Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Random acts of kindness

Random act of nature's kindness / our first Pristine rose of spring.

Lately, my days have been filled with random acts of kindness. The week leading into Easter was very rewarding for me.

Let me share a few examples of these "random acts of kindness" with you:

1. While I was walking on a pathway leading to the entrance of our Sunday farmers' market in Oakland, I helped retrieve an errant tennis ball for an exasperated father whose young toddler had thrown it past him. I received a polite "thank you" from the relieved father for retrieving the tennis ball as I tossed it back to him.

2. A few minutes later, while picking out navel oranges at the farmers' market, an elderly woman also shopping in the same stall accidentally dropped a navel orange at my feet.  The look on her face exuded embarrassment. No worries, I gladly picked up the fallen navel orange, wiped it off, and handed it back to her.  I received another polite "thank you" for my simple act of courtesy.

3. After offering some long-distance academic counseling for a very nice Facebook friend of mine, who was seeking advice and direction for selecting a media studies project, I received a very heartfelt "thank you" via e-mail for my time and help. Plus, there was a very rewarding postscript attached to the e-mail, too: "I'm blessed to have such a good friend."

4. As I pulled out of a parking space at our downtown fitness center, I honked my car horn at a nearby vehicle to warn its driver of imminent danger.  You see, unbeknown to the driver, she was about to back her sleek black SUV over her designer-brand purse and very expensive-looking brief case, which she had apparently forgotten about while putting something into the vehicle's trunk (car boot for anyone in Great Britain reading this post).  I stopped my car, got out, and managed to attract the driver's attention just in the nick of time.  I pointed to her purse and brief case, which were mere inches from being run over.

The driver got out of her SUV and glanced at what had almost happened.  Then, she approached me. "Thank you so much," she said, looking obviously tired and exhausted, but nonetheless wanting to express her gratitude.  "I am a doctor and have just finished a very long day.  You don't know how much this means to me. Thank you."

5. After sending an e-mail to a long-time friend to offer some positive encouragement and help console them through some difficult personal matters, I received a simple response that meant a lot to me: "Thank you for being my friend."

Added up, it was a very rewarding week for me.

A postscript: Monday night, I returned home from our fitness center only to discover I didn't have my iPod in my possession, my most trusted music companion.  Obviously, I felt panicked. I hoped ~ prayed ~ that somebody, anybody, had found my iPod which I had inadvertently left at the stationary bike workout station I rode at.  Hurriedly, I drove back to the fitness center and moments later, much to my relief, I was the recipient of a random act of kindness for which I am most appreciative.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The pleasure of our gardens, part 16

Our first Queen Elizabeth rose of the season /
 Blooming just in time for the Royal Wedding.

Oh, the joy of morning rain to enhance the beauty of flowers.

It has been a celebratory week of first blooms in our gardens this week.  There's been something new to enjoy each day.

First iris bloom of spring.
Aided by the right amount of sunshine and rain, our first roses and iris are now blooming and adding beautiful color and tone to our backyard garden.

Among the earliest to bloom have been our White roses as well as our Queen Elizabeth, Pristine and First Prize roses.  And Thursday morning, I stood on our deck and observed our first iris had opened, too.

Our first Pristine rose bloom of the spring /
Enjoying the late afternoon sunshine of April 21.

Yes, it's been a celebratory week of first blooms.  And in the case of the lovely pink Queen Elizabeth rose, its arrival is just in time for next week's Royal Wedding. Who knew!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The pleasure of our gardens, part 15

A Garden party /
What started as a trio, grew into a quintet and now is a septet.

As the middle of April approaches, our spring garden is starting to take shape.  And, with the Bay Area sun shining regularly again, it's a matter of days before we welcome the return of our irises and roses.

Yes, spring colors are ready to burst out just in time for Easter.

Calla lily / Its trumpet blooming
and smiling.
Our calla lilies, which started to blossom in mid January, are now in full bloom. What started as a trinity of three (Father, Son and Holy Ghost?) in a calla lily bed anchored by our Japanese maple tree on the right side of our front porch has grown up to become a party of seven (one calla lily for each day of the week, maybe?).  Around the corner from the garden party, the rest of our majestic calla lilies are lined up single-file along the east side of our house with their trumpets all beaming with smiles.

Budding iris / Peaking out
through sword-shaped leaves.
In our backyard garden, our iris bed has been a hub of activity as sword-shaped leaves have grown tremendously during the past month thanks to plenty of rain. The first iris buds protruding through these sword-shaped leaves should start blooming within a week.

Queen Elizabeth rose /
Our first bud is ready
to open any day.
Also, our Queen Elizabeth and Mr. Lincoln rose bushes have shown some budding development after being pruned back for the winter months.

