Personality Test

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People say I have a pretty good personality but that doesn’t mean you should follow my lead on anything. Not to mention there are more moments than I care to admit where I would prefer to be called devastatingly handsome. In which case, you’d likely follow my lead on everything. At least initially.

It used to be a good personality was the kiss of death – the excuse you gave for the guy or gal you wanted to set your friend up with, that individual who wasn’t devastatingly handsome – or beautiful. Nowadays, personality accounts for quite a bit. Especially since it’s gotten easier and easier for anyone with even a tiny amount of money and taste to be at least good-looking.

awww thanks

awww thanks

You can work with a personal stylist at J. Crew or even at your neighborhood department store, for gosh sakes. And in 2014, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 15.6 million people in the U.S. had at least one cosmetic procedure. The top five minor ones: Botox (6.7 mil), soft tissue fillers (2.3 mil), chemical peels (1.2 mil), laser hair removal (1.1 mil) and microdermabrasion (882,000). Among full-on surgeries: breast augmentation (286,000), nose jobs (217,000), liposuction (211,000), eyelid work (207,000) and facelifts (128,000).

That’s right – facelifts were at the bottom of the list! So clearly, this is not a top 1% thing anymore.  If you combined every person who voted on both sides in both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries you couldn’t come close to covering the amount of individuals who had Botox two years ago.

.. and that even includes Melania!

.. and that even includes Melania!

So stop blaming this on Beverly Hills matrons and movie stars and the millionaires and billionaires who don’t live and eat next door to you. Well, next door to most of you. Since in Los Angeles you never know whom you’ll find on the other side of your door, or at least restaurant booth.

This is not to say that one cosmetic procedure will make you a fabulous physical specimen. But if done right, it can get you to move up a notch or two in the public eye. As to a desirable personality trait and the people who possess them, the results must be multiplied 100 fold.

Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again can-do bullying has made him the darling of the Republican primary fight. I don’t say this as a bitter Democrat.   I write it as an accurate reporter. He doubles the poll numbers nationally across the board among any of his party competitors.

Well if we're going to get superficial....

Well if we’re going to get superficial….

Bernie Sanders’ enough is enough anger at the millionaire and billionaire class has won over the hearts and minds of young voters 18-25 by a more than 3-1 margin among Dems along with his vision of equality across the classes. Forget Jack Kennedy or Bill Clinton. No one gives a damn about how he looks because his personality is total 2016. Trump probably does get some points on the physical side via his $5000 Brioni suits but let’s face it, the orange skin/spray tan/bronzer and undecipherable hair/weave/plug/torture cancels any possible superior body aesthetic right out.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s practical message of I’m a progressive who makes progress is not particularly alluring. I mean, who wants to make progress when you can fulfill a dream mixed with several dollops of anger. Not to mention, she always sounds angry, right? But that’s what happens when women shout. She was never so popular as when she was the beleaguered spouse whose husband had cheated on her. Or when she could simply be an Internet meme of the tireless Secretary of State in shades who had your back.

Good Ole Days

Good Ole Days

 

Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican Apprentice’s closest competitor, is principally known as the one true religious conservative with constitutional common sense. Boy, is that a mouthful (and confusing). But how do I know this is true? Well, just this past week I got a note from him signed, Ted. Yes, I mean me – a gay, liberal Jew from New York who lives in Los Angeles and is in show business! Of course I knew you wouldn’t believe me. So – check this out!!

Get a load of this

Get a load of this

I’m not sure if it was my looks or personality that landed me on his hit list of potential fundraisers. But I have slept a whole lot better since personally bearing witness to the precisely targeted efforts of his personal fundraising team. Which begs the question of – how the hell did they get my name and address and what the hell were they thinking – or drinking???

Well, that’s what happens when you indulge too much on a single trait, or piece of evidence, or body part, or statement of a single human being. And, whatever it was, glitched the Cruz For President folks into believing I was worth their money (Note: They promised to match my $45 donation dollar for dollar) and effort. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous??????

