Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Am Talking to the Men.

I've been talking with a few friends, filmmakers and artists I've known since college more or less -all of them male- about these exposes in the media on Harvey Weinstein's career-long predation on women. After we were done shrugging over our compared notes and impressions about something that we thought everybody already knew about for years, we started blaming everybody,—in particular ourselves and here's why:

Back in the days when I worked at Film/Video Arts in the mid 1990s, this shit about Harvey Weinstein was a so-called open secret, which is to say it was KNOWN BY EVERYBODY. We had not heard about Harvey Weinstein raping anyone -at least I hadn't, but it was common knowledge that he was lecherous on a crazy fucking scale. In 1995, If you knew any actor who had a meeting, or audition, or sitdown of any kind with anybody at  MiraMax, -you let her know what was up: that the Weinsteins were a couple of old-timey era throwbacks who insisted on what agents used to privately call "lay to play" and for the record -I also don't remember anybody making any distinction between the two brothers -except that a male friend of mine, -a formidably sized actor (Chime in on the comments if you want because I know you're reading this -but it's up to you) who nobody would ever fuck with, said Harvey had the potential to get very agitated and physically violent with people who worked for him on a whim (or behaved worse with people who didn't work for him, like waiters and valets), and he admitted to me that he was scared of Harvey because he was one of those big fat rich guys who walked around with that almost maffiaesque sense of entitlement (read: if he got into it with you, and you pushed back and beat his ass, -he would just get several people to come after you later.) All of this was talked about throughout the 90s here in New York amongst small-timers like me who were the location managers, PMs, script supervisors, editors, assistant editors, sound men, ADs, travel captains, line producers, UPMs  et al of the no-budget independent film world -only the actors seemed to be in the dark- they were the ones we always had to tell about it.—AND I mean we HAD to tell them about it in "Scared-Straight" style theatrics, because I remember just about all of them saying something to the effect of "I know what to do if something bad happens" and which point you'd explain to them that if "something bad happens" that's too late. I got really good at having this talk by 1998, but I do remember a couple of actors accuse me of trying to be a "nice guy" (-I now know that's been codified as a new archetype pf passive aggressive beta male asshole whose altruism and friendship is all part of manipulation or guilt tripping in pursuit of sex with a girl he pretends to be best friends with. -it's quite an insult when you are literally trying to steer someone from harm.) Again it was the actors who didn't really seem to know and lately I really wonder why the hell that is or was, until I realized, perhaps it was because - it was pretty much the case everywhere:

"If every DMV office is dirty and grey; why would you think to single out any particular DMV office for being dirty and grey?" 

—Every agency that wasn't run by a woman had the reputation in the 80s and 90s of a fucked up frat house - I didn't know of many production companies that were run by women in those days -just a sign of those times. If it was an agency or production company run by a Gay man, especially a closeted Gay man whose preferences were "known" -you had just as big a freak out about all your Gay friends running afoul of these agencies and companies and their resident molesters-in-chief, -and those conversations between a Straight guy and Gay guy always got fucking weird because no one in this world can get themselves into danger faster that a 20-something year old Gay man who thinks he's seen it all because he lives in New York City: Anybody, -any body can get drugged, raped, killed. This is an industry (Entertainment, music, movies, TV) I reminded a male playwright that was older than me, that literally chews up attractive young men (or even nerdy young men): I reason that if you think that's a fair trade, you're conning yourself as much as you think you're hustling your well-connected mark. Rich powerful men in Hollywood and in New York "disappear" people, lovers and friends once they get "inconvenient" and they do it simply because they can. It's curious how many young Gay -writers, -assistants, -producers, -what-have-you disappeared over the 1990s without any explanation or clue. One day you knew somebody, the next month he'd gone west and nobody every heard about him again.—Just like that. 
If you knew an actor who told you she had a "dinner meeting," you let her know what was up, and on two occasions that I can remember I was asked to drop a friend off and pick them up afterward. Both women asked that I make a point of shaking the guy from office A or B's hand firmly. I certainly let them know, by staring into their eyes that there would be consequences if anything weird went off; I let them know that I was watching, that somebody knew where she was, and at what time and who with... In both cases there was nothing but pleasant dinner and a good bye reported...
but you know what?—Those women didn't get 
those jobs either.
Selfishly, I remember a lot of us were openly relieved that we didn't have a female friend, a sister, a cousin, or a girlfriend who was an actor or musician.
—How fucking cowardly of all of us. 

