Category Archives: Commentary
Having, rather unfortunately, burned most of my bridges in the world of corporate communications several years ago, I am finding it more than a little challenging to get my foot back in the boardroom door now that our domestic financial situation could use a boost. After all, someone has to pay the liquor store delivery boy, address the Bloomingdale’s balance and cover my legal fees. Sadly, highly-compensated writing gigs are no longer rolling in the way they did before I recommended my last client take his suggestions on my syntax and…well let’s just say it was unlikely he’d have followed my instructions, primarily because it would have been physically impossible for all but the most advanced yogi, which he was not.
Don’t get me wrong. Blogging is fun, but it doesn’t exactly command the big bucks, or any bucks for that matter, and Mr. Slattern can only be expected to shoulder the family financial burden for so long. As such, I’ve recently started mining fresh sources of new clients, and let me tell you, the freelance world has changed significantly in the past few years, and not for the better. Here’s an example of a project description that was recently included on an RFP list I received.
I am looking for a person who can taken on a number of current and future projects which include research and writing of a number of submission (Academic and organizational). I require the production of a number articles and reports which require a professional who has great research skills and is able to put together practical, informative and where appropriate, academic papers, submissions, reports, articles etc. that are totally original and relevant. Employer will have authorship…
This genius potential employer is Australian and requires that his
slave labor hired pen reside in the Philippines. Professor Bruce here offers to compensate the lucky bid winner at the princely rate of $3.00 an hour despite the fact that he is shopping for a very specialized, high-level skill set. Now it may well be that three bucks an hour constitutes a living wage for well-educated, bilingual academic writer/researchers in the greater Manila area, but I wouldn’t bet the Outback on it. Still, I decided to throw out a hook and see what I might reel in. Here is my proposal.
Dear Bruce, apparently you’re an academic, so presumably you have at least one advanced degree, though that’s hardly evident from the sheep dip-esque writing style you display here. Didn’t anyone ever warn you about cheating? Was it never even mentioned out there at the University of Woolloomooloo? It has been some time since I left academia, but I am quite certain professors, instructors, researchers and the like are still expected to do their own research and write their own articles. Which makes you a big, fat cheater.
Being a cheap cheater is even worse. Who do you think is going to become your uncredited scrivener for three bucks an hour anyway, you miserly turd? I assume Stephen Hawking is busy and I’m pretty sure Malcolm Gladwell charges at least $500 an hour for this kind of thing. Hell, I wouldn’t do it for less than a hundred.
Now, from the text of your job description, it is apparent to even the most gin-soaked intelligence — mine — that you could use some editorial support. This is not, however, what you appear to be in the market for. Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you seem to be proposing is for some poor, starving student in some stinking-hot hell hole to research and write a series of articles and reports for which you will pay a pittance and claim to have authored yourself. That can be called purchasing or stealing, but not authoring.
In closing, I would just like to say, “Oi Bruce, you SUCK.”
Although I sent this along, I don’t expect he’ll seriously entertain my proposal to do this work for the going rate. I would, however, like to know whether or not he was able to manage the storage option I suggested for his three dollar offer.
And now for something truly entertaining.
Says men are under no obligation to pay attention to slatternly wives, let alone do them. Millions of beleaguered husbands heave a collective sigh of relief, scratch their guts and go back to watching the wrestling.
So last night, Stephen Colbert pointed a satirical finger at Pat Robertson’s use of the term “slatternly” in a recent installment of that must-see cable juggernaut The 700 Club. Now assuming both Pat and Stephen are among my regular readers — they’re most likely in that group of guys wearing sunglasses and trying to look inconspicuous over in the corner — they would be quite familiar with the way of the slattern.
The 700 Club, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this regular exercise in sanctimonious buffoonery, is, well, a regular exercise in sanctimonious buffoonery. Since we’ve all got our 19th Century dictionaries out anyway, those of you not familiar with the term buffoonery can look it up. As an added bonus, you’ll find that the entry also contains a photo of the self-righteous old twaddle slinger, Pat (né Marion) Robertson, himself. With a prénom like that, I think it’s safe to conclude his parents went all 19th Century on his ass from day one.
Though I could go on at some length about the many merits of frolicking with an uppity slattern and why it is a vastly superior experience to rolling around with a desiccated old bag of kitchen-scrubbing, scripture-spouting bones, I think all of you are smart enough to figure it out. If I’ve offended anyone by this point, well, what the frack are you doing here anyway? So let’s just push old Pat (né Marion) and his mindless monkey chatter aside for the moment and focus on something intelligent, namely antiquated vocabulary. Specifically, having resuscitated the term slattern, I have several more previous-century words I’d like to bring back.
These are both descriptors I heard quite often as a child, generally from my grandmothers. More often than not, one or the other was used in a cautionary way, as in, “Don’t you DARE sneak another cookie before supper or I’ll be very cross with you.” I love this word. It conveys the exact tight-lipped, rage-swallowing self-control that pervades interactions among residents of the colder climes.
Ugly, I believe, is more of a regional term, and I suspect it’s peculiar to Maine, where, as I may have mentioned, I grew up. Rather than the conventional meaning, physically unattractive in the extreme, there it is used to indicate an aggressively bad mood, wherein the subject is not to be trifled with. For example, “Jesus H. Christ, Myrtle, don’t bite my head off. How was I s’poseta’ know you was savin’ them beers and little smokies for your craftin’ club meetin’? Why’re you so friggin’ ugly anyway?” If cross is a warning shot, ugly is a full frontal attack complete with drawn bayonets, mounted cavalry and tanks. You’d need a nuke to stop it, and if you don’t have one, you’d best run for cover.
(Noun, pubic wig)
Back in the days when life was everywhere nasty, brutish and short, what with annual baths, barber-based medicine and universal oppression, people at all levels of society were far filthier than they are now. As such, head and body lice were pretty much de rigueur for everyone, which is why pates and privates were often shaved and wigs donned. Born of necessity, they became quite fashionable. Think George Washington, Louis XV and Madame Pompadour.
Apparently, however, the craze for denuded genitalia hadn’t yet caught fire, as it were. Hence the need for merkins, especially among the era’s sex workers who were, of course, several rungs lower on the social ladder than their merely slatternly sisters.
In these days of the Brazilian and the sphinx, when even men are eliminating any trace of secondary sexual development, it seems to me the revival of the merkin is all but assured. Eventually fashion, being what it is, will cause huge swaths of the population to rethink all that laser hair removal as trends swing in another, more hirsute direction. Merkin demand will doubtless shoot up and the money that was invested in hair replacement will return tenfold or more. You heard it here first, folks.
(Noun, naughty behavior, wickedness)
Again, I often encountered this word in my childhood, when for example I filled in the little white roses on my bedroom wallpaper with red nail polish or scarfed the entire box of Pop Tarts at breakfast before my sister could have even one. To my delight, deviltry is something you get up to, much like slatternly behavior. And so the pattern emerges.
(Verb, to act or move in a markedly self-important or pretentious manner)
Bertie Wooster famously described the aspiring dictator Spode and his brown shorts-clad followers as “…swanking around town in brown shorts and footer boots.” Though it can be used as a simple verb (to swank is to brag or act in an overconfident manner), I much prefer the phrasal form, swank around. There’s something almost onomatopoeic about it; just the sound conveys a particular kind of motion. Among all the parts of speech, I have a marked preference for verbs, and this is among my all time favorites.
I might say, for example, “The sight of Pat (né Marion) Robertson swanking around the set of The 700 Club and yammering on about female grooming standards makes me so ugly I could really get up to some deviltry and knock his sorry ass into next week.”
* * * * * * *
Many thanks to my favorite slattern, Miss Snarky Pants, aka Cristy Carrington Lewis, for the heads up on Colbert.
Interested in learning more about the slattern’s credo? Think you can stomach it? Well, here you go, but don’t say I didn’t warn you:
Of sweatsuits, French manicures, Vinny the Chin and tiny little women with big demands.
Having strolled the avenues and byways of this planet for more decades than I will ever admit to, I have seen a fair sampling of humanity. In airports, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and even the occasional holding cell, I frequently find myself cheek by jowl with people from every walk of life, social strata and ethnic group.
By dint of living in New York, I even encounter the odd celebrity, as, for example, I did on one of the upper floors of the Plaza Hotel in 1989. This was my first ever celebrity sighting, so it sticks in my memory. I was actually there to look at corporate meeting rooms when lo and behold, I spied the original Mrs. Trump, Ivana, standing by the elevators with a hapless flunky who was looking more like a whipped dog than an uptown interior decorator as a result of the tongue lashing he was receiving about the progress and direction of renovations to the hotel. If memory serves, Ivana was about the size of a toothbrush and was repeating the same thing over and over, “No, no, NO, I vant goldt!” Truly a moment for the ages.
Anyhow, I share this by way of noting that she looked fabulous — exquisitely tailored pantsuit, coordinating stilettos, Louis Vuitton binder and a beehive that Patsy Stone would have killed for. Her lipstick was intact despite the fact that she had clearly been flapping her gums for some little time, and you could have sliced a baguette on the creases of her trousers. Ivana the Terrible was, in a word, glamorous.
Sure she was old school, but as we all know, there are infinite ways to do glamour. Just last week I saw a gorgeous African American woman of Amazonian proportions on the subway. She was sporting canary yellow leggings, matching thigh high boots and bag, and was rocking a coordinating manicure and a gold streaked Lady Godiva weave. The color was fabulous with her skin, there was not one hair out of place, and she was sublimely confident. I longed to ask her where she’d scored the footwear, as it’s so very difficult to find high style boots with wide shafts, but reconsidered after hearing her excoriate the man standing next to her who had the effrontery to stare. It was an extremely admiring stare, and rightly so, but since she took exception I decided to keep still.
In the event I have any male readers left at this point, let me point out that glamour is not an exclusively female domain. Recently, at the corner bodega of all places, I spotted a hipster guy in high tops, jeans, a white shirt and a vintage tuxedo jacket. He was buying gourmet beef jerky, coffee and Red Bull, so although I shuddered at the state of his gastrointestinal tract, he nonetheless had an elegant je ne sais quoi that would have stood him in good stead in almost any social setting — until the Red Bull and cowhide made their presence known, symphonically, several hours hence, anyway.
The point of all this is that glamour is many things to many people. What makes me feel good (three inch heels, a pencil skirt and a martini) may not work for you, especially if you prefer yoga pants and a t-shirt. Provided both fit properly, the pants have been hemmed so as not to drag on the ground, and your dirty hair is pulled back in a tidy ponytail, this can work. At the gym. Where it doesn’t work is at Bloomingdale’s, jury duty or parent teacher conferences, which are just a few of the places I have spotted this “look.”
And then of course there are the pajama pants. If you recall, appearing in public in your sleepwear used to be a pretty solid strategy for your insanity defense. These days, however, you can’t swing a cat on the street without hitting some schmuck in penguin patterned loungewear. It’s sad really. Sad to see grown-up people with jobs and mortgages walking around town looking like they’re on a day pass from a nearby facility where no one’s allowed to have shoelaces or belts.
But as bad as the slovenliness is, the near nudity is even worse: thongs on the beach, muffin tops oozing over skinny jeans and the dreadful tank top that inflicts backne, tattoos and scraggly chest wisps on a blameless public. It’s as if we’ve all stumbled into a D-list Abercrombie shoot featuring a bunch of Kardashians, a couple of Wahlberg wannabes and assorted wardrobe malfunctions being passed off as fashion. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have the image of Kim’s bum seared on my consciousness for the rest of my life, and yet I cannot seem to escape it.
At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, I can remember a time when people bothered about their appearance, and society as a whole had certain expectations. Men wore hats, women wore stockings, everyone wore underwear. You couldn’t see it of course, but you just knew it was there, largely because all fabrics other than flannel were scratchy and unpleasant next to the skin. Underwear provided a necessary buffer zone between the more delicate areas and abrasive tropical wools, heavily starched linens and that miracle of drip-dry miracles, rayon. and rightly so.
These days, it seems not a week goes by that we’re not assaulted by the sight of some starlet’s deforested lady parts, a random pedestrian’s whale tail, or highly compensated movie stars dressed for a day
in the sandbox at work. I mean, c’mon Adam, we love you, but isn’t it time to shave and put on your big boy suit? I know you’ve got one.
So listen folks, it’s a new year and time for a fresh start. Toss out all those baggy surrender t-shirts, childish pajama pants (you know you’ve worn them to the grocery store) and ill-fitting sweat items. Slip into some stretchy new undergarments, coordinated separates and shiny shoes and show the world your glamorous bad self for a change. I guarantee you’ll get treated better on airplanes, at work and in restaurants (admit it, you do want to eat in places where it matters). As an added bonus, I can stop beating this dead horse and start writing important posts wherein I demonstrate how ontogeny really does recapitulate phylogeny or discuss whether Spinoza’s reconciliation of the mind-body problem still holds water. Or maybe I’ll just go back to flogging recipes. Either way, it’s win-win for us all.
Well hallelujah, it’s finally here: the epic, groundbreaking, life-changing movie version of Les Misérables. Yup, on Christmas Day we can all run off to the local movie palace to lose ourselves in three hours of emotional torment, armed conflict and theatrical scenery chewing, the like of which, we are told, has never before been captured on film.
Of course, those of us who are celebrating with our in-laws can experience all of the above (as well as the annual battle for the drumstick) live and in person from the comfort of our favorite barcalounger. This scenario offers the added bonus of support from the affable Mssrs. Jameson and Daniels as well as the distraction of roughly fifty bowl games to keep everybody occupied. The choice seems like a no brainer to me, unless of course between now and Christmas somebody opens up a movie theater with a full bar, but even then I’d have to sit through this dud of a movie, and make no mistake, despite all the overblown adjectives attached to it, that is most certainly what it will be.
In any case, Hollywood’s all atwitter at the imminent release of Les Misérables, the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical which is based on the English translation of the original French novel centering on the improbably named Jean Valjean. Back in college we referred to this kind of product as having been “stepped on” a bit too much, that is, bulked up with suspicious fillers that extended the quantity but diluted the impact of the original ingredient. I’m referring of course to meatloaf for those of you who spent your time in academia studying rather than “cooking” at every possible opportunity. But I digress.
I have sat through the endless promotional video for this exercise in adaptive re-use approximately one hundred times — in the run up to virtually every movie I’ve taken in over the past six years. As a result, I have already seen far more of said musical extravaganza than I ever wanted to. With a running time of four and a half minutes, the Les Misérables First Look video is utterly excruciating. The absolute nadir, the point at which I actually squirm in my seat and feel the need to avert my eyes (every. single. time.) is when Mr Sexy Wolverine earnestly explains the delivery of his soliloquy (“What have I done. What have I done? Sweet Jesus, what have I done?” etc.) in a scenery-chewing moment that showcases all of his acting chops all at once as he emotes and pants his way through three lines of lyrics/dialogue. Watch it at your own risk, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
The rest of the cast is similarly insufferable in their apparent conviction that filming a musical with real singing is second only to splitting the atom in the pantheon of human accomplishment. Director Tom Hooper, who inexplicably chose to follow up The King’s Speech with this mess, observes that there’s ”something false about people singing to playback.” Listen Tom, you seem like a nice guy, but you’re an idiot. There’s something false about people randomly bursting into song in the middle of a conversation, backed up by a 70 piece orchestra. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but there is no way any musical is ever going to be anything but affected and unbelievable, which is why I never watch them.
Then of course there’s the barbering of Anne Hathaway to be endured – I’m referring of course to her movie haircut rather than the unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. I suppose I’d probably sob my way through the filming too if I’d foolishly agreed to have my head shorn for a turkey like this. Really, not since GI Jane have so many locks been sacrificed for so little gain.
Today I read a review of the movie that, inadvertently, sums up my dislike for it.
It simply will not let up until you’ve Felt Something — powerfully and repeatedly — until you’ve touched the grime and smelled the squalor and cried a few tears of your own.
Haven’t we all Felt enough? Isn’t there ample squalor in my living room by four pm on Christmas Day? Why add more sobbing to the holidays?
And don’t you even think of singing your response.