Don’t Other-ize Me, Bro!

There is a moment in Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman where a Jewish police detective, who has gone undercover as a KKK member, laments being put in this position by his Black counterpart.  It’s as if he’s forgotten (or never fully understood) the Ku Klux Klan were not only rabidly anti-Black segregationists but also virulently, and quite openly, anti-Semitic.

I’m Jewish, yes, but I wasn’t raised to be, says the character played by Adam Driver.  No Jewish rituals, no deep education about Jewish history, not even a bar mitzvah.  I was just another white kid.

Exactly.

Did someone say bar mitzvah?

Suddenly, and much to his chagrin, he’d been OTHER-IZED.

Somehow a movie set in the early 1970s has managed to become the most timely filmic statement now out there about Trumpism.  Based on the 2014 memoir of real-life Black police officer Ron Stallowrth, it tells the story of how Ron made phone contact with the KKK, pretending to be an eager acolyte, and worked with his White counterpart, Flip Zimmerman, to pose as his physical self while in their presence.

Two Ron Stallworths.

Part comedy, part drama and many parts many other things, it tells not only a racial story but speaks to the type of numbness all of us can fall into when traveling in circles where THEY are in the majority and WE are just the unwanted, or at least unfamiliar, INTERLOPERS.

To be OTHER-IZED is not a choice so much as it is a condition of where you live, where you travel and overall what you choose to do or need to do with your time.  A room full of jocks of many races can OTHER-IZE the lily Whitest of nerds just as a gaggle of snow White Hollywood BROs in power can OTHER-IZE any Brown-skinned woman of color – or any FEMALE of ANY color for that matter – who may be twice as smart and/or talented as any one of them.

Or all of them if you’re Oprah.

Gurl, you got that right. #badassbish

We are all nothing if not multi-tribal, depending on where we live, how much we make or what we do for a living.  The one tribe that trumped (Note: Ahem) all in the U.S. used to be American, but what being a REAL AMERICAN is seems to be quite up in the air these days.

In actuality, it seems to depend on which other TRIBE you belong to – or at least choose to identify with.  And with that comes a full handbook on who one needs to OTHER-IZE.

Yes.

The fact is, it is no longer feasible to be a part of ANY TRIBE where SOMEONE is not generally THE OTHER.

Right, that’s what it is Gretchen. #dontotherizeme

We here in the Southern Californian #Resistance headquarters seriously distrust Trump voters of all stripes – and that’s the best case scenario of when we’re not foaming at the mouth angry at what we see as the nasty, racist…well, so many things I can no longer count… those voters have allowed.

On the other hand, Trump voters all over the country call us snowflakes, and at best see us as weak and anti-working class – or so I’m told from the few of them that I can still bear to talk to.  At their worst, well they prove the very points we’re trying to make, probably daily, about them, though I’m sure they’d put it quite differently and probably a lot less delicately if I gave them the chance.  Which I’m not any longer.

I’m done.

The funny part is there are Black, White, Jewish, Hispanic, LGBT, straight, poor AND rich members on BOTH SIDES.  In that sense, we’re all getting OTHER-IZED daily, and perhaps hourly, by somebody, and often in ways we don’t know about as we go about our day.

Of course, there are times when we do realize we are being cast as THE OTHER, and it is at these moments we are faced with THE CHOICE.

I’m trying my best Jamie Lee!!!

Ah yes, you do have any number of CHOICES when you realize you’re the only _________ in the room – or at least woefully outnumbered, discredited or discounted in that person or group’s mind/think about those in YOUR TRIBE, depending on your looks, skin color or affect.  They are:

  1. BLEND – This is the easiest or hardest of the options depending on your denial system, how much therapy you’ve had, or both. Am I GAY????  Not a chance, I hate musicals and I have season tickets to The Lakers/Knicks/Eagles/_______.   Jewish?  Whatever gave you that idea, I don’t like those _______s any more than you do.

I was born in the 90s! I swear!

On the other hand, it’s hard to deny you’re Black if you are very dark-skinned or pretend you’re not poor if you are three months late on the rent and about to be evicted.   Though even in the latter case of ZERO money, there’s always the chance that person is just being…irresponsible.  #AreYouWokeYet?

  1. HIDE – This is not a pleasant alternative but there are advantages to just going along and being an under-the-radar, quiet part of a group. In my younger days I’ve heard straight guy locker room talk about women that offended me to the bone, not to mention bitchy talk among my gay brothers about lesbians that I should have stamped my feet more adamantly about. Yet too many times in my teen and early twenties I did neither.

Sadly, most of us are not always up for a FIGHT, especially when we have the luxury to sit behind the tallest person in class and go unnoticed.  At least metaphorically. I, for one, have also spent time with one or two Republicans I admit to have gleefully watched squirm at Southern California dinner parties rather than blow their cover to the other guests in the room.  Sure, I told myself it wasn’t my place to say or do anything to help them but these days I realize my sadistic inner self rather enjoyed OTHER-IZING them far more, in secret hopes that this would somehow wake them to their senses.

