Cheech Marin, Porn and an Ugly Dog

Up in Smoke.In this episode of the Daedalus Howell Show, actor-comedian Cheech Marin dishes about his former partner Tommy Chong and the lonely process of acting in Pixar’s new animated feature film Cars; Fast Forward: Confessions of a Porn Screenwriter author Eric Spitznagel talks about the trade and his magnum opus Butt Crazy; and TeleZombies actor Dane Andrews discusses his best friend Rascal, who hold the Guiness Book of World Records title as the World’s Ugliest Dog.

[audio:http://dhowell.com/podcast/dhs005.mp3]

Ette: The Suffering Suffix

Smurfette?“Ette,” that French-born diminutive suffix, oft maligned as patronizing and sexist, is most often appended to nouns whose referents have been shrunk, imitated, or as frequently, feminized – for example, respectively, cigar to cigarette, leather to leatherette and ranger to rangerette.

Ette’s critics suggest that the suffix merely modifies “masculine” words and by so doing substantiates the supposition that the language, in its normative form, is male and that feminized words are thus inherently inferior and reinforce the subordination of women. In this light, a word like “woman” is problematic enough and its “a” is replaced in some circles with the neutering “y” to get the “man” out of it (one can only imagine the kind of reception a term like “manette” would
receive).

That said, ette could be a force for feminism if its offensive power was hijacked and redirected as a sort of word reclamation project. Consider how, in recent years, “queer” has been wrested from homophobes, stripped of its pejorative power and now expresses a gay esprit de corps on magazine covers and TV shows.

Hearken back to the great grandmothers of feminism, granddames like Susan B. Anthony who evangelized women’s rights early in the last century and rocked the vote until they got it. They were known as Suffragettes, from “suffrage,” a term that refers to “one’s right to vote.” The “ette,” historically, was pinned on the UK wing of the movement as a pejorative by a snarky Brit newspaper.

“By adding the ‘ette’ diminutive, it tried to ridicule the women as something small, almost like an imitation of the real thing such as one would compare a kitchenette to a real kitchen,” writes Beans, a blogger in Portland, Oregon. “After that, many British suffragists, and a few American ones, adopted the term as a way to differentiate themselves from the staid constitutionalists who sought political equality through negotiation and lobbying.”

Today, the addendum finds sensitive scholars in a quandary: should these ladies be called suffragettes or should one use the gender-neutral “suffragists?” Stop the presses: the suffragettes were not engaged in a gender-neutral protest – they were seeking rights that were denied them specifically because of their gender. There was no “ist” about it – the “ette” is an historical badge of honor and as such is a candidate for reclamation. In this context, perhaps grrrls, womyn and rangerettes can work together.

Originally published in Fine Life’s Feminism Issue.

Now read this.

SonomaWino: Cline Cellars

We are not sheep, we are lawn mowers.Greeting visitors at Cline Cellars’ tasting-room door is a realistic, life-sized rubber butler, molded from latex and dressed in a tuxedo. He stands eerily motionless, like the pre-Robin Williams post-encephalitic patients in Awakenings. The purpose of the sentry is unclear: perhaps it’s meant to engender an atmosphere of mirthful irreverence, an idol to ward away the same snobs who would tsk-tsk a wooden Native American dry-rotting in front of a tobacco shop. Or perhaps the rubber butler proves the adage that “good help is hard to find.”

Good wines, however, are not hard to find at Cline, whose tasting-room menu currently boasts, among dozens of other selections, a raft of single-vineyard designate Zinfandels — gorgeous fruit bombs, each distinct from the other and each with its own super-powerful suggestion of simile.

Among them is the 2004 Sonoma Zinfandel, which hails from the Dry Creek and Alexander Valley vineyards, and behaves like a shy child who sulks before becoming an affectionate hug-machine with strawberry popsicle breath and a finish like a velveteen bear. Conversely, the 2004 Bridgehead Zin, sourced from Contra Costa County, is a beach scene in which the new lovers’ afternoon is threatened by the unexpected presence of an ex, but then blooms with dark possibility. Notes of berry, chocolate and toasted vanilla add heft to this otherwise peppery mouthful.

Also sourced in Contra Costa County, the 2004 Big Break Zinfandel is a heady, musty adventure, like crawling toward the back of a closet deep into a warren of dust bunnies and chancing upon a cedar box containing dried blueberries and a single eucalyptus leaf — and then drinking it. It’s a complicated, robust and powerful wine that seems to want to live in the musk of a guitar case next to your lost pipe.

