Thursday, March 22, 2007

Endless Summer

Al Gore headed to Capitol Hill yesterday to urge members of Congress to enact measures that would slow or halt the process of global warming.

Now, unlike the esteemed senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe, I do believe that global warming exists. I’m just a little torn on why it’s such a bad thing.

The current issue of The Atlantic, which features the topic in its cover story, got me thinking. Yes, a spike in temperatures will suck if you live in Phoenix. Yes, rising ocean levels are a concern for coastal cities. But for Greenlanders, not so much. Russia is believed to have dragged its heels in acting on the issue because it’s damned cold in Siberia. I can sort of see Putin’s point.

The City of Chicago recently announced it would make 500,000 energy-efficient light bulbs available to residents—for free. The goal is to prevent greenhouse gas emissions. My fellow citizens, let’s not be so hasty in taking the mayor up on this offer.

Chicago weather is miserable 6-9 months out of the year. Not as nippy as Minsk perhaps, but we get our share of days with horizontal rain and 40 mph winds, the force of which tend to reach their climax just as I step out of doors.

I wouldn’t mind if that changed. I wouldn’t mind kicking my thermal socks and wool sweaters to the curb. People of Fargo and Minneapolis and Buffalo, you know what I’m talking about. If I thought global warming would turn our not-so-fair-weather city into the Midwestern equivalent of Honolulu, I would personally purchase every available aerosol can of White Rain hairspray and aim the nozzles smack at that hole in the ozone.

But according to Atlantic, such selfish action would have dramatic consequences. Africa would become so hot, everyone would leave and move to Denmark. Brazil would lust after Argentina’s cooler mountain regions. Eddie Bauer would have to write off massive unsold inventory of down parkas. I don’t want that on my conscience.

So, for the rest of the planet’s sake, I’m willing to sacrifice my dream of endless summer. Which, come to think of it, has its share of drawbacks. The only thing more frightening than irreversible, cataclysmic climate change—12 months of swimsuit season.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You Should Be Dancing, Yeah

I’m trying to cut back on my television viewing, so I can catch up on my Netflix. We’ve had “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” in our possession for over a month now—the time just never seems right to watch a sick old man do battle with the Romanian HMOs. At this rate we’ll make it through our current queue, assuming we cease and desist on additions, some time in 2025.

Make that 2027, now that “Dancing with the Stars” is back on the air.

I know—I should be spending my time volunteering with orphans, reading The Economist, calling my parents, folding laundry. Mourning the death of Mr. Lazarescu. But, god help me, I love this show.

I love the competitions within the competition—which female professional can trot out the costume with the least amount of fabric (Karina and Edyta have met their match in Kym), which judge can evoke the most convoluted metaphor (“like a bear stumbling around in a swamp”), which song the house band will massacre beyond all recognition of the original (pretty much everything).

I love how loosely the term “star” is applied. Seriously, Shandi Finnessey, Miss USA 2004? She’s not even the one who went to rehab. Yet Finnessey provided perhaps the best comedic moment of last night’s premiere, when judge Bruno Tonioli referred to Shandi and her partner as Barbie & Ken. Finnessey clapped her hands, jumped up and down, squealed in delight, and gave “Ken” a squeeze—as if the comment were meant as a compliment of the highest order. I imagined a thought balloon over Shandi’s head: “Finally, someone recognizes me for who I am!”

I love how seriously the celebrities take this competition, as if their career depended on it. And I guess, in the case of Ian Ziering, it does. Leeza Gibbons, former co-host of “Entertainment Tonight,” displayed surprising intensity and a killer instinct that might explain why Mary Hart once felt compelled to take out an insurance policy on her legs.

I love that contestant Paulina Porizkova, a former supermodel, has watched “Dancing” at home. Maybe even with her husband, Ric Ocasek, who used to sing with a band called The Cars. So that’s what happens when models and rockers unite—they cancel out each other’s super powers and become humans like the rest of us.

I love that boxer Laila Ali wore enough body glitter to qualify as Tinkerbell.

I even love the dancing. Among the current crop of competitors, a top, middle, and bottom tier are already apparent. Those with a shot at the crown including Ziering, Joey Fatone, Ali (a graceful revelation), and speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno. Ohno may be the most naturally gifted in the bunch, but he’s also paired with the youngest professional, who may lack the experience not only to choreograph interesting routines but to get her partner to stand up straight.
The best of the rest include Porizkova, Gibbons, John Ratzenberger, Clyde Drexler, and maybe Finnessey, who has the stork-like figure of Season 2’s Stacy Kiebler but none of the elegance. All of them need to loosen up— Drexler, a former NBA all-star and the show’s tallest dancer ever, seems afraid to move his upper body for fear of elbowing his partner in the eye. Gibbons, in particular, is tightly wound. Why is it that the oldest male in the competition—Jerry Springer, George Hamilton, Ratzenberger—always looks like he’s having a hoot, while the oldest woman--Giselle Fernandez, Vivica Fox, Gibbons—always looks like she’s constipated?

Which leaves us with two contestants in a class by themselves. First, there’s Heather Mills. Who used to go by Heather Mills McCartney but thinks that by dropping a few syllables we’ll forget she’s the Yoko Ono of the new millennium. Instead she, and the show’s producers, would prefer we focus on her prosthetic leg—that might fly off at any moment! Who wouldn’t want to tune in every week for that. Except the leg didn’t fall off last night and Mills un-McCartney failed to display a personality. She’d probably be the first sent packing if it weren’t for…

…Billy Ray Cyrus. Oh Billy. You can flat-iron you hair in the hopes we’ll mistake you for Keith Urban and have Karina whirl around you in the hopes we’ll mistake you for a dancer. But it won’t work. The performance was cover-your-eyes, is-it-over-yet dreadful. Which means, of course, that I hope he’ll be sticking around for weeks to come.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The surprising success of “300,” box-office champ for the second week in a row, has critics gnashing their teeth and scratching their heads. The middling-reviewed film, along with much derided fare such as “Norbit” and “Wild Hogs,” could very well top the once sacrosanct $100 million mark, in defiance of critics’ recommendation to avoid all three. What’s behind this sudden revolt against opinion makers? I have a theory.


Way back during Oscar season, a week or three ago, I posit that nearly every male in America was dragged to an art film. And they were bored. Bored with Queen Elizabeth’s immovable hair, bored with deaf mutes (except the nude parts), bored with fairytales and pedophiles and African dictators and musical numbers and Prada. Some went along willingly, others only when handed the verbal equivalent of an I.O.U., as in “You get to pick the next one.”

Well, “300” showed up in theaters and the boys called in their debt. “We’re sick and tired of subtitles,” they collectively shouted, “and we’re not going to take it anymore.” Point made. Just remember, come November, we ladies will exact our revenge, and the cycle will start all over again.

Ah yes, payback’s a bitch.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hot Topic

So, people are criticizing/mocking Hillary Clinton for speaking in a faux-Southern accent during a speech over the weekend in Selma, Alabama. What most pundits fail to mention is that she was quoting from someone else’s writing. In effect, she was speaking “in character.” And maybe she could have used a little help from a dialect coach, but the effort was sincere—and seemingly well received by the people actually in attendance.

Personally, I’m the last person to find fault with Mrs. Clinton, slipping as I frequently do into a British accent. Mostly I do this when watching PBS in the privacy of my own home, but occasionally I forget myself in the company of strangers. One time, we were staying at a bed and breakfast and half our fellow guests hailed from across the pond (why they were vacationing in Michigan, only their travel agent can tell). According to my husband, I turned into some sort of cross between Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, who having married Brits, sound to the manor born. I dispute his version of events—too bad the major media wasn’t there to record my every word.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Posh Life

Never underestimate the creator of “American Idol,” but Simon Fuller’s newest reality series sounds like a loser.

Fuller, who once managed the Spice Girls, has announced plans to chronicle the life of Victoria Beckham (aka, Posh Spice) as she makes the difficult transition from pampered, uber-wealthy Brit to pampered, uber-wealthy American. That’s right, Posh and husband David Beckham are picking up stakes and relocating their brood from England to L.A.--and Fuller thinks that will make for some fascinating television.

Speaking as someone who tuned into “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here,” proof that I’ll watch almost anything, I’ve finally found a line I’m not willing to cross.

Not only has Fuller overestimated Posh’s appeal stateside, which seems to be confined to her friendship with Katie (aka, Kate) Holmes, but the premise sounds horribly crass: Watch a celebrity transfer her support system, including publicist, stylist and personal assistant, to a new town.

Wow. Talk about having obstacles to overcome.

Mercifully, the show is slated for an extremely limited run of six episodes.

Week 1: Posh supervises movers, discovers bubble wrap! Has personal assistant pop it for her!

Week 2: Posh wonders, “Do I have to bring the kids on the plane with me, or can I ship them with the rest of my accessories?” Publicist and stylist debate, settle on FedEx.

Week 3: Posh arrives in L.A., stylist stranded in London awaiting visa. Posh steps out in “mom” jeans, paparazzi catch her using a scrunchie.

Week 4: Posh must choose between Kaballah and Scientology. Decides on Kaballah because Demi Moore is way hotter than Leah Remini.

Week 5: New neighbors invite Posh and Becks to a potluck. Posh astounded that Becks does not qualify as a hot dish. Publicist issues apology, noting “Mrs. Beckham is not familiar with food.”

Week 6: FedEx acknowledges error, Beckham children mistakenly delivered to Scary Spice. The tots sue to remain with Scary. Posh replaces them with a Birkin bag.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Open Letter to Elisabeth Hasselbeck,
co-host of ABC daytime’s “The View”

Dear Elisabeth,

Congratulations! Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly top your persecution of Hillary Clinton for her egregious support of ethanol (a stance taken by, oh, 100% of candidates when campaigning in Iowa), you go and outdo yourself by complaining that Al Gore is not eco-friendly enough. Because his Oscar statue isn’t biodegradeable. Seriously? That’s what you were thinking about during the Academy Awards? Not, say, whether you’re skinnier than Celine Dion?

First, let me ask, have you seen “An Inconvenient Truth”? Because I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Mr. Gore for what he isn’t doing for the environment (e.g., living in a teepee or bicycling to speaking engagements in Japan) until you understand what he is doing.

He’s filling a leadership vacuum.

In the absence of any direction from our current administration, which, in the face of all logic, continues to consider global warming “fuzzy science,” Mr. Gore has taken it upon himself to educate Americans about the climate crisis. Shame on him.

You see it as hypocrisy that while asking the rest of us schmucks to reduce our carbon footprint, Mr. Gore continues to fly on airplanes and, horror of horrors, avail himself of electricity in his own home. You deride him for purchasing “carbon credits,” as if having trees planted to offset his consumption of fossil fuels were akin to oh, I don’t know, waging an illegitimate war.

Once again, you fail to see the forest for the kilowatts.

Whether Mr. Gore sets his thermostat at 68 or 67 degrees is not the issue (though I don’t doubt his home and lifestyle are far greener than the White House). What matters is the awareness he’s raised among the American public about global warming. And, subsequently, the pressure the American public places on its elected officials to respond to this crisis.

Because much as I would like to believe that we can halt global warming one compact fluorescent light bulb at a time, meaningful change can only come about by implementing large-scale measures of the sort that require regulatory and legislative mandates. Like capping the amount of noxious fumes industry can belch into the atmosphere or forcing auto manufacturers to adhere to higher fuel efficiency standards. Since Mr. Bush & Co. have shown no interest in doing anything of the kind (in fact, quite the opposite), Mr. Gore is encouraging us—the American electorate—to demand action.

I’m sorry that this bothers you. I’m sorry that it pains you whenever Al Gore receives credit for his efforts. But let’s keep this in mind: If your guy wasn’t falling down on the job, Al Gore wouldn’t have to do it for him.