Americans are still pretty arrogant and have no long term memory.
Exhibit 1: In 2016 we lost a bunch of famous people, so what, that is nothing new. Last year Leonard Nimoy, Wes Craven, Yogi Berra and Maureen O’Hare all passed away. In 2014 Robin Williams, Shirley Temple, Joe Cocker, Casey Kasem, Harold Ramis and Phillip Seymour Hoffman died. 1977 saw the death of Elvis Presley, Werner Von Braun, Groucho Marx, Zero Mostel and Charlie Chaplin. 1959 was the last we heard from Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Cecil B. DeMille, Lou Costello, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the original “Man of Steel” George Reeves. Stop acting like 2016 was something special or out of the ordinary. Every year people die this year was no different than any other year in the history of the world. Celebrate the achievements and what wonders those people gave us but don’t be so egotistic to believe that 2016 was anything especially tragic.
Exhibit 2: The whole presidential election, from beginning to now it was a very bad joke and very few people realize that history is going to look back at us and try and guess what drug was in the drinking water. We had a choice between an arrogant self absorbed, proudly unsophisticated reality star who’s biggest talent seems to be self promotion and an arrogant, power obsessed, out of touch individual, who would not condemn her monster of a spouse even when he abused a powerless subordinate. Then people were seemingly outraged that another government would try and influence our election but were blind to the knowledge that the American government has been interfering in other countries’ elections for close to sixty years.
The unexpected or failures are not all bad and can become great.
You would not think a day of hard work would be memorable. Throwing hay bales with my brothers to get my younger brother’s ranch set up for the winter was terrific. My brothers and I baled a lot of hay on an eighty acre farm growing up, working long hot hours behind an old John Deere tractor and bailer. Throwing hay with them this year , now that are 47 to 51 years old made me feel connected to them like I have not felt in years. (My family also built a concrete block wall and we put up a fence on his ranch.)
A lady I was dating broke up with me. That may sound like a bad thing but I have had more enjoyment telling the story of how she broke up with me then I might have gotten from the actual relationship. (I will not put the story in writing as it makes her look bad, but if talk to me I will gladly tell it to you, it involves me sending her flowers on Valentine Day. I am such a monster.)
My love life described simply: After being run over by a very large truck. One of those bemouth tractor trailers with three trailers. After a long slow recovery I cautiously approached the road again, I looked left, I looked right, I looked left again then I got clipped by a clown car that was driving on the sidewalk.
One of the most important things we have in life is the stories we make with the people we love.
Would my story of going to Voodoo Donuts in Denver at midnight on a Tuesday night be as exciting if my daughter was not with me? She claimed that there was marijuana in her doughnut and it made her paranoid. (Not true, there was marijuana in my doughnuts that is why I let her drive, just kidding, Voodoo doughnuts does not sell THC products.)
Or on the same trip my daughter showing off her mad skills of dealing with Disneyland Cast Members as she wove a a strings of fibs together so we could go to the front of the line like we had an Fast Pass.
Then there my trip to see my best friend, Scott Beck’s, full ordination as a minister in Methodist Church and my car died. (Looking back I probably should have not taken it as it had two tires in the grave and the other two on black ice.) I sold the dead car to a junk man in Virginia for $80.00 and my great and wonderful parents drove six hours to pick me up and drive me home on Fathers Day.
All in all 2016 has been a year, some parts better than others, some parts worse than others. This year is what I made of it, I have no one else to blame or give credit to if this year was not full and packed with adventures and accomplishments.
Okay folks I am calling this one a total loss. We most likely will be getting one of the two highly disliked and untrustworthy clowns as the head of the Executive branch of government. We have four years to implement some new rules so my suggestions are as follows.
Rule 1: If you have ever repeatedly and with purposeful intent been in more than one “reality show” or “unscripted dramas”, “improvisational programs” or any show that places people in contrived situations without dialogue being provided and without rehearsal beforehand and it’s sole purpose was to make money, then you are eliminated from the pool of eligible candidates for the highest office in the land. We do not need someone with a maturity of a child in a hotel swimming pool. (Hey Dad, Hey Dad, Hey Dad, watch this, watch this, Hey Dad watch me.)
