Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Years!

I began writing this blog just over two years ago (first post was August 20, 2007) and I have really loved writing it, and thank all of you that read my random musings.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

(Yet) Another Reason to Love Anderson Cooper

Here is yet more evidence that Anderson Cooper, like me, has the subjectivity of a camp loving gay man. Like me, his fave Real Housewife of Atlanta is NeNe, and like me, he was horrified by the nobody Heidy Montag's embarrassing Britney Spears wanna-be flubbed lipsynch and choreography performance at the Miss Universe Pageant. Sidebar: He watches Miss Universe. I rest my case, ladies and gentlemen. I eagerly await the arch Charles Nelson Reilly reference.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Alec Baldwin as Charles Nelson Reilly

Alec Baldwin imitating one of my childhood idols, Charles Nelson Reilly

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Toddlers & Tiaras

TLC has a reality TV show called "Toddlers and Tiaras." In it, you see young children, some months-old babies, perform in pageants, egged on by their frustrated, manic parents, dressed in age-inappropriate and extremely tacky outfits that cost thousands of dollars. Many of the parents apparently sacrifice their lives for this obsession that they claim the children are also keen on. The children however, seem to be operating under duress. Also, the families don't seem to be wealthy, so the costs incurred in competing seem to be an unwise expense. If this isn't a sign of Armaggedon, and of the decline of the US Empire (not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say), I don't know what is.

Young girl dressed up like a Eastern European hooker, didn't they learn from Joan Benet Ramsey? Hair pieces, spray painted tans, fake nails and lashes are all part of the grooming. The routines are quite sleazy in some cases, I just saw (and had to turn off) one episode where a little girl was dressed like a cop, complete with dangling cuffs on her bedazzled uniform, and threatened to "arrest" the rapt panel of judges. Another one in a bikini pointed her finger beckoning the adults, egged on by her mother who was mirroring her movements to make sure the little baby got the moves right.

Seriously, as those three or four of you that read this blog know, I have an extremely high tolerance, indeed affinity with, extremely campy cultural manifestations, often viewed by most as in vary poor taste. And I have a major fascination with "reality TV." But even I don't think I can stomach this stuff.

Two infants "performing" in a pageant

Here's the website for the program:

Monday, August 24, 2009

School of Miss Universes

AP video about the ways in which Venezuela creates its Pageantry Queens.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Miss Universe National Costumes - Part Two

Heidi Montag (in the US national costume?)

Tonight was the long-awaited Miss Universe Pageant, and although the production value was lower than usual (which is already quite low), and the guest stars pretty much nobodies (Heidi Montag? who is she? and why can't she do a rudimentary choreography that looks like the aerobics for the elderly televised class that my sister and I happened to see in Miami one morning?) The judges included a real estate mogul called Lefrak (could he be the one to blame for the blocks and blocks of hideous apartments one passes going to and from JFK?), Andre Leon Talley, some guy that owns the Atlantis Resort, a series of people I've never heard of, Argentine model Valeria Mazza, and the host was a wax mummy featured Botoxed Billy Bush, and a woman I have never heard of.

The top fifteen finalists surprised me, a veteran watcher, because there were so many Eastern Europeans, including Kosovo, who I believe may be new to the pageant, and Czech Republic. We know that the countries of the Eastern end of Europe are favorites of Donald Trump, owner of the franchise, when choosing wives and/or girlfriends. Normally, the top fifteen are heavily populated with Central and South Americans, as well as Caribbean delegates. The only delegates from the Americas that made it in were USA (a hideous even by US pageantry standards blonde with huge tits and teeth and a bad platinum weave), Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Speaking of the US delegate, one of my favorite moments is when they give you the stats on the women, which consist of : Age, Height, Hobbies. Miss USA's hobby was "Online shopping."

The top five were: Australia, Dominican Republic, Kosovo, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

Sadly, Miss Venezuela won. This means that they won TWO years in a row and have now won six pageants total to Puerto Rico's five. This is the first time that a Miss Universe is elected from the same country two years in a row. Still, we made it to the final five, PR was fourth runner up. Which doesn't make sense since she answered the question the best (Venezuela crashed and burned), and Kosovo looked terrible in the evening gown. She had an extremely tall, elongated beehive that looked like a it was hiding either a bomb or a bottle of champagne, depending on the outcome she was prepared. To be fair, Miss Dominican Republic was the most beautiful. But she was quite dark, which they tend not to vote for as often as the ethnically cleansed blanquitas. The prettiest was Miss South Africa, and she didn't make the top ten. Interestingly, both Miss France and Miss Switzerland, who were both extremely lovely, appeared to be of part non-European descent and had dark skin color and hair.

