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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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!

Conversion Complete – I now read books made without paper

I feel like a traitor.

Books have been my longest and most stable friendship.  I remember reading stories before bed and then staying up late, paging through picture books.  When I was still very young, Mom read novels and chapter books out loud to us.  My early childhood is marked with weekly visits to story time at the library. One year, during my homeschooled middle school time when we kept track of such things, I read over 100 books.   In one year.  I can still read in the car without getting sick.  The year we unpacked my parents’ collection of sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks was the year I stopped hoping to have been adopted or switched at birth – clearly these people are related to me if they can invest in bookshelves of Anne McCaffrey novels.

My early sense of self was appropriated from Ramona Quimby and Laura Ingalls.  I yearned for a visit to Narnia and the Wump World and to have a special place like Terabithia.  But the most important memory I have of books is muscle memory – the coordination needed to hold a book in one hand, turning the dry, cheap pages of a paperback without tearing them.

Which is why I loved to hate on e-readers and tablets.

That was in the past.

What happened?

I got a smart phone.

It was time to update my phone.  My plan still did not include text messaging and my phone was an ancient model without a Qwerty keyboard.  I took the plunge and downloaded the appropriate apps and adjusted for a few months.

Then my husband foolishly bought me a Roku, and the next step was taken.

See, I already have a Netflix account, but my Roku came with a free trial of Amazon Prime.   I realized I was a perfect candidate for a cloud movie collection since I hate wires and don’t have a DVD player hooked up.  I no longer even have to connect my laptop to the TV to play a movie.  Another step was taken.

The first movie I bought came with a free sample of the novel on which it was based.

Then I realized that I suddenly and desperately needed to read Divergent.

And I didn’t want to drive to the bookstore or wait for the book to be shipped.

And I’m cheap and the Kindle version was heavily discounted.

And now I have a Kindle app on my phone and I have read more in the past 3 months than in the last year.

Now when I look at “real” books I feel guilty.  I hate to love my e-books.

My guilt was made worse the other night when I took my niece on her first trip to the library.  I told her all about the library in advance, describing the mountains of books that they have.  She reads a lot at home but for some reason she just has not made it to Mecca in the past two and a half years that she has been on this earth.

There are toys in the children’s section at LPL so she was understandably distracted by those, but once we focused on the board books she delved right in.  While she browsed and picked I made certain to pick out a few “big kid” books too.  Older picture books can have sturdier paper; safer for her rough movements.

I have not tried to buy any kids e-books for my niece to read, but I have downloaded a few freebies.  Her favorite is a simplistic story with cartoon illustrations and a hide-and-seek theme.  This underlines the problem with the e-reader.  Cheap, free “books” are overflowing the marketplace making selection of quality material challenging and time consuming.  This book is great for what I use it for – an easy distraction and a vehicle to prompt verbal skills and the concept of prediction.  It’s not the best example of predictive text.  It does no more to promote the use of prepositions than There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and it’s not has fun as the real life games and songs that we know can do the same thing.  The illustrations are uninspiring.  The kid just likes shat she can swipe the page with her finger.  Since I’m pretty sure she won’t be attending a Waldorf school, I’m not really worried about her ability to use technology.  I don’t think a digital book is an essential part of her personal library.

Am I missing something when I read books on my phone instead of buying the paper version?  Since I’m mostly reading dystopian YA trilogies, probably not.  It’s brain candy.  I don’t count it as “screen time” for myself because hey, I’m READING, and I know that people who read are smarter.  I like the convenience of always having my book and never having to hunt down a bookmark or (gasp) damage a book’s spine because no bookmarks are handy.  I can read at lunch and I can turn pages with one hand.  As an avid bibliophile and speed-reader, I don’t need to drink in the paper or cover; there are no illustrations in the books I read and I probably imagine them better than some underpaid artist who didn’t really read the book could come up with anyhow.  The thing I am missing is my desire to beat everyone I know over the head with my latest favorite book lend graciously with threat of death if unreturned  a cute “this book belongs to” sticker on the inside.  I wish I could lend my e-books to my friends and family they way I do with my “real” books.

I guess that’s not really my loss, is it?

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.