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Supercool Blogs That You Should Read

19 Jun

People have been asking me lately which blogs I really love to read. I know I need to mention these guys more, but here you have it. Here is a list of blogs and other stuff I dig– similar content to Soul Lab, but also very unique indeed.

Idol Chatter on Beliefnet.com combines the latest pop culture news with sort of a spiritual spin on TJI_REV-RUNthings. Yes, it totally makes sense. Recent posts have talked about stupid antics that Christians on reality shows have been caught doing (yeah, we’re talking about you Speidi); The Jon & Kate Plus 8 dilemma asking readers to share heartfelt advice– remember this is Beliefnet, not E! News; and an enlightening post on the 10 most inspiring celebrities using Twitter in positive ways… from Rev Run to Paulo Coehlo.

On YogaJournal.com, there are a couple of areas to check out. First, let me just say that I absolutely do not do Yoga (I’ve tried– Lord I’ve tried), but I probably will some day again and I really like the idea of it. So, what the hell, I get into Yoga Journal when I can. Check out the Yoga Buzz blog and you’ll find posts about Janice Dickinson trying to find natural laxatives in the jungle on an episode of “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” Then there’s the hysterical web series, “Ogden: The Inappropriate Yoga Guy.” Check it out:

rainn-wilson-the-rocker1Spearheaded by Rainn Wilson, Soul Pancake is an uniquely cool site where life’s big questions are just put right out there for spiritually-minded hipsters (or seeksters as I prefer calling them) to dicsuss. There is a great emphasis on the relationship between spirituality and creativity which I appreciate. A recent post asks the question, “Is fear learned or inherent?” accompanied by a video of Spike Jonze trying to freak out his son by wearing a prop head from his latest movie, Where the Wild Things Are (coming out in October). I have to say that the quality of the comments in response to some of these questions is refreshingly thoughtful on the most part. In another post, the question is posed, “Are you a social chameleon” trying to understand the concept of putting on various personas to meet the expectations of variety of audiences in one’s life (I talk about this in another earlier post). They showed this cool video with that question:

Don’t Be a Selfish Ding Dong: Fast for Darfur

28 Apr
Darfur child in refugee camp

Darfur child in refugee camp

I watched Mia Farrow on Larry King Live tonight as she announced her 21-day hunger strike to raise awareness about the situation in Darfur. She is inviting anyone interested in joining the fast to choose a day (or more) to either drink water only, take refugee rations (there are suggested guidelines) or liquids only.

The website, http://fastdarfur.org/, states “Darfur Fast for Life was created so that you and many more around the world can participate in saying no to the status quo on Darfur. Mia will be blogging here and at www.MiaFarrow.org. Others will join by participating in water-only and/or refugee rations fasts to bring attention to the immediate humanitarian crisis in Darfur created by the expulsion of aid organizations by the government of Sudan. Darfur Fast for Life demands from our leaders around the world to be ambitious and work on creating lasting peace in Sudan and guaranteeing the respect for the human rights of all.”

I signed up for a few scattered days to do rations and liquid fasting.

Good Vibes: Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent

14 Apr
Contestant Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent Blew the Judges and Audience Away

Contestant Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent Blew the Judges and Audience Away

Susan Boyle, a 47 year-old single British woman who is unemployed, “never been kissed” and was ruthlessly mocked as a child for a disability is my new hero. Let me say that again. She is my new hero. If you have not seen this clip yet (over 1 million have already) check it out now. Lesson to self: be exactly who you are all the time. Never give up. Never Surrender. It moved me to tears… in a good way. Enjoy.

Peters Sellers, Death, and the Eternal “Who am I?”

13 Apr

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I recently brought a Muppet Show DVD home to introduce our son to the likes of Peter Sellers, John Cleese and Dudley Moore in an age appropriate way. Out of the three episodes, it was Sellers who stood out.

