Sunday, September 30, 2012

DIY Double Feature: KLOWN & THE TRIP | Nothing to Write Home About

Watch KLOWN and THE TRIP, you pick the order - Viewer's Choice!  Each film developed out of a television show, and each focuses on two grown men travelling together.  After, you'll likely be as amused as you are depressed.  Yet hopefully you'll also feel better equipped to engage with the world, because, when viewing the wider spectrum of humanity, maybe you're not so messed up.  Maybe.

Or maybe you are.  And maybe that's ok.

And maybe, that's all there is.  A whole lot of struggle and mess, and no one really knows what to do. and so you best find some way to laugh at it, and yourself, because while you're here, you have to actually be here, you have to show up.  Imperfect and clueless as you might be.  And...  Ugh.

You want to know what's really going on here?  Before I made the decision to post every week, I thought I should come up with a backlog, some fodder for when I didn't really have anything to write about.  But I told myself that was a lame rationalization, an obstacle to productivity, an excuse to keep me from starting.  The perfect getting in the way of the good.  Or whatever that saying is.  Anyway, I figured if I just plowed forward and made a commitment to always have something, I would.  Some posts would be better than others, but there would always be something.

But this week, I got nothin'


This blog post is the equivalent of those days when you wake up late and by cutting corners with your wardrobe, hygiene and breakfast, you still make it to work on time.  You're rough around the edges, bleary eyed, and a bit disheveled, but you're there.

Until next week...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On being an Autumn, Stand-Up Comedy, and Not Having a Soul

A few weeks ago I went to see Maria Bamford with a friend and some lovely former co-workers.  Sitting at the awkward comedy club table waiting for the show to start, someone asked if anyone knew who was opening.

I said, "I bet it's Conan O'Brien.  A few nights ago, I had a dream I was married to him, maybe it was a premonition."

I knew it wouldn't be Conan opening for Maria Bamford in Portland, OR.  I just say stuff sometimes.  A lot of the time.  Mostly when I'm bored.

I guess the Conan Dream had been weighing on me, on some level.  Until that moment, I had completely forgotten about it, but when I brought it up, I remembered how it had been so vivid, and felt so real, that when I first awoke, my actual waking life felt like the fake.

In the dream, Conan & I were in LA, had just returned from some kind of tropical honeymoon, and we both still smelled of industrial strength sunblock.  The dream was all amped up and happy, that surreal bliss that sometimes happens in real life, and usually lasts about as long as a dream.

But it was weird too.

Weird because between the two, I would have seen myself as more of an Andy Richter kind of a gal.  I guess my subconscious thinks otherwise.  It was also weird because it wasn't Steve Martin.  Since, like, pretty much my entire life, I've had a recurring dream about Steve Martin.  I feel like it started as far back as THE JERK, but it was definitely with me by the ROXANNE / PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES era.  Either way, we're talking about a dream I've had least a few times a month for more than 20 years.  It goes like this:  Steve and I are sitting 3rd row center of a movie theater, and we're watching a movie.  In real time.  Sometimes my feet are up on the seat in front of me, sometimes they are not.

I know it's a trick of my brain, but it seriously feels like the dream lasts the length of a feature.  We never enter the theater or leave the theater, we're just there.

But that isn't where conversation went on the night we were waiting for Maria Bamford.  No, the thing that the table, as a group, decided to jump on is that Conan and I could have a lovely litter of ginger children.  And how we'd be saving redheads from extinction.

This was news to me, that I was part of a dying breed.  Or maybe I did know.  On some level.  That would explain why my subconscious threw me a Conan dream - it was the product of a deep, primal, instinctual desire to continue the species.

Listening to this tableful of folks talk about redhead myths and theories reminded me of how a few weeks earlier, I was visiting a friend and her boyfriend asked me what it was like to not have a soul.  He explained that redheads don't have souls.  Or maybe it was just the gingers.  He seemed quite clear on the distinctions between the two.  It was all new to me.  Apparently, the guy had dated nothing but redheads (prior to being with my blonde friend), and he'd given the hair color more thought than I ever had.  Which is weird.  Because I'm a fairly self-involved.  And also quick to self-identify as redhead.

I am an autumn, that much is not up for debate, but my hair color is apparently open to interpretation.  Technically, it's strawberry-blonde.  But sometimes that takes too long to say, or seems very precious (a little too close to Strawberry Shortcake), and so I just go with red - the all-purpose, stand-by.  Or sometimes orange (that's what my grade-school classmates called it back in the day, not lovingly, but also not inaccurately).  Plus, I always figured that if it could be seen as orange, then my hair was light enough to also qualify for the ginger subset.  At least, ginger-adjacent.  But, it turns out, some folks see ginger as one thing, redhead as another, and neither as human.

