Wednesday, January 12 2005
Today I was working on my teevee room shelving project and trying, at the same time, to watch the new show called Queer Eye for the Straight Girl. It's bascically a copy of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, with a completely different set of queers (all of them men except for one supposed lesbian). And, of course, its goal is to fix hopelessly style-challenged straight women (as opposed to men). Unfortunately, though, the show is horrible. It does little more than support the principle that good things (furniture, MP3 players, cars, and teevee shows) cannot necessarily be copied and still be good. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy depends on the wacky chemistry of the Fab Five and the brilliant wit of fabbest among them, Carson Kressley. That funk simply cannot be faked, though the fab whatever on Queer Eye for the Straight Girl certainly try. But their visual goofiness and attempts at witty banter comes off as repetitive, forced, and cringe-inducing. I have to give credit where credit is due, and a lot of what makes Queer Eye for the Straight Guy work is the brilliant editing team that pieces the show together. That same brilliance seems to be present in Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, but it's as if they have no material to work with. In today's episode, for example, all the funniest one liners came from the straight girl. That's just not the way it's supposed to be. Another huge problem with today's "sneak preview" episode was that its subject didn't really need any help. Her house was fine and she had a good sense of style. Her hair didn't need any more body. Her face didn't need any makeup.
Tonight Gretchen and I went to a dinner party in Willow, which is the next village beyond Lake Hill, which is the next village beyond Shady, which is the next village beyond Bearsville, which lies just west of Woodstock. The party was being hosted by some vegan friends who are hoping to start up a second farm animal sanctuary in the area.
When we rolled up tonight we were astounded by their place. It was a huge farmhouse set in a vast field. Inside, the place was just fabulous, its cavernous timber-framed interior full of tasteful art and expensive-looking fixtures. It's not often that we visit a person our age living in a bigger house than ours. It turns out that one of the vegans is a professional movie film editor and the other used to work in film production, and, beyond that, they were lucky and managed to get the place for less than a half million dollars. Their neighbors all love them if only because they aren't the horrible people who used to live there.
On the house tour we were treated to some of the former occupant's questionable decisions, some of which would not be so easy to undo. In the huge master bathroom all the fixtures, which included two sinks, a whirlpool tub, a toilet, and a bidet, were in the most nauseating shade of deep pink you've ever scene. On the inner-labia, such a color would be a welcome indication of health and sexual excitement, but in a toilet it causes nothing but pain and confusion to the human brain. But balanced with all the great things about the house, which includes a three-story tower, such things seemed trivial.
Dinner consisted of a bean and rice concoction along with a sort of vegan fondue made with nutritional yeast. Dinner conversation seemed to go swimmingly until Jenny, one of our vegan hosts, mentioned that she might want to actually bear a child. The predictable result of this was Gretchen lobbying her with all the reasons why having a child is a risk - not just for the child but also for animal rights and the planet. Vegans are very careful to live in a way that minimizes the discomfort of animals. The whole movement is built upon the idea of doing your part to eliminate animal cruelty. But if you then have a child, you're introducing a huge unknown into your effect on the world. Not only can a vegan not guarantee that her kids will be vegan, but even if she could she couldn't guarantee that all of that kid's descendant would be vegans (or, for that matter, simple liberals). Jenny had chemotherapy during her childhood to fight a bone cancer that resulted in the loss of the lower part of one of her legs. When she said that perhaps the whole question of having kids was moot because she might be sterile, Gretchen actually said she was rooting for that. To that the photogenic vegan Buddhist at the table observed, with the earthy old-soul wisdom all photogenic vegan Buddhists seem to have, "Gretchen, you're kind of like Jenny in that there's no filter between what you think and what you say."
With this crowd it was next to impossible to get a word in with a shoe horn, but at some point I managed to say something about how I thought it was odd that my parents had decided to have kids given how pessimistic they were about the sustainability of the human race. As support for the oddness of their decision, I threw in the fact that my father is a hard core environmentalist. "Does he eat meat?" Jenny demanded. "Sure, he eats lots of meat... well, a lot less than he used to." "Well, then he's not an environmentalist," Jenny concluded preposterously. I knew what point she was making, that eating animals takes more resources than eating plants. Every environmentalist who doesn't clear brush in Crawford is aware of that. But her logic was faulty; all of us live lives that are at least partly hypocritical. If Jenny, for example, fancies herself an environmentalist, then why does she feel the need to occupy and heat such an enormous house? Why does she drive a car instead of taking the Ulster County Transportation System's bus, which has a route down 212? But my reply in this case concerned animal rights and its connection to environmentalism. I said that the two are not necessarily the same thing, and I cited as evidence the "liberation" of weasels from a factory fur farm and how the sudden influx of starving predators into the surround environment couldn't have possibly been good for it.
Still later in the conversation the tables of evangelism turned on Gretchen and it was her who was being proselytized, this time by Jenny and an older woman from Europe who wanted to convince her to give up her dairy eating ways and become, like them, a vegan. Jenny wanted her to see a film that, she was convinced, would turn Gretchen around. To this Gretchen replied that she already knew all the arguments and that she did her part for animal rights and that her relationship with the kitchen and food and animals was such that she was comfortable with simple vegetarianism. "Also," she added, "the way I feel when people try to convince me to become a vegan is helpful because it makes me realize what works and what doesn't for when I try to convince someone to become a vegetarian." This was all most unsatisfactory for Jenny, and she kept on with her proselytizing. Finally Gretchen said, "I don't want to hear it!" To this, the older woman was aghast. "'I don't want to hear it!'? I'm so surprised hearing that from you. That's no excuse!" Conversation remained contentious like this for a few minutes before heads cooled and civility was actively restored. It seemed tense to me, but I'd been smoking pot so it's possible I wasn't in the proper state to judge of such things.
On the drive home, Gretchen and I talked about things like unavoidable personal hypocrisy, effective evangelism, the tedium of single-issue evenings, and a few inklings I had about people that I wouldn't have had I not smoked an illegal drug tonight.
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