Category Archives: Entertainment

The Celebrity Opinion Conundrum

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If someone complains about celebrities by saying, “They are actors and athletes! What do I care about their opinion?”

“That’s funny because I’m thinking the exact same thing about YOUR opinion,” might be my response.

Voicing your displeasure with celebrities who give their own opinions is a strange form of hypocrisy.
Whatever job you’re doing is just a job and occupation never nullifies a point of view.
You’ll have to be honest about it anyway, as it seems like we only hear people say this sort of thing when they disagree with the expressed opinion and almost never when they don’t.

“Casual” on Hulu

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When the show “Casual” started on Hulu, I thought it might be at least an interesting diversion. It turned out to be a delight at every turn. Even when everyone was being a literal pain in the ass on the show, it was engaging in ways that most shows aren’t. In so many ways, it evoked some of the same sentiments in me that “Six Feet Under” did. The show deserved all the praise it earned, even as it ignored the supposed line between comedy and drama. “Smart people behaving badly” has been done many times, but rarely with the contained breath of this show.

I expected the show to excel in its final season, even as I complained to myself, as all fans of a show meeting its demise so often do. Now that the curtain has closed and I’ve seen the finale, I can only wonder about how all these fictional characters are doing in their separate lives. The writers convinced me that all these people were indeed real and that I would no longer be a voyeur in their lives. It was an elegant dance to watch it wind down.

The antepenultimate scene was of Alex’s empty house, the center and crucible for so much of the show. As that scene faded, a door somewhere within slammed with finality. Oddly, I felt the door close. Alex was in the autonomous car with his daughter, heading for his new life. The selfish man we knew was looking forward and making choices he couldn’t have made several years earlier. As he teared up, he smiled and as this scene faded, he looked down and to the right, obviously seeking memories of those now gathering in his absence. In the last scene, we saw everyone else in a jovial room together.

It was a moment filled with inevitable nostalgia. I think many people joined me in thinking that this couldn’t be it and that Alex wasn’t really moving away.

Alex, never the sentimental type, hid a few precious photos inside the Ova box (a digital personal assistant) for Valerie to find. All of them were combinations of Valerie, Alex, and Laura, the essential heart of the show. Valerie wiped the tears from her face as Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On” began to fill the room. Much like “Parenthood” opened my heart a little for Bob Dylan, this final scene gave me an appreciation for this Petty song, one I always disregarded.

The scene blurred completely away, letting us know that life was going to continue for all of them, out of sight, but perhaps lingering in our heads instead of on our devices.

“Casual” is one of those shows whose name conflicts with the complicated joy of humor and pain being blended together.

I hate to see its departure. That’s a sign of how crafted it was. Many people forego television for their own reasons. “Casual” is one of those few shows which can make you feel that subtle immersion you experience when reading an exquisite book. When the last page passes, you look up at the room you’re in, wondering if the other world contained in the book still spins on its own axis.

Television can be magic. If you haven’t watched “Casual,” it’s your loss. It’s filled with old friends and people you’ll be fascinated by.
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“Casual” seasons 1-4 are available on Hulu, and some are available on DVD, for the few Amish among us who have DVD players.

An Imperfect Note Regarding Jimmy Fallon and Redemption

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The meme regarding Jimmy Fallon in his “Man Show” era versus now in his redemption and entertainer role does contain an element of harsh truth to it.

It also contains an oblique admission on your part, though, if you share it.

Jimmy’s former show ended about 15 years ago. That’s approximately 5,500 days of opportunity to transform oneself.

“You’re not the person you used to be,” is one of the best compliments someone can give me.

I hope the same is true for you, too. It’s almost as important as the cliché, “My opinion changes with new information.”

It’s easy to fake a change of heart, especially if ambition, power, money, or politics shape your enlightenment. We fall toward vanity and greed with too much ease at times.

It’s a complicated and fluid process to gauge another person’s transformation and soul. Many religions confer redemption merely by accepting a central tenet of faith. Most adults, however, in their personal lives, require penance, punishment and a long learning period from those seeking redemption.

Skepticism rules in regards to other people, even as most people demand acceptance for their own stories and changes while doubting the changes that others profess.

By outright refusing to concede that it is possible that Jimmy Fallon may indeed be the person he professes to be, you are also indicating that you doubt that personal transformation is possible.

That’s a strange, cynical point of view from where I’m standing.

Keep in mind that I’m not a big Jimmy Fallon fan, nor defending the criticisms toward his previous alter ego.

A few years ago, Tom Cotton, someone who I dislike intensely, suffered a backlash from some regarding his writings when he was much younger and attending Harvard. Many screamed without knowing whether those words reflected who he is today. That denial of possibility is a problem for me.

