Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Talk

B and I met up with some friends at the Mission Theater last night to watch the Oscars on a huge screen. The place was already slammed by 4:30, with hardly a single table available. I managed to squinch us into a side table near the front of the theater. Not ideal at all, but better than having to sit somewhere where we’d have to set our beer on the floor (where it would be in serious danger of being kicked over) and having to precariously balance plates of nachos on our laps. We do have our priorities.

So we watched all four hours of it from a rather oblique angle that made all the women look osteoporitic, i.e., one shoulder was hunched noticeably lower than the other. And was it just the weird angle or were they all—ALL—thin as reeds? From where I was sitting it didn’t look like anyone—with the exception of Jennifer Hudson—weighed more than 100 pounds. Confidential to Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow: Have some of my nachos! Jaysus!

Despite our less-than-ideal seats, this was one of the most enjoyable Oscars ceremonies I’ve ever seen. I thought Ellen DeGeneres did a fabulous job as the host. She was genuinely funny and seemed to genuinely be enjoying herself. There were also several moments of unintentional hilarity, e.g., when one of the winners referred lovingly to her Oscar statuette as "this doll."

As usual I wasn’t too excited about any of the movies that had been nominated, but it’s always fun to try to second guess how the stodgy old Academy will vote. They’re fairly predictable, but there were some surprises. I didn’t expect Alan Arkin to win best supporting actor, but I was thrilled that he did. Heck, I didn’t expect Little Miss Sunshine—the only nominated movie I’d seen—to win anything (not even best sound editing), but it won best original screenplay—and deserved it. Nor did I expect Forest Whitaker to win best actor. I figured not enough members of the Academy would have seen Last King of Scotland. Too indy and too disturbing for them. And yet. He won! He’s a very talented actor, and thoughI haven’t seen the film yet, I’m sure he’s amazing in the role.

It was totally predictable, however, that The Departed would win best feature and best director. I don’t “do” mafia movies, and am even more repelled if the buffoonish Leonardo DiCaprio has anything to do with them, so, of course, I never saw The Departed. But it was so great to see Martin Scorsese up there on the stage, talking a mile a minute with those big black glasses of his. More coffee, Marty? That guy kills me. Since he directed one of my favorite movies of all time—Taxi Driver—I’m glad he’s finally been officially recognized.

It was an interesting social experiment to watch the Oscars with hundreds of other Portlanders. People applauded any time Al Gore lumbered on or off the stage, and they shrieked like crazy when An Inconvenient Truth won—not surprising in this strongly pro-environment city. Of course, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, too. It was also interesting to see the reactions during that maudlin dead-folks montage they always do. Most mourned by Portlanders: Don Knotts. Least Mourned by Portlanders: Betty Comden. Bummer. Betty Comden was great and should be mourned. I could write a whole post about her.

And, now, if I were in charge of the Oscars, here are the films I’d nominate (yeah, I’m choosing 10—I’m in charge so who’s going to stop me?)
  • The Boys of Baraka
  • Bubble
  • Cowboy del Amor
  • Friends with Money
  • Inside Man
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Match Point
  • Stranger Than Fiction
  • Water
  • Wordplay

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I’ve had the last three days off, but, as per usual, have little to show for it. Or do I?

Monday Afternoon
I went shopping and tried on 27 pairs of jeans and, to my great surprise, actually found two pairs that fit—these Levi’s. Nevertheless, it was an exhausting experience. The jeans are almost identical to the Levi’s I wore in high school and yet, according to one Web site, they will “keep me in style with today’s hottest fashion trends.” I’m relieved to know that.

Monday Evening
I went to the third of the five Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) films I’m seeing, Border Café (from Iran), about a widow who decides to run her late husband’s roadside café rather than marry her brother-in-law as custom would dictate (yes, this is a contemporary film). It was quite good, although perhaps a bit melodramatic. I’m always amazed and pleased by how well attended the PIFF films are. Border Café was sold out.

I interviewed two contractors who came over to give us estimates on what it would take to rid ourselves of the Worst Dishwasher Known to Humanity™* and replace it with something better, which is going to involve carpentry and the sacrifice of precious cabinet space. It will be so worth it, though. TWDKTH™ is known as TWDKTH™ because even if you thoroughly rinse and rigorously scour everything before you put it in TWDKTH™, TWDKTH™ still manages to marshal food particles from somewhere within its bowels and distribute them evenly over every plate, bowl, mug, and piece of glassware (especially glassware) and then adhere them semipermanently during the so-called dry cycle. I hate that goddamn thing! I may have to chop it up with an ax once it’s been removed. That would be so satisfying.

