The Hurricane Before the Storm

In Florida, an approaching hurricane is not so much an environmental threat as it is a welcomed intruder.

As blasphemous as this may sound, especially after Irma landed some pretty intense jabs locally and up the west coast of the state, I contend that rather than being a natural process, the entire hurricane operation is a highly staged performance.

IMG_0070

Do they make viagra for trees?

The past nine days demonstrated just how much of a well choreographed Shakespearean tragi-comedy Irma was.

First are the powers-that-be. Perhaps it is not entirely their fault as the media bombards them with generic, if not loaded questions, but the Governor, his lieutenants and the 4356 state mayors all do what state representatives are now paid handsomely to do : scare the population into a major shopping spree which coincides with a temporary loss of income.

170910_abc_spec_irma_scott_brief_16x9_992

My friend Bobby, aside from being unable to do the lucrative home automation work for a week, had to spend over $3000 to schlep his family to North Carolina and pull a small trailer alongside their minivan. This does not include extra food expenses and the heartbeat regulator medicine he must now take.

Then there are the other municipal servants who cancel everything in sight then wonder why there is so much chaos at the few places which remain open.

The biggest culprits of course are the media, an oversized blob of doomsayers and opportunists who foam at the mouth in hope of winning the prize for most hyperbolic and/or maudlin on-the-spot reporting

article-0-0D9574A500000578-407_468x312

In Miami’s case, most of these bravehearts report from either the marina or beach in optimal weather several days before the expected landing, imploring the locals to use every bit of their hard earned money to drive to cities and countries they have never heard of in traffic conditions comparable to the Super Bow, and without any guarantee of a smooth return.

hqdefault

 

The forewarning is not futile and perhaps employs the proper sales technique of repetition, but to me, there is one glaring oversight – Floridians are used to rain, wind and related forces of nature. A cavalcade of water and storm surges are the threat, but most of those being pressured to evacuate live on the shoreline for a reason. If an avalanche or mudslide (which is impossible given the topography) or ice storm were coming out way, okay I can see the need for a statewide SOS. But heavy heavy rain – isn’t that what we signed up for?

Then there are the Plebians – earnest, gullible, overly solicitous residents who have plugged into at least three media forms of updates with the same concern as if the Brits have decided to reclaim America. How is it that such hardened, “we don’t even believe we need sunscreen because conditioning has provided an extra layer of pigmentation” the same people who walk around for hours in flip flops, are so petrified of an impending storm and so easily manipulated by the town criers? And exactly what do they want from the hourly updates three days in advance which they gobble like an offensive lineman told he has 90 seconds to finish a stack of pancakes.

Jimmy_buffett_summerzcool

Oh but if you are a tourist planning a getaway to Florida, dont sweat the headlines. The bigwigs say this storm is just passing through like your mother-in-law who has decided to make a quick pit stop on the way to Boston to do some shopping.

The performance hits a crescendo when the hurricane draws near. A once bustling pseudo-city in a catchy time of year becomes a literal ghost town while the elected representatives repeat the same chorus: “Pack, flee, prepare yourself for the apocalypse, find shelters, write wills, buy enough food to feed the next 3 generations and make sure you don’t open any windows for the next week. If you can, build a makeshift panic room. But please don’t be pushy on gas, food and Home Depot Lines. “

Oh and with the emergency cellphone we are encouraging you to buy, please ask for a credit extension on your Mastercard as your state run Citizens insurance is likely to skyrocket”.

Oh, and one more thing…

Please Have Fun in New Orleans, or San Francisco, or Venezuela. We will be eagerly awaiting your return in our taxpayer financed hurricane friendly estates. And while you are away, please put in a good word for Florida. We can fish and golf 365 days a year, with the exception of a few hours here and there.

“And if you are more of the indoors type, our hurricane coverage is second to none.”

 

Advertisements

All Sound and Fury signifying…?

Disclaimer:  I wrote most of this on Wednesday when  local hysteria started to metastasize. Some of this blog is written tongue-in-cheek as I am not trying to offend mother nature nor those who cower before her right now. I do, however, believe the events of the last few days provide ample satirical material, not to mention, have given literary hacks like me a tiny bit more time to vent. Enjoy.

I am not a big worrier.

I mean I worry about the fate of my favorite sports teams and whether my students know how to properly use the semi-colon, but not so much of a worrier in the clinical sense of the word.

Maybe I should be. A little more egg shell walking not to mention healthy distrust might have saved me a lot of agony.

But I live in the world’s largest open-air health spa, the Shangri-La known as Miami, where today it was 88 degrees and sunny, without the normal late summer humidity, low winds and tide, and an unexpected paid day off from work, actually two.

To pervert a famous line from an eighty’s song “The near future is so bright, I gotta wear shades”.

Yet there is an eerie, Armageddon-like feeling in the South Florida, something akin to a combination of the second coming, the buildup to Y2K,  and the film Independence Day.

y2k y2k2

So as all the hullaballoo surrounding Hurricane Irma has picked up the same kind of momentum as Hurricane Harvey approached southern Texas, I have been experiencing the same reaction that I have each of the last twelve years when the mother of all hurricanes has been advertised to hit S. Florida:

“Damn, I sure hope I don’t lose wifi for too long. Oh that, and I hope this doesn’t disrupt my scheduled Saturday morning tennis match.”

Perhaps this is incredibly insensitive and blithe of me to admit, but that is pretty much the extent of my worrying. I have always joked with my students that hurricanes are ” all mental”, and my scientifically challenged mind aside, I’m starting to think that I wasn’t being entirely facetious.

This is not to underestimate mother nature. I’ve read enough to know that nature usually has the upper hand in the existential struggle of man versus nature. Even my own mother wields a lot of power me and her only real force of nature is loud sneezing and chronic gas. But I am taking the attitude that in 99.9% of all circumstances, hurricanes hold as much power over us as we let them.

But I am a seeing is believing kind of guy. So until some local reporter standing on the beach loses his glasses and umbrella telling the locals to entirely stay off the beach, in fact not even say the word beach more than twice, to me my current predicament in South Florida is just another day in paradise. In fact, I am about to go play tennis.

The threats of hurricanes seem to bring out the best and the worst of Miamians. The best is the intrinsic sense of brotherly love and willingness to lend anyone, anywhere, any time, your machete. And yet the worst, and to me this is the biggest paradox of all considering how well-adjusted to hurricane management the locals should be, is that it ignites fear mechanisms that no act of gene splicing seems capable of fixing.

It’s as if Miamians wait the entire year for an opportunity to feel an ounce of bad luck, to feel that somehow they have to live like normal people do who trek through the snow to get to school or work, have their genitals go numb for an entire afternoon while skiing or skating, or have to spend an entire morning shoveling off their driveway and local sidewalk just to be able to walk the dog.

Hurricane_Irma_Gas_66581

So with the threat of Irma, when the locals finally get an opportunity to feel a little taste of nature’s mood swings, the Miami mantra immediately shifts from “What is time? – Baby Don’t Rush Me, Don’t Rush Me, No More” to “Ready, Set, Panic”.

roxbury

As I express my blithe attitude towards Irma, I am prepared for the familiar refrain when any hurricane skepticism is expressed: “Bro, you didn’t live through Andrew, did you?”

This is true.

I didn’t. I’m sure I would have moved back to Boston by now if I had. But I was here during Katrina and Wilma which I recall were a pain in the ass, especially as far as restoring power was concerned. But I suppose that even if I did live through Andrew, I would not be boarding up my house, putting all my prized possessions in storage nor planning the cannonball run to Maine this evening.

winndixiewaterlines

I just don’t get it. I, like everyone else, have endured power outages, food shortages, no shower water for a few days and flooded streets. But I didn’t feel like I had to teleport myself to another time zone much less buy enough water to bathe Shamu. Nor did I buy six weeks-worth of gas because if the hurricane does make landfall, the last thing I am going to do is drive anywhere.

Besides on the water side, if ever there was a time when water was not in short supply, chances are a hurricane is it.

My wife rightly asks me what is our plan B. The reality is drive to Orlando but my go to response is that since we live on the water, we can always go stay at my office which is right by the Flanigans on Bird Ave.

Today (Thursday) was 86 degrees and narry a cloud to speak of. Despite threats from N. Korea, a likely full rescinding of DACA and the pennant race is heating up along with the opening of football season. But the threat of Irma used up almost all of our socializing lung capacity.

To wrap up this existentially risky rant, I will close with a few generalizations about Miamians and the matrix in which they/we live. One, they love chaos or at least the appearance of it. Two, they need it and three, there is no group which buys into the mass marketing of fear with more zeal than the locals. They buy masses of lumber, chain saws, sandbags and other “survival” supplies with the same unconscious obsession that women flock to Nine West to buy highly discounted shoes during the Christmas holiday.

Tell a native he has to perform open heart surgery in half an hour and he will take a shower, shave, chat with the neighbor and have some coffee first. Tell them that a hurricane for which no one really knows the path, category or actual ability to do damage to hurricane resistant structures in four to five days, and within 7 minutes they will have roused themselves from a long-deserved sleep to wait for three hours on a Home Depot line to buy polyurethane wrap.

Despite my cynicism, I applaud those who sweated out long gas, food and supply lines, not to mention, took the five hours to board up their well landlocked homes. Your patience exceeds mine. I also admire your ability to bear the sun day in and day out.

As for me, I just like to call the fear mongering’s bluff once in awhile, or at least until an urgent need to take it at face value arises. Perhaps the joke is one me here and this is exactly the type of self-righteousness that makes mother nature  flex her muscles.

But if this is the case, again I apologize and if you don’t mind bro, could I at least come over on Monday and borrow some of your wifi.

 

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Somewhere along the line, despite coming up with asinine things like radio commercials, FOX News, most Yankees fans, cellphone ringtones and reality TV, we evolved. I mean we really really evolved!

funny-satirical-evolution-charles-darwin-day__700

 

Obviously we pale in comparison to God who formed his little hovel called the universe in six days, a fact corroborated by Breibart News and President Trump himself, but still, in the past century alone, we constructed the Eiffel Tower, built cruise ships large enough to sleep the entire population of Honduras, mass produced I-phones which access more information than the New York Public Library and generates more manifestations of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder  than even the latest DSM -5 edition knows how to identify.

iphone-addiction
And to top it off, a few precocious, sleep deprived Harvard students had the gumption to create a cellphone accessible social network which guarantees women will never fall asleep at a professional sporting event other than baseball.

But based on my decade long research into the topic, there is one area in which we have devolved – communication. Yes I know there is a much more of it and more people are sharing more in more platforms, but it’s definitely not better communication. As a semi-competent communicator, I could wax poetic about this paradox, but for the sake of simplifying, I will just focus on one aspect – how 99.9  percent of conversations start.

In fact, the typical conversation starter is really a conversation stopper. Let me explain.

I will give examples in both English and Spanish.

Let’s say you are in the grocery store and run into someone you recognize. After spending at least four minutes trying to identify who exactly the person is (He is the guy whose newspaper you steal at least three times a week because he has been your next door neighbor for a decade), you launch into what can be best described as the universally agreed upon small-talk.

Neighbor – “Hey Marco, whats going on with you?”

You’re tempted to launch into a big spiel.

Me – “Not much, and you?”

Neighbor – “Same old, same old” (or some variation thereof).

Me – “Good luck on the deli line”

Neighbor – “Thanks. Oh and thanks for stealing my newspapers. The headlines are too depressing anyway.”

Spanish version:

(Phone rings)

“Hola Maria, Como estan?”

“Bien, y tu?”

“Bien gracias.”

“Mira…..”

Mind you Maria is calling because she can’t come today to take care of your three kids today because she just got into a major fender bender. Plus her oldest child has been detained in Venezuela indefinitely for booking a one way flight to the U.S.

conversations

Please note, I am not trying to channel curmudgeons I admire like Larry David or Bill Maher, but of the literally millions of phrases in the English language, can’t we come up with a starter that smacks of a little more originality. Besides, why does everyone want to know how I am. Isn’t that for a shrink to discover?

larry david

So I say lets take back the human potential to have a non-automated, non-reflex based conversation and strain our craniums a bit. For one, I don’t even see “How are you?” as a completed question. Lets finish it as in: “How are you enjoying this nice day?” or “How do you find your comfort level in a world where climate change in a “hoax” but it’s 93 degrees in mid February and two hours of rain forces you to wear a wetsuit just to walk to your car?”

Or “how are you managing to keep your morale high when you are approaching middle age and still work a series (albeit it productive ones) of part time jobs?” (The latter question is entirely theoretical).

Frankly the possibility of such an exchange is kind of exciting.

For now, I say lets bag the existential question of how I am or others like me. First, I think about the answer for far too long. Second, the answers are rarely accurate. If everyone was good as they suggest they are, then there wouldn’t be such a large mass of country music fans, high rate of depression, road rage, cheetos munching or Trump voters.

depression satire

But also because I, as I’m sure others do,  also get handcuffed by the question. Do they really want to know or are they just speaking without thinking? Am I the only one Sally has asked this question to today? However, if you really want to get existential on me, you could start a conversation with “Hey Mark, good morning. Who are you?” Now that’s a question with a little forethought not to mention, some great conversation potential.