In any case, Gustavo and Patty Cisneros must be uncorking the champagne in Punta Cana or Vail or whichever home they are currently summering at. One more victory for the Venezuelan people, and their plastic surgeons.

Miss Universe 2008 crowns Miss Universe 2009, here you can clearly appreciate the silicone implants of Miss Universe 2008.

See Miss Universe 2009 crowned via an Indian broadcast:

The national costumes were even more fabulous on the stage and in movement than in still photos.

I read that Miss Japan's costume was "toned down" after protests against its raunchy elements (the panties showing, the garter belts, I posted a picture of the earlier version, see link below).

I'm not quite sure what Miss Italy's national costume was supposed to represent, except that it evoked an opera singer? Anyone?

Clearly we have all been affected by the worldwide economic Depression but could not the Irish come up with a less obviously jacked up outfit than this? She took a stretched out mismatched bikini from the 1980s, dragged a flag down from its pole, and borrowed a St. Patrick's Day parade novelty hat from her neighbor and she was good to go!

Miss Ghana, on the other hand, was FABULOUS. I think she ranks with Miss Finland in her Marimekko outfit as my favorites.

My friends and I were in HYSTERICS when we saw Miss Germany sashay down the runway in this outfit. She was schlepping a miniature Brandenburg Gate on her back, like a Pageantry Christ with a Tourist Station of the Cross on her back.

If anyone can explain to me what China's outfit means, I would be much obliged. Is she supposed to be some kind of millenarian warrior? And what does that have to do with the Prince Purple Rain era thigh high patent leather boots? Her evening gown was quite lovely, she looked like a white ceramic with blue decoration urn.

For my earlier post on the national costumes, go here:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Abdullah Abdullah

Just recently I was wondering, what happened to that dapper man that was Foreign Minister under Hamid Karzai? I will admit that my areas of study are limited and Afghanistani politics is not one of them. (although it should be, given US military intervention in this country.) So although I know absolutely nothing about this gentleman's politics, I am glad that he is back in the news (he is running against his former collaborator to be the leader of his country), so that I can look at pictures like the ones above and below.

I know that it's incredibly shallow, but I love the way this man dresses. And as I discussed here before (see ) there are plenty of world leaders that don't have a clue about fashion. I admit that some may think that there's nothing outstanding about the way he looks. After all, he dresses like a European businessman, an Italian count, a Spaniard emulating British aristocratic fashion. Yes, I will grant you that, but the fact is, he wears it well. The salt and pepper hair, the trimmed beard, the dazzling smile, the English cut blazers (even worn with jeans!), the pocket square, the lace up Oxford shoes!!!!


During my recent stay in Miami I was able to return to a beloved restaurant that I had not visited since I was a teenager, the Cuban institution, Versailles. Like its namesake, this place is a palace, in this case of huge portions of Cuban home cooking. (I had a sublime meal of picadillo, arroz con frijoles, amarillos, and a sugary cortadito at the end, no room for flan, sadly.)

Green polyester uniformed waiters and waitresses, their names embroidered over the breast pocket swiftly served delighted diners their calorie laden meals. Abuelitos in their crisp guayaberas lingered over buchitos of black coffee. Families shared a feast. I almost wept over the multi-page menu, trying to decide between the picadillo, the bistec empanado (which due to its size would always elicit the same exlamation from my father "Ea rayo, eso no es un bistec, es una sabana! - Wow this isn't a breaded steak, it's a bed sheet!"), the pastel de platano y picadillo, or the bistec de palomilla.

The decoration made me wish I could go back and do another doctorate this one in architectural history and / or cultural studies focusing on the restaurant's design. The interior is a 1970s Panopticon, all mirrored surfaces, walls, domes, labyrinthine rooms echoing each other, meals replicating themselves visually as they also proliferate in rapid succession throughout the tables. Chandeliers like the one in my abuela's dining room, glittering in the mirrors. Naugahyde chairs squeaking beneath me, paper place mats bearing the name "Versailles" in a Gothic font.


Fashion Citation: South Beach Edition

The hideously vulgar and sexist T-shirts give you an indication of the agenda behind most tourists' visit: drinking, hooking up, blacking out and or throwing up.

