Giving (Extra) Thanks

Due to technical difficulties, enjoy this second serving of this week’s Notes post! 

There is a perfect little gem of a movie at your local theatre right now called Ladybird that perfectly evokes the real spirit of Thanksgiving. Or, at least, what it should be.

No, this is not because it has turkey dinners, enviable family gatherings or even any one real specific major revelation about what or whom we should all be majorly thankful for in life.

I mean, is there one such precious individual or experience that you can pinpoint from your past or present? Certainly I can’t think of one.

So instead what the immensely insightful writer-director Greta Gerwig (who will now finally be shed of the loaded and limiting moniker of “go-to indie actress”) has given us is a whole series of people and memories and hurts and pleasures from a fictionalized vision of her own last year of high school that trusts US to look inward and draw our own conclusions.

so angsty #inthebestway

Who was a jerk and who was wrong? Were you actually born into this family or unwillingly dropped into one of nature’s most regrettable mistakes? Are you right about more things than you’ve given yourself credit for or is that just your guilt or subconscious trying to sell you that there might have been two or more moments when THEY could have known better?

Of course we all have our THEYs but they differ depending on the age we are and what we’re experiencing.

This was the point of Ladybird for me and why it feels exactly right for Thanksgiving 2017.   We should be grateful for all of it – every last moment – for THEY have brought us to where WE are today.

If that’s not what we want we can choose to do better.

If that’s what we like we can look back in joy and appreciation – or in fear that it will inevitably one day all disintegrate and turn into dust and sand. Or we will.

a little light (and dark) humor

This is hardly revelatory stuff. Except in moments that you need to be reminded of it. Then it is.

It is also why the coming of age movie will always be a timeless and enduring genre that each generation or subset of a generation – yes that means anyone reading this – defines for itself.

No – this does not mean be grateful for the AWFUL (fill in this blank with the myriad sickening moments you’ve barely lived through or witnessed of your choice.

ah relief!

Please. This is not in any way meant to be inspirational and we have a whole host of upcoming holidays from which to draw those lessons from. But sometimes art – and yeah, many films these days still qualify as such – can remind all of us that what we get in any given year is usually a mixed bag that we figure out how to uniquely proceed through or get stuck in. It is this, all of this, that specifically makes us, individually – US.

And in the moments they are happening, we are usually the worst judges of US.

It seems not insightful but merely truthful to write this at the end of what has been a very difficult year for many of US – especially in the U.S. (Note: And its territories).

One supposes there are some – okay, at most a very small plurality – who get up each day singing the 2017 equivalent of Zippity-Doo-Da. But if you live in LA as I do, or in the NY or San Francisco areas, where many of my friends and relatives are located, it’s a tough lift to imagine.

Can we just stop with the term “Real Americans”? #dreamsfor2018

And yet –

I would like to see the negative events of 2017 – starting with Trumpism, moving through various climate and/or gun-related disasters, then segueing on to the public exposure of the nauseating ordinariness of sexual abuse in our culture, and finally ending with each of our own specific misfortunes in the last ten months – as part of a continuum.

They are part of what we are and have become – for sure.

But they DO NOT tell our ENTIRE story.

It’s too simplistic to define four years by 10 months or a single, seemingly cacophonic event. Just as it is way too reductive to define a young woman’s trajectory in life by the jerky boy she got rejected by in high school or the harsh, withholding mother who never understood her.

Even if your mother is played by the divine Laurie Metcalf

Ladybird respects her heroine enough not to underestimate her and it feels, at this time of the year, that we might all resist the temptation to pull the rug out from under ourselves or our worlds before our final scenes are played.

Some months ago I was seated at the bar of a hip restaurant in West Hollywood a dear friend had taken me to in order to cheer me up after some disconcerting news. (Note: Yes, the BAR – it was the only seating immediately available and it featured not only the same food but a real 180 degree CARRERA MARBLE countertop).

we’re very fancy

In any event, seated right next to me eating THE MOST FABULOUS food, was this very lovely, friendly and much more hip looking lesbian couple from London enjoying a pizza we knew we immediately had to order and, well many laughs we (well, I) clearly knew we had to be a part of.