For context, there’s a popular sports call-in program on Miami when the host hangs up on anyone who starts the conversation with the phrase that shall not be repeated. His goal, I assume, is to get past the generic pleasantry and cut to the chase. But here’s the irony. The other day he was doing a phone interview with a local baseball manager whose name rhymes with Fattingly and the first question out of his mouth was “Hey Coach, how are you?” The man whose name rhymes with Ron did not, of course, hang up.

But lets say it takes people a little time to adjust to what I propose as the new conversation ice breaker. Lets say the grocery store clerk lets her favorite line slip. Here’s how I plan to respond,

Sheila –    “Hi, how are you?”

Mark – “Hmm, never quite been asked that question before at least with not such zeal for inquiry. But now that you ask, let me think about it. Well I am somewhat in existential limbo. You know contentment is really a matter of perspective but also a matter of the convenience at which I can work my way through the deli line. And there was a little bit too much kibbitzing behind the counter. Not to mention, I just realized that an unexpected chunk of my discretionary income was spent on tipping and sales taxes last month, not to mention the outrageous spike in summer electricity costs. Speaking of which, one of the reasons why I think your establishment overcharges for oranges is that you crank up the AC way too high. But overall, I can’t complain. After all, it’s two in the afternoon and I wearing tennis shorts and a t-shirt……………….. And how about you Sheila. Sorry, I mean how are you adjusting to life in the ever unpredictable Trump administration? Do you think he is going to do anything about subsidizing the cost of tropical fruit?  Or if that was a bit of a curveball,  I mean “Who are you?”

Sheila – “Glad you asked. You’re the first person who has asked me that all day. And that’s a very fair question about adjusting to Trump. It sure is quite the brain bender, isn’t it?”

Now that’s the kind of lady who understands the art of conversation.

Noise Pollution

So here you are nearing the emotional vortex known as middle age, or over the hill, depending on what age group you are teaching that day and the quality of the mirror staring back at you.

Despite blithely practicing the whole “ignorance is bliss” axiom for many years, you have entered a period of semi- ( I’m being generous with the prefix) enlightenment. In other words, you do Buddhist meditation for at least 75 seconds a day, stretch at regular intervals, journal, take constitutional walks with the dog which include the blasphemous poop scopping and don’t scream at green lights for not allowing you to text longer nor red lights for interfering with your gas pedal fondnessl.

You even do yoga stretches outside on your patio every other morning and buy both brussel sprouts and almond milk at Whole Foods, the latter of which actually gets used. And you can remember at least four of the pillars of Buddhism’s eightfold path.

eightfold-path

Bob Dylan would be proud.

Although you haven’t quite reached the Deepak Chopra stage yet nor do people look at you and say, “Now that’s the kind of eastern-minded, zen master in training I could learn a thing or two from”, your friends do notice you are more relaxed. For example, Paul says, “Geez, there is something different about you. It’s not the Prius nor the few gray hairs. But you just seem like a semi-normal, half grown up.

And your other friend Peter remarks that he can actually trust that any metaphysical advice you give him is not coming from the same person who just screamed at an eighty four year old lady for being unable to locate her credit card while trying to pay for groceries.

Even better, both your wife and mother no longer refer to you as Peter Pan

Your self-applied nickname is Me 3.0

Now the maturity kicker. You wake up early. As in before dawn early. And you have adopted a  whole sequence of “growth inducing”, carpe diem styled rituals  which include well, a bunch of things you thought only incense lighting, new agey, “come see my orchids and tomatoes growing in my homemade organic garden” kind of people did. And within this new discipline, you can go an entire early morning hour without fondling your phone..

yoga-funny-nataliedee

Melania Trump                                                                             Donald Trump

 

So here’s the part where hopefully you my legions readers come  can relate.

Your chi is strong as you have done all the physical and spiritual calisthenics necessary to have a good day. And feeling this mojo, you decide to go to the grocery story (substitute Starbucks, the gym or some other popular close-to-home destination) prior to launching into your day of paid work, or in some cases, chasing your two year old around the house for several hours.

As you are being proactive, you are also doing mental multitasking, perhaps composing work-related emails in your head or conjuring several verses for a short story or poem you plan  to write. And if entering lets say Publix,remembering the one or two things you omitted to put on your grocery list such as food and drink.

Entering the premises, the omnipresent AC which is set at freezer temperature provides a pleasant diversion from the heat. But then out comes the snake in the grass, the acoustic sneak attack that I can only describe as the inner peace disruption equivalent of chalk squeaking against the blackboard –

Music!

No I don’t mean the dental office, Elton John variety that I still find really annoying because of all the unnecessary flashbacks it causes. And definitely not real music such as classic rock, classical or jazz. I mean, the “If I could pick three songs right now that I wish were banned from the airwaves forever, these would be them.” type of tunes. What’s worse is the decibel level. It’s 8:30 am and the store owners think you at an early 90’s gay friendly nightclub sometime after midnight.

maxresdefault

I’ll give you a quick sample:

“He’s a coldhearted snake look in into his eyes……”
Oh, oh he’s been telling lies he’s a lover boy”

Disclaimer – I had to look up the second verse

This lyric and others like it repeat themselves for the next three minutes. But it only gets worse. After there is a bad Madonna song and then I think something from George Michael, or Wham or Culture Club. And it’s loud. Like aerobics class loud

My inner ranting begins – “If I wanted to listen to music, I would have stayed in the car. But I came here to complete my zen morning and run an errand I previously would have avoided.” …. And look at my shopping cart, everything fresh.. But it’s too late – the early 90’s music zombies have poisoned my train of thought.

I rush to pick up the rest of my groceries, completely forgetting to buy milk and dinner meats. And as I am standing on line, I don’t know at whom I am angrier. The store and others like it which continually blare bad music against the customers will or me, for sort of knowing the lyrics to the songs and having, yes in the name full disclosure, bought both the Paula Abdul and Madonna albums of note back in the day.

As I am writing this, the answer is creeping all too close to perfect clarity.

Either way I feel violated.

I make it to the check out counter and get the same question I get every time I am at the grocery store -“Hi. How are you?”

