Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What I did This Summer













(The Theater at Round Lake which looks a lot like a set piece from "Our Town").

My Summer Begins Now!

I start working on a one-person show (scary! exciting! terrifiying!)this week... Did I mention scary?! Also doing a reading and helping my friends, Barbara and Bondo kick of the inaugural season of their theater, Round Arts in Round Lake, NY.

Mo' Info here: http://www.home.earthlink.net/~roundarts/id4.html

Some Thoughts on the Artist and Money (and what exactly one has to do with the other)



It's been a dramatic year thus far for me: I fell in love (albeit briefly, if truly, madly, deeply). I was dissappointed by love (was it love or just the appearance of it and was I subsequently more in love with the rejection of love? If I went to a shrink - I don't because I think they encourage an obsession with the "self" and tend to just perpetuate one's own narcissicsm and god knows we have enough of that in the culture already - I might explore my love of the unlovable instead I just blog about it to total strangers). But I quickly fell out of love though it's effects have lingered on...

I also had my first glimpse into the mortality of my parents: my father had a brush with his heart and I, in turn, had to deal with the reality of time and the cycle of life (?) in a way that was not just an excersise in abstract thinking about "when" and "what if"... I am getting older, the life experiences are starting to add up: the joys of my life grow as does my gratitude of being alive but so does my horror of just how brutal life is (I've been reading the articles on the Hadatha massacre which give new meaning to the not-so -banality of evil and makes one shudder for the deep wellspring of outright cruelty and savagery human beings are all too capable of that, in extension, I am capable of...right?).

In the past year, I have worked harder and longer and more consistently than I have, probably, since my first year out of college - 2 jobs, 7 days a week type of thing. And, despite a grinding schedule (a grinding schedule of my own choosing so I am not complaining) I have continued to try to nurture my artistic life, like so many of my friends - my peers who have, like me, foregone the lure of the (now dissappearing) middle class American life and decided to pursue an artist's life in the biggest of big cities. We hope that one day we will be able to fondly look back at our days slinging hash just to be able to rehearse in parking garages, begging and stealing and borrowing to make our theater, write our novel, paint, bang on the can, what have you. But, my question is what if we can't? Does creativity stop when it becomes apparent at some point that the money isn't going to come in? And, when did we start believing that artistic legitimacy was qualified by the amount we got paid for it?

In the midst of these life changes (?) or are they life realizations (?) I am more committed now than ever to being an artist, an artist-citizen. Despite my new-found commitment I refuse to buy (and buy is the right word to use for this) into the notion that my artistic life is quantifiable by how much I get paid for it. Would I like to make money eventually and work solely as an artist? Hell yes and I hold out the hope that I will! But I don't think Bruce Willis is a more legitimate artist or Matthew Barney for that matter because their coffers are loaded with greater stock options than mine. The full-time artist is a relatively new phenemeneon in history, and, yes, I am fully aware that the Medeci's sponsored more than their fair share of the greats and that Leonardo didn't do much else but paint but history ( museums and Shakespeare's folios) is litterred with the works of people who toiled and gleaned by day only to create in their spare moments (and remember leisure time is a relatively new development).

Finally, I think you create because you have to, because it's a relief and it's mysterious and, yes, I have to say it, it's transcendent and you do it because it gives you some measure of control over what you see in the world. You'd do it, I do it, for free, I do it because I love it, I do it for reasons that can never be broken down into check-form.

All that being said: I look forward to giving up the day job.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tom Cruise as a Metaphor for America








Tom Cruise has fallen off his perch, the Midas of Motion Pictures, the ace in a fly-boy suit, the original "Top Gun", the Hollywood Jet-Fighter: on-screen and off who always seemed to be able to hit his target especially if it was the box-office has come careening off his celluloid throne. Undone by none other than Tom Cruise, apparently. It would seem that Tom Cruise bought the line that unless your life is being recorded it's not worth living (hence the endless forays to Oprah's white couch, shot after shot of Tom in a crowd, Tom in Germany, Tom in Manhattan, Tom, Tom, Tom at Tom's premiere and yet another one of Tom at Tom's premiere with his zombiefied Katie doll supernaturally glued to his side, legs akimbo, eyes wide and blankly open, the ultimate Stepford wife).

What set off the anti-Tom rebellion? His bizarre promotional blitz of his love affair with a teenage acting Katie Holmes revealed a certain kind of creepiness that everyone suspected was there - the blind allegence to all things Scientology, no sensible person would honestly follow the dicates of L.Ron Hubbard, and the whispers of Tom's homosexuality which are too frequently debated to not believe, on some level, must be true. Once the cracks became visible on Tom's carefully contructed shinier-than-thou persona - there was no going back. Even the audience as it watched yet another preview for Mission Impossible Three, as Tom speedboats, gets blown up, recovers only to get blown up again, and Philip Seymour Hoffman's beady eyes glistened with hambone delight at being a good actor playing the ultimate bad guy, to shots of Tom as he heartily kissed his love interest, a brunette that didn't look entirely dissimiliar from Ms. Holmes, despite the onslaught of images edited around one overriding concept (to make Tom's character, Ethan Hunt, but really just Tom look like the ultimate multi-national hero) you could still sense that the movie-going public didn't buy it - instead the prevailing sentiment of viewers seemed to be "I think that guy's kind of a wierdo now."

