Sunday, February 28, 2010

I liked A Single Man. I enjoyed the intense over art-directing, and tight, tight palette of colors, especially in the segments in which George tries to slog through a day in his beautifully manicured 1961 universe. There is some integrity in such a very art-directed world, not to mention George's collision with cultural benchmarks (the Psycho poster), I think, for describing the gay experience, especially at that time. It does get a little diffuse emotionally, in a way that felt very first-film to me. I would have enjoyed a mastery of the emotional temperature to match everything else. Especially as the score was very charged and a little sloppy in contrast. It was a lovely film, though.

Not as lovely: the late-arriving Starbucks-drinking woman next to me with her rattling shopping bags and constant commentary to her friend. Whom I shushed. And the cellphone she had to be told to turn off by the pissed-off boys behind me, whom I thumbs-upped. OH THE AGONIES.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I own this book! Can you believe it? It's a tome, a beautiful shiny tome, with creamy white space fatly weighting the thick pages that turn at their own pace, they are so big and heavy. I may perish if I don't get to try Bouchon's quiche someday.

It is symptomatic of my state of mind that what's appealing to me most in the book are Veg. Beautiful raw salads. I am thinking about, longing for, spring and pea shoots and fiddle head ferns and anything tender leafy green. Gorgeous little lettuces that are both tender and crunchy. Peas. Green things.

I don't actually like peas that much. But oh do I want spring (and lettuces). I am ready for the rains that dissolve the black snow (before they sog everything up too much), for wet winds on the face, for the sad little patches of crocuses next to city sidewalks, for seeing the lake ease up its crispy edges, for those green budlets on river trees.

I could use my foot as a Ped Egg on somebody else's foot. I want spring!

Friday, February 19, 2010

I love how the Homer stamps cancels. Very nice, Homey all trapped under the lines. I also love the person who sent the valentine!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

stages of a really bad blind date

  • shock oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy
  • clamped-down desire to laugh that is partly social anxiety I need to find somewhere to giggle - I have to go to the Ladies' and giggle
  • desire for audio-visual documentation this feels like a movie - this is a movie - the view from my eyes right now is from a movie montage of bad dates - I need a camera - I need a better cell phone - I need a texting plan - nobody is going to believe this
  • panic how am I going to get through this - I am trapped - I want to gnaw my foot off
  • first soft-pedaled reference to made-up significant other about to re-enter the dating picture "Well, my ex showed up again recently..."
  • anger why do I have to sit through this? why am I saddled with this person?
  • obsessive focus on unfortunate physical detail shaving soap on chin shaving soap on chin
  • pity ungh
  • genuine but stiff-arming politeness that belies core rudeness and reveals nothing about yourself "Tell me more about your ____"
  • second reference to made-up significant other "I'm not sure what's going to happen there..."
  • silent effort at commiserative connection with waitstaff by signaling deeply with eyes help help help
  • emotional disassociation from alarming personal detail omg he collects used emery boards and Mork suspenders ... la la la
  • SUDDEN EXPANSIVE SENSE OF FATALISM AND HUMANITY'S INTER-CONNECTEDNESS what the bloody hell, this is just some person I'm sitting across from - why am I taking any of this personally - EGO ego ego ego - who am I to insult with my pity - stop acting fourteen years old - oh ego ego ego ego ego
  • loss of memory about reason for being there accompanied by receding sense of risk I can survive talking to this person a little longer
  • sense of breathing room as end in sight they are bringing the check - I am going to make it
  • stinging moment of rejection that is mercifully vague he just figured out I don't want to see him again gah gah la la
  • loss of memory of date's name
  • relieved glee as you are sprung "Taxi!"
  • another surge of hilarity hee!
followed by

lashes with a wet something or other

I can't be the only one whose grammar muscles flinch when they hear "inadequate or not enough lashes." My lashes are inadequate! Not only that--they're not enough!

I spent a certain amount of time today in the doctor's office with my head tilted looking at Brooke Sheilds' (pardon me) sunken-cheeked face on a Latisse ad, thinking about the weird word of pharmaceutical nouns, all stitched together with implication and onomatopoeia and various medical root syllables, woven together into a world of total meaninglessness. They are words without tooth: they have to be. They can't say anything definite or be responsible for anything, like a regular word. But boy, are they everywhere.

Monday, February 15, 2010

on the Kevin Smith situation

About two months ago I posted a blog entry here about my experiences with Southwest Airlines. I boycotted Southwest for years after it became the first airline to actually enforce the written all-airlines' policy of making customers of size buy an extra seat, but I've come to appreciate SW and the no-fuss way I can handle travel with them as a person who buys two seats. (The point of that piece being that my experience with them exists in contrast to other airlines, which have less practice enforcing these rules.)

