Skip to content


16
Nov

I’m a white guy, Rape Culture is real, and I’m feeling pissed

How do I write about our culture of rape, sexual harassment, child molestation and the degree to which there is an acceptance of these activities as being normal in our society? How do I write about this as a white male living in America?

Shortly before my tenth birthday, I visiting my mom in Berkeley and was invited by some friends to see The Hellstrom Chronicle, a pseudo-documentary/horror film about insects and their inevitable take-over of the world. My mom, still very stuck in the stranglehold of heroin addiction did not join us. When I got dropped off after the movie, my mom was not home, so I called my grandmother who lived in Walnut Creek to ask if she knew where my mom might be. I was informed that she was at the Hospital and that she had been raped. I knew what this meant, but hardly understood the full depth of the horror of what my mom had endured. I was however, extremely upset and angry, and could grasp the violation of her person and her safety. Hours later, my mom finally returned and I made her tell me what had happened.

She had gone up to Telegraph Ave. to score some dope and on her walk home was attacked by a man hiding inside the bushes. He held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if she screamed for help. And then he raped her. My Mom.

As she related this to me, she was sobbing inconsolably, not as much for the rape itself, but more for how the police had focused on what she was wearing and how it might have been the “cause” for her rape. Because men cannot control themselves when a woman is dressed “too provocatively,” is that the idea? This is the very essence of Rape Culture and it is at the core of everything you ever hear about the disrespectful ways women are objectified, demeaned and victimized in everyday life.

rape culture

Welcome to the Patriarchy.
******
It seems like the doors were finally blown open a couple of years ago with the wave of charges of rape against Bill Cosby. Since then we’ve had an admitted sexual predator who continued his run for the presidency even after an entire nation knew about it; the fact that there were enough people in America who accepted Trumps attitudes and actions against women enough to still vote him into office is beyond my comprehension.

We’ve had Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly from Fox News. After the initial righteous indignation and the adamant denials, Ailes was given a golden parachute worth $40 MILLION upon his departure, and O’Reilly settled for $32 Million against one of his accusers and then had his contract renewed by Fox before he was finally let go.

More recently, Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment have come to light, and in its wake, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time thinking about the endless barrage of unwelcomed advances that I’m sure every women I’ve ever known has undoubtedly had to endure for literally DECADES.

Lupita Nyong’o penned a remarkable piece describing the “conspiracy of silence that has allowed [Weinstein] to prowl for so many years.” and I cannot help but to consider the fact that sexual harassment —and by extension rape—is a cultural norm.

The #MeToo hashtag has been an eye-opener for many, and I’m happy that so many women have jumped on board to share their experiences. The sheer volume of those accounts on social media surely includes all the woman I have ever known regardless of whether they chimed in on Twitter or Facebook or not. I’ve always known that this was the case for women everywhere, and feel certain that they deal with this bullshit every day. What pisses me off the most is the fact that in our society, these behaviors and attacks are accepted and allowed, apologized for, excused and invariably questioned when accusations are leveled by women against their (male) aggressors.

More recently, the disappointing actions of Louis C.K. have come to light, as have the heinous predatory history of Alabama Senatorial candidate, the disgusting Roy Moore.

I mention these two because of the stark difference I see between the general responses from the reputedly liberally-minded Hollywood vs. the misogynist alliance of the Republican Party whose war-on-women is on display like never before. Do you remember any of the following statements made by misogynist members of the GOP?

Some girls rape easy.” – Rep. Roger Rivard (R-Wi)

If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.

– Lawrence Lockman (R-Me)

I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.

– Chuck Winder (R-Id)

What did they expect? …“Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.

– Rick Santorum (Referring to women who are raped in the military)

I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape; that it is something that God intended to happen.”

– Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock

Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.

– Judge James Leon Holmes, Bush appointee

Staggering. If this is their attitude regarding the most horrendous of crimes against women, just think about how it is reflected in their broader attitudes towards women on the whole. The recent “if the allegations prove to be true” caveat from the Republican establishment regarding Roy Moore finally crumbled after the heat got too hot and public pressure mounted, forcing them to finally distance themselves from the epedophile DA from Alabama, but the simple fact is that if any of them felt they could weather the political storm (as they successfully managed with the current child in the White House), they certainly would have maintained their “proof” narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that these issues are reserved solely for our Republican brethren; I understand that misogyny, sexual harassment and predatory behavior exists with men everywhere. I just think that the Republican mindset provides a much more open home that welcomes men (and shockingly many women as well) who believe that the degradation of women is okay, and that perhaps it’s how Jesus would have wanted it. It is—of course—wrong and despicable.

1 in 3 women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Over half of the rapes that occur never even get reported.

I am guessing that there are women with whom I share some history who have an old memory of me as somebody who have made them feel sexually uncomfortable or uneasy in their past. I sincerely hope that I have evolved well past any of my uninformed and oblivious perspectives that I may have embodied when I was a young man. If there are any old friends who remember me in that sort of light, I would like to extend an apology to you. If you have ever been made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable due to anything I’ve said or done, I am sorry. Sincerely.

So in all of this, my (rhetorical) question is how do we, as men, raise our male children to grow up viewing the world through a lens of respect and dignity towards their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters? I don’t ever want my son to think that it’s appropriate to abuse, demean, intimidate or harass women or girls, no matter how subtle that behavior might manifest. I presume that he is mindful and conscious with his interactions and I hope that he thinks of himself as a feminist. If you consider the notion of being male and being feminist as an offensive idea, then you are perhaps a part of the problem.

feminism is the radical notion

Posted in Personal Ramblings, Politics.

Tagged with , , .


3
Sep

Desert Diary – September 3, 2017

It’s been 8 months since we sold the house in Eagle Rock and began renting a friend’s condo in Los Angeles with the assumption that we’d be there for a year to eighteen months. That was the time we thought we’d need to start and finish remodeling our place in the (Joshua Tree) Highlands. We will still need that much time, but we’d been applying for work in the desert for a while and when a job offer was made to Patty sooner than anticipated, we adjusted: We packed everything up all over again, and made the move.

It’s now been a little over a month now since we moved out during the scorching peak of summer, and it feels to me like many more than that. On the last day of July, after having just made the big U-Haul move, I got a ride from the desert back to L.A. to retrieve my car and the last remnants of the stuff that did not make it into the U-Haul. As always seems to be the case, everything took twice as long as I had anticipated, but by late afternoon, I had driven back and the car was unpacked. I could breathe if only for a moment, and begin my new life as a resident of the high desert. I’ve wanted this change for a long time and now it’s finally become a reality.

Pretty much immediately, and every day for over three weeks, I was at Moonage Daydream (our interim place until work on the JT house gets done) getting things ready to move in. It’s been intense but incredibly productive.

