Monday, January 31, 2011

A Case of The Mondays

     I realize it's an unpopular thing to say, but it's also real.  Today, I have quite the case of the Mondays.  And for me, another aspect of the Mondays is that if Monday morning is bad, I don't have much a shot at the rest of the week.  Yes, this is a defeatist attitude, but I have 31 years of empirical data to back that up.
     I try to start Mondays off right if for no other reason than to offset the inevitable shit week ahead.  But if Monday morning is shit, well then, I should just pack it in now.  I actually woke up not late this morning.  I had a wonderful shower and performed the rest of the morning routine appropriately.   It was nice.  And then came the train.  Pardon the pun, but the train has derailed any possibility of a successful week.
     It was late, and jerky.  I mean that in a physical sense, though I suppose I would also call the train a jerk if I were to assign it personified behaviors.  The trains lateness of course caused my lateness, thereby completely negating waking up not late and everything I had done right earlier in the day.  I could have slept in, taken a Navy shower, and not worn make up, and I would have arrived at the same time.  I feel defeated.  This then leads to a general feeling of the Mondays.  My attention span is that of a gnat on crack, my tolerance for stupidity is dangerously low for the workplace, and I just want to stuff my face with nuts trail mix.
     Also, being late today means I'll be even later tomorrow, and the next day, because that's just how it goes.  It's how it always has gone, and I don't see how it could possibly go any other way.   A bad case of the Mondays leads to the testy Tuesdays, the  worked-up Wednesdays, the ticked-off  Thursdays, and the  finally-it's-fucking Fridays.  Ugh, the Mondays.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sound of Silence

     Not the song, but actually the sound of silence, is completely awful.   Maybe it's a small ADD part of me that feels the need for constant stimulation, but frankly, I need constant stimulation.  There is such a thing as too quiet.   The two places I come across this most are at work and in my mother's house.  Also my mother's car.  Well, pretty much anywhere with my mother.
     I find the silence creepy.  And what's worse is that it makes every small sound made within the cone of silence grating.  The sound of the air conditioner/heater blowing through the vents provides just the right amount of white noise to try to lull me to sleep.  I hear every key stroke.  My eye lids make a sound as they scrape across my drying contact lenses.  It's terrifying.  I put my earbuds in sometimes, but then even at their lowest possible volume, they seem deafening.  Oh god, what if someone hears that?
     Mouse-click.  Backspace, backspace.  Mouse-click.  Chair squeak,  the door three offices over opened and closed, sneeze.  I always imagined offices to have more white noise.  On The Office there's lots.  People are talking, making copies, playing jokes.  Not here.  There's something about the silence that apparently promotes productivity.  It's the tension, I'm sure.
     And then there's the tension surrounding my mother.  She doesn't like music.  This can't really be true, but she never listens to it.  She doesn't play music in her house, and she doesn't play it in her car.  And if there were constant chatter or something, I would understand it.  But there isn't.  Instead there is just eerie silence.  So eerie it makes you afraid to say anything.   A simple question can get catapulted into an argument, just for breaking the silence. 
      We sit at the table finishing our lunch.  I start chewing an ice cube; I should know better, clearly.  I've cut the silence and hit her last nerve.  It's hard to relive, but let it suffice it to say, it is not a relaxing place to be.  Someone (me) usually storms out.  Often to be alone, where I can make noise.
     I do appreciate a certain level of silence for certain things, I'm not an animal.  At funerals, for example.  Other times though, the complete tension forming eerie silence drives me mad.  Completely insane.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursdays and Superballs

     I'm just happy it's Thursday.  Thursday is one of my favorite days of the week.  There's the excitement of the impending weekend, without the pressure of kicking off the weekend right.  This Thursday started off great with a snow storm and a 2 hour work delay.  That was nice.  Thursday nights are made for staying in.  I put on my pajamas, make some junk food, and settle in for the night.  In college, Thursdays were the beginning of the weekend.  Not for me.  For me, Thursday has always been a great night for staying in. 
     In college, Thursday night was for Friends, Will&Grace, and ER.  The superball wars began on a Thursday night.  My roommate was going to the library to study.  She asked me to tape (TiVo wasn't invented yet) ER for her.  I unreasonably screamed profanities at her about the audacity of her request.  Of course, I taped it.  But as the closing credits rolled and she wasn't back yet, I began to get ideas.
     For reasons I don't care to go into, we had access to approximately 1000 bouncy superballs.  Clearly, the next logical step was to fill smarty-pants library-going roommate's bed with them.  My other roommate and I layered first roommate's bed- between the mattress and the mattress pad, between the mattress pad and the fitted sheet, between the fitted sheet and the regular sheet, in the pillow cases, and all mixed up within her comforter and blankets.  We tried to wait up for her, but the adrenaline wore off and we went to sleep, giggling. 
     The next morning, other roommate and I were on our way out to our Friday morning workout session.  We peeked in smarty's room- she seemed to be sleeping soundly.  On top of the superballs? we wondered.  Huh.  Who knows.  Fast forward to our return.  Smarty is still sleeping, but we need breakfast, and roomie has a headache.  The medicine cabinet door opens, thuds and screams fill the apartment, and smarty appears in the hallway: "Payback is hell, bitches!"  And so the superball wars were born.
     This Thursday won't be anything like that.  But it will have Community, Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock.   And I won't be taping it for anyone.  Except that I TiVo it for myself, and then watch it over and over.   

