I wish I could take credit for that phrase, but it was a friend of a friend who coined it. And it’s perfect.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is everything the adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s book should be. In a non-Hollywood world. One can only imagine what this film might have looked like in the hands of a Ron Howard (the live-action HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS starring Jim Carrey) or a Bo Welch (the live-action THE CAT IN THE HAT starring Mike Myers). But in the hands of Spike Jonze, the film is a raw, emotional journey more akin to a poem than a plot-driven narrative. Kudos to Warner Brothers for getting behind Jonze’s vision and seeing that a mature and artistic film was produced and released. And while it’s true WILD THINGS didn’t make as much money as the two above-mentioned atrocities, nor did it receive any Academy Award nominations (THE GRINCH won for Best Makeup and was also nominated for Best Costume Design), even though WILD THINGS is brimming over with creativity and the creatures are simply the most expressive and individual creations I’ve seen on screen in many a year (and that includes AVATAR), I believe WILD THINGS will stand the test of time better than any of those more immediately “profitable” films.

There’s a Stanley Kubrick quote I often repeat and I’ll do so again here:

“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.”

That was certainly the case with Sendak’s book. It wasn’t a long book, just a few pages, really, with some vivid images and very few words. So while the story itself wasn’t “fleshed-out” in the way a novel would be, the book stirred the imagination and evoked feelings, both joyous and frightening, but always honest. And Jonze’s film adaptation stays true to this in spades. Jonze:
“One of the things I was worried about is that the book is just so beloved to so many people. And as I started to have ideas for it I was worried that I was just making what it means to me, and what the book triggers in me from when I was a kid. And I’d be worried that other people were gonna be disappointed, because it’s like adapting a poem. It can mean so much to so many different people. And Maurice [Sendak] was very insistent that that’s all I had to do… just make what it was to me, just to make something personal and make something that takes kids seriously and doesn’t pander to them. He told me that when his book came out, it was considered dangerous. It was panned by critics and child psychologists and librarians, because it wasn’t how kids were talked to. And it took like only two years after the book was out that kids started finding it in the libraries, and basically kids discovered it and made it what it is. And now it’s 40 years later and it’s a classic. So he said you just have to make something according to your own instinct.”

It should be noted that WILD THINGS isn’t necessarily a film for kids. Now that doesn’t mean, of course, that kids won’t like or appreciate it, but it doesn’t speak down to them and Jonze pulls no punches in his telling and interpretation of the story. It is incredibly scary and unsettling at times. The film does, after all, explore the wild emotions that surge through all of us when we’re young and don’t yet have the tools to control or understand the sweeping inner turmoil we are subjected to. And lead actor Max Records imparts this inner conflict with such abandon that it is impossible not to participate in his wildly emotional journey.

From the first frame of Max, dressed in his now famous wolf costume, chasing his dog around the house as if interacting one wild beast to another, the audience is told immediately that this film is more about emotion than plot; more interior than exterior. As Max catches up with his dog and latches onto it like a wolf pouncing on its prey, his mouth open wide and screaming with the fierceness and joy and exuberance of a creature both out of control and in its element, Jonze freezes the frame as the main title appears. Wild things, indeed. We are clearly not in for a saccharine ride.

And the tone that Jonze sets in that opening sequence maintains its momentum and strength throughout the film. From Max’s interactions with his sister and her friends, to his mother and her boyfriend, Max’s journey is a roller-coaster of joy, sadness, anger, loneliness, exhilaration and confusion. But it is also a journey and celebration of small moments. Like when Max plays with his mother’s stockinged toes under her writing desk where she works. It is one of those intimate moments we have as kids; a private world–a cave of sorts–where we get to examine things up close, to touch and feel and poke. A place we rarely go to as adults, but which linger deep in our subconscious and in our sense-memory. Places of comfort, be it that space under the desk or a self-made igloo created in the aftermath of a blizzard or, as the film later parallels, a nest to be built and destroyed and rebuilt again. Creation is often followed by destruction and then creation again, much in the same way we eventually leave some of our wild beasties behind, even though we never forget them and still hold them somewhere close, just out of reach. They are the building blocks of our personalities, our way into the world, how we interact and comprehend.

And the world of both Max and his Wild Things are presented to us as equally real. Not a fantasy world painted with broad, colorful strokes or a CG wonderland of unreality, but an organic world of dirt and shadow, of sunlight and cold. As children, the worlds of our imagination are all-consuming; they are real to us and Jonze honors that world. He takes it as seriously as we ourselves do.

As a writer myself, I have learned to embrace and celebrate the process of writing stream-of-consciousness; not working from a pre-determined plot or sequence of events, but instead, allowing my subconscious to run free, uninhibited; to let the characters and events speak for themselves, to dictate what will happen next. To allow myself to be surprised and to trust that my own inner voice has something to say, something to reveal. It is, in many ways, the antithesis to how Hollywood approaches storytelling.

Hollywood today can be seen as the death of subtext. Stories are written and rewritten by committee until the story has been stripped bare of that individual voice that is–or would have been– our most personal link to the story and characters. Gone are the unspoken themes that emerge regardless of an author’s intent; the layers beneath the layers that are imparted to our unconscious, those things that are felt before they are understood. All too often in the contemporary Hollywood film, emotional responses are calculated, plot beats and motivations explained. It is more often than not whittled down to something that works on the surface, but rarely touches on the primal, where I believe the best stories flourish and thrive. Spike Jonze:

“I slowly just tried to trust that there were certain feelings in the movie that didn’t need dialogue, and that we didn’t have to have dialogue saying what the movie is about so much as the movie just being about it. So we slowly just tried to find places where we could strip the dialogue back and let the feeling of the photography and the mood and the performances do the work.”

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE inhabits this primal, poetic world, and it does so with the exuberance of life and childhood, with honesty, and without apology. It is truly an inner journey–helped along by Karen O and Carter Burwell’s stunning, evocative score–that trusts our hearts over our minds, while intimately celebrating both.

It is truly a love song to boys. And to all children. And the adults they become.


America: A Culture Of Bullies & Violence?

America loves a bully. Despite the word’s definition: A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. We, as Americans, celebrate the bully at every turn, while accusing those who use brains over brawn as being weak. Take our current president, for example. Here is a man who is consistently painted as being weak by his critics, both Republicans and Democrats alike. America’s love of the bully is what, for so long, made Russia such a formidable opponent. They were bullies and they were threatening our global bully position. Yes, we often claim to be the saviors of other “weaker” nations, but when given an opportunity to move a couple of notches up the evolutionary ladder, we almost always resort to our most basic, animalistic tendencies. That being said, we often do manage to grow eventually, but not before enacting irreversible brutality on both ourselves and those around us.

Barack Obama is fully capable of devouring his enemies and critics. But he does so with a knife and fork and a bib tucked neatly into his shirt. His recent live Q&A at a House Republican retreat in Baltimore proved that to be the case. Despite the ongoing insistence by the radical right that Obama is nothing without his teleprompter (that he’s all smoke and mirrors and his “illusion” of intelligence and knowledge has more to do with his well-rehearsed oratory skills), Obama cleaned the floor with these fools on live national television while suggesting “a tone of civility instead of slash and burn will be helpful.” And no teleprompter! His victory here was so complete that, according to MSNBC’s Luke Russert, one Republican official and other GOP aides confided that allowing the “cameras to roll like that” was a “mistake.” Even Fox News cut away from the live proceeding 20 minutes before it ended! And Ezra Klein of the Washington Post called it “the most compelling political television I’ve seen…maybe ever.” But in perfect pathological fashion, folks like Florida Republican Marco Rubio continue to insist that Obama is helpless without his teleprompter. It should be noted that Rubio made that claim again the other day while standing before a set of teleprompters and flipping through pages of notes on the podium before him.

So what exactly is this pathological rewriting of reality? I had a handful of very disturbing interactions with a Libertarian acquaintance of mine recently and felt I got a series of first-hand examples of this kind of mindset. The same mindset that allowed Fox News to cut away from Obama in Baltimore and replace him with talking heads who immediately started rewriting history even as it was happening! And what was most terrifying about my exchange with this Libertarian fellow who sees himself as “an extremely socially, ultra-liberal independent voter” was the complete and utter lack of self-awareness that accompanied it. This fellow would make accusations against Obama and other politicians, basically regurgitating “facts” which he’d heard or read elsewhere and, when confronted with proof to the contrary, would either A) delete his previous comments (when interacting online) or claim never to have said any such thing; or B) refuse to respond to any rebuttal by changing the subject entirely or simply calling his debate opponent crazy. All the while NEVER backing up any of his statements or admitting when he’d been proven wrong. Even when confronted with deleted comments he claimed never to have made (they were, unbeknownst to him, saved on our email accounts), he would then backpedal by saying “Well, that’s not what I meant to say.” But when asked what it was he had meant to say, he would again resort to name-calling, but never actually answer the question at hand. It seemed, time and again, truth and reality were of no interest to him. There was a complete and total pathology at work that would allow him to create new realities in any given moment to suit his desires. With this tact, logic and reason had no effect and were therefore of no importance. And while, in certain situations, an interaction like this might serve as a source of mild amusement or come across as innocently baffling, here, in the political arena, it was downright terrifying. And I took it to be a signifier of a mindset all too common by some of today’s most vocal political protesters.

Meanwhile, political henchmen and possible presidential candidates like Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin stir the pot by publicly proclaiming Obama weak for apologizing internationally for America’s past transgressions (mostly committed while Cheney was Vice President). As if admitting you were wrong or apologizing for mistakes was ineffectual and spineless as opposed to honorable, ethical and, that dirtiest of all words, conscientious. They also condemned the president for politely bowing before asian world-leaders (despite it being tradition and a sign of respect–much like a handshake). But to the bully, showing respect or admitting that there may be common ground is tantamount to surrendering. So while Obama continues to act like an intelligent, thoughtful, educated and civil world leader, many Americans simply can’t stomach the fact that he’s not more outwardly aggressive.

Recently, the National Review’s Daniel Pipes outlined his thoughts on how Obama (“a president whose election I opposed, whose goals I fear, and whose policies I work against”) can regain the respect of the nation and lift his sagging poll numbers in an article he called “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran,”:

“[Obama] needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations… Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapon capacity.”

Because, let’s face it, two wars is not enough. And they weren’t Obama’s. Obama needs his own trophy war if he wants to gain the respect of all those Americans who believe him to be a socialist wimp. And of course the simple-solutions everywoman, Sarah Palin, agreed wholeheartedly with Pipes:

“If [Obama] decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies, I think people would, perhaps, shift their thinking a little bit and decide, ‘Well, maybe he’s tougher than we think he’s—than he is today,’ and there wouldn’t be as much passion to make sure that he doesn’t serve another four years.”

And what’s saddest about all of this is that they may be correct. This would, quite likely, make a significant percentage of Americans more comfortable with Obama. Sure, it would plunge our already disastrous economy deeper into the toilet and hundreds of thousands of lives would most likely be lost in a war that would extend far beyond any comprehensible expectations (not to mention result in the further alienation of our Nato partners and other countries and citizens around the globe), but at least Obama would take his rightful place as another American bully and save face among his fellow citizens who think him a sissy boy. Or would it? We already know that, despite appalled denial, many Americans still struggle with racism and are not comfortable with a black (or even half-black) president. So what would happen if this president suddenly got tough, angry even, and became the bully we’re all so used to seeing in that highest of political offices? Well, he’d have a whole new set of problems to face that, well, a white guy might not, as Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times discussed back in April of 2008:

“For new school black politicians, it is an essential question: How do you recognize the righteous anger of those frustrated by racial inequality without looking like just another Angry Black Man?

Those of us who write often about black folks and politics knew there would come a moment when the first black man with a realistic shot at becoming president would have to face this challenge — reconciling black anger and frustration with white fear and resentment.”

Would Obama go from intellectually-threatening wuss to scary, angry black guy in the eyes of the fearful? I mean, in this country, as sad a commentary as it is, a white president and a black president are still not treated equally in the eyes of some of our citizens. Take that Wingnut email being forwarded that takes outrage at Obama putting his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office:

Does this photo of President Obama in the Oval Office convey anything to you about his attitude?

Would you speak with the Chief of Staff, your Chief Economics Adviser, and your Senior Adviser with your feet up on the Resolute Desk – a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880?

We should inundate the White House with emails demanding he keep his feet off of our furniture.

This arrogant, immature & self-centered man has no sense of honor, or of simple decency.

While this posture is disrespectful in any culture, it is absolutely never done in any executive setting.

Further, in over half of the cultures of the world, it is recognized not only as disrespectful, but as an extreme insult.

He thinks of himself as a king — and not as a servant of the people, humbly occupying our White House for his term in office.

Electing him was an enormous mistake — and will cost us in many ways, for generations.

Where were all the letters of appall and outrage when our last (white) president did the very same thing?

So one wonders if it is possible for a man like Barack Obama to be the bully America loves without being stamped “another Angry Black Man.” Would he gain some level of twisted respect from the very men and women who fear him (after all, in America, fear equals power and strength, right?), or do we only like our bullies to be white?

Personally, I’m thrilled not to have another bully president even though I find myself at times wanting Obama to be a little more forceful in his political dealings. While I admire and celebrate what I hope will turn out to be a more evolved approach to politics (it’s one of the reasons I voted for him), I believe he would actually be more effective if he were a bit more ruthless. Sadly, the current climate in Washington is set up to keep Obama from achieving any successes, regardless of whether or not they are in the best interest of most Americans. So he is essentially bullied by a divided House and Senate who will try and keep his hands tied for as long as he’s willing to allow them. At the same time, I believe Obama has a bigger picture in mind and is actually putting his money (and career) where his mouth is:

“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president… There’s a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. And, you know, that’s not just the view of elected officials themselves. That’s also the filter through which the media reads things.”

So while I am frustrated and angered by the eternal roadblocks put in place by lesser men and women, I am also thrilled to see America with an intelligent, self-aware leader who recognizes the changes that need to be made if we are to grow out of our infancy. Sadly, our love affair with violence (both verbal and physical) and our passion for vengeance and our need to be “stronger” than any potential opponent regardless of ideology or purpose, gets in the way of our actually making strides in the betterment of our people, our nation, or our world. And perhaps the above-mentioned live Q&A in Baltimore is a significant step in Obama bridging the gap between substance and politics. NBC’s Chuck Todd commented on the live event:

“The president should hold Congressional ‘town halls’ more often. Public needs to see this if they’ll ever trust Washington again.”

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein added:

“Obama assumed the role of responsible adult to the GOP children, or, at the very least, of a college professor teaching and lecturing a room full of students.”

Dee Dee Myers, Clinton’s former press secretary, backed up that statement with:

“On one level it looked brave but on another he was the substitute teacher there, lecturing the audience. A lot of us have been waiting for that moment, a little more fight, a little more politics.”

And then there’s that poor fella so outraged by the IRS he decided that violence was the only answer to his problems and so he created his own 9/11 by crashing a plane into an Austin IRS complex. It seems in our celebration of bullies, we simultaneously send out a non-stop message that violence is a justifiable means to an end. I tried to address this concept metaphorically in my film THE PLAGUE, but the studio behind it decided that the film should actually be the polar opposite of its intent and set about systematically removing the film’s message and attempt at cultural self-reflection. Instead, they tried to turn it into a film about killer-kids; essentially, they were far more attracted to the notion of a film that celebrated its violence rather than one that made an informed commentary on it. And this is, as many of us already know, not a new development in the industry. God-forbid anything should elicit individual thought or stir conversation or promote questions. The studios would rather keep people right where they are (our base impulses sell more tickets than our intellect or common sense). Like Sarah Palin, who actually sells herself as a presidential candidate by publicizing the fact that she’s not qualified to run this country:

“I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I’m not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I’m going to fight the elitist, because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America feel like we just don’t get it, and big government’s just going to have to take care of us… I want to speak up for the American people and say: No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that.”

Good common-sense solutions. Like bombing Iran. And I don’t know about anyone else, but the thought of a president who doesn’t know more than I do about running this country scares the shit out of me. But somehow this comforts many. They can relate to Palin. And she can be a bully. Unreasonable, unrealistic, ignorant, under-educated and completely incapable of admitting –or even understanding– when she’s wrong… Sounds like someone else I know. Or a vocal group of people I read about daily.

Here’s a quote I thought hit the nail on the head:

“If you were to imagine a bunch of middle-class white people who conceive of themselves as the oppressed productive backbone of the country, and who embody a strange collection of unbridled ignorance and bizarre ahistorical conspiracy theory, you’d have a pretty good handle on the teabaggers.”

Yep. That pretty much sums up Palin and her many followers and fans. That gun-toting, angry mob you see on the news pretty much every day. And like so many people in this group, they struggle, fight and vote against their own best interests. Blogger Ben Grossblatt put it quite eloquently, I thought:

“The Tea Party is a quasi-Libertarian collection of people who think Obama is a socialist, and who delude themselves into believing they’re more than just ventriloquist dummies for the Republicans. They fancy themselves populists, but they support the same economic and legislative policies that have put regular people under the heel of big business.”

Big business, in the form of corporate entities, is the friend to the “tea-bagger”, despite any claims they may make to the contrary. And why is that? Because big business are bullies. And, no matter how much we may fear them, they give us some measure of comfort in the fear they elicit. We have a certain twisted “respect” for their power over us. And to make matters worse, we secretly hope to one day become a member of those wealthier-than-god, untouchable bullies. I think Reagan’s trickle-down economics proved that to be true. A failed economic plan that put the biggest tax breaks in the hands of the wealthiest Americans and opened the door for what turned out to be the complete corporate takeover of our nation (the world?) and still has the support of some of America’s least-wealthy and most-hard-hit-by-the-recession individuals. And despite the gross reality of this backward economic plan, there’s always a chance that one of us may find ourselves a member of that elite group (you sure you don’t like elitists, Ms. Palin?) and then we can finally reap the benefits of a misguided nation which fights to eliminate its middle-class (despite true Capitalism’s dependency on it) and broaden the division between rich and poor. Because the rich have historically always bullied the poor. And, as I said before, America loves and respects a bully. Even when we’re under their heel.

America: A Culture Of Bullies & Violence?

Donald Trump Wants Al Gore Stripped Of Nobel Prize

Yes, another brilliant move by one of the nations wealthier Americans. Donald Trump joined the ever-growing pack of idiots that proudly flaunt their complete and utter misunderstanding of climate change, also known as “Global Warming.” It seems the word “warming’ has confused some of our more “successful” entrepreneurs. You see, they saw some big snowstorms so, clearly, global warming isn’t happening. Cause snow is cold. Not warm. Get it? It’s cold. Brrrrr…

Not doing his little boy homework, Trump never discovered that climate change can be both warm AND cold. Yes… The effects of Global Warming result in volatile weather patterns.

But Trump saw snow.

“With the coldest winter ever recorded, with snow setting record levels up and down the coast, the Nobel committee should take the Nobel Prize back from Al Gore… Gore wants us to clean up our factories… when China and other countries couldn’t care less… China, Japan and India are laughing at America’s stupidity.”

Now I don’t know if he’s just really stupid or whether he’s just using this opportunity to appeal to the “lesser-educated” Americans out there ready to throw some stones (or snow balls). Trump laid his claims before a country club crowd of 500.

Luckily, Trump was trumped by another even wealthier, successful American. Bill Gates. According to CNN:

Gates said the deadline for the world to cut all of its carbon emissions is 2050. He suggested that researchers spend the next 20 years inventing and perfecting clean-energy technologies, and then the next 20 years implementing them.

The world’s energy portfolio should not include coal or natural gas, he said, and must include carbon capture and storage technology as well as nuclear, wind and both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power…

Gates told the audience that climate change will cause poverty and famine that will disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people.

So what IS Global Warming really? According to Wikipedia:

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth’s near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation… The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century was very likely caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation

An increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts. Warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. Other likely effects include changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, species extinctions, and changes in agricultural yields. Warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe, though the nature of these regional variations are uncertain…

These basic conclusions have been endorsed by more than 40 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries.

You know, if anyone’s actually interested.

In reality.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post put it all quite humorously into perspective:

“As a scientific proposition, claiming that heavy snow in the mid-Atlantic debunks global warming theory is about as valid as claiming that the existence of John Edwards debunks the theory of evolution.”

