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Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

My Position on the Kneeling Versus Standing During the National Anthem

 

 

Pro sports are back and the debate about kneeling versus standing during the playing of the National Anthem has returned front and center.

I don’t claim to speak for all leftists/liberals, but my position is probably shared by a large number of Americans, perhaps even a majority.

Here’s my opinion:

#1 — If a player chooses to KNEEL during the National Anthem, I respect that decision.

#2 — If a player chooses to STAND during the National Anthem, I respect that decision.

There. See how easy that was?

It’s called freedom of choice. It’s called the right to self-expression. It’s called civil disagreement. It’s called having mutual respect for one another, despite our differences.

This shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp.

__________

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Posted by on Jul 29, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

Let’s Flood the Zone With the Truth

 

 

“FLOOD THE ZONE WITH SHIT”

That quote, coming directly from the mouth of the man many consider the architect of the political virus known as “Trumpism,” former White House advisor and political strategist Steve Bannon. sums up much of what we see, read, and hear on social media.

“The real opposition is the (mainstream) media,” he said when asked about the Right’s unconventional political tactics. “And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

The tactic is nefarious — and brilliant, at least in a cold-hearted Machiavellian sense. It’s right out of the old Lee Atwater, Karl Rove dirty deeds done cheap playbook. First — create utter carnage and confusion, and then — provide clarity and an oversimplified solution.

The tactic is impossible to defend because it takes so much time for truthseekers and those genuinely dedicated to truth to expose, research, write, and try to counter-persuade those sadly gullible deplorables so tethered to trigger mechanisms (the flag, god, veterans, guns) that they’ll swallow any line of bullshit off the Breitbart and FOX assembly line, not to mention the troll sites littered with cockeyed conspiracy theories that number in the hundreds.

Flood the zone with shit.

It doesn’t matter most — if not ALL — of their “shit” consists of lies, exaggerations, and quotes taken wildly out of context to make their perceived “enemies” look bad. Truth has become irrelevant. It’s about destruction. Obama is a Muslim. Trump is Cyrus the Great. They want to destroy America. You’ve read the crap, and perhaps even shared it.

Fling so much shit we can’t beath.

That’s what we see here on social media, all the time. Memes, mostly unattributed (perhaps manufactured on some troll farm). Clever video clips showing violence with scary voiceovers, intended to frighten simpletons. OAN-style patriot news, that borders on self-parody.

Flood the zone with shit.

That’s what the Trump campaign, Right-wing douchebag media, Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, and the brigade of chickenhawk foot soldiers in the army of the 92 IQ company are going — 24/7.

They are flooding the zone with shit.

I recommend using this phrase often, and tagging posts you see from Trumpsters. Call them out. Let them know they aren’t fooling those who take the time to consume information from reliable sources, and filter out idiocy. Make their dirt backfire. Make them smell. Make them stink. And, if necessary, block them.

Flooding the zone with shit requires a mass cleanup.

Now.

Because, in the next few months, lies will spread faster than COVID. They are desperate. They will do anything and say anything. We all need to do our part.

Let’s flood the zone — with the truth.

__________

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Posted by on Jul 28, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 3 comments

A Non-Partisan Observation on Congressional Hearings

 

 

While watching the Barr hearings this morning (he’s testifying before a congressional subcommittee), my main takeaway is the utter failure of the parliamentary process. It’s a system that frankly — stinks. It’s broken.

I’ll skip the blame game and the castigation of congresspeople by name, which sadly make themselves such inviting targets of our collective derision. We all see and hear what we want through our tinted lens and filter, though I’ve come to a general consensus that both sides of the aisle, Republicans, and Democrats, often display an appalling lack of self-awareness.

The real culprit here is THE PROCESS. It’s counterproductive to the stated purpose of the congress (and senate, which is equally guilty), which is to carefully examine, research, listen, learn, debate, and vote — hopefully impartially with open minds.

As we’ve seen in so many previous hearings, the “witness” (in this case, Barr) makes his opening statement. Then, over the next several hours, committee members play a mind-numbing tennis match of back and forth “gotcha-isms.” Democrats point fingers and blame the witness, often not allowing him sufficient time to answer. Republicans shout, fling baseless accusations at parties not present, and flood the zone with distractions and counter-conspiracies. Each congressperson gets FIVE minutes to cross-examine the witness. The ridiculousness of the exhibition is amplified by the hearings being nationally televised, not to mention carved up and sound bit by extremist media, which will whitewash the dopey elephant. In other words, the committee members know they have just five minutes to put on a *show.*

This procedure would be laughable if it were not so painful to watch and hear. The witness isn’t really grilled, at all. He has the advantage of running out the clock with long-winded stonewalling, general professions of faux commitment to truth and the legal system, and (certainly in Barr’s case) disprovable lies.

