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”

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Award Worthy?


I was lucky enough this week to attend the Television Academy Honors, an annual awards ceremony that recognizes the creators of socially relevant programming that creates awareness, enlightens, educates and/or positively motivates audiences.

It is an honor totally separate from the Academy’s annual Emmy Awards and was established as a way to spotlight television shows that go above and beyond to tackle difficult and timely issues in hopes that this will in some way fuel more discussion of the show and/or issue in the social zeitgeist.

It was also meant as a small pat on the back to the people who more often that not struggle against great odds to get these types of programs (e.g. scripted, non-scripted, documentary) on air.

Click here to see a full list of the 2019 winners

But suffice it to say they dealt with race (director Julia Willoughby Nason entering with Trayvon Martin’s mother to accept for Paramount Network’s docuseries, Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story);  childhood cancer (executive producer; writer Heather Wordham accepting for the Netflix comedy, Alexa and Katie, where one of  two teen friends lives with leukemia), transgender rights (creator Steven Canals and trans writer-director Janet Mock awarded for FX’s LGBTQ themed 1980s set drama series, Pose); and rape (co-directors Trish Adlesic and Greta Gandbhir cited for reporting on 13 of a group of hundreds of women awaiting scores of lost or misplaced rape kits in HBO’s I Am Evidence).

Trophies all around!

Now important as these themes are, one could argue the last thing the entertainment industry needs right now is another award, especially since presumably all of these people were paid and had the pleasure of seeing their vision and onscreen credit on TV screens, as well as many other screens, across the world.

On the other hand, why should one thing disqualify the other?

The fact that a person gets attention for or makes a living at something that benefits society is certainly not immoral in itself.    It only becomes that way when their compensation (financial or otherwise) is immorally over-the-top or the makers themselves are nauseatingly immodest, and/or immoral. 

Don’t even get me started on Mark Burnett.

In that way, show business award recipients are not unlike politicians – we may watch and secretly vote for the winner of our choice but on the whole we can also too often smell their elitism and privilege through our TV screens.  To truly trust and admire any of these guys and gals, particularly those of the political kind, is to make a leap of faith that we inevitably know we’ll be sorry for some time in the future.

Or, as the recent history of most sequels, subsequent seasons or elected officials too often demonstrate, the not-so-distant future.

I’m really glad I didn’t invest myself in this one #GameofThrones #toosoon?

Certainly this is beyond cynical (Note: even for a Chair), particularly when we speak about people who create content (Note:  Okay, I loathe that word too) that speaks to timely and serious subject matter.

You can’t lump two women who made a documentary about rape survivors whose evidence was misplaced with, say, the worst symbol of entertainment industry immortality (not to mention rape) and over-privilege – Harvey Weinstein.  Right???  Right??????

In the same way we wouldn’t condemn a white female director as slumming for having the temerity to direct a docuseries about the murder of a black male teenager like Trayvon Martin and its role in the social justice movement, especially since she had the participation of his mother.   Correct???  Correct?????

Hang in there, he’s getting to the point #TrustTheChair

Not to mention only the most insensitive loutish fool among us would gripe that said mother, Sybrina Fulton, only participated in the docuseries as a way to continue to be seen in the public eye so she could run for the job she now seeks – a seat on the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners.   Do you agree????  YOU AGREEEEE, RIGHT?????????

So, if that is the case, then why are so many of us now more than willing to jump to these same type of conclusions about many of those politicians now running for office, particularly those running for the highest political office in the land?

And why do so many more of us think even worse of the millions who just might be thinking of supporting any one of the above?

If we can award a show business content-maker for stepping up center stage and speaking eloquently to the issues, or even a single issue, then why can’t we have the same admiration for any one of the many politicians daring to do the same in our virtual Town Square at a time when, as a country, we are as divided as we’ve ever been?

High Blood Pressure 2020

Let’s leave Trump and his base voters out of this for now because that’s too easy.  Instead, let’s concentrate solely on a select few top frontrunners in the Democratic field.

Why is it that Joe Biden and his supporters are backwards-looking and the former Vice President needs to be spit-roasted and attacked on every point he’s ever made in a half century old career as we poo-poo all the positive points he scores in the 2019 landscape?

How is it that Elizabeth Warren’s supporters are unrealistic and virulent and she’s too librarian-ish and lecture-y and Trump-tainted to win a general election?

