Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Beautiful World...

Mr. Big Stuff - Jean Knight


Musings on Maher



I go back and forth on Bill Maher.

Some days I’m a fan and on other days I find him rude, pompous and closed-minded, inclined to speak first and think later, a dickhead who is or was friends with Ann Coulter, arguably one of the yuckiest individuals on Planet Earth.

Anita and I saw him live the other night at Soaring Eagle Casino. Anita snagged tickets to the “An Evening with Bill Maher: Live Stand Up Tour” and we went with another progressive couple to Mt. Pleasant, the home of Central Michigan University, an hour or so north of where we live. This was one day after the sh*t hit the fan about Maher’s use of the term, “house n*gger” during a June 2 “Real Time” interview with Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and I expected Maher to mention his faux pas.

I can’t even recall if he did.

I liked what he said about Betsy DeVos, the super-rich, unqualified boob from West Michigan who heads Trump’s Department of Education. DeVos – an anti-public school crusader and religious zealot who is yucky like Ann Coulter only without the intelligence – is living proof that money buys high-level presidential appointments regardless of the unsuitability of the appointee.

Courtesy David Shankbone
Speaking of unqualified, did you know that former Texas governor, racist and imbecile Rick Perry is Trump’s energy secretary? Remember when he participated in a GOP presidential debate in 2011 and couldn’t remember all of the federal agencies he had vowed to eliminate, one of which was the department he now heads? (See below.) Did you notice that in recent years, Perry’s taken to donning prominent, black, thick-rimmed, unneeded Clark Kent eyeglasses in an apparent attempt to disguise himself? But I digress...

I liked what Maher said about how people in Michigan care about jobs, not the genitalia of others in public bathrooms.

I liked all the things he said about Trump – including pointing out that Trump’s attacks on people with handicaps, vets and reporters are alarming and shameful – and how he mocked Pestiferous Mike Pence. I agree, sadly, that our country is now a laughingstock on the world stage.

I liked how he said the Democrats need to commit to “When they go low, we kick ‘em in the nuts” and not Michelle Obama’s “...we go high.”

I like how he described himself as a gun owner who supports common-sense gun control proposals.

I like how even though he famously gave Obama $1 million so Romney wouldn’t be president, he said today he would give Romney $1 million to BE president. “I’ll wear the magic underwear,” Maher promised.

Told you we were there.
I like how he wasn’t afraid to admonish hecklers and participators – those people at every concert and show who insist on reciting lyrics, finishing jokes or shouting punch lines and suggestions to prove they belong – and reacted calmly when a drunk audience member walked across the stage and got pretty close before being redirected by casino security. (A few seconds later, Maher cracked me up by looking into the audience and saying, “Hey, Security? Kudos.”)

I like his positions on marijuana and religion. I like that he’s a 61-year-old, pot-smoking atheist.

I like how one of the best television moments ever took place on “Real Time with Bill Maher” back in October of 2011 when then-Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson put a patronizing little prick named P.J. O’Rourke in his place and represented the short-lived Occupy Wall Street movement better than anyone else. (See below again.)

On the other hand, I don’t like how Maher’s strident, myopic anti-Muslim position sometimes rears its ugly head like it did during an episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” that featured Sam Harris and Ben Affleck. (See below again.)

And I don’t like how easily an ugly, offensive, corrosive term can work its way into Maher’s shtick. I’m not quick to wring my hands and jump on bandwagons but I find myself backing away from my former status as a big fan. (I know people on the left are supposed to learn from conservatives that you close ranks when one of your own messes up, not join the enemy in kicking ‘em when they’re done. But I just don’t like Maher enough to defend or overlook his failings.)

Maher next to his star at a ceremony
on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,  
September 14, 2010. Photo 
courtesy Angela George.
I checked the pages of a few Facebook pals immediately following the “house n*gger” blunder and found some people piling on the guy, calling him an asshole, misogynist and dick, while others defended him, pointing out that “real racists say far worse and we should save our ire for those on the Dark Side, not for one of our bright lights that occasionally goes dim.” Some of my pals strongly condemned Maher’s use of the slur while others declared that he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.

How does one earn a doubt’s benefit, anyway? I really don’t know.

I do know that I don’t need anyone to try to dictate what I should think and how I should feel when a celebrity’s indiscretion, crime or controversy is publicized.

I know the funny, topical, fearless comedian who made Anita, me and thousands of others laugh the other night seemed talented, informed and empathetic, not bigoted, ignorant or insensitive.

I know when the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue tweets and spews his obnoxious, offensive, ignorant, unwise, immature, racist, sexist crap, he’s reaching a hell of a lot more people than even Bill Maher. (Hear that, Trump?! Your audience is BIGGER!)

But I know that as a 55-year-old white guy, I have no idea how it feels to be a person of color and hear someone use the term “house n*gger” so I'm gonna defer to those around me who do.




P.S. Yes, I use a lot of 'I's. It’s my blog.



Click here to read, “Bill Maher says he is ‘very sorry’ for using a racial slur on his HBO show,” June 4, 2017.


Rick Perry's "oops" moment:



“Real Time” Episode 331 (October 2014) featuring Sam Harris and Ben Affleck:




One of my all-time favorite television moments:






Sources: HBO.com, PBS.org, WashingtonPost.com.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Connected

Coffee by Sylvan Esso - Taylor Taylor Cover

Reconnecting



I used to know this woman. A long time ago, I was working as a consultant in Lansing, Michigan, and my then-boss introduced me to her; she worked as a recycling coordinator for a city in Oakland County, a heavily populated area north of Detroit. She was smart and energetic and unique and I liked her but only talked with her a little before I left the firm.

Fast forward a few decades. I was able to find her again thanks to Lord Zuckerberg of Facelandia. We liked each other’s posts and appreciated each other’s writing but that was it. I learned that she relocated years ago to an extremely rural area of northern Lower Michigan with her husband and daughter. She works from her home as a writer, although the word “writer” doesn’t do her justice. She’s a “word goddess,” as her wonderful new website proclaims. A “wordologist.” A “content collaborator.” And I just discovered that she’s one of the most fun and compelling conversationalists ever.

I stumbled upon her website the other night and was so impressed – it had just been redesigned – that I filled out the “Contact Me” form and scheduled a phone call. We had that call today. When we hung up after just over an hour, I noticed that I had taken no fewer than 19 pages of notes. She monopolized the call, throwing out book suggestions and the names of people I need to Google and things I need to think about, slogans and catch phrases interspersed with descriptions of her life and background. She shared tidbits about her friends and family, compliments and kind words about me, lessons she had learned and decisions she had made about her business, and enough humorous anecdotes to keep me chuckling long after the call ended. We promised to stay in contact – we might work together if we can figure out how – and even exchanged a few follow-up text messages.

And this is what occurred to me: I’m in a rut. I do my work and focus on my family and worry about money and fret about the Oval Office Occupant Who Will Never Be My President and lament the tragedies taking place around the world (including the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England three nights ago and the drunk driver who drove on the sidewalk for three blocks in New York’s Times Square on May 18, plowing into pedestrians and killing a young woman). I bitch and moan about a jerk with whom I work. I whine about the normal teenage things that my kids do. I spend just enough time in Facebook to be disgusted by at least five posts each day. I concentrate on gun violence, police brutality, climate change, racism, war, death, corruption, the ugliness of politics and all the other bad sh*t going down at the local, state and national levels. I think about all the things I wish I could change and should have done differently and hope don’t happen. But that’s really it.

I don’t take classes or go to lunch with friends. Anita and I talk about going for walks at night like we used to but we’ve both been too tired to launch this plan. I haven’t resumed my Portuguese lessons and I seldom read books like I used to. I don’t play with my puppies or engage with my son and daughters. I can’t remember the last time I went to a concert, an amusement park, even a movie. I’ve denied myself stimulation and somewhere along the line I’ve gotten old.

And then I talked to this potential colleague today. It was a great call. It made me smile and ponder and wonder and remember. I pledged to check into some things and figure out others. I promised to come up with reasons to talk again and write together. And I backed away from my desk feeling better about who I am and what I can do.

My wife and kids deserve a fresher, more positive, more energetic and balanced Patrick. Anita’s been struggling and coping and tolerating the Old Me for far too long. I’ve denied myself excitement and possibility and an expanded mind and more living in my life. And I’ve denied the people closest to me blue skies and singing birds as well.

I bet I’m not the only one either.

If I can get all this enlightenment from a single phone call, imagine what I could glean from an all-day conference…