Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Category

Have you ever been in a place where you hear every noise, and every one of them bothers you to the point of rage?

No? Just me then? Well okay.

I’m sure many (most) people get irritated by the noise of someone chewing something crunchy with their mouth open. Or the widely acknowledged favourite: the sound of someone drawing their nails down a chalkboard.

I remember a time when I was working at my cubicle at the office. The guy in a nearby cubicle was eating something crunchy. It was housed in a ceramic bowl, and he was using a metal spoon to scoop it up, after which he deposited it into his gaping maw, whereupon he chewed it with his mouth wide open.

This was no gentle scooping; there was an element of frantic panic about it. He clanged that spoon against the sides of the bowl like it owed him money. No way was he going to allow a single Cheerio to escape.

I heard another person talking animatedly on his phone. There was heat to his discussion, a passion that could not be ignored (try as I might). Every time I tried to look at my monitor, he erupted with another valiant point and my thoughts were cockroaches scurrying away.

Yet someone else stood up at his cubicle and laughed about something over the baffle wall with his neighbour.

When I heard that metal spoon begin to scrape the ceramic bowl in its final hunt for the least tiny crumb of errant cereal, my anger reached its zenith. I stood up and looked around….and then noticed these noises were affecting only me. Everyone else could filter all of this out, but I couldn’t.

I wanted to throw my keyboard across the room. Instead, I stood there in helpless and impotent rage, wondering what the heck was wrong with me.

—–

The other day I saw the movie “Age of Adeline”.

BlakeLively_AgeOfAdaline

I picked the film because of its interesting premise: it’s about a woman who, for some strange reason, stops aging at the age of 29. As the decades flow by, she finds she has to hide herself, move and change her name frequently so that she doesn’t come under scrutiny.

As movies go I have no idea whether it’s great or awful. I mean, I have an opinion about it, but freely acknowledge that it’s skewed by something that may seem inconsequential to others.

Namely, Blake Lively.

I’m not a fan of hers. I’ve seen in her in other films, but was not impressed or depressed by her presence in them.

The thing that stood out in “Adeline” was Blake’s voice. It is the most sweetest, calm and soothing voice I’ve ever heard.

I sat there in the dark, just blissing out on her melodious phrases, couched in the poetic rhythms of speech from elder eras.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so amazed by vocal sounds as much as hers, before the movie or since.

This affected me so much that I plan to see the movie again. It’s like a spa for the ears.

If I had a dime for each time someone asked “what’s the point of Twitter, anyway?”, I’d have $3.20 cents.

There’s a possibility I once asked that question myself.  I mean, how much can you really say in 140 characters?  And what’s the point in reading such pithy offerings?  They’re not novels, and you can’t build characters.

People so often dismiss Twitter because of all of the above and more.  Add to that comments like “do I really need to know about how awesome your dinner is?  Do I want to read about what cute thing your son did today?”

The answer to all of that is obvious: no.  No, I don’t need or want to know about any of that.

Ihaveadream

Despite these objections, I’ve been a long time user and reader of Twitter.  Since I’ve had to explain my fascination so many times, it seemed a good idea to blog about it at least once.  That way I can just cut and paste the blog link whenever yet another person says “Twitter?  Can’t stand it (even though I’ve never used it or even read anything from it).  Why would you waste your time?”

oatmeal

One thing you learn when communicating in your workplace is to make sure your main point is contained within the first few lines of your email.  People don’t want to have to wade through paragraphs of pre-explanation prior to getting to the point of your message.  This is especially true if you want something from your reader.

You can start with something like “I would like you to come in early on Friday to help with the TPS report”.  You can then feel free to use a few paragraphs to explain why.  They’re free to read it or not as they see fit.

