I’ve liked Anderson Cooper ever since he stood outside in the hurricane winds in New Orleans; it wasn’t so much that he looked good as he was earnest. Anderson Cooper has always been one for the more empathetic side of news, human interest, and he was good at that, good at sounding authoritative and in such a friendly way. But it seems that he’s fallen off a terrible daytime cliff these days, showing youtube clips of babies eating pickles and chatting with his co-host Snooki (of Jersey Shore infamy) about the dumbest of dumbness, including the possibility of drinking her breast milk. Is this some kind of ethical meltdown? Or does he just need to find a good disaster to get back on track?
The New York City Fire Department came to put out a fire on Fulton Street just behind us on Sunday, March 17, a four-alarm fire…and then they were back less than 24 hours later to put out another. “It’s doubtful that there was a hotspot from yesterday,” said FDNY Chief John Esposito. “The fire was in a different area and we had people on the scene last night until six o’clock.”
We watched as firefighters hosed it down the second time for hours and then threw bits of concrete on the smoldering mess (click on the image for your viewing pleasure) while we made our NCAA basketball picks. I’ve got New Mexico all the way.
I’ve made it. The doors open wide, begging, clean against the wall, red coat, and just like that, everything done, everything as it should, turning and my hand cool. She knows me. And that’s it, why for her, she forever, our silent descent, breathing, the glass reflecting us together, backward as forward, not words, but what they might, meaning nothing, tucked into our heads upside down, she out the hall, mine, everything mine, not that, but in me, here, me young, friendly, not wanting to stop, never. My eyes are inside my head. I’m going as I should, thinking as I do anything, on this sidewalk, fading, a door closing, in a room, music, and out.* (Click on the photo and links for video clips.) *Excerpt from Buzz (1999)
What the hell is going on in Oz? The makers of Oz, the Great and Powerful can be forgiven for James Franco’s atrocious Wizard, the ridiculous sidekick monkey and china doll and even making Emerald Square look a little too much like the Vatican, but not for making the wicked witch look like she’s going out clubbing. Thank God they didn’t have the rights to use Dorothy. Who knows what they would have done to that poor girl.
As mentioned previously, I once had a sports column with four different publications over a span of eight years (1989-97); only The Vancouver Courier is still in print. I covered everything from hockey and curling to basketball and bull riding and threw in the occasional vaguely philosophical piece, such as the following much-abridged Spirituality of Sport from The Voice in January 1997:
Professional sport is much maligned these days; popular thought intimates that it has become nothing more than a soulless business that devours athletes and fans alike. Championships are no longer won; they are bought. That’s what the Yankees, Bulls, Avalanche and Cowboys did. Money has spoiled thousands of athletes, embittered millions of fans and laid waste to entire seasons. Indeed, for many, it has permanently scarred the game. And yet this greedy, gold-toothed face is not the only visage of professional sport. in 1988, Orel Hershiser pitched a complete game to win the World Series and become the World and National League MVP. He was asked how he was able to perform so well under pressure. “Hymns,” he said.” I was listening to hymns in my head.” There was no gloating or Disneyland, just the hymns. While this idea can be much obscured by the commentators blathering illiticisms and sponsors hijacking triumphant moments, somewhere in between is something pure, almost divine. We only have to fill our heads with music. That’s when we will truly see Barry Sanders dance through the line, Hakeem Olajuwon loft the soft jumper, Paul Kariya tuck it in the open side and Orel Hershiser look for the sign, check the runner and let it fly.
In years gone by, I had a sports column for a now-defunct weekly in Toronto, Metropolis. The following is an abridged version of my article, Pink Tights and Empty Net Goals, published on April 12, 1990:
The beer ads say it all, the same old glorified fantasy of breasts and buns, another ode to the faceless jiggles of procreative dolls. Women have never been accepted as equals in sports. In spite of the occasional accolade in tennis or track, they cannot shake the stereotype of cheerleader/parade queen, always the voluptuous muse proudly displaying her pearly whites and profound cleavage. Sports Illustrated’s bathing suit issue has become an institution, Cheryl Tiegs and Kathy Ireland well-rounded icons, while films like The Laker Girls and The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are common viewing. This is what some might call soft-core pornography, the portrayal of women as objects, as vessels to be judged by their flesh, rather than their ability, character and intelligence.
It’s not as if sports is anything but entertainment, a time to turn off the real world, but despite what marketers might think, that doesn’t mean that minds have to dissolve and comprehension be whittled to a twig of barbaric need. To have women constantly reduced to physical parts, demeaned into a position of sexual subservience at every commercial break and sideline shot, is to maintain the pathetic consciousness of master and slave, owned and owner. Men seem to have no need of female athletic heroes – unless synchronized swimmers can be dug up to substitute for a ‘disgraced’ demi-god (Ben Johnson) – no desire to cheer for “her” achievement when we can have “his”; “her” achievement is always second-best. Examples are inexhaustible: Grand Slam tennis always feature the Women’s Final first, the opening act to the Men’s; coverage of Women’s World Hockey Championships gave as much space to the color of uniforms as to the quality of play. Even in something as low profile as The Toronto Star’s “Stars of the Week” – a weekly feature on the sporting achievements of the city’s kids – it is a rarity to find even one girl in the lot. It’s as if women aren’t capable of anything physical except sex, as if they can’t run, jump and strive as well. A look to the sports pages in tabloids confirms this, where between the stories and statistics are the advertisements for strip clubs and phone sex.
