There were times during Sunday night’s second presidential debate that I feared for Hillary Clinton’s physical safety. No, really. There was Donald Trump skulking behind her – all 237 pounds of him shifting towards her, then to her left and her right, like a caged tiger. In between sips of wine I calmed myself down by repeating to myself over and over – ‘the Secret Service is there, the Secret Service is there.’
This. This. This. This.
James Carville, the veteran political consultant and admitted long time Clinton friend and ally, described Trump this way right before in the pre-game show:
He’s a tired, overweight old man who is losing.
Again with the weight. Okay, I don’t like to poundage shame anyone. But after Trump’s grab them by the (fill in with cat metaphor) remark in the infamous Billy Bush tape, rife with its groping and Tic-Tac kissing – heck, I’m gonna give myself a mulligan on a weight reference to a fat….head.
Hat’s off to the chair #tooeasy
The carnival barker, reality show atmosphere was apparent from the beginning. Trump gamed the press for the umpteenth time 90 minutes before it all began by calling the media pool TV cameras into his lair for what was billed as an opportunity to watch debate prep. Instead what we got was a panel of four unfortunate women, Trump supporters all – who claimed abuse at the hands of the Clintons as they briefly told their stories at a long table sitting on either side of Heir Girthness. Three of them noted sexual assault at the hands of Bill and one of them accused lawyer Hillary 30 plus years ago of defending and winning a case for an accused child abuser who….Okay, stop. They’ve all been disproven or not proven or are not true.
One can never – and certainly not for the next 30 plus days – underestimate the circus-like, side show of entertainment reality TV cat fight (Note: Forgive my choice of animal…again) of anything involving Trump or his brand. Pundits and commentators mused post debate that he is using Breitbart-like tactics that his supporters revel in and will be happily burning down the traditional Republican Party along with all previously civil (Note: As if!) political discourse in the next month.
Of course, this is untrue.
Trump has nothing invested in institutions – political or otherwise. It is only about personal insults to him and/or his brand. See, it just so happens that they are BOTH (he and his brand, that is) running for president and that political traditions and the people who support them (or are them) are getting in his way. So yeah, he’ll burn them and all of us down – way down – if it feels to him like any of the above have or could effectively block his path. At several points in the actual debate he even growled, whined and barked at nearby moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper in between HRC skulks for giving Hillary more time than him, spitting out the words – ‘lovely, 3 on 1.’
Of course, like pretty much everything else he spoke or speaks about he was wrong. In actuality, Trump got to talk almost a minute and a half MORE than Hillary in the 93 minutes of total debate air- time.
I am the Earth Mother, and you are all flops. #MARTHA
There is no point in re-living the entirety of what was at best an uncomfortable and somewhat slimy evening in Trumpland. HRC tried to make the best of it, taking the high rode and attempting to answer the moderator’s questions and Trump accusations when she could and when the responses and moments would be most beneficial to her. After all, this was a debate. But the Trump spew fest is such an avalanche of id that it was amazing she could stay focused as long as she did, especially with the four accusing women planted as political props in the Trump family front row in order to throw her.
(Note: I, for one, am sick of the Trump children getting a pass for being so wonderful. The big game hunters, the alt right re-tweeters of racist misinformation, the overly qualified real estate shill for Daddy’s shady deals. Look it up – type in Ivanka shady real estate Mexico; or Eric, Don Jr. racist retweets and see what The Google spits out (or up). As for Tiffany, let’s leave her out of this and give her the benefit of the doubt (for now) as being merely a side player).
Trump family slogan?
But back to the 93 minutes that in theory is supposed to help those undecided decide who to cast their vote for as the next U.S. president. Most notable was when Trump sniffed into the microphone with the authority of a rabid alley cat and bellowed at Hillary that when he is president he is going to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her situation and many crimes. When she refuted his accusations by saying none of them are true and that it’s a good thing he was not in charge of the U.S. justice system, he didn’t lose a beat before bellowing back – ‘yeah cause you’d be in jail!’ This once again not only proved Trump has no understanding of government, justice or the role of a special prosecutor but that he is uniquely qualified to preside over a third world country or obscure Latin America banana republic. One thing you can say about Hillary – she’s spent her life in government and knows about special prosecutor overreach. So, um, no sweat there. – Advantage Clinton.
