Friday, February 29, 2008

Ellen Speaks Out

I remember going to see Ellen as part of the University of Vermont's Coming Out Week festivities back in 1999. This was a couple of years after "The Puppy Episode," and Ellen's career seemed to be on the wane. The gig was in a gymnasium, and Ellen shared the spotlight with Anne "Call Me Crazy" Heche. As I remember, there was very little comedy. Basically it was Ellen and Anne talking about coming out and homophobia and discrimination and being in love and gay marriage, things that pretty much any gay person could talk about (many with more knowledge and articulateness than Ellen or, needless to say, Anne), but because Ellen was a celebrity, people parked themselves on uncomfortable seats under hideous lighting to listen.

As the evening wore on, with Ellen and Anne saying nothing that I didn't already know, I became more and more irritated. "Just be funny!" I wanted to scream at her. It seemed to me she could be a better role model for young gay people doing what she did best, comedy, rather than blabbing from this pseudo-spokesperson role that she'd taken on with good intentions but no particular skill or creativity. Then the Q&A segment began, and, as I recall, people started rambling on about their personal problems and rummaging through their coming out stories, desperately seeking validation from Queen Ellen, the same Ellen who'd waited until she was almost 40 to officially come out. I found the whole thing, in a word, icky, particularly when people began lining up for physical comfort, like Ellen was a priest handing out gay communion wafers in hug form.

When, not long after this, Ellen and Anne inevitably split up (who, aside from Ellen, didn't see that coming?), the lovey-dovey dopiness of the whole spectacle and Ellen's general gay naïveté seemed all the more pathetically apparent. Work on your routine, honey, I would have advised her if she'd asked, leave the preaching to the professionals.

Nearly a decade has passed since then (is it possible?) and, in the interim, Ellen's star has clearly risen again. (As for Anne, well . . . ) She's moved past the gay thing (as have her fans) and has remembered that she's supposed to be funny. She's found her niche. Watching her now, unlike that evening in 1999, it's obvious how she got to be a celebrity in the first place. She knows how to work the crowd. She's reclaimed her star. And, like Oprah, she recognizes her star power. Seeing today's Ellen speaking out about the Lawrence King murder from the platform of her show, I was struck not so much by the difference between Ellen then (1999) and Ellen now (though I'm sure she's much less naïve now than she was then) but by how effectively she can now send a message to a huge audience while still getting to do what she originally set out to do, entertain.

I remember fleeing the 1999 Ellen, my boyfriend and I simultaneously saying, "God, I need a drink after that." Today, watching her speak out on behalf of someone who can't, I have only respect for her. She's willing to harness her celebrity to try to make a difference when it counts, and when it doesn't she has the wisdom to return to the shtick that keeps her in our living rooms.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Favorite Idol Performance #5 ~ None!

Wow, the women were bad last night. More pitch problems than you could shake a stick at and stunningly poor song choices nearly across the board. Carly came closest, singing a Heart song that her voice was actually suited for and singing it well, but it's hard to do Ann Wilson better than Ann Wilson, so it was more competent than inspiring. She's the girl to beat, but David needn't fret yet. 

Biggest letdown: Amanda, who sadly transformed everything that was so great about her into a skunky Elvira nightmare. Some people weren't meant to be thrown into the American Idol machinery, and she may be one of them. Once she's voted off, she should take a long ride on her Harley and shake it all into the wind.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Honeymoon is Over, Anderson

Anderson Cooper is gay but not publicly out, that's the standard line. This isn't news, but there's been a long-term debate, particularly within the gay community, about whether he has a responsibility to be out, or not. Some say yes, some say no. Those who say no tend to believe that being in or out of the closet is a totally personal choice (one should never be outed) or that, since Anderson isn't actively working against gay people--like Larry Craig or Mark Foley or Ted Haggard--or pretending to be straight, then he should get a pass. It's none of our business. Basically, this is what Cooper himself has said.