Ouch. But point made. Milbank goes on to suggest why so many people are misinformed or confused about Global Warming:

For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles and disease. It’s not that Gore is wrong about these things. The problem is that his storm stories have conditioned people to expect an endless worldwide heat wave, when in fact the changes so far are subtle.

Other environmentalists have undermined the cause with claims bordering on the outlandish; they’ve blamed global warming for shrinking sheep in Scotland, more shark and cougar attacks, genetic changes in squirrels, an increase in kidney stones and even the crash of Air France Flight 447. [There’s a website that lists over 600 things that have allegedly been caused by global warming, from “acne” to “yellow fever.”] When climate activists make the dubious claim, as a Canadian environmental group did, that global warming is to blame for the lack of snow at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, then they invite similarly specious conclusions about Washington’s snow — such as the Virginia GOP ad urging people to call two Democratic congressmen “and tell them how much global warming you get this weekend.”

Alas, misinformation mixed with a basic misunderstanding can be a dangerous tonic. Especially if it is in the hands of people who make some of the bigger decisions regarding Climate Change. Like Ed Rogers, once White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and chairman of BGR Group, a self-proclaimed “premier bipartisan government relations, strategic communications, and investment banking firm”:

There is global climate science and then there is the Global Warming Movement. The movement hijacked the science a long time ago, and it has had its share of setbacks lately. Its leaders have tried to stiff-arm their way past errors, lies, fraud, pointless tax increase proposals and some really peculiar posing in Copenhagen.

Now they have suffered a coup de grace: public ridicule brought on by a record-breaking blizzard blasting their East Coast home base. The movement was already dead in Congress for 2010 (its climate-change bill has been sidelined), but Snowmageddon buried it. How could it be that heat waves evidenced global warming, but so did a cold wave? The public isn’t buying it anymore.

In November, the public will give a cold shoulder to a bunch of intellectually frozen hypocrites who demand economic sacrifice to solve a problem that voters don’t see or feel. At least for a while, the left will have to think up a new way to dictate a lifestyle for the rest of us. Maybe now the science can continue without the clumsy overreaching of the movement’s priestly class.

Hmmm… I prefer Federal global warming program director of Environment America Emily Figdor’s simple but accurate response:

The snowstorms that ground the nation’s capital to a halt only underscored the need for bold action to fight global warming. Heavier, more frequent snowstorms are just what scientists predict in a warming world, as extreme weather events – whether blizzards or heat waves – become more common.

So, will ignorance, stupidity and misinformation win out over truth and reality? Only time will tell…

In the meantime, dress warm.

Donald Trump Wants Al Gore Stripped Of Nobel Prize

Today’s GOP Message: Stupid Is Good

Just a quick glance at some of today’s GOP news. It seems that a poll done by Esquire magazine shows that 78 percent of “Republican leaders” believe that President Obama is a socialist. Those surveyed are, according to the magazine and suggested by the answers given, not from the fringes of the party. Yet nonetheless, they seem to have no idea what actual socialism is. A similar poll earlier this month by Daily Kos/Research 2000 found that 63 percent of Republicans believed Obama to be a socialist, while 16 percent were not sure and 21 percent believe he is not.

Add to this Washington Post columnist David Broder’s serious comments about Sarah Palin being “at the top of her game — a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.” Broder continued to rave about Palin:

“Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.”

But my favorite is Broder’s excitement about Palin’s comments to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Here’s what Sarah initially said:

“I do want to be a voice for some common-sense solutions. I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I’m not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I’m going to fight the elitist, because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America feel like we just don’t get it, and big government’s just going to have to take care of us… I want to speak up for the American people and say: No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that. Don’t have to have a title to do it.”

And now Broder’s admiring comments:

“What stood out in the eyes of TV-watching pols of both parties was the skill with which she drew a self-portrait that fit not just the wishes of the immediate audience but the mood of a significant slice of the broader electorate… she has locked herself firmly in the populist embrace that every skillful outsider candidate from George Wallace to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has utilized when running against “the political establishment.

“…This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains.

“But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty — and potentially, to Obama as well…

“Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.”

It is both amusing and frightening to see men like Broder actually admire Sarah Palin for being the answer to this country’s supposed dislike of “elitists.” Basically, what he’s saying is that you have a bunch of under-educated people who get defensive when they can’t answer the questions they are asked or engage in a political conversation from a place of knowledge or understanding. So they’d rather have a dummy in charge (Palin, Bush, those who think Obama’s a socialist) than someone who is actually educated, articulate and can see a bigger picture.

Broder and Palin actually want us to celebrate our country’s ignorance.

“I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person.”

Really? Is that what we want from our elected officials? That they don’t know any more than we do about their own jobs?

And then, just for shits and giggles, I’ll mention Glenn Beck’s recent euphoric conclusion that the major snowstorms hitting the east coast are actual proof that global warming is a hoax. Forget about the fact that volatile weather patterns and cycles are one of the major effects of climate change. Hot or cold!

Once again, let’s celebrate ignorance and stupidity and pass it off as fact on national television. Or honor it in print.

Go, Go, GOP!

And God Bless America.

Today’s GOP Message: Stupid Is Good

The Retardation Of America: Truth Or Consequences

What does the future face of America look like? There is still a large faction of extreme right-wing, anti-intellectual, bigots spouting threats of a “take-over” in 2012. Now it just remains to be seen whether or not enough Americans bite into that worm-filled apple and propel this country into its death-throws, or whether or not there is enough common sense and practicality left to allow this moment in history to be a genuine growth spurt.

With Sarah Palin’s recent comments suggesting a possible presidential run in 2012 (perhaps the Mayans were right!), one has to wonder if we’re all just crazy enough to place a 4 year old behind the wheel of a Mack truck and expect that it won’t smash headlong into an electricity pole. After taking out hundreds of pedestrians first.

“I think that it would be absurd to not consider what it is that I could potentially do to help our country… I won’t close a door that perhaps could be open for me in the future.”

How easy it will be for someone like this (it doesn’t have to be Sarah, mind you, there are many potential nominees with a similar mindset ready to fill that slot) to twist this country into a knot so tight it may never be able to be unwound. After all, anyone who suggests that Rahm Emanuel (a man I have no great fondness for) should be dismissed from his position for calling liberal groups “fucking retards,” while supporting Rush Limbaugh using the exact same term in commenting on those same liberal groups with:

“They are kooks, so I agree with Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh was using satire … . I didn’t hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with ‘f-ing retards,’ and we did know that Rahm Emanuel, as has been reported, did say that. There is a big difference there.”

This is the kind of “logic’ that will allow any person in charge to do whatever they want because there will always be a statement that can be made to support their actions, no matter how heinous, regardless of common sense or reality. Not to mention someone who needs to jot down her core principles (“Energy”, “Tax” and “Lift American Spirits”) on her palm like a cheat sheet for fear of forgetting them during a post-tea party Q&A (“Budget Cuts” was also written there, but with the word “Budget” crossed out as an apparent afterthought) .

Not much better are men like John McCain, who said in 2006 in regard to the much-debated “Dont Ask, Don’t Tell” policy:

“I understand the opposition to it, and I‘ve had these debates and discussions, but the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.”

But now that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has openly proclaimed to McCain and the other Senators that:

“It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is the right thing to do… No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

McCain has responded with a resounding and harsh dismissal of Admiral Mullen’s recommendation with a statement that the law should remain unchanged while any war is going on. Thankfully, smarter, more honest men like Gen. Colin Powell rebuffed McCain’s statements with:

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed. I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

So what is the biggest reason given by those opposed to repealing this law? It is to “protect troop morale and cohesion.” Really? Is that what this is about? Because, I gotta tell ya, like those same fears of gay marriage ruining families, this retarded logic feels all too much like that very same fear that was spread when Harry Truman, in 1948, ordered racial integration of troops in the American military. The largely southern opponents to this action claimed that it would create “situations destructive to morale.” This turned out to be anything but true. And to think today of not having an interracial military would be offensive. As this current argument is.

Admiral Mullen continues:

“It does, again, go to a fundamental principle with me, which is, everybody counts. And part of the struggle back to the institutional integrity aspect of this… and putting individuals in a position that every single day, they wonder whether today is going to be the day, and devaluing them in that regard just is inconsistent with us as an institution. I have served with homosexuals since 1968… Everybody in the military has. And we understand that.”

