15 Community Episodes You Need to See Even if You Don’t Watch the Show – An Argument in Defense of Best of Lists

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Backstory
Many years ago, a friend stated Community was “hands down the funniest show on TV.” After watching about 5 episodes and feeling lukewarm about it, I decided the show wasn’t for me. But a couple of other people I trusted the opinions of ALSO raved about the show. When I’m not invested enough but want to know what the hype’s about, I picked a few episodes from several “Best of” lists and went from there.

And that’s how I fell in love with Community.

Without further ado, I listed 15 episodes (but the top 5 are easily the best) and a funny quote from each that will change your mind if you started the show but couldn’t get into it.

15. Physical Education S1, E17
The group tries to get Abed to change himself so he can ask out a cute girl, and Jeff gets irritated by this and the fact that he’s failing what should be an easy class. Worth watching for Abed’s impressions alone.
Quote: “Why aren’t you in billiards class, Jeff?”
“Because I don’t look good in shorts!”

14. Introduction to Finality S3, E22
Jeff faces off with his old opposing counsel in a court battle, Troy competes to prove he is the One True Repairman, and Abed goes a little crazy from all the stress in the funnest way possible. Watch after “Remedial Chaos Theory” and before “Advanced Introduction to Finality.”
Quote: “No, take him to the police. He killed someone. Take him to jail…you guys are weird.”

13. Advanced Introduction to Finality S4, E13
Many fans call season 4 “the gasleak year,” since it was the one without Dan Harmon, but I dearly love this episode. Best watched after “Remedial Chaos Theory” and “Introduction to Finality” since it is the follow-up. Jeff has enough credits to graduate, and in the midst of all the planning and excitement, the evil versions of the study group appear from the Darkest Timeline. Worth watching for evil Annie who is femme fatale.
Quote:  “I may not be good with facial expressions, but I know an evil doppelgänger when I see one. Plus your arm makes a noise every time you move it.”

12. Digital Estate Planning S3, E20
In order to help Pierce collect his inheritance, his friends have to help him beat a video game. Most of the episode is pixelated and the theme song is in midi form. Even a non-gamer can appreciate this episode.
Quote: “Wow, Britta won, and I lost my pants to a pair of nines.”

11. Communication Studies S1, E16
This should actually be a spot for the Meow Meow Beenz episode due to its social commentary, but I’m going with heart instead. When Britta leaves Jeff a drunk dial voicemail on Valentine’s Day, Jeff takes Abed’s advice to get drunk and leaving HER a voicemail to bring balance back to their friendship. There’s also a Breakfast Club vibe, and Abed gets to play half therapist, half “pop culture” enthusiast.
Quote: “Jeff, do you like Britta?”
“Sure, who doesn’t?”
“Over half the people who meet her.”

10. Modern Warfare S1, E23
The group complains of increasing sexual tension between two of its members. Along with the rest of the school, the group competes in a paintball game in order to win priority class registration. This one is Star Wars themed.
Quote: “Please don’t tell me you had sex with me to win at paintball.”
“No, I had sex with you, and now I’m gonna win at paintball. Don’t be gross.”

9. Intro to Political Science S2, E17
A student body election turns people against each other when Annie runs for president, and Jeff runs against her to prove how stupid elections are. Troy and Abed cover the event on a student news channel.
Quote: “You gotta ask yourself, Abed. What’s up with politics?”

8. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux S3, E8
For this tribute to the documentary, Heart of Darkness about the filming of Apocalypse Now! you don’t have to see the original doc to get the premise. Dean Pelton goes overboard and loses his mind while making a new commercial for Greendale Community College.
Quote: “I’m always willing to go the extra mile to avoid doing something.”
“Like sex with women.”
“Shut up, Leonard. You smell like Mentho Lyptus.”

7. Mixology Certification S2, E10
Troy turns 21, and the study group takes him out to a bar. Shenanigans ensue. This episode plays to everyone’s weaknesses without losing humor.
Quote: “Hello during a random dessert, the month and day of which coincide numerically from your expulsion from a uterus.”

6. Paradigms of Human Memory S2, E21
The study group fondly looks back on their memories from the school year with flashbacks to never-before-seen moments. Unbelievable secrets are revealed and epiphanies emerge.
Quote: *Troy rides in on an ATV* “Good news, guys! I spent all my money.”
“Troy, you can’t bring that in here!”
“Yes, I can! It’s all terrain, dummy!”

5. Intro to Statistics S1, E7
I LOVE this holiday, but even if I didn’t, the Halloween episodes are hilarious and a safe bet when you’re not sure which episodes to pick. Jeff tries to seduce his statistics teacher, and Pierce has a bad drug trip. This has to be my second favorite Halloween episode of the show and hands down one of my favorite Halloween episodes from any show in general. Watching Jeff try different tactics to win over Professor Slater while his friends ruin his game by pleading him for help just warms my cold, witches’ brew of a heart. I dare you to walk away without feeling touched by this one.
Quote: “Those floating Mexican skeletons were right. My life is over!”
“Well, when we go to floating skeletons with our problems, we get what we pay for, don’t we?”

3. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons S2, E14
This episode balances amusement with seriousness when the gang takes a depressed kid, Fat Neil, and play Dungeons & Dragons to cheer him up. One of the best episodes I’ve seen a show do to talk about mental health and bullying.
Quote: “I want to know why these goblins are attacking us. Maybe the woods are their rightful land, and from their perspective–”
“–You’re the AT&T of people.”

2. Epidemiology S2, E6
This was the episode I fell in love with Community, and hands down my favorite Halloween episode of any show of all time. In a nod to every awesome monster movie and also Alien, there is a zombie outbreak while the Dean’s playlist blasts Abba in the background. Both season one and two Halloween episodes made the top 5.
Quote: “YOU PUNCHED A LADY BEE!”

1. Remedial Chaos Theory S3, E3
When Jeff rolls a dice to see who will get the pizza at Troy & Abed’s housewarming party, he opens parallel realities for potential timelines. This is by far, the best episode of the show, and should be saved for when you’re officially addicted to this show.
Quote: “I made that in Photoshop so you’d keep tonight open on your calendar.”
“So there’s no such thing as Single Malt Platinum Boobs & Billiards Club? …I guess I never said it out loud.”

My honorable mentions got ridiculously long so I had to cut it. I may go back and include it. MAYBE.

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Since I’m the queen of not finishing these drafts, and we’re 6 months into the year, it’s time for a FAST BREAKDOWN OF THE GOODS!

This is all the stuff I’ve been into since Jan 1st as far as I know.

Best TV Shows

  • Dark
    Children go missing in this small town, but what’s really behind the disappearance? It’s oddly similar to another kidnapping 33 years earlier. Broadchurch meets Stranger Things meets Twin Peaks meets Lost. Complicated plot, but worth the confusion.
  • The End of the Fucking World
    James might be a serial killer in the making and Alyssa is a spitfire with a comeback for everything. This unlikely pair steal a car and trot off to greener pastures. It’s impossible to stay depressed when you hear this goofy soundtrack.
  • Everything Sucks
    Freaks & Geeks gets a facelift and more great tunes.
  • Big Mouth
    John Mulaney and Nick Kroll are awkward, animated middle schoolers who deal with girls and the Hormone Monster. Bonus points if you go for the ultimate embarrassment by binge-watching them in a public place like I did both on and between flights.
  • Brooklyn 99
    The funniest show on TV, this series has made me laugh so hard I cried on multiple occasions.
  • LA to Vegas
    Some people have a 9-5, but this flight crew gets the crappy, crazy passengers headed to Vegas. Dylan McDermott’s best role ever.
  • American Gods 
    This was hit and miss for me, but visually lovely and very weird.

Best Books

I created a super low goal this year so I could easily beat it, ‘cuz that’s how I roll. Anyway, here are my picks.

  • Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards
    I initially discovered this gal through her Ted Talk called “You are Contagious.” It’s a fast, addicting read.
  • Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari
    The first half is kind of a lengthy diatribe, so I skipped it. Feel free to jump straight to the types of depression and ways to solve them. Hari is a masterful weaver of words.
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
    Graphic novel (not my preferred format, but this was worth it) sci-fi version of Hatfield and McCoy-esque warring planets + Romeo and Juliet setup with a bunch of weird, wacky characters/species including the best character of a graphic novel, Lying Cat!
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
    If you’re still jonesing for the ’90’s and believe in love before first sight, this book is for you!
  • Soul Mates: Understanding Relationships Across Time by Richard Webster
    This ain’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea, but regardless of taking a firm stance or not, I found it very entertaining.

 

Did I leave anything out? What are your favorite books, movies, and/or tv shows from the last 6 months?

*Insert Amy Winehouse song title here*

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As predicted, my return to Facebook has resulted in a plummeting of all productivity and the overwhelming/exhausting feeling that comes with it. I have yet to uncover why FB is so miserable but Instagram isn’t. Is it the news articles? The opinions? Or is there just more thought that goes into something like Instagram? In order to post something, you have to have an image. Now, a lot of people post sayings on Instagram in image form, but of the ones I’ve seen, they’re of the humorous or inspirational variety.

Is it the negativity or, as I almost typed, nagativity?

I think we might have something here…until then, back to trying to avoid it.

Do you consider yourself immune to Facebook? Do you limit your time on it? If so, how? What methods do you employ?

Sun, Stars, & Moon, Etc.

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The phrase “guilty pleasure” doesn’t sit well with me. As a woman, I bristle at the idea that anyone has guilt about pleasure. There is nothing more Puritan or Victorian Era-esque than describing a pleasure as guilty. Sociopaths, cannibals, murderers–these people deserve this phrase and only them. Maybe it’s more a Protestant upbringing with its “be a good girl” connotations that make me want to rip the mattress label off and burn the patriarchy to the ground, but I’m getting angry and off topic, so I’ll cut to the chase.

