I am hopelessly addicted to TV show recaps. I’ll read them for shows I’ve never watched and have no intention of watching. I read them to keep up with what’s moving in pop culture, and for the curiosity of seeing how many ways a single hour of television can be interpreted — humorously, solemnly as a cultural commentary, or passionately by people who care about the characters as deeply as if they were real people.
It speaks to the power of these programs that viewers become so immersed they start to feel as though they know the characters better than the director, the writers, or even the actors. Writing up a weekly criticism of a bad show is a boring waste of time. The fact that a show is painstakingly critiqued every week is, ironically enough, proof that it must be pretty good; or at least, significant in some way (good or bad).
These are my favorite shows not to watch. Okay, I cheated — I do watch some of them, but I tend to read the recaps before I get around to seeing the latest episodes.
3. Mad Men
I stopped watching Mad Men after marathoning the third season left me in a blue funk for two weeks. But the recaps didn’t end there. The virtue of Mad Men recaps is getting all the drama and cultural commentary with less than half the depression. Since it sounds like the show is starting up the long ramp toward jumping the shark, I don’t regret tuning out — but I do enjoy checking in, if simply to answer the question, “How much more miserable can they all get?”
Submit your questions about friendship, relationships, careers, family, or life decisions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice, PJ Lifestyle’s new advice column every Wednesday!
Dear Bad Advice,
My friend is absolutely driving me up the wall! She complains about everything. I know not a lot of things are going great for her in her life right now, but I wish she had a better attitude. If I tell her to have a better attitude when she’s complaining about things, she gets mad and storms off. How do I handle her? She’s fun and a great friend most of the time, but her complaining is getting on my last nerve.
- Not a whine appreciator
This is going to sound like bad advice, but quit complaining about your complaining friend.
The Shubert. The Apollo. Carnegie Hall.
So the “Snapple Theater Center” doesn’t provoke the same reverent awe as do the names of those famous New York City landmarks, but hey, a gig’s a gig, right?
Maybe Christina Crawford inherited more of her adoptive mother’s trooper spirit than she’d care to admit.
It’s so easy to imagine Joan Crawford growling, “Snapple, crapple! The show must go on!”
And so it does: the longrunning “Mommie Dearest” franchise, one angry daughter’s single claim to fame — first a blockbuster 1977 memoir, then a cult movie — is back in a rather downmarket iteration: A Conversation with Christina Crawford: Live and Onstage in Surviving Mommie Dearest.
Or rather, was. The show’s very brief run at the Snapple overlapped Mother’s Day.
After more than 30 years of telling all, what possible secrets could Christina Crawford have left to reveal about her infamous mom?
Well, now she’s claiming (sort of) that Joan Crawford murdered her husband Alfred Steele, the Pepsi CEO whose position the widow snatched for herself after his death.
Here’s Faye Dunaway reenacting the power grab in the aforementioned cult flick, Mommie Dearest (1981):
Submit your questions about friendship, relationships, careers, family, or life decisions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice, PJ Lifestyle’s new advice column!
Hello Bad Advice readers! This week I got a question that I’ve heard many times from friends, mostly Millennials, who get the classic “I’m not really standing you up because I texted you five minutes ahead of time” line from their friends. As we emerge from social hibernation this spring, take heed: all your friends are jerks. Get used to it.
Dear Bad Advice,
Have you ever had a friend that seems to always bail on plans? Not only do they bail, but do they wait to the very last possible minute to not-so-gracefully bow out?
A close friend of mine is almost ALWAYS doing this to me and it absolutely drives me nuts! Now, I hate double-standards, but are they necessary when it comes to teaching people a lesson?
Is it wrong for me to give her a taste of her own medicine a few times by doing the same exact thing she repeatedly does to me? Or, is this too childish?
I should note that I hate confrontation and yes, I admit to being a bit passive aggressive sometimes to avoid it.
- Fed Up with Being Stood Up
This is going to sound like bad advice, but stop expecting your friends to show up for things. If they don’t give a crap about you, don’t give a crap about them.
On April 10 I published the next step in my developing self-improvement program, an application of Charlie Martin’s 13 Weeks method to my problem of better organizing my research. I looked forward to diving back into a deep reading routine filled with novels and culture while blogging my results here at PJ Lifestyle so all the wiser, more enlightened souls who make it their business to fill the comments section with their manifestos could tell me what an idiot I was for not seeing the world exactly the way they did.
But then on April 15 — Patriot’s Day — bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, resulting in 3 deaths and 264 injuries. The real world had intruded on the Wonderland of Books I’d constructed for myself. As Charlie has pointed out from time to time in his 13 Weeks series, life has a way of throwing off our plans.