When asked about the "sexuality issue" in New York magazine, he replied: "You know, I understand why people might be interested. But I just don’t talk about my personal life. It’s a decision I made a long time ago, before I ever even knew anyone would be interested in my personal life. The whole thing about being a reporter is that you’re supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt with any group you’re in, and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that."

And at the top of Cooper's CNN blog, just to the left of his earnest, handsome reporter's face, his words of wisdom are, "Be honest about what you see, get out of the way and let the story reveal itself." Clearly, Cooper's aim is to objectively report stories without becoming part of them. Unlike the Geraldo Riveras or Bill O'Reillys or Sean Hannitys or Keith Olbermanns of the world (apologies to Keith for lumping him with the other morons), he chooses to seek answers rather than pontificate. And, unlike the FOX bullies, he's managed to keep a veneer of class because he listens to guests rather than yelling at them.

Yet, he's also not afraid to be a personality. He regularly makes the talk show rounds, giggles with Kathy Griffin, sits in for Regis and swaps silly personal (but not too personal) stories with Kelly--not exactly serious newsman fare. Which is part of his charm. Between his self-deprecating wit and silver fox looks, with a little Vanderbilt glamour thrown in for good measure, he's cultivated quite the dreamboat persona, one that can't be entirely accidental.

He charmed the pants off of me (or he could have, if he'd tried), and so I wasn't one of the ones clamoring for him to come out. In fact I rather enjoyed the wink-wink banter that seems de rigueur during his more frivolous gigs. It was kind of fun knowing that he was on the team yet also knowing that much of dim, mainstream America didn't realize this. Not unlike when Rosie and Ellen used to trade Lebanese jokes. Furthermore, he did occasionally take on gay issues on his show, not unsympathetically, so I was inclined to think he could have it both ways.

Then I watched an interview he did in the wake of the Lawrence King murder, and suddenly Cooper's reluctance to be open about his sexuality just seemed wrong. While Cooper deserves some credit for bringing attention to a tragic story that had been mainly overlooked by the mainstream media, it's odd, to say the least, to hear a gay man persistently say the word homosexuals (such the clinical media term) and talk about homosexuality is if it were no more intimately related to him than nuclear physics. He could have brought some authority to his questions, but he chose to play the naif.

In the course of questioning a child and adolescent psychiatrist about how to deal with bullying in schools, Cooper talked about how some parents don't want it (homosexuality) taught or discussed in the classroom. In replicating the language of bigots (any gay person knows that homosexuality is not going to be taught in schools--respect for and tolerance of difference is) and completely distancing himself from any personal connection to Lawrence King, he effectively became part of the silence and shame that still--in 2008!--surrounds gayness. Suddenly I saw what I should have seen earlier, if I hadn't been one of the smitten ones: Anderson Cooper is a coward. Lawrence King was brave, and he paid for his bravery, and as long as people like Anderson Cooper stay hidden in their professional lives they are perpetuating the myth that homosexuality is a dirty little secret that belongs to them, not us, not me. (A YouTube video of Cooper orchestrating the legitimacy of ex-gayness following the Ted Haggard scandal comes off like a Saturday Night Live skit; unfortunately, King's murder isn't as funny as Exodus-types pretending to be straight.)

By drawing the personal life (as if sexuality doesn't involve anything outside the personal) line in the sand, while willingly basking in celebrity's glow, Cooper is squandering whatever integrity he might have had. Part of his appeal was the angry humanity (and personality) he brought to his reporting in the aftermath of Katrina. But it will become more and more difficult for him to express his humanity when he's unwilling to reveal an essential part of his own.

I'm not necessarily talking about a flashy coming out à la Jim McGreevey (those forced outings do tend to be flashy) or even Ellen. There are ways to express one's gayness without shouting it from the rooftops. Celebrities like David Hyde Pierce have managed to do it without compromising their careers or dignity, so why can't Cooper? Because he risks becoming the story, risks getting the gay label, risks losing viewers whose fantasy bubble's been burst, risks getting shafted by CNN. But, at this point, it already has become the story, in part because of Cooper's stubborn refusal to deal with it like a man, suffer through some media brouhaha and move on. And the longer he keeps up the charade, the more he risks becoming a wind-up pretty toy without a key, observing from the corner he's backed himself into.

Favorite Idol Performance #4 ~ David Archuleta

Don't tell me he's going to sing "Imagine," I thought. Of all the over-performed songs in the world. I resisted little David last week, so I was certain after a treacly dose of "Imagine," I could easily do it again. But then he sang it, pushing and pulling the words and melody in all the right places, and it was actually pretty unexpectedly gorgeous, and it seems as though they can declare this season's winner right now. He's still (nauseatingly) adorable and a born interpreter. He owned the song and seemed utterly sincere enough to elevate it momentarily from the land of cliché. Obviously, he must be a compact burning packet of ambition, yet it doesn't show. Brilliant.

Runner-up performance: Chikezie aka Jacuzzi. Biggest let-downs: Michael and Jason Castro (even if he's still completely I-just-inhaled-weed goofily endearing).

The Placebo Effect

Probably like many people opening my bottle of antidepressants this morning, I had to pause. Should I bother splitting that pill, or should I move directly on to the caffeine course? The reason for the pause is a study widely reported yesterday that basically says that, for most people, antidepressants aren't much more effective than placebos. In other words, it may have been all in our heads. 

In a way, this is positive news. Learning that a pill isn't effective is a good way to get off it, and getting off of a pill is a good way to get rid of the side effects that go with it. (Many partners of people on libido-killing "happy pills" may soon have cause to celebrate. But what if the side effects were all in our heads, too?) On the other hand, if the placebo effect was working for a lot of people, what happens now? The placebo effect tends to be a lot more effective before you know it exists. Regaining one's innocence after having it crudely stripped away is no easy task, particularly if you're bummed out. 

How can I put faith in my bottle of Celexa now that I know I might as well have been sprinkling Tang on my breakfast cereal? They need to quickly invent a followup study that convinces us that there's a new magic pill. The best pill would be a capsule made of nothing. Then they need to design an excellent marketing campaign to convince us that we need this drug to look as happy as the people on TV. Then they need to over-prescribe it so it will become de-stigmatized, like Prozac back in the day. (A best seller will help.) Finally, they need to take whatever measures necessary to keep the placebo effect hidden in a safe, dark cave.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

American "Beauty"

A collage of fashion advertising and photo layouts from the Women's Fashion Spring 2008 edition of the New York Times Style Magazine. This is how American beauty is being defined. These are the body images held up as the ideal for young women.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The B-52's - Rock Lobster (Rare Live Vid)

I was excited to read that the B-52s have a new single out (you can hear it on their myspace page), with a new album forthcoming, their first record of the 21st century! The lyrics and sound of the new track seem like a throwback to their early records, which sound as timelessly out of time now as they did almost 30 years ago.

I remembering discovering the B-52s when I went to RISD from my hometown in Vermont in 1979. Art school couldn't have been more different from my public high school, and "Rock Lobster" was an integral part of that awakening. At Christmastime, I came home with my new discovery (with its classic yellow cover), and all my high school friends thought I had become weird, possibly a drug addict (the latter untrue, but I didn't let on). It was a proud moment. And I like "Rock Lobster" as much today as I did then, even if more effort is required to go down down down. (For the B-52s, too, I imagine.) The early live video, when Ricky was still alive, and Cindy and Kate make their unearthly extraordinary noises, and chicken-necked Fred dances with abandon and an appropriately cheesy mustache, captures them at their zany, unique best.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here We Go Again . . .

Ralph Nader, at age 74, is launching another presidential campaign, disproving notions that as we age our egos shrink and our wisdom grows.

Coincidentally, when checking the possible side effects of a medication I'm currently taking, one was "mistaken feelings of self-importance." Check your meds, Ralph.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Belgrade Reflections

I spent six weeks in Belgrade in late 2007, before Kosovo's declaration of independence and the resulting riots in the city. The Belgrade that we're currently seeing in the media isn't the Belgrade I saw so recently. I only hope there will be a peaceful resolution.

