Archive for October, 2005

Good Goth!

Posted on October 31st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I keep thinking about Ruth La Ferla’s argument that Goth has returned, an argument based in part on this paragraph:

Consumers too are following fashion and embracing a Gothic style. They are snapping up trinkets that they would once have dismissed as perverse or subversive: silver skull cuff links, chains interlaced with black ribbon in the manner of Victorian mourning jewelry, stuffed peacocks with Swarovski crystal eyes, and, as party favors, tiny rat and chicken skeletons, recent sellouts at Barneys New York. Such fondness for Goth-tinged playthings attests to the mainstreaming of a trend that was once the exclusive domain of societal outcasts and freaks.

And what I keep thinking is what a load of crap this is.

Let’s consider. If the sentence, “Consumers are snapping up tiny rat and chicken skeletons as party favors….” had appeared anywhere but the New York Times, would we not be laughing hysterically upon reading it?

Ms. La Ferla has made the classic New York style-writer mistake of using the term “consumers,” by which most journalists mean “Americans,” to mean “a handful of New Yorkers living in zip code 10021 with way too much money and an overweening desire to spend it on themselves.”

But then, since La Ferla does not produce a single shred of evidence of this fact—doesn’t bother to quote a single “consumer” about his or her love for all things Goth—how are we really to know?

I think what bothers me most about this piece is, well, two things. First, it shows all the hallmarks of bad “trend” journalism—no solid proof of anything, and a cobbling together of apparently unrelated things (e.g., the publication of Elizabeth Kostova’s vampire novel, “The Historian,” which was ten years in the works) to posit the existence of a mass phenomenon.

But more than that, what bothers me is the idea that something is a trend merely because top-down marketers such as fashion designers and Simon Doohan of Barneys say it is.

Goth is not just about wearing black. It’s a cerebral, anti-materialistic philosophy based largely on alienation from mainstream capitalism and an existential gloom about the future of the individual. So whatever they’re selling at Barneys, by definition, it can’t be Goth.

Oh, and by the way—here’s another Tim Burton Goth creation: Winona Ryder’s anti-social misfit from 1988’s Beetlejuice:

It’s Alito for SCOTUS

Posted on October 31st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Washington Post reports that President Bush will today nominate Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, following the failed nomination of Harriet Miers.

(Who? Already she fades….)

Alito is apparently nicknamed “Scalito” for his philosophical resemblance to conservative justice Anton Scalia.

His most controversial case is sure to be his opinion in the famous 1991 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which a Third Circuit panel ruled on the legality of a Pennsylvania law imposing numerous restrictions on abortion, mandating, for example, that doctors warn women of the dangers of abortion and abide by a 24-hour waiting period.

The law in question also mandated that women seeking an abortion must notify their husbands—a stipulation Alito thought legal.

As the Post puts it, Citing previous opinions of O’Connor, Alito wrote that an abortion regulation is unconstitutional only if it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s access to the procedure. The spousal notification provision, he wrote, does not constitute such a burden and must therefore only meet the requirement that it be rationally related to some legitimate government purpose.

This is a tough one. If I were married and my pregnant wife got an abortion without telling me, I’d be pretty pissed. (Though I’m not sure why marriage would be the test here. If the principle involves notifying the father, who cares whether the prospective parents are married or not?)

On the other hand, I’m skeptical that marriage gives one spouse the right to veto another spouse’s physical decision. What if, for example, a woman was married to an abusive husband? How, exactly, would she notify him that she wanted to terminate her pregnancy?

The Supreme Court eventually heard the case and disagreed with Alito. Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that “spousal notification requirement is . . . likely to prevent a significant number of women from obtaining an abortion,”

My prediction: There’s going to be a big, ugly fight over this pick. Washington must be a grim place right now.
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P.S. For you media-watchers, this constitutes a big scoop for the Post. The Times is embarrassingly reduced to running this AP story on its website. Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick has an already-late piece about the looming fight over potential nominees, including Alito.

P.P.S. The Times has replaced its wire story with this one by David Kirkpatrick and Christine Hauser. Whoops! Score one for the Washington Post.

Goth Must Have a Good Publicist

Posted on October 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Because this week, both Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times hail its return.

