Category Archives: Entertainment

Pollyanna

In my pre-teen days the latest and greatest was COLOR TV! NBC had “The Wonderful World of Disney” (not to be confused with ABC’s “The Wide World of Sports”) which was good, wholesome, family fare for Sunday night. It also helped sell more than a few of those color television sets.

One of the “classics” that we got repeatedly was “Pollyanna.” If we saw it in the theaters in 1960 I don’t remember it (I was only four) but I remember seeing it a couple times a year by the mid-60s. Which was fine – my pre-pubescent little hormones knew something was going on whenever Hayley Mills was on the screen and I was still in Catholic school and a couple years away from the start of my rebel, “they tried to teach me WHAT??!!” phase, so Pollyanna’s upbeat attitude no matter what happened went in one ear, rattled around a bit, and came out the other side none the worse for wear.

(What I didn’t like was my many siblings calling me “Pollyanna,” which came from their usually calling me “Pauley,” which I hate to this day. But what are siblings for if not torturing their older brother?)

This morning I was thinking about one of the themes of the story and one of the related plot devices, the Glad Game. I was having my teeth cleaned and examined (AGAIN!) with more things being found wrong and more poking and prodding and asking, “Does that hurt?” as I levitate three feet above the chair, sort of like Linda Blair with a little paper bib. In addition, laying there with that spotlight they use shining in my eyes, the “temporary” floaters in both eyes now were swimming around like a Busby Berkeley routine, and when trying to hold still my legs were cramping to remind me that they were still there. In that environment, it was tough to find a reason to be glad, just because. But I tried anyway.

I decided that while getting older might be a better alternative that the primary other option (i.e., death) it was starting to get to be a real pain in the ass. And all of the treatments I’m having rammed down my throat (eating better, exercising, losing weight, patience) are not in my wheelhouse. I keep getting told that they’re going to work eventually and the effort will have been worth it, and Pollyanna would no doubt believe that and be on that Peloton bike or climbing that hill every day while eating a granola bar and drinking pressed milkweed juice and singing the whole way.

Pollyanna needs to get real. This sucks.

I’m ready to go anti-Pollyanna. AP. Maybe pronounce it as “ape.” I’m going to “go ape.” The main aspect of which will be that I will be cranky every single day.

I’ll probably keep on doing the eating better, exercising, and losing weight. But I draw the line at “patience.” Enough is enough. Substitute in “cranky” for me.

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From One Spice To Another

Last night I talked about a spicy dinner – tonight my thoughts range to another spice, that of the planet Arrakis.

“Dune” has been a favorite novel since I first read it in high school, probably 1973. In a couple of weeks the new movie version (covering the first half-ish of the novel) comes out and I haven’t waited this anxiously for a movie in a long time. This will be the movie that will get me back into a theater.

Having gotten past one set of deadlines and pressure at work (yeah, me, and the great team that I’m on there) I’m now up to my eyebrows in another killer deadline from Hell at the CAF hangar. No stress…

But as I’ve been working like a demon on this all day today, my attention keeps going to a poster I’ve had on my office whiteboard for a long, long time. For those familiar with “Dune,” obviously, this is the Litany Against Fear.

Fear of failure, fear of shame, fear of embarrassment, fear of being yelled at. All of the above. Powerful motivators.

Today I’m facing some fears.

And soon I’ll be watching the movie.

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Laugh Track

I think my most hated thing on television is the laugh track.

There are shows that I used to find absolutely hilarious. “Two & A Half Men” and “Big Bang Theory” are two good examples. Then I realized that: a) the characters are real assholes, and b) there’s an omnipresent, relentless laugh track. It’s not a spritz of a couple chuckles here and a hint of a few guffaws there. Nope, it’s like being rolled over by a 250 ton Laughter Express bus and squished flat like a bug.

Once you have that switch flipped in your brain, once your perception has been re-tuned… Well, you’ll never watch it again.

Some favorite shows still have laugh tracks, but they handle it differently. “M*A*S*H” for example never ever has a laugh track during the scenes in surgery or with incoming patients. It really makes a difference.

On the other hand, while an episode of “Friends” was on last night and I walked into the room, the laugh track mugged me, stole my wallet and watch, and left me bleeding in the gutter. It was like swimming with piranhas. The worst part once I was being inundated was again realizing that: a) the characters are ALL real assholes, and b) they weren’t saying ANYTHING funny. There wasn’t even the slightest one-liner even approaching “borderline humorous,” but the laugh track would have us thinking that the funniest joke in the history of mankind had just been uttered. But if your brain can filter out the laugh track but still listen to the dialogue you can hear the “posturing one liner,” brief pause with medium laughter, response to set up the “joke,” brief pause with light laughter, punchline delivered in character from a self-centered, annoying jerk, longer pause with 100% over the top levels of laughter, rinse and repeat ad nauseum. But, again, if you could cut out the rest and just listen to the dialogue, it’s moronic and annoying.

That might be my standard moving forward. A laugh track might be an instant deal killer for any new show.

You know what show never had a laugh track but still had me laughing every show? And crying? And singing along? “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” that’s which show. It’s a freaking CRIME that it was cancelled!

[Insert laugh track here!]

 

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“Zoey’s” Marathon Tomorrow On E! Network

I mentioned this after the second season finale of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” aired a couple weeks ago – tomorrow there’s a marathon of all of the first two season’s shows, starting at 09:00 PDT (noon EDT).

If you’re looking for something truly astonishing to watch, make the effort. (I think it’s also available on Hulu just about any time.) It’s the best television show in years and years and years. As in, in my not-so-humble opinion, on a par with shows like “West Wing,” “M*A*S*H,” and “The Good Place.”

If you have a soul, tissues will be required frequently. And that’s SUCH a good thing!

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Second Season Finale

I’m sure I’ve ranted at you from time to time over the past two years about my favorite new television show in forever, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” I will do so again tonight.

It was the second season finale and the writers and actors and crew and everyone were hitting on all cylinders, with a final scene “mike drop” that has my head spinning. It was WONDERFUL!!!

Fantastic music – once we get a couple bars in and I realize what the song is, the “heart songs” are almost always perfect for the scene and the characters. Characters that you just want to have be your best friends. Plotting and story lines that suddenly just all fall together and you want to cry and scream and it’s like that moment at the end of “The Sixth Sense,” or even better, “The Arrival.” Amazing choreography and dance scenes.

There’s no word on whether or not the show will be picked up for a third season, but if there’s an ounce of good and justice left in the world (and I know, just look at the freakin’ headlines for the last two years and don’t get me started, but still, without hope…) it will get renewed. The NBC “upfront” conference is supposed to be tomorrow morning, so we may know more tomorrow.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t listened to my incredibly well-informed opinions of the show so far, you can catch it on the Peacock streaming service and they said something tonight in the commercials about a marathon showing of the first two seasons on the E! Network on the next few weeks. I can’t think of a better way to spend twenty-four hours.

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Coping

As has been noted, there’s a ***LOT*** of bad shit going on right now. How are you coping?

I have a few things to share. Note, these are not guaranteed to get you through the work day – probably quite the opposite so far as getting work done if you’re working from home. But they might let you get through to the other side more or less sane, as opposed to exploding.

