Thursday, November 27, 2008

BORE ME (YAWN)

Oh, the joys of online dating! Although I dabbled intermittently when I lived in New York City, I have always been a sucker for meeting cute, you know, Meg Ryan romantic comedy-style. But when in Rome, or Buenos Aires, you must do as the Romans (and the Martins and the Federicos and the Sebastians and... oh, you get the picture!) do.

Here in BA, where there's a cyber cafe on every block, so many gay guys seem to do little else with their free time besides play their mating games online. Windows Live Messenger. Facebook. Gaydar. Manhunt. Hor Or Not. Any self-respecting queen worth his weight in sex appeal has a profile on at least four sites. This week, I joined the club. Thank you, Manhunt.

Now before you go and dismiss me as desperate but not serious, remember, I still prefer to conduct the majority of my manhunting without a computer. But as I explained to Marcos, whom I found on Facebook nearly two months ago but have yet to set eyes upon, talking to these names and faces without real personalities is a great way for me to practice my Spanish. Really, it is! If it weren't for hours of meaningless MSN small talk and reading the subtitles on the Sony and Warner channels, my Spanish wouldn't be half as good as it is.

But this week, after creating my Manhunt account, it all started to get to me. Again. (I'm talking about the meaningless Internet chit chat, on and off MSN, which I uninstalled a few months ago only to have my computer's system recovery automatically reinstall it weeks later). Maybe it's the proliferation of private body parts on display, but the website seems to bring out the worst in everyone who logs on. It doesn't matter that I pretty much ignore messages from anyone without a photo or anyone who sums up their physical identity in a penis money shot or anyone who goes on and on and on about how much he loves the "morenos" (that's dark-skinned boys en español). I still somehow end up in a circus zone surrounded by clowns.

The other day I was having my second MSN conversation with Leandro, who found me on Manhunt minutes after I created my profile on Saturday. Some guys prefer to conduct all online communication on the website of first contact, while others push for an MSN upgrade almost immediately. Leandro fell into the second camp. But what he and I ended up having was more an interrogation than a conversation. "What are you doing here in Buenos Aires?" (What an obnoxiously worded question, by the way! It's like they're sneering at the computer screen and thinking, You don't belong here.) "What are you looking for?" (On Manhunt? In life? On top of that questionable-looking porción de tarta de atun?) "Do you have a boyfriend?" "Are you wearing underwear?"

These are all valid questions (except for the last one, which Leandro didn't actually ask), but surely they must know that I get asked each one at least a thousand times a day (except for the last one, which I secretly wish someone would ask). Leandro must have sensed my frustration, because he told me to tell him if he was asking too many questions. I didn't want to be rude, so I simply said, "Well, why don't you tell me something about you?" His response: "Because it's easier to ask the questions." Oh, I got it. These guys aren't really interested in knowing anything about me. They're just driving on auto pilot. They want me to do all the heavy lifting. I was about to write Leandro off, but somehow he started to win me over. It helped that he was boring me to tears in serviceable English, which made all that heavy lifting less of a burden. We ended up making a date for Friday afternoon.

Next was Jonan, who is visiting BA from Barcelona, who contacted me on Gaydar weeks ago and who seems to speak flawless English. Yesterday, we talked for the first time via MSN, and he immediately went for the kill, asking me questions about my work as quickly as I could answer them. I leveled with him: My "work" is not the most interesting thing about me. I knew what was coming next, and he didn't disappoint. "So what is the most interesting thing about you?" I directed him to my blog, figuring that would get rid of him fast. It did. (Let's hope he ends up reading this post and gets a clue.)

So today Marcos, my aforementioned MSN mystery man, dinged me. He'd apparently found my Manhunt profile and commented on how "todos estamos en Manhunt" (translation: we are all on Manhunt). I wasn't 100% sure to whom he was referring, other than himself and me, but I got the impression that he'd collected quite a list of MSN contacts through the four websites where I'd spotted his profile and that he'd never met or would never meet 99% of them. (To Marcos' credit, he did recently send me a text message trying to arrange a last-minute meet and greet, but it was too little too late, and I declined.) I told him about my main objective (practicing my Spanish--and collecting blog material). Some of us, I thought haughtily, don't have to log on to meet jerks.

To save face or not to save face, he said that he did it to practice his English "y otras cosas" (translation: and other things). I didn't bother to confirm what he meant by "otras cosas," but I got the picture. I'm not sure which turned me off most, his mocking tone, the cheesy innuendo or the fact that he'd not once tried to practice his English with me. Whatever. I knew that enough was enough. Game over.

Monday, November 24, 2008

JENNIFER & MATTHEW: A MATCH MADE IN BOX-OFFICE HEAVEN?


Why hasn't anyone already thought of it? Jennifer Aniston and Matthew McConaughey above the title of the same movie. I can imagine the hack poster blurbs now: THE ROMANTIC-COMEDY EVENT OF THE YEAR! A $100 million box-office haul guaranteed! Ah, imagine the possibilities. And the tabloid headlines. Jen and Matthew: Love on the Set! (Us Weekly) Jen and Matt Set a Date! (In Touch) Twins for Jen and Matt! (Star) And if they all came true, several years later, while spilling her guts to Vanity Fair, Jennifer could even go on and on about how she can't wait for their kids to see the movie where she and Matthew fell in love.

