mention the whole 50s things, dark lipstick and tailoring and pearls.

I've been very...interested in fashion recently in my own lazy way. D
umbass stuff like C. Nixon on Sex & la Cuidad set photos (how thoroughly 70s her styling has gone; her clothes now remind me of my mother from that time). I didn't look too much at fashion week stuff (although I can say I like the fabric usage by Andrew Gn? and the colors/shoes by Galliano are TOO too fun), but I've found all the redcarpeting so cautious as to be pretty boring. All the fishtail/bustier silhouettes with very cautious jewelry--stylists everywhere seem terrified to accessorize so do so only in weird fits--bare necks and shoulders and sloppy wispy hair. Boring. Everything's so beautifully tailored at the same time, it's funny. All these beautifully cut gowns, even the jewel-toned ones, that are so very very boring.

The thing that drives me crazy about all the fashion critiquing is that I rarely feel like they are actually attending to the fashion at hand; the issue seems to be do they like the celebrity inhabiting the clothes. Not--are they making a gesture with what they're wearing that really works, we like them. Blah blah.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Comfort Fud

Hi-Protein Lo-GI Improvised Reinvented Rarebit a la Leftovers/Pantry

I've been all about barley recently. I love barley. But I can't eat a whole bowl of it, like I could brown rice or sushi rice, even if you mock risotto/pilaf it up; there is something about barley to my palate that makes it better as ingredient #2, dearly as I love its chewy bite. (To wit: I have been wondering if it would be good with pasta, used in the way you use groats; i.e., like kasha with bowties. I have some oricchiette and I keep thinking they'd be good with barley that way.)

Anyhow, tonight's suddenly improvised very suppery dinner dish arose out of a lot of anticipatory wondering about the leftover barley in my fridge. It tasted incredibly good. Must change title, though. Cheesy Barley Bowl or something.

- Put two pieces of seriously whole-grain bread to toast. Over-toasted, but not burned, is an ideal state for this part of the dish. So tough and toasted it wouldn't be fun to chew on its own. Let it sit in the toaster while you prepare the rest of the dish.

- In a saucepan make a quick veloute with butter/flour (2-3 T/2-3 T) and 2 c. of chicken stock, a decent no-salt low-fat kind. After it's thickened add a little salt and lots of pepper, dry mustard and dried thyme. (I think a glug of good white wine, some beer or cider would have been good here.)

- Add chiz. Lots of cheese. Sharp, but not turbo-sharp, is good, with some creaminess to it. Stir until it's very melted, keeping an eye on heat (all along here) so nothing burns. Tis easy to do with cheese sauce. Also, don't severely reduce the sauce at this point or any point either. Will need the looseness to accomodate the next step.

- Add 1-1/2 C. leftover cooked barley to the cheese sauce. (In this case it had been previously cooked in chicken stock itself with a little butter.) Stir vigorously to break up and let it steam in the sauce, lose any dryness it might have from its leftover status.

- In a skillet break up into tiny pieces one big organic hamburger, c. 5-6 oz (hi Bill Kurtis!), and let it brown quickly, draining fat. When it's almost done, add a couple T. each of Worchestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar and let the mixture continue to cook quickly, shaking pan occasionally, to make a kind of glaze. Scrape entire contents to the cheese sauce, and again, stir like hell.

- Break up super-toased grainy bread into a big bowl (could butter it) and ladle big ladles of incredibly hot sauce over the toast, keeping in mind that bread will absorb a lot of the liquid so you need an unbalanced mix to start. Eat with a fork and a big soup spoon for cutting.