I like astrology.

Rather than trying to convince you (an impossible waste of time), I want to explain what it means to me personally.

I discovered astrology when I was about twelve. I was sitting in the waiting room at an acupuncture clinic for the first time (I know, keep going!), and all I had with me were schoolbooks.

I was nervous. The treatment process, I was told, involved sticking needles (plural!) in people’s bodies. Mom reminded me that they would be as small as a hair, and I would barely feel them. The goal was to make me feel better in the long-run…maybe like vegetables? I was always getting sick and staying sick longer than others. As a baby, I’d run high fevers, had relentless ear infections, and had bad vaccination reactions (I did get all of them though for people who were wondering). “Suck it up” and “believe in yourself” have never helped, because my body has always been the enemy of my mind. I’d set my mind to doing something and not be able to.* I had insomnia that made it difficult to concentrate during the day, and I always felt sore and complained often of stomach and headaches. I felt shameful about that, not that I could control it. Science didn’t know what was wrong with me or how to fix it. They wouldn’t know any more until I was seven years (and many doctors appointments) older and not understand it much better.

My grandma, a retired nurse, had turned to alternative medicine a long time ago for her own health problems. I’d gone to a chiropractor at age 8. After being shuffled from doctor to doctor, now I was here. There were a couple of magazines in the waiting room. Also a Chinese Astrology book.

“What’s this?” I asked, holding up the book. I got a shortcut explanation that astrology was basically a type assigned to someone based on when they were born. It was never presented as anything other than “some people find it fun.” It would be many years before I learned about Myers-Briggs or the Big Five or anything remotely psychology related, but that day in the waiting room, my options were limited.

After I found my birth year and read through the very complimentary summary of who I supposedly was, I found out there was Western Astrology too! I was intrigued. After years of hearing “we don’t know what’s wrong with you,” I could have answers to who I was by just reading a few books. This new hobby helped me figure out answers to questions I didn’t know I had. Why were my grandma and mom always fighting? Why were my parents divorced? Would I get divorced? Would boys even like me? How could I help that happen?

The astrology books had ideas or thoughts on all those things clearly summarized in short chapters and pairings. It knew my mom worried and was paranoid (I know that’s all moms but even so!). My uncle always put his foot in his mouth constantly. It said things about me that I wasn’t sure were true, but I was keeping an open mind. Besides that, the books seemed to think I was neat! They didn’t even know me!

When the world didn’t make sense, I began to turn to astrology. This was also the first time I remember going to the bookstore Powell’s which was also a fantastic experience.

So yeah. I believe in a lot of wacky things for maybe wacky reasons. But at the time, they were an anchor in the storm of my life. Like my mom said, it is fun. 

Things Astrology Has Done and Helped Me with Over the Years

  • Bonding with new people
    Just because you’re a sign I’m not “supposed” to get along with doesn’t mean I won’t try.
  • Remembering birthdays
    Took remedial math and summer school for it, but I can tell you when your birthday is (probably! end of the month birthdays have always been the hardest for me). I actually love learning birthdays, because I love trying to remember them. Siblings are often born on the same day even if the month and year are wildly variant.
  • Getting lost in thought
    I find it absorbing and therefore calming. Except in extreme situations.
  • Making me laugh (humor is my favorite sub-genre of these books)
    I love astrology memes. Some of the best things on social media (if done properly). Love on a Rotten Day and He’s Just Not in the Stars are not only eerie but hilarious.
  • Pattern-seeking Surprises
    It’s been 20-22 years since I started getting into this. It still surprised, and unnerved me to some degree, that in my favorite astrology book that they got my #1 karaoke song, my favorite Golden Girls gal, etc. on the first page of my chapter…I won’t go on, but I can get upset about it from time to time (I have way too much water in my chart).
  • Sorting my feelings
    TV and tarot and tribute fan Youtube videos do that too though.
  • Understand others and myself 
    Astrology helped me accept that people are hard to change even if I still believe change is possible.
  • Have Soft Spots for Certain Signs
    Most of my friends are Fire signs.
  • Appreciate Different Signs and Try to Work with them more once I know 
    Yeah, I had to organize birthdays for everyone at my last job, but it was worth it.
  • Have Favorite Houses & Planets & Get Excited When Others have the same placement 
    I get excited for anyone who shares my sub-planet categories moreso than if we have the same sun sign.What I Don’t Do with it (or at Least I Hope I Don’t) and You Shouldn’t Either
  • Just because I have two friends born the same month/day in different years does not make them the same! 
    So. Many. Factors.
  • Rely solely on it without anything else 
    Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
  • Blame any behavior and action solely on a natal chart
    Guys, no specific sign is a serial killer. For real.
  • Continue toxic behavior because “that’s just the way I am” 
    I do it ‘cuz it’s fun. Duh.
  • Avoid trying to improve myself 
  • Prevent further growth in others

I think that’s pretty much it. There are a lot of weird things I know about it, and to me, anyone who says it’s an outright made-up thing isn’t paying attention or reading the right shit. My roommate didn’t believe any of it, until she picked up my sexual astrology book one day and found it “weirdly accurate.” I cannot vouch that all of that is correct, but I know that some of it is…

I have a friend who says she absolutely doesn’t believe in astrology but has found that there’s something to be said as to traits and babies born at particular times in the year because of illness, weather, etc. I looked it up, and hey hey hey, there’s something to it! I’m horrible at shutting up about this, because it’s something I genuinely get thrilled over, so I’ll stop here but you get the idea.

