Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More bruises

Check out the one at the end, which is clearly a set of fingerprints. And I've got a good one coming in right now on my shin, very tender to the touch but no color yet, so more soon...

Monday, July 13, 2009


This movie is one of two things: a failure, or a product of homophobia. I'm not really sure which.

I started from the assumption that Bruno was cut from the same mould as Borat - that Cohen was adopting an absurd persona in order to elicit funny/damning reactions from ordinary citizens. The state of homophobia in America today + laughs.

But Bruno doesn't get much of a reaction from anyone. Most people respond to his pranks with a stony, "I'll just pretend this isn't happening," impassiveness. When Bruno arranges an interview with Ron Paul, only to corner him in a hotel bedroom and attempt a clumsy seduction, Ron Paul stares fixedly at a newspaper and refuses to take the bait.

The set-up, where Ron Paul tries to behave professionally while Bruno does everything he can to prevent it, is similar to an incident that took place last the Ultimate Fighting Championship. One of the fighters, "Rampage" Jackson, started dry humping a reporter, Heather Nichols, during an interview.

Here's the video if you want to see it (and if I'm able to embed it):

Rampage Dry Humps Cagepotato Reporter - Watch more Funny Videos

The interview sparked a lot of controversy, but even in the UFC - a testosterone-drenched, hyper-macho sport organization - there's no question that Rampage's behavior was inappropriate, and is generally described as what it was: sexual harassment.

On the other hand, I also think Nichols has gauged her audience well by being a good sport about it. In an interview Nichols did over at Sports Illustrated about the incident, she maintains a positive attitude but doesn't hesitate to call a spade a spade:
Jimmy Traina: What did you think when Rampage started, um, getting frisky? Did you think it was funny or did you take offense?

Nichols: At first I was just shocked when he grabbed me, and all I could think was, "Oh my gosh, what is he doing?!" Then I tried to play along a little bit because I knew he was trying to be funny, but after about the first 5-10 seconds, it was just plain awkward. I kept thinking, "What should I do? Knee him? Keep going?" So I decided to keep asking questions, assuming he would stop if I did that. So I asked another question, and he kept going. I asked ANOTHER question, and he kept going. At this point I was just freaking out, but still trying to be a professional and ask all the questions I was assigned to ask, and this has been interpreted by some viewers as me liking it and egging him on. This was definitely not the case. I was hired to do a job, which was to interview Rampage, so I decided to put up with his shenanigans and finish the interview.

Traina: Has he apologized since then?

Nichols: No, not at all. He was very, very pleased with himself.
You know what's funny about this interview? If you changed "Nichols" to "Ron Paul" and "Rampage" to "Bruno", the whole thing would still make sense. And Rampage's attitude, which is so clear, sheds an interesting light on Sacha Baron Cohen's prank - Rampage is opportunistic and smug, taking advantage of Nichols' good will (and fear for her livelihood) in order to demean her.

What Nichols should have done - and probably would have done, if the balance of power had been different - is something like what Ron Paul did in Bruno: when she decided that the prank had gone too far, she would have said "Enough," she would have walked out, and she would have been openly angry about it.

Some of the "ordinary citizens" in the movie are clearly homophobic - the hunters that Bruno camps with, for example, or the swingers at the party he crashes. But there is not enough shame about homophobia for its mere existence to trigger a gotcha moment. And the hunters and swingers, like Ron Paul, are very restrained in their responses to Bruno's antics - they seem positively dignified in comparison.

So, ultimately, the more Bruno tries to humiliate his victims the better they look. While Bruno's character is increasingly charmless, the homophobes in the movie appear to be reasonable, polite, and tolerant. If Bruno is an attempt to expose American homophobia, it's a failure.

You know who really looks bad in this movie? Bruno himself. He's narcissistic, superficial, stupid, and insensitive. He doesn't have anything like Borat's naivete, no characteristic that makes his bad qualities forgivable. I think the nation of Kazakhstan registered an official protest about the character of Borat, and how badly it misrepresented the nation; as valid as their complaint was, Borat was so clearly a foil, an ends-justify-the-means vehicle of cultural criticism.

I don't think that can be said about Bruno, and as a result the offensiveness of the character itself remains front and center. Not offensive because Bruno is flamboyantly gay. Offensive because Bruno consistently refers to his anus as his "Auschwitz" and makes flattering comments about Hitler. Since Bruno saves his most provocatively anti-semitic comments for the staged portions of the movie, not the documentary portions, and given that Cohen himself is a committed Jew, what is the reason for that?