You tell ’em Cher!

  1. DENYOh, he can’t be a sexual harasser. My roommate told me he had a torrid affair with Mary Jane and she would never put up with someone like that.  And no, just because she’s from Paris and her visa expired and he’s an American citizen doesn’t mean she’s tolerating it or pretending they’re an item.  Please.  Besides which, she’s NOT marrying him for her green card to be with her lesbian lover!  Come on!!

Okay, perhaps the last example is a bit fanciful.  But it is possible to be into vintage and thrift stores and old school tech because you want to seem cool when you’re searching for work.  In the same way you can DENY you are RACIST by producing one of two Black co-workers or acquaintances of color even though there are dozens more who heard you use the N word when they were in the room.  And no, just because a videotape of that has yet to be produced doesn’t make it any less so.  Or mean that when it is it was somehow doctored. #ApprehensiveApprenticeTapePart1

Oh jesus, does this mean more Tom Arnold??? #HELP

  1. FACE THE MUSIC – The best alternative because even if you hide, blend and deny most effectively you will NEVER prevent EVERY single ONE of THEM from seeing YOU as something OTHER than THEY are. Implicit in this is that to some people you will ALWAYS be INFERIOR. And that’s in any version of the perfect world that is viable at this moment in time.

Yes, it’s easy to advise be yourself when YOU yourself don’t run the risk of being killed, permanently maimed or beaten up for doing just that.   But the way we’re going soon there will be nowhere for any of US to hide in certain circumstances. That is a condition that will be inevitable for pretty much ALL OF US at some point in our new GLOBAL REALITY.  #ThisISUs.

Meaning blending in, denying or hiding behind HATE simply won’t cut it anymore, if it ever did.  That is unless we want to live out the rest of our days as petulant junior high schoolers playing an eternal game of spin the bottle where we kiss the same people for all the wrong reasons in one unsatisfyingly long loop of endless hell.

“Too Late To Turn Back Now” – Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (from the soundtrack of BlackkKlansman)

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Same Old Song?

Turner Classic Movies had Judy Garland Day last week and, being a gay man of a certain age, I couldn’t resist tuning in at one point to this 24-hour Judy film fest.

Don’t judge me.

But of all of the choices available who knew that it would be a 1961 dour melodrama about four German judges being tried before a postwar military tribunal for their collaboration with Hitler and the Third Reich, Judgment at Nuremberg, that would hit me like a ton of bricks.

I can think of at least five other Judy films that would have been more enjoyable. (Note: Okay — A Star Is Born, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In St. Louis, Easter Parade and I Could Go On Singing). Though none that could be more timely.

Realistically, this is how I wish I felt about today’s political climate.

In hindsight I should have predicted it. Like the currently much lauded, breakthrough post apocalyptic Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale (which is about to once again become a multi Emmy winner for its superb second season), you can’t go wrong in 2018 watching a story about a country of people who enable a rabid white nationalist political regime to persecute, maim and/or kill anyone they deem to be a subversive OTHER.

Unless all you want to do is escape and put your _____ in the sand.   In which case, you are not only wrong but veering towards the same sheep-like behavior portrayed by some of your fellow countrymen in that movie, that series and no doubt countless other ____________s about to come out on other platforms that will be, at least thematically, very much like them.

Whether we call it the Nazis, the power brokers of Gilead or simply Trumpism – it’s all the same thing. A regime that wants to demonize anyone outside of a select group of people they don’t judge ‘ideal’ – whether they be Jews, the non-religious or Mexican/Middle Eastern immigrants – in order to rouse a base of loyal voters whose lives they promise to improve and whose country they vow to protect and/or rebuild.

I’m gonna go ahead and add “Crippling Insecurity” to the YES column #tinyhands

This strategy is always advanced with promises to put the people of said country FIRST, declarations that said country is GREAT and proclamations that the rest of the world is NO BETTER morally than they are and usually quite INFERIOR.

Yeah, I don’t like comparing any regime, especially America’s current regime, to the Nazis. But the argument being advanced is not how successful the regime is at achieving their goals or to what ends they will get to go in order to achieve them. Instead, it’s the philosophy and the strategy.

The degree to how far they get to go – well, this is up to their subjects… er….citizenry. In other words – THIS IS UP TO US.

BRB

Again, the comparison seemed a bit reach-y. Until too many lines from Judy’s Nazi film, for which she was nominated as Oscar’s best supporting actress that year along with several other cast members in their own categories, began to ring a bell.

— It started when Marlene Dietrich’s upper crust German woman says of Hitler:

He was in awe of nobility but he hated it.

— Then it continued when Montgomery Clift’s ordinary German man recalled the times he was MOCKED by LEADERS of the power class for speaking in a way that seemed slow even when he demonstrated the ability to understand logic.

I’m with Meryl — this still makes my blood boil

— It continued when Judy’s youngish German woman recalled how her best friend, a 65 year old Jewish man, was laughed at and held up to mockery by the PUBLIC at his trial simply because he was A JEW. The charges were violating the new law outlawing A JEW having sex with A GERMAN ARYAN (Judy), a charge he was found guilty of and put to death for even though, as it turned out, it never happened.

–Then there was Marlene’s defense of herself and the German people over Americans condemning her after the war:

Listen to me, there are things that happenedon BOTH SIDES.

ummmm… WHAT?

— Which all finally led to one of the four judges on trial, eloquently played by Burt Lancaster, exposing the lies he and his fellow Germans told themselves about Hitler and the Third Reich:

We say – what difference does it make – our country is at stake – Hitler (He) will be gone after a while. Things denied to US as a democracy are open to us now…. And then one day we looked around and saw what was going to be a passing phase had become a way of life.

Yes, all of these lines were indeed written – by the great screenwriter Abby Mann – but they were based on actual transcripts and stories he culled from the real Nuremberg trials right after the end of WWII.

.. and with a cast like this to make it come to life.

They were not his thoughts he put into his characters’ mouths so much as a distillation of real sentences and opinions and ideas of the time.

Though perhaps knowing there would be a portion of their audience that still might think they were being too polemic or had gone a bit too far, the filmmakers’ “movie trial” included 5-10 minutes of REAL NEWSREEL FOOTAGE of thousands of actual naked Jewish corpses – as well as others barely alive and starving – to back up their words.

This along with clips and still photos of the real crematoriums, featuring close ups of the popular German oven manufacturer that built them. In addition to historical maps indicating the dozens of specific towns with concentration camps hidden among a significant percentage of German citizenry who either supported Hitler because he was doing some good things or because it was easier to turn a blind eye to the whole ugly mess just because.

It’s difficult to face the truths, or potential truths, of any world, especially our own, but in the end it’s far uglier not to.

or you know, truth becomes relative. #stillcantbelievethishappened

As Spencer Tracy’s presiding American judge lets us know at the end of Judgment at Nuremberg in a way only a presiding American judge played by Spencer Tracy could truly make work:

A country is what it stands for – when it’s the most difficult. We stand for justice, truth and the value of a single human being.

Or to put it in 2018 parlance: There’s a reason why Sen. John McCain, who died on Saturday, chose Barack Obama and George W. Bush, a former Democratic president and a former Republican president, to deliver the eulogies at his Capitol Hill memorial service this week rather than the current sitting President of Trumpism.

 

The First

I love Kathy Griffin and loathe Donald Trump. I like Rosie O’Donnell and am fed up with Rosanne Barr, who I would probably loathe if I didn’t believe she was in the grip of a severe mental health crisis.

Of course, I believe that Trump has severe mental health issues too and I still loathe him.

Maybe it’s because he occupies the office of what used to be the Leader of the Free World and can actually change the course of history, not to mention end the entire world as we know it.

All Roseanne can do is hate tweet, post ranting videos and be on a sitcom I wouldn’t watch.

This all bubbled up on Thursday night after seeing Kathy Griffin do a hilarious, dishy, touching and sometimes sad three-hour solo comedy show at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

The sad part wasn’t so much about the comic as it was about us and the cesspool of faux outraged, social media manipulated, human rights curtailing, conspiracy-based citizenry we have become.

I’m taking bids now

Many of us falsely believed that the social upheaval of the 1960s gave birth to a new time where we left McCarthyism behind and people could feel free to express their politics in any way they saw fit as long as they didn’t physically hurt anyone.

I, for one, can recall the late 1970s when, as a Jewish kid in grad school in Chicago, I heard the Nazis had chosen, of all places, to hold a big rally in the nearby heavily Jewish neighborhood of Skokie.

How could I be studying journalism in the U.S. and deny that these Hitler acolytes had the legal right to march right down the streets of that neighborhood? I couldn’t if I believed in freedom of speech, of religion, of the press and of peaceful assembly.

I mean, sure – I could will them to eat shit and die but I couldn’t actually poison it myself or let anyone else do it. I could show up in a counter demonstration where I sang Barbra Streisand songs or played the score of Fiddler on the Roof from my boom box but back in 1977 I’m not sure anyone would have gotten it.

sing it with me now: PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPPPPLLLEEEE….

There was always the option of hurling rocks at them and starting a brawl but at 20 years old I was not ready to betray anything I believed in…quite yet.   And even if I could, I’d never be able to throw straight.   At that point I was having a hell of a time even being straight.

The above all refers to rights enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In the last 40 years we have evolved on many issues.   Gay people have the right to be married; public schools are integrated, as are most private institutions. Women can work and get closer to equal pay (well, 80 cents on the dollar) and, as of this weekend anyway, they still have the right to choose.

Very win-win, right?

Not feeling super confident on all of these points, Chairy.

But what we are beginning to fail at miserably is holding up the very basic tenants of the first amendment.

We now have elected (sort of) a president who ran his campaign on, and is actively trying to, ban Muslims and any other number of non-whites from entering the country in the name of national security; defends the point of view of white nationalists and foreign dictators as good people and strong leaders; and attacks the mainstream, fact-based press daily by calling its multi-sourced, fully vetted stories fake news and its reporters very bad people.

This, of course, has nothing directly to do with the cost of health care, whether or not we’ll make more money at the end of the year or if we can even get employment next year.

Until it does.

I need a nap

When you strip us right down to the studs (Note: And these days, who’d NOT want to), the core attraction of America is our FIRST amendment. Theoretically everyone here has the same rights and can say whatever the hell they want under the law. Even if it doesn’t always work out perfectly, from the top on down we have always strived for that ideal. Or, at least, pretended to.

Now the president is proposing that football players get suspended for taking a knee during the National Anthem and fired if they do it more than once. This is a far more stringent punishment than any of the Nazis got who marched in Charlottesville last year and actually killed an innocent woman.

Which brings us back to Kathy Griffin.

Spilling the T

The job of comedians is to make us laugh by being — provocateurs. They share their lens of the world by telling stories and jokes, pushing boundaries in the ways they see fit. It is their very point of view, mixed with some truth telling, that makes them unique and, in essence, defines their talent.

Last year, in response to Trump’s bull-in-the-china shop approach to tearing down the norms of government and insulting anyone who disagreed with him in a shockingly offensive manner by using coded graphic words and actions (and, behind-the-scenes, pornographic ones), Kathy decided to use her comic chops in a photo shoot that would shock us all to attention as to just what this man was doing not only to the country, but to the world.

So she had someone buy a $12 rubber Trump mask, doused it all over with ketchup, held it up as if it was his severed head, and then took a picture…which she then posted on social media.

I, for one, thought it was a hilarious, outrageous and very necessary political statement/response to the times we were and still are living in. In fact, I still do. So, in solidarity, here it is again:

blood coming out of his.. wherever

But because Trump is technically our Electoral College POTUS and has a lot of power, as well as a large following (Note: Though not as large as Hillary’s) here is what she got in return for 6-12 months and counting:

1- Her name on the no-fly list

2- Her name on Interpol (an international criminal police organization)

3- Daily death threats

4- The cancellation of all of her bookings in the U.S., often because venues were afraid of bomb threats.

5- Daily character assassinations on Fox News and TMZ, both of whose owners are rabid Trump supporters.

6- Marginalization by all the major network powers-that-be, who were terrified of offending potential sponsors (nee corporate $$) and the new Trump power base.

7- An international P.R. campaign, spurred on by Fox, that convinced millions of conservative viewers that she had become an actual member of ISIS.

8 – A relentless social media Russian bot patrol attack.

9 – Investigation by the Secret Service, the FBI and others about her plotting to actually assassinate our Electoral College POTUS.

10 – A Trump supporting next-door neighbor who cursed at her and verbally harassed her so consistently that she eventually had to sell her house and move.

She explains it much more thoroughly and with a great deal more humor in her current LAUGH YOUR HEAD OFF (Note: Yeah, that’s right) tour.

In addition, there are also GREAT and unexpected stories about Ellen, Stevie Nicks, Kim Kardashian, Jim Carrey, Jamie Fox, Billy Bush and even Stormy Daniels if you’re as much of a star/media f-cker as I am.

We’re with you KG

But what stood out the most to me leaving the show is that political protest has swung back about a century here except for the use of technology and social media by the powers-that-be doing the oppressing.

When Roseanne sends out an offensive racist tweet comparing a non-white person not elected to office and no longer in the zeitgeist to an ape for no other reason than she felt like it, it is hard to see what she is satirizing other than herself with a bad one-liner.

Nevertheless, she is covered by the first amendment and is free to do so. Much in the same way the corporations that employ her are legally able to fire her.

The same applies to Kathy and those also choosing not to work with her.

The difference is – Roseanne was NOT put on the no-fly list, NOT listed on Interpol, NOT checked out by law enforcement officials for a crime, and NEVER victimized by Russian bots.

my version of hell at least

However, she WAS publicly supported and tweet cheered by THE ONE PERSON person who is still the de facto Leader of the Free World – our current sitting Electoral College POTUS. With all the power that HE is allowed.

Think about that the next time you sit down for dinner with Trump supporting friends and relatives or find yourself in an impromptu political discussion with those who say you’re being too sensitive, paranoid or reactionary.

But don’t laugh your head off quite yet. You will need it – and A LOT more – in the coming months. COMRADE.

Little Anthony & The Imperials – “Goin’ Out of My Head”

Our Never-Ending Story

I love movies and the theatre. Always have. The story you can’t second-guess. Memorable characters. Unforeseen, angry, funny and generally snide and/or uncomfortable conflicts.

They tell me stories I can BELIEVE and somehow they have always informed me, metaphorically at least, about my life.

So why am I having so much trouble turning off cable news these days?

Because no play, film or even TV series can touch the Mueller vs. Trump countdown that is being broadcast 24/7 on your small, medium or perhaps even big screen in your home.

Me, watching Rachel Maddow, EVERYDAY

Don’t get me wrong – I’d be thrilled to not have this particular story. But now that it’s here, I can’t turn away.

People say:

You’ve got to do it – for your own sanity! Actually, they don’t say it – they admonish it – and me.

To which I say/admonish back:

WHAT SANITY????

I keep repeating to anyone who asks or who will listen:

These are insane times. Is the proper response to continue life as you have always known it???

Luckily, I don’t have children. Not so much because I wouldn’t be there for them. But more like —

What if one of them was a Trump supporter??????

I honestly don’t know how the Keatons did it.

Oh, don’t reassure yourself. I absolutely would NOT leave them alone. And if they pushed it too far I most certainly COULD leave them. Or at least stop talking to them. My mother stopped talking to me for four months after I relocated to Los Angeles for a job and temporarily moved in with my Dad and stepmom. And this was 10 years after they BOTH remarried!! And Jimmy Carter was president!!

So DO NOT say that I don’t have it in me.  I have a lot in me.

And more.

The Never-Ending Story is not a fantasy novel or an OLD movie from 1984.

A different white, hairy monster

(Note: Yeah – 1984 is 34 years ago so it now qualifies as OLD. And Note the year – 1984??? George Orwell? The David Bowie song? AND – yes, I AM seeing connections that make perfect sense that YOU. ARE. MISSING).

#THEREALDONALDTRUMP is the malevolent force in OUR NEVER-ENDING STORY and the only one who can stop IT from permeating the globe and destroying US is not a BULLIED CHILD – as it is in the book (Note: Ahem, ANOTHER magical connection you didn’t see or won’t acknowledge – bullies? Children?). It is the former head of the Globe’s chief law enforcement agency – ROBERT MUELLER.

And another SIDE NOTE: Just know that if this is over soon (though as Carrie Fisher once wrote: Wishful Drinking) it is NOT too late for Harrison Ford to play him in the movie. Mueller will be 74 next month and Mr. Ford just turned 76. So by Hollywood standards Mr. Ford is actually a bit young for the part. Nevertheless, I am SURE he would take it —

…If he got final script approval.

…And his choice of director.

… and if he can’t, we know De Niro is game #efftrump

Yeah, IF this is ever over (Note: A BIG if) AND we all survive, the movie industry will be back to business as usual.   Even I would like to dream that we’ll all be a lot more benevolent by then but if the post Drumpf years really do turn out to exist the one bromide we’ll all be well-advised to even more strenuously live by will be to watch our backs.

Even the Harrison Fords among us.

I had two favorite snippets this week from our ongoing, ad-infinitum, never-ending narrative. One occurred during the 10-hour testimony of my new fantasy boyfriend, FBI agent Peter Strzok, before the House of Representatives.

Hey Pete… DM me. <wink>

Mr. Strzok was called on the carpet by countless Republican congressmen for sending text messages criticizing Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign to his former mistress, Justice Department attorney Lisa Page, which were no more inflammatory than numerous public statements made by some of those very same sitting Republican Congressman at the time about the sheer guttural horror of allowing Trump anywhere near the Republican nomination for president, much less the White House.

Still, each elected official kept coming, trying to rattle, corner and otherwise grandstand Mr. Chair Strzok into admitting his political bias disqualified him from doing his job properly just as they simultaneously and continuously disproved this theory by showing their own extreme right leaning biases over and over again with each heated accusation they threw his way.

Disgusted that his grilling of Strzok was not even slightly cracking the trained-to-be-uncrackable veteran FBI man, Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican Christian conservative from Texas long referred to as…well…any number of pejorative terms for crazed by his House colleagues, at one point angrily stared at Strzok and sputtered:

I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk — How many times did you look so innocent in your wife’s eye and lie to her about Lisa Page!?….

um… YIKES

To which Rep. Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ) finally shouted back at him:

….What is wrong with….You need your medication!!!

And you wonder why I can’t, okay won’t, turn away.

The other example was a soundless 30-second video snippet that encapsulates everything one needs to know about the ways in which Trump is able to insult everything not only within inches of his grasp but many millions of miles beyond.

After dodging 250,000 protestors in London demonstrating against him and his policies with various sizes of Baby Trump floats in diapers, our Electoral College president was scheduled the next day to meet 92 year old Queen Elizabeth for a brief tea at Windsor Castle.

It’s real.. and it’s spectacular

As the Monarch stood outside under a canopy, periodically glancing from side to side, dressed in her signature suit, gloves, hat and handbag, #Drumpf arrived a full 15 minutes late, not only leaving the nonagenarian waiting in an overly bright daytime sun but causing her to check her watch several times. Even after he finally arrived he couldn’t find a way to walk gentlemanly beside, near or behind her – only in front.

seems about right… #chompchomp

This is not only a grievous mistake in Royal protocol but, as everyone but him knows, a common courtesy when you find yourself beside 92 year olds of any station.

It is also one more reason I can’t turn off cable news. That daily reality check is the ONLY thing that is keeping my thoughts and me from TRULY going INSANE and not falling into some awful alternative universe of a dreaded NEW NORMAL.

That said, I guess I could cut down. A little.

Blondie – “One Way Or Another”

What Price?

It’s been said many times that everyone has a price.

What this means is that people will do anything if they are paid enough money or given what they want.

So the question we all need to seriously ask ourselves during these very turbulent times is:

What is YOUR price?

Is it safety from real or imagined enemies, foreign or domestic?

That is to say, doing whatever it takes to bar morally unknowable immigrants (Note: nee…all of them?) from entering our country? Or is it prohibiting any morally questionable person in support of such a policy from dining in your restaurant, not to mention, continuing as president?

Perspective

What is YOUR price?

Is it about ensuring our country thrives financially, as well as ethically?

That is to say, making sure you have a president whose first priority is cutting taxes, creating old-fashioned jobs for the long ignored and appointing Supreme Court justices who will once it again make it difficult or illegal for women to get an abortion? Or is it ceasing communication with family and now former friends who believe in all of the above, while screaming at the top of your lungs in their faces, or from the rooftops or on our airwaves, to counter their selling out our most precious American ideals of freedom, equality and democracy for all?

What is YOUR price?

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

You see where this is going. I had planned on continuing but the list and the metaphors could be – and are – endless as we approach July 4, 2018 – the 242nd anniversary of American independence.

Several days ago I watched What Price Hollywood a 1932 film directed by George Cukor about a spunky waitress who serves drinks to a charming, drunken Hollywood director that gives her a bit part in his movie, guides her to stardom and then dissipates into a state of alcoholic disrepair as her life blossoms.

The plot has since been appropriated by numerous movies, including the many versions of A Star Is Born (Note: The new Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga one opens Oct. 5, and yes, I’m counting the days). Still, this does not mean it is any less ironic or timely.

Click for the OFFICIAL countdown (to the minute) #really #REALLY

There is no reality where you can get everything you want without it costing you something. It wasn’t the waitress’ fault the director became a hopeless alcoholic and ruined his life but because he was such a great mentor and friend it breaks her heart. That is the way the drama works because that is the way the world is – we achieve things and the norms and/or people we counted on and loved quite suddenly, at least to us, fall by the wayside.

A more contemporary comparison might be Indecent Proposal, a 1993 film where billionaire Robert Redford offers happily married Demi Moore a flat $1,000,000 to spend the night with him, no strings attached. After discussing it with her high school sweetheart husband, the financially strapped Woody Harrelson, and reassuring him of their forever love, the couple agrees to the Faustian bargain and… well… it goes as Faustian bargains go if not for test marketing and a somewhat tacked on Hollywood ending.

Girl how did you think this was going to pan out? #dowagergetsreal

Meaning, if someone is going to pay you $1,000,000 suffice it to say it IS going to cost YOU – a lot – and it may not be measurable by mere currency.

It certainly seems like US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, has the right to retire from the bench anytime he wants. Yet when I read this week that he was not so subtly reassured of his legacy beforehand by the White House, and that his eldest son worked for years with Trump on real estate deals at Deutsche Bank, the institution that loaned Trump a BILLION dollars, I couldn’t help but cynically and rhetorically ask the justice, and myself, – what price?

Me… all week

Of course I will never know if a price was exacted or if this justice – the Republican who was actually the swing vote in making gay marriage the law of the land – was swayed by any of it, or by them.

So it’s instead easier for me to stew over the millions of Americans (Note: And perhaps a handful of Russian bots) who voted for and still support a president who consistently calls the press the enemy of the American people or very bad people on the very day that five journalists were gunned down in their Maryland newsroom by a crazed shooter with a vendetta against their paper. Did Trump’s words contribute to egging the guy on in that particular moment? Again, we’ll never know. But for any of his supporters who still get joy from and continue to revel in how he’s characterized one of the foundations of our democracy – the free press – again I ask – what price?

And then – well, there are the immigrant kids in those cages. Mostly brown. Many fleeing violence in their home country – the way my grandparents and friends’ relatives did when they escaped the Nazis and came here in the 1930s and early forties. Or the way my internist’s family did when he was smuggled out of war torn southeast Asia in the 1970s. Or how my dental hygienist managed it when her family ran for their lives from Iran in the 1980s.

Today in America

None of them were forcibly separated from their parents by the US government when they arrived at our borders seeking asylum (Note: The latter a legal right of ANYONE arriving at our shores. Asylum, that is).

So for those currently chuckling with satisfaction at or apoplectically angered by those of us marching in the streets who are outraged that non-English speaking three year olds are being forced to appear ALONE in court at a hearing where they are responsible for telling their own immigration story THEMSELVES before an adult in a big BLACK ROBE who towers above them, I ask – to every last one – again – what price?

And to consider if what they’re losing is worth what they’re getting in return. Financially, morally or, really, even in practical terms.

Broadway United – “We Are The World”

Making an Impact

I want to make a difference, says just about everybody at least once.

This is especially the case lately in these Un-United States.

Though ALL OF OF US, every last one, do still live in a country that now rips children from the arms of their parents crossing the border and cages them in holding facilities where they see an hour of sunlight a day.

This, by the way, while our attorney general smiles creepily about it as he gleefully quotes a Bible passage used previously by the Third Reich (Note: aka The Nazis) to defend it.

Yes, we have to own our current failures and keep repeating these facts whenever we can even if SINGELHANDLEDLY we can’t change them.

If only because historically it takes A LOT for Americans to make political change but as a people we DO CHANGE – though usually only when our backs are against the wall and there is no other alternative.

Or, as one oft quoted line goes:

Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing – after they have exhausted all other possibilities.

Over the years this has been attributed to everyone from Winston Churchill to Israeli politician Abba Eban, to an unnamed “Irishman” to, well, any amalgamation of sources.  Which makes it no less true.

There is, of course, an argument to be made that everybody thinks they are making a difference because they themselves are different. Every Instagram photo, each Facebook post, all the Twitter rants undisputedly reach people and can be a catalyst to GREAT CHANGE.

… and that’s why there are 96 colors in the box

Or simply deflation when one realizes it didn’t matter as much to everyone else as it did to us. And that even though one or more people than you thought noticed or followed or commented you will NEVER in ten lifetimes match Katy Perry’s 110 MILLION Twitter followers or even Trump’s 52 million.

If only Katy were twice as powerful.

disney princess today… President tomorrow? #itcouldhappen #noreallyitcould

Still, it is essential to remember that each of us has A LOT more power than we think. In fact, every day we hold in our hands the possibility of affecting pivotal decisions, sometimes even life and death ones, among others that cross our paths.

And if you think this isn’t so you have never been a teacher, a mentor, a friend, a lover, a parent or even enemy to anyone.

This, of course, is impossible. In those areas we are ALL double-hyphenates – at the very least.

It is not an exaggeration to say that you never know the full effect you are having on someone you forge any sort of relationship with. Sure, you know what YOU get from them but you don’t truly know how your thoughts, deeds, actions or lack of them served as a catalyst to another person’s change – which then precipitates others, who in turn go on to inspire many others, and then go on to create ______________.

You flatter me so #imblushing

Well, you get the picture. Though perhaps you don’t.

I myself have to be reminded of this every so often, usually when my psyche is at an all time low after seeing kids, usually non-white and poor, taken away from their parents for no other crime than fleeing to the one country where they were told there was an opportunity for freedom – an equal playing field where anyone, even them, could make something of their lives.

Even if this were never true for all (and most especially them in 2018) is beside the point. The United States was always more an idea than a reality. It is no different than the honest advice you might give to a beloved friend or the warm feelings you can’t help but share with a mysterious potential lover who never dreamed anyone would dare think of them the way that you do.

Paging your inner Eliza Dolittle #Icouldhavedancedallnight

Sometimes all any of us have to do is say what we feel (or believe) to someone else, give them something to think about, and change can begin to happen for them, and us, right before our eyes. Other times the timing is wrong but it doesn’t mean there won’t be a great result when we’re not around. In still other cases, we might reach no one but the mere fact that we attempted to finally connect might immeasurably help ourselves, giving us just a little more courage to speak up in different circumstances where the connection we’re trying to make could be much more significant. Or perhaps in the end it’s just another baby step towards, well, something else.

This week I attended an event in honor of the 125th anniversary of Ithaca College held at Walt Disney Studios. It was a big blowout hosted by I.C. alum Robert Iger, Disney’s chairman and chief executive officer – a guy who is arguably one of the top 10 most powerful people in the entertainment industry.

After me… of course #wink

Aside from the fact that he looks great while somehow being even OLDER than I am (Note: And let’s face it, that’s all that we in L.A. really care about, right?), it was fascinating to see the face of this guy brighten when he talked about the meaningful human connections HIS COLLEGE LIFE gave him and taught him – so much so that forty plus years later he agreed to show up and host the gala festivities on his own studio’s back lot the very day he lost his much publicized attempt to acquire 20th Century Fox, to one of his rivals, Comcast.

I’ve held an endowed CHAIR (ahem) position, taught writing and mentored countless students and graduates at the school’s L.A. campus for more than 15 years and in that evening found myself face to face with more grown up versions of people that I will always remember fondly as the not quite adults Mr. Iger once was than you can count.

Feeling very proud #channelingmyinnerMaggie

Forget that some of them now have kids who are teenagers and know a lot more about so many things relevant to today’s world than I do.