I wonder if the cashiers ever get tired of asking this question. And as I always do, I start preparing a paragraph sized response. Except in this case, I really want to spill my guts in full-length essay form

Intended response:  “Well Mabel, thanks for asking. You know I was doing great, like attaboy great until about eight minutes ago. And although I was a little miffed to find out that the couscous and pasta were five aisles apart and can’t figure out why there is no pre-packaged fresh salmon, I found the overall item-locating experience to be quite satisfying. Oh and I went for a twenty minute run this morning. But in all honesty I have to tell you that my auditory mechanisms have been assaulted. The music they play in here sends me on a 25 year flashback. Not the good kind. Not that modern pop is any better. But why is this ear splitting nonsense blared almost everywhere I go . I’m literally afraid to walk into  once favorite hangouts because of this grenade attack on my eardrums. Who is the DJ around here? It better not be you Mabel and assuming it’s not, I would like to have a little word with that person. I don’t know if you value peace of mind… but I do. And seriously, what is up with the AC? Any dead bodies I should know of?

(I’m discovering a little more of my inner Larry David every day).

Actual response – I am fine thank you. And I found everything I was looking for with ease!

 

The Boy Who Cried Fake News

These are exciting times to be a journalist. And very depressing ones if you have certain preferences for what you would like the news to be. In fact, I’m having a tough time wondering whether what is going on here in the upper power echelons of DC are real or an ongoing episode of the Larry Sanders show.the-lary-sanders-show-watching-recommendation-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600-v6

Actually I was hoping not to have to write anything more about it, you know “it”, as I have exhausted almost all my creative and journalistic potential trying to make sense of the buffoon who occupies the White House.

And then this last week happened.

Now keeping my mouth shut seems tantamount to avoiding my citizenry duties.

If you have ever read Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, you will recall the main character Charlie undergoes an experimental surgery which transforms him from being developmentally disabled to a genius level outlier. But the effects of the surgery have a shorter half-life than expected and by book’s end, Charlie is reduced to point A.

402059 - AlgernonPhoto courtesy of Donald J. Nixon-Trump

As events unfolded this week, I couldn’t help but think of the book. Not that Trump is low on traditional measures of intelligence nor will he ever be confused with an intellectual heavyweight. But it seemed, at least for a brief period, that Richard Milhous Trump had been provided some a super equilibrium pill or normalcy injection in late April and his rule was bearable. Then the  treatment started to wear off.

Now once again we must try to make sense of the nonsensical. We must deal with the absurd slings and arrows of electing a part-time reality TV star and full-time huckster to the most powerful position in the world. And the sad thing is, Richard M. Trump has only furthered his involvement with his business holdings (note his weekly trips to Mar-a -Lago and the number of foreign dignitaries who stay at the Trump Hotel) and while The Aahnold replaced him on the Celebrity Apprentice, Trump started a new show airing five days a week at all hours here in the Nation’s Capital, the Political Apprentice. The irony of course is that the host was the main apprentice but in Trump’s quixotic world, details aren’t so important.

5834b68573af0.image

But there’s a point when you can’t make sufficient comedy of nor rationalize absurdity well enough in order to have inner peace. That point has come. Even though this week’s news is no apocalyptic matter, the firing of FBI Commissioner Jared Kushner, I mean James Comey, still portends a terrible sign of how the growing Trump monarchy plans to rule. If you even consider pointing out that facts have consequences, or that the republic has operated a certain way for over two centuries. his chronic insecurity evolves into full-fledged delusion.

What it shows is that the leopard can change his spots but can never really change. From the campaign’s bizarre beginning, Trump was unwilling to play by the rules. Entertaining for sure. Threatening? Even more so. He never has played by the rules, “firing” people in his virtual reality world, and either screwing over or ostracizing others in his business life who deigned to disagree. He’s the plagiarist who arrests the person who allowed him to copy.

What’s worse, are the rationalizations, that somehow Comey was a threat to his institution, not to mention, the U.S..  For the sake of my own sanity, I will mention just a few of the tall tales which led to this bizarre “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” moment.

denmark

First, in the days before the election, Trump claimed over and over again that the election was rigged, an election he ended up winning by over 90 electoral votes.

Second, he claimed his phones had been wiretapped by the Obama administration, a claim vigorously denied by any intelligence agency and his inner circle.

Third, having won the election and actually been sworn in to the presidency, he continued his claim that the election was rigged, saying the popular vote misrepresented the actual vote, citing hundreds of “incidents of voted fraud”

Fourth, he has consistently denied any connection to Russia even though his national security adviser was fired for lying about paid trips to Russia, several of his former advisers took bribes and his current Attorney General had to recuse himself from the Russia investigations because of several meetings with Russia Ambassadors.

Fifth, he claimed Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation when the information pertaining to the investigation is classified and even presidents are not made aware of classified information unless we are at war.

There are more tall tales for the honorable mention list but these are good a start.

Comey may be a loose cannon and a big shot. But to pull the wool over our eyes by saying it had anything to do with the Clinton scandal is like saying that we are arrested a drug kingpin, not for dealing narcotics, but for failing to register his business as an LLC.

To close this rant, I will give a quick plot summary, in extended syllogism form:

(1) Candidate likes a commissioner because he aids  him in keeping an election close.

(2) Commissioner keeps current position when the candidate actually becomes the president-elect.

(3) The president-elect wants people to do their jobs unless their jobs involve telling the truth or possibly exposing the worst case of election corruption in American presidential history.

(4) Commissioner seeks to do his job.

(5) His job happens to nvolve seeking the truth and potentially making the president and his henchmen look bad.

(6) President fires the commissioner

(7) President goes on major lying spree and Twitter tantrum

(8) President continues twitter tantrum because he can’t figure out why the media is critical of him.

(9) President plots evil schemes against the media

(10) The media fires back

(11) The president accuses the media of falsely reporting a Russian-Trump connection and hypocrisy concerning the fired commissioner.

(12) A modern day Hamlet has begun

Post-script:

(1)The media needs serious medication to make sense of what’s going on

(2) Such medicine is no longer covered by insurance, courtesy of the new AHCA

(3) Ratings for the Political Apprentice reach a Nielsen’s Ratings high.

.

Is this what T.S. Eliot meant?

Normally I wait until the end of the year to do my chronological recap of key news events . But I’m getting older and fear I may not have the neuronal power to remember anything from the year, including my birthday. Besides this is a new era, a bold political biospheric type of world in which most things must be examined upside down and inside out. So to wait till December to make sense of any of it involves a bit too much risk.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 2.23.23 PM

Besides, April was surprisingly uneventful. You know one of those times when the hustle and bustle of the world as we know it came to a little standstill, when all the chaos of living in a world characterized by insecure dictators, hegemonic aspirations and almost apocalyptic clashes between civilizations took a little hiatus.

Well if you were in a coma that is.

