dark knight

This past weekend, I was chatting with this cool partner of one of Husband’s pals who had just gotten back from Malawi (hello, not the average life experience, unless you’re Madonna) and was commenting how ludricrous it was that “Dark Knight” made $150 million — “You could educate every kid in Malawi for that money!”

Sure, the movie is excellent — excellent writing and excellent acting, which are usually things that get neglected in big commercial pictures (which maybe be why I especially dug it). Across the board, even in the minor characters, people were actually acting instead of calling it in! Yay! (Heath Ledger was amazing, I think even more gifted than Cate Blanchett, whom I dig, but I sort of feel like we’ve already seen everything she can do. As Queen Elizabeth, yes, she rocked, but it felt pretty similar to the fairy queen meltdown moments in the Lord of the Rings stuff. Sorry.) The story line presents, I think, a more ambiguous idea of heroes.

Back to the idea of worth, because there are a lot of companies and people in this world that I do feel make way too much money (The CEO of Halliburton, for example). But when it comes to Malawi versus Dark Knight, I happen to strongly feel Dark Knight deserves every dollar it gets, and I happen to feel this because I think the whole point of art is to present to us a reason why life is worth living. A good story — a story that can absorb you and help you transcend your day to day life by engaging your imagination and your heart — is worth every freaking dollar you give it. I probably feel this way because I am an artist but also because I think happiness is the ultimate goal, and a good story can make you happy.

There have been a lot of economic studies on happinesses (I’ve read a lot of them), and I thought it was a funny thing to measure, but what I found is that the folks who live in the most industrialized countries with the highest standards of living did not rate their quality of life as particularly happy. In fact, the U.S. folks in one study I read rated themselves at the same level of happiness as rural residents in Vietnam. (Scandanavians were happiest for reasons I can explain in another post — among them though, universal health care, yearlong maternity leaves, socialist values, etc. Having good health was a big determinant.) Believe it or not, there was some crazy example of a prostitute in India as rating themselves at a happier level than office workers in Western countries.

Reading those findings opened my eyes to a different interpretation and challenged my assumptions on what someone else’s life might be like and changed my perspective on…I don’t know, the experience of being human. That $150 million is there because Christopher Nolan and his brother sent out a story that balances escapism and an understanding of real life, so that people could enjoy themselves but see something that wasn’t so beyond their own experiences they couldn’t take it seriously at all.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work towards improving the quality of life in third world countries or recommending that we deny that there are living conditions that are appalling in the world that need to change — especially if it makes you happy (thank you, Sheryl Crow) — but maybe fundraisers could do it faster by charging people for something of genuine value that they vitally need, something that helps them forget their troubles for a spell. Bat Man III for Malawai!

Kentucky Road Trip

I just got back from Kentucky at 4 a.m. this morning and am back at my office desk, hallucinating from lack of sleep and editing text. Fabulous.

Our action-packed Kentucky weekend had two goals: pick up a car Husband bought and attend Husband’s 20th high school reunion. Unexpectedly, I enjoyed his reunion. His friends were all super nice and contextualized their stories, and because it was a performing arts magnet school, even the jocks had a softer, artsier side. Like one beefy dude turned out to be a graphic designer. (Not at all like my old school.) There was early 80s music blaring in a room full of old people (and I say old, because they’re my age) — plumper, balder versions of their early-80s high school selves flashing in a power point showing at the front of the room. I got to see how the Prom Queen, the Jock, and the Nerds turned out as adults, (Nerds win every time), hear soccer practice stories where the guys would take the city bus instead of running their prescribed routes, and dance with Husband as he proceeded to clear like eight feet on the floor for his moves. When we first got out there, I saw these two mom-looking women freaking out when “Blister in the Sun” came on and run to the dance floor to whip around like Molly Ringwald in the “Breakfast Club.” And the fun part of when you go to one of these things, you might have the first reaction of “who are all these old people?” until you realize you’re one of them. Just like looking in a mirror, dude. At least in certain respects of growing up, Kentucky’s not so different from NJ. Certainly, we too had the feather hair and the upturned collars.

And the car…Husband purchased a 1977 Dodge camper van, complete with fridge, bunk beds, sink, stove, closet, a toy-like dashboard, and a “Three’s Company” worthy decor scheme. Luckily, he has a lot of self-esteem, so he didn’t get mad when I sang the theme of “Sanford & Son” as we pulled out of the driveway. (Bonus: when you call people from your cell when driving, no one can hear you b/c the van is so noisy! It’s like calling from the Space Shuttle.)

I forfeited my flight back so that I could keep him company and awake. Honestly, I didn’t really want to, but part of why I married this particular man is that he is an adventure, so who am I to refuse the call. As it was, we hit stand-still, one-lane traffic in Pennsylvania, an hour out of our way when we went the wrong direction on an Interstate, and plenty of snack/pee/gas breaks. Did I mention we don’t have a radio? So we had to resort to singing every song we knew, Husband recited some Shakespeare monologues, I read my Joan Silber short story book aloud when it was light out, we told jokes, we told stories, we asked dumb questions, we named the car (Beatrice), we recited the dialogue from Missy Elliott’s “Under Construction,” till finally, after 18 and 1/2 hours (the trip was supposed to take 12) , we rolled in front of our building at 4 a.m. We are Storm Troopers. I don’t know how we managed, but we won’t ever do that drive in one day again.

But now that I’m sitting at my office, upright due to coffee and energy drinks, I look back on this past trip and all the country we drove past, I have to admit, Kentucky is growing on me.

me on someone else’s blog

Nothing, just that this woman doing a cross-country trip was taking pictures and adding entries to her blog on what you’re reading. I’m posting it here so I remember to wear that shirt again in her entry. I forgot I had it.


I stayed up late last night, so I could catch the “Hair” final dress rehearsal in Central Park, and I think I would recommend it. I’m not a huge musical theater fan in general, because of its seeming steadfast commitment to NOT act, (Dude, is a song a monologue? Could you maybe pick a point of view? Just saying, it’s helpful to do that sort of thing when performing a role) and while that approach is a bit alive in last night’s production, I still enjoyed it. First of all, the songs in that show are fantastic! “Age of Aquarius”? “President of Love”? “Hair”? “Let the Sunshine In”? If only I can come back in the next life as a young, beautiful African-American torch singer, I would break out in “Age of Aquarius” whenever I felt like it…the laundry room, the post office, the mall.

I also felt so sorry for the actors, clad in leather vests, blue jeans, and period wigs in this heat — it’s two hours of intense singing and dancing. Some of them were sweating so much that their mics went haywire. They were incredible sports.

Sometimes when I do go to theater, I think about what turn my life has taken and what I might be missing. With this show, that moment happened when they were headbanging during “Hair,” and I thought “So why am I in an office gig again?” Oh yeah, money — which I’m not knocking. Money is very helpful. It helps us eat and keeps the roof over our heads, but I really, really love head banging. *sigh* I enjoyed a rare head banging session hanging at a bar with friends from the office, but the owner asked me to sit down. I think I was making him nervous. 🙁 big 🙁

project runway

The Asian guy lasted all of ten minutes on last night’s show. I was rooting for him because he was sweating so much and he has a faux-hawk. What’s not to love? Aww, Asian designer guy, we hardly knew ye.

Midas’ Son

On the days when I fervently wish I could come back in the next life as a dog (b/c they look so happy and don’t seem to over-obsess), I try to remember the good things that have happened so far in Tina Lee Life Version 1. For example, I am lucky enough to get my first film script produced.

My friends who started their own production company liked the short and made it happen. It’s about the myth of Midas, but in contemporary times, and instead of pure gold lust, the swim coach in the script craves winning/Olympic gold, which has alienated his super-swimmer son. They got a great group of actors, film talent, and food (mmm, bagels) together for a production that exceeded my wildest expectations –seriously. It’s not done yet, they’re doing edits, but still, dude, how many people can say they got a scripts produced?

And the neat part of the whole process is when things you think up by yourself in your room actually come to life, real concrete life in the real world. There’s one part I’m thinking of — I have the son ride his old Huffy bike to meet his estranged father because it’s the only available set of wheels in the house, and that’s lifted from a memory — when my cousin Ed used to tool around on his own Huffy back the 1980s in grammar school. And whoever worked on props for the film ACTUALLY found a literal Huffy to shoot the scene. Is that not weird? Is that not amazing?

It almost makes me give my dream of coming back as a dog. Almost. Because if I came back as a dog, I might get on “America’s Greatest Dog” on CBS, making my dreams for superstardom come true.

matthew broderick

I read today how Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are taking a family vacation in Ireland for a month. Does anyone else remember when Matthew Broderick traveled to Ireland with then-girlfriend Jennifer Grey and killed an Irish woman in a car accident? For some reason, he was driving on the wrong side of the road, possibly inebriated, and he never went to jail for the accident. Maybe he was fine and the accident was unintentional and not his fault, but isn’t it weird how he gets to live his life and that other family lost a person? Nothing against Matthew Broderick himself. Maybe he’s a really nice guy and I don’t know the details of the accident, but this something I wonder about.

August Osage County

I know! I’ve been seeing a bunch of theater lately, and I’m totally broke because of it.

I had a pal recently who didn’t want to see this show, because “isn’t it about a bunch of screwed up white people?” Yeah, it totally is. And I get her point — theater that features all white casts feel very dated to me, very Donna Reed-1955, probably because whenever I do get to be on stage, it’s because there are a bunch of other colors on stage with me. But this play I thought was fabulous with great parts for women played by great women. The story covers a pretty nasty, pill-addicted matriarch who tries to shred her daughter to pieces so that they’ll be too weak to leave her — a wonderful trait in a character to cause dish-breaking, hair-raising scenes. There is something recognizeable about the way these people tear each other apart, but it’s more fun to watch from a bystander/audience seat than say….the back seat of a Chevrolet.

One thing though — there is a mentally stable Native American maid/cook/caretaker who has to listen to the other characters in every scene that she’s in and does really get to every explore her story. She’s just like a the pillar whom everyone else depends on, to which another friend responded (who is white), with disgust, being that he’s sick of stories about screwed white people who turn to the spiritually more advanced Native American or other non-white.

That IS a common theme, how the OTHER kind of teaches you the error of your ways, and the other can be ethnic, or older, or just British (Mr. Belevedere?). And even though the maid was a minor character, I think there were ways that she could have been enriched that would have been simple and not taken away from the general trajectory of the play.

I still remember watching “Hannah and Her Sisters” with a group of friends in college, and all of us being pretty absorbed in it, and the very last scene, a black woman comes out and serves food and she’s the only nonwhite person in the whole movie, which Okwui, a black pal, pointed out and said it ruined the movie for her–which completely altered my perception of casting. It’s something that had never occurred to me before.

So the point is…I don’t have a point. This just motivates me to write about a screwed-up Asian family who find solace in their white butler…and he’ll be like a really wise, spiritual butler.

charles victor romeo

Crikey, I managed to catch the last night of “Charles Victory Romeo” at the Collective Unconscious. If you haven’t heard of this show, it was big in the 90s in this tiny lower east side theater when NPR did a feature on it. In a nutshell, it’s a reenactment of the recordings from the black box placed in airplane cockpits in planes that crashed. I think CVR stands for “cockpit voice recorder.” When it came out, places like Delta and American Airlines were buying out shows for their staff. The show works with the Air Force with training their folks, and it’s won all sorts of awards.

It was…a good show, but I’m like totally scarred and I no longer want to go on a plane. People, I have a flight in two weeks, which I now want to bail on. Why did I go see the show?!!

I tried to explain to Husband why it was effective. At first, I think b/c the actors are impersonating people you know are dead or might be dead were particularly willy-inducing, and just the fact that at least in some of the scenarios, HUNDREDS of people did die. That’s CRAZY. And when they do theater based on real life, parts of it get boring, and you don’t necessarily get a strong sense of character from the text, but this show is totally about the scenario, man, which is traumatizing. You cannot help, I think, but imagine what it would be like for you to be on that flight and see it all come apart, b/c there are a few moments before you lose consciousness where you see something horrific that boggles your mind and you can’t believe it’s happening to you, right?

return of the jedi

is on TV tonight, and the whole Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader battle reminds me of Office Life. I know I’ve mentioned Darth Vader in previous posts, but the goofy lines Luke utters to his father as they fight (“I see the good in you”; “I will not fight you”; I will never go to the Dark Side” — I feel retarded even writing this out) suddenly were like life instructions from Lucas himself. How do you deal with office politics without becoming evil yourself? I have a hard time with it. I’m pretty confrontation-averse and somewhat passive to begin with. And if it requires more energy than watching TV, I can talk myself out of a lot of action. There was an instance of someone peeing on my territory today, and I was about to let it pass, except for all my friends I spoke to today said I need to stick up for myself, and my friend Mike told me, life is a fight. You have to fight for what you want. Ugh. He’s right. True, there’s more than one way of dealing with difficult situations, but for this one, I have to ignore my instinct to hide, lie down, and eat a bon bon and actually tackle this.

As I try to navigate these unpleasant waters and figure out how I’m going to handle myself, I totally wonder how Luke Skywalker does it. Sickly sweet, naive, blond Luke fights dark Darth but maintains his sense of goodness in the world and himself. How do you fight without becoming evil yourself? Bleech. Call me when you figure that one out. And I already know I didn’t train with Yoda, though I’d like to think he’d be in my corner.

P.S. Ewoks rule.

P.P.S. Yes, I’m am that nerdy.