Monday, November 15, 2010

The argument for Jim and Tammy Faye...

The Following blog was inspired by a recent (re)viewing of the brilliant Documentary "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" via the ondemand feature on my cable box.

You don't have to be dowdy to be a Christian.

Tammy Faye Bakker

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker had a televangelism empire (entitled PTL or "Praise the Lord") from 1974-1988. A show and a theme park (well it took four years to get the theme park started), and each supported the other in a marketing coup like no other.

Heritage USA, their theme park, was the third largest in the country after the Disney ones (yes that's right, Six Flags can eat it). Their Broadcast network PTL was running 24 hours a day.

All of this was religious, so it was tax-exempt. Heritage USA, the theme park, became the main reason to raise funds, but also a convenient way to hide massive amounts of money (or were they really that massive now that we have all our corporate scandals where people took so much more and got away with it, actually through those eyes 3 million dollars is so sadly, paltry...)

Now you may notice by my rationalizing away Jim and Tammy's big old steal (and that's what it was) that this entry may be slanted a bit positively towards the Bakkers...and well, we'll get to that, but first a bit of background for those who forgot. Jim and Tammy Faye had the show, which they had broadcast via satellite....they in the words of Tammy Faye kept "adding station after station" to their line up. They then hired Roe Messner (who also got to keep his earnings as contractor for the whole entire theme park tax free, because he was building a religious facility) to start this theme park. Well that's when the requests to give, give, give became more frequent.

And the funds came pouring in. And with it, they built and built. The theme park was popular, a Christian place to vacation. Thus with a real tangible product to sell, well they could bum more than just 5 dollars off some lonely old lady to their "ministry" they could now promise an "lifetime partnership/1100 club" for 1100 smackers that offered 3 nights stay in a luxury hotel per year for a lifetim. Well, for people who loved this theme park, it made sense. The contributions built the hotel. But then they were taking more contributions than necessary than it took to build the hotel (which was never fully completed)....Here it stands today.

Now some of this excess money went to pay Jessica Hahn $265,000 to keep quiet about her sexual affair with Jim and his friends (an interesting fact, Jim didn't have the cash money sitting around, he had to borrow it from Roe Messner, which lets us know the stockpiling of money from members didn't happen until right before the end). She probably would have taken that money, but Charles Shepard, a reporter with the _Charlotte Observer_, wouldn't quit trying to dig up the truth. His newspaper won a Pulitzer and he was given Harvard's Nieman Fellowship for journalists in the midst of their career. Thankfully, Jessica Hahn had Hugh Hefner, a long time supporter of women in need of that extra little scholarship (in exchange for some photo and video essays), to pay her money for valiantly speaking up for justice.

(Yale, Harvard, the Sundance Filmmakers lab...well none of them are as kind and supportive to their alumnus as Hefner, he just gives and's Ms. Hahn's second essay after a new nose and dental work and probably some other work too)

Well, all this came together as a perfect storm that threatened to blow over even the kings castle water slide

And Jerry Falwell became the rain cloud...

Jerry Falwell came to Jim Bakker, told him that Jessica Hahn was about to get leaked to the press, and agreed to help him. Jim just had to step away from his empire and Jerry would take it over and then give it back to him (now this is the Bakker's rendition of events, FYI). Well Jerry got there, worked with Jim and then proceeded to lambast him on air to raise money (most notably promising Bakker a generous stipend of salary and expenses and asked him to write . Well, people didn't really like all the negativity and shame and stopped visiting the park.

Here's where Jerry and PTL explain it all (and gets screamed at from the audience around the 7 minute mark).

Jerry begged viewers for way more money at one time than Bakker ever did to keep the park open- and got it (apparently legitimate park expenses, not just scandals, require money). However, Jim Bakker was in jail and fundi TV fun was out of fashion. The whole PTL world soon came crashing down. Heritage USA now sits abandoned. Ms. Hahn fared better, she had two children with co-creator of _Married.... with Children_ and probably lives in Sherman Oaks.

Jim and Tammy Faye were the laughing stock of the country. But in the end, was their demise such a good thing? Jim and Tammy Faye took advantage of an emerging market, people looking for a product which is religious guidance and chaos to fill empty time. Jim and Tammy provided it, their show had inspirational crap, long-winded off the cuff monologues about personal triumph and difficulty, and music. Of course, Tammy sang, sang, sang but so did other musicians, most notably Bebe and Cece Winans, who were on PTL for five years.

When Jim and Tammy Faye left in shame, sham televangelists were never quite what they were again. Thus instead of just preaching and singing and filling up space with empty positive Jesus talk, we now have serious religious conservatives doing more of what Jerry Falwell and his cronies were already doing, which was getting Christians politically galvanized. All they had to do was turn on the TV or the radio. And that 1100 dollars that Jim asked for to pay for miniature golf and roller skating facilities (and pay off Jessica Hahn and hide in secret accounts)..well, now no one is asking you for your money, because well, they've already taken it from you. Because, according to this Ny Times column from Kristof
1% percent of the population now owns this country. Now you can't afford to leave the house, much less be scammed at Heritage USA. Yes that's right, new legitimate people helped keep Americans away from idling giving money away for half-sham/half-legit theme parks run by materialistic sham artists. Instead these same Americans are now "informed" of what is happening in this country by people who are not looking to get rich (though many of them got coincidentally richer than Tammy and Jim ever did, because they are on programs with paid advertising) and then they go and use that "information" to be politically galvanized. For after all, Jerry Falwell, who was always political (starting the Moral Majority in 1979) made sure that every person who enjoyed Jim and Tammy's more accepting style was made aware how terrible they were. And if their real sins were not enough, Falwell decided to accuse Jim of being a homosexual, which also allowed Falwell to spread homophobia (one of his favorite past times). Which of course, is always used for political purposes. Not long after the demise of PTL, the 13.5 million people who once watched Tammy and Jim were now given more people who were as angry and political as Falwell to watch.
In 1993, the GOP took over the House of Representatives for the first time since 1949. And then our conservatives spent millions of our tax dollars investigating every which way and how our sex lovin' president did it with some tramp princess from Beverly Hills. Then they went to work deregulating and law changin' until well, just read Kristof's column. Now obviously Jim and Tammy weren't giving a forum to those explaining why Reaganomics didn't work. But they did have an open stage that said Jesus loved gay men and black recovering drug addicts as much as he loved white conservatives. And that, I truly believe, is what Falwell hated.

Now I have been stammering on a bit inarticulately about this topic, which has only recently re-engaged my interest. But, the Christian documentarian outraged by years of televangelism had this to say about Jim Bakker (quote taken from the following

Antony Thomas, the director of a revelatory documentary, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done (1988). Thomas' movie is a portrait of the right-wing fundamentalist movement from the perspective of a horrified Christian—a man appalled by the use of his cherished gospels to advance what seemed an antithetical message of intolerance and materialism and greed. In the film, Thomas cast a sardonic eye on the high-pressure sell tactics of the Bakkers' PTL network and their Heritage, U.S.A., theme park, but his assessment of the couple was ultimately more sympathetic. He told me in 1988:

Bakker's personality means something to me in a way that Falwell's doesn't. Falwell is an up and down brute, with no nuance except an ability to appear like everyone's favorite uncle when the cameras are rolling and a sort of SS Oberfuhrerwhen they're not. Have you ever seen him candid? A very frightening man—a bully, a thug. Bakker's message to his people was the opposite. It was, "I hate religiosity. Prostitutes, sinners, those were the people that Christ lived with and we must learn from them." It was a soft, accommodating message, quite different from the tub-thumping fundamentalists'. That fascinated me, as well as the warmth that flowed through this blue-collar audience for these people. Tammy made a speech: "I said to God, 'People accuse me of being a Jezebel with makeup,' and God said to me, 'Tammy, I want you to be pretty.' " They could touch buttons that nobody else could. How much of it was instinctive and how much of it was calculated I don't know.

