Saturday, October 31, 2009


Might George Clooney be in again? Not in fashion (he's never out of style) but in contention for another Oscar. A few weeks ago (here), I suggested that George Clooney had a good shot at his third acting nomination for his role as a corporate terminator (he travels around the country to fire people) in the upcoming Jason Reitman (Juno)-directed Up In The Air. Today, my friend and fellow Oscar expert Mara, an Us Weekly writer, confirmed my suspicion in a Facebook message to me:

"I went to a screening of Up In The Air yesterday in Detroit. (Parts of the film were shot here; I'm in town to visit the fam.) Must say that it is probably the best movie I've seen this year. I had a real personal connection to it, as strange as that sounds. It's so, so smart and funny and a little sad, too. I really thought I knew exactly where it was going, and I'm proud to say that I was wrong.

"My point is this: George Clooney will 100% get nominated for best actor. And he has a decent shot to win. This is the role he was born to play, a la Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. But I think George has more Academy friends than Tom.

"It's October 30. Mark the date of my prediction."

Consider it marked, Mara.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role (to correctly name the category) is shaping up to be the most interesting horse race of the year. After seeing the Invictus trailer the other day (watch it here), I'm pretty certain that Morgan Freeman will make the shortlist, joining the aforementioned (by me) George and Colin Firth (for A Single Man).

I suspect that Colin will dominate the critics precursors (with a few bones tossed in George's direction, as was the case two years ago), but I worry about Colin's Oscar chances. The Academy recently has given two best actor statues to actors who played gay men (Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Capote and Sean Penn for Milk), so they may be reluctant to go there again, especially since Colin, unlike Phillip and Sean and like Brokeback Mountain loser Heath Ledger, is playing a fictional character.

So if it comes down to George Vs. Morgan, how interesting would that be? Both actors are beloved in Hollywood, and both already have supporting Oscars when they really should have leading ones. Right now I'm giving Morgan the edge because Invictus director Clint Eastwood has more Academy pull than Jason Reitman. Also, in the year of Barack Obama, how can they not be swayed in favor of the actor so skilled at playing The Wise Black Man (Morgan) now playing The Wise Black Historical Figure (and like Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate) Nelson Mandela?

Not having seen either movie, my pesos are on Morgan at the moment, but as a diehard Clooney fan (Michael Clayton was my favorite film of 2007), I'll probably be rooting for George on election, er, Oscar night.

Friday, October 30, 2009


"You want something with me, but you aren't strong enough to have it. Which, in a way, makes you a coward. And the saddest thing is that one day you're going to wake up and miss what you had, and it's going to be too late."
-- Felicity to Ben on today's Sony Channel rerun of Felicity (the one where she chops off her hair at the end)

Boys will be boys, won't they? Why is it that when they finally get what they want, they don't quite know what to do with it? It seems to be a worldwide character defect. Maybe I have it, too. I'll let you know when I get what I want.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


It must be nice.

While gay couples in the United States, in Argentina and all over the world are fighting to be fully recognized by their governments, straight people in those very same places have the luxury of taking for granted and taking great advantage of their right to legally wed.

And they do. With gusto!

Some marry for love. Some for money. Some (in real life and in movies like Green Card and The Proposal) to stay in a particular country. Some are totally cavalier about marriage, more or less deeming it a labor of love (emphasis on labor) rather than a celebration of it. As a gay man who is legally barred from marrying for love, money or a green card (unless it's to a woman, which would really defeat the purpose), I'd rather not see the institution taken lightly or handled carelessly or ungratefully.

I have never been able to stick to any particular opinion of marriage. Something about the notion of "legalizing" your relationship, turning it over to the state, doesn't sit well with me. But then again, it would be a nice option to have, and I think every straight person should be thankful to at least have the choice to choose one way or the other and not take it for granted or, worse, treat it with recklessness or complete indifference.

You know, the way they do all the time on TV. There is a current storyline on One Life To Live, my favorite daytime soap, in which diva-for-the-ages Dorian Lord -- who is running for mayor of Llanview, Pennsylvania, the fictional town where the show is set -- is about to marry her lesbian campaign manager in an effort to make a point. Her bigger motive, definitely ulterior, is to steal the mayoral contest from her challenger and adult-life-long rival, Victoria Banks. The vow exchange will be the centerpiece of a mass gay wedding that will involve hundreds of gay couples. The aforementioned point: Shouldn't everyone have the right to use and abuse the institution of marriage?

So much is wrong with this storyline. Would gay rights ever be the central campaign issue in a small town in swing-state Pennsylvania? What about unemployment and health care? And what U.S. small town has dozens of gay couples, much less out gay couples, willing to publicly prove a point -- any point? Furthermore, exactly what does a mass gay wedding actually prove? That a lot of gay people want to get married? Isn't that already the basis of a the gay-marriage debate? Yes, it would give publicity to the idea of same-sex marriage, but is seeing a bunch of gay couples (led by an obviously fake one) pledging their undying love for the cameras going to change the minds of the Proposition 8 crowd?

I don't think so.

But the interesting thing about the storyline is how so many of the straight characters on the show have blasted the entire thing. Ironically, not because they are opposed to gay marriage. They're calling it a circus because the marriage at the center of it is a sham. And they should know a sham when they see one: Few adult characters in soap land have been married less than three times, and most of them walk down the aisle at least half of those times for reasons that have nothing to do with true love.

I know, it's only a show. But it does reflect the confusing approach that many straight people take toward marriage. Onscreen and off, they can love it or loathe it and still use it and abuse it in whatever way they see fit to suit their purpose. I can't say that given the opportunity, gay people wouldn't do the exact same thing, but it sure would be nice to have the right, too.

Postscript: Today I noticed the following Facebook status update from one of my "friends," a former high school classmate:

"Republican values rock, less government, less taxes, thats the way I like it!!"

My response: "And no to gay marriage!"

I can't wait for the tirades to start rolling in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


If the music thing goes down the drain or up in flames (again), Mariah Carey can always launch a third coming as a comedienne. For the past month, her current album, Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel, which over time has grown on me enough to become one of my favorite albums of 2009, has been entertaining me in ways that have nothing to do with melody. Mariah spends a good part of the album cutting up, cracking up, laughing through tears, jeers and all that jazz.

