Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Mark Sanford, stop it now. You hear me? Stop it:
"This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story," Sanford said. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."

During an emotional interview at his Statehouse office with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sanford said Chapur is his soul mate but he's trying to fall back in love with his wife.

He said that during the encounters with other women he "let his guard down" with some physical contact but "didn't cross the sex line." He wouldn't go into detail.
Right, of course, he wouldn't go into detail. What do you call what he's been doing for the past week? Is John Ensign paying Sanford to stay in the spotlight, performing his weepy one-man reality show day after day ("Sanford and Sons"), to distract from Ensign's more tawdry sex offenses?

Regardless, much as I feel for anyone who stands in front of a camera and cries, Sanford lost me at "I love your tan lines." Not that anyone expects the Song of Solomon, especially not in email form. But isn't a little poetry in order if you're writing to your "soul mate"?

Not to mention the fact that he skipped off to do the dirty over Father's Day weekend. Maybe I'm just bitter because I was stuck in New York, seeing a mediocre movie, eating mediocre food, and dealing with mediocre melodrama. (We did go see the Avedon exhibit at the ICP, though, which was worth the $12.) But when you have four kids, I think an international tryst that weekend is in especially bad taste.

Ooh, neologism time! When one has been caught "hiking the Appalachian Trail," one suffers from "Trystesse" -- affair-induced melancholy. Eh? Eh?

ETA: Wonkette is similarly horrified, though it chooses to malign Anne of Green Gables for some reason. Leave Anne out of this, Wonkette. She had "bosom friends," but she never "sparked" with any of them, let alone "crossed the ultimate line." That we know of, anyway.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In the style of Whitman

Monday night I attended the birthday bash of an elderly, illustrious folk singer and lion of the left. While there, I met both an author I respect (I gave her my best wishes) and a younger folk singer who I've seen perform at least twice. I felt I should give her my best wishes too, since I was being all sociable.

"Folkie!" she cried, when I introduced myself and explained where I had seen her play. She threw her arm around me and steered me towards her crew of intimidating Brooklyn hipsters and queers. "Look, everyone! She's one of us!"

The crew eyed me. "Where do you live?" someone asked.

"Brooklyn," I answered.

The interrogator smiled as though to say that that much one could assume. "Where in Brooklyn?" she asked.

Barely Brooklyn. Brownstone Brooklyn. The Heights. There was nothing to it but to admit the truth, and I put it as baldly as possible: "Montague Street."

Their "Oh" was eloquent. Having proven myself utterly uncool, I managed to escape.

Later in the evening, however, as I returned from the bathroom, I ran straight into them. There they all were, piled carelessly upon each other in the hallway like the cool girls at a bat mitzvah. The folk singer appeared, still happy with wine, and clasped me to her again.

"Ester!" she said. "Where did go to college?"

"Swarthmore," said I.

"Swarthmore! That's wonderful! See, I told you she was one of us." She smiled broadly at her crew. "And what do you do, Swarthmore? You're not afflicted with music, I hope?"

"No, but I do write some," said I.

"Marvelous! What do you write?"

"Stories, poems ..."

"Write a poem for us now!" cried the folk singer. "About that wall, there."

I stared at the wall which was papered a bright, coppery orange. God help me, I thought. My head was empty. The crew was watching.

"Do it in the style of Whitman," someone suggested, giving me more rope.

"Ego, splashed against a wall," I said promptly.

They hooted with appreciation. "Mary Oliver!" called someone else.

"Birds against a burning sunset."


"The heart beating lonely by reflecting waters."

"Anne Sexton!"

"The birth and the afterbirth together."

This time they screamed, and I had passed their test. With all due apologies to Whitman, Oliver, Thoreau, and Sexton, of course.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Free movies!

At Brooklyn Bridge Park:

July 9
Raising Arizona

July 16
The Maltese Falcon

July 23
Paper Moon

July 30
To Catch A Thief

August 6
The Return Of The Pink Panther

August 13
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

August 20
Catch Me If You Can

August 27
Edward Scissorhands

Hudson River Park

July 8 - Iron Man (PG13)

July 15 - Vicky Cristina Barcelona (PG13)

July 22 - The Dark Knight (PG13)

July 29 - Hancock (PG13)

August 5 - Tropic Thunder (R)

August 12 - Sex and the City: The Movie (R)

August 19 - Pineapple Express (R)

Bryant Park

June 15
The Sting (1973)
Robert Redford, Paul Newman and director George Roy Hill generate high-voltage chemistry in this light-hearted yet complex, overtly nostalgic look at 1930’s Chicago con men. Winner of seven Oscars and featuring the famous Scott Joplin piano rags.

June 22
Breaking Away (1979)
A teenage cyclist, Dennis Christopher, is besotted with all things Italian in a small Indiana college town. Things seem to be going nowhere for him and his townie buddies (Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley, and Daniel Stern), and he convinces them to take on the students at the Little 500 bicycle race. Flawlessly written by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates.

June 29
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Nobody created pure Hollywood escapism productions better than Busby Berkeley, and this musical set the standard. Designed to transport Depression-enduring audiences, the plot involves attempts to put on a show, featuring Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell as the indefatigable Broadway show girls, and Dick Powell crooning the tunes.

July 6
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Al Pacino plays Sonny who needs money to pay for his boyfriend’s sex-change operation and decides to rob a bank to get it. Things go wrong and he’s soon bogged down in a long, drawn-out hostage situation. Sidney Lumet directed this gritty, darkly humorous drama set in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year.

July 13
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Winner of the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars (over “Citizen Kane”), this beautiful film is about a close-knit family in a Welsh mining village. John Ford directed the story, told through the eyes of a young Roddy McDowell, striking an incredible balance between moral seriousness and elegy.

July 20
Harold and Maude (1971)
Teenager Bud Cort and sexagenarian Ruth Gordon both like to go to funerals of people they don’t know, and meet to embark on one of cinema’s great relationships. Audacious and heartbreaking, Hal Ashby’s superb black comedy also features a perfect soundtrack by Cat Stevens.

July 27
The Defiant Ones (1958)
Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis are opposites unhappily shackled together after escaping from a chain-gang in the South. As they flee from the police, director Stanley Kramer showcases the humorous and moving situations featuring memorable characters the fugitives come across as they fight for their lives.

August 3
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for his role as a father who will go to any length (even making French toast) to keep custody of his son. Meryl Streep is unmatched as his icy wife who walks out on him and returns to claim the boy, who is played by Oscar nominee Justin Henry. Robert Benton directs one of best acted films of the decade.

August 10
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
One of the most beloved Westerns of all time with one of the greatest scores of all time (by Elmer Bernstein). Seven mercenaries, including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, and Charles Bronson are hired to protect a Mexican village under siege by large group of bandits led by Eli Wallach.

August 17
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Steven Spielberg’s scifi blockbuster stars Richard Dreyfuss as a regular guy whose strange obsessions and journey turn fantastically clear at Devil’s Tower. Co-stars Teri Garr as his frustrated wife, and Francois Truffaut, the legendary French director, as a scientist seeking communication with extraterrestrials.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This one's for Ross

where have all the mix tapes gone
Originally uploaded by charrow.
and also Mr. Ben, who makes the best mix tapes, even if he doesn't have to make them for me anymore, since i am wooed and won.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Matchmaker, matchmaker ...

One of my coworkers mentioned today that when she took 19th century lit in college, her professor assigned every member of the class a fictional spouse from that era. She couldn't remember who she was given but she wanted Pierre from War and Peace. I thought Levin from Anna Karenina would be a good pick, if you don't mind Russians, and she countered with Pip, at which I could only scoff, "You can't pick anyone from Dickens. He had no sense of the romantic at all. Did anyone get Darcy?"

"Funny enough, no," she said. "Maybe he thought it might cause too much jealousy."

Another coworker came into the room and I asked him who he would choose. "Aw," he said, in the voice of Eeyore. "It doesn't matter. I'd probably end up with Emma Bovary."

I tried to buck him up, offering him clever heroines and feisty social climbers and crazy pyromaniacs locked up in attics, but he would have none of it. "I really didn't do too much reading, actually," he said. "All those girl books."

We expanded the category to include all literature, at which point he perked up. "Oh, Harriet the Spy's mom. Or Harriet -- when she's grown up. Is that okay?" We conferred and decided to allow it, because it was okay for Lewis Carroll, and anyway, who are we to judge?

Maybe a more interesting question is the age-old one: Fuck one, marry one, throw one off a cliff: Any three characters in 19th century literature. For me, that'd be: 1) Huck Finn; 2) Nikolai Levin; 3) Raskolnikov. Unless I could have Darcy, of course. If Darcy's in the picture, all bets are off.