*This happened today actually which was my reminder to write about it!

 

Poor Advice from a Day in My Life as a Birbigs joke

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Mike Birbiglia is one of my favorite comedians, but he does much more. He’s also a producer, writer, and actor. He’s famous for Sleepwalk with Me (the book is better, duh), Don’t Think Twice (this one’s really great and his interview with Pete Holmes about it is hilarious), and several different stand-up shows.

I’m not giving him a definitive ranking on a list of comedians I love. He’s easily in the top ten, and likely top five. Taking time to rank anything means making decisions–a process that takes far too long for me. I could probably do a whole post about favorite comedians–and maybe I will another time. Birbiglia, or Birbigs as he’s referred to, is most famous for his standup shows such as My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Thank God for Jokes, and–his show that really started it all–What I Should Have Said was Nothing. 

One of my favorite genres is memoir, but I would estimate that I almost exclusively read ones written by comedic writers. My brain has to be a winner of some sort of useless knowledge prize, because I seem to retain quotations easier than other people do. Because I’ve read and watched a lot of Birbig’s routines, his setups often get stuck in my head.

This is how I’m going to relay what happened to me the other day.

My husband and I went to the store closest to our house to pick up a couple items. We’re always there in the evening usually on weekends or 9 PM during the weekday. We hit up that store when we’re too exhausted or lazy to drive to any of the regular grocery stores several miles further in every direction.

The one closest to our house is a bit special. It’s not in the greatest area and gets a lot of really odd customers. When my brother and sister-in-law were moving up, they needed a place close to our house to park their UHaul. “We’ll just park it at the closest grocery store!” one of them chirped. “Oh no,” my husband piped up. “You should not park it there…it will definitely get stolen. I’ll drive it back to our place if y’all don’t want to.” We once saw a woman with dreads in the freezer aisle with a rat on her shoulder, and we’ve probably had a couple of other strange encounters that I blocked out. When we go there, there are massive lines and two checkout clerks. Due to the store being poorly understaffed, we often get the same checkout clerks. The checkout clerks, in case you were wondering, are pretty normal. The one we get the most is the manager, a super kind and friendly gentleman in his early 40’s. I know his name, but for anonymity’s sake, I’ll call him M as in manager.

The other day we were in the checkout line, and when we got to the front, I realized M wasn’t there, but there was a pretty gal there instead. It’s hard to pin down her exact age since I saw her once and she was wearing a fair bit of makeup, but I’d say mid-20’s to early 30’s. I’ll call her Gal.

Me: Oh wow, I’m super surprised! M is always here when we come in, and he’s usually our checkout clerk. Where is he?
My husband: Not here, obviously.
Gal: Yeah, he’s not here today.
Me: Ah well, good for him, he probably has the day off.
Gal: He’s so awesome! He’s one of my favorite people. I always tease him, “Oh if only you weren’t married!” Because he’s so sweet and wonderful. He’s married and has two little kids. But I always say, “Ah if only you weren’t married!”

Here’s where Birbig’s line comes in…”what I should have said…was nothing. What I did say was…”

Me: Huh. Well…you never know. I mean maybe just wait around, and–

My husband starts laughing and this breaks my awkward line of thinking and I realize that I should probably neither say nor encourage this kind of thing especially to a total stranger.

Me: I mean, that’s not great advice! I’m sure his wife is super sweet and a wonderful person and they’re great together…so don’t listen to me.

I don’t remember what her response was besides kind laughter, but as we started to leave, Gal waved at us and called after, “I’ll tell him you guys say hi!”

My husband was still chuckling as we left the store, and I leaned over and said, “What can she possibly tell M when she sees him? ‘Hey, this weird couple buying a frozen pizza and the wife was wearing fancy sweats (yoga pants/ballet shoes) asked where you were and suggested I should wait out your marriage just in case there’s a chance?’ Like, how’s he gonna know who we are?”

Anyway, that’s another grocery store moment for the books.

With Spring Comes First Love Pt 2

Continued from “With Spring Comes First Love…” 

During dinner, I waited for the call. Every time my mom picked up the phone, I freaked out. Having finished homework, I watched TV listening to none of it.