A typical beach to street wear ensemble.

Skintight denim mini-dress

Mannekin designed to mirror visitors' grotesquely silicone inflated breasts and bad platinum weaves.

I've just returned from my first visit to South Beach. Like the wannabe socialites Alex and Simon on the Real Housewives of NY, who summer in St. Bart's because it's cheaper off-season, I hit the area in August. Although I was there to relax, tan, sleep, drool over the Art Deco architecture, visit the fabulous Wolfsonian museum of design and propaganda, eat Cuban food, and shop, apparently the majority of people there visit under the impression that it's the Cancun of Southeast Florida.

This sets the stage for the dreaded accolade of Collective Fashion Citation. There are a couple of schools of thought on trauma. Either you try to forget it and move on, or you go there to process it and move on. I am opting for the latter, forcing myself to recall the fashion, which burned my sight like acid. The aesthetic highs and lows were extreme: beautiful beaches, water, sky, gorgeous Art Deco everywhere, and bad bad bad fashion.

The women were the worst offenders. A plethora of tramp stamps, bedazzled bikinis, triquinis, stripper shoes with lucite heels, mesh dresses, shorts revealing half of the butt cheek, fringed suede booties, white lycra leggings, skintight denim mini dresses, enormous earrings and bracelts worn on the beach, bedraggled platinum blonde weaves drooping and crying out for a hot oil treatment, long toe nails with elaborate French manicures, a male and female couple in matching flowery bathing wear (he with a banana hammock, those were quite popular). A grisly parade of flesh.

The men were either undergroomed - such as the Italians with grave manscaping issues (such as backs resembling the brown shag carpet in Burt Reynolds' bachelor pad circa 1972), or grave over-manscaping issues (Latinos and gays with eyebrows plucked like a 1950s debutante). They either wore miniscule banana hammocks or oversized and long shorts.

The demographic was: gays, Italians, youngish people from the North East (particularly NY and NJ), French, and a smattering of either Portuguese or Brazilians. The Italians made me rethink my former adulation of them as the most stylish beings on earth, with the best-looking men. Tragic.

There was a lot of public drinking at the beach, and itinerant boys approached gaggles of girls in thong bikinis with boob implants and bad tattoos about a great party where, for sixty dollars, they'd be picked up in a limo, taken somewhere to eat a meal accompanied by all the alcohol they could drink, followed by VIP treatment at a club and bottle service which consisted of Grey Goose and plastic cups. Nice. Fortunately, this only took place on the weekends, during the week it was much quieter and the partying was limited to restaurants on Ocean Drive and presumably, in clubs at an unknown location.

I was tucked into bed watching real estate porn - House Hunters International - and turning in early so as to get more beach time in the morning, and stamina to walk up and down as many streets as possible, photographing the cool Art Deco buildings. Perhaps the club hawkers didn't approach my sister and I because I was either reading SEMANA, HOLA magazine's slightly less chic sister publication, or Evelyn Waugh, and she was reading a book about Marxist philosophy. Also, I think nerdy girls with glasses and retro bikinis with major rear coverage are not the demographic they are after!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

TIME Magazine's Top Ten Worst-Dressed Leaders

TIME Magazine has posted a top ten worst-dressed leaders' list and lord knows I read a lot of funny things on-line but this tops anything I have seen lately. Fittingly I have discovered it while struggling to find words to describe schandisimo portraits of bloody dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco (oddly not featured in the list).

I just wish I knew who the master of sartorial and political analysis was that wrote this, so that I could ask her/him to write as a guest in my blog! I was in tears from laughter by the time I got to number 2 and never stopped laughing. Frankly, laughing during the day when writing about an evil regime's hateful propaganda is a rare treat indeed.

Here are just two entries from the list to tempt you to go to read the entire article, which you can access here,28804,1915593_1915596,00.html

Safari Wear in the Hermit Kingdom

For a man who enjoys the finer things — he reportedly takes pleasure in Hollywood DVDs and expensive liquor, even as millions of North Koreans suffer in extreme hardship — you'd think Kim Jong Il would be a snappier dresser. Kim can mostly be found wearing unflattering khaki safari suits and Kanye West–sized sunglasses, accessorized with five-inch platform shoes to boost the diminutive Dear Leader's height and a high-and-tight pompadour that apparently serves the same purpose. Whereas his ill-fitting suits once did little to conceal Kim's paunch, in recent photographs he has seen wearing clothing several sizes smaller than usual — a result, analysts say, of his recent illness.