I was tempted to do some research, to learn some more about the prejudices that might be impacting my life, but I decided that I don't really care.  I must have known it, on some level, all along.  I mean, my one and only recurring dream takes place indoors, in the dark, with someone who also has hair melanin issues.

No, I can't do that.  I'm not going to force an explanation for my recurring dream just so I can string everything together into a heartwarming, gently profound, reasonably graceful conclusion.  Because that's not really why Steve is there.  If it were, I imagine I'd be watching movies with Danny Kaye, another funny man dear to my heart, but also a ginger.  But that's not who I dream about.  Not that I would mind spending time with Danny, but I love that it's Steve.  Just me and Steve.  And nothing to do with hair color.


Which is a bit of a problem.  Not in life, but for this post.  I really wish I could wrap up this post and "bring it all home" in a proper way, but because I'm pretty sure my recurring dream has nothing to do with hair color, and it definitely has nothing to do with Conan, and probably nothing to do with Maria Bamford, then this post is just a bunch of random stuff I wrote down.

The only thing I can say for sure is this:  Some people dream dreams that are the foundations of transcendant works of art, of significant spiritual and/or religious motifs, of traveling through space and time, of billowing sheets gently obscuring and revealing surreal scenes amalgamated from their youth...  I dream of hanging out with comedians.  In real time.

Probably because I don't have a soul.

"Defects?  What kind of defects?"
"Anything from spina bifida to red hair."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

THE AMAZING ADVENTURE aka The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss | 1936

THE AMAZING ADVENTURE isn't actually Screwball, but it's in the family.  Or near the family.  It'd be invited to the reunion, but might need a name tag.

Or maybe it's more like the cousin to a Great Grandfather of Screwball, like an older, slower, stiffer, less-funny version of SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS.  There's no direct lineage, at least not that I can see - it doesn't seem like THE AMAZING ADVENTURE had to happen before SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS could, but the two are very similar and the earlier one likely influenced the later one.  Somehow.

Cary Grant is Ernest Bliss, and he is depressed.  A well-respected doctor tells him that he's suffering from money, and dares him to go one year without living off his family wealth.  Ernest turns the dare into a bet, claiming that if he fails to go one year without using his money, he'll give 50K to the Doc's medical clinic.  And, I dunno, I guess living a hard knock life and meeting some jerky a-holes, as well as some amazingly big-hearted people, leads him to appreciate that life is best lived in moderation.  He learns that Life's sweet-spot lies to the right of the deprivation he experienced during the bet, to the left of the bad moods created by constant self-indulgence, and right next to his sweetie.  Sweetie marks the spot.

Also, he meets a girl.  Shocked?
Meeting her causes him to lose the bet.  Stunned?
Yeah, I know.  Not a lot of surprises here.

He loses the bet because he chooses to marry his impoverished girlfriend.  He wanted her to take him as he seemed to be (poor), and she would have, but her sister had taken ill, and she made the decision to be practical and marry her former (financially stable) boss so she'd be in a position to help her family...  Learning this, Ernest tells her he's rich.

Making use of his money and reputation in this way causes him to lose the bet.  But, the Doc is so impressed, that he refuses to collect on the bet.  Still, the wealthy - and now wise - Ernest gives the medical clinic the money anyway.

And they all live happily ever after.

This isn't a great film, but it's not bad either.  But, now that I've written about it, I can thread it into posts about other films...  Like SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS!

Released: 1936
Director: Alfred Zeisler
Leads: Cary Grant
Writer: John L. Balderston (screenplay), E. Phillips Openheim (novel)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Plot Summary and reviews of THE AMAZING ADVENTURE @ Rotten Tomatoes

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On meeting deadlines, defying death at sea, and surviving life as a joke.

I recently set myself a new goal of posting here at least once per week.  Tomorrow another post is due and the one for this last week isn't done yet, and so you're getting this.

It's not like the one that isn't done yet will knock your socks off once it's posted.  So, don't, like, lose sleep waiting for it.  It's still the same sad old blog-style tripe.  It's only something special if you count the fact that it bears the marks of having been worried over, worked on.

So, I've decided to continue to worry and work that other post until it's awkward and lifeless ("The Amanda-Special"), while fulfilling my weekly quota with this hastily written post about one of the things that ate into the time I was going to use for blog writin'...  Here goes...  Enjoy!

For my dumb sushi job, I was driving from Newport to Lincoln City on a winding, two lane stretch of HWY 101 with a fairly sheer rock wall to my right and a tumble down to the Pacific Ocean on my left.  As I was heading downhill into a right hand curve, my truck died.

The lights on the instrument panel lit up, and then went dark.  The weight of the dead vehicle ignored the bend in the road and pulled me straight.  There was no room on the shoulder to pull over.  If I didn't do something fast, I was going to cross oncoming traffic and head into the ocean.

I pressed the button for the hazards, turned off the ignition, threw it in neutral, and restarted.  This gave me enough juice to get around the curve.  Over the next few miles, the thing stalled enough times that I lost count.  I never got above 15 mph.  Cars barreled around the curves behind me, and barely found time to go around.  In my effort to leave enough room for cars to pass on the left, my tires were losing traction on the unpaved dirt and gravel on the right shoulder, which was like the frosting on the don't-crash-and-kill-and/or-die surprise cake.

But I figured it out.  Within moments I had upgraded a situation from "perilously out of control" to "embarrassingly slow".

As soon as I could, I pulled over.  Of course, there was no phone service.  I got out and surveyed the road.  Although some people still hitch that stretch of road, and other folks ride their bikes up and down the coast, it just didn't feel smart to me to start hoofin' it.  I sat on the hood of the truck for a bit, and considered my options.  Eventually I got back into the truck to do the whole "Put It In Neutral, Pull Up Emergency Break, Floor It, Turn Ignition, & Then Release Emergency Break" dance until the truck and I got somewhere.  If I could have I would have done it all the way back to Portland, but each time I pulled that little trick, it was less effective, affording me less and less distance between restarts.

Luckily, before the truck died for good, it made it to the parking lot of an antique mall, and came to rest just in front of a run-down, abandoned, school bus-sized joke shop sitting out front.

After telling you that, I don't mind telling you this:  I am seriously the most capable person you will ever meet.

I don't make a big deal about it, but it's true.
You can take it to the bank.
You can use it to cut glass.

But that's not how I felt at that moment.  My truck had landed nose-to-nose with a place where jokes go to die.  I rested my chin on the steering wheel, took in the rotted wood, busted windows and cracking paint of comic-sans-ish signage on the joke shop that was...  What?  A former streetcar?...  and I ruminated on - what felt like - the appropriateness of it all.  I had come to a stop in front of a misguided business idea, that had been housed in a structure built for something else, and all of it had fallen to shit long, long ago.

That could, in some ways, describe my very existence.

Especially at that moment.
The sad, broken-down company truck was a joke.
The job this truck and I fulfill each day was a joke.
And so, temporarily at least, I was a joke.

As soon as the thought came, I knew I had to shake it off.  That's the kind of thing that can stick.  I got out and walked the parking lot in search of a stronger cell signal.  Then, while talking to the tow truck people, I looked back at the truck and I saw the rest of its life unfolding, and it became clear to me that I was just passing through.

I had just done some serious 007 action.  (You're welcome Blighty).  (OK.  I hadn't done anything to make Her Majesty proud, but I had still just exercised some middle-aged, lady-Oregonian version of James Bond skill).  This truck was doing what it was made to do, delivering stuff until it died, but I wasn't.  I was, as per usual, just passing through.  Someday something will stick with me, but it's not this, and it's not now.  I am seriously too capable.  Seriously.

Of course, I realize everything I wrote here could be a full-on delusion.  A collection of the little lies I tell myself in order to make it through each day.  But it doesn't matter.  Not really.  As long as I know I can do more, as long as I know I'm as capable as a middle-aged, out-of-shape, female James Bond, I have hope.  And that hope keeps me doing stuff.  And doing stuff just creates more evidence of my all-around, British Secret Service-style aptitude.  Eventually all of that skill will meet the right situation and it will stick.

So, that's one of the things that kept me from finishing the post I had planned on sharing with y'all this week.  Because after I waited for roadside assistance and rode back to Portland in the tow truck, I picked up another truck and finished my route...  And that wasn't even the most dramatic time-suck of the week.  Whatever.  At least now I can say...  Done.  The post for the week is complete.

It's not pretty.  It's definitely not my favorite.  It started a bit boring and then kind of limped over the finish line, but it's done.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bumper Sticker Politics vs. Things Learned in Grade School | Roseburg, Oregon

The other day, in a Safeway parking lot in Roseburg, Oregon, I saw a bumper sticker that read:  Socialism is a Obama Nation.

Gosh, where to start?

Well, how about here:  Hey Bumper Sticker, ummm, don't you mean, "Socialism is AN Obama Nation"?

It was a white sticker with red font, and I had a red Sharpie with me.  Man, oh man, did I want to do a little redline edit on that sucker.   I scanned the parking lot for witnesses, and I dropped my keys on the ground so I'd have an excuse for loitering near the car.  But, in addition to learning in grade school that "a" comes before words beginning with consonants and "an" comes before words beginning with (or sounding like they begin with) vowel sounds, I also learned it's not cool to mess up someone else's property.

