Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Bud, Lou & Me


Comedy is dead in America. It has been replaced by mean-spirited bitchiness with a punchline. Today’s comedian is not what I wanted to be, back when I was young and green and itching to be funny, and to be making my living in show business.

The other thing I never wanted to be, was ‘washed up.’ Especially if it was before actually accomplishing much. I’ve managed to hit both unwanted milestones – perhaps just philosophically so, but it still stings.

None of us will ever really know the totality of how we’ve affected the world, if at all. Just the other week I learned that a poem I’d written – and placed online free – was used in a documentary project. I hope it made someone happy, or helped the film’s impact. I expect no compensation; I’d placed it out there long ago with no request of a royalty – nor even a byline. I get merely the satisfaction that someone found it, and liked it enough to use it, and gave it a degree more exposure.

I hope it isn’t used to propagate something or someone I would disagree with, but I have no control over that. Again, I had no forewarning fine print; it was just an idea that I had tossed onto the big table, and made rhyme.

Do I feel cheated? Not at all.

It was my contribution to someone’s joy, whomever, where ever and whenever. Take it and run. Good luck to you. My joy was in writing it. It was a win-win. I’ve borrowed from others before me, too, in the same way. We keep each other alive that way.

I imagine I’ve pissed off just as many people, with my ideas, as I’ve delighted. Maybe more. Maybe that’s how I never ‘made it.’ But again – I’ll never know.

George Bailey never realized just how many people his life had touched, for the good – yet was out in the dead of a winter’s night, contemplating suicide, due to what he perceived as – and what the world seemed to tell him were – his failures. As a business man, as a father, as a human being with too many dreams unfulfilled.

I was watching some old variety TV shows the other night. Mostly the Steve Allen Show, upon which Abbott & Costello trotted out their standard routines for the last time, all widely known to a disparaging point of overexposure. Their shine was long gone, their material tired and outdated even to a 1950s audience. Who’s On First got courtesy giggles and applause for its place in comedy history. Bud and Lou themselves looked like you could smell them; two exhausted old men. Lou Costello was only 53 when he passed away in 1959 – he looked 73.

They had not worn out their welcome, just their relevance. Their comedy was dead. They had gone from being the hottest box office draw in show business, just fifteen years prior, to being a nostalgia act, fit more for a museum than a comedy club. They all but hated each other, despite their practiced rapport on stage. They hated their act; they'd done it too many times. They were beyond caring whether it was performed correctly anymore. They were done.

As the titular character in the film Shane told the ruthless ranchers before gunning them down, "you've been living too long."

They had worked their entire careers, for this, to become who they were, and there was no escape.

They’d seen the top. It had exacted a hell of a cost from them. They skipped the Draft because they were worth more as comedians (the job they had anyway) than soldiers; they garnered over $85 million for the government in War Bond sales. Surely that was an adequate amount worthy of some slack – yet the same government sued them out of their houses and fortunes for back taxes. Lou Costello had to work, right up to the end, despite his tools being edge-worn and outdated. Bud died near-penniless. They’d been screwed by the best. I wonder, at that point in their lives, if they felt cheated?

Being loved by unknown generations of strangers is a reward unto itself. Having rent is nice too.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Standing There

This post is part of the Fourth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon hosted by Silent-ology.


It was a Monday, the 11th of November, 2002 to be exact, and I was alone, in southern California, wandering a cemetery.

I was name-hunting at Forest Lawn Memorial, Hollywood Hills; there were a few people I needed to meet one more time, before moving on. My dwindling finances had forced my hand, and – temporarily, I hoped – hit the ‘pause’ button on my pursuit of employment in the movie industry. All the ‘meetings’ today would be posthumous, but I would, in affect, be within feet of legends.

Many rest here, with pedigrees and careers once every bit as glamorous and wild as the current crop of famous and infamous. Most here are like those in any given graveyard, the you’s and me’s of generations past, forgotten; yesterday’s throngs. Because this happens to be Hollywood, some of them today still exist as the laughter and applause on old grainy kinescopes. Not only is the entire cast of I Love Lucy dead, but everyone heard in the audience is too.

My trek was not in search of Lucy, though her original final resting place is here at Forest Lawn, behind the marker named ‘Morton,’ that of her last husband, comedian Gary Morton.

