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Category Archives: Media

Death of the Cosmo Girl

RIP Helen Gurley Brown, who died Monday in New York City at the age of 90.

HGB was and remains legendary, primarily  for her promotion of sex and independence for single girls in Cosmopolitan magazine when she took over as editor in 1965. I had to note her passing here on Dirty Laundry because of her significance to my generation of women. To  read her full obituaries go to The New York Times and/or Book Peeps.

“She was 90, though parts of her were considerably younger.”–from the NYTimes obituary

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We Stand Behind Jorge

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Yankee catchers: Martin, Posada, Cervelli

If you’re a Yankee fan, or even just a casual observer of baseball, then you heard about this weekend’s dustup, which the media upgraded to a tornado, surrounding Jorge Posada.  Briefly, Posada arrived at the stadium Saturday to find he was batting ninth, and one hour before game time told Manager Joe Girardi he was unable to play, for reasons left murkily undefined. This story, however, actually began at the end of last season, when Posada was told he’d be relieved of his catching duties and become the Designated Hitter for 2011. At 39, he’d been showing signs of slippage.

The Yankee’s Number One catcher since 1995, Posada is one of the Core Four, who, along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, are the only group of athletes in any sport in history to have played together on the same team for 16 consecutive seasons. (Pettitte missed three of those seasons with the Yankees while playing for his hometown Houston Astros from 2004 through ’06.) They have won five world championships together.

Pettitte recently retired, and over the course of the next few years, the other three will inevitably follow suit, making this a sad and bumpy transitional time for them, the team, and their fans. Anyone with the least bit of emotional intelligence would expect problems to arise and try to minimize the damage. Joe Torre, for instance, would certainly have anticipated the challenge, and managed it with grace. So would almost every woman I know. Unfortunately, Brian Cashman, the Steinbrenner kids, and Joe Girardi don’t get high points for emotional intelligence.

I don’t know what goes on in the back rooms of baseball, but I’d wager a hefty bet that they don’t weigh in psychological fallout when making big decisions. The cruel mistake here was in yanking Jorge from behind the plate all at once, when his attachment to being a catcher is fierce; even physiologically speaking, it must be enmeshed in the marrow of his bones after all these years. He should have been gently weaned by being allowed to catch a few games this year. Because psychological fallout wasn’t taken into consideration, it’s now affecting team performance — borne out by the disheartening Red Sox weekend sweep.

After Jorge took himself out of Saturday’s game and sat down in the dugout looking suicidal, Laura Posada tweeted the world that Jorge had been complaining of a bad back, and, oh, by the way, ”he loves being a Yankee.” My previously high esteem for Ms. Posada, based on how she’s dealing with the challenges of raising a disabled child, immediately sagged: unless Jorge asked her to do it, which I doubt, her intervention made him look bad. He never said he had back troubles, in fact, he admitted a need to “clear my head.” The little woman’s interjections – and she became “the little woman” the minute she insinuated herself into the situation – fanned the flames of nonstop media speculations that went on relentlessly for the next 24 hours.

Not surprisingly, Red Sox fans could hardly contain themselves, expressing their joy in nasty comments all over the Internet. They should’ve taken a cue from their favorite player, David Ortiz (Big Papi), their own Designated Hitter:

“I’m going to tell you what I think. They’re doing that guy wrong. They’re doing him wrong. You know why? Because that guy, he is legendary right there in that organization. And dude, DHing [stinks]…from what I heard, they told him from the very beginning that you’re not even going to catch bullpens, that straight up starts messing with your head. You’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man. Now, I got used to this because I got no choice, but I can imagine how hard it has to be for him. This is a guy that is a good hitter. I don’t care what anybody says.”

With those heartfelt, humane words Big Papi just entered into my small circle of favorite players. Smart, insightful, and respectful, he has more compassion in his big toe than many so-called Yankee fans, of the younger persuasion no doubt, who are calling for Posada’s retirement, ‘dissing his age, performance slippage, and “diva” behavior.

That was Saturday. At Sunday night’s game, true Yankee fans proved their loyalty with a sign reading, “We Stand Behind Jorge.” The “Bleacher Creatures,” a bunch of guys who at every game do roll call of on-field players only, made an exception for Jorge: After finishing their attendance check with A-Rod, they chanted “Jorge, Jorge” and got an appreciative wave back from his place in the dugout. In the eighth inning Posada was sent in to pinch-hit for Andruw Jones, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He drew a walk against Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard, who later said, “I think that’s pretty cool that they’re sstanding behind him, but I still wanted to get him out.”