Tom seemed all powerful not to long ago like America itself; it seemed as if the man and the nation could do no wrong, bouncing back from every conceivable set-back with a bigger movie (last summer it was a Spielberg flick for which he got paid $100 million dollars) and a better photo-op. The problem is the audience can no longer be convinced to just sit back, in the dark, and escape into his invincible grin, the kilo-watt smile has taken on a faustian quality and it is almost possible to believe Tom signed on the dotted line long ago.

Eventually, the devil comes to claim his debt and to think otherwise is just... a mission impossible.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

An Urbanite's Lament or an Extremely Pretentious Wish List.




1. I wish I had time to read the great books.

2. I wish I had time to read Moby Dick.

3. I wish I had time to read Ulysses.

4. I wish I had time to take a class that explained Ulysses to me.

5. I wish I had the time and money to take a spanish, french, italian and portugeuse class.

6. I wish I had the money and time to travel to spain, france, italy and brazil.

7. I wish I could go to the Frick everyday.

8. I wish New York wasn't turning into an urban mall.

9. I wish money didn't rule and wasn't a deciding factor on how one lives one's life.

10.I wish religion would dissappear.

11.I wish religious fundamentalist would dissappear with it.

12.I wish women were allowed to grow old without feeling the need to turn their faces into frozen t.v. dinners.

13.I wish I didn't feel the need to impress.

14.I wish there was no stock market.

15.I wish we weren't turning the planet into a giant fishkills landfill.

16.I wish "the fairness" doctrine were still in place.

17.I wish the Heritage Institute would crumble.

18.I wish talent were the deciding factor.

19.I wish celebrities would stop using the African continient as a photo-op.

