Friday, September 30, 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pregnancy as Spectacle: Britney, Jennifer, Heidi, et al

PREGGERS CELEBBERS!!!

Boom Boom Boom
goes Hollywood. Tummies bulging everywhere. That distended belly button poking like a nipple through the thin cotton shirt. Timelines of swelling, the tummies seem to tick: four, three, two, one -- ta da!!! Baby! Baby! Baby! Sis-boom-bah!!! The envy of all!!!

Sometimes it seems like pregnancy is the new accessory. Sites like about.com have a column devoted to this summers' expectant celebrity couples and there is even a celebrity baby blog (I didn't know babies could type!). Pregnant celebrities also seem to represent a new brand of class priveledge; these are moms who can afford to dress their tots in desginer threads, moms who can afford to hire multiple nannies, moms who can gain up to MILLIONS OF DOLLARS for the first pics of their little tykes (there's capital in that belly!!!).

And its not like people haven't been getting pregnant forever, but the documentation of celebrity pregnancy -- the endless photos and updates chronicling everything from speculation ("is J.Lo pregnant?" or "Jessica and Nick: It's Baby Time!"), gestation, and delivery -- essentially fetishize the combination of celebrity and pregnancy. The whole depiction of pregnant celebs implies though regular folk should envy celebs -- after all, celebs represent potential for a luxurious and labor-free version of pregnancy. And to top it off, celebs are getting props for making motherhood sexy. After all, don't we have folks like Kelly Ripa to thank for the whole Yummy Mommy trend?

Juxtapose this with the push for abstinence-only sex education in the nation's high schools, (um, how is that education???), the Bush administration's persistent attempts to chip away at women's reproductive rights, and their move to cut funding for condoms in Africa.

How many poor, working mothers could those millions of dollars spent on Brit's baby pictures help? How many unwanted, unplanned pregnancies could be prevented with comprehensive sex education? How many lives have been saved by women's access to safe, legal abortions in this country and how many lives could be saved by the simple distribution and use of condoms in Africa?


The sort of pregnancy as spectacle currently in vogue among hollywood starlets is not without precedent. Virgin Mary, anybody? The wives of Henry the VIII and his daughters? That Lady in that Van Eyck painting (who I know supposedly isn't pregnant but . . .)? Rosemary's Baby? All those other ooey-gooey, female body as monster horror movies? And, perhaps the genesis of this newest wave, Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair?

And it goes without saying that the male body is not subjected to the same level of public scrutiny as the female body (though it seems like the emphasis on male muscles once reserved for body-building magazines is becoming more mainstream -- i.e. the popularization of terms like "built" and "cut.").

The contradiction at the center of the Virgin Mary story -- that Mary is pregnant withouth having had sex -- is echoed in the spectacle of celebrity pregnancy. Celebrities perform a version of pregnancy (and motherhood) that is without labor, a version of pregnancy that is surrounded by sparkling fresh dew. The fact that these mothers go on to pose in playboy or walk runways or appear on the red carpet with pancake-flat stomachs just weeks after giving birth also demonstrates this. The whole MILF-phenomena is basically a watered down, suburban version of the virgin/whore tension present in the figure of Eve and at work in the Virgin Mary/ Mary Magdalene paradigm. (Um, is my catholic upbringing at all evident here?). All we need now is a pregnant Barbie. Or how about a pregnant Ken?

Anyway, for those of you who can't wait to see what Brit's baby looks like, I suggest you go over to check out the latest Jenny's World exclusive.

pic of Brit courtesy bbc

O + V



Friday, September 23, 2005

Art Under Capitalism Is Weird; Lawyering Up with Kanye West


Marx, Marx, Marx. So many dudes rolled in one! Even if you are not a fan (as I am: go Marx! De-fense!), I think you can agree that he took the temperature of capitalism purty accurately, and did more to discern the origins of the new economic regime than anybody else before him. And anybody who did a decent job of writing economic history after Marx (Weber, Braudel, blah blah blah, etc.) either followed him or had to engage in dialogue with him. There is a whole school of neoliberal American economic historians whose decision to ignore the questions posed by Marx makes their work read like science fiction (Rostow, Chandler, Galbraith, et al). These are the folks who made the insanities of George Gilder and the Friedmans, Milton and Thomas possible. So, to sum up: whatever we think of socialism, if we want to know how this whole capitalism thing got started, we probably have to read some Marx.

