Friday, September 30, 2005
Na basílica de São Marcos em Veneza foi ouvida pela primeira vez, em 1610, a obra de música sacra mais importante antes das Paixões de Bach: Vespro della Beata Vergine, de Claudio Monteverdi.
Inventor da Ópera, Monteverdi era um mestre consagrado quando compôs esta que é sua primeira grande peça religiosa. Um trecho que me faz chorar de felicidade é o coro para 10 vozes Nisi Dominus.
O texto é a primeira estrofe do Salmo 127: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem frustra vigilavit qui custodit (Se o Senhor não constrói a casa, em vão labutam os construtores; se o senhor não guarda a cidade, em vão vigiam os sentinelas).
Com a Orquestra e Coro Monteverdi, maestro John Eliot Gardiner, gravado na Basílica de São Marcos.
Algo de podre no reino de George W.
O indiciamento do líder do partido republicano na Câmara Tom Delay é só a pontinha do iceberg. Delay é acusado de conspirar para violar a lei eleitoral do Texas. No estado é proibido o financimento de campanha eleitoral por empresas. Delay é acusado de armar um esquema de lavagem pelo qual as empresas doavam ao comitê nacional do partido, o que é legal, e o dinheiro era em seguida dividido entre os candidatos a deputado estadual no Texas. Se for condenado, perde o mandato e pode pegar dois anos de prisão. Por ter sido indiciado, mesmo que seja inocente, teve que se afastar da liderança da maioria. Mas em vez de substitui-lo, o presidente da Câmara, o republicano Dennis Hastert, contemporizou. Aceitou o afastamento temporário de Delay.
Apelidado de "o martelo", Delay fez muito mais do que o crime pelo qual é acusado. Conseguiu mudar a divisão distrital do Texas, uma manobra que aumentou o número de deputados republicanos na Câmara. Concentrou pessoalmente as doações dos lobistas dos grupos empresariais ao partido republicano, ou seja, passou a decidir para que candidatos, em todo o país, vai o dinheiro. Um clientelismo de primeiro mundo. Resultado, num Congresso onde não existe a instituição da "fidelidade partidária", cada um pode votar como quer, Delay conseguiu manter a bancada republicana na rédea curta, empurrando goela abaixo todo o pacote legislativo de George Bush. Isso levou à adoção de absurdos como os vários cortes nos impostos que levaram o governo federal a um déficit recorde; leis na área da saúde que beneficiam os seguros de saúde, as redes hospitalares e as companhias farmacêuticas; leis na área de energia que multiplicaram os lucros das empresas do setor e revogaram antigas regras de proteção do meio-ambiente. A lista é interminável e inclui o corte de gastos na renovação dos diques de Nova Orleãs, causa da inundação e destruição da cidade.
O controle do partido republicano sobre as duas casas do Congresso, além da Casa Branca, criou em Washington um clima de vale tudo no qual os grupos de interesse, representados por lobistas que controlam o financiamento das campanhas eleitorais, conseguem impor ou mudar projetos de lei e garantir que seus objetivos sejam sempre vitoriosos. Mas graças a investigações de promotores zelosos com a coisa pública, de repente a festa acabou.
O mais poderoso lobista, Jack Abramoff, está sendo investigado por várias acusações de ilegalidade no relacionamento dele com parlamentares. Abramoff é muito ligado a Tom Delay - são praticamente sócios no grande negócio que virou a política na capital americana.
A investigação em torno das conexões de Abramoff já levou ao golpe mais duro à corrupção no governo Bush: a prisão de David Safavian, um lobista de 38 anos indicado por Bush para chefiar a agência responsável por todas as compras do governo federal, movimentando 300 bilhões de dólares por ano. Safavian foi preso por ter mentido aos promotres na investigação sobre seu amigo Abramoff. Preferiu ir para a cadeia, em vez de entregar o esquema. Mas dá para imaginar o que deve ter rolado, num cargo que controla mais dinheiro do que o PIB de muitos países somados. Safavian, é claro, não tinha nenhuma experiência anterior nessa área. Foi nomeado simplesmente por ser amigo de Abramoff e Tom Delay.
O fato é que Bush nomeou para cargos chave na administração federal gente sem qualquer qualificação, simplesmente por serem lobistas ou indicados por lobistas, ou terem conexões políticas com o próprio Bush e outros políticos republicanos. Isso levou ao desastre do salvamento (ou não salvamento) das vítimas do furacão Katrina. O chefe da defesa civil federal, Michael Brown, era um cupincha de um cupincha do presidente cuja única experiência profissional foi como juiz de exposições de cavalos árabes, trabalho (?!) do qual acabou sendo afastado por incompetência. Brown já renunciou ao cargo, mas para as centenas de pessoas (quase todas negras) que morreram abandonadas pelas autoridades em Nova Orleãs, é um pouco tarde.
O mesmo acontece na agência responsável pela aprovação e controle de remédios. Bush nomeou para um dos principais cargos nessa agência, a Federal Drug Administration, um certo Scott Gottlieb, 33 anos, que antes fazia uma newsletter aconselhando os investidores de Wall Street sobre a compra de ações de companhias farmacêuticas. É como nomear a raposa para tomar conta do galinheiro. Mas essa é exatamente a regra no governo Bush.
Há tantos outros exemplos gritantes de clientelismo e conflitos de interesse, que se fosse no Brasil certamente o Congresso teria aberto uma CPI, mas nos Estados Unidos o controle do partido republicano sobre os três poderes (inclusive o Judiciário, agora sob o controle do conservador John Roberts) garante que isso não vai acontecer. Um promotor do Texas conseguiu convencer um júri a indiciar Tom Delay mas nada indica que o judiciário leve a investigação adiante.
Em mais um escândalo, o órgão que supervisiona o mercado de ações está investigando o outro líder republicano, o do Senado, Bill Frist, suspeito de ter usado informações confidenciais na venda de ações.
