Mostly About Funny Stuff

Did you ever do something that was so amazing that you didn’t even have it on your bucket list because it was so out there and never going to happen, but then the opportunity came and you were like, “not doing this thing is not even an option”?

A few months ago, Chuck came downstairs and said, “Do you want to go see John Cleese and Eric Idle perform on stage together?”

I responded appropriately.  “Is that even a question?  Of course.  Buy the tickets.”

I was introduced to Monty Python’s Flying Circus sometime in early high school. My brother and I would stay up late on Saturday nights to watch comedy shows.  The lineup began on PBS with the “Britcom” series that began after Lawrence Welk (barf) around 7 pm. After all things Rowan Atkinson (The Thin Blue Line, Mr. Bean, and various Blackadder incarnations), a bit of Are You Being Served?, and possibly some Vicar of Dibley or Keeping Up Appearances, and finally, Monty Python.  At eleven we switched to Fox for Mad TV, and at 11:35 to NBC for SNL.

In the morning, Mom would yell at me to get out of bed for about twenty minutes.  I’d roll out at nine, brush my hair and throw on a dress, and be in the car by 9:15.  In Sunday school we yawned through the lessons, bleary eyed from out late night. Bible studies were always intuitive to me. There aren’t a whole lot of stories in the Bible and I usually could infer the lesson intuitively, sleep or no sleep. It was totally worth it.

We rented Monty Python movies from the video store and received box sets of the TV show for Christmas. I had a crush on Eric Idle.  Later, I continued to be enamored with the work of the Pythons.  I adore Terry Jones’ work with Brian Froud, including The Labyrinth and the” Pressed Fairies.” Of course John Cleese’s career has probably been the most prolific and his movies and narration are always delightful.

I never imagined I would ever be in the same room as any of the Pythons, but last night I was there with two of them!  The show was just lovely.  Cleese told jokes, Idle sang songs, and both entertained fully with skits and recollections.

The finale had us in tears. I had seen the clip before, but never with the background and buildup that we experienced last night. Throughout the show, both men relayed anecdotes about other famous comedians and writers they had worked with, including Marty Feldman.  Cleese relentlessly made jabs at Michael Palin, e.g. “Michael is here in the States right now, too, doing a book.  He’s not writing one; he’s just a very slow reader.” And of course numerous references were made to Graham Chapman, including a song that Idle began writing when Chapman died in 1989. Seven years later, the Pythons held a reunion at a comedy festival in Aspen and they brought Graham’s ashes so he could be there, too.  Go to 8:39 in the video to see what we saw.

The encore was, of course, a rousing sing-along of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

I’m so grateful that we have opportunities like this now that we live in Charlotte.  However, I have to say that the crowd last night was not exactly a cross-section of the Charlotte population. Apparently Cleese and Idle only appeal to white folks.  Okay, I saw one Indian lady.  But seriously, since moving to the south I have been hyper alert to racial disparity.  Our neighborhood is diverse, but once I step out into the rest of the city I see inconsistency in occupation, income, housing, and even little things like who is waiting for a bus.

I recently watched You Laugh But It’s True, a documentary about then-future “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah. It’s on Netflix and you should watch it. I doubted Noah’s ability as a South African to host an American social commentary comedic news show until I saw this film.

South Africa is mostly known to Americans as that place from which Charlize Theron, Oscar Pistorius, and Nelson Mandela hail. I’ll never forget the first time I heard “1990” By Bob Holman. In college, I attended a showing of A Dry White Season.  I haven’t read the book but the film, starring Donald Sutherland, Marlon Brando, and Susan Sarandon, is filled with triggers and will move you to tears.  WATCH IT. The horrors of apartheid are still real and raw in the memories of the citizens of South Africa. How does a nation recover from years of brutal racial discrimination?  Don’t ask me; I live in the US.  We still haven’t figured it out.

Trevor Noah was born to a black mother and white father during apartheid in South Africa.  Racially classified as “colored,” his parents’ relationship was illegal and his racial identity had to be kept secret. Residence and neighborhoods were dictated by race, and technically mixed race individuals, blacks, whites, and Asians all had to live separately.  In the film, Noah revisits the various places in which he lived during his unique childhood.  Part of no caste and all subgroups at the same time, Noah’s childhood gave him experiences in all walks of life in South Africa.  Coming of age as free speech and desegregation finally came to South Africa, Noah is the perfect storm of comedic success.  His talent for perspective, a natural result of his background, makes his appointment to host “the Daily Show” an appropriate choice.

Christopher Hitchens once said, “I don’t think it’s possible to have a sense of tragedy without a sense of humor.” Humor diffuses tension and opens dialogue.  Pain, whether from the death of a dear friend and colleague or from true injustice, is relieved with laughter.

If you’ll excuse me, I now have a strange desire to watch videos of British men in drag.

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You’re doing WHAT?

One of the reasons I started my blog is that I have this fantasy about being an author.  I love to read so why not write?  Well, writing is not for everyone, but I read that blogging is a good way to hone one’s writing skills so here I am.

I’m not the most devoted writer.  I get distracted by work, family, Netflix, shopping, severe bouts of depression, and life in general.  All of those things are probably happening right now as you read this.  I’m an unstoppable whirlwind of sad, lazy American-with-no-PTO.

I’ve been stocking up ideas for years and I started worldbuilding this fall.  I bought some nonfiction, visited some museums, and raked through old CDs and sketchbooks.  One image I have for my main character is one I started drawing when I was about eleven.

Here is the problem of why I might be a very good author but I might be a terrible one:  I have a dialogue inside by head for EVERYTHING.  And I’ve always been that way.  Sometimes it lies to me and tells me I’m unsuccessful and not living up to my potential and then I get depressed.  But SOMETIMES it is like reading a book and loose stories and characters unfold as I do other things like drawing or driving or baking cookies.  I constantly have ideas.  It’s hard to organize, but it is sort of like an old card catalog at the library – if you are interested in STARS you should check out the cards on HOLLYWOOD and ASTRONOMY.  It just goes on and on and on, one topic melting into another until I need to focus on something for real.

This is me getting real.  I entered NaNoWriMo and have a goal of having a rough draft by December.  A whole rough draft.  I just switched to a job with a lighter schedule because I really doubt I’ll ever get somewhere without more education and I start school again in January.  So with a little time on my hands this is a perfect opportunity to really do something different.  Like I need another hobby.  Ugh.

I admit to not having an outline for my novel (though I do have an outline for my prologue that I wrote several years ago) and I don’t even remotely know how my main character is getting to the end of her story.  I do, however, have some research and some inspiration.

I love fantasy and maps but get very tired of European-inspired maps and cultures in every. single. book. I. read. So sometimes I break off and read dystopian fiction, which is barely a scootch away from my preferred genre, epic high fantasy.  I’m not sure if it’s white guilt or  boredom or something else, but no matter how much I love these books and settings I can’t be the only one thinking “this is the same damn thing.”

Don’t get me wrong – the monomyth is fantastic and continuity is what makes it work.  We know that Frodo, Jesus, and Luke Skywalker are going to win and we still watch or read to the end.  Knowing the ending and getting there are two different things.  Plus there is something very peaceful in the hero winning and the bad guy getting what he deserves.  It’s psychologically soothing (if a little delusional) to see the little guy get the gold or the girl or wheatever.  But the MAPS….  Let me show you what I mean.

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This is Gwynnedd, home of Saint Camber, created by author Katherine Kurtz.

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This is a man’s stuttering fantasy about polyamory.

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This is Middle Earth, thank you Tolkien.

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This is the Seven Kingdoms, where everyone is dead, damn you George R. R. Martin.

Yes, I wrote on the pictures of the books.  I own the books.  I took the pictures.  And before you start suing me, Estate of Robert Jordan, know that it took me seven damn books for me to realize I really hate your protagonist and you wasted my time by reiterating the whole story thus far in each book. Also know that I learned a word in my Honors Art class from my crazy art teacher.  It’s something called APPROPRIATION and it’s when you plagiarize something and remake it into your own art. Since it’s art it’s not illegal. That’s all I’m doing.  AND SO ARE YOU.

Each map is Europe.  I’m so tired of it.  The protagonist is always English.  Maybe Ned Stark is from Manchester.  I don’t know.  I still love it but I’m never surprised anymore.

So I collected a group of books that inspired me to think outside the box (or circular journey) of the monomyth:

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Now look at this map!  It’s actually technically science fiction but it has monomyth qualities as well.  It’s a whole planet.  Without England.

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This is the planet Pern, where there are dragons and weird burny mold spores that fall from the sky.

In fact Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” also has a map like this.  A whole planet, no England.  That’s a TV show and I don’t have a map but if you never watched it, It’s on Netflix.

