Grief, Grandma and My Hacked Website – Two Months

It’s two months today since my mother passed away.

I wrote a blog at the one month mark, but it was lost when robots hacked into my site a few weeks ago.  A fact I learned only after several 4:00 AM hair-pulling hour-long conversations with my “hosting” company.  Since I pay my bills as a web site project manager, I understand how broken websites are the universe’s perverse reminder that we are all hanging by our fingernails when it comes to security, waiting for some weird energy to push our lame password protected information into the netherworld.  For example, at the end of last year, The Hackers got into my Yahoo account. (I know, my fault for having a Yahoo account).  I already felt overwhelmed by work and my mother’s illness during the holidays.  So, naturally, on top off that I had to explain to every person I’d ever met why I didn’t need them to give me $2,000.

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My grandmother, in a baby blue dress and pearls, gazes adoringly at my mom.

I lost a few blog posts about my mother and her passing. A part of me felt bad, but another part wondered if maybe she just didn’t like what I wrote.  I am a half-believer in the after-life and, truth be told, feel comforted by the idea that my mother and grandmother have special powers to control my world.   My grandmother will whisper to me to enter a store where a “cute top” awaits for me ON SALE.  Or, and this happened, NBC called to schedule an interview for the Late Night Writer’s Workshop.  (I didn’t get accepted, but THANKS MOM).

But my mom would never have my website hacked into and taken down because my mother loved my blog.  She loved everything I wrote.  I will never have a bigger fan. SO PLEASE EVERYONE CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS.

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Grandma in an intense 70s pattern.

I’m allowed to have weird thoughts and beliefs these days.  My mother died two months ago today and I am, after all, a Pisces.  Everybody processes grief differently and if I need to contact mediums and blog and Facebook myself our of sadness, then so be it.

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My grandmother, far left, could be a phone operator on Mad Men.

I don’t know how people processed death before the invention of the camera.  And I am grateful that my family took hundreds pictures before we went down this creepy obsessive rabbit hole of selfies. Since my mother’s passing, I’ve started to see things in them I never saw before.  Like the evident love between my mother and grandmother.  They obviously adored each other. And I know they both had that love for me.  I grew up being loved by very strong women and I can’t help but believe that shaped me into the person I am. As much as I struggle there must be this core of security this gave me in my femininity.   I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to recall that without pictures to prove it.

My Grandmother loved clothes and was by all standards a fashion plate.  Look at her rock that 70s dress! (What is that pattern?)  She never graduated from high school, as she had three kids by the time she was 21.  But she was a very powerful person in my life and took great fashion risks.  I am going to write a separate blog post dedicated solely to her jumpsuits.

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Mom and Grandma. These two women made me who I am.

She taught me always wear a nice outfit on the airplane.  OH, PEOPLE HOW FAR WE HAVE FALLEN.  She also told me that “being young” was the worst thing in life.  I took that as evidence that she, if not loved, at least enjoyed being “old.”  She certainly didn’t let it stop her from laughing, dancing or looking sexy.  I can say that she was right.

My cousin insists that my mom and grandmother are together now. I can’t imagine that, if possible, they wouldn’t be. I guess it’s hard to recognize the truth in the people who loom so large in your life.  But it’s clear to me now that my mom and grandmother could not stay apart and be happy.

I miss them both so much.

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My Site Was Hacked Into…

…but now it’s back up!  We’re still working on pulling it back together, but some posts were lost. *pulls hair out*

Please bear with me.

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Ten Tips For Buying A Car

65196464_151336938“Let me go talk to the guys in the back and see what they can do for you,” said Ben the Car Sales Rep at The Dealership. (Not his real name).

This was the fifth or sixth time Ben had gone to “talk to the guys in back” about my possible impending purchase of an automobile.  I imagined guys dressed like stock brokers surrounded by receipts and studying my facial expressions through a camera or one-way mirror.

I had just told Ben that his dealership advertised a brand new car for what he was asking for a two-year-old car.

“No, that is impossible,” he said, dead serious.  “Look, I want to give you a good deal.  I want you to be happy.  But I don’t know if the financial guys can make it work.”

