Archives for April 2012

Am I A Misogynist, Or Do I Just Have Eyes?

Grace, poise, elegance

A couple days ago I saw some truly troubling news: that sentient afterschool special Lindsay Lohan will soon return from her chemically induced exile from film sets, agents’ offices, and bars that don’t take credit to play the role of — and I am having a hard time getting my fingers to even type this — Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor.

It’s only a made-for-TV movie, and even less auspiciously, a Lifetime movie, but still, it’s hard to imaging a more grotesque bit of miscasting. Admittedly, there are a couple of similarities between the two women: they were child actors, and they both ended up being a bottomless trough of tabloid fodder. (In the early ’80s, Taylor seemed to be singlehandedly keeping the National Enquirer in business, and Lindsay — well, you don’t need reminding about Lindsay and the tabloids.) They also both got into the fragrance business: Liz introduced “White Diamonds” in 1991, while Lindsay launched “Coke Sweat” in 2007.  

But — and I expect this post to be picked up by the Huffington Post, because I’m really breaking some news here — the similarities end there. Ms. Taylor’s career fizzled out in the 70’s when she hit 40, started gaining weight, and stopped drawing at the box office, but not before she won two Academy Awards and starred in about 40 movies, at least eight of which are stone-cold classics. Miss Lohan, on the other hand, was drummed out of Hollywood not because of declining box-office power — she never had any to begin with, and she only made one good movie (Mean Girls, which worked because of Tina Fey’s script and because Lohan was surrounded by strong supporting performances by Lizzy Caplan, Amanda Seyfried, and Rachel McAdams, all of whom are now highly sought after and none of whom have been fitted for ankle monitors) — but because she let a drug problem got completely on top of her by the age of 21.

Really though, that’s not the reason she’s such a terrible choice to play Liz Taylor. Movies are pretend. If Tobey Maguire can play a guy who sticks to walls and shoots webs out of his wrists and Denise Richards can play a nuclear physicist, Lindsay Lohan can play a beautiful, distinguished actress. Just not Elizabeth Taylor, because Lindsay Lohan doesn’t look like Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t mean Lindsay’s not pretty enough — I kind of think Elizabeth Taylor is a bit overrated in the pantheon of screen beauties (but then, so is Lohan). It’s just that Elizabeth Taylor did not alter her face to look like a 45-year-old drag queen. (Not until she was 60, that is.)

Read More

Life In The Bike Lane

All photos in this post were taken on the
same ride, within 10 minutes.

I had a pretty serious bike accident about 15 years ago, the first year I lived in San Francisco: riding down Market Street in a light rain, my bike slid on the trolley-car tracks and went out from under me, and I broke my left femur in the landing. The exquisite pain and prolonged inconvenience that followed it were not leavened by mine having been such a very San Franciscoey catastrophic accident.

It is perhaps a measure of how dispiriting a daily NYC subway commute can be that about a year ago I overcame the post-traumatic stress of that event and started riding my bike to work every day. As opposed to spending $104 a month to spend 90 minutes a day crammed into an overcrowded tube full of dead-eyed drones avoiding eye contact and struggling (often unsuccessfully) to stay awake, I’ve found that 35 minutes on my bike (7 miles each way), in the sun and fresh air, is invigorating.

That’s particularly useful for someone like me, who has some difficulty waking up in the morning (much the way a cinder block has some difficulty rolling uphill).  Rather than arriving at the cube farm with eyes half closed and a mind confusedly trying to sort out whether I fell asleep and drooled on that guy’s Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual or just imagined it in my customary morning fugue state, I now arrive awake and alert, and that guy who reads D&D modules on the train every day is just an increasingly distant (if uncomfortably vivid) memory.

There are, of course, drawbacks, particularly riding a route that takes me all the way up the busiest, most chaotic thoroughfare in Brooklyn (Flatbush Avenue), over the Manhattan Bridge, and across to 7th Avenue. (On my first few rides, before I discovered the westbound Prince St. bike lane, I soon learned why Jimi Hendrix used “crosstown” — as opposed to “downtown” or “Beltway” or “stadium” — traffic as a metaphor for confused frustration.)

It’s no secret to anyone who’s ever been on a New York (or any city, really, but I’m writing from recent experience) that people are awful drivers and pedestrians barely pay attention to what they’re doing, but being on a bike, unprotected by 2,000 pounds of metal and glass, you really get a clear view of just how out of it people are. People step off the sidewalk into a one-way street, in the middle of the block, without looking back at an alarming rate of 27 per block per minute (figures approximate). On average I would estimate that I personally witness no fewer than 11 car-on-car near-collisions per 7-mile commute, and that’s each way so like, 35 a day? (I’m no good at math.) Read More

Axl Rose Inducted To Douchebag Hall Of Fame

Axl Rose made headlines the other day with a weird, rambling open letter to the LA Times in which he not only strangled the hopes of Guns N’ Roses fans that the band’s original lineup might reunite for its first-ballot Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame (hereafter abbreviated “RNRHOF”) induction over the weekend, but refused even to be inducted in his absence.