What I will always remember from that evening are the numerous instances someone came up to me and recalled some pivotal time where I managed to somehow say something that made them not give up, imparted some little piece of craft (Note: That, no doubt, someone had taught me) that fixed a problem with their work which felt insurmountable or imparted some tiny piece of life advice or social statement (Note: Likely perched on the soapbox I carry around with me, along with my manifesto of liberal talking points) that gave them the confidence to engage in the battle of the world to get what THEY really wanted.

OK.. maybe channeling my inner Ron Burgundy

I mean, who KNEW? At this point, it’s not as if I can remember 85% of the things I’ve said in the past – or even in the very recent present. Though I will confidently proclaim that in every case, whether I remembered it or not, I had NO IDEA what I was saying was even being listened to, much less important to anyone I was saying it to.

It was merely spontaneous engagement on a topic with a group of people sitting in a room and sort of willing (Note: Yeah, sometimes it is tough) to engage.

That’s not the stuff of great teaching. It’s more the talent we all have – of being a thoughtful, decent, listening and reactive human being. At the end of the day it’s only the give and take and exchange of ideas with others that ultimately makes any real difference at all. Or has the chance to.

Four Tops – “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”

Pink Polka Dots and a Zesty Meal

Kate Spade designed fun stuff – all pink and polka dots. Anthony Bourdain ate finger licking, down and dirty zesty meals – sampling and cooking or both.

And yet here we are and there they went.

Gone but not forgotten. 😦

There is discordance in the zeitgeist over the suicides of two famous people at the height of their games who had made it in the old-fashioned American tradition of building something from nothing.

They made it. They were wealthy from creative work they loved. They were at the top of their fields – respected, world-renowned and, likely, their names were even answers to a random category question on Jeopardy!   Or a particular up or down series of spaces in a N.Y. Times crossword puzzle.

Not a joke: This aired the night BEFORE her death. #unreal

In fact, it might even have been the N.Y. Times Sunday puzzle or a special Tournament of Champions Jeopardy!

Of course, this means nothing – none of it is the answer to anything when it comes to depression or even circumstantial deep sadness. You can’t dig yourself out of a hole on a ladder of thousand dollar bills or bottle admiration or viewership into a magical elixir that will cure the brain of a person who has become so isolated and overcome with their disease that the only answer they can see to end their pain is their literal end.

So very sad, and so very true

Both were parents who loved their kids, so that didn’t do it. Both had been loved and/or were loved by special someones in their lives and that couldn’t fix it. Were all their personal relationships perfect? Certainly not. But whose are? And if that were the reason, why now?

Why toss it all away on that Tuesday and that Friday of this past week when on so many others they were able to soldier on and persevere to much more than most any of their peers – certainly a lot more than so many of us.

Though…was what they had A LOT more?

Think on it

We are living in very strange times. For the first time in our history we have as our acting POTUS a billionaire (Note: Debatable though the numbers may be) with a penchant for gold gild and a measuring stick of great deals solely by tangible profit.

Succeeding means big numbers for the economy, the BEST deals – WINNING at the cost of anything.

Trump’s latest budget drastically cuts public health funds for 70 million low income and disabled people by slashing Medicaid. Its Department of Education budget grant program will be reduced to $42.5 million from $67.5 million – a whopping 36% decrease. So much for safer schools and more mentally stable students – or poor adults.

Promises kept, eh?

There is a method to their madness and that is – personal responsibility. Privatize everything because if people can afford it (nee work hard) they will get better medical care and will be less sick. Certainly, they will be less mentally ill. If you throw enough money at most problems, you can make them go away.

Um, not really. Not even close to really. Working hard and making more money is not a bad thing. But it’s not the answer.

Mike Drucker is a comedian and writer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and after the suicides of Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain this week he tweeted:

He then went on to say:

In a world of budget cutting and moneymaking quick fixes, that’s a bummer, isn’t it? You have to put in years and years of emotional time and amorphous work – the same kind of sweat you use to build a skyscraper or a bridge or a bank account without any of their physical representations.

Worse yet, there are no guarantees all of that time will have produced ANYTHING worthwhile. This is the kind of strategy that actually asks us to make believe that lending a consistent helping hand to those less fortunate, choosing to forsake profit in order to preserve what nature has given us or welcoming other worlds (world views) into ours might also, just perhaps, produce numerous, beneficial dividends. A bottom line we can’t necessarily SEE but one we most certainly will FEEL

I’m not giving up. Just laying down.. right?

It’s a lot like talk therapy. No one is saying you have to do it solely without meds but to forego it altogether and only operate on what we can see on the surface will most certainly produce only surface results.

Nothing wrong with pleasant, tasty, shiny surfaces but they do have their limits, as the loved ones of Mr. Bourdain and Ms. Spade – both private and public – can tell you.

This is not to say either one could have been saved merely by a bit more talk. Nor could they be saved only by money or by their talent. There are no quick solutions and no one person who ALONE can fix it.

Which is also not to say pink polka dots and a zesty great meal don’t create momentary jolts of happiness and treasured memories. They and much more are components to the entire WHOLE.

Lady Gaga – “You’ve Got A Friend”