What does it say about us that Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to EVER have a serious chance of becoming U.S. president, is already being relegated to the category of moderate, safe, old school white male privilege and his supporters as something less than progressive?

When did it become okay to knock a female biracial senator like Kamala Harris for too often playing the race card and at the same time condemn her for being a little too tough on the non-white community as a former prosecutor because she rose through the mainstream political ranks while married to a white Jewish guy?  And how come it’s okay to grab HER mike on a stage and no one else’s?

Mood

I would be more than happy with any one of the above four candidates as the Democratic nominee to be our next POTUS.  And thrilled to have any of them, and many others as a REAL president.

To that end I’ve been vocal about each of them on various social media posts, as well as in person.

Yet I find that the candidate(s) and myself are ALWAYS eventually attacked by someone, and ALWAYS of my own party, for any one of the above reasons.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can take the attacks.  In fact, sometimes I too happily relish them, anxious to fight back and toss back some witty bon mot in the direction of the attacker, preferably right smack in their ____________.

Don’t mind if I do!

But that doesn’t do much except make me feel better and more superior in the moment.  Pleasurable though that may be, it also simultaneously pushes back said candidate of the moment at least a notch or two…or even three ok, eight.

Therefore it seems that if we can all too happily hand out awards for producers, directors, writers and stars who try to speak out and raise our consciousness on social issues in TV, we (including myself) might also try to cut a little slack to those few among us who we might not immediately support but who are at least trying speak to these real points in real life.

Agree or not, but to act as judge, jury and critic months before their full show, series or docudrama has even aired, or immediately condemn those of us who might like and/or try to promote the kind of socially relevant program they offer as knee-jerk ignorant, stupid or, worst of all, too privileged, IS JUST PLAIN ________.

….well, maybe consider …not doing it?

CANT… DO… IT… #trying

We will all likely try to speak out about social injustice in our own ways and through whatever means is available to us in the next year or so.  To listen to and truly consider the issues and the handful of candidates others will choose to make the case seems at the very least the mightiest of really American things to do.

It would also certainly be worthy of an award if we still gave them out for that kind of thing.   Though once upon a time we did and it was simply called… citizenship.

Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye – “Stop, Look, Listen”

People, GET IT TOGETHER

Joe Biden is Hillary 2.0 and Al Gore 3.0!  His time has passed!

Elizabeth Warren can’t win! Her voice is shrill and Republicans hate her!

Gay South Bend Mayor Pete demoted his Black chief of police for illegally wire-tapping his officers.  He’s Mr. White Privilege!  And not gay enough, anyway!

Oh, and don’t get me started on Bernie Sanders! We call him the liberal Trump.  Did you know he wants to let rapists, not to mention the Boston Marathon bomber, vote?? AND he’s a socialist!  I don’t know if even I could vote for that!

And did you know Amy Klobuchar is so nasty to her staff that when one of them forgot to get her a fork for her salad she pulled out her comb and made them sit there as she scooped her salad onto it?  Yes, and then, when she was done, barked, “Clean it!” right at them.  She’s not a president, she’s a harridan!

Oh that old chestnut…

And Beto O’Rourke???  Ugh, he’s so annoying!! I don’t know why but he’s SO ANNOYING!! Mr. Mom who never stays home!  And it’s like, WHO IS HE?????

But Kamala Harris.  As if someone from near San Francisco is ever gonna be president.  Plus she’s Black AND Indian AND married to a white Jewish guy!  Grow the f up!  Do you even know what country you’re living in these days???  Donald Trump is the president!!!!

I am sooo tired of all of this and the election is 18 months away.  Heck, even the first Democratic primary is not until Feb. 3 in Iowa.

Who will help me get through this???

Or course the bigger question is WHO will help US?

Strength in numbers??

Yes, I know only we can help ourselves.  We are the change we’ve been waiting for.   I get it.  I’ve been to therapy.  Both the personal kind and the Obama kind.

Still, the fact remains…I can’t.  I’m tired, I’m cranky and I’m pissed off with people who share most of my political views.  And I refuse to watch a THREE-HOUR Avengers movie.  One was enough for me and I can’t even recall which one I did see.

But now it’s THREE HOURS???

Why are we paying to watch super villains and superheroes when we have so many of both in Washington, D.C. and on cable news daily???

OK fine… I do find the Hulk relatable.

I overheard a bunch of film students talking in rapt excitement about the new Star Wars movie the other day and had an acid flashback moment to 1980 at a Fox screening room when I was watching one of the first pre-release press showings of The Empire Strikes Back.

It was good.  For what it was.  But if you would have told me that almost 40 years later we’d still have to be dealing with this I would have told you…  Well, never mind what I would have told you.  Because it’s the same thing I’m telling you about this upcoming election.

SAVE YOUR PENNIES!

As much as people think this is an unusual time – and in many ways it is – in a lot of other ways it’s no different than so many of the swings and changes we’ve endured as a country all through the 20th and 21st centuries that I’ve lived through thus far.

I can recall watching Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinated on TV, not to mention Jack Ruby shooting JFK’s would-be assassin live on TV in front of millions of people – a clip that lived on a lot more than 40 years later.  Probably in perpetuity of the world as we know (or don’t know) it.

.. and again thanks to shows like Mad Men #imissDonDraper

I also remember as a teenager the police shooting college protestors just a few years older than me in Kent State Ohio.  All they were doing were being teenagers, trying to end a needless war in which they and their loved ones could have been killed in, and, well, throwing a few rocks when the National Guards released tear gas on them. But then the National Guard shot 67 rounds of bullets in 13 seconds into the crowd.   Four students who were NOT EVEN PROTESTING, just observing, were killed.

You’d think we would have gotten the gun and the law enforcement thing under control by now.  Of course, we haven’t.

In case you’re not feeling outraged yet…

Nevertheless, we have survived.  Decades of intolerance turning into more tolerance and then acceptance by many more than some in marginalized communities.  Though not by others.  We even have more laws than ever to back them up, though not enough and even those aren’t always enforced.

Point being, things were REALLY bad then.  George Wallace, an avowed racist, ran for president and got 13% of the vote.  And then, of course, he too was shot.  And paralyzed.  What goes around comes around, right???

I’ll keep telling myself that, Chairy

Well, that’s what we’re hoping for right now, isn’t it?  That somehow the haters and the shooters will get theirs because we need CHANGE?  And right NOW!  Because we’ve been complacent.  We need to UPEND EVERYTHING because, well, things have never been this bad.

I’ve actually said this myself.

And then there’s this…

Yet it occurred to me, watching coverage of the latest shooting at a house of worship – this time an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in California where a crazed shooter killed one person and wounded several others – that radicalism has never quite worked in the U.S.

Individuals commit radical acts, sometimes when they’re part of the public and other times when they’re in office, but the radical doesn’t define US in the long term.

We’re more of a gradual change environment, brought on by individuals and groups proposing radical change.  You need radical thinking to move the needle.  But to lead, you need bold measures and smart, well-researched, practical plans that can be willfully executed through the actions of a President and Congress elected by we, the people.

Imagine that!?!?!

For me this means we need to stop being hysterical.  Accusatory.  And refrain from eating our own.  You all know what I mean.  No one who has lived a life of any age is perfect.  Certainly no one who has done anything in public service.  Especially no one anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. at the moment.  Especially the sloth at the top of the sloths.

OK maybe not sloths. Look how cute this one is! #justiceforsloths

This is simply a call to calm down and realize that when we decide whom to nominate to run against you know who for president there is no recipe for the perfect chocolate cake.  Or even a vanilla one.  When someone is kind enough to ask you what you want them to bake for your birthday celebration you weigh all the factors (Note: Sometimes literally and sometimes not) and pick out the one you have a hankering for at the time.

But seldom do you order the cake this much in advance.  Not even a wedding cake.

Maybe wedding cake wasn’t the best analogy

Oh, and if you’re going to a party where the birthday boy or girl chooses chocolate you don’t sit in the corner, refuse to eat the cake at all or bitch and moan that they didn’t serve the Carrot one that you would have preferred.    And for the record, I hate carrot cake.

Though I have managed to down it at a party or two in order to celebrate someone or something that I cared about.

The Beatles – “We Can Work It Out”

 

Hug Life

I caught up with a true indie film the other night called Diane that is available through VOD or at several theatres nationwide.  It is anchored by a fine leading performance by Mary Kay Place and is a movie about regrets and the ways we torture ourselves into believing we must forever pay for some major past transgression for which we can’t be forgiven.

There is no get out of jail free card in real life – well, except if you’re one of the uber rich like, say, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein – but there should be term limits for self immolation.  After one apologizes, changes one’s actions and attempts to make amends, or does at least two of the three, what more is there to do than learn from the experience and begin living one’s life in a way where you don’t make the same kind of mistake again?

Ehhhh… is this right?

That’s at least what Diane argues and after watching the film see if you don’t agree that life is short, apologies can be cleansing and that forgiveness is the ultimate form of survival and self-preservation.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was in the news this week for some past mistakes nowhere near the caliber of the ones made by Diane.  One can only imagine how many we make by the time we get to our mid-seventies.  I, for one, have my plate full at this point.

Cue Sinatra’s My Way #Ididitmyyyyyyway

The current mistake VP Biden is being spit-roasted for is, in his case, more of a way of being.  A kind of touchy, feely straight white male patriarchal thing involving hugs, intimacy, compassion and yes, perhaps over-affectionate boundary-breaking.

He is justly a bit on the ropes in the 2019 #MeToo era for invading the personal space of six women so far, NONE of whom believe his actions were of a sexual nature or rise to the level of anything at all we’ve read about in other #MeToo cases in the news.

In fact one of his accusers, Nevada politician Lucy Flores, recently admitted on a cable news program when pressed that she was a Bernie Sanders supporter and one of the prime reasons she was coming forward right now was that she felt the public should know about her experience with VP Biden and make their judgments accordingly.  Presumably, this was because she knew the public would soon be making their decisions about who to vote for in the 2020 election, a contest Biden is said to soon be entering.

I’m gonna need Steve Kornacki to break this down for me

It is not for any of us to judge how women or anyone feel about personal space.  For some, a three-second hug can be too long, a nose rub is akin to a touch in the nether regions and a kiss from anyone with whom one does not initiate it with first is beyond creepy.

Looking inward I realize I am by no means one to criticize.  To this day I find professional massages much too vulnerable and intimate an undertaking and have never fully relaxed with any of a handful of masseuses I’ve been coerced to trying over the years  (Note:  Please don’t write in with suggestions.  I’m good with getting them only from lovers (well, now husband) or friends whom I deeply trust).

This is not to say my norm is even normal.  It’s simply the way it is – for me.

What about this looks comfortable? #srsly #someonehelp

Most of us have a clear understanding of sexual violation and if not, the laws and mores are evolving and beginning to give us a much more stricter contemporary sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.

But there is no way to know what someone else’s normal is intimacy-wise, particularly if you are an especially affectionate person and grew up in that type of family or social environment.  When I first came out as gay I can recall being a bit taken aback by all of the men who wanted to kiss me hello in a greeting of warm friendship.  Now, of course, I do the same, despite me being strictly averse to massages, even from a pro.

I realize I’m starting to sound like Seinfeld here

One can argue this is vintage American behavior of certain eras and environments.  You don’t get much of this in Europe where for the most part hugs and kisses abound and male-male, female-female, male-to-female and female-male casual intimacy is more often than not seen as no big deal.

Clearly, Vice President Biden was raised in a world where hugs were plentiful and, as his real-life unforeseen tragedies unfolded, he ably played the role of consoler-in-chief.   This was so much the case that it became his personal brand of retail politics.

Joe Biden, over the years, became America’s favorite uncle, Dad and now granddad.  He was the family friend of your parents you looked forward to seeing, the guy who seemed to always want to truly hear about what you were doing.  He was someone who could suss out exactly when you needed a pat on the back or an embrace by simply looking at your face without you saying a word.

Remember the term “consoler in chief”?

Or perhaps that’s my fantasy.   Surely it’s the reason I have for decades referred to him as Uncle Joe.

Then perhaps like some of you I’m caught in a bit of a quandary.  Uncle Joe is clearly running for president, could get the nomination and will then have to square off against truly evil Uncle Donald.  The latter is the guy who occasionally takes you on lavish family trips but ALWAYS throws it back in your parents’ faces.  He’s affectionate and amiable, but watch out if you cross him.  In fact, don’t try it, ever.  He will ruin you and maybe your parents.  He will certainly do everything he can to poison the well for you among other family members and will likely succeed with many of them since you’re likely expendable and to not go along with his wishes in this family matter would mean to miss out on all those fancy trips.