20. I wish I had more time to blog.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Beat My Heart Skipped.


1.
Last week I worked a catering job. My first. It took place at Halston's (the famous coke-snorting, Studio 54 dwelling designer from the 1970's) old house. His former home is a black Chrome box which looks an awful lot like a fortress on East 63rd Street and it is sandwiched improbably between stately looking brownstones. The inside of Halston's old digs are a throwback to 70's hedonism all straight lines and plush surfaces that speak to nights without end and walking through it with it's pictures of Liza splayed out on the floor and Andy holding court in the living room one couldn't help but think "if only these walls could talk". The house had been rented out for a corporate event, the new owners apparently want to make a little money off of living in this historic (?) home. The thinking in this must be since it was once a destination point for Manhattan's glitteratti why shouldn't it be again?
This particular party was to, no joke, promote luxury leathers made out of horse and the entire catering staff was dressed up in equasterian garb - jodhupers, straight-legged black boots, crisp white shirts. We were told to be "loose", "to flirt," to, in the words of the German ex-patriot and former supermodel hostess purring instructions, "to have fun, ganou?" and to "work our zuper sex appeal". The crowd I was serving cosmos to (or rather "pink martinis" as I was instructed to say because cosmos, as everyone who is anyone who reads any publication put out by Conde Nast knows, are hopelessly "over") was much more staid than the crowd of folks who wiled away the hours in Halston's house in the 70's. The only white powder I saw was the salt in the kitchen being sprinkled over the seared asparagus that was being cut up and served as an hors d'oeurve.
Still the money for grinning in too tight horse-riding pants whilst making sure that everyone got a slice of lemon in their Pelligrino was good, nay, it was great. Two hundred dollars for pouring and stirring while serving conquetishly ain't bad and I left the evening with my friend, Nate feeling flush. Almost immeaditely I started an internal debate on if I should spend this money on a long desired i-pod or if I should tuck it into the bank for my most recent travel dream of going to Peru sometime in the next year on a South American jaunt or if I should use it to pay for a check-up which, being uninsured, I haven't had in a long time. Momentarily interrupting my money fantasy to check my cellphone (because it had been several hours and who know who could have called!) I got a rather vague but anxious sounding phone call from my mother telling me to call her. I knew something odd was happenning because there are only certain days in which she calls usually the end of the week and the beginning of the week, rarely the middle of the week. It was late but the call made me nervous and I knew my anxiety over why she was breaking with habit and calling me on a Wednesday rather than our usual Monday or Friday would bother me all night so I decided to call right away. She picked up after the first couple of rings. My father was in the hospital.
2.
Immeaditely upon hearing the words "chest pain" and "hospital" and "heart surgery" my own heart starts to beat with the fury of, yes, ten thousand horses (it was, afterall, an equesterian themed evening) and I try not to panic or immeaditely succumb to my own theatrically-trained (over)dramatic nature. Instead I ask a flurry of questions in what I think is a very calm and measured voice which my mother tries to answer back in her own calm, measured, voice. My father is an older man and though I am not overly morbid I am also not deluded and the older I have gotten I have had thoughts (that, admittedly, come with increasing frequency) that there might be a day when... well, you know what the end of that thought is, right? That there might be a day when he will not be with me and I will have to face the realities of life's terrors (Hamlet called 'em "slings and arrows") without him. And, yes, that terrifies me but I also tend not to dwell and, generally, don't like to project into the future (mine or anyone else's the exception being George W. Bush who I often imagine leaving office to protests and rioting). Too much crytal-ball gazing about one's own life in my experience either results in a pity party (starring yourself) or a romantic comedy (starring yourself). As my brother wisely told me, "try and live in the present as much as possible because there is only one absolute certaintity about the future: death."
3.
My father had the presence of mind to realize that something odd was happening to his heart and that it wasn't just idigestion from an especially flavorful meal the night before. My mother, ever the optomist, thought it was just a case of heartburn but my father realized something was awry and went to the hospital. He was right and though he did not have a heart attack he was definitely headed in that direction so, two days later the surgeon cut open his chest and worked on replacing the valves in his heart - he had a quadruple bypass surgery. I, because of work and travel, did not make it home and the day he had the surgery was one of the most nervous and humbling of my life so far. Bypass surgery is increasingly common, in fact, when I told my friends of my familial news almost everyone had an anecdote about some aunt or grandfather that had had multiple bypasses and was "still kickin." Whether or not Auntie or Grandpa did actually get quadruple bypass surgery or my friends were just telling me so to put my mind at ease I do not know. Nonetheless, I was comforted by the thought that every family has to deal with major heart surgery. The hours my father lay in the operating room, I tried to distract myself from thinking, about really contemplating, that there was a remote chance that I might not see him ever...again.
4.
I don't really think about death too often perhaps because up until this point I have not had to face too much of it in my own life. Of course I have known people who have died but they have either been aquintances or distant relatives. It's odd to realize that other than the occassional philosophical pondering of "the great mystery of the universe" i.e. "what the fuck am I doing here?" or reading about deaths so great you cannot help be struck by the utter senselessness of tragedy, I don't think about death that often. Does anyone other than tenured philosophy professors and priests? It's odd to realize that you have gone through your life thus far relatively untouched by life's only certaintity. Is this just unique to me? Or is it common in a culture that obscures and ignores and, frankly, reviles mortality and it's bedfellow - aging? I once read about a student who studied under Margaret Mead and said that before his first anthropoligical expedition she asked him if he had ever witnessed a child being born or if he had ever seen another person die? He said no and she said of course not because in western culture both events are hidden from us, and, condsidered, ironically, wholly unnatural.
5.
My father is recovering. I am greatly relieved at this news and his progress is steady. My mother tells me he is very weak, sleeping a great deal, has no apetite except, oddly enough, for milk. Apparently, he asked her for some ice-cream. It is difficult for me to hear these details and bluntly put, it scares me to think of my father being infantilized. Especially when I still feel like such a child myself. I think about this when I take the "L" train to Never-never land, my tragically hip neighborhood in Brooklyn, and watch all the lost boys and girls sulk and pose. Each one more beatiful than the next, their oufits, their i-pods, their haircuts, a testament to their purchase power and agonizingly cool tastes. I study them and think of my father who never wanted to be anything but an adult and I wonder how they will grow old? How will they deal with the betrayal of their bodies? How will I?
How will we react when we can no longer count on our vanity to distract us?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Never Forget: or the United States of Amnesia

A Chronology of Scandal from 2000 to 2006, the Bush Years (thus far).

November 2000 - Florida cannot be called for either Bush or Gore because of hanging chads, Ralph Nader and Jeb Bush's campaign to intimidate black voters and purge the voter rolls of "felons."

November 2000- Neither side will concede and the Democrats press for a recount, both sides begin to assemble their legal teams.
Tom Delay's entire congressional staff flies down to Florida to storm the the Voter offices in Miami-Dade (hmm, did, contributions from the Chocatow Indian Tribe by way of Jack Abramoff bankroll the trip?).
Republicans protest that there was nothing wrong with the voting machines despite evidence to the contrary. Pat Buchannan remains the favorite candidate of the ederly, mostly retired, Jewish population of Palm Beach.
Jeb takes angry phone calls from his younger brother saying "I thought you said you'd deliver Florida?"

December 2000 - Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, stops the hand recounts.
The Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of the recount.
The Bush legal Team goes to the Federal Supreme Court demands they stop the recount. Sandra Day O'Connor, eager to retire, and Antonin Scalia eager for Opus Dei to take control of the Constitution, plus Renquist, Thomas, et al, vote Bush into office.
Despite their federalist viewpoint that State law trumps federal law, politics, evidently, trumps judicial philosophy.
Joe Lieberman concedes. Al Gore bitterly follows. George W. Bush...wins?

January 2001 - George W. Bush takes office on a rainy day (God crying?) and cannot even climb outside the presidential Lincoln Town Car because angry protestors might throw an egg at him.

January 2001 - Bush appoints cabinet members: Corporate fat-cats and incompetent idealogues. He promises to be the "CEO President."
Enron's stock falls to $42 a share because of circulating rumors of financial mismanagement.

