Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tops Everywhere!

When God closes a door, He opens a window. Such was the case last night with the conclusion of Top Chef and the commencement of Top Design (so many tops in one night could make a boy's head spin). And last night, playing the role of God, was the Bravo-TV network.

It's no secret that I am not a fan of the now-ended Top Chef. My friend Matt thinks that the show would better serve its audience by being telecast on the Food Network where the chefs might actually take the time to show us how they prepared their meals so that we could possibly duplicate them and actually learn something. I still don't know what a reduction sauce is - it would be nice if they explained how they went about creating this ready-to-photograph dish in just 8 seconds. Each chef creates about 30 dishes per season - think of the recipe book Top Chef could publish.

The one redeeming quality of this show was that I thought the judges were right on with whom they were choosing - that is, until last week when they dimissed the two strongest contenders for the title: Sam and Elia. Sam had been my choice for Top Chef (and the only reason I actually would watch the show) throughout the competition. He was a dominant force in the kitchen, seemed to be the most talented, and he was smolderingly sexy. I mean - c'mon!!!!!!! The show is already a bad concept, and dismissing Sam only made it a farce.

So anyway, last night we caught the premiere of Top Design. And I have a few comments:

1. Storm and Diana Prince totally deserved to lose with that dreck. Just because it has an Asian theme does not always make it stylish. Besides, they were boring.

2. What the deuce is up with Todd Oldham's (right) face?? Is it botox? Is it a nip 'n tuck? Is it bad lighting? Did he have a chemical peel two hours before the taping? Todd is a designer - he needs to create more flattering lighting for himself.

3. Jonathan Adler is totally cute in the "gay Jewish boy who loves his mother" sense.

4. I knew that Eyebrows and Chipmunk would not get kicked off because there was way too much drama with them.

Top Design is not Project Runway. And Todd Oldham has a long way to go to compete with Tim Gunn (and what does Tim think of Top Design?). But the show has potential and it will be a fun Wednesday night filler. Besides, anything is better than Top Chef.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gay, Straight Or Taken?

At first I thought this show would bother me. With only knowing the premise - a woman must chose one of three men to go on a date with, however she has to choose the one who is straight and single, and not the one who is gay or the one who is straight and taken - I thought Gay, Straight or Taken? would inadvertently try to make gay men be something they aren't.

It seemed like it was going to be one more instance where the Mo had to butch it up in order to compete with the other contestants. But not only is this not the case, it's not even the opposite. This show is about 3 men who seem to be acting like, well, themselves. Telling the straight guy from the gay guy is pretty much impossible. So far there have been 6 episodes - and I have been wrong on every one (my gaydar needs some serious fine tuning).

I also had a fear that this show might be another form of Boy Meets Boy. Remember that stinker? One guy has to choose a boyfriend from among 15 or so "perfect catches". The real catch, however, was that when it got down to the final three, one of the trio was straight and unavailable. Which seemed pretty unfair. And of course - I was wrong on that one too because I totally fell for Franklin, the straight guy (not surprising really. I mean he's tall, lean, fair skinned, dark hair, adorable ... who does that sound like?) Also G, S or T? puts the woman out there all on her own to decide for herself; no crazy best friends running around screaming like Boy's crazy Andra!

This show is light, fun and entertaining. And I think it provides very positive images of gay men. Because what we've been trying to say all along is that we are just like everyone else. And this show is a breakthrough for finally making all of us equals.
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Monday, January 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kim

This past weekend, I made a quick flight back home for my sister's surprise 44th Birthday Party thrown by my parents. She was completely surprised and it was a lovely party. Each of her brothers made a speech, and below is mine. Happy Birthday Kim!

Kim has a long history of being there for me when I have needed someone the most. Kim was three years old when I was brought home from the hospital 40 years ago. I don’t remember everything about that day, but from what I hear, Kim thought I was just fascinating. And she’s been watching over me ever since.

Throughout our childhood, Kim and I were compared to Lucy and Linus from The Peanuts. She was loud, sassy and bossy. I was her younger, shy, nerdy brother. And like Lucy with Linus, Kim was inadvertently teaching me lessons that I would carry on through adulthood:

For example, when I begged her to play with the Fisher Price toys and she told me she would once I got everything set up, and I spent 20 minutes getting the house, barn, houseboat, garage and little city set up only for her to then say, “I’m not interested anymore” … well that taught me that things don’t always work out the way you planned. At least, not with Kim.

Or when we’d be doing the dishes together (Kim washed, I dried) and we would be singing a song but singing it differently and I would say, “You’re not singing that right” - she would say “I can sing it any way I want to”. But if she was the one who said “You’re not singing that right” and I would use her retort of “I can sing it anyway I want to”, then she came back with “Well, you’re wrooonnnggg!” … that might have taught me that there is no such thing as a clear winning argument. At least not with Kim.

Or the numerous times I was told to hold something differently, or stand in another place, or when to talk or not talk, or where I could sit, or what I could play with … that taught me that in this world there are leaders and followers and that I was clearly a follower. At least I was with Kim.

I have needed her in different ways my entire life, whether I knew it or not, be it as my playmate, my teacher, my singing partner, or my defender.

For example, the time she beat up 5th grader David Urbas on the bus because he hit me in the stomach. I was in 3rd Grade and Kim was in 6th. David had been teasing me and then finally just let me have it. And then Kim unleashed all of her protective energies on him. Growing up with Kim as a big sister meant you didn’t get out of line. But God help anyone who hurt one of her brothers.

But there was no time I needed her more than a year and a half ago, as I lay in a hospital room the night before surgery. The rest of the family had gone and Kim and I sat in my room and watched TV and shared my dinner. I don’t think she wanted to leave, and I was grateful that she stayed. Just having my big sister with me allowed me to realize that everything was going to be ok. After all, Kim was there – she’d never let any harm come to me. Its probably the reason I was able to fall asleep soon after she left.

Like I said, she’s been watching over me all my life.

She’s been a tower of strength for my parents throughout adulthood. She’s been my Mom’s rock during the most difficult times. As generous as she is, she has sadly understood all too well what it means to “do without”. To me, it seems that Kim has been sacrificing her entire adult life. The decision she made to first leave her home and beloved sons in order to work 3 hours away from home, must have been agonizing. She believed she could selfishly provide a better life for her family, all the while surrendering the precious time she was missing while being away. It must have been a heartbreaking thing to do. But in the long run, she has two boys who love and adore her (and neither one looks like he's going to be moving out soon). And I hope they appreciate and understand what Kim had to go through in order to give them whatever she could.

Through all of her troubles and hard times, Kim has found a deep and life-driving faith that keeps her going day to day. She quietly accepts what life deals her, knowing that there is a reason for it all, whether she understands it or not. Her life has not been an easy one. And she has faced more challenges and obstacles than any other person I know.

Kim, if Ty Pennington would just return one of my calls, you would have a new house by now. Because there is no one else on Extreme Makeovers Home Edition who deserves it more than you. But for now, until Ty calls me back, this party, this gathering, this family, these friends, and these words are all we can humbly give you. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I hope you are proud of me, because I wouldn’t be who I am without you.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Peanuts Envy

I am not really into anime, but I thought this was pretty clever. Someone took the Charles Schulz Peanuts characters and modernized them - I guess you could call them Peanutz. They're very creative, I think. Check 'em out:
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Word Du Jour: Retail Politics

Once before, I wrote about how the media will choose a word or catch phrase that is not in normal vernacular, and then saturate the media until said word or phrase becomes part of mainstream vocabulary. Recently, I have been hearing the phrase "retail politics".

Retail politics is a term used to describe, among other things, the ol' fashioned campaign technique of shaking hands and kissing babies. We still get a little of this in New Hampshire and Iowa, but, for the most part, we encounter our presidential candidates on TV screens far more than on Main Street.

I first heard the term over the weekend after Barack Obama tossed his hat into the ring for the democratic nomination. And then it popped out again, right after Hillary Clinton did the same. Television journalists are spitting this term out left and right, sometimes more than once in the same sentence. This term has probably been used before, but I've not heard it used so much, so often, and by so many at the same time.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pringles UK

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my love of Pringles Potato Chips and asked to trade flavours with anyone around the world, swapping Pringles made in America with Pringles made in other countries.

My new friend Nick from the United Kingdom sent me an email and the trade officially happened last week. Right before Christmas, I mailed Nick three flavours of Pringles made here in the US (Pizza-licious, Jalapeno and Loaded Baked Potato). And last week, Nick was kind enough to send me the following flavours made in the UK:
  • Gourmet Sea Salt & Black Pepper
  • Tiger Prawn & Crushed Garlic
  • Thai Sweet Chilli & Lemongrass
  • Flame Grilled Steak & Carmelised Onion
  • Paprika
  • Texas BBQ Sauce
  • Light Aromas Red Pepper with a touch of Olive extract
I sampled all of them, as did many people in my office, who thought this was the neatest thing they've experienced in a while. Not sure which was my favourite, but I loved them all. After all, they were Pringles!

Thanks Nick - this was fun!
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Monday, January 22, 2007

Bandwagon - Isaiah Washington

It baffles me how a black man can call someone a "f_gg_t". Knowing full well how words sting, and how certain words of hatred can muster fear, inferiority, degradation and inadequecy, I cannot fathom how someone who would hate to be called a "n_gg_r", could use an epithet on another person.

Apologies have been running rampant lately. I mean say whatever you want, as long as you apologize later, and at least act like you mean it.

My solution to this latest "slip of the tongue": the producers of Grey's Anatomy should make Dr. Preston Burke (Washington's character) a latent homosexual with emotional and physical desires towards his old college roommate. Better yet, make him a love interest. And have Burke kiss, fondle, hug and caress him.

It's time celebrities actually do something to show they really don't mean what they say.
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Top Chef

I've wanted to write this post for a while but just never got around to it. I am talking about BRAVO-TV's series Top Chef, a show created to fill the void left behind by channel (and my) darling, Project Runway.

BRAVO describes the show this way: The series features fifteen aspiring chefs who compete for their shot at culinary stardom and the chance to earn the prestigious title of "Top Chef." Each episode holds two challenges for the chefs. The first is a quickfire test of their basic abilities and the second is a more involved elimination challenge designed to test the versatility and invention of the chefs as they take on unique culinary trials such as working with unusual and exotic foods or catering for a range of demanding clients. The challenges not only test their skills in the kitchen, but also uncover if they have the customer service, management and teamwork abilities required of a Top Chef. The competing chefs live and breathe the high-pressure lifestyle that comes with being a master chef, and each week someone is asked to "pack up their knives" and go home.

I just don't understand how a show like Top Chef is supposed to translate to television. When the prepared dishes are being judged and I hear that the consumme is too cold, I don't know what that means. Too cold compared to what? An ice cube? A jalapeno pepper? What??? I don't know what the judges are looking for. And besides, Head Judge Tom Colicchio stole my look (not to mention Michael's heart), Host Padma Lakshmi has the personality of a Cheerio (however she's a Mardi Gras parade compared to last year's cadaver Katie Lee Joel), and the guest judges are so vain that someone needs to remind them that they only cook food for a living.

At least with Project Runway, when fashion is judged, its something you can actually see. All of us deal with fabric every day, so we all have a sense of what the judges are talking about. But I've never eaten watermelon with cheese on it, much less thought it was a good idea. Telling me something isn't salty enough or not spicy enough doesn't help me. Watching PR could make me a better designer or perhaps a better dresser, but watching Top Chef won't make me a better cook in the kitchen or a better diner in a restaurant. (Even last night's semi-homoerotic episode of Cliff prison-wrestling Marcel couldn't get me interested.)

I am, however, looking forward to BRAVO's new show, Top Design (ok, creative team, we need to find a new word), because like PR, all you need is sight - which works perfectly for television, right? No mouth required - unless its to stuff popcorn in while watching, which I am sure The BF, Jessica and I will most certainly be doing every Wednesday night at 9.
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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush T-shirt Slogans

I'll take one of each, thanks!

1/20/09: End of an Error

I Hated Bush Before it was Cool

That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

Let's Fix Democracy in This Country First

If You Want a Nation Ruled By Religion, Move to Iran

Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

You Can't Be Pro-War And Pro-Life

If You Can Read This, You're Not the President

Hey Bush Supporter: Embarrassed Yet?

George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight

Nice War, Jackass

America: One Nation, Under Surveillance

They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

Which God Do You Kill For?

Cheney/Satan '08 (also Cheney/Voldemort '08)

Jail to the Chief

George W. Bush Deserves a Fair Trial

Who Would Jesus Torture?

No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade Iraq?

(over a map of red states) I See Dumb People

Bush: God's Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full of Crap

So Many Christians, So Few Lions

When Fascism Comes to America, It Will Be Wrapped in a Flag Carrying a Cross (Sinclair Lewis)

It Takes More Than a Chrome Fish, Pal

Bad President! No Banana.

We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language (Buck Henry)

We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them

Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Blood

Is It Vietnam Yet?

1/20/09: Hang In There, America!

Bush Doesn't Care About White People, Either

You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

Frodo Failed. Bush Has the Ring.

I Really, Really, Really, Really Hate Bush

Impeach Cheney First

(On an infant's shirt): Already smarter than Bush.

When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.46

Already Against the Next War

Pray For Impeachment

The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

What Part of "Bush Lied" Don't You Understand?

Bush Lost Iraq. Deal With It

Nixon Resigned.

W=Nixon 2.0





Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Shakespeare Behind Bars

A few nights ago while waiting for The BF to finish tube-talking, I decided to pick out a movie for us to watch later that night. This is always a challenging task for me, because The BF and I don't always agree on my movie choices. There is always a trace of trepidation in his voice when I tell him I found a movie for us to watch. But this last choice turned out to be a winner.

Shakespeare Behind Bars is a documentary filmed at Luther Luckett Correctional Center in Kentucky, about a group of convicts who annually stage one of The Bard's masterpieces. In this instance, they are performing The Tempest, a story which pits virtue against vengeance - a lesson each of the inmates needs to learn, ironically, in order to be paroled back into the outside world.

We watched in amazement as these deviants of society, this band of criminals, thugs and thieves, who, the director of the play points out, would have been adored by Shakespeare himself. The Bard's plays were written at a time when actors were considered the lowest form of occupation, second to hookers. And during the rehearsals, each inmate discovers something in his character to which he can relate, something that he sees in himself as well, perhaps even discovers for the first time.

The inmates seem both supportive and to have a genuine affection for each other - some of them having spent 20 years or more within the walls of this one institution. We found ourselves rooting for their paroles, and felt a slight weight of disappointment when some were denied.

It's a interesting film, that chronicles the journey each of these men takes towards absolution, be it from their victims, themselves, or whichever higher power to whom they pray.
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Monday, January 08, 2007

Shitty Weekend

By "shitty", I don't mean awful. I mean "shitty" in the literal sense. My weekend was all about shit - cleaning it up, stepping in it, dodging it on the sidewalk, cleaning it off my shoes. This past weekend, I house/dog sat for my friend Chris. He left me in charge of his large condo in Gold Coast, as well as his adorable pug, Beau. With dogsitting, comes a certain amount of expected poop scooping. However, my weekend went far beyond just cleaning up after one dog.

Let me first say that I am always excited to house and/or dog sit for friends. I love dogs but just don't have the kind of schedule that would permit me to own a puppy. And I would want to start with a puppy to train him the way I would want him to be trained, rather than adopt an older dog that might be harder to train. I also like to stay in different neighborhoods in order to learn more about my city. So when Chris asked, I jumped at the chance.

Gold Coast is one of the more affluent and sophisticated neighborhoods in Chicago (Starbuck's even has a coffee named after it - which features, of all things, a woman walking a dog on the packaging). It's a place where everyone looks the same and they all drive a BMW, Benz or Lexus. Couples dress alike when they exercise, and they dine in Bistros and Taverns rather than eat in diners and restaurants. In short, these residents seem to have a lot of money. So much, in fact, that they don't have to clean up after their pets.

It is, I guess, beneath them to wrap their hand in a plastic bag, bend over, pick up their dogs' feces, and deposit it in a wastecan. I've never seen such an accumulation of dog shit in one neighborhood. It's everywhere: on the sidewalks, in the landscaping, in the grass, sometimes on the street. Saturday afternoon, my friend Jessica and I were walking Beau and we couldn't believe how messy the residents leave their neighborhood.

One would think that given the amount of the property values in Gold Coast, the inhabitants would take better care of, or at least more pride in, their neighborhood and come down out of their concrete towers to stoop low enough, like the rest of us do, to clean up after themselves. But no, they can't be bothered. I actually saw it in progress. I didn't say anything because it's not my 'hood. Up in Andersonville where I live, I have never had to dodge a pile of anything on the sidwalk. In A'ville, people do the right thing.
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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Klein Sexual Orientation Grid

Apparently, I am not as gay as I thought. I scored an average of 4.1





012345
6

HeterosexualBisexualHomosexual

Meaning

This result can also be related to the Kinsey Scale:

0 = exclusively heterosexual
1 = predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual
2 = predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 = equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 = predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 = predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual
6 = exclusively homosexual

Summary

The idea of this excercise is to understand exactly how dynamic a person's sexual orientation can be, as well as how fluid it can be over a person's lifespan. While a person's number of actual homo/heterosexual encounters may be easy to categorize, their actual orientation may be completely different. Simple labels like "homosexual", "heterosexual", and "bisexual" need not be the only three options available to us.

Take the quiz

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

There's Just No "Excuse"

It suddenly dawned on me (this past weekend as I stood in a crowded bar being pushed and shoved in all kinds of directions) that people simply just don't say "excuse me" anymore. There's no "pardon me", or "excuse me", or even a "sorry" as people push past you on their way to wherever. I am not talking about a slight brush from a passerby. I am talking about a knocking me off-balance kinda thing. Is it because I am big and people think that I might not move if asked?

And it's not just in a bar. I have noticed when I am traveling to work in the morning on the "L" and take a seat next to the window, a person who eventually sits next to me will sometimes use me as a bumper to land in the seat. Which is okay if he/she happens to lose his/her balance and falls into me. But then I expect to hear "I'm sorry" or "excuse me" or even "good morning". Something!

But no.

When I sit next to people, I am cautious as hell about not touching them at all, much less falling into them -- partly because of the cooty factor, but mostly because it's just rude to do it. And if I would bump into someone with any amount of force, I would apologize. Likewise when navigating through a crowded bar. Granted, my friends usually make me go first because I can clear a wider path for those who follow. But my journey is peppered with "sorry" as I work my way through. I will admit to pushing my way through, but only after two "excuse me"s have not seemed to garner a response. I have also been known to pick someone up and displace him to make a point (this has led to 6 different dates over the years).

But I digress.

Social graces have been slowly eroding in America for years. And I have found if you correct behavior now and then, it seems to work. In many ways, adults are mere children just waiting to be told what to do. So here is a little lesson for you: "Excuse me" is your action, not mine.
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Yoga

I am taking Sivananda yoga at a local center near my house. It's 90 minutes long meeting twice a week. Last night was my first class.

There are six of us in what the center calls the "Beginners' Course", however I am the only true beginner. My 5 classmates (another guy and 4 women) have all taken some form of yoga training in the past (one even went to "yoga camp" for six weeks when she was 17 which, to me, seems a little like getting driving lessons before you take drivers' ed). I am the only one who has neither done, tried, attempted, practiced, nor even seen yoga up close.

For the most part, I think I did pretty well. The only pose I could not get into was the shoulder stand (see image at right). Because of my wide back and lats, the teacher said it might take me longer to assume that position. So that's one I need to practice at home.

When I am alone.

With the doors locked.

And the blinds closed.

And my phone turned off.

In any event, it didn't deter me enough to not go back. So here we go - into the world of physical and spiritual improvement.

God help me.
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Monday, January 01, 2007

Under The Weather

Not sure if it was something I caught while back home for the holidays, or germs I may have been exposed to on the planes traveling to and from. But I 've been suffering through the nastiest cold I've had in years.

My sinuses started aching last Wednesday morning, so I took some OTC sinus medication hoping to drain some of my stuffiness. I worried a little about my flight back to Chicago, but hoped (prayed) that my head would not explode en flight. Sadly, my left ear clogged on the descent landing back at Midway Airport last Thursday and it's still not 100% clear. The clogging comes and goes, and now and then I can hear little ticks in my ear. I've been blowing gallons of snot out of my nose for the past 5 days, and coughing up just as much phlegm from my lungs. Yesterday, twenty minutes on the elliptical at the gym left me completely drained of all energy for hours.

I usually have some type of cold all winter long (it could have something to do with my hatred of hats that cover my ears). I am used to being a little snotty and phlegmy for a few months. But this one is taking it's toll, not to mention pissing me off. The BF seems to have a nasty cold too, but he's been working so much I think his hot little body is just worn out. And we seemed to both catch our colds when we weren't together. Contrarily, he's able to hear well.

I have taken decongestants, used ear drops, drunk plenty of fluids. And at this point, I am open to suggestions. Any old-world remedies out there?
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