Thursday, January 29, 2009

Buck up, snowflakes

Thank you, Mr. President, Malia and Sasha,* for pointing out the obvious.

These snow closures have puzzled me for years. As a child, visiting relatives from a region that regularly claims the lowest temperatures in the U.S., I would listen to the Chesapeake area morning news shows in disbelief.

Snow? What snow? You can still see the asphalt.

It's January. This is not Jamaica. Snow and ice is a surprise somehow?

Do DC children ever attend school in the winter? I think it's a conspiracy between the weathermen and the child-care providers.

Later on, I spied this WSJ article about parents paying money to give their children the opportunity to be an intern.

No, no, no, no....that's not how it works. First of all, in America, the job pays you.

Not only do some parents pay good money to these ingenious companies to get the kids out of the house from 9-5, they fork out thousands to mount the equivalent of a marketing/PR campaign - with direct mail, writing, editing, strategic consulting, everything but the trade show booth with the booth babes and free branded golf balls. Because raising your kid = product development.

It may be tempting for teens to want to delegate the drudgery of a job search - searching for a job is hard work, after all. It may be tempting for parents to fear eternal living-in-the-basement slackerdom and cocktail-party humiliation, and hire a consultant to market "the brand called Snowflake" like the next ShamWow.

But perhaps this new era in America will be defined by flinty toughness instead. As one interview subject in the story put it:

"The type of students corporate America wants are the students who can find their own internships," says Claudia Tattanelli, CEO of Universum North America, Philadelphia, which consults with employers on recruiting.

* Though not mentioned in the article, likely Michelle was pointing out the window shaking her head with a "WTF" as well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Apparently something important is going on in town today...

Monday, January 19, 2009

From "yes, pecan" to a stimulus, um, package...

The overall retail economy might be flagging; however, sales flourish for inauguration all of its glory.

This includes Obama:
- Nesting dolls
- Lip gloss
- Votive candles
- Toilet paper
- Other items I can't directly mention here that many would find audacious (yet others, hopeful)

Capitalism = the mother of invention indeed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

American Idol

To the best of my knowledge, he doesn't:

- Levitate, or move small objects with his mind
- See into the future
- Garner a mention in Nostradamus' predictions (even those "2012" ones)
- Turn water to wine

So let the man take some time off. to take care of his health. Apple will be just fine.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Egregious lapses in recession etiquette

A call recently went out on a Northwest neighborhood listserv for an "affordable hair dresser." These being recessionary times, a recommendation came through in the $80 range (highlights and blow-outs extra, I presume)

Sweet Jesus, have you people ever heard of the Hair Cuttery? *

(If it's good enough for this millionaire...}

Previously, the lifestyles of Diddy, Rachel Zoe and Gwyneth Paltrow's much-maligned (but beautifully designed) GOOP blog were considered aspirational, worthy of awe. In fact, $10 million wasn't even enough to get oneself considered rich.

As a refresher from this seemingly distant past, the trappings of such a life often included:
- Umbrella-carting manservants and Mandarin-speaking nannies
- Kids who'd never flown commercial
- $42,000 limited-edition designer handbags (one buyer, who wisely chose to remain anonymous, allegedly lives in the Washington area)

Because things have changed, Toby Young helpfully provides advice about proletarian attractions such as "the subway" and "diners."

The moral of the story: If you actually do have bling left in your bank (and that bank isn't in need of a bailout), it's in good taste to keep quiet about your prolific spending - even (or especially) if you're trying to communicate commiseration and kinship with the masses.

Examples of statements to whisper, not shout:

- "The vacation home is such a hassle to maintain - you're so lucky you don't have one."
- "We're tightening our belts and eating in more. The cashiers at Whole Foods are starting to know me by name."
- "We've had to limit our children's iStore purchases. It's been hard, but they need to realize that money doesn't grow on trees."
- "I'm learning how to iron my shirts myself."
- "So hard to find a good housekeeper these days - don't you think?" (Actually, no - you might get management consulting expertise with the clean floors these days.)

Rule of thumb: If you feel like hesitating a bit before making a consumption-related statement, think first. Ask: "Will this make me sound like a tool?" (Chances are, the answer's yes.) And please Gwyneth, for the future of your acting career (and you are a damn good actress), please don't even attempt the "recession chic Balenciaga casualwear" blog post.

* Note: In all fairness, the criteria were later modified to "$50 and under."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is This Really Necessary: Coal

On one hand, coal heats up houses and fires up factories. (And somebody's got to pick up the slack while we get all the wind farms up and running.) It provides jobs, often well paying. I personally know decent, intelligent people who work for coal and mining companies.

On the other hand, there's black lung, decimated mountain ranges, the soot that wracked my sinuses in Beijing...

Not to mention this aesthetic pollution.

(do the carolers look like cartoon cut-outs of poo bred with the singing Quiznos rats, or is it just me?)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is This Really Necessary?

2008 was the brillo pad that scoured away preconceived notions of how the world should work.

Swindled pensions, plummeting home values, mass layoffs, the fresh memories of $4 gas make one question the things Americans have traditionally envied, strove for and worshipped. Just a few examples:

- Cheap consumer goods and lots of them, designed under a business plan of planned obsolesence
- The American dream of "owning" a 8,000-square-foot home with no money down
- Driving everywhere, one to a vehicle
- Lush green golf courses in the deserts of Arizona (truly, WTF?)

Stuff that made one wonder...

Is This Really Necessary?

While living overseas in less developed countries, the contents of two small suitcases and shelter of a small non-air conditioned room served me very well for nearly a year. The people around me reused margarine tins, traveled by crowded buses and cooked over propane stoves - yet seemed far happier than some of the people I've seen in Washington's wealthiest neighborhoods.

Then I started to trade US Weekly on the treadmill for the Economist and notice the risks, vulnerabilities and repercussions related to the accumulation and redistribution of this wealth. Oil, CMOs, Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme... As we speak, China owns a big chunk of the U.S. economy and Ukraine is holding much of Europe's natural gas hostage in contract dispute. Meanwhile a pile of garbage twice the size of Texas is floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

A bit weird, a bit scary. And these observations began even before I started watching "Armageddon Week" on the History Channel.

Obviously a lot of things ARE necessary...

...the infamous CHANGE being foremost. Our new fearless leader, The Honorable Mr. Barry O, has got his work cut out for him. The Oprahs, Bonos and big corporations of the world have gotten onto the bandwagon - sone genuinely, others disingenuously.

But I digress...

In honor of a new year in a weird world...frivolity, travelogues and gratuitous bobblehead imagery will be joined by this new feature of regular observations and rants. "Is this really necessary?" - a new series of intermittant posts. Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ballston delight

Much like the magic closet of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the top levels of the Ballston Mall yields access to a different world.

Beyond Claire's Bellyring Emporium, Monograms 'R' Us and Panda Express' amazing technicolor sweet 'n' sour sauce lurks...

The Kettler Capitals Iceplex

Where else can one see professional athletes so close up that you can feel the breeze from Nicklas Backstrom's flowing locks?

Where little girls in tutus stride the halls alongside the bad-ass brick wall that is Donald Brashear?

Or, outside, play Match-The-Vehicle-With-Its-Owner - Mike Green = Lamborghini...but who drives the Prius, or the Caddy with the red bow on the grill?

You'll join schoolkids pounding on the glass windows, chain-smoking Russians (not the players, the friends and family) and ladies wearing jackets of a suspiciously, ahem, cougaresque pelt.

Yes, Ballston Mall. It's not all Yankee Candle Co. and cell phone kiosks.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The new pleasures of the flesh?

I understand the concept of "food porn." Watching Jose Andres lovingly crush a tomato into artisanal bread, Anthony Bourdain tuck into third-world street barbecue, Lidia knead cookie dough with her adorable grandkids - these all are enjoyable experiences. Celebrations of life, even.

But weight-loss porn?

From The Biggest Loser to "The Half-Ton Mom" to Oprah and other celebrities' "brave journeys," the American obsession boggles me.

On any given show, you'll witness:

- Participants with captions of their record-high weights. Is the "276" really necessary? We get the point.

- A tearful "come to Jesus" moment: "How did I let myself go so far?"

- Gratuitous, profoundly unflattering sweatpants shots from behind

- The "it's all about health" disclaimer (of course it is, never "how I look in a bikini" or "finally shaking off the contempt of those around me") Dramatic VO: "She's in a battle for her life!"

- Graphic scenes of denial: "I love you, french fries" a contestant on Diet Tribe whispered mournfully to the camera in a tone normally reserved for a partner in a holiday tryst.

- A gasp-inducing panorama of an average day's meals.