Well singlehandedly the loss of Jim and Tammy on the airwaves did not end up in causing the change in this country, but what I lament is that they served directly the Christian Right and instead of serving up hate, in the midst of the constant selling, they served up a little love.

Now after looking at Jim and Tammy's extravagances and their thieving, honestly I was not that offended or horrified. Basically, Jim and Tammy got caught up in the power of their ministry and they liked stuff. Especially Tammy, Tammy loved stuff. And they had lots of what is in reality cheap tacky stuff. When it came to dollars in the end out of 159-180 million, they stole 3.4 million, now most 100 million dollar corporate buyouts and packages would allow payouts that big for around 30 crooked televangelists. They had a big house somewhere in the Charlotte area that they added onto six times with ridiculous features like a huge closet for Tammy and then moved into an upscale home in Palm Springs once their world started to come tumbling down, some argue there were other homes as well, and I don't doubt it. But again, I argue their materialism pales next to what is the norm today. So clearly taking down Jim and Tammy did very little to stop people's love of materialism. One of the ubiquitous images was the news media photographing them next to a black 1960s Rolls Royce with Tammy in a Pink Mumu. Today, thanks largely to the GOP, mortgage brokers and stock market players took people's whole life savings and unlike Jim and Tammy, GOT AWAY with it and KEPT way more money. In fact, the uber-materialism of today would make Jim and Tammy's big home in modest Charlotte look like nothing. Now everyone's appetite for materialism has far outphased their ability to keep up, most couture outfits on "Sex and the City" would pay for 10 of Tammy Faye's extravagant Nipon/Halston knockoffs. Tammy and Jim were greedy, but they weren't all that sophisticated. It's hard to get in the leagues of spending real money if you're a national joke to a person with almost any modicum of culture and education.

Thus the lifestyle that Nancy Reagan, Betsy Bloomingdale and Ivana Trump were living, with art and international travel and apartments/homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Beverly Hills and everywhere else a condo costs more than a mansion in Charlotte, well Jim and Tammy weren't in those circles. Now they were a mess, so busy selling and stealing that apparently their daughter Tammy Sue went galavanting around Heritage USA using drugs and flirting/screwing the cutest men of the 2500 people Heritage USA employed, but she when speeding around Heritage USA she apparently was in a Mazda RX7. One can buy many RX7s with just one Mercedes convertible or many more with a Bentley, like Sean Combs son drives.

Also, there was one part of Jim and Tammy's "budget" that was never used, their travel budget.
Why, because they on TV ALL THE TIME. I argue that Tammy and Jim just didn't have that much time to develop a materialistic lifestyle because they were too busy standing up in front of working class people begging them to help build this theme park, which was being badly managed.

At a Unitarian teenage conference in North Carolina, I once met a girl who claimed her dad was the reporter who brought down PTL and he "had a nervous breakdown and delivers mail now." I don't remember who this girl was or who her father was, but considering the stress of digging that hidden info up, I have always wondered who her dad was. Charles Shepard went on to work at the Washington Post for a time and teach a bit as well.

I was about 8 when the story broke. I was a liberal Unitarian in east Tennessee, in the midst of the world where Jim and Tammy were so popular. In fact, this girl who was friends with my sister, who's mother remarried an 80s local construction mogul even had dinner with Jim and Tammy Faye, when I asked what they were like she replied "totally fake."

I remember every liberal being in pure glee over Jim and Tammy's uncovering. I think people hoped in vain that this would make the 13.5 million people see that someone coming at you non-stop with messages that had no foundation were not worth listening to...but alas that lesson was never learned. Instead, the message just changed. Religion on TV did take a back seat. Jerry Falwell wanted his political propaganda on full time and well, Rupert Murdoch got on board too. There was also Rush Limbaugh. These men didn't lie about whether there was a hotel room in a theme park available for you, they just lie to you about the world around you to change your voting habits.

Considering the hate, and the political lies and the damage those listening to lies has caused, I wish we could go back and do the following. Take Jim and Tammy into a room, first tell Jim to just let the Jessica Hahn scandal play itself out. Second, tell them to clean up their books. Third, have an auditor fix the theme park and the finances. (if those 1100 club people wanted a hotel to stay in, well they could have built it and then everyone would have been happy). For God's sakes, Heritage USA was there and huge and people liked it. And fourth, put Tammy and Jim and their bad folksy inspirational stuff right back on stage where they wanted to be. Jim and Tammy didn't want to be wildly rich. They just wanted to be rich, allowed their tacky luxuries, while overseeing a tacky kingdom of Jesus's love and go-carts.

When Jim and Tammy Faye were turned into the whipping boys of the Christian Right...well those left in the media weren't stealing money. But they also weren't doing things like's Tammy Faye in 1985.

And here's a bit more.

And here's who we have left now that we've taken down Jim and Tammy.

And here's the man who made it his mission to take Jim and Tammy down.

Kinda makes you want to get out that 1,100 dollars and call that 704 area code number today, but it's been disconnected.

Tammy Faye died after a second battle with colon cancer on July 20th 2007

Jim Bakker is alive and can be found here:

Jim and Tammy's son can be found here:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If I ran for office...

My platform: success is possible in this country. Look at Flo. Yes, you know who I'm talking about.. .

So many people are suffering, but not improv actress Stephanie Courtney, who is on TV every second...nationally. If she can do it. Why can't you? All you need is a bump it.

Flo of course is not the only person who seems to be doing well while the rest of us are suffering.

Corporate Profits are up...

And here's why people believe it when our new Speaker discusses helping "small business"...

The other night I was in a terrible mood (in fact I have been in a terrible mood for months) and I went to CVS to pick up a DV tape. The cashier, a black woman in her 50s (or maybe 60s cuz black don't crack) was waiting on a customer. She doesn't get paid shit. And she was going the extra mile to help out the customer (a mother with a little girl buying lots of booze, not inspiring but the mother is not the subject of the story) and she was enthusiastic, talking about how she was going to be dressed up for her shift on Saturday night.

She then waited on me, pointed out my coupons and basically, cared. a lot. Here is a woman, in a rough neighborhood, with a minimum wage job, and she is full of enthusiasm. This country is full of great people, why don't the rich start paying their taxes (which are earned through the work of women like that) so this country can get the money it needs.

Good night. And God (or Buddha or Allah or Shirley MacClain "Moving Towards the Light") Bless...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Art House Films: aka reap the benefit of my suffering....

I do not have nearly the intellectual discipline nor the broad mind that I aspire to have, but I do have somewhat of a dedication to art cinema. Thus I have sat through many, many, many standards of the art house canon and thus, with the ease of a Ronco invention, reading this blog for 10 minutes can save you HOURS and HOURS of fighting to keep your eyes open in dusty art house theaters with bad popcorn...

First let's start with Werner Herzog, an egomaniac who has made some great films but also some real sucky ones (and then he defends the sucky ones as if their suckiness was an artistic choice, [I'm referring to his response to the horrid remake of Ferrera's "Bad Lieutenant" with Nic Cage, when most directors do an Avi Lerner film they get paid and shut their mouths, NOT Herzog] )

I haven't seen all his movies, but I have seen "Aguirre, The Wrath of God".
Now this movie has a Popol Vuh score that is so the quintessence of Euro 70s and an opening that is cinematically stirring. However, after the incredible opening...the film does not measure up.

