Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Not the Point

The following thoughts have a point.

That point is not that ABC’s decision to include former White House press secretary Sean Spicer in the cast of the upcoming season of “Dancing With the Stars” has rubbed a great many people the wrong way.

I have my own feelings about Mr. Spicer’s time as press secretary, but they’re not the point either.

I have my own feelings about the suits in the ivory-tower offices that thought it would be a great idea to reward Mr. Spicer with pop culture celebrity status, when his single claim to fame was accepting a White House paycheck to defend the indefensible … but those feelings aren’t the point either.

The point has to do with Spicer’s own assessment of his likely success, or lack thereof, on the dancing competition show.

Spicer admitted Wednesday [August 21, the day his gig was announced on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program] that he’s not much of a dancer. He revealed that he was kicked out of the school band in sixth grade for having ‘the sense of beat of a steamroller.’”

I don’t know Spicer’s sixth-grade band director. I’ve never seen that teacher teach. I have no idea whether this quote is even accurate, although during this attempt at self-deprecation, Spicer insisted that the steamroller metaphor was indeed a direct quote from his teacher.

(The point of this blog post isn’t even to raise an eyebrow at the steamroller metaphor, since I’ve heard steamrollers that chug along quite steadily; maybe this band director said or meant some other piece of construction equipment, or some other noun entirely. I guess I get the gist, nonetheless; but man, the English language has taken a beating lately.)

But over the course of my time as a public-school music teacher and church choir director, I’ve heard more stories about music teachers of a bygone era dissuading students from continuing their musical interests on account of their alleged musical liabilities than I care to.

Just move your mouth along with the words,” said the elementary school chorus teacher in stories told by church choir members or (worse) wistful grown adults who subsequently never participated in any musical activities again because a music teacher told them they couldn’t sing.

As a high school band director, I encountered students at lots of different levels of musical ability. Some were truly spectacular natural talents; and some worked really hard just to keep pace with “average”. I can think of one or two whose contribution to our high school music program was one part musical skill to about seven eight parts hard work and (occasionally reckless-abandon-level) enthusiasm. They probably know who they are; they might be surprised to know how important they were to my experience as a teacher. I learned more from them than they might have learned from me.

For a truly inspiring concert experience, I will revel in the relatively humble achievements of a pack of music students who are not all Wynton Marsalis or Kathleen Battle and never will be … but who find some success and decide they want to experience it again and so they keep after it.

For all I know, Sean Spicer might not have been a troublemaker, a misbehaver, a disrupter, a hindrance. For all we know, he might have been an earnest “good kid” who tried his hardest and wanted to be a band musician so badly it hurt.

Who knows where Sean Spicer could have ended up, how different his life might have been, had his band director understood that “band is a place for everyone”, and figured out how to keep him around and get him a taste of success … rather than just badmouthing him and then “firing” him at the first sign of weakness.

Hmm. Ain’t that a familiar tale … I can think of another guy who treated Spicer that same way …

but again, that’s not the point.

Advertisements

August 26, 2019 Posted by | band, celebrity, current events, education, entertainment, Famous Persons, music, news, Starred Thoughts, teachers, television | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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