Thursday, December 31, 2009


I'm so not feeling New Year's Eve this year. As excited as I am to turn the page to 2010, I'm harboring a fantasy of ringing it in solo, sitting on the sofa, watching TV, surfing the internet and listening to the fireworks that will paint the sky sometime around midnight.

It would be the first New Year's Eve I've stayed in since 1999 turned into 2000, and I escaped all of Manhattan's Y2K threats by spending the night in the wilds of Brooklyn, far from the maddening crowd in Times Square, in the safety of the apartment of Amir, a guy I had just started dating. This year, as we once again enter a new decade, with no Y2K threat, no Amir (or a reasonable Argentine facsimile) and no must-attend party invitations, my coast is clear to make my fantasy come true.

I'm not even making any New Year's resolutions this year. Not that they usually work for me anyway. The only one I can ever remember keeping -- or even remember at all -- was the one I made as 1990 turned into 1991. I vowed never again to eat red meat, and I didn't, until several months ago when I finally gave in to Argentina's culinary obsession. So, in a way, it would be almost poetic for me to skip the resolutions in the year in which I broke the one I actually managed to honor long term.

Or perhaps it's perfect timing for a sequel. But even if I were in a resolution mood, what would I resolve not to do? I could vow to stop dating jerks, but I do that pretty much every Sunday afternoon, and by hump day, there's another one creeping into my romantic vicinity. I could stop drinking, but that would be so cliché. I could stop eating meat again, but I haven't yet begun to take full advantage of my resurgent carnivorism. Or I could continue my recent promise to throw away at least one thing every day, but would that even count?

So what's it going to be?

I got it. In 2010, my resolution is to stop making resolutions. No more limitations. This year, I get to do what I want to do, which is pretty much what I did last year, but since it's a resolution, by keeping it, I won't have anything to be guilty of.

Pass the whisky and the tall, dark and handsome stranger, please.


I secretly love (insert song title here). I secretly love (insert movie title here). I secretly love (insert name of pariah-like music or movie star here). I secretly love this. I secretly love that. As my friends know, whenever I begin a sentence with the magic words "I secretly love...," I'm about to reveal my latest guilty pleasure.

I secretly stole the whole "secretly" thing from my friend Maureen 12 years ago, at the height of the Titanic craze. I was one of the few who hadn't seen the movie, refusing to view it on I-will-not-follow-the-masses principle (to this day, I still haven't watched it in its entirety), and Maureen knew it. One day while we were having lunch, she turned to me and sheepishly whispered, "I secretly loved Titanic."

I was as appalled as I am by the fact that last night my friend Roger secretly talked me into seeing Avatar, director James Cameron's latest must-see spectacle and Best Picture Oscar contender, when it comes out in Buenos Aires on New Year's Day. Roger's description of the film sort of blew me away. I secretly think that I'll secretly love it. Get ready for my first guilty pleasure of 2010!

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite guilty pleasures. I secretly love them!

Britney Spears in the "Gimme More" video
It looks like a soft-core porn footage that was secretly shot from behind someone's trench coat, and Britney's blond wig is beyond ugly and fake looking. That and the back story (meltdown-era Britney was probably out of control and out of her mind when she filmed it) make the clip a work of mad genius.

"Can I Touch You There?" by Michael Bolton
I never hated Michael Bolton as much as the next guy, and this surprisingly soulful, sexy 1995 single -- though it was only a moderate U.S. success, it was one of his few Top 10 UK hits -- would probably rank among my favorites from last decade.

College Food Staple: Ramen noodles
Back in my University of Florida days, they were a staple of my diet because I couldn't afford to eat anything else. I thought they were out of my life for good, until I spotted them on the shelf of a Buenos Aires supermercado. Feeling nostalgic, I picked up a package. Now, they are once again a staple of my diet. Why? Because they're still cheap, and they taste so damn good.

Meg Ryan romantic comedies
Nothing about America's one-time sweetheart impresses me much, but whenever I come across French Kiss or You've Got Mail while channel surfing, I always stick around until the end of the movie.

My Best Friend's Wedding
Speaking of romantic comedies, am I the only one who thinks this one from 1997 has aged particularly well? Dermot Mulroney aside (who's as bland than usual, perhaps necessarily so, like Will to Grace, Jack and Karen), all of the principals -- Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett -- deserved Oscar nominations for their comedic efforts.

One Life To Live
Some dismiss it as the weakest link between All My Children and General Hospital in ABC's weekday-afternoon programming. Not me. The soap, which I watched with my mom as a child (didn't we all?) and rediscovered in the early '00s, is the only TV show I watch on YouTube. My fascination with OLTL is now so complete that some of the characters -- Bo, Nora, Dorian, Blair, Natalie, Christian -- have even begun to pop up in my dreams.

Pamela Anderson and Liz Hurley
The tabloid developments in their individual love lives bore me to tears, but when the Canadian and Brit bombshells hit the 2001 Vanity Fair Oscar after-party together, it gave me a special sort of thrill that only a straight guy would understand.

My hipster friends would be appalled, but I loved the late-'80s teen queen's first four singles ("I Think We're Alone Now," "Could've Been," "I Saw Him Standing There," "All This Time"), and perhaps most shockingly of all, whether or not John Lennon would have agreed, as Beatles covers go, I secretly think "I Saw Him Standing There" is a match for Anne Murray's "You Won't See Me."

Two And A Half Men
Like just about every fellow expatriate I know, I never watched the show until I moved to Buenos Aires. But thank God, we're all so desperate for American TV. Like just about every fellow expatriate I know, it's now must-see TV. I'm glad it's on about a half dozen times a day!


And five things I not so secretly just don't get...

1. Facebook applications What is Pet Society, FarmVille and Mafia Wars, and why is everyone sending me annoying invitations to join in on the "fun"?

2. Event movies That would include action flicks, superhero flicks and any 2009 flick starring Shia LaBeouf, Channing Tatum and Robert Pattinson -- or older ones starring Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.

3. College football Actually, every kind of football -- including soccer! -- but I generally find post-graduation obsession with university sports to be upsetting and kind of pathetic.

4. Stand-up comedy I love a good sitcom, but someone standing alone on a stage trying to make me crack up simply makes me want to throw up.

5. Retro obsession I love a great throwback '80s tune as much as anyone, and yes, music has seen better days, but there's enough decent music currently being made that I shouldn't have to take a trip down (bad) memory lane every time I walk into a bar or club in Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I love Mary J. Blige all day long, and I probably will until one of us dies. That said, I've got to admit, I loved her music more back when she was a hot mess. How I long for those turbulent roller-coaster days of My Life (1994) and Mary (1999), when the joy and pain (mostly pain) in her music matched the joy and pain (mostly pain) in her real life, those crazy days of her misspent youth when she was challenging Veronica Webb to a fist fight mid Vibe interview.

For several albums now, beginning with 2001's No More Drama, Mary has been deliberately healing the pain, travelling a path to mostly joy, and while her journey has had some fine moments ("Family Affair," her only No. 1 pop single, comes immediately to mind), overall, it's been missing the, well, drama that made Mary's music so singular in the first place.

At its most indulgent, Mary's output this century has been the audio-musical version of a Robert Ringer self-help guide. Yes, the new and improved Mary is looking out for number one, and just in case it's not bell clear, there's a song called "The One" to drive the point home. There's apparently a huge audience for this stuff: Mary's last two studio albums, 2005's The Breakthrough and 2007's Growing Pains, both enjoyed blockbuster first-week sales (729,000 and 629,00o, respectively), and her ninth, Stronger With Each Tear, released December 21, is expected to approach 400,000, without the benefit of a major hit single.

Stronger, like most of its '00s predecessors, has enough above-average songs ("Said And Done," the aforementioned "The One," among them) to make it more than listenable, despite the cumbersome power-of-positive-thinking bent. Although it's mostly been there heard that, there's not a bad track among the album's 12, which for the normally long-winded Mary, is practically EP length.

Short and sweet suits her, but Stronger doesn't make it's first truly indelible impression until 10 tracks in. That upward turning point would be "Kitchen," whose familiar hands-off-my-man message is air-lifted by a straightforward, unfussy Mary vocal that rarely strays from the melody line. "I don't know it all/But I'll tell you what I know/Never let a girl cook in your kitchen," she sings over an R&B groove that's as timeless as the advice she's dispensing. It's a fantastic metaphor that any woman who's ever picked up a man or a frying pan can relate to.

"In The Morning," the next track, shares more than a title with a song on Aretha Franklin's 1998 album, A Rose Is Still A Rose, but the somewhat musty will-you-still-love-me-tomorrow lyrical conceit is elevated by Mary's clear, forceful voice. And topping off the entire affair is the bluesy soulful closing track, "I Can See In Color," from the movie Precious. Backed by a simple rhythm melody and singing lyrics that are far more upbeat than anything else about the song, Mary, for perhaps the first time this century, makes her coronation as heir to the queen of soul more than just hyperbole.


Saturday, December 26, 2009


It's confession time again.

I'm no Grinch, and my middle name isn't Scrooge, but I secretly sort of hate Christmas. It's not that I have anything against the holiday itself. I just despise how the world seems to stop turning on Christmas Eve and doesn't resume its regular rotation until Boxing Day.

This holiday season, I'm feeling particularly resentful because it's slowing down the process of selling my apartment in Manhattan. We're in the final stages of the sale, with only co-op board approval of the seller left before we can set a closing date. But because some board members go away for the holidays and don't return until after the new year, it could be delayed several weeks, meaning I may have to pay yet another month of mortgage and maintenance fees for an empty apartment.

Bah, humbug!

But life goes on, so I'm spending the weekend in Cordoba with my friend Rob in an attempt to inject a little holiday cheer into the proceedings. Last night we ventured out to find a place to have dinner. It was as if Buenos Aires's second largest city had become a ghost town. After wandering aimlessly for about half an hour, we finally found an open restaurant. What was actually a pretty average meal tasted gourmet caliber because we were so grateful for it.

Far trickier was getting a taxi to go to Zen, Cordoba's biggest gay disco, afterwards. (Queens don't let a little thing like Christmas cramp their party style!) After trying unsuccessfully to hail a cab on the street, hitchhike and even hop on the back of some guy's motorcycle, we ended up hijacking a taxi that was picking up a fare who had called him in advance by giving the driver 30 pesos for an 8-peso ride. It's too bad about the stranded lady, but you know what they say about desperate times.

Unlike the United States, where Christmas Day reigns, in Buenos Aires, it's all about Christmas Eve. Around nightfall, everything stops while people scramble to spend time with the families that they already see every day. Around 2am, they start heading out to the clubs, and life goes on as usual on Christmas Day.

But here in Cordoba, things are dreadfully different. If finding food last night was like a bad dream, locating lunch today was truly a nightmare. After walking around for what seemed like hours in a fruitless attempt to find an open restaurant that didn't charge 35 pesos for a hamburger, we found the only kiosko in town that was open and bought pasta to prepare at the rental apartment. Who knew spaghetti and ham could taste so good? Or that gratitude was such a flavor enhancer? It could probably even make Brussels sprouts (my most hated food!) edible. But thank God, we didn't have to go there!

Friday, December 25, 2009


I've always admired actors who can cry on cue. I'm not talking wailing and carrying on with not a tear in sight (see Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking). I'm talking actual waterworks, whether it be a single drop (Glenn Close in the final scene of Dangerous Liaisons) or a steady stream (Jack Nicholson and Fernanda Montenegro in the final scenes of, respectively, About Schmidt and Central Station).

Earlier this year, a friend of mine who was visiting Buenos Aires from L.A. asked me a quite unexpected question: "When was the last time you cried?"

I answered her question with another: "Why do you ask?"

"Because you don't seem like a crier. Not that I think you're insensitive, or unfeeling, but I could never ever imagine you crying."

What an interesting thing to say -- dead right and dead wrong at the same time! As a kid, my family called me "crybaby" because everything turned me into a sobbing mess. Crying isn't something I ever did in public. I looked down on the kids who cried at school. That, I thought, was for babies. I did my weeping in the privacy of my own home, with my family as an audience.

But as an adult, I've unwittingly turned off my inner faucet. In fact, I can only remember four times when I've cried as a grown up. The first was when I was 25 years old. I was listening to Annie Lennox's cover of Paul Simon's "Something So Right" on her Medusa CD. I had just broken up with my second boyfriend, and when she sang, "I've got a wall around me," she struck a nerve. Here comes the rain again.

The second time was on my 29th birthday. I came home from a dinner that my friends had thrown for me, and as I listened to my birthday greetings on the answering machine (this was in the days before everyone started communicating almost strictly by email and, later, by Facebook and IM), I began to cry silently. So this was what it felt like to cry tears of joy. I had never before understood the concept, and I'm not sure I do now, but I can't say I've never had the experience.

The third time was when I was 34 years old. I was vacationing in Rio, and my then-boyfriend dumped me by email. I was hardly head over heels about the guy, but no one had ever broken up with me before. It was a damaging blow to my ego. I called up my best friend Lori, and as I told her the story, I found myself sobbing, this time loudly, on the balcony of my hotel room.

The fourth time was when I was 36 years old. It was six months after I had moved to Buenos Aires, and one week after I was attacked and robbed in my apartment by three burglars. I couldn't understand why such a traumatic experience wouldn't make me cry right after the fact, but on the Friday night after the robbery, as I was sitting in a bar with a bunch of friends, I broke down. I'm not sure whether to blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol or on a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome, but I soon found myself sitting on the sidewalk outside of the club, sobbing, this time violently an uncontrollably, to my friend Jeffrey on the telephone, telling him how terrified I was that those men were going to come back to finish me off. (Yes, I'm the eternal drama queen!)

And that's it. I've mourned the end of other relationships. But I didn't cry. I've lost loved ones to illness, to drugs, to various other things. I was devastated. But I didn't cry. In 2001, one of my friends was murdered in his bathtub. I was a mess for weeks, and to this day, I'm haunted by his passing. But I didn't cry. Every now and then, I'll have a dream in which something terrible happens to me. But I won't cry. I'll want to cry. But the tears won't come. It's frustrating -- even more so than those dreams where I end up naked in public, or where I've fallen and can't get up.

So when my friend asked me this question, I was alarmed because she'd unknowingly nailed something that has been an issue for me my entire adult life.

Then this afternoon, the strangest thing happened. I had a dream. I was at a banquet, sitting at a huge dinner table with a bunch of people I knew in the dream but not in real life. Then Lisa Kudrow showed up. She began reading a letter she had written to her sister and brother (accompanied by a slide show), telling them how much she loved them. As I sat there listening and watching, something strange began to happen.

A dark cloud settled over my head. Then there was a rush of thunder and lightning throughout my body. Then a little drizzle. Then full-on downpour. I was crying. But strangely, no one at the table seemed to notice. It was as if I were an invisible ghost. I couldn't figure out if they were ignoring my crying jag because they didn't notice, because they didn't care, or because they were trying to be polite.

Just when I started to suspect I had entered some twilight zone, I woke up -- to blue skies, clear eyes, and a dry mouth. I got out of bed to get a glass of water. I may never be a crier, able to weep on or off cue, but I felt a strange sense of comfort in the fact that finally, I'd managed to cry in my sleep.

Bee Gees "Tears"
Don McClean "Crying"
Janie Fricke "I'll Need Someone To Hold Me (When I Cry)"
Pretenders "Stop Your Sobbing"
Ray Charles "Don't Let The Sun Catch Your Crying"

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Hoy entré el estudio de pilates y me saludó el chico que el jueves pasado me preguntaba sobre gays en Hollywood.

"Hola, Jeremy. ¿Cómo estás?"

"Muy bien. ¿Y vos?"

"Bien. ¿Sabía que hay dos Jeremys?"


"Hay dos Jeremys."

"¿Dos Jeremys? El otro debe ser Jeremías. ¿Es de los Estados Unidos?" Me confundía.

"Sí. Son los dos vos. Hay Jeremy con la sonrisa grande, y hay Jeremy que pasa muy serio sin decir nada." Sonreyó él. Reí yo. No fue crítica, solamente una observación.

Lo entendí. Soy así. Siempre he sido así. Puedo estar serio y cómico, introvertido y extrovertido, todo en el espacio de un minuto. No pienso en como estaré en cualquier momento. Estoy como me siento.

Pero me pregunté como me vean los demás. ¿Les parezco así a todos, como dos personas diferentes? ¿Paso de un extremo a otro, agradable en un momento, reservado en lo próximo? Desde ahora no podré a pasar el chico en el estudio de pilates sin pensar en como debería estar. ¿Sonreír o no sonreír? Eso es la pregunta.

Pensaba en esto cuando salí del estudio. Decidí que estaría Jeremy con la sonrisa.

"!Feliz Navidad!" le dije al pasar.

"¡Feliz Navidad, Jeremy!" respondió. "¡A vos dos!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


"Never make someone a priority if they only make you an option."

Words to live by. That was yesterday's (and presumably, today's) MSN "nick" of a romantic interest of my friend Rob, whose response was that either 1) it had nothing to do with Rob, or 2) it was how this guy thinks Rob treats him (like an option, not a priority), or 3) it was a very tacky warning that Rob is an option, not a priority.

Although it's not really the point of this post, for the record, I went with No. 1.

Normally, I cringe and roll my eyes at philosophical musings on MSN and in Facebook status updates. But since Rob revealed this one to me, it's been stuck in my head. It might be the best platitude I've encountered since years ago when I first came across Maya Angelou's divine revelation: "When someone shows you how they are, believe them."

But getting back to option vs. priority. That's deep stuff and an important consideration when considering putting all of your eggs in one basket, romantically speaking. My new Argentine girlfriend is about to pull a huge Felicity. I'm talking about the title character of the TV series, who travelled cross-country from California to college in New York City, chasing after a guy who, in my humble opinion, may have been pretty but wasn't really worth the frequent flier miles.

My friend is saving up her pesos from October to next May in order to go to Utah to study and to convince the love of her life that they belong together. She met this guy in Buenos Aires last August, and since he left, she says (technically, she wrote, in an email a few days ago), "I miss everything about him, even the smell of his skin, the connection we had, chemistry, everything! It was like a fusion, 2 becoming one in body and soul... Every damn thing reminds me of him: smells, colours, places where we've been. Sometimes I dream about him and wake up crying, or while I'm walkin down the street and I see a shadow, I mean someone who looks just like him from the back, it's so surreal, but in a way, not only surreal but sad, it hurts really deep."

Wow, she's got it bad. Here is one hopeless romantic who has truly learned to respect the power of love.

But what about him? Is she a priority, as he so obviously is for her, or an option. For him, the physical distance between them is a major obstacle. For her, there are no barriers, neither space nor language (she speaks near-fluent English, which is a plus). Part of me applauds her courage and encourages her to follow her heart and take this leap of faith. Another part of me, worries that leaps of faith can lead to deadly falls.

On the outside, I tell her to follow her heart, all the way to Mormon country (yikes!). Sometimes it's the love that we really have to fight for that sticks around. But on the inside, I know that love is a battlefield where winning is everything and losing can be fatal -- emotionally, mentally, physically. My heart's in armour. I relate deeply to the protagonist of Sade's new single, "Soldier of Love." I'm a soldier of love, every day and night, a soldier of love, all the days of my life.

That said, at 40, I think love is one war that is perhaps best waged con los pies en la tierra (down to earth) on a battlefield close to home.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Everybody loves a kid with a big singing voice (see LeAnn Rimes, Charlotte Church and Billy Gilman). But Michael Jackson and Brenda Lee aside, God help the pop-star tyke who has the misfortune of hitting puberty. That's usually around when fans lose interest (see LeAnn Rimes, Charlotte Church and Billy Gilman).

Puberty is a long way behind Susan Boyle, 48, but in a sense, she's still working the age angle. People rationalize her stunning success as a triumph of true talent over ageism and a shallow obsession with physical appearance. Her fans pat themselves on the back because they think they're so highly evolved: They love her in spite of the fact that she is, frankly, homely and middle aged. Even the notoriously hard-to-impress Simon Cowell is enthralled. But I've seen Randy Jackson dismiss prettier and better singers as being mad pitchy, dawg.

Carly Smithson, who couldn't catch a break -- nor a compliment from Simon -- during American Idol's seventh season, can sing circles around Susan. I suspect the judges dismissed her because, with her tattoo-covered arms, she wasn't pop-princess material. But if she had been downright unsexy, marketable as an anomaly, a spinster-virgin pop idol like Susan, they would have been singing her praises to next Sunday.

Think about it: Susan Boyle's success is exactly what her fans purport it not to be -- a reflection of a shallow obession with physical appearance. Only in a strange twist of fate, in this reversal of fortune, the beautiful people are being rejected for one time only. Susan is beloved largely because she's a non-looker who's pushing 50 (but doesn't look a day over 55), the ultimate underdog. And she can sing.