A person who buys two seats: this situation requires a fundamental compromise on the passenger's part. After one last humiliating experience on United, when a customer held up the plane to complain about me to a cadre of clucking gate agents, I decided to never put myself through that again, and I now buy two seats whenever I travel on a plane, which I do not think I should have to do. When you buy transportation, you are buying passage, not real estate for the duration, and the implications in the idea that we should pay based on space are alarming for everyone. But I have reached d├ętente with the situation. Budgeting for the second seat (and hoping for a refund on its cost) is part of how I plan for travel.

Kevin Smith, however, exists in the extremely well-populated segment of the American traveling public who are big but not big enough to be forced to engage with the second-seat policy--usually. Smith obviously bumped into it this weekend.

You can hear his version of the events here on the relevant Smodcast ("Go Fuck Yourself, Southwest Airlines"), but the gist is: Smith switched to standby for an earlier flight than the one(s) he had purchased tickets for. In doing so, he let go of the additional SW tickets he had bought (he usually buys two or three), and had just one seat for himself. He sat down in a middle seat between two people and was just buckling his seat belt when he was asked to disembark by a flight attendant. (On his next flight he had two seats and the woman next to his empty seat was also large, and was taken aside to be told that she should have two seats and needed to ask Smith if it was okay if she sat there).

It's confusing that Smith was thrown off the plane at all: he could buckle the seat belt and put down the armrests completely, the latter of which keeps him out of SW's "definitive gauge" for being a "customer of size." That makes no sense. Something left him vulnerable to that decision by the flight attendants, who cited pro forma and vague safety concerns of "the pilot," standard issue stuff for SW's size policies. Why he was subject to them at all is not clear, except that maybe he just fit the profile (with fat, as ever, it is actually a greater sin to look fat than be fat).

Smith says once if he says it thirty times in his podcast that "he's fat but not that fat." "I'm not fat enough to have this conversation," he told a SW agent. "I'm not fat enough to eject off a fucking plane yet. I'll tell you when I am." He talks a lot about "the bar," the point at which you're so fat you can't fake it--can't squeeze into a seat. He says that if he were too big to fit in the seat, he "wouldn't come out in public."

He doesn't say this in a mean way. He's not making fun of anybody. He's eloquent about the way in which fat people have to think "ten steps in advance" about how we fit in to spaces.

And he's right, in the literal sense: he is fat-but-not-fat-enough to have run into this problem. The armrests could go down. He's one of the many many people who fly worrying about the two-seat policy and hoping they don't need it, or--much more likely--are ignorant or confused about it, but still worried about fitting, period. And to date Smith had been protected from the policy by virtue of money. He was able to routinely buy more seats because he could, not because he had to--he actually had the tool in hand (the discarded extra seats) that passengers need to avoid this situation.

But the line that he--that the airlines--draw. What if he couldn't put down the arm seats? What if he were "that fat"? What if he were technically a customer of size? What if he didn't have the money to do it? Should he have been tossed off the plane? Who does deserve that? When do airlines get to start charging more and pulling people aside? When is that okay? I think Smith's sense of chivalry was roused by seeing it happen to a woman after it happened to him, but that's how this works. What about fat children?

Maybe this isn't working. Maybe it's never okay and that's why this is such a mess. Maybe it's only a slippery slope with no solid ground. Maybe this is all about money. Smith's experience was able to light a match (most passengers don't have immediate access to a Twittering audience of millions) to show us how this is not working. The distinctions we draw are challenged and fall apart over and over. People get only bigger (and taller). Southwest has the most experience implementing policies about size, so what does that say, including about what's actually happening out there on other airlines? We're dividing people up based on a word we can't even say, to ourselves or others ("fat"). And fucking nobody's comfortable in a plane seat except maybe a six-year-old.

There are acres of things to address about this situation, but my feeling at the moment is that it's a good thing that it is getting the attention that it is, looming pitfalls in the arguments notwithstanding. I'm not sure the world cares much when this happens to a fat unfamous person, but it's a good thing when people have to resolve it with the power we accord fame. And Smith is speaking up.

I don't mind using the word fat, I don't mind knowing how much extra room I need, I don't mind asking for a seat belt extender. I don't like paying for a second airline seat, but I will do it--because I want to travel. I want to be out there. How many people, though, cram themselves in their seat, still as they can be and full of shame at every part of their body that bumps against the edges of the world around them? How many people don't even leave the house because of all this? How many people hide?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The pile-up of puns and linguistic Twee in the name makes my head hurt ("Silk'n SensEpil"? really?), but more than that I'm cranky about yet another commercial call for the hair-free female beauty ideal and its suggested relevance to your romantic eligibility, even when the commercial visuals are kinda cute and abstracted. Cripes. Someday we will all be naked mole rats.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

chocolate cookies a la mode de Restored French Plantation Sequence

We all have them: items of food stashed far back in the cabinet that landed there as the result of impulse buying or food fads or seductive packaging, best intentions notwithstanding. They linger, signs of (perhaps) a once glorious, more employed era. Maybe.