No, I was here to visit my heroes; other godlings of comedy – one in particular. Ernie Kovacs rests with most of his family, in the front scape of the Court of Remembrance. Freddie Prinze, Sr. waits for the final trumpet between Charles Laughton and George Raft inside the same said Court's mausoleum enclosure.

In the short distance ahead, there is a tiny red building with a steeple, named the Old North Church, even though it’s technically at the south end of most of the rest of the cemetery. Any other day, I'd walk, but the afternoon sun was brutal, despite late Fall. I drove, and parked the car on Memory Lane, before the Court of Liberty.

I often think of this as the military section, because here centrally brood the immortals of the Revolutionary War, in larger than life stone and metal. Generals Lafayette, Green, Knox… their brows exquisitely chiseled and almost possessed of a pulse, sit and ponder the grave markers below their feet. Above them stands the father of our country, President George Washington, in full military uniform, lording over the land, in quiet contemplation.

It being Veteran’s Day was an interesting coincidence.


Washington’s left hand casually points an index finger at something. I don't believe it's merely due to his random placement atop the mighty pedestal. He was erected there in 1964, after being on display for over fifty years in a Massachusetts township. The object he points at today, was not yet in place, then.

Two years later, it was. I want to believe there was providence at work.

The Court of Liberty is gorgeous, green and blessed by a view of adjoining Mount Sinai Memorial Park’s mural of Jewish-American history. If you start at the mural, and walk toward Washington, you will cross paths with Stan Laurel and his wife Ida. Pause there, of course, then keep walking. Look up at President Washington, and follow his stern direction – the pointing finger. You will end up just beyond the courtyard wall, still with Washington in view, at the Center of the Comedy Universe.


The General, pointing directly at Buster, is what tips off your subconscious awareness that you are in the presence of a divine working.

I was here once before, about two weeks earlier, just to chart my way around and sightsee. That day there had been a General® golfball with “The” scribbled on it, sitting on Buster’s headstone – a strange memento from a fan. There were also two pennies – Lincoln added to Washington’s presence – placed each in the loops of the sixes; Buster’s death year of 1966. Like coins over the eyes of the dead – payment to Charon, to ferry the River Styx.

Today – Veteran’s Day – there was a clay pot of yellowish daisies at Buster’s grave. I read the attached card to see that The Sons of the Desert, the Laurel & Hardy group, is who had placed them.

I wondered, why daisies? Did they have some symbolic importance, regarding Buster? My knowledge of Keatondom is not quite an absolute scholar’s, but that of a well-oiled aficionado. I am not a slouch or newbie by any stretch of thinking. I could determine no 'Busterism,' offhand, regarding the daisies. Maybe they were just pretty. Just odd enough to stand apart from all the other floral arrangements out today – and therefor wonderful.

Unlike the visit previous, today I was on more than a sightseeing tour. I had a similar, yet deeper mission than just leaving flowers. I was here at Buster’s final address, with a large plastic bottle of all-purpose cleaner, and a metal scrub brush, purchased with a small portion of my last $300 at a convenience store, in town.

I was going to make Buster Keaton’s headstone look brand new again. It was my humble yet direct way of thanking The Giant of Laughter, for his talent, timing, otherworldly brilliance, athleticism, showmanship, sacrifice, storied injuries – everything ever said, written or recorded, regarding his legend – a thanks for being born!

Having peered up at Heaven for over 35 years, his stone was layered with a tinge, darkly discolored – just dirty and awful. Beneath the grime, it seemed to be akin to a bronze military plaque, like that of my own father’s gravestone. Down on all fours I went, and let the cleaning fluid pour.

I kept an eye over my back, in case cemetery personnel spotted me doing this – probably looking exactly like a vandal. I don’t imagine I’m the first person ever seen here by staff, doing volunteer fan maintenance on an old beloved star’s gravestone. Today, however, I was the only one in sight.

The crust was tenacious. Another coating of cleaning fluid and I was now working my shoulder into cramps, against the terrible patina. The new brush was getting its entire life’s workout on this one job! Finally I had ‘Buster’ glowing, catching the sunlight with a brilliant bronze sparkle. I paused for a breather, and sat there beside Mr. Keaton. I could imagine him watching, like a spectator, an owner inspecting a worker’s thoroughness.

“Yes, I’ve still got ‘Keaton’ to do, and the date… I’ll get there, don’t rush me. Just a minute longer.” I was winded just polishing his grave – unlike say, tumbling down a foothill in somersaults for Seven Chances, or standing there for a two-ton building-front to topple and – hopefully – spare my life with a calculatedly random open window, for Steamboat Bill, Jr.

I could hear Buster say, smilingly, “Pussy.”

I wished I’d bought some bottled water as well, about then. The cemetery furnishes drinking stations, with stacks of plastic cups aside the water spouts at various points on the property – but the nearest one was just a tad too far to walk. Besides, I was halfway home.

In about forty minutes more, the entire headstone was successfully polished, and shimmering. My arm felt about to fall off. The new brush looked ten years old. The cleaning fluid was half gone. But I did it – what I’d come here to make happen.

The sun was sinking. Another night approached where the stars slept.

I had nowhere to sleep that night, except my car. I had handed over to my landlord that morning, the key to my Hollywood apartment. There’d not been enough money left for another month’s rent. He’d accepted my tendering without the 30-day notice required by my rental agreement. Veteran’s Day, 2002; a day I’d never forget, on many, many levels.

I did not say goodbye to Hollywood as I got back in my car. I hoped I’d be back, in some capacity. I waved so-long to Buster Keaton, my hero, telling him how wonderful it was to finally meet him… and to do something for him.

I checked my camera, hoping to record an image of the freshly renewed headstone, but found no battery in it. I’d forgotten to buy a fresh one. It figured.

My next destination was a long, long way back up the freeway. I drove out the front gate of Forest Lawn, and in a few minutes was on my way north. And not into the sunset, even though it was indeed setting.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pining For Cline


Writing anything about Patsy Cline, in this day and age, seems superfluous – everything writable about her has been written. Every candy kiss thrown. Every accolade lauded. Every ounce of praise poured out.

A summary of her contribution to music, and anomalously brief career – as mighty a "blip" on the radar as one is ever likely to witness – can be read elsewhere, in grand fashion. Nothing added here will make a lick of difference. Yet one more relisting of Cline factoids is beyond redundant.

What's more, I wish merely to wax upon what matters to me, about her. Everyone has a unique chemistry regarding their taste in particular artists, and what specifically turns them on – I'm no different; nothing special. If I had met Patsy in person, she'd have signed an autograph and moved on to the next fan.

So this is my take, on the fascination of Patsy Cline. Singer. Trailblazer. Artist. Phenomenon. Woman. 50s American. Post-mortem icon. Badass.

Turn to other internet sources for all the traditional praise of her. I am not an aficionado, per se – just a fan. A very intense fan. Onto her after she was no longer in vogue, distracted temporarily by k.d. lang, then bound to rediscover Cline when her star rose again as pop-culture.

Her voice sounds like life, no matter how dead her remains are. Here is a list of my ponderings on the Divine Ms. Cline.

1. She is not glamourous.
That makes her even sexier. She looks like the universal "someone's mom" – a tough broad – "dolled up" because she works on a stage, in a studio, in that thing show business. Even after she'd gone through a windshield, in a head-on auto collision – with the surgeon's repair efforts still faintly visible beneath the make-up, she dares to shine, in a misfortune-defiant Barbie doll tiara, and a smile that may have been forced for the camera's sake, but nonetheless real. Her near-masculine whimsy, peering into the camera lens, tells the accurate tale of a country gal at home and unintimidated by a (then) male-dominant industry, able to out-cuss most of them, and willing to get rough and dirty if that's what it takes to make her goals a reality. Mid-career, she dressed in styles that would seem frumpy-modest; off-rack JCPenny blouses and past-knee skirts, Sunday School heels, gaudy "pearls," – and baw-gawd, PANTSUITS!* – but had that same understated sex appeal that made Barbara Billingsley an unexpected magnet to teen boys. Every publicity photo, every candid shot, of Patsy – even glaring into the lens with kick-your-ass-in-a-minute sincerity, makes one imagine a long kiss. She was married, but the photo wasn't.

2. She only pretended to be a country star – though she didn't know it.
The county fair cowgirl outfits she wore early in her career were a gimmick she believed she needed; a visual signal that she meant to be "country," on the Opry stage, on the C&W packaged radio and TV shows. A white cowboy hat completed the ensemble in the beginning. Everyone else sang with a nasally, twangy, all-lungs style, of which her own voice was the antithesis; robust, deep both from the bellows and the heart. Sustained – on-key – notes. Cline was definable in operatic terms – a soulful contralto. Traditional country stars of the era generally weren't on that diagram. By the final segment of her career, and life – she only recorded for 6 years – she was singing pop music, with the subtle undertones of her country roots detectable only by her country-ish delivery of a lyric.

3. She could sing anything, but had to be convinced.
Everything, but (only maybe?) Grand Opera, was in her vocal toolset. She sang it all; fiddle-soaked country-n-western, jazzy riff, epic ballads, jumpy pop, gospel, doo-wop, and even rock-n-roll as it existed pre-Beatles. She was too big for one genre, and so became one by herself. 50 years after her passing, she is still a yardstick by which up-and-coming young singers gauge themselves. Her signature tune, "Crazy," penned by Willie Nelson, is still mandatory content on every jukebox playlist, and still brings her to mind no matter who else attempts to record it. The kicker was that she hated everything except country music. Her producer at Decca Records, Owen Bradley, nearly had to resort to career threats, to get selections from non-country songwriters in front of her in the studio. Ironically, she seemed to ramp-up her delivery when angry at Bradley. He used that to an advantage, and managed to sneak a small grouping of Irving Berlin tunes, and at least one by Cole Porter, into her catalog – which today offer a lament of what that terrible plane crash robbed humanity. Had Patsy simply hopped into a station wagon home (which was offered) instead of flying, nagged into doing so over the phone by a husband fed up with babysitting their kids, she would have no doubt been vocalizing the same songbook as Sinatra, Kate Smith, and even possibly adding her take to Broadway selections, movie soundtracks, and who knows what else. She appeared on American Bandstand near her final year, dressed seemingly as a chaperone, but there to render her latest (last) chart-topper "He's Got You."

She did not require a house band to duplicate a studio arrangement when performing on location. They could wing the tune, and still get a full-Cline rendition just as dramatic and impacting as the one on whichever 78 was current. On the Arthur Godfrey show, a full non-country New York orchestra would find itself equally under her spell.

By the time she had graduated to lush strapless sparkling ballgowns, slippers and city-styled hair, she was not redefined by them, but made to fully blossom. She wasn't a transmuted country bumpkin with a uniquely magnificent voice, but a fully formed force of nature emerged from a cocoon that just happened to have been rodeo-themed.

She could be the Belle of any ball, but always remembered that Nashville had been her date to the dance.

4. To Patsy Cline, it's still 1963.
Her wristwatch stopped when the forest floor rose up to claim her and her fellow passengers aboard that ill-fated flight. 6:27 p.m., March 5, 1963. And maybe that's a grand place to exit. She never faded to become an oldies act, as some did, re-recording her old hits into the 80s as neo-disco, or easy listening compost accompanied by synthesized elevator-style backwash. We're denied Cline the pop vocalist crooning beloved standards by Porter and Gershwin and perhaps even Lennon & McCartney… but we have been spared the old warhorse version of herself in fake hair and hoorish lipstick being trotted out on some Opry tribute show. I don't want to think of Patsy Cline as old. Ever. Even if she would be in her 90s now.

I'd also like to think she'd call me "hoss" just once.

*One particular pantsuit even made Eddy Arnold's jaw wag with incredulity on-air. The Opry had a dress code, and pantsuits we're considered nigh satanic.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why NOBODY Will Be Talking About Your Mega-Budget Horror Film In A Year


Being a “failed” filmmaker, as in, having never completed a feature, though not for lack of trying, but for budget crises and the woes of normal life – the day job and the rent and the light bill, et al – you may just take what I write here with a grain of salt. Or walk away now.

But if you’re a horror filmmaker, and have that hunger to be considered a great horror filmmaker – a Hitchcock, a Bava, an Argento – I think I’m about to reveal The Secret To The Universe, so you may want to stick around.

I haven’t yet exactly had my turn to do it, but I GET it.