Rule 2: If you are related to either by marriage or blood to a person who was previously the President of the United States you are not allowed to run. This is America we have no need for a monarchy, dynasty or a ruling class. We have over 319 million people in this country surely we can find someone other than a Bush, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Clinton, or Obama. (My prediction Michelle will become Senator and then will try to get back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.) This will make it harder for future school children to remember a President’s name but we all have to make sacrifices.
Rule 3: If you are the second runner up in the election (which means you are the first place loser) then while your opponent is running the country your also get to serve in a slightly different capacity. You will be given the head principal position at an inner city high school and have to live at the school in an apartment provided for you. Your claimed you wanted to serve, well now is the time to prove both your abilities and willingness. (If as Principal you hold a press conference you must devote 99% of the time talking about bake sales, test scores and the funding to fix the roof, the gym floor and/or the copy machine.) Maybe after running a school for four years you will be more palatable to the American public.
Rule 4: Essay, Section 1. All candidates will be locked in separate rooms on some military base or other secure location. You will be given a five questions, about such topics as civil liberties, world affairs, taxes and other important topics. While locked up you can either dictate your answers to a stenographer, write them long hand, or use a computer with no internet access. You will have two days to answer these questions. After you are finished a goverment school teacher of your choice may help you edit for grammar, style and spelling. All essays will then be submitted to 100 random public high school students in a blind survey. Each student will either give you a plus or minus for each answer. If you do not get at least 75 pluses then you will not be allowed to go onto the next round. Your grades will be posted and your essay can be read by the American public. One week later there will be a big reveal matching the candidate to the answer.
Rule 5: Essay, Section 2, You and four advisers will be placed a secure location with no internet and given questions to answer. For this round no teacher may help you with grammar, style or spelling. Then your raw answers will be placed on a website and the public can see your answers, again with no names attached for a week.
Rule 6: You must get a letter from your high school math teacher stating that you did your own homework and if not who the teacher suspects did the homework for you.
Rule 7: (Applies only if Rule 6 shows you did not do your own math homework.) You must produce the person who did your math homework for you and they must swear under oath weather or not they were paid (money, promise of a date, or simply sweet talk) or if they were threaten (physical violence or social bullying). This person will then tell what type of person you were in school and how many pimples you had.
Rule 8: You must produce while filing your intent to run for President of the United States of America at least ten different pictures of you and a pet. All pictures must have been placed on social media over the last three years and at least one if not more cleaning up after your pet. This will show that you have a heart and that you realize there are somethings you cannot control.
These eight simple rules might not make this a better process but at least make it less of popularity contest and more about stuff that might actually mean something as opposed to the name calling, grandstanding, flag waving and overall silliness that we have now.
Everyone, her friends, her parents even people on the street were all taking about why their car was better than someone else’s. Betty decided it was time to go shopping so she did what everyone else did and went to the dealership. They sold the two major brands ,the brand her parents always drove and brand that her friends wanted.
“I could tell by the way you came in here you want to make or keep this country great am I right?”
“I just came in here to look.” Betty said. The salesman looked perfect, blue suit, flawless hair, red tie knotted precisely and a smile that matched his perfect white shirt.
“Very wise but you want a car that is great like this country, dependable but bold, tough and smart. Do you want to buy or lease?”
“Well I don’t want to be tied to something forever so just a lease, maybe like four years.”
The salesman continued smiling. “Of course, but with the option to renew for another four years. Once you commit to four years it will be hard to change.”
Betty looked around the showroom. “How come the only cars here are either red or blue?”
Smiling he showed those sparkling teeth. “Red and blue are the most popular colors and we give America what America wants.”
“Do you sell other colors, maybe green or yellow?”
“Of course we could but we really suggest either red or blue, it is much easier to get body work done and other colors are more likely to get stolen. I am sure you have heard the phrase ‘the tallest nail gets hammered first’ well by selling only red or blue cars we are protecting our customers.”
“I guess that makes sense.” She strolled between two cars which were both on elevated platforms with the salesman at her elbow. “I can’t really get a good look at the cars from down here.”
“But you can see their great profiles while looking up at them, let me show you the brochures, which one do you want to look at first, blue or red.”
Betty shrugged. “Red I guess.”
“Great choice a very impressive model this year.” Pulling out a glossy brochure he handed it to her.
Looking over the brochure she asked. “Does this car really get a hundred miles to the gallon?”
“It depends on your driving habits if you are a lead foot in the city then you mileage may vary, but look at this,” he said flipping the page to a picture of the the trunk. “isn’t that impressive, you could probably get seven suitcases in there.”
Betty nodded it was a huge trunk. Glancing at the remaining pages she turned to the last page and as if on cue the salesman asked. “So what do you think can you see yourself showing this off to all your friends?”
“Well maybe, but I should shop around, what are the features on the blue car.”
“An awesome selection it is a very impressive model this year.” The brochure was produced and at the same time he relieved her of the first, flipping to a page seemingly at random he pointed out a feature. “This car’s interior is made with sustainably produced fabrics that have a zero percent emissions rating in the shipment to the market.”
Betty looked at the stats but not knowing what he meant. Although the cars looked different and were different brands it seemed to her that the cars were basically the same. “Can I see the brochure for the red car again?”
The salesman continued smiling and deftly produced the brochure again, but this time he presented it to her open which forced her give the blue one back to him.
The facts seemed clear but not quite. “Can I look at both of the brochures together?”
His smile faltered slightly. “Sure.”
Betty held both and flipped thru them together. “It says the blue car has 30 cubic feet interior space but the red car has 17 cubic feet in the front and 13 cubic feet in the rear. Isn’t that the same amount of space? They are both four door sedans after all.”
The salesman answered as if he got asked this question all the time. “You are very observant.” Then he winked. “Yes they are both sedans, with the same basic layout but with key differences. One has 30 cubic feet overall that is in total space and the other has 13 cubic feet in the passenger area but 4 more cubic feet in the front seating area.” Still smiling. “I can see you are very astute. Are you interested in a leather interior?”
Betty shook her head realizing what he had said did not make any sense. She closed the brochures and noticed a logo on both brochures. “Are both these car manufactured by Omni Consumer Products?”
The salesman winked again at her. “No they are manufactured by different companies, both with different but similar manufacturing processes.” Then he pointed towards the blue car. “This design team spent hundreds of hours on the greatest luxury car of all time,” he shifted his body to now block the blue car while pointing towards the red car. “Their design team polled countless people to determine what people want and created the most supreme luxury car of all time.”
Betty nodded and then stepped around the salesman and began to walk around both cars. “What if I wanted something totally different from these two cars?”
“I know what you want.” Snapping his fingers. “A convertible, well we have a crimson model and a sapphire one right on the other side of showroom, you are going to love one of them.”
Betty shook her head. “I don’t think you understood me what if I did not want a car made by Omni Consumer Products?”
“These are the best the country has to offer.” He said smiling.
Betty folded her arms “But in the end Omni Consumer Products makes money no matter how the car performs; good or bad.”
He still smiled but anxiously. “So what color convertible would you like? The sparkling sapphire would match your eyes perfectly or maybe the crimson one, it is a real racy number.”
Betty turned her back an looked out the window and noticed something across the street a much smaller dealership, this one had yellow, green and even purple cars. “What about those cars?”
“Them.” He waved disdainfully. “A bunch of nuts.”
Betty regarded him and he chuckled. “They can’t advertise as much because they don’t have our budget. Secondarily our maintenance department promises everything you could ever want. We take care of everything from start to finish. All they do is give you manual and make suggestions.”
“What is wrong with that?”
“Our machines are complex, checking the air pressure in a tire is a multiple step procedure, steps most Americans don’t want to do, let alone understand.” Stepping in front of the window he blocked the view. “What do I have to do to put you in a convertible?”
Betty shook her head moved towards the door but he casually slid in front of her again. “Do you know anyone that has ever driven one of their cars? Everyone you know drives one of ours.”
Betty stepped around him and started walking. She heard him yell as she left the showroom. “These are the best our country has to offer.”
“But just a monster that protects the perimeter of our farm, and he should be restrained at all times.”
The older man just nodded thoughtfully and rocked in his chair.