Okay to wrap this all together, I will tell you that I am working on a novel.  I want to have a rough draft done by the end of December.  I can’t wait for the next Song of Fire and Ice book to come out, but I also think that since I’ve never been to England I probably shouldn’t pretend I know much about it or write about it.  I love maps and geography and I’m appropriating “New World” geography into my story.  I really drew a picture of my protagonist when I was a kid.  I have collected books and visited museums and made photocopies and I watched the Voyage of the Mimi 2 and I dreamed and ruminated and it is time to spit it out.  There is so much more I can say but it will just have to wait for another post.

There is a quote attributed to John Steinbeck that goes

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

Damn.  I’m doomed.

Productivity is Relative: This Weekend’s Netflixing Activities  

Netflix is the best and worst thing that ever happened to me.

This Saturday, with no plans and no obligations, I watched 16 episodes of a new TV show.  I finished the show on Sunday.

The Blacklist is only one season complete so it will be another year until I watch any more of it, but I already can’t wait.  First of all, it stars James Spader as Raymond “Red” Reddington, the show’s loveable antihero.  I’ve been in love with James Spader since Stargate and in lust with him since Secretary.  So that was the first selling feature for me!  Second, it’s a thrilling FBI cop drama with spies, mysteries, and drama.  If you don’t like this genre, GET OUT.  Don’t you love Bones and the X-Files?  Yes, okay, you should try The Blacklist.

The show begins as Red enters and FBI building, presenting his passport and requesting a meeting with an assistant director.  As the skeptical guard inputs his information, Red calmly kneels and places his hands on his head, ready to be arrested.  Sure enough, he is on the FBI’s most wanted list, a high-rolling international criminal, and he is pitched into a holding cell.

A treasonous naval academy grad who was being groomed for Admiral, Raymond Reddington mysteriously abandoned his wife and child, promising career, and country to become a criminal involved in high-end arms dealing, money laundering, and espionage one fateful Christmas twenty years ago.  Now he has a list of other criminals he wants to FBI to track down, mostly his competition.  His demands include immunity and to only speak with an unknown rookie FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen.

Elizabeth Keen’s first day on the job in DC is the day Red turns himself in.  She is married to a fourth grade teacher, Tom, who has little family and seems a bit buff for a guy who teaches long division. Liz wants to adopt a baby because of her own experience as an adopted child. Her only memory before age four, when she was adopted by a single man, Sam, who was a criminal of an undisclosed nature, is of a fire.  Liz bears a scar on her wrist and has a stuffed rabbit exhibiting scorches, souvenirs of her early childhood.

What is the connection between Red and Liz?  Foreshadowing and hints litter each episode.  Why did Red abandon everything so many years ago?  Why did Red turn himself in?  Is Liz’s husband really a fourth grade teacher?  As Liz and the viewer connect the dots and find answers, new questions continually pop up.

Here is a link to the trailer:

The first season is available on Netflix and can be watched in a weekend, if you delegate you time right.  The second season starts soon on NBC.

Here is a link to 21 GIFs of Raymond Reddington being sassy.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/h2/osmo/theblacklist/red-reddington-gifs#2s384qy

Don’t forget to eat and shower!

Charmed

Here is a review/endorsement of a TV show that you can watch in its entirety on Netflix.  You’re welcome.

Charmed is an ooey-gooey bundle of campy fantasy fun in a boob shirt.  It is available on Streaming and of course is in syndication on umpteen cable networks including WeTV and TNT, so even if you don’t have Netflix, you can nurture the hunger!   When I first started watching this show on TNT, I became obsessed (shocking!) and actually taped episodes I would miss so I could watch the entire series in order.

The premise of this show is terrible, unoriginal and romantic.  Three sisters inherit amazing magical powers and must fight evil and darkness so that good and light can prevail.  The girls were mostly raised by their grandmother who hid their amazing family history of witchcraft from them.  All of the women in the Haliwell family have first names that begin with “P” and each has a special power.  Together, Prudence, Piper, and Phoebe are able to call upon the prophetic and aptly named “Power of Three” and fight more evil than any other woman in their family.  As the sisters learn about their powers and discover the dark forces at work in the world, they also try to find lovers who will accept their wacky, magic-fighting schedules.  Most dudes apparently hate when their girlfriends can predict the future, freeze time, or move objects with their minds.  The ancestral Haliwell home in San Francisco sits on a magical force called the Nexus.  Between the Nexus and the general threat to evil that the sisters present, warlocks, demons, and all other forms of nasties turn historic San Francisco into a hub of magical warfare, much like the Hellmouth in Buffy, which also features an unlucky-in-love heroine who lives/fights evil in California.