This image was incredibly easy to find. Surprised?
Yes, there was a lot more but suffice it to say the needle wasn’t moved much in either direction – just a lot of sniping and damage control and a collective national sense that we all can’t wait for this to be over. If Nate Silver’s Five-Thirty Eight blog is any predictor – and it is – we could be looking at anything from a substantial Clinton victory to a significant Clinton landslide. Barring anything major – and I suppose we shouldn’t but let’s just pretend – the United States will be swearing in its first female president come early next year and the political Apocalypse of a late-in-life Capt Kurtz-like Brando figure taking over Now will likely not come to pass.
What has also not been lost to many observers, pundits and average Joe political social media gadflys (Note: Yes, I do stand accused) is the irony that when a woman finally gets to run as the first major political party nominee, her chief opponent on the other side is the most sexist, arrogant, Alpha-male wannabe of white patriarchal clueless entitlement who has ever ran for the top position in government in our country’s history. Though it doesn’t feel ironic to me. It feels just right. A sort of karmic justice to a dying breed of generational buffoonery. Long live the new queen. From this queen.
Of course 10 best lists are bogus. After all, what exactly is “best?” Even the first dictionary definition itself can’t decide. It states:
of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.
I don’t know about you but I find there is a hell of a lot of difference between excellent, effective and desirable. In fact, the moments in my life I can remember being at my most desirable in no way made me the most excellent person in the room – especially when that number was two. Truth be told and given what usually prompts human desire, I’d actually argue that the exact opposite was true.
I can recall once or twice being so excellent at something that it is hard to imagine someone wouldn’t have found me equally desirable. But wait, let’s forget that. If you’ve been in the presence of any writer at his or her most excellent you’d know it’s not a pretty sight. Hair askew, loved ones, friends and usually hygiene totally ignored. Not to mention common courtesy. Meaning – don’t even THINK about interrupting, much less BREATHING, because I will KILL YOU. Or worse, BLAME YOU for stopping the flow. Not to mention what the world will do to you if any more of this genius is lost from its most excellent source – Me.
I have no idea what you’re talking about Chairy
Finally, we’re left with effective and nothing about the word effective comes close to evoking best. Michael Bay is probably one of the most effective filmmakers to ever work in contemporary Hollywood but, uh – best? Well, you see how words deceive. And yes, he can take it. He married us for it. Which only proves that Edward Albee is the all-time best.
Here then in no particular order are my 10 best of the year. I define best as jarring, original, memorable and cool – to me. There is nothing scientific about it. It’s a purely subjective list. As are all those that deal in bests.
FILM: Birdman and Boyhood
No one except a few film critics, most of whom do not partake fully in life because they don’t have the time, have seen every film in any given year. But at least I see a lot. And I say these two stand above and beyond the pack for different reasons.
In the case of Boyhood, the feat of shooting a film with the same actors aging over a 12 year period, rewriting as you go, and emerging with anything coherent – much less emotionally affecting – is nothing but the best. It takes drive, focus and talent. Richard Linklater has always been an interesting and adept filmmaker but in this case he’s managed to circumvent the Hollywood system with a truly original approach to a universal story. Anyone can pick apart the movie’s faults, but no one in the narrative commercial world has had the nerve to take a path this original lately. In 2014, that’s my equivalent of the B word.
Birdman has stayed with me for months and I’m not quite sure why. I liked the film yet in teaching screenwriting have certainly been one of those jerks to – yes – pick it apart. Still, there is something about watching Michael Keaton, a former megastar of the eighties who my college age students now barely know, play an outlandish version of his public persona so heartbreakingly that it makes me occasionally want to weep. Yes, weep. I’m not a total cynic. This is a project that for all of its faults could have gone horribly wrong. Credit director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, another fearless chance taker, and a cast of actors working at the top of their game, for keeping the high wire act alive more times than not to its pretty thrilling results.
