Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't Cry for Me South Carolina (Mark Sanford)

Here I thought all these sex scandals were going to end with Monica Lewinsky. I don't know what to make of Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, or any of the many politicians who have gotten caught up in these things. I'd say only a fool would claim that it's a Republican or a Democratic or a liberal vs. conservative thing to get caught in a sex scandal. The only difference is that when the Democrats get caught, they either get impeached, resign, or otherwise lose their jobs. For some odd reason, the Republicans do a better job of staying in office after they confess. Even Larry Craig managed to stay in office until he termed out.

One of the odd things to me isn't partisan at all. It's how we consider it a major scandal when politicians get caught in affairs, but when other celebrities whether it's entertainers or athletes get caught up in these things it's just part of the deal. I don't now Jennifer Aniston, but she seemed nice enough. Her husband Brad Pitt gets involved with Angelina Jolie and a few years it's all just something to be expected. Aniston made a hit movie with a dog. Jolie and Pitt both got nominated for Oscars. They're flourishing We don't exactly forget the “affair” thing, but we see the making of movies or celebrity as somehow independent of adultery at least enough so that we don't stop watching Angelina Jolie movies because she maybe stole Brad. Several months ago, it came out that Roger Clemens had an affair with singer Mindy Macready, likely when she was underage. A few years before that Barry Bonds's mistress wrote a tell all book. What lingered? It was the whole steroids thing. You can cheat on your wife if you're an athlete, you just can't cheat in the sport.

Politics is the opposite. Did anyone know who Senator Ensign was.? Even though it wasn't that long ago and it got a fair amount of publicity, does anyone remember that Mark Sanford was the governor who tried to refuse stimulus money? Let's put this another way. Did it matter that Elliot Spitzer was the prosecutor who took on fraud on Wall Street even a little before it became so fashionable. Not that it mattered. We couldn't have a governor who would pay for hookers. What's happened in America that we now seem to care more about who our leaders screw at night than whether or not they're screwing us or helping us in their day jobs?

Sure, sometimes the sex stuff slips over into your actual job like when you give your girlfriend and her husband jobs and contracts or in one case your boyfriend. At the same time, that pales in comparison to Dick Cheney getting out of office and saying “Sure, we never though Iraq had anything to do with 9/11” or learning that the administration was torturing people even though they were getting memos about torture not exactly producing reliable information anyway. Shouldn't we notice that sort of thing instead? It's certainly interesting to find out that Mark Sanford was doing bad things in Argentina, but why is that the bigger news story? I mean which one gets you to the front of the line to hell faster? I started a war for the hell of it and ruined my country's economy in the process or I cheated on my wife in Argentina for a couple weeks? Here's an idea. Why not end all official business in South Carolina completely while they impeach the guy? That certainly would be the patriotic thing to do.

It just strikes me that we have a much more mature view of movie stars. Sure, we're titillated by their private lives and their personal foibles, but we understand that what really matters is that they still look hot enough so that we'll pay 9 dollars to go see one of their movies. We don't especially care if they adopt children from all around the world, save us from global warming, keep us from abusing animals, or serve as president of the NRA. On the other end, we don't care if they spend their offscreen time ingesting black tar heroin, neglecting their children, or beating on hotel clerks for unexplained reasons. We understand that the real job of movie stars is to make us want to watch them in movies. That's the real job. The other stuff might want to make us watch them either more or less, but you can only be dead on screen a certain number of times. Sports has a similar thing. You want our attention, you have to win games at some point. You want to keep our attention, you have to win some more games unless you're Anna Kournikova. Golf, for instance, understands that Tiger Woods is way more interesting than John Daly even if Daly made much better tabloid fodder.

If only we took our politicians that seriously, we might even have universal health care. Personally, if you asked me the public would pay more attention to the issue if instead of talking about insurance premiums they started talking about boob jobs for all adult women and viagra for all males. Then we could pretend that we live like movie stars and athletes and people would treat the policy stuff as if it mattered.


Read more!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

At this level, I'm not sorry about Michael Jackson

I should probably wait a bit, but I won't. I liked much of Michael Jackson's music and thought that he was a terrific performer in his prime. I'm sorry for the loss of those things and I do find his death sad in that sense. I am, however, not going to mourn the guy. In fact, I'm glad he's dead.

