Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Don't Know If You've Ever Been On A Galloping Horse, But You Don't Notice Much

I grew up in Virginia.  Not deep south Virginia, Northern Virginia.  Also known by those who know as NoVa.  Its like Southern Lite.  Not everyone had a Confederate flag on their front lawn, but you also weren't surprised to see one when it was there.  My sixth grade teacher played Gone With The Wind for us to show us what "the Northern aggressors did to us" but didn't deny that we weren't exactly correct about that whole slavery thing.

There is something about southern women - and I mean real southern women - that cannot be duplicated.  And you can't become a real southern woman unless you have been born in the south, raised in the south and gotten old in the south.  When you are over 50, you could qualify to be a real southern woman.

There is a talent that all fine southern woman have.  It takes a while to perfect this talent, and only ladies from south of the Mason Dixon line (look it up) are born with an innate sense of this skill.

I am, of course, speaking of the Backhanded Southern Compliment.

You may have come in contact with this before.  If it was done properly, you would have thought that someone just said something really lovely to you, but for some reason, you feel terrible and you don't know quite why.

We'll start slow.

You're wearing a new shirt.  It's a bit different from what you usually wear, and it took some confidence and self-esteem building to work up the courage to wear it out of the house, but you have and at the moment you are feeling pretty good about it.  You come into work, and your chipper and sweet co-worker looks you up and down, smiles engagingly and says:

"Oh, darling, I never would have thought that color would have worked on you!"

You immediately smile back, and thank her, but as you sit down you realize that you have resolved to never wear that shirt again.

Now why is that?

You've been struck by the Backhanded Southern Compliment (BSC).

See, there are a couple of things that happened back there.  First off, the disarming smile, and the perky, happy way the sentence was said.  That was all to throw you off of what was actually being said.  Second, the sentence itself.  The BSC relies on the fact that most people don't really listen to an entire sentence.  The end of the sentence is where all the important stuff is, right?  So what you filter the sentence in you mind to be "That color works on you!"  All the while, the part of the sentence that you didn't pay any mind too has ninja'd it's way into your mind and is applying nasty pressure points to your subconscious.

I remember quite vividly my first encounter with the BSC.  I was in high school and had been nominated for an acting award and I was going to be honored at the Kennedy Center in DC and everything.   I never really did much with my hair or makeup or anything, but for this I had gotten all dolled up, I was wearing this lovely dress, had heels on and was feeling pretty great about how I looked.  I walked down the stairs into the living room where my parents were waiting.

My mother took one look at me, threw her hands up in the air and exclaimed, "Oh, Ashley!  You'd be so pretty if you were just a little bit taller."

Any self-esteem that my fragile, high school self had built up to that point was shattered to the ground.

I consoled myself for years that was she actually meant to say was that I looked pretty wearing heels.  Yeah, that makes sense.  I never really wore them, so seeing me in them was nice and I looked pretty.

I recently spoke to my mom about it and she informed me that she probably meant exactly what she said.

Other BSCs can be similar to these:

"Oh, you girls today are so modern! I NEVER would have considered calling a man first. Cause you know, that's what (lowers voice) girls from the other side of the tracks did."

"Your bravery astounds me. That haircut takes guts." 

"Those earrings are lovely dear. They make your hair look more done." 

"You don't want to move to New York sweetie. Everything north of the Mason Dixon Line is terrible for jobs. I know plenty of girls your age who moved to Atlanta and found great jobs where they met their husbands!" 

Another phrase to watch out for comes at the end of the BSC in the form of "...bless his/her heart."  It means that whatever you said in the beginning of the sentence was not mean, no matter what it sounds like.

"She's been known to have one too many drinks, bless her heart."

"We never thought he'd amount to much, bless his heart."

I made an amazing discovery recently into just how similar Southerners and the Brits can be.  My grandmother is from Liverpool, England.  She fought the Jerries in World War II, just recently celebrated her 90th birthday, lives on her own and is in all ways the most amazing lady on the planet.

I was asking her recently how I looked.  She looked me up and down, straightened all of her 5 foot frame, stared me straight in the eye and said:

"Oh, darling, a man on a galloping horse wouldn't notice!"

Love you, Nanny.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Friend Ciana Is Cooler Than Your Friend Ciana

Ok, guys.  This post is a a bit more personal.

I have a friend named Ciana.  Ciana is about to enter high school, and is one of the most vivacious, sassy ladies I have ever met.  She is a complete inspiration, and she does all of this even with her disability.  She has Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita which, as she describes it, makes her muscles have less strength than others.  She zips around in a wheel chair like its nothing, and is definitely one of the most bright, unique teenagers I have ever encountered. 

Ciana has a goal.  She adores Taylor Swift and her music and wants to meet her.  She's started a facebook group - you can find it by clicking here - to help her reach this goal.  She is completely open to any advice anyone might have, so go there, join the group, give this amazing girl a hand!

She has her own blog too, and I have to say she has some great advice.  Read it here.

Go, Ciana!  You're a superstar!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On A Related Note, Paul is Coming Out On Tuesday. SCORE.

This country is getting a little ridiculous.

And no, I am not talking about the debt ceiling, I am not talking about the immigration laws that are being passed in Alabama, I am talking about something much more serious.

I am talking about censorship on TV.

Not news censorship.

Censorship when movies are edited for TV.

Not serious, you think?  Well, you're wrong!

This lovely Saturday morning when I woke up, the masterpiece Shaun of the Dead was on TV.  This is one of my very favorite movies - I know it pretty much by heart and always have a good laugh when watching it.  It is brilliantly put together.  From the pacing to the acting to the comedy to the tragedy, it is incredibly affective at taking you for along ride.

So, needless to say, I was excited at having it on in the background as I bustled about my morning routine.  Listening with half an ear to the hilarity as I cut up my banana for my cereal, I noticed something was wrong.  The timing on the jokes seemed off.  There were gaping holes that were usually filled with some delicious snippet of hilarity.  What was happening?

I turned my full attention to Bryan Jr. (our TV) and realized that it was from the network bleeping out the curse words.  But rather than bleep them out with another word (which can sometimes add to the hilarity), they simply removed the word altogether so there was just this awkward silence in the middle of the sentence.  

Any comedian will tell you that the pacing of a sentence leading up to a joke is monumentally important.  Certain words are funnier than others, words that contain a hard "c" sound for some reason are just more entertaining.  The speed at which you speak, what you give and what you hold back all add to getting your audience to chuckle, chortle and gasp for breath.  

Let's take an example, an old favorite.  The knock knock joke.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

We all know the rhythm of that joke, the flow of it.  While that is not the punchline, it is intrinsically  necessary to begin the joke with these words in the traditional timing in order to get the joke to shine.  Knock knock jokes just wouldn't work if they started:

Ding dong!

How can I help you?

The simple act of this TV station removing words from sentences completely ruined some perfect comedic moments.

That, my friends, is a travesty.

For example, one of my favorite exchanges in the movie is when Simon Pegg and Nick Frost come home from a night of heavy drinking and Peter Serafinowicz rips them a new one for being loud when he is trying to sleep.

Pete (Serafinowizc):  It's four in the fucking morning!

Shaun (Pegg):  It's Saturday!

Pete (Serafinowicz):  No, it's not. It's fucking Sunday. And I've got to go to fucking work in four fucking hours 'cos every other fucker in my fucking department is fucking ill! Now can you see why I'm SO FUCKING ANGRY? 

Ed (Frost):  Fuck yeah!

With the censorship, this scene became this:

Pete (Serafinowizc):  It's four in the ----- morning!

Shaun (Pegg):  It's Saturday!

Pete (Serafinowizc):  No, it's not. It's ----- Sunday. And I've got to go to ----- work in four ----- hours 'cos every other ----- in my fucking department is ----- ill! Now can you see why I'm SO ----- ANGRY? 

Ed (Frost):  ----- yeah!

Not funny, TV.  Not funny at all.

The worst editing actually happened just before this scene, when Shaun and Ed were at the bar together, and Ed does his impression of the monkey Clive.  At the end of his imitation, he gives Shaun a good, strong middle finger to try and get him to laugh.  I thought the censors would cut that part of it out and ruin the joke that way, but no.  Instead they CGI's his finger out completely.

What if I had never seen this movie?  Suddenly Ed doesn't have a middle finger?  It wasn't even good CGI, you could tell he was TRYING to flip him the bird, but WHERE IS HIS FINGER?  This raises all sorts of questions!  How did he lose his finger?  Where is it?  Was he born without it?  What does this have to do with zombies?  Is it the character, or does the actor himself not have a middle finger?  Can he get a prosthetic?  Has it affected his life in an adverse way by not being able to express his anger both vocally and physically?

And see, I am not thinking about zombies anymore.

I turned it off soon after seeing the Serafinowizc scene butchered by the editing.  It just made me too sad.

So, you see, the destruction of comedic genius is much more serious than anything else that's going on.  

Come on, don't look at me that way.  December 2012 is right around the corner, everything's going to shit anyway.  But if we can't laugh while we burn in the fires of our own creation, whats the FUCKING point?

See what I did there?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Or A GPS To Success. That'd Be Useful.

Its frikin' hard to be an actor.

Let me rephrase.  Its hard to be an actor in this day in age.

Back when Hollywood was first emerging as a glowing beacon of depraved debauchery, glistening in the remains of broken dreams and lost pride, all you really needed was to be beautiful/handsome, know the right people and the willingness to do whatever necessary to get ahead.


Ok, so not much has changed in that department.  However, in this day in age, while a lucky hand dealt in the genetics department and a willingness to do things that make your mother cry will get you  . . . somewhere (I can't say far, I don't think the Jersey Shore "performers" can be labeled as going far), if you really want staying power you need be have multiple talents.  

For example, let's look at my brilliant roommate, Bryan Fenkart.  The man is always crazy busy.  He is the understudy for the lead role in the musical Memphis on Broadway, one of the most talented singer/songwriters I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, has been known to grace the stand-up stage at Carolines on Broadway, and has a thriving voice over career.  Now, one of the reasons that he is so successful is because he has so many other talents.

And he's not the only one.  Super famous people do lots of other stuff too.  Russell Crowe has a really smashing music career, as does Keanu Reeves, Daniel Radcliffe is doing the Broadway thing, Steven Spielberg produces, and you would be astonished to know how many big Hollywood actors go over to China and Japan and shoot commercials over there.  They make a boat-load of cash and most of the time they don't even say a word, because the distribution for the commercial is only for the Asian market. 

Its even tougher when you consider the life of the actor who has not made it.  You cannot simply be an "actor".  You have to make yourself someone to talk about.  So that means being a great actor, which means classes and practice and diligence.  Unless you have an interesting "look", most people should put themselves in really excellent shape - which means working out, yoga, dance, swimming, pilates and all those other weird work out things where you use machines and stuff.  You don't have all the time in the world to wait for another person to give you work, so that means producing your own stuff - be it plays, a movie (feature length or short), pilots, doing stand up comedy and the like.  And it is best if you have more skills, like writing or singing or music and stuff.  

In addition to all this, you also need to make money.  Which means getting a "real job".

Its exhausting.

But, you know, you always know the people who really love what they do.  The more they invest themselves in being creative for the enjoyment of others, the more joy you know it brings them.  You find a way to make things happen.  The funny thing is that no one achieves "success" in the entertainment industry in the same way.  My road is much different from Bryan's road, which is completely different from my James's road. 

Sometimes it would be nice to have a map though.  Just saying.