Iran's Members Only President

Given Iran's strict religious culture and the series of grim-faced, dourly dressed clerics that have been the face of the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, one might expect more of the same from newly re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But Ahmadinejad's relaxed, man-of-the-people approach to fashion has garnered almost as much attention as his hard-line politics.

Like most Iranians, the President does not wear a necktie — a rule that was set in place by Ayatullah Khomeini, who banned them for being decadent and un-Islamic and for contributing to the spread of Western culture. Instead, he opts for simple cotton shirts topped with his trademark, a $30 Chinese-made khaki windbreaker purchased from a Tehran bazaar. The windbreaker, commonly dubbed the Ahmadinejacket, is widely derided for its similarity to the Members Only jackets that were briefly popular in the West in the 1980s; still, it has become popular among supporters hoping to emulate the President's look.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

National Costumes

I am still reeling from the impact of the Miss Dominican Republic national costume. Allegedly, she is dressing as a native dominican republic islander. Well and good to rock a bedazzled and skimpy piece of fabric that barely covers your breasts and opens all the way up to your waist. And the lucite platform sandals that she got at Frederick's of Hollywood mail order are also well within the classy fashion we have come to expect. But the handcuffs? As my friend, another Wise Latina pointed out, perhaps the designer was trying to allude to the heady cocktail of racial mixture on the island - indigenous people and then just a little bit of slaves? Only in the twisted world of Miss Universe could someone incorporate shackles into a "national costume." In any event, she is GORGEOUS.

I have no words for the French can-can dancer and the Japanese geisha/hooker/porno Anime character/Noh performer outfit. Did she not get the memo? Your national costume is supposed to show you off to your best advantage. Look at Miss DR!!!! Miss Finland gets extra bonus points for featuring one of my all time favorite designers, Marimekko. Indeed the print used for the dress is the same one that decorates my bedroom as a duvet.

Miss Puerto Rico 2009

The designer of this year's national costume for the Puerto Rican Delegate in the Miss Universe Pageant has truly outdone him or herself (Let's keep it real, I imagine it's a he, a swishy 300 lb. man with slicked back hair and a hand made size XXXL guayabera, beige polyester pants, and pointy toed bedazzled or animal print loafers, worn sockless, naturally, this delectable package topped with large amounts of Sant Maria Novella cologne, and a Gucci man purse).

We have a few choices in our repertoire. Taina Princess. Creole Princess. So what was left?* Our national sport - if you set aside beisbol and el deporte del caballero, or cockfighting? The latter clearly does not lend itself to figuring as a dress. Some may say that it's boxing, and this is exactly where the dressmaking genius went. Missy has a bejeweled hooded cape, lovely bedazzled boxing gloves and belt featuring our national seal and flags in sequins.

*[Because they would never choose a dress evoking Islanders' African heritage, it's either a "trigueña" evoking the Tainos or a blanquita in the Creole outfit]

And let's not forget the stiletto boxing boots. The latter remind me rather of the female Timbos for hos of a few seasons backs, when the utilitarian work boot got a makeover through the addition of high heels.

According to the Puerto Rico Pageantry people, she had another dress set aside but it didn't fit at the last minute so they went with this. But as my friend and Wise Latina pointed out, that kind of bedazzling takes a lot of time. She's right. I don't care how many abuelas you might have locked into your Motel 6 around-the-clock, plying them with Cientoenboca cookies and cups of Cafe Bustelo!

One of my friends and a loyal reader, who is tall and European but is an Honorary Wise Latin@, came up with the perfect title for this stunning national costume: "Teta Trinidad." WEPA!!!!

And here she is, the lovely Miss Mayra Matos, Miss Puerto Rico 2009, au natural ( more or less).
Let's pray this one doesn't have pepper spray in her evening gown, like our Delegate last year, or has an incident of Pageantry Rage that leads her to verbally threaten organizers, like Miss Puerto Rico Petite.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gloria Soltero is my idol

Newscaster Gloria Soltero makes an impassioned plea against the government of Luis Fortuño (or Luis Infortunio as wits refer to him) and his incessant and ruthless cuts of Island arts and culture organizations. Tu TV is like the PBS of Puerto Rico. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know) it first aired in 1958, so it was "The first educational TV station in Latin America" and it is non-commercial and affiliated with PBS.