For days the country sat in nervous panic as police searched for the killers. Partisans of every persuasion speculated about the motives of the evil monsters who would load pressure cooker bombs with shrapnel to mutilate the bodies of innocent human beings they had never met. David Sirota of Salon longed for the murderous act to serve as fodder for his goal of demonizing his political opponents. I liked the way PJ columnist Roger Kimball put it on on the morning of April 18:
One of the curious, but also most predictable, responses to the Boston Marathon bombings from the Left has been the fervent expression — amounting nearly to a prayer — that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this act of mass murder be “homegrown,” preferably white, male, Christian, and conservative.
Why? Why does the Left prefer to have its terrorism served up by Timothy McVeigh rather than Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad? It’s an interesting question. That the Left exhibits this prejudice is, like Falstaff’s dishonesty, “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.”
David Sirota, writing at Salon, gives almost comic expression to the genre in an essay with the really special title “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” Why does Mr. Sirota wish that the Boston murderer of 8-year-old boys be a white American? Because a spectral quality called “white male privilege” operates insidiously behind the scenes. If Timmy McVeigh blows up a government building, says Mr. Sirota, only he is blamed. If Mohammed does it, Muslims are likely to be “collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse).”
What do you think of that argument? I think it’s hooey.
But how can intellectual and cultural warriors do battle with hooey level arguments? PJ Media Legal Editor J. Christian Adams offered advice to the Benghazi whistleblowers that is just as applicable to every American striving to fight for these issues in their own way:
I know a thing or two about being a whistleblower. I appeared on the Huckabee show this weekend (see video below) and explained how simply telling the truth is the way to shield yourself from the sinister deceptions from places like the Huffington Post and the George Soros-funded Media Matters. They can try to smear you, but the truth of your testimony will rise above their smears.
All we can do is present the truth about the nature of the enemy. If that doesn’t work, then what else is left?
Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!
Happy birthday, spring babies! I’ve just rounded the corner on a quarter century, and here’s a question from another Millennial, with a birthday problem…
Dear Bad Advice,
Three years ago, I had the best and worst birthday of my life. I was turning 21 and I had a spectacular party at a bar with a big group of friends the night before, and was showered with gifts and cards the next day (including a cake my mom sent me in the mail!). Sounds pretty good, right? Well, that day I also broke up with my boyfriend of three years, whom I’d been hoping to marry. It was the product of a long, painful wind-down that had taken place over the preceding months, but the final straw was when I opened up a box of flowers, and all my friends assumed it was from him…but it wasn’t. He was there when I opened it, and when one of my friends asked what he had done for my birthday, she found out he hadn’t planned anything special at all, not even a card or a nice dinner out. I know some people don’t make a big deal out of birthdays or holidays, but we had always been very thoughtful about celebrating special occasions, making each other hand-made gifts and cards and going out of our way to create a special evening for each other. So the fact that he hadn’t done anything at all had to have been a deliberate move on his part, to send me a message.
I still feel conflicted about that day, because I can’t seem to separate the great parts from the miserable ones. I had one of the most fun, memorable birthdays ever with a group of people who remain some of my closest friends — but I also ended a relationship with a man that I was utterly convinced I was going to spend the rest of my life with (how naive we are at 21). Ever since then, I sort of dread and look forward to every birthday, wondering if it’s going to be just as great, or just as bad. I’m turning 24 this year and I don’t know what to expect. How do I shake this foreboding feeling and just enjoy my day?
- Minerva K.
This sounds like bad advice, but you need a rebound.
Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column is a social barometer of sorts, so when columnist Emily Yoffe pivots on a major issue my ears twitch, because change must be afoot. This week’s chat with advice-seekers revealed a shocking reversal: Prudie is actually advising readers to cut back on the porn:
When I started writing this column I had a very laissez-faire attitude toward porn, but it’s irrefutable that excess consumption can interfere with normal sexual expectations. It’s one thing if your husband made a reasonable request. … It’s another thing if he’s withdrawn from you sexually, has refused to address this, then announces he can’t get turned on by you if you don’t look like the people on YouPorn. …you two need to talk about how hurtful his behavior has been over the past year, and that you hope he understands that putting his demands in such a demeaning way is not likely to turn you on.
What was the husband of this letter-writer requesting? That the woman shave down under or he wouldn’t get intimate with her. The bald eagle (aherm) look has grown so immensely popular this year it’s actually made headlines, and most commentators agree it was popularized by porn’s hairless superstars.
Okay. So porn is as standard (and standardized) in American males’ homes as sliced bread. Old news. What’s new news is that someone besides the ultra-feminist anti-porn crusaders and the ultra-Christian anti-porn crusaders is saying in a major public forum that maybe porn is not so healthy for relationships. Well, excess porn.
For what it’s worth, I don’t support the censorship of porn that’s performed (and consumed) by consenting adults. But I do object to the tacitly ubiquitous attitude that “porn is okay, and if you object to it you’re a prude, because everybody watches it.” It’s another form of political correctness. Let’s see a healthy dose of skepticism.
