POP GOES THE CULTURE

Hard To Be The Bard

Dedicated to writers everywhere. The novelists, essayists, poets, journalists, authors, diarists, historians, lyricists… and the most noble of all the scribes: bloggers! We do it, even when it’s hard, because there’s a bit of the Bard in each of us.

Something Rotten is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway this season, nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical. And Christian Borle, who plays The Bard, won the Tony for Best Featured Actor. Enjoy his performance of “It’s Hard to be The Bard”.

If you’re in a part of the world where that YouTube video isn’t available, head over to Broadway.com to find it there.

theend.parchment.quill

AARPuhleeeeze!

Surely there has been some mistake…

Today’s mail brought a fat envelope containing “Your New Card!” I opened it and stared at my new AARP membership card. I believe it’s called “blinking disbelief”. Or, as my friend M-R down Sydney way would say, “Fuck me dead! This is appalling!”

AARP-1

AARP is the American Association of Retired Persons. Or, it used to be. Now they are just AARP. Pronounced “ARP”. (In Boston, it’s “AAAHP”.) No matter what they call themselves, everyone knows that AARP is the club for senior citizens who crave discounts and early-bird specials. “Milkheads” as my friend Jenn has called them since we were kids. The card should be delivered on a lace doily. With complimentary samples of Metamucil and Viagra. And a reminder to turn off the left-turn signal… and step on the f@ck!ng gas!

Just to set the record straight:

I did not enroll.

I am not retired. (Underemployed, but not retired.)

I don’t want to dine at 4:30pm. Cocktails still run to 8 o’clock.

I am deeply in denial that my age begins with a 5.

I am clinging to the marketing age group that still lumps me in with the 40-somethings.

I have nothing against old people. Some of my best friends are old people. Some of them are older than dirt. (And you know who you are.) (I hope.)

But. I. am. not. there. yet.

AARP-2

That felt good. Thanks for listening. If you took offense, please get out your quill and leave a comment. I’ll go look for my spectacles.

The End

No Fucks Left To Give

Just before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress last week, the official White House Twitter account sent this eat-my-shorts (tan suit*) reference:

DailyBanter.ZeroFucks

Chez Pazienza at The Daily Banter penned a brilliant reading of the President’s thought bubble, which I encourage you to enjoy:

The White House Just Trolled Everyone, Proving Obama Has No F*cks Left To Give

* If you missed last summer’s TanSuitGate then (1) ignorance is bliss and (2) find out more here.

As Flies Are We To The Gods – Part MMXV

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods. They kill us for their sport.
– Shakespeare

The world has been drowning in the bloodshed of religious violence for thousands of years. Greece vs Egypt vs Rome vs Turks vs Mongols… Christians vs Muslims vs Jews… Shia vs Sunni… Catholics vs Protestants… eternal hatreds, endless wars. We like to think of ourselves as advanced and enlightened, but our medieval roots are showing.

Nine years ago, this commentary was published following the violent reactions of religious extremists to the publication of a Danish cartoon. So we don’t have to wonder what the late Christopher Hitchens would have to say about today’s massacre at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. It’s worth another read, and sadly just as relevant now as it was then.

“Therefore there is a strong case for saying that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and those who have reprinted its efforts out of solidarity, are affirming the right to criticize not merely Islam but religion in general. And the Bush administration has no business at all expressing an opinion on that. If it is to say anything, it is constitutionally obliged to uphold the right and no more. You can be sure that the relevant European newspapers have also printed their share of cartoons making fun of nuns and popes and messianic Israeli settlers, and taunting child-raping priests. There was a time when this would not have been possible. But those taboos have been broken.

Which is what taboos are for. Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.

I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice, which as it happens I chance to find “offensive.” (By the way, hasn’t the word “offensive” become really offensive lately?) The innate human revulsion against desecration is much older than any monotheism: Its most powerful expression is in the Antigone of Sophocles. It belongs to civilization. I am not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a synagogue or mosque or to relieve myself on a “holy” book. But I will not be told I can’t eat pork, and I will not respect those who burn books on a regular basis. I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.”

Read the full article at Slate:
Cartoon Debate: The case for mocking religion, by Christopher Hitchens

“Mockery of religion is one of the most essential things, because to demystify supposedly ‘holy texts dictated by god’ and show that they are man made, what you have to show is their internal inconsistencies and absurdities. One of the beginnings of human emancipation is the ability to laugh at authority… it is an indispensable thing. People can call it blasphemy if they like, but if they call it that they have to assume there is something to be blasphemed – some divine work, well I don’t accept the premise.” – Christopher Hitchens 16 May 2013

#ICANTBREATHE

Photo credit: Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Photo credit: Scott Lynch / Gothamist

We Do

Here’s an update on the continuing destruction of traditional marriage in the United States:

BACKGROUND:  In June 2013, the Supreme Court declared the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. That ruling compelled the federal government to recognize and treat equally all marriages considered to be legal in any one of the 50 states. At that point, there were half a dozen or so states that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples.