But you watch the best part here and save yourself the trouble of seeing the rest which is Klaus Kinski on the side of the river or on a raft having temper tantrums (both on camera and off), when he should have been paying his daughter Nastassia so that she would have had to compromise herself at 14 and 13 to build a career.

(By the way, because everyone knows the beginning is the best part, it was banned off youtube and I had to search 45 minutes for it...hope you are impressed)

Uploaded by vincentyeo. - Watch feature films and entire TV shows.

Now let's move on to Bergman. More even than Herzog, mostly brilliant work. A genius. A wide range of films, _Persona_ and _Fanny and Alexander_ are masterpieces, however as for _Wild Strawberries_ go try and pick them by the road side, it's less tedious and painful then watching that film. Then there is his Oscar winner of Best Foreign film back in the day _The Virgin Spring_...Well, it is a difficult film about a farm family's loss of a beautiful young daughter, but mostly I did not find it that stirring, mostly because I found it to be a bit overdramatic in the way Bergman can sometimes be... (here is a French and Saunders parody to illustrate my point on Bergman)

Oh and watch this for good measure...

And this one....

Okay I'll stop now but French and Saunders are BRILLIANT....

Getting back to _The Virgin Spring_, though the there is one scene that was above and beyond the rest. In this scene, three wandering vagrants who happen to ask for the hospitality of a family who's daughter is missing...little do the family know the vagrants are the reason the daughter is missing. However, the vagrants are carrying with them their own little boy. Here is a scene between the Grandfather of the farm family and the abused little boy belonging to the vagrants... (starts around 4:30 in the clip)

Now let's get to Michelangelo Antonioni. I have watched all three parts of the "informal trilogy" which goes something like La Notte, L'Eclisse and L'Avventura. Or actually it's L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse. Now unlike say The Star Wars Trilogy which has a clear beginning middle and end, the Antonioni "informal" trilogy deals with such plot-driven themes as how rich italian people are effected now that they live in post ww2 condo complexes and not in town.

For instance, since they are far from center of town...they have to stay at home for fun and do this...(from L'Eclisse)

Also we see how disaffected she is by seeing her mother on the stock market floor (which Antonioni's argument is that the post war conditions made people more cold and greedy, but I would argue people have always been cold and greedy on the stock market floor....

But mostly Monica Vitti just gets overwhelmed by bad modern architecture....

And then there's the shots of the forebodingness of sprinklerheads watering things and streetlights...

Now apparently this is all supposed to all supposed to be comment on the austerity of modern life...and thanks to this film waiting for the bus will never be the same again.

In La Notte, Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni play a couple who aren't gonna make it...and they go to a party together, hence La Notte...

Here's Ms. Moreau at the party...playing chess with herself on a giant board while Marcello watches (not to be confused with the scene in "Big" where Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play on the giant step-on Piano in FAO Schwartz).

What is wonderful about this movie is that you get to Ms. Moreau in her prime, because later on, Ms. Moreau (way before Betty White) loved to play very dirty old ladies... and here she is in the apex of dirty old lady-ness (Blanche Devereaux, just put your pink hibicus pattern mumu back on, because you ain't got nuttin on Jeanne....(by the way, I also endured _Querelle_ for you, where's my big f***ing "Thank You"?)

In my opinion, L'avventura has the most stirring plot, about a woman, Claudia, again Ms. Vitti, who loses her wealthy friend and searches for her with the friend's boyfriend (Sandro) finally falling for him (who is a spoiled failed architect, which with all the ugly buildings in Italy that Antonioni films apparently being a crappy architect in Italy is big business)...
Now Claudia and Sandro's search for the missing is the most focused, dedicated search I've seen since OJ went searching for the REAL killers of Ron and Nicole on Palm Beach golf courses.

Here are Ms. Vitti and Sandro getting a bit sidetracked during search day #....

Nobody does composition like Antonioni, there are moments where the films are so beautiful you will never see anything better...but then I spend half the time bored out of my gourd waiting for these moments...inner dialogue goes something like this. "I'll just shut this off...what's my check book balance?...I wonder if I talked less at practice if I would be more popular on my swim team, maybe if I smiled more, I'm too socially awkward...Maybe I should just reduce this window and watch 'Poker Face'....Oh my god, that's so beautiful!"

In the end, there are people I know who are genuinely entertained by these films. People like Jane who was in my UC junior year in Lyon, France, Jane, a brilliant student, was already fluent in French when she arrived and now has a PhD from Penn in comparative, comparative something or other literature, not sure, but requires knowing at least two languages and reading a lot of things...
Jane and I went to see _La Dolce Vita_, and while I was trying to stay awake during the chicken feather pillow fight, Jane was heartbroken by the larger implications. When we left the film she said "When he stared at the girl at the end, it was like, oh he'll probably fuck up her life too." I remember she said it with a mix of rage, sadness and sarcasm that I envied. I thought "Well I saw that, so now we can go and get steak frites."

Here is the ending...ask Jane if you have questions...

I did cry watching something in France, but that was during the series finale of _the Nanny_ on M6 (the trashy French TV station). I mean, I cried because also because it was so pathetic that I watched the Nanny every night and I was actually engaged by this, but that's another story.

Now another French film I tried to watch TWICE on the big screen was _Alphaville_ (not the band who sang "Forever Young") but both in France and at the Godard revival at the Cinematheque, J'ai dort....

The problem with _Alphaville, the strange adventure of Lemmy Caution_ was that it was supposed to be Paris far in the future but when he checked into the hotel, the hotel reminded me of this hotel where my mom and i stayed and the room was cramped and their was a parrot downstairs named johnnie and I still remember a tiny piece of hard boiled egg yolk in the corner of the lobby room next to Johnnie's cage and it just kinda still grosses me out. And then every parking garage and street scene reminded me of something else tired, dirty and ghetto in France. Thus, the problem with _Alphaville_ as far as set decor vis a vis suspension of disbelief is that since all those 60s buildings in Paris haven't changed, when you look at them in the movie it just takes your mind to bad Paris neighborhoods with all that bad socialist architecture like the kind Obama will put everywhere if Republicans don't save us in November.

Now, I have a Godard Gold Card and this is because I have attempted to sit through his "Histoires du Cinema" a totally incoherent thing he made for French TV. Now before you think this is just me talking to fill space on this page...Let me explain, the FRENCH walked out of "Histoires du Cinema" and you must understand the FRENCH don't walk out of ANYTHING.

I walked out when Godard was filming his teenage daughter doing a tribute to like Joan Crawford or Greta Garbo or Marlena Dietrich by performing a stupid monologue that I thin was supposed to an amalgamation of their legacy but was really her standing in regular clothes in front of their nonperishables shelf in the kitchen...I kid you not, it was her and behind her you could see a wooden Ikea shelf with jam and nutella and chicory and whathaveyou...

I couldn't find the pantry soliloquy but here is a clip that might explain why (and even the full-blooded Gauls) walked out (and watched _The Nanny_ instead)

In my final time saving lesson of films no one else should ever have to sit through (unless you are way smarter than moi) is "Celine and Julie Go Boating" now Anthony Lane, a _New Yorker_ film critic referenced "Celine and Julie Go Boating" when reviewing the film "Jack Goes Boating" and said the following...

Philip Seymour Hoffman has...turned to directing, his debut "Jack Goes Boating" no relation, sadly to "Celine and Julie Go Boating" Jacques Rivette's exhilaratingly tall tale of 1974...

