Oscars, Donald Sutherland, YA, and Podcasts

Depending on which film nerd you talk to, the greatest travesty of the 1980 Academy Awards is that Ordinary People beat out Raging Bull for Best Picture. In hindsight, there are people who argue that it was a mistake of getting caught up in the movie of the moment versus a more daring all-time classic.

I’m just gonna put this out there. I don’t like boxing movies, I don’t really like Scorsese movies, and Ordinary People is one of the ten best movies I have ever seen. So my biases are right out in the open when I say what I am about to say:

The biggest travesty of the 1980 Academy Awards is not Raging Bull losing Best Picture. It is the fact Donald Sutherland wasn’t even nominated for Best Actor even though he is the most important part of Ordinary People.

If you’re not familiar with the movie, Ordinary People deals with a family trying to cope with the loss of a son and the attempted suicide of their remaining son. It is a beautifully crafted, understated story of how grief can completely wreck a family, how being the one who survived is oftentimes just as horrific as dying young, and how much we all put on facades, claiming to be ordinary people, even though all of us are a giant mess.

The movie earned three acting nominations and one win. Newcomer Timothy Hutton won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the juicy part of Conrad, the suicidal son struggling with survivor’s syndrome. He gets the flashy part. Sure, there are times Con is guarded, but he breaks down in the therapist’s office, he fights with his mom. It is a great performance, but it is great in a very obvious way.

Judd Hirsch got a Supporting Actor nod for doing the chunky-sweater wearing unconventional “it’s not your fault” thing 17 years before Robin Williams did in Good Will Hunting. He is also great, but has some great lines and serves as Hutton’s primary sparring partner.

And then there is Mary Tyler Moore, who I think we all know I idolize, but she has it easiest of all because all she really has to do is play against type. Instead of being the human embodiment of spunk, she is cold, hard, and shrewish, but can put on that fake Mary Richards sheen with a moment’s notice.

The toughest role is Sutherland’s, the father who is torn between trying to keep his marriage stable, grieving over a lost son, and absolutely flummoxed as to how he can keep his remaining son not only alive, but in a state that doesn’t include rampant depression, self-doubt, and anxiety. He is the unnoticed cement holding the Yellow Brick Road together. While everyone else gets to act out, his whole role is about what he keeps in. He visits the therapist, but remains calm and controlled. Even his final beautiful scene with his wife at the crack of Dawn, Sutherland barely changes his timbre (and his voice is the best in Hollywood), but in every word, every blink, every pause, he is conveying an unparalleled grief.

And he is the one left outside looking in because he doesn’t even get nominated. I am guessing it is a politics problem. The producers know no one is beating De Niro’s bombastic performance as Jake LaMotta, so they take the real lead of the film, Hutton, and shuttle him into the Supporting Actor category. Sutherland has around the same amount of screen time, but you can’t really pitch him as Best Actor.

Sutherland has a lot of incredible roles, but his role as Calvin in Ordinary People is far and away his best. Some prefer his turn in Klute or Never Look Back. Fans of his comedic chops cite Animal House or M*A*S*H*. He even can take a part that doesn’t even have a name, the mysterious and Deep Throat-esque Mr. X in Oliver Stone’s JFK, where he has the unenviable task of basically delivering a six-minute solely expositional monologue where all he does is spout out somewhere in the vicinity of 100 important facts about the day JFK was shot and yet it is probably the most compelling performance of the whole movie. You hang on his every word, in part because he just has that amazing voice and because he can take the most mundane thing and make it utterly and completely fascinating.

Which brings me to my problem: We have not only never given Donald Sutherland an Academy Award. We’ve never even NOMINATED him for one. So, I have a proposition, and it is gonna sound ridiculous, I know, but bear with me:

We need to nominate Sutherland for his performance as President Snow in the fourth and final installment of The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 2. As an Oscar lover and film purist, I would normally be against giving anything with a title as stupid as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 a major Oscar, but the thing is we are running out of time. The man is 80. Let that sink in. He won’t be making films that much longer. Moreover, 2015 is turning out to be a particularly weak year for movies and the Supporting Actor category is basically gonna be Mark Rylance (who will win) Mark Ruffalo and/or Keaton for Spotlight (and they will cancel each other out), someone from The Big Short maybe and we are really going to give the token sentimental spot to Sylvester Stallone for playing Rocky Balboa for the *seventh* time?

Lionsgate, find some money, place some Hollywood Reporter ads, and get Donald Sutherland the Oscar nomination he deserves. This is a year where we are seriously talking about another movie with a colon, Mad Max: Fury Road, getting a Best Picture nod. It is a weak year, he gives a stellar turn with less than stellar material, and we may not get another chance to right a wrong way worse than Ordinary People beating Raging Bull.

You can hear me rant about the underappreciated Donald Sutherland in the second episode of my new podcast adventure, Beg to Differ with Matt Matros. Even if you don’t want to hear our discussion of Mockingjay, if you are a fan of YA literature, Matt and my former college roommate Heather Demetrios talk about her acclaimed book I’ll Meet You There and how YA has taken the world by storm. The pod is embedded below with time stamps if you want to jump to some parts over others.

Show Notes:

0:30: You can follow Heather on Twitter @HDemetrios or check her out at www.heatherdemetrios.com. Here are her mentions on Bustle and Barnes and Noble. You can check out I’ll Meet You There on Amazon as well.

6:00 More on the Live Your What Scholarship

7:00 What is YA? Who is reading it? Why is it so popular for adults?

12:30 Cursing, sex, and what is appropriate and inappropriate in YA books?

15:00 Young Writing Workshops discussion

21:15 YA novels and how brutally honest they should be, particularly The Hunger Games trilogy

25:45 Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

31:30 We are about to talk about both the book Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. If you haven’t read and don’t want it spoiled, tap out now.

34:00 Okay, seriously, this is your last chance, tap out now or the spoilers are on you.

36:00 The problems of translating a book to a movie

39:00 The specific issues of translating the Hunger Games trilogy into movies

40:30 The treatment of Gale specifically

43:00 The treatment of the suicide bomber/Coming to the Tree scene in Mockingjay Part 1

45:00 Why are parents okay with kids reading this violent stuff and dealing with adult themes verses not watching them on TV and in movies? Are they okay? How do they come to this decision?

46:30 How the MPAA rates movies. Here is a good discussion from Entertainment Weekly on why this is a problematic movie. If you are interested in more absurdities of the MPAA, Jess highly recommends the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

50:00 Battle Royale is currently available on Netflix. You’ll notice it is NR, which means “not rated”

52:00 Mockingjay Part 2 sewer scene. These are what the Mockingjay lizard people look like. This is what the monsters in The Descent look like. Why are we sacrificing thematic moments in this movie for horror movie violence?