I had a late lunch with B at a Middle Eastern café. This was direct result of seeing Border Café the night before.

Tuesday Evening
Collected my very belated birthday present from B by going to see The Pillowman at Portland Center Stage’s newly renovated Gerding Theater at the Armory. The play was excellent—excellent performances and an excellent script. It was one of the top three plays I’ve seen in the five years we’ve lived in Portland.

I loved the new theater space as well. Hats off to the architects who renovated it and somehow managed to make a concretey former armory with slitty prison-like windows seem warm and inviting. Possibly some of the cozy vibe is owing to the presence of La-Z-Boy (!) furnishings throughout the three-tiered lobby, although who can say for sure?

Pretended to work for a couple of hours on a project that just came in. I read through a bunch of stuff and fired off a list of queries. Since I sent off the queries toward the end of the client's day and didn’t hear back from him, I talked myself into believing that it would be best not to proceed further until I get a response from him. In reality, there’s absolutely no reason I couldn’t have started on the project. I just didn’t want to. Instead I spent almost the entire afternoon sitting in a rocking chair knitting a sweater for my sister.

I didn’t even leave the house today. I was (and still am) feeling unaccountably inert and unmotivated. I’d better be snapped out of this ennui by tomorrow, as the new project has a very tight and inflexible deadline.

*Also known as the apartment-sized Frigidaire installed (none too well) by the previous owner. Never buy a Frigidaire dishwasher of any kind—they're all rubbish.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Number One With a Bullet

Eight short days ago, I posted a photo on Flickr of Amy Sedaris half in and half out of a pair of pantyhose. That photo has now been viewed 613 times. That’s 69 more views than its nearest rival, the teddy bear spanking the doll—a photo that's been up for about a year and a half.

I am forced to conclude that most of the “popular” photos in my Flickr photostream are not being admired because of my artistry with a camera.

Last summer I received definitive proof of this when some wanker sent me an e-mail through my Flickr account about that photo I’d posted of my feet in a pair of hoofy-looking sandals. He informed me that he’d very much like to suck and lick my toes. Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew!


I immediately made that photo not searchable on Flickr. Its popularity plummeted. Good.

Even before I did that, however, it had a much smaller following than the pantyhose photo. Why is pantyhose so pervophilic? I don’t get it. I can’t think of an article of clothing more uncomfortable and hateful than pantyhose. What does it have going for it?
  • If I wear it in cold weather, it makes my legs even colder.
  • If I wear it in hot weather, it makes my legs even hotter.
  • The waistband is about the right size for a Barbie doll and wreaks havoc on my digestion.
  • The ding-dong things ususally get runs in them before I even get them all the way out of the packaging.
  • The crotch is forever attempting to descend to hell, although it usually only makes it to about mid-thigh.
  • Pantyhose manufacturers try to pass off “nude” as a legitimate color.*
  • If I were to wear pantyhose on a plane and I somehow caught on fire (it could happen), I'd die a death 20 times more horrible than if I'd not been wearing pantyhose.
  • The texture of pantyhose makes my fingernails freak out.
Clearly, pantyhose has no right to exist.

But what should I do about this unwanted attention on my Flickr stream? I really don’t want a bunch of lizard milkers flocking to my photos. I’ve pretty much decided to remove the Amy Sedaris photo—it’s a little iffy copyrightwise whether I should have even posted it. I think it qualifies as fair use, but it's certainly not really fair to Amy.

By the way, no one guessed that the Humpty Dumpty was a major perv magnet, but it is puzzlingly popular (although nowhere near being in the pantyhose league). Why? I don’t think I want to know.

*In I Like You, there are lots of doctored-up photos of retro pantyhose packages. One of the colors they come in is “dung.” Highly accurate.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Do You Think Like a Perv?

Which of these photos in my Flickr photostream would you guess has attracted the most attention from pervs/fetishists?

Is it these muddy, muddy, muddy female mud wrestlers?
Wrasslin' Pit #1

Is it this photo of a teddy bear spanking a doll?
Infamous Spanking Scene

Is it Amy Sedaris demonstrating proper pantyhose-donning technique?