The neat thing is, if they want to say “no”, they’ll have to read through the rest so that they can better understand the request, and build up a compelling reason to decline.

manscape

You are used to hearing the phrase “information overload”.  There are so many sales pitches, requests for help, and offers to help you enlarge your penis or get bigger breasts (not to mention family and friends forwarding messages with the title “HAHAHA CHECK THIS OUT, BRO!”), that it’s hard to track.  And it’s definitely hard to keep focus.  Almost everyone suffers from this, thus the need to get straight to the point while sending emails at work.

FridayFreak

Twitter doesn’t offer explanation.  There’s just simply no room.  So you’re left making your point as concisely as possible.

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Frankly, with all of the serious news coming out of the internet, I don’t enjoy doing anything serious while on my own time.  I rarely write serious stuff on my Facebook wall.  And I certainly don’t want to engage in serious Twitter posts.

My secret for using Twitter is: I generally only follow funny people.  People with the funniest tweets interest me, especially as they don’t have the room to do a full setup of the joke.  I like that. I think it shows a superior wit.  And so I not only read them, but try to emulate them as well – using my own jokes of course.

ladybonerSometimes I fail miserably, but that’s okay too.  It’s just so much fun to try.

As you begin reading some of these people (and dropping the more serious Twitter feeds), you learn a few tricks along the way too.  Such as: find out who these funny people are following.  Generally, they’re interested in reading other humorous people.  Eventually as you begin following those too, you can build up an impressive list of hilarious comedians who make Twitter a truly engaging and fun place to be.

Like this guy:

wantedadaughter

This isn’t to say that I don’t (ab)use Twitter for my own non-funny reasons either.

booze

It’s a great place to posts links to my reviews for Criminal Minds and NCIS.  But mostly I like laughing, and at the middle of a stressful day, it’s great to have access to so many truly fun and funny people.

P.S. I don’t really drink while on the job.  At least, not from a flask. (And not because it doesn’t hold enough, either)

I used to love computer technology.  Ended up with a dream job working with computers for a living.

One year at Thanksgiving, my boss called her staff into her office (it was a small gang), and we had a Thanksgiving meeting.  She asked each of us to talk about what we were thankful for.  Two of the girls rolled their eyes.

I said “I’m thankful for my job”.  One of the girls barely stifled a snicker as they grinned at each other.

“I’m serious.  You don’t know the kind of hellish job I came from.  For the first time in my working life it’s a treat to get up in the morning.  I actually look forward to coming to work.”

The point was lost.  These girls had it great, and didn’t appear to know it.

It wasn’t the computers so much, I now realize.  It was the fact that I’d found something interesting that made me curious.  This job was all of that.  I got to be the lone computer guy for the office (among other things).  I managed a consultant and soaked in all of the knowledge that I could.

I think maybe it was the shiny buttons and lights that attracted me.  Press a button and something happens.  Press another combination and something else happens.  I loved exploring that world.

shiny

Eventually I moved out of that job and into another one, again involving computers – only more so.  Once again I had an excellent boss, who believed in letting his people stretch the limits of their understanding.  He encouraged us to work with servers.  At first, we spent time learning about them.  Then they became our responsibility.  We spent many long nights in the server room trying to figure out why one or the other server wasn’t working.  Long nights talking long distance with the server manufacturers, jointly troubleshooting problems.  While we had lots of frustration, it was coupled with bouts of joking and laughter.

There was the time that four of us were stuck in a tiny room, working on a server.  There was a guy about my age, and a vendor rep around the same age, a younger woman, and then of course me.

The vendor guy said “I don’t know.  This isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.  Do you know anyone who specializes in this server type?

My older colleague said “Oh I know.  I’ll give Dave a call.  He works with these all the time.  He’ll know just what to do.”  He got his cell out.

“Can I speak with Dave?”

While waiting, the vendor blurted “Dave’s not here”.

Three of us burst out laughing.  The poor younger girl looked confused.  Never had I seen such a clear barrier between one generation and the next.  Someone should make it a rule that as part of their education everyone gets exposed to the material of “The Beatles”, “Cheech and Chong” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.  Make it mandatory.  I guarantee you very few would complain – those are all classics.

