Tuesday, January 31, 2006

do you SOTU?

Matt Wuerker Cartoons

Sartre once said that the state of modern man is incomprehension and rage. Cheerful guy, that Sartre, but when you realize that he said that before he ever had a chance to experience either the Bush Administration, "American Idol" or even Paris Hilton, you see him for the visionary he truly was.

I woke up feeling a bit punkish myself and stayed home sick today, as opposed to my usual habit of staying home well, and after noodling around awhile decided I was in a Sartre state of mind. Contemplating the upcoming presidential address with a general sense of creeping despair, I was happy to discover I would not have to endure the coverage without aid. Apparently, there is a national epidemic of State of the Union drinking games afoot, and thank heavens for them. Two of my favorites:

Beer and Present Danger by Heather Havrilesky ~

The game is simple enough for even your average registered voter to understand. Basically, every time Bush says "terror," "terrorism," "terrorist," "war on terror" or "Terror Dome," you drink.

Also drink when the president winks, nods and points at someone in the audience in rapid succession; drink each time he refers to 9/11 or uses the word "nuke-u-lar," and drink something bitter when he says that "the state of our union is strong."

Whenever there's a close-up of a sour-faced Democrat, drink. If it's Hilary Clinton, Ted Kennedy or Harry Reid, drink twice. (Full rules here ...)

And from
Adam Felber ~

- Whenever the President says “evil,” everyone must raise their glass and take a drink. It’s good form to make a brief toast of sorts, something like “Down with evil!” or “Evil is bad!” “Evil” should be pronounced with a soft “i” [”Evihl”].

- When talking about the progress of the War in Iraq, wait for the President to say “We are winning” or “we will win.” Everyone then says “Yay!” raises a glass and drinks triumphantly. When the President says the words “hard work” or indicates that hard work still remains, everyone should say “Awww” and take a disappointed sip. (Play here...)

There are many, many others. I predict that 54% of the country will be incapacitated by 6:35 pm (Pacific). So, go. Play. Enjoy. Sartre will understand.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

let's face the music and file

A chill Santa Ana wind has been blowing steadily all day, spoiling my best intentions to spend the day painting in my cutting edge open air studio. By which I mean the patio, and by which I mean that I would have blown away.

So I spent the afternoon once again transferring files, printing and re-uploading pictures I thought I wouldn't have to deal with again. Tedious stuff, but I don't feel I can safely jettison AOL until it's done. Blimey.

But thank heavens for jazz vocals on internet radio. Right now, the trees are swaying and Ella is swinging "You Took Advantage of Me." Oh, to be young and taken advantage of once again. And again. Two minutes ago Steve Tyrell was crooning "Why Was I Born?" I don't know, Steve honey, but I'm glad you were. "Hey there..you with the stars in your eyes..." ~ sing it to me, Rosemary. And Diana. And Peggy. And Fats. Nice ~ now Nnenna Freelon is crooning "Soulcall," seducing all within the sound of her voice into the realm of bittersweet memory and peace....

Here's "Black Coffee" by Jacintha ~ man, I love this one. All smoke and hope and husky-throated regret.

All in all, not a terrible way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. Julie Christie has just launched into "Make Someone Happy" and you know, I believe I will ~ think I'll toddle off to the kitchen and throw a little something on the fire. I feel a Spaghetti Bolognese coming on. I think that'll put a smile on someone's face.

Friday, January 20, 2006

it's the corruption, stupid

I've been dieting (sort of) and working out (excessively) for the past week, and after a net loss of a hard-fought one (!) pound, had developed a craving for a $5.25 Bucket o' Popcorn with a Butter-like Substance on Top. Only a trip to the local theater would satisfy.

So we finally caught Syriana, George Clooney's slightly confusing but brainy and brilliant collage of a film about American and Saudi oil interests, and the roles that power and corruption play in the Middle East and within the hallowed halls of our own government.

Told through the eyes of a number of players in a non-linear fashion, political issues evolve from the personal as individual stories serve to illuminate global trends. In one plot line, we see how bone-crushing poverty and oppression can leave an essentially ordinary and decent Muslim youth vulnerable to seduction in the well-funded madrasas of radical Islam; in another, a young American financial planner is beguiled by the wealth and democratic ideology of a Saudi prince.

I won't pretend to have understood all the various threads of the individual plot lines ~ the details surrounding the actions of a young Washington lawyer with father issues were particularly elusive. In an interview with NPR's Terry Gross, Clooney indicated that he didn't want to play down to the audience by taking them by the hand and walking them through everything; that he wanted to drop us down right in the middle of the action, and make us figure it out for ourselves. I personally found it to be a very effective approach ~ this is, after all, how we often experience life ~ and at no point was I tempted to check out, remaining focused and engaged throughout the entire film, which brims with bitter insight into the workings of the American power elite.

"Corruption charges. Corruption? Corruption ain't nothing more than government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulation. That's Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize. We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it.

Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around here instead of fighting each other for scraps of meat out in the streets. Corruption is why we win."


Fast-paced and literate, Syriana is a must-see movie for anyone who's not buying into the Bush Administration's happy talk about a war fought to 'free the Iraqi people', thus spreading comfort and joy throughout the land. I know one thing for certain.

