Freak out!

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I don’t know about you but when I read on the front page of the New York Times that …the Islamic state is seeking to attack, infiltrate or sabotage nuclear installations or obtain nuclear material or radioactive material at vulnerable facilities in Belgium and elsewhere it raises the moderate yet consistent level of anxiety I walk around with each day to high.

But, being a master of denial, I quickly remembered that my beloved Times was also the paper that once employed Judith Miller, who once acted as a shill for former Vice President Dick Darth Vader Cheney and printed all kinds of misleading stories about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities under President George W. Bush – stories that in turn created a groundswell of political and public support for probably the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history – the Dubya-led march into Iraq – which in turn led us into the current massive destabilization of the Middle East.

Stefan only speaks the truth

Stefon only speaks the truth

Yes, I know this is what the terrorists want – for me/us to be terrorized. And it would sort of be working on me had I not lived much of my early life in terror and, in turn, become a master of denial. This, of course, led to decades of therapy that allowed me to understand there is no point worrying about stuff I can’t control – like my own personal demise and the end of the world. But at least I know how to block it out and put it in perspective. For me that means – oh hell, may as well enjoy what little time we have left while we can, because clearly we’re all doomed.

On an existential basis this is not all surprising. I mean, aren’t we all doomed anyway? Not to bring down the room with homilies like – no one gets out of here alive but…uh…guess what…you don’t. And this whole afterlife thing really needs to take a rest. Because if there is an afterlife then doesn’t that mean all of these terrorists are celebrating with a dozen virgins somewhere you and I can’t see? Since who is to say whose after-life is it, anyway?

#deepthoughts

#deepthoughts

This being the case I refuse to become preoccupied or outraged anymore about potential nuclear wars. Yes there are exceptions that will get me – like the 31 dead several days ago in Belgium and any time the proliferation of gun-toting Americans decide to shoot up a movie theatre or classroom full of people. Not to mention the next time any white law officer shoots a non-White young (or old) person. Or vice-versa for that matter. Still, that seems to happen only every month – well, let’s say every few weeks to play it safe. I can certainly handle that amount of sadness in monthly or weekly increments if it stays at that level because I’ve learned to portion it out.

Yet there are any number of news and pop culture events I refuse to get upset or even annoyed about anymore.   I’m actually rather enjoying the food fight The Republican Apprentice and Grandpa Munster are having over whose wife is prettier, smarter or more worth staying monogamous with. Frankly, I’d cheat on both of them, though not with either of their husbands – nor any of the other deposed competitors for GOP presidential choice. I might, however, consider one of the deposed competitors on the Democratic side who has dropped out. Not that I’m naming any O’Names.

Uh... Abssssolutely

Uh… Abssssolutely

I also don’t give a rat’s ass that the just-released Superman v. Batman is by all accounts a leading contender for next year’s Razzie awards; Ben Affleck’s sad sack expression when being unfairly ambushed by a journalist on a press junket who asked him how it felt to have the movie so poorly reviewed; or the fact that the movie has just grossed more than $400,000,000 at the box-office worldwide in its opening weekend. Yeah, you heard it right.

Certainly this, more than anything else, makes a case for the proposed company The Screening Room filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams have been touting the last few weeks.

This new venture/platform/vehicle would provide us all – for the mere price of about $50 – the opportunity to legally beam in any movie to our large home screen mechanism of choice on the exact day it opens at movie theatres.   Industryites are objecting all over the spectrum but really – I’m not upset in the least. Nor should anyone else be in the industry. The only chance they have of more people going out to theatres to see much of their sort of corporate swill is if it’s offered in the comfort of one’s own home where one can freeze it for bathroom breaks or group hate watch it amid chugs of wine or puffs of their prescriptioned pharmaceutical of choice.

OK, maybe I'd miss these little fellas

OK, maybe I’d miss these little fellas

Certainly, the above applies at least to me. I’ll pay $50 to have friends over so I can luxuriate on Mr. Cavill’s shirtless image with my eyes while downing a glass of Chianti. Or perhaps that’s vice-versa in the case of the latter two phrases. Well, whatever works. As for Mr. Affleck, he’d be old news at that point. Literally.

Yes, the world is cruel and old age is not for sissies, as Bette Davis once said. Do you know there are theatres where I can now get in as a senior citizen? That’s cruel but I’m also enjoying the irony of continuing to pay full price. I think of it as my middle finger at the patriarchy still in charge and a revolt against the yet one more category it’s attempting to throw me into against my will.

Senior discount realness

Senior discount realness

People will, of course, always try to throw you into categories you don’t see yourself a part of or, by any objective (or non-objective) measure are clearly not a part of. I’m voting for Hillary Clinton but still consider myself a liberal. I like but am not voting for Bernie Sanders yet fellow Democrats consider me a privileged white male sellout. My GOP friends consider me misguided. Others in the GOP think I’m… Oh, I’m lovin’ all the nasty adjectives the latter throws at me. I’m like #Drumpf – every time you challenge me my contributions to her, like his Wall, get the equivalent of five feet higher.

I am unsure how long my newfound light-heartedness will last but I’m betting given the current news cycles of the last few months, not to mention the world at large, it won’t be ending any time too soon. There are too many clowns and clown cars to laugh at these days. As the great and prescient George Carlin once so cleverly said:

God Bless America

God Bless America

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Your Own Worst Enemy

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What’s worse than not completing a task to the best of your ability?

Believing that no matter what you do your efforts will never be YOUR BEST. And, in turn, not THE best. Of anything.

It’s amazing when one looks across our own socio-political-pop cultural landscape how many people are absolutely convinced they are THE BEST when we all know in our heart or hearts they are exactly the opposite. On the other hand, did you ever have that supremely talented friend or colleague (Note: It could even be the face looking back at you in the mirror each morning) you knew would be famous who, through the years, vanished into obscurity? The person that you can’t even find on LinkedIn who could easily have invented it – or most certainly something the equivalent or much better in their own individual field?

... and he was never seen or heard from again

… and he was never seen or heard from again

If you’re under 25 and can’t relate to this — take a gander around the room, your hometown, your school or the social media platform of your choice and choose such a person with that predestined future. Then refer back to this post in 10 or 20 years — yes, notes will be around…somewhere – and check on that name. Or some others you didn’t single out but had considered.   I guarantee you at least one or more will fit the bill. Probably more.

This has nothing to do with the individual capabilities of any one person, even yourself, and more to do with a series of other factors, most of which would be too long and complicated to go into here. Still, there is one that we do have time for because, well, it’s been on my mind a lot lately and is probably among the most universal. And that is…

Self-doubt

And the twin/doppelgänger that comes with it –

Self-sabotage.

What makes me qualified to write about this? Simple. I’ve been one of their chief practitioners for years. On and off. Lately more off than on but still… you never do know when these evil siblings will rear their ugly heads.   They’re a helluva persistent pairing.

#deepthoughts

#deepthoughts

I talk to students every semester about writer’s block – or as I like to call it – the simple fear of being BAD, or whatever your version of it is. The selfs, however, are a whole other animal.

It’s the voice that assures you that you’re no good, especially when you’re about to be if you’d just let yourself alone. It’s the sound of your worst enemy dissing you in your brain, the doubting “friend” who is so miserable in their own life they can’t bear for you to succeed, or most especially be better than them. The relative who wants to keep you in their place or under their control. Or it could be the dulcet tones of your neighbor who has told everyone you’ve gotten too big for your britches.

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Sometimes we’re all Lady Ediths

More to the point, and for some insane reason – it could simply be you. The dark reflection of yourself that claims it doesn’t want you to fail but fears more greatly that you might leave the comfortable or miserable place you’ve gotten used to all this time (months, years or perhaps even more) and finally succeed at something – or perhaps something else.

For me, this doesn’t usually happen at the beginning of a project. I actually love challenges that people tell me I can’t or shouldn’t do. It’s more at the end – when it’s almost over – and I fear it’s time to be judged. To hand it in – give it over to the world – or even a close-knit group of people you do or don’t respect. But how bad could that even be? Who could judge me harsher than myself???

Sound familiar?

Can Donald Trump actually believe he’s right about all the hate he’s spouting? Uh, well…yeah. I don’t know him but in the case of oversized egomaniacs they’ve just managed to invert the paradigm and chosen to behave badly in an extreme effort to deflect their insecurities. I’m not necessarily talking about #Drumpf – though I could be – who knows – I don’t know him. Instead, let’s use Hitler. Did you read that autopsy results recently unearthed that he actually had a micropenis? Case closed!!

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Okay, I jest. But only just a little. I don’t claim to know Hitler or Trump’s pathology. Or even Mussolini’s. Or Napoleon’s. Not that they’re similar. Though not that they aren’t, either.

You and I and maybe some others instead do not turn the hate outward and thereby inflate our tiny egos by seducing others to follow (like I said, Trump/Mussolini/ Hitler are just examples). We instead direct our hate or insecurities or whatever else you want to call it – inward – at opportune or inopportune times, depending on how you want to (or don’t want to) see it.

