A Backstage Golf Guru Unclutters His Mind to Take a Shot at the U.S. Open http://nyti.ms/1KVQuUV
In no particular order, I had these thoughts after watching Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off video with my kindergartner last night. He had heard it on his school bus and was singing it like a mantra. Swift apparently is the last best hope of the music industry, selling more than the whole bunch in a time when songs get streamed for particles of pennies in revenue if that for the artists and song writers. The song is a classic ear worm, wriggling in like a wet finger and lingering there. Now that I’m writing it, its back. Shake it off.
1. Chirpy voices, with little girl giggling, is a sure sign of psychosis. One of the things they teach you in medical school psychiatry is that one of the signs of psychosis is hearing high pitched voices of little children. Swift sings still with some of the sassy girl intonations that endeared her to the country music crowd, and there are young women in the background giggling away. That is how I imagine it to have this particular auditory hallucination now.
2. Pretty blond girl privilege trumps any other kinds of privilege. Taylor Swift can ham it up as an amateur and pass as charming because she is pretty and blond. Pretty blond girls can pretty much get away with murder, or at least get out of speeding tickets at a higher rate than just about anyone else. That is what she does in this video –get away with at least a serious misdemeanor, if not a light felony. Yes. This video and song are a crime.
3. A message of “do your thang” to a target audience of women with low self esteem and insecurities about their appearance, grace, and taste –basically every woman, but especially her former country fans in fly over country feeling unsure about what to wear when they take that vacation of a lifetime to NY.
4. Expertise is hard to achieve but Taylor Swift-ness is impossible to achieve. That is what she is saying when she bounces and flits about with people who clearly worked those proverbial ten thousand hours at their craft –sure you can jeté but you are not Taylor!
5. Lady Gaga is dogged in this video. Basically, Stephanie Germanotta is handed a large jar of Has Beans in those few seconds when Taylor shows up in Gaga wear and makes that trademark head tilt stutter step, because this is part of a montage of tropes that include break dancers from the ‘90’s, modern dancers from the 30’s, and ballet dancers from the 1700’s.
6. Ballet dancers are beautiful, but the ballet is basically unwatchable. Okay, I agree with you Taylor on this one.
7. Same for modern dance, even without clothes. I once was the featured guest at a pre-premier showing of an interpretive modern dance play written by the ex boyfriend of one of my wife’s dear friends, and I fell asleep during the creation scene at the beginning. It was two hours long and I woke up at the end. I was post call, yes, but even naked modern dancers writhing in a coiled pile can’t keep me awake.
8. Only thing missing from the old school “urban” scene are some grillz and a large clock necklace. She raps in this song, and not in a good way like Blondie in Rapture, but in a high school cheer girl way that is consistent with the whole idea of this video and song –you can do whatever you want to do and not be offensive if your are pretty like me.
9. It’s okay to have large smelly feet if you are Taylor Swift. There is no imagining it –it’s there for all to see. It doesn’t take much to see wavy blurring of heat rising from those massive hind paws on Taylor, redolent of sour cheese and Staphylococcus.
10. There is nothing delicate about Taylor Swift. She is made of steel and sinewed with beef jerky. Don’t be fooled by the fancy wrapper if you see her, and remember to steer clear of those feet.
^o^ –a golf ball with angel wings
The ethics and morality that I live by? Golf. Or specifically golfism. It’s the body of customs and practices, some written down in the USGA rules, some not, of waiting your turn, taking your shot, being respectful of other players and expecting treatment in kind, of being able to compete on a level playing field of scientifically calculated handicaps, of justice served to one’s self, of counting every stroke. In planning, executing, and acknowledging your golf shot, there are transcendent moments when you are fully alive and in the moment and the universe pulses in synchrony with your heart and your soul flies with the arcing ball. There is a special place, my friends, that I go to once, maybe twice, a week and it is a golf course. Have you played golf, my friend? I mean really played Golf?
New Yorker articles have the unusual feature of never ending like a walk through an ornately designed MC Escher house. As you read, five days in, you glance at the web browser progress bar and see it only a quarter of the way down. That is because you ended and restarted the article three days before without noticing. That is why most subscriptions to the iPad version lapse -people get stuck on the first issue. I have been reading Atul Gawande’s excellent piece on his noble suffering for about a year now.