When the 2011 season opened, the Yankees charged the gates, bats blazing, and until a week ago were firing on all cylinders, at first place in the division. But their performance has steadily diminished, and a few days ago Tampa Bay leap-frogged right over them. Posada’s at-bat average was under .150, as opposed to his lifetime average of  .273, with a high of .338 in 2007. Still,  I didn’t realize it had been affecting the whole team. This weekend it became obvious that it has.

Captain Jeter, Jorge’s best friend, said,  “He’s a brother — we’ve been together a long time. If I thought he did something wrong, I’d be the first one to tell him.” Jeter himself is none too dazzling this season: his average is 260, and if I never see another groundout from him I still will have seen too many. Someone pointed out that Jeter is playing under circumstances similar to Posada, with retirement on the horizon, yet he’s not acting like a “pouty diva.” But if Jeter isn’t showing any emotional wear and tear, it’s probably because he’s not quite as attached to being a shortstop as Posada is to catching. Besides, Posada’s nature is that of a highly sensitive person; it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Catching is, in my opinion, one of the hardest jobs in baseball. The physical position alone is enough to kill you. And this is the guy who tells the pitcher what to throw and when: he’s key to the progression and outcome of the game. I’ve always admired catchers, even more than pitchers, and Jorge Posada is my favorite player. He’s not glamorous like Jeter or A-Rod, not flashy or adventurous or given to grandstanding. He is in fact anything but a diva.  My affinity for him deepened even further when he and Laura had a son with craniosynostosis. Having been through a similar experience myself, I read their book and wrote them a letter in response, enclosing my own book on the subject, Perfectly Normal.

I’m fully confident that Posada will emerge from all this with his dignity intact. Losing his place and identity as a catcher is a significantly big deal, but it is, after all, neither the most difficult nor the most painful life experience that Jorge Posada has ever faced.

Other Yankee Notes

Friday night’s game with the Red Sox was the 2,048th time the rivals faced each other on the field.

The Yankees have made 26 errors this season, one of the highest in MLB. In a typical sloppy move, the ball came dribbling down the field heading straight for A-Rod, who casually bent over, his mind obviously somewhere else, and let it roll past his glove and through his legs while the hitter took first base.

The Yankees’ team average is .292, with only Eric Chavez and Felix Nunoz batting over 300.

Will Eric Chavez turn out to be this year’s Nick Johnson? You might not remember Nick, so brief was his tenure last season, when he hurt his wrist in May and stayed out the rest of the season. Chavez, who came over from the A’s this year, promptly pulled something or other and is on the DL. Having spent his last few Athletic seasons on the list, I don’t expect to see him again at Yankee Stadium.

Pitching: Yankees have a pitching problem for at least the third consecutive year. With the exception of C.C. Sabathia, none of the starters are completely reliable. Bartolo Colon, as well as A.J. Burnett, is inconsistent, and he’s also one of those maddeningly S-L-O pitchers who lengthen the game – as if it needs lengthening! – with long pauses between pitches. Worse, however, is that Colon frequently wears a blank face, giving the impression he’s not completely there. Phil Hughes is on the DL. Meanwhile, Girardi lets all of them stay in the game well beyond the bounds of decent performance. I guess he’s busy deciding who’s going to catch…uh oh, don’t get me started again!

Let’s hope for better news next week!

 

Wagging The bin Laden Dog

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1. Cynical View:

If you saw the movie Wag The Dog several years back, then you know what I’m talking about. In it, the US stages a phony war in a small obscure country to  distract attention from other, more sinister government doings.

I am not suggesting (or am I? I don’t trust anything the government tells us these days) that the capture and killing of bin Laden is a complete fabrication — but the “burial at sea” shortly thereafter has not inspired great confidence. I’m inclined to believe it did happen, but was timed; that it possibly could have been accomplished sooner; that for god knows what idiotic purpose the cowboys in charge manipulated and maneuvered and staged a Wag The Dog event.

2. Observation Mode:

I’m fascinated by all the young–really young–people out in the street celebrating. The 9/11 attacks and bin Laden loom larger in their lives than in those of us who’ve lived through so many other shattering world events and personal tragedies. I can’t pretend to understand what bin Laden’s death means to them, or how the constant threat of terrorist attacks has affected their lives. Hell, I can hardly understand what it all means to me. I just had to mention the Wag the Dog thing, though.