Frist cultiva a imagem de "good doctor", o bom médico no qual todos podem confiar. É apontado como possível sucessor de Bush na presidência. Só que Frist é multimilionário porque a família dele é dona de um dos maiores impérios hospitalares e de seguros de sáude dos Estados Unidos, a HCA, Hospital Corporation of America. Nem por isso Frist deixou de votar, e decidir como líder, a aprovação de leis recentes na área de saúde que beneficiaram enormemente as empresas da família.
Quando foi eleito senador, Frist botou as ações dele da HCA num "blind trust", um fundo ao qual teoricamente ele só terá acesso quando deixar de ser senador, e que ele não poderia controlar. Mas isso é balela. O próprio Frist admitiu que mandou vender todas as ações da HCA que possuía, segundo ele para que parassem de acusá-lo de conflito de interesses. Só que o bom doutor fez isso duas semanas antes que as ações da HCA despencassem na bolsa de valores. O SEC, a comissão que controla o mercado de ações, desconfia que Frist se beneficou de informação confidencial, ou seja, soube pela família que a empresa iria anunciar uma queda no faturamento, o que derrubaria o preço das ações, e por isso vendeu tudo às pressas, quando as ações da HCA estavam no valor máximo. O bom doutor nega. Mas a suspeita manchou ainda mais a imagem do partido republicano.
O interessante é que até entre os conservadores está surgindo uma onda de indignação com a corrupção que tomou conta do governo federal. Afinal, nem todo republicano é desonesto. Se isso vai mudar alguma coisa, ou terminar em pizza, ou hot dog, é o que veremos.
What's a Modern Girl to Do?
By MAUREEN DOWD
When I entered college in 1969, women were bursting out of their 50's chrysalis, shedding girdles, padded bras and conventions. The Jazz Age spirit flared in the Age of Aquarius. Women were once again imitating men and acting all independent: smoking, drinking, wanting to earn money and thinking they had the right to be sexual, this time protected by the pill. I didn't fit in with the brazen new world of hard-charging feminists. I was more of a fun-loving (if chaste) type who would decades later come to life in Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw. I hated the grubby, unisex jeans and no-makeup look and drugs that zoned you out, and I couldn't understand the appeal of dances that didn't involve touching your partner. In the universe of Eros, I longed for style and wit. I loved the Art Deco glamour of 30's movies. I wanted to dance the Continental like Fred and Ginger in white hotel suites; drink martinis like Myrna Loy and William Powell; live the life of a screwball heroine like Katharine Hepburn, wearing a gold lamé gown cut on the bias, cavorting with Cary Grant, strolling along Fifth Avenue with my pet leopard.
My mom would just shake her head and tell me that my idea of the 30's was wildly romanticized. "We were poor," she'd say. "We didn't dance around in white hotel suites." I took the idealism and passion of the 60's for granted, simply assuming we were sailing toward perfect equality with men, a utopian world at home and at work. I didn't listen to her when she cautioned me about the chimera of equality.
On my 31st birthday, she sent me a bankbook with a modest nest egg she had saved for me. "I always felt that the girls in a family should get a little more than the boys even though all are equally loved," she wrote in a letter. "They need a little cushion to fall back on. Women can stand on the Empire State Building and scream to the heavens that they are equal to men and liberated, but until they have the same anatomy, it's a lie. It's more of a man's world today than ever. Men can eat their cake in unlimited bakeries."
I thought she was just being Old World, like my favorite jade, Dorothy Parker, when she wrote:
By the time you swear you're his, Shivering and sighing, And he vows his passion is Infinite, undying - Lady, make a note of this: One of you is lying.
I thought the struggle for egalitarianism was a cinch, so I could leave it to my earnest sisters in black turtlenecks and Birkenstocks. I figured there was plenty of time for me to get serious later, that America would always be full of passionate and full-throated debate about the big stuff - social issues, sexual equality, civil rights. Little did I realize that the feminist revolution would have the unexpected consequence of intensifying the confusion between the sexes, leaving women in a tangle of dependence and independence as they entered the 21st century.
Maybe we should have known that the story of women's progress would be more of a zigzag than a superhighway, that the triumph of feminism would last a nanosecond while the backlash lasted 40 years.
Despite the best efforts of philosophers, politicians, historians, novelists, screenwriters, linguists, therapists, anthropologists and facilitators, men and women are still in a muddle in the boardroom, the bedroom and the Situation Room.
My mom gave me three essential books on the subject of men. The first, when I was 13, was "On Becoming a Woman." The second, when I was 21, was "365 Ways to Cook Hamburger." The third, when I was 25, was "How to Catch and Hold a Man," by Yvonne Antelle. ("Keep thinking of yourself as a soft, mysterious cat.. . .Men are fascinated by bright, shiny objects, by lots of curls, lots of hair on the head . . . by bows, ribbons, ruffles and bright colors.. . .Sarcasm is dangerous. Avoid it altogether.")
Because I received "How to Catch and Hold a Man" at a time when we were entering the Age of Equality, I put it aside as an anachronism. After all, sometime in the 1960's flirting went out of fashion, as did ironing boards, makeup and the idea that men needed to be "trapped" or "landed." The way to approach men, we reasoned, was forthrightly and without games, artifice or frills. Unfortunately, history has shown this to be a misguided notion.
I knew it even before the 1995 publication of "The Rules," a dating bible that encouraged women to return to prefeminist mind games by playing hard to get. ("Don't stay on the phone for more than 10 minutes.. . .Even if you are the head of your own company. . .when you're with a man you like, be quiet and mysterious, act ladylike, cross your legs and smile.. . .Wear black sheer pantyhose and hike up your skirt to entice the opposite sex!")
I knew this before fashion magazines became crowded with crinolines, bows, ruffles, leopard-skin scarves, 50's party dresses and other sartorial equivalents of flirting and with articles like "The Return of Hard to Get." ("I think it behooves us to stop offering each other these pearls of feminism, to stop saying, 'So, why don't you call him?"' a writer lectured in Mademoiselle. "Some men must have the thrill of the chase.")