When I read Anthony Lane's words, I was stunned, for it caused my pulse to rise way higher than during the entire 3 HOURS and 13 MINUTES of "Celine and Julie Go Boating"

"Celine and Julie Go Boating" is about two flighty French girls who are flighty in that way that the French cherish as a sort of unique annoyingness that makes them special. Celine and Julie have putative little cutsie poo performance jobs and meander around their apartment, and frankly watching them do nothing is probably what all those Tea Party people watched to get them so scared of socialism...because unemployment runs out on even the flakiest of people (I've seen it happen) but these two are past where the buses run. They need to stop living off our Taxed Enough Already Money and get a bloody real job.

The movie is about their silly little games, but also about the house they visit where they both see a past event that happened there and then de and re construct it. Now apparently watching them delve into their imaginations in this house via these cheesy recreations is a moment of cinema so "exhilarating" that Anthony Lane, a famous critic is spellbound, but I endured the whole thing and found nothing but some girls who thought they were too cute for their own good...

So here is a little insight into the evenings where I watched something to expand my mind and wished I had stayed home and listened to trash music...

So now you can read my blog and just go straight to the Stacey Q. Here she is as part of the not-so-informal trilogy of episodes where she played pop star "Cinnamon" on _The Facts of Life_. Monica Vitti just can't quite compare...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

...The Prada Spring collection

Truly I was not influenced by 14-year-old Tavi... to write this blog entry, but rather I was just on and below the headlines of "the country is going to hell in a handcart" and "Everyone now hates Obama" was the innocuous little headline "Prada Spring Collection." So I decided to see what was going on with those not hurting in this economy, i.e. Miuccia Prada and the people who can (still) afford her overpriced clothes and bags.

What is saw was scarier that that Meg Whitman ad where she says welfare reform will save 1billion dollars to be used for the UCs. We're talking some super ugly clothes kids...

Let's look.

Now before we get into the clothes, let's talk about the models...
ll the models look like the love child of Charlotte Rampling and Walt Disney's rendering of Ichabod Crane...

Now let' s talk about the clothing.

Let's start with our 'foundation' of basic looks. We offer a choice of highway cone, fake xmas tree and hospital janitor.
Notice that despite this being a spring collection (different than resort collection, apparently there are clothes that can ONLY be worn while being in a hotel or on a cruise ship).
But anyway, despite the fact it is spring, most models carry a jacket that is lined with same keepwarm icky polyester fleece that swimmers wear over their wet bodies in between races.

Also the shoes put the C (and the K for that matter) in CLUNKY.

Now let's look at patterns (aka "I'm walkin' in the spider web, so leave a message and I'll call you back)

Yes. Web-like shiny vinyl rococo detailing makes ugly stripes even more unflattering.

And then there's the monkeys...

Oh look 60s Italian shower curtain made into dress, night vision goggles not included....

And then Bananas....arms straight from a polyester leisure shirt...and polyester banana skirt! It's Dollar General couture!

Just when you think it couldn't get any worse...

And a cute little outfit. If I saw this in Benetton for 350 smackers I would love it...But how about 1-2k at the Prada store, not so much....

View the full collection here:

Friday, September 10, 2010

The 405 expansion: Highway of Death.

California is broke, the United States is broke.

But yet, like poor Judy Garland, who (according to an old queen I once met at a dinner) had to be shot up with speed to get her on the stage, the show must go on...
Thus we have the lovely 405 expansion. LA needs public transportation, we need a real subway line, not that stupid thing that takes you from North Hollywood to Hollywood to Downtown and I think there's another couple of lines that do their best to connect low income areas to the city while carefully avoiding all the rich areas.

The SF BART is a fantastic system vis a vis LA's subway but when comparing a full map of the bay area with a full map of the BART you will notice that the Peninsula (an area where the house they used on Dynasty is located and other real, real richie things are) and Marin County...which I believe for many years was the highest income per capita area of the country....are both NOT accessible by the way it took 40 years or so for the BART to get to SFO...which is still many miles away from Krystle and Alexis in the fish pond.

(see maps below)

Anyway, I digress, but that is probably why the few and the proud follow my blog...So there will be no real transportation in those areas that house the rich. And the 405 goes right through so many of those areas.

Thus rather than building a Sepulveda Pass subway of some sort that could connect to the North Hollywood subway (but it would have maybe even go through BEVERLY HILLS to do so, as Aretha Franklin once said, "ain't no way"), they are widening the "4 or 5" to accomodate the millions of people who are stuck on it every day...

Here is the official list of the exciting improvements to the 405 from the metro website...

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will add a 10-mile HOV lane and improve supporting infrastructure such as ramps, bridges and sound walls on the San Diego Fwy. (I-405); while widening lanes from the Santa Monica Fwy. (I-10) to the Ventura Fwy. (US-101).

This project will reduce existing and forecasted traffic congestion on the I-405 and enhance traffic operations by adding freeway capacity in an area that experiences heavy congestion. In addition to these modifications, the project will improve both existing and future mobility and enhance safety throughout the corridor.

Project benefits include a decrease in commuter time, reduction in air pollution, and promotion of ridesharing.

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will:

  • Add a 10-mile HOV lane on the northbound I-405 between the I-10 and US-101 Freeways

  • Remove and replace the Skirball Center Dr, Sunset Bl and Mulholland Dr bridges

  • Realign 27 on and off-ramps

  • Widen 13 existing underpasses and structures

  • Construct approximately 18 miles of retaining wall and sound wall
If you read through what they are doing in this huge project, you can sum it up in two sentence fragments...adding some new walls and putting in a lane so Prius drivers can zip past everyone else in old cars.

For starters, an expansion of the 405 is a helpful remedy for LAs gianormous transportation problem on the part of the city/state government in the same way that handing an out of control teenager money to placate them is a helpful remedy of a bad parent. It's painful to watch and it really is only going to make things worse not better, and plus it's a sad waste of resources and money that could be much better spent building a subway.

As Jill Scott would ask "is it the way...?" well yes it is. And the way they are expanding the 405 really sucks. First off, the 405 is so impacted that there really is no good time for them to do the construction. I go northbound on the 405 at short of being there at 5:45AM, i'm really on it at a low traffic time going against the commute...of course it's still backed up in portions. Now part of the reason I believe it is backed up is because there is all this construction stuff hanging about along the side of the freeway like decorative accents on a Sandra Lee tablescape. But this is not the crux of the problem.

The crux of the problem is there is NO room to expand the 405. Thus to my eyes they have
devised all sorts of little "shortcuts" that allow for this room (it doesn't). The foremost shortcut is to eliminate the shoulder between the freeway divider and the lane. Well, I got into that shoulderless lane (the farthest/fastest lane) and it was one of the scariest experiences of my life. One is going 70 MPH and one side are the other cars speeding past you (in my opinion they have trimmed down the space between lanes as well) but then there is no wiggle room between you and the cement divider. Since people drive like idiots now more than needs wiggle room. Trust me, my Honda Civic is complements of the 22 year old who drove into my car while I was driving through a stale green light.

The whole project feels like some late 70s post apocalyptic film where James Caan or James Brolin stars, the production designer places futuristic fiberglass bodies on Datsun chassis and the tagline is Los Angeles, 2010: no police, no government, but justice is found on the DEATH PASS.

Also in addition to having NO space between the The 405 is now on the way to having NO PULL OFF LANE (or whatever it is called where you can pull your car over when it dies or there is a collision, etc)...Now if you want to CREATE traffic problems, make sure there is no side lane.
I was on the 101 between Hollywood and Downtown a few Saturdays ago at 11:00pm...traffic was at a standstill. Why? Because two cars were trapped ON THE FREEWAY as there was no where for them to pull over.
Now, I am probably wrong (hopefully) but it seems they getting rid of the pullover lane on the while they excavate the mountain away, they will have done it all for naught, because once a car stalls in the lane (or gets into an accident by running into the dividing rail due to lack of shoulder) traffic will be as bad as it had been 700 million dollars earlier.

