Why Don’t You Just Blog About It?

It was hard to know what to write about this week.  Not because there wasn’t enough but because there was too much in too many areas.

This happens when you have a weekly column or, in this case, create a weekly column for yourself. 

Many people have asked me over the last ten years –

So Chair, why do it?  Why put this pressure on yourself?  And us?

Not a picture of me on Saturday night writing this blog… not at all

My stock answer is to quote Jim Harwood, my late colleague at Daily Variety, when asked what qualified him to review movies:

Because I have an opinion and a place to print it.

Glib as this answer was and still is, it’s only partly true. 

Discourse, disagreement and the inevitable didacticism it evokes, are how we survive. 

It’s how the world survives.  And, in turn, how it thrives.

This helps too

I never much liked the word didactic, probably because I feared it applied too much to me and wasn’t quite sure of it’s true definition.

To be didactic – meaning to be inclined to teach or lecture to others too much, and often in too boring a way, is not something to aspire to. 

Especially in a self-created weekly column.

When it’s an opinion you don’t want to hear or one with which you vehemently disagree, most of our knee jerk reactions are to feel talked down to and/or lectured to.  We want to turn the channel, scroll past or, more often than not, simply tune out and/or walk out of the room.

This energy… always

This isn’t good nor is it healthy for ourselves, our country or the world.

It’s a behavior that was enabled by the Reagan Administration when it did away with the Fairness Doctrine, which in many ways privatized the news business, stripping it of any real legal responsibility to be fair.

When you are not required to present opposing viewpoints in some way, shape or form, especially when speaking and writing about the events of the day, you are NOT being fair.  You are giving opinions that masquerade as news and getting people to believe you without knowing all the facts.

Still, it’s a start.

This is where writing a column, okay A BLOG, comes in.

Oh come now, the Chair ALWAYS has something to say #bloggingrightnow

None of what’s here could readily be classified as news coverage even though it does speak to what’s going on in the world during any given week.

Sometimes the goings on have to do with pop culture.  Other times it’s a treatise on bad drivers (Note: Everyone else) or the blissful simplicity of a plain white shirt.  And more than I realized in the last four years, it’s been a serious condemnation of racism, sexism and homophobia – in other words, a repudiation of Trumpism.

For this writer, and often the readers, it’s a way to externalize the internal emotions, often a mix of passion and anger, which drives one crazy to keep in.  An avenue to put it out into the world where it can be:

1. Identified

2. Seen

3. Discussed

And, most importantly –

4. HEARD

YES, YES, YES #merylwouldagree

To get all of the above is the jackpot and it doesn’t often happen.  The discourse equivalent of a singer who gets a four-chair turn during the blind auditions on NBC’s The Voice.

But you don’t need ALL FOUR coaches to want you on their team in order to win a singing competition.  Just like you don’t need everyone, or even the majority of people, to agree with you in order to ultimately win an argument and begin to change the world. (Note: Or at least make yourself feel better).

You just need ONE coach or ONE person to listen.  Then you continue to
“sing” and convince a few more.  And then more.  Until, well….you get what I mean.

It might not mean you’ll become The Voice but as they say in Oscar season, it’s a honor to be nominated.

Someday Amy…. Someday

Or at least on a list that was considered to be nominated.

I think of a blog, a column, or even the vocalizing of a song or a viewpoint as a way to sing a song that needs to be sung.  If this sounds a little 1960s, well, why not?

That was a turbulent time but an era that provoked more social change than any decade since.

For example, here’s what was churning me up inside this week:

– SEVEN mass shootings in SEVEN days in the U.S.  Yeah, there were TEN people killed in Boulder, CO at the King Soopers Supermarket on Monday, March 22.  This followed the EIGHT people gunned down, including SIX Asian women, at three spas in Atlanta on Tuesday March 16. 

But did you know that between those two days there were TWENTY-THREE more people shot, killed and injured en masse in Stockton, CA, Gresham, OR, Houston, TX, Dallas, TX, and Philadelphia, PA?

So…. continue to stay home?

And that almost all of the major mass shootings in US over the last several decades were done with variations of a single weapon –  the AR-15 rifle? 

– EIGHT white guy legislators, led by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, had a behind closed doors bill signing that SEVERELY curbed the right to vote statewide. Among other things, it is now a CRIME to provide WATER to those standing in line to vote.  The bill also removes the MAJORITY of drop boxes for MAIL-IN BALLOTS, sharply cuts back on the amount of polling places TO vote and DRASTICALLY reduces the number of hours the remaining polling places will be open, particularly in areas with majority Black and Brown voters.

Interesting enough, this PRIVATE bill signing was done under a PAINTING of one of the state’s most notorious SLAVE PLANTATIONS right there in the governor’s office.  And when Georgia State Legislator Park Cannon, a Black female, knocked on the governor’s door to witness said signing she was promptly handcuffed, arrested AND dragged away TO JAIL where she was charged with TWO FELONIES?

This this this this

– Elsewhere, a group of EIGHTEEN Republican members of Congress in HUNTING GEAR patrolled the Texas border armed with RIFLES, presumably for protection against an army of gun-toting drugs lords illegally entering the U.S.  In truth, that border overwhelmingly features unaccompanied CHILDREN floating via INNER TUBE to escape thugs in their native Honduras, Nicaragua or El Salvador trying to either kill them or make them their drug runners. 

– It now costs a whopping $19.95 to stream new-ish Oscar-nominated movies like The Father on platforms such as Amazon and Google because desperate theatre owners like AMC want to make up for all the business lost during the pandemic.  No, this isn’t earth shattering but it pissed me off nevertheless.

UGHHHH

Any one of these could’ve been the subject of a “column” and now, in some small way, all of them are.    What’s eating you and how can you get it out of your head?  Where do you discuss it?  Who disagrees with you and why?  Do they have a point?  What broader questions does this bring to mind and can you at least read about it AND the opposing opinion?

Before you know it, you’re not so alone in your thoughts and you’ve created a column of your own.  Or at the very least, prevented yourself from imploding.

And have the pressure of each week figuring out what else is on your mind.

#DoItForDemocracy.

You’re welcome.

Bo Burnham – “Rant”

Check out the Chair’s newest project, Pod From a Chair , now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

TWO PART EPISODE ON OSCAR NOMINATIONS NOW LIVE!

Same Script, Different Cast

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 2.38.37 PM

I can’t say it any better than the NY Times did on Saturday in its first front page editorial in almost 100 years:

It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.

I also can’t add much to my Friday night Facebook post right after I found out that the latest 14 people mowed down by terrorists – this time only an hour away from where I live in California – were longtime co-workers of their executioners.

Blue or red, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist – it’s time to Unite.

Not to mention, as a writer, I certainly wouldn’t dare to concoct the gruesome irony that this most recent pair of radical jihadist killers – who were also the parents of a six-month old – decided to murder the very same 14 co-workers who had thrown them a baby shower earlier this year.

I mean, who would believe that?

Ugh. Jeez.

Ugh. Jeez.

Imagine the desperation and twisted thinking that would lead individuals to such actions? What would it take for you to commit bloody acts that would not only inflict permanent harm on people that you knew but would ensure that you would not be around to see your child ever again – to never watch her take her first step, talk, walk or even laugh one more time?

Well, it’s a whole lot.

The terrorism that is occurring worldwide and with such frequency lately can’t simply be dismissed with they’re crazy. And they hate us seems, if not a given, certainly not a solution. And without a doubt, much too facile. It’s the equivalent of a kindergartener coming home after being beat up in school one day and telling their mother – no one likes me and I have no idea why.

It might be true but it does nothing to solve the problem.

These are actual solutions, people.

These are actual solutions, people.

We can barricade ourselves in, take steps to improve our security, launch attacks on countless assailants, horde our money and shout at the top of our lungs to scare the bad guys (and gals) away – but it won’t change anything permanently. The only way to get at the root of this is to accept what is, try to calmly understand why, and figure out how to modify behaviors.

But to deny the hate, the rage, the anger, the violence as mere fringe, lunatic behavior – or to continue to throw up our hands and be outraged by it until we retaliate in a more acceptable yet similar fashion, does nothing but create a never-ending merry-go-round of insanity.

Who knew the NY Daily News would hit the nail right on the head?

Who knew the NY Daily News would hit the nail right on the head?

Kindergarten brawls are fought this way. So are – or have – more than a few adult wars. And this is where that’s gotten us.

Oh, and let’s also include and reject stamping our feet and screaming about our second amendment rights to possess any gosh darned firearm we choose. This Thanksgiving I cooked a dinner for 16 without my beloved olive oil because one member of our newly-extended family is allergic to it. My e.v.o.o. is like your beloved Smith and Wesson. So believe it when I say — it doesn’t kill you to modify. And we all lived through it. It’s called sacrificing for the greater good.

But back to terrorism and the people/reasons it’s done.

As our great rom-com filmmaker Nancy Meyers once wrote and directed — It’s Complicated.

Remembering Meryl's kitchen does help in moments of rage

Remembering Meryl’s kitchen does help in moments of rage

Still, here’s what I know and will admit about rageful anger: It makes you a bizarre variation of who you are and it changes your thought processes. And it can at times be so powerful that it actually has you believing you are thinking more clearly than ever. In fact, if you’re on fire rageful – like 222% on the rage meter – it all seems to become crystal clear.

I can’t pretend to know what’s going on in the mind of radical Jihadi “Muslim” terrorist determined to blow the rest of us up – along with themselves – in order to change the world. Or simply in frustration at their place in the world and the powerlessness they feel to affect even the smallest of changes for the betterment of their loved ones and brethren.

But what I can do is to chime in with a metaphorical reference of my own personal experience as part of a worldwide marginalized group who at one time felt its very existence was also threatened and who certainly believed, and had proof, that the majority in power truly hated them.

This was what it was like for me and many thousands of others of gay men living in the U.S. in the 1980s and 90s during the height of our AIDS epidemic.

Yes, I’ve written about this many times before but it bears repeating. It was not unusual to watch your friends and neighbors die at the hands of an ugly, faceless assailant with no political policy in place or in sight. What made it worse, in fact put it over the top, was no interest at all on the part of those at the top of the power structure to change it. And, really, at the end of the day, it was perfectly fine not to rock the boat too much for the vast majority of others in power.   For years.   Many years.

When the stakes are literally life and death – and you’re consistently on the receiving end of the latter – you feel lost. You feel angry. You feel like you are inevitably next. And you want to destroy things.

Me during the late 80s

Me during the late 80s

Excuses? No. Just explanation.

If I hadn’t been terrified of guns and death – and had any feeling at all for a religious afterlife – I’m not sure what I would have done during those years. Though I know what I wanted to do. A very strong part of me that wanted to blow up things and people all through the eighties and well into the nineties – especially those in the upper echelons of U.S government. I wasn’t even a scintilla of upset when Pres. Reagan was shot – I was only angry that he seemed to so easily survive. This was a man who wouldn’t utter the words AIDS for seven of the eight years he was in office. A murderer, or at least perpetrator of passive genocide. Good riddance.

Perhaps this was twisted thinking. I’m not sure. It felt perfectly logical at the time. Sometimes it still does. Especially when I look back on those years.

No, I didn’t shoot at him or kill anyone. But if I were raised just slightly differently and hadn’t lucked out in the medical lottery and, to some extent, the family lottery, I’m not so sure that would be the case. It’s embarrassing and very unpleasant to admit but – I do get the rage. The appeal of a pipe bomb at the enemy. The quick fix evening of a score too long gone unpaid.

This might explain the popularity of Quentin Taratino movies #revengeporn

This might explain the popularity of Quentin Taratino movies #revengeporn

The only thing that made me feel a tad better during those times was the occasional moment when someone in the power structure spoke directly to the issue and held out even the slightest olive branch of understanding and potential action. Mere sympathy didn’t do it. It felt hollow. But a genuine pause to ask and to listen…and then listen some more…and more…and then understand…and help do something about it…that’s the one thing that began to allow the rage to dissipate.

If we can all come out from out from behind our physical and virtual walls, and respective corners, this might be worth considering – or not. Certainly there must be some other solutions out there.