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The Pulitzer Prize I’m Not Sharing

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

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Department Of Perhaps The Writer Of The Story Should Rethink
The Use Of The Modifier, “Successfully”

Dateline: Wednesday morning.  Moiself  reads these two opening paragraphs of a story published the previous evening in The Oregonian:

“The very morning he left a residential drug treatment program he successfully completed, a Douglas County man went straight to his former drug dealer and bought a pill.
Hours later, (the man’s) grandparents found the 25-year-old in a barn on their ranch in rural Drain, dead from acute fentanyl intoxication….”
(“Oregon man dies from fentanyl hours after leaving treatment.”
The Oregonian 11-29-22)

 

 

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Department Of Yes! Yes! See This Movie, Yes! Yes!
But With Caution

Caution as in, perhaps a trigger warning?

 

 

I was literally shaking as I left the theater.

She Said.   Everyone should see this movie…however, moiself  has a feeling that only those who understand the experiences will have the inclination to do so.

Yep, moiself  was rattled, even though I knew (most of) the facts of the story the movie tells – of how NY Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (and journalist Ronan Farrow, working separately and simultaneously on the same story for The New Yorker) broke the Harvey Weinstein story and later wrote a book about both HW’s many abuses and their experiences investigating them (She Said:  Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement).

Kantor and Twohey shared the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for public service with Ronan Farrow, for their reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault and abuse scandals.

 

 

Harvey Weinstein, that serial rapist and sexual abuser of women and girls (at least three of his victims were teenagers at the time of their assaults; one was sixteen), has four daughters, whose ages range from twenty-seven to eleven.  Can you even imagine being one of them?

 

 

As I said wrote, I left the theater shaking, not with surprise but by the reminders that, with his goons and enablers and attorneys and accountants and other sycophants, HW almost got away with it.  Hell, he DID get away with it.  For. Decades.  And he wasn’t alone…and in how many workplaces, from Mom and Pop stores to multinational corporations, did and do predators continue to get away with it?

The movie touched on much more than the HW story itself.  It brought to mind the universal experiences of women abused by powerful men, some of which came out during the subsequent Me Too movement, some of which are ongoing, and most of which are lost to history, blackmail and extortion, victim-blaming and shame, and fear.

 

 

In one scene Kantor, a mother of two young daughters, is talking with Twohey, who’d just recently had her first baby (also a daughter), and who has dealt with some postpartum depression.  The story the two reporters are investigating is stressful; particularly wearing on them is the psychological damage they have seen inflicted upon HW’s victims, whose lives have been turned upside down (and careers ruined, in many cases) and who are too fearful to come out on the public record against such a powerful man…  [2] …and who live under a dark cloud of futility and despair.  I wish I could recall the exact dialog, but the essential vibe of the brief but powerful scene is this:  the two reporters briefly wonder aloud about how whether the frustration, fear, and depression experienced by many women might be the result of the pervasive drag-down common to the female experience: of having to deal with the burden of being female in a world where men still overwhelmingly hold and abuse power and act on the assumption that they can do whatever they want to any woman who is lower than them on life’s totem pole.   [3]

One of many powerful scenes in the movie involves several minutes of static video – footage of a NYC hotel hallway – while the reporters listen to audiotape of a “conversation” between HW and one of his victims (she was wired by the NYPD after reporting her assault). I need another word for conversation; I found it brutal to listen to, as HW harangued and pleaded and whined and threatened and interrupted the woman as he tried to get her to accompany him to his hotel room for a “meeting” (that’s where he does *all* his business meetings, he insisted,  [4]  and she is being so mean and unreasonable for refusing him, he pouts, and trying to embarrass him and “nothing” would happen, he promised “on the life of my children”   [5]  ).  And the woman was resisting and trying to get him to listen to her tell him how uncomfortable he was making her feel, and to answer her questions about why he had assaulted her (grabbed her breast) the previous day (“That’s just what I do,” he dismissed her complaint) and he went on and on, not taking her “no” for an answer, and repeatedly interrupting and talking over her….

I’d never had a sexually psychotic, sadistically bullying film producer try to intimidate and/or lure me.  Still, it all seemed so…familiar.