For real

For real

It’s as ridiculous as 35% of Republican voters believing Mr. Trump would make a fine president. Or 75% of our millennial primary voters on the Democratic side convinced Sen. Sanders will be able to make good on the angry promises of the first real American Revolution since 1776 given what’s happening with the other 50% of the voters on the other side of aisle.

Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t born devastatingly handsome or irresistibly charismatic, but I find I’m more attracted to people, i.e. candidates and real life friends and lovers – who have dollops of both. Not to mention, a lot of other stuff. In fact, what I value most – aside from that secret desire for my own physical perfection – is an honest, down-to-earth practical person who is a bit of a dreamer. Someone with vision who is also a bit easy on the eyes. But not too easy. Because nothing worth having really is.

That’s not very 2016 but, well, as both Popeye and Zaza from La Cage Aux Folles once said and sang – I Am What I Am.

 

 

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Is this Happening?

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What is our world coming to?

The new de facto leader of the Republican Party brags he wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and limit the rights of other foreigners, such as the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing genocide in their native country, from ever getting inside our borders.

As a Jewish fellow, all I can say is good thing he wasn’t around when my grandparents entered the country. I’d have a whole different life. Or no life at all.

Here’s what it says on The Statue of Liberty, which at last glance still stands in New York Harbor:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Maybe we take the Statue down in light of 9/11? Or just erase the words. After all, it was a gift from France. They probably wouldn’t mind because of what happened in Paris a few months ago, right?

We could replace it with a shiny gold building that looks like a Dunhill cigarette lighter. That’s Gloria Steinem’s analogy about Trump towers, not mine. Because, well, how can you say it better?

Jugs of Justice

Jugs of Justice

Apropos of something, I have another question. When Trump skipped the last debate before the Iowa primary on Thursday, he claimed to have instead spearheaded an event that raised $6 million for our wounded war veterans through his website. But the only donation link on his website was to his Trump Foundation, which the PUBLIC TRUST(s) will go to our vets. But if this is so, can’t he still get some sort of personal TAX DEDUCTION from it? It’s His Foundation, right?

Any accountants out there know how to maneuver cash as a deduction amid all of the full legal slime written on a multi-billionaire’s federal tax return? Cause every little bit counts – that’s how you get and stay rich to begin with – so I’d love to get a full reading on this. That would be my American Dream at the moment. Assuming anyone could out-maneuver him or his money. Hillary? Bill? Bernie? Bueller? Anyone???

Sorkin, can you hear meeeee?

Sorkin, can you hear meeeee?

A friend of mine wrote on Facebook last week that he doesn’t see how discrimination and exclusion can be remedied by discrimination and exclusion. Okay, he was referring to the Oscars and how under the Motion Picture Academy’s new rules to remedy #OscarsSoWhite people like the lesbian female writer of Nine to Five; one of the biggest child star actors of the sixties and seventies; and another woman who was a pioneering animator back in the day, would have their voting rights stripped despite many decades of membership that always guaranteed voting. Where do these new Academy rule makers think they are – Florida? Don’t they remember that almost a decade ago, they gave Al Gore the Oscar?

Um... no no... we're good

Um… no no… we’re good

Of course Donald Trump’s frontrunner status can be compared to Oscar voting. To quote the words Mel Brooks’ character of Hitler sings in his megahit musical The Producers:

The thing you’ve got to know is…

Everything is show biz….

After which point he sings:   Heil myself, Heil to me….

Ring a bell – or lighter – yet?

#HomerKnows

#HomerKnows

Try explaining the current state of our affairs to small classrooms full of 21 year olds as I attempted this week. Sure, these were writing classes, not political ones, but to be a good writer one needs to draw from real life. Which means an understanding of human behavior in the world as it exists is essential in order to convincingly portray anything remotely recognizable in your made up world.

Somewhere along the line I got flummoxed and actually found myself reduced to phrases like:

It wasn’t always like this.

Or –

Yes, it was crazy, but never this crazy.

And then finally –

No, I’m not sure this is a joke. So why are we all laughing? Well, um, good question!

In the end I’m not sure I did any good at all. I was only hoping at that point, not to make it all seem any worse than it already is.

Me, every 10 seconds

Me, every 10 seconds

Fortunately, teachers are not held to the same standards as doctors. First Do No Harm dictates the Hippocratic oath. Yeah, right, that wasn’t happening.

I can’t blame any of this on the Trumpless Republican debate because I wasn’t watching, Instead, that night I was actually teaching one of these mini-groups. But unfortunately in an effort for clarity I recorded the damned thing and perused the highlights several days later.

Insert "Elephant in the Room" pun here

Insert “Elephant in the Room” pun here

Here are some, courtesy of the Washington Post and my viewing brain:

Jeb Bush: Look, I am in the establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive was president of the United States and my brother, who I adore as well as fantastic brother, was president.

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Carson: I’ve had more two a.m. phone calls than everybody here put together, making life and death decisions, put together very complex teams to accomplish things that have never been done before.

Sen. Ted Cruz: I would note that that the last four questions have been, “Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted…” Let me just say this…

Moderator: … It is a debate, sir.

DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES!!!

DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES!!!

Another Moderator: Can you name even one thing that the federal government does now that it should not do at all?

Gov. Chris Christie: How about one that I’ve done in New Jersey for the last six years. That’s get rid of Planned Parenthood funding from the United States of America.

Moderator: Anything bigger than that?

Christie: Bigger than that? Let me tell you something, when you SEE thousands upon thousands upon thousands of children being murdered in the womb, I can’t think of anything better than that. 

Sen. Marco Rubio: Well, let me be clear about one thing, there’s only one savior and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to earth and died for our sins..Because in the end, my goal is not simply to live on this earth for 80 years, but to live an eternity with my creator. And I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do.

Walk the walk, Rubio

Walk the walk, Rubio

Oy vey iz mir, as my grandmother used to say. How can this be happening? I have no idea. And I am more confused than ever. But luckily, I’ve never been intimidated by Dunhill lighters. I’ve always thought they were tacky. And the people who used them dumbasses.   And I’ve never been afraid to say so.

Neither should you.

SUBSCRIBE CHAIR

 

Time Bandits

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The terrific new film Spotlight tells the story of how an investigative unit of reporters from The Boston Globe spent more than a year researching, reporting and writing a story about the Massachusetts Catholic sex abuse scandal and the Catholic Church’s widespread cover-up of numerous pedophile priests. The real-life reporters won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for their work – which exposed many decades of the hidden sexual abuse of many hundreds of children by these men, who were protected by a massive labyrinth-like web of obfuscation by Church hierarchy that reached all the way to the upper echelons of the Vatican.

A year or more on one news story? Uh, yeah – sometimes it takes a long time to get things right.

#preach

#preach

I can personally testify to this as someone who just took a year to write a very complicated screenplay adaptation about another journalist who sacrificed his family and career in order to expose widespread corruption in a small midwestern town. The tireless work he did in the late 1970s failed to receive the massive attention of the Globe story but nevertheless it put some very bad people behind bars and shed light on a corrupt system of justice that slowly began to get just a little better as a result of his efforts. And yes, it also took him a little more than a year to do it.

All of this is not to say that one year is the writer/reporter’s magic number to turn out anything of value and significance. Rather what the demarcation means is that in order to tackle particularly challenging tasks of any kind —

IT. TAKES. TIME.

Not to mention lots of thought, many dead ends, and tons of hard work.

This seems a novel concept these days.

We want immediate actions and spontaneous results to some of the world’s most complicated problems. And by gum, we’re getting them.

Take terrorism (Please).