Even behind that beard and an additional 30 pounds, George Clooney cannot hide the essential fabulousness of his hunky self. There's a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. If I could only figure out what it is.

Friday, January 13, 2006

blame it on pasadena

I first noticed it a few days ago, as I was passing the bedroom mirror.

I had been deliberately passing by all such mirrors lately for fear of encountering just this very thing, but something odd caught my eye; something foreign, large and following menacingly behind me. Before I could catch myself I had glanced sideways, and there it was.

Baby got back.

Yes, that dismayingly architectonic and cantilevered protuberance I had glimpsed in the mirror was, in fact, attached to my very person. It had been growing, mushroom-like, beneath the black knit sweatpants I had taken to living in, entirely without my knowledge or permission. I do not believe this is my fault.

By my calculations, the holidays started somewhat early this year; right around Halloween, in fact, when the 4 bags of Snickers and 3 bags of Almond Joys, along with assorted combinations of lollipops and Tootsie Rolls went largely unclaimed by the neighborhood children, who are now being subjected to house arrest on the big night to keep them from attempted poisoning and certain death at the hands of members of their own homeowners’ associations. Of course, we do not waste food in this house. Not when there are young women starving right here in Hollywood.

Next came Thanksgiving, followed by a particularly sociable Christmas, which once again surprised me by arriving promptly on the 25th this year, and never allowing me any time to go to the gym, or to clean out all the goodies in the fridge and replace them with cabbage soup. Visions of fruitcake and eggnog, chocolates and sugarplums danced in my head, onto my plate and under my belt. Leftovers, as we all know, make wonderful all-day snacking, and baking for others, such a noble and generous cause, does not count in the calorie count. Ever.

New Year’s Day is, of course, the end of the eat, drink and be merry-go-round that is the Holiday Season, and the annual Pasadena Rose Parade, quite a local spectacle and all around big deal here in California, is held on New Year’s Day. Everyone turns on the parade, which is always followed by the Rose Bowl game, to veg out and recover from the night before. It’s a time honored tradition, just as January 2nd is the traditional beginning of all 86million resolutions to ‘get back in shape’.

Not this year. This year, the Pasadena city fathers threw all that out the window by deciding that the Pasadena Rose parade would be held on Monday, rather than Sunday; (something about a promise 100 years ago to the local clergymen involving frightened horses) a decision which threw everybody, including me, off their mark for days.

Then the Rose Bowl was held on Wednesday for some inexplicable reason, which is why I was still shopping, baking and whipping up appetizers as late as last Tuesday and Wednesday for a friend's football party. Why I volunteered to bring appetizers I’ll never know, since it meant that I’d have to arrive on time and not fashionably late as is my wont, which I do only because I know I look better after everyone else has had at least one round...

But that’s beside the point.

The point is, that the Pasadena city fathers’ reckless disregard for tradition wreaked not only havoc on the parade (it poured) and at the game (USC was trampled by Texas) but, more importantly, it caused me to miss out on that crucial January 1st cut-off date on gluttony. It was therefore directly responsible for about 37,425 additional calories and therefore those 14 ~ yes, 14 ~ extra pounds, most of which appear to have settled in my butt.

The lesson here is obvious ~ it is wrong to fool with parades and Bowl games and indeed, the natural order of things in general. It is not nice to screw with my calendar, Pasadena.

And that, in conclusion, is why my Christmas tree is still up.

*painting by Fernando Botero

Sunday, January 08, 2006

farewell, my lovely

At what point do you just give up on a thing and admit defeat?

If you’re me, the answer is not until you’ve beaten it to death with a club, shaken it out and administered morphine. Then you place it your driveway and run over it with your car. Several times. After giving it mouth to mouth, you pour yourself some wine, relax a bit, and go light it on fire. Upon waiting a week or so for it to cool off, you put it back on the easel, grab a brush or any other weapon of choice and start all over again.

It’s not that I have a problem with failure. I am no stranger to failure and indeed, have learned to embrace it as my friend and my mentor; had I succeeded more often, I would probably not be the happy idiot that friends and loved ones have come to know and tolerate. Certainly, I would not have nearly as much time on my hands to indulge in such pastimes as painting and blogging. And blogging about painting. And whining about blogging. And so on.

But this one painting is giving me headaches, and has been doing so for months. I’ve given up on projects in the past, albeit reluctantly, but by god I just can’t seem to let go here. Until today. Today I painted over large swatches of real estate, eliminated some extraneous debris, changed colors and added metaphor. And still no joy. It is much improved, I think, but I know in my heart that while the operation was a success, the patient died.

But don’t cry for me, Argentina. It felt good to be painting again. I will take these lessons learned, and live to fail another canvas. The beauty is in the process. The canvas is just a souvenir. And even then, only occasionally.

Friday, January 06, 2006

wave watching ~ newport beach

We went whale watching
to see some whales

and what did we see?

We saw the sea.

We saw some sea lions
and even a shark.
But nary a whale,
although the seals barked.

The gulls were all friendly
they stayed with us through,

But we were not fishing;
no fish guts for you.

We went whale watching
to chase our tails.
But that was okay 'cause
we had a swell day ~
it was a great day!