Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blockbuster Bankrupt? Wow, What's the Difference?

(This property is condemned.)

Well, following it's moral and creative bankruptcy, Blockbuster has now gone there financially as well. I find this amusing on several levels. Once upon a time, I worked in a Blockbuster on Long Island. It was about a decade ago, back when the inventory was still 95% VHS tape! It wasn't such a horrible place to work, the staff was nice, but this was back when they still had ridiculously high late fees and customers never wasted an opportunity to yell at the cashiers about it, as if we were the ones stuffing our pockets with the extra charges. "This is why there's a class action law suit against you!" people would yell at us. "There's no lawsuit against me." I would say in my head. I don't know why they thought we were personally robbing them. People can get really angry over late fees... but they don't gotta take it out on me.

The bankruptcy filing also invokes some schadenfreude, since Blockbuster made it its business to try and kill every mom-and-pop video store in existence, so they'd have no competition. The fact that they are now being killed off by Netflix seems very appropriate to me. Circle of life and all that. Or maybe I'm thinking of evolution. Survival of the fittest? Darwinism? Or just plain capitalism? Whatever it is, it feels like Blockbuster kharmically earned it.

There's still a Blockbuster that's open across the street from my apartment building. No one is ever inside buying or renting things. In fact, whenever I pass by the store, if there are ever a couple people around me, inevitably their conversation turns toward the store, as they wonder aloud how the place remains open. It's like people HAVE to talk about this useless store. Renting actual movies from an actual store seems so arcane now. No one understands how it's still there. The place has to be bleeding money and its days have gotta be numbered.

If this particular Blockbuster does disappear I'll be sad, because I don't like closed storefronts on my block. If it does go, maybe I'll finally get the pool hall that I've wanted for so long here. A pool hall wouldn't face much of a challenge by online competition so it could certainly stay around here for awhile! Think about it, building owner. That would make me so happy!

It Gets Better

It's taken me a couple days to sit down and write this, but the recent upswing in gay teens suicides as a result of bullying has been so disturbing to me. While they all sadden me, the one that particularly makes me want to throw up is the suicide of Tyler Clementi, 18, the Rutgers student who was unknowingly videotaped by his roommate while having a same sex encounter that was live-streamed on the internet. This horrible act of violation and intended humiliation just disgusts me completely. I feel so angry that what they did put this young man into such a state of emotional distress that he felt his only escape was taking his own life. I cannot fathom the roommates reasoning. Gay sex is laughable? Is that the accepted notion here? That's what makes it okay to invade his privacy and expose him to ridicule? It's so incredibly hateful. It's insane.

I was teased a lot throughout junior high and high school under the assumption I was gay. I don't know that I'd say I was "bullied," because I was never physically assaulted or had my property vandalized. But there was a lot of name-calling and a lot of sneers and laughter on a regular basis in Junior High, and I lived in a constant state of fear that it would escalate to physical attacks. Throughout this time, I kept looking inward to try and figure out what was wrong with me that this particular group of guys would pick on me so much. Was I gay? If I was, did I somehow deserve what they were dishing out as a result of it? I felt like I must have been doing something to provoke this behavior and negative attitude from them. More than anything during this time, I just wanted them to leave me alone. I would pray every night just to get through the next day with nothing happening to me. I didn't want to tell my family about it. I felt too ashamed to admit my situation. I would never have considered taking my own life, because the emotional devastation that would bring to my family was just too obvious to me. But being emotionally terrorized is a horrible and isolating experience that seems endless. And now kids have to deal with facing that kind of torment on practically a world-wide level, with the way horrible things can be said and done to them over the internet? I don't know how a vulnerable kid who is trying to find himself or herself deals with the threat that kind of taunting and embarrassment. No wonder it seems too much for them to take.

Bullying is a problem for all kids who are considered outsiders and it's a common problem and I'm sure almost all of us have done it at some point in our adolescence. You find someone who has something different about them and you pick on it, so that other people don't pick on you. When it comes to queer youth, however, our society has so many institutionalized discriminatory policies against gay men and women. It's everything from gay men not being allowed to donate blood, to gay men and women not being allowed to serve openly in the military, to gay marriage not being recognized nationwide to gay adults not being able to adopt nationwide. Congress has even battled for years to exclude attacks against gay people as hate crimes. It reinforces the idea in these kids' heads that it's okay to treat gay people as if they are worth less than straight people and that their mistreatment is somehow justified. It is not. And if you are gay or straight or anything in between we should all actively work to reverse these discriminatory policies and let our children know that social inequality is not what our country should be about. Ellen gave a very moving speech to this effect on her show this past week.

While we work to achieve that goal, there's a great web movement on youtube called "It gets better" where gay adults are posting stories about their lives for young gay men and women who might not have anyone to talk to about what they are feeling. So many of the videos are really inspiring. It's important that anyone who is a victim of bullying for any reason realize that ending one's life is not the answer. There is so much to live for and to experience and to give up before you ever really get started is a horrible waste. Discovering who you are is a beautiful thing and you can find a community and a family that is going to love you for you and you will be able to thrive. It's worth going through the hard times and the truly bad moments to experience that. Since his death, Clementi has been described by those who knew him as a terrific musician, an excellent violinist, and a very promising, hardworking young person. It really would have gotten better for him. I wish he had known that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

15 Musicals in 15 Minutes

(Amusingly enough, only one of the shows listed above is one of my favorites. The others? Not so much!)

The Rules: This is a riff on the movie list that was floating around FB last week. Movies are impactful, sure, but as musical theater nerds know, what's more artistically formative than MUSICALS? Don't take too long to think about it. 15 Musicals you've seen (on stage, not on screen) or performed, that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you recall in no more than fifteen minutes. It might actually take the full fifteen minutes. Respond in kind with your own list. Or paste into your FB notes and tag 15 friends and spread the love.

1. Into The Woods
2. Jesus Christ Superstar
3. Fiddler on the Roof
4. West Side Story
5. Rent
6. Les Miserables
7. Runaways
8. Pippin
9. In the Heights
10. [title of show]
11. Hair
12. Sweeney Todd
13. The Wiz
14. Unlock'd
15. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sesame Street Segments Rule. Sesame Street Censors Drool!

(KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON! Katy Perry and her questionable amounts of cleavage have been banned from the public airwaves, while dozens of furry Monsters continue to roam the streets topless. A double standard? I think so!)

Sesame Street has been releasing clips from its new shows the past couple weeks. As you might have heard, some people saw the clip of Katy Perry doing a riff on Hot n' Cold and freaked out on Children's Television Workshop about it. Apparently, Katy Perry wasn't wearing a turtleneck and the resulting shots of her cleavage were going to send 3 year olds and Elmo into some kind of psycho-sexual trauma. "Inappropriate!" random parents cried. Who would take the time to "protest" this being aired on Sesame Street. Who cares? Having seen the clip, I cannot for the life of me understand what the problem is. Sure it's kind of skimpy and maybe kinda ugly and the pale color at times maybe blends with her skin a little, but let's hope these kids never come across perfume commercial or an underwear commercial or an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. They will not be ready. Plus by pulling the clip from air, but still putting it on youtube, I'm sure more people will wind up seeing it than they would have if it was actually on the show. Here's the clip that I find actually rather cute.

Other quality recent sesame clips include this one which is based on True Blood called True Mud. Muppet Bill and Muppet Sookie are appropriately Grouchy and Clueless but the real delight for me here is the send up of True Blood's trippy opening credit sequence.

And then another fun clip is a song performed by Will.I.Am which shows that the Muppets can dance with some impressive shoulder pop and lock action. So fun.

And because I cannot resist. The classic know as Born to Add, which I'm sure I've posted on this blog before. Maybe more than once.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Roger Federer: Giggle Monster?

So my friend Al posted this video to FB today about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal trying to tape a promo for an upcoming charity match they will be playing for Fed's foundation in Switzerland. They could not stop laughing so much that their infectious laughter became the basis of the promo. Take a look.

It's kind of amazing, no? It always makes me happy that these two great tennis champs and rivals know how to enjoy each other's company so naturally. This video really makes me smile. Rafa can't turn his head toward Roger without Roger breaking up. I never knew Fed could get the giggles like this. He always seems so composed.

It shouldn't be so unexpected though. I just haven't been paying close enough attention to Fed over the years. Apparently there is much recorded history of Roger not being able to keep it together once he starts laughing. Take for instance this clip when Roger needs to just sit still while the CNN dude asks him some questions in Spanish.

Is it Spanish that Roger finds so hilarious? After all Rafa is Spanish and he laughed uncontrollably at him, and then this CNN dude starts speaking in Spanish and Roger can't keep a straight face. Roger is fluent in several languages, but Spanish happens not to be one of them. Does some weird insecurity about Spanish make Fed nervous?

Maybe, maybe not. Take for instance this other interview in his native tongue on his native soil. This video is interesting for several reasons including the fact that there is footage of Federer's sister. Federer has a sister? I've seen him win almost all of his 17 major championships and I've never seen this woman in the players box. Nadal also revealed a surprise sister at this year's US Open Final. Who is retconning these hot female family members into their lives? Could they seriously not be bothered in their lives to come watch their brothers win Wimbledon?? I am confused. But anyway, the reviewer asks Roger something about the other guys in the locker room being bigger than him and Roger of course takes it as dick length challenge and once the thought enters his head he cannot stop thinking about how funny it is. He's gone. Almost as hilarious? The end credits to the video which are inexplicably set to the music from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. They mention the posters other youtube videos. I'm really interested in checking out 4) SUNNIES (Germany).

Knowing that Fed has a giggle problem really makes me like him more. He's so super strong on court. It's nice to see he has an off-court weakness. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Here's Hopin' For The Open: Rafa is the CHAMPION!

(Oh, HELL, yeah!)

So Rafa won. All our dreams came true. All the history that I had discussed in my semifinal post has been achieved (well, Rafa didn't quite get through the whole tournament without dropping a set, Djokovic managed to sneak in the second set after a lengthy rain delay, so that 50 year record remains in tact. But he still did pretty good for himself, I'd say.) He's now 1 of 7 men to complete the Career Slam and one of 3 people to win a Gold Medal in Olympic singles as well to complete the complete the Golden Career Slam (the other 2 people are Agassi and Graff.)

It was a great match, expertly played by both Rafa and Novak. The win finally pushes back the conversation as to whether or not Federer is the greatest player of all time to the end of Rafa's career instead of just the end of Fed's. I think it will be an interesting debate at that time, if Rafa can muster a few more years of excellent play on all surfaces.

Right now, Nadal can just bask in the victory. Obviously, it made me very happy that he won. I got to go see his press conference in NikeTown NYC the morning after his victory and he of course was very sweet and very happy and rather exhausted (plus NikeTown gave us all free T-shirts that say Vamos Rafa! Thanks, NikeTown!). John McEnroe interviewed him and it was fun to see McEnroe gush over him so much because McEnroe always loves Fed so much, and you can tell he was genuinely amazed that Rafa so convincingly won on the hardcourts of the US Open. Great stuff. Rafa didn't stay to sign autographs afterwards, sadly. Next time he's in New York, I have to find a way for Nadal to sign the Open Tennis Ball I got from him last year. It will happen!

It's been a very successful summer for a Rafaholic like myself. The French, Wimby and The Open all went our way in amazing fashion. Now I need a small Rafa detox which I'll get while he's chillin' at home in Spain and then when he heads out for those slightly random tournaments that pepper October and November in Eastern Asia. I know my love for him is a little too strong and my talking about him goes on way too long. I get sick of myself too sometimes. But he's a great champion of his sport and a nice guy and I find his confidence and tenacity inspiring. I'll never feel to guilty for my reflexive need to shout "Vamos Rafa!" Thanks for reading my posts!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Here's Hopin' For The Open - Rafa in the Semifinals

(Jump for joy! Rafa made it to the US Open Final!)

Holy Crappola. Rafael Nadal has mad it to his first U.S. Open final! I'm so excited for him. Our Hero beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and will now meet Novak Djokovic (!!!) who upset Federer in the other semi. That was an incredible 5 set match, with Joker finally winning it 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. The Fed loss robbed the tennis world of its much-desired Fed-Nadal US Open Final, but what can you do? Maybe next year. After his loss Fed said, "I would have loved to play against him here. I won't watch but I hope he wins." I get a little choked up hearing Roger say that. It reminds me of when Rafa hooked his arm around a distraught Fed following the 2009 Australian Open Final, and Rafa told him he was a champion and that he'd break the all-time slam record. Curiously, of the following following 6 slam titles, either Fed or Rafa has won 5 of them( and Rafa could make it 6 of 7 later today), but in all those wins they haven't played each other in a Slam since that moment. That will make it TWO YEARS when the next Aussie Open comes around for a chance to have that happen. So weird!

But back to the tournament at hand. Rafa is now just one win away from completing a Career Grand Slam. A victory on Sunday would mean he becomes the seventh man in history, to win all four grand slam titles during his career. He's the sixth man ever to reach the finals of all four Grand Slams, and the second-youngest. (Rafa's 24, and Jimmy Courier did it at age 22! Crazy!) A win would also make Nadal the fourth man ever to win the French, Wimbledon and US Open in one season that hasn't been done in over 40 years! So there's a lot of history on the line.

Rafa goes into the final with a 14-7 career advantage over Djokovic (coincidentally that's the same record he has against Federer!) but Novak has actually won their last three meetings, with all three coming on hard-courts. So even though Rafa has to be considered the favorite, the match could be complicated. Let's hope the rain doesn't wash out the match and that Rafa wins in three easy sets! Vamos, Rafa!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To Us And Our Good Fortune! Be Happy! Be Healthy! LONG LIFE!

(To Life! Love-Mob Style!)

So for his wedding LMM had a "little project" in mind to surprise his bride. A little secret song and dance number, if you will. This "little project" grew (as most LMM projects do) into a full-on wedding flash-mob. LMM took to calling it a "love-mob" since a flash mob is really a performance that grows out of strangers in a crowd, and this was a bunch of friends and family creating a special gift for V, so I agree Love-Mob is a more accurate term. Luckily, some amazing video was shot of the performance that came out of nowhere toward the end of the speeches and really did surprise everyone who wasn't involved, but most importantly, the bride and her mother. The youtube has begun to take the internet by storm - as well it should. It's kind of super-awesome. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it. It was such an expression of joy and love and togetherness that was one of many truly special moments over the wedding weekend. I'm doubly glad this video exists because while we were performing, I couldn't quite see V's reaction, and the reaction shots in the footage are really my favorite part of the whole thing. (My second favorite part? TK smiling through the terror of having to dance in front of everyone. My third favorite part? Groomswoman Sles' arm shimmy while she's singing in the quartet. heehee! so many favorite moments!)

(LMM and Father-in-Law start it off right!)

(The Quartet)

(The Groom's Peeps)

(V looking beautiful and surprised)

(V beautifully laughing with delight)

(Me and LAM as the Puerto-Ruskies)

(The bridesmaids join in for the grand finale!)

We rehearsed in secret in NYC a few times before the wedding and then once while we were on-site upstate. Special shout outs to Sles for handling the choreo and for patiently teaching it to us and to Lac for handling the music and the mics and sound. And of course to LMM for organzing it. I can't believe everyone involved managed to keep it a secret from V, especially as people started talking about it more openly after a few drinks were had during the wedding weekend. Still we pulled it off and it was a great moment of celebration with friends and family. To Life, indeed! Enjoy!

Many blessings to LMM and V as they start their lives together as husband and wife! xoxoxo!!

(Mazel Tov!)

Here's Hopin' For The Open: Rafa in The Quarterfinals

(Rafa Victorious!)

Congrats to Rafa Nadal for reaching the semifinals at the U.S. Open for the third year in a row! Despite crazy wind conditions that made for an awkward start to the match, Rafa quickly found his game and took control, winning 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 over his good friend Fernando Verdasco on Thursday night. It was not the kind of classic match they played in the 2009 Australian Open semis, but conditions were just too rough for that level of play.

Rafa lost serve for the first time in the entire tournament early in the first set, but I'm kinda glad that if it had to happen, it happened right then in this match. The unbroken streak was becoming a "thing" for some commentators, and while it might not have been weighing so heavily on Rafa's mind. I'm glad he had to deal with the situation of fighting back from behind before being in a semifinal or final situation. So despite the wind induced service break early on, Rafa came back in the first set to win 7-5. Rafa won the second set 6-3, and Verdasco just didn't have any answers for Rafa's game play. The third set was also pretty routine as it became clear Rafa was not going to lose the match, but it also featured an amusing little moment when Rafa hit a shot while at net in which he then spun 360 degrees to face his opponent again. He won the point. He's so cute.

Next, Our Hero faces off against Mikhail Youzhny in one semifinal match, while Federer takes on Djokovic in the other. Rafa looks much much stronger than he did in either 2008 or 2009 heading into this round, and I really think this is his year to make the final. He just had nothing left in the tank against Murray in 'o8 and was injured battling DelPo in '09, but those issues aren't present this year. I'm so happy for him that he's in such a great place physically and mentally going into this match. Rafa holds a 7-4 all-time record against Youzhny, but we can't take anything for granted. Rafa will need to be at his best to win. I'll be cheering him on as I do my 10-mile run on the treadmill this afternoon. Vamos!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Here's Hopin' For The Open: Rafa in the Round of 16

(Another Impressive Victory!)

Congrats to Rafa on his super-late-night 4th round win over Feliciano Lopez, taking the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. It didn't get started until after 11pm because all the other players on yesterday's schedule decided to take their sweet time either winning or losing, resulting in me falling asleep on my couch somewhere in the middle of the third set. Thank goodness, for DVR!

Rafa has now gone through 4 rounds of play not just without dropping a set, but without even dropping a service game. That's incredible! His serve has been such a weapon during this tournament and it used to be the weakest part of his game. Rafa is looking incredibly strong and increasingly motivated. You can tell he believes he can take the title this year. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but things look very good right now for Our Hero to make the final. He faces fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the Quarterfinals and Rafa has a 10-0 record against him. If he maintains his top form, he will be unstoppable! Vamos!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Tree Grows In Astoria

So after a lovely weekend away, I come home to find this sitting at my doorstep.

(If a tree is left outside my apartment and no one is there to claim it, do I make a sound?)

WTF. A tree? There's a tree outside my door. A tree in a pot. Who put this here? Is this like a baby-on-a-doorstep scenario? Am I supposed to take care of it now? Should I water it? No one bothered to leave a note. I actually went up to the next floor to see if the management had added trees throughout the building in order to (literally) spruce up the place, but it's just mine that's got it. My GF told me to move it downstairs or at least further away from my door, but I feel like if I touch it at all that somehow transfers ownership to me. Right now it's sorta in my space, but not completely my responsibility.

I assume the tree has been abandoned. Why do my neighbors on this floor leave random stuff they don't want right in the hallway? There is currently a broken computer bag sitting on the floor right in front of the garbage chute. Why didn't the former owner just cram it into the chute, or (just as easily, perhaps MORE easily) carry it with them down one flight of stairs and put it in the garbage can? No one wants a broken computer bag! And there's no maid service here! Stop dumping stuff at my doorstep.

I don't particularly mind the tree, but I didn't ask for this! I don't want to take care of a tree. I also don't want to watch it die at my doorstep. C'mon, deadbeat neighbors! Whoever owns it needs to step up and raise this thing right! It doesn't take a village to raise a tree. It takes whoever actually bought it while drunkenly wishing for an incredible tree worth keeping.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Here's Hopin' For The Open: Rafa in Round 3

(Rafa's better positioned than ever for a shot at the title!)

So Round 3 happened, and I was so involved with Wedding Weekend, I didn't even check the scores until Monday morning. I mean, I was highly confident Rafa won, but I honestly didn't think about it because so much was going on. That says a lot about what was going on.

But the weekend is done, and now it's time to get back to Rafa. Our Hero won in the third round, making short work of his opponent Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Simon was too preoccupied with his newborn son to put up much of a fight (honestly, who can blame him?) and Rafa was in control the whole time. He now faces Feliciano Lopez in the 4th round on Monday Night.

Even if Rafa's win was pretty uneventful, what happened in the rest of his draw is worth a look-see. Rafa's path to the final has opened up pretty darn wide. 4th Seed Andy Murray, an early tournament favorite this year, just lost 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 to Stanislav Warwrinka. That's a huge weight off Nadal's shoulders. Nadal was also going to possibly face David Nalbandian, Ernests Gulbis and the very formidable Tomas Berdych in his quarter. All of these guys are already out of the tournament! This odd situation leaves a lot of Spaniards still in the conversation - especially in Nada's quarter. Nadal is the best of all of them and should have no problem winning these matches. As long as he stays focused and keeps playing his best he has a really great chance at reaching his first US Open Final! Vamos!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Here's Hopin' For the Open: Rafa in Round Two

(I'm not around to watch this weekend, Rafa, but I'm still keeping tabs!)

Greetings all! I am currently enjoying the Labor Day weekend celebrating the wedding of good friends LMM and V and we are staying at a very lovely establishment that does not have TV's in the hotel rooms. So I can only watch round 2 and round 3 highlights on my computer when I have internet access in the main building. S'alright. Rafa can wait while we dance and eat and drink until our fancy clothes no longer fit us when it comes time for the actual ceremony. There's a lovely pool here too. Finally swimming - right before the summer ends!

But here's what's happening for Rafa back in the city: our hero won an impressively strong battle against Denis Istomin from Russia. He took him out in three tough sets, winning 6-2, 7-6, 7-5.

This was a really strong match in which Rafa saved 7 of 7 possible break points. It looked especially dire in the second set when Rafa had been down 5-1 in the tie breaker. Istomin hit an amazing point when he sprinted to hit a return off a drop shot from Rafa that landed inside for a winner. Rafa immediately responded by winning the next six points to take the set. The two men then played a tight third set until Rafa finally broke Istomin's serve in the last game.

Rafa next plays Gilles Simon, a man who just missed the birth of his child who was born a few weeks early. I'm not saying Simon is gonna throw the match or anything, but if he lost I think he'd be just fine to hop on a plane and head home. Hopefully Rafa will win quickly and send Simon back to his brand new baby. Vamos!

Note: Tomorrow evening I will be going to the US Open! Taking the GF with me. Very excited. The last two years I was lucky and got to see Rafa while I was there, but it doesn't seem to be in the cards this year. The US Open is a great experience nonetheless and I look forward to seeing who will be listed on the Night Schedule. Good times!