Friday, July 31, 2009

Anything for Ratings, I Guess

Like many, I have my little addictions -- chocolate, coffee, cocaine (kidding on that last one!). Some, I am willing to admit to; some embarrass me just a tad. Falling into that latter category are two that I'm about to share (although I think many who've known me for awhile know this). I have an addiction to celebrity gossip and Lifetime. Now, when I say Lifetime, I don't mean the cheesy made-for-Lifetime movies that inevitably star Tracey Gold or some other Q-level former ingenue. Generally, I steer as far away from those movies as I can -- although I did one day find myself completely sucked into a Lifetime movie where Mary Louise Parker had autistic twin sons, one of whom was a pre-High School Musical Zac Efron. I mean, that's just a golden opportunity you can't pass up! And there was that one about the city girl who "inherited" the Amish kids. That one was good, too. N0, my Lifetime habit steers more towards their showings of Frasier, Will & Grace, Desperate Housewives, and the non-stop hours of Reba. Yes, Reba. I accidentally have found myself watching and liking (a lot) Drop Dead Diva despite the fact that I mercilessly mocked its commercials all summer prior to its debut. I am chomping at the bit for the return of Project Runway. (My need for a little Runway action is even more desperate considering I am one of only three people in America who actually watched The Fashion Show, or as we called it at our house, The Tim Gunn Reject Project.) I've even been known to get unwittingly sucked into Wife Swap. (It never ceases to amaze me just how many punk rock and fundamentalist Christian families there are out there willing to engage in a little swapping -- and they all have houses full of kids. Makes you feel so good about our country, no?)

Last night, as I curled up to watch Frasier with my cat Tela (I swear she loves it -- when 11:00 rolls around, she comes and finds me and meows as if demanding me to go to bed so we can watch it!), I noticed a commercial for yet another made-for-Lifetime movie, one from the Nora Roberts collection. The number of strikes this movie had against it are numerous -- it's a Lifetime movie, it's based on a Nora Roberts book (I swear -- even TOUCHING her books makes my skin burn!), and it's full of the sort of Q-list talent that makes me shudder -- LeAnn Rimes? Eddie Cibrian? Talk about awards bait! What got me about the commercial, though, was that Lifetime is choosing to market this movie as starring "the couple everyone is talking about."

See, here's the story . . . . (and where my addiction to celebrity gossip comes into play) . . . . .

LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian met while filming this Nora Roberts gem -- Northern Lights. (Great title, Nora) Allegedly, they began an affair despite the fact that they were both married. (Yeah, I know it happens.) Allegedly, LeAnn became so infatuated with Eddie that she was accused to STALKING him after the film wrapped and they returned to their respective spouses. Now, both couples have separated and are headed for divorce. So Lifetime is selling this movie as the movie that "started it all" -- but really, it's the movie that ended it all. Two marriages ended as a result of this film and while the marriages may have been doomed had LeAnn and Eddie never met, the fact of the matter remains that this film accelerated the process -- and maybe even potentially damaged at least LeAnn's career since she is now portrayed as a psycho stalking freak. Rather than downplaying the surrounding scandal, Lifetime is choosing to not only play it up but romanticize it as if LeAnn and Eddie were the second coming of Brangelina. To me, that's pretty shady ... and incredibly tacky.

Friday, July 24, 2009

You Know, Maybe Whitney Houston Was On To Something ....

What I'm about to write just may shock you. I have a bit of a rep as not being overly fond of children, a reputation which really isn't so much merited. To be honest with you, I like kids. A lot of my "kid hating" is honestly done for humor more than anything. I mean, hating kids is just funny.

But the truth of the matter is that I like kids. No, it's more than that. I admire kids. And a couple incidents from the past couple weeks have reinforced that admiration and respect I have for our younger friends.

1. A friend of mine just posted on Facebook to let us all know he and his family had just returned from a vacation. They went camping -- no television, cell phone service, wifi, nothing for days on end. At one point, Steve was apparently bemoaning this fact when his eight-year-old daughter said, "Dad, look at this river. We don't NEED TV with that." How many of us lose sight of the simple beauty of what's around us? Once when driving through the mountains of Colorado, I became so obsessed with taking pictures of the beauty that I honestly forgot to actually stop and admire the beauty. How many times have we found ourselves surrounded by beauty or excitement or just life itself and all we can think about is texting or wondering what TIVO is holding for us? Little Abbie wasn't worried about missing an episode of "iCarly"; she was too busy grooving on the beautiful nature around her. A lesson we all could take.

2. The cast of The Music Man was filled with small kids, many of whom were making their stage debut. One such kid was a little boy named Will. Will spent every moment in sheer awe of what was going on around him. The stage manager said that Will could often be found backstage just watching with this smile on his face -- even if it was just a scene change. During rehearsals, when actors were moving furniture to get ready for the next scene, little Will would skip (SKIP) onto stage and kind of flit around -- seeming to realize he really couldn't be of much help but wanting to be part of the process, even if it was just walking alongside a bench being moved. His joy at being part of the process was just infectious. He served as a reminder of why we should be doing this -- it's freakin' fun to do theatre. We get wrapped up in who gets what part or how much time we get to spend onstage that we forget to just relax and have fun. Will never once forgot that, except for maybe when he cut his hand backstage and was too hysterical to go onstage.

