Why Carrie Fisher’s Death Matters

I haven’t blogged in a year (exactly) but I heard today that Carrie Fisher had died.  I am heart-broken.  It seems 2016 wasn’t necessarily done being an awful dumpster fire of unexpected hardships and utter bullshit.  It still had some awful left to expunge.

Star Wars came out in 1976, when I was 11 years old, and Carrie Fisher was 21.  Even though she had smaller roles in lesser films, Star Wars was her break out.  I first saw it in Madison, when my sister (also 21) worked at a multi-plex.  I was able to see it twice that day, as Mary worked a longer shift than she had planned.  I was in heaven. I saw it later with my dad, who loved it almost as much as I did, but he described it as a dog-fight movie.  I described it as a Princess movie.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy other aspects of the film; I loved the adventure, the folk lore, and of course, I had the obligatory crush on Luke Skywalker (Han was too dangerous for 11 year old Liz) but it was Princess Leia my eyes were glued to.  She was everything I wanted to be.

As a kid, I was usually too loud, too assertive, too snarky and was usually too open with my opinions.  I was reminded frequently (if not daily) to rein in my all too loud, brassy behavior.  This was usually met with failure, but not for lack of trying.  It just wasn’t in me.  I tried so hard to be a quiet and good Cinderella or Princess Aurora, but I just couldn’t get a handle on it. Then came Leia.  She was opinionated, smart, strong, always gave her opinion, and better yet, she was listened to.  She never had to rein it in, she just reigned.  In a world of Barbies, I needed a Leia.  I adored her and everything she stood for.  Princess Leia, (later General Organa) got me through middle school, and then some.  If I ever felt overwhelmed with life or school, I would pop on a little bit of John Williams’ soundtrack, specifically Leia’s Theme, and be transported to a place where a woman could fight for what was right.  It gave me an odd kind of strength.  She made me want to be leader.

Later in college, I stumbled across Fisher’s novel Postcards from the Edge.  It was transformative, not so much the plot but the writing style.  It was funny and dark and real and harsh and then even more funny.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  (And watching the movie doesn’t count, even though she wrote the screen play…read the book.)   For a student taking Creative Writing, and patting herself on the back with a few passable short stories, it was a slap of wonderful writing smack across my face.  I loved reading it and loved rereading it even more.  There were lines on every page that I wished I would have written.  I coveted her style and her effortless snark.  She made me want to be a writer.

Many don’t know this, but there were countless scripts of favorite movies that she quietly “doctored” and ultimately saved with her wit and her sense of story and plot; she worked on Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapons 3, Wedding Singer Outbreak, and she also quietly contributed dialogue to the Star Wars movies she appeared in.  I am confident my favorite jokes from the Oscars were hers as well.  She was quietly, a very prolific writer for films and TV.

Later, I loved watching her on chat shows, especially Graham Norton. She was so incredibly brave, funny and honest about her struggles with sobriety and with mental health; I can’t imagine how many people she helped or saved with her candor and honesty.  I know she helped me, a loud and strong-minded girl who never seemed to fit in.  I think she helped my kid too, as I have indoctrinated her (strongly) into the ways of the force, and all the amazing female characters that are currently coming out of the Star Wars universe.  In fact, we ssummer-08-140aw Rogue One last night and that ending couldn’t be more poignant today…”hope”.

Her death is another blow after a tough year of losing artistic vanguards, but this one hit me harder than I expected.  I never met her, I never knew her, she wasn’t my friend, but damn, she felt like one to me.

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We are all Frosty

I have to admit, although I don’t consider myself a Christian (I haven’t set foot in a church in earnest for over 30 years) I desperately love Christmas. I love it all: the lights, the trees, the presents. I’m a sucker for it, and I buy-in hard when it comes to the holiday season (whoop de doo) I also love Christmas music.  I love it a lot.

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My fondest Christmas memories as a kid are of listening to Julie Andrews or Bing Crosby on the big record player console and sitting under the heavily decorated tree, making present piles, counting to see which of us had the most gifts. (Funny how it always ended up exactly the same…well done mom.)  I have tons of fond memories of my family at Christmas time. I cannot remember a “bad” or unhappy Christmas. I am a very, very fortunate human being. I am grateful for my pleasant, happy and even-keeled childhood. As I have aged, and learned more about other folk’s childhoods, I realize I owe my parents a huge debt.  They kept us pretty sheltered from the shit in our world.

I am also aware that it is my duty as a parent to try to raise my child with the same type of idyllic  life. A safe, happy and even keeled upbringing. Part of this for me, naturally, is a love for the holidays and the music that goes with it. Usually, the day after Thanksgiving, I am all too happy to force Christmas music on my non-Christian family. They don’t love it as much as I do, but they indulge me. Tree and decorations usually go up the weekend after Thanksgiving and most of December is spent with fires in the stove, cocoa in mugs, and skis on the hill; also, there is lots and lots of Christmas music.

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A few weeks ago, I was listening to my favorite Pandora station (Christmas Jazz – I highly recommend it) when on came the classic version of “Frosty the Snowman”. That particular tune isn’t necessarily one of my all-time favorites, or even in my top 20 for that matter, but I kept it on, knowing that Michael Buble had to be just around the corner.

As I listened to Burl Ives bravely and precisely deliver this cheesy tune, I caught myself pondering the lyrics; believe it or not, there is something weighty there. One lyric struck me and gave me pause, “Frosty the snowman knew the sun was hot that day, so he said, ‘let’s run and we’ll have some fun now before I melt away.’” That was an incredibly brave response, wasn’t it? Frosty didn’t freak out, or get moody, or ask, “why me?” but rather he used up his time having fun and celebrating the very thing that would be his demise. Frosty was going to die. He knew it. He didn’t get maudlin or sappy. He didn’t allow any self-pity. He didn’t even check off any snowman bucket list items. He spent the rest of his precious time making the children around him happy. He lived for others, even up until the end.

I think that is pretty stellar response from a snowman. He didn’t lock himself away in a freezer. He didn’t find the nearest air conditioner. He got out there and lived big.

We are all Frosty. Our time on this rock is finite, paltry and way too short. The sun is out, people. Regardless of your health, or your lifestyle, or your religion, we are all going to die at some point. How are we going to spend the rest of our sunny days? Do we panic and try to find shade? Do we mope and cry? Or do we bravely find the sun?  I know it will be difficult, especially in the face of the inevitable, but I hope I can muster up enough courage and happiness to find the sun.

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My Constantly Changing Hair

I have always envied those folks who have had the same haircut their whole lives.  They found something they liked, it worked for them, and they stuck with it.  Commitment!  Regardless of trends, or fashion, or even common sense, they stick with that style no matter what.  I tend to think those folks are fairly predictable in their clothing choices as well, but that’s another blog post.

That’s not really how my relationship with my hair works at all.  I have sported pretty much every hair style under the sun; I have had red hair, brown hair, blonde hair, long hair, short hair, straight hair, curly hair – I’ve had it all.

When I was a little kid, I had a shag haircut…for real.  In my kindergarten picture, the very first school picture a kid gets, a HUGE rite of passage, I am wearing a toothless smile, a pink, zip up pantsuit, and a blonde shag.  My mother, a normally puritan and conservative matriarch, gave me a haircut made popular by Jane Fonda’s performance in “Klute”  – you know, the movie where she plays a prostitute?  I had the hair of a whore at 5 years old.

My two older sisters were allowed to grow their hair out.  They had lovely, long tresses.  My eldest sister Mary had honey colored hair (always reminded me of Sleeping Beauty’s hair in the Disney classic) and my other sister Sarah had rich, chestnut colored hair.  While Mary usually wore her hair down (classic) Sarah would often wear braids, or carefully construct a bun that would flawlessly make it through the day.  As a young child, I envied my sisters’ long hair.  I used to wear towels and steal my mother’s wigs and pretend, for hours in front of the mirror, that I had long hair.  I begged her to let me grow it out, but it fell on deaf ears.

Apparently, according to my mother, I didn’t have the disposition it took to have long hair.  I made a fuss about most things in my youth, and combing, washing and taking care of hair would have been at the top of the list.  (Let me be clear, I can now say, as an adult and a mother, that I was a horrible child.  If I had to raise myself, I would be dead by now; certainly the child/Liz would drive the adult/Liz to some desperate act either against her adult-self or her child-self.  And yes, I understand how a therapist would get off reading that sentence, but hey, I’m a Gemini.)

The summer after the shag, my mother gave me a “pixie” made famous by Mia Farrow’s performance in “Rosemary’s Baby.”  (I am assuming that is not at all a subconscious reflection of my behavior as a child.)   That was also the summer I spent every day in the pool and never bothered with showering.  Why should I hop in the shower when I spent the whole day in water?  (Duh…)  Well, around July 28th, it became clear why perhaps rinsing chlorine out of my blonde hair might have been time well spent.  My hair started taking on a neon greenish hue, which was really fun for my older sisters and brother, because that was the color of my swimsuit that summer as well.  It was subtle at first, but around August 15th, it was pretty obvious.  I started blending in with the local flora.  People pointed at the grocery store and my sibling’s taunts increased.  Lesson learned.  Rinse off when you get out of the pool, Blondie!

Finally, when I was in high school, I had a modicum of control over my life and looks, and I grew my hair out.  I finally had long hair!  I wore it all different kinds of ways.  I would get up early to braid, or curl, or tease…it was fun.  It usually only lasted until 3rd period, but still, I looked great at 8:00!  As I got older, my hair got a little bit darker with each year.  I wasn’t a fan.  I preferred to be a sassy blonde, so in high school, I started adding highlights.  That was my first foray into color.  It was fun.  I also tried perming my hair.  That was not fun, but for some unknown and stupid reason, I continued to get them.  (This is when older, wiser Liz wishes she could have a heart to heart with younger, stupid Liz and tell her to avoid fashion trends.)

In college I had different hair styles.  Freshmen year I had a bob, because I joined a sorority, because, well, OK, it seemed like the thing to do.  Most of the gals in the sorority had a bob, so when in Rome.  (Clearly, I was more of a follower at this point in my life.)  I was surrounded by blondes with bobs.  (New band name, I call it!)  Sophomore year was another bad perm, and junior and senior, (heavy sigh) I sported a mullet.  Yup, like a bad Joan Jet wanabe.  Not only did I have a mullet my junior year, but my senior year, I permed that bad mullet.  That’s right, a permed mullet.  Looking back on it, I’m not sure what was worse, the hair or the Aqua-net hairspray addiction that went with it.  Gotta love the 80’s!

The rest of my adult life, my hair has been everything, although I do believe the last perm I ever got was in 1992. (Good riddance to bad rubbish.)   I also started recognizing a pattern with my hair.  Usually, after a tragedy, I made a drastic change to my appearance.  Some people get tattoos when there is a death of a loved one, I made an appointment at the salon.  There is something about cutting off many inches of hair, hair that took years to grow, that can be freeing when one is in pain.  Then, as one heals and mourns, there is something about growing it back again.  Seeing slow change over months, seeing and feeling familiar locks against the neck or shoulders can give comfort, knowing time has passed and we soldier on.

At the end of the day, what matters is how our hair makes us feel.  It’s OK to let go of new trends or styles or colors, and it’s OK to jump on board too.  You own it, you get to wear it how you want.  I know this sounds ridiculously simplistic and Pre-K, but honestly, it has taken me about 48 years to figure that shit out.  My hair is like me – constantly changing, growing, morphing, and as I go through life it’s kind of fun to look back at the different styles I rocked and some that I did not. I have recently decided that I am going to grow my hair out again, but who knows?  Maybe I’ll get bored along the way and do some damage before it reaches my shoulders.

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This Thing You Call “American Football”

As summer winds down to a slow, hot, steamy grind, I am reminded that the inevitable is around the corner.  No, I’m not talking about the start of school, even though I can feel it breathing it’s stinky, garlic breath down the back my neck, and I’m not talking about the cooler temperatures of autumn, which frankly, I love and welcome.  I’m talking about the start of the football season.

My first memories of football are good ones, although at times they were somewhat startling as well.  My very first memories of football are of my father watching the Green Bay Packers on the television set.  That’s what it was back in the 60’s and 70’s.  It was a television set.  And no, there weren’t two of them, just one.  One television would, in fact, be a set on its own, because they were that important.  Nowadays, people don’t have television sets; they don’t even have TVs.  They have flat screens.  “Honey, wanna rent a movie on the flat screen?”  “What on-demand show are you watching on the flat screen?”  (We are so spoiled it is horrid.)  And frankly, cool people don’t even have those flat screens.  Cool people watch television on their computers, because they have the technology and know-how.  I don’t have those.

My father would watch the Packers on “the set” on Sundays while he polished his shoes.  He would sit in his Lazyboy with a Miller High Life, the champagne of beers.  Newspapers would be placed on the floor, and tins of polish and brushes would surround him.  (Side note, the smell of shoe polish always brings me instantly and magically back to Sunday afternoons.  It’s too bad people don’t polish shoes anymore.  Now, if shoes get scuffed, we throw them away.  Our generation sucks.) During these afternoons, it would be inevitable that we Woodworth children would be startled out our game of Operation not from that freakishly annoying buzzer (the wishbone…always the wishbone!!!) but rather from my father either cheering/clapping, or stomping his feet/cursing.  This would happen throughout the game.  From, “Go!  Run!  Yeah!!!!” to, “Goddamn it!  Come on Ref!” his emotions would run the gamut.  I understand this is not necessarily that uncommon in most households of television sports fans, especially homes that followed the Packers during the past five decades.  (Lots of cheering in the 60’s, then swearing in the 70’s, then more swearing in the 80’s and more cheering in the 90’s etc.)

Currently my home is one of a television sports fan, so my daughter is used to her father cheering and/or cursing at the television.  (She has figured out to not play Operation during these times.  She’s smarter than I am.)  It is always fun to watch her friend’s reactions however.  Yesterday her buddy Meghan was over; the girls were painting fingernails on the deck and Kriner was watching the Brewers on the flat screen.  Meg was startled (and most likely had to redo that particular nail) when Kriner started clapping loudly and shouting “YA!  YA!  GO!”  and then, 8 minutes later “BOO!!!!!  BOO!!!!!  Why did you DO that?  WHAT were you THINKING?!!!”  It’s clear that Meghan doesn’t come from a sports television home.  Her face, full of astonishment and amusement, was adorable, as if she couldn’t believe that a grown-man could care that much about something on TV.

My first real football game I ever went to was a Badger game, which kind of set me up for a lifetime of football disappointment because it was so incredibly awesome and fun!  No other football game can live up to a Badger game, especially if you aren’t a big fan of football.  Why?  Because it isn’t just a football game – it’s a spectacle.  Marching bands, student rituals, stadium chants, booze getting passed around, tubas walking through the stadium, there are sing-alongs for Pete’s sake!  Seriously, I could write a blog post just on Badger Football games, they are so fun, this coming from a gal who doesn’t really love football.  So yeah, for a 12 year old girl, sitting dangerously close to the student section, it was mind-blowing.  I don’t remember anything about the football game itself, but my big take away was that Section O sucks.  I know this because it was chanted throughout the game.  I won’t fill you in on what O had to say to section Q.  It would be too rude to type, but for a pre-pubescent girl trying desperately to be cool, it was heaven.

I went through a phase in the late 90’s when I too jumped on the Packer bandwagon and watched them religiously with my husband who was insane and cared WAY TOO MUCH about the Favre era.  He was known as a die-hard Packer fan.  In fact, after a particularly painful and heart-breaking loss, a reporter from the local newspaper called him to get a reaction.  Seriously.  He was quoted in the paper.  “’Well, that was a tough defeat, but you know what?  I’m already looking forward to a good draft pick.’ said Packer Fan Jeff Kriner.”  He was identified in the paper as a Packer Fan.  Seriously.

Kriner isn’t an insane Packer fan anymore.  Mike McCarthy ruined that.  He ruined it good.  See, the one thing about Kriner is that he is (to a fault) ridiculously loyal to those he loves.  If you make your way into his inner circle, it’s for life.  He doesn’t have a lot of people in his circle.  There are just a handful of us: me, Emily, Jeremy O., a few band mates and Brett Favre.  That’s it.  So you can imagine how Kriner felt when Favre wasn’t allowed back into the Packers.  Remember, Favre retired, then admitted he made a mistake, and wanted to come back.  He wasn’t allowed to.  Kriner was torn.  He loved the Packers, but Favre was in the circle.  It nearly broke him.  To make matters worse, the Packers organization hired Ari Fleischer (White house Press Secretary for George Bush) as a “PR consultant” (a.k.a. spin doctor) to make Favre look evil with a nasty smear campaign that unfortunately worked really well.  Kriner also loves an underdog, so this move just sealed the deal.   Don’t get me wrong, I adore Aaron Rogers, in fact I have a mighty crush on that young man, but Ari Fleischer?  Really?  Was that necessary?

Since then, Kriner has cared a bit less about football and the Packers.  It’s a bit sad to tell you the truth.  It’s as if Mike McCarthy spat in his beer.  If a game is blacked out, he’ll shrug.  He might go to Jeremy O’s to watch a game in the “Packershack” but he might not.  (And yes, Jeremy O. has a separate building on his property devoted to the Packers.  It’s decorated in yellow and green, full of Packer memorabilia and even has AstroTurf instead of carpet.)

Recently, the Packers announced they would be retiring Favre’s number.  At least that’s a bit of closure.  Who knows, maybe one day Kriner might buy a Rodger’s jersey.  But I can tell you one thing for sure, Mike McCarthy will never be invited over for dinner, and if, by some miracle he is and shows up, Kriner might spit in his beer.

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Man Hands

I have man hands. More precisely, I have a particular man’s hands – my father’s hands. My father had big, broad, strong, meaty hands, which is fine if you are a guy, but I am not a guy. I am a gal. Gals usually don’t want big, meaty paws for hands. We want long, slender hands with lean, graceful fingers and at the end, long fabulous nails.  Those aren’t my hands. Those aren’t my fingers. My fingers are more akin to pork sausages. My hands are so big that I’ve never had a problem reaching an octave on the piano – even when I was 7. My hands are also fairly strong. I suppose that has advantages, and yet I still somehow struggle with pickle jars…

Sometimes I try to disguise my man hands by growing my nails and painting them feminine colors, but that never works. It’s like lipstick on a pig. There is something ridiculously inauthentic and artificial when I wear polish on my nails. They look like a bad drag queen’s hands, and yet I still continue to try it.  Undaunted in the face of a challenge, that’s me.

To make matters worse I am a hand talker. I erratically wave them about when I speak, especially when I get excited, which is frankly, all the time. I think it is safe to say I have body issues with my hands. I have issues with other parts of my body too – I mean, come on, I am female, but unlike other parts of my body, hands are tough to hide.  I might have done well living in the Victorian Age, where women wore gloves, but after consideration, I doubt they would have had them in my size. However, I live in the here and now, and while I might be able to hide or enhance other aspects of my body, big hands are tough to augment. It’s not like they make Spanx for fingers, or make-up to hide hand wrinkles.

That’s another thing. My hands are much older looking than I would like them to be. Not only do I have man hands, I have old man hands. They are so wrinkly they look like crepe paper; I could wrap fancy presents with the skin on the back of my hands. Give me a ribbon and it’s Christmas!  This condition is not because I never use lotion. I use lotion all the time. I use so much lotion in the winter that I can never leave the house, because I can’t get the door open. I could be stuck in my living room for hours, alone, with my moisturized hands up in the air like a surgeon.

You could say I wasn’t a fan of my man hands, however all that changed with a photograph. I experienced a moment, or rather an image which led me to absolutely love my man hands. My friend Don Albrecht (an absolutely amazing photographer – you can buy his book here http://www.blurb.com/b/391238-bayfield-lake-superior) took a photo of my daughter Em at Applefest. (If you don’t know, Applefest is the big festival in town, and can, over the course of a weekend, transform this little town of 400 to a mass of anywhere from 40,000 to 70,000 people.) It can be overwhelming and scary for a 4-year-old. Em was hiding behind my leg when Don took the photo. My hand was placed on top of her head. I was talking to someone at the time, and didn’t even know Don was taking our picture.

The next day, Don emailed me the photo and as soon as I saw the image, I started to love my hands, because they are my father’s hands. I knew exactly what Em was feeling, because my father used to cover my head with his large hands when I was her age. It made me feel safe.  His warm, strong hands made me feel a little bit taller and a little bit more secure in a big and sometimes scary world. So now, I love my big, strong hands, because they are full of a parent’s big, strong love.

 

applefest hands

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Commencement Address 2014

I was lucky enough to be asked to deliver the commencement address for Ashland High School.  A few friends have asked to read it, so here it is.

 

Thank you so much to the senior steering committee for asking me to speak. It is a great honor and I don’t take it lightly. I have had the pleasure of working with many of you this year, and I can tell you, you are a bright, wonderful class and each and every one of you has earned your place here today.

I thought I would limit myself to 3 talking points today, because you have, like 1,245 valedictorians, so we need to move the ceremony along a bit. Today, I want to talk to you about humanity over technology, deferring to kindness and pursuing your passion. Lots of area to cover, so let’s get started.

You lucky people live in an amazing age. In the past 20 years, we have seen such amazing technological advances, that they have actually redefined what we consider to be intelligence. Redefined intelligence. Seriously. 30 years ago, intelligence was quite often tied to a good memory. The smartest person in the room was the one who remembered how to find the square root, or remembered who won last year’s Oscar for best film or remembered the names of the constellations in the night sky. However, your phone has made that skill obsolete. Think about it, you can fit the entire encyclopedia Britannica in your pocket. Today, perceived intelligence is now closer to creative problem solving and has little or nothing to do with memory. Technology has changed the way we perceive intelligence, and that’s kind of a game changer. Your smart phones are amazing and awesome tools. Just make sure they don’t replace the people in your life. Make sure you don’t spend more time online that you do with real people. Make sure that when you are having dinner with your folks, you look into their eyes more than at that screen. Also, there are some things that should never be texted…like break ups, first “I love yous” and marriage proposals…oh, and important apologies – all those things should be done face to face. Make sure that your smart phone doesn’t become your best friend. That would just be sad, and weird.

Onto my 2nd point, which involves kindness. Of course it makes sense to be kind, and you should do it. But there are some times in your life when it will be hard to do it, but you should do it anyway. I hate to break it to you, but there will be moments in your life, and I am so, so sorry to have to tell you this, when you will be in a room with someone who doesn’t like you all. This person may want to diminish you, or punish you, maybe want to get you fired or for you to lose all dignity. The normal human reaction in this situation is to lash back – to get angry and to say awful things right back to this clearly, unhappy, sad person. However, trust me, I know from experience, that decisions made in anger usually only end up hurting you in the end. The older I get, the more I can see the truth in this. So, what to do when someone is being an absolute jerk about 3 inches from your face? Defer to kindness. When you find yourself in those situations, I hereby challenge you to be the best person in the room. I challenge you to find the courage to be kind. I challenge you to take a breath, hold your tongue and try very hard to find the dignity in yourself and all others in that room. It will be hard, that is certain, but if you can do this, if you can be the best human being you can for those brief minutes, your tomorrow will be better for it. When you don’t know what to say, or what to do, defer to kindness. I’m not saying roll over and let people walk all over you, but I am telling you, you can be better than the jerk sitting across from you.

OK – wrapping up, because it’s humid and those metal chairs are uncomfortable. To conclude my address, I want to talk about 2 former students who graduated from Ashland High and they couldn’t be more different. For the record, they both know I am doing this, and I have their blessing to share their stories with you. One was a young woman who studied hard, was very attentive in class, and she got straight A’s while being involved in extracurriculars. Her name was Andrea. The other was a young man who didn’t really like school; he often skipped his morning classes and when he didn’t, he would frequently sleep in class. The only area he did well in was band. He barely graduated. His name was Ethan.

Andrea went on to college; she majored in history and ended up getting graduate degrees, and even ended up being a professor of History at a college in Minnesota. She was happy. And while Andrea was happy, she realized that there was more. She had always loved to write, and one day, she allowed herself to follow her passion. She wrote a book. It was a wonderful success and in fact, it was a New York Times best seller. She has since written over 6 books and has stopped teaching altogether to follow her passion of being an author. If you haven’t guessed at this point, Andrea Cremer Robertson is her name. She followed her passion and she is currently very, very happy.

After high school, Ethan played music. He got a band together and they hit the road, and even though it was tough work, he stuck with it, because he loved it. He pursued his passion. He never gave up. See, the reason Ethan slept in class was because he was up all night, making beats, or recording music in his basement. He pursued his passion early and it paid off. Currently, he lives in Berkley California and Ethan Parsonage, a.k.a. Headnodic, is one of the more successful and sought out producers in the area. He has recorded a solo album that was well received. He followed his passion and he is very, very happy.

So, what’s the take away? You can get there from here. Both of these individuals received roughly the same education you did, regardless of G.P.A. What did they do? They followed their passion, and I cannot stress the importance of this. Don’t worry about the money, because when you do what you love the money will come. When you do what you love, you have no choice but to do it well, and therefore, you will excel at it. Trust me. You can get there from here. Just do what you love with passion.

So, to wrap up, humanity over technology, defer to kindness, and follow your passion and you will be just fine. Congratulations class of 2014, go do great things.

 

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The Actor’s Studio

I’m a fan of the BRAVO channel; one of my favorite shows is Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. I think he is a gifted interviewer; it is clear he loves actors and the process and all that great stuff. It makes me happy. He asks good questions, and it is the perfect mix of interview, gush, and insight. I like to see who squirms and who basks in the glow of attention. There are some awesome interviews with amazing actors: Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Kate Blanchet, and the list goes on and on. There have been some wonderfully talented people on that show, really incredibly talented actors. I would love to be an acting student in the room when one of the greats is being interviewed.

However, there are some interviews of some folks that I have a hard time taking seriously as “actors.” For example: Brooke Shields, Mickey Rourke, Sharon Stone, Jay Leno, the band Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, the cast of The Simpsons, and Kanye West. These people have actually, legitimately been on the show as guests. Sure, Mickey Rourke made that one good film, you know the one I mean, right? Yeah, I can’t remember the name either, but sure, he made one. Then he turned into a freaky looking dude and made fairly odd choices in his life, but who am I to judge? Kanye West? As an actor?

It also bugs me when Lipton asks these famous people, “If not acting, then what?” they wistfully look up and take a deep breath and nine times out of ten, they say, “I would have liked to have been a teacher….” Really? Put them in a classroom for a month, on a teacher’s salary and then see what they say. I can just imagine a downtrodden, tired, not-so-good-looking-without-that-facial-every-week Tom Cruise (pre-Hollywood smile) addressing his class. “Why aren’t you listening to me? Listen to me! And put that desk down…”

Sure, teaching seems noble, fun and perhaps even a bit fabulous to the casual observer, and sometimes it really is noble, fun and fabulous, but it’s also hard work, both intellectually and emotionally, and frankly, after eating school lunch for over 24 years, losing a BIG chunk of my salary due to Act 10, getting chastised by a few parents, as well as their children and watching my profession be brought to its knees due to standardized testing and budget cuts, well, that kind of nonsense can get under my skin. There are days (more than a few) where I would absolutely change places with Meryl Streep or Julie Roberts in a fraction of a heartbeat. I totally understand the likelihood of that ever happening is about as good as Kanye West winning an Oscar for his acting, but it is fun to daydream about.

Here’s a fun-fact. Lipton’s famous questions at the end of every interview were first made popular by Bernard Pivot on a show called Apostrophes. They are great questions.  If I ever make it on “The Actor’s Studio” these would be my super spontaneous, authentic answers.  (Feel free to answer them too in comments.)

1. What is your favorite word?

-F*ck. By a long shot.

2. What is your least favorite word?

-Moist.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

-Winning praise of people I admire and respect.

4. What turns you off?

-People who drop the ball. And slavery. And misogynists.

5. What is your favorite curse word?

-F*ck. By a long shot.

6. What sound or noise do you love?

-Little girls giggling, particularly my own.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

-Instruments that are out of tune. And angry men shouting at children, women or animals.

8. If not acting, then what?

-(Wistfully looks up) Teaching…

9. What profession would you not like to do?

-Cleaning out porta-potties.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

-“Nice job kiddo; you did good. Now, get back in there.”

I’m now less than a decade away from retirement, and on occasion, my mind drifts toward daydreams of that time when I no longer teach. Will I stay busy? Will I miss it? Will my brain turn to mush? If not teaching, then what? Directing? Writing? Learning a new language? Distilling my own vodka? Regardless of how that plays out, I plan on making a really great retiree; I bet I still do all kinds of noble, fun and fabulous things.  However, I bet I still spend some time of the couch watching old reruns of “The Actor’s Studio.”

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