Lunchtable TV Talk: Mom

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Mom is not at all something I would normally watch but it is hard to resist Allison Janney. Despite her small role in Masters of Sex, she was one of the enduring reasons that kept me watching because of her nuanced and often heartbreaking depiction. She was a force to be reckoned with in The West Wing in a character who evolved throughout and showed strength and vulnerability at every turn. I loved her smaller, earlier roles in films like Big Night and Primary Colors. And so, so many others. It does not matter what film it is – even the crappiest film is made better with her presence.

Mom is punctuated by bawdy, vulgar humor that is only funny half the time, and imagining Janney in this kind of role seemed difficult. But I watched, and I stuck around for her (and Mimi Kennedy).

The worst part is the ostensible “star” of the show: Anna Faris, who is beyond annoying as she overacts the shit out of every scene. A few times, mostly in the quieter moments of despair she feels, something good shines through. But mostly she is too much, and if the show were only her, it would be completely unwatchable.

That is about all there is to say about this show. Once in awhile someone says something uproarious. And once in awhile the show hits an emotional, almost touching note as it tries to navigate the storytelling challenges posed by portraying people in recovery – how do you make addiction funny? Or, then again, how can you not try to make addiction funny? In reality it’s as complicated as people are. And surprisingly, in many cases, Mom handles this balance well, in large part because of Janney and Kennedy.

The daily schmear – Sleazy topic overload: Dirty habits, dirty minds, dirty looks

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“Fucking cocaine!” he muttered (at :45 seconds)

“You know I was really so successful at everything I did – business, politics, hell, I could handle anything. Except cocaine. Only I didn’t know that because of cocaine.” (RIP Larry Hagman)

Dirty habits

Cocaine has been in the news – and news parodies in particular – a lot lately. We can thank North American politicians for the rapid uptick in cocaine-related news, even if, every time cocaine is mentioned, I think of the aforementioned clip from the film Primary Colors. (Or I think of the music of Rosa Eskenazi, a Greek singer, who sang a lot about drugs, back in the early part of the 20th century.)

Both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report were fixated on cocaine and its crack cousin this week, thanks to Toronto mayor Rob Ford and Florida Republican congressman Trey Radel and their drug-related indiscretions.

Trey Radel cocaine

Daily Show coverage of Trey Cokehead Radel

One Colbert story, though, comedic as his presentation was, actually struck a chord in my nerd side. Apparently University of Pennsylvania researchers have found that a male cocaine users’ sperm DNA (okay, granted we’re talking about male rodents, not humans) is altered to pass on some kind of immunity to the effects of cocaine, making his male offspring less susceptible to cocaine addiction.

Colbert – cocaine study

Of course when I passionately rattle off details of studies like this as well as the observed symptoms and effects of various drugs, I scare my colleagues – but it is just general knowledge, gleaned from talking to people who have done these things. I’ve never even been drunk. Actually in a former workplace, one colleague and I were joking that all the aluminum foil accumulated in our office (because I wrapped all my baked goods in foil for transport) could help us smoke crack. Except we only imagined that you needed foil to smoke crack because we had no idea at all how one would actually smoke it. We have no idea how to take any drugs, let alone how to get them.

Dirty minds: Multicultural Swedish fika

In Swedish, “fika” is a concept beyond just a “coffee break”. It is a sacred cow – to the extent that any talk against or threat of eliminating this treasured event from Swedish work life is met with loud protest of a kind that Swedes are rarely wont to undertake. It is so ingrained and expected that HR recently felt it necessary to discuss its centrality to the culture with the global staff.  Apparently they wanted to emphasize that people should feel empowered to take fika, to explain that we actually do not have enough fika today and that people should not succumb to the pressure of people giving them “dirty looks” when they seem to disapprove of their “fika-taking”.

Let’s not get into the multicultural challenges of fika. Even the word fika sends nonplussed, flustered Italians into a tailspin, not knowing where to look, averting their gaze, not knowing what to do with themselves when we exclaim excitedly, “FIKA TIME!” (Check out the word “fica”, and you’ll get it.)

Dirty looks

In a recent discussion on these “dirty looks” that (presumably) non-Swedish colleagues give to active fika-takers, one Swedish colleague misunderstood “dirty looks” to mean something sexual. Yes, every time you take a fika, someone will give you seductive looks! In which case, Italian men would hang around and wait for fika to happen constantly.