But I digress.

Oh thank god this analogy is over #yuck #uncledonald

Joe Biden publicly stated this past week that in the future he promises to be more mindfulThe boundaries of protecting personal space has been reset, he said in a video posted on You Tube.  I get it.  I get it.  I hear what they’re saying and I understand it… That’s my responsibility and I will meet it.

One supposes that is the right political decision but going forward we all need to ask ourselves if it is the correct personal one.  Would you rather have not enough or too much?  Because none of us will ever get it exactly right with every person we meet.   This is especially the case for the person who meets millions.

Personally, I find it sad to err on the side of withholding when these days so many Americans are in need of one big, massive, Biden-like group hug.  And this is coming from the guy who doesn’t like massages.

Journey – “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”

Magical Thinking

Joe Biden told an audience in Omaha last week that Mike Pence is a decent guy.   Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon chose to differ in an editorial in the Washington Post and so do I.

Mr. Pence’s lifetime leadership role advocating against the LGBTQ community, including support for conversion therapy (most heinously during the AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s as an alternative way to curtail the spread of HIV), opposition to gay marriage, banning trans people from serving in the military, and attempting to legalize discrimination against gays due to religious beliefs (with proposed legislation and/or laws to back all over the above) does not make him decent.

It shows an empirical pattern of behavior that bears additional scrutiny, particularly for someone currently serving as the Vice President of all of the U.S. in 2019.

This is a real product you can buy on Amazon. You’re welcome.

The same could be said of Electoral College POTUS’s rambling two-hour speech at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) this weekend.  In perhaps his grandest of grandstanding, he threw out his usual invectives that American citizens who oppose him, as well as the media and fellow elected officials who choose to investigate his behavior, are people who don’t love our country.

But perhaps worse yet he continued to defend his self-professed love affair with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, who he claims had no knowledge of the torture and eventual death of an American teenager under his government’s hands because he told me, despite the universal agreement of our own intelligence agencies that this was not the case.

NOT fake news

It is the same argument he used to defend Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin over the last two years when American intelligence across the board provided him clear evidence that Putin directed manipulation of the 2016 election.

It is a similar kind of illogic that in those two very public hours at the podium caused him to scream, where did that come from?, in reference to Congress’ current plan to look into his finances as a way to reasonably prove his business ties to Russia in light of numerous recent accusations from members inside his own campaign that this is indeed the case.

This same blind rage also caused him to proclaim from the podium that these people are sick for wanting to check his deals.

Nice try

And it is, finally, what caused him to come up with yet a new nickname for the chairman of that House committee – my Congressman, Adam Schiff, a former California U.S. Attorney.  Before this large group of conservatives, in that same two-hour speech, broadcast worldwide, our de facto POTUS referred to that duly elected congressman as LITTLE SHIFTY SCHIFF and his work as bullschiff.

And they’re both orange!

Nice, huh?  Especially for a 72 year-old man some people call the most powerful person on Earth, partly because most conceded long ago he forfeited the usual U.S. POTUS moniker of Leader of the Free World.

Magical thinking can sometimes help get us through the day but it can never, ever make untruths into truths, fantasy into reality or sputtering, fantastical bile-soaked lies into objective evidentiary fact.

This weekend I finally caught up with a film my students had been recommending me to see for several years, Swiss Army Man.  It’s a story about a suicidal guy (Paul Dano) stranded on a desert island who finds a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) that he is able to ride to some sort of civilization through the body’s flatulence.

Ummmm…

The guy then lives off the water the body expels from his mouth in sudden gaseous spurts only to find about halfway through the story, the body actually starts talking to him.  It turns out said body’s name is Manny and in order to keep him alive the suicidal guy has to re-educate him about the joys of being human.  This being an American film the guy also, in the process, begins to discover his own humanity again.

The film’s dramatic questions are many but primary among them becomes – is the guy imagining that dead Manny can speak or is Manny some sort of divine miracle that sporadically comes to life?  In other words is Manny ultimately indestructible and does he truly possess the unexplainable ability to enable a mere mortal to appreciate life on its own very messy terms.

