Sunday, February 27, 2011

In Search yearly Oscar blog

It's that day again, second only to Christmas in my family - the Academy Awards. While I still find it shocking that I'm not actually nominated for an Oscar this year, I won't let the temporary disappointment ruin the utter glee I feel in celebrating the art of the motion picture and all who contribute to its creation. Yes, movies provide more than just a chance for a two hour escape, they provide the chance to bear witness to the human experience in all its devastating beauty.

Whether it's the desire for greatness that drives a dancer to madness in Black Swan, or the genius that supersedes the ability to truly connect with fellow human beings in The Social Network, or rising above your family dynamic to achieve your personal best and your own moment of glory in The Fighter, this year's movies take us where we don't ordinarily go on our own - to the depths of our shortcomings and the heights of what is possible when we push ourselves.

So for my money, this year's recipients should come as no great surprise. The King's Speech should covet the best picture, best actor and best director. Natalie Portman should hands down win best actress, and Christian Bale best supporting actor with Melissa Leo taking best supporting actress.

Of course, my moment of greatest personal enjoyment will come when Aaron Sorkin brings home the best adapted screenplay Oscar for The Social Network. It is no secret that he is unequivocally my favorite writer, regardless of genre. I find it nothing short of a miracle that he could pen a movie comprised solely of dialogue and have it reach best picture nomination status. Let's hear it for the smart people!

As for best original song, the category I've envisioned winning since early childhood, I am rooting for my fellow Nashvillians who wrote "Coming Home" from the movie Country Strong.

Well, it's time to slip on my Oscar gown and sparkly baubles. (Or frankly speaking, it's time to go buy the chips and salsa.) Enjoy the Oscars!

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

In Search of...words to live by

The title of this particular blog came to me today as I learned a very valuable lesson at the dentist's office: Don't swallow the numbing gel.

Yes, boys and girls, while it may seem obvious to most, a little accident of this kind can send you into a feelingless panic, take it from me. While my life flashed before my eyes as the sensation left not only my intended mouth, but my throat as well, it occurred to me that this, too, shall pass, and wouldn't it be cool if I could calm down enough to savor the sensation of no sensation at all?

That's when, in that split second of fear, I gleaned a little insight about not feeling. In my numbness, it dawned on me that I'd rather feel pain than nothing at all, because whether it's pain or pleasure, to feel is to know that you're alive. So I decided to savor this brief period of numbness as a chance to be an observer instead of a participant in my life, and I vowed silently to pay attention as bit by bit the feeling returned.

I thought about the things that had hurt me, transferring a sense of feelinglessness to those, too. Nothing could touch me now - no pain, no loss, no failure. They were silenced as if by the same topical magic potion that was on my gums. But so, too, was my joy silenced. I couldn't feel the euphoria I had felt when my four year old niece put her little hand on my cheek and said, "I love you, Aunt Ilene." I couldn't feel the joy of spending time with my dearest friends. I was numb and despite my earlier sense of panic, it was a relief for a moment to step outside myself and take a good look around.

My dental work was done before I was quite ready to give up my out of body experience. The numbness would go away soon, and I was warned that there might be some pain in its place. I could take a pill for that pain if I wanted to later. Oh, if only it was that easy.

As sensation returned, I reveled in it, I noticed it, I was present for it. Even as I became aware of some discomfort, I welcomed that, too. Yes, life is fraught with experiences that challenge our fortitude, but so is it blessed with what builds us up and makes us stronger.

So when it comes to life, or love, or the dentist, these are my words to live by: Don't swallow the numbing gel.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

In Search of...a birthday blog for George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos is turning fifty today, and in honor of that auspicious occasion, and because there would have been no In Search of George Stephanopoulos book or this blog without him, I thought I'd write a little birthday piece, an Ode to George, if you will.

I could fill it with platitudes about how smart he is or how instrumental he was in helping Bill Clinton get elected president, or how well he transitioned from politics to journalism, but that's all water under the bridge, and it's been said before, so I see no point in stating the obvious.

No, today I'd like to talk about that thing we all wonder about people who have achieved celebrity status - what are they like when the cameras aren't rolling? That, my friends, is the million dollar question. And take it from someone who's met a few celebrities in her time, they aren't all nice.

For those of you who are visiting this blog for the first time, (welcome and where the hell have you been?!!) my quest to meet George Stephanopoulos began when he was an eligible bachelor and I was going out on a lot of bad blind dates set up by well-meaning friends. While it's true that George is on TV, he is also intelligent, of the same political persuasion as I am, and seemed, at least publicly, like he was a nice guy - all of which meant George and I had more in common than the people I was dating. Plus, he's also left handed.

My road to trying to meet George Stephanopoulos had many near misses, all of which I've documented in my book (which, because this is an excellent opportunity for shameless self promotion, can be purchased here:

Along the way George got married and started a family, which left me without the Cinderella ending to my tale that I had hoped for. And though George's romantic ship had sailed without me, it occurred to me that all the things that were appealing about him to me in the first place, were still true.