In the 1990s it was like open season on women and even some young men as soon as no one was watching.
The thing is, -if I had heard this then, -about Weinstein and so many others -doesn't somebody know something now? 
What open secrets are endangering lives by obscuring some obvious monster operating with the privilege and impunity of our inaction, the cover of our laziness, the encouragement of our fear?
Why is our response to whisper, gossip, and ultimately uphold the lies that allow crime and violence to continue behind closed doors?
                                 I am talking to the men.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Culture of Outrage

We live in a society where the only currency seems to be outrage. Every slight, every misstep, every word out of place is met by a cacophony of voices screaming at the top of their lungs about how they feel wronged. The biggest problem in this new culture is that if everything is outrageous, then nothing is.

Public outrage used to be reserved for things that really mattered. Let's take our current natural disaster as an example. When Katrina hit and lives where being lost and the response from the White House was tepid at best, there was real cause for outrage. When Harvey hit and the the first lady wore stilettos to visit Texas, the response was immediate outrage from the press and from social media. This is the state that we've devolved to. Our righteous energy is no longer reserved for the things that matter. It is now unleashed on every perceived wrongdoing from every living human being.

Did somebody famous short a server on a tip? let's persecute them on social media. Did someone wear the wrong color to a funeral? Let's persecute them on social media. Did someone use an inappropriate term when referring to native Americans, or African Americans or Italian Americans or whatever Americans? Let's persecute them on social media. The point is that we have lost the ability to be outraged. What really deserves our energy? The fact that there are statues to dead civil war generals, or the the fact that minorities are being killed in the streets by the people who are supposed to protect them? There is no difference in today's media landscape. It really is all about the next big thing.

Outrage sells, just like sex does. Everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs and the media just jumps to the person or story that seems like it has the most volume. Chris Rock used to tell a joke about gun ownership, where everyone has the right to own a gun, but it cost thousands of dollars to buy a bullet. Our outrage used to cost something. There were limited outlets to express outrage on a large scale. Now it costs nothing.

There's really not a whole lot to say about this. I wish I had some grand scheme to fix to the problem, but the cat is already out of the bag and frankly, it's only going to get worse. We, as a society have lost the ability to focus on the big picture. We are now focused on a micro level, looking for our own personal outrage. Sorry, that's not entirely true, we can focus on a real issue, but only for as long as it takes for the next Game of Thrones episode to appear. I bring up Game of Thrones, because there is the potential for an HBO show, from the makers of Game of Thrones, about the history of America if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. The backlash from an outraged citizenry has been swift and deafening.

Frankly, I'm OUTRAGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Still Waters Run Deep

The events over the weekend in Virginia have shocked and outraged so many and rightfully so. It was a despicable act of a depraved individual that turned a protest march into a bloodbath. However, we, as a nation, should not be shocked by the lengths that individuals will sink to in order to prove a point. That hatred that fueled the murders in a Charleston church is the same hatred that fueled the attack in Charlottesville. This hatred runs deep and wide across this country. It always has and it always will. 

I've mentioned in a previous post that perhaps the election of Donald Trump would allow those on the left to take off their rose colored glasses and realize what country they are living in. Hopefully we are no longer living under the illusion that we have turned some corner or crested some hill on our way to racial and cultural harmony. We thought that the wounds of our past were beginning to finally heal and that we were ready to face a new reality. 

The election of Barack Obama was seen as the beginning of a new age on enlightenment. We had finally put to rest our ugly history. We were in a post racial society were people were judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. The only problem was that none of that was true, but the belief in that new America allowed those on the left to become complacent. Their work was done. We had reached the mountaintop that Dr. King spoke of. We had seen the promised land and it was rose colored and beautiful. In their eyes America would never look back. The big picture was complete and the details would take care of themselves. 

Those filled with the racial and cultural hatred, that is so deeply rooted in this country, did not see an age of enlightenment. They saw the election of an African-American to the highest office in the land as an affront to all they hold sacred. There was no complacency on the part of those who hated what they saw. Hatred doesn't take a day off. Hatred is never satisfied with the status quo. Hatred cannot be satiated. Hatred is a 24/7 job. In the age of Obama, those filled with hate may have less vocal and less visible, but make no mistake, they were always there. That is what those on the left cannot forget. 

I've said this before but it bears repeating, complacency is the enemy of victory. The fervor on the left is genuine at this point, but will that translate at the polls? That remains to be seen. We can quickly become comfortable with the status quo when our day to day lives seem to be sailing along peacefully. The hatred that people feel based on skin color, religion, nationality, sexual preference, etc. is very real and it's not going anywhere. I would ask those who are not a member of a discriminated class to remember how you felt when you heard about Charlottesville. I would ask those whose skin color does not immediately make them a target for racism, to think about how it feels to wake every day and know that you have a target on your back. 

