Fumbling

It’s not like I didn’t know who Aaron Rodgers was before all this.  I mean, he’s engaged to Shailene Woodley!

Kidding.

The Jeopardy Guy?

Not about the engaged part but the fact that, not being much of a football fan or someone who generally follows sports (Note: Though I do like watching a great tennis match), I wouldn’t know or care about a famous NFL receiver .

Kidding again!

I know he’s a halfback.  Um, fullback.

Okay, yes —    QUARTERBACK!

But truly, on this issue and in this news cycle, who cares???

It might take a while

Last night I made dinner for two vaccinated friends and we three multi-vaxxed gay guys all of a certain age talked about three different ways to lie.   

Before I tell you what the three are it’s worth noting upfront we’ve all spent our lives in the entertainment industry where over the years, whether you like it or not, you receive a master class in learning how to recognize and, yeah okay, sometimes execute all three types of untruth-telling.

#1Make stuff up.  That’s just saying a lot of unvarnished sh-t that you know isn’t true because it helps you and, well, because you can. 

#2Lying by omission.  This is when in answer to a question, or in making a statement, you knowingly leave out facts you are aware are essential and that, if revealed, would prove the exact opposite of the argument you are making or the impression you are trying to make.

#3 – A hybrid of #1 and #2.  Using language that is vague enough to answer a question and technically tell the truth but in just enough of a wiggle room kind of way that enables you to get the reaction and response you want.

Good question

Of course, even if you succeed, being this kind of expert wordsmith doesn’t make you George Washington. Rather, you’re just a more polite version of Donald J. Trump.

Someone who joyously engages in #1 (Note: See my crowd size and we won the election by A LOT) but tried to govern us through a pandemic with #2 and various side dishes of #1.  Yeah, it really is that simple. 

Even though it can get incredibly complicated, especially when you’re not a natural born Trumpian-like liar.

You tell ’em Larry!

Rodgers, the three time NFL MVP who has so far led the Green Bay Packers to a 7-1 winning season, told reporters and media outlets back in August regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements, that he’d been immunized prior to the season beginning.  (Note: #3) Then quickly, he added:

There’s guys on the team that haven’t been vaccinated and it’s a personal decision.  (I’m) not going to judge those guys. (Note: #2.  Soooooo #2).

Gotcha!

This week, sadly, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and had to come clean and admit he was unvaccinated. 

And then he had to do some cleanup.  Actually, A LOT of cleanup.

In the entertainment business, this is usually the time a studio head gets gently ousted into an independent producing deal or a director or star leaves a project due to artistic differences.

Ding ding ding!

Though if you’re super “A” list, like Rodgers currently is, they might just weather the storm by hiring some expensive damage control experts.  Another way is for you to apologize, tell the absolute unvarnished truth, take the consequences and then try to use your platform to do some future good by learning from your mistake (Note: Attempting to make the world a slightly better place in some small, benevolent, role model-y kind of way).

Rodgers so far seems to be taking a third road that judges across the world warn against – serving as your own defense attorney and refusing to admit to the screw up that got you into all this trouble in the first place.

And looking like this isn’t helping

The Packers’ current star QB seems convinced his primary transgression right now is merely choosing to follow his own protocol of protection against COVID-19.  He simply doesn’t get that it’s the lie that almost always brings you down.

Except when you get away with it.  Which, in this case, he hasn’t.

See, it’s Rodgers’ belief that because he played this season by following all of the protocols for unvaccinated players that he is the VICTIM here.  So instead, he proclaims:

..I’m in the crosshairs of the woke angry mob right now… So, before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I think I would like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself.

Yikes

Then, in classic client as his own ill-advised attorney style, he goes on to mansplain his vaccine lie.  How the media was on a witch hunt (Note: Yes, he went THAT Trumpian) for unvaccinated players in August and that accounted for his use of the word “immunized.” 

How they’ve (his fellow players) all endured Draconian measures…not based on science, such as undergoing daily COVID-19 testing that must be negative before entering the Packers’ facilities; wearing a mask inside and around vaccinated people; physically distancing; not leaving his hotel and other travel restrictions.

In other words, behaving like a working human who cares about others and the future of humanity in the midst of a global pandemic.

Basic. Human. Decency.

As if that wasn’t enough, Rodgers went on to whine that he was tested over 300 times and was negative every time before finally testing positive this past week.

Well, um, yeah, that is the way it works. 

As we three gay guys of a certain age would have gladly told him.

We had lots and lots of friends who were healthy and HIV negative before, one day, they contracted HIV and tested positive.  Then, they got sick with full-blown AIDS.  And in the eighties and nineties, like too many with full-blown COVID-19 in 2020 and, still, into 2021, sadly died.