It pays to listen with the lyric sheet in hand (I know, how early '00s!) or while looking at the words on a lyrics website. Otherwise, during "More Than Friends," you might miss the part when she sings "Love me down till I hit the top of my soprano," followed by her doing her whistle-register bit. "Up Out My Face" (my favorite song), in particular, is pretty much a four-minute comedy routine with a marching band coda to drive the joke home.

When I interviewed Mariah in 2002, one of the things about her that I found most surprising was how funny she can be. She's in on the joke -- all of them. Most of my friends are shocked when I reveal this, but it's true. Up until Memoirs, her frequently over-earnest lyrics rarely betrayed even a dollop of a sense of humor. It's nice to see Mariah finally lightening up, if not exactly opening up, on record.

Here are my favorite moments of laugh-out-loud lyrical levity on Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel:

  • "This is for real, for real, for real/ Oprah Winfrey, whole segment, for real, for real/ 20/20, Barbara Walters, for real, for real/ 60 Minutes, for real" -- "Betcha Gon Know
  • "You a mom and pop, I'm a corporation/ I'm the press conference, you a conversation" -- "Obsessed"
  • "So cheers, toast, bravo to you/ Cuz you're the man of the hour/ I'ma have to send you some flowers" -- "Standing O"
  • "Pretend you on the sofa/ And I’m on the TV/ Might see me on a poster/ See me at a show/ But you won’t see me for free/ Boy, this ain’t no promo" -- "Up Out My Face"
  • "You ain’t never gonna feel this thing again/ You gon’ get a lot of calls ‘cause I CC'ed all your friends" -- "Up Out My Face" (Editor's note: Some lyrics websites print "'... cause I see seen all your friends," which, if accurate, isn't nearly as funny.)
  • "Secretly, I know you want to hit it like the lotto/ And after that, we can ketchup like tomato/ We can make love in Italy in the grotto/ Fresh off the jet, got the men they screaming bravo" -- "More Than Just Friends"
  • And now I love you like summertime/ Love you like cherry wine/ Love you like free money/ Like a preacher loves Sunday" -- "The Impossible"
  • "I was wondering/ Would you reach for me/ If you saw that I was languishing/ I was wondering would you cry for me/ If I told you that I couldn't breathe/ If I was drowning, suffocating/ If I told you that I couldn't breathe" -- "Languishing"

Alright, alright, that last one is dead-serious stuff, but what would a Mariah Carey album -- or memoirs of any imperfect angel, for that matter -- be without a little florid emoting and lyrical gravitas?


I'm not one to gloat over anyone's misfortune (most of the time). But I've been looking for a tasteful way to delicately express my utter pleasure over the critical drubbing of the Amelia Earhart biopic Amelia, its tanking at the North American box office this past weekend, and, by extension, Hilary Swank's dead-before-arrival Oscar campaign. (I already called it here last month.)

Obviously, I'm no Hilary fan. And it's not just because of her overpraised butch performances or her fake humility on the red carpet (I've heard she's a royal nightmare in person). The fact that she's won not one but two best actress Oscar smackdowns with Annette Bening for two of those aforementioned overpraised butch performances just does not sit well with me.

But I'm a nice guy, so I won't kick Hilary when she's down. I'll let That Little Round-Headed Boy do it for me. TLRHB expresses exactly what I feel more brilliantly than I probably would have anyway. I especially like his reasoning for why Hilary was cast as the doomed aviator in the first place: "You got the role because you've got two Oscars and you looked like Amelia Earhart. Period."

Better luck next time, Hilary. Actually, scratch that. If the 2011 best actress race becomes Annette vs. Hilary, Pt. 3, for, respectively, Mother And Child and Betty Anne Waters, my money's on third time being the charm for (envelope, please)... Annette Bening! Now that would be a trilogy with a perfectly happy ending.

Speaking of Oscar-bait ladies (and actresses who have lost to Hilary Swank), Julianne Moore is looking good for her fifth nomination for her supporting role in A Single Man. But she'll have her work cut out for her to beat Mo'Nique to the podium for her scenery-chewing as the beastly mother from hell in Precious.

Frankly, Julianne has been kind of dead to me ever since my friend Lori told me about her encounter with her a year or two ago at a party/silent auction in New York City. Lori noticed Julianne looking at the items up for bid and politely asked if she had bid on anything. "No," Julianne curtly and succinctly responded. Undaunted, Lori proceeded to identify herself as an Entertainment Weekly editor and complimented Julianne on her filmography (obviously overlooking such stinkers as Evolution, Laws Of Attraction and Next).

"I'm sorry, I'm not doing any interviews tonight," Julianne sniffed before walking away. Even if Lori, who was carrying neither a tape recorder nor paper and a pen, had been requesting an interview, you'd think Julianne would be more gracious to a representative from a magazine that's given her nothing but love over the years.

Mo'Nique, that supporting actress Oscar is yours to lose. Don't screw it up by impersonating your Precious character -- or Julianne -- in public!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


As of today, I'm rededicating myself to an old mission: downsizing. It's a process I actually began when I decided to leave New York City for Buenos Aires, but I'm about to put it back into active rotation. My inspiration: selling my New York City apartment, which, come to think of it, is downsizing of the most drastic kind.

If all goes well, the closing will be around mid-January, and my plan is to throw away at least one thing every day between now and when I go to New York for the closing. Today I tossed a publicity cap from Personal, my mobile phone carrier, and a zip-up track-suit top with the word "Brooklyn" written across the front. God knows what I was thinking when I bought it (or the one I may or may not hang onto with "Buenos Aires" as its logo design)!

Leaving New York was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not because saying goodbye to the city was so difficult. The packing was murder. It took me a full month to toss out half of my belongings, pack up the rest and ship it off to storage, where so many possessions I thought were indispensable have been out of sight and more or less out of mind for three years now. As I locked the front door of my apartment for the very last time, I promised myself that going forward, I'd always keep my possessions at a level that would allow me to pick up and leave any city, without warning, in less than 24 hours.

And I've more or less done just that. But I could do better. I figure that if I practice getting rid of things for the next two and a half months, by the time I get to New York and finally clear out my storage space I will be able to dump ruthlessly without a tinge of regret.

Something tells me that it will be easier said than done. But if I could sell my beloved apartment and leave my good friends behind, how hard can it be to kiss all those clothes, books and nick nacks goodbye once and for all? My goal is to keep a minimum of 20 percent and give the rest to charity or the dumpster outside of my storage space in Brooklyn. Then I'll probably keep half of that and give the rest away to friends.