The burning of the U.S. Embassy.

BBC coverage of the conflict, including speculation about what might happen next and a history file on the region.

Idiot(s) of the Week #2

Lest anyone fear that America's own favorite zealot, Pat Robertson, is alone is his belief that homosexuality is the cause of natural disasters:

The recent earthquake that was felt across Israel was the result of the "homosexual activity practiced in the country", Knesset Member Shlomo Benizri said Wednesday.

Yeow, that must have been some raucous homo sex!

More of Benizri's enlightened reasoning can be found in the complete article. On a side note, Benizri has a history of fraud accusations and indictments for taking bribes, but maybe the gays were behind that, too?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Debating Hate Crimes

In the aftermath of Lawrence King's tragic murder (excellent complete coverage can be found on Towleroad), many questions are left unanswered: What can be done to protect vulnerable kids? How can bullying be stopped? Why do teenagers have access to guns in this country? How do you punish a murderer who is himself a child? How should we deal with hate crimes? There are no easy answers to these questions. What's certainly left behind from this murder is sadness and fury that a boy was killed because he did not fit into mainstream perceptions of who a boy should be. He was killed for being himself.

There have been various responses to the tragedy, from vigils to a peace march to parental calls for more metal detectors in schools, more attention to bullying and harassment of students. Then there's gun control, which tends to get mentioned in relation to such crimes, then dropped. And more inclusive hate crimes legislation.

One response to the murder came from John Cloud writing for Time. Many of us who read this piece after it was linked on Towleroad and other blogs were sickened by it. The fact that it was written by a gay man (one of us) added fuel to the fire. Why?

For me, the first red flag went up when the killer, Brandon McInerney, 14, was described as a "sweet-faced boy," humanizing him whereas King, the victim, was merely "an eighth grader who identified as gay and wore makeup and nail polish." Later, King's "fragile little face" is mentioned, but otherwise there is no attempt to humanize this victim. He is simply a victim.

Then Cloud goes on to describe how the crime shocked the community and "captured the attention of gay and transgender activists around the country." From here Cloud starts quoting statistics about the safety of gay and transgender kids in school, his point being that these statistics contradict "the dire picture painted by gay groups in the wake of King's killing." His ultimate point is that the activists are exaggerating hate in schools to push through LGBT-specific hate crimes legislation which, to Cloud's mind, is intended to "criminalize people's thoughts."

Of course statistics are open to multiple interpretations. The same statistics that Cloud interpreted to mean that the situation for LGBT students in schools is reasonably rosy (especially compared to, say, twenty years ago) gay policy analysts interpret quite differently.

On Towleroad, Jamie M. Grant, Policy Institute Director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force responded to Cloud's assertions this way:

In minimizing the risks faced by LGBT students each and every day in America’s schools, John Cloud betrays either a lack of understanding of the data or a misreading of it when he accuses the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force of exaggerating the degree to which gay kids suffer in school. As research by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) makes clear, LGBT kids are far less likely to feel safe or very safe in school than their heterosexual counterparts (78% versus 93%), and almost one-fifth (18%) of those surveyed had been physically assaulted over the previous year. What is more, Mr. Cloud mischaracterizes a statistic regarding the reporting of harassment or assault and suggests that much of it wasn’t significant enough to report. In fact, fewer than half of the students who did report incident(s) of harassment or assault felt that it made any difference. And among those who did not report being victims of harassment or assault fully 50% said that it was because they expected nothing would be done about it or that they personally would suffer repercussions. On the heels of a premeditated murder of a vulnerable child taunted for being openly gay, John Cloud seems bent on whitewashing the harsh realities of a broad range of LGBT kids in our schools. I can’t imagine such gross indifference to a child being murdered after having been taunted for being Jewish, or Latino, or heterosexual. Cloud’s lack of outrage builds a strong case for exactly what he argues against – increased penalties for a range of crimes that the state and the wider culture have long dismissed as insignificant.

