Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Weekly Buffet: Smart Girls

      - I spent the weekend organizing my books by color. Jealous?

It's hard to write something everyday.

The first week was easy. My brain was working on overdrive. My fingers flowed effortlessly on the keys and I was quickly coming up with, what I believed to be, witty banter on somewhat interesting topics.

Then the days just kept on coming, one after the next. I'd open up my onyx colored laptop each afternoon feeling like I never even left. Us two have gotten even closer than normal lately. We're just like peas and carrots.

Last week was the second consecutive week of producing posts on a regular basis and the well of creative energy was running low. It's all about finding the time, the words, the ideas, the right picture, and on, and on. In the end though, it's been a challenge worth doing - even if it means burning that late night energy to get something done. Some mornings I am a little more sleepy, but that is better than having to do the whole, "I'm not mad, just disappointed", conversation with myself. I had to finish what I started out to do in the first place.

No one is depending on me to complete the goal, so it's a great time to toughen up and see what I'm made of. With all this big talk it's as if I'm heading out to war! All of our aspirations are not as serious as defending our country, but I think it's motivating to pretend that is the case.

Make whatever you want to do feel important. I know I feel a lot cooler when I imagine that clicking on that big orange "Publish" button is just like running through a ribbon at the end of a race or jogging up those Rocky steps. I'll stick to the images, since running in real life is boring torture. But big ups to those people who love it.

That is my wannabee Oprah moment for the day. Thank you for indulging me. And on to what has been keeping me sane outside of typing my afternoons away. There is a definite theme this week - ladies of the hero worship variety. Maybe I was keeping them all close this week as a form of inspiration. Or it's just a coincidence that cool ladies are making cool shit. Either one, you choose.

This Is Life

Lisa Ling was another reason I watched The View in my early years. I'd always known I admired journalism more than any other profession and Ling was doing exactly what I loved most about the job. She was smart and asking all the right questions even on a show that is still considered puff pieces for stay at home parents and the elderly, which is or never really was completely the case.

Either way, Ling had been a war corespondent before, and left the show to pursue that more edgy side of the job again. She would often do memorable reports for Oprah. One in particular from 2008 found Ling tagging along as young women escaped from the world of Polygamy.

All she had done in the past perfectly prepared her for the excellent new CNN show, "This Is Life".

Ling focused all the episodes on fascinating ways of life that are happening every day around the country. Most recently I watched an episode called, "Unholy Addiction", which covered the unexpectedly high rate of drug addiction among Mormon's in Utah.

Never one to judge, Ling excels at what she does because of her authenticity and actual interest in the people she is talking to. She wants to listen and help if she is able.  This is the kind of reality TV more people should watch.

(All of the full episodes are available on Youtube.)

Yes, Please!

Another truly passionate, authentic woman, is Amy Poehler. Now she has a book where she can expel all her wisdom from a life spent committed to all forms of comedy.

Yes Please reads like your best friends impeccably written diary and looks like an elaborate scrapbook. It is a mixed media experience filled with hilarious costumed photo-shoots (a la Amy Sedaris), random essays, letters from her parents, candid photos, and random hand written top ten lists. All of it comes together to tell her life story.
Poehler grew up in Massachusetts, then ended up in Chicago performing improv as part of Second City and Upright Citizens Brigade, which then took her to the big league - being a cast member on Saturday Night Live. She of course has been moving on to bigger things ever since.

But back to SNL. This was where most of us got hooked on Amy. In Yes Please, she tells many dishy behind the scenes stories about hosts and cast member hijinx.  She also reveals a huge regret that weighed on her for years. One of the sketches she starred in really hit some people the wrong way, even causing a famous actor and his wife to write her a searing letter.

After hearing this, out of curiosity, I wanted to be able to see that sketch. Really, reading Yes Please has just made me want to marathon through entire old episodes of the show. Especially, those from the early 2000s with Poehler's crew of ladies - Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, and Ana Gasteyer.

As much as I just want to watch Poehler's stuff (it's been too long since a viewing of Baby Mama), I still have to finish the book. Her point of view about life is wildly amusing, cheerful, and motivating. If you even think you like Amy Poehler a teeny bit, pick up a copy of Yes Please immediately.

Olive Kitteridge

The treasured HBO miniseries is back. An adaptation of Olive Kitteridge, the 2008 novel by Elizabeth Strout, is the network's latest. Nothing screams the promise of an artsy TV production louder than choosing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel as the subject matter.

Having not read the book, I based my excitement on the knowledge that I very much enjoyed some past HBO miniseries, like Mildred Pierce and Angels In America. Oh, and the big factor - that the phenomenal actress Frances McDormand was playing the titular character.

After seeing two of the four episodes I can definitely say that Olive is a tough character to crack. She is a woman who loves her family and job as a teacher, but has a hard time expressing this, which a lot of the time makes her appear cold,  angry, and flat out rude. Her compassion though, easily extends to those she may see herself in - those suffering from depression and other mental disorders, or generally people who are lost and just need help from someone.

McDormand, as expected, is wonderful at playing all of these complex character traits. She is supported by many other terrific actors  - Richard Jenkins, Rosemarie Dewitt, John Gallagher Jr., Bill Murray, Zoe Kazan, Jesse Plemons, and Ann Dowd are just a few talented folks that play Olive's family and the people who she helps throughout the 25 year span of the miniseries. I can't forget to mention musician Martha Wainwright, who plays a lounge singer that chimes in some haunting tunes throughout the episodes.

I for one, can't get enough of stories just about a person's life. Daily activities can seem so humdrum and simple, but those are the endless details that makes each life fascinating.

Until next time.

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