O.K., we admit it: we have been a little crotchety lately. Maybe it’s just blowback from the unprecedentedly bilious and snarky guest-spot D.M.T. of Todd Zuniga and Elizabeth Koch, but reading back over the oeuvre, as we do nightly (or rather, having it read to us by our pool boys), we detect a slight sourness. Have we skunked our own juice? Have we become so absorbed with declaiming That Which Is Not Right that we can no longer celebrate That Which Most Definitely IS Right or, dare we say, That We Which We Once Thought Disquieting, But Now Realize Is Not?
Maybe we overgeneralized. Maybe we discarded, disrespected, and dismissed a few entities along the way that were really worth the look. Maybe we out-“dawged” ourselves, leading with our Simons while silencing our inner Paulas that yearned to breathe free.
Hey, we aren’t monsters.
Therefore, in the name of equal time, stress reduction, and general air-the-place-out spring-cleaning-ness—as well as a pretty overt aping of the Seinfeld “Bizarro” episode—we submit to you the following list of things we used to think suck but, over time, have revealed themselves to be well-crafted, promising, salubrious, and good for the Union.1
The Music of Hall and Oates
We’re going right in at the deep end. This here blue-eyed soul music is some seriously well-crafted shit in a few instances, which instances are so compelling that we have placed them in heavy rotation at each morning’s D.M.T. compulsory tai chi, meditation, and Red Bull2 social hour, which take place here in the atrium of D.M.T. Plaza and is a hell of a way to get our three hundred guest workers from Pittsburgh on-task and on-message first thing in the a.m., let us tell you, mister. Specifically, the verse of “Private Eyes,” which oscillates so magically between major and minor phrasings that we are left slack-jawed at its beauty. The chorus not so much. Which would make Hall and Oates a one-hit—nay, a one-verse—wonder, did they not also give us “Rich Girl,” which reminds us tenderly of the last-call snap and bump of Steely Dan’s epic début Can’t Buy a Thrill (and anything that reminds of Steely Dan, particularly the early Dan when the boys were still scraggly pre-Grammy nerds who knew lots of fancy jazz chords but had not yet eschewed the rock ’n’ roll music, pretty much gets a bye until the quarterfinals in our book). We hereby state: Hall and Oates’ updating of the basic Philly sound made some of the hits of the 1980s kind of echo with the good parts of the 70s and should stand as thereby Worthy Of Reëvaluation, as opposed that kind of plastic 80s-trademarked Rejection of the Last Decade coldness that defined all that synth-pop that one of us hated.
Then there is the matter of Oates’ (?)3 moustache, a swath of dark forestry that makes Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. facial hair seem like a John Watersesque pencil-thin moustache. We would hold forth at some length on this caterpillar look if it did not give us massive hygiene / gay 1972 issues that are too complicated to further elaborate on. The bottom line: Hall and Oates do not suck, and if you have a taste for reunion tour / post-real-career / I-didn’t-know-they-had-music-there venues, then by all means get yourself a pair of tickets for their shows this summer at the Saratoga Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA (6/19/06); Royce Hall, Los Angeles, CA (6/21/06); Harrah’s Casino, Laughlin, NV (6/23/06); or Lake Las Vegas Resort, Henderson, NV (6/24/06). Seriously, our best sources say that Oates has lost the moustache, so you might just have a fine time.
About a year ago, we read an article in a generally conservative publication alerting us to the fact that regular U.S. humans were participating in a modern trend involving the purchase of jeans—blue jeans, dungarees, what we used to called “Levi’s” fer crissake—for many hundreds of dollars. “Premium Denim,” as the product is called, was in, and we felt our outrage meters jump seventeen notches at once. The Generally Conservative Publication actually ran a two-part series on said trend, which various parts held the whole thing up to general consumerist ridicule, with the Premium Denim Purchaser being, like, “Whatever!”, annoying people with her cellphone and generally being the kind of suburban over-privileged teen queen whose dad got Coldplay as the attraction at her bat mitzvah.4 Our knee-jerk: $400 jeans?! The fuck?!
