Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On swimsuits and the rest ....

I'm not one of these people who spends a lot of time moaning and groaning about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. But that's only because if I waste a minute worrying about it, I may forget to sort my socks.

This year's edition is out, with Kate Upton graduating from mere swimsuit model to the cover. Good for her, I suppose. It'll certainly do wonders for her career.

But just because I don't spend a lot of time getting exorcised over the annual SI Swimsuit Issue thing doesn't mean I don't have opinions. I always have opinions.

Here are some of mine ... on this subject anyway.

First, one of my favorite SI issues of the year isn't so much the swimsuit. I can take or leave that, really. No. It's the issue after the swimsuit, when the letters to the editor cut a wide swath between faux righteous indignation and downright creepy worship of the women who model the swimsuits.

To those who would kill more trees complaining about the issue, I have a solution. Don't buy it. Don't read it. Don't let it into your house. That way, you can't see it, and it won't eat at you to the point where you have to look totally ridiculous complaining about it. Unless, of course, your goal in all of this is to amuse me. Then ... OK. Have at it. Because it is amusing.

To those on the other end of the spectrum: Please. I've seen less creepy letters in Playboy and Penthouse (which I only read for the articles).

Now, to be serious for a few minutes. If your idea of a harbinger of spring is to look at women in swimsuits, have at it. Myself? I get a bigger thrill out of watching the truck leave Fenway Park in February.

Somewhere in the back of my mind is the notion that Sports Illustrated, which otherwise does a damn good job telling the story behind the story about the world's biggest athletic events, adds to the culture of objectifying women -- whether it's doing so with tongue planted firmly in cheek (which, at this stage of the game, is most likely the case) or it actually thinks producing the issue counts as compelling journalism.

And you can be sure that with each hysterically overwrought letter protesting the issue, there are guffaws of laughter at SI's headquarters and ever more resolve, as a result, to keep printing it. And in the grand tradition of the American free enterprise system, I'll bet the money SI rakes in via advertising and increase sales helps the magazine finance some of the other, good, things it does the rest of the year.

However, it's just that sometimes, I just feel that the exploitation of someone like Kate Upton, who's only 19, is just as creepy as some of those those letters can be.

I know Kate Upton probably got paid a bundle for the shoots that ended up with her on the cover. Kate's probably good for the entire year -- and maybe then some -- with the money she's received. So in that sense, it's hard to make the argument that she was exploited at all.

But make it we do. Because even if there's more than a little hint of teenage-boy cheekiness about all of this, the issue reinforces the notion -- which I think is still a strong one -- that there are still environments in this world where women advance to the level of their looks, and not their talents and abilities.

By all means, enjoy the issue. I'm an SI subscriber, and the magazine has taken to putting a box inside the front cover asking people like me to let them know if they do not want to receive this issue. I didn't bother responding this year, which means it'll come to my house, the way it always does, and that it'll go largely ignored. I suppose that even in my apathy over it, I'm contributing to its yearly presence in our lives, and I accept that.

We still live in a world where style trumps substance. You see it every day. And the SI swimsuit issue really reinforces that superficiality.

It's a free country, however. SI is free to publish the issue, and we're free to either buy it or skip the honor. Or, if you're me, allow it to be mailed to our homes every February so it can sit on the coffee table.

OK. End of rant ... even if it was a mild rant.


Today's Valentine's Day, which, if you're so inclined, is the day you can shout your love from one end of the world to the other without looking overly mawkish about it.

Or, at least, it would appear to be that way.

Sorry to be so cynical. It's just that as I get older, it dawns on me more and more that Valentine's Day is getting to be just like Christmas, except the sentiment is a little different.

You'll notice that around Christmas time, people seem to be nicer. For that one week out of 52, the idea of good will toward men (and maybe even peace on earth) seems to penetrate our thick veneers. And as soon as January 2 comes around, all that good will goes right back into the box, and, they used to say on the Outer Limits, we resume our normal programming.

Valentine's Day seems to be when everyone freely expresses love, buys flowers and cards (this is not only a Hallmark Holiday but a florist's delight as well), and springs for dinner.

And what happens on February 15? "honey, there are leftovers in the fridge."

Again, to be serious, I have nothing against Valentine's Day. It's just that if we're all not careful, that love we so freely shout out to the world every February 14 can quickly get swallowed up the other 364 days of the year by the stress of work, the demands of life, bills, finances, health issues, the ruts we're all prone to fall into, too much TV or too much computer, and -- maybe most of all -- the rigors of parenting.

It's nice to have a day for celebrating love. It's better to do it all the time. And best, especially if there is no special "someone," to shower yourself with a little of that love and celebrate who you are.


Just a word or two about the Grammy's (which obviously took the entire spotlight away from everything else Sunday night after Whitney Houston's untimely death).

I've always told people that if I could be anyone in the world, I'd pick Bono because of the power his words have over millions of people. But Sunday, at least, I'd have changed all that and decided to be David Grohl.

First, Grohl struck a chord with people like me, who value hard work, musicianship, and talent over the increasing encroachment of technology into the mix. He said music isn't so much about being perfect, but that it germinates from the heart and the mind. And as far as he's concerned, if it's not in either of those two places, it's not anywhere.

Amen. This is one of the reasons that, especially on a night that reached back and celebrated an era where all of music was made that way (Paul McCartney, the Beach Boys and Glen Campbell), the Foo Fighters were recognized as much as they were.

The other reason I'd have gladly traded places with David Grohl for the night is that he looked like the happiest person on the planet up there jamming with McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Walsh et al during the Abbey Road finale. Watching him (and them) go at it? That's music ... the unbridled joy you get from performing for people. It was awesome, and it was easily the highlight of the show.

Other Grammy observations ...

Who, or what, is a Nikki Manaj, and what on earth was that all about?

It is obviously sad and tragic that Whitney Houston died. But because she died the night before the awards show, and because most everyone feels her tortured lifestyle played a role, the amount of grief displayed Sunday night for her was disproportionate in comparison to say, Clarence Clemons, who is truly a giant in his own right, and who was acknowledged only in the litany of "those who have left us" toward the end of the show.

So it's even sadder to read that there was supposed to be a tribute to Clemons, but that it got bumped to make room for Jennifer Hudson's tribute to Whitney. Boy, I could think of a few other things that could have been bumped to make room for Clarence ... like, maybe, Nikki Minaj??

As it turns out, there was a nice, tasteful tribute to Etta James (though they managed to miss her entirely in the end-of-show litany) and, of course, one for Whitney. Glen Campbell was honored for his contributions (and rightly so), and the Beach Boys were trotted out to sing a portion of "Good Vibrations" (if you've ever heard the Ann and Nancy Wilson version of that, you were absolutely pining for it listening to the Beach Boys singing it Sunday).

But nothing other than a mention of Clarence Clemons' name and a snippet from his famous solo on "Jungleland."



Ronald Reagan (no favorite here) used to say his 11th commandment was "Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Other Republicans."

And you'd think that the party that's fallen over itself in recent years to be most thoroughly aligned with the "Great Communicator's" political philosophy would at least heed that very important piece of advice.

Someone forgot to tell Newt Gingrich.

I have rather curious criteria for judging political candidates. First, I feel they're all, to various degrees, con men, so you can't judge them on that (unless they resemble carny barkers so much they're obnoxious about it).

But disposition means a lot to me. And a lot of the time, knowing that most of what any politician says during a campaign you have to take with a grain of salt, I go right to disposition if I can't think of another reason why I'd want to vote for someone.

And petulant people really turn me off.

Newt isn't just petulant. He's nasty. I'm no fan of Mitt Romney's, but for all I don't like about him (and there's enough), I can't say he's nasty. Actually, his disposition's one of the better things about him. Even people in Massachusetts who really fought with him on issues agreed that he was a lot easier to deal with as a person than he may have been when it came to ideological struggles.

But Newt? Not that I care, but he's the type of guy who can easily bring the whole party down with his nastiness and petulance.

Hey. Go right ahead. The day moderate thinking conservatives retake the Republican party will be a happy day for all of us, as far as I'm concerned.


Pitchers and catchers report in five days. C'moooooon srping!

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