Is it this malevolent Humpty Dumpty?
Humpty Dumpty

What about these African penis pots?
Penis Pots

Maybe this photo of my feet sporting some sloppily applied scarlet toenail polish?
Not So Pretty

Or perhaps this photo of a phony horse’s ass, complete with ersatz dung lying nearby?
Horse Dung and Cow Pies

So whaddya think? Which has the highest perv quotient? Stay tuned!
LeLo, no fair blabbing the answer!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Have Another Cupcake

I’ve been dividing my reading time between I Like You and another cupcake-related book, the memoir A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown. The book starts with Cupcake, age 10 (I think) discovering her mother dead following a seizure of some description. Owing to massive incompetence/corruption on the part of California’s social services, Cupcake gets placed in an abusive foster home. In rapid succession, she is brutally raped, becomes a runaway, an alcoholic, an on-again-off again prostitute, a shoplifter, a full-spectrum drug addict, a gangbanger, a cat burglar, a car thief, and a forger of documents. All this before she turns 20.

After getting a fellow druggie to “fix” some documents stating that she’d completed her training as a legal secretary (when she hadn’t) with a straight-A GPA, she makes up some sham resumes and starts interviewing for jobs. Unbelievably, she gets hired. She always comes to work high and/or drunk, with her hair uncombed, her teeth unbrushed, and her eyes gunky with sleep. She’s always late, she frequently fails to turn up, and then, once she discovers there’s such a thing as bereavement leave, she starts telling her employers that various and sundry grandmothers and brothers (that she doesn’t have) have died just so she can get paid time off.

By the middle of the book, I found I had gone from empathizing with her to disliking her intensely. In addition to her total lack of responsibility she was running every scam she could think of (maxing out credit cards under a false name and selling her rental furniture). Scammers and cheaters really push my buttons.

According to the book jacket, however, Cupcake is now practicing law—yes practicing—at one of the nation’s largest law firms. By page 300 or so (the book is 470 pages long) I still couldn’t imagine how on earth she was going to turn her life around. It seemed so irretrievably fucked up. But she does. She gets sober and with a lot of help from her 12-step program friends and her incredibly generous employer she works her way through community college, then regular college, and gets into law school—all of which was a terrible struggle. To get up to speed with math, she had to take a math class that started out with 1+1 = 2. That basic. She was 27 when she took that class. Imagine what a humiliating blow that must have been. I would have wanted to give up then and there.

The book is very far from being the best written thing I’ve ever read. There are times when Cupcake uses words incorrectly. Normally I’d be handing out all sorts of demerits for that, but the story is so compelling and—dare I say it—inspirational that in the end I was happy to cut her some slack on the technical aspects of her writing skills. I stayed up past 1:00 AM some nights because I just couldn’t put the thing down. Clearly, she knows how to tell a story. As someone who, fortunately, doesn’t have an addictive personality, it was a real eye opener as to what it’s like to be in the iron grip of addiction.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I just got a copy of Amy Sedaris’s new hospitality book, I Like You. It’s great! I love the murky, drabbed-down Nixon-era color palette used for the photographs of Amy’s outre craft projects and “jackpot recipes,” most of which manage to look appetizing and disturbing at the same time. What, for example, would Martha Stewart think about the state of this cookie sheet? Or for that matter the careless and amoeba-like shape of the cookies?

Baked-on Grunge and Cookies

I like it.

Here’s what you need to know about Amy:
  • She runs her own cupcake and cheeseball business out of her New York apartment. Her cupcakes, pictured above, were voted the second-best cupcakes in New York by New York Magazine.
  • She remained a Girl Scout all through high school.
  • She collects plastic and rubber models of food (especially cuts of meat and chains of sausage links).
  • She loves wigs, falls, and hairpieces and is very good at channeling Tricia Nixon. (Here’s Amy. Here’s Tricia [on the right]. See?)
  • She has a fondness for toadstools and pantyhose. (Who doesn't?)
Make no mistake, I Like You is full of “real information.” For example, if you’re going to be entertaining children, Amy stresses that the food should look like it could spring to life at any moment.

Cautiously Optimistic Burgers

My mom used to sometimes decorate our food like this. But she never made me a band-aid cake.

There’s really no recipe that would be beyond the capabilities of the most novice of cooks (excluding the Lady Baltimore cake, a confection that I’ve always thought and always will think is absolutely horrifying). Sure, there’s a recipe for Croque Monsieur, but as long as you’ve got some American cheese, some luncheon meat, some Wonder bread, and some hatchet- and squirrel-shaped cookie cutters, you’ll do just fine.