August 2001 - Bush gets a memo that reads "Bin Laden determined to stike in U.S."
He is on vacation in Crawford, TX just six months after he takes office.
He has brush to clear and a photo-op with a chain-saw.
Assumes Condi will show it to Veep and Big Dick Bacon-Heart will take care of it.

September 11, 2001 - Bin Laden's determination(as described in memo) has paid off.
Towers are hit, and crumble into a burning, ash-ridden pyre. 3000 people lose their lives: Americans and immigrants.

September, 2001 - Bush and Cheney both go into hiding in undisclosed locations (an underground bunker in Nebraska is the rumor).
Just like Churchill did during the London Blitz and FDR during Pearl Harbor!?!
7 hours after the attack they eventually get flown back to D.C. Bush runs into Richard Clarke and tells him, in not so many words, to figure out how to implicate Iraq.

From Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies:

"Look," he told us. "I know you have a lot to do and all … but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way."
I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed.
"But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this."
"I know, I know, but … see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred."
"Absolutely, we will look … again." I was trying to be more respectful, more responsive. "But, you know, we have looked several times for state sponsorship of Al Qaeda and not found any real linkages to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, Yemen."
"Look into Iraq, Saddam," the President said testily and left us.


September, 2001 - Five days later after all flights have been grounded with the exception of Bin Laden's family's private jet which was allowed to leave the country, Bush appears in New York surronded by SWAT teams.
He tells Americans not to be scared and not to let the terrorists win - they can do this by continuing to shop. Using a credit card is fearless.

October, 2001 - Bush orders troops to bomb Afghanistan.
One conservative commentator says that we should "bomb them back to the stone ages".
Many people remark that Afghanistan hasn't entirely come out of the stone ages and Ann Coulter wisely advises that we kill all their leaders and convert the entire population to Christianity.
Conservatives declare Noam Chomsky a traitor and moral relativism dead.
Andrew Sullivan, glad for once that the radical Christian right isn't focusing all its energies on the evils of the "homosexual agenda", writes an article for the NYTIMES Magazine declaring a new war of civilizations.
Rapturists rejoice and Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind Series" sees an even greater spike in sales. Secular Americans with a modicum of critical thinking skills are scared shitless as they begin to realize the country is quite possibly being run by end-timers.
Toby Keith records a song that promises "towel-heads" they will get an American boot shoved up their ass.
The Emmy's continue as scheduled but most stars wear black and the red carpet is scrapped for security reasons.

November, 2001 - Whispers of an Invasion of Iraq start to make it's way around the Media-Industrial Complex.
Suddenly there is an "Office of Special Plans" that is populated by brash, chicken-hawk militarists, calling themselves "Neo-Cons."
Old policy papers from the American Enterprise Institute advocating regime change in the Middle East are dusted off and carefully scrutinized.
Americans continue to work and shop. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt are still married.
Bush's popularity is in the high 70's or 80's and pundits talk about American Unity and the end of 90's decadence.

December, 2001 - The Iraq War, the invasion of Iraq, WMD's, Judith Miller are about to come very familiar words in the next year.

(To Be Continued - Next up: 2002).

Monday, February 20, 2006

Music Is My Bag.
















I have been on some kind of crazy music buying binge lately. I am not sure entirely what has brought this on. I suspect it's the fact that I still don't have an i-pod and I suffer from i-pod envy and I act as if I do have an i-pod which, we've established, I don't. Goddamn it, I too want to have 5000 songs at the mere touch of a finger (or more accurately the swipe of a thumb).
My bag acts as a giant cd case with discs haphazardly stored between my wallet and gym sneakers. Though, my finances don't entirely merit the cd purchases I justify it with the fact that Virgin is having a killer sale and why shouldn't I take advantage of all the music that is selling for a mere $9.99?!? Plus, from all that I've been reading about the music industry - they could use some help and I am nothing, if not, philanthropic. Sadly, while I could use a little charity myself it's easy to justify spending a few dollars here and there on precious lullabies perfectly suited for subway journeys and crosstown bus rides.

I bought the latest Death Cab for Cutie cd because I am a sucker for Ben Gibbard's sweet melodies. This is music tailored for a generation weaned on John Hughes movies. Every song is prettier than the next with clever lyrics that can't help but make you feel like you are not entirely unlike Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles" -- listening to them you think that, sigh, someday the most popular guy in school will take notice of you and bake or buy you a huge cake for your birthday at the end of the movie, in this case - your life - you'll kiss while a pretty Thompson Twins song starts to play and the credits roll.

Ben Gibbard is the Shel Silverstein of the indie-music world and the first song on the album starts off with him singing that "if I can open my arms and span the island of Manhattan I'd bring it to where you are, making a lake of the east river and Hudson" before the choral refrain that goes "Water seeps into your heart through a pin hole, just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound, and while you debate half-empty or half-full, it slowly rises, your love is going to drown." The catchy and irresistable synth pop melody rises and falls (like money - R.I.P F. Scott Fitz.) underneath the prettiest voice in today's alt-pop scene sings.