Male domination seeks to portray women as a toy, a thing that looks great when wet, that acts as fodder for the mendacious, a perambulator for the lazy. Sport doesn’t need it, nor even insinuate it; sport is about the triumph of the body, not its exploitation.
Perhaps there has been a change in the last 20 years, in soccer but that’s about it. The ads and sideline shots are the same as always, and now we have beach volleyball in the Olympics, a much more popular event in the women’s division. I wonder why.
I’m making slow headway on my novel, The Ark, and I’ve decided to stay with voice of my bad side, Deirdre Sinclair:
I liked how it was tedious, feeding a few pages at a time, watching them chewed, coiling up into strips of nothing, but I had to empty the bucket every ten minutes. It was supposed to eat staples, but it didn’t. They jammed and I had to pry them out. And then I had to wait until it wasn’t over-heated. The stacks bent into each other, investments and secrets, numbers, names, letters from my lawyer and Nani. The file on Crystal had been sent to me, but I had never looked. I was scared of seeing the bills, the intimacies of her lost life. She had spent so little. She had made money on everything, even the apartment, just by staying in it. She had paid for the rehab on her own and didn’t even know it. I thought I should cry, thinking of her, but there was nothing. I missed her. That was it. I needed a bigger shredder.
While not everything is true in fiction – hence the word – writing is based on what I know. It’s a guessing game. The following is the first draft of a dialogue from The Ark:
“I ruined my knee when I was a kid, skiing in Vermont, torn acl, mcl, everything. I had arthritis after that. No cartilage, 15%, something like that. It was just bone on bone. I had to have a replacement.” He cut the seal meat into strips, twirled one length around his thumb and chewed. “I sat on the edge of the plastic mattress in that green paper dress and the surgeon drew a pair of red x’s on the side of my knee. There was a nurse with a clipboard of forms and the anesthesiologist with more. Everyone was wearing those plastic shower caps.” He pulled a bit off. It looked like fur. “And then I decided I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to surrender. I wouldn’t sign. The surgeon stood in the doorway with his arms crossed. He explained everything to me like I was a child. But I wouldn’t do it. And so he left. Everyone did. No one came for a while after that.”
“You didn’t have the surgery?”
“No.” He thrust his hands back and forth in front of him, miming. “I did the elliptical instead.”
“You were afraid you’d die?”
“I don’t know about that. I don’t know. I remember the feeling as a kid, when I had the first surgery. I woke up cold. They had monitors attached to my chest. I wasn’t going to surrender just because they said I should.”
“I broke my hand. They put me out before I knew it.”
“You have to sign.”
“It was in Newfoundland.”
He tore off another strip. “It’s probably better like that.”
I did ruin my knee in my younger days and use the elliptical daily; however I’ve never backed out of a surgery, skied in Vermont nor eaten seal meat…as of yet.
The New Yorker is an excellent magazine; the articles are structured, the reviews informative, the cartoons most entertaining. Although somewhat predictable in its observational style – which can read like an extended Jerry Seinfeld stand-up – the point of view is always insightful and clear. Most impressive of all is the remarkable diligence demonstrated in research; every stone is rolled again and again.
And yet something is askew; there is a fly between the pages. In being so thorough, so driven for the infallible, the reporting can fail in timbre. With the details pulled apart, the thing is no longer itself; the butterfly no longer flits. Patrick Radden Keefe’s story A Loaded Gun in the February 11/13 issue is a good example of this. While there is much to recommend this investigative piece on convicted murderer Amy Bishop – an effective, albeit predictable narrative, a murder mystery with facts and statements cited at every turn – there are questions that won’t be answered because the dead don’t speak, nor will Ms. Bishop and her parents. However Mr. Keefe presses on, substituting these key elements with damning scenes from Ms. Bishop’s unpublished writing as psychological evidence of hidden acts. He specifically cites a scene of a brother accidentally killed by a rock. “He fell back like a toy soldier,” Amy writes. “He never knew what hit him.” Mr. Keefe’s mission was to find what needed finding, whatever it took to close the gaps, to make a good story, and like a good New Yorker writer, he did just that. However in this quest, the butterfly flies too much like a jet. In reflecting on what Mr. Keefe divulged from the prose of Ms. Bishop, I wondered what he would ascertain about me, indeed anyone, if he were to New Yorker another. As my mother dubiously commented upon reading the title of my first novel, “The Sacred Whore? Hmm. Where am I in that?” 25 years later, I have yet to figure that out. Maybe I’m in there too. I don’t know. But I do challenge the notion that another has the wherewithal to make that determination. No matter how hard the researchers might work, The New Yorker editors just have to accept that they, like anyone, do not always know best.