Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Watching The Food Network with your hand down your pants.

Last nights 11 p.m. rerun of Miami Ink featured the most audacious of all celebrity chefs, Anthony Bourdain, getting a skull tattoo from Chris Garver. I love Tony as much as everyone else does--you have to give a guy credit for exposing the raw underbelly of an industry, being blackballed for years and yet is still always held in the highest of respect by his peers. It takes quite a special man to be able to do that.

This morning, purely by accident, I'm browsing and I find snippets of Tony's rants about Food Network and the death of the "old timers," the "Real Chefs." (The full text of Tony's rants, which are oh-so-gloriously penned, can be found in his guest blog at Ruhlman.)

I have to widely agree with Tony, although I admit that I actually like Rachel Ray--not as a chef, because she isn't, but because her food actually fits into my lifestyle. And sometimes, when it isn't heavily infused with red meat and pork, it's actually good. Basically, my two standby dishes that I will proudly claim are stolen from Rachel Ray are a. Drunken Pasta and b. my Spinach Artichoke pasta salad, which I need only make at a party one more time to claim that it rightfully belongs to me.

He is completely correct about Giada's purpose in life. She is a good chef--and underused only because she has large breasts and big scary white teeth. I know she's fluent in Italian, but everytime she switches to say the name of a dish it just sounds wrong coming out of that Giant Praying Mantis Head of hers. She should do her show from Italy--I've seen Papa Dino DeLaurentis' giant-ass kitchen at the family's Roman villa. That would be a much more interesting show and a much more interesting set than the house Food Network rents her for two weeks in the summer to film an entire season of Everyday Italian. (All Italian kitchens are incredibly styled--we basically invented attractive kitchen appliances. That and filmmaking saved our homeland after the fall of Mussolini.)

Tony's central thesis that Food Network has become something entirely male-centric (one out of every four men you know watches at least Giada's cleavage), younger and less-skilled. And he's entirely correct about the real chefs--yes, even people he admits are assholes like Bobby Flay--have been relegated to Kitchen Stadium. We can only enjoy Mario Batali's cooking when he's battling with people. (He, Mr. Bourdain, is why Rachel Ray won that battle against Team Flay-DeLaurentis, that and Giada had to jump up and down and make her boobs bounce to coerce Flay to open packages for her.) Even before shutting down production of Molto Mario, the show was only on at 11 a.m.--like all the other shows no one watches, poor sweet adorable boy-next-door Dave Leiberman and next Food Network Star's Party Line with the Hearty Boys, which both seem to be relegated to airtime at the ungodly hour of 8 in the morning. Anything that's on when people might conceivably watch TV, which I will argue might begin at 3 p.m. when the kids get home from school is a line-up of female chefs: Giada, Rachel Ray, that Stepford Wife from Half-Assed Cooking and Paula Deen. (The latter of whom Bourdain lovingly compares to Divine in Pink Flamingos . . . I will never love Paula Deen more than I do in that description.)

I think more than the cooking shows, which Bourdain proves are problematic at best, we might all be able to agree that the best part of The Food Network on any given day is a Food Network Challenge. I don't care if its wedding cakes or tappanyaki, I will sit my ass down and watch those any day. Chocolate Runway Challenge, hands down, is the best Food Network Challenge EVER and the chocolate flapper dress was totally robbed of the prize.

(Tony's fantasy Iron Chef battles are the icing on the cake that is his guest blog.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I say you he dead.

I was browsing through some non-Oscar red carpet photos at's coverage of the Food Network Awards and I found the only episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" I would ever really want to watch:

I am not the biggest fan of Bobby Flay. I like watching him battle on Iron Chef, but I absolutely will not watch Throwdown. The entire concept of the show is that Flay is an asshole who challenges non-chefs to cooking challenges because he has heard through the grapevine that they make awesome burgers/potato salad/ice cream/whatever. Flay almost never wins Throwdown, so I suppose part of the joy in watching it is seeing Flay eat a peice of humble pie after losing a competition. The irony here is that in Kitchen Stadium, Flay almost never loses. And in Kitchen Stadium, he is battling real chefs. You would think that, since I am not a Flay fan, I would find supreme joy in watching him lose something. But the difference between Iron Chef and Throwdown is that on Throwdown, Flay actually talks a lot and basically throws his machismo out at whomever he has glove-slapped into the challenge. On Iron Chef, I don't have to hear Bobby Flay be Bobby Flay.

