Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ripped from today's headlines!

Item 1: Ifand I emphasize ifit turns out that John Edwards did indeed convert campaign-finance funds into hush money for his mistress...once again, the mind boggles at the lengths to which intelligent, normally pragmatic men will go to satisfy That Hunger.* We will, some of us, put everything at risk. Every last thing. Look, for starters, at just the two men who were once the golden boys of the Democratic Party: Edwards and Clinton. Bill Clintona sitting (leaning?) U.S. president—was getting non-Hillary-based head in sundry alcoves of the White House. Leaving morality and the rest of it aside, how does he not regard that as politically risky? Why doesn't he care? And now fresh-faced John Edwards, the boy(ish) wonder, who has just about everything going for him including The Tragedy Factor**, blows his political capital, as it were, by taking a lover. (Speaking of bad puns, over the years I must've heard Edwards described dozens of times as a "comer" in the Democratic party.) And not just any lover, mind you, but a woman who's part of his campaign retinue, thus far more likely to be discovered. Worse yet, if (there's that word again) the latest allegations are true, he didn't just cheat. John Edwardslawyer, crusader, champion of the common maneffectively financed the tryst, or at least tried to cover his tracks, with public money. Again I say: Wow.

Item 2: OK, we've paid our dues. The First 100 Days are in the books. Now can we please declare a moratorium on fawning over Michelle Obama's so-called looks, sense of style (yeegads), etc? She is, at best, by any yardstick I can imagine, a woman of limited appeal. So if you want to celebrate her intellect (which appears considerable) or her mothering skills (ditto, from what any of us who don't live at 1600 Pennsylvania can tell), or her vision at selecting a husband (talk about "marrying well"!), fine. Isn't that enough? Does she also have to be one of People's "100 most beautiful" for 2009? Yeah, I know: In selecting Christina Applegate for the cover, People editors underscored all she's been through, saying there's more to beauty than what's on the outside (though Applegate is darned purdy on the outside, too). And yeah, we all agree that "looks really aren't that important in the grand scheme of things." Sure we do. But to paraphrase Michael Corleone's pointed retort to Moe Green in that memorable scene from Godfather 2, we're talking beauty, let's talk beauty. Folks, if Michelle Obama weren't the president's wife, they'd be doing skits about her like the ones that made Jamie Fox's "Wanda" character into something of a cult figure on In Living Color.

* There's a wonderfully mordant Italian expression that translates to, more or less, "nothing attracts like pubic hair." It was my mother, of all people, who shared it with me.
** His wife, Elizabeth, has, of course, been battling cancer. And some years ago they lost a son. Like it or not, such unfortunate personal circumstances often accrue to a candidate in the form of the "sympathy vote."


Anonymous said...

To borrow your word, wow Steve. That's pretty cold. I have to agree, though. I doubt that Michelle Obama is one of the 100 prettiest people in the White House, let alone the U.S. or the world.

Anonymous said...

I think today's blog is in really poor taste. Very disrespectful, and unnecessary. I don't understand what you get out of making fun of this woman, who is after all the First Lady? And when you consider today's blog in light of yesterday's blog about the black accountants, there is an unmistakable racial aspect to all this that is very troubling to me. I'm sure I'm not the only one, which may explain why you're not getting the usual comments. For one thing, have you considered that you are reacting to Mrs. Obama as a white man, and that your perception of beauty is just "in the eye of the beholder?" Think about it.

RevRon's Rants said...

Re: #1 - It is a proven fact that the "little" head is dominant in males throughout adolescence, and that adolescence has, in some cases, been known to last well into middle age. Add to this the fact that the drives that inspire sexual promiscuity are nearly identical to those that inspire an individual to seek political office, and it's not surprising that we have people who might well be geniuses in one arena running around with their zippers down.

Re: #2 - I'm sure you expected it when you wrote this blog post, Steve, but you'll no doubt be getting flak from folks who feel compelled to attribute some evil motive or character flaw to the fact that you don't see beauty in the same way they do (see anon 10:05). You should know better than to offer your own likes/dislikes, rather than expressing the PC alternative - what you *should* like/dislike.

If you recall, I caught a whirlwind of hate some time ago, when I noted that rap music was not aesthetically pleasing to me. One contributor's assumption was that my dislike for the genre was borne of my own ignorance, racism, or my evil spiritual beliefs. It's not too difficult to see the unresolved "issues" behind such criticisms.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, things we learn from our mothers...;)

Rational Thinking said...