One thing that KM emphasized was that capitalism is a system of property relations, not of "money" and "exchange." Who owns what and why, and how a legal order is set up to protect property rights is the real nub of what Yanquis quaintly call "free enterprise." We can see this really clearly in the case of art. Intellectual property rights have developed in a slow and haphazard way. When capitalists in America were busy producing shoes and cotton and other material goods, they didn't need to concern themselves too much with words and images and sounds. These were still the province of the "folk" (and as such held in common and unownable) or the decadent aesthetes of the old aristocracy (and as such still tied up in one-of-a-kind masterpieces {how are you gonna mass-produce those?} and un-economic institutions like theatres and orchestras). No doubt the capitalists of the 19th century would have been surprised to learn that so much cash could be made in the early oughts from sounds inscribed in little plastic discs and stories projected on screens in darkened rooms.

The best way to evaluate the impact of modern-day capitalism on the production of art is to look at the kind of limits the economic system places on people who make it. For example: FF and I were watching Kanye West's "Diary" on MTV the other day, which documented the making of KW's new album, "Late Registration." Now, I am not a big fan of Kanye, but I like that he is sort of against the diamond trade and dissed George Bush on TV. Kanye was talking about making his record with producer Jon Brion, and while the TV showed a montage of Kanye and Brion jamming and listening back to tracks and singing (in short, what we all imagine the usual process of making music creatively to be) Kanye was pointing out how radical an approach this was: "we didn't even call the lawyers! We figured we'd let the label sort it out later." Take that, management!

Can you imagine having to call a lawyer before you played a note or sang a lyric? (Or wrote a poem or drew a line?) What a dreadful perversion of the creative process by the spirit of capitalism. Even Kanye's "radical" gesture of making a record without having barristers and soliciters on the speed-dial still demonstrates the power of the new climate of intellectual property rights-- even in full-maverick screw-the-system mode, Kanye's still has lawyers on the brain. Which is the last place you want a lawyer. Unless you are Dick Wolf. Or John Grisham. Or Corbin Bernsen. Then... ch-ching!

Fantasy-tastic!
















I know, it has been a trillion years since I posted anything. Poor FF, shouldering the Fluffy Dollars burden all by herself. I seem to have developed blog laryngitis over the past couple weeks. I worry that it will give my blog writing a trashy raspy voice like that Bush twin or Alex M from
Laguna Beach. I will try to post more often these next couple of days to try to get my blogging chopz sharpened. Okay. I think this is going to go well. Deep breaths.

I love the new Britney Spears TV ads for her perfume "Fantasy" !!! It features Brit and a K-Fed klone running through the forest, with Brit providing a voice-over about a goddess and a hunter, which ends with her saying "so the hunter decided to do something kind of crazy" while the camera tracks an arrow from Fakekayfed's quiver nailing Britney in the back. Then Brit says, "everyone has a fantasy" and you learn that she is shilling perfume. Brilliant!

Things I like about this ad:

1) The production values are terrible. There is a cheezy Ted Turner colorization/technicolor patina to the whole thing which reminds me of the disturbing and nauseating fairy-tale perversities of avant filmmakers Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley.

2) I marvel at the sublime cluelessness inherent in Brit's mainstreaming of the rape fantasies (the presumed missing "something crazy" filled in by the arrow attack) central to the literary genre of "fantasy": you know, the bodice-rippers and the books with Fabio on the cover and novels where R2D2 is the main character. Unlike Madonna's Sex, which gentrified lots of putatively "transgressive" sexual fantasies with a knowing wink, Britney's "Fantasy" ad serves not to make "weird" desires seem normal and healthy, but to make the most banal of fantasy scenarios (the enchanted forest, the goddess, the pectorally-endowed love interest) seem sick and twisted. Is this because the perverse underbelly of the fantasy, what Lacanians call the kernel of the real, as revealed in Brit and K-Fed's Chaotic, is so horrifying?