Otherwise, the geopolitical version of Murphy’s Law took place in April. In fact to such an intense degre it actually made Donald Trump seem like just a face in the crowd. T.S. Eliot’s epic poem “The Wasteland” begins with the famous line, likely a reference to Easter, that “April is the cruelest month”. I’m starting to see why.

Lets start in my temporary hometown of Washington, DC. The month began with the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee, Neil “Gorshy” Gorsuch, a.k.a that kid in high school who was just a little too intent at sitting in the front row and memorizing facts. After sitting vacant for nine months, the seat which had formerly belonged to Antonin “Don’t Call me John Belushi” Scalia was temporary filled by Jared Kushner. While Trump tried  to circumvent traditional Supreme Court protocol by making the Kushner fill-in permanent, eventually Trump was talked out if it by none other than Kushner himself who said he was more interested in becoming the next Russian president.

Gorsuch

In a rare display of partisanship, Democrats decided to filibuster the Gorsuch nomination one as payback for denying Obama appointee Merrick Garland a hearing and two, because Garland was a bit evasive during his confirmation hearings refusing to answer such fundamental questions as “Do you think Brown v. Board of Education had any impact on schools?” and “Should baseball game attendees be allowed to put both ketchup and mustard on their hot dogs?”

In both cases, Gorsuch said such matters were personal and in keeping with 5th amendment statutes, did not want people who were unaware that schools were integrated nor non-baseball fans to read into his statements one way or the other.

Eventually the Republicans, frustrated that a political party dared  to give it a taste of its own medicine opted  to go for the nuclear option which involved what Donald Trump thought was pointing a fully engaged nuclear missile at Chuck Schumer’s house until his wife said “uncle”. But as it turns out, the nuclear option implied deciding on the nominee based on a gigantic game of tug of war between Democratic and Republican members of the House. For a moment, it appeared the Democrats might win, especially with Lebron James and Hillary Clinton cheering from the sidelines, but a late game referee change which involved a Russian grabbing the whistle allowed the GOP to add Rush Limbaugh, the Patriots offensive line, Porky the Pig and Winston Churchill to their side, eventually resulting in victory and the nominee of their choice.

Speaking of which, the Brits formally declared their intention to Brexit the European Union which actually benefits the rest of the EU more than thought. Now tourists can no longer officially declare that European food stinks on the basis of the Brits lousy food.

2016_36_brexiteers_medium

Actually the Brexit declaration was formalized on the grounds that as America in learning in all-too-unfortunate fashion, if something has worked really well for almost all parties involved for a really long time, there must be a catch. As a condition for leaving the EU, however, the Brits must admit that most of Shakespeare’s plays are nearly impossible for high school students to read, much less their teachers, without the use of Sparknotes.

Speaking of reading, the first book ever produced by Snapchats was written by a 15 year old girl entitled “Why do the Rich Always Complain about Taxes When They Don’t Have to Pay Them?” In her dedication, the author wrote: “To Donald Trump, the man who vehemently asserted during a debate ‘Why should I pay taxes if the government is going to waste it?’ and has then proceeded to fly a football team sized entourage every weekend of his presidency to Mar-a-Lago while simultaneously authorizing increases in military spending.

In response to the dedication, Trump replied, “She makes some valid points but she’s got to realize that I’m a busy man. If the IRS really wants me to go public with my tax returns, tell them they are going to have to grab it by the “p—y”.

In fairness to Trump, April was a rather busy month, one in which he spent three consecutive weeks playing “Eeny, Meeny, Minny, Moe” as to whether he should be friendly to Russia, a decision made slightly easier when he realized that:

  • (1) Russia was aiding and abetting the Syrian government in using Sarin and other chemical weapons against its own people this month.
  • (2) Russia, despite any labeling to the contrary, is still a Communist country, employing all the features of Communist rule including poisoning its enemies and spying on pretty much anyone suspicious
  • (3) His wife is Slovenian, not Russian
  • (4) Vladimir Putin has a man crush on Napolean Bonaparte, Julius Caesar and all former Russian czars.

To temper some of the chaos, a month which included two decent decisions by Trump, one responding to the Syrian attack by launching an attack of our own on Assad;s weapons base and following it up with the mother of all bombs on a Taliban outpost in Afghanistan, the Donald hosted the 115th Easter Egg hunt on the White House Lawn.

trump_easter_egg_hunt

With his 17 children, wife, three mistresses and a few Russian “observers” in tow, Trump was quoted as saying his favorite part was getting to pat the Playboy Bunny and with his newfound biblical wisdom in full force, celebrating the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

When told that story referred to Passover, Trump responded, “Well my son-in-law said that too but you know how son-in-laws usually tell you what you want to hear.

28f21a09e7734aa6bcf2d71af97df6e1_18

With a week to go in April, we should be holding our collective breath. France just experienced its first round of elections and the two finalists are 39 year-old Francois “MacDaddy” Macron who developed the “Mrs. Robinson Syndrome” at age 15 and Jean Marie Bonaparte Bannon Le Pen who in the kindest terms seems  makes Trump look like the founder of Ellis Island when it comes to immigration.

Meanwhile, back in his backyard, Trump is pledging to go forward with tax reform. The plan is rumored to include a proposal to only have Democrats and working class Republicans pay taxes, then make Jared Kushner the new head of the IRS.

gallery_298_17_42244

Without Dennis Rodman to carry out what he does best, shuttle diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea, things are a little precarious. Needless to say a young, stupid and delusional dictator with nearly unlimited power and an older, egomaniacal and insecure president with his hands close to the nuclear button are a combustible mix.

But despite all the gloom and doom, there is a hint of hope. Trump has begun to take a stronger stance on Russia (mainly for above reason#3), baseball season is upon us and the spring bloom is in full swing.

But in the meantime, I would take a look at T.S. Eliot’s poem. Like I said, we still have a week to go. The Wasteland

 

 

 

 

This is not The Matrix

I write this blog in the wake of Saturday’s senseless and surreal shooting at Merrick Park, which left three people dead, including the shooter Abek Wilson.

Coral Gables is a peaceful community and the Romanesque Merrick Park is a symbol of its commitment to the good life.

As much as I love being a Democrat, and vote that way in most elections, I am foremost a humanitarian, secondly a believer in the collective joy of living, and alongside that a husband, father, child and on good days, half sensible.

Moreover, I am a Miamian who believes this ever-growing oasis of tropical pleasures should manifest itself in an even greater degree of kindness and appreciation.

We pride ourselves on staying active and helping others try to get the most of their lives.

But this ideal doesn’t happen when angry people start carrying guns.