56:00 How the movie handles Primm’s death

60:00 Dealing with not having Phillip Seymour Hoffman available for the last film

63:00 The great casting of The Hunger Games

65:00 Jess hops on her Donald Sutherland soap box. Not only has this guy not won an Oscar, he has never even been nominated. People. We live in a world where Jonah Hill has been nominated twice. Someone who competed on American Idol won an Oscar and we’ve never even nominated this man for anything. If you do want to see more, Jess recommends Ordinary People while Matt would suggest Don’t Look Now.

68:00 The future for Hunger Games movies. Here is the article Matt references. And here is more info on the Mary Poppins sequel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, It’s Not Billy’s

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As someone who has been very open about my carnivorous nature, friends have frequently suggested barbeque joints to me. I try BBQ every chance I can. Much of it is very good. Lots of it is rather pedestrian. And every time I eat it, I think of what my mom said every time she tried a new BBQ joint. “Well,” she would state matter of factly. “It’s not Billy’s.”

Even though I spent thirty years singing the praises of the place from the rooftops, there was a brief time I hated our family’s favorite restaurant, Billy’s BBQ. We lived on the west end of Lexington, Kentucky and didn’t make it out to the Chevy Chase area of town where the place was located very often. So, whenever we did happen to be in that neck of the woods, my mom would find a way for us to go.

One such occasion was when a friend threw a Halloween party the weekend before Halloween. I went as a bunny in a white suit my mom made that bore a resemblance to the one Ralphie wore in A Christmas Story, complete with a fluffy tail made of pink yarn.

She picked me up from the party, looked over at me, and said, “Why don’t we pick up some Billy’s on the way home?”

Eight-year-old me was mortified to be sitting in the front area of a BBQ restaurant dressed as a bunny on a day that was neither Easter nor Halloween, but my mother’s concern for her daughter’s self-esteem was far outweighed by her desire for the best pulled pork sandwich in the state.

Once I got past the public shaming though, I grew to love the place in an intensely possessive way. I proclaimed my love and devotion to it by announcing to anyone who ate there with me that this place was going to cater my wedding. Like many families in Lexington, our family considered it “our place”. I would head to the restroom and find myself staring at a cartoon map on the wall of what Lexington looked like in the late 70s, smiling at the still-standing landmarks like the Kentucky Theater or the long-closed Lexington Mall. My mom was partial to the elevated section of the restaurant with the high-backed booths that gave diners more privacy.

When I learned to drive, friends and I would converge at Billy’s. Once some of us set off out of Kentucky to college in places like California, the beacon calling us all home on winter and summer breaks was that restaurant, where we would congregate and lament the lack of paper towel rolls in lieu of napkins on the table in other “allegedly authentic” BBQ restaurant. I would mock my Californian friends for not knowing what new potatoes were. I would mainline cheese grits, knowing it would be months before I saw them again.

I would go with my friends, but I would also go with my family. As I grew and moved around after college, every visit back, my mom and I would go to Billy’s. This was assumed. If there was time for only one dinner, it would be there.

Four years ago, my sister decided she needed a change in her life and wanted to move to Memphis, where we have a lot of family, whereas in Lexington, we had none. We ended up in Kentucky in the first place because my father got a job here working for IBM. Even after he died in 1992, we stayed put, but the chance to help raise her two grandchildren and have three of her siblings in the same city was something Mom was ready to take advantage of in 2011, so they packed up and left.

They moved to arguably the BBQ capitol of the country and sure, she thought Corky’s was okay and Germantown Commissary proved a reasonable substitute, but even Central BBQ could only produce, “Well, it’s not Billy’s.”

Mom hadn’t been back to Lexington since she moved. She wanted to, but life kept getting in the way and, with no family there to visit, she just never found an occasion to make it back, that is, until 14 months ago.

Our mom went in to her physician thinking she had pulled a muscle in her back and left with the knowledge she had Stage 4 bile duct cancer. We learned her death was a matter of when, not if. We bought a year of time with chemo, but when Mom stopped responding to her treatment, we had to ask what she wanted to do while she still had time.

To those who don’t know her, the simplicity of her requests may seem surprising, but as the extraordinarily extroverted child of the most introverted person I have ever met, it didn’t surprise me at all. She wanted three things. She wanted to drive up to her family’s farm and visit with her mom one-on-one. She wanted to take a trip to the Gold Strike in Tunica to play penny slots, going in with $40 well aware she would leave with zero.

And she wanted to go back to Lexington.

So, over Thanksgiving weekend, we set out for the Bluegrass State. While Mom can still get around, she tires easily and told us she didn’t think she had enough energy for a long trip. We had to prioritize where we went and what we did. We knew a visit to our father at the cemetery, a drive by our old house, a stop in at her favorite antique store Feather Your Nest, and a trip to the Reynolds Road Meijer Superstore where she worked in the Fashions Department for 11 years were all in order.

And we knew we had to go to Billy’s.

We got into town later than planned on Sunday. It was already 5:30pm and Mom wanted to take a few minutes to rest before going to Meijer, then dinner. The restaurant closed at eight, but we managed to get there by 7:30pm, hoping the staff would forgive us for cutting it so close, something my sister, a former server, informed us was one of the biggest pet peeves of restaurant employees.

One of the employees was a friend of mine from high school, Josh. He saw us walk in, smiled, and said, “I figured when I saw on Facebook you would be in Lexington that you would probably show up here.” He’d worked there eight years and knew that, for me, a trip home equaled a trip here.

We quickly ordered and Mom sipped on sweet tea while I drank Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, more than willing to put up with my teetotaler mom’s raised eyebrow for a glass of my favorite beer. We all feasted on pulled pork, the French fries with the Russet skins still on them, the grits and, of course, the corn bread. There was one other couple in the restaurant, but they finished up and left before we did, leaving us alone with the employees.

I stepped away from the secluded booth to catch up with Josh. We filled each other in on the general frustrations that come with being in your 30s and I told him how important this meal was to us in the way you tell a person someone is about to die without actually saying it, because putting it in words is just too hard.

He nodded, comprehending this was the last supper and, even though none of us said to each other how special it was, there was an understanding this would be one of those moments of comfort for my sister and me in that version of life Mom wouldn’t be in.

We ordered some blackberry cobbler to go, as per custom, and asked Josh to take a picture of us in front of the iconic stained-glass pig. He took several to ensure we had a perfect picture from that perfect dinner. While my mom and sister weren’t aware Josh knew what a big deal this was, I did. I thought about my sister’s comment about showing up near closing time at a restaurant, knowing he had added an extra couple of minutes to his closing duties to make sure the picture was done right and my smile in the photo was the brightest it had been since the day Mom was diagnosed.

