Friday, April 20, 2007

Drawing Flies with Vinegar Honey, Dept.

The other day someone wrote to me and said, "damn, sobsister, why u always pissin' on shit an' whatnot? u be all up in muthafukkaz grill an' shit, wassup wit dat, nigga?". And, you know, it caused me to stop and reflect. So, I wrote back the following,

Dear Vice-President Cheney,

I am in receipt of your correspondence of 15th instant. Thank you for your thoughts.

After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that you were, in fact, correct in noting that the tone of my blog has been more negative than positive, more critical than laudatory. Consequently, in an attempt to redress that imbalance, I offer the following items:

1) I am enjoying the parcheesi out of the new Willie Colon comp, The Player. Ever since Emusica purchased the Fania Records catalog, salseros and salsero-wannabes have finally been able to enjoy access to that label's classic sides without having to cope with the full-price bullshit and ancient masterings previously available. This 2-disc set offers a great overview of the original matón de esquina across his recordings on the Fania and Vaya labels. Vocals by, among others, the great Hector Lavoe and Ruben Blades (no Celia Cruz? WTF, Celia y Willie is a stone classic!). Kickin' charts driven by Willie's trombone. And, of course, Willie Colon's badass persona throughout. Who else released albums with titles like El Malo, Cosa Nuestra, Crime Pays, and Hustler? Even this disc's cover shows him by the docks, brandishing his trombone like a submachine gun, him all pimped out in fedora and pinstriped double-breast. This is classic music, people. Go listen. I'll wait.

2) Grant Morrison needs no introduction from me. He is acknowledged as like unto a deity by comicbook fanboys. His runs/resurrections/reimaginings of Superman, Batman, New X-Men, and the JLA, not to mention his own properties like The Invisibles, feature some of the best, most interesting mainstream comics writing of the last decade. So, now your sobsister is reading his Eisner Award-winning Seven Soldiers of Victory mini-series in its trade paperback release. And it's every bit as hallucinogenic and perverse as his work on DC's Vertigo imprint but harnessed to the task of recreating seven of DC's more-obscure characters in an intertwined narrative arc in which they all interact but never meet. The trade version is better than the story's original release as seven individual limited series because the format interweaves each character's storyline with those of the others thereby teasing out the narrative threads nicely and forcing great juxtapositions of visual styles and palettes. Not to mention the juxtaposition of the varying narrative voices Morrison assumes (and if that's not a Jack-Kirbyesque tone to The Guardian, I'll eat my baloney sandwich. yes, thank you. with a little mustard. that's fine.) If you've not read Morrison before, you might want to dip your toes in his JLA or New X-Men stories. Or you can plunge in here and work your way back. I'm halfway through the four trade paperbacks and having quite a good time.

3) Ugly Betty rules my teevee. To the extent that it almost cancels out the utter crapitude that 24 oozes from its fetid quadrant of my virtual dial (wow, a possible mole at CTU?! wow, Jack has to torture a suspect?! wow, Chloe can access any schematic of anything ever by just using the right "protocols"?). Ugly Betty and Heroes are my '06/'07 must-sees. And the Betty even trumps the Cheerleader. Now, background: I'm not an aficionado of telenovelas or soaps. I tuned out of Fashion House despite the prospect of Bo Derek/Morgan Fairchild catfight throwdowns and despite the blazing Natalie Martinez as the trembly-lipped heroine. And I know that Betty is populated by cartoons and stereotypes. But the fact that these cartoons and stereotypes break out of their mold and make me care about them on a weekly basis endears the show to me. Short list of what I lurve about Ugly Betty:
1) America Ferrara is Betty. One of those performances where you know no-one else could've been as good.
2) my beloved Ashley Jensen, over from her brilliant run on Ricky Gervais' Extras.
3) Ana Ortiz as Betty's sister, Hilda; 180-proof Latina from Queens.
4) Becki Newton as Amanda, gorgeously-devious and, you know, vice-versa.
5) actually, the fact that all the women are strong and hott, each one in a different way. unlike the cookie-cutter mannequins peopling most of prime-time.
6) Mark Indelicato as Hilda's son, Justin, the femmest little boy ever on television. ever. his recreation of Hairspray on a stuck subway was a series highlight for me.
7) Michael Urie as Marc St. James, personal assistant/confidante to Vanessa Williams' scheming Wilhelmina Slater and so light-in-the-loafers he makes Will & Grace's Jack McFarland look like Mickey Spillane.
I haven't trawled the blogosphere for thoughts on "Marc" and his over-the-topness as the show's principal gay male character. And, really, he is as gay as a day in May, at least as formulated by and for popular culture. He's swishy, he's fashion-mad, he's bitchy. In many ways, the bête noire of "progressive" gay men who see him and his ilk as a throwback to the days when only screaming queens were allowed to represent male homosexuals on film and television. But where W&G's Jack was given "serious" moments that ultimately never meant anything in the continuity of the show, Marc has grown beyond being a cartoon signifier for "gay man" into a character who demonstrates affection for his friends, for his mother who is deep in de Nile about his sexuality, even for Betty, the woman he ridiculed and demeaned for the first half of the season. And that's what makes this something other than a live-action Family Guy.
Now, whether network greed will force an extension of Betty into a second season, I do not know. Telenovelas, unlike soaps, have a fixed end-date and a predictable narrative arc. Such was the case for Betty la fea, the show's Colombian precursor. Telenovelas do not go seven seasons and then into syndication. And some things are meant to end after one season (and here I'm looking at you, Twin Peaks and Desperate Housewives). Whether art or lucre will win is yet to be seen. But I heart Betty big-time.

And there you have it, Mister Vice-President. As you requested. Best of luck with that whole monkey-gland-transplanting/virgins'-blood-bathing thing you've been doing. It hasn't done shit for Iraq but maybe your golf game's improved. Oh, and I meant to ask: where the fuck has your wife been for the last seven years? I figured Widemouth Lynne was going to be the Martha-Mitchell-cum-Billy-Carter of this administration and she has not peeped a peep since January 2001. Did you put her in stasis? Is she in the Phantom Zone along with Superman's enemies? Enquiring minds want to know.

Wishing you the best of this vernal season, I remain, your obedient servant, &c.

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