"I like the hot woman in Brothers Karamazov," contributes Mr. Ben. "The town harlot. ... Are you writing that down? Dammit!"

Monday, June 08, 2009

I <3 NYC

At 3:15, I was told, my new office would adjourn to a nearby bowling alley, where we would commemorate the imminent departure of a coworker. At 3:45, the first wave of us actually made it out and walked fifteen blocks in the sunshine to the posh lanes hidden on the second floor of Port Authority.

By 6:15, we had played five games, drunk a tower of beer, chomped through several suprisingly-good pizzas, completed the Times crossword puzzle, dropped two balls, broken several nails, and had a rollicking good bonding experience. I was particularly satisfied, having improved: I went from losing the first game, to coming in second, to, finally, the third time around, coming in first.

THAT'S RIGHT BABY. I went from zero to hero, from Sarah Palin to Stephen Colbert, in the course of one short afternoon. And for my perserverance I now have "bowler's wrist." This is an affliction that may be specific to Jews. It's unclear.

This weekend, after some agonizing, I decided to ditch my five year reunion. Instead I did Only In New York things: lounged on Governor's Island with the Jazz Age partiers; followed brunch at Dizzy's with a long stroll through Park Slope; poked about in a little, overpriced boutique staffed by an extravagantly fey man in a Dolce and Gabana bandanna, etc.

Unfortunately skipping out on Swat did mean that I went the entire weekend without asking any of the questions I had prepared, like:

  • "So, what's your thesis about?"
  • "How many blind Zambian orphan girls would you say your organization has saved?"
  • "What's it like to study with Judith Butler?"
  • "Will you please tell me more about making tofu by hand?"
  • "Your halo is so great -- where did you get it?"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"Hold on tight, Spidermonkey!": a meditation on 'Twilight'

Gone are the days of Anne Rice. She has found her lord and savior, and she has turned her back on the vampires she once tended to so lovingly.

Now, I never begrudge anyone a good rebirth (or two, in the case of Robert Zimmerman). But Anne Rice left behind her a void that lesser folks have struggled -- and failed -- to fill. True Blood is said to be campy and silly; everyone shudders at the idea of a new Buffy movie; and then, of course, there's Twilight, the international sensation.

The four books of the saga have twee names and covers that could have been designed by the staff at Hot Topic. That's more or less all I know about them, having never opened one; and if the writing is as over-ripe as the movie, that's all I ever need to know.

Lord, this movie. Have uncorseted bosoms ever heaved so dramatically? Have two sets of eyes ever stared so beseechingly into each other? Have vampires ever seemed so ridiculous? And I do mean ridiculous. The "good" vampires -- a set of clean-cut, wealthy, thoroughly creepy Aryans in pancake makeup -- have to stay hidden from view on sunny days. Why? Because they turn into David Bowie. Whereas poor Kirsten Dunst and her nurse were reduced to ash in seconds in Interview with the Vampire, and their equivalent bursts into flames in Let the Right One In, in Twilight the undead merely sparkle.

Other rules broken by these "good" vampires: they have reflections; they seem unfazed by garlic; and they can enter new spaces without being invited. What is the point, I ask you, of well-understood genre conventions if they are overthrown without so much as an explanation?

There are of course "bad" vampires, a crew of multi-culti, gender-nonspecific hippies who escaped from the recent Shakespeare in the Park production of Hair. These vampires seem quite sexual, whereas the others aren't; they also attack humans, while the superior creatures restrict themselves to animals (and then have the gall to call themselves vegetarian). It's the culture wars of the 60s all over again.

Here is the crux of the books' and the movie's appeal, as I understand it: though Bella and Edward are so into each other and so horny that their sexual tension made me need to pause and get some air, they cannot consummate their passion. It's all titillation and no release, presumably because if Edward were to physically love Bella, he would have to kill her. (Why? Who knows? He may be a vampire but he's also a teenage boy and they are NOT TO BE TRUSTED.) Still, as a viewer I felt like echoing Jeneane Garofolo in Reality Bites after she has suffered through the thousandth Winona Ryder-Ethan Hawke bantering session: "Just do it and get it over with already!"

The alternatives offered by the movie -- lying down in a meadow, holding hands, tearing another vampire to pieces and burning his body in a ballet studio -- are unintentionally hilarious, as is most of the dialogue ("About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn't know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.").

For all that, it was the Indians-as-werewolves that were the tipping point.