3. Another friend of mine brought his young daughters to see The Music Man this weekend. One fell asleep (she's 3; cut her some slack). The other seemed delighted by what went on. While her parents dealt with her sleeping sister after the show, I offered to take Amber backstage to see the set upclose. Even for a kid raised on theatre (her parents are both theatre folk), Amber was dazzled by the opportunity to walk onstage and sit at Marian's piano or walk into the library (where her attention was quickly stolen by Marian's sparkly purse). The lesson? Don't lose your childlike wonder at anything and everything -- even if it's just a pretty purse.

4. One of my jobs as production manager was to organize strike. I had a cast of 60, many of whom were small children. Somehow, the idea of putting a drill into the hands of an 8 year old just seemed not good. Many of the kids were given the simple task of hanging up their costumes and then leaving with their parents. I had several kids, though, whose parents were in the show and couldn't just leave because I needed their parents to help strike. I came up with the idea of taking a group of these kids and putting them in charge of script check-in. (Musical scripts have to be returned after being erased of any and all marks.) I gave each of my chosen crew a pink eraser and a box and told them they needed to go through the scripts, erase marks, and check off the turned in scripts. These kids (the oldest was maybe 11 or 12) took this job so seriously. The five of them sat in the house solemnly erasing away. The one I appointed "crew chief" would track down cast members who had not turned scripts in yet. I couldn't have asked for a better, more dilligent crew. What these five kids (and a big shout out to Amanda, Jensen, Marie, Eleanor, and Walker) showed me was that no job is too small, and that every job deserves 100%, even if it's something so simple as erasing pencil marks from a script.

If we could all just make a concerted effort to adopt that sort of childlike wonder and diligence, think how much happier we could all be . . . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

... And the Livin' is Easy

Summer is more than half over for me, and I realize I've spent very little time writing here. Part of it is the continued writer's bloc and part of it is just being busy.

The past several weeks have been spent serving as production manager for the local community theatre production of The Music Man. I've written many times in the past in defense of community theatre and how it offers a venue for people to maintain creative pursuits while still having "normal" lives. Working on a show the scale of The Music Man was a perfect example as parents took the stage with their kids in a cast filled with teachers, ministers, doctors, college students, children, and more. For those of you unfamiliar with the role of a production manager, it, well, sucks. My job consisted mostly of emails and phone calls. During rehearsals, I sat and was basically useless in terms of having any sort of creative input. It was, to be honest, creatively castrating -- so much so that I made a vow to never be PM again. I walked away from the theatre this weekend feeling as if I'd made little to no contribution to the show, feeling very disconnected from the whole process. It was not a good feeling, although it did make me excited to get back to work in a few weeks and start work on our fall production. My creative impulses are bursting from lack of use!

Now that the show is over, the rest of my summer will be divided between yard work (it never ends!), housework (I might actually unpack the last of the boxes from my move a year ago), squeezing in one more Phish show (at Chicago's Toyota Park -- a new venue!), and getting ready to go back to work. I have lesson plans to tweak, a play to ready, and a speech season for which to prepare. Speech season prep takes on some interesting dimensions as my sis was just hired last week to be the speech coach at another area school -- as if my sis and I aren't competitive enough!! (Should make for some interesting blog posts down the line, no?)

So I'm going to settle down with a cool beverage, watch The Wackness, and try to come up with some ideas for more posts this summer. Peace out!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Patriotism is . . .fried chicken?

Because of inclement weather yesterday, the local "Big Bang Boom" fireworks display was postponed to this evening. They really couldn't have asked for a better night -- clear skies, comfortable temperatures. Rather than fight the crowd out at the lake, we always opt to watch the display from a friend's house. We miss some of the ground stuff, but we have a perfect view of the big show.

In addition to an amazing display of fireworks, a local radio station adds a soundtrack that mixes pop, rock, country, and your typical patriotic fare. In addition to a bizarre "oral report" on The Wizard of Oz (which I suspect was just an excuse for them to play "Defying Gravity"), the soundtrack also included a couple country songs I'd never heard before. One was called "Chicken Fried" and it was your typical "regular Joe" crap about liking fried chicken, cold beer, and finding jeans that fit your fat ass -- oh, and, you know, America and the troops. I mean, thanks to the troops, we get to eat fried chicken as often as we'd like.

This song got me to thinking -- are we the only country in the world that creates hits out of this sort of jingoistic propaganda? I mean, are there songs in England celebrating scones and thanking their troops for ensuring they can put chocolate chips OR blueberries in their scones? Do the French have odes to the croissant? And doesn't it make you wonder what people from other countries think about songs like this that seemingly celebrate the lowest common denominator as if it's something special? I mean, the implication of this song is that REAL Americans like their chicken fried -- totally ignoring the fact that this is the least healthy way to enjoy your chicken. Me? I like my chicken baked. I guess I might as well pack up for Canada right now.

Here's the thing -- I am patriotic. I love this country. I never fail to tear up when I hear "The Star Spangled Banner" -- it's powerful imagery and when I think about the story behind the song, it kind of gets to me every single time. I don't necessarily wear my patriotism on my sleeve, and I recognize there are times when my government has made mistakes or when people in this country make choices that I think may not be the strongest. I don't need to sing about it and shove other people's faces in my patriotism, nor do I think that the way I prefer my chicken is any sort of indication of my patriotism or apparent lack thereof.

Just a little something to chew on as we enter into our nation's 234th year.