Indivisible

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I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to HATE hearing phrases like:

There ARE actions we can all take to create the change we want.

What I find equally annoying are my own bromides. Statements such as:

Just remember, WE ARE THE MAJORITY. There are 2.85 million more voters in this country that DID NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP than DID vote for him.

Really, Chair?

Please, someone make me – and them – STOP.

It’s not that I don’t believe these to be truisms, along with many others. It’s just that these days I am royally pissed off, scared and sometimes foaming at the mouth (Note: Believe me, folks, it’s true). Mostly, that my country is about to be led by someone who for the last year and a half I’ve considered a racist lunatic and who, with each passing day, makes statements, speeches, tweets and actions that only confirm those feelings tenfold.

Me, 90% of the time

Me, 90% of the time

It takes a certain kind of person to endure this kind of pressure with a combination of action, dignity and grace. People like Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) who said this week what the majority of us in the country are all thinking – that Trump is not a legitimate president because his election was illegitimate.

There is convincing evidence Russia significantly interfered with the election process, Rep. Lewis explained.   He and others also added that based on conversations with the FBI and others there is also apparently widespread suspicion and isolated pieces of mounting proof that members of Trump’s campaign, and perhaps the candidate himself, were willing and/or active participants in this swindle.

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

So for those many reasons, Rep. Lewis then announced he will not attend Trump’s inauguration in less than week. Nor will, following his announcement, a growing list of other members of Congress, who are pressing for an internal and/or external investigation into the election and Trump. One that they will likely get – in detail.

See, that’s exactly how action happens. Unvarnished, calm truths – elucidated by a few facts and plausible theories – followed up with a plan to resist, protest and create the change you want based on those truths.

Of course, Rep. Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King at Selma in the 1960s fighting segregation, got his head beaten in by police, and nearly lost his life doing it. He’s bold, courageous and well trained.

trump712

Or as some put it “all talk.” #eyeroll #enough

But what’s the average passive scare-dy cat like me – and perhaps you — to do?

This brings us to INDIVISIBLE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE for RESISTING THE TRUMP AGENDA.  

Required reading #doit

Required reading #doit

It’s readable, smart and snappy and was written by former congressional staffers who wanted to chart out step-by-step, to us ordinary folks, the best ways to make Congress listen . You can read and/or download the breezy 26 page pamphlet here: indivisibleguide.com.

Think of it as Advocacy/Politics/Change for Dummies.

Indivisible has only been posted a matter of weeks and already there are Indivisible GROUPS springing up all over the country that use the short, printed guide as a jumping off point primer on how to get lawmakers to stop crazy people from hijacking the country you love.

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

No, I’m not apologizing for my words. I’m speaking to you – not to those who disagree with me or to those on the fence who I want to persuade. I have to be more polite to them to affect change. At least publicly. Which doesn’t mean I can’t be passionate, strong-minded and direct in their presence. Or scream, yell and curse when they’re not around.

See, that’s what I learned at one of the advocacy groups inspired by Indivisible I accidentally attended this weekend. Some weeks before a friend of mine saw one of my feverish political posts (Note: Or rants, or pick your applicable verb) on Facebook and realized my verve had potential but my methods could use some, um…honing (?) to get me to the next level. So he invited me to join him in a Saturday afternoon of “advocacy training” at someone’s house led by a professional.

Right. At first I didn’t want to go even though I realized I should. Then I considered the alternative – more foam. So I decided to join him. And then the day before the event – where I would be required to walk into a room full of all these strangers – my personal news oracle, Rachel Maddow, actually had one of the founders of the Indivisible Guide on her TV show reporting on the very type of event I had unknowingly agreed to attend the following day.

Jees, this sounds so smart, I thought. I should get involved in that but probably won’t. Little did I know I already had committed to do so and was about to.

I say all this not to pat myself on the back to encourage all of you to take a small step out of your comfort zone into unknown territory. You can still foam, or drink, or tune out and do nothing the rest of your time. But if you allow yourself, there is also room to create some sort of active plan to counteract all of your worst (or on some days, best) instincts.

In no particular order, here is some of what I re-learned, learned for the first time, or was astounded by in the course of my training:

— Did you know you get some of the best results talking to your member of Congress? They (okay, their office) will answer ALL constituent calls and log them. But be precise and direct. This is far more effective than emails or other correspondence, which are largely ignored.   And their local phone numbers are easily found on the web.

Real people, folks!

Real people, folks! #imaginethat

— ASK for a staffer in your rep’s office that handles the issue you are calling about.   These people are almost as important as your rep because they write all the legislation and do the grunt work. Also, ask for the scheduler in the office and when you’re ready you can get a meeting on the books with the staffer and eventually the rep. Go with up to four people, armed with a personal story on your “issue.” Prepare a few thoughts, facts and questions. Know your rep’s stance. But remember, you don’t have to be an expert. It’s more about forging an ongoing relationship with them on an issue(s) you care about. And note: NEVER mention you contributed money to their campaign. That sounds like you want quid pro quo. It’s much more powerful to be a constituent with friends in their district because that means you can en masse vote them out of office.

— If your rep AGREES with all your positions CALL THEM ANYWAY. They need to know you have their back and can use your ideas. In fact, they welcome it, particularly now when the going is tough. Also, attend any town halls they have in your district. You can find these out signing up for their newsletters.

Be part of the political human pyramid!

Be part of the political human pyramid!

— If you go to sites like majorityleader.gov or senate.gov you will get a calendar for a FULL YEAR that will tell you when you rep (actually, all of them) will be in your district and state and when they will be in Washington, DC working. Schedule calls and meetings accordingly. You can also go to congress.gov and check on what bills are in what committees and on which subjects.  Check out committees your specific rep is on and contact them about the issue.

