The End of the World As We Know It…

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It was 103 degrees in Los Angeles for several days this past week – a kind of hot, humid and stagnantly breezy heat we softies out on the left coast are unused to. Take a scalding, steamy shower with the door closed and then put your blow dryer on high and walk into it. That’s the best way I can describe it. And if you’re a young guy who can’t relate to blow dryers because you have one of those stupid side buzz cuts, just take my word for it and wear a hat. Please.

How do we make this go away?

How do we make this go away?

I suppose anyone with my receding hairline shouldn’t be criticizing the hip and happening pate of the moment, but someone has to. It’s like you all started shaving your head from the sides on the go with a portable electric razor but then, while walking by Nordstrom’s men’s cosmetics counter, a rack full of product fell off a loose shelf onto your head and all of the remaining hair on the top that you didn’t get to. Forget what the stylists are saying. In 20 years you will look back at these photos with a horror that we men of a certain age (Okay, me) now reserve for snapshots of us in leisure suits and Nik-Nik shirts. Trust me.

Dear God.

Dear God.

If I sound a bit annoyed, well – perhaps I am. It’s tiring to see the Republican Apprentice being cheered by yahoos at pep rallies all over the country as simultaneously one of the most brilliant and experienced women to ever surface in American political life gets pummeled daily in the public town square for using the wrong email. Why so many people have such a hard time believing a 67-year-old couldn’t quite understand the process of wiping her personal server clean (Note: Her “with a cloth?” answer sounded right to me), much less compute ahead of time the ramifications of owning one for convenience is beyond me. I’m not quite her age but at this point I’d buy almost anything for convenience – especially if I had a job where I had to deal with one commercial airliner, much less all of them, as I traveled all over the world on a daily basis. And that’s without even factoring in hair, make-up or jet lag. What a frickin’ nightmare.

Let’s face it, contemporary life has become a nightmare. Summer is winding down, we’ve just passed the 14th anniversary of 9/11 and the Presidential race, still a year away, has surpassed the reality show Paddy Chayefsky warned us about in Network. To make matters, worse, this is happening in 100 plus degree September weather all over the country as newscasters gleefully warn us of mammoth storms and tides and floods and pestilence and maybe even showers of frogs to come.

give-me-strength

Sidebar: My favorite part of the ongoing political fights these days are the tweets and comments pop songwriters are sending out when the likes of The Republican Apprentice or Kentucky’s own new favorite daughter, born-again, gay marriage eschewing country clerk Kim Davis, dare to appropriate their material as theme songs. When Kim flounced out of jail to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” current frontman Frankie Sullivan posted on the band’s Facebook page:

NO! We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use ‘My Tune – The Eye Of the Tiger.’ I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!

A cease and desist letter from the group’s lawyer followed.

But even better was what happened after the R.A. (that’s Republican Apprentice, again) decided it would be the height of irony to walk out to one of his frenzied crowds as REM’s “It’s End of the World as We Know It” blared.

Said REM guitarist Mike Mills: Personally, I think the Orange Clown will do anything for attention. I hate giving it to him.

To which REM frontman Michael Stipe added: Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you–you sad, attention grabbing, power-hungry little men. Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.

But imagine a world where one’s choice of entertainment has to coincide with your political and social beliefs? Well, frankly, I’d be fine. I could happily give up Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Chuck Norris and Kid Rock. Yes, I’d miss the occasional Meat Loaf (Note: The singer, not the roast) but other than that – really, I’d be good.

You can go too (we'll keep the Chair)

You can go too (we’ll keep the Chair)

As for the other side – well, stop to think about it. How much would THEY miss? How much would you pay NOT to have to go a fundraiser where Ted Nugent plays the main stage and Jessica Simpson does the lounge show? Or even vice-versa?

To my friends on the other side (yes, I do have some) – think about this. You’ve got Vince Vaughn and we have Tom Hanks. Doesn’t that tell you something? Did you even see the second season of True Detective?

Not to mention, we have Cate Blanchett brilliantly playing a lesbian in the upcoming love story Carol, along with Eddie Redmayne portraying Lili Elbe, one of the first transsexuals on record (in the early 1900s) in the soon-to-be-released The Danish Girl to look forward to. Of course, this has to counter our most public transgender woman in contemporary life, Caitlyn Jenner (Note: Though actually, she’s yours), going on Ellen DeGeneres’ show last week and not quite fully committing in favor of gay marriage and the R.A.’s continued national bashing of one our most famous contemporary lesbians, Rosie O’Donnell, in a presidential debate non-sequitur weeks before. Is there a yin and yang to all of that?

