Monthly Archives: May 2015

Ad Nauseum

As far as I am concerned, the entire advertising industry is a waste of time and money, and I’m sure a lot of people feel this way. Who among us doesn’t fast-forward through commercials on TV, or leave the room, or switch channels when the sponsors invade? What does any of it actually ACCOMPLISH?

Take the current courtesy campaign on the NYC subways. The posters are kind of cute and eye-catching to a captive audience, with their silhouette men and women colored green (for behavior they want to encourage) and red (for things that should be eliminated) engaged in various activities, such as giving up a seat to a pregnant silhouette lady and listening to their music on headphones (green) or hogging the center pole and taking up more than your allotted space with the “man spread” (red). But does anyone actually believe the ads are going to change behavior? And how many millions of dollars did that campaign cost?

Car commercials are the worst. All the cars look the same; they all have one or the other of high MPG or lifetime maintenance plans or cash back (why don’t they just charge less?) or some such bullshit that the manufacturers use to try to distinguish themselves from every other vehicle on the market. It’s “branding”, of course – what’s the brand identity? Volvo is safe, Toyota Prius is environmentally friendly, RAM trucks have towing capacity. (Don’t all trucks have towing capacity? Why would you buy a truck that didn’t have towing capacity?)

And why do we need so much choice? I was walking down the cereal aisle at the local Waldbaum’s the other day and there were dozens of different varieties of cereal, and granola, and granola bars, and organic cookies, and alternative milks and – aaargh! Do we really need so much variety?  I don’t mean to disparage innovation and improvement:  If you build a better mousetrap (perhaps a more humane mousetrap?), you should be able to market it as such to introduce people to your new-and-improved product. But how many different types of mousetraps do we need? “Premium” or store brand, D-Con or Raid – what’s really the difference? Better ingredients? How much better? Enough to justify considerable differences in price? Why should we care? If it kills mice, that should be all that matters.

There are certain uniform government- or industry-mandated standards that every manufacturer needs to meet – why can’t that be sufficient? But no – people have to have bigger, and shinier, and more luxe; or they want something that’s built to last longer (but then why shouldn’t EVERYTHING last as long?). Ultimately, it’s all about status and companies coming up with new ways to separate us from our money, which forces us to earn more money, but there’s always a gap between what we have and what we spend. So we get into debt trouble, keeping the savings and loans and the credit card companies — and yes, the bankruptcy lawyers — in business.  Yes, it’s the cycle of commerce that keeps the economy afloat, but it’s more like a dangerous sink hole. There should be a better model – more sustainability, more efficiency. After all, despite the delusions of some, our resources are not infinite.

I attended an interesting continuing legal education session sponsored by the NYS Bar Association last week entitled “What Lawyers Need to Know to Practice Law in the Social Media Age.” My biggest takeaway from the course was the concept of “The Internet of Things”, which goes beyond the traditional idea of the internet being accessible through your desktop or laptop computer and extends it to everyday objects such as phones, cameras, home security systems and even wristwatches – all capable of communicating amongst each other. It’s fantastic and futuristic, but it’s actually happening now, all around us. The interconnectedness of people and instantaneity of communication and information gathering is an impressive thing. But what is the ultimate end game of all this amazing interconnectivity? More ways to get ads in front of potential customers, of course. Pop-ups and advertisements are already omnipresent on the Internet; they’re so invasive you can’t avoid them no matter how many pop-up blockers and spam filters and scrubber apps you install on your myriad devices. And not only that, but savvy marketers are also using these interlinked everyday devices to gather information about US – about our buying habits and preferences and movements so that they can target their ads to be even more insidious. The ubiquitous advertising creep is literally creeping me out.

Just the other night, in the span of a few minutes, I was bombarded with these bits of inanity in TV commercials: a fish oil pill whose selling point was that it is designed to “reduce fish burps” and an amazing new battery made from a whopping 4% of recycled batteries! Four whole percent!!  A miraculous breakthrough! Then I come on to the computer and I can’t click on a link without being attached by a pop-up ad that I can’t even close, no matter how many times I click on the “X” in the corner. In addition to intruding on my personal eye space, I can’t help but think that all these unwanted ads make me susceptible to viruses and malware, and you’ll have to forgive me for being paranoid but, hey, it’s justified paranoia (see “Computer Dependency,” 4/14/15 blog post).

Of course, there are always the exceptions to my sweeping generalizations. Some ad campaigns are funny and some are very effective.  I may have mentioned how fond I am of the NYS Lottery ads and how they have convinced me to shell out $2 a week (“All it takes is a dollar and a dream”; “Hey, you never know”; and my favorite, “You can’t win if you don’t play”) for my best (only?) shot at a sustainable retirement plan.

I can appreciate ads that tell or show me something true and useful that I didn’t know before – almost like mini-documentaries or news show segments – but they are few and far between, probably because they’re more expensive to produce. Another exception is advertisements that are literally ART, like the oversized print ads in my favorite magazine Interview. Half the time I’m not even sure what the product is that’s being advertised but, damn, some of them look so cool.

Then there are those commercials that are so visually arresting that you can’t take your eyes away: For example, tonight during the Rangers’ thrilling win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on NBC Sports Network, there was a commercial that was essentially a mash-up of scenes from the new Jurassic World movie with close-ups of intense hockey players and action highlights from this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. It made me want to watch hockey AND see the movie — ergo, a successful advertising effort! The only problem with those kinds of ads is that, after the first couple of times, they lose their appeal.

You didn’t think I’d go a whole week at this juncture of the post-season without saying something about the Rangers, do you? As of this posting, they have set themselves up for a home-ice match-up in Game 7 on Friday, winner take all for a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Tampa Bay team has been very, very good, and they will be good for many years to come. But they are not as seasoned as the Rangers are; they haven’t gone through the trials and tribulations that the Rangers have. Yes, the Bolts have Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman from last year’s Rangers, who definitely bring that experience to the Tampa Bay table, but for the most part they are a young, untested team. Their coach Jon Cooper is a clever man – a Hofstra grad and lacrosse player, in fact, and an actual lawyer – but there is no way he is going to outcoach wily veteran Alain Vigneault, who has really been a master orchestrator all season long (and deserving of his Jack Adams Coach of the Year nomination, to be sure).

The Rangers had a glorious regular season, spoiling us with their consistency and winning ways, so that we fans had EXPECTATIONS of excellence. I don’t recall ever having such confidence in their ability to win games. But with that being said, they have also, all season, frustrated me (and others) with their inability to put the puck in the net. (They also have major trouble on face-offs most nights, which leads me to believe that it would behoove the Rangers’ centermen to do an intensive “face-off boot camp” this summer, if such a thing exists – and if it doesn’t, it should).

I’m not a hockey analytics person – I don’t understand Corsi or other fancy stats. But what I do know is this, and it has been the most frustrating thing about them this year, and especially in the playoffs: Despite being third in the league in goals per game average, so often they will have “grade A” chances (as AV calls them) and overwhelming zone time but will not be able to finish. The pundits have often said it: Dave Maloney, MSG and Rangers radio color man (and ex-Rangers captain): “The Rangers have difficulty validating their momentum”; Sean McIndoe, Grantland: “There are scoring chances in Rangers hockey. They just don’t go in . . . “; Newsday’s Laura Albanese may have most accurately captured it when she said, of Game 5, that the Rangers had “a teamwide fit of impotence.”

I often visualize the Rangers winning the Cup, and how happy and exhausted Henrik will be as he’s skating around the ice after the final buzzer, ecstatic beyond words, arms raised, hair soaked. I envision the elation at the Garden, and the look of joy on AV’s face as he leaps three feet in the air on the bench, and of course the sunny day-after parade. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. I haven’t felt this way for years. There are times – like Sunday’s Game 5, for example – when they seem to be doing everything in their power to disappoint even the most optimistic among us, making us wonder why they can’t push through when no fire is burning at their backs, and why everything seems to be a struggle, even when it looks to us outsiders like it shouldn’t be quite so difficult. But then they put up a dominant performance like they did in the third period of Game 6, and all is right in the world.

On to Game 7 – and beyond?

College Dreams

I’m fortunate to know the outgoing president of Adelphi University, Robert “Bob” Scott, via his wife, Carole Artigiani. Carole is a good friend and former employer. I was her office assistant in the early days of Global Kids (www.globalkids.org), the fantastic youth empowerment organization she founded in 1989 and which has recently and joyously celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Thanks to this friendship, I have been invited to various events at Adelphi that I might not have considered to be in my wheelhouse, including a piano recital and presentations by poets and authors. (I joke with Carole that I am having “culture” foisted upon me, but I very much appreciate it!) Last weekend, in conjunction with a reception for President Scott’s retirement, we were treated to a performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company. The eponymous troupe is split into two factions, and the “Paul Taylor 2” group had done a residency at Adelphi during the past school year.