  1. OK Go videos – go to YouTube or wherever, there are dozens, each one more amazing than the next. No special effects, just astonishing creativity. And most have “Behind The Scenes” or “Making Of” or “Outtakes” videos to accompany the official video.
  2. Cornell Lab FeederWatch Cam – these are the folks who made the wonderful Merlin app that I use and have talked about for IDing birds that wander into our back yard. When I was looking for something different to have on as “video noise” at my desk earlier this week I stumbled on this. WONDERFUL!! Small birds such as sparrows and chickadees, whole flocks of mourning doves, at least two types of woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays, and the occasional squirrel dropping in like Death From Above. (I suspect the squirrels are jumping in from an off-camera tree that might be a good leap away, so it’s nearly a suicide mission for them, but there’s SO! MUCH! FOOD!)
  3. LabPadre – LabPadre currently has seven cameras set up around the area of the SpaceX testing facility on the Texas coast by South Padre Island. If there’s no actual testing going on during a given day it’s a little boring (but makes great wallpaper and white noise) but when they’re testing (and they’re testing a LOT these days) there might be a static fire engine test or even a flight for one of the prototype Starship spacecraft. The next static fire is probably late tomorrow afternoon, the next big flight is probably coming up later this week? This weekend? First thing next week? It depends on when they’re ready and when the weather cooperates. Still cool to see spacecraft the size of the Space Shuttle stack being churned out by the dozen for testing and occasional destruction while testing. But when they talk about having crews on the moon in 5-6 years and on Mars in 8-10 years (actually those are my estimates, they’re saying half that time) I don’t doubt them.
  4. Hundreds of Hummingbirds – Birds stop coming around after sunset and sunset comes early in Ithaca, New York these days, so when they go to night vision and the only thing moving around are the mice (which I’ve never seen in the feeder, since they can’t jump as far as the squirrels can), there’s a site here in the LA area that has set up a buffet for dozens and dozens of hummingbirds, and there’s always a line waiting for an open spot. The colors and iridescence and amazing flying ability of literally dozens and dozens of these beautiful creatures is something I could watch all day.

So, there are a few ideas. Of course, turning off Twitter and Facebook and picking up a book or listening to some music are always an excellent idea, and if you have the opportunity to safely get out (take a mask and wear it!) and walk around the block or take a short hike through the woods or around the pond, that would be best of all.

What coping mechanisms or favorite distracting and/or entertaining sites have you discovered?

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A Recommendation For You To Watch

Lots of music. Dance. Theater. Philosophy. Performance art. Comedy.

I had heard a growing murmur about a new HBO special, “David Byrne’s American Utopia.” One of the DJ’s on my favorite 80’s “alternative music” station on SirusXM was talking about it. The New York Times mentioned it. I was more than a bit curious.

It. Is. Wonderful!!

Apparently (I’m going from memory of some of the comments and NYT article and I’m too lazy to look it up right at this second because it’s on and I’m watching again) it’s done by Spike Lee, filmed during live performances on Broadway. As was done with the filming of “Hamilton,” this isn’t just a concert film, it’s filmed inside the action, above it, behind it, from the audience…

It. Is. Spectacular.

Most highly recommended.

Treat yourself.

Especially this weekend, where we have the blue moon, Halloween, THE FREAKIN’ ELECTION, we turn back the clocks in the US…

It’s too much. Be kind to yourself. Take a couple hours. Watch.

You won’t regret it.

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So Much…Everything

Things got done, accomplishments crossed off, loose ends tied up.

Yet tonight there has been so much anger (politics), frustration (COVID), sorrow (the season finale of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” which we knew would be brutal), awe (again, the season finale of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” which was SO EXCELLENT), and then a bit of horrible news (not family, not personal friends, but still…) that came straight out of left field.

ALL the feels tonight.

One last time – watch “Zoey,” watch it again. It’s streaming on NBC. It’s so excellent.

As for the rest… One step at a time. And we’ll get by with a little help from our friends.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Entertainment, Politics

Watch Zoey

This may seem an odd post, but I’m doing it because I’m selfish.

Also because if you’re reading this site you’re wonderful and you deserve to know about the greatest show on TV that you might not have heard of.

NBC has a show called “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” this year – I want you to watch it so that the ratings are good enough for it to get picked up for a second season.

It’s hard to describe. I guess it’s a fantasy in that something has happened to Zoey so that she randomly sees people around her singing to her, often accompanied by elaborate dance routines – but these are songs and dances that no one else sees. And the nature of the songs tell her people’s innermost feelings, their anxieties, their loves, their terrors. Given that insight, she has to help them.

Chaos often ensues.

That’s a lousy explanation since the show is so much more. Jane Levy plays Zoey and she is just amazing and spectacular. The entire cast is almost perfect. Skylar Astin, Alex Newell, Mary Steenburgen, Peter Gallagher, Lauren Graham. All wonderful.

