Thursday, July 30, 2009

Eyelashes! Have you noticed how very much the beauty ideal for lashes is expanding? Teeth are getting bigger too, but eyelashes...! Cripes. Inflation run amok. The eyelashes shown in most current ads/commercials (these are from L'Oreal) are downright furry. Furry, and impossible without at least some partials, hello. The language used to sell them is very fierce and rather like the English used for packaging Japanese candies or on a fat girl porn site. LashBlast! Lash Injection! Major Lash! Big Fatty! Extra Super Lash! 2000 Calorie! Voluminous! Full 'N Soft! Volum' Express Turbo Boost! Pubic hair disappearing from the American female but our eyelashes grow ever bigger.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Whet Moser at the Reader wrote a really great look at the way the Benjamin story has been reported, at the sloppy language and assumptions that link the media attention together. I think I might appreciate his take on this most of all, because the way the story has been written about--the way these stories are written about in general--is the hardest aspect to parse out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On my own list of songs that Never Did Anything For Me (ones that other people love, I mean, such as "Celebrate" and "Hot Hot Hot" ungh) is "I Will Survive," one I kind of wish I liked but forever makes me cringe when somebody puts it on at a party and I'm supposed to be all excited to dance to it. I just don't respond to it. Never did. It doesn't tug me in any direction, boogie-ily, musically, IndominableSpirit-ily, melodically, whatever. Meh.

If you are looking for a good i-will-survive song, though, I would recommend Patti LaBelle's radio hit, "All Right Now," a studio song included on her 1992 Live! album. It's not that easy a song to get ahold of in a free internetty way (yootoob has only a juiced up NBA dance remix and a scratchy live version) and I've never found the lyrics, but you can hear it here on Rh*psody. Great song. Put it together with "Home" (Stephanie Mills), "Time Heals" (Todd Rundgren), "We Fall Down" (Donnie McClurkin), maybe "Ladies First (Queen Latifah) and "If You Love Me" (Brownstone), and you will be weepy but ready to face anything, your workaday life soundtracked like an uplifting movie montage.

[I have this thing about liking R&B songs with "all" in them: "All Right Now," "Alright" by Janet Jackson, "All Night Long" by Faith Evans, "All Day, All Night" by Stephanie Mills, "All Woman" by Lisa Stansfield...what's up that?]
Current fav smoothie recipe:
  • frozen strawberries
  • frozen mango
  • frozen peach
  • frozen dark cherries
  • frozen raspberries
  • 1 can cold berry seltzer
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1/3 c natural applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon frozen lemonade concentrate
Use small amounts of fruits with a larger amount of the strawberries. Put everything in a blender, pour seltzer over, and let the whole thing melt a bit and equalize temperatures before blending. Makes enough for at least two large smoothies. Leftovers keep very well and in suspension, stored in a jug in the refrigerator.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Frugal cookery continues chez me. My freezer has become a well-oiled, well-used storage locker, no longer the languishing frosted hole of eventual return it once was. On-sale meat, frozen fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, and sorbet seem to have the most traffic. (Incredibly handy thing, sorbet: can use a spoonful to macerate fresh berries, to make a drink--stir into some sparkling water--to drop and let melt over a slice of unfrosted Wacky Cake, to add a little roundness to a smoothie, especially without dairy.)

That means that I have been free to engage in what I keep thinking of as the great grain use-up: plowing through the larger than needed stash of small brown bits in my cupboard. Not exactly sure how I ended up with so much, but at this point brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, barley, grits and oats have figured in most every meal recently. (I often end up thinking of that Mitch Hedberg quote: "Rice is great when you're hungry and you want 2,000 of something.") I'm pretty sick of quinoa, as nicely filling as it is. So far the biggest successes have been a brown rice and tuna salad (tuna is becoming a major protein go-to, although the fact that the organic kind is about 2000% better than the others is a problem, financially), scrambled eggs with barley and ground beef, and a bizarro potato/chicken/quinoa sludge that was really pretty good. A lot of the results are quite unattractive and look like they should be plopped in a wooden bowl, but they taste good. I have also managed to use up every vegetable I've bought recently, which impresses me, although I can't lie, I never made it through the pounds of coleslaw that I created last week. Another recent success, combining both grain and freezer: oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, make with dark brown sugar instead of light, tons of oatmeal, and three different kinds of chocolate chips (I like that when you store them in the freezer, you can just take some as needed). Incredibly yummy.