I think back to my youth and all the indoctrination, fear and shame I had to work through to thrive. All my errors, ignorance and stupidity were indeed mine. To create a timeline which fails to reflect my transformation would be a disservice to me and anyone else who has shed their previous skin. I don’t defend some of the stupidity I said and did.

Even if I attempted a defense of who I once was, I wouldn’t be defending myself.

While my personal views about redemption aren’t religious, I continue to hope that anyone can stop and reboot if self-recognition allows it.

I would hate to think the world wouldn’t encourage anyone to turn away from their past and renew.

It’s okay to be skeptical of those who’ve wronged us or behaved like the Cookie Monster at a bakery convention. As we do, though, we should remind ourselves that some people do in fact change.

 

 

 

PostSecret Saturday

I surprised Dawn with a matinee showing of ‘Post Secret The Show’ at Walton Arts Center. I even bought an extra seat so that we could stretch out and be comfortable. That backfired, as it turned out there was an aisle between the seats I purchased. I gave my extra ticket, however, to a group across from us, so several of us had a better time than anticipated.

As I expected, she loved the show.

On such a fine day, it was as if we had been transported to church on a Saturday, filled with strangers as the show began. As it progressed, we all realized that the world is both wide and universal for us all. Many people were teary-eyed and emotional at several points of the show.

I made friends and since I almost always carry index or note cards in my back pocket, I was able to use a version of my “secrets revealed” on the two ladies seated to my left, after they exited their seats during intermission – and returned to find a perfectly balanced index card on their shared armrest with this message:

“I heard one of you say, “I won’t mention THAT secret” earlier. I can’t explain how I know, but I know your secret. #youcrackmeup.”

During their absence, Dawn pointed out that if I kept out my ever-present stack of cards, they’d immediately know it was me. I assumed they would immediately blame the new craziness on me since I was probably the weirdest person on that side of the theater.

I let them wonder who might have left the card for several moments as they fiercely whispered back and forth between themselves and then we exchanged a succession of revelatory commentary. We shared a moment and a few stories, all of which involved initial awkwardness followed by intense laughter. I won’t reveal the secret in question, but it led them to share a hilarious prank and the aftermath of it with me.

They were incredulous that my real name was X, given that we were all at a show based on anonymity. After the show, another lady asked, “Is X really your name?”

Being very familiar with Post Secret, I knew the revelations were going to be both rapid-fire and poignant. I had left one of my own on the bathroom mirror before the show began. Mine was not read during the show, as the show used a small sample from the auditorium mailbox and none from the bathroom.

I also befriended a lady who had accompanied her husband. She had no idea of what Post Secret might encompass. She left the show intensely curious and full of ideas. In the way that so often happens in such situations, I gave her a brief explanation of the Post Secret universe, followed by one which explained my name and my background. We could have talked for an hour, but her husband had sneaked past her and out the main door.

If you ever have the chance to see the show, I highly recommend it, regardless of your temperament. It will be transformative for you.

P.S. In the spirit of this show, book, and website, I’m going to paraphrase and share what I noted on that post-it note in the bathroom:

“I was going to murder my violent dad one night and the only thing which prevented it was that I didn’t know how to load the gun.”

 

The success and beauty of Post Secret is that my secret is all too common. Some of the secrets read during the show from those in the audience today were filled with pain, love, regret, and hope.

There are no new secrets, only new faces to give them life.

In pain, frailty, laughter and diverse geography, we share the essential.

 

 

#postsecret   #psfayetteville

May Your Days and Nights Be Filled With Karls and Ninnys

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At the intersection of worlds: “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Sling Blade.” I awoke, staring at 3:33 on the clock, hearing the resonant voices of Karl Childers and Ninny Threadgoode fading from my mind. I could feel their enchanting universes slipping away from me, foggy nostalgia as real and certain as the bed in which I found myself. The quote in the picture popped into my imagination. I don’t remember the dream which seemed to have spanned an entire life while I slept, but what a great place to live, one in which both fictional and real people would come to life and interact. It was a testament to the power and appeal of both stories, with characters so rich that it would be impossible to resist an invitation to live in their worlds.

I would reverently walk those sparse roads and listen, sit on the porch and hear the whispers through time and share a thousand laughs. Yes, even dreams would come to an end, no different than our waking life, a finite loop of possibilities. When I awoke, though, the fading resonance of a rocking chair moving against loosely-nailed boards still filled my ears – and I felt an acute loss fill my heart, the one beating between the twilights, one waking, one still in the other world.

People often connect with us in ways that can’t be easily defined. Sometimes, they do so across years, generations, and in spite of all our differences. If we are lucky enough and allow our imaginations to flourish, sometimes those characters created by others come to visit us on either side of the drowsy line. Lifetimes can be lived between these spaces. For those truly blessed, the people within the boundaries of their lives experience this daily.

I hope your day has a few Karls and Ninnys, people who light your life with interest and spark.
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(The picture is of ‘the’ house from “Fried Green Tomatoes.” You can see Ninny in the upstairs window, watching Karl and Frank below…)
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YesOrNo.com

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Note: this is an older post. Seeing Netflix and a few other sites adopt an idea I’ve had forever makes me smile – as I recommended exactly this course of action several years ago in this blog post.

I’m going to start a website called “YesOrNo.” It will cover websites, restaurants, vehicles, tourists spots, movies, music and anything under the sun. It will be a testament to minimalism and focus in a world of too many options. If you are neutral to the website, movie, or restaurant, you don’t vote. No fence-sitting is allowed.

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Instead of being weighed down by too many details, there are only going to be 2 options: “yes” or “no.” No comments. No categories to obfuscate the response. No Yelp-like lawsuits alleging vote-fixing or reviews. Studies have shown that too many options reduces our happiness and satisfaction.

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Users will need to learn to be discerning with their votes. There will be neutral option. Either you vote or you don’t – but you’re going to need to decide between “yes” or “no.”

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There will be technical issues to address governing how to identify participants and/or lessen abuse of voting. That’s true of any website or business idea. Clever, motivated people combined with technology should eliminate all the major hurdles.

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With a social element, users can choose to add “trusted voters” to their logins so that they can refine their trusted opinions over time. This will allow you to ask the website to recommend a new place or experience to you, based on input from you and others who are similarly minded. In my scenario, however, the data will be limited to tallying without superfluous detail.

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Unlike Angie’s List, users won’t be expected to pay – as such services exclude much of the population. It does tend to cause an uptick in the “crazies” noticing your website, but again, technology can overcome most of the stupidity that will ensue.

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It’s so strange to see Tinder doing well. I’ve joked about yesorno.com for a long time, especially after an old-school website called “checkthegrid” died. On my old blog I had this idea designed, with screenshots and graphs. Like most people, though, my enthusiasm usually sputters at the implementation of an idea.

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At it’s heart, the website would be simple categories, with “green” indicating “yes,” and “red” equating to “no.”

 

The Gift of “Rectify”

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“It’s the beauty that hurts the most, not the ugly.” – Daniel

As a reader and lover of language, I sit in satisfied wonder after watching “Rectify.” It’s been said by many that it was the best show that no one was watching. Rarely do characters come so vivaciously to life, murmuring and whispering with such glib eloquence. Listening to the people in this show move through complicated lives in this show is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing visuals as if they were a novel. Several times in the past, I’ve read of the love and admiration of this show and renewed my self-promise to immerse myself. Not until the show was finishing its run, however, did I stop gazing at it on my to-do list and start down the intricate road it travels. I regret not having been a part of it since it first aired but I will make amends by recommending it to anyone with a discerning taste for depth.

If you have the opportunity, please visit Netflix and give this treasure of a show an open door in your life. You won’t regret it, even if the pace seems to be too languid for you at the beginning. Oddly, if you describe yourself as an avid reader, I’m convinced that this show will be an immediate friend to your life.

The intelligence of this show astounds me. The people inhabiting the world it paints for us trip and fall, even as they see the obstacles in front of them. Countless times I watched the inevitable pain surprise them, only to see a parallel to my own life. The mirror it smashes into my face catches all the sublime idiocy of the steps we all take, regardless of the severity of circumstance.

From the show’s beginning, Daniel emerges from prison and instead of railing against the injustice, he perplexes everyone with a deeply insightful commentary on the world. I’ve had trouble explaining to people exactly what about the show was so captivating. “It’s about a man who is released from prison after almost 2 decades.” If that’s the case, “Sling Blade” is just a movie about an eccentric older man being let out of psychiatric care in the South. The particulars aren’t what brings forth the revelations: it’s the humanity inherent in so many scenes of this show.

It’s difficult for me to pull back from my enthusiasm for this show; it’s likely I’ve over-sold it people. Something about it forcefully reminds me of the wild emotion I felt the first time I finished “The Prince of Tides” and heard the words, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein” reverberate in my mind.

If you need a gift for yourself, I recommend that you find a quiet moment to step away from your real life, sit down, and give “Rectify” the chance it deserves to unfold the way television should be revealed. It avoids the mega-dose of plot twists that doom so many potentially great tv shows or movies. Don’t let the initial premise of a condemned man’s unexpected release from prison trick you into thinking you understand what this show is about. The story is about us, individually and collectively, careening around the backdrop of what it means to be human.

