Category Archives: Television

The Degree of Difficulty and The Flip Side of Everything

Golden Class reunion nuggetWhen I’m not puzzling about our political climate, pondering which mosquito-borne illness is most likely at a particular time of day (West Nile by night; Zika and dengue by day) or fretting about The Really Big One, I’m contemplating the flip side of everything for dear Reader. And as I peripatetically examine Vermont’s many splendours, I collect observations and nuggets of solid gold for your reading pleasure in our dark modern tymes.

Such as this gem during a holiday weekend, from a doctor I met lakeside: “My research is online. Google me.” I’ve never heard the verb Google with me as the object of the verb – brilliant! Let’s say it a lot. The world is a mess. We could use the laffs.

The Olympics upon us, I am unable to wax desperate about world affairs. The sweat of many nations* diverts us, joyfully. From the opening ceremony to the first “On your mark!” to the extinguishing of the torch, we are riveted by the athletes’ discipline, costumes, and youth.

opening arenaObservation: when I started watching the Olympics (first televised in the US in 1960) in 1968, the athletes were all older then I. Now they’re all younger. Much. And very different from me. As the official slogan for the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in South America says: A New World. A new world I can no more fathom than I can navigate. The technology alone…there are many, many things now beyond our control. With everything from the car to the toaster computerized, we can’t fix anything that’s busted. Our children and grandchildren know more than we do, for the first time in the history of the world. We’re in a weird place because of it. I’m pretty sure that when we were kids, everything was our fault. We were in the way, we were noisy, we broke things, we cost a lot. Now, as adults, everything is our fault. We destroyed the planet etc. etc.

A term we non-Olympians hear only every 2 years is Degree of Difficulty. As my father would agree, the Degree of Difficulty in just plain living has greatly increased in our part of the world in recent years. We are assaulted by information and images of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and exposed to waves and rays of all kinds. There is too much bad news televised, too many climatic disasters, too much violence and economic upheaval boggling our beans — and that’s not counting the disappearance of products we loved, the prevalence of fakely famous “celebrities,” and horrible fashion trends. No wonder we can’t sleep.

caldronCan’t sleep? Hell, stay up till midnight every single night watching the O’s. It’s where the degree of difficulty is measurable and finite, unlike in the rest of life. It’s the only place you’ll hear caldron in a non-pagan setting, the term aquatic stadium, and podium as a verb, e.g., ”I plan to podium.”

When life’s degree of difficulty proves too much and you hit the wall, achieving the unfortunate state that psychologists call learned helplessness, just pack it in. Leave the dishes in the sink, the bills unpaid, kick up your feet, and turn on the tube. Gaze at the beautiful youth of earth’s many Lands with their crazy-good feats and grace and energy, with compelling close-ups of their unashamed thrills of victory and agonies of defeat.

And the sounds! The parallel bars. The diving board. The thwaks and panting. The excited sportscasting and cheering of the fans will rouse you. You’ll see people going absolutely nuts because they won the bronze. And with today’s high def TVs, you’ll feel like you’re cycling right along with them, swimming underneath them, vaulting through the air alongside them, or falling off the balance beam despite your finest efforts. It’s like when Bugs Bunny was chasing the mechanical rabbit lure at the dog track. You are right there with them. It’s virtual reality and it sure feels good. We have to take advantage of what slim benefits Modern Tymes offer, indeed.

o-MAN-BUN-facebookNot into sport? Volunteer or hang out with the YP’s.** Despite the hideosity of the man bun, with its possibly samurai provenance, and their disinterest in anything awkward or random***, the YPs are lovely beings of light, so polite and “Howzitgoing?” and “Tell me what’s good!” and “You’re fine.” With them, bigotry and bias and dependence upon fossil fuels will vanish. Miraculous inventions and ways of thinking will solve climate change, restore the polar ice cap, correct water problems, feed the world, and repopulate vanishing species.

bronzeBut for now, dear Reader, give up. Recline on the couch and win the bronze. Leave the future to the YPs. Google yourself silly. Everything will be okay. Good vaulting and good day.

 Bonus observations

DON’T TRY TO GET PEOPLE TO DO STUFF THEY DON’T WANT TO

It’s like throwing water on a grease fire.

SOMEONE YOU KNOW LOVES CHEESE

Show up with a wheel of cheddar.

CAKE BY THE OCEAN

Pretty baby, if they play that song one…more…time….

*Nod to Jon Hayman

**Young People

***Nod to Adam Gopnik on “The Moth”

Sooper This and That

soop

I must be the milkman’s daughter (and we did have a milkman) because I’m not cuckoo about football, like my entire family of Giants, Packers, and Patriots fans.