By 9 pm, it was clear. He wasn’t calling. That was my answer. It had been a good run–five or six months of falling for someone plus the half a second I took blowing it by admitting it to him. Damn me and my big mouth! I was too dorky, my glasses were too big, and I was very, very stupid despite doing well academically (everyone knew I was an airhead–it wasn’t remotely a secret). I’d misread the situation before, and now I’d done it again. I would never have a boyfriend. I would never be kissed. I’d die like Emily Dickinson (I’d done a report on the year before)–alone with a bunch of unpublished poems. Maybe if I died before my mom did, she would publish them for me? I’d have plenty of time to think about this along with my new, boring non-Landon life for the next two days. I’d told him on a Friday in preparation for this exact outcome. I’d actually meant to tell him Thursday, but I had chickened out.

My bedtime was later on the weekend, but I told my mom that I didn’t feel well and went to bed. Anxiety was exhausting.* It would be like the time my best friend wrote a love letter to the guy she liked. He read it out loud to everyone and then stomped on her heart all the while laughing along with the rest of the class. The universe was clear–declaring your love was the worst idea ever or at least for middle school dweeb girls.

I’m not sure how long I cried and catastrophized. At least an hour, maybe longer. Eventually from under the covers, I heard the phone ring. It was probably one of my mom’s close friends that I called “Aunt,” or maybe one of my best friends. I hadn’t even gone to anyone’s house so I’d be home when he called. Well, there’d be plenty of time for that now!

My mom knocked and opened my door. “Honey, are you still awake?”

I sighed. “Yeah.”

“Are you accepting phone calls?”

“Ugh, I don’t know. Who is it?”

“It’s Landon.”

What? I poked an eye out. “Really? Are you sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure. He calls every night. I know what he sounds like. You have to go to bed soon, so don’t make it too long.”

“I won’t.”

When she passed me the phone, I closed the door. “Sorry,” Landon explained, immediately. “I left for the horse show today, and I’m staying at my grandmother’s for the weekend. She made me go to bed early ‘cuz she’s old. I had to wait until after she fell asleep to call you.”

Of course. The horse show! Landon lived in the country and not only owned but showed horses. He’d told me this the other day, but I hadn’t heard him over the roar of my loud inner monologue.

I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but secretly calling me from his grandmother’s house was already the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me. Why would he call me back this soon to break my heart if he didn’t have to? No one would do that. Maybe a serial killer, but no normal person. Maybe he hadn’t heard me, which is what I posited as I peeled all the paint off my closet door while I tried to act nonchalant.

He had. He liked me too. Cool, I’d said, trying not to start a musical number in my bedroom. It was easier than I thought, because I was exhausted from overthinking. Also, I’d started peeling all this paint off my closet door and now I felt like I had to see that through.

For the next week, I tried to be as chill that we were dating. Truth be told, it wasn’t much different, and yet the world was transformed. I started putting all my energy into not blowing it. The following Sunday, I voiced my fears about the fact that this was temporary. There had obviously been some mix-up with the universe. Instead, he reassured me by telling me he loved me. In movies, once people say this, everything is fine. They’re safe. Cue the music, scroll the closing credits. Happily ever after. Boom.

After that, I let down my guard. I ignored all of my friends. He and I applied to the same high school and that felt like a big step. It was the leveling up. I snuck over to his friend’s house to see him and got in trouble. We went to a dance and only danced with each other. We had our first kiss in secret on school grounds. Suck it normal place first-time kissers!

We dated for four glorious weeks. I had momentarily lapses of comfort, but I spent most of my waking hours on edge. He dumped me on our one month anniversary. It took longer to get over him than I ever admitted. For the next four years, I dated a lot of people, and it probably took a good decade before I identified where it had all gone wrong.

Chuck Klosterman said the following about love:

“We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It’s easy. But…there is always one person you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of these lovable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.”

Many things remind me of Landon, for better or worse. He burned me the Garth Brooks double live set while we were together. Every time I see it, I still see him handing the cases over and saying, “Sorry. It wouldn’t all fit on one disc.” It was his favorite. He played it all the time. Throughout the years, most of the songs I liked became assigned to others who fit the descriptions like tags at a coat check, being matched back to people at the end of an evening.

Except one. “The Dance.”

For those who aren’t familiar, “The Dance” is about a man who looks back at the woman he loved and lost with relief that he didn’t know when and how it would end. He decides that if he had known, he might not have thought it worth the sacrifice. Being left with that powerful, beautiful moment was superior to any pain he’s currently feeling no matter how short the moment was or how long he ached afterwards. It became my reminder that even though I was sad, our relationship had still been worth it.

That and I ended up with a Garth Brooks double live CD.

 

*Anxiety is still exhausting, maybe even more so.

With Spring Comes First Love

I immediately decided this morning in the car that it was a Garth Brooks kind of day. I gingerly removed my very elderly two-disc, double live set and slipped the first one into the CD player. Throughout the day, I listened to many other country classics. Every February, it happens–the reminiscing–and it stops sometime at the end of April. I switched out the first CD for the second on the ride home, and by the time arrived, I knew what to write about.

I transferred from my K-5 elementary to a Catholic school for the few years of middle school (the Catholic school was K-8). It was tiny–five boys in our graduating class compared to twelve girls. Good odds if you were them; bad odds if you were us.

