Archive for the 'Dumb' Category


Last One’s a Rotten Egg

Once, when we were stopped in a traffic jam on the New Jersey Turnpike, I saw a line of cars peeling off of the left lane, passing through a space in the median and entering into the opposing traffic on the other side, just to avoid whatever was causing the slow-down — until a state trooper pulled up in the vicinity and spoiled the fun. Unassisted he was able to stop two vehicles and issue tickets. Naturally, no one attempted the maneuver after this. Forty people must have made that illegal turnaround, but the last two got stopped.

I think episodes like this justify my inability or unwillingness to make a decision. Just ride it out, no matter how bad the accident ahead my be, because the alternative could be met with sirens and flashing lights.

Or… Just make the decision sooner.


Rat Race to Nowhere

It is morning rush hour, and commuters are coursing through the hallways and platforms like blood-borne pathogens heading for the heart.

A train pulls into the station, its wheels squealing loudly, distinctly. It’s one of the old E trains. A mass of people begins to push through the open doorway before passengers have time to exit. Swimming upstream, the passengers are able to eventually push their way through to freedom.

A guy a couple of people in front of me enters the crowded train and stops in the doorway. He wants to be close to the exit to give himself the greater advantage when he reaches his stop, whenever that may be. There’s nearly room for two abreast to pass through the doorway, and for all he cares, people can just slide past him. It’s not technically a problem, right? Until a second person decides stop in the doorway for the same reason.

I have room to avoid him, but I bump my arm against him and graze him purposefully with my bag. It helps calm me to imagine him dropping and scratching his iPod or getting a smudge on his clothes from leaning against the door.

By and by, we approach my stop. Others, too, are exiting here. I can tell when people ostentatiously begin to stir around me. Several move toward the door. Someone gently nudges me from the side. Maybe it’s an accident; maybe she wants me to move. I take a step closer to the door. I’m getting out here, too. Hold your damn horses. We’re all in a hurry, lady, but don’t you worry. We’ll all get off this train, I promise you.

The doors slide open, and I feel the woman trying to get around me to my left. She is smaller than me, and I can see her black hair as her head comes out around my upper arm. I take a half step to the left, hold my left arm out a little further from my body, and she pushes against me harder. I push harder back, but not enough to stop her. It’s not worth making a fuss. I just want to clarify my existence, hoping I’ll embarrass her for the unnecessary contact. She makes it through the doors before me.

I glare at her as she awkwardly dashes toward the stairs in her uncomfortable shoes, hoping she’ll turn around to see the rude creep who was tying to keep her from getting off the train. Really I’m laughing to myself. We’ll see how far she gets. I continue at a calm pace behind her and dozens of others.

She never does look back, but it delights me to see her swallowed up in a crowd of frantic commuters whose hurry is equal to or greater than hers. In the end, her reward is to be no more than two people ahead of me on the stairs.

On the landing we all veer right to take the escalator to the next level down. There’s a short fence jutting out from the escalator entrance meant to corral us and prevent people from jumping in line in front of others. The desire is for order and forced politeness, and the majority of us is willing to comply. We round the far end of the corral, but two guys slip in through the gap between the far end of the fence and the handrail conveyor belt. They end up right in front of me, craining their necks to find a way past the people in front of them.

The idea is to stand to the right so people can pass on the left. But there are so many people at this time of day, no one is standing to the side. We are all walking down the escalator, and everyone’s progress is slow. The guys try to press past the others, but to no avail.

At the landing, they take off like broncos and meet further resistance when they reach the final set of stairs down to the platform. Again, I end up right behind them.

When my connecting train approaches, I see there are a couple of open seats in the car nearest me. I don’t imagine I’ll be lucky enough to get one of them, but I figure we’ll see what happens. It’s a little like roulette, whether the train stops with a door right in front of you or six feet to your left or right.

This time, I’m one of the first to board. I have a shot at a seat. Someone in front of me is milling about confusedly, and I can’t get by. A woman approaches the seat, and just as she turns to sit, a younger woman wearing all white literally runs up behind her and steals the seat in one swift motion. If the older woman hadn’t noticed, she might have sat on her.

The woman in white glances up for a second. The other woman turns on her adversary and raises her voice for us all to hear. “Oh, I see. You need that seat? Go ahead. There you go, honey. It’s all yours!” Her friend tugs at her arm to discourage her from saying more.

The seat stealer looks at her quietly, blankly and then stares into the space between herself and the floor.

I am filled with something like hatred for her. I want someone else to speak up and say something. I keep my eyes on her for several stops. I wonder if she’s avoiding eye contact with everyone on the train.

After a few stops, the irate woman now long gone, a space opens up next to the woman in white, just a little too small for a person to fit into. But before long another woman turns to present her back side to the row of seated passengers and, without so much as an “excuse me,” wriggles herself into the tight space. She can’t even sit back all the way. This new woman is an obnoxious cow, but I briefly I feel some schadenfreude over the woman in white’s obvious discomfort.

Leaning forward with her oversize purse on her lap, she fumbles with a magazine or newspaper and holds it out in front of her. Forgeting her surroundings, she allows the straps of her bag to flop down to both sides, hitting her neighbors in the face and chest before landing limply in their laps.

It is obviously annoying to the strangers. Every move she makes causes her purse straps to rub against them, but neither of them makes any move to stop it. My allegiance begins to change. Could it be that I have some sympathy for the woman in white? The purse lady is actually worse than she is.

I long for a confrontation. Why do we take such pains to avoid talking to fellow passengers? To avoid touching them? Why do I never make any confrontation?

My exit comes before either of theirs. I never get to see how it ends. But it never really does end. The players in these little scenes of denial only change. They never quit.



Direct mail marketing, or as I prefer to know it, junk mail, can get it wrong, so wrong, really wrong.

For example, what unfortunate postal mishap has resulted in the ceaseless delivery of the Victoria’s Secret catalog to my name at my address? Is it a joke? There is not much in this world less interesting to me than women’s underwear. Jeff gets his Jeep parts catalog, from which he has placed an order exactly once, but even that is more welcome toilet reading.

Why can’t it be the Ikea catalog? I should perhaps be cautiously grateful it’s not International Male. It’s like making eye contact with a panhandler. Once they see you look they’re all over you for some coin.

Then there’s my recent receipt of a solicitation from a local funeral home. The double insult: It was addressed to Jeff — and his wife.


Better Left Unsaid

His shirt read: “Camp Howell Red Team.” Must have been some sort of sleepaway camp souvenir. How many softball games and tugs-of-war must have sweated through that thing? My first thought, after noting the appreciably tight fit, was, “Huh… what a coincidence that the shirt is also red.”

For a second or two too long, it did not occur to me that this was not a coincidence.

Oh, what good fortune that I was alone! Or I might have been tempted to point out my clever observation to someone. Funny how grateful one can be for not saying some things out loud. I’ve managed to pass myself off as a half-way intelligent person more times than I care to recall by simple virtue of keeping my mouth shut.


The ‘M’ Word

The discovery of Tom Daschle’s whopping unpaid tax bill of $146,000 is a big let down to say the least. I always liked Daschle, his goofy red glasses, his cogent and clear-headed leberalism, his class and demeanor as Senate majority leader. I loved that he was respected (dare I say it?) Democrat during the Bush administration. But he is reduced in an instant to a rusty old Washington crony. His specs are cracked and our president’s vision is blurred.

One bright spot in the whole mess was Barack Obama’s admission on half a dozen networks that he made a m— … a mmm— … mmmistake!

“I think it was a mistake. I think I screwed up,” he said.

I nearly choked on my coffee when I heard it on NPR. In the last eight years, I cannot recall a single instance of George W. Bush ever admitting to a mistake. The word never even got stuck in his throat, because it apparently never even entered his mind. Even his press secretaries would infuriatingly admit nothing more than “mistakes had been made,” but no one ever was culpable — except the scapegoats he expelled from his administration after they had done all they could to undermine the will of the people.

I respect a man who knows when he screws up. Whether or not Obama was cornered by the press, whether or not his mea culpa was a calculated move, this signifies a major turn in the conduct of the nation’s highest office. It is a turn toward the light.

But there is still a major problem in Washington. OK, first of all, who are these people not paying taxes? It defies explanation in obvious ways.

And do they seriously think it won’t be discovered? Especially following the scandal around the confirmation of the new treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, who owed $43,000 himself? Daschle probably would have made it through if he hadn’t stepped out of the process, and it’s a good thing he did. But the real kicker is he probably would have been tremendously effective as head of health and human services. We are all losing out here.

There must be a common root to this problem. Why does all this scrutiny happen during the cabinet confirmation process? Why not earlier? Why is their no indication of their “error” until this confirmation process begins? The damage is done when the taxes are not paid, not when the non-payment is discovered.

Maybe some good will come out of all this exposure, and the president will look into some measures to prevent these people from not paying their taxes. Serving in the government is a privilege, not a free pass. How about we set up a new branch of the IRS to go after these people — not the little people like you and me. Let’s guarantee that senators and representatives and other elected Washingtonians are paying their taxes from the beginning? Don’t they count? Certainly they do, and I’m sure there are legions more of these folks, each owing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Getting wind of Daschle’s planned withdrawal, Nancy Killefer, a nominee to a lesser position, chief White House performance officer, pulled out as well because of unpaid taxes on a household employee. I guess she owed no more than $900. Not a big deal. She could write a check right now. But the principle stands, and in this climate she was wise to disentangle herself from the administration.

Let’s hope the others in line for the cabinet wise up and start putting their fellow citizens before their wallets and their careers.

There’s always hope, I guess.


No More Double Zeros

You see street vendors and junk shops selling a lot of crap this time of year. Things that glow, things that spin, plastic hats. More stuff to litter the streets or end up in a junk drawer somewhere. One of the most annoying items has to be the glasses they have been making out of the years since 2000 with the double zeros. I was delighted to realize recently that 2009 is the last year for a very long time that will have that characteristic. If wearing 2009 on your face looks dumb, then 2010 would just be unforgivable!


Don’t See This Movie

Testosterone would seem to have everything going for it. The director, David Moreton, did Edge of Seventeen, which is a cute little coming out movie. Stars include marginal but talented TV actor David Sutcliffe, a hot former soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., comic character actress Jennifer Coolidge, and Latino cinema grande dame Sonia Braga. Equal parts eye candy and substance. Just what we want in gay films.

Unfortunately it is an unmitigated mess. The plot is incoherent. The characters are inconsistent. Character development is so poor that I don’t believe any of their actions, or their reactions to major turns in the story. Jennifer Coolidge is the only good thing about the movie. She plays a brassy editor with a dirty mouth. Chalk up one point. But the rest of it? Sorry.

The protagonist, Dean, is a graphic novel writer. His hot boyfriend, Pablo, goes missing inexplicably one night. Dean, apparently feeling that his boyfriend is a piece of missing property he must retrieve, follows him two weeks later to Argentina. He finds out that Pablo is from a rich and powerful family. He befriends a woman, Sofia, who works in a cafe across the street from Pablo’s family’s house. With her brother, Marco, who was Pablo’s lover a few years prior, and who we learn is supposed to kill Dean for reasons yet unclear, they reluctantly agree to help him find Pablo.

Up to this point, the movie is merely plodding, awkwardly paced, and annoying. Dean goes from frustrated graphic novel writer to spurned lover to ugly American to unhinged stalker. At one point, he pulls a gun on a cop who is called to the scene when he begins harassing Pablo’s mother. We lose a little sympathy for him, but we are led to believe that certain facts will be revealed, and Pablo’s disappearance, Dean’s irrational behavior, and the strange connection to Sofia and Marco will all make sense in some big payoff scene at the end.

