"RICE IS an explanation for everything!"
That's adventurer/chef Anthony Bourdain talking to Smithsonian magazine for July.
Bourdain tells writer Ron Rosenbaum that "Any rice culture is beautiful. It's super-intricate. Just the irrigation systems, the level of cooperation with your neighbors. Rice has something magical about it."
I know. I certainly didn't expect a paean to rice when I turned to this article. Anthony seems so much more... meaty. Not to mention drinky. But we get a few grisly tales of his far-flung travels. (The Congo was the most frightening, "gorgeous and heartbreaking.") And Bourdain warns against parasites, such as Guinea worm, "a six-foot tall subcutaneous worm that travels right under the skin." Yikes! Back to rice.
The chef also points out that The Food Network is no longer a place to watch people cook. "Now it's doing stuff like having contests... even the ones where they're cooking. It's more about interpersonal drama, like a reality show."
True, the Food Network has become a rather cruel place, actually -- getting people to cry and otherwise embarrass themselves is far more important than making the sauce Béarnaise properly. If you want to see people cook, switch to the Cooking Channel or Create TV. Or PBS.
• THE OTHER -- perhaps less entertaining but more provoking -- article in Smithsonian is Paul Theroux's un-romantic but heartfelt look at the "Soul of the South."
Theroux's extensive profile catalogues poverty, all but abandoned towns, businesses gone forever, despair, the unending racial divide and ultimately rehabilitation and hope, characterized by the many folks he spoke with.
This is America, too, this land that has never really recovered from the Civil War, and is ravaged again by economic downturn. But the author concludes: "It goes without saying that that the vitality of the South lies in the self-awareness of its deeply rooted people. What makes the
South a pleasure for a traveler like me, more interested in conversation than sightseeing, are the heart and soul of its family narratives -- its human wealth."
P.S. The Steve McCurry photos that illustrate this article, make an impact as important as the words.
• SPEAKING OF a disenfranchised America, Detroit continues its free-fall. But it has not been abandoned. Even Madonna, best known for her charity work for AIDS worldwide and overcoming poverty in Africa, is pitching in. The Michigan-born singer will provide funding for the Downtown Youth Boxing Gym, The Detroit Achievement Academy and The Empowerment Plan. She says: "A piece of my heart will always be in Detroit and I'm humbled to be able to give back to my community." (Incidentally, Detroit boasts one of the world's greatest collections of "real" art. Isn't there some way to make these collections pay off for saving the city?)
In other Madonna news, die-hard fans were relieved when William Orbit, Madonna's producer/collaborator from the good old days, listened to a few songs from M's coming album and declared, "It sounds good." Orbit is not a man of many flowery words, obviously, but "good" from him is equal to "fantastic" from most anybody else.
Several titles from the disc have escaped, one titled "Messiah" and the other "Bitch, I'm Madonna." It's up in the air at this point which ditty is more autobiographical.
• MUCH AS I admire Madonna, what I'm really waiting for this year is Peter Pan Live! This airs on NBC and co-stars Christopher Walken as an all-singing, all-dancing Captain Hook. (Peter Pan has yet to be cast.) We all know -- at least we all should know -- that Walken can sing and he can dance. It's always been somewhat strange to see him doing it, because, well -- he's a strange, if brilliant actor. Anyway, perfect casting, in my opinion.
As for Peter Pan, I say, think Pink! She has an incredible voice and has done a lot of aerial/trapeze stuff in recent concerts (you try singing upside down -- not so easy.) I know she's not a boy or a kid, but, hell, neither was Mary Martin or Cathy Rigby. I'd like to say Pink was my idea -- because I think it's a great one. But I picked it up from the profane, take-no-prisoners gossip site, Dlisted.
• SHOUT-OUT to Cameron Diaz, who recently said she never had a desire to have children and doesn't regret that choice. Her life is full enough. Honest, smart and compassionate. So many people (women and men) have children for every wrong reason. It's the most important decision you can make -- raising and caring for another human being. It's okay to be "selfish," which is what some people call it when you admit you don't want children.
Better that than raising an unhappy child, abusing it, handing it off to nannies. I salute Oprah similarly.
Diaz is on the cover of Esquire this month. ("Nobody is Hotter Than Cameron Diaz. Nobody" declares the cover-line.) She is 41 and says, "It's the best age. That's when a woman knows how to work things, or she just doesn't care about that anymore. You stop being afraid. You don't worry about what men think."
Oh, Cameron, you think you're fearless at 41? Wait until you're in your 50s, honey. That's really the best time!