For a novice like me, I found the dance program very intriguing. It was comprised of three parts, with brief intermissions in between during which preparations were going on behind the curtain while in front of the curtain folks said nice things about the evening’s honoree. (President Scott is a delightful and interesting man. I hope I can get to know him better now that he is in semi-retirement, although he will be traveling, writing, and giving guest lectures, and seemingly being just as busy – if not more so – than he was as a full-time, very hands-on university president.)

The first dance, which featured members of Paul Taylor 2, was called “Diggity” and had something to do with dogs. I think the dancers were supposed to actually BE dogs, and there were little doggie cutouts placed around the stage that the dancers had to navigate. The ladies’ costumes were blinding white and almost sheer; I frankly found their protruding nipples somewhat distracting. There was one female dancer who randomly appeared in silky pale pink underwear, although I couldn’t figure out why there was a distinction, unless she had just forgotten her costume. It embarrasses me to admit, but that one was utterly beyond me. (Damn you, dance ignorance!)

The second piece, “Company B”, was choreographed by Paul Taylor but performed by Adelphi students to the music of the Andrews Sisters. I was thoroughly impressed!! There was one very handsome, very talented lad who caught my attention every time he was on the stage. When I saw him later at the post-performance reception, I told him how much I had enjoyed the piece and that I had been “riveted”. He got all verklempt, clutched his hands to his chest and said, “That means a lot to me!” He was even more beautiful up close.

The last piece, “Promethean Fire”, was more like what I imagined a dance performance to be. Performed to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, the men and women dancers wore sleek black body-hugging costumes with gold chevron stripes, and the performance was extremely visually engaging. The group as a whole made a series of fluid geometric formations, and then there were break-off soloists and duos in between. The thing that I found most impressive about all of the dancing – and all of the dancers – was the physicality. Their bodies, though some were tall and some short, were uniformly muscular and lithe, without an ounce of fat, as they flung themselves around the stage with precision and strength. What incredible athletes they are!

* * *

As I was leaving the Olmstead Theater at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center, I took notice of the students’ artwork displayed on the Center’s walls, and the whole evening combined to strike a familiar nerve of joy and regret in me.

I confess – I am a school-a-holic. With considerable gaps in between, I devoted four years of my life to undergraduate college (B.A. English/Literary Writing), two to graduate school (Masters in Bilingual Elementary Education) and three to law school (your basic J.D.). If I could figure out how to afford it (and, more importantly, what I wanted to study), I’d go back again to get a Ph.D.!  As you may have noticed, I do have a degree in education. At one point in my life I strongly considered a career in academia, but I made the mistake of starting at the wrong end. My initial – and brief – teaching experience was limited to an elementary school and a junior high. While I appreciated many aspects of teaching kids that age (and admired many of the teachers with whom I was fortunate to work and from whom I was grateful to learn), what I really should have done – had I not lacked the requisite courage and confidence – was pursue the path of a college professor.

Not long ago I read a poll by CareerCast.com of the least stressful careers in America, and what do you think was on top, the least stressful of professions? College professor. Of course, as with any broad-brush statement, there was clearly some debate on the issue, but generally speaking, tenured professors at colleges and universities are the most content people in America. It certainly jibes with MY belief!

As exemplified by my recent visits to Adelphi, college campuses are, to me, some of the most fascinating places on earth. So much intellectual energy and cultural diversity!  I love the idea – and the reality – of university life. I thoroughly enjoyed going on college visits with my daughter. We didn’t do enough of them, as far as I was concerned: just a few schools south of New York (including the University of Delaware) and a few up in New England (the “U’s”: UConn, UNH, UMass and URI), and then a couple in upstate New York (SUNY Oswego, Syracuse). We didn’t make it as far west as SUNY Buffalo, which is where she actually ended up going for her sophomore year, although she has now transferred to West Virginia University for the fall semester and beyond. (We haven’t visited there yet and I’m definitely looking forward to it!)  Without a doubt, being on those campuses, and learning about all the amazing academic, cultural and activism opportunities and sports and friendships and fun that XYZ University had to offer, probably excited me as much as – if not more than – it did my daughter. And although she may have been initially skeptical, the kid finally figured out on her own (after listening to me go on and on about it) how exceptional college is now that she has finished her first year away. She’s been commiserating with her school friends over the phone about how miserable they are to be home.