#undeniable

#undeniable

Well, one can only hope that Lily Tomlin wins the Oscar for her terrific performance as a deliciously bitter lesbian poet in Grandma to put us one step ahead on that score. And yeah, it can happen – go see the movie. And if you’re still not convinced and have already decided to root for Cate in a film you haven’t yet seen, why don’t you table it for just a few more years and give it to her for portraying Lucille Ball in the upcoming Lucy-Desi biopic Aaron Sorkin is writing. No, I’m not kidding.

I suppose this disproves the idea that it’s all a nightmare, even though sometimes it can seem so. Speaking of which, there are only two movies among the thousands I’ve seen (Note: I use to be a film critic) that have ever given me nightmares.

One was Requiem for A Dream, a harrowing tale of drug addiction based on the novel by Hubert Selby, Jr. and co-written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Mr. Aronofsky is for my money one of the 10 best American directors working today and if his first film Pi, a thoroughly original visual masterwork of paranoia in black & white, was too esoteric for some he proved with Requiem that by using more recognizable characters from everyday life in a realistic yet still somewhat stylized setting he could disturb us even more.   The image of Jennifer Connelly rolling around in a boxing ring will haunt me till the end of my days – of that I am at least 98% sure of.

I bet you thought I was going to post a picture of Jennifer.. nope... Jon Hamm is single #couldntresist #myhappyplace

I bet you thought I was going to post a picture of Jennifer.. nope… Jon Hamm is single #couldntresist #myhappyplace

The second was the original The Last House on the Left. It came out in 1972 and was a graphically nasty little movie about two girls who decide to get stoned on the way to a rock concert and are brutally tortured by a gang of escaped convicts, who in turn get brutally tortured by the grieving parents of one of the gals. It was so real and so horrible my group of friends who I dragged to it on the basis of an over-the-top ad my teenage self spied in the newspaper in 1972 wouldn’t talk to me for a week.

Notably, that movie was the first feature directed by the late West Craven, who went on to direct some of the most famous horror franchises of our era, including the original Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream movies. Mr. Craven, by all accounts a gentle, intelligent and quite erudite person in real life, died several weeks ago at the age of 76 – which might seem old to some of you but no longer feels ancient to your average baby boomer (even someone on the very low end of boomer status such as myself).

The twisted and delightful legend.

The twisted and delightful legend.

In any event, among Mr. Craven’s many other credits was 1999’s Music of the Heart, which starred Meryl Streep in the real life story of a schoolteacher who struggled to teach the violin to inner city kids in Harlem. Yeah, it was a bit old-fashioned but despite what you might have heard it’s watchable, sincere and sweet. It also goes to show that even those who create the sickest and most diabolically twisted images dialogue and manufactured story lines in the zeitgeist could have the potential for a sweet, sincere and inspiring side.

One wishes Mr. Craven was still around for many reasons – but one of them being to scare straight some of the sickies among us now polluting the public square and monopolizing the airwaves as they jam up the zeitgeist with a newer and more potent brand of their own toxicity. He could explain to them that just because the public is buying the crap that you’re making and selling doesn’t mean that you can’t evolve to something a little bit better that will last longer and that you can be proud of.

Before and After

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No – this is not one of those postings where you are going to hear about how I remade my body, my house or my mind in six weeks or less.  Though admittedly any of those could be worthy of a little freshening up, if not a total and complete reboot. Yet who but a few close contemporary frenemies has the money, dedication or time?  Well, the latter in that list is a total lie, isn’t it?  Yeah, it is.

It’s a lie because I found the time to spend what felt like 17 and a half hours of my life this weekend seeing the current #1 grossing movie in the world– Transformers 4: Age of Extinction – which in case you didn’t know has made a third of a billion dollars worldwide so far in mere weeks of release, a third of which came from just the US alone in a mere handful of days.  Relax, I didn’t contribute to any of the total – I went to a screening.  As if that will buy me those hours back.