We tend to think of Hollywood as a bastion of leftism, and rightly so. Books like Ron Radosh’s Red Star Over Hollywood demonstrate the deep-seated left wing dominance of the entertainment industry. Even with the leftism prevalent in Hollywood’s Golden Age, many unabashed conservatives found success without compromising their principles, including one of the most creative minds in the business – Walt Disney.
Several biographers and writers that I’ve read have tried to declare that Walt Disney was apolitical, but I find this conclusion not to be true. Diane Disney Miller once said that her father was “kind of a strange figure” politically, and Walt admitted his own political naiveté:
A long time ago, I found out that I knew nothing whatsoever about this game of politics and since then I’ve preferred to keep silent about the entire matter rather than see my name attached to any statement that was not my own.
But plenty of people surrounding Walt Disney knew the truth: that he was conservative to his core. Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” said that Walt’s right-leaning politics made him uncomfortable and that politics drove a rift in their friendship in Disney’s later years. Radical writer Maurice Rapf, who worked on several Disney films, including Song of the South, said, “He was very conservative except in one particular – he was a very strong environmentalist.” However, Walt Disney’s conservatism did not manifest itself until after he had been a businessman for several years.
Walt Disney’s early exposure to politics came from his father, Elias, who was a Socialist – in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Daniel J. Flynn, in his book A Conservative History of the American Left, tells of how Wayland “reached Americans with the message [of Socialism] that had been heretofore explained in a German, Yiddish, or Russian accent, but never with a Bible-belt twang.”
That’s the question asked in the 1st chapter of a book I am reading called Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old. From the description:
Do you sometimes wonder how your teen is ever going to survive on his or her own as an adult? Does your high school junior seem oblivious to the challenges that lie ahead? Does your academically successful nineteen-year-old still expect you to “just take care of” even the most basic life tasks?
Welcome to the stunted world of the Endless Adolescence. Recent studies show that today’s teenagers are more anxious and stressed and less independent and motivated to grow up than ever before. Twenty-five is rapidly becoming the new fifteen for a generation suffering from a debilitating “failure to launch.” Now two preeminent clinical psychologists tell us why and chart a groundbreaking escape route for teens and parents.
Drawing on their extensive research and practice, Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen show that most teen problems are not hardwired into teens’ brains and hormones but grow instead out of a “Nurture Paradox” in which our efforts to support our teens by shielding them from the growth-spurring rigors and rewards of the adult world have backfired badly. With compelling examples and practical and profound suggestions, the authors outline a novel approach for producing dramatic leaps forward in teen maturity, including:
• Turn Consumers into Contributors Help teens experience adult maturity–its bumps and its joys–through the right kind of employment or volunteer activity.
• Feed Them with Feedback Let teens see and hear how the larger world perceives them. Shielding them from criticism–constructive or otherwise–will only leave them unequipped to deal with it when they get to the “real world.”
• Provide Adult Connections Even though they’ll deny it, teens desperately need to interact with adults (including parents) on a more mature level–and such interaction will help them blossom!
• Stretch the Teen Envelope Do fewer things for teens that they can do for themselves, and give them tasks just beyond their current level of competence and comfort.
The authors point out that even young people who appear to be succeeding by conventional standards wake up in their mid-twenties clueless about how to find a job, manage money, cook, or live on their own. They are educated but unable to care for themselves. “Twenty-five is now becoming the new fifteen.”
According to the authors, teens are living in a “bubble” that is undermining their development. They have their room at home, school, the shopping mall etc. but it,
“cuts them off from meaningful roles in the adult world, cuts them off from close day-to-day contact with adults, and it hyperexposes them to peer relationships, which become their primary socializing influences.”
The last chapter of the book points out that the staples of the Adulthood Diet are Challenge and Feedback. Teens don’t get much of it in their lives. We have done away with competition (too masculine, I suppose) and real-world feedback (kids need high self-esteem!) and therefore they never learn to master the larger world.
The book instructs parents and adults in how to teach kids to grow up and be an adult in today’s modern world. That’s no small feat. But better late than never because twenty-five should never be the new fifteen.
So, you want to pitch a TV show — a sitcom no less! Or maybe you’re just an armchair TV enthusiast, a mental writer playing out episodes of the ideal sitcom in your head. Whether your concept is ideal or idyllic, if you want to get it off the ground, you need to get your head out of the clouds and start viewing your human reality in terms of numbers — good numbers. Take a tip from Seth MacFarlane: Be sure to include an African American, a disabled character, and an Asian reporter if you want to stand a chance in TV land.
In other words, start counting your minorities.
It’s all in the spirit of being fair that we view people based on their color, class, gender, or physical ability. Not only is it fair, it is super easy to follow the 4-step program for crafting your perfectly pitch-able TV sitcom.
