Archive | May, 2011

Cool mom

8 May

This picture has nothing to do with the post. I just thought it was cute. You gonna fight me on that?

One of my favorite things to do in high school was watching Buffy reruns on FX with my mom. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but high school is a difficult period for teenagers and parents. My mom and I also didn’t have much of the same taste in television—which probably isn’t even true but was important to believe when I was 16. So at a time when I started to realize that Buffy was the center of my universe (haters to the left), my mom took a pointed interest and began watching with me.

Even back then, I thought that was pretty cool. I mean, it’s not much of a stretch—my mom has always been interested in the fantasy genre. But she wasn’t watching solely out of a need to find out what happens next. It was something we could do together. I remember marveling at the way she became invested about it, suggesting her own theories for the series finale. (Incidentally, she was totally right.) It takes a lot of commitment to not only watch a show with your kid, but to give a crap about it. I don’t know if I could do the same with my child, especially if he/she were super into Glee.

My mom has never referred to herself as a “cool mom,” I assume because she knows what a terrible expression that is. In a broader sense, I appreicate that she’s never tried to relate to me in a way that didn’t feel organic to our relationship. That’s why things like watching Buffy together continue to mean the world to me. I wasn’t always the happiest kid in high school, and I often didn’t feel like I had many people to turn to. If you’d told 16-year-old me that my mom could be a big help with that, he probably would have rolled his eyes like the little shit he was. But she was a help. I had someone to count on. I had someone to watch Buffy with—and that remains, along with food and water, one of my basic needs.

If you’re wondering about the photo, I unfortunately don’t remember the context. I do remember my brief fascination with Frankenstein, inspired by a book report I did in elementary school. My mom helped me cut out the different monsters for my collage. I don’t know where we got all the Frankenstein stuff when it wasn’t Halloween, but I guess I can chalk that up to mom magic. I mean, she successfully predicted the lsat episode of Buffy. She’s obviously got some sort of powers.

Starstruck

5 May

I get to interview a lot of people for work. I like doing it. When I was in high school, I dreaded interviews, because they were never with celebrities but with city officials or, worse, other students. “What do you think of the new block scheduling?” High school, man. I started the entertainment section of our paper when I was 16, and I quickly set up an interview series. Naturally I didn’t get to do any of the interviews.

College was a different story. When I worked at the Daily Californian, I was able to interview lots of people I actually wanted to talk to, some with Oscars and Wikipedia pages, even. The first major interview I did was a press junket in L.A. for The Ice Harvest and Brokeback Mountain. Don’t worry, no one remembers The Ice Harvest. The interviews were press conference style, which intimidated the shit out of me. You had to get up and say your name and outlet—I can barely order a sandwich without fumbling. I sat in the front row, but I didn’t open my mouth during the first press conference. Once Jake Gyllenhaal and Ang Lee arrived for Brokeback Mountain, I decided I needed to ask something, if only so that Jake could be tricked into looking at me. (Totally worked.)

When people ask me now if I still get starstruck, I’m always a bit taken aback. It’s just not really an issue anymore. I get excited about talking to big names or people I personally admire, but I’m never anxious. I guess that’s because doing interviews became work—work that I enjoy, but work nonetheless. When I went to my first junket, I felt like I’d just won a contest. (Actually, I had. My editor at the time made us all submit reasons why we should be picked. She ended up choosing me because, “I figured you wouldn’t flail over Jake Gyllenhaal.”) But as I did more and more interviews, I came to understand it as my job, and that took a lot of the pressure off. You have to kind of distance yourself from the fanboy mentality. There is nothing wrong with being a fanboy—it’s just not appropriate in that context.

Being starstruck isn’t something you can consciously control, and no, telling myself that celebrities are people, too  has never really helped either. If I don’t feel it, it’s because my focus is on getting the job done, and that mental energy is enough to suppress the feelings of, “Oh my God, Ewan McGregor is touching me.” I try to have fun during my interviews, but I do take it very seriously, and I’m always disappointed by other journalists who don’t. Asinine questions aside, the easiest way to piss me off during a press conference or roundtable interview is to bring a pile of DVDs to have signed. It’s not Comic-Con, OK? (But if it is Comic-Con, different rules apply. We’ll talk about it in July.) I don’t pretend that the people I interview are my friends, and I don’t treat them like golden gods either. You have to find the middle ground: they’re talking, you’re listening, you’ll use what they’ve said to write an article—I think that makes you colleagues.

It’s funny how much of it is about context, though. I went to a festival screening last night and Parker Posey was waiting in line outside. You guys, I lost my shit. Internally, but still. Because she’s Parker Posey, and I didn’t expect to see her there. I wanted to go up and say something, tell her how much I love her in well, everything, but that seemed lame. By which I mean, I couldn’t work up the courage. Part of it was not wanting to bother someone when she was off the clock, but there was more to it than that. When I’m straddling that line between journalist and fan, I want to make sure I don’t slip too far to one side.

That having been said, if you’re Parker Posey, and you’re reading this, I would love to interview you.

