Thursday, February 26, 2009

"i gave my power away"

Who would have thought Top Chef would provide a teachable moment that had nothing to do with skinning an eel or how strong redfish is? (BTW: am I the only one who thought "redfish" was something Dr. Seuss made up?) But Wednesday night's lamentable finale did just that. Carla Hall--dear, Beeker manque, hootie hoo Carla--who had won over fans and judges alike with her exuberance and soulful cooking and delightful goofiness, lost tragically; so tragically she wasn't even in the running at the end.

And why? Bad choices, forgotten details, over thinking her menu, poor time management? Probably, sure; all of the above. But everyone made mistakes: Stefan decided to freeze salmon halibut carpaccio before serving it--in a pool of melted fishwater (delish!)--and delivered a dessert the judges deemed dated and pedestrian. Hosea presented a sashimi trio that everyone agreed was bland and poorly seasoned, lacking the most obvious thing in the world: salt. So how did Carla's few mistakes snowball enough to prove fatal?

She admitted it Thursday on NPR: she second guessed herself. Presented with some ideas by her appointed sous chef (Casey, a runner-up from a previous season), Carla thought, "Okay, let's try it." Yeah, let's "try" cooking the beef 'sous vide'--a technique Carla had never done before (and which involves a plastic bag; sorry, but it seems a little Shake-n-Bake to me...). Let's try making souffles (who doesn't know how temperamental souffles are!?! wasn't this a Three's Company episode?) instead of the tartlet she'd planned. Presented with ideas from (let's face it) a subordinate--'sous' means under, after all--Carla said, "Okay, good idea there, Casey." Carla, ever kind, ever compassionate, ever open minded. She succumbed to the Achilles (high) heel of women everywhere: she decided to be a team player when in fact she needed to be just the opposite. She needed to not just have a vision, but also the confidence and dedication to stick to it. She needed to lead.

Why do we (women) do this? We lean towards empathy, kindness, compassion. We care about the group, often at expense of ourselves. (Every Mom, ever, yes?) We want everyone else to feel included; we want to hear opinions from all quarters. And that's all great. I love that about us. But when the task at hand doesn't call for a team response, when you're competing for Top Chef, not Top Kitchen Crew...sisters, I hate to say this, but: man up.

Look at how Carla's male competitors treated their sous chefs; like number twos. Hosea and Stefan looked at their sous chefs and saw Watsons to their Holmes, Spocks to their Kirks, Dwights to their Michaels. Carla looked at Casey, hugged her in solidarity, and saw Thelma and Louise. And yes: together, hands held, they drove off a damn cliff.

Is this why there's still a glass ceiling? (And there is: look up the stats--they're shocking.) That when push comes to shove we look for consensus when we should be decisive? And here's an even more frightening thought: what if we're not looking for consensus because we're so frigging nice? What if we're looking for consensus because we're--gulp--just freaking scared? In the myriad post mortems Carla has admitted she had a loss of confidence. This, from New York Magazine on line:

"When you are in a situation and you’ve done it on your own and you try to keep everything together, as soon as there is somebody in front of you who has been through it, you almost exhale at that point and say ‘Oh my God, thank God I have help!’ And you’re like, ‘okay, let me lean on you, let me listen, what do you have for me? Let me take some of your energy.’ And I think I did a little bit too much of that and I gave my power away."

Wow. Maybe we're not just tragically nice team players. Could we actually be...pussies? Is that possible? I mean, I know I'm a pussy, but I'm sitting in a dark room commentating. Carla was a competitor. Carla cooked her ass off. Carla had it going on.

Scarily, the recent event this most reminded me of? Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign. Remember her? The runner-up? Even though a tremendous amount of time and energy went into making us all believe that Clinton would be "ready to lead" on "day one"--and maybe she would have been--the inside dope on the campaign was that a real lack of leadership was exactly Clinton's problem.

In a Sept 2008 article in The Atlantic, Joshua Green writes, "...her advisers couldn't execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution." After reviewing of a trove of internal campaign documents, Green comes to this conclusion: "...Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency." Of the internecine squabbles inside the campaign, apparently, "Clinton herself could never quite decide who was right." Could this be what was at the root of Clinton's routinely criticized "triangulating"? Not hoping to be all things to all people out of a callous political expediency but a sadly familiar, junior high school terror that the mean girls won't invite us to their sleep-overs?