I would, however, definitely watch a fried chicken throwdown between the Colonel and Bobby Flay. I can't even begin to imagine how great of an episode that would be. I hope that Bobby Flay would win over our Southern-fried mascot-man, and partially because Flay would obviously use real chickens, not the genetically modified crazy freak chickens used at KFC. But choice of meats aside, I'd rather taste some sort of Bobby Flay chipotle-chili fried chicken concoction than whatever the Colonel's secret spices might be.

On a non-Throwdown related note, apparently this photograph proves that sentiments mentioned on Family Guy in regards to the Colonel are incorrect. I say you he 'live an' well.

Vagina Valley, California

It is well known to anyone who knows Marcus and I that we have basically destroyed any notions of comprehensible speech in our everyday conversations with one another. We replace any given syllable of a word with the word "fee" such that delicious might become "feelicious," etc. It's one the beginning of the strange language games we play with each other. We started calling each other "fee" as a bastardization of the French word for girl "fille." From there, "fee" has sometimes become "squee" or "squeefee." In some cases, I am referred to as "squeesquaw."

Now, for us, that's totally nonsensical. The repeated "skwa" sounds at the beginning of both "squee" and "squaw" are just a cute little rhyme pattern that we like to alliterate on. Though to my recollection, I rarely call him "squeesquaw." This term seems to only apply to me.

Which is really interesting, considering that several Native American groups are making headlines once again by petitioning to change the names of places that contain the word "squaw", such as popular Northern California ski spot Squaw Valley.

As the article mentions, many groups feel the word "squaw" was always used by white men in a derogatory manner against Native American women and for the examples the article gives, I think its a decent case. The fact that words like "nigger" and "jap" have been removed from place names acknowledges that these terms are offensive. "Squaw," it seems, has only really sprung to attention as a potentially offensive word since the 1990s, when Suzan Harjo claimed on Oprah that "squaw" was the Mohawk word for "vagina," thus degrading all Native American women by reducing them to their genitalia and, I would assume, depicting yet another image of the female colonized body as sexual subject to the colonizer.

However, Harjo's linguistics are totally inaccurate. According to the Wikipedia article on the word "squaw", the word is actually derived from the Massachuset word meaning "woman." But through the repetition of Harjo's claim by several prominent media members, her mistaken etymology became widely regarded as true. People immediately wanted to change things from "squaw" to less-genital related terms for women--white and Native American alike.

What this really comes down to for me--and I admit wholeheartedly that this is the perspective of a white, middle-class, bisexual-but-marrying-a-man, third wave feminist--is that our real problem with the word "squaw" from both white and Native American perspectives is that it could possibly mean vagina.

And we, in both cultures, I suppose, do not talk about vaginas. And we certainly don't acknowledge that women have them. Or that, in a purely anatomical sense, the presence of a vagina is one definition of woman. (Imagine how important it is for a transwoman to finally get her vagina--that's the thing that really makes her a "passable" woman. Then maybe will it make sense that vagina and woman are one in the same.)

For me, that's the real problematic. The real problematic here is that people are offended by drawing a connection between women and their vaginas. Vaginas themselves are offensive. Women--white and Native American--don't want to be conflated with their sex organs. Is this because we, white women, are taught that our vaginas are dirty? Shameful? Man's ruin? Naturally, they're something that we don't want to become an appellation of ourselves if the negative associations of the vagina are considered to be true. That's why women are offended when you call another woman a "cunt." Though Suzan Harjo's assertion that "squaw" means "vagina" has been credibly disproven by a number of linguistic sources over the years, people are still offended--Native and white alike--because they think it means vagina.

