Friday Frivolity: The Sound of (Donna) Summer Weekends

It has been a rough month or so for music lovers.  It feels like every other day, my Twitter feed explodes with rumors or, more often than not, sad truths about another icon of American music passing away.  As evidenced by my Music Monday posts, I develop very strong connections to the music in my life and each time another beloved singer is gone, it often hits me harder than I would expect.

As we’re about to embark on another weekend (though with being laid off, the weekdays and weekends seem to blend together), it’s hard not to think about Donna Summer.  Her music was always the sound of summer weekends (no pun intended, for once) and being young and wild and free.  And even though my weekend plans are less “bad girls hit the town” and more “taking advantage of the busy tourist season to make some extra dough“, I’ll be cranking Donna Summer all weekend long.

Music Monday: The Beatles’ Revolver

Like most twenty-somethings with a television set, I’m a huge fan of Mad MenThere’s really nothing to not like about the series – it has a cast full of handsome men wearing well-tailored suits, there’s copious day drinking, plenty of workplace coitus and it’s the best written drama on television right now.  I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

While I have some opinions on last night’s episode (was the return of Betty Draper Francis unnecessary – discuss amongst yourselves), I’ve still been obsessing on the episode from two weeks past, where the creative types at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are working on a campaign that’s a spin on A Hard Day’s Night.  The clients want something Beatles-esque to tap into the ever-growing Beatles fervor of the 1960s.  While (my imaginary television boyfriend) Stan Rizzo suggests The Zombies, Don Draper decides to defer to his young new wife, Megan, who bring him the latest Beatles album to listen to.  That album is Revolver, one of the group’s most pivotal releases.

I remember the first time I consciously sought out a Beatles album.  I don’t remember the first time I heard a Beatles song or even talked to my parents about them but when I was 12 years old, we were gearing up for a family road trip and Post-Collegiate Dad took me on a late night trip to a local bookstore that also sold used cassettes and records.  I had told him that I really wanted a “new to me” Beatles album to listen to in my new Walkman for the trip.  After searching through what felt like hundreds of Beatles tapes, I settled on Magical Mystery TourI was instantly hooked – I don’t think I listened to anything but that tape on the two-day drive.  That following Christmas, I received a vinyl copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and I was officially obsessed.  I thought they would be my favorite band of all time.

Of course, that isn’t exactly how it played out.  Like many a teenager before me, I soon traded in my Beatles favorites for newly acquired re-releases of Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street.  High school brought with it The Doors and my first experiences with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.  By the time I reached college, my favorite album from the 1960s was not from the Beatles but rather, The Velvet Underground & Nico The Beatles became this band that I appreciated but who felt out of place in my adult music collection, until two weeks ago.

On Mad Men, Megan gives Don a copy of the newly-released Revolver, imploring him to listen to the last track first.  That track – Tomorrow Never Knows” – marks the Beatles first real break away from their old sound and the expansion of pop music into psychedelia.  After hearing the LSD-inspired track close out the episode (spoiler alert: it wasn’t to Don Draper’s tastes), I decided to download Revolver and give it a second chance.  It never resonated much with me in my youth, outside of the delightful silliness of “Yellow Submarine” and the serene sadness of “Eleanor Rigby“.  Maybe it’s just indicative of my youthful naivete or a reflection of where I am in my life right now, but this time around, I listened to Revolver straight through four or five times in the span of two days.  Unlike Don, the shifting sound of The Beatles and the expansion of their music into deeper psychological themes is exactly what I need to hear right now.

Given that I’ve been immersed in the album for the last two weeks, it was hard to pick the perfect song for Music Monday, so I’ve decided that, given my lack of regular music posts in the last month, I’d just give in and choose two songs.  Both represent the best of Revolver to me – rollicking guitar medleys, the introduction of brass into the backing sound, and lyrics that speak to our expanding consciousness and the need to make and break connections with others and the world around us.

And Your Bird Can Sing

Got To Get You Into My Life

Friday Frivolity: Millennials on TV

Hello friends!  Thanks for sticking with the blog during our little hiatus.  We are back up and running and looking forward to some great posts next week, including some thoughts on Revolver, attitude in the workplace, and postcollegiate summers.  As always, I’m looking for more fearless post-collegiates to feature, so if you’re interested in being interviewed for the blog (or want to guest post), get in touch with me at postcollegiate [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet me.

I’ve been wanting to do a frivolous Friday post on some television characters I’ve noticed who really seem to embody the postcollegiate spirit and was thrilled to see this Vulture piece on the universally hated character on Smash, Ellis.  What makes Ellis so awful?  He’s a textbook millennial – he’s disloyal, he job hunts, he demands credit, he’s too eager to please, and he thinks he’s better than he is.  Sounds like just about every middle-aged office worker I know talking about our generation in the workplace!  The story really inspired me to think about other television characters, good or bad, who really seem to represent the millennial generation.

Nick Miller  (The New Girl)

Oh, Nick Miller.  Nick Miller, who dropped out of law school and lives off his meager bar-tending wages.  Nick Miller, who doesn’t have health insurance.  Nick Miller, who can’t get a cell phone because his credit score is so laughable.  Nick Miller, who’s friends are convinced they could buy their own city with the money they’d save not covering his share of the rent.  Nick Miller embodies just about every cliche (and hard truth) about millennial and money – most of us don’t have it and when we do have it, we’re not very responsible with it.

Penny Hartz (Happy Endings)

Penny’s misadventures in dating is essentially a documentary for anyone who didn’t get married by the time they were 24.  She’s the girl who will adapt to whatever the guy she likes is into (see:  that time she dated a hipster), she’s willing to go way out on a limb to find someone to settle down with (see: that time she dated the guy named you-know-what), and she’s even explored the possibility of settling down with her best friend (see: that time her sex dream about Dave was really a proposal dream).  But what really makes Penny the embodiment of millennial dating is her perpetual optimism that it will all work out in the end, even though life tells us otherwise.

June Colburn (Don’t Trust the B—-in Apartment 23)

Poor Chloe.  She gets her dream job, moves to the big city, and is so excited to settle down with her fiance.  Except the job goes bust, she loses the perfect apartment, and her fiance is a lying cheat.  So, she ends up trucking along at a dead-end coffee shop job while she tries to survive living with the show’s titular bitch, Chloe.  If Chloe wasn’t so much frickin’ fun, it would almost be depressing to watch.  It’s hard not to empathize with June’s blind belief that everything in her post-collegiate life is going to work out just fine.

 

Abed Nadir (Community)

Inability to communicate?  Check.  Constantly indulged by his peers?  Check.  Refusal to grow up and mature?  Check.  Pursuing a less-than-marketable humanities degree?  Check.  Obsession with pop culture which will unlikely serve him well in the future?  Check.  Although Annie’s relentless ambitious and need for approval and Troy’s insistence on being treated like an adult even when he isn’t really one yet are both strong candidates, Abed takes the millennial crown at Greendale.

 

Friday Frivolity: Somebody’s Getting Married!

Don’t worry – it’s definitely not me 😉

By the time you read this, I will be close to landing in Texas for the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends.  I’m thrilled to be a part of her special day and so excited to see many old friends this weekend, not to mention getting in a little family time as well.  It promises to be a great, long weekend – which means no new posts until Wednesday.

Whenever I have to pack for wedding (and that’s becoming a more and more frequent occurrence with age), I always, always, always think about the wedding scene from The Muppets Take Manhattan.  So, on this most frivolous of Fridays, enjoy a little muppetty goodness!

 

Post-Collegiate Life Lessons: Chevy Chase Edition

When I was kid, my mom would take Baby Sister and I to Blockbuster every Friday and let us rent five videos for family viewing over the weekend.  The break down of the rentals usually went something like this – 1.  New Release, generally action or family-friendly comedy, 2.  Children’s Movie, selected by Baby Sister and automatically disdained by me on the mere virtue of being the selection of a younger child, 3.  1930s-1960s Movie Musical, because I was that kind of a kid, and 4/5. Classic Comedies, culled from Blockbuster’s back shelves.  I would spend a significant amount of time going back up and down the aisles, trying to curate the perfect viewing experience.  My mom (or occasionally my dad, when he had the odd Friday off) would casually suggest that Animal House or Blazing Saddles might be a good pick and then I would be instantly hooked, spending the following weekends trying to watch the rest of the Brooks oeuvre or researching in my Maltin guide what other films the original SNL cast had produced.

A Friday in 1998 that stands out to me, even amongst so many nights of picking up movies that would find their way on my best-of lists for years to come, was the night that Post Collegiate Dad suggested we try a Chevy Chase double feature – Fletch and Spies Like Us.  I knew Chevy from the Griswold flicks and had recently seen Caddyshack for the first time, although I was more taken with Bill Murray’s Carl, dropping “it’s in the hole, it’s in the hole!” into most of my casual conversations.  But up to this point in my life, Chevy Chase was Clark Griswold and nothing more.

That Chase double-feature night changed everything.  I’m not sure if anything I had encountered in my life up to that point.  Whether it was Fletch insisting his name was Babar and that he didn’t have any elephant books or the entire “Doctor” exchange that I still reference in my daily interactions with the doctors here, that night made me a Chase devotee.  I was too young and too uninformed to know about the problems with employers, drugs, ego, and on-set difficulties – all I knew was that he was Chevy Chase and we were not and it was hilarious.

Harboring plenty of good will left from his 80’s classics, I was excited when I learned that Chase was going to be part of Community.  Throughout the past three seasons, the character of Pierce Hawthorne has been sometimes difficult to take but the show has provided a seemingly ideal outlet for Chase’s talent – physical comedy, a blissful lack of self-awareness paired with an overstuffed ego, and misguided bantering.  Watching Pierce try to slip in an Eartha Kitt sex story reference into each of the timelines of the episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” (it came up organically!), I really felt a glimmer of the old magic that made me want to dust off my Three Amigos VHS.