“So it is agreed we get our own monster, but with strong chains, and we don’t feed him much so he won’t get very big and we keep him along the edge of the property.”
Several weeks later they had their monster. The younger man claimed this was a brand new type of monster, not like one all their neighbors had, this one was more obedient, would only go after the pests and nuisances that the monster was instructed too.
One evening while sitting on the porch the old man watched the monster chase a pest all the way up to the barn, he pointed out that the monster was off his chain.
“Yeah I know the chain slowed him down too much, but look he went right back to where he needed to be, I don’t think we need the chain on him all the time, maybe just when we go to bed at night. “
Several weeks later the older man mentioned that the monster was getting a little bigger.
“Well he was a little slow just on what he could forage and those pests on the western side of the garden were keeping the crops from growing, so I upped his food, now instead of him foraging all the time he can deal with those annoyances.”
The older man squinted his eyes and looked at the western edge of the property straining to see the problem. Sure there were problems out there but with the proper fencing and such it would sort itself out he thought. But the younger fellow seemed so eager to have get a handle it he let him use the monster the way he saw fit.
The harvest season came and the homestead was blessed with an abundance. The old man came out in the morning and saw that the younger man had the monster harnessed to the wagon as if to pull it to town.
“I figured that the monster could take the wagon into town, everyone would see how big and scary he is and he would not just be out here lurking around doing one thing.”
The older man reminded him that the horses had always done just fine pulling the the wagon before.
“Oh they could use the day off besides the monster can pull just as much as them. “
The old man watched his young partner go off into town and slowly shook his head.
Winter came and one bitterly cold morning the old man walked into the barn and found the young man feeding the monster in the barn well the old man frowned and pointed for the monster to leave which the monster did but he did not go too far away, not all the way to the edge of the property as he had been trained to do.
The younger men pled his case. “It is silly for our monster to be out in the cold, all our livestock are in the barn for the winter if the monster is outside and they are in here he might as well be in here too protecting them.
The old man was adamant that the proper place for the monster was along the perimeter watching over things and if he was in the barn he would start eating the food of their livestock instead of foraging for himself as he was supposed to, the old man was adamant and enforced the rule as much as he could but he often found tracks were the monster had come into the barn.
Then the older man broke his leg just as they were beginning the spring planting and was confined to his bed for several weeks. The older man now got around much slower on crutches and that is when he discovered the monster had grown considerably. He also realized the young man had gotten rid of the horses and was using the monster for all the chores around the farm.
The summer passed and the old man noted that the farm was running efficiently but the monster seemed to be growing more and more. He also took stock of the fields and it looked like their harvest was not going to be as good as last year because something was eating the plants in their early stages, he pointed this out to the younger man.
“Well you see when I started having the monster doing all those extra chores he would get hungrier and now I have feed him but he just seems to be hungry all the time now.” The young man said nervously.
The old man glared at the young man but inwardly he was angry with himself too.
Early the next day the old man spoke. “We needed a monster. We still need a monster.” “But we” he motioned to the young man and himself. “We grew lax. We came to depend on it for too much. The steps toward this problem were both slow and gradual but with each concession to the rules the monster grew. Now in order to reign it in it is going to be both difficult and dangerous. Difficult because we have gotten lazy letting the monster do things that we should have been doing. Dangerous because it has grown so big and now it is used to doing whatever it want when it wants.”
The younger man nodded thoughtfully rolled up his sleeves and they went out together to deal with the monster.
Two people, both are cold, both lonely, each a bit lost and unsure. They find each other in a big forest as the sun goes down. Somehow they find a place out of the wind with the means to build a fire. This couple might be able to create a spark and then flames but then a big decision must be made; how to deal with the night.
The pair may build a big roaring fire recklessly throwing logs on till they have a bonfire. This fire will light up the night. This blaze may quickly dry out damp clothes and make the duo feel safe and warm and sometimes produce a little sweat from the inferno they created together.
Or this couple can build slowly, feeding the flickering flames cautiously placing every bit of fuel just so. Meticulously caring for their fire. The glow from the small fire may provide just enough light and just enough heat to keep the chill off and warm them. A small campfire can be a comfort, uplifting, soothing and if you stare into it long enough still mysterious.