That’s how viruses roll.  You become positive AFTER you were negative for months…or even…years.

Truth hurts man!

To further buoy his explanation, Rodgers brought 500 pages of research he compiled to appeal his non-vaccination status to the NFL.  It’s a cornucopia of information of #1s, #2s and #3s that you can read about here.

But basically he presents it to support his claim that he needs an alternative to a shot because he’s allergic to an ingredient in the MRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).  This despite the view from the head of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s COVID Vaccine Task Force that “you’re as likely to get struck by lightning as you are to have an allergic reaction to a COVID vaccine.”

And then you’ll go BACK TO THE FUTURE!

(Note: Not to mention anecdotal evidence from our own internal study — The Chair has allergies to countless pathogens, gets regular allergy shots, has asthma and is OLD(er).  Yet he has been thrice vaccinated thus far with nary a serious reaction).

Oh, one more thing.  Rodgers says he also hesitates to get the J & J shot because he’s heard of multiple people who have had adverse events, including leaving themselves open to sterility, which is something he greatly fears because the next great chapter of my life, I believe, is being a father. (Note: There is zero link between these vaccines and sterility.  00000.00000%).

It is not for us to say that it might be a good idea for Aaron Rodgers to delay fatherhood a bit.  But as a blogger and non-football fan, I am free to write it on behalf of the families of the 750,000 dead Americans and all those AT RISK that he might have infected had his team not required him to take the COVID protocols he so vehemently and so publicly continues to resent.

Green Day – “American Idiot”

The ARTsy Annette

As America bloodily disengages from a 20-year war in Afghanistan and the COVID pandemic still rages across the U.S. thanks to the very willingly misinformed unvaccinated (Note: despite this country ironically having THE MOST ACCESS of any country in the world to these very much in demand life-saving vaccines), it seems a bit quaint to speak about things like art.

Or is it?

Art you say?

Of course, art these days isn’t limited to Picassos, Monets or anything else hanging prominently in a museum.  It’s more a blanket term that covers movies, TV, theatre, music and even sports.

It might even include chefs, scientists and TikTok influencers.

C’mon, this is art
(“Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in Different Textures and Temperatures” – Massimo Bottura)

In short, art is anything that can take us out of ourselves and our troubled world and open our minds up to a different mood or alternate way of thinking or seeing.

In that way then, and most especially in trying times like these, all this art talk begins to seem not so much quaint but essential.

Certainly not as essential as an 80-90% vaccination rate but right up there nonetheless.  If art can open up minds to some new momentary way of perceiving or participating in the world then heck yeah, we need it now more than ever.

In fact –

PLEASE! BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!

Because I’m all out of ideas for reaching the unreachable.

Yet how many times have we heard and/or read phrases like, oh, she’s a true artist or his artistic vision is limitless before we roll our eyes, disengage or want to and/or actually do scream?

Well, if you’ve spent your life listening in on conversations or reading and writing reviews the way I have, (Note: Or even trying to be creative the way most of us have, whether we know it or not), chances are the answer is too many times or, more likely, daily.  

As both a writer and a writing teacher I’m well aware of the pretention of the mere mention of the word ART and of all of the would-be artists who engage in it.

Whatever are you talking about?

Yet I’m equally aware of its power for both the art-makers and their audiences.  When it’s firing on all cylinders, at its best, it’s an unstoppable force for universal good. (Note:  Google the global impact of a once in a generation theatre piece of art like Hamilton).

Still, at its most screamingly, omni-presently ARTISTIC it does make you never want to go to another museum, watch another film or TV show, or even try to indulge in something as au-currant as TikTok ever, ever, ever again.

This weekend I spent 2 hours and 20 minutes watching a film called Annette starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard.  Let me state upfront that it’s a somewhat interesting though not thoroughly realized movie that has its moments even as it so often woefully and painfully disappoints.

We’re gonna talk about the puppet right… wait.. no?

Annette caused a ruckus at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, with any number of walkouts and boos the night it opened the film festival (Note: Exacerbated by the fest’s best director win for Leos Carax).

Yet to its credit, Amazon, one of the biggest corporations on the planet, saw fit to acquire the rights to it back in 2017, ensuring it a huge audience of subscribers with FREE ACCESS to this big risky artistic project.

That was a bold move four years ago but even more so now, in summer 2021, a time where we’ve all been aching for some diversion, or reeducation or just simple relief from the plain, glum depressiveness of our very, very mundanely unpredictable world.

Remember that there is an entire twitter community that goes after Ted Lasso, so, no one wins

Sadly, as a film, Annette is a master class in something I’d like to call artsiness gone bad.  That is to say it so revels in its difference that ultimately that is all that emerges.  It’s weirdness, it’s strangeness and its sheer differentness becomes its calling card – and its downfall.

