31 March 2009

2 march: a revue

"yes, i'm aware that i just put paris on par with a bread bowl."

"the reese's peanut butter cups are my undoing."

"honey, those are not sexy boots. those are robin hood, prince of thieves boots."

"i love sleeping bags... until i get a bout of claustrophobia and then i can't unzip that zipper fast enough and then have to wildly kick my legs in the air for about 2 minutes to show them that they can move and that they don't have to be scared."

"i want to see animals to the point where i’ll feel like nature has thrown up on me."

"i'm going to see jesus christ superstar tonight with the original jesus. which should be interesting because, apparently, this is the only thing that guy is good at, given he hasn't been able to let it go after almost 40 years."

"yes, she was. and yes, that is something we should make fun of."

"do you douche?"

"yeah, it doesn't work for most people, but then, i don't sweat like most people."

"she's actually a cauldron of life."

"liberace? no man should be that fancy!"

"we literally don’t know where this has been. we could be making anthrax bread, for all we know."

"have you ever seen that movie... she's having a baby?"
"you know, the one with katherine heigl."
"OH, you mean knocked up?"
"yeah. well, i'm sure at one point it was probably named she's having a baby."

"it’s like i used hamburger meat that took a bath in spicy water, but then toweled off."

"again, i cannot complain. i do not live in chicago."

"i’ve never met her and didn’t know she wasn’t male & german until today, and i feel sorry for her already."

"i may be the receptionist but i am not the maid."

“i think i’m having my epiphany and i owe it all to dunkin donuts.”

"i am living in morbid fear of jiggly arms."

"you just will never know how much weather perspective you have brought into my life with regards to the elements."

30 March 2009

2 elizabeth taylor has not yet died

but, because elizabeth arden has started exploring
bereavement ad prices, i think we are at liberty to reflect

so let's talk about elizabeth taylor-hilton-wilding-todd-fisher-burton-burton-warner-fortensky.

most of us probably first met liz taylor in all those white diamonds and purple pendants and red emeralds and black pearls commercials from the 80s. you know them. they still crawl out of the elizabeth arden vault and crop up on tv every christmas.

you almost forget about her and then suddenly, there she is every december. svelte, gorgeous, sporting that leonine hair all famous women seem to cultivate the minute they hit 52.

there's a jarring disconnect between the elderly dame that's been wheeled out publicly every now and again for the past decade and this ageless liz living in a cabana overlooking the aegean and hawking sensual perfumes.

but then, this is what happens when people outlive their image. it's as though they're already gone.

my first prolonged introduction to liz taylor was a 1995 docudrama starring the dynamic thespian sherilyn fenn. clearly it was a definitive experience as i promptly committed all of her last names to heart.

[fyi- this was during an era when memorization seemed terribly important. upon reading how jackie recited tennyson to jfk, i mistakenly believed true love would hinge upon my ability to perform dramatic recitations of the soliloquy in "are you lonesome tonight" and select passages from "the midnight ride of paul revere."

ps. it is impossible to exaggerate how sexy the phrase "middlesex farm" sounds to naive seventh grade girls.]

i didn't begin to appreciate liz taylor until i was older. hell, i would argue the world isn't really old enough to fully appreciate her now. having first appeared in 1941, she's one of those figures who- in an industry where many die young- seems to be stretched thin across far too many decades. much like churchill after WWII, she has outlived her use. we do not know what to do with her.

her filmography is comme ci, comme ca, a grab bag of stunning embarrassments littered with a handful of brilliantine gems.

the first liz taylor movie i ever saw was raintree county, which is essentially a gone with the wind knock-off wherein scarlett o'hara finds a doll in the yard, determines mammy is her mother, goes crazy because she can't cope with being the love child of a slave, and burns down tara... or something to that effect.

it's a stirring mess to behold on its own. never mind the underlying real life drama of liz taylor acting alongside montgomery clift, who is quite possibly the love of her life and is gay and will never love her as she needs to be loved and has just survived a horrifying, disfiguring automobile accident in the aftermath of which she knelt by his side in the road and held a severed chunk of his face onto his head.