What this does is stop us all in our tracks before any risk is involved. But when we act like this we’re not the anti-Drumpf. We’re actually using our bluster in a similar way, just pointed in another direction – towards ourselves.

Case in point….

I can tell you this because I caught myself doing it the other day. It came at the end of a very long process, at the conclusion of an extremely tiring week, in the form of a mild but total freak out.

I’ll spare you the details. We all have our individual challenges and anxieties. One guy or gal’s freak out is another’s everyday life – and vice-versa. Well, whatever works for you. Or doesn’t.

For me, it doesn’t work. As a writer I’ve learned ways to block out the world. But this sort of thing extends beyond the written page and even the creative arts. It can apply to any task at hand in any profession. There are a million reasons not to do your job or your hobby. To not complete what’s required of you or what you secretly long to work on and finish but fear will be an embarrassing disaster you have thus decided not to complete or even start at all costs.

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What does work for me is pretending that what I’m doing is just for me. Because, well, isn’t it? In the scheme of things – say 100 years from now, who will give a crap about this piddly thing you’re/I’m/we’re devastating over? You are doing it just for you. That others might appreciate or criticize it is immaterial. Truly. Do any of us really believe when we’re 80 or 90 this project is at all going to matter? Ahh, but if it succeeds it could change people’s lives. Or — if we at least make it work to the best of our ability in that given moment it could actually change our life – if only in that given moment. And trust me, that moment of pride or relief, whichever you prefer, can be a really rewarding and life-affirming something.

So I try to stay in touch with that. I also take advice from Julia Cameron’s seminal book The Artist’s Way and write morning pages. This is three pages of stream of consciousness anything when you wake up or start work that day. Literally. And unedited. Whatever’s on your mind. And you don’t even have to punctuate. No one will ever see it but you and even you don’t have to read it over if you don’t choose to! What does it accomplish? It clears your psyche, gets out the cobwebs, lets you spew out the doubt and get it out from your brain where, if it festers, it will be do the most damage. It’s sort of what #Drumpf is doing to us en masse. Can you imagine if he actually had to contain all of those hideous thoughts? There’d be no tacky golden towers big enough.

I feel you going down a dangerous path, Chairy. Resist the urge.

I feel you going down a dangerous path, Chairy. Resist the urge.

Finally, I’ve found great freedom is surrendering the idea of being great. At this point in life, I just want to be. And after decades as a journalist and writer working with many highly creative and original thinkers, I’ve discovered the vast majority of the best of them are simply doing the work – doing their jobs when genius struck. It is true that the greatest revenge in life is loving what you do and making a living at it. When you can get excited and the ideas are flowing you’re too busy to think about result. Nor do you care. And it’s shocking how easy over the years it becomes to psych yourself into this state of mind. If you spend enough time leaving yourself alone if can actually just sneak in and happen. Naturally.

Certainly, we all do fall backwards. It can be frustrating being a part of the real world, especially these days, when every media socially rules. But those maximum density moments are exactly the time to retreat into yourself and create a safe place where you can play – just with yourself (Note: Make of that anything you will – literally). The world likes to call it play but if you indeed play your cards right it can become your work. What we have to keep reminding ourselves when we get too crazy is that they can easily be exactly the same things if we allow them to be.

Should we move to Zootopia?

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I used to be a black and white thinker who found it hard to compromise. Now I just find it hard to compromise. The world and its issues no longer exist on a clear us vs. them color spectrum for me. Rather they waft across my mind in all sorts of shades, rainbow waves of color. (Note: Okay, sometimes flags). I suppose that’s progress. More probably, age.

Still, some things are still clear to me as I reflect this week on the passing of Nancy Reagan, the opening of Zootopia, and the outbreaks of vitriol and violence surrounding Donald Trump events.

  1. Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s willful ignorance/refusal to lead on the ADIS epidemic in the eighties, while they were co-leaders of the free world, cost the lives of tens of thousands of Americans (approximately 100 of whom were close friends and acquaintances of mine) and I loathe and detest them. No amount of revisionist history on the part of their acolytes or society at large will change that. Or the facts. (Note: For more on this read Randy Shilts’ And The Band Played Onor at very least its Wikipedia summary). (Note #2: I do wish Randy, a great guy I met several times, was here to explain it to you but he died some years later after his exhaustively researched book came out – from AIDS).
  2. Animated films that are well done create undeniable connections to our real, imagined or idealized childhoods that most everyone can agree on. Even those of us who don’t rush out to see them can’t deny these facts – a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an opening 3-day weekend of $75 million domestically for a movie that metaphorically, via our beloved animal kingdom, advocates equal opportunity for all and thus shows us there is still an ever-so-slight glimmer of hope that our future existence is not doomed. (Note: Yes, that’s just a glimmer, but still…).
  3. Donald Trump has gone from at best an oddly amusing and crude drunk uncle to at worst a neo-Hitler presence of sociopathic id on the world stage who will use any means necessary, and without apology, to get what he wants. (Note: I’m not sure if that’s the presidency or attention, probably both). But more to the point — even though he denies his words are responsible for the near race riot that broke out in Chicago on Saturday at one of his rallies, the fact that he lied about the Chicago police advising him to cancel it should tell us all he is clearly headed far, far off the cliff into uncharted waters on the right side (Note: Not to be confused with correct side – and certainly not left side) of history.

What’s a blogger to do?

AGHHHH

AGHHHH

I am willing to compromise on some things but the truth is not one of them. And the truth is a 94 year-old woman who was someone’s mother, wife, friend, and icon, (whether I find the latter misguided or not) died this week and a segment of the world are sad and upset. This, in turn, perhaps ushers in a moment or two when those of us who still feel not much except difference and disdain, can give them some room to grieve.

But not if they don’t tell truth.

When I read social media posts proclaiming the Reagans heroes who were only a bit late in speaking on a worldwide pandemic and that I should get over it already I remember the skin and bones face of a dying friend whose life might have been prolonged or saved had the disease primarily affected doe-eyed, blonde 5-year olds rather than gay men. I also recall Mrs. Reagan whispering what she thought was a clandestine off-mic prompt of we’re doing everything we can for her dithering husband to say when a reporter dared ask him about AIDS at a time when clearly, in the scheme of things, Pres. Reagan was doing absolutely nothing.

Signs of the times

Signs of that time

And when hearing political pundits bloviate on this week about the former First Lady’s great loyalty to her friends what comes to mind for me is this well-researched article detailing Mrs. Reagan’s refusal to intercede on behalf on her AIDS-ravaged good friend Rock Hudson when in the mid-eighties his loved ones begged her, near the end of his life, to help get him into a Paris hospital doing cutting edge research on an ever unfolding plague. On a more personal basis, what also didn’t help me at all was when another Facebook friend posted the real villain in this piece was Rock Hudson for not coming out as gay publicly some years before. Really?

As for Hillary Clinton momentarily touting, then quickly apologizing, for her statement that Mrs. Reagan did subtly start a conversation on AIDS at the time, I can’t even…

HELP!

HELP!

As I stated, I’m not very good at compromise. But at least I’m trying.

Speaking of trying, it’s difficult to continue wasting ink, not to mention brain cells, on The Republican Apprentice when at the very least one could be attending an afternoon or evening showing of Zootopia. Though I venture to say many of the people in Europe had similar thoughts about Adolph Hitler in the 1930s.

For the record, I despise serious Hitler metaphors to pop culture events. But #Drumpf is no longer mere pop culture. My beloved Sarah Silverman tried to make him so when she dressed up as the Great Dictator, swastika and all, on a recent episode of Conan where she had her version of the Nazi leader complaining about the public comparing him to Trump but for the most part it fell flat. Too soon? I’m not sure. Still, “A” for effort. At least she was trying something.  

It’s one thing to disagree with our current president’s foreign policy, a dearth of enough jobs, a slow economic recovery or the ever-present threats of terrorism. It’s another to ask supporters to raise their hands in a faux Nazi salute and pledge loyalty to you as you belittle protestors (Note: a great American tradition) and bellow at security guards to ‘GET ‘EM OUT!’ Especially when the majority of those protestors are Black or Brown and the bulk of your supporters are Uber-Lily White.

This about sums it up

This about sums it up

There is no road to compromise on this issue when the subject you speak of (that’s the guy who owns those hideous-looking hotels, and yeah, that’s my b & w opinion) is not only unwilling to but is a master of denial of intention on anything he publicly states at any given moment. Your only weapon is the truth on the subject – which in any rational argument IS BLACK AND WHITE. Meaning despite their extremes these two colors do certainly exist and on certain pieces of clothing – and in certain arguments – are a more than adequate first choice of color for any occasion if considered carefully and used wisely and judiciously.

Which brings us to Zootopia. I haven’t seen it yet but I love the description of the plot on RottenTomatoes:

The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together – a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.

Not just a bunch of animals

Not just a bunch of animals

We could do a lot worse than use the theme of a 2016 Disney film as a primer for contemporary living and coexistence these days. Well, I suppose we could also do a lot better, though I’m not sure how at this moment in time. And if last week’s events are any indication, neither do you or anyone else – left, right, center or off the cliff on either side.

I hesitate to argue in favor of a corporate message – or even that life can best be lived as any Disney film – but compared to what I’m really thinking…well, it’s the best I can do for any sort of compromise. At the moment, anyway.

THE RISE OF THE ___________

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I want to do anything but write about ________ today.

Literally anything. Except jump out of an airplane or die. Which in my mind is the same thing.

And, he referred to my hands –‘ if they’re small, something else must be small.‘ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.’

I'm just gonna leave this here...

I’m just gonna leave this here…

Here’s what Modern Family writer @DannyZuker recently tweeted on the subject.

In the spirit of that, here’s a line from one of my favorite films, Rosemary’s Baby (1968) –

He has his father’s eyes…Satan is his father… 

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Drumpf.

Get ‘em out, get’ em out, get ‘em outa here!

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And suddenly all the Black people were gone – pushed and dragged away by large burly men when they dared to speak out in a public place. Or dared to just be standing around doing nothing but listening.

Bill Maher played the Hitler card in a short, hilarious reference on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday.

I suggest watching for its mere 2 minutes. But if you don’t want to it involves a visual of the Fuhrer shouting loudly and hysterically to thousands of rabid, cheering supporters in the 1940s. Yet instead of listening to words from the leader of The Third Reich we’re hearing recent 2015/16 sound bites from ________  as if they were utterances from Heil You Know Who.

The transitions are seamless. I mean, you’d never ever know. Even the occasional joke feels real. It all works.

Here’s part of the climactic monologue/speech from another movie I love, Tootsie (1982), when the hero-in-female drag explains why in the end female leaders are in much more preferable to their male counterparts.

…Now you all know that my father was a brilliant man; he built this hospital. What you don’t know is that to his family, he was an unmerciful tyrant – a absolute dodo bird. He drove my mother, his wife, to – to drink…

Dorothy tells it how it is

Dorothy tells it how it is

I don’t drink much myself but I can’t say a nice stiff Scotch wouldn’t hit the spot just about now. Perhaps even a sip would do it for me. Yes, I’m a lightweight. But at least I know it. Unlike some people.

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The grammar mistakes are________ ‘s, not mine. Just in case it was confirming his thoughts about how inaccurate journalists are. Well, I used to be a journalist. Now I’m just a blogger. Or, to use ________ ’s language, a loser. Of course, so is the New York Times, according to ________ . So, journalistically speaking, I’m in good company.

Louis C.K. wrote an open letter to his fans this week about the Person of Color (Note: Orange) whose name we dare not speak. It was funny, honest and intelligent. Creative reportage is perhaps the best description. Much like the new journalism writings of people like Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson in the 1970s. But given the informality of Twitterverse and emailspeak of the new millennium, a quote like this speaks volumes:

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Of course, there was a lot more to what he said than that – a whole letter to the public, actually. You can read it here.

If you don’t, just know that preceding the above quote was this thought from Mr. C.K. (Note: Calling him that seems so weird, doesn’t it? #Louie) – he’s okay with the next president being from the other side of the aisle.

We are about 40 percent conservative and 40 percent liberal…And it always made sense that everyone gets a president they like for a while and then hates the president for a while. But it only works if the conservatives put up a good candidate. A good smart conservative to face the liberal candidate so they can have a good argument and the country can decide which way to go this time.

Though this is what Robert Redford had to say in one of the most romantic movies ever made – The Way We Were (1973). He plays a pretty boy aspiring novelist and eventual screenwriter who is speaking to mousy, brainy political activist/Jewish girl Barbra Streisand, a college classmate who he will marry, cheat on and years later divorce right after she gives birth to his only daughter.

Well, you make fun of politicians. What else can you do with them?

BRB watching this for the 1,000th time

BRB watching this for the 1,000th time

You can call them out – or not vote for them.

Actually, ________ ’s competitors are doing the former in great big shouts all over the country and every time you tune into our many airwaves. But none are willing to say they’ll do the latter. In fact, at their most recent debate this week, they all vowed to vote for him if he is their nominee. That’s exactly the opposite.

It sort of reminds me of a line from one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures – Postcards From The Edge (1990).

…I’m not a box, I don’t have sides. This is it, one side fits all!

It is interesting to note the character saying that is a reformed drug addict.

... or in the same condition I am when I watch any GOP debate

… or in the same condition I am when I watch any GOP debate

Movies, like history, repeat themselves and their messages. And often in the form of history – both past and present.   Much as I love film, there are times when I so wish this weren’t true.