Put another way: not only did Axl not show up for the ceremony, much less sing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle” with the guys he wrote them with, he did not consent to being inducted at all.

As it turned out, Axl was missed, I guess, but the band’s founding rhythm guitar player Izzy Stradlin also did not show up, and it went nearly unremarked upon because Izzy had the good taste not to say anything to anyone about it. (His replacement for the “Use Your Illusion” tour, Gilby Clarke, stepped in and played his parts despite not being inducted.)

Anyway, Axl’s letter got a lot of attention (as I’m sure it was specifically designed to), and it is striking not so much for what it says but how it says it. And by that I mean that it says it so poorly, I’m not sure what it says. Is English Axl’s first language?

To: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Guns N’ Roses Fans and Whom It May Concern,

When the nominations for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame were first announced I had mixed emotions but, in an effort to be positive, wanting to make the most of things for the fans and with their enthusiasm, I was honored, excited and hoped that somehow this would be a good thing. Of course I realized as things stood, if Guns N’ Roses were to be inducted it’d be somewhat of a complicated or awkward situation.

It’s only complicated because it’s awkward, and it’s only awkward because you can’t drop whatever 15-year-old grudge (and I mean that in both senses of “15-year-old grudge”) you have against your former bandmates long enough to sing a couple songs. They have all indicated that they have no ill will. Your individual grudges with all four of the other guys have one thing in common, and that’s you, buddy. Read More

The Flu Cured My Kid

My wife and I just enjoyed the most pleasant evening at home we can remember. A quiet night with no raised voices, no power struggles, no furtive dips into the cooking sherry. Just good old-fashioned family harmony. For the last six months or so, our once-peaceful home has suffered through the brutal reign of the worst tyrant either of us has ever lived with: our five-year old son Henry.

Like all little boys (right?), Henry has gone through several phases in his development. The much-feared Terrible Twos turned out to be a breeze, but were followed by the Terrible Threes, which were so much more terrible than the Terrible Twos I don’t understand why “Terrible Twos” is even a thing.

What made the Threes so Terrible? Honestly, I think I have blocked a lot of it out, much like my wife has blacked out the pain of his childbirth and veterans block out the horrors of combat, so it’s all a bit of a fog. Suffice to say there comes a point, according to the many parenting books that I have read the first half-chapter of, where the child decides it’s tired of not being in control of any part of his world and begins to assert himself in the form of resisting any and every idea that does not come from him. This takes several forms:

a) unprompted high-pitched screaming
b) “the boneless chicken,” in which the child goes totally limp
c) “the cornered raccoon,” in which the child becomes a blur of kicking and flailing
d) NO! NO! NO!
e) all of the above. 

Henry pursued option e) with gusto, and Age Three was a tense year of raised voices, suppressed rage, and asking around for mood stabilizers. But then seemingly right around his fourth birthday he mellowed out completely, and decided to be a super-cool, creative, cooperative little man who was a joy to be with. My wife and I breathed a sigh of relief: The Terrible Threes were awful!, we said to each other. Thank god we’re out of the woods! In retrospect I realize that what sounded at the time like the upstairs neighbor jumping rope on the hardwood floors was actually the muffled voice of the sadistic Puppet Master, LAUGHING IN OUR FACES. Read More

You’re Using Your Cell Phone Wrong

If necessity is the mother of invention, mild aggravation is probably its drunk uncle. In that spirit, I think I’ve finally found my ticket to the big time, because my mild aggravation at seeing people misuse a very common device has motivated me to invent something, and it is my hope that it will carry me to the kind of life where I pour champagne on underwear models on the hood of my Stutz Bearcat. (My hopes that this blog will get me there are quickly fading.)

It drives me nuts and I see it all the time. This does not seem to be very complex technology, but it seems to have stumped almost everyone who uses it. I refer of course to hands-free earpieces for cell phones — the wired kind, not the Bluetooth kind, which no mirror-owning adult has any excuse for using.

This invention is simple, elegant, and effective: an earphone on a long wire connected to your phone. About six inches down the wire, a microphone dangles just below your chin. I bought one of these for my first cell phone about ten years ago, and (Bluetooth notwithstanding) the design has not evolved much since then. But that doesn’t mean people have figured out how to use them, as can commonly be seen with the white earbuds that come with iPhones.

Other than being white, and having two earpieces rather than just one, these things are pretty much the same as the one I bought in 2000, and they work even better. Here’s how:  Read More