I have many friends and family members who have pursued careers in education, including my college roommate, who is a teacher in a very high-end high school in Washington, D.C. She’s been there for decades, and even had Chelsea Clinton as a student. (Imagine her parent conferences!) I am not-so-secretly jealous of the path she has taken; even her summers were devoted to the kinds of intellectual pursuits – like international travel and archeological digs, to name just two – that I think I would have really enjoyed. She speaks multiple languages and has friends all over the world. Other friends – like my buddy Nick Noble, Worcester (Mass.) Pulse’s DJ of the Year – stayed literally closer to home. He taught for many years and was even headmaster at Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts (also the home of St. Marks School, where he had been a student). One of my cousins is a tenured anthropology professor at Northern Arizona University; another has been teaching English all over the world, including in China.

Sadly, much as with my writing, I feel now (and have felt for some years) that the window on that career choice may have closed. I still wonder sometimes if I have the capacity to be an effective and influential instructor. In my view, a major obstacle to that is my distinct lack of marketable expertise of any kind.  So the ubiquitous negative self-talk around my becoming a college professor is this:  What do I have to offer?  What could I possibly teach that anyone would want to learn?

My doubts are somewhat based on prior experience.  During my third year of law school, I was one of the articles editors for the Hofstra Law Review. Given that I had a career in publishing for most of my adult life, I took great pride in my marked-up corrections of the junior editors’ work, but judging by their reactions I often felt as if I had gone overboard, like I was just making marks with my little red pen and not helping them develop useful skills. I’ve often felt the same as a senior associate at my law firm, where the ever-replenishing supply of junior associates look up to me as a mentor and teacher (thanks to experience AND age). I’m always afraid that I’m doing them a disservice because I’m not clear enough, or I make assumptions about what they actually know (or SHOULD know), or I might even be passing along faulty information. I mean, the instructions and explanations I give them are clear enough to ME but they often somehow lose something in the translation.

Being a college professor is clearly my dream job. But that’s just what it is: a dream. As with most of my recent career exploration, it’s largely a case of not knowing how to get there from here. Combine that with the lack of confidence in my ability to actually teach anyone anything, and you end up with Nan wondering what might have been if I had taken a different path at any number of forks in my life road.  “Regrets, I’ve had a few . . . ”

But allow me to end on a more positive note with a final word about teachers: I have the utmost respect for educators at all levels. It is a vital, and often underappreciated, job. Good teachers can – and do – have a chance to change the world, one student at a time. Thank you all.

Fandom

The highlight of my week (as you might imagine if you’ve been reading this blog) was the Rangers’ comeback from being down three games to one in the NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals to tie it up and force a Game 7 at MSG. More on that in a moment, and also a few words about my favorite TV show, Game of Thrones (spoiler alert!).

But first, I want to express my gratitude to all the fantastic folks from my past and my present who have said nice things about my blog posts, here on the WordPress site and also on Facebook. The kind words encourage me to continue and build my confidence, so beware! More posts will be forthcoming! I may never stop!

* * *

It was a roller coaster of a week for Ranger fans. On Wednesday, I was devastated when they lost Game 4.  The Rangers were doing everything they needed to do to win – if they could have just managed to score a goal. But that, of course, is the only thing that matters.

I also didn’t think what the Caps were doing was sustainable. A team can’t withstand an assault like that indefinitely. I wanted to feel excited and optimistic, but I didn’t enjoy Game 4, not one bit. The Blueshirts blew too many opportunities, including a Carl Hagelin penalty shot. I wrote in my journal: “They’re done. I hate when this happens, and it happens every year. You would have to mark this down as a major disappointment. A year with such promise goes down with a whimper because the Rangers are goal-challenged.” (Geez, Nan, lighten up!)

True, they came up against a hot goalie, but this is not an isolated problem. Blown opportunities have been their curse all year – yes, even in this charmed and wonderful regular season, when they were literally better than every other team in the league and were actually third in the league in goals-per-game, averaging 3.02.  (I often wondered during the season if pizza magnate Papa John was regretting his promotion of 50% off a pizza the day after the Rangers scored three goals, having probably reasoned, based on past performance, “The Rangers NEVER score more than three goals! It’s a safe bet!”) I’m no expert, but there seems to be a certain logic that they miss, and I can’t explain why, despite my years of watching and appreciating and analyzing hockey games. Isn’t it a foregone conclusion that moving forward with the puck (whether carrying it or passing it), and getting pucks and bodies to the net, while simplistic, is the best strategy for scoring goals, especially when you’re having major difficulty doing just that?  I can understand occasionally taking that extra second to change the angle of a shot or make a drop pass for a misdirection play, which actually paid off for them – twice – in Game 5 but which normally makes me NUTS. But it just seems like simple physics: You push the puck in the direction you want it to go. Back passes at the offensive blue line can only lead to trouble – the opposition is already a third of the way down the ice in the opposite direction and you’re all facing the wrong way!

“I’m not ready for them to be finished,” I wrote in my journal after Game 4, “but there’s nothing I can do about it.” I was dreading having to say something on this week’s blog post about how they had dashed my dreams yet again. Only once, in all the years I’ve been a fan, had they not broken my heart, and some years it’s more painful than others. This would be a particularly painful year because the expectations were so high – perhaps too high. We expected them to win every game during the season, and they didn’t disappoint, especially down the stretch. So it made sense to expect them to win every series and end up with the Cup and a parade up the Canyon of Heroes. After the Game 4 loss, I was so sure that we would have to wait till next year, and that it was more likely than not that they won’t be as good as they are this season. Very doom and gloom.  I had practically resigned myself to rooting for Tampa Bay and all the ex-Rangers as my “back-up” favorite team for the remainder of the playoffs.

Fast forward to today (officially, Tuesday, 5/12, as I write this), and my perspective has shifted 180 degrees. I’m writing this blog post before Wednesday’s Game 7 but at this point I’m ecstatic that there is a Game 7. First it was the miraculous ending to Game 5, with Krieder and McDonagh scoring on similar shots on pinpoint set-ups by Derek Stepan to first tie the game and then win in OT. In Sunday’s Game 6, I was reminded of Mother’s Day last year, right after the unexpected death of Martin St. Louis’ mother France. St. Louis actually played in Game 5 of that series, which the Rangers momentously won, reversing their fortunes in a difficult match-up with the Pittsburgh Penguins, ultimately coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series. But his most special moment happened in the sixth game, which took place on Mother’s Day. Marty got an important goal that day – it wasn’t the winner, but it was vital to keeping the Rangers alive – and I believe the spirit of France St. Louis was bestowing blessings on her boy this past Sunday, because he had a beautiful assist on Rick Nash’s goal to put the Rangers up 3-1.  Again, it wasn’t the game winner, but it was impactful and necessary all the same, just as Marty’s goal had been in last year’s Mother’s Day game. And so here we are, with two days to recuperate for an epic Game 7. The anticipation is killing me!

(A word, if I might, about Pierre Maguire: I would love there to be just one game on the NBC Network where I didn’t have to listen to his whiny voice and the endless superlatives and biographical minutiae. He says such ridiculous things! He’s become such a joke in the industry that I don’t even think his broadcast partners listen to him anymore. The other day, he called Kevin Hayes a “man-child” when I am sure he did not mean to call him that, seeing as how Hayes was demonstrating some decidedly manly prowess on a series of shifts in the third period of Game 5. And Mike “Doc” Emrick is nearly as irritating. He’s so impressed with himself and his vocabulary and his ability to make up his own words. Can one “shillelagh” a puck? I didn’t even realize “shillelagh” could be used as a verb. Last night, he said the Rangers were leading going into the second period on “two Kriederian goals”. In this instance, he used a noun (a proper name, actually) as an adjective. Oh-ho-ho, isn’t Doc Emrick clever? No, he’s merely annoying.)

Fans have no clue how disappointing it must feel to be a player on the losing side of a difficult series, especially when there are high expectations. There’s a certain absurdity to the way fans get so invested in the fates of their favorite teams. I confess I am one of those fans. But it’s not something I do consciously; my responses are instinctive and visceral. My physical and emotional reactions to what happens in Ranger games are almost entirely involuntary. Last night I noticed my heart beating harder and faster in that last nine minutes. And it’s not just me. My daughter said she couldn’t sit down for the entire third period, and there was a great post today by Greg Wyshynski on Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog about a guy who used his Apple Watch to monitor his heart rate during Game 6. (See “Fan tracks heart rate during Rangers/Capitals Game 6 via Apple Watch”). Al Trautwig from MSG said, in the intro to the Game 6 post-game show, “If you’re still alive, tweet me.” And did I notice a little more gray in AV’s hair on the bench last night?

Despite the “guarantee” from Ovechkin (what was he supposed to say? That they WEREN’T going to win?), I am feeling more confident than I’ve felt since Game 2 of this series. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It’s a happy time in Rangerstown – well, a relieved and happy time – and hopefully we’ll get to stay here a few weeks longer.

But enough about hockey. This week I want to say a few things about Game of Thrones.

While It is a cultural phenomenon of colossal proportions, I don’t know how many of my friends love it as much as I do (just like I’m not sure who of my friends likes British comedian/artist/surrealist Noel Fielding – I have tickets for his June 9 performance in NYC, by the way, if there’s a fellow fan out there interested in joining me!). My ex-husband is a devotee of the show, but he doesn’t always fully appreciate the nuance – he prefers action, which is usually in plentiful supply on GOT, but some episodes are more devoted to development. (Generally speaking, the man has little or no patience.)  There are also myriad blogs and articles written about it, which I know because I spend a great deal of time reading the recaps and analyses in the days after the week’s episode has ended far too soon.  (I’ve previously lauded Andy Greenwald’s weekly column on the Grantland website as a prime example.) Adding my two cents to the mix is certainly pissing in the river; I am sure nothing I have to say is contributing anything unique to the discourse. But hey! I have a blog now! And I’ve permitted myself to write about whatever I want. So this week I’ll share my thoughts about this season’s GOT, now that we’re halfway through season number 5. At the risk of alienating non-GOT fans, I just wanted to express my appreciation for the genius writing, pacing and staging the show features week after week.

A caveat: If you are not a GOT viewer, much of the following will have no meaning for you. But my hope is that my unbridled enthusiasm for what I believe to be a viewing experience unlike any I have ever seen in my lifetime will inspire at least someone to watch it.

Man, what a good show this is. I read an interview with Adam Horovitz (ex of the Beastie Boys) in last month’s Interview Magazine (“Q&Andy”, April 2015) where he said it makes him nervous when his favorite show (in his case, The Walking Dead) “is about to be over and I know that I won’t be able to see it again for an entire week.” That’s how I feel about GOT. (It’s exponentially worse at the end of the season!)  The characterizations are so rich and deep and disturbing; its scenarios run the gamut from the breathtakingly gorgeous to the stomach turningly hideous; and it all fits together into this amazingly complex puzzle. You’re so anxious to see how it ends, and yet you want it to take its time getting there so you can savor every moment.

At least one time during nearly every weekly broadcast, I must cry, and then I must be awed by some otherworldly landscape or CGI or special effects expertise, and finally, the hair on my arms has to stand up, whether due to something creepy, shocking or perfect. In the April 26 episode [Ep. 43, “High Sparrow”], the scene where Brienne of Tarth is describing to her squire Pod why she was so loyal to dear, departed Renly Baratheon literally brought tears to my eyes. (The actor who played Renly, Gethin Anthony, is now going to be Charlie Manson in a new mini-series, “Aquarius”, which I may watch just to see him, although it also features David Duchovny, who I actively dislike as an actor, although I’m sure he is a pleasant enough man in real life.) And then, like a bloody, dripping cherry on top, Brienne ends her moving speech by coolly stating that she’s going to kill the King. In the same episode, I marveled at the special effect that made it looks as if Jon Snow was really cutting off Janos Slynt’s head (I could swear I saw the head twitch just before the sword came down), and how do they actually know what it would look like if a head was forcibly and swiftly detached from a person’s body courtesy of a blade of cold Valyrian steel? Then there were Arya’s scenes with the mysterious Jaqen H’ghar, whose gaze alone sometimes gives me chills.

(An aside: I was glad to see on one of the many GOT blog posts – I wish I could remember which one so I could give it a shout-out – that there are others who find the Faceless Man attractive. In fact, when I read 50 Shades of Gray [which I am sort of embarrassed to admit and which I am in no way promoting because it was a horribly written load of crap, but props to E.L. James, who is now a clue on Jeopardy, if not a household name, and a millionaire because she had the cojones to get her stuff out there, which I admire and envy, so good on ya, E.L.], I was actually picturing Jaqen H’ghar as Christian Gray — the GOT character, not the actor, Tom Wlaschiha, who was somehow less Christian Gray-like when I found some photos of him out of his Jaqen gear.)

Episode 44 (“Sons of the Harpy”) had a similar set of scenes that stuck with me. The weepy moment? Stannis telling his deformed daughter Shereen that she is “Princess Shereen of the House Baratheon, and my daughter”, inspiring a big two-handed hug from her and a begrudging but heartfelt one from him in return. The special effects scene? Jaime Lannister literally catching a sword in his metal hand with a “clank”. And the moment that gave me chills? Melisandre telling Jon Snow, after he’s rejected her sexual advances, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” How did she know to say that?? Creepy, seeing as it was what his dead Wildling lover Ygritte would say to Jon on a regular basis.