Now, however, a couple of things have shifted our view. First, um, have you seen what a good pair of jeans can do for some of the less attractive members of the sidewalk-wandering public? What we have learned is that it may not so much be the jeans alone but, rather, the service that comes only with such nice jeans—that is, the people at the fancy-jeans store who will make sure that your somewhat-less-than-Denise Austin-esque buttocks are not simply draped in a yard-and-a-half of Old Navy generic. These Premium Denim Salespeople are the Tiger Woods of waist height, the Luciano Pavarotti of crotch-clutch and thigh-clench. They can spend less than a minute with your ass and put you into a pant that is to your gluteus max as a Ferrari is to the streets of Rome, which raises the level of discourse across the board it is beyond dispute by reasonable humans. Second, we were thrilled to learn that your Premium Denim is washing-machine-averse and subscribes to an aesthetic of intentional slovenliness that smooches our afternoon-nap, salsa-at-midnight lifestyles right on the lips. Premium Denim is a second skin, a sheath of cottony reassurance that is best kept body temperature and detergent-free. With your old, baggy Wranglers, a black bean dip stain was a problem; with your new Tavernitis or Seven for All Mankinds, baby, the bean stain is Thigh Art. Plus, it’s a snack if you don’t have money for lunch (which you won’t after you spring for these). In any case, we now endorse them and refer you to Roz Chast’s cartoon “”Ultra-Premium Jeans” in the March 20, 2006 New Yorker, which we would link to if we weren’t so scared of Condé Nast’s legal vipers shooting straight up our pant legs. Go to cartoonbank.com and seek. Very funny lady, that lady is.
Men with Beards but No Moustaches (a.k.a. the C. Everett Koop Look5)
Facial hair is one of those things that we have never been able to entirely comprehend6. Women hate it except when they love it; some men can grow it while other can’t; and then what about when it comes in a different color than the guy’s actual hair? Weird, man. We can, however, say this: while moustaches alone are vaguely unsettling, beards alone have come to rock. There was a time when the sight of beard without ’stouche gave us the willies, bringing to mind Amish men in black hats or, more pointedly, Harry Shearer as the folk-singing bass player in A Mighty Wind. To call it karmic imbalance would be to go too far, but not by much—the sight of that shivering-nekkid upper lip made our legs rubbery with unease.
Suddenly, however, it seems that men have found a way to bring a previously veiled hipness to the beard-only. There is, of course, the carefully-shaved, super-short just-beard look of novo-cholo estilo popularized by, we are certain, at least one American Idol contender7, and also the below-the-chin version of the “soul patch” once worn by jazz trumpeters and would-be beats. Not Amish, but cool nevertheless—you go, ese. This has, perhaps, paved the way for the more traditional beard-onlys—usually neatly trimmed outlines of the man-face that, in this new light, seems symmetrical or even focusing rather than incomplete. We wish to see other, now-er iterations of this look and are distressed that HBO’s Big Love, being a much more eye-easy take on polygamy than anything 60 Minutes ever gave us (Chloe Sevigny—rowr), did not identify a more thorough exploration of the geek / Mormon pioneer aesthetic8 as a possible value added for the new post-Sopranos epic.
O.K., we admit we are out pretty far on the proverbial Wile E. Coyote ledge with this one and, as usual, our conclusions will be based more on our gut-level, instinctual grok of a situation more than any actual perusal of data (and grateful we are that the cosmos have gifted us with this preternatural ability, as it saves us from having to actually see entire shows, enabling us instead to celebrate or dismiss them based entirely on seeing the ad).
Our first take on Tori Spelling, way back in the early Beverly Hills, 90210 days, was simple repulsion. She was even then a complex mixture of ingredients: (a) no acting skills, (b) several features that your Aunt Gladys would have called “homely” or perhaps “uncomely” but that you always thought of as “simian,” and (c) a strange near-attractiveness that made the ultimate imbalance of her features all the more jarring and dinner-heaving. Throw in that her pops was the show’s producer and, well … .
Still, maybe we always had a soft spot for Tori. Among the otherwise gorgeous class of 90210, she was so clearly the ugly one who was just there b/o Daddy, and while we mostly wanted to see that other blonde chicky naked it was Tori we felt for. Well, she’s all grown up now, and apparently has decided to cash in her vilified geek insider status with a new VH1 show, So NoTORIous, that celebrates that same status with a level of winky self-awareness previously achieved only by Mr. T in his post-A-Team ad appearances. Awesome. Perhaps we should actually watch the damn thing before saying why, but regardless we hope ourselves to land similar contracts in our middle careers that let us trade on the exact things that made dreadful in our early ones. Which we suppose in our case means some sort of late-night talk show a la Dr. Drew9 in which we talk about what sucks in a self-aware way that shows that we realize we actually also suck. Trust us: you’ll watch. 10
So there you are — a begrudging admission of sporadic signs of life among the carnage we dismissed in years past. Enough already. Bring us a couple of caramel scones, two cherry lattes, and all that Charlie Rose we TiVo-ed during the Olympics; we need some us-time.
Next Edition: The disquietude of retail chains with their own radio stations