For the past number of years, the number of new and innovative applied computer technologies has diminished, as have the opportunities for late night struggles with workmates.  This all mirrors my level of engagement and interest.  If there’s nothing new, there’s little to be curious about.  No new shiny lights and buttons.

Getting up in the morning has become more of a chore than a joy.  In fact, over the past couple of years, there’s been a new interest to take its place during my off-work hours, a new shiny bauble.

Writing – something I used to do as a hobby – has become something a little more.  I now write freelance critiques of a couple of TV shows.  The challenge is to make them interesting and readable. To have an opinion and to articulate it in such a way as to invite comment and conversation.  Luckily, the shows themselves are so well-written that they provoke emotions in our readers.  This helps.

Seems a little ironic that the one subject that bores me is being used to indulge another passion.  The computer, far from being a fascinating innovation, is now serving as a tool to enable the expressing of my ideas in writing.

There are a ton of questions I’ve yet to answer, and a bunch I’ve yet to ask or figure out.  Like, what’s next?  Where can I take this writing thing?  I mean, beyond the obvious (e.g. a novel).  If I’m to escape the “golden shackles” of computer-related employment, how do I leverage this love of writing?

(That’s an open question, by the way.  Any of your ideas would be gratefully received.)

The bottom line is that Dave is most certainly here.  Keep knocking.  He’ll get there eventually.

Clearing your PVR is an exercise that is at once both satisfying and sad.   Every now and then you spot an upcoming movie or TV show that you just *have* to watch – only, you know you don’t want to dedicate the full 30 minutes or hour doing so, as a good chunk of that time is devoted to commercials.  AMIRITE??

So instead you plan ahead of time and schedule the PVR (Personal Video Recorder) to capture those shows for you, knowing that when it comes time to watch them, you can ultra-fast-forward through the commercials and watch “Breaking Bad” in its allotted 40 minutes of Real Time.  In fact, I can’t recall the last time I watched a TV show in real-time, and had to suffer through the commercials.  (I’m lying of course:  I did watch Breaking Bad last night during real-time only because there was an internet event going on at the same time, where the show’s producers polled its audience on an event within the show that just took place.  Not sure I’ll do it again – though it was fun.)

99% of the time though, it’s true:  I won’t watch a show in real-time.   The PVR has spoiled me.  I have to say, out of all of the peripheral unneeded stuff I’ve purchased, the PVR has more than made up for itself in value.  It’s still not  a need but man oh man is it ever a “nice to have”.

A lot of friends will say “you know, I don’t have a TV set at all.  Haven’t had one since I was married/divorced/the kids moved/I became enlightened.”   There’s usually a disapproving snit in their voices and body expressions which hint at the thought that “anyone who watches TV is an unthinking Neanderthal, content to be a voyeur of life, instead of living it themselves.  Not only that, what they’re watching isn’t real.  They’re voyeurs of *fantasy* life – unless they’re watching ‘reality TV’ which again isn’t representative of true life anyway.”  (You can hear the haughty sniff, right?)

They could be right.   But whenever I catch wind of that snootiness, I like to play it up a bit.   “Yeah, if I didn’t have to work every day, I’d sit there on my lounge chair, wearing nothing but my boxer shorts, with one hand comfortably ensconced in my waistband, and the other hand drowning in a bowl of Cheetos.  Used to do it all the time actually.  Not sure if it was that, or the excessive burping that went on because of all of the beer but the upshot of it all is that my wife and I are divorced.”

Watching the painful polite nod is worth the effort of the lie.

The truth is: I enjoy creativity in the arts.   Hence, I won’t watch reality TV, nor will I watch most mainstream predictable fare either.  On the odd occasion, I’ll watch something I’ve already seen, because it’s that good.  It’s entertaining, and it tickles a part of my own creativity that thirsts for the flight of imagination and thought.