i didn't know this when i was twelve. back then, it was all about the pretty lady in the pretty dresses. and this is a part of why i shout from the high heavens that biography is the end all, be all. because in fiction, we must settle for the story we are given. in real life, there is always more than we will ever know.

that pretty lady in pretty dresses? that bitch was tough.

nowadays, i would peg her as the most sexually threatening woman of the twentieth century. at which point everyone in the room would probably scream, BUT MARILYN!!!!!!

but marilyn, no. dear people, you are comparing darkness to light. marilyn cared what the world thought of her. liz honestly didn't give a damn.

liz lived. she lived large. and, despite having contracted every physical ailment ever known to man and experiencing more brushes with death than dante, she has lived for an indecently long time.

she was always a working woman, whether she had a husband or not. her reasons were not always noble- usually she just needed the cash. but even after mike todd died, there she was, back on the butterfield 8 set. back in front of the camera. back to work.

which is pretty admirable for someone who was largely known for her breasts, her drug problems, her marriages and one cataclysmic international affair.

liz taylor is an acquired taste. like jell-o shots or sushi or madras pants, she is scary. she is shrill. whether she is young liz, old liz, thin liz, big liz, burton liz, hippie liz, warner liz, or 80s liz, she can be hard to watch. (put on the flintstones movie and you'll see what i mean.)

the problem with liz taylor is that she delivered more memorable performances in life than on film. or at least, watching her, that's what we can't help but think.

the most devastating aspect of her devastating performance in the devastating who's afraid of virginia woolf? is that it plays as a burton family home movie. you're pretty sure she's not acting. she couldn't possibly be that good. no, you're pretty sure she is just that devastated.

but i don't think she was. i think she was that good. which, in the end, is devastating.

27 March 2009

20 buyer beware

because i am one of those straight-haired girls who will never be reconciled to the idea of having to endure a lifetime of straight hair, i have once again been hoodwinked into buying a curling iron. fortunately, i harbored no plans to wield said curling iron as an eye-putting-out saber or else my plans would have been seriously foiled.

24 March 2009

12 choose your own adventure

we're going to take a little stab at audience participation here, people, so don't fail me now. because if no one responds, if this poor, sad, little, strange, macabre post sits here uncommentated upon, i'm just going to have to assume you all think you're immortal and that you could free yourself from any and all dire circumstances, a foolish belief that will force me to unleash my "you're all going to hell" fire and brimstone blog, faith in the city.

my family is weird. i think we've established that.

so the eaton family question of the week (and i know you're thinking, wait. they have a question of the week? yes. we also have a vegetable of the year. we're cool. deal with it) is this:

but oh yes... the game has rules.

you must pick one of the five following scenarios. you do not know if you are a man or a woman, rich or poor, well-educated, well-fed, well-shod, or well-armed. you have no super-human powers. in each case, there are clear advantages and clear disadvantages and in most cases you may or may not live, though in some you probably will and in others you most certainly will not.

the scenarios are these:

(1) titanic
pluses- you have sailed on titanic. if you're a first class passenger, you presumably own a wardrobe valued at more than all our annual salaries combined. if you're a woman in first class, you will survive. the possibility of sex in a car with leonardo dicaprio exists.

minuses- 28 degree waters. if you're a member or the crew, a woman or child in 2nd class or steerage, or a man, you're dead. there's a slim chance you will be that guy who looked into kate winslet's eyes when the bow was extended to 90 degrees, lost his grip and fell the whole way down, bashing into every obstruction on the decks on his way.

(2) pickett's charge
pluses- you think you are fighting for a Glorious Cause. you and the 12,499 men standing with you are roused to victory by a stirring speech that will later be immortalized by martin sheen. you do not yet know the age of napoleonic warfare has come to an end.

minuses- the age of napoleonic warfare has come to an end. this will dawn upon you while walking in a wool suit through 87 degree heat across a HUGE field directly into an army's worth of guns. you will be hurt. there's a 50+% chance you will die. if you happen to be directly under pickett, you're pretty much dead before you've begun.