A dear friend of mine, a Desert Storm Veteran, had this to say on the issue:

“I served 3.5 years on a submarine. I have spent 1.5 years under water on 5 patrols. We would go under water with 150 men, of which, some were gay. What a shock. It was common knowledge and everyone knew for the most part…it’s hard to keep a secret after being under water for 3 months. It wasn’t an issue. We trusted each other with our lives.”

We have a choice as Americans. Do we hold onto our old, tired fears? Our illogical excuses for not moving forward? Do we chastise those we don’t like while rewarding those we do, even when they say the very same thing? Come 2012, we will see what America is. If someone like a Sarah Palin finds their way into office, we will have told the world of our intent. And we will have many more enemies than we have today. And they will be of our own making. Anyone who would put their vote behind one of these people is, and I say this with no illusion to respect, an idiot of the highest degree. Mislead, fearful, uninformed and dumb as a knuckle.

The choice is yours.

The Retardation Of America: Truth Or Consequences

An Evening At Pee-Wee’s Playhouse

Pee-Wee’s back and his magical world is as welcome as ever. Paul Reubens has returned to Puppet Land with many of his old friends by his side. Originally slated for the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, overwhelming advance ticket sales forced the gang to find a larger venue. Still small enough to be intimate, the Club Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles served as an odd but serviceable setting for what is a night of huge belly-laughs and pure joy.

The bizarre and futuristic environment of the Staples Center/Nokia Theater complex served as a slightly confusing intro to the youthful innocence of Pee-Wee’s world. But within seconds of Mr. Herman taking the stage, the glitz, neon and sweeping spotlights of the world outside quickly faded from memory. Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, with its bright colors and dream-like characters, quickly embraced us all and carried us lovingly and delicately away.

Working from the basics of his original Groudlings stage show (which aired on HBO back in 1981), Reubens has modified the humor to include some contemporary references. And they all work as seamlessly as if they had been part of the original show. Sadly, with Phil Hartman no longer with us, the character of Captain Carl was sadly absent from the proceedings. In a Q&A after the show Reubens shared how he just couldn’t see anyone else stepping into that role. So he chose to keep Captain Carl a cherished memory rather than recast the part.

But back for more fun is John Moody as Mailman Mike, Lynne Marie Stewart as Miss Yvonne, and the always lovable John Paragon as the mysterious and jovial Jambi. The rest of the cast and crew do a breathtaking job of bringing the Playhouse world to life. Particularly the lovely and talented Lori Allen as the voice of Chairry (among others), one of the most beloved characters in Puppetland. And wait till you see the Chairry and Pee-Wee musical dance number (yes, that’s right, I said dance number) that is a downright show-stopper.

After the show, I had the privilege of hanging in the VIP lounge and meeting some of the cast. It was a treat, to say the least, enhanced by the colorful setting of Club Nokia’s bizarre fourth floor. After that, we attended a Q&A with Reubens that was as entertaining as the show itself. Sharp and full of biting wit, Reubens –both comfortable and articulate– engaged the crowd with relish. He was extremely funny as well as sincere, and his genuine appreciation and gratitude for the fans that have stuck around was downright moving, both for Reubens and those of us in the audience. It was great to learn of some of the scenes that had been cut from the show, in part for financial reasons and in part to make the show a tad more “kid-friendly.” Gone is a scene referencing medical marijuana and Pee-Wee’s fear that it will lead him straight to heroin. Probably for the best, I think. While the show still references some adult themes, most, if not all of them, will soar right over the kiddies’ heads. Including an active left hand sporting an “abstinence ring.”

There’s rumor of a Broadway run, which would be wonderful. The Los Angeles run ends this Sunday and, if you can, I urge you to go. There are still some Standing Room Only tix. Don’t worry, the place is small enough that you won’t miss a thing.

As for me, I attended the show on the heels of a nasty flu and, after having pumped myself full of several different medications throughout the week, I can say with all certainty that an evening spent with Pee-Wee Herman and his Playhouse friends was above and beyond the best medicine I could have had for what ailed me. Two days later, I am still floating on air.

I was, and still am, the luckiest boy in the world.

An Evening At Pee-Wee’s Playhouse