So, get out your calculators and get ready for a math lesson in how to write a situation comedy for television!
Throughout this series I’ve questioned where the line is drawn between reflecting and affecting when it comes to the media’s relationship with real life. Either way, the determining factor is relatability. You aren’t going to imitate something unless you can relate to it, and if you can’t relate to a show, chances are it isn’t anywhere near a reflection of who you are.
So, in the interest of all things entertainment, let’s take a simple quiz to determine your relatability factor when it comes to the portrayal of “traditional family” on television using two popular prime-time family-themed shows: Family Guy and The Middle.
Family Guy: The show is apathetic, even nihilistic at times, mocks the same politically correct values it thrives on, and typifies men and women in terms taught best in Gender Studies 101. The Middle is one of a handful of shows to make it to the air that depicted exactly what its title intimated: a middle -lass, middle-of-the-road family living in the middle of nowhere, America. As working middle class as the Griffins, the Hecks are a family of five that mirrors the demographics of the Quahog clan: father, mother, two sons with a daughter in the middle.
So, what’s your relatability factor? And how does your relatability compare with the ratings? Take this simple five-question quiz to find out!
Poor Seth MacFarlane. The guy sings one song about boobs and suddenly he’s #1 on the Hates Women List with a Steinem next to his name. (That means if they capture him, she gets to rag on him incessantly. Who wouldn’t want a bullet after that?)
It’d be too easy to join the chorus singing, “MacFarlane hates women.” As a woman, I despise the cop-outs women often take, chiding every man as being both the desired master of her universe and the despised crafter of her fate. If we really believe in Girl Power, what’s our responsibility in all of this? Are we allowing the fate scripted by guys like MacFarlane to come true?
It took about 10 minutes to pull video for the following five most common stereotypes about women portrayed in Family Guy. The sad news is that it took about 15 to pull five examples of the same behavior from the most popular Girl Power reality television show out there: The Kardashians. Praised by some feminists as career women comfortable in their own skin, it has been observed that “50 years ago, the Kardashians could never live the way they do. It’s all thanks to the Feminist movement that they are who they are – and they embrace every benefit from it fully.”
So, culture judges that you are, tell me: Is the evidence compelling? Is MacFarlane a He-Man Woman Hater, or do the Kardashians prove that girls finally busted through the glass ceiling in the tree house and joined the club?
Watch out, ladies in the dating world: Family Guy’s prized demographic is totally Petarded.
According to the show’s creator, Family Guy’s target audience is men ages 18-34. This happens to be one of the most desirable demographics for advertisers and women looking to eventually get married and settle down.
Who hasn’t dreamed of a life with Peter Griffin?
Obviously, not all men between the ages of 18 and 34 are going to find the humor of Family Guy appealing. Yet a growing majority of them do. I long ago learned as a woman not to attempt to comment on the male psyche; why these men find Family Guy so appealing is not in my realm of interest. However, the message Family Guy sends about masculinity is so apparent that I can’t help but laugh at this not-so-subtle irony: Most women looking for men, the ladies trolling the clubs and hitting Happy Hours at the bars, are the ones who tend to stereotype men exactly the way they are portrayed on the show.
Part 1 of a 4 Part series Deconstructing Family Guy
When Seth MacFarlane sang about boobs at the Oscars, I’m pretty sure he was referring to his own fans.
Most of the time it is taken for granted that we recognize the latent moronic nature of most television programming today.
Then again, do we?
If we agreed as a culture that television programming like Family Guy is so moronic, why would a collective cheer rise up at the sight of another Emmy win? Would we be told by media commentary royalty to worship Seth MacFarlane, the show’s creator, as fascinating? Not only does the guy have mega street cred in the pop culture universe, the primetime structure he’s so wholeheartedly mocked is singing his praises. In fact, it could be said that Family Guy’s seemingly counterculture humor has been legalized by the mainstream.
What’s more, like a bad addiction, Family Guy is the drug that has turned a generation of Boob-Tube addicts into junkies. So, what are the signs, Doctor? How do you know when a co-worker, a friend, even a loved one has become a total Boob? Let’s play MediaMD as we examine the 5 most common side effects of watching Family Guy.
I used to hate politics. Then I met Ann Coulter.
In case you haven’t seen PCU, allow me to explain: I am only one of many in my generation who grew into adulthood harboring a strong desire to avoid all forms of political discussion. For many of us growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, the deafening liberal attacks coming across cable news, talk radio, and then the internet defined politics as a source of talking-head tsuris and therefore best avoided at all costs.
The unavoidable reality hit when I enrolled in grad school and promptly learned the phrase: “Everything is political.” And that was before I got the chance to interview the prospective film studies professor who declared himself a communist without blinking an eye.