I took a break from cooking last night to try to find some good delivery New York style pizza in my neighborhood. Not successful. Bitter garlic taste, flat as the prairie, but not in a good floppy/crisp way, more cardboard. Being an Easy Cheese person makes me a fairly good pizza tester. Without a flood of melted cheese you get a good look--taste--of what's really going on. Can't hide in the land of Easy Cheese.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Finally saw Vicky Christina Barcelona. A mix of The Pleasure Seekers, Barcelona, Summer Lovers, The Green Ray, Talk to Her and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Or something. Which I would have known if I had paid any attention to it when it came out; as it was I had no idea what to picture. Not entirely sure what Cruz's (yes) good performance was in service of now that I've seen it, either.

on one aspect of the Regina Benjamin controversy

The controversy over the appointment of Dr. Regina Benjamin is shameful, from my point of view, and revealing of one aspect of how fat prejudice functions. Given that the woman's credentials satisfy in any direction you might slice them, how she looks must have really had to ring some bells to make people talk about it. Especially when Koop and Elders didn't.

I think the real reason Benjamin's size has gotten so much attention is that she has a chubby face. I don't think there would have been nearly the hubhub about this if she had the same body with a face that happened to be thinner. I'm not sure people would have noticed her body, period, which is a fairly conventional size 18-20, if that, not particularly readable in her basic black suit.

People--the media--demonstrate a real lack of "lipoliteracy" (as Mark Graham calls it) in reading images of fat people. People aren't that good at reading images in general, but fat bodies, which tend to be shown in very limited and particular ways, so most people (including other fat people) aren't well-practiced at understanding them, are generally pretty crudely read. There is an inability to distinguish body type from body size, to read relative size in an accurate way, to really see how light, angle, clothing and movement are affecting what they're seeing. To know what size other people really are.

Faces are, in a funny way, how people decide how fat someone is, how fat the rest of someone is. And one thing you notice quickly when you start really looking at fat people, at all people, is that people's faces don't necessarily represent how big (or small) they are. Especially images of faces. Faces can tell you something about a person, but a lot of fat people have fairly thin faces. And vice versa. There isn't a one-to-one corollary. There is a whole world of eating disorders sparked by chubby or round faces that don't match thin bodies.

The face is synecdoche, the repository for information about the whole body. And you can't "pass" if you have a chubby face (as in Benjamin's case). And in reading fat faces a kind of eugenics is employed. There are whole worlds of meaning instantly seen in double chins and chubby cheeks, in jowls and dimples and fat, in even small variations on all of this, most of them bad. Meaning that is drawn not just about the person but about the fatness or otherwise of the rest of the body. The fact that the image of the fat face isn't shown, highlighted, nearly as often as it really exists in this life gives it an extra shock and negative power.

The point here is not to lobby for continued judgement of other people's bodies, so long as it's done "correctly." It is to point out that part of what's so frustrating about the issue of body size in this country is that we don't even really know what we're seeing. It's not okay to be fat, but who knows what that is. "Fat" is one whole side of the bell curve, more than that, a million different things. To make intelligent distinctions, to describe something accurately, is to bring size into focus too much, to allow it to be. We want it to just go away.

The dude on Fox News who decided Dr. Benjamin was obese and therefore "lazy," for instance, was reacting in large part, I am convinced, to her face (her body doesn't even seem particularly visible in the press conference footage). Which seems (to some) to make her look sweet, kind, soft, older, less competitive...compromised. Weak. Lazy. Not authoritarian. Not hard-working. Not intelligent, not focused, not educated. Otherwise we could see it in her face, yes? Instead of the chub?

Dr. Benjamin is obviously, demonstrably, all these things: intelligent, focused, educated, devoted, swimming in credentials and press coverage of every kind to make the point if the other facts of her life don't. That this would be questioned as it has shows how much meaning body size has for people.

There are many other things to talk about with regard to this situation, most notably race: race, class, gender, age, the dominance of the visual media, the importance of looking a part, the way in which we are all scarred in some ways by the body wars. I think it's interesting, though, that body size is the arena in which people's reactions to her nomination have surfaced and have been, in fact, allowed to do so.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This commercial for Keefer's in Chicago (it's the second video)...urngh. Not so good. The voiceover begins: "In a city of famous steakhouses, you won't find Gibson at Gibson's; Morton at Morton's; Harry Caray at Harry Caray's," by way of setting up the fact that the Keefer is at Keefer's. But it's impossible not to think, yes, er, but...Arnie Morton and Harry Caray are dead, yo. Seems tacky.

notes from a diastematic-American

It isn't a surprise or a brand new fact that a strong part of our American beauty ideal are huge white smiles, but I have noticed recently that this particular trait has a lot of propulsion behind it. That is, ideals hiccup along, variously challenged or noticed or commented upon or sneered at for whatever reason, but the standard for teeth seems to be inflating exponentially without a lot of attention paid to it, unless we are talking about the occasional egregious individual case. At least as far as I can see. The demand for a huge straight-teethed white smile (in all its implications, including socio-economic) has grown until people are starting to look downright horsey. Or kind of like a cartoon of the DNC donkey. I mean...80s hair grew and grew and grew, and no one commented on it (kind of) until styles deflated and we could make fun of it; shouldn't we be able to step back and snicker at this now? It's off-putting. If you watch any recent movie made with a cast that's 40 and under, the teeth are generally quite frightening, taken as a group: very big, very glowing white, very picket fence. At a certain point they start to stick out like a 555 movie phone number, fake and jarring. Makes you want to take out a dry erase marker and scribble on them. Or hand the actors an ear of corn or something.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Yeah, okay, way way too much coleslaw in the fridge now. Will never eat it all, plus the smell....why? It tastes fine, but the smell is ever so funkitudinously cabbageful. Yergh.

I am incredibly frustrated with my digital camera! The USB cord connects, the software is there (even reinstalled), but nothing will download. I have EPHEMERA I NEED TO LIBERATE from this stupid thing for some serious minutiaebloggin. Making me exasperated.

"Isn't there a Slanket somewhere you should be filling with your farts?" I do love 30 Rock.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Not even cured yet in the fridge, and already fabulous.
Cole Slaw (one head cabbage, shredded) with dressing of:
  • miso
  • cider vinegar
  • lil demerara sugar (no honey at the mo)
  • poppy seeds
  • smashed stem of lemongrass
  • low fat mayo
  • salt
  • lil vegetable oil
  • dijon mustard
  • juice of one lime and one lemon
I might be forgetting something in that list. And it really needs carrots. But yum!
Say what you want to about TCM, but you have to love a station that shows Ma and Pa Kettle Go to the Fair, followed directly by Venus in Furs.

Friday, July 10, 2009

They look like dowdy dirt-kickers, but potatoes are really very princessy things. They need a lot of TLC. They need a lot of time. After eyeballing my sale 5-lb bag of potatoes for the week after its purchase, I finally decided to just cook them all at once. I didn't want to deal with careful treatment of any kind or hover over them while they took various long trips to deliciousness. I scrubbed them, cubed them, boiled them, then mashed them in the pot with a spoon, along with a bit of butter and sour cream I had in the fridge. Just to get them kind of to the next rudimentary potato state. They were russets, though, so the skins...ungh. A horrible failure. A very nasty thing to pick out, over and over.

So, I decided to rice these previously mashed potatoes to remove the skins. And it worked, after a fashion, although I did lose some potato in the process. The funniest part turned out to be that the additional presence and placement of the skins in the ricer created a lot of pressure in the hopper and made for a very Silly String-like experience. Filaments of mashed potato shot in random bursts all the way across the kitchen and ended up on my shirt/wall/condiments (as in this photo). I did save the mash, and I guess it was less onerous than peeling all five pounds, but oigh. It's always something with potatoes.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Otters are lactose intolerant. Did I know this?


* I am about to send my computer to the hospital. The sleek, well-designed, user-friendly Mac hospital, for what I really hope will be a brief stay. Last week I schlepped--the only possible word here--schlepped my computer, all bungee cord-ed into a suitcase that was too small for it, to the Genius Bar through the absolute throngs of people waving cash at scrubbed young employees (what recession?) at the Mac Store on Michigan Avenue. Ungh, I fucking hate saying that phrase. Genius. What the hell. Not cute. Don't enjoy the casual, commodified use of that word. Anyhow, this week I do the same thing all over again once a part comes in. Wish it luck. Wish me luck! Thank gawd for AppleCare. [Query: LaundryCare? PsychCare? CatCare? Could I buy these too?]

* I have finished 99 of the 100 puzzles in my KENKEN book (what do I getget?) and the last one--the most difficult one--#70, for some reason--is freakin killin me! The page is worn through from erasing. Will be thrilled to celebrate being done with all 100.

* There are many kinds of farts in this world, and there is not enough time or space to discuss them all here at the moment. But I will say this: the What the Hell type of Traveling Fart--that fart that you let rip while walking in a busy area in the spirit of "Okay, what the hell, this is going to be loud, so loud that...what the hell...maybe it will just be so loud it's impossible to really hear, it will cycle back around the sound spectrum, or just become random noise in this throng of activity, I will just do it, close my eyes and do it, let it rip, I'm going to do it, what the hell"--people do actually hear it. I went to the movie theaters last week and while sitting in the lobby and trying to decide which one to see I got to experience at least two of these farts from other people. People do hear them--maybe just the people who aren't moving around as much, but we do. Been on both sides of this fence here, by the way, just thought this fact would be good to note.

* The other day I became consumed with a desire to know what had happened to R*chard Marx's hair. I was thinking about Jewfros and how despite its original connotations that word describes a kind of hair that really is rather prized these days and how RM's hair was really more of a Jewfro to my mind (or half-Jewfro in his case, I don't know) in its unwieldy wiry bush tamed into the ultimate balladeer mullet, anyhow, I had to know. I knew his mullet had lost its back hang, but I just wanted to see what it was doing. And now I know. This is what Mr. Marx's hair is doing in the 21st century.

* Martha Stewart's personal, intimate blog is getting more and more hilariously impersonal. It is basically a chronicle of the efforts of her staff in maintaining her residences while she is who knows where. Photos from her gardeners, photos from her housekeepers... The subtext is sort of: I am not here. I continue to find the interaction of all the kinds of divulgence in MStew's life and how she variously leverages/sells them quite fascinating. Her own life in some ways continues to be hidden at the center despite all the varying layers of transparency.

* More weird-ass Yahoo headlines: "Serena Williams beats sisters Venus at Wimbledon." Sisters? Sister's? Strange implications in that one, not to mention the specter of my grammar bete noire, the noun adjunct. That was a weird one.

* Worst name ever: the impossibly snurgy "IF YOU CARE" line of household products (recycled aluminum foil, etc.). What the @$)(*^&@. It sounds like a joke from Spy magazine, which, by the way, most everything seems to me these days: both a joke and strangely redolent of Spy, I mean, down to the new Food & Dining issue of The Onion, which made me laugh almost as much as their recent "Employment" issue or else it was just really late and I was tired. What are those Spy guys doing now?

* What am I going to have to do to see the new Wallace & Gromit film? I kind of like that Aard. is not catering to American audiences in making it super-available, but I don't want to buy a download, I don't want to buy the DVD...I want to just watch it.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Beauty ideals suck. Even alternate ones, of all kinds, which I enjoy and celebrate--they suck too, just cause they all do. On principle. Impersonally. Whether pushed by the status quo or not. They are always a box. There is always somebody more ___ or less ____ than you are, you are always gettin older, you are always starting to slide out of some set of criteria...we are all always changing. You can't win that contest.

The nice thing, though, is that this is not an unhappy thought, ultimately. Because in the end, the only thing you really have to bring to life, the only beauty ideal you can really meet, is being yourself, and no one will ever be better at doing that than you.

(Been said before, I know. Just saying it again.)
The real problem with vertical blinds? Other than their ugliness, difficulty being cleaned and constant breakery? The annoying rattle, the inability to hang properly, the schmutz? The full-on dentist office mojo, the bleak beige tyranny, the pulls that don't work, the rogue slat that always pops off when you open or close them?