Amy's Croque Monsieur

Amy has a whole chapter on what to do in the unlikely event that anyone comes to a party at your house under the influence of a certain illegal substance. Her list of suggested munchies is particularly thought-provoking. A sampling:
  • Uncooked hot dog dipped in Swiss Miss
  • Popcorn popped in bacon grease
  • Grilled cheese and corn sandwich
  • Crisco mixed with sugar
She also dispenses beauty and grooming tips. Here's one: To make sure your lips stay red(dish), even after your lipstick wears off, eat a cherry Popsicle or apply a moistened plaque-disclosing tablet.

Perhaps my favorite chapter is “Pantyhose, Crafts, and Good Ideas.” I certainly remember having to make hideous crafts out of pantyhose as a child. But Amy’s pantyhose crafts reach levels of hideousness no one in the early ‘70s dreamed were possible.

Eye Burrito

This floppy nylon nightmare is an eye burrito. Note the Nixon-era-appropriate use of felt to make the Julie Christiesque eyes. The burrito filling can be anything ranging from lima beans to kitty litter (unused, I presume) to dimes.

Other “Good Ideas” include making a selection of fake cakes using hatboxes, spackling, and plaster of Paris; a totem pole constructed of toilet-paper rolls (classic); and a calf stretcher made from scrap lumber. Give it as a gift to anyone with an “insatiable burning desire” to have his or her calves stretched. And be sure to spray paint it gold!

A cupcake of a book! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Under the Fremont Bridge

Under the Fremont Bridge
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
The city of Portland stores a whole bunch of crap under and in the near vicinity of the Fremont Bridge. I’m guessing not too many people know that. Here’s some of it.

Dumpster Convention

Derelict Truck

Since I’m strangely drawn to dereliction, I couldn’t stop snapping photos of the beat-up stuff, like this dilapidated yet genteel building “teetering between salvation and the wrecking ball,” as Laura O. Foster describes it in her book Portland Hill Walks.

Derelict Building

North Portland is gentrifying so fast, I find it unnerving. Somehow it seems like a relief to see buildings and land that the developers haven’t yet gotten their greasy paws on.

I just have no interest in any of the upscale boutiques springing up all over North Mississippi, like the place that sells framed drawings of those legless Fisher Price people—for 300 bucks. But I love places like the lightbulb shop, the Rebuilding Center, and Gravy. And so once again, I must concede that I’m conflicted and hypocritical about gentrification.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Six Chuckles

Instead of watching the Stupor Bowl, B and I finally, finally, finally went to see Borat. I’d seen the trailer, which I found to be utterly unfunny, but because of all the hype and the fact that several trusted friends of mine had recommended it highly, we figured we should check it out.

It’s a six-laugh movie. Actually, a six-chuckle movie. The movie was basically a fish-out-of-water movie and not a very clever one at that. It relied far too heavily on the three Ps (poop, pee, and penises). Not that I have anything against the three Ps if they’re deployed judiciously and sparingly—I love all the Austin Powers movies—but Sascha Baron Cohen seems to have nothing else up his sleeve.

Spoiler alert (if anyone cares).

You’re going to show a picture of Borat’s son’s dick? Then show one photo. The shock value (what little of it there was) is totally diluted by showing a second picture of it. That was the movie's formula for every gag—stretch it out beyond the breaking point. The nude wrestling scene between Borat and his grotesquely overweight manager went on far longer than necessary. Two naked hairy guys wrestling. One fat, one skinny. Ha, ha. Let's move on. But, no, there was close to ten minutes of that. Talk about aiming low.

People have said that the movie is brilliantly satiric, but I didn’t see anything terribly daring or new. Rednecks and frat boys are old, worn-out, easy targets for satirists. I’ve seen them skewered much more deftly many times.

Supposedly, these were actually real people who weren’t clued in to the fact that Cohen was playing a role. If so, I think most of them didn’t behave all that badly or shockingly. Sure, the rodeo fans went along with Borat’s suggestion that every last terrorist should be killed, but I didn’t find that funny. Kind of depressing, really, because I was not one bit surprised. America is full of ignorant sheep like them. But then Cohen went too far and blew his cover. A true satiric genius would have been able to roil them up without their realizing what they were revealing about themselves. In the end, the rodeo goers, in my view, redeemed themselves by demonstrating that they weren't as dumb as Cohen wanted to make them out to be.

I was going to try to end on a less critical note—maybe discuss what it was that made me chuckle one of those six times, but now that it’s been a few hours, I can’t recall a single comic moment! I don’t know if that’s a bad reflection on me or the movie.