So in conclusion, we learn that no real changes will be made, no trains, no monorails, no nuttin that we really need, but the Sepulveda pass will be bulldozed away in order to make room for another lane that we don't need. But remember if things get bad enough which they will , traffic will lighten up because people will move to Portland where they have light rail or they will just have their cars repossessed, then the 405 will as empty as an Edward Hopper painting.

And here is what is covered by BART:
Notice what is missing. Well The Peninsula (that would be the area a bit below SF where the rich people live)
oh and North Bay/Marin County (that's the area right above SF where other rich people live)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

...The "Oh so black" cooking shows on the Food Network

I was going to start this essay by describing the black people that I know, but then I realized that when straight people talk to me about the gay people they know I want to stick needles in my let's assume that I am a person who is progressive about race issues because this essay is not about my personal thoughts on race.
This essay is a little observation that perhaps the Food Network could calm their black targeting.
The funny thing is that I started getting irritated with the title of Sunny Anderson's cooking show "Cooking for Real" (you see to me, this is just a coded way of saying "Cooking for Black People") as if the other shows weren't "for real," and honestly most of them are not, Barefoot Contessa and Bobby Flay's food= too expensive, Paula Deen = too much fat, tiny, tiny Giada clearly never eats the expensive fat laden italian food she makes (also too much fat), Rachel Ray = mediocre, Sandra Lee=A-whole-nother class of terrible. Sunny is pleasant, her food seems good, she offers alternatives that are readily available outside of Zabars/Dean and Deluca/Whole Foods, so really I think she should call her show: the only decent cooking show on this afternoon.
But, and maybe this is my racism talking, "Cooking for Real" is an implication that somehow the other shows weren't meant for you, that was fake cooking, cooking for other people. Again the ironic thing is that the other shows ARE fake cooking, but you don't have to be black to feel that way, you just have to a. not have tons of money to spend on food b. not want to be rolled out of your kitchen in a wheelbarrow c. actually want to perhaps consume vitamins and fiber.
The ironic thing (or thaaang) is that Sunny, who's status as the Hip Hop caterer is mentioned in her Food Network bio, is much less shall we say, marked in her soulfood orientation then the other black hosts on food network The Neelys "Down Home with the Neelys" and Aaron McCargo, Jr "Big Daddy's House."
"Soul Food" is part of a great culinary tradition and it is wonderful to celebrate African-American food culture and perspectives as part of the network, but I just feel that every time I see a promo for the Neelys sandwiched into the other programming on food network, I feel as if I am watching Hattie McDaniel in "Gone with the Wind."
I turn on the TV and see so many images of black people that seem targeted to very narrow perspective of black people, and the reason why I am over it is not because I have a problem with the culture or want to see it "toned down" but rather and please tell me if I am being racist, I simply think it is reductive to black people. Now perhaps I am saying that they should "act white" and don't realize it...but why the fuck can't it just be someone smart who knows how to cook who happens to be black. I know some black people who can cook, but in some crazy soul food only way, they are just good cooks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gen. McChrystal

Okay, so after hearing the name McChrystal over and over again on NPR I have this to say. The problem with actually listening to the news for an hour is the news assumes u will listen for 5 minutes and then turn right back to Jack 93.1 to hear "Feels like the First Time" by Foreigner for the 150,000th time (which is my usual course of action). Thus I had to hear the announcement that McChrystal was "let go" 20 times, and then each time I had to hear it presented like it was the first time they said it. I already have to pretend my mother isn't retelling me the same stories on the phone, so my patience in the repetition department is limited.

My overarching thought on this matter is that McChrystal's name is just so wrong. He should have changed it. Here is a man who could take down those three people who blew the buses down the street in Superman 2 and who skips breakfast and lunch WITHOUT having a slim fast, course I had a friend who did that and called it crash dieting...but anyway the point is he's disciplined and tougher than I or most anyone I know will ever be. But this name is just unpleasant on the ears.

Now when McChrystal was growing up, this name was probably fine. However, then the 80s happened and everyone went so Crystal, (Krystle, Krystal) crazy (krazy, crazeee.)
There was _The Dark Crystal_, Krystal Jennings Carrington (not to be confused with William Jennings Bryant [no relation]) and Crystal light.
The name implies shiny chandeliers, written-for-profit mystical children's entertainment, wine glasses and trampy blondes. This is no name for a General. I mean even Judy Benjamin had an army ready last name. What is even worse is the Mc infront of it. It sounds like a McDonald's menu item. Which now they can't use it as a food item name thanks to this silly crisis.
Why did this man go to _Rolling Stone_? You don't see Beyonce on CSpan. The sad truth is he was bound for flaky behavior, after all his name is simply the Scottish derivative of anything luminescent and light....

Friday, June 11, 2010

...Breaking into song

There are moments when I get so tired of this actor/singer/rapper/wannabe filled town.
These moments happen very often at my health club, where wannabes abound.

People are always ready to network. Sometimes it is just talk. The conversations are always brimming with enthusiasm from the person talking for the person talking, and are articulated with a "down to earth/real" tone and tons of "gangbanger" slang. Gangbanger values have helped so many lives- just ask all the wise old gangbangers living rich, full lives (the ones who weren't shot by age 20-something or aren't stuck CA's overcrowded prisons). Why not reference gangster values in any conversation about success? But then other times, when simply words will not suffice, a song will say what a simple conversation cannot.

Here are some examples of moments (or shall I say windows into the soul) of my fellow exercisers.

A few months ago, there was adult club DJ inside the toilet stall on his phone discussing (loudly) the following songs and how they increased the artistic value of the presented dances.
"So I playing 'BabyMama' [ a song by Fantasia, I think] and it's just solid dude. And then there's 'Ass and Titties' okay, dat is a strip club classic, I mean it's a straight up hit off the charts"
[ I could not determine from my internet search just who originally recorded 'Ass and Titties' apparently it must be like one of those Carole King songs that have been covered so many times one forgets the original artist]

Just the other day I was showering after my swim (thank god everyone gets a private shower)
and a group of men were talking about their singing/rapping/soul legend prospects. This particular conversation had a very musical feeling, and by that I mean they broke into song. The sweet soulful crooning was richly delivered and heartfelt, they crafted an impromptu medley: "I won't pay for pussy [pronounced phussaay] cuz I get pussy for freeeeeee/I got my 40 and my blunt, doin' it gangster style" which was sung in a round. Hopefully these men will get their chance to add to the musical canon, perhaps their songs will be played along with 'Ass and Titties' during a dance performance, then exuberantly discussed in the modern urban salon that is also known as a toilet stall.