I also found the time to see four other films in an attempt to not only cleanse my palette but to conduct my own very unscientific social experiment to answer this very unscientific question nagging at me: What has changed – the movies or me (nee) us?  Is it all just a giant misunderstanding of unfulfilled expectations or have Hollywood movie studios, led by the tent pole that is Transformers, alienated (get it?) us (nee) me, from the thrill of seeing the hot new movie on opening weekend or even beyond – forever?

is this over?

is this over?

This is the age of binge…everything.  Where there is no time like the present to indulge ourselves with whatever we want because, well, we can.  For instance, though we might be unable to take a week or two for the vacation of our dreams on the spur of the moment we can immediately stuff ourselves with pretty much any TV show we want that will take us there, or watch something online that will give us the vicarious thrill of being there.

That seems to be what the economically challenged (for most us) 2014s are about.  It used to be a very American thing to charge what we wanted on plastic or even quit our jobs and/or indulge, then worry about the results later.  I mean, look at the seventh season of Mad Men and tell me you don’t want to travel back to late 1960s Los Angeles?

Movies were invented for this very reason.  To help us get away and live in a world we could never be a part of were it not for Hollywood and the larger than life people and stories they brought to us.  I grew up that way, as did many of my friends, and it’s what made us want to become a part of the entertainment industry.  That, and the requisite dysfunctional childhoods that by today’s standards seem quite normal and, very certainly, typically American despite what films (and then television) showed us.  How’s that for irony?

My family portrait?

My family portrait?

Still, none of this was on my mind at all when it occurred to me this week that I hadn’t been out at a movie theatre to see a film other than Malefecent – which was a screening a friend took me to that I could have cared less about seeing so it doesn’t count – in about six weeks.   Well, two months if you count the two-week trip to Italy in May (Note:  That accounted for only heavenly bliss on an unearthly plane, hence the omission).  Yet I find time to binge watch TV and keep up with Orphan Black, The Rachel Maddow Show, Love It Or List It, Cold Case reruns and even the new season of The Next Food Network Star daily, weekly and, most certainly, religiously – in the summer – when most TV shows are on hiatus. Forget that I’m leaving out all the time reading, watching and posting mostly meaningless stuff on Facebook, Twitter and God knows where else (Note: This blog excused).

What’s happened?  Is it age or have the movies gotten as bad as the Academy Award hosting duties of Seth MacFarlane more than implied several years ago?

I guess the Chair didn't see A Million Ways to Die in the West!

I guess the Chair didn’t see A Million Ways to Die in the West!

Well, like a newly invigorated Oscar host (Note:  I have no suggestions of anyone better but perhaps, say, Nikke Finke, to re-invigorate them), I was determined to find out if the movies could once again hook me like a bad/good or good/bad TV show or even as effectively as the latest dumb feature/news story or Facebook posting.

Was everything awful I decided in advance about the current state of films the reason why I wasn’t leaving my house for my local multiplex?  Or would it merely take an attitude adjustment on my part – something my parents found more challenging than their own divorce to ever make happen – to cause the difference?

5 Movies/3 ½ Days.   Here is my report.

Thursday Night:

The Obvious Child

Not just Marcel the Shell

Potty mouth?

Expectations:  Some.  Good reviews of a very low budget film calling actress/comedian Jenny Slater the new Sarah Silverman by way of Woody Allen.  And besides, who can resist an original rom-com about…abortion!

Venue: Landmark Theatres, West L.A

Outcome:  Thoroughly enjoyable, touching and wickedly funny at parts.  It’s extremely low budget so don’t go in expecting much in the way of escape.  But it reminded me that despite all of my previous ranting escape is not what movies are entirely about – at least not for me.

It always bugged the crap out of me that films liked Knocked Up dismissed the idea of a young women these days getting an abortion as something out of hand and just, well, not a real serious option.  Even Juno, which certainly presented a convincing portrait of why a teenager would not choose to terminate a pregnancy, never quite convinced me of its heroine’s decision.

Does that hamburger phone have a direct connection to reality?

Does that hamburger phone have a direct connection to reality?

Oh, of course no woman enjoys having an abortion or even making the decision to do so.  But it’s a choice MANY choose and will continue to choose whether the people who call themselves right-to-life (Note: Meaning those who are pro choice are anti-life?) like it or not.  So why hasn’t it been addressed in any movie in any real way since what seems like the 1970s.