The Chair’s recommendation

Would that there was a Manny somewhere who could point out the bumps in the road and make it all better for those of us who too often than not these days live in the belief that it will all NOT be okay.  (Note: The film was released in a pre Trump-Pence 2016)

I consider myself one of those people sporadically and part of my current journey is to work hard enough where I don’t succumb to my inner belief that the countless negative forces in the world have conspired lately in some nefarious master plan to bring us all down – both collectively as a society as well as individually.

This meme is me until Trump is out of office

To be clear, this is not my overriding philosophy but certainly, left to my own devices, it could be.  I have a real talent for assembling events of all kinds in a viable order that could much too convincingly confirm to most of you whatever misguided or guided (at least in my mind) point I am trying to prove.

In popular parlance, it’s what’s called writing talent.

In depressing real life, it’s what enables me to be the most persuasive and darkest of pessimists if I so choose.

But in the loveliest, lightest and most seductive moments of reality, it can also easily move me to the other extreme in seconds.  What that means is it can get me to convince not only myself but others, through the use of philosophy and said rosy perceived reality, that somehow it WILL all magically be okay even though there may be more than a few signs that this is pie in the sky fantasy thinking is  not likely to at all to come true by any reasonable objective standard.

Neither, of course, is the way to go.

I see no problem with these rosy shades, Chairy.

We MUST have hope against the odds and take steps to do our jobs and live our lives and overcome the negative to create the reality we want.  More commonly, that’s called the hard work of getting out of your own way.

On the other hand, we can’t PRETEND that a divine Manny WILL somehow magically appear (or has appeared) and guide us to right the wrongs in our world or society just because we wish him or it to be so.  That is equally misguided and it is what’s more popularly referred to as “magical thinking.”  Or worse.

Joan Didion wrote a book and a play on this theme entitled The Year of Magical Thinking after the death of her husband the day after the couple’s recently married daughter fell into a coma due to pneumonia/septic shock, only to eventually die herself less than a year later.

Chairy, what are you doing to me!!

The idea that one can become so traumatized by traumatizing events that one pretends bad things didn’t happen, aren’t happening or at the very least can be resolved – and that if one dreams with just the right amount of acuity one’s loved ones at any moment could conceivably walk through the door and one’s present reality could instantly become a thing of the past – is tempting.  And that there is meaning in the smallest of events that we can then assemble to divine us through our despair on a magic carpet of made up reality is undeniably hopeful, albeit sometimes intuitively necessary.

YES, whatever gets you through, I can hear some of you saying.  Well, perhaps.  I mean, if it guides one through the grief process and doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one has the right to demand you live in the truth of despair, seeing your glass as perpetually half empty as I too often do.

this also helps me sleep at night

The trouble begins when we wish world events or real people in our lives to be something they are clearly and objectively not.  Especially leaders we don’t know personally.  Because it then gets exacerbated when their associates start to adopt the party lie to get whatever agenda they want past us, twisting themselves into pretzels of illogic in order to do so.

Meaning you can’t explain it any way you like for yourself.  At the end of the day 2 + 2 simply cannot equal 5 — much as any of us would like it to.

Whatever Gets You Thru The Night – John Lennon (feat. Elton John)

I Like Meghan McCain?

It was the sneer that finally won me over.

I’d like to say it was Pres. Obama’s lofty message of inclusion or George W. Bush poking fun at himself and finally seeming to mean it.

But it wasn’t.

Even the lost, help me looks on the faces of Ivanka and Jared as they desperately searched the room for allies, or even a safe place that would never materialize, couldn’t match it.

but like.. WHY ARE YOU THERE?!

That was because this was a simple rebuke to everything they now stand or perhaps sit for, as they were forced to do on this day.

Yup, the words that preceded it made it better.  But many of the words in Meghan McCain’s 17-minute eulogy of her father, Sen. John McCain, at the National Cathedral on Saturday were powerful.  Though none more so than:

The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great….

Those words, clever though they may be, might have hung in the air as yet another slogan of pure patriotic psychobabble were it not for – that sneer.  That two

seconds of unbridled emotion that encapsulates everything the majority of the country now feels each and every day.

You can’t plan that look, it just happens when you’re in the moment and feeling it.

Okay, perhaps Meryl Streep could mete it out but who among us has that kind of technique???  There are 21 Oscar nominations to answer you back – NO ONE.

Well, yes, but only because I’m dead.

