December 27th, 2003


Reality Television and Community, Post Holidays, Cold Mountain and Love Actually.

A Diatribe on Reality Television and Community. How Was Christmas or Chanukah For All of You? Why I Hated Cold Mountain and Loved Love Actually.

This is how I felt yesterday. My little black kitty looked so cute sleeping with his mouth open, showing his teeth like this, that I had to take a picture of him for you.

Hi Everybody,

I gave myself the day off yesterday and spent it watching The West Wing marathon on Bravo. I love The West Wing! It's smart, funny, entertaining, moving, more than I had come to expect a successful, American, major network television program to be.

In recent years, like a lot of people, I've turned more and more to cable for my TV entertainment. I watch HBO on Sundays, Showtime for their made for cable movies, Sundance, the Independent Film Channel, MTV for my Osbournes fix, home decorating channels, history channels, and of course PBS. I've always watched PBS. Even when I was a little girl I watched Masterpiece Theatre. Then there's Bravo for The Actor's Studio shows, TLC for the emergency room dramas, all of the wonderful programming on Discovery and Animal Planet, (I love Jeff Corwin), documentaries, shows about wild weather, well, you know there's just too much to list and show many good things to watch that with the exception of Oprah I don't watch too much on the non cable channels any more.

I do occasionally dip into network TV for the reality crap that I get sucked into and love. I mean I really do love it. I have this theory, which I'm sure is not that original, that we're all so isolated in our perfect little homes with all of our comfort providing gadgets and toys that we've become really lonely without being aware of just how alone we really are. We're craving community and companionship so we go to the television to fill in the gaps. Reality TV, as weird and artificial as it may be, is just a shade or two closer to bringing this distorted sense of family into our homes. If we can watch Friends, or for example The West Wing, and pretend that these people's story lines are real, if we can fall in love with Rachel and Ross, CJ, Josh, Donna, Sam, Toby and The Bartlets and care about what happens to them -- think of them as extended members of our own families -- I mean even Julia Robert's watches Day's of Our Lives -- then how much more alluring is reality TV going to be? How much closer can we imagine ourselves to be to people we've never even met than by being invited to voyeuristically watch the courtship, proposal and actual marriage ceremony of two real people, people who aren't characters in a scripted drama?

It's very addictive and engaging and hard to turn away from. I mean I really care about the Osbourne family and if you asked me ten years ago what I thought of Ozzy Osbourne my response would have been colored by what little I knew of his behavior around animals and the kinds of people I knew who dug his music. Now I'm dying to be let in on what is happening to him right this very minute, what his Christmas was like and how he is fairing health wise. I'm just waiting for Sharon to come back to her show so that she can tell us that they are all right. I want to know how Trista and Ryan's honeymoon went and I take it personally when the bachelor couples break up and am happy for the career success of members of shows like The Real World and Survivor. Scott taped and gave me episodes of The Sharon Osbourne Show for Christmas, that's how addicted I am. We're reading each other's journals and I think of you as friends even though I've never even spoken to or seen most of you in person ever. Barring my ADD that I would cry if something bad or good happened to any one of you.

Anyway all of that was by way of saying that it was interesting and weird and comforting to discover how much I can still love a non-reality, non documentary television show, although it does kind of make me feel like I'm being let into something that was formerly distant and foreign. But then the weird thing about the marathon yesterday is that they took a one hour break to premiere this celebrity poker tournament and all of the players were members of The West Wing's cast so it was like having a wee little dose of reality TV thrown in to the mix. Here were Martin Sheen and Allison Janney kissing while even Kevin Pollack, (who I think is a wonderful actor and whose performance in the vastly underrated first season Project Greenlight film, Stolen Summer, should be seen), called Martin Sheen sir, as if he really were the president. It gets weird. Someone ought to be doing sociological studies about all of this and I imagine they are, papers are probably being written about the impact of reality TV on our fractured lives. And this is why I cling to Atra's family down the street, because like Americans long ago, they all live together in one big house, but sadly I wonder how long it will take before they splinter off like the rest of us, like the character's in Woody Allen's Radio Days. I long for the life of a Native American living in a long hut, I mean it, I really do, but for now I've got my damned television and that's enough of that.

These are the cakes that I bought for my family for the holidays. I bought a big fat marzipan Santa cake for Atra's family and for my Mom I bought a gorgeous yule log cake and another marzipan cake like the one below.

My eating has been insane, to say the least. I knew things would get hairy and weird around the holidays but this is me eating the same crazy old way that I used to, too soon and too fast for my liking. Thank God I'm still under 200 Lbs but I won't be if I keep eating like this and don't exercise. It was the See's Candies that got me. They had dozens and dozens of prewrapped boxes at the pharmacy which made an easy, I'm thinking of you even though you're not my best friend, or this is just an extra little something to go along with your main gift, kind of gift. I just swept them off the shelves and brought them home. Four for you, one for me, why not? Big mistake there. I'm telling myself that I'm done, that I'll throw everything out and limit myself to my newest Persian influenced bad habit, which is Darjeeling tea with a splash of rice or soy milk and a spoonful of sugar. I hope, I pray really, that I can stick to this. The Discovery Channel want to do a story about my lifelong struggle with weight and how this surgery has helped me. A shot of me sitting in bed watching The West Wing while picking through a crumbled up, chocolate-smudged box of See's candies just won't make for inspirational TV watching, to say nothing of what it will do to me -- the waste of effort and money, the risk of my life, living like a cow with more than one stomach for the rest of my life, in exchange for what? I've given away a lot of my clothes and bought so many new ones and I've thrown away my high blood pressure and pre-diabetic medications. I don't want to go back. Looks like I've got my selfish personal New Year's resolution all cut out for me.

Now I'm on the phone with my Mother and she's lecturing me about how much I've always loved desert. I just sat with my Mom at her doctor's while he lectured her on how he's been trying to get her to take off 15 Lbs for over a year and it's time to admit that she doesn't know the first thing about how to do it -- that her way isn't working and she's just going to have to suck it up, or not, and go to Weight Watchers. Now she's telling me how much she loved the Stollen (German Christmas fruit bread) that I gave her and she's asking me where she can get more. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, sheesh. I'm just grateful I've joined a new women's therapy group and I'll just have to get my lazy ass back on the treadmill and do the little beginner's yoga and Pilates videos I've bought.

Now Mom is asking me to look up German Christmas cookies, specifically Pfeffernesse and Spritzers, on the Internet and talking about food, the food she used to serve at Christmas parties. My Mom, you've got to love her, I know I do : )

All my rats are dozing but they've got one eye peeled, or cracked and trained, on the funny human being who provides the treats. *Jacqui stops to provide day after the day after Christmas treats to her rat friends.*

I took some pictures of the kitties this morning as we were all waking up because they were so darned cute. This is Legs our hobbling club footed kitty with her handsome blue eyed Siamesey son wrapping his arm around her -- so sweet.

Here's one of my remaining Siamese babies waking up this morning. He thought I had cheese so he perked up.

And here is Lili'i, (named for Queen Liliuokalani), sitting right on top of my telephone which is why most of my conversations get cut off midway through.

So how were your holidays? To be honest, as much as I love this time of year, I am so relieved that it's mostly over. I have yet to achieve that level of spiritual depth where I am prepared enough to give in the way I think I should. I want to be available to love and give without getting consumed by the material aspects of the season and I never manage to hit that mark. The shallow hurting little girl part of me gets really excited about shopping and no matter how often I promise myself to get it all done during the year, so that come December 1 I'll only have to think about making a comfortable warm and loving home for my family and be able to focus on showing my thirteen year old son the real meaning of Christmas by doing serious volunteer work, I never manage to measure up to my own standards. Never mind that I do manage to pull off being Ms. Santa to so many people, it just doesn't feel right to be rushing around and spending so much money so wastefully when I know people would so much rather have something homemade that took time.

Do you know what my favorite Christmas present was? The card that my friend Jennifer made and sent to me. Of course now would be a good time to scan it in and show it to you but I'm just too damned tired and full of cold. I'll do it soon I promise. My other favorite gifts include two owl pins that Scott gave me, an evil eye warder offer gold pendant necklace thang that my friend Atra's Mom gave me, I'm wearing it right now, cards that Irma's daughters made for me, and the Steiff parrot that I bought for myself on eBay and gave to my Mother to give to me.

I had a good Christmas, it was imperfect as always, full of good moments and painful ones, like when I had to see my ex standing on the porch of my house while I was sitting out front in the car with Scott, but the good far outweighed the bad. I felt lucky and blessed. My Mother was gracious, friendly and kind despite being sick, Scott was generous and helpful even though he needed the usual encouraging, and Beau was Beau. We all did our best and it was good.

I hope your holidays were filled with love, laughter and light. I love you -- Jacqui

PS:We went to see Cold Mountain on Christmas Day in the rain in Santa Monica. Yes, it was beautifully filmed, the cinematography and the Romanian setting stunning. Yes, the love story between Nicole Kidman and Jude Law's characters was compelling and they both did a terrific job. Yes, Nicole Kidman is one of the most beautiful women on the planet and made a gorgeous Southern Belle in her lovely costumes, corsets and hoop skirts. Yes, the story of the civil war is always tragic, moving and engaging. Yes, Renee Zelwegger was the stand out in her role as Ruby and yet, I would still tell Anthony Minghella that I hate him and think he is a nasty, sadistic, manipulative film maker for the excess cruelty and brutality of this film, whether it was a literal adaptation of the novel or not! I should probably read the novel and see for myself before I condemn Minghella.

I was so fucking pissed off at this one scene, (and this is just one example of the extreme cruelty in this film, it would be too much of a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the movie if I described some of the other equally upsetting scenes, one other in particular involving Kathy Baker's character), where this woman "lovingly" slits her goat's throat, immediately after Minghella gives us this lingering close-up shot of the face of this sweet animal looking up at her/us with this pure, perfect, innocent look of such trust and love that when she killed him I shouted out in the theatre and kicked at the screen. I seriously wanted to walk out, that's how pissed off I was.

I really am furious with him for taking me on this ride. I'll tell him this to his face if I ever get the chance, no question about it. I'm sure I'll calm down in time because of course the film, for all it's darkness and a kind of Clint Eastwood cowboy cruelty is richer and deeper than eighty percent of everything else out there, and I applaud the risk and the tremendous effort involved in bringing this project to the screen, but I'm still angry and I suppose being angry, feeling something this strongly two full days after seeing a film, is better than not feeling anything at all.

I hate it when film makers do this. They just have us in the palms of their hands and they are so completely irresponsible with how they manipulate our suspension of disbelief. I'm sure he had some deep, rational, creative justification about love and cruelty and the necessity of this for human survival, that this woman would undertake such an act to spare the life of this all important man, but personally it makes me sick and I think it's all complete bullshit and careless film making manipulation on a par with movies like Bambi, Old Yeller and The Yearling.

At the other end of the spectrum, silly commercial movie wise, I really loved Love Actually. Yes, it was pure fluff and candy, totally unrealistic and unlikely, but it was filled with love and hope and I came away from this film feeling good about humanity. I don't want to turn into a moviegoer like my Mother, who when I was fifteen, I think, practically cracked me over the head for taking her to see Gallipoli, ("I love happy movies, musical comedies and such. How dare you take me to something like this!"), it's not that I don't want to feel pain or go on hard journeys with filmmakers because I absolutely do. I'll go anywhere with you if I can trust you, I just don't want to be manipulated by some cruel director trying to make some stupid point for his own weird sense of filmic pleasure. God, give me an editing bay and thirty days with this film and I would trim it into something better. I don't care if I appear arrogant. I know I could contribute to improving some of the movies that are being made and it kills me that I'm not doing it.

You know the opening of Private Ryan was one of the most horrifying rides I'd ever been taken on, or well, not the opening but the beaches of Normandy footage, and I loved Private Ryan more than I can say. it was brutal and bloody and realistic and this is Spielberg we're talking about, the master of emotional manipulation, but for some reason I didn't mind because it was in the service of something greater and more important. I know there was terrible cruelty during the civil war. I know we need to see and be reminded of these things, but in a movie that purports to be a love story, where practically everything turns to shit and then they try to tie it all up with a nice neat little postcard ending I can't help but get pissed off at some of the unnecessary twists and turns along the way. It's odd because The English Patient was kind of mean in a similar vein and yet I loved it.

PPS: I'm not even going to try to write about Mad Cow disease. I can't watch images of cows without wanting to scream. I found this quote yesterday and added it to my mail signature.

"In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka."
- Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer

PPPS: Oh My God I had no idea there was such a devastating earthquake in Iran and we're going out to dinner and to see House of Sand and Fog with Atra and Arta tonight, I'd better call them.