February 2010

I should be sleeping. I’m now working full-time, and my days start early.  But, beavers-dammit, the creative juices have always been a late-night flow for me.  My head is full of all kinds of weirdness that I thought was interesting, if not important, so I might as well get it out.

So, an old gal pal of mine came over on Feb. 4 (my first day off of orientation at my new job), to watch “The Silence of the Lambs” with me. It was her first time watching it all the way through, and for a first-timer, she handled the freakiness of the psychopaths pretty well; heck, we even ate some crackers with hummus and Laughing Cow cheese during the movie (ironic, because if you know anything about it, it involves gore, cannibalism, and more gore)!  As is usually the case after watching/reading a Hannibal Lecter movie/book, we both got to thinking, and we started talking about the nature of human depravity.

Have you seen “The Silence of the Lambs”?  If you haven’t, you might be under the impression that Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) is a Ted-Bundy-like figure, only useful in a two-dimensional sense to create a bit of gory drama in an otherwise boring cinematic rendition of “CSI” made worse by the absence of an attractive male cast (not that Anthony Hopkins doesn’t have his charms. He does, they’re just the intangible, intellectual kind).  Actually, Dr. Lecter is uniquely scary; and that frightening feature is the fact that, while he’s violent and crazy, he’s also brilliant beyond human boundaries—to the degree that he doesn’t think he has to follow any of our rules.

That’s why he’s a fascinating character, and that has a lot to say about the nature of our own evil.  In one tête-à-tête between the incarcerated psycho/psychiatrist Dr. Lecter and the young FBI trainee, Clarice Starling (the ingenue-heroine played by Foster), Lecter helps Clarice to identify the motives of a serial killer using the Socratic method of teaching (i.e., asking questions and drawing out answers).  I’m going somewhere with this, but to do so, I’ll need to quote as directly as I can from the film, interpolating both from Anthony Hopkins’ performance and the directions from Ted Tally’s Oscar-winning screenplay where necessary.  In this scene, Clarice attempts to get Lecter to reveal to her the identity of the serial killer the FBI are currently pursuing. She believes Lecter may have known his identity because of a murder connected to one of Dr. Lecter’s old patients.

Dr. Lecter and Clarice have an intense interaction in "The Silence of the Lambs."

DR. LECTER (gesturing to the case file):  I have read the case files, Clarice. Have you? Everything you need to find him[the serial killer]  is right there in those pages.

CLARICE: Then tell me how.

DR. LECTER:  First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it, in itself, what is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

CLARICE (thinking only of the facts): He kills women.

DR. LECTER (sharply, stopping her): No! That is incidental. 

DR. LECTER (cont’d, as he collects himself, pained by her ignorance):What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing?

CLARICE (flailing, and falling back to reciting an FBI psych textbook as she paces outside Lecter’s cell): Anger, social acceptance, sexual frust-

DR. LECTER (saving her):  No, he covets. That’s his nature.  And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer.

CLARICE: No. We just –

DR. LECTER (encouraging her):  “No” (he nods)–we begin by coveting what we see every day.

Ah, simplicity. Here, Lecter boils down the evil of a psychopath into one of the ten most basic human temptations. 

Ten?  Where’d I get that number?  Exodus, chapter 20, I think:  coveting is the tenth of the “thou shalt nots” in the Ten Commandments. 

Either Lecter’s Lithuanian Catholic roots are showing, or he’s onto something.  Josh Bales (the Tennessee singer/songwriter) would think so, or he did, back when he kept a blog.  I remember him writing something about Augustine (I think??) talking about how all of man’s temptations—the basic motivating desire behind the taboos in the Commandments—derive from one simple hunger:  We want what God has, and we don’t want to have to be holy and to patiently wait to die to get our instinctive sense of divinity fulfilled. 

Typical, isn’t it? We’re still taunted by the Forbidden Fruit.  Created in the image of the Almighty, we want to be “as God,”  just as that slithery Satan once promised our forebears in Parseltongue in Genesis.  We want power over the truth, so we lie and make up our own. We want that beautiful creature God made to be ours, so we seduce or succumb. We want to be parentless–unruled by a creator’s ties, so we dishonor our mothers and fathers. And we want to have things, have power, be powerful, and rule. So we dominate and control.  We make idols of ourselves and kill our fellow men with hatred or spite or actual weapons, ruling life and death.

