I have evolved to the point where I don’t automatically think in terms of winners and losers on any particular issue. This, however, has taken a lifetime. After all, I’ve always loved games, my Dad is a gambler and – most importantly – I am an American.
The Inauguration of Barack Obama for a second term as President of the United States this week prompted some reflection – and not just about wardrobe and spectacle.
Truth be told — there is something about living in the United States that will make you competitive on certain specific personal issues of choice. Otherwise, our country as a whole, and more specifically Las Vegas and my Dad, would never have been able to make any money over the years. (Note: Both have done quite well on and off and continue to thrive even at all of their ripe old ages). Maybe it’s that we are a tough, relatively young country (despite our age) that started as a brash insurgent who dared to shove their nose up at Royalty. Or perhaps it’s that we as a people (including my gambling Dad) only motivate ourselves to make the all-important knockout punch when it’s clear that we will lose everything if we don’t. Most probably, it’s because like most animals we can’t resist a good blood sport. Vegas, Baby!
Giving in to our most base instincts was pretty easy this week. The world was a cage match where the loser got bloodied and grinded into tiny little pieces while the winner ended up taking a victory lap with a smile, arms metaphorically raised in the air. Yes, it’s true. And you know you love it. This is still America so you can be the judge this week. But here at notes from a chair we’ve already called the winners which, in some ways, is also uniquely American…isn’t it?
HILLARY VS THE MIDDLE-AGED (AND OVER) WHITE MEN
Oh, guys, when will you learn? In 2012, Hillary Clinton was voted the most admired woman in not only the U.S. but the WORLD, and you are clearly on the downswing somewhere between the model of the Delorean car NOT used in the Back to the Future movies and canned spam. So why, why, why do you insist taking on this fight and trying to shame Sec. of State Clinton in a televised worldwide Congressional hearing by blaming her for the deaths of four Americans in the foreign service in Benghazi last year? Because you could? Well, you couldn’t.
Armed with a head full of undisputedly salient facts even after a severe concussion two weeks ago, Sec. Clinton spoke articulately, combatively and most importantly, smartly for more than seven (count ‘em!) hours to any number of hostile Senators seemingly bent on her destruction. Yet she managed to destroy them through sheer passion, emotion and brainpower, simplifying but never dumbing down the extremely dangerous and complicated physical and political challenges we face in the Middle East. We would like to say it felt a lot like what one former president she happens to be married to did with our quagmire of economic issues at the 2012 Democratic convention but this would be taking away credit from the current cage match at hand where the secretary of state was in a box all alone facing a whole new set of hostile opponents that kept on coming.
Lesson: The average man might be physically bigger and stronger than the average woman and Sen. Rand Paul might want to proclaim publicly that if he were president he would have relieved Mrs. Clinton of her duties. But there was no whiff of anything presidential about Rand Paul and certainly there was nothing at all average about Hillary Clinton or her appearance before them.
Decision: KNOCKOUT HILLARY (2016).
BEYONCEGATE: MRS. JAY-Z VS. THE TEXAS TORNADO
Beyonce appeared live and sang The Star Spangled Banner at the inauguration this week but at this writing there is some (well, a lot of) doubt as to whether Beyonce actually sang live at the inauguration this week. One fact no one disputes – Kelly Clarkson sang a rousing rendition of America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee) that so completely soared into the musical stratosphere that usually verbose NY Senator Chuck Schumer could only react afterwards with this single word – “Wow.”
Why is this important? Well, certainly it’s not important in the way global warming, world peace and the Oscars are (obviously). But it is relevant. Other than a great credit rating, what often seems to be lacking in the US these days is authenticity, and Beyoncegate, (i.e. was she or wasn’t she lip-synching) is as good example as any of the public being sold a bill of goods that through slick, beautiful and clever show business-like deception is not quite what it’s touted to be. Uh yeah, that’s right. Put a ring on it.
If we’re being told Beyonce will sing the National Anthem then the clear inference is that it is Beyonce actually SINGING the National Anthem live. Otherwise, we can go home and listen to one of her recordings or stare at her in the flesh at a party. Don’t get all cute on us and say she was singing and she was there – she just wasn’t live singing. You know it’s not the same thing. And don’t use the excuse that it was cold outside on inauguration morning and singers don’t do well in the cold. I mean, would any of us love her any less if she hit a thin or even bum note? I don’t think so. Plus, James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson (who is younger than Beyo) sang live. As did Aretha Franklin (who is older than both Beyonce and Kelly combined) four years earlier at Obama Inauguration #1.
Ms. Clarkson’s rendition of America started out with a few thin notes and wasn’t perfect. But it was the imperfection at the beginning and the mounting drama of the musical moments through the song to the end that made her performance such a wow. We don’t really want a live performance to be as musically perfect as a recording if it’s going to sound exactly the same. We’re there because we want some drama, some danger, some thrill of some sweat. And no, the diva flourish of Beyonce yanking her earpiece from her head did not count in the same way as the huge smile on Kelly Clarkson’s face after she hit the high notes on the final verse of that song that even she doubted in the moment she could get to.
DECISION: TKO KELLY CLARKSON
THE 60s OR the 20 TEENS??
I started teaching a new group of screenwriting students who pitched their script ideas this week and I’m here to report that out of a total of 23 students in two different classes 7 proposed scripts that are set in the 1960s.
That comes out to roughly – 30% or close to one-third.
Luckily, there were none that took place in the eighties because as I continue to emphasize to students or anyone else that will listen that decade goes down as the ABSOLUTE WORST in history. Greed, avarice, AIDS, big hair, horrible clothes and television shows like “Knight Rider,” “Baywatch” and “The A Team.” Plus, I’m itching to drop one name in presidential politics but in the interest of staying on topic I am going to REAGAN reign myself in.
The sixties, however, were a different time. Certainly there were so many awful moments – the fight for civil rights, the escalation of an endless war in Vietnam, and the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy AND Martin Luther King. Plus, there was even Richard Nixon to top off the decade.
However, what there also was plenty of was old-fashioned hope and a belief on the part of the young that if they worked and shouted hard enough the world could, indeed, become a better place.
I think that’s a large part of why today’s young people and many of the rest of us are still dazzled by the sixties. That and the music. And the sex. And the drugs. And the rock ‘n roll. I am mature enough to guide them through all of that, having lived through those times myself. But in doing so in the next few months I don’t think I can stop myself from asking if what was being fought for back then is being lived up to in its fullest right now. The answer may lie in the upcoming Coen Bros. movie but, elusive guys that they are, I somehow doubt it.
REPLICANT SETH TAKES ON THE OSCARS
Here is one of the new ads the Motion Picture Academy has just released for this year’s Oscars.
So – am I the only one who thinks this looks as if a replicant is the 2013 Oscar host and that the Oscars are so afraid of IT that they allowed IT to have ITS name get star billing above them?
The picture of the replicant is very funnyman Seth McFarlane and in this “air brushed within an inch of its life” photo he appears to be starring in a new remake of The Stepford Wives entitled Planet Stepford Men and the Audiences Who Must Love Him. This is to say nothing of Oscar allowing said host, who most Oscar watchers barely know (let’s face it), get above-the-title star billing over a trademark that is one of the most recognizable in the entire over-developed world.
Clearly, the reason for this new “branding” is a merging between the old and the new. The Oscars are old and Seth McFarlane represents everything young and hip, especially when he wears a tuxedo and clutches a gold statuette as if it’s a microphone he’s ready to sing a set of Frank Sinatra songs into.
Oh Academy, Academy, Academy. Watch the tape of poor Anne Hathaway hosting with another young replicant James Franco. Then, watch it again. Now, once more. Then consider — just because the artwork has already gone out on this one doesn’t mean it isn’t too late to rethink, regroup and refocus. You do have Adele and half a billion potential viewers to work with. You might also want to add some MOVIE stars while you’re at it. Real ones.
DECISION: THIS ROUND SETH, FIGHT STILL IN PROGRESS
BOEHNER & CO. VS. MICHELLE OBAMA & EVERY OTHER FIRST LADY IN YOUR LIFE
“..We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall…” – Barack Obama, 2012
The idea is that the equal rights struggle of women, Blacks and gays is really the same struggle elucidated in the U.S. Constitution – that all the “Men” who “are created Equal” includes them and all other human beings. That’s why it was particularly disconcerting to see Speaker of the House John Boehner this week voluntarily putting himself into the ring with two fights, one small and one big, he could never win.
The small one is the fun one and features the classic Michelle Obama eye roll that has now become a popular gif.
Apparently, that was in reaction to some joke told by Boehner about Pres. Obama smoking a cigarette after his speech (despite the First Lady’s well known desire to have the president quit for good) as Mrs. O was eating a salad while seated next to Boehner. Okay – so Boehner doesn’t have the timing of Henny Youngman. Or even John Mulaney. And one presumes he was nervous because he didn’t ask to sit next to Mrs. Obama. Or vice-versa. Let’s count that a gimme.
But the second was the one where he announced publicly in front of thousands at the National Mall on Friday that he isn’t going to rest until he helps “make abortion a relic of the past” – which one can only take at his word to mean that no woman, no how will ever be able to get an abortion, even a young woman who is raped or that if an abortion is made available for that rare exception it will be seen as an immoral anomaly to a societal pariah. Those remarks and statements like “let that be one of our most fundamental goals of the year” – that would be 2013 – were made at an event billed as a March for Life rally, one at which he delivered the take-away speech.
One supposes the Speaker is entitled to his opinion even if it runs counter to the vast majority of American women just as he is allowed to tell any type of joke he likes to any female, or male for that matter, of his choosing. But if you were a betting person like my Dad, who would you like to wager on – the middle-aged white guy with the perpetual tan or the majority of American females, the ones now very well represented in Washington, DC by the likes of Hillary Clinton?
DECISION: YOUR FIRST LADY (and those of all ages) because they usually know best.