Laundry 2 Landscape

I worked with and watched Nicholas Holmes and his crew as they created two grey water systems, one a direct line from the shower to two trees and a laundry-to-landscape system that will feed a drought-tolerant landscaped area next to the house. I designed and completed my first-ever (and likely my last) art-tile floor. The contractors finally got everything done on their end, and we were finally ready to begin unpacking and hanging art.

Art Tile Floor

I applied and interviewed for a job at the Mojave Desert Land Trust, and organization whose work I genuinely applaud and respect.  I did not get the job, and was admittedly disappointed; I have little doubt however that they hired somebody who was particularly qualified for the gig.

Tomorrow the painters begin painting the exterior of the house. I need a nap.

***
It’s been nine years—perhaps even longer—since Patty and I first visited Joshua Tree and the surrounding communities. An old friend had been visiting from Canada, and was going to stay with a mutual former friend/acquaintance from the old music Seattle days in the late ‘80s, when I playing loud thick music and releasing other music by many of my friends via C/Z Records.  Since then we’ve been coming steadily and regularly and in 2014, we bought and fixed up our first place out in the apparent netherworld of Wonder Valley, a special place out here with its own flavor of desert magic. Some people from JT seem aghast at the thought of driving such a long drive away, but I can only compare the mileage from our old neighborhood to Santa Monica—approximately the same distance—with a drive that can take three times as long. JT to Wonder Valley seems like a quick run by my standards – Distances in the desert seem to fold space.

This was just one of a hundred reasons why we decided to join the Angelino ex-pats that have been swarming this area for the last 5+ years. Time and space take on a different quality in the desert and the ability to genuinely relax is something that I do not think I could have ever fully realized staying in L.A.

Wonder Valley Sunsets leave you breathless

My life has consisted of several chapters of redefinition, almost always with intent and in direct response to my internal dialogue about where I find myself during particular points in my life. Ultimately, it’s a matter of trying to focus my life in directions that feel in alignment with a sense of purpose and growth, and if I’m doing things right, with a sense of creativity as well.

Only time will unpack what this new life will look like, but outside of the time it takes to build real community, I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. I feel energized and have a sense of contentment that is remarkable in how complete it feels.

Let’s hope my writing becomes a more frequent practice.

Posted in Art, Personal Ramblings.

Tagged with , , , .


24
May

Remembering Old Histories and Saying Goodbye

It’s been less than a week since Chris died, and as has been the case on too many occasions before this, I find myself trying to find meaning in a senseless event that will never provide me with one. It’s an emotional state of disarray and is all pretty rough and raw – more than I would have ever imagined. My thoughts are scattered and I cannot shake the sadness I’m feeling.

I am spending a lot of time introspecting, reflecting and unearthing old memories of an old friend with whom I once shared part in a strange cultural phenomenon which later came to be known as Grunge.

I remember the first time I saw Soundgarden. I believe it was late 1984 or early 1985. A bunch of us were going to see the debut show from a new band that featured members of the Shemps, a fun band that played mostly covers that I hadn’t been overly impressed by, but with whom I was friends with. The show was at a venue called Top of the Court. It was a weird little place on West Queen Anne that none of us had ever heard of before. I think the place was a part time gallery and probably booked punk rock gigs to help pay the rent. I don’t remember it being around for long. Back then, venues would pop up and disappear with pretty reliable frequency.

It was a small scene back then; we pretty much all knew each other and attended each other’s shows. I had been in a band around the same time as the Shemps called feedback and had played a gig together with them (at Morningtown Pizza if my memory serves). By the time Soundgarden played at Top of the Court, feedback was already a thing of the past and I had started a new band with the drummer of feedback—Matt Cameron—and a guitarist named Jack Endino. We didn’t have a singer or a name yet, but would eventually call ourselves Skin Yard.

The first thing that struck me about Soundgarden was that they didn’t have a front man. They were a three-piece, Kim on Guitar, Hiro on Bass and Chris on Drums and vocals – ala Hüsker Dü.  Soundgarden however was nothing like the Shemps. Like at all. This was something new. Their music was urgent and menacing. They played an incendiary set of songs that while still rough, was imbued with an exciting angst and an undeniable ferocity.

In fairly short order, SG found a new drummer with Scott Sundquist and Chris moved to front the band. That decision was what was needed – it transformed them into an entirely different animal. No longer being tethered by a drum kit, Chris could fully unleash his voice. And oh shit, what a voice. Comparisons to Robert Plant were commonplace and well deserved, and while many meant it as a slight, I couldn’t think of a more complimentary comparison to make. That however was just one piece of the package. Chris was a veritable Adonis, something that men and woman all were in agreement on. He was also charming, funny and down to earth. That was the thing about Chris – he was all of those things, and I don’t think that ever changed. That was who he was, on stage and off. Genuine and warm, Chris was also a fairly private person, keeping to himself a lot of the time. These were qualities I’ve always understood and ultimately appreciated.

Soundgarden & Skin Yard - Tuesday, July 30, 1985

On June 5th, 1985, we (Skin Yard) played our first show opening for U-Men.  From there we began getting a lot of gigs. The following month, July 30, Soundgarden and Skin Yard played our first show together at the Rainbow. There were many shared bills together after that. Soundgarden was beginning to get a lot of high profile opening spots. We were getting a lot of good opening spots too, but SG were invariably the first ask, however they were always smart and mindful about not playing out too much.

Deep Six record release show(s) March 21st & 22nd, 1986

In early 1986, Deep Six was released on C/Z in a limited vinyl release of 1,000. While it contains the only Skin Yard recordings that (still) make me cringe, it was our first release, and I imagine our history would have been quite different had it not been for our inclusion on that record. It was also the first release of Soundgarden. The other Seattle bands on that compilation were U-Men, Green River, Melvins and Malfunkshun. I still consider this ground zero for our scene that was going to metastasize in the years to come. The Deep Six two-night release show took place on March 21 & 22, 1986. Both nights were glorious and are certainly etched into the memories of those who attended.

Skin Yard with Matt at Deep Six Record Release

Skin Yard released our first self-titled record early in 1987 on C/Z. It wasn’t long after that, that Matt quit Skin Yard. That was tough. Then he joined Soundgarden. That was totally understandable.

Melvins released Gluey Porch Treatments. Green River released Dry as a Bone in June.  Soundgarden’s Screaming Life EP was released in October. Matt was on those recordings. That EP record was cold sweat pressed on vinyl, the promise of everything one would hope that Soundgarden would deliver on record. This was a big deal. Something was in the air and it was electric.

After Soundgarden released the follow-up Fopp EP on Sup-Pop, they made the jump to SST. That was a clear marker that things were gaining a momentum. Ultramega OK was released in 1988, but sadly, sounded flat and was poorly produced. At around the same time we released our second record, Hallowed Ground. By this point our two bands were often considered as sister bands as we had shared a drummer, had shared the bill on a number of occasions and were playing with similar musical ideas. The big difference of course, is that Soundgarden was going to be part of the grand narrative of the International Seattle explosion that would transform the global musical landscape. We would garner a decent following, and enough acclaim to tour nationally several times before calling it quits, but we never broke through as many of our brothers did.

