Monday, December 21, 2015

A revisiting

I haven't written anything since February 4th, which honestly isn't true or fair. I've written quite a bit since then. Pages and pages actually. But to be frank, I didn't want anyone reading those words yet. Everything I've written this year has felt half-baked. Either that or it felt like it was part of a larger whole and since I didn't know what that whole was, I didn't want to ruin the surprise by potentially burying the lead. 
Truth is, I've been writing more than I've written in years, a heady fusion of intention and having something to say. It's felt like someone unplugged the air hole in my metaphorical beach ball and the release felt so good. I've realized that's been the theme of 2015 for me: A slow release. But rather than feeling deflated, I'm feeling more and more like myself every day.

I have something to say and I've been saying it, just not here. Where blogging used to be my stream-of-consciousness outlet, it's been less of that in recent years. Those thoughts have been funneled in other directions, not more or less important, but different. I felt compelled to revisit the blog today, perhaps that's something that will keep happening, but it feels good to have a release. 

I'm not sure what the theme of 2016 will be, but if I am happy this time next year as I am now, then I'll be doing just fine. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A jury duty story

The government likes to call jury duty our "civic duty" in order to make us feel bad about hating it, but we know what we know. Everything about jury duty is dreadful. The waiting around, the getting behind at work, the possibility that we will end up on the Scranton Strangler case and be stuck in a courtroom for weeks...it's all dreadful. Alas, we all have to pay the piper at some point and this was my time. 
What I didn't expect was that I would be walking into the year's best comedy. Allow me to set the scene: 
My number gets called fourth from the end, which at first, was a really unfortunate place to be called. Especially once the lawyers started going juror-by-juror asking their questions, I realized that I'd be at the end of a very long-winded Q&A. This was complicated by the fact that the two lawyers were like Statler and Waldorf without the comedy. 
The plaintiff was also in the room, which I wasn't expecting. He looked like one of the aliens in the first "Men in Black" movies crossed with Quasimodo, which was kinda entertaining. He sat in the corner and grumbled a few words to his lawyer every now and then. 
His lawyer was this short, very loud-speaking, man from Boston whose accent was thicker than his waistline. His long comb-over toupee was a dark charcoal color while his actual hair was white as could be. He spoke loudly, yet incredibly slowly–some might even say glacially–and he was the type of man who thought his wit and humor was sharper than it actually was. He also enjoyed repeating himself and restating things he'd already said, but in a more cumbersome way. 
The defendant's lawyer was more down to Earth, except when he had to challenge the first lawyer because he was giving away evidence (happened), started defending his client (happened many times) or when he slandered the defendant (again...happened). The argument became so heated that they had to remove themselves and have the judge sort it out before they continued. I liked the defendant's lawyer much better, perhaps because he had a "Miracle on 34th Street" Santa vibe happening, perhaps because he wouldn't take crap from the first lawyer, but I did.
Because they were so long-winded, they didn't even get to me on the first day. On the second day, they arrived late, just to tell everyone to go take a break. It like watching someone slip on the ice in slow motion, except you knew it was funny so you didn't try to catch them. The plaintiff waddled in late too and his lawyer motioned with his sausage-like fingers for him to go sit in the corner. It was all very strange.
I was content for this to play out for as long as it needed to because I am deep into Jane Fonda's memoir and this was giving me ample time to continue reading it. But as it turns out, the case had something to do with the plaintiff suing Con Ed for negligence that apparently injured him. I'm honestly sure that happened because...well...it's Con Ed. But they also told us this wasn't the first time this dude had sued due to injury. It wasn't even the second time. This was a pattern, in my opinion, and since I saw it as such, I was not chosen to be a part of this jury. 
I watched as the other potential jurors stared at me when I picked up my coat and left the room. I was tempted to yell out "FREEDOM" George Michael-meets-"Braveheart" style, but I thought better of it.
On my way I went, away from the courthouse and back to work. I did my "civic duty" and I met some characters along the way. They may have just been cantankerous real-life Muppets, but I can't say I wasn't entertained while I sat there. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

I expected better from Meghan Trainor

I expected so much better.
Meghan Trainor, the current one-hit wonder behind "All About That Bass" releases her first full-length album next week and after a listen, I'm very disappointed.
Yes, I know she has another song on the radio, but if you can seamlessly go into your second hit without changing the key, beat or tempo of your previous hit - then they are the same song just with different lyrics. Which is the first problem I have with her album. It's the same song, 11 times, with different lyrics.
Meghan can sing. She sounds the same live as she sounds on the album, which is rare these days. I even think she can sing well and I didn't give her a negative thought at all until I heard her in an interview. Y'all it was like watching the southern sorority girl version of an Eminem interview from 2002. It's been probably that long since I've heard such an affected, wanna-be-black, white person interview. Not even Beiber comes across as that affected.
The reason I find it so irritating is mostly because of the furor involved with Iggy Azalea. She has come under such fire for being a blonde white girl from Australia who raps with a voice that appears to be an affectation. So...why hasn't anyone called out Trainor for the same thing? At least in interviews, Iggy doesn't sound affected. But Trainor is nothing if not consistent in the way she speaks and sings.
Cultural appropriation is one thing. I'm actually all for it because it's what has happened over and over again throughout history and in our global culture we live in, it's impossible to not be inspired by the cultures that surround us. Having said that, it's off-putting to me that she speaks and acts like the black-girl stereotype from a late 90s teen movie.
She's a pretty blonde girl with a great album cover who is proud of her "curves" (I put that in quotes because she barely has any), and she has had a catchy song, but at the end of the day, I want her to act like herself. It's 2015 and being yourself counts for something. People fight for their right to be themselves. Why is she trying to be the black girl from the "Scary Movie" franchise?
Musically, I expected better. I also don't find her songs about one-night-stands empowering in the slightest. But mostly, I think we should expect more than an affectation from someone we are putting the spotlight on.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Ten Commandments for 2015

Most of us are familiar with the actual 10 Commandments - the ones about stealing and killing and adultery. Well I've got a few commandments of my own that I think you should adhere to with me in the new year. There's nothing scientific about them, but they're solid. And I'm following them right along with you.

Smile.
In the film "Boyhood," one of the best films of 2014, there's a scene when the boy is introduced to his class at his new school. The students turn around and look at him with blank stares. I realized I've been guilty of doing the same thing. It's incredibly intimidating, no matter what age you are, to be stared at like that and since it doesn't cost anything to smile at someone, we should do it more. We should smile on the train, on the street, in our car - wherever. Because why not? On the flip side, you know what it feels like when a stranger smiles at you. It's like a beam of light pierces into our cold exteriors. Be a light. It's free.

Do something that scares you.
I don't mean to do something foolish, but we all have fears (both rational and otherwise) and there's not much higher accomplishment than conquering one. It could be speaking in public, or perhaps it's it's changing in front of people in the gym locker room - whatever it may be, conquer it. Slay it and move onto the next challenge. Imagine looking back on 2015 with a checklist of obstacles that now lay crushed behind you? Which leads me to...

Keep a list. 
Write things down. Write down your goals (not resolutions - goals), and write it down when you meet those goals. Then, make a bullet point on how to improve on that goal, and so on. Write down the big events that happen. Write down your progress. Keep is somewhere where you'll see it and remember it. Don't lose sight of those goals, mostly because they are yours and only yours. Goals are the stepping stones to growing as a person. Following those 10 Commandments isn't enough. We've got to be ever-growing. Keep a list of that growth.

Let the walk from the locker room to the elliptical machine inspire, not discourage you.
Everyone wants to look better tomorrow than they do today and plenty of people hinge their body image goals on January 1st for some reason. For a lot of people, the Photoshopped bodies on the covers of magazines are what make them feel like they are perpetually standing in front of a funhouse mirror. For me, I live in New York where the hottest person you've ever seen is replaced tomorrow by someone even hotter sitting across from you on the subway. It's easy to become discouraged, but it makes more sense to allow it to encourage you. Use that as a jumping off point toward your own growth. Add a picture to your list of goals and work toward it. Which leads to...

Understand that perfection is a fallacy.
Jane Fonda said, "We're not meant to be perfect. We're meant to be whole." Those ten words changed my life. The magazine covers, the "in-depth" interviews, the outward appearances - none of it is perfect and most of it isn't even accurate. The quest for perfection is an empty one. There are lots of people who look "perfect" but are completely hollow inside. The closest we will ever get to perfection is putting to action the knowledge that we must keep growing. That's it. As long as we are continually striving to grow, that's what actually matters.




Foster a relationship with someone in another country. 
There are a myriad of ways you can accomplish this in 2015 without having to actually go to another country. Whether it's through Instagram, a dating app, on Twitter, whatever - foster a relationship with someone who lives life differently than you do. There's nothing more informative about who we are than to be confronted with someone who is different. I've made a few friends around the world and though I may have never met them in person, we talk often online and I've learned a lot about their countries. Everyone can always use a wider worldview.

Examine where you place value.
We each place importance on different things; some of us have it figured out and some of us don't. Some place value on people, some on things. Some place it on success and some find value in the process. I think it's crucial to examine what you hold to higher importance than other things. Is what you value something that's temporary or something that will last? Personally, I'd rather value people and those relationships than something tangible. Relationships will always mean more than status. But that's just me. Oh, and puppies. Puppies and people. That's what really matters to me.

Fall in love with a classic musician and absorb as much of their work as you can. 
There will always be new singers and musicians vying for our attention, but it's important that we not lose sight of those who laid the groundwork for them. And I'm not talking about making sure you know the lyrics to "Respect." I mean, find a musician you like and really delve into their back catalog, absorbing their musicality, their emotions and the period of time from which they expressed themselves. It will not only deepen your knowledge of music, but it will deepen your knowledge of the culture. You'll find yourself more firmly rooted in a world other than your own. My love affair with the music of Nat King Cole has enriched my life. Find someone to enrich yours.

Be selfish.
We live in a very toxic, me-centric, culture and the concept of doing something purely for yourself can come across as fitting right in with that toxic culture. But the reality is that so many of us rarely take any time for ourselves. We need to recharge, we need to reboot, and we need to be cognizant enough to know when to do so for our own well being. Perhaps that's a Saturday afternoon movie by yourself or maybe it's a trip to the beach with a book. Ask yourself, in the words of Janet, "What have you done for me lately?" It's okay to be (a little) selfish. Take time to make sure you're healthy, both physically and mentally.

Cut the bull shit. 
Yes, I said it. Just be yourself. Surround yourself with people who edify you. Stop being timid or arrogant and ask for help. Speak your mind. Own your feelings. All of these things can be filed under this heading. We only get one go-round on this Earth. Why spend it feeling crappy, or diminished, or less-than, or unhappy, or scared, or stifled? Just do it. Cut the bull shit that weighs you down and move on. And don't just say you're doing it. Actually do it.