Despite the not guilty verdict, I still believe that Michael Jackson was a child molester. No, he probably didn't lock his victims in a basement and rape them, but he was still a child molester who persuaded young boys to do things with him that they weren't old enough to consent to. In some ways, these are the worst because it's harder for the victim to make the separation between the seeming acts of “kindness/seduction” and the bits of the relationship that constitute molestation. The seduction just lengthens the pain and guilt for the victim. Maybe the King of Pop was some sort of boy at heart, maybe he was abused himself in some way that made his actions more compulsive than chosen, but he never openly repented and there was nothing to ever suggest that he ever stopped trying to do these things or sought treatment.

The fact that Michael Jackson was musically-talented makes no difference to me. In fact, it only made it possible for him to molest more boys than otherwise might have. He also may have done any number of other humanitarian acts, even ones that benefited children. Those were certainly good deeds and I won't question his motives for doing them. I also suppose that there's some possibility that his acts were misunderstood in some way and he wasn't actually molesting boys. If that's the case, I'll take this back.

That said, as a non-celebrity, I'll say on behalf of his likely dozens of victims and the families of those victims what the celebrities and media won't say. I'm glad he's dead. I hope it was painful. I won't mourn him and I'm glad he's not around to molest any more boys. I'm also not going to euphemize it by saying the guy was eccentric. If no one else is going to say or write it today, I will.


Read more!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dirty Dansu

After more than forty years of going to a variety of barbers and hairstylists who never learned my name, I started “going steady” with a hairstylist ten years ago. It was my wife’s idea. She’s not Asian, but was convinced that hardly anyone at those ten dollar haircut places had any idea how to cut Asian hair. Most of the people who cut my hair has this knack for doing it in such a way that I looked like Ed Grimley within a couple weeks. One day, my wife and I were shopping when she said I needed a haircut. It happened that the lady cutting my hair was Cambodian and Mrs. Chancelucky declared that from now on this would be the person who cut my hair.

I’ve now gotten used to knowing the name of the person cutting my hair and her knowing mine. For a few years, we mostly talked about places to go to dinner. I had learned a number of random but interesting items about her, the most significant being that my hair cutter and her husband had managed to buy seven houses. We stopped talking about places to go to dinner because during the banking crisis, they lost six of the houses. She also bought her own shop and sold it, something that I found out today when I came for my appointment and the whole salon had been remodeled. To be accurate, it was mostly remodeled. The ceiling still hadn’t been recovered and only half of the new lighting system was in place. Without all the wattage, the place seemed more like a bar than a hair salon.

Anyway, my hair cutting lady asked me about father’s day then told me about how she had gone to a party with her husband over the weekend at which he began dirty dancing with other women including an old girlfriend of his. I suspect that they have a number of Asian friends in the area, but my hair stylist doesn’t know many middle-aged Asian men who aren’t friends or relatives. She was puzzling over why she got as mad at her husband as she did.

I’d heard other stories from her in the past. Once she told me that she’d never learned to swim because she’d almost drowned while crossing a river when her family was leaving Cambodia. This was different, though. Her husband had ultimately apologized and insisted that he wasn’t doing the dirty dancing as much as it was Hennessey. I don’t know them, but that might have been true. I then asked her if she’d been rubbing up on her husband while they were dancing earlier in the evening and she said “Yes.” I figured that eliminated the possibility of his dancing that way with others but not with her.

I then accidentally told her what appeared to be the perfect thing, “Maybe you got him too excited when he was dancing with you.”

This made her smile and we agreed that she needed to go have a normal night of dancing with her husband some time soon so they could get past all this. I felt like Chris Harrison, the host of the Bachelor who always says just the right thing in the Bachelor’s moment of stress.

I’m not sure why I suddenly crossed this line into the inner life of my hair cut lady. I now understand why some people develop such complex relationships with the people who cut their hair and do their nails. It seems like a very American thing, though I did see an Audrey Tatou movie about a French beauty parlor that amounted to the same thing with beauticians as combination confessors, groomers, and friends. Did I need to have an Asian hair stylist before I could form such a relationship?

After that I picked up lunch at Port of Subs where all the people behind the counter were East Indian. Other than Jared? Do people form friendships with the people who make their sandwiches?

In the meantime, it came out during my hairstyling thing that the only females I’ve danced with in the last fifteen years were my wife and my daughter. With my wife we never go out on the dance floor and make like were in a Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey movie or even one with Julia Styles. It’s generally more like Shall We Dansu, only we don’t do ballroom. Maybe once every two years, we wind up at a wedding that happens to have a live band.