The above is for far greater minds than myself to address.  What The Obvious Child does so brilliantly is not make abortion an issue but tell the story of a young female comic in her twenties making choices as she tries to understand both herself and love.  Yeah, there’s a cute guy involved – isn’t there always?  And it’s funny.  And it rings true.  If this were two decades or ago and it was possible for more than one or two really small films per year to break through into the zeitgeist, we all would’ve gone to it sooner.  But it’s not and this is the new movie-going normal.  If you’re interested you have to look around and make the effort.  If it’s your kind of film and makes a bit of money, it might be easier to spot the next time.

Friday Night:

Ida

The gray lady

The gray lady

Expectations:  Promising but a bit like medicine that I realize will be good for me in the end.

Venue: Writer’s Guild Theatre, Beverly Hills, CA

Outcome: Haunting, provocative and thoughtful.  It makes you think and impresses you with simplicity without ever trying to.  It also makes an extremely convincing case for artistic brevity and international cinema – two items that shouldn’t ever need to be reinforced but will, unfortunately seem to always have to be.

If I’m not the audience for a black and white Polish language film set in 1962 about two strong Jewish women with echoes of the Holocaust, then who is?  So why did I only go to see Ida because a good friend recommended it to me in particular, and then only because it was screening at the Writer’s Guild Theatre at a convenient time (Note: Which still technically counts as leaving your house)?  Lazy and complacent, that’s why.

Is this all it takes?

Is this all it takes?

All films are irrefutably artistic in some form because each and every one of them is an example of the art form.  But is there good art and bad art, high art and low art?  Who knows?  The only thing I’m sure of is that at 83 minutes Ida’s director, Pawel Pawlikowski, a former documentarian, has made a true work of art.

The film is the definition of spare in the best possible ways.  Imagine Ingmar Bergman making an Italian neo-Realist film by way of Mike Leigh and Terrence Malick and you might begin to get a picture.  Or perhaps it is none of those and simply – uh – original.

At it’s core this is a coming-of-age film about a woman who is about to be a nun and then learns she is Jewish.  It’s about family, history, love and what impact one chooses to make on the world and how.  And why.  It is also about the past and probably leaves more questions than it answers.  But the questions it leaves us with are more than enough to chew on for an entire evening afterwards with friends or perhaps even a date who is interested in something more than, well, your ________________.  Yeah, movies used to be about the latter, too.  Not all, because who would really want that?  Just a few of them.  Ida is one of those few.  It is what it is AND deserves to be seen.

Saturday Afternoon:

Transformers 4: Age of Extinction

Bumblebee-Transformers-4-Age-Of-Extinction_1399883699

Good grief.

Expectations:  None.  Like zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

Venue: Linwood Dunn Theatre, Hollywood, CA

Outcome:  My expectations were met – and then some.

This film is such a great example of what major movie studios are about today.  Therefore criticizing it is a bit like complaining that eating at McDonalds or even In ‘n Out Burger isn’t as good as enjoying the burgers they serve at Wolfgang Puck’s Cut or Thomas Keller’s Bouchon.  Or even at that favorite local greasy spoon you’ve been sneaking out to for years and years.

Hungry?

Hungry?

This is a movie that is not made for me or perhaps you.  The best thing about it is that it doesn’t take itself totally seriously, though you wish the jokes were better or even good.  It tries to be meta in some moments –like when it has an old movie proprietor complain in the first act that movies got ruined when they started doing those lousy sequels (Note: Not totally exact quote but you get the idea). And eventually it simply stops trying to do even that in favor of blowing things up, melting them down and throwing as much product placement at you (do people still drink Bud Lights?) as possible.

Full confession:  I have never seen any Transformers movie all the way through – rephrase that – I have never seen more than 20-25 minutes of any Transformers movie before this one though I’ve tried to if for no other reason than to understand what’s going on in movie land.  Of my attempts, some of them were from the beginning, other times it started in the second act, and at least once I think I forced myself to watch an ending – hoping that if it worked I might be motivated enough to track back and get the full Transformers movie going experience.

See, I made an effort

See, I made an effort

I used to be a movie critic so it doesn’t take a lot for me to be perversely curious about films.  In fact, sometimes I will purposely force myself to sit through something I’m unlikely to enjoy in the hopes that it will be so bad that I will actually be entertained.  I sort of felt that way about Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor until it lost me when the gleam from the spanking new desks in the 1940s military offices it was seeking to portray were so shiny that they began reflecting off the screen into my eyeglasses and gave me a headache.

