Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Damn It, Al

He had a wickedly spot-on Johnny Carson impersonation, among others, and his acting skills might arguably be termed “towering”. One of my favorite YouTube videos has been the episode of “Inside the Actors Studio” in which he was charming and illuminating.

If you asked me, “do you admire Kevin Spacey?” I would say, “yeah, I guess I do.”

He has been accused by multiple people of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Kevin.

He was probably the first actor whose skills I recognized as great acting, in the first non-animated movie that I ever saw end-to-end that didn’t have spaceships and zap guns in it – the movie “Tootsie”, which had a lot to say about how people are treated solely based on what they look like. A decade later, he had a large hand in making me interested in the Peter Pan story, as he tore into the role of Captain Hook. Far too late in my life, I got “All the President’s Men” out of the local library, watched it, and belatedly understood how much more important he was in that film than his acting partner, some guy named Redford or something.

If you asked me, “do you admire Dustin Hoffman?” I would say, “yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a 1985-TV-movie-set intern of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Dustin.

He became a United States Senator after having a respectable career as a comic performer and writer.  After having been seen exclusively as someone for whom the joke was the thing, he developed a reputation in the halls of government as someone who had a ferocious command of facts and knowledge as they applied to policy decisions and committee-hearing interrogation. For the first several years of his Senate career, he focused firmly on being a statesman and not an entertainer – on being serious and not making jokes.  Only recently has he begun to infuse his Senatorial activity with his remarkable sense of humor.

If you asked me, “do you admire Al Franken?” I would say, “yes, particularly in the last decade.”

He has been accused by a USO-tour entertainment colleague of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, Al.

He played a groundbreaking role – for all of that role’s in-the-background, supporting-cast qualities – as an Asian starship helmsman in a 1960s television series heralded for its forward-thinking philosophy about who people are and how they should be seen and treated (in a time when that philosophy was not, um, on full display in this country). He subsequently became an outspoken and effective advocate for the LGBT community, and his Twitter feed was regularly full of wise and witty commentary on current events.

If you asked me, “do you admire George Takei?” I would say, “HELL yeah, I do.”

He has been accused by a former actor and male model of sexual misconduct.

Damn it, George.

It’s easy for me to look over at people like Donald Trump, like former Judge Roy Moore, like Harvey Weinstein, who don’t represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate. It’s easy to hurl invective at people who seem to instead espouse a pattern, a history, of awful behavior.

That’s easy.

Especially when they claim in public that they are good, upright, morally and ethically sturdy people, and then allegations arise that challenge those claims.

Fish in a barrel.

It’s something else when people whom I have admired, or might even have liked had I known them personally (based upon nothing but their public persona and public statements, so who knows what you’re really getting, but they seemed like fine humans) … seem not to represent the core beliefs and/or the basic standards of decent behavior that I like to think I uphold and that I like to think I espouse and demonstrate.

That’s not as easy.

I freely admit: a portion of my otherwise evolved brain is desperate to give the benefit of the doubt to Kevin, and Dustin, and Al, and George … and John Edwards, and Anthony Weiner. Why? Because I had thought they were okay, and I would rather not know that they weren’t. Whether it was a pattern or just a singular moment of misbehavior in their lives.

I mean, nobody’s perfect.

But this whole sexual misconduct thing … especially when it occurs so obviously in the context of men exercising their power over others … even if it’s one single occurrence, that’s one occurrence too many to count as perfection. No – that’s one occurrence too many, period. They were young, they were foolish, they were this, that, the other, all the excuses in the world …

No. They did a horrible thing that any well-adjusted person – any PERSON – should understand is wrong.

My disappointment is not the most important result of all these allegations and revelations and such. At least not on a global scale. My disappointment will not make the front page of the New York Times. There will be no charities established for the support and treatment of my disappointment.

It is, however, an opportunity for me to check in with my ability to be fair.

Bill O’Reilly did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I don’t agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

See? Easy.

Al Franken did what? Can’t be. What a great Senator he’s been for Minnesota, and what an entertaining performer he was on Saturday Night Live, and…

No…:

Al Franken did what? What a miserable thing to do to another human being, which was done by a guy who also harbors political beliefs that I do agree with. He should pay the price, face the consequences, and if he loses his career and livelihood, well, good.

