Tag Archives: rainbows and kittens and unicorns

Saturday Salvation

Last week was unnecessarily crappy, through no one’s fault but my own and my hormones (“thanks,” period). It culminated Friday—short story: I was guilted into going to a luncheon, and then, upon my return, guilted into working late for not getting my work done (because I was at the luncheon). On the one hand: That’s a lose-lose there. On the other hand: I should’ve just agreed to the luncheon weeks ago and not procrastinated on my other stuff.

So 7:30 Saturday morning, I was back at the computer. Finished up around 10 and sent it off to my boss, completely unsure if my rush job was sufficient and half-expecting (as I always do, really) to get back a list of additional work to do on it.

I rode my bike to Publix, bought slightly more than should have, and rode back with a box of rigatoni wind resistance sticking up out of the top of my backpack.

When I checked my email again, I had a note from boss that read, verbatim, “This is awesome! Better than I could have hoped! Thank you so much!” Bless her for her enthusiasm—she knows I’m a special mental case who needs that kind of stuff, and even if she’s overcompensating for my deficiencies, that kind of praise still works wonders on my mood.

I still had to finish up some sidebars, so I spent most of the afternoon on the computer—all the while, friend after Florida friend posted on Facebook about the lovely, lovely weather outside. ‘Nuff said. Around 4, I finished up my work, I put on my bikini top and headed toward the beach with a chair, my Kindle and a G2 bottle filled with mango-vodka smoothie.

saturday salvation

I cannot begin to explain how lovely it was. “Magical”? “Transcendent”? The breeze was just cool enough and the sun just warm enough—like a hypnotic, undulating balance between the two temperatures. After 15 minutes, I was felt like this was not an ordinary kind of unwinding. It was way more than your usual, “The weather is really nice, I’m glad I’m outside, deep breath, ah” kind of relaxation. It was trance-like. I sat there for an hour with nary an impulse to fidget. The usual ways my mind wanders into worry had all been disabled.  It was basically a religious experience. It stuck with me for hours.

And then later that night, Little J and the Deelios came over and we all walked to the beach again and I went to go pee and fell down and got sand in my bum. The end. (Heh.)

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‘Tis the TV Season

The clink of ice in a rocks glass during an alcoholic’s relapse, the sad solo of a hurricane refugee, the gentle pfft of a Munchausen’s patient passing out in the snow, a child’s knife plunging into the torso of a Scottish king: These are the sounds of Christmas.

Holiday episodes are a TV genre in and of themselves, especially the ones that conjure the quiet, somber reflection-and-acceptance-kind of Christmas, like carols in minor keys.

My Santa Claus moment comes every year when family members come one-by-one with their requests for the West Wing episode to watch Christmas Eve: “I want the one with Leo,” “Let’s do the one with Adam Arkin,” “Which is the one with the Whiffenpoofs?”  It’s a heartwarming family tradition, to binge on spaghetti carbonara and then share in the world-weary poignance of a Sorkin Christmas ep.

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Whiffenpoofs!

The family gathering selection has to be the very best because there’s only one slot. But that means I don’t always get around to the also-rans because I keep wanting to make an event out of everything, and they’re not all worthy of their own pedestals. Instead, this weekend I’ve treated my favorite Christmas episodes like an album of holiday music—a steady stream of worldly Christmas contentment to set the perfect mood. Here’s my playlist thus far:

The West Wing, “O Holy Night”

It’s not as focused as the other two WW faves, but it’s nice and moodily lit, and I spend the first 40 minutes waiting for the final montage, which is serenaded by the slow a capella of the Yale Whiffenpoofs’ “O Holy Night,” a hymn that does that fantastic major-to-minor thing anyway. But after each slow slow slow fade in and out, it’s the moment where the fade out to black coincides with complete silence, as the chorus breaths in and, as it slowly fades up on a long shot of Bartlet, his back to the camera, watching snow fall through the windows of the Oval Office, the chorus belts back in with the minor Fall on your knees. Aaaauugh. I can’t even tell you. It’s just incredible. It gives me the warm fuzzies. (For that moment alone I’ve insisted on this ep for Christmas Eves past, but I decided to watch it early this year and take it out of contention, since the fam tends to prefer the earlier options—including the one with Leo’s relapse, referenced above.)

House, “Deception”

This is the one where it’s discovered that Miranda from Sex and the City (poor actress, I won’t even bother to look up her name) collapses in front of House at the OTB. First of all, this ep taught me a new meaning for OTB (off-track betting) where before I’d always associated it with the in-office shorthand for our sunshiny December visitor’s annual (On the Beach). Misanthropic Dr. House on Christmas pretty much embodies these gloomier holiday episodes anyway, but lonely Munchausen’s Miranda adds to it, too—especially the scene when House injects her with something that, they both know, will cause her to collapse but will also draw attention to her real problem. She hits the snow outside the hospital as House walks off in the other direction.

