Laughing Matters

Think of it as a concentric circle that gets smaller and smaller until there’s nothing left. Like the gyroscopes I used to look at when I was a kid. Or the background logo to this tackily addictive sci-fi adventure series on ABC I watched in the sixties – Time Tunnel.

Exhibit A (or the inner workings of my mind)

That’s the number of individuals who know the real facts of what’s going on in the head of the man who resides in the White House’s Oval Office these days.

Unless, of course, you count the number of Russians listening in through the bugs they likely got to plant several days ago when they, and not the American press, were invited to the inner sanctum for the latest in an endless stream of propagandized photo ops.

Did I take it too far?

But I digress.

An angry, ranting, vengeful POTUS, who by all accounts spends more time on his Twitter rants than reading policy books – or on policy in general – and certainly on any type of books in general, which he proudly claims he doesn’t need or have any desire to read – is simultaneously entertaining and scary.

Much like a seminal episode of Big Brother or The Bachelorette. Or a bag of potato chips chased with a super-sized Snickers bar and a Big Gulp.

Solid advice

But are any of the above good for you? Well, one supposes that’s a matter of opinion. Certainly, we can agree it can be fun to indulge.  So perhaps the more benign question to ask is —

Just how entertained do we want to be?

Don’t answer that.

I’m as guilty as everyone. The mere 10-second snippet of “Spicey” being wheel-ied down 58th St. in New York City on his Segway-fueled podium spewing insults made me giggle with delight on a Friday morning. And that was a day and a half before his actual appearance on SNL this week where I could be seen in my living room squealing with delight among friends and family. But really, is it funny???

Sean Spicer Returns to SNL

Of course it is. And isn’t.

Well for me, it’s certainly a lot more entertaining than watching the real thing. Who said it – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Let’s correct that. Imitation is infinitely more preferable to the real thing because it’s actually bearable – and anything but flattering.

I am quite aware that the way I laugh at the ridiculousness of the Spicey parody a la Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin’s orange drenched, open mouthed and thick lipped Electoral POTUS, is probably akin to exactly the opposite of what his base supporters scream at with delight. In my mind, that would be at the very least the apoplectic reaction citizens like me have to the many, many regal pronouncements (Note: What else can you call them but royal edicts?) the real 2017 POTUS (Note: No, I DON’T mean Hillary) makes from the actual presidential and/or press podium.

Laughing.. Crying… I JUST DONT KNOW!

EXHIBIT A

Me: Seriously??? So in other words, he lies any time he wants?

Them: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! THAT’S RIGHT. LIKE YOU DID!!! AND HE’S YOUR PRESIDENT, NOW!!!

EXHIBIT B

On Comey’s firing to Lester Holt on NBC:

He (Comey’s) a showboat. He’s a grandstander…In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story…

ME: Showboat??? Is this the 1927 musical or the 1936 film from MGM? What year does this moron live in? Not to mention, he’s firing the guy who’s investigating him!!! How can anyone look at this and think this is okay?

I can’t even #wheretobegin

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! YOU FIRE THEM ALL, THEY DON’T TOW THE LINE!!!   YOU TELL ‘EM!!!

EXHIBIT C

To Judge (ahem) Jeanine Pirro on Fox:

We don’t have to have press conferences…We just don’t have them, unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself…I think it’s a good idea…you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair.

ME: What is he, a f-ckin despot?? What is this, third grade? Not fair???? We don’t have Royalty in this country. He’s not a King!! Unless he’s the Madness of King George. We operate on a free press here. Well, he’ll see!! We’ll go around him. And we’ll f-ckin BRING HIM DOWN!!!! There’s a price to pay for not reading the Constitution. Or not even having one of your buddies from the Gulag explain it to you! You orange, lying road kill sack of crap!!!

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! HE’S GOT ‘EM! AND HE’S RIGHT! CROOKED MEDIA!! THE HELL WITH ‘EM! WHO’S HE WORKING FOR ANYWAY? NOT THEM!! US!!!!!

This x INFINITY

Just writing this has my heart palpitating. And I don’t know which was worse – spouting my own truths or inventing the reaction from the other side. Certainly, I was equally at ease doing and imagining both. They’ve how long and often they’ve been heard – with no end in sight. He’s been campaigning for almost two years and is still going.  And he’s actually been in office only three and a half months.   Impeachment notwithstanding, how many more do we have do go?

PLEASE…don’t answer that.

There’s not much I know these days but one thing I’ve always been sure of is that humor is as great a release as the truth – which any number of wise people before me have argued …will set you free.

Step right up! #chockfull

Somewhere at the intersection of both is where the answers lie.   I hope that we find them, even one, and when we do, we are able to sober up. No, I don’t claim to know what even one of those answers is.   I am only sure that if or when we find them, even one, it won’t be funny. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding – Elvis Costello & the Attractions   

Freedom of (Hate) Speech

When I was in journalism grad school at Chicago’s Northwestern University in 1977, thirty members of the American Nazi Party wanted to march in Skokie – a nearby town of 70,000 in which more than half were Jewish and approximately 5,000 were Holocaust survivors.

There was a big to do and some years later, through court cases and a lot of soul searching among liberals and the ACLU, they did get to hold their march. But most everyone knew what the Nazis were up to. They wanted to hold a group of people they hated as hostages of the first amendment – challenging them to turn their backs on the equality and freedoms they espoused by not allowing their tormenters to taunt and goosestep right before them in their backyards.

This kind of childish bull crap happens every so often when hate-speaking racists get frustrated or empowered enough with their own irrelevance and see a road through which they can satisfy their own rotting inner core by spewing their venom outwards into the crowd that they believe are somehow suppressing their rarefied ways of life.

An important asterisk

In a nutshell, this is what’s going on right now with best-selling right wing author, lawyer, media personality and full-time liberal hater Ann Coulter and her campaign to speak – or perhaps not to speak but to raise hell about it – at the American university in the country best known for championing these freedoms since the turbulent 1960s – UC Berkeley.

Bill Maher recently excoriated the administrators at Berkeley for inviting, then disinviting, and then re-inviting Ms. Coulter to campus amid massive protests from students on both sides of the political spectrum espousing either outcome. So did any number of right wing politicians and wags on Twitter – calling the kids on campus the kind of names you hear from bullies in grade school. I won’t repeat them here but they bring to mind every dumb, desperate insult you’ve ever heard about any group. Instead, I will repeat the phrase ex Law and Order actor and stand up comic Richard Belzer once used to describe Ms. Coulter to Mr. Maher when he also excoriated her on Mr. Maher’s own show years before for airing her rancid rants in the segment just before his – A fascist party doll.

Prepare for the avalanche #brrrrr

You see, I have the freedom to do this without retribution here because this is MY BLOG. Just as the students and administrators of Berkeley have the right to ban Ms. Coulter or anyone else they like since the school is THEIR CAMPUS.

Since it is not public property, like the streets of Skokie, Berkeley is not subject to the same rules of public assembly as a village or town is.   In essence, they can invite and/or disinvite anyone they like. Much like me – a gay, Jew – could be banned from the Eagle Scout meetings Attorney General Jeff Sessions used to attend in Alabama in 1964 when he was 18 and that sort of stuff wouldn’t have even been questioned. You can’t tell an Eagle or Boy Scout what to do. They’re part of a private organization. You can only publicly shame them and force them to accept you.

Cue “All By Myself”

This is, in essence, what is going on now. I can’t claim a portal into Ms. Coulter’s brain – thank her Lord, however you imagine HER/HIM/IT to be – but if past is prologue she has ZERO interest in any sort of give and take intellectual discourse a college campus tries to foster. She is a renowned bomb thrower who delights primarily in provoking the other side by racist generalities and fiery, and very personal, bon mot bombs aimed at any sort of liberal hero, particularly those who have publicly come out against her.

A different kind of “Regan” #couldnthelpmyself

Exactly the same thing can be said of younger and renowned Twitter-banned alt right “pundit” Milo Yiannopoulos – who tried the same thing at Berkeley some months prior, with similar controversial results.

Now if I had my way I’d just let the two of them speak their heads off and picket them. After all, this is so far still the kind of America where we honor dissent – no matter how hateful, nasty and misguided.

On the other hand, if I were just angry enough, I might support the argument that if their intent is to just put on a hate show that just incites violence they are the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theatre.

A more accurate representation of my feelings

There are a myriad of public speakers one can get to “perform” at an institution of higher learning for educational purposes and if we truly want to view extreme right wing viewpoints maybe going after Rupert Murdoch or one of his two sons co-running the 21st Century Fox (Note: A misnomer for a 21st century liberal like me if I’ve ever heard one) empire might be a better first, second or third choice.

Still, it’s up to right wing student groups to get who they like so I might be convinced – or trade Coulter with, let’s say, hmmmm – is there an ultra Liberal Ann or Milo? I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Maher is not quite categorical enough and even liberal provocateur Michael Moore reaches out to the other side. Heck, his last film – Michael Moore in Trumpland – was entirely about that.

We don’t exactly have a 2017 Hanoi Jane.. do we?

And that is the point.

Do not masquerade immature name-calling and hate speak and insulting generalizations about whole swaths of the population as some post modern performance art that will show the truth about hypocritical liberals, lazy thinking millenials and their one-sided institutions of higher learning.   You can’t claim you’re the pretend Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central when the mood hits you and in the same breath appear on cable news shows as a serious purveyor of facts.

A talk that exists primarily to garner yourself publicity and verbally assault various minority ethnic groups in the name of free speech is not what I wish for my students or their intellectual futures. Though certainly they’re free to indulge in it. Like they occasionally do with the Kardashians, Top Ramen and Pizza Hut.

These ARE the Days

Here’s how much I loved Don Rickles. When I was 14 years old instead of hanging out with the other teens at the playground of our apartment building in Tarzana I sat in my Dad’s air conditioned blue Dodge listening to his “Hello Dummy” eight track tape over and over again. Until my Dad lectured me about car batteries. How much ya weigh, Tiny? You’re an Arab and I’m a Jew…And to all my Mexican friends… Well, you get the picture.

American classic

Joan Baez. I did a book report on her autobiography “Daybreak” in the 11th grade when I was 15 (yes, an overachiever) and I was so effusive I remember my teacher wrote in the margins, “is this love?” But I considered that a victory rather than an insult or personal intrusion. Perhaps I convinced him of her worthiness and to pay more attention to someone who worked through song and protest to change the then Nixonian political events of the day. Then again, maybe he was just making a kind observation.

a goddess

And then there’s Broadcast News, a perfectly prescient film of love and news, not necessarily in that order, which spoke to me via the sometimes too large chip that used to sit on my shoulder (Note: Used to?) when confronted with what I perceived to be idiocy and immorality in the workplace or in my personal life.

I’ve quoted it before but, since it’s been a theme of my life, why not again:

There is a wonderful absolutism in art and to looking back. Everything seems funnier, smarter and more lovingly beautiful than it ever could have been. Though it can also mean exactly the opposite. It depends on your mood and point of view at the time. The one thing that seems clear – we can’t be objective.

Still, our outlook and actions are really all we have. Aside from chocolate ice cream, pizza and the occasional well-marinated chicken breast or Portobello mushroom if we’re being careful and/or vegan. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to look back and appreciate them as long as we don’t fool ourselves into thinking we can ever recapture that precise moment of joy again in our present day or depress ourselves into believing some perhaps even better experiences don’t await us in the not too distant future.

 

May 2014. Me. Italy. #YUM

No, this is not a new age, new version of a Hallmark card. The truth is, one does never know what’s waiting around the bend. One day it’s an orange tinged Hellion and the next it could be…anything, or anyone, else. Consider U.S. presidential politics in November 2008 at the end of the Bush era. Or the great Nixon-Kennedy debates. Time in this country (and probably elsewhere) is an inevitable and necessary period of change and torch passing – sometimes for the better and in other moments regressive – depending on where you’re sitting or whom and what one is remembering.

All that being said, the passing of 90 year-old Don Rickles really did throw me for a loop this week. The Sultan of Insults, The Merchant of Venom, Mr. Warmth – whatever you want to call him, he represented a breath of fresh honesty to me in a period of my youth where it felt like no one in the older generation was ever telling the truth. Rickles was who you especially needed in the sixties and seventies when no one trusted anyone over 30 (and with good reason) because he was A LOT over 30 and looked a lot older and was forcing us to laugh at the hypocrisy of it all with the kind of scorching benevolence only a master insult comic could get away with. But boy was it ever effective for those many moments he held the stage.

“Show business is my life. When I was a kid I sold insurance, but nobody laughed.”

As for Broadcast News, it’s always been a favorite film of mine but never more so than lately, where it feels like there is no longer anything but a news business masterfully dictating to the various niche audiences now comprising the U.S. on what to not only feel but believe. Facts are subjective and up can be down, if you edit it precisely enough. And that was exactly what filmmaker James L. Brooks chronicled and warned us about a full 30 years ago in the vein of what was essentially a romantic comedy centering on a smart, uncompromising female heroine who managed to be just strong enough to choose herself over either of the two eager guys desperately vying for her ultimate attentions.

There was a major effort to nail a new kind of heroine, Mr. Brooks said on a panel at the Turner Classic Movies Festival this past week of the uncompromising Holly Hunter/Jane Craig character prior to a screening of the film.

A rare 80s classic where style doesn’t distract #butsweatdoes

But though he saw the film essentially as a romantic comedy, co-star Albert Brooks noted that part of the power of the film is that it takes place at a time when news stories still gained traction on content.

At the time of Broadcast News there was no Drudge Report. It was not an issue of trying to shock people…And now look at what people are shocked at – nothing.

Nevertheless, it became obvious as the pre-talk continued that what makes both Brookses (no relation) the artists that they continue to be is their ability to extrapolate pessimism into a perhaps more palatable truth of where we are or could soon be.

I actually think Trump’s saving journalism. There’s been a resurgence of our two most important newspapers (the New York Times and Washington Post) doing some of their best work in years. So I’m strangely optimistic, said James L.

How I really feel about that #WHY

The news used to need individuals like Walter Cronkite for the story to matter. Now the individual doesn’t matter as much. Fifty people retweet and repost something now it can change minds. The story matters, said Albert B.

Of course, what the STORY is or is actually portrayed as is up to us. It requires, actually demands activity. Participation. And a certain type of…dare we say it…

Activismthe policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

UGH NO.. NOT THIS

This is where Joan Baez comes in.

It is encouraging to realize that at 76 years old anything is possible – particularly artistic productivity, not giving up and the determination to fight against what one sees as injustice in the hope of a better future.

Return of the Queen

But rather than doing this by lecturing and looking back at the bad, good old days that most either won’t remember or, more likely, will individually recall quite differently, real leaders in their field instead choose to dwell in the present, using the experiences of their past as a kind of secret fuel.

Certainly Joan Baez, a singer who was an early trailblazer in helping end the Vietnam War, the assault on migrant farm workers and countless other causes, knows that one song alone won’t change public perceptions of policies. But what she is also wise enough to realize at this point is that it is a start towards something, anything to build a new momentum. That is what social change IS about at its essence. A dwelling in the present. An attempt by one individual to speak out and do all they can, hoping they then reach others, who will in turn join and take on the mantle.

Which line will you get on?

Then soon it becomes a group effort, and a movement, and then a massive wave towards a change we all can believe in. As ineffective as it can be to merely look back, it is equally self-defeating to dismiss this power in taking one small step towards something as some sort of Pollyanna-like view of our futures that can never happen.

In the spirit of which – we will now end with the latest protest song (Copyright 2017) written by Joan Baez and sung in that timelessly haunting soprano voice. It might not be quite as high as it once was (which of us is) but it pierces right into what is at the center of what ails many. No – it’s not a solution. Just merely a start.

Of something.

Carrie On

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-12-58-36-pm

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

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

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

A true original

A true original

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

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

It seriously never gets old

It seriously never gets old

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

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

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

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

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

Please stop there!

Please stop there!

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

What.. too graphic? #ahhhhh

MAKE IT STOP!

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

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

Too soon?

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

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

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

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

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

tumblr_mra3fyyfp61s0s4r8o1_500

psycho-by-hitchcock-1

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

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

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

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

Buh-Bye 2016

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-9-45-13-am

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

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

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

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

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

giphy

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

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

Could 2016 have been any worse????

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

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

MOST SURPRISING POP CULTURE MOMENT OF THE YEAR:

Death

Not a great year for celebrities

Not a great year for celebrities

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

Am I forgetting anyone? #shade

Am I forgetting anyone?

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

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

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

Ugh. Not again.

Ugh. Not again.

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

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

Maybe stick to making JT look this dapper? #stayinyourlane

Maybe stick to making JT look this dapper? #stayinyourlane

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

 

BEST INSURGENT

Keith Olbermann – GQ Videos The Resistance

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

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

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

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

Click here to watch #RESIST

Click here to watch #RESIST

BEST COMEDIAN OF THE MOMENT

Wanda Sykes

It Girl

It Girl

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

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

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

BEST COOKBOOK

Small Victories by Julia Turshen

#DROOL

#DROOL

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

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

Did i mention DROOOL?

Did i mention DROOOL?

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

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

Kellyanne Conway

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOST REVISITED SHOW (Netflix, Cable, or DVD)

The Twilight Zone

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

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

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

BEST VIRAL VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Chewbacca Mom

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

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

Stay with it.

And don’t pretend you did not laugh once.

And if you didn’t…you’re lying.

BEST GAY THING OF THE YEAR

Moonlight

YES

YES

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

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

HEALING POP CULTURE MOMENT OF THE YEAR

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

Comedy is tragedy plus time

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

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

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

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

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

Amen to both statements.

And #HAPPY2017.

Make Lemonade (Not Orange-ade)

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-8-21-38-am

How do you comprehend what on the surface feels incomprehensible? Well, the first thing you do is start with the facts.

Fact: The election of Donald Trump to president elect is NOT a MANDATE. It is shocking, disappointing to many of us, an upset (in more ways than one) and, and, and… But mandate – um, NO.

POPULAR VOTE TALLY – 2016 Presidential Election (as of 11/10, 8:00EST)

Hillary Clinton – 59,923,027

Donald Trump – 59,692,974

I am not a person who lives in denial. Decades of personal psychotherapy and watching Oprah have taught me one important lesson – OWN who you are and live in the truth, and your truth.

And here is THE TRUTH.

More people in the U.S. voted for Hillary Clinton to be president than voted for Donald Trump to be president.

Speechless

Speechless

House speaker Paul Ryan can go on television all he wants and talk about the “mandate.” Trump campaign manager Kelly Anne Conway can snidely gloat on CNN and MSNBC, as I saw her doing last night and this morning. The “crooked media” can continue to feed into the narrative of the upset (Note: And upset, it was – remember, truth) and the mass rejection of Hillary Clinton and her policies (Note: mass rejection, it was not – remember, the truth cuts both ways). But you cannot live in DENIAL. Well, of course you can – this is America, for now – but for argument’s sake (and our collective sakes), let’s not for now.

Our country’s president is determined by an Electoral College vote based on the popular vote but somewhat weighted to give a bit more balance of power to people who live outside major populated and/or geographical areas. Perhaps this needs to change or perhaps not. But the TRUTH is, math is math and numbers don’t lie.

Therefore –

TRUTH #1 – Donald Trump has won the electoral college vote to be president.

TRUTH #2 – Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote to be president.

Do we need to bring in Matt Damon for an assist here?

Do we need to bring in Matt Damon for an assist here?

Truth #2 is no small thing, no matter how the media or your Republican uncle, or frenemy next door neighbor, or contentious spouse or racist, sexist, homophobic social media troll, spins it.

It is no small thing because it means MORE PEOPLE in the U.S. preferred the direction Hillary Clinton wanted to lead the country than did in the road Donald Trump promised to lead us down. Again, REAL numbers DO NOT lie.