Some percentage of those who ask questions have NO BUSINESS conducting a cross-examination. An even larger percentage (in my opinion) turn off the viewing public with irrelevant goose-chases and pandering. Many of the five-minute Q/A segments serve no purpose at all, other than to destroy earnest compromise and non-partisan pursuits.

I’m uncertain as to what changes need to be made in hearings of this nature. Perhaps we can look to and learn from the quite well-functioning parliamentary systems in Europe and other countries, where multiple parties somehow work together (mostly) without the political circus. I know that’s such a foreign, un-American concept — to learn from other countries and systems. Excuse me for making such a ridiculous proposal in the grand land of jingoism. American “exceptionalism,” for all the wrong reasons.

What I do know is — NOTHING will come from these hearings aside from each of us bole-weeviling ourselves deeper into silos of alternative universe echo chambers. Rather than blame the individuals who serve, as much as they do deserve blame, it is THE PROCESS, the horrific, counterproductive, absurd, divisive system that is guilty.

The system is to blame. It’s sick. And perhaps — terminal.

__________

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Posted by on Jul 15, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

If Your Took This Clown Seriously, Please — DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT

 

 

Anyone who made a fool of themselves and took the “presidential campaign” seriously of a confused rapper with the mental capacity if a kumquat deserves to be shamed and shunned. You’ve all become laughingstocks.

Hang your heads. In shame.

Celebrities pulling PR stunts: Just fucking stop. Please.

As if the current sad state politics wasn’t depressing enough, the amount of mass coverage given to a discombobulated moron who once called slavery “a choice” is an appalling indictment of our media. It’s a guilty verdict on the crazed insanity of social media (including some of you reading this) which collectively speculated on how much the rapper might impact the 2020 presidential election. If you tweeted or reposted anything related to this subject, do us all a favor:

DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT NOW.

I’m not using the great pretender’s name because he doesn’t deserve any free publicity.

There was NO FUCKING WAY this moron was going to get on the ballot as a presidential contender. Did ANY of you take a course in government or political science? Have you ever read a newspaper? You do realize getting on the ballot in every state at this late stage of the campaign and election would require MASSIVE amounts of money, staff, and volunteers. States don’t just list anyone who wants to run for president, even hip-hoppers. There are requirements and rules that must be met. Did anyone seriously think Trump’s red-hatted Uncle Tom was going to blow millions of dollars and try hopelessly to raise money in order to attract, what, 1 or 2 percent of the idiot vote?

Seriously, shame on you for buying into the ruse. Your gullibility is exposed.

There’s a lesson here, and I hope some might learn it. Quit feeding the beast.  Stop swallowing the latest social media trend topic. It’s tomorrow’s dirty diaper. It smells nice and fresh now, but in a day or so, it will be full of shit.

I feel dirty just for writing about this subject.

Rant over.

__________

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Posted by on Apr 25, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Music and Concert Reviews, Personal | 0 comments

An Evening with Al Pacino

 

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Writer’s Note:  Back in January 2017, I penned this article after seeing Al Pacino interviewed onstage in a two-hour career retrospective.  I’m publishing it here for the first time on the occasion of Pacino’s 80th birthday — April 25, 2020.

 

Few can command a room just by being inside it.  Al Pacino is such a man, with an undeniable command presence.

That was my instant takeaway the moment when the spotlight hit the iconic film actor who was introduced to a Saturday night crowd of about 800 loyal fans at the Opaline Theatre inside the Palazzo.

Pacino had arrived in Las Vegas for an exclusive one-hight-only, one-man engagement.  Think Pacino unplugged.  Aside from the somewhat nameless and faceless interviewer who tossed Pacino plenty of softballs to smash out of the theatre, this was Pacino totally in the raw, mostly unrehearsed and unscripted.  While some of the questions asked were repetitive and maybe even a few of the answers were orchestrated for maximum impact, the intimate setting was also loaded with plenty of spontaneous moments and edge-of-your-seat recollections for classic movie lovers.  Most satisfying of all, Pacino seemed to sincerely enjoy the trip down memory lane, with pit-stops where you’d expect them on his 50-year-career.  He was a much better storyteller than one might have anticipated.

Indeed, Pacino personifies what it means to be a movie star.  He made the Godfather’s fictional character Michael Corleone into someone who’s real to millions, forever embalmed into cinema’s collective consciousness.  When we hear Serpico, we think of Pacino.  Sonny, the bisexual bank robber based on a real incident, is Pacino.  Scarface.  Dick Tracy.  Frank Slade.  Carlito.  Lefty Ruggiero.  Shylock.  Richard III.  Phil Spector.  He even played Dr. Kevorkian.

