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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Magic Recaptured

As if you couldn’t tell from previous posts, I’m a fan of The Muppets.  I’ve loved them since I first saw them back in the 70s on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.  I’ve loved just about everything else Jim Henson has created too – Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal and Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas are among my favorites.

This past week I finally got to see the latest film starring the felt and fabric loves of my life.  It was pure celluloid bliss.  I think I watched the whole movie with perma-grin.  The songs were in my head the next morning when I woke – Life’s a happy song when there’s someone by your side to sing along.

I saw it again a few days later with more friends and they loved it too.  It gets better with repeat viewings.  The film was a lovely little reminder that joy is simple, like when we were kids.  That’s what the Muppets are to me – my childhood.

It’s been very disappointing seeing Hollywood take other simple joys from my childhood and twist them into nonsense for financial gain.  I have accepted that I’m not the target audience for those things any longer but the Muppets are different.

The Muppets have always appealed to a wide audience of all ages.  The Muppet Show was on at night so families could watch together.  The humor often skewed older at times.  The guest stars were people that my parents would have been more familiar with than I was.  That’s part of what made them so magical.  They exposed me to things that I might not have seen any other way.  They really expanded me as a human being.

Take Alice Cooper for instance.  My parents weren’t into rock and roll and I had no idea who he was but “School’s Out” blew my six-year-old mind.  What is this and why do I love it so much?!?

We are influenced by many sources but the ones we encounter before we have a handle on logic and reasoning, I believe, are the most powerful and long-lasting.  Those hit us on a visceral level, get real deep in our psyche and never let us go.  Our parents and family, our religions, our educations and the things we love as children.

A great example of something that tapped into this was the Toy Story films.  These films resonated so powerfully because my toys were my friends, that’s how I saw them and I imagine that’s how you saw them too at one time.  How apropos that there is also a Toy Story short at the beginning of The Muppets.

Do yourself a favor and give your cynical, realistic old self a day off and go see The Muppets.  Let yourself be carried into that world of wonder and innocence, when you loved something with your whole being.  And someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

I’d like to give a personal thanks to Jason Segal.  He’s a real Muppet of a man, a very manly Muppet.

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Holiday Madness

What happens to people in the last six weeks of the year that turns them into assholes and lunatics?  Why does the holiday season make us so insane and why do we put up with it?

I don’t want to keep asking questions but that’s what I seem to be filled with when I think of the holidays.  I watch people make themselves crazy and I just don’t understand.

Usually, it goes a little something like this.

How about instead of that, we just remember the reason we really love this time of year and keep that at the forefront of everything we do from now until we wake up on January 1st with a raging hangover.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Move Your Ass

Confession time:  I’m going to turn 40 next year.  I’m not completely happy with the shape that I’m in, but I am healthy.  I want to keep it that way.

I have a fair amount of vanity so I’m not bad to look at.  I’m curvy in a visually pleasing way and let’s face it, I’m cute.

But I am carrying around some extra weight.  It impacts some of the things I can do as well as my comfort in certain situations.  I was just bitching the other day about how uncomfortable I am in airplane seats because the armrests dig into my thighs for the entire flight.

The greatest thing that comes with age for a woman, if she allows it, is a new perspective on her physical appearance.  She comes to see her own beauty, which has nothing to do with current trends or standards.  What we choose to do for our health and fitness can now come from a place of want rather than the urgency of need.  I need to be thin so I can [find a boyfriend, fit into my skinny jeans, step on a beach, etc.].  It was like our lives were on hold, even if only for 10 pounds.

The urgency of age is still there though.  I know from seeing what my grandmother went through at the end of her life, extra pounds will most likely impact my health, mobility and, if it ever comes to it, others’ ability to take care of me.  I say this jokingly but I mean it truthfully—I want to be able to wipe my own ass until the day I die.

If I am going to maintain my current state of health, I will need to move more.  I can no longer fight this reality.  Exercise and I have always had a somewhat contentious relationship.  As a child, I was a book-worm and I loved movies and TV over running around in the yard.

So the game I’ve been playing is to try out new classes at the gym.  My gym is offering an incentive to do this in the form of a raffle if I take 10 classes in the three categories of cardio, strength training and mind/body.

Hands down, mind/body is my favorite.  I could do yoga every day happily.  Some tai chi would be a great way to start the day.  I like lifting weights and can deal with strength training in moderation.  But cardio is my personal circle of hell, right in between gluttony and sloth.

No pain, no gain is the motto of the athletic-types.  Perhaps for you.  For the rest of us, it should be more like no action, no gain.  Why suffer?  Granted, it’s a catchy rhyme, but it’s completely unrealistic for the long haul.  If I don’t want to power through an exercise for an hour that leaves me feeling drained and like I’ve been punched in the chest, how the hell would I continue to do that ongoingly?

I tried this class called Pound where we were constantly hitting drumsticks together or on the ground.  My ears were ringing by the end of it.  Fuck that.

Woody Allen once quipped that, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Perhaps running around like a crazy person to the point of exhaustion might make me lose the weight a little faster, but will I show up for it?  Not bloody likely.  With the perspective of knowing that I am a beautiful woman in my own right comes the autonomy to say what I will do and what I won’t do, and accepting the consequences of my actions.

It’ll probably take me six extra months to reach my goal at the pace I’m going.  But in the end, I will still make it if I keep on the path… that is unless a bus happens to cross my path at just the right time.  Then it won’t matter what shape I’m in when I’m a stain on the pavement.  Perspective, bitches!

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Pile up. Pile up who?

I have a theory about vulgar humor.  (FYI – I have a theory about everything, just something you should probably know about me.)  There is this magic line where on one side it’s side-splittingly funny and on the other side, it’s jaw-droppingly bad.

If a film can come right up to the line but not cross it, then that film is often very funny.  Who doesn’t love a good fart joke?

But when that line is crossed with impunity, your funny bone ceases to be tickled and you just sit there incredulous that someone wrote this, thought it was a good idea and then filmed it.

Examples of what I mean:

The Good – Dumb & Dumber

The Bad – Any of those parodies like Superhero Movie, Epic Movie (or any other lame generic title)

The Ugly – Beerfest (a dirty little secret love of mine, not for the faint of heart)

Why, you may ask, am I writing about potty humor?  Well over the weekend I took in a little film you might have heard of, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas in 3D.  I am a fan of the “trilogy” and I wanted to see what silly things they would do with the 3D.  For me, it did not disappoint.  However, if you’re not a fan of the other two, this film will not convert you so you needn’t bother (you’re not the target audience).

Honestly, sometimes I have the tastes of a 13-year-old boy.  Beavis and Butthead have recently returned to MTV and I cannot get enough of the Great Cornholio.  I love dick jokes and scatological craziness most of the time.  But there is a limit and I’ve discovered what it is.

Gross out jokes can only work if they meet one of two standards – they either have to involve something that is relatable or imaginable.  Take the scene in Dumb & Dumber where Lloyd put a powerful laxative into Harry’s drink before his date with Mary.  While in Mary’s home, Lloyd’s bowels immediately need to be evacuated so he excuses himself to the restroom.  He barely makes it to the toilet and sits down before they explode.  Ahhh… just watch the scene.  It’s funnier than my description.

We’ve all experienced diarrhea, either through illness or poor diet.  We know how embarrassing it is.  That’s where the humor comes from and that’s why we laugh.  We can relate.

Now take the entire film, Freddy Got Fingered.  I never saw the film because I’ve never found Tom Green amusing and this image alone has me crying out, why dear God, why?!?

No relateability and no imagineability (did I just coin a new word?).  I don’t have any idea why he’s doing this and I sure as hell don’t care.

But don’t get me wrong.  Anything can be funny in the right context.  Normally I don’t think getting pissed on is funny but when Chandler had to piss on Monica in an episode of Friends because she was stung by a jellyfish, that’s hysterical.  I have been stung by a jellyfish and if I had known at the time that pissing on me would’ve taken that pain away, I would gladly have cried, “Let the golden showers flow”.  All I had was a lousy shaker of meat tenderizer.

But Harold & Kumar do something that is really dangerous and get away with it – they dance on the line, tipping back and forth between reality and absurdity.  I have been high but I have never been so high that I thought I was riding a unicorn.  Still, that’s funny.  And they made NPH a huge star!  That’s props in my book any day.

I gravitate towards what makes me laugh and then I wonder why I found it so funny, especially if I’m the only one in the room laughing.  I’m not too cool for slapstick and I’m not too sophisticated for this:

Life’s too short to forget to find the funny in everything.  Misery may love company but Joy is never alone.

Cockeyed Optimist

Today is 11/11/11 and that’s just a bunch of ones.  It’s kinda of cool and we won’t see that date for another century but that’s all it is, a bunch of ones.

To many, it may seem like everything is all doom and gloom right now.  The economy is in the shitter and millions of people are having a really hard time of it.  Wars are still raging and the drums of more to come are beating.  People are doing some hateful and cruel shit to each other every day.  People in my personal circle have been diagnosed with cancer, gone through painful break ups and some have even died (three of my classmates from high school in the last few years that I know of).

But still, I’m happy to be alive each and every day.  It’s another chance to see a blue sky, to feel the sun on my face (or even the rain) and to just breathe in and out.  There’s nothing I have that I can’t lose because I have the only thing I really need, life.  What else is there that’s more important?

Maybe I have one other thing that a lot of people don’t—a clear eyed view of life and everything in it. I’ve worked on cultivating my awareness but anyone can receive the spark that sets you off down that path forever.  You just have to notice it when it happens.

Have you ever had a thought that seemed to come from nowhere, like God or the Universe was talking directly to you?  It’s not a command or belief but just a thought that clears up your momentary confusion on some matter and gives you a whole new set of eyes.

Those are my favorite thoughts but I’ve learned that they’re just for me.  I’ve tried to share them with other people, hoping they’ll feel that same “Aha!” that I did, but sadly they have no impact, no meaning for anyone else.  And that’s because I was the one who needed to hear it, not you.

Perhaps I should give an example.  Believe it or not, there was a time when I was feeling particularly scared and frustrated with the horrible things going on around me.  It seemed like every news story was just evidence that life is pain.  We’re just here to suffer.  Then this thought passed through my mind, like a whisper, but it caught my attention, “The world is not an ugly place.  Ugly things happen in a beautiful world.”

shrug.  I’m sure that sounds like something silly and hokey but it was exactly what I needed to hear in that exact moment.  I’ve had these moments over and over and because of them, I’ve come to trust that place deep inside of me, the place where wisdom comes from.  The good news is you have it too.  We all do and it’s our greatest strength as human beings.

No matter how bad things get, no matter how scary it all seems, it’s gonna be okay.  The voice tells me so.

“The Voice” by Shel Silverstein

 

There is a voice inside of you

That whispers all day long,

“I feel that this is right for me,

I know that this is wrong.” 

No teacher, preacher, parent, friend

Or wise man can decide

What’s right for you—just listen to 

The voice that speaks inside.

Keep feeling fascination

“Wisdom Begins in Wonder.” – Socrates

I was given a bookmark with this quote years ago.  I have no idea where that bookmark is but the quote has never left me.  I have become fascinated with just about everything I encounter these days.   Some people have called me wise and perhaps this is where it springs from.

After much spiritual searching, I too came to Socrates’ conclusion that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

We humans are a curious lot.  It has something to do with how our brains work and what our egos become attached to.  One function of the brain is to be a sophisticated predicting machine.  This has been explored by science in numerous ways.

I mentioned a book I was reading in my last blog, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales.  This predicting function is essential to our survival and our ability to operate in the world.  It’s not a function of your conscious or logical mind either.  It can work even if a person has lost the ability to store new memories.

The writer sites this example:  A patient who had lost the ability to store new memories, not unlike Guy Pearce’s character from Memento, was greeted by her doctor with a handshake.  The doctor had placed a pin in his hand which gave the woman quite a shock.  The next time the doctor saw this patient, he reached out his hand but she recoiled without knowing exactly why.  She had no memory of the pin but her body somehow did.

Isn’t that the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard?

If it’s not amazing or fascinating to you, I can’t help but feel a twinge of pity for the small world you must inhabit.  But have no fear, all is not lost.

Do you want to be fascinated with something?  Anything?  Cultivate it.  Start small.  Get fascinated with someone in your life and you will realize how little you actually know about them, even your own parents or spouse.  Hell, you have no idea how little you actually know about yourself until you start exploring.

Use the word “Wow” in regards to at least one thing a day.  Like smiling, fascination is contagious.  Look at a cup of water.  How did you get it?  “The faucet” is not the answer.  That’s only the last step on a long journey for the water and you didn’t even mention the cup.

Without our brain’s ability to predict and perform so many functions automatically, you would spend your days doing nothing more than basic tasks and remembering to breathe.  But that amazing automation has a price.  You check out from a great deal of your life because your brain has already predicted how it will go, so you don’t really have to be there.

Stop walking around like you know how it is or how they are.  You don’t.  Remember that you only “think” you know how it’s all going to go but really, you don’t know shit.

That is step one on the road to Wisdom.  Join me, won’t you?