3) I love Brit's formulation, "eveybody has a fantasy." First, we leap to the most absurd possible meaning-- that everybody has only one fantasy. You can dream of hitting the links with Arnold Palmer, playing glockenspiel with the Cleveland Symphony Pops tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, or sharing a romantic getaway weekend with Benazir Bhutto. But not all three! Not even two. Just one, buddy. Now get back to work!

But as Marxists, we should go beyond this to the idea of "fantasy" as the symbolic masking of the real relations of production. We should probably spell it with a "ph," because this makes ordinary words that start with "f" into magically cooler words that begin with "ph." But we won't.

Anyhoo, in this sense, everybody does have one and only one fantasy: that as consumers we are engaged in an activity totally separate from the messy wold of work and factories and misery. When we purchase commodities (like Brit's perfume) which in fact represent certain fixed amounts of stored-up dead labor, with cash, which also represents a fixed amount of stored-up dead labor, we seal the symbolic deal. And when we seek to fulfill all of our pleasures, assert our identities and pursue our thrills in the world of commodities, it can be said that the inverse of Brit's insight is in fact true: "a fantasy has everybody."

Whoa. Despair! No. We must ask, as Lenin did, "will this hat really convince anybody that I am not bald, but have a full head of hair that I choose to cover with a hat because I think it looks cooler that way, even though hatless I would still look pretty good?" No, no. That was Jeremy Piven. We must ask, as Brit bravely queried Kevin in Chaotic: "Can you handle my truth?" CAN YOU?!!!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

All My Books Lined Up

Since the pics of Britney's baby's room have hit the wires, I've been fantasizing about the types of rooms I would have if I had all that money.

So of course I went straight to amazon and e-bay to look at pics of antique bookcases. Check it:




















hot, huh? And look at this.




















Yum . . . so pretty. And of course I love all this furniture from Anthropologie, even though I'm sure it is tres overpriced. Still, this mirrored table is really cute.


















But I have to be honest. If I had lots of money to spend on pretty things, I'd probably buy a bunch of frivolous stuff for a little fluffy dog.

For example:














A chaise lounge for pets? Ridiculous . . .yet CUTE! But don't worry friends, even I wouldn't go this far.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"You Love My Lady Lumps"

Yesterday as I was driving home, I heard this song on the radio, and I was like, oh porn rap (a la 2 Live Crew) is coming back. The song sounded cheap and cheesy -- the sort of thing whipped together in a low-rent studio with drum machines and battery-powered synthesizers. The sort of song dorky white boy djs pump into college bars in order to get all the sorority girls bumping and grinding and spilling their beers (though hopefully not wetting their pants). It was a sort of back and forth between and a playa and a diva, and it was saucy and nasty and ridiculous and trashy, so of course I came right home and googled a bit of the lyrics -- "lovely lady lumps." I was shocked to discover that this song is by the Black Eyed Peas. When did they start sounding like the 69 Boyz??? I mean, I'm not a fan (and let the record show that the Sad Billionaire believes that Fergie is a robot with no soul), but still.

Here's a taste of the lyrics:

What you gonna do with all that junk?
All that junk inside your trunk?
Ima get, get, get, get, you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump.
My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump,
my hump, My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps.
(Check it out)

I drive these brothers crazy,
I do it on the daily,
They treat me really nicely,
They buy me all these icyesys.
Dolce & Gabbana,
Fendi and then Donna
Karan, they be sharin
All their money
got me wearin
Fly gearrr but I ain't askin,
They say they love my ass n,
Se7en Jeans, True Religion,
I say no, but they keep givin'
SoI keep on takin'
And no I ain't taken
We can keep on datin'
I keep on demonstrating.
My love, my love, my love, my love
You love my lady lumps,
My hump, my hump,
my hump, My humps they got u!

Crazy, huh? Super Kentucky Fried. Extra golden crispy. There's something about this juvenile nursery-rhyme cadence combined with brand names, bling, and the most.absurd.description.of.breasts.ever. that makes me feel like I better prepare for the end of the world. But there is a part that I kinda like.


I met a girl down at the disco
She said hey, hey,hey yea let's go.
I could be your baby,
you can be my honey
Lets spend time not money.
I mix your milk wit my cocoa puff,
Milky, milky cocoa,
Mix your milk with
my cocoa puff,milky,
milky riiiiiiight.

