Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wenhao Wang, Xin Li, and Sha Luo in...."The Grabbening"

My roommate's debut horror film.

Beware or be square.

Like a Human Bra

I have recently been embarking on a so-far failed mission of self-improvement. All of my efforts have really just made everything difficult. I'm noticing that the only times I can get anything done are when I'm back to my old habits of eating poorly, pulling all-nighters, throwing tantrums, watching too much TV, buying too much coffee, and at the end of it all when it's time to come home and have a personal life, you'll probably find me on a couch falling asleep into my food like the conquering beauty queen that I am. But personal improvement is very, very hard when you already have a full plate and a full schedule. That's why rehab always looks like a spa or a prison, depending on your income and notoriety levels. The point is, when you spend 16 hours a day on campus, it's hard to focus on self-uh...-betterment.

"I think I NEED the crazy, Audra!" This one was exclaimed in the middle of one of my self-involved rants to my roommate that take place in our kitchen on a fairly regular basis. "Like, when I try to eat well and sleep regularly, I can't do anything else!"

"It's like that episode of 30 Rock when Liz Lemon sleep-eats the cigarettes," Audra replied.

Goddamnit, 30 Rock.

I often feel like my relationship to that show's protagonist, Liz Lemon, is just like Butters' relationship to Bart Simpson in that episode of Southpark where Butters tries to be bad (Jesus Christ Anna, read a BOOK for once...) She reflects my life and personality in her half-hour TV slots, and I equal parts knowingly and unknowingly steal her jokes and mannerisms. It's true. I often don't know where Tina Fey ends and Anna May begins. It seems like everything I've ever done, will do, or will ever want to do goes up on that show every week, and yet sometimes I don't know when I had the idea first, or when the show inspired me to have it.

While I never once deluded myself into thinking I was the only person to have this problem, I know my "type," I was naive to the amount of internet writing and pop-cultural phrase-coining going on in respect to it. After doing a little research about a recent episode, I came across article after article, blog entry after blog entry about this very topic. But hold on, now that I mention that...

The lastest episode of 30 Rock was fantastic. And from the miniscule amount of research I started to do on it (I ended my research quickly because seeing the large number of other people who have already blogged about this depresses me) it has earned an incredible amount of attention and respect for all its controversy and hilarity. I saw one article which said, "The Feb. 24 episode of “30 Rock” was, for lack of a better term, a perfect storm of awesome."

The episode that aired last Thursday (and can now be seen on Hulu) "TGS Hates Women," focused around the increasingly lovable controversy that is the issue of female representation in comedy.

After receiving some negative feedback about the way Liz's show, TGS, portrays women in its sketches, Liz decides to hire a rising female comic to be a guest writer on the show.

Abby Flynn, the character they hire, seemed immediately to me like a gigantic, undisguised (though admittedly hilarious) slap in the face against Sarah Silverman. About half way through the episode I was even convinced that the role must have been written for Sarah Silverman to play because...Jesus Christ.

(This curiosity is what sparked my initial research.) They even feature a viral internet video of the Flynn character's old standup material that is strikingly similar in aesthetic to a clip of Sarah Silverman's that can be easily found on youtube. After both thinking a little harder and reading a little of what is already written out there on the topic, I found that it is also a strike out at jezebel. com as well as Olivia Munn's recent hiring as a female presence to The Daily Show which I was unaware of (but had been wondering why she left Attack of the Show) and, you know, feminism in general. However, the Sarah Silverman satire here is undeniable.

At first Liz tries to prove how unthreatened she is by the success of other women, but as the episode progresses, Flynn's obnoxiously overt and creepy sexuality becomes too much. This culminates in a confrontation in front of a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt in which Liz tries to stop Flynn from performing her "sexy baby act" (to which Flynn responds, "It's not an act. I am a very sexy baby.") At this point, Flynn stands up for herself and questions how superior Liz Lemon is for judging her on the way she talks and dresses.

In the last scene it is discovered that Abby Flynn actually adopted this act to hide from her comically murderous ex-husband. She exits the episode screaming, "LIZ LEMON IS A JUDAS FOR AAAALL WOMANKIND!" After this embarrassment, Liz tries to get the TGS writers to bring their focus back to the sketches, "We are on page six...where Wonder Woman...gets her period..."

This half-hour episode of television, from beginning to end, gives a perfect analysis of the current debate over women in comedy, and the uh...what some call "hypocrisies" but I, ahem, prefer to refer to as "complexities" in feminism...either way...s'fine... Because uh...whatever. And in the end, the situation is beautifully unresolved, and Liz Lemon is left with egg on her face for antagonizing the Jenny McCarthys and Olivia Munns of the comedy world (and maybe even for ignoring problems like domestic violence in favor of issues like comedic female representation, but we're probably not supposed to look into it that far...)

This poignant reflection of Tina Fey's turned out to be even more layered and brilliant as my simple search to find out if Sarah Silverman was supposed to be involved, lead to my discovery of multiple blogs and essays about how women feel about Liz Lemon, Tina Fey, and their being compared to either or both. In one blog ( the author coined the term "Liz Lemonism" to describe what she calls "a particularly irritating brand of privileged semi-feminism." While I disagree with most of her analysis of the negative effects of this character's exponentially increasing fame in current pop-culture, I had to laugh at her apt descriptions of the kind of woman who complains about "raunch culture" and reads Kathy Acker, as I myself have both Blood and Guts in High School AND a book called Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture currently incurring fines to my good library name.