I suppose if someone becomes President, there might be a tendency to think oneself fairly bullet-proof? I don't really know, but if you have all those people to cover-up for you (if necessary), I suppose temptation might be too much to resist.

So far as Michelle Obama is concerned, wasn't it inevitable? The press seemed to give her a rough ride before the nomination, and she has reinvented herself to their liking - hence the praise.

And here's a thought - if Hillary had won the nomination and become President, wouldn't that have made Bill First, er, Gentleman? Whew.

roger o'keefe said...

Can we just say this straight out? Now that the election is over the media has to be nice to her because she's the black wife of the first black president and anything less would be regarded as bigotry. I hate to say this but even if Obama's wife *was* Wanda we'd still be hearing about her beauty and sense of style. That's just how it goes these days. We have to walk on egg shells, even if the emporer has no clothes or, maybe in this case, even if her clothes are awful. It's simply required. By the way I'd actually seen "In Living Color" and knew who "Wanda" was before I read this blog. I'm sure that will surprise some regulars.

More important, I can't believe I'm in basic agreement with Ron for once.

roger o'keefe said...

While I'm at it I also believe this bogus fawning over Michelle is more of an insult than if people came right out and said what they really think. It's like affirmative action for her appearance. Everybody with half a brain sees it as patronizing as it truly is.

Elizabeth said...

"More important, I can't believe I'm in basic agreement with Ron for once."

That, indeed, is something. :)

We had this conversation already, didn't we. Michelle is shapely (those arms!), warm, intelligent, classy and, yes, even stylish. But pretty she is not. And that has nothing to do with race.

(But if you think Michelle is "bad," just imagine McCain's wife in her place. Yikes.)

P.S. Yes, it was a cold and snippy comment (mine, I mean), thank you very much.

Elizabeth said...

"It's like affirmative action for her appearance. Everybody with half a brain sees it as patronizing as it truly is."

That's a good point, Roger. But I also think that the fawning has more to do with her being First Lady more than anything else, and a young one at that -- finally someone who can stand next to, say, Carla Bruni, the current French First Lady, and not look like her grandma.

Steve Salerno said...

Affirmative action for her appearance.
That's an intriguing line, Roger. I'll be honest, it's the kind of line where even my first tendency is to flinch away from it, but...well, I'm sure everyone will evaluate it for what it's worth. And yes, I do think it's patronizing and insulting to "make nice" over someone in an insincere manner, as much of America seems to be doing here. I'm reminded of the parents and teachers who fall all over themselves to heap extravagant praise on kids whose work clearly isn't up to snuff. "Ooooh, that's beautiful work, Johnny! Hey everyone, look at what little Johnny did...!"

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:05 again. This is getting really interesting and also informative. Here you have at least three guys who suddenly agree about this specific topic when they don't agree about much else. Two of you hardly agree about anything ever. Could it be that you're all angry white males at heart and that's why you see it the way you do here? Time to circle the wagons!

Noadi said...

I think you're forgetting something Steve. Men (at least not straight men) aren't fashion and style writers. From a woman's perspective Michelle Obama is a woman of style and beauty. Not the type of beauty that makes men all hot and bothered but the type of beauty women admire as a sign of someone who works with what she has and does it well.

I wish more time would be spent on her intelligence and abilities not her looks but the media is superficial. Focussing on those things would just be too much work.

Steve Salerno said...

From a woman's perspective Michelle Obama is a woman of style and beauty.

Noad: Come on. Truly? Tell me why. How? You're telling me that women honestly see her that way?

RevRon's Rants said...

"But I also think that the fawning has more to do with her being First Lady more than anything else, ..."

Sure didn't apply to Hillary when she was First Lady, did it? Sometimes, I think the press fluctuates between being cheerleaders and acting a lot like chickens in a coop. If anyone has seen what the other chickens do when one hen lays too big an egg, or has any kind of visible anomaly... (A respect for the sensitivities of readers precludes further description of their behavior, but it bears no small similarity to the actions of the press).

RevRon's Rants said...

"Could it be that you're all angry white males at heart and that's why you see it the way you do here? Time to circle the wagons!"

I'm actually sort of beige, rather than actually being white, and while I do get angry at some things, I rarely do so around here. I do find that I have little patience with commenters who attempt to categorize people they don't know in order to fit within their own issue-driven preconceptions, but I find it amusing when they attempt to circle their own very solitary wagon, while accusing others of circling theirs. It would be the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons, if folks didn't take themselves so darn seriously. :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

"I'm reminded of the parents and teachers who fall all over themselves to heap extravagant praise on kids whose work clearly isn't up to snuff. "Ooooh, that's beautiful work, Johnny! Hey everyone, look at what little Johnny did...!"