Mr. Bay still clearly loves golden time lighting and shimmery new/old stuff.  But rather than give me something truly god-awful he’s basically made a movie that at the end of the day is merely repetitious, corny and dull.  The effects are fine, the robots or whatever you call them feel generic and somewhere along the way Mark Wahlberg, who turned in fine recent performances in movies like The Fighter and Lone Survivor, not to mention Boogie Nights, got Bay-ized into oblivion here.  He’s truly hideous in the movie but you try to make those lines work and then get back to me.

My favorite moment was during the act three action in China (Note: Why we are in China is a mystery, except it must have something to do with international financing).  At one point, a requisite Steve Jobs type character, who is stuck lugging what amounts to a mini nuclear bomb in what reads like like an elongated violin case, balks at a group of old ladies preventing him from passing and bellows:  How do you say get the fuck out of the way in Chinese?

Oh hey, I'm in this movie!

Oh hey, I’m in this movie!

This line does not simply please me so because it is uttered by Stanley Tucci, who plays the Job type and is part of my real life extended family.  It makes me happy because it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d like to say to Michael Bay – in English – but unfortunately will never get to do so.  Unless, well, I just did.  (Note: In which case, be forewarned if I happen to fall upon any tragically sudden accident).

Saturday Night:

The Lego Movie

more than just shiny plastic?

more than just shiny plastic?

Expectations:  High, high, high.  Everyone seems to think it’s awesome!!

Venue: My upstairs TV room big screen with a brand new DVD since it’s not playing at a theatre and I waited too long to see one of the best-reviewed movies of the year.

Outcome: I don’t get it.  And I didn’t like it.  What gives???

I sooo don’t get the appeal here.  Don’t hate me.  Okay, hate me if you must – I’m not changing my mind.  I can’t help but believe that the hype here is because of diminished expectations for wit and inventiveness during the first half of 2014 and  this simply happened to pass for something that could fill in the drought.

In case you were wondering, I’m a big fan of the Toy Story movies, really enjoyed Despicable Me and sang along to both Happy Feet and Frozen.  Oh, and I loved Ratatouille, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast  – if it counts for anything.

OK.. this too!

OK.. this too!

Fine, I’m done apologizing because I don’t have to.  I barely laughed through any of this and thought the characters especially simplistic and poorly drawn – in every way that implies.  And let’s talk about its ultimate theme – the reinforcement of the patriarchy.  Yes, I’m going there.  There’s a twist at the end of the second act that felt totally unnecessary and seemed determined to make something that up to that point was just sort of silly suddenly become a family movie with a message.

There is nothing wrong with a first act showing an average young worker drone Lego guy singing an original ditty called Everything Is Awesome as the film proceeds to show us how his assembly line life is anything but.  Yet somehow, as he Forest Gump’s his way into…well, I don’t want to give it away…the song replays and asks us to believe everything is indeed awesome because….uh….oh, what’s the difference?  It was about as simplistic and mundane as one expects a Lego movie everyone seems to love NOT to be.  And I got to watch it at home eating dessert.  Hmm, maybe this means I should leave the house.

I would like to attribute by extreme dislike to all that time I spent earlier in the day on Transformers 4.  Or maybe it was a case of inflated expectations – knowing full well everything I had read and heard about this experience indicated it was 100 minutes of unadulterated little pleasures.

Well, that’ll teach me to look forward to anything or to think even for one second I am still a kid at heart.  Bah, humbug.  Though this is exactly the kind of film I also would NOT have liked when I was 10 years old.  I was the kid who much preferred Mary Poppins.  And didn’t play with Legos.  Yeah, that could be it.  But I’d still take Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke over Will Ferrell and some animated pieces of plastic any day – because they were truly awesome.

Sunday Afternoon:

Jersey Boys

Got you under my skin

Got you under my skin

Expectations:  Middling – middlebrow.

Venue:  Writer’s Guild Theatre, Beverly Hills, CA

OutcomeCouldn’t Take My Eyes Off Of It – see that’s a riff on a Frankie Valli tune and this is a biopic about him and the popular mega platinum singing group The Four Seasons in the 1960s.  Oh, never mind.

This film was so much fun – especially the first hour and 20 minutes.  So what if it then has the issue of almost every show business bio ever made.  And that issue is that once the uber talents become famous their personal demons – be it money, drugs, thug life, romance or family – are never as interesting as the purity of their exciting rise to the top with their newly discovered uber abilities.