I've been paying $135 a month to hang onto all of that stuff since September 2006. When I think of what I could have done with that money -- and all that we spend to obtain things and then to keep them (rent, insurance, security and general upkeep) -- it makes me want to go out and indulge in a little retail therapy. But I think I'll rip something up and toss it instead. And if I can really pull of this downsizing thing, when I ditch Buenos Aires this South American summer for a couple of months in Europe or perhaps Australia, the fewer things I have, the easier it will be to pack.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Every decade has its idols, the '00s was definitely the age of the American idol -- as in the winners and sometimes runners up of the popular TV star search. Occasionally, several of them have gone on to produce excellent-if-not-exactly-earth-shattering post-American Idol singles (Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway," Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," Jordin Sparks's "No Air"), but for the most part, they've peaked on the show. Here are my nine favorite Idol performances from 2002 to 2009. Note that two of them (Tamyra's and Jennifer's) resulted in the contestants getting the boot the following night.

  • Kelly Clarkson "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (Season 1)
  • Tamyra Gray "Feel The Fire" (Season 1)
  • Clay Aiken "Solitaire" (Season 2)
  • Jennifer Hudson "Weekend In New England" (Season 3)
  • Carrie Underwood "Could've Been" (Season 4)
  • Jordin Sparks "I (Who Have Nothing)" (Season 6)
  • David Cook "Always Be My Baby" (Season 7)
  • Syesha Mercado "Vanishing" (Season 7)
  • Kris Allen "Heartless" (Season 8)

And the countdown marches on....

40. Britney Spears "Piece Of Me" (2007)
For me, the late '00s will always be when Britney Spears finally got good. Ironically, the album with which she allegedly was least involved, 2007's Blackout, turned out to be her best. Was it live or was it Memorex? Who cares? Considering that Britney never got by on spectacular singing, all that matters is that the productions (yes, these are more productions than songs) sound incredible. But for all the production grandeur of "Piece Of Me" -- at certain points of this, one of a quintet of stunning Blackout tracks that also includes "Gimme More," "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)," "Toy Soldier" and "Perfect Lover," she sounds like she's being smothered (by the tabloid press?) -- there is a certain sly knowingness in Britney's distorted Auto-Tuned performance that suggests she might actually have been more coherent than anyone has dared to give her credit for.

39. The Killers "All These Things That I've Done" (2005)
If you met me in the mid '00s, chances are at some point you probably heard me chanting, "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier." Thank you, Brandon Flowers, for my mid-decade mantra. In a three-album career that has spawned several, um, killer moments ("Andy, You're A Star," "Mr. Brightside" and "Read My Mind," among them), this is the song for which the Killers will go down in my personal '00s history.

38. Duffy "Mercy" (2008)
I worry about Duffy. How is she going to follow-up Rockferry, a near-perfect debut album that was my favorite of 2008? This song introduced most of the world to the Welsh singer, and what a first impression it made. It's a lot more subversive than the conventional '60s-ish musical trappings might suggest. The melody, the beat, couldn't be sunnier, more uplifting, but the words are anything but. The song's protagonist is full of heartache, desperate, dying to be no longer under love's spell. She hurts, I dance. And after hearing it at least a trillion times, I still can't stop dancing.

37. The White Stripes "Icky Thump" (2007)
The White Stripes and I have a peculiar relationship. Although they have produced a few great singles, and I like Jack White's collaborations with other artists, I've never been able to listen to one of the duo's albums the entire way through. In some ways, for me, they are the Smashing Pumpkins of the '00s. I respect them more than I like them. But what I feel for "Icky Thump," which actually hit No. 2 on the UK singles chart, is so much more than respect. I drop dead adore it. So it's a little -- okay, a lot -- Led Zeppelin. To quote a far less legendary '80s metal band, it still rocks me like a hurricane.

36. Madonna "Hung Up" (2005)
Madonna had her money moments this decade: "Music," "Don't Tell Me," "Die Another Day," "Jump," "4 Minutes." And those were just her stellar singles. But with a lot of help from an unexpected Abba sample, she kicked off the best album of her career (Confessions On A Dancefloor) and her best single of the decade. They'll be playing this one in clubs right up to the very end.

35. Nelly Furtado "Say It Right"/"No Hay Igual" (2006)
Admit it, you'd written off Nelly Furtado, too, after her 2003 flop, Folklore. Then she came roaring back with a sensational one-two punch -- "Promiscuous" and "Maneater" -- that had nothing in common with anything she'd done before. In a sense, she had shed some of the personality that made people notice her in the first place and veered dangerously close to becoming the vocal puppet of producer Timbaland, but I'd always found quirky Nelly to be a little annoying. The two best moments on Loose -- the dark, moody "Say It Right" (a surpise No. 1 single) and the percussive party jam "No Hay Igual" -- soared primarily on the strength of Nelly herself. If I had to choose, I'd go with "Say It Right" in the No. 35 spot, but since this isn't Sophie's Choice, I'll call it a draw and give Nelly two songs for the price of one spot.

34. Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Heads Will Roll" (2009)
How do I love Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Let me count the excellent songs: 1. "Maps." 2. "Cheated Hearts." 3. "Dudley." 4. "Zero." But "Heads Will Roll" takes Karen O and the boys to another creative level. Karen never sounded so sexy and in such full command of her performing gifts (which would include that white-hot sexuality). She's Chrissie Hynde, PJ Harvey and Siouxsie Sioux all rolled into one. Be still my beating heart! As for the song, it's arty, cinematic, thorougly addictive. If I listen to it once, I have to listen to it 12 times, and I just can't get enough.

33. Sunshine Anderson "Heard It All Before" (2001)
The kiss-off of the decade from a Macy Gray protegeé -- and yes, that's her real first name, inspired, she once told me, by the weather conditions at the time of her birth. Beyonce's overrated "Irreplaceable" had it's minor charm, but her fury sounded too tame, like she was afraid of breaking a press-on nail. In Sunshine's eviscerating of a cheating boyfriend, he gets exactly what's coming to him, but without sloganeering. There's no talk of material possessions to undercut the emotional drama (punctuated by the coolest organ riff ever), just one fed-up woman, simply and concisely kissing that thing goodbye.

32. Leona Naess "Ghosts In The Attic" (2007)
Poor Leona Naess. She's been creating extraordinary music for four albums now, and hardly anybody seems to be listening. This, the first single from her most recent, Thirteens, is a beautiful hangover of a song, so raw, so emotionally naked that it would be hard to listen to if it weren't so damn brilliant. There's a lot more where this came from. If any undervalued artist in this countdown is worth checking out, it's Leona. After eight years, I'm still partial to I Tried To Rock You But You Only Roll, but pick an album, any album, and just let the music play.

31. Nas "Made You Look" (2003)
The first time I realized how incredible this song is, I was in a slightly stuffy bar in New York City with my boyfriend at the time and some of his friends. When "Made You Look" came on, the place turned into a full-on dance-party zone. Egomaniacal rap has never really been my thing, but here Nas actually backs up his claims. The second time I realized how incredible this song is was when I first heard Amy Winehouse's "In My Bed" (from her debut album Frank). In a sample-happy genre (that would be hip hop), you know you've created a modern rap masterpiece when a genius singer-songwriter (that would be Amy) is sampling you.


Porteños are a crafty lot. Those who are inclined to do such things can steal your watch, unbeknown to you, while you're checking the time. Think about it: If they can rob the Bush twins when they are surrounded by U.S. Secret Service security, what hope do the rest of us have? In my three years in Buenos Aires, I've been through at least two dozen mobile phones, thanks to some of the most skilled pickpockets in the world. I always buy the cheapest one available, and I know better than to get too attached to any of them.

BA pickpockets always pick the worst possible time to do their dirty deeds (not that there is actually any good time). Last night, it was after I had run into an old flame, long extinguished and more or less forgotten, for the first time in more than two years. This is a guy with whom I went out several times before he did that 180 that porteños do so well. Within a month, he wasn't even acknowledging me when we were in the same room. Then he dropped off the face of the earth. Out of sight, out of mind.

Of course, as anyone who has been reading this blog over the past year and a half already knows, porteños always come back, acting like nothing ever happened. Unfortunately, when they do, I don't necessarily remember their names -- or even recognize their faces. Although disappointed that I couldn't place his name, Daniel spent the next hour or so acting like I was the only person in the bar, reminiscing about our few dates, looking in my face for a hint of jogged memory. He took my phone number, invited me out to dinner and promised to call me the next day.

Moments later, I was standing outside with my friends, ready to go home. When I went to check the time, I realized that my phone was missing. Interestingly, my keys, my 100-peso bill, my 10-peso bill and my change was all in place. Only the phone was gone. Either someone was trying to stop me from getting Daniel's call the next day, or bottom-of-the-line 140-peso phones are in great demand these days.

Whatever. I had known my Samsung E1075L and I wouldn't last long (three days short of one month, to be exact). I bought it to replace a phone that had been stolen, although it was well hidden in my sock! Not only was the Samsung my favorite of all the phones I've had in BA -- it even came with a built-in FM radio! -- but my track record put the odds squarely against us.

I woke up early the next morning to buy a near-identical replacement, a Samsung GT-E1085L. I went to the Personal branch where everyone knows my name since I'm such a regular customer. After getting through the line of other early birds who all had the same idea to arrive at the opening hour to beat the line only to land in the middle of it, I was out in less than 30 minutes -- just in time for Daniel to call! "Nos vemos en un par de semanas," I said to the saleswoman, smiling, as I walked out the door. She knew, and so did I, that I'd probably be back before December comes around.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


"Praise will bind, confuse, and break the enemy and cause his hands to be still." -- Anonymous

Actually, I read this on the status update wall of my Facebook home page this morning (so it's not exactly anonymous). But what does it mean?

Speaking of Him, God bless Rihanna for changing the tempo and digging deeper and darker after one hellish year on her new single, "Russian Roulette." Plus her voice sounds better than ever. But what happened to the melody? And that gunshot at the end is pretty creepy. Will they have to edit it out on the radio? How will it fare against Chris Brown's equally strange new single, "I Can Transform Ya," already a Top 20 hit in week two on Billboard's Hot 100? (It reminds me a little of "Switch" by Ashanti Ft. Nelly.) I guess there is always room on the charts for domestic abusers. Final question: Rihanna, how can we miss you blind if you refuse to go away?

Surprise! Last night I went out with a guy who is nine days older than I am. It was nice to have an adult conversation with an adult. He shocked me when he told me that he has every single Barbra Streisand CD, including the new one. Although it wouldn't have been such a fun but strange fact had it been revealed in a coffee shop in the middle of Chelsea in New York City, it was the last thing I expected to hear come out of a porteño's mouth while sitting in a pizzeria in Palermo Hollywood. But why did he keep lapsing into Spanglish while I remained in Spanish-speaking character throughout? And when Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song" came on (much to my delight), why did whoever controls the music in the pizza joint turn it off mid song in favor of Bob Marley? Bore me (yawn).

I've been hearing Whitney's new single, "Million Dollar Bill," on Argentine radio. Does that mean her comeback translates?

When did Halloween become more about costume parties than trying to scare the hell out of everyone? Last year a friend of mine here in BA dressed as a mummy, which has got to be the most creative costume I've heard of since my college friend Mo (short for Maureen) dressed as Moses.

When did just about everyone I know start popping tranquilizers and sleep aids just to get through the day -- and night? Lily Allen is right: Everyone's at it (including me)!

Who says Americans have bad taste? This week, John Mayer's great new single, "Who Says," debuts on Billboard's Hot 100 at No. 17, immediately making it a higher-charting hit (by one notch) than his probable signature, "Your Body Is A Wonderland." Am I the only one who finds it hard to believe that he has yet to score a Top 10 single? In other Billboard news, Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce (one notch away from her fourth Top 10 from I Am... Sasha Fierce) continue their quest for total chart domination. Interestingly, after four weeks, Alicia Keys's new one, "Doesn't Mean Anything," is still struggling in the sixties. I'll bet a million dollar bill that she won't be adding to her No. 1 tally with this one. Do you agree?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Tis the season to be jolly that the Oscar-hopeful films are finally hitting theaters (at least in the U.S. -- we'll have to wait a few more months for them to cross the Rio Grande and crawl their way into South American theaters), and the predictions are finally getting mildly interesting (see my first batch here).