After striking up a conversation, within minutes I’d somehow forgotten why we were there, tuned out the noise from any number of obnoxious Hollywood types within earshot and became thoroughly entranced with the very hip, funny London lesbianers’ tours of Venice Beach, the Hollywood sign, and tale of one particular dish at some other restaurant I’d been to many times that the most infectiously happy and hipper of the pair made me promise to go back and try because it would literally change my life.

me… 90% of the time

I felt better until it was almost time to leave when I suddenly and uncontrollably blurted out:

I just want you to know that Trump – so many of us didn’t support him. Please don’t think of us like that.

At which point, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and replied:

Oh love, we know. We all know. Please, don’t take that on yourself.

MY EMOTIONS

She smiled, I nodded, she paid the check and she turned away. Then she got up and I noticed she was wearing a HUGE yet very stylishly hip diamond ring that sparkled her way towards the light by the door.

Wow, I thought, that’s quite a rock, no wonder she’s so happy.

Of course, as we know, nothing is ever that simple. Much as we’d like it to be.

Doris Day – “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”

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Giving Thanks

There is a perfect little gem of a movie at your local theatre right now called Ladybird that perfectly evokes the real spirit of Thanksgiving. Or, at least, what it should be.

No, this is not because it has turkey dinners, enviable family gatherings or even any one real specific major revelation about what or whom we should all be majorly thankful for in life.

I mean, is there one such precious individual or experience that you can pinpoint from your past or present? Certainly I can’t think of one.

So instead what the immensely insightful writer-director Greta Gerwig (who will now finally be shed of the loaded and limiting moniker of “go-to indie actress”) has given us is a whole series of people and memories and hurts and pleasures from a fictionalized vision of her own last year of high school that trusts US to look inward and draw our own conclusions.

so angsty #inthebestway

Who was a jerk and who was wrong? Were you actually born into this family or unwillingly dropped into one of nature’s most regrettable mistakes? Are you right about more things than you’ve given yourself credit for or is that just your guilt or subconscious trying to sell you that there might have been two or more moments when THEY could have known better?

Of course we all have our THEYs but they differ depending on the age we are and what we’re experiencing.

This was the point of Ladybird for me and why it feels exactly right for Thanksgiving 2017.   We should be grateful for all of it – every last moment – for THEY have brought us to where WE are today.

If that’s not what we want we can choose to do better.

If that’s what we like we can look back in joy and appreciation – or in fear that it will inevitably one day all disintegrate and turn into dust and sand. Or we will.

a little light (and dark) humor

This is hardly revelatory stuff. Except in moments that you need to be reminded of it. Then it is.

It is also why the coming of age movie will always be a timeless and enduring genre that each generation or subset of a generation – yes that means anyone reading this – defines for itself.

No – this does not mean be grateful for the AWFUL (fill in this blank with the myriad sickening moments you’ve barely lived through or witnessed of your choice.

ah relief!

Please. This is not in any way meant to be inspirational and we have a whole host of upcoming holidays from which to draw those lessons from. But sometimes art – and yeah, many films these days still qualify as such – can remind all of us that what we get in any given year is usually a mixed bag that we figure out how to uniquely proceed through or get stuck in. It is this, all of this, that specifically makes us, individually – US.

And in the moments they are happening, we are usually the worst judges of US.

It seems not insightful but merely truthful to write this at the end of what has been a very difficult year for many of US – especially in the U.S. (Note: And its territories).

One supposes there are some – okay, at most a very small plurality – who get up each day singing the 2017 equivalent of Zippity-Doo-Da. But if you live in LA as I do, or in the NY or San Francisco areas, where many of my friends and relatives are located, it’s a tough lift to imagine.

Can we just stop with the term “Real Americans”? #dreamsfor2018

And yet –

I would like to see the negative events of 2017 – starting with Trumpism, moving through various climate and/or gun-related disasters, then segueing on to the public exposure of the nauseating ordinariness of sexual abuse in our culture, and finally ending with each of our own specific misfortunes in the last ten months – as part of a continuum.