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things I Take Advantage Of

     Mostly, how snow affects people here in the district.  It snowed last night.  And by that I mean a few flakes fell on the ground.  I couldn't actually tell by looking out the window, but the folks on the radio said that's what happened.  And then they listed schools that were opening two hours late.
     I like to take this to mean that I'm allowed to split the difference between getting to work on time and getting there two hours late.  In reality, there is no reason I can't actually make it on time.  When judged against the standards I'm used to- Michigan winter standards, the weather looked like a warm Spring day.  Yes, there were a few flakes.  And yes, it was at that awkward temperature where everything is slushy.  So you wear a coat, and you put some gloves and maybe a hat on, but it's not really cold.  Yep, it's gross out.  That is what a warm Michigan spring day is. 
     But far be it from me to take the storm crisis mode too lightly.  If folks in this area think we need to be on alert, and therefore stay inside and not go to work, then who am I to argue?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Oscars

     The nominations are in!  I didn't get to watch them live on TV, mostly because I was at work.  Luckily this is the type of thing you can find all over the internet.  There's even a special Oscar page
     I'm not surprised by any of the nominations, really.  There are a few folks who were apparently snubbed, and it's a bummer, but there really weren't any people who didn't deserve the nomination.
     I like the Sound Editing and Sound Mixing categories.  I like them because really, who cares?  Other than the people who are nominated, nobody really gives a crap.  It's a nice category, for them.  It's the type of work that largely goes unnoticed.  Good sound editing and sound mixing enhance the film, but it does so in a way that it doesn't (or shouldn't) draw attention to itself.  I'm sure all the films nominated had great sound editing and mixing.  It's also a great category because it lets films like Tron:Legacy be nominated.  It makes me chuckle to think of someone flipping through the discount DVD bin in 5 years and finding Tron:Legacy.  They pick it up and read "Academy Award nominated*..."  They react with "what the hell?  Oh, sound editing.  Sure."  It's a real award, but also, it's kind of fake.  People rarely remember who wins that one. 
     I do not like the Original Song category.  It seems like it was created when there were a lot of musicals so it made sense to recognize the songs.  Now I think they're grasping at straws.  Randy Newman should win, because he's the only person nominated who deserves anything, and Toy Story 3 was great.  The other songs are lame, even though I probably haven't heard them. 
     I like that Toy Story 3 was nominated for best picture, also.  Pixar really knows how to tell a story.  I don't really think it will, or even should, win, but it's nice to know a good story that is well told can earn a nomination- the fact that it's animated and a threequel didn't diminish its heart.  The Academy should just give them the Oscar for best animated feature now. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thursday Night Line Up. A Review.

     Ah, my favorite night of television is back.  I like to watch these shows twice, and I prefer being able to watch them through TiVo so I can pause it when I need to laugh extra hard and don't want to miss the next line.

Community.  The characters are just so damn good.  I love how this show has developed.  It started off as a Joel McHale vehicle, but is now truly an ensemble show.  I love whenever Shirley says "I'm a grown-ass woman."  I love anything Troy and Abed do.  I love that people come to find Jeff in the bathroom, and then some nerd finds Britta in there.  I love that Malcolm Jamal Warnar guest stars as Shirley's ex-husband, and I really love when Jeff compliments Andre's sweater and Andre responds "My dad gave it to me."  Precious.
     An overall review of this episode is tough for me.  I just want to say "squueeee" and "hearts."  I loved it.  I love all of them, it doesn't matter what they do.  I think they have wonderfully developed characters, and they tell good stories.  I couldn't remember how Jeff knew Rich, but I was actually glad that they didn't tell me.  I knew they had met last season, and that was good enough to get me through the story.

Parks and Recreation. It was like hanging out with an old friend again.  They did a recap at the beginning and I sort of wanted them to just get to it, but then I remembered not everyone watches it with as much regularity as I do.  It was almost perfect.  Poor Jerry.  I think it's hilarious how mean they are to Jerry.  It seems to be for no reason, but also, there's probably a damn good reason.  Leslie throws his beautiful painting into the lake.  Later, for no reason, she takes his coffee out of his hand and throws it in the trash.  He's trying to be the one positive person when Ben tells the department they will be in maintenance mode and everyone just yells at him: "Jerry!"  Greatness.
     I love Andy Dwyer.  He's so sweet and clueless.  "If you're trying to tell me something, I don't know what it is, because you won't call me back."  Chris Pratt nails that character.  I love the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness.  Ron Swanson is awesome.  I also love how we know Lucy is pissed at Tom, even though we only saw her for about a nano-second.
     The one part where I got a little squishy is when Leslie starts to going on about the plan and she blames it on Ann.  I felt like she could have covered it better.  It works itself out, kind of, so it was ok.  I suppose it forces Ann to talk to Chris, and admit to him she likes him.  And she admits why she went along with it, and that makes her seem like an even better person.  It was sweet and honest: "Leslie came up with the idea, and I love her, so I went along."  Simple.  Ok, I feel better about it now.

     "Our budget's been slashed to zero. I tried to buy fertilizer the other day for the soccer field... request denied. We literally can't buy shit."  It's hilarious, and I like that she uses literally correctly.  If you try to look up the best quotes from the episode, you end up reading the script.    And if you try to discuss all your favorite scenes with your friend over G-Chat, you pretty much recount the entire episode.  It's great.  Watch it.  Go Big or Go Home.

30 Rock.  I wonder if or how the new time slot will change the show.   But I shouldn't think about that part too much.  I agree with Liz and her new years resolution: "Yes to staying in more!"  Classic mix-ups are great, and I love that they accidentally got married.  It seems like some people think that Jack and Liz should end up together, but they shouldn't.  I was a little confused as to why it had to be divorce papers and not an annulment, but I guess that's just semantics really.  There were papers to be signed, and that was leverage.  Everyone had some sort of marriage troubles.   
     I also heart Cheyenne Jackson's character, Danny.  I wish he were around more, though I do like that Kenneth pointed out they just forgot he still worked there.  Awesome.  It's also great when he slips into his Canadian accent just a little bit.  I like how Liz doesn't actually know what's going on with them, so when Jenna makes a declarative statement about marriage and Danny or whatever it is, Liz and Pete just kind of assume it's Jenna being crazy.  There's a simple "huh" and they move on.
     Again, attempting to review the episode just makes me want to watch it again.  The scene where Liz goes on TV to announce a $5 million donation to NY Public Schools was fantastic.  "We know what art is.  It's paintings of horses."  (Side note:  I really enjoyed when Jack calls Liz Elizabeth.  It was pitch perfect.)  And the voice!  The voice!  "What was that voice?" "That was my imitation of Drew Barrymore's impression of that crazy lady."  Awesome.  "Your plan worked, I fired her and brought up slavery."  "I knew I could count on you."  "This isn't my first rodeo."  "I've been to a rodeo too.  It was a cat rodeo.  In a gay guy's apartment."  I love their back and forth and their one-up-manship.  I also really like Sherri Shepherd as Angie Jordan.  That show would be a massive hit!  
     I am probably unable to give a fair review of 30 Rock.  I will always think anything it does is hilarious.  Tina Fey is a comic genius, so if there is a joke I don't laugh at, it's because I'm stupid.  It's been said before, and it's true: she could shit in a bucket and I'd think it was hilarious.  And it would be too.  

