Thursday, April 26, 2007

A review of "Tinisima"

by Elena , Poniatowska

Tina Modotti is a fascinating 20th century character whose life was stranger than fiction. Elena Poniatowska, journalist and author, allegedly spent 10 years researching Modotti, and this novel is the fruit of that labor. It’s difficult to understand why she chose to write a novel instead of a biography. Her training as a journalist is evident throughout this book, much to its detriment. Modotti’s life is intricately plotted: first she did this, then she did that. We get a well-researched timeline of events that would be laudable in biographical form, but we never quite come to understand Modotti.

Why would such a vibrantly voluptuous spirit, the center of bohemian Mexico in the 1920s, who tried so hard to create beautiful forms in both art and life consciously subsume and excise all remnants of her unique personality from her life to become a drab gray Comintern agent, abandoning her appearance and her art? Why would she go from a sybaritic plethora of male admirers to obsessing over a pro-Stalinist assassin that just couldn’t be bothered to pay her attention? How was her automatic love of mankind and the idealism it engendered tricked and blinded by the evils committed in the name of Communism? If there were no answers to these questions to be found in all Poniatowska’s biographical research, than certainly a novel might be the ground for examining these questions. It would allow the author to venture with imagination to answer what is left unknown. But Poniatowska creates a Modotti so opaque that psychological understanding becomes impossible.

Modotti crosses paths with hundreds of people in this book. The work is peppered with names of people that are just randomly inserted, possibly to give events context but without context of their own, making it impossible to tell to the reader if a) the person is fictional or b) the person really existed. I get the feeling that most of the people named were real, however Poniatowska gives next to no information about them, so their addition becomes blather. Additionally, as there is no internal examination of Modotti herself, there is no examination of her interaction with these people that would help us understand anything about them. Weston did this, Mella did that, Rivera said this, Vidali went here…we don’t know why, they just did, and we stop caring. I couldn’t be bothered to finish the book with 50 pages to go.

I’m sure Modotti’s life would make a fascinating biography. That’s what I should have read instead of this.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Synchonized Swimming Contest Routine

This is from Girls' Camp, and these are all peeps I know. Unfortunately I wasn't a counselor that year, but thank goodness we have video!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Oh the Humanity!

I've thought a lot about whether I should write this post. Since the shootings at Virginia Tech, there's been a lot of discussion about showing evil in the media. Some say that by looking into the eyes of pure evil we can educate ourselves and thus protect ourselves. Some argue evil can exert such influence that acknowledging or studying it gives it more power. I normally am all for not giving evil any power, but I feel that we citizens of planet earth have not been sufficiently warned about this particular evil. No photos will be posted here, no extensive description proffered. Those who want to look can look. Those who are afraid what damage might be wrought on their eternal souls can choose not to view it. I just wanted to give evil a human face. Well, I guess it's not human, but as close to human as the guy who gave Michael Jackson his first seven referals to plastic surgeons could look...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I was talking to my friend this past week and she commented that I "wouldn't be me without [my] obsessions." I guess that's true, but I've always been to busy obsessing about my latest obsession to make that self-realization. So I thought I'd share with you my new obsession: I was a Crabcakes Benedict virgin till last week. This is the second Saturday in a row that I had them for brunch, the first at Good Stuff, the second at Misto. They were even better the second time around. Don't they look delectable?

It's a family tradition we have that we make homemade Eggs Benedict for my Dad for Father's Day. I can only handle that about once a year, though because hollandaise is tricky to make (LOW HEAT), and I'm a well-intentioned yet sometimes not great cook. I might order them once a year at a restaurant, but usually it's an infrequent treat for me, and I'd never had them made with crab!

So has anyone else noticed the ascension of crabcakes on the social scene over the last 4-5 years? Now you can buy a fabulous gourmet crabcake from Trader Joe's where as I'm sure the only grocery store version available in the past was probably Kentucky Fried Smells Like Real Crab patties. So maybe I'll have to try these at home!

Friday, April 20, 2007

It's official, I'm OLD!

Did you know it's Dirty Dancing's 20th Anniversary? You do now...coming soon to a screen near you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I sense a theme running through your work...

I was born in the 70s, LIVED the 80s, but secretly, I think my heart belongs to the early 60s. And I think it has to do with the clothes. You're shocked, I can tell. One of the unsung staples of the 20th century well-dressed man, a crisp, single-breasted suit of a pearly dove's breast was never done better service than by Cary Grant as the daredevil plutocrat-cum-adventurer Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest...

or rumpled with such phsyicality and insouisance as the ones Jean-Paul Belmondo seemed to wear in all his early 60s flicks. In this picture from Pierrot le Fou he wears a divine Prince of Wales check...

This photo is a still from OSS 117: Le Caire nid d'espions, the 2006 French espionage farce set in 1955 that I finally saw this past week. The star of the film, Jean Dujardin (pictured below), rocked the suit like he was discovering the new world, splitting the atom and landing on the moon all in one stride across the lobby of Cairo's best hotel. It made me yearn. Yes, Kramer, to answer your question, I YEARN! I yearn for a time when every man wore cuff links when he left the house. Is that so wrong?

If anyone is interested, Kilgour of Saville Row is doing a bespoke tour of the USA...grab a dude and drag him down to get his measurements taken!


Did you know Alyssa Milano has a blog about the Dodgers? NEITHER DID I! I have never been a fan of hers, not that I was overtly anti-Alyssa, but this is certainly a startling turn of events. That Justin Timberlake is such an early-adopter! I will certainly keep an eye on the blog and more importantly on the Blue Crew this year, as the LA Times and Sports Illustrated have both named them as likely to be in the world series this year. Watch this space.

I know what I'm getting Dominick Dunne for Christmas...

Dear Vanity Fair,

When A. M. Homes calls something "slightly naughty", I believe her. One of our more subversive modern authors, who has mentioned more than once in interviews that she had sexual feelings about her biological father when she first interacted with him as the result of a search for her biological parents, if SHE thinks something is indecent, I'm sure Tipper Gore is drafting a bill to put through congress right now to save us all from it.

So, you crazy content creators at, looks like I fell for one of your nasty lexical tricks. You put Lilly Pulitzer and "naughty" as a tease for an article and I'm thinking sock garters and horsewhips for stockbrokers available in a flamingo pink or billiard table green. These ties are more like what Stanford Blatch from Sex and the City would use to distract you from the awful eyeglasses he wears.

I am willing to concede that maybe I don't have a firm grasp on what passes for modern masculinity these days (c.f. my comments about the inaugural issue of another Condé Nast publication, Men's Vogue on this blog.) Hell, I'd wear them if I didn't think women-in-ties a dangerously tricky sartorial move only best attempted by someone at the top of their game or in a Billy Idol video, which I admittedly at this juncture am not. But I do have what I will christen my McQueen Masculinity Maxim which when stated as a mathematical proof looks like this:

If Steve McQueen is THE MANLIEST MAN OF ALL TIME, then everything he does is masculine.

Ergo, if Steve McQueen would not do X, then X is not masculine.

Q. E. D. Masculinity can be determined by answering the question, "Would Steve McQueen do X?"

According to my calculations, that makes these ties less than virile. However, the Grande Dame of Palm Beach apparently disagrees with me. When Homes queries Pulitzer about her target market, "who is the Lilly man?", she responded thus:

"He's confident, of course. He's walking down the street wearing pink and green elephants," says 75-year-old Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau

I admit it would take nigh on to McQueenian confidence to do something like that.

What exactly does Lilly Pulitzer have on you, Graydon Carter?