Yes, let's please discuss

Yes, let’s please discuss

The Republican Apprentice proposed a national registry just for Muslims, in addition to surveillance programs and taking a serious look at the mosques. (Note: Re the mosques – in Apprentice-speak that could mean anything from a walking tour to a burning tour depending on whether he’s talking to MSNBC or Fox News while subtly evoking images of the Holocaust or KKK).

Dr. Ben Carson advocated banning ALL Syrian refugees, whom he compared to rabid dogs running around your neighborhood.

Marco Rubio raked Pres. Obama over the coals for not taking more immediate, hands on action in light of the Paris attacks to stop the Syrian, or perhaps all immigration – it wasn’t quite clear. What was apparent…oh heck… here’s the chief sound byte from the diminutive Florida senator who could: This is a clash of civilizations. And either they win, or we win.

Ladies and gentleman and those who prefer to remain gender neutral: These are your three top Republican presidential nominee frontrunners. By A LOT. Either one of them or Hillary Clinton will be your next president.

Oh gawd, don't remind me!

Oh gawd, don’t remind me!

It’s not hard to imagine how long it took each of them to come up with those responses to perhaps what are the most complicated and perplexing issues of our time – how to stop terrorism, protect our homeland and help broker some sort of peaceful co-existence of various factions, tribes and religions in the Middle East.

A minute, 10 minutes, an hour? Certainly not a full day. They don’t have time for that.

Mrs. Clinton delivered a very detailed, in-depth, speech with her own complex plan and strategy. How boring.

Oh, and here’s the answer Pres. Obama gave at the G3 summit last week when a CNN International reporter/patriot spit out this thoughtful, provocative question re: radical terrorists: Why can’t we take out the bastards?

The president’s response: This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there we can hold it. But that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

What a wimpy nerd.

Just being honest

#reality

If I have to listen to or read about one more dumbass talking head angling for some votes, or trying to sell a few more books, or even adding a couple of more points to their TV Qs, I’m gonna barf.

And you try turning off the noise. Everyone’s talking about it. Commenting on things they know nothing about. Yes, I suppose that includes me – at least in comparison to Mrs. Clinton and the/our current sitting president. See the president gets confidential briefings on these matters daily and Hil circled the globe maybe five times as Secretary of State talking to all of the players. Which was 10 years after she spent 8 years as First Lady, circling the globe while married to another former sitting president.

Oh... was that me?

Oh… was that me?

If I wanted to build a hotel in Beirut even I might consult the Republican Apprentice. And while I wouldn’t trust him to operate on my brain for fear that someone might have told him about The Chair, I would certainly choose Dr. Ben’s hands over Hillary’s if it meant going under anesthesia. (Note: Wait, would I???) As for the Senator-ette that could – he hasn’t been in Washington, D.C. all that long and has one of the highest rates of absenteeism of any current elected official in Congress. So I guess if I needed an advisor on how to get elected to a job I didn’t want to do I admit he might be in my top five, or maybe even three.

But at the task at hand (i.e. how to stop the terrorists) – none of the above three.

blerg

blerg

They don’t take the time, they take the oxygen. And suck it out of the zeitgeist. To the point where most of the rest of us can’t breathe and recede into our own individual worlds – desperate to not pay attention when attention should be paid because it’s too tortuous to engage through their smoke and mirrors spew show of nonsensical rhetorical bluster. I always hated the jingoist dialogue in tent pole action movies. Why would I want to engage in it – or even listen to it – in real life?

It is in this way that the lazy know-nothings win. To fight them is the intellectual equivalent of continuing to go out to cafes in order to not let the terrorists win. But one has to keep paying attention, reason through the muck and fear and put a great deal of thought into considering what the long term solutions are and who best can lead us there if we are to survive through this.

We’ll be lucky if it takes just a year.

How Many Kids (and who’s counting)?

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Since Sept. 2008 Arkansas’ first family of TLC, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, have been reality television royalty with their 17 18 19 Kids and Counting – a top rated network series following the exploits of the couple and their almost score (Note: Score=20) of God-fearing, home-schooled, fundamentalist born and bred brood of biological children.

Millions of people have been fascinated by the loves and lives of the Duggars as they continued to have children, their children began to have children (Note: Though all were married first) and all of these many, many children (Note #2: Presided over by two adults) made many, many, many more millions of dollars for everyone through the requisite cross-pollination of books, personal appearances and Lord knows what other kinds of entertainment industry vertical integration the law allows.

Bigger than Jesus

Bigger than Jesus

Well, the gravy train has now stopped and soon all they will be able to do is wipe their ASSES with those ASSETS. This is thanks not to any left wing, gay agenda but merely to the fact that the oldest of that near score of children, 27-year-old Josh Duggar, has admitted to molesting five underage girls when he was 14 and 15 years-old, including many of his own sisters.

Compounding the matter is that both his parents knew of his crimes but instead of sending him to therapy or seeking other type of medical or police intervention, they instead chose to have their son confess his crimes to a local state trooper friend who himself was subsequently sent away to prison on multiple counts of child pornography. Needless to say the family trooper friend never officially reported the crimes.   Instead, he gave Josh a talking to, Josh was sent away to work on a relative’s farm for a while and the family prayed a lot that all would be okay for everyone.

#preach

#preach

Though none of those prayers included any type of, well much of anything except more prayers for the under age women in question, they clearly did include requests to the powers-that-be above (or below) us that this would all stay quiet. That seems clear because their Duggar television show subsequently debuted, became a huge success and would continue to be so for quite some time to come. I mean, answered prayers would have to be the case because, well, I don’t know about you but, like all great things, the family’s TV success would seem to simply be a question of God’s will, right?

The Duggars believe a lot in God’s will. In fact, they credit God Himself (or, one supposes, Herself) for granting them fame and fortune by way of one of nature’s miracles – their second born of nineteen children. As they tell their story, back when Jim Bob and Michelle first were married they actually did practice birth control. But when Michelle conceived their second child despite being on The Pill and then miscarried said child, they realized they had actually interfered with God’s plan and decided to never again decide to second-guess the Lord by using modern medical science. The result? Well, you can see – 19 Kids and Counting. Though, as of several days ago, no more TV show.   Hmmm, you don’t suspect this time they started using condoms, do y..? Nahhhh…….

Look at these sinners

Look at these sinners

None of this explains how they managed to conceive Josh, who managed to sneak in as a planned pregnancy back when they believed in oral contraception and back when their use of The Pill was working as it should. Wait, you don’t suppose this was the reason for Josh’s predilection towards molestation, do you??? Could it be some sort of grand punishment for their legitimate use of…The Pill???? The mind reels.

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Incidentally, this would not be a gigantic leap of logical in the Rules According to Duggar. Aside from their opposition to birth control, just about last year at this time Michelle recorded statewide robo-calls urging voters to vote “no” on an Arkansas law intended to address discrimination against the LGBT community since it is one of dozens of states that do not include housing and discrimination protection in cases of sexual identity and gender discrimination.

Her exact words? Well, that passage of the law would allow males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

Well, certainly one would not want to allow any male to improperly enter private areas reserved specifically for females, especially if they were young girls. Right??? That must be right since Mrs. Duggar, a local heroine if nothing else, won her crusade and saw the law voted down. Unless, um, maybe that was God’s will, too??

Josh Duggar, himself now the father of a five year-old daughter and two younger sons, with another unborn child along the way, was up until several days ago executive director of the Family Research Council’s Washington, DC legislative affiliate, FRC Action. In his post, #1 of 19 was responsible for lobbying lawmakers to advance the political and social agendas of the organization, which includes abstinence-only education, intelligent design, prayer in public schools and regulation of pornography and other obscene, indecent or profane programming on broadcast and cable television. It is also opposed to legalized abortion, stem-cell research and all forms of gambling.

You won't like him when he's angry

You won’t like him when he’s angry

The FRC is perhaps best known for its virulent opposition to same-sex marriage and gay adoption. FRC president Tony Perkins has publicly and repeatedly stated the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children and in the past the organization has gone so far as to say “one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the prophets of a new sexual order.” For these and many other statements excoriating the LGBT community and its rights, the Family Research Council was several years ago officially classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Regrets?

Regrets?

Regarding homosexuality, Josh Duggar himself was last year quoted as saying the LGBT community and its agenda wasa threat to children” and that his own lesbian aunt (his mother Michelle’s older sister) “chooses her lifestyle.”

There was a time in the previous century, 100 years ago to be exact, where a whole subculture of women in the U.S. freely made love with other women.   Not only that but some of these were Black women who smoked, drank and generally hung out as they occasionally dressed as the men did; and no one cared or even said much about it. Among the women in this enclave was one of the most famous blues singers who ever lived – Bessie Smith – and if you have a couple of hours, which you know you do, it might be worth your time to relive these very olden times and morals via the very wonderfully bold and impressionistic HBO film Bessie, starring Queen Latifah in the title role and Mo’Nique as her mentor, friend and fellow trailblazer, Ma Rainey. Both are superb in it.

Lessons in fabulousity

Lessons in fabulousity

But what’s even more incredible, at least in FRC and Duggar world, is that 100 years later these women are both lauded as creative legends and heirs to a new era where the idea of two women (or men for that matter) making love legally and within the protection of a marriage contract, if they so desire, has become the norm in more states than not – as has their ability to create, adopt or raise children if they so choose. One sort of wants to ask the Duggars if that, too, could be attributed to God’s will, or do they perhaps predict a Biblical October surprise along the lines of locusts and pestilence as retribution against such un-Christian, nee immoral, yet perfectly legal social activities.

Well, it’s all enough to make you want to send Josh Duggar not to jail for his admitted inexcusable behavior which he this week publicly apologized for but to Ireland where 60% of the citizenry voted to make themselves the first country in the world to totally and 100% legalize same sex marriage by popular vote.

Putting the Gae in Gaelic!

Putting the Gae in Gaelic!

He might see it as punishment and, okay I for one would oppose it. Because we all know that clearly Ireland will emerge as THE place to be for fun and frolic as this decade comes to a close.

As for the future of TLC and the Duggar brand –- God knows it doesn’t look good.

The Anti-Moron Law

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This is one of many famous quips from Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of U.S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt and lifelong Washington, DC insider.  Widely known for her scathing wit and an innate ability to bring the rich and famous to their knees with the mere flick of an impromptu remark or deed (she once put a tack on the chair of a too dignified pretentious gentleman in DC’s Capitol Gallery only to look away with indifference when he leapt up in pain), one could imagine Mrs. Longworth would either be rendered speechless or simply throw her hands up in horror if she were alive today.  Or perhaps she would simply throw up.

It is not only the political arena she was born into right before the turn of the 20th century and remained prominent in through the post Nixon Watergate era that would cause this.  Though we could easily start there.  It’s that today, a mere 30 plus years since her death at age 96, there seems to be no line of offensiveness, disrespectfulness or, well, truthiness (forget truth – that’s long been buried, along with Mrs. Longworth) that can’t be crossed.

You might be expecting a rant against the recent Tea Party-led government shutdown of 16 days that is estimated to have cost the U.S. a tidy $22 billion in revenue.  Well, we might get to that.  But first, in the spirit of Mrs. Longworth, let’s start with something a little bit more basic, and a lot more fun.

I’m at the gym late on a Friday afternoon – an hour of the day where presumably there isn’t a lot of pressing business being done, especially by folks with enough leisure time to be at a public gym.  In any event, I’ve got the headphones on, the treadmill roaring and I’m trying to keep up to the music as I’m sweating, and huffing and puffing – and doing a pretty good job of it, thank you very much – when I begin to hear the sounds of someone chattering next to me.

gym_cell-phone

I ask myself – how can this be?  The Broadway soundtrack to Thoroughly Modern Millie is pretty loud and pretty (okay VERY) gay in my ears.  No one could get a word in edgewise under normal circumstances and ruin my concentration.  Certainly no one I’d ever come across.  Hmmm, maybe it’s my imagination, I thought, as I prepared for the big eleven o’clock number in my mind.

Then suddenly – there’s more chatter, which I begin to halfway understand.  And unlike the usual chatter mine seems to have a bit of a — Spanish accent.

Nagarav-na….But he said he’d blgrda-nanita blrg…….And she said she would malagagana bragnavan-nya…..

I look to my right…and there it is.  An I-phone, ear buds and a headpiece attached to something that seems to be human but clearly couldn’t be.  Humans were once awake, aware and considerate – not droids trapped in a superficial and, mind you, not very interesting world of their own invention, engaged in a conversation with no real beginning and certainly no obvious end.

Not being one to immediately pounce, I turn away.  More blabbering.  And now it’s getting extremely elaborate and more multi lingual.  Imagine an endless loop of a monologue delivered by Sofia Vergara from Modern Family but take away her writers and her comic timing.  Now imagine a guy half her size in gym shorts and shorter, with smaller shoulders (and a tenth as good-looking), and you just might begin to get the picture.  Needless to say that unlike my reaction to Ms. Vergara,  I am not smiling.

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I imagine this guy, let’s call him Mr. Not Sofia, will eventually end his call and admit to myself this is very much a first world problem.  So I decide to remain silent and once again pretend (?) I’m a Broadway Diva singing a ballad.  And, true to form, Mr. Not Sofia does end his call.   Only to immediately dial and start a new one that seems to repeat what was just said in the previous one, using a little less Spanish and a little more English – one that now seems to be echoing into more expressive tones I can’t quite make out but can clearly hear. And I’m into my finale.

C’mon Chair – do you really want to waste the fat you’re burning off here on this guy’s fat head?  No.  I’m silent.  I drink water. Five more minutes go by. Chatter.  Another five.  Chatter, chatter.  Now we’re up to fifteen, chatter, chatter, chatter –

Good-bye, si, no, hello, hola, yes! No!  Tell me about this!  I know. She said what?  I want to know!  He said more?  More???  MORE??????  Chatter, chatter chatter,  when —

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I yank off my headphones, turn to Sophia’s distant cousin and spit out the words –

Can you NOT talk on your cell phone! It’s very distracting and very annoying.  I can hear everything you’re saying and I’m listening to music with my headphones ON.

The man now next to me rolls his eyes and laughs and, encouraged, I can’t help but add –

There’s a whole empty gym and he’s choosing to do this here?

Somewhat surprised, in fact rather shocked, Mr. Not Sofia, now quite, in fact VERY surprised, now looks at me, incredulously, and says:

Oh.

Then, realizing for the first time that his very loud ongoing 20-minute conversation to seven different people in a public place is, in fact, still being heard and might not be as fascinating as he imagined that it was when he was speaking, says in a somewhat confused tone:

I’m sorry.

I do begin to wonder if I’m not a relic from another time – or whether I am indeed reverting to what my life partner calls my secret crotchety persona of Old Man Ginsberg (motto: I hate children!).  But then I think – this is just typical of everything we’re up against right now.  People speaking their minds and saying not much of import publicly for no reason at all other than they choose to.

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But hey – ISNT THAT….WHAT….I…THE CHAIR….IS DOING….….RIGHT NOW…RIGHT HERE?

Well, it’s not the same thing.        Or…… is it?

No, it isn’t.  I can write and say what I want here but I am not shouting it in a public space – and a space you do not have to look at it if you don’t want to.  In other words, I do not have a captive audience unless I captivate you with what I’m saying.  Sophia Vergara and even I can sometimes do that.  Mr. Not Sofia and those like him who choose to shout their conversations and opinions on the actual treadmill next to you, or the elevator you are forced to share with him – clearly cannot.

Nevertheless, the feigned look of surprise on Mr. Not Sofia’s face after I called him on his 20 minutes of rudeness – or the fact that he could even be surprised that his incessant yammering could be annoying – still did not translate into any desire on my part to squelch immigration reform; deport him or take it out on others who speak his language; or vote against any more non-English speaking people from entering the country.  Nor does it change the lifelong crush I’ve had on Antonio Banderas, or even blunt my enjoyment of Ricky Martin music (Note: Hate me if you must, but La Vida Loca is a GREAT treadmill song).  See, unlike many of our crazed and insane ultra right wing Tea Party brothers and sisters (and that is said with only love) I can get angry at someone’s behavior without deciding every other member of their ethnic group or nationality should either be thrown out of the country or have their right to vote questioned without 52 forms of identification.  This is called reason.  And though it’s largely absent from the most vocally engaged in the public discourse – it is by no means dead among the majority of the population.

And now for something to haunt your dreams...

And now for something to haunt your dreams…

Which brings us to the dreaded subject of the Tea Party, their de facto leader Sen. Ted Cruz (R- Texas… where else?) and one of their supporters who stood in front of the White House last week at one of their rallies waving a military flag in one hand and the CONFEDERATE FLAG in the other.  Just to clarify – the Confederate flag is the symbol of the SLAVE-OWNING South during the Civil War and it was being waved in front of a House that has been occupied for the last five years (and will be for three more) by our first BLACK PRESIDENT, his wife and two young daughters.   To clarify just a bit further – this is a president who is the leader of a family and leads/lives in a country that abolished slavery more than 150 years ago.

The brandishing of the Confederate flag, which Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, an African-American, last week noted sends shivers down the spine of most Black people when they see it, was not an accident.  Nor is the usage of terms like Allah-loving Muslim, as Larry Klayman, of the Tea Party’s Freedom Watch organization, called the president that same day.  These are purposeful demonstrations of ways to make the most powerful person in the country (and once the world, though their antics might have put that fact, and all the rest of us, into jeopardy on the worldwide stage) – someone who also happens to be a Black Man – into the category of:

 THE OTHER – someone unlike the rest of us. 

Never mind that several days later Mr. Klayman laughed off any possible intention of prejudice against the president on MSNBC and maintained his words were merely meant to be metaphorical.  Well, if that’s the case, then does it mean that if I call this guy a pathetic racist and say he should have at least been honest and wrapped himself in a hooded white sheet and burnt a Cross on the White House Lawn if he truly wanted to get his real point across – that I am NOT calling him a member of the KKK but merely using symbolism to get my point across? 

I guess so…NOT.

I know what I said and he knows what he said.  Or does he?  See that’s why despite a deeply felt desire of free speech for everyone, these days you can’t help but silently advocate for an anti-moron law that would allow a sane person to stuff a sock into the mouths of an ill-informed insane person at least 3 times a year – or any time the sane person deemed fit.  Of course, I and my appointed office staff and friends would decide just what normal was.  That only seems fair.

Basically...

Basically…

This all begs the question of why in the last hours of the government shutdown, before being roundly defeated in their plan to dismantle Obamacare, The Tea Party Republicans walked the halls of Congress singing Amazing Grace.  Say what you will about the song (Note: Personally, I recommend the Joan Baez version on her Live Album), it was written by John Newton, a self-proclaimed sinner who was both a minister and a slavery abolitionist.  Originally a church song, Amazing Grace was used to great dramatic effect in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and became so identified with and popular within the African American community that its members wrote, sang and passed down several new verses of their own to the tune over numerous generations – as did others in several other disenfranchised communities.

One’s mind boggles at the irony of this bag of mixed messaging on the part of the Tea Party– the META of it all.  Or what Alice Roosevelt Longworth would have generally said or done about that current wing of the Republican Party given that her father was a member of the aforementioned when it stood for principles that some today might consider to be liberal.  I can picture only one reaction to all of this, one that I already imagine her doing – rolling over in her grave.