Listening to these tunes which mainly deal with love affairs gone awry makes the Monday morning commute/ darwinian subway pole dance seem almost...glamorous (or at the very least, whimsical) and that, my friends, makes the $14.99 I contributed to Sony's coffers and Ben Gibbard's bank account more than worth it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Immeadiate Family











I can remember the first time I picked up Sally Mann’s book of photographs entitled "Immediate Family." I was in college, and, I remember being utterly fascinated by the photographs which chronicle her children’s lives from childhood to puberty. The images capture her three children in various stages of play: eating Popsicle sticks, dressing up dolls, getting a bloody nose, running around the yard of their West Virginia home, and, in them one can see the fearlessness of youth. These could be any other snapshots of an American childhood if it weren’t for the stark beauty of the shots which practically gleam on the page. Mann shoots her children in stark black and whites and the pictures have a Victorian Gothic quality. This is a slightly eerie world where the darkness of adulthood lurks in the background reminding us that childhood can be spoiled at any moment. Mann’s children are too real to be ghosts - they bleed, they cry, they laugh – but the photographs of their youth still haunt nevertheless.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Shell



I caught the tail end of Bush's (mis)State of the Union address last night. I must confess, I actively avoid watching or hearing our (?) President because when I see him trample all over the English language (not to mention the constitution) I am filled with such anger and despair it makes me feel slightly crazed. Watching him spout his empty phrases, I feel like a radically confused character in a Kafka novel. The Bush years have made me feel like Gregor in the Metamorphosis, my mind spinning, as I try to figure out how it all went so wrong, wishing I could wake up from this nightmare to find the country restored back to its former self. Then again, I am nothing if not (overly) dramatic.
Watching George, his mouth twitching, his face grimacing, I realized I hadn't seen him in a while (as previously stated I avoid him as if he were a living Medusa and his blinking stare could penetrate the t.v. screen and permanently turn me to stone) and I couldn't help but think: George doesn't look too good unlike Clinton, who seemed to get more sated (insert blowjob joke here) with each passing year he spent in the Oval Office. When Bill took to the Senate floor to deliver his State of the Union, he looked like there was no place he'd rather be, waxing poetic about the majesty of our wheat filled nation with it's little pink houses for you and me; his love of Government and his belief in it's benevolence was evident (as was his egoism). George, by contrast, looks positively drained, even his signature issues, roughly put: God, Guns, Guts, Glory, sounded hollow. He looked bored when talking about the "lives of the unborn" and "faith based initiatives" even the defense of "spreading freedom" and giving the "gift of liberty" came off as half-hearted. The "political capitol" he famously said he had earned when he won (?) the election in 2004 is drying up and, last night, he had the look of a man who can't be bothered to take up another collection basket.
As I sat and watched last night's dog and pony show it all seemed depressingly predictable: the Republicans jump up and down, on cue, whenever Bush has his applause line and the Democrats sit and look...defeated. I realize that I am the most politically engaged on a superficial level that I have ever been in my life. Even though, I have admitted that I avoid looking at Bush or turn off the radio when I hear his phony twang, I keep constant tabs on the evildoings of his administration. I know about the NSA wiretapping scandal, I know about the squandering of funds in Iraq, I am keenly aware that when Alito got confirmed there was a shift of power to the right on the Supreme Court, I read, I listen, I watch, and, I generally feel one moment of rage almost every day. Still knowing all of this information, I am, at once, thoroughly aware but curiously detached. I care, I care deeply and I am pissed off and I am scared and right now I feel totally numb. I am as uninspired and helpless as the party that is supposed to represent me: the Democrats. I know I should resist, and I want to, but I don't even know how to start fighting.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sweet Little Lies...




Since I haven't read the book "A Million Little Pieces", am never home early or up late enough to watch "Oprah" (and, don't have a working televison or cable) I am hesitant to weigh in on the scandale-Frey. But, I am going to anyway, if only because I think this particular bru-ha-ha about lies/publishing/self-promotion/money/ money/mo' money is interesting and all too symptomatic of our day. James Frey, as all of us over-saturated media consumers know, is the now disgraced author of the book "A Million Little Pieces". The book was, a supposedly, heartwrenching and raw account of his trip down the rabbit hole of addiciton and his subsequent climb back to a respectable life in Middle Earth. Turns out, it might have been better to file Mr. Frey's memoir under fiction rather than autobiography.

I wouldn't be the first to point out that there is something frighteningly appropriate about the fact that la scandale-Frey is playing itself out during the Bush Years. The 2004 Election were a textbook example fo the way truth has become completely abstract: it belongs to whoever is best at manipualting or spinning reality. James Frey grossly lied about his journey to hell and the question has to be asked: for what purpose? To make his battle with drug addiction as titillating, fanatastic, and profitable as possible. Frey suffers from the same addiction that many Americans battle: the insatiable desire for money and notoriety no matter what the cost. In this age of "there's no such thing as bad publicity", James Frey's notoriety is a triumph: everyone's talking about him, he's been on Oprah not once but twice, and his book, despite his recent fall from grace, will still sell because, now, the public is morbidly curious and will want to see what the fuss is all about.

