My Other Half

This is not a reflection on marriage or relationships.  It’s far more self-centered than that.

The still miraculously ageless Paul Rudd, our Dorian Gray of the 21st century, stars in a new Netflix series called Living with Yourself.  In it he plays a man in seemingly middle-aged malaise (Note:  Because really, it’s Paul Rudd).

There is actually a “Which Paul Rudd is Older” Quiz and it’s SO hard. Click here to take it and fail miserably like me #HEISAVAMPIRE

Life has turned against him and it’s mostly not his fault, more a circumstance of battle scars and, well, age if you don’t count his still voluminous hairline and the suppleness of his skin.

This man is 50 years old #dealwiththeDevil

In any event, after a sad public semi-meltdown at the office, his newly reenergized work friend takes pity on him and gives him a card with the key to his secret of rejuvenation.   What it turns out to be is the number of a slightly seedy storefront in a strip mall where, for a small pile of money, you will become the BEST of you.

Or, put more succinctly, a CLONE of you; the rested, hottest, most well adjusted version of yourself, the best of yourself and without having to endure painful psychotherapy or tedious self-help courses.

You will wake up and walk out as strong and as vibrant and as in demand as, say, football quarterback Tom Brady.  Because, as the series more than implies, that is how Tom Brady manages it.

Ugh, forget it

Though since nothing is that easy in our actual reality these days AND because all good TV shows and movies need some conflict, it’s not that easy.  Rather than killing off the world-weary version of Paul Rudd, as this storefront usually does (Note:  Ha, imagine that they thought they could even nick Paul!) with no one the wiser, things go awry.

The real, down-in-the-mouth Paul Rudd somehow manages to live (Note:  Was there ever a doubt?), emerging through dirt and plastic wrap from sex feet under clad only a diaper, where he then walks six hours home to his nice house and nice wife and angrily confronts…HIS OTHER HALF.

These pics are 11 years apart… I just can’t get over it

No, it’s not his wife who he encounters when he enters back into the world that was once, more sadly, his own.  What he sees instead is the best version of him; someone that he instantly recognizes physically but for all intents and purposes is now a psychological stranger.  Right before his eyes is his truly OPTIMUM self.  The can-do guy without the bumps and dings and self-sabotaging either life or he saddled himself with.

It’s infuriating and yet strangely comforting.  It makes him sad and resentful and, yet, gives him a sliver of hope.

In short, it allows him and us to look in a three dimensional mirror and try to somehow rectify what it means to be the best AND most world-weary versions of each of us in any given moment, mindful that every option is always available and every alternative has its perks and minuses.

We agree, Keanu.

This gets you to thinking.

If even ageless Paul Rudd is world-weary and tired and angry and bitter what hope is there for me?

But if there is indeed an age defying, bouncier version of the Paul Rudd that we all know and love hiding from even Mr. Rudd himself, perhaps each of us suffers from the very same malady?

Maybe there is a better version of yourself lurking somewhere deep inside.  This would be a person less jaded and certainly less fed up.  This would be a guy (or a gal, obviously) able to take a different, more positive road to, well, everything, and make his or her choices accordingly.  This could be someone WE’D envy and, more positively, even aspire to be if we weren’t already them.

Imagine if we had access to that?

My better version would look like Matt Bomer, right? #please

Who would Donald Trump be?  Is there a better version?  What would Vladimir Putin do?  Or maybe there are even worse choices and what we are now experiencing is actually his best self?

Or vice-versa.

Again, it gets you thinking.   Though that can be a perilous course depending on which version of yourself you are.

Jekyll or Hyde?

Difficult though it might be to accept that we are not set in stone, condemned to act in a certain way given our all of our specific life experiences up to that very point in time, it is worth considering.

What would it be like it be like if my mind and body could get serviced by the best human garage in town and emerge as a nearly refurbished version?  Not only could I be freshly painted and waxed on the exterior (Note:  Because, please, that’s the first thing you notice, no matter how much psychotherapy you’ve had or not had) your outlook could be a sharpened, shiny and certainly more electrifying version of that very same DNA.