So breakfast cereal is in the mix now? Love it. So dippy-drizzled daffy and bizarre. But I guess Cocoa Puffs are among the more sexy breakfast cereals. Froot Loops are basically holes, so they must be pretty sexy. Lucky charms have pots of gold and rainbows, and if you think of the pot of gold and the end of a rainbow . . .I guess that is sort of sexy. Plus there's that whole idea of "getting lucky" AND that "magically delicious" bit.

But I thought lumps were bad. I mean, is there anything positive associated with lumps? Lump of coal? Bad. Lumpy gravy? Bad. Lumpy pillows? Bad. And humps? Also bad. We talk about "getting over the hump," which suggests that the hump is bad. Every time anyone refers to wed. as "hump day" I want to puke. And there are other things -- phrases that combine the word "dry" with the word "humping" that are also bad. Very bad. Very very bad.



Monday, September 19, 2005

No More Pencils, No More Books

The last time I was at my parents' house, I went digging through boxes and boxes of old books. One of my discoveries was Look and Learn, a science book for first graders from 1943. Since the book was designed for "the pre-reader," it is mostly pictures.

From the Teacher's Notes:

Habits of accuracy in observation and report, habits of intellectual honesty and openmindedness, and habits of seeing relationships are important, not only in the field of science, but in all fields of knowledge.

(Sadly, this is a list of habits I feel most of my first semester freshman lack!)

Anyways, many of the illustrations, despite their sunny goldenness, are pretty disturbing.


















I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, given the book's vintage, at how outwardly sexist the "We Grow Up" page is. Women sew, men write. And what's up with all the bar imagery in the first two panels for the little girl? And by the time the girl gets some wheels, the boy is already reading books? Not fair.

Interestingly, these illos bear an eerie similarity to the one below, only instead of comparing men and women, this one compares "wild" and "domesticated" animals -- those that are free and those that are kept and provided for by their owners.

Though the style of illustration is, admittedly, somewhat charming (even in it's accidental irony), I can't help but wonder how such a book made children (particularly non-white, non-middle class children) feel.




















And I can't help but wonder how students of the contemporary science classroom might be affected by this whole intelligent design debate. The National Center for Science Education website has a rather comprehensive list of articles chronicling the debate (which makes it clear that intelligent design is just a trojan horse for god). And if that doesn't get your ire up, check out this really stupid article about how recent events (such as September 11th) are being presented in high school history books.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Go Vote




















Despite the fact that Lauren Graham was overlooked for an Emmy nod AGAIN, she still looked smokin' on the red carpet.

Go to the
Instant Fashion Police on E! to vote for her . . .right now she's in second (behind Kristen Bell, aka Veronica Mars -- who was also overlooked).

I love you LG!!!!!!!

Friday, September 16, 2005

*M.I.A. 2-Nite*













“As an artist, what can you ever become to a society that is so far gone? At a time when the whole world seems to function as a way to find something new, gulp it down as fast as possible, then turn it into a machine that reproduces itself for the masses, I’ve been fortunate that no one’s been able to do that with me.”


from the Austin Chronicle

Rescued




















read more here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Olsen Twins Like Boys

Based on the headline, I thought this article was going to be about something else. . .you know, like the dating habits of the Olsen twins. But, no.

Apparently the twin teen lollipops have inked a deal to promote a line of products inspired by the tween Sprouse twins -- the boys who played Adam Sandler's kid in Big Daddy.

From the
article:
If the Olsens were merely trying to make the Sprouses the next girl-magnet teen idols, that would be one thing. But the plan for D.C. Sprouse is to make the boys lifestyle models for other boys.

"Traditionally, or conventionally, branding young male celebs to 'tween boys has been kind of different," Coble said. "If anybody can do it, they [the Olsens] can."

In the Wall Street Journal, Ashley Olsen sounded more than confident. "My sister and I started the whole 'tween empire," she said. "I definitely see the potential for boys to do that sort of thing."
(read the whole thing here)

Does anyone else get the willies when they read "lifestyle models for boys" so close to The Wall Street Journal? And what's up with all this "lifestyle" stuff? It just seems like hell-world.

Another way to keep the people down.

ABECEDARIA

is a cool blog about writing systems. Dope.