It is hard not to blame the Publishing Company, Doubleday, who got calls from the Rehab Center featured in Frey's book questioning his description of his treatment while there. By then, of course, Oprah, from the heights of her studio on Mount Olympus, er, Chicago, had stamped the book with her midas "O" logo, catapulting it into the best seller ranks, and making
"A Million Little Pieces" the reading material of choice for thousands of soccer Moms. Had the website The Smoking Gun not looked for his mugshot and uncovered the fact that James Frey's real addiction seems to be lying, he'd still be a hero. Everyone, especially Americans, loves a comeback kid and is there anything more heartening than a reformed (white) crack-addict turned best-selling author? The question though is anyone really surprised? Oprah, to her credit, brought James Frey back to her floating sofa and she looked like Zeus, as she threw thunder bolts across the pillows at him.

James Frey is just another hackneyed opportunist but his story illuminates what happens when institutions are more interested in profit and, as a result, don't ask questions that can distinguish truth from fiction.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Birthday



And so it's your birthday. And here you are, another year older, and you are getting to an age where people start having certain expectations of you, of what your life should look like. Up to this age, you may have resisted those expectations and shrugged off a "normal" life with a 401 K plan and stock options but, you can't help but wonder if you should explain why you, say, aren't married, don't own property or have health insurance and, furthermore, why it doesn't look like you will anytime soon.

And so it's your birthday and you have to admit with each passing year it's becoming just that little bit harder to jump around from job-to-job and to live in an apartment with two roommates pursuing "your art". Loath as you are to admit it, there's a part of you that deeply craves the white picket fence (a post-modern white picket fence, of course) and a cul-de-sac. If your being honest, there's part of you that would trade it in for the idea that you might feel secure and stable especially after you pick up a paper and it seems like everything you read speaks to a world on a tightrope, net-free, with chaos looming down below. You realize on this, your birthday, that one day your parents won't be around to, actually, write you a check and take you out to dinner to celebrate, one day, you'll have to figure it all out on your own. You can't help but compare yourself to your mother at this age and realize she was raising her third child and had already been married for ten years. You've dated three different guys this year alone and, if your being honest, two of them were just flings.

And so it's your birthday and you try to enjoy the dinner your parents are treating you to and try not to think too hard about whether or not you should be apologizing for not having accomplished as much as you wanted to at your age. And so it's your birthday and you realize your life is what it is and just maybe you don't have anything to apologize for. You blow out the candle, eat the buttercream cake you bought yourself, stop feeling so ashamed (what's the point?) and get ready to start another year.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Few of My Favorite Thing(s).



One of my favorite places in New York City has to be the Frick. The Frick Museum (Collection?) is housed in a gorgeous, baroque, limestone building that almost looks like it was stolen from the Left Bank and moved to the Upper East Side (which wouldn't be much of a stretch, would it?) The building and collection were both, originally, owned by John Frick who was your quintessential captain of industry/ gilded age scion/ rat-bastard with a lot of money and a very fine taste for art. He collected a lot of renaissance pieces and there is an entire room dedicated to religious art (pietas and the like). If you are a leftwinger: ignore the fact that John Frick was, apparently, an incredibly ruthless businessman who brutally exploited his workers and just revel in the glory of his limestone mansion.

Stepping into the Frick you can understand why the Victorians were so obsessed with money: if you had enough of it you could live in a gorgeous house that you could stuff with John Singer Sargent paintings. The inside of the Frick museum is beautiful and completely peaceful; there, usually, aren't huge, frazzled crowds galloping from one section to the next like there are at the Met. Simply put: this is not a Louvre-sized collection so you feel like you can take your time wandering around, free of the worry that if you don't hurry you'll miss the Egyptian tombs, and the early medevil goblets. Plus, the setting in which the art hangs is a former home and there is an intimacy about the entire collection; it feels lived in somehow. Walking around it's hallowed halls you understand why art collecting was and is an obsession for those with a disposable income. Collect the right pieces, a la Frick, and your history will become inextricably linked to artistic greatness.

The lushness of the home and the collection will leave you slightly breathless and if it weren't for the yellow cabs zipping by the French windows you might even think that you were in Vienna.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Don't Call it a Comeback.

MATCH POINT (Don't read if you want to be surprised)

What can I say? I, too, am a victim to hype, so I went to see "Match Point" this weekend despite the fact that I have pretty much hated most Woody Allen offerrings as of late. Not to mention that, on a personal level, I find the man creepy --someone who runs off with his girlfriend's adopted daughter is, quite rightly, bound to raise some eyebrows and furrow a few brows (mine are no exeception). Nonetheless, the lure of Scarlett Johansen and Johnathen Rys Meyer's pillowly beauty proved too strong to resist. As I watched our stars frolick on screen through the streets of London (and on top of each other) I couldn't help but wonder: what would it be like to have lips that resemble a goose-down duvet cover? But enough about the smackers: how now, the film? First off, I've never seen "Crimes and Misdemeanors", and my friends who are more serious film-goers (Cahiers du Cinema types) wondered aloud why Woody had decieded to remake "Crimes" but just set it in England this time around? Apparently, it traffics in the same theme, namely: is luck a more potent force than justice? Or the philosophical shorthand might be: is God dead?

