Fail/Safe

There are many ways to spin failure. They didn’t get it. They sabotaged me. They did nothing. They marshaled forces against me. The world wasn’t ready. The dumbasses couldn’t see. The dumbasses were offended.

What is not in the spin zone is – I suck. Or I failed. Certainly not – I tried my best and will do better next time. That’s not very satisfying. Except when it is.

but enough about me this week…

This came to mind watching the public memorial tribute to the lives of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher this weekend – certainly two people one doesn’t associate with failure, or even spinning. Though with Debbie you can imagine a heavenly Hollywood dance floor or simply put on one of her musicals and get there in the latter case.

The way they were

As a dear friend texted me, it’s strange to live in a time where we live stream memorials. Nevertheless we and many others were tuned into debbiereynolds.com (Note: Could I make that URL up?) where we watched highlights and tributes from the lives of the world’s Star Wars Princess and forever young ingénue Kathy Selden from Singin’ In the Rain – two iconic film characters from classic movies that will ensure the two women who played them will live on far beyond any of us.

That is, unless Cher or Barbra are reading this. Which I doubt. Though, one never knows who’s reading what these days. Hope springs eternal. For some of us, anyway.

Barbra can you hear me?? #couldntresist

Which brings us back to Carrie and Debbie. One of the highlights of the two plus hours of remembrance was a new James Blunt song that was played over a series of photographic images of Carrie and the bedroom in which she wrote and held court. You remember James Blunt, don’t you? He had that smash album some years back called Back to Bedlam which yielded several chart topping songs and then somehow suffered one of the greatest backlashes in the history of the music business.

You’re beautiful it’s true (stuck in your head yet?)

It became hip and happening to hate listen to Blunt. He somehow went from sensitive singer-songwriter to goopy cornball whiner. Not that he didn’t have some successful follow-ups or a core of loyal fans. He did. But nowhere as huge and not with anything approaching the verve of the memes of dismissal towards him.

Blunt, himself, became so aware of where he stood in the eyes of some of the public that after the death at the end of the year of his good friend Carrie Fisher (Note: He lived in her guest house and wrote some of his most famous songs there), he tweeted:

Full disclosure: I always liked Blunt and even before that tweet still occasionally played that CD, which, yes, I own. And oh, double yes, I do still own and even buy CDs.

I know this is how you see me #grampychair

Hate gossip away on that latter point if you care to. For the point here is to not prove the worthiness of Mr. Blunt. He does that himself with the new song he wrote in honor of his good friend Carrie  which debuted at her memorial service. It’s ironically as good or probably better than his best and will surely be meme’d around as the majority of listeners comment in shock about its value. While the naysers comment how it took the death of a good friend for him to come up with something listenable – if they even go so far as to at all place him in the playable category.

This is the essence of spin.

As for failure, it’s relative and goes with the territory of artistic endeavor. Or, make that human endeavor.

Or just embrace it!

The majority of us might admire or even envy Debbie and Carrie and not associate them at all with the type of “failure” we believe we are experiencing or have experienced or are inevitably going to experience, but nothing could be further from that (un)truth. Debbie had a trio of cheating husbands, lost all her money, endured national scandal and like all Hollywood women of a certain age was tossed away by the business that spawned her only be to brought back in at various points when it suited the suits. Though it was fine at that point because she had more or less figured it out.

As for Carrie, well, we all know, right? The drugs, the gay husband, the declining acting career. The sin of growing older and gaining weight! The mental illness and breakdowns. And then – the temerity to…write about it all? With humor? And do it well? One can only imagine the potential she saw in that from a hospital bed or alone in her room late at night when she couldn’t speak. I didn’t know her but it’s hard to imagine she saw it as anything close to a recipe to undo any perceived personal failures. No doubt more like a self-expression of whom she was and what she needed to do in order to survive the down times.

This, and countless other quotes too numerous to name

Of course, this is not to categorize things like mental illness, weight gains, marital breakups, career lows or O.D-ing as failures. That’s for the Internet and society at large to do for us. And they will do that. Relentlessly. And sometimes in the form of places and people much too dangerously close to you/us. (Note: As will the bathroom mirror).

It is more of a reminder to own your inner James Blunt, whatever that is, and move on. And as Carrie’s fictional Mom said in the move version of her memoir, Postcards from the Edge, “I don’t blame other people for my misfortunes.” And as the fictional version of herself shouted back, “I took the drugs, nobody made me.” Which is all fine when you’re in an analyst’s office or writing about your life – and often one in the same.

It’s getting past the admissions or the proclamations and moving on to something – anything else. Doing laundry is a start. Though I prefer cooking or something artistic. Even any type of exercise will do it.

Except spinning.

You know what I mean even if the current president of the U.S. (at the moment, that is) does not.

You didn’t think I’d leave that out, did you?

Indivisible

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-12-02-25-pm

I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to HATE hearing phrases like:

There ARE actions we can all take to create the change we want.

What I find equally annoying are my own bromides. Statements such as:

Just remember, WE ARE THE MAJORITY. There are 2.85 million more voters in this country that DID NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP than DID vote for him.

Really, Chair?

Please, someone make me – and them – STOP.

It’s not that I don’t believe these to be truisms, along with many others. It’s just that these days I am royally pissed off, scared and sometimes foaming at the mouth (Note: Believe me, folks, it’s true). Mostly, that my country is about to be led by someone who for the last year and a half I’ve considered a racist lunatic and who, with each passing day, makes statements, speeches, tweets and actions that only confirm those feelings tenfold.

Me, 90% of the time

Me, 90% of the time

It takes a certain kind of person to endure this kind of pressure with a combination of action, dignity and grace. People like Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) who said this week what the majority of us in the country are all thinking – that Trump is not a legitimate president because his election was illegitimate.

There is convincing evidence Russia significantly interfered with the election process, Rep. Lewis explained.   He and others also added that based on conversations with the FBI and others there is also apparently widespread suspicion and isolated pieces of mounting proof that members of Trump’s campaign, and perhaps the candidate himself, were willing and/or active participants in this swindle.

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

So for those many reasons, Rep. Lewis then announced he will not attend Trump’s inauguration in less than week. Nor will, following his announcement, a growing list of other members of Congress, who are pressing for an internal and/or external investigation into the election and Trump. One that they will likely get – in detail.

See, that’s exactly how action happens. Unvarnished, calm truths – elucidated by a few facts and plausible theories – followed up with a plan to resist, protest and create the change you want based on those truths.

Of course, Rep. Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King at Selma in the 1960s fighting segregation, got his head beaten in by police, and nearly lost his life doing it. He’s bold, courageous and well trained.

trump712

Or as some put it “all talk.” #eyeroll #enough

But what’s the average passive scare-dy cat like me – and perhaps you — to do?

This brings us to INDIVISIBLE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE for RESISTING THE TRUMP AGENDA.  

Required reading #doit

Required reading #doit

It’s readable, smart and snappy and was written by former congressional staffers who wanted to chart out step-by-step, to us ordinary folks, the best ways to make Congress listen . You can read and/or download the breezy 26 page pamphlet here: indivisibleguide.com.

Think of it as Advocacy/Politics/Change for Dummies.

Indivisible has only been posted a matter of weeks and already there are Indivisible GROUPS springing up all over the country that use the short, printed guide as a jumping off point primer on how to get lawmakers to stop crazy people from hijacking the country you love.

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

No, I’m not apologizing for my words. I’m speaking to you – not to those who disagree with me or to those on the fence who I want to persuade. I have to be more polite to them to affect change. At least publicly. Which doesn’t mean I can’t be passionate, strong-minded and direct in their presence. Or scream, yell and curse when they’re not around.

See, that’s what I learned at one of the advocacy groups inspired by Indivisible I accidentally attended this weekend. Some weeks before a friend of mine saw one of my feverish political posts (Note: Or rants, or pick your applicable verb) on Facebook and realized my verve had potential but my methods could use some, um…honing (?) to get me to the next level. So he invited me to join him in a Saturday afternoon of “advocacy training” at someone’s house led by a professional.

Right. At first I didn’t want to go even though I realized I should. Then I considered the alternative – more foam. So I decided to join him. And then the day before the event – where I would be required to walk into a room full of all these strangers – my personal news oracle, Rachel Maddow, actually had one of the founders of the Indivisible Guide on her TV show reporting on the very type of event I had unknowingly agreed to attend the following day.

Jees, this sounds so smart, I thought. I should get involved in that but probably won’t. Little did I know I already had committed to do so and was about to.

I say all this not to pat myself on the back to encourage all of you to take a small step out of your comfort zone into unknown territory. You can still foam, or drink, or tune out and do nothing the rest of your time. But if you allow yourself, there is also room to create some sort of active plan to counteract all of your worst (or on some days, best) instincts.

In no particular order, here is some of what I re-learned, learned for the first time, or was astounded by in the course of my training:

— Did you know you get some of the best results talking to your member of Congress? They (okay, their office) will answer ALL constituent calls and log them. But be precise and direct. This is far more effective than emails or other correspondence, which are largely ignored.   And their local phone numbers are easily found on the web.

Real people, folks!