I’ve always been fascinated with Peter Sellers and was convinced that this comic genius and master impersonator was sort of fruit loop, truth be told. But in 1964 he was riddled with several successive heart attacks which permanently damaged his heart. He later told Shirley MacLaine on the set of Being There (for which he received his second Academy Award nomination) that he had an out of body experience during one of his “deaths.” This profoundly changed the actor who many deemed excessively difficult, childlike and self-centered. He began a spiritual journey which brought him to past life exploration, yoga, religion and a slow and steady retreat from the personality he once knew. He crept more and more into the characters he created often speaking like them and revealing less and less about himself.

He said of his death experience: “I wanted to go to that white light more than anything. I’ve never wanted anything more. I know there was love, real love, on the other side of the light which was attracting me so much. It was kind and loving and I remember thinking ‘That’s God'”. (MacLaine, Out on a Limb)

Sellers’ official biographer Alexendar Walker wrote, “The experience of resurrection intensified Sellers’ spiritual concern and friends discerned the start of a new introspectiveness, a sense of his not ‘being there’ in spirit, though present in body.”

The near-death experience also solidified Sellers’ belief that he was a reincarnated soul whose ability to perfectly imitate and create characters and accents was a direct result of having lived many past lives. But in this incarnation he did not know who he was and why he was alive. He told Shirley MacLaine:

“I know I have lived many times before … that experience confirmed it to me, because in this lifetime I felt what it was for my soul to actually be out of my body. But ever since I came back, I don’t know why I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to do, or what I came back for.” (MacLaine,174)

He died of a heart attack in 1980. 

Sellers appeared on The Muppet Show television series in 1977. Typically, the guest host is interviewed for about a minute by head muppet, Kermit the Frog. Sellers refused to be interviewed and chose not to appear as himself at any point in the show, which was a first for writers and producers. Sellers instead appeared in a variety of costumes and accents, from a gyspy to a surgeon and more.

When Kermit told Sellers he could relax and be “himself,” Sellers (while wearing a Viking helmet, a girdle and one boxing glove, claiming to have attempted to dress as Queen Victoria), replied, “But that, my dear Kermit, would be altogether impossible… I could never be myself. You see, there is no me. I do not exist. There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.”

Flight of the Conchords: My New Favorite Song

4 Apr

I still can not believe we got such awesome seats for the May 7 performance of Flight of the Conchords at Bass Concert Hall. I haven’t been this excited since the Seven and the Ragged Tiger Tour from Duran Duran in 1984. Oh yeah.

And I hopinghopinghoping that they play my new favorite song, “Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor.” Bret and Jemaine are dreamboats.

Joaquin Phoenix: The Ego or the Artist at Play?

13 Feb

When I watched the interview with Joaquin Phoenix on David Letterman last night, I immediately flashed back to high school and college. There were these kids at my school, and the “richer” schools around town, who were so privileged and “cool” that their smugness and egos could light up a few counties. They didn’t have to answer to anyone, they didn’t “care” what people thought, their bratty and self-centered behavior mystified grown-ups and enchanted wannabes and social groupies. They hated the very system that elevated them and supported their dreams of becoming artists or musicians or wandering philosophers. They took risks because they knew their brand of risk came with the stability of parents with money, or a trust fund. I did not like these people because, to be blunt, they were assholes. They abandoned manners and their unique sense of judgement could make right wing conservatives look like Mother Theresa.

But then I caught myself. I started to remember other late night antics– Andy Kaufman, maybe? Naah… I think the interview had more to do with getting some cool footage for the Casey Affleck documentary about Joaquin’s new hip hop career. Seems there is always room for the requisite “Fuck you, Dave” or “This was me hitting rock bottom” scene in any self-respecting celebrity documentary. Perhaps Joaquin orchestrated the lame interview to provide that much-needed dramatic arch to any future true story docu-drama.

Or you know what? Maybe he was just high.

Yes We Did!

6 Nov

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I made up a new word the night before last– election night. That word is “Obamarific.” This is how one feels when one experiences a combination of Nyquil, champagne and hope. Obamarific. On Tuesday night, my husband I watched history as our beautiful, sleepy little boy sighed in his sleep over the baby monitor. We turned the video camera to each other to describe why this night was so important. I think I remember saying that change is coming; that when I was your age, son, Richard Nixon was President and the first person I ever voted for was Michael Dukakis. But now the first presidential election of my son’s life resulted in Barack Obama being the first African-American to live in the White House. We reflected on being at the White House on September 9, 2001– two days before 9.11. I recall so vividly those beautiful, powerful portraits of Jackie O. and Lady Bird and realizing that Michelle Obama’s portrait will be a permanent fixture in that palacial setting. Amazing. I admitted that I was nervous when Obama took the stage at Grant Park in Chicago. I know many people are still not happy with this outcome. But I forced out the negative feelings and began to envision the next eight years, and hope returned. We talked about how smart, intellectual, purpose-driven people will soon replace the greedy, fearful, cutthroat politics that have threatened the very stability and security of our country. I imagined throngs of brilliant people coming together again to literally reshape our nation’s priorities and restore respect and admiration on the world stage. We told our son, in this very shaky, emotional video, that hope and light will always defeat the land scorching politics of fear. I believe if Obama doesn’t know what to do, he will seek out and get the right people to help him do it– not yes men who wear their pride and self-interest like flimsy armour. We’re done with that. When Obama have his acceptance speech, I could hear millions of college students ripping Canadian maple leafs off their backpacks because now, it will be a wonderful and much safer climate for Americans who want to explore our world and who seek understand our place in the world. We have been called to give, not take; to learn, not preach; to believe, not dwell in cynicism; to work and not stand idly by as others make decisions for us. This is a great time to be an American, and we so happy beyond measure that this is the president who will be the guardian of my son’s childhood. He will never have the feeling that our system shuts people out because of the color of their skin. The Obama Family is definitely getting a Christmas Card this year.

My Next Top Reality: Ode to Writers

16 Oct

So last year my friend John started this great online mag called Shuffleboil.com where he gathered up a bunch of his writer friends and we all contributed to his brilliant work. The mag is something new and great and all his own now, but I was reading through some old posts and I thought I would reinvigorate (and rewrite) some here.

ODE TO WRITERS

When I watch the Oscars, my favorite category is Best Writing. Why it’s not Best Writer, I really don’t know. It’s a crime. I am consistently amazed at novelists, essayists and short story writers who engage me so completely that I dream about their characters and I physically feel as though I’ve been transported to another place and time. It’s magic.

And while I get a lot of pleasure out of my book learnin’ ways and my critically-acclaimed film tastes, I always stand ready to praise the quality of writing that I see on television when merited. Sure, most of the dramas and comedies they pass off as entertainment doesn’t even get a second glance from me. But today, I watched a new episode of Mad Men. I am riveted by how thoroughly I was carried into the dialogue and mannerisms of ad guys in Manhattan in 1960. The characters depict a picture of restraint and rage duking it out over the neatly folded over tear in the book of genders. It is a world of men and their women—whores or saints—peddling through a haze of cigarettes, whiskey and lies. I have never seen such an honest depiction of this time in the evolution of American society and culture. The sixties are here, and everything is about to change. This would be the last few years where openly speaking about “catching a husband” or “private executive bank accounts for men who need to keep certain matters from their wives” would be even remotely socially acceptable. There is one’s inside-your-own-head voice and the one you use to maneuver through daily life. I might even dare to say that the guys in Mad Men are the great envy of many men today.

So while the best writers in the industry—the women and men you depend on for that storyline, those characters, that fleeting escape—are constantly fighting to get their fair share and keep writing and providing for their families, I would like to pitch my own reality show while supporting my fellow writers. This is my small way of bringing the two sides come together. A little win-win never hurt, right? Here goes.

The Write Stuff!