I was obviously born too late. Best I ever got weas a "That Ronnie... bless his heart," followed by a litany of my transgressions against humanity, such as giving one of my 12-year-old friends my copy of Playboy. most times, it was a discussion about how best to keep me from ending up in prison, or, as in the case of the church deacon who caught me smoking (a cigarette) behind the church at the age of 10, advising me that there was a special place in hell where I *would* be going. It didn't improve when I offered him some heartfelt instruction, ending in the word, "You!" :-)

Back on topic... I think Michelle Obama is an intelligent and seemingly pleasant human being, who is obviously quite competent at her profession and as a parent, and I truly admire her for those qualities. But does that mean that I am also required to find her (as Lenny Bruce would say) "horny looking?" And is it a sign of some deep character flaw that I don't? If that's true, then perhaps my old detractor was correct when he claimed that my not enjoying rap music was a sign of some deep evil. Ah, well... I'll do my best to bear up under the burden of such profound defectiveness. :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

"More important, I can't believe I'm in basic agreement with Ron for once."

Don't let it get you down, Roger. I'm pretty sure you'll get over it in no time. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

And yet on the other hand--just to show you the contrast in how the media view things--we have this headline from AOL today: "Julia Roberts still has a stellar body as a 42-year-old." A 42-year-old! Imagine that! Because, of course, most 42-year-olds might as well be left for dead.

But when Michelle O. steps out in an outfit that's ugly to begin with, and also draws the eye to her ungainly, hippy physique (and horrendous posture), we're supposed to forget all about those "average" 42-year-olds who aren't worth a damn, and persuade ourselves that this woman is something special, and even a glam icon.

Jenny said...

Okay, since we're ranting ...

It is distracting and annoying how women's looks come to occupy such a prominent place in the SHAMblog posts and comments. Look how much attention has been paid to who is pretty or not pretty.

Looks matter in the sense that we notice them, but I fail to see the point in passing such judgment on them. If one person's beast is another's beauty, what is relevant here?

If someone finds another someone attractive, depending on subjective and highly personal preferences and criteria, how is what that person actually does judged in light of that assessment?

I am relieved that real life is not a pageant or competition (not really, but it actually sort of is), and yet to have to face such judgment here and elsewhere (in real life?) is disheartening at times.

Of course, when any person is on stage, audience members tend to wonder: What is this person's gig about? What is he or she made of?

Steve Salerno said...

Jenny: Point taken. I think sometimes I take the path of least resistance (or most "visibility"), which can leave us with posts that, perhaps, fall short of the more delving, intellectual goals we all have--collectively--for SHAMblog (and the blogosphere in general).

That said, if part of our mandate is to explore the "shams and shames" of American culture...is there any denying the societal preoccupation with various events, facts and notions that all boil down, in some sense, to appearance and the perception of same? Look at the cosmetics industry alone! Look at the amount of money (and sheer time) that women spend painting and prepping themselves for daily "presentation" to the outside world. And just to be clear, I think that if you research the SHAMblog archives, which now encompasses over 750 posts (hard even for me to believe), you'll find any number that explore the unfairness of it all, vis-a-vis the way men are viewed as opposed to the way women are viewed. I can recall one in particular where I talked about Chuck Woolery's spokesmanship on behalf of that absurd and demeaning sunblock product. I've also tackled various subjects relating to body image and its (pernicious) effect on women--and again, no one can dispute that that's a serious problem, especially among teens. So while I agree that posts like this may be more superficial and--to use your term--annoying than what you'd ideally hope for, well, so is our culture. I therefore defend their relevance in the context of the overall American experience.

But thank you for keeping me on my toes, Jenny. Such criticism, though not always easy to hear, is always welcome.

RevRon's Rants said...

"It is distracting and annoying how women's looks come to occupy such a prominent place in the SHAMblog posts and comments. Look how much attention has been paid to who is pretty or not pretty."

Jenny - Women are more frequently judged on physical appearance than are men, because men are, by nature, very visually-motivated creatures... even those who look for other qualities. It naturally follows that men would observe and comment upon the characteristics that they (we) find appealing or off-putting. Hopefully, we do so in a tasteful manner. The observations on this forum, and within society as a whole, however, are but a reflection of an inescapable reality.