(3) the alamo
pluses- you have guns.

minuses- you will die, but you get to shoot back.

(4) the hindenburg
pluses- you enjoy a beautiful trip aboard one of the largest flying machines of any kind ever built. there's a 64% chance you will live. there's a 50% chance you will meet indiana jones.

minuses- you are flying through the air in a bag of burning gas.

(5) the spaceship columbia
pluses- you have been to outer space. your mission is complete.

minuses- your ride home will disintegrate, melt and fall to the earth in a million pieces. you will die.

the question is this:

in which of these disasters would you prefer to be?

23 March 2009

11 2016

2016 is far, far away. 7 whole years to be exact. and heaven knows where we'll be in 7 years. 7 years ago i was in mississippi. i'd never been here. 7 years from now, i could be in nebraska. or dubrovnik. or kalamazoo.

but for the moment i am in chicago. and as someone in chicago, i've been somewhat captivated by the whole olympic candidate city process.

i didn't realize this had climbed into the territory of obsession until lunch today- when i clapped my hands in joy at the prospect of the bid book's release and croftie shot me the eybrows of are you on drugs?

this is all rather out of character.

i don't particularly like the summer olympics. they're all sweaty and sunburned and everyone's running about publically in garments that are little more than generous underwear. to me, the summer olympics always seemed oddly devoid of real sports like figure skating and hockey- a poor shabby sister of the glorious WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES.

when i think the olympics, i think the cutting edge.

my interest in chicago 2016 is probably a little mercinary. if i'm still here in 7 years and the olympics are too, the killing to be made by prostituting la petite maison de ohlighn is tantilizing to say the least.

but there's more than that. i love chicago. it is my city. it is my home. and i cannot begin to bear the idea that after years of flirtation, of flaunting its best assets, of being on its best behaviour and prettying up, my city could be found wanting by a committee ostensibly representing the whole entire world.

the whole world could be just not that into us. and that's just mean.

19 March 2009

1 desperate characters

it seems every spring/summer i become obsessed with what lindear and i cheekily refer to amongst ourselves as "feminine literature" (say it right: liiiitruhchooooooooore). something about the rising temperatures sends me running to the pile of petticoat paperbacks.

but i think it imperative we establish a definition.

first and foremost, this is not chick lit.

chick lit involves a young woman living in new york on a salary of approximately $15,000 per year, working as a junior something-or-other at (a) a publishing house or (b) an advertising agency alongside an unrealistically attractive (i) boss, (ii) co-worker or (iii) client whom she initially finds repulsive, but with whom she will eventually fall in love and have mad, passionate, instantaneously orgasmic sex and a wedding after her (1) burdensome financial debt, (2) past history with her own and/or a sibling's eating disorder, (3) disastrously ended affair with a richer, older man or (4) success in a theatrical adaptation of a jane austen novel make him fall in love with her. that is chick lit.

we're talking historical fiction. by which i also do not mean harlequin romance, but rather the mighty gone with the wind and vanity fair, the epically sexy forever amber, and their less literary sisters from contemporary writers like karleen koen, et al.

like any type of literature, historical fiction has its conventions. the story will require no less than 500 pages. sex will take place in an unplowed field at least once. ribbons, fans, and carriages will abound. there will be dancing and there will be wigs.

but then that just sounds like chick lit in full make-up and fancy dress. and this is not chick lit.

the difference is a matter of character. in chick lit, the protagonists are a product of our times. they are whiny, cloying messes with drinking problems, dysfunctional relationships and credit card debt. i know these people. we don't hang out.

historical fiction is altogether different. the heroines are peasants or country girls or irish or orphaned. naïve sprites or cunning bitches (it depends) who somehow wind up at the center of everything, be that versailles, restoration london, or the crumbling old south.

unlike bridget jones-- who can fuck up every interview and still get a job in tv-- there is no room for error here. these women have to fight for what they get, have to claw their way through the intricacies of court, through the overthrow of governments, through southern manners and sherman's army, to survive.

these are girls with real problems. and yes, it's ridiculous. yes, it's overblown. yes, the word "manhood" will always be substituted for "penis" and yes, there are sex scenes that should probably be read aloud in high school english classes to educate kids on things not to say while having sex and how not to write but, ultimately, this is not about sex or writing. it's about characters.

there is something more honest here, in these stories of women who have to work-- be that in bed or in a lumbermill (and that is not a pun)-- to get to where they are. of women who actually want to wind up somewhere different from where they began. i say this as a woman who is often restless and wants to go somewhere. who would like to believe that marriage is more than a means to an end and that there is more to life than weddings and husbands, which is where chick lit usually bids us adieu.

historical fiction is peopled with mistresses, wives and mothers who are characterized not by the men they are with but what they are doing themselves. they are far from helpless. they are often on the run.

it is a genre characterized by a swiftness that belies the fact its members are usually over a thousand pages long.

ambition is seldom a motivation in chick lit. bridget left her job because she slept with her boss. becky bloomwood deals with her problems only after the fact that she has the debt of a developing nation has been exposed to the whole wide world. in chick lit, women wait. they shop. they keep diaries. they are content to bide their time.

in historical fiction, our girl is willing to claw the face of anyone who stands in her way. becky sharpe would've. amber st. clare did. scarlett o'hara shot him dead.

and i think that is why i return to these books again and again, silly as they may oftimes seem. because, beyond the heaving bosoms and hiked petticoats, there is extraordinary substance here. hunger and violence, dirt and blood, devastation and drive.

these are not the delicate, helpless girls chick lit would have us believe we should be. they are fierce. they are tough. they are women.

15 March 2009

13 the river, 'tis green

which, if you are a copywriter for the chicagoland-river-dye-squad website, is a miracle akin to moses parting the red sea.

it's surprisingly "eh," however, if you are an alum of balmoral elementary school's st. pat's lunches of pea-green mashed potatoes and emerald mac & cheese.

11 March 2009

4 2 of 2

#2: old age sets in very sudden.

my grandfather's brother died three days ago.

actually, he died three times last week, but they kept bringing him back because, to some people, in moments like those, that is what it seems you're supposed to do.

so, after considerable persistence on his part, nash has died.

my grandfather was the youngest of eleven. now he's the only one. which has driven home the fact that, important as they are, families dwindle. they do not last.

what i remember about nash is blood and naked ladies.

when i was a little girl, he was an old, old man. an old, old man with a shit-ton of faded tattoos of well-endowed women- relics of tarawa, which he had survived but would never discuss. i cannot stress enough how terrifying he was to me as a kid. all brusque and brawn and wrinkles. a pale john wayne. his clothes seemed to be always hiding a gun.

but there was something about those ladies. i would sit primly in my white cotton dress (legs crossed at the ankles, hands folded in my lap) at a safe distance from the man himself, transfixed by the showgirls dancing up and down the liverspotted flesh stretched paper-thin across his slackened arms.

i was little. i knew nothing of war. i knew even less about the trouble boys get into during it, so it was a tremendous mystery to me how dignified and proper aunt nadine wound up married to a man covered in tarts.

i didn't have breasts, but already i knew nice girls weren't supposed to flaunt them.

the summer my grandfather decided to cut down a huge tree in their backyard, my grandparents were still in memphis then and nash, who came over to help, got beaned by a branch. i later happened upon him in the kitchen, the yellow rotary phone to his ear as he quietly calmed nadine, blood trickling from his temple, running like tears down the women on his arms, collecting on the burgundy tiled floor in a puddle that glinted faintly in the late afternoon, summer sun.

that was twenty years ago and he seemed so old then.

nash died this year. druscilla the year before. great-grandmother the year before that. and none of these deaths have meant much to me, because these are the old guard. the people who have been dying as long as i've been alive.