Thinking that the list of recognizable but misspelled words that aren’t IKEA furniture is running out for tech start ups. Here are some:
H3X -pronounced hex, maker of programmable gum that extrudes out of an Altoid sized tin, flavors include cinnamon, cannabis, cardamon, Cinnabon, and Cincinnati
Glif -an app that creates a unique symbol for names, concepts, sentences and maintains a database for other Glif users to scan and translate -for semiotic pleasure, price tags, beast markings
Laff5 -a text based service that 3D prints selfies as marble busts, bas reliefs, bowling balls, and bobble heads
Gyg -a job finding app for personal assistants to crazy, short attention span, hyper-demanding billionaires. You are asked a series of questions and get placed onto teams like: Human Siri, Hot Velma, Deeters, Friday, Alfred, Threepio, and Mom.
Splurj -A chain of spas for uptight stay at home moms who gave up professional careers in law, medicine, finance, or high tech featuring Xanax saunas, yoga dungeons, and the crowd surfing tank. Child rearing services available on premises.
When I wander off the 15th fairway and onto the patio of Janet’s bungalow, and into their living room, it’s not to do all that stuff that everyone assumes is going on. Yes, Bob, Janet’s husband, is frequently away,and I wouldn’t blame you for thinking the same thing. It makes us laugh, Janet and me, because you can see their patio from the course and into every room, and when I walk in, every curtain is wide open. It’s Janet’s attempt at transparency, to show the world, or at least the membership, “Look. No carrying on here. No fucking of any kind. See for yourself.”
Angela, my wife, knew I dropped in on Janet and didn’t seem to mind because I came home stuffed. On those days, I wouldn’t make a mess in the kitchen cooking up something that maybe she’d scarf down in the time it takes to make her diluted instant coffee which she lightened with that corn derived instant creamer.
“I just like the way the coffee tastes,” she’d say. We met going to college at Perdue, and that was how coffee was made when we were kids. Angela was from Iowa and me from Ohio. It was all the things we had in common that made it so easy to move in together after college and marry ten years ago. Both of us grew up eating the Mac and Cheese, fried chicken and mashed potato, meat loaf and iceberg lettuce salads with Thousand Island dressing.
Angela never ventured beyond this small circle of safe foods. She gagged the first time we went to sushi with our friends in Minneapolis. She learned to declare herself full to clients when they went to eat at some trendy place, and would eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she kept in her purse on the drive home. I had long ago given up trying new dishes on Angela who found even black pepper overwhelmingly spicy.
Angela works in publishing and edited this missive before she left me and Eddie, our standard poodle, despite all the transparency. I found it open on my laptop with all the markups in yellow getting rid of extraneous comments and run-on sentences, which I mostly undid because what does she know about how I feel.
Throughout the three seasons of golf that I had been finishing my round on the 15th hole, I answered any questions Angela had, which were few, and if I lost any details, she could see the pictures on Instagram or make comments on Facebook. She liked every picture I posted. She gave a thumbs up to every description of the various dishes we tried regardless of whether she would have tried it, which she wouldn’t have.
Janet and Bob and Angela and I first met after we joined the club five years ago. Most of the members were older and we naturally gravitated to one another. Bob is a scratch golfer and we played together just once. He is one of those guys that doesn’t say a word on the course, playing a mistake free round that was as uninspired -just straight 200 yard drives, greens in regulation with machine like regularity, and two putts. The only moment of drama came on 18, when he landed in a trap, laid his blast out to 8 feet, and drained the tricky downhill putt with the same unsettling focus. He barely smiled at the congratulations from his gathered audience of duffers. Over beers, he sat drinking a lemon water, and chewed on a few saltines before dismissing himself. I had fish and chips, and the other two fellows were elbow deep in the half pound bacon cheese burgers.
Angela enjoyed Janet’s company, but found it sad that she couldn’t publish her short stories. Angela even sent the best one, a beautifully written, sad story about a dying, crippled girl, to the fiction editor of her company’s premier literature magazine, but got no feedback. Janet spent her time writing and cooking, and as her writing was going nowhere, she poured her imagination into the kitchen. In the stove, she found, a kinder receptacle than the word processor. Janet would have us over when Bob was away, which was most of the time. He did some kind of financial work, and had to be in New York most of the week.
The first time I walked off 15, Janet was waving to me and pointing at a plate of pastries, only they weren’t dessert. They were golden filo dough wrapped around tender beef ensconced in a potage of savory vegetables. I wasn’t hungry, but I walked over. Seeing the feast, I sat down at their patio table and dug in. I snapped a picture, posted it on Instagram, tapping -“this should feel like cheating, it’s so delicious.”
Circe seduced Ulysses, not with her beauty or magic, but with food and made him late getting home. The following week, as I approached my drive which I had sliced into the grass near Janet and Bob’s yard, I saw Janet look up from her kitchen window and wave me in. She asked me about Angela, and mentioned something about having us over that weekend, but that Bob would be in New York again. I invited her over to our house as we were already having some people for cocktails and the Ohio State game. Lots of chicken nuggets, wings, pigs in blankets, light beer, and of course pizza. She asked if I had eaten, and without waiting for a response, brought over a tray of croque monsieur’s cut into decrusted triangles with a bowl of homemade onion soup -the dark rich broth redolent of caramelized onions that she had grown herself. Picture snapped. Food perfect. Lots of likes.
It became a routine, one that Angela and I joked about. If it bothered her, it was apparent only once when I brought home a bit of pot au feu. She wrinkled her nose and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her Wonder bread, eating it with a glass of milk standing up in the kitchen as I finished off the stew with a New Zealand Shiraz blend. I never did that again.
The only time there was some tension at Janet’s was last week, when we were laughing over a wonderful Malaysian inspired spring noodle dish with pan seared duck. She got a call from Bob who said he would be stuck in New York over the weekend. He was on speaker and he said hi. After he hung up, Janet sat down without losing a beat and jumped back into our conversation about some local political issue. Then, without warning, she reached over and grabbed my hand and pressed it to her chest. I smiled, mumbled thank you, and retreated back to the fifteenth hole, resuming my round.
Bob cancelled his meetings later that week, and I ran into them at the clubhouse walking in for dinner. Janet was clinging to Bob’s arm. The house is so quiet now without Angela’s FM station blaring from her office. Eddie clearly misses her, and I’m getting hungry.
copyright 2015 W Michael Park
The handing off of the crown jewels of American culture, Star Wars and Star Trek, to JJ Abrams, is a recognition of his powers as a popular storyteller. He understands the importance of preserving the principal elements of the story but also allows for the casual viewer to engage. The original Star Trek is fun to watch for someone like me who grew up with it, but to my sons who grew up with tablets and smartphones, the visuals don’t impress. Yeoman Rand after all carries a tablet that is thick, chunky, and pretend. They don’t can’t connect to many of the issues that drive the stories. The paranoia of the Cold War, the casual sexism, and the science love of the Sputnik generation, these are themes they have to be taught. It frankly makes for challenging viewing that gets in the way of the stories.
I’ve made a list of movies or stories that are begging for an update by Abrams. To purists, I get that these reboots are distracting, but they are far less distracting than colorizing black and white movies, reissuing new and improved directors cuts with CGI pasted in (I’m looking at you Lucas), and making lame remakes that kill the stories for a generation.
1. Logan’s Run. Originally a dark tale of the logic of youth culture run amok, the movie butchered it with terrible acting (Farrah Fawcett, I’m looking at you) and bad understanding of computers. The dystopian visuals of a World Without Us Washington, DC, were amazing. The core themes of rebellion, totalitarianism, and transitions from youth to adulthood would play well if done by Abrams.
2. Dune Trilogy. Let’s agree that David Lynch is really great with trippy psychodramas involving beautiful women and nerdy dudes but the soufflé collapsed in the vastness of Dune, both the novel and planet. I don’t completely blame Lynch because I see the hand of Di Laurentis, the producer, everywhere. It was like Di Laurentis wanted “The Space Medicis” while Kyle Machlachlan and Lynch were just redeeming their Hollywood tickets. The first three Dune novels are masterpieces and need a big budget and the resources of a medium sized country to do properly like Lord of the Rings, and Abrams should at least oversee it if not make it. Syfy channel made a bunch of miniseries based on the books but it is like seeing the Grand Canyon from inside of a box with a postcard sized hole. Land battles involving thousands should never be montages (looking at you Lucas).
3. Battlestar Galactica. The original was sold as a competitor to Star Wars, but the miniseries pilot was a proper movie on its own with strange, big ideas that no one remembers like Chariots of the Gods extraterrestrial origins of humanity. The reboot that started 10 years ago was a grim commentary about the end of a world much like ours, but got mired in awfully slow grim seasons (Battlestar Falluja?) that sought to make profound statements about our world with the sublety of a suicide bomb vest. The Cylons at the start seemed so dreadful but ended up after six seasons as a multitude of clones of the most annoying people at a office holiday party who are overlords of chrome toaster minions who have been throttled by chip modifications to be slaves, the original condition that caused them to rebel. Abrams would fix this, and return it to where it belongs -well executed space opera.
4. Speed Racer. Rebooting the recent reboot will be hard because the Wachowskis turned my beloved anime into a strange nightmare acid trip. It needed to stay true to its retro-future roots (Ascension, approving finger pointed at you) while keeping Speed vaguely Eurasian. Keep it animated and co produce it with Studio Ghibli. Major nerdgasms for a Bad Robot-Studio Ghibli reboot.
