Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Primary colors

I knew this (pre)election season would be exciting: what with Obama AND Hillary in the race, it's going to bring the racism and sexism out of everyone, even the people who think that the 21st century has parched them of both.

Case in point. Today, Joe Biden decided, fuck this exploratory committee nonsense -- he's going to straight out declare his intentions to run for Presidents. Five points for verve and style, Mr. Biden, and minus seventeen-hundred for substance:
Mr. Biden is equally skeptical—albeit in a slightly more backhanded way—about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

But—and the “but” was clearly inevitable—he doubts whether American voters are going to elect “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,” and added: “I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”
Awesome! Well done, Mr. Biden, especially in the use of the word "clean." Perhaps Obama can use that as a tagline for his campaign: "Vote Barack! He's not nearly as dirty as those other black people. Like, you know, Frederick Douglas. And Martin Luther King, Jr."

Here's a guess. Joe Biden has macaca'ed himself right out of the gate. From here, his presidential ambitions with sputter, eventually die, and he will buy a yacht to share with Ted Kennedy and Gary Hart. They can name it "So Close, Yet So Far."

ETA: When I reported this to my brother, he responded, "That's not -that- racist." Is this something about which reasonable people can disagree?

Monday, January 29, 2007

death cannot stop true love

For continuity's sake, I should mention how amazing the Erin McKeown show was, although it feels like AGES ago, darling. E McK is as smashing as a tiny, adorable, Brown graduate with folky-jazzy sensibilities and a sharp sense of humor should be. When she cross-dresses, she's even cuter.

I've been wedded to Erin ever since I saw her a weekend-long folk festival even longer than ages ago. When I gave her my notebook to autograph, I'd forgotten that I had written my impressions of her performance at the top of the page. Naturally, seeing her name, she took the book from me and read what I'd written: "She's Bjorklike!"

Erin looked at me from across the table, as sternly as her babyface would allow. "Anyone who says I'm Bjorklike," she said, "is my Best Friend."

There ended up being a small army of us smashed into Joe's Pub to hear her, and she, there with the Little Big Band to promote her new Retro Redux album Sing You Sinners, did not disappoint. In short: every straight person has a list of people they'd go gay for. Erin McKeown tops mine.

On another note entirely (or not?), I've been thinking a lot about Bodies. Also last week, a friend persuaded me to see a Fat Activism documentary at NYU with her -- "fat" being the word the panelists themselves used, although apparently the word "size" has its proponents. FWIW, I'd prefer to use the word "size" because "fat" has such negative connotations to me. One panelist explained, "Fat is what I am, and it's who I am." While that may work for her, I found it disquieting. I'm very used to thinking of myself as a Self and my fat as the Other. If it's not quite a parasite, it's pretty close.

The documentary itself was short and simple. You can be fat and fit! (I know.) People of all shapes are deserving of respect! (I know.) And then it was over. Irritatingly, the discussion afterwards was moderated by a shameless gay bottle-blond gym bunny in a t-shirt that looked like it would have to be peeled off. He stood in the corner and tried to be all Oprah, nodding sympathetically when the panelists recounted experiences of discrimination. I wished I had darts to throw at his biceps.

The word "pride" came up more than once, and it really made me think. Why is it, in America, that we have to have these relationships with our bodies that come down to cycles of intense animosity and self-indulgence? No one ever says, you don't have to love your body -- just figure it's Good Enough. Possibly because that doesn't sell any products, either for dieting or for pampering. Possibly because it feels easier to go to the opposite pole than to settle down with Hillary in the lonely middle. (That should be a folk song.)

Michael Pollan's much-emailed NYT Mag piece this past weekend perfectly summed up what I wish the prevailing attitude was toward food/fat/bodies. Although I don't think it's perfect -- for one thing, he suggests picking one ethnicity and eating it:
Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around.
But what about those of us who love Thai food and Korean food and Japanese food and the occasional slice of pizza or dish of guacamole? Isn't the point of living in America that we don't have to be restricted to what our great grandparents ate? Mr. Ben also points out: "What about the Russians?" Not all surviving diets are worth emulating.

In general though I think he's so right we ought to throw him a parade. You don't need to obsess about food! Since we don't fully understand a carrot works, we can stop thinking we can get what you need from the carrot some other way; we can just eat the damn carrot. Our waists will forgive us, and hey, maybe we won't get cancer. It's not love or hate, pride or fear: it's fact based, it's reasonable, it's straightforward. I should read his book, I guess.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

media overload

It's a little much for all of us, I have to imagine, when the Oscars are announced in the same week as the State of the Union speech is delivered. (In case you were playing a rousing game of strip poker last night and missed President Cornflower Blue, the state of the union is "strong.")

