Monday, December 31, 2012

Nine to Five

We're gonna get a little serious again this week - but sorry, I need to get some things off my chest:

I've now been employed for over half a month, and BOY am I exhausted.

Pause for laughs.

The sad and true fact is I am genuinely exhausted. Aaaaaaand I might hate my job. Now I know what you're thinking - "Alex, didn't you spend a great deal of time complaining about your lack of job? No matter where you are, you'll find something to be unhappy about. Is it possible that you are just an unwavering grump who will never EVER be happy under any circumstances? "

...

Um. It's possible. I hope that's not actually true, because being permanently unhappy is just a terrible trait to have from an evolutionary standpoint.

But I don't think I'm incredibly off-base in that when I was searching for a job I was also searching for some small kind of fulfillment - I thought having a job would make me feel less adrift - and that's not what I'll be getting with my current job. Which, for the record, I'm very grateful for - should anyone work-related stumble on this I'd absolutely hate for them to be offended. I needed a job, and it's not my workplace's fault that I quickly discovered the type of work doesn't stimulate me in any way whosoever. It works for some people - I'm just not one of those people. There's no creativity anywhere - not a spark, not a drop. And it's not as though I thought there would be... but only after actually working do I realize how the days fly by and I feel like I've done nothing that I care about. And that's sorta the death of me.

I have this horrible nightmare fear of me working there the rest of my life, droning on and on forever. In a previous blog I had an awful precognition:
I just suddenly felt a part of an endless monotonous drift towards a life with no excitement. I had a vision of the future, That's So Raven-style, only instead of seeing myself falling into a cake or dressed up as old lady like Raven usually does, I saw myself not working or worse, working at a job that I cared noting about and fulfilled me in no way, coming home every night and watching TV, nothing gratifying, nothing to look forward to, and nothing to feel good about until the day I die.
And while certainly overdramatic, it's coming true just a little bit. I get up at seven so I can be at work at 8:30, by the time I get home it's six PM - I eat dinner, watch some TV and then I need to get to bed so I can get up early for work the next morning. Where does the time go? My work certainly doesn't come home with me, I don't think about it once I leave, so looking back my week seems like I did nothing. I barely have any time to think, and on the weekends I'm so tired that I don't want to go out or anything; I'm so happy that I get to stay home. The week passes and I think, "What was the point? What did I do? What is any of this for if I'm not even working towards anything?"

Like I said, jobs like this work for some people. I look around at the people I work with; I barely know any of them, a couple I've been introduced to. A lot of people are young-ish, and as they go about their work and mention how long they've had the job, I wonder - did they have some burning, deep passion once? Did they want something more exciting, something with imagination? Was that passion snuffed out over time? Will that happen to me? Or am I just a different breed than they are? I overheard one guy talking in between work banter about something funny that happened to him in college, and I suddenly felt a knot in my stomach - this guy had been in college not too long ago... and now, here he was, no longer speaking like a college student but instead an incredibly dull old person. Working in an office is watching young people become old right before your very eyes.

I feel like whatever it is that makes young people old, whatever it is that snuff's out people's fires - I think it's creeping up on me. I feel like it's wrapping its hands around my neck as I writhe and thrash about, trying to throw it off. I literally had to say to someone the other day, "the copier is out of toner". What's happening to me? Who am I? I fight it. I never let myself think of work as anything other than temporary... because maybe not doing that is how it gets you. My tasks at work are fairly menial, and so I'm very fortunate that I am, for the time being, allowed to listen to my iPod while I do those tasks. As I stand at the scanner, I bob my head a little to the beat. As I walk down the rows of desktops, I imagine bursting out into song, singing along to my music, then pushing all the computers off the desks and jumping atop one and dancing. I dance and dance, defiant - unleashing the joy that I have no place for all week at work and have accordingly been saving up for some time. The others in the office stare, stunned. They don't understand what I'm doing.

It's worth noting, of course, that I barely know these people - they could be incredibly vibrant and passionate outside of the office. I'm certainly different at work than I am at home. But I have a sinking suspicion I feel differently than a lot of them. I think a lot of them think this is a perfect job for them. And, for the record, if I am a different breed, I definitely don't think I'm a better breed. I respect everyone in there - I wish I could work like that and be satisfied. Life would be so much easier - I'd already have figured it all out. I'd be happy.

But does this make me a privileged asshole? Shouldn't I just shut up and be happy with the work? Maybe yes.

But I'm not. And I can't really change how I feel, as much as my life would be easier if I could. And remember my vision of the future? It's now been updated: I flash-forward and hear people talking - "Remember Alex? What ever happened to him? He was kinda funny and smart and creative? Oh, he never amounted to anything. I think he works in some office somewhere." And it makes me sick to my stomach... the idea that I never become anything. That all my potential just fizzles away as others soar.

It's gonna keep me up at night. So I need to do something - because my weeks are going by with nothing of note, nothing to look forward to, nothing to be excited about. I'm thinking maybe I'm gonna write a full-length screenplay; in the past I've written a short screenplay and a television pilot, but maybe I should take on a big project... because I need something to do in my life that makes me feel at all good or intelligent or fun or creative or smart or witty or special or like I have something to contribute. Without that something, I feel like my soul is shriveling up like a raisin. And not even a chocolate-covered raisin - just a wrinkly, chewy little raisin.

Something besides this blog, of course.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Chrismukkah Carol

Being a Jew on Christmas normally meant being home with the family for a relatively quiet day, but not this year. Alex's entire family had gone on vacation to the Dominican Republic without him. For Alex had acquired a nasty ailment - a job - and like, can't just leave whenever he wants to or something, I don't know. Anyway, Alex was alone in his family home, taking care of his beloved dog, Skye, while his family basked in the sunny, warm Dominican air.

Even for someone with no attachment to the holiday itself, the prospect of being alone on Christmas was still depressing. The thought of how quiet his house would be while everyone else's houses were filled with laughter was not comforting in the least. Every year this happened - since he'd been a child, Alex had always been confused, then later angered, by the way the world disappeared and shut down every year for two days in December. Nobody could ever hang out, and winter break was supposed to be all about hanging out. It's a time for family and friends, only on the 24th and the 25th no one remembered their friends because they were too busy appreciating their families, ugh.

It was Christmas Eve, and Alex had been alone in his empty house for several days getting restless. Just before bed, he let the dog out one final time, closed the garage, and went to lock the front door. "Christmas is awful!" Alex shouted out the outside. "JUST FOR THE RECORD!" He slammed the door, turned the lock, and went to bed. He'd been sleeping for an hour or so when he was jostled awake by Skye pawing his arm. "Skye", he mumbled, "stoppppppp". She climbed over him and starting licking his face. "C'mon Skye, cut it outttttt" he grumbled. "Listen", said Skye, "I have to tell you something."

"What? What are you talking about?" Alex asked her. "I'm supposed to tell you something", she whispered. Alex opened his eyes, looking at his yellow labrador sister.  "Oh my god, I'm dreaming. Okay, for a second I thought you were talking to me." "I was! I was I was!" She said excitedly. "I know, but I'm in a dream. I thought I was going insane." "Listen, here's what I'm supposed to tell you: tonight you're gonna be visited by three ghosts-" Alex rolled over to the bedside table and grabbed the open box of Cheez-its he'd left there. "You wanna treat?" Alex asked in his high voice he used exclusively when talking to Skye. Skye's ears perked up. "OH MY GOD YES, YES I DO!" She shouted. Alex got out of bed, holding a single Cheez-it above her face and walking out of the bedroom. "PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE" she begged, following him. He hurled the Cheez-it across the hallway - she took off bounding after it, and Alex went back into his room and closed the door. He climbed back under the blissfully warm covers, pulled a pillow over his head, and drifted back to sleep.

"TIME TO GET UP!" A chirpy voice shouted. Alex screamed and fell out of bed, running to the light and flipping it on as fast as he could. In front of him was a thirtysomething blonde woman, dressed in casual business attire with her hair in tight bun and a holding clipboard. "WHO ARE YOU?! Get out of here!" He shouted, heart still pounding. "I'm the ghost of Christmas past!" She smiled. "I don't celebrate Christmas. I'm Jewish." Her smile fell. "What? Are you sure?" "Yeah", he said tersely. "Both parents?" "Yes, both parents." he rolled his eyes - that question annoyed him like crazy. "And you really don't celebrate Christmas?" "NO", he shouted - he hated that question most of all, "WHY would I celebrate Christmas?" The ghost frowned and looked down at her clipboard. "Well... listen, I don't really know how we had this mix-up, but I have to do my job. Take my hand." "Do I have a choice?" "NOPE!"