Although clearly the locker room is a nexus of artistic expression, impromptu performances can be heard everywhere. on the stretching mats, at the machines. Each heartfelt performance fills me with awkward embarrassment for the person next to me, crooning along with great effort to "La La" by Ashlee Simpson. I wonder if any of these people do get discovered by a casting director or producer, so they have reason to continue their flights into song. If so please let me know what casting director or producer, so I can call their union and grieve them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


So I tried to make souffle today but I just ended up crying on the floor when it collapsed. (just kidding, still 0 days, 0 recipes)

First of all, there are all these bad (and a few good ones) gay movies about who men come out because they meet someone whom they fall in love with. For me coming out was an exercise in self-improvement, like organizing my fucking closet (no pun intended). I have dated and had sex many a time since I came out of the closet at 18 years of age, but it is has been little moments of non-pleasure within a sea of isolation.
Gay men have a way of interacting with each other. Most would call it being rude. Now perhaps this may be my lack of appeal. Perhaps I come across all wrong once I am around men. Now if dating were like selling ticket packages over the phone (which should be a hellish job but is actually very enjoyable, as jobs go) then it would be great. I call people all day, enough of them like me that I make a decent living at a job designed for people not to make money. Now somehow I can handle the random population of Los Angeles (at least those who get on the "priority list," and that doesn't take much- sat in section U at the Bowl for $1, shazzam! ) but when it comes to men, I suck.
But let's talk about gay male behaviors, and I don't just mean in the dating realm....Because I see this on my swim team all the time. And in fact I just have learned (which is against my nature) to keep my head down at practice (I mean as much as I am able to keep my head down) and just not talk to anybody, or keep conversation to a minimum. Also I learn not to take it personally when a conversation just stops....again even if I'm not the one to initiate it.
Ignoring whomever you are talking to if someone else you'd rather talk to comes along. Again it doesn't matter if the ignoring party initiated the conversation with you...
But anyway, complaining about a bad date is nothing new. What bothers me in obsessive hindsight about this date is that I was full of self-hatred when I went on this date and so I sat around and during our conversation about working out sounded like some impossible obsessive blowhard, which I am an obsessive blowhard...but I am only because I feel insecure and then I guess he felt insecure so he acted like a jackass once his girlfriend came around (and proceeded to ignore me and just talk to her- I want to note that I was not isolated for the night because she talked to me and we got along just fine). But what is sad I was tired, punchy and insecure so I probably sounded like a bit of jerk, oh who knows.
Anyway, now that the awkward moment of me opening up my bleeding heart over a two hour date that wasn't so hot is over, let me explain my theory of what dating is like. Basically, imagine you took the Mad Max trilogy and placed it backwards (you know, Alejandro González Iñárritu style ) then that is what dating is like.
Now this may sound a bit weird but let me explain. One of the opening scenes of the first Mad Max is Max saying "crazy about you" (or actually making gestures symbolizing it) to his true love, Jessie, before he goes off to a day of car smashing. That is the beginning, later in the trilogy he is single and has to drive a semi full of sand through a barrier of killer gas pirates, then he has to be dunked in pig shit and fight for his life in something that resembles a giant colander with Tina Turner clad in chainmail and hanging by a wire watching over him. Finally being awoken by lost young people clad in leather bikinis and feather dresses, we finish on those lost young people now situated in a bombed out major city telling the same old bad story.
So if you just move that backwards you have dating...
First you hit some dives and meet lost people telling you the same old bad story.
Then you find yourself awoken from a spell by some lost, annoying young thang in leather underwear who thinks you will help them find what they need (even though what they needed never existed).
then you wade through some shit
Then you get trapped in a no win situation by a real bitch.
Then you battle some really nasty people
Then you end up in a tender moment with your soul mate, Australian accent not necessary.

And that, as Forrest Gump says, is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

...FM radio: the key to your financial plan

I spend a lot of time listening to the radio and I don't have highbrow taste, and I don't care for Top 40. So by default that would mean I listen to the stations that play the catalog of 70s and 80s songs over and over again. When I drove across the country I found that every station across the nation (well from Nashville to Los Angeles) played the same songs too.

After seeing the stock market rise and fall, and the real estate market rise and fall and the everything market rise and thing stayed the same. These same tired songs still play over and over again. You never turn on a classic rock station to find they have replaced Journey and Foreigner with John Prine and Tom Waits. No matter what happens, as Led Zeppelin once said "The Song Remains the Same." Certain classic rock artists, like say Journey and Foreigner, also get play on other "genre" stations.

Please note this plan is not for people who want to be "legends" or "stars" like Elvis Costello (who now has to work hosting that show) or Elton John (who is still working all the time). This is the plan for results-oriented people, who want to cut their FM rock album and then just count the money. We're not looking to work hard for some silly pat on the back, we're the quiet ones who work smart.

Thus, forget the ephemeral (and unethical) world of financial trading, forget the auto business (I noticed GM's new board is filled with people that OTHER bankrupt companies under their belt) and forget computers (silicon is toxic): below is my NO FAIL financial plan. Outlined in several easy steps.

1. Go back in time to 1974

2. Make sure when you go back to 1974 that you are between the ages of 23-27 and male and white (alas this plan for financial greatness follows so many others). You can be gay but be like closeted about it.

3. Grow a mullet or long hair a la Louis Quatorze.

4. Give yourself time to get started in the music business as a rock band. What's great is that you don't even really have to in LA to get started. That was more an 80s thing when Poison and Motley Crue were all on the Sunset Strip. We could reference them, but then again...maximum wealth accumulation belongs to Foreigner and Journey, so like student in French Secondary school, follow the exact model.

5. Between 1976-1980 make sure you are signed and cut an album (notice the 4 YEARS you have to cut the album)

6. Maybe tour for about a year or so. Really, you'd really only have to go until about 1983, by then MTV and Duran Duran would have rendered you out of style.

6b. If you really want to get ambitious, cut a solo album in about 1987.

7. Move to an incredibly expensive place like Marin County, Newport Coast or Grosse Pointe or anywhere with draconian zoning laws and proximity to attractive natural features. Sit around said community and count your money.

Now you have to follow the steps this way and here's why. First of all, you can't go too far back in time because prior generations read more and weren't as loyal to certain rock artists. I mean Elvis is an exception, but who wants that much kitsch associated with their persona. Could Elvis live in Marin County? No, not really. You want a high quality of life. You want wealth not associated with an "estate" that produces collector plates and dolls. Also you can't go too late, I mean grunge artists like the late Cobain and Eddie Vedder get heavy rotation, but you aren't in this for semi-heavy rotation, you want maximum wealth accumulation. So think about who makes the most money- Journey and Foreigner. You have to tap the generation that grew up in that specific time.

Now you could go off and do one hit single, or even maybe 2, like Dale Bozzio and Missing Persons. But America is not a place for underachievers, according to the 2nd to last guy I went out with, Europe is the place for underachievers and the USA is where all entrepreneurs live. We're talking about building an empire here. Everyone else can go to the back of the line.

Now, let's get into how your album will create the most radio play. I will go ahead and give my personal secret plan away, this is like when Naomi Judd or Jane Seymour appear WITHOUT MAKEUP in their informercials to show their skin cream only I am making myself EVEN more vulnerable.

First of all the album has to have an iconic yet innocuous name. I chose for my album name "Chrome Bumpers" (now isn't that catchy?). Steal it and I will go back in time, pull up by you in my Conversion Van, get out, beat you up and drive off.

Okay let's get to how you are going to cut the widest swath through the different genre stations so that 35 years in the future, your money is still working for you:

You need a love ballad. Usually it would be about a rough and tumble girl who just makes you smile with love. (if your gay, either write about your dog like Barry Manilow did or let a lesbian write about her first crush, but if you're gonna take the latter route, make sure it's like a white-trash bike ridin' lesbian in a baseball cap, not some like Bennington/Vassar chick with a dog-eared copies of Bell Hooks and Susan Sontag.) You can just name the song after this girl. Kristina-Lynn is a good example. Most any 2 to 3 syllable name can modified with "Lynn" and it will work, as long as you're not trying some East Coasty/Highbrow sounding name. Alexandria-Lynn, Tracy-Lynn- BINGO!!!! If you really want to get exotic, trying using Krystie as the modifier.

You need a song about doing something loud and rowdy. Now that can be playing guitar, or driving or drinking but something that either creates overwhelming soundwaves, changes your B.A.L. or uses internal combustion. "Straight Whiskey" "Hard Driving all Night Long" "Strings breaking" (this can also be the title of your sad "I fucked up my relationship while on tour" song, but we'll get to that later) "Out the Window" "Walkback"is another one...listen people do I have to do the work for you?