“On the runways and on screen, it’s once more into the creep,” EW says, which is the kind of pun that would make any self-respecting Goth turn even whiter.

(Sorry, no link—have you tried to search the EW website? Don’t.)

Embrace the Darkness,” the Times chimes in, in a piece that tries to correlate the return of Goth with the macabre mood of our current culture.

Both articles point to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and various runway fashions as examples.

(Never mind that Tim Burton has never been anything but Goth: Hello, Sleepy Hollow? Edward Scissorhands? That was 1990, people.)

http://www.justmarystuff.com/filterfrenzy/ffwk4.htm http://www.johnnydeppfan.com/movies/edward.htm

The Times article, as most such trend pieces are, is inadvertently hilarious.

Ruth LaFerla writes, Consumers too are following fashion and embracing a Gothic style. They are snapping up trinkets that they would once have dismissed as perverse or subversive: silver skull cuff links, chains interlaced with black ribbon in the manner of Victorian mourning jewelry, stuffed peacocks with Swarovski crystal eyes, and, as party favors, tiny rat and chicken skeletons, recent sellouts at Barneys New York.

Such fondness for Goth-tinged playthings attests to the mainstreaming of a trend that was once the exclusive domain of societal outcasts and freaks. These days Goth is “an Upper East Side way of being edgy without actually drinking anybody’s blood,” said Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys. With a wink he added, “Who doesn’t like a vaseful of ostrich feathers at the end of the day?”

Yup. I know a lot of people who are snapping up stuffed peacocks with Swarovski crystal eyes. Whatever that has to do with Goth.

Few things are more annoying than having a perfectly good alternative lifestyle coopted by the Upper East Side. Perhaps people who whistle, or pay by check. But that’s about it.

Anyway, I’m skeptical. Goth has never really gone away since the 1980s—what a decade—it’s just been somewhat harder to find. What’s probably at work here is a Manhattan PR-ista representing a client—probably in the fashion business, perhaps Barney’s—who’s been peddling a “return of Goth” story timed for Halloween.

Meanwhile, both EW and the Times seem oblivious to the ongoing Goth presence in pop music. Depeche Mode’s excellent new record, Playing the Angel, for example, debuted at #7 on the Billboard charts this week, #1 at iTunes. First song: “A Pain That I’m Used To.” Followed by titles like “Suffer Well,” “The Sinner in Me,” “Damaged People,” and “The Darkest Star.”

Sings David Gahan, “I’m still recovering/Still getting over all the suffering…”

Now, that’s Goth….

(David Gahan, of course, being DM’s lead singer, the man whose veins have more holes than a shower head. Dave, we’re glad you made it!)

Anyway, Happy Halloween, everyone! Feel free to cloak yourself in black, put a ton of hairspray in your hair, and spread oodles of white pancake make-up on your face. Goth has always been about rebellion, rejection of the mainstream, and maybe it’s true that we need this now more than ever….because this country’s in rough shape right now. And, as the Times has pointed out, we still have 39 more George Bush-months to go.

Indeed It Is

Posted on October 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Here’s the full photo:

Just curious why this hasn’t been more widespread…

Is This Valerie Plame?

Posted on October 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Washington Post runs this photo on its website with a vague caption; I can’t find the photo elsewhere.

Perhaps others have seen this picture, but all I’ve seen—again and again—is that annoying Vanity Fair photo in which Plame/Wilson, seated next to her husband, Joe Wilson, in a convertible, hides her identity with a scarf and dark glasses.

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Scooter Libby and Me

Posted on October 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I know that, as a blogger, I’m supposed to be all over the Scooter Libby indictment, typing away like a busy bee. Hell, everyone else is. My colleagues over at the Huffington Post are having conniptions.

But somehow, all the spectacle turns me off. Get a life, guys.

Look, I enjoy the schadenfreude as much as the next blogger. I do. I don’t like the way this White House works and I’m glad to see them hoisted by their own petard. I cautiously supported the war in Iraq because I believed what the White House was saying about weapons of mass destruction there, and boy, don’t I feel like a dummy now. So what goes around comes around.