The following year (1989), Soundgarden released their major label debut, Louder than Love on A&M. They were the first band from our scene to get signed to a major. I’ve always thought of this as the match that got the fire started. Louder than Love fulfilled the promise that Ultramega OK failed to deliver on. That same year Nirvana released Bleach, Mudhoney releasedtheir self-titled Mudhoney and TAD released God’s Balls – ALL stunning and crushing debut records. Sub Pop (where I had started working the year before) was cemented as the label representing this new “Seattle sound” that was beginning to get notice around the country. It seemed like something was in the water.

After Louder was released, the Seattle P-I published two side-by-side reviews of the A&M record on the front page of their entertainment section. One could not find the words to praise the record highly enough, while the other was about as awful as a bad review could be. I know at that moment that they were going to be huge. No mediocrity: Visceral responses on both ends of the spectrum. I think that everyone sensed the same thing.

From that point, Soundgarden started to become part of the major-label machine. They were becoming rock-stars and would find themselves being surrounded by a whole new team of people. Soundgarden was becoming an industry, and for many of us, casually hanging out with our old friends would become an increasingly infrequent thing. This is not intended as a slight to any of the guys in the band; this is simply what happens with celebrity and stardom. The band gets hurled into an entirely new world and is surrounded by a virtual organization whose purpose is to keep the machine well oiled and always moving forward. And as their fame gets bigger and bigger, fandom becomes obsession and everyone wants a piece of you. Your mega-fans think that they know you, because they “understand you through your music.” Their understanding is -of course- unique. I completely get the need to isolate and seek refuge in your family and with the very closest of friends. It must feel overwhelming. I do not speak from experience, but instead from observation. It’s the burden of fame.

Soundgarden - BadMotorFinger

Fast forward to 1991. The fuse had been burning for a couple of years, and the bomb finally went off – Seattle became the musical story around the globe. Nirvana releases Nevermind, Pearl Jam releases Ten and Soundgarden releases Badmotorfinger. Alice in Chains hits the scene and releases their debut, Screaming Trees releases their major label debut, Uncle Anesthesia and Temple of the Dog is released on A&M. This was the same year that Skin Yard released 1000 Smiling Knuckles, easily the bands best record. It was fertile, and things were getting really nuts.

Skin Yard - 1000 Smiling Knuckles

I played my last show on Feb 21, 1991, essentially a release show for Knuckles. Bad timing I suppose, but it was time for me anyway. The band made a final run after that, but broke up for good in 1992, releasing one last record posthumously, in 1993. I focused on the running of C/Z Records, and released records until 2001.

And here we are. 2017. I’ve kept in touch with many of my friends from those old days. It’s been great to see Soundgarden regroup these last few years. King Animal was a stellar release. I’ve seen them perform twice. They still shred.  We go back over 30 years, but Chris and I have not seen much of each other much for the last couple of decades. I’ve seen Kim and Matt on a few occasions, but our lives rarely intersect. I live in L.A. and they’re still up in Seattle. I’ll be seeing them both in a couple of days for Chris’s funeral, the saddest of occasions.

Over this last week, I’ve been talking with a lot of old friends. It’s made me fully take stock in the fact that our friends and our love for each other is really the most important thing that any of us have. Once you strip all the trappings and bullshit away, all we have is love and each other. I sincerely hope that the next time we all see each other next, it will just be to spend time and reminisce, and not to mourn the passing of another friend from our shared history.

Love to you all – my friends, my friend’s friends, and to the extended family of Soundgarden and most of all, to you Chris.

Peace to you and yours.

Posted in Music, Personal Ramblings.

Tagged with , , , , .


18
May

Chris Cornell – Tears to Forget

We’ve dealt with this before, and every time we find ourselves confronted with this sad and seemingly meaningless experience—that of a singular talent being taken off of this earth unexpectedly early—I always hope that it will be the last time. When I say “we,” I am speaking broadly about the Seattle music scene that was such a big part of my life, and also of so many of my close and no-so-close friends who are also experiencing the same sense of loss. We all shared parts in the fabric of a historically unique thing that happened musically in Seattle, an era that I believe will never occur again the way that one did.

And apparently, suicide. The worst, because with that, there’s the added sense that somebody surely could have done something. But maybe nobody ever knew he was depressed, at least not to the edge where the ultimate act was something to be considered. Depression is a dark and overpowering force that can overtake all logic and completely overshadow everything that there is to be joyous about in life. I speak from experience. I know that half of my friends also understand. It’s one of those things that is near impossible to explain to people who have the good fortune to have never experienced debilitating depression. It’s an ugly horrible dark passenger that almost never fully goes away.

I don’t really have any point here. I am still shell-shocked. I am still in that invariable sense of denial that always hits first before the waves of deep sorrow crash in. Chris never seemed like a depressive to me. I can’t believe that he’s gone. I cannot believe that somewhere in his soul, he felt such a deep sense of desperation that this seemed like the only option that he had left. From the outside, his life appeared perfect, but from his inside, apparently, that’s not how it felt to him. I am just typing my feelings, not bothering to edit, just let it spill out. Damnit. This is so senseless.

I can still remember the very first time I saw Soundgarden. They were a three-piece and Chris was the drummer. He was also the singer, but the band had no front-man to speak of. A definite nod to Hüsker Dü, but even then in those very early days, they were a band that you knew had something special going on. Skin Yard was still a few months before we would play our first show, but even then, we shared some of the same ideas musically, and in time we played a slew of shows together, often being referred to as a sister band with them. Indeed, after our first drummer left us, Matt ended up in SG, where he has been pretty much ever since.

I can’t even imagine what Matt, Kim and Ben must be going through, much less his wife and kids. I know what many of the rest of us are going through and it’s not easy.

Chris was one of the most unique voices to emerge from the Seattle scene, absolutely one of the best two singers from that era and arguably one of the most immediately recognizable and iconic singer in hard rock. This one is really hard to fathom. I am so sad. I am glad that I got to see him late in 2015 for one last time. Thanks Karen, for taking me to that show.

Chris Cornell & Daniel House - Sept., 2015 (photo by Karen)

Maybe this time really will be the last time. Be good to yourself; be good to the ones you love.

******

5/19/17 UPDATE:

Chris’s wife has released a statement that she believes that his death may have been related to having taken too much Ativan, a drug that’s prescribed for anxiety. Side effects of Ativan (especially when taken in excess) can include paranoid or suicidal thoughts and slurred speech. “Vicky Cornell noted her husband’s slurred speech following the Detroit concert and stated that he told her that he ‘may have taken an extra Ativan or two.'”

Chris never seemed like a depressive to me, and so this explanation makes better sense in my mind. Not that it will bring him back.  Thinking about his family and Matt, Kim & Ben.

Posted in Music, Personal Ramblings.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , .


26
Feb

The Best Films of 2016 – My 2017 List of Favorites

As is usually the case, attempting to shave my list down to only ten titles can prove challenging, and perhaps it was made a bit easier this year as there are several Oscar nominees that I have still yet to see, most notably La La Land and I Am Not Your Negro, the latter of which I imagine would hold a spot on this list.

In 2015-16, we had the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and the Academy did indeed respond by adding many people of color to their ranks, and also apparently by nominating several “black” films worthy of their attention as well. My guess however is that La La Land will win the top honor and while I’ve not seen it (and have no desire to see it, even though I tend to really like Emma Stone and loved Whiplash), it sure looks and appears like an #OscarsSoWhite film with a supporting roll from John Legend just to attempt to keep things “real.”

My favorite films from what I managed to see this year:

20th Century Women

#1 – 20th Century Women
This film struck the perfect chord with me and resonated 100% perhaps because it takes place in 1979 California – the year and place where and when I graduated high school.  The story is an exploration of the changing relationship between a boy in high school, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) and his single mom, Dorothea (Annette Benning) in roles that felt completely honest and real. The pace and flow of the film is fluid and is ultimately more a set of intertwined character studies than it is a rigid narrative.

At its core, 20th Century Women is a coming of age film with Jaime surrounded by his mom and a couple of younger women who Dorothea tries to enlist to help her to bring her son up right. Greta Gerwig plays one of the women, and her performance is wonderful. While not on par with Benning’s remarkable performance, Gerwig’s character feels genuine and visceral as well.

The film is filled with terrific music from the time, which ultimately is no surprise. Mike Mills, a filmmaker who I know primarily for his work as a music video director made the perfect choices to constructing the time and feel. Talking Heads, The Raincoats, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and The Banshees and loads more is woven throughout and brought me back to the best things that I liked about a time in my own life that similarly felt equally conflicted and uncertain.


#2 – Moonlight
Moonlight is a visually breathtaking spectacle that follows the main character “Chiron,” from boyhood through to young adulthood. The remarkable success of the film is the almost seamless shift between the three distinct chapters of the film where Chiron is played by three different actors during each period in his life. The film is a complex and understated character study that delves into an often painful life filled with doubt, as the young character endures the abuse, ridicule and rejection of bullies and sometimes from those closest to him. Chiron’s mother is a crack addict, but Chiron finds nurturing from a drug dealer names Juan (played by Mahershala Ali who I was most familiar with from his work in House of Cards) and his girlfriend played by Janelle Monáe (who is also one of the actors in Hidden Figures). At only 37 years of age, Barry Jenkins has delivered a remarkably powerful and mature film, this being only his second of his career (his first one being eight years prior).


#3 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Simply put, Rogue One blew me away. It is a stand-alone film that takes place immediately before the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV) from 1977. The story is epic; the characters fantastic; the production design everything you would expect from a film in the Star Wars franchise, and is—as it should be—a film written for adults first and kids second. I have no idea how they convinced Peter Cushing to wake from the dead to reprise his role, but there he is. I don’t need to say any more. If you haven’t seen it, you should, unless of course Star Wars just isn’t your thing. Maybe this would be just the film to change your mind.


#4 – Captain Fantastic
First the disclaimer: I HATE this trailer – it is completely misleading and depicts a cloying, smarmy film that has nothing to do with the actual film itself. In fact, Captain Fantastic is a wonderfully spirited film that takes place in the woods of Oregon and follows an off-grid, out-of-school family of six kids whose ages range from 7 to 18, and their intense idealistic father played by a Viggo Mortensen who teaches them everything they need to know about fending for themselves in the wild while teaching them about Marxism and Noam Chomsky.

Eventually circumstance forces the family out of the woods and into civilization where lifestyles and ideals collide. The kids grandparents eventually interject, insisting that the kids need to integrate into society, attend school and leave the arguably selfish isolation that their father has forced upon them.

Having spent several years of my own life living without electricity, the contradiction of these two worlds and the pull of societal norms presented as a conflict made perfect sense. Captain Fantastic delivers a fantastic portrayal of a fairly lofty set of ideas and great performances from a genuinely delightful cast of actors.


#5 – Doctor Strange
I grew up on Marvel, and from a very young age held Dr. Strange as my favorite character, specifically the original created and drawn by the inimitable Steve Ditko. I’ve always known that this would prove to be one of the more difficult characters to do justice to, and as a result have always presumed that it would be one of the later Marvel comics to finally get a treatment on the screen. So when it was finally announced that there was going to be a Doctor Strange movie, I was both excited and nervous. It would be such a disappointment that see this particular property done wrong (as I felt was done with the original Spiderman movie), but when I saw that Benedict Cumberbatch was going to be playing the part, I felt hopeful. Now, there’s no way that my childhood view on the original Dr. Strange comic could ever be reasonably reproduced, but that said, this character was well realized, and it seemed obvious to me that both the writers and director cared deeply about doing Dr. Strange justice. I know I’ve really said nothing about the film. Just see it – it’s awesome, and if you’re a fan of A) Comic movies, B) Spectacular CGI and/or C) mysticism/psychedelia, then I would be surprised if you didn’t love this as much as I did.


#6 – Fences
A fantastic adaptation of the August Wilson play, this film has Oscar written all over it. Whether or not Denzel Washington wins for either best actor or best director, he again shines as one of the strongest actors we have today, and shows his equal prowess as a director. Washington plays Troy, a complicated, conflicted individual whose relationship with his son, Cory is demeaning and harsh. Troy cannot allow Cory the pursuit of his dreams, seemingly due to the fact that his own dreams as a professional ballplayer fell short when he was a younger man himself.

Viola Davis, who will most certainly with the Oscar for Best (Supporting?) actress for her performance, provides Cory with some sense of humanity, but when she tries to give him what she can see is best for her son, Troy steamrolls both of them, claiming his dominance as the breadwinner and the man of the house.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both won Tony Awards for their performances of Fences on Broadway, and their comfort and ease of chemistry is reflected on the screen. While the film maintains the feeling of it being a stage adaptation, the relationships feel organic and authentic. The mood gets bleak at times, but that’s intended as it’s a big part of what drives Cory to break away from his father and move forward his own life.


#7 – 13th
Ava DuVernay is perhaps best known as the director of Selma and the snub the film was given by the Academy two years ago when she was overlooked for consideration as Best Director that year. That was the snub that arguably spawned the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag mentioned above in the first place. Her new documentary film 13th (available to steam on Netflix) is a scathing indictment of the prolonging of a new form of slavery in America in which the extensive Prison for Profit industrial complex which has targeted people of color in America since the passing of the 13th amendment in 1865 immediately after the close of the civil war. The Amendment had a loophole in the language which allowed the exploitation and targeting of black people in America who could now be imprisoned and effectively branded for life. The film is full of powerful interviews and examples which clearly show a bias and continued pattern of targeted incarceration as well as the staggering growth of the industrial prison complex and the degree to which the cards are systemically stacked against black people in America.