Still, words are words, slogans are slogans and who among the now 60% of the country that stand against Trump haven’t at one time or another thought, said or heard variations.

Certainly Ms. McCain’s aren’t much better than any of the ones we’ve encountered and will ourselves utter in the not so distant future (Note: Nee tomorrow).

But that spontaneous look of disdain the minute those words sputtered out.  Heck, that was some rare, unvarnished truth on display on the national stage.

Say what you will, but this was REAL

Anyone who has lost a parent will tell you that nothing you feel is phony.  You might know Mom or Dad is terminally ill, play out the moment endlessly, but still, when it occurs, and for an unforeseeable time afterwards, you are in a jagged whirl of gut-wrenching reality.

Not everything you SAY, especially the polite and nice stuff, is true but every emotion your face SHOWS is real…and raw.   Every moment of anger, of disdain, of acidic retribution (especially the non-verbal kind) are as dependable as the fact that for the rest of your life you will be either motherless or fatherless.  It doesn’t matter what is later countered, massaged or full out denied.  Trust what a mourner is showing you, if you dare.   They are the most honest moments any of you, or us, will ever see from them.

I’ve never been a Meghan McCain fan or hater.  She’s one of those people – and they are rare – that I’ve never had much of an opinion about because she’s had so little effect on my world.

That’s all changed.  You can count me now always on the side of fan.

wait… what?

It takes a lot to get up before a large group of people at your parent’s funeral and in so many non-words, tell one of his enemies to go F—K himself.  Now think of what it takes to actually have the nerve to say it in words, feel it on your face, and do it before an international audience, where it will be preserved in perpetuity, to the President of the United States.

Okay, the Electoral College President of the United States.

As far as we know.

For now.

Srsly. When is he gone??? #AREWETHEREYET?!?!

I’d like to think I could do that, gladly, but I’m not entirely sure.  It’s one thing to tell DJT to bugger off on Twitter, or in your living room to your TV set – as I’ve roared countless times – but it’s a whole other ball of wax to muster it publicly and withstand, as Kathy Griffin calls, it, the Trump Woodchipper.

You won’t read here what the Trumpsters are saying about her but go online to the platform of your choice if you need confirmation.  Though it doesn’t take much imagination.  They’re not known, for the most part, to be original with the insults.  Pick up any rock pre-1962 and something might crawl out akin to what you might read.  Or hear.

Yep, logic no longer exists. #theend

I’d like to be able to take a lesson from the words said by Pres. Obama at the service.  To really hear him and act accordingly when he says:

So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse seems small and mean and petty.  Trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage.  It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear.  John called on us to be bigger than that, he called on us to be better than that.

Well, I believe I am doing that by in some small way by writing about the death of a person with whom I never agreed with politically (Note: Actually, I loathed his views on pretty much everything and will never forgive him for creating Sarah Palin) and really seeing him, his family and those he surrounded himself with merely as people who today I could not only learn something from and admire but…actually…could like.

But to accept as valid or do anything but repudiate what Sen. McCain’s former campaign manager Steve Schmidt on Saturday called….

…the vileness, the corruption, the self-centeredness, the selfishness and the cruelty that we see emanate from the White House in the form of President Donald Trump everyday….

It’s s a bridge too far for me.

… and yet here I am quoting a man who ran the McCain-Palin campaign #miraclescanhappen

And that goes for anyone who works for him, votes for him or in any way supports him.

For me, it only starts with a sneer.    I have no idea where it will all end.

Unless we all VOTE.

“Danny Boy” – Renee Fleming

Spin Cycle

There was no such thing as SPIN when I was a grad student in journalism at Northwestern University.

What?

No really – there wasn’t.

Oh, there were lies and bullshit and half-truths – sometimes by interview subjects, almost always from public relations flacks and, on the most difficult of stories, a consistent combination of all three. But our job as journalists, we were told, was to sift through ALL of the information and present the facts of a story, as we understood them, in the most coherent way possible so our readers could then draw their own conclusions.

OK, this method was frowned upon

– There were no alternative facts.

– There were no versions of Fox News and MSNBC with commentators telling us versions of the story we wanted to hear.

– There was no social media from which to consume fake news and no politicians or public figures in this country who would dare to deny even the most basic rudimentary truths that everyone knew were, well, TRUE.

