People, GET IT TOGETHER

Joe Biden is Hillary 2.0 and Al Gore 3.0!  His time has passed!

Elizabeth Warren can’t win! Her voice is shrill and Republicans hate her!

Gay South Bend Mayor Pete demoted his Black chief of police for illegally wire-tapping his officers.  He’s Mr. White Privilege!  And not gay enough, anyway!

Oh, and don’t get me started on Bernie Sanders! We call him the liberal Trump.  Did you know he wants to let rapists, not to mention the Boston Marathon bomber, vote?? AND he’s a socialist!  I don’t know if even I could vote for that!

And did you know Amy Klobuchar is so nasty to her staff that when one of them forgot to get her a fork for her salad she pulled out her comb and made them sit there as she scooped her salad onto it?  Yes, and then, when she was done, barked, “Clean it!” right at them.  She’s not a president, she’s a harridan!

Oh that old chestnut…

And Beto O’Rourke???  Ugh, he’s so annoying!! I don’t know why but he’s SO ANNOYING!! Mr. Mom who never stays home!  And it’s like, WHO IS HE?????

But Kamala Harris.  As if someone from near San Francisco is ever gonna be president.  Plus she’s Black AND Indian AND married to a white Jewish guy!  Grow the f up!  Do you even know what country you’re living in these days???  Donald Trump is the president!!!!

I am sooo tired of all of this and the election is 18 months away.  Heck, even the first Democratic primary is not until Feb. 3 in Iowa.

Who will help me get through this???

Or course the bigger question is WHO will help US?

Strength in numbers??

Yes, I know only we can help ourselves.  We are the change we’ve been waiting for.   I get it.  I’ve been to therapy.  Both the personal kind and the Obama kind.

Still, the fact remains…I can’t.  I’m tired, I’m cranky and I’m pissed off with people who share most of my political views.  And I refuse to watch a THREE-HOUR Avengers movie.  One was enough for me and I can’t even recall which one I did see.

But now it’s THREE HOURS???

Why are we paying to watch super villains and superheroes when we have so many of both in Washington, D.C. and on cable news daily???

OK fine… I do find the Hulk relatable.

I overheard a bunch of film students talking in rapt excitement about the new Star Wars movie the other day and had an acid flashback moment to 1980 at a Fox screening room when I was watching one of the first pre-release press showings of The Empire Strikes Back.

It was good.  For what it was.  But if you would have told me that almost 40 years later we’d still have to be dealing with this I would have told you…  Well, never mind what I would have told you.  Because it’s the same thing I’m telling you about this upcoming election.

SAVE YOUR PENNIES!

As much as people think this is an unusual time – and in many ways it is – in a lot of other ways it’s no different than so many of the swings and changes we’ve endured as a country all through the 20th and 21st centuries that I’ve lived through thus far.

I can recall watching Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinated on TV, not to mention Jack Ruby shooting JFK’s would-be assassin live on TV in front of millions of people – a clip that lived on a lot more than 40 years later.  Probably in perpetuity of the world as we know (or don’t know) it.

.. and again thanks to shows like Mad Men #imissDonDraper

I also remember as a teenager the police shooting college protestors just a few years older than me in Kent State Ohio.  All they were doing were being teenagers, trying to end a needless war in which they and their loved ones could have been killed in, and, well, throwing a few rocks when the National Guards released tear gas on them. But then the National Guard shot 67 rounds of bullets in 13 seconds into the crowd.   Four students who were NOT EVEN PROTESTING, just observing, were killed.

You’d think we would have gotten the gun and the law enforcement thing under control by now.  Of course, we haven’t.

In case you’re not feeling outraged yet…

Nevertheless, we have survived.  Decades of intolerance turning into more tolerance and then acceptance by many more than some in marginalized communities.  Though not by others.  We even have more laws than ever to back them up, though not enough and even those aren’t always enforced.

Point being, things were REALLY bad then.  George Wallace, an avowed racist, ran for president and got 13% of the vote.  And then, of course, he too was shot.  And paralyzed.  What goes around comes around, right???

I’ll keep telling myself that, Chairy

Well, that’s what we’re hoping for right now, isn’t it?  That somehow the haters and the shooters will get theirs because we need CHANGE?  And right NOW!  Because we’ve been complacent.  We need to UPEND EVERYTHING because, well, things have never been this bad.

I’ve actually said this myself.

And then there’s this…

Yet it occurred to me, watching coverage of the latest shooting at a house of worship – this time an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in California where a crazed shooter killed one person and wounded several others – that radicalism has never quite worked in the U.S.

Individuals commit radical acts, sometimes when they’re part of the public and other times when they’re in office, but the radical doesn’t define US in the long term.

We’re more of a gradual change environment, brought on by individuals and groups proposing radical change.  You need radical thinking to move the needle.  But to lead, you need bold measures and smart, well-researched, practical plans that can be willfully executed through the actions of a President and Congress elected by we, the people.

Imagine that!?!?!

For me this means we need to stop being hysterical.  Accusatory.  And refrain from eating our own.  You all know what I mean.  No one who has lived a life of any age is perfect.  Certainly no one who has done anything in public service.  Especially no one anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. at the moment.  Especially the sloth at the top of the sloths.

OK maybe not sloths. Look how cute this one is! #justiceforsloths

This is simply a call to calm down and realize that when we decide whom to nominate to run against you know who for president there is no recipe for the perfect chocolate cake.  Or even a vanilla one.  When someone is kind enough to ask you what you want them to bake for your birthday celebration you weigh all the factors (Note: Sometimes literally and sometimes not) and pick out the one you have a hankering for at the time.

But seldom do you order the cake this much in advance.  Not even a wedding cake.

Maybe wedding cake wasn’t the best analogy

Oh, and if you’re going to a party where the birthday boy or girl chooses chocolate you don’t sit in the corner, refuse to eat the cake at all or bitch and moan that they didn’t serve the Carrot one that you would have preferred.    And for the record, I hate carrot cake.

Though I have managed to down it at a party or two in order to celebrate someone or something that I cared about.

The Beatles – “We Can Work It Out”

 

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Is this Happening?

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.15.00 PM

What is our world coming to?

The new de facto leader of the Republican Party brags he wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and limit the rights of other foreigners, such as the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing genocide in their native country, from ever getting inside our borders.

As a Jewish fellow, all I can say is good thing he wasn’t around when my grandparents entered the country. I’d have a whole different life. Or no life at all.

Here’s what it says on The Statue of Liberty, which at last glance still stands in New York Harbor:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Maybe we take the Statue down in light of 9/11? Or just erase the words. After all, it was a gift from France. They probably wouldn’t mind because of what happened in Paris a few months ago, right?

We could replace it with a shiny gold building that looks like a Dunhill cigarette lighter. That’s Gloria Steinem’s analogy about Trump towers, not mine. Because, well, how can you say it better?

Jugs of Justice

Jugs of Justice

Apropos of something, I have another question. When Trump skipped the last debate before the Iowa primary on Thursday, he claimed to have instead spearheaded an event that raised $6 million for our wounded war veterans through his website. But the only donation link on his website was to his Trump Foundation, which the PUBLIC TRUST(s) will go to our vets. But if this is so, can’t he still get some sort of personal TAX DEDUCTION from it? It’s His Foundation, right?

Any accountants out there know how to maneuver cash as a deduction amid all of the full legal slime written on a multi-billionaire’s federal tax return? Cause every little bit counts – that’s how you get and stay rich to begin with – so I’d love to get a full reading on this. That would be my American Dream at the moment. Assuming anyone could out-maneuver him or his money. Hillary? Bill? Bernie? Bueller? Anyone???

Sorkin, can you hear meeeee?

Sorkin, can you hear meeeee?

A friend of mine wrote on Facebook last week that he doesn’t see how discrimination and exclusion can be remedied by discrimination and exclusion. Okay, he was referring to the Oscars and how under the Motion Picture Academy’s new rules to remedy #OscarsSoWhite people like the lesbian female writer of Nine to Five; one of the biggest child star actors of the sixties and seventies; and another woman who was a pioneering animator back in the day, would have their voting rights stripped despite many decades of membership that always guaranteed voting. Where do these new Academy rule makers think they are – Florida? Don’t they remember that almost a decade ago, they gave Al Gore the Oscar?

Um... no no... we're good

Um… no no… we’re good

Of course Donald Trump’s frontrunner status can be compared to Oscar voting. To quote the words Mel Brooks’ character of Hitler sings in his megahit musical The Producers:

The thing you’ve got to know is…

Everything is show biz….

After which point he sings:   Heil myself, Heil to me….

Ring a bell – or lighter – yet?

#HomerKnows

#HomerKnows

Try explaining the current state of our affairs to small classrooms full of 21 year olds as I attempted this week. Sure, these were writing classes, not political ones, but to be a good writer one needs to draw from real life. Which means an understanding of human behavior in the world as it exists is essential in order to convincingly portray anything remotely recognizable in your made up world.

Somewhere along the line I got flummoxed and actually found myself reduced to phrases like:

It wasn’t always like this.

Or –

Yes, it was crazy, but never this crazy.

And then finally –

No, I’m not sure this is a joke. So why are we all laughing? Well, um, good question!

In the end I’m not sure I did any good at all. I was only hoping at that point, not to make it all seem any worse than it already is.

Me, every 10 seconds

Me, every 10 seconds

Fortunately, teachers are not held to the same standards as doctors. First Do No Harm dictates the Hippocratic oath. Yeah, right, that wasn’t happening.