Do I look like I’ve been living under a rock?  First, he pulls the “guys in the back of the room” routine like I’ve never seen a movie before.    Then he assumes that neither I, nor anyone I know, understands how to use the Internet.  But I decided to go with it.  Use the innocent look to my advantage.  I had no choice.  I was in the game.   Ten minutes later he returned.

“Weird. They told me that you CAN get the new car for that price. That’s so weird that I didn’t know that.”

“Wow, that is weird!”  *slices room with sarcasm*

I ran this news by my Dad who happens to be a Car Guy, a guy who understands these mechanical things that we sit in to go places.  I had him on the phone.  Which brings me to my first Tip For Buying A Car.

TIP #1: Bring a Car Person. (Or keep them on the phone).

If you don’t know any Car People, then bring some testosterone.  Testosterone?  What?! Yes.  If this sounds sexist, well, try working in the high levels of anything.   A thirst for blood and dominance rises to the top. Despite all rational thought, ultimately I wanted Ben to like me.  I wanted a positive relational experience.  He was willing to eat me for dinner.

I held out for two hours.  I wrote numbers down on a piece of paper and slid them to him.  Finally, he gave in to my terms.

“The guys in the back said we can do it.”

He said it would be a few minutes and offered me some coffee. It had already been four hours and I was starving.

TIP #2: Bring some snacks.  It’s going to be a long night/day.

And then I made my first mistake and reveled in my victory.

TIP #3: You’re not out of the woods. You’re never out of the woods.

“So, have a told you about the Pro Pack?…it comes with the car.”

“No, thanks. I’ll pass. I’ll just take the base car.”

“You have have no choice. They put it on all the cars.  It’s in the MSRP.”

(It’s not in the MSRP).

TIP #4: Get a hard copy of the MSRP.

“It’s $12000.”

“Why didn’t you just make that the final price of the car?! That’s FALSE ADVERTISING.”

“Let me talk to the guys in back and see what I can do.”

Fifteen minutes later he came back.

“For you, we can do it for $600.”

TIP #5: Refuse to pay for the Pro Pack!

And here is when my resolve began to break down like a styled coif in a hurricane.   I was hungry.  Dehydrated from too much Keurig coffee and into my fifth hour of playing telephone with “the guys in the back.”

TIP #6:  Buying a car is a war of attrition.  Bring reinforcements.

Clearly, they had primed me for this moment.  Away from food, rest and friends and worn down by the effort of using my poorly developed negotiation muscles, I began to lose my footing.  Had I been in a better state of mind I would have refused to pay for the Pro Pack on the sheer basis that I still did not know what it is.  But I just wanted to get out of there.  Another hour later I signed my life away.  But not before Ben gave me a hundred different options for an extended warranty.

“It’s normally $2,000 but let me talk to the guys in the back and see what I can do.”

TIP #7: Stop talking to “the guys in the back.”

“I’m too tired to make a decision. Can I decide later?”

“If you want the deal, you have to do it tonight.

TIP #8: Say no to everything that has to be decided TONIGHT.

Finally, I drove the car home.   It didn’t have car mats, but I was too tired to care.

I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic. What have I done? WHY DID I GET THE PRO PACK?   The next day I drove back to the dealership and Ben introduced me to The Guy In The Back.

“You got a very good deal.,” said a beefy looking guy with a crew cut.   “Just do a some comparison pricing and you’ll see. You should be very happy.  You could have said no to the deal.”

SHIT HE’S RIGHT.

“But it was bad customer service.”

TIP #9: When you’ve got nothing else, pull out the “bad customer service” card.

“How about we get you some car mats?”

They bought my forgiveness with car mats.  (Btw, they cost $190…yes, I know you can get them at the car wash for $19.99 but car mats are made out of “leather.”)

I think Ben was secretly sad when I left. We’d been through a lot together in the past 20 hours.  I drove home so happy to have a car that’s safe and new and to not have to speak to a car dealer for at least five more years.  I’m pretty sure drug trafficking is more regulated than car shopping.

TIP #10: Let it all go and be happy with your car.

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Wandering Around Target

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I feel like the Indiana Jones of Target.

I went to Target last week because I needed to stock up on shower liners and S.O.S. pads…Ok, fine, I went because I just like wandering around Target.   It’s disturbing that I relax inside Target, but so very true. There’s a hushed sense of awe, cathedral ceilings, a screaming kid and halo around that shoe organizer or shower rod…it feels holy.

Yes, I hate that the employees don’t get health insurance or, as one Target cashier told me once, are forced to work when sick. But I still find something universal about going to a store because we all need to wash our dishes or shampoo our hair.  We go because we’re we’re messy humans and have to take care of our shit.

So I was wandering through the cleaning products aisle with My List when I saw a woman standing and studying the ingredients in a bottle of detergent. For some reason I thought to myself, “she’s avoiding the pain of loss she feels about (INSERT UNIVERSAL HUMAN STORY HERE).”  I never used to look at people and think something empathetic or compassionate.  I was a normal self-obsessed narcissist living in LA.  In fact, I thought everyone had better lives, happier? lives…more REAL lives than mine. And not only was everyone on some trajectory of fulfillment but they were shoving it in my face. Even the woman at Target with her scientific study of laundry detergent chemicals.  “Oh, so Ms. Fancy Health Lady wants to know what chemicals she’s bringing to her house…” I might have thought.

But on that day I thought about how she might have a divorce under her belt or maybe she was sick and couldn’t tolerate our toxic environment… and then I realized that pretty much every human alive has sad stuff to live with.  Everyone has problems. WHAT A CONCEPT.

And THEN I realized that this activity of wandering around Target was just a cover-up for my OWN feelings of fear and anxiety about the fragility of life.  I wanted to get on the intercom and announce, “Existential breakdown in Detergent aisle!”

And that’s when remembered that I needed some plant-based body oil and a paring knife.  So, I wandered off into the kitchen area and everything was fine after that.

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Blazer Casual

I have to be somewhere and look like I care. A little, not a lot. I stare deep into my closet, until I find that thing that pulls it all together and says, “I’m fun…but still kind of serious….and very Fall and a little East Coast.”  A blazer is not to be confused with a “suit,” “cute jacket” or even a “sweater coat.” It’s fitted. It has lapels. It does not keep one warm, per se. It just sets the mood. like a briefcase or glasses (before they became an accessory).  Unfortunately, not all of us work in a professional environment in which we can casually and coolly introduce the blazer into our everyday lives. BUT WE MUST TRY.

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I don’t know if Mila Kunis said anything interesting but she did rock the black blazer.

The second the weather tipped below 70 degrees (and after it went up to 80 again) I put on my blazer.  And then I took it off.  I’m not interviewing for jobs anymore.  I live in LA.  Where can I go in the Blazer Casual style and not look weird? I came up with a list.

A List Of Where To Wear A Blazer In LA:

1) Norah Jones concert
2) Digital networking events
3) Standup comedy!
4) Drinks with people you met after networking event who you will never see again
5) Meet and greets (if these really exist)
6) When you’re meeting your friend’s boyfriend’s friend for Indian food in a casual non-date kind of way
7) Art openings on Abbot Kinney (sorry, that’s a whole other blog)
8) Panel discussion (never been on one either)

To be honest, I just can’t always own the blazer casual look.  Some women can wear it in a way that says, “I’m in a very confident place in my life, but don’t really need to impress you with the details.” But who are these women?

A List Of Women Who Rock The Blazer:

1) Elizabeth Warren
2) The Girl Who Works At The Bank
3) Miss Piggy
4) Francis McDormand
5) Mila Kunis
6) The 19-year-old intern at any job

Ultimately, if you feel it, wear it.  You can always mix it up with the Blazers, Jeans and Boots look.  In other words, Serious, Casual, Bad Ass.  The only thing that might get pricey could be the boots, if you want to invest.  Otherwise, go H&M all the way, or even Tar-gae.   I hope this helped someone.

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Let’s Talk About Carol From “The Walking Dead”

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Carol is bad ass.

WARNING: “The Walking Dead” spoilers ahead (if you think a TV show storyline requires a warning label).

Last Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead” (“Strangers”) begins with a lot of couples kissing, jabbering and walking in the woods…DEATH IS NEAR.  It’s very clear that Bob will soon buy the farm.  BUT WAIT….he lives….while some fine young cannibals snack on his amputated leg (mmmm, delicious fire-roasted calf).  It’s not the living dead we fear in post-zombie apocalypse culture, but our very own human brethren. OH, THE IRONY.

“Walkers” no longer pose the greatest threat to humanity because well, they’re just very slow and uncoordinated and while their bony hands can get a good grip on your neck, their heads have the consistency of a cabbage (according to the sound FX) and their demise only requires the energy it takes to slice a watermelon.  Not to mention, in the absence of any certified therapists, a quality zombie stabbing session can provide a great emotional release. (I’d like to try it).

Yes, these “walkers” could learn a few things from the World War Z zombies who mysteriously have super speed.  But let’s talk about Carol.  No, actually, let’s first talk about Carol’s hair. I live in pre-zombie apocalypse times with a job and presumably access to some affordable hair cuts and, yet, never look nearly as rockin as Carol, who hasn’t stepped into a salon since the first season. She and Daryl, who looks ready for the cover of Esquire in his hipster coif, must have stocked up on styling gel and mouse during one of their scavenging missions because for people who sleep outdoors and never bathe (that I’ve seen) they kill zombies in style.

But seriously, let’s talk about Carol. She begins her journey as the downtrodden wife of Wife-Beater Ed who (guess what?) becomes zombie food after he smacks her around and lectures Andrea (remember Andrea?) on how she needs to do his laundry because it’s “women’s work.” (Season 1 Andrea was cool).  Then Carol’s daughter, Sophia, goes missing and after they find her zombiefied, Carol loses it (as did I), goes into a PTSD coma and, along with Shane, looks prime for death.  But she doesn’t die.  Slowly but surely, Carol becomes bad ass.  She learns how to use knives and guns.  She kills some sick members of the camp because she fears they might infect the community.  For that arguably severe act, Grimes sends her away to fend for herself, but she does just fine.   She regroups with Tyrese to care for her adopted daughters, Sociopath Lizzie and Codependent Mikah, and when Lizzie offs Mikah (more PTSD) she does the right thing and shoots her…? (as logic dictates in this world).  Then she saves the Grimes Crew from becoming human jerky by single handedly blowing up the Human Meat Packing company, and then acts all, oh, I was just in the neighborhood, NBD… She’s more badass than Michonne who really kind of peaked in Season Three and now that she’s lost her sword has become weirdly smiley, peaceful and zen.  WHERE DID MICHONNE GO?

And, yet, through it all Carol has evolved, grown stronger, tougher and maintained the same short cropped hairstyle that requires AT LEAST a cut every three weeks.  WHO IS CUTTING CAROL’S HAIR?

The other great thing about Carol is that she has kept her hair grey. (If they can find styling gel in the post-zombie apocalypse, then surely someone can pick up a box of Natural Instincts).  I love that Melissa Suzanne Mcbride embraces her character’s age, and her own, and let’s her be a mature badass.  No wonder Daryl has the hots for her.

Interestingly, TV Version Carol has appeared in the most episodes of any female character, and is the only female character who has appeared in every season. In the comic book version she not only can’t fight or handle weapons, but she kills herself in the prison.    The TV show writers clearly have more respect for Carol (and maybe women…this is a comic book, after all).  Or, perhaps, Melissa McBride infused her character with so much strength that they had no choice but to keep raising her status in zombie world.  I don’t know what else to say, but I REALLY WANT CAROL TO LIVE.

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A Little Heart Heavy…

cloud-hiI had a breast ultrasound on Friday.  (For more info on my dense fibrous breasts and how I feel about mammograms click here.) I’ll cut to the chase and say I’m fine.  The cyst has shrunken.  Cancer doesn’t usually get smaller.  I didn’t chat with the radiologist with my boobs showing this time, so it scored lower on the excitement scale.   However, approaching this appointment I had imagined every possible horror scenario and was ready to spend the day in surgery.  People get diagnosed with cancer every day and my heart goes out to all of them.

Not that there’s a convenient time for a cancer diagnosis, but now would be really bad.  I don’t know how I would handle my mother’s cancer and my own.  It would be a like material for a one-woman show I would never want to put up.

Just when you think you have a handle on things (i.e., not sleeping alone), life gets a little harder.  Sorry to get all heavy and dark.  I just needed to get it out.

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In Excellent Sheep’s Clothing

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I lived in this building (in Berkeley college) sophomore and senior year.

I went to Yale. There, I said it. It happened.  I didn’t say I was a genius or particularly well informed. I just attended a competitive college.  Since I’m not a Kennedy or anything, it’s a little unnerving to admit at times.  Now you expect greatness. Or excellence. PLEASE STOP.

William Deresiewiczs taught at Yale for many years (not in my era, though, cuz that’s how old I am) and wrote the well-titled book, “Excellent Sheep.”   I didn’t read his book, but I did read the piece he wrote for the New Republic called,  “Don’t Send Your Kids To The Ivy League.”   In his years of teaching undergrads at Yale he found that “most of them seemed content to color within the lines that their education had marked out for them….The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk.”

Not exactly a compliment.    Younger New Yorker writer Nathan Heller took issue with this stance in the September 1st New Yorker article “Are Elite Colleges Bad For The Soul?.  Heller claims we no longer live in a world where a noblesse oblige (old money) class can enjoy quoting Keats (didn’t read) or where the average competitive middle/upper class kid (new money) can discover his soul through Paradise Lost (overrated).  College as a “discovery time” was never a thing except in the minds of some hippy professors in the 70’s. In Heller’s opinion, Deresiewicz is being very dated and impractical with all his whining about “opening up the soul”  We must compete to survive in our global economy.    If you’re not bleary eyed from how many hours you worked, you’re simply not doing it right. (I have discussed how I feel about this here).

I don’t disagree with Mr. Deresiewicz.    I worked hard in high school and did what I had to do to graduate in one piece, but my parents didn’t program me for uber-success. I think they’re still blown away that I went to Yale. I made friends and socialized with relatively chill kids and waited to graduate so I could take a nap.  (I took plenty of naps in college).  But I met those who never loosened their grip on the reins.  Must. Be. Awesome. YOU ARE A MACHINE OF SUCCESS.   Except for a few alcohol and/or drug- induced expressions of rebellion (my therapist would call it “acting out)” they strode confidently down professional tracks.  While I deliberated and signed up for open mics they received degrees, wrote books, and and all kinds of kick-ass Ivy League things.   Eventually, I decide that I am a spare tire Yalie and that’s OK.

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All freshman lived on old campus.

More than a few Yale students expressed fascination with the fact that I and my friends (I had a Berkeley posse at Yale) came from Berkeley. (People grow up there?) The future banker–ish types majored in econ, listened to rap and reggae and smoked a lot of pot.  I, of course, didn’t understand what the fuss was about.  My boyfriend tries to help me understand that for most young people growing up in suburban US life affords less creative or intellectual stimulation than in Berkeley. So, I can not judge.   We had a early familiarity with pot, politics, socioeconomic and racial diversity and an independence unheard of in this time of kid-chauffeuring (I started taking public transit when I was 10).  I grew up feeling like there weren’t any adults around.  So, yes, it’s  hard to feel sorry for rich kids deprived of soul. But nobody cares if the CEO has street cred or not.  My favorite Ivy Leagers are the ones who own it. White. Privileged. Staying That Way. No apologies necessary.

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I lived in this castle freshman year.

Maybe I failed at being a “Yalie” but I loved my teachers, going to class, and the  experience of coming out of a Shakespeare lecture feeling like I’ve had a religious experience.   But to be honest, I had a similar experience with teachers at Berkeley High.  Maybe I just loved learning or was one of those mushy people upon whom a teacher could leave an impression.   I was some things that qualified me for a school like Yale, but excellent wasn’t one of them. Then again, I never stood drunk and naked next to a cow in the middle of winter and took a secret vow to reproduce my family’s class and lifestyle.  (I was never in a Secret Society, but I have heard some interesting stories)

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I never said I had no fun.

In recent years I have found myself day dreaming about what it would have been like to go to a state school.  I wouldn’t have met a lot of great people, become acquainted with real pizza, slipped on ice in my Ann Taylor dress on my way to a ball in single digit temperature, or understood the meaning of the term “townies.”  However, I would have had more room to explore among less excellent sheep. I might have tried things that I wasn’t good at, like acting and guitar. I might have taken time off…But then again, I might have ended up in the exact same psychic space upon graduation time: tired, lonely and lost.

I’m still not sure college matters that much in the grand scheme of life.  My Yale degree has helped make up for some employment gaps, but, as it turns out, you don’t need a Yale degree to become a standup comic/playwright/blogger.  I often wonder if a fancy Ivy League-ish place satisfy a parents ego more than a students’ edification.

If I had children I would want them to explore their intellectual curiosity without the oppressive piano-sized weight of achievement on their shoulders.   I’m sure that a high percentage of Ivy League students have accepted an obligation set by their family with a stoic resolve. And that’s not a bad thing. However, I feel sad for anyone entrenched in his life as an investment banker if he really wanted to pursue African drumming or just build website and design music for goth films.

I used to think I was averse to a certain type of arrogance and aggression that generates excellence.  Now I think though I just got tired and wanted to have more fun…which we all should.

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Artistic Statement For Sundance

default-2013Dear Sundance Person,

I have no doubt that you have received many qualified applicants for the Playwright’s Lab. Pretty kick ass reputation you’ve got, Sundance.  I’m no slouch, but in regards to my chances of making the cut I do feel akin to a snowball in, let’s just say LA over the past few weeks. (I walked five blocks in the valley on Monday, so I have a sense of Hell).   Nonetheless, I believe in Affirming To The Universe my worth as a human being by Putting Myself Out There.  Sure, I’ll send you my play and $35. However, one aspect of this application gives me great pause: the Artistic Statement.   WHAT IS THIS?

Do you think Shakespeare wrote an Artistic Statement?  Is this statement writing process how jazz got invented?  Did F. Scott Fitzgerald summarize his relationship to metaphors in a letter to Maxwell Perkins prior to writing “The Great Gatsby?” He did write many letters to Maxwell Perkins about it, but as many of us Gatsby nerds can agree, the point of “The Great Gatsby” and every other great piece of  “art” in human history can only be found in a person’s relationship to it. In other words: THE WORK SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

Putting aside these questions, I forged ahead.  My heart sank at the words “Artistic Statement” but I nonetheless scoured my brain and history for the most pretentious things I’ve done and said.   The list is long, varied, embarrassing and hopefully ends around the year 2001, but maybe not.   Yes, I took to Creative Writing in college.  I once placed the classic quote from MacBeth that begins with “Tomorrow, tomorrow…” before a story because I thought I had discovered it.  Ah, youth…

Frankly, I’m not sure I can find a way to do this that doesn’t read like something written by a pretentious ass. Also, I can’t imagine the degree of douchiness this kind of thing might attract.  Frankly, I feel a little sorry for you, dear reader, sent to weed through everyone’s dissertation on experiencing discrimination for being dropped off at school in a Ford Escort or having no nanny. Ok, so I’m being judgmental here and assuming that 90% of your applicants are, if not white, hardly came from humble means.  Am I wrong?  I mean, we can’t raise the minimum wage, protect abortion rights, or guarantee that 9-year-old Guatemalan refugee who has survived  abuse can be guaranteed asylum in the US.  In the grand scheme of life, an Artistic Statement is the equivalent of a teenager’s journal about her unrequited crushes.

What is a Artistic Statement?  Well, Wiki can show you how it’s done here.  Wikipedia says (and they KNOW) an artistic statement “is a written description of (the artists) work. The brief verbal representation is about and in support of, his or her own work to give the viewer understanding.”  (This sentence sucks.) SINCE WHEN IS THERE A CONSENSUS ABOUT UNDERSTANDING ART?

What is a “Statement?”  The Internet Dictionary (another valid source) defines a “statement” as “a definite or clear expression of something in speech or writing.” Definite and clear? WHEN IS ART DEFINITE AND CLEAR? I’M WRITING IN CAPS NOW BECAUSE I’M MAD.  I SAY WE WRITE ALL ARTISTIC STATEMENTS WITH CAPS LOCK ON.

If there’s any statement I can make it’s the desire to not make statements.  Politicians make statements.  Scientists make statements.

“The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.” – Anton Chekhov

What he said.   THERE’S MY STATEMENT.

Sincerely,
Solange

P.S. Please choose me.

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Recap Of The Entire First Season Of The Leftovers In Four Paragraphs (Spoilers Ahead)

the-leftovers

Hitting a wall with your fist always conveys inner-torture.

Don’t have HBO?  Never fear. Here’s the entire season of “The Leftovers” in four paragraphs.

“The Leftovers,” a show that sounds like a sitcom about family dinners, is a disturbing David Lynch-ish drama about the aftermath of the most boring apocalypse ever; no zombies, incurable viruses, or natural disasters, just a lot of people vanishing in one big Star Treck-beam moment. The details matter little to the central plot.  Suffice it to say that dad walked out for a pack of cigarettes and we’re dealing with our abandonment issues. “The Departed” (people who got beamed) include cool people like Michael Jordan and Bill Clinton, but a lot of jerks, too. There’s a lot of debate over whether “the departed” went to heaven or hell.  Creepy Priest Guy (Christopher Eccleston) believes they were punished, but we, the viewers, understand that death has no rhyme or reason…I guess.

Three years later, Cults have replaced Pilates and Yoga as the new thing. The most popular cult, the Guilty Remnants, recruit members stalker-style and instead of wearing yoga pants and developing nice muscle definition, dress in white and smoke cigarettes.  Chief Of Police, aka, Super Hot Cop (Justin Theroux), has sympathy for the GR because his ex-wife Former Therapist Who Reminds Me Of My Last Shrink (Amy Brenneman) joined the GR because, as we come to understand, she was always too It’s-All-Good-I’m-Really-In-Denial (hence, being a therapist) and his daughter may be next.

Super Hot Cop keeps blanking out from his drug and alcohol addiction and doing things like accidentally sleeping with his teenaged daughter’s best friend. WHOOPS. Super Hot Cops’ Son (Chris Zylka) has joined a different cult and is assigned to protect the Asian Pregnant Girlfriend (Annie Q.) of Sadistic Leader/World Savior (Paterson Joseph) who also has a gift for removing emotional pain. (More paradox!) She’s actually one of many impregnated Asian girls by Sadistic Leader/World Savior because Asian women can’t get a break on TV. Her baby turns out to be a girl which she leaves in a public bathroom because Chinese girl babies also can’t even get a break on TV.

Super Hot Cop gets together with Lady Who Lost Her Whole Family (Carrie Coon) and they find some momentary happiness before he goes into a fugue state and kidnaps the Also Sadistic Leader of The Guilty Remnants (Ann Dowd) to torture her. Then she kills herself by sticking a shard of glass into her throat because the Guilty Remnants don’t do anything half-assed. The GR demonstrates this when they enact the last stage of their evil master plan of recreating the last moments The Departed with terrifying mannequins and dredging up the past AGAIN.  There’s no one to direct your anger towards, but maybe that’s the point.   The townspeople go into white people riot-mode and light the GR apartment complex on fire.  Super Hot Cop saves his daughter, who tried to join the GR when she realized that cult-members at the very least have more company, from the dramatic fire.  The next day, Lady Who Lost Her Whole Family adopts Chinese baby. The End.

The acting is as good as the story is confusing.  Or rather the real plot vanished more than the people.   We never learn what really happened, but we tolerate the mystery of life and death…right?

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