Three lives in the prime of life lost because a young man decided the best way to deal with a frustrating professional curve ball and what I assume was some pent up anger, was to grab his gun and make sure pulling the trigger did what it was designed to do.

Three wasted lives because of a homicidal impulse.

Gun stories don’t have happy endings. You don’t hear of stories that go something like “Bob was angry so he grabbed his gun, dipped it in paint and decided to create a beautiful mural out of it.” Or “Fred saw a young boy fall into the river but Fred wasn’t a good swimmer so he ran to his car, grabbed his gun and shot it into the air which roused a beautiful little mermaid from her slumber to save the drowning boy.”

Nope. Guns are used to kill people. Yesterday was no exception.

I could go on and on about the absurdity of it all. In fact, vote Republican all you want, but please don’t base your preference on anything related to protection of the 2nd amendment. The right to provide for a well-armed militia made sense during the American Revolution, but chances are the biggest invader of our peaceful communities today are Starbucks and Chase Banks. From a national security standpoint, we are surrounded by oceans to the east and west, and allies to the north and south. Last time I checked, aliens were still the province of the movies.

My suggestion is to speak to your representatives and tell them you absolutely don’t give a crap how much money the NRA pours into your campaign, nor how sacred you think the constitution is when it allows anyone who has played a few too many games of Call of Duty or revels in watching the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, or just anyone with a little too much testosterone to carry a firearm. In fact, tell them to show some real self-defense by speaking up on what is right.

I’m not buying the argument “that it’s not guns that kill people, it’s people who kill people.” That’s like saying it wasn’t the Atom Bomb which decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was the men flying the Enola Gay.

That kind of logic is demented.

During the Republican primary, Marco Rubio, actually all the GOP candidates with the exception of the half-sensible Jeb Bush, bragged about their gun ownership, as if it was some form of Republican nominee rite of passage. Something to the effect of, “Well I’m not really big on serving the greater good, but I do know how to load a weapon.”

Owning a gun is nothing to be proud of. At least not in my eyes. If you want to brag, talk about how many nice pieces of art or classic books you own. Brag about how you believe in civil disobedience and non-violent reactions to aggressive behavior. Even brag about your families.

Speaking of which, Marco Rubio has four kids. Trump has five. It’s almost rhetorical of me to ask how they would have felt if those victims were his own children.

The irony is that many of these same gun toting advocates call themselves “pro-life”. What hypocrisy. If you’re pro-life then the safety and sanctity of the born has to match that of the unborn. And don’t try to rationalize being pro-life with pro death penalty and pro war.

Really, this incident took place on a relatively small scale and is quite the aberration for peaceful Miami. But for a perspective, lets look at Japan, a country we almost entirely eviscerated into one big mushroom cloud, and is surrounded by two of the more hostile and well-armed nations in the world, North Korea and China.

japan-statistics-2

According to a September 2016 article in USA today

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/09/22/study-guns-owners-violence/90858752/, there are approximately 265 million guns owned in the U.S., which is more than one per every adult. In fact, half of those guns are owned by just 3 percent of the population.

Do with those statistic as you see fit, but my simple reaction is that if you are really gung-ho about shooting your guns, join the military or move to the Middle East to enter the fight against ISIS.

Then you can pretend you are in The Matrix.

Snap out of it

Last Saturday I had an early morning flight from DC (Currently being renamed Domain of Charlatans) to Miami. My family and I had Disney World on the brain upon my arrival so making the 6:30 am flight was a relatively easy sacrifice.

Somehow in my 40’s I became the person I was supposed to become in my 30’s ( I’ve always been a late bloomer), so mornings are now my thing. As a general pre-dawn rule of thumb, I do not use my phone the first hour of the day. Besides the fact that I have way too many other things to do in the early hours, including cleaning leftover frying pans teeming with petrified eggs and bacon, I’m not coordinated enough to properly swipe the screen.

Teenagers are different though. They live in an “Unbrave” New World where waking up is easy as long as they have phone battery life and at least three digital devices within arm’s reach. Not that they do anything other than caress those devices the first hour of their day, but that’s not the point..In their minds, despite being entirely cloaked in a digital fog, they are on up and “connecting” to the world around them.

snapchat-2

Which brings me to my point. I had an already been up over an hour so I was sort of fidgeting with my phone. On the plane next to me were two teenage siblings, at least I assume they were teenagers because they were Snapchatting. Yes I know people of all ages Snapchat, including the Ghost of Christmas Past, John McCain, Obama and Napolean Bonaparte. But for anyone to “snap” this early in the morning, they had to be unable to legally purchase a drink much less an R-rated movie ticket

I am unsure what or why they were snapping, but they were snapping away, ten second endorphin boosting, pheromone emitting bursts of digital desire. From the looks of things, they were in snaptopia, almost begging American Airlines to find some mechanical defect with the plane so they had more time to snap. As a foil, I started reading and annotating the newspaper, just to give them a glimpse of what the dinosaurs still do.

They seemed to be uninterested but at least they didn’t point me out as the type of potential disturbance we are warned to report in the pre-flight announcements.

I think part of the problem is that kids are warned but not shown. Hinted at but not directed. Then again the problem could be the phones themselves. Just as nicotine includes addictive agents, the transmitters phones use must send waves of pheromones, more seductive than oysters to a woman, more powerful than the salivatory response when exposed to the smell and sight of freshly baked Krispy Kreme Donuts. In fact, clinical research corroborates this statement, though I’m fairly certain that even Steve Jobs with all of his tactile obsession never intended nor anticipated the compulsiveness his Iphone would generate.

Sure swiping is fun. Far better than smoking or biting one’s nails. But I’m assuming Jobs was far too learned or concerned about making the future a better replace than to intellectually paralyze most of the adolescent population.

I studied a little developmental psychology and from what I reckon the teenage years, despite the obsession with instant gratification are an irreplaceable time to build neural connections, develop academic passions, improve task awareness and establish lifelong study skills. All I know is that the the middle and high school students I teach in DC kind of like learning, but not when it interferes with their constitutional right to snapchat. Unfortunately the teachers for whom I substitute forget to leave a lesson plan comprehensive enough that would minimize the opportunity to swipe, tap and press, then rinse and repeat. While subbing third period last week, I asked one of my 8th grade students who was snapping, how many snapchats she had sent that day – her response, “not very much, like 25”.

