We Eat What We Like

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were patiently waiting in a long line to get something that hadn’t been readily available in that particular form in our city for a long long time. That something was a staple of the area in which we grew up, and the line itself had nearly a hundred other people willing to wait for the exact same thing. Sure, it was a boring wait, but there was excitement in the air. People discussing for hours on end which items they were most eager to get. And I’m not kidding when I say hours. We waited over 2 hours in this line. “What for” you ask? Well, we waited over 2 hours in a line for the only Dunkin Donuts location in the Los Angeles area. This was the Sunday after it opened, and throughout the week we were hearing of long, hour or two lines from our friends on social media. We still went. Because Dunkin’ hadn’t ever been in Los Angeles, at least not during the period in which we lived there.

Dunkin’ Donuts, like any other regional super-chain, has the kind of cultural following that a band may have. If you move to a new area and the don’t know about Dunkin’ – it becomes this amazing, mythical experience that one cannot simply comprehend unless they’re from there. The fact that it is something so prevalent in Boston and other east-coast or midwestern cities and so non-existent in LA made the fact that the company has finally started opening stores back in the Southern California area that much more exciting.

Now look, I know Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t realistically the best anything. Despite being in the company’s name, the donuts are average but tasty. The coffee is very sweet and has a wide variety of flavors, often expanding during the different seasons. My favorite, and most other people’s favorite product is their coffee, most likely their iced coffee – which in a country increasingly concerned about health and watching what one consumes, may be too sugary and sweet for many people’s tastes. Especially in a very heath-conscious town like Los Angeles. However, as an alternative to the perceived “high class-ness” of chains like Starbucks, Dunkin’ is an anti-everything version of the Starbucks style of coffee shop. It’s barely a coffee shop – more along the lines of a fast food place that provides great-tasting coffee and perfectly fine donuts. And also is probably the best culprit of that particular spelling of the word “doughnut.”

But Dunkin’ Donuts is just one of those things that reminds you of home, and when you move away from your home, especially 3,000 miles away, you seek out those homely comforts on a regular basis. I have been purchasing Dunkin’ ground coffee for home for 5 years, and I had literally just been back to Boston the week before and had a Dunkin coffee in Boston, and yet I still wanted to and had no problem with braving a 2+ hour line to get some in LA.

Some people can’t accept that. When we had waited 2 hours and were about to actually enter the store, when a woman stops by and asks us how long we’ve been waiting. After telling her the approximate among of time, she asks us if we’ve actually every had Dunkin’ Donuts. And before we even get a chance to answer her question, she simply walks away saying “…it’s not worth it.”

This irked me. I joked to the people behind me in line who she was also talking to, that this woman basically said, to our faces, “hey – you guys are all idiots and you’re wasting your time. I’m better than you because I’m not stupid enough to do that.” Who the hell is this woman to tell me how I should spend my time or what is “worth” my time? What is it to her how other people spend their time? Would she walk by the line to a concert or sporting event and be like “have you seen basketball? it’s not worth it.” If I were on a bike driving by her while she was walking down the street, I wouldn’t say – “you’re wasting your time, biking is much better and quicker!” Just keep walking lady, pay no attention to the hundreds of people clearly crazy enough to wait in a line for a thing. We’re not giving you any trouble or inconvenience. Why the hate?

Now, the internet has become a great place not only for long-winded personal rants like this one, but for anonymous critique and negative energy. “Outrage culture,” “trolling,” and all those other negative words that cause a simple event or concept, put a negative spin on it and make it “the worst thing in the world (today).” So it may just be more prevalent in society today for people to outwardly express their discontent on things that don’t necessarily concern them much, they just always feel the need to have an opinion on. But it’s ridiculous. Why does person B have to put down person A for liking a thing? Aren’t we all individuals with individual tastes? Sure, a single Dunkin’ Donuts glazed donut you once had may have not wowed you, and you personally can’t imagine waiting more than 5 minutes for that item. So don’t do it. It was worth it to us hundred people that day, and the thousands that waited in line for similar lengths of time that opening week, and the weeks that followed. So why make a stink about it? Does it really make you feel superior to outwardly express your belief that a large group of people on a city block were wasting their time, and you were a better person for not wasting your time?

I get this as a fan of Professional Wrestling a lot. Yes, I may not have publicly announced that on this site, but it’s all over my social media, and to my close friends and family it’s no secret. But Pro Wrestling fans get this automatic disdain all the time. “You know that stuff is fake, right?” is the common refrain. It’s not real sports, it’s pre-determined, so therefore it can’t be as exciting or entertaining as real sports, because you never know what’s going to happen. Sure, that’s a main draw of real sports – you never know the outcome. And that’s why I also love sports. There’s an excitement in witnessing something unfold before your eyes, and there can be surprises everywhere. That also applies to Pro Wrestling. Sure, SOMEONE knows the outcome, but as a fan viewing the product, I personally don’t know the outcome. So if tomorrow you found out that for the past 50 years, every single NFL game had been pre-determined and it was a huge rouse, would that take away from your prior enjoyment of football? For those fans who have been fortunate enough to see their team win a Superbowl, would that take away from the excitement and glee you felt when the final seconds of the clock wound down as your team secured victory? Of course not. Pro Wrestling at its best, can tap into that glee – when you have a favorite wrestler going through his trials and tribulations in getting to that World Championship. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of such a thing, because it’s manufactured to tap into that as a fan. The better parts of being a Pro wrestling fan is that you can also analyze the storytelling like a television show; which is also completely fabricated and a small group of people know the outcome in advance. Does that take away from your enjoyment of Breaking Bad? Of course not! That’s ridiculous. By the same token, when you get annoyed by a creative decision or direction of a favorite show, do you not talk to your friends about it and map out what you would have done? Don’t people also do that with sports? “We should have run the ball more, their defense was all over our receivers all game, that’s why we lost.” You as a fan have no control over what you’re watching and enjoying, you’re just along for the ride. Pro Wresting gives fans a chance to loudly voice their opinions about certain characters or storylines while in the arena. We don’t like a guy? “BOOOOOO!!! YOU SUCK!!” We love a guy? “DAN-IEL BRY-AN clap clap clapclapclap!” Pro Wrestling, since it is put on as live entertainment on a weekly basis, is made to cater to the audience in a way that sports can’t and television or other scripted entertainment can’t do directly. That’s the appeal. Sports-themed entertainment we can have a part in. Throughout the history of the industry, countless wrestlers have changed face (to sheepishly use some wrestling terminology) because fans have rejected the position or character being presented to them. You know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? You know how popular and awesome he is right now? When he debuted he was this cartoonish, smiley guy with jheri curls and streamers on his outfit. People did not like it, and eventually boo’ed him so much WWE (WWF at the time) decided to turn him into a bad guy, to fit what the fans thought of him. He eventually used that to create “The Rock” character, someone who fans could boo because they loved to boo, and he was too entertaining not to like.

Yes, that’s the future lead of Hercules.

That’s a very long-winded way of saying that it is awesome being a fan of a thing. I’ve been using the vague term “a thing” because it can apply to anything. You’re a dude and you like My Little Pony? Sure. You’re a die-hard Menudo fan? Why not. You never miss a performance of Shakespeare in the Park? Have at it. Entertainment exists so that the millions (and millions!) of people can find what they like and go enjoy it. I have been working for the past 4 years in Reality Television. I like some of shows and I don’t like other shows. There are people who LOVE every single reality show in existence. There are those who don’t. That’s totally fine. If you’re in the latter category, you don’t have to tell me your disdain for what has been paying my bills and keeping me not homeless for 4 years. Clearly some people like it, which is why it is successful and exists in the first place. You can watch something you like, and don’t worry about stuff you don’t like.

This rant was in part sparked by wrestling fan and popular radio personality, Sam Roberts, in his recent podcast rant about Apple people vs. Not Apple People. As an Apple Person myself, I tend to agree with NotSam. I like Apple and have liked Apple products my whole life because there’s very little complications to them. Things just work and are convenient and easy. I’ve made my consumer decision, so I will stick with that ecosystem for as long as they’ll shell stuff out for me. I like their products, I like the user experience, it’s comfortable and uncomplicated. I don’t think about “the competition.” But the competition seems like all they do is think about Apple. I get that it’s business and consumer products that live or die by competition, however for a non-Apple user to perpetually hate on any and all Apple users for simply being an Apple user is the same principle of that lady telling us that waiting 2 hours in line for something we love isn’t worth it. Of course it’s worth it if you like it. Look at how many people wait for way longer than 2 hours for the launch of the new iPhones last week! Sure we’re all literally buying into a culture of die-hard fandom for products instead of entertainment like sports or wrestling, but if we as humans are inclined to geek-out over something that makes you happy, why discourage that? In the end, it’s all a luxury we’re all too complacent with. We should be thankful we have such “first-world problems” like being able to choose which awesome, amazing, incredibly advanced mini-computer we want to use on a daily basis for communication and entertainment. So let’s just high-five those people waiting in line at Apple Stores across the country, celebrate them expressing their excitement over one of their loves. Let’s flip channels, stop at Monday Night Raw, and instead of roll our eyes at how ridiculous and “fake” the product in the ring looks, and instead appreciate how happy those people in the arena are to just be there. Let’s give kudos to those sports fans who during the World Cup or Olympics, woke up at 4am just to watch their team play live from across the globe. We’re an advanced civilization and fellow humans invented or created all these incredible things we’re going crazy over. That’s something amazing. Just enjoy it.

And just try Dunkin’s iced coffee, even if you prefer Starbucks. I don’t need you to get it, I just need you to try it without judgement. Thanks.

Best of 2010: TV Episodes

This one is  tough one, there was a lot of great TV this year, and since I’m including episodes from two seasons of TV, it was tough to limit myself to just one episode per show. Here goes.

Mad Men “The Suitcase”

In an ensemble show, it’s tough to take a full episode to just focus on two characters. Mad Men nailed it with “The Suitcase,” written by the show’s creator and runner, Matthew Weiner, the majority of the action takes place on a late night in Don Draper’s office, as he and Peggy Olsen work all night on a campaign for suitcase-maker Samsonite (get the title now?) What I loved so much about this episode, was that it played like a two-character play. Don and Peggy are the real leads of the show, as they both showcase strong desires to do succeed without worrying about how it affects their personal lives. Peggy, being the protegé, looks up to Don, and takes pride in the fact that she quickly became a copy-writer as a woman, under Don’s guidance, and strives to be seen as one of the guys, or at least wants her work to speak for herself and not her gender. Don understands this and appreciates Peggy’s determination, and the two garner an unspoken respect for one another. In season 4, not much had been touched on with this relationship until this episode, and that’s why the episode was so great – both characters had kind of coasted on their own without much personal interaction throughout the season, and it was about time they put the two together again. Through their night-long work session, they get into each other’s personal lives, something that neither character really allows any other character in the office to do. Peggy, in a relationship for the first time in a while, manages to still put her work before her personal life, even on her birthday. Don on the other hand, is dealing with the impending news of his friend Anna’s death from cancer. He is too scared to call her niece and hear the news out loud, so he’s surrounding himself in work to get his mind off it. After the episode’s events take place, Don finally makes the call, and the two characters fall asleep on his couch after emotionally draining nights. Not only was this a great episode for these two characters, and of course extremely well-written in that sense, but the performances by Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss was also incredible, and perhaps Hamm may find himself with an Emmy for it at the end of the year. For a show that continually puts out incredible episodes, this one in particular really shows how great the Mad Men crew is.

CommunityModern Warfare

Stepping into comedy, Community hit one out of the park with this episode, affectionately known as the “Paintball Episode.” Greendale is overtaken by a school-wide paintball fight, as students pine for first dibs on creating their schedule for the next semester. In the madness that ensues, we see our main characters turning on each other, even in the form of Jeff and Britta having sex finally, after a season’s worth of sexual tension between the two. The episode was my favorite from season 1, and was as action-packed as the movies they were paying homage to (with enough laughs to match it).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Community (again) “Epidemiology”

From Season 2, another homage to a film-genre, this time in the form of a zombie-apocalypse (not unlike The Walking Dead, see my notes on one of my favorite new shows of 2010 here). Using an actually well-believable premise that the punch at the school’s Halloween party is spiked, but not with alcohol. The semi-poisonous concoction turns students into feverish, zombie-like beings, who infect those that they bite (you know the deal with zombies). Our main characters are quarantined into the study room to survive the apocalypse until help can arrive. As they figure out the problem, they determine that if they lower the temperature in the building, maybe the fevers will be broken. After the study room is compromised and some characters attacked, the remaining survivors attempt to get to the thermostat and lower the temperature. The entire episode was great, and like “Modern Warfare,” took a genre and paid homage to it without making fun of it, in the vain of Sean of the Dead. Despite this, the best moment was when Troy, Abed and Jeff find themselves in the basement, and a flying, attack cat screeches across the screen. Not having to do with anything zombie-related, Jeff aims to find out what is making that cat fly the way it is “Is someone throwing it?” Moments like that show how well the show can achieve comedic moments even outside of their episodic homages.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Community (one more) “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

The Christmas episode, shot in stop-motion, a-la Frosty the Snowman, the episode follows Abed’s imaginary journey to find the meaning of Christmas. The other characters, sympathetic to his emotional duress, play along, some more enthusiastic about it than others. What we find out is that Abed is upset about not being able to spend Christmas with his mother, a tradition that has never been broken. Stop-motion animation aside, the episode was great because it told an emotional story without sacrificing any comedy, which is something the show is good at when it wants to be. Bonus points for the “Lost” season one lack of payoff joke, and the remote-controlled Christmas pterodactyl. Not one who has any strong emotional ties to Christmas, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and understood Abed’s emotional journey. I also commonly wish my life were animated in some sort of cartoon-ish state, instead of this boring live action world.

Terriers “Hail Mary” (Watch)

The season/series finale, I talked a bit about it in my Best New TV Shows of 2010 post, the show came to an end in a way that both concluded up the story arc that had continued to reveal more twists and turns, including one big one in the finale, and left the viewers satisfied with how the main characters play out their role as detectives, and remain optimistic about their rough personal lives. Brit, as I noted in the other post, was on his way to prison after being arrested for assaulting Katie’s classmate, whom he mistakenly thought was her lover. Hank on the other hand, had just dealt with the death of Gretchen’s new husband Jason, a situation in which Hank was indirectly responsible for, as Jason was brought in on the detectives’ theories on the land-grab conspiracy. Brit has prison to look forward to in the immediate future, but the promise of a new start with Katie after he gets out. That is, if he doesn’t decide to flee to Mexico with Hank. The season’s mystery arc was finished satisfyingly, although with a surprising new character thrown into the mix as the brains behind the land-grab. A little sudden, but not entirely unbelievable. Bad Guy Lawyer Zeitland proved not to be the main man behind the conspiracy, and of course, if you think about it, a corrupt lawyer would be likely to take orders from a more corrupt business man, and not be the brains behind the outfit himself. It was sad to see the show go, but a well-done finale that can strongly serve as a series finale.

The Walking Dead “Days Gone By” (Pilot)

The first episode of The Walking Dead was a great one, and it played out exactly like a full zombie film. Rick Grimes wakes up in the hospital to find the world is now surging with human-flesh-craving zombies. His first instinct is to go home and find his family, but instead he finds and empty house with signs of them leaving peacefully (the photo albums are missing). He runs into a father (Morgan) and son (Duane) who are hiding out in Rick’s neighbor’s house, waiting it out. Their hesitancy to move on is capped by their wife/mother’s zombie body walking the streets of the neighborhood. The emotion that is still ripe in both these characters is very prevalent when the zombie wife approaches the house’s doorsteps and attempts to open the door – Duane gets scared and hides under the covers. In another sequence, toward the end after Rick leaves the two with some well-need artillery from the police station, Morgan sets up a sniper spot upstairs to knock out the walkers outside, and when he gets his wife in his sights, he still can’t bring himself to pull the trigger. While Rick starts out on his journey toward Atlanta to find safe haven, we find out that his wife Lori and son Carl are with a group of survivors, lead by Rick’s old partner Shane, who is now sleeping with Lori. As Rick gets trapped in an abandoned tank in the streets of now zombie-infested Atlanta, the episode ends on him getting a call on the walkie inside the tank, asking if he needs help. The episode perfectly sets up the situation and characters we’ll spend the next 5 episodes observing, and turns out to be the most prominently zombie-filled episode of the season.

Lost “Ab Aeterno”

Decided not to use the finale, because while I enjoyed it when it aired, it still remains a slight disappointment as far as a culmination of the series, and while season 6 was also a disappointment and confusion-filled season, one remaining great episode that most fans can agree on is, “Ab Aeterno,” an entirely Richard Alpert-centric flashback episode, that finally explains why this mystery character has been around so long in the island, and how he got there in the first place. First off, kudos to Nestor Carbonell, who really got to show his range as an actor, as mid 19th-century Spanish man as opposed to his normal, mysterious, English-speaking island veteran. The episode gave detailed backstory on Richard and his plight that lead him to the island – a dying wife, a murderous mistake, a prison sentence and disastrous shipwreck that culminated in him being the only survivor, thanks to the smoke monster. Through a series of tricks from the Man in Black, Richard is thrown into the brotherly feud between “good” and “evil” forces on the Island, and eventually sides with Jacob, who gives him eternal life (and also kind of explains what the island is – a cork that aims to keep “evil” from getting out – still not sure about that one.) In a season where most were expecting answers to long-awaited questions, Ab Aeterno actually provided a big one – “who the hell is this Richard guy?”

24 Series Finale

Can’t believe I almost forgot to add this, it’s probably because I was mostly thinking of shows that aired during the summer and through this current season. Anyways, I covered it in a long 1,721-word review of the series and its final episode. While there were some great “oh shit!” moments on the show in the episodes leading up to the finale, which could very well had taken the cake had the finale not been the show’s last episode, (I’m thinking specifically of Body-Armored Jack single-handedly attacking Logan’s caravan, to Logan’s terrified “That’s Jack Bauer!” revelation. The episode served a season finale content-wise, because really how can a show like “24” sum up a whole series worth of television in a real-time hour of a day? It’s not an emotional montage type show. “24” was able to capture the emotion of a show ending simply within the last few minutes, as Jack and Chloe, the series’ two longest-running characters (who hadn’t ever got caught in cougar traps), speaking to each other on the phone for one last time. Jack reveals to her that at the beginning, he never thought she’d be the only one to have his back this entire time, a sentiment that echoed the audiences’ from Chloe’s early season on the show. In a sense, having Chloe be Jack’s most trusted ally throughout her seasons on the show was one of the show’s big twists, however slowly it developed. Jack’s heartfelt goodbye brought them both to tears, rare occurrences for both characters. Chloe closes out the show’s dialogue with three words “shut it down,” as she and Jack have a brief moment via video screen, Jack looking up at the drone in the sky and Chloe looking at the feed, right before he rushes off to uncertain destiny, and she walks out of CTU as the lights turn off. The countdown clock reaches 00:00:00, and 24 fans wait to see if we’ll get to witness our favorite bad-ass character in some sort of movie version.

Honorable mention – Conan’s last two weeks on “The Tonight Show” (NBC). After making what could only be one of the toughest decisions of his career, and more-than-likely life, and stepping away from a job he strove for for 15 years, Conan’s last two weeks on NBC brought back the carefree Conan we came to love after his 15 years at 12:35. He didn’t care about alienating viewers, or upsetting the network since he was in a bigger spotlight at 11:35. He openly made fun of his employers, and just let loose in general about the unfortunate situation he found himself in. Conan has always been great a self-deprecating humor, and coupled with seething nightly attacks at NBC, Jay Leno and the entire situation, he was on fire for those two weeks. Luckily, he was able to keep that momentum going through his stage tour and now his TBS show, “Conan.” Special note goes to his final episode, where he signed off with another heartfelt goodbye, as he did the year before after signing off on “Late Night.” And he ended his NBC run jamming out on guitar to “Free Bird.” Come on, who wouldn’t love to do that?

The Many Answers for “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I’ve moved out to Los Angeles to pursue the ever-mocked and questioned career in entertainment, and yet I still find myself having to explain “why?” to friends and family. Nothing against any of them who are asking those questions – it is a tough thing for people to grasp, especially when the decision and subsequent move snuck up on a lot of them.

Let’s shift back in time a few years, to when I’m entering college. I decided upon Boston University because they had a great Communications school, and I was looking to study Journalism, because I enjoyed writing. However, the beginning classes in Journalism, and the articles I took it upon myself to write for two school papers quickly made me realize that writing was really the only thing I liked about journalism – not the reporting, not newspaper deadlines and formats. Just writing. I saw columnists like Dave Barry, or in later years Bill Simmons, and saw that they pretty much had carte blanche to write whatever they wanted, and both seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. However, you can’t just become a national syndicated columnist with the green light to write about 90210 or Silly Putty. They had to come up from somewhere, learn the ropes of the industry and work their way up to the top, where they wanted to be.

Again, nothing wrong with that career path, but I realized that I liked writing, and just wanted to write about whatever – my first bouts in writing all were personal memoir-type journal entries and stories, I never had the burning desire to report on school funding and where exactly our large Undergraduate Student Fees really went to. I figured since I was at this great Communications school, which aside from a great Journalism program, had a great Film and TV program, I should focus my writing desires into television, where I could not only write from a more personal level, but I’d have more creativity with it and it was a medium I always enjoyed, and found it incredible that I could study it as a major.

And so, I ventured into the world of entertainment, looking to write for television, and as I took classes at BU, really enjoyed them and knew this is what I wanted to do. Once I found out about BU’s Los Angeles Internship Program, I knew that it would be something I’d benefit from, and it would also give me a taste of what Los Angeles and the real Entertainment Industry would be like. I did the program, liked it, and that pretty much cemented my decision to move out here.

Now, during this time,  I may have only discussed school-related things with friends and family on rare occasions; whether it be family functions or short catch-up sessions during school breaks where we’d talk about how school was going for about 15 minutes, then go back to making dick and fart jokes and reminiscing about high school, realizing that the drama we thought we left at home still existed whenever we came back. We never really delved into what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing. Plus, especially with friends, and I’m guilty of this too, college and the work involved is so self-involved that there’s not much time to concern yourself with how your friends are doing in their individual endeavors – you have a big midterm to study for.

This sounds a bit cynical, and I don’t mean for it to be. I’m just commenting on the inherent personal pressures we all face in college, and especially toward the end, when we’re trying to finish school and figure out what’s next, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and forget about the other people in your life.

Anyways, back to present time, where I find that every time I go home and hang out with friends, or see a family member, I have to update them on how things are going, which inevitably means rationalizing the decision to move to LA. Yes, this year has gone a lot better – I’ve found more consistent work at a reputable production company, and have also been getting consistent freelance editing work on the side, but it’s still nowhere near the financial security that a lot of my friends have. Right now, I have jobs lined up for the future, but I am still technically out of work and struggling between jobs. But I am happy, and the work I do is very helpful in learning new things about editing and the post production process, which will definitely help me later on in my career. But despite this, there are still parts of my life I have to rationalize to them – I’ve worked but there are always periods in the industry where work dies down and people have lulls in projects – it’s just the nature of the beast. I’m not going to start out as a CEO of a Production Company or an Agent – I won’t have job security for a few years at least. But I can take this time off to write, to pursue other interests like comedy or photography (which will come once I have money to buy a nice camera). When you just have a desire to create and entertain, everything you do toward that goal is considered progress.

Every now and then I have to think back and ask myself if I could have done anything else with college or my life after college, and I really can’t find a solid answer to that – which probably means I’m either not qualified for anything else, or I picked the right place and industry to be in. In a way, it’s an industry full of ambitious and creative people, who often did not have other options or qualifications; something compelled them to create and focus their ambitions toward entertaining the masses of people who chose more stable and realistic careers – many of whom are the same friends and family who ask “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

That’s my long answer to the question, but I guess it can be answered in a short way too – “Why Not? What Else should I do?”