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Fresh Distractions: Feb 5-12, 2012

image by cr103 -

I’m just a normal guy with a family, a full-time job, and a seemingly chronic pile of media I’m trying to consume. But, like 95% of Internet denizens, sometimes I feel the need to overshare. Here are some things on my mind from the past week in convenient list-y form:

1. PODCAST: WTF with Marc Maron #251 – Guest: Matt Graham
In this episode, Marc interviews Matt Graham, an old friend who left an influential career in comedy – from standup to writing for SNL and Conan O’Brien – to become a world-class Scrabble player, among other pursuits. He has also battled depression, and while he is shockingly frank about many uncomfortable aspects of his struggle, Graham hesitates to expound on suicidal thoughts until Maron approaches him a few weeks later for a second interview (also included in this episode). Maron pokes again at that tender topic and Graham lashes out – stating that perhaps this is the only reason he’s warranted a revisit – because he’s got a juicy, private story to tell. After some initial hesitancy, Graham shares the tale with the same frankness and squirm-inducing detail as before.

It’s hard to say what conversation occurred off-mike to spur either recorded conversation, but it’s more harrowing than other like-minded WTF share-all episodes, which feature those in Marc’s world unburdening themselves of intimate demons. For instance, comedian Todd Glass came out of the closet a few episodes back, and former Onion writer/editor Todd Hanson explored his painful suicide attempt over two interviews. To his credit, Maron has never shied away from delving into dark territory (especially his own) for public consumption. While heartfelt, Glass’ and Hanson’s admissions involved very little prompting—as if the subjects felt compelled to discuss them.

This installment, however, gets rather muddy. Given the venomous reaction from Graham, it appears Maron coaxed his friend back in front of a microphone a second time and into some gut-wrenching waters because he didn’t get the story he wanted. Yet, almost certainly, there was an agreed-upon agenda at some point, and while Maron’s intentions may seem questionable, Graham delivers without much hesitation. To quote Aretha: Who’s zoomin’ who? The audible rawness throughout the conversation makes this episode naggingly memorable, and Maron presents it simply to let the listener decide.

2. WEB: Acute Otitis Media
That’s the proper term for an ear infection. Not the type of media I’d like to think about, but there you go. Our youngest has had several of these in the first 17 months of life, and 4 in the past 5 months. A recent visit to the pediatrician resulted in a recommendation to see an ENT about the potential for ear tubes in order to stave off hearing loss and developmental stagnation.

As a modern parent, you’re constantly concerned and/or reminded that you’re screwing up your offspring. And a simple Google search unearths all sorts of controversy about the need for ear tubes as well as risk factors, not to mention the guilt and worry associated with such a decision. Pick a door, and damnation awaits.

Sure enough, the ENT tested our kid and he’s got signs of some short-term hearing loss thanks to the fluid in his ears from the latest infection. So – over the next few weeks – we’ve got some lovely decisions to make, and hopefully, we won’t break the kid further in the process.

3. FILM: PROJECT NIM (2011, Dir: James Marsh)
Speaking of broken children, PROJECT NIM features a chimp ripped from his mother’s arms in order to raise it as a human. As a character in this documentary attests with a shrug, it was the Seventies.

As a result, Nim Chimpsky (his actual moniker, obviously provided by elitist punk-ass book jockeys) bounces from human to human in an attempt to nurture him out of his natural chimpness in the name of scientific research – to the detriment of all involved. The chimp proves to be too much of an animal, and those of the Me Generation are too ready to bail on the problem they essentially initiated.

Animal activists will eat it up, but may choke on their granola when they realize it’s structurally solid storytelling about hippie backlash, and good intentions going awry.