December 6th, 2009
We slept in this morning, and I’ve decided that today will not be a complete waste, as was yesterday. The work week was exceptionally long, with sales conference and a general sense of wariness on my part, and so we went out on Friday night with friends for much-needed release. Of course, in my semi-non-drinking state, the three pints that I had rendered me utterly useless almost all day yesterday. And so I watched Jersey Shore online after Zesty sent a funny note about it last week. Good grief. It’s hard not to judge these people. And I suppose that’s the point — the strange obsession that we have with “reality” television seems to be ruining entertainment, as Vanity Fair pointed out in its December issue — as we spend hours (as I did) following the lives of vapid, self-involved, idiotic wastes of earthly space from a fairly protected sense of being morally better than they are.
As everyone starts to follow the Copenhagen conference (the Globe had extensive coverage of global warming in this weekend’s Focus section), a huge discrepancy between where pop culture seems to be headed and the real issues facing our society today. In short, I kind of feel like the environment just doesn’t matter to the masses. I’m sure I’m making ridiculous generalizations, and shouldn’t just use the vapid, ridiculous “characters” from Jersey Shore as my test subjects, but I was honestly disgusted by their lack of awareness, the amount of garbage they produced on screen (all those disposable cups!), and the kinds of things that caused an emotional reaction (feeling “outcasted” and fighting in bars). The men use bucketfuls of product on their hair and the girls who claim they’re “all natural” (in that they aren’t augmented) while piling on ridiculous amounts of make-up and wearing next to nothing.
Maybe I’m just trying to attach a sense of righteousness where it doesn’t belong. The stereotypical muscle-bound meat heads and the girls who love them seem to be partying their way into a z-level fame. These kids can’t aspire to much or else they wouldn’t be on the show in the first place and I often wonder if these shows aren’t meant to depress the viewership as much as appeal to it. How can you not feel defeated about the state of feminism when you watch young girls come up into a house of strangers, allow themselves to be filmed jumping half-naked into a jacuzzi, and pull off their underwear while the three other women in the house call them “skanks” and “whores.” In the same breath, two of the four women in the house then go on to cheat on their significant others while being so drunk they can’t remember what happened, one girl gets “sloppy” (which none of the men appreciate?) on the first night, and the last girl, nicknamed “Sweetheart” leads one roommate on only to make-out minutes later with another fellow from the house. Where’s the dividing line between skank and whore? The determination lies solely with whomever shouts the loudest?
I shouldn’t have watched it. The comedic value of it all was lost on me. Or maybe I’m just too serious these days. Feeling a little lost and neglected in terms of my own life and far too hungover yesterday to contemplate anything more intellectual. But when and how did society fall so far and how do you think these kids are going to feel about themselves when they gain some perspective? Some of them are simply old enough to know better — a man on the cusp of his 30s who is still chasing tail and judging his success in life by how many women are entrapped by his abs should be ashamed of himself. The idea of instant gratification is taken to the nth degrees by this snippet of American life. These kids don’t really want to work (their room and board is paid for by working a shift or two a couple of times a week in a t-shirt shop), their values are family-orientated in a way (they’re mainly Italian-American) when it suits them, there’s no discussion of safe sex, common decency seems non-existent, and sexism on both counts gets confused with sexual attraction in ways that make me feel far, far older than my years.
And the whole time I’m watched, mindful of being entirely the wrong demographic, I kept thinking: we’re wasting the earth’s precious resources on this sh*t. And no one seems to care. I wonder how ironic Pauly D’s Cadillac tattoos will be in however many years when there’s no more gas and there’s nothing left to power their beloved cars. Do you think he’ll even understand the irony?
January 10th, 2009
It’s been a hard week, I’m not going to lie. In a way I had worked myself up for it, knew that by taking the prednisone for a month this past December, and by how I was feeling that the disease was flaring. Finding myself again at the crossroads: my body working against me and me working hard to change my life only results in more disease activity. Sometimes, it just gets you down. There’s a lot of protein in my urine and my creatinine is sneaking up again — key markers in terms of the Wegener’s being active in my body. It’s nothing dramatic, it’s just me being back on medicine.
At least this time the Super-Fancy disease doctor asked me what treatment I would prefer. I rallied hard against the methotrexate. I really don’t like giving myself and injection once a week. But maybe that’s just because my RRHB and I have been watching way too much Intervention (holy crap is that show addictive; how ironic). Plus, I can’t gain back all the weight I’m trying so hard to lose. I managed a month on prednisone with really no change and I can’t go back to marshmallow ragdoll on methotrexate. Kindly, SFDD agreed to let me go back on imuran. Baring any dramatic episodes like the last time, let’s hope my body responds well and my bloodwork starts coming back with some improvements.
I have to say, though, that after months of feeling awful, of catching everything that wandered by, of battling just to get out of bed in the morning, that I’ve starting fresh in the New Year with better eating habits (no sugar [we’ll see how long that lasts] this week; no dairy next week) and walking both ways to the subway in the morning. You know, I’m actually feeling better. I had energy all week and only one bad day (due to mucho stress at work) where I crashed the moment I got home. Overall, I’ve been reading more, sleeping fine (yes, chemically induced but without it the prednisone crazies will come up and bite me on the ass), and getting a lot of stuff done on a day to day basis. My horoscope is on my side, that’s got to mean something, right?
