Turning Back Time

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We all came to America in different ships – but we are all in the same boat now

– Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) outside the Capitol Building last week to a mostly young crowd supporting a Democratic-led sit-in demanding a vote on gun legislation

John Lewis has been a congressman for almost 30 years but is still best known to most Americans as one of the young protégés of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In that realm, he is also renowned as the young Black man whose skull was brutally fractured by nightstick-wielding Alabama state troopers during the 1965 March on Selma when he, Dr. King, and hundreds of others merely decided to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in non-violent demonstration in order to integrate the South.

Living legend

Living legend

Now 76-years old and bald, one entire side of Rep. Lewis’ head still very clearly bears the bold, visible scars of that fateful day. So as he encouraged demonstrators to never give up on their goals it is also unsurprising that a veteran lawmaker like himself would admonish them to also not give in to their anger over 200 mass shootings since 2006 (the latest of which was responsible for a record body count of 49 inside an Orlando gay nightclub) despite absolutely ZERO modifications of laws that allowed those gunmen to purchase their often quite sophisticated military grade weapons.

The way of peace is the way of love, Rep. Lewis shouted out towards the crowd as he went on to further share with them what he said Dr. King related to him all of those decades ago.

Hate is too heavy a burden to bear, so we need to lay it down – it is better to love.

And to even that he then added this 21st century addendum.

So with all of you working together — we can turn our nation around. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or White, Latino American, Asian American, Native American, Straight or Gay – we are all Americans.

My head is still spinning over this....

My head is still spinning over this….

I am hesitant to say a few unexpected tears welled in my eyes as Rep. Lewis spoke. As a gay guy of a certain age I have not yet grown used to national leaders openly including us in the multi-layered cloth of identities in this country. Yeah, I know it’s been at least a couple of years but I’m not sure you ever relax about this sort of thing when more of your life has been spent battling inequality than basking in the rewards of the opposite. In this way, I can only begin to imagine how he must feel as the purveyor of this message after what he has managed to live through.

By the way, I know his above quotes to be accurate because I watched him say them on live television during the many multi-hours of coverage this 2016 demonstration received and then sped it back using my Direct TV rewind button in order to write it down exactly and remember it. That’s yet another way the world has changed for the better since the 1960s. Not only do you get to see government and civil disobedience live and unedited, you have the opportunity to record it permanently in case you forget it, don’t pay attention in the first place or if anyone doubts you.

I have the power!

I have the power!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the sixties, seventies, fifties and even forties for several reasons this week. No, they don’t all have to do with the passage of Brexit and the anti-immigration wave not only blowing throughout England but back on to and throughout this country via our current Republican presidential nominee. They also have to do with my home TV viewing habits via one of our own fave channels – at least in this household — Turner Classic Movies.

This month TCM’s been showing musicals from the 1960s and I was seduced into too many off hours of diversion in the last few weeks somehow – mostly recently several days ago by the film versions of The Music Man (1962) and Bye Bye Birdie (1963). Now don’t get me wrong, neither of these are great films but they are infinitely watchable and entertaining. So evocative are they of another time and place and naiveté that doesn’t exist anymore that it becomes impossible to turn away.

Saturated with glee

Saturated with glee

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to imagine that there is a town still as rosy as Sweet Apple, Ohio where all teenage girls looked like Ann-Margret; with fathers who had the gay sensibilities of Paul Lynde (Note: But you didn’t have to talk about them) and where the country’s biggest problem was just how on earth we could all handle the departure into the military of our own #1 word famous swivel-hipped pop star? (Note: And one with no discernible bloodshed because we clearly were fighting no discernible war).

Well, the only thing that could be better is viewing a kind-hearted con man re-energize one of our small towns citizen by citizen and, through his deeds (and unbeknownst to himself until the end), finding that he does have a soul underneath it all. So much so that he decides to leave his life of capitalistic crime, fall in love with and marry the local spinster librarian, and spend the rest of his life as a mere private citizen in the very town that at the beginning of the story he was determined to massively rip off?

Oh sweet Americana

Oh sweet Americana

Those are the thumbnail plots of Bye Bye Birdie and The Music Man and a pretty good representation of where we were sociologically in the early 1960s. No wonder such a significant portion of white America, not to mention white England, are nostalgic for the past and want to take our country(ies) back….there????

Yes. Make no mistake about it. That’s where they want to be. To a place that, well, never existed.

Because you can’t return to Sweet Apple, Ohio without returning to a time when Rep. Lewis types not only did not serve in Congress but would get their skulls bashed in or worse in some (many?) places if they dared to eat at the same lunch counter with you. And to return to the kind of Europe that Brexit proponents are suggesting – a time where citizens of one country were not free to emigrate and work in another nearby European country as legal citizens – means also going back to a place in history not that far removed from our most horrific example of nationalistic pride and anti-other/immigration gone amuck – Nazi Germany.   You just don’t get to say that brown and black and yellow and every shade in between of people are taking your jobs and your opportunities so you’re going to outlaw them from coming any where near you without also owning the idea that you are opening the door of advocacy for a time you would most likely publicly eschew.

