Fly Like Paper

Jim and PamI have been a faithful watcher of The Office nearly from its beginning and have loved the vast majority of its 184 episodes.  Naturally, Steve Carell’s departure left an obvious, gaping hole and at first, I admit I did think they should have ended the series when he left.  But this ninth and final season has been better, not quite hitting the bar set by those first few seasons, but much improved from the last couple.  I still do feel that the show has run its course and I’m glad this is the last season but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that is sad to see it go.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this:

“I am bothered by the developments that this season has brought to the Halpert family.  Jim and Pam haven’t always been the focus of the show but their chemistry and the evolution of their relationship has been a constant.  Some viewers felt it got a bit stagnant after they got married and started their family but I always felt that theirs was a natural relationship.  After all, what marriage doesn’t lose some of its zeal after the realities of daily life and the demands of family set in?  They stuck by each other and that was enough reward for me.  Earlier on in this season, when Jim pursued a career change and lost sight of Pam’s needs and wants, I felt this, too, was an organic and plausible story line.  But I expected one of them to close the gap.  To sacrifice for the other and for their family.  To stop communicating so poorly, to take a leap of faith, to lay it all out once and for all.  Whether it would be Jim sacrificing his dream job or Pam sacrificing their comfortable life in Scranton, I expected one of them to give in.

One could argue that families fall apart all the time.  Divorce in America is by no means an uncommon thing and this show has always maintained a commitment to exposing the sad, dreary aspects of the mundane lives of the working class.  Perhaps the destruction of the Halpert family is just one more harsh reality.  Jim and Pam may be no more special than any other couple who falls in love, gets married, raises a family and eventually grows apart.  I couldn’t call it unrealistic.  But it certainly isn’t what I expected, nor is it what I want to see.  Sink or swim, I want to see Jim and Pam together.”

Last night’s episode finally gave me what I’d been waiting for.  It was emotional, subtle, tender and it moved me to tears.  And it surprised me.  No surprise that The Office, with a mere 3 episodes left, still has the ability to make me tear up, but surprised that I doubted it would.  While the American series differs in a great many ways from its British point of origin, it has kept true to the pace that the show’s creators set.  They know just how long to keep you waiting, to make you damn near desperate for the pay-off, so much so that you’re even beginning to doubt you’ll get it.  We saw it with Tim and Dawn in the original series and even though Jim and Pam are really very different characters whose story has veered from that of their British counterparts, they’ve held true to the remarkable sense of timing that makes even something as small and ordinary as a hug feel monumental.

Paper Airplane

Yes, it’s true.  The Office: I will miss you.

~Nikki

Gatsby

We were originally told Christmas of 2012.  Then, March of 2013.  Now, the release date for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire is May 10 of this year, less than a month away.  At this point, I’m more eager for the soundtrack, which will be out May 7th.  Here’s a convenient little sampler:

You know Florence + The Machine and Jack White are favorites of mine (I am fucking DESPERATE to get my hands on Love Is Blindness) but that Lana Del Rey song sounds promising as does the remake of Together by The xx.  Nero’s Into The Past and Sia’s Kill And Run have got my curiosity piqued as well.

The full playlist:

1. 100$ Bill – JAY Z
2. Back To Black – Beyoncé x André 3000
3. Bang Bang – will.i.am
4. A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock
5. Young And Beautiful – Lana Del Rey
6. Love Is The Drug – Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
7. Over The Love – Florence + The Machine
8. Where The Wind Blows – Coco O. of Quadron
9. Crazy in Love – Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
10. Together – The xx
11. Hearts A Mess – Gotye
12. Love Is Blindness – Jack White
13. Into the Past – Nero
14. Kill and Run – Sia

And, thanks to E!, here’s Over The Love in full by Florence + The Machine.  Shit, is it good.

~Nikki

Absolute Power Corrupts, Absolutely

Animal FarmThe nature of man is a tricky thing – much more complex and fickle than we often like to think.  Throughout our evolution, humans have tried a number of societal and governmental structures, some with great success and others with tremendous failures.  Some have led to near-miracles while others came to disastrous results.  Some succeed in certain cultures and communities but fail in others.  The one constant that has proven true in every society, in every group of people and at nearly every turn is that no man is immune to greed or corruption.

Animal Farm is George Orwell’s simplistic tale of corruption in a communistic community.  Rather than be ruled by the human dictator who owns the farm, the animals who work it pull together to overthrow him and ban him from the farm.  They agree on a system built around equality, around shared work for shared rewards.  Without one specified leader, they agree to live and work side-by-side, none anymore powerful or wealthy than the rest.  And so it goes for a short while.  But soon a couple of the smarter animals (pigs, of course) notice that things could work more smoothly and with greater benefit to the farm with a few changes.  Each pig presents his plan to the group and lets them reach a consensus.  Majority rules.  Harmony is achieved but short-lived.  Before long, one of the pigs realizes he can manipulate the more gullible animals by villainizing the pig who opposes him.  Once his opponent is banned from the farm, he becomes a kind of dictator, all the while changing his rhetoric to suit his own selfish agenda.  Many of the animals cannot read and are easily fooled.  It bears a remarkable resemblance to the structure of North Korea’s current government and the propaganda spewed upon its poor citizens.  I think this book was written for a Young Adult audience, which makes for a somewhat simplified narrative, but its lesson loses none of its poignancy or relevance.

With any political piece, it’s easy for the narrative to become preachy.  A writer has to be careful to let the point make itself in the unfolding of the story, something Orwell did with grace.  At no point while reading Animal Farm (or his more complex political novel, the iconic 1984) did I feel he was forcing his personal views upon me.  I’ve read that he was an advocate for socialism; in his life, he warned of the dangerous potentialtumblr_mgu6ej8ENw1qc6j5yo1_400 outcomes of both communism and capitalism.  No doubt, anyone who’s paid even the smallest attention to the goings-on of the world within the last 50 years would agree that communism simply doesn’t work.  It has always amazed me how the most basic definition of communism sounds perfectly fair and idealistic and yet, there has never been a society capable of maintaining it without corruption.  This speaks more to the nature of humanity than it does to the philosophy itself but that hardly matters.  For all practical matters, communism with regards to the human race has by and large been a failure.  Orwell gracefully lays out the causes for that in this book.  And one could argue that many of capitalism’s negative effects (an excessively uneven distribution of wealth leading to the disappearance of the middle-class via the expansive gap between the rich and poor, the working class being forced to work more and harder for less reward, and greed corrupting the free market, to name a few) as described in Orwell’s 1984 have recently come to fruition.

Regardless of his political views, any reader with even a slightly open mind will find meaning in Orwell’s work.  His storytelling isn’t pushy.  It isn’t preachy or obvious.  He was a master of language who artfully crafted stories that depict the corruptible nature of man.  Ultimately, the take-away message from both 1984 and Animal Farm isn’t that one societal structure is good or bad, but that any and all forms must answer to the people they govern through some form of regulation or system of checks and balances.  Orwell warns that any governing body is only as honest as the people who make it up.  I think we can all agree with that.

~Nikki

There Is Still A Light That Shines On Me

boston-marathon-explosion

Man has used violence as a means to get what he wants since the dawn of humankind.  Be it to exact revenge on one individual or to send a message, to reach the end of a dispute with one person or a whole nation in an all-out war, violence has been a part of the culture of mankind since our very earliest beginnings.  It seems an inevitable part of our nature.  And yet, when things like the London bombings in 2005 or the most recent explosions in Boston happen, nothing about them or their aftermath feels natural.

Undoubtedly there still are random acts of violence.  Watch almost any news segment or episode of America’s Most Wanted or The First 48 and you’ll see that very often, some poor soul is the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong deranged person.  But more often than not, violence is used either to retaliate for some wrongdoing or to send a specific message.  In the case of terrorism, it’s a bit of both.  No doubt the members of Al Quaida believe themselves to be oppressed or otherwise harmed by global powers the likes of the United States and the United Kingdom (and others).  And, of course, the acts of terrorism they commit are done to tell the world that they will not rest until their voice is heard, until their demands (whatever they are) are met.  If these violent acts actually worked, maybe I could understand the rationalizations behind them.  As it is – as far as I can tell anyway – no one benefits from these bombings.  No one wins.  And, at the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil, if they don’t work, why keep at it?

I do believe there are some folks in the world who simply want to wreak havoc.  And maybe that is the case with the incident at the Boston Marathon yesterday.  The investigation is still underway and no motive has yet been identified.  But aside from wanting only to create chaos, no other motive for violence justifies the means.  The destruction caused by these acts of mass killings and even the consequences of singular violent incidents – investigations and trials and years spent in prison, the emotional pain given to the mourners or even the offenders themselves – all of it seems such a waste of time and resources.  Enough to warrant giving up this archaic means of proving a point.

Evolutionarily speaking, a gene or mechanism or behavior will remain in play as long as it is useful.  When its benefits no longer outway its negative effects, it will be selected out.  It may take a few generations but it will fall away.  My question is this: will the day come when humans in every culture think it is not worth the destruction and rebuilding, the misery caused, the millions of dollars spent on investigations and trials and lives spent in prison to use violence as a means of making themselves heard?  Or will we forever be caught in this hamster wheel?

Personally, I don’t think violence in humanity will ever cease to exist entirely but my hope is that the day will come when it is such a rarity that every day’s news won’t be filled with tales of murder and rape, of hate crimes or sexual crimes or crimes against children.  That these things will be taboo and only a tiny percentage of people will fall victim to them.

Patton Oswalt’s response to yesterday’s events says it all:

“I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, ‘Well, I’ve had it with humanity.’  But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.  But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet,” he wrote. “You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.  But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

“So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.'”

~Nikki