That ruling was a critically important step in civil rights in America, because while state laws govern who can be married, the vast majority of legal and financial benefits of marriage are bestowed by the federal government. In fact, there are 1,138 federal benefits that accrue to married couples that are not available to swinging singles. Benefits in areas such as Social Security, Taxation, Estates & Inheritance, Adoption, Immigration, Family & Medical Leave, Employee Benefits for Federal Workers, and much more. It’s not just about all that sanctimonious sanctity stuff.

That 2013 Supreme Court ruling did NOT strike down the anti-same-sex-marriage laws in any of the 40+ states still banning marriage equality. But the ruling was a seismic shift in the legal landscape. The writing was on the wall. The bigots had lost. But they kept up the fight… if only to keep those contributions flowing from America’s pews and Barcaloungers.

Dozens of lawsuits were filed by same-sex couples wishing to marry in every state which still banned marriage equality. These cases percolated up through the judicial system. In state courts rising to state supreme courts, and in federal courts rising up through the appellate levels. And you can almost feel sorry for the folks working so diligently to fight marriage equality. Almost. They tried soooo hard. They tried everything. They continued even to the point of looking absolutely ridiculous – and wasting millions of their taxpayers’ dollars. And now, they have not only lost… They have been annihilated. In fact, on more than a few occasions, they have been basically laughed out of court. As well they should be.

Since DOMA was eviscerated, there have been something like 40 court rulings in a row in favor of marriage equality. In every corner of the country. From judges known to be liberal, moderate and conservative. Appointed by Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama. The bigots always put the same question to the courts: We think it’s icky, so why can’t we prevent gay marriage in our state? And they got the same answer every time: Denying gay Americans access to marriage is a direct (obvious, flagrant) violation of their Constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. Period. Now go home. And brush up on your constitutional law. One of my favorite of these rulings came from a federal judge in Pennsylvania, who wrote:

Penna.MarriageRuling.JohnEJonesIII

In some cases, a state stopped its legal campaign to prevent marriage equality once a federal court said it could not. (That was true in Pennsylvania after Judge John E. Jones III issued his ruling, excerpted above.) The governor or attorney general knew that to pursue this to the appellate court or Supreme Court would be a pointless waste of time and money. In the reddest of the red states, though, there was no backing down. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! When the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuits had all ruled in favor of marriage equality, five states appealed to the Supreme Court: Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana and Virginia.

The Supreme Court put these five cases on the list of those they would consider taking at the end of September. But when the Court released the list of cases it would definitely be taking in the new term, none of these marriage cases were on it. Hmmm. Que pasa, Supremos?

THEN TODAY, the first day of the new term, a bombshell: The Supreme Court announced it had rejected the marriage appeals from all five states. Whaaaaaa? That was initially misconstrued as a refusal to rule on these cases, but the decision not to consider the appeals is a de facto ruling, as it lets stand all of the appellate court rulings in those cases. And all of those rulings were in favor of marriage equality. And – double bonus feature! – Circuit Court of Appeals rulings, once given the force of law, apply to ALL of the states covered by that circuit. So, in addition to the five states who challenged the rulings, an additional six states are swept up in the nuptials news. It may take a few days for their unused kansas.ybmachinery of legal equality to crank up, but you will soon be able to gay marry the gay of your dreams in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Kansas… looks like you’re not in Kansas anymore!

So yes, a good day for equality and for America. We went from 19 to 30 states with marriage equality. More than 60% of Americans are now living in states with marriage equality. Not “gay marriage”. Just… marriage. And the bigoted anti-gay laws in the remaining 20 states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, etc) are now hanging by a legal thread. Stay tuned for more rainbow-colored rice being thrown, coast to coast. Click here for a great series of maps showing the status of states with marriage equality, and the states with pending appeals (i.e., the next to go).freedomtomarrylogo

Many of us are disappointed that the Court did not take on these cases and issue a definitive ruling wiping the remaining discriminatory laws off the books, just as it did in 1967 with bans on interracial marriage. That may be yet to come. Some believe the 5th Circuit offers the (sad) possibility of issuing a pro-discrimination ruling. That would be appealed to the Supreme Court – which would have no choice but to take the case, given its action today. You cannot have a country where marriage equality is the law of the land, except in a handful of states. For excellent in-depth coverage of all the legal actions and status in the battle for marriage equality, go to FreedomToMarry.org.

