Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Surprise Party

OK, so Suspiciously Pleased and I planned a party for our January birthdays, along with Elvis (or El, as SP calls him. They're tight.) The Muse was also part of our tribe, as all four of us have birthdays within a week of each other. (Capricorns rule!)

So just as the joint starts hoppin', we are shocked (Shocked!) by the appearance of Molldoll (the original Sassmaster) fresh from Florida. She voluntarily donned socks and flew to Mpls for her sister's birthday. Aww...

Once the screaming and jumping about had subsided, many party-goers wanted to be photographed with the King, especially SP in her Ann-Margaret outfit:

Some got a little frisky.

E. was looking especially fine that night.

SP made red velvet cupcakes that spelled out the names of the birthday kids, but rowdy party-goers began using them for anagrams. Damn Scrabble players....

There was jamming with, why yes, that IS an actual stand-up base. And a ukelele on the left. Yes, it IS sad you weren't there.

Elvis couldn't resist the impromtu jam:

There was dancing

Including reenacting of scenes from Viva Las Vegas by SP and her man:

And a spot-on E-personation:

C's new lady seemed to like us, despite her wary look here. We thought she was awesome.

Near to the end of the night, some minds were opened. In a complete reversal of policy regarding cold weather, Molldoll went out and frolicked in falling snow without a coat. And of course, demanded that we photograph her:

She even threw snow around with bare hands:

Is this the same chick that bitched about 50 degree weather in May for a solid week?

Aw look, she brought the sun with her.

Somehow, ck and the Muse escaped the camera all night, so here's an older one of them:
They make a mean cannellini dip, y'all!
Thanks for the good times, everybody! Let's do it again real soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pipe Down

Are we moving toward a yelling-based economy? I realize that my health, interests, and general crankiness qualify me as an honorary old coot, so I'm probably nobody's target demographic. But it seems like transacting commerce is requiring a lot more hollering than it used to. I stopped in at Jimmy Johns the other weekend, and the music was deafening. I had to yell my order two or three times to be heard. Same thing at Chipotle. And Starbucks does that thing where they want to "get something started" for the people in line, which means shouting "medium decaf latte" over the heads of strangers. I dislike it.

I know some restaurants actually pursue the noisiness with hard surfaces and open kitchens. The Rainforest Cafe had that whole damn fake jungle going on with the screeching monkeys and such. (My GOD was that annoying.) Apparently the hubbub acts on us like hallucinogen, making us think we're at the center of a "happening," when in fact we are just at Chili's happy hour, bitching about work. Do people enjoy this stuff, really, or is this just a phase we're all going through? Are they trying to make us anxious so we'll eat more? I think it's working.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Shut Up, SNL

Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live was an engrossing and sometimes infuriating read. SNL is an undeniable force in pop culture, launching career after career and influencing the cultural memes, but I still had a hard time dealing with the self-important tone of the authors and the people they interviewed. The overall impression was that they'd been participating in a cult that still held them and the rest of us in thrall. And Lorne Michaels = Jim Jones.

The book was fun for the bits of insider-y gossip it offered--everybody thinks Chevy Chase is a dick, George Steinbrenner was a terrible host--though many of the interviewees stuck to generalities without talking about specific people or sketches, which kept you wondering who or what they were talking about. You got the history of the controversies, the deaths, and the cycles of "good seasons" and "bad seasons," the network beefs, etc., etc.

Long-time writer James Downey gave some revealing interviews. He's known for writing a lot of political sketches and getting into a huge feud with one of the NBC execs. When Norm McDonald started anchoring Weekend Update in the mid '90s, Downey wrote most of his material. That always seemed like one of the most unfunny things in the history of the show to me. Not surprisingly, Downey and MacDonald had extreme contempt for the audience, more interested in doing what they thought was smart humor than getting laughs. In the book, MacDonald says, "I have more faith in me and Jim that I did in any audience. I just like doing jokes I like, and if the audience doesn't like them, then they're wrong, not me." I suppose many "comics" have that attitude and some express it regularly (hello, Carlos Mencia), but it always seems stunning to me.

That passage sort of crystalized the whole book for me, though, because it addresses the central question: Who and what was (is) this show for? Clearly it was breaking ground when it began (as they will never let us forget), but when the participants reminisce and celebrate and fulminate, they talk endlessly about the pressure, the ideas, the performances, the opportunity, the relationships. It's all inside baseball -- the rarefied air of their club. Many describe the show as a intense training ground for performance and celebrity. Which makes sense: they set it up so only a week's work goes into each show. It's performed live. If they were trying for perfection, they'd do it differently. As a member of the audience, what it amounts to is a weekly exercise in watching people improve their craft. Often it's funny and great and, just as often, it's kinda lame. The book's tone was one of reliving the glory and assuming immortality. But the glory isn't for us, it's for them and their careers. They kinda need to get over themselves.