That was what it was like in the late 1970s – a few years after Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of his knowledge, involvement and lies about Watergate and the dirty tricks he employed in order to win his election to the presidency.

seems quaint now

There was a demand for truth.

One wonders if that is even the case these days since there are so many more pleasant alternatives regardless of what side of the political or moral spectrum you are on.

For instance:

— It is much more pleasing to believe that global warming is inconclusive or even a hoax by elite scientists than to believe the Earth’s temperatures will make our planet uninhabitable by the end of the century.

— It’s also much more desirable to believe this doomsday scenario is nothing more than a liberal talking point than to acknowledge an exhaustive research report from our 13 government agencies that conclusively acknowledges our rising temperatures are, indeed, man made.

Nothing wrong here. Nothing at all.

But no need to stick merely to politics.

— Who in Hollywood wants to believe the 57 women and counting who have accused one of our most powerful industry figures over the last three decades – Harvey Weinstein – of various combinations of rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment?  Even if you loathe him, and many did long before this came to light, how do you acknowledge the community was so scared silent about his actions for so long when you were one of the many thousands who heard the rumors?

Are our careers all that much more important to us?

sigh

Yes, that was rhetorical.

— But if you don’t want to answer that then do answer how everyone could’ve heard about, and in many cases witnessed, Kevin Spacey’s thing for young boys for all those decades and done nothing? (Note: See Bill Cosby. Or so many others).

And while we’re shedding a light on my fellow liberals – Hollywood and otherwise – let’s talk about some spin on something far less serious.

Excerpts of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile’s new book have just come to light and in one of the most publicized sections she writes about how she considered replacing Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, less than two months before the election, after Mrs. Clinton fainted going into a limousine following her attendance at the NYC 9-11 memorial ceremonies.

  1. The mere advancement of this statement implies Ms. Brazile would have had the power to make this happen – which she did not.

Really not the time for this Donna.

  1. Imagine all of the things you considered under stress, including MURDER, and then consider how much of a chance they had of becoming a reality.
  2. Then consider the lessons I mentioned from journalism school and decide whether you are really telling the truth about all of the above (Note: Especially the part about you replacing her with Joe Biden for president and…Corey Booker as his vice-president???) or whether you are merely spinning a story for your own salacious benefit i.e. in order to sell more of YOUR OWN BOOKS

Not ready to buy my t-shirt quite yet

Research and analytical skills are important but so is context, instinct and experience.

As adults, we’ve all been human for more than several decades so it is in all of our collective powers to surmise THE REAL TRUTH when something doesn’t sound or feel right.

We might not have the journalistic patience or skill to prove our cases for all of the above but we can use reason to decide for ourselves exactly when we’re being spun.

To whit —

If many of the top people in the very American company you co-owned were proven to have met secretly with numerous Russians yet professed no memory of those meetings after first publicly denying them, would you believe them?

Are we all in a Men in Black sequel? #20yearoldMovieReference

#NyetRuskies?

Or would you think you were being spun in an adult version of that nauseating amusement park ride you were barely able to endure as a child?

A talented writer friend of mine named Mikko Alanne, who also happens to be a former student at the college I teach at, created the eight-part National Geographic miniseries The Long Road Home. It debuts on Nov. 7 and is based on ABC reporter Martha Raddatz’s best-selling book that takes you INSIDE the U.S. involvement in the post-Iraq War in 2004.

a must watch

The show is riveting, dramatic and sometimes difficult to watch because it shows us the real HUMAN cost of war and death and bloodshed and ideals – on all sides – and allows the audience to come to its own conclusions by re-enacting just the FACTS as much as possible. Without spinning.

Yes, stories are condensed and judgments were made. It’s certainly not a documentary and definitely not a literal re-enactment of EVERYTHING that happened. This is not the purpose of television or even film drama, whose objective is merely to get to the SPIRIT of what is true as it entertains and hopefully, in some way, informs.

I’d settle for that instead of what we’re being fed now by too many real-life sources. The half-truths, the lies and the ongoing general line of bullshit is making not only us but all of our heads worldwide spin so fast and so quickly that it really is as if we are all on one giant collective Tilt-A-Whirl ride with no way to get off.

Try not to hurl

But as any adult knows there is always a way to get off.

Blood Sweat & Tears – “Spinning Wheel”