They are part of what we are and have become – for sure.

But they DO NOT tell our ENTIRE story.

It’s too simplistic to define four years by 10 months or a single, seemingly cacophonic event. Just as it is way too reductive to define a young woman’s trajectory in life by the jerky boy she got rejected by in high school or the harsh, withholding mother who never understood her.

Even if your mother is played by the divine Laurie Metcalf

Ladybird respects her heroine enough not to underestimate her and it feels, at this time of the year, that we might all resist the temptation to pull the rug out from under ourselves or our worlds before our final scenes are played.

Some months ago I was seated at the bar of a hip restaurant in West Hollywood a dear friend had taken me to in order to cheer me up after some disconcerting news. (Note: Yes, the BAR – it was the only seating immediately available and it featured not only the same food but a real 180 degree CARRERA MARBLE countertop).

we’re very fancy

In any event, seated right next to me eating THE MOST FABULOUS food, was this very lovely, friendly and much more hip looking lesbian couple from London enjoying a pizza we knew we immediately had to order and, well many laughs we (well, I) clearly knew we had to be a part of.

After striking up a conversation, within minutes I’d somehow forgotten why we were there, tuned out the noise from any number of obnoxious Hollywood types within earshot and became thoroughly entranced with the very hip, funny London lesbianers’ tours of Venice Beach, the Hollywood sign, and tale of one particular dish at some other restaurant I’d been to many times that the most infectiously happy and hipper of the pair made me promise to go back and try because it would literally change my life.

me… 90% of the time

I felt better until it was almost time to leave when I suddenly and uncontrollably blurted out:

I just want you to know that Trump – so many of us didn’t support him. Please don’t think of us like that.

At which point, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and replied:

Oh love, we know. We all know. Please, don’t take that on yourself.

MY EMOTIONS

She smiled, I nodded, she paid the check and she turned away. Then she got up and I noticed she was wearing a HUGE yet very stylishly hip diamond ring that sparkled her way towards the light by the door.

Wow, I thought, that’s quite a rock, no wonder she’s so happy.

Of course, as we know, nothing is ever that simple. Much as we’d like it to be.

Doris Day – “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”

Talking the Talk

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 11.53.22 AM

In the early 1970s the #1 talk radio station in New York was WMCA and at night it broadcast a program called The Joanne Ginsberg Show. She wasn’t a relative but she had the same last name as I did, and since even then I longed to be in show biz I figured it was worth a listen.

Aside from the requisite celebrities of the era – like John and Yoko (Lennon, that is) – there were political discussions… lots of them. It was also the not yet end of the Vietnam War and the majority of American teenagers like myself were repulsed at the idea of living in a country that continuously bombed women and little children thousands of miles away to oblivion – and at that time we actually saw their bloody carcasses on the network news each night – in the name of what seemed to be…well…absolutely nothing.

Aunt Joanie

Aunt Joanie

Being even more mouthy than I am now – yes it’s possible and, after all, I was a teenager – I decided to call up “Aunt Joanne” one night when an Army general or veteran or sergeant (who can remember) was on singing the patriotic praises of America and how proud he and all of us should be at our armed forces and every time the flag was raised.

Really, I thought? Proud? I’ll show him.

Channeling my inner Wonder Woman #LassoOfTruth

Channeling my inner Wonder Woman #LassoOfTruth

So I got on the phone, dialed the number and waited half an hour to tell the guy off.

Yeah, I’d like to say something to your guest, I bellowed at Auntie Joanie when she asked what was on my mind and told me we were on the air.

I’d like him to know that as a young person I’m sickened every time I see the military and hear the national anthem playing. As for the American flag, we’re murdering hundreds of innocent people halfway across the world for nothing. It’s draped on the coffins of soldiers who died for no reason.   I don’t know how anyone can be proud of that. And our government is just trying to get out of it by saying it’s “peace with honor….”

I’m paraphrasing a bit but trust me – words like military, horrifying, death, disgusting, sickening and I’m pretty sure nauseating were used more than once. Sensing that there was even more to come the elder Ginsberg wisely jumped in and asked her guest what he thought about that.   To this day I have no idea what he said. All I can recall is that he never addressed my sentiments – at all.   I was looking to do battle and, strangely enough, he was choosing not at all to engage.

A pretty fair representation of my interaction

A pretty fair representation of my interaction

I recount this all in light of our current national pastime of electoral politics – or as we like to call it – the best damn reality show the world has ever seen. How was it that some 40 plus years later I was cheering for retired Gen. John Allen at the Democratic National Convention when he screamed about love of country, common values, defeating evil and protecting the homeland?

Uh, no – it’s not because I’m older or my politics have much changed. It’s because his short but very pointed argument was put in a context.

We writers, directors, producers and actors should take note.

The General at the DNC, flanked by veterans of ALL colors

The General at the DNC, flanked by veterans of ALL colors

Gen. Allen’s speech directly followed that of Khzir Khan, father of a dead Muslim soldier, who challenged Donald Trump’s patriotism for his proposal of “temporarily” banning all Muslims to the country as well as his nasty, jingoistic hate speech towards Mexican-Americans, women, and pretty much any other peer (of any color, faith or sex) who dared to strenuously disagree with him. Mr. Khan, an immigrant and a lawyer – and clearly a very good one – topped it off by pulling out his own printed pamphlet of the Constitution, offering to lend it to him to read, because clearly he hasn’t and has no idea what’s in it. He concluded by telling him that he knew nothing about sacrifice because he has sacrificed “nothing and no one.”

Oh yes he did

Oh yes he did

But back to Gen. Allen. In a post 9-11 world – that means a time when Americans understand what it means to be attacked on the mainland in one of its major cities and financial centers – blood and carnage does not seem as shocking. This is especially true given the almost weekly bursts of violence and death by guns by our own hands, not to mention the bi-weekly, monthly or bi-monthly mass terrorist attacks of late all over the world.

Still, the reason I, and many like myself, instinctively cheered on a military man is that his words were a rebuke to Trumpism – or as I define it – a jingoistic knee-jerk reaction in support of all things American.

What's that cliche... lipstick on a pig?

What’s that cliche… lipstick on a pig?

To be clear, the precise words the former Marine commander was yelling were phrases like:

Every American in uniform, in the White House or at home…must be a force for unity in America, for a vision that includes all of us… Every man and woman, every race, every ethnicity, every faith and creed, including the Americans who are our precious Muslims. And every gender and every gender orientation.

I also know (under Hillary Clinton) our armed forces will not become an instrument of torture, and they will not be ordered to engage in murder or carry out other illegal activities.

So we stand before you tonight to endorse Hillary Clinton for president of the United States of America…We trust her judgment. We trust in her judgment….We know that she – as no other – knows how to use all instruments of American power, not just the military, to keep us all safe and free.

With her as our commander-in-chief, America will continue to lead in this volatile world.

We will oppose and resist tyranny as we will defeat evil….America will defeat ISIS and protect the homeland….America will honor our treaty obligations….We will lead and strengthen NATO and the Atlantic Alliance, and our allies in East Asia and around the world whom we have sworn a solemn oath to defend. 

….We will stop the spread of nuclear weapons and keep them from the hands of dangerous states and groups.

…I also know that with her as our commander-in-chief, our international relations will not be reduced to a business transaction.

I also know our armed forces will not become an instrument of torture, and they will not be ordered to engage in murder or carry out other illegal activities.

You see most Americans are not as different from 1970s American teenagers, or even millennial teenagers and up, than one might think. Most of us don’t want war or anything to do with it. But we are also realistic and no longer live in a fool’s paradise. We’ll fight, or might be inclined to listen to a justification for fighting even if we don’t want to if we understand what the hell we’re fighting for.   Or against.

What we, the overwhelmingly reasonable majority don’t want to do is to fight for no logical reason.   Or with each other.