I can’t blame any of this on the Trumpless Republican debate because I wasn’t watching, Instead, that night I was actually teaching one of these mini-groups. But unfortunately in an effort for clarity I recorded the damned thing and perused the highlights several days later.

Insert "Elephant in the Room" pun here

Insert “Elephant in the Room” pun here

Here are some, courtesy of the Washington Post and my viewing brain:

Jeb Bush: Look, I am in the establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive was president of the United States and my brother, who I adore as well as fantastic brother, was president.

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Carson: I’ve had more two a.m. phone calls than everybody here put together, making life and death decisions, put together very complex teams to accomplish things that have never been done before.

Sen. Ted Cruz: I would note that that the last four questions have been, “Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted…” Let me just say this…

Moderator: … It is a debate, sir.

DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES!!!

DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES!!!

Another Moderator: Can you name even one thing that the federal government does now that it should not do at all?

Gov. Chris Christie: How about one that I’ve done in New Jersey for the last six years. That’s get rid of Planned Parenthood funding from the United States of America.

Moderator: Anything bigger than that?

Christie: Bigger than that? Let me tell you something, when you SEE thousands upon thousands upon thousands of children being murdered in the womb, I can’t think of anything better than that. 

Sen. Marco Rubio: Well, let me be clear about one thing, there’s only one savior and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to earth and died for our sins..Because in the end, my goal is not simply to live on this earth for 80 years, but to live an eternity with my creator. And I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do.

Walk the walk, Rubio

Walk the walk, Rubio

Oy vey iz mir, as my grandmother used to say. How can this be happening? I have no idea. And I am more confused than ever. But luckily, I’ve never been intimidated by Dunhill lighters. I’ve always thought they were tacky. And the people who used them dumbasses.   And I’ve never been afraid to say so.

Neither should you.

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An Off Day

Has Meryl Streep ever turned in a bad performance?  I don’t believe so.  But has she given us examples of acting not up to her usual caliber?  Certainly.   (Watch 1982’s “Still of the Night” and report back). Tony Kushner’s genius “Angels in America” set the bar about as high as it could go for a playwright – and pretty much for any writer.  Forget that he won the Pulitzer Prize.  That particular piece of work, which he labored on for years of rewrites as he watched AIDS devastate life around him, will also live on for generations as the quintessential dramatic evocation of a plague whose ruthlessness and scope defied description.  That is why sitting through his musical “Caroline or Change” some years later one couldn’t help but feel  that, well…every brilliant writer deserves at the very least a “gimme.” (okay, that “one” was me – a severely disappointed fan in a severely UNconservative way at the time).  The list goes on an on and most recently ends but certainly doesn’t stop with President Barack Obama.

Split screen is not our friend.

The buzz is abuzz with POTUS’ debate performance last week against his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.  Among the colorful adjectives used: “devastating,” “bumbling,” “crushing,” “mediocre” and  “defeated.”  Even the venerable Dan Rather, who was brought down from his perch atop CBS for daring to suggest Pres. George W. Bush had avoided military service in Vietnam by joining the National Guard (even though Dubya was a member of the National Guard in the Vietnam era and did not serve in the military) proclaimed the next day on MSNBC: “Let’s say it for what it is, he got his clock cleaned…there’s no other way to put it.”

Trivia note:  According to the NY Times, the phrase “clean your clock” was first used on the SPORTS pages (I should’ve known!) of the Trenton Evening Times, July 28, 1908 about a couple of local baseball teams – “It took the Thistles just one inning to clean the clocks of the Times boys.”  This certainly doesn’t make the use of the term any more complimentary, but perhaps knowing its origin does take away some of the sting of this currently overused phrase.

Whenever I hear guys on TV (and it’s almost always guys, let’s face it) use sports metaphors to describe or critique anything but a ball, a puck or pair of human legs reaching their preferred destination, it sets off a warning bell deep in my soul.  But that bell doesn’t zzzing. Instead it tells me in a measured voice we are no longer describing a factual event but indulging in the “oh so witty” (not!) opinion of the person observing such an event.  In which case, you might want to task another person with deciding if your timepiece was indeed really laundered or perhaps even to determine if its bath was as thorough as everyone on the sidelines of its supposed unauthorized spa treatment says it was.

Like many people, especially those in the arts, I’ve been described as overly dramatic, opinionated and argumentative by more than a few over the years (who… me?).  I’m never insulted by these commonly accepted “off” terms because to me this also means that I’m passionate, committed and quite forceful, depending on the day, arena and reviewer.  In fact, there are probably days where my audience (that’s you) see me as passionate where I feel I might be a tad overdramatic; and others where you’re nauseated by my insane opinions while I revel in the fact that I’m so committed to an issue and getting its truth out there that deep down in my soul I truly believe I am the long lost son of either Emma Goldman, Caesar Chavez or Gandhi. (okay, admittedly that feeling has only occurred once or twice).