Its ambition to out art the artsy works as a kind of creative COVID that virally swallows the whole effort whole, devouring every bit of the essential, energizing life force it might have provided us in trying times like these.

If only the filmmakers had simply told their story and not gotten so artily up our asses in every which way Annette could have really said something about whatever it was trying to say. 

Chair goes in!

Which is one of the issues of art that too stringently aspires to the groundbreaking and mind-blowing.  It forgets about the details and intricacies and nuances of the story it’s telling because it is forever trying to top itself in upending our expectations and challenging the status quo with, well…not very much.  Or, at the very least, not enough.  Or, more likely, too much.

Its star, Adam Driver, plays not so much a character but an idea.  A comic who isn’t funny, an archetypal bad boy because he dresses in black, rides a motorcycle and broods.  He lumbers and blusters his way through the world but also, quelle surprise, has a soft side.

And let’s not even start on the hair

It’s the same way with the woman he loves except she’s his complete opposite. That leaves its other star, Marion Cotillard, the task of projecting the isolated, sensitive, sweet-as-syrup voiced uber soprano.  A beloved public figure that plays a tragic heroine in seriously off the-wall operatic performance pieces that have somehow gained mass worldwide acceptance. 

Are they headed for tragedy?  Well, what do you think?  (Note:  Of course, you know what you think without having even seen it).

But even if your response was, well of course I know it’s a tragedy – it’s an opera for god sakes – but it will be interesting to understand the reasons behind all this BEHAVIOR, well, we never do.

Instead, we get events unfolding randomly with no real recognizable humanity or particular point of view.  More of a potluck smorgasbord with varied references to the demons of celebrity, the #MeToo toxic masculinity of it all, tropes of romantic codependence and addictive sex, and all the ultimate dissatisfactions to be found in marriage and parenting that one can literally shake a camera at.

… wait I think I can fit one more thing

And it’s all done in the guise of an opera, or rather opera-light, meaning most of the communication is sung by actors who don’t have particularly great voices even though they manage to get by. 

Real opera can get away with archetypal storytelling because we get swept up in the drama of the voices.  Movie rock operas like Ken Russell’s Tommy are visual delights that do the same.  And hybrid or real-life musicals like Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Damien Chazelle’s La La Land spend a lot of time on design, story, character and annoying little things like motivation, back story and logic within their magical realism.

They might seem a little pretentious to many viewers but at the end of the day they have the weight and subtext to back it up.

They might at times alienate us and disengage from us, and annoy us, but we get what the stakes are and who the people are.  Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000) starring Bjork, another Cannes premiere of a different type of unbridled artsiness that went on to win the top Palme d’Or prize, went out on countless limbs but still managed to give us women, men and show-within-a-show imaginings that always felt living and breathing and fully alive even as it reveled in the artificial.

So… not this puppet? Right, gotcha

The best of these art films immerse, challenge and even alternately annoy some in the audience as they push boundaries.  But they also try to engage us in stories that go deep into the psyche of their characters even as they exhaustively bend the rules of the worlds in which they choose to exist.

Meaning: they embrace the conceit of artiness without being engulfed by it and thus becoming its victim.

After watching Annette I read almost two dozen reviews of it on Rotten Tomatoes (Note: Because what else do I have to do?) and almost half came to the exact same conclusion.  Annette is a film that can’t entirely be recommended but, as all of these top critics wrote in different ways, they were ultimately glad it was made because, well, at least it was something different.

Ehhh… I don’t know about that

The latter is a misleading, partial truth at best and ultimately just plain lazy, which is pretty much the worst you can be as a writer.  One can be glad something is different but if one is going to be different and be praised for it (Note: Or do the praising), it comes with the obligation to go deeper and to attempt to be better.  Not to simply frolic in a trough of tropes, technical acumen and irresistible actorly flourishes, set to one’s own original music. 

and again, Adam Driver’s hair

And to not bank on the lucky chance that something, or really anything coherent happens to come out.  Or depend on the de rigueur praise of desperate critics looking for an escape from what must as this point seem to them to be an inescapable cookie cutter world of commercialized art.

By taking either the uninspired or unexamined way out, artists of every kind relinquish the personal responsibility one takes on when trying to do something big and different, especially when you have huge movie stars, because it makes it that much harder for everyone else following you and rooting for your success.

Plus, you know… puppets.

It’s a special willful ignorance of responsibility, the kind you have to everyone else trying to survive in a creative arena that is difficult enough these days because it exists in an outside world that is nearly impossible to navigate.

In short, it’s the artistic equivalent of choosing to go unvaccinated just because you can.

“We Love Each Other So Much” – Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard