Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Before 'Allegiance'

Today, between vital votes on wars and the economy (ha!), the US House of Representatives took time out to vote on the reaffirmation of our country's slogan, which, surprisingly, is not 'You deserve a break today.'

Also surprisingly, it is not 'E pluribus unum'.

Wanna know what the official motto of the United States of America--a country founded on religious freedom--is? It's this: "In God We Trust." Apparently, in 1956, we set aside the idea of being a pluribus unum, and went for all of us trusting in God.

God certainly has proven himself trustworthy over the years. Sure, he allowed his only son to be nailed to a cross, but we've all been there, right? It's called tough love. Jesus did most everything his dad asked him to do, but God, being a typical father, still wasn't completely satisfied with Jesus, and so did the only thing any father would do: sit quietly on a throne in the clouds and watch his son bleed to death.

The less said about Job's trust in God, the better. Same for Lot's wife.

In God we trust. Absolutely. Trust God will kill you, one way or another.

E pluribus unum was the unofficial motto of this country for, I dunno, over a century or so. The sainted (euphemistically sainted--I don't think any of them were so much as granted beautification) Founding Fathers plucked the motto out of the ether and worked it into our moral fiber; "Out of many, one," right, and that was the United States. Or the idea of the United States.

Terrible things happened in our history, but we were usually working to form one perfect union, a union perfect in its imperfection. In 1956, just as the Civil Rights movement was kicking into full gear and the Korean War was foreshadowing the Vietnam War, Congress decided we were not gonna get a one out of the many. They decided to throw a hail mary pass, and leave it all up to God.

God became the One.

Yep.

In 1956, Congress changed the United States' unofficial motto--'E pluribus unum'--to 'In God We Trust,' and they liked that motto better, and they put a ring on it to make it the official motto of the United States. Never mind a good portion of its citizens were skeptical of God, or didn't pray to God, or refused God's existence outright. Congress, in 1956, decided we Pluribus Unums were not gonna get any one nation out of many. We were gonna just trust in God, and hope for the best.

And, you know, fuck the First Amendment.

Since that day in 1956, Americans have continued to get new and varied ideas, and they've never stopped trying to shape one single nation out of many voices, even when our leaders--the people we vote for to perform the mundane tasks keeping the nation going--encourage us to simply trust in a homicidal maniac in the clouds.

So, failing to pass a jobs bill, failing to pass any meaningful health care or tax reform bills, and faced with a near-revolt of the peasants, the House took time out of its (one would hope) busy schedule today to vote to reaffirm--reaffirm!--the official motto of the United States. Not 'E pluribus unum.' Not 'Out of the many, one.'

In God We Trust.

And I suppose we can trust in God all we want. It's worked out so well for others. Since we're supposedly a Christian nation, we might as well invest in some nails and wooden planks, and hope there are enough godless heathens to nail the population to a cross, because that's about as much as trust in God will get you. That is the absolute limit of God-trusting. Trust your paternal psychotic father, and he'll manage to kill you with a message of love, then bring you back to life, promise you eternal glory, and wait for two thousand years and more to maybe/possibly get around to doing that thing he promised he'd do when he initially killed you. Or not. You know. Whatever.

Just trust.

Shit. All the investment in God-trusting and nail-purchasing and wood-buying might stimulate the economy. When those trusting in God are properly rewarded with a typical God-trusting death, maybe we non-believers will have a sufficiently robust economy to rebuild our lives and continue working to make one nation out of many.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A large, vibrating egg

Here's a quote from Diane Keaton about her relationship with Woody Allen: "Most people assumed Annie Hall was the story of our relationship... What matters is Woody’s body of work. Annie Hall was his first love story ...However bittersweet, the message was clear: Love fades. Woody took a risk; he let the audience feel the sadness of goodbye in a funny movie."

 'Love fades' is a line from Annie Hall said to Allen's character, Alvy Singer, just as he's realizing his relationship with Keaton's Annie Hall character is ending. Frenzied, Alvy asks an elderly woman, "Is it something I did?"

The elderly woman, marching along the sidewalk as she hugs her groceries tightly, barks out a reply: "It's never something you do. That's how people are. Love fades."



And it does.

Love fades.


Unless, of course, you follow the advice of the next elderly person Alvy encounters, and use a large, vibrating egg.


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You know, I was gonna end the post there--with the concept of a vibrating egg. I think the old man has a point, in that vibrating eggs are sometimes useful if you want to prevent yourself from becoming an old woman clinging to her groceries and barking out things like, "Love fades."

But that is a terrible ending. Sometimes, in order to keep love from fading, you need help--you need a large, vibrating egg.