Golden Rule and all that.

So, I got on with my job and went into the store.  But I kept thinking about that bumper sticker.

Sure, cut school funding, I thought, you've clearly learned all you need to know.  And I'm so confident in the water-tight presentation of your thoughts, that I agree with you and will vote accordingly, Dumbass.

But thinking like that, even for an instant, felt a little bit too smug and judgmental for comfort.  Like I was placing myself on the side of the the snotty elite that some folks complain about.  And, as much as I strive to regularly and steadily improve myself, and as much as I would love to be associated with something elite (physical prowess, musical skill, or some kind of brainy something or other), I know that I make grammar mistakes all the time.  There's likely a ton in this post.  So, I dropped that line of thought.

Glass houses and all that.

Plus, it's a slippery slope when you start dismissing different thoughts and opinions based on how they look on paper.  Like, I remember learning about the Reconstruction Era in school, and how there were literacy and character tests established as a means of segregating the voting process.  Was my mocking this bumper sticker really hugely different?  In power and efficacy, yes.  In spirit?  I dunno.  It definitely felt Asshole Adjacent.  Which isn't any kind of ideal.  I don't really want the highpoint of my funeral to be, "One thing I can say about her is this:  She went right up to, but didn't quite cross over into actually being an asshole."

Not that I fear being an asshole, it's just I'd rather be an actual bona fide asshole, but for the right reasons, than a sort of "also ran" asshole for the wrong reasons.

On my way back out to the parking lot, I began to walk with more purpose.  The bumper sticker had got to me.  It just felt so confident in its righteousness, and yet was so wrong in so many ways.  It wasn't just an opinion I didn't agree with, it was wrong.  And not just grammatically.  Additionally, perhaps worse, the humor was so weak that it couldn't justify the flaws - and, THAT simply could not stand.

There comes a time when you have to engage with the world.  A laissez-faire attitude towards ignorance won't help anyone.  There has to be some kind of standard we reach for, and we need to help lift each other up.  And so, when you look at it that way, I had no choice, it was my duty as a citizen, my responsibility to society, to deface the personal property of my fellow man!

I mean, c'mon!  This was a printed sticker - someone thought it, wrote it down, typed it out, kerned the font, picked the red on white color scheme, print up a batch, and sold a few to someone who then sold it to other people.  It's staggering to me that no one in the process knew better.  Best case scenario is that there was a mole in the operation that wanted the other "side" to look bad.

And that's just gross.  The whole, I'm going to sit back and watch you hang yourself because I don't agree with you.  If there was a mole, that person missed an opportunity to share some information and make things better.  Even if it was just a bumper sticker, better is better.  Because, really, when you get down to it, we're all on the same side.  Or should be working toward that, at least.

At that point, though, none of it mattered to me any more.  I was going to take a stand.  I got my pen out, and quick-as-a-bunny, pretty-as-you-please, I was going to change the "a" to an "an" and be on my way.

But the car was gone.


Although I was disappointed, I almost immediately saw that it was better this way.  Nothing good could have come from my writing on that bumper sticker.  Not really.  A bit lame to do a guerrilla attack on the sticker.  It's very likely the rain would wash off my work before the driver ever even noticed.  No, I'm no Banksy.  Compared to what he does, my little Sharpie'd "n" would have been so low rent.  And that's never what I'm aiming for...  It may be inevitable, that might be my level, but I have to at least aim a bit higher.

And that goes for engaging with people who think differently than I do.  I can't just dismiss them.  Well, I can, but I don't want to.  I've held really ill-informed, poorly reasoned opinions in my day, and other people have helped me to see things differently, a bit more clearly.  I'm sure I'm still holding some.  And just because I'm not in full agreement with a person, someone doesn't mean I won't find some value in knowing them.  For example:  Anthony Bourdain.  He's not someone I know, but I enjoy him.  But I have a problem regular assertion that if something is slower and dumber than him, it's ok to eat it.  By that logic we can be grilling up human toddlers.  Each time he says it, I feel my blood boil just a bit.  Still, I really enjoy, like, 90+% of him.  He's a Grade A person to me.  And so, I need to work that into my real life.  I need to be doing the less-awkward, more socially acceptable version of loitering near that car until the driver returns and asking, "So...  That bumper sticker, what's up with that?"  Without getting up on a soap-box, high-horse, or grand-stand, I want to step into the fray.  I can no longer just let things lay.

Lie?  Lay?
Lie.  I'm pretty sure that's a lie.
Well, not a lie, but a situation where lie is the correct word to use.
Yep.  Yep.
Definitely lie.

Related Reading:
"Obama the Socialist?  Not Even Close" by Milos Forman, July 10, 2012