Landon* was not on my radar until I sat with him at the beginning of 8th grade. He was the asshole kid who had this habit of shaking his foot, and on account of his weight (he was chubby, not fat) his whole desk shook…as did mine.

“Stop it,” I growled, multiple times a day. “Stop doing that.” He didn’t even realize that it was happening–constantly. Once he knew, it got worse.

“I’m not doing anything!” he’d exclaim gleefully, and then the desk shoving would begin and continue until we got yelled at or I tattled on him. This went on for days, but after a week of this hellish nightmare, somewhere through my fury and all out desk pushing, as he threw his head back and guffawed at my irritation, I noticed how lovely his blue eyes were.

Too bad they’re attached to such a jerk, I thoughtWe eventually worked out a truce, and then he moved desks shortly after, becoming someone else’s problem.

Before I knew it, my birthday rolled around. I threw a roller skating party and invited the entire class. The boy I liked didn’t show, but Landon did. One of the adults had cranked up the heat since it was freezing when we’d entered. While we were skating, the room got hot as hell. A special discount allowed us to reserve the whole rink. Most of the class didn’t show, so it was just four or five of us.

When we sat down for cake and ice cream, we were all burning up. The ice was for sodas, but we we swiped some to cool ourselves down. An ice war broke out. Landon got up to get more, walked behind me, and dropped about three pieces of ice down the back of my shirt. The laughter rolled until we were doubled over, red-faced and crying. Then my mom yelled at us to knock it off, because we were making a mess. By the time I got home, I had a crush on Landon.

Our school was infamous for homework assignments. The boy-girl ratio was nothing compared to the avalanche that was homework. Class carried on without any time set aside for projects. We were slain every day, night, week, and weekend with assignments. I took so many notes that I was constantly cracking, stretching, and wringing out my hands. None of the teachers slowed down their piles of homework from other classes when a big project was due either. “Oh come on” could have been our daily theme song upon hearing how many chapters we had to read or how many pages of math were were supposed to complete.  I can’t remember a time since that I’ve had more homework–even in college!

Around the same time as my party, Landon and I were grouped together for a project. It was the kind of nerve-wracking assignment that was responsible for approximately half our grade that term. There were four of us, but the other two were slackers. Landon cried when he got B’s, and I eventually won the Language Arts award when we graduated from 8th grade, so the assignment was entirely on our shoulders.

I say that to explain that when he started calling, it wasn’t naive to assume that it was due to the project. I wasn’t allowed to date, but I was brave enough to place calls to my friend’s crushes and force them talk to each other. Just because I was monitored closely didn’t mean that I couldn’t be Yenta to someone else’s love life. So when he started calling me, I had only some hesitation about calling him back. As the project progressed, we’d get sidetracked and talk about other things. He exclusively listened to country music, and I mentioned that I’d loved a few songs, so he lent me CDs. When I started buying country CDs, he got to borrow those. So we’d talk and play music, quizzing each other. Soon we weren’t even making excuses for the calls. When the project ended, we kept talking every night.

One day after school in April, I couldn’t take it anymore. I confessed quickly and raced to the car before he could reject me. I had to know, and I still wasn’t sure. All my friends from class were just as clueless as I was, and telling girls who weren’t my friends was asking for gossip (a small class is like a small town). My mom wouldn’t allow me to date, so I couldn’t ask any family members. My public school friends were out too. I’d been Yenta in elementary school, but now they didn’t need me to call their crushes. They’d already started having sex, so I’d lied about my first kiss being ages ago. I couldn’t suffer the embarrassment of admitting that I’d fabricated it when they already thought I was basically Amish.

At home, I tried to distract myself with homework which again, wasn’t hard because there was a lot of it. He always called around dinnertime, sometimes before and afterwards. I wouldn’t call him. I couldn’t. I’d said my piece, and now I had to sit back and let the chips fall where they may.

He didn’t call early. I worked on homework until it was time for dinner and begrudgingly left my chair and walked into the kitchen.

To be continued in Part II…

*Name changed for privacy

Everything Sucks tribute to Leslie’s fashion

I already did a post where I talked about the show, Everything Sucks. I could give you reasons why you should or shouldn’t watch it.

But since the multi-frame quotes/pictures tributes are sadly lacking, I’m going to post these pictures. Leslie dresses pretty much exactly the same as I did in the 90’s (minus ginormous dorky glasses).

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That time we made my friend’s mom play Ace of Base as she drove us home in her corvette

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Look guys! It’s basically me in the 90’s. For real, I’m pretty sure pink denim was MY thing.

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Leslie headbanging to Ace of Base. I was a cooler person, but Leslie looks like less of a dork than I did. That being said, I think I have to go out and find this outfit. There’s no way I can squeeze into my pink jeans from ’96. And I’m pretty sure I too unknowingly prevented someone’s kiss by announcing that I found my retainer somewhere completely revolting.