Slings and Arrows, “Fallow Time”

This is neither as Christmassy nor as poignant as most of the others, but it does set Christmas as a backdrop to poor, crazy Geoffrey Tennant stressing about how to stage MacBeth—and hallucinating during a children’s production that the kids really are stabbing the bejeezus out of Banquo, blood flowing and everything. Bitchy, defeated Ellen trying—and failing, repeatedly—to put up a Christmas tree and force herself into a holiday mood is a nice touch. Plus I love the idea of an elementary school staging the Scottish play over Christmas. Yay Canada.

Scrubs, “My Own Personal Jesus”

A coma patient awakens, and the main characters debate Christmas miracles versus practical facts—always bringing it back, of course, to the original Christmas Miracle in the Manger. It’s sort of the Miracle on 34th Street thing, where the audience is taken all the way from acknowledging the practical, annoying, everyday-real-world stuff to wanting to believe in the miracle stuff. They really go right after the origins of Christmas, especially with the pregnant teenager who was kicked out of the hospital to give birth outside, but they get just close enough to pure, childish earnestness and then save themselves with good comedy. The closest thing to Charlie Brown’s Christmas, which might just be the standard-bearer in this genre. Also: “Did you just compare my lord and savior to a tiny top hat?” Hee.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, “The Christmas Show”

More Sorkin, although much more flawed than his WW writing, in this case (as in many others) buoyed by Tommy Schlamme’s direction. The wheels were already falling off the show at this point, but the coconuts-as-snow shtick is fun, and over all the ep’s got the mix of moodiness and humor that makes it reminiscent of WW’s “O Holy Night”—and that song happens again to be the soundtrack for a majorly redeeming montage toward the end, when a brass band of Katrina refugees plays the carol while backed by black-and-white photos of New Orleans. Trombone Shorty fucking nails the trumpet melody, y’all. It’s very moving. And an imperfect set of Christmas circumstances—refugees, drug relapses, single mothers, coconut snow—brought together by people trying their best is exactly what I’m talking about.

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The Christmas Shoes

On the way to work this morning, the people on the talk show I listen to were lamenting the awfulness of “The Christmas Shoes” (the song, in this case). This always happens: The radio people take my side on an issue, but then they defend it with such dreadful reasoning that I panic that someone will think, “Huh, none of these arguments make any sense. Therefore, it must be an excellent song.” Because it’s not: the song blows. They just couldn’t articulate why it blows.

Case in point: A caller who, agreeing with the team, argued that she hates it “because every time I hear it, it makes me cry.”

INCORRECT. Only acceptable if you are crying tears of laughter.

They were onto it, a little bit, sometimes: They wrestled with “it was written to make you sad” as a reason it sucks. Yes, the word you are looking for is “cloying.” I might also venture “manipulative” and “cynical,” but I’m pretty grumpy sometimes.

(And even though their argument that “It’s not even a real story” misses the point entirely, bonus points to the contributing texter who offered them, “Why are you standing in line when your mother is dying? GO BE WITH HER.”)

But my complicated relationship with The Christmas Shoes actually centers on the movie. Which was based on the book. Which was based on the song. Which sucks.

The only reason I bothered watching at all was shadenfreude directed at Rob Lowe. Lowe had just quit  The West Wing, reportedly over dissatisfaction with his screen time and general issues with writer Aaron Sorkin. (Years later, I’m not even sure how much of that is true, but it worked well for these purposes.) I was, of course, annoyed that he would deign to be so petty toward my beloved show, so when Lowe’s very next project turned out to be this Hallmark H.O.F. P.O.S., I was delighted.

This recap goes into it, really, better than I can. (And, amusingly, also references “the smugness” of Aaron Sorkin’s writing, so…what’re ya gonna do?) (Edited 12/22 to add: This Patton Oswalt routine is even better. Just listen; don’t watch the cartoon.)

The Christmas Shoes is a story scrubbed and bleached and stripped of all nuance and launched off of a cliff of maudlin extremes—whose mangled corpse is then paraded in front of you like the filmmakers found a unicorn. It’s a smug parable espousing things we already know:  “It’s not about presents, people! Look! Christmas is about love!” Even an ounce of nuance would be redeeming, but no: Everything Rob Lowe does is obnoxious and heartless; everything the family does is good and pure. Because if they’re not perfect and martyrs, how will people be able to love them?

Anyone who didn’t have at least this much empathy at birth has already seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Stoppard’s The Real Thing, when the main character is describing a wannabe playwright who believes he’s made profound philosophical discoveries (which are actually instead widely known concepts): “…announcing every stale revelation of the newly enlightened, like stout Cortez coming upon the Pacific—war is profits, politicians are puppets, Parliament is a farce, justice is a fraud, property is theft…It’s all here: the Stock Exchange, the arms dealers, the press barons…you can’t fool Brodie—patriotism is propaganda, religion is a con trick, royalty is an anachronism…pages and pages of it. It’s like being run over very slowly by a traveling freak show of favourite simpletons.”

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Don’t forget to love us! And floss!

The Christmas Shoes feels like it was made by people who are publicly patting themselves on the back for their pure and generous spirit—as though having sympathy for a dying woman’s family at Christmastime is a triumph of humanitarianism. As though giving $20 to a kid is an act of sainthood. It’s a tee-ball homerun on a shortened field; it’s not the kind of thing that should get soaring, self-satisfied music and a background chorus of cherubic children. (Or, as I like to shout in that part of the song, “SING IT, CANCER KIDS!”)

I’m sorry. Not to stomp (…repeatedly) on what was probably, at some point, a well-intentioned story of love. And I’m sure it’s valuable for the kiddos developing a sense of grown-up consideration for other people. But for most of us, there’s really nowhere to go with this but sarcasm; this movie eats up every ounce of earnestness available.

Which, if you’re a drunk, sharp-tongued, bitter old lady like me, makes it pretty fun to watch.

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YouTubing

Sorry, bit negligent in posting this week, so here’s some of my favorite sports-related youtube hits.

First, No. 1 in SportsCenter’s Top 10 earlier this week:

Beast Mode:

(And, though I’ve said it before, here’s the Facebook soapbox comment I made about this one.) In case I haven’t speechified at you yet, I am a big believer in sports, no matter what. There’s a reason we have tryouts. There’s no reason the smallest, least-athletic, least-interested boy should be allowed to try out, when other people are excluded for outdated reasons. If that means only one girl makes the league, or none at all, then so be it. But don’t draw lines in sports that have nothing to do with athleticism.

This is SportsCenter:

Quite possibly the best television advertising campaign EVER–and still going strong. I love virtually ALL of these commercials, but this is, at least, just one of the classics. (Just so I don’t have to make a decision, here’s a whole mess of awesome.)

Also a Good Campaign:

These are pretty good commercials, too, but this one is the best.

And Finally, My Favorite:

My (admittedly small) kingdom for anyone who can get me a high-res version of this video. Makes me cry Every. Damn. Time.

Tons more where that came from, but fortunately I’m now distracted by dinner…

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Last Week’s Craziness: Day Three

Saturday: Oh, there’s the soreness.

Awake for sunrise, but surprisingly well rested, as Mr. Deelio marched back and forth preparing a bountiful breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, ciabatta and butter. And coffee—sweet, wonderful coffee.

Thus began a day of idyllic nothingness: bocce on the bayfront. Smoked kielbasa for lunch.

But at 4, the next great adventure had to begin—and the first part of that adventure was finding Clearwater, though I amazed myself by not needing the directions that I had written down and then lost anyway. Found the downtown Residence Inn with nary a wrong turn, and Ma was there to greet me. She’s staying up there for a few weeks as she stage manages a show, and therein lies the magic: Via her association with the theater, she scored two passes to a nonprofit theater support group’s private concert: Counting Crows. A band I’ve been listening to, pretty much nonstop, since high school freshman year. I used to make Ma mixed tapes (shut up and…shut up) featuring Counting Crows songs, and I delighted when she picked out certain favorites. (I remember she loved “I Wish I Was a Girl.”) Not even lying, my eyes got teary just driving in.

So I arrived at the hotel smoky but quickly showered, got dolled up, pregamed and headed out with Ma to meet her current coworkers at the pre-show cocktail party (passing the Church of Scientology Sea Org worldwide headquarters en route, which tickles me in ways that have surely deemed me a heretical Suppressive Person).

Free drinks! Free food! Fun people! (In the end I probably could have used a little less of one of those things, and a little more of another, but this was just the beginning.)

The concert venue was a 466-seat theater, but only 250 or so people had been invited. Seat yourself.  I ought not try to describe the feeling you get when you see in-person a celebrity you actually like—more than just, “Ooh! Famous person!” It’s kind of like…it reminds me of when I was a kid and first saw video of weeping hysterical Beatles fans. I couldn’t fathom what that emotion was. Now, as with when I spotted Joe Montana a couple years ago, I at least know what those Beatles fans felt like before their hormones cranked everything up to 11.