The rest of the Thursday night line up (Perfect Couples, The Office, and Outsourced) don't get reviewed.  Perfect Couples is new; I'm not convinced yet.  It's decent filler though, and gives me time to get a snack.  I've lost interest in The Office, though I'll watch it now that it's between shows and since it's Steve Carell's last season.  Eff Outsourced.  I don't watch it.  I pretend nothing at all happens in the world after 30 Rock is over.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Wait Is Over

     Finally, January 20th arrived!  I've been waiting for it for months!  The season three premiere of Parks & Recreation!  Woo!  It's like spending time with an old friend.  A hilarious old friend. 
     I need to rewatch the episode, and the rest of the Thursday night line up, and then provide a thorough and thoughtful review. 
     Also- yes, I do like exclamation points.  I was that excited. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When Funny Shows Go Sad. Part II.

     I mentioned two of the best sitcoms that have done sad episodes well: Scrubs and 8 Simple Rules.  In general, Scrubs  was great at walking that line quite frequently.  Since it was set in a hospital, it dealt with death frequently.  Also, I think its style helped- it was single camera, with no studio audience / laugh track.  Having a laugh track can kill a sad episode.
     As I mentioned, the 8 Simple Rules episode that turns me into a bawling blubbering fool is the episode they did when John Ritter died.  It was a two parter, titled "Goodbye."  I don't think there were really any laughs in it at all.  It was all very real to them, and that was palpable.  I attempted to find it on YouTube, but that episode is not available. 
     My favorite sad episode of Scrubs is "My Cake," the episode where J.D.'s dad dies.  Then I remembered- John Ritter played J.D.'s dad.  These two things must be linked in my brain.  I have a certain affinity with characters whose dads die, and apparently I have one with shows where John Ritter is the dad. 

     Scrubs is a funnier show than 8 Simple Rules, and "My Cake" is funnier than "Goodbye."  These episodes are actually quite different, however, they both go it right.  It must be something about John Ritter that made them get it right
     Scrubs got it right because it always got things like that right.  It started off with the perfect amount of heart to pull off these ultra sad episodes, but still be funny.  8 Simple Rules had to make a complete tone shift.  It was able to do it, but it had to tread lightly.  I suppose they were given a certain amount of latitude because everyone knew what had happened.  The show couldn't ignore the fact that its star had just died, and quite unexpectedly.  But saying that makes it sound like the episode wasn't any good, and that we ate it up because of the circumstance.  But that's not at all what I'm saying.  It is a great episode.  The circumstances are unfortunate, but I think the raw emotion fueled the writing as well as the performances.
     I've watched it several times, months and years apart, and every time it makes me cry big puppy dog tears for at least an hour.  But the show is still a comedy.  Again, I don't really remember the specifics of the episode well enough to know if there were jokes or a laugh track.  But the show overall maintained its humor, while still dealing with this very serious heartbreaking topic.  And that's the point- it's a tough thing to do, and few do it well.  But those who want to do it could learn a lesson from these two shows.  Or show and this one two-part episode.

If you're curious about the Scrubs episode, it's on YouTube:
My Cake - Part 1.
My Cake - Part 2.
My Cake - Part 3.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When Funny Shows Go Sad.

     I've been giving this a lot of thought recently, especially in the last 8 hours, since I posted yesterday's preview.  I looked up a list of all sitcoms ever in an attempt to jog my memory.  There are a few that I feel probably did it well, but that I couldn't really remember a specific time when they had done it. 
     I would bet those classic 80's sit-coms had some Very Special Episodes, and while a few probably did it with a massive amount of cheese, maybe some of them didn't.   Family Ties was known for throwing in some hard hitting episodes; the topics weren't always funny, but generally the episode was.  This is a show that always had heart, so it was an easy transition to make.  The episode where Steven's father died is told in mostly flashbacks.  There are fewer punchlines, but the episode holds together and is an important arc for Steven.
     Thinking about how well Family Ties deals with those things makes me think that Spin City probably walked the line in a similar fashion.  I didn't watch Spin City on a regular basis, but I should have, at least in the beginning.  Its co-creator was Bill Lawrence, creator of Scrubs, which will come up again soon.  I imagine that with two of the biggest hearted guys at the helm, Spin City probably bobbed and weaved its way around the saddest of all topics with ease and poignancy.
     Remember Blossom?  You probably do.  I don't remember specific episodes too well, but I remember there were a few premise elements that lent themselves to sad story lines.  The episode that does stick with me though is the one where they broke the last glass.  It was an ET glass or a Star Wars glass- some sort of collectible glass.   It was the  last thing that Nick(?) had kept in the house from his  ex-wife.  And as much as he was burned by her leaving, he was really tore up when that last glass broke. 
     Episodes of Full House don't count.  They never got it right, and I think it's because the premise was already so heartbreaking, but they kind of ignored it, they could never really get to the heart of it.  I've always wanted to do a reboot of that show, to make it real, and therefore, not terrible.  It was beloved by so many people, but it was so terrible.  Hrm.  Just terrible.
     As I looked at the list, a few shows jumped out as shows that probably did it well, but that I didn't remember well: Cheers, Mad About You, Murphy Brown, and M*A*S*H.  A few others struck me as shows that probably tried, but didn't quite pull it off: The Facts of Life, The Golden Girls, Home Improvement, and Who's The Boss. 
     I debated about Will&Grace.  I remember they got very sit and less com towards the end.  There was good writing, and there was never a big cheese factor, so I would bet they had a few good sad episodes in their repertoire of hilarity.  Also, Sports Night pulled it off quite frequently, but since it was written by Aaron Sorkin, it hardly counts.  It started off on a whole other plane.
      What I realized when trying to pull material together for this post was that my two favorite episodes of shows that I think deal with very sad things the best, are actually about the same exact thing.  This leads me to the belief that it requires a separate post.  So yes, tomorrow's post will also be about incredibly sad things, but hopefully in a funny way. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When Funny Shows Go Sad. A Preview.