These thoughts kept running through my mind during my weekend Sex and the City marathon, with an emphasis on seasons three and four. I came up with my perfect match after noticing several uncanny parallels between the professional lives of former Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker and ex-Friend Jennifer, both of whom won prime-time Emmys for their comedic efforts in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

The actresses each starred in New York City-based TV comedies, which ended in 2004 and in which their characters ultimately wound up with their series-long on-again-off-again flames. Both also famously failed to thank their spouses while accepting at least one major award: Jennifer neglected to express her gratitude to then-husband Brad Pitt when she got her Emmy, and Sarah Jessica left the name of husband Matthew Broderick off her thank-you list--apparently on purpose--while collecting her 2002 Golden Globe.)

But back to seasons three and four. The first parallel I noticed was during the 2000 episode "Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl...," in which Sarah Jessica's Carrie dated a bisexual younger man played by Eddie Cahill, who had a recurring role that same year on Friends as the boy toy of Jennifer's Rachel. Then several shows later, in "Escape from New York," there was our girl Carrie doing business with Matthew, her future Failure to Launch costar, who, as himself, was negotiating to play Mr. Big in a movie based of Carrie's column. Hollywood producers and casting agents, insert Jennifer-Matthew link here. In the next episode, "Sex and Another City," she had a fling with Vince Vaughn (not the actor, a character played by the actor), who, years later, would have a rebound romance with Jennifer, his The Break Up costar. Hmm...

Wait! There's more. While mulling this over, I realized that Carrie would go on to date Jack Berger (my second least favorite of all her flames, after Russian Mikhail Baryshnikov's Russian creep), played by Ron Livingston, previously Jennifer's love interest in Office Space. Whoa! Hollywood agents, time to complete the parallel lines. Unite Jennifer and Matthew now!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

...I CAN BE LATE FOR A DATE, THAT'S FINE, BUT HE'D BETTER BE ON TIME...

This past week I did something sort of stupid. Now before you roll your eyes and think, Here we go again, hear me out. It wasn't totally my fault. I only gave Gerardo (name slightly changed to protect the ridiculous) the time of day for longer than one night because my friends liked him. Cara and Dave, my just-married pals from New York City who spent last week in Buenos Aires on their honeymoon, kept going on and on about how great he was and how into me he seemed be. Some of my BA friends, who met him at a group dinner last Monday night, were just as enthusiastic. One of them went so far as to call him "a keeper."

So I gave Gerardo a chance. Some keeper he turned out to be. He never quite pulled the wool over my eyes. I knew there was something off, but I figured I would let someone else's intuition call the shots for once. It wasn't just that he wore sneakers and non-white wife-beaters tucked too far into his jeans. There were red flags that were just too bright to ignore. A rundown...

The mind is a terrible thing to waste--and so is my precious time. I could deal with the fact that Gerardo was rollin' on ecstasy last Saturday night when we met. We were, after all, in a disco. But I'm not ashamed to tell you that I tossed and turned in my boots last night on our third "date" when he announced that he was going to look for the dealer from whom he had bought ecstasy the night we met. I can handle a guy with a nose for trouble. But having had two ex-boyfriends enter rehab shortly after I broke up with them, I don't have much tolerance for dates who need to pop a pill to have a good time. Even if we were, after all, in a disco. Been there, done that, and I have no desire to make a return trip.

I will never be your stepping stone. No one is comfortable hearing about a potential whatever's past love life. But unless you are dating a 10-year-old, chances are that anyone with whom you get involved will have a few romantic skeletons taking up precious closet space. That said, nobody should have to sit through small talk about someone's ex the first three times you meet them. Kevin this, Kevin that, Kevin who? To me, all the Kevin chit chat says one true thing: It ain't over 'til it's over, and it ain't over.

How dare you talk to me like that? Any Argentine guy with the right face can get away with calling me "mi amor"--even if we met under the flashing strobelights all of five minutes ago. Dare to say it in English, though, and my laughter might drown out the DJ's tunes. But as I've said before on this very blog, the corniest sweet nothing can melt my icy blue heart when uttered in the right language or with the right accent. I got a text message on Wednesday from Javier (Remember him? He's the one with two kids and the ex-girlfriend who left them all to chase unspecified big dreams in Italy) that made me consider responding for one split second: "Ves...cada...gotita...de...lluvia...que...cae?... Cada...es...un...besito...para...vos. TQM" Ahhh, que dulce. Translation: "Do you see each little drop of rain that falls? Each one is a little kiss for you. I love you much." Gag me with a fork, and poke my eyes out. The moral of this story? No German guy, no matter how excited he is about speaking another language, should ever refer to me as "mi amor." It just sounds as silly as Gerardo--who, yes, hails from Berlin--must have looked typing it into his cellphone.

