The Weiner Fades Away (June 16, 2011)

 

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And so the sometimes funny, mostly pathetic and certainly odd spectacle of the Anthony Weiner social media scandal will takes its rightful place asa pop cultural footnote later today, if reports are to be believed. The beleaguered congressman wins major points for stubborn tenacity, but ultimately the growing list of icky online encounters with women proved politically impossible to surmount.

Weiner was able to weather his odd series of lies, before Andrew Breitbart literally caught the man with his pants down. He survived growing Democratic establishment calls to step down after it was reported that he exchanged messages with a Delaware teen. But as Charlie Sheen and Tiger Woods can attest, those porn stars will get you every time.

Earlier this week, ex-adult film “actress” Ginger Lee held a press conference with lawyer Gloria Allred by her side, where she asserted her moral fortitude in refusing Weiner’s technological overtures. Thus, “I did not sext Anthony Weiner,” assumes its natural position as the summer’s most popular t-shirt slogan.

Lee articulated the “nightmare” of being asked by Weiner to lie about the nature of their exchanges. I am sure being asked to keep mum about messages from a man you’ve never personally met is far more harrowing than a life spent on the pole having dollars shoved down your g-string by drunken, dirty and potentially murderous “clients.” And Gloria Allred – is there any person of ill repute you WON’T represent? This lady should have her legal license sprayed with Valtrex.

But I digress. In a weird way I was sort of pulling for Weiner to get through this crisis. I maintain, as I asserted last week, that there’s nothing illegal about being a bad husband and lying to the media. I insist that it should have been the decision of his constituents whether or not he continued in his elected capacity. But at a certain point, conventional wisdom must intervene in order for life to go on. The glut of images, “victims” and gossip showed no signs of slowing, and Democrats, who were enjoying a comeback of sorts after the upstate New York special election, were set to strip the congressmen of his committee posts.

I do believe that Mr. Weiner has bigger problems in life than retaining his job. The “therapy” thing is bullshit but I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of damage control that is required in his personal life, and at the end of the day, home and family is what matters most. I don’t walk in wife Huma Abedin’s shoes, but with a baby on the way, she has some complicated decisions to face. I truly hope that the Weiners are able to find a way to move forward in a healthy way – whatever that might entail.

I will not join the “good riddance” chorus here. This is a sad cautionary tale with an unhappy ending, an answer to the question what can happen when power, hubris, human appetites and the stalkerish capabilities of the Internet converge to cause a promising public servant to publicly self-destruct.

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Spinning Plates (February 25, 2011)

Ever since I started a full-time job a couple of weeks ago, I have been forced to do something I loathe: admit that sometimes, as much as I want to, it’s impossible do it all. More specifically, I am referring to maintaining this blog, reading the work of other writers I admire and staying up on current events. Sure I have been able to grab some of the headlines: Libya’s Qaddafi the next dictator on his way out, Charlie’s Sheen’s bizarre war with his long-enabling network, Christine O’Donnell’s possible appearance on Dancing with the Stars, and the fulfillment of my secret wish that Eliot Spitzer be allowed to host his CNN hour without the dull as can be Kathleen Parker. Be that as it may, I haven’t been able to engage in the media deep dive I had ample time to enjoy as a member of the mass unemployed community.

I am not complaining. I am enjoying a career fulfillment this year which seemed so remote just eight weeks ago. I love my new position and am enjoying the challenges and opportunities to develop my skill set as a multi-media professional.

But there is that Catch-22. While enjoying financial security through ghost writing for another, I must give shorter shrift to my personal ambitions as an author, ambitions that to this point, have done absolutely nothing to pay the bills or provide a life direction. I get so frustrated with myself sometimes. Why can’t I let things be enough? I was a miserable, depressed insomniac before I found myself in this place. Being solvent again has rectified most of that turmoil, but in it’s stead is a lesser, but still persistent guilt, a voice in my head that not-so-gently goes to sleep and wakes up with me. It whispers that I have TWO jobs – the one that pays the rent and the fiscally thankless one of trying to build my own brand (whatever that means) and hone my craft.