Yesterday, I finally cleared my PVR of all the programs that were on there.   The last one, which I’d recorded and kept for a few weeks, was the classic Meg Ryan movie “You’ve Got Mail.”  I know that if I had posted this on Facebook, there would have been one friend who would’ve sent me a mock-horror cyber punch in the arm:  Tommy Blaze has been known to leave such one-word comments on my Facebook updates.  Usually that word is “homo”.   Once when I revealed my knowledge of bed sheet thread-counts, he flung that word at me.    He and I have always kidded each other about one thing or the other so his fake-disgust is sort of expected.   Also, it’s good for the shock factor – with which professional comedians like him have a long-standing love affair.   That word is – you know – *SO* unpolitically-correct, as everyone knows.  At least he knows enough not to use the “F” word.  (Which *everyone* also knows is “Fabulous”).

Anyway, I don’t know the meaning of the expression “male shame” when it comes to romantic comedies.  I’ll watch them without apology or regret, providing that they’re good.  A great many of them are lame, such that I find my testosterone levels depleting if I watch one for too long.

Anyway, “You’ve Got Mail” is a great film that I’ve seen a number of times.  Partly because I can’t get enough of Meg Ryan, and partly because the message is actually pretty cool.  Nora Ephron – who wrote this one as well as a bunch of others in the same vein – was excellent at communicating some interesting truths, some of which weren’t (in my opinion) true at all.   Her wisdom shows up in the dialogue scenes between the leading actors.

There is one “truth” that came out in one of her films that caught society by surprise.  It showed up in an exchange between  Billy Crystal (who played “Harry”) and Meg Ryan (who played “Sally”) in the movie “When Harry Met Sally”.    It was summed up in his statement to her:  “…..no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive.  He always wants to have sex with her.”

Her followup volley and his response to that was nothing short of hilarious:

Sally:  “So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?”

Harry: “No.  You pretty much want to nail ’em too.”

Don’t know what it’s like for those reading this, but in my neck of the woods, the debate continues.   Women were astounded by it, and many asked their mates if indeed that was true.  Guys everywhere shrugged their shoulders in disbelief, just then realizing that the more powerful sex – women – didn’t already know this.   Some of the more frightened weasels among us said “of *course* it’s not true, sugar dumpling.  How could you think that?”

As for me, I think the truth of that statement is a sliding scale.  When I was much younger (14) I was head over heels attracted to a married woman whose husband had moved to the opposite coast to get their new home set up.   She was a 20-something friend who introduced me to alcohol.   She had an infectious and sexy laugh and sparklingly bright teasing dark eyes.   I had zero experience, so figured my attraction was a one way street, only to learn later that it was not.  The fact that I didn’t follow up with her on it is both a blessing and a curse.   Probably more of a blessing than anything.

Today, I’m friends with a few married women to whom I’m attracted.  Now, however, I know that part of what makes them attractive is the fact that they’re happily married.  The minute that changes (say, by cheating) is the minute they change and become different people.   The logic is there:  endangering that marriage is equivalent to chopping down a beautiful tree, just so that you can bring it to your yard and prop it up against the wall to admire.  You’ve changed the tree, and it will start to die, right away.

Also, there’s an important distinction:  I may want to be with them in a carnal sense, but my sense of personal integrity will never allow me to indulge that attraction.  So in that sense, Nora Ephron’s “truth” is not true at all.   One can be friends with someone who isn’t available, only if one’s behaviour is informed by one’s ethics.

The scale of attraction has changed over the years too.   There are a great many physically attractive women out there who I find are anything but beautiful.   The women who truly sparkle have a sense of humility, charm and serenity to them.   The haughty rude and entitled women (and men too, I imagine) are the opposite of attractive, in the most emphatic sense.

Yet, that’s my story – which means it isn’t everyone else’s story.  There are countless examples of attempted friendships between people who are attracted to each other where they’ve ended up in each others’ arms.   Anecdotal evidence – in this case – fails completely.

I’d like to know:  have you had this discussion with anyone?   What do you think about it?   Did you reach a conclusion?  Can guys be friends with women to whom they are attracted?