And if you are mourning the loss of your treasured, traditional biblical marriage, I offer you this message from Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian. Like so many of your fellow flock, you may not really understand what kinds of marriage the bible endorses. Let Betty show you the light.

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Regarding Offended White People

A fellow blogger re-posted this comment from a DailyKOS thread. I would have shared it directly from his blog, but he’s not set up that way. So here it is with a link to the original by eodell. It’s a rant. And it’s a very good rant.

Regarding offended white people

I’m not sure who I’m addressing this to, since all of the black people here and a lot of the decent white people already know this, and the racist whites won’t get it, but what the hell.

Dear white racists and your fragile fee-fees:

Relax, I’m white, too. Look, I can do the secret handshake and nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Lemme whitesplain something to you, fellow white men: no one buys your bullshit.

That’s because your bullshit runs like this: For historically- and presently-oppressed black people to be treated decently, they must carefully avoid doing anything that could be remotely twisted into behaving like a white racist, even if you’re squinting and looking at it from five hundred meters away in a thick fog. Because that would be racist, and therefore hypocritical, and if that’s the case, they deserve to continue to be oppressed.

Here’s the thing you thick-headed assholes totally fail to get: NO ONE DESERVES TO BE OPPRESSED, PERIOD. You can talk all you want about how it’s okay for black people to be mistreated if— but get this, there is no “if”. It’s not okay, ever. That’s why we call it mistreatment. Your error is to think that it’s ever justified, and your active misdeed is to constantly search for a justification. Black people, collectively, are not guilty of anything. In fact, a basic principle of civil society is that we reject the notion of collective guilt. Some individual black people, like individual white people, have done bad things, and in those cases, may deserve judicial punishments. But even those people don’t deserve mistreatment from some random white guy on the street. And black people in general don’t owe anyone anything as a prerequisite for being treated decently. No one does.

Now I know there are a bunch of you in the back of the room waving your hand and getting ready to launch the argument that it’s racist to complain about white privilege. No, it is not. Complaining about white privilege is not the same as assigning collective guilt to white people. White privilege is a pervasive feature of our society and our legal system. It’s hard to see if you’re white (and you’re not looking or actively trying not to look), but it is real, it is powerfully destructive, and if global warming had the kind of statistical support that evidence of white privilege has, Bill O’Reilly would be haranguing FOX News viewers to install solar panels.

And here’s the subtle point that you folks either can’t or won’t grasp. White privilege is especially the responsibility of white people to fix, not because we’re all racist schlubs like you are, but because white privilege itself means that we’re the ones who have the power to change it. Black people don’t have that power, again because of white privilege, and not because they aren’t sufficiently careful in the way they phrase their complaints about being mistreated. It’s our problem and our responsibility as white people to fix not because whites are collectively guilty, but because it is the responsibility of ALL PEOPLE to fight for decent treatment for ALL PEOPLE. It just happens that, because of our shithead ancestors and a helping handful of historical accident, we white people are the ones who can do something about it. When the finger on the trigger is white, it’s pointless to ask a black guy to lower the gun.

And quite frankly, given all the shit that our black fellow citizens have put up with, and all the shit they have to deal with every. fucking. day., if some of them lose their tempers and say things that aren’t carefully calibrated to kiss your privileged, hypersensitive asses, well, is that actually surprising? You lose your minds when black people just complain verbally about being kicked. Imagine how tough it would be for you to keep your cool if someone was actually doing something to you instead of just talking.

Finally, yes, I know this is pointless. You want to be offended to fluff your fragile egos, and you want black people to please shut the fuck up and stop harshing your mellow. I hate to break it to you, but as long as people are being murdered by the state, given draconian sentences for crimes that in many cases they haven’t even committed, and being held in poverty and privation and a constant state of fear, those of us who actually give a shit about our fellow citizens are going, at the very least, to make some noise about it.

In the meantime, if you can’t be bothered to do your duty as an American to protect your fellow Americans with the considerable power at your disposal, at least shut the fuck up and stop making an ass of yourself.

Regards,
Your fellow privileged white guy

http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1333114/54616395#c494

Upward Facing Dog

This is just something I cannot resist sharing with you, sports fans. OK, so we all remember when I fell for that watch-what-happens-when-two-strangers-meet-and-kiss video that turned out to be a slick production for an ad campaign. (If you are the one earthling who missed that viral outbreak, click here.)

And it may well be that the following is yet more slickness. But I don’t care. It made my day and if you haven’t yet seen this then I hope it makes your day, too. So without any further ado, I give you Nic & Pancho!

 

Nic + Pancho have their own YouTube channel (with more yoga vids) here.

And Nic Bello (whom you may already have suspected of living in Los Angeles) can be found at nicbello.com

A Walk With The Mayor

My Boulder-based friends Anne Shutan and Scott MacInnis were in Bev Hills over the weekend visiting mama Jan and step-papa David – and celebrating David’s 75th. Because they live in Colorado, they do things like mountain biking and I suppose other mountainy things. So rising early on Monday morning for A Walk With The Mayor didn’t faze them one bit.

lilibosse

Lili Bosse

I had never done a walk with any mayor. When Annie invited me along, I thought it couldn’t hurt to start my mayoral meanderings in Beverly Hills. I secretly hoped they would do the walk in limos. Alas no…

The mayor of Beverly Hills is Lili Bosse. And that is pronounced exactly as you hope it would be. Bossy. Isn’t that perfect? The late, great Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle used to feature Namephreaks in his daily column – people who are particularly or delightfully or ironically well-monikered for their careers (and/or crimes). Were we fortunate enough to live in a world that still counted Herb Caen among its columnists, I would already have submitted Mayor Bosse for his consideration.

Beverly_Hills_City_HallThe WWTM started, as one does, at city hall. Beverly Hills City Hall is a gorgeous Spanish Revival exclamation point of a tower, topped with a cupola and lots of gold leaf, that anchors a civic center complex of administrative offices, the BHPD, library and a new performing arts center. Here’s a fun fact I just unearthed over at Wikipedia:

For the Beverly Hills centennial in 2014, a 15,000-slice cake in the shape of the Beverly Hills City Hall was designed by chef Donald Wressell of the Guittard Chocolate Company and decorated by Rosselle and Marina Sousa. It cost US$200,000 to make.

So, you can see why it wasn’t entirely ridiculous for me to hope for a walk-by-limo.

BH.Walk.4ofusAs I approached the entrance plaza, I saw a crowd of people in identical bright orange t-shirts and hats. Hmmm. I didn’t get that memo. I went smart-casual with dark plaid shorts and a raw silk black Hawaiian shirt. I soon found Annie & Scott and was relieved to see that they were not in orange. They were in pink. I felt like a truffle in a big bowl of sorbet. Annie’s friend Valerie was also in black, but only because she is a serious filmmaker who had only stopped by to say hello. There was a hashtag printed on the orange-wear: #BHHEALTHYCITY and I found myself chatting with one of the citrus-hued enthusiasts. The Healthy City initiative is Mayor Bosse’s push to get her constituents in shape! Think Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program – but with better shopping.

From what I witnessed on Monday morning, Mayor Bosse is everything you’d want your (crime-free, flush-with-cash) city’s mayor to be: 1/2 cheerleader, 1/2 civic booster, 1/2 high-fiver, 1/2 drill sergeant, 1/2 life coach. Yes, that is five halves, and you’d understand the equation if you met her. The name of the event is a little misleading, though, as it’s a bit more energetic than a mere walk. I would suggest calling it Power Walk With Da Mayor. And on an unseasonably hot morning such as yesterday… Death March With That Woman! would be truth-in-advertising.

WWTM.LittleSamoIt was blazing hot, even at 8:30am – with the added insult of unusual humidity due to the infernal monsoonal moisture churning up from Mexico. Remember what I was wearing? A black silk shirt. The only thing better than black at trapping body heat is… silk. I was screwed. Oh, and I left my water bottle in the car. Strike 3! If I had another kidney stone by the end of this walk, it would be my own damn fault.

After a brief aerobic warm-up (what?) and some very nice remarks where the Mayor introduced some local heroes (including my friend Anne Shutan the artist, and a little girl named Abby Spencer who is trying to raise $1 million for cancer via her Facebook page: Abby’s Million Dollar Dream), we were off! Fortunately someone was handing out notices about I-don’t-know-what-meeting printed on laminated, heavy card stock which came in handy as a fan. We marched down Little Santa Monica Blvd with a bike-cop escort stopping traffic at the intersections. When you Walk With The Mayor, you jaywalk with impunity! Though it would have been nice to have a little respite every few blocks… and I could feel the pure hatred radiating out from the stoppered commuters in waves of rage. That was kind of fun.

