Friday, December 9, 2011

Troy (And Abed) Around The Clock

I'm on a Donald Glover kick right now, and friends, it is wonderful. He's the mastermind behind Childish Gambino, he's a righteously funny stand-up comic, and he plays Troy Barnes on NBC's Community. He's also incredibly foxy, which, you know: bonus!

I cam late to the game on Community. It was half-way through the second season before I tuned in, and it took a couple episodes to really get the hang of the humour. Originally, Troy was supposed to be paired with Chevy Chase's character Pierce, and the two of them - grumpy old man and dumb/smart jock - were going to act as the salt in the sugar shaker. Fortunately, the chemistry between Troy and Abed, the autistic-y film buff played by Danny Pudi, outshone the odd-couple Troy/Pierce matchup. Troy and Abed have become this weird spin-off-inside-the-show: they have pretend breakfast television shows, they build elaborate blanket forts, and they have one of the most homosocial relationships ever depicted on TV. Chandler and Joey were friends; Troy and Abed are best friends. They elevate the normal friendships that we all have, which are equal parts gossip, in-jokes and rants - and which are totally necessary to live - and just, like, puts in on TV.

Childish Gambino and Glover's stand-up act are a different animal. His rap rhymes are thoughtful, personal and often hilarious, and he addresses race, loneliness, sex, relationships and all the other personal juggernauts the way "the only black kid at a Sufjan concert" really can. Listening to his new album, Camp, makes me laugh, because some of it is really funny. It also makes me a little sad - there's naked emotion in some of the rhymes: "I miss the sex when we kiss whenever we're done," gets to me, because it's not that he misses sex (dude is an exceptionally fine-looking man, I'm sure he gets laid on the daily), but he misses intimacy. What?! And then he talks about in public? Double what?!! This isn't an album about guns and drugs and fine-looking bitches; it's about growing up a little poor, having parents who worked hard, being black in an otherwise all-white school. In other words, feeling weird even if you're normal. Who can't relate to that?

In other times, Troy Barnes would have been the token black character, in the mix to give street cred to the other white-bread characters. One of Community's strengths is that it takes its diversity for granted. These people are sort of losers, having washed up at a fourth-tier community college, but nobody's a bigger loser because they're old, a woman, or a minority. Joel McHale is the sole straight white dude in the principal cast, and he's matched beat for comedic beat by everyone else. Troy and Abed have become scene-stealing imps, and the show's off-beat comedy is strange and addictive, like salted caramel chocolates. And if sitcoms aren't your thing, try the stand-up. If the comedy leaves you wanting, try the album. And if you can't into any of it, then take a seat - I'll be with you when NBC returns Community to the airwaves.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Breaking You Off

Now that I'm back at work - and can we all just take a moment to sigh along with me, in relief that I've found something that seems to suit me and that, once I get past the stage fright of meeting new folks and learning new things, will allow me to thrive? AHHHHH....that felt good - I remember the thrill of the weekend.

I've written before about the special joys of the long weekend, and about how having a short weekend can ruin one's life. I was chatting with a girlfriend tonight, and she said that having two days off in a row is a terrible thing for her. She just lazes all day the first day, and rushes joylessly around on the second day. She doesn't really enjoy either. Me, I need a proper weekend, but everyone's different. Some people need a two-day workweek. Some folks need ten minutes to gulp down a cup of coffee and check in with their nanny. We call those people ER doctors, and we don't pay them nearly enough money.

Work psychologists encourage people to take mini-breaks during the day. Stare out the window for a minute, walk around the office, take a brisk walk at lunch. It can be so easy to forget to take those moments in the business of work, and I often put them off when I'm deep into the expense reports. But those mini-vacations are help us function. They relieve eyestrain, stretch out tight muscles, and get a dose of vitamin D. They also keep the brain alert: mistake to stand up when things are viewed with a fresh pair of eyes, and they keep frustration at bay. I'm not saying that y'all should spend our work hours staring out the window, but stand up for yourself: breaks are important.

My old boss was stingy with break time. Lunch hours were carefully monitored, and employees were instructed to sign in and out very day. There were no coffee breaks. The expectation was 100% work, 100% of the time. Coupled with that six-day work week, my life became threaded with work, and it was impossible to de-escalate the stress I felt at the constant demands. That's never a good sign. Bosses might give breaks grudgingly or generously, but they should give them.

I've slipped back into a high level of productivity at work, which is terrific. In my off-the-clock hours, I sometimes forget to breathe. I'm feeling the pressure of DOING THINGS on the weekend. I've got girls' brunch on Sunday, an ushering gig at night, a movie party on Friday, and a friend date during the day. Every last moment is scheduled! I love my friends, but it turns out that my downtime is precious. Like gold. Sometimes, I need to take breaks from my highly scheduled life - take a break from having plans all the time, take a break from heading from the gym to the movies to the doctor's to my bed. Downtime is so good for me - it lets me have my creative time, to take long showers, to sleep in those extra ten minutes. And then when I step into my work, or hang out with my friends, I feel recharged and enlivened, ready to take on gym, doctor's expense reports, brunch, drinks, movies, and more.