I have written before that I am the ultimate late bloomer. I didn’t stop growing until I was 21, finally put on my first big girl bra at age 25, figured out that I wanted (needed) to write at age 30 and removed my braces (and finally gained some self-esteem) at age 31. It is terribly frustrating to realize sometimes that as I round the corner toward 33, I am far from done maturing. I am, in a very real way, still trying to figure it all out. I realize I am not alone in my extended adolescence but when I recall that Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in her early 20s, I feel so….embarrassed I think is the word for which I’m looking. I can’t even imagine being someone’s mother and I remain in awe of all the career women who do it, and do it well.

What’s my point? Besides articulating the thoughts that have taken up residency in my consciousness the last fortnight, I am wondering if other writers, of both sexes, struggle with this tension between being a part of the literal working world, while still nurturing and cherishing the dream. It’s exhausting, it can be exhilarating, but is it sustainable, or does one eventually have to make a decision about which plate they will take off the stick and eat from eternally?

Trending Now on Yahoo 9:30 AM CST (February 10, 2011)

I will confess that after purging myself emotionally with the last post, and trying to prepare for the start of a permanent full-time writing and editing job (remember those?) that kicks off Monday morning, I am feeling a little short on creativity. But thank goodness I can always take advantage of the nation’s short attention span to mine material for pop cultural discussion. As my title suggests, I pulled this list from Yahoo a short while ago. When I woke up at 6:00 AM and turned on my computer, the navel gazing night shift was preoccupied with a whole different set of issues. If I want to stay relevant, I had better move quickly, so here goes:

1. Julia Hurley
I confess I did not even know who this woman was, but of course as she sits at #1 on the trend list, I figured it had something to do with sex, drugs or murder. Ding, ding, ding! Give Becky Sarwate a prize. Of course it the former scandal in play. Julia Hurley, a 28 year-old candidate for the 32nd Legislative District, according to an Examiner report, may or may not have been wearing pants in a photo taken back in 2005, when the would-be lawmaker was still a working model.

Clearly her constituents should take part in a real debate over whether an “artistic” picture snapped at 23 have anything at all to do with her fitness for office now (I would argue no). However, I suspect the reason Ms. Hurley sits atop the Yahoo search is because there’s a lot of pervy folks out there trying to locate the since removed pantless shots. They would like to assess her”credentials” for themselves.

2. Britney Spears
Ms. Spears is no stranger to trending high on search engine lists. She’s been doing her thing for well over a decade, a thing I confess I adore. Mercifully, after a serious 2007 case of personal and professional meltdown, Britney is back to getting the right kind of attention for her work. With a new album dropping at the end of March, a will-she-or-won’t debate over a possible Grammy performance and a smash radio single, “Hold It Against Me” on the airwaves, there are plenty of reasons everyone wants Brit.

3. Charlie Sheen
Sigh. Oh Charlie. What could possibly be left for us to know? We have been aware of you and your hard partying, hooker loving ways since the mid-80s. It’s as dependable as death and taxes. I will admit the smiling, toothless photo that circulated on TMZ before you went to rehab (smoke crack much?) was a surprise because I believed you to be vainer than that, but honestly after you have shot a girlfriend, held a knife to you third wife’s throat, and nearly burned down a hotel, nothing is novel anymore. Please go away and get healthy so that the rest of us who are not mystifyingly addicted to Two and a Half Men can love you again.

4. Jennifer Hudson
The extremely talented and resilient Ms. Hudson is garnering all sorts of media attention for her new Weight Watchers-induced sexiness, a pending album, and her participation in an all-star Grammy tribute to the legendary Aretha Franklin. There is talk in Hollywood that Jennifer may also play the Queen of Soul in a developing biopic. Make this happen! This woman has endured tremendous tragedy, but she is back with a new family, an inspirational attitude and a brilliant career. American Idol never knew what it had. 7th place? Bah!

5. iPhone
Wireless carriers Verizon and AT&T are finally going head to head to market and sell the mega-popular smartphone. Conflicting reports abound that Verizon service results in fewer dropped calls while Team AT&T purports to have the superior app functionality. You know what? I still don’t care and I never will. I just want to know if Steve Jobs is going to be ok. We need him – one of the last great rock star innovators of a generation.