— Become part of a local organization fighting for your cause because there is more strength in numbers. This doesn’t mean you turn your life over. You go to an event or two and do what you can in the beginning. Here are some sources and ideas:

Common Cause — I am particularly interested in investigating Trump and the election. This group is on the case and effective in holding elected officials accountable. They are also BI-PARTISAN. Commoncause.org

Citizen’s Climate Lobby – An effective group if you are particularly concerned with climate change. Citizensclimatelobby.org

Funny, but missing the point ;-)

Funny, but missing the point 😉

Facebook Groups:

— If you are a white person who is particularly concerned with racism towards non-whites try White People For Black Lives.

— If you want a simple task to do everyday that will make some difference join the group Rise When We Fall. They offer options and action plans. You can also get daily emails from them. Risewhenwefall.org

— Sign up for a google news alert about the activities or any Congress member of issue you want to know about. You can choose how often you get them. It’s a summary of the latest developments and a way to stay informed.

— If you want to take a step towards a Trump impeachment, demand your reps and others support a bi-partisan independent investigation into Russian/Trump activities in the 2016 presidential election. If there is an investigation done solely within the Senate, a distinct possibility, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the power to keep specific evidence, testimony and findings secret and you will NEVER KNOW the FULL STORY.

— If you are overwhelmed with issues and can’t choose one, you are not alone. Know most of us feel this way. Go to charity navigator and peruse many worthy causes. It is a guide on what organizations do and how to donate time or money. Spend some personal time soul searching and realize you cannot do it all. And that whatever you don’t choose, someone else somewhere will choose.

When it feels like this... remember you are not alone!

When it feels like this… remember you are not alone!

Finally, the woman who ran our workshop wisely pointed out that although often it’s quoted that all politics are local, what that really means is all politics is personal. She then hesitatingly offered us the quote often attributed to Russian leader Joseph Stalin (Note: Appropriate in the age of Trump) – the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.

Meaning –- this stuff is all personal and if you relate what is meaningful to you and yours it will carry more weight than you realize.

Though if Russian orthodoxy makes you uncomfortable at this point in time – and why wouldn’t it – think instead about what Mother Theresa once said:

If I look at the mass I will never act.

And then, yeah, act. Which in turn might bring you, just a little bit of hope.

Carrie On

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Directly after Carrie Fisher’s funeral this week, her brother was spotted carrying away a sizeable urn in the shape of a giant Prozac pill containing her ashes.

I’d love to report this was her joke from the grave, a surprise last bit at her funeral for survivors and fans – both public and private. In actuality, the idea is credited to her brother Todd and her daughter, actress Billie Lourd.

It seems that one of Carrie’s prize possessions was this oversized tribute to the famed anti-depressant that she picked up years ago and she always treasured it as some sort of comic talisman (or taliswoman, as she might write, though probably in a much funnier way).

A true original

A true original

So after going through various other options that “didn’t seem quite right,” they figured why not permanently contain her in something that truly gave her joy – not to mention permanent stability, at least metaphorically.

Full Confession: The sight of this drug literally carrying Carrie around for all eternity made me laugh out loud. And more than once. Because I kept clicking on article after article just to keep getting more details and as many different perspectives of the image as I could.

It seriously never gets old

It seriously never gets old

See, renowned for her wit, her writing, her portrayal of Star Wars’ Princess Leia and her Hollywood pedigree, she also joked that she was equally famous for “being crazy.”

But what this really meant was that she was equally known as a tireless mental health advocate and for sharing her lifelong battles with her own bipolar disorder in books, interviews and pretty much any other avenue available to her in an attempt to help both herself, and perhaps one hundred thousands of others like her, cope with the seeming unreality of their realities.

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

There’s a lot of unreality floating around right now so it’s more important than ever to remember that even when everything is so serious you yourself can’t always be that way because it will literally make you crazy crazier. If nothing else, this is something Carrie Fisher leaves us and in her memory it would be a fitting tribute to act on it accordingly.    That is, aside from dressing like Princess Leia every so often on Halloween.

To this end, I often imagine what it must be like when Trump showers in his gold gilded marble bathroom – mirrors everywhere – and catches that magical 3-D reflective glance as his numerous selves get out of the shower. Delusional though he might be – what do you think he sees? Bradley Cooper? Jon Hamm? Even more age appropriate John Kerry? I don’t think so.

Please stop there!

Please stop there!

More like a balding Jabba the Hutt –the white fleshy overhangs of age moving every which way; a naked, liver-spotted pate up above topped not by a sea of combed over shining, swirling straw but by long limp clumps of sad, wet droopy side tresses of unruly human waste.  A forever Queens, NY version of Jabba the Hutt, twaddling around his newly chosen nest but never able to quite break free of what a lifelong indulgence of personal vices and himself have caused him to become. At least physically. Sure, it might be no longer than a second or two but that is enough. Daily. And as I imagine it during the tough weeks it amuses me endlessly and differently. Each time.

What.. too graphic? #ahhhhh

MAKE IT STOP!

Now perhaps this makes me a less than good person but I don’t think so. In some real sense, it just makes me human. For humor is very personal and I’m not Carrie. But neither are any of us. Point being, you’re not awful or unserious if you occasionally indulge your dark side (Note: And, um, Star Wars, duh!). Especially if it gives you fuel to keep fighting the good fight and relieves some tension.   And unlike drugs, drink, food or violence, the worst it will give you is a sick laugh. Imagine, that’s the absolute worst. My former worst was as a kid telling those god-awful Helen Keller jokes. And I bet most of you have done no worse – despite what you may advertise to the world or what the world thinks you or your secrets are guilty of.

On that note, what do you think they stored Antonin Scalia’s ashes in?

Too soon?

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

Okay, then imagine David Bowie. Or Nancy Reagan. How about Prince? Now c’mon, you know he’d have come up with something genius had he even put a fraction of that brilliant mind to it. But he had music and other stuff to keep him perpetually amused and entertained. Not all of us are so blessed.

There was that time he went on the Today Show dressed as Bryant Gumbel

There was that time he went on the Today Show dressed as Bryant Gumbel

This past week I watched Ava DuVernay’s thoughtful and troubling 13th, a documentary on the history of Black enslavement in the US, and I found myself talking and shouting back at almost all of the white people onscreen who, even when caught with their racism showing, figured out a way to rhetorically wrestle themselves away from reality. I see this same marginalization reflected by too many contemporary white supporters of Trump, not to mention others – though not all of them would look as repulsive as him getting out of the shower.