TeensScreens

(Study compiled by Donald J. Trump,  Neurobiology Department Head at Trump University)

But back to the air. The flight took off a tad before 7 am and I confess to having a bit of swiping withdrawal. I actually could have used the plane’s wifi to get service on my phone but wanted to at least discipline myself to make the two hour flight without caressing my phone. The teenagers were plugged in, listening to music, playing games and looking at pictures. And then just when I was about to lose hope in all Generation Swipe, something magical happened. Snapchat girl pulled out a biology textbook and what seemed like a set of homework problems. For the next ten minutes, or maybe three, all societal pessimism was suspended as she diligently worked through several problems without any sighting of her phone. Brain activated. Neurons firing, paper and pen restored to the human order of operations.

Studies show that the average adult checks his/her phone over 150 times a day and uses it at family meals about 20 percent more than teenagers. This fact came from an article in Wired Magazine, not Donald Trump. I might be one of those adults, especially if I am trying to figure out what to buy at the grocery store. But once upon a time I could sit and read for two hours without any digital interruptions and write for even longer. I have proof of being able to survive in an analog world.

I’m still trying to figure out which of the literary conflicts best applies to the adolescent connection to their phones. I think its man v. Man. If the protagonist does really have free-will, it’s no longer man v. himself. So I use the upper case M for the antagonist because the phone is some type of superbeing. It has the 3 O’s which are usually associated with God, yes including omniscience. In fact, why build a $100 million public library when you can just give everyone free wifi?

I could go on and on about all the metaphysics of this new digital frontier. But that’s for science fiction writers to capture.   All I know is that there doesn’t seem to be any way for man to beat the machine or MAN. The machines are getting stronger, more ubiquitous and more manipulative. In contrast, man doesn’t even have time to muster a defense.

Within five seconds of touching ground in Miami, my neighbors loaded up the Iphone and started massaging their apps. I’m almost positive the girl Snapchatted and her brother went on Facebook. I asked the passing stewardess for leftover newspapers. For them, waiting two hours for full phone use probably felt like they had just conquered nature, some type of rugged endurance test akin to running a half triathalon in adverse weather conditions. Meanwhile “the dinosaur” tried to follow his five minute rule of not touching the phone to savor the touchdown experience.

My neighbors seemed happy. I was feeling literal and minor digital hunger pangs.

Although I was home, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I obviously have no place in this digital paradise, I mean dystopia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Abnormal

Normally I wouldn’t blog twice in a week.

It feels a little self-indulgent, a little bit like posting selfies.

But sometimes extenuating circumstances force a writer-at-heart to be intellectually impulsive, and lend his two cents to an issue which simply cannot be ignored.

Such is the case with Donald Trump’s latest shenanigans. Despite a megadose of absurd reality TV in the past 72 hours, I am still trying to see the political glass as half-full, although half full of what is the question. Yet his latest theatrics got under my skin deep enough that I feel compelled to try to sort it out

In fairness, Ronald Mc”Donald” Trump has already been president for 6 weeks and hasn’t started any world wars outside of the Twitterfield, nor has he ruined the stock market. He hasn’t deported any of those “evil” journalists he so often maligns. And he has promised not to pull health insurance from the terminally ill, at least those who voted for him in the general election.

Back to immigration, he has even fought the urge to deport his wife.

But these glimmers of hope aside, things are a little unsettling for many of us good old fashioned folk who like to operate in the sphere of lets simply say, reality.

Trump’s America reminds me of an old movie with Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger called Blind Date. In it the main character Walter Davis needs a date to go to a company dinner with some very important Japanese clients. A little low on the Romeo pole, Walter is desperate to find a date and so his wife offers to set him up with her cousin Nadia. Nadia is quite the spitfire, but there is one caveat – If she has any alcohol, all hell breaks loose and her alter ego runs wild. Now this isn’t bad in moderation but in Nadia’s case, there is no such thing as moderation. Of course as Hollywood movies have it, fate is tempted, the warnings come to life and the night turns into full-fledged Murphy’s Law.

bruce-willis-film

But as thin is the line between entertainment and national politics, the presidency is not Hollywood as the stakes and stage are much larger. To me the conditions are simple – Feel free to give a huckster, corner cutting, narcissistic, megalomaniac, Russian black market oligarchial suck up all the air time and business opportunity you want, but if you give him the keys to the White House, I suggest either cryogenically freezing yourself for at least the next four years or escaping to a country in which he has no vested business interest or the prostitutes (on Trump’s behalf were cheap), lets say Belize.

Of course, what’s the first thing the American electorate did when it had the chance? As even Fred Flinstone would have avoided, we gave him title to the White House  with a little help from good old “better dead than red” Russia.

Talk about tempting fate.

As far as I see it, a president should have at least all of the following qualities: Intelligence, diplomatic savvy, charisma, a vast knowledge of American and World History, patience, salesmanship, thick skin, a strong command of current events, a fundamental understanding of the difference between truth and fiction, a robust work ethic, and an almost obsequious reverence for the position.

I will give Trump the benefit of the doubt and say that he possesses two of the above qualities.

I also accept that the rules of the primary season especially, that one needs to pretty much say and promise anything to win the nomination. I also accept that with such a large pool of candidates as the GOP primary had (my most accurate count was 9401), the more outlandish the behavior, the better. But once you are in the general election, the pivoting must begin and if by some 2017 Oscars-styled miracle, you actually defy all the odds and you get elected, with a little help from the Russian Napolean/Lord Voldemort, you better believe you should start looking the part.

Unfortunately, Trump has been in full Don Quixote mode since “taking over” the White House. Sure his beef with the media has some merit, after all most of the print and cable TV media loathes Trump even if he has been the optimal news generating cash cow. But if the law of karma ever applied to American presidential politics, this was it.

His Obama birther bravado, which I have mentioned before, essentially started the viral fake news phenomenon. I can’t tell you the number of FOX news gobbling, highly formally educated though jello-brained voters who still think Obama was born in Kenya or some other foreign country like Arkansas or Miami.

The fact of the matter is Trump doesn’t even deserve the Don Quixote label. The book is far too elaborate for his jello brain. But we can at least call him Pinocchio and Steve Bannon, Geppetto. And speaking of reading, presidents should read. A lot. Even the intellectually challenged George W. Bush frequently read. Yes he was reading Mother Goose when 9-11 happened but he read  books most of his spare time

. Trump hardly reads in the conventional use of the verb. And he really blows his load any time he gets challenged in his comfort zone, the 140 character sized pantheon of Twitter.

pinocchio-970x545

This week Trump’s alter ego gave a half-respectable speech to a joint session of Congress. Granted he may have given out free joints but basking in the afterglow, even the media toyed with the possibility  that Ronald Mc”Donald” might actually be able to look the part, at least on special occasions.

This illusion lasted about 12 hours. And then Trump forgot to give Steve Bannon a kiss goodnight and once again, he turned into a pumpkin.