Critical theory, my chosen area of study, comes in many forms. The most memorable (and popular) being a series of schools based on race/ethnicity/gender/sexual demarcations that could easily be classified under the heading “White Men Are Coming To Get You Studies.” All theories are taught under the general pseudo-philosophical guideline of postmodernism. I could spend entire articles trying to explain that one. Instead, I’ll just let this handy little comic do it for me.
Nothing I learned made sense yet all of it was accepted as holy. Any time I would question these ideas I would receive furrowed brows, gobsmacked expressions, or simply be told in so many words that I just “didn’t get it.” These reactions probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much except for the fact that they were coming from the professor who would sign off on my thesis, providing me with the paperwork I needed to graduate and get the hell out of Dodge.
Hell. I was in hell. Instead of being taught how to think, I was paying to be told what to think. Waiting in the airport for my flight back to campus after winter break, I contemplated throwing in the towel. And then, I heard an angel’s voice and a bright light beckoned me to the bookstore in the terminal…
Okay, not totally. But I do know for a fact that finding Ann Coulter’s Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right on my way to the plane was a divine appointment. Three hours later I landed on solid ground and felt my feet beneath me for the first time in 18 months. Finally, someone was making sense.
Perhaps if conservatives had had total control over every major means of news dissemination for a quarter century, they would have forgotten how to debate, too, and would just call liberals stupid and mean.
Ann waited until page 2 to verbalize the crux of the problem I’d been facing: This liberal professor had total control and, therefore, could demean and dismiss me whenever he liked.
Or so he thought and so did I, until I met Ann Coulter.
Colorado was one of two states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes last November, but that doesn’t mean residents are free from prosecution for possession of pot. John Phillips speaks with Chris Utterback, a journalism student at Metro State University in Denver, Colorado about why a large majority of students backed Amendment 64 (pot legalization). Hear why Utterback believes drug laws have been responsible for ruining the lives of young people, and why college students still have reason to fear the law.
Most people think Marv is crazy, but I don’t believe that. I’m no shrink and I’m not saying I’ve got Marv all figured out or anything, but “crazy” just doesn’t explain him. Not to me. Sometimes I think he’s retarded, a big, brutal kid who never learned the ground rules about how people are supposed to act around each other. But that doesn’t have the right ring to it either. No, it’s more like there’s nothing wrong with Marv, nothing at all — except that he had the rotten luck of being born at the wrong time in history. He’d have been okay if he’d been born a couple of thousand years ago. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman Arena, taking a sword to other gladiators like him. They’d have tossed him girls like Nancy, back then. — Sin City
Ever watched a classic action flick? Of course you have. Movies like Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, First Blood, and 300 have become fixtures in the American psyche. All these movies feature either a lone man or a small group fighting in a desperate, violent struggle and yet, somehow, coming out on top. Throughout most of America’s history, the average man could more easily relate to the experiences in those movies the way someone who shoots hoops at the park could relate to watching an NBA game. Sure, they might not have been able to do what they were seeing on the screen, but they were well-acquainted with violence. Either they had inflicted it, suffered it, or seen it up close and personal. We’re a nation that was birthed in a bloody revolution, where feuds and dueling were frequent occurrences, where intermittent battles with Indians occurred until the twenties, where roughly twenty percent of the male population served in WWII, and where fist fights and brawling were relatively common.
The average man may have seen hundreds of thousands of murders on his TV screen and committed tens of thousands more playing video games, but he has also probably never struck another human being in anger in his entire adult lifetime. In other words, he may be captivated by the imagery he sees at the movies, but he goes home knowing that he will never even live out a pale imitation of what he’s just seen.
I had such a wonderful time yesterday talking to John Phillips, the Los Angeles correspondent for Next Generation TV, the newest wing of the PJ Media family. Click here or on the screen shot above to watch our 11 minute conversation at PJTV on the future of Twitter, the challenges of juggling ideological friends on Facebook, and social media’s role in the political culture today.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
I am an advice column addict.
I read three or four a day, bouncing from one to the other trying to figure out when I’ll get my next hit — “Well, she always posts on Thursdays — and this one normally has a new post every Tuesday — and I haven’t read the full archive of that one yet.”
I’m not entirely sure what the root of my obsession is. But I think I’m drawn to a world in which a sensible person is sought out by people with disastrous lives, so she can preach the word of Rational Decision Making and Common Sense to a willing audience. Like virtually everyone I know, I have a crowd of acquaintances whom I’ve seen essentially torching their lives with an incendiary mixture of bad decisions and worse attitudes, and I’ve longed to shake them by the shoulders and talk sense to them. In the world of advice columns, those friends are asking someone to shake them by the shoulders and talk sense to them. It’s so satisfying.