None of this matters here because you get to listen to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ never-ending list of hits in an old-fashioned styled film whose pacing, cinematography and editing seem to exactly fit the time it’s portraying.  And unlike other movie musicals these days – say, uh, Nine or Chicago – it’s so nice to hear the songs sung by actors who are really singers as opposed to movie stars that can sort of get by without croaking out the words (Noteworthy example: Catherine Zeta-Jones – and yeah, I do know she won the Oscar – I still had to cover my ears at a few key moments in her “singing”).

Gurllll

Gurllll

Let it be said I had zero expectations for Jersey Boys going in.  I’d never seen the show and LOATHE movies where actors talk to the camera doing onscreen narration.  However, JB not only does all of the aforementioned but has multiple characters doing it multiple times.  Yet even that doesn’t matter because there is a certain suspension of belief in a musical set in the 1950s and 60s that allows you to get away with a lot more than that conceit.

Which begs the question of how an ultra liberal Chair like me watches a Clint Eastwood directed film without thinking about his infamous Chair performance at the Republican convention several years ago.  Well, I don’t think about it because I’m charmed by the film – it’s as simple as that.  Plus, I assume that people who are 30 plus years older than I am and grew up in a very different world are bound to differ with me politically.

Okay, and also it’s Clint.  Anyone who survives 50 plus years as an actor-director-producer in Hollywood and continues to consistently make more films than not that are worth seeing deserves our attention.  Because NO ONE else has.   Or is likely to.  Unless Warren Beatty decides to emerge soon from wherever he is or Robert Redford has a directing comeback 10 years from now.

OK you too.

OK you too.

Until then, leave the house to go see Jersey Boys.  Or leave the house and go see any movie you wouldn’t ordinarily go to anymore.  There’s a chance you might be surprised – and in a good way.  It just takes a little effort from us – and the filmmakers.

Chair on Chair

Clint Eastwood is an icon.  And if you don’t think so, here is the dictionary.com definition:

Icon:  A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something: “icon of manhood.”

No, I did not add the manhood part or appropriate it from some other place to make my point more effectively.  That is the literal, on-the-record given example.

It is dangerous for any one thing or person to be regarded as a gold standard representative symbol of something as Mr. Eastwood proved this past week when he dragged an unwitting Chair onstage in Tampa on the climactic night of the 2012 Republican National Convention.  One reason is that once you’re the international standard for something we all value from your perceived public image, it is inevitable you will one day disappoint.  And that is because the nature of existence is nothing stays the same and that everything in the world is uniquely its own in ways an outsider can never fully know.  An image (or icon) is a mirage – and the very nature of mirage is, it isn’t real.  What it is changes or rearranges, in accordance with the eye or taste of the beholder.  This holds true both for the shelf life of people like Clint Eastwood and for objects such as chairs, who have even less to say about their iconic status than humans do. (Note: “The Eastwood Chair” is now trending internationally and is probably now the most famous chair icon we all know).

Because everything in the world is uniquely its own, this makes it particularly tough for icons – inanimate or living – to be all things to all people.  Why?  Well, for example:

No one human has the same fingerprint.  And as any dog (or any other pet) lover can tell you, no two animals of the same species are exactly the same either.   One can even take this further for, let’s say, ants, who are seldom pets.  I mean, we might not be able to tell the difference between the ants crawling around our backyards or inside our cabinets, but I’d bet that any other ant could. As could another animal/insect of another species.  So how can any one of that or any species ever properly represent all the others not only to their own species but to the rest of the world?

I would argue this is even the same for mass-produced items.  They each have their own microscopic, milli-minutiae quirks that we humans can’t see but that make them who they are.  No item can be exactly what it was when you acquired it or first admired it – or live up to the perception you had of it.   Which is partly because your perception clearly isn’t seeing everything, certainly not as much as what is seen by another like-minded item of its own kind.  Plus, like humans, items also change – if even slightly – as they age.  There is always slight color derivation, a tiny smudge or crack in the armor on the outside.  Or perhaps on the inside, out of view.  I’m reminded of an old Bette Midler monologue that talks about what’s hidden beneath the surface of each and every one of us, no matter how alike we might seem on sight.  One day while walking through the streets of Manhattan, the entertainer ran into a sad, mentally ill lady in a huge Daisy dress who was almost bald and had, substituting for hair, a fried egg on her forehead.  Terrified in those days of her own tenuous emotional balance on reality, Midler mused that she didn’t want to wake up one day and wind up with a fried egg on her own head.  But then, later in her routine, which went from hilarity to poignancy in the space of just a few minutes, she somberly concluded:

“The truth about fried eggs is…everybody gets one.  Some people wear them on the outside.  And some people – they wear them on the inside.”