In the past few days, Trump has gotten even more testy about his affair with Vladimir Putin. I mean the Donald of all people should know best – if you’re going to have a mistress, make sure she is not more wealthy and better connected then you are.

Perhaps I am too close to middle age to take it all in stride. Perhaps I am simply not seeing the con game Trump has so deftly played in the past. But I cannot stomach the pathological Pinocchio sized-lying when millions of your constituents are more gullible than a teenage girl and the other 100 million are grossly affected by your blatant, perhaps blind disregard for the truth,

Mr. Trump, it’s Lent. Given your epiphantic and clearly “genuine” religious conversion, you of all people should be leading by example. In honor of Lent, which is not a fake holiday concocted by the media, why not pick something near and dear to your heart and surrender it to God for the next 40 days?. And no I am not talking about giving up grabbing the American people by the “p-$$-“.

I mean actually giving up something that you consider sacred. Since you have a few noteworthy vices, I will choose it for you – lying. I’m not talking about little white lies, lets say telling Melania you couldn’t return her late night text because you were Googling “How to Submit a Tax Return” when in fact you were spooning with Steve Bannon. I mean the really fiber optic friendly lies that somehow cross the blood-brain barrier faster than Bacardi 151 and thus irreversibly alter the judgment of millions of fact challenged Americans.

ashwednesdayashestogomoltanjava

Yes these kinds of lies, like saying during the campaign that you “saw thousands of Muslims dancing in the streets of N.J. on 9-11”, that 90 million Americans are unemployed a number includes a combined 75 million Americans under the age of 14 and over 80. That an election that you won by 80 electoral votes was “rigged” in Hillary’s favor and that there was major fraud in the popular vote which explains your deficit of 4 million votes in the popular vote. And the latest of your weekly tall tales – that the Obama administration wiretapped the phones in the Trump Tower during the election to learn of confidential phone calls with Russian officials, a claim blared through nearly every media channel without any basis in fact

As if Obama had nothing better to do with his political capital then tap your phones.

Enough is enough. We get it. You like to grab the truth by the p-$$- and then chuck it aside. You like attention, dislike bad press and start to rabble rouse every time the heat in the truth kitchen gets a little hot. We get it.

But come on Donald. It’s Lent. And you are supposed to be some version of a born-again Christian.

You gotta give it up. That God you so fervently worship in places like Orlando and Cedar Rapids Iowa expects you to surrender that cherished habit. These are just the rules of the game buddy. That’s what true believers do during Lent.

Believe me I love to tell stories too. I wouldn’t have majored in English if I didn’t, much less weave a short story or two when inspiration hits. But Lent has none of my fictionalizing abilities.

Besides, other than weaseling myself out of parking tickets, my Lenten promise is not to lie either.

You can do it Donald. Really just try. In fact they say the truth will actually set you free.

 

 

 

Whining their way to victory

Disclaimer:  I wrote this Monday morning so as you read, pretend it is Monday afternoon or whenever you usually have a few moments in your hectic day to read the brain droppings of someone who isn’t the most linear thinker, but earnestly tries to make the most of that. Enjoy and feel free to respond.
I didn’t see last night’s Oscar Awards, but from what I gather, it was the ceremonial version of a Freudian Slip.
Besides, there is one thing I cant really understand about the Oscars. How can a night that celebrates the year’s many cinematic achievements, including edge of your seat action thrillers, be so tedious? Actually maybe the entertainment value is 7 stars out of 10, and if they showed the award night bloopers, even an 8. But given my limited time, it makes no sense to watch a drawn out, maudlin and seemingly scripted awards ceremony instead of one of the nominated films themselves. Its like choosing to watch the NFL Draft instead of the Super Bowl.
But back to last night. Apparently Jimmy Kimmel channeled Steve Harvey and so Warren Beatty was handed the wrong scorecard. I wish this had happened with November’s Presidential Election, something akin to “My fellow Americans I apologize but when we were declaring who won two key swing states, Pennsylvania and Florida, we accidentally said who won the primaries there, which in fact was Donald Trump. But the winner of the the Sunshine and Cheesesteak states were, drum roll please, not Donald Trump nor even a male. The actual winner and thus next president is Hillary Clinton.”
It’s nice to fantasize
But last night Oscar’s were Hollywood’s version of a NFL make up call.  Apparently the across the board nominations of non-black actors in 2015 and 2016 caused such backlash that Hollywood’s most prized actress, Jada Pinkett Smith, the one who made her husband Will so famous, boycotted the awards. Smith was joined by the usually taciturn Spike Lee who said, “if I wanted to see black people get ignored, I would have hung out a ski slope.”
I have vowed to keep this blog under 500 words so I won’t go off a long rant, something that lets say Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee might do if they felt racial justice wasn’t being served. But I do want to poke a few holes in their logic. They and other well-intentioned liberals ( I guess not as well-intentioned as the liberal writing this blog) believed Hollywood needed to be sent a message about its lack of inclusion. Now chances are historically the awards have not reflected the diversity on which America’s performing arts scene has flourished, considering how few Asians, Latinos, Native-Americans and Hindus get nominated even though collectively they constitute about 30 percent of the American population. But contrary to all of the dissension, African-Americans have done well at the Oscars.
Since 2000, a black actor has won the best actor award three times, Denzel Washington, Forrest Whitaker and Jamie Foxx. Lebron James would have won last year but they are not too happy about him in California.
Three of the last five best supporting actresses have been African-American and 12 Years a Slave and Crash, both Afrocentric films, won best picture.
These numbers may not speak to a truly representative list of winners, but they do suggest that blacks have had consistent placement in the winner’s circle.
Which brings me to the point I wanted to make in the first place. In the 21st century, the concept of diversity has to be examined beyond surface appearance. Schools, workplaces, and cultural institutions all seem to define diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. This may be semantically true but I think it undermines what diversity really encompasses.
First, diversity is an established fact of American life. It is not a quest nor a paperwork requirement. Diversity, especially in the modern age, should foremost be approached less superficially, including heterogeneity in thought, strategic approach, personality, taste and experience level. In fact, trying to define diversity in terms of skin color actually contradicts the intention, and if anything homogenizes the issue .
I recognize that much of what Hollywood does it scripted, but if it wanted a diverse sample size for each category, then make decisions which are color blind, P.R. neutral and instead based on what the people who go to the movies actually think.
Anyway, take nothing away from Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali who won best supporting actress and actor respectively, but those awards really should have gone to Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee. And no offense to Moonlight and kudos to the city of Miami, but now that the Hollywood referees have evened the score, hopefully we can find a way to judge art and artists on their merits, not on what is politically correct.