I knew things were changing because a succession of my single girlfriends had called, sounding sheepish, to ask if they could borrow my out-of-print copy of "How to Catch and Hold a Man."
Decades after the feminist movement promised equality with men, it was becoming increasingly apparent that many women would have to brush up on the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph, dewy eyes and a full knowledge of music, drawing, elegant note writing and geography. It would once more be considered captivating to lie on a chaise longue, pass a lacy handkerchief across the eyelids and complain of a case of springtime giddiness.
Today, women have gone back to hunting their quarry - in person and in cyberspace - with elaborate schemes designed to allow the deluded creatures to think they are the hunters. "Men like hunting, and we shouldn't deprive them of their chance to do their hunting and mating rituals," my 26-year-old friend Julie Bosman, a New York Times reporter, says. "As my mom says, Men don't like to be chased." Or as the Marvelettes sang, "The hunter gets captured by the game."
These days the key to staying cool in the courtship rituals is B. & I., girls say - Busy and Important. "As much as you're waiting for that little envelope to appear on your screen," says Carrie Foster, a 29-year-old publicist in Washington, "you happen to have a lot of stuff to do anyway." If a guy rejects you or turns out to be the essence of evil, you can ratchet up from B. & I. to C.B.B., Can't Be Bothered. In the T.M.I. - Too Much Information - digital age, there can be infinite technological foreplay.
Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist, concurs with Julie: "What our grandmothers told us about playing hard to get is true. The whole point of the game is to impress and capture. It's not about honesty. Many men and women, when they're playing the courtship game, deceive so they can win. Novelty, excitement and danger drive up dopamine in the brain. And both sexes brag."
Women might dye their hair, apply makeup and spend hours finding a hip-slimming dress, she said, while men may drive a nice car or wear a fancy suit that makes them seem richer than they are. In this retro world, a woman must play hard to get but stay soft as a kitten. And avoid sarcasm. Altogether.
In those faraway, long-ago days of feminism, there was talk about equal pay for equal work. Now there's talk about "girl money."
A friend of mine in her 30's says it is a term she hears bandied about the New York dating scene. She also notes a shift in the type of gifts given at wedding showers around town, a reversion to 50's-style offerings: soup ladles and those frilly little aprons from Anthropologie and vintage stores are being unwrapped along with see-through nighties and push-up bras.
"What I find most disturbing about the 1950's-ification and retrogression of women's lives is that it has seeped into the corporate and social culture, where it can do real damage," she complains. "Otherwise intelligent men, who know women still earn less than men as a rule, say things like: 'I'll get the check. You only have girl money."'
Throughout the long, dark ages of undisputed patriarchy, women connived to trade beauty and sex for affluence and status. In the first flush of feminism, women offered to pay half the check with "woman money" as a way to show that these crass calculations - that a woman's worth in society was determined by her looks, that she was an ornament up for sale to the highest bidder - no longer applied.
Now dating etiquette has reverted. Young women no longer care about using the check to assert their equality. They care about using it to assess their sexuality. Going Dutch is an archaic feminist relic. Young women talk about it with disbelief and disdain. "It's a scuzzy 70's thing, like platform shoes on men," one told me.
"Feminists in the 70's went overboard," Anne Schroeder, a 26-year-old magazine editor in Washington, agrees. "Paying is like opening a car door. It's nice. I appreciate it. But he doesn't have to."
Unless he wants another date.
Women in their 20's think old-school feminists looked for equality in all the wrong places, that instead of fighting battles about whether women should pay for dinner or wear padded bras they should have focused only on big economic issues.
After Googling and Bikramming to get ready for a first dinner date, a modern girl will end the evening with the Offering, an insincere bid to help pay the check. "They make like they are heading into their bag after a meal, but it is a dodge," Marc Santora, a 30-year-old Metro reporter for The Times, says. "They know you will stop them before a credit card can be drawn. If you don't, they hold it against you."
One of my girlfriends, a TV producer in New York, told me much the same thing: "If you offer, and they accept, then it's over."
Jurassic feminists shudder at the retro implication of a quid profiterole. But it doesn't matter if the woman is making as much money as the man, or more, she expects him to pay, both to prove her desirability and as a way of signaling romance - something that's more confusing in a dating culture rife with casual hookups and group activities. (Once beyond the initial testing phase and settled in a relationship, of course, she can pony up more.)
"There are plenty of ways for me to find out if he's going to see me as an equal without disturbing the dating ritual," one young woman says. "Disturbing the dating ritual leads to chaos. Everybody knows that."
When I asked a young man at my gym how he and his lawyer girlfriend were going to divide the costs on a California vacation, he looked askance. "She never offers," he replied. "And I like paying for her." It is, as one guy said, "one of the few remaining ways we can demonstrate our manhood."
At a party for the Broadway opening of "Sweet Smell of Success," a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?
He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men. It took women a few decades to realize that everything they were doing to advance themselves in the boardroom could be sabotaging their chances in the bedroom, that evolution was lagging behind equality.
A few years ago at a White House correspondents' dinner, I met a very beautiful and successful actress. Within minutes, she blurted out: "I can't believe I'm 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."
I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with young women whose job it was was to care for them and nurture them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.
John Schwartz of The New York Times made the trend official in 2004 when he reported: "Men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, and evolution may be to blame." A study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggested that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors. Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them. There it is, right in the DNA: women get penalized by insecure men for being too independent.
"The hypothesis," Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, theorized, "is that there are evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own." Women, by contrast, did not show a marked difference between their attraction to men who might work above them and their attraction to men who might work below them.
So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?
After I first wrote on this subject, a Times reader named Ray Lewis e-mailed me. While we had assumed that making ourselves more professionally accomplished would make us more fascinating, it turned out, as Lewis put it, that smart women were "draining at times."