You need a ballad that mixes in some other genre, this is a polite way of saying you need to find some talented unknown African-American musician or musicians and use their innovative talent within your crappy song and pay them a little fraction of what you make. Foreigner was really good at this after they used saxophonist Junior Walker for "Urgent" they found it worked so well they used a whole entire chorus of African-Americans for "I Wanna Know What Love is" and I bet those people got paid even less than Junior Walker.

Plus then they paid homage to the black community with that lovely video where they showed scenes of black people ironing things in maid uniforms and doing construction work then getting enthusiastically bussed in to sing with Lou Gramm plus they get to watch him reconcile with his 22-year-old rail thin girlfriend-BONUS!

Learn from Foreigner, people. A simple song will do for the talented underpaid black people will do all the work on the song. "Learning the Hard Way," "Aching" (titles like this can also be bought later by Tylenol, etc for advertising spots), "My Heart's Open Now."

Now getting to the "I fucked up my life on tour" song. Self-explanatory. Three girls snuck through the Sheraton and knocked on your door. They should make an exception in the vows for that one, but they don't. Again. Don't do real work here. You're looking to maximize your profits, minimize your work. Got a dead spot in the song. Just reference the tour bus or road in some way. "Passing Headlights" "Wheels Turn, Hearts break"...

Now, let's look at scenario B. And that's the best one OF ALL! That scenario assumes that the three girls made it into your hotel room and no one knows ANYTHING! you're just lonely on tour. "Awake (because I'm missing you)" would be a great title. The rule about referencing the tour bus and road still works. See how easy this is...

Angry song about the girl who did you wrong. To write this remember the ugly guy you were before you got rich and the date who wronged you. CHALLENGE: Think of a title on your own.

Now you have recession-proof plan for financial security. Get to it. Oh yeah, and don't forget to get excellent, honest representation while you are cutting this album, because all these tips are null and void if the record company is making all the money.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Sometime around December I got into what is called a funk. When in a funk, I typically goof off with the sort of dedication that Olympic athletes train. My latest athletic endeavor, before I began the climb back to something resembling responsible adulthood, was to watch all the episodes of Weeds on Netflix. First off, let me say that watching TV episodes on Netflix (especially on a laptop) is like eating from a package of Pepperidge Farm cookies. Specifically, both situations leave you with no choice but gluttony: the PF cookie bags force you to lift the little white card between baskets of cookies, thus forcing you to eat the next 3 cookies nested below, while Netflix forces you to watch the next episode by placing the arrow below the viewing screen that reads "more episodes." During my Weeds binge, I reflected on why the show was so addictive.
Weeds centers around a woman, Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) who does not really know how to take control of her life and thus keeps colliding into situations. She chooses a career that is morally void. Her life spins beyond her control, yet she just keeps bouncing right along. Nothing in her life has any center. The show has a buoyancy to it, but not a lightness. Nancy Botwin fucked up her kids whom she was trying to save, ruined her chances at a safe little (illegal) business and even destroyed her own hometown.
The critiques about how suburbia is fucked up are nothing innovative. However, to me they don't ring that true. People do have to work hard to buy those (not so) little boxes on the hillside. However, coming from a family of chaos and settling into an adult life of telesales craziness and nihilistic benign laziness, when I watch the show I escape into a world that mirrors my own (no I'm not selling pot). The world just...happens.
That is why I connect to the show and is probably why others do as well. Nancy Botwin's buoyant roll through the untreated sludgy waters of her pot-dealing life mirrors the life that most Americans have now taken on. Our 70% service economy delivers very few jobs with meaning and frankly most jobs in the last 10 years were built upon buying, refinancing and selling a dream that was built on nada. People are living in dazed denial. Unlike the protesting Europeans who take it out to the streets, but Americans mostly stay complacent. Rather than rallying together, we insulate ourselves into little microvillages of crazy. As Hillary Clinton says, "It Takes a Village." Jenji Kohan has built that little village on her show. And as we watch them forget their dreams, yet maintain their myths, we see the new American way.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

...The September Issue

Finally watched _The September Issue_ which is kind of like _The Devil Wears Prada_ except Andre Leon Talley is a big black man and not a little Italian Stanley Tucci. Just kidding.

Was struck by how calm it actually is at Vogue Magazine. The "meltdowns" did not seem that bad compared to the ones I viewed as an assistant (a senior agent chasing a junior agent down the halls of William Morris).
Grace Coddington is fabulous. To say how and why she is fabulous is to destroy the best part of the movie.
I didn't find Anna Wintour that toxic, just plastic and a bit sad. When sitting at her country house with her lovely daughter, Bee, she still keeps her sunglasses on. There is a moment where she compares herself to her more intellectually-oriented siblings, and somehow the trite way she sees her own extraordinary accomplishments comes through and it is sad. Even the sunglasses can't cover that.

Monday, March 1, 2010

...From Paris With Love

Pierre Morel's new "Make as much money for Lionsgate that I did for Fox" vehicle is dull as dirt and about as Parisian as the defunct Alabama-based Department store chain with the same name.

The film opens with a Cadillac Escalade driving through the streets of Paris, which is reminiscent of the _Sopranos_ opening credits, now if you can't really picture Tony Soprano driving through Paris then maybe you're starting to get what's wrong with this movie. The driver of the car, Johnathon Rhys-Meyers, plays a young special agent in training who covers his true mission- changing License plates in the underground garage of the American Embassy in Paris. And can I just say as a side note that there is an underground garage at the American Embassy in Paris like there is a veranda with a large gas grill built into flagstone and a swimming pool outside my ghetto apartment. This movie ignores an important aspect to Paris, most of it was built before automobiles existed.

John Travolta, the very good father and very closeted homo, gets into fighting shape (meaning the costume designers dress him in baggy pants a leather jacket to hide his fat midsection and the DP rarely shoots standing up) to play an expert "Special Operatives Agent" or some position like that. Now I'm not looking up exactly what his position was because the writers of this movie did SO LITTLE WORK in creating the story, why should I even bother? John Travolta performs the saddest imitation of his Pulp Fiction persona since Mae West's imitation of her former sex pot persona in "Sextette." And JRM's performance is so limited, especially vis-a-vis his other acting roles, it's as if Conrad Hall had to shoot a movie with a Fisher-Price PixelVision camera.

And that's about all I have to say about this movie.

Monday, January 18, 2010 spirituality

Still 0 days, 0 recipes.

My most personal (and perhaps controversial) post yet. An examination of my relationship with organized religion and most notably with a prominent sect of Nichiren Buddhism (I was going to use the name of this organization, but frankly, I'm not interested in writing a "tell all" piece trashing the group I left as I am only accounting my limited personal experience, I'm sure a devoted member of this unnamed organization could rip this blog to shreds).

I live near the a large meeting place of a large Nichiren Buddhist group. After finally freeing myself from a very toxic Hollywood Assistant position that would make the job behind _The Devil Wears Prada_ (aka Anna Wintour's asst position) look like an afternoon sunbathing on a yacht, I was full of negative energy and wanted to make sure I used my time well and made the most of my life, I looked at my roommate who seemed to be full of constructive things and decided to try out her organization, which she said really helped improve her life. Now, first off, let me say I came to her. She did not come to me. She has actually been the most down to earth about this whole process. Perhaps if I had seen more behavior like hers in others..

