Thursday, March 1, 2007

Defeat? Not an option

Historian Andrew Roberts visited DC this week:
"Defeat cannot be, and must not be, allowed to be an option in Iraq," said Mr. Roberts, in town to promote the U.S. release of his 700-page book, "A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900." ...
Mr. Roberts described the current battle against terrorism as "a world-historical struggle." And, while noting that he is himself a supporter of Britain's Tory opposition, Mr. Roberts praised the "moral courage" of Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Mr. Roberts has returned to England, but I'll be interviewing him in the near future.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

'You forgot ugly, lazy and disrespectful'

The two coolest things about being a journalist?
  • 1. Getting free stuff.
  • 2. Occasionally getting to write about something just because you want to write about it.
Which brings us to Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the Films of John Hughes, the subject of my latest Culture Etc. blog:
More than anything else, this new book reminds us why Hughes' teen films remain enduringly popular, even now that those '80s hairstyles, fashions and pop songs are so hopelessly outdated. Hughes demonstrated an ability to create human-scale sagas filled with characters we recognize -- including ourselves.
I spotted this book on the "discard table" at the office -- where people leave the promotional stuff they get free in the mail but don't want -- and immediately snagged it. Why? Yes, of course, John Hughes' teen films are timeless classics. But also ... Molly Ringwald.

In 1985, I attended a preview showing of The Breakfast Club. By the time I walked out of the Cobb Galleria multiplex, I had fallen hopelessly in love with Molly, who plays the preppy Claire. I totally related to John Bender, the disreputable hoodlum (played by Judd Nelson) whose love/hate obsession with Claire is expressed as merciless teasing:
John Bender: I like those earings, Claire.
Claire Standish: Shut up.
John Bender: Are those real diamonds, Claire?
Claire Standish: Shut up.
John Bender: I bet they are. Did you work for the money to buy those earings?
Claire Standish: Shut your mouth.
John Bender: Or did your Daddy buy those for you?
Claire Standish: Shut up!
John Bender: I'll bet he bought those for you. I bet those were a Christmas gift. You know what I got for Christmas? Oh, it was a banner f***ing year at the old Bender family. I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me and said, "Hey, smoke up Johnny." All right? So go home and cry to your Daddy. Don't cry here, OK?
There's a doctoral dissertation waiting to be written about the subtexts of that relationship -- Bender's self-pitying resentment, Claire's indignant resolve -- but mainly, there's Molly, the perfect symbol of every stuck-up rich girl any high school hoodlum ever knew (and secretly had a crush on).

Monday, February 26, 2007

High-flying stars

No, not the ones at the Oscars. I'm talking about the airborne exploits of Ralph Fiennes:
An airline attendant says she and Mr. Fiennes, 44, became intimate last month aboard a flight from Australia to Bombay... Lisa Robertson, 38, was fired this month by Qantas Airways after telling her torrid tale to British tabloids.
More cultural commentary....

UPDATE: She says she may be pregnant.

Is death sexy?

The death of Anna Nicole Smith has added yet another name to the tragic roster of Playboy Playmates who've died young.

Not even death can keep Anna Nicole from making headlines. The latest -- are you ready for this? -- Anna Nicole's lesbian lover:
Sandi Powledge was the furthest thing from glamour — unpretentious, grounded, fun-loving and real.
They met in a gay bar in northwest Harris County in 1991 and would become lovers. It was an exhilarating time, one that Powledge, now 46, remembers fondly, even as she mourns the death of the woman she once loved. ...
Powledge recalls their first year together as one filled with happiness. The two exchanged vows of commitment on the diving board at Smith's home in Spring, and Smith gave Powledge a diamond ring. Smith avoided wearing a ring herself because of the questions it might raise, Powledge said.
Why haven't you heard of Sandi Powledge before now? Well, the great thing about dead celebrities is, they can't file libel suits ...

UPDATE: Turns out the "I was Anna Nicole's lesbian lover" angle is eight years old, from a Houston "alternative" tabloid. The Houston Chronicle's ombudsman calls it "old news and tawdry, it had no news value ... based on the word of one woman -- a self-admitted recovering drug addict who is homeless and jobless. On top of that, we did not credit the Press for breaking the 'news' seven years ago." None of which means the story's not true, but ...

UPDATE 2: A blogger friend who shall remain nameless asks, "Was she really a lesbian, or was she just incapable of saying no to anybody?"