Comedy litmus tests

3 May

Yesterday, my Twitter buddy Steven Amiri tweeted the following: “Wet Hot American Summer is on Netflix Instant. Do yourself a favor, log off here & watch it. If you don’t like it, log back on & unfollow me.” I feel the same way—though I’d probably never say it in those words, because I’m afraid of losing followers and I’m not too big on ampersands. But Wet Hot American Summer is essential viewing. I can’t imagine anyone would like me and not like that movie. (Note that I’m not presumptuous enough to think that everyone who likes the movie would necessarily like me.) This got me thinking about other comedies I’ve inflicted on friends in an effort to decide whether or not they were worth keeping around. Does that sound terrible? At least I’m judging people for their comedic tastes and not their looks. (Most of my friends are super cute, anyway.)

Lately, the movie I’m most likely to force on you is Hamlet 2. It’s one of the best and most underappreciated comedies of the last decade, and if you can’t handle the songs “Raped in the Face” or “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus,” we’re probably not going to get along. Hamlet 2 works especially well if you’re a fan of musicals, though I’ll admit that I occasionally take on friends who aren’t theater-oriented. On the other hand, Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Elisabeth Shue, Amy Poehler—these are people you must know and appreciate. (I’m also fond of David Arquette, but it’s fine if you don’t feel the same way. Hater.) Along with Wet Hot American Summer, Hamlet 2 is probably the comedy I’ve watched most often, but if we watch it together, I promise not to say any of the lines out loud. I totally hate when other people do that.

Obviously Annie Hall is a classic, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite Woody Allen as a major influence. (Duh, right?) I prefer that my friends appreciate all Woody Allen films—OK, maybe not Curse of the Jade Scorpion—but Annie Hall is the one you kind of have to love. I think it’s his most approachable and it’s full of the Jewish humor I was raised on. Allen is probably the reason I still identity as a Jew, strange as that may sound: I haven’t been to temple in years, but I feel such a strong kinship to Allen (and Philip Roth, natch) that I can’t not be Jewish. My other favorite Allen comedies are Deconstructing Harry and Mighty Aphrodite, so bonus points if you enjoy both or either. Sometimes Deconstructing Harry actually displaces Annie Hall as my favorite, even though the latter is probably a better film.

And then there are the outrageously bad movies I show people: Valley of the Dolls, Wild Things, Starship Troopers. These are my favorites. These are my—I shit you not—first date movies. The ability to appreciate the camp factor and sincerity of a trashy flick is such an important trait. I like people who don’t take themselves too seriously: sure, you can dig Kubrick and Kurosawa, but if you don’t also occasionally dip into the Denise Richards oeuvre, you’re missing out on something special. Of the three above, Valley of the Dolls is the best—in my mind, it is the greatest bad movie of all time. Believe it or not, I have shown it to people who didn’t laugh once, not even at Neely O’Hara’s cathartic alley breakdown, and no, I didn’t kick them to the curb. But it makes me a little sad. Realistically, we’re never going to watch Showgirls together.

Honestly, you could hate all these movies and we could still be friends. I’m a lot nicer than I pretend to be on the internet. But taste in comedy is a good gauge of a person’s character. You wouldn’t hang out with someone whose favorite comedy was Grown Ups, would you? I mean, that’s just silly.

Indoor kid

1 May

I used to resent the term “indoor kid,” which I’m pretty sure is considered derogatory. But I don’t know, it fits. I like being inside. I don’t mind spending most of the day at home. I appreciate the way my futon feels. That having been said, I forced myself to walk over to my local coffee shop so I could enjoy the legitimately great weather and interact with other humans. (By interact, I mostly mean sit next to while I type away on my computer. My earphones are in, but I’m sure I look very approachable.)

Sometimes I forget to do anything with my day, and it hits me at 11 p.m., almost always a pretty shitty time to decide you want to be active. You have a couple options—late-night trip to Safeway, casual internet encounter—neither of which is all that appealing. So you watch endless reruns of The Golden Girls and you convince yourself you’ll get out more tomorrow. That sounds kind of depressing. Maybe it is. The problem is, most of the time I don’t care much about being bored/boring. It’s only when I’m basically in for the night that I decide, hey, wouldn’t it be nice to talk to someone not on the internet?

In a lot of ways, I’m a very social person. I like making conversation, and I think I can be charming enough when I put in the effort. I’ve never really had a problem making friends. But the more time has passed in Berkeley, the more acquaintances have fallen to the wayside. Some have moved, some have lost touch. And I think I’ve gotten a little tired of the city itself. Outside of my go-to coffee spot, I’m pretty much restricted to a couple restaurants, a bookstore, therapy, and my (work-related) jaunts to the city. Since I’ve spent the last few months thinking about a location change, I guess I haven’t bothered trying to improve my life here. But I’m blogging about it, so it must be bothering me on some level.

I’m going down to Los Angeles on Tuesday, which is good for a variety of reasons. I tend to be much more outgoing there and usually don’t spend any nights entirely at home. That’s probably a feature of going on short visits—I don’t know what it would be like if I lived there. I’d like to think that I could maintain a certain active lifestyle and not become too stagnant. Self-diagnosed agoraphobia is super unattractive.

But being a freelance writer is solitary by default. While I’ve tried to find friends to write with, nothing has ever panned out long-term. And I’m often OK with that. I’m happiest when I’m writing—I feel creative and productive—and writing is an independent activity. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of the life outside my apartment, of the connections I’ve made and want to sustain. There are many people I care deeply about; I think it’s important to express that in more than just text messages and tweets. Maybe I’ll form a new game plan once I return from L.A.

I could try to make a friend here, but the only people talking are older dudes hitting on younger Asian women.

Anyway, let’s hang out.