Some sources like Cecil Adams claim that the term is offensive in other ways, mostly because the word "squaw" has often been used in racially colored language referring to white interaction with Native Americans. Adam's likens it to the use of "Negress" and "Jewess"--both of which are certainly offensive to the women to which they refer. I have no problem with claims that "squaw" is derrogatory in the sense that it is a racially specialized term that marks Native American women as "other" than white woman. That otherness may sometimes be associated with a "native" sexuality that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago regarding the body of the colonized woman.

According to some very good morphological evidence cited at, in a number of Native American languages, "squaw" is not even a free morpheme (that is to say, it's not its own word; it only has meaning when attached to other words). The morpheme "squaw" does mean woman (and could, for all we know, denote woman by literally meaning "vagina"; take, for example, Diegueno, a Native American language spoken in Baja California which uses a morpheme to indicate that a verb is performed with the mouth--a word for "to bite" would literally mean "to cut with the mouth"). "Squaw" is a morpheme that, however, cannot exist on its own in the language and must be attached to other words to have meaning. It came to be its own morpheme in pidgin languages developed through white trade with Native Americans. That, I would say, is arguably both offensive and oppressive if it is, in fact, a word that white people invented to refer to the Native American "others."

For those reasons--squaw being a tool of white oppression, especially white male oppression--I can support the idea of easing it out of our usage--at least in terms of place names. I'm not one to say that any word is a bad word, and "squaw," like "nigger," certainly has its place in history and should its usages--both positive and negative--should be spoken about. It's less likely to be misused if its understood.

But simply because it might mean vagina is not a reason I can support eliminating it from use--especially as a place name. Men do not seem to be bothered when you call them dicks or cocks or pricks. They wear their anatomical sex like a badge of honor. (I imagine even transgender men might feel similar pride when they're voices drop and their breasts are removed and their clitorises enlarge.) Women wear our anatomy with utter shame. We are shocked to be called twats, cunts or pussies. This is because, while being called a penis synonym is certainly negative, no one responds to hearing those words the way they do when you yell out cunt. (Believe me. I sing cunt from the rooftops.) Men hate being called pussies, though. To call a man a pussy is to emasculate him, to make him effiminate. To call a woman twat or cunt is just as negative, especially because I can only hear those words paired with the words "stupid" and "dumb" as insults, meaning something along the lines of "women can't be smart because all they are is their genitals."

As I mentioned, I think part of the problem with this is that we abolish female genitals from having any sort of positive assertion at all. Being a "stupid twat" or a "dumb cunt" only reinforces that.

I don't mind being referred to as my genitals. In WETT, we do it all the time. We call ourselves "a lovely bunch of vaginas." Why? Because we talk about them. We know that having a vagina is something that's very much a part of our identity as women. We know that our anatomy is part of what defines us on a purely biological basis. We also know that is pretty great to be, and have, a vagina. They're amazing, unique organs that everyone seems to forget that they have a connection to. Unless you were a test tube baby, you were conceived and born because of vaginas.

There is a quote in an scholarly article "Sociolinguistics of the S-word: Squaw in American Place Names" by linguist William Bright at the University of Colorado that is as follows:
The supposed Mohawk etymology has been often repeated in publications by Indian organizations, and Indian writers have raised the question: “How would whites feel if they had to live in a place called Vagina Valley?”
Thus reinforcing my claim that it is, in fact, perhaps more than the actual derogatory uses of "squaw" the vagina connection that makes the word most offensive.

Perhaps instead of simply erasing the word, Native American women should make an effort to reclaim the word "squaw" for what it actually means. And both cultures, Native and white, shouldn't be afraid to associate their womanness, their femininity with their genitals. It's part of the package--regardless of whether or not you were born with your vagina or it became a part of you later.

It's never just about what a word means, but how it has said. You can call me a cunt anytime you want to--as long as its never with the venom of Clive Owen saying it to Julia Roberts in Closer. This is why its okay for Marcus and I end signify the end of an argument with our version of "I'm sorry/I forgive you," the word "cuntwhore."


