What’s Making Me Happy, October 13, 2012

My favorite pop culture podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, ends each episode with a segment called “What’s Making You Happy,” and each of the panelists takes a turn sharing what in the world of popular culture and the arts is making them happy. With that inspiration, I’m going start doing a regular blog post on Paradoxologies about what’s making me happy. It will be fun to write, the sharing will also make me happy, and it will be an opportunity to spread good vibes (think: Puppies and Rainbows!).

I’m not promising that it will always be related to popular culture, although this first blog post is. And actually, I have two things that are making me happy:

The first: WXPN – I don’t know why it has taken me almost a year to discover this station. I guess I have been listening to Pandora and my podcasts all the time. Happily, a colleague at work told me that this week they are doing a count down of the 885 Greatest Rock Songs. It made the end of the week more fun in the office, and now I (finally) know about this local Philly radio station that has amazing programming! Yay!

The other thing making me happy is Tig Notaro. Notaro is a stand-up comedian who first came to my attention this past spring in the live show that This American Life did, in an act called Groundhog Dayne about Notaro’s encounter with the pop singer Taylor Dayne. I loved Notaro immediately. She’s silly and hilarious.  Later in the summer, I saw a clip of Notaro on a blog post that was shared in response to Daniel Tosh’s offensive rape “joke”, a story that was controversial and viral in July. The post was 15 Rape Jokes That Work (debatable, but Notaro’s clip is decidedly funny).

A few weeks later, I heard through social media that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer – in both breasts. And the prognosis didn’t look good.

More about how her story came to light, about about how she was faring came out this week. The best part of the story is that she has been successfully treated, and there is only a 7% chance that the cancer will come back. I was very happy to learn this.

The other part of the story that is making me happy is that Notaro is making a name for herself professionally, with the help of a very sweet and significant endorsement from Louis CK. After her cancer diagnosis in the summer, she did a live set at a comedy club in LA, and with raw emotion told the audience about her current bumps in the road. As if the cancer diagnosis weren’t enough, she had just suffered from several other major blows in her personal life, compounding everything. Louis CK was in the audience that night in August (and had performed at the club that evening as well). The next day, Louis CK tweeted:

in 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.

That right there made Tig Notaro go viral. So, her comedy and the very happy conclusion of this rough patch in her life, and Louis CK’s endorsement (really – what a great guy) of her work are making me happy this week. I can’t wait to see more of Tig Notaro’s work and comedy.

Terry Gross interviewed both Notaro and Louis CK about this story this week. You can hear part of her set in the story. Plus they are just great interviews.

You can purchase Notaro’s whole set on Louis CK’s site for $5.

Fear And Prejudice On Trial

Perry v Schwarzenegger put Proposition 8 on trial. More precisely, as attorney David Boies put it, the case put fear and prejudice on trial.

In case you missed it last night, the recording of the reading of 8: A Play About The Fight For Marriage Equality will be available for one week. The new play about Perry v Schwarzenegger, the Proposition 8 trial has been produced and promoted by the American Foundation for Equal Rights as a strategic move in the marriage equality movement. The defendants in this case, the proponents of Prop 8, have argued successfully so far to keep the videos of the actual trial sealed. They want to keep them sealed because they know those tapes will damage their overall cause. They performed so badly and their arguments were so ridiculous that it was laughable. And the families that were there to tell their stories were so touching and compelling, public perception can’t help but land in favor of marriage equality.

You can certainly read about it, as the media covered it. When the trial was going on, I was following the news very closely as an interested party. When I read the news, I remember laughing out loud at some of the testimony. The burden of the defense, the Prop 8 proponents, was to show how “traditional” couples and families would be harmed by gay and lesbian couples getting married. They came with nothing. They could not demonstrate how this would be so, and they looked foolish and mean-spirited in the process.

So, in lieu of being able to see the tapes of the trial, we have “8”. It’s an all-star cast, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jaimie Lee Curtis, Jane Lynch, John C. Reily, and others, all HUGE names behind this! And with Rob Reiner producing, there is an amazing amount of clout and power behind this. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate their commitment to the project and the fight for marriage equality.

2009 Passages

I keep a page on this blog for Inspiring Lives where I post links to obituaries for people whom I admire. In a past professional life, one of my assignments was to read obituaries, and it was a task I began to enjoy. I find them to be beautiful tributes written with care and love. Over the years I have read many that truly are inspiring, so much so that from time to time I would cut one out of the paper and tack it too the cork board above my desk. Friends have observed that they feel sad when the read the obits, but I also find joy and celebration in the words.

I am no longer required to read the obits, but I have kept the habit. I subscribe to a few obituary blogs, and I will share my favorites on Facebook and Twitter, and of course track them here.

2009 has marked many passings, and honestly I haven’t been able to keep up. Today, as I begin a New Years resolution to write and blog more, I am updating my page and remembering all of the wonderful people who we lost in 2009 who made life on this earth a little sweeter. Even in their passing we can be happy that they lived, and honor them with acknowledgement and celebration.

This year, these death hit close to home. I shed tears as I watched the telecasts of the memorials for Ted Kennedy and Michael Jackson, sharing in the popular grief of the rest of the Nation as we witnessed the end of an era. My family lost our beloved uncle, Ted Larson, in February, and on Little Christmas Eve Lula Maria Walker Smith, my wife’s mother, passed away after a long illness.

The nine-year anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up on January 10th. The profundity of her passing, continues to teach me that death is a gift, if you are open to to receiving it as such.

For every life that I cite here, I am grateful. Namaste.

Here are some of the collected tributes for 2009:

Freeheld Wins!

So, as usual, Gillian and I watched the Oscars as we always do, feeling really out of it this year because we just haven’t had the bandwidth to keep up with the movie season. We’ll get there with our Net Flix subscription, but we just haven’t had the time, energy, or money to keep up with the contenders.

Or so we thought. Sure, we missed Juno, but we managed to watch Away From Her before the show yesterday afternoon. And a few weeks ago we got out to see There Will Be Blood. I love the Coen Brothers, but I have to be in the mood to see something like No Country for Old Men (it looks scary!). Oh, and earlier in the fall we got to see Michael Clayton (I heart Tilda Swinton).

So, as they were announcing the best documentary short subject, I turned to Gillian to ask “How do we get to see the shorts?” to which she replied “Film festivals, of course.” And then Freeheld was announced the winner. We were just assuming that we hadn’t had the opportunity to see any of the films, so we weren’t really paying attention. But then the winners started talking about same sex couples and inheritance rights and stuff, and we realized that we had indeed seen this film! We saw Freeheld at the Reeling Film Festival during our first weeks here in Chicago.

Freeheld is the story of Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester, who, after a 25 year career with the Ocean County, NJ police department learned she had terminal lung cancer. She was denied the right to leave her pension to her partner Stacie Andree, a right she would have had if she had been in a heterosexual marriage. I don’t need to go into the details. See the movie. It’s amazing and inspiring and hopeful.

In one moment I felt so many emotions: Smug that I had actually seen the winning short documentary; sad at remembering the tragic story of love and loss that the movie told; grateful that Lieutenant Hester was brave enough to fight and generous enough to open her life during the last most intimate and painful moments of her life to fight for her partner and for the rights of others; proud that the battle for civil rights for same-sex couples has been brought to the forefront of popular culture in another way; and delighted that this important film won the Oscar.

It’s cheesy, I know, but this is why I watch the Oscars.