Declaring Your Independence

I’m not a patriotic guy in the same way I’m not a religious guy and for the exact same reason I hated day camp.  I truly despise mandated group activities.

You will never find me on a cruise or part of a tour group.  And even as a member of several unions, a political party and any number of biological and chosen families, I like to leave my options open.

This makes perfect sense to me

This is one reason I love living in Los Angeles.  You bring your car, you get to leave whenever you like.  My $7 gallon of gas, my choice.

This includes weddings.  Especially destination weddings.  On a remote island.


I do send good gifts though

I also have a raging biological aversion to group think.  This might seem contradictory to being a lifelong Democrat or member of the Writers Guild.  But really, it’s not. 

Both groups vocally and often rudely scream their disagreements loudly, publically and privately to the point of self-sabotage.  And we’re seldom happy with the nuances of any group decision we reach to move forward, if we ever truly do.

Anyone want to join my book club?

We’d likely win our battles a lot more quickly and less bloodied but what difference would that make?   We wouldn’t be us.  Who we are and what we stand for is all we have.

This does not mean I am against compromise or sometimes doing what I don’t want to do because it’s the right thing to do or because I care about another person.  

See: Destination Wedding

That’s the easy counter attack so don’t get cute, even intellectually.

Because when compromise is your default position, or you fear for your position or your life when you dare to speak your mind against authority figures holding you hostage in a group situation, you’re nothing but a ________________.

Feel free to fill in the blank this Fourth of July week.



The last two episodes of Stranger Things Season 4 dropped on Friday and I along with many millions of others made it the most watched program in the history of Netflix.  

SEVEN BILLION plus minutes of the show were viewed this past week, breaking all Nielsen ratings for a streaming show.   It also became the most watched series in Netflix’s history with 930 million total hours viewed worldwide.

Admittedly, you and I don’t truly understand ratings anymore, or so much else, but suffice it to say – that’s A LOT. 

Sure is.

Barack Obama has the most followed account on Twitter and he’s only got 131.4 million followers.  Though if you think that indicates anything encouraging about us, just know #2 is Justin Bieber (114.4 mil), #3 is Katy Perry (108.9 mil) and #4 is Rihanna (106.2 mil). 

The latter three likely tell us a lot more about who we really are.

But so does Stranger Things.

NO SPOILERS HERE but one reason the series is so popular is its core characters have an absolute and undying dedication to fight true evil at all costs. 

They might be a gang of unpopular, marginalized young misfits who argue amongst themselves but they’re willing to risk their lives to save their town, and in turn the world.

Plus a lot of bad 80s clothes.

They might secretly crave popularity but what they know better than the majority of their viewers is that it too often comes at a lethal cost. 

And lethal doesn’t necessarily mean their own death.  It means the loss of every good thing they’ve seen or has happened to them because they decided to be corrupted by power, or play it safe and hide behind it, for some petty personal gain.

That and A LOT of monsters, special effects and sappy, nostalgic storytelling also helps.

But, well, dollops of sappy, nostalgic cheesiness is never a bad thing in storytelling. 

We see you Will Byers

Your mind, and everyone else’s, only gets reduced to nothing when it becomes a full course meal.

Once that happens, you’ve truly not you. 

Not to mention what it does to the rest of us when that new majority of you(s) you’ve created takes hold.


If you know what I mean.

Kate Bush – “Running Up That Hill”

Back to the Future?

There’s a lot of talk about the past these days and it’s reflected in our art, in our politics and all through our everyday lives.

For instance, at the movies I found great solace in reliving Elton John’s life in Rocketman.  This was not only because I got to hear all those great songs performed by the pop star’s virtual movie doppelganger, Taron Egerton, who even captured the way Elton magically played the piano with his feet back when I first saw him perform live at Carnegie Hall in 1972.

He really knew how to put on a show

Instead, what made Rocketman soar for me was how it captured the sad isolation young movie Elton feels when, after his breakthrough performance at L.A.’s Troubadour, he wanders aimlessly at the celebrity after party he should be the star of unable to be his true self.

You don’t have to be gay (or a pop star) to understand what it’s like to not fit in anywhere deep down inside and to know for certain that you are likely the only one who feels this way.

By reliving those feelings and owning them, en masse, it helps us all to feel less alone in the present and to enjoy how far we’ve come in what, in the scheme of things, is a relatively short time.

Baby steps are OK #respectmyjourney

This same form of nostalgia operates in current political movements spearheaded by sizzlingly resonant catchphrases like Make America Great Again. 

More nimbly than a film and certainly more simplistic than ANY streaming show, that clarion call to the past asks the public to go back in time and remember that decade and those years when, overall, things really were GREAT compared to what they are NOW.

There might be some disagreement as to where and when but all the slogan asks of us is to agree that the PRESENT is relatively CRAPPY and that it DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY ANYMORE.

You sure about that Chairy?

You want to go back to the economic boom of the eighties, the pre 9/11 days of the 90s, the gauzy nostalgia of the 50s when everyone wasn’t so sensitive and America just was what it was, united under ONE flag?  It IS possible.  There IS hope.  Follow this logo and those promoting it and WE will take you there.

Just as the ascendance of a Make America Great Again candidate to the Oval Office in 2016 is a call to the past so, in its way, is the indisputable rise of former Vice-President Joe Biden to the very top of the Democratic field of POTUS contenders for 2020.

And here is the Joe Biden of the past… can you even?

In his very first announcement message (Note: Way back in…April) he asked us to recall what America IS, by reminding us of what it WAS.  He did this by citing the very words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

and holding them in sharp contrast to our MAGA president insisting there were very good people on BOTH SIDES when neo-Nazis marched openly in Charlottesville against local residents who supported the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue.

The fact that Jefferson, author of the very manifesto that created the principles on which our country was founded on, lived most of his life right outside Charlottesville was a more than apt metaphor to make the same point of how America’s once GREAT status has gone astray and whom we need to now follow in order to get it back.

This is the only modern Jefferson reference I can get behind #forreal

Biden’s words can’t be emblazoned on a MAGA-like hat but the fiery images of Tiki-torches and swastikas that were employed in present day Charlottesville quickly lit up his candidacy like no other in the 2020 field.  It was a clarion call to reclaim a different part of our pasts and has helped keep the Biden candidacy in a first place runaway lead since its inception almost two months ago.

There is, of course, no going back for any one of us.  We can’t literally enter a time machine and even if we could, memory is select and the exact past is not, to put it mildly, exactly what we are remembering.

This does not interest me. #AmericaSoWhite

As the filmmaking style of Rocketman so effectively demonstrates, our memories are mere impressionistic representations from years gone by intermingled with perceptions and images from other years, decades and time zones in between.  They are an imaginative evocation of our history but not literal.  They are what we recall happened but not entirely accurate.  Yet neither are they fictional.

We can’t literally believe that a young Elton John sang “Daniel and “Crocodile Rock” decades before they were written just as we may never ignore that our Founding Fathers once owned slaves and literally trafficked and tortured other human beings out of their homeland in order to build a new one for themselves.

You tell em, Liz!

Still, this doesn’t disprove the overall message and/or intent of either.

We get to choose which, if any, of their themes resonate for us, and our futures, and to act on them accordingly.  Yet we need to not get too caught up in their golden-hued memories or isolated mistakes.  Instead, perhaps the best strategy (Note: Or strategery, if one is so inclined) is to use the biggest of their lessons and themes as a new clarion call to an even better future.

Unless, that is, we’re not done just merely remembering quite yet.

Elton John – “Crocodile Rock”