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE: Malala
Yes, you are
You’re a smart teenage girl from Pakistan who got shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out for other girls and their education. You then endure a bunch of surgeries and manage to not only survive but to continue to speak your mind as you gain intelligence and, well, even more nerve (Note: As if that’s possible). Then several weeks ago, these same Taliban types shoot up a school and kill 141 people, mostly children, and you still continue to speak out. Not with speechifying anger but with calm wisdom and directness. This is why you win the Nobel Peace Prize before you are old enough to vote. And how the world begins to slowly change.
AMERICAN POLITICS: Elizabeth Warren
Let’s have a show of hands – how many of you are still pissed off at the big banks and Wall Street but don’t know what to say or do about it? Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) does. This time she might have been unable to stop Congress from passing a bill several weeks ago that will once again deregulate Wall Street and allow major banks to engage in the kind of risky investments that almost brought down the economy more than six years ago, but that doesn’t mean she will the next time. She’s like the best and smartest teacher in school that you always remember because she was able to take a subject you never could understand and present it in a way that not only made it clear but made you became engaged. The reason for that is that for years she actually did teach at Harvard and innately understands how to simplify unnecessarily complicated principles to undergraduates – meaning the rest of us. Like all the best academics I have ever met, now Sen. Warren doesn’t fall for the fancy linguistic tricks or ill-conceived arguments the establishment class in her field consistently tries to pass off as absolute truth. She questions so we, in turn, learn to question. This is why she probably always gets high evals at the end of every year.
POP CULTURE LOSSES: Joan Rivers, Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Gone but not forgotten
This is not the best but the WORST. Still, it needs to be included because of the ripple effect their deaths seemed to have had across the world. Doing great work in the field of entertainment puts you in public view and when you do it over a long period of time the world feels as if they really knew you and mourns accordingly. And perhaps we all did know them – at least partially. It’s an element of what made them all such outstanding artists.
Still, it is quite odd for three such unexpected celebrity deaths to occur in such a relatively short period of time by less than natural means. Flip the channels on television or the peruse the shelves of a film DVD library and you can’t help but run into these three and marvel at the talent as you simultaneously consider the sudden loss. JR was in her early eighties, RW was in his early 60s and PSH was in his late forties. Yet in their own very individual ways they each were among the very best at what they did. Which is all any of us can hope for at any given moment in time.
TELEVISION: Lisa Kudrow and HBO’s The Comeback
Oh how we “cherish” you (sorry, couldn’t help myself)
There is nothing currently on television that evokes the humor, pathos and general uneasy brilliant comic drama that Lisa Kudrow brings to her portrayal of actress/reality star Valerie Cherish on HBO’s The Comeback. And when I say nothing I mean her performance is unlike anything I (or you) have ever seen on TV (nee HBO) or pretty much anywhere.
This series has returned ten years after being cancelled after only running a year the first time around. That alone is remarkable. But nothing prepares you for the eight episode arc of the new season as you watch Valerie/Lisa endure the indignities of rising towards the top of a profession that often leaves little room for any real dignity (Note: How may professions do?). Or maybe she just chooses wrong. (Note: Who doesn’t sometimes?). Whatever the reason, she is simultaneously the underdog and her own worst enemy and it’s sad, recognizable, funny and uncomfortably cringe-worthy. Most of all – it’s real.
I will miss Valerie Cherish for everything she is and everything she is not. If you haven’t tuned in, do so. And for god sakes, given Lisa/Valerie the Emmy.
MEDICINE: Ebola Nurse Kaci Hickox
You ride that bike, girl.
What can you say about a nurse who goes voluntarily to Africa to fight a deadly disease, returns to the US where she is put into mandatory quarantine by New Jersey governor Chris Christie (even though she showed no symptoms and did not test positive for the virus) and then publicly stands up to said well-known political bully without cursing him out or punching him in the face? That she’s my kind of gal? Needless to say.
If ever there was a face I wanted to punch…
For those who don’t recall, Gov. Christie insisted on quarantine for Nurse Hickox in a makeshift tent when she returned to the U.S., which caused her to go public and take a stand against the governor by defying his quarantine and returning home to Maine. She did all this with calm determination and the backing of medical facts despite the hysterical witch-hunts and political grandstanding that began swirling around her.
Then once she got to Maine, she and her boyfriend dared to take a bike ride while being hounded by a gaggle of media. And remain polite and calm. I shudder to think what I would have said. #GetChristieNoLove
MUSIC: Annie Lennox, Nostalgia
Click Play. Repeat. Click Play. Repeat.
In the 1980s, Annie Lennox was the lead singer of The Eurythmics and known for huge hit records like Would I Lie To You. Once I saw her in concert where she leaned so far into the stage on one foot with her mic that I thought she’d fall over as she hit a note so raw and pitch perfect that you could hear an audible gasp throughout the entire concert hall. Some years later she went on her own and won a Grammy Award for best pop vocal for No More I Love Yous from her second solo album Medusa. She followed that with an Oscar some years after that for best original song, Into the West, from the last of the first three Lord of the Rings movies.
All that being said, it should come as no surprise that for me the best CD/download/album or whatever you want to call it of the year is hers. In Nostalgia she takes classics like I Put A Spell On You, You Belong To Me, Georgia on My Mind and Billie Holliday’s haunting song of the lynching of Black men in the Deep South, Strange Fruit, and presents them all in stripped down versions unlike anyone you have ever heard before. There are so few true real artists these days with worldwide commercial success. She’s one.
APP: Aaron Paul’s YB
For free or by paying 99 cents for a more advanced version, you can download an app where actor Aaron Paul’s resonant baritone speaks phrases like Yo, bitch or Happy Holidays, Bitch or See ya, Bitch any time you want. Yes, I find this exciting.
See, when Breaking Bad ended its series run we also lost Paul’s Jessie Pinkman, the dumb as a fox crystal meth-cooking sidekick whose signature phrase, Yo Bitch, became a national obsession. A multiple Emmy winner and fan favorite, Paul raised almost $2 million for his wife’s charity, Kind Campaign, which helps young women in need, with a series of contests and giveaways that coincided with the final season. But after being stopped on the street, emailed and tweeted by thousands of people imploring him to curse them out with variations of his signature phrase he gave in and decided to generate some cash with it – for charity and, hopefully, for himself. Because even cursing people out loses its thrill after a while – and especially when they ask you to.
SOCIAL ACTIVITY: Protests
The consecutive deaths of too many young Black males in the last year in numerous states by law enforcement has created both spontaneous and planned nationwide protests across the country. In the moment it feels as if this is doing nothing but letting off steam yet through the lens of history one can clearly see this is the American way to social justice and evolution.
I would not have thought this was quite true decades ago. But having been born at a time when the civil rights movement first began taking hold, and then living through the Vietnam War, Kent State, women’s rights, gay rights, AIDS, homelessness, nuclear proliferation and marriage equality, I’ve seen how it works. Societal shifts are only fueled through provocateurs that have a real and righteous point about injustice. Therefore it’s our job to take it to the streets, talk about it, write about it or even just write a check in order to make something happen. It moves at a snail’s pace but things ultimately evolve when we don’t give in or give up. #ICantBreathe.
NEWBORN BABY: Sam Van Buren
Forget Joe Cool.. meet Sam Cool
Who is Sam Van Buren, you might ask? Well, the coolest, snappiest and best-dressed baby I’ve ever seen – who happens to be the firstborn of my blog cohort and dear friend Holly Van Buren and her husband Michael.
Holly chooses the images and writes the captions for Notes and it might surprise you to know that she literally gave birth two months ago without missing a single week of choosing images, tagging and posting the blog. How is she able to do this along with everything else she is responsible for in her life – I HAVE NO IDEA!!
It helps when Sam looks like this…
Sam the Man, as I call him, takes great photos because he is able to both smile and come off as a hipster all at the same time. Again, I have no idea how to do this. But it does give me hope that one day as he gets older he might teach me. That is if I am not too old. Do not say – too late.
GQ baby of the year
For myself, Holly and our marketing director Samantha Rabstein – who has a few surprises in store for 2015 – that’s all he wrote. In 2014, that is.