The Lion and the Lamb

Screen shot 2014-03-30 at 12.51.12 PM Everything is small until it’s big.  No, this is not a metaphor about gaining weight.  Rather, it is an observation about what you DO and SAY as opposed to what you INTEND and MEAN.  Or at least, what you WANT people to think you INTENDED and MEANT once you realize they don’t like your original meaning or intention.

Seldom does anyone mention Gwyneth Paltrow and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the same sentence – except perhaps movie fans in the Trenton statehouse sifting through the credits of Ironman 3 – but strangely enough both have a strong connection at this moment in time.  And that is:

They have each put their feet so far deep down into their mouths this week that even a team of the best surgeons in the world could not remove them without the pair also having to consult a podiatrist instead of an ear, nose and throat doctor whenever they felt a case of laryngitis coming on.  Though in both cases, the latter ailment might be their best prescriptive course of action.


Yes, we all misspeak, but to use a tennis metaphor in honor of Maria Sharapova’s birthday later this month, these are unforced errors.  The kind of missteps that could have been so easily avoided had they just thought through what were saying or doing beforehand.  Or even, to use a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? metaphor (because why wouldn’t we?), phoned a friend.

To wit:

Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her rock star husband Chris Martin (you know, that guy from Coldplay) have decided to separate after 10 years of marriage.  That would be a succinct, adequate announcement for the public from two very famous people.

Instead, Ms. Paltrow has decided to bill the dissolution of their marriage as a Conscious Uncoupling, replete with elaborate supporting explanations from her L.A. based doctor/healer/mentor, Dr. Habib Sadeghi, founder of the Be Hive of Healing Integrative Medical Center in Los Angeles (Note: As if we on the left coast don’t have enough problems).

FInal judgement: bullshit

Final judgement: bullshit

Among other things, Dr. Sadeghi explains that because the average human life expectancy was 33 years of age in 50,000 BC and is now 76 and 81 respectively, for men and women, we need to change our concept of divorce.

(Note: Was there even divorce and marriage in 50,000 BC? Wasn’t it more about dragging someone by the hair with one hand under the strength of an ominously large club in the other until death literally did you part?  In fact, I think it might even still be that way in some territories of our 50 United States, plus Puerto Rico)

Not to be outdone by herself, that same prior week Ms. Paltrow also decided to give an interview with E! News expounding on the plight of working mothers and the special challenges she in particular faces in balancing a film career and parenting in comparison to the average Mom who is employed outside the home.

I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening, Ms. Paltrow reckoned.  When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part is very difficult.  I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”

You mean multi-millions of dollars worth of private planes and multiple months of time off DON’T….SOLVE….ANYTHING?

And you wonder why actors need writers.

Hey Gywennie.. why don't you stick to the things you do know?

Hey Gwyennie.. why don’t you stick to the things you do know?

On the flip side, there was an aggressively indignant and embattled Gov. Chris Christie giving yet another hour-long press conference basically announcing that an internal investigation done by a law firm chock full of close friends and associates he hired and had New Jersey citizens pay for at a cost of $1 million to uncover the true story of his administration’s Bridge Gate scandal has totally exonerated him personally of any wrongdoing. In fact, not only did it find that Gov. Christie did not order the closing of car lanes to the George Washington Bridge on the anniversary weekend of 9-11 – thus creating the largest recorded traffic jam in the history of the world – but it also categorically stated that the governor had no knowledge of it (or did he?) until one of its perpetrators, a close Christie appointee to the Port Authority, casually informed him after-the-fact in a large group of people during the hustle and bustle of the oh so many 9-11 commemorations he attended.


No, in this case and in this report the blame for the lion’s share of this mess was heaped on the much, much smaller shoulders of Bridget Kelley, chief of staff for Christie at the time, who the report positioned as in an emotional state of mind when she wrote the memo ordering the lane closures.   The exhaustive 360 page report then elaborates that what contributed in part to her taking this particular action was Ms. Kelley’s foul mood due to her recent romantic breakup with Christie’s other former chief of staff and campaign manager.

On his own the governor has referred to Ms. Kelly as a liar and has in previous press conferences called her actions stupid despite the fact that he never talked to her about any of the above face-to-face and chose to fire her not in person but by proxy for those aforementioned misdeeds and/or moods.  Yet when questioned by Bloomberg news reporter Terence Dopp several days ago about those findings and why he terminated Ms. Kelly without allowing her the chance to present her side to him live or even across a crowded room, the governor leaned in to him and pointedly barked:

I don’t know if you can’t take notes or you’re not listening.  For you to characterize my last answer as ‘I didn’t want to ask her because I didn’t want to know’ is so awful that it’s beneath the job you hold.

Of course, several days earlier the governor chose a more measured tone in a cozy, at-home interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer.  Perhaps it’s because Ms. Sawyer asked her questions regarding the actions of Ms. Kelley and his other aides in a much softer tone and with a fire roaring the background, though we will never know for sure.

Sometimes, people do inexplicably stupid things., the governor more gently reflectedto DS… And so that’s what makes it so hard then to, as the guy in charge ….. none of it made any sense to me.   And to some extent it still does not. 

…You don’t sleep, you don’t eat, he continued. You struggle. You struggle. But I do believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Wait, what was that?  Is this guy a lion or a lamb?  A tiger or a mouse? Huh?  HUH???

Which one is it, Chrissy?

Which one is it, Chrissy?

Well, very much like the truth, it depends not only on what you say but how you say it, how people ask it and how others choose to see and/or hear it.  Or in this specific case perhaps on the power of the person doing the asking and your particular mood and/or strategy at the time.

Certainly we have no idea what is in the hearts of Gov. Christie or Ms. Paltrow or anyone else except what they choose to share with us. Or even if they have hearts at all.  All we have is what they say and our interpretation.  That’s all that anyone has really, even with people they know and love or those that fall everywhere in between.  Sure, we might understand and feel stuff based on past experiences and our intuition, but it is important to note that even Samantha Stevens on Bewitched often made the wrong choice and she was a witch.  Not to mention Prof. Charles Xavier in X-Men, who also had a pretty much infallible gift of seeing into other people’s brains but whose life could hardly be described as trouble-free.

Oh I feel you, Samantha

Oh I feel you, Samantha

Still, for those who are sick of considering these issues through the all-too American lens of celebrity comments,  it might help to reflect on a few morally questionable actions and statements  I personally encountered this week – smaller than life though they might be:

#1 The Facebook Frenzy:What was Facebook really thinking by arbitrarily switching us all to that annoying change of font and their persistent larger-than-life ads?  Certainly, they don’t mean to alienate millions of users plus everyone on my news feed by cavalierly doing this without asking?  Are there reasons for the actions we’re not seeing other than an insatiable need for expansion and money and a general disregard of every one of the loyal customers who made them?  Or is the outrage I’m feeling really misdirected anger towards Direct TV because I can’t get their movies to stream properly in the upstairs room of my house due to a perpetually weak Internet signal? #1stWorldProblems.



#2 The Slow Roll: Did the five awful people doing that rolling drive thing in the cars in front of me on five different days this week – oh, you know the one, where the vehicle is going 8 mph in a 25-35 mph zone and you pull next to them only to see the other driver TEXTING – really intend to be that selfish and cause my trip to be an additional two and a half minutes longer than it should have been?  Well, perhaps their texts were urgent?  Or maybe it’s what we all think – that each of them deserves to die a slow, bloody and painful death.  Preferably via ice pick.

#3 The Missing Plane: Were the powers-that-be at Malaysia Airlines purposely intending to look like the most incompetent corporation in the history of the planet by merely textingthe probable death confirmations of all the missing passengers on Flight 370 to their friends, relatives and loved ones only mere seconds before the news was announced to the entire world via press conference?  Or did they have some other kinder, gentler plan in place that went awry?  But what could that have been?  Not telling them at all???


The take away from all of this is to watch what you say and do because the smallest of things can become very big indeed.   Yes, one could conceivably believe Ms. Paltrow thinks she’s re-languaging the world and that her declaration of conscious uncoupling is among the noblest efforts of all.  And sure, others may agree that Gov. Christie is convinced that by bluntly insulting the press and anyone else who challenges him with a question or tone he doesn’t like, he is providing a much-needed version of tough love to a sissy society gone soft.   Certainly a case could be made for both

But each also has many, many, many more detractors.  Read the open letter one working Mom posted via the NY Post that has gone viral in answer to Ms. Paltrow’s views on work and motherhood –

Or simply consider my own personal view of Gov. Christie, echoed in some form by pretty much every person I know or have read —  that he is more like an abusive parent who enjoys publicly shaming his “children” as loudly and threateningly as possible in front of the greatest number of people he can muster in order to deflect any sort of blame or personal responsibility off of himself.

So what’s the lesson here? Hmm, as with most things the devil is what is in the details of what you make of them.

Though I prefer the explanation  my once working mother would most certainly give were she still around to speak on it.

On Gwyneth:

Oh please – she just thinks her shit doesn’t stink!

On Christie:

Oh come on, he’s just one mean son of a bitch bastard.

Yes, I am my mother’s son.  Though in some cases,  no matter how you look at it, that’s not such a bad thing to be.


Come Back or Go Away!

Screen shot 2014-03-23 at 1.33.30 PMSometimes you just want to tell someone or something to go away.  Heels that aren’t high enough (Note: Teenage Chair is still mourning the loss of platform shoes); pork roast dinners (Note #2: It’s not a Jewish thing, just the sight of it makes me rickety); and hair with so much pomade and/or other product that it won’t move in the wind (Note #3 – Okay, perhaps it’s just flowing locks of any kind that I crave).

If you’re in the entertainment biz there is also slightly more serious fare you might want to give the ol’ heave-ho to.   These would include people who get undeserved studio deals because they have no discernable talent other than one to charm and persuade – which if not talent, is at the very least is a great asset to possess in 2014.

Standing around the Writer’s Guild this week discussing the latter subject, one of my peers concluded that these very same people become slaves to their profoundly clueless perception of their severe lack of talent and that this, in turn, gives them the supreme confidence and ability to soldier on and win at the business of show despite what any measurable mathematical calculation of real creative acumen would allow.

For example, this week doyennes of the fashion world became outraged when the sacred cow of magazine covers in their universe – Vogue – graced two people on it who many readers saw as the symbol of everything they don’t want as their style cover couple:

More like.. #enoughalready

More like.. #enoughalready

Granted, this might be a step forward from paper-thin, meal deprived models wearing half of a dress that would only lie right if it were draped on a skeleton in the front of the room of a 10th grade chemistry class.  Still, one can understand Vogue readers collectively rolling their eyes, sighing or yelling ‘Go away’ as they hurl the Kimye issue across the room and accidentally break a window due to the sheer weight of paper from all of the additional ads the duos mere presence undoubtedly caused to be purchased.

Feeling cynically depressed yet?  Well, don’t be.

On the flip side of this, there are just as many times that collectively we are all as likely to shout COMEBACK! (or Come back!) at a talented person or commodity or thing that we love that has been absent from the spotlight for too long or secretly seems to have just disappeared for no reason.  Though writers are clearly on average the most cynically depressing in the creative bunch (Note: You will just have to trust me on this), it is interesting to note that my aforementioned Writers Guild discussion segued into one where myself and my peers also listed many famous and infamous talents who were too long absent and whose new works we longed for or whose past works we still reveled in.  Plus – some of them were even friends, acquaintances AND people YOUNGER than us who were a lot more successful and wealthy.  While that entire group might admittedly evoke some envy, we also concluded that their every achievement cause us to be hopeful, excited and more motivated than ever to delve back into our own work because they show us what is possible in the best-case scenarios as they move us or make us laugh.  They also seem to push the collective consciousness just a teeny bit more into the kind of world we want to live in.  Rather than take a job away from us, they also inspire confidence that, contrary to what my parents and numerous T-Shirts you can buy on Café Press say, Life IS (or can be) Fair – even if it’s only sometimes.

I know this is all certainly true because the best show on television, Mad Men, is once again returning to the airwaves on AMC beginning April 13.

All Aboard!

All Aboard!

Sure, it’s a short seven-episode season 7 in 2014 with the final seven scheduled for the final season 8 to be broadcast sometime in 2015.  But that gives us a full 12-18 months for MM’s creative outcome to percolate in the cultural zeitgeist and raise the collective bar a little more, much in the same way Breaking Bad did the previous two years.  And certainly, we could use that.  I mean, God knows who else besides Kimye Vogue editor Anna Wintour (aka our Miranda Priestly prototype) has planned for future cover models.

Therefore, in the spirit of all this and more, the following are a list of some of the other COME BACKS/COMEBACKS and GO AWAYS we will look forward to, wish for or…sigh…dread might happen or not happen in the foreseeable future.  (Note:  Certainly any one of the occurrences or non-occurrences will add or subtract from our collective cultural zeitgeist only as we each see fit – rendering our national average impossible to figure out.  If for nothing else other than self-preservation, it’s probably safer that way).

1. The Comeback

We cherish you!

We cherish you!

Literally the best industry news all week was that HBO is in serious talks for a 2015 limited series return of the cancelled-too-early comedy, The Comeback, with star Lisa Kudrow, who co-created the show along with producing partner Dan Bucatinsky and director-writer Michael Patrick King almost a decade ago.  The docu-style, meta reality series followed the adventures of Valerie Cherish, a seemingly washed-up sitcom star from the 1980s who gets a shot on TV again playing the small supporting role of the older Aunt Sassy on a new contemporary half hour show where she often finds herself shunted to the side and mistreated in favor of younger and fresher talent.  To make matters worse, poor Valerie has also agreed for cameras to film every moment of her real life as a potential reality television show documenting the process.

Mere words cannot describe the sheer glee we fans of this much-overlooked gem feel now that one of our favorite programs – unfairly cancelled after a mere 13 episodes – has a chance at a comeba….well, you get the idea.   The mess of Valerie Cherish’s life managed to be hilarious, cringe-worthy and uncomfortably, heartbreakingly real almost all at the same time.  I myself sometimes had to turn away from the screen for poor Val, guiltily laughing at the indignities of show business realities she willfully subjected herself to weekly.  Yet, like most of the rest of us, she somehow always got through it all with a pasted-on smile even as invisible tears of sadness and occasional joy ran down her face.  PLEASE COME BACK!!

2. Brackets

Maybe we should bring Nate Silver in.

Maybe we should leave this to Nate Silver.

 What is with this word???  Every year at this time I read the newspaper, watch TV or read/see on the web bracket this or bracket that with an accompanying list of sports teams.  Now even the President is getting into it and we have to listen to all those crazies once again criticizing Barack Obama for spending time on the same type of foolishness that each one of them appears equally into.  Hmmm, next thing you know they’ll be criticizing him for going to the bathroom just like them instead of tending to the biologically defying duties of the Oval Office.  I mean, how dare he???  Plus, I bet Putin doesn’t go to the bathroom.  Clearly.

Which brings us back to the dreaded bracket.  Will someone please write about what the hell they really are and why we should care when gambling is illegal in the U.S.?  Oh wait, really?  Gambling is illegal in most places where the bracket counts?  Yeah, it really is.  Trust me, I know.  Even if I don’t know what the hell the term bracket actually means.

Finally, even if sports had nothing to do with this subject I’d still be annoyed because to me brackets really only evoke images of buying those metal thinga-majigs from Ikea or the hardware store that I nail into the wall and put shelves on, only to have them then fall apart, usually knocking me in the head or on the foot as they do.  Then I have to hire a handyman to fix the whole damn thing and it costs me a lot more money than if the word had never come up in my life.  So either way brackets are almost guaranteed to be a losing proposition. The verdict?  GO AWAY!!

3. Charlie Kaufman

Where are you??

Where are you??

He’s a screenwriter who is my age, been nominated for the Academy Award three times and won once, and has never written any original work I didn’t like and respect.  And I’m not even jealous or envious!  Even his last film, Synecdoche, New York, which he also directed, was quite brilliant in my humble opinion despite its mixed reviews. (Note: I remember literally snorting in contempt as several couples left the movie theatre at the showing I attended – those mental midgets!)

Still, it’s been five years since Mr. Kaufman has had an original screenplay made.  Yes, there have been talks he’s once again going to collaborate with Spike Jonze, who directed his scripts for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation (Michel Gondry directed his Oscar-winning Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and that he himself will write and direct a movie called Frank or Francis that has gone in and out of financing.  But so far – zilch.

My guess is our biggest hope lies with a new Kaufman television pilot for FX, How and Why, to star Michael Cera, John Hawkes and Sally Hawkins.  It tells the story of a man who used to be a TV science guy for kids who gets fired and starts a new show in a small town where Michael Cera is his boss and weird supernatural stuff begins to happen (Note: As if the former weren’t enough).  Yes, they had me at Charlie Kaufman but this idea sounds Great. COME BACK!  NOW!!!

4. The New Male Buzz Cut

If he can't pull it off...

If he can’t pull it off…

STOP IT!!  Just STOP IT right now!!!  Especially if you’re over 35.

I’m sorry, call me crazy (and many do) but this is the butt ugliest haircut for guys in the world.  Pretentious, affected, too coiffed and too contrived.  In short, you’re not too cool for the room when you think you’re too cool for the room.  See, Ryan Gosling is not too cool for the room and he doesn’t have the haircut.  He’s just cool.

Oh yeah, you know the one I mean.  Okay, Macklemore looks cool in it but he’s a rapper and he just won a well-deserved Grammy (Note:  Yeah, I’m on team M and not team Yeezus).  But the parade of male celebs who have gone the super buzz route just because their stylists told them to, only to be followed by every other gay guy at the gym and every straight guy who thinks they can have Adam Levine’s love life if they do this same hairdo along with one or several tattoos, is maddening and just plain dead wrong.

Stay away from Leto!

Stay away from Leto!

If you’ve got good hair revel in it cause it won’t last forever.  I say this not out of bitterness, but out of kind-hearted envy and personal experience.  Plus, you will look back at photos 20 years from now and wonder why you were wearing the post-millennial equivalent of a Nehru suit on your head.   GO AWAY!! 

5. Brussel Sprouts vs. Kale & Quinoa

Hello gorgeous

Hello gorgeous

As a child of the sixties and seventies, I grew up thinking vegetables were these soggy sweet, soupy things from a can that were rancid.  In fact, the words Del Monte and Birdseye still literally make me nauseous to this day.

The re-invention of the fresh vegetable as a thing of beauty across America and the many options for its preparation to the masses was one of the only great things to come out of the 1980s, in my mind.  That is, aside from meeting my life partner.  We can thank many people for this, most notably Alice Waters, one of the leaders of the organic food movement and founder/chef extraordinaire from Chez Panisse. (Note:  No, she had nothing to do with the partner and I meeting, but still…)

In tribute to Ms. Waters then, it is with great joy that I wholly endorse a revival of the much ignored but very, very tasty brussel sprout.  Not sure why but they seem to be everywhere these days as the vegetable of choice in restaurants across the country.  They’re good for you (High fiber/low fat) and very easy to make (roast them with a little olive oil and salt ‘n pepper at 450 degrees for 15-20 mins.) and in my mind beat both kale and quinoa into the ground.  Not to say the latter two are bad – just tiresome.  They’re tolerable, even good sometimes, but they’ve become sort of like watching any movie, TV show, commercial or anything else featuring Ashton Kutcher.

7. Hannah Horvath


She is Lena Dunham’s alter ego on Girls and I love both the show and the character.  But like any best friend or love partner for life you occasionally need a break.  This is what’s happening these days with Hannah and us.

It’s hard to watch the twenty-something version of yourself at your worst and most insecure slowly destroy your life and every meaningful relationship you’ve ever had scene by scene with that rare combination of extreme narcissism and neediness.  Luckily, there is only half an hour more for this season and Hannah can go away to regroup while we can recall why we are forever grateful to have our twenties decades behind us.  (Note: For those of you who don’t fall into the latter category, our deepest sympathies).  GO AWAY – but only for a while.

8. The Homosexual

Imagine my surprise to read this week in both the NY Times and The Advocate that the word homosexual has been officially deemed an “offensive term” by GLAAD and will be avoided at all costs by the paper of record.  Apparently, this has something to do with the fact that if you take the term gay marriage and call it homosexual marriage it will sound funny – sort of like the equivalent of referring to an African American person as colored in 2014.

Wasn't this enough this week?

Wasn’t this enough this week?

Well, as a gay/homosexual person I am officially confused.  Not in a sexual or lifestyle way – just in an old-fashioned I’m not sure kind of fashion.  And if I’m left scratching my head, I can only image where you must be.  No wonder my transgender friends are up in arms.  Society can barely keep up with the speed in which we’re coming out so you can imagine what it’s like for the keepers of Webster, Wikipedia and Strunk & White.

Here’s my suggestion.  Let’s just call everyone male or female because…Wait, that won’t work either since some people prefer gender non-specifics.  How about human beings?  Too clinical?  What about Mary?  Butch?  Ahh, forget I brought it up.  And you may continue to call me a homosexual  – as long as you’re not Antonin Scalia or Rush Limbaugh – because even if they called me gay I’d know what they really mean.  COME BACK!

9. Super hero movies and 3-D



Until you hear otherwise, we here at notesfromachair don’t want to hear anything more about them.    We don’t care that Man of Steel was one of the 10 top grossing movies worldwide in 2013 or that Ironman 3 was….NUMBER #1!???????  

We. Are. Done.  We didn’t see Gravity with those hideous glasses and we still loved it.  We watched Frozen at home and happily sung along to Idina Menzel, not missing a note while the ice in our glass of Diet Coke clinked back and forth.

Yet that same year we were tortured with what seemed like ten and a half hours of a bad Superman reboot that made us long for Christopher Reeve and a multi-million dollar (though nearly unintelligible) cameo from Marlon Brando as his father.  Not to mention the only 12 minutes we saw of our favorite film actor, Robert Downey, Jr. somehow managing to maintain his dignity as he meandered through Iron Man 3.

One day the movie business pendulum will swing the other away and we will hopefully still be able to see and hear. If not, please let us know how it goes.  Until then, do not tell us anything about Man of Steel: Superman vs. Batman.  Isn’t it enough we’re showing you this dumb fake trailer? GO FAR, FAR, AWAY!

10.  24/7 Airplane Travel Disaster Porn

I am planning my first trip to Italy in May and don’t like flying to begin with. So is it too selfish to ask for a moratorium on sensationalizing human airborne tragedy?  My motives for this are not SOLELY selfish, just mostly.    Sheer terror does that to you.  GO AWAY.


And we can't stop.. and we don't stop!

And we can’t stop.. and we don’t stop!

Let’s face it, Hillary is running for President in 2016 and will soon be saturating the airwaves.  Bill was dubbed the Explainer-in-chief for the brilliant, powerhouse speech/argument he made at the 2012 Democratic convention that many feel was key in helping win Barack Obama re-election.  Finally, I saw Chelsea Clinton promoting the Clinton Global Initiative this week on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and she is not going anywhere but up.

There is no use voting on this.  They Clintons never went away and they are never going away.  Therefore it makes it impossible for them to come back or to even have a Comeback.  Sometimes life is like that.  And it not only takes hard work, confidence and determination, but real creative talent.  It’s rare but when it happens all the rest can really do is sit back, watch and enjoy the show.  Let’s face it, these days we’ve earned the right to be truly entertained.