Of course, every year a solid Oscar contender or two gets left out in the cold: Jack Nicholson for Batman. Glenn Close for Reversal Of Fortune. Juliette Binoche for Blue. Nicole Kidman for To Die For. Gwyneth Paltrow for Emma. Gena Rowlands and Marisa Tomei for Unhook The Stars. Michelle Pfeiffer for What Lies Beneath (this is the kind of stuff actresses like Ingrid Bergman and Barbra Stanwyck snagged nominations for performing in their sleep in the 1940s). Michael Douglas for The Wonder Boys. Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Tilda Swinton for The Deep End. Jodie Foster for The Brave One. Angelina Jolie for A Mighty Heart. Debra Winger for Rachel Getting Married. Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino. Peter Sarsgaard and Jennifer Jason Leigh for everything.

I would mention Meryl Streep for The Hours, but she already gets plenty of love from the Academy, while most of the above, with four exceptions, eventually won Oscars, already had one, or had been multiply nominated in the past.

While we wait until next February to find out who the 2010 shut outs will be, here's my tribute to 16 great Oscar-snubbed performances (by 15 great actors) from the last 20 years.

Samuel L. Jackson Jungle Fever (1991) Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
The family showdown between Samuel's Gator and his parents (Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee) chills to the core. Though he'd finally get his due three years later for Pulp Fiction (only a nomination, mind you, but it's an honor just to be... well, you know the rest), his strung-out two-step just before dad lets him have it should have gotten him the gold.

Ashley Judd Ruby In Paradise (1993) Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role She has more or less spent her career squandering her considerable talent on mainstream genre pics with the occasional indie gem thrown in (Normal Life, Bug). Things might have gone so differently had she received the Oscar recognition she thoroughly deserved for her first starring role. Her costar, Todd Field, went on to direct In The Bedroom and Little Children (featuring Kate Winslet in a nominated role that would have suited Ashley perfectly). Perhaps he can help revive Ashley's apparently long-gone Oscar hopes with a role in his next film.

Noah Taylor Shine (1996) Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role

I never understood why Geoffrey Rush got all of the praise (and a best actor Oscar) for playing the institutionalized pianist David Helfgott when Noah Taylor was equally impressive portraying Helfgott as a teen, had as much screen time, and packed the film's emotional punch in his scenes with the Oscar-nominated Armin Mueller-Stahl (as his tyrannical dad).

Rupert Everett My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Mark my words: If Rupert were straight, or in the closet, he would have been a shoo-in nominee. I suppose the standard thinking is that when "straight" actors play gay, they are stretching. Gay actors are merely playing themselves (see Nathan Lane in The Birdcage).

Ally Sheedy/Patricia Clarkson High Art (1998) Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading/Supporting Role
Oscar usually loves a good comeback (see 9 1/2 Weeks costars Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, who scored for The Wrestler and L.A. Confidential, respectively). That should have put both of these ladies in the running. Or maybe the lesbian and drugs combo was just a deadly mix -- onscreen and off. At least Patricia hasn't stopped working since and eventually landed a nomination for Pieces Of April. Ally, sadly, hasn't been so lucky.

Lisa Kudrow The Opposite Of Sex (1999) Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Aside from the fact that it was a particularly strong year for supporting actresses (including Judi Dench, whose extended Shakespeare In Love cameo ultimately took the prize), Lisa deglammed before deglamming was really cool. Bitter and brittle, her Opposite Of Sex spinster is the kind of shrew that Phoebe Buffay would hate. At least the New York Film Critics Circle got it right.

Reese Witherspoon Election (1999) Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
I'm not sure what it was about her supporting performance in Walk The Line that compelled the Academy to give her a best actress Oscar. Perhaps it was the fact that Reese, the only actor or actress on the list to eventually win an Oscar (most of them are still waiting for nomination No. 1), had already given the performance of a lifetime six years earlier as an overachieving bitch-on-wheels high school student most likely to do anything to succeed.

Sigourney Weaver The Ice Storm (1997)/A Map Of The World (1999) Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting/Leading Role
Speaking of bitches on wheels, nobody plays them more fast and furiously than Sigourney Weaver, who, amazingly, hasn't been nominated since the late '80s, despite consistently excellent film work since then. Unlike her '80s Oscar-less contemporary, Glenn Close, she hasn't given up and turned primarily to television, but lately she's been testing the waters (Eli Stone, Prayers For Bobby).

Cameron Diaz Vanilla Sky (2001) Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Yet another bitch on wheels. (Do I sense a trend here?) Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Cameron nailed her. She was the only watchable thing in the movie.

Richard Gere Unfaithful (2002) Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Poor Richard Gere always gets upstaged by his Oscar-nominated costars. Debra Winter in An Officer And A Gentleman. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Edward Norton in Primal Fear. Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago. And, of course, Diane Lane in Unfaithful. It could happen again in 2010 with the Amelia Earhart biopic, in which he is the husband of the main character, played by Oscar bait incarnate, Hilary Swank. His 2003 Golden Globe-winning Chicago performance hasn't aged so well (neither has the film), but for his pulse-charging elevator scene with a dead corpse alone, Unfaithful should have earned him his first citation that same year.

Dennis Quaid Far From Heaven (2002) Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
It looks like 2002 wasn't a great year for playing the husband of an Oscar-nominated costar -- unless you were John C. Reilly in Chicago. Everyone was so busy overpraising Julianne Moore for a role she had already played countless times (once that very same year in The Hours), that perhaps the Academy didn't even notice that Dennis Quaid, playing her racist, closeted husband, had matched her scene for scene, and then some.

Jamie Lee Curtis Freaky Friday (2003) Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Go ahead and laugh, but playing a teenager is a lot harder than it sounds. And the criminally never-nominated Jamie Lee did it more convincingly than her then-adolescent costar, Lindsay Lohan.

Jim Carrey The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role
The Truman Show proved he could act, and Man On The Moon won him a Golden Globe, but this is Jim's truly egregious Oscar snub. Considering that Richard Pryor was never nominated, and Oscar hosts Steve Martin and Billy Crystal are still waiting for their first invitation to the ceremony as acting nominees, I'd say Jim is in pretty good company.