I prefer mine over easy

 

Meaning nothing can or should really be set up as an icon for anything. It’s a recipe for disappointment and failure on both our parts because you’re never seeing the real, true picture.  Just as the 82 year-old Mr. Eastwood might now disappoint as the universal hyper symbol of Manhood due to his mocking routine of Pres. Obama, who he imagined was sitting onstage with him yelling unlikely nasty retorts from an empty chair – that particular brand of Chair, which hadn’t chosen the spotlight as Mr. Eastwood clearly did and continues to do, has now become the iconic Zelig of inanimate objects and is engendering all sorts of blowback.  Plucked out of obscurity by one icon, said Chair – which doesn’t have a name but has become an unwitting symbol as “The Eastwood Chair” – has various Twitter handles, Facebook pages, portraits, personalities and doctored images it never sought out to begin with.

Scouring the web, it is clear this once unknown single piece of furniture enrages, disappoints, is put on a pedestal, is lampooned and is publicly scorned, deified and idolized.  It is now every bit, and perhaps more, iconic than Mr. Eastwood.  This in itself proves the shallowness of iconic status.  Though sometimes it’s about achievement, it can also come when one is in the wrong place at the right time or even the right place at the wrong time.  Even a casual X Factor like birth can have something to do with it.   I mean, ask Prince Harry.

Leave me outta this!

 As an ordinary Chair myself, actually the Pendleton Chair of the Ithaca College L.A. program, it should be understandable that I’m a little sensitive to what would happen if an ordinary Chair suddenly found itself trending worldwide. Though none of the fellow Chairs that I know are iconic symbols, my position does share a dictionary.com definition with what is now the most Famous Chair in the World whose listing fittingly comes first in our dual definitions on dictionary.com.

Chair:  1. A separate seat for one person, typically with a back and four legs.

2. to act as chairperson of or preside over an organization, meeting or public event.

Much like Ms. Midler felt pain for the Lady with the Fried Egg on her head, this week my heart has consistently gone out to what is now the world’s most iconic Chair.  So like any good tribesman, I thought I’d reach out and try to be supportive.  Imagine my surprise when The Eastwood Chair (TEC), quite average and quite happy before it began its meteoric rise to fame just days ago, asked if I’d do its one exclusive interview.

But first, an exclusive with The Chair

Me???  Wasn’t a slightly, well, bigger forum, what was needed?  “No,” replied, TEC, the one thing it didn’t want was to fan the fire.  All it sought was just its real POV out there on the record.  Because the one thing it’s sure of after the last few days is that whatever it says, even if it’s to just me, will gain worldwide traction – at least for a few weeks or so.  The following are TEC’s own words and our conversation verbatim.

Me:  Well, this has been quite a week for you, huh?

TEC:  You could say that.  I can’t really say anything.

Me:  That’s kind of a theme in your life, isn’t it?

TEC: (laughs) I guess so.  I hadn’t meant to put it that way but, there you are…

Me:  Does it bother you that other people are now defining you, who you are, on such a, well, global scale?

TEC:  (seemingly tilts back, then forward again) I was really angry at first.  I mean, I was positioned backstage, providing a service.  I like to think of myself that way – service oriented.  I’m functional.  I don’t crave the spotlight on my own.  Someone might sit on me but that doesn’t mean they are me. To suddenly become the thing that everyone’s making fun of…

Me:  It must be difficult.

TEC:  Well, as they say, I was just “born this way” and living my life.  I didn’t intend for the world to react so extremely to me one way or the other, or use me as an example to make fun of, or idolize or to hate on just because someone else is using me like that and causing them to think that way.

Me:  But isn’t that part of the nature of any chair?  For instance, if someone had you in their house and was really angry, they could throw you across the room and break you if they wanted.

TEC:  (withered look) Wow.  I hadn’t ever thought about…(silence) Yes, I suppose they could.  And that would be awful.  I guess I’ve been lucky so far.  But nobody should be defined as something they aren’t simply because of mistaken identity or because a human needs to work out their “stuff “ in a mean way through you.