Despite also being sourced from Contra Costa County, the 2004 Live Oak Zinfandel is a markedly different affair from the others. This is a big-boned, chest-pounding Zin that teams with dime-store exotica like black cherry cola and hot pepper jelly. It’s like some reckless friend of a friend who’s initially off-putting but groovy once you get to know him, and, in this case, worth the effort.

The price for all these bottles hovers between $25 and $28 (tastes are only a buck). However, elements of each can be found in a single bottle of the 2004 California Zinfandel, which is a tasty bargain at $11.

Cline Cellars, 24737 Hwy. 121, Sonoma. Open daily, 10am to 6pm. 707.940.4000.

Nomaville: Other Leading Brand

Smokin' SonomaThose who have suffered more than a half an hour of my company know my penchant for evangelizing the virtues of Sonoma. Some may only see the “So?” in being a Sonoman, but I see the “Man,” and on some days I even aspire to be him. Of course, this aspiration is only unveiled during those few hours that I’m not working for him, and, of course, when he’s not looking.

The Man communicates to me with messages in a bottle, the missives are as laconic as those in fortune cookies. This is how last night’s message read: “Sonoma = brand name.”

This was the inevitable splash back from all the good wine poured around these parts. It creates a bon homme with which marketers love to be associated. As a barometer go online and note the relative dearth of wine-themed Internet domain names currently available. Entrepreneurs from hither and yon are scouring the web for names that reference vino, but don’t run-on like that polysyllabic Mary Poppins number. A fellow from New Jersey is currently squatting WineChannel.com, another in Canada is awaiting the perfect moment to launch WineCzar.com. Local lifestyle maven Diva Donna of WineCountryDivas.com was smart enough to get her URL early as well.

In my observation, there is also now a scarcity of domains with “Sonoma” imbedded in them. SonomaLife.com is awaiting birth by Santa Rosa design firm. Less sexy SonomaLifestyle.com is also incubating somewhere in cyberspace. I recently acquired SonomaWino.com in both its single and plural forms, to point to wine columns stowed on my personal site. I resorted to the wino motif after frustrating myself in a vain search for something that would portray me as a little less down-market (but, hey, honesty is the best policy, right?). I ask: Is the day far off when SonomaThis.com and SonomaThat.com collide in a web traffic jam? As of this writing those domains are available, by the way. I wager that by next week they are both gone.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised: Sonoma has been evolving into a brand ever since entrepreneur Chuck Williams hyphened “Sonoma” to his surname and launched what would become a houseware industry giant. That was half a century ago this year and in the intervening decades the name “Sonoma” has found itself on myriad nationally marketed products and is currently fattening the bank accounts of those behind the Sonoma Diet.

Epicurean and lifestyle magazines routinely ornament their covers with Sonoma’s triple vowel word-score (though it’s just as often paired with our conjoined twin Napa). Some may bristle at the notion of our wine burg becoming a buzz-worthy boomtown, a town that heretofore that has largely turned its back on the world but has always kept an eye looking over its shoulder. A media colleague of mine refers to Sonoma as The Island for what she perceives to be this very mentality. Perhaps it’s a bit true, but Sonoma has always been an island, one that people like to visit, tourists and corporate conquistadors alike.

A tipster recently suggested to me that organic supermarket juggernaut Whole Foods, soon to land a location at the site of the former Ralph’s, chose our town so as to foster an association between its brand and the world’s growing interest in ours. When one considers that Sonoma’s population hardly merits its own store, especially since there is one just over the hill in Petaluma, the notion seems more like market savvy than a conspiracy theory.

The question that looms, Dear Readers, is what are YOU going to do with the Sonoma brand?

Do It Yourself Media Mavens

Bow wow?In this episode of the Daedalus Howell Show, do-it-Yourself media mavens discuss the “making of”: Director Raymond Daigle chats about his film Replica, about a night in the life of corporate copy shop clones; faux French flick director John Harden (the exquisite La Vie D’un Chien, or The Life of a Dog) marks his territory; former radio jock turned nasal spray entrepreneur Wayne Perry shills for Howard Stern; and The Bohemian’s Talkin’ Pix columnist David Templeton has a date with a demon.

[audio:http://dhowell.com/podcast/dhs008.mp3]