The hatred in this country isn't going away. It won't be beaten by slogans about love, or light or fairly tales. The battle will continue forever. It is just as easy to teach hate as it is to teach love. Remember that fact, the next time life feels a little too comfortable. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Dogs of War

The current probes into possible ties between  Russia and the current administration is currently being bathed in the bright lights of the media. Everyday we are continually deluged with stories and talk of investigation tampering and back room deals and the impending explosion of this administration. The fact of the matter is that this couldn't be going any better for President Trump. I can say almost absolute certainty that this investigation will never lead to the removal of the President. Given the current make up of the House, impeachment is off the table for at least 2 years. And given the make up of the Senate, it would impossible to get a 2/3 majority to vote for his removal. I'm not so sure that even Nixon would have lost a vote in the Senate. 

So what do we have? We have a story that provides cover for almost everything else that's going on in Washington. Every other issue has taken a back seat. The Republican leadership in the Senate works in secret on a health care bill that would gut Medicaid, but the bright lights are pointed elsewhere. The President and his team continue to sign executive orders that are dismantling the Obama legacy as if that were his only goal in life. All the issues that we should care about are being affected from education to the climate, but all we hear about is the Russian investigation. 

I am not saying that this investigation is not important, because it is. We should know exactly what the relationship was between the Trump campaign and Russia. We should know if there are business ties that may lead to compromised decisions. However we should not focus on that one topic to the exclusion of everything else. I understand that some on the left go to sleep at night dreaming of Watergate part 2, but our politics have become so fractured that I can't see our elected leaders agreeing on an issue as contentious as impeachment. The President has very loyal supporters who would pounce on any elected Republican who would turn his back on Trump. The thing that politicians care about the most is their own skin. The folks in the House, who face an election every two years, would never even think about placing their own necks on the line for a matter of principle. 

I always think it's possible that Donald Trump might wake up one day and decide that he just doesn't want to do this anymore. Being President is a hard job and he's not particularly fond of doing this kind of work. I never thought that he actually wanted the job in the first place. It was an exercise in brand building gone wrong. I think the only thing that keeps him doing the job is the fact that his ego gets stroked every second of the day. He is the most powerful man in the world and that keeps him in a constant state of arousal. 

Those on the left need to keep their eyes on what's going on everywhere in this administration and not get sidetracked by the shiny object with all the bright lights. That is not where the important decisions are being made. The President is once again playing the left like a puppet. Keep them dancing on a string shouting "impeachment", and keep doing the dirty work outside of the spotlight. As Shakespeare so appropriately put it, "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war". 

Friday, April 28, 2017

100 Days and Counting

The Trump administration has been in place for almost 100 days now and I thought that I might try to summarize my thoughts. The 100 day marker is really inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. FDR's first 100 days have been mythologized at this point because of what he was able to accomplish in that time frame. The framework for the New Deal had been put in place in those frenetic 100 days of that administration. It is an almost impossible standard for anyone else to meet. FDR came into office riding a massive mandate given by the American people who were in a panic following the crash on Wall St. and mired in the first years of the great depression. The Democratic party had 72% of the House and 63% of the Senate and those numbers would actually increase in the mid-term election. The country had never been so united in the belief that one party had utterly failed them. Great things were indeed accomplished, although at this point most would believe that the country turned around immediately and that we returned to normal employment rates. That is far from the truth, however. We didn't dip under double digit unemployment until we started to ramp up for WWII, a full 8 years later. Segregation remained the law of the land, we didn't get a national health care plan and women's rights were also largely ignored.

We shouldn't let truth interfere with myth in this post-truth society. FDR saved the world in 100 days and so every President since has had the burden of having to produce a similar miracle, whether one was needed or not. So what have we gotten out the first 100 days of this presidency? Basically it's been a non-stop attempt to undo everything that the previous administration had put in place. Women's rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, sensible gun control are just a few of the things that have come under attack by this administration. Most have been done through executive orders as opposed to legislation but that's mainly because this administration has no real use for Congress. President Trump is used to being a CEO. Things get done with a stroke of his pen, not through an elected board of representatives. He has shown no ability to work with Congress or even to make a good faith effort to work with them. 

To his credit, the President has followed through on some of his campaign promises (the most important of those was to appoint a conservative justice to the supreme court). He therefore enjoys almost across the board support from the republican voters who put him in the White House. Of course the number of things he said he was going to get done on day one is a staggering list, so he hasn't come close to matching the rhetoric of his campaign. He has changed his position on numerous hot button topics like jailing Hillary Clinton, NAFTA, NATO, etc., and most often his change came from very short conversations from people who actually know what they are talking about. 