Advice columns normally fall under one of two categories: tips on manners and etiquette, and ”Holy sh!t what is wrong with your life?!” I mostly read the latter. Sometimes I even skip the advice.
If advice columns were only about dispensing advice, there’d be no need to even print the questions; columnists would just write once or twice weekly with the same general rules for living that they parcel out, piecemeal, in response to their letter writers. If you read as many as me you start to notice each columnist’s go-to wisdom bombs. Kapow! You need to let the past go. Boom! Communicate, don’t seethe in silent resentment. Zap! Leave your stinking cheating dead-beat boyfriend.
I don’t judge or dislike my favorite columnists for recycling their wisdom; it wouldn’t be wisdom if it only worked once.
But you also have to admit: if everyone followed it, would everybody be a little happier? Probably… a little. There’s another part missing from the equation of life satisfaction that doesn’t have to do with making all your decisions on a solely rational basis.
The following is the list of three of the most genre-defining, convention-bending, head-scratching, mouth-gaping advice column questions and answers. There are plenty of outrageous (and probably fake) questions out there, so these weren’t chosen purely on the basis of Jerry Springer worthiness; they’re the questions that made me ask, “Why do people seek advice from strangers?” “What does this question and answer say about our culture?” and “Why haven’t you talked to your parole officer about that?”
On Tuesday I turned 29. Apparently this is one of those “milestone” birthdays meant to suggest that now I’m really growing old and should start worrying or feeling worse about myself in some abstract way. Apparently when you’re 30 it means that the party decade is over and you should scrape the cheeto dust out of your navel, put some pants on, and finally grow up.
So be it. Growing old has never really bothered me. (Though I wish the hair wasn’t going so fast…) I’ve felt like a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body since at least junior high. So how about this for an old-fashioned way to really put the last 362 days of the third decade of my life to use: actually writing out a plan for the year. Here’s what I’m going to try to do so that when the 30th birthday hits in 2014 I can look back and not feel too much embarrassment at another wasted year.
In December I declared my “7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal” and then began the process of integrating these general self-improvement goals into both my daily routine and the weekly schedule of my PJ Lifestyle blogging. I left them somewhat vague so over the course of the month more concrete goals could materialize. And here they are, revised from my original list but generalized so perhaps others might still find them useful to consider as potential additions to their own Lifestyle self-programming.
1. Family Life on Monday: Rediscover and Celebrate Your Family’s Origins.
On Monday this week I blogged an open letter to my wife informing her that the time had come to change directions with our Netflix diet. The number of Dexter/Battlestar Galactica-level cable shows on DVD had dried up and new releases offered little hope of consistent entertainment satisfaction. We had to start mining older regions of film and TV history — but could we agree on a path forward?
Turns out we still can. April selected the first option:
1. Watch the entire Criterion Collection. Maybe in order?
You’re always complaining (rightfully) that the past few years I’ve spent too much time on politics and don’t show you weird, artsy movies anymore. Well here’s the mother lode and now we should start exploring it.
April suggested we call it “The Criterion Challenge.” We’re going to attempt to watch as many as we can this year — and yes, as close to in the order of their release as we can. We started last night with my copy of The Seven Samurai (spine #2) and watched the first hour. I’d forgotten how entertaining a film it was — and was delighted when April got into it too.
In charting this new entertainment course for us, we’re really going back to the origins of our relationship. I never realized what a role my oddball movie tastes had for April. When we began dating seriously for a second time in the fall of 2006 (a few months after I’d graduated and she was starting her sophomore undergraduate year), I would drive up to Muncie from Indianapolis on weekends with different art movie DVDs to share with her.
But in the years since our marriage I’ve neglected this original film guide role. My movie obsession fell by the wayside to make way for political warfare and new media trouble-making. Now’s a good time to correct course as I seek to re-balance my life between the legs of culture, religion, and politics. (Instead of the ideological focus that it’s largely been for the last three years…)
And we’re both on the same page in why we’re watching this series of classic films — to further develop our own understanding of the visual arts. What makes a beautiful, powerful image? How does film tell stories and evoke feelings? April and I are going to explore these questions together and I’ll try and blog a few thoughts on each film. Also, keeping with the return to film, for our year off from Disney Land I’m going to make a point to explore the ideas that brought it into existence.
Monday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Research the life, work, and ideas of Walt Disney to separate the wheat from the chaff.
You might have heard of Lana Del Rey because she’s the internet’s favorite singer to hate. Or you might have heard of her because you actually enjoyed one of her songs on the radio. Sound a bit contradictory?