Oh, god. Is Hilary Clinton--strong, bad-ass, pant-suited, snarky, smart as shit Hilary Clinton--a pussy too?!!?

I'm not suggesting we vanquish fear: obviously, that's impossible. But clearly men have figured out a way to feel fear but do it anyway. To never betray that they're afraid. To act like they're on top of it and in charge (even when they--so often--aren't; even when they bollocks up the entire goddamned world). Maybe we need to just take some acting classes and learn to behave "as if". Maybe Carla felt she needed help from Casey; but she clearly should have acted like she didn't and stuck stubbornly to her own style.

By the end of the Top Chef finale it was clear Carla knew that was her mistake. When asked why she should be Top Chef she swallowed a clear desire to say what she's admitted since: "I gave my power away." Even as it was utterly clear that that was absolutely what she'd done, Carla put the best face on it she could and only talked about her strengths, tried to throw a soupcon of braggadocio into the pot. Unfortunately, it was too late; the sauce was already broken.

Monday, February 23, 2009

paul krugman: fantasy dad

Well, I'm not entirely sure if Paul Krugman is even old enough to be my Dad, but he's so wise and has such gravitas that he seems awfully Dad-like. (The beard helps.) So I have this urge to call home, chat with Mom (about the Oscars) for a bit and then say, "Can you put Dad on? Does he have a minute?" Cause I have a lot of questions for him.

This was in a Washington Post article about today's fresh hell on the stock market and the past year's overall decline: "The total value of all shares of companies on the Dow has dwindled to $2.45 trillion, down from $4.51 trillion." Okaaay. I literally can't even do the math to figure out the actually amount the market has lost. Does the calculator on the Mac dock go up to a trillion? More importantly: exactly how many zeros are in a trillion? Seriously, is a trillion even a real number or something kids make up when their parents ask them 'how much do you love me?' (A kagillion!) No matter: it's a lot of money. Something like--ball park--$2 trillion has been lost, yes? That is a shit pot lot, lot, lot of money. That is, like, more money than Titanic made. That is more money than Oprah has.

So this is my question for Paul/Dad: Where. Did. It. Go?


Where? It just...disappeared? If it can just disappear, then...was it ever really there to begin with? (Is this too existential a query regarding the stock market?) I really, really want to know. If this $2 trillion was never really there to begin with, then our previous "good economy" wasn't really...real. It was just numbers on a balance sheet? So...that couldn't have been very good to begin with, right?

And people make this whole fuss about the 'irresponsible' homeowners who are now upside down on their mortgage, i.e., they owe more than their home is worth. But again, if the value of their home went down due to the generally sucky economy and crashed real estate market, how is that their fault? That prior "value" seems to have been based on...nothing, right? If it can just...go down like that? So then the whole real estate bubble is really, really, truly a bubble: not just because it can "burst", but because it only really exists when it's filled with air.

Is our whole economy based on mass hysteria and...air? (Dad? Are you even listening? I get the sense you're watching The, I don't want to talk to Mom again!)

This kind of freaks me out. Is our whole economy one of those kid's birthday party entertainer's bubble cubes filled with cigarette smoke? Those look so cool, so magical, so unlikely. But then they burst. And all you have left is the sick taste of Pall Mall's and Pledge on your tongue and a deep sense of disappointment in your heart.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

revenge fantasies. yum!

I know I'm not the only one who's having a hard time paying attention to the news; even my political junkie Mom has admitted to mainlining novels and bridge instead of her former drug of choice: MSNBC. It's just too damn scary out there. You can only hear so many times that we're in the worst economic slump since the depression before you start to feel, you know: depressed.

So I've decided to get angry instead. And not at the 'state of the world' or vague entities like 'the banks' or 'sub-prime lenders' or 'the Republicans'--at actual, living, specific people. I was leaning in this direction when I saw Bill Maher on Friday night--who, for all his flagrant, frat boy misogyny does say some wickedly funny, smart things--advocate actually killing a couple of to-be-named-later bankers. Which, while admittedly disturbing, was a strangely satisfying idea. Just...up and whack them! For the catharsis, for the possible deterrent effect and just, well, for the kicky fun of it!

Public executions may be going a bit too far, but there are definitely some particular people out there who are just plain Pissing Me Off. And since my splenetic letter to that dingbat John Thune didn't even warrant a form e-mail response (or better yet: an FBI file; fingers crossed!) I'm going to play out some fantasies here.

John Boehner: A persistent blocked tear duct would be good, so he'd be forever wet eyed and drippy. You want to cry? You're so upset? You feel so deeply? Then fine: cry. All. The. Time. Maybe the eye (ooh...both eyes!) could even be mildly infected, kind of red and rheumy so everyone will think he has conjunctivitis and no one will ask him to join in their congressional reindeer games.

Bobby Jindal: If he doesn't want Louisiana's portion of the stimulus package I think a) he should no longer be eligible for his personal portion of Louisiana's budget--i.e, his salary. b) He should have to live with a family of five in a FEMA trailer, right next to the pungent, rotting mess that used to be their house. c) to ensure he can't gain any presidential traction just because he's "cute", he should have to walk around permanently with one of those creepy Abu Ghraib bags on his head.

Bernie Madoff: It's absurd that this assface is still living in his opulent New York apartment. But I actually think jail is too good for him too. This douchey sociopath gets to sit around reading Jeffrey Archer novels and writing his own 'inside the big house' blog? I don't think so. I say he has to go work as a maid. And not just for someone he ripped off--for the maid the people he ripped off had to fire. And they can make him wear the silly little costume of their choice; French chambermaid? Sure. But giant cockroach would be fine too--not just for the visual perfection, but also because it would be just that much harder to fold a hospital corner with pincers for hands. At night old Bernie will have to tuck into some efficiency off the Major Deegan Expressway. Possibly with a semi-retarded, mouth breathing cashier from the Big Apple named Toby for a roommate.

Michele Bachman: This lying, soulless, whack-doodle should have her tongue super-glued to the roof of her mouth. That way, she can think all the outrageous, wildly untrue, heartless, just-to-the-right-of-Pol-Pot crap she wants. But when she goes on talk radio all anyone will hear is, "Gnnnmngrrchl."

John Thain: He of the $1400 garbage can. This tin-eared, Mr. Potter ass-hole should have to actually be a garbage man. Hanging on the back of the truck, wearing olive green coveralls, the whole bit. Hopefully, he will constantly be engulfed by the revolting fug of rancid broccoli water. And poop.

To end on a more fun, upbeat note--a fantasy crush I forgot last week: Julian Schnabel. The ego, the self-absorption, the genius, the genius, the genius. Amazingly talented film-maker (I actually like his movie-making more than his art), captivating raconteur. Big, burly, bearded, brilliant. Frankly, I want for nothing more. I'm even okay with the silly, yellow sunglasses. Sigh.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

thought for the day!

Hey, other tragically unemployed and mordantly depressed people: it's true what the happy people say; a shower really does help. How do you know it's time to shower? If you can't remember the last time you showered.

Best Headline of the Day (maybe ever); "Extinct Bird Seen; Eaten."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

that's why they call it a 'job'

Today's irritant: Craig's list job postings. This is officially proof that the untended, 'openspace' internet Doesn't Really Work. I get how fabulous and free and unfettered by commercialization Craig's List is. And for selling an old couch or Hollywood Bowl box seats you suddenly can't use, or finding someone to teach you the glockenspeil, it's genuinely a fabulous thing.

For job hunting? This thing blows. Blows giant chunks of half-digested kibble. The relevant definition of 'job'? "A regular remunerative position." I.e., labor for which the worker is compensated with cash U.S. money. Not....this: check it:

I am shooting an ultra low budget horror film project in the coming months and need my hand written script to be typed up in Final Draft. I need a super cool, motivated team member to help me type because I am a very slow typist. Project should only take 1 to 2 sessions in a low-key, professional environment. Not a cash job but credit and meals provided. A great opportunity to work on an independent film with a gung-ho film director. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Did you notice sentence number four? The one that starts, "Not a cash job..." Are you fucking kidding me? You need your fucking sucky script typed and you're not even willing to pay some poor sap 10 bucks an hour to pick her way through your Kevin Spacey, psycho-killer from Se7en scrawl? Because this is a "great opportunity"? Um...NO. It's not. A "great opportunity" is interning as Steven Soderbergh's on-set assistant while he shoots in Thailand. A "great opportunity" is being Barack Obama's body man. Typing some bottom feeder's crap slasher script is in no way a great opportunity.

I don't care how slow you type, you tool, if you're so effing 'gung-ho' just hunt and peck your way through it while you're watching Adult Swim, asshole. In the amount of time you took posting (even typing!) this stupid ad you could have finished page one.

Then there's this one, in the actual 'jobs' category, like this might actually have something to do with "work" for "money".

We are seeking excellent writers with impressive resumes on IMDb, and who also have connections for getting us in front of the right people. That would definitely get you producer as well as writer credit. These projects are for both TV and feature film, and are both drama and comedy. WE DON'T WANT TO HEAR FROM ANYONE WHO THINKS HE/SHE IS A GREAT WRITER, AND CLAIMS THAT THEY HAVE CONNECTIONS, BUT TRULY IS NOT AND DON'T. PLEASE DON'T WASTE OUR TIME! Thank you.

Check out the righteous indignation of those caps, man! Wow. They have clearly been burned, baby, burned, by some devious wannabe writer who took advantage of their...what the fuck is it they're offering again? I have actually NO IDEA what the gig is. What does that "excellent writer" get in return for sharing all their contacts with these these high class individuals? And what writer with ANY IMDb credits in their RIGHT MIND needs these fuckers?!?! IMDb doesn't start listing a writer until he or she actually has something serious in development or pre-production--or frankly, usually, produced. Jesus Christ on the cross, why does an actual WORKING writer need some assface who can't even write a legible ad? With proper grammar and complete sentences and clarity of thought? The mind reels, frankly.

Craig, honey, baby. Love you, love your list. But, please: any way to make "job listings" actually list, real...what's the word?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

hello blue monday

Q: Is it possible for me to keep this going three days in a row?
Apparently not; it's 12:48am, Tues, so missed Monday completely. These are my excuses:
  • Incipient cold.
  • Took a friend to the airport.
  • It's raining.
  • Nothing of note happening.

I am finding it harder and harder to actually read the news. During the last administration, as bad as things were, there was something to look forward to: throwing the bastards out. In particular, during the last year, the election provided an undeniable electricity and frisson to it all. A giant horse race of the most vital consequences. It was like watching a year long tennis match being played with scimitars on an island in a shark infested moat.

Plus: reading all the terrible things Bush and Co. were up to gave a name to any inchoate rage. There was a perverse thrill to the righteous indignation of it all.

Now? I just feel sad and scared and worried. Worried I'll be living under an overpass soon, worried there will be hobos again, worried our wonderful president couldn't bring an end to this shit storm even if he actually WERE the messiah.
Maybe I scare easily.
Maybe we really are well and truly FUCKED.
Either way, the New York Times is Just Not Helping.

Of no particular import at all:
What the hell is up with that Saving Grace show? Anyone? Why do all the characters' emotions--rage, fear, lust, indignation, joy, delight, whatever--seem pitched higher than a baroque opera? Are they all manics on crack? What's with all the laughing? These people laugh at anything, hysterically. Really; like hysterics, like mental patients, like Bard freshman after a nice spongy bowl of loamy, pungent weed. And they're all crazy Jesus freaks? Is that what the show is about? Hysterical, over-sexed, Jesus freak cops? Why again? (And incidentally, the oh-so-cleverly named "Grace"--get it? clev-urr--has the sinewy, taut body of a Pilates instructor, but she seems to subsist on beer and fries and Froot Loops? Riiiight.)