Joan Allen The Upside Of Anger (2005) Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Playing a woman who hits the bottle and indulges in totally inappropriate behavior after assuming that her husband has left her and their four daughters, Joan did a nice balancing act of funny, infuriating, sexy and downright nasty. In one of the weakest best actress races in recent history (Charlize Theron for North Country? Judi Dench for Mrs. Henderson Presents?), it's such a shame that Joan didn't make the short list for what I think was the female performance of the year. This should have been the thrice-nominated actress's Oscar-winning role, and it's the worst snub of the century so far. For what it's worth, Kevin Costner deserved a supporting nod for making me like him for the first time ever.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


From top to bottom: Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Fiona Apple,
the Stone Roses, Saint Etienne, Richard Ashcroft of the Verve

I miss the '90s. There, I've said it! While everyone and his mother continue to obsess over '80s music, I'm equally, if not more, enthralled by the less-hyped-and-sort-of-all-over-the-place sound of the 10 years that followed, perhaps partly because it neatly contained the Clintonian era, during which I was in a considerably better overall mood. TLC and an assorted few others aside, it was a pretty dismal time for commercial pop and R&B (guilty-pleasure Eurocrap like Ace of Base and airbrushed middle-of-the-road soul like Boyz II Men, for the most part, ruled until later in the decade), but '90s rock -- particularly the poppier UK brand -- rocked. Grunge had it's moments (mostly from Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots), but for me, it was all about Britpop: Blur, Gene, Happy Mondays, Radiohead, Ride, the Stone Roses, Suede, Texas and the Verve. (Sorry, I never really got into Oasis.)

So in the middle of celebrating the best of the '00s, I salute 30 hot '90s singles that are still in regular rotation on my iPod (minus remixes, which might otherwise overwhelm the list, as this was the decade of killer remixes saving mediocre songs). Why 30? Because that is how old I was at the end of the decade -- plus I kept wanting to add more songs but had to cut it off somewhere. I don't have time to post music or links, but you should be able to find all of them on iTunes, or YouTube.

  • The Stone Roses "Fools Good" (1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1999)
  • Pet Shop Boys "Being Boring" (1990)
  • Chapterhouse "Pearl" (1991)
  • Roxette "Spending My Time" (1991)
  • Siouxsie & The Banshees "Kiss Them For Me" (1991)
  • Soundgarden "Outshined" (1991)
  • Curve "Fait Accompli" (1992)
  • Leonard Cohen "Closing Time" (1992)
  • R.E.M. "Drive" (1992)
  • Ride "Leave Them All Behind" (1992)
  • Wynonna Judd "She Is His Only Need" (1992)
  • The Breeders "Cannonball" (1993)
  • Smashing Pumpkins "Cherub Rock" (1993)
  • Grant Lee Buffalo "Mockingbirds" (1994)
  • Kristine W. "Feel What You Want" (1994)
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter "Shut Up And Kiss Me" (1994)
  • Stone Temple Pilots "Interstate Love Song" (1994)
  • Elastica "Connection" (1995)
  • Live "All Over You" (1995)
  • Pulp "Common People" (1995)
  • Saint Etienne "He's On The Phone" (1995)
  • Abra Moore "Four Leaf Clover" (1997)
  • Depeche Mode "Barrel Of A Gun" (1997)
  • Olive "You're Not Alone" (1997)
  • Patty Loveless Ft. George Jones "You Don't Seem To Miss Me" (1997)
  • The Verve "Bittersweet Symphony" (1997)
  • Sixpence None The Richer "Kiss Me" (1998)
  • Tricky Ft. PJ Harvey "Broken Homes" (1998)
  • Fiona Apple "Fast As You Can" (1999)
  • TLC "No Scrubs" (1999)

I'm still making a list -- and checking it twice -- of my 100 favorite albums of all time, which, as anybody could imagine, is no minor undertaking. Until I unveil the final countdown, which is likely to be dominated by albums released between 1990 and the end of the millennium, here are 15 '90s albums you have to listen to before you die. (Yes, '92, which happens to be the year I fell in love for the first time, was a very good time for music.)

  • George Michael Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990)
  • Pet Shop Boys Behaviour (1990)
  • Annie Lennox Diva (1992)
  • The Black Crowes The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion (1992)
  • k.d. lang Ingenue (1992)
  • Neneh Cherry Homebrew (1992)
  • R.E.M. Automatic For The People (1992)
  • Sarah McLachlan Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993)
  • Joni Mitchell Turbulent Indigo (1994)
  • Morrissey Vauxhall And I (1994)
  • Radiohead The Bends (1995)
  • Linda Perry In Flight (1996)
  • The Cardigans Gran Turismo (1998)
  • Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach Painted From Memory (1998)
  • Fiona Apple When The Pawn... (1999)

And for your viewing pleasure, my favorite video of the 1990s, if not all time.

Bjork "All Is Full Of Love"


I go to extremes: I'm hot. I'm cold. I'm yes. I'm no. I'm in. I'm out. I'm up. I'm down. I'm wrong. I'm right. I'm black. I'm white.

In other words, I'm a bundle of wildly divergent contradictions, someone who works out religiously -- pilates, running, weight training -- yet parties like a rock star. I rarely stroll down the middle of the road. I live life swerving from shoulder to shoulder.

So why is it that when it comes to religion, I can't seem to get off the fence? My name is Jeremy Helligar, and I'm a staunch agnostic. I believe in something. I'm just not sure what that is.

One thing is for certain: I'm no religious extremist. On the one hand, I don't get blind faith. This morning I read the following status update from a Facebook friend:

"Give your impossibilities to Jesus. He's got your miracle! Have a super day!"

To my eyes and ears, that sort of thing sounds suspiciously like fortune cookie wisdom, only less useful. And I see and hear it so often from so many of my old high-school classmates on Facebook. They must have found religion sometime after graduation because I'm pretty certain that Osceola High School was not overflowing with holy rollers in the mid-'80s. Even my mom, who was the personification of religion when I was growing up, doesn't talk like that anymore. While I understand that some people need religion to get them through the day, and sometimes, to make them feel better about themselves, if not superior to non-believers, I'm not buying it.

But I can't quite let go of the hunch that there is something more. Growing up in a super-religious household, atheism was always a dirty word. I've eased up a bit in my middle age, but the concept continues to confound me and frighten me just a little. If the physical world is the be-all and end-all, then why not just totally give in to the pursuit of pleasure? Why not live recklessly -- within the realm of humanity -- without considering the consequences? If there is nothing greater than us, how does one justify feeling anything at all? Doesn't the very idea of love -- the deep, everlasting kind that so many atheists I know have claimed to feel at some point -- prove that there is more to life than just the tangible. And when we die, does love die with us?

I don't have any answers. But I'd like to think that at the end of the line there is something more waiting for me than the cold hard ground (or the burning flames of cremation, which is how I intend to check out of the physical realm). The traditional concept of heaven doesn't particularly appeal to me. How boring would it be to spend all day lounging around on clouds, playing the harp and singing God's praises? If that's life after death, I'll give it a pass. God knows... um, heaven knows... well, you get my drift... I skip that part in everyday life, so I'd prefer not to take it up after death.

Reincarnation makes the most sense to me. It would explain so many of the strange deja-vu sensations I have experienced. But I'm not convinced. For all I know, this is it. But that doesn't mean there isn't something bigger in the here and now. It may not always be enough to get me through the day -- or night -- but when the physical world begins to bore me to tears, it's nice to drift away and think about the endless possibilities that I'm pretty sure are out there.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Love is strange. When you fall, and fall hard and deep, sometimes there is no climbing out from under its spell. No matter how carelessly the other person has handled your heart. No matter how much the other person might no longer deserve your affection. One of my friends is going through it right now. She's in the process of divorcing her husband, who, for the past few years, has basically treated her like dirt. She should hate him. And she does. But she loves him, too. After all, aren't love and hate flip sides of the same coin? There's such a thin line between them.

Although I have no experience to compare to what she is going through, I can relate. I've been going through a bit of emotional drama myself. There's someone in the corner of my mind who refuses to budge. And no matter what I do, it doesn't work. He feels the same way I do, but being stubborn Tauruses, we both refuse to bend too much. I need for him to prove his love, walk the walk instead of merely talking the talk.

I'm not sure what he wants from me. He pops in and out of my life, to my emotional detriment, and his motivation is unclear. I know he's looking for something. It's right in front of him. All he has to do is grab it and hold on. But as seems to be par for course here in Argentina, everyone is addicted to the hunt. Once they catch their prey, the don't know what to do with it, or they no longer want it.

I've tried cutting off all forms of contact that I can control. Following the advice of my friends, I blocked him on MSN, blocked him on Facebook. In my head, I make lists of his shortcomings. I cut him down to size. My friends, who are astonished by the depth of my feelings for someone I dated for such a short time, tell me that it's the only way to forget and move on. But it's not so easy. I watch what my friend is going through, and I know it's not so easy. Her situation is so much worse because it's one-sided. Her soon-to-be-ex husband appears to have moved on emotionally. That's heartbreaking. With me, only love remains, which, come to think of it, might be just as bad, because we should be able to work it out. I want to work it out. But a lack of words gets in the way.

Time heals all wounds. So says that old cliché. Perhaps, but the deepest wounds leave scars. And those scars acquired on the battlefield of love not even the best plastic surgeon can fix.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


One of my favorite songs of the '00s was never released as a single. In fact, it never appeared on an album, and as far as I know, you can't buy it anywhere. I first heard it last year in a Warner Channel promo for the short-lived Anne Heche series Men In Trees. I knew neither the name of the song nor the singer, so I did a Google search for "Men In Trees Warner Channel promo song." I wasn't alone because there were a number of message boards with people as desperate as I was to track down the song. Finally, I found what I was looking for: "All For Love" by Chip Jenkins. I don't understand why a label or Chip herself never tried to cash in on what was obviously widespread interest in the gorgeous love song. But rather than extolling its myriad virtues, I will let you listen for yourself.

And the countdown continues....

50. Zero 7 "In The Waiting Line" (2001)
The best thing about that horrifying movie Garden State (notwithstanding Jean Smart and Peter Sarsgaard's mother-son) was hearing this delicate beauty on the soundtrack. I saw the movie on a date in 2004, and the song stayed with me far longer than the movie -- or the guy, for that matter. It's so light, so airy, so ethereal that it sounds like it's on the verge of drifting off and floating away.

49. The Hives "Supply And Demand" (2001)
A temper tantrum set to music. During the chorus I could swear I hear Pelle Almqvist's spit hitting the microphone. I was in the audience at the MTV VMAs in 2003 when Sweden's the Hives (kicking out the jam "Main Offender") had a battle of the garage bands with Australia's the Vines (rocking through "Get Free"). My money was on the Hives, all primitive, primal, and pure musical catharsis.

48. Kina "Girl From The Gutter" (2002)
"Karma's gonna visit you, too. You're gonna pay for the things you put me through." More rage set to music. When black chicks rock (that is, black chicks not named Tina Turner), radio programmers get confused, and poor Kina fell victim to their hip-hop expectations. Everyone's loss.

47. Erykah Badu "Danger" (2003)
I've got to be honest: Her stunning beauty aside, I never really got Erykah Badu. The strange head wraps, the crazy hair, the oddly named children, songs that sound like they just took a long deep bong hit. Though she's the most exciting of the so-called neo-soul generation of the late '90s/early '00s (which would also include Jill Scott. India.Aire, Maxwell, Musiq and Bilal), her albums are middle-of-the-road snoozefests, Norah Jones relocated to the ghetto. But give her a beat, a muscular kick-ass groove, and she rides it for all it's worth. She's in love with a bad boy, and we can all relate. "Block on lock the trunk stay locked glock on cock the block stay hot." I don't know what the hell it means, but damn, she sounds fierce singing it.

46. Kasabian "Empire" (2006)
Maybe it's the video, which might possibly be the most shockingly violent one I've ever seen, but to me, this song, the best of Kasabian, has always sounded like a battle cry, a call to arms. (Ironically, though, it's a call to lay them down.) While it doesn't quite persuade me to be willing to die for the cause -- any cause -- it makes me want to jump and shout and dance around the room like a half-crazy person.

45. Lumidee "Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)" (2003)
The most memorable moment of my brother's wedding five and a half years ago -- aside from my surprising lack of stage fright while giving my best-man speech -- was when the entire congregation began doing an impressive line dance to this one-hit-wonder hit. Skip the version featuring unnecessary raps from Busta Rhymes and Fabolous as well as the various remixes that lose the stripped-down essence of the song, and go straight to the original, which is practically a capella except for an unstoppable clapping beat. Uh Oooh, poor Lumidee never came close to living up to her debut album title (Almost Famous), but at 25, she's still got time to pull another rabbit out of her hat of musical tricks.