Love does fade. There are many things that fade, though. Soldiers, for one.

General MacArthur, in a fit of delusion not seen since the beginning of religion, famously said, "Old soldiers never die--they slowly fade away." An absurd thing to say. There are no old soldiers. There are dead soldiers, or there are promoted former soldiers. Old soldiers never die, you see, because they don't age--they slowly rise up the ranks.

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Christ.

Jesus Christ is sometimes noted as both a soldier for the Lord and as the embodiment of Love.

The most recognizable representation of Jesus Christ is from da Vinci's The Last Supper. Which started to fade the instant da Vinci painted it onto the wall of the monastery in Milan.

True story! Leonardo da Vinci, being who he was, decided to try something new by painting one of the world's most famous paintings onto dry plaster, using egg-based paint. Fifty years later, The Last Supper had deteriorated so badly that it was unrecognizable. The faces of Christ and the apostles had peeled away from the wall. The colors of the robes had faded. The bread and the wine drooped down as if da Vinci painted the whole thing in a cave.

The first restoration of The Last Supper began barely a half-century after da Vinci painted it. The restorations continue today. One of da Vinci's worst inventions: egg-tempera paint.

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Large, vibrating eggs.

You know, the last line of Annie Hall is this: "I, I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs."


If only Alvy had listened to that old man with his vibrating egg...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life during #occupation

Zuccotti Park, where the actual occupation of Wall Street is going on, was once known as Liberty Plaza. Liberty Plaza was very near to the former World Trade Center Towers which collapsed on 9/11/2001.

Maybe you've heard of those towers?

Like everything in America following 9/11, Liberty Plaza lost some liberty. Brookfield Properties bought the land shortly after the collapse of the Twin Towers, rebuilt the plaza then renamed it Zuccotti Park after company board chairman John Zuccotti.

Some still call it Liberty Plaza. Some still call sauerkraut 'liberty cabbage.' We always insist on clinging to old notions.

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Speaking of liberty, a Jewish woman from the 1800s once wrote this: "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"

Those words are etched into a tablet on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Those words are followed by this: "Give me your tired, your poor/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/ the wretched refuse of your teeming shore./ Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me..."

Lady Liberty currently lifts her skirts and shrieks whenever one of these huddled masses pass her. She, though still going by the last name of Liberty, acts as if she's seen a mouse whenever someone seeking liberty approaches her.

She's either unsettled by the huddled masses, or upset that her land now prefers the storied pomp of other countries over those countries' teeming shores of homeless.

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Liberty lifts her skirts up so much that she's shutting down--again--to regain her composure.

After 9/11, Ms. Liberty had a complete mental collapse, and all access to her head was denied. It's barely been two years since we were finally allowed back into the poor woman's head, and she's now shutting down again.  Two years with our madness- our guns and our pepper-spray and our angry tourists yearning to breathe stale Hudson air. She needs another break.

Probably for the best. Liberty must be preserved, not assaulted.

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Having been to a few #OWS events, I can say this: they are nothing like the Tea Party rallies I attended in 2009. Most of the signs lack the requisite amount of misspellings (those misspellings are a necessity at Tea Party rallies--how else could a Teabagger demonstrate the proper amount of homeschooling?).

Also, there's a sense of cooperation at #OWS rallies that was missing from Tea Party rallies. Example: At one of the Tea Party rallies I went to, an invited speaker--through a city-approved amplification system--spoke of the great things New Yorkers managed to do when they worked together. An inspiring speech, really. And rather than cheer, the members of the audience shouted back, "Screw Roosevelt!" or "Impeach Schumer!" or "Obama is a Communist!"

By contrast, the #OWS crowd, denied an amplified sound system, shout this: "Mic check!"

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There are few guns at #OWS. And the few guns in attendance are wielded by law enforcement agents. Contrast that with the Tea Party rallies.

Also, contrast this: #OWS protest the government's lapse in responsibility to its citizens. The Tea Party protest the citizens' lapse in responsibility to its corporations.

At the Tea Party rallies, I have never before seen such anger at an individual's right to demand affordable health care. At a #OWS rally, I have never seen such anger at a corporation's resistance to provide an affordable service.

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There is still liberty in America. And cabbage.

And while first we won our own freedom with a gun, most of our best domestic battles have since been fought through persistence, insistence, and peaceful resistance. Meaning, never take a gun to a health care fight.

And never take a Lincoln to the theatre. Especially if it's a Chekhov play--that gun mentioned in Act One will come down by Act Three and you'll have to spend the rest of your night in the ER lobby. And people in the South will be reenacting that ER visit for the next century and a half.

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Also, you can keep Americans out of the head of Liberty,  but you can't keep liberty out of the head of Americans.

Yes, I really just wrote that last line. I am just as surprised as you--it's so 10th grade social studies essay-ish that I must actually mean it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Perfectly awful, awfully perfect

"Follies" is a musical by Stephen Sondheim and some other people. It had a run on Broadway before I was born. It is currently having another go at the boards. A revival.

When it hit Broadway in 1971, reviews were as mixed as pancake batter--clumpy and uneven. The critics who hated the show admitted it had moments of brilliance, and the critics who loved the show allowed that it had flaws.

It was, I suppose, a very human production, that 1971 production of "Follies." Depending on the critic you read, it was either awful but perfect, or perfect but awful. Mistakes were made, but it wasn't clear if the mistakes enhanced the show's character, or undermined it.

The show was flat, well-rounded, a bit dull, a bit brilliant. Like humans. Like pancakes.

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The title of the show--"Follies"--is a play on words.

Or a play on a single word, really: "Follies."

Follies can mean "a theatrical revue"--vaudeville, Moulin Rouge, Ziegfeld, you know. Shows with little plot and lots of leg.

And follies can also mean "lack of personal quality or sense." All the characters were in the follies, in "Follies." All the characters suffer a folly.

Follies all around.

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Got it? Good.

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So this 1971 pun of a show is now enjoying a second life on Broadway, and I saw it. I didn't want to see it, but there it was, and there I was. I was tired, it was game, and we found ourselves together in one space on Broadway, watching one another warily, wearily.

Next to me was someone I'd recently had sex with, who was not Greg. Next to not-Greg was his husband.

And in front of me was a revival of a show from 1971. A follies revival of "Follies."

Audiences don't know what 'follies' are anymore.

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The person to my left, during "Follies," had recently seen me naked. True! And I'd seen him naked as well. With permission from both our partners--it's not like we'd caught a glimpse of one another in the shower at the gym or anything. With consent, both not-Greg and I had recently been naked--active, even--in a room together. And now we were at "Follies" together.

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The person to my right was a stranger. She reeked of her boozy beef meal. She belched. She elbow-wrestled me for access to the armrest. Not a quarter through the first act, the woman slipped out her iPhone--I'm not sure which fold of fat she retrieved the phone from, but to her credit the woman had obeyed the rules of theatre-house etiquette and turned the thing off.

Now she turned her phone on. She pressed the glowing screen to her ample bosom as if hoping to dull the glow.

Her breasts glowed as the iPhone revved up. Darkened theatre, glowing breasts. Dilated pupils focused on the stage now blinded by glowing breasts.

The iPhone vibrated.

The woman peeled the phone from her breasts, and murmured to her companion, "Tina's got to go to Dave's," and both the woman and her companion tut-tutted amongst themselves while the actors on stage hit high notes and low notes.

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Earlier, the large-breasted woman did this when Bernadette made her first entrance: CLAPCLAPCLAP.

The entire audience did the same thing, like starving seals in a Sea-World show.

CLAPCLAPCLAP.

Bernadette didn't do anything--she simply walked onto a stage. Bernadette often walks onto a stage. It's what she does.

Make Bernadette earn it, I thought of the applause.

Each time I go to a show with a 'name' star, I think this as the 'name' enters for the first time and the audience break into applause: It' s not fucking 'Happy Days.' Stop applauding each person's entrance.

Kramer didn't slide through Jerry's door, right, so hold the applause.

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If you're gonna critique a show like 'Follies,' then you should not forget to critique the audience. Sitting there in the dark, it's easy to let those poor bastards in the audience off the hook. They paid money to see the show, they got dressed up, they had dinner, they stood in line.

Those poor bastards in the audience had lives before they came to the show, and they'll have lives after they leave, and it does a disservice to 'Follies' to forget the show is as much about itself as it is about the audience paying to see it.

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Hope you got that.

Good.

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So the woman to my right pretended to love each song on stage, but was really into her iPhone. And the man to my left didn't touch me the way he had a few days earlier, and I didn't touch him. And on stage, the couples sang their 'Follies' show.

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Here's the thing: it was all good. The show was nice, and the audience had its flaws. When the lights came up, the audience was just as it was when the lights had gone down 2 hours earlier. We were an audience of follies when the lights were dimmed, and we were still an audience of follies when the lights came up.

And we exited the theatre aware of how awful follies could be, despite the raves assuring us the show about those follies wasn't so bad. In fact, "Follies" was very good.

"Follies" is a tough show. I hope the audience appreciates it.

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