I have to say I was more pleased than expected with both results. Two of my favorite movies from this year, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen, were both nominated for best picture, while Jack Nicholson gets to stay at home -- no doubt in white jockeys and a stained brown bathrobe, facing the TV in an armchair with sunglasses to shield him from the glow, grinning at nothing, stoned out of his gourd, scotch in hand and three illegal immigrants rubbing his feet. Oh, Jack, you Hunter Thompson wannabe.

On a more somber note, I guess now I really should see The Departed. And Babel. Unless someone reliable wants to see them for me and just give me an opinion I can use? Anyone?

The SOTU was made somewhat bearable by the presence of my favorite grandmother and yours, Nancy Pelosi, is a very nice mint green suit on the dais. She made Cheney, next to her, look even more like the Dark Lord he is, and when Bush said "Madame Speaker," he got the biggest roar of the night. Pelosi herself had to gavel for silence. It was awesome.

Other than that, he just said "terrorists" a bunch of times and "freedom" once or twice and he called it a night. His intention seemed to be to come off as bloody but unbowed; really, to me, he just seemed neutered, which is how I like my Republicans.

Tonight: Erin McKeown at Joe's Pub!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wrong, wrong, wrong

For years I've been telling people about what I called "the Ms. test for movies," ever since I first read about it in a Ms. magazine when I was a summer intern at WIFP, a 1st amendment nonprofit. Is my memory muddled, or was Ms. quoting it from the place it originated, a Dykes to Watch Out For strip? The world may never know. At least I can attempt to set the record straight here: all credit belongs to A. Bechdel, friends, for this brilliant 3-part movie test:

1) Is there more than one female character? If so,
2) do the female characters talk, and if so,
3) about anything other than men?

You would be amazed at how many movies don't pass this test. Good movies. Great movies, even -- go ahead, count.

I don't think you need to self-flagellate over this, for what it's worth. A movie can flunk the Ms. Test -- I mean, the Liz Wallace via DTWOF and Ms. Test -- and still be quality. But for what it's worth, one of the reasons I've never been crazy about Scorsese is that virtually none of his movies pass the LWVDTWOFAMT Test. It's all-macho-all-the-time with Marty, with the glorious exception of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, which you could say is the only Scorsese movie he's only made once and which almost no one talks about.

Is it so hard to have women be real people in good movies? I mean, even master-of-macho, Russell-Crowe-worshipping Ridley Scott has Thelma and Louise AND Alien on his resume.

Children of Men, I am happy to report (finally!), does not have this problem. There are three major female characters, one of whom is named "Kee." The name is something of a pun: the character herself is "key," and she also does represent, in a very real way, the energy and lifeforce -- you know, the qi -- of not only the film but the dystopian near-future in which the film is set. In 2027, the human race has stopped reproducing and is either grimly awaiting, or actively courting, death. It's all very Emily Dickinson.

The world is in chaos and, British propoganda claims, "only Britain soldiers on." Or so the government would like to pretend: the only advertising anywhere is for home suicide kits, and you know a civilization has really given up when it can't even be bothered to hawk beauty creams and liquor. Cuaron's direction uses the same narrative efficiency he displayed in Y Tu Mama Tambien, where he made every glance out a window educational: every British flag hangs limp, every street and car and building is crumbling at the edges, every billboard you see warns of immigrants or reminds you that "avoiding fertility tests is illegal."

That's the first third of the film: mood, setting, understanding. The second third is Clive Owen's journey from disaffected post-activist to a person who's alive and cares again, a progression the film accomplishes by, perversely, taking from him everyone he loves or depends on. The last third -- a fierce fight for survival -- is cribbed from the Battle of Algiers, as my fellow-filmgoer Bobby describes well enough that I don't feel the need to go into it (thanks, Bobby!) It's a punch to the gut, as visceral and important as anything I've seen in years.

As long as I'm gushing, I'd like to say how happy I am for America Ferrara, who rocked the Golden Globes by (a) winning, (b) looking fantastic, and (c) giving a short, eloquent speech that made everyone cry. Hat trick! And for a worthy cause, too: I really like her show, maybe even more than Gray's Anatomy at this point, b/c Ugly Betty serves its melodrama up with a spoonful of campy, campy sugar.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Day of Fun

Some people have weekends. Others have Days of Fun that begin in the village and end at Build a Bear!

His name is Krackden. I know because I have his birth certificate, and also because, when the computer made a mistake, I had to re-dictate his name to the chipper fellow at the cash register. That's K-R-A-C-K-D-E-N, with a K. And the scowl the chipper fellow gave me was absolutely worth it.

