• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
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    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
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Entries from March 23, 2008 - March 29, 2008


Green Grows the Wheatgrass


Here’s a hint for Piers Morgan: You might not want to address a woman as “pumpkin” when she’s flanked by her rich daddy and big brother. Just sayin’.


And here’s a prediction: Trace Adkins’ loss to him is the best thing to happen to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network in a long, long time. If I know the people in my country, they’re going to be pissed because he lost the final task largely due to the fact that he doesn’t have as many rich friends as Morgan does—and they are going to take their pissedness all the way to FAAN’s donation site. That’s how we do justice in America. If I had $250,001 to give instead of owe right now, I would—not simply due to the organization’s important work, but to serve as a thudding reminder that sometimes, nice guys do finish first.


That’s the issue that was brushed against but not really debated in last night’s finale: This wasn’t about “good versus evil.” This was about ends justifying means. Who’s going to argue with raising money for war veterans without legs or sight or either, for heaven’s sake? Morgan’s record was indisputably impressive—nine out of eleven wins for the season, and singlehandedly raising more than Trump’s bonus prize money at his charity auction. But the great bulk of that cash came from just two donors, and he left in his wake a juryful of Trace-leaning celebrity candidates, all of whom know from diva. When Trump asked one of the very soldiers benefiting from Morgan's work about what he thought of the man, he carefully turned the question aside, saying only that he appreciated the work Piers had done. Morgan didn’t just burn bridges; he torpedoed them from outer space, and then used the charred driftwood to club Stephen Baldwin upside the head.


It comes as little surprise that Morgan is BFF’s with Simon Cowell. They’re popular and successful in part because they’re so delightfully, wickedly honest. In a nation addicted to participation trophies and class-wide distribution of “I’M A WINNER” buttons, we need someone to fold his arms in our faces and pronounce bad renditions of “Part of Your World” as bad renditions of “Part of Your World.” Morgan possesses Cowell’s same refreshing bluntness—he’s giving tickets to his swank charity event to active servicemembers, but he’s doing it to guilt-up the bidding. He’s putting money in the bank for a weepingly worthy charity, but he’s doing it by liquoring up the audience first. He does all these things, and then shrugs and announces that he’s doing so. All of this requires balls the size of Jupiter. We respect that in America. We required balls the size of Jupiter to break away from of the rule of Morgan’s homeland in the first place.


Even if Morgan’s methodologies didn’t make me cringe, I will resent him forever because he somehow managed to make me feel sorry for the aggravating, self-aggrandizing Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth. His utter destruction of her in competition, by the largest margin in the history of the show, was perhaps the most delicious moment in the history of reality programming—and then he ruined it. He wasn’t content with victory. He wanted to not only defeat her in business, but to deeply wound her on a personal level. Much as she makes my stomach turn, he turned it further when he belittled her as a cleaning woman and requested that Trump make her firing “messy.”


What’s drawn so many people to Trace Adkins’ cheering section was his steady realization that his every action reflected not only on his own performance, but his family, his profession, and his charity. He put FAAN and daughter before self. Piers Morgan, while clearly genuine in his respect for the Intrepid Heroes Fund, puts no one before Piers Morgan.


Donald Trump is not a deep thinker. Anybody who’s seen footage of the interior of his ridiculous apartment, which looks like King Midas vomited all over the walls and the kitchen counter and the toilet seat, has gathered that he is a man of surface. When two of Trump’s show consultants praised the work of former model Carol Alt, he immediately and unnecessarily added, “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Because in his mind, that’s her primary source of usefulness. So it’s no shock that he was eager to place the entire competition in terms of black (fingernail polish) and white, right and wrong. “Do you think your charity is better than Trace’s?” he asked Morgan at one point, as if any human being could possibly quantify a father’s personal battle for the protection of his child against a blind, legless veteran sitting twenty feet away in a uniform and a wheelchair. There are many moments when I’m no fan of nuance—in shielding my loved ones, in loving my God, in the frantic, wild push for achieving my career goals, in amassing caramel when I feel the need for caramel—but holy crap, Trump, sometimes grey, not gold, is the color of the day.

So the whole world now knows that Piers Morgan is a winner, yes. But they also know that Piers Morgan can’t be a winner without acting like an enormous ass in the process.

The cash and gold flakes that rained down on his head last night upon his anointment were entirely fake. But I doubt he noticed.

kickin' it with the BSB at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com


Welcome MSNBC.com Readers

Cowboy up.

wheatgrassin' at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com


It's Alive!

Why, it seems we've got us some liveness over at the new site I'm writing for, JamsBio. Not sure how long the door will be open, as the official launch isn't until Monday, but as long as it lasts... hey. Go ahead on-- no registration required! The by-post chronological starting point be here, and this is my jumping-off point. Thanks to MW The Reader for popping the cork on the news.

sway at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com


Welcome MSNBC.com Readers--UPDATED

It's not live yet, but at some point today, MSNBC will post some cultural analysis hung on the peg of Britney Spears' appearance last night on How I Met Your Mother. I'll link up as soon as technologically possible.

Technology UPDATE: Here it is.

When this was assigned to me, at first I cringed mightily, because I certainly don't want to be any part of the salivating media dogpile which is now a fixture of Spears' life. But then I realized that the tide is turning regarding the paparazzi ambush in a way I've never really seen before in celebrity culture, and so I decided to write about that. Everybody wants news about Britney Spears--but they want it to be good news. After witnessing the train wreck, people are now breathlessly waiting to see her emerge from the burning, twisted metal. And it's sick and it's hopeful and it's part of living in America. So this is largely a "coverage of the coverage" piece, and I hope everyone understands that in no way do I mean to attack Spears and her terribly sad circumstances. I'm trying to analyze how all these pieces fit together in the grand scheme of our culture; the essay is much more about us than it is about her.

That's why this is vastly different in tone from the first Spears-related MSNBC essay I wrote. That piece was written over six months ago. Six months is a rolling drop in the great river of our lives, but in media terms, it's the Pacific Ocean. Six months is a geologic age on the internet. I wrote it directly in the wake of the media storm concerning Spears' MTV Video Awards appearance, when she didn't seem to understand the serious trouble she was in, how her career had been created on the basis of how others see her-- that unless she began treating her own self with respect and took charge of her life, she would never find a way out of this enormous, hell-bound spiral.

Since then, Spears been in and out of rehab, and was subjected to the gross spectacle of cop cars escorting the ambulance and photographers which took her to the psychiatric ward. She seems to have stabilized, and on the show last night seemed healthy and sober. But, again: Six months. Six months of real time. Her latest visit to the hospital was less than four months ago. Yet here she is-- guest starring on one of the most popular sitcoms in the nation because she told her acting agent to find her “a small part on a funny show.” She shot her scenes with paparazzi helicopters hovering over the soundstage.

Maybe this is how Britney Spears heals. I don't know. What I do know is this: I got married eight months ago. I left my job and my friends and I moved to a strange place where I knew absolutely no one but my husband--and since I've never been married before, I had to get used to him, too, at the very same time he was getting used to me. I'm not even used to me yet. I suspected that the change would be traumatic, and gosh darn it, there it was. The only thing which is helping is time. (Okay, and drugs. But professionally moderated drugs.) It was difficult, and it still is difficult, even without TMZ and Us Weekly camped out on the front lawn. And I'm not dealing with substance abuse, a pregnant teenage sister, a custody battle, and whatever else goes on in what is considered the sprawling telenova of Britney Spears, Inc. I have a feeling that this is not what she had in mind when she first invited the world to view her life as a reality show in Chaotic.

So I'm not criticizing Spears. I'm begging her, human being to human being: Please, do yourself a favor and back away from the press releases. And the acting agents, and the stylists, and the contract negotiators, and the publicists. I'm no psychologist, but I'm thinking that maybe what Britney Spears needs right now is eighteen months in a remote Siberian village amongst fishermen and fur trappers and sugar beet farmers --fishermen and fur trappers and sugar beet farmers who shoot at interlopers who might show up with cameras and cardboard-boxed microphones. And when she comes back, if she has a hold of herself, then... well, it's up to her, isn't it?


Because I Care

So that my beloved The Readers do not go through life never having been RickRoll'd, look at this... non... Astley-related... thing!! It's so, so awesome!

I think it's notable that RickRolling has risen into popular culture at the very same time as this National Conversation About Race we seem to be having. Because when, in a thousand years, archaeologists somehow manage to watch this by-then primitive techno cave painting of a music video, they will have a full and complete picture of how white people of our culture danced, and they will correctly surmise that it rarely seemed to go all that well.

you wouldn't get this from any other site at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com