Sounds about right

Sounds about right

This appears to be the dilemma now. Do we trudge forward in love as Rep. Lewis suggests? Or do we go back to the real time – not the fantasy of it – that Brexit, Trump, and the brewing worldwide nativism movements suggest?

As much as I like a good or even decently nostalgic movie musical – I’ll choose to follow a battle-scarred leader like Rep. Lewis any time of the day, week or year.

I mean what could happen, right?

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Herstory

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Hillary Clinton made history this week when she became the first female nominee from one of the two major parties in the U.S. for president. Then several days later Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the darling of left, center and center-right wing sanity by giving a rousing takedown speech eviscerating Republican nominee Donald Trump as both a loud, nasty, thin-skinned fraud and a small, insecure, thin-skinned, wannabe tyrant.

Normally it’s not recommended to repeat adjectives like thin-skinned twice in alternating phrases but in this case it didn’t matter. Sen. Warren’s acumen at knowing just which buttons to push in The Republican Apprentice scored such public adoration that talk quickly grew that she was the leading contender for Hillary’s Veep spot (Note: One feels compelled to call her Hillary these days since that’s the catch phrase on her posters and how she signs all of her fundraising emails – at least to me).

We're all ears

We’re all ears

I, for one, was immediately thrilled at the possibility of two women on the ticket. I mean, how could they do any worse and what better way to get misogynist Trump’s goat, right? But looking across to my 87-year-old father, who I know has always loved Mrs. Clinton, as he calls her, and for just as long has always loathed that ass h-le Trump, as he refers to him, it occurred to me to ask –

Uh Dad, do you think having two women on the ticket matters to men in their 70s and 80s?

Silence. And then in one word he answered — 

Yes.

When I told him it didn’t matter to me he quickly retorted that I wasn’t in my 70s or 80s. When I mentioned it didn’t matter to him he just shrugged it off. How I interpreted the latter was, at this point in life I don’t really know why some people are so small-minded and I really don’t care. Can’t we just watch the basketball game or at least Turner Classic Movies?

Indeed

Indeed

I mean, how long do we have to endure the women discussion anyway? After watching news analysts of both genders questioning all day whether the nation could accept having a duo of females as our numbers 1 and 2, my mind began to drift to March 24, 2002. Do you know what day that was? I didn’t think you did. It was actually the evening that Halle Berry became the first African-American female to win best actress (Oscar, that is) and Denzel Washington became only the second African-American male in history to win best actor.

Yes, our TWO best American thespians that year were…Black! That hadn’t even happened before and that was 12 years ago. Not to mention we’ve actually had one Black # 1 in the White House for almost eight years since then. So given that more than another decade has gone by isn’t it about time two women were awarded both #1 and #2 in the same year?

The time is now

The time is now

Never mind that this is the logic by which an illogical mind works. It still doesn’t make it any less true. And are we really going to have a serious discussion about this? Can’t we watch Turner Classic Movies? I’d even consider tuning into a basketball g…. Actually, on second thought – No.

Of course, no sooner did Hillary win and Sen. Warren lambaste Mr. Thin of Skin that the barrage of Trump insults started again. (Note: Remember, he’s a self-proclaimed counter puncher who always hits bad hard):

By now anticipating such witty outrage, Sen. Warren’s staff actually bought the domain www.pocahontas.com that immediately redirects you to the Elizabeth Warren for Senate page. Among other things, it lists her personal blog and facts about the senator and where she stands on all of the major issues of the day.

(Note: For those still a bit confused, Pocahontas is the taunt this year’s Republican nominee proverbially hurls at the Senator, who he seems to be convinced is not, as she has claimed, part Native American. Though he never did try to pretend Pres. Obama wasn’t Black, Mr. Trump did first burst onto the contemporary political scene several years ago when he tried to claim our POTUS was not native born in the U.S,. as he and his birth certificate clearly state, and is therefore disqualified from being our #1 despite winning the office by many, many millions of votes. Twice).

A blast from the very recent past

A blast from the very recent past

However one feels about Sen. Warren, Mr. Trump or Pres. Obama isn’t it nice to be reading about the latest insult, punch back, scandal or near indictment that will ultimately never happen against Hillary – even if it’s just for a little bit? You’re welcome. But stay turned. This week the Drumpf-enator promises a national speech that will blow the lid off of how Hillary and Bill Clinton have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling access through the Clinton Foundation and how she, in particular, used the State Department as her own private hedge fund during her tenure as Secretary of State.

This leaves me just about enough time to learn the rules of basketball. Which I’ll begin right after my five month marathon watching Turner Classic Movies in every spare waking moment that I have. What are your plans? And please don’t be insulted that I asked.

 

Things You Can’t Say

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It was one of those weeks. Suffice it to say – don’t ask.   But if I had said everything that I thought, desperately wanted to say or almost said – I, well…

But then I thought – what’s the point of a blog, anyway? To write everything your best self would never say — to your readers.   Perhaps you’ve had one or two of these same thoughts yourself. Or maybe one or two will inspire you to share some of your own with others? Just think how much better – or worse – the world would then be. And relish it.

To the cop waiting in his patrol car on the top of a hill in front of a shuttered park:

You don’t give a crap about safety. I could see it in your eyes as you barreled down towards me. No, you wanted to give me a ticket because you either had a quota to fill or you’re p.o.’d because you’re short – even shorter than me (5’7”) and it gives you a perverse unspoken pleasure. You hate your job AND you hate your life.

Starting off strong, Chairy

Starting off strong, Chairy

And for the record, I NEVER speak in the car actually HOLDING my cell phone. It’s always on speaker or Bluetooth. But my 87-year-old father is ailing and it looked like the number of one of his health care workers so when the remote failed and I couldn’t find the speaker button I just HAD to pick it up. I tried to explain this to give not an excuse but a context and didn’t expect a break from you. But what I got was a condescending nod and a walk-away. You’re a dick. And you’ll always be smaller than I am – in every area – no matter what arena we’re in. #Copette

To the brilliant Anthony Hopkins:

Transformers 6? Really???? I remember those days when you were doing Equus on Broadway. And this was decades before you won the Oscar for Silence of the Lambs. And well before you did Remains of the Day. Not to mention Nixon, Howard’s End and even Mask of Zorro. It’s brilliant you cashed in reprising Hannibal Leccter in Hannibal and Red Dragon. Mission Impossible 2 – we get it. Even the Thor movies sort of make sense following noble duds like Alexander, Titus and Noah. 

On second thought.... #maybenot

On second thought…. #maybenot

No Tony, I couldn’t turn down$5 million, $10 million, $15 million or whatever you’re getting. But can’t you simply be Iron Man’s grandfather? Or at least a Spiderman super villain? Did you have to go to #BayLand? Fine – alimony, child support or you might lose the house in Malibu. But if you’re simply doing this for some new kitchens, swimming pools or generational visibility, I’m done. Do not #MichaelCaine1980sMe.

To Mitt Romney:

I still disagree with practically everything you stand for and find every other word out of your mouth dripping with condescension – especially when it comes to pushy gay Jews like myself. But I will give you major props for being the only high profile Republican politician to publicly and vocally still refuse to endorse Donald Trump. Who would have guessed you’d out maverick McCain or out boy scout Paul Ryan.   Still, there’s an extremely low bar out there from which to excel. #Bully4Mittens.

I think I need to get my eyes check #saywhaaa

I think I need to get my eyes checked #saywhaaa

To Tina Fey:

You’re great but how many more American Express commercials are there? Two? Ten? And why? Why, why, why, why, why??? (Note: See Anthony Hopkins). One can’t help but think it’s the agents. Except, it can’t be. Not really. You’re too young to be Bill Murray’s character in Lost in Translation. And besides, those spots only aired in Japan. #YoureNotAlecBaldwin.

Paying for her daughters' college tuitions? or funding the Mean Girls musical?

Paying for her daughters’ college tuitions? or funding the Mean Girls musical?

To haters of L.A., NYC and San Francisco:

It’s ridiculously expensive to live here because too many people want to live here. This is not our fault. It is everyone’s fault. Yes, the air is cleaner in Cheyenne, WY and Bismarck, N.D. And houses are a lot cheaper in Waco, TX.

Waco or bust. #shiplap #drinkingtheKoolAid

Waco or bust. #shiplap #drinkingtheKoolAid

So? No one is twisting your arm NOT to relocate there (as much as Chip and Joanna Gaines may try). Or to move here. That being the case – please, can the eye rolls stop towards us when you’re talking in public about American values or in private about where you find the real people who make up this country? And we’ll stop dishing about how dumb you are. Or, well, at least I will. #Maybe.

To visitors in my home:

Yes, we have a movie poster with a picture of Judy Garland on it and another vintage one being framed from the movie All About Eve. This doesn’t only mean my husband and I are gay.

Guilty

#Guilty

It also shows that we have good taste in entertainment and like the color combination of red and cream and how it mixes with the blues and yellows in the rest of the house. (Note: Fine, #Gay). Not to mention, the Citizen Kane poster is too expensive, the Ordinary People poster is too depressing and nowadays Woody Allen gets people too upset. Plus, we can’t afford a Jackson Pollock and will likely never be able to. Still, we do cop to a lack of sports memorabilia, Star Wars toys, and gym class experience. In fact, I, for one, served as attendance monitor my entire senior year of high school P.E. class and never had to change into shorts or break a sweat once in 10 months. #CrazylikeaQueen.

To MSNBC:                                     

Rachel Maddow is my oracle and too often there is a false equivalency made between you and Fox News. Still, your non-stop pursuit of all things Trump is making it impossible to defend you to others.

In the spirit of Roseanne Roseannadanna.. what are you tryin' to do, make me sick??

In the spirit of Roseanne Roseannadanna.. what are you tryin’ to do, make me sick??

Know that it’s one thing to report the news in all of its bizarreness and quite another to broadcast an endless loop of the same incoherent blathering over and over and over again for hours with only a few added sound bytes every few minutes from each one of your paid commentators. Take some of the money you saved by unwisely firing Alex Wagner and hire someone with the guts to do something ingenious – like ambush a real politician against their will and ask them a question no one else has. Then film it. And air it. #SaveHowardBeale.

Hey gurl. #changingchannels

Hey gurl. #changingchannels

To Hillary Clinton:

Good speech. Your Trump hit lines most likely to persuade fence sitters to your side:

Imagine him deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle.

– Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.

– I will leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.

Now make some of the news reports true and choose Elizabeth Warren as your veep.  In a show biz age, she’ll give you the smartest, most solid and sassiest support to take on the Orange Clown.

To #Drumpf:

You’re a mentally ill racist. Go away and get some therapy. Or at least go away. Now be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too.

 

Embarrassment of Riches

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I’ve met a few billionaires over the years. Let’s say five or under. And in case you were wondering – no, Oprah was not one of them. Though we were in the same room two of three times. Which I don’t count so much as meeting but being in the presence of her royal greatness. Yeah, I miss her and long for those simpler times when a Black woman from a poor background could try to enable the world to strive for their better selves. Rather than the present when it seems we have exactly the opposite.

Oh how I miss her

Oh how I miss her

Anyway, I only considered one of the billionaires I’ve met to be a truly happy person whose values were similar to mine and who, if push came to shove, I might even consider for U.S. president. This person’s moral compass was such that he judged people not by how much money they were making or had by accident of birth – or what possible connection or DEAL they could bring into HIS WORLD – but rather by their broader views on life. In other words, this person often hung out with and sought the company of poor people – meaning YOU AND I.

Don’t get me wrong.  YOU AND I does not necessarily mean those on the poverty level but individuals who make between $50,000-$250,000 per year. As well as others who make a little more (let’s say up to $1,000,000) and even a few who make much more (up to perhaps even $5,000,000).

By my calculations... that would the 99%

By my calculations… that would the 99%

Heck, there might have been a few here and there on the other end who made even less than the $50,000 cut-off – individuals whom he actually knew fairly well or were friends with those mentioned above and attended the many and varied social functions held at this person’s home. Some of these gatherings were casual, some were to raise money but quite often there were individuals of all shapes, sizes, ages (yeah, even children among the adults, can you imagine?) as well as incomes.

Certainly there was a respectable amount of multimillionaires and above but to watch this man walk around the room and actually listen to others as they shared their views of the world and he, in turn, revealed his with equal enthusiasm – was a genuine sight to see. He didn’t have handlers. There was sincerity in his body language and dialogue. When he engaged he looked into the eyes of the person he was engaged with rather than trying to clandestinely glance to or service what he perceived to be the more advantageous prey at his party.

Yes, he was the billionaire unicorn

Yes, he was the billionaire unicorn

I know all of the above to be so because some weeks after one of his parties about a decade and a half ago, this person accepted a dinner invitation to my humble abode. Incomes for writers fluctuate greatly and let’s say it was absolutely one of my leaner years. But show up for the very small gathering he did – engaged, joyous and happy to be there. I kept thinking — this person has given away more money than I will make in 10 lifetimes – and that’s being very generous to me. Why is he sitting in this funky bottom floor duplex apartment with worn, thin wood floors in desperate need of sanding when he could be luxuriating in several of his own luxurious homes? Or be chowing down in a five star hotel or restaurant with other power brokers or wheelers and dealers? Or better yet, charter his own private jet and fly him or his party of choice to Rome, Paris, Athens or, say, even… Palm Beach, Florida?

... in a home that probably looks something like this

… in a home that probably looks something like this

The simple answer is that this person wanted to be at my house. And not because he was slumming – or even running for office. The money was nice but it didn’t define him. He had his own foundation, still worked at his chosen profession, and continued to make and give away millions of dollars. But the money, the wealth and the privilege were not his brand. His personhood was who he was. And the corporations he owned was not this person. He was.

This man forever changed my perception of the uber-wealthy and shook up my views of just how one begins to navigate success and failure, poverty and riches.  It’s all in the game of how you perceive yourself and engage in the world. Is one lesser than, better than or, at the end of the day, on equal footing with others despite society’s too numerous to count measures and scales?

I can't really fault that logic

I can’t really fault that logic

To put it more simply — can you be a leader without being superior. Is there a way to win at what you do without inciting the hatred of your supporters for the other side and inciting them to moral and physical violence? If business really is a cutthroat and cruel arena where any actions can be forgiven because it’s not personal, how could it be that this particular person rose to the top of his, and then some, without doing any of it?

Well, perhaps he just got lucky. Or is an anomaly. Or secretly did just that and covered it up? No. He was just a guy with a lot of ideas and an inner belief in the world and in himself. In that order. Rather than vice-versa. He didn’t think so much about of making him or his company #1. He instead created a product and systems that facilitated connection – rather than alienation.

I'm starting to feel like this person might own a lot of hooded sweatshirts

I’m starting to feel like this person might own a lot of hooded sweatshirts… but no. #keepguessing

In the hours I spent with this person all that time ago he spoke a lot about wanting to continue to take what he had and use it to restore the environment to its natural state so it could be enjoyed by as many people as possible despite their means

This person loved the land and owned a lot of it – and I mean more PRIMO acreage in the most desire spots in both our urban and rural landscapes than you can imagine; and made sure that upon his death the state and federal government will take over such lands and keep and preserve them in perpetuity to their natural green habitats. The final part of the DEAL is that these lands will be open to the public to peruse and enjoy.

Channeling my inner Maria Von Trapp

Channeling my inner Maria Von Trapp

In other words, this land will not be developed into steel and concrete versions of mini-adult Disneylands that many of this man’s many, many friends could afford or would even choose to frequent. His desire is not to bring us back to a past where these lands can be GREAT AGAIN. Nor did he think it necessary to rip these lands apart at the seams in order to preserve them and bring back their greatness.

His thought was – and still is – to enable a place where we can all – everyone one of us despite our backgrounds – gather as many people together to share the land –and the infinite possibilities it evokes – as he could.

Well great, now I miss Mad Men even more

Well great, now I miss Mad Men even more

Funny enough, that’s the way he built the empire that made him rich. Not the other way around.

Final note: This person is listed as one of the top charity givers in the United States in the last 15 years with contributions in the many tens of MILLIONS of dollars. No other billionaire running for president at the moment is even in the ballpark.

Not even CLOSE.

Making America great again.  Indeed.

Your Own Worst Enemy

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What’s worse than not completing a task to the best of your ability?

Believing that no matter what you do your efforts will never be YOUR BEST. And, in turn, not THE best. Of anything.

It’s amazing when one looks across our own socio-political-pop cultural landscape how many people are absolutely convinced they are THE BEST when we all know in our heart or hearts they are exactly the opposite. On the other hand, did you ever have that supremely talented friend or colleague (Note: It could even be the face looking back at you in the mirror each morning) you knew would be famous who, through the years, vanished into obscurity? The person that you can’t even find on LinkedIn who could easily have invented it – or most certainly something the equivalent or much better in their own individual field?

... and he was never seen or heard from again

… and he was never seen or heard from again

If you’re under 25 and can’t relate to this — take a gander around the room, your hometown, your school or the social media platform of your choice and choose such a person with that predestined future. Then refer back to this post in 10 or 20 years — yes, notes will be around…somewhere – and check on that name. Or some others you didn’t single out but had considered.   I guarantee you at least one or more will fit the bill. Probably more.

This has nothing to do with the individual capabilities of any one person, even yourself, and more to do with a series of other factors, most of which would be too long and complicated to go into here. Still, there is one that we do have time for because, well, it’s been on my mind a lot lately and is probably among the most universal. And that is…

Self-doubt

And the twin/doppelgänger that comes with it –

Self-sabotage.

What makes me qualified to write about this? Simple. I’ve been one of their chief practitioners for years. On and off. Lately more off than on but still… you never do know when these evil siblings will rear their ugly heads.   They’re a helluva persistent pairing.

#deepthoughts

#deepthoughts

I talk to students every semester about writer’s block – or as I like to call it – the simple fear of being BAD, or whatever your version of it is. The selfs, however, are a whole other animal.

It’s the voice that assures you that you’re no good, especially when you’re about to be if you’d just let yourself alone. It’s the sound of your worst enemy dissing you in your brain, the doubting “friend” who is so miserable in their own life they can’t bear for you to succeed, or most especially be better than them. The relative who wants to keep you in their place or under their control. Or it could be the dulcet tones of your neighbor who has told everyone you’ve gotten too big for your britches.

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Sometimes we’re all Lady Ediths

More to the point, and for some insane reason – it could simply be you. The dark reflection of yourself that claims it doesn’t want you to fail but fears more greatly that you might leave the comfortable or miserable place you’ve gotten used to all this time (months, years or perhaps even more) and finally succeed at something – or perhaps something else.

For me, this doesn’t usually happen at the beginning of a project. I actually love challenges that people tell me I can’t or shouldn’t do. It’s more at the end – when it’s almost over – and I fear it’s time to be judged. To hand it in – give it over to the world – or even a close-knit group of people you do or don’t respect. But how bad could that even be? Who could judge me harsher than myself???

Sound familiar?

Can Donald Trump actually believe he’s right about all the hate he’s spouting? Uh, well…yeah. I don’t know him but in the case of oversized egomaniacs they’ve just managed to invert the paradigm and chosen to behave badly in an extreme effort to deflect their insecurities. I’m not necessarily talking about #Drumpf – though I could be – who knows – I don’t know him. Instead, let’s use Hitler. Did you read that autopsy results recently unearthed that he actually had a micropenis? Case closed!!

jBd5eVa

Okay, I jest. But only just a little. I don’t claim to know Hitler or Trump’s pathology. Or even Mussolini’s. Or Napoleon’s. Not that they’re similar. Though not that they aren’t, either.

You and I and maybe some others instead do not turn the hate outward and thereby inflate our tiny egos by seducing others to follow (like I said, Trump/Mussolini/ Hitler are just examples). We instead direct our hate or insecurities or whatever else you want to call it – inward – at opportune or inopportune times, depending on how you want to (or don’t want to) see it.

What this does is stop us all in our tracks before any risk is involved. But when we act like this we’re not the anti-Drumpf. We’re actually using our bluster in a similar way, just pointed in another direction – towards ourselves.

Case in point….

I can tell you this because I caught myself doing it the other day. It came at the end of a very long process, at the conclusion of an extremely tiring week, in the form of a mild but total freak out.

I’ll spare you the details. We all have our individual challenges and anxieties. One guy or gal’s freak out is another’s everyday life – and vice-versa. Well, whatever works for you. Or doesn’t.

For me, it doesn’t work. As a writer I’ve learned ways to block out the world. But this sort of thing extends beyond the written page and even the creative arts. It can apply to any task at hand in any profession. There are a million reasons not to do your job or your hobby. To not complete what’s required of you or what you secretly long to work on and finish but fear will be an embarrassing disaster you have thus decided not to complete or even start at all costs.

fail444456

What does work for me is pretending that what I’m doing is just for me. Because, well, isn’t it? In the scheme of things – say 100 years from now, who will give a crap about this piddly thing you’re/I’m/we’re devastating over? You are doing it just for you. That others might appreciate or criticize it is immaterial. Truly. Do any of us really believe when we’re 80 or 90 this project is at all going to matter? Ahh, but if it succeeds it could change people’s lives. Or — if we at least make it work to the best of our ability in that given moment it could actually change our life – if only in that given moment. And trust me, that moment of pride or relief, whichever you prefer, can be a really rewarding and life-affirming something.

So I try to stay in touch with that. I also take advice from Julia Cameron’s seminal book The Artist’s Way and write morning pages. This is three pages of stream of consciousness anything when you wake up or start work that day. Literally. And unedited. Whatever’s on your mind. And you don’t even have to punctuate. No one will ever see it but you and even you don’t have to read it over if you don’t choose to! What does it accomplish? It clears your psyche, gets out the cobwebs, lets you spew out the doubt and get it out from your brain where, if it festers, it will be do the most damage. It’s sort of what #Drumpf is doing to us en masse. Can you imagine if he actually had to contain all of those hideous thoughts? There’d be no tacky golden towers big enough.

I feel you going down a dangerous path, Chairy. Resist the urge.

I feel you going down a dangerous path, Chairy. Resist the urge.

Finally, I’ve found great freedom is surrendering the idea of being great. At this point in life, I just want to be. And after decades as a journalist and writer working with many highly creative and original thinkers, I’ve discovered the vast majority of the best of them are simply doing the work – doing their jobs when genius struck. It is true that the greatest revenge in life is loving what you do and making a living at it. When you can get excited and the ideas are flowing you’re too busy to think about result. Nor do you care. And it’s shocking how easy over the years it becomes to psych yourself into this state of mind. If you spend enough time leaving yourself alone if can actually just sneak in and happen. Naturally.

Certainly, we all do fall backwards. It can be frustrating being a part of the real world, especially these days, when every media socially rules. But those maximum density moments are exactly the time to retreat into yourself and create a safe place where you can play – just with yourself (Note: Make of that anything you will – literally). The world likes to call it play but if you indeed play your cards right it can become your work. What we have to keep reminding ourselves when we get too crazy is that they can easily be exactly the same things if we allow them to be.

I’ll See You in…

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“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” – or so says an 11th century proverb. But does that mean there is no value at all to erring on the side of positivism and kindness? Hell, if I know.

What I think, as a former movie critic and perennial critique-er of all things pop… well, let’s just say ALL things – is that we all carp way too much and should or could be a hell of a lot nicer. Still, what fun is that???

GURLLLLL please!

GURLLLLL please!

Competitions, contests and best of trophies date back to ancient times when Roman warriors really did fight to the death – and for what? The thrill of the crowd? The spectacle of macho-ness? Under order of their Emperor? Well, perhaps it was all three. At the very least they must have gotten a cool trophy and some cash prizes. Or so one hopes.

Actually, as it turns out Roman Gladiators who were victorious did receive money for each win. As well as something called a laurel crown. And guess what, they also got saluted in public!

You know... Laurel crowns... those things hipster brides wear on Pinterest

You know… Laurel crowns… those things hipster brides wear on Pinterest

Of course, the top award, which was not given all the time, was a wooden sword. This meant a permanent pass discharging them from the obligation of fighting. Yes, that’s right. Back then competition was required. You couldn’t actually sit it out if you thought awards or the powers that be in your industry were dumb, stupid or both.

Question: Is that any different than today?

You did realize we were speaking about the Oscars, right? Because you might have thought we meant the presidential race, which no one seems to be sitting out – at least on the Republican side.

C'mon Chair... the wound is still raw!

Even the Chair forgot about me

Well, let’s leave politics alone for the moment and stick with show biz since the Oscars are little more than a week away and the results far less costly for the rest of us.

Of course, the Oscars are only the largest and most regal example of entertainment award-giving and therefore the easiest example. In actuality, this applies for everything from the Razzies to the Golden Globes, back to the Saturns, down to each and every DGA, WGA, SAG, CSA citation and on through a variety of earned or faux career/life honors that seems to occur at this time of year at each “A,” “B” or “C” list film festival across the country.

If you think awards are not a marketing tool then you either had the same childhood as I did — where you spent too much time staring at a screen and dreaming of holding one of those shiny objects in your hand, or at least wearing some sort of crown or tiara in front of the mirror – or you work for one of these organizations. This is not to say that any of these honors are absolutely unearned. Only that it’s no coincidence that they occur in clumps and often around either the release time or Oscar window for each recipient’s individual star bid that same year.

Are the Oscars nothing more than a contemporary version of a laurel crown? Sort of, yes. Not to mention, they do carry a cash prize. Ask any agent in town and they will tell you a nominee or winner’s asking price and in-demand quotient often doubles, triples or more in the immediate aftermath. Which doesn’t necessarily mean the awards, nominees, recipients or entire process deserves our unyielding criticism. In some ways, it’s just the opposite.

Or in some cases, they still get paid less. #PreachJLaw

Or in some cases, they still get paid less. #PreachJLaw

In gearing up for the annual notesfromachair Oscar predictions next week I began going over the list of nominated movies and reflecting on several other films I’ve seen in the past week. I’ve found fault with a lot of them but in all honestly – are any of them just, well…AWFUL?

I’ve snidely noted that Todd Haynes’ Carol was like watching paint dry over the same scene in a two-hour loop. I’ve also told people The Revenant had story holes and believability issues so big they could rival any speech or even small statement given by The Republican Apprentice (aka our likely 2016 Republican presidential nominee).

No comment

No comment

Today I wondered: Chair, who are you to judge? And why? You of all people know how unlikely it is to even be in a position to make either of those types of films – not to mention how rare to have them emerge with a few memorable scenes that elevate them to high profile status.

Then I began to ponder: Am I just getting soft in the fast-advancing global warming age?

Well, perhaps it’s a little bit of both.

I still stand by my recent comments to anyone who would listen about the Coen brothers Hail, Caesar, when I referred to them as the most withholding filmmakers of all time. This was for a narratively flawed movie that was so intent at denying any audience satisfaction or slight emotion that they couldn’t even give Channing Tatum a big finish to an otherwise fantastic MGM-styled musical dance number.

Not to mention that hair... #why

Not to mention that hair… #ohgawd

However, a far more intelligent friend of mine recently pointed out that maybe that IS their point – a critique of melodrama and emotionalism in American movies. Sure, it’s not my thing but, well, perhaps it’s yours. Or…someone’s? (Note: Okay, yes, that’s the best I can do right now).

Then this week I watched a really solid satisfying film written by another friend of mine about the rescued Chilean miners called The 33. It had been pulled so quickly from local theatres this fall that I missed it yet viewing it now I couldn’t help but wonder – why not more love at the time of its release? It’s action-packed, emotional and well told. Certainly more than anything Michael Bay’s done of late. Or ever.

hehe

hehe

Oops, there I go again. See how insidious this all is?

I guess the bottom line is you can be harsh and bitchy all you want but that doesn’t mean you’re 100% correct. You might actually only be 75% right. Which doesn’t mean I’m going to sit through Transformers 4 again anytime soon. But I will consider the possibility that Mr. Bay could indeed one day make a movie that I might not hate. Sort of. Which would be a huge leap of faith for me.

Ditto goes for this year’s Oscar contenders. Let’s all go on record that all eight films nominated for best picture aren’t garbage. In fact, all have elements that make them good enough to be there. Except…..   Yeah, even that one, I can see on the list.

I'll leave you to your imagination....

I’ll leave you to your imagination….

Though don’t take that to imply that I support the Republican Apprentice to be on any list except one of insanity. Actually, I take that back. I have been insane myself and know a few insane people I like very much – and I don’t care to insult them. True, I might be softening but that doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on all of my core values.

 

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Billionaire Boys’ Club

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I heard a troubling statistic this week – 80 billionaires own HALF the wealth in the WORLD. You read that correctly. There are eighty people on the planet as wealthy as 3.6 BILLION of the poorest people. Not to mention, of those, 50% live in the United States. And you thought we were a country in decline?

Please.

Of course, if you’re female the news is not good.   Of those fortunate 80, only 8% are women.   Surprisingly, it’s not much better for young people since 68 of the 80 are over 50.

So if you reject the cliché of rich white men essentially owning the rest of us, well, you can’t argue with facts. This is NOT a debate on global warming.

The struggle is real

The struggle is real

You might be comforted to know the cut off point to make the Elite Eighty is a net worth of $13 billion. Though that means Oprah’s $4 billion plus doesn’t put her even near the top 200. Somehow it only seems fitting that she be there as OUR rep. But what’s fitting, or even seems so, is not reality. That much most of us 21 and over already know.

There is one piece of good news in all of this – not even The Republican Apprentice makes the team. I don’t know about you but I find some comfort in finding he’s not winning at everything – that is if you don’t count decency.

