Thursday, April 27, 2006

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

HallandOatesDMT42506.jpgThe 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.

magnumPIDMT42506.jpg 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.

premiumjeansDMT42506.jpgPremium Denim
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.ChrisMartinDMT42506.jpg4 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 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. beardedidol1.jpgNot 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), ChloeDMT42506.jpgdid not identify a more thorough exploration of the geek / Mormon pioneer aesthetic8 as a possible value added for the new post-Sopranos epic.

Tori Spelling
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 … .

tori-spellingDMT42506.jpgStill, 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

1 You know, you might even consider yourselves among those things worthy of a second look. Given our current haze of goodwill, we grant you, personally, a boon to break out and try something yourself. Do something creative. Make a mark. Give us more to see. We might just give you a pass for the first few disastrous iterations of whatever you think you might want to be up to. But do remember Flannery O'Connor's cogent words on the subject: "I have been asked whether I feel that the universities smother writers. In fact, I do not feel that they smother enough of them." Or, as our journalism teacher used to say, "The problem is that most people who have half a mind to write a book . . . do."
2 We know we have already held forth on Red Bull redbullDMT42506.jpgand its energy drink ilk, in a much more timely way and before it totally jumped the shark and became the kind of thing that even the Striped-Shirt Guy stripedshirtguyDMT42506.jpgfound a little tired2a. We would just like to note that it shows no sign of stopping, as at this printing both "Vault" and that other one that looks like a Budweiser can seem to be burning up our bandwidth at alarming rates. Where will it end? "NutroBlast" baby formula? "AfterBurner" enemas? For the love of Mike, stop energizing us!
2aAnd "Look at My Striped Shirt!" burnt so hot and so bright, that it was hilarious and over almost within the exact same nano-instant, a Schrödinger's cat of a phenomenon that seemed to have been both kicking and stillborn in the same moment.
3 We realize that we could spend minimal time looking this fact up and determining for sure that Hall is the feathered-blond guy and Oates is the curly-haired moustache guy but, honestly, we prefer not being sure. When your "band" is called "Hall and Oates" we think you are courting a certain confusion on identity. Which one was "Proctor" and which one "Gamble"? "Barnum" and "Bailey"? Was he "Dumb" or was he "Dumber"? Often it's better to be unsure.
4Coldplay, it goes without saying, is not going to be the subject of a D.M.T. reversal of opinion, as it is just the kind of overblown, moping British pop band that it is in our DNA to find repulsive and to continue finding repulsive well into the middle part of the century. What we find repulsive about Coldplay is not anything "ugly" or "bad" or "horrible" but, rather is all of the band's qualities that are precisely the opposite. Coldplay is disquieting in its very calculated eagerness to please with pleasantness, aching melody, and vaguely wan attractiveness. And more elementally painful is the public's willingness--nee, eagerness--to be pleased in this way. And even more elementally horrible is Gwyneth Paltrow's willingness to be pleased by the Coldplay frontmanPaltrowDMT42506.jpg, with his cheesy acoustic piano theatrics and his rehashed U2-divided-by-20 anthemic-ness, and his cat-got-your-tongue shit-eating I-just-married Gwyneth grin. As far as we are concerned, we would like to see Ben Folds fly coach over the England to punch out the whole band while wearing his "New Jersey: Only the Strong Survive" T-shirt. Go, America. Go, New Jersey.
5ceverettcoopDMT42506.jpgWe once ran into the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Koop, in a mall in Northern Virginia. When you see a man with a C. Everett Koop moustache-less beard, your first thought is, Hey! Is that C. Everett Koop? And it turned this was the good doctor, whose lectures on smoking and other petty vices gave the average American a decade-long guilt trip back in the day. Needless to say, we pointed at C, chuckled some too, then realized that he was strolling the mall with a female companion of such undeniable grace and class that our milky, supple faces--bare of both beard and moustache--could only go slack with amazement at what kind of high-level companionship a major post in the U.S. government can net you. Dr. Koop--you the man.
6And we continue to work out these issues in public view of you, the public, see Hall and Oates riff supra.
7The gorgeous anonymity of these karaoke monkeys is what we like about them most. "The Grey-Haired Guy" is a better name than an Anglo-Saxon moniker, and affirmatively do not want to know the name of the tall brunette who is a kind-of hometown, somewhat zaftig variant on Catherine Zeta-Jones. It goes without saying that American Idol is a sign that the U.S. empire is on the downslide, as it too goes without saying that we are O.K. with that, as long as we don't have to sit through too many all-Queen evenings of karaoke. Two of them, for the record, have some kind of complex baldness / beard-only / facial hair arrangement, though we suspect that it changes somewhat from week to week.]

8Which aesthetic, broadly speaking, is currently officially hot, or whatever level of "hot" front page coverage in USA Today rates, since that dude from Napoleon Dynamite and his accompanying Idaho Mormonism is being celebrated as soft background in support of that no-doubt dreadful baseball movie. We will leave the Mormons be at present and leave others to take them to task, as the disquietude they occasion exceeds the scope of the present study. But there's D in that D.M.T. there, you betcha. Dang!
9Could we really have gotten this far in D.M.T. history without discussing in extreme detail our analysis of the sublime successes of Loveline lovelineDMT42506.jpgand the mind-boggling failure of Adam Corolla to capitalize even a little on why it worked so well? Not enough space here. Let's just say that Dr. Drew understands one important thing that Adam does not: a nice guy can carry a show alone, but an asshole is a foil and needs a nice guy to foil upon. You can't just be a free-range asshole in the sit-down format. Howard Stern understands this. So does Penn Gillette. Also Dick Cheney. Watch and learn.
10The authors wish to note that Brokeback Mountain has copped no mention in the D.M.T. during its long arc of pop culture referential traction, neither ascending nor de-, neither zenith nor nadir. We have not been remiss in ignoring the core cultural event of the past season, as lesser outlets have flogged it six ways to Sunday. We just want to be sure you notice that we did—ignore--because we are that insecure. We will keep on turning out the bleeding-edge social commentary you have come to expect. Let the lesser guys take the slow pitches.

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