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no more Chairy! I just can’t take it! #myeyes #myeyes

So what do you do – that is aside from demonstrating, donating, ranting or running against them, and generally fighting against their regressive views of humanity?

Well, spewing a sea of snide retorts at them either virtually or in person when you get the chance helps immeasurably despite what most rational thinkers will advise. Don’t consider it the surefire thoughtful antidote or magical bullet. Rather a small but very, very useful tool among many in the arsenal of your survival.

Sort of like your own personal melon baller or kitchen paring knife.

Buh-Bye 2016

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There is a Yiddish/English expression called kenahora, which when loosely translated means putting a curse or the evil eye on something.   Of course, in usage it generally means the opposite – that is warding off fate from even glancing in your direction in a negative way.

How would this happen with mere words? Well, we Jews don’t like to tempt fate so our thought is that it usually occurs if we were to brag about even the tiniest of good fortune.

For example, at the holiday dinner table your mother says:

You know, I haven’t gotten sick all year. How great is that!

At which point her mother, your grandmother, quickly interrupts and shouts, Kenahora! And then goes one step further and throws salt over her shoulder.

giphy

The latter is a second more drastic step in warding off evil though in truth it actually means blinding the Devil, who we Jews don’t even believe in. So no, that makes no sense but well, historically, once again, better safe than sorry.

Why bring this up? Well, because I was going to open this piece with this declarative statement:

Could 2016 have been any worse????

And then quickly decided against it. With only less than a week left and given my heritage and what’s already happened in 2016 there is no point in taking what clearly is the very real risk of destroying us all. And yes, OF COURSE my mere words have every power to do so. Every religion teaches us that – doesn’t it???

So instead of pushing our luck and asking for any more trouble, kenahora, let’s look back to the year that is almost at its end (Note: No editorializing there) and try to focus on the best and worst of what each of us, in our own special way, have lived through and probably wrought. It’s a limited list, but so probably is our time left here. If you look at it objectively. Kenahora.

MOST SURPRISING POP CULTURE MOMENT OF THE YEAR:

Death

Not a great year for celebrities

Not a great year for celebrities

Let’s get this out of the way first. I mean, George Michael died on CHRISTMAS DAY, 2016 (and then Carrie Fisher dies two days later????). Counting back in no particular order we’ve also lost David Bowie, Edward Albee, Muhammed Ali, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Florence Henderson, Patty Duke, Phyllis Diller and even Zsa Zsa friggin’ Gabor who held on till 99! To say nothing of PBS’s Gwen Ifill, CBS’s Morley Safer, PGA’s Arnold Palmer, NASA’s John Glenn and Everyone’s Doris Roberts. There will also be no more future Alan Rickman performances, Pat Conroy books, Leon Russell songs or Phyllis Schlaffly lectures (thank the Devil). Not to mention, we no longer have the flesh and blood Elie Wiesel to turn to as a historical touchstone at a time when we may need him most.

Am I forgetting anyone? #shade

Am I forgetting anyone?

It also felt 2016 marked the death of logic, of science, of civility and most of all – TRUTH. Though unlike human beings, those last things can once again get reborn. And if you believe human beings can too, please re-read that last things list one more time and reconsider.

MOVIE/TV SHOW/PLAY I CAN’T BELIEVE I SAT THROUGH:

Tie: Nocturnal Animals & Jackie (in no particular order)

Ugh. Not again.

Ugh. Not again.

Both of these movies have absolutely no reason for being other than the egos of the filmmakers. Of course, that would apply to the majority of movies so perhaps it’s not a valid criticism. So let’s put it this way.

Nocturnal Animals has not a real emotion in its seemingly endless two plus hours and is an homage artifice – of human behavior, of reality and of depth. No one is saying that a designer can’t write and direct great films, just like I’ve never heard anyone claim that there is not some writer somewhere that couldn’t conceive and manufacture his or her own fabulous designer suit or even clothing line on demand. It’s just that it takes a great deal of skill and has not ever happened. Though we spring ever hopeful for 2017 and beyond – it’s doubtful.

Maybe stick to making JT look this dapper? #stayinyourlane

Maybe stick to making JT look this dapper? #stayinyourlane

As for Jackie, it’s the first pornographic film I’ve ever seen with nary a sex scene. Rather, it’s a leering, unjust, seedy little dance on the grave of one of the few American icons left who deserves better. Telling a no-holds barred story on the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis will make a fine film one day but this isn’t it. Unless you call watching her roam around the 1963 White House to the tune of Richard Burton singing Camelot as she tries on formal gowns, smokes cigarettes and drinks, some sort of new, cutting edge, cinema verite drama. Natalie Portman is terrific playing a construct of someone who looks and sounds a lot like the former First Lady as skewed fictional doppelganger trapped in the filmed pretention of a cinematic fun house mirror.

 

BEST INSURGENT

Keith Olbermann – GQ Videos The Resistance

Help me, KO, you're my only hope. #forreal

Help me, KO, you’re my only hope. #forreal

Once upon a time there was a sports commentator who became the host of a political show on a fledgling cable network called MSNBC and proved he was not only as smart and incisive as his contemporary counterparts but a lot bolder, uncensored, outrageous and articulate. This all happened during the George W. Bush presidency where he is often credited with being the first and longtime sole credible anti-Dubya voice of American outrage.

Keith eventually left politics and returned to sports casting but once the Pres. Elect who lost the popular vote by 2.85 million surfaced this year as the unleashed GOP candidate for the White House he listened to all my tweets to him and eventually stepped forward once more in a series of brilliantly researched, unvarnished and truth-telling 6-11 minute weekly ongoing video segments. Quite simply, he’s the best around at distilling the past, present and potential future horrors of our Birther-in-Chief and vows to continue to do so until such time as someone else steps up to heed the call. That doesn’t seem likely any time soon. Nor even possible at this point. Here’s a sample:

Click here to watch #RESIST

Click here to watch #RESIST

BEST COMEDIAN OF THE MOMENT

Wanda Sykes

It Girl

It Girl

It’s not only because she’s an out black lesbian married to a white woman in LA. raising kids in a house where one day she woke up and realized she is still and ever will be – “a Black woman who waits on White people.” Though moments like that certainly help.

It’s because she is another one of those people who can’ t help but be a truth teller and will do it at all costs. Like several months ago during a benefit standup performance in Boston where she told the crowd – This is not the first time we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic president. He’s just the first confirmed one.

And when a small but loud group in the crowd booed she had the backbone to tell them to fk off and presented a bunch of examples to prove her point. At which time, they…Well, watch for yourself. Comedy, like tragedy, happens in the moment. It’s just that the take and the tone is different, depending on your audience.

BEST COOKBOOK

Small Victories by Julia Turshen

#DROOL

#DROOL

This cookbook was on the NY Times bestseller list for months this year but I would never have known about it had my friend Howard not got it for me as a birthday present. What makes it great? It’s the simplicity and depth of flavors all done in a homey, readable and self-effacing style.

Julia Turshen spent years as a personal chef and co-authored any number of well-known cookbooks with others. But in this solo effort she shows us the possibilities and accidents to be found either in our cupboards or with a perfunctory shopping list and the numerous choices and variations those foods and flavors hold. You often think – this sounds so simple and easy, how can that be? Well, it can – try the Turkey Ricotta Meatballs and Tomato Sauce.   Or you resist and say to yourself, that’ll be the day I spend any time roasting radishes, much less serving them to guests (Note: You should, with her Kalamata olive dressing Pg. 114).

Did i mention DROOOL?

Did i mention DROOOL?

No, I don’t know her and I don’t get commission. But I do know what’s good.

PERSON WE COULD SEE LESS OF IN 2017 (aka TOO MUCH OF THEM IN 2016)

Kellyanne Conway

Maybe I should have just put in a pic of Jon Hamm?

Maybe I should have just put in a pic of Jon Hamm?

She is the first woman to both manage a major candidate presidential campaign and emerge with a president-Elect. Winning – well, that’s in the eye of the beholder.

There is something about the Cheshire Cat grin, the constant verbal use of the word “Hashtag,” followed by her 49 year old self’s snide, self-satisfied, whiny delivery of the phrase He’s Your President Too, that makes me know she’d be the only one to cast as Lucy Van Pelt in a D.C. revival of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.

But I love Peanuts too much to seriously suggest that. Just know that it is likely we will see less of her in the New Year. She’s poised to be working behind the scenes of what now looks to be key advisor to her Oval Office elect guy – a role similar to the one Valerie Jarrett played to President Obama.

God (or whatever you believe Him or Her to Be) Help Us.

MOST REVISITED SHOW (Netflix, Cable, or DVD)

The Twilight Zone

... but I'll take good care of my glasses #trumpamerica

… but I’ll take good care of my glasses #trumpamerica

See above, as well as #1 above. Need I say more? There’s something about it that, well, explains everything. And that’s soothing.

BEST VIRAL VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Chewbacca Mom

She just gives me hope for humanity. Such joy, such humanity, such…hysteria!!! For the longest time I wasn’t sure what it was. The joy of laughter? The ridiculousness of the mask? The iconography of Star Wars, suburbia, motherhood and mayhem?

That is for much bigger brains than me to decide, analyze and then write about in media journals. Here’s what I know – it was the top viral video of the year and was viewed more than 8 million times.

Stay with it.

And don’t pretend you did not laugh once.

And if you didn’t…you’re lying.

BEST GAY THING OF THE YEAR

Moonlight

YES

YES

Three time periods in the course of the life of a young, gay Black man. That’s the logline. But as any artist will tell you, a logline says little about the work it describes.

The majority of critics are calling it the movie of the year and certainly that’s debatable – as any choice would be. What’s inarguable is that it breaks new ground and is something we’ve never seen before – a chronicle of the type of young life in a segment of society that has never been seen onscreen and will be much needed in the 2017 and beyond days to come.

HEALING POP CULTURE MOMENT OF THE YEAR

What was it that Alan Alda’s character posited in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors –

Comedy is tragedy plus time

Well, screw that. And not only because this quote is also separately on record from both Steve Allen and Carol Burnett in printed interviews decades before.

Sometimes – well, actually rarely – do comedy and tragedy come together in one perfect moment to equally express the SADNESS AND HILARITY of what we’ve just endured. This solar eclipse-like occurrence is called true IRONY and when it happens it is truly lightning in a bottle on the pop cultural landscape.

This is what Kate McKinnon and SNL wrought several days after the shocking results of #Election2016. Almost THREE MILLION more in the country were equally devastated that Hillary Clinton would not become president and that an uncertified lunatic would. And a significant number of those SNL watchers were still upset at the recent passing of genius balladeer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, whose seminal Hallelujah has for decades emerged as the bittersweet parable of loss.

But it was not only KM at the piano singing that tuneful dirge with a tear and glint in her eye that brought it home. It was the one line message she delivered when the song was over when, clad in the iconic HRC white pantsuit and perfectly coiffed twelve shades of blonde helmets of hair, she turned to the camera and said:

I’m not giving up and neither should you. Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night (Live).

Amen to both statements.

And #HAPPY2017.

The Film of 2016

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More than half the country’s voters (by 2.8 million and counting) are bemoaning the year 2016 and can’t wait for it to come to an end. Certainly, I am one of them. I mean, not only did a lunatic become president-elect but Florence Henderson died. One wonders – how much worse can it get???

OH C'MON! #effthisyear

OH C’MON! #effthisyear

And yet, this year did offer one very significant piece of filmic art. A work that provides a road map for our futures and could possibly inspire generations to come.

It is the most important film of the year.

And just might be the most significant motion picture of the next four years.

A movie that thinkers and dreamers will return to time and again as we forage our way through the hell of our futures —

6z33f0

Wait a minute…

This is not to say it is the best film of the year. I will leave that for others to determine. It is not even to say that it will be in your top 10. Perhaps you don’t like musicals. Maybe you hate L.A. Or perhaps (and maybe) you have no patience for the dreamers among us. Certainly, that attitude is popular these days. Lord knows what it will be in two, three or twelve months from now.

oh hey 2017!

oh hey 2017!

Still, there is a timely importance to La La Land whether it’s to your taste or not. Whether you love it, hate it, or if it wins any Oscars or Razzies at all.

La La Land offers a road map on how to proceed. It shows us methods to cope. And it eventually delivers a desirable if not bittersweet future which, given the current circumstances of our real lives, is a terribly tempting reality for which to strive for in the next 48 months. And awfully clever for a fantasy film.

No, I am not overstating this. And note: there will be no spoilers here.

You can trust the chair #kisskiss

You can trust the chair #kisskiss

Granted, as a show biz aspirant who arrived in Hollywood decades ago with my own version of stars in my eyes, perhaps I’m a bit partial. But I don’t think so. What’s the old adage – “everyone has two businesses, their business and show business?”

You don’t think that’s true? Go back to your hometown anywhere in the U.S. and, despite how they voted, see what happens when you tell them you work in film or television.

#lifegoals

#lifegoals

The plot isn’t much. A guy and a gal in their twenties each trying to make a big dream in their lives come true in a world that keeps saying:

No, not on my watch. What you want is impossible and you don’t have the karma or smarts or talent to bring off what you choose to do.

Being young and in their twenties – and yes, looking like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (Note: Remember this is a metaphor & okay maybe he’s in his thirties but who cares), they keep fighting. And failing. And failing yet again. Then they figure out other ways to get their dreams that seem like they’ll work but sadly, do not.

Along the way they find each other and that’s nice.

But something still doesn’t feel quite right. They are not living up to who they are and what they believe deep down in their souls. And if you can’t do that, well, it’ll only be a matter of time before everything else in your life and world will turn to shit. (Okay, I’m inserting my own philosophies here but that’s their general point. Or, well, at least mine here).

Bonus points: You do still get to look like this #hellloooryan

Bonus points: You do still get to look like this #hellloooryan

In any event, what these dreamers believe in more than anything is that acting on their core beliefs – nee using their true talents – will not only benefit them but in some small way can bring some relief to other people’s lives. If only just for a few random moments. And what this story proposes to us is that when one of them (or us) gives up, the other one forces them to go on. And when the other one of them (or us) gives up, the other one of…Well, you get the picture.

More than the power of positive thinking it’s the mutual power of faith and hope in each other that is really what La La Land is about.   Of what can be achieved when you fulfill what you know is right, and how you can be helped along on this road even when you begin to doubt yourself.   Okay, I’m beginning to have déjà vu right about now re:the whole faith and hope thing, but even still, that doesn’t mean this way of thinking is wrong.

We're with you girl

We’re with you girl

Survival means imagining against all odds and acting on it.

Dreaming the big (or small) dream and doing something about it.

Proceeding when others say no and call you names and threaten to do a lot worse to you.

And then do a lot worse. And A LOT more than that.

In order to counteract what’s coming we ALL need INSPIRATION from everywhere. What popular culture can do is produce art that INSPIRES us to fight. Or to continue the fight. Or simply just be and act on WHO WE ARE continuously and to maximum effect.

... EVERYBODY NOW!

… EVERYBODY NOW!

Naysayers can make you cry, infuriate you, and make you want to beat the crap out of them or yourself. But only you can decide when THEY win. THEY don’t get to marginalize you – only you can do that to you. If this sounds a little precious – well, maybe. So is the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, The Constitution and The Gettysburg Address when you read them. And we all should read them, again or for the first time, sometime.  And then perhaps get a copy of the text of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and critique that for purple prose. But not before we take in the true meaning behind those words.

One of the screenwriting books I use for teaching says a good movie is like “a seamless dream.” Well, that’s about as great a description as I’ve ever heard.   And makes it even important to remember that without dreams we wouldn’t have innovation. Or innovators – aka – the people who change things.

Now i just have to work on waking up in full hair and make up #cinderellawho

Now i just have to work on waking up in full hair and make up #cinderellawho

Not everyone can inspire or change stuff on a massive scale. But any number of us working together to support each other’s dreams and/or innovation – yes, it just may take a village – can do so. And if you doubt that, right about now you might want to remember that Steve Jobs’ estranged father was a Syrian refugee.

There are real life heroes and movie heroes. None of them are flawless and none of them do it alone.

See you in the trenches. And in our dreams.

Just Try Me

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Here’s how this is gonna go from now on.

– If we meet and I find out you voted for Donald Trump and continue to support his policies I will confront you.

– I will confront you if you are a friend, relative or a friend of a friend or relative.

– I will confront you on social media even if I don’t know you but you are posting on a friend or follower’s page.

-I will confront you if you are in my home, at a dinner party, on the street, in a restaurant, at the movies and, most especially in front of people we know.

– I will confront you and I will be tireless. I won’t stop. Seriously. I will have an answer for every argument you posit and I will not hesitate to roll around in the mud with you, no matter how nasty and dismissive your argument gets.

– I will confront you because there is no time to be nice and to pretend that you have not wrapped your arms around someone who is a mentally imbalanced pathological liar, corrupt, racist, sexist and bereft of morality. Someone who doesn’t read, is not very smart and is a threat not only to the country but to the very existence of the world.

– I will confront you because time is ticking and it is not on my side. In fact, it is not on your side either but you are too brainwashed, prejudiced or set in your ways to look at reality.

mic drop

mic drop

I really wouldn’t care to engage with you at all if I didn’t have to share the world with you. I’d let you and your kind burn to the ground at this point. But being that we have to breathe the same air – at least while we can breathe  it – I will attempt to persuade you into reality using what has always been the most effective means at my disposal – words. Yes, I will listen to you but I will not indulge your fantasies, your fake news or your claimed past history of being a decent human being. Everything about you is indecent at this point. If you knew better or had any morality left you’d be ashamed.

I won’t go through a litany of what the Pres. Elect (who lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 MILLION and counting) has done in the last few weeks. Things like appointing a woman to head the Dept. of Education who doesn’t believe in public schools, a guy to head the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn’t believe in global warming, a billionaire businessman to head the Dept. of Labor who doesn’t believe in the minimum wage and a religious homophobe to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development who admits his only experience for the job is that he was “raised in the inner city.”

Oh! And he owns a home too! #wowie

Oh! And he owns a home too! #wowie

Here’s what I will do. I will mention and provide a link to the Washington Post expose that just came out detailing the undeniable evidence that both the CIA and FBI have proof Vladimir Putin and Russia spent the last year trying to influence voters and tilt the election to Trump with fake news, massive computer hacking and god knows what else (oh and this NY Times piece too). If we meet in person or online I will make a good case to you that given Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort became a very wealthy man working for Russian and Ukranian oligarchs it is logical and likely the campaign and the candidate himself had at the very least knowledge of this and more probably aided and abetted them. I will also share several stories I’ve heard over the last few years from very wealthy people that the working class billionaire Pres. Elect himself had become HEAVILY in debt to Russian banks and billionaires in order to keep his financial empire afloat and that, until his emergence in the Republican field, was denied much if any bank credit in this country anymore. No I can’t legally prove that but ask yourself another question – why does Trump go out of his way to NEVER criticize Putin or Russia or ANY of their military or financial misdeeds when there is almost NO ONE in the world other than family and a handful of fellow billionaires, and certainly not a SINGLE OTHER COUNTRY, who he has not criticized?

Two is just not enough

Two is just not enough

Also ask yourself, why were Republican members of Congress actively attempting to suppress all information about Russia’s involvement in our election while the election was going on – so much so that Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened Pres. Obama with an orchestrated smear of political bias if he dared to speak out about how widespread our government believed the Russians were in influencing the election?

Oh, and I will also ask you this follow-up question: “If you claim to love this country as much as you say you do, and the idiot Elect claims to, and the Republican members of Congress say they do, and you all truly want to “make America great again” (whatever the hell that means) – “Why does all of this not matter to you?”

... but saying this sends you into a tailspin. #priorities

… but saying this sends you into a tailspin. #priorities

What I won’t argue about is that Pres. Obama, born uniter and glass half full scholar in chief that he is, should have screamed the truth as loud and as strong as he could from the presidential bully pulpit and let all the chips fall where they might. Perhaps he had information we all didn’t but it’s hard to imagine that whatever he knew could possibly be worse than the outcome we’ve already gotten. Still, the end of the story has not been written yet and he’s a lot smarter than I am so perhaps there is a method to his momentary madness. At least I hope so.

Barack, whatcha gonna do?

Barack, whatcha gonna do?

You are welcome to say things to me like liberals can’t hear opposing views, you’re exaggerating and why don’t you give the guy a chance. I’ve heard them all and have well-reasoned responses. You can also call me a Jew or a fag or mutter other epithets under your breath because I’ve heard all of those recently and through my life and know just what to shoot back online or in person with the likes of those of you who will do that. I and my kind don’t scare easily so give it your best shot but don’t try to sell me on the idea that Trump’s senior advisor Steve Bannon isn’t a rabid anti-Semite and a racist. That really insults my intelligence and what little you have left.

I see you... and I'm not taking my eyes off of you

I see you… and I’m not taking my eyes off of you

By the way, you might be interested to know how I finally reached my tipping point with you. Strangely enough, it was the NBC live broadcast this past week of the Broadway musical Hairspray. It’s a cream puff of show but it thematically does deal with a chubby girl who tries to integrate a local TV dance show in the early sixties and has to battle a gaggle of privileged and unprivileged white people who down to their very souls believe Blacks are inferior – as is anyone who is overweight, or who is skinny and wears glasses, or is, well, even a little different from them.

Thank you perfectly polished NBC cast #evenyouArianna #especiallyyouderek

Thank you perfectly polished NBC cast #evenyouAriana #especiallyyouderek

When this show debuted on Broadway more than 10 years ago it was fun and nostalgic and was a reminder of a hard fought history lesson. This week it was strangely relevant and resonant and all too timely. It spoke to a new era under an incoming president whose supporters scream his name at rallies with Hitler-like salutes, spew hate-speak at minorities nationwide in public places, and shout down, threaten and troll online and in person anyone who dares to vehemently disagree with him. I was a kid when these battles were fought and I’ll be damned if in my third act of life I’m going to let the likes of you drag us back 50 years in time.

And no, I’m not going to give the white working class of this country a big warm hug for tolerating lies and racism so they could have a national temper tantrum that will endanger the safety of the entire global community. We’re all hurting in different ways. But there are lines that are not crossed.   And once crossed we confront them. So stay tuned and get used to people like me being right up in your face because this won’t let up for at least the next four years. You’re not going to drag us down to the gutter of beliefs where you have so very unwisely chosen to live.

Oh, and indeed, you are a basket of deplorables. Though that’s the nice term.

The World According to Affleck

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I never take A FILM BY credit. Film is a collaborative medium. And I’ve gotten enough attention.

Ben Affleck said this last line without irony, his head looking slightly away from the packed audience at the Writers Guild Theatre who had come to see his latest movie, Live By Night.   After which this group of about 400 writers and their friends broke into a spontaneous round of applause.

It’s hard to overemphasize just how difficult it is to get a bunch of writers anywhere, but especially in Hollywood and at a screening at the WGA, to spontaneously applaud for anything these days. Except perhaps the public stoning of Donald J. Trump in downtown Beverly Hills, and preferably in the window of Neiman-Marcus, if we are making wish lists or I am making personal orders.

... that and of course, for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace

… that and of course, for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace

Still, there we all were praising a guy who had just made a film we all saw that he had not only starred in but directed, co-produced…and this is the real kicker for this crowd…actually served as sole screenwriter. I mean seriously, how much more devaluing do we have to all endure and whom the “f” does he think he is???

Well, as it turns out, Hollywood writers are not as bitter of a group as you might imagine, which is not to say we’re un-bitter; and as a whole we don’t begrudge certain people the mega power to further their careers once they’ve succeeded far beyond most, which is not to say we’re thrilled for them daily. What writers, and most people in the world respect, is honesty, hard work and a brutal sense of recognition that no one, most especially those at the top, could ever begin to do it all alone.

Now, whether Ben is like that one-on-one, I have no idea. Truth be told, I have been fooled by star actors – and a couple of times one-on-one – a handful of times before. After all acting, nee pretending, is what they do really well and get paid to do really well. But in this case, I just don’t think so. Nor did a room full of my peers, more than a few of whom are far more cynical than I, if you can believe that’s possible. Which I assure you, it is.

Pretty... Pretty Much

Pretty… Pretty Much  #WGA

Live By Night is a sort of The Godfather meets Bonnie and Clyde meets a Hollywood gangster movie from the 30s or 40s starring Edward G. Robinson. It’s based on a book by Dennis Lehane and has many charms, most especially a convincing sense of period and the kind of attention to story and character detail one used to see in studio movies of the 1970s but seldom, if ever, sees anymore. None of this is to say it’s a perfect film – even Affleck himself notes that is a short list in his mind that starts with Citizen Kane, as predictable as he admits it sounds. And leans to movies like Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather II and Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game.

Still, what is most impressive about Night is how prescient it is in reflecting our current social and political climate through the lens of what is essentially a genre movie about gangsters in the 1920s and 30s. Once you get past the requisite vintage machine gun/shoot ‘em up vintage car chases and character arc set ups, the guts of the film is really about immigration and racism – and America’s ongoing blame game towards people who don’t fit what they (i.e. the majority of Americans) imagine to be its most preferable and vintage paradigm – white, churchgoing, God-fearing and, Lord knows, beyond reproach pure – by all outward appearances, that is.

as pure as this cream three-piece suit

as pure as this cream three-piece suit

It doesn’t matter how you win or what you do behind closed doors if you fit this ideal. In fact, you can don a white robe and burn crosses – as some do – or you can have indiscriminate sex, lie and cheat your way into political position, and double/triple deal with the powers-that-be to maintain your status. Just don’t make the mistake of being Black or Brown-shaded. Or Italian or Irish – which is White but not American. Or gay, which is unspeakable. Or Jewish, which goes without saying.

No doubt, Mr. Affleck will be receiving a lot of credit once the film opens in NY and L.A. on Christmas Day and then across the country in January for his foresight into what looks to be the WHITEST Christmas contemporary America has seen in decades, climate change notwithstanding. But as he readily admits, nothing could be further from the truth.

Take a seat grinchy

Don’t get ahead of yourself, Grinchy boy.

After winning the Best Picture Oscar for Warner Bros.’ Argo, he pretty much had his pick to do anything he wanted with anyone he wanted (Note: Take that in any and every context you like). But at a time when we were at the height of Barack Obama’s presidency, he decided to choose a period novel about immigrants because “America is a place of immigrants and…a patchwork of immigrant goals.” And it was a subject that constantly and consistently intrigued him (Note: And you wonder why we liberal elite applauded).

Of course, it was exactly that theme that troubled others about the commerciality of the project. Do we do a period movie about themes that we have pretty much dealt with over the decades? Eh. Well, Ben did just win the Oscar, he’s starring, he’s made some good films. Oh, and wait – he’s agreed to be Batman!!! Okay, I made up that last conversation and have no idea whether it was a quid pro quo for him to do Warner Bros’ Batman v Superman in exchange for the green light on this one.   Still, even if there wasn’t — there is an implied mutual reciprocity in the business of show. You do one for me in my corner and I’ll give you one for you in your corner.

Thinking about storyboarding Live By Night

Tortured soul… or thinking about storyboarding Live By Night? #letsbereal

Come to think of it, that’s no so different than the way it is in the real world (which show biz, isn’t) and in the upper echelons of our old, and certainly new government (which many of us kind of wish wasn’t real but sadly, most certainly is).

Yes, everyone’s been saying how timely this all is now but not at the time we were doing it. We didn’t know…I didn’t vote for Trump but I do know a few people in my life who did and I’m trying to understand them. – B.A.

That makes Ben a much better man than I am at the moment. I’m not saying I won’t eventually get there but I’m not even close to it yet. For what I believe at the moment is that I really do understand a lot of Trump voters – the anger, the eagerness to blame those “different” for your loss of money, power and perceived “station” in the world. I can’t help but comprehend and I currently hesitate to deny that ugliness because as a gay Jew who went to an integrated school in a big American integrated city with kids who were Black, Brown and yellow-skinned, and multi-ethnic white in origin, I’ve seen and experienced it all countless times before – and at a very young age.   What’s so shocking and insidious to me is that it so fervently continues now – and that it will be a Hollywood gangster movie set in the 1920s and 30s that is the first widely released film in 2017 to address it in any kind of mass commercial artistic way.

Requiem for a Dream

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Jon Hamm was in my dream last night.

No, no, it wasn’t like that.

Unfortunately.

We were actually sitting around a table with a gay character actor named Tim Bagley I had just seen on TV and I was explaining the blog to Jon. I think Tim was chiming in with great support – as all good character actors do in my dreams – telling Jon about how much he liked one of my blog posts. I was a little scared and embarrassed until suddenly Jon smiled, seemed to get excited and all was well with the world. Because suddenly he was getting up, seemingly pumped, heading to a nearby laptop to check ME out when….

I woke up.

NOOOOOOOO!

NOOOOOOOO!