The documentary category is one area where #OscarsSoWhite will be partially vindicated. 13th should definitely be among the contenders, but I expect that both O.J.: Made in America and I Am Not Your Negro have an equal shot at taking the Oscar in this category.


#8 – Zero Days

In a relatively short window of time, Alex Gibney has proven himself to be one of the most important investigative documentarians of our time. His 2015 film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room was what first grabbed my attention. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God from 2012 exposed the Catholic Church’s systematic abuse of power in covering up known sexual abuses, and his 2015 HBO film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, is without a doubt one of the most damning exposés of how the Church of Scientology abuses and attacks their detractors. Zero Days, is a documentary that unravels like a thriller. It explores cyber-warfare and specifically, the Stuxnet virus, one of the most sophisticated and insidious pieces of Malware ever created. The twist comes when it’s revealed that the code was co-created by the U.S. and Israeli governments in order to launch an attack against Iranian Nuclear Facilities. Like Pandora’s Box, however, it appears that Stuxnet managed to get out of its controlled environment, and could be used by others around the globe. The film is a sobering and chilling look at the clandestine operations of governments and ultimately asks the question: how much can any of us really trust our governments?


#9 – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
A totally unexpected, surprising and delightful film from New Zealand director Taika Waititi whose 2014 What We Do In the Shadows took me equally by surprise. The story follows a 12 year old foster kid from the city, Ricky who’s been leading a very troubled existence and gets shipped off to the country where he meets his new foster parents in the very rural countryside of New Zealand. The Wife is adoring and the husband (played by Sam Neill) want as little to do with young Ricky. It becomes clear that their relationship is to become the core of the film, and when the two of them become fugitives from the law together, the real meat of the film begins to unfold. Wilderpeople strikes the perfect balance between humor and pathos.


#10 – Hell or High Water
With their family property to be foreclosed, two very different brothers decide to go on a rampage robbing banks to raise money before the looming date hits home. A Texas Ranger (played by Jeff Bridges) always seems tow steps shy of catching up with them.  Hell or High Water is a classic anti-hero Western hero set in modern times, civilians-turned-criminals forced to make tough decisions due to the innate unfairness of the system, always looking to keep the hardworking man down while filling the pockets of the wealthy that much more. It’s a classic David and Goliath story with socio-political underpinnings that reflect the financial frustration of the last ten years in America. In many ways the pace and feel of the film feels reminiscent the last great heyday of American film-making of the 1970s. I expected very little and was very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this film.

Honorable mentions go to Arrival, Hidden Figures and Author: The JT LeRoy Story. All films also worth seeing.

Posted in Movies.

Tagged with , , , .


29
Jan

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump –

Congratulations on your ascendancy to the presidency. You did it: you managed to con your way into the highest office in the land and you broke new records in doing it – not the records that you so blithely lie to the American public about, knowing full well that your claims are false, but the real record, the one that  you already know—and as many of us all know as well—that you lost the popular vote by an “unpresidented3 MILLION votes. You lost by over 2%, which, using historic election math—in any other period in history that is not now— would mean that you lost.  And yet…here you are.

Much of the world continues to sit in shell shock, feeling paralyzed by the reality and gravity of the situation, but our horror is beginning to fade as we begin to mobilize against you and your crooked band of cronies who appear poised like never before to rape and pillage the American social safety net and this country’s economy while declaring a virtual war on the very constitution that our principles are based on.

But hey – you found your tribe: The GOP. While they may not consider you a part of their tribe, you are now in bed with the party of the aging conservative white guys, fearful, paranoid, selfish, self-righteous sexist men who tend bristle to people-of-color; who tend bristle at people who have different orientations than them; who tend bristle at people (like us) who believe that we (meaning society) should all be allowed to make our own choices about things that relate directly to our own lives. You have put on a display that has made so many in your tribe bristle at their new leader. They have no choice, but still – you are an embarrassment – even to them.

Petulant Baby Man

You sir, are a petulant, arrogant bully and an unapologetic misogynist. These are not characteristics that you should be proud of. You conduct yourself like a child and clearly do not have the mental or emotional fortitude to conduct yourself in a fashion befitting this particular office. You are a coward hiding behind your thin veil of braggadocio and it seems plain that you are interested in this office more for the attention that your outrageous theatrics garner, than the fact that you could do actual work with an interest in trying to better our country.  It’s obvious that you have little interest in the vast majority of us who were born into a much less privileged social caste than you:  You hold a clear disdain for the great bulk of those of us who make up the fabric of this American Society and in fact it appears that you have a disdain for the great majority of people on this earth.

And with this, I can’t help but wonder why you ever ran in the first place. I think at first it was little more than a stunt to boost your brand, with a different set of future plans in mind. As things took a course that none of us (including you) ever considered viable, I imagine that you and your insecure inner-child finally saw an escape from the shadow of your father, Fred Trump, the man who legitimately built a real estate empire, and without whom you would have nothing. His “loan” of approximately $9 Million against your future inheritance—money that was essentially given to you to begin your professional career— is easily five times the total amount of money that the average person in America will earn their entire lifetime.

And still…you failed.

In 1990, your real estate, airline and casino empire effectively collapsed. These series of events have been very well documented, and yet you’ve continued to lie to world about the prowess of your acumen as a businessman.  You managed to escape the total implosion of your “empire” by effectively conning the banks to give you tens of millions of additional dollars while deferring interest on almost a billion dollars.  You are a charlatan and a fraud.

I believe that deep in your core, this reality nags at you, and I believe that’s why you refuse to release your taxes – not so much to hide the almost certain shady business dealings that you’re engaged in, but ultimately because it would reveal that your earnings are in fact minuscule compared to what you would have people believe, and because you do not want us to see how deeply you’re in debt.  I’m guessing tens of millions of dollars.  I believe that this is perhaps your single biggest fear: that you will be exposed and ultimately remembered as a con man and a fraud. Millions of us have already arrived at that conclusion.

And now, completely in over your head, you’re trying to run a country as you would another one of your corrupt business ventures, but the business of government doesn’t run like you’ve been conducting your presidency during your first week in office. You— the proverbial bull in the china shop— think that you can just sign executive orders and treat the office like a monarchy, but you will quickly see the wheels of government, Congress and the multitude of others in government slowly grinding down. You’ll get a couple weeks free-ride, but already, in your first week you’ve been handed your first defeat.  There will be many many more. Your “job” will cease to be “fun.” The protest movements that you are so beautifully fueling (thank you), will continue to grow and unify.  You will see reality as it really exists. Or maybe you don’t have that capacity.

I was one of the estimated 750,000 people who attended the Woman’s March in Los Angeles on January 21, 2017 – Internationally it was probably the biggest protest march in history, with over 3 MILLION in attendance in the U.S. alone.  Your response was a display of childish anger that your pitiable inauguration attendance numbers were overshadowed by the remarkable outpouring of resistance against your agenda – one that is aimed squarely against us.

Womens March - January 21, 2017

Your inability to accept reality, you inability to display any impulse control, and your childish outbursts are all clear signs of a person with severe mental health issues.

I am no therapist, nor do I work in mental health, but I am well read (something that cannot be said of you sir), and happen to know a fair bit about mental health disorders as a result.

Keith Olbermann did a fine job in pointing out how clearly unstable you are, an opinion that many of have shared for the better part of the last two years.

It seems clear to me that you suffer from some form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). From Wikipedia, “NPD is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings. People affected by it often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power or success, or about their appearance. They often take advantage of the people around them.” In other words, YOU.

John D. Gartner, from Johns Hopkins University Medical School is a professional however, and his opinion of you is that you are a malignant narcissist and says that you are “dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”

I wish it was as simple as just that.  Of much greater concern is the fact that you display all the characteristics of a psychopath.  The criteria according to the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) share some of the same traits of NPD, but ultimately extend well beyond: lack of empathy, cold-heartedness, emotionally shallow, a general lack of any personal responsibility (i.e. your always being the victim, while you have no personal accountability), pathological lying, egocentricity and a reckless impulsivity.

Dan P. McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, noted that you are: “extremely disagreeable, narcissistic, and filled with anger.” Not a diagnosis per se, but none are qualities that would typically be attributed to somebody who of a stable mental capacity.

The question as to whether you might in fact have a form of dementia and are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, something your own father suffered from towards the end of his life seems valid as well.  Your speech is frequently disjointed to the point of incoherence; you are easily irritable, often paranoid and appear from your late night Twitter rampages to suffer from insomnia.  These are all clinical signs on early onset Alzheimer’s.

Interestingly enough, these are also signs frequently associated with Addiction to amphetamines.  The prescriptions you received for the “diet drug,” Tenuate Dospan in the ‘80s have been documented, and your erratic behaviors (including your bizarre performances in the debates you lost against Hillary Clinton), suggest use of some sort of amphetamine-like substance. If any of the suggestions above are even remotely accurate, I would be doubly concerned that you might have a substance abuse issue on top of your apparent mental illness. Together, the combination would be as dangerous as it seems that you may in fact well be.

I had a dream about you a few nights ago. You and I were together in the duplex I used to live in during my twenties, and in the dream I was the age I am now, and you and I had known each other a couple of decades earlier.  You had already become president, and I was genuinely alarmed at the decisions you had been making, and how you had somehow become so seemingly evil since we had last been in touch. I was asking you how you could be doing such awful things against humanity. I was pleading with you, believing that you surely must still have some shred of dignity and compassion left in you. And then I awoke out of the dream. I tried to slip back into sleep, but the emotion from the dream felt so toxic that I had to get out of bed and walk around: I had to fully wake up before going back to bed because I did not want to slip back into that same state of mind.

This however is not a dream. This is real. This is a nightmare, and I am awake. I know that I am under attack. My brothers and sisters are all under attack. We see you as a threat. You are clearly vindictive, but you cannot successfully wage war against an entire population. We will #resist, and while we are aware that we will not win every battle, do not be mistaken: We WILL win the fight.

#TrumpleThinSkin

Posted in Personal Ramblings, Politics.

Tagged with , , .


1
Jan

2016 is a thing of the past. Let’s leave it behind.

2016 was a tough one for many of us. I know it was for me. The pop icon death toll was heavy. Bowie’s passing took me out at the knees. Prince and Leonard Cohen rocked me pretty hard as well, but we lost a bunch of others who further made last year one of the heavier years in terms of loss that I can remember. Just a few short days after Bowie, we lost Alan Rickman, and from there, it just never seemed to end.

Leon Russell, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake both of ELP, Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Merle Haggard, Ralph Stanley and Sir George Martin.

Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Tom Hayden, Elie Wiesel, Harper Lee, Edward Albee, Morley Safer, Garry Marshall, Carrie Fisher followed by her mother Debbie Reynolds the very next day!

And then of course we have the mind-numbing ascent of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. That’s a lot of bitter pills to swallow in a relatively short window of time.

In Chinese Astrology, 2016 has been the year of the Red Fire Monkey, and the Monkey has been a busy boy – manipulative and mettlesome, dismissive and reckless. I understand that many of your might consider anything astrological to be a nonsense, and that’s fine…but I’m not done.

Fire Monkey

For me, an Ox, 2016 was supposed to be a year where I planted seeds of radical change. Indeed, in taking a good inventory, it has been just that. In January, Patty and I purchased property in Joshua Tree – two dwellings on 5 acres, one of them attached to an enormous garage, a space that will eventually become a desert studio of sorts. Our home of the last dozen years was put on the market and sold, so that we could have the money to begin work on the place in JT. We are now renting a condo, which is in itself, a new set of things to get accustomed to.

In 2016, I made the decision to go sober. Some days are easier than I would have ever expected; others, not so much. Clear signs that my (relatively new) job will not last too far into this new year have become abundantly clear. I should be upset, but I am not. I will simply look forward towards better opportunities where my talents can be better utilized. I have always landed on my feet. I cannot imagine living my life any other way.

I have an old friend Camille, a lovely Leo with a wonderful mind who posted some wise words to reflect on:

“The silliest thing we could possibly do right now is be that old dying generation [who] laments reality and is blinded to the possibilities before us… Magic is all around us. Listen for it. It wouldn’t hurt you to believe in great things….Life is living all around you.”

She is on course, spot on. We cannot live in the past, and when we do, we deprive ourselves of the magic and beauty of everything we should recognize and embrace each and every day. These words from Alan Watts sums it up nicely:

We have lost a lot of iconic figures, yes, but their passing should serve as reminders that we need to up our game; we need to stoke the fires of our creative selves to further edify the lives of those that are the closest to each of us.

We are facing a political morass that portends some rough years ahead – absolutely. So stay vigilant and stand strong against that which you know is wrong. Refuse complacency. Reject evil intention.

We can, and should make a difference in whatever ways we are capable. We need to lead with love and compassion, but don’t be mistaken – we can still be fierce.

If 2016 is the year to begin laying foundations, 2017 is the year to commence with the actualization.

2018 will be about fruition. I am up for the challenge and ready for the ride.

Posted in Music, Personal Ramblings.

Tagged with , , , , .


11
Nov

America, What Have You Done?

America has just done the unthinkable. Somehow, against all better sense, and in opposition to almost every single poll and predicative data model, it has elected as its next president, a man who has unapologetically flaunted himself as a xenophobe, a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe, a liar, a bully, emotionally unstable and a narcissist.

370 prominent economists signed an open letter issuing a strong warning against voting for Trump, describing him as a “dangerous, destructive choice” for America. I didn’t seem to help.

Aaron Sorkin—in a letter to his daughters—described Trump as a “thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn.”

Even Trump’s own autobiographical ghostwriter Tony Schwartz warned that if Trump is elected President, that, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn…that he couldn’t care less about them.”

This country has just signed up for a four year prison sentence – one that will largely result in the unraveling of much of the progress we’ve seen over the last 8 years under the Obama administration. Of even greater concern are the appointments that will be made to the Supreme Court – those will have a sweeping resonance that will be felt for the next two to three decades. Mike Pence has already said that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned if he and Trump get into the Whitehouse. This administration’s SCOTUS appointments could go a long way to see that pledge become a reality.

How is it that this man, who easily fits the definition of a psychopath, was able to win the adoration and support of so many millions of people? This is our next president. A vulgar human being with no empathy for people in need, a man who displays a visible disdain for the bulk of the American people who are struggling just to keep their head above water. And the most baffling part of the equation – These are the same people who most likely came out and supported him in the largest numbers, voting against their best interests. These are the people who are most easily manipulated by the fear of “the other.”

Some will argue that it was due to the votes that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson pulled from Clinton was just enough to tip the scales, and for what it’s worth, they may well be right. Neither of the mainstream candidates managed to receive 50% of the votes cast.

But I think there’s something much bigger at play. We’ve been watching it for the last decade, if not longer.

During the financial meltdown, great swaths of our population had become dispossessed; they had seen (and continue to witness) the staggering momentum of the growing income inequality; they have become painfully aware that the financial sector and lobbyists control the decisions that get made in big government, and as a result that they are the beneficiaries as well.  These are the people who have become disenfranchised in every aspect of their lives, and have rightfully come to feel righteously indignant towards our nation’s government. These people have come to believe that there is nothing left to lose. For many of them, that belief is correct, and for many of them, they are us.

These sentiments have been felt across the entire political spectrum. The anger and disenfranchisement has become part and parcel of the very fabric of our political consciousness. I believe that these are the forces spawned both the modern Tea Party as well as the Occupy movement five years later. Bernie Sanders’ ascent was the opposite end of the same spectrum that brought forth the supporters of our now future president, and once the information that the DNC colluded to keep Sanders from any real shot at the nomination became public, a powerful block of energized voters suddenly felt doubly marginalized by the political establishment that they were already feeling so much anger and frustration towards. The DNC made a fatal judgment error and now the rest of us are going to pay the price. As a result, voter turnout in 2016 was unimpressive.

2016 marked the first time in Unites States history when voter registration crossed the 200 million mark (200,081,377 if you want exact numbers), and yet the total number of votes cast in the this presidential election was 128,843,000.

2016 Electoral Map

Let’s break that down. ~64.4% of the people registered to vote actually showed up at the polls, and the remaining ~35.6% (71,238,377 million people) did not participate – more than actually voted for either Clinton or Trump.

Clinton received 59,923,033 votes (47.7%) and Trump received 59,692,978 votes (47.5%). In the grand scheme, this margin is razor thin, but the fact remains that she received 230,055 more votes than he did. This is significant and points to the ultimate flaw in the Electoral College system. Trump is the fifth president in U.S. history who has won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote.  The last time was George W’s first term in 2000. The last time before that was in 1888.

[Note: while you typically see Voter Turnout rate listed closer to 55.6 %, that percentage is based on the percentage of V.A.P. (Voting Age Population) as opposed to actual registered voters – I prefer to calculate the number on actual registered voters – that is why my numbers  appear higher]

When you compare this with the presidential election from four years before, the difference is notable. In 2012, there were 146,311,000 registered voters in the U.S. and 129,085,410 of those people turned out to the polls. Of those votes cast, Romney received 60,933,504 votes and Obama received 65,915,795 votes. So, by comparison ~88% of the registered voters made it to the polls and the losing candidate (Romney) received more votes in 2012 than either Clinton or Trump did in 2016. And there were 50 million FEWER register voters in America in 2012! Let that sink in.

Andrew Sullivan’s article America and the Abyss just days before the election portended some catastrophic times coming our way explaining that Trump has “long treated the truth as entirely instrumental to his momentary personal interests,” and points to the fact that with a Trump presidency, a Fascist ideology will be voted into power. Thank you America.

I expect that the GOP will be emboldened to a degree that will make the last eight years of obstructionism seem like child’s play. And the last eight years will only be the beginning, if they get their way. Things are going to get really uncomfortable for those of us who identify as progressives and liberals, and for those who cast their vote in support of this vindictive, thin-skinned megalomaniac, the reality of what they’ve done will begin to sink in as this administration slowly does what they can to unravel what social safety nets do exist.

Neal Gabler opened his post-Election article, Farewell, America with the following:

“America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.”

Indeed. I have seen a slice of America that I never wanted to believe truly existed, at least not to this degree. I believe we are entering into a sad chapter for our nation, and while I refuse to believe that the sky is crashing down upon us, I cannot support an administration that stands so violently in opposition to everything I believe in.

It’s okay to stand against that which is wrong.

Posted in Personal Ramblings.

Tagged with .


20
Aug

Going Sober

I don’t know if this decision has been months or years, or even decades in the making, but I do know that there has been a definite shift in my thinking.

To stop drinking that is.

I don’t pretend that this will be an easy thing, because the fact is, I like drinking alcohol. I love the complexities and subtleties of a good glass of red wine, as well as in a good bourbon or rye. I also enjoy the euphoric qualities that I get from alcohol…until the enjoyment stops.

In high school I smoked weed regularly, and for my last couple of years, was a regular wake-and-baker. It never interfered with my studies or ability to get good grades, but for most of that time I felt conflicted because I never really liked how it made me feel. And yet, I continued to smoke for many years.

I moved to Seattle a month or two before my twentieth birthday, and it was shortly after that, that I quit. Pot and I were never friends, and yet I spent years of my life trying to make it work. I have no explanation as to why. I just did, and when I finally arrived at the decision to stop, it was clear to me that it was what I needed to do in my life.

This feels similar.

Line 'em up!

In general, regardless of how much I am enjoying drinking in the moment, invariably at some point I find myself not enjoying it, and yet I often keep drinking. Other times, I drink half a glass of wine and start feeling a headache, or just physically off and I’ll dump the remainder of my glass into Patty’s glass and call it a night.

These are inconsistent behaviors, and it bugs me that sometimes it appears that I have will-power to respect my own boundaries, and other times I don’t stop even when I know I should. Does this mean that I’m an alcoholic or do I have “alcoholic tendencies?” Is that even a thing? Am I a part-time alcoholic? Is there any such thing as that? Maybe it doesn’t matter.

What does matter however is the recognition that my body has begun to protest in different ways pretty much every time I drink. I get preemptive hangover headaches; I feel fatigue; my digestive system gets upset; I can’t sleep. More than that, I don’t believe it’s good for my general mental state of mind, and it definitely is not good for me emotionally. I am a depressive by nature, and drinking does not improve that particular tendency. More often than not, I experience a general depressive state the day after I’ve been drinking, and I have spent too many years trying to keep my dark passenger at bay to find this acceptable.