 

 

Two scenes later, Twohey and Kantor, both women in their early 30s, are seated at a table in a local pub with their editor, a woman in her late 60s.  They are there to discuss the HW investigation.  Two men enter the bar, spot the reporters, and began flirting with them.  One of the men approaches their table and invites the reporters to join him and his buddy (he doesn’t even make eye contact with the older woman; it’s as if – surprise! – she’s invisible to him).  Kantor is sitting with her back to the man; Twohey politely but firmly declines the man’s invitation.  The man persists. Twohey declines again, says that they are having a conversation and don’t want to be disturbed, and the man persists and interrupts and she declines several times (each time louder than her previous decline), the last time rising to her feet and yelling at him that she’d told him “…we are in a conversation and you need to FUCK OFF!”   Both men retreat, making smarmy remarks about how they know what those women “need.” Twohey apologizes to Kantor for yelling; Kantor assures her —reminds her – “Don’t say you’re sorry” (for standing up to bullies).

How fucked up is it – that women are conditioned to say they’re sorry, even when rightly and righteously reacting to someone else who is in the wrong?  The bar conversation scene, following the chilling audiotapes scene, was an obvious juxtaposition of a specific instance of harassment with What Women Endure On An Everyday Basis ®, in both professional and social situations.

 

 

But I can’t get out of my mind something that occurred to me after the movie was over.  I don’t think it was the director’s conscious attempt to put that observation into my mind.  Still, it is powerful, and it is this:

She Said  tells the story of the investigation into sexual assault and harassment, in HW’s Miramax Films in specific, and the movie industry in general.  Ironically (or not), a common trope in romantic comedies – one of the most successful movie genres – is that of the ardent male suitor who pursues his female love interest despite her having little to no interest in (or initially even repulsed by) him.  He won’t take no for an answer…and the movie rewards him for that, and presents his perseverance in a positive light.  He’s a man who knows what he wants!  And he goes for it!  His love interest is worn down by his persistence and finally says yes to him, whether for the moment or for life.

I repeat: in cinematic romcoms (and often also in “serious” movie love stories) the protagonist is rewarded for his dogged pursuit of someone who is not initially interested in him.  Even when the object of his desire says no, it’s his job to change her mind.  This kind of character is lauded in romcoms for behavior that in any other situation is essentially stalking.  And what happens in the movies? He “gets” his prize.  He is rewarded for his stalking persistence; he is rewarded, and praised and even presented as a romantic role model, for not taking no for an answer.

Of course, this convention only applies when the romantic protagonist is male.  If the pursuer is a female who is persistent and won’t take no for an answer, then she is presented as a neurotic/sociopath who’s going to boil your bunny.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Actually…not.  Moiself  got so twitterpated with the She Said subject matter that I’ve no energy left for other topics.  Except for maybe a brief interlude considering the therapeutic value of looking at pictures of unbearably cute baby animals wearing Santa hats.

 

 

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Punz For The Day
Cinematic Edition

Friends ask me how I sneak candy bars into the movie theater.
Well, I have a few twix up my sleeve.

Speaking of movie treats, how does actor Reese eat her ice cream?
Witherspoon.

What do you call movie a gunslinger with glasses?
Squint Eastwood.

 

I know what you’re thinking, punk. Don’t encourage her.

 

A French director wants to open a floating cinema in Paris with drive-in boats.
I just think that’s in Seine.

Some people forced me to watch a horror movie about clowns by punching me all the way to the cinema.
Yep, they beat me to IT.

 

 

*   *   *

May all of our animal friends look unbearably cute in Santa hats;
May you always and confidently guess this week’s Partridge;
May you always know when to take no for an answer;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] The majority of HW’s victims were not well-known Hollywood stars (although there were several of those), but Miramax aides and clerical staff, way down on the totem pole and with no public interest in their stories.

[3] And to such men, all women, simply by being female, are lower than them on that totem pole.

[4] And, as HW  told so many of his young, naive victims, who were film industry novices, “That’s how it’s done in Hollywood.”  Being new to the business, most of them thought he knew what he was talking about and that *they* were ignorant stupid and/or were the ones sexualizing the meeting invitation by even being suspicious of its location.

[5] That was HW’s favorite tactic, to promise (that he wouldn’t do anything sexual, or that he was telling the truth), “on the life of my wife and children” – which one HW associate said was the no-fail tell that HW was about to lie.

The Peasant Food I’m Not Upscaling

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Department of Not Surprised, But Still Sad

I recently read Junot Diaz’ acclaimed article in the New Yorker (The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma), wherein he revealed publicly for the first time his own history of childhood sexual abuse . [1]    It was a stirring account, to say the least.