Now the goal becomes squeezing in some writing.
October 26th, 2008
Over the past few days I’ve been finding it harder and harder to sleep. I’m averaging about five hours a night, which is better than nothing but still means I’m not getting any better in terms of the cold that seems to be hanging on for dear life. I’ve now been sick since the week my mother died and it’s like trying to live through a constant, pressing hard wind. The more I push myself forward, the more it presses against me. The cough rattles through like turbulence and it shakes me around in its wake at all hours. The wakefulness is one thing: I know what to do with it. But my body seems unable to rest no matter how many hours I spend at home.
Last night, after spending the afternoon with my husband’s family for our niece’s third birthday (and what fun that was despite the above), I came home, did some work, and then settled down to watch HBO’s Recount. The film stars Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary and a whole host of other people, and dramatizes the events surrounding the Florida voting fiasco from the 2000 presidential election. Knowing now what a complete and utter mess W.’s made of it, the film almost feels a bit self-congratulatory in a way, as it’s told from the point of view of the Democrats (who obviously lost the court battle to finish the Florida recount), who have the advantage of the moral high ground. Regardless, like so much of modern history, the truth will consistently be bifurcated by the teller (sue me; I’m still a post-modernist!), but that sure makes for solid entertainment even if the film feels more like a Michael Moore picture than a feature film (again, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing). And the performances were stellar (Denis Leary, Tom Wilkinson, Laura Dern in particular). All in all watching Recount was a perfectly good way to spend a lonely Saturday night coughing and crumpled up on the couch.
October 25th, 2008
“Now don’t get mad at me because I didn’t invent the world, but nobody likes an angry woman.”
August 12th, 2008
The RRHB and I have been watching Generation Kill, the 7-part miniseries by David Simon (the man responsible for The Wire, the best show ever produced for television) about the Iraq war. The series follows a group of highly trained Recon Marines as they follow the chain of command’s increasingly stupid decisions and continue to come through their contact with the enemy fairly unscathed. It’s also an uncensored look at the war from the point of view of Evan Wright, the Rolling Stone reporter embedded with First Recon who wrote a book about his experiences (with the same title as the show, Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of American War).
To make war drama effective it needs to look and feel real. But Generation Kill takes that even a step further, sure they blow stuff up a la Saving Private Ryan and they talk the talk (everyone is “Oscar Mike” and all kinds of other sweet-ass sayings you get into your head the minute they’re uttered on screen), but the actors are so committed to the roles that it’s almost as if you’re watching a documentary. So much of the current culture around creating art of the Iraq conflict fails for many of the same reasons: it’s too austere, it’s too bloated, or it’s just plain bad. None of these problems plague Generation Kill. All of these problems plague Kimberly Peirce’s abysmal Stop-Loss, which we watched this weekend.
Ryan Phillippe plays SSgt Brandon King, at a loss to protect his unit from an ambush, who arrives back in the US thinking he’s about to get out a hero (with a Purple Heart for his troubles) when he discovers he’s been “stop-lossed” and will need to report back to base to be sent over for yet another tour in Iraq. Finally sensing the futility of his position and of the war itself, he goes AWOL and is on the run for most of the film. Only in BK’s world “on the run” means taking off with your best friend’s girlfriend (played with a strange swagger by Abbie Cornish), hiding out in lame hotels, getting into fights, visiting A WAR HOSPITAL, attending the ARMY FUNERAL of a member of his unit and never get caught. And (SPOILERS AHEAD) after all of that, after watching one guy basically kill himself, after visiting the parents of another member of his squad that died on that fateful day, he decides to just go back anyway. What the fark? At least give Canada a chance buddy, it’s not so bad up here and it’ll take Stephen Harper at least a couple of years to extradite you. Yawn.
The whole film is preposterous. Nothing makes any sense, it’s bloated, and while the performances aren’t terrible, the dialogue is cringe-worthy enough to make you wonder why anyone agreed to make this film in the first place. In sharp contrast, the men in Generation Kill walk, talk, and act like soldiers. They’re Recon Marines, as Brad “Iceman” Colbert (Alexander Skarsgård) says, they’ve had air training, dive training, survival training and they’re being wasted on ridiculously silly missions in Iraq, to which someone responds, ‘it’s sure not Afghanistan,’ and they all cheers to the memory of the conflict apparently fought in a way they can respect.
And it’s not like Phillippe is a terrible actor, just the opposite, I think. He was wonderful in the under-appreciated gem, Breach, which was one of my favourite films of last year. But in this case, the material is so beneath him. In Generation Kill, the material is so good the men absolutely rise to the occasion, but Skarsgård and James Ransone are so good it’s not even apparent they’re acting, which you’re always aware of when Phillippe and his co-star, Channing Tatum, are on screen. Even if war films aren’t your thing, I’d give Generation Kill a try, if only because now that So You Think You Can Dance is over (woot! woot! Joshua woot!) there’s really nothing else to watch and not much is happening over at Mad Men just yet. It always comes back to what I’m consistently saying about books — if the writing is good, then the content is kind of irrelevant, the story will hold up regardless.
May 17th, 2008
I’ve been going through old writing today and picking up threads of stories that I had always meant to finish. Just typed an email to a friend saying that now that I’ve finished one book I honestly think that I’ll be able to finish another and another. But perhaps the sunshine and free time are making me a bit euphoric. Here’s an old poem that I’ve been rewriting this afternoon.
He pulls me away, with
a voice that equals your own,
strips you clean,
and leaves me knowing
incomparable middle class suffering.
Stands there with a strength
that comes from foreign places,
with names I can’t countdown,
places in the mine, places
where I have not yet spent time.
The next one had a reedy voice,
shiny shoes, short tie, lively banjo.
I couldn’t get that song out
of my head, enduring
train ride, a long walk, a whistle.
The fitness in his hands,
cracked, scared, calloused,
that when they touched me,
bear me to run away, a place
by the river, sweater that wasn’t mine.
May 8th, 2008
My RRHB headed out of the house last night to do some recording after we booked our trip to NYC with his parents. We got an exceptionally good deal and we’re super-excited to take them (they’ve never been). Then I sat down and sucked it up and worked for a bit until my eyelids drooped so far down my face that I was afraid they might stay that way. So I took my cup of tea and sat in front of the television and watched Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother and Samantha Who?.
It was wicked fun.
Then I noticed that the PVR had recorded a new This American Life. I’ve only seen a few episodes and was mainly recording it because it’s something my RRHB would enjoy. But last night’s episode, the first in the second season, was utterly captivating and truly moving. It started off with shots of three inner-city kids plus their mentor riding horses in North Philadelphia. Caring for them. Feeding them. Riding them. Then Ira Glass explained that the theme of the episode was the idea of escape and what that means for a very special man still living with his mother at the age of 27.
No ordinary fellow, Michael suffers from a rare debilitating disease called spinal muscular atrophy that has made him virtually immobile. He talks by tapping his thumb onto a small instrument that controls his computer — recording his thoughts as words and giving him a spoken voice not his own. And yet, he’s engaged in the most classic struggle of life — how and when to gain your independence from your parents. His mother has been taking care of him his entire life. When his mother doesn’t take care of him, accidents happen. Breathing tubes slip out, feeding tubes malfunction, and Mike’s life hangs in the balance of human error.
But the urge to not become “a disability cliche” is great. He paints his nails black. Goes to tattoo conventions. Loves his girlfriend. Writes lovely, introspective notes (read by Johnny Depp, his choice for a voice; I cried, I’m not ashamed to say) about his life and his quest for independence. The immediacy of his experience and the utter strength in his voice and convictions caught me off guard. While the struggle, quite simply, to stay alive is a very real concern, Michael’s spirit, for lack of a better word, comes across loud and clear, even if it does sound like Johnny Depp.
This American Life is the kind of television that kid over at Stuff White People Like loves to blog about. But I’d argue that in a world full of Oprah Winfrey (and I’m not knocking Oprah, believe me)-loving, Mitch Albom-book buying, The View-watching people, it becomes harder and harder to experience stories like in “Escape,” ones that are real, relevant and utterly worthy of the energy it takes to create them.
April 25th, 2008
Because you kicked off my favourite contestant, like, ever.
April 12th, 2008
Must stop watching Veronica Mars.
March 3rd, 2008
I’m glad I’m not the only one upset about the final episode of the final season of The Wire. The episode we watched this week almost cracked my heart in two by the end, and I have no understanding about how they’re going to sew it all up with only one show remaining. I was talking to a friend via email last week, and he said something about television rotting your brain. It’s not a new argument. It’s one my mother employed a great deal growing up (we were allowed one hour of television a day, either before dinner or after dinner) and we never watched TV at the cottage. That’s entire summers spent without any kind of artificial stimulus.
But I’d argue that shows like The Wire are art, not television. The difference between a truly great movie that changes the way we see the world and one that’s there just to pass the time. The Godfather vs. Fool’s Gold. The Wire has maintained a level of excellence and utter bravery from the moment it hit HBO. Never the ratings juggernaut like The Sopranos, I’d argue that it’s been far more consistent in terms of quality than that other HBO tentpole; and it has another ace in its hand, something else that’s rare in TV production — that’s the fact that it gets BETTER as the show goes on. How many 5-year-old shows do you know that are actually getting better with each season and/or episode that airs? Exactly.
And as with all great art, perhaps it gets misunderstood in its own time, arrives perhaps before the audience is truly ready for it, but at least HBO had the decency to run with it for 5 truly excellent seasons. My life has been enriched by the storytelling, made me understand the world in a different way, and ripped my heart out of my chest on more than one occasion. All things the usual brain-rot (American Idol anyone) is missing hovering out there on the waves. I will mourn the loss of the corners, say goodbye to the po-po, root for Jimmy, hiss at Marlo, and frankly, will never look at television in the same way again. Especially now that in addition to the end of The Wire, the networks now might take Riggins away too.
In that case, maybe said friend was right and I need to read more books.