And suddenly, they were flying through the cold night air, wisps of clouds around them. Alex held on to her hand as tightly as he could, and also wished he'd grabbed a sweater, because it was freezing. When they touched down in a parking lot, it was daytime. "Where are we?" Alex asked. The ghost pointed ahead, "look!" he turned and saw - "CENTURY 16 MOVIE THEATER". Alex smiled. "Are we going to a movie? I have so many I need to see before the Oscars..." suddenly he was distracted by the sight of his own family - himself included - walking out of the parking lot and towards the theater doors. "Your family is going to see a movie on Christmas?" The ghost asked, seeming partly disappointed and partly confused. "We're. Jewish." He said through gritted teeth. Brow furrowed, the ghost said, "take a look at your past; here your family is... goingtothemovies" she rushed through that last bit as fast as she could. "does this fill you with memories of happy childhood Christmases times?" "Childhood, what? No - when is this, 2008?" "Are you sure you don't celebrate Christmas??" the ghost said, her panicky voice increasing in pitch as she flipped through her clipboard, getting redder and redder in the face with each passing moment. Alex ran up to the theater window and looked at the movie posters. "I remember - we saw Marley and Me, BIG mistake. It was like - just sobbing hysterically. That dog looks exactly like our dog." He ran inside and over to his family in the ticket line. "Mom!" He tapped her on the shoulder. "Mom, don't see Marley and Me, it's gonna make everyone really sad. Mom? MOM?" "She can't hear you." The ghost said. "They don't see us. Time to move on."

At that moment, an incredibly obese man with long curly hair pulled up next to them in a mobility scooter. "I've got it from here", he said, grabbing a handful of Doritos out the scooter's basket and stuffing them in his mouth. "Oh, thank god" said the ghost of Christmas past, "I don't know what to do with this one." She said, pointing her thumb at Alex. "Who are you?" asked Alex. "The ghost of Christmas present! Now get in!" Suddenly there was a second scooter. "I can walk-" "Get in the scooter." Alex hopped aboard his scooter and followed the second ghost, who had already started driving away. "Look at what everyone is doing for Christmas right now!" Suddenly the two arrived in an unfamiliar living room. "Do you know this girl?" the ghost asked, motioning to a young girl opening Christmas presents. "Um, maybe? I think she's one of my sister's friends - I can't keep them straight, there's like a million different girls I have to drive to soccer practice-" the girl began screaming, hurling her new iPad Mini across the room and yelling that it wasn't what she wanted. "See, this girl is miserable on her Christmas." The ghost raised an eyebrow at Alex. "And that's MY fault?" Alex shouted as his scooter lurched forward, moving on its own. "Let's keep going..." the ghost beckoned and they drove into another room. A boy was kneeling in front of the toilet, vomiting profusely. Alex quickly turned his head away from the sight. "I know him, that's my friend Andrew..." "Yes, and he ate too much food for his Christmas dinner", said the ghost, taking a swig from an energy drink, "or perhaps he got food poisoning." Alex, unable to watch more upchucking, hit the gas on his scooter, and was suddenly in someone's dining room. A family sat at the table, hurling insults at each other, screaming over one another, slurring their words. "These are friends of my parents... why are they so drunk?" "Because it's Christmas", the ghost said before burping. "Can I go home now? This is all really upsetting. Christmas sucks." "Not until you hang out with me." Said a new voice.

Alex, suddenly outdoors, turned and saw a rail-thin, incredibly pale boy. He was wearing a black hoodie, skinny jeans, and couldn't have been older than sixteen. He had dyed black hair with a single blue streak that hung over his eyes and was leaning up against a Mini Cooper. "Why? Does my Christmas future involve a bunch of emo parties?" Alex said, horrified. "SHUTUP." Said the ghost of Christmas yet to come. "Let's go." Alex walked up to the passenger seat, but the ghost appeared directly in front of him, blocking the door. "You have to drive, I only have my permit." "Seriously?" asked Alex. The ghost didn't budge, so Alex walked around to the driver's side door and got in. "Where to?" Suddenly the car was driving on its own, so Alex took his hands off the wheel and waited until it came to a stop - at a funeral home. "Oh... this is really creepy, I don't want to do this." Alex said. "We have to", said the ghost, flipping his hair off his face. Alex got out of the car and entered the building, ghost at his side. The place was full of people wearing black and crying, holding each other. "Look there", said the ghost, pointing down a long hallway. Alex could see a large photo of someone. "You have to go see." "Please", Alex begged, "this is gross, I don't want to know when I'm going to die." "You don't have a choice." The ghost exhaled towards Alex, and the wind sent Alex flying down the hallway. "NO!" Alex yelled, getting closer to the photo. "PLEASE, NO!" but it was too late - he was at the photo. The ghost was again standing next to him. "Look", the ghost ordered. Alex turned his head to see - it was a framed school photo of the black-haired kid, maybe a year or two younger, hair parted and smiling real big, showing off his braces.. "Is this you?" Alex said to the ghost, annoyed. "Yeah, I come here confront myself with my own mortality, it's pretty deep, you probably wouldn't get it-" "SEND ME HOME!" Alex screamed -

- and he sat upright in bed - Skye was laying at the foot of it. She lifted her head up, startled by Alex jolting awake. She was looking at him - she cocked her head to one side, looking quizzical. "That was the stupidest, most pointless trip I've ever been on." Alex said aloud. "Those ghosts need to get their act together, because that was ridiculous. Like, what a bunch of hot messes." Skye put her head back down onto the comforter. "But at least now I know how to talk", said Skye. "Yeah girl, at least you can talk now." Alex said, petting her head.

Merry Christmas, y'all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Lunch Break From Hell

So guess what everybody? I'm employed.

 Did you hear me? I'm EMPLOYED. All of my insane malaise has come to an end!

Wait, this is me - no it hasn't. But it's certainly lessening, or at least changing. So what is my job? Well, I'm not really going to talk about it specifically, because upon being hired I signed roughly one million agreements that I would not be blogging, tweeting, or otherwise talking about the company. And I feel that getting fired after two days is sort of tacky, so I'm going to follow the rule. All you need to know is that it's an office job, I'm doing a lot of typing and filing, work certainly beneath someone of such incredible creative genius as I.

I'm joking of course, but I actually did have a moment, immediately after being hired, where I looked around and thought something to the effect of, "What am I doing here? I'm a creative, funny, person who should be doing something grand... not wasting my uniquely original voice typing away in some office", and then I felt like Hannah Horvath and promptly kicked myself for being such an asshole.* So, maybe I'm not being fulfilled creatively at this point, but was I really being creatively fulfilled toiling away into madness alone in my apartment? Methinks not. And also - it's just a job for now. I know it's not my career, it's not a permanent-life-forever decision... despite every choice I've ever made feeling permanent and life-altering, they usually aren't. I mean, if in ten years I'm still working in the office AND I don't have any new Twitter followers, then we can all collectively agree I turned out to be a failure. So, until then... I'm just a good little worker bee, and I'm genuinely grateful and relieved to be employed.

*I will say that the longer I'm out of college, the more "Girls" goes from being hilarious to way-too-real and very chilling.

But it's still just Alex dressed up as a worker bee, which means I'm still going to have ridiculous, embarrassing things happen, because that's my life story. The things range from small to colossal. I was hired on the spot on Thursday, and sat around for a good hour or so because no one had anything for me to do. A guy who I'll name "Tom" was in charge of babysitting me. Essentially, I sat next to him while he worked at his station. Finally, after a solid forty-five minutes of doing nothing, he asked me to put a stack of papers somewhere. He was youngish (under 30?) so, trying to bond with my brand-new co-worker and eager to do any sort of task, I said, "You got it, Macgruber." He turned to me, and dead serious, said, "That's not even close to my name." Um. Um. He'd never even heard of Macgruber. He thought I was just guessing at his name... and that I decided to take a shot in the dark and go with Macgruber? Anyway, I sputtered, "oh, no - it's an SNL sketch". "Saturday Night Live?" he asked, as if SNL could stand for anything else. I said yes, and he said, "Oh, I don't do that". Uh oh. If the people in the office don't know or enjoy pop culture, how are we ever going to get along? I suddenly remembered that I do not belong in an office by any stretch of the imagination.

So Friday, my first full day of work, was when the incident happened. Something very embarrassing that only happened two days ago, which means it's VERY BIG OF ME THAT I'M ALREADY FINDING THE HUMOR IN IT, DON'T YOU AGREE?!

Where was I? So my first day was plodding along, the hours ticking away, and I was starting to get really hungry. But, being the pushover people-pleaser that I am, I didn't want to ask for my lunch break on the first day because somehow that felt rude to me? Welcome to my brain. Anyway, it was nearly two, and after finishing a spreadsheet, I handed it to my supervisor and said, "Would it be okay if I took lunch now?" She said sure, and I went down the elevator to the ground floor of the building where I sat in the commissary with a banana, yogurt, and juice box that I had pulled from the office kitchen (I didn't steal them, they're for the employees) and checked the last several hours of news and updates from Twitter. This was odd for me, since usually I check Twitter all day long - but now I had hours worth of backlog, and trying to get through it all and open and read all the articles I wanted to in a half hour was more difficult than I'd imagined. As my break was ending, I was still reading stuff on my phone. I got in the elevator, hit floor 35, waited until the elevator stopped, and exited all without looking up from my phone. When I peeled my eyes from the screen, I realized I was actually at floor 33. Whoops. I turned right back around and hit the button for the elevator and waited. And waited. This is silly, I thought, waiting around to go up two floors, how lazy am I? I can use the stairs. So I wandered around until I found door a stairwell, which I entered. I walked up two flights to floor 35 and tried the door. It was locked. Well, that's just annoying, I thought, and went back down to 33 and tried the door. It wouldn't open.