The writing and story is creative and bizarre, yet after having bought into the basic premise, I’ve never once thought that they’ve wandered off the rails. It fits one of my personal tests for what truly makes a show great – in any one episode I can at one minute be delighted and laughing and in the next minute be reaching for the tissues. (Yeah, more likely than not you’ll need tissues.)

It’s WONDERFUL!

But shows I like, especially because they’re quirky or intelligent or complex, never make it out of the first season. (Did you ever hear of a 2012 TV show called “Awake” with Jason Isaacs? Spectacular! They didn’t even show all thirteen episodes they shot, pulled it off the air early…) “Zoey” is doing so-so in a really lousy Sunday night slot, but getting some traction online and in streaming via Hulu and on demand services.

So while you’re sitting in your COVID-19 home physical distancing isolation and you’re looking for something to stream next, go over to NBC or Hulu or online or wherever and find “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” Watch an episode or two – you’ll want to watch the rest. Then you can join us on Sunday night for the last handful of shows (there are eight episodes already shown) through April. Tell your friends, get them to watch.

Then the show will be picked up for another year and it will be a GOOD thing to happen in April. (We’re gonna need it!)

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Meditation Might Be Worthless

Hear me out on this one…

I’ve never been much of a meditation sort of guy. Too much of a class clown. Not a big believer in the “woo-woo” side of life.

But I’ve mellowed with age. I’m long, LONG past the stage where I thought I knew everything and I’m now deep, DEEP into the stage where I’m not convinced I know anything. You know – mid-life crisis and all of that. (Anyone makes a crack about how I’m too old to be having a “mid”-life crisis gets shown the far side of the airlock door.)

(And yes, that is the class clown trying to come out and go all Hawkeye Pierce on the situation to distract from the actual crisis. I’m recognizing it – I just can’t stop it, so that’s progress. See?! There we go again…)

Anyway, where I work now we have Wednesday afternoon meditation sessions. Just ten minutes, but I’ll take the break. It’s actually quite relaxing and pleasant. I look forward to it. At last, I did until we went and had to shut down the office due to the COVID-19 crisis.

But here’s the thing.

On a day like today, because of this, and THAT, and then the day I had, and then… And god forbid you should actually read the news. And then we got word (which shouldn’t have been a surprise, but I still had hope) that the Ahmanson’s production of “1776” this summer is being cancelled. You have no idea how much I was looking forward to that.

And that in turn brought up the overwhelming likelihood that “Hamilton” will also be cancelled. It will be. It should be. The world is shit and millions are going to be dying.

And then one of the little escapes that I was truly enjoying (we’ve been binging “The Good Place”) hit the end of the 3rd season (which was an absolute gut punch) and I was desperate to move on to the 4th season to see how it’s resolved. But it’s not out there yet and probably won’t be until fucking AUGUST!!!

And I shouldn’t be starting every sentence with “and,” but I am.

I fully realize (especially writing this out) how privileged and highly ridiculous my particular whine is, given the magnitude of the crisis facing us all. I’ll own that. For better or for worse, this is where the camel’s back got broken for me today.

And as I’m teetering on the abyss, my brain spinning in circles like a rabid squirrel hopped up on meth, grasping at straws, it occurred to me. “Meditation.” Isn’t that what this is for? Isn’t that a much better solution than tearing off your clothes, covering yourself in raspberry preserves, and running screaming through the streets of Los Angeles at night?

Except…

Meditation is slow. It’s methodical. It’s pastoral.

It’s glacial.

I needed something RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!

So it occurs to me that when the chips are down, when you’re facing your particular existential crisis, unless it’s a slow, methodical, pastoral, glacial sort of crisis, meditation might be worthless. Sort of like having a really good, really accurate single-shot long rifle when you’re suddenly attacked by a thousand rabid squirrels armed with machine guns.

And I now realize that my outlet, my solution, my therapy, my way to release Hawkeye Pierce, is to write.

I think there are about five, maybe six people who actually read this site. I don’t know if this outlet for my Day ‘O Shit would be better or worse if that was five or six hundred thousand.

Maybe that will be tomorrow’s existential crisis.

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Filed under CoronaVirus, Deep Thoughts, Entertainment, Writing