Plus, a venue like that is both loud and intimate—two more things that’ll give you goosebumps. Boom, right into it with “Recovering the Satellites,” and I was captured. Ensorcelled. Transfixed. Knowing all the words to the songs, and Adam Duritz’s…er…unique voice has always made for some of the only songs in existence that I can sing with abandon in my own stunted, nasal tenor.

They even played “Anna Begins,” which has always been among my favorites—and since it’s a non-single from their very first big studio album, there was no guarantee this would have been on the set list. For all the girls names he writes into his songs, this is the closest Duritz ever came to singing a song about Hannah.

This time when kindness falls like rain
It washes her away. And Anna begins to change her mind.
“These seconds when I’m shaking leave me shuddering for days,” she says.
And I’m not ready for this sort of thing.

When even my best experiences are held in check by frightened self-awareness, this one wrapped me in warm fuzzies from the get-go. Aside from the occasional impulse to snap a pic for obligatory posterity (and the regular one-armed bear hugs for Ma), there was not a neurosis to be seen. We even ran down the aisle and danced in the crowd.

It’s like, instead of ending, the night seemed to dissolve right there. This is what we like to call “The Jim Beam Effect.” Whatever came after was part of a different story, separate from the time with the music. I don’t really remember it. I think there were s’mores.

 

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Olympic Stories

It’s fair to say I geek out pretty solid to the Olympics. With the right combination of coffee, hormones and sleep deprivation, my eyes well up just saying “Olympics.” I almost cried three times on the way to work just listening to Olympics previews. I dig the games.

I love the stories they uncover about the athletes, the teams and the countries. Human interest framed in sports–it’s like Aaron Sorkin wrote a miniseries that’ll be airing over the next two weeks. I’ve already torn through a pile of material. I’ve read stories about Lolo Jones, who was well on her way to winning gold four years ago when she beefed it over the penultimate hurdle and came in seventh instead, collapsing into disbelief at the finish line, but giving the most gracious interview a few minutes later. Then the cameras caught her in the tunnel by herself, weeping.

Seriously. It’s nine a.m. and I’m crying already. I haven’t even had my coffee yet.

There’s the open-water swimmer, Alex Meyer–fuckers swim a 10k; can you believe that?! (Actually, there’s also a 25k distance, but it’s not an Olympic sport.) This guy was best friends with a competitor–they roomed together all the time, and the friend once gave up second place to turn around, swim back and help Meyer when he was having trouble in a race. Then, at a UAE race Meyer could only watch through an injury, the friend died when water temperatures pushed 90 degrees.

There’s the U.S. judo champ who’s had two goals since she was 10–to win a world championship (she did that in 2010) and a gold medal. But since the Sandusky trial, she was inspired to come out about being sexually abused for years by a former coach, and now, of course, that story will be part of her medal run.

There’s Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old gymnastics phenom who moved away from her mother and older siblings in Virginia to live with a family in Iowa (where she’s now an older sister to four girls) and train with Coach Chow. She saw him on TV four years ago and loved how happy and supportive he was of all his athletes.

There’s Lochte and Phelps, of course–and as much as I rooted for Phelps last time (and as much as I don’t give a damn about his partying), I’m kind of going for Lochte this time. (Though I hate how his name is pronounced–“Lockty.”) There’s women’s soccer, of course–a World Cup rematch with Japan would be quite a thing to watch (especially since Japan is a great and respectable–and respectful–rival).

And those are just the Americans. I’ve also read about the Chinese medal-making machine–how, after boycotting the Olympics for years because Taiwan was included, they focused in on the least-popular, least-funded sports that could earn them the most medals, like gymnastics, and things that have multiple weight classes, like women’s weightlifting. There’s the Chechnyan wrestlers who are on Russia’s team, though Russia is a political enemy of their homeland. There’s the South African amputee 400 runner, and the sprinter who’s had her gender called into question–and South Africa in general, which was banned from the Olympics during apartheid, and now features only 14 non-white athletes out of 79, though the country is only 10 percent white.

And already there’s the incident where the South Korean flag was shown for the North Korean women’s soccer team–which would be understandably embarrassing if it were any other country, but is kind of hysterical when it’s North Korea.

There’s even the Afghan boxer who’s been pulled from competition for fear she’d be injured. (Which, by the way, kills the potential for this to be the first ever summer Olympics in which every competing nation included female athletes.)

There are just so many great stories, so much earnestness. Watch the opening ceremonies tonight. Look at how excited everyone is to be there. Think about how cool it is that every part of the globe is just so happy to come together like that.

I dunno. I’m pretty excited.

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