Anti-Rape Condoms





















Awhile back, Feministing had an interesting post about the new anti-rape condoms. A new post recaps the Director of Cape Town's Rape Crisis Center's response to the new device.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I really hate Rory's stupid friends

SPOILED ROTTEN, BUT STILL HUNGRY












So all summer I've been checking the Gilmore Girls board at SpoilerFix. (don't click if you don't want to be spoiled!).

Only to have my heart twisted into a thousand tiny pieces.

And now the premier is finally here. Tonight. Will I stomp around the house seething "I hate Rory!" afterwards? Probably.

But check out Lauren Graham's hair! I am so getting my hair just like that for my birthday this year. H-O-T.

Monday, September 12, 2005

IF Her Dogs Are On The Show, Then We're Def. Gonna Watch
















First of all, the important stuff: Martha Stewart has a Chow-Chow named Paw Paw and a French Bulldog named Francesca.

Also, her new show premiers Sept. 21.

Trump has the hair, Stewart has the pups.

Friday, September 09, 2005

PussyCat Scratch Fever

They're like the Spice Girls, only... not. They're basically the saucy girl group of the Bush era. So why don't I like 'em?

First of all, the Pussycat Dolls have a My Space. Second of all, they performed at the Teen Choice awards (it makes sense; you got teach those kids how to dress bad and lick their lips when they're young). Third of all, according to (gag) Maxim: The Pussycat Dolls are "the best thing to happen to dawgs since fire hydrants." Fourth of all, they were founded by Jonathan Antin's sister, Robin Antin (Jonathan Antin appears to be the most narcissistic and annoying man of the hair scene universe). But I can't hold who her brother is against her! (although, sometimes evilness does run in families, i.e. the aforementioned Bush family and the Simpsons). So let's take a look at what R.A. has to say about the PCD:
"“Inside every woman is a Pussycat Doll,"” says Robin Antin, the innovator behind the singing-and-dancing ensemble that has risen from underground cool to major label hot. "“It'’s about female empowerment, about being confident with who you are. It'’s about singing and dancing in front of a mirror by yourself and having fun. "
Sounds good, right? Pussycat Dolls. Hmmm . . .I'm thinking the concept is sorta like Carmen Electra meets My Scene meets The Girls Next Door meets Bust meets CAKE. Burlesque, after all, has made a big comeback (thanks to post-femnism and thanks also to the reminder that bodies other than those plumped up with silicon and sculpted by personal trainers are also sexy). And I'm all for women being encouraged to enjoy and feel empowered by their sexuality. So... why don't I like The Pussycat Dolls?

I guess I'm not crazy about their lyrics (even though they stick in my head like glue):

Dont cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me
Dont cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me
Dont cha, dont cha
Dont cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me
Dont cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me
Dont cha, dont cha ( the lyrics in full here )

I think I'm missing the empowering part. What's up with addressing some other girl's boyfriend? I mean, I know it's just a fantasy, but why this triangulation? Over and over? I'm not saying that the triangulation isn't titillating (Cruel Intentions anyone?). But I'd rather dance in front of the mirror to "Like a Virgin" or "Work It" or "Nasty" or "Push It" or "She Bop" or ...I could make a list songs and songs long.
"To me, a Pussycat Doll is fearless but also vulnerable,"” says lead singer Nicole Scherzinger. "We're strong but we like to play too. The line in "‘Don't Cha'--"‘don'’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me"’--is meant to be empowering. The Pussycat Dolls are not about just being hot but also about saying something with real feeling."”

I guess I'd buy the girl-power shtick if the lyrics were directed toward women, but the lines are clearly directed to a male listener. And perhaps the empowering part would be more convincing if I didn't think women were just as likely to identify with the girlfriend as they were with the singer. But I bet at least half of the women who hear this song think, what is that bitch doing singing to my boyfriend?

And, btw, what is the lead singer getting at when she says "vulnerable" and "saying something with real feeling"? What does that even mean? Why is everyone always talking in these empty platitudes?

In The Newlyweds, Jessica Simpson pops out of a cake and joins The Pussycat Dolls for a raunchy rendition of "Happy Birthday" as a gift to Nick (and of course Pa Simpson was there too, watching. Um, ew! And I'm sure that car wash scene in her "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'" video was his idea too. And did you know J's mom, Tina, was one of Pa Simp's first "youths"? Yup. She was in his first youth group. icky.).