Don't get me wrong. Gerardo is no baddie. He was certainly an improvement over the majority of the porteños I've tangled with over the past two-plus years. But something about his ardent pursuit of me didn't feel quite right, and I had to extricate myself from him somewhere between when he found his ecstasy and when it started to kick in. He seemed to be having this inner struggle between one side of him that wanted to make a meaningful connection with me and another side that wanted to have the full BA party experience. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the tourist thing to the fullest. But I said it before, and now I'll say it again: I will never be your stepping stone.

Any man of mine better be proud of me. Even when I'm ugly, he still better love me. He'd also better check the ex-boyfriend talk, the lousy lines and the pursuit of ecstasy at hello.

You've been warned.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SHE'S THE ONE, LOVE HER, LOVE HER, LOVE HER, LOVE HER

As concerts go, Kylie Minogue's Nov. 15 stop in Buenos Aires may not have been one for the history books, but there were a few great moments. Kylie looked healthier and more robust than I've ever seen her--My friend Luciano even thought she looked a tad, in his words, "chubby"--a vision at 40! I could have done without six different costumes and frequent stage exits in order to change into said costumes. Breaks between songs tend to kill the energy at live shows (even Madonna knows that!), but when you're Kylie, you can get away with more than most pop stars.

I was surprised by how mellow the Argentines were, especially given how loud and aggressive they tend to be in everyday life. They hardly clamored for an encore, and after her show-closing "I Should Be So Lucky," they all seemed a little too eager to bolt. I chalked it up to the fact that the majority of the crowd probably didn't speak much English and hadn't a clue what she was singing about.

My favorite part of the nearly two-hour show: her performance of "Like A Drug," the best track on X, which I fully expected not to hear because it wasn't a single and few critics acknowledged it in reviews. Love love love how she performed the majority of the song dancing around in a box. She followed it up with a beefed-up, rock-tinged rendition of "Slow," which, for me, is the crown jewel of her recording career--her best single and video. The inexplicable way-too-Vegas cover of "Copacobana" aside, my girl knows how to rock a set list.

Below is a video of the show-opening "Speakerphone" (which, incidentally, is Madonna's favorite X song). Please pardon the scary singing along on the chorus. I'll post my video of "Like A Drug" if I can figure out how to rotate it so that you don't have to watch it sideways.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

SPANISH NAMING CONVENTIONS



As you may or may not have figured out from my previous post about great Kates, I'm slightly obsessed with names--their origins, their meanings, the forms they take in different languages. During my first trip to Buenos Aires, I actually spent an entire dinner writing down English names and their Spanish and Italian equivalents. And before you ask, I was dining alone, so I didn't bore anyone, not even myself, to tears.

I've always thought that people sort of take on the personality that's associated with their name. In the United States, there are so many names in circulation and those of the guys I dated so rarely overlapped that I wasn't able to pin point specific character traits that went with many of them (although if you're Ryan or Justin, you're most likely hot; Michael, possibly--probably--gay). But in Buenos Aires where all the guys seem to share about 20 names--try to spend one week here without tripping over a gazillion Martins, Fernandos and Alejandros--it's a far easier task.

Too give you an idea of how few names there are to go around here, the other night I was talking to a guy named Lucas (another favorite--I've never met a Lucas whom I didn't want to put in my pocket and take home) about Spanish names I love and loathe. At the top of my hate list, I told him, is Luis, which, ironically and predictably, turned out to be his middle name! He hates it, too, so no harm was done. We must not be alone in our hatred of all things Luis. The shortened form is Lucho, which is actually not shorter at all, so one can only assume that so many guys named Luis go by Lucho because they despise Luis as much as I do.

The next evening, I was at an asado (a Spanish barbecue) telling my friend Mariem this unlikely story about my faux pas with Lucas Luis, and--oops! I did it again!--listening in on the conversation was someone who turned out also to be named Luis. Luis Miguel! Surprisingly, I haven't encountered nearly as many Miguels and Juans as one might expect from the preponderance of Michaels and Johns in the United States, but I'll dwell on that on my own time some other time.

Right now, at the risk of losing friends and alienating people, I've decided to share some of my thoughts on Latino boy names and what you can expect from the guys who have them. And just for the record, if you come across any eligible Guillermos, Sebastians or Matiases, let me know.

  • ALEJANDRO He's crafty. Sleep with one eye open--or better yet, don't sleep, just walk!
  • ARIEL The perfect one-night stand. He's cute, congenial, and you won't hate yourself in the morning. He's also kind of forgettable, so you probably won't miss him much when he's gone.
  • CARLOS Let the good times roll!
  • DANIEL Insecurities abound. Do you want a man or a paper tiger who's too afraid of rejection to make the first move?
  • FEDERICO The ultimate playboy. Simply beautiful (almost without exception), but hold on to your heart, or it'll end in tears.
  • FERNANDO Sweet and dependable, a guy to bring home to Mom. He's excellent boyfriend material, even if the love he inspires is ultimately more platonic than passionate.
  • HERNAN Slim and shady (the opposite of Fernando, despite the close relation of the names). Let the buyer beware!
  • JUAN Earnest and persistent, and if you're just not that into him, he'll seem to thrive equally on the challenge and the rejection.
  • MARCELO A beautiful basket case.
  • MARTIN He gives great face to face, but when you're out of sight, you're out of mind. So don't clutch your mobile awaiting his SMS. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised.
  • MATIAS The holy grail! (Or is it just me?) Hard to get, impossible to hold.
  • TOMAS The closest you'll get to an American boy in Argentina. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean he'll come with the Yankee qualities you're looking for.