Those are my rantings for the day: I may be getting a cold. It's raining. I can't read the paper anymore. And Holly Hunter is officially chapping my ass.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

reinventing v-day

Q: Why is there a ridiculous, completely secular, purely commercial holiday to make us all feel bad about ourselves? For single people--even happy ones, for chrissake--the days leading up to this explosion of heart shaped trinkets and cheap, waxy chocolates is just a constant stream of unkosher salt being poured in our singleton wounds. Every store you walk into, every other cheesoid commercial. (Teddy bears dressed as 'love bandits'? Seriously?) Who really enjoys this crap? I have heard more people complain, dread and literally have to gird their loins for the onslaught of Valentine's Day than I have ever heard people admit even the tiniest shred of excitement about it. Frankly, couples don't fare much better; they either find the pressure intolerable or the whole thing just a giant, needlessly expensive, pain in the ass. Parents of small children get roped into making Valentines for every Ashley and Trevor in their kids' class. And the kids who get forgotten in the chaos turn into instant bitterinas. Which, while it will doubtless turn them into interesting adults with good stories to tell as emo singer songwriters or stand up comedians, ain't pretty on a five year old. (Believe me. I know.)

The only people who seem to enjoy this shitstorm are apparently newly dating 25 year old girls--the ones prone to bedrooms festooned with floral prints and closets filled with 'cute tops'. The ones whose boyfriends were busy yesterday buying red roses (the originality could make your head explode!) at the Ralph's. Red roses. From the Ralph's. Wow. What a keeper!

How big could this group possibly be? And why the hell do they need their own holiday? Could we also have a holiday for bald-headed tax attorneys or lesbian grandmothers? A holiday I could really get behind? (Well, the second one anyway...) Isn't this whole thing just a giant waste of money? Particularly in its current state of bloat? (Side bar: Why does every 'holiday' in America now last at least a month? Halloween bleeds right into Thanksgiving, which bleeds right into Christmas, which bleeds right into New Years' and on and on. It's like we're in a perpetual state of Buy Stupid Crap You Don't Need.) With the current state of our economy I know people are supposed to try to keep spending, but wouldn't it be better if we bought things like, oh, food and clothing? (Foil wrapped chocolate hearts and pink panties don't count.)

Okay. I've complained enough. It's over. And the fact is, I had a fabulous Valentine's Day, with amazing friends eating a terrific dinner, drinking fine wine and topping it off with decadent cupcakes. But of course, luckily, I can do that anytime I want. Without the red foil and chubby winged babies.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

it begins

So people tell me I should do this 'blog thing'. I resist. I have nothing to say. I am not particularly funny, or insightful, or connected or brilliant. Then I read some other peoples' blogs and I find out: neither are they. So.

Here I am.

Today's idea: my response to a post on The Daily Beast supposedly listing interesting, funny, compelling, 'geeky' (she said it, not me) dreamy boys to counter the dull, 'shellacked' 'Sexiest Men Alive' from People magazine. This is apparently a Valentine's Day feature, which actually strikes me as rather perverse; last time I checked if you're spending Valentine's Day thinking about Clive Owen and you are not Mrs. Clive Owen, then you are dangerously close to Rupert Pupkin/sending-yourself-roses-at-work territory and you should be sharing your thoughts with a mental health professional, not a bunch of bored loners cruising the internet on a Saturday morning. But that's just me.

Anyway. This chick makes a big point of how dull and obvious the standard lists are, how who cares about Patrick Dempsey and Matthew McConaughey blah blah blah--and then she starts her wildly inventive list of hotties with...the aforementioned Clive Owen. Yeah, that's way out of the box there, sister. Crazy talk! Who are you!? Clive Owen?!?

Girl: Get. In. Line. Behind half the female population on the planet. Most of the male population. My mother.

Next up: Ryan Gosling and Kyle Chandler. Now, I loves me my Ryan Gosling--I think he's an explosively good actor; if you put Half-Nelson next to Lars and the Real Girl we're talking Ryan is the Real Deal. But...unexpected? Geeky? And Kyle Chandler? Also: delicious, fine actor, but he is so perfectly, classically handsome he was cast in King Kong as a square-jawed, 30's matinee idol. This is not an iconoclastic choice.

She throws in some curveballs--the Flight of the Conchords guys, some CEO I've never heard of--but by and large this was not an interesting, thought-provoking list. This is the list of someone whose fantasies include Hawaiian vacations and walking on the beach at sunset. This the list of someone who thinks she discovered The Office because she liked the American version before it won any awards. This is a tampon commercial.

So: Here are my interesting crushable guy choices. It's hardly definitive, not even that well thought out; just the people I could think of today, in no particular order. Maybe if I keep the blog going I will make this a regular feature: Fantasy Crush of the Day or something. That's just the kind of self-involved crap bloggers indulge in all the time, isn't it?

1. Eddie Izzard. With or without the skirt, this guy is sex on a stick. Handsome face, cute accent, sure sure; what he's really got is the fastest, wittiest, craziest mind on the planet. He can go from wildly intellectual, hilarious surveys of World History--in French--to wacky little scenarios about giraffes communicating with each other without making any sound. Proof that the most important sex organ is the brain.

2. Jon Stewart. This is my idea of an obvious choice. Who the fuck doesn't like Jon Stewart? Humorless right wing tools and morons. He's not only witty but impassioned, wildly intelligent and--seemingly--a really nice guy. The dreamy poster boy for smarty pants, Upper West Side, lefty girls. Like me.

3. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Such a good actor, so subtle, so smart. But also has this underhanded, sneaky sexiness. Something about how his eyes smile when he does, how you feel like you can see him thinking, how he looks like he's really enjoying food when he eats, something about how unaffected he seems. How imperfect he knows he is. Seems like a guy who'd spend the whole day in bed with you, reading, snacking, making out. Delish.

4. Dennis Leary. Again, hi-fucking-larious. Fast thinking, fast talking, with a sharpened edge of outrage that is nicely tempered by a dash of well earned self-loathing. Doesn't suffer fools, but also seems to really enjoy other, smart, funny people (see: he and Jon Stewart together) and has been married to the same woman for years. Awesome.

5. Keith Olbermann. Talk about outrage. While sometimes he can just go on, his sense of justice has been so utterly warranted and necessary that he seems like some kind of national freaking hero. Saying what needs to be said, speaking truth to power, calling a spade a spade (or a criminal a criminal: i.e., Dick Cheney), you gotta love him for his consistency and passion and sheer brains. Not humorless either, he can laugh at himself and has that guys' guy love of sports that brings him down to earth. Plus, as David Letterman has pointed out, he has an enormous head. And you know what that means.

6. Michael Chabon. Great writer. Phenomenal writer. Genius writer. Inventive beyond belief, with a use of language that is just stunning and a humanity that is peerless. He's also tall and charming and funny. And he loves his wife and kids. Damn.

7. Jon Meacham. Writer, journalist, editor, awesome talk show guest. Voracious intellect wrapped in a delightfully self-deprecating, witty, Southern Gentleman package. (That slight touch of Tennessee in his accent is the ribbon on this smartly wrapped package.) He seems slightly out of time, like he would've fit perfectly in 50's New York, having cocktails at lunch and pounding out his pieces for Newsweek on a typewriter. Great, crinkly eyes too. And fantastic hair.

8. Craig Ferguson. A comic/actor/talk-show host who wrote a novel? A good novel that displayed a whacked-out, delightful intellect? Sign me up. His rambling, half-silly, half-genius 'monologues' are the funniest, most inventive on TV, while his willingness--nay desire--to dress up and look like an idiot for a laugh (Michael Caine in Space? Aquaman?) just makes him seem like the epitome of a good sport. And the fact that he effortlessly tosses around 'maybe I'm gay' jokes just shows how comfy he is in his own sexuality. His past as a drunk humanizes him beyond belief. And he just seems like a nice guy. Sadly, just got married. Well, sadly for me.

9. Hooman Majd. I actually don't know much about this bloke--just that he's an Iranian-American writer/intellectual of some note, an engrossing talk show guest, and has a lovely accent and speaking voice. He just seems Old Worldy and gentlemanly and sophisticated. Plus, he's just plain handsome and has very elegant hands. Good enough for me.

10. Neil deGrasse Tyson. The go-to astrophysicist for every talk show, he's the director of the Hayden Planetarium, a writer and raconteur and generally witty science guy. If the solar system needed a host, Tyson would be it. He makes the cold expanses of space seem interesting and warm. He seems interesting and warm. He seems like he'd make a great husband. I have no idea why. But scientists, man, are just plain cool.

Okay kids. That's all she wrote for today. Let's see if I manage to open this thing again. Didn't work the last time I tried, but hey, never hurt to keep trying. Unless you're, you know, Hitler.