Bear in mind that the criteria by which many women evaluate men are no less "shallow," and often reflect an interest in qualities that are far removed from the men themselves (wealth, power, etc.). By many of those criteria, it might follow that I would tend to feel inferior. Heck, I don't even have a butt, much less, a cute one. It is my own tendency to gravitate toward women who don't care that I'm neither wealthy nor powerful (and who don't mind my butt-lessness!). Whether that is a defense mechanism or an indication that I'm comfortable with myself, I won't even try to determine, because it just doesn't matter to me. As a dear friend used to say, "it is what it is."

Now, I'll go back to my delighted observation of the women who light all my fuses and push all my buttons (good and bad), both here on this forum (they know who they are!) and in other areas of my life (aside from the one to whom I have committed my life, they have no idea!).

Elizabeth said...

"Heck, I don't even have a butt, much less, a cute one."

What?! And you're telling us now?? Oh, Ron, Ron...


P.S. Chill, people. (As Steve would no doubt say.)

Noadi said...

I'm totally serious Steve. When women judge the attractiveness of other women they have different criteria than men do. It's much more about fashion, hair, and how she carries herself than her figure. The reason for this is of course most women aren't thinking about having sex with other women. So while physically Michelle Obama is quite average, she has a style that is appealing to women.

Steve Salerno said...

Noad: OK, fair enough. I'll even give you that one.

But--100 Most Beautiful People?

Steve Salerno said...

And to go back to Jenny's point: Again today on AOL we have a headline that says of actress Lori Singer, "Still a Beauty at 52." Can you imagine a comparable line being written about, say, George Clooney, who's within a few short years of Singer? Can you even imagine such a line being written about Harrison Ford, who's 65+?

I'm more on your side than you think, Jenny. Or let me put it this way: Once you get past the surface irritations my remarks sometimes cause, you'll see that I'm a lot less judgmental than society as a whole. The only thing I say--and I continue to say it in all realms of life, not just with regard to looks--is that we aren't all "special," "beautiful," "amazing," "wonderful," etc. (That applies to men as well as women, of course.) The indiscriminate use of such labels not only dilutes their meaning but fosters a sense of narcissism and entitlement among the people to whom they are applied. Further, in many of life's settings, the casual use of superlatives is counterproductive, because it makes people disinclined to work for things, to strive, to stretch. After all, if you're already special and amazing, why try harder? (Want proof? See under "self-esteem-based education.")

Anonymous said...

The only way to justify Michelle Obama as one of the 100 most beautiful people is to have Bea Arthur on the cover of the same People most beautiful issue.

The press doesn't have anything substantial to say about Michelle, so the focus is on her non-flabby arms; or maybe her spring garden in Washington. Funny, I don't remember her planting a garden in Chicago - could this just have been a photo-op?

And has anybody filled her $280K a year job back in Chicago? If the Community Outreach position she held were that important, the position would have been filled immediately upon her resignation. Otherwise, a jaded person just might thing the University of Chicago had her on the payroll because she was married to a high-profile US senator.

Elizabeth said...

A rant ahead (be warned):

John Edwards is back in the news also because of his wife's book (and the book promotion circus) where she discusses the shock of his betrayal, among other things.

I have to say that after watching snippets of her performance on assorted talk shows, I have a hard time sympathizing with her. Yes, infidelity is a serious thing, I get that. But she acts so naive it's somewhat unbelievable.

John's illegitimate child "does not look anything like my children," she says, so she seriously doubts whether it is really his. (I mean, seriously? Why would it look like her children?)

And she is so so shocked that the other woman pursued John telling him how "hot" he was and other "unimaginable" (in Elizabeth's mind's) things. And that he went for it.

And here my patience is really tested, I must admit. I mean, is it really surprising that he would fall for it, especially if he did not get this at home (and judging by Elizabeth's reactions, those "awful things" -- like, for example, telling him that he's "hot" -- would never occur to her)? Pleeeze.

Again, I'm not trying to excuse his infidelity, but Elizabeth Edwards' reactions are surprising, to me, to say the least. And I'm surprised by being surprised, because usually I have no problem sympathizing with the betrayed wife. Not this time, however.

Alright, done venting. Back to sex spam (or whatever the topic du jour is ;).

SL said...

Any fruitful discussion on the politicization of "the most beautiful" is totally undermined by your insertion of the Wanda clip. Steve, for someone who claims to be post-racial, really. Even if you deny that the portrayal has anything to do with race it is still in very poor taste.

Jenny said...

Steve, I am glad you took my comment in the spirit in which it was offered. Yes, looks do matter, period. And that was one of the points I thought I had come back around to point out. We can't avoid judgment.

I am often stunned by timing of things. Yesterday, I noticed an article in the paper. You and other readers perhaps heard the story about the woman in Cleveland, Connie Culp, who had a complete face transplant.

And if what Ron says is really true about his butt, then I feel very sad for his Connie. ;)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Julia Roberts at 42, why does the press love her so? She sure gets a free pass with her behavior. She was quite atrocious to Roger Friedman of Fox for an alleged rumor that he did not like her Broadway debut, which was actually quite horrid. She never took the time to actually read what Friedman said about her performance; just what her friends told her. I wonder why certain celebrities get a free pass from the media. I was quite shocked by her childish behavior and wondered why it was not covered more in the press since she did it so publicly at Tom Hanks'tribute, where she gave Hanks a four-letter speech all about her at his tribute. I find it ironic that she was the country's "Pretty Woman," when all I ever see of her is an ugly demeanor.

Steve Salerno said...

SL: Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Jamie Fox black? Please don't blame me for making a relevant point with a character he created.

As for my being "post-racial"--been there, done that. I tried on this blog, for months--many months--to sell the idea that we shouldn't categorize people by race. We shouldn't acknowledge race. There shouldn't even be race. I got no takers. I got attacked for being naive, and even for being insensitive. So I threw up my hands in frustration and said, OK people, you want to be black? You want to be white? Fine. But you sink or swim with the consequences, because they're consequences of your own making.

Anonymous said...

To Elizabeth:

I'm reading along in your comment about your namesake, unfortunately married to that snake John Edwards, and I can hardly believe my eyes. I keep waiting for a punch line or a "just kidding" or something. Where is your compassion?! I do not understand how you could write such things. Are you actually doing what men have done to us for centuries, which is to find some way of blaming their piggish behavior on things we did or didn't do that supposedly caused them to stray? So I take it if another young chickie comes along and tells your husband that he's "hot", he's entitled to have his fun. Is that how it goes in your world? This is unbelievable to me.

Elizabeth said...

Anon, what I have a hard time believing is EE's naivete, whether real or projected for PR purposes.

A couple of things first: I like EE. I consider her brilliant, independent and strong. She is (was/has been) extremely sympathetic, overall: lost a child, has been battling cancer and in the public eye, no less. IMO, she'd make a better presidential candidate that her preening and self-involved sleazebag of a husband. (Am I too harsh?)

So it surprises me to see and hear this brilliant and strong woman (who has been married to a self-involved and very popular pretty-boy politician for decades) act in a strangely naive manner when it comes to their/his sex life/needs/etc.

Chuck it up to my European cynicism when it comes to sexual relations, especially in the political circles, but it is mind-boggling to me that she 1. did not suspect anything, and 2. continues to act so victimized/surprised in the whole ugly thing. And not only that, but she also encouraged him to continue his presidential campaign knowing well about his affair.

So which EE is it -- the poor, startled, victimized and unsuspecting wife of another sleazebag pretty boy politico -- or a calculating and shrew woman putting on an act now for PR purposes? Or someone in-between, not as saintly and certainly not evil, but someone whose obvious denials and hidden agendas make her suddenly so much less sympathetic? Makes one wonder.

BTW, I'm not the only one thinking along these lines:

Elizabeth said...

One more comment on EE (if you can stomach it) from "Gawker:"


Anonymous said...

So Elizabeth Edward's big sin was that she remained a loving, trusting, gullible wife in the face of her husband's cheating. Maybe she even looked the other way a few times so she didn't have to see what was there to see. Gee, now what loving wife has ever done THAT before? And maybe she didn't want to have her WHOLE life fall to pieces so she encouraged John to continue his campaign instead of just throwing her hands up and giving up and having not just her marriage but everything else in life go to hell in a hand basket. Oh wait, then there's the fact that she now feels "victimized" by the episode, and that apparently bothers you. Let me ask you then, WHO'S THE VICTIM IF NOT HER??

But all this makes her a villain in your book. Okay I get it now. I'm so glad you cleared that up for us.

Elizabeth said...

Apparently I have not cleared it up for you, Anon, judging by your offended caps and (mis)conclusion.

I did not say EE is the villain here, did I.

I said I find her "shocked shocked!" behavior and her current PR spin unconvincing. 'Is all.