Friday, January 29, 2010

Happy Birthday to...

Me.  It is once again my 22nd birthday, one which I never tire of celebrating.  I began celebrating my 22nd birthday on January 29, 1997, and have done so ever since.  (True story: in 1999, my students brought me a cake with 22 candles on it, which they did again in 2000 and 2001.  Those kids.)

Though clearly my birthday is the most important one celebrated today, there are others who are celebrating today as well.  If you look closely, you will see a uniting theme betwixt myself and all of the celebrities who share my day:

1. Adam Lambert

You might think Adam and I share amazing charisma, or a penchant for black nail polish.  True.  More importantly, we share truly magnificent, inexplicable bangs:

2. Oprah Winfrey

Like Oprah, I am a successful woman of color who has made it in a man's world.  Okay, I'm not in a "man's world," since 99% of my co-workers are female.  "Successful" might also be a stretch, seeing as how I routinely go weeks without checking my mail.  I am a woman, though, and "Caucasian" is a color, right?

3. Tom Selleck

Like Mr. Selleck, I have wavered between full commitment to my mustache and just wanting to cut it off and be taken seriously for a change.  Tom, keep fighting.  It's worth it.

4. Jonny Lang, Andrew Keegan, Sara Gilbert, Heather Graham, Greg Louganis, Teresa Teng, Ann Jillian, Katharine Ross, John Forsythe, Victor Mature, W. C. Fields, and assassinated president William McKinley also share this birthday.  Like me, most of them remember the '70's fondly.  Those who don't I'm sure would have enjoyed it.

So there it is, friends, proof of my greatness.  For, as the great W.C. Fields once said, "Madam, you may be drunk, but when you're ugly things go to pot.  Bleah."

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Playing the Victim

Today may be the most important day in the history of America.  No, I'm misstating.  Today may be the most important day in the history of humans.

Today, the interview of Jay Leno by Oprah Winfrey will air.

I hope you're watching, because I can't.  I'm working, like a sucker.

I have read some excerpts from the interview, and I can tell you, Jay is playing this all wrong.  He's trying to make himself sympathetic by making himself the victim of evil NBC.

No, Jay!  People already dislike you!  Don't get up there and say, "Oh, it wasn't me, I just work here."

Playing the victim can be effective, if done properly. 

Firstly, it helps if one has been a genuine victim.  It doesn't matter what you've been a victim of, whether it is something someone did to you, something society did to you, or even something you did to yourself, in the right circumstances.  Strike one against Jay: no one really "did" anything to him, except NBC, who just keeps hiring him and paying him enormous amounts of money, darn it!  It is hard to feel sorry for someone who, like Mr. Leno, makes so much money at his side job that he banks his multimillion dollar salary in its entirety and thus has no need to work ever, ever again.

Secondly, when playing the victim, one must bear in mind that people don't like people who play the victim.  So one must carefully let others know of one's victim status without coming out and saying, "Hey, you need to feel sorry for ME, because my boss doesn't like brown hair!"  However, one shouldn't overcompensate and become the martyr, employing the trademarked Trembling Sigh and repeating, "No, no...I'll get through it."  Strike two against Jay: he laments NBC "firing" him twice, but has no real answer to the question, "So why are you working for them, again?"

Thirdly, one must be careful, when referring to fellow victims, to not "one-up" those in a similar situation.  As in, "Yes, I know you have exczema in your nostrils, but my big toenail just won't grow right!"  In a similar vein, avoid accusing other victim-players of faking when you are trying to get sympathy.  Jay really bungled this with the "I'm sorry, but..." line of thinking.  Jay's logic is this:

1. I love Conan, and feel terrible for all of this.
2. Not that it was my fault.
3. And if his show had been any good at all, they wouldn't have given it back to me.
4. And he chose to leave.
5. But I feel terrible for him.

Most of us can see through this line of reasoning, because you hear it all the time.  I know I do: "Oh, there goes Myrtle, bless her heart, she's such a strong soul for putting up with that cat.  Of course, you know she feeds that cat Necco Wafers, that's why he smells like that.  And she won't buy those special cat roller skates, even though it's two front feet go in opposite directions.  Oh, but I feel for her, bless her heart."  You know what I mean.

So, Jay, if you're going to get yourself out of this, here's my advice:

There.  That's it.  Nothing.  There isn't a way out.  I think Jay will just have to be hated for a while.  He's proved he's resilient, though...I don't count him out.

Bless his heart.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In Which Deb Plays Armchair Psychologist to Hollywood

It was revealed this week, by undoubtedly intrepid reporters risking serious paper cuts, that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have not been photographed together since the first week of January.

Clearly, this means they have split up.  Any couple who does not pose for a photograph together every day must no longer be together, right?

(Poor Sven.  Even if paparazzi were stalking us, we would almost never be photographed together.  We leave at different times of the morning, we get home different times of night.  If he's going out, I'm staying home, and vice versa.  I need to tell him we must get in front of a camera, stat, if we want to save this relationship.)

But enough about me.  Speculation in the media is that Brad, who has been cast as THE GOOD GUY in the breakup, is insisting that Angelina get psychiatric help, or else he's leaving.  She has made public statements that fidelity is not "necessary" to a good relationship, and that she and Brad don't "restrict" each other.  He has "reportedly" purchased a home in Los Angeles in preparation for his return to single life.  They (also "reportedly") visited a lawyer to hammer out custody and financial arrangements in the event they do split up.

Though this speculation has been rampant for over a week, there has been no comment from either Brad or Angelina, though "a source close to the couple" said, "They're fine."

I neither know, or really care, whether or not this is true.  It has, however, along with the music history lessons I am giving to my fifth-graders, gotten me thinking about the messed-up lives of so many artists and entertainers.

I make my living in the arts, if you count "music teacher" as "in the arts."  Wether you teach, produce, or perform for a living, most of us do it because we have to.  We simply can't live without it.  Some, like my dad, have a "day job" and devote spare time (ha!) to their passion.  We call these people "sensible," or "practical," or "strong."  Others, however, can't make that compromise: we have to devote our time to what we're passionate about, or be miserable.  I'm lucky: I'm as passionate about teaching as I am about music, which means I can make a decent living still being true to myself.  Others starve or scrimp by waiting tables or flipping burgers.

Others do not compromise, but due to luck become so successful they accumulate material wealth in such a vast quantity it could legitimately be called "obscene."  I know the pursuit of wealth is the American dream and all, but at some point accumulating more money not only seems ridiculous, it seems harmful.

Regardless, there seem (to me) to be two kinds of people who make art their life:

1. People who love it so much that they find their niche.  These people recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and generally stick to what they are good at without excessive concern for the material rewards.

2. People who are trying to escape what they perceive as their own flaws.  They turn to art to fill a void in themselves.  They enjoy the process of "becoming" someone or something else, but, paradoxically, see the attention and/or money they receive as a result of "becoming" someone else validation for their own character.

Turning specifically to acting, I think there are plenty of examples of category 1: those who have been fortunate enough to be successful in their profession, but who seem to be basically healthy, well-adjusted people, or at least people with the same kinds of problems that regular people have.  I mean, so what if George Clooney still hasn't found the right woman?  Nothing wrong with that, he's got plenty of time.  They say 60 is the new 30.

Those who fall in to category 2 are the stuff of legendary tragedy.  Marilyn Monroe springs to mind.  Judy Garland is another.  Unhappy childhoods, battles with depression, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs... E! built the entire "True Hollywood Story" series on these sorts of tales.

The old adage, "You won't be happy with someone else until you are happy with yourself," is true no matter how beautiful, talented, or wealthy you are.  Why do so many Hollywood marriages and relationships fail?  Is it rampant narcissism: the inability to care for someone else as much as one cares for one's self?  Or does it come from low self-esteem, the inability to accept the love of others because one can't love one's self?  The restless, changeable nature of the chronically insecure?

I'm going with all of the above.

Monday, January 25, 2010