Somehow, though, I don’t see how all this jumping up and down on the corpse of Scooter Libby does progressives much good. The Democrats still have to propose an agenda for the future, and with the possible exception of Rahm Emanuel, I haven’t heard much of that.

It’s not that Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation isn’t important. It is, because it opens a window into how the White House sold a war to the American people. But somehow I get the feeling the blogosphere has gone all ballistic over this episode not because of its importance, but because it’s fun. Liberals don’t like Karl Rove or Scooter Libby or Dick Cheney or George W., and they like to see these guys squirm.

Plus, there’s an air of intrigue and drama about the whole thing. The angry husband, the victimized but still mysterious spy, the sneaky, sinister aides, the strong, silent-type prosecutor…it’s entertaining! And, as my friend Neal Gabler has written, it has become the habit of Americans to impose the narrative form of movies upon real life in every possible instance. I think that’s what we’re doing here, in a way that either distorts the true meaning of what’s going on or distracts us from other storylines that may, ultimately, be of greater importance.

So…I hereby withdraw from the great Scooter Libby blogathon. I’ll weigh in from time to time, but I just can’t compete. Because isn’t it weird how the blogosphere has become nothing more than another self-important echo chamber…just like Washington itself?

The Tension of Our Times

Posted on October 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Two tragic accidents in New York City this week highlighted what strikes me as a recurring tension in American culture.

In the first, a real estate executive was killed while rowing on the Harlem River. His scull was hit by a powerboat in the early morning light. The victim, 41-year-old Jim Rumsdorf, was probably hit head on by the powerboat. The other three rowers managed to swim to safety.

In the second accident, Newsweek editor Tom Masland was mowed down by a woman driving a 300-horsepower Volkswagen SUV as he crossed West End Avenue at 95th Street (quite close to where I live). The 55-year-old, married father of three died soon after.

One person rowing, one person walking, were killed by one person zipping along in a speedboat, by one person zipping along in a luxury SUV. Sane, solitary pleasures versus selfish ones. Two pursuits that suggest some harmony with the environment versus two that, in these days of dwindling oil, are increasingly hard to justify.

New York is a tough place for people who want to live a simpler life. (I wouldn’t ride a bike on the streets here if you gave it to me.) But why is it that you never hear of a walker or a rower or a cyclist killing a speedboater or motorcyclist or SUV driver? And how come no one ever seems to care?

Harvard News…

Posted on October 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

It’s coming…soon. In a big way, I think.

Sulu: I’m Gay Too

Posted on October 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Everyone’s coming out! George Takei, also known as “Mr. Sulu” from Star Trek, has come out of the closet.

Takei

Takei’s 68 out now, and he’s been living with his boyfriend for 18 years.

Actually, Takei sounds like he’s lived a pretty interesting life; from the ages of four to eight, he was interned in a Japanese-American internment camp. I didn’t know that. Did you?

Well, good for Mr. Sulu to go public. I’m sure that’s not easy to do at any point in one’s life. Moreover, the lives of the Enterprise crew certainly were interesting, weren’t they?

But George…the tux was a dead giveaway.

My Two Cents

Posted on October 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

It’s lately become a cottage industry among pundits to suggest ways for the Bush administration to reinvigorate itself. (You know who you are, David Brooks.)

I am not a pundit, though sometimes l play one on this blog.

So here’s one suggestion for how W. can get his presidency back on track: Immediately announce a Justice Department investigation of price-gouging by the oil industry.

Now, it’s possible that in doing so, the president would alienate some of his supporters, but I would enjoy that.

No, wait, let me rephrase.

It’s possible that he would alienate some of his supporters, but that could only be good for the country.

Hold on! Let me try again.

It’s possible that he would alienate some of his supporters, but the vast majority of hard-working Americans would welcome the move.

(There. That’s what I was trying to say.)

It’s also possible that Dick Cheney would keel over of a heart attack the instant such an investigation was announced, but, well, all three of the above.

Just kidding!

Seriously, here’s another suggestion for President Bush: Solicit Dick Cheney’s advice about every idea you have. And then do the exact opposite of what he says. Even if it’s about something important like, oh, war. Or how to talk to the press.