The show originally starred Shannen Doherty (from the original 90210) as the oldest sister, Prue.  Shannen took her cues from Denise Crosby (TNG) and left the show so the writers killed her.  Obviously this created a huge plot hole: how can the Charmed Ones invoke the Power of Three if there are only two of them?  The solution?  A fourth (half) sister who was given up for adoption because her father was her mother’s “whitelighter” (guardian angel for witches).  Classy family, right?  The surprise sister even has a “P” name:  Paige!  In the end it is all for the best because Rose McGowan, the actress who played Paige, is way cooler than Shannen Doherty.

There are 7 glorious seasons filled with Alyssa Milano’s boobies and terrible CGI.  If you make it to Season 7, you will be graced with the beautiful Kaley Cuoco as a new regular.  Adorable!  She got her nerd on waaay before the Big Bang Theory.  The camp level is high, but the sisters will grow on you and you have plenty of time to waste, right?  I highly recommend any of the time travel episodes.  Enjoy!

My Netflix Obsession

I am obsessed with Netflix Streaming.  I stream movies and TV from my laptop all the time.  Penny (my floofy orange cat) loves watching Futurama with us every night before bed, and I usually run a movie while I play Settlers of Catan, catch up on my Words With Friends, or create stuff in my studio.

Penny Watches TV While Chuck Sleeps

If Chuck didn’t NEED sports I don’t think we’d pay for cable.  I now prefer to wait and view TV shows by the season instead of trying to remember to watch them one hour at a time on a weekly basis over the span of 24 weeks.  More if there are holidays or Olympics or writers strikes.

Sometimes I will post about my current Netflix obsession.  I mostly watch geeky stuff but sometimes I branch out into other genres.  Actually, I read this way, too.  I usually read fantasy novels but sometimes I break it up with memoirs, trendy nonfiction, historical fiction, or classic novels.

I wish I had more time to read.

I should probably stop watching so much Netflix.

Must Be Football Season Again

“Can we wait to go to dinner?  I paid $5 to watch something on the internet.”

This is what my husband said to me this evening.  Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Tonight I came home and Chuck and I debriefed each other on our days.  He had the day off as he originally planned to go to a game in Worcester, MA tonight, but at the last minute he found an opportunity to carpool to the Friday and Saturday games in New England with a fellow football fanatic so the schedule changed.  Actually, he was going to go to the Kutztown game tonight instead, but I guess he wanted to spend one last night with me.  The day off gave him some time to work on the kitchen, which is about 90% remodeled at this point.  Soon, baby, soon!

So, I told him about this awesome new machine I tried at the gym.  It’s an ab twister and it cracked my lower back as well as Dr. Ed, my chiropractor.  He told me about the great prices at the contractor counter at the electrical store.  We oohed and ahhed over the china hutch, which has been sitting in its box in our living room (and then hallway) for two months and is now unpacked and in place, ready for me to fill with pretty dishes.  Then he cautiously mentioned needing to go to the ATM.

Usually any errand is an excuse to eat out in my book.  The impulse has been made worse by our kitchen remodel.  When I heard that Chuck might need to go to the ATM, my first thought was a flicker of recognition that the cash was for his trip to New England this weekend.  My brain almost immediately moved on to the more important thought “this means I don’t need to eat cereal for dinner tonight.”

“Do you want to come along?  We could go to City Wok* or something?”

“How about Subway?”

“Can we wait to go to dinner?  I paid $5 to watch something on the internet.”

Before you go assuming my husband is paying to watch videos of adorable kittens (or perhaps something more perverted), let me assure you; this is an honest marriage and I am completely comfortable with his choices.  Yes, he was watching a pay-per-view internet broadcast of a football game.

And the season begins…

* This is a non-politically correct reference to South Park.  Neither of the Chinese restaurants in our town is called City Wok.

Stuff I did tonight to celebrate football widowhood:

  • Went to the gym.  It’s been a while because of the kitchen remodel and because I had the Swine Flu/bronchitis/walking pneumonia.  I finally don’t feel like I am obligated to work on the kitchen every instant I’m not sleeping/going to hack up a lung.  It was good.
  • I dyed my hair.  It’s auburn-ish.
  • I started watching a miniseries on Netflix called The 10th Kingdom.  Technically I am re-watching it because I saw it on TV when I was in high school.