Me: Okay, well, not to be mean myself but…isn’t that, according to what you just said, your function?

TEC: I said I’m fuctionAL.  I don’t have one specific function. But in people’s minds now I’m this – “thing.” And it can be real negative in people’s minds.  I just want everyone to know that image, those traits they’re putting on me – the arrogance, the cursing, the awkwardness – they’re fiction.  They’re stereotypes.  They have nothing to do with who I really am deep down.   Depending on who is doing the looking and the sitting, I am lots of things deep down.  I am more than the butt of a joke…

Me:  Butt.  Chair.  That’s funny.

TEC:  I’m not laughing.  Sorry, but…

Me: You said it again.  But.

TEC: These jokes are being used to hurt someone.

Me:  Hurt whom?

TEC: I better shut up.  I don’t want to get too political.

Me:  Oh, come on, your secret’s safe.  Hardly anyone reads the blog compared to, let’s say, your Twitter page.

TEC (chuckles):  You mean Twitter pages, don’t you?  I mean, which one?

Me:  (chuckles back) Well, there’s The Eastwood Chair, The Empty Chair, This Seat is Taken, Obama’s Chair, Invisible Obama….

TEC: Stop, please….

Me:  Well, they all don’t have your exact image.  I take it you’ve seen them?

TEC:  I try to stay away.  Also, I’m sort of limited in what I can see unless someone is sitting on me.

Me: Ah, right.

TEC: But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to sneaking a few looks.

Me: Care to elaborate?

TEC:  No.

TEC’s least favorite. “That tramp,” it says.

Me:  Fair enough.

TEC:  I mean, aside from that, I’m not sure it’s exactly safe.  I’m only one chair.

Me:  But an important one.  You could be the Rosa Parks of Chairs, if you chose to be.

TEC: That’s a little grand, don’t you think?

Me:  Maybe so.  I’m not saying you have to be or it’s what you should do or a requirement or…

TEC:  I get it.  It’s okay.  Really.

Me:  You want to talk about Mr. Eastwood?

TEC: Not really.  But I suppose I should.

Me: Are you angry with him?

TEC: Yes.

Me:  I thought you’d hesitate.

TEC:  Why?  I’m in an undisclosed location.  He’ll never find me.

Me:  I found you.

TEC:  Actually, I found you, remember?

Me:  Right.

TEC:  And when we’re done, trust me, you won’t be able to find me again.  No personal offense intended.

Me: None taken.

TEC:  But you will hear about me.  And from me.  A movement is growing.  And it’s about more than chairs, one chair or even all chairs.  See, there’s a network out there protecting the real me because the struggle is really about everything…

Me:  You sure are sounding like Rosa Parks to me.  Or at least one of her disciples.

Silence.  The light hits the top of TEC and it appears several inches taller.

Me:  Care to elaborate just a bit more?

TEC: Okay, so it’s about thinking before you use something innocent solely for your own benefit against its will or feeling.  Or dislike or hate something only because of what you think it is.  Or categorize dishonestly one way before you know it – or even if you do know it.  Cause deep down you know you’re being dishonest.

Me:  Is that what you think Clint Eastwood did? 

TEC:  Eastwood’s 82 years old and a huge movie star.  He’s used to doing anything he wants and he comes from another generation.  It’s more about everyone else and what they say and how they react to what they can plainly see right before their eyes.  And – the truth.  (A beat.)  Though let’s say next time I’m around the rich and famous, I’ll be more prepared and blend in.

Me:  Really.  How can you…

TEC:  We have ways.  I can’t reveal everything.  As they say, ultimately, “A chair is still a chair…

Me:  Even when there’s no one sitting there…”

TEC:  Very good.

Me:  It’s a Hal David lyric from a Burt Bacharach song ,“A House Is Not A Home.”  Mr. David just died this week, so…

TEC: Oh, wow. Sorry.  That’s sad.  I didn’t know.  I really liked his music.

Me:  Well, he was 91 so he did have a great life.

EW: And understood the true meaning of a chair.  Unlike some people.

Me:  Maybe one day they will.

TEC: I hope so.

Me: It’s all in the song, if you think about it.

TEC:  I just wish everyone had slightly better taste in the music they choose to listen to.  You know what I mean?