Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Written by admin on . Posted in On Topic OTDT, Opinion and Column.

How I finally kicked my decades-long nicotine habit

By Rosemary Kalikow

“Don’t you want to be alive to dance at my wedding someday?” asked my 18-year-old son, Brett.

My husband and I were up in Cambridge for the first parents’ college weekend. Brett was apparently majoring in Jewish guilt at Harvard. “How can a mother possibly reply to that question?” I thought as I reluctantly snuffed out the cigarette I was . It’s not that I hadn’t tried quitting before. I had, in fact, stopped smoking when I was pregnant with Brett, but ran to buy a pack of cigarettes the day I returned from the hospital. Twice I’d attended a “smoke enders” course at the 92nd Street Y. I’d get down to smoking two to three cigarettes a day (from a full pack), but then I’d have a bad day at work and start puffing away. I’d gone to see a hypnotist. I can’t say whether I was put into a trance or not, but when I left his office I couldn’t wait to light up. I tried Nicorette gum, then started smoking cigarettes along with the gum. The nicotine patch was also a bust.

Quite truthfully, I never stopped because I really didn’t want to give up smoking. For 30 years, cigarettes were my best friends. They calmed me when I was anxious. They enabled me to overcome my desire to snack, thus helping me stay thin. They were my comrades when I chatted on the phone. They were my companions when I went for a walk. They remained my best date in a social cocktail setting.

Then my favorite newscaster, Peter Jennings, announced to the world that he was diagnosed with lung cancer from smoking, and died soon thereafter. How could that be? He was so vibrant and strong. Then my son challenged me to stay alive for his wedding. This was throwing down the gauntlet, especially since Brett hadn’t even started dating a girl yet. I might have to wait years for that wedding to materialize.

As a final effort, I got acupuncture. Not a traditional Chinese technician, but rather a Jewish doctor named Naomi Rabinowitz. It seemed like an interesting combination of Eastern meets Western philosophy. Each session, I lay down on a table while she stuck needles into various parts of my body, including my head. “This really isn’t painful,” I would think to myself, as she turned out the lights and I slumbered for the next half hour. I was glad, however, when the needles were removed and I got Chinese herbs to take away my withdrawal symptoms.

During those six weeks, I did not have my usual withdrawal jitters, nicotine cravings or weight gain. I did quit smoking all cigarettes.

It’s been four years now without even a puff, yet I still walk by a newsstand and get such a yearning. I know that if I have even one cigarette I’ll be hooked again, so I completely stay away from this evil addictive weed.

My son is now 22 and a college grad. To my great joy, he has not only started dating but has fallen in love with a fabulous young lady. They’ve been a couple for two years now. I wonder if this might be the one. I can’t help but ruminate, how many more years will it be before they want to get married? There isn’t even a remote chance that I’ll pick up another cigarette until I reach that milestone. Then I’ll have to ask myself, “Don’t you want to stick around for grandchildren?” 

Rosemary Kalikow was a talk show producer at ABC and Court TV Network for 25 years. She is currently working as a freelance writer in New York.

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Written by David Callicott on . Posted in Posts.

“I’ve been whored and I’ve been gored/I’ve been less and I’ve been more…” This world-weary couplet from “The Angels Hung Around” pretty much sums up the life of Rilo Kiley, the tortured L.A. quartet that arrives in the city this weekend in support of the much-hyped Under the Blacklight at what could be the pinnacle of its fame. In fact, Blacklight sounds like the product of a band suffering from an identity crisis (which just may be the case).

After drifting under the mainstream radar since 1998, Rilo Kiley is now being pimped by Warner Brothers and seeing the effects of a major label’s influence. Currently featured in every magazine from Paste to Penthouse, they were also chosen for this month’s cover of Spin—most bands’ dream come true. But Rilo Kiley isn’t most bands: part love story, part soap opera, it’s a pop parable of disillusionment.

Rilo Kiley was started by guitarist Blake Sennett and singer Jenny Lewis. Both of them had worked as somewhat successful child actors, but decided that the Hollywood life was not what it seemed. They later found music—and each other—and began writing songs together. Sennett told me they were best friends, band mates and lovers. They did everything together. But being on top of each other all the time was too much for Sennett, and he later broke up with Lewis.

The band, however, stayed together—and got bigger. Then, a couple of years ago, Lewis wanted to take a break from Rilo Kiley and recorded her solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, a critical hit. Meanwhile, Sennett released his second album with his other band, The Elected. It didn’t do as well.

So when Rilo Kiley reunited this year to record Blacklight, the dynamics had shifted: Lewis returned to the studio as the undisputed star, armed with a stack of songs she’d written on her own—which make up 90 percent of the new album. And Sennett, her former lover, returned with his guitar to play second fiddle. Rilo Kiley had become, for all intents and purposes, Jenny Lewis’ backup band.

To be fair, there has never been any doubt that Lewis has always been the main attraction in Rilo Kiley. It’s just that the way the last two years unfolded has put Sennett in an unenviable position. He says that although he’s OK with it now and grateful that Rilo Kiley is back on the road, it hasn’t been the easiest time of his life.

“It’s like breaking up with your girlfriend,” Sennett says over the phone from Omaha, “and she goes on to date a bunch of people and has a great time without you.” Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like, except not only is she dating other people, she’s the star of your show.

I tell him that although I haven’t been in his exact shoes, I can empathize with how difficult it must be. “Yeah, man,” he says, “it’s tough.” He pauses, and then solemnly repeats, “It’s tough, man. It’s tough.”

Whether it was the tectonic shift in personal dynamics, or the mere fact that they intended to record something different, Blacklight is far from a cohesive album. But that’s par for the course for Rilo Kiley; they’ve always had trouble delivering records that hold up from beginning to end. But the band more than makes up for it by giving us wonderful stand-alone songs as memorable and affecting as a full-length LP.

In the current offering, there are four such songs: the opening pair “Silver Lining” and “Close Call,” the title track and the Traveling Wilbury-ish “The Angels Hung Around.” It’s here that Rilo Kiley beguiles you with that Southern Cal alt-country gold which made them the darlings of the indie-music blogs. Sadly, the rest of Blacklight is a disjointed tangle of Borderline-era Madonna keyboards, handclap effects and teenybopper choruses. Rilo Kiley makes it clear that they intended to do something different on this album, and they have.

Lewis attempts to channel Pat Benatar and get in touch with her inner hooker on the album’s first radio single, “The Moneymaker”—which arrived complete with an MTV porn video and is probably getting tons of play on Sorority Row by now. “Dreamworld,” the token Blake Sennett contribution—which sounds like an unflattering tribute to Fleetwood Mac—pops up halfway through Blacklight and feels like an out-of-place B-side. I’m fully aware that kitsch and imitation have always been part of the Rilo Kiley equation. Unfortunately, with these new stabs at ’70s disco and ’80s pop, it’s not so endearing this time around.

Sept. 22–23, Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St. (betw. 3rd & 4th Aves.), 212-353-1600; 6, sold out.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.

The Break-Up

Directed by Peyton Reed

To paraphrase Al Gore’s laughable gaffe in An Inconvenient Truth: Peyton Reed’s The Break-Up isn’t just a political crisis, it’s a moral crisis. To get at exactly what’s wrong with this Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston dating comedy, you have to forget Gore’s unconscious separation of politics from morality and be willing to recognize how storytelling in movies represents a political position on moral activity. 

In Vaughn and Aniston’s attempt at dealing with the tribulations of mismatched relationships, they first pose as particular social types—average, middle-class, white, urban Americans—in order to better sucker audiences who are eager to identify with movie stars. But then the stars fail to credibly dramatize the real life, class-defined habits and experiences of their characters. Have Vaughn and Aniston never seen Mike Leigh’s minor masterwork, Career Girls? Their best hope is that you haven’t. The prevarications in The Break-Up depend on hooking naive viewers who have been trained on the inanities of Nora Ephron/Rob Reiner movies.

So, this isn’t just a political crisis when Vaughn, as Gary Grobowski, misrepresents Chicago’s Polish, upwardly-mobile class (he’s a tour guide working with Vincent D’Onofrio and Cole Hauser as part of his family’s Three Brothers Tours business). Or when Aniston, as Brooke Meyers, portrays some kind of college-educated princess (she has an indulgent, super-liberal family and works for a neurotic gallerista played by Judy Davis). 

It’s also a moral—thus, aesthetic—crisis that Reed thinks Gary and Brooke’s pairing is the stuff of romantic whimsy. This odd couple, a priss and a slob, meet at a White Sox baseball game, supposedly the locale of social intermixing, although that doesn’t explain how these incompatible types would exchange anything beyond game trivia. Unlike the Farrelly brothers’ Fever Pitch, the superb exploration of how culture alienates the sexes from each other, Gary and Brooke never again discuss sports, the interest that supposedly brought them together. 

The Break-Up is not accurately described as a romantic comedy. Minus a sense of heartbreak, it’s merely about the selfishness and bad choices Gary and Brooke make; enshrining each one’s egotism and inability to compromise. This class-based grotesque is only mistaken for romance in a culture that refuses to understand itself. 

The story recalls Sydney Pollack’s 1973 The Way We Were which Pauline Kael described as “Katie and Hubbell have been breaking up ever since they got together.” But The Way We Were, a lousy movie, makes a lousy template. Adapting his especially loutish form of frat-boy comedy to romance, Vaughn (who shares story credit) misses achieving even the pathos of Woody Allen’s break-up benchmark, Annie Hall (1977). Add this misconceived crudeness to Reed’s penchant for the artifices of Doris Day-style, ’60s romantic comedies (Reed previously directed the abominable Rene Zellweger musical, Down With Love), and you’ve got a confluence of numbing inanities. 

Maury Povich couldn’t consciously design a movie to better falsify or ignore the complications of partnering and urban survival. The Break-Up has a half-campy subtext in which Gary and Brooke’s post-feminist wrangling is intended to amuse. But these gags—sharing the same apartment while fighting with each other, parading neuroses and flaunting new hook-ups —betray the sensitivities that a new generation of romantic comedy practitioners ought to display. When Brooke declares, “I’m not spending one more second of this life with an insensitive prick!” there’s privilege implicit in the term “this life” that remains unexamined, as does Gary’s Neanderthal indifference. Reed’s approach to such scenes is unacceptably glib. If he had the wit of the new Pet Shop Boys single, “I’m with Stupid,” he might have provided insight about how sexual, emotional and political trade-offs sometimes pass for coupling.

After the huge success of the uproarious-then-shrill Wedding Crashers, Vaughn’s humor threatens to establish a new lad-magazine standard for romantic comedy. The Break-Up is a bad omen for comedies that aren’t funny and romances that are not poignant. Trouble was apparent with Reed’s cliche credit sequence of snapshots depicting Gary and Brooke’s doomed courtship. 

“Who’s taking the pictures?” I murmured to a colleague, who answered, “God.” 

Well, to judge by The Break-Up, that god—the god of fatuous, Friends-derived sitcoms—is dead.