The film centers around a young man, Chris Wilton, who, retired from the pro-tennis circuit, takes up employment at a very swishy tennis club where he teaches the uber-rich of London how to swing a racket. Chris, apparently, is born under an extremely lucky sign ( the luck metaphor is, ridiculously, hammered home but, admittedly, pays off at the end of the film) and he is assigned to teach a super richie named, Tom. Tom takes a liking to Chris when he finds out that they both share a love of opera (another straight man who loves Puccinni is a rare find!). Tom, naturally, invites Chris to join his family at the opera in their box at the London equivalent of the Met and so Chris meets Chloe, Tom's sister. Chloe takes a shine to the modest but mod young tennis instructor Chris, a humble young man with great bone structure and the aforementioned pillowy lips, and she offers to show him around the Saatchi Gallery and...you know what happens next, right? It is a short step from gallery hopping to bed hopping and Tom teaches Chloe, uh, a thing or two about swinging a racket. Chris gets absorbed into the super-richie family when he marries Chloe, and Chloe's father gives Chris a job and welcomes him into the family fold and if it ended right there then this would be a nice cross-gendered remake of a Jane Austen novel but, alas, the shots of Chris reading "Crime and Punishment" foreshadow the darkness that looms ahead.

The darkness takes form in a rather light and sexy package when Tom's American girlfriend shows up: Nola Rice, one Scarlett Johansen, Marilyn Monroe for the hipster set, who really gets Chris' tennis balls bouncing. Despite the fact that he's married to just about the nicest heiress in London (played by Emily Mortimer who, lacks the poutage of Ms. Johansen but makes up for it with gazelle-like beauty) he can't help but want his own shot at this American sexpot. He gets his shot and the two embark on a charged and erotic affair, one that is part pure sexual friction and, the other mutual desperation. Chris and Nola, you see, are kinderd spirits: two interlopers in a world of wealth whose beauty, charm and luck, is a passport to a world of privilige. When Nola's luck abruptly changes, however, she looks to Chris to be her salvation - she loves him and, furthermore, she needs him. Chris, however, is not so sure he wants to give up the lifestyle he and 1% of London have become accustomed to but Nola is a tenacious broad and is not about to let her man get off so easily. In other words: Nola has become a pest and Chris decides it's time to get Dostoyvesky on her ass.

So he, coldly, plots to kill her and to make it look like an accidental murder offs an old woman in her building too (sorry, Lady - wrong place at the wrong time - eh, luck again?!?). The last half-an-hour of the film is taut and suspensful (the most effective part of the storytelling) as the audience tenses up waiting for Chris to get caught or to not get caught. It's an odd position to be in as an audience member because, eventhough Chris is, clearly, a sociopath he is also the hero of the film, and, if you overlook the fact that he's been cheating on his wife, not entirely a bad guy. Also, I have had some interactions, myself, with someone I consider vaguley sociopathic and I think most pyschologists would agree that what is most frightening about them is how sympathetic, sincere, and seemingly honest they are. But, I think, Woody, is borrowing from Henry James in this story - James, of course, was a great chronicler of wealth and it's discontents; most of his stories end with "you can have love or money but you can't have both and you are going to be bitterly unhappy without one or the other." In short: money wins.

I wondered too, after I saw the film, if this was Woody Allen's answer or reaction to the 2004 election? I realize that might be far-fetched but, to me, that was the first time I lived through an event in which I felt the complete and profound absence of justice (and, am still feeling it). Of course, this film was shot in the summer of '04 so the answer, in all likelihood, is "no." Still, there is a case to be made for certain paralells: a young man, naturally charming, who, with great luck climbs up the ladder of wealth and privilige and the people around him who blindly accept him into their world, not realizing that they've actually aided and abetted a monster. Of course, they are too blind and invested in their own wealth and image to realize they've actually had a hand in their own ruining.

And I Said Nothing.














One of my weekend rituals is buying the epic tome, The Sunday New York Times, and reading all the news that's fit to be legally vetted, leaked and printed. I, mainly, buy the Sunday paper to read Frank Rich (no Times Select Subscriber am I), the Arts Section, the front page (of course), the book review (which, depending on whose being reviewed and who is doing the reviewing I do or don't read), the "Style" section (or as I heard it once described "the Women's Sports Pages) and, last but not least, the NYTIMES Magazine. I hardly ever read the Metro Section unless, and this is disgusting to admit, there's an especially harrowing headline about...some terrible murder that has taken place, usually, in the outer buroughs. I never read about technology or real estate because I am not wealthy enough to afford either and my eyes rarely scan the Sports section but that will change this summer when, at long last, there's another World Cup.

