Friday, December 16, 2005

Oprah, Au Revoir.

This afternoon I was in the usual wasteland between coming home from the morning shift and determining that I've successfully put off working out for another afternoon, when I decided to put on Oprah.

I have always been a fan of Oprah, along with other up-by-the-bootstraps, real-fake ladies such as Madonna and Dolly Parton. People like to hate on Oprah, but I have been inclined step to her defense. Until today.

It was about halfway through the show and Oprah was gandering through some home designs by some shiny, cute guy named Nate something. I settled in: I love Oprah's Materialistic shows even more than her Celebrity shows and her Issues shows.

Oprah and Nate were looking at bedding. The first thing I noticed was, none of the bedding looked very exciting. The second thing I noticed was that Oprah was quoting prices as if it were the Home Shopping Network. The third thing I noticed was the whooping. Oprah said the dogs in the picture frame on the bed were "her babies": The audience cheered as if she'd announced she was pregnant. Oprah said the pillows were between $8 and $9: Cries of rejoicing went up through the air. Oprah pointed to some painted boxes: Did someone faint? At one point the camera cut to two jittery women wearing maniacal grins, their hands poised to commence applause. I could have sworn they were high.

All along, Oprah was outyelling them all. Oprah is a renowned exuberant-shouter. She should sit down for an installment of the Actor's Studio, where they would devote an entire segment to her vocal intonation. "Who loves a GOOD. BATHROOMMmm." she chanted, leading everyone to Nate's bathroom furnishings. "You are going to LOVE. THESE. PLATES. AND BOOOOWWWLS!!!"

Now, I'll admit that even though I pretend to be an Oprah fan, I don't actually watch her show that much. Had it changed? I thought back to the last time I saw it, which was when she had James Frey on to talk about his edgy memoir of drug addiction, A Million Little Pieces. I've never read A Million Little Pieces and am not sure if I will. But I left that show feeling embarrassed for Frey and certain that if I bought his book, it would be in spite of Oprah rather than because of her. Frey had to sit there and tolerate excruciating amounts of adulation, and he even filmed a "my home life"-type segment bathed in gauzy lighting gels and cheesy voiceovers. As Frey sat there looking strained, I began to worry that this was the sort of experience that might make him start using again. I started to feel sorry for him, but then remembered how many books he was selling.

Let's not even go into the most recent Tom Cruise appearance.

So I guess Oprah has been this way for awhile, but it always seemed to me like she was just riding happily on her success and really trying to deliver something enjoyable. She'd gone from sleazy TV to power TV and she was celebrating and giving tons of shit away. Sure, let her shout it up. I'd be shouting too.

But now, it felt much less like a show and much more like a shill -- and for third-rate Pottery Barn imitations, no less. Then she proceeded to claim that Ricky Martin, whose album was released (that's right, he has a new album) two months ago, was "back." She ceded the stage so that Martin could perform a song that I thought was "Livin' La Vida Loca" until I realized it was only a new song that happens to sounds just like "Livin' La Vida Loca." It was as if Oprah, along with the guests on her show, had all become Xerox copies of some earlier, better thing.

And so I say godspeed, dear Oprah. I bid you a fair journey, but I can no longer sail with you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Am Waiting While the CMS Processes My Request.

I realized today that the majority of my working life, and a disconcerting amount of my personal life, adds up to a long string of two- to 10-second computer vacuums. Thousands upon thousands of times I have sat, slack in a chair, eyes glazed over as some processor or network tried to keep up with my request. It dawned on me today that the publishing system at my job requires me to wait at least two to four seconds every single time I perform a task. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Open... edit... add... delete... enter... save... This is the life of a "web producer." And I have never, ever once in my computer life, worked on a machine where everything was up to speed. It's like a specially designated hell for someone with my temperament -- the person who, from childhood on, thrived on finishing the test, the race, the dinner, and apparently birth order, FIRST.

This adds up to a devastating loss of time and spirit, when you think about it (and maybe you've noticed: I have). In these micro-eons I imagine brain cells imploding, collagen breaking down, bones thinning and unquantifiable modules of life-force going irreparably dim. Is it better to spend most of your day waiting for computers to work? Or is it better to spend most of your day waiting for (and working for) something else to work, such as social justice or global rescue missions? This is what I thought about today as I waited for my employer's poorly-written proprietary software to accomodate a basic Web site change that perhaps three people might notice.

A bout of ennui? Perhaps.

Yeah, I've been grappling lately with the Parachute Rainbow. There's a great psychological question buried in all of this: Is more choice better, or worse? Objectively speaking, it's pretty fuckin' great to grow up being told you can be anything you want to be and have that more or less be true. Until you come up against your own personality and societal realities. Part of an e-mail to a friend today sums it up:

I can't close the other doors [in life] -- it's like, I *could* decide to be with [boyfriend] and stick with my current livelihood but... hey, what if I decide to move to a small, mountainy town and own a coffee shop as an independent single woman and then meet the rough-hewn-yet-brainy-and-hilarious man of my dreams and pen some outrageously popular book? I mean, we wouldn't want to shut off that possibility, now, would we?! So anyway... oops, I just turned 80! Time to go feed the pigeons and pick up my social security check...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Or Maybe It's Just Me.

Laugh, and the whole world laughs with you: Except for when they just stare at you with disdain.

I had never heard of Dane Cook until this week, and I started listening to some of his routines while at work. With my headphones on, I did that sort of lean-forward-and-don't-breathe laughing that makes people think, "Man, she must be listening to something really hysterically funny." And I was! Or so I thought.

My boss pulled up the "Car Alarm" routine (clip at lower left on this page: I started laughing again involuntarily. As I laughed and laughed and the routine continued to play, I slowly realized that no one in the room was amused. They were all just looking at me, like, I can't believe you think this is that funny.

I guess it serves me right for every apathetic stare I've given to Monty Python fans.