If you’re as fascinated by words as I am, then you know there are phrases in other languages that don’t properly translate to English but still describe a feeling or event that we English-speakers also experience. I guess we could refer to these as Stefonisms. “It’s that thing where…”
One well-known example is schadenfreude (German, literally “harm-joy” in English), that thing where you take pleasure in other people’s misfortune. Or l’esprit d’escalier (French, literally “wit of the stairs”), that thing where you figure out the perfect comeback well after a conversation is over. A lesser-known one that I stumbled across a while back is Japanese, mono no aware (“the pathos of things”). This is tricky and beautiful. According to its Wikipedia entry, it’s a term “for the awareness of impermanence or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.” The Japanese have a whole slew of incredibly specific phrases like this. Another is koi no yokan, the feeling you get when you meet someone and instantly know you’re going to fall in love. Note that it’s not love at first sight; you’re not in love yet, but you know you will be. Or komorebi, the interplay of sunlight filtering through leaves.
I encountered a phenomenon once again this week that made me realize we need a word for it in English, but I’m having a hard time nailing down the specifics. It’s that thing where you’re in conversation with with someone you’ve just met and most likely won’t see again, but you’ve got some time to spend with them today. The conversation never gets into anything personal or original, but you find yourselves recycling platitudes either so general, so benign, or so unprovable that the other person has no choice but to offer vague agreements.
“You know, in Europe they really know how to enjoy their food.”
“Everyone’s staring at screens all day now. When I was a kid people actually talked to each other.” Note that this is delivered via actual spoken words, face to face. Note also the inclusion of the phrase “when I was a kid.” Common in this phenomenon.
“Oh, who knows what they’re putting into food these days. You can’t trust anything.”
“The problem with politics is all the money.”
You find yourself saying things that you don’t care about, or don’t necessarily even believe. If someone says something you do find somewhat objectionable or incorrect, you don’t bother to contradict them because there’s just no point. The things you’re saying could have been controversial opinions five years ago, but at this point everyone is so aware of them they’re not even worth bringing up any more. “Everything’s just sound bites these days.”
It’s like the doldrums of conversation. It’s a total whiteout of words; everything is indistinguishable. Pablum comes close, as does the aforementioned platitudes, but I feel that the context of having just met, knowing you probably won’t see them again, yet still being forced to engage in conversation elevates it to something else, something new.
My proposed term for this is DMVese (dee-em-veez), because that’s just the sort of place you find yourself engaged in this level of conversation. Alternatives include background chatter, because if you’ve ever been a background actor you know this is how you spend most of your day and also it may as well just be sounds in the background, or shit chat if you want to get a little blue. But maybe that one is best applied to the conversations about poop which new parents and dog owners find themselves constantly having.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.
Yada yada backstory backstory lots of racists on Twitter. You’ve been conscious since the Super Bowl? You know what I’m talking about.
But what concerns me here is what we’re not talking about. Rather than some absurd conversation about a song about America being sung in languages other than English, why aren’t we talking about a multinational corporation commoditizing our cultural identity and experiences to sell us sugar water?
And most importantly, why aren’t we talking about the fact that they used One World Trade to play on our emotions in order to buy sugar water? What, because it didn’t happen on 9/11 itself, it’s OK to just throw this symbol of one of the worst attacks on American soil that any of us remember firsthand into your commercial to sell us sugar water?
We allow companies like this to tell us what our experiences mean, and we allow them to whisper in our ears “Remember when you pushed your daughter on the swing as the sun was setting on that perfect fall day? We were there. Buy us again. Give us more money and you can relive that moment. You can experience more like it, and we will always be there.”
It’s a hollow economy, a complete illusion. What for-profit company has ever taken an action without the intention of people giving them more money? Was there any deeper motivation than that in this commercial? You think anything is preventing them from showing us the worst of ourselves, other than their bottom line?
Is there an uninvited sight or sound in your day that isn’t trying to sell you something?
After the attack so cynically referenced in this ad for sugar water, we were told by our leader to keep spending money. Don’t let them get the better of us. Go out and buy shit. That will keep the world spinning. Like a shark we have to keep giving these people money or we’ll die.
That is offensive. The constant invasion of my mental space, the steady brainwashing attempts by these companies, the dependency of huge swaths of our economy on this emotional manipulation and co-opting of our most precious memories and relationships, that’s offensive. The fact that we are not having this conversation tells me we’ve lost a battle we didn’t even know we were fighting.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.
My favorite thing about winter is by far the fashion options. No other season offers the same variety of textures, the ability to layer comfortably, or the amount of clothing necessary to hide my hideously malformed body.
In the spring and summer we’re faced mostly with flat, boring cotton. Maybe some linen or silk, but nothing that compares to the tweeds, flannels, and cable-knits available in winter. Plus, winter is the only season that welcomes the turtlenecks I favor in order to cover the gaping wound on my neck that won’t seem to heal.
Fashion-forward folks know that the key to a successful look is layering, but I must admit I have a tendency to sweat (or how do ladies say it—glow?). So I welcome the cooler temperatures in winter that let me combine some of my favorite pieces into one killer outfit while staying comfortable. It’s also much easier to hide the bony protrusions jutting out of my spine with something more than a t-shirt or button-down. The doctors would grind down the knobs but they’re not sure how much nerve matter I’d lose, and they worry about paralysis.
Many men consider shorts as juvenile, but they’re probably thinking of baggy cargo shorts. Fitted properly they can be as manly as a good pair of slacks, but you still have to worry about the condition of your legs. And brother, do I ever. I have a variety of slacks and jeans, in different colors and patterns, that are a basic necessity to cover up the strange scaly material engulfing my lower legs. This is especially crucial since the various scientists who’ve studied the problem have yet to identify the exact origin of the covering, and can’t rule out total communicability. Pants it is, my friends.
Winter is also a time when no one thinks twice about someone in a hoodie that hides their eyes, and a scarf wrapped over the lower half of their face. I need the latter because due to a combination of poor care and genetics, my teeth don’t so much resemble the teeth of a human as they do the jagged mountainous landscape of a celestial body not subjected to the same sort of gravitational restraints we would see on Earth. I need the hood to hide my eyes because in place of the radiant blue peepers I was born with now lie two weeping sores. You know the “to the pain” speech at the end of The Princess Bride? Let’s just say I’d pay Westley to turn me into the horror he promises for Humperdinck. I’ve considered moving to a colder climate, or one more accustomed to full-body coverings year round, but needless to say the World Health Organization finds it necessary to confine me to my home.
I hope you’ve found my tips for winter weather wear helpful! It’s quite impossible for me to type given the erratic formation of my fingers, and dictation is an exercise in patience for me and my caretaker due to my enormously swollen tongue. Til next year!
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.
Woody Allen’s recent Golden Globe lifetime achievement award brought to light some pretty uncomfortable most-likely-truths about the celebrated writer/director and it got me thinking about the amount of great material generated by known assholes, and the dilemma that presents to a conscientious audience.
First in my mind is Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game and its several sequels. Even though sci-fi features prominently in my life I was way late to that game. I didn’t read his books until right around when they announced the movie would be made. I loved them, of course. The first book is a great story and one I wish I’d read when I was Ender’s age. But the real meat of the series starts with the next book, Speaker for the Dead. This story was Card’s true intention and Ender’s Game was only a necessary prequel to introduce the world, and what a world it is. The speaker of the dead is a sort of undertaker/public speaker who learns about the recently deceased, all the ugly bumps and beauties, and presents them to the community, no secrets withheld. It can be difficult but cathartic. Card also introduces a classification system for alien life that, like the writing of Arthur C. Clarke, seems like something we should actually adopt should we ever be fortunate/doomed enough to encounter said life. This is truly universal thinking.
How surprising and shameful, then, to learn of Card’s personal beliefs and his direct role in suffocating gay marriage rights in California. How difficult it is to stop myself from telling everyone how wonderful his stories are when I know where the dollars spent on those stories will end up. What troubles me most is how unrelated his famed series is from his own personal beliefs. To read them is not to be ingrained with some subtle form of homophobia—quite the opposite.
I think also of Roman Polanski, someone else who creates things very much aligned with my interests but has spent his entire life fleeing from a heinous and well-publicized act, whose most famous works don’t reflect that act. To my knowledge, anyway; I’m certainly no Polanski buff. We’re still presented with a similar dilemma.
We do have a few examples of people convicted, if not in actual court, then the court of public opinion, of crimes that do seep into their work. I present to you the only thing you ever need to read about R. Kelly. I had every intention of watching Trapped in the Closet for the same reasons I love The Room, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Sure, I’d be laughing at him, but I won’t ever be able to look at him without thinking “this is a man who preys on teenage girls and pays their families to shut up.”
I saw Powder with some of my guy friends when I was 15. While I enjoyed most of the movie, there was an unsettling aspect to Powder’s secret glances at the normal boys doing things like playing sports, topless, or showering, topless, that my friends and I all sensed but couldn’t quite place. Years later I found out that the writer & director, Victor Salva, is a convicted child molester. Well, there you go.
The list of shitty people who’ve made great art is almost endless, and in many cases the problems presented to the audience are few. To go to a museum and look at a painting by someone long dead who beat his wife, say, is not to give money to a known wife-beater. But to pay to see something knowing that at least part of your dollar will end up in the wallet of known homophobe? To celebrate the career of a person who by every account needed sexually assaulted a little girl, his own little girl? To jam out to a track about sex by a guy who’s probably talking about a 16-year-old?
I don’t have many answers here. I still love Braveheart, and I saw Machete Kills in the theatre (Mel Gibson is the villain). Gibson seems to be as sorry for what he said as anyone is who gets busted for something like that, but I have my doubts. Granted, getting drunk and saying horribly anti-Semitic things isn’t quite on the scale of using your personal wealth to insure a whole segment of the population is denied its basic rights, but it’s still there. I loved Blue Jasmine. At the time I saw it I only knew about the Soon Yi thing, and as weird and disturbing as that is I could more or less separate that from the film I was watching. But knowing that he most likely molested a seven-year-old who is his own daughter—I’m not sure what to do with that information.
History is filled with deviants and criminals putting out great art because of, or in spite of, their problems. Do we discredit what those works say about humanity because of the actions of their creators? I certainly don’t want to sound like an apologist, and I can forgive if forgiveness is sought and a true change of course is undertaken. But that’s not the case for a lot of these people, and it leaves a grimy film on everything they do.
I just put in my votes for Saturday’s SAG Awards and I thought I’d share them and the thinking behind them. I put this forward under the disclaimer that I recognize how utterly absurd the awards process is and it is completely impossible to compare these performances. That being said I love me some screeners. Here we go! Spoilers ahead, I guess?
1. Lead Male, Film
Right off the bat I’m stumped, between Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor. I certainly won’t mind if either one wins. I debated for a while, thinking of the amount of character work each actor did and the challenges presented by each script. Still mostly a draw, though I considered voting against McConaughey in the interest of trying to stop the weight loss trend. I ended up going with Ejiofor. I think the tipping point was the last scene, when he’s finally back home and he apologizes to his family. I won’t be surprised at all if McConaughey wins.
2. Lead Female, Film
This didn’t take long. Cate Blanchett. I saw Blue Jasmine pretty early in the screeners process and she set the bar high. I briefly considered Meryl; while watching August: Osage County I remarked that she is so good, you can’t even learn anything about acting from her because it just looks like some sort of witchcraft. Blanchett’s work was more subtle yet still very deep. I unfortunately did not see Saving Mr. Banks; I understand Emma Thompson is fantastic in it. Ah well. I think Blanchett’s got this one.
3. Supporting Male, Film
Jared Leto, no contest. Not only did he do the whole transformative thing that awards committees eat up, but he made me love Rayon. I wanted to take care of him immediately. The scene in the hospital, with Jennifer Garner, when he’s checking out the guy who walks by? Adorable. When he’s really sick at the end, crying, saying he doesn’t want to die? Heartbreaking. In his absence I could consider Michael Fassbender or Daniel Bruhl, but not this time. This is probably the most solid lock of the awards season.
Digression: I’m a little irritated at the amount of attention Barkhad Abdi is getting, especially now that he’s been nominated for an Oscar and Tom Hanks was not. I feel like everything about his performance needs to be qualified by “for a first-time actor.” I mean whatever, good for him, I enjoyed him in the movie. It just seems a little overboard. Get it? Boats.
4. Supporting Female, Film
I wavered a minute on this one, between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o, but knowing that David O. Russell wrote Lawrence’s part for her and it was kinda sorta the same thing from Silver Linings Playbook I went with Nyong’o. We finally watched The Butler last night. Talk about on the nose. That was the worst first 20 minutes of an awards-y movie that I’ve ever seen. Oprah was good. I particularly liked her at her oldest, towards the end. But that was bad casting. Oprah will always just be Oprah now and forever. I think Lawrence will probably end up taking this one.
5. Best Actor, TV Drama
6. Best Actress, TV Drama
7. Best Actor, TV Comedy
Alec Baldwin. I could’ve considered Jason Bateman, but confession alert: we only saw like four episodes of the new Arrested Development. I will finish it. But it’s OK for things to end. I love 30 Rock so, so much, but it’s gone and I’m OK with that.
8. Best Actress, TV Comedy
I was split between Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, but I went with the veep. She’s a bona fide comedy badass. The only actress to win three Emmys for three separate shows, one of those shows being all-time American TV classic Seinfeld. And she has two nomination-worthy projects out there right now in Veep and Enough Said. Like I said, I love 30 Rock but Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a beast on Veep. That show is lightning fast and the dialogue is sharp. Hopefully she gets this.
9. Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries
I’ve only seen Hollow Crown, unfortunately. I’m glad Pacino’s not winning for Phil Spector because I can’t take his speeches. While Jeremy Irons was very good in Hollow Crown, it is patently absurd that they would nominate someone other than Ben Whishaw from that series. So I voted for Irons, but it’s a spiritual vote for Whishaw. Truly one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, I cannot recommend it enough. This’ll go to Michael Douglas.
10. Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries
I saw the last five minutes of Taylor & Burton. That’s all I saw from all of these. I abstained.
11. Stunt Ensemble, Film
Lone Survivor. Thirty minutes of the film is them falling down a mountain.
12. Stunt Ensemble, TV
I thought about Walking Dead but someone gets brutally murdered in every episode of Game of Thrones so I went with that.
13. TV Ensemble, Drama
14. TV Ensemble, Comedy
Veep. My entire TV comedy struggle is between this and 30 Rock, but I feel like Veep has more of an ensemble vibe and again that dialogue just blazes, and they roll right off each other. It’s a machine of laughter. But, better than that, because that sounds like a shitty TV show. I’m honestly not sure who would get this. Modern Family?
15. Best Cast in a Motion Picture
I went with 12 Years a Slave. There were strong actors in August: Osage County and The Butler but the challenges present in 12 Years a Slave for every single actor were pretty steep, and they all delivered so well. I think this will get it, though I wouldn’t be too surprised if it went to American Hustle.
There you go. I have to say I’m disappointed I couldn’t throw anything at Wolf of Wall Street. I guess ultimately its actors being nominated here wouldn’t have changed any of my votes, but I’m glad it showed up on Oscar’s radar. Same for Her, even if it’s just one of the 35 films nominated for Best Picture, screenplay, & song. It might be my favorite movie of the year.
Chances are you know I’m a huge fan of The Room, the best worst movie ever made. You can imagine my delight late last year when I learned that its co-star, Greg Sestero, had written an account of its making that would come out just in time to go on my Christmas list. I finally got around to devouring The Disaster Artist this week and I was not disappointed. I was also taken off-guard by just how sad some aspects of the story are.
For those not in the know, The Room was sort of released in 2003. It was written and directed by Tommy Wiseau, who is also the film’s star and executive producer (read: sole financier). Tommy hails from an undisclosed country, most likely somewhere in Eastern Europe, and his grasp of English and the lifestyles of Americans is tenuous at best. At worst it is the fevered hallucination of a man dying of some strange tropical disease. The movie is an absolute trainwreck, with atrocious dialogue, inscrutable character motivations, no continuity, and Wiseau’s performance as Johnny (no last name–the only character in the film who has anything close to a surname is the oddly-titled drug dealer Chris-R) will surely stand the test of time as one of the most overwrought, slurred performances of an English-speaking character. The film apparently cost $6 million, all provided by Wiseau himself.
In short, it’s a fantastic trip and I own the DVD and I’ve seen it several times.
Greg Sestero plays Mark, Johnny’s best friend, and he was present in Tommy’s life from before the film’s inception to the present day, making the rounds with him to midnight screenings across the globe. The book describes two storylines: how Greg and Tommy met and became odd friends, and the making of The Room itself. When you watch the film, one primary question that arises is how such a movie could get made by a group of rational, reasonably intelligent human beings. Tommy Wiseau is clearly delusional about his own skill as a writer, director & actor, but what about everyone else? What about the director of photography, the camera operator, the set designer, the PAs? What was going through their minds as they watched this film unfold in front of them? How could they stay on? This is addressed by Sestero in the book, and it’s a telling characteristic of the film industry. It’s full of competent artists and crew willing to suffer a great deal of insanity for a decent paycheck and footage. Granted, several people did walk over the course of the filming, but not everyone, and very few people walked without suffering through humiliation, frustration, and confusion. Turns out we’re all willing to put up with a LOT for the privilege of working on an actual film set.
Another interesting aspect of the book is Sestero’s journey as a struggling actor in late-90s LA. It turns out he had some brushes with the next level, getting called back for some big projects and meeting with some serious players in the business before falling backwards into The Room, which would immortalize him as the guy who had to say “Keep your stupid comments in your pocket!” He could’ve gotten a lead role in a Joel Schumacher film, but instead the roulette wheel landed on Tommy. It’s a strange business.
What I found most fascinating, and quite sad, was Tommy himself. As Sestero describes him, he was actually a very lonely guy who probably had a tough life in whatever country he left for America. It seems he had some trouble with the communist regime of his home country and spent some time penniless in France before finally making it to America, a place he’d been obsessed with since childhood. Once here he somehow ended up doing very well for himself (yes, unfortunately we finish the book still not knowing where exactly Tommy is from or how he got his seemingly unlimited bankroll). But other than Greg, he has almost no human connections, no family to speak of or friends. Probably as a result of being hurt in the past, he tends to shut people down and isolate himself before anyone has the chance to hurt him again. In spite of this, he and Sestero develop a strange mismatched friendship several years before The Room actually starts production, before Tommy has even considered making his own film, when both are just incipient actors who meet in a class in San Francisco. Sestero paints a complicated picture of Tommy, a person who’s optimistic and self-confident to the point of delusion, whose confidence is barely hiding a deep pit of fear and loneliness. His strange behavior, overexcitedness, and support of Greg allow his friend to be himself around Tommy without any fear of judgement. But in a moment it can all crash down as Tommy decides to shut himself off again. It’s a roller coaster.
Tommy reaches an inexplicable low point, near suicide really, before finally bouncing back and deciding that if Hollywood won’t have him then he’ll do it himself. He writes what eventually turns into The Room, and he uses his own money to finance the film he also directs and stars in. He does it all himself, the American way. It is of course an unmitigated disaster, but one has to admire his gumption. He knew exactly what he wanted and the finished product, finished largely because of Tommy’s willpower, is it. At the premiere, in his tear-filled eyes, the film is perfect.
This got me thinking. We actors, writers, and artists, we’re not so different from Tommy. It’s so difficult to judge your own work. You have an idea, and you try to carry it out to the best of your ability, and along the way you’re never sure how it’s going. You do your best to convince yourself it’s great and you’re on the right track, but you just never know. You finish it, look at it and say “it’s done?” with a raised eyebrow, then blindly toss it out to the public. Who knows what they’ll say? If you’re lucky you have friends you can trust, and maybe they’ll give you feedback as you’re working. Tommy had that in Greg, and Greg did what most friends do. He told Tommy yes, it’s great, keep it up. Because what can you do? Destroy your friend’s dreams? Take away the one thing that pulled him out of a pit of despair? Tell him no, Tommy, this is not for you, show biz. Your lifelong obsession with American and James Dean is just a fantasy. You need to let it go. No, Greg didn’t say that. He smiled and nodded and played along. We artists know there’s always the possibility that that’s all our friends are doing. We have to rely on ourselves, our inner compass, to guide us along our path. We have to forge ahead when there is no path, trusting in our abilities. That’s all Tommy did, really.
I’m going to keep watching The Room, and I’m going to keep laughing at the insanity. I’m going to laugh at Tommy’s terrible chicken impression, and the terrible green-screened rooftop scenes, and awful sex scenes (two in the first 20 minutes!). I’m going to laugh at the line deliveries and the unintended subtexts and plot bridges to nowhere. But that laughter may be tempered by the knowledge that behind all this there is a human being, a guy who went through some dark stuff. He went through the darkness and came out the other side and found what he wanted. Success and fame, of a sort, all on his own. The American way.
The next time I turn off the switch that keeps me from stuffing my face with fun things until it hurts, I should check the weather for the next day.
Yesterday I was doing fine until it came to my post-lunch pre-dinner snack. We got a fantastic box of meat (and a block of cheddar) from the New Braunfels Smokehouse courtesy of Wes & Debbie (thanks again guys!) and I ate a lot of what was still left for that “snack.” It’s got a shelf life, people. I hate wasting food.
A pound and a half of sausage, salami, cheese, another kind of sausage, and smoked ham later, Amy comes home and we wrap some presents. She says “I have no food here. Can we order?”
“Sure. Can we eat a little later than usual?” I said with sausage breath. Alrighty, looks like this is officially my day off from eating sensibly. “Sensibly” meaning “like a normal person, and not like someone who was a prisoner of war for five years.” Aforementioned switch now firmly set to the off position. We order Lime Jungle and with the slightest deference to my ongoing efforts to stay physically fit, I did not order the jalapeno poppers like I always do. Just the molé burrito with ground beef; easily a two-hander.
THEN, after dinner, we had all these leftover treats from the packages Amy made her coworkers; treats I’d been eyeing all day. Cookies, rice krispies balls, cake balls, more cookies. These are the reasons I eat dinner in the first place on a normal day, and this day all bets were off. So I ate, and ate some more. “I’m running tomorrow. I’ll be good the rest of the week. It’s fine.”
Cut to the third mile of my run today, the wind whipping snow into my face, ice forming on my eyebrows, eyelashes, and adolescent facial hair. Guilt driving me like a whip to the back. I’m not going to lie. I still enjoyed the run. It would just be nice to occasionally feel like I could take the day off if my contacts may freeze to my eyeballs.
Anyone who is interested in running or fancies themselves a runner has surely seen Chad Stafko’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal drift across their social media stream. Titled “OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It,” Stafko uses the piece to decry, um, exercise? Or talking with others about the exercise in which you’ve participated? Or looking like someone who exercises? To be honest, I’m not 100% certain I understand what his argument is. General bullet points include, but are not limited to:
we pretend to enjoy it
runners are too self-congratulatory
there are too many things like stores, magazines, and bumper stickers that we use to identify ourselves
we do it to be seen
Naturally, I can only speak for myself. I can say unequivocally that exactly none of the above applies to me.
I don’t do things I don’t enjoy. It’s actually a problem to which my bank account can attest.
I don’t talk about my running that much unless asked (usually by another runner), and when I do bring it up it’s almost always to my wife, who, by virtue of being my wife, will hear about every other detail of my day as well.
I can’t control the amount of resources available to runners, Chad Stafko. I’m sorry. I see that you think all we need to run is a pair of shoes and some clothes, and in essence that’s true (one key reason I love running so much–its simplicity). But anyone who’s spent more than 30 minutes running in a simple cotton t-shirt on a hot day can attest to the feeling of having your nipples slowly sanded away by said t-shirt. You need a few specialty items to do this without bleeding, good sir. In come the running stores. I’m sorry they’re coming between you and your Starbucks.
I cannot imagine a more perfect run than one in which I’m seen by zero human beings. I would estimate about 40% of my mental energy during a run in Central Park, where I jog about four times a week, is dedicated to anticipating the illogical movements of others, dodging the movements I couldn’t anticipate, berating them in my head for not understanding simple directional pictures painted on the road, and generally wishing I could make everyone in my line of sight disappear using only the power of my mind. But that’s not to say I’m not enjoying myself. I also do all of these things on the sidewalk, or while looking out my window, or in my sleep.
Let’s take a second to examine how many other hobbies and interests fall under the criteria that Chad Stafko listed as being distasteful:
Books. Did you know there are whole groups of people who do nothing with their free time but read? They talk about what they’re reading on Facebook. They post pictures of their bookshelves. They meet once a week to talk about the same book they’re all reading. There are whole stores with nothing but books in them. I’ve even seen people reading books on the subway, just begging for someone to ask them about what they’re reading.
Knitting. Did you know that there are whole groups of people who do nothing in their free time but knit? They put pictures of their knitting on Facebook. They belong to knitting groups there too, and share funny pictures about knitting. They all meet and knit together. There are whole stores with nothing but knitting supplies, which of course just sell yarn and needles. I’ve even seen people knitting on the subway.
I could go on. These are all just hobbies, things people do when they’re not obligated to do something else. They do them because they derive pleasure from them. In the case of reading, it’s also good for your mind. Knitting results in actual things people can wear. Running is good for your health. People like to find others with common interests and talk about those interests. To do so, you often need to identify yourself somehow. Do I think it’s absurd to wear a marathon finisher shirt, tights and a headband just to go to Starbucks, assuming you’re not running to and from Starbucks? Of course. Do I enjoy it when I’m with someone who can only talk about one subject, and that subject is running? No. Nor would I enjoy it if the subject were any other singular thing. That’s just a bad conversationalist.
Let me tell you why I run. It’s meditative. If I don’t have my iPod, which is sometimes the case, all I can hear is the park around me which muffles the eight million souls pressing all around it. All I can hear are my footfalls and my breath. That’s all I have. It can be tough to start, sometimes, but inevitably I will find flow and the time slips by and I find I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last three or five or six miles. If I do have my iPod, I’m listening to podcasts, and the ones I listen to are entertaining and informative. It’s a beautiful way to see the city. Stafko finds fault in someone who chooses to “get up at 5 a.m. and run 10 miles adorned with fluorescent tape to avoid being struck by someone who has the good sense to use a car for a 10-mile journey.” The painfully obvious points about America’s obesity rates and air pollution aside, getting out of your car and seeing the city around you by foot or bicycle is refreshing. I’ve run the entire west coast of Manhattan in my time, from the new Freedom Tower to the George Washington Bridge and beyond. It’s breathtaking. I’ve driven the West Side Highway and hated every second of it. And finally, running makes me hard.
Ew, no, not like that. No innuendo.
I could have said “tough” but it doesn’t feel right. I mean hard, like Fight Club. Running is my fight club. In that film Edward Norton says men would come into the fight club made of cookie dough and come out carved from wood.
Again with the innuendo. Just assume that nothing I’m saying in this post refers to boners.
Does that make me superior? Yes, it certainly does, in this respect. I’m superior to someone who has not chosen a goal and worked to achieve that goal. Years ago I couldn’t run more than three miles and it was difficult, but I enjoyed it enough to want more. I researched, I found out how to run farther, I worked towards that goal and now I can run six miles without difficulty. I decided to run a marathon. I trained for months, with a longer run as my goal each week, and each week I achieved that goal until I strained my leg through reasons not worth getting into here. That’s not to say that Chad Stafko has never set a goal for himself and achieved that goal, but why shoot it down when others do the same? What does it benefit him?
And finally, not to play the dead dad card, but I’m totally going to play the dead dad card. In 2005 my dad was killed by the spare tire he’d been carrying around his waist for my entire conscious life. You think that didn’t motivate me to kick up my running game a few notches? I’d be a fool if it didn’t. I know heart disease can run a lot deeper than just “you didn’t run enough when you had the chance,” but your odds are much better if you get up off the couch and start moving, instead of staying on the couch and throwing snark darts at everyone whizzing by you.
The Wall Street Journal is of course notoriously conservative in many ways, and it’s my understanding that conservatives value things like freedom and working hard for yourself, staying away from dependence on others. What’s more free than getting out there and running? You’re not locked into a treadmill or a rowing machine (though, if you enjoy that, more power to you–whatever works). You’re not even stuck to a certain path. If you want you can just take off across a field or down a beach. You’re staying healthy, which means you’re less dependent on insurance, which is of course a socialist concept to begin with.
Ultimately I don’t care what Chad Stafko thinks about how I choose to spend my time. He doesn’t know me, and he’ll never read this. What truly bothers me is his attitude, and the fact that it was amplified by a mouthpiece like the Wall Street Journal. That’s disheartening. It’s petty. It’s helpful to no one, and it’s certainly not news. Aren’t we supposed to be up in arms about how fat and slobby and unambitious we are? About how we’re being outpaced by everyone around us? About how our kids don’t understand hard work, or how anything worth getting is difficult to get?
I feel bad for him, because to tear down something that others enjoy indicates to me that there isn’t much he does enjoy. He’s never run by the lake in Central Park at dusk, when snow is falling and it’s quiet enough to hear the flakes land and the skyline of 59th Street south of the park is nothing but points of light held in the snow haze. He’s never run down the West Side Highway in view of the Statue of Liberty, the training montage music from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! running through his head. He’s never run in the freezing rain, not a soul in sight until someone comes from the opposite direction and you share a look that says in .5 seconds “Yeah, this is pretty shitty, but we love it and we are badass.”
But he did get a snarky little opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, so I guess he has that going for him.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.
Edgar was walking south on Ninth Avenue, on his way to work, when he saw Paul. Paul had not seen Edgar yet. It was a peculiar talent Edgar had, to see and recognize people on the street well before they saw him. It was complementary to his intense anxiety over any conversation with those outside his circle of immediate family and lifelong friends. It gave him time to either formulate an opening or take steps to avoid the person. New York City was probably not the best place for Edgar to live.
Paul was an acquaintance from a few years ago, when Edgar had done some design work for Paul’s website. Paul was an artist of sorts, and Edgar found him terribly cool and unique. They had nothing in common. Edgar knew Paul lived in the neighborhood, and had managed to avoid him twice and navigated a brief, awkward conversation once with some success. Edgar had started that conversation, finding himself with nowhere to turn as Paul approached. Edgar had time to compose an opening line about Paul’s site, but stuttered and blended two words together so that “Hey Paul! Site running well?” turned into “P-P-P-PAUL. Stunning well?” It was this stutter-blend that jumped into Edgar’s mind now as Paul walked nearer, oblivious in his headphones. Edgar immediately broke into a cold sweat and decided on avoidance this time.
This part of Ninth Avenue was under heavy construction at the moment, and its width was foreshortened by an orange mesh barrier, so Edgar couldn’t cross the street. It was also sparsely populated at the moment, so he couldn’t lose himself from Paul in a clump of pedestrians, either. Paul was walking rather quickly, and Edgar knew if he turned in the other direction and started walking Paul would be behind him and could catch up before Edgar turned the corner. With time running out, Edgar made the snap decision to turn away from Paul and start coughing on the spot. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Paul getting close, so he doubled over in a sneeze, further hiding himself for good measure. He stayed down for a few seconds, collecting himself, then, certain that the coast was clear, snapped upright and turned to keep walking to work. He immediately came face to face with Paul, who had stopped in front of him.
His brain completely overwhelmed by the surge of blood brought on by coughing and doubling over in a sneeze, then drained of said blood as he jerked upright, Edgar’s vision began to gray out as he squeezed out a feeble “Stunning?” Manhattan whirled around him as he tipped backwards through the mesh barrier, falling five feet headfirst into the ditch dug out by the construction crew on the other side.
Edgar’s eyes cracked open and institutional whiteness flooded his vision. There was a brief moment of confusion as to his state of consciousness before the intense throbbing in his skull began, alerting Edgar that he was in fact awake. He rolled his eyes to the left, feeling them move in their cavities like swollen grapes, and saw a thick window looking out onto a small courtyard. A man in a white coat walked by outside. Edgar looked down and saw that he was in a hospital bed, with IV lines connected to his right arm laying on the sheet. He followed the lines to his right, up to the bags hanging on the rack, and saw machines beeping out the state of his body. There was a person sitting on the other side of the machines. As Edgar focused his eyes on this stranger, he looked up. Paul said “Hey, you’re awake! You took a real tumble, I didn’t want you to wake up alone. How do you feel?”
Edgar froze. He had never imagined a scenario like this and had no idea what to say. He stared at Paul, his skull throbbing out the time in an unsettling disharmony with the beeping from the monitors. His mind raced nowhere. He could hear a nurse passing in the hallway, her shoes muttering quietly as she walked. Someone coughed somewhere. Edgar stared. Paul stared.
In a sudden rush, Edgar said “I have to go.” He lurched out of bed, yanking out his IV drip in a hot stinging flash, then rushed to the window and heaved it up. He stumbled over the sill and ran as quickly as he could across the courtyard, his gown flapping across his bare behind.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.
I’m normally the first in line to lecture about the evils of unoriginal movies; sequels of sequels, and reboots, and the optioning of every young adult franchise ever put to paper. But I have to make an exception for the new Carrie. I saw the original. It’s great of course, and that last scare still scares, but my god. The fashion. The hair. The sets. It’s very much a film for and of its time, and that time was just awful.
I propose Hollywood spend the next few years remaking everything from the 70s that’s not a timeless classic (e.g. The Godfather, Taxi Driver, French Connection, etc). They’ve gotten a pretty good head start with Poseidon, Herbie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Getaway, The Great Gatsby, The Out of Towners, Willard, Escape to Witch Mountain, Walking Tall, King Kong, The Omen, The Bad News Bears, Freaky Friday, Superman, The Amityville Horror…
…y’know, nevermind. I think they beat me to the punch. But can we remake Scarface again? I know it was 1983, Let’s all just forget Al Pacino was so good in it. Because come on:
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.