Above all, I read the Magazine and this week there was an excellent article about the upcoming Supreme Court case, Hamden Vs. Rumsfeld. In a nutshell: Salim Hamden was Osama Bin Laden's driver/bodyguard and he was rounded up after 9/11 and taken to that netherworld of Guatanemo Bay where he has been kept ever since (without being tried - 4 years and counting). Now, the degree of just how involved he was in the plotting of terrorist acts is still debatable at this point - his lawyer's defense is that he was just another impressionable, poor, Yemen man who got involved in jihad but was not intimately aware of the plans to destroy the U.S.S Cole or the Twin Towers.

Obviously, Salim Hamden, by virtue of his proximity to Bin Laden, is guilty but this story is really how the Bush administration has chosen to prosecute the "war on terror." As it stands now, the President has the right to declare who is or isn't an "enemy combatant" and under the Geneva Convention you can hold an "enemy combatant" (fancy word for "prisoner of war") as long as the war wages on but, there's the rub, when you are fighting a war against a stateless enemy, in a "war on terror" (which, potentially, has no end, and no conclusive victory) those rules become murky. Now, the Bush admin. would like Salim Hamden to be prosecuted in secret by a military tribunal, his case would be heard by three, supposedly, impartial judges appointed by, get this, Donald Rumsfeld.

If you read this article (and you should) there are lots of chilling descriptions of Guatanemo - where inmates exists in perpetual limbo not knowing if they will ever get a chance to even be tried and, as the joke goes, "if they weren't terrorists when they went in, will be terrorists when they get out." The most disturbing aspect, of course, in reading about how our government is fighting this so-called war is the undue damage they are doing to our laws and our much vaunted system of checks and balances.

This is terribly scary stuff but it will be nearly impossible to make Americans realize that if Salim Hamden can be held indefinitely, charged with nothing, only to eventually be tried by a military tribunal then it is only a matter of time before they face the same fate (rightwing claptrap aside: that day is in the future- such is the slippery slope of an autocratic style of governance).

We are slouching towards despotism but most Americans are too preoccupied with Lindsay Lohan's bullemia to notice.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Resolved


Ahhhh yes, t'is the time o' year to make resolutions. Cynics might grouse that New Year's resolutions are silly but I wholeheartedly endorse the notion that if you set your mind to it -- your whole life and all of your nasty habits can change overnight. This is America, goddamn it, where a trustfund, a famous last name, some prozac, and a personal trainer can make any goal a reality. To that end, this year I plan to:

1. Eat more cholcolate.

You only live once people and there's no reason to deny oneself one of life's greatest favors. Chocolate makes me believe in justice and everytime I eat a lindt truffle ball I think that there just might be an afterlife -- who else besides God could have created such a heavenly treat? Leave the fasting and macriobiotic morality eating to Gwyneth Paltrow, those of us working dead end jobs without windows need a reason to hope: so bring on the Toblerone!!

2. Read US Weekly.

Harpers is for sickly intellectual types who doubt the inherent goodness of our Commander in chief. I really don't want to hear anymore whinging about the national debt and the folly of Iraq so, this year, I prefer to nestle in the soft bosom of the celebu-freakdom news circuit. It's shaping up to be a good year, what with Angelina, high priestess of Unicef, possibly giving birth to a baby Brad and, of course, the fantastically sad end of Jessica and Nick: will they get back together? Will they stay apart? Will they date new people? Will they ever love again? Who gave up on the marriage first? Did anyone cheat?

A nation demands to know the truth! I, for one, cannot wait to see how this important news story plays itself out and I am prepared to be shocked and awed in '06 by the delightful antics of our extended celebrity family. No one does a better job catching the glorious daily lives of Paris and Nicole like the Staff at US Weekly (thank God it's US weekly and not US Bi-weekly-phew!) and I plan on turning the pages all year -- long live journalism!

3. Be Less Patient, Be less compassionate.

Time is money and this year I plan on being a bull! However, you won't need to wave a red flag in my face however because I plan to charge all year long. I think of Bill O'Reilly and I don't see an obnoxious blow-hard, I don't see a Joe McCarthy for the media age. I see a hardworking Long Island boy who gets to sexually harass his employees, bloviate about the state of moral decay and get paid a cool 63 mil to do it! Think he turns the other cheek? Think he sees the misfortune of others and, pauses, to reflect "there by the Grace of God go I?" Think he excersies patience and practices compassion? Hell no! It's hightime I start acting like an asshole because, evidently, they rule.

4. Use my credit card.

Who needs cash when you can pay for it with plastic? Look if the Fedi Gub'ment can run up a massive debt than why can't I? The saying that "a government is only as good as its people"works both ways, right? A person is only as good as its government and, in this case, ours is not an ant but a grasshopper (why store away for the future when we live in an age of Terrorism and extreme weather? Tomorrow you could be gone, people, so it's time to support the economy, buy more shit and and let 'er rip!).

5. Spend more time on the internet and watch more television.

Human interaction is for the birds, Grandma, wake up! In '06, I hope to communicate with the masses in an even more alienated and nihilistic fashion.

Blogging is a good start.