Why is the character, who treats every other person in the movie with the level of consideration granted to his adopted child/accessory, "O.J.", conceived as a borderline sociopath?

It really seems to me that the object of Cohen's animosity here isn't the torpid, complacently sinister American public - it's the character he inhabits, Bruno. And as such, the movie is itself an example of homophobia, not a strike against it.

Plus - last but not least - it's not funny. I think I laughed a couple of times while I watched it. A total waste of time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Maybe the best thing about summer

I was on the way back to the kitchen with a tomato I'd just picked and wondered why the scent isn't used more often in perfume. It's sharp, like a citrus, sweet, a little spicy, very fresh. A little like basil or grapefruit, but also grassy. It would probably be hard to place, and blend well with other odors. I'd wear it.

4th of July

I spent 4th of July weekend down in Coronado. It's an island the way Manhattan is an island - which is to say, only technically. Coronado is separated from San Diego by a thin strip of ocean, and connected to the mainland by a single bridge. It's a gorgeous, charming little beach town, famous because Some Like It Hot was filmed there, mostly in and around the Hotel del Coronado:

That's the hotel exterior. It was built in 1888 and felt a little schizophrenic to me - the exterior is so white and airy, but the interior is all heavy dark wood - very dreary and oppressive on a bright July day. Wonderful to view from the distance, or lounge in front of - but when I went inside a couple of times, I wanted to turn right back around and get out as fast as possible.

I was with my cousin Tasha and a friend of hers who is working on a professional photography portfolio, and the interior shots we got are all more suited to a self-important East Coast lakeside villa than a California resort.

Tasha and I:

Just Tasha:

Luckily we didn't spend much time inside. Mostly we did what any self-respecting Californian would do on the 4th of July - we hung out on the beach and strolled the main drag.

This is just a side street but you can see downtown San Diego in the background:

The beach, which is endless and gorgeous:

And me, on the rocks:
Bizarrely enough I heard of Coronado for the first time in New York City - when someone mentioned the hotel as an historic landmark. I've seen Some Like It Hot, too - I guess I just never connected the dots.

In any case, I jumped at the chance to visit and wasn't disappointed. Aside from the fantastic setting, I got some great candid shots while fooling around on Tasha's laptop:

And enjoyed an amazing, improptu Tchaikovsky violin concert. Apparently her grandfather is a musician, a composer, conductor, and performer, and he pulled out a 300 year old Italian violin and performed a few pieces from memory.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

apparently the person who made this image couldn't spell...

But I understand the sentiment.
So a couple of months back, I rented this movie:

It's a gruesome Swedish movie about a young boy and his vaguely romantic relationship with an ancient vampire who looks like a young girl. The vampire girl, Eli, is hard to romanticize - she butchers humans without much remorse, keeps a human slave and treats him poorly, and generally does a bad job of seeming human enough to like or sympathize with.

But she develops a soft spot for little Oscar, a sweet kid who's tired of letting the local bullies beat him up on a daily basis. Her lesson to him is, more or less, that if he wants to avoid the daily shake-downs, he'll have to beat them at their own game. He'll have to hit them back, hard enough to send them seeking greener pastures.

I thought the movie was ok, but it's grown on me with time. I like that effect, partly because it seems like such a disaster from a commercial standpoint. There's something appealing about a virtue that is hard to exploit for cash.

So it turns out I had a hard time forgetting this movie, and it's partly what inspired me to start taking martial arts classes. I've been doing strength training for a while now, with more or less intensity, but there comes a point where it's not enough just to be strong. I wanted to do something with the muscles I've been developing, and Let The Right One In was percolating through my brain at just the right time.

So I started taking mixed martial arts classes. Mostly kickboxing and jiu jitsu so far. Every class beats home a similar lesson. I find it very natural to try to escape from a sticky situation - squirm out of a choke hold or avoid an arm bar - but have a much harder time taking the next step, to go on he offensive myself. But the fight isn't over until someone wins or loses. So the only way not to lose is to win. I guess this is obvious, but it's been a bit of a revelation to me.

Aside from a few little nuggets of wisdom, I'm mostly collecting bruises. Great big ugly ones that bloom in all the colors of a radioactive swamp and make me look like a battered woman. I'm kind of proud, so take a look:

This one was the biggest and ugliest. Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture until it was past its prime. Try to imagine what it would look like with more purple, red, green, and yellow.

This is the best one I've got going right now:

And this one is on the inside of my knee:

More to come, I'm sure!