but, with nash's death, it's as though we all moved up a notch. we all just got older because the old guard is now gone.

the other night my grandfather and i had a conversation about- of all things- the snuggie. i don't know how this came up and i regret that it ever did because, as a result, we spent ten minutes spinning our wheels on quite possibly the stupidest subject available. me trying to establish that he knew what a snuggie was, him saying he didn't, me trying to explain it was a blanket with sleeves, him saying he didn't know about a blanket with fleas but he'd seen this thing called the snuggie, me saying that IS the blanket with sleeves, him saying he didn't know about that, and it starting all over again.

who's on first? damned if i know.

perhaps this would be alleviated if there were government-mandated, state-issued hearing aids for everyone over the age of 75. perhaps then we would realize that half the geriatric population is not as old as we thought they were. or maybe that'd just make us finally face the fact they were. because that's a hard fact to face.

old age is very sudden. whether it hits at 70 or 80 or 90 or 52, it's a sly fucker. you look up and someone who once flung you around by the arms in a circle so high in the air that it made your mother abandon her post at the deep-fryer and come running barefoot across a yard scattered with dog poo screaming, daddy, not so high!!! can no longer walk to the mailbox. can no longer hear over the phone. can no longer get out of bed. can no longer go on.

just like that, it happens. sudden.

2 1 of 2

#1: had he lived, jfk jr. could conceivably be president by now.

this probably means nothing to anyone but me and i'm not even sure what it means to me, except a nagging fear that it means i am in some way racist for preferring the presidency of a dead white man to that of a living black man. and, of course, some fists of frustration in the general direction of c. david "my subject has been dead for 10 years and, due to an appalling lack of fresh material, i'll devote a HUGE chunk of my overpriced jfk jr biography to fruitless musings on what might have been" heymann's home.

let's just clear the air and admit that in that my heart, deep deep down, i am a monarchist.

it's a matter of organization. democracy is so messy, what with campaigns and conventions and such. if it were streamlined, if there were a clearly delineated line of succession, if we could see who and what was coming down the road, the country would run so much more smoothly. there would be a master plan. and i love me a master plan.

yes, every now and again we might be ruled by a prick and spend his/her entire lifetime thinking, dear God, don't let him/her destroy us, but for the most part i think it would work out quite pleasantly. the english seem to have got along rather well.

but then i'm also a socialist and a southerner and a democrat and a christian, so my belief system's been pretty fucked up from the start.

but back to the dead white man vs. the living black man thing for a moment.

i'm not racist. of that i'm quite sure. i heart barack as much as the next person and i think it's great we've elected a man who transcends race and whom a majority of white people can accept without reeling in horror over his arabesque middle name.

and i would be a liar not to admit that i do harbor some doubts that anyone who would ignore the fact that they have that very day had a cast removed from an injury incurred through an inability to keep an airborne object airborne in order to fly a piper saratoga through blinding fog could possibly be qualified to run the country. there are many many ways in which that was exceedingly dumb.

nonetheless, i would've voted for jfk jr. i would've rallied. i would've volunteered. i would've papered every pole in lincoln park with his visage. i would've firmly, unrelentingly believed in him.

because- as my grandmother always says when trying to find some qualification for someone who is about to do something they are thoroughly unqualified to do- he came from good family. he was a kennedy. and, as the song goes, kennedys can.

04 March 2009

9 required writing

there are times when i feel required to write about something.

for example, whenever a kennedy runs into a road block, runs for office, runs for... well, anything. it seems at those times, as the resident Group Keeper of All Kennedy-Related Things, i should have a rush of analysis at the ready. or whenever anyone in any way vaguely-related to the tv, film, or theater of my childhood, a first family, or tabloids dies. i'm there with the eugoogley. hell, i am the girl who has blogged about every email i've ever received regarding the dvd release of the mary tyler moore show. because these are terribly important things.

and the release of the new u2 album yesterday was a terribly important thing. but then, it really wasn't.