Cloud concludes his article this way:

We may never know the real motivations for King's murder. McInerney, the alleged killer, is being charged as an adult and, if convicted, will likely spend the rest of his childhood, and most of his adulthood, behind bars. He deserves harsh judgment. But his victim's heartbreaking life and death should be occasions for mourning, not legislation.

I think what many people, myself included, found disturbing about this article was the lengths Cloud went to to show that Lawrence King's murder was a heartbreaking anomaly (one, according to Cloud, with an uncertain motivation when, in fact, the motivation seems quite clear), a personal tragedy rather than something we, as a society, should be overly concerned about. Though it wasn't likely his intention, Cloud's tactic of skimming over a boy's murder to focus on statistics designed to make his larger anti-hate-crimes-legislation point seemed incredibly callous. Lawrence King wasn't a statistic. He was a unique human being. The fact is, for all the strides that have been made to make it easier for LGBT kids to come out at an earlier age, queer kids, particularly those who don't fit neatly into assigned gender roles (or statistical norms), are still disproportionately at risk compared to straight kids. They are singled out for abuse.

Certainly a debate about the efficacy, value, and ethics of hate crimes legislation is warranted. But it shouldn't be at the expense of a young man, who, unlike the fortunate members of Cloud's rosy statistics, did suffer. Furthermore, reducing the prosecution of hate crimes to "criminalizing people's thoughts" ignores the actual intentions behind recognizing hate crimes. Hate crimes, because they target not only an individual but a social group, terrorize not only individuals but whole communities. Crimes against minorities have a long history of being underprosecuted. And, in the legislative debates over the Matthew Shepard Act, it is impossible to imagine that right-wing pressure to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity from protection is based on anything but homophobia. So, while the definition of and need for hate crimes legislation is debatable, to ignore the homophobia within many opponents' reasoning, as Cloud does, is another way of denying the significance of Lawrence King's murder, and the murders of so many other LGBT people before him.

The mainstream media tends to downplay the killings of people considered too marginal to be of interest to the masses. It's disheartening when a gay writer, one with an influential platform, uses that platform to further erode the attention given to people who are too often ignored in life and too often targeted for death.

Favorite Idol Performance #3 ~ Syesha Mercado

I love this girl, too. She also rocked the house, giving it her all, and she's gorgeous. During Hollywood week, she lost her voice, yet--when the chips were down--found it. She couldn't speak, but she sang her heart out. There are other worthy girls in the competition (Ramiele, Carly, Alexandrea, Asia'h), but I'm still partial to Amanda and Syesha. Time to weed out the blond girls, folks. Can anyone honestly tell them apart?

Favorite Idol Performance #2 ~ Amanda Overmyer

I love this girl. She's calm, unblond, matter-of-fact, imperfect, and she rocks the house.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Favorite Idol Performance #1 ~ Jason Castro

Among the male finalists last night, I too found Danny A. both undeniably talented and adorable, almost too adorable. Since he's the current can-do-no-wrong front-runner, it seems silly to waste one's cheerleading on him quite yet. The other men that stood out were Robbie (kind of) and Michael, the latter oozing the kind of mature charisma that Danny won't be able to pull off. (Likewise, Michael better not try the adorable puppy dog shtick at 29, not that there's much danger of that.) Danny N. was the gayest, despite (or more because of) the Elvis posturing, which is saying something, since more than a few of the boys had gaydar alarms sounding nationwide. (Did anyone else notice that Jason Y. looks uncannily like Hayley from last season? Will he resort to short skirts?) But my favorite performance of the evening came from Jason D(readlocks). Castro. It was so casually natural and effortlessly charismatic. For once, a performer who didn't look like he was risking a hernia to get out calculated triple-axel show-off notes. Plus, those eyes, that smile (the jury's still out on the hair), the endearingly-awkward-it's-all-good-mellow-stoner demeanor that made everyone else seem desperate by comparison. You can't smell the ambition seeping out his pores, not yet at least.

Oh, and Randy had it all wrong. Paula was right on the money, aside from that color stuff, beating Simon to the praise.

And, I don't care what they all said, I like Luke. But then I have a weakness for handsome Hugh-Jackmany European-looking guys with vulnerable tenor voices.

Confession of an American Idol fan

Confession: I am a middle-aged man who, I believe, possesses reasonably good taste, and I like American Idol. Not in a campy way, like I once liked Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood or The Anna Nicole Show, but genuinely. I earnestly like American Idol. I get worked up over it, a little. Granted, this confession is not as embarrassing as, say, admitting I liked Dick Cheney, wine coolers, or Bill O'Reilly, but, after smugly escaping American Idol in its first several seasons (Clay who? Fantasia what?), I inexplicably began watching last season, the season of Sanjaya. 

I fell prey to the heartwarming life stories and tearful dismissals, the entire cheesy spectacle. (Except perhaps for the exuberant Ford commercials; one must draw the line somewhere.) Once the season was over, I wondered why I felt such a stake in who won. After all, I never called in my vote, and I can honestly say that I'll probably never buy any music any American Idol ever puts out (though I'll admit to singing along, badly, to Kelly Clarkson songs in the car), unless one pulls a Marianne Faithfull and hits bottom only to rise from the ashes damaged but suddenly interesting. 

When I hear Jordin Sparks' bland first single on the radio, I wonder if this is truly the fresh-voiced girl I rooted on (along with effortlessly talented Melinda Doolittle) just a year ago? Now, as the newly anointed 24 (but not for long) emerge from the wreckage of the auditions and Hollywood week, any thoughts of Chris or Blake or Sanjaya or what-were-the-other-names? have long-since evaporated like so much stage fog. Now, it's all about this season! Last year's competition is ancient, ancient history. 

And, this season, even while I'm still sorting out my favorites and learning names, as on the first day of school, the attachments are forming. Not for the music, which usually sucks, but for the personality showmanship and sparkles of talent that manage to shine through the cheesiness. Oh, and for Paula's loopiness and Simon's pithiness, both of which should be getting old at this point, yet I soak them up. As for Randy's "Yo Dawg," that got old after the first thousand times I heard it. (Plus, his taste-meter was way off last night!) And Ryan, dear wee Ryan. I can only say that I think he is the perfect host for the show (damning with faint praise?), and I particularly adore him when he stands next to the big black girls who could pick him up with one hand and toss him directly to Santa's Workshop.

So much to look forward to in the next few weeks! Will gaydar across the nation explode after getting to know the male finalists? Will adorably puppyish Danny set more hearts aflutter than mature, Jim-Morrison-y (without the bloat) Michael? Will any celebrity mentor be as bad as Gwen Stefani? How many times will Simon and Ryan call each other gay, wink-wink? Will Paula make sense and ruin everything? Only time will tell . . . 

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Idiots of the Week #1

In what I'm imagining will become a regular feature on this blog, I'm highlighting what I think is the most idiotic news story I came across in the past week. Of course with so many to choose from these days, the selection process is difficult, and there are surely some true-life-tales of idiocy I've missed. Unfortunately, no matter how ludicrous the news story is, it will have real and serious consequences for the people targeted by ignorance. An excerpt from the article, published in the Gulf Daily News:

"The Interior Ministry has told us that it already bans suspected homosexuals as they try entering the country from Bahrain International Airport," said committee secretary Jalal Fairooz. However, he claimed the ministry said homosexuals pretend not to be gay by posing "manly" until they make it past immigration. "They look manly as they come to the airport, but when they get in they return back to their unaccepted homosexual attitude," said Mr Fairooz. "Homosexuals are found in huge numbers at hairdressing salons and beauty and massage spas, which the ministry regularly inspects." However, he said many homosexuals were slipping through the net because the ministry was having problems determining if they were gay or not. "Those who look homosexual or offer customers personal services are being caught by police and taken to the Public Prosecution," he said. He described gays as "dangerous" and a "threat to our society and Islamic values". "That's why the proposal asks the government to come up with a study on the problem and eliminate it before it increases and becomes hard to control, as more gays enter the country," he added.