Lana Del Rey sings retro-inspired, whispery pop songs about slightly trashy women with a serious case of heartache. You can picture her heroines telling the story of the man who walked out on them over a cigarette and coffee in a local diner, mascara running down their cheeks. She’s a bad girl from a James Dean movie with a heart of gold. Her music is catchy, melancholy, haunting; it has a quality that reaches out and taps you on the shoulder if you’ve ever been dumped, and whispers to you about feelings that other songs missed. When she croons “I will love you until the end of time,” or “Heaven is a place on earth with you,” in a minor key, she reminds you of that half-life of love that keeps burning on even after the relationship ends. And she’s not fighting it — she’s just feeling it. Even in “Video Games,” a song in which she’s still with her boyfriend, when she sings “better than I ever even knew” the listener gets the impression that things are not perfect.
Lana Del Rey is good music for suspense. She’s good music for sun-draped summer days. She’s good music for a long drive to see someone for the first time in what feels like a long time.
She’s a good bad girl for good girls to listen to.
The other distinctive feature of Lana Del Rey is she can’t do a single thing without every hipster and tabloid blog on the internet jeering her for it. It’s become such a distinctive facet of her career that you can’t discuss her or her music at all without running into internet-hate problem.
What gives? First of all, hating her was made trendy by sites that make lots and lots of money by writing cruel things about people. She’s not perfect, but her crimes are no worse than those of other pop stars who have gotten off with far less derision: take a stage name, or flubbing a performance.
The fact that she’s unafraid to sing about women’s vulnerability without irony or apology is another less discussed reason why music commentators and tabloid writers hate her so vitriolically. She doesn’t follow their script of how empowered gender-neutral young folks these days should talk about love, so she must be mocked into silence.
What has she done to piss them off so much?
Recently a former college roommate of my husband’s requested that once again I write about classic rock music; so Bob Z. from Pittsburgh, PA this column is for you!
Like many of my past classic rock pieces this one is meant to foster group discussion at social gatherings or stimulate some “deep” personal thinking after imbibing an adult beverage or two.
And nothing stimulates deep personal thinking more than the question: What are your top 10 favorite Beatles songs?
Before I reveal my list, I can almost hear my Father saying, “The Beatles are just a passing fad.” That was his response in 1964 after watching them perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, reflecting an opinion commonly held by many parents at the time.
Except that “passing fad” dramatically affected culture, helped impact world events and changed music forever, along with the hearts, minds and souls of every baby boomer born in the first wave from 1946 to 1955.
So with all that in mind, here are my top 10 favorite Beatles songs.
This song is so hauntingly beautiful that 45 years later, it sounds as fresh and vibrant as it did when it first appeared on the “White Album.”
Below is George Harrison singing a post-Beatles acoustic version.
A perfect song for remembering or honoring someone you love, and often heard at funerals or “life celebrations.”
In my opinion, In My Life does not receive the accolades it deserves as one of the Beatles most melodic and meaningful songs.
Today, Come Together sounds as bizarre and beautiful as it did when I first heard it at age 14.
4. Back in the U.S.S.R. - Paul McCartney, 1968 – The Beatles “White Album”
How can anyone sit still while listening to this song?
But most important the song reminds us of the Beatles’ role in hastening the demise of Soviet communism.
5. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) - John Lennon, 1969 - Abbey Road
This was another Beatles breakthrough song that sounded like no other in 1969 and I chronicled the experience of hearing it for the first time in this Classic Rock series.
6. Here Comes the Sun - George Harrison, 1969 – Abbey Road
Such a happy song of hope! It is nearly impossible not to be uplifted after hearing it.
7. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - Lennon/McCartney, 1965 – Rubber Soul
Another groundbreaking song known for the first time a sitar was used by a rock band.
I always loved the main guitar riff along with the catchy tune.
9. Paperback Writer - Lennon/McCartney, 1966 - (Released only as a single but later appeared on several Beatles compilation albums.)
Such an engaging song with an unforgettable guitar riff that hooked the 11-year-old me onto music that eventually evolved into “heavy metal,” explaining my love for Led Zeppelin.
An overlooked Beatles masterpiece that never got the attention it deserved because many of their greatest songs were released around this same time.
So what’s on your list?
Every aging baby boomer has many favorite Beatles songs, but now it’s time to commit to naming your top 10.
Making this task easier, I have provided a list of all the Beatles songs ever recorded. Then, if you were in the “3rd reading group” and need even further assistance, here is Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs.
Go get started now so we can have some fun reading each others’ lists, while at the same time stimulate your brain with some “deep personal thinking.”
It is amazing how 48 years later this “passing fad” still continues to entertain and has stood the test of time.
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In 1967 the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” appeared on the now iconic Sgt. Pepper album, and many, including this writer, considered age 64 “old.” (Of course, I was only 12, but 64 was old at that time.)
But when General Norman Schwarzkopf recently died at age 78, I did not consider him old.
So what happened to change my view of when old age begins?
Well for starters, I got old along with the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are affectionately known as “baby boomers.” Boomers transformed America at every stage of life. Unfortunately, our nation was totally unprepared for all the change we brought every step of the way and now is no different.
Last year at an Aging in America conference, Ken Dychtwald, CEO of the consulting firm AgeWave, summed it up like this:
“We weren’t prepared for the boomers,” he said. “There weren’t enough hospitals or pediatricians. There weren’t enough bedrooms in our homes. There weren’t enough schoolteachers or textbooks or playgrounds. The huge size of this generation has strained institutions every step of the way.”
Then Dychtwald compared his New Jersey high school, with such overcrowding that students had to go to classes in shifts, to what’s in store for aging baby boomers in the coming decades.
“The boards of education had 13 years to see this coming. What was the surprise there?” said Dychtwald. “But it’s the same today with senior care and geriatric medicine and continuum of care. It’s staggering how unprepared we are.”
Yes, it is staggering indeed — and, as the saying goes, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
“It must be him, it must be him, oh dear God, it must be him or I shall die.”
Before the advent of answering machines, and decades before mobile communications and social media, waiting by the phone for your man to call was an ancient mating tradition that single women of all ages thankfully will never again have to endure.
I was reminded of this dating ritual since we are on the cusp of celebrating what is traditionally known as the greatest date night of all, New Year’s Eve.
While wracking my brain thinking of a suitable baby boomer topic applicable to this holiday, it hit me… New Year’s Eve, 1971, when I was a high school sophomore and my boyfriend was a senior.
All that stands out about that evening was my having to wait by the phone for my boyfriend to call to tell me the time he was coming by to take me to a house party (where someone’s parents were out of town).
As 5 pm turned into 6 pm, turned into 7 pm, turned into 8 pm, I became extremely anxious, especially when my mother said, “Would it be so bad if you stayed home?” (Yea mom, how about the end of the world as I know it.)
When Mr. Considerate finally called at 8 pm the trauma ceased. But thinking back upon that 1971 New Year’s Eve, it was how waiting by the phone helped form five positive personality traits that women like me did not even realize we were developing. Eventually these five traits served baby boomer women extremely well as we made our way through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s taking advantage of all the new career opportunities that the women’s movement afforded.
Here are the five personality traits aging baby boomer women learned while waiting by the phone.
When you were forced to accept someone else’s timetable you learned it was not just all about you. Waiting by the phone developed patience and was superb training for almost any career and life in general.
This feeling was experienced when you finally realized that he was not going to call after he said (or you assumed) he would. Learning to cope with rejection without feeling like a complete loser was an important life lesson. The key was to think about all your positive attributes that this man was obviously missing. Then move ahead and don’t look back. This concept was easily applied to the professional world, especially if you were a business owner or involved in sales of any kind. Women of a certain age who experienced sitting by the phone waiting for him to call learned how to be resilient in the face of rejection.
3. Self worth/Self esteem
You waited by the phone and he did call. High five! You were on top of your game. All your flirting skills worked and you were the master of the feminine universe. (But sometimes you discovered that he was not worth waiting for!)
Later in life this same initial exhilaration was experienced when you landed a new job or a new client/contract/project was won. But you never let it go to your head. One learned early on that you must never be cocky because rejection in love or life could be lurking right around the corner.
He called, (maybe even weeks after he said he would) and you refrained from telling him that he was an insensitive jerk. But since you were really glad to hear from him you said no such thing. Later in the business world this skill came in handy when “the customer was always right” even if he/she was not.
5. Playing the Game
Once while chatting with some guy friends in my high school classes they admitted to me that often they did not call a girl after they said they would because they did not want to appear “pussy whipped.” (Yes, that was the operative term at the time.) So from this conversation I learned that there was a lot of game playing going on when it came to the timing of “the call.”
As a result, my friends and I would discuss when it was time to stop waiting and time to start living. (However, flirting with his friends was always an appropriate response.) The lesson “stop waiting and start living” developed into positive personality traits that were applicable to many future life situations.
But alas, girls/women today don’t have to deal with any of this waiting by the phone. In fact, waiting is a thing of the past since now there is no stigma attached to calling a boy before he calls you. Girls today will call, text, tweet, Facebook, or email and if that does not get his attention they will have their friends call, text, email, Facebook or tweet. From what I have heard about today’s dating habits, “whatever it takes” to catch the attention of the man of the moment seems to be acceptable behavior.
This behavior is a result of both the instant communications revolution and the women’s movement which generally has made the girls/women of today much more aggressive than my friends or I ever were in high school and college.
Perhaps this more aggressive behavior is cultural “payback” for all the countless hours their baby boomer mothers and grandmothers spent waiting by the phone especially in the weeks leading up to important date nights like New Year’s Eve. For around that time whenever the phone rang, teenage girls and young women were conditioned into thinking, “It must be him, it must be him, please be him or I will die.”
Happy New Year’s everyone!
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