You are wondering how George Romero could turn about $25,000 into a penultimate horror film that people, decades later, still talk about, write about, hold seminars and go to HorrorCons about… Meantime, you’re about to sink another $10 million into FX do-overs and multi-layer re-renderings, and still unsure if anyone’s going to give a dead rat’s ass about your epic scare-fest, or how soon it winds up costing 99¢ in the Walmart DVD shit bin.

The one horror film in particular that got me on this rant, or more precisely, its trailer, is a recent offering called “The Bride.”

I didn’t need to worry if this film might jump the shark at some mid-point, because it jumped it at mid-trailer. And dare I say, it jumped the very same shark that most modern horror films do. I’d just never seen it jumped so hard before, with such apparent lacking of self-awareness, that I jumped from my chair and screamed “Really??? Serious?? What is WRONG with you kids today – stumbling into multi-million dollar production deals, per chance with a half-decent story to tell – and you do THAT???? AGAIN???”

The film actually explores a subject that I myself have always wanted to make a horror film about; the 19th and early 20th century custom of having photographic memento portraits made of deceased family members, just prior to burial. It may seem morbid on its surface, but in those days photography was not quite the digital democracy it is today. Having a family portrait done was a costly and rare commodity. In some cases the postmortem portrait was the only photo of the dead loved one that the family possessed.

Not uncommon was say, a husband and wife posed with the propped-up corpse of their dead child, in clothing and make-up designed to bring an illusion of life and family union. Or a group of brothers posed around the one sibling who wasn’t breathing, all of them dressed for formal celebration. Sometimes the deceased person's closed eyelids were painted over with open, staring irises.

Brides who’d unexpectedly passed into the next world shy of their special day of days, were posed formally in their wedding dresses, as if about to enter into a next room where their grooms waited. Their faces were remolded by the photographer to appear humbly joyous with anticipation, when likely they were about to be buried in the festive gown, within minutes in some cases.

Some were already putrid and melting in the posing-harness by the time the camera was brought in. But the memento was deeply wanted and dearly purchased.

The trailer for “The Bride” depicts one such occasion. A dead woman in her wedding dress, with eyes painted on her eyelids, is posed and reposed by a patient photographer. Her blank stare is enough to give most people the creeps, because of the conceit that she was once a blushing bride, but now an artificially blushed propped up carcass.

As the photographer tries one last time to pose her chin up, she suddenly… guess.

Suddenly CGI morphs into a pissed off mega-demon – a payoff flicker “shock” before a cut-away. Did you guess that? Good answer. Did it scare you? Me neither.

Because I knew it was coming, and I also happened to KNOW it would be exactly a pissed off CGI mega-demon. It’s ALWAYS a CGI mega-demon. How many films have you seen where something or someone looks harmless or at least docile, then suddenly explodes into a CGI MEGA-DEMON?

Hundreds? It’s like watching the faucet drip, knowing the next drip will look and sound exactly. Like. The. Previous. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

How much money did the producers spend on that three frames of SUDDEN EXPLOSION INTO A CGI MEGA-DEMON? You don’t want to know. They wish they could forget.

Because their expensive CGI Mega Demon is now resting with all the other CGI Mega-Demons, in the Walmart 99¢ DVD shit bin… destined for the even “bargainer” bin out in the alley. Which is where your career belongs if you keep making movies about CGI Mega-Demons.

Do you want to be a horror filmmaker with a respected legacy?

HERE’S THE SECRET, if you care to read it.

You created your CGI Mega-Demon why? Because you believed it would “scare the audience.” Did you ever take an extensive writing class, taught by a good writer (not a hack with a teaching credential because his/her actual writing career went nowhere)? What was the fundamental informal rule they promoted?

Write from what you know. Nothing looks or sounds more real from your pen, or camera, than your reality.

What – to me – would have been a hundred times scarier than another CGI Mega Demon? My own cooking, but that’s another blogpost for another time. What would have been scarier, was if the dead woman’s eyelids – with eyes painted on them – had merely opened. The photographer gets a load of dead eyes looking up at him, from a dead woman who suddenly no longer needs help lifting her chin.

I’m not talking zombie films. I’m sticking to mainline horror, here. She gets up, with the fixed stare now real, and it’s game on.

That would scare undigested frankfurters out of me. When I was a child and went with my parents to the funeral parlor to see my grandmother’s body in-casket, I watched with mounting trepidation as my father touched her hand one last time. If her hand had moved, or worse, touched him back, I would have been careening down the interstate, on foot, getting away. Faster than my Dad!

No CGI. No Mega-Demon. Just something you genuinely dread, gaining a pulse.

Don’t worry about what you think scares the audience. Make a horror film about something that scares YOU. That thing you’ve never fully disclosed – that makes you squirm and start singing Beatles tunes in your head to eradicate it. That which you wouldn’t sit still to watch, on a bet, in real life – create it on-camera.

Trust me – if you make it good enough to re-conjure that scare in you, it will scare an audience out of their acne. Every pimple will pop spontaneously.

Create what would give YOU the need to run. I’m betting it’s something other than another batch of screaming generic Grudge faces. It’ll take nerve, and courage, and the daring to share it with your collaborators – but more a challenge. Isn’t that what you want as an artist?

Isn’t that the "artist's journey" scenario that all the most interesting “making of” documentaries are about?

Leave the CGI Mega-Demons on your FX crew’s résumé, to impress some lesser filmmaker – one who wants that space in the Walmart 99¢ bin. The one that wants to film another Drip.

Film what would scare YOU. Dare to face it, to create it for an audience. You may just purge it, and be left with a horror film that people might just… talk about. In a year. Or two. Or ten.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Narrate Damn It!


This is a personal gripe as a filmmaker (which is just nominal now – I and everyone else shoot video), about something that irritates me more and more about young documentary videomakers. It perhaps just bothers me alone – having taken classes and grown into an appreciative mindset of respect about a concept called... presentation. Even with minimal visual resources, I've strove to present professional quality; and that goes double for the apparently lost art of voice-over narration. I realize not everyone is Morgan Freeman, but that doesn't excuse a complete lack of competence regarding a soundtrack's verbal content. Especially in this age where industry-level graphics and visual effects are available via computer video apps sold retail, it would only seem logical to reflect that same capability with a performance ethic – but no. Cluelessness rules.

More and more I see video narrated by people who basically can't f___ing talk! Granted, they've shown some kind of influence regarding the rhythm (metre) of an ongoing narration... only they've neglected some very obvious components vital to competent voicework; articulation, motivation, pronunciation, context, and that element that admittedly not everyone understands – emotion.

ARTICULATION – Have Subway AFTER you narrate, not AS you narrate. I tend to fast-forward to the end, when I hear a mouthful of marbles. To see if I can surmise your point through the visuals, as your voice makes my ears wad up in spontaneous self-defense mode. This disregard for quality leads directly to a need for...

MOTIVATION – If you don't care what you're talking about, trust me, it's audible. It gives the viewer subconscious permission to NOT CARE EITHER, to click off of your video and move on.

PRONUNCIATION – Narration is edification concerning elements not fully discerned by the visuals. Research proper pronunciations of things like names, places, and historical points. Nothing will drive away viewers as fast as cringing while you presume that General Washington's first name was “General,” or can't discern anything awkward in phraseology like “the World War II” or “John Elf Kennidely.”

CONTEXT – Being young and less knowledgeable is only a partial excuse. Learn the chronology of your subject. Charlie Chaplin didn't “make videos,” he shot FILM. Einstein didn't send a famous email to Roosevelt.

EMOTION – Yes... please. Take a frigging acting class. Learn to communicate. Even the most well written narration falls short if it's read like a recipe for salt water. If it's worth making a video about, it's worth telling in a compelling tone, no? Do you want an audience? Are they living? Would you like a LIVING AUDIENCE to RELATE to your video?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Berned.

You are a Bernie Sanders supporter. There's something going on that ought to greatly disturb you. I'm not talking about vote tampering or network bias; if you'd allow me to play devil's advocate. The following is just an opinion, but please do not misconstrue or oversimplify it. You may have a different one, so I'll go ahead now and apologize for the offense – though it's not my intent to offend. Unfriend me if you must, but be assured at the outset, this isn't a sermon on capitalism vs. socialism (though I could probably set fire to my own mouth giving one).

I'm doing my Solonic duty here. (Look up Solon and his famous decree – which made me cringe as a younger man.)

A month or so ago, on my Facebook page I stated my shock at Ted Cruz and John Kasich for their audacity and duplicitousness. Candidates (should) have an unspoken contract – a mandate – to those who invest their time, personal resources, energy, and yes their faith, some their very lives, into his/her campaign. Both Cruz and Kasich verbally pledged (they'd now deny it, even after being shown the video) to fight to the end, take the battle all the way to their party's Convention even if they were outright defeated on paper. Their supporters stood behind them – committed their integrity – based on that. Cruz and Kasich then both reneged. Cruz walked away, left his loyals high and dry, and Kasich made it plain to anyone with eyes and a brain that he was only a puppet on a mission. I said that the crowd had every right to take the bastards outside and hang them. Those poor people, their whole past year had been proven based on slick rhetorical gift-wrap around a box of hot air. The candidates were just sales reps trying to tap dance their party back into power. They were "madmen."

Back in early 2015, they didn't count on there being serious competition. Their handlers and gravy-train assured them that they were "the next big thing," and of a breezy path into office. They had no intention to go hardcore for voters, the little people who committed, who attached actual hope for their lives to it. (Catch the old movie "Meet John Doe" some time… seriously.)

So I've noticed something very peculiar. After Tuesday night's California primary, and the media declaring Hillary Clinton, like Trump, the "presumptive" nominee of her respective party… (I've been voting for 30 years, never heard "presumptive" used there before)… Bernie Sanders has yet to announce his concession, yet has dismissed most of his campaign staff. Then he requested, and very quickly got (!), a private conference with President Obama to… what… discuss alternate campaign strategy? A pretty unprecedented little powwow, frankly; during which, according to rumor anyway, he suggested the dismissal of the current DNC Chair. Then in an even wilder turnabout, four hours later, the POTUS officially announced his endorsement of… Hillary Clinton! He called her the most qualified person ever to run for the office. (I think Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy et al, might disagree there.)

Does any of the above seem odd? Do you honestly see just a series of coincidences taking place?

Then… Sanders made a very coy statement that he will do everything he can to prevent Trump from becoming President (without mentioning Clinton). At the same time I hear and read all these references to a Clinton-Sanders ticket. A few people have even said it's a natural. Uh… really??

Folks, you people with brains (I pride myself on having a friend list – this means you – whose smarts I'd put up against anyone's)… if, and I say IF, Sanders joining forces with Clinton is a "natural"…? Remember the comparisons between Sanders and Jesus, and yeah, all that? I have a better comparison: Judas. If Sanders accepts the VP spot with Clinton, then may I suggest (as a conscientious observer) that the "Revolution" was BULLSHIT. There's no revolution… there never was a revolution… and Bernie Sanders won't even look a TV camera in the eye and admit it to you. Like Cruz, he's lingering near the exit now that the stink has risen to nose-level.

You want a real "two corinthians" quote? Here it is: "For Satan masquerades as an angel of light." – II Corinthians 11:14

Sanders may show up at the Democratic Convention, or may even do the third-party option, but make no mistake that he is obediently handing over your hard work, your vestment, your faith, your words shouted so bravely on Facebook among other places, to Hillary Clinton under the table. The fact that he is now claiming only an ambiguous, strangely vague effort to impede Trump, rather than uphold the contract with you – his supporters – to fight Hillary to the end, should speak volumes to you. She is, after all, still his priority opponent; he has to beat her before he can – according to you – outpoll Trump in the g.e. Starting a third-party is a moot point if he can't get past Hillary; she'll be the same brick wall in the general, that she was in the primary. At best, he'll split the vote in Trump's favor.

I'm not endorsing anyone with this particular rant, btw.

I imagine Sanders is a gracious man privately; sings to babies, cuddles kittens... But like Cruz and Kasich, when his armor was cracked in battle – it revealed he wasn't in it. Bernie Sanders will not go hardcore for you, because he has NO core for you. Like all politicians, he knew what battle cry you'd salivate to, and led you to the battleground. Risking it all was your job, never his. This was his long career's natural time to attempt a last hurrah, it was never about you.

That's the most astute observation I've offered: he's just doing what all career-politicians do in the last mile. Trying to make it the victory lap. If he were about the people, why not run in say, 2004? 2008? 2012? It's because he wasn't at the end yet. He carries no cross now. The "cause" won't be there in 2020.

Did you get Cruzed? Just now "feelin' the bern" around your backside? No sarcasm here. If you don't think too hard, you won't grieve long. You gave your heart and got dumped anyway. Been there. The Kiss of Judas. Yes he would; you don't live 70+ years never holding a legitimate job (his legacy), without somehow placating the Romans. Welcome to the club.

No matter who wins, this is our country. I will not leave it, like a few soulless moron celebrities have "bravely" promised. About them: that's called Cut-n'-Run. It's what the ultra-RICH did in the Great Depression – left the country while the little people mopped their own blood and guts up.

They said if Reagan became President, America was over. They said if Bill Clinton became President, America was over… Only if WE give it up, it is. I will survive, like I always have. Like you always have. There's always an asshole in office – haven't you paid attention? Amen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Where's The Rest Of Me?

Just over a hundred years ago, newspapers were the entirety of "the media." Great thinkers, writers, and artists did time there. Some genuine legends were birthed there, or at least passed through from time to time. Ambrose Bierce, James Thurber, Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, Heywood Broun, Dorothy Kilgallen, George Herriman, Rube Goldberg, (and those are just the names that pop into my noggin in no actual historical order). There were scoundrels to be sure, and over-rich corporate dabblers as usual. The Donald Trump of the early 20th century was a media mogul named William Randolph Hearst. Only he didn't need to be POTUS – his influence elected and unelected them.

But then the cinema, the radio, television, and ultimately the internet and the wi-scape (in that order) took over as "the multi-media" evolved. Now, the printed newspaper is the family dog begging for table scraps. And some of the greedy scarfers at the table are just pretend media – trivia and satire pitched like real news – with ambiguous, cliffhangerish headlines. (Why have we developed a NEED for that?) The dog metaphor is even more apropos; why do I feel like we're about to be driven out to barren country and abandoned?

When I first got in, there were still (the last generation) of full-time illustrators & cartoonists making livings in the newspaper industry – people doing just that, not made to multi-task in other areas to justify their employment. Slowly emerged that miraculous little box that "made jobs easier," then "did part of the job for you," then "made you obsolete." I set down my pen and ink, after winning several awards following in the footsteps (so I thought) of those great illustrators of yesteryear. When the computer began its march to conquer, I jumped aboard thinking I'd be a part of the so-called revolution, not even realizing that I was self-hastening my own irrelevance over the long-term. Each and every digital expert-overseer that entered my professional life turned out to be part assassin. No wonder most of my office demeanor over the years was hot-headed and defensive.

It was an ever dimming shadow of the industry I only thought I'd joined... no one needed illustrators, or cartoonists, or "different thinkers" anymore. Only template tracers, mouse clickers, cut & pasters, copy-flow clerks. Proof-readers? No, Spellcheck – the employees don't spell. If they can, they're placed on remote desks and made to do that for publications in multiple counties. Saves each paper from having to hire a separate one. Now, even they are hired more and more overseas – and work for pennies. People who live a half a globe away – your town's number one source for "news" with minimal local navigation. Can't grieve forever, right?

We took a vital industry with a vested connection to the communities it served, as rooted in each as the police, fire and utility departments (a family member in print form, if you will) and turned it into a generic recycle product with pretend relevance and zero accountability brought to you by people who wouldn't know you from a striped polo shirt in a Lands End catalog... and could care even less. A Big Mac in print form.

People of those older generations I'd sometimes hear laughingly recall using newspaper for toilet paper – because toilet paper did not yet exist and that ironically gave the newspaper added value, beyond its publish date. Groucho Marx once complimented the now defunct New York World that it even smoked well, if one couldn't afford actual cigars. Today, some current editions are hardly worth outhouse use, off the press. In my 30+ years (did I hope against hope that it would get better if I persevered?) – this once great industry unraveled. And I allowed myself to unravel with it. The great thinkers and doers – literati, the adventurers with pens and ink and type presses – were all replaced by hedge fund brokers and real estate flippers – with their outsourced minions.

A newspaper job was once a goal. Newspapers had tangible value and made tangible profit. Today they offer an artifice of tangibility and the revenues reflect that emptiness. Yet, the sales department is forced to constantly raise the nose higher each quarter, in a year pointed at the ground like a plane out of fuel.