But I do dig everything sooper — including the halftime show and commentary and manful back slapping and those syncopated jigs the naughty players do when they score and, of course, sooper high-quality cakes from the grocery store to commemorate this important day. And I like the office betting pool. And I like to win win win win WIN.

Don’t you?

Today is a Poor Day for Outdoor Fitness

-17And that’s without the 35 mph winds.

But who’s complaining? We’re like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

Just With My Looks, I Could Have Won

Despite odds and favorites, endorsements and hype, in sporting events ya just never know. In the Olympic opening ceremonies, for example, the U.S. did not medal during the Parade of Nations. Sartorial dark horses Tonga, Kazakhstan, and Andorra (a “landlocked microstate in southwestern Europe”[1]) beat the literal pants off Ireland, Germany, Italy, and the US. That’s with Ralph Lauren et al. hurling unimaginable coin and muscle at it. Better luck next time, soopertailors!

All manner of factors can throw athletes off their game. Weird uniforms, weird weather, weird slogans (Hot. Cool. You.  Huh?), old injuries, new injuries, the incessant clanging of the cowbell slopeside…not to mention Olympic pressure. I for one couldn’t do a giant slalom in front of a single, napping four-year-old. Flop sweat would soak my snowsuit, which would not be a stylin’ hipster snowsuit, but an old beater poofy one (see “weird uniforms” above). Sounds like the making of a terrific nightmare. Don’t worry, the Olympic Committees have enough on their plates with the Junior Olympics, Paralympics, the Senior Games…there will be no Doughy Unfit Sloblympics. Reality TV has that covered, if inadvertently.

The Sochi games were, in a word, fabulous. The opening ceremony was as good as Athens and Vancouver and better than Beijing or London. Kudos, komrades! The $51B price tag, higher than all prior Winter Olympics combined, was naughty but, man, artfully spent. The venues were knockout, the Caucuses backdrop spectacular. If you were lucky enough to see the nighttime bird’s-eye view of the Olympic Village on a high-def TV:  Prekrasno!

Another word: incredible. The skaters’ costumes were better than ever, due in part to advances in adhesives, faceted sparklers, and stretch netting. Velikalepno! The jumps, lifts, and spins (twizzles!): umopotressauschee. The women’s biathlon, wherein women ski uphill with guns, their buff, eurochick bodies rocking gorgeously engineered outdoor wear: totally Bond! The commentators’ near-hysterical coverage during the men’s biathlon: hilariously stirring! The medals? Elegant! Mary Carillo’s cultural vignettes? Captivating! We even dug the ads, from Cadillac’s In America, We Work Hard (“N’est-ce pas?”) to the endlessly repeated Chevy Cruze one (the pained expressions of the car music-haters never grew old) to P&G’s teary series saluting athletes’ mothers. Yo, where’s the fathers’ tribute? Pony up next time, WD-40.

Exciting. Now I hates change (less cowbell? Nyet!), but I suspect that newly added sports grabbed today’s athletes and viewers more than winter’s curling (a popular drinking sport…150 years ago?) or summer’s gymnastics stick-and-ball thing (made sense in… ancient Greece?) New winter additions such as parallel slalom, ski halfpipe, snowboardcross, chick ski jump,and luge team relay engaged the nutters of many nations both on the slopes and off. Zdorovo!

Magical. It seemed nothing could ruin the Olympics for viewers: neither the barrage of pre-game negative press, nor too-warm snow conditions (ruinous to top skiers who didn’t medal), nor worrisome developments in Ukraine, nor an Olympic ring that didn’t open (“Keep going, Vladimir…four—eet’s enough—go!”), nor Johnny Weir’s distracting accoutrements, nor even dumb push notifications and moronic newspeople announcing who’d won before we got to watch it at night. Stoic Putin never devolved into the out-of-control rootin’ tootin’ Pootin I’d hoped for, but he did crack the occasional smile as fellow Russkies went bonkers around him.

Full-on crazy. The Russians did go nuts. So did everyone else. Everyone went wild. People were yelling and texting and jumping up and down around the globe, astonished by the feats of these magnificent young gods and goddesses. Whether it was a nailbiter of a hockey game, a mindbender of a halfpipe trick, a heart attacker of a downhill ski race, an eye-shutter of a skeleton run, or a jawdropper of a figure skating routine by—gasp—a tiny teenager, the fans went wild. What’s more fun than that? All the earthly peoples clapping and crying and grinning and screaming Wow! in 6,000 different languages, including Russian (Ogo! Or if you prefer: Va-ooh!). No really: what’s better than that?