Or as Bill Maher more crudely but usefully summed it up to Craig Ferguson on the "Late Late Show" on CBS: "Women get in relationships because they want somebody to talk to. Men want women to shut up."
Women moving up still strive to marry up. Men moving up still tend to marry down. The two sexes' going in opposite directions has led to an epidemic of professional women missing out on husbands and kids.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the author of "Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children," a book published in 2002, conducted a survey and found that 55 percent of 35-year-old career women were childless. And among corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more, she said, 49 percent of the women did not have children, compared with only 19 percent of the men.
Hewlett quantified, yet again, that men have an unfair advantage. "Nowadays," she said, "the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. For men, the reverse is true."
A 2005 report by researchers at four British universities indicated that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to marry, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.
On a "60 Minutes" report on the Hewlett book, Lesley Stahl talked to two young women who went to Harvard Business School. They agreed that while they were the perfect age to start families, they didn't find it easy to meet the right mates.
Men, apparently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women. The girls said they hid the fact that they went to Harvard from guys they met because it was the kiss of death. "The H-bomb," they dubbed it. "As soon as you say Harvard Business School . . . that's the end of the conversation," Ani Vartanian said. "As soon as the guys say, 'Oh, I go to Harvard Business School,' all the girls start falling into them."
Hewlett thinks that the 2005 American workplace is more macho than ever. "It's actually much more difficult now than 10 years ago to have a career and raise a family," she told me. "The trend lines continue that highly educated women in many countries are increasingly dealing with this creeping nonchoice and end up on this path of delaying finding a mate and delaying childbearing. Whether you're looking at Italy, Russia or the U.S., all of that is true." Many women continue to fear that the more they accomplish, the more they may have to sacrifice. They worry that men still veer away from "challenging" women because of a male atavistic desire to be the superior force in a relationship.
"With men and women, it's always all about control issues, isn't it?" says a guy I know, talking about his bitter divorce.
Or, as Craig Bierko, a musical comedy star and actor who played one of Carrie's boyfriends on "Sex and the City," told me, "Deep down, beneath the bluster and machismo, men are simply afraid to say that what they're truly looking for in a woman is an intelligent, confident and dependable partner in life whom they can devote themselves to unconditionally until she's 40."
Ms. Versus Mrs.
"Ms." was supposed to neutralize the stature of women, so they weren't publicly defined by their marital status. When The Times finally agreed to switch to Ms. in its news pages in 1986, after much hectoring by feminists, Gloria Steinem sent flowers to the executive editor, Abe Rosenthal. But nowadays most young brides want to take their husbands' names and brag on the moniker Mrs., a brand that proclaims you belong to him. T-shirts with "MRS." emblazoned in sequins or sparkly beads are popular wedding-shower gifts.
A Harvard economics professor, Claudia Goldin, did a study last year that found that 44 percent of women in the Harvard class of 1980 who married within 10 years of graduation kept their birth names, while in the class of '90 it was down to 32 percent. In 1990, 23 percent of college-educated women kept their own names after marriage, while a decade later the number had fallen to 17 percent.
Time magazine reported that an informal poll in the spring of 2005 by the Knot, a wedding Web site, showed similar results: 81 percent of respondents took their spouse's last name, an increase from 71 percent in 2000. The number of women with hyphenated surnames fell from 21 percent to 8 percent.
"It's a return to romance, a desire to make marriage work," Goldin told one interviewer, adding that young women might feel that by keeping their own names they were aligning themselves with tedious old-fashioned feminists, and this might be a turnoff to them.
The professor, who married in 1979 and kept her name, undertook the study after her niece, a lawyer, changed hers. "She felt that her generation of women didn't have to do the same things mine did, because of what we had already achieved," Goldin told Time.
Many women now do not think of domestic life as a "comfortable concentration camp," as Betty Friedan wrote in "The Feminine Mystique," where they are losing their identities and turning into "anonymous biological robots in a docile mass." Now they want to be Mrs. Anonymous Biological Robot in a Docile Mass. They dream of being rescued - to flirt, to shop, to stay home and be taken care of. They shop for "Stepford Fashions" - matching shoes and ladylike bags and the 50's-style satin, lace and chiffon party dresses featured in InStyle layouts - and spend their days at the gym trying for Wisteria Lane waistlines.
The Times recently ran a front-page article about young women attending Ivy League colleges, women who are being groomed to take their places in the professional and political elite, who are planning to reject careers in favor of playing traditional roles, staying home and raising children.
"My mother always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," the brainy, accomplished Cynthia Liu told Louise Story, explaining why she hoped to be a stay-at-home mom a few years after she goes to law school. "You always have to choose one over the other."
Kate White, the editor of Cosmopolitan, told me that she sees a distinct shift in what her readers want these days. "Women now don't want to be in the grind," she said. "The baby boomers made the grind seem unappealing."
Cynthia Russett, a professor of American history at Yale, told Story that women today are simply more "realistic," having seen the dashed utopia of those who assumed it wouldn't be so hard to combine full-time work and child rearing.
To the extent that young women are rejecting the old idea of copying men and reshaping the world around their desires, it's exhilarating progress. But to the extent that a pampered class of females is walking away from the problem and just planning to marry rich enough to cosset themselves in a narrow world of dependence on men, it's an irritating setback. If the new ethos is "a woman needs a career like a fish needs a bicycle," it won't be healthy.
In all those Tracy-Hepburn movies more than a half-century ago, it was the snap and crackle of a romance between equals that was so exciting. You still see it onscreen occasionally - the incendiary chemistry of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie playing married assassins aiming for mutually assured orgasms and destruction in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Interestingly, that movie was described as retro because of its salty battle of wits between two peppery lovers. Moviemakers these days are more interested in exploring what Steve Martin, in his novel "Shopgirl," calls the "calm cushion" of romances between unequals.
In James Brooks's movie "Spanglish," Adam Sandler, playing a sensitive Los Angeles chef, falls for his hot Mexican maid, just as in "Maid in Manhattan," Ralph Fiennes, playing a sensitive New York pol, falls for the hot Latino maid at his hotel, played by Jennifer Lopez. Sandler's maid, who cleans up for him without being able to speak English, is presented as the ideal woman, in looks and character. His wife, played by Téa Leoni, is repellent: a jangly, yakking, overachieving, overexercised, unfaithful, shallow she-monster who has just lost her job with a commercial design firm and fears she has lost her identity.
In 2003, we had "Girl With a Pearl Earring," in which Colin Firth's Vermeer erotically paints Scarlett Johansson's Dutch maid, and Richard Curtis's "Love Actually," about the attraction of unequals. The witty and sophisticated British prime minister, played by Hugh Grant, falls for the chubby girl who wheels the tea and scones into his office. A businessman married to the substantial Emma Thompson, the sister of the prime minister, falls for his sultry secretary. A novelist played by Colin Firth falls for his maid, who speaks only Portuguese.
Art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection rather than of affection.
It's funny. I come from a family of Irish domestics - statuesque, 6-foot-tall women who cooked, kept house and acted as nannies for some of America's first families. I was always so proud of achieving more - succeeding in a high-powered career that would have been closed to my great-aunts. How odd, then, to find out now that being a maid would have enhanced my chances with men.
An upstairs maid, of course.
Cosmo is still the best-selling magazine on college campuses, as it was when I was in college, and the best-selling monthly magazine on the newsstand. The June 2005 issue, with Jessica Simpson on the cover, her cleavage spilling out of an orange croqueted halter dress, could have been June 1970. The headlines are familiar: "How to turn him on in 10 words or less," "Do You Make Men M-E-L-T? Take our quiz," "Bridal Special," Cosmo's stud search and "Cosmo's Most Famous Sex Tips; the Legendary Tricks That Have Brought Countless Guys to Their Knees." (Sex Trick 4: "Place a glazed doughnut around your man's member, then gently nibble the pastry and lick the icing . . . as well as his manhood." Another favorite Cosmo trick is to yell out during sex which of your girlfriends thinks your man is hot.)
At any newsstand, you'll see the original Cosmo girl's man-crazy, sex-obsessed image endlessly, tiresomely replicated, even for the teen set. On the cover of Elle Girl: "267 Ways to Look Hot."
"There has been lots of copying - look at Glamour," Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmo's founding editor told me and sighed. "I used to have all the sex to myself."
Before it curdled into a collection of stereotypes, feminism had fleetingly held out a promise that there would be some precincts of womanly life that were not all about men. But it never quite materialized.
It took only a few decades to create a brazen new world where the highest ideal is to acknowledge your inner slut. I am woman; see me strip. Instead of peaceful havens of girl things and boy things, we have a society where women of all ages are striving to become self-actualized sex kittens. Hollywood actresses now work out by taking pole-dancing classes.
Female sexuality has been a confusing corkscrew path, not a serene progressive arc. We had decades of Victorian prudery, when women were not supposed to like sex. Then we had the pill and zipless encounters, when women were supposed to have the same animalistic drive as men. Then it was discovered - shock, horror! - that men and women are not alike in their desires. But zipless morphed into hookups, and the more one-night stands the girls on "Sex and the City" had, the grumpier they got.
Oddly enough, Felix Dennis, who created the top-selling Maxim, said he stole his "us against the world" lad-magazine attitude from women's magazines like Cosmo. Just as women didn't mind losing Cosmo's prestigious fiction as the magazine got raunchier, plenty of guys were happy to lose the literary pretensions of venerable men's magazines and embrace simple-minded gender stereotypes, like the Maxim manifesto instructing women, "If we see you in the morning and night, why call us at work?"
Jessica Simpson and Eva Longoria move seamlessly from showing their curves on the covers of Cosmo and Glamour to Maxim, which dubbed Simpson "America's favorite ball and chain!" In the summer of 2005, both British GQ and FHM featured Pamela Anderson busting out of their covers. ("I think of my breasts as props," she told FHM.)
A lot of women now want to be Maxim babes as much as men want Maxim babes. So women have moved from fighting objectification to seeking it. "I have been surprised," Maxim's editor, Ed Needham, confessed to me, "to find that a lot of women would want to be somehow validated as a Maxim girl type, that they'd like to be thought of as hot and would like their boyfriends to take pictures of them or make comments about them that mirror the Maxim representation of a woman, the Pamela Anderson sort of brand. That, to me, is kind of extraordinary."
The luscious babes on the cover of Maxim were supposed to be men's fantasy guilty pleasures, after all, not their real life-affirming girlfriends.
While I never related to the unstyled look of the early feminists and I tangled with boyfriends who did not want me to wear makeup and heels, I always assumed that one positive result of the feminist movement would be a more flexible and capacious notion of female beauty, a release from the tyranny of the girdled, primped ideal of the 50's.
I was wrong. Forty years after the dawn of feminism, the ideal of feminine beauty is more rigid and unnatural than ever.
When Gloria Steinem wrote that "all women are Bunnies," she did not mean it as a compliment; it was a feminist call to arms. Decades later, it's just an aesthetic fact, as more and more women embrace Botox and implants and stretch and protrude to extreme proportions to satisfy male desires. Now that technology is biology, all women can look like inflatable dolls. It's clear that American narcissism has trumped American feminism.
It was naïve and misguided for the early feminists to tendentiously demonize Barbie and Cosmo girl, to disdain such female proclivities as shopping, applying makeup and hunting for sexy shoes and cute boyfriends and to prognosticate a world where men and women dressed alike and worked alike in navy suits and were equal in every way.
But it is equally naïve and misguided for young women now to fritter away all their time shopping for boudoirish clothes and text-messaging about guys while they disdainfully ignore gender politics and the seismic shifts on the Supreme Court that will affect women's rights for a generation.
