Month: July 2006

Good-looking vs. Attractive (A Deconstruction)


That goddam Brandon has already done it better than I could ever dream of (and on demand, no less), but a promise is a promise.

And so I submit for your approval (or not) the poor little foundling post, dressed up and paraded before you like an awkward tween at the orphanage on Potential Parents’ Day…

As we both love the flexibility that self-employment allows, The BF and I spend most of our weekends in, working on various individual pixel-pushing projects*. (Frequent readers of communicatrix-dot-com will notice the reappearance of several post images and the blogroll, down right; very frequent and/or obsessive readers will notice the repair of numerous dead/broken links buried deep in the bowels of the blog.**)

To reward ourselves, [when time and work allow]*** we knock off at 8…9…10…and curl up in bed with adult beverages and a MacGuyvered viewing apparatus (The BF, unlike your well-cabled communicatrix, does not own an actual TV). On the menu a couple of weekends [several months] ago was Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) a juicy Ben Hecht-penned noir directed by Otto Preminger which has the added distinction of being the second pairing of Laura (1944) co-stars Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews****.

They’re pretty hot, those two. It doesn’t hurt that they’re lit and dressed and shot with the kind of care you only find in commercials these days (or from film directors who came up through commercials); the studios had an investment to protect in their stable of stars, and it shows. The actors also have an undeniable chemistry, which neither the studios nor anyone before or after has been able to manufacture.*****

But would they be stars today?

That was the question The BF posed, specifically about Andrews. Because when you take him apart, Dana Andrews, while pretty gosh-durn attractive, is not really all that good-looking. He’s rugged and manly and has some kind of presence, which always sells, but not the sort of good looks and/or magnetism and/or undeniable ability to let people ‘see’ him that the highly-valued stars of today seem to have.

, end of stump post,

There’s a thing you learn early on if you’re an actor, or someone who has occasion to be around a lot of actors, like a casting director, producer, agent, director, and you pay attention. There are people who are mesmerizing until they act and people who are just the opposite. Kind of like real life, but you don’t ordinarily run across such a staggering quantity of good-looking people in real life, unless you live in Los Angeles and confine yourself to a handful of zip codes.

That attractiveness in an actor is what people call star quality, and people have it at all levels and in all forums of acting, from blockbuster movies to Equity-waiver stage productions to plain old scene study class. Common wisdom dictates it’s something that cannot be taught, but I believe you can learn yourself to be the most attractive motherfucker on the planet if you are willing to internalize one very simple, zen-koan of a lesson:

Need nothing.

Before you reject the notion as absurd, reflect a bit. It explains why we can find both a saint and an utter dickhead equally attractive. It even explains why we might find a saint less attractive, if the saint is not acting selflessly but out of some deep-seated need for regard and the dickhead is a true dickhead.

This is a varying degree thing, there are many arenas of need and many levels of need within them. There is also the truth that most of us bring some kind of need to every relationship or encounter, and as a friend of mine says, when you find someone with that matching luggage, you’re off to the races. (Actually, my friend doesn’t mix her metaphors, but I digress.)

The best advice I ever got about acting (and I’ve gotten a lot of great advice) was to note the people your eyes are drawn to onstage, and reflect upon why. In Sidewalk, there’s something very present and truthful about Tierney and Andrews compared to a lot of the actors, many of whom (if I recall correctly) deliver their lines in the style of the day (read: varying levels of technical skill, not much “truth”). I think it’s what makes them compelling, what makes most people compelling, versus not so much. They’re relaxed and secure (read: not needy) enough to let it hang out there, in a way that other people aren’t.******

Long after I’d recovered from my severe Crohn’s onset and but before I was able to understand how it had changed me, I had many people tell me how much more attractive I was post-onset than pre-, and not just in comparison to the ashen and skeletal me that was released from the hospital, but to the young and dewy me of my 20’s and 30’s. Mostly, I just thanked them (genuinely, it was flattering and also very, very touching to me for some reason). But my closest friend and writing partner and I discussed it at length, over a period of time. And what it came down to was this: I was easier to be around now; I was more relaxed and playful and fun more of the time.

When I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. While I’m no ogress, I’m no beauty, either, and it was always the funny/goofy/smartypants me that seemed to draw people in. And, conversely, it was the neediness that kept them away. Ironically, my biggest need was to be loved for who I really was, and of course I knew that someone was inherently revolting. Once I’d been to the dark well…well, I lightened the fuck up. Gave myself a little credit. Stopped taking myself so seriously. And realized that I need nothing, nothing nothing nothing, so much as I needed to accept the truth every minute of every day.

I used to wonder who would love me when I was old and ugly, or if I got smashed up in a car accident or carved up in one of the many knife fights I like to engage in. Now I don’t wonder anymore. I will love me, totally and completely, good-looking or bad: me. Everything else I trust to come from there. It vanquishes surprising amounts of fear.

And that, I hear, is very, very attractive…


Photo © Fack to Bront via Flickr.

*And having sex. Lots and lots of sex.

**I originally thought to rewrite this or even excise it, but the desire for carbon-dating won out. Besides, I was hurt and wanted you all to feel BAD for not even noticing all the work I put into setting things right on this blog. Which is still rife with busted-ass links. For the record.

***I’m sort of digging on this whole “here’s how it was, here’s how it’s gonna be” re-jiggering, so I’m going to bracket changes until I get to the totally new stuff and leave everything else as is. IT’S LIKE WATCHING HISTORY IN ACTION, PEOPLE!!!

****Do you know, I barely remember this now? It’s a little-known fact that I have a mind like a steel sieve. So I make a great audience for old jokes, but don’t ever, ever ask me to remember the combination to that locker we stowed the $50 million in.

*****Believe you me, first person who can orchestrate chemistry makes a million-bajillion dollars.

******Another great example of this is the difference between megawatt contemporaries Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both are very adept at the histrionics, but there’s always something about Davis that’s magnificently compelling, as opposed to Crawford, whose best performances (I’m thinking of Mildred Pierce and Autumn Leaves) can’t touch Davis’s (All About Eve, The Little Foxes, Jezebel, etc.). Aside from the obvious havoc it wreaks with truth-telling, control freak-dom always has the stink of need on it.

Poetry Thursday: Coda to a long week


when you work for yourself
for a long time
you forget why

And you find yourself
working longer and harder
because when you started
it felt so good

And when you stopped
it felt so scary

But sometimes
when you work for yourself
for a long time
you have to say ‘no’
no matter how much
it scares you

No, not today
No, not by tomorrow
No, not even if the world
might come screeching to a halt

Because chances are
it won’t

And once you’ve said ‘no’
make a u-turn
for the love shack
and some yes-yes-yes

And see if the fear
doesn’t go back where it came from
and the ‘why’
doesn’t come flooding back…


I’m off to the big she-nerd conference in the morning, so no timely posts for a bit. I do have a little treat planned for you on Monday, though. So I hope you’ll stop by…Brandon.

Image by R. Motti via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Good-looking vs. attractive…TV SPOTS!!!

liberty mutual ad

I know Brandon will be all over my shit for not posting the actual GOOD-LOOKING VS. ATTRACTIVE blog first, but frankly, I am so pissed at Dreamhost now, I can barely write straight*.

Besides, it’s too hot here in Ye Olde Time Los-Angeles-with-a-hard-“g” to think deeply. And I’m a former media maven. So I’m using my little corner of Le Web to crow about Liberty Mutual’s latest commercial, yes, COMMERCIAL, which makes me weep and soar and want to do everything including go back into copywriting (well, almost). Seriously.

I still haven’t figured out how to post goddam videos to my blog, but I’m posting the link to the YouTube upload here (and on the pic itself, natch).

Lovely, lovely, lovely. Almost makes up for that McDonald’s crime against humanity where Young Mom and her Lispy Daughter bond over their mutual fabulousness and a faux-healthy UnHappy Meal. Gack gack gack. Could we just dispense with everyone in advertising except the Liberty Mutual people and whoever does the VFX for the GAP and the geniuses behind the new GEICO campaign? Really. I’ll give up commercial acting; it’s a fair trade.


P.S. For the record, I could not disagree more vehemently with the board nerds who be hatin’ on the superfantabulous Charo/Bacharach/Little Richard ads. First time I’ve smiled at a GEICO spot since they stopped airing mine.

*And relax, Brando, it’s saved and ready for when I am. Before I leave for Parts North, I promise…

better to light a single flame


the rolling blackouts have started
and my building is dark
or will be
when the sun sets

no power for the two old ladies
who have lived there
since it was built
way, way back
in ’59

not that they have A/C
or insulation
or even the magic
of cross-ventilation

(that’s not how they built things
in ’59
no matter what anyone says
about the Good Old Days)

but there is no power for their fans
or their ancient refrigerators
or a light in the bathroom
so they can run a tub
of cold water

plenty of power on Wilshire, though–
can’t have those personal relocation devices
hitting each other

and they say
there’s so much power
at the mall
that the air-conditioned merchants
leave their doors open
to help cool
the shoppers

(nice merchants)

lately I swing
between wondering if this is the end of the world
and hoping it is

there would be a kind of satisfaction
in watching the wolves
set upon the drivers of SUV Nation
and the barons of McMansion Estates
and other members
of the Clueless Majority

stay here long enough
and you’ll know what I mean
unless you don’t
in which case, the wolves
will probably get you next…

that is
if they don’t take me out
on my way back from Peets
where I came to cool myself
with stolen dinosaur bones
and a strong sense of irony


Posted at 9:31pm. I’m home and so is Mr. Watts…for now.

Image by Spamily via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Happiness, under the wire

shiny happy gumballs

After a long day
following a stretch of long days
it is hard to come home
to almost as much heat
and just as much work
as when you left it.

And facing a long day
followed by a stretch of long days
(including the ones
some people call “weekends”)
it is hard to come home
to your filthy apartment
cluttered with to-do piles
you might never get to
and to-give-away piles
you might never get to haul to Goodwill
and other
disappointments of character.

Which is why it is almost miraculous
and certainly joyous
and a not a little misty-making
to come home
to a stack of links
from other people
trying to find happiness
amidst their own

Sometimes, gratitude strikes at midnight.
But it almost always hits you
just in time…


Image by Donnacy via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Slush Pile Wednesday: YOU pick the post

slush pile

The old-school lit-world isn’t the only place where you’ll find the crap piled high.

No, my friend, if you’re a blogger, you know it all too well…

The Slush Pile.

Yes, that sad, electronic stack of half-gnawed posts festering away on your desktop, your thumb drive, your poor, overworked, shared server. Each one started with the best of intentions before being abandoned in shame and defeat.

But like the crazy old broad in Baby Jane makeup collecting water bottles as she mutters her way down Santa Monica Blvd…or the West L.A. divorcée who can barely sip her frozen scoffee through her $4,000 face…or the too-tan, pot-bellied, man-tittied apartment manager of your popcorn-ceilinged complex in Van Nuys who did a one-off walk-on on Who’s The Boss when dinosaurs roamed the Big Three networks…still hoping against hope for something, anything, to spy the intrinsic star quality within.

The Big Losers:

  1. Kick me hard
  2. The vilification of Star Jones, or, what gets your war on
  3. The wholly unjustified anger of the neophyte
  4. Why I love Oprah
  5. Kill your SUV
  6. Now you has jazz! Jazz! Jazz!
  7. Pha(r)t baby
  8. Juicy
  9. Good-looking vs. attractive
  10. The road to happiness is paved with delayed gratification
  11. Even ze orchestra is beautiful

Some are almost fully written; some are just a title that amused me briefly before leaving me befuddled. That don’t scare me none. Pick your favorite; pick your least favorite. I’ll write it up and post it next week, no matter how lame the title, out-of-date the topic or convoluted the idea.

And for anyone who’s interested and/or uninspired, all of the rest of the post titles are for sale…


Image by Whatknot via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

What I overdid on my summer vacation

summer heat

I don’t know why as adults, we feel like we should take the summer off the way we did when we were kids. I get that the conditioning is pretty strong coming off of 12 or 16 years of school, but really, at nigh-on-45, WTF? It’s not like I haven’t had some clue that the money doesn’t keep coming in unless I keep going out to get it.

Carly has already mentioned that this seems to be the busiest summer on record, so I won’t belabor it. But halfway through the proposition (I’m a Memorial Day – Labor Day kind of gal), I find I’ve done less socializing and seen fewer movies this summer than any in recent memory. Granted, Hollywood’s annual Festival of Popcorn Movies has been somewhat lamer than usual (and despite my commie-pinko-liberal tendencies, I can only see so many documentaries about the end of the world before I want to drink Drano and lie down in a cool room). But still, I like my friends and we all like the movies and FUCK, at least it’s cool there. So what gives?

Right now, my theory is that it is literally just too damned hot. I have lots and lots of work to do but it feels like I’m wrestling my way through (warm) soup to do it. It’s taking me roughly one and a half times as long to do half as much stuff, and I have twice as much stuff to do. And yesterday was a good day, while I sat at Urth Cafe between appointments, I could actually feel the mercury drop from “you could fry eggs on my thighs” to “hey, the liquid’s back in my eyeballs and I can blink again”.

Please note: I’m not complaining, except about the heat, which I pretty much can’t stop bitching about. I asked the universe for more work; more to the point, I asked a lot of people if they needed work done, and a lot of them said “yes”, and so now, day after day, I find myself in this peculiar place, dressed in a wet bathing suit, at the computer, shades drawn against the heat and four fans blasting away at my sorry ass while I try desperately, sweatily, to Get Things Done.

I guess all I’m asking at this point is, is it just me and The BF? Or is it everyone’s busiest summer because no one can get anything done?


Image by SouthernGal via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.