My friend Becca named hers The Best Little Bearhouse in Texas. Bearhouse for short.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

pop quiz, hotshot

Q: What's better than a lingering dinner at Babbo to celebrate, at long last, an engagement or two?

A: Maybe Heaven. I don't know. I can't vouch for the quality of their cranberry upside-down cake with nutmeg gelatto.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

how to have brunch

the best thing about living in new york city is the surfeit of new brunch places to discover. as a child, i was groomed to be a brunch-lover by my father, who set up camp in the kitchen on weekend mornings, spreading two newspapers across any available surface not covered by plates of smoked fish, bread, or fruit. while my brothers ran in and out, occasionally stopping -- to my horror -- to turn on and mindlessly watch some sports game, i learned to linger over food in companionable silence, at least until the paper turned up a detail to delicious not to share.

one always prefaced such sharings with, "listen to this," so as to introduce noise gently into the calm.

my routine has changed, of course, now that i live in the City of Brunch, where the custom is more to venture out for and make an event of the meal. but the spirit of thing remains constant: weekends are a luxury that should be appreciated; good food should be savored; a good bloody mary is a very fine thing.

today's outing to Downtown Atlantic (364 Atlantic Ave., if you're local & curious) was quite successful. i have high standards for brunch. the ideal place will combine relatively low prices, usually fixed at about/under $10, with a drink thrown in and if you're lucky french fries. the DA entrees were listed at a reasonable $8 without drinks, but they came accompanied by a basket of amazing sliced zucchini-carrot bread, and my veggie-n-ricotta frittata was huge enough for two meals -- and so much fun to say!

the alcoholic drinks they do offer are standard & on the expensive side; and i do believe that if one is going to partake before noon, one should never have to pay extra for the privilege. the soda, however, is bottomless. before you start partying too hardy about that, remember: the house always wins. drinking $3 worth of diet coke is not for the faint of heart.

of course, brunch is hardly brunch if it's not enjoyed in good company. mine was stellar. my neighborhood, once-college friend R., who has made much more pedestrian activities such as laundry & grocery shopping worthwhile, and i got to debrief about our respective holidays. i mused to her about why december was such a stressful month for me, what with family, travel, buying/receiving presents, realizing that the previous year i'd been unceremoniously canned, work stuff, and mr. ben's finals. she looked at me like i was nuts and said, "how could that NOT have been stressful?"

but now it's january. things are fresh, even the oddly springlike weather. thanks to R., i have, for the first time, my very own scrabble board. i plan on starting yoga this week, and seeing Children of Men (and A Prairie Home Companion, which i have from Netflix), and generally taking things slow. also, i plan on giggling periodically when i remember that saturday night i got dragged to what was supposed to be "burlesque" and was, in reality, topless amateur go-go-dancers -- as in, go go gadget pasties! yikes.

Friday, January 05, 2007


- to replace the battery in my computer (which is dead)
- to replace the battery in my phone (which is near dead)
- to go to the dentist (it won't kill me)
- to go to a therapist and deal with my anxiety so that it doesn't kill me
- to go to yoga, to help deal with both my regular anxiety and the anxiety that surrounds Actually Going to Therapy

phew! further:

- to revise Part 3 of my book so that more readers are satisfied with it. er, i mean, so that >i'm< more satisfied with it
- to start sending the book out
- to be in good emotional shape for the wedding
- to actively look forward to the wedding, if for no other reason than because it's an excuse to import friends from all over the country and put them in one room and say, "eat! dance! look at my dress!" and also kiss ben in public and have people clap.
- to feel more like an adult. i do believe it's possible. if i were living 150 years ago, i'd be married with 3 children by now and suffering from consumption. i can do my own taxes, okay? i pay my own rent, i take pills, i use tampons, i light matches, i clean bathrooms and dishes, i take out the trash, i read newspapers and listen to npr. i read, for christ's sake!

more like an adult, ester. you can do it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

wow! blogger = google. weird.

happy 007, everyone. i'm less bleary than yesterday, my day-of-reentry after the drive down and over from the gloried adirondack town of Wanakena -- which, itself, was quite a journey from sandy, sunny Sanibel Island, FL. it was taxing on my delicate system to go from [family] to (friends), [south] to (north), [hot] to (cold), [cable] to (no-tv-at-all), [seafood] to (eating Fifi, the house mascot, a large, photogenic leek, about whom we sang: "Fifi, oh, Fifi, oh Fifi / the queen of our table's delight / we love you to death, our dear Fifi / and that's why we'll eat you tonight.") to make matters worse, a friend lent me her nasty cold; i've had it for over a week now. but it was all worth it, i'm pretty sure.

now that i'm back i'm more excited to see Children of Men than i have been to see anything in a long time. except the new version of Company on broadway which, heaven help me, i WILL get to, and soon.