Oh, Coco, say it ain’t so!

23 01 2010


Conan’s last Tonight Show

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

DISCLAIMER: I’m relating the personal angle I have on the Conan issue. I’m not taking sides on the Jay-Conan debate insofar as which host is better, which time slot is better, whether it’s better to have big hair or a big chin, whether these men are overcompensating for something, etc. I happen to be a fan of both men’s shows, but I choose to focus on Conan here. My opinions do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, their families, my family, subsidiaries, Vampire Diaries or tributaries herein or hereafter.

Last Tuesday, I wore all orange as a sort of thematically appropriate outfit (by accident, really). On Friday, I wore black.. All this weekend, I might just put that orange scarf back on as a tip of the hat to Conan O’Brien, who just finished his last show as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

The finale was touching. It started off with a monologue doing a few hits and jabs at NBC and pending unemployment, plus another one of those “draining NBC’s coffers” sketches. There was a mashup video pulling together footage of Conan running across the country with some favorite bits during the last 7 months. Tom Hanks came out with scotch for the host. Neil Young gave a touching performance of “Long May You Run.” And then Conan made a speech that almost brought tears to his eyes, and mine: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.” He said cynicism is one of his least-favorite attributes and thanked the network for how they treated him. It was a very touching tribute. And then Will Ferrell was Ronnie Von Sant as he performed Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” with guest players including Beck, Ben Harper and a cowbell. Magical!

It’s surprising to me how much a stupid show like this can get me riled up, and how sad I feel now that it’s over. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard not to live vicariously through him. Especially since over the years I’ve occasionally dreamed about saying “See ya! Wouldn’t want to be ya!” to traditional jobs and even going into a comedy or writing profession of my own. It’s for that reason I’m employed in a position where at least some creative latitude and individuality is encouraged. I feel connected in some way, like I have  a stake in his success.

Or perhaps it’s because what we witnessed tonight was the unraveling of one man’s lifelong dream, played out on our television screens. With the economy as it is, lots of folks surely can relate. Or, perhaps we’ve all fallen short of our own expectations on a less-public scale in our lives and we’re now both exploring our own sense of loss and hoping to watch Conan to see if he’s got any clues on how to handle such a situation.

Or, perhaps it’s because that was a darn good show and it would be a dang shame if this man can’t find a way to get back on air.

Maybe all of these.

I was so happy when I found out that Conan was going to host the Tonight Show, although I also felt bad for Jay Leno. I waited five years to see it, and it finally happened. When that video came up and we watched Conan run, run, run from one corner of the country to the other, my heart just leapt. And now I think if I watched the same video, I would cry. I feel like I know the guy. I’ve been sitting in my pajamas, watching that guy, for 13 years going on 14. I was an eighth grader when I first started staying up late and catching glimpses of the kind of goofy Harvard-educated comic with the pompadour. Watching Conan in my formative years literally guided my career. Hearing that he wrote for the Harvard Lampoon inspired me to be a writer as well. His quirky brand of wacky humor and intellectual substance was very intriguing to me. When he got married, I was heartbroken. Other girls were thumbing through Seventeen and Tiger Beat, and I was watching Conan O’Brien. I’m pretty ridiculous, I know.

Evidence of my quasi-obsession can be found in the Angelfire homepage/Conan fan site I created for myself in the mid-1990s, The Orange Baron’s Domain. With all the style and flair of HTML 1.0, it was both my first Internet presence as well as an expression of my own absurdity. The garish orange background is gone by now but let me assure you, that was something to behold when it was fully put-together. (And you can also find my old Mock Trial questions which are tacked on there kind of oddly. That was a spare-time hobby during my junior and senior years.)

In college, I made a point to talk to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog when Presidential Debate Road Show ’04 made a stop at Arizona State University on October 13, 2004. If only the Masturbating Bear had been part of the entourage.

Nowadays, I no longer want to marry Mr. O’Brien and I have a more realistic perspective on things, *LOL* giggle giggle. But I still enjoy the show. So when I see late-night strife happening to Conan, I’m a little hurt. But that’s Show Business, as they say. I’m still a fan of Jay Leno and I’ll support his efforts, too. It’s not going to be easy for the Big-Chinned One to retake his old time slot.

I really hope that online video doesn’t completely do in this TV star. The world would be a less-interesting place without comedians like Conan doing what they do. He’s smart enough and has built up enough cred from this experience that he’ll do well wherever he goes or whatever he does. It’s an exciting but scary time in the media. We’ll see what happens when he’s allowed to talk publicly again. For now, a few months of silence and pompadour-free airwaves await us.