ONE TITLE, TWO FLOPS

Either Hollywood is running out of movie titles or there aren't enough Spanish translations to go around. Today I saw several billboards for a just-released-in-Argentina Antonio Banderas/Meg Ryan movie called El Nuevo Novio De Mi Mamá (My Mom's New Boyfriend, aka Mi Novio Es Un Ladrón or My Boyfriend Is A Thief--each as awful as the other). As I stood on the sidewalk and checked it out, three thoughts popped into my mind. First, why hadn't I heard of this film, considering that it's a mainstream release with two big names (Colin Hanks and Selma Blair costar)? Second, is it the rerelease of some film I missed 10 years ago? On the poster, Meg Ryan looks like she hasn't had a nip, tuck or birthday since City Of Angels in 1998. Third and finally, which brings me back to my opening point, where had I seen that title before? Oh, yeah, now I remember. The name of the movie is almost identical to the Latin American title of last February's straight-to-video romantic comedy, I Could Never Be Your Woman, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd. Check them out below.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT

Awhile ago I posted about a controversial One Life To Live storyline that had me simultaneously rooting for the good guy and the bad guy. In this web that's way too tangled to fully explain here and involves, to some degree, practically the entire OLTL cast, there are three key players: Todd Manning, the ringleader of a group of rapists back in college; Marty Saybrooke, his rape victim, now a presumed-dead (by everyone except for Todd) amnesiac; and John McBain, her former lover who is currently, and incidentally, casually sexing Todd's ex-wife Blair. Last week, Todd and Marty celebrated their just-declared love by hitting the sheets--although he hadn't revealed the fact that he was her rapist all those years ago or that she has a son, Cole, who happens to be the father of the baby to whom his daughter, Starr, just gave birth.

This week, after busting a few Rambo moves to get to Marty, whom Todd has been hiding in his bachelor castle, John lets the truth out--about Cole, about the rape, about Todd's mind games--to an initially incredulous Marty, and boy is it a showcase for Daytime Emmy winner Susan Haskell, who plays Marty. Girl! Pay close attention, aspiring thespians (particularly from :45 on). This, my friends, is called acting.

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KING, QUEENS AND LOVE FOR "LOVE"

The strangest thing happened this week at Rumi's Tuesday night Rube party. Halfway through one particularly thumping hard-house party starter, a video of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech began playing on a massive video screen. I would say, "Only in Buenos Aires!" except that's the last thing I would have expected in BA. I know that everyone here is excited about Barack Obama's successful presidential bid--three women at the pilates studio actually starting clapping and jumping for joy the other day when they found out that I was an Obama supporter--but I thought it was more out of hatred for George W. Bush than anything else. I didn't realize that the younger generation here even knew anything about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. It was a pleasant surprise that has restored my faith in porteños and given love the edge in my ongoing love-hate relationship with them.

Speaking of Rumi, Rube is promoted as being their "gay night," but is a place "gay" just because some boys who do boys show up? I'm not sure. Despite there being at least a smattering of gay guys in the crowd, the energy was decidedly hetero, as it was the two other times I went to Rumi's Tuesday party. Perhaps it had more than a little to do with the preponderance of straight women wearing too-short short shorts. (Nothing says, "I'm here to score, not play fag hag," like pants up to here.) Perhaps promoting Rube as "gay-friendly" confuses both sides. They need to find a way to encourage more queens to show up Tuesday and more princesses to check their mating aspirations at the door or to check the place out on another night.

I might get crucified for saying this, but gay energy tends to be very sexually charged, heavily so, and when most of the guys in the room can't quite figure out who's gay and who's not, it's killed in its tracks. While I applaud the BA club gods for trying to bring gays and straights together, whoever said that when you try to please everyone, you please no one, had a good point. Someone told me that Rube finished at 4 a.m. last week, which is about three hours earlier than any self-respecting BA hotspot is supposed to shut down. A sign? During my 15 years in New York, several nominally "straight" places--B Bar, Flamingo East, CBGB's Gallery--were able to throw successful once-a-week gay parties that attracted the advertised crowd without alienating everyone else. Perhaps some BA club other than Amerika will eventually nail it.

Speaking of dearly departed (for now) TV series, while watching the penultimate episode of General Hospital: Night Shift's second season a few weeks ago, I noticed a devastatingly beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" providing the soundtrack to a devastatingly beautiful scene between Robin and Robert Scorpio. For a song that's never gone higher than No. 50 on Billboard's Hot 100, the Dylan composition is certainly popular among performers. I remember hating it when it was first released by Billy Joel as "To Make You Feel My Love" on his 1997 Greatest Hits Volume III collection. Subsequent renditions by Garth Brooks (who recorded it for the Hope Floats soundtrack and took it to No. 1 on the country chart in 1998), Trisha Yearwood, Bryan Ferry, Joan Osborne and even Dylan himself were too plodding and treated the lyrics too gingerly to make me feel any love for "Make You Feel My Love."

Who knew it would take Adele, a 20-year-old singer from London who scored a No. 2 UK hit earlier this year with "Chasing Pavements," to turn my love for "Love" around? (Her birthday is May 5, two days before mine and the same day as my best friend from high school and college--there must be something about us Taureans.) Her plaintive, stripped-down piano-and-voice version has the perfect amount of haunted and haunting to really bring the message home. Previous renditions emphasized sappy devotion over sheer determination, but Adele gets the balance right. By underscoring the sense--and strength--of purpose in the lyrics, she gives them a whole new dimension. You'd think such seasoned performers--especially Dylan, who wrote the damn thing--would have gone there first. I guess Survivor was right on their 1984 album, Vital Signs, when they sang, "It's the singer, not the song." Sometimes, it just is.

LISTEN Adele: "Make You Feel My Love"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

KATHARINE, CATHERINE AND OTHER GREAT CATE/KATES

I was recently reading a chapter in the Time Out book 100 Films To Change Your Life in which Geoff Andrew (don't worry, I'd never heard of him before either) suggested that for those who choose to take up film directing, having a surname that begins with the letter K puts them at a clear advantage. Some of his hard evidence: Kazan, Keaton, Kieslowski, Kubrick, Kurosawa and so on.

Garbage, I say. But here's some more junk food for thought, loosely tied to the letter K. For women with creative aspirations, does being named Katharine (which is of Greek origin and means "pure"), Kate or some variation on that general theme, give you a leg up in the talent department? Puede ser. For your consideration... (Note: I've purposedly left out Kate Capshaw, Kate Moss and women named Karen, a Scandinavian-derived form of Katherine that would make this post both unwieldy and longer than my attention span at the moment.)

Katharine Hepburn I recently watched a double bill of 1938's Holiday and 1967's Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, and I realized that Great Kate spent her entire career playing the same character. Herself? No wonder she was so good at it!

Katherine Helmond She practically invented the sexy grandma persona on the '80s sitcom Who's The Boss?.

Catherine O'Hara The under-the-radar Canuck came thisclose to an Oscar nomination for 2006's For Your Consideration. Her time will come.

Catherine Zeta-Jones Chicago revealed the previously untapped depth of her talent. She sings! She dances! She wins an Oscar! Why Timbaland hasn't called is beyond me?

Cate Blanchett (above) Was it a mere coincidence that she won an Oscar for playing another Kate (Hepburn)?

Kate Burton The secret to the thespian skills of Richard Burton's daughter? Is it in her genes, or is her name to blame?

Kate Bush England's greatest female singer-songwriter? Arguably.

Kate Hudson She's yet to deliver on the promise of her Oscar-nominated Almost Famous breakthrough, but I'm keeping the faith that Goldie Hawn's daughter will surprise us yet.

Kate McGarrigle Mom to Rufus and Martha Wainwright, ex-wife to Louden Wainwright III, and with her sister, Anna, an acclaimed singer-songwriter in her own right.

Kate Nash The 21-year-old British singer already has two great singles, "Foundations" and "Pumpkin Soup," to her name. Her future's so bright, let's hope she has a great pair of shades.

Kate Nelligan She's underused, that's for sure, but the Oscar-nominated actress has just as much going for her as any A-list leading lady of a certain fiftysomething age.

Kate Pierson The true vocal talent behind--actually, in front of--the B-52's helped Iggy Pop land his lone Top 40 hit, 1990's "Candy."

Kate Winslet Thirty-three years, five Oscar nominations. You do the math.

Katey Sagal Did you know that the Married...With Children mom is also an accomplished singer who has backed up Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, Olivia Newton-John and Kiss and released a decent album, Well..., in 1994?

Katie Holmes Before she married a laughing stock and became one-half of the Tom & Katie (Freak)Show, she was best known as a pretty good actress, having perfectly nailed teen angst for five season's on Dawson's Creek.

Kathy Baker Three Emmy wins for the '90s TV drama series Picket Fences can't be wrong.

Kathy Bates From Misery and an Academy Award to her current status as Hollywood's best supporting actress.

Kathy Griffin Don't hold her life on the D-list against her. If Hollywood were kinder to female stand-ups, Ellen would be earning $20 million a film instead of making small talk with the likes of Paris Hilton on a daytime talk show.

Kathleen Battle Note to all divas-in-training: If you're going to be a temperamental pain in the butt, at least have the talent to be worth it.

Kathleen Noone An Emmy-winning soap star who travels between daytime and primetime with great ease.

Kathleen Quinlan See Kate Nelligan.

Kate Spade She's neither an actress nor a singer, but she makes killer handbags for people who are.

Kathleen Turner Although she's been flirting with obscurity in recent years, Michael Douglas former frequent leading lady was the Angelina Jolie of her '80s heyday.