As it turns out, we are misled.

I get that the filmmakers were going for an unconventional arc, revealing plot points strategically to build suspense and achieve a sort of allegiance with the protagonist. And this would be commendable if it could manage to pull itself together into a coherent story. There is enough to work with to make this a suspenseful, unconventional (i.e., not just soft-core porn) gay film. Instead we are left with a disastrous, nonsensical collection of scenes that will leave you wanting two hours of your life back.

It starts out promisingly, even artfully. But the moment we learn that Pablo has gone missing, not only does the protagonist come unglued, but the entire film goes to pieces. Again, thematically interesting — the state of the story mimics the state of mind of the protagonist — but only if you are able to make sense of it for the audience. Otherwise you are wasting our time.

We learn that Pablo has left two weeks after it happens. Dean runs into Pablo’s mother at an art gallery, and after manhandling her to get some answers, she reveals that Pablo has returned to Argentina (so why is she in L.A.?), but she refuses to say why.

Rather than helping Dean, Sofia and Marco delay and distract him (and us), promising to take him to Pablo, but instead taking him to places where they know he won’t be, e.g., their house, Pablo’s country home. Dean’s resolve to find Pablo — and win him back, get an explanation, shake his finger at him (it is anyone’s guess what he hopes to achieve) — grows exponentially.

Dean sleeps with Marco, in a classic fist-fight-leads-to-sex moment at Pablo’s country house. Then the next morning, for no reason apparent to the audience, Marco kills himself. Or, has someone else killed him? (And, importantly, do we care?) Sofia seems mildly disappointed that her brother is dead, and she half-heartedly blames Dean. But they don’t report the apparent suicide. (What happens to the body is anyone’s guess.)

Despite all this, she continues to hang around with Dean, who has now decided, after remembering a story Marco told him about his and Sofia’s ancestors, to cut off Pablo’s head. We are left to wonder what Pablo has done that is so terrible that he deserves death. Maybe something juicy to look forward to later on? (Nope. Wrong again.) Dean looks over the chainsaws but opts instead for a machete, which he carries around like a lunatic adventurer. He also picks up a sporty red cooler to store Pablo’s head. We finally lose any sympathy we may have had for Dean.

When he finds out that Pablo and Sofia are in phone contact with each other, Dean pulls a gun on her and accidentally shoots her in the hand, vowing not to miss next time. Under threat of death, Sofia arranges a time and place for Dean to meet Pablo, which turns out to be Pablo’s wedding 𔃉 to her.

Dean crashes the reception, which is remarkable, because every time he so much as showed up at Pablo’s house, his mother called the cops. He grabs a piece of cake, winks at Sofia from across the room, and kidnaps Pablo, who is getting it on with a waiter in another room.

This is our pay-off scene. So we can piece together why he left: Rich family needs to save face; gay heir marries some woman from a cafe across the street so the family is publicly proper, while he goes on sleeping with Argentine waiters and insane Americans.

Dean, who could barely communicate with a taxi driver three days ago, but who now displays a remarkable facility for Argentine highways, drives Pablo to his country house and — we are led to believe — hacks off his head.

Then, back in L.A., we see Dean’s editor showering him with accolades for writing another winner (which we must assume is based on the events we have just witnessed). Conveniently, the cooler arrives at his editor’s office via air mail while he is there. (Can’t get a severed head through customs, I guess.) He snaps it up, tosses it into his driver’s side seat where his dog playfully gnaws on the lid. And Dean drives off into the sunset.

So why was Pablo’s mom at an L.A. art gallery at the beginning of the movie while Pablo was in Argentina, apart for plot convenience? Why did Sofia toy with him instead of telling him the truth? Why was Marco trying to kill him? It was Sofia’s refusal to send Dean away that led to her brother being killed. And when she saw how crazy he was acting, and that he was literally out tom kill her future husband, why did she continue to help him? Why did she intervene when he pulled the gun on the cop earlier and convince him to let Dean go? (And what cop would have allowed it?)