They GIVE YOUR PETS TOO MUCH POWER. One curious yerk? of your cat's or dog's head at ground level and you wake up, your room floods with light. Oh the agony.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The new Budw*iser ad, using The Hours' version of the Beatles song. My favorite aspect is how the film maintains the real speed of Staring Out the Window on the El (even as that speed increases), and uses the distance from the camera, as well as vertical movement in the frame, as the way to slow things down and speed them up. I like how it's willing to let some of the symbols zoom by too fast, and uses both planned cleverness and simple things you see when you look out the window to illustrate them. The ad was apparently done by an Irish agency...the thing has a whiff of using well that which is right under our noses, because it's very very Chicago-y! Really happy. (Ungh, sorry about the width of this thing, not having luck fixing it.)

(originally garked from Miles at CR)

Friday, July 03, 2009

"I have nothing much in the way of religion, or even morality, but I do recognize a code of behavior of sorts. I do know that the worst sin--perhaps the only sin--passion can commit, is to be joyless. It must lie down with laughter or make its bed in hell--there is no middle way."
Who the freakityfruck cares that Sar*h P*lin is resigning? Who CARES? As far as I can tell the news here is that a person with inadequate political experience is leaving to 1) remove herself from actual further political experience and possibly 2) polish her externals. That is, if all this means what people says it might. And if that's so, then the Republican party (sorry, going there) is both more venal and more stupid than I thought they were. Who CARES.

From Despair, Inc., their DespairWear
Social Media Venn Diagram
Seriously, seriously considering trading in Cat #1 for household item of similar shape and vaguely comparative usefulness: a set of andirons, maybe, or a fur muff or large heating pad. Maybe a loaf of bread. Anything that doesn't feel the need to express its feelings (or its anal glands) by dragging its ass on the carpet. Seriously considering it. I am still discovering unspeakable acts of feline treason committed during my recent absence, and by treason I mean exactly what you're thinking. Not good.

Speaking of cute animals and the need for soap: the new commercial for D*wn detergent is nuts. Spectacularly effective. Interesting to me that dishwashing detergent, once an item with an iffy reputation, can now position itself as a healer of ecological wounds. Using really really really cute baby otters. Oh man.

EDITED TO ADD: Note the "simulated demonstration" tag on that screen-grab there. Somebody had to coat all the baby animals in muck to make this commercial. Wonder what they used...

EDITED TO ALSO ADD (7/23): I just saw this commercial referenced at, and they very rightly pointed out that it wouldn't be a river otter (which the commercial used) being washed, going by the set-up, but a sea otter. Good point! I was distracted by the joy and didn't notice this.

oh yeah, baby

I think I've identified a really goofy mix of dog I might want to get. It's the result of about as ridiculous, custom-made, 21st-century, cafeteria-style cute-dog mixing as it could be, but whatever. The BICHON-POO! Or the Poochon. I feel dopey even saying it.

I met one today: a caramel-colored, poodle-heavy mix and just fell in love. It wasn't too terribly teddy-bear, but very alert and adorable. I think I may go full-on and get one and immediately start wearing chunky white joolry and pegnoir sets and calling myself mumsy while I feed the dog bits of oatie biscuits.

Speaking of all such things...R.I.P. Mollie Sugden. I loved her so. There is a paean to her here (on this blog), and here's the BBC obit. She was a sheer pleasure, she was.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

more photo chat

One of my very favorite photos that ever came back from an assignment when I was at the Chicago Reader was this one, taken by Paul Merideth, done for a story about a downstate Indiana big cat rescue center. I love everything about it: the crossing gazes of the man/lion and the way the power kind of goes from beast to man to viewer; the threat and the calm; the way the lion comes in from the side of the frame; the sad but sweet look in its eyes; the sense of scale; the composition... I think it's an astonishing photo. One of those simple/masterful things.

Today I was surfing I Can Has Cheezburger? and found the photo with a caption, a lolcat caption (obviously). I often like those, even when they're dopey, but it was interesting to see a photo I knew well reworked in that context. It felt weird and wrong. Not just because of this krazy kopyright-free world we live in, but because of all the work that had gone into it on the photographer's part and how much story was behind was sucky to see its meaning channeled into one slot by a silly caption, when so much of its power is about all its possible meanings.

Anyhow, those are my Obvious Musings on the Photographic Image for the day, basically an excuse to post this photo that I love so much.

ADDENDUM: They took the image down. Yay!