Kitty Wells The Queen Of Country music still reigns and, at 89, is still living, too.

Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien The late artist otherwise known as Dusty Springfield.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A WORD IN SPANISH

Hoy estaba caminando al gimnasio en Avenida Santa Fe al borde de quedarme dormido cuando me amaneció algo. ¿El despertador? Una foto de Barack Obama en la primera página del periódico Critica de la Argentina y un titular grande: "MARTES NEGRO."

¡No me digas!

Por supuesto, era una referencia al triunfo de Barack Obama, que en enero va a ponerse el primer presidente negro de los Estados Unidos. Es un poco ingenioso el titular, aunque asocia este momento feliz y histórico con "miércoles negro," un dia en el año 1992 cuando la economía de inglaterra cayó al punto mas bajo. No puedo imaginarme que usarían un titular como así los editores de un periódico en los estados unidos.

Me recuerda a los comentarios que escribí hace un par de dias en los que dije que algo ofensivo en un idioma particular puede tener un sentido neutral en otro idioma o cuando dicho con un acento extranjero. Y porque Argentina no tiene la historia de racismo contra los negros que tiene los estados unidos, porteños que leen el titular "MARTES NEGRO" en la calle no van a creer que es raro or mal. Pero el titular adentro del periodico sobre del artículo--"La magia negra va a la Casa Blanca"--es de mal gusto en cualquier idioma. Luciano, mi amigo argentino, esta de acuerdo.

Estaba tan soprendido que tuve que encontrar un lugar comodo para escribir mis pensamientos. ¿Me hizieron enojado los titulares? No. Me ofendieron? Por favor. La persona que escribó estes titulares y su editor o sus editores no podrían haberse dado cuenta que el sentido se perderia con la traducción. Y estoy tan feliz ahora que no puedo quejarme. Martes Negro? Pienso que no. Hoy es rojo y caliente.

DISSING TO BE CLEVER

This morning I was walking down Avenida Santa Fe on my way to the gym in my usual somnambulistic state when something suddenly jolted me to life. The wake-up bomb? A picture of Barack Obama on the front page of Crítica de la Argentina (see left) and the bold-type headline: "MARTES NEGRO" (translation: Black Tuesday).

Say what?

Of course, it's a reference to yesterday's not-so-shocking victory by Barack Obama, who in January will become the first black president--and 44th overall--of the United States of America. If you look past the unfortunate fact that the headline inadvertently links this happy, historic moment to September 16, 1992 (aka "Black Wednesday"), a disastrous day for the British economy, it's mildly clever. But can you imagine such a headline getting past the editors of any major mainstream U.S. publication?

It reminds me of my comment several posts ago when I noted that something offensive and derogatory in one language can have a completely different effect in the context of a different language or uttered with a foreign accent. And because Argentina doesn't have the legacy of racism against black people that the U.S. does (though, to be sure, racism is alive and well here), passersby see the headline, grin and bear it. That said, the inside hed--"La magia negra va a la Casa Blanca" or Black magic goes to the White House--is cringe-inducing in any language.

I, however, was so surprised by "MARTES NEGRO" that I had to find a nice shaded spot to scribble this post in my notebook. Am I angry? No. Offended? Not even slightly. Whatever hack wrote those headlines and whoever approved them probably didn't realize that the appeal would be lost in translation. Plus I'm too elated right now to let a lazy, misguided stab at cleverness bring me down.

Black Tuesday? Puhleeze! Let's color yesterday red-hot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

SOMETHING FOR THE PAIN

"Now the drugs don't work/They just make you worse/But I know I'll see your face again."
--The Verve, "The Drugs Don't Work

I'm about to say something potentially controversial and definitely un-PC, so turn your head if you're not up for it.

I can kind of see why people get hooked on pain pills.

And what brought about this deeper understanding of the affliction of addiction? It started about a week and a half ago when I was at the gym. One minute I was happily pumping iron, the next I was practically keeling over in shoulder pain. I proceeded with my workout anyway, which probably wasn't the best idea, and for one week, I tried to ignore the pain along with the fact that I couldn't extend my left arm forward and up more than 45 degrees without scrunching up my face in agony. Then last Thursday, I finally gave in and went to the doctor. After ordering X-rays of my left shoulder (doctors here think X-rays are the answer to everything; they'd use them to rule out internal damage from a splinter), he determined that nothing was broken, fractured or dislocated. I had a simple case of tendonitis. He wrote me a prescription and advised me against working out my arms or shoulders for at least a week.

When I got home, I took the first one of the pills that the doctor had prescribed and almost immediately, I felt better. That night I went to my friend Hollie's apartment and told everyone about my trip to the doctor and his miracle cure. When the pain returned (with considerably less intensity) shortly before my scheduled second dose, I felt a tad silly for having made my earlier pronouncement. But after I popped pill No. 2, ZAP! The pain once again bolted.

By Saturday night, I began to notice that not only was my shoulder medication making me uncharacteristically cool, calm, collected, slightly ditsy and dead ass tired, but I couldn't feel a thing. Gone was the slight aching in my feet that I always get when I jog too far and too long. Also not-so-dearly departed were those tension headaches that recently had been creeping up around sunset. I felt better than I could remember having felt in ages, and I owed it all to Blokium 75, which is technically a muscle relaxant but was having an undeniable painkiller effect on me.

Thank God, I don't have an addictive personality because if I did, I'd be toast. Although I find myself looking forward to my twice-a-day Blokium fixes, I know that seven pills from now, it will all be over, and I'll never look back. Hopefully, by then the pain will be history, too, and I can resume my regular workout regimen and go back to heckling those over-pampered Hollywood stars who end up in the ER--or worse--because of exhaustion, dehydration and popping prescription drugs like they're Tic Tacs.

That reminds me, time for a pink pill.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

RAISED ON VIDEO

It's been years, decades possibly, since I've sat down and watched videos on TV. I didn't even know that MTV or VH1 even played them anymore. But this Saturday afternoon, VH1 is playing one after another. It's some kind of countdown. Of what, I can't quite figure out, and they aren't saying. I can't imagine what list would include Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonite" (above, and see the most hilarious B.S. critique ever here), Maroon 5's "This Love," Beyonce's "Crazy In Love," Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" (No. 19) and Lenny Kravitz' "I Belong To You," (No. 18), but where there's a will, I suppose there is always a way.

At No. 17 (with a bullet?), appropriately, is Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head." I say "appropriately" because I just bought my ticket to her November 15 concert in Buenos Aires. It will be my first BA concert and the first time in 17 years that I've shelled out hard-earned cash for a concert ticket. One of the fringe benefits of working for major publications in New York City was getting all of my concert tickets for free, and until now, I haven't been able to bring myself to pay big bucks (281 pesos, to be exact, or around $90) to go to one. But Kylie is one of only a few of my favorite artists whom I've never seen live (Elton John is another), so why not make an exception?

No. 16: OutKast's "Hey Ya!" Never got this song's appeal. Still don't. In 20 years, it'll be an annoying staple at wedding receptions and dorky gatherings, a la "Play That Funky Music," "Turn The Beat Around" and "Hungry Like The Wolf."

I still love AC/DC's "Back In Black" (No. 15) after all these years. Their current No. 1 album, Black Ice, took me totally by surprise because I thought the band was dead and gone.

I remember seeing Britney Spears perform "Slave For You" (No. 14) for the first time at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City weeks before September 11 and thinking it was so cutting edge. We've all come a long way, baby!

Blast from the past! At No. 13, my favorite Spanish-language song and the one I couldn't get away from (nor did I want to) my first few months in BA: "La Tortura" by Shakira featuring Alejando Sanz. Alejandro is dreamy, but I could do without Shakira's tiresome bellydancer stomach thrusts. When i first moved to BA, I couldn't go to a club without requesting that the DJ play this one twice--and they always did. Those were the days!

Speaking of things I never really got, Guns 'N' Roses is No. 12 with a cover of "Since I Don't Have You." I've never even heard this before. I prefer Charlie Rich's version, which I was playing non-stop a few weeks ago. By the way, does anyone even care about Chinese Democracy?

I missed the title of No. 11. Is that Kate Moss singing? The music is an interesting pastiche of '80s new wave and '00s French electronica. I've never heard it before either, but it's fantastic. Ah, the video ID. Primal Scream's "Some Velvet Morning." And that is Kate Moss on vocals. I loved Primal Scream back in the '90s. I'll definitely be downloading this later.

Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" at No. 9. Awhile back they played David Lee Roth's "California Girls," which actually sounds better than I remember. But I can see why it effectively ended DLR's career as a rock god. (Did he learn nothing from Billy Squier?) So does this mean no "Jump"?

Bryan Ferry's "Slave To Love (10), Billy Idol's "Eyes Without A Face (8), Aerosmith's "Crazy" (7). Argentina sure love its sappy oldies--particularly from the '80s. But aside from the obvious (sugar-coated ballads sung by guys), what do these songs have in common?

Madonna's "Erotica" at No. 6? Interesting. Especially when you consider all the material, girl, from which they had to choose. I prefer "Secret," but it's always nice when they go with the unexpected....Speaking of erotica, there's Divinyls at No. 5 with "I Touch Myself." How is it possible that I never tire of this song? I'm surprised Britney never covered it. It's so her....Completing the bedroom trilogy, here comes George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" at No. 4. Finally, a running theme!

Okay, now they're losing me. "Ratones Paranoices" by Rock del Gato at No. 3? "Paranoid Rats" by Rock of the Cat? Are they kidding? I like the cat/rat link, but are they kidding?...I'm going...going...gone. Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" unplugged? Even though the sex-on-the-beach video is one of the all-time greats! Plus, it would have fit in so nicely with Nos. 6, 5 and 4. Chris Isaak sure is pretty, though. My friend Deirdre and I once saw him live at the Beacon Theater in New York City with Fiona Apple as his opening act. I've yet to figure out what those two were doing on the same bill.

Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On" at No. 1?! Aerosmith was right: Craaaaazy!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

LATE AFTERNOON WHEN THE HOUSE IS HOT

(I intended this to be an Election Day post but decided to put it up today in honor of R.E.M.'s headlining performance tonight at Buenos Aires' Personal Fest 2008. I'll probably sit this one out because I'm well past the age where I find outdoor festival concerts bearable, but at least I'll always have my fond memories of the Green and Monster tours, which I saw, respectively, in Florida in 1989 and at New York City's Madison Square Garden in 1995.)

Do you remember where you were 20 years minus four days ago? I do. It was Tuesday, November 8, 1988: Election Day. I was in the middle of the first semester of my second year at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and for the first time in my life, I voted in a U.S. Presidential election. That night I was at the apartment of my freshman year roommate, Todd, working on a paper on his computer. Back then, in the pre-Internet surfing age, computers were used mainly in lieu of then-verging-on-antiquated typewriters. In the background, I was playing the music cassette I'd bought earlier, Green by R.E.M., the band's sixth full-length studio release, which had been released that day.

Green was seminal for several reasons. First, it was R.E.M.'s debut album for a major label, Warner Bros. Records, coming hot on the high-charting heels of their first Top 10 single, "The One I Love," from 1987's platinum Document. Also, it was the band's most overtly political statement to date, released on the day of the final showdown between George Bush Sr. and Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and Democratic Presidential candidate perhaps now best known as the cousin of actress Olympia Dukakis, who would go on to win the best supporting actress Oscar the following year for playing Cher's mom in Moonstruck.

Along with the Smiths and the Cure, R.E.M. was the most significant group of that era for me. Two years earlier, Life's Rich Pageant had been the first "college-rock" album (yes, vinyl) that I'd ever bought, and within five years, after the release of 1992's Automatic For The People, R.E.M. would become my favorite active band, a title previously claimed by the Cure and still held by R.E.M.--though I've yet to listen to their 2008 CD, Accelerate, in its entirety. The Smiths, by the way, is No. 1 with a bullet overall, but they broke up in 1987, so R.E.M. takes the favorite active group title. For me, Green was the offical beginning of R.E.M.'s upward trajectory, and it joined The Hardline According To Terence Trent D'Arby and Morrissey's Viva Hate to become the de facto soundtrack of my sophomore year at UF.

Today, Green remains my second favorite R.E.M. album, sandwiched between Automatic For The People (the first one I bought on CD) and Life's Rich Pageant. On this occasion of its 20th birthday, I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane and list my 15 (well, technically 16) favorite R.E.M. songs. I thought about including 20 (as in 20th anniversary), but that seems like a few too many, and I'd like this group to have some semblance of exclusivity. And 10 just wouldn't do justice to a band that has been so influential in my life and produced so much music that I love. Without any further delay, here is my best of R.E.M.

  1. "Begin The Begin" The second R.E.M. song I ever heard (after "So. Central Rain"). Falling somewhere between rock and a hard-rock place musically, it still makes me want to jump and shout, baby.
  2. "Can't Get There From Here" Should have been their second Top 10 single, after "Fall On Me," but they'd have to wait until "The One I Love" from the next album to graze the upper reaches of Billboard's Hot 100 for the first of four times.
  3. "Catapult" I don't worship its parent album, Murmur, the way some fanatics do, but for those who say the guys have no rhythm, I say shut up and dance.
  4. "Drive" Absolutely haunting. R.E.M.'s crowning achievement. Hands down.
  5. "Feeling Gravity's Pull" Spooky, creepy and slightly arch, all in the best possible way.
  6. "First We Take Manhattan" The B-side of the "Drive" single and the opening track on the 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album, I'm Your Fan. It made me a Cohen fan, too.
  7. "Half A World Away" An unbelievably gorgeous waltz. "Losing My Religion" is stunning for sure, but it wasn't the best mandolin-based torch song on Out Of Time.
  8. "Ignoreland" A bracing indictment of George Bush Sr.'s American nightmare. Their most biting political commentary.
  9. "Low" Sexy, brooding and oh...so...slow, this would be the perfect score to a futuristic western.
  10. "Sad Professor" The lyrics (something about displacement, disappointment and disillusionment that include the title of this post) are a bit of a conundrum, but they get me every single time.
  11. "So Fast, So Numb"/"Low Desert" A knockout two-part rock & roll suite near the end of 1996's underrated New Adventures In Hi-Fi.
  12. "Turn You Inside-Out" R.E.M. is a three-sided coin: country rockers (a la the Flying Burrito Brothers), jangly folk band (a la the Byrds) and kick-out-the-jams punks (a la the Stooges). This is about as good as the latter incarnation gets.
  13. Untitled R.E.M.'s first traditional love song? The naming device (or lack of it) is pretentious as hell, but the couplet "This light is skewed to keep you warm/This song is skewed to keep you strong" is my favorite in the band's canon.
  14. "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" The perfect cardio accompaniment, inspired by, of all things, an incident involving Dan Rather, of all people, and some thugs on the mean streets of New York City.
  15. "Why Not Smile?" Reprising the anti-suicide theme of "Everybody Hurts," it leaves the earlier hit in the dust.