But we do it, because we want to wear the crown of our universe. It’s awful.  We make pitiful gods by trying to be God.

Just my thought for the night: Do we, by failing to acknowledge this hunger to be God as a thing of reality, fall into sin?  And how the hell do we avoid Hell if that’s the case?

Anyone have an answer?

God does, and as we all know, he sometimes talks through people, especially people he’s obsessively blessing at the moment.

Can you feel it coming?  It’s that moment when I mention Robert Pattinson in a blog post. It’s finally here. I’m not just tagging him to drum up some extra hit counts for the blog during the short month of February here. I think the guy just said something profound in an interview with his writer friend, Jenny Lumet, in Details Magazine recently.  Actually, he said a lot of profound things between giggling about about flesh-eating bacteria and taboo terminology (it was a very interesting interview, to say the least).   But most importantly, he works up an answer for us that we lesser mortals somehow miss on a daily basis.

So here’s my little spin on a summary of the best bits of the article.   Let’s see if you can spot the answer to our question about curing our own hunger for God’s power…

Jenny Lumet, bless her, knew she’d hit pay dirt when she realized that behind the pretty, Rob’s actually got a brain. This is the moment when she realized it–when she started really watching him:

“Rob’s face is constantly busy—especially his kaleidoscopic eyes, which are continually rolling and dilating, because he is always thinking. Over the course of that latte, he contemplates Jimi Hendrix, French fries, girls, art, beer, his cousin the philosopher, girls, truth, God, his dog, girls, and whether this week’s stalker has followed him from L.A. I don’t think he could turn his brain off if he wanted to.”

Before Rob’s musings concerning the Almighty comes this long, but lovely, angsty rant about his own God-desire for control over his own life that I think a lot of us can identify with (Warning: remember that he’s British and believes in God-honest speech, so if you’re squeamish of the occassional expletive, just get over it now, or you’ll miss some of the gold in the dross):

“When I was 17 until, I don’t know, 20, I had this massive, baseless confidence. This very clear idea of myself and how I would achieve success, which involved making decisions. I saw myself picking up the phone and saying ‘Absolutely not’ or ‘Definitely, yes’. Having control. Except you have to figure out whether the way you think at 19 or 20 has any value. And eventually I understood, with all that control, which was probably illusory, I wasn’t progressing. So now I’m relinquishing a bit. I’ll be a tiny bit naked. Except tonight I won’t, because it’s f*cking freezing . . . Seriously, you eventually realize you can’t make every single decision. I was always building, always protecting something. At the same time, I seemed to be losing the ability to move. I’d protected myself into checkmate. Even mentally. . . Before [my fame came and my life fell out of my hands], I felt like I couldn’t break through anything, including myself. And now it feels a bit as though I’ve climbed along the side of my brain and am at least looking in. But I know it will take me at least another 10 years before I’m remotely satisfied with anything I do. But with acting you keep trying in the hopes you might be… great. But then I think, does wanting to be good or even great, or even just wanting to make art, cheapen the experience?”

Jenny cuts in here as the writer and adds, “I worry his head is going to explode. He answers questions with questions. Doors open onto more doors.  . . .Some people can have the ocean in front of them and just put their big toe in. Rob wants to swim until he drowns, and he’s going to try to drink it all up before he goes under. His striving is a source of worry because he can’t really tell anybody he wants more.”

 Rob interrupts, “Please don’t make this about me complaining. Please. I’m the luckiest bastard on the planet.”

Jenny adds in her journalist voice,  “He worries he might be selfish. He worries maybe he’s a nonhumanist-separatist-weirdo because his most profound moments have been with his dog. And he worries about whether he can be an actor who can reach the masses and still ask for anything.”
That’s when Rob pulls out the big guns and talks God.