It wouldn't open. Now my nerves started to kick in... trying not to freak out, I went down another floor and tried the door. No dice. I was trying like hell to keep full-on panic at bay... and I was semi-succeeding. What am I going to do? Oh my god, I'm going to have to call my office on my FIRST DAY of work and tell them that I'm LOCKED IN THE STAIRWELL? I felt full-body embarrassment seize me at just the thought. No, no, no - that should be my last resort ONLY. Not wanting to go there, I realized my other, equally unpleasant option: I was going to have to walk down all the stairs. Maybe the doors on the upper floors with offices wouldn't open, but there's no way the ground floor would be locked. So, resigning myself, I began making my way down the stairs. LOTS of stairs. Keep in mind that I was dressed in a button-up shirt with a sweater over it AND wearing my coat, which I had brought with me on break. Down and down and down the stairs I went, getting sweaty and gross fast.* Finally I got to the bottom... and saw, "EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY, ALARM WILL SOUND".

*This is a reference probably nobody will get, but I felt like I was in a real-life version of that part in Final Fantasy VII where you go up all those flights of stairs in the Shin-Ra building. #nerdalert

Now was the time. The time for me to begin FULL-ON PANICKING. My heart was racing, and not because I had just been forced to actually exercise. No no no no no.... serious panic set in, not just because of the ridiculous embarrassment of the situation and the thought of having to call the office to send someone to get me out, but actually more so because of the sudden intense wave of claustrophobia that hit me like a ton of bricks.* I felt trapped, stuck in this endless, gray, concrete stairwell with NO WAY OUT. No way out, no way out... "WHY IS THIS HERE?" I screamed inside my head, "WHAT'S THE POINT OF HAVING STAIRS YOU CAN ONLY ENTER BUT NEVER LEAVE? IT MAKES NO SENSE!" Shirking logical thinking in lieu of full hysteria, I began running up the stairs, pounding on the doors at every floor. No answer, no answer... AHHHHHHHHHHHH. Finally, at the 16th floor, I heard movement. I waited, hoping against hope that this was my salvation. The door slowly opened, and a completely nonplussed forty-something man was looking at me. I'm sure I looked like a sweaty, lunatic child; I was suddenly very acutely aware of the fact that I was in no way, shape, or form a grown-up of any kind. I walked through, and realized the door had opened DIRECTLY INTO AN OFFICE. Not a hallway - an office. Others were at their cubicles working. "Thank you so much", I whispered quieter than I think I've ever spoken, both because people were working and but also because my embarrassment was genuinely affecting my body, and I found that my vocal chords could just barely produce actual speech. "I got locked in the stairwell." "Well that's not good." He said bemusedly.

*I'm not overly claustrophobic - I'm fine in elevators, but if the elevator got stuck, then I'd probably start to get nervous. 

And with that, I briskly walked through the office to the exit, and took the elevator back up to the proper floor, where I entered my actual place of work. Maybe no one noticed, but as is often the case, I felt like shame was radiating so strongly from me that everyone noticed... not to mention the fact that I was a SWEATY MESS, both due to the panic and the running up and down stairs; only after I had sat at my station for a little bit, calmed down and resumed working, did I notice my thighs were burning. Exercise, man.

You guys, I'm pretty sure I'm fifteen. I'm fifteen, right?



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Listmania: My Top Ten TV Shows of 2012

Note: this post was amended from its original order

So here's the deal: upon finishing my INCREDIBLY long "Top Ten TV of 2012" list, I found that despite the pleas of many to write about TV, that I should be a TV critic... I don't know that it was as fun. Maybe if I was tearing shows apart it'd be, but to say nice things, well - I don't feel like I said anything particularly original. AND I LIKE BEING ORIGINAL. So it was a fun diversion, but I think I'll stick with writing about life and things that BECAUSE MY EGO IS HUGE AND I MUST TALK ABOUT MYSELF CONSTANTLY OR I'LL DIE. But it took me a REALLY long time to write so I'm posting the list, okay?

***

So, guess what errybody? I've decided to try my hand at actually writing about my favorite topic: TV! That's right kiddos, I'm going to take a stab at writing slightly critically* about the thing I love most in the world: my family my friends food. I mean TV. But food is my other favorite, for the record.

*I mean critically as in I'm evaluating like a critic, not as in I'm going to TEAR THESE SHOWS TO SHREDS.

What were we talking about? How I'm really excited for dinner? OH - television! With the year coming to an end, I'm going to go ahead and list my top ten favorite television shows for the year 2012. This proved trickier than I thought - it would be easier to do a top ten list for the regular TV season: September through May. For example, a list of favorites from '11-'12 season would be simpler because it would mean evaluating just a a single season of any given show. Instead, going by the single year 2012 means that I have the end of one season and the beginning of the next, usually. So if a show had a great season last year but the current season's been so-so, it becomes harder to rank, doesn't it? Also it means I have all cable shows - those that air in the winter, spring, summer AND fall to deal with. Oh, seasons. Now listen - I watch a lot of TV. A LOT. So believe me - I was looking at a lot of options, and it was tough to select the shows that made my list. Many great shows are not on this list... I just went with my gut. It's also worth noting that unlike an actual TV critic, I don't actually watch everything, so if you're pissed that Mad Men isn't on the list, sorry, I don't watch it (go ahead, throw your tomatoes, I've heard it all: I'm the worst, how could I call myself a TV fan, etc). Also, everyone knows I have AMAZING TASTE, so trust me when I say these shows are where it's at, okay? Let's begin:

10. Bob's Burgers
"What's Bob's Burgers?" Well my friends, it's the best show airing right now in Fox's forever-running "Animation Domination" Sunday lineup - a lineup that more famously includes Family Guy and The Simpsons*. It's not one of the twelve-hundred - oh, another script was just sold! twelve-hundred and one - shows from Seth MacFarlane, but that's part of what makes it such a breath of fresh air. With South Park being very hit or miss as of late**, Bob's Burgers has become the bastion for animated comedies right now - primarily because of the great character work. The show - about a family and the Burger restaurant they run - did something that seems simple but has proven difficult for many a live-action show: create a cast of funny characters with original points of view, then just let them react to the weekly situation. That's where sitcom comes from: situation comedy.*** Since the characters on Bob's Burgers are so fun and unique, even the simplest premise becomes original. Nowhere else on TV will you get a character like Tina, the monotone-voiced, mild-mannered oldest daughter who secretly writes "erotic friend fiction". Every character is so specific, and voiced excellently; the show collected an array of great comedians and voice actors to fill out the cast, who often record together - most shows have each actor record separately, this show doesn't. Accordingly, the result is great improvised exchanges between characters and comic timing that can't be faked. And the show isn't afraid to get... weird. Bob's Burgers has had some of the most delightfully bizarre musical numbers in my recent memory. And, of course, the show contains one of my current favorite characters on TV: Linda, the delightfully earnest, excitable matriarch with the imitable voice. My roommate and I sing the following to the cats virtually every day:



*I don't know anyone who watches new episodes of The Simpsons. Does anyone? How has that show been running so long? Has anyone EVER said to you, "did you see this week's Simpsons? Oh, you have to!"
**I'll still love South Park forever though. The hits are still hits.
***Sitcom: a classic portmanteau.

9. The Good Wife
There was a time when TGW was my absolute number one favorite show on TV - while we're not quite there right now, there's no denying it's still some of the classiest, smartest-written drama around. And who would've thought that some of the most subtle, nuanced acting, character development, and storytelling would be on CBS? The network of boring old people procedurals and ONLY procedurals. Yet somehow, they also get the ONLY network television show nominated for the best drama Emmy in the last couple years?* You know the other networks must be pissed - like, "they make ONE show that's not about solving murders and it's better than all our shows? What the hell?" But TGW is probably better than any show on air at addressing morality and its grey areas; very rarely is there a right or wrong, only difficult choices that slowly weigh on you. This isn't a show where good will just triumph over evil - it's much more realistic than that, more upsetting. When gross Mike Kresteva (played by Matthew Perry - TGW uses guest stars better than any other show) tells complete fabricated lies about Alicia in the press, she demands Eli counter the lies somehow. But he tells her, rightly so, that nothing she says will matter anymore - the story is out now, and that's the way it is. TGW also features two of my personal favorite performances on television - Julianna Margulies as Alicia and Archie Panjabi as everyone's favorite superhero, Kalinda. Margulies is so good and so consistent - constantly imbuing Alicia with intelligence, strength, and vulnerability - that you can almost forget what an incredible actress she is because the performance seems so natural. She's also evolved the character over the years. And frankly, I would watch Archie Panjabi read the phone book. Kalinda is just so mysterious, so dynamic yet playful, and such a badass that it's no wonder she's already won an Emmy for the part. TGW excels at character and theme - like the end of the season three finale, which beautifully contrasts Alicia and Kalinda both dealing with their pasts. Do you run from it? Do you run back to it? Do you fight? Do you give in? And despite people not loving the way the return of Kalinda's husband story played out (with it apparently now over, it just didn't really seem to have a point or matter all that much), it can't be denied that the visual of Kalinda pulling up a chair and waiting with a loaded gun for the knock of the door was a fantastic scene and an even better cliffhanger. (Clip is queued.)