Take a group of sixteen writers and make them compete for a chance to be named America ’s #1 Writer! Prize package includes a lifetime supply of paper, pens, ink cartridges, giant cans of coffee and stress balls (provided by Office Depot). The winner will receive health insurance for his ENTIRE family (provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield), and a steady annual income of $150K per year until death (provided by the network) and 10% of all profits from his or her own work. The winner will also receive a 100% matching 401K and free financial planning (provided by ING). Finally, America’s #1 Writer will have a brand new office outfitted with ergonomically correct chair and desk (provided by IKEA) complete with both a desktop and laptop networked computer (provided by Apple) pimped out with every piece of writing software available. America ’s #1 writer will also receive a t-shirt that says “Hey, America , I’m Your #1 Writer!”

The contestants can be screenwriters, novelists, poets, mystery writers, journalists, whoever calls himself a writer by trade. The sixteen writers will compete in Survivor-style reward and immunity challenges like:

1) Balance as many Jane Austen novels on your head as possible while wearing a corset and walking around a big dining room table—last one standing wins.
2) Write your own life story in 15 minutes with your least dominant hand—whoever has the best penmanship wins.
3) From five racks of clothing, speed to dress like a critically-acclaimed author for a photo shoot. You’re being shot for your book jacket by world-renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibowitz—best book jacket photo wins.
4) With a team, act out the scene from a great American play using mime only—team that guesses the most scenes in allotted time wins.
5) Make your own quills and sell them on the street—whoever sells the most wins.
6) Write a children’s story using only vitamins, safety equipment or dentists as characters and read it aloud—children are the judges, best story wins.
7) Pitch your movie idea to three different studio executives… sort of a writer’s “go-see.” You’ll be transported to each pitch meeting on the back of a Vespa driven by a hot Italian guy or girl—whoever impresses the judges the most wins.
8) Stage a poetry reading titled “Voices of Sorrow, Faces of Poverty: A Consciousness-Raising Event to Benefit the Homeless” in the financial district and promote it however you can– whoever has the most audience members wins.
9) Spelling Bee
10) Start a fire with only two rocks, a stick, a piece of string and a pile of Stephen King books

Notes: The only food provided for the contestants during their time on the show will be Ramen, Slim Jims, rice, Tic Tacs, Saltines and ketchup packets. Limitless cigarettes. Judges are beloved American poet Maya Angelou (regular Oprah guest), hefty humor writer Bruce Vilanch (Celebrity Fit Club) and one of America ’s most famous Academy Award-Winning Screenwriters, Ben Affleck (Project Greenlight)

So cheer up, writers. One of you just may get everything you’ve ever wanted, everything you’ve ever needed and probably more! Just know that this writer has your back, and good luck. We’re all counting on you.

Stuff Kids Like: Thomas the Tank Engine

22 Jul

A scene from our kitchen on Saturday night (as told by my husband, Fritz)

Me: “Sweetie, there are some things about “Thomas and Friends” that are kind of bugging me. There really is a lot of bad behavior there.”

Fritz: “Yeah, there is. Hubris is usually the big one. Whenever an engine gets too full of himself, something bad happens. Plus there’s a lot of conflict and infighting between them.”

Me: “And I’m not crazy about the whole management-worker dynamic. Sir Topham Hatt keeps them in a dark shed under a tarp until he suddenly comes in one day and pulls it off. He says, ‘If you work hard, I’ll let you out’. Then he orders them around like slaves.”

Fritz: “Oh, I don’t know, honey. An engine’s fondest wish is to be Really Useful. I think Sir Topham Hatt has a kindly way with the engines. He mediates their disputes fairly and picks them up when they get down on themselves. He only really chews them out when they do something dumb like blasting through someone’s dining room wall at breakfast.”

Me: “Yeah, I guess so. And what’s with all these people building their houses and setting up barber shops five feet away from a sharp turn in the rails? How do they get insurance, anyway?”

My Next Top Reality: Columns 1-6

16 Jul

For those of you who have requested the links to my Reality TV column, “My Next Top Reality” on Shuffleboil.com, here they are:

My Next Top Reality: The Price of Pain in Hollywood
My Next Top Reality – Weigh to Go
My Next Top Reality – “Hey! I’m Trying to Eat Here!”
My Next Top Reality – America’s #1 Writer
My Next Top Reality – What the hell sort of happiness is this?
My Next Top Reality – “Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares”

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