In a nutshell, it isn't so much that I don't like The Pussycat Dolls as it is that I'm wary of them. It's the whole set of trends, really -- Gossip Girl, The Girls Next Door, My Scene, and the worst.fashion.ever-- in which women are depicted as either sex kittens or shoppers, that have me worried. There seems to be a whole category of products that have been packaged as "pro-girl" even though the politics of said products suggest the opposite. At the very least, it's a troubling version of girl power, and one that seems to be enjoying a renaissance of popularity thanks to Bush-era capitalism. So popular, in fact, that it may even be influencing the cover art of... literary magazines?

Behold the new cover of lit mag Fence. As Rebecca Wolff makes clear in her editorial, tits sell. And who doesn't, RW asks (noting that she is in her eighth month of breast feeding), like tits? I've always liked Fence, regardless of what is on the cover, and despite the fact that they've always rejected my poems. (Though it's hard not to be cynical when it seems that you'll be guaranteed publication if you just write a sesitina about a blow job. So edgy!! So risque!! So McSweeney's!! Stick that in your propriety New Yorker.)

But its a fine line, really -- the one between pushing the envelope and pulling it shut. Thanks to similar packaging, it's harder than ever to figure out what's what. Especially when there's so much money to be made (and spent). Especially when what's more economically viable, regardless of its politics, is often passed off as the most "normal" or the most "correct." After all, if people -- men, women, parents, children -- buy it, it means they like it, and if they like it, it's gotta be okay -- right?
Today, there is a Pussycat Dolls line of makeup from Stila and The Pussycat Dolls Lounge opened in April 2005 inside Caesar'’s Palace in Las Vegas, featuring a different roster of performers. The future may hold a line of clothing, lingerie, perfume, videogames, TV and movie projects, and other lounges.
Wiil people buy it? Will women? You bet your bottom dollar. My question is, why do women still have less to spend?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More Diversions for Your Yum: Dream Kitty




















Upon first arrival, you may ask yourself:
is this heaven?

Dream Kitty is going to wreak havoc on our finances. I mean, I'm now convinced that I absolutely need this 30 lb Totoro Cushion.

And you can even watch a video clip of Totoro!!!!

Oh, and that graphic of all the little dogs with fun hair? -- that's Afro Ken's family tree. Word.











all images are from the dream kitty website. Makes you wanna go there, huh?

Pretty White Giraffe














click to link.
read more here.

"Sexism" Awards

click to link

Howard Dean: "We must ... come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age and economics played a deadly role in who survived and who did not"

click to link

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Better Now?















Pictures: Courtesy of Jessie Cohen/Smithsonian's National Zoo |

What's Up With MTV and the Armed Forces?

Has anyone else noticed all the ads for the Army and Navy on MTV and on MTV.com ?

It Comes in a Pretty Box

Love triangles, elaborate prom invites that seem to require a set designer, stretch hummers, the insipid repetition of the phrase "what happens in Cabo, stays in Cabo," and a very very bad Broadway audition are among the highlights of Season One of Laguna Beach. Others include malapropisms and wacky-tobacky teenage logic (i.e. Girl 1: "If you and Stephen got married, your babies would be so cute." Girl 2: "I know, 'cause Stephen's all tan"), a totally non-sensical "non-profit" called AYA (active young america) that is little more than a puffed-up booking agency focused on giving "exposure" to friends who play at open mic nights or model in fashion shows ( where believe it or not, one of the organizers of AYA announces to an audience of all white and wealthy southern california types that "this is a movement like women's liberation and civil rights." We're still trying to figure out what "this" is.), and parents who are not only ineffectual, but content to encourage their children's mediocrity (a dad who encourages his daughter to "shoot for all C's"). Really, it is a strange and fascinating world, devoid of any real content or details, where any human interaction that involves emotion is termed "drama," and where the slack and hackneyed story lines are nimbly threaded together by beautiful shots of sunsets over the pacific and elegant palm trees gently swaying in the ocean breeze.

It's hard to say how much of Laguna Beach (and the current crop of other shows about rich people, i.e. My Super Sweet Sixteen, Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive) is meant to be critique. Part of what makes these shows compelling is the fact that they elicit such surprise and disgust that people could behave so atrociously. Really, it's hard to believe that some people are so un-self conscious that they would demand a laundry service in the midst of the Wyoming wilds, or bully classmates, or simply wallow in a "so-pleased with myself" glee. And it's hard not to wonder how these people feel when they see the shows, and -- in the case of LB -- it's hard not to wonder what their parents think when they see their kids pole dancing and doing shots and treating one another with so little respect (the gender relations are especially troubling).

There are moments in
LB that certainly seem to approach critique. For example, the juxtaposing of two girls receiving their graduation gifts -- one receives a car and the other receives a bible. You'd think that such a juxtaposition would be effective because of the contrast between the two, and yet the gifts seem eerily similar. The girl who receives the Bible -- a preacher's daughter -- is narcissistic and disconnected from reality, perhaps because she considers herself "saved" or "blessed," or perhaps because her father's church -- the crystal cathedral -- appears to be one of missing buildings from OZ.

Despite rampant skepticism re: the description of the mysteriously addictive Laguna Beach as a "reality show," a little dip into the "bonus footage" on the Season One DVD reveals that these kids are all too real and all too awful. Trust us: the show makes them look much better and much more interesting than they actually are. We could barely get through the candid interviews without wanting to eat our shoes. Just as a skillful photographer can make even the least photogenic person look vaguely attractive in a photograph, so can MTV render a group of painfully boring and offensive kids with "character" and "personality." And that ain't saying much. In fact, it's probably safe to say that the most interesting thing about these kids is that they are very well groomed. The show is all surfaces. Fascinating -- right?

Televizzle Sizzle . . .sorta









First of all, let's get one thing straight: we still have two weeks of Summer. Two weeks. That whole autumnal equinox thing doesn't happen until September 22. And even though school started two weeks ago -- complete with students who answer their cell phones in class -- we still like to come home and bum around in tank tops and flip-flops and go swimming on the weekend. So let's not rush needlessly into Fall.

Of course when it comes to Fall tv, however, we can't stand the wait. The OC, if anyone still cares about that show, starts on Thursday. And the Gilmore Girls premiers on Tuesday (though truth be told, part of me is sort of dreading the premier b/c I really think Daniel Palladino really messed up the character of Rory; we can barely watch the last few episodes of season 5 without feeling completely betrayed. How could Amy let him do that? And what's up with giving unctuous characters like Colin -- known in these parts as "colon" -- and Finn more screen time? Are they trying to make us sick?). Unfortunately, the second season of Veronica Mars doesn't premier until the 28th.

But since the fall TV season is just around the corner, it occurs to us that we better mention some of the shows that caught our attention this past summer before they become no more than dusty electrons of seasons past. Unlike the rest of the world, we did not fall in love with Being Bobby Brown. We did, however, watch Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List (season finale is tonight), and that was pretty good. It's sort of a one-trick pony, but if you like KG, you probably liked this show. And there's a sort of bouquet of silly reality shows -- Filthy Rich Cattle Drive (produced by none other than Joe Simpson! Tagline: cows don't care who your daddy is), Hogan Knows Best, and The 70's House -- that are about as close as you can get to the TV equivalent of junk food. By that I mean we routinely consumed said shows (along with frozen pizza and beer). And yeah, we watched the final season of Six Feet Under. We wouldn't mind seeing a spin-off about Claire, but thank God we never have to see Nate's face again. Rest in peace indeed!

S.E. Hinton and Rock and Roll

The NYT offers a rare glimpse of the author of The Outsiders.

And Bookslut has an interesting write-up on "rock and roll" novels. The list doesn't include teen fiction, but Francesca Lia Block's Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys would be at the top of the list if it did.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Black Star


In an episode from Season One of the brilliant
Chapelle's Show, Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli) made an appearance as the musical guests (april, 2003). We saw it on repeat the other day and we were just blown away. They are A-MA-ZING. Check it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Wow


This exhibit at the Met looks awesome.

There's also an article about it in the NYT.







Eugène Thiébault (French, b. 1825). Henri Robin and a Specter, 1863. Albumen silver print; 22.9 x 17.4 cm. Collection Gérard Lévy, Paris.

Saturday, September 03, 2005