I’ve never been fond of nor impressed by Diaz’s short fiction – and haven’t read but a few of his stories because the ones I did read left the proverbial bleech taste in my mouth, due in most part to the male-female dynamic found within. His style and themes reminded me of a more contemporary, multicultural Norman Mailer (and other acclaimed alpha male writers whose work I loathed, fiction writers who used their supposed hyper-realism narrative styles to impart their own loathing for women in any roles other than as their objects of sexual desire ). Ah, but for years Diaz was the new/exotic literary sensation in town, so who was this middle-aged white lady to judge?

Having undergone  sexual abuse seems particularly difficult for men to admit to; thus, my cynicism at his revelation shamed moiself. Cynicism as in, I thought that perhaps this (his essay) was his way of explaining/justifying (what I saw as) the sexism in his writing (a phenomenon too often explained/excused, for male writers, by literary “talent”    [2] )…

But that bit o’ skepticism was not my first response to the why reveal this now?-ness of his essay. My immediate, gut reaction was,  He’s laying the groundwork….  Translation: someone is going to accuse him of  Metoo conduct, and this (I did what I did because of what was done to me), overtly or implicitly, will be his defense.

And shame on me for thinking that.

I kept my opinion to moiself – now, there’s an admission you won’t often hear  – and was glad I did so.

 

 

 

 

 

Then came the story in last Friday’s New York Times, wherein Diaz was speaking at a writer’s conference:

The writer Zinzi Clemmons stood up. Without identifying herself by name, she asked Mr. Díaz about a recent essay he had published in The New Yorker detailing the sexual assault he experienced as an 8-year-old boy. She then asked why he had treated her the way he had six years prior, when she was a graduate student at Columbia….

Ms. Clemmons said she believed that Mr. Díaz had tried to pre-empt accusations like hers by writing the autobiographical essay in The New Yorker last month 

Other accusations of his misconduct have since surfaced;  Diaz resigned his position on the Pulitzer Prize board as the allegations are being investigated.

I feel bad about this; I take no joy in having my cynicism validated. I am not questioning the validity of Diaz’s report of childhood abuse. And the thing of it is, and it could be true that he abused his power over women as a direct (or oblique) result of his own history of being abused.  Or, these could be separate issues. Either way, all ways, it’s just….sad.

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We Interrupt The Ranting For A Moment Of Gratitude

Deep thought of the day: a rubber chicken does not, in fact, have to be made of rubber, to embody the essence of the rubber chicken.

Translation: Mere words cannot express my feeling that there is an ultimate rightness to the universe, when I am presented with evidence that some mahvelous people, when they encounter an object which reminds them of a rubber chicken, are reminded of moiself[3]

Thanks, JWW.

 

 

Whaddya think, is she’s one of us?

 

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We now Return To The Previously Scheduled Ranting

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Department Of Yet Another Reason To Scream At A Screen
Adjunct Department Of  Yes, I Should (And Do) Know Better

My afternoon exercise sessions often occur around the time when the local Decades TV station runs episodes of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. If I am not working out to one of my exercise DVDs, I’ll tune in to the Laugh-In reruns. I’ll admit to thoroughly enjoying the retro fun of it all, including memories of watching it when it originally aired.

 

 

Can we ever forget – or forgive – the show that introduced the world to Tiny Tim?

 

 

 

I remember how moiself and my buddies would take turns watching Laugh-In at each other’s houses, sprawled on our stomachs on the living room floor, usually with our parents seated behind us, sitting in their armchairs, also watching the show.  Our fun was enhanced by the prideful, barely stifled giggles that can only be produced by eleven-to-thirteen year olds who realized that the grownups and were laughing for different reasons (and at different times) than we were. Translation: many of the naughty jokes/double entendre‘s Laugh-In was known for– and almost all of the drug references – zoomed over our parents’ heads.

Fast forward to the present, and I am finding that for every skit or joke I enjoy and relive, I also marvel at how dated much of the show’s humor is.  [4]  What is particularly striking to me is how Laugh-In  – considered ahead of its time by tweaking the customs and prejudices of society – trafficked in so much hackneyed humor that was beholden to its time, in many cases reinforcing (not critiquing) stereotypes of ethnic minorities and gays and (especially) women.

Once again, I digress.