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Runway the Real Way, or TDBKR in Heaven

On my birthday trip to Vegas with Magen, I discovered London designer Ted Baker and realized that he is the guy for me. I came home from that trip with a "souvenir" from Ted's store in Caesar's Palace, courtesy of Magen's parents: a $325 silk day dress in navy blue and red in a pattern that I can only describe as "1970s Russian folk wallpaper." As far as I can tell, Ted Baker no longer makes or sells the red and navy version of the dress, which was the only color available in January and thus, I would guess, is the original version. Mr. Baker now offers the "Latifa" dress in a birch brown, onyx and silverly-blue "cloud" versions.

The onyx version of my fabulous Ted Baker dress.

I was out shopping today downtown and what is the first thing that I spy when I walk into ANGL in the Paseo Nuevo? Oh, that's right, a really cheap looking version of the exact dress pictured above. And what's behind it? Another knockoff of Ted Baker's dress in a light blue color that could be construed as "cloud," and one in a burnt orange and brown (birch brown?), and then, stuffed behind those, my dress. My red and navy Ted Baker dress.

The ANGL knockoff dresses are precisely the same pattern on the Ted Baker dresses, although there might be a slight difference in the crowns of the large flowers at the bottom of the dress. They are the same cut. There are really only two differences between the Ted Baker dress and the ANGL knockoff that would be noticeable to someone who doesn't really notice much about fashion.

The first of these differences is obvious: the ANGL dresses aren't silk. Everything from the sheen of the fabric to the way that the dresses were presented on the racks (wrinkled) yells "cheap imitation poly-blend." (My god, couldn't someone have at least purchased a steamer so that the clothing will look nicer on the rack, not like it just came out of a box that was on a tramp steamer from China?) The other difference will be more noticeable to the wearer: there's no pretty soft lining inside to preserve the quality of the outer fabric, in part because the outer fabric is already not of quality.

Now, I'm all about affordable clothing. I'm fucking lucky that I have a Ted Baker original, and I only have it because of Magen. I'm all about spending money on things that look more expensive than they are because ultimately, the only thing that matters about the quality of clothing is that they're sewn properly so that they're durable and fit well, that they fit well on you and that they look expensive.

My problem with the ANGL knockoffs is that they, presentation-wise, don't look expensive. And yet, they are. ANGL is charging $59.99 for a wrinkled poly-blend of a designer silk dress. Granted, $60 is not $325, but I should never, ever pay $60 for polyester blends. I can get a 100% silk blouse by INC at Macy's for only $70. INC is not Ted Baker, and I wager that if INC were doing a knockoff of my Ted Baker dress, they'd be charging about $100-$120 for it and using real silk and it would be a fucking steal. That's about the right price for that kind of quality of fabric. I only paid $325 for my dress because its Ted Baker.

But $60 for polyester? That's certainly cheap, but not cheap enough for the diminished quality of the dress. A polyester dress should be at least half that price. Actually, a polyester dress just simply shouldn't be.

In fashion magazines, there's always a feature called "Runway the Real Way" in which the magazine's editors take pictures from recent designer's hot hot hot runway shows and send their stylists and buyers out to find more affordable versions of the catwalk fashions. The idea is that you, too, can look like a runway model for about 1/5 of the price of the designer brand.

The difference between the things you see in "Runway the Real Way" segments and the Ted Baker knockoffs at ANGL comes down to quality and integrity. No editor who wanted to keep her job would ever suggest that polyester could substitute for silk. She might go out and find a lower-priced silk dress in a similar style, but never a polyester one--her magazine, after all, is supposed to uphold a standard of quality dressing. Furthermore, and this is the thing that really bugs me about the ANGL knockoffs, these dresses aren't simply imitations of Ted Baker's dress (say, if it were the same pattern, but cut completely differently, or the same cut but with a different pattern), these dresses are copies of Ted Baker's dress. You don't steal someone else's designs. You just don't. Just like you don't plagiarize the works of Megan McCafferty and call them original, Opal Mehta. It's as though the "designer" who created these knockoffs just found Ted Baker's sketches in a trash can and erased Ted Baker's name from them. A "designer" who steals other people's designers is not a "designer" at all, and that's a sort of stylistic integrity that shouldn't be compromised.

Naturally, as soon as I saw these dresses, I called Magen from the store and told her all about them. Her response was just to remind me that I have in my possession a dress that someone actually wants to make knockoffs of--and that's pretty cool.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Minding the Gap.

I am interested in the naming of things. Why things are called what they are called is a fascinating meditation, and its even more fun when the things you are contemplating are word puzzles with actual solutions, such as why brand names are what they are.

Today I was thinking about something that's bothered me for some time: why is Banana Republic named after banana republics? A banana republic, the kind of country, not the Gap brand, is definied by Wikipedia as follows:

Banana republic is a pejorative term for a small, often Latin American or Caribbean country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture, and ruled by a small, wealthy and corrupt clique put in power by the United States government in conjunction with the CIA and the US business lobby. The term was coined by O. Henry, an American humorist and short story writer, in reference to Honduras. "Republic" in his time was often a euphemism for a dictatorship, while "banana" implied an easy reliance on basic agriculture and backwardness in the development of modern industrial technology.

Of the four Gap brands--Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Forth & Towne--only Banana Republic doesn't seem to sell products that suit its name.

Old Navy sells clothing that is intended to be casual and fun for the whole family. They sell weekend wear and day wear--nary a fancy party dress or pair of beautifully cuffed trousers in sight. It's the kind of stuff that's all-American, what you picture a sailor might wear when barbequeing with his wife, kids and faithful dog when he's lucky enough to have shoreleave in the summertime. Hell, maybe he was even lucky enough to go see the wife and kids on the 4th of July. It's the kind of clothing that's okay to get grass stains on, that's okay to spill mustard on, that's okay to wash and wear. The fits aren't stellar, but that's the kind of fit you get at that price point. I, personally, hate Old Navy. (Even though my sailor father definitely took me shopping there when I was little and there was a brand-new Old Navy near our house. I think he liked the novelty of the name more than anything.)

The Gap's name is no mystery. The company widely publicizes the fact that their name refers to the Generation Gap between young people and adults that reached its peak when Gap was founded in 1969--the Summer of Love. It's also no suprise, then, that Gap originated in San Francisco. While I have no knowledge of the style of clothing found at the Gap in the late 60s and early 70s, I know that in the 80s and 90s Gap embraced a style that transitioned easily between work and the weekend. The store is filled with basic work peices that can look more high end when mixed with nice trousers for work and can go casual with jeans. The store came to reflect the versitility of the lifestyle of people in their 20s and 30s, which are the years that really "fill in the gap" between childhood/adolescence and full-blown responsible adulthood. They even added a "Baby Gap" to help with that transition. Granted, Gap has had some major troubles maintaining the popularity of their basics in recent times and floundering sales led to the resignation of their CEO. They did manage, though, to do a number of things crucial to my generation. Gap pushed forward the Neo-Swing movement with their 1998 khaki commercial set to Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive & Wail," which Brian Setzer had coincidentally covered around the same time. (He sounds spookily like Prima on that record.) They also brought the gifted and talented Rufus Wainwright to the attention of the world when he asked us what we were doing on New Year's Eve in his white dinner jacket at a black baby grand during Gap's holiday campaign. The Gap also started Macy Gray's career and revived popular interest in musical theatre with their "West Side Story" commercial, for, fittingly, chinos.

Fourth & Town is the newest addition to the family of Gap brands. It is a very high end specialty retail store that is organized by "collections" and has a community of individually-styled fitting rooms. The shopgirls are meant to act as "stylists," although I can't say that's true for the one here in Santa Barbara. Fourth & Town, from the product it carries to the way the store is organized and the feel you get from walking in and being greeted by the shopgirls, fits its name. The kind of people who shop there, who like that lifestyle, who can afford the faux-couture clothing might live at an address such as "Fourth & Town."

Those things all make sense to me. The product each of those stores carry and the atmosphere they create all seem to reflect the name. Except Banana Republic.

