Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America"

I love this PBS show. I have been taping it and I've watched the first three hours. Tonight there's another installment. Considering the times we are living in and the stress so many of us are under, it's absolutely delightful to watch these geniuses of comedy and to learn about how they perfected their craft.

Last night I was watching the segment on slapstick comedy, which I'm sure many people don't want to admit they love, but many of the great comedians were brilliant practitioners of it.

I learned that many comedians thought of Charlie Chaplin as a dancer, even more than an actor and he truly was incredibly graceful. And Buster Keaton broke every bone in his body while making his films, including his neck, which didn't stop him from finishing a take.

I loved that Lucille Ball, while doing a show with Keaton, asked him to teach her how to mime for one of the segments. He said, "I don't know how to do it, I just do it." He spent two hours demonstrating and then she performed it as well as he did. What a genius she was to ask for his help. She also admitted on a talk show that in real life she was not at all funny. I can vouch for that, having met her several times.

There were segments on Laurel and Hardy, who were also so funny. Who doesn't remember them dragging a piano up a thousand steps? And Stan Laurel's expressions? And the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, I even felt a new appreciation for Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Lewis inspired many comedians, particularly Steve Martin.

I never watched "In Living Color" so I didn't realize just how talented Jim Carrey is.

If you haven't been watching it and you enjoy laughing (and who doesn't) - I recommend this show. It's on Wednesday nights at 8 pm and I believe that there are four shows left in the series.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Up and down

I woke up again feeling some despair about life, the world, the future, my future. Even though we have a new administration, we still have huge problems to work through.

The mornings are usually the toughest time for me, especially when I can't just make myself a cup of coffee or tea and meditate, and slowly wake up. The dogs have to be walked every morning and with Steve out of town, that becomes my job.

I read an article in the New York Times the other day that said caffeine is thought to be a deterrent to Alzheimers, so I'm back to drinking a little bit of coffee and tea and that helps my mood considerably.

This morning though, I had to get out of bed and actually make the coffee and I felt lethargic, so once again, I turned to Pema Chodron for some wisdom.

Once, I was changing jobs and houses at the same time. I felt insecure, uncertain and groundless. Hoping that he would say something that would help me work with these changes, I complained to Trungpa Rinpoche about having trouble with transition. He looked at me sort of blankly and he said, "We are always in transition." Then he said, “If you can just relax with that, you’ll have no problem."

We know that all is impermanence, we know that everything wears out. Although we can buy this truth intellectually, emotionally we have a deep-rooted aversion to it. We experience impermanence at the everyday level as frustration. We use our everyday activity as a shield against the fundamental ambiguity of our situation, expending tremendous energy trying to ward off impermanence and death. We don’t like it that our bodies change shape. We don’t like it that we age. We are afraid of wrinkles and sagging skin. We use health products as if we actually believe that our skin, our hair, our eyes and teeth might somehow miraculously escape the truth of impermanence.

The Buddhist teachings aspire to set us free from this limited way of relating. They encourage us to relax gradually and wholeheartedly into the ordinary and obvious truth of change. Acknowledging this truth doesn’t mean that we are looking on the dark side. What it means that we begin to understand that we’re not the only one who can’t keep it all together. We no longer believe that there are people who have managed to avoid uncertainty.”

From "The Places That Scare You" by Pema Chodron.

Monday, January 26, 2009

All by myself

Steve is in Los Angeles this week visiting his family and my daughter Zoe just went out to a doctor's appointment.

This is the first time in I don't know how long that I am alone in my apartment and the expression "beside myself" feels applicable. Sometimes you just need to be alone, so you can think and listen to the silence and breathe.

I lived alone for over eleven years and I remember at times feeling so lonely that I practically ached. I spent quite a bit of time at my next door neighbor's apartment. Susie and I were like the Mary and Rhoda of West Hollywood. She often fed me, which was always an added perk.

I am grateful for having a family, our two wonderful dogs, for having good friends and people I can call when I am feeling blue. But right now I am just enjoying the quiet.

Oh darn, the phone just rang. And here's something else on my gratitude list: caller I.D.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A new day

I really can't remember how long it's been since I felt this happy, this hopeful and this proud to be an American. I do remember that eight years ago I was furious and angry and for all these years I've felt pretty hopeless and fed up with our government.

But today was extraordinary, better than I could have ever imagined. President Barack Obama is the most inspiring leader in my lifetime and I feel so optimistic and excited about our matter how long it takes to solve the difficult problems that we're facing.

And he's very attractive too, isn't he?

I love the blog post that Margaret and Helen wrote today (are you familiar with their blog?) It's fantastic. It's on my blog list and I suggest you read it.

And tonight I'm just dancing and partying in my living room.

Happy New Era! I look forward to tomorrow, when the new administrations announces the first actions of their agenda.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Counting down - four days

I don't know about you, but even though it's something like -39 with the wind chill factor here in New York and it's only January 16th, which means there's at least 18 or so more weeks till spring, and it's been a fairly shitty winter all over the country...and yesterday a plane crashed into the Hudson (miraculously everyone survived), but still? A plane crash because of a flock of geese? Anyway, despite all the bad news...happily this is the last weekend in eight years that George W. Bush will be residing in the White House and the ever unpleasant Dick Cheney is packing up at the VP's mansion... and I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER. Right now I would do a cartwheel if I could.

Sarah who?

I was thinking, as I was reading a transcript of Hillary's confirmation hearing, what a pleasure it was to read her responses, which were actually complete sentences. (Granted, my grammar isn't quite what it should be, but I am not running for office, so who cares?) I may not agree with everything she says, but at least she's articulate and knows what she's talking about. How refreshing.

Sarah who?

I know that President Elect Obama will be undertaking a tremendously difficult job and that none of us can expect miracles. But at least we have someone in the White House who won't say "misunderestimate" or seriously distort the truth about pretty much everything.

Tuesday night I may get dressed up and drink a large glass of champagne. It's been a long eight years.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday monday

Well, the sun is shining so that's a good way to start the week. I haven't written in a long time and honestly, it's because I haven't had anything particularly interesting or entertaining to say. I've also been suffering from lack of employment, marital stress, parental insanity, the mess the world is in and winter blahs.

Also, one of my dear friends is starting a new regimen of chemo today. This is something like the umpteenth time. I guess the good news is that she's alive, she hasn't given up. She has throat cancer and though the doctors have been wanting to do a larynectomy for a long time, she has been firm in wanting to continue trying new treatments. I pray for her. She is a dear friend.

I think I'm also in the final stages of withdrawal from my obsession with Bush/Cheney and counting the days until they pack up and leave Washington. I read Maureen Dowd's column yesterday and it made me hate Cheney even more than I did, which I wasn't sure was possible.

I'm reminding myself to breathe and to remember all that I am grateful for. I'll share a few things on my list:

1. My friends, family and my dogs (something I have in common with Mickey Rourke)
2. My health
3. My ipod
4. Spring is coming in something like 10 weeks
5. I stopped eating sugar a week ago and can fit comfortably into my jeans again
6. Also cut down on caffeine and have had fewer headaches
7. My mother has an aide and I don't have to see her all the time (I'm being honest here)
8. Meditation
9. Exercise
10. A new administration

I don't know if you've made a list lately, but it's a good exercise. I try to do it at least once a week, even if I'm in a terrible mood.

Monday, January 5, 2009

...and the start of a new one

Sometimes I feel like a blog is similar to one of those annoying Christmas cards in which people talk about what they've been doing all year, but never really tell the truth. I.e. "little Ricky just graduated from junior high school with honors and a new girlfriend..." (and they're both on crack.)

I gave myself the holidays to take a breather from looking for work and from worrying about life and I haven't written much because I didn't feel that I had anything to say. I was basically living in a suspended state of fear, treading water. Then today I read Paul Krugman's column about the economy and if you ever want to make everything feel even worse, then read Paul.

I meditated this morning and tried to feel positive about life. Then I made it to my gym, which is one place that physically helps me lift my spirits. (Once I get going.) And then I read this from Pema Chodron:

"Rejoice in ordinary life"

"We can learn to rejoice in even the smallest blessings our life holds. It is easy to miss our own good fortune; often happiness comes in ways we don't even notice. It's like a cartoon I saw of an astonished-looking man saying, 'What was that?' The caption below read, 'Bob experiences a moment of well-being.' The ordinariness of our good fortune can make it hard to catch.

The key is to be here, fully connected with the moment, paying attention to the details of ordinary life. By taking care of ordinary things - our pots and pans, our clothing, our teeth - we rejoice in them. When we scrub a vegetable or brush our hair, we are expressing appreciation: friendships toward ourselves and toward the living quality that is found in everything. This combination of mindfulness and appreciation connects us fully with reality and brings us joy."

So many people I know have serious problems, health problems, family problems, financial crises and yet there is a sense that we are not alone. I guess that my wish for this new year is that we find comfort in that awareness and that keep moving forward with optimistic and appreciation for all that we do have.

As I write this, Steve is playing his guitar and Lucy, our older dog, is demanding my attention. So I guess I truly am not alone.

I think we all need to say a prayer for Obama.