“If it exists out there—this invisible-creative-spirit-idea [he’s called it God elsewhere in other interviews] thing—then you’re the medium through which it travels so everybody can touch it. But … what gives you the right to be the medium? What gives you the right to claim it–and then get an agent and say, ‘I want $20 million and a fruit basket to be the medium, thank you very much’? As an actor, you can elevate the human condition or cheapen it. I would assume it’s the same with anything you do—you try to elevate and maybe someday you will.”

Did you catch it?  Did you?  Rob’s answer is actually a question–which is usually how God answers people (see Job 38, and read the gospels to hear how often Jesus answers a question with another question). He says his question twice, in the context of  discussing our desire to “channel” God’s creative force for ourselves.

“What gives you the right to be…to claim it?”

What gives us the right, indeed?  Apparently, the only thing that is keeping Rob’s head from exploding is his own humility, his own anxiety over the fact that he knows he isn’t perfect and isn’t in control. It’s his internal sense of reality of the “human condition” that he talks about that keeps him in-check. It keeps him from being too in love with himself and his circumstances.  It keeps him from becoming his fame–and keeps his matinee idol status from distilling into idleness and self-satisfaction, and nothing more.

Rob owns his reality–and his focal point of sanity–up-front, and acknowledges the double-blessing:

 “I’m lucky.  Thank God.  And I’m conflicted.  Thank God.”

Jenny writes, “He tells me about a book he read called Eat the Rich, by P.J. O’Rourke …. He was drawn to a part that says something like: One man’s wealth does not mean another man’s poverty—and vice versa. Rob’s slightly embarrassed to voice this idea.
He is unsure whether to feel guilty [about his fame], to bask in it all, or both. Thing is, there aren’t any rules for a life as extraordinary as his is right now.”

That’s when Rob tells a metaphorically deep story about a circus elephant that picked him up with its trunk, turned him upside down inside its mouth, and started going through his pockets to find peppermints.  He talks about just letting it happen–and the experience being amazing–“beautiful.” And then he marvels over how elephants are designed:

“Did you know elephants purr? It’s completely scary if you don’t know what it is. They purr like cats, but their heads are so deep they sound like velociraptors. You feel it in the ground under your feet…Do you know how they die? The elephant guy told me their molars get ground down from eating wood but regenerate, like, six times. And after that they slowly starve to death. Which is poignant, but that must also be what gives them time to get to the elephant graveyard. They’re incredibly designed creatures. I mean, people hang on way too f*cking long [to this life]. If I knew that when my teeth fell out, that was it… Wow.”

It’s all about relinquishing control, and letting nature be nature, and God be God.  And it’s about being human and being out of your depth when the elephants of life swing you over their mouths.  It’s about worrying about wanting too much–and about that worry being a tool that keeps you from becoming a monster that doesn’t care. 

That’s all Rob’s saying. Bless his easily-distracted little heart.

Rob presenting at the BAFTA Awards last night on BBC. This is his impression of a kitten. No, actually, he was shyly giving a shout-out congratulations to a makeup artist friend who'd just won an award. Still a cute little face.

And I guess that’s all I’m saying. Today is now tomorrow…  So, goodnight.  Now dream of elephants.


*Rob’s interview is from this month’s Details Magazine.  It’s not safe for work, image-wise, because that magazine loves to surround celebrities with naked women to the point of the grotesque. Even Rob talked about being uncomfortable and even slightly sickened–his word implied developing an allergy–to all the female nudity by the end of the 12-hour shoot. The interview transcript, however, is divine.  Again, gold from dross. http://www.details.com/

*I should put up a citation for Demme’s film version of “The Silence of the Lambs”, but I’m too freaking tired.  Go to Imdb.com for more details on it.  Also, the novel was written by Thomas Harris, who incidentallly is a kick-ass writer.

* Re: St. Augustine. Help. I can’t find the actual quote from our ancient African theologian. Nor can I find Josh Bales’ old blog–because, dammit, he’s changed his website to something commercial and I’m scared he’s forgetting himself inside his quest for a good record deal.  Go visit some elephants, Josh!  Or at least, go fishing. You were happy when you fished, and God was closer. I still adore you and the fact that you can out-eat that wandering apologist giant, Mark Cahill.  Maybe you should have supper with him again.


It’s nice to be surrounded by loved ones on Valentine’s Day.  I know I’m glad to be wrapped up in my little circle.

Most people assume I’m referring to family-love as my form of consolation on Valentine’s Day. No, that’s lame. Everybody’s mommy, daddy, auntie, granny, and so forth, loves them.  And I’m not even talking about sibling love (phileo, in Greek). I’m talking about the rare relationships between friends who are the same gender—and who are so close they’re almost like siblings or, in some cases, more like mind-reading soul-mates. 

Also referred to as “homosocial love” (sounds kinky, but isn’t), this in-gender bond phenomenon is considered more common in women, as we gals tend to form very supportive, emotional relationships with each other rather than basing our relationships off of shared mutual interests.  This relationship between women is referred to in the Urban Dictionary as “sismance” (as in, sister + romance).  However, “bromance” is the more common street term to find, and it refers to this relationship when it happens between men. That’s right. Guy-on-guy love that isn’t sexual.  Sound weird? Not really.  This concept is so old, it’s actually Old-Testament (more on that later).

In either case, the homosocial relationship prepares those involved to become better companions, spouses, and yes, even lovers, in their future relationships.  And unlike heterosexual romance, these relationships rarely break up and leave gaping wounds. Usually, they’re life-long.  That’s why they’re awesome.

So today, I’d like to dedicate this post as a tribute to my sistas.  You know who you are, even if your picture’s not up here.

The Benefits of Bro-/Sismantic Love

1. The Mirror Effect

In Spanish, there is a saying: “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres,” which means, “Tell me whom you walk with, and I will tell you who you are.” 

This phrase has been handed down for centuries with the éclat of a proverb because it’s a truth that our brothas and our sistas reflect our inner selves.

Sometimes, girls hike together, too. And wear the same color. L to R: Ash, Me, Liz

I can see this happening when I’m with my best gal pals. Our borders of self become small and blurry when we’re together in a couple, flock, or herd. Part of this blurring occurs through the momentum of communal activity: we cook together, eat together, pee together, shop together, and go over the men in our lives with a fine-toothed comb together.   We also blur identities by crossing physical borders: we borrow each others’ clothes, do each others’ hair, makeup, and fingernails. We even crash at each other’s houses and liberally partake of each others’ caches of tampons and feminine pads. We moan about being female together, since our bodies are so similar and share the same bizarre functions.   If we’re the same size, we borrow each others’ shoes. And we relate to each other so well emotionally that we sometimes feel like we ARE in each others’ shoes. 

With all this bonding, we come to see ourselves through each other’s eyes, and measure ourselves against our friend’s accomplishments and their praise.  Sometimes, to our shock, we see our own faults, fears, and insecurities in our companions.  That’s why our best friends can be our wake-up calls—and are the only ones really qualified to call us out when we get out of line.

2.  Synergy to Synthesis

Many great friendships are founded on the attraction of inherent similarities in personality, interests, or talent.  When those similarities meet in the same room, they synergistically intensify, whether because of mutual unconscious encouragement, or outright healthy competition subsisting between parties.

Old friends are the bestest. L to R: Maggers, Me, Thiana, Wenders. Average years of acquaintance: 13.

My best girl-friends are all bright, knowledge-hungry readers. We read different genres of literature, but we talk about what we read and encourage each other to stretch and read more. We write, too, and we read each others’ writing; we are tough and gentle critics by turns. We’re also into adventure, to varying degrees, and we challenge each other to take risks through subtle remarks and suggestions.  Sometimes we even assist each other to get where we need to go through provisions of food, funds, or emotional support. As you can see, my sistas are an energizing force to be around—and that’s why we don’t get tired of each other, even after (for some of us) more than a decade of acquaintance, or even years of living together as roomies.

Roomies settin' sail in wild tropical print. L to R: Miss Hannah and Moi.




Now, I can sense some of you guys reading this and yawning, not seeing much here to interest anyone with a set of bullocks. But consider this: bromances have turned mere men into kings and messiahs through the principal of synergy.

While I could name some bromanced politicians who climbed to the top on the shoulders of their helpful friends, I’d rather tell an older, more touching story of man-love.  Have you heard of a shepherd kid named David who happened to slay a giant named Goliath?  Sure you have. Do you also remember that he eventually became the King of Israel?  Do you know how he got there, especially considering that the old king, Saul, kept trying to kill him?

Partly, it was God. Got to admit that. But it was also Jonathan, David’s best friend in the world—who was, as it happens, the son of King Saul.  Lady Gaga could write a song about the potentially doomed nature of that bromance. (Sing it with me: “I want your sling-shot/I want your sheep fleece/ I want your everything as long as it’s freee…”)

Picture this:  Young David has just killed Goliath.  Saul’s a bit freaked out that a thirteen year-old can do this, but he is forced to keep David around because he sees that his own son, Jonathan, has become such close friends with David that they have made a pact to be brothers-in-spirit. Specifically, the scripture says,

“Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself… And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe (of princehood) he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow, and his belt” [1 Sam.18:1ff]. 

 In old-testament covenant terms, Jonathan symbolically offers all of himself to David—his royal position and power, his strength of arms, and all of his possessions, even the shirt off his back. 

Cima da Conegliano. "David and Jonathan." c. 1505

Not surprisingly, old King Saul comes to hate David when David rises to fame as a great warrior throughout the land. Saul’s jealousy drives him to the point that he orders his attendants and even his son, Jonathan, to kill David, but Jonathan stands up to his father in front of the whole court and challenges this order.  Saul backs down, but Jonathan becomes afraid for David’s life. Jonathan then makes another pact with David, this time in secret, promising David that he will tell him if he thinks his father is plotting to kill him again.  When Jonathan uncovers evidence of such a plot at a feast a little later, his father flies into a rage and accuses him of giving up his birthright as prince to side with David rather than his own father. Jonathan dodges his father’s angrily thrown spear and rushes off to warn David and help him escape.  He and David both weep at their emotional parting when Jonathan sends him off into exile for his own safety—but David “wept the most,” fearing for Jonathan’s safety in Saul’s court (1 Sam 20:41). 

In the end, Jonathan’s secret support, his transference of power, loyalty, and identity to David, and even his self-sacrificial death in battle alongside Saul all work together to launch his buddy David onto the Israelite throne.  It’s no wonder that the newly-crowned King David opened his first day of court with the lament,

“How the mighty have fallen in battle! . . . I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother; you were greatly beloved to me. Your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women” (2 Sam 2:6).

That’s intense.  Jonathan set a new standard of giving up one’s life for one’s friend—one that could only be beaten by Christ’s ultimate act of love for mankind itself.  As a side-note, I think the last bit of David’s lament might also have been the line that later coined the phrase, “Bros before hos.”

Which leads me to another benefit of a good bromance/sismance.

3. Your Brotha/Sista Has Got Your Back, Baby.

Like no one else beyond your own mother, your brotha or your sista is there for you. Shoulder to cry on? Here ya go. Place to sleep? Sure—have an extra pillow. Food to eat?  No prob; I got the tab.  You know how it goes, and you couldn’t be more grateful.

But beyond the basic necessities, our soul-friends are there in other ways as well.  They respect us. They don’t tell our secrets.  They won’t sell us out.  They offer us the promise of confidentiality and safety—another mind outside our own to share our private burdens and concerns.  Like true spouses to our soul, they don’t use what they know about us for anything but our own good.

I’ve got to post this little example of some tight-lipped lovin’, just because I found it so striking because Hollywood is such a dirty, backstabbing town. Did you know that top-billing Twilight superstar Rob Pattinson claims to have the same two best friends he’s had since he was twelve—and that one of them is fellow actor/model Tom Sturridge?  Did you also know that comments about Robert Pattinson made by close friends like Tom can be sold to tabloids for big (and I’m talking B$I$G) cash? Did you know that tags for RPattz consistently up my hit stats for this blog?  Or that Tom Sturridge could get extra publicity for his own acting career by spilling some major secrets from those two years when he and Rob were roomies crammed into a tiny apartment while they struggled as young actors in London? 

Tom and Rob dress like hobos when they're not filming, modelling, or going to award shows. Here, they're taking the chance to pick on each other after Rob attends the Young Hollywood Awards. 'Cause that's man-love, man.

Lucky for Rob, his devoted Tom is a true bromantic. Check out what Tom did when a Bullz-eye.com interviewer pressed him for the dirty dishes on his brotha a few months back:

J1: These days, is it a blessing or a curse to be friends with Robert Pattinson?

Tom: Um… (Long pause) As his friend, I really just don’t want . . . there are oceans of words written and spoken about him and his world, and I don’t want to add to them.

J1: Well, let’s put it this way: since all of this has happened to him, has your friendship changed at all with him, or is it pretty much the same?

Tom: I . . . (Long pause) Again, as his friend and to be fair to him, I don’t want to be the one to . . .

J1: (rather huffily) That’s fine.

Tom: I’m not being weird. I just don’t want him ever to have to pick up a piece of paper and see me talking about him. It would just be . . . weird.1

Weird—and wrong, Tom. Good call, man. Good call. Now there’s a fella who knows what it means to be a loyal friend.2 

4. Growing Together, Even Oceans Apart

My sistas are separating spatially across the country and the globe at the moment.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t visit our blog pages, catch up on email, or randomly call each other to catch up (like Maggers did last night. Love you!). We try to help each other to bloom where we get planted, rather than losing or forgetting our connection when we’re apart. 

Liv takes a pic as I say goodbye to Tayls, Kate, and Liz before graduation. Sad times from May.

We blog/email/call to talk about fears and insecurities, only to have them replaced with encouragement and praise.  Nothing vulnerable in us needs to be kept private, frightened, or shameful—we talk it out, walk it through, or just listen.  We come away feeling closer, in spite of the distance. And we come away feeling a little stronger and more courageous inside our own adventures. We grow better, bigger, and braver as people.  I think that’s why we wish we had men like us in our lives, who could love us this supportively.

So, you guys reading this blog, get yourself a brotha and start practicing some bromantic moves.  Your future wives will thank you.

And as for my sistas, may the sismance continue. I love you all.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 





Notes (skippable unless you’re a Twihard):

  1. The Tom Sturridge interview is here: http://www.bullz-eye.com/movies/interviews/2009/tom_sturridge.htm
  2.  Tom’s more loyal to Rob than most Hollywood wives are to their husbands . . . Hence, all the joking in the Twilight Fandom about their bromantic relationship that I keep running across. If you’re obsessive enough to be curious to see whether the rumors are true, or if the man-love is even real, here are a couple cute videos made by fans and admirers who couldn’t help but notice their close bond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtLurR1XMEY;  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoQ39wCiT8Q (This latter one is a clip in which a clever/crazy fan surprises Rob by wearing a “TomStu[rridge] Loves You” tee shirt to an autograph signing. Rob’s VERRY British schoolboy reaction from the left hand side = priceless. And the follow-up comment by Rob about the incident is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKOC26o77fk).

Quick post, for my girls (and what the heck, for my guys, too). I saw an article today and just had to do a happy dance (without a wedgie).  I long ago predicted that the boy-short panty, while a bit more modest than its so-popular miniscule predecessor, would come to rule; with that, I hoped that low-cut jeans and whale-tails would become (thankfully) extinct.  Turns out I was right on both counts—only because I’ve been noticing a trend towards modesty in this economy that lately, with the exception of Lady Gaga, women as a whole are now embracing.  Just thought I’d share the news about the death of the thong and the super-low rise jean:


What do you think? Will you miss the thong (butt-floss, t-strap, super-wedgie, slingshot)? Or do you prefer the “cheeky” shorts that leave a teensy bit more to the imagination and keep one covered when they slide above the hem of one’s low-rise jeans?  I for one think it’s a fashion-forward step, and it will help gals feel and look a lot more respectable.