Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SOMEHOW I FIND THE CONNECTION IS MADE

Those immortal words, courtesy of Elastica (above) -- were as relevant last night as in 1995. There are several surefire clues that the connection has been made. Laughter is one. Easy conversation another. And chemistry. Perhaps most importantly, if true romance is in the cards, physical contact is more fun than effort. Last night, on my first official date with Alejandro, the one I met Saturday night at Ambar La Fox, we had all of the above, plus a little something extra.

He came over to my apartment, and we talked about our work, our families, music. Surprisingly, our taste in music overlap significantly. Unlike most of the gay guys I've met in Buenos Aires, he couldn't care less about electronica, and his interest in Madonna is passing at best. Give him Kylie or Bjork any day of the week. Or Radiohead, Depeche Mode, R.E.M. and Bowie. As we ate pizza and empanadas, we watched my DVD of Bowie videos and were both genuinely entertained. I showed him the blog post I wrote in Spanish a long time ago about my interview with Bowie. There aren't too many guys who would have even faked interest.

I was a bit worried about his name, Alejandro. After all, my track record with Alejandros is disastrous. Thank God, an hour or so into the date, he revealed that Alejandro is his middle name. His first name: Oscar. He hates it. I like it, although I think it might be better suited to a really cute puppy. I told him that going forward, I'd be calling him Oscar. I made good on that promise, even during the moment of truth (if you know what I mean -- oh, get your mind into the gutter!).

Around 2.30am when he left to go home (he had to be up for work in a few hours), promising to return the following evening, I realized a few things that caused me no small amount of glee. First, I didn't want him to leave, which, for the past year, has been pretty much unheard of. Also, we had spent the previous four and a half hours talking exclusively in Spanish (he doesn't speak English), and I hadn't even noticed. There had been no headache, no frustration, no prayers for long lulls in the conversation, no wishing I was anywhere but there (which is my general state of mind on first dates with non-English and English speakers alike). As far as I was concerned, we'd been speaking my language at night. If that isn't truly being in one's comfort zone, I'm not sure what is.

Maybe date two will be the kiss of death, as so often seems to be the case with me. Even so, it won't negate that fact that I'm still capable of connecting. And that is a great reveal worth celebrating.

Monday, February 23, 2009

OSCAR GETS IT RIGHT

DANGEROUS CURVE

As a writer, every so often I read something that makes me absolutely green with envy. Of course, there's Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," my all-time favorite poem, with the following unforgettable (and unfathomable) passage:

"A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played Singing of Mount Abora
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song
To such a deep delight 'twould win me"

But if legend is to be believed, Coleridge had the benefit of opium. A more attainable level of eloquence appeared in my former colleague Steve Daly's Entertainment Weekly review of the 2000 Madonna film The Next Best Thing. It began with the wisecrack "Note to Madonna: If and when you make another movie — and judging from your latest, you should quit while you're behind..." That one still makes me howl with laughter.

Another envy inducer was the final line of Arion Berger's Rolling Stone review of Curve's 1992 CD, Doppelganger, that described the overall work as "a fuzzy nightmare from which you wake up dancing." I couldn't have written it better myself -- although I tried (read my own People magazine review here). Last night I went to my new favorite Buenos Aires party, Ambar La Fox, and though the music was slightly less rock & roll than the previous two Saturday nights, it still beat anything any other club in BA that I've been to has to offer. (I also met Alejandro, tall, dark, handsome, and a modest, refreshing change of pace from the majority of Argentine guys I've met in the last year.) Words cannot express how impressed I am that any DJ would dust off Elastica's great 1995 slice of pop, "Connection," for a few spins. Here's hoping that the Ambar DJ will eventually get around to Curve's "Faît Accompli," perhaps the sexiest 4:13 of rock & roll disco ever. Any song that contains the lines "I've come to crush your bones/I've come come to make you feel good/I've come to mess with your head/Cause it'll make you feel good" is okay with me. Watch it below.

video

Sunday, February 22, 2009

THE AMAZING RACE

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday of the year: the Academy Awards. (Sorry, Santa... and Jesus.) I've already expounded considerably on the subject, so I'll get to the point and offer my predictions in the acting categories, along with who I think deserves to win. Almost as certain as death and taxes, Slumdog Millionaire will nab Best Picture and Best Director for Danny Boyle. Not that there's anything wrong with that, since neither Clint Eastwood nor either of his 2008 films, Changeling and Gran Torino, is in the running.