We call that Fonda-ing

This does not mean you’d be anyone else but you.  It only allows you to be the very best of who YOU are and choose what actions YOU take accordingly in any given situation.

It also allows for a more limber point of view from which to make these choices.  Not necessarily younger, since we all must choose unwisely when we’re young, but simply less cynical and jaded.

It gets you to thinking again, and again, and again.

What are the possibilities contained within all of our inner operating systems?

Fiona Apple – “Better Version of Me”

Making it Work

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The big news this week was that Tim Gunn – America’s Teacher and longtime Project Runway mentor and defender – finally went off on one of his designer contestants for the first time in 14 seasons and 11 years. Confronted with endless excuses and Swapnil Shinde’s admitted laziness despite his obvious talent, Mr. Gunn told him his behavior and excuses were a bunch of bullsh-t, adding what is the f-cking point of doing anything if you’re not going to commit and give your all.

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If someone else had ranted this – from me on up – it would have been just another day at the workhouse or of trolling the web. Certainly, it’s de rigueur when it comes from the mouth of The Republican Apprentice – who now ranks as America’s top GOP presidential candidate by a lot, to use his exact words. But when a beloved nice guy or gal explodes in your face it’s a lot different.

There is nothing like the unexpected – especially when it goes from nice to naughty – to jolt us into temporary attention and perhaps submission – if not shock, awe and/or revulsion. Remember when Tom Cruise jumped up and down like a madman on Oprah’s couch? Or when we found out that NY Congressman/nice Jewish boy Anthony Weiner was really Carlos Danger, the secret online seductor? How about when Disney’s own Miley Cyrus stuck her very elongated pointed tongue in and out and towards a man twice her age on television at MTV’s VMAs? The country went absolutely, positively apoplectic.

It could be a partial explanation for our preoccupation and fascination with the phenomena that is The Republican Apprentice – or at least it was until recently. It’s scary to write this out loud but yesterday I found myself saying over dinner to a handful of very smart people who asked me that I now actually believed for the first time that The Ole RA might very well be the presidential nominee by next year’s GOP. What was once shocking and unique has now suddenly become establishment and imaginably viable. Plus, there’s no denying several months of double-digit poll numbers.

Current mood

Current mood

But back to Mr. Gunn, for whom who I have always held a soft spot. He was on to something when he spewed out his tough love truths in a desperate attempt to deliver one final wakeup call. Think of it as a gay Hail Mary pass to a competitor possessing the clear ability to win the game but who lacked focus, discipline and respect for not only himself but the entire competition in which he voluntarily chose to participate in the first place. As a teacher myself I can tell you there is nothing more infuriating. You mean you have the goods but are just…. lazy… scared…. stuck in your own drama…. unwilling to move just three more steps…. prefer instead to… play??? Seriously??? See your less-talented colleague over there, the one who works 24/7? Don’t come bitching to me (or anyone else) in 20 years when you wonder why what they do has gotten the response they have – be it in either money or creative praise or both. It just doesn’t happen out of nothing. You have to put in the time in order to perpetrate the crime that you now see as success. They did. You didn’t. Now suffer the consequences.

Nice try, honey.

Nice try, honey.

Of course, this isn’t all there is to it. All the hard 24/7 work in the world doesn’t guarantee victory nor is the converse true. There are those in the minority who through timing, luck or extreme talent can stumble into a kind of momentary success despite all of their best efforts to NOT make it so. Still, on the whole it really is the hard work, the push back against the most desperate straits and all evidence to the contrary in those dark moments of doubt, that produces something unique or even spectacular. At least on any sort of consistent basis. Whether the world recognizes it or not is never the point. The real victory is when you know you’re leaving it all on the stage – as they say in show biz.  Or on the field – as is noted in sports. Or in/on the ________, as people tell you in whatever is your chosen field of labor and/or desire.

The fifth season of American Horror Story premiered this week and has gotten royally raked over the coals for — well, I’m not exactly sure what. It seems as if it is to some degree on this very subject. Have Ryan Murphy and company finally jumped the shark and delivered something so dull or gratuitous, as many culture vultures have so GLEEfully pointed out, or have we (meaning THEY) all just grown all too used to it? As a longtime fan of the series I am the first to admit that it occasionally lacks a certain story sense or too often than not falls victim to an overindulgence of style, sexual subversion and violent perversion. But jeez, isn’t that part of the fun of it all?

American Horror Story edition

American Horror Story edition

The brilliance of the whole concept is that there is nothing quite original in the storytelling, look or manner of the show in itself. The point is that it takes every subject trope of its season of choice – be it haunted houses, insane asylums, witches or carnivals – and ribaldly steals from every movie, television show, play or short story every executed on the subject. Then it throws it all together in some bubbling stew of camp, pathos and politically unacceptable (Note: Or acceptable depending on whether you’re me or everyone else) morality where it emerges with something if not new then unique unto itself. Its strength lies in its overall execution and what often becomes two handfuls of truly memorable moments over the season. Yet it is those moments that make the parts of the whole that fall flat work – which is more than I can say so far for either The Republican Apprentice or this season of Project Runway. (Note: Although Mr. Gunn did give me one of those in this past week’s episode meltdown so there is that).

I mean, whatever, I'm into it! #noshame

I mean, whatever, I’m into it! #noshame

Watching Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer portray what amounts to millennial versions of Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in 1983’s much under-rated The Hunger as they executed deadly sexual games with another couple in their all-too-stylish boudoir on the premiere episode of AHS: Hotel more than worked for me. As did the creepy kids skulking around a la The Shining and The Innocents. As did loveable Max Greenfield’s gay, blonde hair-dyed heroin-injecting pretty boy burnout being sexually violated by a dead ghoul with a power tool. Yeah it was gruesome, but it was also Grand Guignol ridiculous. The gay positive sensibility of the series puts this sort of thing in the crazy context of just one more form of mindless brutalization the AHS word offers, rather than serving to cast a specific retribution towards a member of one specific minority group the creative forces behind the scenes don’t cotton to.

One wishes The Republican Apprentice, the entire GOP field or any number of religious organizations across the world would take note before they choose to scapegoat their next real-life victim(s) of choice. They’re dealing with real life choices not the creative ones in television and Grand Guignol theatre. Or are they? Well, if nothing else, at least they’re committed. Or should be.

As the Emmy Turns

Occasionally the Chair must break from his weekly posts to address up-to-the-minute breaking news… and sometimes he just has an opinion and he can’t shut up about it. Enjoy this mid-week visit with the Chair as he spins his truth on this year’s biggest Emmy moment.

Sophia-Vergara-Emmys-Sexist

The takeaway from the Emmy Awards on Monday night is not about Breaking Bad deservedly sweeping in almost all of its major categories. Nor is it the fact that Emmy stalwarts such as Modern Family, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Veep), Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory), Allison Janney (Mom, Masters of Sex and previously West Wing) continue to dominate in all of theirs.

It’s not even that the presumed-to-be sure-fire dramatic TV-movie winner of the year – The Normal Heart – was snubbed in all of its categories until the very end.

Oh Matt, we're trying!

Oh Matt, we’re trying!

And no – it certainly is not that the usually smart, glib and poised in just-the-right-way host Seth Meyers delivered an unusually static set of jokes that made him and the entire show seem a bit off its game.

What it is all about are three minutes and one half minutes of special material that fell flat. And…

Sofia Vergara.

Who knew that the funny and beautiful actress from Colombia who became a gigantic American television star by playing a beautiful and funny woman from Colombia on the Television Academy’s favorite situation comedy of the last five years (see above) would be so heavily chastised, shamed and otherwise criticized for participating in a comedy bit where she played a beautiful and funny woman from Colombia on television?

Life is strange.

Clearly, many people do not feel comfortable with or understand that Ms. Vergara’s success is based on the idea that publicly she ALWAYS plays the part of a beautiful and funny woman from Colombia. And that despite what the writers name her in whatever venue she presents herself, that persona is ultimately always named Sofia Vergara and has as much or as little to do with the real her as… well… only she knows for sure.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

But here’s what we should all know: that is what actors do.

For those unfamiliar with the segment, Ms. Vergara strutted out clad in her usual body-hugging garment and speaking in her exaggeratedly extreme Latin accent (Note: As thick as Fran Drescher’s but evoking Colombia rather than Flushing, Queens – the latter being my home town). After explaining to the audience that she came to America with the same big dreams of many young women her age– to be on a stage as big as the one she was standing on at the Emmys – she then disappointedly noted that this also relegated her to the duty of only being able to introduce from that very stage Television Academy president Bruce Rosenblum.

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Quickly making his entrance and taking away center stage was Mr. Rosenblum, who if nothing else is Central Casting’s version of what most everyone around the world imagines television executives to be. Which is to generously say that he is not at all a performer or else he’d hire himself and his colleagues instead of paying actors like Ms. Vergara millions and millions and millions of more millions of dollars each year.

This also appeared evident as Mr. Rosenblum took the reigns of what now promised to be on ongoing routine and asked Ms. Vergara to stand on a rotating podium center stage – not unlike that of a real-life version of an actual Emmy – and demonstrate for the audience the meaningful impact American television has around the world.

As Mr. Rosenblum blathered on about something to do with charitable foundations, diverse audiences and more devices and platforms than ever before, the spotlight was on the 360-degree view of Ms. Vergara as she slowly rotated and milked every single moment of the routine with all the skills of the multi-Emmy nominated comic actress that she is. Let us just say Ms. Vergara held nothing back in terms of “body language” and this made the routine far more or less amusing depending on who you were or what your point of view was or is. Especially when Mr. Rosenblum concluded television’s success is always about great storytelling and giving viewers something compelling to watch.

I will admit to being amused by Ms. Vergara and how willing she was to poke fun at her sexpot image and pose as some living statue of – something – while a boring man – who stood in for all of the many boring men I pictured watching at home – talked on obliviously about stuff no one really wanted to listen to despite his determination to continue boring them. I mean, isn’t this something that most guys, including myself (and maybe even at this moment) routinely do?

That is not the way many of the women close to me, or the tens of thousands of other people on Twitter and various alternative platforms and devices, viewed it, however. Charges of TV Academy sexism quickly abounded, celebs like Katie Couric voiced their disapproval, and pundits much more powerful and wider read than myself posted think pieces and visual aids about feminist representation. Most also mentioned the irony that some moments after Ms. Vergara exited, Julianna Marguiles accepted a best actress Emmy in a speech that boasted how we are currently living in a “golden age of television ” in terms of roles for women.

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It’s difficult to know what to think of all of this and clearly impossible to prove those thoughts since this is all about a matter that is subjective – or more rightly – objective-ication.   In fact, one of my female friends argued that if a gay guy were presented center stage in the stereotypical throwback way that Ms. Vergara had to endure, I’d completely change my tune. Not true, I protested. If they put Neil Patrick Harris in a speedo on that podium – the most famous and attractive out TV gay I could think of – and twirled him around as he cleverly camped on his own terms (the key word being clever) – I’d think it was funny. But not if some random gay reality TV show guy who was not as funny or quick as Mr. Harris (Note: Take your pick) tried it. There’s a difference.

Unless it's this reality show gay, in which case, MORE BILLY PLEASE

Unless it’s this reality show gay, in which case, MORE BILLY PLEASE

Well, that didn’t work. They didn’t believe me. And really, how do I absolutely know for sure? All I was probably thinking about was seeing Neil Patrick Harris in a speedo on a podium. Which, in a strangely symbolic way, is how all of this began.

I guess it’s all about choice and history and perspective. And who or what you find funny. Though what do I know: for my money, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham are the best comic actresses on TV – not Julia-Louis Dreyfuss. Not to mention Louis C. K. and Andre Braugher make me laugh a hell of a lot more than Jim Parsons or Ty Burrell.

This is a very long way of saying – what’s funny to me may not be funny to you. And, vice-versa. And it may very well be offensive to somebody. Hopefully.