6. Julia Roberts
The pretty woman and mother of three is bucking type to portray the “Evil Queen” in a version of Snow White that’s currently in production. Julia has played some morally ambiguous characters before, in movies like Closer, but this might be the first time she will let her unabashed villainess flag fly. Ms. Roberts has not produced a plethora of great movies in recent years (Eat, Pray, Yuck), so I am interested to see how this works out.

7. Elvis Presley Enterprises
The group is suing men in Florida, England, Wales, and elsewhere for infringement of intellectual property rights after the circulation of unauthorized box sets. Are you bored? Me too. Next!

8. Valentine flowers
With everything going on in my personal life, the advent of this Hallmark holiday nearly escaped me – nearly. I was about to write a legion of incredibly snarky comments but it seems American men and woman have taken to the Internet in the quest to find flowers for their loved ones. Only a real cynic could find fault with that part of the ritual.

9. Pepsi can
I am glad I held onto my snark, because I plan to make ample use of it here. The carbonated beverage company recently announced a redesigned Diet Pepsi “skinny can,” to pay ostensible tribute to “beautiful, confident women.” Ah yes – Pepsi gets us, don’t they ladies? The regular can of artificially sweetened syrup just does not allow a full expression of the self. However, skinny cans are only a short tangential walk away from the horror-inducing idea of skinny jeans; you know the ones that 98% percent of woman cannot fit into? I say if you want to pay tribute to yourself as the beautiful, confident woman you are, drink a glass of water instead – good for the skin, waistline, hydration and best of all, it will prohibit Pepsi from further lining their corporate pockets by trading in sexist bullshit.

10. Chipotle
And once you’ve finished that glass of water, celebrate your banging female curves by indulging in a giant Chipotle Burrito.

Charlie Sheen Checks Into Rehab – What Year is This? (January 29, 2011)

I feel like this same drama plays out every five years or so since around 1986, when Mr. Sheen caught my young eye playing the “Bad Boy in the Police Station” flirting with an otherwise unfriendly Jeanie Bueller in the great comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Little did I realize that Sheen was either the world’s greatest method actor or he probably looked coked out sexy because he arrived onset that way.

Charlie Sheen, born Carlos Irwin Estevez, is the father of five children: a 26 year-old daughter named Cassandra from a previous relationship with Paula Profit, two adorable little girls, Sam and Lola, produced during his tumultuous marriage with actress Denise Richards, and twin boys named Bob and Max, hardly more than babies. In between spreading his seed, Bad Boy Charlie made a tabloid name for himself by shooting then-girlfriend Kelly Preston in the arm in 1990. Puzzlingly, she ended the relationship shortly afterward. His name was heavily tossed around during the titillating events of the Heidi Fleiss scandal in 1995. That’s when we learned the man likes hookers – a lot.

In 1998, Charlie overdosed on an injection of cocaine, leading his beleaguered actor father, Martin Sheen, to issue a public plea for support before turning his own son in for a parole violation. I am sure it was a gut wrenching decision, but Mr. Sheen Sr. is obviously a caring father. He should have been rewarded with a post-rehab, together child.

But of course we know that’s not what happened. Back in the professional hot seat and richer than ever due to his starring turn in the long-running CBS comedy Two and a Half Men, Charlie picked up right where the party left off. Denise Richards has had the class (something I never figured her for) to stay quiet, but rumors abound that she dissolved her marriage to the actor for the same old reasons: drug and prostitutes.

A later marriage to the gorgeous Brooke Mueller seemed like Charlie might be settling down for good. Mueller was not involved in the Hollywood world and they stated their intentions to start a family as soon as possible. But then we learned, oops! Brookie likey the nose candy too, culminating in the Christmas 2009 arrest of her husband for domestic violence and second degree assault. The grapevine had it that both halves of the couple were in an alcohol and cocaine-fueled rage when Charlie held a knife to her throat.

Of course he received little more than a slap on the wrist from law enforcement, and voluntarily entered rehab in February 2010. Much good that obviously did.

During the early morning of October 26, 2010, Sheen was removed from his hotel room at the Plaza Hotel after causing damage to the room and admitting to having been drinking and taking cocaine. There was also a woman (you guessed it! a hooker!) locked in the bathroom. Did I mention that ex-wife Denise and his five and six year-old daughters were in another room across the hall?

Finally, just this week, Charlie was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital “for severe stomach pains” stemming from a reported three-day coke binge and the usual harem of adult movie actresses. After the scandal, Sheen has once again entered a rehab facility. Is there any reason to believe it was work out this time?

His bosses at the network continue to pay him $2 million a week, not daring to take the chance of losing their #1 show. The court system has been unusually kind, rendering Sheen some sort of Teflon multi-felon. When there are no real consequences for one’s long running bad behavior, how can one routine trip to the emergency room finally bring the clarity needed?

Fat chance. I admire Mr. Sheen’s body of work, particularly from before 1995, but so what? He is a loser at life in everyway that matters: as a son, a husband, a father and a human being.

Consequential Disparity (July 13, 2010)

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In a 2010 reality of rising costs, flat wages (for those lucky enough to have a job), foreclosures, 401k loss and just about every social, political and environmental ill you can dream up, one of the few free sports left to us “small people” is the amusement of watching the rich, famous, powerful and greedy stumble over their own hubris and excess to fall on their pretty faces.

Admit it people – last Thanksgiving was a real downer for a lot of us. But witnessing the fallout of Tiger Woods smashing into a fire hydrant before the world became aware that he was an epic manwhore, was good clean fun for those not named Elin Nordegren (side note: I wonder if she noted the irony before she decided to place a well placed swing at her hubby’s cranium). Tiger, as we have all seen by now, will be more than OK, even if he lost his family in the process. His wealth, fame and prestige are (largely) intact. Tiger is definitely not one of us, is he?

Because for the rest of the world, the ones who swim upstream in the ever thickening sludge of actuality, had we made even one of Tiger’s mistakes, our lives would be effectively over. Had we been the ones to crash our vehicles in the fog of an Ambien coma, I think arrest, if not a heavy fine, would follow in short order. If we made a mockery out of our own image as a solid, sober family man, only to be exposed as a total hack, we would not be able to pick up business as usual after hiding from the media for a couple months. Respect would be lost, prospects forgone, and a broken family in the “real” world cannot be atoned via a large alimony payout.

And now we get to the heart of my post. Is anyone else demoralized by the consequence-free environment in which the top 1% of the American public lives? I extend benefactors’ rights to corporate and non-human entities, as well as the golden ones who enjoy society’s free ride. I realize it is not good for my soul to root for the downfall of anything, but it feels cold and alone out here sometimes in the place where the laws of physics rule. In my world, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But not so for the banks, BP, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Roman Polanski, or our favorite whipping boy of the moment, Mel Gibson.

Charlie Sheen held a knife to wife Brooke Mueller’s throat last Christmas. We are now approaching mid-August while Charlie decides which option he likes best from the probationary roulette wheel. Meanwhile, he has gotten a huge raise from CBS for the next, and possibly last season of his hit sitcom Two and a Half Men. Our man Charlie was hardly a choir boy before this. Anyone want to wager on the fortunes of you or I had we found ourselves in a similar scrape?

Roman Polanski drugged and raped a 13 year-old girl in the 1970s, and has enjoyed 30 years of freedom as a European citizen and Oscar winning film director. On Monday, Switzerland effectively closed the book on any hope of justice served, by denying the U.S. government the right to extradite the pedophile. Let’s just say I had been caught en flagrante with a grade schooler. Mary Kay LeTourneau anybody?

Wall Street is hiring again. The very charlatans who led us into this prolonged economic predicament are back and feeling better than ever, while the rest of us choose between groceries and filling our prescriptions. BP has been allowed to lie and fuck up everything it touches for months, but we all know that in the end, they will survive, even if the same may not be said for the Gulf of Mexico. If I went to the shores of Lake Michigan right now and dumped even one gallon of crude into the bay, I would be arrested as an eco terrorist (rightfully so) before I had time to get back to my car.

What I am trying to get at folks, beyond the larger, obvious and unchangeable circumstance of life not being fair, is that it isn’t only the financial gulf that widens perceptibly between the haves and the have nots. There is, quite literally, a whole separate reality for the privileged, that may go a long way toward explaining the seemingly disproportionate current anger of the middle and lower classes. We are so helpless, even after playing by the rules, while those who flaunt every one of society’s guidelines, fly away unencumbered, free to continue worsening the lives of those around them. And they will, because unlike the rest of us, they haven’t learned a damned thing