The roundtrip City Hall > Bev Hills High > City Hall is about 3 miles. When we got to BHHS, there was a table full of bottled water. At first, I thought it was a mirage. A few people grumbled about the environmental catastrophe of plastic bottles. I was too busy chugging down the life-restoring fluid to care WWTM.080414.BHHSabout ecological disaster at that point. Then, 200 people tried to get under the shade of an old magnolia tree while the Mayor introduced the BH Board of Ed. I had almost rehydrated by the time we were herded onto the wide steps of the high school for a ‘class picture’. (Did I mention that my dear friend Anne was Athlete of the Year in 1976 at BH High? She is overly talented, that one.) Scott and I hung in the back row, like street urchins, possibly making snarky comments about this person or that. It was hot. We were tired. He still wasn’t convinced that pink shorts were in keeping with his sense of masculinity. We took a selfie with the ‘twin towers’ of Century Plaza rising behind the school.

And then – though I didn’t hear the starting gun – we were back sur la route! Through the lovely, leafy residential streets south of Wilshire, and then up Beverly Drive through the heart of the retail zone that the world knows as “Rodeo Drive”. I found myself a new walk buddy, Tish (from the realm of Annie’s childhood) who turned out to be my prized human “beach rock” for the day, and is now my newest FB pal.

When we crossed Wilshire into America’s Most Posh retail nirvana, the weather suddenly changed. The temperature WWTM.Scott+Stevedropped about 20 degrees, which was fabulous but confusing. Then I understood: every shop along Beverly had its air-conditioning cranked up to meat-locker freezing, with their doors wide open to the sidewalk. People started peeling off from the parade to get lost in the extravagantly cool spaces. Annie, Scott and I found ourselves in a cavernous Pottery Barn. It felt like the lobby of one of those ice hotels in Finland. I admired the pillows and candles and leather arm chairs while my core temperature dipped back into double digits.

And then I bid adieu to my friends so they could do lunch and I could swim. It was a fun departure from my usual Monday morning routine, which rarely involves elected officials or hyperthermia. Thank you, Lili Bosse for a grand tour! I think I’ll be joining you again in October when Annie & Scott are back in town and you’re leading a walk to the Beverly Hilton where Annie’s sculpture Heart of Palm is on display as part of Beverly Hills’ centennial public art program. Until then, stay cool.

The End (so far)

The Days of Anna Madrigal

I made the following post at the end of January, as Armistead Maupin’s ninth and final Tales of the City book was published. The Days of Anna Madrigal sat on my nightstand for the past six months; I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Michael, Mary Ann, Brian – and certainly not to Anna.

I finally opened it last week. And I can report that this is a very fond farewell to the ‘logical family’ of Tales. Wickedly funny. Poignant. Wistful. Triumphant. If you are reluctant, as I was, to dive in, do: the waters are as warm and inviting as ever. If you are unfamiliar with Armistead Maupin and his series of novels spanning the last 40 years, check your library or bookstore for the first book, Tales of the City. Most anyone who will see this post is likely to fall in love with these tales. And in that happy event, you’ve got eight more books ahead of you!

The End

They say you should never meet your heroes.

Armistead Maupin Armistead Maupin

Well, I don’t know who “they” are, or who they choose as their heroes… but I can tell you that they are wrong. I met one of mine tonight, and he did not disappoint.

I wonder how many people who will see this even recognize the name: Armistead Maupin. In 1976, The San Francisco Chronicle started running a daily serial by Maupin – and so began an extraordinary adventure called Tales of the City.

TalesoftheCity.coverThe City is San Francisco, and the Tales center on three main characters: Mary Ann Singleton is a naive young woman from Ohio who takes a vacation in San Francisco and decides to stay. She finds a room in a boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane (Macondray Lane steps, in our world) on Russian Hill, presided over by a mysterious woman called Mrs Madrigal. Michael…

View original post 760 more words

Word Crimes

What’s this? A second Weird Al Yankovic video? In the same week? Egads…

Whereas Tacky is a send up of Pharrell’s HappyWord Crimes is a parody of last year’s endlessly looping Blurred Lines, morphing it into an indictment of America’s sloppy language habits. It’s clever, naturally. But it may also be miraculous – alchemizing the most vapid song of the century into something instructive and edifying. Plus, it’s got a great beat.

 

Nota bene: Weird Al released no fewer than eight videos this week, a splashy publicity campaign for his new album Mandatory Fun.

The End (so far)

 

 

Tacky

Weird Al Yankovic takes the piss out of Pharrell’s Happy – with Margaret Cho, Eric Stonestreet, Jack Black, Aisha Tyler + Kristen Schaal.

click here >>> http://youtu.be/zq7Eki5EZ8o

 

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And if you still can’t get enough of the original… then let’s go to Cologne!

[074] Und Der Gewinner Ist… Köln!

And… if are already screaming MAKE IT STOP!! – click here.

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