What I didn't like at the start of the feminist movement was that young women were dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. They were supposed to be liberated, but it just seemed like stifling conformity.
What I don't like now is that the young women rejecting the feminist movement are dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. The plumage is more colorful, the shapes are more curvy, the look is more plastic, the message is diametrically opposite - before it was don't be a sex object; now it's be a sex object - but the conformity is just as stifling.
And the Future . . .
Having boomeranged once, will women do it again in a couple of decades? If we flash forward to 2030, will we see all those young women who thought trying to Have It All was a pointless slog, now middle-aged and stranded in suburbia, popping Ativan, struggling with rebellious teenagers, deserted by husbands for younger babes, unable to get back into a work force they never tried to be part of?
It's easy to picture a surreally familiar scene when women realize they bought into a raw deal and old trap. With no power or money or independence, they'll be mere domestic robots, lasering their legs and waxing their floors - or vice versa - and desperately seeking a new Betty Friedan.
Maureen Dowd is a columnist for The New York Times. This essay is adapted from "Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide," to be published next month by G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Joan Baez estava à frente do movimento contra a guerra do Vietnam e faz o mesmo contra a guerra no Iraque. Cantou na grande manifestação de protesto do domingo 25/9 em Washington, com 150 mil manifestantes exigindo o fim da ocupação. A canção é a mesma, tão atual hoje quanto há 35 anos, There but for fortune de Phil Ochs. Ele se matou aos 36 anos, em 1976, e está quase esquecido. Mas esta canção vai ficar pra sempre.
Show me the prison, show me the jail
Show me the prisoner whose face has grown stale
And I'll show you young man
With so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I.
Show me the alley, show me the train
Show me the hobo who sleeps out in the rain
And I'll show you young man
With so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I.
Show me the whiskey stains on the floor
Show me the drunkard as he stumbles out the door
And I'll show you young man
With so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I.
Show me the country where the bombs had to fall
Show me the ruins of the buildings once so tall
And I'll show you young land
With so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you and I
You and I.
Monday, September 26, 2005
O gumbo é o prato mais conhecido da cozinha de Nova Orleãs. Pronuncia-se gâmbo. Gumbo é um cozido bem caseiro, em geral feito com sobras.
Na segunda-feira resolvi fazer o gumbo para a Crica Zahar, que não come carne. Gumbo é prato de frutos do mar, embora também possam entrar outras coisas, como linguiça e frango. O jantar ficou marcado para quinta-feira.
Eu tinha congelado há um mês o que sobrou de uma moqueca de peixe, caranguejo e siri mole. Resolvi reaproveitar no gumbo.
Comecei na terça-feira, fazendo a base do gumbo. A base é quiabo, cozido em caldo de pescado. Depois que o quiabo desmancha, o caldo é engrossado com um roux.
Roux (ruivo em francês, pronuncia-se rú) é farinha de trigo cozida na manteiga (ou no óleo) até escurecer.
Eu nunca tive antes paciência para fazer um roux. Levei uma hora (ou mais) mexendo a mistura de manteiga e farinha até escurecer, mas valeu a pena. Cheira bem e dá um gostinho delicado, além de engrossar o caldo.
Usei uma xícara de manteiga (com sal) para uma de farinha de trigo.
Pra fazer o roux é preciso uma panela de ferro esmaltado, dessas pesadas. E tem que mexer sem parar, no fogo baixo. Se a farinha grudar no fundo e queimar, danou-se. Tem que jogar fora e começar de novo.
Enquanto mexia o roux, deixei o quiabo cozinhando num caldo de pescado que eu também tinha congelado há um mês. Fiz uma boa quantidade de caldo, com cabeças de peixe e cascas de camarão, cebola, salsa, cebolinha e coentro, um pouco de alho.
Pra um quilo de quiabo usei dois litros de caldo. Mas primeiro refoguei os quiabos inteiros no óleo, com bastante alho esmagado. Usei quiabo congelado que vendem aqui no supermercado, ótimo, melhor que o quiabo fresco.
Quem gosta de linguiça pode acrescentar linguiça frita picadinha (melhor ainda: com torresmo) pra cozinhar com o quiabo, fica uma delícia. Desmancha também.
O quiabo levou mais de uma hora pra desmanchar. Virou uma papa de quiabo (sem gosma, ela some). Aí acrescentei o roux, mexendo sempre. Engrossou imediatamente. Com menos roux fica menos grosso, mas eu gosto do gumbo bem grosso, tenho horror ao gumbo ralo que servem por aí. Em Nova Orleãs o gumbo tradicional é bem grosso.
Gumbo vem da palavra bantu para quiabo, guimbambo (tá na cara que quiabo também vem daí). Aqui o quiabo se chama okra, que vem de ikurú na língua ibo.
Pronta a base do gumbo é só acrescentar os legumes e os frutos do mar (e, se for o caso, pedaços de frango, já cozido, e mais linguiça, cortada em rodelas).
Usei a moqueca descongelada, que já tinha bastante cebola, tomate e pimentão. Senão, teria que cozinhar esses legumes no gumbo, antes de botar os frutos do mar: primeiro o peixe, que leva uns 15 minutos pra cozinhar no gumbo em fogo baixo (depende do peixe); depois o siri e a carne de caranguejo; por fim o camarão, que cozinha rápido.
No meu caso, a moqueca já tinha siri, caranguejo e um pouco de camarão, tudo cozido.
Então foi só incorporar a moqueca ao gumbo, fora do fogo. Mexi bem, deixei esfriar e guardei na geladeira.
Na quarta-feira, fui a Chinatown comprar mais camarão. Fica a 20 minutos daqui de casa de metrô, e o camarão (aquele do tipo tigre asiático, enorme) custa um quarto do que custaria numa peixaria aqui do bairro. Será que se eu morasse em Ipanema ou Leblon acharia camarão a 20 minutos de casa por um quarto do preço da peixaria do bairro? Duvido.
Comprei um quilo de camarão limpo sem cabeça, mas com a casca. Descasquei tudo e cozinhei as cascas pra fazer mais dois litros de caldo.
Temperei o camarão descascado com limão, sal, alho e coentro picado e deixei pegar o tempero, meia hora.
Fritei os camarões em manteiga bem quente. Só o tempinho de ficarem vermelhos dos dois lados.
Esquentei o panelão do gumbo e incorporei os camarões. Na quinta-feira, quando o panelão voltar ao fogo, os camarões vão acabar de cozinhar. Enquanto isso vão pegando o gosto do gumbo. O panelão voltou para a geladeira.
Em Nova Orleãs, o que acompanha o gumbo é arroz branco. Mas outro prato local é o jambalaya, uma espécie de paella, com arroz de açafrão, camarão, etc.
Resolvi então, em vez de arroz branco, fazer jambalaya de pato e camarão, desfiando outra sobra: uns pedaços de pato assado no caldo de laranja, bem tostadinhos.
Primeiro cozinhei o arroz aos pouquinhos no caldo de pescado, como se fosse risoto. Acrescentei açafrão e oro molido (um tempero vermelho espanhol feito com pimentão) pra dar cor. Quando o arroz ficou cozido (usei o caldo todo) misturei o pato desfiado (eram só duas coxas chatas) e enfeitei com oito camarões, que também vão terminar de cozinhar quando o arroz for para o forno antes do jantar. Estou pensando se é o caso de acrescentar ao jambalaya uns pedacinhos de chorizo espanhol frito.
O jambalaya também foi para a geladeira.
De sobremesa, fiz uma mousse de chocolate: quatro barras de chocolate amargo (70% de cacau), derretidas em duas taças de café expresso. Depois de derretido o chocolate (derreti no banho maria pra não queimar), misturei oito gemas bem batidas (batidíssimas) e um pouco de manteiga sem sal.
Bati à mão as oito claras em neve. Tem que ter paciência, mas não demora tanto quanto o maldito roux. Tem uma dica ótima da Julia Child: passar um pouco de vinagre na vasilha usada pra bater as claras e no instrumento usado para batê-las (como se chama?), o que tira totalmente a gordura da vasilha e do instrumento. As claras ficam em neve bem mais rápido. Quem gosta da mousse doce acrescenta açúcar às claras em neve. E elas ficam mais duras. Mas prefiro passar mais tempo batendo, até endurecerem, e não usar açúcar.
Aí é só incorporar (em inglês é tão mais bonito - fold, dobrar) metade das claras ao chocolate derretido, já despejado na tigela da mousse, mexendo até ficar homogêneo. Só então incorporar a outra metade, até ficar uniforme e bem leve. Geladeira imediatamente.
Por fim, fiz a salada. Essa não tem nada de Nova Orleãs, é maluquice minha, invenção nova ainda não testada.
Acontece que comprei há tempos quatro caixinhas de milho verde congelado. Era pra fazer uma sopa gelada de milho, mas perdi a receita. Então resolvi aproveitar pra fazer uma salada fria de milho. Leva tomatinhos (cereja) vermelhos e amarelos, picados, salsa e cebolinha. E cubinhos de roquefort temperado com azeite e ervas. Cozinhei o milho antes, na manteiga, pra ficar bem macio. E salguei os tomatinhos, deixando depois o líquido todo escorrer, antes de jogar na salada. Tomara que dê certo.
Também vou servir um pirão branco de mandioca que fiz para acompanhar a moqueca e congelei, uma delícia. Pode não combinar com o gumbo, que afinal também é um pirão, mas quem sabe.
Seremos oito e, como sempre, fiz comida demais. Os convidados vão ter que levar quentinhas para casa porque desta vez não quero sobras, nada pra congelar!
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Outro dia falei do rebocador que navega em torno de Manhattan puxando uma barcaça com um parque em miniatura, projeto do artista Robert Smithson. Ontem finalmente consegui vê-lo da janela aqui do escritório da Globo. Surreal. E ele vai devagarzinho, chuga-chuga, parece de brinquedo. Essa foto foi tirada pela Cristiana Souza Cruz, que trabalha aqui comigo como chefe da redação.
Noel, Quem dá mais, Pela décima vez, Filosofia
Dream a little dream of me
Joaquim Assis, Dor e sofrimento
Carlos Lyra, Vinicius
Muñoz Molina, Espaço íntimo, Janelas de Manhattan
Antonello da Messina, Cristo na Coluna
Luciana Souza, Suas Mãos, Sonnet
Cézanne e Pissaro
Elizabeth Bishop, One Art, The Burglar of Babylon , Sonnet
Edward Hopper e Antonio Muñoz Molina
Abel Ferreira e Pixinguinha
Garcia Lorca en Nueva York
Bolívia, explosão popular
Bob Grossman e a censura
Margaret Atwood on writing and politics
Bruno Latour, uma nova política
Gregory Chaitin, matemática e prazer
Vermeer, The Girl with a Red Hat
Rosinha Passos canta Ary Barroso
Lorca em Nueva York
Andy Wharol no Dia Beacon
Keith Haring no Céu
Richard Serra em Bilbao
Baía da Traição
Apocalipse em Indaiatuba
Bienal de Veneza
Schubert por Alfred Brendel
by PETER SCHJELDAHL
Winslow Homer at the National Gallery
Winslow Homer’s first oil painting, which he made in 1863, when he was a twenty-six-year-old freelancer illustrating Civil War scenes for Harper’s Weekly, shows a Union sharpshooter in a tree, balancing a rifle for an imminent shot. The man’s perch is precarious. His concentration is total. Nature—soft tufts of dusky foliage, scraps of yellowish sky—attends indifferently. Decades later, Homer recalled having peered at a man through the telescopic sight of a sharpshooter’s weapon. The impression, he wrote in a letter, “struck me as being as near murder as anything I could think of in connection with the army & I always had a horror of that branch of the service.” This compunction, which I encountered in a text accompanying an engraving of the same subject in a current show at the National Gallery, in Washington, D.C., of about fifty Homers from the museum’s collection, surprises me not for its content but because I don’t think of the extraordinarily stolid Homer as having opinions. (The sole quote from him that sticks in my mind is a bit of advice to seascape painters: “Never put more than two waves in a picture; it’s fussy.” Somehow, words to live by.) Certainly, nothing like horror inflects “The Sharpshooter on Picket Duty,” which mainly conveys professional competence. The soldier, with one booted foot athletically braced in a crook of the tree and the other dangling, and grasping a branch on which his gun rests, is all business. The engraved version differs from the painting in one extra detail—a canteen hanging in the tree, indicating a lengthy stay for the sniper at his post. By excluding the canteen, the beginner painter demonstrated an instinct for the difference between reportage and art, even as he maintained an emotional detachment, basic to reporting, that would distinguish him as a great and, particularly, an American artist—ever the undistracted sharpshooter.
Homer keeps getting better, as I’ve had repeated occasions to notice since responding ambivalently to a major travelling retrospective that opened at the National Gallery in 1995. I was in the right bad mood, at the time, to tax the artist with a spiritual tedium of Victorian-era Yankee culture, which he served doggedly with genre pictures ranging from homesick soldiers to ladies playing croquet to slickered fishermen braving squalls. Partly, I was reacting against publicity for the show which characterized Homer as “America’s greatest and most national painter,” and not only because it dismissed Jackson Pollock. A Midwesterner myself, I questioned the “national” bona fides of visions of native nature confined to the Atlantic coast and the Adirondacks. And then there was Homer’s sexlessness. Undoubtedly heterosexual, he was a washout at romance—no amorous Walt Whitman or even the intriguingly neurotic Thomas Eakins but “a quiet little fellow,” in the words of a friend—numb to personal magnetism, female or male, and with a pronounced distaste for bodies except in action. In my judgment of the retrospective, I did make exceptions for Homer’s watercolors, whose translucency coaxed fully sensuous expressiveness from him, and for some late paintings of crashing waves that with their exactly measured, explosive force outdo Friedrich, Courbet, and even Turner. But I was perversely clenched against enjoying the key aspect of Homer’s talent, which is based in his early discipline as an illustrator: a prehensile feel for the iconic—the identification of a subject with its representation, such that, in memory, one becomes inseparable from the other. My punishment, ever since, has been to undergo shocks of chastened veneration whenever I happen upon his masterpieces.
Homer was born in Boston in 1836, the middle son of a hardware merchant who, in 1849, went bust in the gold rush. At the age of eighteen, Homer was apprenticed at a lithography shop. Thereafter, he freelanced while studying art in schools and on his own. In 1860, acquiring a copy of the French scientist M. E. Chevreul’s “Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors” (an analysis of how color interacts in the eye), Homer grounded his practice in modernizing theories that were shared by the French Impressionists—who seem not to have influenced him directly. (Much of his work retains a uniquely up-to-date air.) Living on Washington Square, he had many friends and supporters, though only modest public success. He complained, throughout his career, of being misunderstood. He visited Europe and spent the better part of two years in an English fishing village. In 1884, he settled in Prout’s Neck, on the Maine coast, where he gloried in having “no other man or woman within half a mile” and took little note of his growing fame. He lived there, often wintering in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean, until his death, in 1910.
The National Gallery owns three major Homers: “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” (1873-76), “Hound and Hunter” (1892), and “Right and Left” (1909). The first shows a fishing sailboat, with a man and three boys aboard, atilt in a stiff breeze. It is pitched at a receding angle, rising to the left, which Homer liked for boat pictures, including his epic of maritime disaster, “The Gulf Stream” (1899). The marvel of it lies in a tonal modulation of strong color: a luminous blue, white-clouded sky silhouettes the boat and its figures, whose shadowed hues smolder. The contrast nails North Atlantic light, which is bright and clear but frail. The effect has a chill in it, and a tang. Anecdotal details of the scene, such as the boys’ delighted postures and the gleam of fish in the hold, make specific a timeless experience. There is a sense of something never properly painted before which now needn’t be painted again—a dramatic quality that distinguishes Homer from the Impressionists, who neutralized subject matter.
Homer’s storytelling put him on the losing side of modern art. Alfred Stieglitz denigrated his work, though with an odd note of respect, as “nothing more than the highest type of Illustration.” (Henry James found Homer “almost barbarously simple, and, to our eye, he is horribly ugly; but there is nevertheless something one likes about him,” proving that you cannot stay mad at this artist.) Homer is improving at present because the banishment of illustration from canonical modern painting, after Manet, has worn out. We like stories, and important painting of the past forty years, from Gerhard Richter to John Currin, has become ever more illustrative, and enamored of the one-off image.
The hunting tales in “Hound and Hunter” and “Right and Left” must be taken on faith, because one is so strange and the other is impossible. In the first, a young man in a canoe on a darkling forest lake clings to an antler of a submerged, dead deer while looking at his swimming dog. (In a technique called “hounding,” dogs chased game into water to be shot, clubbed, or drowned.) In the second—one of Homer’s last works—two foreground ducks taking off from turbulent waters are hit by a distant hunter’s double-barrelled buckshot; one has flipped upside down, and the other is transfixed with neck straining and wings spread, startled by death. The birds are black-and-white, the water several shades of gray with a splash of light blue. A tiny lick of red-orange locates the hunter’s gun, and a duck’s staring eye has a yellow iris. A ragged cream-colored band along the top of the painting suggests dawn. The picture’s muted color harmonies are worthy of Whistler, and the boldly and tenderly worked paint surface evokes Manet. A career that began with a dispassionate shooter draws to an end with unresentful shot ducks. Homer’s America, always energetic, is never so calm as when it is violent, in extreme instances of the one moral quality that overmastered, for him, all others: unsimple truth.