Opening my eyes I wasn’t so much sad as I was disappointed –- that I wasted a Jon Hamm dream on this stupid blog, that I barely got up the nerve to speak to him and, worst of all, that I’d never ever get to find out what happened. Sure, I could go back to sleep and try to dream the dream again, but that never works out well, does it? When a specific fantasy doesn’t come true it takes a bit more work and finessing to make it happen. Which I suppose might be something to look forward to. But bottom line – I’ll never get THAT moment back again, will I?

Try again next time

Try again next time

I know this is a metaphor for how Hillary & other non-Trump supporters feel about the election and our future President-Elect-Who-Lost-The-Popular-Vote-By-More-Than-2 Million-People-And-Still-Counting. Frustrated, disappointed, powerless and scared we’ll never get the moment back again.   Scared, of course, about so many other things too, but particularly nervous that we blew our ONE shot.

We will not be re-running or reanalyzing the presidential election here because…do we need to one more time? We now have Jill Stein recounts, our personal attempts at activism and four years of arguments, discussions and commiserations with friends, relatives and enemies from which to do that. And I, for one, look forward to being called a “bigot” against working class people by many more people on Facebook because it gives ME an excuse to remind them they supported an openly racist sociopath with a very bad temper to control the nuclear codes for the next 48 months or more.   Amid gloating that if the world blows up, it won’t be on my watch or conscience. Sure, I may die – but I’ll die with a clear head.

Well if I'm being honest

Well if I’m being honest

But back to dreams, fantasies and realities.

It seems that the only way to live fully is to have dreams, even if they get altered or go unfulfilled. It gives us something to strive for and to try to create. It leads us down unforeseen paths we surely never would have gone down. Heck, it gets me out of my bed and away from watching reruns of HGTV’s Fixer Upper – a show I continue to watch even though I’m aware hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines are staunch religious conservatives who contributed money to Ben Carson – a guy who thinks you can be turned gay in prison.

LA LA LA LA LA NOT LISTENING

LA LA LA LA LA NOT LISTENING

But really, who cares about all of that when you can repurpose all those swell broken down milk cans and pieces of shiplap into soothing rooms of trendy, colorful antiques and sit at quartz countertops munching on an endless batch of freshly baked homemade cookies from a woodsy worn farm basket? I, like all the rest of you, do have my price.

Give me tiny topiaries or give me death #resistanceisfutile

Give me tiny topiaries or give me death #resistanceisfutile

Which is why it’s particularly important to keep reimagining yourself and your place in the world and not get caught up in a single static fantasy that is likely not to come true in the way that you imagined it. Never in your wildest dreams did you think the election would… Right. Well, I never ever dreamed that Tom Ford would become a writer-director of movies. And what’s worse – that he would be given money to make a film so goddawfully ridiculous and unreal as Nocturnal Animals and manage to torture the usually brilliant actors Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal and all of us with the recreation of TWO PAINFUL HOURS with not a single true moment contained within. Jeeez, there should be awards for that. Oh wait, there are.

When bad things happen to good people #Razzies. #ManyRazzies. #ManyManyManyRazzies

When bad things happen to good people #Razzies #ManyRazzies #ManyManyManyRazzies

But movies and TV do cut both ways. Besides managing to give you ridiculously unfulfilling dreams, they can spur you on to fantasize bigger – or more BIGLY – than you could have ever imagined. That’s what I did this week when on Turner Classic Movies I happened to flip channels and come in almost at the beginning of The Godfather and Godfather II – now renamed The Godfather Saga (NOTE: Who knew?). Not only are these perfect movies, or as close to perfect as the movies can get for me, they are inspiring lessons in filmic storytelling done in our lifetimes. They don’t hold back with the truth yet they spoon feed it out to us with just enough gloss, blood and archetypal fantasy behavior that we can escape and appreciate every awful moment we’ve ever experienced in our own families and cling to them in selfish glee. That, in itself, gave me a new appreciation of the environment I managed to be born into and a renewed love for each and every relative of mine (17!) who had come to my house and sat at my Thanksgiving tables (Note: Nothing Orange was served).

The only tolerable fat cat terrorizing NYC on Thanksgiving

The only tolerable fat cat terrorizing NYC on Thanksgiving

Still, this wasn’t enough to totally cheer me up once everyone had left and I unwisely decided to check social media again. That is when I began to finally binge watch a TV series a former student of mine had been begging me to check out for months and months. It’s an FX show called You’re The Worst and centers on two toxic, self-destructive people who fall in love and attempt a relationship. Boy, is that a GREAT description. And just what the doctor ordered, since I also have had a bad cold and sinus thing going, in addition to becoming a magnet for right wing Jewish hate speech.

This couple (the ones on You’re The Worst) is so absolutely toxic and uncensored that they managed to verbalize every awful, disgusting, insulting retort to every person even I never had the nerve to voice back to in that manner. All I had to do is imagine them in a conversation with every individual Trump voter I had encountered personally or virtually in the last year (or minute) and I immediately felt better – because they were also profoundly and undisputedly FUNNY. And yes, a little sad but – aren’t we all right about now? Well, most of us – I’m taking a chance here and don’t mean to leave out Red State America but at this point I have to be real about who my current audience is. As does the Democratic Party.

Living uncensored like Jimmy and Gretchen #dreamcometrue?

Living uncensored like Jimmy and Gretchen #dreamcometrue?

This is not in any way to advocate dreaming or even fantasizing nasty as a consistent diet to life because the series doesn’t either. Rather, it tries to show us what REALLY IS unvarnished, and in a humorously dramatic way. This is unlike what our current Mr. Ford does in his new, nationally released, murderous perfume ad in feature length. It is also to some extent what our current Orange President-Elect is doing. No one can accuse it him of not being dramatic and funny to a lot of his subjects audience.   But the REALITY he has wrought is one that I and many millions more of the majority voters in the country who did not vote for him, prefer was not real.

Which is why we will keep using the dreams generated by our art – the ones that already exist and inspire us, the ones we create out of whole cloth, and the ones suggested in all of our current and future Jon Hamm dreams (Note: Oh God, please let it be so) – to defeat him – SOUNDLY and ROUNDLY – and reset the course of our lives.  And, in turn, our world.

Well…hopefully.