Category Archives: Television

Bathroom reading: What’s in your wallet?

Japan Scary Toilet PaperBooks come in all shapes and sizes and perform all sorts of functions, in addition to acting as containment vessel for reading “matter.” And almost anything can function as bathroom reading. Where else memorize your credit card numbers? Now, it turns out, almost everything is worth the paper it’s printed on.

Japanese horrorist Koji Suzuki has a new short novella called Drop printed on toilet paper.

The cult film The Ring is based on one of his scary stories, so there is a certain inevitability to his penning a toilet bowl tale. As bathroom reading goes, that may take the cake. I’ve seen dollar bills printed on t.p., filthy lucre, and I can guess the face of Mona Lisa has been printed there to.

Bathroom reading does have its horrors, its downsides, its backsides. Remember the Seinfeld episode where George hauls an expensive art book, French Impressionist Paintings, off to the toilet at Bretano’s, is forced to buy it, and then can’t get rid of the contaminated book?

Careful what you borrow. Not to worry reading a post, of course. Though “blog” is suggestive, as is the “upload” function necessary to feature the photo of Suzuki, above.

Back in my day on the Great Plains (this would have been the early 1950s) most of my farmer relatives had outhouses where the reading fare there was last year’s Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, also the t.p. Wishes and dreams gone down well.

Drop, apparently, is a scary thriller set in a public restroom, takes up about three feet of paper, and can be read in a few minutes or strung out over the course of several sittings.


Apologies from Mr. Scatter, who’s able to lunch today

Cole Porter/Wikimedia CommonsArt Scatter feels a bit like Cole Porter’s Miss Otis, who regrets she’s unable to lunch today. Not that Mr. Scatter drew his gun and shot his lover down, or got strung by a mob from the old willow across the way. Far from it.

But Mr. Scatter realizes he’s been incommunicado for a full week now, and considering the unspoken compact between writer and reader, that’s … well, impolite. Mr. Scatter apologizes.

Truth is, I’ve been busy. For one thing, my mother-in-law just concluded a week-long visit from the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula. Contrary to ten thousand Borscht Belt jokes, this was a good thing. I enjoy my mother-in-law tremendously; she has a wicked sense of humor (as does her daughter), and she folds laundry. She was in high spirits, too, celebrating this week’s landslide vote in Port Angeles in favor of saving the town’s community swimming pool from the budget ax. The city councilman who dismissed the drive as the plaything of “a little special interest group,” she said darkly, will be returning to civilian life soon.

Then, I’ve continued my duties as a Dungeons & Dragons dad. No, I don’t play the game. I’m just the chauffeur, carting six fifth-graders to their after-school D&D session and back home again. Two things I’ve learned about fifth-grade boys: They crack a lot of flatulence jokes, and they really know the subject. I crank the windows wide. My reward is a stop at a wired-up coffee shop — Albina Press, usually — while I’m waiting for the lads to slay their orcs. Gory halleluja.

Chez Scatter also hosted a drop-in bash for a few dozen friends and neighbors, and the house survived quite nicely (our friends are older than they used to be), although I think the dishwasher might have come close to a nervous breakdown. Somehow we also ended up with more wine than we started with, which is a pretty sneaky way to stock the cellar. Potlatch!

I spent a share of my time quietly approving the labors of our friend Mat, who hung a swing and a climbing rope from the magnolia in the front yard, and our friend Amy, who briskly applied scraper and paint brush to the side of the house. Their rewards shall be great.

I made a pot of beans, and discovered they’re pretty good if you throw in a container of mango salsa. I grilled some asparagus. I had a bloody Mary. I ate my fair share of a fresh apple pie. I played parcheesi. I bought an urn to hold my walking sticks.

I missed both of Ichiro’s home runs on the tube in a rare Mariners win. I saw, for the first time, parts of Dancing With the Stars. Somebody who looks like Tonya Harding is the new champ; can’t understand how she beat out the short-haired Fabio. Cheesy choreography, Ice Capades costumes. Apparently the show’s been on for eight years. It’s a hit.

I saw a show about a trombone-playing clown and the end of the world. I took in a smashing concert by Portland Taiko. I hit a few galleries. I talked to a couple of editors and wrote a couple of stories.