 

 

 

 

So. The danger to television-as-backdropexercising is that I am often in the middle of, say, lifting a dumbbell when the show goes to commercial, and thus am unable to hit the remote’s mute button. The commercials for daytime TV shows can be particularly odious, as the demographic is obviously considered to be the target audience for Certain Products For Those Of A Certain Age (read: elderly/infirmity drugs and diet plans).

One particular/frequently running ad is exceptionally…oh, how can I put it? It frosts my butt.  The second time I saw it  [5]  I realized, between biceps curls, that I had begun yelling at the television screen, at the two perky, formerly in shape and now chunky, E list celebrities (a former actor married to a former football player)  [6]  reduced to hocking a snake oil potion enthusiastically promoting a weight loss product. With no sense of irony and a surplus of golly gee this seems too good to be true, but it is! pride, they actually recited the following dialog:

 

* We eat our favorite foods and still lose four times more weight!

*Nothing in your lifestyle needs to change!
(as a picture of the implied favorites, foods-that-once-may-have-been-many-different-colors-but-which-now-are-all-deep-fat-fried-yellow ®, flashes by on the screen.)

 

 

 

 

 

And there I am, screaming at a screen, at the asinine and totally bogus “promises” repeated, again and again, about how “nothing in your lifestyle has to change….

but it’s your fucking lifestyle that got you this way in the first place  — it’s that junk you’ve been eating that did this to you and but now you’re boasting that you can continue eating the same rubbish ?!?!?

And of course, the grammar cop in me is irritated by the ad’s claims that a person using the weight loss supplement can “lose 4 times as much/more weight!”

Okay…I’m waiting…but there is no follow-up. Excuse me, aren’t y’all forgetting something?  “As much/more” are comparisons, and thus require comparatives.

 

 

Hold still and this won’t hurt as much.

 

 

 

“Lose 4 times as much/more weight!”!”  As much or as more as what, pray tell? As much as a person who’s never used the product but keeps scarfing their favorite foods faster than a hotdog-eating contest competitor on death row?  More than a herd of weasels on an all-kale diet?  More than twelve three-toed sloths on a treadmill?

 

 

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Department Of If Only You’d Had A More Interesting Childhood

My mother once told me that she viewed cooking as the least favorite of (what she considered to be) her duties as a homemaker. Although her family never went hungry, that attitude was revealed in terms of the variety (read: not much) of dinners she served to her family. She was the target audience for the advertising mad men – the  marketers whose mission was to convince 1950s – 1970s homemakers that the roles and tasks to which women were relegated were tedious and burdensome.  Convenient, an adjective heretofore not associated with food, became lauded — packaged meals and prefab  “food products” would save her from the drudgery that was cooking (and, these salesmen assured her, these food products were ultimately “better” – as in, more nutritious – for her family than anything she might be able to cook).

And she bought it –  hook, line, and Hamburger Helper sinker.

A recent Fresh Air podcast featuring an interview with chef Chef Lidia Bastianich made me think of my childhood culinary “heritage,” such as it is.  [7]  Chef Lidia is yet another foreign born cook of humble beginnings who came to the USA and made her fame and fortune (in both the TV cooking shows, cookbooks and restaurant businesses) by presenting the cuisine and heritage of her youth to Americans.

When Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked Lidia about the ironies of serving peasant food in top-tier Manhattan restaurants, I wondered if I had missed my chance do the same. However, unlike Chef Lidia, moiself did not have an exotic Italian-Croatian background. What would be the peasant food of my SoCal childhood that I could make seem trendy – Tang? Cool Whip? Rice a Roni? Spaghetti-os?

 

 

 

With the right marketing Manhattan gourmands will pay $95 for this.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you realize the futility of screaming at screens;
May anything rubber chicken-related make you think of…someone you love;  [8]
May you maintain an embarrassed fondness for the peasant food of your youth;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Raped at age 8, by a trusted adult.

[2] to wit, see Junot Díaz And The Myth Of Male Genius – How a male writer’s “brilliance” is used to explain away his obvious misogyny…

[3] Even better when they acquire said anything and present it to moiself.

[4] No surprise and to be expected, with any show that tacked political and social topical issues.

[5] The first time, I couldn’t quite believe I was hearing what I was hearing. And it was not an ad for hearing aids.

[6] To protect their privacy, I’ll call them Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete.

[7] It isn’t, really.

[8] Betcha you thought, if only for a second, that moiself was going to write, “moiself.”