It is good to use them up, though. Very good. In that spirit I present these extemporized, very chocklit cookies:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • the remains of a 7 oz bag of Cacao Blanxart Spanish Hot Cocoa from Zingerman's, maybe 1/4 a sloppy cup, including powder shaken from bottom of ziploc bag
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • whatever soft parts you can crumble off (maybe 1/3 c.?) an ossified block of light brown sugar, which sat softening in a ziploc bag with cut apple for maybe six hours and probably should still be in there but I thought it was kind of ooky so now the rest is back in the cupboard, still hard as a rock
  • sploosh of vanilla
  • two eggs
  • 1/4 c. cocoa
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c.-ish flour
  • many handfuls of oatmeal
  • 6 oz. mini chocolate chips
  • the remains of a can of Schokinag Triple Chocolate drinking chocolate, both powder and little granules
    (1/4 c.? 1/3 c.?)
Cream butter with Blanxart cocoa and sugars. Incorporate eggs and vanilla. Wing the other ingredients in, mumbling under your breath as batter becomes too stiff to easily hand-stir. Bake two scoops on a sheet in your toaster oven set at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove when cookies are still pretty gooshy and let sheet, with cookies on them, sit on a cutting board for 1/2 an hour, or longer, until perfectly set. Yay! Chocklit. I'm not going to lie; these are good.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

On page four of the thin Saturday Chicago Sun-Times yesterday was a small article with the headline: "Obama: Health care reform may die in Congress." It was such a sad little signifier.

All the debate and anger about health care reform boils down to the question: what is the health care industry for? Its reason for existing? When you parse out the debate, that is the question at base. What do you want health care to do?

At that point the answers are only: 1) care for people's health or 2) something else.

It's become clear we have to choose one or the other, and all this anger seems to be about not wanting to. We've created all these financial systems that are hiccuping and failing and going to take people down with them if they go. But the question has been pushed to this point, and forcing that choice is the fault of the systems which don't serve the first goal. No doubt mess and chaos would exist even with it solidly in place, but that is different.

I don't think you can reconcile caring for people's health with the unchecked desire to make money--not just because one is a more worthwhile goal than the other, they just don't fit. Capitalism is not a self-balancing mechanism that can or should govern all our civic decisions. It doesn't fix all that it takes along with it.

Whatever comes and goes, whatever social structures fall apart and leave other elements to cave in on them, people need health care. You can't see around that fact, you can't change it. Do we want to provide it or not? We're letting people die in the name of not solving this problem, and it's already killing people who were traditionally "safe" from the conflict by virtue of income. So what will make it change?

simple Chicago pleasures in February

• ducks perched stoutly on the edge of ice floes on the river

• buttery crisp hashbrowns from Nookies on Wells with the big glassy wall of windows

• The greatest cab car ever, the Toyota Scion. The comfiest cab of all time. It feels like you're in a video game when one of them noodles over to pick you up--it's so simple to get in, beetle around, get out. Bend at hips, sit down, ride in car, step out. The world's greatest back seat.

• rare hamburger, hot, from Fox & Obel cafe

• watching urban doggies trying to (literally) run out of their ignominious lil snow booties

• Claudio's hot chicken tamales eaten in the back of a cab on the way home from the Hideout..broken off in bites with your fingers

• the Hideout

• warm salty chicken soup with matzoh ball at the Pittsfield Cafe

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Until this I hadn't actually seen a photo of The Spire That Is Now a Hole (how very gender-reassignment that sounds), but here is the one Lynn Becker linked to from his architecture blog. Very interesting. That damn Calatrava hole, the making of which coated my apartment in dust and rattled my teeth in my head for months... Maybe townies will go swimming in it someday.

amazon's crossed wires

This may be fixed by the time I post this, but: I searched for the Mean Girls soundtrack on Amazon. This is the link to the Mean Girls soundtrack. NOTE THE SONGS (click on image, below). They are songs from an album called The Girls...the modern, today sounds of Polly Bergen and Edie Adams. Heh. Funny.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Some days the sightlines along which you can see through life are all aligned on human stupidity and its attendant cruelty. Our ignorance, willfulness, greedy superficiality. Award shows and technologically created isolation and short attention spans and impenetrable layers of health insurance bureaucracy. At the moment, though, I am struck with how smart human beings are. How insanely smart and sophisticated are we and our own creations: language, media, machines. We are greedy, I think that's true, with the desire to fill up the space we are given in this world. And that has mixed benefits. But golly, we are smart. If you need it, it's already there.