It saddens me to see the recent rumblings of discord between Chase and creator/executive producer Dan Harmon.  I am not as unaware as I use to be and I know that this is just one in a long line of professional disputes that Chase has been involved in that will likely result in his leaving the show, but I am still just as disappointed.  While I often try to ignore the behind-the-scenes antics and personalities when evaluating my pop culture intake, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to do so as the creative process is shared in real time over social media and spread so quickly over the Internet.

With that said, I also can’t help but feel that hopefully a few lessons can be learned from Chevy Chase’s most recent professional troubles, one that may well-serve those fresh out of college and diving into their first few jobs:

  • Be careful who you say things to.  Part of Chase’s job is promotion – Community has never been a ratings powerhouse, so each cast member has been deployed generously to talk to reporters and journalists ranging from major publications to tiny entertainment blogs to help drive buzz.  This means that even the most casual quip or jibe made about his time on the set has been repeated, circulated, and quoted ad nauseum.  What may have been a careless remark about a gag or joke he didn’t like has now become gospel just by sheer repetition.  This just as true for office gossip, whether or not your office is on-set.
  • Don’t take things at the work place too seriously.  Maybe you and your boss don’t get along great or perhaps one of your coworkers tends to exclude you from lunch outings.  Sometimes it’s best not to let life at work upset your actual life outside of work.  While Chase could take the mature route and ignore what he perceives as slights and attacks from Harmon, he is only adding fuel to the fire by taking things personally.  It’s a paycheck and sometimes, that’s all it has to be, especially if you’re good at what you’re doing.
  • It’s prudent not to bad mouth your boss, especially in public.  And at the end of the day, it’s your boss who makes sure that paycheck keeps coming.  When you do have a problem, it’s always best to go straight to the source and try to have a measured, calm conversation.  Airing your grievances publicly, even after you’ve left your job, only makes you look bad and burns bridges behind you.
  • Try not to make the same mistakes twice.  The most aggravating aspect of this debacle is that Chase has done all of the above multiple times in the past.  This most current conflict, likely exacerbated by Harmon’s own prickly personality, could have been avoided if Chase had tried to learn from his previous mistakes.

What do you think?  Is my affection for the comedy genius clouding my judgement on this one?  Have you ever had some Chase-like moments of unprofessional behavior?  Still not sure what Community is?  Leave it in the comments!

 

Lady Hero: Lena Dunham

New York Magazine

Let’s just get straight down to real talk – I love Lena Dunham.  I have loved her since my first of multiple viewings of Tiny Furniture and I have been breathlessly anticipating her HBO-debut with Girls.  Dunham, despite being two years my junior  (insert depressing parenthetical thought about how my life is disappearing before my eyes), has an innate ability to translate the actual reality of life for many twenty-something women and project in a way that’s affecting, hilarious, and poignant.

The best thing about Girls’ impending debut (Sunday, April 15th, mark your calendars!) is that there has been a wealth of great features on the fascinating Ms. Dunham.  In a full-length profile at New York Magazine, Emily Nussbaum perfectly encapsulates how many Millennial females may feel about Dunhams – “an unstable blend of worship, envy, and disdain, particularly from her peers, some of whom resented her ‘voice of a generation’ press. ”  For many of us, Dunham is the voice of a generation – or at least “a voice, of a generation” as her Girls character, Hannah, reasons in the show’s trailer.

Nussbaum also uses Dunham’s comfort with her body on-screen, her ability to parade around half-dressed or in painfully-real sex scenes that negate the Hollywood ideal of a pencil-thin twig with fake breasts showing strategic side-boob as perfectly natural sexual representations.  As the article points out,

“[She] films herself nude, with her skin breaking out, her belly in folds, chin doubled, or flat on her back with her feet in a gynecologist’s stirrups. These scenes shouldn’t shock, but they do, if only because in a culture soaked in Photoshop and Botox, few powerful women open themselves up so aggressively to the judgment of voyeurs.”

Amen, sister friend!

From Tiny Furniture (2010)

Over at The New Yorker, Lorrie Moore features our favorite multi-hyphenate on the Culture Desk, highlighting Dunham’s ability to find comedy in life’s depressing moments.  The piece includes a great conversation lifted from the pilot that so eerily echoes conversations I’ve had with my own parents, I almost wonder if Dunham was accidentally copied on a mass email to friends.

In a recent piece in the Village Voice, where she is described as a “humble narcissist, chronic oversharer, and compulsive exhibitionist”, Dunham shares some of her favorite girls on film, further convincing me that she and I were destined to be spiritual soul mates.  For a film series she’s curating at BAM, Dunham chose such smart and clever representations of young women, ranging from The Craft to The Last Days of Disco to Clueless to This Is My Life. If you haven’t seen all four of these, get thee to your Netflix queue!

New York Magazine

Sure, maybe there’s a little bit of Dunham media saturation going on and maybe the hype of Girls will inevitably invite some backlash from the Interweb denizens who can’t bring themselves to enjoy a good thing, but just as Gawker snarks, “As a 20-something female narcissist currently making a ton of mistakes in [life], am going to watch the shit out of it.”