Please Bore Me

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Every semester I implore my writing students: please, don’t bore me. Not in a Miranda Priestly way. I like to think of myself as their sometimes nicely dressed angel rather than a devil in too hip designer duds waiting to take a bite out of their souls. They have plenty of time after school to experience the latter, if they haven’t already.

The same goes for my taste in art. I’d rather be offended by your creative output than have it put me to sleep. (Note: This actually happened during the second act of the Broadway musical Annie in the seventies but that’s another subject.). In truth, there is nothing that fires me up more and sparks my own creativity than a good homophobic, racist, or sexist rant.   Sure, I loathe them. But as a guy with ADD and a lifelong procrastination problem, I often need a push – make that a shove – in order to do anything about it.

Me at my most creative #differentsteven

Me at my most creative

This is what current Republican nominee Donald Trump delivered this past week and Hillary Clinton can never deliver.

But see, the actual world is not a fictional land that a writer (or any artist) can mold to their liking. That’s why one does creative work to begin with. So we can evoke the world as we see it – create one that reflects our point of view, that is of our choosing, not yours.

Nor are actual world leaders characters in a book, movie or TV show to root for or hate watch. Well, okay, you can hate watch them – as I did with Trump last week – or root for them – as I’ll do with Hillary this week – but that is not their primary function in our lives.

OK... but this was pretty funny

OK… but this was pretty funny

They exist to lead us, to enact and enforce a set of laws that bring people together and create some sort of existential order than enables us to achieve whatever we so choose and thus become the best of ourselves.

In other words, they’re not here to put on a show, they’re here to run the show.

And what they are also most certainly not put here for is our amusement.

I’ve always liked following politics but personally I’d find it as boring as Annie Act 2 if I were a real life politician – or worked for one. All the hand-shaking, broken promises, arm-twisting, behind-the- scenes maneuvering. Not to mention compromises. Constantly. Oh – and asking for money. Do you know politicians spend 50-75% of their time fundraising?

That's it, I'm going back to bed

That’s it, I’m going back to bed

And that’s the fun part. How about the endless hearings, crafting the legislation, engaging in ad infinitum drafts of bills that will look nothing like you imagined them to be – that is if they ever do get enacted. Not to mention you’ll also have to talk your bone-headed colleagues on the other side of the aisle into the milquetoast compromise you didn’t want in the first place and often smile sincerely enough for them to believe you at some point while you’re doing it.

Fine, this is not unlike being a screenwriter in the film business. Still, no one dies or goes hungry when our movies do or don’t get made. Not even us. Not really. And if an artist of any kind can go hungry or be permanently broke, the failure of our projects or constant unemployment do not have national or worldwide repercussions. Even though our egos are such that we are convinced this is the case on every single project we undertake.

A screenwriter's dinner isn't going to make itself!

A screenwriter’s dinner isn’t going to make itself!

Mr. Trump’s charm has always eluded me. Probably because I’ve always detested white, straight macho strongmen rich guys who flaunt their money with the same ease with which they flaunt the latest blonde on their arm. And honestly, I find gold–gilted anything quite tacky – especially when it’s a zillion feet high. No, I’m not talking about his hair.

Nevertheless, I got what he provided for others. A fantasy of luxury.   A mouthpiece to say all the things they couldn’t. Like – YOU’RE FIRED! Heck, who hasn’t wanted to say that at least once a week, or sometimes even once a day?

But experiencing Mr. Trump this past week and the foaming fervor of his supporters at the RNC grew from entertaining hate-watching to terror and panic once I got it through my head this was no longer just good badTV. The Washington Post breaks it down much better than I do so please click here and read.

... and just in case Trump wasn't scary enough, now we got this guy too #HELP

… and just in case Trump wasn’t scary enough, now we got this guy too #HELP

Suffice it to say 75 plus minutes of law and order rants in an undeniable Mussolini/Hitler like timbre was frightening – and not in the Dick Wolf-TV-Mariska Hargitay kind of way. It became much larger than life and certainly larger than any reality show that has ever been on TV. A man who alternately pleaded and shouted that he’d protect you and work for you as long as you gave him the keys and the codes to everything you own and didn’t ever ask him to give any details, or much of a clue, on how he’d do that.

Heck, I had lying, elusive, duplicitous boyfriends in my twenties (and more than a few) who gave me more actual specifics than that. Plus, they were a helluva lot better looking.

Then, on the other side, there is Hillary Clinton. We’ve known her for 25 years and, let’s face it, she’s seldom entertaining.   Okay, there was the Monica scandal and the dress and the brief period the country felt bad for her. And yes, there were those moments and memes as secretary of State when she was texting in her sunglasses pre-Benghazi when it seemed like she could never make a wrong move again. But mostly – not much fun on her own. Certainly not much fun to watch giving a speech.

... whereas this guy #goodspeech #wow

… whereas this guy #goodspeech #wow

Which does not mean she is not a good or effective politician. Or potential world leader.   Rather than getting into a litany of defense, here is the best compilation of facts and attributes I’ve seen in this dailykos article last month, which references other sources – both pro and con. But suffice it to say I remember 25 years ago when she was actually fighting for health care and telling the right wing to go stick it in their hats – a time they resented her simply for not staying home like a good, little first lady and tending the rose garden. Yeah, she was tough and mouthy but I was raised by women like that and always thought that behavior was kind of cool.

See, her kind doesn’t get cast as Secretary of State – we have the glamorous, desirable Tea Leoni for that. And if she does become our first female president, Julia-Louis Dreyfuss will be far more entertaining on Veep in any moment on any given part of the day to most of the world.

Lest we forget Miss Geena

Lest we forget Miss Geena

I can hear the naysayers from here – she lied, she’s crooked, she can’t be trusted! As opposed to um…the neighborhood billionaire? Any billionaire? This is not a defense of lying, or even an admission that Mrs. Clinton does or does not lie.   We’re simply making equivalencies here. The RNC didn’t just nominate Gandhi. Or even Ben Kingsley. Though their nominee is closer to an actor if he’s anything at all.

Which is the crux of the problem. We’re electing a commander-in-chief not an entertainer-in-chief. And certainly, not a clown – no matter how desperate we all are for a laugh. How desperate is that?   We’ll see.

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Drunk in Trump

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When poet-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron wrote the iconic anthem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised for his 1970 debut album it was in response to everything the small screen was NOT showing about the civil unrest of the late sixties.   It was also a not so gentle reminder to his peers to get out into the streets and to participate. Racial inequality, campus unrest over social issues – none of it could be addressed if the people who wanted change the most simply sat there and watched only small snippets of action of what broadcasters chose to show them.

Needless to say, times have changed.

In 2016, the Revolution IS being televised, tweeted, snap chatted, vimeo’d, texted and emailed – 24/7. In fact, we are getting so much revolution these days that it has created a new normal of constant change and unrest that we get to see happening everywhere at any time that we so choose.

Me, every time I turn on the TV

Me, every time I turn on the TV

Turkey in the streets, 84 plowed down by a truck-driving terrorist in Nice, the premiere of an all female Ghostbusters, world leaders on parade, celebrities undressed and regular people having sex – it’s all available. In fact, it’s often unavoidable.   All you have to do is click on one key or website you had or hadn’t intended and you will likely stumble upon any or all of the above.

That’s why it’s now time to DRINK.

Yes, drink.

It doesn’t have to be liquor. Or wine or beer.

A malted will do. Even an ice cream soda, a Mountain Dew or a Tab – yes, Tab.

Gurl, it's gonna be a long week

Gurl, it’s gonna be a long week

That was what my Mom and her friends drank back in the sixties when they wanted to escape from reality and lose weight at the same time. Sure, it was infinitely unhealthy in large doses – just like booze – but also like booze it somehow made you feel better and tasted good on ice. Not to mention, it had the added plus of coming in a pink can. How gay (meaning happy) is that???

I’m going to need a SH*T TON OF TAB this week to get through The Republican National Convention. Or as you all will soon be calling it – MEET THE TRUMPS! Though it’s tempting to now refer to the Donald as Mrs. Pence, in honor of the off-brand safe choice he made this past week when he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his professional spouse and running mate, let’s resist the urge. Since Pence, just like the governor’s botched attempt to legalize discrimination against LGBT people with his heinous religious freedom law last year, will quickly fade into the background.

Because in the coming days it will be: ALL TRUMPS, ALL THE TIME.

Time to fire up the grill! #gagme

Time to fire up the grill! #gagme

This is opposed to Donald Trump, most of the time.

An abridged speaking list (courtesy of the NY Times) on the revolutionary Big Four Networks’ TV this week, all of whom will be broadcasting the Republican National Convention live in prime-time, reads:

Monday Night: Melania Trump (the romantic spouse)

Tuesday Night: Donald Trump, Jr. (aka Patrick Bateman 2.0a) and Tiffany Trump (aka Marla Maples’ daughter though named after Tiffany & Co.), Instagram star and model.

Watch out Kylie! #getitgurl

Watch out Kylie! #getitgurl

Wednesday Night: Eric Trump (aka Patrick Bateman 2.0b and renowned big game hunter)

Thursday Night: Ivanka Trump (the favorite progeny though not necessarily mine, even if she is married to a too smart for his own good Jewish boy). And finally, DT himself, which could give you the DTs if you weren’t already so used to him.

It almost makes you long for the halcyon days of Ivana, doesn’t it? Though not quite.

Clearly, it is impossible to run away from them since you take your life in your hands these days travelling out of the country on a plane, not to mention your patience. So here are some games, suggestions and strategies on how to cope – or to at least get through it.

Monday Night: As a prelude, go to this link and watch Maya Rudolph tell you about Melania Trump’s Edible Diamonds. This is to be done prior to her speaking so whatever words she does manage to say, will wash down more easily.

Extra crispy

Extra crispy

And if that doesn’t work, you might try a White Russian. Of course she isn’t Russian. She is from Slovenia. The drink is in deference to her husband’s admiration for Putin.

Tuesday Night: Prior to any family member you’re gonna get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s talk so you might want to start the evening with a bowl of turtle soup. But don’t have too much because, as my Dad always tells me, ‘soup fills you up.’ Though you don’t want to hear Donald, Jr. on an empty stomach. Instead, perhaps this clip of Oscar winner Christian Bale in American Psycho?

Drink of choice? What else, scotch neat. Down it in five gulps – one for each of DTjr’s children – yes, HE has five kids – five. More. future. Trumps. On second thought – try five scotch neats. Every time he says – well, anything.

Which should prepare you for Tiffany.   Just stare at her twitter photo below and note that aside from being a model and social media star she is a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Then have a soy mocha latte – half caf – in her honor. You need to sober up but you also need to sleep tonight. You’re only half-way through this…schedule.

Wednesday Night: Newt Gingrich opens up the prime time slot and will no doubt tout his support of Trump(s) to speak for the silent majority of real America. Both Ted Cruz and Gov. Pence, each of whom will follow, will no doubt echo this thought. To keep yourself alert, make a list of all six wives that combined Newt and Donald have wed and answer for yourself this question under each name – What were/ARE they thinking? Meaning the wives, not the two older men – whose combined ages are now a sprightly 143.

Of course, nothing can truly prepare you for a speech by Eric Trump. He’s 6’5” tall and a big game hunter who likes to pose for pictures with dead animals he’s shot, sometimes along with his brother.

I JUST CANT

I JUST CANT

Perhaps a…Bloody Mary to wash him down? (Note: Virgin, if you’re not old enough to drink or have sworn off alcohol, though that’s inadvisable at this point). Every time the name Trump is mentioned all night. That should get you nice and lubricated, or at least give you enough of a sugar high to not care about anything else except yourself for the rest of the evening. Which, in some way, is keeping with the true theme of the night, isn’t it?

Thursday Night: The Finale. Time to break out the champagne when Ivanka comes on. Seriously. She’s the ideal. The beautiful daughter her father desires would she not be his beautiful daughter. The heiress, the smart female corporate tigress, the new Mom. Heck, she’s even friends with Chelsea Clinton! Or is she? Perhaps, they merely know each other and are cordial. Though it is not entirely inconceivable that at some point in the future their children will have a play/nanny date.

Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew EWWWWWWWW

Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew EWWWWWWWW

Still, it does seem like Cristal (that’s champagne at its best) is in order. Or maybe even Korbel if that’s all you can afford. That seems likely given how good the economy is for the average person. Which is what the message of the week will be, anyway. Cristal for everyone by 2020!!! We Are All Trumps!

This will take you right into Donald, Sr. In order to soften the blow of him either reading from the teleprompter or talking off the cuff – because each is equally painful –prepare a picture of Mariska Hargitay beforehand and kiss it every time he says Law and Order.   Or bellows it. Then chug back some more Cristal, put on Madonna singing Like A Prayer whenever Hillary Clinton is derided for being weak and stupid and pray that there is, indeed a God. And that SHE is listening to you. And not Mrs. Pence.

What Do We Do Now?

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At the end of the iconic film of American electoral politics – The Candidate – blonde, handsome and iconically American Robert Redford sits blankly confused after winning his unlikely maiden bid to the U.S. Senate and famously asks the smarmily savvy political consultant who got him there:

What do we do now?

Almost half a century later, it’s still an apt question.

Two more comparatively young Black men were shot and killed by police this week in what can best and most generously be described as grievous mistakes in the line of duty and at worst would be called racist executions by white guys in law enforcement uniforms.

Still, we should all think long and hard after we listen and speak to as many people as possible on questions such as the above one. Because before those two deaths had even sunk in, a cock-eyed retaliation took place from an angry, unbalanced decision-maker that had worldwide reverberations. This would be the murderous rampage via an assault-like rifle and handgun from a single shooter into a crowd of Dallas police officers and demonstrators that managed to murder five white cops as well as injure seven other people.

too many headlines

too many headlines

Oh yes. The execution of the police was done by a 25 year-old African-American veteran of our seldom-mentioned U.S. war in Afghanistan in retaliation for the aforementioned shooting of the two Black men at the hands of the police. Though what the shooter didn’t know is one of the men in blue that he killed was a young American war veteran himself.

The Candidate was released in 1972 but reflects what seemed like the ripping apart of the social fabric of America at the time. Race riots nationally in 1967, the Chicago police beating the crap out of demonstrators at the Democratic presidential convention in 1968 and the murder of four at Kent State University in 1970 when members of the National Guard decided to shoot into a crowd of students protesting the Vietnam War with a couple of rocks and beer cans. Though in fact, two of the dead were simply walking by on the way to class.

Pres. Obama said in a speech this week in Poland that what is going on now is different from the civil unrest in 1960s America and that today we are a country more unified.    This is why he is a leader and the president of the U.S. That’s what great leaders attempt to do – unify.

Also this

Also this

Me, I’m not so sure. I tend to think of it more like the writer and journalist James C. Moore (“Bush’s Brain”) observed several days ago. He opined that the angry rhetoric of the far right has released an ugliness into the country that began to bubble to the surface once the majority of us elected our first African American president almost eight years ago. And that this ugliness has morphed into a righteous anger on the part of many whites who are now rallying behind a Republican nominee who periodically releases coded racial dog whistles that flame their anger and more than imply a good old-fashioned American retaliation (nee violence?) to protestors or those deviating from their “values” is more than acceptable.

It is interesting to note that part of what angered young Americans in the late sixties and early seventies was not only the Vietnam War but the election of Richard Nixon, who famously campaigned as the law and order candidate who represented the silent majority. It might not be as currently catchy as Make America Great Again or Take Back America but it served its purpose. He did win. Twice. Though never mind he was forced to resign midway through his second term in order to avoid what was a likely impeachment due to the dirty tricks with which he willingly engaged in order to be re-elected to the White House. #Watergate (Note: Look it up).

... or watch any of these movies

… or watch any of these movies

Of course, if you’ve watched any news report in the last several months where either of the nominees speaks or is spoken about it is impossible to not hear accusations of dirty tricks, double-dealings, sketchy email servers, shady real estate dealings or crooked something or others – from both sides.

Still, in 1968 it was at the Democratic convention in Chicago that the Democratic mayor Richard Daley unleashed his police force to rough up protestors that he believed were behaving in an “un-American way.” This time it is only when we watch the Republican nominee speak and a protestor is present do we invariably hear said nominee bellowing from the podium – “Get’em Out! Get ’Em Out” – usually amid roars of approval from his apoplectically cheering crowd as the would-be insurgent is dragged, often literally, out of the arena and away not only from earshot but from his sight line.

Sure, history might repeat itself but certainly never in exactly the same way and usually not by the same crowd in question. Nevertheless, there’s a tediousness to it all, isn’t there? You’d think we adults would have learned something by now.

a bloody mess

a bloody mess

Tediousness is, of course, a highly inappropriate term to use when the deaths of loved ones and social injustice are involved. But when you watch Pres. Obama – arguably one of the most even-handed statesmen the country has ever wrought –once again stand at a podium and try to speak about race relations, gun violence and what does indeed make America great amid all the carnage, you can still see the weariness in his eyes.

It’s like a tired, spent parent having to correct his disobedient child for the 1700th time. You know he simply wants to shake the kid and say, “don’t you get it, yet?? What the “f” is wrong with you??” But instead, like all good parents, or teachers for that matter, he bears down and tries to phrase the lesson in yet another way so the youngster might, just might, understand.

and when in doubt...

and when in doubt…

This is in sharp contrast to what anyone else is doing at the moment.   So even though I might sometimes disagree with his tactics or phrasings, in the end I have to admit that I almost always agree with the message Pres. Obama is trying, against the greatest of odds, to get across.  Perhaps, this is because he is equal parts Black and White. Though I’m sure some would say that’s far too easy of an answer.

A Rare Bird

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To be an LGBT person is to acknowledge that you will always be in the minority. This seems likely even taking into account all present and future advancements in reproductive science.

I long ago came to terms with this and I can’t say it’s entirely un-pleasurable. In fact, in my more philosophical and egotistical moments it makes me feel a bit more exotic – like something to be particularly appreciated because it is so extraordinarily unique.

Yeah, I know the quest is to be treated as equals but still there are moments when I wax nostalgic for comedian Sandra Bernhard’s tart comment in the nineties:

I thought one of the benefits of being gay is that you didn’t have to get married or be in the military?

I’m paraphrasing, of course. Nevertheless there was a moment in time when this was particularly appealing.

It has its perks!

Of course, I’m also Jewish, which makes me a double minority. Though I didn’t realize the latter right away despite how much they used to try to drum it into you in Hebrew School in the sixties:

Rabbi: Always remember, the Jews have been the most persecuted people in the history of the world. We must stick together. 

Me (to myself): Really? Somehow this doesn’t seem right. What about the Civil War and slaves? Oh, we were slaves? But still… And as for sticking together, I like my Italian friends very much. Not to mention they seem to have so much more fun around the holidays. I wish I could celebrate Christmas.

Yes, I really did think like that, though not always to myself. Though of course, I am once again paraphrasing.

After all, Ol' Irving was a member of the tribe.

After all, Ol’ Irving was a member of the tribe.

When I brought myself to Hollywood and fully felt comfortable to live as my double minority self I considered it a great personal victory. Though truth be told this didn’t fully happen until somewhere in the mid-eighties and all I could think about was:

Well, I’ll show ‘em now. I’m gonna make up for all the wasted time!

Then the weight of the whole truth hit me like a ton of bricks. A gay Jew in Hollywood who wanted to be a writer was about as unique as…nothing. You could open up a window and find one. Or ten hundred. Though that’s not entirely true. Because seldom do many of us even go outside, at least in the daytime. Allergies, ya know.

homosexual-lesbian-edgy-cool-gay-pride-month-ecards-someecards

Clearly, I’m marketing a bit in cliché. But what is a cliché at all if it doesn’t contain more than an ounce of truth. I mean, I have an All About Eve poster on my living room wall and I like Bette Midler and Judy Garland. So draw your own conclusions. But don’t also forget that I never totally got Sex and the City, am obsessed much more by politics than Ru Paul (though will fight to the death for her), hate massages, and was a die-hard New York Yankees fan as a wee lad. Okay, I couldn’t play for shit, but everything about the latter is an entirely different story and will no doubt one day be the subject of an entirely different post.

Though I'd never be caught wearing vertical stripes #notflattering

Though I’d never be caught wearing vertical stripes #notflattering

The point here is no one is ALL or NOTHING, especially when it comes to their own sexual, religious, ethnic or physically specific stereotypes. Are all blondes bubble-headed? Certainly not!! Though I have met (and dated) a few, though not all of them natural. On the same token, there are a few terrorists that are Muslim – though a speck among the one billion plus Muslims in the world. And yeah, another speck of them come from the Middle East.   So what is that you’re saying?????

Twenty plus people died when terrorists took over a popular restaurant in Bangladesh on Friday. Isis/Isel/Dash is taking credit for it and who knows, maybe it was them/they/it. Though clearly it was terrorism. Three college students were among the dead, one of them from UC Berkeley. (Note: Not that it matters where they’re from but somehow the latter does matter to us, doesn’t it?). Five of the terrorists are dead and one is captured or dead, depending on which reports you believe. Forty people were wounded in and around the area and thirty-five people were held hostage overnight and then some.

Of course, these are just the latest examples of hundreds upon hundreds of terrorist incidents and fatalities in the last several years worldwide. In Bangladesh in particular, this incident specifically follows the murder of the editor-in-chief of the country’s sole LGBT newspaper, along with his lover, by six fundamentalist men who broke into his ground floor apartment with machetes and guns and hacked the pair to death.

Yes, the flip side of being a rare, spectacular exotic bird is that you’re a perpetual target from all sides for your “difference.” Though these days it is often other minorities who are doing the shooting, hacking and blowing up.

Le sigh

Le sigh

Oh wait, can you say these terrorists are a minority when there are more than a billion Muslims in the world? Well, just like not all gays like Sex and the City or prefer Ru Paul to politics, not every Muslim is a crazed fundamentalist terrorist. In fact, I’d safely venture to say that percentage wise there are more Muslims who ARE NOT insane terrorists than there are LGBTs like me that are non-SATC fans with a penchant for too much MSNBC. No, I can’t prove it. It’s based on anecdotal evidence and a life well lived, though sometimes not. So you’ll just have to take my unique, non-objective word for it as we all do with far too many sources on so many various things.

Elie Wiesel, the great writer and Holocaust survivor who died on Saturday but did manage to teach the world to never give up yet always remember, once said:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

This always made a lot of sense to me. It’s quite easy to be angry and spew out venom towards heinous acts or events beyond one’s understanding. And surprisingly easy after while, and after so many, to go on with one’s life, or barely acknowledge or ignore them.

What’s exceedingly difficult is to keep fighting and loving in your own unique way.

... but I can still hate this person right???

… but I can still hate this person right???

Think of it like this – when I was a movie critic back in the day my peers and I would fully acknowledge it was a helluva lot easier to write a mean, nasty review than it ever was to douse a film in unmitigated purple prose of praise. And a helluva lot more fun.

Yes, I’m mixing metaphors and analogies that probably should never be co-mingled. But that doesn’t make the above statement any less true.

There’s a very powerful tribute video that just came out from producer Ryan Murphy and the Human Rights Campaign that brought me to tears. No, really. Celebs list each name of one of the 49 deceased, mostly LGBT people, at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, who were shot down by yet another gay-hating and, from what we know, perhaps sometimes himself same sex-attracted and Muslim – though the crazed radical kind – terrorist.

Whether he was or wasn’t any one of these things or who specifically he hated (or did not hate) is not the ultimate point. These kinds of things will happen alternately to any of us rare, exotic birds – which means pretty much all of us – and the people who love and/or hang out with us (which pretty much means the rest of us) if any of us manage to be in the right place at the wrong time.

The question remains: In our own ways – grand or small or somewhere in between –what can we do about it and how do we avoid indifference or hate? Since at some point, and given the wrong or right locale, we all, each us, will be in the minority.