And this exchange between Leslie and Tyler that happened to me a couple of times when giving my crushes advice. Pretty sure that at least one of my crushes at that time was eerily similar to Tyler.

 

 

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It’s okay, girl. You’ll grow as a character. He’ll come around next season!

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Don’t forget to check out Everything Sucks on Netflix! Make the fanbase grow!

I Spot a Star aka Not Everything Sucks

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via Netflix

Saturday night, my husband and I went on a triple date with some friends. First we went out to dinner and then to a burlesque show. Our friends had never been before, and it’s a lot of fun. Burlesque is difficult to explain to someone who’s never seen it before. It’s very much performance based, although saying that feels like justification and isn’t exactly fair since I’ve never been to a strip club before. Skin gets shown, it’s erotic, but it’s not as straight forward as stripping/strip clubs.

Again, this is conjecture. When friends find out that I’ve never been to a strip club, they immediately freak out and try to make it their mission to take me. Remember, you’re talking about someone who sees porn as sadly lacking in plot, full of primarily unattractive people, and not emotionally or physically fulfilling. No, I’m not strip club material and have no desire to go. I don’t have a moral opposition to going, but I also don’t go to amusement parks to watch other people go on rides. Same idea. I’d also be bad on the OTHER side of it, but we’re getting to that.

Back to burlesque: there are costumes, themes, dancing, and skillful removal. We went to Led Zeppelin’s A Whole Lotta Love where every act was set to a different Led Zeppelin song. I told my friends, “It’s great. It’s fun. It can also get weird. It’s not always sexy, but it is always interesting.”

The show was great. The announcer even sang while she undressed to one of the songs which in practice I’m sure was troublesome. It looks deceivingly effortless, but as a human being who has changed clothes in front of others throughout her life (sidenote: I do not miss gym class!), I’m sure it isn’t. Part of the appeal of burlesque is that it’s something I don’t feel like I could do even with practice. Anyone can take clothes off, but making it look good is harder. Comedies where characters have to undress and they do it clumsily, awkwardly, injuring others in their path? Where their attempts to make it look good just make it look worse? These are my people.

I was musing on this when one of the acts ended, and the announcer began to explain to us who our next guest would be. A short lady with an adorable sweater (one I actually might own!) and funky shoes stepped onto the stage to grab the clothes the last performer had peeled off. She’d gotten on stage after the end of each act, picking up clothes and replacing it on occasion with props, but the third time was when she really came to my attention.

I don’t like to talk about my day job, unless it involves the following subjects:

  • Bonding with co-workers over pop culture references
  • Gushing about who brought snacks to work for everyone, what they were, and how delicious they are
  • Who I high-fived and why
  • Whose dog was there and exactly just how cute he/she was and what he/she did while in the building
  • Mistakes I avoided making
  • Achievements that happen infrequently and as a whole are unremarkable

The pleasures I get from working are interactions with good people, making a positive impact, and most importantly, money. Money is the primary goal. Growing up, neither of my parents finished college, and neither of them had the jobs of their dream. They sat together once a week, drank coffee, and shared the Classified section. They debated how good an offer was and whether it was worth the risk (it never was). They hoped for better when I left for college (which was mandatory). But it didn’t pan out the way they’d imagined.

The truth is that “dream job” is a relatively new concept to our world and is nearly always reserved to privileged individuals in terms of a full-time day job.

Still, someone has to pick up the clothes from the stage.

When she appeared yet again to put down a bench, it clicked. I leaned over to my friends and whispered, “That’s me in the burlesque world!” My friends laughed. Even the shoes that matched no other part of the outfit are sooo me.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to make at least some of our dreams come true.

The past few days have been snowy, and I have been able to stay home while awaiting the ice and snow to melt (I’m very thankful my boss has been understanding). Yesterday, I was doing research watching a TV show my friend recommended called Everything Sucks. Research because my hand was killing me so I couldn’t paint or write and trying to identify what works and what doesn’t helps me with storyboarding.

My original post was about how Everything Sucks hits the Nostalgia button inside me and how relatable it was (although The End of the F***ing World is better). The drama crowd plays a big role in the first season, and so I was having flashbacks to my own 90’s junior high and high school experiences.

During one scene, an actor gets incredibly close to the camera, and I paused the show. Resemblance in this field happens constantly in both face, body, and demeanor. It’s rare to find someone in a show or movie that is related to someone else you’ve seen in other films.

But this was different. This person looked like someone I knew. From drama class, plays, and auditions. From high school. Someone who was, as far as I still knew, acting.

A quick IMDB search confirmed my suspicion was correct. Someone I know is now famous.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Our drama department was wildly impressive. My peers were talented, dedicated, and several of them have at least guest starred in some main stream TV or film. One actor has shown up repeatedly in TV shows off an on for over the last ten years. One of my best friends appeared in an indie flick a few years ago. Many of them live in Hollywood, and I get giddy whenever they appear in any show in any part.

But it was heartwarming to see an old familiar face that finally made it into something big.*

I was always a bad actor. In fact, when watching Everything Sucks, I spent a fair bit of time relating to Tyler** who wants to act but can’t memorize his lines and acts purely with enthusiasm instead of method. This is okay. It was fun, and I wouldn’t trade those years with any other group. My strengths lie elsewhere. I chose writing over acting senior year and wept for a week. Seeing others who made it makes me feel happy and also relieved. They were far more talented than I, and that industry is hard.

The cameo was also an important reminder that regardless of how small that dream takes up part of your life, it’s still important to work for it in whatever capacity you can while incorporating sheer talent, practice, and perseverance. Big or small. Because that’s one of the reasons we’re here. To make meaningful choices, connections, and use our abilities to better the world.

You rule, Zach. Congratulations.

Also, the soundtrack kicks ass.

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*Apparently, he was also in the newer 90210!
**By the end of the show I doubted our similarities, but Tyler is still easily my favorite character.

A Simpler Scope

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Our internet was down for a WHOLE WEEK, and I was so damn efficient it was UNREAL!

To quote John Mulaney, “And when we went back…holy shit…”

Whenever my body is in motion, it wants to continue moving. Same with resting. Is Newton’s first law in effect, or is it the fear of missing out that attracts me to the sparkly, glowing screen?

I was definitely happier on sabbatical. There was no toxic comparison, no sad realization of “what are my friends doing without me?” I briefly did go on Instagram twice, but my husband had to be home for some bizarre tech data transfer thing that my reptilian brain doesn’t comprehend.* Even then it was right before I lost consciousness and involved zero political conversations or aggravating opinions. Just glorious, filter happy glimpses at the lives of those I love along with all the gemstone accounts I follow–I have a possibly unhealthy obsession with crystals.

That week I watched DVDs, used my two companion dictionary/thesauruses (that I haven’t picked up since 1997 when I was an A+ English student and WriteSource2000 enthusiast), wrote, painted, decluttered, decorated, and organized. I rented Soundbreaking, the PBS documentary series, from the library–and my husband actually freaked out when he found out that I had started episode three WITHOUT him.**

Using DVDs was its own gleeful experience. We’re always vacillating between “we don’t need these” and the extreme sentimental outcry at the idea of purging our collection. “What if the internet stops working? What if the apocalypse happens yet electricity remains functional?” The second one is always me in typical catastrophizing mania, but my husband never reminds me how absurd I sound. SO IT’S OBVIOUSLY A THING THAT COULD MAYBE HAPPEN.

This nostalgia of simplicity settled over our home–no video games before bed, no liking/commenting/emoji reactions.

All of this probably relates to our decision to buy a record player and “invest” in a record collection.

Have you ever noticed how in film and television, humans use record players more often than nearly any other device? Is it because the music was better? Is it the visual intensity and beauty? Is it that sound mixing had hit a peak where musicians could create groundbreaking music since the studio had the ability to make albums like never before?

Obviously, Soundbreaking is influential, but I feel that it’s not any of those. It’s the perfect blend of listener and LP. It’s an intimate relationship. Vinyl demands care like no other format. Meticulous cleaning, proper storage, the act of flipping it over. The irritating fact that you cannot skip songs, you either have to halt the flow by adjusting the needle and disrupting the magic or let it be until the record plays through. That last one means you have to think a lot harder about which albums are really, really worth owning.

My dad, ever accepting of any advance of innovation, sees this hobby as insanity. He was the first to own a DVD player, and always buys the newest phone as soon as the previous version becomes obsolete. But since this is not a shared opinion, he finds other ways to persuade.

“It has limited practicality,” he states on the couch across from it, eyes narrowed. “You can’t listen to a record in the car. You can’t take it with you and play it at a coffee shop. You are forced to stay home.” There’s almost a Green Eggs and Ham rhythm to his reasoning.

“That’s true,” I acknowledge, “but we like our house. I like to put on a record while I do housework.”

My rebuttal captures the permanence and pride of being a homeowner along with the heel-digging of anyone who’s committed to a decision by time and finances (especially that of child vs. parent debate). We’re locked into a long-term dwelling so we need to stand by this decision and enhance its appeal.

Records also keep me in the moment. Watching them turn, listening to the pops the split second before the melody begins when the house is otherwise silent is meditative.

But we do have internet access again, so the task at hand is how to use it without procrastinating and abusing that power. At this point, I have no solution besides limiting my time and pinpointing the moments when I’m just aimlessly scrolling and searching for something the internet cannot provide–meaning.

So wish me luck, dear readers, that I will be able to balance the web against the physical, real world without giving in to the numbness of the easy thing.

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*This is not a gender issue–my family is at opposite ends of the Technology War. Half still live in caves and do not communicate with the outside world except on rare occasion, and the other have microchips in their brains and are the featured humans in every episode of Black Mirror. Also, I’m not caught up on the most recent season, so none of you ruin this for me!!

**He’s not the tv zealot I am, so I often skip ahead without him, and it rarely upsets him.