The leaping and dancing flames of a bonfire may consume all the fuel quickly and once gone the heat may not last till dawn, leaving the couple in the cold and dark with just the memory of the blaze they built together. Their clothes might even be singed on one side but be damp on the other.
The first is fast and comes with understandable risks but it can be both glorious and crazy and just what the two people need. The second comes with the necessity of both patience and perseverance but it can be reassuring, enduring and agreeable the entire night long.
Neither way is right neither way is wrong. But it should be discussed by the two cold lonely people making the decision together. No one else is there, no one else’s opinion really matters.
Okay the #Oscars So White is a big deal to a lot of people. Claiming it is a symptom of a larger problem, maybe it is but I think the overall question is why do the Oscars really matter at all. It is a bunch of industry insiders, an business that is oversexualized and hung up on the outward trappings of wealth and power.
Movies can be magical, movies can elevate you to heights you never knew existed. Films can introduce you to new people, places and ideas that you never cared about and invite you care. The silver screen can act as transportation to magical and incredible places or sometimes just let you take a few steps in another person’s shoes.
The big screen has the ability to change you both in good and bad ways. Horror flicks can make you insensitive to others pain and suffering. Watching westerns sometimes creates an idealistic and/or naive view of American history. Romantic comedies fabricate an unrealistic view of relationships and sex. Too many science fiction movies can make you unattractive to the opposite sex . (Kidding of course, it usually comes from a combination of poor hygiene, lack of confidence and the inability to have intelligent conversations without making an obscure pop culture reference which the opposite sex doesn’t get.)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes on a yearly basis performances by actors, the direction given to those actors, the technical and artistic aspects expended to realize those performances into a coherent product and the writers who dreamed up the entire story. But the Academy Awards do not truly recognize what a movie means to a person.
One of my favorite movies The Karate Kid, was not anywhere near a nomination for an Academy Award the year it came out. (Terms of Endearment won in 1984, with the other films nominated being The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff and Tender Mercies.) The Karate Kid story touches me on so many levels mainly because where I was in my life I was clueless about life and girls (basically the same thing to a teenage boy), I had studied karate at the time so I could see myself in the movie, and everyone at that age feels like they don’t fit in.
Now the training stuff in that movie was outright crap, you do not learn to block a kick or punch by waxing a car or painting a fence. Those chores may increase your muscular strength and endurance but they do not teach you to place you hand in the right place at the right time to stop a blow from landing. But the heart of good martial arts is there; only use martial arts for defense, balance, focus, concentration and learning to walk before you fly. The Karate Kid taught me that you can learn something from anyone, whether it is a skill, history or what is important in life. That friendship has nothing to do with age, background or race but about who stood by your side when you are going thru crap. That skill and knowledge have nothing to do with the clothes (or belt) you are wearing. Later on in life I have looked at the same movie and realized that everyone has a backstory: Mr. Miyagi with the loss of a wife, Aliee not wanting to live up to her parents expectations at their country club, even Johnny trying to change is life by turning down a joint when you first see him then rolling one in the bathroom later on. Any movie that lasts with you for thirty some years is truly a masterpiece, even if it only means that much to one person.
Another filmmaker that will probably never get an Academy Award is Kevin Smith, his movies are full of juvenile jokes, childish sight gags and way too much trivia, but at the heart of his movies is a celebration of friendship, love and life.
The black and white film Clerks may be about working a minimum wage job but it is also about finding and knowing what is important in life and that there are lot of beautiful girls in the world but not all of them will bring you lasagna. Dogma may have a crap monster, a sanctified golf club, and the late great Alan Rickman, sans genitilia, but it is also about believing in yourself and raising questioning about faith, god and religion in irreverent but smart fashion.
My favorite filmmaker will probably not be recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I love Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Chasing Army, Red State and even Jersey Girl. I enjoy his movies, I have laughed and seen things a little bit differently, and in seeing things differently I have changed as a person. Isn’t that what the movies, and art in general, are truly about? Art is about the important things in life, not how many awards you do on do not win. We need more art in this world, art that brings us closer together, art that helps us rage against injustices, art that keeps our sense of wonder alive and movies that display love in all its different shapes and forms.