Anyway, it seems like every couple develops its own customs about when , how, and who they dance with in public. Some dance with everyone. In fact Bill Clinton’s mom supposedly told him it was bad manners not to dance with every single girl at a party, something that has fascinating psychological ramifications given the rest of Bill Clinton’s life. Some couples dance with others, but only slow dance together. I have no idea what the rules are on dirty dancing, we’re too old for that sort of thing though we did go to a wedding a few months ago where a bunch of the women were making like pole dancers. I didn’t comment on it to Mrs. Chancelucky. At the same time, it’s not like any couple ever sits down and says “These are the rules for when we go out dancing.”

None that has anything to do with being Asian, having a regular hair stylist, or whatever else started this story, yet somehow in some way I can’t explain that has everything to do with how all this came about.

Labels: , ,

Read more!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Well, I finished my short story collection, at least for now. Next step, I need to write the perfect query letter, come up with a 30 page sample, and find an agent. My wife tells me that the whole process sent me into an emotional tailspin. After I had a draft that I “liked”, I found myself more frustrated than satisfied. While those of us who write never say such things, I think many of us dream that people will see it and immediately tell you how wonderful it is. It does happen once in a while, but the overwhelming tendency of friends, relatives, etc. is, if they happen to read any of it, to tell you every single thing they think is wrong with whatever you’ve written. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s often like there’s some unwritten obligation to not say anything positive.

There were also folk who were nice enough to read the whole thing who simply weren’t all that positive. Often, they had criticisms that made sense at the level of “Why didn’t I think of or see that?” Honestly, that just makes it worse. Bottom line, I spent many years working on something an about five people were willing to read the whole thing. Two actually liked it and everyone else essentially dismissed it as unpublishable or not interesting. I think the thing that was harder yet, was how indifferent so many people were as in "What have you been up to lately?" "I just finished my short story collection that I've been working on for years." No response whatsoever. No "hey good luck" No "Gee I'd like to read it some time". No "what's it about?" Instead, it was lots of "Oh someone just knocked on the door, I'll have to talk to you later." My take is that if people who know and like you aren't interested...

Given that, does it really make sense to go look for an agent? Even harder, it felt like the overwhelming message was that I had wasted my time. Instead of being exhilarated about finishing a huge project, I was exhausted and disappointed instead. For the last month, I haven’t even been able to look at my own book. I figured if other people were reading five pages and concluding that it wasn’t worth reading, maybe I’ve been working on something that only I can appreciate.

In the meantime, I slipped away from this blog. Much of that was the short story collection. I also simply hit the fourth wall with reality television. Every time I tried to write about American Idol, I found myself going off about how “tired” the show had gotten. The Bachelor became less of a “reality” show than a soap opera with non-professional actors playing out a not very well-written script. Yes, Mrs. Chancelucky and I have been watching Jillian and guys, but we’re having a hard time deciding if Wes is more annoying than Shane Llamas. As I look at the reality landscape, there seem to be more and more instances of the shows featuring the mentally unstable. With Jon and Kate Gosselin, I keep asking what kind of country lets two people like this have eight kids? I know somehow that the whole business with Susan Boyle could have been avoided. She could easily have had her “moment” without the meltdown. What happened to reality television where the participants got to do something inspiring then disappear back to regular life?

I did like having an audience, a very appreciative one at that, for my reality tv writing. I’d love to find some way to continue that relationship, but I can’t promote shows that I feel have slipped into something that’s essentially unhealthy. Whatever relationship American Idol had to actual “music” and the joys that come with it slipped away in the last three seasons. Any tie the Bachelor had to “romance” gave way to something far more cynical somewhere after Andy and Tessa’s season. More important, my repeating this in post after post would be both stupid and boring.

So what do I post about? Well, I might go back to political commentary. I’d wanted to give President Obama at least a six month honeymoon and he’s had that. There’s also movie and book reviews and the various odd details of Mr. and Mrs. Chancelucky’s lives. Three’s never been much of an audience for those things here, just as there’s likely little to no audience for my fiction, but I like doing it and more important I do miss blogging regularly.

Anyway, I’m back. I wish I could tell you that there are now dozens of agents trying to take me to lunch so that I’ll let them represent “Inventing China”. I probably need to face the fact that it’ll never happen and I have unintentionally created 280 plus pages of random boredom. In the meantime, I like blogging and I like the fact that sometimes people read stuff I’ve written and find it either funny or interesting.

Read more!