Banana Republic, or BRep, as I like to call it, sells some of the finest workwear ever made. Some of the peices can be casual, yes, but the majority of the clothing sold at BRep is meant to transition not from work to the weekend, but from work to an evening out, or from a day in the office to a nighttime networking event. In BRep, you've left the world of family fun created at Old Navy. In BRep, you've even left the world of casual-minded Gen Xers with tots who shop at Gap. In the world of BRep, you've got style even Tim Gunn would approve of. (And clearly does, as Project Runway awarded its first two winners with jobs on the design team of BRep.) Banana's designs are all well-cut and highly-styled, and that kind of attention to detail and aesthetic is reflected in the price point of most of their items. They're not cheap, but they're definitely not as expensive as the faux-couture of Forth & Town.

So with that in mind, what's with the name? The meticulous care with which BRep's garments are crafted certainly don't have the raw, natural-fiber look of items made in such banana republics. My coworker Bill suggested that it was because BRep was the proxy government running the Gap, however, while it's a good analogy, BRep was established in the late 70s and incorporated into The Gap, Inc. in 1983. So the high-style running the lower-styled store doesn't exactly measure up.

But then I remembered what Banana Republic looked like in the late 80s and early 90s. And I remembered why I used to hate it. Granted, those years were definitely not good years for fashion for anyone, but I recall a Banana Republic that sold high-end resort wear. Imagine Tommy Bahama-style but with less tack: fewer loud prints, more raw, natural fibers and more neutrals.

Marcus has a jacket from BRep circa 1992 that I refer to as his "hobo jacket" because it truly is that hideous. It's some olive green linen thing that looks like a combination between a happy coat and a painter's smock. If it were part of the Seinfeld universe, I imagine it's something you'd buy in the J. Peterman catalog and wear with your "urban sombrero." I might burn it one night while he's sleeping.

If this jacket is the kind of style BRep had cultivated for itself until the late 90s--and certainly til Tim Gunn's blessings were bestowed upon them--then I get the name. It is similar to Bill's conjecture, only Gap is the despotic ruler-from-afar and Banana Republic is, well, the banana republic. The upscale resort wear manufactured for old BRep might be the kind of thing the dictator might wear while running the country. (I'm sure a majority of their products are actually manufactured in third world countries, as I'd wager is the case with all Gap brands.)

I'm glad that BRep has been touched by the hand of Gunn and that their style is no longer as heinous as it used to be. I love that they still sell natural fibers and that some of the peices do seem to have the worldly influence that their clothes have always carried, but now that worldliness is so much more sophistocated than the hobo jacket.

You're lucky, Banana Republic. Even with your really odd name, you're the only Gap brand I'll actually patronize. I forgive you for your misguided youth. And the hobo jacket.

Friday, February 09, 2007

And eyes in the back of my tiny little head.

Some IM madness exchanged at the office this afternoon between myself and Bill. Let me preface this by saying that my desk faces absolutely no one, which is why I have covered the wall I see for 8 hours a day in pictures of a variety of mustachioed animals, and California Farm Bureau president Doug Mosebar.

me: what kind of chips are those?
bill: S + V
bill: My god, how did you know I was eating chips with your back turned
bill: oh
bill: wait
bill: you have ears

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Jim Henson's dead and gone, but his muppets still live on.

I ran into Bert today. You know, that big yellow unibrow-spoting fellow from Sesame St. who may and or may not be in a homosexual relationship with a man who eats cookies in bed.

Yeah. That Bert. The muppet.

And I have never been so scared in my fucking life.

Co-workers and I are heading to Cold Stone not so long ago, and we walk out of the office onto the landing we share with Montecito Bank & Trust and who comes up the stairs with balloons but an overwhelmingly tall, walking muppet.

My immediate response, after the uncomfortable laughter we all experienced, is to get as close to the wall as possible and act like he can't see me. I duck down behind Rose, who is only about 5'3" and a few centimeters, she says, so that wasn't terribly effective. Bert definitely saw me.

Bert says to us, "Was it something I said?" apparently as bewildered by our reaction to him as we were by his countenance. I want to go down the stairs and run away. But I can't because BERT IS ON THE STAIRS! He is physically preventing me from escaping. This is horrible. I cower.

Bert says, "Hey, do you guys know where Kevin Something-or-Another hangs out?" (I'm not censoring his name for poor Kevin's sake. I just don't remember because my fight-or-flight instinct had kicked in and I was trying to keep from huddling in a ball in the corner.) We point to the bank. I run down the first flight of stairs as Bert tries to buzz himself into the bank. He is allowed inside (though I have no idea why any sane person would allow this) and I hide in the corner, laughing uncomfortably as he immediately starts singing "Rubber Ducky" when he sets foot inside the bank.

It takes me and my coworkers about 5 minutes of uncomfortable laughter and me squeaking, "What the fuck?" to process this strange occurrance.

Until this point, I did not know that I was actually this terrified of life-sized dolls/puppets/singing telegrams. I've been afraid of dolls, the creepy porcelain or life-sized kind for quite some time. Puppets I am simultaneously attracted to and repelled by. But the dreadful combination of life-sized doll AND puppet is too horrifying for me to bear. And then there was the singing.

I tried to find the name of the singing telegram company that could have sent this monster near me, at least to show you all a picture of his terrible yellow face on his uncomfortably tall body. I wanted to share my horror with you. But instead, I found something that disturbs me even more:

That would be Bert and Ernie telling little Dutch children the tale of Sinterklaas, which is discussed by my fiance here in his holiday blog. The Sinterklaas story tells of how St. Nicholas delivers all the presents to the little Dutch children with the help of 6 to 8 black men. This story is also brilliantly recounted in "6 to 8 Black Men" by David Sedaris. I cannot tell it as well as either of these men, but the image above makes me wonder about why Bert gets to be good ol' St. Nick and Ernie has to be his Moorish slave. I won't get into the odd and inherent racism in the Dutch story, which the Dutch, as I understand it, do not see as a. odd or b. problematic. I am more interested in how this picture, and the racial roles it implies, may help the "Bert and Ernie are queer" argument.

The Sub/Dom roles are obvious, but that extends to hetero relationships as well. I'm interested in Ernie playing the role of the Moorish slave in the Dutch Christmas pageant because, in a number of literary works I read in Foster's 165GL, the gay body is often conflated with the racial body as a mark of otherness. Consider the homosexual encounter between two young boys in a slave cabin in Gore Vidal's The City & The Pillar. Here, gay sex is marked with the same otherness as the racial otherness experienced by slaves. Is Ernie, perhaps, othered in a similar fashion with his Black Man #5 mask? Does that increase the amount of minority otherness on his furry little crumb-loving muppet body? Why does Bert, then, get to be Sinterklaas . . . other than the fact that the mask fits his head better? Is it because Bert, while he may live with a man with whom he shares a bed, manages to keep an outward appearance of "muppet-u-linity" that keeps him on the proverbial "straight-and-narrow?"

I don't really know where I'm going with the Sinterklaas thought. I was mostly just continuing to be creeped out by my visit from Sinterklaas/Bert and then was doubly creeped out by the fact that there is a Sesame St. Sinterklaas book in existence.

So now you know. I am afraid of singing telegrams.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Souvineers from the Everglades

I text message exchange I had with Marcus at about 4 p.m. this afternoon, which I could not post at work because I was unable to stop laughing:

Marcus: Dude! We just stopped at a gas station, and Coop found a back-scratcher made with a gator's hand!
Me: Buy it!
Marcus: Too late. After she saw it, she almost vomited. I'll try to find one later.

There are a few things I love about this exchange:
1. I think it's so funny that I can't stop laughing every time I read it. I am literally near tears with laughter. The notion of a back-scratcher made out of a gator paw is just too funny. Seriously, imagine handing it to someone when they ask for a back-scratcher.
2. As implied in the final sentence, I think Marcus might actually buy me one if he manages to find one again during his business trip to Florida. Imagine the great conversations I can start with that hanging on my wall.