Here’s his latest invective from the campaign trail in Sioux City, Iowa this weekend:

I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any votes. It’s incredible.

See, even he can barely believe it.

LOL... he says

LOL… he says

Do I have to write the words Donald Trump? I suppose so since my prediction at a dinner party two months ago that he was the likely Republican presidential nominee this year seems to be coming true. I couldn’t foretell more than 33% of the Golden Globe winners two weeks ago yet with this I appear to be right on target. Well one can only hope history holds true and I don’t know a whole lot about what any of our futures hold, most particularly yours.

Perhaps it’s all my years working in and around the entertainment industry, but I for one have no desire or belief that a famous rich person would or even could rescue me. Too many deals fall apart; it’s easy to make promises when you’re at the top of the heap you don’t necessarily plan to, or might not even be able to, keep.

Since to get there you usually have to have enough smarts to possess a large personal wealth and career cushion, not to mention several other types of back up plans, you never really have much of your own skin in the game. Intentions are good, or not, but they seldom ever put this group in any real danger of falling in with the rest of the herd that we comprise. Yeah, you heard me. That would be us. Mooooo….

Truth bombs

Truth bombs

Therefore, it’s quite perplexing to me to see the world reaching out to today’s uber wealthy in order to lead. Putting Lord Trumpness aside, the latest news is that another mega billionaire – former three term N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg – has enlisted a team to research the viability of his own independent run for the presidency. Bloomberg’s net worth is said to be $37.2 billion, which would easily put him in the top twenty of the Elite Eighty. Though for some reason he seems to be absent from the current 2015 list. Debate on that all you want but what is undebatable is he could still easily buy and sell The Ass-holian Apprentice several times over.

Oh Chairy, don't make me laugh!

Oh Chairy, don’t make me laugh!

Does this then mean it’s us against them and our only hope is the polar (Note: That’s not a blizzard joke) opposite of a 73 year-old socialist senator from Vermont – the state with the least amount of people in the country next to Wyoming? Well, Bernie Sanders’ net worth is under $1 million so that doesn’t seem likely. Pres. Obama, a senator and best selling author, was already worth at least triple that when he was elected to the presidency more than 7 years ago.

Hillary Clinton, whose net worth is at least $31 million seems more in line with populist sentiment at the moment – and not only because she’s married to a former president who on his own is worth more than $80 million, not counting his political skills. Yet despite an initial excitement that we could finally elect our first female chief executive in U.S. history and an initial groundswell of excitement and support – the enthusiasm level for her seems to be faltering. I guess it’s no longer enough to elect someone from a minority group in the country. Oh right, females actually are the MAJORITY of voters. Perhaps, that’s it. We really do hate ourselves.

Words fail me

Words fail me

Which brings us back to the wealthy, white male elite. What better personification can there be that we’d all relate to than the virulent #OscarsSoWhite uproar over the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees? Forget that the real fight is a much larger, ongoing battle of equal opportunity in the film business. How dare those guys not nominate Will Smith for Concussion and Spike Lee for…Chi-Raq? We’ve now got Will, Jada and Spike sitting it out this year, despite Chris Rock hosting and even though the Academy has nominated Spike and Will several times in the past, awarded Spike an honorary award this year for his many contributions to the industry and currently has a Black woman serving as its president.

Not that any of the above means a damn thing when it comes to diversity. Though, nor do the Oscar nominations. They’re hardly ever fair as a barometer for anyone or anything. I mean, I for one am glad I’m not 9 year old Jacob Tremblay’s father right now or little Jacob myself. I’m not sure I could ever imagine topping that bravura performance in Room even if I lived to be Gloria Stuart’s age. Which is fast approaching.

Just kidding... this is so me!

Just kidding… this is so me!

Nevertheless, pseudo liberal bastion that it is – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, quickly announced this week it would be modifying its nominating process to disqualify some members from voting for future Oscars if they don’t have credits within the last 10 years. Plus, it is doing a massive campaign to recruit (and presumably admit, since it’s tough for anyone to get in these days), more non-white members.

Well, I’m not sure if this is entirely right or wrong but if it gets rid of a few of the macho homophobes who refused to award Brokeback Mountain Best Picture back in 2005 and instead chose the more bland and mainstream Crash – it’s all right with me. Though for sure, I’d trade it all for clean water in Flint, Michigan.

Great, now my head is now pounding with confusion about equal opportunity, wealth and fairness. Still, if anyone thinks of themselves as somehow lesser-than for not being at least a millionaire several times over at this point in their lives –here’s one last fact:

Sarah Palin’s net worth is estimated at $12 million.

I know

I know

Clearly, you don’t have to be a guy or particularly smart, seemingly sober or, well, even vaguely rational, to lead. Okay, you often do need to be white but relax –the Motion Picture Academy has picked up the mantle from Pres. Obama and is already working on that. Please don’t set us all back and, like a 1950s Disney princess, hope some wealthy white guy from the ruling class will rescue you. Movie endings don’t usually happen in real life. It’s a fantasy business.

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