Some people can also see it in the continental US (at least I used to be able to in Brooklyn). I used to watch their news broadcasts and their excellent documentaries about the history and culture of the Island.

Apparently the Governator cut the news program and let them know just a few minutes before they went on the air to present their last newscast. This is the moment you see above, the beginning of the broadcast, where Soltero, one of the anchors, explains what happened. As she says, "un pueblo sin prensa es un pueblo esclavo." And "un pueblo sin libertad de prensa es un pueblo esclavo." (a people without press are enslaved people and a people without freedom of the press are enslaved people)

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Want Nene to Read Me a Bedtime Story

In one of those moments of Reality TV Intertextuality, Nene from Real Housewives Atlanta reads aloud from "Cop Without a Badge" the scandalous account of Columbian drug lords, murderers, kidnappers, addicts, and the prostitutes who love them. This book featured prominently in Real Housewives of New Jersey when Caroline and Dina were alerted to the fact that another housewife, Danielle (really called Beverly, she changed her name in an attempt to start a new life undercover after she copped a plea to avoid prison, clearly she wanted to fade into obscurity or else she would not have signed up for a Bravo TV show) appeared in the book as the a coke addicted "prostitution-whore" and girlfriend of the head of a Columbian drug cartel.

Allegedly un-staged as a backstage "bonus" video, Nene is shown in some kind of an office casually reading aloud, as if the camera is not trained on her, but she also works it for the camera, winking to her audience.

It seems fitting that the intertextual moment should be figured literally as a book. The book signals the intersection between "real" life and "reality TV life" acting to reinforce the "realness" of the "reality TV life we are seeing." (In the case of the video above, I love how Nene mentions offhandedly that she hangs out with Danielle sometimes, as if they'd casually met at the beauty parlor or mall.) I also find it fascinating to know that these women know how to read. (just kidding)

Here is the moment when the book had its literal star appearance on RHNJ:

And the grisly aftermath, when Teresa is more inarticulate than usual in her rage:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dictator Porn

This one could be the cover of a Danielle Steele novel.

Here, apparently auditioning for a Playgirl pictorial, Putin showcases his delectable moobs. Now that Gisele is pregnant, Victoria's Secret will be giving him a call.

This one is something out of a hunting publication, MANDATE or some other gay magazine.

The AP hires comedic geniuses to write their articles. The evidence is in an article signed by someone called Lynn Berry titled "KG Beefcake" (link below) describing what is now an annual tradition: Vladimir Putin's summer pictorial. It begins with a reference to the "Czarboro man." I only wish I'd thought of this first!

SOURCE: All photos AP

Mariquita Perez Dolls

According to Wikipedia, the Mariquita Perez doll was produced in Spain from 1938-1976.

I don't believe I ever owned one of these sinister figures, but she is clearly the height of ideal Francoist girlhood. I guess she was a bit like the American Girl dolls now, but more of a Fascist Girl doll. Spanish readers, please enlighten me about this phenomenon, because I have heard of her, but I was a Nancy fan. ( For Nancy, see link below)

Above is my personal favorite, a Mariquita in Goyesque garb, to imitate a famous portrait of the Duchess of Alba.

Here she is taking her First Communion

There are more pictures of her in the blog below:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It's all about pageantry, people!


Estrella de Diego on Michael Jackson

This is an article about the mediatic experience of the death of Michael Jackson by Estrella de Diego, the smartest person I know. I enjoyed it so much that I insert it in its entirety here.


Estrella de Diego

Llevo semanas literalmente pegada al ordenador, presa de unas noticias que, inscritas en la pantalla, llegan frescas, como surgidas de las fauces mismas del acontecimiento. Me he acostumbrado de tal manera a la información continua e inmediata que en las noches de insomnio me levanto a mirar si ha pasado algo nuevo. Lo miro desde el ordenador de casa, en una pantalla prestada, a oscuras en el cine con mi iPhone. Es ese flujo lo que engancha; es el carácter abierto, inacabado de las informaciones lo que conmueve nuestra imaginación contemporánea; saber que siempre va a pasar algo más que va a llegar en secuencias, paso a paso, como los suspiros. Es el hueco descubierto por los psicoanalistas que ha encontrado en Internet un sitio donde abismar los vértigos.

Así que me engancho voraz a las noticias que van llegando desde Neverland. Tampoco significa nada concreto: antes fueron Berlusconi e Italia. Como amantes de repertorio, las obsesiones se van sucediendo sistemáticas frente a la pantalla, unidas por lazos sutilísimos que, en las noches de insomnio, se configuran claros y contundentes. En el fondo, me digo, el ataúd vacío de Michel Jackson se parece en lo rocambolesco al vaudeville italiano. Se parecen Jackson y Berlusconi en sus caras falsas, su pelo prestado, la pasión por los menores —o eso dicen sus respectivas esposas—. O se parecen, al menos, en Internet que lo iguala todo, sin jerarquías, sin controles, sin tino. Mezcla intrépida de aluvión infinito que tragamos sin tiempo para saborearlo.

Pese a la brevedad de las sensaciones —o por esa misma brevedad— llevo días siguiendo la noticia de la muerte del gran mito del Pop —aunque no el mejor, porque el título habría debido corresponder a Prince si Jackson no hubiera salido de escena tan ostentoso—. Corro tras la noticia que se instala en mi pantalla mientras me he ido a por agua a la cocina. Hasta entro en un concurso absurdo, yo, que me las doy de seria. Me decepciono cuando no me toca la entrada al funeral-concierto —costaba incluso más que la reventa de Tomás en la Monumental—. Mejor, pienso, resuelta a retomar mi vida. Luego te toca y menuda pereza llegar hasta allí, toda apretada, con la compañía de bajo coste de turno. Una señora, con lágrimas en los ojos, declaraba su perplejidad ante las cámaras: “A mí nunca me ha tocado nada y ahora me toca esto…”. Es esa perplejidad tan contemporánea la que nos emociona, la incapacidad misma de entender qué hacemos allí, de qué modo tan radical ha cambiado la Red nuestras vidas.

Lo voy rumiando mientras me asomo a YouTube —Nuestra Señora de YouTube—. Vuelvo a ver Thriller —no me canso nunca de verlo—, uno de los mejores videoclips de los ochenta. Es más: una de las obras maestras de la década. Nada de buscar la esencia de aquella época en esta o la otra corriente artística —ni apropiacionismo, ni neopop, ni neoconceptual—. Hasta la llegada de MTV —el canal sólo de videoclips en sesión continua, a su modo fragmentario y abierto como la pantalla del ordenador— los destellos de relato, rápidos y eficaces, musicales con un final también casi siempre feliz, irrumpían en la pantalla casera. Se colaban entre los anuncios y los esperábamos con ansiedad antigua, regusto a “peticiones del oyente” en la radio: un momento de distracción y la canción se había desvanecido fugaz. Ahora, por fin, se han saciado las ansiedades: en la Red podemos regresar a cada fragmento de realidad con la frecuencia que decidamos. La esencia fragmentaria del medio lo permite y ahí radica la paradoja: recuperar a la carta cada cosa del mundo con la velocidad malsana de la noticia.


THIS is my kind of sport

HOW have I lived my life without knowing about the best sport - ever - Chihuahua racing????????

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I just came home from watching Bruno, Sasha Baron Cohen's latest provocation, which made me laugh until I cried and choked for breath. Utterly tasteless, he had to attempt to offend as many well-thinking politically correct people. Make fun of the gays, check, Holocaust and Hitler jokes, check, Austrians as Nazis, check. Personally, Mel Brooks' The Producers might be a big hit but even though I pride myself on being able to find the humor in anything, I wince anytime anyone makes a joke using the Holocaust as a punchline.

People tend to spend a lot of time guessing which scenes were set up and which ones were staged. (in the immortal words of the Smiths) What difference does it make? First of all, since Big Brother and The Real World, we all know that there is no thing as "real" "reality" in "reality" TV or films for that matter. The naive shock and awe of Candid Camera is long gone. Reality TV has made us all able deconstructionists, semioticians, and skeptics. It's as if everyone suddenly read Barthes and Foucault while watching Real Housewives of Atlanta.

They also ask whether or not a movie featuring such horrible stereotypes of homosexuals might only perpetuate them, fanning the flames (bad pun) of homophobia. First of all, what self-respecting homophobe would go see a movie about a faggot, and a foreign one at that?

A better question might be: if Borat was from one of the 'Stans which are so remote and unknown to Americans that it may as well be an imaginary country, thus safe for ridicule, are the gays equally fair game? We know from watching President Obama's actions thus far that the gays are apparently the last group that is not entitled to civil rights. Even our first black president draws the line when it comes to the queers' having marriage equality and equal rights in the armed services, to name but a couple of examples. When it comes to homophobia, we need to beware of some of the liberals, as well as the bigots.