Not easy.

Life is complicated.

I didn’t want to have to wrestle with yet another complication.

It’s probably good for me, in the long run, if I want to continue to claim I’m a fair-minded and principled person, to go ahead and wrestle with it.

Sexual misconduct is wrong. No matter who’s doing it.

Damn it, Al.

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November 18, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, Famous Persons, news | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

If You’re Good At Something, Never Do It For Free -or- Entitlements

I spotted a story in the Washington Post earlier today that described the effort that Marla Maples (Donald Trump’s second wife) and Tiffany Trump (his 23-year-old daughter) were putting into looking great for Friday’s inauguration festivities.

They were trying to get their hairstyling and makeup done … for nothing.

Tricia Kelly, a freelance stylist, was contacted by a Maples associate about doing their hair and makeup for the day. When presented with Kelly’s fee schedule, Maples (via her people) objected, saying the amount was too much. After further back-and-forth (resulting in a Kelly proposal of $350 total), Maples’ assistant suggested that perhaps Kelly might be willing to provide services for free — in exchange for “exposure”, including some social media shout-outs.

After finding her voice again, Kelly declined.

This is not unfamiliar territory for creative people. Musicians, for example, run up against the argument, “well, could you play for an evening at our tavern? We don’t have any money to pay you, but the exposure would be great! Lots of people come to our place!”, etc etc.

Partly this has to do with the tavern owner (or whomever) not understanding how much actual work, preparation, etc. go into such endeavors. Yes, there’s a certain skill set and a certain amount of talent and work that go into things like this. Creative and artistic services like dinner music, ice sculptures, interior decorating, dance instruction … while they don’t look anything like plumbing, electrical work, car repair, or various other activities … still do constitute compensable skills.

Again, we creative types are not unfamiliar with the need to educate people about this.

This, though? This is something else.

This is yet another example of entitled people who understand no one else but themselves.

There are people who make far less than they do who pay full price,” [Kelly] said. “People on staff – the incoming White House and the outgoing one – pay full price. It seemed like they were trying to see how much they could get for free based on their names.”

Because that’s their idea of fair compensation. These people will never need to worry about where their next meal is coming from … they will never need to decide between taking their kid to the doctor and paying the rent … and their every capricious whim will be catered to instantly, for the rest of their natural lives. Their idea of recompense is exposure on social media. Their idea of currency is their surname.

Well, these apples didn’t fall far from the orange tree.

But further, it’s an example (one which will become very common in the next … well, however long the Human Conflict Of Interest serves as President) of entitled people lording it over the rest of us. Because they don’t know any experience other than seeing themselves as above the rest of us slobs.

But after The Washington Post contacted the PR representative, Kelly received ominous messages from [Maples’ associate], who had first put her in touch with Maples’s camp. “You are messing with the president of the United States,” the Maples contact wrote her, adding that Maples was worried about her financial situation with Tiffany out of college, ending child-support payments from the president-elect. “She is used to a certain lifestyle and you don’t understand that.”

In my little fantasy world, I would have an instant and forceful retort for Ms. Maples’ associate. In the real world, I hope I would have either the guts to actually speak it, or the sense to keep my yap shut until I could get to a friendly newspaper reporter and tell my story, which is what Ms. Kelly wisely did.

Marla Maples is used to a certain lifestyle and I don’t understand that?

Damn right I don’t. And I hope I never do. Not if it makes me look and sound like that.

 

RESIST. REJECT.

And support the people who actually do a little work around here.

 

[Ed. note: Three days until we inaugurate a man … accompanied by the rest of his soon-to-be First Family … who has never in his life known want. Who is supported by craven, corrupt, similarly entitled (Congress)people who (por ejamplo) wish to take away health insurance from people who do know want, every damn day of their lives. Who, nonetheless, is supposed to be seen as the president of all the people of the United States.

[Hell of a role model.]

January 17, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, Famous Persons, news | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sanction(s)

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence invites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

     -Meryl Streep

 

Meryl Streep performed last night.

Instead of making a speech that thanked the organizers of the Golden Globe award ceremony for giving her a lifetime achievement award, the veteran actor made a speech that was, shall we say, not as narrowly focused on that – but which was fairly squarely focused on one individual.

From the Washington Post:

Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award — basically a lifetime achievement award — but didn’t say much about her career. Instead, she spent the minutes allotted to her to speak critically of the current political climate and [Donald] Trump, although she did not mention the president-elect by name.

There was one performance this year that stunned me,” she said. “It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”

Streep was referring to Trump’s remarks during the campaign, when he appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits the functioning of his joints.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idea that Streep referenced in that last paragraph. The capacity of a person, by their words or deeds, to give permission to someone (or someones) else to behave in a certain way. To give sanction to certain attitudes and actions.

Curious word, sanction. It’s one of those words that makes the English language both exasperating and glorious. Pointing in one direction, imposing sanctions on a country is punitive. Pointing in the other direction, giving sanction to a behavior is encouraging.

 

Sanction (sank’ • shun) [noun]

[1] a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule. “A range of sanctions aimed at deterring insider abuse” … synonyms: penalty, punishment, deterrent

[2] official permission or approval for an action. “He appealed to the bishop for his sanction.” … synonyms: authorization, consent, leave, permission, authority, warrant, license, dispensation, assent, acquiescence, agreement, approval, approbation, endorsement, accreditation, ratification, validation, blessing, imprimatur

 

Over the last year and a half, we have witnessed the political rise of an entertainment figure. That rise has been, of course, propelled by that star’s words and actions.

These words and actions were unquestionably grounded in antagonism toward (to name but a few) religions, ethnic groups, women in general, and economic classes … and all this antagonism was accepted and embraced by the people who supported the man who said and did them.

The support and encouragement was reciprocal; a circular dance that revealed unsettling truths about the American population.

The political candidate said inflammatory things, did offensive things, and proposed cruel and mean policies; and a great majority of those activities involved the humiliation of individuals or groups of people.

(Khizr and Ghazala Khan. John McCain. Megyn Kelly. Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Alicia Machado. Katy Tur. Serge Kovaleski.)

His supporters heard and saw those words and deeds … agreed with them … urged them forward. His supporters seemed to feel that he confirmed for them that believing and saying and doing those things was okay – because he was rich and famous, or because he railed against “political correctness” just like they did, or for whatever other reason. He gave them sanction to behave the way they’d always wanted to behave. Badly – but now people couldn’t tell them that they were behaving badly. Or if people did, they had been given sanction to tell those people they were losers, and to f*** off.

So they voted for him.

And he won a primary. And then another. And then several others. And then he locked up his party’s Presidential nomination. And then he appeared to garner more Electoral College votes than anyone else.

And all the votes (and, at rallies, all the cheers and chants and adulation) of his supporters convinced him that he was right to say and do and believe and promote these words, deeds, ideas, notions, attitudes. At least partly, he was convinced of this because, for his entire life, he has seen success as being achievable through how many other people gave him compliments and adulation, and in what amounts.

His supporters gave him sanction to continue to be who he has always been, to act how he has always acted, to believe … well, to believe whatever he needs to say, in a particular moment, in order to convince people to like him and do what he wants them to. The art of the deal.

And around and around it has gone.

Sanction as an admonishing concept now appears not to affect him.

Or his supporters.

And we are now eleven days away from inaugurating as President of the United States (one of the world’s most influential positions of role modeling) that person – who rests on the clouds of adulation sent up by his supporters … themselves borne on the wings not of rational discernment but of his cult of personality … and that personality is, quite simply, one devoid of human empathy and therefore teeming with the ability to be unfeelingly cruel.

To allow Meryl Streep to reiterate:

[T]his instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

And here we are. Trump’s America.

 

[Ed. Note: Eleven days until we inaugurate a consciously cruel person, one who seems impervious to constructive criticism like, “hey – quit it. You’re embarrassing yourself”.

[RESIST. REJECT.]

January 9, 2017 Posted by | celebrity, current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment