The Truth is in the Lies

Sometimes truth is, well, too truthful.

Stuff happens in real life that you wouldn’t dare make up. On the other hand, there are a number of stories that ring hopelessly false.

It is the job of a writer to be able to navigate events, turn them into stories and convince you that the false is indeed true, the truth is actually quite false and that, in the end, it really doesn’t matter because every yarn we spin (not to mention everything we ever tell you in real life, but that’s another story) will contain elements of both.

click clack lie lie

And really, what difference does it make as long as you were entertained, i.e., laughed, escaped, brought to tears, learned something or just distracted from the inevitability of those looming Swords of Damocles hanging over your head that you do your best to never have to think about.

We Americans have showered the world with our ability to produce mass entertainment to worldwide audiences for decades.   We’ve had a knack for creating unreal reality in a way so specific, personal and sometimes quite silly or tragic that most of the planet couldn’t resist and even aspire to create the kind of yarns that we were selling.

One could argue that we’re still doing it now with the much too true as to be false, bizarre shit show of what is passing for our government. But let’s #Resist sidetracking down that rabbit hole of crazy just this once.

America 2018

Except to say this –

When people stop trying to decipher fact from fiction they have become patsies to adept storytellers. Like a well-trained hypnotist, we can seduce you into believing ANYTHING, and if we’re good enough and experienced enough, you could easily wake up fleeced of your valuables.

Quicker than a game of 3 card Monte on the streets of Manhattan. #LetTheTouristBeware.

If you don’t believe this is true – that a plurality of the U.S. are perhaps getting fleeced of their money, their values and more than likely their democracy by a flim-flam demagogue – then you are discounting the power of stories and even the moderately talented storytellers.

This passes for logic

Meaning – this is not about kids in cages, the right to choice or life, more cash or factory jobs per family. It is also not about the gaying, browning or Sodom and Gommorah-izing of our culture felt by a plurality of left-behinds or gimme mores.

In fact, it is about the plurality of those people, and perhaps more, falling for the outrageous and often non-specific solutions to those issues by a charlatan/storyteller. (Note: We storytellers are ALL charlatans of a sort).   Ask any decent writer or weaver of tall tales when they’ve had an extra glass of wine, or at 3am post coitus, and they will freely admit that all they do is take some combination of truths – that is to say people they’ve met or incidents they’ve witnessed or heard about – add a few of their own secret spices – and voila – you are in the palm of their hands. Or worse.

Live in your truth.. and lies

It is not their muse, their magic or their superhuman ability to problem solve for a generation of audiences.

It is, instead, a SKILL that is practiced. A TALENT that is honed through experience and failure. All in the package of a person/storyteller that is so dogged and determined to be THE PERSON to manipulate you into their world – to CONVINCE you of something you NEVER thought of – and often for their own benefit – that you will actually PAY them for the pleasure of being lied to.

Yes, lied to. Meaning manipulated into a world with a specific point of view of THEIR world as it applies to you.

can’t really argue with that math

There is, of course, nothing wrong with indulging in this kind of sorcery either by yourself or, if the stories are commercially mainstream enough, with your entire extended family.

But it is absolutely LETHAL to voluntarily line up in real life and swallow the entire magic show. No lady gets sawed in half and really lives.

No glitter-costumed young woman doesn’t bleed to death when she’s pinned against a dartboard and someone hurls knives at her head.

And if you think you can eat fire or be shot out of a cannon using just any blade or your enemy’s artillery fire of choice, know you will not live long enough to ever see Paul Rudd age OR know the results of the Mueller investigation. (Note: Whichever comes first – your pick – but I know which one my money is on).

These pictures span over 20 years.. so I mean, I think you know the answer #paulruddisimmortal

If you still doubt any of the above, take this dare. This week go to Netflix and watch:

Nanette – A 70 minute show by monologist/storyteller Hannah Gadsby that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen and yet, oddly familiar.

Or to Amazon and view:

A Very English Scandal A 3-hour miniseries starring Hugh Grant and directed by Stephen Frears, about sex, attempted murder and backroom politics.

must stream TV

Both of them are superior works of art done by master storytellers who will recount for you a series of absolutely true events, some of which might seem strange but all of which will likely feel both real AND familiar.

Then it will be up to you – when they’re over and your mind is clear – to put your hand on a bible or swear to a judge on the record in a court of law what exactly IS true, IS false or exists in some seductive faux nether region in between.

Nervous yet? Don’t be. It’s just a voluntary mind game offered by your friendly (Note: Sometimes) neighborhood blogger.

What should instead be more scary is when this kind of challenge is posed to us by news stations and/or elected government officials who masterfully and daily lure and tempt us with manipulated truisms masquerading as stone cold facts.

Oh there’s a lot of interest

The type of stories they offer are not mere entertainment but an especially complicated mix of false, true and in-between hybrids specifically designed to persuade us all to make REAL LIFE choices that will change not only our lives but tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of others all around the world. And not necessarily for the better.

And they are nowhere near as amusing or thoughtful as either Nanette or A Very English Scandal.  Not even close.

Of course none of that matters if enough of us buy what they’re selling. An especially troubling thought when one considers the most popular form of American entertainment has always been escapist.

Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on You”

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The Real Millennials

If you want to know what millennials are thinking about become a college professor. And if you really want to know, become a college writing professor.