     How I Met Your Mother didn't quite get it right.  This topic has been around a few other blogs of late, so I figured I'd throw my hat in the ring.  Sometimes comedies, or sit-coms, cover topics that are a bit heart-wrenching. And some of the them do it better than others.  It's a tough subject to tackle; you break tone, or you're irreverent, or you nail it with a perfect blend of heart and humor.  It works best on shows that have already established a lot of heart.
     Scrubs could do it best.  However, the best dead-father sitcom episode ever was, unfortunately, Eight Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter.  They got it right on.  If I recall correctly, it was a two-part episode, and each time I watch them, I ball.  No, I bawl.  The death of John Ritter was still raw and the emotion was palpable.  The series didn't do very well after that, but those episodes, even independent of the rest of the series, stand out as great sad episodes of funny shows.
     Tomorrow, more about how to be sad, but in a funny way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Golden Globes Recap

     I didn't make predictions for the Golden Globes like ~M did, but still, I had some thoughts.  Mostly, I thought they had it wrong with the nominees, so the winners were less important.  What I like about The Golden Globes is 1. it brings television and film together, and 2. there's drinking.  However, my #1 reason of liking it leads to terrible categories like "best supporting person who showed up on TV in the last 13 months."  And the one about "best show that might make you chuckle." 
     I didn't have much to say about the film categories.  Most of the nominees deserved to be nominated, probably. I was pleased Social Network won as much as it did, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross definitely deserved the Golden Globe for score over all those other people who write scores and win awards all the time. The song category should have been done away with though.  It's an antiquated category from the big days of musicals.  (I have no idea if this is true.)  The nominees were ridiculous, and the nerve of Diane Warren to make Jennifer Lopez hold her award.  I raspberry in the direction of that award.
      I'm convinced the huge error made with the nominees for comedy is rooted a bit in racism.  Well, it's going to say racist when I say it.  Humor doesn't always translate.  So when you have an awards show put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, you have to expect there are a few non-English speakers on the voting board, or however the hell that works, and they just don't get things that are funny.  That's the only explanation.  Also, it makes me believe that thing Ricky Gervais said about the HFPA taking bribes.  There's no reason Modern Family didn't take the category.  I love 30 Rock, it should have won.  Community and Parks&Rec are two fantastic and hilarious shows, but they weren't even nominated.  In any category.
     I don't remember what else was nominated, and I don't feel like looking it up.  But I'm sure they weren't funny.  They probably nominated 60 Minutes and reruns of Full House.

Dear HFPA,
Get a sense of humor.  And a clue.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shout Out a Suggestion

     I've mentioned before that when I'm at a loss for ideas, I'll often shout out to my good friend Mary for suggestions.  This time her suggestion was "me and tea."  Nothing immediately came to mind, but I like a challenge. 
Mary and Tea
     Almost every day, some form of this conversation happens:
Mary: This tea isn't very good.
Nancy: Tea sucks.   
I think Mary genuinely likes tea.  I used to like the idea of tea, but I've gotten over that.  I've been a coffee drinker since I was 13, and to me, tea is just really weak shitty coffee.  Except iced tea.  I love iced tea, but not sweetened, and not with lemon.  This is apparently an odd way to drink iced tea.
     Several years ago, I attempted to become a tea drinker.  I was living on a barge in the middle of the sea profiting greatly from the trade of teas and spices, so I had it at my disposal.*  I opted for a tea named Tension Tamer; there was a picture of a lion on the box, or a dragon.  It might have been Morning Thunder with the buffalo.  I don't actually remember.  I attempted to make it part of my routine.  One of the things I liked about tea is that when it got cold, it still tasted like tea.  I think my affair with tea lasted about three days.
     I will still drink tea on occasion- mostly on the occasion of being ill.   I still enjoy a cup of peppermint tea when I'm wrapped up in sweats and blankets and have tissues shoved up my nose.  For some reason, peppermint tea cures what ails you.  Or at least cups of hot water cure what ails you, but the peppermint makes it easier to take.  
      A few of my current coworkers are tea drinkers.  I resent them for it.
I'm going to get coffee, would you like some?
No thanks, I drink tea.
It's almost as bad as those people who constantly remind you they don't own a television.  They're actually constantly reminding you that they're better than you.  I bet the venn diagram of people who drink tea and people who don't own televisions looks like this:

There are probably a few people who drink tea because of dietary restrictions but still enjoy watching TV.  Also, there are probably a few homeless people who don't own TVs or drink tea.  Other than that though, I think there's probably a pretty strong overlap.
     So anyway, Mary, the reason your tea sucks is because in general, tea sucks.  Drink coffee!

*This is not true.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Words With Two Meanings


1. An unintentional failure to notice or do something.
2. The action of overseeing something.

     I don't walk around thinking about how this word can be used in different ways, but it came up recently.  Because not only does it mean those two things, it could also mean both.  You could have been overseeing something, and not noticed something that happened.
    "What happened here?"
    "The oversight happened under my oversight."
 Hopefully, contextual clues help you out.
    "Due to my oversight, the company made millions of dollars."
That sounds good, so it's probably due to good supervision, not an unintentional failure.
    "Because of my oversight, all the customers ate bad mayonnaise and got really sick."
That sounds bad, so it probably was an unintentional failure.

     However, consider if you were not trying to make millions of dollars, or if you were just a bad supervisor.  Then those sentences have drastically different meaning.  
    "I was trying to lose tons of money, but because of an unintentional failure, the company made millions of dollars." 
   "I'm new at this job, so because of my supervision, all the customers ate bad mayonnaise and got really sick."  
 This last one may be an example of using both meanings at once. 

Consider an instance where context offers you nothing.
   "He was responsible for the oversight of over 112,000 hours of testing."  
This is a real world example.  I was concerned.  Did he supervise over 112,000 hours of testing, or was it his fault 112,000 hours of testing didn't get done?  One seems impressive, while the other a dismal failure. 
     Actually, I did have context, because this was for an award.  I doubted anyone would be receiving an award for neglecting 112,000 hours of testing.  It's not impossible he would get an award even if he had done that, but I didn't see him getting an award for doing that.  Plus, it's not something people would bring up.   I decided I wouldn't use the word oversight in award write-ups, due to the confusion.  We don't want to start handing out awards for people's unintentional failures.
     Intentional failures?  Well, that's nonfeasance.  We probably don't give awards for that either. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Watch Instantly Sunday: A Review Part II

     Yesterday's post was a bit of a misnomer, because none of those were actually viewed on Watch Instantly.  This post picks up where yesterday's left off: me in my room in front of the computer.  Some time between Meet The Press and Prelude To A Kiss, I decided I wanted the fun again; I was cured.  Bring it on, Netflix.

Spring Breakdown.  I didn't know this movie existed, and I don't know how I've gone so long without it in my life.  It stars Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Parker Posey.  Also, Amber Tamblyn, Mae Whitman, Sarah Hagan, Seth Meyers, (a wee bit of Will Arnett), Missi Pyle, and Jane Lynch.  A little bit of research tells me that this film missed a theatrical release all together.  That's a shame- I would have watched this three times in the theaters.  It's a female centric comedy, and maybe stupid studio politics had something to do with it not getting a break.  I hate that I even wrote that sentence.  The sentence to follow that will quickly lead my into a downward spiral of feminist theory and comedy.  I'll save that for a Master's class.
     This is a very funny movie.  The gist is that there are three "friends forever" who may just be life long dorks.  They get the opportunity to go to a traditional Spring Break hot spot, and even though they're way beyond the appropriate age to do so, they go.  They have a sort of assignment to befriend a group of teenagers who are dorks in their own right.  It's a fish out of water story, times six.
      It won me over with the opening sequence- the three leads at a talent show, singing Cyndi Lauper's True Colors with full earnest, and singing it pretty well.  The song ends and we reverse to the audience- the silent, bored, audience.  The tone is set.  We fast forward fifteen years and the story takes off.
     The official reviews of this movie were not too great, but I suppose if you're looking for reasons not to like it, maybe you would come to some of the same conclusions.  The most oft quoted statement is about a fine group of comediennes not used to their full potential.  This is actually the kind of review that I believe to be covered in bullshit.  Amy Poehler is hilarious.  Rachel Dratch is hilarious.  Parker Posey  is hilarious.  Put them together, and they're hilarious cubed.
     They stick together, and there are a lot of great group scenes with the three of them.  But they each also take a personal journey, coming into their own, learning about who they really are, and discovering that who they are is better than who they think they want to be.  Yes, the journey is a little farcical.  But Amy Poehler is both hot and hilarious in dreds- I hope "see you lader hosen"  becomes something people really say.  I plan to spearhead the movement.
     You know what, perhaps I have already said too much.  Just watch this movie.  I'm going to go watch it again.  Right now.

25 Years of Improv.  The 25th Anniversary of the Improv Olympic in Chicago.  A whole bunch of Improv Olympic alum got together to celebrate the anniversary of this awesome, funny place.  This was good Sunday afternoon viewing- it offers good insight into the process of improv and comedy in general.  And you get the idea that improv isn't really about comedy at first, it's about creation.  But eventually, creation is pretty funny.  And yes, Amy Phoehler was there.  It was a theme for the day.

Upright Citizens Brigade Season Two.  While watching the Improv Olympic Anniversary show, I was reminded of the short lived Comedy Central show put on by the UCB founders Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts.  Season one wasn't available on watch instantly, so I delved in with season two.  I was hesitant, but then figured plot probably wasn't a huge player for the show.   I watched two full episodes, and was pretty sure I understood the show.  It was funny, but not always laugh out loud funny.  It may have been a bit dated, I'm not quite sure.  I remember when it was actually on Comedy Central, and I probably watched it a little bit, but didn't get it back then.  It was my fault I didn't get it.  The Wu Tang Clang finding your underground lair is funny.  Go with it.

Saturday Night Live: Season 27.  I'm pretty pumped that most older seasons of SNL are available on Watch Instantly now.  I started with season 27 because it was Amy Poehler's first season.  She started as a featured player, and by episode 11 she was in the full cast.  I made it through the first 11 episodes, and it's easy to see why she so quickly gained the attention.  I think it's something called commitment.  She consistently gave great performances and great characters- the porn star on a date, the trashy woman who shuts herself in an oven, Loose Bear, bratty teenager.  Well, the list goes on and on.  This was also the season with Will Ferrel, Tracy Morgan, Chris Katan,  Darell Hammond, Maya Rudolf, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, and Jimmy Fallon (and one or two other people.  Dean something maybe?).  I also really really love watching the old Weekend Updates.  That's consistently been my favorite segment.  Season 27 was the second year of Tina Fey & Jimmy Fallon.  There are some episodes that get pretty hacked up, based on lack of music rights and other such things that we don't really need to understand.  But Weekend Update is always there, and always awesome.  Tina Fey offered to throw a pizza party for the airport security guard who could find a terrorist.  "So, if you love pizza, and you hate terrorism, pull your head out of your ass and get all up in Makmoud's carry-on."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Watch Instantly Sunday: A Review

     As I mentioned yesterday, I spend the brunt of the weekend being a recluse.  This is actually one of my favorite activities.  I filled my time with television, movies, and books.  Well, book.  And now, to review.  (I didn't watch anything new, so I'm not going to use spoiler tags.  I believe all of these things are passed the spoiler  statute of limitations.)

Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut.  I love this movie.  It comes in at number four when I'm listing my  four favorite movies.  I like how when it ends you just kind of sit there and go "whaaa?"  It's one of the few films that is over two hours long that I will watch multiple times.  Also, I've never seen the original, theatrical version.  At this point, I don't see how it could be better than this version.  It turns out, the movie is about time travel and saving the universe.  Or about creating a tangential universe and then fixing it, somehow.  It also has a pretty awesome soundtrack.  Admittedly, it's not for everyone.  It's about ten years old by now, and it had been a few years since I had seen it last.  There were a few bits I had forgotten about entirely, like the paths streaming from the chests.  That part seems weird to me, but it's very brief, and it fits in, so it's ok.  There's something that I love about watching the movie, and even rewatching it, not being really sure of what's going on precisely, but still wanting to see what happens.  And then in the end the jet engine falls again, and time was reset and you go "oh.  Wait.  What?  Oh.  Ok."  And then you're left to sit on your couch for a few minutes.

Wishful Drinking.  A book by Carrie Fisher.  The title and cover art are intriguing enough to make you pick it up, and when you do and flip through it, you can figure it should only take a few hours to get through.  It's not a heavy read.  And if it weren't for the fact that she's Carrie effing Fisher, so, incredibly famous already, her style and tone would be insufferable.  Since she is Carrie effing Fisher, her tone makes complete sense,  and, she states, it's basically the written out version of her one woman show.  Oh but to be famous and screwed up enough to get one of those.  It was a fun, easy read.  I suppose if you didn't know anything about her at all, you might find it surprising.  But if you didn't know anything about her at all, you probably wouldn't have noticed the book in the first place. 

Meet The Press.  I don't usually watch this show, because Sunday mornings are reserved for catching up on the week's programming or going to the farmer's market.  But I was especially compelled this particular Sunday, and I actually think the round table discussion was a good one.  There was no yelling.  The yelling is normally what turns me off of shows that feature round table discussions, or present the opportunity for many people to speak at once.  I can't listen to that.  And it's not that I assumed this show was like that.  It's just that it had never occurred to me before to watch it.  I thought it was something you started watching when you turned 65 and really started caring about social security and couldn't understand the jokes on SNL anyway.  Turns out, you can just watch it when you're a little weirded out by what just happened in the country.

Prelude To A Kiss.    I didn't watch the whole thing.  It came on after Joe Versus The Volcano.  I only saw the last 15 minutes of that.  That movie, I love.  I like to say "you didn't get a second opinion?" a lot, though most people can't connect that to the line in the end of the movie.  So I was pulled in to the Meg Ryan glow when Prelude To A Kiss began.  I remember not liking the film the first time I saw it.  Then I was taken aback by how old the movie was (almost 20 years), and how young Alec Baldwin was.  (That's a weird thing to say.  It was 20 years ago, so he was 20 years younger.  Anyway.)  I wasn't as bothered by it this time.  I started getting drawn in by the deliberate dialogue.  Something in my filmmaking brain was intrigued by their words and the passage of time.  Also, I really enjoyed the scene where he meets her parents this time- I don't remember it being anything spectacular the first time I saw it.  But it was on TV, and I do not like watching movies with commercials in it.  It takes me out of it too much.  I actually forget what I'm watching.  I flipped over to Dances With Wolves briefly.  I was struck by the fact that Mary McDonnell is in Dances With Wolves with Graham Greene, and that in Donnie Darko, the class is reading The Destroyers, written by a different Graham Greene.  At the emergency PTA meeting, Mary McDonnell's character, Rose Darko, asks the gym teacher "do you even know who Graham Greene is?"  "I think we've all seen 'Bananza.'" the gym teacher replies.  Sure, it's not ha-ha rofl funny, but there's something to it, I think.  Mary McDonnell knows damn well who both Graham Greenes are.  But anyway, Prelude To A Kiss is only ok.  It loses something near the middle, which is where I turned it off, after realizing I was still watching it.

Upon turning it off, I retreated to by bedroom and turned to my favorite invention of the year in which it was invented: Netflix Watch Instantly.

I'll continue the review of the recluse weekend tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Weekend Recluse

