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Are We BC, AC or PC? 8 Movies or TV Shows I’ll Watch Again While I Wait To Find Out

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Like ancient dinosaurs, we’re passing into a new epoch…

… and while summer has arrived, and the livin’ is easy – this COVID era continues to transform many homes into workplaces, and makes social activities challenging.

Today I’ll reflect a bit on the blessings and the curses of this time. Yup, sweet and sour.

A mere two summers ago we were living in the BC (BEFORECOVID) period, although we didn’t know it at the time; this is the way of Black Swans. I doubt the dinosaurs saw the asteroid approaching.

Yes, life in this BC era was maybe simpler and… maybe more predictable (or not, depending on how you view BC life).

Then last summer, the fear and intense reality of COVID transmission were gearing up for a tidal wave surge that would leave a tense trail of sickness, death, and long-haul destruction in its wake.

This was/is the AC period – the AMIDCOVID Period. Lots of infections and no vaccines or clearly effective treatments (bleach injection anyone?).

Here we are today, we’re in this No Man’s Land of AC, but the tide is turning…

Soon’ish, we’ll enter the PC period (POSTCOVID).

Or will we? We’re standing at the doorstep, and not quite sure if the door will swing open wide or snap shut like a malicious mousetrap.

We’re still a few anxious breaths away from truly transitioning into a new BC era… becoming who we were before March 2020.

………….

It would smack of first-world arrogance if I didn’t add that we’re still a long way from a PC era in most poorer countries where vaccines have barely seen an arm yet.

African, South American, and some Asian populations are stifling in increased poverty and sickness as COVID spreads wildly, sucking away livelihoods for the most oppressed.

Please, the world is small, let’s not any of us forget our neighbours from other countries and continents.

………….

Back here in the privileged countries, COVID has changed every one of our lives in a myriad of ways… some stuff from BC we’ll return to like nothing ever happened, while other things we’ll question and ponder deeply about.

Do we really hanker to be the same person we were in the BC times? Introspecting R US…

Until we know where we are in this uncharted period of time, many of us will continue to semi-cocoon for a while longer like Groundhogs who have seen their shadows.

OK, now for one of the blessings.

BC, I had 10 different and diverse activities on my plate each week.

I was stimulated on so many fronts, but many have fallen off and so I find myself returning to the “comfort food” of the movies and TV shows I’ve seen before but have a tremendous affection for still.

Typically, I don’t usually like a return to what I’ve seen before. I crave the new and novel.

As TV character Ally McBeal would say when entering the stall of her workplace bathroom – “I prefer a fresh bowl“.

I agree with Ally, but… to push this very strange analogy even further, I’d add “… if it’s yellow let it mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down“.

Sometimes I just like the comforting warmth of the known and recognizable (I guess that’s the yellow in my above analogy!).

For some unknown length of time, a lot of us will continue to absorb our popular culture through the strong list of streaming choices our era of technology has gifted us when we want some diversion or relaxation, entertainment or provocation.

Until the day when COVID is undoubtedly in the rearview mirror, I’ll harken back to my short list of 8 shows or movies that I am happy to boomerang around to a 2nd or even 3rd time. Comfort food on the tube.

I won’t spell out all of my specific reasons of why I’ve made these choices, other than to say that in these shows I see and hear a combination of intellect, wit, profound thought, outrageous humour, deep sadness or boundless joy which leave me deeply affected in one or more directions.

Any cultural or artistic product – at its best – should leave us somehow moved, hopefully even changed for the better.

So, in no particular order, here I go:

  1. West Wing
  2. The Newsroom
  3. Of Mice and Men
  4. Seinfeld
  5. When Harry Met Sally
  6. Schindler’s List
  7. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
  8. Bohemian Rhapsody
  9. BONUS: The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over Concert

Reviewing my own list, I can see – in the writers and actors of each – a sense of the artistic gifts I personally admire and seek out for myself: Aaron Sorkin, John Steinbeck, Jerry Seinfeld, Nora Ephron, Steven Spielberg, William Goldman, Freddie Mercury, Don Henley/Glenn Frey.

Maybe you too can see yourself reflected in the choices you would make on your list as you await the return of BC.

Or perhaps PC will bring on a different you… Introspecting R US!

BC + AC = PC

I’m Marvellous, Almost Mrs. Maisel Marvellous

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Mrs Maisel 2

I love Mrs. Maisel.

She’s Marvellous, don’t you think?

You know who I’m talking about, right? That Amazon-Prime-lady Rachel Brosnahan who plays a young, separated Jewish mom in 1958 New York City.

She works a department store gig by day and then hits the nightclub stand-up stage most evenings.

Her comedy routine on stage is a bit like watching Seinfeld … actually, I think she is Jerry Seinfeld in a dress. Master of her own domain…

Mrs. Maisel (“Midge”) blathers on about her day’s routines and the crazy things her parents say or her ex-husband does, but in a charming and funny, occasionally profane, way. Snapshots of nothing and everything all at the same time.

The dialogue for the show is reminiscent of watching anything written by Aaron Sorkin (yeah, I’m a fan boy of his) … The West Wing, The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Moneyball … or Nora Ephron (yeah, I’m a groupie of her’s too)… Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally.

The creator/writer/director for The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel is the marvellous herself Amy Sherman-Palladino who in years past created The Gilmore Girls.

It takes incredible talent to write comedy, sharp, and fast, but there is always humanity and emotion too. Comedy is best when it shoots an arrow to the heart sometimes. Tears and laughter are fine bedfellows.

Her rapid-fire, witty dialogue requires your strict attention because the fun lines zip by so rapidly.

But truly, I love Mrs. Maisel mainly because I’m very different (yes, she is much cuter than me) from her.

I could never be a stand-up comic. I would SUCK!

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How does someone stand at a microphone for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes … an hour … and relate stories, tell jokes… sometimes rehearsed, often improvised on the spot? I can’t riff a good knee-slapper about the underwear I’m wearing (or not!) today even if my life depends on it (get it… DEPENDS!.. OMG, there’s hope for me).

Nope, that’s not me. I’m not so marvellous at that stuff.

I struggle to remember the lyrics for a 3 minute song I’m playing. I can’t remember your name within 10 milliseconds of our introduction.

But I can give a prepared speech in fine fashion (or so I think). Why?

Why thanks for asking.

I write these blog posts (kind of like a prepared speech) because I can ruminate – like a cow chewing its cud in the pasture – over my words for hours, days if necessary. And I do.

I even write amazingly erudite paragraphs in my night-dreams, and the day I can remember them when I awake, I can die happy, although I don’t think I’ll be happy when I die, but who knows, do you? And there I go talking like Mrs. Maisel …

The pairing of supreme writing and verbal skills are like oil and water, pasta and sushi, forks and power outlets, my testicles and a sharp knee jab… you get the gist. Not an easy combination. Most of us channel the muse in one OR the other, if we’re lucky.

Verbally I stumble and stammer and look befuddled like Robert Mueller… oy vay, don’t get me started.

With writing, I can parse and edit … edit and parse … so that I come up with a (hopefully) well thought-out and comprehensible phrase or two.

The delay I get in writing (like the 7 second TV broadcast delay) helps me avoid the quicksand that my lack of filters (of which I’m constantly reminded!), sadistically, maniacally, tosses me into without my really trying.

And so Mrs. Maisel… I humbly bow to your skill-set, your humour, your smiles, your bravery in a man’s world… perhaps Aaron Sorkin wrote deftly about A Few Good Men …  but Amy Sherman-Palladino? … you’ve nailed it here with One Good Woman.

Brava!

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Our Inner Psychopath

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She felt the warm, wet mascara running down her cheeks.

Wondering to herself why she ever slipped into this narrow black alley at 1:30 in the morning… wondering why she left her friends at the curb as they climbed into a UBER outside the club … wondering how much alcohol she had consumed, how much weed smoked … wondering what gave her the courage, the stupidity, in a blinding snowstorm … to seek out …. eek…. it doesn’t matter what she’s looking for when a heavy quilt-shadow silently creeps up behind her…

Cue the blood spatters and curdled screams… zoom in closely on dark rivers of viscous inky fluid slowly spreading in cloudy storm patterns through the slushy snow on the ground.

And … CUT!

How many people will die on your TV screen tonight? At the local Cineplex?

How much blood and guts will be splashed via XBox or PlayStation by 10 year-olds on a basement couch?

We’re mostly wonderful people and yet, in the books we read, the movies and TV we watch, many feel the strange urge, the inner fascination that draws us with magnetic attraction towards death … frequent, violent, often gruesome.

We know that murder is bad. BAD BAD BAD!!

Irrevocably awful, terrifying and so hard to understand. We know not to do it and we know we’re meant to be really scared of it. Most of us see death as a complicated concept to try and come to terms with at the best of times, but murder?

Is there something wrong that this “entertains” many of us?

It’s the season of love and warm tidings and yet one of the most acclaimed Christmas movies, Die Hard, accumulates a body total of 23 victims by the time the end credits roll. HO HO HO! (maybe one day I’ll actually watch it following It’s A Wonderful Life … Sweet and Sour on the menu)

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It’s confusing because we all know the same results flashing across our TV screens from a war zone in Afghanistan or a mall shooting in Topeka is usually met with our horror, revulsion, and cries of anguish.

So, are we beasts?…. is it simple Schadenfreude…. an inner need to see others’ suffer so that we feel better about ourselves? A similar tale to why we can nastily gossip about the person who just left the room with whom we just smiled and joked?

Do we have an inner psychopath lingering in the deep recesses?

Is it an addictive need for adrenaline, like riding a rollercoaster?

It can’t be a gender thing because women appear to watch and read murder stories in numbers that equal (some studies suggest exceed) men’s fascination.

We are contradictory people, we humans.

We abhor violence, murder, rape, abuse in all its forms … and yet … here we soak up the crime shows, the murder mysteries, the Fifty Shades of BDSM Abusive Behaviour.

We are mostly able to detach and go along for the wild ride with no apparent ill effect. Not totally of course. I still harbour nightmares about the little red-coated girl from Schindler’s List.

It may just come down to the desire for guilty pleasure… the wondrous high of a sweet cinnamon bun, the juiced sensation of diving from an airplane, the taboo notion of being bound and taken advantage of sexually.

I spend my days in a cycle of bemused wonder at the complexity and contradictions of myself and the souls that surround me.

Each day we live adds another perplexing question to the immense wall that will never be totally built.

Even Alex Trebek doesn’t know the answers to ALL the questions.

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This Is Us? That’ll Be The Day…

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Guilty Pleasures … Episode 1,012,325.

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… I was watching an episode of THIS IS US last night… and not just because I’ve had a minor crush on winsome girl-next-door Mandy Moore for years which – gulp – even to me seems kind of creepy knowing that I’m easily old enough to be her father.

Hey, there’s a psychotherapy session for another day. Squeeze me in between Norman Bates and Harvey Weinstein.

I watch the show because the stories are so raw, so borderline melodramatically overwrought, so personally intense… but eminently watchable. Every character is flawed and still lovable, so human.

This Is Us.

My only wish is that maybe they find time to shine a few more splashes of sunshine in their scripts. The best cinema and TV have a delicately sculpted balance of carefree and fun blended with sorrow and gloom.

I crave deep emotion and pathos, but I don’t want to plummet down a dark hole having them create a need in me for antidepressant pharmaceuticals where none exists at the moment.

This Is Us - Season 1

Last night’s episode titled That’ll Be The Day pierced me, and not only for the obvious reason of at last discovering the root of the family’s pain… you and I know that Buddy Holly’s song ends… that I die… yes, we now know when and how Jack died. I don’t want to seem impatient but OMG… that was more than enough foreplay.

In between distracted bites of carrot/banana/pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing I made earlier in the day, I was intimately drawn in when Randall (the adopted black “triplet”) said to his screwed-up white actor-brother Kevin, “… Dad’s already been gone longer than we had him.” 

Randall realizes that he’s lived longer without a father than he did with one.

Yes. This Is Us.

I’m now the age my mother was when she died.

Yes. This Is Us.

Randall reminded me that I’ve lived much longer without a mother and father than I did with parents. Inside, there’s this little nag telling me I’m a “dead man walking.”

The writers of This Is Us know how to turn us inside out, diving and examining the passage and import of our lives. That’s where its power lies.

Of course the writers of the show are skilled story-crafters who weave the past and present in wonderfully evocative ways, always leading us up and down alleys… alleys we know exist and what lies down them, but we desperately want them to show us even so. That’s impressive.

For years after, the triplets Randall and Kevin and Kate all live mournful moments in their lives because of the last interaction they shared with their father. An inner tape recording of their final conversation plays incessantly, shaping the adults they’ve become.

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It’s slightly tragic that we might allow ourselves to be affected by one negative prattle moment with someone we love.

My last conversation with my Mom on a sunny April afternoon didn’t end with a smile and a hug… it was more like me looking up like a little teenage jerk and saying, “God, stop bugging me Mom, I’ll apply at McDonald’s tomorrow or the next day”.

A month later I was a cherubic McBurger Flipper and my mother was lying cold underground.

That vaguely negative moment was our last, and I’ll admit that it lingered unhappily with me for a short while, but it doesn’t affect my tranquil memories or love for my Mom. A moment of crabbiness shouldn’t impinge on our obvious love and closeness.

I have a scrapbook in my head filled with cheerful memories and moments that have crowded out almost every other unfavourable second.

The arts we view and listen to pass through a fine filter between our ears as they reach our brain. A colander lies within us picking out the explanatory snippets telling us about who we are.

As you read these words, you may be delving inside, reliving some portion of your life that I’ve just reminded you of.

This Is Us.

We watch, absorb, connect, and live our lives over again – for better or worse – on-screen.

This is how we watch movies.

This is how we read books.

This is how we listen to music.

This is how we take heed of our neighbour telling us about his new motorcycle, or her sister’s operation.

Right now I’m enjoying the guilty pleasure of sitting here snug in a cozy office chair staring out my window. Random moments with free-ranging thought clouds.

Short fragments of dialogue between Kate, Randall and Kevin ping-pong through my head along with some soft guitar licks that punctuate and reinforce the sentiments of their story.

A luminous white snowline runs halfway down the valley hillside across in Naramata as I absorb delicious harmonies of Foxes and Fossils singing Helplessly Hoping, envisioning myself as the male “Fossil” singer in the middle… listening to my inner voice whispering…

This Is Us.