Ever since getting into show business (going to commercial auditions, getting up on stage to do comedy improv work), I’ve been told to brace myself because the only popular roles for men are characters who are idiots and clowns.

The stereotypical dad, personified by people like Elliot Gould, who played Monica and Ross’  socially clueless father on “Friends”, was all I could expect to shoot for.  Grown men were people to be laughed at, not taken seriously.  If you tried to inject any kind of realism into an adult male character, you’d turn viewers off.

I bought it.  I mean the evidence was right there, wasn’t it?  Even some of the fathers on the hit show “Skins” were over-the-top dofuses.  (Doofi?)  Dads who clearly didn’t know how to communicate with their kids.  Men who couldn’t possibly understand women.  Men like Al Bundy on the show “Married with Children” – who preferred to watch TV with one hand down their pants.  They were fodder for righteous and vivacious women, who took to rolling their eyes anytime the household clown had something to say.

It goes on still.  Take a look at any commercial out there where a father or husband is involved.  Generally, his IQ is in the double digits only.  Everyone else is smarter, more socially aware.   Everyone except male adults know that you should ask for directions if you’re lost.  What’s more, this little stereotype has become so popular, real life people still think it’s true.

So it was with joy that I stumbled upon a little show called “Californication”.

I don’t believe David Duchovny purposely set out to destroy the adult male stereotype, because that would have been disingenuous.  The opposite of altruistic.  No, he merely wanted to tell the story of a man who realized a little late that he was in love with his long time girlfriend, Karen.  The character – Hank Moody – has plenty of faults.  He is portrayed as a “lost child” – someone who didn’t quite grow up.   But the man knows himself.  If anything, he appreciates other people – mostly women – far more than he should, to the point where he finds it next to impossible to say “no” to them.  He has a good heart, and it shows.  While other “lost children” go around using women for their own gratification, he paints a solid line, separating himself from them.  “This far, and no farther”.  He refuses to hit on women who’ve said “no”.  If he has a disagreement with them, he won’t allow them to walk home alone.  He’ll make sure the girl gets home safely.   He helps them not because he wants to bed them too.  He helps them because he can’t help himself.

In one scene, he was talking to a woman who had been turfed by her boyfriend after the guy met another woman.  She clearly wasn’t over him, and Hank realized that her self-esteem had taken a blow.  So he tried to counter that as best he could.   To her horror, the ex showed up at the restaurant where she and Hank were having dinner, new girlfriend in tow.  Hank saw an opportunity.  He put his napkin down and walked over to the ex-boyfriend’s table, and went into gay flame mode.  He told him that he was telling all of his sexual partners to checked out for an STD, and that he should do so quickly as well.  The new girlfriend looked at her boyfriend in disbelief.  The boyfriend was speechless, not knowing where to begin.  The whole scene was a thing of beauty.  Here, let me show you:

It’s his love for women that creates conflict with Karen, with whom he’s had a child – a daughter who he loves dearly.  Karen still loves him but recognizes his many faults.  As does his daughter.

As you can probably guess – it’s a show I highly recommend.  And even though it’s probably easy to follow mid-stream, I’d recommend starting off with season #1 and going through the episodes in order.  Word of warning:  I’m not certain there are any boundaries here.  The show is highly sexual.  The lack of boundaries is in part what makes it so hilarious.   Picture Charlie – Hank’s agent – testifying in court on Hank’s behalf as a character witness.  He’s being questioned by Hank’s lawyer, and he blurts out a confession about the time he asked Hank to provide the third wheel in a threesome.  Hank buries his head in his hands, and the lawyer’s jaw drops as she tries to figure out a way to get him to shut the hell up.   Charlie is oblivious…….

You know what?  The written word just isn’t good enough here.  Check the scene out for yourself.   It’s so worth the minute and a half.  Trust me on this.

The popularity of this show – and shows like “Modern Family” – have proven the point.  Grown adult men can be portrayed as characters who are other than stereotypical buffoons.

Even in comedies.