Real people, folks! #imaginethat

— ASK for a staffer in your rep’s office that handles the issue you are calling about.   These people are almost as important as your rep because they write all the legislation and do the grunt work. Also, ask for the scheduler in the office and when you’re ready you can get a meeting on the books with the staffer and eventually the rep. Go with up to four people, armed with a personal story on your “issue.” Prepare a few thoughts, facts and questions. Know your rep’s stance. But remember, you don’t have to be an expert. It’s more about forging an ongoing relationship with them on an issue(s) you care about. And note: NEVER mention you contributed money to their campaign. That sounds like you want quid pro quo. It’s much more powerful to be a constituent with friends in their district because that means you can en masse vote them out of office.

— If your rep AGREES with all your positions CALL THEM ANYWAY. They need to know you have their back and can use your ideas. In fact, they welcome it, particularly now when the going is tough. Also, attend any town halls they have in your district. You can find these out signing up for their newsletters.

Be part of the political human pyramid!

Be part of the political human pyramid!

— If you go to sites like majorityleader.gov or senate.gov you will get a calendar for a FULL YEAR that will tell you when you rep (actually, all of them) will be in your district and state and when they will be in Washington, DC working. Schedule calls and meetings accordingly. You can also go to congress.gov and check on what bills are in what committees and on which subjects.  Check out committees your specific rep is on and contact them about the issue.

— Become part of a local organization fighting for your cause because there is more strength in numbers. This doesn’t mean you turn your life over. You go to an event or two and do what you can in the beginning. Here are some sources and ideas:

Common Cause — I am particularly interested in investigating Trump and the election. This group is on the case and effective in holding elected officials accountable. They are also BI-PARTISAN. Commoncause.org

Citizen’s Climate Lobby – An effective group if you are particularly concerned with climate change. Citizensclimatelobby.org

Funny, but missing the point ;-)

Funny, but missing the point 😉

Facebook Groups:

— If you are a white person who is particularly concerned with racism towards non-whites try White People For Black Lives.

— If you want a simple task to do everyday that will make some difference join the group Rise When We Fall. They offer options and action plans. You can also get daily emails from them. Risewhenwefall.org

— Sign up for a google news alert about the activities or any Congress member of issue you want to know about. You can choose how often you get them. It’s a summary of the latest developments and a way to stay informed.

— If you want to take a step towards a Trump impeachment, demand your reps and others support a bi-partisan independent investigation into Russian/Trump activities in the 2016 presidential election. If there is an investigation done solely within the Senate, a distinct possibility, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the power to keep specific evidence, testimony and findings secret and you will NEVER KNOW the FULL STORY.

— If you are overwhelmed with issues and can’t choose one, you are not alone. Know most of us feel this way. Go to charity navigator and peruse many worthy causes. It is a guide on what organizations do and how to donate time or money. Spend some personal time soul searching and realize you cannot do it all. And that whatever you don’t choose, someone else somewhere will choose.

When it feels like this... remember you are not alone!

When it feels like this… remember you are not alone!

Finally, the woman who ran our workshop wisely pointed out that although often it’s quoted that all politics are local, what that really means is all politics is personal. She then hesitatingly offered us the quote often attributed to Russian leader Joseph Stalin (Note: Appropriate in the age of Trump) – the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.

Meaning –- this stuff is all personal and if you relate what is meaningful to you and yours it will carry more weight than you realize.

Though if Russian orthodoxy makes you uncomfortable at this point in time – and why wouldn’t it – think instead about what Mother Theresa once said:

If I look at the mass I will never act.

And then, yeah, act. Which in turn might bring you, just a little bit of hope.

UGH… White Guys

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 1.07.48 PM

Do you know what the hardest thing about being a white guy in America is these days? No, the answer is not NOTHING – though I know more than a few of you have already responded that way. The correct response is – OTHER WHITE GUYS.

We’re just awful with international white American male privilege this week. Truly, it’s off the chart. There’s the swimming doofus savant Ryan Lochte getting away with stupid drunk behavior at the Olympics in Rio and then going on TV to lie about it, thus ensuring the lie would mushroom into an international incident that pulled focus away from all athletes participating in the last week of the Games.

DING DING DING

DING DING DING

How about Kurt Metzger, actor and a writer for Inside Amy Schumer, who posted a bunch of snide, nasty rape joke/remarks on social media this week, not only sparking outrage from the entire comedy community but thus ensuring he will never write for Ms. Schumer again. Nor anyone else – at least in the near future.

Lastly, there is The Trump we call…well, many things. Making a major pitch to African Americans across the country to vote for him this week while speaking to an almost ALL-WHITE audience in the small (and almost all white) town of Dimondale, Michigan. Asking for the vote “of every African American” he tried to sway the Black community with phrases like “ …What have you got to lose? You’re living in poverty” when only 27% of US Blacks are in poverty and just 9% are, in fact, even unemployed.

Snow knows

Snow knows

See, there is no way to make up for this. None. Nada. I could work at the Sisterhood Bookstore in L.A. (if, indeed, it was still open – or if neighborhood bookstores even still existed) for the rest of my days and it would never counteract the mess Metzger continues to perpetrate.

If I volunteered to live in poverty in every thriving Black neighborhood in the country for the next 10 years it wouldn’t matter to any Black person I know nor would it change how insulted and marginalized most non-Whites I know are by the Orange Genius of Nothing but Himself.

As for swimming, there aren’t enough years at the gym, in the water or on a lobotomist’s table, that would allow me to substitute myself as a dumbass punching bag for elite athlete cliché behavior that would even approach Lochte himself.   The guy is millionaire several times over and couldn’t even get someone to dye his hair blonde the first time without turning it some bizarre tinted shade of green? Unless that was on purp…. OK, let’s not even go there.

Gurl.... NO

Gurl…. NO

I used think as a gay guy I was partly exempted from the white male privilege thing because, after all, what we’re really talking about is patriarchal STRAIGHT white male privilege, right? Yeah, but then I heard about that douchebag Milo Yiannopoulos who trolled the fabulous Leslie Jones online spouting a bunch of racist, sexist bile at her and the reboot of Ghostbusters that got him banned for life from Twitter. A writer for Breitbart News and a self-proclaimed cultural libertarian, Milo publicly reasons that he can say anything he wants to anyone and not be labeled a racist because he’d be “the first black-d*** sucking white supremacist in history.”

Nice. Not to mention Stephen K. Bannon, chairman of the entire Breitbart News website, was just named Orangina’s new campaign manager. That is just how incestuously awful this has all become. (Note: Aaargh, apologies for even using the word incestuous).

unsee, unsee, unsee, UNSEE #HELP

unsee, unsee, unsee, UNSEE #HELP

Listen, we white guys of any sexual persuasion can also be as likeable, seductive, and as fun as anyone else. I have met more than a female or two who publicly and privately confessed to be willing to overlook the fact that Flipper Ryan has been arrested twice for public urinating and disorderly conduct prior to his most recent arrest in Rio because there is “just something about him.” Sure, we all know what that is and it’s not the glossy black Rolls Royce Ghost he owns which is often seen with him driving behind the wheel in the gated community where he lives in Charlotte, NC.

Ugh. It gets worse.

Ugh. It gets worse. #isthisarequirement?

But these are exceptions to a rule of order that seems of late to be spreading like wildfire. Why just this past week I was appalled to see a Facebook posting from a very funny female student of mine who professionally lives in the comedy world. It seems that some “bro” who didn’t think one of her videos was amusing enough decided it would be appropriate to write to her and say: The ONLY thing you have going is that you’re cute. Zero value other than fuckability.

Rage Meter spike

Rage Meter spike

I was appalled. But the best I could do was comment that he was a sad, little boy. I considered trolling him back since I did have his contact info but you can’t reason with privilege. You can only hit them in the pocketbook/wallet or their nether regions and neither seemed likely from my vantage point. Though I have been and continue to be encouraging towards her – as if that makes up for anything.

Movies have tried to tackle this issue in roundabout comedic ways. Some Like It Hot, Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire all require white males of privilege to act as females in an effort to narratively prove to them in the end just how good they have it. In 1970 pioneering director Melvin Van Peebles did a movie called Watermelon Man centering on a bigoted white insurance salesman who wakes up one day to find out he’s Black. Heck, in 1964 there was a studio film called Goodbye, Charlie where blonde and beautiful Debbie Reynolds (Note: That’s Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia’s Mom) plays a chauvinistic womanizer lost at sea who is somehow reincarnated as a woman.

Really not sure how this would play to today's audiences #relic

Really not sure how this would play to today’s audiences #relic

So clearly, none of this has done any good at all.

What will make the difference? Hell if I know. Insight means nothing if it doesn’t happen to the right people. Which doesn’t mean conservatives, necessarily. Given the world we live in, all of us could stand to learn some lessons in understanding that however you were born you likely have some privileges over someone else.

Which begs the question of how I, a white male of privilege, will proceed through my remaining years of privilege that, every so often, seem anything but. How do I avoid playing the world’s smallest violin and indulging in too much whiiiiiiiiine? Well, I can’t, entirely. The best I can do is say on behalf of all of the other asshats in my tribe – I’m sorry. It’s not much but it’s heartfelt. Which, now that I think about it, is yet one more typical response from a male of privilege – thinking that a mere apology will do.