- Prolonged footage of participants wheezing, sweating and sobbing through the first workout

- At some point the trainer yells. "You're not giving your all! You're disappointing the team!" (Please, if we're not on ESPN, can we ban sports analogies from the motivational vernacular?)

- The concept of portion control is invoked, usually by a health professional through pursed lips

- So is the word "choices." Do a drinking game with that one (bad choices, healthy choices, better choices, etc.) and you're sure to be legally dead by the end of the episode.

- And ultimately, by season's end...triumph (plus makeup and styling). With flat abs and a tight bum, the world truly is one's oyster.

Why is this on TV?

There's something about these shows that strike me as a bit cruel and not-quite-right. No one - absolutely no one - enjoys struggling with weight issues and going on a diet. It's a private thing, it's a personal thing and - without the contrived, circus-like atmosphere of socially sanctioned humiliation - it's a bit of a monotonous thing. So why do we take a perverse pleasure in watching others?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cinema Ho digresses: "Quantum of Solace"

'tis the season when the studios unleash the floodgates, releasing their best work. Add in lazy holiday vacation time and you get...a long promiscious weekend at the Landmark Cinema.

Quantum of Solace

What? This was released a long time ago! Why is this film still in theaters?

Because Daniel Craig is a beautiful man. That's why.

James Bond movies should be to theaters like Law and Order episodes are to TV: One should always be playing at any time of the day.

(coolest website ever:".)

Craving more film commentary? Check out The Reader, Doubt, The Wrestler, I've Loved You So Long, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire and Rachel Getting Married.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Cinema Ho digresses: "Rachel Getting Married"

'tis the season when the studios unleash the floodgates, releasing their best work. Add in lazy holiday vacation time and you get...a long promiscious weekend at the Landmark Cinema.

Like attending a real wedding, only less booze, more's

Rachel Getting Married

There are 10 good reasons to enjoy this film:

10. Anne Hathaway shows her dark side.
9. Debra Winger returns.
8. Carrie Fisher-style rehab humor.
7. Is that Anna Deveare Smith?
6. An interracial romance with not an eyebrow raised.
5. The absence of any campy wedding planner.
4. Saris for the non-Indian bridesmaids? Why the hell not?
3. Belly dancers after the ceremony? Bring them on!
2. Wedding toasts that bypass the brain/mouth filter - e.g. "May all of your ups and downs be in the bedroom."
1. Robyn Hitchcock plays the reception. (How cool is that?)

Craving more film commentary? Check out The Reader, Doubt, The Wrestler, I've Loved You So Long, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cinema Ho digresses: "Slumdog Millionaire"

'tis the season when the studios unleash the floodgates, releasing their best work. Add in lazy holiday vacation time and you get...a long promiscious weekend at the Landmark Cinema.

Cinema Ho's butt is sore from so much sitting. She considers outsourcing her viewing to "Joe, your helpful representative" in Bangalore. But she's glad she reconsiders, because she enjoys one of the best movies of the year.

Slumdog Millionaire

When people inexplicably break into song and dance in an American movie, the word to describe it is "annoying."

When they do so in Slumdog Millionaire (wait for it, it happens), the word to describe it is "fun."

On a related note, enjoy the top 10 Bollywood videos here.

Craving more film commentary? Check out The Reader, Doubt, The Wrestler, I've Loved You So Long and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Last photos of 2008...

Cinema Ho digresses: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

'tis the season when the studios unleash the floodgates, releasing their best work. Add in lazy holiday vacation time and you get...a long promiscious weekend at the Landmark Cinema.

Tuck into the Milk Duds, the industrial-strength, trough-sized soda, the comfy seat with leg room. It's time for...

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Three hours - damn! Warren Beatty gave us an intermission for "Reds" - where's the mercy here?

But I digress. This well-done and thought-provoking movie made Cinema Ho curious indeed, starting with:

- Why not more ribald humor? (We're in New Orleans, for God's sake.) In particular, I'm thinking that the final love scene before Brad Pitt passes into childhood should have been prefaced with Cate Blanchett imploring: "Take me now, Abercrombie & Fitch boy - before our love becomes a Springer episode!"

- Ms. Blanchett and Tilda Swinton look a bit alike, no?

- Why all the negative kvetching about the Hurricane Katrina tie-in? At first, yes, that plot device seemed gratuitous, but tell me that the final image of the flood waters didn't move you and tie in beautifully with the central premise of all things being fleeting.

Craving more film commentary? Check out The Reader, Doubt, The Wrestler and I've Loved You So Long.