I was surprised by my own reaction, that Pacino’s best moments weren’t the highlights of his superstardom, but rather the low moments and the struggles, both personally and career-wise.  We can forgive but he can’t forget, and Pacino carries the burdens of pain from his childhood, though no amount of talking about his early life could quite remove the lingering sting of loss all these years later.

He talked about growing up in East Harlem (and later the Bronx), born into a lower-class household, raised by a single mother at a time when single mothers were widely viewed social outcasts, especially in Italian-American culture..  Pacino’s father abandoned the family when Al was 2.  Interesting factoid from the show:  Pacino was mostly raised by his grandparents who were immigrants from….Corleone, Italy.

Pacino seemed the most unlikely heir of what was to become his ultimate destiny.  He worked as a messenger, busboy, janitor, and postal clerk in between acting jobs consisting mostly of small roles in stage productions.  There was even a period when he was unemployed and homeless.  Sometimes he slept on the street, in theaters, or at a friend’s house.

In the 1960s, leading men cast in movies did not look and talk like Pacino.  Smallish.  Way too New York.  And way, way too ethnic.  By age 30, even though he’d studied at the famed Actors Studio under the tutelage of mentor Lee Strasberg (who would later play the legendary role of Hyman Roth in Godfather II),  his acting career was going nowhere.

However, everything was about to change, including public tastes and mass audiences’ demands for authenticity combined with Hollywood’s own methods of casting prompted by a new age of writers and directors.  New movies would need smallish actors, with New York accents, who were genuinely ethnic.

Pacino’s role, playing a heroin addict in his first film The Panic in Needle Park (1971) caught the attention of movie director Francis Ford Coppola, who had just won an Oscar for screenwriting Best Picture winner, Patton.  Coppola took a big risk and cast Pacino as Michael Corleone in what became a blockbuster film, The Godfather (1972).  Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, and even Robert De Niro tried out for the part, but Coppola insisted on Pacino, to the dismay of studio executives who wanted someone better known.

The stories of phone calls between Pacino and Coppola during the tense negotiations were told here, presumably, versions heard by the public for the first time.  Neither knew of the monumental tidal wave that was to come engulfing both of their lives, totally reshaping the careers of both men.  Now, Pacino remained every bit as appreciative of that loyalty, noting that no other film director would have gone to bat with such steely determination, especially given that Coppola was also relatively young and didn’t have total control of casting decisions.

As one would expect, there wasn’t nearly enough time to tell all the stories.  Even Pacino’s most obscure film roles elicited some hysterical recollections about on-the-set disasters and even the actor’s own missteps.

Pacino had clearly done this before, and his experience as an amiable storyteller showed onstage.  Yet, the actor’s occasional gaffes were among the most endearing moments.  When absorbed in stories, he’d often get excited and would sometimes even ramble off on tangents.  A few times, the moderator had to steer Pacino back on track.  This wasn’t annoying at all.  It gave the presentation a genuine sense of spontaneity, that we were privileged to be sitting in an audience sharing Pacino’s recollections of what happened when the cameras weren’t rolling.  I should add that not having any film clips, props, or other supporting materials actually helped the format.  Midway into the retrospective, everyone in the audience seemed to feel what a special moment this was and we were lucky to share it.

Las Vegas might be known for gambling, but it usually leaves nothing to chance.  The odds are known.  Most shows are the same, night after night, year after year.  Pacino’s recollections, though imperfect and incomplete, was in a sense the acrobat performing without the net — no notes and no script.  While other celebrities have done one-person stage shows, with mixed results, most of those efforts look way too contrived, even manipulative.  Not so, with Pacino.

Pacino has crafted a reputation based on playing tough guys in movies.  But his first love is stage acting and theatre.  After taking about 25 minutes of questions from the audience (most of which were terrible — thankfully, Pacino was gracious and answered questions he’s undoubtedly been asked hundreds of times and anyone with access to IMDB can lookup), the legend paid homage to Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil, and Noel Coward.  It seemed Pacino wanted to talk more about stagecraft.  Unfortunately, the interviewer cut off some of the evening’s most passionate thoughts from Pacino.

The final few minutes included a short glimpse of what was then Pacino’s next major upcoming film project.  That night, he’d recently signed a deal to play Jimmy Hoffa in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

Was it enough?  Was it worth paying $80 to listen to a film icon talk about his life and career?  Was this a show to recommend?

The answer is simple.  Hey, it was Al Pacino.

Enough said.

__________

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