Some days are better than others in the life of every human just as some performances are superior and some written works are more memorable (or, at least, relatable). Objectively speaking, there is no way to measure how good or bad anything is.  That is why it all comes down to two things – consensus and feeling.  And neither one can be counted on as being absolutely right or wrong.

The general consensus is that the President was having an “off” day (actually it was night) in his debate with Mr. Romney.  And perhaps he was.  Using our aforementioned standard of “consensus” we’d have to concede “off” would be the kind word.  But remember, consensus is not necessarily always correct.  I mean, the Grammy Awards voted Milli Vanilli their coveted Best New Artist award in 1990 and NBC renewed “Whitney” for ANOTHER season AND are giving her a reality show.  So if you’re still so hot on the validity of consensus well…  blame it on the rain.

What about feeling?  Hmmm.  Well, one can only imagine how Pres. Obama felt spending the night of his 20th wedding anniversary on stage in front of almost 70 million viewers debating the jollily avuncular Mr. Romney, who some say charmingly (though I say obnoxiously) joked about the prez being forced to spend his special evening onstage with a slick-haired 65 year-old man and a gaggle of television cameras.  Annoyed?  Preoccupied by a romantic encounter that already was, would happen in the future, or not occur at all because he had chosen to become President at one of the worst times in American history to begin with?  All very possible.  But despite the President dropping a few public hints, we will never quite know for sure.   Though one radio host I listened to the next day speculated that Obama was playing “the long game” (ugh, another sports metaphor), deciding that his strategy was to let Mr. Romney hold the stage unchallenged as long as he liked so in subsequent debates Mr. Obama could then hold the former Massachusetts governor to all the blatant half-truths he had so genially helped himself to.

Further Note:  Al Gore even suggested Obama’s “off” was due to the Colorado altitude and the fact that the president had arrived into town just two hours before show time.  But we all know Mr. Gore and Presidential debates are not a winning combo so I wouldn’t take his analysis to heart

Rocky Mountain “High”

The only thing we can correctly surmise about an “off” day is that every single person in the world has one or more and that no other person in the world can know with full assurance why or if the day is truly off (and by how much) other than the person who is having it.  If everyone batted 1000, there would be no reason for batting averages (jeez, now I’m even using sports?).  If it truly is all good, then does that mean not even one day can ever be bad Oh please! (Clearly, I am not Gandhi’s son).  Finally, if one believes in the consensus (dubious in itself) that it takes approximately 10,000 hours (or 3 hours a day for 10 years) of practice to truly be a master in any one field, isn’t it a good bet that a significant number of those days yield many desirably “off” results in order to allow one to become more proficient in said field, which will subsequently serve as the fuel to vault into the so desired master category a decade later?  

Speaking of which, I caught up with Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” last week – a movie that is quite brilliant in parts and seems to indicate that 10 years of off days in a human life can be just as interesting as 10 years of on ones.

But I digress…

We are all so quick to discount our “off” days as something to be shunned, scorned or avoided that we hardly have time to consider just how valuable they can be.  And we need to do this, if for no other reason than to provide a break from the monotony of our perfection.

I’m kidding, of course – but only in part.  There is a dangerous rumor going around the zeitgeist that every performance needs to be played to the back row and that unless one hits a home run (yikes, I’m doing it AGAIN!) or pitches a perfect game, he (and perhaps one day she) is not worth that gazillion of dollars their multi-year contract ensures they will get paid.

As any expert in anything will tell you, there is a lot to be said for singles and doubles, for punts and for walks (oh, screw it – now I can’t stop!).  Of course, no writer wants to have their play or movie or book bomb but, on the other, hand, it certainly does take away everyone’s expectations for your next work and emboldens you to perhaps take a bigger chance in the follow-up since clearly no one will ever like anything you produce ever again.

We have no way of knowing how on or off anyone, including ourselves, will be on a given day other than to know that either verdict is certainly possible.  More likely, however, is that we’ll fall somewhere in between.  On — but in the judgment of others not as on as we could be or have been in the past.  Or definitely off — whether we (they?) love what we’re producing or are feeling lousy or annoyed enough to have not even gotten out of our bedrooms (for good AND bad reasons) at the time the day began.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what the verdict is.  What matters is that we show up.  This is what people like Meryl Streep, Tony Kushner and Barack Obama consistently do – knowing full well that some days will be judged much better than the ones before or after it – by themselves and, mostly assuredly, by others.

Or – (ATTENTION: ONE FINAL SPORTS METAPHOR!) — as the great hockey player Wayne Gretsky once so eloquently put it:

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”