Thursday, January 31, 2013

what i read (and some pictures i looked at) in january

Yeah, I’m starting this feature up again. My bad-TV addiction continues, but I’ve gotten into graphic novels/memoirs as a sort of happy medium, and read some actual word-literature here and there. I could—and may—tell you all about how Nip/Tuck makes United States of Tara look like an article in a medical journal, realism-wise, but I feel like Jhumpa Lahiri could use the blog shout-out more. So here goes.

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person by Miriam Engelberg (speaking of shout-outs, thank you, Sizzle for sending this to me!): This book tracked my own post-cancer-diagnosis thought process beat for beat, from self-blame (did she cause cancer by eating too much cheese? Miriam Engelberg wonders), to worrying that your doomsday thoughts are foreshadowing in the movie of your life, to becoming hopelessly addicted to terrible TV. Either Miriam Engelberg and I have a lot in common, or breast cancer is a completely predictable, universal experience. I feel like she would hope it's the former, just like I do—although I'm sure there are some common cancer threads.

The hazard of reading even the most humorous cancer memoirs is that sometimes you Google the writer and learn that she's died. And when, two thirds of the way through the book, her cancer metastasizes, you think, "Well, I guess I know exactly how I'll feel if this happens to me, which is: pretty shitty."

The drawings are terrible, but the writing is funny and fearless. This might be one of the most challenging super-simple-to-read books I've read. I hope that Miriam's essence is kicking back, doing a crossword somewhere.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed: This is a perfect book to read when you're going through a hard time and can barely concentrate on anything and really need to know that other people's lives suck, and that they get through it. Cheryl Strayed's voice is that of a mother who's learned things the hard way herself. She won't let you off easy, but she won't judge you or shame you either. This is a unique approach in a world of tough-love advice columnists. Everyone loves the "You're the asshole in this situation" turnabout answer, but the "You're the asshole, honeybun, because you're human and in pain, and let me tell you about the time I was an asshole" approach is truly revolutionary. Reading all these letters and answers and snippets of memoir back to back reveals their schtick, but the wisdom behind the schtick is genuine.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: Lahiri tells stories the semi-old-fashioned way: beautiful details, simple language, no postmodern bells and whistles. I used to be suspicious of this style. It seemed too sedate, too beloved by my undergrad creative writing teachers. But now that maximalism is mainstream (as my partner pointed out when I tried to claim otherwise), the contrarian in me is all, "Hey, maybe I should check out that Raymond Carver fellow." My reading and enjoyment of this book seems related. While I didn't quite devour the book, I did develop a quiet love for it, like the narrator of the last story does for his arranged bride. My favorite stories were "A Temporary Matter," the heartbreaking story of a couple whose world goes sour after the stillbirth of their child; and "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar," about a sick woman who refuses to suffer in stoic silence, and the town who finally listens.

Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story by Frederik Peeters: The other two graphic memoirs about illness that I read recently (apparently it's a genre, and one I'm into) had excellent writing and bad to cute-but-crude illustrations. This one is kind of the reverse. The story—about a man who falls in love with an HIV+ woman and her son, who also has the virus—is fragmented in a way that is perhaps intentional but not always effective. The text can be wordy, drifty and full of ellipses (although what is a dormant virus but the ultimate ellipsis?). Some of this may come from the fact that English is not Peeters' native language, I'm pretty sure.

The illustrations, though, are dark and beautiful. Peeters has a knack for drawing both sparse reality—the light fixture above his head when he's lying on the floor, despondent—and fantastical metaphors. After a doctor assures him, "You have as much chance of catching AIDS as you have of running into a white rhinoceros on your way out," a white rhino immediately appears behind the couple and stalks the narrator for the rest of the book. That was when I was like, "Okay, he really gets it." He and his lady and their joyously drawn little boy try to live in the moment, but they know how hard-earned and fragile that moment is; how you have to pack your bottle of blue pills on every vacation.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

bald is beautiful (poorhouse scalp, not so much)

When my hair first started falling out in clumps at Trader Joe’s last week, I had all kinds of angry thoughts. People who get prophylactic surgery never have to deal with this shit. Chopping off your tits isn’t nothing, but it’s not cancer. And Fucking chemo. It’s all, “The disease you have is SO BAD WE HAVE TO POISON YOU; IT’S WORSE THAN POISON!” And I want to shove my balding head in the face of anyone who thinks I’m just an overly emotional drama queen who can’t deal with life.

I don’t know if anyone actually thinks I’m an overly emotional drama queen who can’t deal with life. But my superego definitely thinks that, and over the years it has worn the faces of various people.  

It seemed too soon to declare the ChemoCap a success or a failure. One day, I’d been able to tug gently at a handful of hair, and it stayed in my head. The next, it was in my hand. The fact that my life could change so quickly and concretely without notice or consent was alarming. I know that’s the story of cancer. I know that’s the story of life. But it sucks. The clumps seemed concentrated at the edges of my scalp, though, implying that the ChemoCap had preserved the parts it had the most access to.

After a few more days of waking up to a pillow full of hair, and discovering hair in my food, and worrying that people at Starbucks would wonder about the snowfall of hair on my shoulders, I decided that, while I had hair on my head, it wasn’t my hair as I knew it—a thick, curly, low-maintenance mane that I could run my hands through and style as I pleased. It looked the same, but it had been replaced by a finicky, delicate creature that freaked out at the slightest disturbance. So what was the point?

The point, of course, is not being bald. Not having a neon sign over your head that says, I have cancer, oh, and can I have a nonfat chai latte? (Even though I’m trying to cut back on dairy and sugar, because maybe they cause cancer, but I’m treating myself this morning because I know I won’t be eating much for a few days.)

Can Starbucks and baldness mix? Just one of the burning questions I have for Britney.

But I tend to err on the side of getting things over with, and I was over my hair that wasn’t really my hair.

In the morning, I told AK I wanted to shave it off.

“Are you sure?” Her eyes looked a little glisten-y, in a way they never had for my boobs. “Your curls,” she said.

I ran my hands over my hair and opened my palms to show her the dark brown globs I’d gathered. She got it.

She had plans with Pedro, and said she’d ask him to come over after, or she’d borrow his clippers. We were such girls. We owned no such tools.

“Okay,” she said. “We’ll put on the Les Mis soundtrack and get to work.”

I had a dream my life would be/ So different from this hell I'm living. (But at least I haven't had to sell my teeth for rent money.)

I went to the new yoga studio on York after work (because of course there’s a new yoga studio on York), where, during shavasana, the teacher gripped our heads and turned them right, then left. In my mind I apologized for the handfuls of hair she was going to walk away with.

Then I went home to our mini head-shaving party: AK, Pedro, Stephen and Nicole. As much as I love my family, they’ve been consumed by their own stress lately, and I want to shield them from mine. It’s not as self-sacrificing as it sounds. In a way, not letting them be there for me is almost a punishment in twisted Klein-family logic. But my heart swelled with gratitude for the people who’d become my family; who were about to see the little spots on my scalp that are always red and flaky and picked-at, a ritual that used to be between me and my commute, about to be exposed to the world.

Pedro tried to use one of the longer clipper settings to take off the top layer, but either my falling-out hair didn’t have enough resistance, or my naturally thick hair had too much. He and AK took turns with the scissors instead.

“Stop giving her a style cut,” Nicole instructed. “AK’s living out her childhood Barbie dreams here.” (Although I was pretty sure both Nicole and AK had been Star Wars kids.)

Finally we got down to a shave-able length, and Pedro took off the sides. There was talk of giving me a Mohawk, and I lamented that they didn’t make Mohawk wigs.

I felt pretty sure that wearing a wig wouldn’t be my style. A long time ago, I saw a documentary about Jennifer Miller, a former professor of mine who’d worked as a bearded lady at Coney Island. She was queer, but not transgender, so the filmmaker asked why she didn’t shave her beard when it started to come in in her twenties.

“For a while, I did,” she said, “but I always felt like I was going to get caught. Like someone would catch a glimpse of stubble during a job interview. It seemed more shameful, more like having a beard, than having a beard did.”

People with no hair can learn a lot from people with extra hair.

I don’t think queer people take faking anything lightly, especially if it’s out of shame. I am determined not to feel ashamed of being diagnosed with cancer, even though sometimes I do, even though there are parts of cancer culture (and parts of queer culture, for that matter—the rainbow jewelry and certain types of shoes) that I resist fiercely.

A Mohawk I could glue to my scalp, though? That would be awesome.

“Now you have kind of a Tank Girl look,” Nicole said of my partially shaved head.

AK had been recording it all on her iPad Mini. She thought I should take advantage of the opportunity to look menacing. “You could, like, record a video message to send to your enemies,” she said, pointing her iPad-cam at me.

“Oh, I’ve got a list,” I assured her. First stop: superego.

“Don’t forget to shave it front to back,” Nicole said to Pedro. “That’s how they did it in 50/50.

I laughed. “So you’re telling a guy who’s shaved his own head a bunch of times to make sure to do this the way you saw in a movie once?”

AK said, “Do you want to see a picture of how you look?” She turned her iPad to me, but instead of my own effed-up head, she showed me this:

Lung-cancer chic.

We all agreed I looked particularly dykey. “This is the first time I’ve seen you look scary, like you could really kick some ass,” Nicole said.

“I feel like the dykey butch girls with shaved heads are always the really nice ones, who are shy and won’t give you any trouble,” AK said.

When they were done, I looked in the mirror. It was a little bit Les Mis/19th Century Poorhouse Chic, but not as much as I’d worried. My eyes looked bigger. Maybe I could pull off a femmey-punk-dyke thing. I’d assumed I would be a hat-and-scarf girl, but suddenly I wanted to rock my new bald head.

The only problem was that my scalp looked a little scary. The thick dark stubble was interrupted by pink patches where my hair had actually fallen out, and the combination looked blotchy and, well, diseased. Like, in a contagious way. I felt like the good people at Starbucks might not appreciate this (Starbucks being my default Public Place).

So now I’m at Starbucks, writing this, wearing the gorgeous, super-soft merino wool hat Keely made me. As she was knitting, she joked about festooning it with pink and flowers and glitter and breast cancer ribbons, but it’s very stately. It looks much less chemo-y than the bandanas I experimented with last night.

This is listed as a "breast cancer awareness hat." When I look at it, I do feel VERY AWARE of breast cancer.

As pop culture role models go, I don’t look like I could give the finger to the Pope or run over anyone with a tank, but I also don’t look like a movie of the week. That’s good enough for me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

feeling all combative about women in combat

Listening to people debate the pros and cons of allowing women in combat on KPCC this morning, the “con” arguments seemed to fall into two categories:

1) Women are weak.
2) Men are weak.

The anti-women-in-combat guy (I don’t know who he was—some conservative military dude, I guess) argued that women are physically weaker than men, and that no one will be content to have combat units that include only the .001 percent of women who can pass rigorous physical exams. Soon we’ll all turn into affirmative-action-lovin’ pansies and lower the standards. Presto, the terrorists will win.

He also concluded that men will freak the fuck out. Apparently they’ll be so protective of their female fellow soldiers that they’ll make irrational decisions when they see a woman bleed (not even period blood!). Or, they’ll get all rapey. At the very least, they’ll have affairs and the female soldiers will go home pregnant.

Also, WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? He, or maybe a caller, envisioned a scenario in which a husband-and-wife combat soldier team both went off to war and both came home with PTSD. It was implied that they’d shoot their kids or abandon them while they went off on a drug binge together.

To all of this I say:

1) Women are strong.
2) Men are strong.

I’ve met people who claim that women could be as physically strong as men if we encouraged them to bulk up the way men do, but I for one don’t underestimate the reality of testosterone. Yeah, most women can’t bench press as much as most men can. But just as there are different kinds of emotional strength (I’m a fan of the crying-a-lot kind), there are different kinds of physical strength. Recently, I saw this cartoon:

Just because you use Comic Sans doesn't mean you don't have a good point to make.
I think it’s a little unfair, especially this particular flu season. But the point is, endurance counts for a lot. As much as I get tired of how our culture fetishizes childbirth…hello, childbirth!

Also, are we fighting with swords? Are we engaging gladiator-style wrestling matches? I don’t know a lot about guns, but it seems like women can pull a trigger as easily as men can.

While we’re generalizing about women, let’s generalize about men too. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that most of them aren’t rapists. I do have some qualms about the whole premise of military life, which is Be violent, but only when we say so. I don’t know how you can be programmed to dehumanize people, then go home and work in an office and love your wife and play with your kids. I think a lot of soldiers don’t know how they can do this either. But adding a couple of female combat soldiers to the mix isn’t going to change this. It’s not like your typical Army rapist is all, Well, I didn’t rape that woman who served my food or fixed my Humvee or sewed me up or policed the town. But this chick with the gun? Now it’s rapin’ time!

Use the buddy system, soldier.
Women are already in the military. Men adapted. Women adapted. It’s kind of what people do. There were and are affairs, but as far as I know, we haven’t lost any wars because of it. When you hear about our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, “soldiers hooking up” is never on the list of causes.

I once heard someone say that the party line for all but the most rabid conservatives is: The last thing we did is okay, but this new thing we’re considering is crossing the line. Meaning domestic partnerships are fine, but gay marriage is craaaaazy. Or having women in the military is fine, but having women in combat is cr-five-A’s-zy. I guess having openly gay soldiers is fine now, because it already happened. I guess the possibility of them hooking up and fucking up “unit cohesion” is no longer an issue (because it never was).

Which brings me to THE CHILDREN. Sometimes when I’m freaking out about a possibility, I remind myself how many things would have to be true in order for that possibility to happen. Let’s say, just to pluck an example from the air totally at random, I was afraid of dying of breast cancer. I would have to get screened AND diagnosed AND it would have to spread AND there would have to be no treatment that could help me. Even when a couple of those things turn out to be true, they’re usually not all true. And even if they were all true for me, they wouldn’t be true for everyone on a mass scale, and America would go on, which is what the military is worried about.

In this scenario a woman signs up for combat duty AND her husband does too AND they have kids AND they both come home with PTSD AND neither of them gets treated. If this is such a rampant problem that we need to exclude women from combat, I guess we also need to exclude single dads. And gay military couples with children. Certainly that would be easier than providing good psychological services, just as it would be easier to exclude women than to teach men not to rape. I mean, I’m not being sarcastic here—it would be easier and cheaper to just exclude women. But it would also be wrong.

Excuse me for trotting out a tired argument here, but aren’t we fighting to protect, like, liberties and stuff? I.e. doing what’s not wrong? Just a crazy idea.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

getting clean, getting dirty

1. waiting for the bus

I spent five hours cleaning the house yesterday. It was my first Real Cleaning in a month, and it felt heavenly. Don’t get me wrong: AK rose to the occasion while I was recuperating. She gave the floors her signature polish and kept the living room uncharacteristically tidy. It kept me feeling sane and loved.

But feeling sane and loved isn’t the same as feeling in control. My mom was a stress cleaner too. We’re both one trauma (and, okay, a lot of laziness) away from being characters on Obsessed, bathing in bleach or arranging the DVDs by color.

Who needs control when you can see your reflection in the sink?
In 2002, when I was living with B, a man in a jacket that said “Coroner” knocked on our door. The coroner never stops by to tell you that your party is too loud, you know?

Our good friend and upstairs neighbor, Tania, had been hit by a bus while crossing the street on her bike. (This always adds an extra layer of weirdness to certain cancer-related statements: “Sure, BRCA-2 means you’re at slightly increased risk for pancreatic cancer. But your chances of being hit by a bus are probably greater!” “Sure, you were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, but any of us could get hit by a bus at anytime!” I always thought Tania, who had an odd sense of humor,* would have found it crazy/weird/hilarious that she was hit by a bus.)

B opened the door and talked to the coroner. I knew something bad had happened, but it didn’t seem right to run to the door like a looky-loo. So I returned to the kitchen and finished washing the dishes. At the time, my mom was being treated for ovarian cancer—I think it was her second bout. No one had said the word “terminal,” but it hung there as a possibility. I scrubbed pans and thought, I guess this is how I act when someone dies. It felt like a dress rehearsal for future, deeper grief. The thought repeated over the course of the next few days and weeks as I went for long runs until I started crying, as B and Tania’s boyfriend Norm and I went for stumbling, surreal walks through USC’s Victorian ghetto.

Norm called Tania’s parents from our living room. Afterward he told us that her mom had started out cheerful. Hi, Norm! I’m sure he wanted to preserve that moment; I’m sure he hated being the omniscient narrator in that phone call.

2. flexing scarred muscles

Last night my sister and I, needing a break from thoughts of mutant genes that give you no superpowers whatsoever, dressed up, went to dinner and saw Django Unchained. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t really take place in the real world, but Quentin Tarantino is (perversely? unflinchingly?) all about depicting the real-world horrors of slavery. So it was cathartic in a Oh, so you think YOU can’t control YOUR life, do you? kind of way.

And the Klan-struggling-with-the-eyeholes-on-their-hoods scene was hilarious, and Kerry Washington is amazing at acting with her face.

Her face is all, "Go fuck yourself, Stephen."
But I’d read this article first, so I watching with a critical eye. Executive summary: The movie’s main failing is that it creates a superhero in Django, discrediting the fact that African Americans resisted their enslavement on a mass level for centuries—that freedom wouldn’t have come without the millions of unsung heroes who ran away or poisoned the master’s food or married illegally or took a little longer filling bags of cotton than necessary. I would add that creating individual heroes and villains rather than unpacking complex social issues is the problem of movies in general.

The article also argues that Django is wrong to villainize Samuel L. Jackson’s Uncle Tom house slave character, because the whole thing about oppression is that it turns oppressed people against each other. I couldn’t agree more with this statement—I always worry that if I’d been born into different circumstances, I would be more of a Stephen, less of Django.

I’m not sure what the official definition of an Uncle Tom is, but I thought Stephen was more complicated than that—yes, he kissed slave-owner ass to preserve his own, but he also had subversive power, twisted as it was. I wanted the movie to do more with this. What if he’d eventually decided to use his impressive intuition to help Django instead of Leonard DiCaprio’s eyeliner-wearing sadist? What if Django had decided to spare Stephen because he didn’t want to stoop to his level by taking out his anger on his own people?

But there was no time for such things: There were people to be shot, body-squish sound effects to be blasted over the surround-sound.

Django transforms from cowed to empowered, but empowerment, his German bounty hunter mentor tells him, means getting his hands dirty. To watch Django slip off his slave rags and flex his scarred muscles is to watch him harden. I guess you can harden for good or for evil. I guess either way, you think, This is how I act when.  

*Favorite Tania story: Once she wanted to get my friend Sara a kitten. Her cover story: She desperately needed Sara to go to Home Depot with her. They drove to a residential section of the Valley, miles from where we all lived. Sara was like, “Where are we? There’s a Home Depot in Hollywood.” Tania took her to a lady’s house and was like, “Surprise, it’s a kitten!”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

the cactus ghost of carriage place

Alas, poor cactus. I knew him well.
On Sunday the organization I work for hosted an event for people who teach community writing workshops. The room where the event took place was freezing; people jogged in place between writing prompts. When I mentioned this to my dad on the phone later, he said, “I hate to think of you being cold.”

Was there ever a more dad thing to say? Yes, he’s got my chemo-compromised immune system in mind, but if parents could have their way, their children would never suffer. Of course, that means they would never exist. One of the writers at the event said: “2012 was a hard year for me. I lost my job. I lost a really close friend. When I think about my life, it’s like this—” She made a roller coaster motion with her hand. “But then there’s poetry—” She made a straight line. “It’s this constant.”

Yes. Not just poetry, but yes. Writing. I’m so alert to the dangers of romanticizing the artistic life that I sometimes forget its power. Then I get in a room full of writers—vets or amateurs or in between—and I respond to something that kicks my ass just a little bit, and I am redeemed all over again.

One of Sunday’s prompts was: You are the ghost that haunts the first house you lived in. What message do you have to deliver to the child-you? How do you deliver it?

When I was a kid, and very interested in ghosts, my parents told me that our block had been a cactus nursery before it became a housing tract. For better or worse, the only souls likely to haunt our house were those of plants. So here’s what I wrote.

What I want to tell you is: Life is prickly. I know it’s easy to forget, here on this cul de sac, among the olive trees and toppled bicycles. My spines lay beneath the dirt on the turnaround island. You and the other children gather eucalyptus pods, make tiny utopian villages, keep watch for the neighborhood curmudgeon, who thinks he owns this place. He does not. No more than I do, no more than you.

You yelp, a ruby of blood appears on your fingertip. You frown as if something is amiss; as if this is the anomaly, not the wide lawns, not the electrical wires your father campaigned to have buried beneath the sidewalk. They crackle there, lightning in dirt. They electrify my fellow ancients, the wooden skeletons of cacti, skulls of mice.

An adult is summoned, reassurances murmured: It’s okay. It’s not your fault. This block used to be a cactus farm.

If I could open my succulent mouth, I would say: It’s not okay. The murmuring adult is haunted, was haunted before she moved here. Her DNA looks like a cactus skeleton and will not hold the cancer at bay. Neither will yours.

There is a spray that kills microorganisms. There is a bandage the color of sand. These things separate inside and outside, and when the fog rolls in at night, no one will believe there is such a thing as desert. No one will know that my spines have spines, that they are already in your blood, navigating your dark veins like a river.

Friday, January 11, 2013

fear is fear, but chemo is just a long non-pedicure

I’m lying on top of a made bed—my favorite way to rest—waiting for the chemo hangover to kick in. That’s what Nicole called it, a hangover. I like how it makes chemo itself sound like a party. And when you think about how I spent yesterday afternoon, it’s not totally off: hanging out with two of my favorite people, playing games, wearing a funny hat, then passing out.

AK, Nicole and I took the elevator to City of Hope’s chemo room, where I strapped the first of four frozen ChemoCaps to my head, tying down the pointy, extra frozen part with a scarf. I looked like an equestrian in the Special Olympics, but the nurses were supportive and curious. I’d packed a bunch of warm clothes into my cancer tote bag (because of course cancer comes with a free tote bag), but I didn’t need any of them. Soon I started to wonder if the ChemoCaps were really going to work. Maybe they’ll work better once half my hair falls out and the hats can finally touch my scalp.

One person's Special Olympics is another person's runway look.
The chemo room consisted of two rows of recliners. It looked not unlike a nail salon, and I decided they should really hire someone to give pedicures and massages to people trapped in comfy chairs for three hours. I mean, we would pay for them and everything. It would just be a nice optional service.

We played blackjack for a little while. Nicole offered to teach us gin rummy, but the truth is I like card games about as much as I like being hooked up to an IV. I pulled the cancer card in order to not play cards. Then we played Apples to Apples, which AK and I liked, because it’s all about people and metaphor, but which Nicole was baffled by.

“It’s just so subjective!” she said. “What does it even mean to get a point, when it’s just one person’s arbitrary decision?”

We switched to dominoes, which seemed like good middle ground. That got interrupted by an IV bag switch-out. Then I took an Ativan-fueled nap because everyone says to take Ativan before chemo, even though it seems very low on the spectrum of cancer-related stressors.

I kept watching myself for signs of fatigue or spontaneous mouth sores, but by the evening I still felt good enough to see This is 40 with AK. (I hear tomorrow should be the worst.) We were thoroughly annoyed by Pete and Debbie, the main characters. They had some real problems, I guess, but a lot of fake ones too, like being in debt while driving luxury cars and living in a giant house, and being accidentally pregnant at age forty.

There was a montage of them visiting various doctors, and a mention of Paul Rudd’s high cholesterol, but the implication was that forty is rough because that’s when you have to endure the humiliation of medical tests, but only the kind that will always come back okay. The test is the thing itself. Existentially, I think this remains true for me. And fearing death because you’re middle-aged and everything’s going okay is probably not so different from fearing death because you’re in your thirties and things are not going okay. Fear is fear and FDR was right about it.

But still. There’s a scene in which Melissa McCarthy—as the unhinged mother of their daughter’s classmate—screams that they look like a couple from a bank commercial. And they do, and the whole movie felt like the problems of a couple from a bank commercial.
McCarthy: "He touched my nipple!" Rudd: "I touched your shoulder." McCarthy: "I have very high nipples!"
“During some of their really bad fights, I did flash back to some of our own worst fights last year,” AK said, wondering, I think, if that was why she didn’t like Pete and Debbie.

“Right, but the best movies make you cringe at the characters who remind you of your very worst self, and then you have more empathy for them as a result.” Charlize Theron’s baby shower meltdown in Young Adult is one of my favorite examples. Paul Rudd as predictably hedonistic male and Leslie Mann as predictably naggy female are not.

There were a couple of poetic moments, or threads, like the oldest daughter’s obsession with Lost. The last episode of the show is a holy grail she has to find after her parents confiscate her iPad. When she finally gets to watch it, first by herself, then with her little sister and estranged grandpa, she says, “See, they all die, but they’re happy because they did what they needed to do.”

Monday, January 07, 2013

patton oswalt: totally attractive unattractive guy

My latest TV binge is the first two seasons of United States of Tara, which is a frustrating show because it comes sooo close to being good. Anyway, Patton Oswalt plays the husband’s dorky friend, whom Tara’s sister ditches to date a hotter, more successful guy. I wonder how Patton Oswalt feels about being typecast as the Unattractive Guy, which he also played (impressively and hilariously) in Young Adult

Here he is looking pretty cute.
Here he is looking grouchy on a bus bench. But it's hard to be otherwise on a bus bench.
He’s probably cool with it, because I suspect he’s an incredibly smart and well-adjusted person. In fact, I think I have a tiny crush on him, possibly dating back to the time I saw him do stand-up at Largo. He had a bit about how Yoshinoya must be a front for some shady business, because a “beef bowl” was the most unappetizing possible way to present meat.

I was listening to an old Adam Carolla podcast this morning, and he was the guest. They were talking about the then-recent Kanye/Taylor Swift/Beyonce brouhaha. (Bread and Bread: for all your 2009 pop culture criticism needs.) That got them talking about how Beyonce was super talented, not just some Paris Hilton-type celebrity (Paris Hilton being the Kim Kardashian of 2009). Adam mentioned meeting Destiny’s Child way back in the day. They all kicked ass a cappella, he said; too bad those other girls disappeared into oblivion.

Another benefit of being behind the scenes: no camo-kini required.
Patton Oswalt interrupted to say something along the lines of, “But that’s just what the public thinks—I guarantee you that they’re sought-after studio musicians. You can be so successful in this business without ever being a household name. But everyone likes to perpetuate these myths that people are plucked out of nowhere into stardom, and that they become nobody again after their fifteen minutes. Sometimes people do other jobs, but it’s usually to support a serious artistic pursuit.”

Thank you, Patton Oswalt! I love that he’s using his fame—even Unattractive Guy fame—to help redefine America’s bullshit relationship with fame. I aspire to be the Kelly Rowland of the writing world.

Who’s your unlikely crush?