Where was I? Oh yeah. "Liz Lemonism" is awesome and hilarious, but I wouldn't go so far as to place blame on it. I really think this show is both personal and observant. It's what 30 Rock does best. It exploits all of its characters for the stereotypes that they are (and that we all are?? hmmm????), portrays them as big cartoons, and yet at the same time empathizes with and humanizes them. (I will tell you right now that I work with a real-life Jenna Maroney and it is not hilarious.) It's caring, it's endearing, and most of all, it's cynical.

Beyond its biting commentary on feminism and comedy, the episode of 30 Rock in question was superdupercoolgreatneat. Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski, Alec Baldwin, Jack McBrayer, and all the writers whose names I'm not bothering to look up (what are you gonna do? Strike about it?) were in top form for this sucker. The B-Story with Jack and the little girl is probably even more hilarious and empowering than the whole plot that I've talked about so far. Even the guest star, oceanographer Bob Ballard, was on his game. It is probably one of the best episodes yet, which was refreshing in its kind-of-lacking fifth season.

Oh, and in my search for pictures to go with this entry, I found this article (and seriously, you guys, like a billion others) which says everything I've said, but way better, and without the bullshit:

Now, I apologize for the fact that what was supposed to be a brief analysis of a TV show and how it applies to my life turned into that attention-deficit novel up there, but at least the uh...seeds of ideas were planted. Listen, I have a blog, not a book deal.

Obviously, you are beginning to learn that creative writing is not my strong suit. Well, comedic writing isn't either...or analytic...or the strange combination of the two (I like to think that with this particular blog update experiment, I took the funny out of comedy. Kisses.) which is a shame considering my current aspirations. This is something I've noticed a lot in my previously mentioned strive for self-coolerment. Even without all the controversy around being a woman in the field, it takes woooorrrrrrk and chaaarrrrrrmm and (hopefully) originality to pursue a dream like comedy, and I just don't think I have much of that in me. Sometimes I dream of giving this current phase up and starting an improv school/coffee shop in what would hopefully be Lincoln but would inevitably be goddamn Omaha. I can't help but think that I don't really have that cleverness or me, I'm just kind of...schticky?

"It's like, I'm not a talented actor, I can't do anything outside of my own personality...and I'm not a funny writer. I can't write a joke to save my life. And yet! Whenever I just get up in front of people and just act like my hammy self, everyone cracks up," this comes from just the other day, when I dazzled Audra with more fascinating observations while she politely listened and made stir fry.

"You're like Tracy Jordan in that episode of 30 Rock," she replied. "He can't write or act, he just gets up on stage and acts ridiculous and the audience eats it up."

Goddamnit, 30 Rock.

What to look for in the future of this blog:
-more stuff about women in comedy
-more Angela Chase-style whining and wondering
-more jacked pictures of celebrities
-stories about amazing cats from around the world

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Petra Haden Sings the Who Sell Out

Listen, I am not claiming to be ahead of the game here. Or on time for the game. I'm aware this album has been out since whenever, I've known about it forever, and honestly I was always just like, "pff, whatever." However! I've always been at least a little intrigued by it. Luckily, a friend of mine found it used and cheap at a non-internety store somewhere toward the end of January. This was made even more desirable because my more recent experiences with Petra mostly consisted of me sitting on the couch, staring down a Rentals CD across the room that was just daring me to play it and sob along to the synthesized pop songs within its juicy, reflective membrane.

"Make me," I would whisper rebelliously. Then I would run, run, run away and hug my cats.

NO LONGER! So it turns out...this album is amazing, and probably has been this whole time that I've been ignoring it. As you probably already know or guessed, this is Petra Haden singing the entirety of The Who Sell Out in a'cappella. Looking in the liner notes, apparently Mike Watt, founder of the Minutemen, put her up to it. Sell Out was one of his favorite albums, and he thought with the voice of Petra Haden, who had never heard the album, it would be an exciting project. So she got a cassette tape of the album and an 8-track and recorded it all alone in her house.

Now, I don't personally care about the Who. I didn't fall asleep when a friend showed me Tommy in the 9th grade, and that's about as much enthusiasm as I'm willing to give. However. This Haden-Who business is AWESOME. I think it's my favorite album week? month? season? ovulation cycle? Whatever. Pick a period of time. I love it.

For my first entry...

"Hey man, it's just because I like TV and I like nail polish, ok?" I defensively explained this to the cashier as soon as I reached the counter, who then looked down and stifled laughter...either at my purchase or at my register-side manner.

Lezzzzz back up.

I came home late from a garbagey day of school, work and ugh, rehearsal, to my dear chum who said nothing but, "I have a present for you. It's in the kitchen." Expecting food or murder-bits I walked into the kitchen to see a bottle of bright purple nail polish in the middle of the counter.

"Aw, cool!" I said.
"No. Look at it."

So I picked it up, turned it over a few times in my drag queen-sized fingers...and that's when I saw it.


Apparently, Wet n' Wild has...errr...cosmetics companies don't "publish" don't know, like, "put out" a line of nail polishes that have TV show title-puns for color names. What does this mean for me? I can WATCH TV while painting my nails THE SAME COLOR AS THE TV SHOW I'M WATCHING! Obviously, a pretty momentous thing for a dull, shallow person.

It took about a week and a half before I was unable to just appreciate an incredibly thoughtful little present, and I had to follow my thirrrrst for cheap, stupid crap.

After getting over my shame enough to approach that cashier, I am now the proud owner of Fuschia Rama,, and Sagreena the Teenage Witch.

If you would like to see the other titles, please visit the blog of this other person who apparently blogs about nail polish too. It's a very exciting journey: