Thank You, Robin Williams

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You didn’t know me, but you shaped me.

You practically raised me.

You made me laugh.

You made me think.

And you made me believe that I, too, had a boisterous, unbridled light inside, and that I should do whatever it takes to let it shine.

You didn’t know me, but I thank you for your divine genius. Thank you for your boisterous, unbridled light, which illuminated the darkest corners of this shy kid’s heart and soul.

I’d Take Either Version of Chris Pratt

Come on! Wouldn’t you?

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I have a theory (side note: I always have theories) about why we suddenly all want to be Chris Pratt’s BFFs and lovahs. Because we knew him first as this adorable, hilarious, huggable bear, we actually liked him before his transformation into a muscle god hunk. And now that he’s got both personality *and* six-pack abs, he’s become exponentially more irresistible. You can take him home to mom and also have him squeeze you with those gunz.

It’s like that friend you think would actually look hot if s/he lost a couple of pounds, got a haircut, and took a shower (cf. Cousin Barry from Will & Grace, all the dudes that came on What Not to Wear).

And now we’re all squarely in Mr. Pratt’s charming, hypnotic gaze. He could do anything (e.g., kill a baby llama, cheat on Ana Faris with one of the Kardashians) and he’d still have America gladly eating out of his hands.

And that, my friends, is the long game of those of us who’ve learned to lead using personality rather than looks.

Bring on Jurassic World!

Unsolicited Endorsement: The Quest

Are you a nerd? Of course you are. You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t.

Then you probably already know about The Quest, ABC’s new fantasy-based reality competition that airs Thursdays at 8. (Thankfully, Hollywood Game Night is currently in re-runs, so you won’t miss out on Jane Lynch’s Emmy-nominated funstravaganza.)

If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a one sentence summary to hook you: It’s awesomely nerdy LARPing brought to vivid life by a superawesome executive producer of The Lord of the Rings and the crazy gamemakers behind The Amazing Race.

Twelve ordinary people—called Paladins on the show—are sent on a, uh, quest to save the mythical kingdom of Everealm from an evil dude named Verlox. The contestants are thrown in a fully immersive environment, complete with actors performing an established storyline. There’s a queen (who just got poisoned! dun-dun-DUN!), a Jafar-like Grand Vizier, a demanding but dreamy head of the royal army, and the Fates. Plus, there are village people (sadly not those Village People) and goats! GOATS!

In each episode, the Paladins have to perform certain challenges—some physical, others strategic—called for by the story. (For example, evil dude Verlox may attack at any moment, so the Paladins have to prepare. Cue training montage!) And true to the rules quickly established by this fantasy world, the challenges involve things that most normal people don’t do, like attempting to crush a skull with a hammer whilst speeding by on a galloping horse. (Totally happens on Wall Street, right?)

Those who are in the proverbial “bottom three” after each challenge don’t lip sync for their lives, but they do have to perform one final challenge to prove themselves worthy. One gets saved; the other two must be voted on by the remaining Paladins. And instead of the quasi-anonymous write-in votes that Survivor uses, on this show, your supporters physically line up behind you if they don’t want you banished from the kingdom. So you get to see who’s got whose back. Literally. The one with the fewest supporters gets kicked off and sent back to the real world of traffic and mortgages and broken dreams.

The genius of this show, other than the pure fun of watching the bewildered Paladins collide with established characters and storylines, is watching the actors react to the contestants’ choices and behaviors in character. As an improviser, I can’t think of a more awesome challenge. It’s like being a Disney princess and having to deal with 35-year old gay dudes who line up with the ten-year old girls for a photo.

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The other genius part is the writing. One of the producers mentioned having to do regular late night rewrites of the storyline based on what happened during the day. (The producers were also apparently *IN COSTUME* when they were around the contestants. Gaaaaaaah. How cool.) From an artists’ perspective, the pure creative genius involved in conceptualizing something like this and then ACTUALLY PULLING IT OFF is beyond amazing.

(I also have a theory — still unproven — that one of the Paladins may be a plant, a kind of subversive villain character who’ll shake up the game from the inside. If that does happen, I will gladly buy the producers a drink for the genius twist.)

If you think this show isn’t your cup of mead, I’d suggest checking it out. The show oozes nerdiness from all pores, and unashamedly so. After watching an episode, I’d challenge you not to yearn to be either a Paladin or an actor in the fully realized world of Everealm. Few reality competitions allow you to live out your nerdy fantasies with costumes and weapons and goats. This show gives those to you, and more.

Plus, it’s the perfect segue to Project Runway.

Lost Stars

This song has been stuck in my head since I saw Begin Again and found out after the fact that it was written and directed by John Carney, writer and director of the brilliant Once. 

Do yourself a favor and see this film. It’s a love letter to the audience. It disarms you, wins you over, and makes you hope. I haven’t smiled at the movies in a long, long time.

Kiera Knightley version:

Adam Levine version:

Careening Toward Mid-Life

A not unserious thought came in my head today as I was walking to Starbucks to purchase my six dollar, 600 gajillion calorie beverage.

Having hit 35 recently, <Carrie>I couldn’t help but wonder</Carrie>: At what point should I give up hope of ever being shredded?

When I look at myself in the mirror now, I notice wrinkles around my eyes, skin spots like my grandpa used to have, greys sprouting on my head. In my 20s, I hit the gym religiously, at one point even doling out a grand for a personal trainer. I’m not out of shape per se, but shirtless selfies look ridiculous now compared with how I looked at 26. My six-pack strains to break free from the fluffy confines of late night pasta dinners.

Existentialist questions (“Is there all there is?”; “What have I done with my life?”) notwithstanding, I’m more than curious to find out how people deal with this physical transition.

If looking good nekkid (LGN) were more of a priority, I’d get my act together. But I like my life and lifestyle. I occasionally make it to the gym. I eat somewhat healthily. I take regular showers. Looking all shredded just seems like too much work, with little return at this point in my life.

Should I abandon all hope now?