*The rest are on cable.

8. Suburgatory
Oh, Suburgatory! How you've slowly nestled your way into mi coraz√≥n. What started as a solid lead-in to Modern Family has quickly surpassed that show in both laughs and heart. For those uninitiated, the show follows a teenage girl and her father who move from New York City into suburbia, and the cartoonish inhabitants they encounter upon arriving. Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy are great and bring wonderful wry groundedness to their New York transplants. But of course, the showiest parts on the show belong to the supporting cast. The show's smartest move was assembling the best large ensemble of actors on television - tremendously funny people like Ana Gasteyer, Chris Parnell, Alan Tudyk, and Cheryl Hines, just to name a few. The world of Chatswin (the fictional town) is populated with memorable, vivid characters - right down to the smaller, recurring parts, like Carmen, the maid who learned English almost exclusively by listening to NPR's "All Things Considered". There's no weak link on the show; no boring characters. Everyone you'll meet is funny and engaging. And then, while maintaining the comedy, the show is also constantly telling wonderfully emotional stories. The characters on this show have compelling relationships that can be played for laughs, but can also be incredibly heartwarming. After all, the show is centered around a girl who's never met her mother - when she does finally meet her, it couldn't just be a slapsticky reunion. There's real emotion there, and the entire cast is filled with people who are genuinely great at comedy and at playing those more earnest moments. Cheryl Hines is a perfect example of this - her character, Dallas, is a heightened, ridiculous person, but when the moments are really important - a stolen kiss under the mistletoe, for example - she tugs at your heartstrings with the best of them. And of course, we must be thankful to Suburgatory for giving us one of TV's best creations: Dalia Royce, the spoiled, blonde queen bee of Chatswin High with a delivery so dry it would make the sahara thirsty. Take a look at a classic Dalia speech:



7. Homeland
I don't really know what I could possibly write about this show that hasn't already been said, given that the internet is always discussing it... but I'll do my best. If you haven't seen the show, you've heard of or about it, possibly that it won a bunch of Emmys this year. Well, the Emmys were deserved, kids. Homeland is the real deal. The current season may not be over, but I've seen enough to know the show belongs in my top ten list for sure. I can't say too much about the show without spoiling it for those who would like to watch it, but basically, it's Claire Danes at the CIA hunting terrorists. That incredibly simplistic explanation doesn't even begin to convey the intensity of the show, the twisty, dangerous game that it is. And while Homeland's plot is incredible at zigging where you thought it would zag, the plot isn't even the main reason the show is so captivating: it's the character work, the psychological zigging and zagging that's truly extraordinary. Everything everyone's said about Claire Danes? It's true. It isn't hyperbole: she is amazing. A raw, truly transcendent performance - it's watching a master of the craft at work. I didn't really know there was still acting like that going on in our generation, but it's there. Damian Lewis is no slouch either - a pivotal, extended scene this season just between the two of them made me go, "gees, I don't know why I ever thought I could be an actor, I could never do that". Frankly, I know that Oscars are for movies and not TV, but they should give Danes all the Oscars for this one. This year, I think they should open up the envelope for Best Actress at the Academy Awards and read, "Claire Danes, Homeland", because her work is unparalleled. (Spoilers in clip, obviously)




6. 30 Rock
30 Rock has always been one of my favorite shows, and after a couple of wayward seasons (wayward for this show still means solid episodes and hilarious one-liners, just maybe not as consistently many as before) the show is ending on a high. Liz Lemon is my hero, and Tina Fey is a genius, original, weird woman who has stolen my heart. Hyperbole? Nah. I identify with Liz, I root for Liz... not to mention that week in and week out she does something that is scarily close to home - from seeing all the dark colors in her closet and wondering if she's depressed (which I wrote about) to "Why are my arms so weak? It's like I did that push-up last year for nothing!" - I find myself Lizzing with solidarity. Not only is the show back to being hilarious line-by-line, but the way this final season and a half has really come back to what Liz wants from life and her happiness is really lovely. From the episode last season where Liz rediscovered her desire to have kids to the wonderful wedding episode this year, I keep watching 30 Rock and being genuinely moved and happy for Liz. And that's happening in the same year as the episode where Liz became The Joker and tried to destroy New York City. The show is still as bizarre and oddball and has it's uniquely wacky worldview while also bringing some warm fuzzies for this final season. What more could you want? Liz's wedding is really a perfect manifestation of what the show is - a genuinely happy, emotional moment (Tina Fey's performance as she panics in the courthouse really got me) and then bride is dressed as Princess Leia with bling for a wedding ring and surrounded by homeless people. I will miss this show when it's gone, and I will miss Liz Lemon most of a all - but I've got a feeling she's gonna be just fine as she goes off into the sunset.





5. Happy Endings
If Happy Endings gets cancelled because you jerks aren't watching it, I'm going to be very upset with all of you. I mean it. Anyway, this comedy - about six friends living in Chicago - quickly became my favorite sitcom of the '11-'12 season. Why? IT BRINGS ME JOY. Why else? The writing is pretty on point. The dialogue and the jokes come lightning quick, with brilliantly weird, funny lines tossed away constantly - this makes the episodes great for re-watching, to pick up the things you missed the first go-around. And there's lots of wonderful, off-kilter pop culture references, which - shocker! - I love.*
The cast is great, particularly Adam Pally as Max - with his odd Chicagoish accent and comically intense commitment - and Casey Wilson as the perpetually unlucky Penny. I barely noticed her on SNL, but she's amahzing here. Seriously, her line deliveries are unbelievable. It's that thing of when** great writing meets an incredible performer and they're just a perfect fit for each other. Genuinely, there were moments during season two where I was like, "she's our new Lucy". She makes the tiniest moments exponentially funnier. While season three hasn't been as great so far - pairing Dave and Alex isn't quite leading to comedy gold - but I remember how in the middle of the second season, I couldn't wait for each new episode because each one was a total gem, just hilarious week after week. There was a long stretch of episodes where the show could do no wrong. Remembering my own excitement for each new installment is enough to buoy the show pretty high on my list. Please enjoy one of Penny's choicest lines below.



*Example-
Penny: "It was 2002, it was such a crazy time - we were all still reeling from the events surrounding the film Vanilla Sky." 
Alex: "I'm tired of people using Vanilla Sky as an excuse for everything!"
**Insert your favorite Stefon quote here.

4. Southland
I always describe Southland as "the best show you're not watching". It's true - it's deftly written and filmed and has some of the best slow-burn acting of any series in my memory. If I could describe the show in one word, it would be raw. Here's the backstory on Southland: the show - about the police force in Los Angeles - started on NBC with a really short season of seven episodes. Then NBC ordered the disaster that was The Jay Leno Show for primetime and cancelled everything that aired in the 10 PM hour. Poor Southland didn't stand a chance... until TNT picked up the show, airing season one and the unaired NBC-made season two. Without NBC breathing down their necks, the show blossomed from being a very good, solid cop drama into a tour-de-force. Gritty, dark, and made with a realism that no other show possesses, the show seems to really accurately reflect the life of a patrol cop. It's in the way it's filmed - as if you're on the ground with the LAPD. And it's not just shootouts and high drama - stories aren't wrapped up with a pretty bow. The show captures the little moments for a beat cop - like the dark humor of like an assholey guy flagging you down for an emergency and saying he needs a ride to work. From a domestic battery to a disturbing the peace call, these cops deal with it all. But it's not a procedural - there aren't cases of the week, and these characters are incredibly deep. Week after the week, the show examines the compromises made on the job, how it wears on the soul. These people are wounded. John Cooper, played with deep weariness and unwavering intensity by Michael Cudlitz, is one of the most complicated people on television. It's Emmy-level work - not that the Emmys notice shows like this. And Regina King is excellent. She's able to convey so much with just her eyes, which is on this show is key; the show doesn't have characters delivering exposition about feelings - what you get instead is great actors and subtext. And this season featured a searing performance from Lucy Liu - so incredible in her arc that she won the Television Critic's Award for best guest star. Of course, the Emmys didn't even nominate her - but Emmys or no Emmys, Southland is still one of the best shows on television.


3. Game of Thrones
Is there a show more epic or on a grander scale than Game of Thrones right now? Lordy, methinks not. The show has so many fascinating characters, so many exotic locales, and so much story left to tell. If you think I'm not down for the ride, you'd be mistaken. It's definitely the most sumptuous show on TV with its exquisite locations and sets. For several weeks I got to watch new episodes in a friend's home theater, and damn me if the show didn't look even more magnificent and expansive on a massive screen. The characters are dynamic, the actors incredibly versatile and game... and the plot is a roller coaster. This show deals with the highest of stakes, and waiting in between episodes is incredibly painful. Not to mention that there's only ten episodes in a season - so every single immaculately-produced episode is like a rare find, a treat to be savored before they're all gone. Getting a new episode of Game of Thrones is more exciting than running downstairs to open presents on Hanukkah morning. The joy of having a universe so large is that with that many characters, everyone can have so many favorites - the downside, of course, being that sometimes episodes don't deal with your favorites.* But it's the deal you make when you agree to immerse yourself in Game of Thrones, and it's well worth it. How many shows on TV are this electrically exciting? It's like nothing else out there. In this clip, my homegirl Khaleesi lays down the law.** (Clip is queued.)


*Is Jon Snow the most boring, dour drag on an otherwise amazing show or what? What am I missing?
**Could someone make a TV shirt that says 'Khaleesi is my Homegirl'? Thanks.


2. Girls
Girls emerged last season with so much hype and scrutiny, I wasn't sure I could form my own opinion on it without shutting out the deluge of comments, praise, and criticism lobbed at the show at every turn. I watched the first episode - I thought it was fine, an occasional funny moment. Then came the second episode - when I started thinking intellectually, "wow, this is really smart and funny". Finally, episode three. My brain started to click with the show, but with that episode, my heart did. I fell in love with it. So funny, so brutally honest, and with such a distinctly original voice, Girls hooked me. Lena Dunham has so much hatred directed towards her, but I judge her on her work alone - and the show is excellent. Her writing is funny, but is always revealing something or saying something more at the same time as it's making you laugh (or as is often the case in the show, making you CRINGE). Not to mention she also happens to be an excellent actress - boy, some people get all the luck, huh? People say the show is about selfish people as if the show isn't aware of that fact - it clearly knows how flawed its protagonists are. And Dunham's voice is just ever so left-of-center - relatable enough that everyone watching is going, "Oh my god, [character] is JUST like [real-life person]! This situation is exactly like what happened to me!" but weird enough that the show is usually also pointing out something new or hilarious. I haven't had this much anticipation for a second season of any show since Veronica Mars. For the clip, I thought about finding something shorter - but instead simply decided to go with hilarious story in episode three that made me a believer. In them, Hannah meets her ex-boyfriend for a drink, and things do not go as planned, to say the least. The hysterical left-turns in this conversation could give you whiplash...


  1. Parenthood
I'm not crying. I'm not crying. I'm not crying. If you watch Parenthood, these words might be familiar to you. They are a mantra that we who watch Parenthood need to practice and live with... because every single week the show hits you right in the heart. The show is about small stories, day-to-day life, which is maybe why it isn't exactly a monster in the ratings... but I assure you, if you're passing on Parenthood, you're missing out. There's something to be said for looking at life's little moments. It's a show that benefits from watching episode after episode, because the more you know the characters, the more meaningful all the little things become. Parenthood is incredibly consistent - top to bottom, the acting, writing, and directing are always impeccable and tonally sound. Everyone in the cast is excellent. If I can take a moment and single one person out (I can!), I must say that Monica Potter is exceptional. Incredible. Remarkable in every way (and I was saying that she was the one to watch way back in season two before she had her big storyline this year). All the characters are familiar yet distinct; the Bravermans are so real that they're often frustrating - they make bad decisions and have personality traits that irritate you - just like your actual family, just like real life. It makes the show such a fertile topic for discussion, because you feel like you're talking about people you know - "Sarah is DRIVING ME NUTS". And just like real life, you like some family members better than others. That's why it's great that the show has a large ensemble of characters to follow. And I know I often see my family and moments similar to my life in the show... I remember one specific scene, where Kristina, longingly desperate for Haddie to not be upset with her, insists they paint her room together - and I thought, "that's my mother". The show feels like home. And that's why it's my number one. And oh yeah, did I mention I cry pretty much every week?

And now, a scene that made me cry. SPOILERS ahead.





Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We'll Be Right Back After These Messages

So you may have noticed from the fact that no post showed up this weekend, but here's the deal: the blog is taking a week off.

When I sat down to write for the week, I wrote an entire post that I spent the entirety of feeling bad about myself and lamenting the things that are wrong with me. I was clearly in a bad mood. But my mood changed - as moods do, isn't that what makes them moods? - and the whole thing felt like a bummer so I scrapped it - threw the whole thing out. Perhaps most shockingly, I felt like it wouldn't be all that fun to read. Really weird, I know.

So I'll be back this coming weekend with something much more fun: I'm ranking my top ten favorite TV shows of 2012, and I'm going to tell you why they're so dang awesome. I haven't actually done a post specifically about TV so this should be fun!

Peace,
Alex

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mr. Smith Goes to Wall-shington

Well, I hope y'all had a good Thanksgiving. I'm doing okay, just literally laying in pain, recovering from "my week of eating", as I've been oh-so playfully referring to this disgusting week of shame. Seriously, I've been majorly taking advantage of the fact that unlike the fridge at my apartment, my parents' fridge is always stuffed full of food. Delicious food that will make me fat again. And for the first time in my memory, this Thanksgiving I ate so much that I had to go lie down because I felt like I was going to be sick.

Classy.

Speaking of classy - TRANSITION ALERT! - I believe last week I promised that I was going to share a story of drunken embarrassment? One that would hopefully be unlike any you'd ever heard - one with major photo evidence? Well I was lying. Peace out, homies!


I'm just kidding. Let's do this.

While we just celebrated Thanksgiving, there are other national holidays that need tending to as well.* One of those is Fourth of July. It's not a particularly notable one, as far as holidays go. It's not as fun or sexy as Halloween, and it lacks the nostalgic, magical feeling of the winter holidays. But, I mean, it's not as bad as, say, Memorial Day. Like, bummer much?

*I am just NAILING these transitions! CRUSHING IT.

But I suppose there's something to be said for being able to take a time out and enjoy a nice summer day with your friends. And enjoy it I did, a couple years ago. My friend Andrew graciously invited the gang to the apartment he was renting for the summer at his University.* What he neglected to mention, however, was that his little place had no air conditioning. In July. With like thirty people inside. Of course, there wasn't actually anything he could've done about this, but it was one of those things that we all decided to get half-faux upset about anyway. "Did you know he doesn't have air conditioning?" "No, he didn't say anything!" "He's RIDICULOUS." The bottom line is that everyone was sweaty to begin with, so combined with the copious drinking that is a staple of the holiday, the yield was SWEATY SWEAT MONSTERS.

*And when I say 'his university', I of course mean the one that he OWNS.


Look at how these pretty people glisten. You can practically smell them from here. 
Sweaty sweat monsters was the technical term that night. By that I mean that one person shouted "SWEATY SWEAT MONSTERS!" and then everyone else was shouting that the rest of the night. So now that I've set the hot, crowded scene, let's get to the point. I know you're dying to. As established, while I'm not much of a drinker, when I do drink, four different possible personalities emerge. One of those fellas was named Smith. Let's look back at my description of him, shall we? 
"Smith lives life pretty hardcore. Not really, but Smith doesn't like the idea that he's perceived as boring - he HATES the idea that he's predictable. So he wants to shock or surprise people by doing things you'd never expect. He's a rebel, man! He likes playing games that involve dares because SMITH FREAKING LOVES DARES."
So now that we've got the scene set and the personality established, here's what happened. Smith and several of his pals were sitting in the skinny little hallway of the apartment, chatting. One of Smith's friends said to him, "I bet you can't climb up this wall using just your back and your legs." "IS THAT A DARE?" Smith asked. "No, it's just a suggestion." Said the friend. Smith was PRETTY FUCKIN' SURE IT WAS A DARE, AND SMITH LOVES DARES. "You totally don't think I'll do it, do you??? Well guess what, I'll totally do it." And so he did, shimmying up the wall until he could touch the ceiling. He sat up there, legs stretched over the hall like a little bridge that people walked under. Occasionally people at the party would look down the hall, confused as to how he got up there or what he was doing, and Smith would be like, "Yeah I climbed up the wall, so what?" After sitting comfortably for quite a while, Smith suddenly felt a little push. Just a tiny thing, a slight lurch backwards. He was confident it was nothing, but decided to get down and check. When he turned to look at the wall, this is what he saw:


YOU GUYS, I PUT MY ASS THROUGH THE WALL. My ass made a hole in the wall. A literal asshole. I made an asshole in the wall. It's ass-shaped. And yeah Smith did it but SMITH IS ALSO ME.

Let's take a look at a side view


I was horrified. Smith had fled the scene of the crime, and it was just me standing there left holding the bag. I actually know exactly what my face looked like, because someone was thoughtful enough to snap a photo:

See, look how bad I feel! Also, note: long hair and sweat do not mix. Lesson learned, keep it short in the summer. Also how white are my teeth?

If you're asking how Andrew - whose wall I had ruined - reacted, there's even a photo of that too!

...mostly with exhaustion. Also note how high up on the wall it is and be impressed.

Everyone who wasn't me or Andrew enjoyed the sheer ridiculousness of the fact that I had left an ass-print on the wall and loved walking by it for the rest of the party. To make me feel better - I feel guilty for things I don't do, so when I actually do something wrong it ain't pretty - we came up with other, less damning backstories for how it had gotten there. Like someone who had planned on putting their butt in cement, but wanted to do a test run. Or a thief who robbed apartments and always left his signature calling card - his ass-print. The cops would have to make suspects put their butt into the hole to see if it fit, like a way less romantic or child-appropriate version of Cinderella and her slipper.

And yes, I had to pay to fix the wall. I was employed and making good money (unlike now), so it wasn't so bad. And now I have a great story - now at parties, as a joke, if someone fake-makes me mad, I'll back my butt up to the wall and yell like I'm a hostage-taker, "I'll do it! I'll put my ass right through this wall!" I just love the idea of being pissed at someone and yelling, "screw you!", then immediately ramming your rump through their wall and being like, "I'll be leaving now - enjoy your asshole, asshole!"

It is my dream that someone somewhere will do this. If anyone out there in the internet can do this and prove that they did this, I will pay you 5,000 dollars.*

*Prize money to be distributed at the writer's discretion - in this case over the course of the writer's entire lifetime.




Sunday, November 18, 2012

Update: I'm Still Friends With Sean Maher

So first thing's first - BIG NEWS y'all - remember how last week I wrote about my relationship with my close, personal friend, actor Sean Maher. Well, imagine my extreme delight when, after tweeting the blog out*, my iPhone sounded with the e-mail tone. My inbox had an e-mail from Twitter.

Sean Maher (@Sean_M_Maher) mentioned you on Twitter!**

Holy snap, crackle and pop - Sean saw my post! Sean read my blog. 

LOOKIT LOOKIT!

I was quite excited, mostly because it reaffirmed the deep bonds of our friendship. But in all sincerity, it was super cool knowing that Sean had as much hanging out as I did. Additionally, a bonus side-effect that I didn't anticipate was that suddenly the Blogspot site started getting a ton hits - Sean has 45,718 followers and counting. This is cool, because as someone with aspirations of being a writer of some kind (TV, please) it can only be a good thing to have people reading your work! However, as discussed, my brain tends to turn even the best, happiest things into occasions for anxiety, because I am the worst. This would be no exception.

*The fact that I just said the phrase "tweeting the blog out" makes me die a little inside.
**If you can somehow get this e-mailed to you, I recommend it - it's SUPER fun.

This blog runs both on Blogspot and Tumblr because I was too anxious to choose just one, as is my wont. To summarize the distinction for those who don't understand technology (hi, Mom!), Blogspot is more of a standard blog-writing site while Tumblr is a site that posts all kinds of stuff, but has the nice added feature of allowing people to follow your updates with a simple click. So unlike the blog, you don't have to visit it hoping for an update. My updates will just appear on your Tumblr if you choose to follow me.

Suddenly, because I am my own worst enemy, I turned this awesome thing into a bad thing - "oh, no - why didn't I tweet the TUMBLR link instead! Now anyone who might want to follow me will end up at the Blogspot! MY CHANCE AT INTERNET BLOGGER SUCCESS IS DEAD, I TELL YOU! And it's all my own doing! WOE IS ME, I SAY!" I started to get antsy.

Trying to make myself feel better, I started saying out loud to my roommate Caitlin, "It's not so bad, right? If someone comes to the blog, there's a link to the Tumblr, if they really want to they can find me, right?" Caitlin: "I mean, it's a lot nicer to have people following you on Tumblr." "I KNOW, Caitlin, you're supposed to be making me feel better!" "Well... I mean you're right, it was a bad decision."

After placing Caitlin on friend probation - "you are on the THINNEST of ice" - I decided to tweet the link to my Tumblr as well. And wouldn't you know it - because we have the kind of friendship where one person just knows what the other needs, y'know? - Sean re-tweeted my Tumblr link. My anxiety was calmed, and I felt secure knowing that the problem I had created completely in my own head had been solved. So, welcome new followers! I promise my next blog will be a fun one, it's about me doing something really dumb while drinking. You're thinking, "I'm sure I've heard it all", but I promise, this one is special! It's exceptionally weird and is accompanied by photo evidence! I wanted to bring out the big guns for my new internet readers.

One last thing: it should be noted as well that in my initial blog, I mentioned how people, upon hearing about me meeting Sean, asked if he could get me into the business. I found this odd, because while hanging out with him that thought didn't even cross my mind. My mother had been one of them, and when I told her during a phone call that Sean had seen my blog, her immediate first response was, "Can he get you a job?!" Listen, we're both handling my unemployment in different ways. It's the five stages of unemployment grief. She's clearly at bargaining. I'm slightly more advanced, since I'm at depression.

Besides, a year from now when my lease is up and I move to L.A. to break into TV, Sean and I are going to have lunch, and I don't want it to be weird or awkward because I once tried to use his global fame to my advantage or something. I've learned that you need to keep business and friendship separate. It's why you don't loan your friends large sums of money - that stuff can really tear a relationship apart. And when you've gone through as much as Sean and I - hanging out once and then having a couple Twitter exchanges - you don't want to lose a friendship that meaningful over something so trivial.

You guys, I think I'm really growing as a person. Take notes everyone, you're witnessing some super meaningful self-discovery right before your very eyes. It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Have Inside Jokes With Sean Maher and You (Probably) Don't

To see today's other post click here

Normally I would never write two posts in one day - mostly because I feel my tiny brain has a limited number of good ideas and stories, and should therefore out drag the ones I have, making them last as many weeks as humanly possible. But this is a special occasion - I realized it's the 10th anniversary of Firefly.

If you're asking what Firefly is, we probably need to spend more time together. Starring the guy from Castle and created by Joss Whedon, who made Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it's a beautiful gem of a sci-fi show. And if you don't like sci-fi, it doesn't matter - it's a show about people and relationships. Every episode is gold, and the ensemble is perfect - it's one of those shows that it's impossible to have a favorite character on, because everyone is so great. There's only fourteen episodes, so since eighth grade when I first saw the show, I've watched the series maybe dozens of times. It's lived with me. When they made the show into a movie, Serenity, my friend Brian and I to a special fan screening that was several months before the actual movie came out. Bottom line: go watch it.

Last Septemer, my friend Caitlin asked if I wanted to see Contagion - I had been an extra on it and was curious to see if I made the cut. But honestly, the movie looked so unbelievably depressing and upsetting - I wasn't really in the mood to see a bunch of nice people die horribly.* I asked her if there was a comedy, and she told me Our Idiot Brother was playing. Not only did it look way less depressing, but since it was at 3:45 and not at 4:15 like Contagion, we would get to pay the matinee price! I'm sorry, but I'm living on a freaking budget over here, okay? So, thinking I would only see Caitlin, I threw on a ratty Shy Ronnie t-shirt and left my apartment without showering.

*This same reasoning is why I avoid Coen Brothers films.

After purchasing our tickets, we walked through the lobby and towards the escalators, passing the concession stand. A man was coming off the escalators as we were stepping on - I made eye contact and he gave the obligatory smile you do when you make eye contact with a stranger. I couldn't stop staring at him - he looked familiar... the face traveled from my eyes to my brain, where finally it clicked. At the top of the escalator, I stopped. "Caitlin, I'm pretty sure that was Simon from Firefly." I knew Simon Tam's real name was Sean Maher, but I wasn't sure if Caitlin would so I knew this was how I needed to explain. She'd watched Firefly once before, but wasn't into it the way I was. I also knew, since I have an IMDBrain* and know everything about what all actors are in, that Sean was in the upcoming series The Playboy Club, which I knew filmed in Chicago. So I realized it really could be him. Normally I'd probably be too nervous to say something, but Caitlin had recently taught me a lesson when she had run into Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon at iO (the improv theater). She told me how even though she'd been really nervous and a little jittery she had just gone right up to him and been like, "Are you Michael Shannon?" he said he was, and they had a cool little conversation. "You just went up to him?!" I asked. "Yeah, um, was I going to miss the opportunity to talk to Michael Shannon?" That combined with my regret at not saying something to Amy Poehler when I saw her one time - long story for a later post - lit a fire under me. I explained the situation to Caitlin. "Can we go say hi?"

*Copyright me. I came up with this. 