3. Optimistic view:

The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Yesterday Uncle Sam transformed strength into right. Maybe.

Television

Idiot box. Boob tube. Little blue screen. Television: It’s bad for us. It scrambles our brains, makes us passive, kills creativity and eats up time. To most people, though, it’s irresistible.

Until I got older and began spending so much time alone in silent apartments, I wasn’t into random viewing at all. My family  got our first tv set when I was four, and even then I remember being restless and bored when it was on. When the whole family came together to watch The Ed Sullivan Show or Dinah Shore, it was such a rare event that I’d stay just to be in the same room with them, but I found it almost painfully difficult to sit still. (Maybe it was their choice of programming, come to think of it!)  I did like Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton, but most television bored me.

Now I couldn’t live without it. When I used the phrase “random viewing,” I meant that (1) I didn’t keep it on if I wasn’t actually watching;  (2) I never, but never, turned it on before dark; and (3) I only turned it on to watch a specific show, about which I was often obsessional. These were few in number; usually one or two shows a season grabbed me and I couldn’t miss a single episode—and we had no copying apparatus then. (I remember being freaked out lest I  go into labor with my daughter during the anxiously awaited final episode of The Fugitive.)

Since I love to make lists, I’m always looking for new topics. Herewith is one of the tv shows I’ve been insanely attached to over the years. If they seem like a lot, remember, we’re talking about a time period of fifty years. Half a century. Good Grief!

Sitcoms

Father Knows Best (I was ten-plus and wanted to be “Kitten.”)
All in the Family
M.A.S.H.
Mary Tyler Moore (#1)
Golden Girls
Kate & Allie
Cheers
Frasier
Seinfeld
Roseanne (in reruns only)

Dramas

The Fugitive
Doctor Kildare
The Lou Grant Show
Hill Street Blues
Cagney & Lacey (#1)
Law & Order (still!)
Knots Landing (guilty pleasure)
L.A. Law (in reruns–it ran opposite Knots)
Judging Amy
House (getting ready to retire this one soon; it’s going downhill)

Reality

Lately I find myself much more interested in reality shows – though some are truly unbearable – than in fictional tv. I’m just more curious about what real-ish people are doing these days (as much as they can be real on tv).

Wife Swap (actually I can no longer bear this, it’s vile; I used to like it until it devolved into real slime, and I needed to take a shower afterwards)

Top Chef
Kate and her 8 Kids, in whatever format
Supernanny
Millionaire Matchmaker with the crazed Patty Stanger
Animal Planet
(lots of shows that keep changing. Some favorites are Animal Cops, It’s Me or The Dog, Parolees and Pit Bulls, and #1, Pit Boss)

Then There’s Radio…

I’ve got NPR on 99% of the time, and occasionally KFOG. Now, Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m., I’ll be switching on KPFA for Robbie Osmon’s Across the Great Divide. Robbie chooses a topic from the past week and puts together two fantastic hours that express the theme. He knows every genre of music; he plays corny country, old rock n’ roll, and obscure artists with cult followings. GREAT stuff!) (Except that he began today with four, yes, 4! versions of We Shall Overcome, which he has been playing every single week lately! I suppose it’s appropriate, given the times.

My Personal, Quirky, and Wildly Eclectic Cultural List for 2010

 

 

 

As I recently said on my post about the Millionaire Matchmaker, I’d hoped to compile a list of all the movies, books, and other cultural items I’ve ingested during the year 2010. Lacking time and energy to complete it, I’m just going to post what I managed to finish. I’m in awe of those critics who post Best Of lists, considering they must have read and seen a lot more than the ones they choose as “Best.” Me, I just dump everything – best, worst and middling – in the same place. I can barely get it together to do that.

 

 

 

First-Run Films

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

 

The Kids Are All Right. As the first mainstream movie about lesbian parents, this of course stirred up a bit of controversy. I found it to be a fun, enjoyable movie, if marred by an implausible ending. Full review here.

Religulous: Bill Maher’s funny, intelligent rant on religions across the spectrum held my interest for the first hour, but eventually got repetitive. Still, bless Bill Maher, even if he doesn’t accept blessings. I’m almost always in agreement with his views, so naturally I think the world needs his intelligent outspokenness, and more media figures like him.

 

Hereafter:  In contrast to the above, this movie explores the spiritual dimension and what might happen after we plotz. It’s a subject I’m always drawn to, and I was expecting at least a glimpse of enlightenment from Clint Eastwood’s take on it. Unfortunately, he didn’t contribute much of anything new to the conversation. Everything in here was said by the hospice movement and people who’ve had NDE’s (near-death experiences) over two decades ago. A rarity from Clint Eastwood: disappointing.

Inception: The premise –people can enter other people’s dreams and change them – is intriguing, so, despite knowing this would be replete with explosive special effects, which I usually can’t abide, I went to see it. I tried hard to stay alert and to follow the plot for the first half hour or so, but finally gave in to, first, annoyance, and second, boredom. Finally I fell asleep, jerked awake every now and then by an on-screen explosion. I suppose it’s unfair to ‘dis a movie I slept through, but there’s a reason I slept through it.

Going the Distance: A romantic comedy about a couple who try to keep their love alive, shuttling back and forth between their respective home bases in New York and San Francisco. 
Drew Barrymore is, as always, a joy in both appearance and performance, and this is a pretty funny movie. Still, it paled by comparison to another romantic comedy that came out months later:

Love and Other Drugs: This was THE best film I saw in 2010; apparently I’m alone in my opinion. The movie didn’t get a Golden Globe nomination, though the actors — Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhall —  did; nor is it getting much press on Best lists. On a recent radio show about the year in film, speculation was that the subplot, centered on the main character’s younger brother, destroyed the movie with its inanity. Also, the relationship story skittered all over the place, so audiences didn’t know what to make of it. Now, I’m the first to underestimate the capabilities of movie-goers, but I
can’t believe that people didn’t get this picture of a real relationship (hence the many shifts in tone). I wouldn’t be surprised if the critics’ problem with Love… stems from the many sXXXplicit scenes. Which, as well as being emotional, advance the relationship and the plot, and are aesthetically pleasing, to say the least (look at him!). Many levels to the relationship and the movie; It has a lot to say about values and the way we choose to live our lives.

Social Network: I can’t believe I forgot to include Social Network on my list (I’m adding this to the list weeks later), especially considering it looks to be the big winner of the awards season. I loved it — thought it was engaging, interesting, and well-acted. Best of the Year, though? I dunno–the pickings are slim when something like this gets so many raves. I remember when Big Important Movies got chosen as Best. OTOH, maybe Social Network is a Big Important Movie.

Little Fockers: Totally trashed by the critics, Little Fockers was nonetheless the best-selling movie of Xmas weekend, no doubt because it was just about the only comedy playing. I knew it’d be a stretch to dredge up anymore humor from these characters, and it was. One running gag centers around twins who look nothing like one another: the girl is huge and smart, while the boy is little and dumb. “Jokes” about suffering children just aren’t funny. Harvey Keitel and Laura Dern were thrown into the mix for their star power; a half-minute scene between DeNiro and Keitel was the best bit in the movie. I sure hope they don’t try for a fourth go-round.

Older Movies (Via DVD or TV), rated with the 5-star system

****Heat and Dust (second viewing)

***Michael Jackson (his swan song)

***Being Julia

***The US v. John Lennon

***Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg

**The Ballad of Jack and Rose

***The Bucket List

***Angels in the Outfield (Second viewing)

 

 

 

 

Books

The Appeal : While I could never subsist on a steady diet of John Grisham, he’s good for an occasional jaunt. The Appeal was, unlike most of his books, a bit depressing, without even a hopeful ending. Because of it, though, I will never again regard an electoral campaign for a judge in the same way, and in this last election I declined to vote for any judicial candidates. In an afterword, Grisham warns, “As long as private money is allowed in judicial elections we will see competing interests fight for seats on the bench.” Actually the whole book is a warning – and a highly effective one.

Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant: See his website. Defender of every average Joe, whether plumber or bartender, this guy writes great radical critiques of America from a working-class POV.

Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker: Maybe they weren’t much fun for her, but for readers they definitely are. Just don’t consume too many at one time or you just might want to go out and shoot someone – or yourself.

 

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford. This is a hilarious page-turner. Ford and his twisted mind take the reader on a roller-coaster ride that made me wonder why I’ve shunned the vampire genre up until now. Actually, JBB doesn’t fall into any genre, fangish or otherwise, but is a novel/romance/satire / mystery all rolled into one. Jane, by the way, is Ms. Austen, undead in a remote little town in upstate NY. Ford, who (full disclosure) is a friend, has a sequel in the works. Complete review here.

Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankees: Jane Heller, a writer and passionate Yankee fan, served notice in an op-ed piece for the New York Sunday Times her intention to “divorce” the team. The huge angry response she got from readers spelled out book contract, so Heller went on the road to follow the team. The result is the first book about baseball (as far as I know) that talks about the game from the perspective of a woman. Full review here.

 

The Beauty of Love: A Memoir of Miracles, Hope, and Healing: Yankee catcher Jorge Posada and wife Laura tell the gut-wrenching story of their son, born with a condition called craniosynostosis. If untreated, it can cause seizures, visual impairment, misalignment of the spine, and / or developmental delays. He was operated on at nine months old, at two, and at three, altogether racking up eight complicated, 12-hour surgeries in his first six years of life. The Posadas describe, in alternating chapters, how each evolved “from victims to warriors.” Full review here.

Frank Lloyd Wright, OR, My Mid-Year Mania: It all began with The Women by T.C. Boyle; I’d read several of Boyle’s books and loved every one, so I bought this historical novel about Wright’s life, his eccentricities, and his work, told from the vantage points of the four significant women in his life. Despite the poorly chosen title, Boyle managed to pass along the intensity of his own obsession with the man. Wright was a visionary who juggled massive building projects and complicated households of lovers, children and apprentices, without a steady income and without being able to pay those who worked for him half the time. The house he built as a home base for his empire, Taliessin, burned down at least twice, rising from the ashes like the phoenix, and was rebuilt each time despite there being no money for materials or labor.

 

The beginning of Wright’s story is told by his first wife Catherine; next comes Mamah, his soul mate who was brutally murdered; then there was Miriam, an evil nutcase who manipulated him into a relationship; and finally Olgivanna, the last Wright duchess who carried on his name and work at Taliessin for many years after his death. After I finished The Women, I wanted to know  more about Wright’s architecture, and read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, the New York Times architecture critic (I wonder why the names of books about Wright are so unimaginative). After that I did my own online research and rented several video tours of Wright’s houses. See where a novel can lead? Who needs school?

On Beauty by Zadie Smith: A page turner with a lousy ending.  I’m lately noticing that too many books, short stories, and movies, simply go kerplunk at the end. You can tell the writer had no idea how to end things. Sometimes these abrupt or, the opposite, hanging endings can ruin everything that came before. Anyhow, I liked Smith’s earlier book, White Teeth, much better than this one: it was fresh and new, with a broad view of contemporary London.

 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett: I read this at the start of 2010, and I wish I’d written about it while it was still fresh in my mind. The story of black maids in the South during the 1950’s, it’s a riveting page-turner with the ring of truth, and it’s based on truth: the author is a white woman from the South who lived it out. Here are some links to stories about the book and the writer.

California Literary Review: http://calitreview.com/2526

Interview w/ KS: http://www.bookbrowse.com/author_interviews/full/index.cfm/author_number/1663/Kathryn-Stockett

Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. These two books, along with The Help, were the best books I read this year – they were certainly the most profound. Atwood’s vision of a future dystopia is staying with me a long time. While Oryx and Crake was written first, I read The Year of the Flood before it; I think if I had not, I wouldn’t have liked the earlier book as much as I did. Flood is much juicier, with more characters and events, and because I didn’t want to leave Atwood’s world when I finished it I immediately got the other book. I don’t think it would have worked the same way in reverse.

Just Kids by Patti Smith: A memoir of her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, this book won the 2010 National Book Award in the genre. Before she became the godmother of punk rock, before she sang one song or read one poem in public, Patti Smith fantasized becoming the wife, or the muse, of a great artist whom she could nurture and support. (I guess you can take the girl out of the frilly dress, but you can’t take away her frilly-girl fantasies.) Patti found her great artist in the person of Robert Mapplethorpe and for a few years lived out her dream on a grand scale. They lived in the Chelsea Hotel, where they did their art and, more significantly, bumped into and befriended people like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Warhol Factory crowd, and a cast of thousands. In Max’s Kansas City she met Sam Sheppard, with whom she had a torrid affair, while Robert was off exploring his homosexuality. From their first meeting in a Brooklyn apartment to their last moments before Robert died of AIDS, it’s a romantic, poignant tale of eternal soul-mate friendship written in poetic prose. It’s also a vivid evocation of a remarkable time and place.

Whew! It took almost as long to write this as to read and see everything!