     Being a recluse is easier when you don't have very many friends.  Also, when the friends you do have lead very full complicated lives, they tend to call less often.  Sometimes, the roller coaster of emotions that comes from dealing with everything around you causes you to take refuge in your pajamas, to become a weekend recluse. 
     It was the first weekend in three weeks where there was no agenda.  I was free to do whatever I wanted.  On Friday, I was still slightly recovering from my cold, so to knock the recovery out of the park, I stayed in.  I made sure all of the alarms were off and settled in for the greatest night of sleep ever.
     The one thing I had scheduled for the weekend was an Improv workshop at 3 pm on Saturday.  I was excited about this.  Saturday morning came.  I wanted to write that the morning dawn came through my windows and the sunlight tickled me awake.  But that's kind of effeminate, and it didn't happen.  I woke up with the distinct desire to not get out of bed.  I also had the distinct desire to urinate.  Since I didn't want to lie in my own urine, I got up to pee, but happily crawled back into my bed, just like a kid.  I keep a few books near my bed, so I finished reading Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher.  It was a lovely read. 
    I stretched out getting dressed and preparing for the day as long as I could.  I pretty much dried each individual strand of hair separately.  It was very peaceful.  Then I put on a very characteristic winter outfit and walked the mile to the improv workshop. 
     During the 5 minute break at the workshop, I checked Twitter on my phone, and I was overcome with confusion.  The tragedy in Arizona had just happened, and it was reaching the news wires, and being retweeted.  A part of me wanted to ask others in the room if they had heard about it yet, but another part didn't want to ruin the mood.  That seems like a silly thing to say- to ruin the mood, but it was a very real concern of mine.  I didn't want to be the girl who brings up terrible news in the middle of what's supposed to be a very fun afternoon.  So I kept it to myself until the walk home.  On the walk home, I mulled over many things, and tried to find the balance.  I had a wonderful two hours of creation with improv.  I wanted to do more of it, to continue with that outlet.  However, there were also awful things going on, and it felt irresponsible to ignore them. 
     I have trouble finding the balance between the general outrage I feel and my desire to not offend people.  The basis of my desire to not offend people comes from not wanting to be offended.  However, I’m coming to realize that I’m not quite as easily offended because I am willing to consider reasonable arguments.  The ideas I feel outraged by are in general not open to reasonable discussion.  Also, often I feel as though I’m not knowledgeable enough to firmly ground myself behind a point of view.  I also don’t attack things with enough fervor.  In general, I don’t actually agree with a friend of mine on most things.  But she’d never know it because she’s loud enough to drown out any point of view coming from a meeker place than hers, and she will never back down.  Kudos to her, I suppose, on some level.  Except I think this type of discourse can be extrapolated to represent others like us.  People who care but aren’t confident in the facts to back up their feelings will be bullied by those with a better grasp on the language and volume of politics.
     That idea wasn't fully formed on the way home, but it was getting there.  (And will continue to form, to include both more specific, and broader instances.)  I made a few phone calls to check in with those friends who have more interesting lives than I.  Indeed, they were all busy.  I picked up a pizza from the pizza joint across from me and went home to eat pizza and drink wine.  It was only 6 pm, but at that point I had decided to stay inside.
     I had been itching to rewatch Donnie Darko, so I popped that into the DVD player.  And when it was over, I watched it with the commentary.  The commentary was actually pretty interesting, because it was a specific director's cut commentary, which was made about 3 years after the release of the theatrical version of the film. And director Richard Kelly had his good friend Kevin Smith sit in with him.  It provided great levity to the weight of the project.  
     Sunday morning came along similarly to how Saturday morning had, but with even less on my plate for the day.  I didn't want to go outside anymore- this was just something else that made me want to be a recluse, but not exactly for the obvious reason.  The obvious reason being that I don't want to get shot.  I actually care less about being shot and more about the general discourse we face when being out in public.  I just want to get from my home to the liquor store without being confronted by every nut job who learned how to read.   Of course, I believe this kid was a complete nut case.  But for some reason, this tragedy has gotten to me a little more than all the other tragedies of similar nature.  I actually got up and watched Meet The Press in the morning.  This is not something I usually do, but I wanted to arm myself with knowledge, instead of just feelings.
    Shortly after, however, that feeling faded.  I wanted to create again.  I still didn't want to go outside though.  Luckily, leftover pizza and Netflix Watch Instantly provided me with all the nourishment I needed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Year

     It's a new year.  A time for new beginnings, for resolutions.  If ever there were a time to try new things, to make changes, to turn over new leaves, now would be it.  Somehow that magical ball dropping and that magical flip of the calendar allows us to completely transform.  This will be our year!  Last year might not have worked out like we planned, but look, a whole new year ahead of us.  A clean slate.  How wonderful. 
     It's been a full week into this new year, and all I have to show for it is used tissues all over my bed and a dying tree in my living room.  I'd like to blame my sickness for my lack of resolute, but I don't usually make resolutions.  Or if I do, they're funny things like "don't wake up in my own vomit."  Kudos to me for holding on to that for one whole year.  But I tend to not make resolutions, mostly because I think they're cliche, and also because I usually forget about them.
     I joined a gym last month- just before the new year to beat the rush.  I haven't gone for the last two weeks because of vacation and being sick.  And it would be really easy for me to forget to go all together.  To go requires a modification of my behavior.  It goes beyond sheer willpower for me.  I really just do plain forget that the modified behavior was something I wanted to do.  Tying it to a "New Year's Resolution" doesn't help me remember. 
     Moving past the taint of resolutions, however, a new year can be a fresh start.  It's also a new decade, and for those of us with five year plans, the prospect of a fresh decade to conquer can be both exhilarating and daunting.  (Wait, it's not a new decade, is it?  Someone told me it was, but I was drunk at the time.  Did 2010 end the aughts, or did it begin the teens?  If there was no year zero, then the decade starts with 2011.  Oh god.   Not this again.)  Anyway, a new year can give us fresh perspective.  A new year, a new beginning, new leaves, and all that.  Although, the new year looks a lot like the old year.  Except in the old year that tree in my living room was still alive. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What I Miss When I'm Sleeping

     For the last three days, I've been getting home from work and going immediately to bed.  Well, almost immediately.  On Monday, I warmed up leftover chicken pot pie, put on my pajamas, ate the leftovers in bed, took some NyQuil, and then promptly fell asleep.  Tuesday was similar except replace the chicken pot pie with macaroni and cheese.  Wednesday I just finished a bag of tortilla chips.
     I wasn't convinced I would be tired enough to immediately fall asleep when I got in bed.  I knew I needed rest, but I also wanted to be entertained.  Monday night I went for Netflix Watch Instantly and chose something I had already seen but had enjoyed, so I wouldn't mind drifting off to sleep.  I made it about 45 seconds into the opening credits of I.Q.
     By Tuesday,  I had heard so much about Monday's episode of How I Met Your Mother I started regretting sleeping through it.  Of course, I had TiVod (I don't know what the past tense of TiVo is) it, so I was able to watch it while making the Macaroni and Cheese.  Then I watched Asssscat as I drifted off to Nyquil induced zzzz-land.  I actually made it through the whole thing, but fell asleep about 2 seconds after it was over. 
     On Wednesday I realized I slept through Parenthood.  I was a bit forlorn, but honestly, I usually sleep through this anyway, because it's just on too late for me.  So I didn't make a big deal out of it.  Instead I polished off that bag of tortilla chips and put in the second disc of season one of Mad Men.  I already feel years behind the rest of the world, but I don't actually get AMC and it just took that long for it to reach number one on my queue.  Anyway, I watched the first two episodes on the disc comfortably from my bed.  I'll have to rewatch that third one; I saw the beginning scene, and then the closing credits.
     I missed Modern Family  and Cougar Town.  I'll be a week behind.  Hopefully this sickness will be out my system by Saturday morning and I can resume the awesome custom of Saturday morning TV catch up.  I'll have to avoid spoilers, but honestly, that shouldn't be too hard.
     I also missed a phone call from my mother and a text from a friend.  I'd like to think that, like Tracy Jordan, when I go to sleep, nothing happens in the world.  Alas, this is not true.     

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holiday Break Movies

     I only saw two movies over the holiday break.  I'm disappointed in myself.  I'd like to blame my house guest and her unwillingness to see multiple movies in a day, or make a decision as to what to actually do.  But that's my shit, not yours.  So, moving on. 
     On Christmas Day, I saw True Grit.  A fine holiday film if there ever was one.  I've read some mixed reviews about it, but I don't get it- they should all be good.  Sometimes I think people take shots at the Coen Brothers because it seems like the thing to do.  Finding fault in the Coens' work makes people feel superior.   But the people would be wrong.  The Coens are just damn good at what they do.  Anyway, back to True Grit- I like it.  My mother liked it.
     The day after New Year's Day, I saw The Fighter.  It wasn't as funny as I thought it was going to be.  Nah, I didn't actually think it was a comedy.  I did, however, think it looked a little too much like other boxing movies I've seen.  And by other boxing movies, I mean Rocky.  But it wasn't.  I didn't know going in that it was a true story.  They tell you pretty early on, so I guess it's not necessary to know before going in. 
     I don't want to ruin either of these films for those who haven't seen them yet, and I'm not interested in hiding reviews under spoiler tags, mostly because of the amount of cold medicine I'm currently taking.  I think I've lost my sense of taste.  But both of these were good films, worth seeing in the theaters, and before the Oscars are nominated- because then everybody else will want to see them too!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sometimes I Squeak

     I took a vacation from my vacation, and wouldn't you know, I came back sick.  I felt it coming on slowly but steadily.  I tried to ward it off with zinc, and that helped a little, except it really just held it at bay for a few days.  Finally, it got to me.  So here I sit at my desk, my head in a cloud, tissues surrounding me.
     The weird habit I developed over the years is to try to hold in my sneezes.  I don't really know why or when this started, but now, it has become how I sneeze.  It's weird and it hurts.
     Sometimes, the noise that comes out when I sneeze is very much like a squeak.  I get odd looks from those near by.  Sometimes they don't know what it was.  "Was that a sneeze?"  "Did you just squeak?"  Yes and yes.  I can't really control it.
     Being sick is gross.  It makes me feel like a child, but in a bad way.  I become helpless and snotty- like a child.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles Part II

     Phew.  What a crazy week and a half it's been!  I wish I hadn't neglected Oliver the way I had, but I didn't want to bog him down with complaints.  Sometimes it's hard to not become miserable when you're around miserable people; that was happening to me, so I resisted sharing it.
     However, fast forward to the New Year holiday and it was all fun, games, drinks, and cake!  My mom was scheduled to leave DC on the 30th, and I was scheduled to head to Boston.  For reasons that don't matter, we were flying out of the Baltimore airport.  We took the train from DC to Baltimore.  And then our lives got taken over by an eighties sitcom writer.  Well, mine did anyway. 
     I went with my Mom as far as security and waved good-bye.  My flight wasn't for several hours, so I meandered a little bit.  But then it turned out, there wasn't much to do, so I checked in to my flight at the kiosk.  The kiosk informed me the flight was delayed about 40 minutes.  That's a bummer, but I'm not going to have a fit about it.  Turns out, I was in the same terminal as my mom.  So I accosted her at the Wendy's and tried to steal her Frosty.  I hope strangers enjoyed the show. 
     She got on her plane and flew away.  I settled in to a seat near a plug and charged all of my electronics.  I considered a nap.  At the same time, my friend, let's call her Blate, was in Norfolk VA attempting to fly back to her home in Boston- so our super fun New Years Weekend in Boston could commence. Initially our flights were scheduled to get in about 20 minutes apart.  Perfect.  Then mine was delayed.  But so was hers.  So not so bad.
     There are no direct flights from Norfolk VA to Boston MA.  Her layover was in DC.  For a brief moment she thought "that's almost convenient!  Maybe we'll be at the airport at the same time."  I had to inform her no, because I was in Baltimore.  Ridiculous. 
     My flight was further delayed for really good reasons that make perfect sense.  Her flight was also delayed, and she missed her connection.  She sat in DC, and I sat in Baltimore.  It's a 20 minute train ride.  How excruciating.
     Our mutual friend, Blemily, who lives in Boston, was actually spending the New Year's holiday in DC.   She was driving.  There's a word for this type of buffoonery.   We were all so close, yet so far away.
     Eventually I made it to Boston, approximately 45 minutes after Blate did.  We cabbed it to her place because it was late, and dark, and we were tired.  Totally worth it.
     The weekend was fantastic- the perfect combination of celebration and recovery time.  And then it was time for the painful good-byes and for me to head back to the district.  Not so fast.
    For more really good reasons, the flight back to DC was canceled.  Hey, it happens.  So I traded my plane ticket in for a train ticket and rode like a hobo back to the city.  That is actually not a good representation at all.  I purchased a lovely coach class ticket on the train, took a few NyQuil, and slept my way back to the district.  My train pulled in at 7am, I took the Metro home, took a quick shower, put on respectable clothes, and headed in to work.  Happy New Year!