Here's the link to the full article, which I first came across on Towleroad.

That's right, there's nothing more threatening to society than gangs of homosexuals in hairdressing salons. And if these homosexuals get together with all the homosexual florists and interior designers and pseudo-manly foreign fags, one can only imagine the terror that will ensue. Crack down on them quickly! Develop a foolproof test to weed out covert homosexuals! Interestingly, Michael Jackson is said to have a large fan base in Bahrain and has been welcomed there with open arms.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Funny Valentines

Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich - My Funny Valentine

Tom Jones - My Funny Valentine

Rufus Wainwright - My Funny Valentine

My funny Valentine (The Talented Mr. Ripley)

In honor of Valentine's Day, several renditions of "My Funny Valentine," from the sublime to the ridiculous, not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Emmylou Harris - Hall of Famer

In honor of Emmylou being named today to the Country Hall of Fame.

A few years ago, I paid tribute to Emmylou's long Brilliant Career.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Friend Amy

My friend, Amy, cleaned up (so to speak) at the Grammys last night. Ok, so she didn't win album of the year (and, ok, she really isn't my friend), but she won a bunch of awards and she performed without collapsing or noticeably forgetting lyrics and, unlike a certain other troubled diva, she was actually singing, like, live. Fine as the album was, Amy's troubles probably helped her win. We love a comeback almost as much as we love a trainwreck.

They placed Amy's performance near the end of the show, of course, and relentlessly advertised it throughout to build in as much will-she-fall-apart-or-keep-it-together suspense as possible. I thought this was cruel to her (what time was it in London?! surely waiting up all those hours can't be good for an addict?) and to me, her worried friend. 

There were other nervous-making live-show moments along the way: What if Carrie Underwood falls down the stairs in that microscopic skirt? What if the Cirque du Soleil woman in the flowing red dress drops with a hideous thud? What if Tina (still rocking in an aluminum foil pantsuit at nearly 70) has a heart attack because she's trying to keep up with that chipper young Beyonce? What if Aretha's straps don't hold? (Was Fergie's dress made from Aretha's belt?) What if Kanye has weapons? What if Tony Bennett and Andy Williams are too old to read the teleprompters (remember poor Lauren Bacall, how the sweat broke out on your forehead?)? But it was all leading up to Amy . . . 

And she triumphed, in the moment. She played sly and loose with the songs, without letting them get away from her, then seemed poignantly bewildered when the music stopped. She looked genuinely moved by the victorious night, which must have been quite the contrast to much of her recent life, yet she didn't repent or give the sort of sentimental speech the Grammys were probably hoping she would. Maybe she cried, but she didn't cry for us.

Next up, the Oscars. When the awards will be the lead-up to Heath's moment in the annual In Memoriam slideshow. 

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sordid Lives Remix - 2007 - Tammy Wynette

Tammy Wynette + Leslie Jordon = Sordid Brilliance

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Creating the Illusion of It

Cher emerges from retirement and gives a spunky interview. 

I love her honesty about aging--basically, it sucks--while, at the same time, her face has become an immobile mask, in essence, a lie. The quest to be ageless inevitably fails, except perhaps through squinted eyes from a great distance, yet people will continue to try. It surprises me when actors (Cher once acted!) alter themselves to a point where it's no longer possible for them to play human roles, yet I suppose it shouldn't. In our culture, Vanity rules, and we blindly follow. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Amy Meets Linda

An inspired mashup of two of my favorites.

The sentence I've always wanted, but have yet to find a way, to use in a story:

The clam, fearing impending brain surgery, quivered in its shell.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I'm a Renaissance man, but not necessarily a successful one.