I finished Half a Crown, the final book in Jo Walton‘s fascinating alternate-history trilogy about England after it makes a separate peace with Hitler and sinks into fascism. I read Hood River writer Craig Joseph Danner‘s new novel The Fires of Edgarville (to be reviewed soon in a Publication of Modestly Large Circulation) and half of Dean Kuipers‘ new book about the radical eco- and animal-rights movements, Operation Bite Back (ditto). I read with deep pleasure my sister‘s droll new (and still unsold) kids’ story about a cake to beat the blues, a book I hope will join her Jitterbug Jam as an NYT best-of-year. I read a few chapters of Tolkein‘s The Two Towers aloud with my son. I listened to a recitation from my other son of great comic-strip punchlines from Zits. I dipped briefly into Samuel Pepys (who is best approached a dip at a time). I watched Ms. Scatter rush to finish Chaim Potok’s Davita’s Harp before book club time. I wondered why the New York Times story about how credit-card companies want to start socking it to “deadbeat” customers who actually pay off their bills every month never mentioned that the card companies already make a good chunk of money off those “unprofitable” sales from the merchants’ fees. And that made me wonder whether F.D.I.C. stands for “freeloaders dunning innocent customers.”

Oh. And today I was able to lunch, with Ms. Scatter, just up the street at the sunny Cafe Destino. I had a multigrain bagel with cream cheese and tomatoes, and a big mug of French roast. Miss Otis was nowhere to be seen.

John Maynard Keynes gets “Network”-ed

Faye Dunaway in Network So last night, after the Super Bowl, I was channel-surfing. I’m not proud of it, but there you have it. Sometimes I think that’s the way the universe is trying to talk to me: If I happen upon the “Dog Whisperer,” I might conclude that I’m not calm and assertive enough (or maybe not submissive enough? Sometimes I get mixed messages). If “Ask This Old House” is working on someone’s water heater, then I immediately suspect that mine needs some lovin’.

Anyway, as I was surfing, I fell in with Network, Paddy Chayefsky’s great 1976 satire about television and society, just before the Howard Beale speech, the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” speech. I knew it was coming and I waited for it, because to this day, it’s the single most subversive thing I’ve ever heard in a mainstream Hollywood movie. (Maybe you have others? We could make a contest of it in the comments.) And this time, it was a swift blow to the solar plexus.
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Eartha Kitt and the economy of desire

Martha Ullman West reminded us below in the comment section that Harold Pinter wasn’t the only death of a prominent artist over the holidays. Eartha Kitt departed, too. I imagine her in a heaven populated by Wall Street plutocrats, seducing a healthy portion of their ill-gotten gains out of them, though how the plutocrats got there in the first place, I have no idea — maybe they were just placed there to please Eartha. That’s not an electrical storm in the sky, that’s just Eartha Kitt sizzling.

When Ms. Kitt (to adopt New York Times formality for once, because frankly, it just feels right) was in the fullness of her celebrity-hood, in the ’50s and early ’60s, I didn’t quite get it. I was just too young. So yes, I remember her Catwoman turn on the old TV Batman and occasional turns on the variety shows of the time, to which my parents were addicted — the Dean Martin show maybe? Andy Williams? Or was she too hot for Andy? Probably. Because I followed politics and the Vietnam War, I remember her protest in LBJ’s White House. Her honesty extended beyond her frankness about all things sexual, apparently.

The New York Times obituary by Stephen Holden this morning connected a lot of the dots, or at least suggested what a lot of the dots were — Mae West on one end of her life and Madonna on the other, and then mostly European (or Europe-based) chanteuses, Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf, in the middle. I liked his description of sitting a little too close to the stage one night and falling under Ms. Kitt’s gaze — intense, frightening, captivating.

How much of this was representation, an elaborate and effective role-playing game, and how much was real? I suspect it was mostly enacted, the specifics anyway, though not the edge, the anger, the idea that “you have made me into this and now you will pay” she conveyed between such lines as “Give me a frank account/How is your bank account?”. We all have that edge somewhere, don’t we? We just don’t have Ms. Kitt’s legs or laser-beam eyes (well, I certainly don’t; I wouldn’t want to speak for the appendages of our well-proportioned Art Scatter readers!).

Golddigger. In the West it goes back to commedia dell’arte, yes? The rich old man marries the young fetching woman. And then she ignores him for a string of younger men, or if we’re feeling sentimental, for one true love. In short, he doesn’t get what he paid for. The Golddigger herself, we are mixed about, right? We don’t like the, um, naked desire, on the one hand, or the obscene gesture tossed at the Romantic Ideal of Love. On the other hand, though, we like the self-reliance, the moxie, the determination, maybe even admire the sheer cold-bloodedness of the exchange. During the ’50s, Marilyn Monroe made the Golddigger cute; Jane Russell reminded us that it wasn’t so easy.

The male version is the gigolo, who has turned into the pimp, I suppose, in these times, in the same way that entrepreneurial golddiggers turn into madams. This is what is below the tightrope that Eartha Kitt walked or rather vamped on until she died on Christmas day. She never fell off.

Whitney Otto on what happened to “Entourage”

Art Scatter friend Whitney Otto has been following Entourage on HBO, part of her ongoing submersion in the television soup for strictly professional reasons. OK, maybe not “strictly” and maybe not “professional” and were not sure that “reason” has anything to do with it, either. Nonetheless, before the final episode this year, she sent us her take on the season — which was a difficult one for Vincent and the boys. Then, she sent us an addendum after Sunday’s finale, which we appended (something about appending an addendum just makes us a little giddy). Mostly, though, we couldn’t be more excited about having her join us!

By Whitney Otto

Oh, Entourage! What happened to the golden days of moving from mansion to mansion, Malibu to Cannes; teeing off from your multimillion dollar roof, playing video games, and watching porn but only until the weed and willing party mates arrive? Where are the luxury cars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? The endless freebies? The cavorting on movie sets, and the high altitude cavorting on private jets?

In short, when did this show cease to be a guilty pleasure that even a viewer far outside the show’s demographic could love, and turn into something less fanciful, a harsh lesson in what happens when art and commerce collide?

The season began with Vincent Chase living for the last six months on a Mexican beach with one-third of his entourage, Turtle, and an ever revolving cast of temporary “girlfriends.” He had taken refuge from the very public debacle of Medellin, a movie fiasco into which he poured every million he ever made, along with his heart. That movie came on the heels of his greatest triumph starring in the most successful superhero movie of all time, Aquaman.

He’s persuaded to end his sabbatical with the promise of a role her would love to play — the only hitch is that it was never a genuine offer. It was a ploy on the part of the producers to secure the actor they really wanted for the movie. Though Vince handles the humiliation with aplomb, he comes to understand that this little scenario is an indication of where his career is at the moment — that is to say, nowhere.
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Scatter’s “Project Runway” infatuation

OK, let’s just put a few cards on the table: There is a certain variety of reality television show that can be practically irresistible to Art Scatter, at least its lesser precincts. Bravo’s Project Runway,” on which younger or youngish or young-in-spirit fashion designers compete each week for exposure, of course, and some fabulous prizes, of course, has become one of them. The affinity began with This Old House, which managed to consume ALL of our home improvement impulses in one easy, painless half hour a week that didn’t involve ego-destroying contact with dangerous tools. Perfect! Others that have attracted us include Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, who attempts to show you how to reduce your dogs to a state of “calm submission” and even Supernanny, who attempts to reduce human children to a state of “calm submission.”

Back to Project Runway, though. Which is different for me because I have absolutely no desire to design clothing and there’s no calm submission involved. In fact, chortling at the fashions in the New York Times has always been something I shared with my wife, a way to bond. Who thinks up these get-ups, I’ve often wondered. Thanks to Project Runway, I now know, and not only that, I get to see them work in the most stressful situations — and frankly, after last night’s episode, it looks as though the stress is starting to win.

So is Portland’s own Leanne Marshall! Leanne (aka Leanimal) has won two consecutive episodes (or “challenges”). We LOVE her. For a while, she looked like the least likely to succeed, so fragile personally and so quirky of spirit and design. But Leanne has untapped reservoirs of spunk, and to go with her coolness under pressure, she’s developed a cool designing style that has won over the judges, who included Diane von Furstenberg last night. By cool, I simply mean sleekness of silhouette, luxurious fabrics, impeccable craftswomanship and coherent design ideas (see! I’m learning my terms!). Quirks lurk but they don’t take over — they add charm and visual interest. There are some other excellent designers, too, and I wouldn’t be crushed if, for example, Korto won. She has great ideas and sticks by her guns (a yellow highlight on a black and white print last night, which Tim Gunn, who acts as a sort of designer handler for emcee Heidi Klum, had serious reservations about during the process, but which Korto insisted on using). We love you too Korto!

I can’t wait to get to work to talk last night’s episode over with Kristi Turnquist, who is a devout follower of the show and posts on about it after every episode.