I am a liberal Democrat. I’m gay. I’m Jewish. I am a writer and a college professor. I guess what I’m saying is that I am technically the elite that the rural, working class voters have rallied against behind Trump.   Well, they can choose to believe that Pres. Elect Trump, a billionaire who freely admits he doesn’t always pay his bills to the working class people who do work for him, will improve their lives more than Hillary Clinton would have. They can believe many things about him. But what is  patently, factually true is that THEY ARE OUTNUMBERED.  More PEOPLE believe in Hillary Clinton’s policies. When the final tally is in it could be up to 500,000 – 1,000,000 more (for a live count, click here)

Every little bit helps

Every little bit helps

That should be more than heartening for those of us who are now claiming to be every form of devastated because it means the NUMBERS ARE ON OUR SIDE. No, seriously, this is the TRUTH. Retort all you want with but we lost, that’s not how it works, we’re screwed, maybe I can really move to Canada, what if there’s a nuclear war…but, once again, we need to live in truth. And the truth is that, good or bad, you have to accept what is before you can make changes for the better in your life – and the lives of others.

So here’s my conclusion – we losers, we deluded Hillary/Bernie supporters – actually have an advantage. There are more of US than there are of THEM. We just have to figure out a way to harness that and work within the system to elect other national leaders that share our points of view. This is the task of every election cycle and every generation. Consider the electoral map of just millennial voters

 

If only millennials voted (18-25)

If only millennials voted (18-25)

Now what does that tell you about our electoral futures???

So buck up, have a drink or two (or ten) this weekend. Or your vice of choice.   And tell someone off. Like I just did when a telemarketer called and asked:

Telemarketer: How are you today, Chair?

And I answered…

Chair: Awful, Donald Trump is president.

And he then paused for 10 seconds and replied:

Telemarketer: Well, maybe he has some positive thing to offer

And I then said:

Chair: No, he’s a racist, sexist, mentally ill homophobe who shouldn’t be trusted with the nuclear codes.

Upon which there was more silence. Until I hung up.

aftermath

aftermath

Lest you think I’m always this even-handed and perfect in real life.

That being said, we all fall off the wagon from time to time. Hell, two paragraphs ago I pretty much said US vs. THEM when I really do believe in STRONGER TOGETHER. But when you fall as my parents taught me long ago – and Hillary Clinton, a true patriot and brilliant woman, reiterated – you just have to brush yourself off and get back up again.

we will honor you hillary

we will honor you hillary

Consider this a fall.

But not a permanent injury.

And certainly not the end.

Not by a long shot.

 

To Post or Not To Post

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-12-48-am

I can’t even…

This is millennial talk for phrases and feelings like:

  • If you talk about that one more time I’ll kill you or kill myself.
  • I can’t stand IT anymore. IT can refer to anything large or small you can’t deal with on a given day. For instance: Please stop talking about that cake! (Vintage Lily Tomlin – look it up – or better yet, click here)

And finally:

  • I WILL NOT deal with you, this situation or this subject one more time. And if YOU, or IT or the WORLD as it is right now persists in this way for one more second…

ill_kill_you_office

Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? In reality, what exactly are you, or I, or the collective WE going to do??? About reality???

I listened to a piece on NPR this week where a female journalist talked about the mass anxiety Americans are feeling about the upcoming presidential elections and how large a part social media is playing in exacerbating the symptoms.

Because it’s NPR and somewhat solution-oriented via an alternating avalanche of often times fascinating and sometimes overly dry information, much was discussed about what the average overwrought, overanxious and over stimulated citizen could do to counteract all the…tension.

Among the suggestions were:

1. Escape all wireless communication for at least an hour each day. For instance, said journalist related that at least four or five times a week she walked an hour on the beach alone with her dog and without her iPhone.

you know.. before I go for that walk.

you know.. before I go for that walk.

2. Before posting news stories or opinions or both about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or on any other political or social issue of the day on social media, stop yourself and ask –Is this absolutely necessary? Do I really need to say this? Perhaps I don’t want to go so far out of my way to fuel or start an argument.

RESIST!!!

RESIST!!!

3.  Consider the ways you can avoid listening to or engaging in political or social issue discourse with those whose views differ substantially from your own. For instance, it was offered that if you click on the right on your Facebook feed there is an option to unfollow someone. This means you will not see anything at all that your friend posts but that he or she (your friend) will never know you’ve chosen to ignore them. Thus the stress of an argument can be avoided and you’ve beaten the far more nuclear option of defriending unfriending – social media’s version of telling a person that yes, you and/or your views are just that odious and/or inconsequential to me that I just can’t with you anymore.

Get on this Zuckerberg. #hurry

Get on this Zuckerberg. #hurry

Much as I love and adore and respect journalists – both male and female – not to mention NPR – here’s the problem with their theories and suggestions.

The correct response to where the country and we as Americans are right now is not – I CAN’T ANYMORE.

The correct response to where we Americans and OUR country is now is – I MUST AS MUCH AS I CAN AND I WILL RIGHT NOW.

The time is.... well, you know!

The time is…. well, you know!

Is this ALL too upsetting and eating into your day? Wow. Imagine what it felt like in 1774, 5 and 6 if you lived in one of the original 13 colonies and were about to declare war on an empire as large as all of Europe in comparison to the land you owned at the time? Not to mention no electricity, running water or Beyonce. Or even the possibility of her. Yes, you know what I mean.

Anyone who reads notesfromachair or even vaguely knows me is very aware I’m a liberal Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter. I make no effort to hide it and, in fact, am proudly vocal about it. But what you might not know is that I listen to Donald Trump and read what he says very carefully. I also listen to what his supporters and surrogates say on air and in print pretty consistently. Yes, sometimes I want to throw the TV over or burn the newspaper but I figure it’s my obligation to listen and read if I’m going to speak about these subjects. Even if I decide not to speak, it’s my responsibility as a voter.

Ok now he's just baiting me!

Ok now he’s just baiting me!

So here’s a snippet of what Donald Trump bellowed just a few days ago before a crowd in Ohio of thousands of supporters screaming lock her up, fists raised in the air. 

THIS IS A MOMENT OF RECKONING FOR OUR SOCIETY..AND OURSELVES. AND I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN FIX IT.

Here’s a Trump supporter and his friend in Virginia this past week, firearms exposed at their hips, standing outside for 12 HOURS into the campaign headquarters of Jane Dittmar, the female Democratic candidate for Congress who supports Hillary Clinton, as they stared menacingly into the window inside.

Real winners these two. #godhelpus #god?

Real winners these two. #godhelpus #god?

And now look at the T-shirt worn by a family man at a Trump rally – on his feet in Pennsylvania cheering his choice for president right beside his wife and three kids.

@#)#$*%&@!!!

@#)#$*%&@!!!

These are three reasons among many I can’t stand in support of the current non-engagement meme. And no, these are not outliers. This is business as usual at his festivities. I’ve been listening. And watching. All along.

Though I agree with Trump and his followers on absolutely nothing perhaps the one area we are vaguely at least on the same planet is the idea that we, as a nation, have gotten a bit…well, soft. Because since when is an argument a bad thing when you’re fighting for your collective soul? How is it that intellectual engagement and criticism and facts have become the enemy? When did it become more than acceptable to degrade and insult people based on their sex, appearance, skin color or orientation without being called out for it? And in what reality did it become too “politically correct” to consistently and categorically challenge people on their rudeness and inhumanity? From either side?   Family, friends or even non-followers.

3uif0d

OK well I didn’t say I always do it in the most effective way

What country are we in, anyway? I don’t get it. When did we become so complacent in the eye of an Orange sh-t show. It’s exactly when the dung hits the fan that you need to step up and fight. Not wait until you’ve drowned in a cesspool of your own isolation and indifference. Just what IS more pressing for the future of the WORLD than the election of the next US president in the next 28 days? Your shopping list? Your dentist appointment? The 30,000 mile checkup on your car? Your kid’s Halloween costume? Sorry, sit this one out and every day could be Halloween. And you might be locked up for not celebrating it in exactly the way the Great Orange Pumpkin dictates. Daily. Do you really want to be required to have a six foot gold gilt Jack-O-Lantern in your window or suspended from the flagpole on the Capitol steps reading Drumpf? And no, I’m only HALF-kidding.

Of course, those are just my views. Feel free to disagree. Or unfriend/unfollow me. I’d rather be aware of what I’m up against than be killed with indifference or a faux phony kindness. Or just be killed. For speaking out. You think it can’t happen. Lie back, do nothing and just wait until they’re wearing T-shirts about you, armed to the teeth and staring into your collective windows. Yes, I’m using the collective you. But only just barely.