On the charts, Rihanna's Rated R couldn't compete with Susan's I Dreamed A Dream. Neither could Alicia Keys's The Element Of Freedom. Nor Adam Lambert's For Your Entertainment. (Next to face the Susan juggernaut: Mary J. Blige's Stronger With Each Tear. Good luck with that, Mary. I pray Susan is out of the way when Sade makes her return Feburary 8 with Soldier Of Love.)

Worldwide I Dreamed A Dream sales since its November 23 release: more than five million. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas -- for Susan and her record labels, Syco Music (in the UK) and Columbia Records (in the U.S.), which is fitting because Dream easily could double as holiday music.

But would everyone love Susan if she were young and beautiful? If she sang the same songs (including "Amazing Grace" and "Silent Night" -- ugh!) in the same way, emphasizing technical proficiency over actual emotion, but looked like Natalie Portman (to name the most beautiful woman I can think of at the moment), would she be selling gazillions of records every week? Would she even have made it from Britain's Got Talent to YouTube, where her stardom was born?

Today while I was listening to the best of Anne Murray (pictured above, in the 1970s), I finally pinpointed Susan's problem. It was while singing along to Anne's version of "Daydream Believer" (a John Stewart composition first made popular by the Monkees in a 1967 No. 1 version and returned to the Top 20 by Anne in 1980). Anne's voice, with its trademark touch of sadness, melts like butter over a deceptively upbeat melody.

Susan covers the song on I Dreamed A Dream, and it's the musical equivalent of two miligrams of klonopin. The slow, plodding arrangement coupled with Susan's too-careful phrasing makes for a positively soporific listening experience. I've yet to make it all the way through. It's the problem with her entire album. She can't even outsing Madonna, who is hardly a world-class vocalist, on her version of Madonna's "You'll See." In fact, she seems to be impersonating Madonna, but Madonna has one thing Susan lacks (besides sex and sex appeal): vocal personality. And romantic experience, which Susan allegedly doesn't have, helps when it comes to convincingly delivering love songs.

John Lennon once praised Anne Murray's rendition of the Beatles' "You Won't See Me" as his favorite cover of a Beatles song, and I must concur. Despite the massive songwriting royalties he'll soon be collecting, I don't expect Mick Jagger will publicly be bestowing similar priase on Susan's simple, anodyne take on the Rolling Stones' lyrically complex "Wild Horses."

"That you give me no
That you give me no
That you give me no
That you give me no
Soul... "

So sang Andy Bell on Erasure's 1980s hit "A Little Respect." In Susan Boyle's case, my sentiment exactly.

Anne Murray "Daydream Believer"

Susan Boyle "Daydream Believer"

Monday, December 21, 2009


Hoy murió Brittany Murphy, la actriz de las películas Clueless, 8 Mile y Little Black Book, la que parece estar en TV siempre en Argentina. Tenía sólo 32 años. Leí las noticias hoy en el lugar donde siempre recibo las noticias: Facebook. Tuvo un infarto. No comprendo como una mujer tan joven pudo tener un ataque de corazón. Mi primera impresión fue que tuvo anorexia o un desorden similar. Estoy seguro que a la larga averiguaremos que pasó con ella. Hasta que sepamos por supuesto habrá mucha especulación. ¿La mataron las drogas? ¿O fue anorexia? ¿O simplemente mala suerte?

Lo siento por su familia. Perderla dias antes de Navidad debe ser muy difícil.

Facebook me da miedo. A veces no quiero entrar la pagina por temor que habrá algunas noticias que murió otra persona famosa. Averigué por Facebook que hubiera muerto Natasha Richardson y que hubiera muerto Farah Fawcett y que hubiera muerto Bea Arthur y que hubiera muerto Patrick Swayze. Creo que la uníca muerte de lo que no leí por Facebook este año fue la de Michael Jackson. ¿Quién será la próxima? Espero que salga la muerte por lo menos por el resto de 2009.

Today Brittany Murphy, star of the films Clueless, 8 Mile and Little Black Book, which seems to be on TV all the time in Argentina, died. She was only 32. I read about it today in the place where I get all my news: Facebook. She had a heart attack. I don't understand how such a young woman could go into cardiac arrest. My first impression was that she had anorexia or some other eating disorder. I'm sure that eventually we will find out what happened. Until then, there will be a lot of speculation. Did drugs kill her? Was it anorexia? Or simply bad luck?

I feel sorry for her family. To lose her only days before Christmas must be very painful.

Facebook scares me. Sometimes I don't want to log on because I'm afraid there will be news of the death of another famous person. It was through Facebook that I found out that Natasha Richardson had died, that Farrah Fawcett had died, that Bea Arthur had died, that Patrick Swayze had died. I think the only celebrity death this year that I didn't read about first on Facebook was Michael Jackson's. Who will be next? I hope that death goes away at least for the rest of 2009.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


"Death," my sister used to always say, "is the great equalizer."

So, apparently, is time, which, I suppose you could say, is death's closest living relative.

Last night I ran into the ex-boyfriend of a girlfriend of mine. I hadn't seen him in about two years. The last time I saw him, it took every ounce of self-control in my then-only moderately toned body to stop myself from jumping on top of him and ripping off his clothes. He was that cute. My friend was such a lucky lucky thing.

Like most guys, he turned out to be pretty much a loser, a first-class philanderer. After months of turning a blind eye to his wandering you know what, my friend finally gave him the boot. I don't know about her, but I hadn't thought of him since.

So last night he caught me totally off guard. When he first came up to me, for a second, I didn't even know who he was. He was heavier. His face was bloated. There were only traces of the looker who once had nearly driven me to sexual aggression. The devil, I thought, as he stood before me, wouldn't recognize him. He had that same old Argentine swagger, but sadly, there was no longer anything to back it up. And I wouldn't give him more than 26 years.

It's the fourth or fifth time in several months that I've run into someone from my past who had more or less let his looks go to hell in a relatively short period of time. The first one was the ex whom I ran into on my birthday and didn't even recognize. Some people clean up well, others age gracefully, a lucky few manage both. These guys do neither.

The other night at dinner, my friend Jeffrey and I were wondering aloud why so many porteños seem to fall victim to the rapid-aging syndrome that afflicts children on daytime soaps. We couldn't decide if the culprit is the bright rays of the sun in this global deep south, the chain smoking, the heavy meat consumption, or just unfortunate genetics.

Whatever it is, unlike in New York City, where the average urbanite physically peaks in his or her 30s or 40s, here in BA, 24 often seems to be as good as it gets. No wonder the kids are all angling for guys my age. At least they know what they are getting in the long run.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Recién una amiga y yo estábamos hablando de una experiencia sexual que había tenido en un coche. Ese es un lugar en lo que no lo he hecho. ¡Demasiado incomodo! Un avión es otro. Pero por teléfono? Lo han hecho todos por lo menos una vez con palabras sexuales y respiración dura. Pero sexo por SMS? Hoy lo hice por la primera vez con Martín, un amigovio de 35 años que conocí hace un año y medio. Yo estaba en mi departamento en Buenos Aires, él estaba en la costa por el fin de semana.