May is end-of-the-semester time. That means all the original screenplays and TV pilots come in and you spend an intensive two weeks reading them, becoming immersed in worlds of THEIR making – not YOURS.

The majority of these worlds are fantastical, dystopic, and superhero-ish, and suffer from an overuse of social media, technology and the word “I.” Right?

Plus BRUNCH! and AVOCADO TOAST! right??

Wrong.

The majority of these worlds are realistic in origin and deal with themes of sexual abuse, suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, and domestic violence. At least mine, did. And I suspect in thousands of home and college offices across the country, so did a significant majority of many of the others.

Oh sure, there is the usual market share of family dysfunction and unrequited, coming-of-age love. That is a generational constant – a sort of baseline, if you will. But if you think you KNOW what is on the minds of today’s young people by simply perusing the pages of Wired or Seventeen, or by scrolling the tweets of Arianna Grande, Kylie Jenner, and Justin Bieber, think again. Because they have quite a bit more to say about the world and the majority of it is not pleasant.

Exhibit A: Teen Vogue #getit

This does not bother me as much as it makes me feel sad and oddly encouraged. On the latter point, I, too, was not particularly upbeat on the page at that age. (Note: And sometimes not even at this one). But looking back it’s easy to realize that being able to vent what I was seeing, experiencing and imagining all around me from what I was living is what got me through it. I shudder at the thought of what might have happened had I not had that outlet.

Still, what I didn’t have to battle was the mis-characterization of my generation as superficial, unfeeling and selfish. Self-indulgent, yes. But every younger person is thought to be that at some point by their elders – a too large group of whom have way too much invested in wanting them to suffer the school of hard knocks in much the same way they did.

Sad, funny, and true

The baby boomers (even those of us on its tail end) were never at our worst considered unfeeling or lacking depth. In fact, we were often condemned precisely for feeling too much and thinking too hard. (nee bleeding heart liberal).

In retrospect, that was a pretty easy cross to bear as a young person. An older generation will always lose when they essentially argue against the classic teachings of Jesus, Mother Theresa, and Melanie Safka (Note: Look her up).

More than just rollerskates!

But this new group of people moving into true adulthood have all that AND the battle against a perceived superficiality and laziness that, for the most part, I’m just not seeing. Or, more importantly, reading. Because the latter is where the truth really lies.

No one chooses to write about sexual abuse, mental illness or domestic violence because it’s fun or they think it’s going to sell. You can take that to the bank, even if you can’t do necessarily the same with scripts based on those themes.

And yet, how do you argue with brutally honest depictions of neglectful parents, miserable spouses waging part-time war against their kids and full time battle against each other, or a young woman so undone by the pain of a past sexual trauma and the darkly repressive reality of 2017 that she has no other choice but to return to the people who never understood her in the past and will in no way ever understand her in the future. (Note: One astute friend of mine wisely categorized this to me over the years as revisiting “the scene of the crime” and I can think of no better phrase either in fact or in fiction).

… and yet this is what awaits them. #sigh

I’m not sure of what you see when you turn on the news and watch an electoral POTUS who smack talks dissenters in the crudest of language (“nut job” “disgusting pig”) or laments to a class of military college graduates he’s supposed to be inspiring after three months in the Oval Office that he “can say with great surety – no politician in history has been treated worse or more unfairly” than he has.

(Note: Nelson Mandela? Lincoln? Or dare I say it, by His very own birther hand – Barack Obama?) (Note #2: I will leave out #Hillary in the spirit of #TooSoon).

Way, way, way too soon

I was reading a New Yorker profile of the great filmmaker James Ivory this morning (“Howard’s End,” “A Room With A View”) and in it he spoke of Maurice, the gay-themed romance he directed and co-wrote in 1987. It was based on a novel E.M. Forster wrote in the 1910s that was not published until after his death in 1971 primarily because it dealt with the author’s very own homosexual feelings at a time where it was dangerous and illegal to be that or think so/it.

Mr. Ivory noted that at its core the story was really no different than several of his films – “muddled young people living a lie.” Yet what I remember as a still young(ish) single, gay person after seeing it was literally a gigantic rainbow of romantic hope in a perilously sad, repressive time.

.. and yes, starring Hugh Grant.

This is because it was released at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. This was an age where even a NY Times piece touting the film at that moment took pains to reassure readers that it was about love, not “bathhouse promiscuity” and rightly imagined that skeptics would likely greet its release with comments like “Is so defiant a salute to homosexual passion really to be welcomed during a spiraling AIDS crisis?”

Well yes, they did say stuff like that – and a lot worse – in not only editorial pages but on the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives. And, through gross omission and frequent moral judgments, in our very own Oval Office. And we know, in retrospect, how that went.

I thought I erased those memories!

You write (substitute any creative endeavor) about what you see and experience around you at the time – consciously or unconsciously. There is no other way to do it. From where I sit, and read, there is quite a lot going on that we should be troubled by. Yet what should reassure us is that many in our younger generations are not hiding their feelings but attempting to deal with them by expressing them with some sort of positive actions – by art, or yes, in real life, look around – much like we did.

It might be nice if we paid a bit more attention and listened to what they’re really doing and saying instead of saying and doing exactly what our generation’s elders and naysayers tried with us.

After all, what would (Jesus/Mother Theresa/Melanie Safka) do?

“Beautiful People” Melanie