Still, after dinner, my thoughts drifted to more melancholy things, namely my future theoretical wedding; the one with the Billy’s catering. The one where she was supposed to be sitting at the table of honor bragging to her Memphis family that this was how pork was supposed to taste.  The one with no parents to give me away. We wouldn’t all smile together when my snooty foodie friends and vegans rolled their eyes at my BBQ buffet.  Mom and Dad wouldn’t get to see I wasn’t kidding about making a ten-tiered cookie cake and we wouldn’t be able to test the compatibility of my future spouse and the family based on his opinion of regional pulled pork.

While I was dwelling on problems of the distant, theoretical future though, a much more urgent problem arose for those who considered that barbeque pit on Cochran Road their second home.

As soon as we left Billy’s that night, the owner showed up and informed Josh and the other employees that Billy’s had been sold and would not be opening up its doors ever again after 37 years of service. We found out the next day when it was announced online.

I felt anger, disappointment, and sadness for the other Billy’s patrons, for the employees like Josh losing a job with no notice, for not taking that last bite of grits. This establishment that had felt so permanent had disappeared, breaking the hearts of not just our family, but countless others.

Really though, I mostly felt relieved. Relieved that, unlike Mom’s illness or Dad’s illness, we got there before it was too late. Instead, Mom got her perfect last meal at Billy’s, where she was able to send them off instead of the other way around.

It provided a certain peace of mind, but it didn’t change the fact that this restaurant which was so integral to my life was now just going to be memories. Great ones, yes, especially the story we will certainly tell a hundred times about our last supper. And I will treasure them, tuck them away in a nook of my mind where they won’t ever be forgotten. And eventually I will make more memories at other restaurants, eat other dinners, and move on with life after this next impending loss. Life will become something different and wonderful in its own way, I hope.

But…it’s not Billy’s.

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Is My Little Pony About Your Aunt Flo?

The problem with film school is that, once you go, everything you watch takes on meaning. You spend years talking about how Indiana Jones is an ode to imperialism or how Talented Mr. Ripley is a story of repressed homosexuality or how The Honeymooners was a problematic love letter to domestic abuse.

So everything you watch becomes something to unpack. Sometimes you feel crazy and think, “That Snuggles bear isn’t a representation of commodifying childlike innocence, it’s detergent.” Other times you think, “Wow, the use of burgundy in this movie really does seem intentional.”

What also doesn’t help me is I inexplicably have a seemingly photographic recall of every cartoon and show I watch as a kid, so I oftentimes spend way too much time interpreting in hindsight. Such was the case when I heard some news about the new My Little Pony franchise resurrecting the villain from the 80s era of ponies, The Smooze.

What is The Smooze? Well, it is the lynchpin of the 1986 feature-length cartoon The My Little Pony Movie, which somehow managed to wrangle voice talent like Chloris Leachman, Madeline Khan, Danny DeVito, and Rhea Pearlman for a story that is, at best, nonsensical and, at worse, a deeply problematic commentary on the fetishization of girlhood. Before we dig too deep on deeper meanings, let’s just run through the plot of this cartoon.

An array of My Little Ponies live in Ponyland. There are full grown ponies, unicorns, baby ponies, and a series of pony sidekicks like Spike, a baby dragon whose origin and purpose for being the lone dude living in Ponyland goes completely unexplained, and a fleet of Tribble-esque furballs called Bushwoolies.

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Spike has a little pony friend named Baby Licketysplit. Not Licketysplit. Baby Licketysplit. And Baby Licketysplit was a pioneering Millenial, thinking she was awesome at everything despite no outside evidence to the contrary and believing all of Ponyland revolved around her. Justifiably, the other ponies give her merciless shit for being a spoiled brat, so she decides to run away…

Meanwhile, Ponyland-adjacent, an ugly old witch named Hydia and her two homely daughters, one tall and gangly, the other short and pudgy, complain about how the ponies have ruined the neighborhood with their cheer and their singing and the fact that even the adult ones talk in a baby talk voice that even your regular, non-witch human would find grating. So, Hydia decides it is time to wipe out Ponyland. So, she turns the molten lava moat surrounding their abode into The Smooze.

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For you see, The Smooze is way more frightening than burning alive in a river rush of liquid hot magma because if this semi-solid purple sludge gets on you, you are condemned to a life of being in a really bitchy, pissy, irritable mood.

The ponies divide their resources between hunting down Baby Licketysplit and trying to stop The Smooze from blanketing the land with tactics like their magical Rainbow of Light and employing a series of flying ponies with delicate, dragonfly-esque wings called Flutter Ponies, who manage to beat The Smooze back with the wind power of flapping their wings.

Meanwhile Baby Licketysplit employ the help of a kingdom of troll like critters ruled by a dude named I shit you not, The Grundle King.

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With the help of Grundles, the Flutter Ponies, and the Rainbow of Light, the ponies manage to defeat The Smooze and send Hydia and daughters running, so the ponies burst into song and live happily ever after.

Okay. Now, let’s get down to the question I have to ask: This movie is a metaphor about menstruation, right? Child-like little girl ponies attached by envious, ugly older women who think the way more frightening weapon than the volcanic lava easily at their disposal is to send oozing sludge that puts these ponies in a really grumpy mood. Yup, this sounds like the first visit from Aunt Flo.

And for reasons I don’t understand, the new era of My Little Ponies, who already has to deal with the masses of Bronies fetishizing this girly, ultra-feminine, baby talking bonanza, decides that this villain is so very frightening, it deserves a reboot.

I wish this was just me overthinking it, but even if you don’t buy the period angle, you do have to worry that these baby horses continue to sell little girls on the idea that being a grown up woman is a fate worse than death. Thing is, I loved those ponies, so hopefully the girls of My Little Pony 2.0 realize that a little fun and fantasy is good, but when it comes to their lives, aspiring for big girl dreams is way, way better.

After all, Nothing Can Stop The Smooze.

Bridge of Spies Connects the Past with the Present

My favorite genre of movie has been the courtroom drama for as long as I can remember. Maybe it is the speech nerd in me who loves the oration of attorneys. Maybe it is because they tend to feature a cast of characters what with the accused, the attorneys, the judge, and the witnesses. Mostly though, they are remnants of an era of movie making that isn’t very commonplace anymore.

While TV is always littered with great courtroom dramas, the movies about lawyers are few and far between. They are rarely prestige pictures like A Few Good Men or Philadelphia. Instead, they are decidedly B-movies like The Lincoln Lawyer or TheJudge.

Possibly my least favorite genre besides boxing movies is spy movies. James Bond always struck me as inept. How can you be a good spy if everyone knows who you are?

So, I went into Bridge of Spies with high hopes but tempered expectations, as I didn’t know how much it would be spy thriller and how much it would be a spy movie.

Turns out, it is neither. It is a thriller in the vein of the greatest Alfred Hitchcock movies, except the stakes are not just a man running for his life, they are about international relations and the tight rope its protagonist James Donovan (Tom Hanks) must walk in order to avoid nuclear holocaust.

In other words, it is exactly the type of movie I yearn for these days and is in extraordinarily short supply. The movie is accessible yet important, entertaining, yet well-made, and packed to the brim with incredible performances about flawed people trying to navigate very Frank Capra-like questions about whether or not to do what is right or what is easy.

Invoking Frank Capra and Steven Spielberg means the inevitable Tom Hanks and Jimmy Stewart comparisons are inevitable, but this really is exactly the sort of moralistic everyman Stewart would play. As Hanks walks the streets in the 1950s period garb, it is essentially effortless to picture Jimmy Stewart in the role. Considering it has tones of Stewarts two most notable collaborators, Capra and Hitchcock, there is really no person better for the role than Hanks who is, as expected, spectacular.

What is surprising though is that the real scene stealer of this movie is stage actor Mark Rylance, who plays the accused spy Hanks’ attorney character is defending. His subtle mannerisms seem far too small for an actor who cultivated his craft on the stage, but everything that is remarkable about this performance is what is unsaid; what is conveyed in the raise of an eyebrow or a labored sigh. If I had to say which aspect of this film, which should hopefully be nominated for scads and scads of awards, was most likely to bag an Oscar, it would have to be Rylance as Best Supporting Actor in a career-defining performance.

Lately, the Oscars have been all about nostalgia. The Artist, which took home tons of gold men in 2010, is an overt ode to old Hollywood and the way things used to be, as was fellow nominee Hugo. Even Argo is about the thrillers of the 1970s and an era of filmmaking long gone.

This year, the inevitable nostalgia nom seems to be primed to go to perennial Academy favorites Spielberg, Hanks, and co-screenwriters the Coen Brothers, though I wonder if the forthcoming Hail, Caesar!, also penned by the Coens, might split the vote. Maybe both will be drowned in accolades and the studios will realize more people like me are desperate for adult entertainment with no comic book heroes or drug traffickers or, most imperatively, boxers (I mean seriously, Southpaw and Creed in the same season? Enough with the damned boxing movies).  Currently, Bridge of Spies has raked in around $35 million dollars and, as Mark Harris noted on Twitter, this movie is holding strong so far and I envision it could be one of those Thanksgiving films you go and see because it is something everyone can agree on. I hope that is the case.

Really, I only had one criticism of the film, which is its somewhat bombastic use of musical score, which is par for the course when it comes to Spielberg. I always pardon his tendency to schmaltz though, mostly because I am not getting schmaltz from anywhere else except the Hallmark Channel. So, I can only hope this movie, which like its protagonist opts to do what is hard rather than what is popular, is rewarded for not turning this into some Bourne-like action movie. It assumes the audience can be just as thrilled with a small movie about the potential end of the world, and what makes all the more remarkable is that it really happened, this man really did save us from a potential apocalypse and he did it with words and actions, not with guns and explosions. If only other movies could take notice of this “standing man” who may seem inconsequential at first glance, but in actuality is really rather remarkable.

Something Corporate When You’re Blue

You know people are around the same age as me when they can recall with exceptional clarity the first time they heard Something Corporate’s Konstantine.  A lot of people have grown out of that band and the music of its front man turned solo act Andrew McMahon, but I have spent the entirety of my adult life following his career.

Even though this obsession with a musician stands at around 15 years and counting, for one reason or another, I have never had the opportunity to see him perform live until this past weekend. All of my other college favs—Ben Folds, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional—I’ve found one way or another to see them live, but he was the missing piece of the puzzle.

A guy who lived on my dorm floor freshman year introduced the whole floor to Something Corporate early in our first semester at USC. I started with Cavanaugh Park, but by the time I finished college, I had every song the band had ever put out.  The band pops up a lot in our college stories, like the time my friend and I got lost on our way to Burbank. She was sad about a guy and I introduced her to one of the less popular SoCo tracks, Walking By. She made us listen to it on a loop for the 40 minutes I was driving around in my all-back car, burning under the California sun, unable to figure out where we were going.

You would think that would be enough to make me hate the song forever, but it is still one of my all-time favorites that gets auto played on repeat just like Jamie did whenever I have to deal with rejection. As the years went on, there tended to be a song for everything. Trudging to my first post-college job every day, I would blare I’m Ready as I rolled over Laurel Canyon, barely moving in the morning traffic. When I needed a solo dance party, it was (Hurricane) The Formal Weather Pattern. The blare it in the car and sing it with your friends was Drunk Girl.

And then there was my bad day song, Swim.

There are a lot of great moments I will never forget from my first Andrew McMahon concert. He leapt off pianos, he sang a melodic cover of his own song, Punk Rock Princess. He told us how Cecilia and the Stars is an ode to his young daughter. He busted out one of those elementary school rainbow parachutes. And he explained what inspired him to write Swim.

McMahon readily admits he is truly privileged to be able to perform music for people as his job. I appreciate that he is grateful, but what I appreciate more is that he is willing to admit there were times he struggled. Just because you have achieved a certain amount of fame and success doesn’t mean life doesn’t suck from time to time. After all, he was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after recording his first Jack’s Mannequin album, Everything in Transit. Thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his sister, he survived and I believe is in remission.

That didn’t mean having cancer wasn’t scary. It is also the inspiration behind Swim.

I really don’t know how I didn’t put two and two together, as the lyrics of Swim pretty accurately sums up what it is like dealing with cancer. Granted, I’ve never had cancer, so I could be wrong, but given how much I relate to this song as someone who has only watched friends and family deal with cancer, it seems pretty on the nose.

Here’s the thing about treating cancer—there simply aren’t that many things to get excited about because even the stuff that is supposed to help the patient hurts. To go through chemotherapy, you have to be in a mindset where you are mentally prepared and positive about basically pumping your body full of poison. And you do this with no guarantee that you will be cured. Best case scenario, you will feel pretty crappy for the entirety of your chemotherapy, then you get to stop some day and the cancer doesn’t come back. When that is the best case scenario, developing an attitude that you just need to get through it even if there is no sign things will change can be pretty useful.  As the song says, you, “swim for better days despite the absence of sun.”

There are plenty of people who approach dealing with their disease optimistically. That is great and I am glad it works for them, but for those who can’t convince themselves they are going to beat cancer or have been told they have no chance of beating it, but you can maybe buy yourself some time, being pessimistic isn’t so bad. It isn’t even all that pessimistic of an attitude in a situation like cancer. It is simply the reality of the situation that you need to accept in order to adjust your expectations accordingly. You learn to understand that most of this is going to suck. You accept that, you put your head down, and even though there are no indicators things might get better, you keep going not because you believe they will but because you have no other choice but to keep going or else you’ll drown.

And watching him perform this song, which has gotten me through many days where I had no indication tomorrow would be better, is one of those things I will appreciate for the next few years, if not the rest of my life. Even though Andrew McMahon can’t fix the sick or the causes behind your bad day, he can create something positive with his music. And that helps quite a bit on those days where you’re trying to swim and the tide’s too high. It is, pardon the play on words, a little Holiday From Real.

On my frustrating days, I try to plug on with my head down. It is something my mother taught us when we were younger. “Just hope tomorrow’s better,” she’d tell me.

What I found helped me feel better on those not so great days is reaching out to friends who have been having bad days too and try to make their tomorrow better. You could argue I do it for the karma, but I mostly do it to try and shift my attention from my own pity party. I know how much those flashes of sun on the overcast days help me so much, that I feel compelled to pay it forward.

What is great about Andrew McMahon concerts is that I can do something to help someone in a way that is so much more meaningful than a card or a quick text seeing if people are okay or need anything, as he has a station where you can sign up to be a bone marrow donor. One form and two swabs of the inside of my mouth and I was registered to possibly throw someone the life preserver and help make that swim more manageable. You can do the same thing even if you don’t ever make it to one of McMahon’s concerts.

You may not know anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer (though in this day and age that seems impossible), but know that being a bone marrow donor may result in a few bad and uncomfortable days for you, but it could be that light of the end of the tunnel for someone struggling to just keep swimming.

Losing the Will to Fight On

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I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m that USC football fan. You know, the one who firmly believes in the West Coast bias. The one who thinks running Pete Carroll out of town was a travesty. The one who will always remind you that our sanctions were basically threefold of an institution who purposefully covered up the fact there was a pedophile on the staff.

So, a day removed from the ESPN doc “Trojan War” and less than a week removed the firing of Steve Sarkisian, you may expect this blog to be a lot of bitching. Trust me, I can bitch endlessly about the 2006 Rose Bowl, a game so poorly officiated, the NCAA implemented coach’s challenges and revamped instant replay in its wake.  But I will also readily admit that blown calls are a part of football and we wouldn’t have even been in that game were it not for a blown call on the Bush Push.

Instead, I am here to talk about how ashamed I am of my alma mater and how it is handling the latest drama deflating the spirit of Troy. I’ve been a diehard USC fan since I got my acceptance letter in 2001, and this is the first time I am not proud to be part of the SC family.

The Steve Sarkisian situation deserves way harsher sanctions than Reggie Bush riding in a limo, but the crazy part is I don’t think we’ll be punished at all for it. And that only makes me more depressed about the NCAA and the USC Athletic Department.

I feel for Coach Sarkisian, as anyone handling a substance abuse problem is facing an uphill battle. I am sure he had no ill will or intent when it came to his actions this football season. Nonetheless, it was clear to AD Pat Haden and USC that something was wrong before the season even started. They can try to deny knowledge of his problems in the vetting process, but they cannot deny that as early as August they knew this person, whose job is to motivate, inspire, and educate young men, was not in a position to do so.

And they did nothing.

This is sadly not the first time one of my favorite teams hired someone completely ill-equipped to coach a high-profile sports team. I was sad when the University of Kentucky ditched Tubby Smith, for even though he played a very boring defensive-oriented approach to basketball and only posted modest results by UK standards (making it only to the Sweet 16 is modest in Bluegrass country), he was a role model. He clearly cared about his players. Instead, the university brought on Billy Gillispie, and the stories started leaking basically from the jump.

First, it was about Gillispie’s drinking. He had a house on the side of town I grew up in, and often I would see him at the bar of the popular steak house down the road. Most times he was visibly intoxicated, so rumors of the Lexington police following him home each night monitoring me were pretty easy to believe.

Then the stories started coming out about how he verbally and emotionally abused his players, most notably threatening to make a player he believed was faking an injury walk home instead of take the bus with the team. If you think that is an appropriate thing to do, you should not be employed by a higher education institution.

What really saddened me about Gillispie is that we as Big Blue Nation all knew this was happening and we didn’t demand he be fired the next day. The people of Kentucky needed their basketball so badly, we overlooked a situation in which the health and safety of the players we loved so much were legitimately in danger. We didn’t even fire him because he was a danger to the team. He got fired because he didn’t win enough. And that mentality really is inexcusable.

So you can yammer all you want about how Coach Calipari deserves to be sanctioned and that we allegedly pay our players. You can scoff when he said the goal was to get seven guys to the NBA this season. But guess what? That is his job. He is an educator who is trying to help young men transition into professional basketball and he takes that responsibility incredibly seriously. This year’s NBA Draft was an indication not that UK is a corrupt organization, but of the fact Coach Cal is a really effing good basketball coach who is incredibly dedicated to helping these players succeed both on and off the court.

Pete Carroll is the Calipari of football. He knows the system is broken and he gamed it to recruit amazing talent. Then he mentored that talent, checked on how they were doing on and off the field, taught them how to get drafted in the NFL, and helped them achieve their lifelong dreams. When I see how many former UK players and USC players Tweeting about their alma maters or communicating with their old coaches, I can’t see why we are claiming we don’t want people like this coaching college sports.

USC broke some rules, though how many we broke remains up for debate. To hold Carroll accountable for what one of his player’s parents were doing 200 miles away will always be insane to me. During Trojan War, the documentary mentions that Bush’s parents were months behind on rent. They couldn’t afford a place to live. If I’m a 20-year-old Reggie Bush, I’m helping my family find a place to live, sorry. I don’t believe Carroll or running backs coach Todd McNair knew about the house. They may have been willfully ignorant on the subject, which is against the rules and deserved some sort of punishment. Permanently disassociating Reggie Bush from the school, vacating 14 wins and a national title, a two-year postseason ban, and 30 lost scholarships was not that punishment though.

Once again, the NCAA has proven it cares very little about the welfare of their athletes. It isn’t right that Reggie’s #5 jersey doesn’t hang with the other Heisman winners at the Coliseum because he made some questionable decisions at the age of 20. I thankfully made plenty of dumb decisions when I was 20, but there wasn’t an onslaught of media constantly scrutinizing me. It wasn’t right of Mike Garrett, Pat Haden, and the USC Athletic Department to let a kid take the fall for them. They could’ve fought for Reggie, but they didn’t.

if you had told me all those punishments were for our university knowingly let Sarkisian run the team in the condition he was in, I would have no place to whine. It basically amounts to child endangerment and should be punished. I know it isn’t fair to the kids to punish them for their program not taking their welfare seriously, but I don’t know how else we convey that letting this kind of behavior go is not acceptable. The other problem is that the NCAA decisions on sanctions recently do nothing to reiterate that is the case. USC got the toughest sanctions in 20 years for questionable booster activity. Miami had to self-impose a postseason ban for two years because of financial gifts to a number of players that amounted to $2,000. Syracuse had 100+ wins vacated for grade shaving. And then PSU had one year of punishment for what many would call institutional cover up of someone who was a danger to any student in the football program with no formal investigation by the NCAA. So clearly, the NCAA has a priority problem.

If we are telling people who are really good at motivating and mentoring young athletes like John Calipari and Pete Carroll that we are not okay with them coaching, but we are okay with Billy Gillispie and Steve Sarkisian coaching, I just don’t know how much longer I can be a diehard fan. I will always want those SC student athletes to Fight On, but I don’t know if I can fight on as hard so long as Pat Haden refuses to put the players first.

Stale Bagels and the Battlefield of Online Dating

A few years back on my birthday, my mom sent me a card and enclosed a comic she had cut out of the newspaper. (Yes, my mother is still one of those people who clips cartoons out of the newspaper. She also has Family Circus art in the house.) It amounted to a joke that was, “at least you haven’t had to resort to online dating.”

Fast forward five or six years and here I am, online dating. Over the years, numerous friends have recommended it. I even know a number of married couples who met online, but I was always resistant. Part of the problem is I just don’t deal well with forced situations. I don’t like having to talk to people. It isn’t that I necessarily can’t, it is more that I naturally have met so many great friends over the course of my life that I just kept believing that process should work for dating.

I first dipped my toe in with OK Cupid, both because some of my friends use it and because it was free. Immediately, I was so overwhelmed with information I had to take a nap. There are, in all seriousness, as many questions as you want to answer. The more you answer, the more the algorithm is supposed to be able to match you up.

Here is the thing though…My profile included words like “nap” and “chill on the couch” and “eat” and every single guy I was supposedly compatible with sure seemed to talk about the gym. A lot. Like, “if I had to save three things from a burning house, it would be my mom, my phone, and my kettlebells.”

I don’t know if other ladies feel this way, but I don’t always find it that impressive that you work that hard to look the way you look. I would much rather have someone brag in their online profile, “I have the metabolism of a horse, I can eat an entire pizza and never gain an ounce,” than people who brag about the gym.

Part of it is because girls have to pretend we didn’t get our bodies in the gym. Like the crazy but spot on Amy notes in Gone Girl, we have to pretend we can eat pizza and never gain an ounce. I already have planned out the speech for my future daughters: “Listen, for the first 18 years of your life, eat all of the bread. Eat all of the candy. Because about the time you turn 19, you won’t be able to eat carbs ever again.”

I tried. I gave it a go. I never went on a date though. The problem for me with these sites where you answer seemingly endless questions in an attempt to save time by ruling out deal breakers is that I don’t really have deal breakers. I’ve dated smokers, I’ve dated Democrats, I’ve dated really intense Republicans. But if I like you, I am willing to make concessions. If I haven’t met you, there is no emotional attachment, so you get tossed out before I even give you a chance.

So I quit OK Cupid and ended my foray into dating until about a year ago. Then, at a WPT stop, some of the show’s producers told me about a new app called Hinge, which only connects you to people that are connected to your network on Facebook. In other words, it is dating six degrees of Kevin Bacon. I tested it out, but the problem is it doesn’t exist in Vegas, so I posed as an Angelino knowing this couldn’t go anywhere.

I was lamenting the lack of Hinge in Vegas to a friend who then pointed me to Coffee Meets Bagel. This app gives you a single match a day based on a handful of requirements like age, location, height. You only get one and, if you like them and they like you back, a chat line opens for seven days.

I was inclined to try it mostly because Tinder feels like Valu-Pack coupons to me sometimes. I know these guys are swiping yes on 100 percent of the girls just hoping 1% respond. I don’t want spam in my email, I don’t want spam in my inbox, and I certainly don’t want spam in my love life.

I went on a few…we’ll call them interesting dates, including one in which a guy suggested we do something that evening, I agreed, then he informed me he was probably too drunk to drive at 6pm on a Thursday, so could I pick him up. For reasons that I think tie mainly to the fact I have a blog that needs fodder, I did. I drove to an address in the fancy neighborhood of Anthem Highlands, which seemed like an odd enough place for a half-employed bartender/actor to live, until you factor in that HE LIVES WITH HIS PARENTS. Again, not a deal breaker, but if this is the first impression, you aren’t doing great.

I haven’t been wholly unsuccessful on the Bagel thing, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair share of disappointments. One was even cool with me blogging about him, so long as I referred to him as Bill (If you’re reading this, hi Bill!). Problem was, he wasn’t really in Vegas much, so you know, there is that.

It took four months to meet a guy I liked enough to see twice who, turns out, doesn’t really live here. How, do you ask, can I be offered around 120 guys aka “Bagels” and only hit it off with one? Well, it is because sometimes this app doesn’t have a Bagel for you. Instead, you get a delightful picture of the bagel truck, that is searching for only high quality bagels just for you.

I contacted the app to inform them I was only getting about three bagels per week and to point out it is a little cruel for an app to push notify to check in for the day only to get the bagel truck. I’m Charlie Brown, the app is Lucy, and a half-decent Bagel is the football.

They informed me the issue is one of liquidity, so I should get my single friends on the app too. Yes. Cause exactly what I want in a Bagel is a guy I’ve already met and decided I don’t want to date. Thanks, Customer Service.

The drought of Bagels continued with day after day of getting the truck, when the app notified me that perhaps I am simply being too picky. They suggested I look at my height preferences and adjust accordingly. I raised an eyebrow, as I couldn’t even remember what I had put as height preferences. Being relatively short (5’2”), I don’t really have the height problem of some of my friends, so it was surprising to hear height was the problem. Then I thought maybe I hadn’t included enough tall people in my preferences, so I went to check.

My parameters were this: I would be willing to be match with anyone who is 5’2” up to the tallest man your site has. In other words, they wanted me to become some sort of little people fetishist.

It is a special breed of disheartening to hear that no males of a relatively average height can be matched up with you on a dating site. Being on an app like that to begin with was disheartening enough. But really, I think the conclusion to draw here isn’t that I am not good enough for the apps or there are no matches for me in the world. I think it is more that my matches aren’t gonna be found on Match.com. I came, I saw, I certainly did not conquer, but at least I learned something. I learned there is apparently a line out the door of short guys waiting to date me. I learned picking up your drunk blind date, while entertaining, will only end in eating in the Excalibur food court at 11pm wondering how exactly you were expecting things to be any better. And I learned that there are worse things than being by yourself, hoping you will bump into a real life person to date, like waiting for that damned bagel truck to deliver.

I’ll Tell You Where to Put That Kite

Mary Poppins says something very wise in the delightful film bearing her name:

“Enough is as good as a feast.”

So, enough already.

Yesterday, news broke that Disney wants to make another Mary Poppins movie set 20 years later focusing on Poppins and the Banks family directed by noted and Oscar-winning director Rob Marshall.

I truly have so many horrible things to say about this idea I legitimately don’t know where to begin, so rather than start with the original and work our way forwards, I guess let’s start with present-day and work our way backwards.

First, let me explain that Rob Marshall is genuinely terrible at directing musicals. He won the Best Director for the film Chicago in 2002, a film that was neither the best movie of that year, nor a very good musical. You see, the thing that makes Chicago the musical great besides the fun noir plot and the juicy character-driven songs is the dancing. This is the master Bob Fosse at his finest in the original rendition of this musical. So what does Marshall do in the film? Cast a bunch of actresses who can’t, pardon my French, fucking dance. So, while I am expecting to see a Fosse-esque showstopper, instead I get a quick cut to a hand and then a leg and then some glitter because Renee Zellwegger cannot dance her way out of a paper bag. I know this, as I have watched her “dancing” at the end of Empire Records about 75 times. Catherine Zeta-Jones fares a little better, but the slapdash editing makes it overtly apparent the cast can’t, by and large, dance, which is one-third of a good musical.

Then Marshall butchered Into the Woods last year, with a woefully reconstructed second act, a complete and utter absence of choreography, and a completely forgettable film version of some of Stephen Sondheim’s best work.

If you are going to hire a musical director, hire Adam Shankman, as there is no other musical director working today (except perhaps Justin Lin) who understands that creativity and choreography and making that choreography cinematic is how to make scenes like the absolute perfection that is Dick Van Dyke dancing with cartoon penguins:

But here is where things get meta in a completely depressing sort of way. While Rob Marshall was off ruining one of the finest stage musicals of the last 20 years, Walt Disney studios made a movie about how the author of the Mary Poppins books couldn’t stand the movie precisely because she didn’t want her creation to be having a jolly holiday with cartoon characters on a merry-go-round. This interesting, though white-washed commentary about the kinds of compromises that take place when creativity meets commerce asked audiences to spend their money and time really looking into the idea that Mary Poppins may not have been worth the turmoil it caused the author.

Then, NOT ONE YEAR LATER, the very same studio says, “yes, we understand that PL Travers did hate the adaptation of Mary Poppins so much because it veered too far from the book, but we have movie history and a different interpretation of a story that many children have really latched on to in the 50-odd years since the movie’s initial release. In fact, she hated what they did to her book so much, she wrote into her will a series of rules about what Disney could and could not do regarding a Poppins stage musical.

And you, Walt Disney Studios, genuinely believe it is worth it to disrespect a dead-woman’s wishes by hiring a hack of a director to helm your money grab of cynicism you call a movie after you make Saving Mr. Banks where you acknowledge, that maybe, just maybe, it is more important to make a film true to its source. And you, Travers estate, better have some sort of story about how all of you have deadly diseases and there is no other way to pay for the treatment of said diseases unless you make more money off this shameless sham of a project.

Who out there saw Saving Mr Banks and drew from this story a conclusion that we need another Mary Poppins movie? Even I, someone who finds Dick Van Dyke (one of Travers’ biggest issues with the movie was his casting) downright perfect feel worse about my love of Mary Poppins. I like to believe just a sliver of Saving Mr Banks was true and the author came around to this film that is near and dear to me. I like to believe Walt Disney made this movie not as a money grab, but because he really did promise his daughters he would.

Now though, to make a film literally no one wanted, that literally no one needs, and to do so right after you made a movie pretending that making money wasn’t the only consideration is the kind of thing that would cause Mary Poppins to float out of the sky, open up her magical carpet bag, take out that talking duck-headed umbrella, then have them sing a duet whilst Mary uses her handy umbrella to beat the tar out of the Disney development team wondering how in the hell they watched the original Mary Poppins and the bank scene and the movie’s finale and didn’t come away with the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, money isn’t always more important than your soul.

Like Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast,” and the thought of some ridiculous, sardonic piece of new cinematic garbage tarnishing the heart and soul of a film that, while not beloved by Travers, is still beloved by many is enough to give me an ulcer.

Miss (Not Ma’am) Manners

This is my judgy face. Isn’t it pretty?

The longer I live in places not called Kentucky, the more I wonder if I was raised on Mars or some foreign place, as the manners instilled in me in my youth don’t seem to be common practice other places I have lived. Some of it is a difference in age, but most of it boils down to this: I’m Southern, and Southern people just care a hell of a lot more about some of this stuff than y’all do.

So here’s what I am going to do. I’m going to let you in on a few things that I promise irritate your Southern friends that you may not even realize bother them. You may find many of them stupid and do them more often to prove a point, you may try to be more considerate of how we live, you may do nothing. Whatever the choice, let’s get started.

When at restaurants in which you have not ordered at a counter, you do not eat until everyone at the table has food. There are a few weird exceptions, like if three of you ordered a salad or soup and two didn’t, but by and large, until there is a plate in front of every person, don’t touch your utensils.

If you are the wayward soul without food, you are obligated to tell everyone to go ahead and eat and not wait for you. Now here is where the Southern passive aggressive behavior we all know and love comes into play. Unless the person telling you to eat is close enough to you that they are 1. in your immediate family or 2. someone who was or is going to be in your wedding party, this is a trick. They don’t want you to eat. They want you to wait. They are just testing you.

When it comes time for the bill, unless it is one of those parent/child husband/wfe birthday celebration situations, you offer to pay for your portion of dinner. Ladies, this includes dates. Offer at least once. If they decline, you can stop, but you have at least offer even if we all know you are pump-faking for your purse hoping to God your dinner partner is going to insist.

When at the dinner table or at other social gatherings, do not talk about future plans you have made or are going to make with people in front of people who are not invited. Again, there are exceptions, like, “Honey, should we honeymoon in Jamaica?”, but again, unless you are around people of wedding-party level closeness, it is unconscionably rude to talk about what three of you are doing this weekend if seven of you are in the room unless you intend to invite all seven.

While on the subject of invitations, when you say, “I’m in,” that means you’re in. Like, you’re gonna be there. And if you’re not gonna be there, it is because you are ill or someone died or you got in a car accident. If your excuse for not going isn’t quite up to that level, it is okay, but you absolutely, positively must notify the person hosting said event that you will not be there, or else we might send the National Guard out with a search party for you.

Finally, we gotta talk about this Miss/Ma’am/Sir thing. Sir is easy enough. Any gentleman who seems your age or older, you address as “sir.” It is the chicks that make things complicated. Chicks, man…

The other day, my best friend (also from Kentucky) was travelling for work and she told me she did something terrible. Wondering what it could possibly be, I got a good laugh when she said the following:

“So I am checking in at the airport and the attendant is clearly in her 20s or, at worst, our age and I just wasn’t thinking and I…”

This is where I cut her off mid-sentence.

“Lindsay! You did not ‘ma’am’ her??”

“I did. I’m awful.”

You may think you are being nice and polite when using the word “ma’am”, but every time a guy who is not still in high school refers to me as “ma’am” I feel about as old as the old Rose in Titanic. I get in the car, I check the mirror for wrinkles, I look over my outfit and wonder if I am dressing like a senior citizen.

At 31 years old, I am not ready to be “ma’amed” on the regular. Honestly folks, unless a woman has grey or blue hair or has spoken about how she is undergoing her menopausal change, she doesn’t want to be called “ma’am”. She wants to be “miss” to anyone who isn’t at least ten years younger than her and what that really means is any guy who isn’t at least ten years younger than she thinks she looks.

I know, we’re an insecure, crazy breed of people, Southern chicks. But please, for my sake, when you want to tell me how crazy Southern people take their hospitality, please begin the conversation with “miss”.

2014: Latching on to the Future, Even If It Gives Me Whiplash

So I wish I was haughty enough to know the Ranier Maria Wilke quote from “Letters to a Young Poet” that I am about to reference, but God’s honest truth is I know it from Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. So I’ll let Whoopi explain instead:

While I love the sentiment and I certainly believe pursuing what your true passion is, things are a little more complicated than that. If you want to be a writer, you have to learn about things like grammar and how to structure a piece. You need to know how to outline, how to properly reference and credit outside sources, how to meet deadlines, and how to write about a topic assigned to you, not just something you think is nifty.

In other words, it is not enough to just write every day. You have to push yourself past your comfort zone, you have to study, you have to read people you admire and think about what it is specifically you admire about their work. You need to write and rewrite. You need an editor and feedback.

To put it bluntly: love and passion are not enough.

There are a lot of things to admire about last year’s critically acclaimed movie Whiplash, but what I love most about this movie is the ideology that practice and passion isn’t enough to be truly exceptional. You can be a natural talent, but without someone (albeit not necessarily someone quite as volatile as JK Simmons) pushing you into a place you didn’t know existed in you, you will never be great.

In Whiplash, a young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) is at a musical conservatory trying to be one of the greatest jazz drummers in history. It isn’t enough for him to be good. He wants to be the best, and in order to be the best, you apparently have to get locked up in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with your mentor. But this movie isn’t about how terrible a monster this teacher is. Like Black Swan, The Red Shoes, and other “for the love of art” kind of movies, there is reverence for taking your craft to an obsessive level, to being pushed to the brink to see if you have the wherewithal to hang on.

In this optimistic, Millenial-driven era, we don’t pay much attention to the sacrifice that comes with truly pursuing your passion. Whiplash is not a movie intended to be a horror film about an obsessive psychopathic teacher. It is a statement film about the fact that pursuing your passion isn’t easy. Settling is much easier. You can please others, live up to expectations, or you can put yourself out there, take a giant risk, and know there is a very good chance you can end up face down feeling stupid. But there is a chance that you could accomplish something out of this world phenomenal, and you are so hungry for that chance that you are willing to accept you’re probably going to fail, but that it will be worth it.

The more I watch Orphan Black, the more I think the lead clone in this show about an experiment full of identical clones, Sarah, is in the same kind of impossible situation Teller from Whiplash is in. For her, it isn’t a love of music, but a love of her daughter that keeps her driving and pushing through a seemingly endless series of dangerous and life-threatening situations in which giving up makes so much sense, but for love, she just can’t.

This fantastic sci-fi program is relentlessly paced with Sarah and her band of clone sisters constantly working their way through and out of terrible situations. There is barely enough downtime for a dance party before the next problem arises, but the clones care so much about each other and Sarah has such passion being a mother to her daughter that they don’t care and they just keep trucking through because they don’t have another choice. She could just turn herself over to the lab that created her, but she is going to take the hard way against long odds because the slim hope of living a free life with her clone sestres and her daughter and her foster brother is worth taking a chance on your life, even if the chances she will pull it off without someone suffering is slim to none.

Many movies are structured this way. Saving Private Ryan, Snowpiercer, any sort of war or prison film, there is a culling of the herd because the simple fact of the matter is not everyone is going to make it. They know going in that is the case and the thought of living a different, theoretically better life is well worth taking the very likely chance you won’t make it to the end to see it.

The problem today though is that we focus so much on the success stories that people don’t fully understand the risks and the massive number of people out there who failed. I watch people putting themselves out there, opening themselves up for ridicule and I admire the courage, but I shake my head that they thought this plan was ever going to work.

I wanted to be a ballerina for several years. I loved ballet more than anything, I went to a performing arts school as a ballet major. I had the perfect feet for it; small with high arches, but the problem was I was too short and too muscular in build to ever possibly succeed as a professional. More importantly, I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t bad, but I would never be great, so I am grateful for the teachers and my mother and others who supported my hobby, but admitted this was simply not something I could successfully pursue. They didn’t quash my dreams, they spared me from nightmares.

The same happened in college. I was an incredibly active member of my high school speech team to the point where colleges were actively recruiting me to be on their speech teams. As a wise speech coach once told me though—“I know you love this, but here is the thing. You can do speech in college, but you can’t go pro.”

While I fell in and out of love with dance and speech, knowing they would never be anything more than hobbies, somehow I became a writer. I didn’t think it would stick, and I certainly never expected me to start a blog and voluntarily put words to page day in and day out and yet, here I am. And there are people in my life for once telling me not the reasons why I can’t do this, but the reasons why I can. It is still scary as fuck, but I just basically wrote a book this month admitting all sorts of my inner thoughts and personal stories and opinions on things and I survived. So I keep going, cause like Whoop…err..Wilke said, if you want to be a writer, write.

And even though I know I have about as much of a chance reaching the pinnacle of the writing world as I do of being a ballet dancer, I can’t seem to help myself from putting myself out there like I have over the past month. But whether or not this whole writing thing wants me or not, at least for now, I am digging my claws in. I’m ready to Latch.

Sam Smith and Disclosure know how scary an unsafe bet can be. It is horrifying and stimulating all at once and the prevailing thought is that you need more and you need to make sure that it won’t go away. It sounds possessive, but you’ve got to lock that shit up before someone else gets there. If you find that passion that seems the slightest bit attainable, you lock in and you hope to God you never have to let go.

So this is me, writing world, locking in and latching on. Cause I’ve gone through my whole life and the things that have touched me and touched others and nothing gets me more excited about the day than putting fingers to keys and trying to talk about them. I kind of hate how much I enjoy this because it means I can’t walk away without giving it a little more of a try to be a writer of something more than how a poker tournament turned out or what sports betting law went into effect.  I know what I have found and I am ready to try to knock those boundaries down, even though I am fully aware that it is going to suck a lot of the time, and in fact, it may always suck and I give up. It may take a mean as hell editor or my back against a financial wall, but now that this writing thing is shackled in my embrace, I am not letting go for at least a little while. So, we may have gone through the past together this past month, but get ready, cause I am really hoping there is a future full of this to come.