5. Six Million Dollar Man. It needs an update, and a new name because six million dollars won’t cover your basic ICU stay any more. Call it the Six Billion Dollar Man and give him prosthetic body after being decapitated by militants at the exact moment of his rescue –he is placed on an organ preservation machine and brought back for the fix. The reason –the secrets in his head that could save the world.
ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat is premiering in the New Year and it makes me think that mainstream media again is trying to figure out how to portray Asians not as sidekicks, comic relief, faceless hordes, sinister but emasculated male villains, or hyper-sexualized dragon ladies. It represents a reboot of this effort. The first time they tried almost a generation ago with Margaret Cho’s All American Girl. That show was broken by the network’s demands that Cho be more Asian doll sexy and the jokes more relatable (racist) to an audience not aware of Asian American culture. I propose the following metrics of Asian American racial progress.
1. The number of Asian American male leads in mainstream American television and cinema with top billing. Randall Park didn’t get equal billing as James Franco and Seth Rogen even though he had to carry the comedic load in much of the Interview. Selfie’s John Cho is one person, who I guess ironically is our Sidney Poitier, but the show got axed just as it was getting decent.
2. The amount of time it takes your Asian American child to face racism by one of his peers after day one of kindergarten.
3. The quality of the local Asian food -is it a world class eatery with an enigmatic monosyllabillic name or is it Chopstick Charlie’s. Are there authentic Asian items on the store shelves or just pale “Oriental” facsimiles? Are there bearded white hipsters non ironically crafting obscure regional kimchis?
4. The number of buildings at Harvard with Asian names. Famously, Harvard turned down the Wang family’s generous offer of a huge donation in exchange for renaming North House in the late 80’s, saying that North House -named for a compass direction, was to stay that way out of tradition. Less than ten years later it gets renamed Pforsheimer House. I guess it isn’t our turn.
5. The ratio of Asian men marrying non-Asian women in proportion to the Asian women marrying non-Asian men.
6. The frequency of having to school non-Asians in how to eat the food, in what the differences are between Asian countries, and why we can speak without chopsocky accents. And why we find “Oriental” to be mildly offensive.
7. The number of Asian Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live. Yellowface is just as offensive as Blackface.
8. The number of times in a year when the politically correct social media rage machine eats a celebrity or politician for making a racist anti Asian comment with the same kind of vigor with which it destroys someone making a racist anti Black, anti Woman, or anti Semitic comment or joke.
9. The number of Asians shaping and directing mainstream American culture.
10. The number of Asian American Presidents of the United States.
So I watched the Interview, the Seth Rogen – James Franco road film about assassinating Kim Jong Un played by Randall Park. Buried in the brouhaha is an interesting casting choice of Diana Bang, a clearly talented and very funny actress who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Chairwoman of Samsung’s entertainment division, Miky Lee. I can’t help thinking the money people at Sony Entertainment not getting a chuckle out of this. I have a bit of dyspepsia over Sony dissing Samsung and laughing at Koreans killing other Koreans. The movie is painful to watch because I don’t find North Korea too funny, but I think this movie needs to be available to be watched because it is the eye of a very strange and new kind of shit storm and because it is my right. Corea Libré!
I had been rerouted from Laguardia to Newark, and in danger of missing an important meeting, as I rushed through Penn Station when the smell of cheap pizza stopped me in my tracks. The pizza joint was a hole in the wall, designed for commuters eating fast and cheap. There were beers and beverages lying in ice, triple priced, but for a fountain drink and a slice of cheese pizza, it was 3 bucks which was unusually cheap. I ordered a slice and a Coke and rolled my bags to a greasy table and sat with this marvel of New York City.
The tangy, warm, saltiness of the minimal sauce, the crisp of the crust with the chewiness of the steamed dough a microlayer above the crust and under the cheese transported me to 1978 when I was a fourth grader, released from school for lunch in a dingy pizza joint in Bay Ridge, a slice and a small Dixie cup of Coke for a dollar. I used to fold my pizza, Brooklyn style back then, but now no more because I was an out of towner, a mook. You could get a slice of Sicilian for the same price, but it was never as good as regular slice. The smell of cigarettes and loud conversations bordering on violence in the back, the top forty disco and rock coming from the radio. The pride of buying your own food. The other kids crowded to the closer pizza places and the White Castle only a block away, but I always made the long walk for this pizza, so I usually ate alone, like I did in that Penn Station way station. A lonely transient was my only other company and he stared into his plastic cup of free water as if divining the future, or was it the past.