I went to an intro meeting where we chanted and then talked about how "just saying 'Nam Myoho Renge Kyo' even just once can transform your life" People told stories about how chanting and imagining money brought them money, etc. However, these tales were couched by the following disclaimer "you chant for what you want to learn that what you want will not bring you true happiness, then you learn to chant for happiness." Oh wait and I forgot the ultimate goal of the organization was world peace. But all those larger goals aside, chanting could bring you what you it was hard to move beyond that. It's a bit like if someone keeps putting Mrs. Fields cookies in front of a plate of broccoli and kale. You keep meaning to get to the veggies but the cookies taste so good, so you keep eating them even though you know you shouldn't.
Quick Karma Quiz:
If a speaker was called to present at the last minute and he got from Toluca Lake to Santa Monica in less than 30 did he do it folks?
A. It was sunday morn traffic was light
B. Broke the law and drove too fast
C. Chanted the whole way to get there on time.

If you answered "C" you would be right. Now this gets to another problem I have with the chanting, excuse me, Diamoku. You can't just do a little, you have to do a lot. At one point, I was chanting 15 minutes per day and was happy with that. Well apparently, that was not enough, I needed to be chanting an hour a day. I tried this and kept falling asleep as I was chanting. It was just too much. Now on the topic of too much, let's discuss the meetings and campaigns.

We had meetings about the April campaign to chant for the youth until youth day, we then had the campaign to plan for the gongyo (world peace prayer meeting, or to use conventional jargon revival meeting/church service). Then we had to plan for the next district gongyo at someone's house, so we had some planning meetings for that, then the next campaign for the youth meeting, then the next campaign for the day presentation at the park, then the family fun fest, then....
Well kids, it all becomes overwhelming. And here's the result. I was pretty involved, there regularly, participating regularly, and then if I were gone for five came the calls. We're having a meeting tonight, can you make it? Once I went out of town for four days to visit my sister and mother. This happened to be during the time when New Years day gongyo was going on...and I recieved call after call. "When are you back?" Takao and Ruta would call and ask. Ruta and Takao were in their early 20s, both from Japan, where apparently this sect of Nichiren Buddhists practice more fevently than here in the USA. Thus Ruta and Takao were both worried about me when I wasn't chanting (which I was at the center several times a week at this point). I kept trying to explain that I was writing or doing something constructive. I felt I had to answer for every moment of my life when I wasn't there. I felt like I didn't own my own life anymore.

And this is where it got a little crazy. You chanted to make your dreams come true, but I thought you had to work to make your dreams come true. So I thought the answer was chant a bit to give you the strength to be a determined person. Well apparently the answer was chant all the time. But then everyone was always sitting around talking about how the chanting was going to make it happen. Well how can the chanting make it happen if you're sitting in a room talking about how you can make it happen. Not that people didn't advertise any success as proof of the chanting. Because they did. In fact, I felt that people who came from an advantaged background who were in this sect had an extra advantage because even though "you could achieve buddhahood as you are" was a principle, those members that had well-heeled lives or were famous (of which I can name two actors, a senator and a legendary Jazz musician) were trumpeted because they provided "actual proof." That was another aspect of the practice, you got "actual proof" in your life that it worked. I thought the whole point of religion was that it wasn't about looking for "actual proof." Job got "actual proof" but I don't think that sort of "actual proof" is the kind this sect is using to increase membership.

Now, perhaps other people dealt with it differently, but this whole aspect of the practice made me more neurotic than I already was. I kept putting all my fears and dreams and goals and worries on the chanting and focused on them as I was chanting, expecting things to change. I began to feel like I was trying to use one plug to keep afloat a ship with three holes. I needed to chant about this, but what about that, and am I seeing progress in my social skills and ability to relate to people? What about my writing? Well, how the fuck am I going to relate well to people if I'm relentlessly focusing on it? I felt that spirituality was designed to help you handle and accept life with grace. I really stopped when I began telesales as my job and I realized I could chant for more sales and that felt so spiritually chickenshit that I wanted to wash my hands of the whole thing. Perhaps this is my problem. Others seemed to be on such a plane of understanding with it. They would get up at meetings and ask leaders questions in the vein of "So if I'm chanting with deeper devotion but someone else is not, how do I express to them the importance of chanting with deeper devotion?" Frankly, when people get up to ask "sincere questions" about their faith at large revival meetings (insert some Japanese word that is the equivalent of revival meeting here) it is laced with self-satisfaction. Sort of like when a bunch of hard-bodied gay men gaggle about eating too many carbs after working out for 2 hours. To quote Nell Carter, one who did not count carbs, "It's time for my piece of cake, Gimme a break!"

And so after 11 months of devoted service to the organization. I dropped out. At first people called (and sent me notes showing me the schedule of events [as if I did not know they were still going on] and bookmarks with inspirational quotes etc) and I had a few one-on-one meetings where I read a section of the Gosho (the letters of the founding father of Nichiren Buddhism, Nichiren Diashonin) about not slandering the practice or bad things would happen to me. I kind of felt that I shouldn't come back to the practice out of fear but rather out of love.

But then there is a nagging part of me that feels like 'what if'? What if I had grown because I chanted? What if my writing was better and my life was under more control because I chanted? What if the organization (even with it's flaws) could have made me better and I just didn't have the level of commitment needed to get that place?

The message of hope was powerful, but eventually for me the aggressiveness of most of members and the belief that "this practice was the correct practice" was too far out of line with my Unitarian belief that no one religion took preference over another. However, as much as I preach about the power of the Unitarian Church, I have yet to go back. Part of the reason I am unable to attend traditional religious services is not because of my homosexuality (one can find in LA, thankfully, open congregations of all faiths) but because I swim on Sunday Mornings. It is the one time I know I will almost always make and swimming is something where I see "actual proof" in the difference in my life from doing it and that is something I won't give up. Perhaps if I am looking to swimming for my only reassurance, maybe that is the fault of growing up Unitarian.

I deal, as most people do, with a great degree of fear and negativity. Life is about continuing to plug away at something, that is how I believe greatness is achieved. However, particularly in this day and age where the quest for "actual proof" is constant, how does one find the strength to do that? I look at my life and see very little actual proof, thus I look to something external to give me that gumption, but again the quest for hope rather than feeling steady, is me pushing that cork into various holes. I used religion the way I use everything else, to run away from what I really need to accept and face in my life. Those things I need to face are the holes in boat that feels like it is sinking. However, my therapist says I need to come in twice a week to make progress and even on a sliding scale- how the fuck am I going to afford that?

That is what I struggle with...honestly, laziness in my life has hurt my spiritual quest. Instead of doing a comprehensive search for truth and comfort in religion. I threw myself into the first thing I found. My quest for religion was a bit like "Eat, Pray, Love" for the age of drive-thrus and internet hook ups. But then again, that is my personality, it took me years to figure out that internet hook ups are not worth emotional investment (and as of last week I was still upset that some hunky doctor in San Diego didn't want to meet for coffee after a series of lurid text messages) and that macaroni and cheese cannot be consumed multiple times per week, no matter how many carrot sticks one eats. I do feel like there is a greater center out there, a greater level, however it is a constant struggle. To quote another big beautiful black woman, Jill Scott from her Rolling Stone profile...'Positivity and peace is not a bus stop you get off at. You gon' have to work on it every day for the rest of your life.'
The fact that I am quoting a woman who stars in Tyler Perry movies and now has her own personal "big girls" bra collection speaks volumes about how I am too far gone for spirituality. But are we all too far gone? Today everyone, even the Dalai Lama to the president of the religious organization I am discussing to even Unitarians, connects with celebrities. Jesus didn't seem to have any famous friends, rather he had famous enemies, so he died. As did other martyrs of faith. Where are our martyrs in a world where self-advancement is no longer Machiavellian, it is embraced?

I still chant a few times a week (for 15 minutes) to try and connect to some super me...

Sometimes I think living is a religious experience all on it's own and maybe that occasional realization is the only 'actual proof' I am going to get.