I wondered what the lesson was and if there could be a different version of success than I had envisioned initially. What if you go for what it is you want and you don't get it? What if, along the way, you become a changed person because of it, meeting people you never would have met, having amazing adventures you never would have had? Is success dependent on the outcome we receive, or is it dependent on who we become in the process?

So I wrote George Stephanopoulos a heartfelt letter, telling him this story of how in my search for him, I found me. I told him I had no book deal on the table and no agent. Basically, I told him that there was nothing in it for him in granting me a few minutes of his time, except the possibility that anyone who might eventually read the book would have the satisfaction of knowing that sometimes the underdog does succeed and that going for your dreams, even the ridiculous or seemingly frivolous ones, is always rewarded in unimaginable ways.

So he called me. Yes, it was a few minutes of his time, but it meant the world to me. He was kind and generous of spirit and there was no one around but me to witness it. My book was completed and published, which he couldn't have known it ever would be at the time of our conversation.

So here's to not just a smart guy, but a good guy. I am grateful that there are still people around, famous or not, who don't need to ask, "What's in it for me?"

Happy Birthday to you, George. And thanks.

Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In Search of...what I love about football

No, you did not read that incorrectly. I actually said there was something that I love about football. I didn’t even use the word “like.” I went all out and said “love.” No, aliens have not invaded my body and rendered me unrecognizable when it comes to the sport I have been known to describe as “a bunch of men jumping on each other.”

Bill Maher turned it around for me. Completely. And trust me, he doesn’t look like he’s ever made contact with a football or jumped on any men in his life. He was, however, kind enough to point out something about it that I never knew: The NFL pools their revenues and divides them equally among all the teams so that everyone has an equal chance of succeeding, an even playing field, if you will.

Could this be true? I wondered. So what Bill was saying to me was that, in this land where the haves have and the have nots, well, struggle, suffer and die, the one truly fair thing we’ve got going for us is professional football??? Seriously???

If Bill was kind enough to rescue football from my view of it as a barbaric activity which frequently causes its participants permanent brain damage and paralysis, then he ruined baseball for me by pointing out the vast economic disparities. While football has salary caps and revenue sharing, baseball is every man for himself. So the team with the most money usually wins, while the team with the least money stands no chance of making it to the World Series at all. Where’s the fun in that kind of fight? And I’m a Yankee fan! Damn him! Now I have to actually try to understand why the men are running back and forth and jumping on each other!

And while we’re still on the subject of football, the team that wins picks last in the next draft. That totally appeals to my Obama-esque "socialist" tendencies. Kudos to you, football.

The truth is we would all like to believe that life is fair, that the American dream is possible, that justice prevails, and that the best person wins, but we know that's just not true. Oh, some of it used to be true, but just ask the lady who went to jail because she lied to get her kids in a better school district so they’d stand a fighting chance of not ending up in gangs. Ask those without health insurance if they stand an equal chance of diagnosing a fatal disease while it’s still early and curable. How much chance do you think someone with no money stands of winning an election, any election, local or otherwise? None, that’s how much chance. While, yes, it takes money to make money, the question is, “Is that all it takes?” And in most instances today, the answer would be “yes.” Talent, smarts, commitment, perseverance all come in a distant second.

So in this current climate of growing chasms between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, between those who stand a chance and those who don’t, it is utterly refreshing to find a sport that has more viewers than churches have people in them on Christmas, where fair is fair, where the underdog stands as much of a chance as the reigning champion, where salaries have a cap on them and the spoils are shared equally. So if there’s anything still truly great about America, there it is – football.

So tomorrow I will watch these men jump on each other with a new appreciation for the sport, for a kind of justness I can only wish would permeate the rest of our society. Yay football. Go Packers. And God Bless America.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

In Search of...some new vices

Years ago I saw a movie called Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, and though the famous writers in that film ultimately drank and smoked themselves to death, I found their wit and turn of phrase so appealing, it got me thinking that nicotine and alcohol might not be such a bad way to go in exchange for brilliance.

At the time, I chalked it up to the romanticism of the movie and maintained my relatively clean living. But lately I've been thinking again about vices and how the only real one I can come up with is my ability to curse wantonly in ways and for lengths of time that completely belie my appearance. Oh, don't misunderstand me, I try not to do it willy nilly in public, but if you cut me off in traffic, you would not enjoy the litany of things I call you in the private confines of my car. And when I stub a toe, forget it. There's nothing sweet and demure about what comes out of my mouth.

Lately, though, cursing is just not providing the satisfaction it once did, and so in light of the unexpected $1500 dental bill, I am looking for that special something to take the edge off - I'm looking for a new vice.

I am open to suggestions since drinking, smoking and swearing are the only ones that come to mind. There's always eating, but you have to do that anyway to survive, so I can't count that. No, I want something that seems sophisticated and sexy and cool, if only in my mind or in the movies. Any thoughts from you readers out there? I'm open to suggestions, but they have to be legal.

I'll leave you with that to ponder, dear readers, as I prepare to blog next about football on this Superbowl weekend. Yes, you heard me correctly. I said football. You will be shocked at who just turned me around on that sport and why. TGIF.

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