Actor
Will win: Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler
Should win: Sean Penn for Milk
Mickey has momentum on his side, which is too bad for Sean. Like Jamie Foxx in Ray, his performance was so indelible that from now on whenever I think of Harvey Milk (which probably won't be too often), I'll picture Sean's face.

Actress
Will win: Kate Winslet for The Reader
Should win: Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
Kate will finally win her Oscar for the wrong film (it should have been The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, her best performance to date), but Anne Hathaway's tortured and tormented soul moved me and continues to haunt me.

Supporting Actor
Will win: Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Should win: Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder
Nothing against Heath, but Robert's performance was the most inventive one I've seen since Johnny Depp scored his first nod for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Supporting Actress
Will win: Amy Adams for Doubt
Should win: Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler
I've had a feeling about Amy all along, and if she takes it, I won't complain. But the sentimental side of me is rooting for Marisa. The rest of me is wondering what happened to Amy Ryan. Her fierce performance as Angelina Jolie's fellow mental ward patient in Changeling was my favorite supporting turn of 2008, and she gets bonus points for uttering the best line: "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!"

Friday, February 20, 2009

FAMILY CIRCUS

I just watched Rachel Getting Married, a movie about two things that cause me no small amount of anxiety: family and weddings. Anne Hathaway, as the wayward daughter responsible for her kid brother's death and the self-appointed maid of honor, was as excellent as her Oscar nomination would suggest. And I was surprised at how many "real" people populated the cast, actors and actresses who look like they were plucked from the aisles of a Piggy Wiggly supermarket somewhere in Midwest, USA. Playing the mother of the bride and looking refreshingly and alarmingly un-nipped and un-tucked, Debra Winger inhabited the same Arctic space as Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People--but unfortunately, had only a fraction of MTM's onscreen time. She definitely had the right idea when it came to dealing with the family and the titular nuptials: Keep your distance and leave early and quietly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

Today is the two-year anniversary of a defining moment in my life, one that's right up there with watching the second tower go down, seemingly in slow motion, from the vantage point of Sixth Avenue in New York City, on September 11, 2001. This other day that will live in infamy? February, 18, 2007, the day I was robbed in my apartment by three men at screwdriver point. Yes, you read that right. Screwdriver point!

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I was returning home from picking up my lunch at my favorite neighborhood café. I was in a fantastic mood, mid daydream, thinking about the really cute lawyer I'd met the night before, and what I'd wear for our date that evening. When the elevator opened on my floor, the door to my apartment was open, and three men were standing there waiting for me. They were dressed like workers, so at first I assumed that there was some problem in my apartment, perhaps a leak, and the super had let them in so that they could fix it.

But then they started motioning for me not to say a word and began approaching me. At this point, I still didn't know what was going on. Perhaps they had received some tip that there was a burglar in my apartment, I thought, and did not want him to know that we were there, about to pounce on him. Yes, a ridiculous assumption, I know, but in situations like this one, the mind works in mysterious ways and responds in ways you never thought probable.

When they grabbed me and began to drag me into my apartment, my next impression was that they were part of some movement to kidnap all expatriates. I'd say that I'd watched too many action movies, but I generally avoid them like the plague. All I knew is that I had to save myself. So I fought back. I fought like hell. Three against one. At the time, I spoke very little Spanish, so I couldn't really understand what they were saying. But the sight of one of them threateningly hovering a screwdriver over my face told me everything I needed to know. So I fought harder. Soon we were on the bathroom floor struggling. I looked out the window and thought about my mother. Although we had been estranged for more than a year, I thought to myself that I couldn't do this to her. I couldn't die on my bathroom floor in a pool of blood. So I fought. I managed to get the screwdriver from the one guy by grabbing it by the blade (securing myself a permanent scar between the index and middle finger of my left hand in the process) and tossing the weapon behind the toilet.

And I fought some more. They'd taken my belts from my closet and were beginning to tie one into a noose. Oh no, I thought, they're going to hang me from the shower curtain rod (never mind that it's adjustable--now was not the time for rational thinking). Just when I began to think that maybe it was all over for me, it dawned on me: They weren't out to kill me. Come on, I thought, three against one; if they wanted to eliminate me, they would have done so by now. They were robbing me. They were freaking robbing me! "Take what you want!" I shouted. "And get the fuck out of here!" Bastards!

They seemed to understand. They used one of my belts to tie my feet together and another to tie my hands behind my back. They gagged me. They tried to blindfold me, but always the diva, I wouldn't let them. They didn't insist; they left me in the bathroom and went back to their business. It took me less than a minute to untie myself, and I considered going out and fighting some more. But common sense prevailed, and I waited until I heard them leave, locking me inside the apartment, before I emerged from the bathroom.

I ran to the balcony and started screaming: "Help! Help! I'm being robbed! They're coming back to kill me!" Luckily, some people were sunbathing on the roof of the apartment building below, and they called the police. I surveyed the damage. They'd stolen my TV, my laptop (it was time for an upgrade anyway), my DVDs, my portable DVD player, a bedspread (?!), a little cash, my cell phone (with the lawyer's phone number--so much for our hot date!), and my wallet (I only received my replacement driver's license a few weeks ago), but no books (do Argentines even read?) and not my iPod, which I'd refused to give up in the struggle (diva strikes again).

The cops arrived shortly thereafter and were able to enter the apartment because the men, interestingly, had left the key in the lock (a sign that this was an inside job, possibly arranged by people who had worked on the building, which had just been constructed, and therefore would have had a key to the front door; also, after the dust, and my head, had cleared, I figured that a fourth partner downstairs had warned my three attackers of my imminent arrival). The police were not much help. As is so often the case in Argentina, they were more concerned with procedure and filling out forms than fighting crime.

I could go on and on about the cops, but I won't. I am told that pretty much everyone who lives in Buenos Aires has an experience like this at some point. It's almost like a rite of passage. So the police, many of whom are former, even current, robbers themselves, don't treat it like a big deal. Neither did some of my Argentine "friends" (now ex-friends). It was a learning experience. A woman who lives in my building who also was robbed that day but was fortunate enough not to have arrived home in the middle of it told me that in a month, I'd be back to normal, I'd forget that it ever happened. She was only half right: I was back to normal. But I'll never forget. I spent the next week in a rental because I couldn't bear to return to the scene of the crime. And when I finally did, I had to go to the parrilla across the street and ask one of the guys who worked there to accompany me up to my apartment--just in case.

Two years on, long after the cuts and my bruised ribs have healed, I've moved on. Now I can tell people the story and laugh at my chutzpah. If anyone had asked me before the incident how I would have reacted in a robbery situation, I never in a zillion years would have expected myself to actually fight back. But that's exactly what I did. I learned a lot about human nature, who my real friends are, who my casual friends are, who my fair-weather friends are, and who just doesn't give a damn (you know who you are--and if you don't, I do). But most importantly, I learned a lot about myself and what I have inside of me.

The incident changed me forever. I'm harder now, less trusting, something of an angry not-so-young man and ready to fight if someone crosses me. Perhaps I've always been like this, but something just needed to bring these qualities to the forefront. I'm grateful that time has healed all the wounds, physical and emotional. And just in case anyone ever tries to pull this little stunt again, I've installed an alarm system that would wake a deaf person on the other side of town.

A FORGOTTEN (MAKE THAT "UNDISCOVERED") GEM

Yesterday I had a long conversation with Mariano about Madonna. We talked about other things, but it always came back to Madonna. It all started when I was looking for a photo from Madonna's Buenos Aires shows last December to use in the BA guide that I'm currently editing for Time Out, and I came across some excellent up-close-and-personal shots that Mariano had posted on the fan site Madonna Tribe. One thing led to another, and we got to talking about a few of our favorite things, including, predictably, our essential Madonna albums. Although mine is Confessions On A Dancefloor, I like to tell people that it's Bedtime Stories because, as Madonna sang on one of her great hits, "I want to avoid the cliche" (although by discussing Madonna in the first place, I was mired in cliché). Bedtime Stories was her pre-Hard Candy foray into R&B and, if you ask me, came off more trendsetter than follow the leaders (in the case of Hard Candy, Nelly Furtado, Gwen Stefani and pretty much every diva who beat her to Timbaland and Pharell). "Human Nature" funked harder than anything she'd done before or has done since, and the Bjork-authored "title" song (technically, "Bedtime Story") presaged her most critically acclaimed electronic phase, which was probably her ticket into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

As we got to talking about Bedtime Stories, I was reminded of an article I once read which said that Madonna had gotten the inspiration for Bedtime Stories' then-progressive R&B sound from Joi's 1994 album, The Pendulum Vibe, which about only two people other than me probably ever heard (Joi's mom and her publicist). "Sunshine And The Rain" remains one of the great shoulda-woulda-coulda-been hits of the 1990s. Alas, in the U.S., music lovers like their black female superstars as beauty pageanty and uncontroversial as possible (yes, I'm talking about you, Beyoncé and Rihanna), so the likes of Meshell Ndegeocello (who, incidentally, appeared on the standout Bedtime Stories track "I'd Rather Be Your Lover"), Dionne Farris (who did manage to score one hit, the brilliant, exuberant "I Know," before dropping off the face of the earth), Kina, and even Lauryn Hill (beautiful, talented, acclaimed, Grammy-winning and possibly absolutely barking mad) never had a chance. Naming her second album The Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome, the most obtuse and pretentious title that Terence Trent D'Arby never used, probably didn't help Joi's cause much, but that's too bad; people missed out on some good stuff. The proof is in the Joi video below.

video

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A GREAT DJ

There's been a lot of talk (some of it by me, all of it true) about porteños and their spectacularly terrible taste in music. Every time I go out to a disco, there they are, bopping up and down to that generic electronica beat as if it were the most amazing sound in the world. And since I moved here nearly two and a half years ago, every time those opening strains of that tired remix of Alanis Morrissette's "Uninvited" comes on, a flock of seagulls, er sheep, scrambles to the dancefloor as if they are hearing it for the very first time. Me, I roll my eyes, shrug, make a sarcastic comment to my friend Luciano (if he's with me), and wait for the next beat to drop.

But Saturday night, something happened that knocked me onto my feet and kept me there. I went to Ambar la Fox, the Saturday night party at the Roxy, with my friend Andres, and--surprise, surprise!--the music was good. Great, even. I'd been to the Roxy a few times before, and I always appreciated the occasional rays of musical light. But Saturday night, track after track kept me moving: Elastica's "Connection," Garbage's "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)," the Rolling Stones's "Sympathy For The Devil." The more current stuff made me wanna jump and shout, too (and I did): The Ting Tings (both "That's Not My Name," my new theme song for no reason other than that it's got so much attitude and sounds so damn good from the dancefloor, and "Great DJ"), Katy Perry (sorry, but "Hot N Cold" blows "I Kissed A Girl" away), Kylie Minogue's "The One," Goldfrapp's "Ooh La La" and several others that my currently failing memory can't recover.

Just another hour with my iPod, yes, but considering that the average Amber partier is probably barely out of their teens, it was a small miracle that they seemed to be so enthusiastic for a million-year-old Rolling Stones jam--and in its original form, not that ridiculous Neptunes remix. Amazingly, there wasn't a hip hop or an R&B beat in earshot. (Yay, no Rihanna! No Beyoncé!) This clearly wasn't New York City. Even the perfunctory Britney Spears tracks didn't bring me down, although I'd take "Gimme More" over "Womanizer" or "Circus" any night of the week. As I jumped up and down and chanted along to "Sympathy For The Devil," I thought to myself, It's only rock & roll, but I like it.

The crowd was as easy on the eyes as the music was on the ears, although a little on the young side, which outside of the disco, doesn't normally deter me. But 21 year olds are sloppy drunks, and that's not such a beautiful thing. My friend Andres scolded me for snubbing the cutest boy there, who he thought was obviously into me, but I didn't care for his stumbling-druk ways. And so I danced. Fittingly, I ended the night (or rather, the following morning) discussing the musical ups and downs of Fiona Apple in an elevator across town with Nicolas, an Anthony Kiedis lookalike who had just turned 30. And that, for me, is a happy rock & roll ending.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

THE HIGH "ROAD"

I just finished watching Revolutionary Road, and I have two things to say: A) Leonardo DiCaprio is the best actor of his generation, and B) when Kate Winslet collects her Oscar for The Reader on February 22, she'll be getting it for the wrong film.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

NOT-SO-GUILTY PLEASURE

Today I was listening to my iPod, and Barbra Streisand's version of "(Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away" (from Guilty Pleasures, her 2005 collaboration with Barry Gibb) came on. Sometime during its third spin, I realized something that I've always known, but it had never before practically knocked me off my feet the way it did at that very moment: Damn, that bird can sing. And it's not just that she made me love a song I've spent most of my lifetime despising (thanks to Andy Gibb's 1978 hit version). And I realized something else: Barbra has won the Oscar, the Grammy, the Tony, the Emmy, but why has she never won the R-E-S-P-E-C-T that her contemporaries like Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick (pre-Psychic Friends Network) always easily commanded.

Obviously, Barbra has her fans, and they are probably more zealous and passionate than any Aretha or Dusty disciple. But what about her peers? Celine Dion aside, has any major younger singer ever declared herself to have been significantly influenced by Barbra. And where is her spot in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Say what you will about her music not being rock & roll, but if "Son of A Preacher Man" qualifies as rock & roll, then John Lennon and Elvis Presley aren't really dead.

I think I understand why Babs has never gotten her just desserts. Broadway-style singers have never enjoyed the mass appeal or the critical props of their pop, rock & soul sisters. Also, Barbra's biggest hits, aside from maybe "The Way Were Were," have never been as genre-transcendent or held in as high regard as, say, Aretha's "Respect" and "Chain Of Fools" or Dusty's "Son Of A Preacher Man." And her scattered attempts to be in step with the times, like the 1979 disco experiments "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and "The Main Event (Fight),¨ are complete kitsch.

I think Barbra knows this, too: It's hard to imagine Aretha or Dusty before she died poking fun of their legends as Barbra did when she named an album Guilty Pleasures. In fact, even in the media, Barbra disciples are always portrayed as being either flamboyantly gay or kooky (see The Nanny).

How unfair to Barbra, because when she was good, she was just as great, if not better, than the best of her contemporaries. Her voice had, and continues to have (listen to Guilty Pleasures for proof), an almost angelic purity. Simply put, it's like a sound that comes directly from heaven. To tell the truth, my Barbra fandom has always been casual at best. I find her acting style a bit too mannered and self-conscious, and her voice is usually far superior to her material. There are, however, to paraphrase that great '80s musical poet Billy Ocean, sad songs to make you cry -- some of them Barbra's: "The Love Inside," an album cut from Guilty, her first collaboration with Barry Gibb, from 1980; and its sequel's "Above The Law" come immediately to mind.

But then, my taste is rarely in sync with popular or critical opinion. Both "Respect" and "Chain Of Fools" make me want to hurl. Give me liberty (to press "skip") or give me "Daydreaming," "Bridge Over Troubled Water" or "Say A Little Prayer" (yes, Aretha's versions) any day of the week. And while your at, spin that Guilty Pleasures track one more time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

BABES IN ARMS

I have seen some true peculiarities in my time: beggars wearing expensive sneakers, bald men getting haircuts in pricey salons, a deaf couple in a disco -- dancing. Until today, none of these incongruities have involved breastfeeding mothers. I've seen moms doing it in restaurants, on the subway, even in the privacy of their own homes. Why not? It's perfectly natural. Today, for the first time ever, I spotted a woman who was trying to squeeze her nipple into her baby's mouth while seated on a stoop in front of a train station on Avenida Sante Fe, one of the busiest streets in Buenos Aires. Judging from the baby's scowling and crying, he wasn't too happy with what mommy was offering him. Barbara Walters would not have been amused.

Monday, February 2, 2009

CROSSING OVER


Last night I watched two Oscar-nominated films that revolve around the very same theme: illegal immigration. In one, Frozen River, a woman (best actress candidate Melissa Leo) turns to smuggling illegal immigrants from Canada to New York in order to support her two sons. In the other, The Visitor, a broken-down recent widower (best actor contender Richard Jenkins, best known as the late patriarch in the HBO series Six Feet Under) recovers his soul after befriending an illegal alien he finds squatting in his New York City apartment. Neither lead has a snowball's chance in hell of winning, but it's nice to see that actors can still court Oscar by delivering subtle, contained performances free of baity gestures.

Richard Jenkins's turn is particularly haunting for its spareness and attention to minute details. It's like watching a minimalist near-empty apartment slowly become filled with beautiful furniture. The character's story arc reminds me of the ones experienced by Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood in About Schmidt and Gran Torino, respectively. The Visitor is considerably more modest as is Jenkins's performance, which makes his one moment of emotional abandon near the end all the more unexpected and effective.

The one flaw with the film is the, well, flawless portrayal of the illegal immigrants that his character befriends. It's not the fault of the actors, who are uniformly excellent, but the script. The characters are by no means two-dimensional, but they are so well-behaved that they come across as being almost saintly.

The aliens in Frozen River are pushed farther into the background, but as I watched both films, I wondered if they'd have the same effect on me if I were not a legal alien in Argentina. As I watched the behavior of the police and various legal figures in The Visitor (the cops in Frozen River are more sympathetic), I experienced twinges of recognition. I've criticized BA's police system of being corrupt and ineffective and rightly so, but sometimes I get so caught up in the misdeeds of Argentines that I forget how beastly people in the United States can be. At the end of the day, I suppose, nastiness is a human condition that knows no geographical or cultural boundaries.

The most interesting thing about the films is that the lead actors, particularly Jenkins, were nominated at all over much bigger stars (sorry, Clint!). I'd been predicting nominations for both since mid-2008, but part of me secretly suspected that bigger names would end up shutting them out. Former All My Children star Melissa Leo (along with Julianne Moore and Tommy Lee Jones) is one of only a handful of former daytime soap actors to score Oscar nominations. If her role had been played by Kate Winslet, Winslet's win would not only be even more of a foregone conclusion but probably more deserved than it is now (sorry to fans of The Reader).

At least we can always look forward to Leo's look-I'm-actually-beautiful get up at the Oscars. (For your comparison enjoyment, see the photo of her above at the Golden Globes and the photo of her in Frozen River.) Hey, looking good is the best revenge, but for shoo-in losers on Oscar night, it's an excellent consolation prize.

I'M NOT FEELING YOU

Today I'm in an even more hyper-critical mood than usual. So pardon me while I vent. Here are 11 things I just don't get.

  1. TV show: 30 Rock. Not once has this sitcom ever made me laugh. Not even let out a chuckle. I think Alec Baldwin is brilliant, not because he's funny but because his take on egomaniacal media types is so spot on. Runner up: Scrubs. The most inexplicably long-running show since Coach. Time to put us all out of our misery and pull the plug. Which reminds me, is My Name Is Earl still on?
  2. Actress: Laura Linney. Watching her accept award after award for her portrayal of Abigail Adams in the HBO TV miniseries John Adams confirmed what I've long suspected: She's dull as dirt. An excellent actress, for sure, cool, calm, collected and beautiful. But as she gave one dry and tasteful acceptance speech after another, I could see why she'll never win the Oscar: She's got absolutely zero rooting value.
  3. Actor: James Spader. I know he gets nominated for the Emmy, the Golden Globe and the SAG award every single year (or so it would seem), but is Boston Legal even still on?
  4. Singer (Female): Pink. Interestingly, the only Pink albums I've ever loved were her 2000 debut (which sounds like it might have been released by an entirely different singer) and 2003's brilliant flop Try This, her one true authentic rock & roll moment. Her supposedly "edgy" hits are as pop as any of Britney Spears's recent hits, just not as good.
  5. Singer (Male): Ricky Martin. No one cares about his music anymore, which is why that recent People magazine cover with him flaunting his newborn twin boys (via surrogate) raised my eyebrows. Even more eyebrow-raising: that he had to go the immaculate conception route in the first place. Who is he: Jodie Foster? Hint hint.
  6. Tango (the dance and the music). Newsflash! Tango is not as quintessentially Argentine as you might think. The only people who really care about it are tourists and the locals who want their money. Almost every porteño I know (and trust me, I know more than a few), would rather shake shake shake shake shake shake shake their booties to the decidedly cheerier strains of hip hop, '80s pop and--gasp!--electronica. Which reminds me... Runner up: Electronica. More effective than Ambien!
  7. Comfort food: Chocolate. Give me a potato chip, a French fry or a 1/4 kilo of helado (my brand new lover) any day. The appeal of chocolate, this bitter fruit that brings grown women (and some men) to their knees escapes me. As yucky guilty pleasures go, it's right up there with coffee, which I've never actually tasted but smells like it would be even more vile than passing the mate cup.
  8. Leisure pursuit: Camping. Once again, I've never actually experienced it--but why do I have to? I don't have to sleep outside on the hard ground, breathing in the humid summer air, swatting bugs out of my face to know that I'd rather be snoozing in the comfort of my soft, cool, comfortable queen-size bed, meters away from a state-of-the-art loo (complete with bidet). There really is no place like home. Runner-up: Sunbathing. Even if the end-result wasn't premature wrinkling and potential skin cancer, I wouldn't see the appeal in voluntarily burning oneself to a crisp.
  9. Beverage: Red, red wine. Okay, the taste is starting to grow on me, but do I really want to spend all night running around with purple-stained lips? Runner up: Red Bull, Speed and all other energy drinks. Why don't you just binge on a giant slab of steak, a few friend eggs and a side of large French fries, and wait for the heart attack to hit.
  10. City: Paris. As the title of the 1995 Billy Crystal/Debra Winger romantic comedy (which was inexplicably on TV the other afternoon) said, forget Paris. And not just because the people there are rude and crude. Sure the Louvre is spectacular as is the Notre Dame cathedral and the Eiffel Tower (from a distance... at night), but for me, the sights are not what makes a city interesting. Give me energy and excitement or give me a plane ticket back home. Being in Paris is a lot like sleeping with the most beautiful but boring lover in the world.
  11. Song: "My Life Would Suck Without You" by Kelly Clarkson. My life would rock if I never had to listen to this lame, lazy "Since You've Been Gone" knock-off ever again.