All The Same

Just(ly) Married

Just(ly) Married

I don’t cry at weddings.  For me, weddings are a joyous moment between two people who love each other that attendees are asked to share in.  Hence, I always find them a happy experience assuming:

a. I agree with the spousal choices of the couple in question
b. I like (or at least don’t dislike) the couple in question
c. I am happy with the gift I am giving the couple in question (if indeed there is a gift involved)
d. I am not sitting uncomfortably in some lame outfit or unnecessarily bizarre location mandated by the couple in question.

But tears?  Not so much.

However, I did cry at a wedding of two people I didn’t know and wasn’t even invited to this week.  It was the wedding of Jeff Zarillo and Paul Katami, two men who after the last few days I feel as if I do know because they were the newly victorious co-plaintiffs of the recent marriage equality case before the US Supreme Court.  And as LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood up for a few minutes in City Hall to marry them, and I watched it being telecast live on The Rachel Maddow Show (which seemed especially apt considering – well, you know), big wet tears suddenly started sliding down my face.  Like, really suddenly.  Without warning.  Even my male partner of 25 years who I am not currently married to (why rush it?) was a bit taken aback.  Who is this weird guy crying at a televised wedding and who kidnapped the cynical queen (my words, not YOURS) I’ve lived with for the last quarter century, he must have wondered.  Well, I wondered the same thing.  Just goes to show you that no matter how much time you spend with another person, or yourself, there will always be surprises.

Work that waterproof mascara, girl.

Work that waterproof mascara, girl.

The same is true of the world.  No matter how many years you believe you understand the universe you can always get the rug pulled out from under you at any given moment.  Certainly that is also how large groups of people of all sexual persuasions must have felt simultaneously this week when they were told that it will likely be much, much harder for them to cast votes in the next election (and all others after that).  Votes that, as the years go by and our electoral differences further solidify between right and left with very little of the soft center remaining (think mismatched Oreo tops without the fillings), become more and more essential if we’re to truly call ourselves these UNITED States.

The Supreme Court also rendered another verdict this week – overturning one of the cornerstones of Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s – Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  This law required that states with a history of discriminatory voting laws against non-white people (mostly southern states) needed to be pre-approved before amending any of their current voting laws.  This essentially meant that states that previously made it harder for Blacks (and other non-whites) to vote and went kicking and screaming into what we now think of as the integration of all races in US society, need special policing because they had proven time and time again that they were likely to fall back into their old ways of doing things.

EVERYONE deserves a sticker!

EVERYONE deserves a sticker!

Simply put, if you were a black or brown person, or even a white person who was a member of a certain group in states like Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and a few others, you were going to need more sophisticated ID’s and the lines were going to be A LOT longer before (and sometimes even with) Section 4.  Think this is my liberal bias?  Well, not this time.  Since the dissolution days ago of #4, Texas has already proposed a new voting law that says concealed hand gun licenses are acceptable voter IDs but that student IDs and disabled veteran IDs alone are not enough to allow a citizen to vote at their local polling place.  Other states like Alabama, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia are also planning to reactivate voting laws that limit the number of hours certain polling places are open (particularly in poor neighborhoods) and put restrictions on advance voting (a time-honored tradition in many African American communities).

Oh – and by the way – Happy 4th of July.

Boom

Boom

Well, at least you could feel the public fireworks spreading for gays and lesbians nationwide as the Supremes ruled that same-sex marriage is officially legal again in California and, even more importantly, that the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that defined marriage as solely between one man and one woman, thereby ostensibly outlawing ANY federal rights for same sex couples for all eternity, is unconstitutional.

What does this mean?  That pretty soon gays and lesbians who are married in any of the 13 states (and counting) that now allow gays and lesbians to marry – including New York and California, two of our most populated states – will be able to file joint federal tax returns, receive spousal Social Security benefits and participate in hundreds of other privileges their fellow citizens have always enjoyed.  That is, in a word I refuse to credit to Donald Trump – huge.

EXCEPT –

There is a problem.

Not to be a party pooper but here’s what I’ve learned as a lifetime member of at least three minorities (gay, Jewish, and men 5’7” & under).  The rights of all people deemed less than or the other by those in power are forever intertwined.  It is, all of it, the same issue.  Who is going to be the next other?  That’s anyone’s guess.  But I can no sooner be overjoyed at being granted permission to legally marry at long last without being devastated that the rights of my fellow non-white citizens are in danger of being infringed upon at the ballot box in the next election.  And this is not because I’m a liberal and certainly not because I am a particularly good person.  It’s because – they are all THE SAME RIGHTS.

Equal is equal.

Equal is equal.

As sure as I’m sitting here writing this, the absence of rights for some other minority group means that my just gotten ones could very soon be in jeopardy.  All it takes is a slight tipping of the scales in the other direction that newly discriminatory voting practices could insure. No minority is safe alone.  But all are safe if they are woven together. Because contrary to what is being spewed by the far right wing among us – we are a nation that is built on the uniting of minorities: religious ones, freedom-loving ones, multi-colored ones, and even sexually varied ones.  This thought does not EXCLUDE the most conservative or religious among us.  It simply INCLUDES everyone else.

Wendy Davis, a Texas state Senator who has become a new personal hero of mine, proved that fact when she stood for 11 hours without food, water or a bathroom break and successfully filibustered a pretty hostile group of her fellow legislators in order to stop a proposed Draconian law in Texas that was going to force the closing of most of its health clinics for women and thus severely deny statewide access to birth control services (nee abortion rights) for many females (most of them poor ones).

Greatest American Hero

Greatest American Hero

Ms. Davis, a Harvard-educated lawyer, is blonde, tall, thin and white – all of which make her part of the privileged elite in Texas and most other states.  But it took only one day after her victory for the very conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an avid supporter of the now defunct bill, to marginalize her into underprivileged, minority status by roaring publicly that that woman who filibustered had a child at 19 and was raised by a single mother.  This quickly lifted Ms. Davis into what Gov. Perry hopes will be one of them in the minds of the majority of the state.  Not content to stop there, the governor elaborated:  What if her (Rep. Davis’) Mom said, ‘I just can’t do this?  I just don’t want to do this?’  …It is unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters. 