44. Depeche Mode "A Pain That I'm Used To" (Jacques Lu Cont Remix) (2005)
One of the best -- and most relatable -- opening couplets of all time: "I'm not sure what I'm looking for anymore/I just know that I'm harder to conso-o-o-ole." The original is stunning in it's own right, but it's the remix by Stuart Price (posted below), the producer of Madonna's Confessions On A Dancefloor, also known as Thin White Duke, among other assorted pseudonyms, that really puts it over the top. He worked similarly fabled reconstruction magic for the Killers' "Mr. Brightside, Coldplay's "Talk" and Madonna's "Hollywood," but this remains his best achievement in remixing. He took a fantastic song and made it legendary, second only to "Barrel Of A Gun" in DM's impressive canon.

43. Sugababes "Stronger" (2002)
A song I first heard lying in bed, watching MTV at St. Martin's Lane in London, it really kicked off my near decade-long love affair with Sugababes. A hymn about self-reliance, the message -- love yourself, to thine own self be true -- is pretty standard, but it's all about the execution. I love the dichotomy of the ultimately uplifting message and the sad, melancholy music. It's inspiration in a minor key. There's even something vaguely sad about the way the dancing girls move in the video. Next to perhaps Kylie Minogue and Madonna, Sugababes produced more stellar pop singles this decade than anyone -- from "Shape" to "Push The Button" to "Red Dress" to "Girls" -- but this is the one I keep going back to.

42. The Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow" (2009)
I'm going to go out on a limb here: Never in the history of recorded music has an act followed such a spectacular single (this one) with such utter drivel ("I Gotta Feeling"). It's got to be the second-oddest No. 1 ever, after Prince's "Batdance." Musically, there is so much going on that I don't even know where to begin. Every time I hear it, something new pops out at me. I don't know what I like more, the complex electro production, Fergie's sly intro and outro raps (both identical), that the song has absolutely no chorus to speak of, or that the actual refrain is "Boom boom boom." It all adds up the the Black Eyed Peas's crowning musical achievement. Attempting to top it probably would be an exercise in futility, and after listening to The E.N.D., I don't think they even tried.

41. Colplay "Viva La Vida" (2008)
For a moment last year, I could neither listen to nor talk about anything else. Read all about it here.


Facebook, bringing friends, family and total strangers together.

Recently, there's been an emphasis on the latter two, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. All of a sudden, alleged relatives -- people I don't know who don't know me either -- are flocking to my friends list. I know they must be family because Helligar is not exactly a surname that grows on trees.

Occasionally, they send me messages (like an uncle who recently, inexplicably, sent me the link to a hip-hop video), but the majority of them never do. Part of me is curious and wants to know more about these people. Another part of me doesn't know what to say to them. Small talk frightens me, and I've never been particularly skilled at striking up random conversation with strangers, unless it's in a professional interview setting. Aside from the fact that we have branches on the same family tree, they are as unknown to me as the folks who add me to their friends list simply because I "look pretty cool."

Today I was befriended by my stepbrother, the son of my dad's wife whom I met at my brother's wedding five and a half years ago and quite liked. So that connection makes sense. Not so much the message I received several months ago from a woman living in Belgium with the maiden name Heylligar. Since she has relatives from the Netherlands, and my dad is from St. Maarten, a Caribbean island with a Dutch and a French side, we decided after several email exchanges that we must be distantly related. Then nothing. We are still Facebook friends, but we never spoke again.

Which brings me to the money question: What's the big deal about being family if there is zero communication? Is it just enough to know that the person exists? As someone whose relationships within my immediate family range from strained to non-existent (excepting my brother Alexi, to whom I remain close), I'm not particularly driven to communicate with people on branches of my family tree that extend too far up or down the trunk from my own. At least I lived in the same house with most of my immediate family for 18 years and had proper exposure to most of my parents' siblings and assorted cousins during my childhood. The others are complete strangers. Of course, I'll continue to pad my friends list by accepting their Facebook invitations, and then we'll completely ignore each other.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I've said it before -- perhaps on this very blog -- and I'll say it again. After all, if it's worth saying once, it's worth saying twice.

I'm a terrible porteño.

I don't do tango (which, truth be told, is more of a tourist obsession than an Argentine one). I don't get red wine. As for red meat, which I only recently began eating again after 20 years without, I still can't bring myself to sink my teeth into a juicy Argentine steak. Yerba maté? A pointless indulgence. I understand its social significance. Drinking it is more of a bonding ritual than the pursuit of a true taste sensation. But if I'm going to put something into my mouth day after day, it better taste great. Perhaps that's why I've never drunk even a drop of coffee. I don't see how something that smells so awful can't taste even worse.

But last night my curiosity got the best of me, and I finally gave milanesa de soja (which, if you go by the literal translation, is basically breaded soy -- eek!) the old college try. I wish I had reined in my adventurous impulses. About a year ago, someone first recommended it to me, and last night I finally found the courage to indulge. There were several brands of the flat patties in the frozen department of the supermercado across the street from my apartment. I considered ham-flavored but decided to go the healthy route and picked up the vegetable brand.

I should have gone high-cholesterol and opted for frozen pizza instead. According to my personal mantra, I'll do anything twice, so I took two bites. That was more than enough. The fact that the wrapping suggested topping it off with actual vegetables or, better yet, cheese, should have tipped me off. If it can't stand on it's own....

There are way too many out-of-the-box delicious things out there for me to waste my time acquiring tastes. I once read an interview with Men At Work about their song "Down Under." It was around the time that the tune was a huge hit, and they were explaining vegemite, as in the "vegemite sandwich" that is mentioned in the song. Apparently, it is some kind of sandwich spread for which no one but Aussies have acquired much of a taste. I'll have to remember to avoid it when I eventually make it to Sydney.

That's what I should have done with milanesa de soba. You'd think that the whole-wheat dumplings that my sister once made at the height of one of her childhood health kicks would have taught me my lesson. They were so dreadful that weeks later I was still literally throwing up at even the thought of them. Nothing quite so dramatic occurred last night, but the milanesa de soba did end up in the garbage, and I went to bed without any supper. The moral of this story? If it looks disgusting, chances are it will taste even worse.