The show itself is a crescendo of discovery as the seasons reveal themselves. By the end of season 4, you will find yourself under the gossamer veil of nostalgia, for a world you would love to live in. As the show ends, you will find yourself feeling restless for unknown highways and side roads, all hopefully leading to places where people like Daniel Holden might feel at home. (And allow us a moment to sit in their presence.)

If you are lucky, it will reveal glimpses of your own self that you’ve kept hidden slightly around the corner.

“Finding peace in the not knowing seems strangely more righteous than the peace that comes from knowing.” – Daniel

 

 

Ponder: The Lesson of Karl

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I think we should adopt the word “Karl” as a code word to indicate that we love someone deeply, even as we live flawed lives. Whether we like to admit it or not, even when we are comfortable with people, ‘love’ is a catch in our throats, often reluctant to escape.

“Sling Blade” is an iconic movie. Each time I watch it, I see it from a different point of view, and not only because I am not quite the same person as the last time I watched it. As tragic as it is, it is evocative of a life of connections that I would cherish.


After Doyle kicks Karl out of the house, Linda drives up as Karl is shuffling away. “You light him up in his eyes, I’ve seen it. He wouldn’t know what to do without ye….” Karl tells Linda, referring to her son Frank. Linda calls out, “Karl?” as he leaves.

When Karl leaves Frank his books, the sum total of everything he holds to be valuable in life; inside is a bookmark with the words “You will be happy” written on it. As Karl walks away, Frank turns to the trees and shouts, “Karl?”

Karl knocks on Vaughan’s door and hands him all the money he has in the world when the door opens. He tells Vaughan that he would be a good daddy to Frank and that he won’t be judged for who he is. “That boy lives inside of his own heart. It’s an awful big place….” Karl says and ambles away. Vaughan calls out, “Karl?”

Of course, Doyle looks up off-screen at Karl as he raises the sharpened lawnmower blade to kill him: “Karl?” Doyle asks, after talking calmly with Karl about being killed by him.

The last spoken word in the movie by Doyle, Vaughan, Frank, and Linda is the same: “Karl…?”

As broken as Karl’s life was, he managed to touch each of those people’s souls by his words and presence. In response, each one was powerless to respond at the same level with Karl.

I think we should agree to use “Karl?” as a code word in our daily lives. Using it would be a signal that conveys our deep understanding of who and what the person with whom we are speaking means to us.

Some words are like knives passing our lips, even when coated with the warmest regard and sincerity.

Honesty is a sharp weapon and truth is a hard master. Even in love.

“Karl,” I whisper to you all.

Lion (Saroo)

Sunny Pawar stars in LION
Photo: Mark Rogers

Recommendation…
Although all my friends are of considerable taste and have undoubtedly already seen the movie “Lion,” I can only tell you that it will take a hammer to your heart if you watch this movie. It’s set in both India and Australia; India steals the show.

Because it’s based on a true story, it will dawn on you as you watch that the little boy in the movie’s beginning experienced the things as portrayed. All of us imagine that we have a good idea of what constitutes tenacity and heartache but Saroo teaches us that whatever image floats in our mind’s eye is woefully short of reality.

There are a couple of moments in the movie where the sheer size of the world zooms with dizzying speed. Each change in orientation reminds us of that billions of stories unfold here each day. Among them are stories so exotic that we can’t help but feel loss at not knowing these people.

The backstory to this movie being made is another story to itself. How Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel came to it is yet another surprise. Nicole got the chance to play a mother with two adopted children, exactly as is the case in real life. The young boy who portrays Saroo as a small child is about the most endearing kid you’d care to meet. As remarkable as the movie is, so many things swirling around it make it even more spectacular.

Because the story is true, there is a moment near the end of the film where your heart collapses in on itself. Even if I tell you the surprise, it won’t prepare you for the tragic loss. It will, however, make you appreciate the moment of triumph, decades in the making, as people reconnect.

You will be jealous of those impossible moments, the ones these people waited so long to share.

It’s “just” a movie, you might say. Using that logic, though, means that our lives are “just” moments in passing. There are a finite number of possibilities for our lives. Sometimes we can share a life like the one in “Lion” and rejoice in the loss and in the triumph. This movie is not your typical movie, based on an atypical life.

I would hope that anyone who hasn’t seen it will pause their lives for a bit and give it a try. I don’t normally recommend movies because of the wide spectrum of opinions we all have. “Lion” is a movie that will connect everyone.