We came right back down the escalator where the man who was maybe Sean was waiting in line for concessions. Incredibly nervous, I mustered an "excuse me?" he turned and looked at me. "Can I ask you a question?" He smiled really big. This was a good sign. "Sure". "Um..." I stuttered, "um... uh..." and behind me Caitlin was laughing, saying to possibleSean, "You know. You know." I felt like it would be weird to call someone by their name who I'd never met, like it would be creepy to know someone's name, so I just said, "...you're Simon." "Yes", he said, "Nice to meet you, I'm Sean." He extended his hand, which I shook. "I knew that", I said. Way to not be creepy, dude. I introduced myself, and then went on a long, rambling monologue about how much I loved the show and how many times I watched it and how amazing it was and how I went to a preview screening of the movie and blah blah blah I was a sweaty mess and I think I was breathing really heavily because at one point Caitlin went, "um, do you need me to get your inhaler, pal?" I think it was a good thing she was there, because seeing I had a normal, funny friend probably made Sean aware that on a regular basis I wasn't this much of a weirdo. Although when we asked what he was doing here, and he explained he was on The Playboy Club, and Caitlin said to him, re: me "he knew that" I wanted to be like, "SHUT UP, GIRL!" We had some more chit-chat and Sean - who was incredibly sweet and yes, his eyes really are that blue and his jaw is that chiseled, this is clearly why he belongs on TV and I don't - asked what movie we were seeing. It turned out we were seeing the same one! "I'm just going to get a drink, do you guys want anything?" "Well, actually", I thought to myself, "I could use a diet coke- ALEX I KNOW YOU'RE CHEAP BUT YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE SIMON FREAKING TAM BUY YOU A SODA." "I'm fine!" I said. As he was in line, I asked Caitlin if we should go up without him, I didn't want to crowd him or creep him out - "oh no", she said, "we are waiting right here and we are going to walk up with him. Get yo' shit together, son."

We went up the escalator, talking more. I asked Sean if he moved here for the show, but he explained that while some of the cast moved, his family was in LA, so he flies back and forth. He had filmed on Friday and also was set to film on Monday, so he decided to just stay the weekend and in his off-time occasionally goes to a movie. "I almost didn't come today" he said, "Now I'm really glad I did!" "ME TOO", I didn't scream like a crazy person. Now here's where things get kind of unbelievable - we got to the theater, and again not wanting to crowd or pressure Sean, we walked in ahead of him. Caitlin sat down in a seat, then me. AND THEN SEAN CAME AND SAT NEXT TO ME.

Can you even believe this? When does this happen? You run into someone you're a fan of, gush for ten minutes, and then go to a movie and hang out with them? Insane. Also, this was pretty ballsy on his part as well, because although we all know I'm actually SUPER COOL, Sean had no way of being sure of this. "I hope you don't mind if I crash your date!" he said, sweetly. "Oh, this is SO not a date!" I said. "And even if it was, it would be SO fine!" Just like that, I sold out my fake-girlfriend Caitlin. She'll get over it. The trailers came, one for Jack and Jill, and when I laughed at the single joke where Jill crushes the horse she's sitting on, I asked if it made me a terrible person for laughing at this awful-looking movie - Sean said no, he laughed at it too. Hashtag #seanapproval.

I was too nervous to talk to him very much during the movie - and people have different feelings on how much chatter should take place in the theater; some people want absolute silence or they get ornery. So I didn't want to bother him. But the benefit of having a whole entire movie is that by the time it was over, I had decompressed and calmed down; I was a normal person again. I think once you've said something to a famous person once you're sort of inoculated - Caitlin had no worries since she'd talked to Michael Shannon, and I could probably now go up to someone I'm a fan of without gushing and hyperventilating. So as we left, I said to him, "I'm sorry I nerded out on you so hard before... I think I was just really surprised." He said it was totally fine, that everyone involved with the show loved it so much that they just genuinely enjoy hearing about it. Now that I was a normal person again came what I think was the best part of all - Sean, Caitlin and I hung out for like a half hour, just talking about random stuff. Not about Firefly, not about the business* - but about what movies we liked in the last year, or about how terrible the last Oscar hosts were (he thought Anne Hathaway was worse, I thought James Franco was worse, but we all agreed it was a mess). When my friend Caitlin mentioned she was a nanny, Sean took out his phone and showed us pictures his kids had drawn. We talked a little bit about things he could do in Chicago. We discussed our dislike of pushy canvassers. We just chilled out like we were real-life amigos, and it was really cool. Basically now we're best friends.

*Which, by the way, many people asked me "oh my god, did you tell him you were an actor, can you help you get a job working on the show, etc." I was like, absolutely not. I wasn't going to besmirch the sanctity of the supercool bestfriend hangout funtime sesh by trying to like, parlay this into some weird desperate attempt to use him! Come on, people. We were having fun. T'was not the time nor place.

Oh, and of course, as I always say: "pixar it didn't happen."

Good god, I look terrible. Especially next to his handsome TV face - my face is relatively average, but next to his face my average face looks like a gnome-troll face. 

After a little while it was time to go - we each got a photo with Sean AND A HUG - during which all I could think was, "WHY didn't I take a shower today, dammit!" - and we said goodbye. As we walked back to the bus, I was high as a kite - I couldn't believe we had just hung out for the afternoon with Sean Maher. I had so many questions - had I dreamed it? Would anyone believe me? Why didn't Sean invite us to have dinner with him?* In order to prove it had actually happened, Caitlin and I tweeted him. We live in the twitter age, after all. A little while later, we got this back:

If you'd like to tweet Sean and badger him suggest he get lunch with me read this post, you can tweet him at this name above

Guess what? Parker Posey wasn't in Our Idiot Brother. I'm not even going to explain it, you probably wouldn't get it cause it's an inside joke between me and Sean, y'know. So the big takeaway from this post is that me and my close personal friend Sean Maher have inside jokes and you don't. That's all.

*This is a joke.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tears of a Clown

DISCLAIMER: This post stops being political two paragraphs in, I promise.

My relief at Barack Obama winning a second term as president is only slightly less than my relief that election season is over. The spiting, the sniping, the punditry, and the political ads - GOOD LORD, the political ads - it can all cool down for a little while. I'm also happy it's over because my tolerance for people saying inane and stupid things is low. Especially because the people saying dumb things will never understand how incorrect they are, so you can't even have the satisfaction of shoving their face in how wrong they are.  

For example: my sister is in eighth grade, and a kid in her class told her Obama was a "baby-killer". This is insane on several levels - first of all, calling abortion "baby-killing" is a gross oversimplification of a very complicated issue. But even if it was "baby-killing", Obama didn't invent abortion. He also didn't make it legal - the supreme court did. And if Obama is a baby-killer for being president in a country where abortion is legal, then Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush were all baby-killers too.

But kids don't understand, they don't know any better, and they say things without thinking or understanding. I've already discussed this. And when my sister told me this exchange, I remembered the way middle schoolers have this sense of privilege and unearned bravado to say whatever the hell they want. 

And how I was totally one of them.

Yeah, upon greater reflection I think I was in middle school what teachers would professionally refer to as a little shit class clown. I relished cracking the perfect joke - and the sound of the whole class laughing.* Combine that with the fact that I loved talking to just about everyone - a regular chatter bug - and this made me somewhat of a nightmare for middle school teachers. 

*I honestly remember once that after the class laughed particularly hard at something I'd said I kept replaying the sound in my head so that I wouldn't forget how awesome it was. Since I don't seem to be able to recall the sound it would appear I failed.

It was just odd to me that they felt they could interrupt my social time. School is where I saw all my friends every day, and if I needed to discuss weekend plans, the drama going on with Stacy and Brent, how annoying the gym teacher was today, or last night's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the classroom was where I was going to do it. And I remember feeling pretty confident that what I had to say was infinitely more interesting than anything my teacher was going to say.

My talking got me sent out to the hall very frequently. There were some classes where it was second nature - just a look from the teacher, and I'd say, "I got it, I'm going..." and make my way outside. I've had only one detention ever in my life, and it was for talking in class. But let me just say this - from my memory of my middle-school aged perspective, my problems were only with teachers who were mean and joyless. There were teachers who found my incredible volume charming and funny with an occasional need to be reigned in or tapered. The ones who had problems with me I remember as being complete jerks. I remember one exasperated teacher pulling sixth-grade me out into the hall and saying, "you're just really desperate for attention, aren't you?" "Um, I don't know." I said. At the end of class, I was walking out with my friends and was not even out the door as I told them, "she says I'm desperate for attention - god, she's so annoying!"

My favorite instance was in health class. Remember how in middle school, we all had to buy insanely expensive graphing calculators? And remember how those graphing calculators had really cool games on them? Well, I was playing them in class because class was not interesting. The teacher - again, not a cool guy, a very dreary sort - told me to turn it off. I kept playing. A couple minutes later, he came over, asking me why I was still playing it. I told him (with that sense of entitlement middle schoolers have that makes them right all the time) that he told me to turn it off, so how could I turn it off without hitting buttons? I was just doing what he said! "Give me the calculator", he said. "No." I replied. "Give it to me". "No, it's really expensive, and you can't have it", I snarled. "Wow, you've really got a chip on your shoulder, don't you?" he said. Now I had no idea what that expression meant at the time, so I just shrugged non-commitally in a way that could have been saying yes or no.

The craziest thing about that story is that I ever had the balls to speak to a teacher that way. High school me, college me - they would never dare to do so. So where did that little firecracker go? He vanished without a trace - honestly, I don't recognize that wiseass as me. How did he molt away into a people-pleaser who never wanted to get in trouble, who always wanted to be liked? Does that come with age? Because I'm pretty sure there are people who stay that way as grown-ups.

Let's compare with the way I dealt with teachers in high school, shall we? I think maybe a major difference was that in high school I was so worried about all my grades - sure if they weren't good enough that I wouldn't get into college - that I didn't have the time to be snarky. Physics was particularly hard for me... it never quite clicked. So on my tests, I would write PAGES of notes to my teacher, thinking that if I could explain my line of thinking, how I got to my answer, that it couldn't be so wrong, or that if she could see how hard I was trying I'd get the points anyway. My teacher told me that she cried grading/reading my tests. Yikes. My anxiety was pouring through my writing into other people.*

*Although I did learn later that she was going through a divorce at the time. So maybe it wasn't all my fault. Also apparently teachers have outside lives. And first names. 

Though now that I think about it, maybe my ballsy self is still in there somewhere. In my junior year of high school, my friend and I wrote and directed a play that was produced by the school. The theatre teacher/department director hated it. The show was our sort of oddball, quirky sense of humor, and he didn't get it because he was sixty years old and the show wasn't written by Neil Simon. Most people can understand that when something is not to their particular taste, it doesn't mean that other people can't enjoy it. The director did not. He assumed that because he didn't like it, the play was inherently bad. He came in to sit in on rehearsals during the final week, and he tore the show a new asshole - in front of the entire cast. In a comedy, it's all about committing to the absurd, so if the actors are doubtful - if they half-ass it - it isn't going to work. So the director was driving the show into the ground by freaking out the cast. Not to mention the simple fact that having your work blithely insulted doesn't feel super great. Finally, in one of our last rehearsals, a joke that he didn't find funny - a joke that, by the way, killed with every audience - came up. "I don't get it - it's not funny." He said. It had been a very long week dealing with him. I was very stressed. I had had enough.

Me: "Yes, it is."
D: "No, it isn't,"
Me: "Yes, it is."
D, with incredible condescension: "No, it really isn't."
Me: "Yes, it is."
D: "It doesn't make any sense."
Me: "It doesn't have to make sense, OKAY? Some things are JUST FUNNY BECAUSE THEY ARE, you don't have to explain them."

And he shrugged with the tone of, "it's your funeral." But it's true - little ol' me yelled at the big bad teacher. And that was that. 

Maybe I've still got balls after all. But that was five or so years ago - we need to test me out again. Quick, somebody bring me someone with authority over me to yell at!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Jewish Thing, Part 2: The Wrath of Bubbe


PREVIOUSLY ON BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE JEWISH THING, PART 1
I told you I'd come back to it. With no new exciting life developments a'happenin' (a.k.a. no job) I'm dipping into that old yamica of tricks* and continuing on with the Jewish thing. My mother's friend Eve gave only one note about my blog - "be kind to the Jews". Um... uh... this part might be rough going for you, Eve. But it all wraps up nicely in Part 3 after I go to Israel and learn a bunch, so don't get too upset. Whoops - did I just give away the ending? I have so much to learn about story structure...

*I refuse to spell it 'yarmulke', because my brain reads it YAR-MULL-KEY, which is gross.

So if we recall, Part 1 came from me trying to explain how it was that I stopped going to temple. I talked a lot about how it was fairly difficult being a lone Jew in a conservative Christian suburb - it made me - what's a nice word? - disenchanted with organized religion, to say the least. I saw firsthand the way it divided people, made people treat others poorly. But y'know what else made disenchanted with my religion? My religion. Yup, that's right. Judaism is just as much to blame for driving me away from religion as close-minded Christians are. Sorry, Judaism. I love you dawg but you know it's true! See, as much as I was the token Jew in my hometown, the funny thing is that I was never actually all that Jewish really. My family was reform, which is the Jewish equivalent of threat level green - it's as low-down on the totem pole as you can go. We weren't super religious - we never celebrated shabbat, which I only realized on my recent Israel-trip is quite abnormal for Jews. It was mostly high holidays, which meant services. Services were hours long and painfully boring - I never liked going. And OH YEAH: Hebrew school.

I hated Hebrew school. HATED it. For one thing, it was more school after school. What kid would like that? With no Jews in the area, we had to drive twenty minutes to get to the temple - to a kid whose age was in the single-digits it felt like an hour. All of the other kids there knew each other from regular school, so for them it was like extra hang-out time - for me it was more like, "who are all of you?" or perhaps, "Do any of you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" I remember week after week screaming and begging and crying, running out of my house and taking off down the street in a refusal to go. A couple weeks it worked, but most of the time my mother would pull up in the car and bribe me by promising a McDonalds run (fat kid kryptonite).*

*Let's be honest though - she could have bribed better. If she had offered to take me to Taco Bell instead I probably would've converted to Orthodoxy. 

And the teachers... well, we didn't have the best of relationships. I was not happy to be there, and I guess I could be occasionally... surly. Yeah, surly. I remember gleefully telling one teacher that I was going to miss the next class because I had family in town. Then, in the pick-up line*, this teacher approached my car and asked my mother if I was indeed missing class. My mother said no (though I had thought we had reached an agreement on this point), and with god my mother, my aunt, and my cousin as my witness, this teacher - a grown-ass, middle aged woman - looked at me, an eight or nine-year old - and shouted "HA HA, HA HA, HA HA..." in my face. As my mother pulled away in the car, we could still hear her yelling. So not the most healthiest of environments for anyone involved, it seems.

*You want to see sheer inanity? Go to a Hebrew school pick-up and watch how it takes cars tens of minutes to simply get their kid and leave.

All of this might have been fine if I had been way into the religion itself or something... but you'll be shocked to hear this wasn't the case. I found the logic of religion... specious. My questions were given trite, patronizing answers - I think people felt because they were talking to a child, they didn't have to earn my beliefs in a real way. They were wrong with this kid. To this day, whenever he sees my mother, the president of the temple asks her, "How's Alex? Is he a lawyer yet?" because I argued so much. I just never liked being told what to do and not being as good reason as to why. "Just because" didn't cut it for me. There were silly rules and silly traditions that made no sense - any organized religion has them. And I didn't like being told that I had some sort of obligation to some greater thing that other people insisted was important, even if it meant nothing to me. I thought Yom Kippur was the worst. One of the high holidays, Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, where you apologize to god for all the bad stuff you've done all year. I remember thinking, "I'm not going to apologize to some supposed deity. If I wronged another person, I can apologize to the person, but I don't owe some anyone else an explanation. and I can police my own morals thankyouverymuch, I don't need fear of a sky bully to make me be a good person."

The point is, after my Bar Mitzvah*, which I did for my parents, I was out. They were all like, "we want you to do confirmation" and I was all like, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?" Okay, I didn't really say that. I would never swear in front of my parents. But hopefully the harshness of that sentence indicates just how flabbergasted and not-agreeable - putting it lightly, here - I was to the idea of continuing my Hebrew studies.

*I still maintain that people should have their Bar Mitzvah when they're 18 or 21. A party that expensive, that nice was wasted on me - I didn't have any fun. I didn't get to eat any food, almost none of the people who became my best friends were there, and most importantly, at that age I refused to dance. And we all know that now I love dancing. I would kill to have that party now.

But honestly, the straw that broke the camel's back probably happened way earlier - this camel was walking around with a broken back for years before he quit. In the mid/late 90's, right after the Lewinsky scandal broke, I was at my Bubbe's house in Michigan. I was seven or eight years old. Bubbe had recently gotten e-mail - remember when internet was new? remember when WiFi wasn't a thing? - and like all old Jewish ladies, used her screechy, insane dial-up mostly to send chain joke e-mails. I was sitting next to her, staring at her weird fake plants while she was reading an e-mail. Suddenly she laughed uproariously. I read the joke - "If a Jew was president, all the secretaries would be shiksas!" I asked her why this was funny, and she explained that Jewish people didn't marry people who weren't Jewish. At the time, I was convinced that I was going to marry the pretty blonde girl in our neighborhood who had become my best friend, so I said - and this is verbatim - "Well, if I loved somebody who wasn't Jewish, I would marry them?"

"Aw, how sweet!" You're thinking - you'd be mostly right, this was before I got fat and I was a pretty cute kid. Bubbe disagreed. She began screaming at me. Screaming, at a child. Screaming that I should never say that, that Jews married Jews - the finite details of what she said are a little lost to me, but I remember two feelings very well. First, I remember feeling how wrong she was, and how mad I was that she thought she could tell me how to live my life based on her rules - "I'll marry whoever the hell I want!" Secondly, I remember the feeling of, "It is completely inappropriate for you to be screaming at me when you're an adult and I'm a child". Honestly, even at such a young age, I was feeling "how dare you scream at me like this! Just because we have differing opinions doesn't give you the right to bully me, Bubbe!" I wasn't then speaking in those grown-up words but the feeling translates.

The irony that Bubbe couldn't see is how badly her bullying (Bubbying?) backfired. Instead of shaming me into feeling I had to stick to the Jewish conventions, I instead - chip on my shoulder - became more determined that no person, no religion, no ridiculous rules would tell me how to live my life. I life my life on my terms.

This got suuuuuuper serious, didn't it? Yee-ikes. Sorry, this is just sort of how my Jewish journey continues, I guess, and I'm trying to write it all out, warts n'all. But remember, Part 3 is way more upbeat. Falafel is involved.

TO BE CONTINUED