i should preface this with the fact that i love u2. i counted down to every single/album/show, downloaded every findable bootleg, read every book, condemned every writer of a bad review, dissected every lyric. i believed the nonsense that all that you can't leave behind was a step forward. i thought the endless stream of greatest hits drivel was a musical boon.

but, if we're being honest, the only emotion i felt this past december upon hearing that u2 would finally be releasing a new album (their first in 5 years) was dread. unadulterated dread.

i didn't really think about it much then. now, i think i didn't think about it then because i was afraid i would wind up thinking what i'm thinking now.

which is that maybe u2 will never be u2 again. at least not my u2.

yes, they'll be the big stadium act that puts on the same two-hour show night after night (a gimmick i've defended for years though deep in the pits of my heart it pisses me off). bono will keep running around the heart/circle/square during "streets."

adam will always be stage left. edge will always be stage right. at one point during the evening, like foreign dignitaries deigning to visit the poorer nation next door, they will each saunter over and briefly acknowledge the fans on the opposite side of the stage before returning to their respective corners.

u2 will always do an encore. and in that encore, bono will always pull a girl up on the stage during "with or without you" and all us sad-saps in the audience will always be thinking, oh my God, bono just pulled that girl up ON THE STAGE and now he's going to SING TO HER!!! to us, this will seem shocking though it is something he has done in every performance since 1989.

that is u2.

but that is not my u2. and, sadly, i'm fast coming to the realization that perhaps my u2 has died.

what we are left with is a sad, scared u2. a u2 that takes 5 years to produce an album that sounds curiously similar to the 2 albums they put out in the 5 years before that.

they have set up camp in a dead end.

this realization has left me strangely bereft. longing for the u2 that could form a band before they knew how to play their instruments. that could make four videos for a song called "one." that could make "with or without you" run 10 minutes long. the u2 that could close an album with a song so against where they were that it could only be sung by johnny cash.

for the most part, everybody seems ok without all that, with this new u2. the guardian declared this their "greatest studio album ever."

seriously. people. what the fuck?

maybe everyone else reached the point of lowered expectations in advance of me.

or maybe this is just the normal process of realizing the heroes of your youth have become old men.

02 March 2009

7 passportation

i hate audrey hepburn. because audrey hepburn always looked like audrey hepburn. even in her passport photograph.

i do not look like audrey hepburn in my passport photograph.

and yes, the bulk of the reason behind this (ignoring the fact that the swiss seem to allow one to look moodily away into the far-off distance and i would look better if they let me look moodily away) may be that i am not, in fact, audrey hepburn (which is probably for the best because that would make me a painfully thin, dead film star who had- most likely- made love to [the man who in my family lexicon is known as {and this just goes to show how i terrorized my parents with television biographies to such an extent that we have a family nickname for audrey hepburn's lover}] robbie wolders, lover of the stars).

it is my goal to never make love to robbie wolders, lover of the stars.

but i would like to have a good passport photograph. because you need a passport to go to places like paris and florence and dubrovnik and rome and when going to a glamorous place like paris or florence or dubrovnik or rome, what woman wants to whip out a passport that makes the aesthetic statement: i am sexually confused young man?

it isn't such a great demand. to want a photograph that captures the spirit of all the glamorous travel one will presumably be doing in the glamorous decade of passported persondom to come. a photograph where i do not look like a sexual predator or a pale, frightened red-haired boy.

as my passport came up for renewal this month, i thought this would be my chance. i don't know why i pinned all my hopes for a kick-ass photograph upon a lunch break spent beneath the harsh fluorescent glow (soft lighting, wherefore art thou?) of the walgreen's photo counter. stupid, really.

thus, the dream has been deferred.

but- to be ever positive- if i someday have need to pass as a shy russian lass forced into international travel on the way to inevitable poverty and a sex slave doom, i think we have just the shot.

01 March 2009

6 signs of the times

i knew these were economically bleak times for our country but...
according to the j.crew catalog, we have died.