Unforgettable. Who could forget the incredible wins and losses, the moments of jubilance and of crushing defeat after years and years of training? Competitors holding hands, or throwing themselves on the ice, off the podium, into the arms of loved ones…too many to list. I just hope you saw them, along with the breathtaking closing ceremonies. With some systems, you can view the Sochi games over and over. I’ll see you tube-side…knitting and weeping, admiring the determined faces and ripped bodies of the brave, beautiful YPs of all the Lands. Good bawling, and good day.

Quote That Took The Gold

Olympic halfpipe champion Iouri “iPod” Podladtchikov on if he could have beaten Shaun White without YOLO, iPod’s insane signature rotational flip: “Yes. Just with my looks, I could have won.”

Local Treasures

carpet of leavesOur sunny foliage season was a hit; now for the private after-show for locals. As an artist friend noted with her specialized eyeballs, late foliage affords us remnants of red and gold with the twiggy lines of trees now bald mixed in. As another put it, the leaves on the ground provide a colorfully crunchy carpet before “November’s…dirt.”

Last week’s full moon (the hunter’s moon, traveling moon, or death moon, depending upon your tribe) offered us pagans good lighting for rituals wherein we place into a (lit. or fig.) caldron our wishes for our people and this krazy planet. I put into mine: clarity, love, creativity, strength.  You?

With short days, TV and radio and film become alluring alternatives to outdoor sports. If you podcast, Billy Crystal and Graham Nash crushed on Fresh Air on 10.17, as did the rerun of an April 20th Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me’s “best of” celebrity callers episode (Melinda Gates! Jeff Bridges! A surprisingly hilarious Tony Danza! The Fonz!). Colbert’s on-air wedding for a couple gypped out of their nuptials at a (closed) national monument along with Jon Stewart’s Shutstorm 2013 made the government shut-down almost worthwhile. Randolph’s revamped Playhouse Theater, a local treasure (the oldest cinema in the state), is now rocking Gravity with national treasures Bullock and Clooney.

There’s still time to squeak in a few holes at the Woodstock Inn or Montague Golf Club…fore! While the Bethel Ethels have hung up their rackets for the season, playing tennis on Bethel’s crevice-marred town courts adds an element of chance to a gentlewoman’s game for those with a taste for danger. Terrible players like me can WIN via unforeseen benevolent bounces.

Our weirdly warm foliage aside, two weather phenoms remain certain: (1) it will always be so hot on July 4th that overdressed marching band members faint—or as the boys put it, “pass out”—and (2) it will always be so cold on Halloween you cannot see the kids’ costumes. “Welcome, er, Tundra Fairy! Is that a wing poking out of your…fairy parka?”; “I see you are an Arctic Vampire, young man. Do you take your blood neat, or with iceberg cubes?” I myself hand out Snickers and warm hardboiled eggs, unsure of the effect of chemical handwarmers upon Earth’s mighty landfills.

It’s time to trade in our garden tools for musical instruments and knitting needles. Which for some reason you can take on a plane, but not a nail clipper (pretty sure I could do more damage with a saxophone). Kimball Public Library’s knitting group provides community in Randolph as do the Knitters (Knutters!) of the Round Table at the Whippletree in Woodstock. Get some laffs while banging out colorific holiday gifts.

It’s also time to eat. Which can be counteracted by memberships at VTC, killer MOVE Fitness, or at the Woodstock Inn. For fall dining, personal faves include the Harrington House, Barnard Inn, Big Fatty’s BBQ, Cockadoodle Pizza Café, and Five Olde. My gastronomic goal is both Worthy restaurants some time soon—wanna take me on a date? Ahahaha, that’s so funny. Dating: not a local treasure of the Upper Valley.

For beer I dig Burlington’s unfiltered ale, Switchback; for cocktails a nice Bloody Caesar (Bloody Mary with clam juice) using local Silo Vodka or Vermont Gold, a maple vodka. Crockpotting demands top vegetables from your farmers’ market or the Chef’s Market. And don’t put away the grill—the only time that’s no good is when it’s 20 below. Then the meat freezes on top while the bottom cooks, sort of. Don’t ask me how I know that. For dentistry: wicked old-school kindly Dr. McDonald in Woodstock. For knockout eyeglasses: Eyes on Elm; no competition for 150 miles. Pies? On the Edge Farm on Route 12. Dana wizards the fruits of the Land from apple to sour cherry.

Your monthly Useful Information is this: glucosamine makes you gassy. Your Good News for women is: there is a product for after shaving and waxing called finipil that feels like a York Peppermint Pattie; for men, the beauty industry is catering to aging male boomers with “special formulations” “just for men” (what’s in there?). Next up in the beauty aisle: eyebrow hair relaxant, for old Scottish weird curlicue eyebrow hair growers like me. I hope. Good day.

Man, Wish I’d Seen the Tonys

NPH

Neil Patrick Harris.

If just for this unreal opening number.

NPH is a total God and Broadway is his playground.

The lyrics, his laugh, the fans going wild, the sheer enormity of it….

ALAS, the cruel, cruel psychos at NBC took it down from every site (via, no doubt, strongly worded letters)–if someone you know recorded it, for the love of God, go watch the opening number!!!

Black Flies, Lemonade, Hope, Mayo, and More Mayo

mayo

Wicker and mayo. Bon ete!

It’s time. Fishing. Golf. Swimming holes. Mayonnaise.

Black flies comin’. But mercifully along with rain.  It’s been so dry the liquid manure spread over the Land baked, stank, and dried up into individual molecules blowing into our cars, homes, and nostrils. While the recent re-wetting served to reconstitute (read: re-aromatize) this fertilizer, at least it is no longer visible as a wind-borne dust. Not good for tourism (You can’t be 20…on Manure Dust Mountain. Ride our Dust Chute!)

Another month, another holiday.  As complements to Mother’s and Father’s Days, I have repeatedly proposed both Maiden Aunts Day and Perpetual Bachelor’s Day (Crack open a PBR…on PBD!) So far no takers, including those behind the Hallmark and Mayan calendars but, as always, I remain hopeful. The month of May also means American Idol is over so we can stop Talking like Aussie Keith Urban—every bit as addictive as talking like a pirate on Talk Like A pirate Day (Arrrrrrrr, avast, me hearties: a Thursday this year!) The difference is Idol spans many months and causes more permanent damage in friendships.

I can’t decide if the live voting that goes with TV shows these days is fun or saddening (How are the judges doing? Are they moronic? What about their hair? Yes or no?) Between that and young computer hackers sending viruses with creepy names and Trojan horses that “drop” malicious “payloads,” we oldsters are at a total loss. Maybe psychiatrists can tell us why these kids are so bloody angry. We know why we’re so bloody baffled. The world has become odd in our lifetime. Things are just…boggling. Tech confusion! Voter fraud! Bio-terrorism! Climate havoc! Calf implants! Oceans full of garbage! Economic pandemonium! Geez, it makes you long for a kilt and a good old-fashioned plague.  With some Crusades thrown in. Wait—maybe things weren’t so great in the past. But at least we know all about them; our new horrors we don’t understand yet. If youth is wasted on the young, history is wasted on the living. We don’t learn Jack from history, seems like. We just keep piling new horrors on the old.

In a world teetering on the brink of disaster, it is more pressing than ever to think on happy things. In this unimportant column, after some head shaking at the neo-Biblical mayhem of modern tymes, we strive for laffs, lemonade from lemons, and lerv.  People want good news, like how the re-opening of the Barnard General Store has proven the existence of a benevolent God, or when NPR news informs us that the honey bees’ Spontaneous Hive Collapse (a.k.a. “Colony Collapse Disorder” or “May Disease”) suddenly dropped by 50% this year. That means more bees generating warmth in the hive, giving them the energy they require to fly (they need to be warm to fly—don’t you?), so that they can pollinate the crops that feed this crazy planet.

Let’s hope all the flora—including trees flowering madly this year due to a legit winter without last year’s weirdly hot spring—will provide our busy fuzzy friends with the pollen and nectar they so richly deserve. Worth considering from the NPR report:  a woman suggested that humans (1) plant flowers and (2) be less fussy and let some weeds grow, as bees like ‘em. Thanks, NPR lady! Givin’ us advice we dig, makin’ our lives better. Less weeding = one item crossed off the To Do list = another perfect day in paradise. And thanks, European Union, for passing legislation (for two years, anyway) banning pesticides that might be behind the bees’ demise. Good work, EU.

Scientists are talking of bringing the dinosaurs back from extinction.  While they’re an old horror we know something about, we also know they’ll just walk all over the hives and everything else, breaking stuff, setting off nukes, and who knows what with their giant feet and pea-brains.  But maybe we’ll domesticate them (humanely!) as forms of mass transit (pterodactyl plane; brontosaurus bus; sea monster water taxi) or (lovingly!) make them walk (lumber?) on giant treadmills connected to power generators. I remain hopeful. As, I am certain, do you.  Good holiday, extra mayo, and good day.

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