His staff has been a mess since day one. He has consistently put people in charge of government agencies who have no idea about what they actually do or are openly hostile to the mission of the agency. Climate change denier in charge of the EPA, a hater of public schools in charge of the Education department, someone who wants to eliminate the department in charge of Energy. Not to mention Ben Carson, whose qualifications for the Housing department appears to be that he once lived in public housing as a child. The most head scratching appointment is an unofficial one. His son in law has put in charge of fixing the world. His main qualification seems to be that he married Trump's daughter. 

I guess there's no point in rehashing all the ups and downs of this presidency. I will say that he has approached the job exactly as he said he would. He's an outsider who is trying to run the government like a CEO. If that's what you voted for, then I can understand why you would be satisfied with the job that he has done. For those of us who didn't, it looks like a confused and muddled mess. Maybe it gets better with time, maybe it gets worse. I actually don't know. If I were advising this president, I would propose that he switch his tune on the health care and get a truly universal health care proposal on the table. If he could do that, the Democrats would have to get on board and I believe he could convince enough Republicans to join with them to get something meaningful passed. His base of supporters would have say that he's doing what he promised, so they would have to be on board as well. It would be a political master stroke. The Democrats would be left scrambling having helped this president to secure a signature piece of legislation. The President could then truly say that he did what was right for the people. He would talk about not being beholden to any party. He could talk about a new vision for the country going forward. It would turn the electorate on it's head and would secure the legacy of President Trump. Of course it would take a lot of work and would need the help of more than just his son in law. 

Will it happen? Not very likely because as the President and rest of country have learned in the first hundred days of his presidency, this job is really hard. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Dream Lives On

I'm reposting this for the fourth and last time. I don't think that I could ever say this any better, so I'm not going to try. Hopefully you'll all forgive for not coming up with something new, but I think it's more relevant today than it was when I first wrote it.

" the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope". Those are the words that Barack Obama used in his now famous speech after the New Hampshire primary and it illustrates perfectly his connection with the man whose birthday we celebrate as a nation today. Hope is the tie that binds Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. The hope and the belief that America can do and must do better. Obama's speech not only made the point that the destinies of all Americans are intertwined, but that people must have hope in order to make a better world. MLK's most famous speech was all about hope. It spoke of a nation that didn't exist. It spoke of the dreams of an America where someone like Barack Obama can reach the highest position in the land. They share the dream of a better America. Whether it is an America where people are judged by the "content of their character", or an America where we strive to build "a more perfect union", their goals were the same.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Obama's election is the culmination of MLK's dream. It is clearly a part of what he hoped for, but it is not the end of what he hoped for. Before his death, he was working on organizing another march on Washington. This one was going to be a poverty march. He looked across the country and realized that the underclass had no one to speak for them. He realized that the poor had no voice and no power to change their situation. His dream had expanded to include the poor of all colors. Whites in Appalachia, Hispanics in California, Native Americans in Oklahoma, they all became part of the dream. Injustice will always exist, that is why the dream will never be fulfilled. It is a moving target, as is Barack Obama's dream to build a more perfect union. Obama's words imply that the union can never be perfected, but we must always strive to make it better.

MLK led the greatest moral campaign that this country has ever known. He led a generation of people who were willing to put their lives on the line to make this country a better place. Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the WWII generation entitled "The Greatest Generation", however I think that designation should go to those who worked and fought and died so that the dream of America could be shared by all Americans. It is somewhat easier to make those sacrifices when the entire country agrees with you, but when you are faced with the opposition of the majority of the citizens of this country, it takes an extraordinary type of intestinal fortitude to persevere. Barack Obama is not the successor to MLK. As President, his moral compass will not be as consistent as MLK's was. His goals will not be as single minded as MLK's were. They can't be. The job of President is much more complicated and Obama is not just the representative of some of us, he is the representative of all of us. Those who have expectations that Obama will lead a moral revolution on the scale of MLK will be disappointed.

MLK was the leader of a movement that changed this nation forever. Barack Obama is about to become the leader of the country and his election has changed this nation forever. They will always be inexorably linked. The fact that Obama will be inaugurated on the day after this nation celebrates the birthday of MLK would lead many to invoke the term, poetic justice. MLK's dream is alive in Barack Obama as it is in every person who strives to make this world a better place. The Dream and the Perfect Union remain out of reach, but it is in the striving for those things that we tap into the better angels of our nature. It is our willingness to try, regardless of the obstacles in our way, that keeps the Dream alive. MLK would most likely be very proud of Barack Obama, not only because of what he represents, but because Obama is still challenging the nation to be better. Indeed that is ultimately what links them. We can be better, we just need someone to show us the way.