Day-by-day, along with our other rose bushes, they are showing hints that they're ready to blossom.  Once they do, we will be rewarded with a steady stream of colorful roses for days and months to come.

The pleasure of our gardens, indeed.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why I love 'The Ricky Gervais Show'

Ricky Gervais / Funniest man on TV today?

Announcer (off-camera, voices over as classical English horns play in background):  For the past few years, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington have been meeting regularly for a series of pointless conversations.  This is one of them.

(Three funny, real-life English blokes calmly walk into the radio studio and take their seats. The red "recording" light turns on. It's show time.)

Ricky Gervais (as himself): Hello, and welcome to 'The Ricky Gervais Show' with me, Ricky Gervais. Stephen Merchant.

Stephen Merchant (now animated): Hello.

Ricky Gervais (also animated): And that little, round-headed buffoon that is Karl Pilkington.

Karl Pilkington (very animated, but looking a bit timid): Hi.

A comedy round table /
Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais 

and Karl Pilkington
Sometimes, you just want to stay home on a Friday evening, turn on the TV set and be entertained while enjoying dinner. It could be a funny line of dialogue delivered humorously by a comedian. Or, even the simple sound of cackling laughter.

The Ricky Gervais Showan animated series that wraps up its second season next week, airs Friday evenings on HBO (9 p.m. ET/PT, with repeats throughout the week). It satisfies my hunger for good comedy on many levels.  It's entertaining and funny ~ occasionally thought provoking, too.  And, to hear Gervais cackle ~ even in animated fashion ~ is pure delight. Get him going and the cackling laughter can be contagious. This is a show where you'll definitely want to activate the closed-captioning on your TV set.

Ricky Gervais / cackling laughter
We live in prosperous times thanks to Gervais, the visionary British comedian, who created The Office and Extras, and whom I consider to be one of the great comedic minds of our time on either side of the pond.  Plus, he's not afraid to poke fun at public figures, either.

During a recent "The TV Column Live" Q & A chat with Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, I asked her if there were a better comedic genius than Gervais working in TV today. Her response:  "No, because he dares to look foolish, and he dares to bomb (cough Golden Globes cough) and he dares to go out of his comfort zone (see An Idiot Abroad). He's great.  I don't always love his results, but I applaud his nerve and creativity."

Partners in all things comedy /
The animated Stephen Merchant

and Ricky Gervais
Like Seinfeld, which was a show based on the concept of being about "nothing," The Ricky Gervais Show grew out of a wildly successful podcast that was produced in Britain and, as the announcer at the beginning of each broadcast states, it's a show based around the premise of a "pointless conversation."

Simply, the raison d'être of The Ricky Gervais Show is to entertain and make us laugh. The podcast episodes are animated in a style that's reminiscent to classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons like The Flinstones. Here, Gervais and his creative partner Stephen Merchant take delight in poking fun at their friend and producer Karl Pilkington, drawing out his thoughts and (sometimes ignorant) observations about whatever they happen to be talking about ~ endlessly and mercilessly ~ and goading amusement in Pilkington's theories and personal life.

Real life Ricky Gervais
For the whole half hour ~ and it's works. This is hilarious, unscripted comedy at its best, an animated and visualized version of an audio podcast featuring three funny blokes who happen to be friends. And, thanks to it airing on HBO, the show can take liberties in its content and language.  Plus, as Gervais commented to critics after being notified last year that The Ricky Gervais Show had been renewed for this season: "This can run and run as long as Karl remains a global village idiot."

Karl Pilkington / sympathetic hero
Pilkington is good fodder as the frequent target of Gervais's humor to the point of becoming a sympathetic hero. He maintains a sense of calmness not matter the odds that he's likely to say something that will dig himself into a deeper hole than he's already gotten himself into. Some episodes, you simply wonder what stupidity will spew from Pilkington's brain.

Earlier this year, Gervais spun off a travel documentary series, An Idiot Abroad, that aired in the U.S. on the Science Channel and in Britain on Sky 1. (It has also aired in Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway and Finland.)  An Idiot Abroad captured Pilkington's reaction to cultural idiosyncrasies as he explored the Seven Wonders of the World. It turned into a social experiment of global proportions. Ironically, one of the show's central themes was Pilkington's lack of interest in global travel, which Gervais and Merchant exploited for good, cackling laughs.

In both The Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad, Pilkington has probably concluded: "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" Then, again, who knows what's going through his mind?

Postscript: On April 11, 2011 HBO confirmed that The Ricky Gervais Show had been renewed for a third season in the U.S.  The third season will debut on April 20, 2012.