What also matters is the fact that I am a child of addicts. My father has spent the majority of his life as a fairly severe alcoholic, and my mother got strung out on heroin when I was seven. She spent a chunk of her life doing dope, and even after stopping, spent the remainder of her life being sustained by methadone. If that’s not the perfect stage for a kid hardwired for substance abuse, then I don’t know what is. With that in mind, I’ve been damned lucky. I have many friends who are thankfully in AA, because in their earlier life, their drinking had taken them to the brink of implosion. I have never experienced that particular downward spiral, and for that, I am truly grateful. But as mentioned, it seems that I might have “alcoholic tendencies,” and considering everything, perhaps that’s enough. If I drink too much with any sort of frequency, then I probably shouldn’t drink at all. And, by my estimation, I do.

So. I’ve decided to stop.

Initially, I started telling people that it was maybe just for this month, or that maybe it was just for the duration of the year, but I realize that is just a chicken shit way of leaving myself an out in case I slip. And I very well might, but if I am serious about this decision, I need to make it with absolute clarity and intention.  Without that it’s just a flavor-of-the-week, and I want this to be more than that. No self-righteousness or judgment towards others. I will need to teach myself how to be with friends who are drinking and be centered in my decision to abstain. That’s really why I decided to write this – to state this publically so that I can hold myself to my own words and my own intention.

All about the Goose

Hello soda-and-lime.

Posted in Personal Ramblings.

Tagged with , .


28
Feb

The Best Films of 2015 – My 2016 List of Favorites

Scrambling like a maniac to get this post out before heading out the door to our favorite annual Oscar party where it’s my hope to once again win the pool as I managed to last year. I do this list each year, and as always, these are not my predictions, but rather my personal list of favorites from the previous year. This year lots of tips of the hat to a few really great documentaries, some disappointment that The Good Dinosaur didn’t get nominated, and some genuine befuddlement that The Martian got as much attention as it did…let’s not even get started on some of the most ridiculous science scenarios that I just could not get over.

Mad Max: Fury Road

#1 – Mad Max: Fury Road
Hands- down my favorite movie of the year. It should win every category that it’s nominated in, but will most likely only win in technical categories and potentially (hopefully) for costumes, production design and film editing as well. Effectively twenty years since the screen was first finished, this post- apocalyptic heavy-metal joy ride is true to the dystopian original, The Road Warrior, is so pumped up on high-octane angst and exhilaration, that we ride along in what I consider to be THE action movie of the new millennium. This film effectively delivers on the promise of everything we always hoped that Mad Max could ultimately be, and is perhaps among the most fulfilling film experiences I’ve had in years.


#2 – The Revenant
The film that will almost certainly land Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar is a remarkable feat of filmmaking. Beautifully shot, The Revenant is epic in scope. A brutal and grueling tale of fur trappers in the early nineteenth century in Montana and South Dakota, the film is a classic man against all odds story of survival, tenacity and sheer force of will. Seemingly impossible to fathom, the story is purportedly based on an actual account of one Hugh Glass who apparently endured all the grueling punishment that we watch in awe and horror as the spectacle of The Revenant unfolds. Alejandro G. Iñárritu has delivered one of the great films of his, and will likely win for the second year in a row, and while it is a remarkable film is deserving, it is still not Mad Max; Fury Road.


#3 – The Big Short
Ugh. Yes, it is that good. You could call it a horror story, only it all really happened and we all had the displeasure of having to live through it. The Big Short is a scathing indictment of the events that eventually led to the real-estate /financial meltdown that were the result of the deregulation of the financial industry during the Bush/Cheney regime. Complex schemes and the sheer voracity and greed of big business and Wall Street are handily explained in this page-turner of a movie. Great performances help propel The Big Short to greatness. Highly recommended to anyone who still feels confused about what the hell it was exactly that happened in America that created the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.


#4 – Amy
Amy is the Music Documentary of the year as well as documentary of the year. I was pretty upset when the news hit that Amy Winehouse died. This film succeeds in telling the story of one of the more meteoritic rises to fame and the subsequent plunge into the ultimate demise. Amy strips away the entire tabloid manufactured perception of who we think she was and instead uncovers a sweet, passionate talent doing her best to navigate the choppy waters of the media juggernaut, of celebrity and wealth. Tons of unseen private footage gives us an unprecedented look into a young woman who has a great talent, but is simply trying to find her way through the pressure cooker of life under a microscope. Exhilarating and infuriating, v cuts through the false pretense and gives us a glimpse of a venerable and lovable life marred by the insatiable hunger of the cruel media world.


#5 – Lambert & Stamp
A very close second to Amy, Lambert & Stamp is an engrossing documentary that shows how a young couple of entrepreneurial young British men, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, with no prior managerial experience, effectively adopted a young band—The Who—and managed to propel them to the heights of global stardom during the ‘60s and ‘70s. This is a directorial first from Cinematographer James Cooper, and is utterly compelling. The film is about the Who, but is as the title suggests more about this odd-couple team, and is from beginning-to-end a fun and sometimes bittersweet account of two men who most of us were likely never even remotely aware of prior to the making of this film.


#6 – Ex Machina
While I expect Alecia Vikander to win for best supporting actress for her work in The Danish Girl, I preferred her in Ex Machina. I also preferred this film as well. Ex Machina seems like a David Fincher film, but it’s not. A sci-fi suspense flick, Ex Machina explores the extent to which Artificial Intelligence can cross over into the realm of the undetectable and becomes unsettling as we begin to wonder who it is that is ultimately being tricked and manipulated.


#7 – Room
Edge-of-your-seat, uncomfortable and deeply emotional, Room tells the dark story of a young woman held captive in a single room and her son, Jack who has never known anything outside of the four walls that is the entirety of this reality. While most of the attention has been (and my guess as well will be on Oscar night) on Brie Larson, I think the ultimate treat is young Jacob Tremblay, who plays her son, both inside and during the second half, when they manage to escape and Jack first experiences the world outside of the four walls of Room. There is a lot about this film to get unsettled about, but in the end, it is story about the enduring power of love and devotion, and is a film that packs a lot more emotional punch than you might expect from reading this or another random review.


#8 – Spotlight
Untangling the web of deceit and conspiracy within the Catholic Church, Spotlight tells the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the world when it uncovered. The systemic sexual abuse had been going on in the Catholic Church and the decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment. This is not exactly what you’d call a feel-good romp; you cannot help but to feel angry and disgusted our three heroes uncover layer upon layer of one pedophile priest after another.


#9 – What Happened, Miss Simone?
#3 best music documentary of the year. More to come when I have the time to finish.


#10 – Best of Enemies
Since I still have to shower before hitting the brown carpet, I will come back with my review of this later…either tonight or after work tomorrow night. Watch the trailer and just know that it’s great.

Posted in Art, Movies.

Tagged with , , , .