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365 hats in 2010: Cheesehead trucker hat

5 01 2010

This entry announces a fun project that I hope will turn into something cool at the end of the year. I’ll be chronicling the year in hats by uploading one (or two or whatever) photo per day to a special Picasa album set up specifically for this purpose.

When I run out of hats, I’ll have to get creative to find headgear. In my humble opinion, that’s when the fun will truly begin. Not that my hat collection isn’t fun.

For example, the photo at right shows a cheesehead ballcap/trucker hat obtained during a trip to Madison WI a few years back. The benefit of this hat vs. a traditional cheesehead is it’s a little less cumbersome, while at the same time being a little more subversive.

Hat date: January 3, 2010. And that’s me backlit in shadows. Never let your light source be behind you. But, in this case it kind of works.

I can’t claim to have completely invented this concept, but I hope to put my own spin on things. It’s been done by many others and the inspiration here is a few of the projects I’ve seen in the course of my work, as well as a few more on YouTube. It’s been done, but I thought I might as well do it, too.





The New Year’s Resolution Game

2 01 2010

The time has come to take a hard look at where one has been, and where one is hoping to go. These rituals are nice to do because they provide you a measured interval at which to gauge your progress. The actions I aspire to take, as well as my perspectives on the current state of things, evolve each year and every day just as I do.

Of course, you can start a new initiative any day, but the first day of the year is a good day to reinforce this behavior. I’m not going to get into any arguments about whether this is the beginning of a new decade (I don’t think it is), but do believe that adding a new “10” digit to the year is a big milestone.

Here are my public goals, along with the overall objectives they are designed to achieve (I’m a big-picture girl):

1. Laugh and smile more — You can never do this too much. If there’s one thing I’d say about myself this past year, it’s that I needed to stop and smell, er, water, er, nurture the flowers more often at times (and at others, I’ve needed to get back to work!). And that’s just what I’ll do. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Improve social relationships

2. Domesticate, just a little — Martha Stewart, I have no desire to be, but it wouldn’t hurt for me to keep my place a little neater and learn to cook a few things. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

3. Use more fossil fuels — Other people want to cut back on their environmental footprint. But I need to make mine a little bigger in order to foster my own independence. I hate driving, but I love the open road. If I can get over that synaptic hump, I’ll be able to take more trips and have a more fulfilling life. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

4. Spend less on the “bear necessities” — Currently, my rent and bills consume a lot of my wages, leaving little for me to use for other things. My food expenses are also fairly extreme. All the traveling I’ve done this year has really tested my fiscal security. I should try to cook for myself when possible and use other tricks to cut my food costs (probably easiest for me to control), followed by my other living costs. My lease is up in the fall, so I’ve got about eight or nine months to hunt for a new place to live if I decide to move. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become more independent

5. Get over my fear of mornings — Probably Issue #1, 2 or 3 for me right now at work is my ability to get to work on time. I’m doing better, and coming in a full 2 hours earlier than I used to, but I still need to push that back a little and become more consistent in my a.m. appearances. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become a better employee

6. Learn about popular culture — I avoid TV and music news and gossip and all that, but that’s what people talk about! From a fun standpoint, I’m missing out on opportunities for enjoyment and enrichment. From an intellectual standpoint, I need to keep my consumption updated so that my mental connections are optimized. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, I won’t have much to add to conversations if I don’t do my research. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Intellectual enrichment

7. Find my niche at work — Not much has really changed at work, but I do have some stories and projects under my belt. With the economy throwing my field out of whack, I have a unique opportunity to focus my ambitions toward carving out a niche and looking at the Big Picture. What this means in concrete terms is I need to do some abstract thinking and translate my actions into a uniform plan. I know what that means, even if everybody else doesn’t. 🙂 OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Become a better employee

8. Be funny — My sense of humor needs attention. I’ve got to feed it, because it is awesome when it is on top of its game. Thus, I shall make more jokes. Good jokes. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Improve social relationships

9. Try some cultural and social media experiments — One of the first projects I want to try is photographing myself wearing a different hat every day for the entirety of 2010. That starts today. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: Intellectual enrichment

10. It’s cliche: Eat better, exercise more — My experiment in getting more exercise and working on losing weight was actually somewhat successful. I hit a few roadblocks, but managed to lose about 8 pounds. I may have gained that back, or maybe not. Being sick for over a month did not help and I may have overextended myself at times. So in 2010, I will revive that effort and make sure to get my daily exercise (walking, basic weightlifting, gentle sports and other activities) in a safe way. OBJECTIVE: Maintain and improve health