This week (Ep. 45, “Kill the Boy”), there wasn’t an actual crying moment (although Grey Worm’s profession of love for Missandei came close), but the attack of the stonemen while Tyrion and Ser Jorah were boating through the haunting ruins of Valyria was pretty intense and had me holding my breath, and Ser Jorah’s reveal in the show’s final shot may have been predictable but it was still disturbing.  Another great thing about GOT is that, not only do they kill off the heroes and favorites (RIP, Renly Baratheon and Oberyn Martell, not to mention the elder Starks), they also kill off the bad guys (burn in Hell, King Joffrey and Tywin Lannister). Boy, do I hope they kill off Ramsay Bolton in the most horrific way possible. It’s fascinating when actors become so associated with their characters that you can’t imagine them playing anyone else. I hope Ramsay doesn’t ruin Iwan Rheon, because he’s very good at playing very bad!

Thank you all for indulging my fandom this week. Next week, whether the Rangers advance or not, I expect my post will be a little less “hockey-centric”. But after all, it is that magical time of year, when the boys of winter play on the edge of summer.

A Word About My Mother

In honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, a word about my mother. When I was growing up, my father was my greatest influence and my mother was a cypher; I couldn’t relate to her at all. She portrayed herself as a goody-two-shoes who had no comprehension of typical teenage shenanigans because she had always been as perfect as she could be. We used to get a kick out of looking at her Lafayette High School (Brooklyn, New York) yearbook (Class of 1952), where she appeared in photos for (no exaggeration): Senior Class Officer, Senior Council, Arista and Major L (whatever those were), Junior Coaches (in their sporty little gym suits, hers emblazoned with a large “L”), Hall of Fame (“Best Girl Athlete”), Cafeteria Squad and Secretary to Grade Advisor Mr. Kaster. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing that! I did participate in some activities in high school – most notably as the goalie for the field hockey team and a member of the National Honor Society (the yearbook photo for which, to my great chagrin, featured me in the front row, my breasts like two oranges in a cloth grocery sack, hanging unevenly under my skin-tight stretchy shirt as I laughed at something Linda Mishkin had said to me) – but I could never live up to Kay Pizzo’s star power.

This past weekend, Beanie Marini Martini (aka Mary Jean Martinez nee Marino), my oldest friend (“oldest” not in age, as she’s literally the same age as I am – two days younger, actually – but my friend of longest standing) told me about a “walk-through” at my elementary school, where I had attended fourth through sixth grade (see “An Aspiring Young Writer”, my blog post from 3/25/15, for some of my memories from my final year there). Seaford Avenue School hadn’t actually been an elementary school since the 1980s, having gone through various iterations since then, including as a high school for young mothers and then a branch of Five Towns College, but now it is being torn down to make room for senior housing (we joked that we would soon qualify for residence). So we picked up Beanie’s mom and crossed the street from her house to visit the old alma mater, at the corner of Seaford and Waverly Avenues, for the very last time.

The building was unkempt and full of peeling paint. A glass display case outside the library (which was much tinier than I remembered it, as was most of what we saw, including my friend’s first-grade teacher – “You used to be so big to me!” she said as she towered over the miniature-sized woman) featured event programs from 1987. Oddly, there were a couple of things from that day that reminded me of my mother. One was the auditorium. My mother had a rich and resonant alto singing voice, despite her two-pack-a-day smoking habit (which she maintained till the end of her life), and it would embarrass me no end when she would sing the National Anthem – loudly and unabashedly – at school events. I also ran into some grade-school friends who I hadn’t seen since we graduated high school, who reminded me of a debauched afternoon at my house, when we raided the liquor cabinet and were inexplicably inspired to empty the contents of the refrigerator into our backyard pool. (There was sour cream and a pork butt, among other foodstuffs, not all of which floated.) My parents came home early from the out-of-town wedding they had been attending, and my mother, so flabbergasted by the destruction, in her rage, yelled: “I give you an inch, and you take the whole arm!”, gloriously and memorably mixing her metaphors.

I didn’t appreciate my mother until I actually was a mother, and even then, I rarely agreed with her. She was, inexplicably, a Republican, and a bit of a racist.  She hated my tattoos, and her most frequent criticism of me was, “For such a smart girl, you have no common sense!” But the one thing we could always do was make each other laugh. Whenever my mother, my sister and I were together, we’d inevitably end up in some ridiculous giggle-fest. As we’re all silent laughers, we’d be hysterical, tears running down our faces, but no sound would be coming out.  It actually used to scare my niece when she was little to see the three of us in the throes of laughter.

In her final months, when the diabetes that had been slowly killing her for more than a decade picked up its pace and caused her to start losing toes, and then pieces of her foot, then her lower leg, and she spent her days bouncing back and forth between the rehab center and the hospital (and although she never wanted to discuss it, as she was slightly delusional and always painfully private – another point of disagreement, as I tend toward “too much information” disclosures and she could never comprehend why I would be so willing to divulge my personal secrets – I think she knew deep down that she’d never be able to go home again anyway, not without a wheelchair, and her apartment in my sister’s basement was not set up for a wheelchair), we still managed to laugh. She would be visited on a daily basis by dead and distant family members.  She’d tell us in great detail what she saw (that wasn’t there), and she would get frustrated that we couldn’t see it, too. One day she told us that her hospital roommate had climbed into bed next to her and they had smoked a joint together (“And I liked it!” she said, which was very funny, because even though my father was a pothead in his later years due to his hanging out with young scuba divers, my mother barely even drank alcohol, sometimes nursing a single glass of scotch on the rocks for an entire party, let alone smoked marijuana with him.) But then the laughter stopped, and it was just pain, and fear, and otherworldly moans of utter misery. Finally it was time to take her to hospice, where at least she went peacefully, with her one remaining leg and the skin on her arms black from gangrene. I believe, in the end, even through her deliriums and suffering, she knew we were there with her.  Despite the fact that she was never my hero, or the person who influenced me, I fiercely loved my mother. I was especially grateful to her once I became a mother myself and my daughter put me through the ringer even more than I had done to her (which, believe me, was no small feat). She told me once that, from the time I was about 15 until I went away to college, every time I came into the house the hair on the back of her neck would stand up. The things I put that woman through! Yet I was able to finally make her proud the day I graduated from law school (at age 42), which I think is what she had wanted for me all along.

I do miss her. I miss her fake “public” laugh and our yawning late-night phone calls. Of course I realize now that there were many ways in which we were similar: We were both night owls with a self-destructive sweet tooth (I think I’ve mentioned Nips in prior posts; Nips were one of her obsessions, as they are mine), who loved crossword puzzles and sports (although she had a passion for televised golf, which I could never comprehend, and the New York Islanders and New York Jets, which was contrary to the rest of the household of Ranger and Giant fans). I often think of her when something makes me laugh that I know she would have appreciated.  I’m glad my daughter developed a close relationship with her as she got older, because goodness knows she was bratty when my mom was her primary caregiver (for free) while I went to law school. And perhaps her greatest gift to her family was her generosity, which has helped to support my sister and me and our kids even now, five years after she passed away. I may never have lived up to Kay Pizzo’s example, but I hope she was proud of me and comforted by my presence in the end.

* * *

When Beanie asked me to go to the Seaford Avenue School walk-through on Saturday, I told her that we’d have to go early. I had to be home in time for puck drop in Game 2 (I can – and do – DVR games, but I don’t like to get too far behind, especially at playoff time when there’s a chance there could be overtime) because Rangers hockey is the most important thing in my life right now, which was absolutely true (if maybe a little pathetic). I can’t help it! I love the Rangers.

But I hate when the Rangers lose and then I have to wait two whole days for the next game, especially at playoff time. They lost Monday night, a game they certainly played well enough to win. They were beaten by a fluky deflection goal, but given a little “puck luck”, the bounces could have just as easily gone the other way. Ultimately, they couldn’t solve the Caps’ goalie or break through the mass of humanity in red jerseys in front of him. They’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the net. As Jeff Marek said on Monday’s Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast,  “Do the Rangers want to do anything easily? Does everything have to be the hard way?” It’s so true, and so frustrating. As well as they’ve played this season, there were many occasions when I was mystified by how they seemed to make things so difficult for themselves, failing to take advantage of dead giveaways or “grade A chances” (as Coach Alain Vigneault calls them).

I close this week’s post with an appropriate quote from Coach Vigneault on the Rangers’ inability to score: “I would say in playoff hockey, the more you advance, it’s usually harder to generate offense. Goaltenders are getting better, you’re playing against better teams. But all that being said, we’ve had good looks that we haven’t capitalized on. We need to find a way to finish. Our guys are aware of that.” (Brett Cyrgalis, “Irate Vigneault blasts Rangers, refs, Capitals in message to team,” New York Post, 5/2/15). I heartily agree, AV. Let’s hope your words have the desired impact and, by the next time I post, the Rangers will have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.