Empezó la conversación muy inocente -- "Hola, como estas?" "Bien y vos?" -- pero pronto y sin aviso cambió el tema a nuestras fantasías sexuales. Nunca diría estas cosas a alguien en persona, pero hablando por SMS me liberó decir lo que quería decir. Le dije que querría sacar la ropa y hacerlo en el balcón de mi departamento.

"En el balcón? Pero nos verían todosss me gusta que me digas tus fantasías........qué mas?"

¡Le dije que querría hacerlo en el baño y dormirme con él en la cama después sin secarnos!

"¿Y sus fantasías?" lo pregunté.

"Jajaj a ver me gustaría hacerlo cuando regresas del gym sin bañarte y en musculosa transpirada.."

"No creo que tengo ese tipo de ramera pero el resto puedo arreglar."

"Vos sos un peligro porque me gustas mucho"

La conversación se puso más intenso, pero no puedo repetir más porque se acerca el nivel de pornografía.

Pero las ultimas palabras que dijo Martín me hizo querer que terminare el fin de semana pronto.

"Creo que el domingo estoy en Buenos airesssss ya te dije sos un peligro porque me gustas mucho y me dan ganas de hacer de todo......"

¡Maldición! Sin crédito.


Not if Christopher Plummer, Matt Damon, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci have anything to say about it!

I have officially weighed in with my 2010 Academy Award picks, and now (as of yesterday), so has the Screen Actor's Guild. Here are the reactions of my friend Mara (Us Weekly senior writer, not to mention the funniest and most prescient Oscar prognosticator I know) to the SAG nominations.

"Did you see the SAG nominees? Not to toot my own horn (even though I am), but I was 95% correct on all of them. Better get that Anthony Mackie off your blog post! The only one I missed was Diane Kruger [Inglorious Basterds] for supporting actress. And I don't even mind missing that one because the woman she replaced was... Julianne Moore [A Single Man]! Ha! Poor Julianne! You know she already had that SAG dress ready to go. But I still think she will get her Oscar nomination. Diane's nomination was an anomaly. Like Dev Patel's nomination for Slumdog Millionaire last year.

"Emily Blunt [The Young Victoria]. Won't happen. Marion [Cotillard, Nine]. Won't happen. She should be satisfied with one Oscar and call it a day. But it's disappointing -- as i said, Nine was fine. But Marion is really the heart of that movie. Penelope [Cruz] just disappears about 3/4 of the way through.

"As for the rest of Nine, well, it's no Chicago. The story is deadly boring and pretentious. Daniel Day Lewis, bless him, is sexy as all hell but can not sing. The musical numbers are more misses than hits. Fergie and Kate Hudson have the showiest performances -- but I almost just expect it from Fergie because she's a professional. (And Kate is very smoke and mirrors. Kind of like Richard Gere in Chicago). And even the misses are fascinating. I love watching A-listers trying to be showgirls! Nicole Kidman is hilariously miscast as an Italian movie goddess. In conclusion, a very generous three stars.

"I'm scared you're right about Christopher Plummer [The Last Station]. He positively reeks of James Coburn [best supporting actor winner for 1997's Affliction]!!! And Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules. That said, Christoph Waltz [Inglorious Basterds, above] was pretty damn amazing. If he gives a rousing Golden Globes speech, it could go a long way for him.

"Still find it hard to believe that Sandra Bullock is going to get nominated for that role [in The Blind Side]. She really deserved [a nomination] for Miss Congeniality. Comedic performances are so tough to pull off! Here, she really only had to do her best Kathie Lee Gifford.

"I hope [The Hurt Locker director] Kathryn Bigelow is writing her speech. Though I still say Up In The Air is the Best Picture to beat."

Friday, December 18, 2009


Hoy en mi clase de pilates, tuve una conversación muy rara y interesante con dos chicos y una chica. Saben todos en el estudio de pilates que en Nueva York era periodista de entretenimiento y celebridades, así que me hacían preguntas acerca de mi vida pasada.

Una amiga de la chica me había visto en E! Entertainment Television en el programa E! True Hollywood Story: Janet Jackson. Estuvieron impresionados. Si hablaba de Janet Jackson y otras celebridades en TV, entonces debo saber todo acerca de sus vidas privadas o así creen los chicos a quien estaba hablando. ¡En ese momento supe como Liz Smith, la escritor famosa y la experta de celebridades, debe sentirse!

Sacó un chico el tema de Hollywood y homosexualidad. Quería saber quien es gay y quien no es gay.

"¿Mel Gibson?"

"¡Por favor!"

"¿Jude Law?"


Preguntó sobre otro actor muy famoso en todas partes del mundo.

"Sí," le respondí. "Saben todos en Hollywood."

Me miró. No pudo creer lo que le había dicho. "Pero no parece gay. ¡No puede ser! ¡No puede ser!"

¡No pude creer lo que me había dicho! "Se tiene que parece gay para ser gay?"

Supongo que como el gusto en la música y los peinados, en Buenos Aires las ideas sobre sociedad y comportamiento se quedan en los 80s.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


"He's been high on a young girl's ride
Never alone on a Saturday night
He's been all around the world about a million times
But he's never been in love
Not on the inside"
--Robyn, "Not On The Inside" (1999)

Hmm... I wonder whose misbehavior she was calling out there.

Yes, for those of you not in the know, Robyn was alive, kicking and hitting the musical mark between "Show Me Love," her top 10 hit from 1997, and "With Every Heartbeat," her 2007 "comeback" hit, which went to No. 1 in the UK. During her "lost" years, Robyn recorded two excellent albums, 1999's My Truth, released when she was 20, and 2002's Don't Stop The Music, source of the aforementioned "Not On The Inside," and also collaborated with Basement Jaxx and Swedish producer Christian Falk, among others. I'm on the edge of my sofa anticipating what she does next.

Robyn "Not On The Inside"


Algunos chicos dirían cualquier cosa para entrar en la cama conmigo. Hace unas semanas conocí a un chico, y además del hecho que tiene 18 años, no me gustó que me seguyó enviar mensajes en los que deletreó casi toda palabra incorrectamente. No me interesó. El otro día me envió un mensaje que me salió muy sorprendido. Primero, creo que finalmente aprendió deletrear y por la mayoría parte usar signos de puntuación. Segundo, por la primera vez me impresionó por estar ingenioso. ¡Todavía no me interesa!

Su mensaje:

ENERO: un beso
MARZO: mimos y caricias
ABRIL: amarme
MAYO: conocernos
JUNIO: ir despacio
JULIO: a lo seguro
AGOSTO: tener algo pero no serio.
SEPTIEMBRE: algo serio.
OCTUBRE: amigo
NOVIEMBRE: amigovios.
DECIEMBRE: solo verme a veces...

Q mes pasarias conmigo?...

Mi respuesta: el mes cuando haya nieve en el infierno.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


It's that time of year again. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which today announced its nominees for the 2010 Golden Globes has spoken. So have most of the major critics groups. Now, it's my turn.

Although I have a passing interest in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Song and the writing categories, the acting races are the ones that drive my Oscar passion. This year, with 10 films competing for Best Picture, I'm even less interested than usual. But Best Director could get interesting. I suspect the Academy will finally give the award to a woman, Kathyrn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker. She might be competing with her ex-husband, Avatar (and Titanic) director James Cameron, and she'll definitely be up against previous nominee (for Juno) Jason Reitman, son of successful and never-nominated director Ivan Reitman (Ghost Busters). At 32, would he be the youngest-ever two-time nominee?

Here is how I think things will turn out in the acting categories when the nominations are announced on February 2. (See more of my commentary here.)

Colin Firth for A Single Man
George Clooney for Up In The Air
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
Morgan Freeman for Invictus

Colin Firth was the early frontrunner for his performance as a gay man mourning the death of his lover, but the critics have since annointed The Men Who Stare At Goats costars George Clooney and Jeff Bridges as the ones to beat. And as I noted previously, after recently honoring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sean Penn for their respective biopic representations of homosexuals Truman Capote and Harvey Milk, the Academy might be ready to take a break from awarding straight men for playing gay.

Spoiler Alert! Tobey Maguire (above) is getting his best reviews ever for playing a prisoner of war readjusting to life back home in Brothers. That Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Drama over Jeremy Renner, star of the Best Picture frontrunner, doesn't hurt.

Carey Mulligan for An Education
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious
Helen Mirren for The Last Station
Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia
Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side

Carey Mulligan has had the edge all season, but now that she's splitting the critics awards with Meryl Streep, who's also collecting praise for It's Complicated, I'm predicting that the Academy will single out its most-nominated queen for the first time in 27 years.

Spoiler Alert! Meryl Vs. Meryl? Would the Academy cite Meryl in this category for It's Complicated instead. (Remember what happened last year with Kate Winselt for Revolutionary Road vs. Kate Winslet for The Reader?) Highly unlikely, but anything's possible with the Oscars.

Anthony Mackie for The Hurt Locker
Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds
Christopher Plummer for The Last Station
Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones
Woody Harrelson for The Messenger

The critics have been unanimous in their support of Christoph Waltz, but I suspect a situation similar to 2005, when Sideways costar Thomas Haden Church took everything up until the Golden Globes (where Clive Owen won for Closer), with Million Dollar Baby's Morgan Freeman pulling a last-minute Oscar triumph. I think this year it will be one of two never-nominated-but-overdue actors: Stanley Tucci or Christopher Plummer.

Spoiler Alert! Despite consistently solid work, it's been 12 years since Matt Damon's last Oscar nod, for Good Will Hunting. Although Invictus is not the Oscar contender it was expected to be, Matt's excellent year -- his starring role in The Informant! was well-received -- makes him a possible nominee. If the Academy is more gung ho for The Hurt Locker as a film than because of its individual performances (as was the case last year with Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire), expect Matt -- or even, possibly, It's Complicated's Alec Baldwin, Oscars 2010 cohost, or An Education's Alfred Molina or Peter Sarsgaard -- to replace Anthony Mackie in the line up.

Anna Kendrick for Up In The Air
Julianna Moore for A Single Man
Mo'Nique for Precious
Penelope Cruz for Nine
Vera Farmiga for Up In The Air

Mo'Nique Mo'Nique Mo'Nique. Case closed.

Spoiler Alert! Maybe, just maybe, Marion Cottilard will sneak in here for Public Enemies (but who'd she replace?), because she had a pretty good 2009, and no way in hell is she getting a best actress nod for Nine, despite her Best Actress in a Comedy Or Musical Golden Globe nomination. Or maybe the Academy will demote her to supporting and drop Penelope. Either way, one of the Nine girls not named Fergie, Kate Hudson or Nicole Kidman is getting in.

Update The Broadcast Film Critics Association, which announced its nominees December 15, has thrown two new spanners in the works. (Its Critics' Choice Movie Awards will be handed out on January 15.) Emily Blunt is now a major best actress contender for The Young Victoria, having also scored a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Drama. Look for her to challenge Helen Mirren for that fifth spot.

And then there is Samantha Morton, cited for her supporting turn in The Messenger. She's already been nominated twice before, and I'm pretty certain that when all is said and done, she'll win an Oscar. Someday. She'll probably be duking it out with Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


"You are a genie
All I ask for is your smile
Each time I rub the lamp
When I am with you
I have a giggling teenage crush
Then I'm a sultry vamp, yeah sultry vamp"

Those are lyrics from "Poetry Man," a 1975 No. 5 hit by Phoebe Snow, who remarkably and somewhat unbelievably, was only 22 when that single charted. If you've never heard the song, you can check it out below. Listen closely to the words, and note how she doesn't reveal until near the end that this "poetry man" is married, making it more love song than cheating song. Does this sound like the voice or the point of view of someone only a few years out of her teens?

Chronology is a peculiar thing. People around my age tend to dismiss early twentysomethings as too immature, too inexperienced, too young. And for the most part, they're right. But when you get right down to it, the number of years you've been on the earth is not always the best indicator of emotional development. I know people in their 30s and 40s who may have experience on their side but not much else.

When I was 23, I was dating my first boyfriend, who was five years older, and he used to marvel at the way I would handle people twice my age in conversation, with such wit and confidence. Despite my lifelong battle with bashfulness, I've always had a strong point of view. If there is nothing to say, I won't be the one to say it. But give me something to talk about, and I'll run with it.

Today in pilates class, a couple of ladies struck up a conversation with me. They were surprised by two things: A) I'm not mute. B) I was actually speaking their language. Like so many Argentines dealing with people from the U.S., they probably assumed that I couldn't communicate in Spanish when, in fact, I just never had anything to say to them. I'm not particularly into small talk, and I don't go around chatting up strangers -- in any language.

I wish more people who take pilates classes in the studio felt this way, so I could have some peace and quiet while I'm working out. Furthermore, it's hard for me to hold a conversation when I'm trying to concentrate on breathing in, breathing out, while keeping both legs suspended in the air at a 45° angle and pushing a bar with my hands to raise my upper torso. Ouch! Damn those abdominal procedures! And damn those chatterboxes!

But beside the point of their interrupting my pilates with their yammering, the bottom line is that we make erroneous assumptions about people all the time. You might be able to judge wine by its age, but people are a bit more complicated. I can't remember the last time I was impressed by the maturity of anyone 19 or younger; despite her alleged talent, Taylor Swift, who turned 20 yesterday, is no old soul: She acts and sings her age. Still, a lot can happen in two or three years.

My new friend Nico (see GIRLS AND BOYS), who turned 22 on November 6, and I had an interesting conversation on Saturday night. We were on the balcony of my apartment, so it was the first quality time we'd spent alone together, not talking over loud music with drunk people in the background.

I discovered that we have a lot in common, despite the 18-year age difference. We have a similar life philosophy (in a nutshell, live and let live), we both tend towards reclusivity when we're off the town, and we have the same favorite book (Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand). Although his party buddies are mostly close to his age, he told me that the people he feels most comfortable having sober, deep conversations with are friends who are twice, thrice his age. One, he told me, is 64, only one year younger than my mother!

Though, of course, what does age have to do with it!

Consider this:

1. Bob Dylan had just turned 22 when "Blowin' In The Wind" came out as a single in 1963, and he was two years older when "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Positively 4th Street" were Top 10 hits.

2. Stevie Wonder recorded four of his five "classic period" albums -- Music Of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness' First Finale and Innervisions -- before his 25th birthday.

3. R.E.M. released its first two full-lengh albums, including the post-punk classic Murmur, before lead singer and main lyricist Michael Stipe turned 25. Life's Rich Pageant, Document and Green all came before he was 30.

4. Tracy Chapman had just turned 24 when she released her self-titled debut album, a huge commercial and critical successful with a lyrical heft that most singer-songwriters in their 30s and 40s could never touch.

5. Sinead O'Conner was 20 when she recorded her debut album, The Lion And The Cobra, and 23 when I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got became one of the first unanimously acclaimed albums of the '90s.

Whoever griped that youth is wasted on the young was probably just a late bloomer.

Phoebe Snow "Poetry Man"

Monday, December 14, 2009


You can't, I've been told, win them all. And that goes double for pop stars. They all flop from time to time. In the '00s, Madonna had her American Life. Whitney Houston had her Just Whitney. Mariah Carey, so unstoppable in the '90s, had her Charmbracelet. Britney Spears had her Blackout, which didn't do too badly but was her lowest seller despite being her best album. And Janet Jackson had... well, everything since Nipplegate.

But Blackout and Just Whitney aside (yes, it's better than you probably remember), those were, by no means, records worthy of the multiplatinum sales to which those artists had become accustomed. In the '00s, many mini-masterpieces went unsung by the general public, but for this post, the focus is on great albums that were critical and/or commercial disappointments, by acts who had previously gone platinum.

Pink Try This (2003)
Here's the thing about Pink. I love everything about her -- except her music. To me, she always seems like she's trying too hard to be rock & roll when she's really only slightly less pop than Britney. Interestingly, when she finally got the rock thing -- testy edge and all -- just right, mostly in collaboration with Rancid's Tim Armstrong on this 2003 opus, the result was the closest thing she's had to a commercial misfire. Too bad, because tracks like "Last To Know" and "Oh My God," a duet with electroclash diva Peaches, were better than anything she'd done before or has done since.

"Oh My God"

R.E.M. Around The Sun (2004)
In the '90s, every new R.E.M. album was hailed as a masterpiece. In the '00s, they've all been deemed a return to form. Except for this one. Even the band members might say it sucked. But hindsight, after sluggish sales, is 20/20 vision. They'll no doubt be saying the same thing about last year's Accelerate when the next album comes around. In truth, Around The Sun, is like an admittedly lesser companion piece to Automatic For The People, similar to Pet Shop Boy's 2002 Release vs. 1990's Behaviour. Mostly elegaic in tone, it's music for and from middle-aged men looking forward while looking back. Rocking out is not the point. It's what I imagine a Michael Stipe solo album might sound like, because songs like "The Worst Joke Ever" and "The Ascent Of Man" are more about lyrical and vocal mood than anything else. Just dim all the lights and let the music play.

"The Outsiders" (Ft. Q-Tip)

Sinead O'Connor Faith And Courage (2000)/Throw Down Your Arms (2005)
Okay, so Sinead hasn't been multiplatinum since a good 10 years before the turn of the century. But despite her kooky-controversial public image, she consistently makes great music. This decade, when she turned her focus to traditionally black music forms -- R&B on Faith And Courage, reggae on the Sly & Robbie-produced Throw Down Your Arms -- the results may not have been on par with The Lion And The Cobra or I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, but songs like Faith And Courage's torchy "Jealous" and sensuous "Til I Whisper U Something" and pretty much all 12 reggae covers on Throw Down Your Arms top most of what has passed for commercial pop, rock and soul this decade.

"Til I Whisper U Something"

Terence Trent D'Arby Wildcard (2001)
Terence Trent D'Arby can do anything. And to turn an old, overused cliche on its head, on Wildcard, he pretty much did everything -- every genre, every instrument, every emotion -- except sing the phone book. Sure he'd been doing that since he debuted with The Hardline According To Terence Trent D'Arby in 1987, but on Wildcard, each style, each song fits perfectly, making it his most consistently excellent album. Maybe it was the inexplicable official name change to Sananda Francesco Maitreya that juiced him creatively. There are too many standouts to mention here, but one wonders, if he had released something like this -- artistic yet accessible -- as his second album instead of 1989's brilliant but difficult Neither Fish Nor Flesh: A Soundtrack Of Love, Faith, Hope & Destruction, where would his career be today?

"Goodbye Diane"

Third Eye Blind Blue (1999)
Pop fans can be so fickle. Third Eye Blind's eponymous 1997 debut album launched hit after hit, and it seemed to set the stage for what would be at least a two-hit-album career. But despite having more interesting hooks and a more cohesive feel than TEB, Blue, which was released in the final weeks of the last century but impacted in the new millenium, detoured from the bouncy pop-rock of the Third Eye Blind singles. Its mood matched the hue of the title and cover, and perhaps as a result, it barely dented the Top 40, and produced only one hit single, "Never Let You Go," which managed to limp to No. 14.

"The Red Summer Sun"

Toni Braxton Libra (2005)
If the 2002 flop More Than A Woman badly damaged Braxton's multiplatinum career, this was the non-hit from which it might never recover. Although it went Top 10 and gold, it was a long way from the sales (8 million) of each of Toni's first two albums. That's a shame because Libra contains some of Toni's best work. Coming out in 2005 when the frenetic R&B of Beyonce, Destiny's Child, Christina Milian and Amerie (whose "1 Thing" is rewritten on Libra as "Take This Ring," the album's sole rump shaker) ruled the charts, it must have seemed too tame and perhaps a tad old-fashioned, but mark my words: Before slow-jam soul went out of style, a track like "What's Good" would have soared effortlessly into the Top 10.

"What's Good"

Other Undervalued Gems Of The Decade
The Cardigans Long Gone Before Daylight (2003), Super Extra Gravity (2005)
Nancy Sinatra Nancy Sinatra (2004)
Leona Naess I Tried To Rock You But You Only Roll (2001), Leona Naess (2003), Thirteens (2008)
Robyn Don't Stop The Music (2002)
Texas Red Book (2005)
Tracey Thorn Out Of The Woods (2007)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


"I've lost the use of my heart/But I'm still alive." And just like that, with those opening lines of her new single, "Soldier Of Love," Sade ends her nearly 10-year silence. "I'm at the borderline of my faith/I'm in the hinterland of my devotion," she continues a few couplets later. This, obviously, is no ordinary song about love deluxe.

It's a tough balancing act, evolving while staying true to yourself, and Sade manoeuvers the tightrope expertly on "Soldier Of Love," the title track from her first album in 10 years, due February 8. The single is a natural progression from 2000's Lovers Rock, which itself was a move away from the jazz-inflected R&B with which Sade first made her mark into moodier, occasionally more experimental territory. Cinematic in musical and lyrical scope, it's a soundtrack for the love story of a hopeless, helpless romantic, bruised and bloodied on the battlefield but still not down for the count.

This time around, the band has added a bit more thunder and lightning to its quiet storm: A shuffling, marching drum beat creates an unsettled mood, while buzzing electro riffs bring the sound into the 2010's. Topping it all off is that voice, cool, calm and collected as ever, until 2:01, when for perhaps the first time ever, it finally reaches the shouting stage.

In unrelated news, my brother Alexi, whose taste in music is as sophisticated as that of anyone I know, called me today with a disturbing point of view. Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," he said, is the best pop song he's heard all year! What's that on the horizon? Hello, apocalypse!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Once upon a time, in a musical galaxy far far away, offbeat, non-cookie-cutter singles like this one that defied categorization regularly made the Top 10.

Three Dog Night "Liar" (No. 7, 1971)


Hollywood is a strange, unfair place. Some stars (Nicole Kidman comes immediately to mind) can headline flop after flop yet remain gainfully employed. Others reach the cusp of fame, and then for no apparent reason, they plummet off the radar.

These thoughts were going through my mind today as I sat staring at Scott Foley's face while watching an episode of Felicity. Remember Scott Foley? He never got anywhere near the cusp of fame, but for a second there, he was kind of well-known -- mostly for being the allegedly cuckolded husband of Jennifer Garner. After her break-up with Scott, Jennifer moved on to her Alias costar Michael Vartan before settling on her current husband, Ben Affleck.

Ah, Ben Affleck. Remember when he was totally A-list? In recent years, he's gained more credibility as an actor and even as a director, but he's probably not at the top of anyone's casting wish list anymore. Then there's his kid brother, Casey. Remember him? 2007 was so his year. First there was Ocean's Thirteen, which, granted, wasn't really his movie. But The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford certainly was, despite being top billed by Brad Pitt.

Casey stole that movie right out from under the two-time Sexiest Man Alive and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role in the process. Then for the first time, he headlined a major film: Gone Baby Gone, an acclaimed child kidnapping drama directed by big brother Ben.

Great things must have followed, right? Wrong. Casey has not appeared onscreen since 2007. Although he has two films coming out in 2010, one has to wonder what was behind the three-year break. That year's other supporting actor contenders were Javier Bardem (the winner), Hal Holbrook, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Wilkinson, who have all worked steadily since then. Weren't directors lining up to hire Oscar nominee Casey after his one-two-three punch?

Sadly, probably not. It must really suck to be an actor of a certain age (28 to thirtysomething) with a certain look (darkish-haired, square-jawed) in Hollywood. Why hire Casey, 34, James Franco, 31 (and now slumming on General Hospital), or James Marsden, 36, when you can get Jake Gyllenhaal? When it comes right down to it, it's Jake's world. The others just live in it.

Friday, December 11, 2009


It's that December time of year again. 'Tis the season to be jolly and to make our lists and check them twice of all the things we loved and hated about the past 12 months.

For now, let's focus on the love part. There are still a few musical presents waiting to be unwrapped in 2009. A new Mary J. Blige album, Stronger With Each Tear, is coming on December 21, and it will no doubt contain a few moments that are terrifically moving -- physically and emotionally. Of less pre-release interest (but you never know) is the new opus from Alicia Keys, The Element Of Freedom (boy, she really needs to work on spicing up her album titles), due December 15. And if there is a God, she'll send us the new Sade single before the year is out. But at this very moment, here is my list of 2009's musical high points. (For more of my thoughts on 2009 in music, check out my piece at Suite 101.)

1. Allison Iraheta: "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" I was so terrified for 17-year-old Allison (above, top, with Kris Allen and Adam Lambert) when she announced her song choice for Motown week last season on American Idol. It's a vocal triathlon at the microphone, full of twists, turns and bends. You've pretty much got to be a Temptation or George Michael to get it right. But little Allison shocked us all -- and immediately became a season 8 frontrunner -- by nailing the classic with the finesse and accomplishment of a diva three times her age. Honorable mention: Kris Allen's the Fray-inspired cover of Kanye West's "Heartless," which probably won him American Idol last season.

2. The Black Eyed Peas: "Boom Boom Pow" (Read about it and watch it here.)

3. Ciara Ft. Justin Timberlake: the "Love And Sex And Magic" video (Read about it and watch it here)

4. Comeback Fever After more than a decade away, both Basia and Toni Childs returned with excellent new albums (It's That Girl Again and Keep The Faith, respectively) that matched the best of their earlier work. Coming in 2010: Sade ends her decade-long sabbatical with Soldier Of Love. Salute!

5. Dizzee Rascal & Armand Van Helden: "Bonkers" As much as I loved David Guetta & Akon's "Sexy Bitch," for me, the DJ-R&B/hip hop collaboration of the year was this Prodigy-inspired No. 1 U.K. single, which sounds like techno rap being attacked by chainsaws while overdosing on speed. Bonkers indeed!

6. John Mayer: "Who Says" Everyone was up in arms over the apparent reference to smoking pot (hey, Ray Charles was singing about toking up, or whatever, as far back as 1966 on his best single, the Ashford & Simpson-penned "Let's Go Get Stoned"), but I say forget about whether or not he inhales and just enjoy a great single. (Read more about it and watch it here.)

7. Lily Allen: "Everyone's At It" Speaking of drugging, Lily (above, center) insisted that we all indulge in some form or other, and from a musical standpoint, she made an excellent case. Pass the klonopin, please.

8. Mariah Carey: "Up Out My Face" The kiss off of the century so far, from the brilliant Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel (yes, it took awhile for me to totally get it, but it grew on me enough to become the most-played album of the year). "If we were two Lego blocks/Even the Harvard University graduating class of 2010/Couldn’t put us back together again." Try singing that five times fast. (Listen to it here.)

9. Muse: "Uprising" (Read about it and listen to it here.)

10. The Opiates: "Anatomy Of A Plastic Girl"/"I'm Not Simone Choule" In collaboration with producer Robert Solheim, German dance diva Billie Ray Martin invented a brand new genre: Gothic electro soul.

11. Rihanna: "Cold Case Love" (Read about it here.)

12. La Roux My friend Atzin introduced me to this duo's self-titled debut album earlier in the year. At first, I dismissed it as primitive, '80s-retro new wave, very Depeche Mode's Speak & Spell, an album I hate. But several listens later, I'd uncovered the soul -- courtesy, mostly, of singer Eleanor Jackson (above, bottom) -- beneath the glossy bleeping, blurping surface. A must-listen.

13. Royksopp Featuring Robyn: "The Girl And The Robot" (Read about it and watch it here.)

14. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: "Heads Will Roll" (Read about it and watch it here.)