Although like Borat the movie was juvenile and could have used some editing (as does my writing, but that's why this is a blog and not an article), there were some brilliant parts such as the extended sequence where he met with a Fundamentalist Christian claiming he converts gays to straights. Each time he asked the bigot what are typically hetero activities, cut to Bruno taking part in these things. Martial arts, wrestling, hunting, you name it. All homosocial, all plagued with us versus them macho posturing. A lot of the scenes took place in Alabama, we were wondering if that's because like Kazhakstan, it's "remote" enough that people don't know who Baron Cohen is, and are not in on the joke?

I could not help but think of Jake and Dinos Chapman. I remember one installation featuring children in contorted sexual postures, their body parts obscenely scrambled so penises came out of ears and mouths became vaginas. Some figures gave Hitler salutes or wore little cub scout type uniforms with swastikas. This shock value effect isn't really original. Just read Salvador Dali's "memoirs" and look at his painting "The Enigma of William Tell" among others. We might also think of Anselm Kiefer's "Occupations" series in Interfunktionen. And then there was Tom Sach's "Prada Concentration Camp," closer to the Chapamans' and Baron Cohen's tone. Similarly, Baron Cohen performed numerous sex acts or pantomimed them, gave Hitler salutes, joked about Auschwitz, put young children in a scene where they simulated the Crucifixion. Aiming to provoke, with no real purpose other than to shock well-meaning liberals, to push buttons by making light of topics that remain the ultimate taboos when it comes to humor or satire. And at the end of the day most of the gay and sexual content might not be out of place as boyish locker room humor.

The seemingly hour-long movie previews were also fascinating windows into early twenty-first century cultural notions of gender roles and sexuality, heteronormative and homophobic, violent, and ruthless.

There were two movies having to do with bored heterosexual couples. One involved a group trip to one of those adult's only mega beach resorts in the Bahamas -- maybe, because what I love about the resorts is that nowhere in the ad do you see what country you are actually going to, it's some vaguely paradisiacal beachy location with an evocative name -- that ends up being a couples' boot camp. Hilarity ensues as a series of confusing burlesque episodes transpire. One of these: a yoga instructor called Fabio (hello? could that reference be any more dated? apparently this movie is aimed at conventional heterosexual people aged 35-45) performs postures that simulate heterosexual sex with the wives, and gay male sex, with the husbands, apparently to arouse laughter.

The classic high school morality play facing off the good girl/bad girl as a horror film was homophobically spun. It featured a bad girl (Megan Fox) that turned out to be a vampire/bisexual. How original!!!! Playing on the subtextual cultural memories of Angelina Jolie's public persona, and on Fox's resemblance to her, as well as her own recent admission that she likes girls, too, the story becomes even more loaded. We see a bad girl brunette dominant partner and the noble girl blonde that sets out to defeat the evil deviant. The dark dominant seductress lesbian and the pliant submissive blond fantasy trope is a long standing one when depicting ladies that love other ladies, so this is not original. In any case, I imagine that this one will surely contribute to lowering the gay teen suicide rates.

The final straw was one called "Gamer" where non-felons and felons played a virtual reality video game that turned out to be "really" real. The criminal players manipulated by the upstanding male citizens are men incarcerated on death row! They fight to the death, of course, and never win. Thus, they try to escape. This one takes the game theory "Prisoners' Dilemma" to a whole new level. I wonder how this one plays in countries that don't condone the death penalty? Clearly this one is skewed to US audiences in a country that has an appalling human rights record and that until recently had leaders that institutionalized torture for prisoners of war.

I also find it interesting to see not only in academia (see my posts "A Gathering of Nerds" and "Testing the Waters" for art history nerds' fascination with "gaming") but in corporate parlance. I was speaking with friends about workplace situations (artworld and non-artworld) and we instinctively used gaming as a term, as in, "this person gamed another person" and "they took this person off the chess board." Like the popularity of reality TV shows premised on taking your opponents literally off the board/house/island in order to survive, everyone now knows that this is the value system we need to follow in the late 20th and early 21st century. I assume philosophers that specialize in "game theory" (by the way, I had no idea such a thing existed until I went on a date with someone that specializes in this recondite? field) will be or are in tremendous demand, perhaps as workplace consultants in HR departments or as Life Coaches for ambitious careeists?