See how quickly even a successful white woman can be reduced to an unfeeling, immoral, underage mother who, if given the access to the health care she advocates, couldn’t be trusted to not abort her own daughter?  Never mind that if you count numbers Rep. Davis, a female, is actually in the MAJORITY of the population.   The largest groups among us are not always the most powerful, especially if one travels many thousands of miles away to, let’s say, our financial landlords, China.  Of course, sometimes one need to look no further than one’s back door to make that point, as Ms. Davis and the rest of her fellow teenage Moms, gays and lesbians, and the minority voters of the United States so amply demonstrate to those who want to use them as a wedge issue of the future.

However, if you put all of us together – and add the rest of the nation’s immigrant population (that’s pretty much ALL of us aside from native Americans if you go back far enough) – you’ve got something else.  It’s called, as we like to say around the Fourth of July, these United States.

Happy Birthday to us (native Americans included).  All of us.  And that means – everyone.

Can you spare any CHANGE?

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Can people really change?  This is the question asked by the season finale of Mad Men on Sunday and it is our question about our born in the Old South (and possibly racist bred) 66 year-old Queen of Butter – celebrity chef Paula Deen.

It might seem strange to conflate Ms. Deen’s jokey use and tolerance of the “N” word (as well as her less talked of jokes about Jews, gays and who knows what else) with the machinations of fictional characters playing out the social changes of the 1960s on a cable television series.  But it isn’t.  There is barely a visible line between any of the real and the unreal touchstones in our world at this point in time.

Finding togetherness at rockbottom

Finding togetherness at rockbottom

Since we’ve learned from a low level systems analyst, who has thus far eluded the entire law enforcement apparatus of the US, that the American government now could very well be listening in on YOUR (certainly not mine!) daily phone calls, I find I’ve even begun to wonder how truly false the activities are of the Housewives seen on television in any major US city.  I mean, just because they’re BRAVO cable TV creations cheekily billed as “Real,” and everyone knows Bravo reality TV shows are fake (don’t we?), how do we know for sure in this climate that they actually aren’t all an even more clever trick – a dead honest representation of what a large segment of our lives have become.  A world we don’t want to admit to in the same way Mad Men’s Don Draper and the deposed Food Network diva Paula Deen don’t want to cop to their foibles until they both are absolutely forced to.

Since I’m not a housewife, nor can I technically be considered an authority on married adult family life since I couldn’t be legally married in the US or even considered part of my own adult family until a few days ago  (and the jury is still out on that if I decide to move into any other of the majority of our “united” states), I can’t speak for those shows on BRAVO (Note: though ironically, I am a key demographic in their target audience).  I am, however, a big Mad Men fan and have on more than one occasion gotten a hoot out of the over-the-top unhealthy food choices and personality of Paula Deen on the Food Network (especially when almost 10 years ago my dear friend Michael, in all seriousness, dubbed her “a murderess”). So I can mouth off with some authority to the general bulk of the subject at hand.

Couldn't help myself

Couldn’t help myself

The thing about change is —

You can do it but it takes A LOT of will and focus and diligence to truly alter who you basically are because it means modifying what you were taught (or through experience decided) to believe was fundamentally true.  We build up defenses – systems for being in the world – formulas for success or even right or wrong ways to be.  Through our lives, these ideas are learned and unlearned.  Sometimes what you learned or were taught works the first time out and it is great!!! Many other times they fail you and you wonder why you’ve been left in the dog house when all you’ve done is follow the rules or did as you’ve always done and are now suddenly being told that formula is outdated, not useful or just plain wrong.

This is when reinvention or re-education comes in.  In other words, change.

No one stays the youngest, the smartest and the most handsome forever – as Don Draper, brilliantly played by Jon (“He deserves his Emmy already”) Hamm has finally begun to learn.  Even when you stay handsome, as Don/Jon certainly has, the starchy early sixties thin-lapeled suits and tight slicked back hair give way to the more desirable shoulder length tresses and striped bell bottoms (do we really want to see DD THAT way?).  The same way the actions of a cool, scotch-swilling square jawed Lothario, he of the chic Madison Avenue success story, can quickly become the cold, desperate acts of a lying alcoholic whose behavior no one will tolerate anymore when, really, his actions are to himself, deep down, only just a little bit more or a little bit less than what he’s always been.

Whether one is an avid MM watcher or not, we all can relate to that point in time when we know the jig is up.  This is where Don Draper is at the fiercely ended sixth season.  A guy who has been fired from his personal and professional worlds and can either keep going on a downward spiral or decide, in some small or big way, to make an attempt to deal with the dreaded Big C – in this case, Change.

The big reveal

The big reveal

For Don Draper his admission of his past and how he was raised – poor, unloved in a whorehouse, a young boy who was occasionally given affection and life lessons from the random prostitute who took pity on him, or on herself by using him – is a big step forward and would almost seem cliché unless one were to have witnessed all six seasons of his life up to that point in time.   This is much like it is in real life when a person exposes a particular painful part of their past to you after admitting to a particular heinous act of their own towards you, and asks for forgiveness.  It depends how willing you are to make the leap with them given what you know of them, and how big, smart or able to open up your own heart is (or, more correctly, decides to be).

... and if you can get Oprah to cry, bonus points!

… and if you can get Oprah to cry, bonus points!

As a loyal viewer and participant in the Draper saga, I found it incredibly moving when he turns to his troubled 14-year-old Sally – who has begun to carve a somewhat delinquent road of her own thanks to her father’s lies – and stares her down as they finally stand together in his truth in front of the crumbling brothel in question.  But even more effective is Sally’s gaze back up at him – perhaps the only look of true love in her eyes towards him when she realizes for the first time in her life her father has chosen to show her, unvarnished, who he really is.  Talk about a change – on both counts.

A memorable glance

A memorable glance

Now admittedly this type of change might have particularly moved me since I would be only a year younger than the fictional Sally was at the time of this look and I remember quite well how infrequently this type of stuff happened between parents and children in 1968.  Which is understandable since at the time the country and adult Americans were both coming-of-age, a circumstance that usually needs to happen before real change can come from them towards us and everyone else (and vice-versa).  Which brings us to the much written about, proud daughter of the South – Paula Deen.

Uh oh is right Paula

Uh oh is right Paula

I’ve never made a joke that included the “N” word in my entire life (really, I haven’t!) and I never heard either parent make one.  I did, however, witness plenty of racial epithets from their friends and relatives growing up and gotten into my share of arguments over them.   For example, as a Jewish kid I would often hear the Yiddish word “schvartze” used to simultaneously describe and denigrate Black people – a term you’d be right to think of as our ethnic version of the “N” word.

Now some or even many of the people that use this word occasionally will argue to the death or your own exhaustion – whichever comes first – that this term it is not derogatory because it derives from the Yiddish word schvart, which is the actual word for Black in that language.

To those then and now who defend the word or its usage on this historical basis I say this: YOU KNOW YOU ARE FULL OF SHIT!!!

You KNOW and are FULLY aware of what that word means and what it connotes.  That is why you used it then and that is why you use it now.  And to the deceased Israeli guy I almost got into the only fist fight of my life with for using this insane explanation to justify his constant use of the word while telling a really bad joke at a public dinner in Santa Monica during the eighties – I’m sorry you died but you will always be full of shit vis-à-vis your justification on this matter.

This Steve got it right

This Steve got it right

As for Paula Deen – she not only KNEW and KNOWS what she said was wrong in the 1980s (even though she claims she only said it at gunpoint to a Black man who was holding her up) and she sure as heck/hell (or whatever) KNOWS it was wrong a few years ago in the context of a joke, even if she was simultaneously telling jokes and using questionable terms to describe other ethnic groups, including her own.

It is not a coincidence that the master of the ethnic insult, comedian Don Rickles, 87 years old and still going strong, has never used the N word in his act.  Or any other ethnic slurs.  Sure, he markets in stereotypical behavior and is an equal opportunity offender that way, but there is a reason he always drew that line.  Chris Rock IS Black.  He can use the N word if he so chooses, just as Richard Pryor did before him or Chevy Chase was able to do in a vintage SNL skit WITH Richard Pryor.

But Paula Deen – not a comic, at least by trade – built a vast financial empire when, as a single mother in the sixties, she started making sandwiches for her young sons to sell door to door.  Cut to last year alone when she earned in excess of $12 million.  During that time, she’s traveled all over the world and hung out with all types of people of many different shades, including some very famous (cough, cough, Oprah) ones.  She knows what is right.  And what is not right.  She went against that, for whatever reason.  And, because she’s famous, she got caught.

Yes, because she’s famous she is subject to different standards than you or I.  Boo hoo.  That is the cost of being a play-uh in that game.  We don’t each get to make millions trading on our famous faces for endorsement deals so we don’t have to worry as much about getting publicly caught like famous people do.  That doesn’t mean we should use those words either. But life is not fair.  I’d like to make a few mill for proclaiming the merits of another college professor, or screenwriting program or even blog, publicly.  But I don’t.  So boo hoo for me on that score.

DonCries

Paula Deen has committed the crime of callousness, bad taste and perhaps prejudice towards some employees.  She is not a murderess (well, unless you use my friend Michael’s definition) but she is also not guilt-free of wrongdoing.  And the good news – she can continue to be a national teacher in a different field – change.

As a person born and raised in the segregated South, Ms. Deen now has the opportunity to not hide from one of her problems but to recognize the problem exists and lead by example.  This does not mean picking herself up by her bootstraps and eventually rebuilding her empire.  It also doesn’t mean starting her own Food Network or privately urging others to seek retribution against the companies who fired her for her misdeeds.

All of us who make mistakes – from Don Draper to Paula Deen, and down to you and me – have only two essential choices: to continue on essentially doing what we always have, or to CHANGE the way we think about ourselves and the issue at hand by letting down our defenses and admit that, despite what we’ve always thought, we are, indeed, wrong.  And have wronged.  And attempt in some real ways, to behave differently from now on – meaning forever.  And to do it in a positive open manner, hoping for the best because, in the end, we’re now giving our best.

Don Draper is fictional so he has an army of very good writers to decide his fate, actions and choices.  Paula Deen, being an actual person, has only her own conscience and the choices she decides to make.  Which is no different than what we regular people have.  Fame can elevate but it can also be a great leveler.   As such, this last thought especially goes out to any real or aspiring real housewives:  Be careful what you wish for.   And how you act both before and after you get it.

Chairmeter: Mad Men’s Top 5 Moments from Season 6

Another post with Jon Hamm? I don't believe it!

Another post with Jon Hamm? I don’t believe it!

The Chair has never been shy about his adoration for AMC’s Mad Men. In preparation for this Sunday’s season finale, here are his Top 5 moments… with a few honorable mentions (in the form of bonus gifs).

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. If you’re planning to binge watch these episodes and you aren’t up to date… you’ve been warned.

#5 – The Poor Dear…

Let's get it on!

Let’s get it on!

Nothing is better than sex with an ex while it’s happening and nothing is worse than sex with an ex after it’s happened.  Though it depends on through whose lens one is experiencing the before, the after and the sex.

This comes rearing its ugly head right at us in The Better Half, Episode 9.  Betty, the remarried-to-someone-else ex Mrs. Don Draper, is headed to see her son Bobby at summer camp and is dressed in Daisy Mae short-shorts hugging her newly slimmed down figure. (Did Weight Watchers work?  We assume so).

A lotta leg this season!

A lotta leg this season!

Don dutifully heads off to the country to reluctantly greet his son at camp when he happens to spy a very familiar woman’s leg and behind from behind.  Never one to totally forget anything he’s left, behind or otherwise (pun!), Don gives his ex the Draper stare and she reciprocates with some Betty eye-batting.

Before we know it – well, it’s never that easy – there’s some disappointment, drinking, jockeying for position, odd motel room etiquette and convenient spousal absence and talk of the children first.  And then, quite inevitably, these two people who seemed destined to barely ever stand within 30 feet of each other before smoke and fire emitted from either their ears, mouths of some other orifice, are back in bed – doing it.

The sex, as usual, wasn’t the point – though there was plenty of that.  It was Betty’s observation afterwards, smoking away and listening to Don speak about his current wife, Megan.  She looks at him, a huge weight obviously lifting off her shoulders, and touches his cheek gently.

That poor girl, she doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.

Pot?  Kettle?  Or has tea already been served to Don by his ex wife?  Well, maybe all three.  For now.

#4 Knife in the Gut

Courtesy of the amazing vulture.com gif series

Courtesy of the amazing vulture.com gif series

Just when we begin to think that Peggy Olson, the young smart career woman with a lousy personal life, might actually have a chance at having the semblance of a personal life, she stabs her boyfriend in the gut and he dumps her.  Literally.  Well, okay, in MM world it’s never quite that easy.

Peggy is the go-to ad writer these days and as one of the town’s top creative people is making some money.  But instead of buying an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (bonus 2nd ave subway reference!), she’s talked into a larger but occasionally crime/rodent/roach ridden West Side abode by her liberal writer boyfriend, Abe (Note: Never listen to writer liberals of any era).  In The Better Half, Peggy, thinking Abe is an intruder or something worse, takes her knife and stabs the interloper in the dark in self-defense.  Only – it’s Abe – and he’s got a knife in the gut – and he’s bleeding.  Really.

Fearing he’s dying on the way to the hospital (and who wouldn’t be in MM world), Abe looks at Peggy and takes stock of their life together – a life that he knows she isn’t quite happy with that he realizes is a sham he convinced himself he was happy with.

Your activities are offensive to my every waking moment. I’m sorry, but you’ll always be the enemy, he tells her, blade still inside.

Ouch.. that's rough.

Ouch.. that’s rough.

Suffice it to say, they’re breaking up.  Though Peggy has to ask just to make sure.  Poor Peggy.  Or perhaps not.  Cause if this show is anything, it’s cheeky.

#3 Comforting” Mrs. Rosen

Ruh Roh

Ruh Roh

What’s a worse Oedipal nightmare than walking in on your parents having sex?  Walking in on one of your parents having sex with someone else.  In the tradition of Shakespeare and Death of A Salesman this is what happens to young teenager Sally Draper in Favors, Episode 11.

We think it’s about Sally sneaking into the downstairs neighbors’ apartment to retrieve a note that reveals she has a mad crush on the Rosens’ dreamy 17-year-old son, Mitchell (who can blame her!).  But what’s really happening is that while Sally retrieves the note she witnesses the discordant image of her father, Don Draper, in the midst of sex with Sylvia Rosen, Mitchell’s mom.  Yuk.  Double yuk.  Triple yuk.

Then, once you have time to think about it, all you can really think about are Sally’s upcoming therapy bills.  But all Sally is thinking is how to get out of there.  Which she does.  Pronto.

Don tries to reason with her but to no avail.  And then in a final scene, banished outside Sally’s locked bedroom door (again.. who can blame her!), Don tries in vain to offer some sort of reason for what happened that his daughter will be able to understand.   Says Don:  I was only trying to comfort Mrs. Rosen.

Lame!!  Sally is 14 and she’s Don’s daughter.  She knows this confirms everything she ever feared about her father and men in general – and then some.  Quadruple yuk.  But in a very good way.

#2 Grandma Ida

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Unlike most televisions shows or films set in the 1960s, MM doesn’t tackle historical issues head on but instead chooses to illustrate the issues through its pivotal characters who – like is usually the case in life – have nothing at all to do with the current event at hand.  In The Crash, Episode 8, young Sally and Bobby Draper are left alone in Dad Don Draper’s swank Manhattan penthouse while he and his new wife Megan attend to their adult responsibilities.  Enter an older Black woman who seems like the maid or the cleaning lady but says she’s their Grandma.  Grandma Ida, to be exact.

Sally and Bobby find Grandma Ida clanking around in the living room but she claims to be the lady who raised your Daddy….I’m visiting.  Didn’t nobody tell you?

As crazy as this situation seems, MM watchers AND Sally and Bobby realize that since we all know so little about Don Draper’s past that this could, indeed, be…possible?  Well, we’ve witnessed stranger outcomes.  Which is why when Grandma Ida orders Sally to come over here and give me some sugar Sally is finally too confused to do anything but respond.

Never mind that grandma turns out to be a thief and a liar while at the same time somehow avoiding offensive stereotype.  The best moment comes when a confused Bobby seriously asks the question: Are we Negroes? (Delivered pitch perfectly – a stellar season for the most recent version of Bobby Draper).

With three words, MM captured the untenable tenor of the times.  White people terror.  Black people as the other, down to the outdated word commonly used to signal their identities.  The whole sequence is profoundly disturbing and off-the-wall on so many levels.  Which is exactly the point.

And finally, #1 – The Leg

A sharp contrast to this knee-knudge heard 'round the world.

Nudge Nudge

It was the rub heard ‘round the world.  Well, at least in the US.  Among cable television watchers.  Mad Men is never afraid to go there even while its audience isn’t exactly sure where there is – which makes the creative leaps all the more daring.  And why almost weekly it finds itself the subject of a new Internet meme.

In Favors, Episode 11, new junior executive and always too helpful Bob Benson is in a closed door meeting with the ever-suffering Pete Campbell, who fears his senile mother could be having an affair with the nurse Bob recommended to take care of her.   Suddenly, Bob gingerly but with very specific intent nudges his leg into Pete’s leg, as he offers a short explanation of perhaps there being nothing wrong with falling in love with someone who dutifully attends to your every whim.

Writers take note:  The beauty of the scene, as usual with MM, has nothing to do with the actual conversation at hand but with the action and subtext – which become the main point of the scene.  Is the mysterious Bob really revealed to be gay or merely just loving and helpful?  Is Pete secretly gay despite his protestations and everything we’ve known about him?  Does the not-to-be-trusted Bob really love Pete?  Could anybody really love Pete?  I mean, Pete doesn’t even love Pete.

No love from Raisin Bran...

He doesn’t even get love from Raisin Bran…

As for Pete’s Mom – she’s not a pivotal character – no one cares.

As for Bob – We’re more intrigued than before and we have NO real idea where they’re going with it, even after watching the follow-up episode. Great work.  Great television.  That’s how it’s done.

As if we could finish it there!

Honorable mentions:

So many gifs what to do! Click on any that don’t dance before your eyes!

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Ken Cosgrove shows off his best moves in Episode 8, The Crash

Ted proves not just turtlenecks make him cool (Episode 7, Man with a Plan)

Ted proves not just turtlenecks make him cool (Episode 7, Man with a Plan)

Betty to Sally: You've earned it. And Betty earns another world's worst mother award (Episode 12, Quality of Mercy)

Betty to her daughter Sally: You’ve earned it. And Betty earns another world’s worst mother award (Episode 12, Quality of Mercy)

The season's WTF moment.. featuring stand outs Stan and personal fave, Ginsberg (Episode 8, The Crash)

The season’s WTF moment.. featuring stand outs Stan and personal fave, Ginsberg (Episode 8, The Crash)

And the only proper way to send you off is with Pete's incredible fall (Episode 6, For Immediate Release)

And the only proper way to send you off is with Pete’s incredible fall (Episode 6, For Immediate Release)

Check back soon for a full recap of this week’s season finale! You’ll be glued to your chair, I’m sure.

Gay is the Old Black

Emmy bait.

Emmy bait.

One wonders if Michael Douglas would play the part of the homophobic father of Jonathan Allen, the 20 year-old from Tennessee who, after being thrown out of the house by his parents two years ago for being gay, wowed the judges on America’s Got Talent this past week.  Or, better yet, if Steven Soderbergh would even choose to direct a movie about it.  Or if Jerry Weintraub would ever decide to produce it.  The way all three did with the continuously lauded and now award-winning HBO film about Liberace’s later years and prurient love life, Behind the Candelabra.

My guess:  probably not.  Most movie stars of Mr. Douglas’ generation dislike playing roles they deem too unsympathetic.  And don’t use the example of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.  That film was made in and about the 1980s – a time when the general population actually agreed that “greed was good” and that ole Gordy was not so much a villain but a slightly tainted ideal many aspired to.

Of course, the majority of critics, audiences, and the cast and crew have not deemed the cable TV portrait of uber-gay Liberace unsympathetic either.  That would require that the real-life tale of the entertainer and his former lover Scott Thorson had been truly told.   The one about a 16-year old boy who was lured into the Las Vegas home of a fifty something mega-millionaire star with promises of wealth and family.  The one where the star repeatedly had sex with the boy for several years before he turned 18 (as well as any number of years after) with full knowledge said star was breaking the law. The same one where, when the older man got bored with the boy and the boy started taking too many drugs, as many young boys do, found a replacement and tossed him onto the street as he had so many others before him that were of age, with a little bit of money and a couple of fur coats – all the while publicly denying to his dying day that they ever had that kind of relationship or that said entertainer was even gay.

Eyeroll

Eyeroll

I’ve resisted writing anything but a few paragraphs about Behind the Candelabra up to this point because it seemed like the kind of film that would get some recognition for the circus stunt of Michael Douglas in sequins and a blonde-tressed Matt Damon screwing him from behind, and then disappear.

Such is not the case.  The cable film just won best drama and best actor from the Broadcast Critics Association.  It played to large and enthusiastic crowds at the Cannes Film Festival.  And mostly straight audiences (and some gay) seem to have embraced it as bold and groundbreaking.  Even those few writers who have dared to write critical pieces about the movie are often skewered, lacerated and told to get over themselves in the comments sections (even in respected places like Salon).   Also, Behind the Candelabra is likely to get nominated and win a slew of Emmy Awards, and go down in the books as “the courageous film all of the studios passed on with that director and that cast (can you believe it!) because they were too afraid of the gay subject matter.”  The latter is the meme that Mr. Soderbergh and Mr. Weintraub have been tirelessly and successfully peddling during the last six months.

Which is why, at this point, I’m weighing in.

Frankly – this film disgusts me.  Not as much as the lies about the war in Iraq, gay bullying or the right wing trying to take away a woman’s rights to choose.  That’s a different level of disgust – maybe more like infuriation.   But disgust – yeah, that about covers this.

I’ve thought a lot about other words to use to describe my feelings – queasy, nauseated, annoyed or even…jealous?  But finally, after much consternation, I decided that the perfect world is, indeed….

dis·gust  A feeling of revulsion or profound disapproval aroused by something unpleasant or offensive.

It is worth noting it’s not the people attached to this film that signal disgust to me – I respect them all (professionally that is, I don’t know them personally).  It’s the film itself and everything it tells us about where the industry is today vis-à-vis movies about gay people – or about most minorities – that makes me want to run to the toilet and be sick.

Someone tell that to the Emmys!

Someone tell that to the Emmys!

This is also not to say that the life of Liberace might not make an interesting movie.  That story – the one about how a young Midwestern piano prodigy invented (and for years carried off) the flamboyantly effeminate (some would say homosexual) persona of a character named Liberace and became the world’s greatest entertainer while still managing to convince his mostly gay intolerant world of fans he was anything but homosexual, would indeed be fascinating and almost certainly would not have caused me to write any of this.  And, even if it wasn’t particularly good, I doubt it would actually have made me feel disgusted.

Of course,  we will never know for sure since that tale was far from the one HBO and this prestigious group of A-list film professionals chose to tell in 2013 – a time when gay marriage is not only favored by the majority of people in the US (and an overwhelming majority under 25) but where its difficult to read any daily print or online news source where a major story about something homosexual is not featured on the front page.  I mean, even me – a middle aged guy who was “born that way”- sometimes gets gay fatigue.

geyyyyy

Still, true change in the movies, and the world, is not solely about the amount of ink you get or the measure of RAM you occupy on someone’s computer or website.  True change not only moves at a glacial pace but is often a one step forward, two steps back deal.  And this is where Behind the Candelabra comes in.  And me.  And my disgust.  The kind that I’m feeling right now as I compose this.

Writers are told all the time that their movies need a reason to be made. So are producers, directors, actors and studio executives.  But since writers are, by definition, the inventors of the first tangible version of a project, perhaps it is best to start with us.  As a writer one asks oneself:  What is the reason for this story?  Why make it?  What compels it to be told?  What would interest an audience?  Why will anyone care?  Why do I care?

I feel you Neil.

I feel you Neil.

I teach my writing students to ask these questions early on because I don’t want them to waste their time working on anything they are not fully invested in.  Even if it is the silliest, most exploitative story in the world, the author must find a way to imbue some kind of personal feelings of – well, something – into it.  Because if it doesn’t mean much to us, how can we expect it to mean anything to you?

I’ve watched Behind the Candelabra twice and have been looking for meaning, or even relevance, to today’s audiences.   Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • The story of a May-December relationship told from a gay perspective could be fair diversion, one supposes.  But that would seem only fair (and not exploitative) if we had a bunch of films about other, less prurient (and more successful) same sex relationships to compare it to – which we don’t.
  • The emotional journey of a relationship can sometimes be enough to override a lack of story.  In essence, the ride you get having a front row seat to the ups and downs of human interaction between two people over a period of time can substitute for a paucity of plot points.  There are some emotions here – for instance, shock and sadness that an older person could actually convince a younger person to have extensive plastic surgery to remake their face to that of their “mentor.”  But certainly not ever sadness or shock that this relationship will end badly – or interest in how it does – which knocks out most of the tension throughout the film and causes the last hour (and more) to be deadly dull.

    A sharp contrast to this knee-knudge heard 'round the world.

    A sharp contrast to this knee-nudge heard ’round the world.

  • Maybe it’s the spectacle??  Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere.  The sequins, the clothes, the excess of a hidden lifestyle and time period in show business that no longer exists is lots of fun.  And those gays – who better than them to do this up in style!  (Though note: there is not a single gay person in the principal above-the-line talent or crew).
  • Another attraction could be the over-the-top characters themselves, who are at the very least entertaining in a very broad, stereotypical manner compared to what else was going on in the world at that time.  The homosexuals have always done this well since time began and it makes audiences quite comfortable to view them this way, thank you very much.   And certainly, why make any movie that is not at least fun!!??
  • Juicy parts for actors who can be cast against type.  The old Hollywood joke: Every time a straight man puts on a dress they give him an Oscar?  Well, not anymore.  (Note: Even James Franco’s Marilyn Monroe drag as Oscar host fell flat a few years ago).  So, you have to find new ways for them to do it.  How about a happy recipient of anal sex who dies tragically that can’t be X-rated?  It’s Oscar/Emmy bait for Michael Douglas.  (He even gets to have AIDS, but we can downplay that ‘cause the real life Liberace did!). Plus, what about an enjoyment of Speedos, suntans and Las Vegas?  It’s the flip side of Ocean’s 11 for Matt Damon and he’ll jump at that!   What actor wouldn’t want to play younger than they are, get fat and then skinny and then fat and skinny again as they age, become addicted to drugs and then recover?  No one, that’s who.
Yeah, I'm exhausted too.

Yeah, I’m exhausted too.

But please, please, please, please – do not tell me this movie is groundbreaking or even something different.  And if you’re a high-powered A-lister, don’t keep spreading your tales of woe about how the heads of movie studios are ruining the business by not taking chances on this kind of film.   They might be ruining the business by not taking chances but NOT taking a chance on this film was exactly the right choice.  It has no relevance to 2013.  It had relevance in 1983, and in 1993 – at the height of the AIDS epidemic – when it might have meant something other than an easy way to make some money, get some attention and garner a few awards for “courage.”

The people who made it should know better.  And might benefit from watching Jonathan Allen tell another all too familiar, yet far more commercially relevant and compelling story for today.  This story was  indeed shown last week not on the big screen or on cable television but on, of all things,  network reality TV  – America’s Got Talent, to be exact.

It is indeed the golden age of television.  In some circles, at least.

The Great Chair-dini

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In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court famously overturned a lower court decision in Ohio that deemed the 1958 Louis Malle film Les Amants (The Lovers) pornographic and therefore unfit to be shown in a Cleveland movie house. The theatre manager at the time had been fined $2500 (which I’m hoping was returned because with minimal investment it would probably mean at least $250,000 to his heirs today) for enabling the very lucky patrons of the Heights Arts Theatre to see this movie which, incidentally, starred Jeanne Moreau and had already received a special jury prize from the Venice Film Festival, among other accolades.

Then: pornography, Now: Tame enough for ABC Family

Then: pornography, Now: Tame enough for ABC Family

However, what makes that tidbit of entertainment history noteworthy isn’t the fact that one group of American judges half a century ago found a French film to be too dirty for public consumption while another group thought it to be – well –entertaining – but the words used by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to explain why Les Amants wasn’t hard-core pornography.

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description,” wrote Justice Stewart. “…But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

We’ve come a long, or perhaps even short way in 50 years, but the fact remains: Creative work has always been impossible to rate and categorize on any objective scale because by its very nature it is subjective and therefore defies grade-ability   I find this particularly infuriating as a teacher in the arts since I am often required to measure the success of a particular piece of work – a fact that is really an opinion, which means that it is essentially unknowable as a fact.

Plus — what is success anyway?  Selling it for a lot of money?  Great reviews from the outside world?  Jealousy from your peers masquerading as audible gasps of awe?  Or perhaps just simply an “A” from me?

Though, this is how an "A" feels.

Definitely how an “A” feels

It depends on how hard-core your tastes, you, and your rating system is.

But after decades as a critic, writer and teacher -and once I get past the required basic skills of whatever art I’m rating, judging and debating – all of the very best work I experience share one thing — magic.

Ahhh, moan and groan all you want and call me Ishmael.  You all know what I mean.  Maybe you call it something else but it’s that feeling you get when…(ahhhh, where are you Stefon?)…. Okay, I know it when I see it.

For those who don’t – definition, please:

Magic – 1. The use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces.

a.  the ART of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.

When people criticize some piece of entertainment that they see or read as being phony I always laugh to myself (and sometimes even out loud or to their faces) because:

Of course, it’s phony!  That’s what makes it art – and entertainment.  It’s made up!  The trick is – to make it not SEEM phony.

I think worrying about being phony is out the window...

I think “phony” is out the window…

The entertainment industry has often been accused of being chock full of charlatans.  This is another amusing observation since who else would specialize in the art of phoniness that doesn’t seem false and the practice of making things up that more often than not appear to be real, if not con men or women?   I do wish I had known this in my twenties and thirties since it would have made my early years in the business a helluva lot easier.  But nevertheless I finally do get it now and I am passing it on to those of you who don’t know or haven’t admitted it yet and want to save decades of therapy bills.

Or, to put it another way:

You need to be a master magician in order to be a great artist or great entertainer.  A purveyor of the phony executed in the sincerest way possible.

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You will finish your script.. You will finish your script

How do you recognize magic and the master magicians responsible for it?  The answer is easy – you know it when you. …(yes, I’m going there again)………….see it.

Some phoniness is skill and some of it is simply inherent talent so it’s easy to get confused.  For example, I just returned from New York where I saw Nathan Lane and Bette Midler each prove how a handful of artists are simply born that way and why it’s foolish for the rest of us to try and catch up or even figure them out.

It’s not that there is not a great deal of skill in Mr. Lane’s evocation of a closeted gay actor in 1930’s NY vaudeville in The Nance or Ms. Midler’s portrayal of Hollywood superagent Sue Mengers in the one-woman show I’ll Eat You Last.  Certainly, each understands the craft of stage acting and the ins and outs of what you have to do as a performer to interpret a text and create/evoke a character.  But you simply can’t teach, learn or acquire what either of them does live eight shows a week, month after month. That kind of talent – the ability to turn from comedy to drama and back again on a dime while eliciting audience tears, guffaws and something even more of a rarity these days – intense silence – simply by playing pretend right before our eyes is simply – a gift.  I’m the biggest showbiz groupie there is and have been watching each of them do this onstage in countless shows over the last 30 years and I can tell you only this – try as you might you will NEVER figure either of them out.  Nor, do you want to.

A whole lotta talent for one picture

A whole lotta talent for one picture

For the rest of us mere mortals, there is still hope because even the duo of Midler & Lane have stumbled in mediums other than the live stage (Isn’t She Great, anyone?

So, simplistic though it may be, think of this as a starter kit that will set you on the road to being your own creative magician.   Because anyone who has been in the game and achieved some measure of success in more than just a few minutes can tell you that absent any kind of real talent at all, there are still several basics tricks of the trade that can move you up a notch or two on the playing board.  (And believe me, it is a game).

1. Deliver or exceed on the premise:  

Now You See Me is a film now out in theatres that is all about magic – literally.  The premise:  A group of magicians perform a major series of heists masquerading as magic tricks against corporate America while eluding elite law enforcement officials.  The requirement:  Really, really cool slreight of hand/mind you can’t figure out, snappy dialogue, adrenalin-filled twists and turns, and one or two major plot surprises.  So who cares that the third act is not as great as the first one and a half or that 75% of the major critics in the country panned it? Certainly not me and the rest of the audience, that’s who.  $50 million plus in 12 days and 75% positive crowd reviews on Rotten Tomatoes tells us the filmmakers knew exactly the kind of movie they were making and gave it to us — in spades.  And to push the metaphor even more uncomfortably, that’s not a card trick, just good playing

2. Don’t bore me:

Don't bore Nina!

Don’t bore Nina!

Nikki Finke was just another smart, prickly journalist covering the entertainment industry who more than seven years ago decided to start her own website, www.deadline.com by combining great reporting skills with an over-the-top, take no prisoners style that suffocated traditional journalism (and occasionally its standards of objectivity).  But she was never, ever, ever – not even once – boring.  Today, Ms. Finke has pretty much single-handedly redefined daily coverage of show business, made millions selling her site to a larger conglomerate (Penske Media) and in the process might have poison penned herself out of the pinnacle position at the top of the very mountain she built. 

From vulture.com. All hail Queen Nikki??

From vulture.com. All hail Queen Nikki??

Still, as Ms. Finke herself very well might respond – So what?!!!  Or – If you weren’t such a lousy reporter you’d know the real story.  Or – I don’t have the time to waste on the many moments of stupidity you managed to create in your just one paragraph of text.

Though she sometimes crosses the line into petty personal vendetta, Nikki’s reportage almost consistently scoops her competitors and is seldom wrong.  There’s an innate creativity to what she does that, as a former entertainment reporter, I can testify is extremely difficult to achieve in the field.  She’s mean, she’s an original and she doesn’t make you yawn – which seems to be the right combination for success these days whether you want to admit it or not.   Her philosophy is probably best summed up by the instructions she gives readers who choose to post in her ever-popular comments section:

…Don’t go off topic, don’t impersonate anyone, don’t get your facts wrong, and don’t bore me.

3.  Be original:

Icon

Icon

It’s hard to imagine that Susan Sontag, social critic, thinker and novelist who has often been hailed as one of the great intellectuals this country has ever produced, grew up in the 1940s in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks, to be exact) writing, while still in her teens, lines like these:

Childhood: a terrible waste of time.

All of us would be misguided to try and be Sontag.  But what she herself recognized early on was that she needed to pursue what she wanted to the nth degree and ignore those who wished she would stay quiet, or at least enjoy life a little bit more.  For her this meant devouring piles and piles of classical literature at any early age – from Balzac to Dostoyevsky to Pushkin; having affairs with both women and men in the sexually repressive 1950s and beyond; and recognizing all along that she, as well as everyone else, is nothing more than a creation of their own desires and actions.

As the famous writing teacher Brenda Ueland once wrote, Everyone is original and has something to say.  But few of us stay in touch with the idea that it is feverishly acting out our very originality that will bring us happiness and allow us to succeed (though perhaps not in the way we were taught – which is another type of original thinking in itself).

Check out the new theatre piece in NY I regrettably didn’t get to catch based on Ms. Sontag’s journals, called Sontag Reborn. Or, better yet, read some of Sontag’s essays or books and tell me you still think magic is limited to pulling rabbits out of hats or sawing your girlfriend or boyfriend in half.  Besides, the latter’s been done to death anyway, both literally and figuratively.

4. Be Bold:

Sometimes an infographic says it all.

Sometimes an infographic says it all.

I write those two words at least once a month here.  That’s because I remind myself of this almost daily.  It’s great to be original, interesting and to deliver on a promising premise.  But unless you have the courage to put yourself fully out there as you create, sell and then recreate and sell some more, you probably won’t get where you want to be.

There’s a revival of a musical in NY at the moment called Pippin.  In it, the great comic actress Andrea Martin, who got her start on the classic Canadian TV series SCTV (for younger people – she was the Kristin Wiig of her time), has one extended show-stopping number called No Time At All where she gives her grandson uplifting advice about life and on the vagaries of growing old.  Now, knowing the song and hearing that Ms. Martin was going to be playing the grandmother I thought – Okay, so Andrea Martin makes me laugh, even if she is a little young for the part, but she’ll still be fun.  Then I went on to The Google and discovered Ms. Martin is actually 66 years old, the exact age the part was written for.  And she’s doing this role on Broadway, swinging from a trapeze (Spoiler Alert:  Live.  Really.)

Her best role (in my opinion)

Her best role (in my opinion)

I think of my Mom, who sadly died at that age, and then I think of what the age of 66 evokes and sounds like to most of us and I wonder (sometimes even out loud when no one is in the room)  – am I really being bold?  And why aren’t I?

And then I consider – just how much bolder can I get?  What’s in my way?  What’s stopping me?

And then, when I get the nerve – I look in the mirror (Cause I’m vain). With the lights on (Usually to find my glasses).  In the morning (Well, my version of it, which is often not before 8) Right when I wake up.  (Okay, sometimes 9).

It’s not always a pretty sight but this image does start my day out with one very bold action (You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one).

…With that out of the way, the other 23 and a half hours usually gets relatively easier.

Love it AND Hate it

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You can hate something you love or love something you hate.  For instance, in my twenties I used to periodically LOVE watching televangelists Jim and Tammy Baker crazy talk their version of God and morality to the masses while simultaneously HATING them and every misguided piece of religious bile that spewed out of their hypocritical mouths.  What does this say about me?  That I’ll sink lower than the approval ratings of Congress (and then some) for a laugh AND I will even do it gaily at my own expense.

Truth be told, I fully support the right of pretty much any nut job who manages a way onto the airwaves to have their say just as I vehemently advocate for the right to hurl poison pen insults from the peanut gallery directly at them and their nether regions if I so choose.  Of course, sometimes a handful of those wackos and media whores of the moment are mentally ill and, in that case, all bets are off. Which particularly pains me since Kathleen Taylor, a renowned Oxford University researcher and author specializing in neuroscience, predicted last week during a talk on the brain that we might soon see a proven link between religious fundamentalism and mental illness.

Yes, I'm looking at you, Lonesome Rhodes

Yes, I’m looking at you, Lonesome Rhodes

This all brings me to my favorite TV reality judge (and overexposed rock star) Adam Levine (Note: Yes, I love Adam even as I sometimes hate tire of him).  Fearing the two best singers he mentored all season as a coach on NBC’s #1-rated show The Voice would indeed be voted off the program by the masses (nee viewers) who had the time and thought to phone in and be counted in the final vote tally, America’s #1 Jewish front man (that’s Adam, not me) decided to tell the truth and utter these four words:

“I Hate This Country.”

Uh, oh.

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If we were all brutally honest, we would all admit that in times of stress or perceived injustice we all have said or thought something similar or far worse:

For example:

“I HATE YOU, _____________________”

Mom

Dad

Sibling

Spouse (Fill in the name)

Lover (Fill in the name of your choice after they cheated on you)

Friend (Fill in the name of your choice after they cheated on you with your lover or spouse or both)

This, of course, does not mean that we really HATE any of those treasured people in our lives aside from in that moment in time (well, maybe we cut the friend.. right?).  Just as it doesn’t mean that Adam Levine hates the good ole red, white and blue any more than his fellow judge, country and western star Blake Shelton, loves it.

Let's have them duke it out!

Let’s have them duke it out!

I happen to know this is true because in the last two or three decades I have said I hate this country publicly, oh, at least a dozen times (though not on NBC because they haven’t booked me yet). More than half of those times were in the eighties and nineties during the Reagan/AIDS era.  A few more came after George W. Bush got elected and re-elected.  Another couple had to do with young people being bullied and a few more – well, I forget.

Like any opinionated fella in 2013, Mr. Levine instantly took to Twitter and defended himself with humor – brushing off his remarks as an impromptu joke.  But hundreds (thousands?) tweeted back to him and NBC that he was un-American (one twit even suggesting Navy Seal Team 6 be sent after him) and should be fired.  Then some fair and balanced wags at Fox weighed in with similar thoughts, prompting Mr. Levine to issue still yet another statement:  “I obviously love my country very much and my comments were made purely out of frustration.”

This last mea culpa is sort of like the kind you give to your parents, friends and lovers  — but without the accompanying tears, back patting or make-up sex.

As for me and my anti-American words, there will be no apology.  Formal or otherwise.  The last time I checked the only thing you can really be put in jail for saying in the United States is Fire! in a crowded movie theatre or any sort of perceived threat against the President.

You can also add choosing "List It" to my list of crimes. #AlwaysLoveHillary

You can also add choosing “List It” to my list of crimes. #AlwaysLoveHillary

Or, perhaps, if I had my way, singing Merle Haggard’s reactionary, right wing country classic from 1969, Okie From Muskogee, on network television – which was what happened on Monday night’s edition of The Voice.

Don’t remember the lyrics?  Well, here are the first four lines:

We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee

We don’t take our trips on LSD

We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street;

We like livin’ right, and bein’ free….

Yet Adam Levine, who has been often said to smoke a joint or two , could this week only beam and nod in approval at that Muskogie moment.  Maybe it was because he liked the song or, more likely, maybe it was because he was afraid not to like the song.  I have no idea.  But then again, for a $10 million plus paycheck for each Voice cycle I too might even be silenced by the possibility of a red state America backlash getting in the way of my retirement fund.

For the record, there are many, many things about this country I do love.  New York City, the Pacific Ocean, the view from my upstairs window, kitchen supply stores, driving with the top down in my car with the heat on in 55-65 degree weather, and the right to write anything I damn please without having some idiot redcoat (or any other color coat) comin’ a knockin’ at my door and dragging me to a cyber-age Siberian prison never to be heard from again.

But that doesn’t mean that at one point or another I don’t also dislike, or even hate all of the above.  I spent some time on vacation last week in 90-degree/900% humidity New York that in that moment made me despise the city and everything about it even as I still loved (as I always have) its Broadway shows and hot pretzels.

These pretzels are making me thirsty!

These pretzels are making me thirsty!

I also hated my convertible car last year when the battery died twice in a month, one in the middle of busy intersection.  Just as I positively loathe the Pacific Ocean on windy summer days like today when I can’t figure out whether my sinuses or the brush in the Inland Empire burn with greater intensity.

The point is – no one should ever take at face value anything that is said, or even read, in this world.  There is a context, an underside, a nuance, or even an accompanying explanation to everything you hear, see or read.  You are not obligated to seek it out but none of us can rightly deny that it doesn’t exist.  I mean, even I know in my heart of hearts that there is something good about mashed potatoes and peas despite the fact that the sight of them together on my dinner plate inevitably makes me gag.

Which brings me to the newest food craze sweeping New York  – the Cronut.

Behold.. THE CRONUT.

Behold.. THE CRONUT.

A combination croissant and doughnut, these very sweet somethings are the invention of French pastry chef Dominique Ansel and are THE new must have for anyone who is anyone in the city (Note: the previous sentence could easily be read by my beloved Stefon).   People wait online in front of Mr. Ansel’s Soho bakery each morning starting at approximately 5am (he opens at 8) to get one of the precious 200 or so Cronuts he bakes each day.  You can buy up to six of them in a day (they are sold to you in a gold box if you do so), you can’t reserve them ahead of time (Anderson Cooper tried and was refused while Hugh Jackman was rumored to have waited in line) and there are Craig’s List professional shoppers who you can hire to stand in line and deliver your Cronuts personally to you if you pony up $30-$40 per pastry for the pleasure.

Given all of the this, is it any wonder that I decided ahead of time that I LOVE and had to have my very own Cronut on my recent NYC trip?  Well, that is until I saw a photo of one close-up and realized it had a weird gooey cream oozing out of its center which immediately made me nauseous.  Like really sort of sick.  Cause I’m more of a chocolate cake kind of guy.  Always was.  Which in turn leads me to admit that I HATE Cronuts and the elitist idea of them.  At least for now.  Or until I taste one.  At that point, it can go either way.