Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Rules and La La Land

Up front: I've always considered Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider's The Rules a feminist statement. The idea that a girl might as well ask a guy out is usually dumb, assuming the girl wants the relationship to lead to wedding bells and babies. That's a "Rules" idea, not one that many feminists accept.  Also not an idea La La Land coddles: the Emma Stone character does talk to the Ryan Gosling character first, and the movie seems to want to say this is fine. Normal. Completely acceptable dating practice.  Still,  one of the critiques of La La Land has been its supposed anti-feminism: we see his jazz playing, but not much of her acting, although I'd say her numerous auditions show plenty of acting. He doesn't come to her one-woman show. He gets her to go to the audition that makes her career--this has been seen as anti-feminist in the sense that the Emma Stone character relies too much on male authority to believe in her acting abilities, while the Ryan Gosling character doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks of the kind of jazz he wants to play: he's going to open his own kind of jazz club and damn the torpedoes. But when he hears the love of his life chatting with her mother, who wants her to have  boyfriend who can support her, he takes a job he hates with a band just to be that kind of a guy. It's the Emma Stone character who talks him out of that, just as he talks her into going to that last audition. By this time, the two of them are certainly best friends. Romantic mates for life? Well, he doesn't follow her to the city where her career is taking off, which happens to be the most romantic, terrorist-free Paris you can imagine, except in her long fantasy-sequence that we see after she and her husband wander into her former dreamboat's jazz club when freeway traffic is too much to take. If she didn't have an adorable toddler at home, the movie's whispering, she'd vault up to the stage to fall into Ryan Gosling's soulful jazzy arms. But she does have the cute little girl sitting home crayoning on the sofa with the babysitter, so Dreamboat just locks eyes with her and plays their song, which is a lame one, if you've seen Singin' In the Rain, West Side Story, Les Miserables, or even Guys and Dolls. Emma Stone has beautiful eyes and Ryan Gosling has soulful ones. But neither can sing or dance, and I can't for the life of me figure out why, if they loved each other, they couldn't have flown back and forth to see each other. Each has the idea that art takes all, that there's no room in life for true love while a career is being formed. 
Here's another reason, and a Rules one: She talks to him first. And he slams right into her, not hearing her, because unbeknownst to her, he's just gotten fired. Maybe that wouldn't have been so very bad, except that when they meet up accidentally again and again, she talks to him first to him again and again, requesting, during one party scene (actually raising her hand!) that he play "I ran." Yeah, he did run, Emma Stone character. You should have said, "Next!" and moved on. But no. She keeps talking to him every time they run into each other and when he's on tour she calls and says in the neediest tones imaginable that she misses him. Then, surprise! He's in their tiny grungy apartment making dinner for her. But not so surprising, they argue. The moral of this story may be that she got bored with him because she chased him. He didn't chase her. Not in the beginning. Into which the end is rolled. 

P.S. This is what I wanted to see instead of those lame tap sequences in La La Land: 

This kind of originality--not to mention philosophy--is another thing missing from a film styling itself as paying a tribute to Singin' in the Rain:

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Look Merkel Gave You Know Who

Why aren't reporters commenting on that nanosecond of horrified disbelief? Or resigned disbelief. The fake president, dog-with-bonelike about his wiretap claims, turned to the distinguished German chancellor and cracked, "At least we have something in common," apparently referring to Obama supposedly tapping Merkel's phone. 
Merkel's head swiveled: she glanced at Fake Prez as if really seeing, for the first time, how low he could go. 
She double-taked: shaking her head. Like the mother of a serial killer who is wishing things were different. 
But oh, they are not. 

I couldn't help thinking of a happier version of the double-take by Sara Teasdale:

“Stephen kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed at all.

Stephen’s kiss was lost in jest,
Robin’s lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin’s eyes
Haunts me night and day.” 

 If we were re-writing that for Merkel and Mr. Fake, we'd get something like: 

Donald flicked his eyes my way
With a creepy look
But Barry only looked at me
He never tried that gook.

Donald's look was lost in rage
Barry's lost in play
So the look in Barry's eyes 
Haunts me night and day.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Geert Wilders--The Dutch Donald Trump?

Is Mr. Wilders a racist spewer of hate speech? How can you even ask, most readers will say. Look at his hair. Not for nothing were German carnival floats of right-wingers filled with slogans like "Blonde is the New Brown"--Marie Le Pen, the American fake president, and Mr. Wilders all do have that hair thing going. 
When I read what the NY Times, the Guardian, even the Telegraph, say about Wilders I wonder that I consider defending him. But I don't think he's Trumpesque, even if his rhetoric gets scary. What gives me pause is that he was a colleague of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's in the VVD, the Dutch political party that describes its purpose as to further the free intellectual and social development of each individual, without making distinctions according to religious or ideological conviction, nationality, sex, race, colour of skin or language. Central to its beliefs is freedom of choice for everyone. He left that party because he thought its policies could no longer hope to provide freedom for everyone without restricting radical Islam. Both he and Hirsi Ali came to believe that too many devout Muslim immigrants would not accept Dutch or Western values of freedom of speech and equality of men and women, because the Koran does not do so. In her writings, Hirsi Ali advocates a reformation in Islam. Catholics no longer burn people at the stake or break them on the rack for saying the pope is a fool or for subscribing to another belief system. Radical Islamists, Hirsi Ali points out, will not stop beheading people or cutting girls' genitals out or forcing young women to marry or be killed until they stop believing in their version of Islam. Her own choice, to renounce the religion entirely, has earned her death threats. Now, if she'd renounced Catholicism as publicly as she abandoned Islam, a lot of my nice Catholic in-laws wouldn't want to invite her to dinner. But they'd be shocked and horrified at the idea of killing her. 
That's the big difference between a certain kind religious belief and the values that Hirsi Ali, and perhaps Geert Wilders, are trying to make people see. Integration isn't about "Can't we all just get along?" anymore. Integration really is about retaining freedom of speech and equality, and the folks who don't accept that need an education. Or they need to be excluded. So is the real issue with Wilders racism and hate speech? Or is he really struggling to preserve civilization? Readers, weigh in.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Antibiotics and Me

I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan during the sixties, when ear infections paid the pediatrician's rent--as our old family doctor told me when I brought my son to see him. Whenever I, as a child, had an ear infection or a strep throat, I took penicillin (Pen Vee tabs) for ten days. I remember the little white pills and I remember watching the infected yellow blobs on my tonsils go away after ingesting the little white pills. Flash forward to my thirties: a university health service doctor discovered a "heart murmur" on a routine exam and told me Never To Drink Coffee Again. I had no symptoms, and greatly missed my coffee, so I shelled out more than I could afford to see a cardiologist with a private practice on the East side. He told me I had "mitral valve prolapse" and "no problems" and could drink coffee all I wanted--but I had to take antibiotics every single time the dentist cleaned my teeth, or whenever I had minor surgery. Said this Park Avenue specialist. Thirty years of popping antibiotics every time the dentist cleaned my teeth . . .  and when I wasn't sick, too. Then I wanted to get pregnant, and our fertility specialist prescribed boatloads of antibiotics (which did result in my getting pregnant, by the way!) 
But now here I am at age sixty, generally healthy, except for the breast cancer that's almost been irradiated out of existence, and except for my lungs: every time a cold goes to my chest and I start coughing up green gook, I can't seem to get well without antibiotics. In December I had a bronchitis and wanted to get better before the lumpectomy. I tried for a week with ginger root tea, vegetable broth by the bucket, and healthy plant-based decongestants. No deal. A three-day antibiotic worked like magic and I was fine--until now, two months later, when another bronchitis has suddenly turned up again like the proverbial bad penny. I guess this new illness isn't surprising. My students arrive at office hours coughing and feverish; my kids and my husband have had colds. So I've been lying in bed drinking fruit tea and all that other healthy stuff I just mentioned. I went to the doctor who said what I had was viral and I went to the Web, where it says the green and yellow crap I'm coughing up isn't always bacterial. I'd like to get over this illness by resting and drinking tea. But if that takes three weeks (would you like to see my house after three weeks of me not doing laundry or cleaning the guinea pig cage? Not to mention cooking?) then I'd rather have the three-day antibiotic again.
Do I have any readers who are doctors? Whaddya think, docs?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Irradiated: Breast Cancer and the Kinky Tanning Salon, Part 2

About a third of the way through your radiation treatment, you've gotten used to lying on the table with your hands stretched, bondage-style, over your head while technicians yell at you not to move and insist you play dead while they haul you around getting you into the right position. Once you're there, they whip out their Sharpies and draw in the most ticklish areas, all the while insisting that you not move a muscle. 
Then you get to see the doctor. You're done with the five-minute tanning bit (it feels like that, as long as you can tune out the grunting and clicking of the huge mechanical arm over your head) and you dress and enter the office of Dr. I'm-in-a-hurry-I'm-so-cool. He fingers the underwire of your bra. 
"Oh, this is no good! You shouldn't wear this! Metal on irradiated skin!"
"Oh, okay," I said, "I didn't know."
"Besides, you are small! You are about an A-cup, right?" He doesn't pause for a reply. Big grin. "So you don't need a bra. You can just wear an undershirt."
"Oh," I say, as he whirls out with a big smile, saying, "It's all normal! To be depressed is normal!"
"I'm no more depressed than usual," I say to his retreating figure, which is already halfway down the hall to inspect the next patient.
Except that actually, after that conversation, I'm not exactly cheered up.
Nine radiations down, twenty-one to go.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Ten Things Barack Obama Heard When He Tapped Trump's Phone

(1) Heavy breathing
(2) "Yeah, babe, give it to me! Yeah! (Repeated several times)
(3) Yes, mistress. Yes mistress. Yes!"
(4) Loud groan of pain or pleasure.
(5) Champagne cork popping
(6) Get him onna phone, now! Jeez!
(7) Muttered expletives
(8) Sell! Sell, dammit!
(9) Buy, you !@#$%^&*()!!! BUY!
(10) Melania, baby, just do it.