None of these questions is answered. And by the end of the movie, I don’t even care.

No one has acted in a remotely plausible manner. No one has any discernible motivation, except Dean, but he is just crazy and, frankly, a little tedious. Basically, all that happens is he gets unceremoniously dumped and he can’t take the hint (It’s a pretty big hint. He moved back to Argentina.) So he goes to another country feeling entitled to interfere with other people’s lives just so he can … again — what is it exactly that Dean is looking to achieve?

Then, to make matters even worse, infuriatingly, the final scene of the movie shows Sofia and Marco at their house sitting on the porch smoking. So Marco is alive. Great. Whatever. This at least explains why there was no funeral, which we now realize made no at all sense earlier. It also explains why Sofia was so untroubled by his death. (It wasn’t bad acting. It’s just that he really wasn’t dead!) But what possible purpose was there in faking his death?

The director is throwing us plot twists for the sake of plot twists, apparently to distract us from the train wreck of the rest of the movie and to create some sort of illusion that there is something deeper and more interesting at play that we can puzzle out with enough review and careful thought. Watch the movie again, he seems to say, now that you know the wacky ending and see if you can figure out what’s really happening. No thank you. It may have worked for a truly cinematically interesting movie like Memento, but I’d rather attend a sing-along screening of Mamma Mia than sit through this again.


Bulimia is so ’87

There is a boutique in my neighborhood that sells a Colombian line of jeans called Anorexy.

There is nothing more to say about that.


Not So Sporting

From the BBC: Northern Ireland’s only gay rugby team is promoting a form of sporting apartheid, Sports Minister Edwin Poots has claimed.

Mr Poots said he could not understand the motivation behind the founding of the Belfast-based Ulster Titans.

“I just cannot fathom why people see the necessity to develop an apartheid in sport,” he said.

However, one of the team’s founders, Declan Lavery, said everyone was welcome to join the club. “When the club was set up it welcomed members regardless of their age, creed, religion, sexual orientation or whatever, and that’s how it continues,” Mr Lavery said.

However, Mr Poots said: “It would be unacceptable to produce an all-black rugby team or an all-white team or an all-Chinese team.

“To me it’s equally unacceptable to produce an all-homosexual rugby team and I find it remarkable that people who talk so much about inclusivity and about having an equal role in society would then go down the route of exclusion.”

This is just willful idiocy.

The facts are plain:

  1. The team was founded by gay men.
  2. Everyone is welcome to join whether they’re gay or not.
  3. It is not a gays-only team. There is no exclusion.

Yet his response is to call this apartheid. Is he even listening? Maybe he’d rather have the pootfers just keep their traps shut.

To call this “apartheid” is not only an insult to all the gay men who joined that team because they felt unwelcome elsewhere, but also to all people who really do experience exclusion. It’s precisely this kind of hostility that leads to the formation of gay-friendly sports teams in the first place.


“Let me see, kid… Republican, Democrat or gay?”

Just before my husband voted yesterday, one of the ancient poll workers was chatting him up.

“McMillan!” he said, looking at his last name. “Ah… like McMillan and Wife.”

“I can’t believe he turned out to be a homosexual,” said a woman.

Another woman spoke up. “It seems like everyone is. There’s 10 million of ’em.”

“It’s terrible,” said another. And everyone at the table murmured and shook their heads.

Truly, you never know where one will end up. Maybe even right in front of you. Trying to vote. Doing his civic duty. Well, way to go, old folks! You’ve just committed voter intimidation.

But what’s Jeff going to do — yell at an old man? His calling the election board to report the situation was probably more effective. And by that, unfortunately, I mean “probably not effective at all.”

Is the board really going to screen for anti-gay bias? They should. Would it be acceptable for one of them to spout off their views on a racial or ethnic minority? About women’s rights? Never. Especially on a Primary day, when every citizen can cast an equal vote.

the untallied hours