Beauty in Ordinary Things

Wow. So, out of context, that sounds super cliche. Platitudes at the end of books or Nicholas Sparks movies that are meant to sum up the lesson meant to be learned by the reader/viewer bug the heck out of me. But this is different. This is a quote from Pam during the series finale of The Office, which has been one of my all-time favorite TV shows. A couple of weeks ago, the sitcom aired its last episode, and now I’ll have to find another show with which to become emotionally involved. Its a little hard to get attached to Jeopardy since Alex Trebek doesn’t have that great mustache anymore. (Ok… he hasn’t had it since 2001. Whatever.)

Sure, there are other great comedies out there, like Parks and Recreation and Modern Family, but The Office has always held a special place in my heart. The only other show I really actually hated to see go was Boston Legal, staring William Shatner and David Spader, and I ended up missing the series finale because of a certain not-awesome roommate’s boyfriend. I watched The Office on and off when it first started, and it took a couple of seasons to finally find it’s groove. When I didn’t have evening classes or organization meetings, I would watch it back at my dorm room. During the summer between my undergraduate and graduate classes, I decided to watch the entire series, and I haven’t missed an episode since then.

A lot of people have said since Michael Scott left, the show hasn’t been the same, but how could it be? He was annoying, overbearing, and just a touch icky (just like Dean Pelton from Community), but Michael always meant well. No two characters could run the Dundler Mifflin Scranton branch the same way, but when the management story line was lacking, it gave secondary characters, like Nellie and Darrell, a chance to shine. After Michael left, I loved how they developed some of the other friendships within the office, like Phyllis and Stanley, and Oscar and Angela (and their “love” triangle with Robert, the senator). Of course, there were several episodes that made me wonder how this could possibly be an efficient business, considering they spent so much on-the-clock time doing non-businessy things, like a paper airplane contest, or almost any of the meetings in the conference room. Towards the end of the final season, I had mixed emotions about the documentary film crew becoming part of the show. I especially didn’t care for the the way the writers decided to throw a kink into my most perfect television romance. I know I wasn’t the only person that was upset with the Jim-Pam-Brian the film crew boom operator story line.

Pam and Jim’s relationship is the one by which I measure all other TV and movie relationships for two reasons: 1) it’s a fairly realistic evolution of a romance between two people; and 2) all of those sweet, thoughtful things Jim and Pam have said about and to each other never sounded scripted. You know? It never sounded like something a young adult romance author would have concocted, setting up 14 year old girls with false expectations of what love is. (See Edward Cullen.) No. Jim and Pam, through all of the awkwardness, the friend-zoning, and the unrequited love, and then finally marrying your best friend and building a family, are about as real as two TV characters can get. It doesn’t hurt that Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) is gorgeous. But it wasn’t just this relationship that was believable. All of the characters are relatable. Who hasn’t worked with a Stanley, or a Kevin, or, to varying degrees, a Dwight?

Since it ran for nine seasons, I can be comforted by the fact that it will be always be in syndication somewhere, and Hulu Plus has the entire series. The Office is like comfort food for me, but not in a Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of way. (Do they still make those?) I always know where I can find it, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and good about people and love when I need a little pick-me-up. Well, great — putting it that way, it sounds just like a Chicken Soup book. Not what I intended. Buzzfeed made a list of 59 Reasons We’re Going to Miss The Office, and it basically sums up exactly how I feel about the show. There’s not much else I can say about my favorite former TV staple, so I guess I just want to say…

 

Source: The Office Tally. A lot of other fans wanted to say thanks, too.

“It’s like a long book you never want to end. And you’re fine with that, because you just never ever want to leave it.” – Pam Halpert (Take that, Stephanie Meyer!)

Marilyn Monroe: That’s (Not) What She Said

Thanks, Abe.

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Sometimes it takes the words of others, famous or not, to sum up our thoughts and feelings when our words escape us. Or, maybe you read something that immediately clicks with you and it becomes sort of a “mission statement” for your life. (After six years in higher education, the thought of a personal mission statement makes me gag a little bit. We love the heck out of our mission statements, apparently.) But, the Internet is a tricky place, and without citations, words are often attributed to certain celebrities or notable figures. The misquote can come from an honest mistake, and after seeing a quote attributed to someone a multitude of times, I can understand that. However, when it comes to things that Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, or Jackie Kennedy allegedly said, I become more than a little skeptical, and maybe just a touch cynical.

Thus Sprach Marilyn.

Thus Sprach Marilyn. (You’re welcome, Internet.)

In my research for this post, I came across several Tumblrs and hundreds of pictures on Google Image Search with images of these women, Monroe in particular, with fiesty-sounding quotes superimposed over them in handwriting-style fonts. (Go ahead, look for yourself.) Most of them are about how men ought to love women, flaws and all, or how society is ugly for making a woman feel anything less than pretty. I’m on board with those ideas, but I highly doubt to absolutely don’t believe that the late icon uttered those quotes. I’m not saying that Marilyn Monroe was not bright enough to come up with such, um… philosophical thoughts; I’m saying that others who have done much more research on her, things she’s actually said/written, and speech patterns of her time don’t think she came up with them. The most comprehensive website I’ve come across debunking these attributions is Immortal Marilyn, which, while it looks like a Xanga page from 2000, is quite informative. “Janie’s Take on Marilyn Monroe” discusses five of the more questionable quotes the Internet alleges came from Monroe. Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” — This one seems to be everybody’s favorite Marilyn quote… except no one can find where she actually ever said it. Does it sound like her? Somewhat, although I can not find other examples of Marilyn referring to herself as selfish, insecure, out of control, or anything similar. While she did acknowledge issues such as her lateness, failure to show up on set, or rumored difficult to work with, rather than being defiant she offered both plaintive and valid reasons for her flaws, in the hopes of garnering understanding. Until an interview transcript of Marilyn saying these words can be located, it should be kept in the ‘questionable’ category.”

“Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” — Another very popular quote, once it’s parsed it does not sound like Marilyn at all. “Imperfection is beauty”? Marilyn was well known as being an absolute perfectionist, asking for take after take on the movie set until she felt she got her scene just right. She refused to give moviegoers anything less than what she felt was her absolute best. She would apply her makeup only to wash it all off and do it over again, taking hours to prepare so that she presented herself to the public as nothing short of absolutely perfect. After a photo shoot she would pore over contact sheets, destroying any images that she didn’t approve of. In a 1960 interview, she did say: “My one desire is to do my best, the best that I can from the moment the camera starts until it stops. That moment I want to be perfect, as perfect as I can make it.” Hardly seems that someone so hard wired to perfectionism would say “Imperfection is beauty.” As to the second part, “Madness is genius,” this seems even more unlikely. Marilyn’s mother suffered from severe mental illness that traumatized the actress when she was a child. As an adult, Marilyn’s biggest fear was inherited madness like her mother’s. Considering her first hand account with what madness truly was, and her deep rooted fear of it, how likely is it that she would declare it ‘genius?’ Not very.

I tend to agree with those observations. To be frank, they sound more like snarky quips from a teenage girl, using Monroe as an excuse for her behavior. The whole idea of falsely attaching a name to a quote can be summed up in Poe’s Law, which basically states that ” a parody of something extreme can be mistaken for the real thing, and if a real thing sounds extreme enough, it can be mistaken for a parody.” A great example that most people would probably be familiar with is Stephen Colbert’s character on The Colbert Report, which some Political Science students at Ohio State decided would be an interesting subject to analyze. (Unfortunately, the full article is only available for purchase or if you’re logged on through a subscribing university or college’s journal access system, but the abstract will give you the general idea.) We can also learn from the case of the Notre Dame football player and the death of his online girlfriend, who may or may not have actually been a real person: never believe anything online. If those quotes resonate with you, that’s great, but its important to question the source; otherwise, it might as well have come from a snarky teenage girl.

If this keeps up, this is what I imagine we’ll have fifty years from now:

I can't. I just can't...

I can’t. I just can’t…
(Again, you’re welcome, Internet.)

What Disney’s Buyout of Lucasfilm Means To Me

I can’t take the Dark Side seriously like this.

As I’m sure nearly everyone reading this has already heard, Disney has bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas for $4 billion, with plans to release Star Wars Episode VII in 2015. I learned about the buyout this afternoon while I was listening to NPR. This was my immediate reaction:

I’ve seen some mixed reactions about this acquisition on Facebook, and while both sides make decent arguments, I’m firmly in the “this is a terrible idea” category. Let me explain why…

You see, the Star Wars franchise has always been something kind of sacred to me, as I’m sure it has been for countless other fans. I can vividly recall watching Episodes IV, V, and VI with my dad when I was five or six years old. (I also remember watching the Holyfield-Tyson fight with him. Having DirecTV had its advantages.) They set the standard for what “epic movie” meant to me. All of the quotable quotes, the instantly recognizable John Williams score, the Jim Henson-crafted characters… Even then, I knew that there was something important about these movies.

Han Solo was one of my first crushes. In fact, I even had a life-size cardboard cut out of him in my bedroom when I was in elementary school. However, Han isn’t the only good-looking, rugged character in the Lucas universe played by Harrison Ford. I can’t imagine what the Indiana Jones trilogy would have been like if Lucas and Spielberg had been able to hold on to Tom Selleck to play the bad boy professor/archaeologist, but CBS had him locked down for a TV show at the time. (Who would my mom have drooled over on Magnum P.I.?!) Dr. Jones probably definitely had a strong influence on 2nd grade me wanting to be an archaeologist. RaidersTemple of Doom (scary as it was for a little kid), and Last Crusade were all very important to me growing up, too.

The originals will always be classics for me, and I’m sure a lot of other fans understand what makes both of these franchises special. Personally, I hated the Star Wars prequels; they felt sort of… icky. (Jar Jar Binks, anyone?) I don’t know anyone who prefers Episodes I-III over IV-VI. However, I don’t have any opposition to Ewan McGregor as the younger version of Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. That worked just fine. Of course, there are all of the video games and animated shows and books that go along with Star Wars, but I feel, if anything, the video games and the animated shows get kids interested in the larger story. Brian has read a few of the books based on the movies, and it seems like they generally revere the original story line, staying true to the plot and characters. In 2008, another chapter was added to the Indy Jones story: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I only watched this because I felt obligated to do so, but I knew it was going to be terrible. I just didn’t know how terrible it was going to be. While several critics gave it good reviews, the film garnered a largely negative reaction from fans, earning it the 2008 Razzie Award for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel. Trey Parker and Matt Stone even shared their opinion of it in South Park‘s mid-12th season premiere with “The China Problem.” For those of you who aren’t fans of the show, I’ll just say that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were not very nice to Indiana Jones. Not nice at all.

Am I the only person who gets the idea of leaving well enough alone? The Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies clearly stood the test of time; studio execs know that fans will continue to throw money at the franchise regardless of how lame any of the sequels and prequels turn out to be. When does it stop? Disney should not have made Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I love the other three, but the fourth one was just bad. Almost all of the Disney “classics” I loved to watch when I was growing up have at least one straight-to-video sequel, but why? I think my disappointment over Disney’s buyout of Lucasfilms boils down to this: I don’t want to see Han Solo become a caricature of who he was to me when I was a kid. That’s exactly what happened with Jack Sparrow in the Pirates movies — he’s a joke. I’ve heard the argument about how Disney has done great things for the Marvel franchise, and I can agree with it, to a point. The Avengers was the second-best movie of the summer, behind The Dark Knight Rises, but were all of the others that (very quickly) led up to it (Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk) really that great? It seemed like it was a “let’s get these back stories out as quickly as possible so we can release a summer blockbuster opposite Batman” situation. I have a hard time judging Iron Man, because, well… Robert Downey, Jr.

I know there’s no stopping the machine that is Disney. If they must, though, make more sequels, I hope they will take these 15 “do’s and don’ts” into consideration, especially the idea of bringing nerd king Joss Whedon into the mix and getting John Williams into a recording studio as soon as possible. Maybe, like this article from The Atlantic argues, Star Wars will survive whatever silly things Disney does to it. However, I can see one positive to Disney’s new purchase:

Disney will finally have a princess who can really kick some Stormtrooper keesteralthough as far as strong princesses go, Brave‘s Merida , Disney/Pixar’s latest princess, is still my favorite. (Even for a practical, liberated princess, I would still recommend having a tissue handy for this movie.) Besides, who knows? We may even get a follow-up to another Lucasfilm classic:

Small Screen Crushes and Swoon-Worthy Characters

A crush on Ron Swanson goes without saying. Lots of guys have a crush on him, too. I can’t even handle this picture. I just can’t.

Ladies. I don’t know how we’ve gone a whole year without making a single mention about crushes. I’ve mentioned my boyfriend, Brian, a few times in various posts, but now that several shows are returning for their fall season premieres, I’m getting my TV boyfriends back. Yes, Hulu Plus has been a big help, but you know as well as I do how lame it is when the only thing on for the evening is that quadruple rerun of The Big Bang Theory. (But I’ll probably watch it, because, hey… still better than Honey Boo Boo.)

My very first TV crush was Billy, the Blue Ranger, from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. (Don’t judge me, I was probably about 5 years old.) Thinking about his character, it’s easy for me to see why I liked him best: 1) his power coin was the Triceratops, and when I was that age, I wanted to be an archaeologist; and 2) he was quite the nerd. My second TV crush was probably also one of your mom’s first crushes: Davy Jones from the Monkees. It was 1997, and Nick at Nite was hosting their “Block Party Summer,” 4 weeks of three-hour blocks of a different classic show every weeknight, and I was glued to the TV for Monkee Mondays. (Skip ahead to about 1:02.) Davy Jones was the British heartthrob of America’s answer to The Beatles, which just goes to show that girls have always preferred a guy with an accent. The very first concert I attended was a summer oldies music festival he was headlining. Much like this blogger, I was saddened to hear of the actor/singer’s passing earlier this year, since he’ll always hold a special place in my little teeny bopper heart. But, I’ve grown up a little, and although I’d like to think my tastes have matured since my first decade of life, I can’t help but notice a trend in the TV characters I like best.

Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation (Season 5 premiere on September 20 at 8:30pm on NBC)

Ben Wyatt, played by Adam Scott, from Parks and Recreation is a state auditor who comes in to help fix Pawnee’s budget. I only got into the show this past spring after getting over a slight aversion to Amy Poehler. (I was so wrong about her, why didn’t anyone correct me?) Ben peppers his conversations with references to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and comic book characters. Throughout the third and fourth seasons, his relationship with Poehler’s Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, develops as she embarks on a campaign to become a city councilwoman. While I appreciate a good pop culture reference as much as the next girl, it’s Ben’s patience with the extremely driven, hyper Type-A Leslie and the support he gives her during her campaign that makes him crush-worthy for me. That, and the fact that he’s a Batman-loving Model UN alum.

Jim Halpert and Andy Bernard from The Office (Season 9 premiere on September 20 at 9pm on NBC)

Jim Halpert (played by the adorable John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly’s relationship is the standard to which I measure all other TV romances. Jim is the hero for everyone who has ever had an unrequited love, having had to simply stand by Pam’s side as her friend, even when she was engaged to another man. It takes a good deal of intelligence and creativity to pull off many of the pranks Jim has committed against Dwight, and that smirk… But anyway, I also love Krasinski in his role in Away We Go as Burt Farlander, who is kind of a beardy hipster version of Jim — madly in love with his girlfriend and wanting to do what’s best for their growing family. I can’t watch the wedding episode without getting really close to doing the ugly cry. Yeah, ok, I have cried a couple of times watching it, but it’s the best. JAM forever.

Andy Bernard, you dapper gentleman, you. What’s not to love about Ed Helm’s character? He was in an all-male a cappella called “Here Comes Treble,” and he was willing to meet all of Angela’s outrageous demands for their wedding. Now he’s with Erin, creating my second favorite Office couple. Plus, he rocks that New England seersucker-and-boat-shoe prep look, and you have to respect his confidence to wear coral pants. But, what I really like about Andy is that he’s just such a nice guy, almost a people-pleaser to a fault. You know that the Nard Dog will always have your back.

Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News (NBC)

Brian Williams is the second greatest export of New Jersey, with the first being The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, and the third probably being salt water taffy or something. In fact, I would love to see a Springsteen-Williams ticket for the 2016 presidential elections. You can’t deny it would be the most attractive executive duo ever. He’s a little different from the other gents on this list, since he isn’t a fictional character. With Brian Williams, there’s no need to despair over season finales — he’s my evergreen TV crush, since he’s on almost every weeknight, anchoring NBC Nightly News. There’s something about reporting international news out in the field that I find intriguing, and I think he has that certain… intellectual hotness? Is that a thing? It’s totally a thing, intelligence is attractive. In addition to that worldly demeanor, he has a great sense of humor. Have you ever seen him on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart? Or Saturday Night Live?

I think the overwhelming theme among all of my TV boyfriends is that they’re all lovable dorks… although Brian Williams seems pretty smooth. That, and they’re all from NBC. I’ll be sad when The Office is over, but Parks and Recreation is still there, and something else may come along next fall to fill the void. Here are a few runners-up:

Phil Dunphy from Modern Family
I probably only like Phil because he and his wife, Clare, remind me so much of Brian and myself. If you’ve seen Modern Family, you know that I’m basically Clare.

Leonard Hofstadter from The Big Bang Theory
Again, lovable nerd and he’s able to deal with Sheldon. That takes a lot of willpower.

Liz Lemon from 30 Rock
Girl crush! I’ve already spoken of my admiration for Tina Fey, and unfortunately this will be 30 Rock’s last season, too. True story: I had a dream where Tina Fey named me the next head writer of SNL. Best dream ever.

Frank Reagan from Blue Bloods
Well, obviously — he’s Magnum P.I. (And my mom has a mad crush on Tom Selleck, anyway.)

Who are your TV crushes?

“I Have a Master’s Degree in Fierce, I Should Be a Professor!” – Life Lessons from Drag Queens

I can’t lie, readers… I have been very excited to write this post for quite some time. I’ve already written about how I’ve spent my summer, and one of the best parts has been catching up on all of the TV shows I missed while in grad school. While I took Joni’s suggestion and started watching Once Upon a Time, I also followed my sister’s suggestion and started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. One episode in and I was hooked. But, that shouldn’t be a surprise; I think I’ve always been at least a little fascinated with drag queens. When I was a kiddo, I received my introduction to the idea when we watched The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Later on, it was To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmarbut I just couldn’t get behind Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes as drag queens. (However, John Leguizamo as Chi-Chi Rodriguez was believable.) It was never something weird for me, seeing a man dressed up as a woman. It was just different, and that was ok. Still is. When I got to college, I loved that YSUnity hosted a drag show during Welcome Week. As entertaining as these ladies (and some gentlemen) were, I appreciated how open they were to any questions the audience had about the lifestyle.

So, back to the Drag Race. I figured I would just have something funny and interesting to watch/listen to while I worked on my craft projects, but I was wrong. Just like any great book, movie, album, or show, there are lessons to be learned that you can apply in your own life. Let me give you the t

Aaaaaand suddenly, I’m a young Dame Edna.

1. “Don’t be shady, be a lady.” – Venus De-Lite, S3E3

Have you ever thrown shade? Yes, you have. You just didn’t know you were. You “throw shade” whenever you insult somebody else. It doesn’t take much to insult someone — just borrow your 3rd grader-cousin’s book of Yo Momma jokes. A real lady doesn’t stoop to weak insults or general shadiness. But, there’s also reading. As RuPaul said, “Reading is fundamental.” For a good read, a lady must be creative, smart, and witty, but never malicious. Jujubee from Season 2 reads at a college level:

“Legendary, you think you are! Legendary? Looks like leg… and dairy.”

The lesson here is, don’t lower yourself to play at someone else’s level, but always be on your toes.

2. “You better work.”

Obviously. You’ll get nowhere if you’re just sitting around. Work for what you want and give it your all, so when you get it, you deserve it. There were a couple of weeks where my job search was particularly depressing, and I don’t think I applied for a single job during that time. The next week, I wrote in my planner my paraphrase of a famous Wayne Gretzky quote: “You miss out on interviews for one hundred percent of the jobs you don’t apply for.” I applied for five jobs that week. This brings us to our next lesson…

 3. Consistency

Much like any adjudicated tv contest (America’s Next Top Model, Top Chef, Design Star, etc.), contestants must be consistent in their performance every week to proceed. Whether you’re competing for a promotion, or aiming to improve something about yourself, it is important to always bring your A-game, so to speak. Once you’ve proven your talent with a certain skill time and again, others will begin to associate that achievement with you. From here, the only way you should go is up. Always be looking for ways to better yourself and go to the next level. While consistency is great, it takes a little something extra to be a champion.


Featuring my personal favorite Drag Super Star, Raja (the Professor of Fierce)

4. Sashay Away

After the bottom two contestant are called out to “lip sync for their lives,” RuPaul chooses which queen will stay, and who will sashay away. While one could leave a negative last impression on others (see: Mimi Imfurst), a real lady displays class and poise whenever it’s time for her to leave. Sure, you could go for the “memorable” route of jumping down into a full split as you exit the runway, but I think it’s a little tacky. And, painful.

So long, Mystique Summers Madison…

5. “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” – RuPaul

Miss Ru says it at the end of each episode, and it is perhaps the most essential lesson of them all: the most important love is self-love. Several of the beautiful queens who compete on Drag Race tell stories about how members of their family don’t accept them for being gay, let alone being a drag queen, and the other girls reach out to support them. There are a lot of reasons why a person, gay, straight, purple, etc., could have a hard time loving themselves, especially when it seems that those who matter most don’t show them love and acceptance. If you can’t love yourself for who your truly are, it could be difficult to let someone else in and love the real you. I’ve always, always believed that you have to know who you are and what you want out of life in order to love yourself as a complete person. Then, instead of needing others to feel whole, you can simply allow them to be a wonderful complement to the already-fabulous you.

While there are other lessons I could have mentioned, I felt that these are the most easily translatable. I’m currently catching up on Season 4, and I can’t wait to watch the All-Stars Season. I’d like to add, though, that I’ve learned that it wouldn’t kill me to throw on a little more makeup from time to time. If these men have an easier time turning into an attractive woman than I, a biological woman, do, I think I could step up my game a little bit.